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The Template
Volume 1, Part Four

So advanced was the Universal Coalition technologically, that transportation was a virtual non-issue. With a kind of fevered impatience that could not be described, and yet which had no need of description to any citizen of the Universe, the President continued at his job until the penultimate day of existence. And yet... his anticipation to return home was well covered, if not entirely concealed, by his professional demeanor. No one could expect him or anyone else to allay any of the anxieties which rested so heavily and immediately upon the minds of practically everyone, everywhere... nevertheless, he did as admirable a job- indeed, many privately commented far more admirable- than could have been expected. His final official act was a universal broadcast to... well, the Universe.... His words were simple yet eloquent, and as close to calming and reassuring as possible, though as has been noted... nothing could be truly calming or reassuring. Nor was his message recorded by any media, for what would be the point? He spoke, people watched and listened, and then the transmission was cut off. The rest of time belonged to everyone to do with as they would.

After his speech, the President said his good-byes to everyone in the capitol. There were tears in everyone's eyes, many hugs and handshakes, as well as other customary gestures peculiar to the various species present. And then, one by one, everyone went their separate ways, for the very last time. The President was the last one remaining. No custodians remained behind, for there was no need to clean or lock the premises. No buildings anywhere in the Universe were locked, that night.

The President strolled the empty halls, indulging in a private style of melancholy, before returning to his office. He walked all around the room, looking at things, touching things, now and again smiling at memories objects evoked, occasionally shedding a fond tear, and finally he sat down at his desk. After a few minutes of sitting quietly in the dimness, he backed up and whirled about in his chair, and smiled again. Then he opened the lower right hand drawer of his desk, and produced an old bottle of slar-eth, a gift five years ago from the Ambassador of Telronakt, a world about five galaxies removed from his present location, and nearly a hundred galaxies from his own homeworld. He'd never opened it. Always waiting for a special occasion, as it happened to be an excellent vintage, practically priceless, but that the Ambassador's family happened to be the producers of the liquor. The President chuckled now as he thought to himself, Rather unlikely to find a more special occasion than this. He laughed again as he remembered cutting a coupon for a candy bar out of a magazine, as a young boy, and carrying it around in his wallet for many years before finally getting around to using it. He'd bought the candy bar any number of times before getting his free one, and thrown out countless expired coupons for various other candies, sodas, and such, any number of times over the years, which he so often forgot to use. This one coupon had no expiration date... he'd finally used it what, twenty years ago at least? As a young man, before ever even thinking of entering politics. He could still have used it today, if he'd kept it.

Then he thought, No matter what any label says... everything has an expiration date. He sighed wistfully, reached into the still open drawer and pulled out a tumbler, which he set on his desk. He opened the bottle, and filled the glass with the thick indigo-amber liquid. He set the bottle down, raised the glass, and thought a silent toast to the Ambassador before drinking. Over the next several minutes- or an hour, he couldn't have said for sure- he poured himself a few more drinks, but finally left the bottle half emptied. He sealed it again, returned it to its place, and shut the drawer. He stood, and momentarily wondered whether he should push his chair in or leave it as it was. He thought... there must be some sort of debate over symbolism governing this simple action; defiant adherence to dignity and propriety no matter what, or a carefree spirit of the most basic sentient nature. What would be the final legacy of the pinnacle of civilization at this, its zenith? He argued both cases in his mind for a minute, paralyzed with indecision. Then he broke down and laughed his head off. He walked around to the front of the desk, picked up his glass, and swallowed the last of its contents. He stared at his chair, aback from the desk, in the same general position it always was immediately after he stood up from it. Then he looked down at the glass in his hand, and placed it on a coaster on his desk, and smiled. A compromise, then, he said to himself.

With another sigh, yet in reasonably high spirits for various reasons, he turned and walked to the transmat platform in the far corner of his office. He stood on the base, turned and waved casually at his desk. "Bye-bye," he said to it. And then to the computer which would activate the transmat, "Home."

part five
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All contents of this site David A. Ward