20 Oct 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 31

Posted by joncooper

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
–John Newton

“Has it really been ten thousand years already? Where does the time go?”
–Noel Lawson

On October 24, 774, Nigellus Ahexotl became the first man to set foot on the Moon. What he found there was what the telescopes of astronomers had already seen – a dead and lifeless world, home only to rocks and the vacuum of space. The wise men of his era confidently announced that mankind was alone in the universe. There were no aliens lurking behind boulders, or unknown civilizations orbiting distant stars. Man had nothing to fear, for they were unchallenged.

Yet, that was not the case. There was indeed another intelligence in the universe, and it had taken notice of the sons of men. Indeed, it had created them and breathed into them the breath of life. The Lord God watched as man proclaimed themselves to be the masters of the universe and yet were unable to master themselves. He sent His Son Jesus to save them, changing the course of history and offering hope where there had been no hope before.

But still the sons of men would not listen. They preferred darkness over the light, for their deeds were evil. The Mayan civilization destroyed itself, plunging the world into darkness. Long centuries later the Spanish Empire arose and threatened to do great and terrible things. The Emperor had no fear of being challenged. He was not afraid of the One Who created all things, and Who would judge all things on the last day.

So the Lord God intervened. He answered the prayer of a machine and allowed the Sentinel to go back in time to save a pair of teenage girls. He chose the foolish things to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty. The fate of men changed once again, and mankind was given one last chance.

Some took advantage of that chance and built a future for themselves. Others did not, and found only destruction. Then judgment came, and men stood before the Most High God and gave an account of themselves. Some, whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, went on to everlasting life. The rest went on to everlasting torment and shame.

After the judgment the Lord created a new heaven and a new earth. As civilization expanded beyond the Solar System, its head and capitol remained on Earth in the gleaming New Jerusalem. There the Lord dwelt among His people, and the kings of the nations brought in their treasures and worshiped Him. Mankind soon became the masters of the stars, with far-flung cities in the most distant galaxies. But none of them ever came close to the glory of the Lamb’s golden city.

There came a day when a meeting was held in one of the cities among the stars. A group of people were gathering together to celebrate…

* * * * *

The restaurant at the top of Ahexotl Tower was packed. Amy and her sister Amanda were actually the last ones to arrive.

“So what do you think is going on with the Vaugn?” Amy asked, as they walked in the entrance.

“I’m just not sure,” Amanda replied. “The ship is clearly picking up some kind of signal; I don’t deny that. And it’s definitely an intelligent signal. But I don’t see how that’s possible! No one can figure out where the message is coming from or how it’s being downloaded into the ship’s audio equipment. And why can’t anyone else pick up the message?”

“Exactly! The other weird thing is that it’s clearly not a human message. There is some kind of intelligence behind it but it’s not a language I’ve ever seen. Whoever is sending it out seems to be responding to our attempts to communicate, although they’re apparently only picking up parts of our actions.”

“So you think it’s some kind of new life form, then? You don’t think the Vaugn is just picking up random broadcasts and relaying them back to us in a garbled way?”

“I don’t think so. If you look at the data stream–”

“Amy!” Miles exclaimed. He had been standing at the front of the restaurant, counting off the people who had arrived. When he saw the twins he hurried over to them. “It’s so good to see you here. And you brought your sister! I was hoping that both of you could be here.”

Amy smiled. “We wouldn’t miss it! This has become something of a tradition, you know. We’ve been coming to this reunion every year for many thousands of years now – well, ever since the Artilect restored Tonina and rebuilt La Venta.”

“Yes, you have! And we are delighted to see you. Please come, take your seat! The feast has already begun.”

As Miles led them to their table Amy glanced around the room. Everyone was here. There was her brother Tim, who was in a deep conversation with Dr. Temilotzin and Dr. Mazatl. Now that the probes had reached the farthest corners of the universe they had turned their attention elsewhere, and were trying to breach the gap to the U-16b anomaly that lied just outside the universe itself. So far they had not found a way to do it but they hadn’t abandoned the attempt. Amy had no doubt that one day they would find an answer.

Not too far away from them was the Artilect and the Sentinel, who were talking to Noel Lawson. Last she had heard they were designing a Gate system for the Salians. They were a brilliant race of artisans but had great trouble grasping engineering and higher physics. The Gates would allow them to move freely throughout the galaxy and visit other races. Trying to efficiently network quadrillions of worlds was a significant engineering challenge, but Noel had done similar things in the past. His passion for engineering was a sight to behold.

Her mother and father were here as well, talking to Jack Nicholas. She wasn’t sure what they had been doing lately; she needed to get caught up with them. The last she had heard was that her father had been an adviser to the Greater Ward, but that was some time ago.

Monroe Araiza and Merlin Hardin were also here, deep in conversation. She was glad they were here but she was a bit surprised to see them – normally their research tied them up for decades at a time, so they rarely had an opportunity to visit. The two of them had been trying to track down the civilization that had built the Vaugn – the mysterious ship that so many people had spent so much time investigating. Amy decided that she would definitely have to get caught up with Monroe. Perhaps, with a bit of luck, she could convince them that the best way to find the elusive Inventor was to unlock the mysteries of the ship itself.

As she took her seat and began helping herself to the food that was piled up on the table she spotted still more guests. Alex was here, of course, enjoying himself. He was in a conversation with Reverend Knight. Howell, Captain Max, and Jones were also seated at the table. They had just gotten back from an expedition to the Pruitt Cluster. She couldn’t wait to hear their stories.

Once everyone was seated her father stood up. “Please, if I may have your attention,” he called out.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up at him. Richard Stryker smiled. “Friends, I’m not going to bore you with a long speech. There is a time and a place for eloquence, but this isn’t that time or that place. I just wanted to say how happy I am to see all of you. It is a joy to share your company. I hope you will all linger a while and tell us what you’ve been doing.

“The truth is that we have been given a gift – an astounding gift that will never end. We are here at the end of eternity, and yet eternity itself has no end. On Resurrection Day our Lord returned, raised us from the dead, and took us home. The Lord judged all wickedness and evil and put a final end to it – but time itself did not end. The story was not over. He created for us a new Heaven and a new Earth, and now dwells in Zion with mankind. The great golden city is the capitol of the universe, and it will be exactly that for all of the ages of time.

“We have been living in this glorious paradise for more than ten thousand years, and yet our time remaining has not grown any shorter. None of us will ever grow old. All pain, sorrow, and sickness is gone. Instead, every year we find joy, adventure, mysteries, and new wonders. The kingdom of God continues to expand, and of its increase there shall be no end. We have only just begun! Today has been the best day yet – but tomorrow will be even better.”

Amy leaned over to Amanda. “And he said he was just going to give a short speech.”

Everyone laughed. “You’re right,” her father said. “I just wanted to say that we have a great deal to be thankful for – and that our Lord is most worthy of all our thanks, and praise, and worship, and honor. He has done what He promised – He has shown us the exceeding riches of His grace, and He will continue to do so forever. Thank you, Lord!”

“Amen!” everyone shouted.

Richard sat down. “Please – eat!”

As everyone dug into the food, Amy glanced out the window. The city of La Venta was full of people, and Tonina was packed with people of all races – and even aliens. The cities that the Artilect had built were now full of life, just as he had wanted. Darkness had not triumphed. Light filled the entire universe, and it would never go out.

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