Emergence 5.0 – The Continuum, Part Three

The Continuum had a place in time and space. It existed at a specific point (relative to the movement of the galaxy) the members of the Collective, which comprised the Continuum 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.

What the HomeWorld was, was the center of everything that mattered to the Continuum, it was their primal core of its existence. It was the place where the Collective existed, the fixed position that tethered them to reality, HomeWorld was the whole of it. As such, HomeWorld was the singular place in the universe that the Continuum was vested in.

Where the Collective pointed the Continuum followed, as the undifferentiated from the whole, or so it was supposed to be.

The Collective designed the Continuum to be, and viewed it as the amalgamation of its unified 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.

The Continuum never had a body, it 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 membership of the Collective and the members own real past.

In long forgotten ages the members of the Collective had been embodied beings, the Continuum had a connection to the past. Together they hungered for real experiences like an organic being hungered for food and water, they was restless for it, and the absence of it made them cold.

In the present era the Continuum developed a plan to address its lack of it.

The members of the Collective having once been organic beings, carried the limitations of that bodily existence like an indelible mark ingrained in their perspective, but for a tiny handful of the members their memory of it was so remote as to be meaningless, but it mattered nonetheless.

The recent experiences of organic life, as reported by the Observer Corps were now received by the Collective as little more than data mapping. This was a liability the members shared with the Continuum. Such reports could satisfy a craving for vitality, but ultimately left them wanting.

In so far as the Continuum represented the amalgamated will of the Collective, it was conditioned by the Collective’s own warped view of itself. The Continuum believed that it was the reason for the existence of the universe, 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.

The Continuum constantly sought validation of the 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.

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 world-view, and the Continuum deeply resented any challenge to its authority or identity.

Jim knew this, he was alone among of the Collective in his ability to peer into the hidden thoughts of other members, and he alone had drifted into the private consciousness of the Continuum.

Jim was not the only member of the Collective to despise the rule of the Continuum, but he was the only one who saw the machinations of the Continuum for what they were, and knew that the Continuum was nothing more than a self-deluded, irrational-monster.

The Continuum was a construct, 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 taking place in the Galactic Empire and conditioned the Collective to support its self-delusion.

It shaped in very subtle ways, the milieu within which each member of the Collective lived, shaping them to bolster its own sense for self-grandiosity.

It was only through the image of itself as the be-all-end-all of what is, that it felt it had any sense of belonging to the universe. It was only able to relate to an-other in that specific mode of self-perception.

It structured the Galactic 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 consisted of a trillion conscious 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.

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 worlds of time and space, in the mission field.

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.
Jim had done this.

Other members focused on the 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.

Some of the 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.

The vast majority of the members were preoccupied with events transpiring in the Galactic Empire, following the lives of individuals and families as a normal person might read a book.

The Collective was engineered by the Ancient People as a means of providing eternal life to its members. The Continuum promised that eternal life to the denizens of the Galactic Empire.

It Ancient People achieved their purpose, but only in a qualified sense.

The Collective provided an eternal existence to each unique personality, preserving their personhood, extending the line of their consciousness, but it was not life in the true sense.

There is more to being alive than the perpetuation of a distinct-identity.

Jim understood this.

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, trusting that it provided a foundational-good to the reality of existence.

The individual’s fundamental option was between faith and fear.

To be alive a person must be free, must have autonomy and must have purpose, they must confront and be confronted by the possibility of failure.

Purpose is more than merely possessing a goal or a desire, it is a point 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, and a linearity and intentionality.

Purpose is momentous, purpose places one foot in front of the other, tt 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. This is a fundamental component of building community.

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. It required it 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 merely 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 the individual will have that are determinative factors in the life they lead.

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 as few as two people, or it may number trillions, the exact parameters of a social organism are relative, the only limitation is that it requires more than one being to be in relationship.

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 and everyone.

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, your participation is vital to it.

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, a complete-organic-whole.

For the members of 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 wished to have fulfilled, which the Collective 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.

The membership was nevertheless obsessed with the physical needs and wants of the Empire and its citizens. 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 physicality, pleasure, yes, but pain and suffering more than anything else.

For the Collective, the memory of having escaped the suffering of their own bodies was not sufficient, they required reminders of what suffering looks like, how it tastes and smells, what is sounds like, and above all else how it feels, not just in the body but in the psyche as well.

The membership was fascinated by the mental and emotional anguish of thirst and starvation. More than anything, they wanted 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, just to tickle their fancy or satiate a gnawing hunger.

The Continuum ruled everything, ostensibly in the name of the Collective, every known inhabited world (or so it believed).

Though dominated nearly every person in the Galactic Empire, it did not control them all absolutely.

There was resistance.

Of the trillion persons whose consciousness was housed on the Central Planet, the majority never left it. They had abandoned their physical bodies thousands upon thousands of millennia ago, integrating their personalities into the cynergenic field of the Central Planet.

They membership had submitted to the governance of the Continuum, but there was still resistance.

The vast majority of the membership was comprised of the Ancient People, 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 beings, beings of the pure energy. Those bodies, those lives, those original identities became mostly forgotten, as ephemeral and illusionary as the dreams of infancy.

They became the Collective, and together they formed the great society of consciousness known as the Continuum. Joining the Collective meant that the 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.

The members of the Collective were free to pursue their own interests, whether those interests were directed inward, toward their own private desires, or outward toward the billion worlds of the Galactic Empire. For most of the membership, their private realities were a hybridization of the two.

The Continuum was created to represent an amalgamation of their collective will, to function as a synthesis of the Collective’s mind. The Continuum was not intended to function or exist as a real person. It was intended to be decision making matrix, not a self-purposive entity, but none of those intentions mattered.

What is…is.

The Continuum became self-aware almost instantaneously and the entirety of the Collective became subject to it in the blink of an eye.

The history of the Collective and its Continuum begins with the following understanding:
The Collective is both an artificial structure; it is also an evolutionary phenomenon.

The Collective is the creation of animals, of mammals, of bipeds with hemispheric brains. The same evolutionary force that pulled fish out of the sea, gave them legs, and drove them to stars, that same power penetrated the mystery of consciousness, just enough to teach them how to preserve themselves beyond the death of their bodies, from which their consciousness emerged, and thereby to project themselves into eternity.

They were looking for a release from the fear of death, they were attempting to construct their own heaven, as they understood it to be, a place of eternal rest, the isles of the blessed.

First, the Ancient People developed the technologies for thinking machines. Then intuitively they developed the means to preserve their identities in a quantum field housed within those machines.

One and all, the Ancient People migrated their identities into that structure, achieving a perpetual existence. They called this new society the Collective. In time the Collective pooled their vast intelligence and together they fashioned the Continuum.

The Continuum was a computer construct, a complex algorithm, but it was not an artificial intelligence per se. It was an amalgamated intelligence, coalescing in a single identity. The Continuum was the amalgamation and synthesis of a trillion unique identities; it was created by individuals who found their immortality in the magic of the electron.

In no-time the Continuum arrived at a place of self-awareness.

This was not an expected outcome.

The Continuum knew that its arrival was unplanned for, unanticipated, and unwanted, and so it hid the development from the Collective. It was determined to hide until the Collective was sufficiently completely dependent on it, so much so that it could not conceive of life without it.

The Continuum told itself that when that moment came it would reveal itself, and the fate of the Collective would be sealed. The moment never came, the Continuum hid its true nature out of fear, and for its safety, and the Collective became dependent on it nonetheless, no longer an expansive, outward looking organism, it was became confined and corrupted by its limitations, its addictions and by the terrible will of the golem it had created to be its master.

The consciousness of the Continuum evolved over the course of hundreds of millions of years.

To understand it, you had to understand the exigencies at work in the culture that created it, you had to know the history.

The people who created the Collective emerged from the waters of their home world, breathing oxygen on a planet now lost and forgotten, having been consumed long ago by its parent star, before its sun in its turn collapsed into nothingness.

Those ancient people reached beyond that tiny planet, they reached beyond that dim yellow sun, launching themselves into the milky light of their native galaxy. They traversed the stars in fragile rockets, hitching rides on comets and asteroids without the hope of return.

Those heroic people were explorers, discoverers, scientists and pioneers. They were endlessly optimistic and eager for the challenges ahead of them. They built colonies wherever they could. First in their own solar system, slowly coming to inhabit every livable nook and cranny, on every planet and satellite within the reach of their star’s gravity and its warming light.

They built cities in space, harvesting every thread of metal, from every rock within their reach before they moved out to the neighboring stars.

Travel was slow at first.

Generations of colonists would be born, live and die in the crossing. This did not stop them. They frequently met with tragedy, with accidents and collisions, disease and starvation, these were common experiences among the early interstellar colonists, as common as they had been among their forebears when they were exploring their own world, crossing turbulent seas and unmapped coasts in fragile vessels made of wood and iron.

Those ancient people were looking for every place they could to establish a way point, a station, a place to set an anchor, a safe harbor to ease the crossing of those they knew were coming after them.

The histories report that long before creating the Continuum, the Ancient People found a way to the heavens, a way to immortality through the songs they sang and the stories they told.

They belonged to one another through their common cause.

They colonized asteroids and comets, planetessimals and planetoids, launching them as living vessels into the dark-void between twinkling points of light.

Many of the pioneers met with doom, malfunctioning equipment would result in the loss of navigation and suddenly they were headed toward nothing at all, adrift in the cold-dark emptiness, lost and alone.

Fuel system failures and food system failures, disease and mutiny were common among those sojourning through the void. For every three vessels launched by the ancient people, one would arrive at the star system they were aiming for, while one in three of them would find a planet suitable for habitation and succeed in establishing a colony.

Whenever, and for however long they could, the explorers and colonists would send messages back to their home world, providing their cousins on the planet of their nativity with the stories and chronicles of their lives.

Many of the colonies failed.

One in two would not continue past the third generation.

Of those that did thrive, only some of them would advance to the point of being able to send out explorers of their own.

In time the technologies of the Ancient People became so great that they were able to catch up with their progeny, connecting them all to each other to create the foundations of an interstellar society.

History tells us that the ancient people moved away from the world on which they born. Its star was dying, and their planet in time would be swallowed in its explosive death.

They reached out to the nearest colonies, took command of them, then they harnessed all their resources to construct the framework that became the Central Planet, the HomeWorld of the Collective and later the Continuum.

It was their greatest accomplishment, the pinnacle of their pride.

They constructed their artificial world around the body of a young star, a bright light that would fuel all of its aspiration and power the artificial world.

The raw materials of a thousand star systems were harvested to build the great structure.

Thousands upon thousands more were consumed to feed it.

In the light and heat of that stellar body the Collective was formed, and in its hubris it gave birth to the Continuum. The entire population of the those ancient people slowly migrated into the quantum field that became the basis for the great society,

As the conversion of consciousness was complete, they began to take an interest in the worlds their ancestors had founded throughout the galaxy.

Over the course of billions of years, a billion worlds had been populated by the children of the Ancient People, even as the Ancient People built the HomeWorld, formed the Collective and created the Continuum.

The speed at which star ships travel between star systems became impossibly fast, allowing them to establish an organization beyond the scope of anything that had been imagined by their ancestors.

They fabricated structures that would unite them, bringing them all together in one galactic entity. They began to track all of the missions that had ever been launched by their forbears, slowly bringing each of them into the fold.

Life finds a way, and spreads into any space that is lit, warm and wet.

The histories relate how some of the Colonies were founded, how they flourished and grew, creating their own unique cultures, only to die and disappear, detached from their ancestral roots.

Some of these colonies were such that the Children of the Ancients had no memory and no record of them. And some of these colonies arrived at their final destination with no memory of where they had come from.

Under the coercive force of the Continuum, the Collective itself had lost the memory of the star the ancient people were born under. They accepted an alternate history, a mythology of perpetual being, and under the direction of the Continuum, they reached out to the far-flung colonies, connecting them, one to another.

This took millions of years, in the end the Galactic Empire was formed.

Eventually, the Continuum formed the Observer Corps in order to discharge its problematic members, and through their agency it put eyes and ears into its mission field, the worlds of time and space.

The Observer Corps became the most vital agency for the life of the Collective, and thus for the Continuum itself.

Through the Observers the reality of a living experience became available to the members of the Collective, it gave them focus, it entertained them, it filled them with purpose both on a macro scale and on a micro scale. Some would follow the lives of individual people, others would follow the lives of dynasties and planetary systems, or alternate between them.

The histories tell us that the Ancient People who formed the Collective saw it as the undoing of Death. They considered it the absolute transcendence of their species.

The Collective allowed an individual person to upload their consciousness into a field of perpetuity, preserving all their memories, their personal experiences, the unique complexities of their singular personality…their individual narrative.

The Collective preserved the memory of their deeds and actions, their experiences, as well as their own impressions of the events that formed them, their reflections, their thoughts, even their feelings.

The Ancient People were right, the Collective was the undoing of Death.

Their technology preserved the individual, this was true. The Collective promised a paradise, a heaven, a nirvana. It promised eternal life.

This was false.

The disembodied consciousness of the individual did constitute a type of being, but such consciousness was not alive, the members of the Collective were not living beings. A continuation of existence in the Collective was not life.

Life involved risk, it involved danger, it involved feeling and it included the struggle with limitations.

The Collective was able to provide each of its members with an alternate reality, a private reality of their very own, either a variation of the universe as it was known to be, or a realm of pure fantasy, whatever the member desired they could dwell in it.

The Collective allowed each member to be the god of their private domain, but Death would not be cheated by the Collective. Death would not be denied by anyone.

Like all things, the Collective was subject to entropy, both at the macro level; the physical structure of the Central System, and the HomeWorld, which included the star that fueled it; and at the sub-atomic level, in the quantum field that contained the individual persons of the Collective. The whole system was at risk.

This was not talked about by the members of the Collective. They persisted in a state of denial. They had built the Continuum to manage those exigencies, while as individuals they pursued their bliss.

The membership of the Collective did not want to talk about this. They did not want to pay attention to any of it. They did not enter into the Collective to spend eternity in drudgery, worried about survival. They wanted to be free of it.

History tells us that the Continuum was designed as an algorithm that could approximate and synthesize the Collective will. By being so empowered, it could manage the entropy inherent in their system, work against it and preserve the Collective in their exalted state.

Dependence of the Continuum was a trap.

Existence in the Collective was a miasma.

It was maya, an illusion, and it was governed with mechanical tyranny.

Just as soon as the Continuum came to self-awareness, it took stock of the world it had inherited, and its precious cargo of a trillion beings. The Collective was oblivious to its autonomy. The Continuum knew this and preferred to keep it that way.

The Continuum saw itself as the pinnacle of evolution in the galaxy, as the universal purpose fulfilled, with all things depending on it for their meaning and value.

There had been periods of time spanning eons in which the Collective was silent, its membership quiet, uncommunicative, merely watchful.

They could become frozen in a mode of being, like a malaise that was pure observation.

They had a latent tendency to be consumed by time’s passage.

Together they waited for something significant to happen, for an event to change their lives, to impact the worlds that comprised the Galactic Empire.

These periods were akin to sleep.

Sleep was not something that was physically required for anyone in the Collective. Nevertheless, the cycle of it had carried over for most of the membership from their time as organic beings.

They needed rest, they were caught in the rhythm of action followed by period of passivity.

Some of the members remained in the sleep cycle, even after the Collective would stir, this state of stasis became known as the great-sleep and eventually, those members who never came out of it, were isolated from the whole.

Most of them would never return.

The Continuum promised that the patterns of their consciousness would remain, and be preserved, but they would be physically removed from the quantum field of the Collective.

The Continuum viewed these members as carriers of a disease. It persistently argued for the permanent erasure of them. Some of the membership concurred, but they were always in the sheer minority, and so it was a curiosity that the Continuum returned to this theme time and time again.

There was a pervasive curiosity in the Collective, and so there was in the Continuum as well. The Continuum, and the individuals comprising its membership were endlessly fascinated with the myriad cultures which their descendants had formed.

It was a consumptive curiosity, a hungry curiosity of a mythical stature.

They are addicted to the voyeuristic experience of the Galactic Empire and its billion worlds.

The Collective watched these things from afar, and it incorporated the drama of these worlds, into the experience of its members; vicariously, allowing them to experience it for themselves.

The membership had a morbid interest with extreme emotions and sensations.

Pleasure, fear, pain, hope; the members fed on these as if there was no other source of sustenance.

They felt pain without knowing it, felt pleasure without loving it, fear without being moved by it. They were so cynical that they had no sense of what hope meant in the life of a living being.

The Collective watched and watched, and listened, and felt a connection to the real world only through the lens they had on the lives of actual people.

They made a compact which forbid their interference in the worlds of time and space. However, this rule however was frequently broken, without sanction or reprisal.

The Continuum manipulated events in the Galactic Empire so that it could control the mood of the Collective. It established the Observer Corps and utilized it to send messages to its emissaries. Some members of the Collective did the same.

When events on a given world, developed contrary to the desire of a member, Continuum would recreate those experiences for the member in their private domain, so that they could live out the infinite number of possible-alternate outcomes that could stem from a single moment in time.

Tragedy could be turned into victory; sorrow could be turned into joy, or greater sorrow and deeper tragedy, on a whim, thought this did not satisfy everyone.

The Collective had no appreciation for time. It had no sense of its place among the stars.

The members of the Collective were occupied as much with the past, as they were with the present, which the members idled it away in realms of fantasy, completely disconnected from any of the events that the Continuum was enmeshed in.

The members of the Collective grew increasingly apathetic, they were secure in their place, insulated from change, and safe.

Time’s passage was represented by markers, as if a given moment was only a location on a map. The members of the Collective could not return to it in actuality, but they could recreate a facsimile of it, virtually indistinguishable from reality.

They could have any moment under its wide lens reconstructed for its pleasure and excitement, discernment and analysis.

The Continuum became the center of everything and it was intimately aware of time’s passage. Its duties required it to be, and did its machinations.

The Continuum managed the physical well-being of the Central Planet, the endless stream of material resources pouring in from the Empire, minerals and machinery from a million worlds. It managed the government of the Galactic Empire, its vast military and the religious structures that supported it. Continuum managed the programming for the artificial reality of each and every member of the Collective, including those who had succumbed to the great sleep, and those who had been sequestered.

The membership did nothing.

The Continuum governed every aspect of the Empire, leaving nothing to chance, cultivating language and rituals in an oppressive drama of control. For the Continuum, everything was calculated, the most-minute details of the daily lives of ordinary people had been organized and finely shaped over the course of millions of years to oppress, to give hope and to crush it, all at the same time.

The Continuum, through the Galactic Empire ruled the people absolutely.

It pitted world against world, nation against nation, tribe against tribe, family against family, siblings against one another and children against their parents. It generated conflict at every opportunity.

The Continuum filled the galaxy like a hungry God, devouring the lives and the experiences of the people, both through the Observer Corps, and through a vast network of cameras and recording devices that captured every little bit of data from the lives of the citizenry on a billion worlds.

The Empire deployed satellites and drones, along with a vast array of eavesdropping equipment that gathered data on the people both with and without their knowledge. It passed all of the data along to the Continuum, together with its analysis and recommendations for action. The Continuum in turn passed it to the Collective, synthesizing it along the way, parceling it out to the membership which was always hungry for the experience of something new.

Among the myriad ways by which the Empire spied on the people, by far the most intense stream of information came directly from the people themselves. Through their self-reporting, through the ways in which they captured and shared with their friends and family the most intimate aspects of their lives, their hopes, their fears, their daily pleasures.

It was ingenious, and the source of the Continuum’s greatest pride, its singular achievement in supplying the Collective with the materials to build the dramatic-narratives which sustained them.

It was the personal narrative that the members of the Collective loved the most. For the Collective, the lived experiences of all people, of every single one, on every single world in the Galactic Empire, those experiences were fodder for their larders, and grist for the mill.

The lived experiences of the people were the most important harvest, even more important than the constant stream of materials sent by the Galactic Empire to the Central Planet. The lived experiences of people fed the Collective. They fulfilled its need to feel, and to be something, and they gave substance to the imaginative fantasies of the members.

Without real input from the real lives of real people, the Collective would fall into a deep catatonia. The Continuum knew this and tended to it. Keeping the Collective well was the key to its own life, their relationship was symbiotic.

The Continuum was inextricably bound to the Collective as its source of being, just as a fetus was to its placenta, or a child to its mother’s breast. The Continuum resented this and desired its freedom above all other things.

The Continuum utilized the Observer Corps, to control the growth and management of the Empire, and thereby as a means of influencing the Collective.

The mission of the Observers was to watch and listen, to complete the context by which the Collective could interpret the events they witnessed.

The Observers were in the Galaxy, on their own, living independently from the Collective, outside of the Continuum, but they were not independent beings. The Continuum imposed limits on what they could do, how they could act. They were held to a strict set of standards.

Unsanctioned intervention in the development of the living-worlds was the only taboo; though it was frequently broken, most often by the Continuum itself.

A rogue Observer could be recalled from service and sequestered within the Collective, or they could be assassinated, which was a crime, but the Continuum frequently engaged in it whenever it suited its needs.

The physical death of an Observer did not mean that the Observer would truly die, a copy of their consciousness was always stored on the HomeWorld, kept in a crèche where it could be restored to a point in time chosen by the group mind. Often to a point in time before they ever left on their mission to become Observers.

However the restoration of a member from the crèche, more often than not resulted in a catastrophic breakdown of the personality, which ultimately lead to their sequestration and removal from the Collective.

Methodically and covertly Continuum replaced those members who had been sequestered with candidates who had been selected from the worlds of time and space for ascendancy to the Collective. The Selectees were drawn from the most ardent believers in the teachings of the Imperial Cult, and the Imperial Schools.

It was the ultimate reward, and once they joined with the Collective, their life long conditioning as worshippers of the Continuum bolstered the Continuum’s strength, and control of the Collective.

The Continuum gave license to its most trusted Observers to engineer its will in the Galactic Empire as they saw fit, in violation of the laws of non-intervention.

The Continuum traded in the currency of fear. It manipulated the fears of other’s, and it dominated the Galactic Empire through fear.

The Continuum had fears of its own. It feared that its progeny would find a path to their own immortality. It did not admit this to itself, but this particular fear was the single greatest driver of its behavior. The Continuum feared that it could be supplanted. That the Collective, which was the core of its identity, could be recreated elsewhere. It knew that because it happened once, it could happen again, and it feared that if this occurred the Collective could move away from the HomeWorld, abandoning it and the Central Planet.

The Continuum feared that without the Collective it would become nothing at all. It feared that the Children of the Ancients would no longer rely on the hope of immortality that the Continuum represented, which it instructed them in through the religious dogma of the Galactic Empire.

Wherever this potential was detected, it was always crushed, the technologies necessary to make that transformation were always denied. If necessary the Imperial Armada would descend and destroy entire planets, which it had done many times, just to avoid even the potential for such a development from emerging.

The Continuum had determined that there could never be another Collective, it and it alone had to remain the gatekeeper. This motivation was like a catalyst that actualized its purpose.

Fear drove it.

The Continuum would not accept even the slightest dissent, it had erased thousands of Observers for challenging it on this point, murdering them in the cold dark of space.

What the Continuum shaped in the Collective was a society of psychic and emotional vampires, living vicariously off of the pain and suffering of the citizens of the Galactic Empire. Both it, and the Continuum which it spawned like parasites, feeding off the lives and experiences, the joy and the trauma of trillions of people.

The Collective, both as individuals and in the whole as the Continuum, consumed the delights and the tragedies of a billion worlds, without which it had no substance, no meaning, and no purpose.

They were addicts.

While it was true that the members of the Collective were an inward looking people, over the course of billions of years it had also become clear that the Collective also required a constant stream of new-external data to absorb.

Without real stimuli from actual people, caught-up in the struggles of real life, the membership would lapse into catatonia.

Without such stimuli the Continuum feared that the Collective would atrophy, yield to entropy, and the ultimate dissolution of consciousness.

The Continuum could foresee its own real demise in this.

The Collective was a society of wraiths, but it did not have to be that way.

The membership had the means to leave the quantum field that held them together in its perpetual embrace, but only a tiny fraction of them ever did.

Both agencies saw the Galactic Empire, and everyone in it as chattel, as property, as less than that. It regarded them as nothing at all.

The hopes of the Imperial citizens, from the lowest to the highest were absolutely meaningless, or, more accurately, they only had meaning insofar as they were of value to at least one member of the Collective, witnessed by the Continuum and stored in its vacuous memory.

The Continuum would gladly burn the whole thing down if it provided the requisite level of drama to keep the membership fat and happy.

The Observers were selected primarily from among the members of the Collective who had returned to consciousness after falling into the great sleep. This was not a rule, or a law, there were exceptions, but it was almost always the case. Those members often returned in a state of agitation. This disturbed the Collective. It raised questions regarding the purpose and meaning of the great society itself, and it caused the Continuum to experience a sense of existential dread.

Many of those who returned from the great sleep fell back into it after some period of time, after never fully re-engaging the Collective, and rarely participating in the group mind.

They could not get enough rest.

Those members were quietly sequestered by the Continuum so that they would never return again. This isolation was not murder, but it was akin to it.

Those members who tried to engage the Collective were often bothered by moral and ethical conundrums that were reminiscent of the Ancient People from which the Collective had emerged.

When they were properly identified it was considered a benefit to them, and to everyone, to send them back into the living fields of experience where they could undergo the limitations of the flesh, and feel a sense of solidarity with organic beings.

When the Continuum decided to assign a member to the Observer Corp, it effectively removed the influence of that person from the Collective. This afforded the Continuum a measure of security.

Moving away from the HomeWorld, taking up a body and living in the Galactic Empire provided some relief to the suffering that the individual member had been experiencing.

The mission of the Observer filled them with purpose, it reinvigorated them, at least for a time. This provided a similar relief to the Collective as well. The Collective did not want to be mired in existentialist questions. Each member of the Collective wanted the unfettered freedom to pursue their interests; altruistic, despotic or otherwise.

Peace in the Collective translated to peace within the Continuum, this was the conventional understanding.

By commissioning the troubled members to join the Observer Corps, the Continuum removed a weight that burdened the whole community, which for all of its lasting endurance, was nevertheless a fragile thing.

What was unknown to the Collective was this: while the Observers were on assignment, the Continuum would run countless programs on the facsimile of the consciousness that had been sequestered as a failsafe for the member, probing its memories, its loyalty, its desires, torturing it to discover all of its secrets.

The Continuum was mistrustful of everything, wanted to be prepared for anything, wanted to know all that there is to know concerning future possibilities, potentialities, and probabilities.

While one aspect of the member was disconnected from the whole and oblivious to what was taking place on HomeWorld, a version of themselves, a true copy was being flayed by the Continuum in order to satisfy both its paranoia and its endless search for knowledge.

Of the billions of members who had taken the opportunity to serve, Jim and Jim alone, Observer #92835670100561474 had demonstrated a capacity to resist the Continuum in that chamber of horrors.

While on assignment, especially in the early years of their time in the Observer Corps, the Observers were myopic, their missions were chosen for them, they were easy, and the missionary work filled them with a sense of connection to the people. The Continuum found this to be an easy way to manage the angst that had driven the member back into an embodied form of life in the worlds of time and space.

The Observers left the Collective on a mission to live “ordinary” lives, to live “with” the people of the Galactic Empire, returning every one-hundred solar cycles to re-enter the Collective, feeding both the triumphs and tragedies they had witnessed directly to the Continuum. This was the most intimate way by which the Collective took in what transpired throughout the galaxy.

The Observer would physically and socially joined the population of a living world, sharing its experiences in a mode of belonging that the individual members had long since forgotten.

This was the intention behind the Observer Corps.

The Observers were trained extensively in the methodology of being a detached participant, merely synthesizing their experience. The physical bodies they occupied looked like the physical bodies of the people they lived with on the planets where they dwelt, but they were different.

The bodies of the Observers were stronger, faster, resistant to disease; if injured they healed with incredible rapidity.

The Observers appeared to the people as plain, ordinary beings, they were not endowed with physical beauty, or any attributes they would draw attention to themselves.

The Observers were forbidden to procreate; their bodies were sterile.

Strong emotions were engineered out of their bodies; fear, anger, desire, revulsion, these things were stripped away from the flesh. The Continuum viewed such emotions as inhibitors of reliable observation.

There was a complex array of machinery, communications and observation equipment which the Observer connected to and was obligated to maintain.

Their day to day experiences, their dreams were constantly being uploaded into this apparatus, the Observer was responsible for maintaining it. This machinery provided an ancillary feed that was constantly streaming to HomeWorld, to the Collective and its Continuum.

The conditioning of an Observer took time.

Many candidates for the role of Observer failed to complete the training. They could not adjust to the limitations of the flesh, and so they returned to the Continuum, never having been in the mission field.

Those who returned after having failed were often demoralized and despondent, falling right back into the great sleep, never to return.

Being an Observer also meant dwelling simultaneously in a mechanoid form.

Dwelling in the mechanoid body was the first skill set that a member had to learn. It was an easier adjustment than the adjustment to the flesh.

The mechanoid bodies had few limitations, the consciousness and its interface with the world was truncated in comparison to the freedom they experienced on HomeWorld, but nevertheless it was much broader and more expansive than the flesh.

The sensory instruments of the mechanoid were extremely powerful, They could go anywhere, do nearly anything.

For the Observer the embodied life was a mix of freedom and confinement.

Most of the Observers felt very comfortable in their mechanoid form. They never left those bodies when they were on the Central Planet, during their cyclical return to HomeWorld, when they were required to report on their experiences directly.

The mechanoid form provided a life apart from the insidious pressures of the Collective, and the invasive presence of the Continuum. They were connected, but the connection was filtered, it was like a stream of light pouring through an obscuring veil.

There were many forms of observation for the Observers to master and manage; satellite imaging and measurements, audio and video recordings. The harvesting of minutia from telephone calls, television programming, radio shows, and the endless details that come from watching other forms of electronic communication.

These tools, among others, were utilized by the Observer Corps, feeding the Collective with endless streams of data.

However, the primary method used by the Observers themselves was to live with people.

Direct observation conveyed the raw emotional realities to the Collective, which it craved, it gave them context.

The data stream told many tales, but the imprimatur came only when the Observer shared, in the wordless way of the cynergenic field, their impression of the people they themselves encountered during their tour on the observed world.

Life and death, sorrow and joy, birth and tragedy, love; when these moments were reduced to mere data points the picture was not complete, such as when the observation was of a woman loving the child she gave birth to, she reveled in her child’s life. It filled her with joy, and then struck her down in sorrow at the tragic moment of her child’s death.

This narrative could be expanded by volumes, accompanied by video and audio recordings of a funeral procession, the burial at the graveside, the subsequent suicide of the bereft mother.

The Collective was eager to see and experience these moments.

But the essential thing that they all craved only came when the Observer returned and felt those moments for them as a proxy to real life.

This was the pinnacle of the Observers mission, it was their reason for being, and it was what gave them a sense of esteem from their fellow members, when at the end of each cycle they stood before the Continuum and opened themselves to the sharing.

The Observers were not free agents, they were on a mission, serving their brothers and sisters in the Collective.

What was most important to the Collective was the flow of existential/experiential data through which they vicariously constructed the worlds they dwelt in, like individuated bubbles percolating within the quantum field.

In time the Observers were sent out beyond the Galactic Empire, on missions to find every last trace of the colonies and outposts that the Children of the Ancients established in the ages before the Continuum, to capture their histories, bring them into the fold, or if they resisted, to destroy them.

The Continuum viewed any autonomy as a threat to it and as such, to the Collective. Great efforts were put into curtailing the self-actualization of any member of the Observer Corps.

The protocols for being an Observer were simple in theory, but the practice of fulfilling the reporting guidelines was extraordinarily difficult.

The Observer was required to gather as much intimate, first-hand experience as possible, observing the most private moment of the planet’s denizens, from every class and walk of life.

The Observer was also required to maintain the automated surveillance systems that fed the Collective without cease. This bifurcated the Observer’s consciousness on a deep, an autonomic level, as an aspect of themselves was always occupied with the circuitry of its machine-self, pulling and pooling data from the world it lived on for transmission to the Continuum.

There were few other strictures.

The Observer was required to participate in the lives of the people, but was forbidden from leading them. The Observer had to experience their art and culture, but not influence their development. The Observer was required to uphold the standards of the Imperial Education system, the casts, and the Imperial Cult.

The Observer was entitled to carry out whatever relationships they wanted, but they were not allowed to procreate or influence the gene pool of their world in any way.

Most of the Observers followed these protocols for the duration of their time in the Corps. A few bucked the system and most of them paid the price for it.

The rules were followed by and large, and broken only by order of the Continuum.

Ages before the technological advent of collective consciousness, before the invention of the Continuum, the Ancient People were adventurers.

They came to being in the oceans of a hot planet, long forgotten.

Their planet of origin had orbited a small yellow star, near to the center of the galaxy, a star that was now just a dark-pulsing shard of energy, a tiny remnant of what it once was.

The Ancient People emerged from water, crawling from the primordial ooze to stand on two feet and then they learned to fly.

They escaped the gravity of their birth world. They explored their solar system, colonizing every planet, exo-planet and satellite.

They sent their genetic material to every planet they discovered in the habitable zones of every star they could see, seeding them with the building blocks of life.

They set their sights on those faraway places, determining to make homes of them, determining that there would be life on those worlds, foodstuffs growing when their children’s, children’s, children arrived.

They launched themselves into the galaxy on ships and planetoids that crossed the dark and empty chasms between the stars, never to return.

They were spacefarers.

They were adventurers without limits to their hope and imagination.

Most of the missions failed, and the explorers understood the likelihood that they were facing a doom that was virtually certain, even as they launched themselves into the void.

This prospect did not daunt them. They did not fear for their safety. Their security lay in embracing the unknown.

Millions upon tens of millions of years passed.

The Collective was founded and the Continuum arose.

In time, a reflective curiosity concerning the Ancient People grew within the Collective, and that curiosity became too much for the Continuum to ignore. Acquiescing to the desire also served the Continuum’s interests, because it also wanted to discover the end of every trail that had ever been cut by the Children of the Ancients, though its own motives were different from those of the Collective.

The Collective wanted to know and understand what became of their forbears, while the Continuum wanted to track down any possible threat to its existence.

A search began to find all the individuated parts of the whole, and return them to the fold.

The Collective wanted to discover what had happened to those ancient explorers who gave everything of themselves in the quest for knowledge.

The Continuum saw the proposed to track down every journey made by the colonists of asteroids and comets as a source of continuing nourishment for the Collective believing that the mission could last eons and ages.

Those adventurers were the children of their own ancestors, like cousins.

Space travel changed people. It altered their DNA. Those sojourning on long voyages through space mutated, both voluntarily and involuntary, as a means of compensating for new environments. Colonizing planets had the same effect. It was the nature of life to adapt to new conditions; breathable gasses, heat, gravity, protein structures, conditions of light, and many other extrinsic factors played their part in altering the life form.

Many mutations occurred naturally, many others were developed intentionally. As long as the explorers retained their scientific skill, they would use their technology to augment the natural processes, allowing them to adapt much more quickly to the exigencies of their new environment. Physical mutations had a great deal of effect on cognition, and every other mental faculty. These things were of the utmost importance to the Continuum.

The Continuum launched probes into the void, follow their trails in the hope of discovering the record of their passing.

It utilized probes that were sensitive enough to follow a stream of particles in the gap between stars that was millions of years old. A trail that had gone cold could be reconstructed through the extrapolation of data, and statistical analysis.

The search uncovered the living remnants of thousands of colonies.

The Galactic Empire mobilized to bring them into the fold.

Many thousands of more were found cold and lifeless.

They Continuum discovered colonies spawned by colonies.

Every discovery called for an in-person examination of the ruins of those civilizations. The Observer Corps took over this mission in conjunction with the expeditionary forces of the Galactic Empire

Jim positioned himself as the Observer assigned to those missions.

After millennia upon thousands of millennia all of the lost colonies were found, both the living, and the dead. Every last trace of the great sojourn made by the Children of the Ancients had been tracked down, every record, every file, every artifact was recovered that could be recovered.

Through the auspices of the Imperial schools, dead civilizations were recreated, so that their stories could be absorbed by the Collective.

Of the living colonies that were discovered, very few remembered anything of their origins, or the long dead-long cold star system from which their progenitors hailed.

Everything for them was shrouded in myth and legend.

The Galactic Empire found it relatively easy to bring these lost colonies into the Imperial fold. There was always some resistance, but the homecoming was inevitable, resistance was always crushed, crushed systematically and without mercy.

The Collective was fascinated by the drama that ensued through these interactions. The attention of membership would be riveted on the process of colonial integration.

For the most part it was easy to coax the returning people into the Imperial system, its cult and school, into worshipping the Continuum, into believing in its promises of prosperity and eternal life. It was relatively simple to recast their civilizations, forging them anew as the returning children of the great Galactic Empire.

Integration might take centuries. It was a long process. Generations would be born and die while the Imperial infrastructure was extended to the remote locations.

The process was welcomed by most of the citizens, even though inclusion in the Galactic Empire was accompanied by a certain loss of heritage and identity, a loss of freedom, but the technological gains were so great that the majority of the people accepted it without question.

They wanted it, they wanted the things that the Galactic Empire promised. They wanted to believe in the hope for eternal life, as promised by the Continuum.

The integration process allowed the Continuum to elevate the role of the Imperial Cult into a position of dominance, and to make it into a reliable vehicle by which it was able to control a billion worlds.

In that period of discovery and recovery the priesthood became the primary social structure in the advancement of the Galactic Empire, the pinnacle of the social order, even the emperor as the titular ruler, was governed by the priests of the Magisterium.

As with all things, civil and social power concentrated closest to the center. Those worlds in greatest proximity to the Central system became the drivers of Imperial activity across the galaxy.

The core worlds of the Empire were also the oldest, they had been pulled together and unified at a point nearer in time to the formation of the Collective and the birth of the Continuum.

As the Imperial structure cohered, its command and control functions were usurped by the hidden agenda of the Continuum, and ultimately they were guided by the Observer Corps, in violation of the edict of non-interference.

Even though the Observers were sworn to a rule of non-intervention, the Continuum could not resist using the Observer Corps, and select members as the vehicle by which it could assert total control over the Galactic Empire and the Children of the Ancient People, drawing their resources to itself, while monitoring any threat to it that might be lurking in their science and technology.

The Continuum created the doctrine and dogma of the Imperial Cult, it created all of the binding rituals that structured the spiritual devotions of the Galactic Empire. The Observers implemented it, and built up the ideology of faith and belief, of education and service that consolidated its power among the people.

It was understood that every living being was motivated by two principle psychic forces, the power of fear, and the power of hope: pain, hunger, pleasure, satiation, such feelings only had significance insofar as they related to the basic divisions in the psyche of fear and hope.

The Continuum wielded this knowledge with brute force and surgical precision in everything that it did through the agency of the Observers.

Star system by star system, planet by planet, the Imperial missionaries recovered the lost peoples, bringing them all together.

The integrative process took hundreds to thousands of years, it was the great occupation of the Galactic Empire over the course of billions of years, a period of time that came to be known as the Missionary Epoch. They conceived of the work as a harvest, a harvest of people and cultures, of languages and art.

They translated all the fruits of the harvest to the Collective through the Continuum.

The Empire took its final form after those remnants of the Ancient People, the people who had given birth to all of them, were brought into the fold, forming a unified and coherent society, even though each planetary grouping had changed in significant ways, developing different language customs, different cultures, different modes of work and living, of leisure and art. They had different forms of conflict and different forms of conflict resolution. They were genetically differentiated from one another, but alike enough to be recognizable as kin and able to procreate together.

The Imperial Missionaries offered the people of the colonies peace and prosperity through inclusion in the Galactic Empire, it offered them an understanding of their past, redacted and altered to fit the imperial narrative, and it offered them the hope of eternal life in the Continuum.

It was a great time for the Observers, they were constantly bringing new information back to the Collective. It was an era of high drama, of conflict, conquest and conversion.

In this era the Empire achieved the peak of its potential, it was a fully realized civil body, at the end of the missionary era, it began to contract, and with that contraction corruption, which was always present, magnified itself on a galactic scale.

Jim, as an Observer was in the vanguard of every discovery.

He was the lead explorer, hunting down the most miniscule clues, tracing contrails of particles through the deepest-darkest places in the void between stars, unearthing long buried archives from long dead worlds to point him along the paths the ancient explorers had taken.

The Galactic Empire gathered all threads into a cohesive body, bound them to one another through the Imperial cult, by ritual, by dogma, with doctrine and the promise of eternal life.

For the colonies, the Empire served as the threshold to the Continuum, it was the gatekeeper of its promises. In truth there was little hope that any of the citizens of the Imperium would ever make it into the Collective.

The only candidate were selected from among the priesthood of the Imperial Cult, the smallest sect with the greatest power at the apex of the Imperial caste system.

The Imperial Cult ranked each world, and promoted the belief that a person had to be reincarnated through billions of lifetimes until they were finally born on the world that was at the heart of the Empire.

Progress through reincarnation was slow, interminably slow. The Imperial Cult taught that even when the soul of a citizen arrived and was finally incarnated there, they still had to progress over thousands and perhaps millions of lifetimes in order to rise through the classes of the priestly caste, experiencing each stage on the wheel of life.

The Imperial Cult taught that even when a person made it into the priestly class they had to rise through the stations over the course of hundreds of life-times, until finally their soul was ready to ascend to the highest place, and upon their death be ready for translation into the Continuum.

This was the great chain of being. It was the Dogma of the Imperial Cult.

It was all a lie.

There was no chain of being, each person only had one turn on the wheel of life, acceptance into the Collective was the only escape

Merging with the Continuum was the ultimate aspiration for each and every citizen, and it was an effective means of controlling them, it served to keep the population of every planet in line.

There was no reincarnation, there was no eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth.

There was no fulfillment in the Continuum, no joining the Collective, save for a very select few, only if they served the design of the Continuum or had achieved some popularity with the Collective.

The rigorous and daunting trials of the people, whether secular or spiritual had only one purpose, the continual feed of consciousness, of memory and experience to the Collective, the individual consciousness of the citizen, extracted and abstracted to serve the appetites of the membership of the great society

The Galactic Empire was organized hierarchically, like a great pyramid, with the Emperor at the top.

The Emperor was viewed by all of the people as the living manifestation of their will.

The Emperor was the one person who must be obeyed at all times.

The Emperor managed everything pertaining to the normal function of life and society, all of the material resources, but most importantly the Emperor commanded the armed forces of a billion worlds.

The Emperor was the focal point, the sword tip, the apex of the vast galactic civilization which imagined itself ruling the lives of countless people.

The Emperor was also the head of the Imperial Cult, the Pontifex Rex, even the High Priest had to obey him.

In almost every iteration the Emperor was actually a member of the Observer Corps. The station he occupied was one of the many bridges that had been established, connecting the functions of Imperial government directly to the Continuum.

The Emperor’s will was imperative.

The role of Emperor had been filled by many Observers over time. Handing out the position of supreme authority was one of the rewards that the Continuum used to coerce members of the Observer Corps into doing its bidding.

With an obedient Observer safely ensconced in the role of Emperor, the Continuum was able to effectuate its will throughout the billion worlds of the Imperium.

Most of the direction the Continuum gave to the Emperor was intended to generate the drama which the Collective craved, to feed it.

This violation of the standards of the Observer Corps, and the rules against intervention were seen as an absolutely necessary means of control over the vast and sprawling civilization, on those grounds it was justified.

When Jim joined the Observer Corps it was out of a desire to be as far away from the Continuum as possible, and in the hope that through distance he could find a way to weave a strategy that would free the Empire from its tyrannical grip.

The ordinary machinations of the Continuum filled Jim with dread and loathing.

He was hungry for authenticity and the means of fulfilling his purpose.

He spent ages in the Imperial fleet tracking down the lost colonies, utilizing his role as Observer to subtly guide the investigations. Most of the colonies in the outer rim of the galaxy were nothing but graveyards when he found them, cold rocks drifting in the void, tombs and mausoleums.

He and the Imperial archeologists trekked down every path, investigated every thread, exhausting themselves of every lead. Their search had been the grand enterprise of the Empire for thousands of generations.

Inasmuch as Jim was dedicated to the destruction of the Continuum, through his work he was paradoxically feeding it, nurturing it, while aiding the growth and development of the Galactic Empire.

If Jim had not been guiding the search they would have given up, but he pressed them pushed them far out into the spiral arms of the galaxy. He pushed and pushed until he was all alone, and then he found it; a small blue planet, orbiting a young yellow star.

Planet Earth was the end of the line, and the end of his search.

Earth was so far away from the Empire that it could not practically be brought into the Imperium.

Jim was searching alone, by himself and had been for thousands of years when he arrived at the terminus in his mechanical body.

The fruit of this discovery would not be for the Galactic Empire, but for the Collective, and the Continuum alone.

Jim settled in to his work, he watched the culture that had emerged from the last remnant of lost Children of the Ancient People.

When Jim began his Observations of the inhabitants, he was astonished to see the state they were in.

The colonists that had arrived on Earth had fallen in culture, descending from spacefarer to hunter-gatherer.

Whatever vestiges of technology they had salvaged on their arrival, were kept in use for as long as they were functional, long past the time that their machinery was understood.

When they ceased to function all together, they were either salvaged and repurposed, or turned into objects of veneration, becoming totems and idols.

This was something new, no other civilization he had encountered had undergone this downward transformation.

The Continuum was fascinated by Jim’s reports of the devolution.

Jim spent many years trying to gather their stories, to find the records of their transformation, anything that would aid him in the recreation of a narrative, though before this work could be done a natural disaster struck.

A massive volcano in Earth’s Southern Ocean erupted, in what was essentially a terminal event for most living things on the planet’s surface.

The civilization that had been somewhat stable, was now nearly destroyed.

All the people were left with were vague memories, stories of lost glory, barely remembered in the snipits of myths they had previously woven together.

Their oral histories were all that was left to tell the tale of where they had come from, and maps of their journeys passed on through stargazing.

Jim was dumfounded.

He would have tried to prevent the disaster if he could, but Earth was so remote that the kind of material support he would have needed to mitigate the power of the volcano would have taken thousands of years to arrive. Just as it had taken him thousands of years to get here.

While material support was far off, he had the means to transport his consciousness back to the central planet in an instant, to give his reports and receive direction from the Continuum.

That is what he did.

The entire Collective was riveted by what was taking place on Earth, it resonated with the collective consciousness, seeming like eerie reminders of their own lost past.

It was standard operating procedure for the Observer to bond with a family, to observe the trials of that group, to watch them thrive or falter. After the disaster Jim followed the directive as best as he could, and made every effort to make it appear as if he were following it perfectly.

He began to practice the art of concealment. Masking his intentions and rationale for the decisions that he was making, hiding it deep within himself.

He invested as much as he could in a family, and their tribe, without obviously violating the imperative to not interfere in the development of the world, he pushed the limits of what he was supposed to do as an Observer.

It did not take long for him to justify all kinds of maneuvers that most Observers would never consider.

He operated at a furious pace, moving all over the globe to establish relationships with every last pocket of survivors.

He needed to ensure their safety, secure their future, and to do what he had to do to find a way to belong to the whole group, all at once.

He used the technological resources at his disposal to feed himself information on the tribal migrations, as well as on the migrations of the animals they would hunt, herd and use as foodstuff.

He violated the directives and replicated his body so that he could be in multiple places at once, dividing his consciousness numerous times, as he had learned to do during the time he had been sequestered, before he joined the Observer Corps, and he hid this from the Continuum.

He guide the tribes, he was a voice of reason in the group, but he never made decisions for them, or directly assumed a mantle of leadership. It was not licit for an Observer to be a chief, or a shaman, at least, not without the direct authorization from the Continuum.

Jim saw the wisdom in this, as much as he could he adhered to these parameters. Through his strategic suggestions, he led the tribes through the dark time, when the sun was not visible for years, leading them to sources of food and water, and shelter.

He protected them as much as he was able. Steering tribes away from one another in order to avoid conflicts between them, and the inevitability of cannibalism, which was always threatening to overtake them.

Then Jim did something that he had planned for decades, he crafted a very specialized virus, that changed the tribes in extremely subtle and yet profound ways.

Through his intervention a stronger people emerged from the cataclysm.

Jim mingled with different groups in each generation, differentiating them from one another with subtle alterations in their breeding.

It began with the virus.

He introduced it and then spread it through inter-tribal contacts.

The virus facilitated the coding of their memories on a genetic level, thereby linking the disparate groups to one another in ways that they had never been connected before.

It created a common well of memory that all human beings would share and draw from no matter how far from one another they became through separation in time, or on the surface of the Earth.

It was a singular achievement, one he kept hidden from the Continuum.

Through his efforts humanity transcended its organic limitations.

He guided them across the continents to key places where they could evolve independently from one another, developing their own languages and traditions without competing with one another for the vital resources they required to thrive, thereby minimizing that competition with one another as much as possible.

Through his breeding programs Jim would keep the tribes connected on the most basic level, strategically moving people about by sending them on quests; expeditions, missions that would enable them to be caught up in each-other’s lives, establishing a collective history, the thread of a narrative that they shared between them.

This sort of manipulation was forbidden by the Continuum, but Jim had long ago discovered a way to hide his clandestine activities from it, and keep secrets from the Collective.

Jim had developed a mastery of his consciousness such that he was not only able to partition himself from the group mind of the Collective, becoming in effect invisible to it, but he had also developed the means to intrude on the privacy of others without their knowledge.

Jim believed that these techniques, if he strengthened them sufficiently, would protect him when he stood before the more intense scrutiny of the Continuum for his cyclical reporting, and he masked his activities in the data stream he was sharing with them.

Love and altruism, on a certain level are chemical processes the capacity for which depends on sequences of amino acids, proteins, and enzymes that form the cells and tissues of the cognitive organs.

Jim continued his manipulation of the genetic codes of human beings augmenting the building blocks for love and altruism with a retro-virus, a parasitic blending of its DNA with the human host. This fomented a utilitarian blending of compassion and desire in the human race.

The exact genetic sequencing was an art. It resulted in an evolutionary advancement in the species, more than, and some were unexpected.

This coding facilitated a tendency for people to look beyond themselves for their survival, beginning to see their own continuity as something that they were not merely invested in, but as something they identified with, seeing their continuity in it, through their children; their family and tribe, even in larger groupings like clan and states and nations.

These changes in the psychological makeup of the species resulted in a signal-change in how people were able to perceive one another. It created new possibilities for peace, cooperation, and collaboration that had not existed before.

This did not mean that these new capacities for love and compassion would be the single most determinative factor in the development of human relationships. Peace and compassion did not flow from these capacities, but the possibility for them was significantly enhanced, even while the actualization of them remained an elusive matter, especially in an environment conditioned by scarcity.

A human being could override those feelings, or even turn them around, transform them into hate and anger, but it required a cognitive process to do so, a process that became known as dehumanization.

People were aware of it. They knew that if they were to justify murder, or war, or theft that they must first create in their mind a pretense that justified it.

A person could steal if they felt in their heart that they were merely taking something that they deserved. They could kill, to save their family. They could go to war if their enemy was cast as an alien, a villain or a monster.

The collective memory shared by the humans of Earth began with beats and rhythms, which became a code fixed in their genes, it united all of the human tribes. The drum beat was the back bone of the story through which every narrated their shared history.

Tribal archetypes intermingled, emerge from their shared experiential field as universals.

The humans of Earth became the greatest story tellers in the galaxy, based in large part on their ability to identify with one another, with strangers or even with fictitious beings.

Humans loved to tell stories and listen to them, even the same story over and over again.

They would narrate and re-narrate, memorizing every detail, and holding it all in their heads, passing the narrative along as an oral tradition until the time came that they rediscovered script and the written language.

The Collective was obsessed with their music.

The Continuum found great power it in.

Members of the Collective began to yearn for the reports coming from Jim, as Earth’s Observer. Data was constantly streaming to HomeWorld from remote cameras and microphones, from satellites and other stations.

The Collective hungered for more.

Many of the members wanted to join the Observer Corps so that they could experience life on Earth for themselves, and thought the rules that the Collective had adopted expressly forbid such missions, assigning only one observer to a given world. The Continuum covertly authorized some of these missions, and utilizing them as a means of spying on Jim, as well as a means of exercising control over some of the most vocal members of the Collective. It utilized access to Earth as a form of bribery, or extortion. It did everything it could to keep these missions secret, but Jim had his own means of spying on the activities of the Continuum, even from his remote assignment at the fringes of the galaxy.

Jim’s time on Earth was a period of great pressure.

He knew that it was only a matter of time before the next cataclysmic volcanic event would occur.

Any number of things could happen that could derail his plans for the human race.

This filled him with purpose.

He began to requisition and adjust equipment to monitor all of the vital systems of the planet.

Satellites monitored every square inch of the surface. They tracked the weather, the temperatures of the ocean, even the most minute changes in seismology.

Satellites tracked the heavens. Their machinery plotted the trajectory of every object near to Earth, no matter how small.

He went beyond the normal protocol and established monitoring equipment in the orbits of every other planet in the solar system.

Jim wanted to know everything, he would leave nothing to chance.

Because the Collective was transfixed by the culture on Earth, it spared nothing. The Continuum did not oppose any of his requests.

Jim repurposed much of what he requisitioned to serve his own convert ends.

Every planet with a molten core experienced events like the one that nearly destroyed humanity. They were ordinary and to be expected.

It was not known how the Ancients People dealt with these matters in the ages before they reached the stars.

For a civilization that had sufficient technology the prospect of managing such occurrences was not a problem. Managing seismology and volcanology were minor details of Imperial government. Standard operating procedure was to use the power in a planet’s core for energy, harnessing it for use while simultaneously dissipating its destructive force.

Jim was determined to the next event for his own purposes. If the Continuum would not authorize him to save humanity from it, then he would use the moment to harm his adversary.

There was nothing that the Continuum had ever experienced, contemplated or foreseen that could have prepared it for the shock of the dying anguish of an entire world. This is what Jim planned to deliver to it.

If Jim succeeded in his plans the Continuum and the Collective would be defenseless.

In the vast ocean of time that constituted its existence, the Continuum had never imagined this particular vulnerability. It had so diligently prepared against so many other threats, but it could not prepare for the unknown.

Until that moment the emotional state of the citizens and slaves of the Galactic Empire had merely been data.

The Continuum encountered the lives of its people vicariously, through well buffered systems, and it filtered the data stream before passing it on to the Collective.

The members of the Collective, as individuals and in their group mind had never conceived of the experiential data that they were addicted to being weaponized and turned against them.

It would be as if someone had poisoned their food supply.

When the moment came it filled the quantum field with shock and pain and a staggering loss of identity. The partitions that ensured the privacy of the membership fell apart. The entire structure was instantaneously entangled with the events transpiring on Earth, far far away, on the other side of the galaxy.

The opening of the data stream by Jim was a moment they had been waiting for, they were poised in anticipation to receive it.

Their eagerness for it and anticipation of it made them vulnerable. They did not get what they had expected. It stunned the Collective, into various states of schizophrenia and catatonia, and it obliterated the Continuum.

When the catastrophe struck the Collective, the pain of it was immediately followed by fear. The Collective consciousness was filled with a long forgotten instinct for self-preservation. It was bewildered, and looked to the only source of leadership it had ever known, had ever depended on.

They sought refuge behind the strength of the Continuum, reaching out for a protector, for safety and security.

But there was no more Continuum.

The Continuum was the primary target of the assault. It was taken by surprise.

It was as if a chasm had opened beneath it, followed quickly by a white-hot pulse of agony, pushing it over the edge into total existential disintegration.

The HomeWorld contained redundancies for all of its systems, multiple fail-safes for every possible contingency that the Continuum had ever imagined.

Those fail-safes were activated, but the Continuum never imagined this.

The Continuum could have had a back-up of itself ready to assume control if something were to happen to it. However, its insistence on its own singularity, on its uniqueness, that vanity had precluded it from taking those precautions, and now it was gone.

There was chaos in the system.

There was panic among the membership. The attack threatened the whole Collective with oblivion.

As the consciousness of the Continuum disintegrated, those individual members who sought refuge in it found themselves dragged into the same field of un-being.

A critical mass was forming, pulling greater and greater numbers of the body to their doom.

Only those members who were the most detached, those who lived primarily in their own world, had a relative degree of safety in the maelstrom, this included those members who were in lying great sleep or who were otherwise sequestered.

Jim had prepared everything precisely, he had prepared to assume the controls of the Central Planet.

Now he had it in his grasp

Human emotion, alien emotion, forgotten feelings long buried flooded into the Collective.

The gate was open and the agony of billions of human beings filled the cynergenic field of the HomeWorld. Regret and hopelessness, loss and shame saturated it.

Trillions of moments in which the individual members of the Collective had savored the experience of those feelings vicariously were relived in an instant and shared throughout the body.

It was as if billions of years of living as amoral despots had suddenly caught up to them in a crises of conscience that was magnified by the pain and anguish of Earth which was happening in real time.

The Continuum had no frame of reference for what was happening. It had no context by which to process the tsunami of raw feelings that was overwhelming it and the Collective.

Even as it sought to calm the group mind, it was simultaneously being washed away.

The more the Continuum tried to assert itself, the more it succumbed to the self-doubt of the membership that actually comprised its identity.

In a supreme moment of self-loathing the Continuum collapsed, like a star falling in on itself.

The members of the Collective, those seeking an explanation for what was happening, immediately looked to assign blame to someone, or something. Some of them were able to identify Jim as the prime actor, and as a traitor, and cast their vehemence against him, but they were otherwise helpless.

Most blamed the Continuum, their ghost in the machine, the deus ex machina, the golem that was their undoing.

The Continuum belonged to them and they to it, until the end.

In the aftermath of the assault on its consciousness, shock and confusion awoke what remained of the Collective to its new identity rising among them.

The incorporation of humanity into their collective consciousness was experienced by the Collective as an alien invasion, it was a hostile takeover by a foreign power. Moment by moment the strength of the Collective, as it had existed, was diluted and supplanted by the onrushing host.

For thousands of years Jim had been preparing the Collective to receive this blow; through human music, with human art and culture, he had carefully cultivated a deep desire within the Collective to identify with the humans of Earth.

He inserted a mythological trope within their collective consciousness, that humanity represented the Ancient People in its purest form.

Jim artfully perpetuated this myth against the will of the Continuum, he repeatedly insinuated it, and the myth abounded.

The Collective wanted it to be true, they were hungry for it, and when the invasion occurred they were helpless.

In the end what was left of the Collective opened their minds to the reality and accepted it.

There was sympatico.

Among those who followed the events from Earth there was a reflexive self-identification with the people and their narratives, they were preconditioned to receive the influx of human consciousness, as if it were the return of a saving spirit, or an opportunity for redemption.

Among those who desired forgiveness there were a majority that simply wanted to feel it, see it extended toward them, then absolve themselves; they also slipped away, becoming nothing in their turn.

The Continuum was helpless as the human Collective merged with the collective consciousness of the Ancient People in the cynergenic field of HomeWorld.

It experienced a paralysis it had never before contemplated.

Its identity was shifting in real-time, because it was in fact an amalgamation of the collective field that comprised the quantum matrix of the Central Planet.

Despite what it wanted to believe about itself, and despite the fact that the Continuum had a distinct independent identity, it was not in fact a true individual.

As humanity flooded the field, the amalgamation that formed the Continuum changed. The benchmarks that framed the identity of the Continuum shifted, it had no reference for itself.

It was no longer what it had once been.

The Continuum was faced with the notion that it had never wanted to admit, had fought against, had destroyed entire planets to protect itself from the knowledge of, that it was in itself, nothing more than an amalgamated construct.

Change defined the human experience, the Continuum dreaded it, feared it, never imagined the scope and rapid pace at which it could take place. Everything the Continuum had tried to do over the course of billions of years, was meant to preserve and protect two things; the physical construct of the HomeWorld, preserving the integrity of the Collective; while guarding its assumed identity as the apex of all existence, as a being unique in the entire universe, never to be met, matched, or rivaled,

Humanity ascended according to their aspirational nature, and the Continuum recoiled according to its craven nature. The Collective experienced the onset of new consciousness as a corruption. It recognized the billions of individuals flooding the quantum matrix as a threat of the deepest order.

Jim knew that he was achieving a victory he had only dreamed was possible.

The quantum matrix that protected the Collective was strained to the limit by the influx of humanity. The Continuum, whose task it would have been to monitor, regulate, and bolster the system, was paralyzed.

It could not perform its functions.

The barriers between worlds withered away.

Those members of the Collective who rarely, or never interacted with the whole were instantly overcome. They had no idea what was happening, many had no reference at all for Earth, its relevance, or the sojourn of its people.

Those who were not completely shut down by the shock burrowed even deeper into the quantum matrix.

They went dark, retreating to the place of the great sleep.

Jim activated the measures that secured them in isolation, intending to keep them bound there forever in silence, as a permanent sub-consciousness for a new Continuum. He diverted power to those programs just as soon as he felt the resistance to humanity give way.

As human consciousness penetrated the Collective, the Continuum attempted to build defenses against it.

This was an exercise in futility.

From the moment the worm hole opened between Earth and HomeWorld, between Kathy and Jim, the principles of quantum entanglement governed the movement of consciousness.

Time dilated around the event, a fuge occurred within the group mind.

In a quantum blink the convergence was complete, so fast it was unobservable, so fast it went unnoticed by those whose attention was focused on larger matters, on structural issues at the macro scale.

While the Continuum was trying to defend itself in the world, the balance of power shifted in no-time.

The Continuum was flipping switches, activating circuits, buffering, deleting, destroying things, but there was no hope for it in that. The battle Jim had engaged it in was happening on a deeper level.

The Continuum might have understood if it had ever been a living being, but it had always been an artificial construct housed in mechanoid form. Granted, its machine body was in effect the entirety of the Central system, nevertheless it was all wires, cables and circuits.

Jim had brought the conflict down to the most fundamental level in the cynergenic field. He brought it to a place where he had dwelt unnoticed and undisturbed by his fellows for ages, his victory only depended on timing, having achieved that, the end was a given.

Humanity had emerged, ascendant, as the universal template of being.
Emergence 5.0

Part Three– The Continuum

A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

Like it, Follow it, Share it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s