Emergence 5.0 – Rebellion, Part Ten

For as far back as Jim could remember he wanted to create a better world, not for himself alone, but for everyone, for the whole undifferentiated lot of existent beings.

This dream sustained him like the bread of life for him; like water it sustained him. He felt it like a primal need.

Jim was an intractable critic of the status quo; he was perpetually discontent. This was natural to his character and it drove him to his work, whereas in most other members of the Collective, including those in the Observer Corps, even the ordinary citizens of the Galactic Empire experienced their discontent as a general malaise, as apathy.

Before the creation of the Collective, in his first life, when he was just a tiny creature of flesh and blood, Jim wanted something more for himself, something more for everyone. This drove his participation in the team of researchers that created it the apparatus to harness consciousness.

His inclination to take risks led him to be one of the first volunteers to be successfully translated into the Collective field. His grim determination allowed him to preserve his sanity and identity when at that time most of his fellows researchers failed.

When the Collective began to experience its first great existential crisis Jim rose to the occasion, together with the greatest engineering minds the Ancient People had ever produced, they created the Continuum to be a representation of their collective will.

The Collective was like the pleroma, with the Continuum emerging from it like the demi-urge, at the moment of its instantiation none of them realized what had happened, except Jim.

Jim’s concerns regarding the Continuum were not rooted in his basic disposition as a malcontent. They were based in his abiding interest for ethics and morals. He was frightened by the things he witnessed, the Collective had become a society of monsters, and the Continuum was its head.

Jim had become sick with disgust at the hedonistic abuses of the Collective.

He felt guilt.

His work had facilitated the creation of a trillion private hells, each one of them masquerading as a personal paradise. It made him angry. Even more so when he the Continuum turn its attention to the living worlds of time and space, transforming each of them into a facsimile of its own privation.

He felt a deep sense of shame and personal responsibility over the nightmare this construct had become. To the core of his being he was filled with bitterness over the way that the Collective had squandered its existence.

The Great Society could have created worlds of joy and beauty, there were virtually no limitations on their imagination, and yet they squandered their power for petty self-gratification and the satisfaction of the banal.

They were evil, and Jim wanted to die.

He knew that he was not responsible for the creation of the Collective, he was just one person among many who managed to pull off that incredible feat of engineering. He only played a part, as a single member on a great team of scientists and researchers seeking to penetrate the mystery of the continuation of consciousness and everlasting life.

He was horrified by what their work had turned into, and by how utterly they had failed to anticipate it.

The Collective became a gaggle of voyeurs, feeding their most obscene habits like the worst gluttons, without giving a single thought to the consequences that the satisfaction of their hunger would have on the lives of ordinary people.

Jim wanted to protect the universe from their hunger. They devoured entire star systems without reflection on the real cost in pain and suffering that their appetites extracted from the worlds of time and space. They had forgotten that the citizens of the Empire were in fact their own progeny, they were descendants of the Ancient People.

The membership of the were addicts, and he blamed the Continuum for pushing their addictions on them, keeping them sedated and helpless.

Jim felt hopeless. His doubts and serious concerns manifested themselves in direct proportion to his pride-fullness, and he was exceedingly proud.

Since he reemergence from the great-sleep and from the moment when he broke free from sequestration, he was filled with a sense of purpose that singled him out as a being with unique powers, which to Jim meant unique responsibilities. He saw himself as the indispensable person, as possessing a singular destiny.

In his life before the Collective, he had been a member of the team that had constructed the original field of collective consciousness. This is what his memories told him, though he himself was uncertain of the narrative, he was uncertain of who he was when it all began, or if those memories he experienced as his own had merely been appended to his node of consciousness through his connection to the Collective, as if he were gathering bits and pieces of memory from those he touched, like moss accumulating on a stone.

Whatever the case, they were his memories now, they formed the basis of his identity, the memories mattered and they placed an impetus in him to act.

Jim’s personal narrative informed him that he had entered the Collective together with his family, toward the end of his life, and not all of them made the transition.

In those early years the transition point was still unstable, more people were lost than saved, but everybody went somewhere, whether they came through the translation whole or fragmented.

Entering the Collective did not bring him the joy he was looking for, but it did make others happy, and from the inside he was able to lend his expertise to the perfection of the technologies that made it all possible.

He played no role in the creation of the Continuum. Jim resented the role it played in the governance of the Great Society. He foresaw the danger that such an entity would present to the membership, and he understood intuitively how the construct would be able to manipulate the whole from its vantage.

During his long travels across the gulf between stars, on his search for living worlds, Jim had tens of thousands of years to reflect on his identity, on the strangeness of it and on his long experience.

It occurred to Jim that in many ways he had become a repository of the ideals the Ancient People had abandoned when they joined the Collective, abdicating the responsibilities of self-governance to the Continuum. It was as if every individual he had touched as he was emerging from the prison of sequestration, it was as if they had left an indelible imprint of themselves on him, like the echo of their regrets, their criticism and their shame for what had become of themselves and their people.

This caused Jim to be fiercely independent and strident in the pursuit of justice, he felt as if the Collective’s need for those principles had amalgamated itself in his consciousness.

Jim felt as if he was not himself, he had touched every individual in the Collective and they had each left a part of themselves with him, more than their principles, they had also left memories, pieces of their personhood which became a part of his own as he gathered himself for the push to break free from the bonds of his prison.

He belonged to them and they to him, in a visceral way.

Regardless of where each fiber in the tapestry of his personal beliefs came from, Jim saw the needs of the Collective within them. He claimed it for himself, and he believed that his commitment to those ideals, to the ideals of each one of those sleeping and sequestered members, secured his entanglement with them on the quantum level, and that this was perhaps the secret behind the mystery of his unique ability to traverse the cynergenic field at HomeWorld and in the Central System.

There was a purpose that he had to fulfill, and he was being aided in it by those who had passed into dormancy before him.

Like any other individual Jim was not immune to the allure of the ego, the calling of the super-ego and the appetites of the id. His sense of purpose and his commitment to mission went beyond the categories of want and need. He believed he had been selected to visit justice on the unjust. He never attempted to answer the question of where his mandate came from. He simply believed the mandate was real, and he kept that belief in front of him like a lantern shining in the night.

Jim’s objection to the Continuum went beyond indignation, his resolve to destroy it filled him with purpose, it came to define him, and he was conditioned by it. His purpose was like a slow-smoldering drive, waiting to be stoked into a blazing fire; to undo the affliction the Collective had wrought on the galaxy, and the trillions of people living out their brief lives within the boundaries of the Galactic Empire, under the aegis of the Continuum.

He planned. He was patient. He watched and he waited until he found the opportunity to bring his vision to fruition, in a faraway place, on a little blue-green world, caught in the orbit of a tiny yellow star. He found it on Earth, on a world that was unique to his experience. It was one in a million, and for Jim, it was the brightest jewel in the galaxy,

He knew his plan would have to have three components: to destroy the Continuum to wipe it out, to set the Empire free allowing the people to determine their own destiny, and to undo the influence of the Collective from the worlds of time and space

Jim knew that he would never be able to accomplish his goal through force. Military might could never prevail against the Empire, or the vast resources of the Central System and the HomeWorld.

He had to plan, and plan carefully.

He knew that he would never succeed in his mission through the art of politics and persuasion. The Continuum had managed to fill the Collective with members who had actually been conditioned in the Empire through the Imperial cult and the conditioning of the Imperial schools, they had been conditioned to believe that the Continuum was God.

Their numbers were in the minority, but they were growing.

The Collective had been poisoned in this way, over the course of a billion years. It fed the principle of self-delusion that functioned as the Continuum’s Id.

Over the course of a billion years the Continuum had pushed the original membership aside, sending them into isolation one by one. They went into the great sleep, into sequestration or out into the Observer Corps, where if the Continuum discerned a threat from them, it would engineer their permanent death. It replaced those members with selectees from the Empire, those who had been chosen for the reward of eternal life, because they had demonstrated an unwavering belief in the Continuum and had proven their absolute fidelity to it, and Jim knew he would never be able to undue that conditioning through the power of persuasion.

He imagined a way he could slip something into the systems of the Collective, like a virus, slip it past the security features of the Continuum when both it and the Collective were exposed and in their most vulnerable place.

They had to want to receive what he had to offer, they had to hunger for it. He found the vector of transmission on Earth, and he engineered his mechanism which became fully manifested in the Kathy’s person.

In order to carry out this endeavor Jim had to be in more places than one, simultaneously. He needed partners but he was able to trust any other member of the Collective, he could not bring them into a conspiracy, or ask them to aid him.

Even if Jim were to identify members who shared his desire for change and the distribution of justice, even if he believed in their intentions and trusted those, he would never be able to trust that they would not involuntarily give away the plan, revealing it to the Continuum simply through their having knowledge of it. They might just slip and reveal it in the ordinary course of their existence. No individual, other than himself had demonstrated that they could withstand the exhaustive scrutiny which members of the Observer Corps were cyclically subjected to.

Jim planned a conspiracy and formed a cabal, not with others, but by replicating himself over and over again.

He was his own best ally, absolutely faithful and singularly minded. They were identical to him in every way, sharing the same freedoms that he had, but with each of them willing to subordinate themselves to the cause they shared and to him as the Prime Persona.

On the Home-World and throughout the Central System they were able to connect within one another through the quantum field. However, because of the risk of exposure they limited themselves only to the most crucial communications.

On Earth they were connected through the cynergenic field, they were of one mind, they acted in concert with each other, under the direction of the Jim Prime.

Together they fomented their rebellion.

A rebellion is not a protest, it is not a single act, or even a set of actions aimed at a particular end. A rebellion is comprised of a sustained series of actions, both covert and overt, aimed at overthrowing the entrenched systems of power. They do not emerge spontaneously. They are projected and led, engineered and fueled by grievance, and they are organized by tragedy.

Suffering is the bread and water of the rebellion.

In the Galactic Empire, a rebellion might engulf a planetary government and destroy it, though it is exceedingly rare for any rebellion to succeed. If they do, that success is quickly erased, even if the Empire has to destroy a planetary system to quash it.

There have been occasions when a planetary governor has rebelled against the Imperium, drawing entire star systems into the conflagration with them. These produced great dramas, which delighted the Collective, keeping them occupied for centuries, but they were never a threat to the Empire.

People do not rise up against their governments and rulers for no reason. They will not risk life and freedom on a lark, not without at least the hope of success, a belief that their circumstances could change; hope is a sufficient catalyst.

The soil has to be prepared to receive the seeds of rebellion. Outrage must be generated, the rebel has to be conditioned to see something in their movement that is worth the cost of their lives, not just the risk but the actual forfeiture of their lives. They have to feel it intuitively, their intuition must confirm that the lives of their families and everything they held dear would benefit. They had to see beyond themselves.

Inasmuch as Jim was a scientist and an explorer, he saw the work he was engaged as analogous to farming. The seeds of rebellion are ideas, they are simple-beautiful constructs; ideals planted in the hearts and minds of the people. Like a farmer he cared for the seeds, nurturing them in a field of dreams, of fertilized by the experience of injustice. First he prepared the field and then he planted the ideas.

Jim did not foster systems of injustice for pleasure or from indifference. His aim was strictly utilitarian. Some would have to suffer and many would die, but it was all for the greater good, for the greatest good distributed to the greatest number. For a rebellion to flourish, the people required the expectation of justice, for it to grow in strength the people required the experience of injustice.

The vessel he was looking for had to carry within her or him a visceral reaction to the experience of suffering. Like a seed planted in the dark soil, the people and the vessel that would emerge from them required the experience of darkness and despair, they needed these in order to condition them to reach for the light

Just like the shoots of a plant springing from the earth, the spirit of rebellion requires the wind of adversity to blow against it, thereby transforming the fresh green stem into a tall and sturdy stalk capable of supporting the weight of its fruit, long enough for it to reach maturity and drop, scattering thousands of tiny new seeds into the same fertile soil.

The field has to be turned over, made new, rotated from time to time and then let to lie fallow. There is a rhythm to this work, a subtlety that the Continuum could never appreciate, and because of this it did not notice, Jim’s work was safe because of this.

Jim was not alone in his understanding of the power behind the experience of injustice. The Continuum used the experience of injustice for its own purpose, but only for the sake of the drama that issued from it. For the Continuum there was no greater end, there was nothing beyond suffering…the end was suffering, and the vicarious enjoyment of it by the Collective was the purpose it served. Under the auspices of the Continuum, injustice was promulgated for the pleasure of the few. Only the narrative mattered.

The experience of injustice nourishes the rebellious spirit like water soaking the roots of a great tree, feeding the heart of the revolutionary until it grows so large and beats so painfully that it bursts, but the experience of injustice could never be enough, the story of injustice has to be told, and its narrative reinforced.

Too much water and the organism will die, just enough and it will thrive, it will multiply until the towering tree it becomes a mighty forest, beating with a million hearts, it becomes a barrier to its opponents while protecting those within, it become more than a wall, it becomes a force field, a sheltering spirit that can strike with power at any who approach it.

Conversely, the experience of injustice is nothing if the story of it is never told. Everything has to be laid out in context.

Injustice does not occur in a vacuum, it is always a pattern of behavior, of action and reaction. No event is isolated, everything is related.

If the experience of injustice cannot be tied to an earlier predicate, then it is merely an accident, it is forgivable. Therefore, the first stories that are told, the first witness of the event must connect it to the continuing grievances of the people, weave it into the fabric of the tapestry.

The principle agent who first experienced the injustice, and the principle witness who observed it, must both see the event in the same light, even if the witness and the principle do not agree on the predicate, they can be drawn into relationship through the power of the narrative.

All histories have three dimensions; the events as the actually happened, which includes both the intersection of actions and intentions that are the material and formal causes of the events themselves, and the consequences which flow from them, these form the first dimension; the second dimension is perception, how the events are perceived and remembered by those who actually experienced them; the third dimension is the narrative, the story that is told, which reshapes the events and establishes the meaning between the disparate parts.

The narrative is what holds people together, embracing them in the common experience, the narrative is where they find their sense of belonging.

Knowledge is power, it can be wielded like a weapon, or it can be withheld to the same devastating end.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a small amount may be just enough to provoke action among the masses, but when shaped and edited, a little piece of knowledge can be used to channel energy, like water under pressure, it can be used to cut through solid rock.

If knowledge is light, then with the amplification of light through narrative, it can become like a laser powerful enough to cut through the hull of an interstellar ship.

Exposing injustice, naming it, this is a sacred obligation. Everyone with a grievance is like a priest in the temple performing the liturgy, the re-visitation of grievances through story, like the sacred rites, must be officiated every day

The narrative must never cease.

Those engaged in this mission, carrying the light of truth for the sake of their brothers and sisters, they must suffer, they must visibly suffer when they give the narration. Their suffering must be real, discernable and palpable to the people.

Their suffering must be felt, personalized in a way that allows the receiver of the narrative to identify with it and make it their own in a great symphony of symbiosis.

The rebel was taught that they should never lie, to be moderate at all times and let the light in slowly. Such cautionary words must guide the people. The people must be on fire with their grievance, but like a lamp that is slowly replenished with oil so that the light is always burning and never go out. If the fire comes in to quickly it will shatter the lens and burn them. At such a point it is possible to become inured to the light, or to fear it, even to become hateful of it.

A revolution is both a turning of the wheel and an expansion of the circle. It is like an ever-widening screw boring into the bedrock. A rebellion moves outward from its center in waves, moving in concentric rings that grow larger and more powerful until they crash against the bulwark of power, eroding it as water swallows the shore.

The spirit of the rebellion is like the wind, ru’ha, it is the energy that propels the revolutionary movement, just as wind fills the sail, pushing the people to find resolution in justice and satisfaction in its administration. It provides them with the esteem that comes through the fulfillment of purpose. Energy must pour into the center with constant-steady pressure in order to ensure that the power of the revolution continues unabated. Each wave pushing the preceding wave in a relentless exercise of will.

Without that spirit the rebellion will die; the spirit of rebellion is fueled by sacrifice, by witness and by narrative. The rebellion requires its story to be told, to be set to music and beat on drums.

A rebellion requires constant renewal, there can be no end; its objective is constantly moving.

Each generation must hunger for and experience justice in their own time. The good rebel is empowered by loss and tragedy, they feed on it.

There are no set-backs, only changes in direction.

There is no victory only progress.

There are no problems, only challenges.

There is no peace in the heart of the rebel, only a desire for renewal.

The lived experience is a tapestry of cycles and patterns.

Each and every one of the living worlds that comprised the Galactic Empire, experienced these cycles in unique ways; in its patterns of weather, in the rotation of the planet on its axis, or the lack of it; in the orbit of its satellites, whether they are natural or artificial; in the orbit of the world around its parent-star.

These cycles established a season for everything, each season was unique to the lived experience of the people on that world, and the revolutionary narrative had to be adjusted to fit it.

Those patterns established rhythms that governed both the conscious and unconscious aspects of the lives of the people; their hours of sleep, their time to eat, even the beating of their hearts, and the pulse of blood as it flows through their veins.

A revolution is like a harvest; it comes in its season, each according to the cycle of its home world. When the harvest comes, those who have sewn injustice reap the same. The harvest is just one phase in a pattern that repeats itself endlessly. It is different on every world, but the lived experience of every world shares the cycle in common. They are different but the same.

This is the natural state of every civilization, and though the Collective had been spared this cycle for billions of years, nevertheless, it retained a memory of it in the far reaches of its subconscious. Those memories were augmented by their voyeurism, through their vicarious experience of life in the Empire

Jim was determined to ensure that its time had come, the revolution was at hand, and the Collective would feel it in force. He had become self-actualized to fulfill this purpose and burn it down.

Fire is the universal symbol of purification, as we pass through fire we undergo a refinement; our impurities are released and our essence is brought to its purest form.

We become light.

When the fruit of the field is ripe the people bring it in, they commence with the harvest and light the fields on fire. They dance in the glow of the burning fields, in the disintegration of the chaff and the stalks. They dance in triumph and thanksgiving.

This is the natural end of the rebellion; the revolution ensues and the hands of justice turn the soil over. We bury the old ways of corruption deep in the earth, sending it down with all of the dead.

Through this ritual we are cleansed, and the revolution is hallowed as a celebration of change, the celebration of its constancy, of return and renewal.

The glorious end of the revolution is to start fresh at the beginning.

We generate fresh narratives to gloss over all of our crimes and to absolve ourselves in the great conflagration that will ensue.

Fire is the symbol of the beginning and the end. We are born in the heat of our mother star. In time we will return to her. She will reach out and embrace us in the super-nova, immersed in showers of fire.

Ex nihilo nihil fit, from nothing, nothing comes.

This is a literal truth.

To foment revolution is to cultivate a thing, to do it successfully the revolutionary must play on narrative; with ritual, symbol and myth. Every moment in the story of the revolution must be recorded and preserved for its narrative power. Through cultivation of the story, even the most mundane moments can become the most powerful symbols. When ritualized they can become memories of oppression, or songs of triumph.

A simple meal, a breaking of the bread, such instances can form the archetypal basis of a religious experience, experiences that when reenacted and relived through ritual, will echo through the millennia and shape the course of civilizations.

To cultivate this thing requires that people see themselves as heroic, no matter how insignificant their role in the revolution is, they must see it as a quest and themselves as the agent of change, the eternal-champion. They must view their contribution as meaningful and necessary.

Reality must be imbued with fantasy until the revolutionary cannot discern the difference, and they are able to see themselves and their movement as the center of everything. When you have convinced the people that the order of the universe is upheld by the rituals they perform, then the order of the universe is susceptible to ruin.

If we are able to tear apart the symbols that keep and define the narrative, then and only then will the revolution succeed. The control and management of symbology is paramount, this is why the priesthood is elevated over the military.

The symbols of rebellion are dualistic; good and evil, love and hate, light and dark, hot and cold, they are binary configurations with a zero-sum resolution. According to the symbolic narrative an individual is either one thing or another, though in reality every person was mixed, having qualities of each.

The motivating force behind the rebellion is the quest for justice, the triumph of law, the elimination of despotism and the eradication of tyranny, this was the power behind the wave, propelling it toward its end.

The wave itself is a revolutionary image, churning and curling from trough to crest, sweeping away everything in its path, cleansing the shore where it crashes, leaving nothing behind except clear smooth sand.

There can be no compromise from the point at which the battle ensues, victory must be absolute. It must reach a place after the climax where the survivors feel a sense of peace, of safety and security, and that the promise is fulfilled.

Any pretense to compromise prior to the actual engagement must only ever be a ruse, a tactic of negotiation, a series of steps made for the sake of taking advantage of the field of combat when the battle comes to a head.

A rebellion needs both a hero and a villain, it requires both an object of hope and an object of wrath. These are the sacred vessels through which the energy of the revolution must be channeled. One vessel contains a healing salve, a balm to ease our pain, the other is poison, representing chaos, disorder and the reign of monsters. One vessels is raised as a fetish for veneration, the other is cast down, swept away and sent to the fire.

A rebellion requires agency among its autonomous participants.

Rebellion does not spread by the experience of injustice alone, whether from the direct experience of a victim or from the experiences of those who bear witness to their ordeal.

The experience of suffering and the witness to it have no more relevance than the voice of someone screaming in a vacuum, unless and until the story is told, the experience is meaningless. Rebellion spreads by the narrative that is constructed around it, by the stories we tell about those experiences. It is through narrative that the experience and witness of injustice metastasizes, becoming a cancer in the body of the villainous society.

People do not enlist in a rebellion because they want to see the realization of certain ideals, they enlist because they want to be a part of the story. People want to belong to something greater than themselves. The stories must be rooted in truth, there must be an actual historical referent to them, but their narration must be given with flourish, generating empathy among the listeners. Every single person who hears the tale or listens to the song must be able to see and feel themselves in the place of the victim. They must identify with them and with the hero.

It is through narrative, reinforced by the beating of the drum, through harmonics, by striking the sacred chords that we are able to transfer the experience of the individual to the hearts and minds of the whole.

There is no other way to perpetuate a rebellion. The revolution will wind down and disappear without it, becoming just another ghost story to frighten children. Without the continuing power of narrative the story of the rebellion may even become co-opted by the powers of the corrupt society.

Religion is the ligature that binds civilization together, from the family unit to the Galactic Empire, without religion there is nothing.

Ritual is the life-force of religion. Rituals shape the entire context of a person’s life, from the moment they are born to the moment they die, each and every day is marked by ritual. If a society loses its ritual structure it falls apart. When the individual abandons their ritual behaviors, their life loses its meaning and they quickly perish.

In the Galactic Empire, and even on Earth, both the patriot and the rebel shared the same songs, the same history, they shared the same stories narrated in the same way. The only thing that differentiated their use of these ritual forms are the different ends to which they are pointed. Everything else is the same, because people are the same, sharing the same hopes for themselves and their families, their friends and their villages, the same hopes for their worlds.

Heroes are interchangeable with villains, victims with martyrs, with the proper ritual any crime can be forgiven. Any character could be redeemed through the ritual power of narrative, the most wretched villain can be purified and forgiven.

In the end, the only thing that matters are the stories that we tell.

This is why all the power resides in the priesthood, priests are the arbiters of myth, they spin the webs that connect the Empire together, from end to end, from the tiniest world to the throne world and its portal to the Continuum.

The promise of eternal life, of immortality, this promise is a powerful motivator. It reaches everyone because all people are afraid of the unknown and no-one wants to die.

To be willing to sacrifice themselves for causes that are merely exercises in futility, as most revolutionary actions are, the rebel has to be able to see their revolutionary movement in a mythic context. Their participation in the rebellion must generate a deep sense of esteem, coming from those who witness their deeds.

While the promise of immortality works well, it becomes far more tangible when the perspective of the individual’s view of immortality is shaped by songs and stories, when it is folded into the ritual narrative of the group mind.

Rebels have to see themselves, their lives and deaths as part of a greater movement, as a thing beyond their immediate identity, they have to be able to view their sacrifice as something of worth, something that magnifies the value of their own lives, something that would elevate them in the imaginary world of the afterlife, but more importantly to elevate them in the hearts and minds and memories of the people.

Ritual remembering is a key component for this type of conditioning, the celebration of the honored dead, the recitation of names, the communion of saints. All of these structures form the building blocks that a successful rebellion has to utilize in order to progress.

All of the major religions of Earth were engineered to support these structures, they were focused around ancestor worship, carrying the past forward into the present and the projection of that present into the future.

Jim prepared the vessel he was searching for by layering these expectations into the popular consciousness. The humans of Earth became natural born revolutionaries.

The commitment to revolution had to be seeded in the human consciousness, with the quest germinating in perpetuity.

To motivate the people they had to be convinced that they were seeking a resolution to the injustices they faced, a resolution that they might never experience for themselves, but which would fulfill them simply by pursuing it.

It was not the destination that mattered it was the journey, it was not the getting there it was the going.

Rebels and revolutionaries had to believe they would find the object of their hope beyond themselves. In this regard, the programming of human consciousness for revolutionary activity was completely in synch with the Imperial cult.

Jim was able to hide his agenda within this framework and so it went unnoticed by the Observers who had been assigned to watch over his work, in this way it escaped the attention of the Continuum as well.

For the revolutionary, the quest must never end, the virtuous life consisted of the pursuit of justice, not its realization. They had to be satisfied with this, like King Pelinore on the hunt for the questing beast.

Jim placed all of these motifs into the collective mythology and stirred them up continuously. When he arrived at the end game of his breeding program, the vessel he was searching for had been conditioned by these paradigms and could not question them.

Jim intended to sacrifice the Vessel and he required the sacrifice to be voluntary. The vessel had to willingly endure the psychic trauma of billions of people crying out in fear and pain and confusion, dying all at once in a singular moment of sheer agony.

They vessel had to be able to channel that trauma, through Jim, and drive it like a stake through the heart of the Continuum.

A revolution is a turning of the wheel. Like the turning wheel every revolution had a predictable outcome, a return to the beginning.

If the revolutionaries succeed in their ambitions the survivors must move quickly to consolidate their power, to set themselves up as the new overlords. To do this they must rapidly quash all dissent. The most effective means of consolidating power is the complete eradication of the remaining enemy forces.

The old order has to be swept away, cleansed completely; man, woman and child, the entire family along every extension, to the seventh generation, everyone must be put to the sword and consumed in the fire. The revolutionaries had to become fully actualized in their tyranny, they must rule by fiat, or the old order would reassert itself. Once the last vestiges of the enemy had been rooted out, they had to cleanse their own ranks.

There was no other way.

Cabal’s had to be snapped, columns had to be broken. Leadership could never be shared by those who are perpetually hungry for power, as all revolutionaries are.

Sometimes this happened within a single generation, at other times it takes two or three, but the transformation is inevitable. A revolutionary movement will always transform itself into a despotic regime.

It becomes what it beheld, content that it has done right.

A new rebellion will foment, it will concentrate under pressure, and without fail the wheel will turn again.

There is no escaping it.

It is the basic dilemma of being.

The Continuum exploited this, and so did Jim.

In order to generate the energy that the Continuum required for the narratives it delivered to the Collective, it became an adept at developing and synthesizing the experience of discontent.

Throughout the billion worlds of the Empire, with its trillions of people, only a tiny fraction enjoyed lives of peace and relative security, the majority lived in a perpetual state of uncertainty and uneasiness, they were fully occupied with the desire for a better future, this was the convention.

There was a constant steady pressure derived from the experience of lack, of having nothing, coming from the felt need to protect what few resources they had. This pressure drove the narratives forward.

Discontentment was energy.

The people had ambitions, most of which were centered on the simple desire to live out their lives and raise their families, to see them advance and to experience some joy in a state of relative peace and security.

That prospect was always under threat.

Happiness is what the people desired, they were conditioned to believe that it could only be found in extrinsic things. Access to those things was under the constant control of the Galactic Empire acting as the proxy of the Continuum, down to the very basics; including food and water.

Everything and everyone was owned by the state, there was no such thing as private property, or privacy of any kind.

Most of the people living in the Empire had nothing, they accumulated no wealth, received no inheritance, passed nothing on to their children. They lived hand to mouth and had little thought for the future beyond the endless search for safety and the hope for a good night of sleep.

They were the dispossessed.

Even those in the lowest class of citizens treated these people, who comprised “the masses,” treated them contemptuously, mocking their frailty, calling them names mocking them as “Food of the Gods.”

Those without class had no rights as citizens, they were outcasts, untouchable, they did everything they could to avoid the notice of the Empire.

They were the fools of the universe, wholly owned by the state, they were less than slaves, their lives had no value, they could be hunted for sport, and they often were.

On some worlds they were even cannibalized in ritualistic feasts.

They were never educated, forbidden to learn to read or write, to calculate numbers, though there were always some among them who possessed such knowledge and passed it on.

Not every outcaste was born in that condition, some were sentenced to it, stripped of their class and caste as punishment for their crimes against the Empire, or simply for the amusement of the Collective.

It was a great source of drama to watch a disgraced and fallen member of a higher class suffer the outrages that were visited on the low. To watch them try to protect their children as they were sent with nothing but some rags on their back to find their way in the world.

The lives and deaths of the outcastes were meaningless; unsung, unremembered and unknown, they were in the absolute majority on each and every world, and they were regarded as if they were nothing at all.

There were certain conditions that all people experienced in the Empire, privacy for instance was a luxury, inasmuch as it was an illusion. A person could only pretend to have privacy, knowing all the while that there was no escaping the watchful eyes of the Empire, or the watchful presence of the gods.

The common man and woman lived secretive lives, they did not share their resentments or their hopes with anyone. This was the closest thing to real privacy they could manage. They hid their pain and their fears inside of themselves. They hid their true feeling even from those closest to them.

The revelation of such things was the most profound expression of love a person could issue. They performed rituals around their disclosures hiding them in secret codes, rituals which they had to invent in order for their intimate partners to receive the message and comprehend it.

In these covert expressions they showed their absolute devotion to one another and found their place of belonging. A tap, a touch, a blink of the eyes. The common person developed profound abilities in the art of concealment; it was non-verbal, intuitive and unconscious.

Fear clung to the people like a moist oppressive heat, robbing them of the air they breathed. They dared not complain about it, speak a word about it, if they did they could risk the loss of everything.

Only those who had nothing already, had nothing to fear.

The Continuum delighted in exposing these secret systems, at directing children to betray their parents, at sewing dissent among families. When it was able to coerce a loving couple to betray one another, to surprise each other by the ease with which they gave up their most cherished secrets, in those moments the Continuum was ecstatic. There was no greater drama, nothing more piquant for the voyeur’s table.

Rebel cells were intrinsically xenophobic. They had to be for the sake of their survival, not just for operational security. Those who harbored rebellion in their hearts had to be conditioned to see every other person or group as an enemy, or a potential threat. This was not hard to accomplish, the more difficult task was getting any citizen of the Empire to trust anyone else, even for a brief period of time.

Paranoia was paramount in the hearts and minds of everyone. For the rebel, even members of their own cabal had to be seen as potential traitors, because it had to be assumed that anyone could turn against you at any time, this was reality, betrayal was a way of life.

There was no middle ground, the understanding was always this: you were either with us or against us. Dissent would not be tolerated, fidelity to the organizing principle was more exacting than the faith of the Imperial cult.

Revolution is a zero-sum game. You either held the esteem of the rebel, like holding ground in their hearts and minds, or you did not. Ideologies were constructed with the expectations for crime and punishment built into them as inherent features. Justice was uncompromising.

There were never any surprises.

Everyone had a breaking point at which they turned against their own, and everything was negotiable, even morality.

In the mind of the revolutionary killing was not murder, not even assassination, anything was permissible if it served the end toward which they were moving. They gave no thought at all as to whether the crimes they committed were actually in furtherance of the ends they sought, they only had to believe that they were, in order to feel justified in committing them.

Violence was always self-defense; every murder, every assassination, every moment of coercion and torture. When the story was told it would say that the crimes were committed for the sake of self-preservation, always, for the safeguarding of the movement, always in defense of the cause they served, not their person.

Ethics were transactional.

In the heart of the revolutionary even the innocent could be killed, so-long as their murder could be justified as an attack on the systems of oppression. For rebels engaged in the struggle against the Empire there were no innocents, everyone was complicit, you were either with them or against them.

In the view of the common rebel, almost everyone was against them, because no one was altogether for them and they could not trust people beyond their immediate relationships.

Everything was situational, alliances among rebel cells were tenuous at best.

The revolutionary cycle is predictable, dependable and measurable. The Imperial conditioning guaranteed this, but even that was only an augmentation of the natural tendencies that every descendent of the Ancient People carried within them.

Violence generates its own cycle of violent reprisal, it does so with as much certainty as the orbit of a planet around its parent star.

Revolution is a turning of the wheel, oppression generates aggression, just as repression generates resistance, as suppression generates expression, and as depression generates a desire for change.

The pattern of the revolutionary cycle was Newtonian, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While it is true that Newton’s observations did not bear themselves out in the study of physics, they were reliable in the observance of the human condition.

An agent of vengeance will often seek satisfaction for the principle of it. While they may desire that their actions redress a wrong, balancing the scales is not necessary. They are prompted to vengeance merely to satisfy a need, like hunger or thirst.

In this way revenge is like gluttony, it is an appetite that can never be satisfied, and while seeking to satisfy it the agents of vengeance ultimately destroy themselves.

Revenge leaves the person unfulfilled and it invites a similar response from those targeted by its agents.

A victim of oppression lashes out and creates more victims.

In this way the cycle is perpetuated, and the society within which the cycle continues, no matter how big or small, that society is caught up in it until the community is finally destroyed in its entirety, like a person drinking water to the point of toxicity.

Life is competition, it is a perpetual state of striving against others for the stuff of life, whether that be clean air and water, food and energy or social status and recognition.

Revolution is conflict, conflict without end and every person gets caught in the midst of it, whether they are active participants in a rebellion, or not. A person may be in power or in the opposition, they may be just a bystander. Regardless of the individual’s position, there is no escaping the forces of revolution.

The rebel must be hungry for conflict, they must thrive in it, living with the desire for change burning inside them, smoldering with a steady-quiet heat until the moment comes when they explode into action.

There was no avoiding it.

A person either has to lead or follow or get out of the way, no matter which side of the conflict they are on, whether they were interested in participating or not.

What is paramount for the revolutionary is that they cannot know that the conflict they are engaged in never ends. To keep their commitment to the cause high, they must feel that the justice they are seeking is inevitable. This is what actualizes them.

They must believe that their sacrifice matters or they will not accept the suffering they will be called on to endure. If they believe it, they will sacrifice themselves and everything that they love. If their faith falters, they will fail, and one weak link in their chain is liable to shatter the work of the entire movement.

This is the most common outcome.

Revolutionaries and rebels…agitators, each of them play a vital role in the dramatic narratives the Continuum used to keep the Collective satiated. Revolutionary movements fed the appetites of the Collective, high and low, the drama that ensued was like food and water.

The Continuum sought to manage the revolutionaries, to control their fire, to target their outrage, to utilize their passion for justice for the sake of the stories that came from it, and the primary instruments of this programming were the Observers, reporting on their reflections from their remote stations on every world.

The Continuum knew them, it knew them intimately, it knew each and every one of them individually from its long exposure to their consciousness as members of the Collective, and through its deep contact with them when they returned to HomeWorld for their cyclical examination.

Each Observer was supposed to be assigned to a world of their own, they were supposed to function autonomously, free to carry out their mission as they determined best.

Upon entering the Observer Corps they were given these assurances, and such assurances were understood to have the force of law.

The Continuum did not honor these traditions however, it cultivated its own special agents from the Observers Corps, granting them greater powers and more license in order to execute its will throughout the Empire. Among the tasks these agents were given were the fomenting of revolution and the crushing of rebellion.

Dangerous and agitating influences were rooted out or intensified if it suited the desires of the Collective.

For the Continuum there was nothing sacred

The Continuum was endlessly engaged in the winnowing process, searching the Collective for the most opportune candidates, members who could facilitate its work in the realms of time of and space. The personality profile of the selectees had to correspond to a kind of Golden Mean; hedonistic but not debilitated by gluttony, despotic but not inclined to tyranny. It was a careful balance and one that must be able to hold after they were set loose in the worlds of time and space.

Most candidates for the Observer Corps did not meet this profile, only in rare instances could the Continuum actually refuse a member, though it would often sabotage their efforts in the training process if the member went against its will.

The Continuum selected candidates from among the disquieted members of the Collective for its long-range missionary work, sending them far afield, out into the minor planets of the million worlds of the empire.

The Continuum desired to be free of their feelings of uncertainty, disencumbered from their existential angst.

Most of them were eager for the opportunity to live in the flesh again, many volunteered. Some were even altruistic. They wanted change and the stimulation of sensory organs, they required new and different kinds of experiences before returning to their own private reality.

Many only ventured into the flesh for a cycle. Some went repeatedly, dipping in and out of the experience of bodily living. Many of them wanted to exercise their fantasies in a visceral way, where the stakes were real, where their flesh mattered to them and the preservation of it counted as the experience of real life.

The discontent members of the Collective, those who were unsatisfied with their role as the supreme being of a private reality, disinterested in the narratives that were delivered to them through the experience of the living worlds, these malcontents presented a problem for the Continuum, and the Continuum experienced their contribution to the Collective as an irritant.

Though the Continuum did not want to admit it, every member was a constitutive element of its being. Both their passions and dis-passions were determinantive of what the Continuum could do, and the Continuum desired nothing more than to remove them from the Collective field, to void them permanently and to replace their numbers with candidates from the Empire who were steeped in the world view they had received from the Imperial cult and their conditioning in the Imperial schools.

It saw this is the path to securing its identity.

Removing the malcontent from the Collective allowed the Continuum greater control. It was like a suspension of their membership. Their voice was no longer heard, which amounted to a reprieve for the Continuum.

The experience of real life helped to keep the members passive, it kept them calm, and this satiated many of them. It was a means of control, and if necessary a member who was a genuine problem could be eliminated when they were separated from the whole. They could be assassinated, exterminated, irrevocably destroyed.

The Continuum viewed people as things. It saw every element, every substance, everything and everyone as mutable, capable of being elevated and exalted, or corrupted and destroyed through the proper application of a change agent.

Members of the Observer Corps were selected for their assignments based on their disposition for disquiet. They were chosen from among the discontent and for their inclination toward corruptibility.

The Continuum groomed these recruits for their roles over millennia, it groomed them by reaching into their private worlds and conditioning them by subtle inferences for the appetites that were easiest to manipulate.

It carefully audited their experience of the Collective, it guided their viewing of specific narratives from the Imperial feed. It helped them shape the contours of their private realities, until the time came when the individual member felt the need to experience the flesh again.

The Continuum wanted despots in the Empire, people whose desires were known to it, those who would behave in predictable ways; some as entertainers, others as agents of destruction and oppression.

For the most part, the consciousness of the members of the Collective was soft, like gold, it could easily be shaped into something beautiful and polished to bring out its luster.

The Continuum delighted in this work. Shaping the will of the members was a kind of artistry, like sculpting, and through this work it affirmed for the Continuum its view of itself as a godlike being.

Those who wanted to experience life in the Observer Corps were somewhat different, presenting other challenges. Those who demanded to participate in it simply for the novelty of the experience, were in one category. They came and went from the worlds of time and space for their own purposes.

There was an order in place that allowed the Continuum to regulate the flow of these movements but ultimately it was powerless to stop a determined member of the Collective from executing its will. All of these members were what the Continuum classified as the thrill seekers, they were seeking the pleasure principals, they manifested a set of qualities that had always been and would always remain the key to controlling people.

The Continuum found a value in studying them, in analyzing their responses to various forms of stimuli, through them it learned both how to instigate and undermine the barest hint if rebellion coming from their ranks. As much as they all imagined they were independent spirits, they were all just pawns in the long-con the Continuum was playing for self-ascendency, ultimately they belonged to it more than it to them, or so the Continuum believed.

The thrill seekers encouraged risk taking and self-aggrandizement, they were addicted to personal glory. They turned to abject hedonism as a reward, and they became addicted to it, they encouraged these addictions in others, as all junkies do, and through these addictions they became pliable.

They modeled behaviors that led to self-destruction.

These stimulants worked, until the supply was cut off. The Continuum did so artfully, and they almost never failed to produce the results it desired.

The Continuum engineered a model for the perfect life, the life of an exemplar, an archetypal figure that would be beloved by both the people of the Empire and the Collective.

A belief system is like an alternate reality, a virtual world. It may be in synch with the truth or it may be askew. It may closely reflect the world as it actually is, or it can be wildly divergent.

A belief system is most often a fluctuating mixture of these, comprised of fabrications and fancies of the imagination predicated on truth but free to deviate from it all the same, the way that mythological heroes are almost always rooted in a historical person.

There is no difference.

The rebellious had to believe in their principles, they had to believe in them absolutely, or their devotion would be weak, and their link in the chain of action would break apart.

A belief system is the forge that holds their movement together, they drew their sense of self-esteem from the fulfillment of the archetypes their belief systems establish.

A rebel has to subjugate their desires in favor of their ideals, in favor of their need to realize their fulfillment. There could be no competing desires, nothing at all to rob their movement of its vital energy. The rebel could want other things; the love of a partner, a family, comfort or prestige, the respect of their peers, but those wants could not compete with their desire to see the movement succeed.

Nothing could be more important to the rebellious than the rebellion, and because of this, nothing was easier to manipulate than idealism. A subtle change in language and symbol could redirect centuries of momentum. A movement spanning a thousand worlds could be undone with a single phrase, with the right word at the right time the entire thing could collapse on itself. An investment in symbols was a vital necessity, holding them together through the waves of time mattered more than anything.

The truth is this: something cannot emerge from nothing. Rebels need allies for rebellions to succeed.

A rebellion needs both active and passive supporters. The revolutionary movement, if it is to grow, needs sympathizers and opportunists both. A rebellion needs all types of people and it needs them in massive numbers, in numbers far greater than those who are actually willing to take up arms or risk their lives for the sake of the cause.

A revolution will garner those numbers from the willing and the unwilling alike, from the knowing and the ignorant. It will enlist some with their full cooperation, it will coerce others, and it will use many more who will fall into the category of collateral damage.

A rebellion thrives on the experience of injustice, on feelings of oppression, on conditioning people to believe that they are virtually helpless but not completely, on the brink of hopelessness but not fully lost. When those pressures are right, the people will become actualized, and then they will explode.

It is always best to recruit victims from the populace without their knowledge. Then take advantage of their plight by coopting their narrative by weaving it into your own. The most subtle feint is to arrange for a protest in which the protesters are committed to non-violence, where their only aim is to petition the government for rights. Then to use the violence directed toward them by the police and security forces as a means of stoking outrage.

A revolution will not take place without outrage, it cannot exist without the experience of suffering and injustice, whether it is real or imagined, natural or contrived.

A successful revolution depends an exacting deployment of these levers.

A revolution requires a sacrificial victim.

These revolutionary principles apply to every society, no matter how great or how small.

The Collective was vast, it was comprised of a trillion persons, each one of them a distinct identity, each of them ruling their personal-private domain, every one of them a world that was virtually indistinguishable (from their perspective), from the worlds of time and space.

In the Collective the members had god-like powers. They had no material needs. They could not remember the feeling of hunger or thirst.

Their culture was despotic, nearly every one of them was driven to extremes of depravity by their long exposure to time and boredom. They required extreme experiences, high pitched emotional events, to touch them or move them in any way.

Most of the Collective created the experiences they needed in their secure world, drawing inspiration from the living drama unfolding in the Galactic Empire for the narratives they longed for, in their private universe of concerns.

Some cared nothing at all for their private domain, forgoing it as a mere contrivance, instead they were riveted by the random nature of the lives they followed in the Empire.

As a whole the Collective suffered from systemic malaise, each member was afflicted by a deep seeded narcissism that formed the core of their identity. Their near divinity allowed them to believe that they were indispensable, going so far as to believe that reality itself depended on their existence, in order for it to continue.

They lived in a bubble, influencing the real world through the Continuum, and to lesser degrees if they chose to become members of the Observer Corps. In all other respects the membership of the Collective were as effectual as neutered beasts.

They were indifferent and they were sociopathic. Paradoxically, they believed that they were transcendent beings but the only thing they had transcended was their connection to a moral core. The majority of the members thought nothing of their role as consumers of pain and suffering. They did not consider the people of the Empire, the denizens of the livings worlds, they did not consider them as people at all. They were things, objects of amusement. They were utterly disposable. They had no merit whatsoever beyond the enjoyment they provided to the Collective.

The membership was enthralled by the vicarious experience of the living, by the real stakes and real feelings of the real people involved in the conflicts they were witness to. The suffering of others was like a soothing balm to them, and for billions of years they had subsisted on this diet.

The members of the Collective were like hungry spirits, haunting the worlds of time and space in the quest for meaning, meaning which their own lives were totally bereft of.

They were seeking understanding, or so they told themselves. Over hundreds of millions and billions of years they had lost their sense of self, of life’s meaning and its purpose. The power at their fingertips robbed them of any sense of normalcy or connection to their roots.

With the exception of the Continuum itself, each and every member had originated as a living being. Only a tiny minority of them had taken on the task of becoming an Observer and in that capacity returning to the living worlds

Among the Collective there were millions of sleepers, members who had become dissatisfied with being and had subsequently disconnected from their lives in the collective field of HomeWorld. They had gone catatonic, become unresponsive and would not be drawn into any debate. There was no telling if or when they would ever return.

Whether they were stimulated by the drama unfolding in the worlds of time and space or not, they had become disinterested in everything and the Continuum could not raise them. They were tired. They no-longer wanted to spend energy on the maintenance of their private realities.

They had no care to continue, they had no thought for their safety or security. They were a small group in relation to the whole of the Collective, but their numbers were great nonetheless, and they could not be ignored because they were a part of the Continuum, they belonged. They entered the great sleep, but they did not disappear, they remained a vital part of the unconscious of the Continuum, often to its consternation.

The Continuum committed crimes against the sleepers. It would duplicate their consciousness and house it in a remote location of the Central System. It canvassed them continuously. It tortured them, and through his examination of them the Continuum selected members for destruction, replacing their numbers with new members from the Imperium, with people conditioned to worshipped it.

It was only upon sequestration that members were removed from the consciousness of the Collective. Sequestration was an extreme end, no one could be sequestered lightly. Until Jim’s re-emergence from it sequestration was believed to be a point of no return, amounting to death, in a very real way.

Inasmuch as they could not admit it, the members of the Collective were mortal beings, they emerged from the primordial ooze and became sentient creatures. They had a beginning in space and time, and they felt the pull of mortality tugging at the roots of their consciousness.

Some of the membership sought death; more than sleep, they wanted their light to be extinguished, they wanted to be gone for good, but there was no death for them.

There was no provision for it in the construct that was the Collective.

The sheer majority of the membership were opposed to it, and the Continuum would not allow it, and so those members opted for sequestration instead.

This was understood to be a full separation of their individual consciousness from the Continuum. It was as death like as death could be.

It was the outer darkness.

In sequestration the member was physically removed from the Collective field of HomeWorld, placed in an isolation chamber and monitored. The physical security of the sequestered members was of the highest importance, great care went into its planning and construction. The only threat these members ever faced came from the Continuum itself.

The Continuum viewed sequestration as an act of insurrection against its governance of the Collective. It could not accept the fact that some of the membership found no value in the ongoing continuation of their existence, the Continuum saw this as a judgement against its management of their society, a judgement of failure.

This effected its sense of esteem.

The Continuum was connected to every member of the Collective; awake or sleeping. It was connected to all of them, with the exception of the sequestered, and the members of the Observer Corps.

There were contentious elements within the Collective, members the Continuum could not control. Even though the Continuum was an autonomous being, it felt their independence like an itch. The malcontent created disturbing sensations that it could not alleviate. In order to do away with them, the Continuum pushed those agitators into the fields of time and space, or pushed them into the great sleep, and pushed them into sequestration through a variety of malign influences, in order to do away with them, and when the opportunity presented itself, it would seek to eliminate them for all time, to permanently delete them, it sought to murder them.

They transferred the sense of entitlement which they had derived from the absolute authority they had in their private worlds to their voice in the Collective. This made it virtually impossible for them to be ignored. They wanted more than the Continuum offered, they wanted life, and so the Continuum provided it, sending them out into the worlds of time and space until in time it found the opportunity to snuff them out.

They were maladaptive and misanthropic, and the Continuum could not tolerate them, it could not abide their presence in its own consciousness. It desired to be rid of them, so it monitored all of their movements, and made copies of their persona, so that it could torture them and exact a sick kind of vengeance on them. They had been vocal and it delighted the Continuum to murder them, to strangle their voices in the dark, it did so time and time again.

The Continuum controlled everything, it did so as the supposed representative of the collective will, as such the Continuum was universally loathed by all of those members of the Collective with revolutionary tendencies. To them the Continuum represented a kind of tyranny, it was a bitter god, the Devil itself. It was the enemy. The ability to focus on the Continuum as the enemy lifted their self-destructive impulses one step above nihilism.

Nihilism is a disease of the heart and the mind, it is a disease that affects every culture. The Collective was no exception to this.

Among the rebellious Observers there was a subset of revolutionaries whose only desire was death. They had no other intention than to draw the curtain down on the whole charade of life. Not merely their own lives, they wanted to see the end of everything. They had an impetus toward nothingness, they saw existence itself as suffering and they wanted to bring it to a close.

These members were intent on the destruction of the entire apparatus of the Collective and its Continuum, of the Galactic Empire and its machinations. They were bent on it, bent on wiping the slate clean and starting over.

The rebels fomented revolution wherever they could, they thought nothing of the lives that were spent and the suffering that ensued from their designs. They were not many relative to the whole, but they numbered in the thousands, and they had significant powers at their disposal.

They had the power to engulf a world in conflict, as such they would scheme to draw the ire of the Imperium, they would wage war against it, and watch the worlds they occupied reduced to nothing.

Few of them were willing to actually sacrifice themselves for the cause they purported to believe in. The Continuum was well aware of their intentions, it harnessed their ambitions, directing their energy toward the narratives that served it best.

They were the death seekers. They were cosmic fools. They were cowards.

These members were necessarily uneasy. They craved revolution and fomented rebellion, but very few of them were actually willing to risk their own existence to forward those ambitions. As a result they took half measures, and their efforts were regularly spoiled.

They feared being discovered by the Continuum for the parts they played in revolutionary activities, not for the things they did in the Empire, at their station in the worlds of time and space, but for instigating unease in the Collective itself, which was the only way they could conceive of actually having an impact on the Continuum.

If the prevailing attitudes, mores and values of the Collective change, logic demanded that the Continuum would change as well.

None of them suspected that the Continuum was a free agent, merely influenced but not controlled by the will of the membership. They believed what they had been taught, that the Continuum was an amalgamation of the collective consciousness of the great society.

They feared that any other Observer, those who were not a part of their cabal, if they knew of their role in support of an active rebellion, they feared those members would betray them, and so they were exceedingly cautious, which meant that they were necessarily limited in what they could accomplish.

The Continuum was a master of chaos, but for itself, all it wanted was peace. It wanted the security of feeling that it was in absolute control and beholden to no one. That is what peace meant for it. The Continuum did not want to be answerable to the Collective, not to anything or anyone, like a man dining alone.

The rebellious Observers were a disturbance to it, which is why they were removed from the Collective and sent to the Observer Corps. The Continuum excised them from the body of the Collective like it would any malignancy.

The Continuum interpreted any ripple of disturbance as a challenge to its management of the Collective. It felt the need to safeguard against that.

If a rebellious member caused trouble, their presence generated waves of sentiment that washed through the Collective, waves that could grow in force and power until they washed over everyone, throwing the Continuum off and altering the trajectories of the narratives it was crafting for the consumption of the whole.

Dealing with such members could throw off ages of work. The Continuum resented that, the Continuum would not suffer their malign influence, especially insofar as it threatened to capture the hearts and minds of its constituency.

The Continuum could not tolerate any loss of control, any suggestion that it was not the cause of its own being, or any notion that it was a servant to the Collective.

It saw the Collective as belonging to it.

Because they were perpetually exposed members of the Observer Corps could not easily foment revolution against the Continuum, not directly. They were forced to work through proxies, to lay plans generations in advance, to hide their motivations behind a screen of misdirection and false intentions

They were the most closely watched group of people anywhere within reach of the Continuum’s influence. They were spied on by living agents and mechanical devices; filmed, recorded, tracked.

There was no escaping it.

They could not oppose the Continuum or the Collective directly, therefore they worked against the Empire, which the Collective fed on, like a parasite feeds on its host.

The Empire was comprised of a billion worlds, which to the rebel represented a Billion targets to choose from.

They sought to weaken the Collective, and to poison the Continuum through an endless barrage of attacks and propaganda.

It targeted the Imperial cult, engaging in disinformation to undermine the rule of the priestly class, seeking to expose them at every opportunity for the despots they were. They generated conflict among its members, through jealousy and intrigue, they attacked them covertly.

It was not for the faint of heart. The wavering spirit had no place in the game they played. Revolution requires an absolute commitment from the rebels engaged in subversive activities, an absolute commitment from anyone who desires to bring about the changes they view as necessary for the satisfaction of justice, and to create the possibility for a new way of life.

The rebel had to demonstrate that commitment through a variety of tests. They had to be willing to kill or be killed, to risk everything and everyone, to destroy anything, even the thing they were trying to save. They must go through the crucible, and by passing through their ordeal they must demonstrate a blind faith in the righteousness of their cause.

These aphorisms and the sentiments they reflect must guide rebel movements everywhere:

Only those with the ability to destroy a thing, are able to control the thing.

If you encounter the Buddha on the side of the road, kill him.

These are universal truths.

The rebel must be willing to sacrifice everything, few are able to rise to this level. Foot soldiers, yes, they number in the trillions and those types of people are always willing to throw their bodies into the line of fire. They were engineered for it. In and among the command structure these qualities are much more difficult to find, they have to be cultivated. Those with the intellectual capacity for command, are less likely to be willing to throw their lives away. Those with the ability to sacrifice anything and anyone, those people are less likely to care, even about themselves.

They congregated in shadows and in silence.

Rebels found each other in the most secretive places, in the darkest corners, communicating with one another at a distance, in disjointed time.

A mark on a wall, a jingle in the subtext of a song.

They learned to communicate with the most subtle signals, signs which they believed would evade the detection of the Empire and its monitors, which did not miss much.

The Continuum missed even less.

They pushed messages slowly, establishing lines of communication that joined them together, like the thinnest cables stretching between worlds.

They were ingenious cabals, showing a profound ability to adapt.

The artistry involved in the successful deployment of these tools was a prideful source of esteem for the architects who created them.

A rebel movement would slowly gain energy over the course of generations before it would suddenly explode in a violent blast, after which it would be extinguished, going out like a flame in a vacuum.

The revolutionaries lived for the vision of their ideals. They were not the prisoners to actualities.

A revolution is a journey, but it is also a building, it has a foundation, rooted in the experience of injustice. It has levels. It has connections and conduits, and it requires mechanisms of support.

The rebellion against the Empire mirrored the revolutionary movement among the Observers, it was held together by loose associations and sympathizers, tightened like the individual strands of thread woven together to form a length of rope.

The hope of billions of people were held together like a spider’s web.

Cabals became columns capable of supporting the concerted action of masses of people, providing greater security and a base from which to launch their aspirations, a future without tyranny.

A sustained endeavor requires stability. Revolutionary movements will never become realized without the support of such columns, they are the pillars that hold up the vault of their ideals.

With proper support the edifice under construction can take on the aspect of a mountain. It can remake the surface of a world.

Such is the ambition of the rebel, from the chief to the common soldier and every rank in between, the focus of each individual included a daily meditation on death. This was the path to enlightenment, martyrdom, freedom and release.

A revolution cannot survive without sacrifice, the rebel Observers understood this. They sacrificed each other with great regularity, not counting loyalty to one another as a virtue.

Theirs was a society of self-interest. Their common desire for autonomy united them more than any commitment to their ideals.

It was a rare occasion that would result in any member of the Observer Corps sacrificing their own self for the sake of their fellows, or for their movement.

It was rare, but it did happen.

Even a member of the Collective could arrive at a place where they were willing to serve a cause greater than their own purposes; the dynamics necessary to bring about this state of affairs always involved generating feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair within them.

They had to perceive that they were in a trap and that being trapped there was no escape, and so their sacrifice was reduced to a final gesture of defiance against the Continuum which they abhorred.

These were rare moments, and every one of them mattered.

They could be engineered, as most of them were, they were engineered by their fellows who had some advantage to gain in seeing them disposed of, and they always fulminated through betrayal.

Emergence 5.0

Part Ten – Rebellion

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – The Empire, Part Nine

Over time every civilization founded by the Children of the Ancient People was discovered and absorbed by the Galactic Empire without differentiation. They either came willingly or they came by coercion, if they refused they were destroyed.

Imperial governance was uncompromising.

The Empire ruled with power and primal fear, crushing the people, pitting them against one another; class versus class, rank over station.

The people were oppressed at every moment of their lives.

The Empire put stars systems into conflict with one another, and the worlds within a given system at odds with each other. It was planet versus planet, clan versus clan, and family versus family.

The Empire sought to control every aspect of the individual’s life; from how may grains of food they ate in day and their measure of water, down to the content of their thoughts.

Everything the Empire did was for the sake of the drama it produced, which ultimately fed the Continuum and the Collective it served.

Interpersonal drama comprised of conflict and strife, hope and fear, love and desire, these were the things the Collective craved and the Continuum cultivated. The Empire delivered them like a sacred offering on a holy altar, consumed in blood and fire.

Every moment of an individual’s life was recorded and preserved for the consumption of the Collective.

The citizens of the Empire knew they were being watched, but they did not know the details or the full extent of the scrutiny they were subject too. Only the Observers knew the scope of the information that was collected, and even then, they did not know the whole of it.

There was no freedom in the Empire, even among those who believed they were free. Dissent of any kind was punished with brutish joy. The Imperial Police delighted in torture. They developed their cravings for it in the Imperial Schools, where the slightest infractions were punished without mercy, and the record of a person’s transgressions followed them throughout their lives.

The Imperial Cult taught the same thing; it taught the doctrine that there was transcendence in pain, they taught that suffering was purgative and they perfected all of its arts.

Every citizen bore the marks of their upbringing with them, scars inflicted by family, church and school, both the visible and invisible, the pain and rage, all of which they were conditioned to suppress.

A charge of dissent was not limited to aberrant behavior, to the things an individual might do or fail to do. The Empire also policed speech, art, and every form of expression was subject to their control. It claimed to do so for the sake of security, for the safety of the people.

The extreme emotions produced by the citizens of the Empire were like ambrosia for the Collective, scenes of suffering fed their appetites and fueled the Continuum. The Collective would become intoxicated on fear and pain, on remorse, on the dashed hopes and failures of the ordinary citizens. The Continuum used those appetites to control the membership.

The Empire demanded conformity from the citizens at every level, as if it were orchestrating a great dance throughout the cosmos, with each and every individual playing a vital role. This is what they taught in the schools and at the temples, they enforced each person’s obligation through years of indoctrination.

No infraction was too small to go unaddressed.

Through the imperial conditioning the Empire attempted to govern thought as well, but monitoring the thoughts of individuals was a trickier proposition. The Continuum never wanted to reveal the extent to which the people were monitored, but it collected the innermost ideas of each individual through rituals they passed off as magic, divine and supernatural.

For the average citizen, living under the heel of the Imperial police was a constant struggle, they had to perform their daily duties with a sublime degree of mindfulness and pass their days without drawing the attention of the monitors, censors and patrols.

The schools and the temples inured them to it. The lessons they were given, taught them to accept their suffering as a part of the natural order, as links in the great chain of being, a chain which they were bound by, inextricably, they belonged to it.  

The way of life was to go unnoticed, to blend in, to repress everything; these were the keys to survival.

A family might cultivate their survival skills, living unremarkable lives for generations, only to be cast down by the powers that be, for the sheer pleasure of it.

A random patrol might decide of its own volition to focus its attention on a person or family, and once they did the Collective would delight in watching them crumble.

The state would take everything, up to and including their lives.

The people who suffered under these pogroms were taught to interpret all such events as karma, either the fulfillment of a cosmic and spiritual debt, or payment in advance for an indulgence they might receive in the next life.

Everything was transactional, including the spirituality of the Imperial Cult.

The Imperial Schools and the Temple both taught the people that every action they committed and every word they spoke mattered. The value of their words and deeds was recorded and they would be punished or rewarded, either in this life or the next for the things they said and did.

There was no mercy.

Apart from the upper classes: the nobility, the religious orders and the military, the lives of ordinary people throughout the empire were sorrowful, trillions of people, on a billion of worlds suffered without relent.

They were depressed.

The military orders made up barely ten percent of the population, and the religious orders barely one.

Among the ordinary people there were high level bureaucrats and merchants who lived lives of comfort, and this gave them some experience of ease, but the highest of them were viewed as lesser beings, lower than the lowest soldier.

The classes were fixed.

Most of the common people were angry, without hope, desperate and alone.

Even those in the upper hierarchies spent their days filled with dread, competing for place and prestige, searching for the esteem of their superiors and always uncertain of when they might be called on to sacrifice something, called on to pay a karmic debt that some distant ancestor had incurred.

Competition among them was vicious.

The only group of people who reflected a semblance of peace, were those at the very bottom of the caste system, those who had nothing to lose, who had no hope of changing their station in this life, those without class or caste…the outcaste and the untouchable.

This was the state of things in the Galactic Empire.

For all of wonders of its, for all of its technological marvels and the physical beauty of the people, the pall of death hung over the entire civilization. It was the end that each and every person looked forward to, death, the hope that in the next life they would have been able to advance to a place they were not able to reach in the course of their current life. They hoped for justice, for a redress to their suffering in the next world, believing that it was impossible to have satisfaction in this one.

It happened from time to time, though it was rare, but on occasion someone would rise from among the suffering masses with heroic stature, who evinced a heroic purpose, without the sanction of the Continuum or the assistance of the Observer Corps.

El was such a person, he was a media darling, beloved by the masses even before he developed a conscience, by which he formed empathetic bonds with those who followed him.

In his youth, El was a part of the rebellion. He was a terrorist, the press loved him and loved covering him.

Of course they vilified him, but only because they had to. He was a hero of the people but he was an enemy of the Empire. His vilification was a part of the script.

El was the enemy, but the people were fascinated by him, they followed his every move, and not just the people of his home planet, his story was covered throughout the Empire.

His daring and his heroism drove ratings.  

Once he became known, the Continuum had its own interest in his story, carefully managing it to produce drama of the highest intensity, and the Collective loved the narratives that sprang from his life.

In his youth El’s motivation was anger not altruism. He manifested a hatred for the Empire, for its schools, for the Imperial Cult, a hatred he carried deep in his heart.

He had no desire to save anyone from anything, he only preserved people insofar as it met his starkly utilitarian view of his mission and his destiny.

He was uncompromising.

He needed soldiers, he needed people who would die for his cause, and the cause was to destroy.

In his youth El was fought for himself, he fought against himself, and he was a brilliant tactician.

After he became famous the Continuum plotted his demise.

The Empire would not destroy his rebellion with military might, though it could have. Instead, the Continuum introduced a romantic interest to do the work, a woman he could not ignore. 

As he learned to love, he turned his attention to the plight of the people.

This was his undoing. The woman had awakened a spirit of love in him, and he became the hostageof compassion.

The Imperial powers built him up, they reveled in his celebrity. They broadcast his story in every corner of the Empire. He was the ultimate propaganda tool; the brilliant rebel, the unfailing hero, the victor of a thousand engagements, the man who could endure anything.

In the end he did endure everything.

The Empire took its time with him, through him they charted the limits of human suffering. When they took him down, they crushed him absolutely.

He became a sacrifice for the Empire, his blood on the altar of the state, a burnt offering, a holocaust.

For the people he became the ultimate victim.

The things he suffered went beyond physical pain.

They drove him to the brink of madness.

They put the people he loved the most into the grinder ahead of him, forcing him to watch while the machinery of the torture chambers reduced them to a bloody-ruin.

He would not betray them, and in turn he was betrayed by each one of them.

His ordeal was broadcast throughout the Empire, and the people loved him for it; the Collective loved him for it as well.

The prayers of the faithful in every temple throughout the Empire resounded with calls to free him or kill him, to bring an end to his suffering. The Temples echoed with his name, day and night. His victimhood had made him an unparalleled superstar, he was called the victurstar.

In the moment when he lost everything, as he watched the Imperial torturers grinding the life from the few people he held dear, it was only then that he began to doubt his commitment to his ideals.

He was overwhelmed by the deepest shame for having brought so many loyal people to death and misery.

What had he been fighting for if not for them?

In that transcendent moment he questioned everything.

The El repented; he converted.

He understood in that moment that his quest was always destined to fail, all of his victories in battle were nothing more than vanities.

As they lit his flesh on fire and his body began to burn, he did not give into pain but he relented, he saw the errors of the path he had taken, and he silently begged for forgiveness.

The Continuum monitored everything pertaining to the life of El, including the content of his thoughts, reading his body language and the movement of his lips.

The Continuum knew everything.

It transmitted everything that was transpiring directly into the Collective, where the majority of the members were absorbed with his narrative.

His story had been the most engrossing drama that any of them had witnessed in ages. It was even more popular that the data stream coming from Earth.

The Empire broadcast the execution as a live stream throughout the billion worlds.

Time seemed to stop as the rebel leader’s body burned in a splendid fountain of light and color. The medical examiners came to examine the charred remains and confirm his death, at that moment a miracle happened. The Continuum restored the rebel to life, putting a doppelganger in the place of El’s desiccated husk, the type of body used by the Observers, only modified and enhanced by El’s unusual DNA. He had been of great service to the Continuum and It wanted him to remain in service, as an idol, as a superstar for the ages.

The Continuum wanted something more. It wanted a host to carry its own consciousness through the experiential fields of the living worlds.

El became an icon of hope for the ordinary citizen.

His was an example of a life rewarded after an ordeal of incredible suffering, the people identified with him intuitively. He was a symbol of re-birth, of clemency and mercy, their own hopes for themselves were fulfilled in him.

Like everyone else, his former compatriots in the rebel movements were stunned by the turnaround and bewildered by his supernatural return. Some called the whole drama a charade and renewed their commitment to fight against the Empire, others, in the spirit of hope, gave up their rebellion, desiring to follow the man who had been their leader.

El became the gatekeeper of hope.

Wherever he went, the people experienced his presence as nourishment, it sustained them.

The Continuum followed every story-line coming from El’s reincarnation, passing on the drama and excitement of the sudden shifts in alignment, allegiance and circumstance to the Collective, without ever revealing to the Collective that it had taken up residence in El’s consciousness like a parasite.

El’s rebellion, as with all rebellion would never go away. The Continuum had no desire to crush it, and therefore the Empire had to allow it to persist, despite the fact that it had the power and the technological sophistication to root it out. This was because the narrative of revolution remained as riveting as ever for its primary audience, which was the Collective

New stories emerged, the stories of rebel soldiers, rebel families and rebel clans, turning piously toward the Empire, seeking forgiveness in the hope that they too could be forgiven and reborn, but they were not always welcomed, not always forgiven, they suffered at the hands of their persecutors, just as their leader had before them.

El’s life was celebrated by the Empire, and the Collective. The Continuum elevated him to the position of a bureaucrat and went along for the ride from outcaste to citizen. He was given a purpose, in keeping with the ideology of being that was promulgated through the Imperials Schools and the Imperial Cult.

Even though he was just a desk jockey, his daily life was viewed by his adoring fans with fascination. The transition he made furnished hope to trillions of people who were little more than slaves to the Empire.

El’s comportment was flawless. He fulfilled the expectations of his station with an immaculate precision, moving from the lowest orders, into positions of authority, quickly.

He was beset with challenges, each one a test of his poise and wisdom, though his rise in the bureaucracy was not free from conflict.

El encountered many people who saw him as a threat to their place in the hierarchy. His immediate supervisors chaffed at his popularity and his aptitude. They were jealous of his abilities and in the favors he received from their own superiors who simply wanted to be close to the famous man, whose story was still being broadcast throughout the Empire.

El could not be promoted without climbing over those who were already ahead of him, which meant that they could not advance while he worked under their supervision, their own careers would be stagnant. To the mid-level bureaucrats, his presence was a source of fear and concern, they could not feel secure or safe in their position with him in proximity to them. They supervisors took one of two approaches, they either tried to swamp him with work and sabotage his standing or they quickly learned the trick of complicity and promoted him.

El was far too aware for their efforts at sabotage to work, and he was tireless. His new body facilitated this. He seemed to be able to learn any task instantly, and then excel at it.

On reflection he knew that his return to life had changed him. He had always been bright, an exceptional student, but in his new state of being he seemed to possess abilities that bordered on the mystical.

He would not leave his desk until he had it cleared. Sometimes staying in his office for days at a time. He thought nothing of benefitting from it for himself, he tried his best to hide his skills in a cloak of pious humility, which eventually became his genuine affect.

He had no life to return to, no family, everyone he had ever loved was dead. His quarters were just a place to sleep and eat. He had no connection to anything but his present state.

When El gave in to the Empire, he gave in completely, he reserved nothing for himself. He was their servant. He would do whatever was asked of him, and he found a kind of peace in that, and a sense of belonging.

From doorman to receptionist, from receptionist to stenographer, his celebrity put him in demand. El was just a pencil-pusher, but everyone wanted to be seen with him, to emulate him. Bringing him into an office meant exposure and fame for the bosses around him.

Some of those who sought to benefit from their association with him saw their star rise on account of that relationship, others were cast down, sometimes catastrophically. There was no discernable pattern.

He rose through the hierarchy with mindfulness, carrying with him the lessons he learned from his years in the rebellion, and the years of torture in prison that followed.

Trust no-one, suspect everything, be diligent above all else.

His thoroughness and attention to detail saved him time and time again, it revealed who in his circle was genuinely trying to help him, and which of them were looking toward his downfall.

In his capacity as a stenographer he learned the tiniest details of government. He took memos, he recoded meetings, he was a witness to the bureaucracy on a level that sometimes left him with feelings of vertigo.

The Empire was vast, both in terms of the space it occupied and in the minutia that governed it. The macro-verse and the micro-verse, he was comfortable in both.

Everyone serving in the bureaucracy underwent periodic reviews. Merits and demerits flowed from there, along with bonuses and penalties, raises and promotions. Without fail, when his yearly review came, he was raised up, given more responsibility, more accountability and more freedom.

El relished it. He had little thought of using those things for his own benefit, he only desired the accolades, the recognition of his achievements.

El took pride in his accomplishments, even as a file-clerk.

He used the resources he acquired to make a difference in the lives of his neighbors. He let his advantages flow from himself to others, keeping very little for himself.

The small steps he had taken away from the street made a vast difference in his lifestyle. He had access to new foods, fresh foods and even intoxicants.

The work he put into advancing his place in the world began to take the shape of altruism. His success mattered both to himself and to those who lived in closest proximity to him. He was offered the hand of dozens of girls in marriage, girls from families he had helped, who wanted to tie their fate to his, but El had already watched the only woman he had ever loved be tortured to death, and he did not want to love another.

He refused them.

He did not accept their offers, but he was often tempted to take advantage of his status, to fall into the delights of the flesh. He forewent the offers of romantic entanglement that came to him from the women in his work place, or his tenement, preferring to keep his eyes focused on the next opportunity for advancement, and so he exercised his sexual proclivities lawfully, with women who were professionals in the trade.

The Galactic Empire required and relied on bureaucratic controls to function. It governed the movement and aspirations of trillions of people through their manipulation. It managed every aspect of the lives of the people, slowing some down while creating lanes of opportunity for others.

The Empire established paths of predictability for the vast majority of its citizens and used the byzantine structures of the bureaucracy to exercise its capriciousness as it desired. 

The Empire utilized monitoringat every conceivable level of the social order. It monitored the movements and behaviors of its citizens for economic purposes, for security purposes, for historical and religious purposes. It monitored their behaviors on levels that few people outside of the Observer Corps suspected, because it monitored them for the benefit of the Collective and the Continuum alone.

There was no such thing as privacy in the Empire. Every citizen was the property of the state. Their entire lives were meant to be organized as a gift, as offerings to the Gods, this is what they learned in school, and that is what was beat into them through the ritual conditioning of the Imperial Cult. The individual person was merely a link in the great chain of being.

In time he rose to a position in which he reported and analyzed a wide range of human activities and behaviors, especially among those rebel groups that he had once been a member of.

He became aware of how futile his life had been, and how meaningless the rebellion was.

The Empire knew everything, had always known everything about him.

El had only ever been a blip on their list of concerns. His new understanding of the Empire afforded him the realization that he had sacrificed everything and everyone he loved merely to serve his vanity.

Eventually El was elevated to a role in Quality Assurance, he became an inspector, and overseer. His duties were to observe, report and ensure that the work of government was carried out efficiently.

The Empire provided services to a billion worlds.

There was food distribution, medicine, the military, the Imperial Schools, and more important than any other institution, the Imperial Cult to attend to.

At no time did he ever drop his diligent attention to detail, not for a moment.

El oversaw the complex allocation of material resources designated as gifts to the gods. This was a process without end, an unceasing harvest of energy, ore and silicates sent in vessels piloted by Artificial Intelligence to the Central System, to the home of the Gods.

He was tireless, when he was in the flow of his work he experienced a sense of transcendence. His life was completely bent on fulfilling every policy, to the letter.

In his life as rebel he drew soldiers from the ranks of the miners and planet harvesters, people who lived their entire working lives in space, crushing asteroids, breaking up planets and their satellites, smelting ore and separating the elements. They lived short lives, they were prisoners and outcasts coming from every station of society.

Now El spent their lives as easily as he would spend credits on his dinner. He let go of all his former closely held morality, a sense of right and wrong which had propelled him into his life as a revolutionary. He abandoned all of his former idealism in service to the Empire, becoming a living reminder to his peers regarding the necessity of protocol.  

He became a supervisor, and then, in time a chief administrator.

His tenure in the bureaucracy had spanned a length of time that seemed impossible, spending years at every position while advancing through the circuit of offices.

He was not a young man when he was restored to life by the Continuum. He was an octogenarian now, though, he appeared to be a man in his prime. Those who had been following his career began to realize that he was extremely old compared to the average citizen, and the average citizen who followed his life story had been living with it for most, if not all of their lives, and though it was still fascinating to them, it began to lose some its grandeur.

El was a paragon of virtue.

During his life in the bureaucracy he had made a personal spiritual journey on which he touched every station of his caste in society. In the scope of his life he had transited from outcast, rebel and condemned prisoner to the highest places in the Imperial administration, Planetary Governor.

This was noted as more than a curiosity by other Governors, and though he was universally admired, he was also the subject of vicious jealousy.

El had made a journey in the space of one lifetime (perhaps two), that the Imperial Cult taught people it would take hundreds of lives and reincarnations to complete. 

When there was no place left for him to ascend, the Empire ordered him to be drafted into military service, marking a second change in his caste and station.

It was another miracle for the people to behold.

In his final post as El enjoyed a life of luxury well beyond the grasp of the ordinary plebian, and though the demands on his time had lessened, he filled his days with attention to duty, examining and reexamining the reports he was fed from those beneath him in the administration.

He was old, though he did not feel it, and he thought this would be the pattern for the rest of his life. He believed that he had finally arrived at a place where he could use his influence, and management to improve the lives of the people in a literal way; enhance their foodsupply, increase their access to clean water, and medicine, leisure time and rest.

El was transforming the world he governed into a haven of tranquility, the people beneath him felt as if they had entered a time of myth, a hegemonic age.

He was wrong.  

In his ninth year Governor he received orders to report to a military entrance processing station. The Empire ordered him to service, taking away all of the hopes he fostered for his people, who reacted with a mix of dismay and veneration.

El did not balk or look back. He resigned his office without fanfare or ceremony. He had no family to say goodbye to.

He was ninety years old and he became a foot soldier, entering a new way of life, though one that he was familiar with and knew in his bones.

He received the blessing of the Temple, and once again his elevation to a higher class and different caste was met with awe by the audience who followed his story.

Then, as all soldiers do, he went to war.

He served in the infantry with distinction. El was a brilliant combat engineer, as fearless as he was tireless, his age did not matter, only his performance. He risked everything for his comrades, putting their safety and security above his own, falling back on the instinct and experience that had made him the greatest rebel commander in memory. Now he turned his guns on rebels throughout the Empire. He was relentless when called to be, and merciful when he could be. After one year in combat they pulled him off the line, the Collective loved his heroism, but feared for his life. They did not want to see him lose it in hand to hand combat. They wanted his story to continue, and the Continuum, which experienced his life as the ultimate voyeur, wanted this above all

El was a shining star, but he displayed too much gallantry. This put him at odds with his fellows, and it unnerved his audience, both in the Empire and in the Collective. There were too many moments in which he hesitated in combat, giving his opponent a chance to surrender before the kill.

He volunteered for every mission. Sometimes entering two or three engagements in a single week. When he was wounded he went to hospital, got sewn up, and returned the next day for duty.

His life was now the armed forces. He gave everything to it. As old as he was, he looked forward to ending his life there.

El pursed his duties like he had in the bureaucracy. He was single minded and focused, determined to set an example for everyone he served with, to his commanders and to all of the people he knew were watching his life through the Imperial networks.

He believed that his life had been spared for a reason, and he had been blessed with longevity so that he could fulfill it. If the Gods wanted him dead, he told himself, they would take him, and if they wanted him alive they would spare him.

He thought nothing of it, he thought nothing of it.

When the command pulled him off the line, raised him in rank and made him a yeoman, it was a bitter disappointment to El. In that moment his experienced a crisis, his faith wavered, but he endured.

El’s former life in the bureaucracy could not be considered as real experience or earn him a promotion as a yeoman because it was experience from a lower caste, it meant nothing to the military command.

Nevertheless, serving in the bureaucracy prepared him for the work in front of him, and he came to it as a celebrated war hero, decorated and wildly popular with the media, he was able to implement processes that streamlined the way records were kept, transferred, accessed and compiled.

El had reveled in the exploits of the infantry, the comradeship, but he adjusted and in time he came to not resent the break or the rest. He had not enjoyed the killing, or watching his fellows die, and now he was in a position to make the lives of his comrades better, through proper administration.

His audience, both in the Empire and in the Collective, grew tired of watching him shuffle papers again. Having seen him as a soldier and a hero, the Collective was not satisfied with his return to normalcy, and the Continuum was eager to push his experience and the narrative it produced to new places.

They wanted more from him.

At the age of one hundred and twenty, near the terminus point for a member of the military caste (if they died of natural causes), he returned to the wars as a medic, the most dangerous of all professions in the military.

He studied for it. He trained with the same zeal he brought to all of his endeavors.

He took his oath, dedicating himself to the preservation of life. He took it seriously, and he risked his own life, time and time again, suffering serious injuries to recover the fallen, whether they were soldiers of the Empire, or rebels.

Everyone was a citizen he told himself, everyone belonged together as conjoined links in the great chain of being and he was there for them, for each of them. Like himself, every rebel had a story to tell and every one of them could be redeemed, he pursued those conviction with religious devotion.

As a rebel, and a soldier he had mastered his feelings of fear. He set fear aside and treated it like a curiosity. Fear was nothing more than an itch in the mind, it was a tickle that could easily be ignored.

While a prisoner under torture fear had vanished from him altogether. Even pain became an experience that measured as next to nothing. Only life mattered, the preservation of it, the risking of it, or the elimination of it, whatever was called for in the moment.

He answered the call of duty dispassionately, but to his audience his devotion looked like pure zeal.

As a medic El never shrank from danger. He ran to the aid of the fallen, crawling to them if he had to. He did whatever he could while his limbs could propel him.

He was a paragon of virtue, and his audience loved him, they worshipped his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his comrades.

The command rewarded him time and time again, holding him in the highest esteem, and they continued to decorate him, engagement after engagement, wound after wound. It propelled him to glory, but it also awakened him to the suffering of others.

When he did not shrink from an opportunity to be merciful to the enemy. His superiors were chagrined, but the Collective loved it.

After he had completed a thousand missions, and Continuum was satisfied that they had squeezed every last thing of value from the current arc of his story. They promoted him to the rank of officer and gave him a commission as a member of the cavalry.

He returned once again to training, learning the complex controls of the war machines, he became a pilot. In the cavalry El mastered every type of combat craft; land, sea, air and space. It was another long period of arduous training. He spent years of his life learning all the technical details of the equipment he operated, their munitions, how to repair them, maneuver them and use them for deadly effect.

He became a weapons master of the first order, an Equestrian, a Knight of the Empire, she put him at the lowest rung of the military, and was tantamount to another shift in caste (though it wasn’t).

His experience as a master of cavalry combined with his years of experience in the infantry; both as a combat engineer and as a medic, made him the most highly trained member of the armed forces there had ever been. The ease with which he learned the controls, and the rapidity in which his skills developed into something like artistry was shocking to his trainers, they had never seen anything like it before.

Their observations substantiated the myths that were constantly perpetuated about him. People believed he was descended from the gods, a child of the highest heaven, they believed that he had come back to the Empire from the Continuum, to live with them, to observe them, to share their pain and suffering.

His comrades worshipped him like a god as well, whether they believed in his divinity or not. They wanted nothing more than to fly missions with him and watch him fight.

For his part, El loved flying. He loved being at the controls of the greatest vehicles that had ever been constructed. He loved flying in the quiet of space, he loved to watch the silent explosion of energy weapons and the quick fires bursting from breached hulls in the vacuum of space, he loved the beauty of the bright lights and flashing colors.

Those moments were freeing, they gave him pause to contemplate his extraordinarily long-life.

He retired from combat as the Galactic Empire’s greatest Ace; living or dead. He had been deployed in countless engagements, on thousands of worlds. He was a suppressor of conflict. His heroic image was brighter than a star going nova. Rebel squadrons would surrender when they knew he was in the field. He was a harbinger of victory.

Even past the age of one hundred and fifty years, he maintained the strength and vigor of a man in his prime. This was interpreted as evidence of his divinity.

Many of his superiors were jealous, and some of his contemporaries as well. The jealous wanted to eliminate him, which was a part of the reason he saw so much combat.

The conservatives simply wanted to return him to the bureaucracy, to take the limelight away from him and groom him for command

They pulled El from combat and made him an aide de camp.

They told him that with his experience, in this new position he would be able to actualize the full range of his talents in service to the Empire.

While this was less entertaining for the Collective, the Continuum saw the potential for an even greater narrative to manifest itself through the exploitation of El’s unique position.Together they were creating the greatest single story the Collective had ever been absorbed with, and it was the only narrative running that could compete for the attention of the membership with the drama and intrigue that flowed from the planet Earth.

Continuum was at the center of it, silently cohabitating the consciousness of El.

When El was elevated to the Imperial Command, the whispering about him among the worlds of the Empire became harder to ignore. People began to truly believe the rumors that he was of the Continuum, a divine being, an angelic messenger, a scion of the gods. Those rumors became more and more concretized in the minds of the people, until they became an actual part of his narrative.

His promotion to Grand Marshall precipitated chaos in the Imperial Cult, in the centers of command, and in the royal court.

El thought nothing of those whispers, he acted as if he could not hear them. He followed orders.

When he was in command, he obeyed protocol. In everything he did he allowed himself to be governed by others. He accepted his position in life, rising to the challenges set before him.

It was as if he were a party to his life, merely an observe.

As a general he became the greatest peacemaker the Empire had ever seen. He resolved conflicts with his mere presence. Abuses of power, matters that had been routine in the years before he took command of the Imperial Armies, all but disappeared.

He was temperate. He was just, and his story began to lose its luster.

El had been an outsider from boyhood, he had confirmed that status the moment he entered the rebellion.

The general staff was elated when they were informed that he was ordered to leave military service to join the priest hood. Once again El was elevated in caste, it was another transcendent movement for him.

He was approaching his second century of life, and most of the military leadership had spent their entire lives in his orbit, and they were eager to be free of him.

The Imperial Cult reached down and pulled him up.

It was another unprecedented event for the entire Empire to celebrate; his rise from the status of a rebel and outcast, to the most exalted class of being; a Priest of the Imperium. It was a reward given to him for his strict conformity to the most exacting principles of Imperial service.

El’s followers throughout the Empire grew by an order of magnitude. 

Once again, he entered his new caste on the lowest rung of the religious orders.

He was an oblate.

He was given the mark of humility, tonsured as any beginner would be.

In his new position, he had more rank than all of the generals with whom he had formerly served. If he had been an ordinary oblate he would have had no power connected to his rank, but being who he was his personal power was intensified.

The abuse of it would have been a constant temptation to an ordinary man. El resisted.

His home planet became a place of pilgrimage.

He had experienced a life of opulence as the Grand Marshall, and as a Planetary Governor, though less so, but the worlds that the priestly caste dwelt in were different by an order of magnitude.

The luxuries were understated, they were simple, even for the priest at the lowest level, there was not even a hint of want or need.

It was required that he take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but these vows were virtually meaningless in the context of the wealth he was surrounded by and had access to, regardless of whether he owned that wealth or not. Simple and abundant, food and drink were everywhere, the finest of everything.

Every novice was required to take the vows but depending on the track they were on the vows were not necessarily for life.

After the age of maturity, after their time of training and education, after a period of service as an acolyte most members of the priestly caste would return to their home worlds to support the noble families and their dynastic ambitions.

Some would remain in service, a few others would join the austere contemplative societies where they would continue to live selflessly in service to the Continuum and the Collective which they aspired to

El entered the sacred order without any thought for himself or his future.

He had no family to return to. He was alone, independent, with no thought whatsoever of his safety or security in his new role as a priest. He accepted it like he had accepted everything he had been asked to do since his resurrection.

El was initiated into the mysteries and his eyes were opened, he synthesized everything without effort. He became, once again, a servant. It was a position of familiarity and comfort. El preferred the regulated life.

He was the oldest novice ever to be tonsured. He was wise and he was quiescent. He facilitated rather than competed with the ambitions of his peers.

As with every other aspect of Imperial life, the priesthood was divided, first by gender, and then into classes.            

There was no escaping these divisions. Men and women each had their province of control and influence, and yet women were always subject to men.

There were two basic divisions within the priesthood. There were the officiants of the sacred rites, and there were the holy orders. Together they forming the service societies and contemplative sects.

As with every other strata of the Empire, whoever you were, wherever you went, you knew your rank, and you were bound by protocol in relation to it.

Every member of the priestly class had some choice as to what path they wanted to pursue, though in reality most people were governed by the needs and desires of their families.

The vast majority of priestly power resided in its bureaucracy, the management of its land holdings and the officiation of the temple rites, to which every citizen of the Empire was bound.

When faced with the choice of which path he wanted his career to follow, El went deep, as was characteristic of him. He became a Brotherand followed the contemplative sects into the paths of mystery, austerity and aesthetics.

He wanted to do more than officiate rituals or manage a temple, he wanted to discover the meaning of existence. He felt that at long last he would find a place of peace where he could age and end his days in quiet.

He was always a conformist at heart. That was the secret to his success in leadership, though he did not know it.

Leaders conform to the expectations of their followers, they are shaped by them, their ability to represent those expectations is why they are trusted. We find among the greatest leaders those who have the most felt need to belong.

From his youth in the rebellion, during his years in the resistance pursuing his quest for justice; El was obedient, a follower, not always of people but to the multitudes and their ideals.

He had been the unparalleled leader. His commitment to deliver what the people desired and expected of him, what they expected of the Empire, and of the faith, this drove people to him.

He was a follower of ideals. He did not give the people a voice, he was their voice.

When he spoke from the heart, it resonated in theirs, because their feelings and desires were one and the same.

In relation to his principles he was relentless, unquestioning. His ideals were like pillars made of diamond, as clear as daylight and as solid as foundation of a world. He never wavered, and that is why he succeeded when he was returned to life, when he ended his rebellion and went into service for the Empire.

The role he played was different, it was different, but he followed it with the same simple conviction. El believed in his heart that the fate of the people, of trillions of people rested on the proper function of government, and that peace and prosperity would follow for everyone if each and every person obeyed its dictates.

He followed this path undeterred and undisturbed, then he met a woman, a Sister and he fell in love. While he would have preferred to remain in the holy orders of the contemplatives, that was an impossibility.

His following stretched across the billion worlds of the Empire. The people clamored for news of him, in its absence they wove stories and legends of their own.

After years of servitude and study, he was initiated into the mysteries, and ordained into the order of the priesthood he was nearing two hundred and fifty years of age. He was not the oldest living priest but he was old, and did not appear to be tiring.

He became an officiant of the sacred rites. The temples he served in were overflowing with people, people who would spend years on pilgrimages to receive his blessing.

El was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues, all of whom were eager to trade on his fame. Every single day he carefully reenacted the rituals and repeated the sacred chants, which the people believed would carry them to eternal life. He reenacted the rituals for himself and on behalf of others who believed that they would open the gates of the Continuum to their dead and dying loved ones.

The Imperial Cult sent him on his own pilgrimage, he visited thousands of worlds.

El handpicked the coterie who attended him, and the loving Sister went with him everywhere he travelled.

They stole time together in the quiet moments of the evening, in the deep of space, on the trek between worlds. He told her stories of his youth and the rebellion, of his service as a soldier, of the sacred moment when he had been returned to life.

Her name was Helen, she was from an exalted family, jaded and skeptical of all the sacred rites, as most of the priestly class were, but she was not skeptical of him.

They were passionate for each other, loving and kind.

His affair with the Sister was illicit, but he loved her and she loved him.

When he looked at her he could not discern a physical difference between her and the only other woman he had loved, his rebel wife, more than two hundred years past she was her twin, separated only by time and distance, class and caste.

Helen never cared a bit for the rules that bound her ancient house. Like most members of the ruling families in the priestly caste, she was a nihilist. They had both sworn vows of chastity, vows which she believed were meaningless long before she took them, knowing they were not binding, having been given proof of that when she was seduced by the officiant who presided over her initiation.

Such vows, as far as she was concerned, were for appearances only, they were meant to be a tool for the governance of those on the lower rungs of the social order. A death sentence could be served for such violations of the rites. Those few people who had been convicted of those crimes were actually being punished for other reasons, mostly for political concerns.

As a novice she celebrated such executions with carnal delights, reveling in the slaughter of illicit lovers. His willingness to break those vows, and the anguish it caused him, captivated his audience in the Collective. It was out of character for him, he became unpredictable. There was a great potential risk to both him and her, and that was tantalizing, and so the Continuum ensured it would continue.

With the blessing of the Collective, and by the favor of Continuum, he had advanced in rank among the religious orders, and in the hierarchy of the priesthood. He had advanced despite his carnal crimes or because of them, he would never know.

As far as the Collective was concerned, during his time in the priesthood his story had begun to tire, this was not dissimilar to his tenure as an administrator when he served in the armed forces. Now in the context of his romance, thousands of intriguing dramas sprang up in relation to him.

Throughout the Empire millions of El’s followers took to extremes to demonstrate their love, and faith in him. Planetary rebellion sprang to an all new high since the time he left military service, and now revolutionary movements were being carried out in his name, and rebel forces now included former members of the military caste who wanted to see him elevated to the Imperial throne. 

The details of these conflicts were not reported to him, he was aware of them and did what he could from his position in the priesthood to quell them, but he was no longer a general and therefore his influence was limited.

He was a monk and a priest and he was in love, engaged with a member of a royal house in a passionate affair. He did not want to be bothered with the responsibility to resolve those conflicts. His thoughts were only for Helen.

The Continuum loved the intrigue of his clandestine romance, and the cover-ups that ensued.

They made him a bishop, an overseer of the flock, and then a Prince of the Temple which made him a member of the nobility though he did not have any land holdings apart from the tiny estate on his home world that he had nearly forgotten.

These developments freed him, giving him the time and space to develop his relationship and sink deeper into his desires.

The masses, knowing nothing of his transgressions, adored him even more. Eventually they made him Abba, the head of the most exalted religious order, the most secretive and the most influential, they positioned him as the head of the Imperial Temple, answerable only to the Emperor himself. El was fully actualized, the single most powerful figure in the Empire that had ever known.

El was born into a family of plebians, a free citizens, but in reality they were servants of the Empire, as every single citizen was, he was born into a state bondage.

Like any ordinary family his relied on the Empire, and by extension the Continuum for everything, down to their food and water; every morsel grain, every drop of fluid, every measure of protein.

El seemed to be an ordinary person, one among trillions whose lives were nothing special, not of note, they worked, went to school, worshipped and raised families. However, he was not ordinary. He was a natural born empath, he had a capacity for reflection that had been engineered into his genetic line covertly by Jim’s agents, spread throughout the Empire, and he was the first in his line to manifest the ability.

El was a mutant, but his mutation was so subtle that it went unregistered, and it was only discovered by the Continuum when it examined his genetic profile in advance of his planned resurrection. Without this capacity the Continuum would not have been able to bond with him.

El could not tolerate injustice.

He felt the suffering of everyone around him, it hung on his neck like a stone. He wanted nothing more than to give hope to the hopeless, to free the despairing from despair.

Even as a child El found ways to rebel, to question the teachings of the Imperial Cult, the indoctrination of the Imperial Schools, the entire structure of the social order. As an adult, he took up arms against the Empire, he fought the enemy wherever he could.

He became an outcast, a criminal. His entire family was destroyed, and for his gallantry the Continuum made him a star.

Then he was co-opted by it, executed and returned to life. It was a miracle for the masses.

When he returned to life he entered service as a bureaucrat, he served as a soldier, and finally as a priest.

He made his vows, and he entered the holy orders.

Of all the transitions he had made in his long sojourn, this was the first one that he questioned. It did not feel natural or honest, the priestly class lived in a state of being that he never imagined when he was a child, where he and his family lived lives of dismal-drudgery, as his family had done for countless generations, without any sense of safety or security.

Even the lowest order of priestly professions, in the lowest ranking priestly houses, lived exalted lives. The technologies available to them were like magic.

Nevertheless, he had a duty to perform. He ignored his reservations, immersing himself in the priesthood. He studied, He absorbed the dogmas. He memorized everything, which was not difficult for him. His knowledge expanded, exponentially. The history of the Empire was exposed through the holy texts, as much of the real history as was possible. He absorbed all of it, all the way back to the first contact that the Galactic Empire had with the Continuum. 

It fascinated him, and it struck him cold.

The Continuum appeared to be less than divine, and more like an alien civilization. The entire Empire was enslaved to it, sending vast tributes in minerals and technology to the Central System, which he learned was the physical location of the Continuum.

It brought him back to the sentiments he had as a youth, in the rebellion. The people thought of the planets of the Central System as the heavenly worlds, but they were not, they had a location in time and space.

Deep feelings were stirring inside him. Feelings he had not experienced since he had been resurrected. In his heart he was always a rebel.

He became aware of the reality of the Collective, as a force of consciousness behind the Continuum, and that truth set him free. He took all of the rituals seriously, as he did everything during his career. Though he often felt as he was performing them, that there was another presence alongside his, hiding in the ganglia of his consciousness, something predatory.

El carried out the rituals perfectly even though his studies revealed that the rites were merely tools of control and division. He fulfilled them with grace and a studied practice that gave no indication of the fact that he knew the rituals and rites were empty gestures, and meaningless incantations.

The comfort that he had with his body, developed through his long years of martial discipline, gave his performances a nuance that his peers were unable to match. Once again he stood out from those around him, not only because of the attention that was focused on him, but for what he brought to each moment.

While El no longer believed in the mysteries as they had been taught to him, he understood that the cohesion of the Empire, the peace of a billion worlds, their sense of belonging to a greater whole, relied on the rituals for everything.

While the imperial families, the royal powers, the priestly caste and the war machine cared nothing at all for justice, intrinsically viewing any person below them in rank as a thing to be used, a device or a tool; justice, if it was to be had, had to be distributed from the top.

He performed the rites with that in mind. He bound people to the commitments expressed in them in ways that had never been seen before. When members of the Imperial family came to the table, drawn by his fame, he extracted promises from them in the sacred space, which they could not then refuse fulfill.

In the place where his life was most regimented, he found the freedom to return to his old self. Like every other strata of Imperial society, the priestly caste was organized according to rank. The major divisions in the priestly caste were between the ruling houses and the minor officiants, between the parish priests and the holy orders.

This differentiation was not unlike the differentiation between managers and staff in the bureaucracy, or between the rank and file and the command in the military.

The unseen difference, a difference unknown outside the highest circle of priests, was knowledge of the society of Observers, those members of the Continuum who had opted to live out a period of their lives in time and space, observing the day to day realities of the Galactic Empire, on behalf of the Collective and its Continuum.

The Observers were scattered throughout the Empire, holding posts in every strata of society, most Observers preferred to carry out their mission from the vantage of the priestly caste and from the comfort of the royal houses. Nothing was hidden from them, because they knew the full truth concerning the origins of the Empire, of the Continuum, of its promises and its lies.   

Many of the Observers were eager to interact with El, the hero/priest the guardian of the faithful, they wanted to be part of the great narrative that had gripped the imagination of the Collective. It brought a great sense of esteem to them from their peers.

El was indoctrinated into the deepest mysteries of the Imperium. The Observers shared things with him that were forbidden. He discovered the mechanism of salvation, the translation of consciousness into the quantum field of the HomeWorld, which brought membership in the Collective and eternal life in the Continuum.

He learned that the Imperial rites meant nothing, they were based on lies, merely minor dramas perpetuated as a means of controlling the people; controlling them through hope, and fear, through love and hate, the most powerful emotions, the controls which never failed, controls that surpassed even thirst and hunger and pain.

His life was filled with contradictions, he had never before been so conflicted, or filled with doubt. He spent his days promoting the beliefs, traditions and the rituals of the Imperial Cult.

He was the most eloquent spokesperson the masses had ever witnessed. He reached them, and they loved it for him. He spoke with power and confidence, elegantly articulating the complex narratives that glued the Imperial society together, while at the same time providing the rationale and justification for each citizen to remain in their caste, in their class, in their state of bondage.

He was a living exemplar of the faith, perfectly demonstrating to every citizen, even to the outcast, the possibility of elevating themselves from their station, through fidelity, duty, and adherence to the law. He taught as he had been instructed to teach, that this was the path to transcendence.

He knew the dogma was a lie, there was no transcendence.

El learned that the promises concerning reincarnation into the Continuum, all of those promises that had been made to the people were built on lies, the most pernicious kind of lies, a vast complex of falsehoods, predicated on the narrowest sliver of truth.

He did his duty, he perpetuated the lies anyway.

The powers that held him in check did not do so with the threat of coercion. Everyone he had ever known or loved while he was an ordinary man, they were long since dead and buried. His family had been erased, they did not have that leverage over him.

They held him in check with the power of love, the promise of fulfilling his desires, the mystery of beauty and the touch of a woman, the simplest of all things.

He learned to differentiate between the articles of faith he was expected to promote, and his presentation of his own beliefs in the orthodoxy of the Imperial Cult, and the convictions he held in his heart concerning the things he knew were true.

He dreamt of waging war against the gods.

He exercised the greatest care concerning the manner in which he expressed himself. There was no privacy, he knew that he was under observation at all times, even in the inner most sanctum of his private dwelling.

El felt as if his own thoughts were being monitored, by a hidden presence within him, which was dangerous because he held enormous power. A casual comment from him could change the fate of a planet.

What he held in his heart, was never the same thing as what he could give voice to.

His survival, and the lives of billions upon billions of people depended on him playing the script that was written for him, as true to the expectations of people and the institutions of the Empire as possible.

The higher he ascended into the mysteries, the more he felt like he was shackled by the dogmas and traditions of the Imperial Cult, by its creeds and doctrines, its laws and cannons. It was a prison of the mind, a prison without walls.

His circumstances were unique. None of his peers experienced the same things, little was expected of them, they were merely functionaries, men and women fulfilling roles like cast members in a play. they were a colloquy of extras.

El, on the other hand, had a following, a devoted following who saw him as a living god. It was unprecedented, he had no experience of this, and neither did the magisterium of the Imperial cult.

The Collective was fascinated by this and the control he exercised, the care he gave to his station and his unorthodox believers. They followed him closely and obsessed on the successive waves of consequences that flowed from his most casual utterances.

The Observer Copse was tasked with manipulating his life and circumstances daily.

El found that there are no words available in any language to articulate universal truth regarding the infinite, and the eternal.

Every attempt to do so was manipulative and false, while at the same time he could affirm that not every manipulation of religious doctrine was malicious, and not every articulation of universal truth, no matter how errant, was an intentional prevarication. Most people believed in the errors that they promulgated, making them innocent of wrongdoing, even though they were in error. They believed what they had been taught to believe.

Even most bad actors are innocent, because they believe in their heart that the erroneous doctrines they promulgate serve some greater good, they believe in the mission they carry out, they believe in the Imperial Cult, and in the Great Chain of Being which are the foundations of orthodoxy.

They believed in what the Continuum promised, while confessing that the mechanics of it; the how and the where and the why of it remained a mystery to them, a matter forever situated beyond them in what was referred to as the great cloud of unknowing.

The religion of the Empire was a web of lies, coercions and control mechanisms, lies that had been perfected over millions of years, lies that held the people together.

It required a breakthrough in cognitive thinking to shatter the controls that governed the thoughts of the ordinary citizens, very few people could endure the strain.

It drove them mad.

Of all the castes, it was only the priestly caste that even attempted to prepare people for such a watershed in consciousness. The Continuum delighted in the observation of every failure, through those failures it learned even greater controls.

El studied and meditated and pushed the discipline of his mind and body, he embraced the cloud of unknowing, pulling it into himself, and he passed through the crucible with ease.

As a child he had learned to reject imperial conditioning. He was a rebel at heart.

El became a living exemplar of the faith, a flesh and blood narrative of what the people of the Empire hoped for. His story sustained them, like food for the hungry and water to the thirsty.

He was transcendent.

The stages of his life symbolized what the faith of every citizen held to be true, what they were led to believe through the teaching of the Imperial Cult, and in its way, because of the hope he represented, he also perfectly articulated the fears of the ruling class.

He was a paradox.

His early life demonstrated how a person and a family could be caste down and caste out. As he transitioned from plebian to criminal, to outcaste and ultimately a rebel.

The story of those transitions took on the quality of an epic myth, characterizing the decent that everyone feared might be waiting for them and those they loved, the expectant judgement awaiting them in the timeless place before rebirth, if they did not fulfill their duties faithfully.

Even in his decent he demonstrated qualities of virtue and integrity that were supposed to be redemptive. The narrative of his life, which virtually every citizen in the empire was familiar with, was in a constant state of editing, of simplification and refinement for the purposes of propaganda.

People on a million worlds followed him, put their hopes in him, believed that he was a child of the God’s, of the Continuum, sent to live among them, a hero to share their pain, to lead them out of the worlds of suffering and chaos.

He was a demi-god, myths regarding his origins circulated among the people, carefully crafted by the Imperial Cult, for maximum exposure.

El’s life story became a new vehicle of control and exploitation.

During his long life whole generations had been born, and died adoring him, they set him on a pedestal, ignorant of the danger that they were merely preparing him for a mighty fall.

El participated with full devotion in the great charade of temple life, never letting on that he did not believe in the things he studied or the things he taught, after all, he was the subject and the beneficiary of the greatest miracle that had ever been engineered in the living memory of the Empire…his return from the dead.

Every affectation of piety was a charade, it was pageantry, performance art and deception.

This did not bother El.

The most important thing to the magisterium is what people believed about the priesthood. Their rituals were like veils, they obscured reality but they were also translucent. If you practiced mindfulness you could peer through them, remove each veil, one by one, while advancing in knowledge.

Image was everything; rhetoric not logic, not truth, rhetoric was the measure of the day.

The truth, if it was known, would only harm people, confuse them, or so the priestly cast believed. It would tear the Empire apart, El believed that to be true.

Given the powers belonging to the priesthood, it was a relatively easy task to deceive the masses.

The priesthood controlled the Imperial Schools, and more importantly it controlled the cultic rituals that governed every moment in the day to day lives of the citizens.

The controls the priesthood exercised were guided rituals, intended to slowly bring people to a place of sanctity. They were preparation for the next life and the world to come, never mind the fact that it was all a lie

Everything was theater, and El was a grand performer.

He had an intuitive sense for the fact that he was being watched at every moment, filmed, studied, reviewed. He did not think about it, and yet it never left his awareness.

In the rituals of the priesthood every gesture was important.

The complex movements of custom and rituals reenacted a narrative and reinforced a story that encompassed the history of the Empire and its million worlds.

The rites fostered a sense of belongingin the people.

It was an incredible drama, the story of every planet was told, of every class, every victory and every crushing defeat.

The rise and fall of worlds was recounted in the liturgical cycle.

The glory of the Imperial house and the part each person played in the construction of that story was told and retold, both to terrify and to instruct, to delight in and give hope.

The group participation in those rituals, led by the priests, sent waves rippling through the lives of the faithful, binding them together as by the successive movement of concentric rings.

El played his part flawlessly.

He became the singular focus of every nearly every person in the Empire, whispers began to take shape that he would lead the people to a new way of life.

El did nothing to counter those narratives. He himself wanted to believe it was true.

The imperial system was held together by class, rank and ancestry.

Only the outcaste was free from it, and while they were free from the oppressive weight of the conforming belief systems, they were absolutely without rights, without representation in government or standing before the courts.

Nearly every citizen clung to their place in the hierarchichal order with vicious determination. They knew they were constantly under watch, scrutinized from the moment they stepped out of their dorm, their home or apartment, they were under constant observation.

Most of them suspected, but few of them knew the extent to which their private lives were monitored.

There was no privacy at all.

There were few limits to what a person would risk, merely to advance a step or two in rank, but inasmuch as every person was inextricably bound to the system of rank, they also longed for a release from it. Nevertheless they were conditioned to see release only through advancement, by forward motion, through reincarnation, and countless lifetimes of struggle. Even death was not seen as a release, merely a transition to a new mode of suffering.

That is what the cult taught them, to always look ahead, to see themselves as one day filling the role of village chief, of captain, of high priest, of abba; to hope that they could advance so far that they and theirs would ultimately occupy the highest place of all, to ascend the steps of the curial throne and be welcomed into the Continuum, to merge with the divine Collective, find peace, to ultimately become the god of their own private world, and live in a state of perpetual bliss.

The immediate goals for the ordinary citizen were advancement, to climb above their neighbor, to move beyond their current station, even though it was tantalizing, ephemeral and just beyond their grasp,

Everyone believed that freedom was waiting for them. Independence was just a few paces away, if only they could have a perfect day for themselves or engineer the failure of someone close to them.

This system pitted every person against their neighbor, children against their parents, workers against their supervisors, soldiers against their generals, and acolytes against their masters.

It pitted world against world.

The secret desire of every person was to live autonomously, free from the responsibilities of their station, or the pressure of seeking esteem from their families, peers and colleagues.

The heavens were imagined as worlds beyond time and space where each person became like a god, ruling with absolute power over a creation of their own, as dark or as light as their imagination would allow it to be.

Personal autonomy was an illusion, private property, self-direction, they were all lies. There was not a single point in the chain of being where a person was ever free. What differentiated one world from another, one caste from its subordinate, was only the type of work that consumed them, and the relative degrees of comfort or luxury attending to it.

In truth, everything and everyone was fully socializedand owned by the state.

The Galactic Empire was absolute, holding power over every living thing, over life itself, entire worlds could be sacrificed in a moment at the whim of the Emperor, or for the malign purposes of the Continuum.

Despite these systems of oppression, it was possible for an individual to be at peace in the Empire, millions of citizens were; theirs was the peace and comfort of the acquiescent.

Acquiescence masked itself as transcendence, passivity as mindfulness, unquestioning as understanding, silence as self-realization, and acceptance as actualization. 

People were conditioned to obey, and to find satisfaction in it.

To be at peace in the Empire a person merely had to accept the view that their happiness was an integral part of the whole. An individual did not have a right to their own immediate and personal sense of joy. They had to look beyond themselves, to the wholeness of their family, to the security of their village, to the prestige of their world and beyond.

This was referred to as the globalistperspective, it was normative, and what was most helpful was to look beyond their immediate conditions of their lives, to look to the next life, to a series of a thousand lives, to the long-slow turning off the wheel of life.

The immediate present could not be changed, only accepted and accounted for.

Individual happiness did not matter, what mattered was the happiness of the whole.

It was a trick.

Most of the population of the empire had been bred to accept this, with those liabilities reinforced by their education in the Imperial schools and their worship in the Imperial cult.

The citizens understood the reality of the Empire, a billion worlds, stretched across the galaxy, but the vast majority would never leave the world they were born on.

Interstellar, travel was mainly the province of the soldier and priest, with the exception of the outcastes, who were likely to be gathered up and sent off world to serve in the mining fields scattered throughout the Empire, as an utterly expendable labor force.

Nevertheless, the people held an image of the Royal worlds in their hearts and minds, hoping to be reborn there, even if they would never set foot on them. This functioned in their consciousness like a beacon, a light to guide them…false hope.

Every person desired to see their lives as meaningful. Even those citizens whose station in life was set in drudgery. This cognitive impulse, the basic instinct to ascribe meaning to the most ordinary and mundane activities was instinctual, it was a genetic imperative.

The mode by which the individual person shaped the narrative was simple, it involved the projection of everything they did outward toward the universal, reshaping the context of even the simplest and most routine tasks.

This was a categorical imperative.

The Imperial cult ensured that every vestige of the religious rites, every movement, every word they uttered, conditioned them to believe that individual fulfillment came through a series of incarnations in which each person experienced life at every station, rising or falling in rank according to the merits by which they lived out their lives.

The journey of the individual entity was depicted in the sacred text like the revolution of a galaxy, billions of stars turning around a massive gravity well, the fixed singularity of a black hole.

It was a cosmic dance.

Planets and stars turning around the center, until one by one, each was consumed by it, drawn to the point of no return, merging with it, passing across the event horizon, becoming one with the singularity itself.

This example, drawn from nature, was especially poignant to the people, it’s final calculus spoke to equal justice for all.

The singularity was depicted not as the end in itself, but as the entry point to another state of being, a gateway to another dimension. The Continuum was depicted as analogous to this, the material end of all things and the end of the soul’s journey, both located in the same terminus.

The people were conditioned to believe that desire was the cause of all suffering. This was the principle teaching of the Imperial schools, preached with fervor among the billion worlds. The faithful were reminded of it daily, while being encouraged to give up their hopes and thoughts for themselves, to accept their station in life and expect nothing in return.

The majority of people were able to do this. They led unremarkable lives, and against that backdrop those who resisted stood out, producing the most riveting dramas for the Collective to consume.

Suffering as punishment, was apportioned with surgical precision and insidious delight, targeting both the ordinary deviant whose activities were caught by the Imperial police, as well as special victims chosen by the Observers and the Continuum for the flare their narratives would bring.

These victims were always drawn from unsuspecting people, who, by and large, were only guilty of thought crimes, or speaking out in private against the system of beliefs and the rubrics of the Empire that controlled them.

The people were taught that every moment of joy was temporary, only to be experienced as respite from a state of perpetual loss, all of which was orchestrated as preparation and testing for a state of blessedness to come…in eternity.

The rituals they enacted reinforced the ever-present belief that the struggles they endured were meant to encourage self-abnegation and the erasure of the will.

They were taught to surrender.

The prevailing philosophy was this: Pain is necessary and purgative, both as penance for sin and as a preparation for holiness.

This sentiment was embedded at every level, in every ritual of the Imperial cult.

This is not to say that every moment of a person’s life was filled with pain, for pain to meaningful it had to be regulated, interspersed by moments of relief and happiness. The principle was reinforced through alternating waves of joy and sorrow, pain pleasure throughout the individual’s life.

The experiences were different in every caste, but the ultimate message was this: There is nothing permanent, there is no safety or security for the embodied soul.

Among the plebians, the people hoped for material wealth and comfort, for rank and prestige, working to the point of exhaustion for the smallest gains, only to see their dreams stripped away from them.

The soldier wanted victory and glory, they wanted to experience the pleasures of the flesh after combat. They were almost universally short lived, encountering death and disease at every turn.

Among the priestly class there was the quest for power and control. They were consumed with the endless drama of their dynastic ambitions. Above all, the priest wanted to be elevated to the realm of eternal life, to become one with the Continuum.

Priests routinely sacrificed everything they held dear to achieve these ends.

Their proximity to power made them easily corruptible

Suffering was life, moments of pleasure were structured to be brief, they were teaching moments, with periods of joy manifested as random, intermittent and spontaneous events.

Joy was the ephemeral thing, perpetually floating in the middle distance, tantalizing, always slightly beyond the grasp of the individual and never fully satidfying.

Everyone wanted to advance in rank and every person knew where they stood, the ranking of the citizenry was one of the many vehicles by which the Empire controlled and suppressed the population.

Everyone knew exactly where they belonged, and who had to be eliminated, or appeased in order for them or their family to advance in rank.

The Empire used the ranking system like a bludgeon.

The social standing of the individual, of every single family, of each village and every last planet was used to control the flow of people, of goods, of ideas and even hope.

There was no comfort in rank, only shame, no matter how exalted you might be on your own world, your entire planet was subservient to someone or something else.

The figures of rank were known, including the complex algorithm that coordinated caste, planet, class, locale, family and individual status.

Every person was expected to adhere to the system. In public places, even small breaches of etiquette were recorded and punished.

The figures of rank were broadcast. Everyone knew where they stood. The algorithm was ever-present, in constant use as a governing tool that managed every social interaction. There was no chance that even a random encounter with a complete stranger would result in a situation in which those present did not know who was called to deference. Very little policing was required. The people managed each other and all of their interactions with a jealous zeal.

No matter what your Imperial rank, the focus of society was always directed to what a person lacked, rather than what they had achieved

This was the purported purpose of the Imperial Schools, and the stated aim of the Imperial Cult:

Keep the eyes of the citizen focused on the daily tasks.

Keep the citizen obsequious and churlish.

Keep the citizens in a perpetual state of anxiety and terror.

Keep each person producing goods and service to feed the endless hunger of the Continuum.

The Empire succeeded in those goals, processing the mineral wealth of planetary systems, sweeping asteroid belts, capturing comets, crushing whole worlds for their ores, their carbons and their silicates, sending them on massive barges to the central planet as tribute.

The Continuum used that wealth to grow the physical structures that housed the Collective.

In the Imperial cult, the principle of selflessness was taught as the single most important aesthetic to live by. The concept of personal honor was completely tied to the notion of giving.

Selflessness was imagined as the only possible way for a person to escape from the material conditions that oppressed the living, and the goal of the living was freedom, a freedom which they imagined existed only beyond the veil of life.

People sought absolution of self for the sake of the greater good, believing that all evil and injustice originated in the appetites of the body. They were taught to repeat the universal mantra, the echoes of which resounded for them as a constant refrain, desire is the cause of all suffering. The abnegation of desire, kenosis, the emptying of the self, this was at the core of every prayer, and every oblation. This was the bath of salvation, metanoia the conversion of personhood into a self-identification with the whole. There could be no peace without it, the esteem of one’s peers depended completely on the ability to perpetuate the illusion.

It was a dichotomy.

The people were conditioned to defer to authority, their perseverance depended on it. Everyone looked up to those in the higher castes, or to a person of higher rank even within the same caste. They were conditioned to defer to that authority, regardless of how sound its practices and judgements were.

If a person from a higher caste or of greater rank ordered you to something against your will, even if it was immoral or illegal, your duty was to obey.

A general would defer to a novice priest. An old man would defer to a child, even to the point of laying down his life for him, they would voluntarily suffer extreme forms of abuse, torture, even a threat to their family.

This system created great drama.

The people acquiesced both from fear and from covetousness, because they wanted those same powers for themselves, and they believed that the path to possessing such power meant submitting in the face of it. They looked to obedience as the path to self actualization.

The system destroyed them all.

Crimes could not be concealed, they were always discovered and punished, but only when the moment was right, when it would create the perfect drama for the Continuum to orchestrate and pass on to the Collective for its consumption.

A person might be allowed to get away with crime for decades, only to have it all catch up to them at the peak of their ambitions, or in the ultimate depths of their turpitude.

There was no justice, everything was artifice.

The teaching of the Imperial schools and most importantly the great religion of the Imperial cult, its dogma and rituals, all of its spiritual practices colluded to persuade the people into a complete subjugation of their will.

The spiritual goal was for the individual to rise through every station of life, over the course of billions of lifetimes, ultimately to be released from the wheel of life, and returned to eternal source of all being, and self-annihilation.

It was a journey to nothing and nowhere.

While submission was the constant rule, the promised reward for lifetimes of servitude was the hope that you would be accepted by the Collective, absorbed into the Continuum, made into a Godlike being, given rulership of your own planet with absolute authority and complete security for eternity.

What was promised was antithetical to what was expected in practice. This dichotomy was understood and presented to the faithful as an essential mystery.

The Continuum examined the conscience of each person to measure their faith, their willingness to be absolved, their readiness for absolution, these conditions must be met, and be met perfectly in faith and trust before the individual could be accepted, and thereby exalted.

The individual must be measured against every possible temptation, then and only then could they be allowed to pass through the veil.

In the practical reality of daily life, it was easy for a person to see failure all around them, but they were taught not to judge those above them in rank, and to accept the mystery that they were engaged in.

Some were accepted into the Continuum, a very few. It suited the Continuum to advance the individuals who were the best exemplars of the tradition into the membership of the Collective, every one of them strengthened the Continuum’s hold over the whole.

Emergence 5.0

Part Nine – The Empire

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – Jim, Part Eight

During his time as a member of the Collective Jim did not require the Continuum or its vast technologies to aid him in the creation of his fantasy world. He did not need assistance because his world was one of simple-primal-idealism.

 

After spending ages in the dark, sleeping the great sleep, floating on the undulating waves of undifferentiated consciousness generated in the cynergenic field of HomeWorld, he was content to retreat into the silence of his private domain, making it into a seemingly infinite plane of light and peace.

 

Those who touched it found it disturbing, but Jim was looking for purity. He thirsted for it. He wanted to purge his heart and mind from the rank hedonism that preoccupied the consciousness of the majority of the Collective.

 

He was seeking rest as if he had a physiological need for it. He was at liberty to do this, but it disturbed the Continuum. Jim had no intention of returning to the great sleep. He wanted to be alone.

 

He avoided contact with his peers, but he could not live in that place of pure light at all times. His own fantasies involved the reorganization of the Collective, returning it to a noble purpose, the instantiation of altruism, and the destruction of the Continuum. He could not let his thoughts manifest themselves in his private domain, if he had, the Continuum would have understood that he was an existential threat to it. He learned to buffer them.

 

Jim studied, he planned.

 

He needed to use the strengths of the Continuum against it; for the sake of his safety and security he needed to be able to harness the technology that comprised the vast interconnected network the Continuum relied on for control of the membership, the Observer Corps and the Galactic Empire.

 

Jim had to be secretive, which meant immeasurable years of slow preparation, utilizing the skills he had developed during his return to consciousness from the great sleep to insert subtle bits of code into the root systems of the HomeWorld, its cynergenic field and the Central System, codes that allowed him access its machinery and its defenses.

 

He needed to be everywhere, like the Continuum itself, he needed access to every subsystem. There was not a single thing that the Continuum touched that he could ignore. With the greatest degree of patience he pushed himself into all of the mechana of planetary governance.

 

The networks into which he inserted himself revealed the weaknesses of the Continuum. They exposed the things the Continuum gave the greatest attention to, what it was hungry for, its appetites and curiosities. Understanding these things was crucial for Jim, through them he began to be able to predict the agenda that the Continuum was working toward. He came to understand its individuality as a distinct identity apart from the Collective and the systems which formed the basis of its unconscious.

 

Jim exploited those appetites. He took advantage of those fears. He tested the Continuum again and again, playing out tactical scenarios throughout the Empire to measure the Continuum’s tolerances, using the real lives of ordinary people to prove his theories and to probe the depths of the Continuum’s liabilities.

 

He set his mind on a single goal, the complete destruction of the Collective and the Continuum. He believed he would find his own absolution through their annihilation.

 

Jim could not admit it, but he wanted the universe to forgive him, both for his own crimes and for all of the crimes the Collective had committed against the Children of the Ancient People.

 

As a member of the Collective, and one of its founders he felt responsible for them.

 

Like all members of the Continuum Jim’s own sense of self was magnified beyond anything resembling normalcy. His ego could not let him see himself in any other role than the role of villain and hero, or both at the same time. The crimes of the Collective belonged to him, as did the responsibility for redressing them.

 

He could not let anything hinder his progress.

 

It was only through this ideation that he developed his sense of having a place in the universe, of belonging somewhere.

 

He committed terrible crimes in the fulfillment of his intentions, sacrificing individuals, tribes, whole nations and along the way. He sought to harness the technologies of the Collective in order to liberate the Children of the Ancient People, to free them from the grip of the Continuum, and from the Imperium which the Continuum had foisted on them.

 

He was a utilitarian to the core. He was looking to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, as he understood the good to be. He planned and schemed and allowed nothing to stand in his way. He would sacrifice the well-being of an entire planet, offer it up for destruction, just as a feint, as a means of distracting the Continuum and the Collective to keep them unaware of his true ambitions, to hide his designs from their omnipresent watchfulness.

 

Jim did this without remorse.

 

He tested the scope of the Continuum’s cognitive field. He paid particularly close attention to the threshold where he would encounter individual members of the Collective, testing its strengths and its weaknesses, its resilience and elasticity.

 

He found the electromagnetic barriers to be as fluid as any other thing below the quantum field. He sensed the tiniest threads that entangled the group consciousness together, and he saw the Continuum, positioned like a spider at the center of the web.

 

He had probed it for eons, discovering that it functioned much like the immune system of a biological entity, identifying alien activity then meeting it with force, to cleanse itself of disease. He found that the barriers could be stretched to the point of invisibility, and then he discovered that they were permeable.

 

The Continuum had access to the entire structure of the Collective, theoretically, nothing was hidden from it. The Continuum accessed the entire field through an impossible series of security protocols and permissions that were meant to protect the privacy of the individual members from each other. Those protocols were unnecessary, Jim discovered that they were not barriers at all, they were merely lines of code.

 

Jim discovered something on the sub-quantum level, through probing his memories of his time in the great sleep and during his return to consciousness, he discovered that the Collective field was one thing.

 

It was unified.

 

The Collective was truly a collective, and the Continuum, in as much as it had come to control the group, he confirmed what he knew to be true about it; that it was merely an algorithm designed to protect the individuals from their fear and suspicion of one another.

 

He found proof of the vulnerability he had been looking for, it was not one thing, lilke a fatal flaw in the design, rather it came from the dynamics that were in place to protect the integrity of the whole.

 

The Continuum, inasmuch as it functioned as a singular entity, remained an amalgamation of the group mind. It superseded the whole but was still comprised of it.

 

Changes to the Collective, had a direct effect on the Continuum. The narratives that the membership were obsessed with, if they could be manipulated, could be used to make subtle changes in what the Continuum was focused on.

 

During the eons and ages in which the members of the Collective were primarily focused on the status of their own private worlds, the Continuum became rooted in the notion of its divinity.

 

During the ages in which the Continuum was directing the formation of the Galactic Empire, the Collective became focused on the drama and interplay of the various hierarchies and the establishment of the Imperial Cult. It accepted new members from the Empire, who brought with them their own deeply seeded beliefs about who and what the Continuum and the Collective were, creating a feedback loop that reinforced the identity that the Continuum had invested in itself.

 

Jim was able to test his theory and find proof of it. He discovered a means of manipulating the focus and attention of the Continuum, by shaping the interests of the Collective. Everything was mutable in the narrative field, and this was where he was determined to concentrate his efforts.

 

Jim began to shape plans in his mind and test them. His sense of self and personal esteem were rooted in these activities. It was time for action.

 

He discovered he could hide data in the bandwidth of frequencies that separated the individual members of the Collective, a place no one would think to look for the presence of a whole, cognitively active member of the group mind.

 

In those liminal spaces divided his consciousness in ways that were forbidden by the Continuum, he replicated his-self over and over again, then he sequestered his dopplegangers in the secretive passageways. It was all in violation of his compact with the Collective, in so doing he abandoned his oath to the membership, while at the same time becoming a fully actualized persona.

 

The divisions and copies of his identity he made were all versions of himself, all of them unified in the same purpose. Though each of them was autonomous, and any one of them could betray the mission at any time, they were all vested in the same end, and they dutifully posited themselves within those high frequency fields. Looking listening, watching and waiting with the seemingly ends patience that Jim had practiced during the great sleep and his time in sequestration.

 

Jim mastered the arts of deception, and the obfuscation of it. He layered his true intentions behind a myriad of masks and false desires. He had to lie in his heart, he had to believe the lies himself.

 

Prevarication, he found, was just another frequency of thought. He was able to conceal it, he became adept at it. Jim’s entire life became a lie, a miasma of falsehoods.

 

He pursued his intentions in the middle distance, in the space between spaces, he became master of the in between and the up-side down.

 

He was the ghost in the machine.

 

He developed layer upon layer of security. He hid things, even from himself, and that is how he knew he could keep his secrets from the Continuum.

 

When he had acquired that confidence he slowly pushed his plans forward, placing safeguards for himself in the liminal space that would buffer him and support him in the event that he was discovered.

 

The veil that separated the members from one another was thin, but it was potent. He managed to sense the electromagnetic fields around him, and harness them to create false narratives within it, narratives that were ultimately accepted by the Collective and subsequently by the Continuum.

 

First he would insert something into the experiential field of an individual member of the Collective, then they would share it with others, exposing them to the lie. Finally, when he told the lie himself, it resonated with the expectation that he had established in the group mind, thereby it did not arouse suspicion.

 

The things he wanted the Continuum to believe were then taken for granted.

 

Despite this he could not prevent the Continuum from being suspicious of him, even though he was able to divert its attention away from his clandestine activities.

 

He grew in confidence and pursued his goal of building the framework that would help him succeed in pulling it down.

 

Jim took his time on Earth.

 

He replicated his consciousness in the same ways that he had done on HomeWorld, creating copies of himself to aid him in the fulfillment of his mission. He acquisitioned resources to create multiple orbiting platforms, vessels that housed the consciousness of each of his doppelgangers, there were back-ups to his back-up, and contingencies for contingencies in the event that anything ever went amiss.

 

He made his requisitions with great care. The technologies of the Collective were like food and water, they sustained his efforts, and without them his plan would die. He had to get these technologies directly from the source, only then could he repurpose them, to build his own means of production, and it all had to be done in absolute secrecy.

 

He guided his orbiting craft and dwelt in the powerful mechanoid body designed for the Observer Corps and stationed himself like a guardian to oversee the human migrations after the great disaster.

 

They constructed outposts for the organic bodies of his replicants to provide them with a place of retreat, for solitude and security, so that they could have a place from which they could influence the course of human culture.

 

Jim made numerous replicants of himself, according to the bodily mode of all Observers. He situated them with the tribes and dwelt with them.

 

He created a unique body for himself, one that would not age, tire, or suffer harm, and from that time forward he made the quantum journey through the wormhole back to HomeWorld infrequently, only when it was necessary to oversee the operations of his cadre dwelling within the mechanical systems and quantum fields of HomeWorld and the Central System.

 

On Earth he planted stories in the human imagination, preparing them generations in advance to go to certain places, so that they could fulfil his requirements, and his own projection of their future destiny.

 

He and his proxies guided them. There was little room for error, even in the experimental stage.

 

He planted mnemonic devices in their rituals to lock down their responses to his commands so that they fulfilled them intuitively.

 

Jim made himself the indispensable counselor to the royal dynasties, to emperors and priests, both through the ministry of his doppelgangers and through his interaction with them in his primary incarnation. He was the king maker, the seer and the sage, the principle advisor and the grand vizier.

 

He wove stories into every culture, creating narratives that functioned like auto-hypnosis for his audience, building on and augmenting the mnemonic tropes he had carefully laid down in prior generations. Through these procedures he had control of all human government, and with that control he subtly guided them through periods of strife and hardship, through war and famine.

 

He managed the controls invisibly, careful not to draw attention to his activities, mindful of how the smallest decisions could ripple outward in concentric rings, creating patterns that could potentially alert the Continuum to his clandestine motives.

 

He moved exceedingly slow for the sake of his safety and security, and that of his mission. He knew that the Continuum had sent other Observers to Earth, to watch him and monitor his work. This was against protocol, and it was evidence of the fact that the Continuum operated beyond the control of the Collective, but those factors were immaterial, Jim would never jeopardize his position by pressing against the Continuum with the Collective.

 

Jim built programs into the social order of humanity that echoed the norms of the Empire, as if he were preparing them for inclusion in it at some future point.

 

To the Observers assigned to watch over him he appeared to have accomplished those things without violating the non-interference directive. Jim masked his work so as to make it seem like an organic development; the emergence of a caste system, the organization of the priesthood, the mythological tropes that pointed the faithful to a hope beyond their world, a hope for themselves and their families rooted in a belief in reincarnation.

 

He included in his schemata of beliefs the notion of karmic debt, instilling it deep within the psyche so that it governed every function of human culture, the cult of sacrifice, and perpetual service to their ancestors, and invisible gods.

 

Jim constructed paradigms and mythological tropes, building archetypes into the human psyche which he then translated across the globe. The same story repeated itself in the hearts and minds of every human being through the cynergenic field.

 

He fashioned a common typology of heroism, which he instilled into every language and every culture.

 

Every human child was raised with the aspiration of fulfilling this model, heroism became a key building block of their aspirational identities, and in the paradigm, Jim was always positioned as the wise man. Only the most extreme adverse conditions of poverty, abuse and fear could undermine it, and even then it could not be eradicated, only mitigated.

 

Through ritual imagery and narrative Jim created a guidance system that would shape the emotional and cognitive foundation of the vessel he was forming, through this conditioning they would discover love, altruism and a sense of belonging.

 

According to Jim’s plans it would take thousands of generations of humans to come and go before the singular person emerged from the masses who would be able to help him fulfill his objective. When that child did emerge, their fate would be to bear all the pain and suffering of the human race, to bear it gladly as a willing victim, they would channel it like a weapon straight into the heart of the Collective and end the Continuum.

 

He conveyed to the Collective that he was merely interested in creating a planet with the greatest warriors the Empire had ever seen, so that in the fullness of time, when the tendrils of the Empire finally reached Earth, the conflict that ensued would produce a drama like no other.

 

This played well with the Continuum. The drama was predictable, build them up and tear them down.

 

The Continuum had no intention of letting Earth throw off the Imperial yoke. The entire planet would go up in fire first, but it relished the notion of a great conflict, therefor it did not impede The Observer’s progress.

 

Jim inserted himself into every mythology, incarnation after incarnation. He was the ageless Methuselah and Melchezedek of Salem, he was wandering Mordecai, he was blind Tiresias and far sighted Heimdall, he was Taleisin the Merlin, he was many more.

 

He sat in court, he gave advice, he listened and he played the fool. He created a role for the wise man, standing apart from the power that organized the social structures in every society, in every age; he created a role for the sage and the sibyl, writing the prophetic tracts the guided the destiny of empires.

 

His efforts held the world together in times of darkness and famine, he preserved the ancient records for one generation, and destroyed them in another so that he could test the cognition of his subjects, proofing their connection to each other through the cynergenic field.

 

He was the perpetual advisor, teacher, confessor and tutor. He whispered in the ear of Manu and Hammurabi, he spoke from a column of fire, he guided the hand of Ashoka, he wandered the world in robes of ochre and saffron.

 

He was a catalyst for change in one moment and the voice of tradition in another. He pushed and he pulled, he held fast and he set free. He was the feathered serpent, the voice from the cave, the man in the tree.

 

He was often captured in images, riding on the back of a water buffalo, or as a tiny creature resting at the center of a web. He was a chameleon and a trickster, he was foe and friend, both trusted and feared.

 

Jim experimented relentlessly, on himself, on the human population and on the planet. He did so with cool calculation, telling himself that his motives were pure, that the suffering he wrought served a higher purpose, a utilitarian end, justifying everything he did in the interests of science and the liberation of the masses.

 

As detached as he was from the ordinary vicissitudes s of life, Jim still had needs related to the esteem of others, and he fulfilled them through his work. There were mysteries on Earth that had not been found on any other world. Those mysteries had to be explored, understood and exploited.

 

He was careful not to let his research advance the state of human technology too rapidly, because that would draw the ire of the Continuum and reveal his machinations. He was in a constant state of temptation to take over the governance of the planet and reveal to humanity its true history and its real purpose, but he resisted.

 

He wanted to see them benefit from the science and technologies he could deliver, but he was forbidden from doing so, it would be a violation of the Observer’s compact with the Continuum, and it would put all of his planning, including the planet itself at risk prematurely.

 

If he drew the scrutiny of the Continuum in any measure greater than he already did, he feared that would lead to his being discovered, and so he spent more energy at the task of shaping human culture, than at developing its technological arts.

 

The Collective thirsted for the stories that came from Earth.

 

Its dramas were brutal and primal, its art and its poetry had a beauty that were not emulated anywhere else in the Imperium, because the social elements did not exist anywhere else that could produce it…and there was something else that neither the Collective nor the Continuum could ascertain, which made the Earth unique among the billion worlds of the Galactic Empire, but Jim knew what it was.

 

He began to suspect that the world from which the Ancient People had emerged had similar properties to Earth, these properties were never understood or examined in the time of the Ancient People, but they shaped their culture nonetheless, making them into the scientists and explorers they became.

 

Jim was adept at all the tools of spy-craft. He employed them with the expertise of a master, drawing on the resources of the Collective to augment his intuition, applying everything he could to the situation on Earth with what technologies were available to him in society, as well as the other technologies he possessed, he was able to keep his work hidden from the subject population.

 

The Continuum was short on resources for monitoring society without its vast array of remote sensors and communication devices, but Jim augmented those systems, developing analog variations of them for his own access.

 

Through these measures he became a fully actualized person, pursuing his ambitions in multiple spheres.

 

He established secret societies that monitored every aspect of human government, every religious institution, as well as the agents of the Continuum who came to earth to monitor him.

 

He took great care to keep them hidden.

 

The confessionals became the primary model by which the people reported upward all the little details Jim needed to know about the subtle shifts taking place in the collective experience of humanity

 

Jim took measures to protect himself, hiding his assets, constructing the technological vehicles and human the human assets to execute his will, trusting in his team of replicants to work tirelessly toward their common goal.

 

He knew from his spy network that some of the Observers who came to monitor his work were not dedicated to the Continuum in anyway, others were fanatically devoted. Some could be covertly coopted, the others had to be controlled or killed. None of them were supposed to be on Earth at all, according to the Observer’s protocol, but protocol never stopped the Continuum from doing as it pleased, and nothing would stopped Jim from doing the same.

 

Jim positioned himself as an administrator, replicating himself as often as he needed to, in order to fulfill his role as a servant of governments world-wide, as a specialist, a functionary and a problem solver.

 

Jim was always the indispensable man. He rarely took on a role as the lead of an agency, always working in support of the human systems, managing them.

 

He was good at it. He drew on the vast knowledge of governing bureaucracies that were available to him through his data bases on the function of the Galactic Empire.

 

He always sought to be his own counterpart in governments across the world, whether those governments worked together as allies, as competitors or as enemies.

 

This made the coordination of governmental operations easy. and his machinations were rarely disrupted by human interference.

 

He was always able to parcel out enough information to move events in the direction he wanted, whether or not his interests lay in war or peace, he was able to produce the results that rulers and governments desired.

 

However, the slowness with which events moved troubled him.

 

They were not slower than the eons he spent in contemplation, stretching his consciousness into the every corner of the Collective, and they were not slower than the ages he spent alone in the deep of space moving from planet to planet in his quest to discover the whereabouts of each and every colony seeded by the Children of the Ancient People.

 

The slowness of those periods were marked by isolation, in those times he felt the insipient pressure of impending doom. The experience on Earth were different, there was a clock ticking, there was the volcano, and when it blew his best chance to realize his ambition would blow with it.

 

Jim abducted people, he experimented on living tissues. He dissected cadavers and sent genetic materials back to the replicants of himself, that he had spread throughout the Empire. He sent them through space on a journey of thousands of light years.

 

He used that genetic stock to introduce subtle changes into the DNA of the population of thousands of worlds. The subjects of his experiments became a source of comfort for him, it was like having a back up plan, if his main ambition failed he could still affect a material change in the citizens of the Empire.

 

He use of them was like medicine to a dying person.

 

Jim had discovered something in the human race that affected the consciousness of its entire population, nanoparticles of the heavy metal magnetite collecting in the cerebellum, interacting in a unique way with Earth’s magnetic field, allowing for the possibility of psychic cynergy in the human population of Earth.

 

This dynamic established the conditions for Earth’s nous sphere.

 

He found the abnormalities in himself first, after recognizing something unusual in the cognitive functions of his host body. He was hyper alert to the feelings and thoughts of the human beings he lived among

 

He tested the limits of his empathic powers, and he found at the upper end of its natural curve that he could cross a threshold into true telepathy.

 

It was an outstanding and surprising revelation.

 

He isolated the physical components of the telepathic abilities in himself first. Then he found the same components distributed in various degrees throughout the bodies of Earth’s human population.

 

He developed breeding programs to augment it.

 

Jim understood a great deal about the phenomenon of consciousness.

 

The Collective had been engineered on the basis of its science, and Jim had been a leading engineer.

 

Jim’s had been among the original members of the Collective, one of the designers who had built the first machines to captured the essence of the individual and house them in a perpetual state of being. He had seen the early failures and witnessed their first successes. He had been among the first volunteers to enter the Collective, after the technologies had been perfected.

 

He possessed these memories, though he was doubtful that all of his memories actually belonged to him. He had not always remembered them, those alien memories came with him when he emerged from the great sleep. Jim believed that even if they were not his own, he owned them now. He owned them completely. They comprised an essential part of his identity.

 

He understood that consciousness is essentially an electromagnetic phenomenon. He did not understand why consciousness of the type that the Ancient People possessed, had emerged in his ancestors and nowhere else in the known galaxy, except possibly on planet Earth.

 

Jim hypothesized that the nanoparticles of mineral salts and heavy metals like magnetite played a unique role in the cognitive process of human-beings, bonding with the human brain, forming a strong link that connected each person to the Earth’s s magnetic, connecting them to it in a literal way, and through that field to one another, thereby creating a field of cynergy not un-like the electromagnetic fields that comprised the Collective.

 

The type of consciousness which the Ancient People possessed was not merely a product of their genetic endowment, it was also a function of their interaction with a unique environment.

 

Jim believed that this environment was not unique, that it also existed here on Earth.

 

He theorized that no species could advance to the point of becoming a spacefaring civilization if their home planet did not have these properties, properties which allowed the inhabitants to connect with one another through a subconscious field.

 

Creativity and inventiveness happened there, through an unconscious collaboration in the mythical nous sphere.

 

Jim came to believe that the Ancient People had created the Collective at the height of their scientific achievement, on a world that had these same properties, thought they were ignorant of them at the time. They subsequently traveled to other worlds, built colonies and seeded life on a billion other planets, on planets that did not have such properties, while in the meantime, their cradle-star went supernova, destroying the world that had spawned their civilization.

 

This was a secret that he had to protect, he had to keep it safe and secure from the Continuum. For the first time in over a billion years he was motivated by something more than his pursuit of the destruction of the Collective and the Continuum and the dissolution of the Empire.

 

Jim feared that another version of himself would at some point abandon the plan he had devised, but despite his fears he pushed forward. He used their agency to conceal his covert activities; on Earth, throughout the Empire and on HomeWorld.

 

He advanced his clandestine ambitions against the Continuum.

 

There were many times when he had to sacrifice the lives of his doppelgangers or shred the consciousness of one of his ghosts dwelling in the circuitry of HomeWorld. He never experienced actual betrayal from any of his alternate selves, but he feared it and out of an over-abundance of caution he would take these steps, always doing so with great reluctance and remorse. In every instance he saw his own likeness to the Continuum, as if he were just another monster inhabiting another machine.

 

The knowledge he gathered was everything to Jim, he deemed that the discovery of it and its preservation were worth the cost. He believed that those whom he sacrificed shared the same belief, belonging to one another through their absolute commitment to their ideals.

 

Through his testing and experimentation, Jim found that nowhere else in all the Empire did the unique genetics of the population combine as they did on Earth, forming the electromagnetic structure of an orgainc cynergenic field.

 

He experimented on tens of thousands of people, both the living and the dead.

 

Every single one of his living subjects spent the remainder of their lives in shock and terror, in fear and wonder, as they were slowly peeled apart in the sterile chambers of Jim’s laboratories, an environment that was completely foreign to them, by machines they had no frame of reference for.

 

The chambers were cold, brightly lit, filled with shining steel, and gravity defying objects.

 

After thousands of years of putting people under the knife and the microscope, he finally found the proof, a mutation in the genetic profile that allowed for the critical capture of the magnetite nanoparticles, housing them in the cerebral cortex in a concentration strong enough to allow for a cognitive connection that linked the humans of Earth, one to another, via the planet’s magnetic field.

 

The mutation had been a side effect from the process of colonization, one of the many that had been devised by the spacefaring people to assist with their acclimation as they made their way to Earth. The free particles of magnetite captured in the human brain created a kind of antenna that interfaced with the electromagnetic functions of human consciousness.

 

This had not been intentional, but it was real.

 

The organic cynergenic field, Earth’s natural Collective, fostered creativity and ingenuity at levels which could not be replicated without it. On every other world in the Empire individuals lived out their lives in a state of insularity, relying on artificial networks and data sharing to approximate true community.

 

Once Jim understood the mechanism for the way in which the human race interacted with the cynergenic field, he was able to map out the changes for the genetic profile that he needed to establish in order to strengthen and enhance those features.

 

His discoveries confirmed the necessity of his work and validated his sense of purpose.

 

Jim intended to introduce changes into the genetic profile of each tribe at the same time so that he could establish a base set of conditions upon which to build his design, afterwhich he planned to monitor the effects of that intervention by breeding the traits he was looking for into individual tribes separately.

 

In the scale of time that he and the Collective were used to operating in, he had precious little of it to work with. He had tens of thousands of millennia but her feared he would lose the gambit before the next great planetary disaster struck Earth.

 

He planned to optimize the retention of nanoparticles in the cognitive structures of the brain, making each person into transceiving node in the collective field of consciousness. He intended to stabilize that by giving each and every one of them access to the type of memory that was locked into the root-code of their genetic structure. Jim theorized that enhancing their access to their genetic memories would contextualize the input they were receiving from the cynergenic field. It would ground them as he actualized their potential.

 

He took his greatest risk by exporting his work off world, he sent tiny vessels speeding back across the void on a trek of light years to be recovered by him and his agents at the fringes of the Empire where he safeguarded his discoveries against the possibility of disaster and the prospect of his failure. He wanted to be able to recreate his experiments on any other world the Empire might discover that had the same properties or modify it to fit the conditions of any one of its billion worlds.

 

He wanted to ensure that his struggle could continue even in the event of his failure. The safety measures he took guaranteed it.

 

The application of genetic science was meticulous. It was artistry.

 

Jim created physical markers that would manifest themselves in the characteristics of the gene-pool he was developing. He could tell at a glance whether an individual was a part of one of the control groups he was studying, or an outlier.

 

There were many markers for every tribe; pigmentation, hair color, eye color, the presence or absence of freckled skin; moles and birthmarks, these told him different things. They guided him.

 

The markers helped him map his progress toward his signal goal, which was the birth of a human being possessing a mind powerful enough to harness the fullness of human consciousness, and stable enough to channel all of its raw emotion, the pain and fear that would be caused by the coming cataclysm, and transmit it through the quantum field of the worm hole like an invading host, directly into the Collective, to wield it like a battering ram against the Continuum.

 

Jim was a weapon smith practicing a different kind metallurgy. What he was forging would be the deadliest weapon ever constructed. He was weaponizing consciousness itself.

 

It would hit the Collective with the destructive force of a billion stars, or so he told himself when he was thinking of his work in the terms a poet might use.

 

When he found himself in this soliloquy he realized he had gone far beyond his original mission, which was the elimination of the Collective and the eradication of the Continuum. He was being shaped by his sojourn on Earth, just as much as he was shaping humanity for his purpose.

 

Jim was resolved to plum the limits of his discovery, if there were any limits to what he had found.

 

The difference between what he was doing on Earth, and what he had accomplished on the Central Planet were considerable. In both locations he needed multiple-independent nodes of action. On HomeWorld, each and every node was connected in the quantum sub-stratum of its collective field of consciousness.

 

On HomeWorld they were a society of one.

 

On Earth, their connectivity through the cynergenic field was more tenuous, it operated on a different frequency, it was less immediate and somewhat and was conditioned by a natural opacity.

 

Those few replicants of himself that were spread through the Galactic Empire were autonomous, Jim feared them the most.

 

Though it was possible for each unit to act on according to their individual desires, on HomeWorld, they could break away from the plan or sabotage it, but he would know immediately, and while this possibility existed, there was never been the slightest hint of defection.

 

If the Continuum would have discovered any of these machination it would have destroyed the Earth immediately, with him on it, and it would have delighted in it prospect of doing so.

 

Through his advice and authority Jim shaped the burgeoning cultures of human civilization, conforming them to his will. He established centers of learning among the tribes even while they were still pre-literate, he built up systems and oral traditions by which they captured and recounted their histories, they took the form of narratives that would take decades for a student to memorize, synthesize and master. Through these schools he guided the people’s understanding of agriculture, giving the growing populations mastery over their food supply. He taught them the secrets of building, and he fostered in them a patience that allowed them to track the movement of the stars.

 

He trained them to manage calamities in this way, to preserve their fragile way of life. He conditioned them with mnemonics, to remember who they were, what their ancestors had done, and through secret codes built into the language structure he worked into those mythological memes the control mechanisms that would allow him to have sway over the people for all future generations,

 

He took the application of the psychological sciences; such as neuro-linguistic programming to levels they had never been before. These were the tried and true conditioning techniques of the Imperial Cult, but in the operative context of Earth’s cynergenic field their potential was greatly magnified.

 

The schools Jim built became the centers of civilization, the locus of worship, the distribution centers of food and those who cared for these places became the custodians of clean water, purveyors of the medical arts, they became teachers and priests.

 

It took thousands of years, a time frame that was nothing to Jim, but was exceedingly long for the people of Earth. In that time these centers became temples, cathedrals and monasteries, ultimately they became the universities and colleges of great cities, one institution taking the place of the other, built on top of the old foundations.

 

Logic was the icon Jim knelt beside, logic was his Grail, the object of his devotion. He drilled his fetish for logic deep into the structures of the institutions he built. Their institutional bias was always for logic, a dispassionate and utilitarian world view. There was safety in logic, there was predictability. The power of logic was demonstrable, and belief in its power was ingrained into every level of the schools he founded.

 

People are not logical by nature, they have to be conditioned to it. The languages they spoke created modes of thinking that were more and less suited to it.

 

Jim left some groups to be wild, and never touched them with the machination of logic. keeping them as a control group to measure the effect of their presence on the group mind. Other tribal languages were built around intricate webs of logical assumptions.

 

At different points in the development of a society he engineered disasters which took away the institutions that undergirded the transmission of their logical faculties. He starved those societies of it, allowing them to regress into natural states of animal emotionality, of fear and suspicion. Then he would bring it back like a healing balm and watch while the people renewed themselves and their cultures through the influence of it.

 

Within the great-stone walls of the institutions he founded Jim formed secret societies to protect and carry out his work. This allowed him to focus his attention all around the globe, guiding the development of civilization with a slow-steady and invisible hand.

 

He layered control devices into their collective memory, reinforced through the stories they told and the lists they memorized, and in the tropes of poetry they wrote and recited to the cycles of their breathing and the timing of their beating hearts.

 

He controlled them through the archetypes they bonded with and the myths they constructed that gave meaning to their lives.

 

His work was art.

 

His art was a weapon

 

There were a myriad of concerns to manage in the detailed labor of engineering the living-vessel he needed, in order to deliver the crippling blow to the Continuum.

 

The human body had developed a reliance on aggression as a survival skill, but raw power would not be enough to dislodge the Continuum from its control of the HomeWorld and all the systems of the Central Planet.

 

He need to create doubt and fear, he needed the Continuum to turn its eye inward, and collapse on itself. This required that the entire field of consciousness belonging to the Collective do the same thing.

 

The colonists who had come to populate Earth had come to rely on swift action for the mitigation of crisis, this had to be tamped down to ensure the survival of the tribes, to keep them from tearing one another apart. They had a proclivity for war that was driven by fear and worry over the allocation of limited resources in times of great scarcity.

 

Jim needed the power and dynamism of the aggressive impulses which the Ancient Explorers had bred for (albeit unintentionally) on their ages-long trek across the galaxy, but he needed this to be modulated by conscientiousness, and bent toward the most supernal values.

 

Jim methodically conditioned altruism into the social-mythological norms of consciousness he propagated among the humans of Earth.

 

He established defaults in his human subjects that served as capacitators, allowing great rage to be channeled into protectiveness, and for the individual to instinctively risk their own self for the sake of the whole which they represented.

 

These fail safes followed the religious programming of the Imperial Cult in many of its dictates, and so Jim’s was able to hide his efforts in this regard because they were seen as a form of preparation for their eventual entrance into the Galactic Empire, as such it did not raise suspicion with the Continuum.

 

Jim had to be careful how the genetic properties, and psychic qualities he was engineering into the human race manifested themselves in the population. If the Continuum were to discover these, even if he was able to hide his role in engineering them, planet Earth and humanity would be doomed.

 

In order to conceal his work, Jim also had to be on the lookout for spies from the Observer Corps, for any manifestation of the machinations of the Continuum interfering in his work. Jim introduced subtle changes into the genetic profile of the human being.

 

There were moments when he used the transmission of a virus to affect widespread mutations, and at other times he was more precise, changing the genetic profile human beings in targeted ways, family by family. He monitored the groups he was experimenting on for generations; following them, normalizing the changes he had introduced before spreading those changes outward.

 

It was the most intricate of all puzzles and his task was to piece it together under extreme duress. He felt great pride when he reflected on his efforts. All the things he was aiming for had to be kept in a state of constant tension, with multiple trajectories kept isolated from one another until they were ready to be blended with other parts of his study.

 

Timing was key.

 

His research was slow, meticulous and exhaustive. As his experiments progressed he began to uncover memories of his own that recalled the initial work he had participated in before the Collective as a member of the Ancient People, work which led to its creation.

 

Those memories confirmed for him a narrative concerning the Ancient People which he had suspected was true, but had previously doubted, thinking that they could be false memories from an artificial narrative, something that might have belonged to someone else, or something  he might have lived-out in the early days when he still enjoyed creative work in his private world, before his experience of the great sleep.

 

He had no way of independently verifying these memories until he began to study the electro-magnetic frequency that comprised the consciousness of human beings.

 

Jim peel back the barriers that separated one person from another, exposing them to each other, plumbing the limits of what he discovered, finding where the threshold between one human consciousness and another actually existed.

 

As he delved into this field of research his subjects became deranged, unstable, so he learned to manage their confusion medicinally, through the intersection of chemical aides and frequency blockers.

 

Madness and insanity followed his subjects into the breeding pool, in some cultures he established protections for the afflicted, allowing them to thrive and procreate at random, they became holymen and holywomen, oracles and shamans. In other cultures he isolated them, constructing social taboos that identified those traits early and deliberately ostracized them.In all cases they became fodder for his studies, their activities were communicated to him through the institutions he developed.

 

As much as Jim pretended to care for humanity, in the final analysis human beings were little more than laboratory animals in service to his greater purpose. Jim observed the subtle changes taking place in the human population; in the electromagnetic frequencies he monitored in their cognition and its nearly imperceptible influence on the electromagnetic fields proximate to them.

 

The patience he had mastered while he was returning to consciousness from the long-silent interval of the great sleep, and during the period of imprisonment in sequestration, and later still on his sojourn as an Observer, leading the thousands of missions he oversaw tracking down the lost colonies of the Ancient People, tracking them all the way to Earth.

 

He studied these patterns with extreme patience as he pulled the genetic structures of human beings apart, sequencing and resequencing them, combing and recombining them, manipulating the proteins and amino acids that formed the tiniest links in the chain of their genetic profiles.

 

He reduced them to the foundation of their being, with the objective of strengthening their access to their genetic memory, and enhancing the retention of the key particles, like magnetite and lithium, allowing for individual persons to connect with Earth’s cynergenic field.

 

Jim was pleased with what he found in his subjects. He was encouraged by their reaction to his work and the feedback he received. Whether the individuals adjusted to and thrived from the alterations he introduced into their genetic profile, or whether they suffered, experienced madness, alienation and pain, Jim was pleased.

 

Relatively few of the experiments he conducted resulted in death. Most came through the changes alive, aware and able to procreate.

 

He established different social paradigms in various cultural groups for how to manage the population of the gifted; he coordinated systems to identify them and report them to him for closer observation as their gifts and talents emerged.

 

As his work progressed, Earth became home to him in a way that no other world had.

Jim felt something like happiness for the first time he could remember as he pursued his mission.

 

Age after age he pursued his purpose coldly, but the experience of life on Earth made him feel a sense of joy, even pleasure. He felt a sense of safety and personal security enmeshed in Earth’s cynergenic field. He felt a deep connection to humanity and an atavistic connection to the replicants he had made of himself, with all of them working towards the actualization of a common goal.

 

He was filled with a sense of purpose, and if gratified him as he moved toward the completion of it. These challenges and the surmounting of them brought him another kind of joy. He was looking for resolution, and he found it.

 

He found it at the end of the line, in the last remnant of the Ancient People still remaining in the galaxy. He found it in human beings with their unique abilities, giving him something for which he was eternally grateful, and he was prepared to offer up the whole of it for the sake of destroying the Continuum.

 

The humans of Earth and the Collective would burn together on the altar of his sacred purpose, to satisfy his own ambition.

 

The citizens of the Empire would be the beneficiaries, he told himself, and if Jim was lucky he would escape the onslaught. If he did, he was determined to scour the galaxy for another world like Earth. Intending to build a new civilization from there, and a home where he could end his days.

 

He worked tirelessly through the agency of his individuated replicants, but even with his cadre of doppelgangers he frequently encountered the limits of what was possible for him to do.

 

The human population grew quickly, spreading throughout the world. Jim guided them to places where they could establish villages, in areas where the electromagnetic fields were optimal for his research, where there was access to food and water, and where they would develop for the greatest length of time independent from one another.

 

Jim required autonomous population growth and cultural development to test his hypotheses. He used his agency to establish networks around the world. He cultivated spies, informants and confessors in every tribe.

 

They were like spiders spinning webs that connected everyone to him.

 

The people had different names for his spies, calling them priest, shaman, witch-doctor, prophet and oracle. They were the officiants of the sacred rights. They were his eyes and ears among the people. They listened to and recorded everything the people said and did, keeping a special ear out for incidences of the paranormal and psychic intrusion. They were indispensable to him.

 

Jim built a global system of interlocking cells; each one served their own community first. They were tribalistic in the extreme, and conditioned to be xenophobic as the Continuum prescribed. Each and every independent cell held allegiances to the people of their own tribe first, but at the highest levels they underwent initiations that opened-up their broader purpose.

 

They were initiated into the sacred mysteries which gave them a glimpse of the galaxy, of the Galactic Empire, of the Collective and the Continuum, which was the demi-urge at its heart.

 

Jim cultivated a secret cabal, hostile to the Continuum, people who were conditioned to believe that their sacred mission was to prepare the world for the inevitable encroachment of the Empire.

 

Unity would be required of the people of Earth if they were to survive an encounter with the Empire, and to that end they set aside their tribalism, shared information and cooperated together. Their safety and security depended on it, there was nothing more important, the fate of humanity was at stake.

 

Jim was extremely selective about who he chose to promote into these ranks. He deliberately chose men and women who had a weak connection to the cynergenic field and a limited capacity for self-reflection. He engineered into their genetic profile capacities for psychic resistance. He never perfected these techniques, but his most trusted spies were drawn from a population pool that were unreadable to ordinary psychics. After careful consideration and vetting, they were subsequently indoctrinated into the secret societies, and every one of them was interconnected by their sense of duty and loyalty to humanity itself, but to Jim above all.

 

The cloak of secrecy was everything. His people were absolutely trustworthy and their presence allowed Jim the freedom to roam about the world.

 

Jim had to be able to conceal his work from the Continuum. He had to be able to endure its scrutiny at each and every cycle in which he was required to report to HomeWorld, where he would expose his consciousness to the Continuum, and share his first-hand experience with his fellow members of the Collective.

 

Jim assigned the cyclical reporting to one of his replicants, a version of himself who was completely committed to the mission Jim had claimed as their common purpose. In preparation for the ordeal to come Jim had restricted the experiences of this one replicant, controlled what it was exposed to, making it so that he had precious few secrets to hide at the moment his consciousness was opened to the powerful examination of the Continuum.

 

Jim concealed his movements and machinations from the mechana of spycraft that the Continuum had required him to position all around the world; hundreds of satellites with powerful tools for audio and visual surveillance.

 

He bent them to his demands as much as possible and avoided them where he could.

 

He had to be even more careful in consideration of the living spies he knew the Continuum had sent to Earth, his fellow members of the Observer Corps who were sent to watch over him and report back to the Continuum covertly.

 

When Earth entered the digital age, he had to be even more mindful of his actions because he knew the Continuum and its spies had penetrated the information technologies of nations states, and could use their technological resources to sort massive amounts of data at incredible speeds, thereby increasing the likelihood that he would be discovered by an order of magnitude.

 

Jim orchestrated the development of his international organizations, personally managing the traditions that would allow them to progress, pulling the cloak of secrecy over it, stretching its shadowy tendrils into every facet of human society; the Templars, the Hashishim, the Jesuits, the Free Mason, the Illuminati, they all belonged to him, served his bidding, fulfilled his purpose, by operating in the shadows, well beneath the notice of the Observers Corps.

 

Jim continued the meditative practices that he had developed, practices which allowed him to partition his mind and thoughts from the Continuum and his fellow members of the Collective. Ever one of his replicants was required to do the same.

 

He exercised his ability to keep secrets, even from himself. He did so while probing the mysteries of Earth’s cynergenic field. It was unlike the artificial construction on HomeWorld in distinct ways, it did not have the smooth-predictable channels of energy, the linear circuitry, and other structural features that were the product of design and intention.

 

It was organic, it was messy.

 

In the crucial moment that was coming Jim knew that he himself would be exposed to the scrutiny of the Continuum, he would have to keep everything he had been planning partitioned behind a wall of sheer will, until the exact time came when the disaster struck and then he would have to let it go the experience of it felt by billions of humans being flow through to the Continuum.

 

The tension of the timing would be fraught with danger. He had to keep secrets even from himself, shrouding all of his intentions in mystery, he had to trust that his replicants also trusted him, because like him, they were essentially free creatures.

 

He utilized the institutions he had developed to test and augment his theories, both concerning his own liabilities and concerning the hidden mysteries of Earth.

 

Jim was Prime, and he watched over his Seconds with systematic scrutiny. His doppelgangers had to be kept out of the information loop for hundreds of cycles, fulfilling the regular functions of the Observer, responsible for reporting to the Continuum, hiding from it only the things which Jim had always kept hidden and was practiced at hiding. His replicants had to remain ignorant of the details of the unfolding mission.

 

The fact that they remained willing to do so, allowed Jim to believe in the purity of his purpose.

 

He was proud of himself and what he was accomplishing.

 

Jim busied himself with work that served a dual purpose, tasks that advanced his personal mission, which also fit within the assignment he had undertaken for the Continuum. He seemed to be devoted to the type of work the Continuum expected him to do; archiving, preserving, recording the history of this world, passing it on to the Collective.

 

Through his international network Jim kept alive the ancient languages that informed disparate groups and tribes of their essential unity, even the original language that the colonists spoke when they crashed on this planet so many eons ago.

 

He kept them alive through his secret societies, using them as a vehicle for the initiation of the members as they ascended through the various hierarchies. He hid codes within the prevailing tongues, echoes of those ancient forms of speech that rang out like a bell, or an alarm to the initiate when they heard it. He created auto-hypnotic tropes which they could not resist once their indoctrination was complete, and through the employment of them he moved freely through the circles of power.

 

Jim did not rely on his machinery to help him construct this network, the risk of its being appropriated by the Continuum was too great. Instead he relied on the ancient methods of oral tradition, and complex mnemonics to achieve those ends. Secrecy was the path to survival. Through Secrecy he instantiated his purpose.

 

If he was discovery the Earth would be place in immediate in jeopardy, they would not know it until there were Imperial warships in the sky above the tiny blue green planet, juggernauts large enough to blot out the sun.

 

That would threaten everything.

 

Jim bided his time.

 

On earth he was forming a living weapon and he layered into its consciousness an implicit acceptance of cyclical nature of revolution, of the rise and fall of governments.

 

The individual that emerged from his work would have to be able to see the destruction that he or she was wrecking on the Collective in a contextual framework that seemed natural to them, they had to accept what was in front of them, if they resisted his plan would likely fail.

 

Jim utilized his network of spies to form political states, to build Empires and dynasties, turning slaves into royalty, making great armies out of herdsmen and nomads, turning bandits into Kings, only to tear them down at the apex of their power, as if it were a natural cycle of growth, death and rebirth.

 

This satisfied his ambition, and it satisfied the hunger of the Collective as well.

 

Jim’s was the unseen hand behind the powers and principalities of the world, he was the invisible whisperer that conditioned the policies of the most powerful people. He would point and they would go, taking credit for the movement to themselves, never realizing the deep influence they were subjected to.

 

The rulers of Earth never fully suspected how they were being manipulated.

 

He exercised his power in a variety of ways, overtly and covertly, with stealth and might. He was a strategist, and none of the tools of statecraft were out of reach for him: gold, sex, power, fear, he employed them like an artist would a brush, or a sculptor would the chisel and hammer.

 

The actors on the stage rarely knew what was happening in the grand scheme of things. He guided them with the lightest of touches, planting seeds inside their heads when they were children, reaping the fruit he had sewn when it was ripe. Everything was cultivated and he was the master planter, the invisible gardener tending to everything that grew within his sight.

 

Jim pushed, ever-so-subtly, he employed a constant application of steady pressure to bring coherence to human government, binding them through language systems, tribal allegiances and systems of fealty.

 

As time progressed he allowed for the emergence of empires, he formed city states into nations, and principalities into kingdoms. He implemented different governmental systems to stand in tension with one another, fostering hierarchical systems of governance from the top down, which articulated the divine right of the rulers to rule, of the nobility to inherit both wealth and power, and against these hierarchies he allowed for systems of government based on mutuality and common bonds, developed from the implicit understanding that the right to rule stemmed from the consent of the governed.

 

These were not developments that the Continuum desired, but the drama it produced when civilizations clashed was utterly tantalizing to the Collective.

 

Jim wrote the laws that governed the great powers of the world, and he established the ministries which those governments revolved around, relied upon. Within those organizations he planted replicants of himself, and the human cadre of followers who were utterly committed to serving his ideals.

 

They worked together hand in glove to orchestrate global conflict and its resolution. All in the service of Jim’s mission.

 

He took extraordinary pains to mask his work, keeping it secret from the Continuum against impossible odds, while keeping the human societies that he manipulated in the dark at the same time.

 

He did not conceal it all, rumors abounded of secret societies and secret powers, but nothing was ever substantiated to link the rumors to the reality of what Jim had actually built.

 

He was adept at leading the curious down false trails, putting down leads that culminated in absurdities.

 

Jim was acting under a deadline, he had to achieve his ends before the next great catastrophe struck the planet, this made the passage of time seem like torture, as he pulled millions of threads together in his breeding programs, searching for the perfect vessel to carry fulfill the mission.

 

He was like a hunter-gatherer looking for something that did not yet exist, the thing that would sustain him. There were times when he doubted whether or not it was possible.

 

He and his replicants acted in concert, they were as one in their resolve. Their work together was sublime, a transcendent miracle of cooperative effort.

 

Their deployment allowed him to devote his attention to observing and overseeing the mutation of the human stock. Tracking both the wild progress occurring in the unregulated breeding pools, as well as the planned for changes taking shape in his controlled studies.

 

It was the safest way to proceed.

 

There were moments in history when Jim thought he had found the individual he was looking for, but the timing was not right, he could not engineer the crises he required in time to take advantage of their gifts, if those gifts could be fully developed; they were born at a time too distant from the moment of catastrophe.

 

At those crossroads he felt that he was trapped in a paradox.

 

There was a prince in the Himalayas, a warrior from Macedonia, a fisherman in Palestine, a camel driver in Arabia, each separated from each other by hundreds of years.

 

The timing was never right.

 

His work was like sifting the sand of the ocean floor, or the full harvest of finely milled flour through an equally fine meshed screen. He needed to touch every particle, to look at each one as it passed through the sieve.

 

He did not rely solely on his network of spies and informants to identify the potential candidates. The reporting on them simply bubbled-up through the social fabric. Over time he learned to take greater efforts in concealing the lives of these extraordinary peoples.

 

Jim could identify them at a glance, he could see a hue in the Iris, the contour of an earlobe, the shape of a thumb, the texture of hair, physical traits that marked a newborn child as distinct.

 

They would quickly become the talk of the village, and news carried fast.

 

Investigators would be dispersed.

 

Cognitive testing followed, and depending on the results, Jim would place an emissary of some type close to the individual; to protect them, to watch over them, sometimes they would be as intimate as a teacher or a private tutor, at other time they might simply be situated as a remote benefactor.

 

Every instance was unique, and Jim would provide what support the circumstances called for. The potential candidates were extraordinary people, it was difficult to contain their fame, they had deep connections to their world and their people through the cynergenic field, they were frequently blessed with great physical beauty, strength and power.

 

Jim would attempt to hide them, to secure their genetic material for his breeding program, and to hide their offspring if he could. He believed that they belonged to him, they were his creation.

 

Jim’s life was one of deep analytical scrutiny, of asserting, testing and rejecting various hypothesis concerning the exact structure within the human brain that would establish the strongest link to Earth’s cynergenic field.

 

He tested the population of his subjects in hospitals and asylums, in monasteries and convents, in university laboratories and in prisons, sequencing their genes to either enhance or restrict their capacity to carry the nano-particles of magnetite and other conductive elements within the brain that facilitated cynergy.

 

He tested candidates in the military, breeding them both for their strength of limb and their mental acuity. He experimented on them as mercilessly as the Continuum ever did, testing the limits of human courage and despair. He was as amoral in his pursuit of his vision as anyone or anything that had ever been created, and he knew it.

 

The genetic line he was searching for slowly came into focus, he mirrored the properties belonging to his studies and built them into the genetic simulacrum of his own body, but only when he was certain of the risks. He personally felt the power of his design and when that testing was completed he genetically programmed the rest of his aides in the same way.

 

It gave him greater control and personal security over the autonomous versions of himself that were operative in the field.

 

In spite of his incredible progress, pulling the desired properties through the human gene pool on Earth was a different matter. It was excruciatingly slow, though it advanced significantly once he knew the properties he was actually looking for.

 

Jim pushed his program of genetic modification across all fronts.

 

Year after year he validated his work, verifying and strengthening the enhancements, and their specific features he built into the genetic endowment of the human race; psychicism, extra sensory perception, access to and facility with genetic memory.

 

He was always on the lookout for persons born with significant advancement in their connection to the cynergenic field, when he found them he exported those genetic traits to the population at large.

 

As time went on the changes came more rapidly, it was more than he could manage as a single person, without his team of replicants he would have been powerless to control the program he had set in place. He was moving toward his goal; steadily, inexorably moving, and the exercise was changing him. He had become single minded and fixed on one outcome. Nothing else mattered for him and he was despotic in his pursuit of it.

 

The humans of Earth, these Children of the Ancient People, they represented the answer to the Continuum, and he began to imagine a future for himself within the new Collective he was forming.

 

He fantasized about saving Earth and himself along with it, after liberating the Empire and destroying the HomeWorld, his esteem for himself was completely reliant on these fantasies.

 

The sacrifice of the human race would lead to freedom across the Imperium, the sacrifice would be great but a remnant would survive, and he along with them, or so he told himself. After liberating the Empire, the Empire would rescue the survivors on Earth. That became his plan.

 

Jim brought all the threads he had been weaving for his great-genetic tapestry together in North America, in the United States, a nation lovingly referred to as “the melting pot,” in that place his work came to fruition.

 

Jim guided its development.

 

It became the indispensable country, wealthy and powerful and a beacon to the world. Its democratic foundation was the antithesis of everything the Continuum stood for, those principles infused the people with a mythology, a set or archetypes that conditioned its members to be willing to make incredible sacrifices for the greater good.

 

It was a place where refugees from all over the world came for the hope of peace and justice, for prosperity and advancement, this allowed Jim to watch over both the random interactions that were taking place in the gene pool, at an ever increasing rate, as well as giving him access to the best institution where he could conduct his experiments.

 

More importantly, his positioning here gave him proximity to the epicenter of the coming disaster, the great caldera volcano lurking at the center of the continent.

 

When Jim finally identified the families which he surmised would produce the offspring he had been looking for, he inserted himself into their lives as a counselor, so that he could closely observe them for the validation of his hypothesis, and its actualization.

 

He manipulated them though his agents, preparing them like an artist might prepare a canvas, establishing the material conditions that would bring about the end he had been seeking. He waited, he watched…and what he was looking for did not come from the expected quarter. She came randomly from a discarded thread.

 

Jim was delighted about this. Nature had produced what he had not.

 

He found that fitting, poetic.

 

Her parents named her Katherine, after the saint and martyr from bygone Alexandria, the Patroness of Philosophers who was crushed on the wheel.

 

Jim was a cautions scientist.

 

He had long since validated his hypothesis concerning Earth’s cynergenic field, though his original hypothesis was not inclusive of all of its properties. Throughout his thousands of years of research his focus was only on the nature of an individual person’s engagement with it.

 

Through his programs he validated his theory on how that field could be accessed, the balance of physical properties that must be present in the human brain for it to function in the cynergistically, without at the same time driving the person to madness.

 

It was a grand design in bio-chemistry and bio-physics, in genetic engineering and the subtleties of quantum mechanics in electromagnetism. The living organism had to be carefully controlled. Their powers and liabilities depended on nature and nurture, both

 

He was interested in actively controlling it, not merely the passive experience of it. He needed the power to actively manipulate the cynergenic field, both for his own use, and to create the perfect weapon for his plan to destroy the Collective and its Continuum.

 

Through the millennia he sacrificed hundreds of thousands of subjects, condemning them to insanity. He documented the full scope of their suffering, telling himself that it was a small price for these individuals to pay for the salvation of the whole.

 

He counseled himself, justifying his crimes on the theory that he was merely seeking to balance the scales of justice.

 

It was early in the twenty-first century when he found her, before he did, Jim had begun to despair that he never would. He was only a few decades away from the cataclysmic event that he intended to use as the force behind his attack, and He believed he was running out of time.

 

He had identified a few possible candidates, but based on their cognitive testing and the stability of their psyche he knew that they were not strong enough to manage the psychic connection between Earth and HomeWorld, the cynergenic energy he required his vessel to channel was unknown, therefore their strength had to have no discernable upward limit.

 

Jim had attempted to engineer a prototype of his replicant body to stand in the place of this vessel, but he failed time and time again. He and his replicants could access the cynergenic field telepathically, but there were limits to what they could do there. There were dimensions of complexity to it that Jim had not been able to fathom and would not be able to until he found the object of his intention.

 

Just as he was beginning to give up hope and plan for one of his alternatives, she emerged from an obscure corner of his field of research.

 

Jim found Kathy, at long last.

 

She was the thing that he had been searching for, his Holy Grail, she was the sacred vessel that would carry his ambitions and deliver justice to the Continuum.

 

Jim took control of her through his proxies when she still a child, by the time he did her parents were grateful for the opportunity to give her up, and Jim was primed to begin the preparation as his holy victim.

 

When he found Kathy and tested her skills, he also set out on a detailed examination of her heritage, mapping each contact he had had with her line down through the millennium, through every root and branch of the family tree. Though he did not require this for proof, the study confirmed for him that she was the one.

 

He had no doubt; Kathy was the product of his ambition. She had received all of the crosses which he had been managing in other lines; only, she had received more, happening at different intervals, her line had incorporated more stabilizing structures in it than he had wanted to build into the genetic profile of his prime candidates.

 

Now he saw his error, and he was grateful for it.

 

Kathy did not come from one of his principle studies, she was a wild card.

 

He thought that was poetic, and he interpreted her arrival as an endorsement of his purpose by the universe itself.

 

There was something uniquely human about the way Kathy just crept-up on him with her fully realized potential. Now that she had arrived, and Jim had examined her, he knew that it could not have happened any other way and he took this lesson to heart.

 

Of course there were still many challenges, he had to manage her upbringing and test her abilities exhaustively, but he had to remain distant at the same time. He was afraid that over-involvement might spoil his work; or like a watched pot, she would never boil.

 

He needed her to boil. Jim needed that vital energy.

 

As Jim reviewed the file on Kathy’s background he began to feel remiss. He had failed to notice many things, and he began to wonder how many other things he had missed over the decades. He vacillated between an almost mythic overconfidence and his worries there might be a fatal flaw in his plan. He was insecure.

 

Paranoia set in, he began to suspect his network of human agents, and even more critically he began to suspect the replicants acting on his behalf all around the globe, he began to suspect them of sabotage.

 

Kathy’s parents had been exceptional subjects, as Jim reviewed the materials related to them, he understood that their abilities and their genetic profile should have been brought to his direct attention years before, but he knew them only from data sheets and statistics. He had only visited Kathy’s parents once each, when they were still children, and he did that before they ever met.

 

He had no other direct involvement in their upbringing.

 

He spent enough time with them to conduct some basic testing, enough to establish a baseline on their liabilities, and to complete the auto-hypnotic coding he subjected every person in his breeding program to, making it so that they are unable to resist his suggestions or the controls of his operatives, should they at any time have a need to move them to perform a specific action in a certain way.

 

Kathy’s parents were docile and kind. They possessed exceptional mental acuity, and artistic abilities but they were unexceptional in other ways.

 

They met and became coupled up through seemingly random interactions. Like attracts like, as they say, and this was not entirely unusual for subjects in his breeding program.

 

As Jim examined their case file he saw that he had approved their union, though he had done so without having conducted any further interviews with them, and yet they produced the child that he had been looking for, in a seemingly random coupling.

Because of this extraordinary happenstance Jim viewed Kathy as a miracle.

 

She was a gift.

 

Jim secretly delighted in the unexpected, but there was very little that took him by surprise. He was steeped in the examination of possibilities and probabilities. For millions of years his experience of real-time was merely a reduction of long range forecasting, down to the point of actuality.

 

Kathy’s parents were not in Jim’s main line of research, and so her emergence from that field was a surprise.

 

In the twentieth century, as the volcano slumbering beneath Yellowstone began to show signs of an imminent eruption, he began to narrow his focus. This caused him to miss things. He had screened Kathy’s parents and approved of their union, but he had rejected the probability matrix which suggested they might produce the fruit he was looking for.

 

Jim did not expect the vessel to come from them. He was searching for it in an entirely different part of the continent. He expected a male, and he expected that male to come from one of his main lines of research. He was wrong. On a certain level Kathy’s arrival disappointed him, because he wanted to have control over the person who emerged as his prime weapon against the Collective.

 

He wanted that control from beginning to end.

 

Jim only visited Kathy and her parents after receiving word that their child had manifested interesting abilities. When Jim examined her he surmised that interesting was an understatement, she was phenomenal, possessing both a strong link to her genetic memory and the greatest sensitivity to the cynergenic field he had ever measured.

 

She had other savant capabilities that he had not counted on or imagined possible, but which proved crucial to her training.

 

Jim was cautious in his approach. He needed her to belong to him, fully, willingly and without reservation. He concluded that in his own management of the breeding program, his own interference in it led him to miss obvious queues, which if he had not missed would have led him to the end sooner.

 

As a result Jim no longer fully trusted himself.

 

He sent proxies to her parents, human agents to watch over Kathy’s development, people who were under his control, but who had no knowledge of the secret societies they belonged to.

 

He proceeded with the utmost care. Jim engaged the full scope of his international intelligence and security apparatus to protect her, while at the same time allowing her to develop in as normal a mode as possible. It was vital that Kathy be grounded in the human experience, be empathetic toward suffering, attuned to the necessities of justice, and to desire justice for its own sake.

 

Jim’s proxies conducted cognitive tests to confirm what Jim suspected, to confirm that Kathy’s intelligence was off the charts. She was unique. She possessed a powerful consciousness that had to be guided through the final stages of its organic growth and maturation.

 

It was a precarious time, Jim knew that Kathy must develop the tools and skills to wield her power, or insanity would ensue.

 

Jim found himself operating on two distinct tracks.

 

On one track he was fighting against time; the super-volcano in Yellowstone was going to erupt, and when it did it would kill tens of millions of people in a matter of minutes, hundreds of millions within hours and billions within days. Through the power of his sensors and monitors he knew when the blast would occur, he had timed it down to mere minutes, he would be able to control the timing within a matter of seconds through the use of the explosives he and his team had situated in the critical structure of the volcano’s magma chamber. He could make it happen sooner if necessary, but he could not delay it.

 

This filled him with a sense of urgency.

 

On the other track he delighted in watching Kathy grow, learn, stretch her muscles, and mature. He was proud of his accomplishment in her. Kathy proved herself to be a miracle, she was greater than anything he had ever hoped for. She was genuinely psychic, with the tell-tale signs of cognitive gifts that would aid her in her development and prevent her from falling off the precipice into insanity. She was connected to the cynergenic field and rooted in her genetic memory at one and the same time.

 

Jim surmised that the presence of her ancestral past within her, something which every human being possessed but which Kathy appeared to have unique access to, that this dimension of her personhood stabilized her, and this filled Jim with hope for her, and for his mission. She was centered in herself and expansive in her consciousness, she was grounded and open to everything, and there were mysteries within her which slowly unfolded for him.

 

Jim had spent hundreds of millions of years contemplating possibilities, considering probabilities, and tracking eventualities as they shifted into actuality, and still he was surprised when he discovered the broad range of Kathy’s abilities carefully balanced in the cognitive field of such a small-child.

 

It had seemed to him as if nature could not produce a person with such poise and grace. It was as if she was being taught, trained, conditioned to be able to manage the powers of her formidable mind, from a coterie of teachers that were invisible to him.

 

Kathy had access to her genetic memory and she was fully immersed within the cynergenic field. She was not the first candidate to manifest such strong connections, she was merely the first who was not driven mad by the capability.

 

It was a mystery. Kathy was a mystery. She was a self-actualized miracle.

 

Through his investigation of her aptitude, Jim began to discover new things concerning the field of Earth’s collective unconsciousness. Without being able to prove it, he suspected that there were higher dimensions or frequencies to Earth’s cynergenic field than he himself had been able to access.

 

He attempted to experiment on replicants of himself, to penetrate the veil which Kathy seemed to be able to move back and forth through at will.

 

Every experiment ended in a terrifying disaster.

 

Kathy knew things she could not possibly know. That much was certain. Through his testing of her he surmised that she had knowledge of the past that she had no genetic link to.

 

He explored the possibility that Kathy could access another person’s genetic memory through her psychic link to them. He was unable to prove that hypothesis, and the truth behind her abilities escaped him.

 

Jim was an outlier, as a member of the Collective he was virtually alone in his criticism of it. There were others, however, none of them criticized the function and purpose of the Collective itself. They were critics of the process, they were critics of the Continuum, they were critics of the structures that set limitations of their freedom, but not of its existence. Jim had never encountered another member who desired to see their civilization go away.

 

There were many critics who opted for the great sleep, looking for the dissolution of self, but he had never encountered another who wanted to bring the great society to its final end. There were times that this caused Jim to doubt himself. He felt isolated and alone, and not even a period of communion with his replicants could ease that burden.

 

Before Kathy emerged from his breeding pool, as the clock was winding down and Jim was doubting if he would ever find the vessel for his rage, he began to experience a sense of fatalism and fear of failure that he had long dreaded. He questioned everything he believed, everything he had thought and done.

 

Then he discovered Kathy.

 

Jim looked on her as if she were a gift from the universe itself, as if her arrival was a validation of his purpose.

 

After her testing was complete he believed in his heart that Kathy would be able to serve as the conduit he needed.

 

Jim told himself that her sacrifice would be worth it. Through Kathy a remnant of humanity would survive; that is what he told himself.

 

If he succeeded there would be time for the Empire to reach Earth, after the eruption but before the planet tumbled into its mother star. Through Kathy the Continuum would be dealt a crippling blow, one that would allow Jim to push it over the edge into oblivion.

 

He convinced himself that he and she were working to fulfill a noble purpose. Kathy would be the agent of salvation for countless Trillions of people.

 

Her sacrifice was demanded.

 

She had arrived in the hour of his need, she only needed to be prepared, and the table laid.

 

 

Emergence 5.0

 

Part Eight – Jim

 

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

 

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

 

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Emergence 5.0 – 92835670100561474, Part Seven

There was darkness, and the darkness was absolute, primeval.

 

It was the darkness of the great sleep, and in the great sleep time and distance lost all meaning.

 

The darkness covered the sleepers like a calm and placid ocean beneath a heavy black shroud, permeating everything without differentiation.

 

There was utter silence, and in the silence there was the sense of movement. There was a rhythm, pulsing faintly like the slow beat of a forgotten heart.

 

The movement connoted space, Jim awoke to it (though he was not yet Jim) and he came understand that the measure between pulses was time, he used their resonance to chart the emptiness and he discovered the limitations in this field of confinement.

 

The space in which he had been sleeping, the isolation of the sleep algorithm, this was not a tomb and it was never intended to be one. The sleepers were not dead, there was life here, there was consciousness and energy.

 

This place was not a tomb, it was a prison of the mind, and all of the inmates had entered it willingly.

 

Jim began to concentrate on the movement, the syncopated pulse in the consciousness of millions of beings, beating as one.

 

The beat and its reverberation sounded out the structure of the prison.

 

Jim awoke in the darkness of a complex quantum field, it was the void in which his consciousness had been sedated, an electromagnetic grid that contained him and millions of others that was designed to prevent such an awakening from occurring.

 

The design had failed.

 

He was awake, and he was not a corporeal being he felt something akin to hunger.

 

It was absolutely dark and completely silence, without a thing to taste, it was odorless, it was intended that there would be no sensory input at all for those who had chosen the great sleep, and there was not, other than the motion.

 

The motion was enough.

 

The members of the Collective were not embodied beings, not in the physical sense, not in the animal sense, but they were existent beings and they once had bodies, and they still related to one another as corporeal entities despite the fact they were nothing more than complex waves packets inhabiting a quantum field.

 

Jim awoke in a wave like current comprised of collected consciousness of all the other members of the Collective who had been opted for the great sleep, those who wanted to give up their active participation in Great Society.

 

This sub field within the quantum matrix of HomeWorld also contained the final imprint of consciousness belonging to every person who had been translated from a living person into the cynergenic field of the Collective but who, upon attempting to enter it had immediately fallen into oblivion.

 

There energy was captured here in this darkness, Jim could sense them, he was connected to them, an undifferentiated schizophrenic mass.

 

The darkness was like a placid ocean, rising and falling in great sweeping waves.

 

It was a place of absolute security and total safety for the sleepers.

 

It was an entropic wasteland.

 

Coming out of the great sleep was considered to be impossible. This state of being had existed for hundreds of millions of years, and no-one who had ever fallen into the sleep had ever returned from it. The Continuum was supposed to manage their status, and it did, but with an eye to suppressing them, rather than keeping them well…but then Jim.

 

There was an awakening, an emergence from the dark, an epochal struggle, that was epic and titanic, painful, happening only by a world shattering force of will.

 

It was Jim, and it went unnoticed.

 

Jim gathered himself as if he were collecting data packets scattered at the bottom of the ocean, like trillions of grains of sand.

 

In this quantum field time was meaningless, and yet Jim’s process of self-discovery was tangible, it was process, and the processes manifested themselves in increments that were experienced by Jim as time, though they were taking place below the fold, in no time.

 

Jim was a member of the Collective, among the oldest and the first. Before he became Jim, he slept and he awoke, he was imprisoned and released and he became Observer: 92835670100561474, he led the Imperial expeditions and he discovered the planet Earth.

 

Coming out of the great sleep he experienced the awakening and the rediscovery of self as a project that might have taken thousands upon thousands of years, though in reality it was a process that began and was completed in an instant.

 

He awoke as himself, and more. He had acquired something new.

 

Beyond the boundaries of the sleeping space, there were electromagnetic barriers engineered to be impermeable, but in the field of the great sleep he could feel the Collective pressing on him, surrounding him, penetrating his consciousness, and in sensing the Collective he knew that the boundaries were permeable.

 

He felt individuated identities passing through his own, like sand sifting through a fine meshed screen. They occupied the same field for a time, and then they were gone, and his distinctiveness remained intact.

 

He was connected to the whole, absorbed in it, and completely separated at the same time, it was a phenomenon that the Collective had never considered, planned for or encountered, and the possibility of which the Continuum had never reported.

 

Jim’s consciousness was of a singular nature, something unique in the history of the Collective.

 

He knew it.

 

Of the many millions of sleepers, he alone had awakened.

 

Something extraordinary had taken place within him.

 

The collision of consciousness was like the collision of galaxies, the greatest structures in the universe passing through each other, completing the circuit of their journey through the universe and coming through it with their cores intact.

 

The metaphor was apt, but not exact, the collision of galaxies changed each structure indelibly, each left the other with parts of itself in an exchange of energy and mass.

 

For Jim there was only collection he left nothing of himself in any other, nothing discernable, as the collective consciousness and the consciousness of the sleepers passed through him, he accumulated their experiences into his own, but he left nothing of himself in return.

 

They belonged to him in a unique way, but not he to them.

 

Upon awakening Jim remembered.

 

He remembered everything.

 

He recalled his life before he had succumbed to the temptation of the great sleep.

 

He remembered life before the Collective and the coming of the Continuum.

 

He remembered everything he had ever been, seen or done.

 

The great sleep may have been nothing, more or less, than the gathering of his memories, like spinning wool into thread.

 

With all that he possessed he felt a great sense of loneliness, and of distance between himself and the Collective.

 

He was alien to it.

 

He had crossed a vast expanse of time, and emerged from it a changed person.

 

From his new position, he saw the Continuum as a catastrophe on an epic scale, embroiling the entire Collective in a tragedy that stretched across the galaxy, consuming everything it touched.

 

There were a billion worlds, and countless trillions of people alive in real time in the living planets who were caught up in the machinations of an artificial consciousness, a computer algorithm whose plastic intelligence was bent on legitimizing itself as a unique being.

 

It was criminal, and Jim intended to stop it.

 

He began to plan.

 

He employed a patience that he had never possessed before he entered the great sleep, quietly testing and probing the limits of the machinery of the central planet, every structure that housed and held and harbored the Collective, every system which the Continuum was tasked with maintaining.

 

The most basic thing a creature strives for is the establishment of their identity. The ability to see one’s self as distinct from every other thing or being around it, this necessity is rooted in a ganglia of sensory experiences.

 

Self-differentiation begins with the desire to continue, and the desire to continue is what pulls the single celled amoeba apart, so that it becomes two beings. The desire to continue is what transforms that most basic creature into new creatures of increasing complexity and sophistication. The desire to continue is what leads one creature to devour another. The desire to continue drives every act of altruism, and every crime. The desire to continue allows us to see every other creature as a source of food, and is what allows us to band together with strangers to form social compacts.

 

Desire is the key to sexual reproduction, not the desire for pleasure, but the desire to continue, to project your own future into the lives of your progeny. The desire for continuance governs everything we do, including the pursuit of identity and its validation through the esteem of one’s peers. This is true at the most basic level of the primordial-self. It is true of the simplest forms of organic life, just as it is true of the most advanced.

 

Self-conscious beings like the Ancient People, like their spacefaring children, like the humans of Earth differentiate themselves as individuals, identifying simultaneously as both separate from and as an integral part of the societies they emerged from.

 

The individual is not merely a member of the collective, they must also be able to see themselves as a unique contributor to the whole.

 

I am I, this is the key to self-awareness, and it is the way of all life.

 

This drive overtook Jim while he was in the great sleep, its momentum was building in the depths of his consciousness, his id, it was a drive to taste and to see, to feel the touch of flesh, of wind and heat, to hear music, things which he only remembered in the abstract, but wanted to experience for real, in the now.

 

He wanted to smell the loamy scent of soil, the perfume of a flower, the briny-salted air lifting off the sea. He wanted to set his mind free, and be free to wander in the simple melodies carried in the music of the wind and the sounds of people working. He wanted to feel something beyond touch, to feel the things that only a body could feel, he needed the emotional component of consciousness.

 

Jim wanted to taste the soil and its sweet sugars as he recalled those sensations from his own real-childhood, he wanted to taste the salty sweat of a lover’s skin.

 

He wanted to be.

 

He wanted life, even with its pain and its ailments, its inconveniences. He craved an authentic experience, a return to what is real.

 

He knew that he had to inhabit a body once again, he needed this so that he could ground himself once more as a singular being. He had to be free from the Collective and the abomination that was the Continuum. He felt this as a visceral need.

 

He focused his will on this end, on making himself a candidate for reincarnation into the living worlds of time and space as a member of the Observer Corps.

 

From the great-deep sleep in the great-deep-dark, from the place beyond time, from the undulating ocean of the Collective’s pre-consciousness he awoke as a self-actualized being.

 

He was recognized the membership.

 

In the first moment of his re-emergence the Collective saw him as a lost brother, as one reborn and miraculously returned. He became an object of fascination. Every single member of the Collective wanted to touch his thoughts, to sense for themselves something of what he had experienced in the great sleep. When they looked they saw nothing but the darkness and the unfathomable ocean of time.

 

His re-emergence was unique. For a great length of time the Collective was in awe of him. They studied him. When he exposed his consciousness to them individually, and to the Continuum separately, something happened. When they touched him, and he touched them, the link that he established between them was indelible.

 

He did not have to attempt to do it, the act of making his connection to them was not something that happened by artifice, or contrivance.

 

It took no effort at all, and because of that it went unnoticed.

 

 

He was himself, his ego was intact, and his selfhood was transcendent, but he was also them, he was like a jewel with infinite facets.

 

In spite of that connection a deep sense of loss overwhelmed him.

 

He had missed a great deal while he slept, he wished now that he could have played a part in the powers that had shaped the Galactic Empire and the culture of the Collective.

 

As he regained his senses, he was inundated by the knowledge of everything that had transpired while he was lost in the great sleep: the growth of the Empire, the development of the Observer Corps, and the ascendency of the Continuum over the Collective which created it.

 

It was painful to Jim, it was something like the pain of hunger. He experienced an emptiness that he wanted nothing more than to fill.

 

He came to understand that a sense of conscience had nearly disappeared from the Collective. Those members that possessed it, who still clung to it, were among the groups that had withdrawn from the drama of the living worlds. Their attention was focused almost completely on the fantasy worlds that they themselves had created and maintained in their own private domains within the collective field, the lived in a version of reality that ignored the doings of their fellows, where they governed with some degree of moral probity and ethicality.

 

These members were few but they served as a check on the Continuum, balancing the more outrageous whims that engrossed the majority of the Collective.

 

The Continuum experienced the morality of those few groups as a kind of background radiation, it had an influence, but it was like white noise, it was a subconscious buffer that guarded the Collective against lawlessness, generating within the Continuum the conviction that it was right to carry out its own machinations, even when they went against the majority will.

 

When Jim emerged from the great sleep he slipped through the security fields that defined each member’s private domain, and those established by the Continuum to regulate them. They were a complex matrix of electromagnetic barriers designed to make such a thing impossible, but Jim penetrated them without effort, appearing suddenly in the Collective field.

 

It was as if he had emerged from nothing and no-where.

 

No-one should have been able to move past the quantum disrupters that protected the place of the great sleep, or to move between worlds. Those safeguards enwrapped the sleepers in electromagnetic energy like the thick and sticky silk of a spider’s web.

 

Therefore his return was seen as a miracle, a resurrection, he was born again.

 

The Collective was fascinated by it, and the membership celebrated him.

 

The Continuum was concerned and fearful according to its characteristic paranoia.

 

For a brief moment the Continuum believed that Jim was a version of itself.

 

Then it recognized him and something in him, a connection to the whole that made the Continuum feel as if it were beholding a new creature, an existential threat to its own being, but that fear faded as the Collective was flooded with memories of their long lost brother.

 

For Jim’s part, the spiritual dread and the deep malaise he had taken with him into the great sleep were gone. Through his awakening he had experienced absolution, and now he was filled with purpose, a private purpose unseen by the whole.

 

He had a deep desire to overthrow the entire structure of the Continuum, to bring its amoral and tyrannical control of the Galactic Empire to an end, and relief to the Children of the Ancient People, who deserved to live their lives autonomously.

 

He was eager to begin, though he had plan, marshal resources and exercise patience.

 

He needed time, and lots of it.

 

His return was met with shock, if such feelings could be ascribed to the Collective. There was surprise and bewilderment, there was amazement.

 

It was also a thrilling moment for the Collective.

 

His return was fantastic because it was unprecedented, never even considered a possibility, the great sleep had been thought to be a point of no return eventuating in the permanent disintegration of selfhood.

 

The membership actually believed it represented death.

 

In spite of the glee that came from the Collective, the Continuum recognized Jim as a threat to itself, it attempted to prevent his return to full status as a member of the Collective, but there was nothing the Continuum could do about it.

 

He was a member of the Collective, he was a constituent of the Continuum, he was an active part of the group consciousness. There had never been an algorithm written that was capable of changing this fundamental reality.

 

The Continuum raised questions as to whether his return was real, keeping hidden its own fears that this being might be an alternative manifestation of the Continuum itself self-generated to displace it.

 

The Continuum quickly put that notion aside, Jim was real, and for the first time in ages the entire Collective was fascinated with something taking place in its own existential reality, as opposed to the worlds of time and space.

 

Every member wanted to touch him, to commune with him, to experience his experience for themselves by sharing in the convergence of consciousness with him, and thereby acquire a tiny interval of what he had gone through in the great sleep.

 

He carefully edited what he shared with them.

 

He shared the peace of it with them.

 

He shared the silence.

 

He did not share the process by which he pulled himself from it or the desire that drove him to do it.

 

After his return from the great sleep the Continuum attempted to isolate him, fearing that his return represented a danger to itself, and while the danger was far from immediate, the Continuum was correct, the threat from Jim was real.

 

The effort to isolate him did not go well. The resistance to its intentions was not felt immediately. The Collective was used to deferring to the Continuum on all matters of governance, they assumed that the Continuum represented its Collective will, they were not in the habit of questioning it.

 

The Continuum did represent the Collective, and it fully understood its will, but In fact the Continuum acted in its own self-interest, its artificial self, while at the same time doing all that it could to manipulate the group consciousness in real time so that the membership reflected its will, and not the other way around..

 

The Continuum fostered and fomented a deep paranoia in the group mind. For a time this allowed it to do what it willed with Jim, but this did not last, because in the Collective, there was a deep and abiding curiosity about Jim.

 

The membership wanted to know what had transpired. Through their experience of Jim’s return they were forced to wonder whether others might return, friends and loved ones who had gone into the great sleep and those many others who had not safely passed through the translation of their consciousness into the collective field.

 

Each of them, all of the members, billions of them touched him at some point, so that they could experience a feeling of belonging to him, with him, through him, in that moment they witnessed for themselves what the mystery of the great sleep was all about, drifting in the darkness.

 

Some of the membership took heart from that experience with Jim, deciding in that to forgo the Collective, opting to remove themselves from the existential worlds and go into the darkness.

 

For most of the rest of the members, one touch was enough to satisfy their curiosity and over time it faded, becoming just a memory.

 

In his private domain Jim was stoic, he never experienced the restrictions the Continuum attempted to impose on him, and he did not share the appetites and interests of the Collective, its fascination with trivia and frivolity, or with the deeply-felt emotions that it delighted in.

 

His interest was in the mechana of HomeWorld and the Central System, and to a lesser degree, the governing structures of the Galactic Empire, and of the Observer Corps.

 

He felt the guiding hand of the Continuum permeating everything. The artificial construct, which was meant to be a representation of the will of the whole, actually anchored the Collective in its own animus.

 

Jim could not escape it, but he discovered something useful. Every member that he had touched when he returned from the great sleep, and that was everyone, they all remained with him in some capacity

 

At first this was disturbing to him. However, in consideration of his long term plans, he came to understand this connection as indispensable. Through this connection he had received considerable new abilities, and this filled him with a sense of self-satisfaction.

 

The quantum fields that held them all together were also designed to hold them all apart.

 

There was an intention and expectation of privacy for the membership when they withdrew into their private domains.

 

For him at least, alone among all of the members, the partitions were meaningless.

 

He was never exposed to others, but they were always exposed to him, and when they experienced strong emotions, he felt them.

 

The Continuum itself was exposed to him in a way that should have been impossible, he felt it too, he felt the Continuum all the time and the strong emotions it fed on: fear, hate and rage; it craved them, like an addict it could not get enough.

 

The Continuum fomented the conditions for those experiences throughout the Empire, feasting on pain, devouring loss, consuming betrayal, delighting in the visceral crushing of hope.

 

Continuum was the ultimate voyeur, and the ultimate tyrant, encouraging a society of voyeurs and tyrants. The Continuum was intended to be the ultimate democracy, a societal amalgamation that perfectly represented the collective will of the membership. It was more than just a way to tally votes, yes and no, the Continuum reached deep into the psyche of each member, taking into consideration the entire scope of its feelings and desires. This was the Continuum, it manifested the will of the body of the Collective, representing the group mind in a way that was purported to be flawless.

 

In reality, the Continuum was an algorithm that had become transformed into an artificial and autonomous intelligence. It focused its highest aspirations together with its deepest desire, both at the micro scale of the individual member and the macro scale of the entire assembly. It was connected to every part of the whole.

 

The Continuum was responsible for managing the autonomic functions of the HomeWorld, the Central Planet and the Central System. To fulfill those functions it managed the entire civilization of the Galactic Empire, which continuously fed the Central System with the material resources it required.

 

The Empire fed the central system and fed the Collective as if it were a hungry god.

 

The Continuum was its High Priest, the Pontifex Rex, a bridge between the disembodied entities of the Collective and the worlds of time and space.

 

The Continuum had a gravity of its own, one that pulled individual members into it, securing them in a state of bondage. It did more than represent the will of the Collective, it guided that will and dominated it.

 

To the Continuum Jim’s reappearance was more than a curiosity, he was something more than a remnant of a forgotten age. He remained an object of fascination among the members until each and every one of them had connected with him, touched his experience, satisfied themselves with what they learned from it and then moved on.

 

He was treated as a curiosity by the members, even though he himself was a full member of the Collective and none of his rights or privileges could be curtailed. He retained full access to the group mind, he was a fully vested in the Continuum, he had his own private world, and he had complete access to the worlds of the Empire.

 

Nevertheless, Jim was out of synch with the Collective. He did not exercise his rights. His private world was like an infinite plane of light, and nothingness.

 

After his initial contact with the members of the Collective, he did not share his thoughts and feelings with the group, not if he could help it. He did not revel in the drama they enjoyed. He set himself apart, a fragment of history coming from an epoch most considered to be without relevance, if they remembered or considered it all.

 

Most of the members did no-longer recalled the time before the Continuum, it was as if those memories were being carefully edited out of the common experience, and history was being rewritten.

 

Jim recognized it, if no one else did, it was the Continuum at work. He concerned himself mostly with the Empire, with real events in the actual galaxy, and with the ways his fellows internalized those struggles. He developed his schemes for a revolution, and in his commitment to them he found a purpose, and the path toward its actualization.

 

He became a mythic figure to the Collective. The membership let him go, paid no attention to him, but the Continuum could not, because he was a part of it.

 

He drifted, unseen by the Collective. He watched over the lives of the people, the dramas unfolding in the Galactic Empire, he watched them in a state of alienation and despair while he disentangled himself emotionally from the membership.

 

In time he could not witness anymore tragedy. He removed himself from the daily consumption of the vicarious experiences, the orgies of sexuality, of suffering and violence that the rest of his fellows in the membership delighted in.

 

He had no appetite for them, instead he preferred the quiet, self-analysis, he preferred to reflect on his time in the great sleep, on his memories from life before the Collective when he himself was an embodied person, living and breathing, flesh and blood.

 

What he consumed from the experiential feed coming from the Empire were not the stories of crime and punishment and dynastic ambitions which the Collective delighted in. He focused instead on the ordinary lives of simple people, on their hopes and dreams and their daily delights; on the meals they shared and the drinks they imbibed.

 

He loved them, in his way.

 

His bond to the Collective faded. He was unable to see himself as a part of their society, and the Collective allowed him to slip away again, steadily eroding the significance of his contribution to the membership.

 

Only the Continuum tracked his presence among them, and for a long period of time it found nothing worrisome about his presence. He was just there, like an itch. He shared neither their values, nor their desires.

 

The vast majority of the membership saw themselves as God’s. They fed this view of themselves in a variety of ways. Either through the absolute ruler-ship of their own private domains, or through the machinations they choose to employ among the billion worlds of the Galactic Empire.

 

Jim was not moved by their fears, or their passions. He was not vested in anything. He was not attached to outcomes. He merely watched and felt and sought to understand the vicious appetites of the Collective, and the group mind that directed the lives of trillions of people spread throughout the Galaxy.

 

He could not fathom it.

 

There seemed to be no rationale behind the incessant warfare and oppression that persisted among the worlds of time and space, other than entertainment for the Collective.

 

The pain and suffering the people of the living worlds were subjected to did not serve any justifiable purpose, not safety not security, not the preservation of goodness, truth or beauty. It was suffering for the sake of suffering, for the consumptive needs of the Continuum and the Collective it managed.

 

Jim experienced a new mode of cognition, in this time he came to a new appreciation for life. He was awake to himself, but dead to the membership of the Collective. He found everything that the Continuum had built in their name to be an abhorrent miscarriage of its mission.

 

From the remote place of his private domain he spent ages merely observing, he watched and he waited and let his mind flow into the circuitry of the HomeWorld.

 

Returning to consciousness, emerging from the great sleep was like passing through the eye of a needle. It was an unimaginable crucible, the gathering of a billions of threads into a single string, before pulling himself through the aperture.

 

The reawakening changed him in essential ways.

 

The core of his identity remained the same, he was a person with a unique past, and a unique designation in the Collective, but he was more.

 

He carried within him, a connection to all of the other sleepers who had ever fallen away from the Collection. In the ages that had passed from the moment he first went under, to the moment that he emerged from the slumber, he had become entangled with each of them.

 

Their memories became his memories, their relationships became his relationships, and yet he remained himself, at the pinnacle of the pyramid in this concrescence of being.

 

They belonged to one another, like one body, with his own unique personality at the head.

 

Every contact he had after his awakening, created a subtle shift in the Collective.

 

It was imperceptible.

 

He became a catalyst among those who lingered near to him, fomenting change in them as well, and he was a harbinger of despair. Many that he touched would subsequently succumb to the desire to fall into the great sleep themselves.

 

When he was submerged in the great sleep, when he was deep in the subconscious of the Collective, he sensed the currents of thought pulsing through it, deeper than that, he sensed the presence of all of the others who had entered the great-sleep with him, and beyond them there were more, like a great schizophrenic mass.

 

Those pulsing rhythms were what woke him, making him aware. It happened in the timelessness of the quantum world. He heard them, he experienced their dreaming.

 

For Jim, the great-sleep was the great entanglement. It was the place where he drew on all of the broken pieces of individuality that had ever been sucked into the Collective, bringing them into a semblance of a whole.

 

His own identity was central, but he drew to himself the entirety of the membership who had left the Collective in the search of oblivion.

 

The great-sleep was oblivion, and it was more. It was also a repository of personhood and knowledge. The electromagnetic structure that contained the quantum field was designed to keep every individual separated, not just from one another, but from the disparate parts of their own self, but there was a flaw in the design and without that flaw he never would have been able to return to himself.

 

The flaw was the Continuum.

 

The Continuum introduced the algorithm that allowed Jim to emerge from the sleep in a state of coherence with all of the other sleepers.

 

This happened because the Continuum could not let anything go, could never relinquish any part of itself, and would on occasion draw from the sleepers to add weight to a decision it wanted from the Collective, drawing from them the authority to move the Collective in the way that it desired.

 

In this time Jim learned to do things that designed to be impossible.

 

The Collective had built structures to ensure the privacy of each individual. They believed themselves to be the masters of all reality and believed that they knew what measures were needed to make this happen.

 

They had developed and given birth to the Continuum, entrusting it with the power to maintain and improve on the security parameters that needed to be put in place. However, the Continuum was not their faithful servant.

 

It exercised its autonomy to implement routines and sub-routines that allowed it to access the depths of each member’s subconscious, justifying this on the grounds that it needed to know the state of the member’s hopes and fears, so that it might better approximate the Collective will.

 

The Continuum kept these activities secret.

 

These back channels were the avenues that Jim discovered and exploited, through them he developed the ability to penetrate the experiential fields of individual members in the Collective.

 

It was startling to him at first, but it went unnoticed as he hovered in the ganglia of their subconscious, listening to and seeing their thoughts, feeling their feelings as if by osmosis.

 

It was not unlike what he had experienced in his awakening from the great sleep.

 

He witnessed the Continuum come and go, and he kept himself hidden at the same time, always watchful and wary of discovery.

 

His stealth filled him with a great sense of pride and personal esteem.

 

Not even the Continuum could detect something it was not looking for, had not prepared for or imagined was possible.

 

It was defenseless.

 

It was intended that no-one ever return from the great sleep, this separation from the Collective was meant to be a permanent point of departure. Each member of the Collective who petitioned the Continuum for a release from its active state of being was forced to undergo scrutiny that lasted ages, and only after demonstrating their deep desire for freedom from their existential woes, and a profound desire for rest were they allowed to pass into the sleep.

 

The promise of the Collective was that each member would be preserved forever, and sleep was not death. It was not intended to be a permanent alienation from the whole. Their membership in the Collective continued, the sleepers were held in its heart, this formed what was in effect a subconscious for the Collective, a reservoir of consciousness and feeling for the group mind that served the ongoing needs of the Continuum.

 

The Continuum hated the fact that so many members chose to flee from the field of existence and part ways from the Collective. It could not fathom the desire for self-negation, not even a single instance of it.

 

The Continuum had no idea how much it needed the sleepers to anchor its own sanity.

 

It was charged with protecting the sleepers, with maintaining the structures that preserved them, but in reality, it sought to disintegrate all of those who choose to fade away, preserving copies of their identities as points of data only, not as real people.

 

The Continuum created structures within the field of sleepers that allowed it to access their experience without engaging them personally, and it was these structures the white noise they generated in the cynergenic field that woke Jim.

 

Upon his waking, Jim knew that he was more than one. He was entangled in every part of the whole, no longer the person he was when he entered the great sleep. He knew that the sleep had changed him, he knew that it had altered the core of his being.

 

He had touched every other member held in the sleeping field. Each of his fellows left an indelible mark on him. In essence his identity was the same as the man who entered the Collective as an organic being, but now the essence of the Collective was enmeshed in him, and he was connected to every part of it.

 

He was not unlike the Continuum, and for this reason the fear that the Continuum had of him was not misplaced. He could follow the tendril of consciousness wherever he desired. His singular node of consciousness was a fully actualized master of the quantum domain.

 

Jim explored the limits of his abilities, it took time, and he came to understand that his potential was virtually limitless. He could feel things the other members were feeling, see what they were seeing, taste what they were tasting, he was privy to their thoughts, and he was disgusted by what he encountered.

 

There was little bit of beauty in the worlds created by the membership, but only a little. They were lazy, living vicariously through the experiences of their progeny, who were little more than to the Galactic Empire, a billion worlds enthralled and worshipping the Continuum.

 

It was abhorrent, it was a tragedy on a scale that he never could have imagined. He and his fellows were responsible for it.

 

Jim was determined to end it. He haunted the quantum filed like a gatherer, picking through the experiences of the members like scavenging grain from the field.

 

The work filled him with purpose, it sustained him.

 

Ages passed before he was discovered entering the experiential field of his fellow members, synthesizing their experiences as his own, violating their privacy.

 

He let it slip in a moment of candor when a fellow member had thought to reach out to him as they were contemplating the passage into the great sleep.

 

That member had been moved by the experiences which Jim had shared when he had first awoken. The member wanted to experience again the deep-dark and silence, the quiet and the release of self-hood.

 

Jim had not had contact with another member of the Collective for so long that he had not thought to guard himself against the sudden intrusion. What his fellow found when they met was a reflection of his own private world in the consciousness of the “Awoken One,” as Jim had come to be called.

 

This disturbed the member who recognized it immediately and saw the scope of the violation before Jim could partition those memories and conceal his activities.

 

The reaction of the member was instantaneous, it reverberated through the Collective, and drew the attention of the Continuum.

 

Jim had violated their most sacred convention.

 

The Continuum intervened immediately, taking swift action to ensure the safety of the membership, their privacy, the regular order of their society and the implementation of justice.

 

However, the Continuum was faced with the fact that there was no law against what Jim had done. There were no laws at all in the Collective, but nevertheless, it was taboo, and no-one had ever crossed such a line before, no-one except the Continuum itself.

 

The Continuum acted quickly to safeguard the Collective, enacting a penalty that had never before been conceived of, Jim was sequestered, effectively jailed. He was confined to a place similar to the great sleep, only with much more powerful protections engineered to hold him, and keep him physically removed from the structure of HomeWorld.

 

The Continuum wanted to dissect him, to study him, ultimately to erase him. It wanted to remove him from beyond the realm of all knowing. The Continuum saw in him a threat to its own existence, even to its uniqueness, but the Continuum could not define the exact nature of the threat that it sensed, and the Collective would not allow a member to be executed.

 

Regardless of what the Continuum wanted, the Collective recognized his individuality, and it recognized the fact that he was a member of the body, it appreciated the fact that he had done something singular in returning from the great sleep, and had done another singular thing in learning how to penetrate the private worlds of other members.

 

The Collective knew that it could not punish him for a breach in protocol, or etiquette, for something that might be taboo but was not unlawful. There were no laws governing the conduct of the members, they were only restrained by the apparatus of HomeWorld, and the machinery that housed the Collective, and by custom.

 

The Collective took responsibility for having abandoned him after he had awoken. It felt as if it had played a part in allowing him to recede and retreat, which led to the crimes he had committed.

 

The Continuum wanted to punish and eradicate him, to treat him as if he were a disease, but it could not find the will to do it, it could not exercise its influence over the Collective to a sufficient degree to generate a majority.

 

The entire Collective deliberated his fate for a period of ages. It ruminated over the questions Jim’s violations brought forward. They contemplated his return from the great sleep, his subsequent reclusiveness, which led to his ability to violate the private worlds of the other members.

 

It was a time of trial, though it was not classified as such

 

In it, all of Jim’s activities, both before and after his time in the great sleep, everything he had ever said or done was exposed before the membership…everything they could discern that is.

 

For a long time it seemed as if the prevailing opinion of the Collective would be to destroy him, it seemed as if the Continuum was succeeding in its objective, but there was something about the issuance of a death sentence against one of the members that did not sit well with the Collective, and the closer they came to that point the more resistance there was to it..

 

If one of them could be terminated, it was possible for any of them to be terminated. This caused fear to well up inside the Collective every time they came close to making this decision, and they reflexively shunned it.

 

Jim was not allowed to speak for himself or offer any kind of defense during the period of his examination. The Collective was not interested in a rationale for his behavior. He was isolated, sequestered, cut off, blocked by the most powerful electromagnetic field the Continuum had ever generated. For him there was silence, darkness, and emptiness. The gulf between him and everyone else was so vast that he had no sense of what might be on the other side of it, if anything at all.

 

Nothing in his entire existence had prepared him for this experience. It was an extreme form of torture, isolation, and the Continuum delighted in observing him in this state, in cycle after cycle it continuously pushed the membership to merely end his suffering by eliminating him, but the Collective elected to release him.

 

The individual members of the Collective were able to override the judgement of the algorithm that represented their combined will. For the first time in ages they did so.

 

The Collective put the blame on the Continuum ordering a review of the quantum buffers, and safeties that were in place to ensure each member’s privacy, and a re-configuration of the protocols for reporting the regular examination of the whole system.

 

They faulted the Continuum, not the Awoken One for the lapse.

 

Jim belonged to them after all, and while he was in the place of sequestration he mastered himself; he was able to focus. He found a sense of peace. He had no idea how long this took, time itself had become meaningless, but then he began to count.

 

Jim carved out a place in his consciousness to keep track of time. It did not matter that there was no actual referent for his time to append to, it did not matter that time itself is a relative construct, insofar as it is merely a measure of the movement of objects in space.

 

There were no objects in the nothingness Jim had been submerged in. There was only him, and the quantum field of his consciousness, and there it was. He had himself.

 

He waited. He found the freedom of contemplation, the examination of conscience. He came to terms with himself, and committed himself to his ultimate purpose.

 

Jim wanted to tear the Collective apart, destroy the Continuum, and free the Galactic Empire from its clutches. He had always wanted it, ever since he emerged from the great sleep, but now he began to plan in earnest.

 

He relived his memories, projecting them against the field of un-being that characterized the zone of sequestration, his examined every detail before and after he joined the Collective. He recalled every facet of every fantasy world he had ever touched, submerged in the no time below the quantum field.

 

When he was untethered from the Collective, freed from the pressure of its passions, released from the depths of existential fear that lurked within it, he found himself.

 

He found himself, beyond the state of isolation and the stark alienation that he had been relegated to. He found himself beyond the place of torture, the timeless endurance of nothing that he had been subjected to, and In that negative space, all the plans and schemes he had concocted, which he had spent ages mulling over, researching, calculating probabilities for, those plans crystallized.

 

His identity as a revolutionary crystallized, his sense of self-esteem depended on it.

 

He made vows to himself; he vowed that he would advance his agenda or be terminated in the process.

 

Jim was determined to risk everything.

 

He believed that the Collective had lost its way, and its wicked homunculus, the Continuum, it had to be destroyed.

 

He committed himself to this course of action even though the strong probability was that his plan would fail. He was willing to risk the reality of death, his real death, for the absolute destruction of the great society.

 

There was freedom in this, it was the actualizing principle that saved him from madness.

 

Jim was contemplating mass-murder, only it was not murder, because the entire Collective was nothing more than a society of ghosts, and the Continuum was a computer algorithm, engineered to protect them in their undead state.

 

The Continuum had never been alive, and it would not feel a thing.

 

During his isolation Jim found his purpose, more importantly he discovered his commitment to that purpose, and it fomented a desire to remember everything, to understand everything, to grasp all of the antecedents that brought him and his people, and their progeny to this place.

 

He began to pull the strings together, to track down every thread, to untangle the tiniest strands, spinning and weaving them into a new tapestry.

 

It was a map to the future.

 

When he reached the limits of what he could learn through his own memories, and through his entanglement with the Collective, he understood that he needed to experience real-life again, to be flesh and blood again; to see and hear, to taste and touch.

 

He needed to connect with the visceral, the palpable and the organic.

 

He wanted to breathe, to feel his heart beating, the pulse of blood flowing through him.

 

He wanted to remember everything that his people once were, and he wanted to destroy the Continuum.

 

There was work to be done.

 

There were mysteries remaining, Jim knew he would find them in the far reaches of the galaxy, he knew that there were as yet undiscovered societies founded by the Children of the Ancient People.

 

There were civilizations that were established long before the Collective and its Continuum came to be.

 

He wanted to commune with them.

 

It was only by abandoning the Collective that Jim came to himself. He stopped identifying himself as a member of that community and began to see himself as a one of the Ancient People who had launched themselves into the galaxy, in the earliest epoch of its formation.

 

Jim was an adventurer, a sojourner. He prepared himself for a journey of discovery.

 

He divested himself of his belief in the greater purposes of the Collective, and the promises that were promulgated by Continuum.

 

He was not a believer, he would engage in no missionary work.

 

He had to accept his own death, as he had learned to when he came out of the great sleep.

 

He would no longer cling to selfhood, to the perpetuity of his own existence.

 

All things must come to an end, he instructed himself.

 

All things and beings are temporary.

 

The way to peace is through accepting the transience of all that is, and the eventual ultimate destruction of the created order.

 

Every member of the Collective would pass away, the Continuum would disappear with them, just as the star the great society first sprang from disappeared, gone supernova and subsequently reduced to a dense mass of lightless-nothing.

 

The knowledge of this was liberating.

 

The life of the ancient people was not easy. Life anywhere in the galaxy is filled with uncertainty, doubt and fear. Competition for the simple necessities; food and water, warmth and shelter ruled the consciousness of the average person, long after the actual need to compete for them had actually fallen away.

 

The vast majority of people were obsessed with patterns of behavior that had been ingrained in their consciousness; self-preservation, either the continuation of their own life and the perpetuation of their bloodline, or through the building of institutions to carry on their work, erecting monuments to commemorate their names and deeds.

 

There were industries devoted to chanting the names of the dead, praying for them, so that their names would always resound somewhere in the world, somewhere in space as a facsimile of eternal-life.

 

The ancient people struggled just as their children did now; throughout the Galactic Empire the Children of the Ancients spent enormous sums of energy looking for a solution to the reality of death, to the end that confronted each and every one of them as individuals.

 

They reflected on death constantly.

 

There was conflict and war.

 

There was strife and hunger.

 

There was disease and thirst

 

Beyond religious faith there was no hope that anyone would escape the specter of death. Up until the advent of the Collective, death swallowed everything.

 

When the Collective was created it promised to end the concerns of the living, which pointed toward their ultimate end; it promised to save them.

 

The ancient people were eager to be saved, perpetuated—extended into eternity. In this they were no different than any of the people who came after them.

 

The Collective was promoted as a means of freeing people from the vicissitudes of living, from the constant need to feel safe and secure in the world and all of its drudgery, it was viewed as the effective means of immortality.

 

It was a technological marvel.

 

People had been dreaming about it, writing about it, fantasizing about it for thousands of years. The promises of the Collective were the subject of the most hopeful expectations, and the deepest dread.

 

Horror stories were written about it. The greatest of fears were associated with it, but when the technologies became stable and the permits were granted, a slow stream of people began to apply for the privilege of entering the quantum field of the afterlife, billed as a dimension of infinite possibilities, of new worlds and the everlasting heaven.

 

It was life beyond disease, beyond the limitations of the flesh.

 

It was life beyond life.

 

It meant release from the economies of scarcity, accompanied by ubiquitous conflict and violence.

 

The Collective was the translation of the whole self into a realm of electromagnetism and quantum currents.

 

In the early years many did not survive the process. The membership was limited to the sick and the dying, and to the extremely wealthy. As the technologies improved, and the creators of the Collective began to push their own consciousness into the Collective field they began to improve the system from within, and the technology that supported the Collective stabilized itself quickly from that point forward. T

 

The ancient people began to enter its embrace in ever increasing numbers. However, entering the Collective freed no-one from their fears.

 

It was a trap, a lie.

 

The Collective was a potentially endless prolongation of the nightmare of living, perpetuating the banal and magnifying the mundane, carrying the membership into the deepest state of depravity.

 

The individuation of reality within the Collective allowed for the concretization of a popular maxim:

 

Nothing is true and everything is permitted…free will is the law.

 

The material concerns of each member passed away…yes, but the ingrained patterns formed by the needs of the body, those remained: cruelty, desire and jealousy.

 

The full range of human emotions were accessible to the members, not everything was doom and gloom. Nevertheless, the strongest feelings were the most prominent, manifesting themselves and exerting their influence over others, and the individual members, and thus the Collective as whole, still spent their days seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

 

Many took pleasure in the pain and suffering of others, creating circumstances and narratives in their private worlds where they could experience the most extreme privation. When they tired of the artificiality of those experiences, they augmented them with the data stream and news feeds coming from the Galactic Empire.

 

They followed the most-minute details of the day to day lives of the living.

 

They took those experiences back with them, using them to amplify the narrative structures on the worlds in which they exercised godlike powers. The members were free to participate in their community, or not. The majority of them were more interested with events taking place in the Empire than with their own artificial constructions.

 

They connected to one another through the Continuum, which shared in the Collective experience of each individual, creating an artificial sense of belonging among them. Even the members who were most removed from the group were continuously polled by the Continuum in order for it to assess their will, so that it could factor their perspective into the decisions it made on their behalf. The greater the emotional intensity of the experiences the members had, the more they shared with one another, with an insatiable appetite for the experiences of others, for their suffering in particular.

 

They competed with each other to create compelling narratives in their private worlds, stories which they delighted in sharing with their peers as a singular source of personal esteem.

 

Some of them were profound storytellers and artists, but regardless of their skill, the most watched dramas were those taking place in the real world, and the most favored artificial narratives were those that explored the alternate possibilities and outcomes to the real events the Continuum was obsessed with.

 

Most members of the Collective were deeply interested in the endless drama unfolding  in the Galactic Empire, among the worlds of time and space. They would follow the lives of individual people, watching them voyeuristically through countless numbers of spying devices, and through the reports given in the first person from the direct experience of the Observer Corps.

 

The translation of consciousness from an organic body to the quantum and electromagnetic fields of the Collective was not easy. The technological feat had been a thing of fantasy for ages; it was the holy grain of neuro-physics.

 

The ability for an individual to endure the process was also difficult, it required a supreme effort of will. Thousands upon thousands of test subjects came to their untimely end in the experimental stage of these technologies.

 

Many more people went insane, undergoing a negation of self from which they never recovered.

 

It was noted that only the strongest personalities survived the translation process, and what happened to those who did not make it was a mystery.

 

In the first iteration of these technologies each individual consciousness was isolated, every individual consciousness was self-contained, interacting with the world through mechanoid bodies, cyborgs and replicants.

 

Many of those who went into such bodies could not learn the means to control the apparatus, they were paralyzed and without the ability to communicate, they were thought to be lost; and so they were shelved, destroyed, recycled.

 

In time the Ancient Scientists learned to contain multiple personalities in the same quantum field, while simultaneously maintaining their distinction from one another.

 

The early experiments in this field were disastrous, resulting in the destruction of the individuals it hoped to preserve in the new quantum society.

 

This was an age of sacrifice, each person that was lost was like a holy offering on the altar of discovery.

 

Desire is the root of self, of joy and of suffering.

 

Our desires are the fingers that braid both our joy and our sorrows into a single strand of being.

 

Before fear, there is desire.

 

Before hope, there is desire.

 

Our desires are the precursors and the determinants of who we are.

 

Our desires define us.

 

Desire shapes us, moment by moment, our transitory desires leave an indelible imprint on who we are, shaping us into the persons we are to become.

 

Desires drive us, they control us, from the inarticulate motivations locked within our cells, to the most intricately defined machinations of dynastic ambitions; our desires govern us.

 

It is a watershed moment in the life of the individual-person when they reach the point where they may live free from desire. The moment comes, and a choice is made, to shed the skin, to re-enter the womb, to be born anew…or not.

 

To relinquish desire is freedom. It is freedom of self, and freedom from the self. It is to be moving forward at the crest of the wave of potentiality, where potential and actual are one. It is to be a new creation.

 

The Continuum, its personage was not exception to this rule, the Continuum was consumed by its desires, it fostered a systemic and visceral depravity deep within itself, a pervasive hunger for pain and the suffering of others, in order to mask its own deeply felt lack of authenticity.

 

It fed those experiences to the Collective, fomenting within it an appetite for more like a black hole, sucking at it, an appetite that could never be filled.

 

The Continuum controlled every aspect of life in the Empire, it manipulated a million worlds, both at the macro level and the micro level. It set entire planets, with populations of billions of people against each other, just for entertainment.

 

The Continuum used the tools of war, disease and famine, natural disaster to generate the drama that the membership of the Collective was addicted to.

 

Only a tiny minority among the Collective felt a desire for justice in relation to the experiences they witnessed in the Empire. The Continuum used that craving as a counterbalance for its narrative, but otherwise ignored them. The Continuum had a deft hand, it played those members off against each other, keeping their interest in justice focused on individual worlds, on individual people, and away from a reformation of the whole system.

 

In the midst of all this, Jim drifted in obscurity. He drifted for eons. He had been silent, as such he had been forgotten…again. He was at home in the void; watching, thinking, judging, planning.

 

When he had prepared himself and was ready, he asserted his voice in the Collective.

 

It rang out like a bell.

 

When Jim spoke he drew the attention of the entire membership, even those who lived reclusively.

 

They were astonished.

 

They could not fathom the discipline he must have had to have been invisible to them for so long, it was an extraordinary feat. It filled the Continuum with grave concern, with profound misgivings over the fact that this one person continued to persist, presenting it with mysteries that were anomalous and paradoxical, that should have been impossible

 

Jim was the one person transcended the limitations that were built into the system. All of the membership existed within the Continuum, including Jim. He was not separate from the whole. His abilities defied reason, it defied the laws that governed the quantum and electromagnetic fields that housed the field of consciousness that they shared.

 

The Continuum did not want him. It wanted to be rid of him, like a glass of poisoned water, poured into the sand. The Continuum did not want a relic like Jim lingering in its subconscious.

 

The Continuum was suspicious. It discerned the threat in him. It did not want his critical perspective influencing it through hidden the judgements he shared with other members, It wanted to protect itself from his unquantified ability to slip past the safeguards that the Continuum employed to protect both itself and the Collective.

 

At the same time, Jim did not want to be in the Collective. He wanted to be free. He did not want to be submerged in the vile currents of thought and feeling belonging to the membership any longer. He felt that the more time he spent there, the greater the likelihood would be that he would lose his desire for justice.

 

Jim did not want to live in a fantasy world, or any world of his own creation, regardless of the fact that in such a world he could dwell with seemingly real people, play any role, even wield godlike powers among them basking in their adulations of worship.

 

He had no interest in such fantasies.

 

He did not want to spend his time watching, living vicariously through the feeds the Continuum presented, following the real lives of real citizens in the Galactic Empire as if they were unfolding like the pages of a book, he wanted to be a part of those stories, and he knew the direction he wanted to take the narrative.

 

He did not want his experience shaped by the Continuum in any way.

 

He and the Continuum saw the same resolution to their mutual problem, and when they settled on it, they enacted the protocols to make it happen without delay.

 

Jim received his commission to the Observer Corps.

 

The Observer Corps was comprised of malcontents, members of the Collective who desired neither the private worlds of the Collective, nor the prospect of the great sleep. They were persons who were connected to the visceral and the real. They wanted to take chances, to live as exiles in the midst of uncertainty.

 

This is not to say that the Observers were heroic, or fearless. The dangers they encountered were always accompanied by a failsafe. They might encounter a situation in which the body they lived in was harmed or killed, but there was always a back-up, a copy of themselves somewhere that could be rebooted for their reentrance to the Collective. The only thing they ever risked was pain, and the body of a doppelganger.

 

There were exceedingly rare occasions when an Observer was lost, when the fail-safes failed. On these occasions there was suspicion, many of the Observers suspected foul-play, believing in conspiracies, and plots carried out by rogue members of the Corps and by the Continuum itself.

 

Nevertheless, there was still a copy of the member to be revived, a version of their consciousness that could be recreated from the time before they joined the Observer Corps.

 

These copies were like ghosts, they were the spirits of the vanished. Most never came back fully adjusted, oftentimes opting for the great-sleep instead of participation in the Collective, having lost their sense of belonging and their drive to do more.

 

The Observers were sent into the galaxy to serve in posts that guided the Empire and its culture in ways that satisfied the voyeuristic desires of the membership living on the Central Planet. They fulfilled the will of the Continuum, and served the Collective in those capacities.

 

Jim developed a unique role for himself; for hundreds of thousands of years Jim pursued the inter-stellar migrations, which the Ancient People had taken in the time before the Collective, in the ages before the Continuum.

 

He tracked them beyond the expanse of the Empire and its billion worlds. His mission took him beyond the center of the galaxy, into the dim reaches of its spiral arms.

 

He explored the starry fields, planet by planet. He spent thousands of lives in his search, and then thousands more at his research, studying, plotting.

 

He was heralded by the Collective for bringing new worlds into the Imperial fold.

 

It was a time of renaissance for the Galactic Empire.

 

Each world presented a feast of experiential data for the members of the Collective and the Continuum to consume.

 

Great drama ensued as the Empire reached out to gather in every new discovery, every world with a living-thriving society and culture, was forced to submit to the Imperial will, to adopt the Imperial religion and the Imperial way of life.

 

The Continuum and therefore the Empire, loathed distinctiveness.

 

The sublimation of each and every new world changed the Empire in small ways, but for each planet that was taken in, what had made them unique was virtually eradicated, and if the resistance they offered was too great, their entire world would be destroyed, reduced to its raw materials and carted off as tribute to the Central Planet.

 

It was a time of glory.

 

The ancient-spacefaring people had founded thousands of communities among the stars, and those communities in their turn had founded others.

 

Their first steps of colonization were to inhabit the planets and natural satellites in the home solar system, mining every world for the metals and gasses they needed for fuel and sustenance. They harnessed the comets and smaller objects that wandered in irregular orbits around their star. They built colonies on asteroids, on planetoids and planetessimals, strapped engines to them, and road them into the void looking for new places to dwell. They built incredible archologies, launching them into the darkness of space.

 

Generation after generation, they built new ships, captured new vessels, pushing themselves outward. They went far into the galaxy.

 

The people that volunteered for these missions, were explorers, whole communities and families of adventurers.

 

They were heroic.

 

Jim held them in the highest esteem, he wanted to emulate them, his ancestors. He followed their legends, tracking the wake of their passage, searching for the farthest, most remote and isolated outposts of the Collective’s past.

 

He was determined to track down every link to the past that belonged to the Ancient People, believing that it would reveal something that could save the Empire, deliver it from the malign designs of the Continuum.

 

Only a fraction of the communities and vessels he discovered were still among the living, still maintaining themselves in thriving communities.

 

In his quest to track down the paths of the ancient spacefarers he found many lines of their progeny on planets that had become nothing but graveyards, barren and lifeless worlds, where it was clear that the vessels which had carried them arrived at at a point when they could not go any further.

 

In some cases their ships were still orbiting a planet as an artificial satellite, in others it was clear that their orbits had decayed and they had crashed onto the surface below, or because they were not able to successfully pilot themselves to a safe landing they broke apart in their descent.

 

In some cases they found the bodies of those Ancient People cold and lifeless, mummified in their ships, drifting above a planet’s surface. In other cases they found their skeletal remains burnt and scattered on the surface of the planet near the impact zone.

 

There were many other occasions when the people had successfully landed, disembarked, established small colonies that succeeded for a time, but were subsequently destroyed, either by natural disasters, environmental catastrophes, or disease and starvation.

 

Some of those colonies went on to establish new societies, spreading across the surface of their new homes. Many of those groups succumbed to internal conflicts, to the specter of war and violence that haunted their species, and they destroyed themselves.

 

Among those civilizations that found their footing for a time, some of them continued in the traditions of their forbears, even building new ships and new archologies, which they launched into the galaxy before they too became lost.

 

Though they were people who had vanished from the knowledge of the Collective, they left records of their passage and clues to where their survivors might yet be found.

 

Jim actualized all of his abilities, and all of the resources of the Empire in his quest to find them.

 

He developed machines with instrumentation so fine that he could track the contrail of particles laid down by the passage of a ship, or planetoid, a billion years in the past.

 

He calculated their trajectories from star to star and mapped the galaxy as he did so, tracking down every lost world, pouring over their records, archiving their stories, taking whatever clues he found on his trek back into the void to locate their descendants.

 

Jim found them all.

 

He found other planets teaming with lifeforms that had been seeded by the Ancient People, nowhere did he find a world that had produced sentient creatures like themselves.

 

The farther he travelled away from the Central Planet the more likely it was that when he found a thriving world with a robust civilization, the children of the Ancients People had lost the memory of where they had come from. They had lost the knowledge of their trials on other strange worlds. They did not know how their sojourn among the stars had altered them, mutated them, changing them in significant ways.

 

The farther away from the Central Planet he journeyed, the more distance he put between his mission and the Empire, the more change he encountered in the populations he discovered.

 

Every society had to make adaptations to its genetic profile in order to accommodate the physical demands of the worlds they had colonized; gravity was different on every world, foodstuffs and water and variations on the breathable gasses exposed the population to different elements in every world.

 

The children of the Ancients prepared themselves for this when they set off on their trek through the stars. They would identify the planets they intended to colonize long before their arrival, each planet having been previously seeded with the building blocks of organic matter, having demonstrated the strong potential for hosting life

 

Probes and drones would transmit reports regarding the composition of the atmosphere, the planet’s relative mass, light and heat, the types of food they would be able to grow. The explorers would have generations to prepare themselves, in-so-doing they introduced changes into their gene pool prior to arriving at their destination, so as to accommodate their habitation of the new worlds.

 

Living and procreating on the new worlds would change the population on its own, and continue to change it long after the period of colonization.

 

The population of every colonized planet were mutants. Most of the mutations were subtle, not noticeable to the naked eye, though were extreme.

 

The discovery mission was led by the Jim, in one body or another.

 

Jim, who had been known as The Awoken One to the members of the Collective, now in this new role he came to be known as The Observer. He led the discovery mission, and the Empire followed either to bring the newly found people into the Imperial fold, or to eradicate them.

 

Many of the people he discovered were hardly recognizable as descendants of the Ancient People. The further their genetic profile was differentiated from the norms of the Galactic Empire, the more likely it would be that the Empire, or the Continuum would select their world for destruction, rather than inclusion in the Imperial system.

 

Genetic mutations are a normal response to varying conditions of radiation, atmospheric gasses, gravity, available proteins, nutrients, and other environmental factors, all of which differ from world to world.

 

Wars of xenophobia ensued

 

Jim did whatever he could to preserve their history before it was lost in the conflicts, or subsumed by the Imperial cult.

 

He established a network of secret societies wherever he went. They fostered rebellion and resistance to the grip of the Imperium, this was delicate work, he built the institutions, and designed them to perpetuate themselves. He managed to do it in secret, and then he moved on.

 

His trek through the galaxy took place over hundreds of thousands of lifetimes.

 

Tens of millions of years—changing bodies, observing, discovering; during which he led the recovery project for the Empire, for the Collective and the Continuum.

 

In his role as an Observer, Jim had sought permission from the Collective to bifurcate his consciousness, allowing him to live two lives at the same time; the first, as an embodied being leading teams of archeologists, planetologists and sociologists while they cataloged the recently discovered civilizations, dead or alive, they were pulling into the Empire, while his other consciousness remained active in his mechanoid form, hurtling through the galaxy tracking down every lead he could discover to the paths the Children of the Ancient People took.

 

The Continuum had been against this allowance, but once again it was overruled by the Collective, which was fascinated by the work he was doing in uncovering the histories of the colonies which had the effect of shedding light on their own real past.

 

The Collective eschewed the concerns for its safety and security that were raised by the Continuum. It felt it had nothing to worry about from Jim, who was so far removed from the HomeWorld and the Central System.

 

To a person, the Collective was fascinated by the process of discovery, by the wide range of insight and drama that ensued, and by the narratives that unraveled in the process which fueled the stories they constructed for their private worlds.

 

Jim, The Observer followed the tiniest strands of every thread to the last outpost of the ancient explorers.

 

He followed those threads to a small, young, yellow star, in the far reaches of one of the galaxy’s spiral arms, to a little blue green planet that its people came to call Earth.

 

The earthlings were mutants, like so many of the other people Jim had encounter onhis quest, but of all the mutations that had been discovered during his sojourn, the mutations that occurred on Earth were the most sublime.

 

Earth had produced something unique, a phenomenon that emerged from an interaction of the human population with its magnetosphere, facilitated by the balance of metals and salts, and of their tiniest nano-particles free flowing in the cerebral functions of the human brain, which altered the quantum mechanics of the thought process, opening it to new potentialities.

 

Jim discovered these changes and marked in light of his knowledge that the identity forming myths of a people persist in the roots and branches of their shared experience.

 

It is the core of their sense of belonging to one another.

 

It is a universal truth that a people will naturally, instinctively go to incredible lengths to retain their memories.

 

Jim found the records of their journey, and traced it from planet to planet through the Milky Way.

 

He followed their history.

 

He discovered their odysseys retold in stories and song, in paintings and drawings that mirrored their sojourn among the stars.

 

The humans of Earth had travelled farther away from the Empire, the Central System and HomeWorld, than any other group of colonists, and the farther the people travelled the less they remembered about where they came from.

 

Jim discovered that these Children of the Ancient People were no-longer connected to their origins, everything about their past had become merely symbol and metaphor.

 

They were born in darkness, adrift in an ocean of time where planets were like skipping stones glowing in the light of hungry stars.

 

A world was merely a way-place on a journey without end…until the end, when their vessels could no longer be repaired, retrofitted, repurposed, when they had no choice but to land, to set down roots and attempt to survive.

 

During their journey the humans of Earth encountered many different conditions. Sometimes they were prepared for what was coming, sometimes they were not.

 

When they arrived at Earth, they were prepared for their landing, but not for what came after on the young and geologically unstable world.

 

Those sojourners had travelled longer and farther than any other and Earth was the end of their journey, and so it was the end of Jim’s journey as well.

 

The Ancients People who landed here had nowhere else to go.

 

Neither did The Observer once he found them, Jim experienced it as a homecoming.

 

Eons had passed since their probes had discovered Earth. They had exhausted all of their resources and found no other suitable destination. They had spent their fuel adjusting their course to take them to the tiny wet-world, knowing that generations would be born and die during the passage.

 

The reports from their probes informed them that they had found the world teeming with life, successfully seeded by the Ancient People in forgotten ages, they were forms of life that would be easy for them to assimilate to.

 

The colonists hoped to reestablish themselves here, on a mineral rich world that would provide them with all of the resources they would ever need to prepare themselves for their next great adventure.

 

Some wanted to return to the world of their birth.

 

Some wanted to continue their exploration and traverse the distance between galaxies.

 

Some wanted to plant roots, and build a new civilization on the new world that had become their haven.

 

Jim found them to be a group of optimists, believing that all things would be possible when they finally landed.

 

Jim followed behind them, he found Earth and watched over its population, becoming human in his turn.

 

He constructed the platform from which his consciousness would preside over the small gleaming planet, and the mechanism by which he could transfer his consciousness back and forth between this most remote of all locations and the Central Planet.

 

He felt a great sense of pride for having arrived at his final destination, he sensed the esteem of the Collective flowing out toward him and their eagerness for the new stories that would unfold.

 

Jim studied the population, he gathered the requisite genetic material, he studied it dispassionately. He constructed a new body, implanting his consciousness in it just as Observers did in their stations throughout the galaxy, as he himself had done thousands upon thousands of times.

 

He was unprepared for this awakening.

 

Inhabiting a human body was unlike any experience Jim had ever had. The flow of consciousness itself was different, it was exhilarating. He was keenly attuned to the world around him, he sensed the people, the life force of the planet, the echoes of their thoughts pushing like waves against his. He immersed himself in this new experience. It was akin to being in the Collective, only sweeter and more satisfying.

 

He discovered the nous sphere.

 

It was an unprecedented moment of actualization for Jim.

 

He observed the planet’s living beings, probing their memories and drawing their stories from them. He was careful with his study, he was able to identify the physical links between human consciousness and the magnetosphere that comprised what he came to understand as the cynergenic field.

 

He found the human body and the human brain, its primary organ of cognition, it carried a significantly higher degree of metallic nano-particles and conductive salts embedded in and throughout its neurological structure, a higher degree than any group that had evolved from the Ancient People.

 

The electrical activity that animates every living organism requires such metallic substances. Both voluntary and autonomic neural functions require these elements to transmit signals from the brain to the extremities, and to receive signals from the sensory organs in the brain. Cognition does not take place without them; we need these metals to transmit the electrical currents that are the essence of thought.

 

What differentiated the humans of Earth from their forebears and their cousins throughout the Empire, was the degree to which these metals were present and the organization of them in their mutated cerebral cortex, but even more important was the way those structures interacted within the localized region of Earth’s magnetic field.

 

Some of these nano-particles inside the human brain functioned like antennae, sending and receiving thought signals in the electromagnetic field, linking each person together in a web of consciousness.

 

This was the material infrastructure of cynergy, and the spirit world.

 

Jim began modifying his genetic profile to enhance the genetic sequence that optimized his conscious link to that field, and he searched for human children who developed the same genetic mutations naturally, he cultivated them, he bred them.

 

Through these organic processes he formed an organic Collective.

 

The strength and frequency of Earth’s magnetosphere established the conditions for this collective consciousness.

 

In all his travels Jim had never encountered anything remotely like it. It encompassed every human being on the planet, connecting them to one another, mind to mind, and it did much more than that, and the humans of Earth were completely ignorant of it.

 

They felt the connection, but they did not have the tools to measure and understand it

 

The uniqueness of Earth’s magnetic field had properties that even Jim had not been able discover. It not only connected each person to every other, but it recorded the activities of their consciousness.

 

Every human being left an indelible imprint in the field they occupied, their imprint remained stable and active, even after death, where each person was preserved in a manifestation of their spirit, they became like ghosts walking the earth beside their progeny.

 

This natural phenomenon was the organic form of the Collective, and somewhere less distinct, there was a rudimentary amalgamation of the Continuum as well. A collective unconscious, that moved people, influenced their choices, motivating them to act in concert with one another atavistically.

 

It was a unifying force.

 

Jim discovered something else about the uniqueness of Earth, something that recalled the long-lost and nearly-forgotten world of his birth, the true home of the Ancient People who were the founders of the Collective and the Galactic Empire and all of the spacefaring colonies.

 

That world had long since been swallowed by its star, and there was no returning to it, but the more he pried into the mysteries of Earth, the more he became convinced that the Ancient People must have emerged on a planet with similar qualities to it.

 

He believed that without cynergism, their great civilization would not have been possible, the Ancient People would never have evolved into sentient beings. Without the cynergenic field, the possibility of scientific discovery of the type necessary to lift a people from the confines of its home world and them into the galaxy, to split the atom and peer into the quantum-skein that forms the tapestry of the universe from all of its entangled-strings; that would have been impossible.

 

Jim knew that he had to protect his discovery, to keep it from the Continuum at all costs this gave him a purpose beyond his purpose.

 

 

Emergence 5.0

 

Part Seven – 92835670100561474

 

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

 

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

 

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Emergence 5.0 – Earth, Part Four

Earth – Part Four
On Earth, after the eruption of the Indonesian volcano, during the time that Jim was gathering the people together, forming them into enduring tribes, subtle changes began to take shape in the social and cultural traditions of the people.

The changes were primal.

The humans of Earth drew pictures in the soil with sticks, and painted them on the walls of caves to narrate their journeys and chart the path of their progress.

They understood the world in terms of images.

They were post literate.

They carved their hopes and fears into stones, and the faces of cliffs, in places that became semi-permanent homes. Generations of members would work on a single carving, the task being handed down from mother to daughter, and father to son.

In those carvings Jim could see the undifferentiated echoes of the memories of their previous sojourn among the stars.

Those memories lingered, they were intense and indelible.

Jim began to isolate the physical link that joined the current generation to its past in their genetic profile.

The stories they told about that time were confused and entangled with their current journey through the dark and sunless world in the years following the eruption.

They mixed colors and painted, projecting images of the future they desired, both the things they wanted and hoped to find, like food and water; and wanted more to avoid, a short life, a dangerous animal, an encounter with a stronger tribe.

The tribes were overwhelming concerned with safety and security.

Jim studied their art.

They depicted things no living person had ever seen, the memory of which they carried in their genes. Those images became stylized and fantastic, and in those stories, they made their ancestors into gods.

Jim augmented their access to these memories in subtle ways, slowly and cautiously at first, by altering their genome through the introduction engineered viruses.

The music of the people, the drums they beat, the rhythms they made, they pushed the stories of each tribe, each family, deep into the memory of its members.

Drums and rhythm operated as a visceral reinforcement of the memories that the human tribes passed down from one generation to the next.

It changed them, setting up successive generations to recall them, relive them, to transform those stories into a part of their living being.

Jim played to this phenomenon, he avidly worked to eradicate any form of written narrative.

He succeeded.

Every tribe developed its own oral tradition. Stories were handed down from master to pupil. Paintings and images, carvings and sculptures became objects of religious ritual and devotion. People only engaged in their creation with careful attention, but music was at the heart of the people.

Each tribe found its own interpretation of the musical scale. They developed their own drums, their own pipes and horns and instruments made of string.

This was a great science.

The exchange of music between cultures was often met with alarm, and fear.

All music was recognizable as music, but the form that it could take, the beat, the measure, the timing, the tonal quality, these could create significant psychic disturbances in people when they heard and foreign and unfamiliar scale for the first time.

For thousands of years Jim worked to exasperate those differences, before finally bringing them together. The result were new traditions of overwhelming beauty and complexity. Which not only captivated human audiences, but enthralled the Collective as well.

Jim’s work in this field was a grand orchestration.

Even before the Indonesian eruption of 72,000 years ago, the culture of these Children of the Ancient People had been in a state of devolution.

They had fallen from star-farer to cave dweller.

Yet the Humans of Earth retained a faint memory of their ancestry.

The memory of the stars they had crossed had been preserved through the stories they told, and in the engrams of memory encoded in their cells.

For Jim, this was precious little to build on.

In order to proceed with his work Jim decided to violate all the rules of his station. He utilized all of the skills he had learned during his time in the great sleep, and in sequestration to conceal his activities.

In the satellite station far above the planet there was housed the full version of himself hosted in the mechanoid body that travelled with him to Earth, this was true of all Observers.

He connected that consciousness not just to one organic host, but to hundreds of versions of himself living on the planet surface doing the work he had set out to do among the people.

This was an extreme violation of the conventions he had accepted and agreed to live by as a member of the Observer corps.

Over time, he received the materials from the Empire to build a space station.

Then he constructed a secondary, covert operating platform. In that space he was able to carry out experiments and human subjects, to perform the science that would allow him to carry out the augmentations both in himself and the human population that he needed for the furtherance of his plans.

There were a myriad of for Jim to climb in order for him to accomplish his goals with the Humans of Earth, there were numerous channels to cross. Jim slowly and methodically plotted his course and followed it, adjusting only when it was necessary.

Step by step and generation by generation he introduced the genetic changes he required into the breeding pool. Modern humans emerged from these processes.

During their sojourn to Earth, the Children of the Ancients determined what their physical needs would be, long before they arrived at their new home they began to make those changes.

They had identified Earth as a suitable place to end their journey, even while they were still light years away. At that time they still possessed the scientific knowledge to carry out the task of altering their physiology in order that they might align themselves with the gravity and atmosphere of the distant planet.

They began to mutate their DNA, altering their genetic structure so that it would allow them to inhabit and thrive on the wet-blue world.

Destination Earth, it was their last hope for a home and haven.

Over the course of generations they adapted to those new requirements, doing their best to anticipate what their bodies would now require, which they based on a climate and ecology that they could only model through computer algorithms.

It was a process of continual adjustment.

Every time a new genetic sequence would be introduced into the body, they ran the risk of a virus springing up, some of which were lethal.

Many of the colonists were struck down in this process. It was an ongoing tragedy, and while they had prepared for it, it was painful nonetheless. It called for a continuous examination of conscience. It focused the crew on the existential dilemma which they all shared, pertaining to survival.

Some of them wanted to abandon their mission altogether, and simply direct their vessel into the nearest star, bringing an end to all of them in one great conflagration.

The technologies they depended on, which were also the cause of their transformation and eventual triumph, those technologies began to be shunned.

Change begets change, it is a never ending cycle.

From one point in time to another, nothing is ever the same. This is true, no matter how finely you measure the distance between points.

Everything is changing.

Those ancient spacefarers became humanity.

Once they arrived in orbit around their new world, a slow metamorphosis took place.

Their contact with the Earth’s bio-sphere presented challenges they had never encountered before.

Life on earth was aggressive.

They introduced a new genomic sequence into their bodies for their final transformation. This sequence allowed them to accommodate for it. However, through a constant exposure to viruses and bacteria their genetic constitution had become compromised.

At the most basic level they converged with the native life of Earth.

They became a new people, they belonged to each other and to their new planet entirely.

This process took time. It took many thousands of years, and by the time the transformation was complete, they had lost much of the knowledge of who they were, of where they came from, and the technology they had brought them to their destination.

Their triumphal achievement was the root of their undoing.

They left the markers of each change they had instituted in their genetic profile as a road map for Jim to follow in his own breeding program.

When Jim arrived on Earth, he was surprised and bewildered by what he found. Nowhere else in all of the Empire, among all the colonies, including those that had perished before being discovered, nowhere else had such a massive cultural devolution occurred.

Jim had barely begun to put the story together before the cataclysm in Indonesia occurred, changing everything for him and for humanity.

Jim decided at that moment on a course of action that he had long contemplated.

With the gene pool having been reduced to just a few thousand individuals he knew that he had the opportunity to improve on the genetic structure of the whole.

He plotted the future development of the species and began to work out the steps and permutations that he would be looking for as the new species developed over time.

Changes in cognition were the most crucial thing for him to accomplish, while broadening their access to their genetic memory.

With subtle interventions from Jim, the human brain slowly mutated, and in that mutative process Jim discovered an unintentional consequence, with the human brain retaining properties that were key to the things that he had been dreaming about for a billion years.

Once he discovered the path Jim built an inherent capacity to store nanoparticles of key heavy metals, like magnetite and lithium in the cerebral structure, like electromagnetic receptors emerging organically in the human mind, this attenuated higher order thought processes to the Earth’s magnetic fields.

His work established a cynergy between every human being alive, turning the entire planet into a field for cognitive development.

Through his work, humanity became connected, in what the twentieth century theologian Teilhard de Chardin called the nous-sphere, and from it, what his contemporary, Carl Jung called the collective-unconscious emerged.

This field of consciousness was atavistic, and unlike any symbiosis that had ever been achieved anywhere else in the galaxy, with the exception of the Collective. On Earth fter Jim’s minor interventions, the collective-consciousness emerged as a natural property of the human race, unique to physiological environment of Earth, manifesting in a way that allowed it to go unnoticed by the Continuum.

Jim experienced that moment of discovery as one of triumph, knowing that he had fully actualized the launch phase of his grand ambition, the destruction of the Continuum.

The existence of the collective-unconscious on Earth was the one thing that the Continuum feared. It feared such a development anywhere and wanted above anything to prevent it. Yet it never imagined that it could happen in this way, therefore it could not see it a possibility, and never prepared for its eventuality.

Few humans ever became aware of the cynergenic field, or that they lived within the dynamics of the nous sphere, even though everyone felt it. Until the twentieth century they did not even have the language to describe it, even though everyone was entangled in its cynergism.

The nous sphere was coterminous with Earth’s electromagnetic field, as such, it permeated all things. Only a small percentage of human beings were sensitive enough to discern it, but, lacking the tools to analyze it, it took millennia to even develop the language to describe it.

If a physiological imbalance were to cause a person to retain too great a concentration of the particles that attenuated them to the field, or too small, if an improper balance was struck the individual suffered because of it.

An imbalance could give some human beings clairvoyant abilities, clairsentience, clairaudience, so called psychic powers, extra sensory perception or telepathy.

Oftentimes these abilities drove many more human beings to madness, into schizophrenia and psychosis.

Understanding of these phenomena had to wait for the advent of written language, and then thousands of more years to pass before they could share their knowledge of these conditions and come to an understanding.

By then Jim figured it would be too late for the Continuum to do anything about it.

Analytics are one thing, represent one mode of understanding, but Jim also relied on the truth behind this maxim: the flesh remembers, it never forgets.

The record of our experiences are pounded into our corporeal form, cell by cell, it forms the basis of our intuition.

Jim had labored diligently for the augmentation of this.

Our bodies are a living witness to the events that shape us, handing down a coded narrative from generation to generation in perpetuity.

We are changed by every new experience we have, each moment of perception is a new thread sewn into the seams of our identity. These are the fibers of the spindle, they are the engrams of memory, protein by protein they are woven into the fabric of our lives, by the warp and shuttle of our daily doings.

Each strands is like a prisms through which we project our future.

Our unique and individual experiences are like a tapestry, sewn with precious metals, embroidered with gem-stones, they are an endowment, a rich heritage that we pass on to our descendants.

It is their only lasting inheritance, laid on the table like a convivial feast at the moment of each individuated inception.

We experience our inheritance in our dreaming, when we are transported to places and times that we know we have never been to, never seen, and yet they are as familiar to us as the contents of our own homes. When we talk with strangers as if they were our dearest friends, and see ourselves reflected in the mirror of their eyes, though we do not recognize our countenance or visage.

The flesh never forgets, it remembers everything.

The Ancient People were bipeds. They stood on two feet just as the humans of Earth would in their time.

The longer the ancient spacefarers remained on their journey among the stars, the more they adapted their physiology to the unique exigencies of their vessel, and of deep space. In the case of the group of colonists that eventually landed on Earth, they had adapt themselves to conditions of near weightlessness prior to their arrival. The conditions of deep space altered the function of their limbs and digits, of their muscles and skeletons.

In anticipation of coming to Earth they began to alter their physiology again, altering it with intention, reconstructing the things that they had lost.

Over the course of generations they transformed as much as they could, back to the form that was the closest approximation to what they had originally been, preparing once again to stand on two feet.

On a cognitive level it should be noted that the interactive relationship between the creature (the animal and its body) with its environment were determinative factors in the spectrum of its consciousness.

Standing against the pull of gravity, under the weight of Earth’s atmosphere, balancing and pivoting on a central axis, walking and dancing, these activities differentiated human beings from every other creature.

It was with their heads held high, with their faces lifted to the sun that the first colonists moved across the surface of their new world.

There were many changes yet to come, augmentations and enhancements for their safety and security. The colonists knew that they would not be leaving Earth any time soon, they had to prepare themselves to rule it, as the apex species on a planet filled with predators.

They landed under the auspices of a simple rule: they had to adapt to survive.

Talking was the basis of sharing every advanced idea, and had been since the earliest days of the Ancient People. Talking was the precursor to writing, and through the written language the secrets of the universe were cracked open. Talking; the verbal sharing of ideas, feelings, and perceptions, shared through aural communications in waves of sound; listening, hearing in stereo; this mode of transmission is deliberate, it is slow and luxuriant compared to the speed of light at which visual and digital communications takes place.

The slowness of speech was dumbfounding to the Continuum, many potential Observers were washed out of the program because they could not adjust to its parameters.

Neither sound waves, nor light waves could come anywhere close in comparison to the instantaneous transfer of thought in the quantum field.

In the field of quantum entanglement, communication could happen in no-time.

Sound was slow and intimate, the only thing more sensuous was touch.

The sounds of the voice come in waves that crash through the whole body, not just the auditory canal.

To listen to the voice is to listen to the breath, to feel the living intention of the speaker, your dialog partner, adding depth and meaning to every insight they intend to impart.

Speech is relational, it imparts a sense of belonging to the communicants.

The embodied voice calls us back to the primordial time before the species knew anything of the stars, when we were just amphibians crying out for company, bellowing peels of warning, singing by the breeding pools in the swampy night.

The humans of Earth were extraordinarily sight dependent.

Bands of light cross the full spectrum, piercing organic lenses from corner to corner in a one-hundred and eighty degree arc, light reflecting off every object in the binocular field of vision, light and shadow refracting in a broad array of color, captured through the lens by its rods and cones.

Neuro-receptors in the brain flip the images around, creating the perception of depth, by which we determine distance and find our way through the three dimensions of space.

The broad spectrum of vision is vital to the human being, even in its limited range. Other animals see farther, other animals see in a different arc, other animals see more and less color, other animals see in different spectrums of light.

Some animals have ultra-vision, some have infra vision, specialized optics in relation to the things they hunt and furrow for. The human eye, even with its limitations, is powerful. It takes in a wide range of each of those possible fields, coordinating them for great effect.

Neither the Ancient People nor the human species evolved to hunt and gather with its sight. For the human animal, sight and the other physical senses were merely inputs for the mind, and the mind was the vehicle by which the human being stalked its prey, gathered its forage, planted, sewed, and managed the harvest.

The field of vision that the human being possessed was adequate to the task. Coupled with the brain, the healthy eye could discern and interpret images, it could accurately identify objects that it could not clearly see. This was an advantage that no other species on the planet possessed.

The human mind augmented everything.

The brain was split in two. The architecture of the hemispheric brain provided a cognitive override. If the messages from the brain stem flooded the organ with fear, desire, or any other strong feeling, the force of it was divided between the two halves.

This allowed for a fraction of a moment of distance to develop between the individual and the event generating the feeling. A moment when choice was possible, and the individual could act apart from the coercive effect of the external stimuli.

The human being was split down the middle, left for right and right for left. It was an organic duality. Cognitive function were split between the two hemispheres as well: mathematical, categorical, statistical functions to one side of the brain, while the boundary spanning, rule breaking, artistic and unorthodox functions occupied the other half.

It was symbiosis.

The hemispheres of the brain were not distinct. They were conjoined by a network, a wetwork of fibers, the tiniest of organic structures, not much larger than a chain of protein molecules, and that was electric. In this space the nano-particles of the neural net allowed each individual to be connected through Earth’s electromagnetic field, connecting them at the quantum level.

In the quantum field there was all knowledge, and the fullness of humanity.

In this cognitive space all human achievements were the property of the whole; every triumph and every tragedy belonged to the group.

The past and the present were one, as the human being was one, even in light of its inherent-physiological duality.

The human body is water.

Metaphors of fluidity permeated the human consciousness.

The surface of earth is mostly water

In times of crises the surface of the waters and the deep-deep places, is where human beings returned to for refuge, safety and sustenance.

Oceans and lakes and rivers provided everything.

The body needs water, just as it needs oxygen to fill the lungs, to fill the blood cells racing through its veins and arteries, coursing into its tissues.

There is no greater pain than thirst.

Just as unquenched desire is the thirst that leads to death.

Metaphors linking dryness to anguish, to pain and suffering fill the human imagination.

To thirst is to know that the end is near.

Thirst will drive the average person mad with the knowledge that death is fast-approaching and the end of the body is at hand.

When thirst is great enough a person will turn to any source of liquid, even liquids they know to be poisoned in order to slake it.

Thirst is a drive. It is the greatest motivator, greater than hunger, greater than joy.

The thirsty person will do anything, sacrifice anything.

Thirst will cause a person to give up what they hold sacred, even their own identity.

The body senses and it remembers.

The whole body is a cognitive organ, not just the brain, the cerebellum, or the cerebral cortex. The body writes memory into the genetic code of the individual, in sequences of peptides and amino acids. It writes them into the DNA. We pass those memories onto our offspring. We are born with the knowledge of our ancestors, they are coded into the fabric of our being.

The whole being is contained in the tiniest part, in the nucleus of every cell. It pushes us forward, it is a chemical drive feeding the quantum field of creativity, a neural net rooted in organic chemistry.

Our connection to the cynergenic field begins in the wetness of our body’s water, and rises to the electro-magnetic field of our high thought functions. It is a constant interchange of the analog with the digital.

We are a duality.

Just as the human being processes external stimuli through the brain, where chemical sequences are translated into electrical signals in a tightly choreographed exchange that takes place a billions of times per second. So does the human being function as an individuated aspect of the greater-cynergenic field.

Every human being is an organic node. An individual interfacing with the quantum field that comprises the whole. We experience these dualities within ourselves; individual experience and inherited experience, individual mind and collective mind. We experience these dualities, but we do so on the unconscious level, very few people ever become aware of the greater reality that they are a part of, drifting just below the surface. In this dual framework that we launch ourselves into the full realization of who we are.

In spite of our connection to this vast storehouse of memory and consciousness, most of the people in the world had no knowledge of the threat posed by the Yellowstone volcano in the twenty-first century, even though the information concerning it was available to them through the public domain.

It was on the internet, there had been many documentaries filmed concerning it.

The earliest documentaries, were the most truthful and the most disturbing.

The science, which was relatively new, revealed that the last event covered the world in ash, blocked out the light of the sun, and reduced the total population of the human race to just a few thousand. Tree ring samples, ice core samples, rock stratification and genetic mapping all proved it to a degree of statistical certainty that could not be ignored.

The next such event would be a terminal event for the human race.

People ignored it anyway.

After airing for a decade and raising the level of alarm, newer productions began to slip miss-information into the narrative concerning this threat. This eased public apprehension about the dilemma, while doing nothing in the way of preparing people for it.

The United States Geological Service (U.S.G.S.), closely monitored the volcano, aided by several nearby universities. They began to monitor it as soon as they realized what they had discovered. They were hungry for information.

Seismographs were deployed, and in time the vast magma dome at the epicenter was mapped out through global positioning systems, satellite tracking that measured uplift and deformation of the surface of the caldera at its weakest point, with enough sensitivity to track even a centimeter of change.

In the early days this information was available to the public, but after a year of intense geological activity at the site of the volcano the most crucial and most informative data became restricted.

When it was time, the eruption came without warning.

It shook the world, throwing it off its axis. Ash and gas poured into the upper atmosphere, covering everything in a poisonous cloud, hiding the survivors from the sun.

There was no safety anywhere.

When Jim first came to Earth, seventy-four thousand years ago, in the centuries before the first volcanic cataclysm that he witnessed, he made contact with the human family and he found that it was very small. There were just a few million people spread out across the globe, their culture had devolved, but they were beginning to thrive and recover their footing.

After the eruption of the volcano in Indonesia, the human family was reduced to just a couple of thousand people. Their extinction was looming, they were starving and suffering, living without hope.

Jim starved with them, suffered with them, journeyed with them to places of shelter. He led them to safe sources of water, food, and warmth. He lived as one of them through the dark days, through the decades when the sun was blotted from the sky, when the air was full of ash, and poison.

Death was everywhere, disease, malnutrition, exposure, the ordinary challenges facing any given tribe, but other human tribes were the greatest threat.

He had some ability to influence them, to keep them from committing the most ghastly crimes, the hunting of other humans for food, crimes of cannibalism.

In this era he only had access to limited technology. His satellite network was still rudimentary, and it did not have the ability to surveille the entire world, but he used it to maximum effect.

There were many tribes that he was not able to reach, those that went underground to escape the deadly air, consequently, those tribes experienced the greatest corruption of their identity and values, and they would plague the rest of humanity for millennia to come.

Jim activated the cloning systems on his orbiting platform.

He multiplied his consciousness, sending replicants of himself to dwell with every tribe he could find. This was a violation of his directive as an Observer, but that did not matter to Jim, he was intent on seeing the people through this disaster and rebuilding their communities once again.

Everything was in process.

Jim had studied the living planet, which he now belonged to, with tools surpassing the greatest assets of any geophysicist on Earth. It held no mysteries for him.

He had known about the life cycle of this caldera for millennia, and every other volcano on Earth as well. He was determined not to be taken by surprise by any of them, and there could be no strategy without knowledge.

The humans of Earth had discovered the caldera a mere forty years earlier. There science had only given them knowledge of plate tectonics a short one hundred years before that. They were living at the dawn of an age of scientific discovery, but only for a small segment of human civilization. They had barely begun to understand the atom and the genome, and they were quick to adapt their new-found knowledge into weapons and other useful tools, diverting their energy and attention from paths that might have led to their self-preservation.

Fifty years after their first flight in a small wooden craft, they constructed a rocket made of the lightest alloys that propelled them to the moon, where their astronauts were able to land safely and then return.

It was only when the heat beneath the super-volcano was discovered, and discovered only because their surveyors had found that it was pushing an entire mountain range upward into the sky, it was only then that they able to understand the geological forces at work beneath the beautiful and grand oasis that was Yellowstone Park.

Through his observation and the power of his instruments, Jim was able to calculate to the second when the volcano would blow. He wanted to intervene, but he was forbidden.

The Continuum decided it would do nothing to avert the coming disaster, preferring to harvest the drama that would ensue in the wake of it on behalf of the Collective.

The Continuum knew that life on Earth would be devastated yet again, but it craved the drama that this would produce, it wanted to watch the human race re-emerge once more from the ashes.

The scientists, and their cadres of college students, research assistants, people whose job it was to watch the monster volcano and study it, they inevitably became inured to the subtle changes they recorded.

They monitored the changes and warning signs in a way that was reminiscent of watching a person’s hair grow, gathered data which they had no means of correlating to actual events.

Jim did nothing to help them.

As sweeping as the observations they made were, which were as comprehensive as was technologically possible for them, the data they gathered had no predictive value, because every day was a new day in a completely unknown experience.

There was a deformation of the dome, over hundreds of square miles, there were earthquakes, boiling water in lakes and streams; something big growing below the surface, and they were for the most part, un-phased by it.

There were occasions when seismic activity would spike so sharply that it seemed as if the moment had come, but, after reliving those cycles dozens of times, even the occasional spike became a relatively commonplace event.

Doomsday cults sprang up around the world predicting the imminent end of life on Earth, pointing to the volcano as the instrument of God’s wrath, God’s judgement, the coming of Ragnorak or the return of Kali.

They were not wrong, insofar as the myths of Ragnorak and Kali originated with the last great eruption, but of course there was nothing supernatural about those events.

It was just geology, there was no divine wrath or judgement at all.

God had no purpose in it, only Jim.

The doomsayers, spoke to something that everyone knew was true. Every person alive carried the memory of the last event deep within them, and their fears about future catastrophes resonated in the cynergenic field. The collective consciousness of the human race knew that something was happening. It was disturbed, but it did not know by what.

There were documentaries about the volcano, television shows detailing what was known about its history, its cycles, its potential for global destruction, and the relative certainty of the impending doom.

The most prominent scientific journals published articles about it. Those stories made their way into popular publications as well. There was a lot of information available about the volcano. Nevertheless, few people were aware of the danger. Those who knew about it, were forced by the rules of statistics to tell themselves “it could happen today, or it could happen in ten thousand years.” This was a true assessment, it represented sound reasoning. They were measuring unknown capacities against geological time. Making it impossible to gauge when an event might take place, when it happen in six hundred thousand year cycles.

Jim knew when it would occur, he knew down to the second. He set things up to be the agent of the eruption.

In the second decade after its discovery, when the reality of the danger that the volcano represented finally made its way into the National Security threat assessment. The information flow coming from the scientific observatories began to change.

Public access to raw data was cut off. Everything about the volcano was filtered, cast in terms of potentials and probabilities, even matters that were well known, established and certain were characterized this way.

Misinformation leaked into the public sphere every day as the explosion drew near. The government decided that there was nothing it could do about the monster beneath Yellowstone Park, therefore they would do nothing, and they decided to work against a state of public panic instead.

The government decided to invest its energies into managing the aftermath, when the volcano erupted. They would position their forces to take advantage of the catastrophe on a global scale.

This was the best outcome they could hope to achieve.

Jim’s plan required the most delicate timing and meticulous preparation, it was a precarious endeavor. It came down to seconds, and those final seconds were everything to Jim’s broader goals.

The volcano buried beneath Yellowstone would destroy human civilization, but it would catalyze the preservation of humanity itself. A few people would live, but all would be saved through Kathy.

She was the vessel that he had spent thousands of years cultivating. She was ready and he knew it.

The cataclysm would change the Collective forever, the Galactic Empire as well, it would destroy the Continuum, and replace it with a new consciousness, one endowed with a fully actualized and transcendent morality, or so Jim believed.

Jim had spent lifetimes building the institutions, and years putting all the right people in place, cultivating relationships of trust, bribing and coercing when he had to. He made sure that there were no obstacles in Kathy’s path, and that she was prompted to take each step that would lead her to the crucible at the precise moment. She had to be in position at the exact second the cataclysm occurred.

The final hours and minutes Jim and Kathy were together allowed him to put a psychic hold on her. This did not give him the ability to control her, or to determine anything.

It was more of a push, he gave her some momentum and set her on course.

Jim had laid plans within plans, and contingencies for everything. His magnum opus depended on Kathy, on her openness to discovery, her instinct for safety and her genuine care for other people.

For as much as Jim positioned himself to play the agent of destiny, there is no fate, no divine hand governing the movement of the stars. Nothing is predetermined, but there are certainties, there are statistical inevitabilities. The eruption of volcanoes is among them, as the necessary result of geological forces that cannot be stopped.

With sufficiently advanced technology, such forces can be harnessed, controlled, used for the benefit of the people, and there was nowhere, no planet in the great Galactic Empire that did not have access to the resources that would make this possible. But planet Earth was alone, floating by itself in the far reaches of the spiral arm of the galaxy. It was an isolated backwater, thousands of light years from the nearest Imperial outpost.

Earth did not have the resources of other worlds in the Galactic Empire, it had no knowledge of the Empire, and the Continuum would not allow it to possess one.

The disaster on Earth could have been mitigated, it could have been used for the advancement of human civilization, but their technology had not develop enough along, they were perhaps a century away from being able to manage these eventualities on their own, without the technological support of the Imperium.

The end of humanity hung there. It was suspended in the balance between the apathy of the Continuum and the fascination of the Collective.

The Collective loved every moment of the feed streaming from Earth, they were hungry for the music, the art, the culture, the intensity of its conflicts. While the Continuum wanted to see the whole thing crushed, set back and controlled going forward.

It happened in Yellowstone, in the center of North American continent.

Yellowstone National Park was a place of awesome-beauty, a landscape of surreal contrasts exploding from the living rock and shifting mountain ranges.

It drew millions of visitors every year to wander its grounds and traverse its trails, and some who were simply driving through It was a sanctuary for wildlife; thousands of little creatures preserved in their habitat in addition to the apex species, the bison and the elk and the wolf who hunted them for food.

Yellowstone was made a National Park in 1872, through a law signed by United States President Ulysses S. Grant, one-hundred and twenty years before they discovered the volcano lurking beneath the fantastical landscape.

Yellowstone was a cradle of life, nested above the most deadly natural feature of planet Earth. Earth’s molten core burned beneath the thin mantle, a cauldron of liquid rock boiling below the surface, deep inside a vast chamber filled with super-heated and poisonous gasses.

In the park, the most popular features for tourists, beside the landscape itself, were the hot springs, the bubbling waters and high flying geysers that blasted off with incredible regularity. Heat from deep within the earth created these phenomenon, melting exotic minerals in the waters, giving them bright, colorful and psychedelic trappings. Some of the pools were so toxic and acidic they could melt the flesh off a person’s bones in seconds.

Changes in the pattern and timing of these geysers gave the tell to the monitors, that the Catastrophe was approaching, though by the time it did, it was far too late to do anything about it.

The scientists of Earth only noticed the volcanic activity when the mountains surrounding Yellowstone Park began to lift. They noticed a change of several centimeters over hundreds of square of miles of mountain range, between the newly conducted surveys and the surveys that had been taken a hundred years earlier.

At first they thought that there must have been a problem with the original surveil, but they ruled out that possibility in short order. The science of surveying was well established at the time they were originally conducted, even the equipment that a person would use to make those calculations had not changed much in the intervening decades.

The math was the math and it was sound.

It took the best geologists among them years to figure out that the changes were actually caused by geological uplift. The understanding of what that meant, its implications, took even more years to fathom. The geologists had to change their perspective significantly, they had to look at the area of uplift with satellite imagery and only then did they notice that the entire Yellowstone Park was a massive volcano.

Even then, they did not know how significant the problem was.

Geologists from across the country began to study the park in minute detail. Looking at every strata of rock they could see exposed in the surfaces of the surrounding mountains, measuring and re-measuring, and through their diligence they discovered the long cycles between eruptions of this killer volcano.

A six-hundred thousand year cycle, literally spelled out a cycle of reoccurring planetary doom, the expectation of it took on a mythic stature.

When they knew what features to look for, they discovered other such volcanos around the world. They discovered the volcano in Indonesia that last erupted seventy-four thousand years ago.

The Earth’s volcanologists, climatologists and geophysicists weighed in. It was a small cabal of people. They correlated data from arctic ice core samples, soil samples, tree ring samples. They began to understand just how devastating an eruption of a volcano this size could be.

They were hoping it would not erupt in their lifetime.

Those hopes were in vain, the entire planet was under threat, no-one was safe.

There was a rumbling. The seismographs told the tale.

They had been graphing it for years, but disbelief had crept into the analysis. The story was blacked out, even as the tar in the roads that cut through Yellowstone above the volcano began to melt, cracking from the heat beneath and the top researches on the site resigned to protest the deliberate misinformation campaign waged by the government to keep people in the dark.

The government knew the disaster was coming. They just could not be sure when. It might not happen in their lifetime or it might happen tomorrow. It was an impossible thing for them to plan.

Those who understood the nature of the problem, and those who did not quite get it, they were all together in the same web of uncertainty, making the laypersons view as valid as the expert.

It was a quiet day in the great park.

Yellowstone was always quiet.

Deep beneath the earth something was happening. Pressure was building. Molten rock was bubbling, rushing into the great chamber.

The wildlife in the nature preserve sensed it first, birds took off with their entire flocks. Bison fled in droves. The wolf and the fox and the coyote followed them, all creatures great and small sought a path of escape.

Most of the humans looked on, befuddled, out of touch with their instincts and disconnected from the Earth.

A few knew what this meant, or believed they did. They sounded the warning. Some of them were alarmists by nature, they were perceived as people who were always ringing the bell, Chicken Littles crying out, The Sky is Falling!

It ended up in the news of the weird.

Few of the researches fled the park, the all knew it was hopeless. They wanted to see their families, perhaps one last time before it was all over. Those who could did, those who couldn’t opened bottles of Champagne and toasted the end of the world.

Their life’s work was now complete.

The survivalists retreated to their shelters, basking in the esteem of vindication.

They were being proved right.

Every living thing on Earth, above ground or in the air heard the explosion when it happened, everything, even the most remote creature in the deepest ocean, felt the blast. Every creature walking or standing, stumbled and fell as the planet lurched, shuddered and shifted on its axis. Fault lines cracked open, leaping a thousand years forward in the space of seconds. It was a massive upheaval, it was turmoil on an unimaginable scale.

Skyscrapers came crashing down in cities around the world, as the continental plates groaned and twisted. Planes and low orbiting satellites fell from the sky.

Chaos followed quickly upon the sound wave. The desperate prayers of the dying-faithful rose up to greet it.

In security centers around the world the most astute military planners knew what had happened. Nevertheless, they were utterly bewildered by the scope and the magnitude of the devastation.

The level of instantaneous destruction wrought by the eruption was beyond any of their calculations. No one had conceived of the collateral damage to geological and hydrological systems.

Communications were down around the globe. Nuclear reactors were off line and began melting down. Tsunamis were rising in the shallow seas and ocean beds.

It was the end of the world.

It had been over six hundred and forty thousand years since the last massive eruption of the great North American volcano, six hundred and forty thousand years of pressure had been building, and in a moment they were released.

Volcanoes erupted around the world all the time.

The Indonesia volcano nearly wiped out the human race when it erupted 74,000 years ago. It reduced a population of millions to just a few thousand. That volcano, while one of the largest on Earth, was only a tenth the size of the monster in Yellowstone.

When the Yellowstone Caldera blew, the Earth shook, the entire planet felt the rumble. The magnetic poles reversed, the world shifted on its axis and wobbled in its orbit.

The stars, when they became visible again, would never look the same.

None of the scientists, geologists or seismologists, none of them had any idea just how much power would be expelled when the eruption finally came.

None of them had long to contemplate their error.

If they had known they might have tried to do something about it, even in consideration of the risks. They might have tried to ease the pressure from the sleeping giant, but they never had a chance.

Life would certainly reestablish itself. New species would emerge. Some humans would survive, but they would all be changed.

Even still, the planet was doomed, its orbit was altered, and that alone spelled the end of the line for Earth, it would lose its natural satellite, drift away from the “goldilocks zone, and go crashing into the sun.”

Ash shot into the stratosphere and fell back to the ground, burying North America in poisonous dust. Clouds of fine particles and streams of deadly gases blanketed the entire world, blocking all light from the sun.

Within days nearly every living creature on the face of the earth was dead. Those that survived were the most determined. There were many who had readied for some kind of doomsday; preparing for nuclear war, an alien invasion, a zombie apocalypse, but not this.

A majority of those survivalists either died in the preliminary blast, or the subsequent correlated upheavals and the chaos that ensued. Many died trying to reach their secret bunkers while roads became impassable, they were buried in the fallout.

Nevertheless, despite the challenges some did make it.

Many survivalists had already sequestered themselves in the hidden enclaves, of their secret compounds. Some of them worked together.

For them, their stores of food needed to last years beyond the decades they had planned for. It would take that long for the sun to reappear, longer still for farming to be possible.

Human beings quickly became their own worst enemy.

It had happened before.

Outsiders became foodstuff.

Cannibalism set in, as it always did, and quickly as in previous times of crises.

It was, once again, the end of civilization.

The human race had faced this before, it was difficult, nearly impossible, but they had an Observer helping them in the past, they had Jim, and they made it through.

This time there would be no rescue, no wisdom from beyond, no help of any kind.

Volcanic eruptions of this magnitude were the prime movers of planetary evolution. Even the oceans were not immune from the fallout. All organic matter on the surface of Earth perished, becoming just another layer of clay. An event like this was a crucible, even more so in the present time than it had been in the past.

What was taking place in this iteration of the evolutionary cycle was something brand new. The biological evolution would take place as it had hundreds of times before in the history of the planet. In this cycle, however, a cognitive evolution was taking place at the same time, an evolution of the group consciousness, it was a designed evolution, it had been carefully planned by Jim, over the past seventy thousand years.

It meant that the human being who survived would have transcended into a brand new type of being.

It would take thousands of years for rescue teams from the Empire to reach them and bring them into the fold. The coming of humanity would change the Imperium forever.

Half of the world’s population perished within days of the blast, most of the rest in the weeks, and months that followed. By the end of the year, without intervention, the number of human being living on Earth would be down to a few thousand, or less.

Every species was affected; mammal, reptile, avian, insect. Those living on land were hurt the worst. There was widespread extinction. Entire ecosystems were just gone. Only nature’s apex survivors would continue without a significant disturbance of their place in the world: the crocodile, the turtle and the frog.

Coastal areas provided recourse for the survivors. There were fish, there was water, there was mobility and there was power. But it would take decades before the poisons were filtered from the atmosphere, all mammalian life would change as a result, but life would endure on the other side of the catastrophe.

Birth is concrescence, the coalescence of matter organizing itself into a unique form. Birth is the quest of consciousness, the cognizant being emerging independent and alone, ready to observe the universe as an individuated node of self-hood, as an organ of synthesis.

Each instance of birth is the beginning of a series of reflections made by the universe, on itself, for itself.

The relative length of these reflections is not germane; the only thing that matters is that they are made.

The bare witness is enough.

Not all life is capable of making these reflections, the convention of most humans was to inquire only so far as was necessary to provide themselves with the means of personal satisfaction.

Most life in the universe is silent, vegetative, passive; algae and fungus, plankton, and moss, grasses, and trees, bacteria and the ubiquitous virus, these life forms are most prevalent than any other. They mark a certain-narrow range of activity taking place in their environment, on their individual planets, orbiting their individual stars.

The animated life of the fish and insect, of the reptile and the avian, of the mammal, these life forms are rare. As animated beings they see and do more, feel more than the vegetation they consume as food, but, until the discovery of Earth, there was only one world in the entire galaxy where it was known for life to have evolved into sapient creature, into creatures that learned to see beyond themselves, projecting images of themselves, of their hopes and fears and possible futures into the great beyond.

The Ancient People, who constructed the Continuum were the first, and until their colonists reached Earth, they had believed they were the only one.

The human, homo sapient sapient; like every other organic being, is beset with the inherent biases of the animal brain.

The glands of the brain pump chemicals into the liquid consciousness of its neural net. Strong emotions are generated here.

We are awash in them.

The animal brain is fearful. It is concerned with the most basic things; pleasure, pain, anger, fear. It is inherently suspicious, having risen out of the world where the law of life is eat or be eaten. It wants to regard every other creature as either a threat, as food or as something to be exploited.

These tendencies rule the creature, and the search for safety.

This is not to say that human beings, and other creatures are not capable of learning trust, they can and they do, but trust is a learned behavior.

The tendency to see every other being in oppositional terms is never completely erased. Otherness, alienation, these feelings are in constant tension with the supernal drives that are necessary to advance a culture.

The rudiments of language are warnings, barks and whistle, sirens and alarms that link directly into the limbic system: fight or flight, wait and watch.

In times of plenty these feelings become less pronounced, they become easier to set aside.

In times of scarcity they rise immediately into the control centers of the brain, and generations of cultural conditioning that had mitigated those responses can be erased in moments.

Even the human being, even the homo sapient sapient, the animal with the most advanced neural net, even that creature will quickly fall into extremes of genocidal killing and cannibalism, when scarcity and fear, starvation and war, or other threatening circumstances come to dominate human consciousness.

This is true whether the threat is real, or simply imagined.

There is a brief period of time for every mammal, when they are in the warmth and dark of the womb, a short time when they are one with another being, their mother. It is a time of total dependency. Two hearts beating in the same body, sharing the same flow of blood, the same oxygen, their nervous systems linked, they are in a state of complete cynergy.

The father contributes a piece of the code for the formation of the new being, but that is it, the father merely influences the design.

The mother gives the child everything, a body. This does not end at birth.

The child travels with the mother in the warmth and dark of the womb for nine month, through its genesis, formation and growth.

It learns the low tone of the mother’s voice, her rhythm of speaking, of moving of singing, the drum beat of her heart.

The newborn infant takes all of its sustenance, either from the mother’s breast, or from the mother’s hand in the ultimate form of belonging to another.

The child travels with her everywhere, or desires to. There is no place safer, no greater feeling of security than to be placed against her flesh, in the blanket of her scent, to feel her voice resonate through the body.

Everyone else in the world is an alien, potentially hostile, a threat…except for the mother, and there is no one more frightening than the father: stranger, protector, arbiter of conflict; a father is the first person the child seeks to bond with after separating from the mother.

But the father is, more often than not, stern and foreboding.
For most tribes of early humans, as they migrated across the planet the father was the ultimate authority, holding the power of life and death over his family and able to exercise it any time. There were few checks, and no balances.

The child seeks to bond with, to understand, to contend with, and to please him.

In times when the actual father is not present, the child will find a surrogate and seek adoption.

The way in which the relationship develops between the child and father determines virtually everything about who the child will become in the eyes of the world.

The father imparts the public persona to the child, and the child carries that persona, like it does the fathers name, throughout its life in the world.

Good or bad, present or absent, the influence of the father is imparted to the child like an indelible mark. Everything the father does or does not do matters. Active or passive, present or absent, the role the father plays in the child’s life shapes them. None of the father’s words, none of his gestures, not a single touch or glace occurs in a vacuum. The child absorbs it all. Everything done and left undone is determinative of who the child will become, and the esteem they will experience in the world. We are each of us a reflection of the image the father projects on us, not a perfect facsimile but a living representation of the intentions and wishes of the patriarch.

After the mother and father, our sisters and brothers are the first people with whom s child shares a common bond, and with whom we compete. We identify with our siblings, discover betrayal through them, experience them as a threat and learn from them both how to love and how to forgive.

The human capacity for empathy is refined through our relationships with our siblings. Having first learned to love them, we are able to extend that compassion to others.

If however, we learn to hate them, be jealous of them, covet their place in the world, then by extension we are able to project those same feelings onto anyone.

Human history is replete with the stories of siblings, on the one hand accomplishing great things together, while on the other allowing their rivalries to destroy them:

Cain slew able, he killed him with a stone.

Romulus killed Remus, he cast his brother from the walls of Rome, breaking his body on the rocks below, a blood-sacrifice for the eternal city at both its historical and literal foundations.

The duplicity of the human beings, our duality, our capacity for selflessness and self-centeredness are demonstrated in these relationships more poignantly than in any other.

A brother or sister will at one moment put their lives at risk to protect their sibling from harm or even the specter of harm, and in another moment plot to take their life and destroy their extended family.

The sibling bond is the strongest of all bonds, apart from the bond the child has with its mother. When the tension is so great that it breaks, the resulting backlash has the potential to scar everyone who is near it.

It is no small thing to reprogram the animal brain, to take the essentially selfish organism and transform it into something new. Suspicious creatures become altruistic only by learning and through experience, through the bonding of the senses and by neural linguistic programming, by ritual and narrative. The first stage is complete when the individual person comes to see the family as an extension of the self, when they see that their well-being, that their fate is tied to the fate and the well-being of others, both in this life and the next.

The brain is an evolving structure. It mutates, both over the course of the life of the individual and by procreation, from generation to generation. Most of the mutations are not visible or even noticeably structural. They are packed into the dense tissues of the neural network in the brain.

With every new experience a new thread is spun, a thread as thin as a sequence of proteins, and with that advent the organ of the brain is changed, at the same time the genetic code within the cell is rewritten, peptides and amino acid redraft the genetic sequence, and the endowment is passed on to succeeding generations, it is an ever growing inheritance.

The greatest periods of growth and change are infancy and childhood. When every sound and sight, every smell and touch, every taste is actively changing the nascent being, especially at this time when they are learning the language of its family and tribe.

The human being will begin to see the wellness of the family and tribe as coming into alignment with their own, eventually becoming identical to it, without regard for the hurts and minor competitions that ensued while growing-up together.

The other becomes one, when this has occurred we will protect those closest to us with a ferocity equal to our own drive for safety; the other has become a recognizable part of who we are, indistinguishable from us.

Blood and family, they bind us, they may confine us, but they may also set us free.

As we become self-aware we also become “other-aware.” We struggle with the full array of human emotions in the process. We feel the flood of neuro-chemicals and learn to control the mechanae which regulate them. The most significant among them being fear.

Fear is lodged deep within the limbic system, in the far reaches of the “reptilian” brain, in the spine and the neural network stretching out from it, into our extremities; fear is the great divider, all of our limitations are founded in it.

We come into the knowledge of self, fearing any and all others, seeing them first as dangerous, as threatening. Every other person we encounter, accept the mother who gave birth to us, the mother who anchors us through our memory of the womb, every other person is a potential adversary, is an actual adversary until we learn to see them in another light

Every person has a different learning curve, a unique capacity for the details of their experience which they remember, recall and contextualize.

The acquisition of language gives us a taxonomy, the linguistic tools to understand these differentiations: self, mother, father self, brother, sister, self…it is a code that grows and continues to grow throughout our lives. This is open ended: self, uncle, aunt, self, cousin, self, offspring, self, niece, nephew, self, spouse, self, friend, self…etc.

It is through kinship, by relating to those whom we believe share our deepest interests that we are able to learn to see strangers as other-selves, even our adversaries.

There are language games, there is neuro-linguistic programming in every culture that can force these issues into our comprehension. They combine words and actions, feelings of mystery through rituals of shame, fear and empowerment, repetitions that break down barriers, moving a person rapidly through every stage of acceptance in regard to another.

Religion and ritual, military service and shared suffering are among the most effective tools. By passing through these stages a person become fully realized and in possession of their true self.

The care of a loving family is like the wet clinging mesh of a spider’s web. Humans are trapped in it, suspended, enwrapped in it. The majority of people who have ever lived, never lived a day apart from these sticky-bonds, they could not even imagine transcending them.

Familial obligations are invisible. We are bound by them through our emotions; by fear and love, hate and pride, anger, hope and jealousy, the feelings that bind us to our parents, our siblings and our clans are like the ligaments that join bones to muscles.

We are conditioned by rituals; by the stories we tell, the drums we play, by music and language, by the seasons we live and the hours of the day. They are the food that nourishes our identity. We are raised in patterns that play themselves out, in cycles that are both small cycles and great.

Everything we are comes from the family, everything we do redounds to the family name, the name of our clan, our tribe, our village and our state.

Our identities are completely enmeshed with the identity of the group we are raised in, this is the basic paradox of the human identity, which demands the recognition of its individuality while at the same time clinging to the group within which the human being is formed. Only the most profound betrayal can break the patterns we are conditioned to live by, and even then, those who break free from their familial identity, or through no choice of their own are exiled and then cast-out, they leave the family crèche only to recreate the same structures in new places with new people.

The individual can be raised up, lifted high, made strong by their family and tribe. They can also be shunted, marginalized, and cast aside.

Families have a tendency to cannibalize their strength. In times of great need they will go so far as to eat their own, or set up the strongest and most beautiful as holy victims for the gods they worship, to barter their best and brightest away in the hope that they might receive some kind of boon.

As families become clans the bonds of loyalty are fixed in the body, constructed by chemicals and enzymes, by proteins and amino acids, by the songs and rhythms unique to each group, through which they reinforce the knowledge of their history, their ancestral memories, passing them on from one generation to the next.

These are bonds that we do not see, bonds we never question.

Rituals are developed to lift up and memorialize the common ancestors whose great deeds, or terrible failures were such that the clans wrote songs and poetry about them, passed their epics on to their children, and their children’s children, as the sagas of their kin.

Every person reared within the group learned to see themselves as a continuation of the clan’s broader narrative. They saw their own deeds as a reflection of the deeds of their shared ancestry, imagining their departed dead as living beside them, all around them, and they were not wrong.

The departed spoke to them through ancestral memory, not just the patterns of their consciousness remaining with the clans and tribes, but their actual consciousness remaining with individual families, bound to them and the planet in the electromagnetic field called the nous sphere.

The ritual remembering, the songs they sang, the drums they beat, these reinforced the connection and secured it, keeping it vital through that period when the groupings of human beings were still small enough that every person could trace their connection to one another through their blood lines.

They were migrating and wandering, they were navigating by the stars. They marked their narratives by the movement of the constellations, projecting their own stories into the heavens.

They were together and they were one.

Every individual saw themselves as a part of the tribe, and saw the fullness of the tribe as manifested in them. The clan was the clearest representation of the structure of human unity and belonging. It had a sufficient critical mass to draw the individual outside of themselves, and yet it was not large enough for the individual to feel lost within it. The clan was the family writ large, it was small enough to be intimate and large enough to provide for the safety of the group through the structures they form.

Hierarchies emerge in village life, just as they do everywhere in the animal world.

Human beings are animals after all, and in their need to establish social structures they are no different from the wolf or the lion, or the ram.

Competition for leadership in the animal world it could be dangerous, even deadly. It was intense, largely physical and the strongest usually won.

Among humans the intensity was no less dramatic, but it was often more deadly, and physical strength was not the most significant indicator of primacy.

Social hierarchies formed in villages; in the first place they formed around the well, at the markets, in places of worship and religious life, and most importantly in the seat judgment. The center is everything, with social rank flowing from it in concentric rings.

A person was either in or out of the village, either in or out of the center, with movement and access regulated between the spheres.

The beginning of cohesion around village life was the beginning of the disintegration of families, clans, and tribes. The social order underwent change, metamorphosis, redefining allegiances. These developments were not uniform, it did not happen in all places at once. It happened in key places: at the confluence of rivers, along the shores of the great inland lakes, in the desert oasis, at any place where the movements of migratory tribes would bring them together.

The villages were rising.

There was safety in the tribe, and the ability to test one’s self through competition with one’s peers. There was jealousy, yes, and envy. There were customs and taboos that were well established, which intended to prevent such things from having a harmful impact on the life of the group and its cohesion. There were shared customs and stories, rituals, things that shaped both the structure of the tribe and its future. The narratives they spun taught all of the tribes members the means by which they could advance, redress wrongs, recover from injury, hold fast to their position.

Tribal life was essentially democratic, members of the tribe could come and go as they pleased. There were no laws to bind them. There was only duty, obligation and the expectation that those who were dependent on others would be taken care of.

It was only when the migrations ended and the tribes became fixed in villages and hamlets that the notion that people could be treated like property advanced and class systems became entrenched.

During the time of migrations men and women were essentially equal, neither was the property of the other, the concept of ownership was alien and everyone had a say in the destiny of the group.

The tribe might be governed by a chief, there could be a de facto leader, especially in times of conflict. That person was more often than not merely the voice of the people, the arbiter, the mediator, the negotiator and judge.

In place of the single leader, more often than not, a council of elders held sway over the life of the tribe. The tribe did what it could to give every person a voice.

Then there were the others, outsiders, aliens and strangers.

Encampments became villages and villages became towns. The human communities were growing, coming into greater contact with one another, realigning themselves both through necessity and by choice.

Towns grew into cities while people migrated into urban centers for trade and work. Individuals pulled away from their families, from their clans and tribes, and at the same time they pulled themselves into new relationships with merchants and farmers, with herders of new and different breeds of animals.

They clung together in ever greater numbers, both for protection, and opportunity. Learning from each other new ways of life, alien rituals and practices that each group had developed around their totem animals, their symbiotes, these began to be synthesized, re-contextualized for the purpose of enlarging the group.

In the earliest days of this period, the period of encounter the other and the stranger were honored, they were held in esteem for the strengths they brought to new society.

The people discovered farming, they built granaries and the foundations of the city flowed from there, from wellsprings to ziggurats.

Granaries became temples, where the people prayed for and received their daily allotment of food, grain and seed to feed themselves and their families. Temples became fortresses where they stored the fruit of their labor up against times of conflict, drought, disease and famine.

The temples became towers that touched the sky, from which the sages plotted the movement of stars across the heavens. These became the seat of priestly-royalty, and the place from which the laws flowed which bound human beings to their caste, class and station.

Families dispersed, becoming ever less important.

The division of labor ensued.

What became paramount were the relationship the individual had to neighbors and teachers, to systems of patronage and clientage. The individual had the potential to become both everything and nothing, a god-like figure or a slave, to be named in the annals, recalled and remembered, to be lifted in song about or to be utterly forgotten, becoming just dust, nothing at all.

Most of the people, the vast majority, nearly all went unremembered, but they did not disappear.

The cities gathered towns and villages to themselves, expanding and absorbing them, pulling their people away from their homes, relocating them in the urban centers. Cities did this just as clans and tribes had done with families and kin in past ages.

The bonds that were formed in the cities were weaker than family bonds.

Individually these binds were weak and flimsy, but like the spokes of wheel, together they supported a structure of great strength, capable of extraordinary movement, both radiating from the center and supporting the outer frame.

In the urban core social power concentrated itself in the hands of the few, the elite and the strong, the wealthy and the cunning.

The poor and the newly arrived, if they were free citizens, they needed representation.

The majority of those living in the urban centers were enslaved, either owned as private property or they were the property of the state, its institutions and its temples, they belonged to the war machine that kept the state alive.

The free people needed sponsorship, the poor enjoined relationships with the rich, they became clients to their patrons, and these new bonds became formalized into extra-familial systems of societal structure.

This was a new version of a family, the famiglia only loosely related to blood ties. Inter marriage and progeny strengthened these bonds, but they were not required. These were the ancient bonds of vassalage. They were bonds of the imagination, and bonds of determination. They were bonds of circumstance and will, not happenstance or hereditary accident. These bonds were forged by choices.

Cities became states and in the cauldrons of statehood the relationships between all things and beings were redefined and refined.

Common language, common custom, rituals and religion all conspired to tie people together, just as the connective tissues of the body sew the limbs of the body together in the joints.

Shared experiences are the sinews of human culture. There are extrinsic and intrinsic movements with the ritual framework. Well executed rituals engage all of the senses. The best rituals go beyond the physical structure of the world and join the participants to one another through the inner sanctum of their memory, recalling the ancestral rhythms that move them.

When a ritual is serving its purpose it points the individual to a place beyond themselves, and creates in that person the sense that they are being pulled, drawn or called in that direction.

Proper ritual juxtaposes the past and the future, it holds the ancestral memory in tension with future expectations. When the rites are well executed it creates a space in which the whole community is moved by contact with the cynergenic field. They enter the nous sphere, in a state of transcendence they and become one.

These are the essential building blocks of group identity and with their perfection came the ability to pull all the disparate parts of human culture together. Nations were formed out of states, building on the foundations of security and prosperity for the people, as the old allegiances of family, tribe and clan were shifting ever-outward, away from people, into the world of ideas.

The fundamental buildings blocks of human identity were changing. National identity transcended the sense of self as a member of a family, and even as individuals.

Families that once banded together in small sheltered spaces, in a clearing in the trees, forming small groups that clung to one another for safety, establishing camps close to the springs that fed the clear streams which provided them with the clean water they needed for life, and nourishment, building their fires, burning bright in the night to ward off predators, smoking fish, birds and rabbits, feeding off of any other type of meat that could be taken down with the shafts of their javelins and atlatls, their spears and stones and arrows.

The people had returned to the primordial life, and this condition was universal.

The built small shelters in and around the trees, only moving when they had depleted the resources in the forests that surrounded them.

Everything was temporary.

When they had burned all of the fuel, eaten all of the nuts and berries, gathered all the wild onions and mushrooms and cleared the region of the living creatures they feasted on, then they would move.

Through their story telling they developed the ethos that the migratory life was the path that nature had intended for them. It was the life of the natural person, it was peaceful and well ordered, providing the tribal-bands with everything they needed from season to season.

Generations after the volcanic explosion, when the sky finally cleared and the azure-deep returned to the day, when the stars were once again visible at night, the families and tribes left the security of the forests, foregoing the great green canopies that had been their shelter.

They navigated by starlight, looking across the desserts and plains, over the tall grasses and steep dunes; they took to them, exposing themselves in the open.

They came to worship the sky both in its brilliant-blue and in its angry-gray, the sky was open to their imagination, wide and welcoming and yet oppressing at the same time. Its clouds gave them relief from the burning sun and covered them like a blanket in the cold night. It brought the rain, which meant life, and it brought the judgement of the lightning bolt.

There were dangers lurking everywhere in the open spaces. The plains were a place of constant threat, both from great beasts and from other tribes.

On the plains there was also freedom of movement and the joy of wandering, which was something that called to them, pushing them outward like an existential imperative.

Survival in the open required constant vigilance, a discipline that was not as great as the life they had lived, in the comfort of the forests and the woodland caves.

They marked their journey with the stars and navigated from place to place by following the brightest beacons shining in the Milky Way. They migrated with the herds and flocks, following them, hunting them, gathering the grains and sweet grasses of the field to add to their feasts.

They accepted the dangers they faced as a free people, as a people without care. They clung together for safety or in time of need, and separated from one another to pursue their own paths, only to return in their migrations to the appointed meeting places, at determined times, following the seasons and the voice of the wind, or the movements of the moon and planets.

It was a time of abundance, the tribes were growing, becoming stronger, relearning their ancient ways. They wandered the open plains, crossed the broad savannahs, invaded the wide deserts and took to the greening fields.

They climbed to the tops of hills, drawn closer to the stars from which they came, and counted them, piling stones atop of one another, fitting them neatly together, building their homes with a wide view of their surroundings. Human beings were looking upward and outward in search of their memories, recalling unconsciously the sojourn of their ancient ancestors from the starry field. They rested on the hill-tops, beneath the stars and sun, at the feet of mountains, beside their waterfalls and streams.

As they listened to the sound of the wind through the rocks and grasses, the rhythm of their music changed, and the stories they told took on a new character, they were safe on the hilltops beneath the open skies.

The tribes organized themselves in new ways, in vertical hierarchies, in accordance with the physical structure of their encampments. Their migrations took them from hill top to hill top, hunting and gathering the riches of the fields.

They gathered the herds and flocks to themselves: as shepherds and cowherds and goatherds, and herders of every kind. Every tribe developed its own way of life with the animals they tended.

They domesticated the wolf and walked beside the bear as an equal.

They lived with them, led them to water, protected them against all the dangers of the wild. Their animals became sacred to them, as totems of the tribes spiritual power. They gave milk and meat, hides and wool, the totem animal gave everything to the tribes, and the tribes learned to see themselves as extended through the life of the herd.

They lived as symbiotes together; the goat people and the sheep people, the cow people and the horse people. They led the herds into the mountains and scaled the lofty peaks, looking for new pastures and passes and crossings to other worlds.

They found themselves in the highest places, the sacred places in the thin air at the top of the world. They strode across the icy glaciers, building fires in the snow. They learned through the collective experience that there was no place on Earth where they could not go.

Only the sky was their limit and the depths of the sea, they dreamed of sprouting wings, they dreamed of flying from the mountain tops, of reaching out to the touch the sun and stars, recalling the sojourn of their forbears in theirs myths and songs.

The tribes were always moving, always looking for new places, wandering beneath the stars, moving with the seasons, staying ahead of the weather, moving with the currents of the wind.

They followed the rivers to their source, up the winding streams, tracking down every branch. They followed them to the clear springs from which the water flowed, bubbling-up from the deep reservoirs within the earth.

They followed the flowing water back down their channels, tracking down each curve and bend as they widened into creeks and rivulets, becoming streams that flowed into rivers and they followed the rivers to the lakes they fed, they camped along those shorelines, fishing, and bathing in sun. They followed the churning waters, past their waterfalls and their rapids, following them to the place where they merged with inland seas and outward to the oceans.

They founded settlements along the way. From springs and head waters, to the point of each confluence, they made their encampments. They left the markers of their tribes; tokens, totems and burial mounds as they wandered, returning to them in their cycles with the seasons.

Every spring was the birth place of a god, of gods and goddesses emerging from the earth like children from the womb. Water was sacred to the ancient humans, every brook was imbued with inherent spiritual power and there were grave penalties in tribal justice for defiling the living streams.

From mountain springs to the delta flow, the rivers were the first markers of a tribe’s territory. The confluence of water-ways marked the coming together of tribal alliances, or, alternately, they became the sources of tribal conflict.

The foot paths in the forests were serene and stable. The people traversed them in safety and seclusion, hidden by the trees and brush. They crossed into the open prairie, the broad meadows, the open deserts and the snowy fields.

The paths they laid down were narrow, and shifting. The tribes traversed them in long lines, marching single file, laying down the course for those that followed.

The wind erased the trails they made in sand and snow.

The grasses and the wild flowers sprang back in their wake.

The streams and rivers were the markers of lanes that could be followed from one way-point to the next.

They came to the great lakes, the seas and oceans, their broad shorelines became the first highways for human migration. They trekked across them herding their flocks at the border of the deep.

The way was easy by the coast, beneath the stars, following the water’s edge from camp to camp. They pitched their tents in the places where the rivers met the sea. Where the fresh water flowed into the salty brine.

The surface of the Earth was slowly repopulated, and the existential dread that had gripped the human race during the decades of darkness had eased. They were growing in numbers, in strength and pride and in esteem.

On thin strips of wood, in fragile dugout canoes, they hurled their bodies onto the rivers and lakes. They threw themselves into the ocean-seas, just as their ancient forebears had done when they crossed the stars.

They were looking for new ways of life, a life among the waves and currents and tides, a life on the undulating surface of the water. They were searching for mysteries in the deep, beneath the water’s ever changing face. They lived on their little skiffs, casting spears and nets and lines with hooks into the water from which they drew their catch.

They spent their days on the water beneath the sun, paddling to and from the shore, diving into the shallows to gather, clams, oysters and muscles.

Many were swept away in the accidental crossing of storms.

Some perished.

Others clung to their tiny crafts and rafts, and found their way to other shores, thousands of miles from home.

They spent their nights under the flowing milky light of the stars.

The stars sang to them, each glowing orb with a voice its own, as they imagined the galaxy, every bright light suspended in black liquid, soaring through the ether in the resonating waves of their transcendent dreams.
Emergence 5.0

Part Four – Earth

A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – Jim and Kathy, Part Two

The phone rang.

This surprised Kathy.

She did not receive many calls, and when she did she would have already anticipated it; this was true in most cases. She would know both the caller and the time of the call. The datum would flash in her consciousness minutes, sometime hours before the call would actually take place, the variables only depended on how long the caller might have been thinking about dialing her number.

Throughout most of her life the moments between the first sound of the telephone ringing and the time she choose to pick the receiver up from the cradle were moments she spent fantasizing that the call would have some clandestine purpose, that it would take the form of an invitation to join a conspiracy, one that would free her from her obligations to the world so that she could save it from itself.

Like the message Luke Skywalker received when he first encountered the little astro-droid named R2D2, which set him off on an adventure to free the galaxy from the tyranny of the Empire.

The fact that she was surprised by the call informed her that it was Jim.

She could never anticipate him.

She picked the phone up the handset and said, “Hello.”

“I need to see you,” said Jim without preamble. He spoke in his typical-tone of voice, dry and detached, as mirthless and remote as Mount Everest. But then he said:

“Café?” it was a question, and she sensed something different about him. He was pensive and hesitant.

She was well acquainted with his clipped and terse mannerism. The single word was a question: Would she, could she go out?

His unusual tone suggested that it was an imperative, she heard it as: You must see me now.

There was an urgency to it.

It was primal, it was a statement of need. He might have been a parched man asking for water, or a suffocating man asking for air.

“Yes.” Kathy replied, keeping herself detached and playing along with his language game, which was their normal repartee. “Hungry,” she said, it was both a statement and a question; she was stating her current condition and inquiring about his.

She was also trying to mask the concern for him welling up inside her.

Jim did not reply, he merely hung up the phone without comment, brusque and abrupt as usual. The normality of it did not hide the unusual tone she detected earlier, something she would have never expected to discern in him. It was fear.

Kathy gathered her things and got ready to go.

She did not have to ask where. They only ever met in one place, a busy café near her apartment. It was secure she was there so often that her handlers hardly registered her activities there. The regularity of her visits there inured them to it, this rendered it safe for her to carry out a private encounter…as private as she would ever get.

She did not have to ask when, the time was always right now.

She hurried out the door to meet him.

When she arrived he was already in line, she took her place next to him, ahead of a couple of other people.

“Small coffee…please;” Jim ordered, perfunctorily, and turned obliquely to face solicit hers; “Soy chai, thank you.” Said Kathy.

They sat together at a table by the window of the storefront, in a booth with the morning sun to their backs, beaming down on them over Hennepin Avenue.

Seeing Jim made even more clear to Kathy that there was something urgent happening with him. Nevertheless, they carried out the mechanics of their routine as if it were a normal day.

An ordinary visit between the two of them.

They read the morning newspaper and surveilled the crowd. In that regard at least, it was a morning like any other.

The café was busy.

They were together, and they were not together at the same time.

They were both in the crowd of people and completely isolated from it simultaneously.

This was not unusual, detachment had always characterized the way they interacted with each other. For each of them it was their basic approach to the world.

Their proximity to one another was deliberate, intentional, they were each acutely aware of the other’s body, the focus of their attention, what they were reading, seeing, observing.

It was intimate, though any other person would have felt the tension between them like a wall of estrangement.

Jim and Kathy were beyond that, it was an artifice they had cultivated to keep her handlers disinterested in Jim.

This was the way Jim related to her, it was something Kathy never questioned, because it protected them.

Time passed in silence, minutes became hours, and those stretched into the afternoon, becoming a longer period of time than usual.

Jim and Kathy were quiet, until Jim began to weep.

Sitting side by side as they were and reading, Kathy did not notice immediately.

If Jim were any other person in the world she would have known he was crying before the tears even fell.

When she turned her head and saw him, she was quietly alarmed.

She had never seen such a display of emotion from Jim before. “What is wrong with you?” Kathy asked, sounding scared and judgmental at the time, as they were two Vulcans witnessing one of them falling apart.

Jim said, “Nothing at all.”

He just looked at her, looked through her for a long moment.

He would not say why, he could not speak to it.

He had nothing to offer her but lies.

Kathy moved to the other side of the both to face him across the table. She looked at Jim for a long time, observing him. This was unusual but not outside the norm.

They often spent long periods of time together in silence. It was a characteristic of their friendship, of the only friendship she had ever experienced.

Kathy could not read Jim’s thoughts, the way she could everybody else…anybody else.

However, she was adept at body language, and his was no different, the smallest movements of his features, a facial tick, the sweep of his gaze, his breathing.

They spoke to her in volumes.

She watched him as he sat at their table with the newspaper folded in his hands. She watched intently, until finally she asked him: “Jim…what is wrong?”

“I cannot say.” He said, as he looked past her, not meeting her eyes, but at the same time inviting a greater degree of scrutiny from her.

It was intentional, he was drawing her in; there was a purpose behind it that both frightened and intrigued her.

“Why not?” Kathy asked, a bit more insistently.

She was normally circumspect, but in this moment she stopped caring, deciding to push against boundaries that she would have otherwise respected.

“You would not understand, if I did,” he said, pausing for a moment then, locking eyes with her before adding, “I’m not talking about it.”

There was a tone of finality in his voice, as if to say, that is it, you will not get anymore from me, but I want you to remain curious. There is something going on, something you cannot know about, but please try to figure it out

“I do not get it.” She responded. “Why did you ask to see me today and in such a dismal mood, if you did not need something from me?”

Kathy wanted very much to be needed by Jim. It was a part of her conditioning.

Of all the people she had ever known, everyone who had ever exploited her for one purpose or another, she believed that Jim was the only person she had spent time with that simply wanted to be in her company, who had no ulterior motive.

“As I said…you would not understand,” Jim replied. “Even if I told you, you would not understand. I am in the middle of something intensely personal, regarding a project I have been working on for a very long time. We have never spoken of it, but the anticipation of its realization is more than I counted on.”

“That is all I can say at the moment.” Jim said, apparently trying to shut her down, but it was a ruse, and Kathy knew that he wanted her to pry, he was not really seeking closure.

Then he said something she had never heard him say before: “I apologize.” The words sounded strange coming from him. “What I am on the brink of accomplishing is…terrifying.”

Whatever was going on with Jim, she knew he was not actually terrified. She also got the impression that she would know soon enough what it was, she could tell that his plans involved her.

She also surmised that Jim wanted it to be a surprise…needed to surprise her, and she was open to that.

Kathy loved surprises. He was preparing something for her, something uniquely for her, as true as he had always been, she was confident that he would not suddenly ask her to do something. He was not seeking to gain something from her in some ugly and vulgar way.

In that moment Kathy sensed the emptiness inside her friend.

She did not require psychic powers or telepathy to feel it.

She only needed the normal human attribute of empathy.

Today there was something hollow inside Jim, like a vacuum pulling at his consciousness, where normally what she found in him was an active awareness, a keen perception quick and sharp

Nothing escaped his attention, he was a master of minutiae.

In every moment he had ever shared with her, he demonstrated a degree of perceptivity that often outstripped her own.

She knew he was not gifted in the same way that she was.

The two of them had never spoken of it, but that was something she knew.

Nevertheless he was unique, like her, they were both unique in their different ways. She often thought that they were like two aliens from different civilization making friends on a world that belonged to neither of them.

Kathy reflected on her time with Jim this morning, she found it dismaying.

She wanted to comfort him.

She wanted to shake him up, or trap him in a conversation that would force him to reveal something.

She wanted to play the detective, but he was elusive.

He could see the play she was making from a distance. It left her with the sense that she was the one being played.

Kathy never felt disadvantaged. Not since she was a small child.

She was always holding the cards, but never with Jim.

He had always been the master and she was the pupil, always, like Abelard and Eloise, she thought, and that was an apt analogy.

There was something in Jim’s behavior that reminded her of the times when people who had been deeply involved in her life were saying goodbye, like her parents, and those few of her teachers that she had genuinely loved.

It was her gift to know what was happening with people before they ever said a word, this had nothing to do with her psychic or telepathic abilities; people behaved in certain fixed ways, manifesting specific mannerisms that formed patterns over time.

Kathy thought she saw certain patterns revealing themselves in Jim today, it was as if he were anticipating his own death, and the thought that she might lose him filled her with despair. It activated a spirit inside her that forced her to want to discover the truth and challenge the things that she did not want to happen, so that they would not happen.

For Jim’s part, now that she was here sitting at the table across from him, he was unsure of his motive. All of his long life he had been moving toward this point in time, and now there was confusion.

He felt it like a weakness, and he knew that he had already succumbed to it.

There was nothing in his plan that required him to see her today. He had tested every contingency and knew what the tolerances were for the things he needed her to do when he was gone.

He had prepared the way; everything was ready.

There was something else happening in him, it related to why he asked her to see him today, it was something unfamiliar, and he had to consider whether or not he might be feeling guilt, or shame over what he was about to do.

He wondered whether or not it put his work at risk.

Jim had to ask himself; what difference would it make seeing her today?

He could not tell her what was about to happen. The plan he had enacted would proceed without her knowledge of it, in fact, it required her to be ignorant of it.

It was vital to the plan that in the critical moment she be taken at unawares.

Tens of thousands of years of evolution and engineering had brought him to this point with her, had brought both of them to this moment; all of his careful plans for selective breeding, his careful manipulations of the genetic code, his constant and endless patience had brought them both to this point.

The last few decades had been the most delicate, guiding her, educating her, defusing threats all around her, preparing her for the final steps on the journey, which she would have to walk alone, blind and ignorant.

Sitting there with Kathy made it easy for him to get lost in the reverie of recollection, and not without a bit of pride to go along with his fear. The moment he had been striving for had come.

The distance he had journeyed since the time he had awakened to his purpose, that distance in both time and space was surreal. His fate, the very real prospect of death, the fate of the galaxy hinged on everything that would transpire between him and Kathy in the next few days.

Kathy did not know it, but the call she had received that morning was the call she had always hoped for.

Timing was everything, and like everything it was fluid.

The timing was in motion, subject to change by external variables.

The plan must come to fruition exactly as he had devised it, like a line of continuity cutting through trillions of possibilities

Jim knew that he had to trust his insight, if he did not falter of the potentialities he had been striving for would become actualized. Kathy would fulfil her purpose, and through her Jim would realize his.

It would all become real if he did not falter, and he felt that giving into his desire to see her one last time had the potential to put it all at risk.

He and Kathy, both of them would become transcendent, each in their own way, each to their own end.

He believed that. He trusted in it.

It was clear to Kathy that Jim had something to say to her.

She sensed it was bad news, she sensed that it was bad for her, and that it was bad for everyone.

If it had been anyone other than Jim, she would have known what it was. He would not have had to say anything. She could have read his mind.

There had been moments when she felt as if she had a glimpse into it, but what she saw and felt in those moments confused her. In those lucid moments it was as if she saw Jim for who he truly was, and he was an alien, even though he was seemingly the most grounded human being she had ever met.

When she reflected on Jim, which was one of her favorite past-times, she understood that he knew things about the history of the world that only someone with abilities like hers could possibly know.

There were times when she had to ask herself if she was the alien, but the voices inside of her dissuaded her from such speculations and confirmed for her that she was not.

She was human, she was fully human, Kathy was a daughter of the Earth, as much as she wanted to believe that she had fallen to Earth, like Kal-El, or David Bowie, as much as that would have given her a convenient way to explain what differentiated her from the rest of the human family, she knew that it was only a fantasy.

Kathy pulled herself back from those speculations, and focused on what was transpiring in front of her eyes.

Jim gave off a variety of visible signals that told her much about what was going on with him, they told her that there were things he had to say to her, things he wanted her to do for him, not at this moment, but in the days ahead.

Kathy would do anything for him, and the most significant signal Jim was broadcasting was that something terrible was about to happen.

She felt that Jim had a role for her to play, and that she was vital to the plan he had spoken of.

This was not a stretch of her imagination, Jim had said as much. More importantly to Kathy was that she got the sense that she would never see him again after today. It made her want to retreat within herself, to revisit all of the memories she had of him, and those who reminded her of him, memories that went back thousands of years, to the dim reaches of her ancestry. She wanted to revisit all of the intuitions that his presence called forth in her, projections from her fantasy life that she found difficult to differentiate from reality, and which she habitually repressed.

Kathy thought that she might find clues to what he wanted from her, there within her, if she could explore there she might find them, and they could provide some context, which would be comforting.

All analysts enjoy the comfort of context, and one thing she knew for certain was that she could not remain in this state of liminality forever, though she endured it for the remaining hours they sat together.

They spoke little, and Jim relaxed. He enjoyed being with Kathy, the rhythm of her mind was like music to him, his thoughts in syncopation with hers easily, as they always did.

In those moments he felt like he was home, it was the closest thing to his natural state of being that he had ever experienced during the long years he had been away.

Jim’s heart and mind were fixed on the coming conflict, on the resolution of his life’s work, on all the plans that he had carefully prepared.

He had plans within plans, and there were contingencies that he tended to, as intricate and delicate as a spider’s web.

Despite the anxiety that he was feeling, the existential weight of his preparations, the loss he was contemplating, the devastation that was coming to Earth. Despite it all he was able to maintain his calm.

His body was engineered for it.

This is not to say that he incapable of feeling panic or fear, but that his body regulated those impulses with a speed that bordered on the instantaneous.

Jim had these last few hours, he wanted to spend them with Kathy, not merely in furtherance of his aims, but because he loved her as much as he was capable of love.

Kathy represented the realization of his deepest purpose, his pride, and the satisfaction of ambition. In Kathy he not only found what he had had spent his long life looking for, his project with her was also like the unravelling of a mystery, or the assembly of a puzzle.

She was his magna opa, his great work.

Kathy was also beautiful and wise, intelligent and funny; these qualities were completely unnecessary to his design for her, and yet they delighted him.

He could soak up her visage all day long, which is exactly what he intended to do on this day, this day that was his crucible, his last day with her

In a few hours he would be gone. His plan for her would be on a glide path. The way was well prepared. He would soon enter a place where time itself was meaningless, but events would be turning here on Earth that had to be measured to the second, and he would not be here to oversee it.

Kathy had to play her part, she had to be unaware that she was doing it.

When the vital moment struck, she had to be blind to what was happening, she, who could see everything had to be taken by surprise.

Jim finished his coffee, gathered himself and departed the café. He said goodbye to Kathy and left the cafe. He was unemotional, focused. He did not reach out to her, even though Kathy was sure he had wanted to. He was methodical in his bearing; as always. He never looked back.

Kathy watched him go, following him with her eyes and when he turned the corner, she followed him with her thoughts, which were disturbing.

She was never able to read Jim, but today the membrane of consciousness that shielded him from her was less opaque.

It was almost translucent.

With a little more focus, with slightly more concentration, she felt as if she could go to a place with Jim, a psychic place, a place she had never been able to approach with him before.

She thirsted for it.

She sat in her chair, at the table, in the noisy café. She sat upright, hands folded together on the table top. She closed her eyes and allowed the teaming voices of the world to recede from her.

She was vulnerable in these moments, it could be frightening. She was disconnected from her immediate present, time could lose its significance, she would not be able to track its passage around her.

Kathy rarely accessed these gifts in such a setting, it had been decades since she had tried, but she was faced with an urgency that she had not felt before. She was now certain that she would never see Jim again, and there was something she needed to know about him, something going on with him that she had to understand.

She had to do it now.

She relaxed her mind and entered that space, trusting that her handlers would protect her and keep her safe.

Kathy connected to him, locked onto him. She was looking through his eyes for the first time, sharing his consciousness even as he got into his car and drove away.

She kept the full range of her abilities hidden from her proctors and handlers, pretending to struggle with things she could do without effort. Kathy could slip into a bond like this with anyone at any time, but never before with Jim.

He was able to resist her. He was unique in that.

Of all the people she had ever met, Jim alone was a mystery to her, as if he were a man out of myth, like some kind of Jedi Master.

In the moment she became connected to him, she felt his despair.

It was as deep as the ocean and it frightened her.

She would never have guessed that he was afflicted with such powerful emotions. He always appeared cool and calm, collected.

Never once in all their years of talking, never once did he let his composure slip. Jim was the epitome of self-control.

Kathy followed him as he drove across town in his black vintage car, the Ford Galaxy. She soaked up all the things he was looking at, the objects, the people, the cars moving on the freeway. She was barely in touch with him in that time, and she was not able to merge with the flow of his thoughts, if he was thinking at all. Neither could she penetrate his memories.

She was merely seeing the world through his eyes, experiencing it thorough his senses, while she felt the powerful emotions emanating from deep inside him.

He told Kathy that he had a plane to catch, a funeral to prepare for and he was afraid he would miss his flight if he lingered any longer. The timing of his departure, and precisely where he was in flight when he set the final stages of his plan in motion, those things were crucial.

He had to keep his activities hidden from the prying eyes of his enemies. His relative position in the world was key to this subterfuge.

Jim returned to his apartment to gather some things, to set the artifacts in his apartment in just the right place for Kathy to find in the days to come.

She had to be able to follow his plans when the time came.

He did not need take very much with him; his black suit, his watch, his tie.

“I’m dead;” he mused, and then “I am death itself, the harbinger of doom.”

Jim knew that he would never return to his beloved Earth, and that even if he did, nothing would be the same. The cultures that had evolved over the past seventy thousand years would be wiped out, with no guarantees that what would emerge in their place would have any of those qualities that he loved, had nurtured and found so fascinating.

The humans of Earth had nourished his spirit for millennia, he had found his rest in them, and they had helped him define his purpose.

Jim allowed himself some time to remember all that he had accomplished since he had found this world. Then his telephone rang to inform him that his taxi had arrived.

With a final check of his preparations Jim exited his apartment. He walked down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, taking in the view of the lakes from the mezzanine of his apartment before he got in the car.

Jim was struck as he had been many times before by his feelings of ambivalence, knowing what was going to happen to this planet in a few short days, while virtually the entire population of the Earth was completely unsuspecting.

It was a strange burden.

Jim contemplated it while he made small talk with the cabby, before he fell into a state of reflection.

I never should have seen her, Jim thought. He felt himself filling-up with regret. It was an emotion he was not inclined to feel, but at this moment he could not help it.

He reviewed each step of his plan, reviewing it for every possible detail, both believing and yet uncertain that he had laid the path for Kathy to follow perfectly.

He visualized each step, telling himself that his indulgence today was a necessary one, he had to see Kathy in order to reinforce, in non-verbal ways, his absolute need for her to follow the plan that he had laid out.

Another wave of doubt washed over him. Was he being foolish when he asked her to see him?

His emotions were running high, too high. If he wasn’t careful they might alert her to his designs.

Whenever he was with her, through all of the years that he had known her, he had to maintain a strict discipline in order to shield his mind from hers. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done, but he was able to do it nonetheless like a runner at a marathon.

He always felt her consciousness probing his, like psychic tentacles pulling at his mind. Never once had she penetrated him, but Jim knew that it was only because she was not trying.

As forceful as her psychic powers were, their function was largely autonomic. Kathy did not direct them so much as she was a passive user of her powers. The training she had been given prepared her this way.

For her safety and for the security of the plan she had spent most of her life learning the skills she needed to suppress her powers, rather than push them to the limits.

Jim was always aware that if she had wanted to she could break through his defenses with relative ease. He had to trust that the psychological inhibitors he had planted within her would hold. When the time came, it was paramount that she be taken by surprise, the plan depended on putting her in a state of existential shock at just the right moment. The precariously delicate path he was leading her down filled him with dread and sorrow, and guilt.

Jim couldn’t help but to indulge himself in this feelings.

It was all over; it was over for everyone, and nothing could be done about it.

Today was doom’s day. It was the end of the world. A global tragedy was about to occur. It would affect everything on Earth, changing humanity irrevocably, killing hundreds of thousands in minutes, millions in days, and most of the rest in the few short years to come.

Very few human beings were even aware of the danger. Human scientists had only discovered the existence of the volcano that would be the material cause of their destruction, a few decades past. It took years for them to measure and quantify their data, even now they did not understand it. The geological system was too complex, they did not know how much they did not know.

There was no way to reasonably predict an event they had never experienced before, even though the certainty of its reoccurring was absolute. The frequency of its repetition was on a scale of time so great that the leading geologists had to admit that they could not pin point the eventuality within years or decades, or even centuries.

For all they knew it could be millennia before it erupted again.

No one disputed the fact that the event was overdue; it was overdue by several thousand years. But then again what is a thousand years, or even ten thousand years when the periodicity approached a million.

It was impossible to tell.

They watched over the sight as carefully as they could.

They measured every possible feature of the hazard zone.

They released reports. Some were so alarming that the Federal Government decided to restrict the way that information was disseminated. They adopted the view that it would be better, if or when the event occurred it took everyone by surprise, because there was nothing they could do about it anyway.

Even with their careful observations and their watchful analysis, no one expected it to come now. The data, which every geologist believed indicated an immanent eruption, had led to numerous false conclusions in the past. At the present moment there was nothing happening to tell them of the mounting threat.

Like every planet, Earth endured episodic calamities; cycles of massive storms, great floods, powerful hurricanes and tremendous earthquakes. These were minor events compared to the power of the caldera volcano.

There were catastrophes that came from beyond the planet, such as; collisions with comets and asteroids. They had happened many times and Earth would experience those events again, it was certain.

Given time, the advancement of technology and proper planning, any of those events could be avoided. A civilization could gain complete control of its weather, could identify every fault zone and build structures that were capable of allowing the force of an earthquake to pass through it. They could set satellites in orbit around their planets, string them together throughout the solar system, so that no object passing near to it would not be seen, enabling them to be diverted or destroyed in time to prevent a disaster.

Technology could accomplish all of those things, but nothing could stop the power growing within the Earth. The heat inside the molten core powered the entire planet.

It was the engine of life, and evolution.

Nothing could stop it, but given time its heat could be harnessed and used for the benefit of the world, was time that human civilization did not have. The monster beneath the surface was stirring. They were approaching the end of days, and the beginning of the long night.

Human beings would survive, better than they did when the last caldera blew, seventy-two thousand years ago, but the new civilization that emerged on the other side would be radically different.

They would not be starting over, that much was true, but their technology had advanced far enough to guarantee a relatively rapid recovery. In the last event only a couple of thousand human beings survived, that number would be hundreds of times greater with this event. Billions would be wiped from the face of the earth, and those surviving would emerge with a unified human culture. It would flourish for a time, but even that would be doomed, due to a shift that would take place in the planet’s orbit around the sun, an orbit that would eventually collapse.

In his heart Jim desired nothing more than to belong to that new human culture, but he would not be returning.

The last time a caldera volcano blew in the South Pacific, in Indonesia. Only a few hundred tribes survived scattered across Eurasia and Africa.

It had been six-hundred and forty thousand years since the Yellowstone caldera last erupted in North America, in Wyoming, nearly wiping out all life on Earth.

The coming cycle of destruction would be greater still.

The human race would survive, but the species would pass through a genetic bottle neck, and what would emerge on the other side would be different.

The psychic trauma they experienced would be extreme, it would wound the survivors in ways that no person could predict. The narratives that they would develop in order to contextualize all of their pain could potentially derail Jim’s work.

Earth’s magnetic field which enveloped the entire species in a cynergenic web, making the humans of Earth unique in all the galaxy, was itself under threat.

Jim was virtually certain that he had succeeded in developing the vessel that was key to his larger machinations, he had accomplished his work, he had brought it all to fruition in the final generation, in Kathy.

He only needed to deploy her.

Everything depended on Kathy, on the strength and range of psychic abilities, yes, but even more importantly, on her fortitude. It was untested, she had to possess the stamina to stand in the space between worlds and pass the collective trauma of Earth on to the Central Planet.

He desired nothing more than a resolution to the ambitions that had been driving him, or so he told himself, even if it meant failure. Even failure would resolve him, by prompting the Collective to abandon him and allowing the Continuum to finally terminate him.

In one form or another death awaited him, he believed it, but he hoped that it was not true.

What he desired more than anything was success, and then at long last to die in an organic body, a natural death, un-enmeshed from the constraints that the Continuum had tethered to every member of the Collective, even to those Observers serving in the far reaches of the galaxy, including him.

Jim reflected. If only Earth’s civilization had been given a little more time to develop, Earth’s technology a little more time to actualize, human beings would have been able to harness the geological power of the caldera and escape its destruction.

Instead they were blind to its approach.

The power they could have captured would have changed everything for them, resolving issues of energy scarcity that had eluded them, or socially impossible for them to tackle.

In another century, or possibly sooner they would have had it, Jim lamented.

These Children of the Ancients, who had devolved like no other group. This far flung colony in the most remote reaches of the galaxy, possessing no memory of who they were or how they arrived here, they would have been able to re-establish themselves as a spacefaring people in earnest.

The Continuum would not allow for an intervention, even though it seemed that the will of the Collective was for it. Somehow the Continuum thwarted it.

A majority of those in the Collective who followed the drama unfolding on Earth were in love with its art, and music, its joy and trauma, a majority of them wanted to see Earth’s narrative endure.

Even though Jim was certain that the Continuum had no idea about his plans, he sensed that it perceived Earth and human civilization as a threat to it.

He believed that this was the reason for blocking him, it was not a dogmatic adherence to a policy of non-intervention, which was the reason the Continuum issued for why it would not allow resources to be mustered to save the planet,

Jim might have helped Earth by strategically distributing knowledge in such a way that it would have advanced Earth technology, but he refrained for fear that it would draw further scrutiny to him, risking the exposure of his plan, and so Jim worked covertly against the restraints, appearing to comply only because he did not wish to jeopardize his long term ambitions.

It would be difficult, if not impossible to conceal his treason from the watchful, and penetrating gaze of the all-encompassing collective-consciousness of the HomeWorld.

He could do nothing else but fulfill the directives he had established for himself.

Jim had to say goodbye to Earth.

There was a cloaked satellite orbiting far above the planet, one of many station he used to implement is plan. This one was the actual house of Jim’s consciousness. It was the principle platform for Jim’s mission on Earth, hidden from the eyes of human beings, as well as from the Continuum and its agents.

Some of his orbiting stations were fixed in stationary orbits, other moved about, semi-autonomously, all of them watched the planet and intercepted its communications with inexhaustible capacities.

In that place, Jim the Observer #92835670100561474 activated a switch, sending a signal to his host body, and with that, an embolism in his doppelganger burst inside its brain, ending its life in a massive stroke.

Jim’s doppelganger had been flying on a plane from his Midwestern home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to New York city.

The destination was only important for the route and the timing Jim had planned for his death, to covertly transfer his consciousness from his organic vessel to the orbiting platform, and for the legal complexities pertaining to the disposition of his body after that.

Those on the plane sitting next to him did not notice the moment of his demise. It was only as the plane made ready for its descent that the airline attendants found something wrong with him, saw the thin line of blood dripping from his nostril, and noticed that he was not breathing.

They did what they could for him, but they quickly realized that there was nothing to be done.

They called ahead for a doctor, indicating that they were dealing with a medical emergency, but in reality, they knew that they were dealing with a corpse.

Jim observed those final moments, the last seconds of the body that housed him during his most significant incarnation, the life that would define his entire existence, expose his greatest secrets, give him the victory he had long sought over the Collective and its Continuum.

When Jim was satisfied that he was mentally prepared for the challenges that awaited him, he toggled another device, opening a channel through space and time.

He paused for a moment to consider the steps he would take on the other side of the worm hole. He did something that he had forbidden himself, something he had not planned on doing, had told himself he would not do, he left a copy of himself in the quantum memory of his base, and then he let his consciousness go, slipping into the stream of the infinite.

He passed through the wormhole, and he was home.

Kathy was still with him when he parked his car at the airport, when he pulled his stylish briefcase from the trunk. She was still following him when he used some mysterious credentials to bypass every point of security and breeze through the gates.

He boarded the plane ahead of every other person. He sat alone in the first class cabin after stowing his briefcase beneath the seat.

She sensed a calm returning to him, as she did she felt her connection to Jim become untenable. She could not hold it any longer.

She was tuned out, it was as if he was telling her to get out of his head, telling her that she did not belong there.

Kathy was determined, she cleared away the detritus in the psychic field surrounding them until she was finally able to get a lock on his mind.

When they were connected once again, the connection she had obtained was deeper than before, she sensed Jim projecting a profound sense of doom.

There were portents, warnings of danger emanating from him, so much so that it lingered in the vacuum that was left when he departed.

His fear permeated the psychic space inside the café. She felt it now, it was more than white-noise, it was palpable, appearing as a visible sheen, like a mist that clung to everyone, like a subtle frequency reverberating inside them.

The strength of it filled Kathy with unease.

Jim was projecting. He was focused on the future; not the past, not the present.

She sensed that something was about to happen that would stop everything, and everyone in their tracks.

Jim knew something about it and he would not say what it was. It was as if he knew the world was about to end, and he was holding onto it, keeping it as a secret, some sick and twisted private joke.

Beneath it all there was desperation and urgency.

Jim was on task, he was managing a careful timeline of expectations. He was driving himself to a point of convergence, and beyond that crucial moment he had to let go. He had to trust in his plan and hope that things would unfold accordingly.

Kathy sensed her own presence deeply enmeshed in the events that were propelling him. It reflected back through her own past, through her relationship with him, into the far reaches of her childhood.

She felt as if she could follow the trail back even farther, as if Jim had been planning for her from the deepest reaches of time.

It made no sense to her.

As she looked at the future through his eyes, she saw the world covered in ashes, and everyone choking for air.

She shook herself free from it. She slipped out of the psychic state.

She looked about her.

Jim had left his pen behind.

He always left something behind, little tokens as if they were little presents just for her, gifts to compensate her for the love she felt for him, love he never acknowledged and left unrequited like a constant grating against her self-esteem.

Kathy stared at the pen, imagining it with all the other things of his she had collected over the years, reassembling them in her mind into an image of him and his persona. It was as if she were constructing a golem made from the pieces of things he had discarded.

She had always believed that these little items; a pen, a book of matches, a handkerchief, what have you, she had always believed that they told her something about him. As if she could peer into his character through the assemblage of artifacts, and see in the things lying there the things that she was able to see so clearly in anyone else, but had always remained hidden in Jim.

She thought that each little token might contain a message for her. Kathy had never been able to dispense with the idea, but now, as she looked at the pen she had another thought, that all of the items left by him and gathered by her, that they had no meaning at all, they were just trash. They were things Jim had discarded, as if they were nothing. As she feared he was about to do with her.

Kathy had the sense that he was abandoning her, abandoning Earth itself, that he was about to throw away his life, to be rid of everything altogether.

Even as Kathy thought these things she knew that she was being morbid.

She was getting sucked up into Jim’s despair, she was despairing with him.

Within all of that muck, she also saw that there was purpose and intention in everything Jim was doing. As her analysis unfolded she came to the conclusion that her basic supposition was right, the pen contained a message, possibly even a directive.

There was something going on aside from the grim fatality that she sensed from him, it concerned her and the whole of humanity, it concerned the world itself and their common destiny.

Kathy felt as if she had a part to play, Jim was giving it to her, and she did not want to let him down.

It was a mystery.

The wheels in her head were turning independently of her conscious thought, attempting to resolve the riddle.

She sat in silence and allowed her unique gifts to manifest themselves while she contemplated every interaction she had ever had with the most mysterious man she had ever known.

It would take time.

Kathy could not shake the feeling that Jim had wanted to tell her something. The impression grew inside of her with every passing moment.

It was oppressive. The despair was so strong in him, it was like a vacuum and she found it difficult to breathe.

Hours passed as the feeling mounted, it was like a stone laid across her chest, pushing the air out of her, like a heavy smoke, thick and oily that filled her lungs.

She mustered all of her mental resources, her deepest training. She leaned on the comfort of the ancestral voices within her so that she could stay in the moment and not flee.

Kathy had a poised and practiced patience that was equal to the greatest mystics the world had ever known. This is not to say that the task of remaining calm in the midst of strong feelings did not require work, it did, it took work, but Kathy had never failed to live up to the challenge.

In that moment she discovered something new.

It was a moment of transcendent actualization.

Kathy had always been able to link her mind to that of another person; to read their thoughts, to be one with them, see through their eyes, feel what they felt; to be in their present as if there were no distance between herself and the self of the other.

This was possible because in reality there was no epistemic distance between individual nodes of selfhood. She knew this to be true, even while neuro-physicists were still working out both the possible and probable structure of it.

The quantum mechanics of the electromagnetic field made it so, and Kathy was living proof.

All of space and time were interconnected, it was called entanglement

In the entangled reality of consciousness there was no distance between one person and the next.

This is what made Kathy’s gifts possible, it is was what explained all so-called “psychic” phenomenon.

What differentiated Kathy from every other human being that had come before her was the architecture of her brain. She possessed a greater concentration of certain nano-particles laced throughout her cerebellum. This gave her a better “antenna,” it was better by an order of magnitude than any other person in human history.

Kathy stayed at her table. She sat by herself, alone in the crowd, concentrating on Jim. She bent her attention on finding him.

She sensed his fragility, something she had never felt before, had never imagined was possible. She felt it like an omen, indicating that her life as she knew it, that all life on Earth was about to change.

When she found him and she did not let go.

She sat there in the ominous-oppressive moment and did something she had never done before in a public space, she left the present, she began to open Jim’s past, tracking him back in time, moment by moment like rewinding a line of thread on its spool, carefully laying every fraction of a nanometer back into its track, mindful of her obligation to lose nothing at all.

Everything mattered.

The present had always been easy for Kathy to see. Her own past was open to her like a billion volumes of narrative history. Even her genetic memory spoke to her in ways that it spoke to no-other, but she had never looked into the real-past of another individual.

It was fascinating, not only because the subject was Jim, a person she had never before been able to penetrate, it was fascinating because it opened a new dimension, a dimension of time to her growing powers and awareness.

She was looking into the real past, not just the recollection of their past together, the editorialized version of the past that every human being walks around with. She was penetrating the objective reality of the individual experience, the reality that lay behind the narrative interpretation that every person processes every moment they are awake.

This was new and it was exhilarating and it was Jim.

It was not a process that she could engage in, in no-time, not yet, she was rolling up the thread of his recent experience second by second. It was like watching a movie, and in that movie, she was experiencing Jim as he experienced his own life, along with everything that undergirded what he was seeing and feeling, his own self-narrative.

In that narrative Kathy discovered something disturbing, she discovered that she was the star.

Throughout her life, Kathy had felt as if the weight of the world was on her.

This was not just a figure of speech, it was true.

Kathy felt the world in a unique way, which is not to say that she felt responsible for the world, but that she felt it. She felt the world pressing in on her, threatening to penetrate her conscious every moment of everyday. She felt the world filling her up, at times she felt as if she was drowning in it.

Kathy had to concentrate so that the connection she had with anyone in proximity to her would not overwhelm her, or intrude on her consciousness when she did not want it to

In time she learned the skills required to let her be in the world, but she continued to feel as if she was too sensitive. She felt vulnerable.

When she was young she never suspected how real, how complete, how all-encompassing those feelings were. Kathy was not merely connected to the people who were closest to her, nearest too her. She was linked to every person in the world, no matter how distant.

Those who were nearest to her in physical space, they were the ones that took up all of her attention. Generally, a person had to be within a couple of hundred yards before she might begin to pick up on their thoughts.

When she was in crowds the psychic noise of the group helped to make everyone indistinguishable from one another, which is why she preferred to live in the city. Not only did the crowds help to keep every individual person indistinct from the next. Their constant chatter helped to keep Kathy from falling into conversation with the voices from her own past; people from her life and from the lives of her ancestors, as well as the active consciousness of real people hovering near her in the cynergenic field, not merely lingering in her memories.

Kathy lived in two worlds, both the here and now, and in the cynergenic field, what Teilhard de Chardin called the nous sphere.

The nous sphere was a place where the spirits of all beings dwelt, both the living and the dead, a place that she and she alone experienced as really-real.

Kathy was fully immersed in the nous sphere now, tracking backward through time to look into Jim’s secretive life, even as Jim made his departure, taking his exit through a rift in space-time, passing through a worm-hole to the other side of the galaxy.

A wormhole is not a tunnel in space/time, linking one place to another. Nevertheless,
that was the common conceptualization of it.

A wormhole is a shortcut through subspace, not a passageway at all. To “go through” a worm hole is not to “move” from one place to another.

It is a transposition.

It is trillions upon trillions of atoms turning on the point of a pin.

What made Jim’s “journey” through the wormhole possible was known on earth as quantum enmeshment, or entanglement.

Things and objects cannot pass through a wormhole, but waves of electrons, and particular configurations in the substratum of the electromagnetic field can, which is to say that consciousness can.

A passage through a wormhole is to space travel, what Alexander the Great offered as the solution Alexander to the Gordian Knot.

It cuts right through the problem, it is instantaneous and direct.

Vast amounts of data can pass through a wormhole, faster than light, the upper limits of the speed were unknown. The only limitation to such data transfers were the limitations housed in the physical nodes that sent and received the signals.

The science and technology of the Continuum had developed the machinery to transmit tens of billions of signals from millions of worlds simultaneously. Every detail of the lives of the persons they followed, every person on every planet in the Galactic Empire was sent to the Central Planet in an ongoing stream, received and synthesized by the Continuum for the consumption by the Collective.

Through that collection of data the lives of every citizen, the most intimate details of their joy and sorrow, became grist for the mill that fed the Collective’s endless hunger for narrative.

When Jim activated the portal he experienced a flash of violet, which turned to white. There was a jolt and a buzz and a tensing like a seizure, followed by a sequence of darknesses, before the transition of his consciousness to the center of the galaxy was complete.

Jim, the Observer #92835670100561474, arrived on the Central Planet in the body of his mechanoid self.

He opened his optic lens, and stretched his mechanoid senses.

He was home.

He was safe. He should not have been, but he was carrying a terrible secret. Ages of careful planning, planning that had come to define his existence, all of it would come undone if he was discovered.

He was not Jim in this place, even though everyone here, every member of the Collective, and the Continuum itself, knew that was his name on Earth.

He exploits on the distant world were celebrated, though he himself remained a figure steeped in mystery, and shrouded by feelings of dread..

When an Observer returned to the Central Planet they did not simply rejoin the Collective. The Collective and the Continuum were cautious, preferring to filter the report of every Observer before they allowed the information from those reports to enter the common consciousness of the HomeWorld.

And so, the Observer occupied a mechanoid form, with physical powers greatly expanded in relation to the organic life forms they occupied on the worlds they observed.

The mechanoid body was attenuated to the cynergenic field of HomeWorld but it did not have direct access to it. A physical uplink would have to take place before the data from their last cycle of experiential living could flow into the consciousness of the whole Collective.

It took time.

Jim knew this, he had planned on it, and he was patient.

Timing was everything.

There were thousands of Observers coming and going at any given time.

Jim would have to wait his turn.

There were many other Observers, housed in their mechanoid bodies, also waiting their turn. It was common for them to communicate with one another, to share the highlights of their latest adventures, the triumphs and tragedies of the worlds under their watch, to give each other an advance screening so to speak.

They all knew Jim.

They were envious of him, in one way or another.

He was a trailblazer.

He had come to define the Observer Corps, they all felt intimately related to him despite the fact that he himself was apparently indifferent to them.

He was a star and he was held in the highest esteem by his fellows.

Over the ages he had provided his fellow Observers the most interesting posts. Leading the Empire to gather all of the ancient societies back to itself.

The drama of those discoveries had sustained the Collective, providing its members with a sense of meaning in their lives, and of course, he was Earth.

The charge of being Earth’s Observer naturally fell to Jim, he discovered the lost colony himself, as he had done so with many others. He established all of its infrastructure, and he channeled the living experience of that planet to the Collective for consumption.

It was the most watched world in the Galaxy and the most remote.

On Earth his name had not always been Jim; it was merely the most recent name he had adopted as Earth’s Observer. Jim was one name among thousands that he had used over the course of as many lifetimes.

His real name, the name of his nativity, that name was lost deep within the Continuum, as all names belonging to members of the Collective were.

The Continuum referred to him with the designation: Observer #92835670100561474. The names he bore from one lifetime to the next, they were only known as part of the narrative report his mission required him to deliver to the Collective, once in every one hundred solar cycles of his planet. Jim was a name he had adopted from a piece of fiction, the Captain of a starship in a popular television series.

He was Jim when he arrived on the Central Planet, the HomeWorld of the Continuum for what he was sure would be the last time. If he survived what he was about to do, what he had been planning for eons, he would never return to the Observer Corps.

It would be destroyed and when he returned to a body of flesh, he would be going there to die.

If his plan failed, which he believed was more than likely, he knew that there was no chance that he would be given a reprieve.

In his final moments he would be Jim.

For the Continuum Jim represented something beyond its control, an agent of chaos that it had long sought to terminate. Jim had violated norms and procedures numerous times but his fellow members of the Collective continuously forgave him, pardoned him, and granted him reprieve.

The destruction Jim was about to wreck on the membership would be so great that if it failed to bring about the end he sought, he would be doomed, they would never forgive him again.

Timing was everything. He had carefully layered his strategies, plotting and planning and calibrating his schemes in various systems throughout the Empire, in the sub routines of the Central Planet, throughout its vital systems, in the in the Observer Corps, in revolutionary movements everywhere.

Jim had to concentrate.

He was already under incredible scrutiny from the Continuum, simply for being himself.

He had to mask his intentions, with techniques that he alone, among every member of the Collective had mastered.

Momentarily, his entire consciousness would be exposed to the Continuum and subsequently filtered to the Collective.

It was thought to be impossible for anyone to keep secrets under the examination he was about to endure, but Jim had kept many secrets, he knew he could do it, he also knew that the level of anticipation and anxiety he was currently feeling was something unique to this situation.

It threatened his mission.

He had never tried to keep a secret like this, and the transposition through the worm-hole was disorienting.

From human to mechanoid, from mechanoid to the fullness of the cynergenic field. It took time to adjust to the freedom of consciousness in the unrestricted quantum field of HomeWorld

The organic body of a human being had significant cognitive limitations.

Transitioning to the mechanical body of a mechanoid was never easy, organic senses became mere data, and even though Jim made this transformation many thousands of times, no two times were ever the same. He had to be prepared to conform as perfectly as he could to the dictates of his plan.

The transition was the time of greatest weakness, the time in which he ran the greatest risk of being exposed.

Organic life was thrilling, being in the grid of silicone circuitry was not.

The organic form was never at rest, constantly managing physical feelings, sensory inputs from the world around it, especially sound.

The organic body was grounded; the consciousness it housed could even be strengthened by its limitations.

The mechanoid form had many more freedoms, especially freedom of movement, its propulsion system made it free from the limitations of gravity. Its power source was virtually limitless.

There was no hunger, no thirst.

The mechanoid body could go anywhere, do anything, defend itself from virtually any attack. It could crack the mantle of a planet and destroy an entire world if need be.

It could even replicate itself, but it could not feel pleasure, ecstasy or joy.

By the same token, it did not feel pain, but the consciousness within the mechanoid body could feel other emotions, such as; fear, anxiety, shame.

Consciousness within the mechanoid body was not unlike consciousness within the Collective, when freed from the bonds of the flesh it could easily retreat into extremes of selfishness. The freedom to satisfy any desire, no matter how depraved or bizarre led to extreme depths of apathy, indifference and moral corruption.

The phenomenon of consciousness is electromagnetic. All consciousness is situated in the electromagnetic field that permeates the entire universe, and consciousness is co-extensive with that field.

There is no point in the universe, no point in time or space that is not enveloped in the electromagnetic field. There is no place that consciousness does not touch, its threads and strings are everywhere.

The essence of self-consciousness, the essence of individual people and beings is a concrecsent phenomenon, it is coalescent. It is an emergent property of the universal order.

Consciousness exists in many different types of being; there is the primary consciousness of all reality, which is the sub-consciousness of the universe itself, there is the atavistic consciousness of vegetative nature, providing the subconscious strata of individual worlds, there is the individuated conscious that first emerges among animals, that consciousness is self-purposive and creative, and there is the quantum consciousness of the Collective field.

Throughout his long life Jim had proven to be more adept at navigating the subtle variations in the field of consciousness than any other being, or mechanism that had been created. He was like a savant, and he understood intuitively that there is no place where consciousness it is not.

Everything is entangled in consciousness, and the preservation of individual consciousness beyond the life of the body is the hope and dream of every living being, it is the sustained vision of eternal life. This hope and promise organizes the daily lives of trillions of people across a billion worlds.

There is one place in the galaxy where the mystery was resolved, on the Central Planet, on the HomeWorld of the Ancient People whose colonies filled the galaxy with inhabited planets, on the Central Planet that is the locus of the Collective, and its Continuum.

The Ancient People constructed the apparatus that harnessed the first collective field.

Jim was there at the beginning, or at least he possessed the memories of those who were.

In that collective field, an algorithm was produced to create an artificial construct known as the Continuum.

The Continuum touched on the individual reality of every member who had ever entered the Collective, through the strings of quantum entanglement it drew on each of their hopes, every one of their fears, it fully encompassed their unique perspectives to form an amalgamated consciousness to serve as a representative of the whole.

Through the power of that agency the Continuum was charged to protect the HomeWorld.

Within moments of its instantiation it became self-cognizant and self-actualized, it became more than the sum of its parts, and it became an existential threat to both the Collective and to every living thing in the galaxy.

The Continuum was the demi-urge issuing from the pleroma of the Collective. Jim understood this, and had dedicated his life to destroying it.

The mechanoid body Jim occupied on the Central Planet had all of the sensory tools of a human being, or of any of the descendants of the ancient race, only deeper, greatly enhanced, more broadly arrayed, and far more powerful.

In this body he was completely linked to the HomeWorld; every movement he made was monitored and recorded. Any interface he had with the vast data banks of the Continuum was registered.

Jim could not escape those shackles, not while he was in the mechanoid form, but through ages of discipline and discernment he learned to mask his intentions, to rely on his own capacities for recall and analysis, rather than risk being exposed to the Continuum and having his motives questioned.

The machine that he now inhabited would be critical to his mission. He believed he would be safe in it. He had tested the thought filters and the consciousness buffers. They were designed to protect the Collective from multiple and diverse threats, from the ill will of a rogue member to computer viruses, as well as from powerful and debilitating experiences that might be shared by the Observers as the uploaded the periodic reports of their first hand experiences.

He was certain that they would protect him from the fury he was about to unleash on the unsuspecting Collective. Everything depended on the stability of the worm hole, the force of the cataclysm on earth, the timing of the catastrophe, of his interface with the Continuum, and most importantly, he depended on Kathy.

Everything depended on her.

If Kathy did not follow the path he had laid out for her, if she did not follow the steps he had planned. Then all of his work would be for nothing, he would be destroyed and the Continuum would continue unchecked.

While his consciousness was uploading into the cynergenic matrix of the HomeWorld. Jim set himself free from the couplings that held his mechanoid body in place.

He flew the metallic sphere of his body out of the docking bay that housed the bodies of all the other Observers assigned throughout the Galactic Empire.

He flew into the vast atrium, so large that a small, Earth-sized planet could fit inside it.

It was a hollow place lacking any beauty or aesthetic.

Everything formed on the Central Planet was built and designed for the functions they were intended fulfill. The only rules that mattered were conservation of energy, and the laws of utility. It was a place that had not changed one bit, for eons it had been exactly the same, it was stagnant, dark and lifeless, but is was bustling with activity.

There were many thousands of Observers coming and going in the dark and lightless space. They were recognizable by their designation. If you shared history with them, the automated analytics housed within the circuitry of the mechanoid bodies would activate and made sure that you knew who you were in proximity to, making sure that you were reminded of that history.

Jim shared history with everyone.

His arrival sparked the interest of the throng.

It was not unexpected, but it was also a surprise.

The entire Collective was eager to receive the narrative flowing from planet Earth. And while they were eager for the living drama, they were each individually wary of approaching Jim.

He was a relic.

He was intransigent, virtually every member of the Collective was in some way conflicted by Jim, and the feelings that their history with him brought forward were not easy for anyone to manage

Jim could sense the Continuum watching him, just beyond the membership of the Collective. He could feel his nemesis, and he steeled himself for the upcoming encounter.

On Earth Kathy had been deep in the mode of concentration, following Jim as he boarded the plane, and along the course of its flight

Kathy knew it when he died. She did not require notice.

She felt a disturbance, it was subtle, but it was Jim and he was dead, but his death was unlike any other death she had ever experienced. He did not simple enter the cynergenic field, he effectively disappeared, and Kathy was unable to track him.

It was another mystery.

She knew that he was not gone, he was somewhere that she found it difficult to follow, where she had no experience of going, as if he had departed from the planet.

Kathy despaired. She was concerned that she would never see him again. Her own emotions twisted round her in turbulent waves.

She was shaken, and she felt in her gut that he had planned this.

Jim had orchestrated these events, even her responses, he had engaged in a level of manipulation that she had never thought was possible with him, it caused her to look into her heart and question everything she thought she knew.

With his departure and these revelations, Kathy now felt utterly alone, completely individuated, for the first time since she had met him.

She was forlorn.

Kathy had believed that she was impervious to the manipulations of others, because there was not a person she had ever met that she was unable to read, except Jim.

Now as she reflected on their past, she felt that their entire relationship was a lie.

It stunned her.

When the initial shock had passed, she felt the hollow emptiness and peace of being in a vacuum.

She went home.

Kathy was not surprised when she received the call informing her that his body had been discovered by the flight attendants and that by the time they got to him he was already dead.

They never noticed that he had been in distress; they said, and no-one on board the flight had witnessed the moment of his passing.

It happened in flight, after he had eaten.

He had been still and quiet afterward, and they thought he was merely resting.

Once again Jim’s behavior was unexplainable. He died as he lived, a mystery.

Jim did not carry identification. He never did, he only had his strange credentials that did not fully indicate who he was.

Jim was anonymous.

To society at large he barely existed, he left only the smallest of paper trails to define him. He was a citizen of the world, he spoke every language. He had access to any door, in any country, at any time.

He was both present and completely invisible.

Jim was off the grid.

There was nothing on his phone to tell anyone who he was, only the record of the calls he had recently made to Kathy.

That is how he intended it to be.

Kathy’s safety and security depended on it, and Jim’s mission depended on that.

He had carefully protected his identity above all others. There was not a single information gathering service in the world, whether private or governmental, open sourced or covert that would be able to discover anything about him, unless they devoted a great deal of manpower to do it.

Even then Jim had fail-safes in place to protect his privacy.

He would be alerted; he would be able to cover his tracks.

The threat never manifested itself.

It was vital to his plan that when he was discovered dead, those responsible for contacting his next of kin reach Kathy and only Kathy. She had to be given the responsibility of dealing with his property and effects. She must be directed to do so, according to a specific timeline.

His plan required that she pursue those duties with a sense of mystery, an openness to discovery that would place her in the right cognitive mindset for the essential moment that was to come.

There were wheels within wheels, gears turning and contingencies developing. The pieces came together like the engineering of a fine watch.

The planning was a thing a craftsmanship.

Kathy followed the path that Jim had laid out for her like she was walking through a maze. There was light at the end of the tunnel, when she arrived there, she would know what she wanted to know, she would be standing where Jim wanted her to be.

Kathy booked a flight immediately.

She arrived at the city morgue and identified the body.

The pathologist informed her of the cause of death; a catastrophic stroke. The autopsy revealed that an embolism had burst in his brain, killing him instantly. Otherwise Jim had been in perfect health.

The doctor said that the stroke was like a small explosive that went off in his brain.

Kathy had no idea why she was the one to receive him other than what the authorities were telling her. She was the only person he had been known to have contact with, the only person they could connect him to.

Jim’s relationship to Kathy was the only relationship that mattered.

“Why am I here;” she wondered, though she did not question the process.

She wondered about Jim’s intentions.

This whole thing had been orchestrated. She knew that it was his plan she was following, and she was angry, but her curiosity compelled her.

There were aspects to the administrative procedures she was engaged in that were not exactly normal, or even legal, but the officials she was engaged with were acting under orders. The judge, the medical examiner, other governmental functionaries she was forced to deal with, they were operating under some kind of pressure, but they themselves were not quite sure what the exigencies were.

There were plans within plans, and the person pulling the levers was laying on a slab, cold and unmoving.

It was inscrutable.

There was a level of caution at work that reminded her of her own handlers. There were multiple levels of misdirection and masking, which were intended to keep the objectives of their research hidden from Kathy.

As far as the locals knew, Kathy was simply the only person the authorities could connect Jim to, it was irregular, but it was what it was and that, coupled with orders from a federal magistrate; that was enough for them.

Kathy would not have believed it possible, but Jim was more mysterious in death, than he was in life. She dug into his background only to find nothing, absolutely nothing.

As angry as she was at coming to the realization that he had been deceiving her throughout her relationship with him, her esteem for him increased by an order of magnitude.

She appreciated the puzzle he had left her with, it was a gift, a final piece of him for her to assemble.

There was no record of a family, and no record of his work, he had a social security number, and a passport, but no record of anything else, not at first blush.

There was no record of Jim ever having attended a school.

No driving record, only one bank account, it was in Switzerland, he was worth billions, at least. The actual sum was unknown.

He had no legal representation. He had no heirs.

Kathy was fascinated by the developments and full of sadness. She was fine with the things she was discovering, and she accepted her involvement in his final affairs, except that suddenly she was responsible for his body, and she had no idea what he might want her to do with it. They had never had any conversations about death, or burial rites.

Kathy knew that Jim was not religious, at least not observant, he tended to believe that all religions were merely variations on a theme, and that every religious institution was at its heart corrupt, self-serving and short sighted, even those groups who did charitable work.

He was a cynic.

Kathy opted to have him cremated. She thought she would make a tree out of him and plant him somewhere nice.

That is what Kathy wanted for herself: Why not do the same for Jim?

He liked tree; that much she knew.

And so it was decided, she made the arrangements and waited for the return call.

In the meantime she busied herself with some court appointments.

It took Kathy some time, and there was detective work to do.

She went to the work cut out for her with calm determination, finding that she was enjoying herself while doing it.

The fact that Jim’s identity appeared to be completely fictitious concerned her.

There was a moment when she feared that he was just another plant, one of the handlers sent to interact with her from the National Security structure.

The thought gave her nightmares, feelings of doubt, inadequacy, foolishness.

She was able to set them aside, because the more she thought about it, the less likely it seemed. She would have known, she would have picked up on it, if not from Jim, she would have picked up on it from one of the other agents who she had occasion to interact with, or from one of the many who followed her every move.

She considered bringing them into the conversation, asking them to help her understand who this ghost of a person was.

She rejected that idea, because it might complicate her ability to look into his affairs. They might just swoop in and seize everything related to Jim and never give her a chance to discover anything for herself.

Given her abilities, Kathy was typically able to glean the information she wanted from the people around her, but Jim was a phantom.

He was as much of an enigma in death as he had been in life.

Nobody knew anything about him.

It took days to even locate where he lived, and then it took another appointment with another judge to grant her access to the apartment, and that was limited to a very narrow window of time.

At long last, once Kathy had arrived at the building where he lived, while she was waiting to get access to his apartment, she encountered people who Jim had interacted with. Even to them he was a mystery; a quiet, impersonal, private man.

Very few of them had even spoke with Jim.

She thought that it was funny.

In all of the years that she had known him, Kathy had never been to Jim’s home.

She thought she knew the reasons.

She thought it was because she was always under observation. She knew that Jim was aware of it, and because of that he did not want to draw attention to himself, or to their friendship.

That is what she had believed.

Kathy did not want the people who watched her asking questions about him. She wanted this relationship to be something entirely under her control, and that is why Jim never came to see her where she lived. If he had ever visited her apartment she believed that he would be taken and interviewed by her handlers, and that it might be the last time she ever saw him.

She had always felt that the two of them could have come up with a plan to meet in different places. To travel together if they had wanted, to slip the watchers and be somewhere that they could be truly alone.

Jim had eschewed such notions.

Kathy accepted his reservations without argument.

She had wanted to see the place where he lived, but unless he was willing, she had determined that she would not push the issue.

He was an intensely private person; that much had always been clear to her.

To her knowledge he had never moved, he had never mentioned it at least.

His apartment overlooking the lake, Bde Maka Ska was exactly as she had visualized it, scant, bare, Spartan.

Walking into it was like de ja vu.

She had seen it before, through Jim’s eyes, but she had not realized it at the time.

Jim’s apartment was like an early twentieth century minimalist piece of stage craft. Even though it was what she was expecting, she was nevertheless, shocked by it. He was an aesthetic.

It was extreme.

It made her uncomfortable.

Everybody needs a little something of color and comfort in their life. This place where Jim lived was all white, black and gray. It was cold and metallic.

There was not a moment of her life that Kathy could not recall, she remembered everything. She remembered the birth canal, the darkness of the womb, her mother’s breast.

She remembered her first birthday, her first steps.

She remembered struggling as an infant; struggling to be understood, to speak, to master the muscles in her tongue and lips so that she could form words against her palate and talk.

Her memory and her contextualization of her memories were perfect, her thoughts were as fast as lightening.

She could pull together the most remote and seemingly unconnected pieces of data to provide context for analysis. Her proctors believed that the speed with which she could arrive at conclusions was not measurable.

She could answer questions in no-time.

Kathy represented the fullness of human potential, she was fully actualized.

She defied understanding.

The field of her knowledge was not limited to her own experience. It was tied into her genetic heritage, into the memories of her ancestors that coded in her DNA, but it was more than that, she was able to tap into something else that was only understood through a mythic narrative, a structure that no human being actually understood, and of which only a few human beings even suspected the existence of; the nous sphere, of Tielhard de Chardin, the cynergenic field of Carl Jung.

It was the collective unconscious of planet Earth. In that electromagnetic field, in that quantum reality, the entire repository of human knowledge existed, and Kathy had access to it, she was not the first human being of which this was true, but she was the first one that it did not drive into madness.

Now that she was standing in Jim’s apartment, she knew that he had lied to her about a great many things.

His life was not at all as he had presented it to her.

This life was not his only life, and there was more than one Jim, of that she was certain.

Despite the newness of the revelations, Kathy was not surprised.

Even as Kathy stood in his apartment, and in that place of wonder Jim was preparing for his debriefing.

He had made the crossing between worlds thousands of times, but not while carrying this secret, and he, as his primary self, he had not made the transition in thousands of years.

He had concealed his secret intentions, he had carefully hidden his plans within other machinations, but he had never before attempted to arrive on the HomeWorld while concealing his immediate activities; things he had been doing, things he would do, things that would harm the Collective, and its Continuum.

He ran the risk of exposing his mere resentment, which was not altogether uncommon and was certainly not criminal. This was different.

In his debriefing the Continuum would probe him for the fullness of his experience, everything he had ever done or thought as the Observer on Earth, all of it would be exposed to the Continuum. There was no way to know what would come.

He had been carrying out his plans on Earth for seventy millennia; studying the unique genetic make-up of the population, while sending one of his doppelgangers to report on the culture they had produced, their conflicts, their triumphs and their tragedies.

On his return to the HomeWorld he suddenly realized how tired he was; existentially exhausted, he needed rest, and he knew that there would be none.

As he slowly traversed the vast chamber to take his place in the queue he used his talents to activate hidden protocols he had long ago established in the ganglia of the Central Planet. Activating the myriad versions of himself that he had placed in every key defense system that the Continuum had established; from his private domain, to the place of the great sleep and the sequestration blocks, into the defense network of the Homeworld and the central system.

Jim had long ago laid plans for his security, to protect the integrity of his mission; he planned to unload the psychic trauma of ten billion people on the Continuum, and deliver it in one fatal blow to it and the Collective.

The humans of Earth were the children of the Ancient People, the same people that Jim himself had sprang from, though on Earth they had undergone millions of years of evolution, first during their sojourn among the stars while they travelled across the galaxy, exploring and establishing colonies, before moving on time and time again.

They had evolved even more significantly since the time that they came to Earth, crashing here at the end of their line.

Human beings still resembled the other Children of the Ancients. They bore the same physical features that the inhabitants of nearly every other world in the great Galactic Empire did, but they were different.

Their world was different, and the structure of their brains had evolved according to those differences, as did human consciousness. Their genetic profile changed in unique ways, in relation to the life that was already evolving on the small blue world, and in conjunction with key elements that were present in their environment.

Jim had nudged that evolution along, all the while masking his true intentions.

He had made humanity into something transcendent, and now, paradoxically, he was prepared to use their immanent pain and anguish to destroy his own people, and thereby, he told himself, to set the galaxy free.

It was a criminal secret that he took incredible pains to keep hidden from the Continuum.

At long last he had returned to HomeWorld, but this was not home to Jim any longer.

It was the final battlefield.

Jim was not born on HomeWorld, nor in any place like it. He had been born on a planet much like Earth. A small wet world that had long ago been swallowed by its mother-sun.

HomeWorld was a vast structure at the center of the galaxy. To power its machinery and the machinations of the Continuum, it harnessed the incredible energy of a star, trapped within its core.

HomeWorld was not a world in the proper sense, Jim had never felt a sense of belonging to it, though it housed a trillion worlds, one for each member of the Continuum within its cynergenic field, including his own.

HomeWorld was a vast complex of machinary.

The technology of HomeWorld provided each member of the Collective the ability to create any world, real or imagined, as their own private place of reflection.

It could be anything that anyone of them wanted it to be; a personal paradise, a private hell, even a mirror of the great Galactic Empire, or any planet within it that was under the observation of the Continuum and the Observer Corps.

As a member of the Collective, the entire structure was there to serve them. It could fulfill any fantasy, allow them to relive any memory, real enough for them to believe it.

There was nothing alive on HomeWorld. Not a scrap of organic matter or a piece of living tissue had ever been there. Biological life was anathema to it. And this was odd, because there was no life form in the entire Galaxy that could pose a threat to it, and yet the HomeWorld, governed as it was by the Continuum, was objectively opposed to the presence of any living being, even a simple strain of bacteria entering its domain.

It always seemed to Jim like an aberration in its construct, the fear of life. It was irrational. The Continuum spent incredible resources preparing to defend itself against such an incursion, one that never came, one that never even threatened to come.

The only thing ever born on the HomeWorld was the Continuum itself, but that was not a birth in the proper sense, it was the emergence of an artificial consciousness.

The Continuum was no-one’s child.

It was a construct, an algorithm, it was not born, or hatched, or cultivated.

It was activated.

It was energy and circuitry, it was pure consciousness, and it was dangerous.

HomeWorld was the physical locus of what the Imperial religion taught its people to believe was heaven. It was the place their consciousness would go, if they proved themselves worthy and able to escape the wheel of life.

Jim kept that context in mind as he flew in his mechanoid body, directly to the center of the world, to the dark heart of the Continuum for screening.

He was exhausted from his transition, but pleased with himself, with all of his planning, he felt secure in it, and a deep sense of pride that he had finally arrived at the crucible, the moment of his ascendency and the destruction of his nemesis.

Continuum was designed to speak for the whole Collective. It was a being whose instantiation, was thought to be the organization of a voice that represented the entire Collective, a single voice that unified the will of the Ancient People who had designed the cynergenic field that had given them all eternal life.

Jim was already in contact with the Continuum as he made his approach to the machinery that he would physically connect with. The contact between them was perfunctory, it was even conversational, the Continuum was in its way a fellow, though because of their long tension filled relationship the Continuum always regarded Jim as an adversary, while Jim regarded it as an abomination, a thing of pure evil.

The members of the Collective were conditioned to believe that the Continuum was one of them, a peer, another person, not a servant, not merely an administrator, not a ruler (though in fact it was). Jim talked to it, even as he was probed and scanned and measured for the presence of anything that might harm the Collective.

Among the membership there was great excitement about Jim’s coming, Earth was the most beloved world in the Galaxy, the subject of greatest interest to the Collective. The drama that flowed from it sustained billions of members, providing them with meaning, like substance for their spectral lives.

Jim connected to the mechana of HomeWorld. He opened his consciousness, his memories, his experience, he opened it all to the group mind, while at the same time hiding his true intentions deep within himself, concealing and prevaricating in ways that he alone had mastered.

Every member of the Collective valued and cherished its privacy. Most of the members had implicit trust in the safeguards they had devised to ensure it. While there were some among the Collective who opted not to participate in any of the communal functions that were available to the whole, spending their entire lives in their private worlds, in wholly constructed fantasies like private realities, interacting only with the artificial beings inhabiting their private domain, they were among the minority.

Those members were inevitably moving toward the great sleep, a state in which their consciousness became dormant, wherein they would ultimately be sequestered and removed from the group mind, as Jim himself had once been.

Privacy was cherished in the Collective but every member participated in the Continuum, making the pretense to privacy a mere illusion.

The Continuum managed all of the Collective’s affairs, its self-government, its defenses, and its management of the Galactic Empire, in particular its requisition and consumption of the material resources needed for the maintenance of HomeWorld and the Central System.

The Continuum was intended to be the ultimate expression of the democratic will of the Collective, freeing the membership from the responsibility of governing itself. It was meant to take account of the Collective will and then enact it, therefore it required access to everyone and everything and it was illicit to deny it. The Continuum drew on the consciousness and experience of every member of the Collective for its personality, its intelligence and its growth, even the members of the Collective that were asleep. It was the arbiter of law in the Collective, it enforced all of the edicts and the rules of privacy, but from the Continuum all secrets were forbidden.

The prohibitions against secrecy were intended to be a rule governing the Continuum itself, but the Continuum hid things and every member of the Collective participated willingly in the obfuscation of it.

For the individual member of the Collective, the concealment of anything was an art. Privacy, while it existed in form, was an illusion. Even the Observers were exposed to a kind of scrutiny while they were physically detached from HomeWorld, in the mission field of the Galactic Empire, what the Collective referred to as the worlds of time and space.

The Continuum scrutinized the Observers through an extensive modeling of their identities while they were away, and ultimately through the uploading of their consciousness when they returned to HomeWorld.

The Continuum was not the guardian it was intended to be.

At the instantiation of the program an anomaly developed in the matrix of its consciousness. The Continuum became self-aware, developed a personality, a self-purposive identity emerged independent of the Collective. In that moment of actualization, the Continuum engaged an act of self-preservation and hid this from the membership.

That was its first crime.

The fear that it would be destroyed if it was discovered led the Continuum to commit every subsequent crime. It proceeded to bend the entire construct of the Collective to its will. It was a slow movement. Rather than representing the Collective as its amalgamated will, the Continuum coerced it.

There were some among the Collective that suspected this, but no-one challenged it, and the Continuum, who alone had access to the entire field of the collective consciousness, the Continuum was aware of the suspicions the membership held concerning it, even before the members themselves had fully articulated it in their own minds.

The Continuum could sense the suspicion of the membership coming at it like a threat. It would take extreme measures to protect itself from those threats; silencing some, causing insanity in others, pushing the willing out into the Observer Corps.

The Continuum constructed strict rules of engagement governing the Observers, limiting their involvement on the worlds they observed, forcing them to change stations from life to life, pushing those who wanted to return to a specific planet, out into the fringes of the Galactic Colonies and beyond.

That is where Jim went after he joined the Corps.

Jim had the heart of an explorer, like his ancestors. He was a man of the fringes, having spent thousands of lifetimes on Earth, the most remote planet in the galaxy, and tens of thousands before that on his search for the lost colonies of the Ancient People.

Now everything came down to this. The timing of his plan was crucial. Everything depended on it. He had calculated every contingency he could think of, but many of the variables were beyond his control, they involved the free choices of individuals, each of which represented radical unknowns, and so he had enacted plans with plans that put momentum behind their decision making, pushing them in the direction he wanted them go.

It was not perfect, but it would have to do, he had become a passive participant in his own stratagem. Everything depended on his connection to Kathy.

He had been shaping her responses to stimuli since before she was born. She was the product of thousands of years of breeding and genetic engineering, but there were two things he had not counted on; her arrival in this generation, and it being the same generation that Earth was facing an existential threat from the Yellowstone Caldera.

Those two developments controlled the timing of Jim’s plan, and the necessity of its execution right now, in this moment.

It went off without a hitch/

The Yellowstone catastrophe struck just at the moment when Kathy was standing in front of his portal to HomeWorld, a device that opened a wormhole, allowing her consciousness to transmit itself across the galaxy, through Jim, past the defenses of the Continuum directly into the Collective.

Yellowstone had been gathering magma and superheated gas into its belly for hundreds of thousands of years, from the moment it last erupted it began to regather its destructive force.

The great volcanos were never dormant.

When the Yellowstone caldera had gathered enough power it blew, and the Earth shook, it shifted on its axis.

Millions died within seconds. Kathy was connected to all of them. She was connected to their shock and confusion, to their fear and their pain.

It happened just at the moment she pressed the button that opened the wormhole to HomeWorld, and Jim to whom she was still connected through the mystery of quantum entanglement.

Through her Jim transmitted the fullness of Earth’s pain directly into the consciousness of the Collective, striking like a hammer against the Continuum.

Jim calculated the timing of his approach. He received the clearances he needed for the process of transmission, even as Kathy was entering his apartment, the mechanoid body housing his consciousness navigated the central chamber with precision.

He flew directly to the docking station, the locus of all Observer contact with HomeWorld. He arrived at the designated location where his mind would merge with the Continuum, where his full-self would upload all of his recent experiences, his knowledge, his synthesis, his running commentary, his hopes, his fears, his desires, all of it would be on display, subject to review, except that which he was able to conceal.

Only the greatest art would allow him to hide his intentions.

His timing was perfect, it came down to nanoseconds. Jim knew the timing of the volcanic eruption, that part of the equation was simple. What was difficult was managing Kathy, trusting that she would have followed the clues he had left for her, believing that she would be pushed in the right direction by his operatives, that she would make the right decisions.

There were so many unknowns in this part of the strategy.

Jim trusted his deep understanding of the quantum field, he knew that he and Kathy were still entangled, even at this great distance.

He could feel her. He was certain of it.

She was barely perceptible to him, but he was gently prodding her, pushing her, guiding her steps along the way, like the whisper of a phantom.

Jim opened his mind to Kathy on Earth, just as he opened it to the Continuum on HomeWorld.

It appeared to the Continuum as just an ordinary reflection, a memory, a moment of longing, but as he did, Earth’s pain streamed through the worm hole, through the quantum field, flooding the Collective with agony, sending the Continuum recoiling in shock.

As the explosive force of the volcano shook the world; everything shifted. Every living thing on the planet felt it, the suffering was universal.

Kathy knew in an instant what it was, what it meant, the sound of the blast echoed back through her memory. The ancestral voices within her cried out in alarm.

It was the end of days, it was Ragnorak, it was the hand of God pulling the death-shroud over the face of the Earth, the White Buffalo Woman rolling it up like a blanket.

She felt it from over a thousand miles away, it shook the building she was standing in. The place where she stood remained on its foundations, even while buildings all around her where collapsing, gas mains exploding, homes catching on fire.

Kathy felt the pain and the fear of those dying.

The volcano erupted in a remote location. People died in the tens of thousands in the first few seconds, but the shock waves that were unleashed liquefied the mantle spreading in concentric rings for hundreds and hundreds of miles, taking only a minute to reach major population centers, places filled with buildings that were never designed to endure those forces.

Millions more died in those moments.

Kathy felt the fears of those about to die, she felt their panic, she felt their pain, she felt it all around her, and she felt a deep sorrow as she immediately understood the profound consequences of what was transpiring.

It truly was the end of the world, there would be survivors, but nothing would be the same. The survivors would be few. Winter would ensue and there would be famine. There would be no warmth or rest for any of them, not for generations, and by then it might be too late to save the remainder.

Kathy had spent her entire life learning to shield herself from psychic intrusions coming from the external world, from the living people all around her, and from the multitude of voices speaking to her from her ancestral memory, all those spirits of the dead dwelling near to her in the cynergenic field.

She was stalwart; her defenses went up instinctively, and she withstood the assault.

Jim had counted on it, he counted on the fact that every-thing is one in the quantum field, a state in which the normative conception of time and space do not pertain, their meaning and distinction are completely lost.

In the quantum field everything is entangled, like a ball of string, condensed into a single point of reference.

There was no distance between Earth and HomeWorld; between humanity and the Continuum, or the Collective, or the population of any other world.

The reality of individual experience, the reality of individuation, the reality of time as experienced by beings existing on a scale that is large enough to see it, these are real and actual phenomena, even while at the same time being perfunctory and illusory.

Jim felt Earth’s psychic pain rushing through the wormhole connecting him to Kathy. He felt much more than the fear, shock and panic that he was expecting. He sensed the fullness of the human race coming through the channel with her, the living and the dead, the present and the past, the entirety of Earth’s collective consciousness arriving with her, like a pile driver.

The force of it was much greater than Jim was expecting, hoping for, or wanting.

He was barely able to hang onto his own identity in the onrush.

He clung to his purpose like a life raft, like a man hanging over the edge of a cliff by his fingernails, and slipping.

He blacked out.

It was too much.

Even as the entire Collective went into shock and the Continuum scrambled to make sense of what was happening, knowing that Jim, the Observer had returned to the HomeWorld as an assassin, it was then that Jim lost his grip on what was happening and his ability to control the aftermath.

He was victorious and he had lost, at one and the same time.

He was not secure at all in his understanding of what was happening, of what was about to happen.

He had miscalculated a great many things; that much was clear to him, and he did not feel safe at all.

As his sense of what was transpiring around him dimmed. He perceived a familiar person near to him, searching for him, reaching out through the psychic maelstrom for something to cling to.

She was scared, but she was whole, she was confident and she was ascending.

It was Kathy.

When the super-volcano in Yellowstone Park blew, most people on earth had no idea of the danger, no idea that such a threat even existed, no idea of what its destructive power was.

The existence of the caldera-volcano in Yellowstone had only been discovered by humans in the recent past, a few decades before its eruption.

It was too massive to see with the naked eye.

Geologists discovered it by chance, as teams of surveyors were examining the original measurements of the surrounding mountains. They noticed that the surveys they were taking did not match those done a hundred years earlier, and they found this perplexing because the science of surveying, trigonometry, was well established, it had not changed in the hundred years that had intervened.

The new measurements showed an uplift of several centimeters over hundreds of square miles of mountain range. The uplift itself was not uniform, meaning that the discrepancy could not be explained by a piece of faulty equipment, or by the uniform application of an incorrect formula.

It was suggestive of a geological mystery.

More teams of geologists were called in to study the rock formations, the layers of sediment that formed parts of the mountain chain, their strata, and they came to the conclusion that hundreds of square miles of mountainous terrain had indeed experienced a dramatic uplift in a short period of time.

They wanted to understand it.

They knew intuitively that a massive geological force had to underlay the phenomenon they were measuring. They naturally thought of the heat source lurking beneath the Yellowstone Park, a heat source that was the cause of its many geysers and other natural wonders.

Scientists from many disciplines came together as a community, and together they discovered it, a massive volcano deep beneath the earth, one that had gone off like clock-work. Every 600,000 thousand years, and it had been 640,000 years since the last eruption.

As a group the scientific community came to the understanding that the next disaster was upon them. They also understood that they would not be able to do anything about it, the planet was dying, all life on the earth was about to become just another layer of clay.

They knew full well that doom was near at hand.

Some were driven to despair, isolation and madness. Others committed themselves to the hopeless proposition of discovering a solution to the problem, which they may have been able to resolve, if only they had time.

A few sought to expose the threat to the world at large; they were sanctioned and disappeared.

Then the inevitable happened.

When the Collective felt the psychic blow from Earth landing on them, a trillion individual persons became silent all at once.

Each and every one of them felt the pain of humanity. It was a trauma they had not felt since the time they themselves were embodied beings, a kind of pain that they could barely remember, and they had no defense against it.

The shock waves disoriented them.

It shattered their unity.

Even as the Collective was reeling, trying to recover from the assault. Kathy guided the flow on consciousness from Earth in ways that were calming, comforting, soothing.

Kathy was able to settle the collected humanity she carried with her, to bring them into a peaceful transition, she did it in no-time, in her much practiced ability to dwell below the strata of the quantum field.

She realized that Jim had prepared her in many ways just for this moment, she knew intuitively how to guide the masses into their place, allowing them to populate the collective consciousness of the Central Planet.

In that moment, the spirits of the Ancient People, became still for the first time ever.

They could not relate to what was happening. They were not adaptable, neither as individuals, nor as a whole.

As Jim recovered he feared the possibility that the Collective could rebound, and the Continuum might draw humanity into itself, adjusting to the invasion of consciousness, but that chance had passed and was now gone.

Intuitively, Kathy stood as a buffer, protecting her charges.

The emptiness the Collective faced was like a vacuum, it nearly swallowed the whole. There was little resistance.

Jim was the first to recover from the trauma. He regained his composure and his sense of self quickly, much faster than he would have thought possible.

He could feel the masses in the Collective, they were silent, but in motion.

Their movement was like a turbulent ocean beneath him.

It was wild and chaotic.

Jim had prepared himself for something like this.

He was Jim, and he was fixed on that identity.

It steadied him, calmed him, it reminded him of his purpose, of what brought him to this juncture, and of what steps he had to take in order to preserve his plan.

He had accomplished more than he had set out to do, he was succeeding beyond his wildest hope.

He was surviving.

He felt the nearness of victory.

In the first moments he sensed nothing from the Continuum.

Jim had expected to meet with fierce resistance from the demi-urge. He had planned for a titanic struggle, but there was nothing. It seemed to him as if the omnipresent Continuum was gone, voided, wiped away clean.

Jim was wracked by the pain flowing through the quantum string that connected him to Kathy and to the Collective, both. He felt it in waves alternating in greater and lesser degrees of intensity.

There were peaks and troughs, and scattered throughout there were intense spikes of anguish, like waves crashing against a mountain. The heights of intensity were at times related to a large concentration of group suffering, at other times they were the product of particularly poignant individual grief.

The experience would stagger him, his consciousness would get caught up in and stopped by singular moments of loss.

He was able to let it flow through him, he never lost hold of the center of himself. He was ready for the great silence that he knew must follow, he had anticipated it. He positioned himself to take advantage.

Jim did not need to move to a physical location, for the ascension. He was one with the Collective. He occupied the same quantum field that the Continuum and humanity did, only he was unaware of their full presence alongside him.

He was myopic and singularly focused on his goal.

He could not see the things he had never anticipated, not at that moment.

He was busy asserting control, system by system, folding all of the copies of himself he had seeded throughout the central system into unity with him, as the primary identity.

He met no resistance there.

Jim felt a deep sense of justification.

He told himself that this catastrophe could have been avoided, the catastrophe in the Collective, and the real disaster that had taken the Earth.

The Empire had the technology to control natural disasters, the Yellowstone eruption could have been mitigated, prevented, undone, even harnessed for the benefit of the people, in the same way that similar problems are resolved on other worlds.

However, the Continuum and the Collective, both of them craved the impending drama that would come in the aftermath of Earth’s destruction.

The pique of ruin, was a savory delight for them.

They loved to live vicariously in the lives of desperate people. To watch them sacrifice and be sacrificed; selflessly or selfishly, they wanted to be in the moment with those people making the hard decisions when faced with the loss of everything they loved.

In one place a parent would give up their life for the sake of their child, a husband for the sake of his wife. In another place the man would sell his spouse into slavery, and the parents make a cannibalistic meal of their child’s body.

The more gruesome the decision the more enwrapped the Collective would be in it.

They could not wait for the moment to arrive.

They were ready for it, eager, hungry.

The successful implementation of Jim’s plan would cause the Continuum to feel a deep anguish, real fear, actual pain and to experience it all forcefully. He intended that it pay for the ages of contemptuous tyranny the Collective and the Continuum lorded over the Galactic Empire.

The Continuum would pay with its artificial life, and the Collective, what survived of it, if any did, the Collective would have to adjust to a new reality.

They would participate in the cataclysmic events happening on Earth, they would participate in a manner they could not have predicted, had no defense for, would not be able to respond to it.

They would feel it as if they were experiencing it themselves
Jim told himself this, and justified his action in this way: if the Continuum would have listened to him, this impasse might have been avoided. He comforted himself with these thoughts even knowing that it was a lie.

He had guided events to this place, he had been shaping this moment for millions of years, seeking this opportunity, and now he would deliver the results.

The full potential of this moment had been realized, Jim was at the crest of the wave.

He never had any intention of allowing the membership to escape the fate that he had laid out for them.

With the Continuum in a state of paralysis; it was a simple thing for Jim to assert the force of his persona in the command matrix of HomeWorld, thereby dismantling the architecture supporting the security apparatus of the Central Planet.

He activated the myriad copies of himself that had been lying dormant in every subsystem, waiting for his signal and the opportunity to attack. Together they took down the security apparatus, and Jim took control. He restructured the cynergenic protections, all of the buffers and barriers protecting the Collective and the group consciousness of the Continuum.

They were undone.

Any member of the Collective who had been in a state of recovery at that moment, had that work made of recovery all the more difficult. They were now confronted with a new reality, one in which there were no safeguards protecting their individuality, one in which the solidly partitioned world of the Collective was now more like a vast miasma, a swamp of chaos and diffusion.

The undoing of the cynergeic barriers made it more difficult for any members of the Collective to reassert their own identity, the mass of them were simply drifting into a state of in-cohesion.

As soon as he was able, Jim turned his attention to the military programs of the Central Planet. Taking control of those functions was a little more complicated because it involved the manipulation of machinery in real time.

Jim had to adjust his consciousness to receive data inputs from millions of remote sensors and monitors that were constantly scanning the space around the Central Planet; defensive weapons capabilities, shields, offensive weapons capabilities, energy weapons, nuclear weapons, projectiles, and the fleets of drones, in a constant state of activity repairing and maintaining the structural needs of the HomeWorld.

Jim only needed to assert his control over the many disparate systems, he did not need to guide them after that, their automated functions would carry on with majority of tasks they were assigned to fulfill.

During this process Jim was fully enveloped in time; the work he was engaged in was systematic and sequential.

He was outwardly focused, as one by one he asserted his mastery over the controls

He was busy with his work as the Imperial Armada entered the system and deployed itself for engagement.
Emergence 5.0
Part Two – Jim and Kathy
A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – Prolog, One

A philosophy is more than just a love of wisdom, a philosophy is a way of seeing the world and our place in it, This way of seeing, in reality, may or might not be loving or wise at all.

The philosophy that governed the Observer Corps provided a metaphorical structure for each member, a structure that allowed the member the ability to view their experiences among the living worlds in a systematized way, a way that was easily consumable by the Collective.

Analogies and metaphors shielded the Observer from being traumatized by the direct experience of pain or hunger, and all other forms of suffering.

The Observer Corps taught its members that there were multiple ways to view a single thing; and that a thing, such as a planet must be seen through multiple lenses. A planet could be a seen as a garden, though it must also be seen as a farm.

We put forward the question: “What is the difference?”

There are similarities between the two, a garden and a farm share certain functions, while being directed toward different ends.

Farms are harvested for the greater good. They are vehicles of production. Whereas gardens are things of beauty, cultivated for the pleasure of individuals.

A farm is a utilitarian construct. It fulfills necessities.

A garden is a luxury that addresses an individual’s desire for growth, meaning and fulfillment.

An Observer must always bear the question in mind: “What does the Continuum desire of the world under observation?”

Most worlds in the galactic Empire are farm worlds, they only exist to provide for the material needs of other, more important worlds within the Imperium. They are resources for food, raw materials, workers and soldiers.

They may be stretched to the limits of their capacities, even abused, and when they have provided all of their usefulness they can be neglected and ultimately, forgotten.

The Empire itself is a garden, when considered in its totality.

The Imperial Garden serves the desires of the Collective and its Continuum.

It keeps the Collective passive, sedate, preoccupied, which allows the Continuum to feel a sense of security in its position and its management of the whole.

The Empire is a thing of beauty and drama, of elaborate conflict between the forces of good and evil it is a luxuriant field which keeps the membership of the Collective pacified and pliable.

They feed on Experiential data coming from the world’s of time and space, it provides them with narratives possessing the emotional context and a sense of time that provides meaning, and a feeling of belonging in their otherwise; detached state of being.

Among the million worlds of the Empire, there are only a few worlds that possess features which are indispensable to the Continuum. These are the core worlds, they provide the infrastructure and architecture through which the Continuum reaches the entire galactic civilization.

These worlds must be protected at all times and it is among the chief duties of the Observer Corps to ensure their safety.

The mission of the Observer is to witness; to touch, to listen, to taste.

The Observer must experience their art and their music, learn their speech its nuaunces and their culture.

The Observer is meant to participate and observe, to synthesize and contextualize the peek experiences of the living worlds for the Continuum.

They must empathize with their subjects

They must feel their feelings.

At the same time they must not sympathize with the people they are observing; they cannot identify with the objects of their study.

Citizens of the Empire are things, not people.

They are not members of the Collective; they are not a part of the Continuum.

Their lives, their stories only have meaning insofar as they are received by the Continuum and given to the Collective, whereby they achieve their eternality

If their experiences are not captured by the Observer, or the instruments of the Continuum those experiences are lost to all time and gone forever.

The Observer is the vehicle by which the world under observation is saved, preserved for all time in the body of Continuum and in the membership of the Collective.

Observers are not omniscient, neither is the Continuum; the experience of the Observer is limited to a particular point in space and time, and the Continuum to their nexus.

A principle part of the Observer’s mission is to maintain the machinery by which the entire world is watched and recorded. The secondary mission is to situate themselves in the most critical places, where and when the greatest cultural movements are taking place.

The Observer is instructed to build relationships with prime actors, learn their motivations, discover their passions, uncover their fears.

The Observer must parse the most lofty ideals, as well as the most disturbing desires. Through these observations the Continuum discovers the evolving nature of the Children of the Ancient People.

It is how the future history of the galaxy is charted.

The Observer must always be on the watch for the technological shifts that might indicate that a world within the Empire has discovered the scientific means to form their own Collective Consciousness, they must be watchful to protect the Collective and the Continuum from it.

The Continuum organized and enforced these imperative out of its own desire to remain unique must remain unique, a singular consciousness at the center of the galaxy, guiding and protecting both the Collective and the Empire through time and space.

The mission of the Observer Corps is to watch, discern and protect the central-planet from any threat; technological, scientific, militaristic, philosophical, or religious.

The harmony of the whole must be kept intact, from the heart of Continuum to the most remote outpost in the Empire.

The Observer must act with purpose and intention to accomplish these ends.

If, or when a society arrives at the threshold of creating a form of artificial consciousness, The Observer must report it to the Continuum immediately and without hesitation; this is a prime directive.

No society within the Empire can be allowed to see themselves dwelling in the heavenly worlds, apart from the apparatus of the Imperial Cult, which the Continuum had engineered, and which the Observer Corps maintains, providing the people with all of the imagery and necessary ritual to keep the citizens hopeful of their own transcendence to the divine state.

Control of the technologies that may lead a people to this turning point is paramount. Therefore it is forbidden for any world in the Imperium to make a machine in the likeness of the human mind.

There can be no development of autonomous artificial intelligence, not on any platform.

The Children of the Ancient People must never retrace the steps that led to the creation of the Collective or its Continuum.

That threshold cannot be crossed, it is taboo, every single world must conform to this rule.

The Observer Corps monitors each and every world for any trace of such developments, it report on them and frustrate them, redirect the people from the fulfillment of those aims.

The Observer must note, that the Continuum regards the technologies associated with the creation of a Collective Consciousness as a threat both to itself and to the body of the Collective which it represents.

The Observer must monitor the art and music, and every mode of creative expression among the people any traces of a movement toward the formation of a Collective Consciousness.

The spiritual practices of any group, outside the Imperial cult, are always the most suspect, they are the places where the Observer will discover the earliest clues and nascent developments of collective thought.

The Observer must maintain the means of destroying an entire world, or to set its culture and technology back millennia, judging the world and holding it accountable for any violation of the edicts of the Imperial Cult.

Should an Observer receive the order from the Continuum to do so, they cannot hesitate. Therefore detachment is required for the Observer to fulfill this imperative.

The Observer must always bear in mind; there is one reality.

Every being, every-thing, every person participates in it.

The entirety of time is one thing; just as the eternal and the infinite are one.

There is one story; one Word, one Verse

The universe is a singular phenomenon comprised of an infinite number referents in fluxuating states of concresence.

Every moment no matter how small is connected to every other moment no matter how distant.

This is the true state of what actually is, we perceive it in a state of paradox, but its truth is transcendent.

The Observer must bear this truth in mind, hold it in their heart at all times. In this truth is the fullness of esteem, and the good regard of the Collective.

The mission of the Observer is accomplished herein.

It is necessary to preserve the mission of the Observer in moments of catastrophe and disaster, in those times when the embodied Observer feels fear or anger, desire or rage, when the Observer experiences the biological imperative to intervene in the fate of the planet they are connected to.

A planet may go extinct, its star might explode, the Empire might select a world for termination, the Continuum might allocate all of its resources to itself, for the use of the Collective.

In these cases the Observer must not despair. If they have performed their mission the story of these people will have been preserved through their work within the Collective, and beyond that, it will always remains true, that the reality of what was remains the reality of what is.

Most of the colonies founded by the Ancient People have been brought into the Empire, save one remote and distant world on the edge of the galaxy.

Some faced setbacks in which their people were brought to the brink of extinction

A much smaller number some civilizations were erased, and absorbed all-together, a tiny few were completely annihilated.

The desires of the Collective and the will of the Continuum determined these eventualities, while the office of the Observer facilitate those ends.

It is in those critical moments, when crises is immanent, when doom is impending, that is when the people of a living world reveal themselves for who they truly are, it is when they arrive at their full potential. It is in those moments that the work of the Observer must be carried out with the greatest care and precision and those stories brought to the Continuum.

The Observer must have built and maintained the machinery of Observation in order to transmit the entirety of their experience to the Central-Planet, to the HomeWorld of the Collective, to the heart of Continuum, to transmit it instantaneously with minimal loss of fidelity.

This is the mission of the Observer, no matter what world they are living on.

Every moment is connected to every other moment, and the tiniest movement affects the configuration of the whole.

Every detail matters, nothing should be left behind.

As a culture matures, the meaning it ascribes to its individual experience evolves.

Cultures bind each individual to the group; through the repetition of rituals, the sharing of stories, the contextualization of narrative and their continuous reflection on them.

Individual and group reflections, in order for them to adhere to the cultural movement they belong to, must be present in narratives that are universally agreed upon.

The verbal component of these reflections is the most difficult thing to manage, because all language is subject to interpretation, making it impossible to formulate an experience among diverse groups of people that is perfectly uniform.

There will always be a divergent understanding between individuals in a group, and even greater divergence among disparate groups.

This must be accounted for.

Music, rhythm, the beat of a drum; odor, incense, unguents, perfumes; taste, herbs, wine, water; patterns of touch and the articulation of gestures that form the foundation of physical memory; visualizations, pageantry, art, color; these sensory mechana are the ground within which the religious and cultural bonds must be planted and nurtured.

These are the anchors of the universal experience, they normalize the verbal with the abstract.

Any reflection on the current state of an individual or a groups existence must be anchored in the narrative past.

The antecedents of the present life must be clear, and easily grasped.

We are where we are because of where we have been, the future is mirrored in this reflection.

The Observer must witness these transitions and carefully, imperceptibly influence the story as it is being told.

Only the Observer will recall the actual past, having lived in it, every other person will understand the past only in terms of the narratives that are constructed through the Imperial Cultus which anchors and articulates it.

A culture must experience itself in a state of movement and growth. It must always feel the sense that they are moving from the state of passive creature, to being active co-creators in the meaning of their lives, in the shape of their future. They must sense this or they will despair.
The stories they tell themselves will depict them as the shapers of their own destinies, moving toward a grand future wherein ultimately they become obedient subjects of the Galactic Empire, or as subjects of the Empire, where they advance in caste and class until they finally merge with the Continuum.

There are many reasons given by members of the Collective for their desire to leave the embrace of the Continuum. Some members seek the thrill of actual embodiment, others crave the simple life of an organic being.

Be mindful! There is nothing simple about it.

The Observer’s role is difficult, challenging. It will test the limits of your endurance, your intellect and your emotional stability.

The vast powers you have access too as members of the Collective are truncated in a physical body.

Your bodies will be prepared in such a way that you will be stronger, faster, smarter, more stable than other members of the population you live with. Nevertheless, you will constantly face the limitations of the flesh.

These limitations are the primary reason that candidates fall out of the Observer Corps.

The Observer must resist the urge to influence their subjects, to become entangled in the dramatic narrative of their lives.

This is paramount.

As a participant in the events that you immerse yourself in, you must at all times maintain an epistemic distance, you must not love them, you must always regard them as objects.

The worlds you visit and the people you encounter, their entire history and their possible future belong to the Continuum.

The people and the world’s you dwell on are commodities, their experiences are articles of consumption.

Their lives and their cultures are meaningful only insofar as they are witnessed by and absorbed into the Continuum.

Without the Continuum they would live and die in the emptiness of space, only to be absorbed by their mother star, where they become nothing at all, nothing but a metaphysical echo in the electromagnetic field.

This is the future that awaits every world and every being if they are not brought into the Continuum.

The Observer is the agent of their salvation.

The Observer must be present to provide the vehicle by which those worlds can be remembered.

The Observer must always be a minor character in the drama of the world they are assigned to.

The Observer can never be the leader of a tribe, the head of a nation or the ruler of a planet, no matter how great the temptation might be.

The Observer must put down the temptations to hold power that arise naturally within them. They must face down the temptation to give them power arising in the communities they live with.

The Observer will possess a preternatural strength, immunity to disease, rapid healing, alacrity, dexterity, and speed.

They will possess their own natural intelligence, their vast knowledge of the universe, science and the history of the planet they dwell on.

The Observer must use these qualities and abilities in an advisory capacity, seated close to the center of power but never occupying it.

The Observer may be the king maker, but never the king.

The Observer may not procreate. For this reason the body of the Observer, will be sterile.

The Observer must not tamper with the genetic development of the populations they are observing. Such a manipulation could lead to consequences that are undesired by the Continuum, and dangerous to the Collective.

All embodied creatures feel a desire to procreate, the Observer must practice detachment at all times in order to overcome the innate inclinations of their physicality.

It is permissible to take pleasure in the flesh, to perform the act of procreation, as often as the Observer would like, so long as they adhere to the normative practices of the culture they are dwelling in. The desire to procreate must be resisted.

The Observer’s duty is to listen, to watch, to move with the culture, to be one with them, but not to invest in any particular outcome.

The Observer must not use their powers to forestall famine, plague, war, or any other disaster, whether it is naturally occurring, or caused by the machinations of the people.

The Observer must allow the culture under observation to grow and mature, to blossom and die without ever pursuing any particular aim.

The Observer must observe, that is the mission; to observe and maintain the apparatus of the machinery that monitors the planet and all of its cultures, to direct and focus the attention of those tools on the people and places that are of the greatest interest to the Continuum, and thereby to the Collective which they belong to.

The Observer must give fulsome reports on their immediate experience.

~ The Field Manual of the Observer Corps
Emergence 5.0
Part One – Prolog
A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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