6 Oct 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 29

Posted by joncooper

“I’ve had a long and productive life. Mars has been reborn, just as I had hoped. I may be dying but I am dying a happy man, and I am going to a better place. You really can’t ask for more than that.”
–Noel Lawson
February 9, 7351


Noel Lawson was lying in bed in the Stryker Memorial Hospital. He was an old, old man, and he felt it. The digital calendar on the wall told him that it was February 9, 7351. He marveled that so much time had passed so quickly. It still seemed to him that only a few days had passed since he and Miles first encountered Amy Stryker in the Martian desert. He remembered that meeting with great clarity, even though it happened more than a century ago.

He never expected to live this long. Back when he lived in the underground city it was common for men to live no more than 60 or 70 years. He had lived far longer than that and he was not sure why. All he knew was that, somehow, living in Tikal extended people’s lives. Many people – thought not all – now lived to great ages. Scientists were still trying to understand the mechanism that made this happen. So far it had eluded them, but he knew it would not elude them forever.

The old man glanced out the window of his hospital room. Through the pane of fused crystal he could see the magnificent city of Tikal. The reconstruction effort had finished decades ago, and today the entire metropolis was fully functional. The last area they uncovered was the spaceport, and even it had been restored. At first they weren’t sure if the starship that it contained was repairable, but after years of effort Noel figured out how the ship’s stardrive worked and was able to build a new one for it. That turned out to be his last project. Shortly after that he retired, and he had been retired for the past five years. He still helped from time to time but his health no longer allowed him to do very much. He knew that his engineering days were over.

He could still follow current events, however, and sometimes he played a role in planning. His last effort was planning the scouting expedition to the planet Xanthe. Before he died Miles told him that Amy had transported the rest of the Adrastans there. Astronomers had watched that planet over the past century and had seen the local population die off, one by one. It was a race against time to see if they could reach the planet before the last one died, but unfortunately they were not able to repair the starship in time. By the time the expedition finally reached Xanthe there was no lone left. The expedition had spent a full year exploring the planet, and while they did find the remains of the Adrastan settlement – along with the ruins of the infamous Vault 37 – they did not find any survivors.

But the expedition was not a complete failure. They had been able to establish a permanent settlement there – the first colony among the stars! Now it was only a matter of time before there were more. Mars had the technology and the people to colonize the stars, and they had already taken their first step.

His thoughts were interrupted when his doctor came in to check on him. They had a brief conversation and then he left. Noel was stable for the time being, but they both knew that his condition was terminal. He had another month left, maybe two, before his life would be over. Then he would go on to join his friend Miles, who had died a century ago. After all these years he still missed him. It would be good to see him again.

His doctor was a good man. His grandfather was one of the forest dwellers that Amy had cured back in the 73rd century. The tribes now lived in cities all over the Earth, although most of them lived either in New Adrasta or in Tikal. Noel was quite pleased at Tikal’s continued growth. New buildings were being erected all the time. The city was now home to more than four million people.

The old man relaxed. His death was coming, but he was ready for it. He had lived a long and productive life, and he had accomplished far more than he expected. He knew where he was going when he died and he was looking forward to being there. He was content.

There was a knock on the door. “Come in,” he called out in a frail voice.

The door opened and a teenage girl walked into the room. She had dark skin and long black hair, and had a mischievous smile.

“Amy Stryker?” Noel said incredulously. “Is that – is that really you?”

“Yep!” Amy said, giggling. “My sister will be here in a few minutes. I got to come first, though! I’m pretty excited about that.”

“But how – why? I don’t understand. Am I dead?”

“Oh no! No, you’re still alive. The reason I’m here first is because I never actually died. My sister was killed, so she can’t come back until she’s resurrected.”

“But you can’t possibly still be a teenage girl,” Noel protested. “You must be at least a hundred years old by now! Why, you’re not much younger than I am.”

Amy laughed. “Time in Heaven isn’t as hard on people as time is here. You’ll see. Things are different there.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked, confused.

Amy held up her hand. “You’ll see. Just give it a few minutes.”

Noel smiled. “You never were good at giving direct answers, were you? But since you’re here, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. This city – you built it, didn’t you? Just like you built New Adrasta on Earth. This isn’t really the old city of Tikal, is it?”

Amy turned bright red. “I just knew you were going to ask that! Yes, Miles and I built it. What gave it away?”

“I knew it!” Noel exclaimed happily. “I just knew it. I thought Miles might have been involved but I wasn’t sure. Next time you build something and try to pass it off as an old ruin, be sure to give it a history. The total lack of personal effects and cultural relics was a dead giveaway.”

“Yeah, I know. I guess I kind of overlooked that. But at least the city served its purpose. You did good, Noel. This place is amazing. Although you did not have to name a hospital after me. Or build that statue. I’m pretty sure that I never asked for–”

Noel suddenly heard the distant sound of a trumpet. It had a deep, vibrant call to it, and it gradually increased in intensity. He knew that its source was far away, but somehow the noise seem to come from everywhere. He felt it as much as he heard it. It was more than just a sound, he realized – it was a call, and it was calling him.

He suddenly felt himself change. In an instant of time he lost his tiredness and his aches and pains. The years seemed to simply fall away from him. He felt like a young man again, filled with energy and life and passion. No, it was better than that! He never remembered feeling this good. He glanced down at his hands and saw that the wrinkles and age were gone. He had been changed – transformed into something immortal and incorruptible. And what was that feeling of joy in the air?

As he got out of bed he saw that Amanda was now standing beside her sister. Noel looked at them suspiciously. “Are you two responsible for this?”

The girls shook their heads. “Don’t you know what this is?” Amy asked.

Noel thought for a moment. “Do you mean – oh. Oh! Are you serious? Is this really–”

Amy nodded. “This is it! Jesus Christ has come back for us. The dead have been raised and the living ones who belong to Him have been changed. Next comes–”

Noel suddenly felt the hospital room disappear. He found himself floating in the sky. But this was not the Martian sky; this was Earth. As he looked around he saw that he was surrounded by a vast host of others. The sky was filled with millions – no, billions – of people. Noel wondered where all these people had come from, and then he remembered Amy’s remark that the dead had been raised. He realized that he was seeing the innumerable company of the righteous, raised up by the power of God. And there, in their midst, outshining the sun, was the Lamb of God, Jesus. He had called His children and raised them up. As Noel’s heart was filled with joy, he heard Him call again. It was time for them to go home.

Comments are closed.