Author : Roger Dale Trexler
They found it.
They found the edge of the universe.
And they found the sentinel there.
Harrison knew this was it. Beyond, there were no stars, just utter blackness.
“My God,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d ever find it.”
Ramsey looked at him. The lines on Harrison’s face were deep. They had met each other as much younger men, each of them searching for something that life was not giving them. They had become quick friends and, in time, inseparable. So, on the day Harrison came to him with his ideas for a quantum drive that could bend time and space, Ramsey had no other choice but to join him on his adventure.
It took twenty years and a billion credits to build the two-man quantum ship, but Harrison was good at acquiring funding for such things. He had an honest face, he joked, and businessmen were always quick to see the potential profit for themselves in his work. He wondered if those businessmen, all in their high-priced suits sipping their expensive wines, were shaking their fists in rage at him.
They had departed the orbital station in the middle of the night. Subterfuge had been the order of the moment, and neither of them had told a soul they were leaving. It was only when the quantum drive came online that anyone took notice of their flight….and, by then, it was too late.
Harrison had flicked the switch, and the ship disappeared.
It hadn’t really disappeared, of course. Harrison’s quantum drive merely slid the ship into an alternate dimension for a moment. The ship sped through that dimension, following a course that Ramsey had postulated would take them to the edge of the universe the quickest.
“But,” said Harrison, “isn’t there more than one ‘edge’?”
“Of course there is,” replied Ramsey. “There are trillions upon trillions of points.”
“Then why this course?” asked Harrison.
Ramsey took a second to reply. “It’s complicated,” he said finally. “I….I’ve noticed something about this region of space we are traveling through. Something odd.”
He drew a deep breath and let out a sigh. “It’s….it’s as if someone has laid out a trail of bread crumbs, in a way. The radiation coming from the stars in this direction—and in this direction only—is different than the radiation from other stars and solar systems in the known reaches of space.”
He went on to explain it, but Harrison did not fully comprehend. He was a theoretically engineer, a man who designed and thought up things no man had ever thought of before, and astrophysics was not his specialty.
In the end, he trusted Ramsey as much as Ramsey trusted him.
They traveled for months at speeds that were hundreds, if not thousands, of times faster than the speed of light.
Then, the day came that the sensors told them there was nothing ahead.
Harrison returned the ship to normal, sub-light speed.
They saw the void ahead.
And they saw the sentinel.
Both men gasped in awe at the sight. For the sentinel was neither machine, nor creature. It was something completely different. It sensed them the moment they arrived, and it started to flow toward them.
It wrapped itself around the quantum ship and Harrison, in a moment of fear, activated the drive.
“I don’t understand,” Harrison said, his voice shaky. “We should be parsecs away.”
But I do not wish it, a voice in his head replied. I have waited so long. He….he left me here….alone.
Harrison looked at Ramsey and, at that moment, both men understood. They had found the edge of the universe, and the sentinel was there to guard it. From what, they did not know.
A few seconds later, the quantum ship imploded and the sentinel, who could not help what it was, was alone….again.