29 Sep 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 28

Posted by joncooper

“I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
–Jesus Christ

The moment Amy Stryker stepped through the door she felt an overwhelming sensation of joy. She had known joy before, but this – this was far greater than anything she had imagined. The things she had felt in the shadowlands were like shadows and vapors by comparison. The sheer intensity of this place was unimaginable. Even the heavenly ambiance of the gateway planet had not prepared her for it.

Amy immediately realized that, at long last, she was finally home. She had never been here before but yet she felt as if she had always been here. Amy had spent a little over six months in the 73rd century. During that time she had always felt out of place – a lost pilgrim, alone and despised, trapped in a dark dream. She had longed for something that she could not quite pin down. She wanted to go home but there was no home to be found. Now she had at last found it. This was the place she was made for. This was where she belonged. For the first time in months Amy finally began to relax, and felt a sense of comfort fill her from the inside. She felt very loved and she knew that she was no longer alone.

She could also feel the unmistakable Presence that saturated the air. In her travels across the galaxy she had felt many different things. Tonina was filled with a kind of emptiness and longing. Xanthe and Earth seemed to have hatred and darkness in the air. Mars was filled with apathy. Jasmine had a kind of sadness. It was only when she reached the gateway planet that she had started to feel a sacred presence in the atmosphere – as if the planet was dominated not by darkness but by the Holy One. Here that feeling was overwhelming. This country contained no trace of darkness and no hint of evil. There were no shadows where foul things lurked. This place was filled with light – an intense, deep, holy light that was unlike even the brightest parts of the shadowlands.

Now she understood. It was His presence that made Heaven a Paradise. He was the light that filled every corner and the joy that saturated the air. He was the center of this place, and its anchor. This world was entirely, completely, and fully centered on Him. The billions who lived here were not clamoring for attention, begging others to praise them and acknowledge their greatness. The focus of everyone was on the glory and majesty of the Most High God. His will and His will alone was done in this place, and that made all the difference. The gateway world, as amazing as it had been, offered only a small taste of the glory she saw here.

All of these thoughts crossed her mind in the seconds it took her to lead the Sentinel through the door and close it behind them. She then took a deep breath, and smiled. “Can you feel that?”

“Yes, I can,” the Sentinel said in surprise. “I am welcome here, but I do not understand why.”

“Is it really that hard to figure out? You are so much more than just a machine! If you were just a glorified calculator it would be impossible for you to commune with God, but yet you can feel Him just as I can. You are alive, Steve. You have served your Master well and He has called you here.”

“But I am not a son of Adam. What right do I have to enter this holy place?”

Amy shrugged. “The angels aren’t sons of Adam either, but they’re still here. The fact is, you are welcome here.”

The Sentinel looked up toward the top of the hill. Alex had already reached it and was jumping around excitedly, barking and talking like crazy. Even from this distance the Sentinel could recognize the various faces in the crowd. He smiled. “I think there are some people up ahead who would like to see you.”

“See us, you mean,” Amy corrected.

The two of them started walking up the narrow path that led to the crest of the hill. As they got closer Amy saw that on the other side of the hill was a large, golden city. The path transformed into a road that continued on to the heart of the metropolis. On either side of that golden street were tall buildings and wide sidewalks. The sidewalks were utterly packed with people. She suddenly realized that the massive crowd was waiting on her.

“Oh my goodness!” she gasped. “Do I even know that many people?”

The Sentinel smiled. “Apparently they know you.”

At the front of the crowd was Amanda Stryker. Amanda rushed toward her sister and hugged her. “Oh, Tiger, it’s so good to see you again! I’ve missed you so.”

“Not as much as I’ve missed you,” Amy replied, grinning. “It took me way longer to get here than I expected, and boy was it a pain – but it was worth it. I am so, so glad to be here. This is just totally awesome. You’ve got to catch me up on what everyone’s been doing. I’ve kind of been out of the loop for a while.”

“There will be plenty of time for that,” Amanda replied. “Believe me, there’s all kinds of things going on! But anyway, we can talk about that later. Right now there are about a million other people here who would like to see you.”

Amy looked up and saw her mother, her father, and her brother running toward her. As she hugged them she noticed that Reverend Knight, and Jones, and Captain Max, and Sergeant Howell were not far behind. But what surprised her the most was seeing the Artilect standing there on the sidewalk.

The Sentinel was surprised as well. He ran up to him and embraced him. “Father, is it really you? But I don’t understand – I thought you were destroyed! How did you get here?”

The Artilect smiled as he embraced his son. “I was brought here by the Most High God, as you were. Apparently He is not done with us. Son, it is so good to see you again, and I am so proud of you. You have done your job well and you finished the course with great excellence. I have missed you tremendously.”

“I have missed you too. I had no hope of seeing you again; I thought you were simply gone. How is this possible?”

The man standing behind the Artilect spoke up. “Well, it’s just like Amy said. There is much more to both of you than circuits and metal.”

“Dr. Laurence Mazatl!” the Sentinel exclaimed in surprise. “Aren’t you the one who created my father?”

“I suppose you could say that. There were a great many others who worked on the project as well, of course, but I was the chief technical engineer, if that’s what you mean. It is so good to meet you! You were created long after I died, but I’ve been watching your progress with great interest. You truly have done well.”

“I simply did what I could,” he replied.

“There is no need to be so modest,” a voice said behind him. “You are every bit as big a hero as Amy.”

He turned around and saw a little girl looking up at him. The Sentinel studied her for a moment, puzzled. Then he remembered who she was. “Haven’t I seen you before? I do not believe we ever met each other, but weren’t you in Tikal the week before the Sparrow left? I believe you had a conversation with Captain Max. You told him that he wouldn’t be able to save Richard Stryker, but that his efforts were not in vain.”

Itzel Ayar nodded. “That is correct. I’m surprised you remembered every person your nanite network scanned! I guess you do have a machine memory, but still, that’s impressive. The point is that Amy is not the only hero here. This massive crowd has turned out to greet both of you. You helped defeat the Poneri, who threatened the safety of the entire human race. You rescued the crew of the Sparrow and brought them to the future. You developed a cure for the tribes of Earth, freeing millions from the bondage of insanity. Yes, Amy is a hero, but she would have died thousands of years ago if it hadn’t been for you. You made it possible for Amy to fulfill her tasks.”

“I was just fulfilling my purpose,” the Sentinel replied. “I was created to do those things.”

“There are many who refuse to fulfill their purpose. You had the ability to choose and you chose well.”

“As did Amy,” Governor Nicholas commented. He walked up and shook the Sentinel’s hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you at last! You and Amy have done a remarkable thing, and it will not be forgotten. Millions of people are in your debt.”

The Sentinel glanced around and saw that Amy was deep in conversation with her family and friends. So she did have friends after all, he thought to himself. Maybe not on Xanthe or on Earth, but she definitely has them here. This is a good place for her to be.

A voice interrupted his thoughts. “There you are! I knew you were around here somewhere. It is a real pleasure to finally meet you face-to-face.”

He turned around and saw Dr. Temilotzin walking toward him. “It is a pleasure to meet you as well,” the Sentinel replied warmly, as he shook his hand. “I’m very familiar with your work. It was quite brilliant! Your probe project was immensely successful.”

Dr. Temilotzin laughed. “Yes, I’d certainly agree that you’re familiar with my probes. As I recall they tried to kill you! Fortunately Amanda was able to destroy them first.”

“I suspect you know how things turned out, then. Your probes did an outstanding job terraforming worlds, but unfortunately no one ever came to live in them. I just wish your dream had come true! It was a brilliant idea, but mankind proved too corrupt to inherit the stars. In the end ignorance was not the problem; the real barrier was the utter depravity of mankind. That has proven to be a far bigger hurdle than the vast distances that separate the worlds.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t write off the project just yet. My colleagues and I have continued working on the project since we arrived here. The colonization of the stars has only just begun! One day people will live in cities all throughout the universe – and not just in our galaxy, but beyond.”

“How is that possible?”

The scientist smiled. “We’ll get you caught up to speed soon. By the way, I’m quite interested in that galactic supercomputer you built to cure the tribes! That was quite brilliant – breathtaking, even. None of us had ever seen anything like it.”

“It was an impressive achievement,” the Artilect agreed.

“It was actually fairly simple,” the Sentinel replied. “Its scale may have been unprecedented but to the best of my knowledge its design contained no significant breakthroughs. In fact, even the computer itself was not my idea. Amy is the one who suggested it.”

“Yes she did,” Dr. Mazatl agreed. “But you were the one who designed it and built it – and you built it remarkably quickly!”

The Sentinel noticed some movement. He turned and saw that Amy was running down the path toward a shining figure in the distance. He knew instantly who it was.

The Artilect smiled. “It looks like Amy is going to meet her Lord. He would like to meet you too, Son. Are you ready to go see Him?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied. “I never thought this moment would come – but I am glad it has.”

The Sentinel then rushed after Amy.

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