The First Examiner reclined in the dark silence of the observation dome.
His thoughts were turned both inward to his life's work, and the work
of those before him, and outward to the vast emptiness of the
star-filled galaxy above him.
He thought about the small corner of the galaxy that was occupied by the
civilization he was a part of. While it was teaming with life, the
remainder was virtually empty. It had been occupied though, long ago.
He thought about how his civilization now seemed an infant, compared
to the one that had occupied all he now observed through the dome
above him. Several generations ago, when deep-space travel had become
practical, the fringes of a long dead civilization were discovered
among the stars.
He thought about the endless corridors of data stored in the complex
below him. Data collected by three generations of expeditions and
Examiners before him.
He thought about his life's work, piecing together a civilization that
seemed beyond comprehension in size and age.
He thought about his growing feelings for this civilization. For all its
size and age, which he was beginning to sense was in the millions of
years, this civilization instilled in him only a sense of emptiness,
and he realized now, loneliness.
He thought about the theories put forth to explain how such a vast
civilization could have ended. He realized now that what had been found was
a civilization that had conquered a galaxy, only to find that it was
Copyright 1986, David Scott Coburn