They crossed themselves, some in awe, but most out of habit even if this was the one time that it truly counted.
“My god,” a voice uttered from one of the men onboard.
“Our god, indeed,” the Cardinal-Princeps stated as he stood transfixed at the sight before them. The room erupted in whispered debate.
“He looks like our paintings.”
“He looks how he wants us to see Him.”
“I can’t believe He’s actually…real,” a Navigator-Eparch said as he fell to his knees, tears streaming across his wide cheeks.
“How can there be doubt in your heart if you are on this crusade?”
“They shall sing songs about us back home for this,” said another.
“But will they be songs of courage or foolishness?”
“There is little distinction between those, brother.”
The Cardinal-Princeps, silhouetted against the window, raised a single white-gloved hand adorned with ruby-encrusted rings. The group behind him fell silent.
“By entering Paradise, we become gods among men. It is your duty to be reverent of this responsibility bestowed on you. Our courage to venture here, to forge a way to guide heathens and cynics, means we shall do more for our great Faith than even He Himself has.”
He walked over to a tall cabinet on the side of the bridge and tugged at the satin rope inside, sounding the large churchbell that was afixed atop the craft. Its song shattered the silence about them and within moments, a chorus of churchbells could be heard emanating from the other Angelic Engines.
One of the young attendees looked over his shoulder, out the window at the back of the ship. There were no mountains, no fog, nothing to be seen behind them except for the bright light of Paradise. A pure blank space the likes of which he’d never seen before.
“I want to go home,” he whispered weakly so that none could hear his fear.
You are home, my son. You have always been here.
The attendee shook his head to try and get the voice out of it, muttering to himself: “We shouldn’t be here, we should turn back now.”
“Silence,” the Librarian-Prelate commanded, “We have earned our place here, our technology has allowed us to prove that we deserve our place back in Eden. Surely we have cleansed the sins of Adam. The Father’s prodigal children have returned to him.”
The Cardinal-Princeps turned to an attendant, “Prepare a message to the Pontificate-Exalt.”
The attendant nodded and turned to face a large brass-knobbed, gold-lined, glass-covered machine that had a wooden lever attached to it. As the Cardinal dictated his message, the attendant tapped the lever in code.
< MESSAGE START: GLORIA IN EXCELSIUS DEO. CRUSADE SUCCESS. EDEN RECLAIMED. MESSAGE END. >
The Grand Figure raised the Sword and with that, they were all bathed in that Most Holy and Glorious of Lights. It consumed them in their entirety. Flesh, machine, and soul vibrating with an energy that touched every sense, every nerve-ending, every memory, every moment now, before, and to come.
Time lost all meaning. Past, present, and future turned in on one another so that the strands of each had woven into a tapestry no mortal would ever be able to comprehend. But all who enter Eden in that instant could understand all of it. For they had truly become divine, returning to the Light from which all Life had emerged.