22 Sep 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 27

Posted by joncooper

“Miles returned to Mars late last night. I don’t have the time right now to record everything he told me, but it sounds like Amy Stryker has brought the Earth back to life. There’s a new city there now and the people have been cured of their genetic problems. Sadly, though, Amy is now gone. I wish I could have told her goodbye before she left. In fact, I wish she hadn’t left at all – there was plenty of room for her here in Tikal and she would have been among friends. Miles said that it wasn’t that simple, although I don’t understand why. Sometimes I suspect there are a lot of things he isn’t telling me. That’s one of the prerogatives of being old, I guess.”
–Noel Lawson
July 18, 7243


The Sentinel materialized on Tonina, in the restaurant at the top of Ahexotl Tower. At this time of night the place was empty. Amy was standing at one of the windows, looking down over the city. She appeared lost in thought. Alex was lying on the middle of the floor, fast asleep. It was long past his bedtime.

“Are you ready to transport everyone to Earth?” the Sentinel asked.

“No, not yet. Let’s give it a few more hours. We’ve got other things to do anyway.”

“Have you decided what you are going to do with the galactic supercomputer?”

“What do you mean, have I decided? We talked about that weeks ago, remember? I’m not going to change my mind. Go ahead and give the Stewards the order to turn the computer planets back into normal habitable worlds. Make them just like they were before, back when the Artilect was in charge. I want them to have the same landforms, the same continents, the same cities, everything.”

“All right,” the Sentinel replied. “Give me a few minutes to send out the commands. I am not as powerful as my father.”

“Take your time,” Amy said. “There’s no hurry.”

Amy sat down at a table beside one of the giant glass windows and looked outside. She thought back to the day her family had enjoyed dinner at that very restaurant, before the Artilect launched its war against the swarms. Back then her father had been making plans to form a government, and everyone was excited about the future. None of them knew how close they were to death. By the time another month had passed they were all gone. All except for Amy, who was left alone in a very big and very dark galaxy.

She spoke up. “No one else is ever going to come and live in these cities, are they?”

The Sentinel paused for a moment and then looked over at her. “Probably not. It would take at least four or five hundred years – possibly much longer than that – for the Martian civilization to expand to a point where it would reach the network. It would take a great deal longer than that to expand throughout the network and reach Tonina. I doubt there is that much time left before the end comes.”

Amy nodded. “I know. There might be, of course, but it isn’t likely.”

“You know, then,” the Sentinel commented. “I was wondering if you had realized it. But if you know these planets will never be used, why do you want me to put them all back?”

“Oh, just because. Maybe you’re right, and no one will ever set foot on Tonina again. Maybe no one else will ever see La Venta. But it will still be here, regardless. Beauty doesn’t stop being beauty just because no one notices it. The offer is still being made, and even if no one accepts it it’s still a valid offer. My brother started the replicating probe project a long time ago and this is how it ended. I say let these cities stand. Let Tim’s handiwork endure until the end of time. I am not going to wipe it all out just because there’s a good chance no one else will ever appreciate it.”

“Very well,” the Sentinel replied. He went back to his job of contacting the Stewards and relaying the instructions.

Amy looked out through the window and waited for him to finish. Time slowly ticked by, but she did not notice. She was lost in thought. “It wasn’t a waste, you know. The probe project, I mean. If those probes hadn’t been released I wouldn’t be here. None of those people on Earth or Mars would have been saved. This wasn’t what Tim and Dr. Temilotzin were trying to do, but their project still achieved something worthwhile. Their work wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

The Sentinel nodded. “The same is true for the Sparrow. When Governor Nicholas sent Captain Max to Mars to rescue you, he was only trying to transport you to Xanthe. He never intended for all of this to happen. But if he had not made the attempt, you would not have gotten shot down in that starship and I would not have been able to rescue you. History would have ended very differently.”

“I guess we owe the Spanish Emperor a vote of thanks, then,” Amy remarked.

The Sentinel shook his head. “I would not go that far. I would say, however, that what he meant for evil God used for good. It is often like that.”

* * * * *

An hour later the Sentinel looked up at her. “It is done. The commands have been given and the Stewards are working to reconvert their planets. It will take several days to execute the command but we do not have to be here while they work.”

Amy stood up. “Thank you. I guess there’s just one thing left to do, then. It’s time to transport these people to their new homes on Earth.”

The Sentinel quickly scanned the city. “Not everyone is asleep.”

“Oh, I can fix that,” Amy said, smiling.

The girl used the planetary network of nanites to cause everyone to fall into a deep sleep. She then reached across space and transported all of them to Earth. Once they were safely in their new homes she moved their possessions as well. When the sun rose the next morning they would wake up in their beds and find themselves on Earth – in a glorious new city, facing a glorious new day.

After checking one last time to make sure that everything had been moved and nothing had been overlooked, Amy looked at the Sentinel. “Are you ready to go?”

“What are you going to do about Tonina?”

“Leave it, just as it is.”

“Are you sure you are ready to leave? Have you done everything that you wanted to do? Is there anything left undone?”

Amy shook her head. “Nope. C’mon, let’s go.”

“You will have to lead me,” the Sentinel said. “I am afraid I do not know the way.”

Amy nodded. She then walked over to Alex and shook him. “Come on, boy, time to get up.”

Alex rolled over groggily. “But it’s so late. I’m tired.”

“I know, I know. But we have to go. Mom and Dad and Amanda are waiting on us.”

“They are?” Alex barked. He got to his feet. “I thought they were gone! Where are they?”

“I’ll take you to them,” Amy promised. “Just stick right next to me, ok?”

With Alex following close behind, Amy walked over and took the Sentinel’s hand. The three of them vanished.

They reappeared on a beautiful world. Around them was a magnificent, lush garden. A bed of green grass formed a carpet under their feet, and old trees towered above them. It felt like it was late but there was a soft light all around them. The atmosphere was peaceful and serene.

The Sentinel was the first to speak. “This place is remarkable! My father once told me about this place, but this is the first time I have ever seen it. There is something special about it. I feel like I am on the threshold of a very different kind of country.”

“That’s because you are. Come with me.”

Still holding his hand, Amy guided him through the woods to a little clearing. Alex said nothing and trotted behind her. Standing in the middle of the clearing was a large, pearlescent door that gleamed in the twilight. The door was attached to nothing, but it had a pair of hinges and a brilliant gold doorknob.

Amy spoke up. “That door leads to the city that lies beyond the farthest star. This place is a sort of courtyard to Heaven. It’s not part of Heaven, but it’s connected to it somehow, and part of the ambiance of Heaven has leaked onto this world. That’s why it feels so different.”

Alex barked. “Is that where Amanda is?”

The girl smiled. “Yes. Yes, it is.”

She reached out to the doorknob and turned it. Relief flooded her when she saw that the door was unlocked. Before she pulled it opened she looked over at the Sentinel. “Are you ready?”

“Are you sure that I am allowed to come with you?” the Sentinel asked.

“I have no doubt whatsoever,” Amy said firmly.

She then turned the doorknob and opened the door.

As she pulled it open it created a hole in space – a passage leading to another world. Light streamed through the opening. Beyond it she could see a grassy hill, and at the top of the hill was a large group of people who were waving at them. A sense of utter and complete peace came over her. In a single moment the cares and burdens of her life melted away, and she felt wholly at rest. Finally, after so long, all was well.

Alex took one look through the opening and ran into it at full speed. A moment later he was bounding up the hill, racing to greet someone that he knew quite well.

Laughing, Amy grabbed the Sentinel’s hand and led him through the door. Once they were both through she closed the door behind them.

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