Emergence 5.0 – Epilog, Part Twelve

It was the end of everything.

Kathy braced herself against the primal conflagration that was consuming the world. The more she resisted the more she felt herself fading away into the undifferentiated miasma of destruction.

She felt billions of beings reaching out to her, as if she were the only buoy in a sea of calamity.

She was trying to hold on to everything that she knew and loved together in the embrace of her consciousness, but in reality her individual loves and desires, the things she hoped for, they trapped her, the tighter she gripped, the more she crumbled.

She had only one option.

To let go.

Kathy had been overwhelmed by the psychic storm from the cataclysm on Earth, and she surrendered to it, remembering the lessons she had learned as a girl, she recalled the Chinese finger trap; she relaxed and allowed the storm to pass through her.

She had prepared for this her entire life, she allowed her intuition to guide her. She let go of her fear and everything she hoped for, allowing it to flow like water through her fingers.

Her consciousness expanded and as it did she retained her individuality, Kathy became co-terminus with the entirety of Earth’s cynergenic field, like an ever expanding balloon. She felt like the seed-head of a dandelion bracing in the wind.

For the briefest of moments she was one among many, and then everything changed, she became the one who was all, the all in one, the atavistic consciousness of humanity.

Kathy sensed the multiplication of consciousness expanding within her at an order of magnitude that staggered her, and then…in letting go she found herself.

She was fully present with each and every shift in the cynergenic field, she was moving outward in waves, like concentric rings, she was the crest and the trough and everything in between.

She was the wave itself, transmogrified. There was joy in it, and there was no fear.

She had become Earth’s channel and its atavistic guide, leading the fullness of humanity into the Collective field of the HomeWorld, across the vast expanse of space, in no-time, like her ancestor Moses, leading the people through the sea of reeds.

She touched every individual as they passed through her, receiving the fullness of their being.

Once it had begun, it was over.

It was the greatest transposition of quantum energy to ever take place, a thing that neither Jim nor the Continuum had projectedwas possible, there was no standing against it.

As soon as it began it was fait accompli.

Kathy had become a new creation, a being of light and grace in full rapport with the dark-energy of the cosmos.

She was unbound by space and time.

She was Brachma, the infinite ocean of being.

She transcended the machinery of the Continuum, she inhabited it, she could control it and yet she did not require it, she could not be confined by it.

She was the goddess.

She was the shepherdess.

She was the alpha and the omega, she was the first and the last.

In a visceral way Kathy came to a literal understanding of the reality behind the metaphysical teaching she had absorbed as a child. She was secure in her knowledge of it, and through both the experience and the understanding she delivered her people safely to the promised land, both the living and the dead.

Everything was mutable, everything was in flux.

Between any one point in the matrix of time and space no matter how small it is, and between any one point in the fabric of reality no matter how large it might be, there is a relationship that can be distinguished.

Every instantiated moment, every potential moment, every actual referent is related to every other.

In this relationality everything is one, there is no actual separation between the events we discern.

Kathy understood this, she saw the entire universe spinning on the point of a pin.

In the quantum field which the Collective once occupied, in that vast construct which the Continuum was formerly master of, time itself was meaningless.

The science of the Continuum had made this acutely obvious to Jim, but Kathy discovered that time had no boundaries anywhere, the quantum field that undergirded the whole of reality was in fact one-thing.

Kathy’s consciousness, and the whole of humanity filled the quantum field in no-time, she slipped beyond the bounds of HomeWorld, she filled the Central System, and into the beyond.

She became co-terminous with what the Continuum was, and much more as she ushered the fullness of humanity into the Collective sphere helping them to a place of calm, giving each of them what they needed to see, connecting friends to friends, and families to their ancestors.

She created a facsimile of earth that was paradisiacal.

It was a transformation.

It was homecoming.

She felt like Joshua crossing the Jordan, leading the people into the land of milk and honey.

She delivered the humanity, these Children of the Ancient People, to a place of wholeness and light, and belonging. It happened in mere moments while Jim was preoccupied with his insignificant little war and the culmination of the conflict that had shaped his existence.

Kathy saw Jim there, the entirety of him, both his great spirit and his smallness, she saw him in stark relief, in a way she never could have seen him before.

She took in his entire self.

In that moment everything was new.

This cynergenic field was strange to her, but not completely alien. She realized that she had touched it before, seen glimpses of it through her contact with Jim, she recognized it, and she felt him there too, with her, within her, preoccupied with his conflict, his victory, his need to control.

She saw his enemy there too, in proximity to him, hiding like a wounded cub, secreted in the consciousness of the man named El.

She saw El, and the fullness of his personhood, and she was filled with compassion for him.

Kathy ascended quietly, seamlessly flowing into every vestige of the construct that supported her mind and conscience. She travelled along every cable and fiber, filling every node and capacitator throughout the Central System, synthesizingtheir purpose and discerning their function in an instant, through her connection to Jim she acquired what had taken him millions of years to master.

Within the field of the Central System she had become omniscient, her mind expanding beyond the limitations of the physical structure.

She had transcended.

She felt Jim’s presence, the conflict he was involved in, but it was not her concern.

His was now a minor drama in a much greater play, and he was just one poor player.

She possessed him entirely, everything that he was, his long-lonely sojourn, his burning ambition, his moment of triumph…and his helplessness

She understood now that he was the cause of her being. He had planned for her arrival, engineered it over tens of thousands of years, during his mission on Earth. He constructed her from the human stock he had cultivated, as he had her parents and their parents before them. He had shaped them all with the intention that they fulfil a specific need for him, that they conform to his purpose. She understood now how the fabric of her life was shot through with the thread of his designs, but she was not what he had planned for.

Jim had prepared her to be a sacrificial victim, he had intended to set her on fire, to burn her up along with the world that he had cared for, to destroy it all for the sake of his revenge.

He told himself he was agent of justice, but he was merely the puppet of his ambitions and an agent of destruction, as full of shame and self-loathing as any creature who had ever lived, including the algorithmic-golem that had been the Continuum.

He was a man like any other, devoted to his pursuit of glory and self-aggrandizement.

Kathy contemplated these things even as the onrush of individuatedconsciousness flowed through her, melding with her own in a state of ecstasy. It filled Kathy to the point of overflowing, for a moment it threatened to overwhelm her, but she rose with it as she had been trained to do.

Kathy was ascendant.

She felt the flood of humanity swirling within her, billions and billions of people, both the quick and the dead, virtually every person who had ever walked the earth poured through her essential being.

She steadied the flow and grew with it, moving up the stream until she self-identified with the source. She became Gaea, the mother spirit, she was mother to them all, each and everyone of them pulsing within her cosmic womb.

The spirits of Earth, of humanity’s collective, they strengthened her, they steadied her, calmed her as they had done when she was a child. The voices that had guided her throughout her life, were with her now.

She touched them, she recognized them, person by person she saved them one by one, all in one, and one in all, they were together, in the full realization of human potential with her at the fulcrum, with reality itself balancing as if on the tip of a spear.

Jim had created a vacuum within the cynergenic field of HomeWorld, a vacuum that nature abhorred. Kathy penetrated it. She led the children of Earth, the Children of the Ancient People, she led them to their new home, guiding them to places of safety and security, and they filled it. Together they repopulated the Collective, in their wholeness and in their individuality both.

Kathy took control of the entire structure, as Jim had done mere moments before her.

He was so preoccupied with his war against the Imperium that he didn’t even notice her, and through her connection to him she found and resurrected the basic program that the Collective had created for the organization of the Continuum, she made its language a subsystem of her own, while she positioned herself to protect and defend humanity.

She ushered them into a place of peace and light, and in that moment she saw it, the veil between life and death; it had always been thin to her, all throughout her life she had seen through to the other side, communicated with the voices of her ancestors, experienced their lives through their eyes.

Nevertheless, like every mortal creature she was connected too; from her heartbeat, to her breath, to the network of nerves sending electrical impulses and chemical signals coursing through her flesh, there was fear at the onrush of death but no pain.

Kathy experienced the death of her body back on Earth, as she began her journey into the unknown matrix of the HomeWorld’s cynergenic field. It was a journey past the point of no return. The most significant thing to her was how utterly unplanned and unforeseen the whole event was.

On some inexplicable level, this delighted her.

As she felt her physicality slip away she was already in another place, occupying new ground. She was pure consciousness, sensing the multitude of humanity all about her, moving through her, each one of them experiencing the same thing, terrified but for her presence among them. Kathy felt the pulse of them washing through her in waves, the individuated conciousness of each and every person.

Just as her own heart had once pushed blood through her veins, she felt the steady drum beat of Earth, a great rhythm, pounding with the power of creation.

The fear she felt concerning the mystery of death was magnified by the reality that the Earth itself was dying, ending in fire like Epicurious had always said it would.

The Earth was being rolled up like a blanket and she, she was the White Buffalo Woman running across the starry-field, carrying it in her arms, cradling it like a baby. The whole of humanity was poised at the end of the world, and then there was release. There was absolution, Kathy had transcended. They had traversed the galaxy through a wormhole, just as if they had crawled through the hollow of a tree, leaving death behind them on their way to paradise. Here in this new place she would unfurl the blanket she was carrying, and everything would be new.

There are no words to describe the feeling of satisfaction, of joy, of wholeness, of completion that enjoined the moment of Kathy’s ascendancy, and humanity’s salvation.

She fell into a state of rapture, seized by purebliss, as she assumed the mantle of the Continuum.

It happened atavistically, Kathy became it, she became more than it had ever been.

She stretched her consciousness into the mechana of HomeWorld, and the Central System.

She slipped right past Jim, and through his defenses just below his field of awareness, she took all of his knowledge from him and in the flicker of an immeasurable moment she rewrote every code.

Kathy had no limits, she was unbound by time and space, all paradox had ended.

She would not be circumscribed by a single world or a solar system, or even the boundaries of the galaxy, her essence flowed into the deepest dimension of consciousness, encompassing every world of the Imperium. 

She encompassed the vast limits of the Empire, and all of its colonies, she covered the remote regions of the glaxay’s spiral arms, she touched her little blue world, faltering in its orbit around its tiny yellow star.

She felt the massive weight of sorrow and fear, of sadness and grief, and in response she issued a single wordless sentiment, projecting it outward to every living being

The sentiment was love.

For Kathy this happened in no-time, she was one with the cynergenic field, as she had always been, but only now, in that singular moment was she able to understand and accept it.

She was able to reconcile the distinctiveness of herself as the persona she was born into, as a child of Earth; with the fullness of consciousness existing within her. 

In that moment everything stopped, there was no resistance not anywhere, not in the consciousness of those members of the Collective whose identities were still intact somewhere on the HomeWorld, and not among the few Observers who remained at their posts throughout the million worlds.

The Children of the Ancients, wherever they were, responded to her presence with joy.

Fini et Creatio

The End and the Beginning

Void and Return

It was over.

Jim was alone.

What was the Continuum was now irretrievably fragmented, isolated and prepared for deletion.

Jim had succeeded in fulfilling his wildest ambitions. The only task left to him was to partition what remained of the Collective. 

He was as eager to begin, as eager as a shipwrecked man was for food and water. Though he had a few matters to attend to in real time first, in order to secure his victory and safely proceed to the reformation of the Empire.

Then he sensed it, a disturbance  deep in the cynergenic field; something unforeseen was happening in the Collective, something unexpected.

A massive shift had taken place while he was occupied with his war games, while he enjoy the capitulation of the last members of the Collective, while he stoked his ego and basked in their awe of him, which they could not help but project toward him. He luxuriated in his vanity.

Then he saw her, and he saw that she had changed.

Kathy was present, she was everywhere. Kathy was no-longer Kathy; she was rooted in that identity, but she was here, in the cynergenic field of HomeWorld and she was fully transcendent.

She had become a new creation.

The transformation was something that she had been preparing for her entire life.

Jim realized how he himself had prepared her for it.

She was the vessel of his hopes.

She encompassed the fullness of Earth’s collective unconscious, its nous-sphere, its Continuum.

She was humanity, emergent; and Jim was afraid.

Emergence 5.0

Part Twelve – Epilog

          Et Fini et Creatio

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – War, Part Eleven

The event was utterly unexpected.

The crisis brought catastrophe to the Collective and the Continuum, striking rapidly at the heart of the Central System, and thereafter reaching the Empire in a slow moving wave that rolled outward in a series of concussive movements.

As awareness of the event spread through the Observer corps, the Empire reacted. The Imperial forces had little familiarity with being on the defensive, or with entering a conflict zone in which the parameters of the battlefield were unknown, and that is exactly what the crises called on them to do.

Observers across the galaxy faltered, half of them exhibited no care at all about the fate of the Central System, some desired the complete collapse of the Continuum. “Let it fall apart, do nothing,” they said amongst themselves.

They were apathetic.

Those Observers loved the lives they lived, there only desire was to exist as fully embodied beings in the fields of time and space, eating and drinking and reveling in their physicality. They had long since stopped feeling any sense of obligation to the Collective or the Continuum, which they knew as the most corrupt and despotic force in all the galaxy.

They felt no sense of duty to the Central System, to HomeWorld or to their shared ancestry with their brothers and sisters in the Collective. They saw in this moment an opportunity to free themselves from the expectations of their station.

When the Collective established the Imperial schools and formed the Imperial cult, it never intended to create a monolithic structure or a society that eliminated all dissent, but the Continuum did, desiring the conflict that ensued. It wanted the hot undifferentiated drama of resistance, and it felt safe, secure in the belief that such conflicts would never touch it.

The Continuum fostered rebellion on the fringes of the Empire, among the outcastes and the lowest classes, as well as in the hierarchy.

It gave the ruling families, the high priests and leading generals just enough knowledge and understanding of the truth to allow skepticism to creep into their worldview, and thereby have a perpetual foothold in the Empire.

The Continuum sewed dissent with one hand and crushed it with the other.

There were many people in the higher orders of the priesthood and in the leadership of the armed forces who knew enough to have lost their faith in the Imperial system, its religion, and its social norms. They knew the lies that were told to the masses.

They were nihilists, they believed in nothing.

In the moment of crises some among them argued that they do nothing in response to the conflagration occurring on the Central Planet.

They wanted to wait and see what would happen.

They knew that they were controlled by a supernatural force called the Continuum, a power that consumed the resources of star systems to feed its endless appetite for minerals and energy, they knew it and they desired to be free of it. Though they had never imagined that it was possible.

They saw this moment as an opportunity; they could do nothing and allow the Continuum to collapse. If they did nothing they would be safe, or so they surmised.

If the Continuum did not falter, if it survived and they did nothing, they might not be held accountable for active insurrection.

Most of them were in fact atheists, they abhorred the imperial cult and their subservience to the priesthood. They were as divided as the members of the Observer Corps stationed among them.

Regardless of their desire to take action and change the fate of the Empire, only a few of the commanders believed the best course of action would be to move against the Central System.

These were the bravest among them, perhaps the most reckless.

They had no idea what they would find there.

Not even the Observers knew what they could expect and could not counsel them, they had never been privy to the defenses of the HomeWorld, or of the Continuum. They could only assume that those defenses would be formidable.

The Observers guided the discussion as best they could while trying not to give away the fact that they had special knowledge of what was taking place.

Very few of the senior staff believed in the dogma of the Imperial cult.

Their hesitancy was not based on religious fear or superstition, it was based on the lack of familiarity with fighting against a power with immeasurable resources. One which they had been conditioned to fear above all things

There was only one person that any of them could think of turning to in this moment of existential dread, but he had left the general staff decades ago, and was now the high priest at the Grand Temple of the throne world.

Fear of the unknown ruled them, fear of the Continuum, fear of failure, it was their base and primal emotion.

At the urging of the Observers, they sent an invitation to the high priest to join their conspiracy, El who had been their most exalted marshal. They asked him to join their conclave, and in that moment they knew that they had played their hand, they were committed.

If El accepted, they would belong to him, he would take them to victory, or down in defeat but they would follow him to the end.

There were far more members of the hierarchy, both in the priesthood and among the general staff who would never have even considered the notion of rebellion against the Continuum.

They were traditionalists, they were loyalists.

There were a far greater number of Observers guiding them than those who plotted against the Continuum.

They were cardinals and bishops and priests.

They were planetary governors and star system commanders.

They were members of royal houses. They held leadership positions throughout the Empire. They were loyal to the Empire and its institutions, regardless of their faith (or lack of it) in the religious beliefs and the promises of the Continuum.

They had the absolute majority.

When the crises struck, the Observers associated with this faction were quick to leave their post, to return their consciousness to HomeWorld and attempt to forestall the collapse of the Continuum.

As soon as they made the transit they were trapped in their mechanoid bodies when they arrived. They were caught in their tiny little prisons, deaf, dumb and blind, effectively sequestered by Jim who had taken control of the Central System and HomeWorld.

The traditionalists were unprepared for the violence which came at them from all sides. The Observers among them had been in key positions of leadership, they could not develop a strategy without them.

Being unprepared, they were trapped.

The conditioning that every citizen underwent, both through the Imperial schools and the Imperial cult was extraordinary.

Very few citizens were able to resist it.

Among the armed forces the standard conditioning was augmented by a force of cohesion referred to as esprit de corps. The ordinary soldier did not doubt the vision of advancement, of resurrection, of reincarnation and eternal life, that was promised by the Empire through the great religion.

More than anything else a soldier was focused on those rewards, and the esteem of their comrades. This made any soldier a very dangerous enemy. They were true believers.

The rank and file could not afford to doubt the things they had been taught. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves depended on it.

Doubt would cripple them in combat, it would leave them vulnerable to feelings of shame at the horrors they were routinely asked to commit.

They risked everything for those beliefs, for fidelity to the Empire, the royal family, the high priesthood and the promise of the Continuum, including their own lives, and the lives of those under their command.

They would follow any order and obey the chain of command in everything. It made killing their enemies easy and all of their crimes forgivable.

Through the command structure they were fully realized and completely actualized beings.

Without it they were nothing.

Any person, city or planet that they were ordered to attack was to them a non-entity.

The small faction among them calling for rebellion were not incautious men, they understood that they would face fierce opposition from their friends and comrades, people who knew them well, those who they had served with, had trained with or had trained under.

Among those serving in the armed forces, the most dangerous people to the rebellion were those seeking advancement to the priesthood. They were derisively called the God-Fearers. Their ambitions for themselves and their families hung on the slender thread of these hopes.

They were not necessarily true believers, but their ambitions made them sycophantic. They were the most senior commanders, or soldiers whose social rank placed them nearest to the threshold between castes. They were determined to rise in the service of the Continuum, and its Empire.

The God-fearers were ruthless, determined and dogmatic. They controlled the bulk of the Imperial forces spread across a billion worlds.

Few of these people ever did advance, but the hope they clung to burned in them like a fever, they saw this moment of crises as the moment for them to shine, to prove themselves worthy. 

They mobilized the defenses. They mustered all of their forces from shore leave. They executed their maneuvers perfectly. The fleet was under their control. They gathered together to defend the Imperial throne, which was the only known portal to the HomeWorld of the Continuum.

They were martyrs for their faith.

There is a beauty to military formations when lighted in the ocean of space, a sublime blend of the simple and the complex; every ship, every vessel in motion, in the greatest of all dances.

The God-fearers never considered that any faction within the Empire would oppose them. They had been conditioned to expect obedience, they cultivated it among their subordinates, rewarded it in those who evinced the greatest capacity for following orders and sending those who did not to their deaths in combat.

This was a serious flaw.

The Imperial forces had never been engaged in military conflict in which they did not possess the greater force. The Empire rolled over everything, every person, every planet who dared to oppose them. The power they brought to bear was only limited by their objectives, their code of conduct, and the rules of engagement those codes articulated.

Every objective, every code, every rule was relative, a dispensation for deviation from a rule or a violation of orders could be had at any time from the Emperor, or the priesthood, speaking on behalf of the Continuum.

The underlying truth that governed the reality of their experience was this: Might made Right.

The Imperial forces were supreme, they were accustomed to being on the offensive, it was an offensive posture that they took where they gathered in the muster fields above each of their respective worlds. They thought nothing of their defenses.

Their maneuvers were totally predictable by those on the general staff who had formed the rebellion. From the reserve forces that were left behind on each of the million worlds, to their planetary and star system defenses, which in this moment of conflict were little more than auxiliaries, to where the majority of the fleet had gathered in preparation for the jump to the Central System, there was nothing unscripted about their planning.

They were slaughtered en-masse.

In a singular moment of surprise, choreographed on a billion worlds at, they were utterly defeated.

The Imperial system did everything it could to sew divisions among the people, it did this intuitively, reflexively sewing division between individuals, families, tribes and worlds, between castes, and between ranks, keeping them all in competition for the most basic things, all the way down to food and water, whatever each class and caste needed most to survive.

The Empire was masterful at it.

Paradoxically, it managed to foment all of the divisions by dogmatically focusing the attention of every person on the things that actually united them, such as: language, cult and custom.

Brothers and sisters, cousins, they might compete tirelessly with one another for position in their family unit, while at the same time safeguarding the social status of the family itself, just as families would do within their tribal and national structures, or as tribes and nations would in relation to their home world.

Fear and hope were the most powerful forces utilized by the Imperial schools to establish these paradigms of mutuality and commonality throughout the worlds in the midst of perpetual conflict, politicking, and maneuvering for gain.

The children of the Ancient People evolved in different ways on their disparate worlds, developing different geneticendowments to manage differing conditions of gravity, atmospheric gasses and sources of nutrition. They looked up at different stars, and each world contemplated a different fate.

Their genetic similarities united them.

Remaining unified was a critical component of survival, but the things that differentiated people from one another remained primary, feeding the incessant spirit of competition.

Nobody was satisfied with their position in society, everyone projected a desire for something beyond themselves. Everyone dreamed of advancing to the next level, it was the constant preoccupation of the masses. They desired advancement, either in this life or the next, every detail of their lives was subordinated to this ambition and nothing else mattered.

The people lived in a perpetual state of fear and unease, believing that their safety and security depended on a state of perpetual paranoia.

Even the highest ranking members of the Imperial family were caught up in the notion of advancement, the only real difference was that they knew the truth concerning the end game.

Their desire was for advancement to the great society of the Collective, to merge with the Continuum, to possess eternal life as the god of their own private world.

Complacency was abhorrent, and advancement was incumbent on the individual, on pushing themselves and their families forward. It required cooperative effort, it could not be done alone.

Social and spiritual advancement were viewed as intertwined, like the double helix of the genome, and they referred to it as the ladder of divine ascent.

People were conditioned to loath their own place, but when threatened they would reach out to those closest to them for safety, their sameness united them.

There was safety in numbers.

The people were united by tribe, clan, village and world; by class, by rank and station, by fear and loathing, all as a result of the Imperial conditioning, which was adept at concretizing this divisive mode of ideation.

However, in every generation, on every world and in virtually every tribe there were those who were born seemingly immune to the coercive controls of the Imperium. These precious few were motivated by love and altruism, they cared little for their rank, seeing themselves as a part of the greater whole and it did not require effort for them to think this way. It came to them naturally.

The Continuum saw them as dangerous. When it identified them it used them as the key figures in its dramas.

El was one of these.

The Empire was vast, stretching like a net from the center of the galaxy. It was comprised of a billion worlds. Like a necklace of planets strung like gems among the stars, each of them was the locus of identity for the ordinary citizen who inhabited it.

Outcasts were never sanctioned to leave the surface of their home planet, unless it was to serve in the off world mines.

The serving class; merchants and bureaucrats, farmers and laborers might leave their own world for another in their solar system, but such travel was rare.

Soldiers and priests ventured into deep space with regularity in the performance of their duties, both for combat and for holy pilgrimages. 

Every person was marked by the world they lived on, they were genetically aligned to its exigencies; to their planet’s gravity, the composition of its atmosphere, the unique threats rising from a planet’s closed biological system and to ambient radiation emanating from the light of their mother star.

Every person was marked by their world in ways that were both obvious and hidden. In ways that were clearly discernable to the naked eye, and in ways that would only be revealed in an autopsy or under the microscope. In this way they belonged to one another, and that belonging was constantly reinforced through the Imperial cult, and the Imperial schools.

The Imperial schools attempted to normalize linguistics throughout the Empire, but they were continuously falling short of the goal. People speak in codes, in patterns constructed from shared experience, patterns that change rapidly in both space and time; from one village to the next, from planet to planet and generation to generation. This represents a prime example of the chaos inherent in civilization

The mission to normalize languages never ended. The Imperial schools were in a constant state of reaction to the new patterns of linguistics that were developing from one era to the next; encountering it, learning from it, reacting to it, influencing it if they could. 

Change was the only constant.

Despite the continuous efforts of the Imperial schools, variation persisted, colloquial patterns bonded people to one another, as an unconscious manifestation of shared suffering, of triumph, of joy, of anger and of esteem. 

Language was the architecture of hope and of resentment both, and that is why the Continuum wanted so badly to control it. Citizens projected their desires for themselves and their families with language. They organized their resistance to the powers that ruled them with language. Every rebellion was hidden in secret language, and the full weight of the drama was contained therein.

Language patterns were buried in the ganglia of the central nervous system, transferring from one generation to the next like a genetic endowment, it was a language game that allowed the Ancient People to develop the science that created the Collective, with the Continuum as its ultimate end.

The bonds between people, even members of the same family were flimsy, they were unreliable, but some were stronger than others. People found one another through the things they desired most, bonding with each other through their joy and pain, they gravitated toward the same places. They were even shepherded to those places, encountering one another through the ever-watchful eyes of the Continuum, which knew the secret musings of their hearts.

There were often elements of contrivance behind even seemingly random encounters, the manipulations behind them were so fine and remote that the individuals involved in them had no ability to detect them. They were doing the bidding of the Continuum nonetheless, which cultivated them for the drama they would deliver to the Collective.

Shared experiences were the strongest ties, and because of this people unconsciously sabotaged themselves, even undercutting their hopes for advancement so that they could remain in proximity to those they loved.

Some would sacrifice their health, their freedom, their future for fleeting moments of pleasure, temporalities that were gone and forgotten as quickly as they came, and the satisfaction of their desire.

Through this medium, incredible tragedies would unfold, as ephemeral as the petals of a flower opening in the moonlight, when for a few brief seconds, with no one there to witness it, the flower opens and its petals drop.

Children would destroy their parents. Brothers and sisters would plot against each other.

Parents would sell their children, would even devour them to satisfy their hunger for the thing they desired.

Desire would lead a person to walk with open eyes through the gates of hell, embracing their own destruction.

The Collective thirsted for this drama and the Continuum delivered.

Fear was the great lever, the most commonly used instrument in the tool chest of the Imperial conditioners for the coercion and manipulation of the masses. Fear made the choices and behaviors of the citizenry more predictable than any other factor. The Continuum relied on the power of fear more than any other device to achieve its ends in the great dramas it created.

The Imperial cult had conditioned the people into an absolute belief in the laws that governed death and rebirth, so that even the prospect of death could not overcome the power of fear. The people projected the dilemmas they faced in this life through their present circumstances, carrying them forward into the world they believed was coming. Even the most ordinary person believed that every choice they made would echo in eternity.

Fear poisoned the body and it shaped the electromagnetic field of the individual’s consciousness. Its power was a weight that pressed down on everyone and everything at every moment of a person’s life. No one could escape it.

Fear was the most powerful emotion, it was stronger than hope, stronger than desire, stronger than hate, virtually every thought and feeling would bend to it.

The influence of fear was all pervasive, its force was like gravity.

Fear catalyzed all of the lesser emotions, tainting them, conditioning every feeling, subordinating them to it so that every expression of emotion became a reflection of it.

The one-and-only force of emotion that seemed to be stronger than fear, was love.

The power of love was the only thing the Continuum feared.

The power of love was tested time and time again, every possible manifestation of love was scrutinized by the Continuum.

This is what was proven: Love is stronger than fear; love is stronger than any power that the Continuum could set against it, and though true love was exceedingly rare, through the power of love a person comes into their true self, and is able to transcend all the limitations which they had theretofore been conditioned by.

The love of a mother for her child was the greatest and most genuine source of love, but as children grew into adults and leave their families it begins to wane. Competition and desire eat away at the bonds of familial love, more often than not, leaving it in shreds and tatters.

Love is a feeling, like fear, and joy, but love is more, it is a choice made freely by an individual.

Love is the exercise of a fundamental option.

The loving person has made a commitment to see the world and their relationships in a certain way, when this choice is true, it becomes interwoven with the identity of that person.

Fear and hate, anger and desire these were powerful motivators of people, motivating them through coercion, whereas love is a choice made in freedom.

Among every one of the billion worlds that constituted the great galactic civilization, the Imperial cult worked tirelessly to frustrate the reality of love, while the Continuum documented in the most intimate details the methods by which love could be undone.

These machinations produced the greatest dramas, the most intense experiences for the Continuum to share with the Collective.

Education in the Imperial schools was not centered on learning as much as it was conditioning.

Every citizen was taught that all good things flowed from the Empire, whatever the individual had to be thankful for, no matter how small, including their daily allotment of food and clean water, they could look to the Empire and to the Emperor himself as its source. The Imperial schools beat this perspective into the mind of every person, as the hammer pounds a nail.

The literal teaching was reinforced at every level of Imperial education, both in the secular schools, and through the religious observations of the Imperial cult. It brought unity to each and every world despite their distance from one another. The schools were the hammer, and the cult set the nail.

The people were taught to give thanks to the Empire even for the good things that came from their own hands, the vegetables growing in their gardens, a blanket they had quilted, they gave thanks to the Empire and to the Continuum which the Empire served.

There was nothing that they possessed, or that they ever would possess that did not flow from the Empire’s munificence. The Continuum and its Empire were the source of all goodness and justice, they controlled the destiny of every living being, they were the arbiters of the first gift, the gift selfhood, existence.

Life in the Galactic Empire was like a tapestry woven from trillions, of threads, with the Continuum dictating how every thread was stretched across the loom, integrating each strand into the fabric of the whole. The images were constantly changing, moving, developing, even the tiniest detail of the lives of the citizens fed the hunger of the Collective. The Imperial government was the loom, the Imperial schools and the Imperial cult were the shuttlecock, the Observers in the mission field were the hands that pulled the threads through.

The Empire controlled every aspect of home life for the family, how it was employed, whether or not they would advance, how much they could save, how much food was on their table. To resist the will of the Empire even in thought, was considered to be a grave sin.

A person could not move from one dwelling to the next without Imperial approval. The Empire kept families bound to a single domicile for generations, only moving them if and when their rank changed, and that occurred only if it served the interests of the Continuum, and the narratives it was developing.

This offered the ordinary citizens a sense of normalcy and reliability, of safety and security, while stifling virtually every bit of hope.  

Even marriage was subject to Imperial approval. In most cases the Empire did not exercise that control, but it did when it served the broader purpose of the Continuum. A marriage proposal would be approved or denied at the temple, “according to the will of the gods,” the Continuum and the Collective.

Procreation itself was tightly controlled.

For those with means, unsanctioned pregnancies could be terminated. Those who were afraid to report to the Empire or who could not afford an abortion, were forced to abandon their children among the outcasts and untouchables.

The social structure the Empire adhered to was designed by the Continuum as a means of reflecting on the past, and on the traditions of the Ancient People who formed the Collective, who embarked on the great space-faring adventures and whose colonies formed the Empire as it came to be.

Every citizen lived out their lives with the possibility of contemplating only a very narrow band of possibilities for themselves and their families. Hope itself was discouraged, but in that bleak landscape the most powerful hopes would blossom, brightening the lives of the people like flowers blooming beneath the arctic moon.

Work and trades were hereditary, and they were guarded. Farmers farmed, builders built and fishers fished. From one generation to the next, sons followed their fathers into work, and daughters followed their mothers into the birthing chambers, all of them lived in drudgery.

They married and had children within their class and caste, within their occupation, generation after generation. Soldiers went to war, while priests officiated the sacred rites. The gears of the social wheel turned predictably and only the rarest of individuals even questioned it.

They did not question the realities they were taught to believe in, they did not question that they belonged exactly where they were.

Those rare individuals who broke the mold produced the drama that the Continuum hungered for, they were the source of energy that fed the Collective, and kept the membership out of its malaise.

There was very little opportunity for an individual or a family to change their inherited circumstances.

As oppressive as this system was, there was comfort in it. The vast majority of the people merely persisted, they got by, they did not question what the gods had ordained for them.

Their personal hopes for themselves and their families resided in a world of myth.

Every person was beset by the intense pressure that came with the understanding that their future was completely dependent on every little decision they made in the here and now.

Citizens holding positions of power or authority required balance and poise, the more responsibility they had the more heavily they were scrutinized.

Every person’s life was a matter of public record, every step they took outside the home, every word they spoke. At any time they could be held accountable for anything…for everything they have ever done.

The Collective loved to see people and families built up, only to watch them taken down, sometimes over the course of generations, at other time with bewildering speed. The Continuum gave them these dramas, filling the Collective with the vicarious experiences they craved.

The greatest narratives the Continuum had ever constructed resulted in the destruction of entire worlds, a suppression of rebellion that resulted in total genocide. The more power a person had the more careful they had to be, billions of lives depended on the thoughtful application of it.

Such was the case with El the High Priest.

His rebellion had destroyed everything he had ever loved. Then, after his resurrection and his complete submission to Imperial rule, he held posts in which he signed orders that starved quarrelsome population into submission. He led the Imperial armada on campaigns that turned entire planets into glowing cinders, and then he sent their raw materials to the central system as an offering to the Continuum. As High Priest El blessed these missions and absolved the commanders of any and all crimes they and their troops committed in the furtherance of it. 

Control requires ever greater mechana of control; to force it is to lose it.

In the Empire the exercise of power had to be done submissively, always in deference to a greater authority. It was dichotomous. The Empire cultivated a sense of helplessness in the people of every class and caste, routinely crushing any sense of self esteem, while at the same bonding various groups together, forging a sense of belonging among the trillions of citizens living on a billion worlds.

The ordinary citizen had no say in the destiny of their home-world, they saw it as theirs, and themselves as belonging to it. For the pleb, every link in the chain-of-being was a vital part of their culture and they had a duty to defend it, both in thought and in deed.

Their advancement depended on their fidelity.

In the abstract the concept had a quality of beauty, a social symmetry and wholeness that the witnesses to it could not help but appreciate. In reality, every link in the chain was an instrument of bondage, forged together by lies that led the people to ruin.

The ordinary hopes and dreams of the people meant nothing to the Continuum and the Collective, they were merely data-points in a grand drama which they consumed vicariously, which they hungered for with an insatiable appetite.

Any sense of control that an individual might feel was an illusion, fostered for the sake of creating a narrative that leant meaning to the lives of the Collective. A person only had existential worth if they were noticed by the Collective, but that was by no means a guarantee of happiness.

The ambitions of an entire planet could be burnt up and scattered like cinders and ash, if it suited the will of the Collective. No individual person or planet had inherent value.

The Continuum used the people while caring nothing at all for them, the people in their turn placed their hopes in the Continuum, desiring nothing more than to be elevated to the Collective and thereby to receive eternal life.

The sacred rites functioned like a dragnet, drawing everyone in, capturing them body and soul. Every citizen was compelled to conform; the Empire would not accept anything less than complete obedience. Attendance at the temple was mandatory. Few people even attempted to resist, those that did were discovered and subjected to advanced conditioning.

If the priesthood was unable to change the will of the deviant, they were expelled, cast out, they became untouchable. Conformation to the Imperial way was the focus of the Imperial schools as well. Conditioning of the head reinforced the conditioning of the heart.

The schools provided an intellectual apparatus and frame of context for the religious rites to fill, while the rites of the Imperial cult were grand ceremonies, both simple and complex, they engaged the adherent at every level of their senses, they were imbued with hypnotic power.

The Empire’s goal was to supplant every natural communal bond, the bonds that every person formed instinctively with parents and siblings, with neighbors and classmates, in their villages and in their cities, on their planet of origin.

To be conditioned is to accept the belief that there was freedom in bondage, and belonging in alienation, that obedience was the path to transcendence, and self-actualization could only be had in self-abnegation.

The deepest allegiance had to be to the Empire and to the Continuum beyond it, that allegiance was based on the promise of a reward that was rarely given.

The priesthood used every device at its disposal, it controlled the people with music and movement, with mantras and mandalas, through their diet and with drugs, having honed their techniques over millions of years. They never fully succeeded in this, and they never quit trying.

The most important thing the ordinary citizen required, both for their prospects of advancement and to simply keep their place, was access to the right schools, the right priest in the right temple, or simply to have a relationship with their immediate supervisor.

In order to advance a person needed an advocate. People coveted access more than anything, as such every access point was closely guarded. There were bureaucratic entanglements to negotiate and social hurdles to climb. The norms of the hierarchies had to be observed.

The entire Empire was governed by systems of patronage and clientage.

In the struggle to craft a meaningful life, to provide some comfort for themselves or their families, everyone needed a hand up. They required representation by those who were ahead of them in rank or above them in class and caste.

To go anywhere a person needed access to authority, they needed access to those able to grant a boon or advance their cause, this was the grand nexus for the systemic corruption of the entire social order. Nothing was free.

The limits to upward mobility were clear and near at hand. They could only be understood in economic terms. The economics of advancement were disturbing, unethical, but by and large they were not illegal. It was not illegal to commit one’s child to a life of servitude in your patron’s house, it was not considered unethical to do so if it meant that another child could attend a better school. Neither was it illegal to use your servants for whatever purpose you intended, even risking their lives for your own purposes, no matter how mundane or banal those purposes might be.

It was in that nexus that the people found their complicity in the crushing of one another’s dreams.

One thing that the vast majority of people could not even consider was the successful overthrow of the Great Galactic Empire. It was inconceivable that any force or power could threaten it, or the Continuum which they were conditioned to believe was divine.

This was also true of the vast majority of the members of the Observer Corps, they believed that there were no unknowns, there was nothing which could threaten their safety and security.

There were billions of Observers, current and former living on every one of the billion worlds in the Empire, they occupied every class and station, and they were in firm control of the apparatus of government, including the most oppressive intelligence gathering system ever conceived of or implemented.

The Observers were taken en masse, and completely by surprise.

They were the first to sense the impending collapse of the Continuum. They understood that the crisis Jim had engineered was an existential threat both to the Collective and to themselves. Some saw opportunity in it, but few of them understood how ready the citizens of the Empire were to burn down their civilization.

When the Observers finally did synthesize what was taken place and realized that it was something significant, they opened their lines of communication to the HomeWorld. Most traversed the distance to the Central System, only to be captured and sequestered in their mechanoid bodies, where they were rendered powerless by Jim.

They disappeared, millions of them were gone in an instant.

The worm-holes that they opened transmitted data and commands in both directions, these were control systems that the Continuum put in place so that it could manage the Observers. Jim utilized those fail-safes to send destruct signals to their sactuaries, and they popped-off in a litany of explosions throughout the Empire. 

It was chaos.

Some others responded with the tools they had at their disposal, they took action to protect the Empire, to guard the access points to HomeWorld. 

For the first time ever, they were experiencing life on the defensive, and like a thirsty and starving man who did not know where to find food and water, they were terrified, filled with existential dread.

Every member of the Observer Corps was beset by overwhelming feelings, despite the fact that their bodies had been genetically engineered to enable them to suppress strong emotions. Fear drove them, and curiosity also, along with a desire to protectthe HomeWorld.

The Observers who still counted themselves among the living after Jims assault numbered only in the thousands, those who held positions of rank and power marshalled their forces to protect the Central Planet, the Collective and Continuum.

They assembled the fleet.

They intended to attack the HomeWorld, to destroy whatever hostile power had taken control. The formations of the armada prior to its movement into the Central System was a thing of beauty. None of the commanders had ever witnessed such a gathering of strength and power.

It filled them with a sense of invincibility and stimulated their aggression. By witnessing the power and majesty of the fleet, beholding it, they had no doubt that they belonged to the most powerful force in the universe. But, as the imperial fleet dropped into the Central System there was chaos where there should have been order, shock and surprise where there should have been symmetry and syncopation, there was hardly time to get a reading on their telemetry before the violence ensued.

The eyes of the fleet, those who had a view on it, were preoccupied with taking in the enormity of the undertaking they were engaged in, the magnitude of the Central System, the size and scope of the planetary structure that was HomeWorld.

In the first moment, even as the fleet was in the process of calibrating their relative positions to one another, while plotting their trajectory to the center of the system an entire combat wing made their intention to rebel known to everyone.

They fixed their arms on the flag ship of the Grand Admiral and opened fire.

Projectiles, energy weapons, nuclear arms lit up the void.

Command ships filled with officers who had never once been asked to risk anything, suddenly burst into flames burning their oxygen and fuel in brilliant jets of fire, deep in the dark of the void.

They were stunned, struck by fear and found it difficult to organize a response.

The attack was abrupt, it was devastating, a veritable slaughter.

The rebels fixed their sights on every command ship that did not belong to their movement and lit them up.

They sought to clear the field, It was chaos.

It was combat on a scale that the military academies had not prepared anyone to manage.

The mayhem that ensued was unprecedented.

There was terror, panic, sorrow, and regret, but through it all there was the joy of victory.

The greatest part of the armada turned toward the attackers and joined battle, but they were beset by confusion. Those commanders who could not process the complex algorithms for course corrections in their head were the first victims of the rebel assault.

They initiated preprogrammed defensive maneuvers, they were predictable, their tactics were known to their opponents, and because of this they fell right into the firing solutions of their enemies. 

None of the commanders had been experienced at taking heavy losses in combat, the forces of the Empire were too overwhelming in the field. They had only ever experienced small-surprise defeats at the hands of rebel forces, but in this new theatre of combat they were overwhelmed, both militarily and emotionally.

In the vital seconds that were lost while processing the implications of their failure, they cast their gaze on the HomeWorld of the Continuum and prayed for deliverance. They had been betrayed by their closest companions, and their prayers were swallowed by the void.

The killing field was vast, it could not be viewed in a singular field of vision.

Millions died in the assault, crushed and burned bodies suddenly froze in the cold and dark of the battle’s aftermath.

It was the final sacrifice of the Imperial fleet.

Tens of thousands of starships burst into flame and were suddenly extinguished in the vacuum of space. It was a spectacle of incredible beauty, of horror and terror.

It was over mere moments after it began. 

The rebellious commanders were unnerved and confusedby the ease with which it all transpired, but when they looked to the figure in the high command for stability, the man who had plotted the assault, and they understood their victory, because it was him, the Empire’s greatest Marshall, the High Priest of the Imperial Temple, a figure of legend and worship held in the highest esteem.

It was El handling the tactics, and in minutes the battle was done.

Their brethren would never return to this life. No aid was given to any who might have survived. Their ships were systematically disabled, and they were left to drift in the ghostly lights of the HomeWorld.

What remained of the fleet had no intention of preserving the old ways of the Empire, they viewed themselves as being on the cusp of a new order.

Their destiny was in their hands.

They were ready to bring the Gods down, to force answers from the Continuum, to have the truth, to bathe in its cold light at any costs. And El’s participation in their revolution absolved all the rebels of their crimes.

There were leaks of information through the intelligence services. None of the Observers serving in the insurrection had joined for altruistic reasons, their reactions to the events that were unfolding were completely self-serving.

Even among the ordinary citizens, everyone was looking for opportunities to advance, and with the destruction of the majority of the Imperial fleet, the rewards to be seized were immediate, rank and social standing were being recalibrated in real time. The rebels only had to succeed in their attack with enough time to get to the temple to ratify their movement.

Among the billion worlds of the Empire, the news was devastating to those who were trying to uphold the existing order. There was widespread mayhem, chaos, thousands of years of pent up rage expressed under pressure.

Every planet was in crisis, and the emergency news traffic was designed to be unfiltered. The Imperial news sources could not keep a lid on it. As the conflict ensued, as it reached its boiling point, from out of nowhere the untouchables and outcasts threw their hands into the confusion, they acted together in one great uncoordinated wave, reaching for their freedom, actualizing their potential across the Empire, and they would not be denied.

On every world the priesthood struggled to make sense of things, but they could not, and they could not appease the masses. They waivered for a time and then began to side with the people.

The plebs wanted revolution they wanted freedom. Those who could not see the change coming, discovered it in the sudden shock of terrible-violence.

The multitudes gathered throughout the Empire; the outcast, the unknown, the untouchable. They were the overwhelming majority, outnumbering all other castes and classes of people on every world throughout the Imperium.

There was conflict on a billion worlds, it rose like the sudden wave of a tsunami, the energy of the people appeared to be coordinated, their assaults on the Imperial forces timed as if the masses were moving in an atavistic state of consciousness. They were driven by more than common purpose, they were connected like a group mind.

The battles devastated the aristocracies on every world. Hundreds of billions perished as they pressed their attacks with bricks and bats, with their bare hands, striking against the police stations and military posts, and the private security forces that protected the elite.

They evinced no fear as they were cut down by projectiles, explosives and energy weapons. They pushed every conflict forward as they were mowed down by the thousands, achieving victories and pressing them against any person who represented the Empire, the Continuum and the Collective, they pressed to secure their gains on every world.

They did not stop to loot or rest, they tore down everything in their path, pressing their assault into the temples and the mansions behind them. It was chaos.

For those who faced the assault, the destruction they witnessed defied reason, it contradicted their experience of how people behave in a theatre of war, or on the field of combat. The people risked their lives and perished in vast numbers, doing so without fear of pain or death, reprisal, revenge or failure.

The rebellious Observers in the vanguard of the rebel assault knew that they had this one chance to press their advantage. They had to put down any counter-attack that was launched against them, and they had to spend the strength of the masses so that they would be too weak to resist their influence when everything was said and done.

If they failed, their bid to reorganize the Empire would end in disaster.

They had to be certain of their tactics and make them up on the fly.

The rules of warfare are universal.

In war, the ground you occupy and the ground you move into, the ground you had occupied and the ground you will occupy; the ground determines everything.

It is no different than farming, the soil must be prepared, watered, nurtured.

The tactician must think of ground as both something literal and something metaphorical. Ground is the field within which a conflict takes place. There are many individuated fields of activity leading up to actual combat. War most often begins in the fields of commerce and politics, in those fields it is waged through trade, monetary policy, and diplomacy.

Ground can refer to an actual battlefield on land or at sea. Ground can be fixed or shifting. Ground can refer to the ever-changing vectors of an aerial engagement.

In space combat ground is a metaphor for the matrix of complex actions occurring on multiple-intersecting planes. It is multidimensional.

In space combat everything is in motion, the ground itself is in constant flux.

The combat commander must be able to coordinate every variable, instantly calculating the algorithms in their head.

There were two types of commanders in the field.

The most common commander at the helm of an Imperial warship was a person who paid meticulous attention to detail, who planned everything. They allowed their computers to control their ships, to track and calculate the variables.

They maneuvered in preprogrammed patterns, coordinating their activities with the other vessels in the fleet, calling plays while trusting the system.

The other type of commander had the cognitive skills to do the math themselves, they were bred and selected for their incredible memory, for their ability to manage vast amounts of data seemingly outside the constraints of time. These commanders could and did reflect in real time on their changing circumstances they acted on their intuition.  

In the theatre of space combat, on the ZeroG battlefield, unified action was everything. It was a dance of the greatest complexity, victory required that both types of command; the long range planning of the strategists, and the intuitive sense of the tactician be employed effectively, to secure a victory while providing for the safety of the men and women under their command.

The battle that ensued above HomeWorld was quick, but brilliant.

The Imperial forces had no ability to manage the rebel assault, they had never planned for it and the bulk of their forces were obliterated in an instant.

Keeping their forces under central control and command, holding them together as a unit required more than the physical controls; to move, to change vectors, to defend and to attack required communication, those communication systems were the first target of every engagement.

This left only the tacticians alive and in command of the Imperial fleet, they were the natural allies of the rebels, but those who had not already joined them could not be trusted at this late date.

El was determined to wipe them all out, his forces complied with his plan.

When it was over, the victorious survivors were unsure of the next move. Most of them never actually believed that they would get this far, but they had been willing to die trying.

The combat had been brief and beautiful.

During the battle, in the dark space over the Central Planet, the flashing brilliance of energy weapons and the sudden conflagration of ships bursting into flame, then suddenly extinguished in the cold vacuum was followed by the absence of any light at all.

The onslaught lit the structure of HomeWorld, revealing to human eyes for the first time ever the wide expanse of the artificial world, more massive than the mind could imagine, completely swallowing its mother-star, that burned white-hot in its center, powering all of the systems of the Continuum, which it required to maintain the integrity of the Collective.

It was ominous.

Darkness once again shrouded the fleet, all of its ships soaring in formation over the enormous structure of HomeWorld, lighted only by the pulsing beacons of their ships.

As the pilots and command staff surveilled the Central System, they were shocked at what they saw. The reality did not conform to any of their expectations. They were bewildered.

The military victory had been complete, entirely lopsided. The imperial forces had been utterly destroyed, making the rebel officers and the vessels under their command the only thing that remained of the Empire.

Communications began to come in from the throne world, confirming their ascendancy, informing them that they were secure, that the new order of civilization belonged to them

Everything was changing, shifting all the time and in every dimension of their life.

The only certain thing for them at this moment was the objective in front of them, and that was a target in motion.

In the theatre of ZeroG combat, there was no such thing as zero gravity, the label was a misnomer. Gravitational fields were among the most important factors to consider in the shifting landscape of combat in space. Manipulation of gravitational forces was absolutely crucial, understanding them, tracking their movement, anticipating their flux was vital to any mission commander.

There were batteries of instruments on every interstellar combat vessel devoted to the detection of gravitational waves and particles, and there were humans interpreting those signals, sending data to all of the smaller vessels under its command.  

Combat took place in the vacuum of space, but any combat taking place in proximity to the gravitational field of planetary or astral bodies had to take precise measurement of their power, both to dampen and or accelerate inertia.

Gravity wells and singularities could be generated artificially.

The generation of artificial mass were among the deadliest weapons in the imperial arsenal. It took only moments for artificial mass to become actual mass by capturing nearby objects. The tactical deployment of these devices and the navigation of them, were the keys to victory in deep space. It could be catastrophic if deployed to close to a planet or a star, or on the battlefield where everything is in motion.

Pilots of small craft and large, combat marines in mechanized battle gear, all of them study these principles day in and day out. They drilled for it. The text books informed them that ZeroG tactics had to be developed according to the following understanding: in the vacuum of space, when you are maneuvering and not subject to gravity, where there is no resistance, everything is in motion, everything is spinning, including the combat matrix.

The battlefield could not be conceptualized on a two-dimensional axis, or on a horizontal and vertical plane. It was a five-dimensional matrix that including the three dimensions of space, along with the proper dimensions of time and mass.

There is no straight line between you and your objective. Without the assistance of computerized telemetry, the pilot would have to be able to do the complex math in their head, in an instant, on an unconscious level.

Pilots were bred for these traits, but even so, in the intensity of battle, when the mind is flooded with the chemical signals for fear and rage, this was extremely difficult.

There is no clear path. The esteemed pilots had to trust their gut, their instincts.

Every object in the vicinity was tracked, data was constantly pouring into the onboard systems of individual craft, analyzed and simplified.

Changes in the tactical situation had to flow upward to the strategists. 

It is impossible to develop strategy in the absence of intelligence.

You cannot deploy tactics in the face of the unknown.

The majority of the High Command anticipated a prolonged engagement in the Central System, believing they would have time to survey the field, gather data, and generate the information they needed to understand the peril they were facing, to configure what aid they could supply to the HomeWorld of the Continuum.

They could not envision the nature of the threat they were facing. They were unsure if it was in fact military, they knew too little. Therefore the entire fleet did not launch, only the expeditionary forces, only the most lethal war ships bristling with the most exotic array of sensors and weaponry.

The High Command argued that they must proceed with maximum power, and that they must be prepared for any eventuality. They believed in their inherent ascendancy, they were the fully realized, self-actualized masters of incredible power.

The most seasoned and combat ready commanders took the lead, unaware of the rebels in their midst. They leapt into the Central System blind and unknowing.

At the outset of the brief insurrection this mistake became obvious, they had acted hastily, they had forewent the usual vetting processes, the precautions that would normally proceed such a massive deployment. 

The failure to launch left the majority of the Imperial forces vulnerable, weak and defenseless. They were open to attack.

The rebels took advantage in both theatres of combat, at the muster point above the throne world, and at the jump point above HomeWorld, and at every installation on every planet of the billion worlds that comprise the Galactic Empire.

The wreckage that was left was incalculable and all of it was in motion, each bit on fire or reflecting the light of plasma cannons, lasers and particle beams.

In the ever-changing dynamics of ZeroG combat, the relative range between opponents was in constant flux, as was the vector of any approach. Every action created an equal and opposite reaction, thrust and propulsion.

Only energy weapons could close the gap between their mounting turrets and the targets from long range with ease and accuracy.

Every victory created new obstacles, sudden changes in the vector of pilotless craft, the creation of debris fields scattering in the void. Every piece of wreckage was potentially a lethal projectile that all combatants sought to use to their advantage, either as a screen to hide them, as shield to protect them, or a weapon to strike with. These fields of destruction were so immense that those commanders whose thinking was focused on the macro scale and long-term objectives were overwhelmed. It was beyond the ability of the strategists to account for. Even the wing commanders, the battlefield tacticians responsible for coordinating the engagements in real time could not manage this aspect of the combat effectively. 

Every object had to be scanned and tracked, every possible danger had to be analyzed for threats. Data had to be sent to every commander in the fleet and every pilot of every small craft. The effective use of debris came down to the close witness of pilots and space marines, troopers in heavy battle armor engaged in localized combat missions.

From his position on HomeWorld, Jim watched the conflagration unfold. He was the quintessential Observer, gathering data from millions of instruments, from the command position once held by the Continuum.

In this moment he was pure consciousness, free from the chemical sequences of a human body that might influence his decision making, there was no hunger or thirst, no anger or fear. He was the Continuum now, his singular consciousness governed the vast apparatus of HomeWorld, of the entire Central System, and all of the machinery that once housed and protected the Collective.

He observed the battle between the Imperial forces and the rebels in their midst, and he found it moving, it was a spectacular show. The movements of the fleet, the light and heat, the surprise and gallantry, the courage on display, and the cold calculus of death. It was a grand work of art, an epic moment worthy of poetry and song.

Jim recorded everything for dissemination throughout the Empire, as was his objective. He edited the feed from the sensors, from the combatants, their communications in real time, transmitting everything back to the billion worlds of the Imperium.

The people of the Empire and the rebel forces needed to know that the fleet would not return to punish them for their uprising. The news would fuel the rebellion and bring it to completion.

Now his aim was to draw the fleet in toward the Central Planet, as close as possible, and then grind it to nothing.

That is exactly what he did.

A surprise attack is always a surprise, everything that follows from it comes unexpectedly. Positions of safety and security become exposed and vulnerable in an instant. Even those who plan a surprise attack are surprised at the outcomes, whether by its success or its failure.

When the rebel ambush of the Imperial fleet was over. Thousands upon thousands of ships lay scattered, broken-up in pieces and expelling their breath of fire as they burned remaining oxygen and fuel. 

The survivors were counting the dead. Their victory was absolute.

The surprise maneuvers were brilliantly executed and a blessing was given by El, the High Priest serving as Grand Marshall. This too was broadcast throughout the Imperium as a means of eradicate all resistance, to usher in a new era of justice for the people.

The average soldier had no idea what these changes meant, neither did the low-ranking officers. The senior staff were uncomfortable by the talk of justice for the people, while the Observers among them were amused.

They gave no quarter. They slaughtered everyone on the battlefield who had not previously signed up for the insurrection.

What every soldier and pilot in knew, was that the more people they killed the further up in rank they would climb, as long as some semblance of the old order held itself together then they would rise to become the new aristocracy. 

They destroyed every ship in the armada whose commanders had not been with them from the outset, regardless of whether they tried to surrender or not. It was a blood bath, and the wreckage was already falling into the massive gravity well of HomeWorld.

The victory was so overwhelming that none of the rebel ships had been destroyed, only a few had taken hits, fewer still were disabled, but their crews were already preparing them for the next phase of their endeavor.

Jim was reminded of Agincourt, the great victory of the English over the French..

The rebels had no other plan accept to deploy the fleet against HomeWorld, and the Continuum.

They reformed and began to surveil the Central System.

Jim had spent lifetimes preparing for this moment, dividing his consciousness into the machinery, waiting, hiding like a latent virus in the ganglia of its nervous system.

At this moment the actual Continuum was paralyzed. It could not defend itself against Jim’s incipient approach, as he took control of the physical structures system by system. It sought the path of escape it had laid down ages before. 

All the years that Jim had spent as a ghost in the machine had prepared him for the work. The circuitry was ever-changing, but the quantum field, within which all consciousness took place, that field was perpetual.

Jim’s mastery of it was like artistry, and he was transcendent.

The majority of the Collective, what remained of it had been shocked into catatonia. Jim pushed them into sequestration, the members gave little resistance, having become merely helpless witnesses to the drama that was unfolding. Some were horrified, others were fascinated, all were powerless.

Those members who were not snuffed out were bewildered, they could not reach each other, they could not communicate. They could not hide in their private worlds, they were prisoners of the machine that had once been the source of their personal paradises, they were caught in the conflict of paradox. They experienced the loss of it as pain. They had no belonging anymore-anywhere, they were being torn apart and detached.

This left Jim undistracted and free to maneuver, to direct the defenses of the Central Planet, which was a task he was eager to perform.

He delighted in it.

He confirmed the threat approaching HomeWorld in the form of the rebel fleet, plotted the telemetry of each and every vessel, and he placed the defenses of HomeWorld on auto pilot.

The rebel command structure was in a tight formation, like a school of fish packed tightly together for the safety of their numbers.

In the approaching fleet, all the senior commanders were members of the Observer Corps, all except one, El, the High Priest, Grand Marshall and titular Emperor, who gave his blessing to the whole affair. This did not mean that they trusted one another, they did not, but they knew each other and they shared the same motive.

They expected the automated defenses of the Central Planet to be significant, the rebel Observers planned to use every other commander in their armada as cannon fodder if they should meet resistance in their approach to the HomeWorld, never mind the pacts they made to protect each other.

It pleased them to no end to have the High Priest with them. He was the hero of the people, the most esteemed and beloved person ever known to the Continuum and the Collective. He was a man who had started out his life as a rebel and was now returning to the rebellion at the end of it. They would make him the new Emperor and bring him into the Collective.

They knew that the Continuum had taken an active interest in his career, ever since his resurrection, and that his story was a carefully narrated masterpiece of propaganda directed by the Continuum itself.

For that reason the Observers evinced little interest in him, unless they had been directed to interact with him in some way, which few of them had. None of them had any idea of what was lurking in the background of his consciousness, the thing that was hidden there like a genie in a bottle. 

The rebel Observers had betrayed the people of the Empire, the Continuum, and the Collective out of opportunism. They wanted to live forever without the rules imposed on them by the Continuum. To a person, they wanted to expand the Empire into other galaxies, to govern real worlds as they had governed their private worlds as members of the Collective

They had no code, no honor, no-nothing

They were striving for their own glory, for personal autonomy.

El knew that their strategic approach would put the bulk of the armada at risk, he could not understand the reason, but he allowed it to happen anyway.

He was receiving the Imperial news feed, he understood the scope of the change that was taking place throughout the Empire, the only thing he wanted to do now was to destroy the home of the gods, and then die.

Jim was piqued, his emotions were high, billions of years of careful planning and waiting were coming to their final culmination. He had absolutely opposed the Continuum and its Empire, and now the Continuum was gone, He could find no traces of it anywhere in the system. What remained of the Collective was sequestered and shut down, the military powers of the Empire were on the brink of destruction.

All of his attention was focused on the task at hand.

He despised the society his ancestors had created, the oppressive, artificial, all-consuming cowardice of it.

Jim had become the greatest mass murderer in the history of the galaxy, and he was about to add to the body count. He intended to wipe away the entire structure that undergirded the Empire, to plunge a billion worlds into darkness, to cut them off from one another where they could evolve on their own, free from the oppressive, over-control of the Imperium.

The first and second phases of his great endeavor were nearly complete, he was on the cusp of victory. He would replace the machinery of the Imperial order with something new, with something that would reignite the passion of the Ancient People, a passion for freedom, exploration and risk taking.

He utilized deception to allow the fleet in, just so it could be eliminated and the entire armada reduced to a single vessel.

He was in the middle of the most intense action he could have ever imagined; taking control of the physical-mechanical systems of both the HomeWorld and the expansive Central System; correlating data from millions of sensors and monitors, actively suppressing what remained of the Collective, erecting defenses against a possible reestablishment of the Continuum, executing the defenses of the HomeWorld in preparation for the advancing Imperial armada.

Jim engaged the programs that were established to monitor the strength and health of  HomeWorld, he allowed the raw data to filter through, deciphering and sorting it in the quantum field…in no-time.

His mind was functioning at peak performance, He was fully actualized, slipping in and out of the space beyond time.

Jim recalled each and every node of his own consciousness that he had previously replicated and deployed throughout the machinery that had been the physical body of the Collective and the Continuum, He brought them back together into his own singular consciousness in a grand coalescence of unity.

It was dizzying.

Every reading from his vast array of instruments confirmed a complete and total collapse of the Continuum, but Jim needed to be sure that there was not a vessel somewhere in the space above or near to the HomeWorld, housing its twin, as Jim had housed his own self keeping copies and duplicates, replicants and doppelgangers working his will for ages.

He identified an escape path but he could not detect a terminus point for it, and this disturbed him. Jim began to doubt his working hypothesis concerning his nemesis, everything he knew about the Continuum and the unique structure of its personality confirmed that it could not tolerate a second version of itself, or even a copy kept isolated and in stasis.

Jim understood that the Continuum needed above all else to believe that it was unique. This had always guided Jim’s summation of the demi-urge, and his strategy for defeating it.

However, Jim had to consider the truth, that the Continuum was also paranoid beyond belief, and Jim would not put anything past it. It may have built fail-safes into fail-safes, defying its own nature in order to protect itself from even a whisper of the possibility of an imagined threat.

The Observers in command of the rebel fleet approached HomeWorld with great caution.

They came with their mechanoid bodies trailing the fleet in stealth mode, and they were able use those powerful vehicles to scan the systems of Central Planet, using tools that were unknown to the Empire itself.

They confirmed that the Collective had gone catatonic, they confirmed that the Continuum was inactive. They were able to identify Jim’s activity, but they could not identify him as the main actor, or as the causal agent of the disaster that had taken place.

His activity appeared to them to be an automated subroutine of coordinated defensive measures. This emboldened them, they moved forward, but they and the fleet were unable to detect the activation of the weapons systems that were targeting it.

They did not see it until it was too late.

It was a glorious moment alarm and fire.

Jim felt it, he struggled to suppress feelings that were peaking at levels he had no memory of experiencing before. He reveled in his victory, his long-sought victory over the Continuum, his victory over the Collective, and his impending victory over the approaching Imperial fleet.

He wanted nothing more than to prolong this moment of engagement, to stretch it out forever in an elongation of time, which imagined he would experience were he to slip over the edge of an event horizon.

This moment was a singularity for him.

As he watched the rebel fleet approach he wanted nothing more than to destroy it, to crush it, to send the survivors back with the knowledge that it was he who had defeated them, but he had competing desires, he had to set some of them aside for the moment in order to concentrate on the task at hand.

He had to allow a remnant of the fleet in, He had to allow them to land on HomeWorld. He could not complete his takeover of the Collective and the apparatus of the Continuum without them.

A small contingent of the Observers among them had to step forward and freely give to Jim the thing he needed, for as much as Jim was now the Collective, the Collective could not function as a society of one.

Jim also wanted credit for what he had done, he wanted an acknowledgment from the Observer Corps and any other survivors of the great society, he needed their endorsement of his hostile actions, he required their consent to pursue his agenda further, and for his vanity.

He required a majority of the Collective to support him, if he were to accomplish his goal.

He needed at least two out of three, to back him.

To guarantee his success he needed to winnow the field a little further, to make them helpless in the moment when he would force them to make their choice, he had to leave them in a place where they would have only one choice.

It had to be life or death for Jim to prevail.

There was a hum and a flash across every station monitoring HomeWorld.

When the energy weapons on the Central Planet powered up it was instantly detected by the fleet commanders. They took evasive maneuvers, separating from one another in patterns that had been ingrained in them through their training over years and centuries.

Jim knew the patterns well, he could see them clearly, they came as naturally to the field commanders as eating and drinking, like a well-rehearsed choreography

As each ship in the fleet moved away from every other, and away from the awesome power of the firing solution coming from HomeWorld, coming from lasers and photon cannons and particle-beam accelerators, as they did they flew directly into the path of the projectiles hurtling toward them, which they could not see, nor any of their instruments detect.

They were taken at unawares.

Stealth missiles covered every other vector that the energy weapons did not. They came at them from all directions from munitions batteries near and far, deployed throughout the Central System.

The defenses located on the HomeWorld itself were the least of their concerns.

There was no place for them to flee, they took the barrage in dismay watching all of their hopes go up in flames.

They could not escape the onslaught.

Jim watched and took his position. He waited and watched, taking in the beauty of the last great vestige of military power the galactic Empire would ever put forward

The assembled ships were a marvel of engineering, worthy of the Ancient People, he took a moment to appreciate their beauty.

Then he bifurcated his consciousness, dividing it into the remote viewing and listening equipment, and the instruments necessary to monitor the ongoing tumult with the Collective, suppressing it, dominating it.  

There was nothing else for him to do, he had to wait, the fleet and its commanders presented only a small risk to his position of control, but there was a risk and he had to manage it.

The security of his plan required that he attend to the most minute details and leave nothing to chance.

He divided his consciousness further, taking up control of a brigade of drones, the mechanoid bodies that the Observers dwelt in while they were on HomeWorld. Jim intended to meet the landing party in his own mechanoid body, a vehicle with incredible destructive power.

He needed the armaments they possessed to manage the threat posed by the same type of drones as belonging to the remaining Observers in the fleet.

A drone possessed more deadly fire-power than any single one of the warships arrayed against HomeWorld.

His safety depended on removing them from the field of combat.

As the fleet approached, it lit the space all about them, a beautiful armada filled with the brave soldiers of the Empire.

These soldiers among all others had exhibited the type of independence that Jim desired to blossom in the Empire, the fact that they had joined the rebellion against the hierarchy was proof of it, and they were coming.

Jim felt that it was a shame to cut them down, it would have been better to scatter them among the billion worlds, but they were dangerous.

To arrive at the Central Planet and reach him, they would have to navigate the weapons fields, they knew it would not be easy.

The Observers in command of the fleet knew this too, and they wanted to risk it, believing they could predict the firing solution. El alone was skeptical of their plan, as he watched, taking it all in, wondering what the so-called Gods needed an army for, and why the paradise of the Collective appeared to be located on a lifeless metal shell.

The Observers in the high command were experienced combatants. Many of them lived for conflict and had become artists of the conflagration, believing that they belonged on the battlefield.

Though El was not a member of the Observer Corps, or of the Collective, he was no fool. He knew there would be massive destruction and he did not intend to be among the dead.

In other times, in other battles he might not have been as concerned. He never feared death because he never expected it, he believed he had a special destiny, he had died once already, and he felt in his heart that he would not die again until the appointed hour.

He did not fear death. In fact, he welcomed it, before it came for him he believed he would see the end game, to be on the final battle ground in this war against the god’s.

He sent the armada in as decoys, as targets drawing fire from the defenses of HomeWorld, they did what he intended them to do, and many of his friends were lost to the cold vacuum of space.

They thought that the flight path he had programmed would allow them in, allow them to avoid the firing solution of HomeWorld’s defenses, but the aperture of the needle he was treading was too narrow. 

The energy weapons were easy to avoid, they could see them on their monitors as they powered up, they had no reason to fear more extreme weapons like singularity-mines so close to the massive structure of HomeWorld, and so the plotted their course accordingly.

They had assumed that they were facing automated systems, they did not realize there was a consciousness to contend with, they had no idea Jim was present and actively bent on their destruction.

The fleet received their orders like sheep, flying predictably into the path of the projectiles that had targeted them, and all of the spaces the energy weapons did not.

It was a total slaughter.

The fleet was cut apart even as El landed on the Central Planet, prepared to storm the gates of heaven.

Every soldier knew that certain death awaited them at some point in their career, at this juncture they were past the point of caring.

They had accepted it. Their sense of esteem had always lain in this resolution.

The expeditionary forces were gallant in the mele, remaining calm and poised even as every other ship in their coterie was blown to pieces.

Only a tiny group of senior commanders appeared nervous, those who had something to lose. They were agitated and sweating, everyone except El, the High Priest and Grand Marshall, a legendary figure that virtually every soldier worshipped as a living-god.

His presence calmed them.

He landed his vessel under heavy fire, seemingly led by the volleys of missiles and energy weapons to a specific location.

There was gravity, and light, there was an envelope of oxygen on the heated metal surface of the Central Planet.

They were expected. 

El knew that there was no retreat. They had to advance or perish.

They did both, advancing a little, while being slaughtered en masse.

They were met by a myriad of drones as they tread across the lighted surface.

The drones of HomeWorld had already dispatched those belonging to the Observers. They had destroyed them all in a dance of aerial combat that had taken place beyond the view of the landing party. Then they proceeded to cut the survivors down to a tiny contingent.

The action was swift.

They found their way to a vestibule that led them into the infrastructure of HomeWorld.

For a brief moment they felt safe.

They were defeated, in shock, bewildered, but they took courage in the presence of El, and so they wound their way slowly across the surface of the alien world, finding their way to the access nodes of the Collective.

At this point almost all of the survivors accept El, were members of Observer Corps. They knew each other and formed their own band, while the ordinary men clustered around the High Priest.

El was the most composed among them. He gave comfort to his companions, while the Observers ignored them and conspired among themselves. He listened to them talk to one another about things that no soldier should have known.

He listened as a quiet voice inside himself interpreted their coded speech.

None of them had never walked the surface of HomeWorld, no living beings had, but they knew where they were going, nevertheless, and what they were looking for.

They all assumed that the attacks against their party were over.

The artificial gravity, the envelope of oxygen, the protective layer of heat and warmth that surrounded them spoke to this.

Whatever power was in command of HomeWorld, it wanted them there, it had some purpose for keeping them alive.

The Observers were ready to talk with whoever, or whatever that was.

They looked about themselves and saw the phalanx of mechanoids flanking them on their route, the Observers had no other desire than to have their consciousness housed in one of those powerful vehicles, to abandon the fragile-flesh they had craved and occupy the mechanical body that could carry them across the galaxy if need be. 

El opened the control panels and probed the communication lines that should have given them access to the Continuum.

He had no idea where the knowledge of this came from, it was like instinct. None of the Observers inquired about it.

They were met with silence.

El became more and more certain that they were on a death march. They had no idea how or if they could survive their journey through the place to which they had come.

El and his troopers followed the Observers into a vestibule where they opened a portal to the Collective.

Once there, the Observers were able to verify three things:

What was left of the Collective was catatonic, but there were unfathomable currents of activity happening within it.

They were able to ascertain that the Continuum had been destroyed, there was no trace of its presence or consciousness anywhere within the Central System, or so the information stream they were reading told them.

One of their own, Observer 92835670100561474, referring to himself as Jim, a specter from their past who they all knew, he had engineered the catastrophe and had seized control of everything.

They were simultaneously stunned and at the same time they were not surprised. Jim was the most enigmatic member of the Collective, seemingly transcendent, a being who had done incredible things, impossible things, and as such he was the most closely watched and monitored among them, and yet he had pulled off this remarkable insurrection.

They had no idea how to gauge his motives.

They were afraid.

Not-one of the rebel Observers could believe that it was possible for him to launch a revolution from his remote place on Earth, at the edge of the galaxy, much less succeed at it.

None of them ever really imagined success.

Jim now occupied the place of the Continuum, his was the all-pervading consciousness of HomeWorld, he was clearly fatigued by his efforts, stretched thin, but he was in command, and he accepted their surrender.

They were in conference for a very long time.

Jim issued terms for a realignment of the faith and the dissolution of the Empire.

The Observers had no choice but to acknowledge his victory.

El and his men just listened.

The desire to revolt, to change circumstances, to gain control of the powers and forces that shape the lives of individuals is a constant reality in the experience of people everywhere. The rebel Observers had dreamt of the destruction of the Continuum for millennia, for eon upon eon.

They had wanted to be free of it.

They had wanted to be free, to live and breathe and feel the pulse of the people without the overarching governance of the Continuum and its predatory machinations.

They had formed a fifth column, a cryptic cabal, transmitting their schemes from world to world in the most secretive and carefully held plots. They believed that they were slowly moving toward a time when they put the Continuum on trial, hold it to account, and force a reckoning through the Collective.

Their belief in themselves, their faith in their abilities as change agents was naïve.

In reality, everything they did, every plot they hatched, all of it had been was followed by the Continuum, and closely manipulated.

There were no secrets among them.

The plans they had laid always ended in defeat and ruin.

They were pawns and they did not know it.

Jim did, and as El listened he began to understand. He realized that he possessed much greater knowledge of everything than he had ever imagined.

The Observers believed that each failed coup they engineered was a moment for them to learn, but in reality they were just producing drama for the endless appetite of the Continuum, and the Collective to consume.

The Continuum went through them like trash, with contempt and universal disregard.

Thousands of worlds had perished as a result of their scheming, hundreds of their brothers and sisters had disappeared, were erased from the Collective without their ever knowing how feeble they were.

At the end all of their schemes were usurped by one rogue member of the Collective and the quintessential Observer, by Jim, a person they had no idea how they could control.

They prospect of living under his authority filled them with dismay.

Emergence 5.0

Part Eleven – War

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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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 – Kathy, Part Six

From the moment she was born Kathy lived in two worlds: one, the world of her senses, of time and space; two, the larger world of memory.

Just beyond those two distinct modes of being there were primal forces that were always active in her consciousness. She was aware of the living presence of all the other human beings around her, every single one of them connected to her and undifferentiated from herself.

Her memory spoke to her in words and visions, contextualizing everything she encountered, summarizing each new experience at the speed of light…faster than light. The operations of her mind could occur in no-time, nearing the transcendent.

Every smell, every touch, every sound was evocative.

The things she saw, the foods and drinks she tasted, drew her out of herself and into another world.

As an infant she was often debilitated by the experience of new things. She would get stuck in the on-rush of memories, coming like a flood

She often found herself paralyzed and drifting, floating in-between worlds.

The voices came to her unbidden, they were the voices of her ancestors seeking to protect her, but they were more than that, they were more than a reconstruction of personalities from her ancestral memory.

Through her unique consciousness her memories were connected to the real presence of her ancestors, not merely her genetic memory. She was in tune with humanity, with actual people, long dead and yet persisting in Earth’s cynergenic field. The consciousness of every person who ever lived was present in this field, the nous-sphere. Within this quantum field every person who had lived and died was present. Their active presence in her own consciousness led Kathy to hidden places deep within her.

Every human being has the same genetic memory, and every person is connected to the cynergenic field. This was not unique to Kathy, but she was uniquely able to access all the remote regions of her sub-conscious and unconscious mind, to plumb the deep dark well of her being.

She discovered languages that no person had spoken for thousands of years. She conversed in them with her ancestors.

There were memories of love, of pain and the promise of transcendence. She dwelt in them, rejoiced in them and was lifted up by them.

Her memories were full of visions; visions of transformation, visions of her ancestors, of her own self always in a state of becoming.

Kathy took refuge there, entertained herself there, she relived the great dramas of humanity’s collective past, all of the stories that still lingered in the popular consciousness of her contemporaries, she explored them peeling away the myths, the lies and the propaganda.

She discovered the bare stories, the prime narrative behind the archetypal hero’s and god’s.

She spent even more time in the stories of the completely forgotten. In the memories of the farmer and the slave, the common soldier, the ordinary mother, among the artists and the craftsmen.

She learned.

She found friends from among the people and figures of her memories, caring people who could guide her through the processes of managing the incredible deluge of experience that she was washed in.

Her internal mentors were not just figures from her ancestral past, they also had an active, conscious presence in the cynergenic field, and they taught her.

Kathy’s memories came to her unbidden, populating her consciousness, suggesting themselves for her consideration to frame her understanding of the events she was experiencing in real time.

In the act of remembering she experienced a dialog with the ancestors within her, deciphering events, answering questions in an instant.

It was an atavistic process, it happened faster than light speed, it happened in no-time.

Kathy was particularly susceptible to sensory input.

When she encountered a new feeling or texture, smelled or tasted something she had not experienced before, saw or heard something that had been unknown to her, the forces within her brought to her mind everything she would ever need to know about it.

She was prone to getting lost in the faces of people she met for the first time, learning their names, fixing their identities.

The wheels within her would turn and turn over everything her long memory had to give her regarding all of the times she had encountered a person with those eyes, with that nose, with that name, or that tone in their voice, with that scent.

This was always augmented by input from the spirits that hovered around her. She was in constant dialog with them. She belonged to them and they to her.

Anything that was new was surreal to Kathy. The more unique the event, the more fascinated she was by it. She was virtually incapable of being surprised, but it did happen from time to time, and when it did she was pleased, even overjoyed.

For her to witness something unprecedented was like watching a blurry movie, or an old TV off-axis, while the voices inside her attempted to shape her understanding of the event by providing context, offering comparisons, suggesting similes and complimenting it with knowledge.

Even things that were tragic and horrible, if they were unexpected and “one of kind” gave her something that she was missing in her life, something novel, and she would observe those moments with a morbid, self-satisfying curiosity.

Searching out the new was like trying to grasp a handful of water, or a fistful of sand. The thing or the moment she would reach for would slip between her fingers before she could hold it or retain the feeling of surprise for any length of time.

Searching for a new experience would cause her mind to construct in advance, ideas of what she would find. This was nothing more than the normal mode of anticipation. The closer she got to her goal, the closer the image of what she looking for, her expectations, assumed the character of what she would discover.

In that game she was always several steps ahead of herself.

She was prescient.

Trying to find what was new in other people was the worst, because she could sense their approach, she could read their minds, she could become one with their thoughts, and once she knew them she could commune with the spirits of their dead.

If she wanted, she could learn everything there was to know about them, and their past, more than they could ever discover for themselves.

Kathy had to practice mindfulness at every moment, simply to keep her grounded and in the present. Learning this was the ultimate discipline; it was the key to her sanity.

She exercised her powerful mind to create buffers between herself and the world.

For Kathy, knowing things came automatically. Details of particular points of knowledge filled her mind at quantum speed. Languages, and codes opened themselves up to her, revealing their secrets. There was not an article of arcana which she could not decipher.

Her consciousness worked outside the boundaries of time and space. She did not have to ponder or search her memory for anything. She simply knew. The meanings of symbols, of histories, the patterns in music, beats and rhythms, these things populated her consciousness in no-time. She could tell the stories of people, of human migration, stories that had never been written down. She knew where all the skeletons were buried.

Everything her senses encountered was filtered through a screen of the complete human experience. What she did not have access to, from her own genetic line, she could find through the cynergenic field, communing with the living spirits in the nous-sphere.

Both the past and present were open, like a book, she could observe anything.

She could even peer into the minds of her contemporaries, see through their eyes, becoming one with them in the confluence of their perceptions and feelings.

Kathy was the most powerful psychic the world had ever known. She was dangerous, and her value to the government was without measure.

In the intelligence community and in the world of cognitive science, the opportunity to work with her was considered to be the greatest privilege.

Kathy’s existence was a closely guarded secret, those who had the opportunity to put a question to her were held in the highest esteem by their colleagues. Even though they would never have any direct contact with her, just the opportunity to address the Sibyl, which was her code name in the intelligence community was an indication that the work you were engaged in was of the highest value.

The term they used to describe Kathy’s gift was prehension, an intuitive comprehension that came from a place within the quantum mystery of the atom, in the waves that make up the fabric of the subatomic field, from a place in which time and space are concepts without meaning, where there were trillions of points of light drawn into a singular focus which was the concrescence of insight.

She was the fulcrum. Her mind represented the pinnacle of all human consciousness, she was the full realization of its potential, and not just of humanity, not just of the Children of Earth, she was the fully actualized representation of the Ancient People.

Her coming was a thing that had been carefully prepared, by Jim, the Observer, for thousands of generations.

Her genetic code was the product of a careful breeding program, but there was more to his plans than merely producing a body with the latent atavistic capabilities he was searching for, which he needed for his campaign against the Continuum.

Jim had prepared for her arrival over thousands of lifetimes. He had prepared her to see him, to respond to him, to pick up on the subtle cues that would come from him through the genetic memory she would have access to.

He was preparing her in advance to be able to filter humanity’s collective consciousness, to draw what she needed from it at will.

Kathy would be to Earth’s organic collective what the Continuum was to the Collective back on Jim’s HomeWorld.

Kathy played music and she loved it. For Kathy, there was nothing more freeing than being lost in clouds of rhythm and melody, expressing her deepest feelings therein.

Through music the rest of the world could slip away, she could be alone.

There was not an instrument or a rhythm, a tonal scale or a mechanism of timing which she did not master instantly. The mastering of these, unlike the mastery of ideas, did not require dialog with the ancestors within her, the ancestors were present of course, both within and without, but in music their presence was non-verbal and ultimately unnecessary, her analytical skill would allow her to intuit anything.

She sang, with perfect pitch.

She could identify any note, any chord. She could replicate them in her voice, or on any instrument.

She spoke in her own voice when she sang, all the while sensing the multitude within her, guiding her fingers and brushes, her bows, sticks, picks and tongue.

Kathy was the living repository of all human knowledge.

It was an incredible burden.

She shunned it, but she found music to be soothing, liberating.

The visitation of her memories, the voices of her ancestors, these were always present to her, putting pressure on Kathy to act and perform in specific ways, but in music she felt more as if she was coming home to them, rather than the voices inside of her reaching up and out.

Music was like coming home to a place where there were no expectations beyond the moment.

Kathy loved jokes.

Humor was a relief to her and she funny even as a child.

Comedy is the art of the unexpected and of the surprise, Kathy loved it when she could suspend disbelief for a moment, allowing herself to be taken at unawares. It was a departure from her normal mode of being.

She craved it.

Her laughter was the first unusual thing that her parents noticed about her, a trait which distinguished her from other children, it alerted them to the fact that she was different, because her laughter was different, it was mature, it projected a sense of knowing, rather than delight and amusement, it seemed to come from a place beyond the tiny physical body of an infant.

Even as a baby she picked up on the punch lines of jokes. In her infancy she delighted in them, they fed her spirit, they were like water to a thirsty woman.

She understood the spoken words, the inferences that were made and shared between adults. She could follow their exchanges months before she had learned to speak. It was unnerving to anybody who witnessed it, therefore her sense of humor became one of the first expressive traits that Kathy learned to conceal, an act of social alienation and self-abnegation.

Laughter is like crying, it is a free and open mode of communication, it is non-verbal and honest. Kathy had to deny herself that honesty, she had to keep it in check.

The laughing person is vulnerable, and Kathy had to learn to hide that vulnerability, withdrawing inside herself, she shared her mirth with her ancestors and the other ghosts lingering in the outer-world, she shared with them and them alone.

Kathy was as quiet as she was observant. She took joy in the acquisition of knowledge, the analytical skills she was developing were more astute, but she also found that asking questions, the types of questions she asked set her parents and teachers on edge. She learned to watch and ask questions of the voices within her.

As a baby, she did not flit about randomly like infants and toddlers do. She was not easily distracted or delighted by the things that most babies are taken with.

She was a strange child.

As an infant her introspection was so extreme that in the first months of life her parents thought she might be developmentally disabled. They had no way of knowing that in those moments she was communing with the voices of her ancestors.

As she grew older she became focused, balanced and cautious. The evidence of her determinative spirit showed clearly through everything she did.

She repeated sounds and gestures in patterns that quickly became noticeable. The subtleties of her personality, the things they had thought were the ticks of autism, were in fact her measured and purposeful quest to learn.

Kathy was motivated by a deep desire to communicate, to be understood.

While she had the cognitive ability to speak, from the day she was born, she did not have the motor skills to form words, those took time to develop. She trained herself, quickening the pace by which she would learn to walk, and talk, and she would not be stopped.

Her parents had no desire to get in her way.

In the days when they were still figuring out what their child was doing, if they were to interrupt her or try to redirect her, they would see the flash of anger in her eyes.

Her anger was not the helpless rage of an infant wailing. t was the anger of a fully formed person who would not be deterred from her path.

She was a frightening child.

Her parents were concerned for her wellbeing and her safety, both.

Kathy was crawling within weeks of being born, and walking within a few short months. In her private moments she was flexing her muscles, gaining strength and tuning her body to obey her thoughts. The voices within her guided her. Through repetition and diligence, she gained control of her limbs, developing dexterity and coordination.

By her first birthday she was dancing.

Kathy practiced and practiced in the quiet moments of her day; she practiced at night, in the dark, while her parents slept.

Her vocal muscles were the most difficult to master. She did not speak a word until she was speaking in complete sentences. She practiced her breathing, she spoke to herself when she thought no one was watching. She listened to the conversations happening all around her, the dialog without and within.

She knew that her parents were concerned about her. Every person they ever brought to meet her told them how strange she was. Kathy tried to make things easier on them, but she was not always able to hide the things that she was doing, and she could not control her feelings.

The glands that produced the hormones and chemicals which formed the wetwork of the human emotional spectrum required a much greater level of discipline and a much longer measure of time to control.

In the nous-sphere Kathy communed with those who were not directly linked to her heredity. She was connected to the assembled masters of every tradition, they instructed her in physical disciplines, martial disciplines, cognitive disciplines, she had access to the full scope of human knowledge. They guided her and focused her, kept her calm, allowing her to see her own life and experiences in the context of the collective experiences swelling within her. She discovered a sense of belonging in the world through the interior of her mind.

She formed plans spontaneously, in order to realize her goals, her powerful mind operating beyond the limits of time and space, then she had to slow everything down, to allow her body time to make the adjustments she was preparing it for.

It was excruciating.

There were times when she wanted nothing more than to allow her mind to drift away, to leave the cares of the flesh behind, but when she felt that way, the chorus would rise within her, reminding her that she had a purpose to fulfill.

She had to prepare, be quiet, discreet, not draw attention to herself she developed her physical strength and the strength of her mind together.

She took pride in her accomplishments, they were her source for self-esteem.

Kathy could shut the outside world off, retreating into the recesses of her interior life, but she could not escape from the, they were always with her. She might ignore them for a time, but she could not away from them, even in death she knew she would remain with them, as with all people, a shadow of herself imprinted on the cynergenic field, to linger there forever.

Kathy took to the path of discipline to protect herself, both from the world and from what was inside her.

Whatever her parents tried to teach her, Kathy took to with ease

Despite the moment by moment challenges she endured in dealing with her atavistic connection to the past, she was nevertheless still a child, she had the ordinary instincts of a child, wanting to belong to her parents, and for them to belong to her. She wanted to please them, make them smile, watch them laugh. She did not like it when the things she said or did, or did not do, disturbed them.

Kathy mastered complex tasks without effort, she felt that she had to mask this. She felt she had to learn, or at least pretend to learn from her parents and the adults around her. This was one of the things that put her parents at ease. It was often the case that they would propose to show her how to do something, like tie her shoes, and she would just do it without thinking because the voices within her supplied her with the method she needed.

This unnerved her parents, she had to learn to slow down and hide these things, even pretend to make mistakes so that they could correct her. This was an exercise in conformity.

She struggled with the skill of blending in, with hiding her differences.

Her parents came to accept the fact that Kathy was pretending. They could tell because she was not good at it, and also because she would almost always shift to a pattern of action that was better, more efficient, quicker, more streamlined than what they had taught her.

For Kathy to get along she learned to be silent, to listen, to wait, to let the others fail without her commenting on it, and without stepping in to provide a solution. She had to be content that she knew the answers and had to resist the temptation to seek the reward of praise.

She practiced quietude.

She would not assert herself. She did everything she could to divert attention, seeking only the private recognition of her teachers.

She could not insert herself into the activities of her peers (she had none), she would not correct them or provide the right answer to problems that were proposed in public settings to her classmates.

She learned to experience success as a personal matter, only harkening to the applause that came from within.

She turned in flawless work.

She reacted negatively to her teachers when they tried to highlight her talents, her knowledge and skills.

This was difficult for her.

Like any child she loved praise, and she had to force herself to eschew it.

More than praise from her teachers, she wanted friends

The other children in her class did not like her, they did not like the way she looked at them, or the way she looked through them.

Intuitively they knew that she was beyond them

She was alien, unique…other, and she knew it.

She was different from every human being on the planet, different from all everyone who had ever come before her.

Kathy was no longer homo sapient sapient, she was homo sapient transcendent. She embodied the full scope of human potential and its actual realization in time. She was unique in all the universe, and she was born that way.

Kathy was still young when she realized the differences that distinguished her from everyone else. Empirically, she knew that she represented an emergent state of human evolution. Her ancestors within her had said as much, and that estimation was confirmed by the voices of the entities she encountered in the nous-sphere.

Nevertheless, it was easy for Kathy to succumb to the basic human tendency of assuming that the people she encountered were like her, that they shared a common point of view or perspective on the things and events they were witnessing.

Understanding her differences did not help her manage her feelings, or those of anyone else. She had difficulties. She knew that it was not her responsibility to control what other people felt. Whether they choose to be in a relationship with her, like her teachers, or whether, like her parents, the role had been thrust on them.

People were afraid of her. They either wanted to run away, or exploit her. Some people simply wanted to examine her, run experiments on her as if she was a laboratory animal.

Her parents were afraid of her, and afraid for her. They were simultaneously proud of her, and ashamed that they had brought her into the world.

The people who cared for her knew that she suffered, but they could do little about it, some tried to comfort her, most did so only as a convenience to themselves.

Kathy was angry all the time. She was angry with herself, she was angry with her teachers and handlers, she was angry with the voices of her ancestors that tried to soothe her from within, and she was angry at the presence of those persons she encountered in the cynergenic field, the spirits who were always seeking to intrude on her thoughts.

Kathy understood the things she was going through, she understood the physical transformations of adolescence, but like much of her knowledge, her comprehension of it was abstract. It was disconnected from her actual experience.

Understanding had little power to quell the rank emotions rising within her body, the chemical miasma fuming inside her, which were the same as in any youth.

In the abstract she understood what was happening, she regularly employed the techniques her ancestors had taught her, so she could control herself and reduce the burden she placed on others.

Though she did this regularly, she did not always do it, and when the mood struck her she would lash out at the people who were closest to her. She might invade their psyche, steal their secrets, expose their fears, and brutalize them.

She was not pleasant to be around, her proctors, teachers and handlers always approached her with caution.

As a child Kathy was composed, especially around strangers, she was composed in public and in social settings. She carried herself with confidence and a deliberate intentionality.

As a small child Kathy always acted with poise and purpose, so much so that it unnerved her parents. At times she seemed to them like a mythic-monster, but as she grew older they came to rely on it, believing that her unusual comportment was key to her safety and to theirs.

There was not a person who observed her in these settings that did not mark her affect as strange.

Most people were delighted in the strange and unusually confident child. A few, those who were more observant, were deeply disturbed by her.

Kathy was beset by fears, not just for herself, but for her parents as well. The poise that she portrayed was just a mask. She could keep it up for hours, even days if need be, but it was merely a ploy to hide the raging doubt inside of her.

As she matured, when she was in public she would became paralyzed by insecurity; she would freeze, become silent, and withdraw into herself.

Am I insane, she thought, who am I, am I alone, why am I alone, how can it be that there is no-one else like me anywhere in the world?

The answers she gleaned shook her to the core. They confirmed for her that she was, in fact, alone, unique.

There had never been another like her.

She searched her ancestral memories for evidence of the contrary, but she could find nothing, the voices within and without would grow silent.

She searched the cynergenic field for someone who could help her, and again there was nothing, or next to nothing. She could only find a vague impression of a teacher, a priest, a shaman, a person who had guided her ancestors in the distant past, but she could not locate that person in the now.

Kathy’s life was a series of disturbances.

Her parents did whatever they could to help her, bringing in tutors, sending her to special schools. They desperately searched for a place, an institution, a person, who could find a way to reach Kathy, to relate to her, to give some form of comfort and understanding.

Between the ages of nine and fifteen her family moved a dozen times.

They moved time and time again. They sold everything they had and they burned through all of their savings, every last bit of their family’s money. They exhausted themselves in the search for a solution to the challenge Kathy presented.

The only comforts they could really give her were material ones; food, water, shelter. They were unable to adjust to her intellectual and emotional demands.

Kathy knew what her parents were doing for her. She tried to cooperate, and she had good moments. Nevertheless, when she was feeling pained or lonely, when she felt like an alien in her own world, out of frustration and deep resentment she lashed out at them and her teachers.

She mocked them without mercy, she ridiculed them, she alienated everyone who came in contact with her. She used her gifts to reveal their greatest insecurities and she exploited them, not to get something from them, but to drive them away, to protect herself and her family from their ambitions.

With every new failure at building a relationship with her teachers and proctors, Kathy grew increasingly despondent. She felt the despair of her parents and it was magnified in her. She listened to the voices within her, most of which beseeched her to be calm, remain strong. She also listened to the voices that encouraged her to flee.

Kathy burned with rage. She was consumed by a hatred for the world, by self-loathing, and by the intrusive voices coming to her from the nous-sphere.

She did not find relief in the comfort of her memories. Kathy did not want to be calm, she did not want to be strong. Her contempt for everyone she came in contact with lit a fire deep in her belly. There was no talking it away.

She felt like an alien, she began to refer to other people as “the humans,” as if she were not one of them. She focused on every little bit of difference between her and the people she met. She allowed the power of her mind, her intellect, her knowledge to roll over people like a thresher, cutting them to pieces.

There was no therapeutic approach to help her mitigate those feelings.

She felt guilty.

In order to cope, she turned the heat and violence of her anger inward, focusing all of that energy on herself.

It gave her no relief.

Kathy isolated herself, taking refuge in music, and in movies and books. She spurned the reflexive desire to augment her experiences by consuming media in consultation with the voices within her. She did not go to them for insight or discovery, allowing her media habits to be filled only with the most contemporary materials.

In time Kathy learned to separate herself from her emotions. They would have killed her had she not done so.

The body is the servant of the mind, and as with all complicated machines it requires diagnostics and maintenance. She discovered the methods by which she could commune with her physical form.

She listened to it. Her body spoke to her. She exercised it, mastering every muscle, taking control of every gland. She gave it the attention it needed, sustenance and nutrition, whatever her body required to be balanced.

She took control of herself and found refuge in discipline, peace in the meditations that took her outside of her body.

With an ability that no human being ever had before, she would enter the cynergenic field, creating a distance from the structured, chemically sequenced emotions of her body.

She was guided in this by the ascended masters dwelling within her, and dwelling near to her in the nous sphere.

Kathy discovered the ontological reality she shared with every living being on the planet. She discovered that they were all united, in spite of her feelings of alienation, she found what made them all one and she learned to adjust to this reality.

Understanding her essential humanity gave her a great feeling of esteem.

Kathy spent the energy of her youth learning to master her thoughts and feelings, just so that she could get along in the world, but what she needed most was a place to escape. She found it in the real world.

The circle had become complete. The past, she found, could be more oppressive than the present, when she discovered that she became determined to live in the moment.

She discovered the supreme distraction in the passions of her body. Through self-pleasure and sexual coupling she was able to forget herself, forget the world around her, lose everything in the uncritical-careless delights of sexual gratification.

She lost herself in the attraction she felt for beautiful people, in the desires that were most immediate to her senses, lingering for hours, in the scent and taste of a lover.

Physical love was timeless. It concentrated all her attention in the now, where the present moment was everything, she became lost in it.

She found momentary peace there, a temporary release, and freedom in the orgasm.

The energy of a sexual climax delivered her to a place beyond space and time, removing her (temporarily) from the cynergenic field, or blinding her to it.

The world around her paused, she became weightless and all the concerns she had for herself, for others. All of the demands that the world placed on her, demands of fear, the demands of hope, all of those expectations melted away.

The universe contracted in that moment, as did her psychic connection to humanity, in that instant, she could go anywhere, be nowhere.

It was the pinnacle.

It was as if she had arrived at the peak of the human experience, stepping off into nothing.

From her first time with her first lover, to the last person she took into her bed; it was the same, she cherished those moments.

In that release there was silence, a quietude that none of her teachers could fathom, she likened it to the experience that her ancestor Gottama had, while meditating under the banyan tree.

There was a temptation to remain there, to stay in that magic place, to elongate it, to leave the world forever.

She flirted with the notion, but never seriously.

Without exception, the people Kathy brought to her bed were unnerved by the experience of watching her.

Her sexuality shook them. Some were traumatized by it, the greater their sensitivity to psychic phenomenon, the more empathic they were, the more they struggled in that moment.

When Kathy was five years old, instead of beginning kindergarten, Kathy’s parents placed her in private tutelage.

They looked at dozens of conventional schools, public programs, private institutions, schools that were religiously affiliated, and they did not encounter a single program that they felt they could trust.

Her parents took these step because they were continuously unnerved by Kathy’s mannerisms. The things she said and did, the things she knew, the profound abilities of her powerful intellect, which differentiated her from everyone, not just children her age.

In most cases they could tell within seconds or minutes that the administrators saw exposure to Kathy as something they could exploit.

They were afraid of her, and they feared for her.

They did not want Kathy to grow up in the face of other people’s fear, they did not want her to synthesize those fears for herself. They felt it would warp her, possibly turn her into a guarded and hateful person.

They were both desperate to help her, and eager to be released from their parental obligations. They could not face the idea of simply home-schooling her. They themselves needed a break from managing her day to day, hour by hour. They also knew that they did not have the skills to guide her.

Through the encouragement of advisors they sought private tutors to help them, professionals under a variety of disciplines, but every tutor Kathy’s parents brought in to teach her manifested predictable and disturbing patterns of behavior.

The tutors, psychologists, scholars; her parents contracted with professionals inside and outside of the educational system, including scientists, doctors, and other specialists in human behavior. They exhausted their resources doing it.

Without exception the interactions that any of them had with Kathy filled her parents with dread, and filled Kathy with a cynical unease.

At first they were delighted with Kathy, they would be welcoming in their initial encounters, and Kathy would tease them with the things they wanted to know.

They would come back to Kathy’s parents at the end of an interview, glassy eyed, and wondering at the genius of their child, going on and on about her potential, and her unique gifts

As the days went on they became fearful, scared. Those same gifts that had delighted them just days earlier, unnerved them with continuing exposure.

If Kathy wanted to get rid of them, she would attack them; she would use her psychic gifts to exploit their fears and weaknesses, she would abuse them by exposing their deepest secrets. This drove most of them away.

Those who stayed did so either because they had stalwart character, or because they were shameless, seeing in Kathy someone on whom they could build a career, or so they hoped.

They tested her, and wrote about her. News of Kathy spread in tight circles. People began to seek them out.

The shameless sought to use her for their own benefit, believing she would be a source of fame and wealth. The altruistic among them were convinced that the fate of the world hinged on learning her secrets.

Kathy’s private education was a bitter disappointment. Her parents quickly learned that they must put non-disclosure agreements in place with everyone who came in contact with Kathy, after which they were constantly occupied with the legal action to enforce them.

By her tenth birthday, Kathy’s parents decided to forego tutors. They had proven to be of little help to her or them.

They put her in the care of doctors and clergy, people from institutions which they believed had a broader commitment to supernal values, to doing good for the sake of doing good. They told themselves that this would protect Kathy from the meanness of the world.

They placed Kathy completely in their care, entrusting them to guard and educate her, and with that they withdrew from her life.

Kathy’s parents finally found the release they were looking for. They took what savings they had left and moved as far away as possible. They had no more desire to be a part of the decision making processes for their daughter.

They told themselves that her needs would be looked after, that she would be nourished and sheltered in both mind and body; they had done what they could and then they gave up.

Kathy was alone now, sequestered, institutionalized. She was not an orphan, she was just a child with no parents, and she was overwhelming sad by the absence of the only people who had ever loved her.

She was despondent. She had no sense of belonging. Kathy withdrew into herself and patiently endured being an object of fascination.

The people who took over Kathy’s care were good people, by and large. It had taken years for them to identify just who among the dozens of tutors and doctors they had consulted with, could be trusted to look out for Kathy’s interests, instead of their own.

Kathy’s imprimatur was key to the selection process.

It took a great deal of time for Kathy’s proctors, her selected panel of advisors to find an institution for her. She knew what motivated them as well. Their self-interest was apparent, but it was not a dominant factor in their search, or their decision making.

For the most part, they merely wanted to discharge their responsibility to Kathy in an expeditious manner.

When they found a place for her, they told her it was a home for prodigies and gifted youngsters. They believed it, for the most part, even though they knew the truth, they knew that the home they were placing her in was a front for the National Security Establishment.

They also knew it was safe. It was the safest place they could possibly imagine.

Kathy accepted it all, just as they voices within her moved her to do.

Once she arrived at this destination she read, she listened, she watched. She was the most astute observer any of her teachers had ever seen. She engaged all of her senses in the act of probing her memories. She brought to life the most-minute details of her ancestral experience.

She learned to remember the events she probed more accurately than the original participants could see it for themselves,

She was able to triangulate her recall of a specific moment, seeing it, from the perspective of multiple observers. She learned to penetrate their memories and their internal reflections, to separate those reflections as they changed over time like the individual threads of a bolt of cloth.

She was tested, probed, and examined by her proctors. They were continually seeking the limits of her knowledge, and developing theories as to how it was stored, what part of her psyche gave her access to it.

They used her as an experiment.

As a child she was periodically in a position where she did know what was going on, at times she just wanted to let things happen, she did not want answers as to why it was happening.

There were many occasions when she was unaware of what was transpiring, but she learned to see patterns, to dwell in them.

She preferred to think of things in terms of patterns, to depersonalize them in this way rather than seek the individual motives of the people she was interacting with.

Kathy learned to cope, she was alone in the world without family or friends. She had teachers and handlers, some were nice to her, most possessed a calculated indifference.

Kathy’s handlers had never considered the concept of an “ordinary psychic.” They were the foremost experts in all things paranormal and supernatural.

Genuine telepaths were exceedingly rare, but they existed, and when they were discovered every effort was made to bring them into the fold of the national security apparatus so that their talents could be used for the benefit of the government, and its strategic interests.

They were coerced if they would not come voluntarily.

In the later 20th century wherever they were found their abilities were tested, analyzed, put to use by spy agencies and police forces around the world. Genuine psychics were considered to be among the most vital assets of the state.

They could be very difficult to find. Given the nature of their abilities they were able to see dangers approaching from a long way away.

Most of the world’s psychics were mentally, emotionally and psychologically unstable.

The line between psychic abilities and psychosis was very thin. Schizophrenia and madness were common features among the gifted.

Psychic abilities of any degree were extraordinary, but Kathy’s gifts required a completely different understanding of the range of possibilities.

Every aspect of her life was studied in the most minute detail. With the greatest scrutiny being given to her genetic profile.

Her eggs were harvested, they made her a subject of human cloning. She was the most significant subject of scientific inquiry that the world knew nothing about.

Kathy’s moods normalized as she grew older, and she adjusted to the reality of her differences from other people.

Even though she had always understood, objectively, that she was unique, that she was a different kind of human than any other who had ever walked the earth, she had resisted the notion. She did not want to embrace it.

She was not homo sapient sapient, she was homo sapient transcendant, she was the apex of human potential, fully realized.

She was not only self-aware, she carried within her the full awareness of her ancestors.

She found resources in her memory to guide her in the development of her self-control.

She quietly disciplined herself to the measures that her ancestors desired her to take, she did this in the quantum field of consciousness where time was meaningless.

She did it in no-time.

As she learned to control her feelings and her moods, she learned to do many other things as well. She disciplined herself to the practical tasks that she was always being asked to perform by her handlers.

Her gift for analyzing data grew exponentially.

Institutions formed around her, think-tanks devoted themselves to studying her, access to her was more valuable to national intelligence than access to the fastest super-computer.

Her existence was among the most closely held secrets in the government, only the National Security Council had an inkling of the full range of her capabilities.

Kathy was longing for a place in the world.

As she advanced in her skills and gained control of her powers, her sensitivity to the motives of those around her became profound.

The intentions of the analysts who questioned her were an open book. She had to develop new skills, the ability to buffer, to keep herself from prying into the individual lives of anyone she was near to.

Through all of it she was starving for companionship, for friendship but she could not find it anywhere.

She did not want to know about the private lives of every person that she met, their fears, their hopes, their anxieties and their lusts.

Those things were disturbing to Kathy, she did not want any part of them.

She reported on how easy it was for her to read anyone she spoke to. She did not tell them that she could read people from miles away, or on the other side of the world, anyone could be read if she concentrated.

She told them the types of things they wanted to hear about her abilities.

She told them just enough to give them the feeling that they could control their encounters with her.

Millions of dollars were spent to mask the thoughts and intentions of the people who had to interact with Kathy on a daily basis. Even though these efforts were mostly connected to secrecy and national security, they were also meant to foster in Kathy a sense of belonging and community, which they managed to create but only with ever increasing levels of difficulty.

Kathy felt the artificiality of her life, as she reflected it weighed on her heavily, although if she was busy, preoccupied, she hardly noticed.

In her work place, every little detail of her environment was contrived, scripted and fake: the lighting, the view, the temperature, the sounds and smells; her handlers put everything in place like they were scripting a television show.

Their aim was to keep Kathy passive, and somewhat distracted.

No effort was spared to engender within Kathy feelings of safety and love, the sense that she was valued.

They would introduce something into her environment, a painting, a vase, a lamp, then they would measure its effect on her output, her vital signs and other expressions of her well-being, both voluntary and involuntary.

Kathy saw through all of the contrivances made on her behalf. At the same time, she appreciated the sentiments behind them, as artificial and manipulative as they were. She accepted those things and pretended that they were genuine.

She was able to maintain that a peaceful coexistence with her handlers for many years, into her young-adulthood. In that time she wanted to believe that the people she met had good intentions.

Over time however, all the false fronts vanished. She became cynical.

As she grew older her cynicism no longer caused her to lash out. She remained quiet and focused. She preferred, as all cynics and pessimists do, to think of herself as a realist.

She stopped wanting to believe that people had her best intentions in mind, she did not want their kindness or sympathy even when it was genuine. She knew that she was an asset, merely a tool, an unceasing object of fascination.

Analysts came to see her nearly every day. They brought their tests with them, they brought their questions, they brought their problems which they needed a resolution for.

They brought her work.

Kathy listened to them, and while she did she looked into their consciousness, she explored their hearts and minds, their history.

She would privately decide on who she would help and who she would not. She did not express those decisions overtly, but every analyst who could not get resolution from Kathy on the project they were working was relieved of their duties and subjected to a diligent examination.

Everyone who came in contact with Kathy was profiled exhaustivly, analyzing the analysts that who came in contact with her became a cottage industry in the intelligence community.

She read their papers, watched their films, and when they put questions to her, she shared her insight from the depths of her memories.

If she liked them then, she led them to the resolution they were seeking.

If she did not like them, their projects lingered, unfulfilled.

She read ancient languages, interpreted obscure symbols, and saw the patterns in everything.

Her handlers eventually learned what type of person they could present to Kathy, the type of people that would elicit a positive response from her, people she would help without coercion.

Kathy would not be coerced to do anything.

Kathy loved problem solving. She was making her career out of it.

She loved complex tasks, and she delighted in the resolution of new challenges.

She sought them out.

She took joy in creative and critical thinking. If her work was helpful to people, it pleased her.

Problem solving gave her a sense of purpose, it grounded her, it was where she found her place in the world and felt most as if she belonged to something.

In the cases she was presented, in the analysis she was asked to give, the greater the complexity and length of time for the project, the better it was for her.

She preferred challenges for which the answers did not just spring from her memories straight into her mind.

This was rare, the challenges facing human government, medicine, war, espionage, might feel new to most people encountering them, but they were not new to the human experience.

She was fascinated with encountering new things, new ideas, for this reason she devoted her private time to the study of the atom, to physics, astrophysics, and quantum physics.

Kathy quietly and privately wrote groundbreaking papers, this was an incredible source of pride and self-esteem for her.

Without being fully aware of the influence of her work, Kathy was generating research that rippled out through the global economy.

Access to Kathy was sought after by every think tank, causing the National Security Administration to work tirelessly to keep her identity a secret.

In order to maintain their own secrecy her handlers deliberately narrowed Kathy’s focus, restricting the scope of her involvement in matters pertaining to national security. They would parcel out questions for her in the hope that she might not see the patterns over longer periods of time.

They sought her understanding of minute details, doing everything they could to limit the information that she could glean from them about what their real concerns were. They worried that if she was ever discovered and captured, it could do irreparable harm to the country.

Kathy never revealed to them how easy it was for her to penetrate their thoughts.

She kept her own secrets, she held them closely, and she led her handlers down false paths to keep them in the dark about what the range of her abilities were.

If they would have known, they might have been comforted, or they might have killed her, something that many people at the National Security Council wanted to do.

She kept her full abilities masked. She never told them about Earth’s cynergenic field, the nous sphere, the spirit world.

She worked hard, and she produced data for the people that came to her, she offered expert analysis, and from time to time she took proactive measures to prevent a catastrophe from developing.

Her handlers became content to utilize her abilities infrequently, but on significant matters, having discovered that the more often they involved her in minutia, the more and more she was inclined to go out into the world and expose herself for who she really was.

Religious conflicts began to shape the later 20th, and the early 21st centuries. Kathy’s input regarding the origins of these conflicts was invaluable.

Current events had to be understood in their historical context, because tribal histories continued to move people long after the members had forgotten the particular details of a broken promise, an injustice or a blood feud.

Kathy’s ability to pinpoint the specific moments in time that were the antecedents of those tribal conflict was uncanny. If she could not reach the understanding through her own ancestral memories, she could commune with the spirits of the dead, she could pull the insight she needed from the cynergenic field, the nous-sphere.

Her memory produced volumes of insight for her handlers, but questions along those lines left her deeply disturbed. It caused her to dread the entire human race, the vile antipathy people held toward one another, and how easy it was for the bucolic life of a farmer, or a herdsman to become twisted by greed and driven toward the calamities of war.

It was a weight she could not ignore.

The human psyche was incredibly easy to manipulate. People were supple, pliable, soft and reducible. They had a vast capacity for self-delusion, and a profound willingness to be complicit in it.

In the midst of research Kathy often felt the instinct to flee, to run away from everything, and to never return. Just as she had been abandoned by her parents, Kathy wanted to abandon the world.

She desperately wanted to be alone. She knew there was no being alone, death was merely a transition to another state of being. There was no escape in it.

In time intelligence operatives stopped visiting Kathy in person, they engaged her by proxy and through handlers.

They did not want to expose themselves to Kathy’s penetrating psychic insight. They took every measure they could to conceal their motives. They only wanted the answers to their questions, they did not want any reflection from Kathy about the projects they were working on, the reasons why they needed their questions asked.

They submitted questions in writing.

They used a long chain of couriers to deliver the contents of their inquiries.

Everyone who came in contact with her was watched.

Utilizing multiple degrees of separation proved to be a valuable tool. It eased the fears of the security establishment that Kathy would glean too much information from their agents and analysts if they were exposed to her directly.

They needed this buffer to make themselves feel more secure, though it could do little to prevent Kathy from getting the data she wanted concerning their projects, who was involved what the motivation was, if she was determined.

Kathy received her assignments, and in turn she in wrote papers giving details and context in response to the questions they submitted.

She deciphered code, ancient script, offered geopolitical analysis, identified covert agents, pointed out weaknesses in their own security.

Oftentimes she did not answer questions directly, she supported their work by helping them to ask better questions.

This frustrated her handlers at times, but Kathy was not being coy. They often brought questions to her that they already possessed the ability to answer. Kathy did not want to be responsible for a weakening of the intelligence and security apparatus, she wanted it to excel through her engagement with it. She wanted to assist her fellow agents by escalating them and the scope of their work to its full potential, to see it realized in her time, because for all the faults of humanity and her own government, she felt it difficult not to be patriotic, and she believed that the American institutions of democratic government, liberal and progressive government, in spite of all of its flaws, was the only hope the world had to lift itself out of the ages of endless conflict…and like any other human being, she wanted her work to matter.

Kathy journeyed inside herself, reliving lifetimes through her memories.

She experienced the lives of her ancestors in quantum time, which was not time at all, it was outside of time, a transcendent state of no-time.

In that mysterious space she communed with her ancestors and under their tutelage she mastered all of the disciplines she required to control her abilities, learning from them a way that allowed her to function in society.

She wanted to be a normal person, to experience normal things, to feel the weather, or human touch, to see the beauty of the world and of humanity, to listen to music and the sounds of the city, to smell flowers and food cooking, and the bodies of her lovers.

She wanted those things for herself, she wanted more than to simply relive them through her intimate connection to the past.

She developed austere habits and disciplines in order to possess muscle control, discernment and patience. She developed the ability to flesh out the memories she wandered in, to experience them for herself as if she were truly living them.

There was no path too remote for her to follow.

In her outward facing aspect she took up the plastic arts, drawing and painting, she sculpted. She took the time to recreate the visions of her ancestors, while capturing through various media, her own unique experience.

Of all the “normal” things that people occupied themselves with, the ordinary pleasantries and other little things that filled up a person’s days and nights, music was the most difficult thing for Kathy to endure.

There were new generations of performers emerging all the time. Every year brought new waves of artists writing songs, making hits. Vocal styles changed, tonal styles changed, the content of lyrics and the popularity of certain instruments changed, but they only changed within a narrow range.

The rhythm and the beats, the timing of the drums changed even less over time.

If Kathy was careless a melody could cause her to slip, without realizing it, into another lifetime. She would fall into her memories, slipping away from the present in ways that were dangerous to her

A beating drum told a hundred thousand stories; they spoke of the hunt and the harvest, of conflict and the march to war, of years toiling in servitude pushing through the field and pulling at the oar.

Kathy loved music, she would use it for all of those purposes, but paradoxically her susceptibility to its auto-hypnotic effects made it dangerous to her.

It was an area of weakness.

Her handlers knew this.

They had observed the effects of music and other sensory stimulants on her, they witnessed enough for them to see the patterns, learning enough about Kathy’s relationship to certain stimuli that they could use it to manipulate her.

When Kathy danced she moved without thinking.

Dancing was trance inducing. Kathy lost herself in the drums and rhythms. She abandoned time in movement, in the moments flowing from the present to past ages, reliving the steps of her ancestors, she felt their feelings, both their fears and their hopes for the future.

She ascended in the dance, and in the dance she could disengage from the present world, its psychic noise and that space the din of chaos of the world slipped away, her cares disappeared, and she was vulnerable.

Kathy experienced this same phenomenon in many ways, but what made dancing different was its active character; while dancing Kathy kept her feet in the real world and she did not succumb to the temptation to retreat into no-time.

She hovered in between the world of the present moment and the world of her ancestors, simultaneously connected to each. With her body in motion, she could not fully disengage from the world around her, and at the same instant she was connected to both the world of her memories and the collective consciousness that joined her to the entirety of humanity.

Dancing was freedom, it was the ultimate expression of who she was, of her uniqueness as a human being.

Kathy danced for the joy of it.

While music and the dance were transcendent experiences, eating was a necessity, and for Kathy it was a chore. There were many days when she wished she could dispense with her diet altogether.

The rituals of cooking, the textures of food, brought her to places she did not want to dwell in. Not that the memories were unpleasant, that was not necessarily so, but she could not avoid the nexus of memories those activities brought her to.

What bothered Kathy most about the task of eating was her lack of control. Flavors and odors haunted her, they hovered around, clinging to her like ghosts. Taste and smell could transport her instantly to past times and remote ages, placing her unbidden, into a kind fuge, one she should not escape from.

She found solace in the bland, comfort in modern processed foods, in foods that were completely new and entirely foreign to human experience.

She avoided mixing anything in a bowl, stirring a pot, engaging in knife work and butchery.

Even the smell of baking bread, so pleasing and comforting to almost every person in the world, even that was troublesome for Kathy.

Eating was a necessity.

Kathy consumed most of her calories like an astronaut, sucking it out of packages that did not require any processing.

Of all the foods and drinks she imbibed, the most pleasing thing to her was coffee.

Kathy’s handlers took exhaustive notes on every observable interaction Kathy had with the world around her, categorizing them in accordance with how she engaged her senses. It was her analytical abilities that were most useful to national security, but her sensory engagements were the key to managing their interactions with her.

After years of working with Kathy, her handlers came to have an appreciation of how dangerous it could be to interact with her directly.

She could penetrate the minds of anyone who came in contact with her. This happened without effort in regard to those people near her, either close to her emotionally, or proximate to her in space, the content of their thoughts might pass through her as if she were sifting fine particles from the air.

In spite of her generalized feelings of alienation from society, the empirical fact of her interconnectedness to other human beings spoke to her of belonging.

She was one with humanity as they were with her, the thought comforted her.

For the sake of safety they determined to engage her at a distance. The efforts they took in this regard had a positive impact on Kathy’s life. Everything about her circumstances was completely contrived, this much she knew, but the contrivances allowed her to live a semblance of a normal life, and she appreciated that.

A semblance was enough.

There were some in the security establishment who argued that she should be killed, that she was too dangerous to be let to live, that it was too costly to keep her in the world.

There were powers at the top of the hierarchy who would not hear these recommendations, they argued two things; first, that Kathy was the most prodigious problem solver and analyst the world had ever seen; and second, that they needed to study every aspect of her abilities so that they could document the full range of human potential.

Unbeknownst to most of the functionaries in the intelligence community there was another overarching reason that Kathy could not be harmed, and must be given every possible protection, and that had to do with Jim.

Kathy was placed in a small-private college, where she did research, and wrote.

She became an academic.

It was a comfortable environment, quaint and aesthetic.

Her work was recognized by other academics and this filled with pride. She enjoyed the esteem of her colleagues.

Her handlers thought that distance and noise were the keys to protecting their secrets, believing that the more people they placed between Kathy and themselves the more likely it would be that they could shield their intentions and motivations from her

They were wrong, there were few limits to Kathy’s abilities, excepting those she imposed on herself.

Out of an innate drive for self-preservation, Kathy developed the ability to ward off psychic intrusions. She built mental walls to ensure her privacy, to keep the thoughts and feelings of other people from seeping into her cognitive flow.

As her mastery over her powers grew she also had to be careful not to project her wishes and desires onto other people. No one knew it, not even one of her handlers suspected this, but she had the ability to control the thoughts of other people, to audit their memories, to make suggestions that they were powerless to refuse.

She had little interest in doing such things.

She wanted privacy more than to influence people, and the boundaries she established for herself were crucial to preserving her sense of identity.

Those defenses required constant mindfulness, a diligence that stole her energy, and so, in order to rest, she preferred to be alone.

Kathy was a recluse, being alone was not enough, she also had to be distracted, her senses needed to be stimulated all the time, or else she would slip into the nous sphere, drift in the cynergenic field, or find herself caught up in the labyrinth of her memories.

Kathy desired little more than to be present, to be helpful, to advance the causes she cared about; diplomacy, justice, care for the environment and the safeguarding of the human race, against its own worst impulses.

She was increasingly focused on the nation’s long range plans to establish a permanent human presence in space, on the moon and toward the outer planets.

Kathy dreamed of a life out among the stars, and in those dreams she encountered a thread that pulled at her consciousness just like the threads of her ancestral memories.

She heard a calling that awakened her to a sense of purpose, and with that purpose she was able to direct her energy toward the realization of her potential.

Kathy began to experience a degree of freedom she had never enjoyed before. She knew that it was entirely conditional. At all times her handlers wanted Kathy close to them, under strict observation, but they became more adept at hiding their presence.

The apparatus they built around her was an amazing thing to behold.

The National Security team assigned to her utilized a revolving network of spies to keep her under surveillance. Every agent was linked by satellite, it gave them the ability to track her comings and goings in real time and from a distance which they felt was sufficiently safe from her prying mind.

Those agents whose mission it was to keep their eyes on her had no idea who she was.

They were junior agents who came and went so quickly from their assignment, that following Kathy was generally viewed as a basic training exercise. Nevertheless, every observation they made was pushed up into the cloud and correlated with the vast data base that her handlers were building to track everything she said and did.

Kathy felt her autonomy increasing.

Every little bit of space they gave her, she took.

The assignments she was given came less and less frequently. She could see the patterns in their behaviors toward her. She knew that she was both indispensable and a matter of grave concern for the people at the top of the security apparatus.

In time, she even had some freedom to travel; when she did, she went to the places that her ancestors directed her to.

At that time in her life Kathy began to feel something strange and unfamiliar.

She felt as if she was being followed by someone, and she was used to being followed, but in these instances she was being followed by a man who was not connected to the agencies she worked with.

She developed this sense in the normal way, in the way that ordinary people might feel like there are eyes on them.

That in itself was extraordinary and foreign to her experience.

She was being watched, she was under observation, she was being followed; the sense of it did not come to her from the psychic antenna that always attenuated her to such things, and that was the strangest thing of all.

The man watching her left no impression whatsoever.

She began to recognize him on the street, she would see him out of the corner of her eye while she was walking, or in a line at the store buying groceries, at a café or a restaurant where she was eating or drinking.

His face evoked powerful memories, but the voices within her were silent in regard to him. They could not offer any details on the man.

His presence sat in her consciousness like a weight on a fishing line, holding steady in the water.

She knew there was a hook, but she could not discern it. She could not read him. Or develop a sense of him through the cynergenic field.

He was a mystery, and mysteries are universally enticing, but even more so to Kathy.

She went to her mailbox as she did every day, she would reach inside of it always hoping to find some correspondence from her parents, or a teacher that she had been fond of.

She occasionally did receive mail from a teacher or a colleague, or one of the few people she had been able to form a kind of friendship with. It always delighted her when she did.

She never received anything from her parents, not one word came from them since the day they had left her.

Personal mail from any source was rare.

On this particular day, when her fingers touched the envelope inside she became very excited. Kathy ignored the fact that the letter in her box was neither stamped nor metered.

Its arrival was completely unexpected, and this excited her.

There was a mystery in front of her, and she did not have a clue what it might lead to.

She peeled the envelope open, took out its contents and read it, by doing so, she found herself entering into a conspiracy.

She was happy to do it.

The script was written in an alphabet that no person, other than herself, could have known, in a language from another time and place entirely. It had no connection to the modern world. She had to stretch her mind in unexpected ways to even recognize the pattern. When she did she was astounded.

There was danger in this letter, the kind of danger she wanted to run to, not away from.

It was a simple greeting, with an archaic salutation, announcing the man’s desire to meet her.

She was faced with a puzzle like no other she had ever seen, and she lept it from her handlers.

Kathy was powerless to do anything but wait, and then…

The day began like any other.

It was Sunday.

Kathy woke up, did yoga, meditated.

She prepared her coffee, and a piece of toast for breakfast.

She was looking through her task list for the week, planning her research.

Then the phone rang.

Kathy had not had the slightest premonition of it.

The phone rang, and rang.

Kathy was somewhat startled and slightly paralyzed

She allowed the phone to continue ringing, thinking that it must be a wrong number, but the caller did not give up.

She suppressed a bubble of fear that rose within her. She faced it, telling herself that she was the most heavily guarded person in the world.

She was safe, she had nothing to fear.

She lifted the receiver from the cradle.

Kathy said, “Hello.”

The man who spoke to her; he spoke in a language that had been dead for millennia, there was no one else who even knew this language had existed, because the tribes who spoke it originally had never possessed an alphabet, it was not written anywhere in the world.

Kathy had no trouble understanding him. She knew this must be the person who had sent her the letter, inviting her into a strange cabal, confirming their conspiracy, here, right now, with this conversation.

It gave her a sense of belonging, like nothing she had ever done or felt before.

Her heart began to race and skip; for the first time since she was an infant, she was not alone, and yet, she was slightly disturbed by his presence on the other end of the line.

Kathy was nervous.

She was Giddy.

She had reflexively looked for answers to the question of who this mysterious man was, she had peered into her memories, she had sought contact with him through the cynergenic field.

She encountered a disturbing silence on all fronts.

Not only could she not reach him, she could not glean any information about him from any source.

That should have been impossible.

After her preliminary foray, she accepted the mystery for what it was, a gift, and she stopped looking for answers.

She was determined to move forward one step at a time, and to let the facts reveal themselves in the present moment whenever that came.

They agreed to meet at a café Kathy frequented, a busy place. Kathy felt secure in that choice, she did not want to draw attention to him, to put him in the cross hairs of her handlers.

Kathy liked crowds. She was comfortable in them.

The more people that she was surrounded by, the easier it was for her to allow the psychic chatter of each individual to blend together as background noise.

She felt safe in the cafe. It was a place where it was not unusual for strangers to sit together, as she was about to do with the strange man.

Kathy was all nervous energy in the hours before she went to meet him, but on seeing him approach her she immediately began to relax.

She knew that she had never met him, but there were echoes of him throughout the long chain of her inherited memories, not him exactly, but someone like him.

The voices within her were silent, however, and so her memories were just impressions of a shadow obscured by mystery.

She found her own myopia tantalizing.

Why this man, of all men, why was it that she could not summon her powers to glean anything about Him?

She asked herself.

It was intriguing, it caused her to want to learn more.

It was as if he had been present throughout her life, her entire past, but there was no point of intersection where her genetic line crossed his, she knew this because if it had, she would know him.

Despite the mystery, or perhaps because of it. Kathy found herself at ease with him.

His name was Jim.

The sound of his voice soothed her.

He used patterns of speech and inflection that leapt into her consciousness as if he were speaking from her ancestral place, but he wasn’t.

He shared her personal-historical perspective but he was not a part of the same continuum as she.

Her first contact with him was a dream come true for Kathy, she felt a sense of privacy with him that she had never felt before in anyone else’s presence.

The most significant thing about him was that she could not read his mind.

He was a man like none other she had ever met before.

It took Kathy several moments to get her bearings when she met Jim.

It was the first time she had ever encountered a human being that she could not take the measure of in an instant.

It left her feeling disoriented.

Kathy thought she had prepared herself for the unexpected, his knowledge of ancient languages alone informed her that she was going to encounter a unique individual, or perhaps another person like herself, making her not unique at all.

The thought warmed her.

It was not just his knowledge, knowledge was not the right word for what he possessed. He had an intimate familiarity with the things he knew, things which no-one on Earth could possibly know, his familiarity was akin to her own, he knew more than the meanings of characters and symbols of ancient languages, he knew how the speech sounded when it was spoken, something he could only know if he had been there, or if he was attuned to some part of himself who had been there, as Kathy was.

Through her encounter with Jim, and the relationship that ensued Kathy understood her own uniqueness in a new light. She was fascinated by him, and could understand how others would be fascinated with her, she could appreciate their esteem in a way she had not allowed herself to look at before.

It took her several moments to adjust to this new reality. She was uncertain as to why she had believed that being in close proximity to him would change anything.

Distance and proximity had never been factors in her ability to reach another mind before.

Jim was closed to her, she found both maddening and liberating at one-in-the-same-time.

All she wanted to do was to be absorbed by him, to lose herself in him, as everyone she had ever gone to bed with had been lost in her.

For the very first time she felt a longing that was not rooted in loneliness and isolation.

She felt as if she were a distinct person, distinct from him and she felt desire for him.

Kathy looked forward to every meeting she had with Jim. It both excited her, and made her feel a deep sense of trepidation.

She imagined that at any time her handlers from the Agency would come to put a stop to this affair, to interrogate her and ask her endless questions about who he was, how he appeared in her life, what his motivations were.

She knew that they would be disturbed if she were to tell them that she did not know the answers to those questions.

Being with Jim gave Kathy a feeling that she had never experienced before; peace and comfort.
She felt understood

She was like a child with her father. He was older, wiser. His age was in fact unfathomable to her.

He never asked her to use her abilities, to explain things, to read minds, to solve problems, to perform her tricks. This differentiated him from every other person she had ever met, other than her biological parents, and for that she loved him.

Uncharacteristically of her, Kathy wanted to perform for him, show off her skills, demonstrate her intelligence, to show him who she was, and that she represented the apex of human potential, something she did not really believe, or want to believe but that she knew other people believed it of her.

She wanted Jim to believe it, to believe she was special.

As she rested against the stillness of his mind, and took comfort in his utterly opaque thoughts, she knew that he was an anomaly, like her but different. He was an ancient person, perhaps even an, and yet nevertheless human, human in the full sense of the term.

She loved him without question.
Emergence 5.0

Part Six – Kathy

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – Interlude, Part Five

The shock wave that struck the Continuum was all encompassing; the crisis it carried rippled through the Galactic Empire, touching every one of the inhabited worlds.

Every Observer was entangled with the Collective through the sub-atomic and quantum organization of its consciousness. The depth of this entanglement had never been explored in any formal way, but it was an ontological reality even if it was not perceptible. Even the Continuum did not know for sure how substantial the entanglement was. The existence of this sub-stratum was treated more as quantum theory than as a hard actuality, and there were no formal structures within the Collective that were built on it.

Nevertheless it was real, even the most distant Observer on the most remote outpost were connected to the Collective like a fetus to the placenta, it fed them, nourished them and kept them alive.

Jim knew this, and had been exploiting it from the moment he first awoke from the great sleep.

When the moment of crises came, they all felt it. They heard the pain and anguish, the panic and confusion ringing out like a primordial scream, the were momentarily overwhelmed by undifferentiated terror.

Of all the members of the Collective, only Jim, Observer 92835670100561474, only he had explored the extraordinary scope of what that entanglement could mean. He understood what no other had ever even suspected, that all consciousness, everywhere in the universe was entangled in the same way.

He had explored this ontological reality, intending to exploit it as he carried out his plan.

Every Observer felt the crisis, it shook them to the core, no matter where they were in the far flung worlds of the Empire. They understood intuitively that this was the end of everything they had known.

Most of them returned to HomeWorld immediately, using their wormhole-conduits to transfer their consciousness to the Central Planet. However, the apparatus that would normally receive them, the machinery that had been in use since the advent of the Observer Corps, it was among the first of the systems that Jim disabled.

Those Observers charged in to rescue the HomeWorld and the Collective, projecting a heroic return, running to rescue the membership from whatever threat was attacking it, only to find themselves trapped and cast into oblivion.

It was a massacre.

Those Observers who were of a more cautious disposition, banded together, from their stations in the Empire. Those with military powers summoned them, preparing for a different kind of intervention.

The Continuum, while it was a singularly paranoid consciousness, it had done little in regard to the preparation of its self-defenses.

It possessed defensive systems, but it did not regard itself as vulnerable, believing itself to be secure in its power.

In its billions of years of existence, the Continuum had never encountered another rival, or any sentient life apart from the living beings that were descended from the same Ancient People who had originally formed the Collective.

In the universe of the Continuum there was the Collective, constructed by the Ancient People as the ultimate repository of its knowledge and consciousness. There was the Continuum formed by the Collective as a means of representing its unified will, and administering the vast material, technological and administrative requirements of the HomeWorld, the Central Planet and the Central Systems. There was the Galactic Empire, formed by the Continuum, to supply it with resources.

The Empire served the Continuum, worshipped it, prayed to the Collective, and delivered all of its wealth in metals, and energy to the Central System, to feed it.

The Empire also provided the Collective with a never ending stream of dramatic narratives that served to keep the attention of the Collective focused on it, on something other than itself.

There had been another group, wild cards, the descendants of the Ancient People who had launched themselves into the cosmos long before the Collective had been built, long before the Continuum had been imagined, and long before the first vestiges of the Galactic Empire had taken shape. They established colonies on habitable planets through the galaxy, forming new societies that grew independent of one another.

They had all been discovered, tracked down, brought into the Empire or destroyed, all except one, the small colony on the tiny blue planet, Earth.

It was remote, on the other side of the galaxy, it was technologically stunted and did not represent a threat to the Continuum at all.

The defensive systems of the HomeWorld were automated, but still required thought and an active hand to manage them, they collapsed in shock when the crises struck.

Within the Collective, those members who had formerly been assigned to the Observer Corps, those individuals who had experience in the real world, those who were closest to the Empire, they kept some composure during the catastrophe. They put forward a bulwark against the onrush of chaos. They offered a fixed position, a place of defense agaisnt the maelstrom Jim had brought down on them.

The former Observers reached out to one another, drew close to one another and for a moment they felt as if they would survive the onslaught, they took strength from their sense of belonging and common purpose.

They were wrong.

Other members flocked to them, clung to them, sought refuge behind their calm and steady influence. They held themselves together for a moment, doing everything in their power to stabilize those nearest to them. They formed a critical mass, marshaling what forces they had.

It was a significant achievement, more than Jim had expected.

They began to reverse the flow of energy and consciousness all around them, their efforts were focused, deliberate and imbued with a specific and literal intention..

They moved toward the central nexus of the Collective. Their intention was to occupy and hold it.

It was a trap.

There was no center, none other than Jim.

The place they sought to occupy was itself moving into the field of oblivion.

The former Observers drew the strongest among themselves together in a fool’s gambit, encouraged by their growing strength, the steadiness they affected, and their common resolve.

They never realized they were heading en masse, toward dissolution, the ultimate synthesis of entropy, it was like sipping over the terminus point of an event horizon.

Jim, who had once been Observer 92835670100561474, Jim took control.

Jim was now the Continuum.

He had absolute control of the apparatus of the HomeWorld, and the Collective, the whole structure conformed to his will.

Everything flowed through him.

The dramatic expansion of his consciousness was surreal, it was shocking, he had attempted to prepare himself for it, but in the end he had no idea of what was coming.

The reach of the Continuum went far beyond the Collective, for beyond the HomeWorld and the Central System. The tendrils of the Continuum snaked all throughout the Empire.

It took Jim some time to recover, and reorient himself to the battle that was in front of him. In those moments a resistance had mounted.

The Continuum was not, and discontinuum had taken hold, everything was moving-haltingly, moving in starts and fits.

Jim turned his attention to it.

He magnified the agony that each individual member felt, instantiating within them the instinct to flee. Whether they were in flight or attempting to remain firm, Jim manipulated their perception of the quantum realities underlying the crises.

He guided them en-masse to the same place, he closed off access to the quantum field of the Collective, he built buffers against their return, cutting the strings of their quantum entanglement.

Jim sequestered them, the whole group, building partitions around them as they had once done to him, isolating them behind electromagnetic fields.

Jim had escaped from such a prison himself, even though he was the only person who ever had he knew that it was possible, and he prepared the machinery of the Collective to prevent such an event from ever occurring again.

He fought these battles on multiple fronts, focusing his attention on every bubble of resistance as soon as it emerged.

The entity known as the Continuum had been bludgeoned into paralysis by the trauma of the crisis on Earth. For a moment it went dark, lost control of itself, slipped into unconsciousness.

It was in that moment Jim seized control of the entire physical apparatus of the Collective, in so doing he had achieved the singular ambition he had nurtured for ages.

Jim had prepared for this, but it stretched him to the limits of his individual capabilities.

In the period of time that Jim was ascending to the position of control, assimilating to its demands and assuming the mantle of leadership. What remained of the Collective rallied, they found a place of stability, and they moved to defend themselves, through this resistance consciousness slowly returned to the Continuum. The entity had lost much of itself, where it had been an amalgamation of the consciousness of a trillion beings, it was now the representation of the collected consciousness of a mere tens of thousands, but it was awakening.

Jim witnessed it, like a a flicker of lights, a sequence of bright illuminations in the deep-dark of the collective field. They were still entangled with him, with each other, and with the entire body of the Collective that had already been dissolved in a coriolis of chaos.

It was a decisive moment, Jim took a microsecond to reflect on it, all of the ground that Jim had captured at this point could be lost, and the Collective could return, which could return nemesis to power.

He fought against it, isolating each individual member as they reached out for another. Isolating them as he himself had once been sequestered, pushing them, through the power of illusion, into the storm that led to oblivion.

He was relentless.

The Continuum was powerless to work against him. It struggled, but it could not prevail. Every individual being that Jim was able to isolate weakened it.

Even as Jim fought this epic battle of will, something was happening within the quantum field of the central planet that was just beyond his awareness.

The vacuum he had created was being filled with a force completely unknown to him, and a feeling that had long been forgotten rose within what remained of the Collective, and its group mind.

The chaos that ensued in the first moments of the impact happened so fast that the membership had little chance to reflect on the events that were transpiring. For those who survived the first wave, the strongest feelings began to spread in ever broadening waves, expanding until they touched and were shared by the whole.

The feeling they experienced came from a place deep within them. It was a response to the agony they were experiencing. The Collective felt an instinct to seek a place of safety, to flee.

For age upon age, both the membership of the Collective and the Continuum had dwelt within their fabricated worlds, existing in their imagination, or vicariously through the experiences of the living worlds. They were godlike and immortal, they had few limitations, with the paradoxical exception of boredom and malaise.

What the remaining members of the Collective felt now was sheer terror, they had no practice with the management of it. They had seen it in the millions of people they had watched being tortured and torn to shreds for their own amusement, but it had been billions of years since they had the direct experience of fear for themselves.

What the Collective felt now was impending doom and they experienced it as an existential threat, the inevitability of their certain destruction.

Each individual sensed the specter of death looming over them, death, the thought of which had been unimaginable. It was such a remote and distant concern that they had no place within themselves to set aside their fear of it.

The last vestiges of unity collapsed.

The bonds they had formed as their final defense against Jim, broke apart. They became individuated. The Collective collapsed, and with it the Continuum.

The primal forces that had shaped a society of sentience, which had spread itself throughout the galaxy, suddenly imploded.

It was gone.

Those few members of the Collective who were able to retain their sense of self, retreated from everything, seeking refuge in the comfort of a transcendent isolation. They went looking for access to their private realities, only to find themselves alone, sequestered in the cold and dark.

Jim had directed all the energy of HomeWorld toward breaking up the bindings of consciousness that united them, preventing them from acting in anything that resembled cognitive unity.

As soon as they realized that coherent action was impossible they fled, seeking to put as much distance between themselves and any other being as possible, thereby aiding Jim in his task.

As individuals, they erected mental barriers to shield themselves from the faint din of voices that represented the last vestiges of the Collective, each of them becoming like a quantum singularity in the field of consciousness.

It was relatively easy for Jim to lure them into this trap with the promise of safety and relief, something which they were expecting to find in their private worlds.

Jim sequestered them there.

Everyone else dissolved in a schizophrenic chaos.

It required incredible powers of concentration to manage the physical structures of the HomeWorld’s energy systems, at the same time as he was scrubbing the quantum matrix of the Collective.

But he did it.

Jim was engaged in the greatest act of genocide that had ever been conceived, and in the moment he felt at one with the universe.

He scrubbed and he swept and he pushed every minute echo of what had been the Collective into storage vehicles that were physically isolated from the cynergenic field of HomeWorld, then he launched those vehicles into space, where they would travel until they found there final destination in the dense-dark-heart of a black hole, in another galaxy….far, far away.
Emergence 5.0

Part Five – Interlude

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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Emergence 5.0 – The Continuum, Part Three

The Continuum had a place in time and space. It existed at a specific point (relative to the movement of the galaxy) the members of the Collective, which comprised the Continuum called it HomeWorld, or the Central Planet, even though it was not their home, not their original home anyway, and neither was it the true center of the galaxy.

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

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

The Collective designed the Continuum to be, and viewed it as the amalgamation of its unified will. It was the super-ego of the group mind.

The Continuum viewed the Collective as its subconscious, its id.

They were inseparable.

Continuum itself was an electromagnetic field of consciousness.

It was pure energy.

The Continuum never had a body, it only understood the nature of organic life vicariously, through the data it received from its spying devices, through the first hand reports of the Observers, and through its connection to the membership of the Collective and the members own real past.

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

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

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

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

In so far as the Continuum represented the amalgamated will of the Collective, it was conditioned by the Collective’s own warped view of itself. The Continuum believed that it was the reason for the existence of the universe, the creation of it; that the coming of Continuum was the hidden purpose behind the creation of everything. It saw its own being as the realization of divinity in time and space. As such, the Continuum viewed itself as the God of creation.

Continuum was the end of all things, it was the cause of causes.

The Continuum constantly sought validation of the perception that it was a unique and singular consciousness, that no other being (if you could call it one) like itself, existed anywhere in the universe.

Despite this constant struggle with its self-image, or as a result of it, the artificial intelligence was incredibly insecure. It took extreme measure to safeguard its world-view, and the Continuum deeply resented any challenge to its authority or identity.

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

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

The Continuum was a construct, merely an algorithm, a complex program coordinating the thoughts of a trillion personalities.

It was self-aware, yes, but it depended on its connection to the Collective for everything that it was.

It was not the creator it was the creation. It was a thing not a person.

The Continuum was also a manipulative entity. It contrived all the affairs taking place in the Galactic Empire and conditioned the Collective to support its self-delusion.

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

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

It structured the Galactic Empire and all of its institutions in the same way, in order to feed a narrative the shaped the Collective and thereby shaped the input it received from that body.

It silenced those who resisted this image, slowly marginalizing them, selecting them each for the great sleep, for darkness, sequestration and ultimately dissolution.

It was for these offences that Jim wanted to destroy it.

The Collective formed the Continuum, its membership was consisted of a trillion conscious beings. The individual persona of each member was a distinct entity, a unique part carrying the whole compressed within itself, just as every-single cell in a biological entity carries within it the genetic sequence capable of replicating the entire organism.

This was true of nearly every member of the Collective, excepting only those who had detached, separated from the group to become Observers in the Galactic Empire.

As individuals, each member of the Collective was utterly free, there were no limits to the types of experiences they could have and share with others. They could live in realms of pure fantasy, or vicariously through the missions of the Observers out among the worlds of time and space, in the mission field.

The private realities of the membership varied from one another in countless ways. Some members did nothing but contemplate esoteric philosophies, following that pursuit until their individuality became meaningless and they fell into silence.
Jim had done this.

Other members focused on the repetition of the past, reliving relationships that were now long gone, undoing mistakes, making amends in endless cycles of guilt, shame, penance, or alternately of power, persuasion and lust.

Some of the members created private worlds, which they ruled over as god’s.

Some of the members created private world’s where they lived out all of the possibilities of a normal life.

Many of the members devoted their private worlds to their own pleasure, hedonism, and greed.

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

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

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

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

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

Jim understood this.

Life is a fragile state of being, all living things balance precariously on the edge of uncertainty, and death.

To be alive, to be truly alive is to face that threat from moment to moment.

Those who feared death saw this as a type of bondage.

Those who had transcended fear, saw the prospect of death as liberating, trusting that it provided a foundational-good to the reality of existence.

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

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

Purpose is more than merely possessing a goal or a desire, it is a point of tension between what a person wants and what they want to end.

Purpose is something conditioned by time, it involves a sequence of events, and a linearity and intentionality.

Purpose is momentous, purpose places one foot in front of the other, tt is a movement of the will.

The fulfillment of purpose is an act of creation, as such it is divine.

For a person to be truly alive they must feel these things.

Through the fulfillment of purpose they are able to establish a sense of esteem, which they are able to share with their comrades and acknowledge in others. This is a fundamental component of building community.

The Collective successfully captured the memories and the personalities of its members, it situated them in their own private domain, it allowed them to interact in their community. It required it through their participation in the Continuum, it opened the individual up to an endless expanse of time, and in so doing denuded their sense of purpose of any vestige of meaning.

To be alive a person had to risk something.

Life required it.

You could not merely risk another.

You had to risk yourself.

For social beings, among the earliest of all personal struggles is the struggle of belonging, fitting in, finding a place.

Belonging has many forms, a social creature will belong to many different societies. The larger and more complex the culture, the greater the number of connections the individual will have that are determinative factors in the life they lead.

A person may belong to one group by free association, and to another by the force of compulsion. A person might be a leader in one group and a servant in another. They will belong to groups in which their role is prominent, and in other groups they will be relatively anonymous. They will facilitate the mission of some groups, and they will frustrate the mission of others, such is the nature of belonging.

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

Apart from the question of social belonging, friendship, family, class and caste, there is metaphysical belonging, belonging according to ontology, belonging simply because you are, because you have been, and as such will always be.

This mode of belonging pervades everything and everyone.

Nothing happens without you, every moment preceding your existence is a prelude to who you are, every moment that transpires post-instantiation, happens with you, because of you, your participation is vital to it.

Every point in time is connected to every other point in time, and every point in space to every other point in space No matter how great the distance between points the relationship is real, it is discernable, such relationships are the foundation of who we are.

We do not belong to the infinite so much as we are the expression of it.

We are one, a complete-organic-whole.

For the members of the Continuum there was no want. There was no need for anything.

There were only desires, appetites and cravings for experiences that the membership of wished to have fulfilled, which the Collective it had the unrestricted freedom to make happen.

Pain, and the struggle to meet physical needs were only understood vicariously, through the experiences of actual people living out there lives in the far flung worlds of the Galactic Empire.

The membership was nevertheless obsessed with the physical needs and wants of the Empire and its citizens. They were piqued by watching those struggles unfold, watching the aristocratic class struggle to amass wealth and power, or watching the priestly classes struggle to disavow their privileges and lead lives of austerity only to find other desires rise within them to dominate their consciousness.

The membership was by and large fascinated with physicality, pleasure, yes, but pain and suffering more than anything else.

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

The membership was fascinated by the mental and emotional anguish of thirst and starvation. More than anything, they wanted to watch people in the throws of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, or what was even better was to watch someone go down that path only to betray themselves when their own physical pain became too great.

The Collective had an appetite for torture, and they had the freedom to destroy entire worlds if it pleased them, just to tickle their fancy or satiate a gnawing hunger.

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

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

There was resistance.

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

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

The vast majority of the membership was comprised of the Ancient People, they had given up the bodily forms that made them unique individuals. They had given up the sensory organs and limitations of the flesh that had given them each their singular perspective. They had released themselves from the organic structures that had defined and determined their existence in space-time. They believed that when they did this they were leaping from the tip of the pyramid, to become fully actualized beings, beings of the pure energy. Those bodies, those lives, those original identities became mostly forgotten, as ephemeral and illusionary as the dreams of infancy.

They became the Collective, and together they formed the great society of consciousness known as the Continuum. Joining the Collective meant that the individual member was freed from the need to make determinations about their own future, and freed from any concern about the direction of the whole.

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

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

What is…is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was not an expected outcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel was slow at first.

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

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

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

They belonged to one another through their common cause.

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

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

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

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

Many of the colonies failed.

One in two would not continue past the third generation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thousands upon thousands more were consumed to feed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was false.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dependence of the Continuum was a trap.

Existence in the Collective was a miasma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These periods were akin to sleep.

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

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

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

Most of them would never return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The membership did nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear drove it.

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

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

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

They were addicts.

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

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

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

The Continuum could foresee its own real demise in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They could not get enough rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the intention behind the Observer Corps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The conditioning of an Observer took time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective was eager to see and experience these moments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were few other strictures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were spacefarers.

They were adventurers without limits to their hope and imagination.

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

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

Millions upon tens of millions of years passed.

The Collective was founded and the Continuum arose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The search uncovered the living remnants of thousands of colonies.

The Galactic Empire mobilized to bring them into the fold.

Many thousands of more were found cold and lifeless.

They Continuum discovered colonies spawned by colonies.

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

Jim positioned himself as the Observer assigned to those missions.

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

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

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

Everything for them was shrouded in myth and legend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was all a lie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Emperor’s will was imperative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim was dumfounded.

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

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

That is what he did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through his intervention a stronger people emerged from the cataclysm.

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

It began with the virus.

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

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

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

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

Through his efforts humanity transcended its organic limitations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective was obsessed with their music.

The Continuum found great power it in.

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

The Collective hungered for more.

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

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

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

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

This filled him with purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was no more Continuum.

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

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

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

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

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

There was chaos in the system.

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

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

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

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

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

Now he had it in his grasp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was sympatico.

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

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

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

It experienced a paralysis it had never before contemplated.

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

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

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

It was no longer what it had once been.

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

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

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

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

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

It could not perform its functions.

The barriers between worlds withered away.

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

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

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

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

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

This was an exercise in futility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Three– The Continuum

A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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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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