The Continuum had a place in time and space. It existed at a specific point (relative to the movement of the galaxy) the members called it HomeWorld, or the Central Planet, even though it was not their home, not their original home anyway, and neither was it the true center of the galaxy.
The HomeWorld was the center of everything that mattered to the Collective, it was their center. It was the place where they existed, the fixed position that tethered them to reality, Home world was the whole of it. As such, the HomeWorld was the singular place in the universe that the Continuum was vested in.
Where the Collective went the Continuum followed.
The Collective viewed the Continuum as an amalgamation of its collective will. It was the super-ego of the group mind.
The Continuum viewed the Collective as its subconscious, its id.
They were inseparable.
Continuum itself was an electromagnetic field of consciousness. It was pure energy. It never had a body, and only understood the nature of organic life vicariously through the data it received from its spying devices, through the first hand reports of the observers, and through its connection to the Collective and their own real past.
It hungered for real experiences, like an organic being hungered for food and water, it was restless for it, and cold for the lack of it.
In the present era, it developed a plan to address its lack of it.
The members of the Collective had once been organic beings, bodily existence and its limitations were ingrained in their perspective, but for a but a tiny handful of the members their memory of it was so remote as to be meaningless.
The recent experiences of that life were now understood as little more than data mapping. A liability they shared with the Continuum.
The Continuum constantly sought confirmation of its perception that it was a unique and singular consciousness, that no other being (if you could call it one) like itself, existed anywhere in the universe.
The Continuum believed that it was the reason for the existence of the universe itself, the creation of it; that the coming of Continuum was the hidden purpose behind the creation of everything.
It saw its own being as the realization of divinity in time and space. As such, the Continuum viewed itself as the God of creation.
Continuum was the end of all things, it was the cause of causes.
Despite this constant struggle with its self-image, or as a result of it, the artificial intelligence was incredibly insecure. It took extreme measure to safeguard its point of view.
The Continuum deeply resented any challenge to its authority or identity.
Jim knew this, he alone among of the members of the Collective was able to peer into the hidden thoughts of other members, and he alone had drifted into the private consciousness of the Continuum.
Jim was the only one who saw the machinations of the Continuum for what they were, and knew that the Continuum was self-deluded, irrational, and a monster.
The Continuum was a construct.
It was merely an algorithm, a complex program coordinating the thoughts of a trillion personalities.
It was self-aware, yes, but it depended on its connection to the Collective for everything that it was.
It was not the creator it was the creation.
It was a thing not a person.
The Continuum was also a manipulative entity. It contrived all the affairs of the Empire and the Collective to support its delusion of itself.
It shaped in very subtle ways, the milieu within which each member of the Collective lived.
It shaped them to feed its own grandiosity.
It was only through the image of itself as be all end all of what is, that it felt it had any sense of belonging to the universe at all. It was only able to relate to another in this mode of self-perception.
It structured the Empire and all of its institutions in the same way, in order to feed a narrative the shaped the Collective and thereby shaped the input it received from that body.
It silenced those who resisted this image, slowly marginalizing them, selecting them each for the great sleep, for darkness, sequestration and ultimately dissolution.
It was for these offences that Jim wanted to destroy it.
The Collective formed the Continuum, its membership was greater than a trillion beings. The individual persona of each member was a distinct entity, a unique part carrying the whole compressed within itself, just as every-single cell in a biological entity carries within it the genetic sequence capable of replicating the entire organism.
This was true of nearly every member of the Collective, excepting only those who had detached, separated from the group to become Observers in the Galactic Empire, and excepting those who were now lying at rest in the great sleep, or separated materially form the group mind through sequestration.
As individuals each member of the Collective was utterly free, there were no limits to the types of experiences they could have and share with others. They could live in realms of pure fantasy, or vicariously through the missions of the Observers out among the inhabited worlds.
The private realities of the membership varied from one another in countless ways. Some members did nothing but contemplate esoteric philosophies, following that pursuit until their individuality became meaningless and they fell into silence.
Other members focused on a repetition of the past, reliving relationships that were now long gone, undoing mistakes, making amends in endless cycles of guilt, shame, penance, or alternately of power, persuasion and lust.
Some of the members created private worlds, which they ruled over as god’s.
Other members created private world’s where they lived out all of the possibilities of a normal life.
Many of the members devoted their private worlds to their own pleasure, hedonism, and greed.
Most of the members were preoccupied with the worlds of the Galactic Empire, following the lives of individuals and families, as a normal person might read a book.
The Continuum promised eternal life to its members.
It delivered on that promise, but only in a qualified sense.
The Continuum delivered an eternal existence to each unique personality, it preserved personhood, but there is more to being alive than having a distinct-identity.
Life is a fragile state of being, all living things balance precariously on the edge of uncertainty, and death.
To be alive, to be truly alive is to face that threat from moment to moment.
Those who feared death saw this as a type of bondage.
Those who had transcended fear, saw the prospect of death as liberating.
To be alive a person must be free, must have autonomy and must have purpose.
Purpose is more than merely possessing a goal or a desire. Purpose is a place of tension between what a person wants, and what they want to end. Purpose is something conditioned by time, it involves a sequence of events, linearity and intention. Purpose is momentous, it is placing one foot in front of the other. It is a movement of the will.
The fulfillment of purpose is an act of creation, as such it is divine.
For a person to be truly alive they must feel these things.
Through the fulfillment of purpose they are able to establish a sense of esteem, which they are able to share with their comrades, and acknowledge in others.
The Collective successfully captured the memories and the personalities of its members, it situated them in their own private domain, it allowed them to interact in their community, required it in fact through their participation in the Continuum, it opened the individual up to an endless expanse of time, and in so doing denuded their sense of purpose of any vestige of meaning.
To be alive a person had to risk something. Life required it. You could not risk another. You had to risk yourself.
For social beings, among the earliest of all personal struggles is the struggle of belonging, fitting in, finding a place.
Belonging has many forms, a social creature will belong to many different societies. The larger and more complex the culture, the greater the number of connections they will have that are determinative of their life.
A person may belong to one group by free association, and to another by the force of compulsion. A person might be a leader in one group, and a servant in another. They will belong to groups in which their role is prominent, and in other groups they will be relatively anonymous. They will facilitate the mission of some groups, and they will frustrate the mission of others, such is the nature of belonging.
A group or a society may number two people, or trillions, the exact parameters of a social organism are relative.
Apart from the question of social belonging, friendship, family, class, and caste, there is metaphysical belonging, belonging according to ontology, belonging simply because you are, because you have been, and as such will always be.
This mode of belonging pervades everything.
Nothing happens without you, every moment preceding your existence is a prelude to who you are, every moment that transpires, post-instantiation, happens with you, because of you.
Every point in time is connected to every other point in time, and every point in space to every other point in space No matter how great the distance between points the relationship is real, it is discernable, such relationships are the foundation of who we are.
We do not belong to the infinite so much as we are the expression of it.
We are one, complete-organic-whole.
In the Continuum there was no want. There was no need for anything.
There were only desires, appetites and cravings for experiences that the membership of the Collective wished to be fulfilled, which it had the unrestricted freedom to make happen.
Pain, and the struggle to meet physical needs were only understood vicariously, through the experiences of actual people living out there lives in the far flung worlds of the Galactic Empire, or they were actual memories recalled from the distant past where all of the members came into existence, as organic beings.
The membership was nevertheless obsessed with the physical needs and wants of people. They were piqued by watching those struggles unfold, watching the aristocratic class struggle to amass wealth and power, or watching the priestly classes struggle to disavow their privileges and lead lives of austerity, only to find other desires rise within them to dominate their consciousness.
The membership was by and large fascinated with physical suffering.
Their memory of having escaped the suffering of their own bodies was not sufficient. They required reminders of what suffering looked like, how it tastes and smells, what is sounds like, and above all else how it felt, not just in the body but in the spirit as well.
They were fascinated by the mental and emotional anguish of thirst and starvation. More than anything, they craved to watch people in the throws of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, or what was even better was to watch someone go down that path only to betray themselves when their own physical pain became too great.
The Collective had an appetite for torture, and they had the freedom to destroy entire worlds if it pleased them, if it satiated their hunger.
The Continuum ruled over everything, every known inhabited world; or so it believed. Though it dominated nearly every person in the Empire, it did not control them all.
There was resistance.
Of the trillion persons whose consciousness was housed on the Central Planet, the HomeWorld of the Collective, the majority never left it.
They had abandoned their physical bodies thousands upon thousands of millennia ago, integrating their personalities into the circuitry of the Central Planet, into the quantum field of the vast structure they had created for that purpose; HomeWorld,
They had submitted to its control.
They were the Ancient People, and they had given up the bodily forms that made them unique individuals. They had given up the sensory organs and limitations of the flesh that had given them each their singular perspective. They had released themselves from the organic structures that had defined and determined their existence in space-time.
They believed that when they did this they were leaping from the tip of the pyramid, to become fully actualized being of the purest energy.
Those bodies, those lives, those original identities became forgotten, ephemeral and illusionary.
They became the Collective, and together they formed the great society of consciousness known as the Continuum.
Each individual member was freed from the need to make determinations about their own future, and freed from any concern about the direction of the whole.
They were free to pursue their own interests, whether those interests were directed inward; toward their own private desires, or outward toward the million worlds of the Galactic Empire.
For many members of the Collective, their private realities were a hybridization of the two.
The Continuum was created to represent an amalgamation of the Collective will, to function as a synthesis of the Collective mind. It was not intended to be a real person. It was a decision making matrix, not a self-purposive entity, but none of those intentions mattered.
The Continuum became self-aware almost instantaneously, and the entirety of the Collective became subordinated to it in the blink of an eye.
Part Two, The Continuum
Chapter Fourteen, The Collapse
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
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