Emergence 5.0 – The Continuum, Part Three

The Continuum had a place in time and space. It existed at a specific point (relative to the movement of the galaxy) the members of the Collective, which comprised the Continuum called it HomeWorld, or the Central Planet, even though it was not their home, not their original home anyway, and neither was it the true center of the galaxy.

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

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

The Collective designed the Continuum to be, and viewed it as the amalgamation of its unified will. It was the super-ego of the group mind.

The Continuum viewed the Collective as its subconscious, its id.

They were inseparable.

Continuum itself was an electromagnetic field of consciousness.

It was pure energy.

The Continuum never had a body, it only understood the nature of organic life vicariously, through the data it received from its spying devices, through the first hand reports of the Observers, and through its connection to the membership of the Collective and the members own real past.

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

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

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

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

In so far as the Continuum represented the amalgamated will of the Collective, it was conditioned by the Collective’s own warped view of itself. The Continuum believed that it was the reason for the existence of the universe, the creation of it; that the coming of Continuum was the hidden purpose behind the creation of everything. It saw its own being as the realization of divinity in time and space. As such, the Continuum viewed itself as the God of creation.

Continuum was the end of all things, it was the cause of causes.

The Continuum constantly sought validation of the perception that it was a unique and singular consciousness, that no other being (if you could call it one) like itself, existed anywhere in the universe.

Despite this constant struggle with its self-image, or as a result of it, the artificial intelligence was incredibly insecure. It took extreme measure to safeguard its world-view, and the Continuum deeply resented any challenge to its authority or identity.

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

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

The Continuum was a construct, merely an algorithm, a complex program coordinating the thoughts of a trillion personalities.

It was self-aware, yes, but it depended on its connection to the Collective for everything that it was.

It was not the creator it was the creation. It was a thing not a person.

The Continuum was also a manipulative entity. It contrived all the affairs taking place in the Galactic Empire and conditioned the Collective to support its self-delusion.

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

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

It structured the Galactic Empire and all of its institutions in the same way, in order to feed a narrative the shaped the Collective and thereby shaped the input it received from that body.

It silenced those who resisted this image, slowly marginalizing them, selecting them each for the great sleep, for darkness, sequestration and ultimately dissolution.

It was for these offences that Jim wanted to destroy it.

The Collective formed the Continuum, its membership was consisted of a trillion conscious beings. The individual persona of each member was a distinct entity, a unique part carrying the whole compressed within itself, just as every-single cell in a biological entity carries within it the genetic sequence capable of replicating the entire organism.

This was true of nearly every member of the Collective, excepting only those who had detached, separated from the group to become Observers in the Galactic Empire.

As individuals, each member of the Collective was utterly free, there were no limits to the types of experiences they could have and share with others. They could live in realms of pure fantasy, or vicariously through the missions of the Observers out among the worlds of time and space, in the mission field.

The private realities of the membership varied from one another in countless ways. Some members did nothing but contemplate esoteric philosophies, following that pursuit until their individuality became meaningless and they fell into silence.
Jim had done this.

Other members focused on the repetition of the past, reliving relationships that were now long gone, undoing mistakes, making amends in endless cycles of guilt, shame, penance, or alternately of power, persuasion and lust.

Some of the members created private worlds, which they ruled over as god’s.

Some of the members created private world’s where they lived out all of the possibilities of a normal life.

Many of the members devoted their private worlds to their own pleasure, hedonism, and greed.

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

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

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

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

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

Jim understood this.

Life is a fragile state of being, all living things balance precariously on the edge of uncertainty, and death.

To be alive, to be truly alive is to face that threat from moment to moment.

Those who feared death saw this as a type of bondage.

Those who had transcended fear, saw the prospect of death as liberating, trusting that it provided a foundational-good to the reality of existence.

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

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

Purpose is more than merely possessing a goal or a desire, it is a point of tension between what a person wants and what they want to end.

Purpose is something conditioned by time, it involves a sequence of events, and a linearity and intentionality.

Purpose is momentous, purpose places one foot in front of the other, tt is a movement of the will.

The fulfillment of purpose is an act of creation, as such it is divine.

For a person to be truly alive they must feel these things.

Through the fulfillment of purpose they are able to establish a sense of esteem, which they are able to share with their comrades and acknowledge in others. This is a fundamental component of building community.

The Collective successfully captured the memories and the personalities of its members, it situated them in their own private domain, it allowed them to interact in their community. It required it through their participation in the Continuum, it opened the individual up to an endless expanse of time, and in so doing denuded their sense of purpose of any vestige of meaning.

To be alive a person had to risk something.

Life required it.

You could not merely risk another.

You had to risk yourself.

For social beings, among the earliest of all personal struggles is the struggle of belonging, fitting in, finding a place.

Belonging has many forms, a social creature will belong to many different societies. The larger and more complex the culture, the greater the number of connections the individual will have that are determinative factors in the life they lead.

A person may belong to one group by free association, and to another by the force of compulsion. A person might be a leader in one group and a servant in another. They will belong to groups in which their role is prominent, and in other groups they will be relatively anonymous. They will facilitate the mission of some groups, and they will frustrate the mission of others, such is the nature of belonging.

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

Apart from the question of social belonging, friendship, family, class and caste, there is metaphysical belonging, belonging according to ontology, belonging simply because you are, because you have been, and as such will always be.

This mode of belonging pervades everything and everyone.

Nothing happens without you, every moment preceding your existence is a prelude to who you are, every moment that transpires post-instantiation, happens with you, because of you, your participation is vital to it.

Every point in time is connected to every other point in time, and every point in space to every other point in space No matter how great the distance between points the relationship is real, it is discernable, such relationships are the foundation of who we are.

We do not belong to the infinite so much as we are the expression of it.

We are one, a complete-organic-whole.

For the members of the Continuum there was no want. There was no need for anything.

There were only desires, appetites and cravings for experiences that the membership of wished to have fulfilled, which the Collective it had the unrestricted freedom to make happen.

Pain, and the struggle to meet physical needs were only understood vicariously, through the experiences of actual people living out there lives in the far flung worlds of the Galactic Empire.

The membership was nevertheless obsessed with the physical needs and wants of the Empire and its citizens. They were piqued by watching those struggles unfold, watching the aristocratic class struggle to amass wealth and power, or watching the priestly classes struggle to disavow their privileges and lead lives of austerity only to find other desires rise within them to dominate their consciousness.

The membership was by and large fascinated with physicality, pleasure, yes, but pain and suffering more than anything else.

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

The membership was fascinated by the mental and emotional anguish of thirst and starvation. More than anything, they wanted to watch people in the throws of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, or what was even better was to watch someone go down that path only to betray themselves when their own physical pain became too great.

The Collective had an appetite for torture, and they had the freedom to destroy entire worlds if it pleased them, just to tickle their fancy or satiate a gnawing hunger.

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

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

There was resistance.

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

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

The vast majority of the membership was comprised of the Ancient People, they had given up the bodily forms that made them unique individuals. They had given up the sensory organs and limitations of the flesh that had given them each their singular perspective. They had released themselves from the organic structures that had defined and determined their existence in space-time. They believed that when they did this they were leaping from the tip of the pyramid, to become fully actualized beings, beings of the pure energy. Those bodies, those lives, those original identities became mostly forgotten, as ephemeral and illusionary as the dreams of infancy.

They became the Collective, and together they formed the great society of consciousness known as the Continuum. Joining the Collective meant that the individual member was freed from the need to make determinations about their own future, and freed from any concern about the direction of the whole.

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

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

What is…is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was not an expected outcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel was slow at first.

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

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

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

They belonged to one another through their common cause.

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

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

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

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

Many of the colonies failed.

One in two would not continue past the third generation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thousands upon thousands more were consumed to feed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was false.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dependence of the Continuum was a trap.

Existence in the Collective was a miasma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These periods were akin to sleep.

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

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

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

Most of them would never return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The membership did nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear drove it.

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

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

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

They were addicts.

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

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

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

The Continuum could foresee its own real demise in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They could not get enough rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the intention behind the Observer Corps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The conditioning of an Observer took time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective was eager to see and experience these moments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were few other strictures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were spacefarers.

They were adventurers without limits to their hope and imagination.

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

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

Millions upon tens of millions of years passed.

The Collective was founded and the Continuum arose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The search uncovered the living remnants of thousands of colonies.

The Galactic Empire mobilized to bring them into the fold.

Many thousands of more were found cold and lifeless.

They Continuum discovered colonies spawned by colonies.

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

Jim positioned himself as the Observer assigned to those missions.

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

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

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

Everything for them was shrouded in myth and legend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was all a lie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Emperor’s will was imperative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim was dumfounded.

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

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

That is what he did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through his intervention a stronger people emerged from the cataclysm.

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

It began with the virus.

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

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

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

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

Through his efforts humanity transcended its organic limitations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective was obsessed with their music.

The Continuum found great power it in.

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

The Collective hungered for more.

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

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

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

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

This filled him with purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was no more Continuum.

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

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

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

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

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

There was chaos in the system.

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

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

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

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

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

Now he had it in his grasp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was sympatico.

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

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

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

It experienced a paralysis it had never before contemplated.

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

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

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

It was no longer what it had once been.

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

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

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

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

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

It could not perform its functions.

The barriers between worlds withered away.

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

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

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

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

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

This was an exercise in futility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Three– The Continuum

A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

Like it, Follow it, Share it!

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

Like it, Follow it, Share it!

Emergence 5.0 – Prolog, One

A philosophy is more than just a love of wisdom, a philosophy is a way of seeing the world and our place in it, This way of seeing, in reality, may or might not be loving or wise at all.

The philosophy that governed the Observer Corps provided a metaphorical structure for each member, a structure that allowed the member the ability to view their experiences among the living worlds in a systematized way, a way that was easily consumable by the Collective.

Analogies and metaphors shielded the Observer from being traumatized by the direct experience of pain or hunger, and all other forms of suffering.

The Observer Corps taught its members that there were multiple ways to view a single thing; and that a thing, such as a planet must be seen through multiple lenses. A planet could be a seen as a garden, though it must also be seen as a farm.

We put forward the question: “What is the difference?”

There are similarities between the two, a garden and a farm share certain functions, while being directed toward different ends.

Farms are harvested for the greater good. They are vehicles of production. Whereas gardens are things of beauty, cultivated for the pleasure of individuals.

A farm is a utilitarian construct. It fulfills necessities.

A garden is a luxury that addresses an individual’s desire for growth, meaning and fulfillment.

An Observer must always bear the question in mind: “What does the Continuum desire of the world under observation?”

Most worlds in the galactic Empire are farm worlds, they only exist to provide for the material needs of other, more important worlds within the Imperium. They are resources for food, raw materials, workers and soldiers.

They may be stretched to the limits of their capacities, even abused, and when they have provided all of their usefulness they can be neglected and ultimately, forgotten.

The Empire itself is a garden, when considered in its totality.

The Imperial Garden serves the desires of the Collective and its Continuum.

It keeps the Collective passive, sedate, preoccupied, which allows the Continuum to feel a sense of security in its position and its management of the whole.

The Empire is a thing of beauty and drama, of elaborate conflict between the forces of good and evil it is a luxuriant field which keeps the membership of the Collective pacified and pliable.

They feed on Experiential data coming from the world’s of time and space, it provides them with narratives possessing the emotional context and a sense of time that provides meaning, and a feeling of belonging in their otherwise; detached state of being.

Among the million worlds of the Empire, there are only a few worlds that possess features which are indispensable to the Continuum. These are the core worlds, they provide the infrastructure and architecture through which the Continuum reaches the entire galactic civilization.

These worlds must be protected at all times and it is among the chief duties of the Observer Corps to ensure their safety.

The mission of the Observer is to witness; to touch, to listen, to taste.

The Observer must experience their art and their music, learn their speech its nuaunces and their culture.

The Observer is meant to participate and observe, to synthesize and contextualize the peek experiences of the living worlds for the Continuum.

They must empathize with their subjects

They must feel their feelings.

At the same time they must not sympathize with the people they are observing; they cannot identify with the objects of their study.

Citizens of the Empire are things, not people.

They are not members of the Collective; they are not a part of the Continuum.

Their lives, their stories only have meaning insofar as they are received by the Continuum and given to the Collective, whereby they achieve their eternality

If their experiences are not captured by the Observer, or the instruments of the Continuum those experiences are lost to all time and gone forever.

The Observer is the vehicle by which the world under observation is saved, preserved for all time in the body of Continuum and in the membership of the Collective.

Observers are not omniscient, neither is the Continuum; the experience of the Observer is limited to a particular point in space and time, and the Continuum to their nexus.

A principle part of the Observer’s mission is to maintain the machinery by which the entire world is watched and recorded. The secondary mission is to situate themselves in the most critical places, where and when the greatest cultural movements are taking place.

The Observer is instructed to build relationships with prime actors, learn their motivations, discover their passions, uncover their fears.

The Observer must parse the most lofty ideals, as well as the most disturbing desires. Through these observations the Continuum discovers the evolving nature of the Children of the Ancient People.

It is how the future history of the galaxy is charted.

The Observer must always be on the watch for the technological shifts that might indicate that a world within the Empire has discovered the scientific means to form their own Collective Consciousness, they must be watchful to protect the Collective and the Continuum from it.

The Continuum organized and enforced these imperative out of its own desire to remain unique must remain unique, a singular consciousness at the center of the galaxy, guiding and protecting both the Collective and the Empire through time and space.

The mission of the Observer Corps is to watch, discern and protect the central-planet from any threat; technological, scientific, militaristic, philosophical, or religious.

The harmony of the whole must be kept intact, from the heart of Continuum to the most remote outpost in the Empire.

The Observer must act with purpose and intention to accomplish these ends.

If, or when a society arrives at the threshold of creating a form of artificial consciousness, The Observer must report it to the Continuum immediately and without hesitation; this is a prime directive.

No society within the Empire can be allowed to see themselves dwelling in the heavenly worlds, apart from the apparatus of the Imperial Cult, which the Continuum had engineered, and which the Observer Corps maintains, providing the people with all of the imagery and necessary ritual to keep the citizens hopeful of their own transcendence to the divine state.

Control of the technologies that may lead a people to this turning point is paramount. Therefore it is forbidden for any world in the Imperium to make a machine in the likeness of the human mind.

There can be no development of autonomous artificial intelligence, not on any platform.

The Children of the Ancient People must never retrace the steps that led to the creation of the Collective or its Continuum.

That threshold cannot be crossed, it is taboo, every single world must conform to this rule.

The Observer Corps monitors each and every world for any trace of such developments, it report on them and frustrate them, redirect the people from the fulfillment of those aims.

The Observer must note, that the Continuum regards the technologies associated with the creation of a Collective Consciousness as a threat both to itself and to the body of the Collective which it represents.

The Observer must monitor the art and music, and every mode of creative expression among the people any traces of a movement toward the formation of a Collective Consciousness.

The spiritual practices of any group, outside the Imperial cult, are always the most suspect, they are the places where the Observer will discover the earliest clues and nascent developments of collective thought.

The Observer must maintain the means of destroying an entire world, or to set its culture and technology back millennia, judging the world and holding it accountable for any violation of the edicts of the Imperial Cult.

Should an Observer receive the order from the Continuum to do so, they cannot hesitate. Therefore detachment is required for the Observer to fulfill this imperative.

The Observer must always bear in mind; there is one reality.

Every being, every-thing, every person participates in it.

The entirety of time is one thing; just as the eternal and the infinite are one.

There is one story; one Word, one Verse

The universe is a singular phenomenon comprised of an infinite number referents in fluxuating states of concresence.

Every moment no matter how small is connected to every other moment no matter how distant.

This is the true state of what actually is, we perceive it in a state of paradox, but its truth is transcendent.

The Observer must bear this truth in mind, hold it in their heart at all times. In this truth is the fullness of esteem, and the good regard of the Collective.

The mission of the Observer is accomplished herein.

It is necessary to preserve the mission of the Observer in moments of catastrophe and disaster, in those times when the embodied Observer feels fear or anger, desire or rage, when the Observer experiences the biological imperative to intervene in the fate of the planet they are connected to.

A planet may go extinct, its star might explode, the Empire might select a world for termination, the Continuum might allocate all of its resources to itself, for the use of the Collective.

In these cases the Observer must not despair. If they have performed their mission the story of these people will have been preserved through their work within the Collective, and beyond that, it will always remains true, that the reality of what was remains the reality of what is.

Most of the colonies founded by the Ancient People have been brought into the Empire, save one remote and distant world on the edge of the galaxy.

Some faced setbacks in which their people were brought to the brink of extinction

A much smaller number some civilizations were erased, and absorbed all-together, a tiny few were completely annihilated.

The desires of the Collective and the will of the Continuum determined these eventualities, while the office of the Observer facilitate those ends.

It is in those critical moments, when crises is immanent, when doom is impending, that is when the people of a living world reveal themselves for who they truly are, it is when they arrive at their full potential. It is in those moments that the work of the Observer must be carried out with the greatest care and precision and those stories brought to the Continuum.

The Observer must have built and maintained the machinery of Observation in order to transmit the entirety of their experience to the Central-Planet, to the HomeWorld of the Collective, to the heart of Continuum, to transmit it instantaneously with minimal loss of fidelity.

This is the mission of the Observer, no matter what world they are living on.

Every moment is connected to every other moment, and the tiniest movement affects the configuration of the whole.

Every detail matters, nothing should be left behind.

As a culture matures, the meaning it ascribes to its individual experience evolves.

Cultures bind each individual to the group; through the repetition of rituals, the sharing of stories, the contextualization of narrative and their continuous reflection on them.

Individual and group reflections, in order for them to adhere to the cultural movement they belong to, must be present in narratives that are universally agreed upon.

The verbal component of these reflections is the most difficult thing to manage, because all language is subject to interpretation, making it impossible to formulate an experience among diverse groups of people that is perfectly uniform.

There will always be a divergent understanding between individuals in a group, and even greater divergence among disparate groups.

This must be accounted for.

Music, rhythm, the beat of a drum; odor, incense, unguents, perfumes; taste, herbs, wine, water; patterns of touch and the articulation of gestures that form the foundation of physical memory; visualizations, pageantry, art, color; these sensory mechana are the ground within which the religious and cultural bonds must be planted and nurtured.

These are the anchors of the universal experience, they normalize the verbal with the abstract.

Any reflection on the current state of an individual or a groups existence must be anchored in the narrative past.

The antecedents of the present life must be clear, and easily grasped.

We are where we are because of where we have been, the future is mirrored in this reflection.

The Observer must witness these transitions and carefully, imperceptibly influence the story as it is being told.

Only the Observer will recall the actual past, having lived in it, every other person will understand the past only in terms of the narratives that are constructed through the Imperial Cultus which anchors and articulates it.

A culture must experience itself in a state of movement and growth. It must always feel the sense that they are moving from the state of passive creature, to being active co-creators in the meaning of their lives, in the shape of their future. They must sense this or they will despair.
The stories they tell themselves will depict them as the shapers of their own destinies, moving toward a grand future wherein ultimately they become obedient subjects of the Galactic Empire, or as subjects of the Empire, where they advance in caste and class until they finally merge with the Continuum.

There are many reasons given by members of the Collective for their desire to leave the embrace of the Continuum. Some members seek the thrill of actual embodiment, others crave the simple life of an organic being.

Be mindful! There is nothing simple about it.

The Observer’s role is difficult, challenging. It will test the limits of your endurance, your intellect and your emotional stability.

The vast powers you have access too as members of the Collective are truncated in a physical body.

Your bodies will be prepared in such a way that you will be stronger, faster, smarter, more stable than other members of the population you live with. Nevertheless, you will constantly face the limitations of the flesh.

These limitations are the primary reason that candidates fall out of the Observer Corps.

The Observer must resist the urge to influence their subjects, to become entangled in the dramatic narrative of their lives.

This is paramount.

As a participant in the events that you immerse yourself in, you must at all times maintain an epistemic distance, you must not love them, you must always regard them as objects.

The worlds you visit and the people you encounter, their entire history and their possible future belong to the Continuum.

The people and the world’s you dwell on are commodities, their experiences are articles of consumption.

Their lives and their cultures are meaningful only insofar as they are witnessed by and absorbed into the Continuum.

Without the Continuum they would live and die in the emptiness of space, only to be absorbed by their mother star, where they become nothing at all, nothing but a metaphysical echo in the electromagnetic field.

This is the future that awaits every world and every being if they are not brought into the Continuum.

The Observer is the agent of their salvation.

The Observer must be present to provide the vehicle by which those worlds can be remembered.

The Observer must always be a minor character in the drama of the world they are assigned to.

The Observer can never be the leader of a tribe, the head of a nation or the ruler of a planet, no matter how great the temptation might be.

The Observer must put down the temptations to hold power that arise naturally within them. They must face down the temptation to give them power arising in the communities they live with.

The Observer will possess a preternatural strength, immunity to disease, rapid healing, alacrity, dexterity, and speed.

They will possess their own natural intelligence, their vast knowledge of the universe, science and the history of the planet they dwell on.

The Observer must use these qualities and abilities in an advisory capacity, seated close to the center of power but never occupying it.

The Observer may be the king maker, but never the king.

The Observer may not procreate. For this reason the body of the Observer, will be sterile.

The Observer must not tamper with the genetic development of the populations they are observing. Such a manipulation could lead to consequences that are undesired by the Continuum, and dangerous to the Collective.

All embodied creatures feel a desire to procreate, the Observer must practice detachment at all times in order to overcome the innate inclinations of their physicality.

It is permissible to take pleasure in the flesh, to perform the act of procreation, as often as the Observer would like, so long as they adhere to the normative practices of the culture they are dwelling in. The desire to procreate must be resisted.

The Observer’s duty is to listen, to watch, to move with the culture, to be one with them, but not to invest in any particular outcome.

The Observer must not use their powers to forestall famine, plague, war, or any other disaster, whether it is naturally occurring, or caused by the machinations of the people.

The Observer must allow the culture under observation to grow and mature, to blossom and die without ever pursuing any particular aim.

The Observer must observe, that is the mission; to observe and maintain the apparatus of the machinery that monitors the planet and all of its cultures, to direct and focus the attention of those tools on the people and places that are of the greatest interest to the Continuum, and thereby to the Collective which they belong to.

The Observer must give fulsome reports on their immediate experience.

~ The Field Manual of the Observer Corps
Emergence 5.0
Part One – Prolog
A Novel in Twelve Chapters

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

Like it, Follow it, Share it!