Jim drifted in obscurity for eons. The exact measure of time was meaningless.
He had been silent, as such he had been forgotten…again.
He was at home in the void; watching, thinking, judging, planning.
When he had prepared himself and was ready, he asserted his voice in the Collective.
It rang out like a bell.
He drew the attention of the entire membership, even those others who lived mostly in retreat.
They were astonished.
The discipline he must have had to be invisible to them for so long, it was an extraordinary feat.
The Continuum was filled with grave concern, with misgivings over the fact that this one person continued to persist, whose presence was such an anomaly.
Jim was the one person who pushed past the limits of what was known or thought to be possible.
All of the membership existed within the Continuum, including him. His abilities defied reason, it defied the laws that governed the quantum and electromagnetic fields that housed their consciousness.
His return was a mystery.
The Continuum did not want him. It wanted to be rid of him, like a glass of poisoned water.
It did not want a relic like Jim lingering in its subconscious.
It discerned a threat in him.
The Continuum was suspicious.
It did not want his critical perspective influencing it through hidden judgements he shared with other members, It wanted to protect itself from his unquantified ability to slip past the safeguards that the Continuum employed to protect both itself and the Collective.
At the same time, Jim did not want to be in the Collective.
He wanted to be free.
He did not want to be submerged in the vile currents of thought and feeling belonging to the membership any longer.
He felt that the more time he spent there, the greater the likelihood would be that he would lose his desire for justice.
He did not want to live in a fantasy world, or any world of his own creation, regardless of the fact that in such a world he could dwell with seemingly real people, play any role, wielding godlike powers among them.
He had no interest in such fantasies.
He did not want to spend his time watching, living vicariously through the feeds the Continuum presented, following the real lives of real citizens in the Empire as if they were unfolding like the pages in a book, he wanted to be a part of those stories, and he knew the direction he wanted to take the narrative.
He did not want his experience shaped by the Continuum in any way.
He and the Continuum saw the same resolution to their mutual problem, and when they settled on it, they enacted the protocols to make it happen without delay.
He accepted a commission to the Observer Corps.
The Observer Corps was comprised of malcontents, members of the Collective who desired neither the private worlds of the Collective, nor the prospect of the great sleep.
They were persons who were connected to the visceral and the real.
They wanted to take chances, to live as exiles in the midst of uncertainty.
This is not to say that the Observers were heroic, or fearless.
The dangers they encountered were always accompanied by a failsafe. They might encounter a situation in which the body they lived in was harmed or killed, but there was always a back-up, a copy. For the most part, they only ever risked the body of a doppelganger.
There were exceedingly rare occasions when an Observer was lost, when the fail-safes failed. On these occasions there was suspicion, many of the Observers suspected foul-play, believing in conspiracies, and plots carried out by rogue members and by the Continuum itself.
Out of fear, they never looked closely into those incidents, allowing the Continuum to carry out its investigations, make determinations and respond.
Nevertheless, there was still a copy of the member to be revived, a version of their consciousness that could be recreated from the time before they joined the Observer Corps.
These copies were like ghosts, they were the spirits of the vanished. Most never came back fully adjusted, oftentimes opting for the great-sleep instead of participation in the Collective, having lost their sense of belonging.
The Observers were sent into the galaxy to serve in posts that guided the Empire and its culture in ways that satisfied the voyeuristic desires of the membership living on the Central Planet. They fulfilled the will of the Continuum, and served the Collective in those capacities.
For hundreds of thousands of years Jim pursued the inter-stellar migrations, which the Ancient People took in the time before the Collective, in the ages before the Continuum.
He tracked them beyond the expanse of the Empire and its billion worlds.
His mission took him beyond the center of the galaxy, into the dim reaches of its spiral arms.
He explored the starry fields, planet by planet, deep into the far reaches of the galaxy.
He spent thousands of lives in his search, and then thousands more.
He was heralded by the Collective for bringing new worlds into the Imperial fold.
It was a time of renaissance for the Empire.
Each world presented a feast of experiential data for the members of the Collective and the Continuum to consume.
Great dramas ensued as the Empire reached out to swallow every new discovery, every world with a living-thriving society and culture, forcing it to submit to the Imperial will, to adopt the Imperial religion and its way of life.
The Continuum and therefore the Empire, loathed distinctiveness.
The sublimation of each and every new world changed the Empire in small ways, but for each planet that was taken in, what had made them unique was eradicated, and if the resistance they offered was too great, their entire world would be destroyed, reduced to its raw materials and carted off as tribute to the Central Planet.
It was a time of glory.
The ancient-spacefaring people founded thousands of communities among the stars.
Their first steps were to inhabit the planets and natural satellites in their home solar system.
They mined every world for the metals and gasses they needed for fuel and sustenance.
They harnessed the comets and smaller objects that wandered in irregular orbits around their star.
They built colonies on asteroids, on planetoids and planetessimals, strapped engines to them, and road them into the void looking for new places to inhabit.
They built incredible archologies, launching them into the darkness of space.
Generation after generation, they built new ships, captured new vessels, and pushed themselves out.
The children of the ancients pushed far into the galaxy.
The people that volunteered for these missions, were explorers, whole communities and families of adventurers.
They were heroic.
Jim held them in the highest esteem, he wanted to emulate them, his ancestors.
He followed their legends, tracking the wake of their passage, searching for the farthest, most remote and isolated outposts of the Collective’s past.
He was determined to track down every link to the past that belonged to the Ancient People, believing that it could save them.
Only a fraction of the communities and vessels he discovered were still among the living, still maintaining themselves in thriving communities.
In his quest to track down the paths of the Ancient spacefarers he found many lines of their progeny on planets that had become nothing but graveyards.
They were barren and lifeless worlds, where it was clear that the vessels which had carried them arrived at these locations at a point when they could not go any further.
In some cases their ships were still orbiting a planet as an artificial satellite, in others it was clear that their orbits had decayed and they had crashed onto the surface below, or because they were not able to successfully pilot themselves to a safe landing they broke apart in their descent.
In some cases they found the bodies of those Ancient people cold and lifeless, mummified in their ships, drifting above the planet’s surface. In other cases they found their skeletal remains burnt and scattered on the surface of the planet near the impact zone.
There were many other occasions when the people had successfully landed, disembarked, established small colonies that thrived for a time, but then were destroyed, either by natural disasters, environmental catastrophes, disease and starvation.
Some of those colonies went on to establish new societies, spreading across the surface of their new homes. Many of those groups succumbed to internal conflicts, to the specter of war and violence that haunted their species, and they destroyed themselves.
Among those civilizations that found their footing for a time, some of them continued in the traditions of their forbears, even building new ships and new archologies, which they launched into the galaxy before they too became lost.
Though they were people who had vanished from the knowledge of the Collective, they left records of their passage and clues to where their survivors might yet be found.
Jim actualized all of his abilities, and all of the resources of the Empire, he found them.
He developed machines with instrumentation so fine, that he could track the contrail of particles laid down by the passage of a ship, or planetoid, a billion years in the past.
He calculated their trajectories from star to star and mapped the galaxy as he did so.
He tracked down every lost world, poured over their records, archived their stories, took whatever clues he found, and leapt back into the void to track down their descendants.
He found them all.
While he found other planets teaming with lifeforms that had been seeded by the Ancient people, nowhere did he find a world that had produced sentient creatures like the Ancients People.
The farther he travelled away from the Central Planet, when he came across a thriving world with a robust civilization, he discovered that the children of the Ancients People had lost the memory of where they had come from.
They had lost the knowledge of their trials on strange worlds.
They did not know how their sojourn among the stars had altered them, mutated them.
They had changed.
Many were hardly recognizable as descendants of the Ancient People.
The further their genetic profile was differentiated from the norms of the Empire, the more likely it would be that the Empire, or the Continuum would select their world for destruction, rather than inclusion in the Imperial system.
Wars of xenophobia ensued.
Jim did whatever he could to preserve their history before it was lost in the conflicts, or subsumed by the Imperial cults.
He established a network of secret societies wherever he went. They fostered rebellion and resistance to the grip of the Imperium.
Part Five, 92835670100561474
Chapter Thirty-four, Selected
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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