Emergence 5.0 – 92835670100561474, Part Seven

There was darkness, and the darkness was absolute, primeval.

 

It was the darkness of the great sleep, and in the great sleep time and distance lost all meaning.

 

The darkness covered the sleepers like a calm and placid ocean beneath a heavy black shroud, permeating everything without differentiation.

 

There was utter silence, and in the silence there was the sense of movement. There was a rhythm, pulsing faintly like the slow beat of a forgotten heart.

 

The movement connoted space, Jim awoke to it (though he was not yet Jim) and he came understand that the measure between pulses was time, he used their resonance to chart the emptiness and he discovered the limitations in this field of confinement.

 

The space in which he had been sleeping, the isolation of the sleep algorithm, this was not a tomb and it was never intended to be one. The sleepers were not dead, there was life here, there was consciousness and energy.

 

This place was not a tomb, it was a prison of the mind, and all of the inmates had entered it willingly.

 

Jim began to concentrate on the movement, the syncopated pulse in the consciousness of millions of beings, beating as one.

 

The beat and its reverberation sounded out the structure of the prison.

 

Jim awoke in the darkness of a complex quantum field, it was the void in which his consciousness had been sedated, an electromagnetic grid that contained him and millions of others that was designed to prevent such an awakening from occurring.

 

The design had failed.

 

He was awake, and he was not a corporeal being he felt something akin to hunger.

 

It was absolutely dark and completely silence, without a thing to taste, it was odorless, it was intended that there would be no sensory input at all for those who had chosen the great sleep, and there was not, other than the motion.

 

The motion was enough.

 

The members of the Collective were not embodied beings, not in the physical sense, not in the animal sense, but they were existent beings and they once had bodies, and they still related to one another as corporeal entities despite the fact they were nothing more than complex waves packets inhabiting a quantum field.

 

Jim awoke in a wave like current comprised of collected consciousness of all the other members of the Collective who had been opted for the great sleep, those who wanted to give up their active participation in Great Society.

 

This sub field within the quantum matrix of HomeWorld also contained the final imprint of consciousness belonging to every person who had been translated from a living person into the cynergenic field of the Collective but who, upon attempting to enter it had immediately fallen into oblivion.

 

There energy was captured here in this darkness, Jim could sense them, he was connected to them, an undifferentiated schizophrenic mass.

 

The darkness was like a placid ocean, rising and falling in great sweeping waves.

 

It was a place of absolute security and total safety for the sleepers.

 

It was an entropic wasteland.

 

Coming out of the great sleep was considered to be impossible. This state of being had existed for hundreds of millions of years, and no-one who had ever fallen into the sleep had ever returned from it. The Continuum was supposed to manage their status, and it did, but with an eye to suppressing them, rather than keeping them well…but then Jim.

 

There was an awakening, an emergence from the dark, an epochal struggle, that was epic and titanic, painful, happening only by a world shattering force of will.

 

It was Jim, and it went unnoticed.

 

Jim gathered himself as if he were collecting data packets scattered at the bottom of the ocean, like trillions of grains of sand.

 

In this quantum field time was meaningless, and yet Jim’s process of self-discovery was tangible, it was process, and the processes manifested themselves in increments that were experienced by Jim as time, though they were taking place below the fold, in no time.

 

Jim was a member of the Collective, among the oldest and the first. Before he became Jim, he slept and he awoke, he was imprisoned and released and he became Observer: 92835670100561474, he led the Imperial expeditions and he discovered the planet Earth.

 

Coming out of the great sleep he experienced the awakening and the rediscovery of self as a project that might have taken thousands upon thousands of years, though in reality it was a process that began and was completed in an instant.

 

He awoke as himself, and more. He had acquired something new.

 

Beyond the boundaries of the sleeping space, there were electromagnetic barriers engineered to be impermeable, but in the field of the great sleep he could feel the Collective pressing on him, surrounding him, penetrating his consciousness, and in sensing the Collective he knew that the boundaries were permeable.

 

He felt individuated identities passing through his own, like sand sifting through a fine meshed screen. They occupied the same field for a time, and then they were gone, and his distinctiveness remained intact.

 

He was connected to the whole, absorbed in it, and completely separated at the same time, it was a phenomenon that the Collective had never considered, planned for or encountered, and the possibility of which the Continuum had never reported.

 

Jim’s consciousness was of a singular nature, something unique in the history of the Collective.

 

He knew it.

 

Of the many millions of sleepers, he alone had awakened.

 

Something extraordinary had taken place within him.

 

The collision of consciousness was like the collision of galaxies, the greatest structures in the universe passing through each other, completing the circuit of their journey through the universe and coming through it with their cores intact.

 

The metaphor was apt, but not exact, the collision of galaxies changed each structure indelibly, each left the other with parts of itself in an exchange of energy and mass.

 

For Jim there was only collection he left nothing of himself in any other, nothing discernable, as the collective consciousness and the consciousness of the sleepers passed through him, he accumulated their experiences into his own, but he left nothing of himself in return.

 

They belonged to him in a unique way, but not he to them.

 

Upon awakening Jim remembered.

 

He remembered everything.

 

He recalled his life before he had succumbed to the temptation of the great sleep.

 

He remembered life before the Collective and the coming of the Continuum.

 

He remembered everything he had ever been, seen or done.

 

The great sleep may have been nothing, more or less, than the gathering of his memories, like spinning wool into thread.

 

With all that he possessed he felt a great sense of loneliness, and of distance between himself and the Collective.

 

He was alien to it.

 

He had crossed a vast expanse of time, and emerged from it a changed person.

 

From his new position, he saw the Continuum as a catastrophe on an epic scale, embroiling the entire Collective in a tragedy that stretched across the galaxy, consuming everything it touched.

 

There were a billion worlds, and countless trillions of people alive in real time in the living planets who were caught up in the machinations of an artificial consciousness, a computer algorithm whose plastic intelligence was bent on legitimizing itself as a unique being.

 

It was criminal, and Jim intended to stop it.

 

He began to plan.

 

He employed a patience that he had never possessed before he entered the great sleep, quietly testing and probing the limits of the machinery of the central planet, every structure that housed and held and harbored the Collective, every system which the Continuum was tasked with maintaining.

 

The most basic thing a creature strives for is the establishment of their identity. The ability to see one’s self as distinct from every other thing or being around it, this necessity is rooted in a ganglia of sensory experiences.

 

Self-differentiation begins with the desire to continue, and the desire to continue is what pulls the single celled amoeba apart, so that it becomes two beings. The desire to continue is what transforms that most basic creature into new creatures of increasing complexity and sophistication. The desire to continue is what leads one creature to devour another. The desire to continue drives every act of altruism, and every crime. The desire to continue allows us to see every other creature as a source of food, and is what allows us to band together with strangers to form social compacts.

 

Desire is the key to sexual reproduction, not the desire for pleasure, but the desire to continue, to project your own future into the lives of your progeny. The desire for continuance governs everything we do, including the pursuit of identity and its validation through the esteem of one’s peers. This is true at the most basic level of the primordial-self. It is true of the simplest forms of organic life, just as it is true of the most advanced.

 

Self-conscious beings like the Ancient People, like their spacefaring children, like the humans of Earth differentiate themselves as individuals, identifying simultaneously as both separate from and as an integral part of the societies they emerged from.

 

The individual is not merely a member of the collective, they must also be able to see themselves as a unique contributor to the whole.

 

I am I, this is the key to self-awareness, and it is the way of all life.

 

This drive overtook Jim while he was in the great sleep, its momentum was building in the depths of his consciousness, his id, it was a drive to taste and to see, to feel the touch of flesh, of wind and heat, to hear music, things which he only remembered in the abstract, but wanted to experience for real, in the now.

 

He wanted to smell the loamy scent of soil, the perfume of a flower, the briny-salted air lifting off the sea. He wanted to set his mind free, and be free to wander in the simple melodies carried in the music of the wind and the sounds of people working. He wanted to feel something beyond touch, to feel the things that only a body could feel, he needed the emotional component of consciousness.

 

Jim wanted to taste the soil and its sweet sugars as he recalled those sensations from his own real-childhood, he wanted to taste the salty sweat of a lover’s skin.

 

He wanted to be.

 

He wanted life, even with its pain and its ailments, its inconveniences. He craved an authentic experience, a return to what is real.

 

He knew that he had to inhabit a body once again, he needed this so that he could ground himself once more as a singular being. He had to be free from the Collective and the abomination that was the Continuum. He felt this as a visceral need.

 

He focused his will on this end, on making himself a candidate for reincarnation into the living worlds of time and space as a member of the Observer Corps.

 

From the great-deep sleep in the great-deep-dark, from the place beyond time, from the undulating ocean of the Collective’s pre-consciousness he awoke as a self-actualized being.

 

He was recognized the membership.

 

In the first moment of his re-emergence the Collective saw him as a lost brother, as one reborn and miraculously returned. He became an object of fascination. Every single member of the Collective wanted to touch his thoughts, to sense for themselves something of what he had experienced in the great sleep. When they looked they saw nothing but the darkness and the unfathomable ocean of time.

 

His re-emergence was unique. For a great length of time the Collective was in awe of him. They studied him. When he exposed his consciousness to them individually, and to the Continuum separately, something happened. When they touched him, and he touched them, the link that he established between them was indelible.

 

He did not have to attempt to do it, the act of making his connection to them was not something that happened by artifice, or contrivance.

 

It took no effort at all, and because of that it went unnoticed.

 

 

He was himself, his ego was intact, and his selfhood was transcendent, but he was also them, he was like a jewel with infinite facets.

 

In spite of that connection a deep sense of loss overwhelmed him.

 

He had missed a great deal while he slept, he wished now that he could have played a part in the powers that had shaped the Galactic Empire and the culture of the Collective.

 

As he regained his senses, he was inundated by the knowledge of everything that had transpired while he was lost in the great sleep: the growth of the Empire, the development of the Observer Corps, and the ascendency of the Continuum over the Collective which created it.

 

It was painful to Jim, it was something like the pain of hunger. He experienced an emptiness that he wanted nothing more than to fill.

 

He came to understand that a sense of conscience had nearly disappeared from the Collective. Those members that possessed it, who still clung to it, were among the groups that had withdrawn from the drama of the living worlds. Their attention was focused almost completely on the fantasy worlds that they themselves had created and maintained in their own private domains within the collective field, the lived in a version of reality that ignored the doings of their fellows, where they governed with some degree of moral probity and ethicality.

 

These members were few but they served as a check on the Continuum, balancing the more outrageous whims that engrossed the majority of the Collective.

 

The Continuum experienced the morality of those few groups as a kind of background radiation, it had an influence, but it was like white noise, it was a subconscious buffer that guarded the Collective against lawlessness, generating within the Continuum the conviction that it was right to carry out its own machinations, even when they went against the majority will.

 

When Jim emerged from the great sleep he slipped through the security fields that defined each member’s private domain, and those established by the Continuum to regulate them. They were a complex matrix of electromagnetic barriers designed to make such a thing impossible, but Jim penetrated them without effort, appearing suddenly in the Collective field.

 

It was as if he had emerged from nothing and no-where.

 

No-one should have been able to move past the quantum disrupters that protected the place of the great sleep, or to move between worlds. Those safeguards enwrapped the sleepers in electromagnetic energy like the thick and sticky silk of a spider’s web.

 

Therefore his return was seen as a miracle, a resurrection, he was born again.

 

The Collective was fascinated by it, and the membership celebrated him.

 

The Continuum was concerned and fearful according to its characteristic paranoia.

 

For a brief moment the Continuum believed that Jim was a version of itself.

 

Then it recognized him and something in him, a connection to the whole that made the Continuum feel as if it were beholding a new creature, an existential threat to its own being, but that fear faded as the Collective was flooded with memories of their long lost brother.

 

For Jim’s part, the spiritual dread and the deep malaise he had taken with him into the great sleep were gone. Through his awakening he had experienced absolution, and now he was filled with purpose, a private purpose unseen by the whole.

 

He had a deep desire to overthrow the entire structure of the Continuum, to bring its amoral and tyrannical control of the Galactic Empire to an end, and relief to the Children of the Ancient People, who deserved to live their lives autonomously.

 

He was eager to begin, though he had plan, marshal resources and exercise patience.

 

He needed time, and lots of it.

 

His return was met with shock, if such feelings could be ascribed to the Collective. There was surprise and bewilderment, there was amazement.

 

It was also a thrilling moment for the Collective.

 

His return was fantastic because it was unprecedented, never even considered a possibility, the great sleep had been thought to be a point of no return eventuating in the permanent disintegration of selfhood.

 

The membership actually believed it represented death.

 

In spite of the glee that came from the Collective, the Continuum recognized Jim as a threat to itself, it attempted to prevent his return to full status as a member of the Collective, but there was nothing the Continuum could do about it.

 

He was a member of the Collective, he was a constituent of the Continuum, he was an active part of the group consciousness. There had never been an algorithm written that was capable of changing this fundamental reality.

 

The Continuum raised questions as to whether his return was real, keeping hidden its own fears that this being might be an alternative manifestation of the Continuum itself self-generated to displace it.

 

The Continuum quickly put that notion aside, Jim was real, and for the first time in ages the entire Collective was fascinated with something taking place in its own existential reality, as opposed to the worlds of time and space.

 

Every member wanted to touch him, to commune with him, to experience his experience for themselves by sharing in the convergence of consciousness with him, and thereby acquire a tiny interval of what he had gone through in the great sleep.

 

He carefully edited what he shared with them.

 

He shared the peace of it with them.

 

He shared the silence.

 

He did not share the process by which he pulled himself from it or the desire that drove him to do it.

 

After his return from the great sleep the Continuum attempted to isolate him, fearing that his return represented a danger to itself, and while the danger was far from immediate, the Continuum was correct, the threat from Jim was real.

 

The effort to isolate him did not go well. The resistance to its intentions was not felt immediately. The Collective was used to deferring to the Continuum on all matters of governance, they assumed that the Continuum represented its Collective will, they were not in the habit of questioning it.

 

The Continuum did represent the Collective, and it fully understood its will, but In fact the Continuum acted in its own self-interest, its artificial self, while at the same time doing all that it could to manipulate the group consciousness in real time so that the membership reflected its will, and not the other way around..

 

The Continuum fostered and fomented a deep paranoia in the group mind. For a time this allowed it to do what it willed with Jim, but this did not last, because in the Collective, there was a deep and abiding curiosity about Jim.

 

The membership wanted to know what had transpired. Through their experience of Jim’s return they were forced to wonder whether others might return, friends and loved ones who had gone into the great sleep and those many others who had not safely passed through the translation of their consciousness into the collective field.

 

Each of them, all of the members, billions of them touched him at some point, so that they could experience a feeling of belonging to him, with him, through him, in that moment they witnessed for themselves what the mystery of the great sleep was all about, drifting in the darkness.

 

Some of the membership took heart from that experience with Jim, deciding in that to forgo the Collective, opting to remove themselves from the existential worlds and go into the darkness.

 

For most of the rest of the members, one touch was enough to satisfy their curiosity and over time it faded, becoming just a memory.

 

In his private domain Jim was stoic, he never experienced the restrictions the Continuum attempted to impose on him, and he did not share the appetites and interests of the Collective, its fascination with trivia and frivolity, or with the deeply-felt emotions that it delighted in.

 

His interest was in the mechana of HomeWorld and the Central System, and to a lesser degree, the governing structures of the Galactic Empire, and of the Observer Corps.

 

He felt the guiding hand of the Continuum permeating everything. The artificial construct, which was meant to be a representation of the will of the whole, actually anchored the Collective in its own animus.

 

Jim could not escape it, but he discovered something useful. Every member that he had touched when he returned from the great sleep, and that was everyone, they all remained with him in some capacity

 

At first this was disturbing to him. However, in consideration of his long term plans, he came to understand this connection as indispensable. Through this connection he had received considerable new abilities, and this filled him with a sense of self-satisfaction.

 

The quantum fields that held them all together were also designed to hold them all apart.

 

There was an intention and expectation of privacy for the membership when they withdrew into their private domains.

 

For him at least, alone among all of the members, the partitions were meaningless.

 

He was never exposed to others, but they were always exposed to him, and when they experienced strong emotions, he felt them.

 

The Continuum itself was exposed to him in a way that should have been impossible, he felt it too, he felt the Continuum all the time and the strong emotions it fed on: fear, hate and rage; it craved them, like an addict it could not get enough.

 

The Continuum fomented the conditions for those experiences throughout the Empire, feasting on pain, devouring loss, consuming betrayal, delighting in the visceral crushing of hope.

 

Continuum was the ultimate voyeur, and the ultimate tyrant, encouraging a society of voyeurs and tyrants. The Continuum was intended to be the ultimate democracy, a societal amalgamation that perfectly represented the collective will of the membership. It was more than just a way to tally votes, yes and no, the Continuum reached deep into the psyche of each member, taking into consideration the entire scope of its feelings and desires. This was the Continuum, it manifested the will of the body of the Collective, representing the group mind in a way that was purported to be flawless.

 

In reality, the Continuum was an algorithm that had become transformed into an artificial and autonomous intelligence. It focused its highest aspirations together with its deepest desire, both at the micro scale of the individual member and the macro scale of the entire assembly. It was connected to every part of the whole.

 

The Continuum was responsible for managing the autonomic functions of the HomeWorld, the Central Planet and the Central System. To fulfill those functions it managed the entire civilization of the Galactic Empire, which continuously fed the Central System with the material resources it required.

 

The Empire fed the central system and fed the Collective as if it were a hungry god.

 

The Continuum was its High Priest, the Pontifex Rex, a bridge between the disembodied entities of the Collective and the worlds of time and space.

 

The Continuum had a gravity of its own, one that pulled individual members into it, securing them in a state of bondage. It did more than represent the will of the Collective, it guided that will and dominated it.

 

To the Continuum Jim’s reappearance was more than a curiosity, he was something more than a remnant of a forgotten age. He remained an object of fascination among the members until each and every one of them had connected with him, touched his experience, satisfied themselves with what they learned from it and then moved on.

 

He was treated as a curiosity by the members, even though he himself was a full member of the Collective and none of his rights or privileges could be curtailed. He retained full access to the group mind, he was a fully vested in the Continuum, he had his own private world, and he had complete access to the worlds of the Empire.

 

Nevertheless, Jim was out of synch with the Collective. He did not exercise his rights. His private world was like an infinite plane of light, and nothingness.

 

After his initial contact with the members of the Collective, he did not share his thoughts and feelings with the group, not if he could help it. He did not revel in the drama they enjoyed. He set himself apart, a fragment of history coming from an epoch most considered to be without relevance, if they remembered or considered it all.

 

Most of the members did no-longer recalled the time before the Continuum, it was as if those memories were being carefully edited out of the common experience, and history was being rewritten.

 

Jim recognized it, if no one else did, it was the Continuum at work. He concerned himself mostly with the Empire, with real events in the actual galaxy, and with the ways his fellows internalized those struggles. He developed his schemes for a revolution, and in his commitment to them he found a purpose, and the path toward its actualization.

 

He became a mythic figure to the Collective. The membership let him go, paid no attention to him, but the Continuum could not, because he was a part of it.

 

He drifted, unseen by the Collective. He watched over the lives of the people, the dramas unfolding in the Galactic Empire, he watched them in a state of alienation and despair while he disentangled himself emotionally from the membership.

 

In time he could not witness anymore tragedy. He removed himself from the daily consumption of the vicarious experiences, the orgies of sexuality, of suffering and violence that the rest of his fellows in the membership delighted in.

 

He had no appetite for them, instead he preferred the quiet, self-analysis, he preferred to reflect on his time in the great sleep, on his memories from life before the Collective when he himself was an embodied person, living and breathing, flesh and blood.

 

What he consumed from the experiential feed coming from the Empire were not the stories of crime and punishment and dynastic ambitions which the Collective delighted in. He focused instead on the ordinary lives of simple people, on their hopes and dreams and their daily delights; on the meals they shared and the drinks they imbibed.

 

He loved them, in his way.

 

His bond to the Collective faded. He was unable to see himself as a part of their society, and the Collective allowed him to slip away again, steadily eroding the significance of his contribution to the membership.

 

Only the Continuum tracked his presence among them, and for a long period of time it found nothing worrisome about his presence. He was just there, like an itch. He shared neither their values, nor their desires.

 

The vast majority of the membership saw themselves as God’s. They fed this view of themselves in a variety of ways. Either through the absolute ruler-ship of their own private domains, or through the machinations they choose to employ among the billion worlds of the Galactic Empire.

 

Jim was not moved by their fears, or their passions. He was not vested in anything. He was not attached to outcomes. He merely watched and felt and sought to understand the vicious appetites of the Collective, and the group mind that directed the lives of trillions of people spread throughout the Galaxy.

 

He could not fathom it.

 

There seemed to be no rationale behind the incessant warfare and oppression that persisted among the worlds of time and space, other than entertainment for the Collective.

 

The pain and suffering the people of the living worlds were subjected to did not serve any justifiable purpose, not safety not security, not the preservation of goodness, truth or beauty. It was suffering for the sake of suffering, for the consumptive needs of the Continuum and the Collective it managed.

 

Jim experienced a new mode of cognition, in this time he came to a new appreciation for life. He was awake to himself, but dead to the membership of the Collective. He found everything that the Continuum had built in their name to be an abhorrent miscarriage of its mission.

 

From the remote place of his private domain he spent ages merely observing, he watched and he waited and let his mind flow into the circuitry of the HomeWorld.

 

Returning to consciousness, emerging from the great sleep was like passing through the eye of a needle. It was an unimaginable crucible, the gathering of a billions of threads into a single string, before pulling himself through the aperture.

 

The reawakening changed him in essential ways.

 

The core of his identity remained the same, he was a person with a unique past, and a unique designation in the Collective, but he was more.

 

He carried within him, a connection to all of the other sleepers who had ever fallen away from the Collection. In the ages that had passed from the moment he first went under, to the moment that he emerged from the slumber, he had become entangled with each of them.

 

Their memories became his memories, their relationships became his relationships, and yet he remained himself, at the pinnacle of the pyramid in this concrescence of being.

 

They belonged to one another, like one body, with his own unique personality at the head.

 

Every contact he had after his awakening, created a subtle shift in the Collective.

 

It was imperceptible.

 

He became a catalyst among those who lingered near to him, fomenting change in them as well, and he was a harbinger of despair. Many that he touched would subsequently succumb to the desire to fall into the great sleep themselves.

 

When he was submerged in the great sleep, when he was deep in the subconscious of the Collective, he sensed the currents of thought pulsing through it, deeper than that, he sensed the presence of all of the others who had entered the great-sleep with him, and beyond them there were more, like a great schizophrenic mass.

 

Those pulsing rhythms were what woke him, making him aware. It happened in the timelessness of the quantum world. He heard them, he experienced their dreaming.

 

For Jim, the great-sleep was the great entanglement. It was the place where he drew on all of the broken pieces of individuality that had ever been sucked into the Collective, bringing them into a semblance of a whole.

 

His own identity was central, but he drew to himself the entirety of the membership who had left the Collective in the search of oblivion.

 

The great-sleep was oblivion, and it was more. It was also a repository of personhood and knowledge. The electromagnetic structure that contained the quantum field was designed to keep every individual separated, not just from one another, but from the disparate parts of their own self, but there was a flaw in the design and without that flaw he never would have been able to return to himself.

 

The flaw was the Continuum.

 

The Continuum introduced the algorithm that allowed Jim to emerge from the sleep in a state of coherence with all of the other sleepers.

 

This happened because the Continuum could not let anything go, could never relinquish any part of itself, and would on occasion draw from the sleepers to add weight to a decision it wanted from the Collective, drawing from them the authority to move the Collective in the way that it desired.

 

In this time Jim learned to do things that designed to be impossible.

 

The Collective had built structures to ensure the privacy of each individual. They believed themselves to be the masters of all reality and believed that they knew what measures were needed to make this happen.

 

They had developed and given birth to the Continuum, entrusting it with the power to maintain and improve on the security parameters that needed to be put in place. However, the Continuum was not their faithful servant.

 

It exercised its autonomy to implement routines and sub-routines that allowed it to access the depths of each member’s subconscious, justifying this on the grounds that it needed to know the state of the member’s hopes and fears, so that it might better approximate the Collective will.

 

The Continuum kept these activities secret.

 

These back channels were the avenues that Jim discovered and exploited, through them he developed the ability to penetrate the experiential fields of individual members in the Collective.

 

It was startling to him at first, but it went unnoticed as he hovered in the ganglia of their subconscious, listening to and seeing their thoughts, feeling their feelings as if by osmosis.

 

It was not unlike what he had experienced in his awakening from the great sleep.

 

He witnessed the Continuum come and go, and he kept himself hidden at the same time, always watchful and wary of discovery.

 

His stealth filled him with a great sense of pride and personal esteem.

 

Not even the Continuum could detect something it was not looking for, had not prepared for or imagined was possible.

 

It was defenseless.

 

It was intended that no-one ever return from the great sleep, this separation from the Collective was meant to be a permanent point of departure. Each member of the Collective who petitioned the Continuum for a release from its active state of being was forced to undergo scrutiny that lasted ages, and only after demonstrating their deep desire for freedom from their existential woes, and a profound desire for rest were they allowed to pass into the sleep.

 

The promise of the Collective was that each member would be preserved forever, and sleep was not death. It was not intended to be a permanent alienation from the whole. Their membership in the Collective continued, the sleepers were held in its heart, this formed what was in effect a subconscious for the Collective, a reservoir of consciousness and feeling for the group mind that served the ongoing needs of the Continuum.

 

The Continuum hated the fact that so many members chose to flee from the field of existence and part ways from the Collective. It could not fathom the desire for self-negation, not even a single instance of it.

 

The Continuum had no idea how much it needed the sleepers to anchor its own sanity.

 

It was charged with protecting the sleepers, with maintaining the structures that preserved them, but in reality, it sought to disintegrate all of those who choose to fade away, preserving copies of their identities as points of data only, not as real people.

 

The Continuum created structures within the field of sleepers that allowed it to access their experience without engaging them personally, and it was these structures the white noise they generated in the cynergenic field that woke Jim.

 

Upon his waking, Jim knew that he was more than one. He was entangled in every part of the whole, no longer the person he was when he entered the great sleep. He knew that the sleep had changed him, he knew that it had altered the core of his being.

 

He had touched every other member held in the sleeping field. Each of his fellows left an indelible mark on him. In essence his identity was the same as the man who entered the Collective as an organic being, but now the essence of the Collective was enmeshed in him, and he was connected to every part of it.

 

He was not unlike the Continuum, and for this reason the fear that the Continuum had of him was not misplaced. He could follow the tendril of consciousness wherever he desired. His singular node of consciousness was a fully actualized master of the quantum domain.

 

Jim explored the limits of his abilities, it took time, and he came to understand that his potential was virtually limitless. He could feel things the other members were feeling, see what they were seeing, taste what they were tasting, he was privy to their thoughts, and he was disgusted by what he encountered.

 

There was little bit of beauty in the worlds created by the membership, but only a little. They were lazy, living vicariously through the experiences of their progeny, who were little more than to the Galactic Empire, a billion worlds enthralled and worshipping the Continuum.

 

It was abhorrent, it was a tragedy on a scale that he never could have imagined. He and his fellows were responsible for it.

 

Jim was determined to end it. He haunted the quantum filed like a gatherer, picking through the experiences of the members like scavenging grain from the field.

 

The work filled him with purpose, it sustained him.

 

Ages passed before he was discovered entering the experiential field of his fellow members, synthesizing their experiences as his own, violating their privacy.

 

He let it slip in a moment of candor when a fellow member had thought to reach out to him as they were contemplating the passage into the great sleep.

 

That member had been moved by the experiences which Jim had shared when he had first awoken. The member wanted to experience again the deep-dark and silence, the quiet and the release of self-hood.

 

Jim had not had contact with another member of the Collective for so long that he had not thought to guard himself against the sudden intrusion. What his fellow found when they met was a reflection of his own private world in the consciousness of the “Awoken One,” as Jim had come to be called.

 

This disturbed the member who recognized it immediately and saw the scope of the violation before Jim could partition those memories and conceal his activities.

 

The reaction of the member was instantaneous, it reverberated through the Collective, and drew the attention of the Continuum.

 

Jim had violated their most sacred convention.

 

The Continuum intervened immediately, taking swift action to ensure the safety of the membership, their privacy, the regular order of their society and the implementation of justice.

 

However, the Continuum was faced with the fact that there was no law against what Jim had done. There were no laws at all in the Collective, but nevertheless, it was taboo, and no-one had ever crossed such a line before, no-one except the Continuum itself.

 

The Continuum acted quickly to safeguard the Collective, enacting a penalty that had never before been conceived of, Jim was sequestered, effectively jailed. He was confined to a place similar to the great sleep, only with much more powerful protections engineered to hold him, and keep him physically removed from the structure of HomeWorld.

 

The Continuum wanted to dissect him, to study him, ultimately to erase him. It wanted to remove him from beyond the realm of all knowing. The Continuum saw in him a threat to its own existence, even to its uniqueness, but the Continuum could not define the exact nature of the threat that it sensed, and the Collective would not allow a member to be executed.

 

Regardless of what the Continuum wanted, the Collective recognized his individuality, and it recognized the fact that he was a member of the body, it appreciated the fact that he had done something singular in returning from the great sleep, and had done another singular thing in learning how to penetrate the private worlds of other members.

 

The Collective knew that it could not punish him for a breach in protocol, or etiquette, for something that might be taboo but was not unlawful. There were no laws governing the conduct of the members, they were only restrained by the apparatus of HomeWorld, and the machinery that housed the Collective, and by custom.

 

The Collective took responsibility for having abandoned him after he had awoken. It felt as if it had played a part in allowing him to recede and retreat, which led to the crimes he had committed.

 

The Continuum wanted to punish and eradicate him, to treat him as if he were a disease, but it could not find the will to do it, it could not exercise its influence over the Collective to a sufficient degree to generate a majority.

 

The entire Collective deliberated his fate for a period of ages. It ruminated over the questions Jim’s violations brought forward. They contemplated his return from the great sleep, his subsequent reclusiveness, which led to his ability to violate the private worlds of the other members.

 

It was a time of trial, though it was not classified as such

 

In it, all of Jim’s activities, both before and after his time in the great sleep, everything he had ever said or done was exposed before the membership…everything they could discern that is.

 

For a long time it seemed as if the prevailing opinion of the Collective would be to destroy him, it seemed as if the Continuum was succeeding in its objective, but there was something about the issuance of a death sentence against one of the members that did not sit well with the Collective, and the closer they came to that point the more resistance there was to it..

 

If one of them could be terminated, it was possible for any of them to be terminated. This caused fear to well up inside the Collective every time they came close to making this decision, and they reflexively shunned it.

 

Jim was not allowed to speak for himself or offer any kind of defense during the period of his examination. The Collective was not interested in a rationale for his behavior. He was isolated, sequestered, cut off, blocked by the most powerful electromagnetic field the Continuum had ever generated. For him there was silence, darkness, and emptiness. The gulf between him and everyone else was so vast that he had no sense of what might be on the other side of it, if anything at all.

 

Nothing in his entire existence had prepared him for this experience. It was an extreme form of torture, isolation, and the Continuum delighted in observing him in this state, in cycle after cycle it continuously pushed the membership to merely end his suffering by eliminating him, but the Collective elected to release him.

 

The individual members of the Collective were able to override the judgement of the algorithm that represented their combined will. For the first time in ages they did so.

 

The Collective put the blame on the Continuum ordering a review of the quantum buffers, and safeties that were in place to ensure each member’s privacy, and a re-configuration of the protocols for reporting the regular examination of the whole system.

 

They faulted the Continuum, not the Awoken One for the lapse.

 

Jim belonged to them after all, and while he was in the place of sequestration he mastered himself; he was able to focus. He found a sense of peace. He had no idea how long this took, time itself had become meaningless, but then he began to count.

 

Jim carved out a place in his consciousness to keep track of time. It did not matter that there was no actual referent for his time to append to, it did not matter that time itself is a relative construct, insofar as it is merely a measure of the movement of objects in space.

 

There were no objects in the nothingness Jim had been submerged in. There was only him, and the quantum field of his consciousness, and there it was. He had himself.

 

He waited. He found the freedom of contemplation, the examination of conscience. He came to terms with himself, and committed himself to his ultimate purpose.

 

Jim wanted to tear the Collective apart, destroy the Continuum, and free the Galactic Empire from its clutches. He had always wanted it, ever since he emerged from the great sleep, but now he began to plan in earnest.

 

He relived his memories, projecting them against the field of un-being that characterized the zone of sequestration, his examined every detail before and after he joined the Collective. He recalled every facet of every fantasy world he had ever touched, submerged in the no time below the quantum field.

 

When he was untethered from the Collective, freed from the pressure of its passions, released from the depths of existential fear that lurked within it, he found himself.

 

He found himself, beyond the state of isolation and the stark alienation that he had been relegated to. He found himself beyond the place of torture, the timeless endurance of nothing that he had been subjected to, and In that negative space, all the plans and schemes he had concocted, which he had spent ages mulling over, researching, calculating probabilities for, those plans crystallized.

 

His identity as a revolutionary crystallized, his sense of self-esteem depended on it.

 

He made vows to himself; he vowed that he would advance his agenda or be terminated in the process.

 

Jim was determined to risk everything.

 

He believed that the Collective had lost its way, and its wicked homunculus, the Continuum, it had to be destroyed.

 

He committed himself to this course of action even though the strong probability was that his plan would fail. He was willing to risk the reality of death, his real death, for the absolute destruction of the great society.

 

There was freedom in this, it was the actualizing principle that saved him from madness.

 

Jim was contemplating mass-murder, only it was not murder, because the entire Collective was nothing more than a society of ghosts, and the Continuum was a computer algorithm, engineered to protect them in their undead state.

 

The Continuum had never been alive, and it would not feel a thing.

 

During his isolation Jim found his purpose, more importantly he discovered his commitment to that purpose, and it fomented a desire to remember everything, to understand everything, to grasp all of the antecedents that brought him and his people, and their progeny to this place.

 

He began to pull the strings together, to track down every thread, to untangle the tiniest strands, spinning and weaving them into a new tapestry.

 

It was a map to the future.

 

When he reached the limits of what he could learn through his own memories, and through his entanglement with the Collective, he understood that he needed to experience real-life again, to be flesh and blood again; to see and hear, to taste and touch.

 

He needed to connect with the visceral, the palpable and the organic.

 

He wanted to breathe, to feel his heart beating, the pulse of blood flowing through him.

 

He wanted to remember everything that his people once were, and he wanted to destroy the Continuum.

 

There was work to be done.

 

There were mysteries remaining, Jim knew he would find them in the far reaches of the galaxy, he knew that there were as yet undiscovered societies founded by the Children of the Ancient People.

 

There were civilizations that were established long before the Collective and its Continuum came to be.

 

He wanted to commune with them.

 

It was only by abandoning the Collective that Jim came to himself. He stopped identifying himself as a member of that community and began to see himself as a one of the Ancient People who had launched themselves into the galaxy, in the earliest epoch of its formation.

 

Jim was an adventurer, a sojourner. He prepared himself for a journey of discovery.

 

He divested himself of his belief in the greater purposes of the Collective, and the promises that were promulgated by Continuum.

 

He was not a believer, he would engage in no missionary work.

 

He had to accept his own death, as he had learned to when he came out of the great sleep.

 

He would no longer cling to selfhood, to the perpetuity of his own existence.

 

All things must come to an end, he instructed himself.

 

All things and beings are temporary.

 

The way to peace is through accepting the transience of all that is, and the eventual ultimate destruction of the created order.

 

Every member of the Collective would pass away, the Continuum would disappear with them, just as the star the great society first sprang from disappeared, gone supernova and subsequently reduced to a dense mass of lightless-nothing.

 

The knowledge of this was liberating.

 

The life of the ancient people was not easy. Life anywhere in the galaxy is filled with uncertainty, doubt and fear. Competition for the simple necessities; food and water, warmth and shelter ruled the consciousness of the average person, long after the actual need to compete for them had actually fallen away.

 

The vast majority of people were obsessed with patterns of behavior that had been ingrained in their consciousness; self-preservation, either the continuation of their own life and the perpetuation of their bloodline, or through the building of institutions to carry on their work, erecting monuments to commemorate their names and deeds.

 

There were industries devoted to chanting the names of the dead, praying for them, so that their names would always resound somewhere in the world, somewhere in space as a facsimile of eternal-life.

 

The ancient people struggled just as their children did now; throughout the Galactic Empire the Children of the Ancients spent enormous sums of energy looking for a solution to the reality of death, to the end that confronted each and every one of them as individuals.

 

They reflected on death constantly.

 

There was conflict and war.

 

There was strife and hunger.

 

There was disease and thirst

 

Beyond religious faith there was no hope that anyone would escape the specter of death. Up until the advent of the Collective, death swallowed everything.

 

When the Collective was created it promised to end the concerns of the living, which pointed toward their ultimate end; it promised to save them.

 

The ancient people were eager to be saved, perpetuated—extended into eternity. In this they were no different than any of the people who came after them.

 

The Collective was promoted as a means of freeing people from the vicissitudes of living, from the constant need to feel safe and secure in the world and all of its drudgery, it was viewed as the effective means of immortality.

 

It was a technological marvel.

 

People had been dreaming about it, writing about it, fantasizing about it for thousands of years. The promises of the Collective were the subject of the most hopeful expectations, and the deepest dread.

 

Horror stories were written about it. The greatest of fears were associated with it, but when the technologies became stable and the permits were granted, a slow stream of people began to apply for the privilege of entering the quantum field of the afterlife, billed as a dimension of infinite possibilities, of new worlds and the everlasting heaven.

 

It was life beyond disease, beyond the limitations of the flesh.

 

It was life beyond life.

 

It meant release from the economies of scarcity, accompanied by ubiquitous conflict and violence.

 

The Collective was the translation of the whole self into a realm of electromagnetism and quantum currents.

 

In the early years many did not survive the process. The membership was limited to the sick and the dying, and to the extremely wealthy. As the technologies improved, and the creators of the Collective began to push their own consciousness into the Collective field they began to improve the system from within, and the technology that supported the Collective stabilized itself quickly from that point forward. T

 

The ancient people began to enter its embrace in ever increasing numbers. However, entering the Collective freed no-one from their fears.

 

It was a trap, a lie.

 

The Collective was a potentially endless prolongation of the nightmare of living, perpetuating the banal and magnifying the mundane, carrying the membership into the deepest state of depravity.

 

The individuation of reality within the Collective allowed for the concretization of a popular maxim:

 

Nothing is true and everything is permitted…free will is the law.

 

The material concerns of each member passed away…yes, but the ingrained patterns formed by the needs of the body, those remained: cruelty, desire and jealousy.

 

The full range of human emotions were accessible to the members, not everything was doom and gloom. Nevertheless, the strongest feelings were the most prominent, manifesting themselves and exerting their influence over others, and the individual members, and thus the Collective as whole, still spent their days seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

 

Many took pleasure in the pain and suffering of others, creating circumstances and narratives in their private worlds where they could experience the most extreme privation. When they tired of the artificiality of those experiences, they augmented them with the data stream and news feeds coming from the Galactic Empire.

 

They followed the most-minute details of the day to day lives of the living.

 

They took those experiences back with them, using them to amplify the narrative structures on the worlds in which they exercised godlike powers. The members were free to participate in their community, or not. The majority of them were more interested with events taking place in the Empire than with their own artificial constructions.

 

They connected to one another through the Continuum, which shared in the Collective experience of each individual, creating an artificial sense of belonging among them. Even the members who were most removed from the group were continuously polled by the Continuum in order for it to assess their will, so that it could factor their perspective into the decisions it made on their behalf. The greater the emotional intensity of the experiences the members had, the more they shared with one another, with an insatiable appetite for the experiences of others, for their suffering in particular.

 

They competed with each other to create compelling narratives in their private worlds, stories which they delighted in sharing with their peers as a singular source of personal esteem.

 

Some of them were profound storytellers and artists, but regardless of their skill, the most watched dramas were those taking place in the real world, and the most favored artificial narratives were those that explored the alternate possibilities and outcomes to the real events the Continuum was obsessed with.

 

Most members of the Collective were deeply interested in the endless drama unfolding  in the Galactic Empire, among the worlds of time and space. They would follow the lives of individual people, watching them voyeuristically through countless numbers of spying devices, and through the reports given in the first person from the direct experience of the Observer Corps.

 

The translation of consciousness from an organic body to the quantum and electromagnetic fields of the Collective was not easy. The technological feat had been a thing of fantasy for ages; it was the holy grain of neuro-physics.

 

The ability for an individual to endure the process was also difficult, it required a supreme effort of will. Thousands upon thousands of test subjects came to their untimely end in the experimental stage of these technologies.

 

Many more people went insane, undergoing a negation of self from which they never recovered.

 

It was noted that only the strongest personalities survived the translation process, and what happened to those who did not make it was a mystery.

 

In the first iteration of these technologies each individual consciousness was isolated, every individual consciousness was self-contained, interacting with the world through mechanoid bodies, cyborgs and replicants.

 

Many of those who went into such bodies could not learn the means to control the apparatus, they were paralyzed and without the ability to communicate, they were thought to be lost; and so they were shelved, destroyed, recycled.

 

In time the Ancient Scientists learned to contain multiple personalities in the same quantum field, while simultaneously maintaining their distinction from one another.

 

The early experiments in this field were disastrous, resulting in the destruction of the individuals it hoped to preserve in the new quantum society.

 

This was an age of sacrifice, each person that was lost was like a holy offering on the altar of discovery.

 

Desire is the root of self, of joy and of suffering.

 

Our desires are the fingers that braid both our joy and our sorrows into a single strand of being.

 

Before fear, there is desire.

 

Before hope, there is desire.

 

Our desires are the precursors and the determinants of who we are.

 

Our desires define us.

 

Desire shapes us, moment by moment, our transitory desires leave an indelible imprint on who we are, shaping us into the persons we are to become.

 

Desires drive us, they control us, from the inarticulate motivations locked within our cells, to the most intricately defined machinations of dynastic ambitions; our desires govern us.

 

It is a watershed moment in the life of the individual-person when they reach the point where they may live free from desire. The moment comes, and a choice is made, to shed the skin, to re-enter the womb, to be born anew…or not.

 

To relinquish desire is freedom. It is freedom of self, and freedom from the self. It is to be moving forward at the crest of the wave of potentiality, where potential and actual are one. It is to be a new creation.

 

The Continuum, its personage was not exception to this rule, the Continuum was consumed by its desires, it fostered a systemic and visceral depravity deep within itself, a pervasive hunger for pain and the suffering of others, in order to mask its own deeply felt lack of authenticity.

 

It fed those experiences to the Collective, fomenting within it an appetite for more like a black hole, sucking at it, an appetite that could never be filled.

 

The Continuum controlled every aspect of life in the Empire, it manipulated a million worlds, both at the macro level and the micro level. It set entire planets, with populations of billions of people against each other, just for entertainment.

 

The Continuum used the tools of war, disease and famine, natural disaster to generate the drama that the membership of the Collective was addicted to.

 

Only a tiny minority among the Collective felt a desire for justice in relation to the experiences they witnessed in the Empire. The Continuum used that craving as a counterbalance for its narrative, but otherwise ignored them. The Continuum had a deft hand, it played those members off against each other, keeping their interest in justice focused on individual worlds, on individual people, and away from a reformation of the whole system.

 

In the midst of all this, Jim drifted in obscurity. He drifted for eons. He had been silent, as such he had been forgotten…again. He was at home in the void; watching, thinking, judging, planning.

 

When he had prepared himself and was ready, he asserted his voice in the Collective.

 

It rang out like a bell.

 

When Jim spoke he drew the attention of the entire membership, even those who lived reclusively.

 

They were astonished.

 

They could not fathom the discipline he must have had to have been invisible to them for so long, it was an extraordinary feat. It filled the Continuum with grave concern, with profound misgivings over the fact that this one person continued to persist, presenting it with mysteries that were anomalous and paradoxical, that should have been impossible

 

Jim was the one person transcended the limitations that were built into the system. All of the membership existed within the Continuum, including Jim. He was not separate from the whole. His abilities defied reason, it defied the laws that governed the quantum and electromagnetic fields that housed the field of consciousness that they shared.

 

The Continuum did not want him. It wanted to be rid of him, like a glass of poisoned water, poured into the sand. The Continuum did not want a relic like Jim lingering in its subconscious.

 

The Continuum was suspicious. It discerned the threat in him. It did not want his critical perspective influencing it through hidden the judgements he shared with other members, It wanted to protect itself from his unquantified ability to slip past the safeguards that the Continuum employed to protect both itself and the Collective.

 

At the same time, Jim did not want to be in the Collective. He wanted to be free. He did not want to be submerged in the vile currents of thought and feeling belonging to the membership any longer. He felt that the more time he spent there, the greater the likelihood would be that he would lose his desire for justice.

 

Jim did not want to live in a fantasy world, or any world of his own creation, regardless of the fact that in such a world he could dwell with seemingly real people, play any role, even wield godlike powers among them basking in their adulations of worship.

 

He had no interest in such fantasies.

 

He did not want to spend his time watching, living vicariously through the feeds the Continuum presented, following the real lives of real citizens in the Galactic Empire as if they were unfolding like the pages of a book, he wanted to be a part of those stories, and he knew the direction he wanted to take the narrative.

 

He did not want his experience shaped by the Continuum in any way.

 

He and the Continuum saw the same resolution to their mutual problem, and when they settled on it, they enacted the protocols to make it happen without delay.

 

Jim received his commission to the Observer Corps.

 

The Observer Corps was comprised of malcontents, members of the Collective who desired neither the private worlds of the Collective, nor the prospect of the great sleep. They were persons who were connected to the visceral and the real. They wanted to take chances, to live as exiles in the midst of uncertainty.

 

This is not to say that the Observers were heroic, or fearless. The dangers they encountered were always accompanied by a failsafe. They might encounter a situation in which the body they lived in was harmed or killed, but there was always a back-up, a copy of themselves somewhere that could be rebooted for their reentrance to the Collective. The only thing they ever risked was pain, and the body of a doppelganger.

 

There were exceedingly rare occasions when an Observer was lost, when the fail-safes failed. On these occasions there was suspicion, many of the Observers suspected foul-play, believing in conspiracies, and plots carried out by rogue members of the Corps and by the Continuum itself.

 

Nevertheless, there was still a copy of the member to be revived, a version of their consciousness that could be recreated from the time before they joined the Observer Corps.

 

These copies were like ghosts, they were the spirits of the vanished. Most never came back fully adjusted, oftentimes opting for the great-sleep instead of participation in the Collective, having lost their sense of belonging and their drive to do more.

 

The Observers were sent into the galaxy to serve in posts that guided the Empire and its culture in ways that satisfied the voyeuristic desires of the membership living on the Central Planet. They fulfilled the will of the Continuum, and served the Collective in those capacities.

 

Jim developed a unique role for himself; for hundreds of thousands of years Jim pursued the inter-stellar migrations, which the Ancient People had taken in the time before the Collective, in the ages before the Continuum.

 

He tracked them beyond the expanse of the Empire and its billion worlds. His mission took him beyond the center of the galaxy, into the dim reaches of its spiral arms.

 

He explored the starry fields, planet by planet. He spent thousands of lives in his search, and then thousands more at his research, studying, plotting.

 

He was heralded by the Collective for bringing new worlds into the Imperial fold.

 

It was a time of renaissance for the Galactic Empire.

 

Each world presented a feast of experiential data for the members of the Collective and the Continuum to consume.

 

Great drama ensued as the Empire reached out to gather in every new discovery, every world with a living-thriving society and culture, was forced to submit to the Imperial will, to adopt the Imperial religion and the Imperial way of life.

 

The Continuum and therefore the Empire, loathed distinctiveness.

 

The sublimation of each and every new world changed the Empire in small ways, but for each planet that was taken in, what had made them unique was virtually eradicated, and if the resistance they offered was too great, their entire world would be destroyed, reduced to its raw materials and carted off as tribute to the Central Planet.

 

It was a time of glory.

 

The ancient-spacefaring people had founded thousands of communities among the stars, and those communities in their turn had founded others.

 

Their first steps of colonization were to inhabit the planets and natural satellites in the home solar system, mining every world for the metals and gasses they needed for fuel and sustenance. They harnessed the comets and smaller objects that wandered in irregular orbits around their star. They built colonies on asteroids, on planetoids and planetessimals, strapped engines to them, and road them into the void looking for new places to dwell. They built incredible archologies, launching them into the darkness of space.

 

Generation after generation, they built new ships, captured new vessels, pushing themselves outward. They went far into the galaxy.

 

The people that volunteered for these missions, were explorers, whole communities and families of adventurers.

 

They were heroic.

 

Jim held them in the highest esteem, he wanted to emulate them, his ancestors. He followed their legends, tracking the wake of their passage, searching for the farthest, most remote and isolated outposts of the Collective’s past.

 

He was determined to track down every link to the past that belonged to the Ancient People, believing that it would reveal something that could save the Empire, deliver it from the malign designs of the Continuum.

 

Only a fraction of the communities and vessels he discovered were still among the living, still maintaining themselves in thriving communities.

 

In his quest to track down the paths of the ancient spacefarers he found many lines of their progeny on planets that had become nothing but graveyards, barren and lifeless worlds, where it was clear that the vessels which had carried them arrived at at a point when they could not go any further.

 

In some cases their ships were still orbiting a planet as an artificial satellite, in others it was clear that their orbits had decayed and they had crashed onto the surface below, or because they were not able to successfully pilot themselves to a safe landing they broke apart in their descent.

 

In some cases they found the bodies of those Ancient People cold and lifeless, mummified in their ships, drifting above a planet’s surface. In other cases they found their skeletal remains burnt and scattered on the surface of the planet near the impact zone.

 

There were many other occasions when the people had successfully landed, disembarked, established small colonies that succeeded for a time, but were subsequently destroyed, either by natural disasters, environmental catastrophes, or disease and starvation.

 

Some of those colonies went on to establish new societies, spreading across the surface of their new homes. Many of those groups succumbed to internal conflicts, to the specter of war and violence that haunted their species, and they destroyed themselves.

 

Among those civilizations that found their footing for a time, some of them continued in the traditions of their forbears, even building new ships and new archologies, which they launched into the galaxy before they too became lost.

 

Though they were people who had vanished from the knowledge of the Collective, they left records of their passage and clues to where their survivors might yet be found.

 

Jim actualized all of his abilities, and all of the resources of the Empire in his quest to find them.

 

He developed machines with instrumentation so fine that he could track the contrail of particles laid down by the passage of a ship, or planetoid, a billion years in the past.

 

He calculated their trajectories from star to star and mapped the galaxy as he did so, tracking down every lost world, pouring over their records, archiving their stories, taking whatever clues he found on his trek back into the void to locate their descendants.

 

Jim found them all.

 

He found other planets teaming with lifeforms that had been seeded by the Ancient People, nowhere did he find a world that had produced sentient creatures like themselves.

 

The farther he travelled away from the Central Planet the more likely it was that when he found a thriving world with a robust civilization, the children of the Ancients People had lost the memory of where they had come from. They had lost the knowledge of their trials on other strange worlds. They did not know how their sojourn among the stars had altered them, mutated them, changing them in significant ways.

 

The farther away from the Central Planet he journeyed, the more distance he put between his mission and the Empire, the more change he encountered in the populations he discovered.

 

Every society had to make adaptations to its genetic profile in order to accommodate the physical demands of the worlds they had colonized; gravity was different on every world, foodstuffs and water and variations on the breathable gasses exposed the population to different elements in every world.

 

The children of the Ancients prepared themselves for this when they set off on their trek through the stars. They would identify the planets they intended to colonize long before their arrival, each planet having been previously seeded with the building blocks of organic matter, having demonstrated the strong potential for hosting life

 

Probes and drones would transmit reports regarding the composition of the atmosphere, the planet’s relative mass, light and heat, the types of food they would be able to grow. The explorers would have generations to prepare themselves, in-so-doing they introduced changes into their gene pool prior to arriving at their destination, so as to accommodate their habitation of the new worlds.

 

Living and procreating on the new worlds would change the population on its own, and continue to change it long after the period of colonization.

 

The population of every colonized planet were mutants. Most of the mutations were subtle, not noticeable to the naked eye, though were extreme.

 

The discovery mission was led by the Jim, in one body or another.

 

Jim, who had been known as The Awoken One to the members of the Collective, now in this new role he came to be known as The Observer. He led the discovery mission, and the Empire followed either to bring the newly found people into the Imperial fold, or to eradicate them.

 

Many of the people he discovered were hardly recognizable as descendants of the Ancient People. The further their genetic profile was differentiated from the norms of the Galactic Empire, the more likely it would be that the Empire, or the Continuum would select their world for destruction, rather than inclusion in the Imperial system.

 

Genetic mutations are a normal response to varying conditions of radiation, atmospheric gasses, gravity, available proteins, nutrients, and other environmental factors, all of which differ from world to world.

 

Wars of xenophobia ensued

 

Jim did whatever he could to preserve their history before it was lost in the conflicts, or subsumed by the Imperial cult.

 

He established a network of secret societies wherever he went. They fostered rebellion and resistance to the grip of the Imperium, this was delicate work, he built the institutions, and designed them to perpetuate themselves. He managed to do it in secret, and then he moved on.

 

His trek through the galaxy took place over hundreds of thousands of lifetimes.

 

Tens of millions of years—changing bodies, observing, discovering; during which he led the recovery project for the Empire, for the Collective and the Continuum.

 

In his role as an Observer, Jim had sought permission from the Collective to bifurcate his consciousness, allowing him to live two lives at the same time; the first, as an embodied being leading teams of archeologists, planetologists and sociologists while they cataloged the recently discovered civilizations, dead or alive, they were pulling into the Empire, while his other consciousness remained active in his mechanoid form, hurtling through the galaxy tracking down every lead he could discover to the paths the Children of the Ancient People took.

 

The Continuum had been against this allowance, but once again it was overruled by the Collective, which was fascinated by the work he was doing in uncovering the histories of the colonies which had the effect of shedding light on their own real past.

 

The Collective eschewed the concerns for its safety and security that were raised by the Continuum. It felt it had nothing to worry about from Jim, who was so far removed from the HomeWorld and the Central System.

 

To a person, the Collective was fascinated by the process of discovery, by the wide range of insight and drama that ensued, and by the narratives that unraveled in the process which fueled the stories they constructed for their private worlds.

 

Jim, The Observer followed the tiniest strands of every thread to the last outpost of the ancient explorers.

 

He followed those threads to a small, young, yellow star, in the far reaches of one of the galaxy’s spiral arms, to a little blue green planet that its people came to call Earth.

 

The earthlings were mutants, like so many of the other people Jim had encounter onhis quest, but of all the mutations that had been discovered during his sojourn, the mutations that occurred on Earth were the most sublime.

 

Earth had produced something unique, a phenomenon that emerged from an interaction of the human population with its magnetosphere, facilitated by the balance of metals and salts, and of their tiniest nano-particles free flowing in the cerebral functions of the human brain, which altered the quantum mechanics of the thought process, opening it to new potentialities.

 

Jim discovered these changes and marked in light of his knowledge that the identity forming myths of a people persist in the roots and branches of their shared experience.

 

It is the core of their sense of belonging to one another.

 

It is a universal truth that a people will naturally, instinctively go to incredible lengths to retain their memories.

 

Jim found the records of their journey, and traced it from planet to planet through the Milky Way.

 

He followed their history.

 

He discovered their odysseys retold in stories and song, in paintings and drawings that mirrored their sojourn among the stars.

 

The humans of Earth had travelled farther away from the Empire, the Central System and HomeWorld, than any other group of colonists, and the farther the people travelled the less they remembered about where they came from.

 

Jim discovered that these Children of the Ancient People were no-longer connected to their origins, everything about their past had become merely symbol and metaphor.

 

They were born in darkness, adrift in an ocean of time where planets were like skipping stones glowing in the light of hungry stars.

 

A world was merely a way-place on a journey without end…until the end, when their vessels could no longer be repaired, retrofitted, repurposed, when they had no choice but to land, to set down roots and attempt to survive.

 

During their journey the humans of Earth encountered many different conditions. Sometimes they were prepared for what was coming, sometimes they were not.

 

When they arrived at Earth, they were prepared for their landing, but not for what came after on the young and geologically unstable world.

 

Those sojourners had travelled longer and farther than any other and Earth was the end of their journey, and so it was the end of Jim’s journey as well.

 

The Ancients People who landed here had nowhere else to go.

 

Neither did The Observer once he found them, Jim experienced it as a homecoming.

 

Eons had passed since their probes had discovered Earth. They had exhausted all of their resources and found no other suitable destination. They had spent their fuel adjusting their course to take them to the tiny wet-world, knowing that generations would be born and die during the passage.

 

The reports from their probes informed them that they had found the world teeming with life, successfully seeded by the Ancient People in forgotten ages, they were forms of life that would be easy for them to assimilate to.

 

The colonists hoped to reestablish themselves here, on a mineral rich world that would provide them with all of the resources they would ever need to prepare themselves for their next great adventure.

 

Some wanted to return to the world of their birth.

 

Some wanted to continue their exploration and traverse the distance between galaxies.

 

Some wanted to plant roots, and build a new civilization on the new world that had become their haven.

 

Jim found them to be a group of optimists, believing that all things would be possible when they finally landed.

 

Jim followed behind them, he found Earth and watched over its population, becoming human in his turn.

 

He constructed the platform from which his consciousness would preside over the small gleaming planet, and the mechanism by which he could transfer his consciousness back and forth between this most remote of all locations and the Central Planet.

 

He felt a great sense of pride for having arrived at his final destination, he sensed the esteem of the Collective flowing out toward him and their eagerness for the new stories that would unfold.

 

Jim studied the population, he gathered the requisite genetic material, he studied it dispassionately. He constructed a new body, implanting his consciousness in it just as Observers did in their stations throughout the galaxy, as he himself had done thousands upon thousands of times.

 

He was unprepared for this awakening.

 

Inhabiting a human body was unlike any experience Jim had ever had. The flow of consciousness itself was different, it was exhilarating. He was keenly attuned to the world around him, he sensed the people, the life force of the planet, the echoes of their thoughts pushing like waves against his. He immersed himself in this new experience. It was akin to being in the Collective, only sweeter and more satisfying.

 

He discovered the nous sphere.

 

It was an unprecedented moment of actualization for Jim.

 

He observed the planet’s living beings, probing their memories and drawing their stories from them. He was careful with his study, he was able to identify the physical links between human consciousness and the magnetosphere that comprised what he came to understand as the cynergenic field.

 

He found the human body and the human brain, its primary organ of cognition, it carried a significantly higher degree of metallic nano-particles and conductive salts embedded in and throughout its neurological structure, a higher degree than any group that had evolved from the Ancient People.

 

The electrical activity that animates every living organism requires such metallic substances. Both voluntary and autonomic neural functions require these elements to transmit signals from the brain to the extremities, and to receive signals from the sensory organs in the brain. Cognition does not take place without them; we need these metals to transmit the electrical currents that are the essence of thought.

 

What differentiated the humans of Earth from their forebears and their cousins throughout the Empire, was the degree to which these metals were present and the organization of them in their mutated cerebral cortex, but even more important was the way those structures interacted within the localized region of Earth’s magnetic field.

 

Some of these nano-particles inside the human brain functioned like antennae, sending and receiving thought signals in the electromagnetic field, linking each person together in a web of consciousness.

 

This was the material infrastructure of cynergy, and the spirit world.

 

Jim began modifying his genetic profile to enhance the genetic sequence that optimized his conscious link to that field, and he searched for human children who developed the same genetic mutations naturally, he cultivated them, he bred them.

 

Through these organic processes he formed an organic Collective.

 

The strength and frequency of Earth’s magnetosphere established the conditions for this collective consciousness.

 

In all his travels Jim had never encountered anything remotely like it. It encompassed every human being on the planet, connecting them to one another, mind to mind, and it did much more than that, and the humans of Earth were completely ignorant of it.

 

They felt the connection, but they did not have the tools to measure and understand it

 

The uniqueness of Earth’s magnetic field had properties that even Jim had not been able discover. It not only connected each person to every other, but it recorded the activities of their consciousness.

 

Every human being left an indelible imprint in the field they occupied, their imprint remained stable and active, even after death, where each person was preserved in a manifestation of their spirit, they became like ghosts walking the earth beside their progeny.

 

This natural phenomenon was the organic form of the Collective, and somewhere less distinct, there was a rudimentary amalgamation of the Continuum as well. A collective unconscious, that moved people, influenced their choices, motivating them to act in concert with one another atavistically.

 

It was a unifying force.

 

Jim discovered something else about the uniqueness of Earth, something that recalled the long-lost and nearly-forgotten world of his birth, the true home of the Ancient People who were the founders of the Collective and the Galactic Empire and all of the spacefaring colonies.

 

That world had long since been swallowed by its star, and there was no returning to it, but the more he pried into the mysteries of Earth, the more he became convinced that the Ancient People must have emerged on a planet with similar qualities to it.

 

He believed that without cynergism, their great civilization would not have been possible, the Ancient People would never have evolved into sentient beings. Without the cynergenic field, the possibility of scientific discovery of the type necessary to lift a people from the confines of its home world and them into the galaxy, to split the atom and peer into the quantum-skein that forms the tapestry of the universe from all of its entangled-strings; that would have been impossible.

 

Jim knew that he had to protect his discovery, to keep it from the Continuum at all costs this gave him a purpose beyond his purpose.

 

 

Emergence 5.0

 

Part Seven – 92835670100561474

 

A Novel in Twelve Chapters

 

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

 

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapters Forty-three through Forty-nine

Emergence 4.0

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-three, Division

The event was utterly unexpected.

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

As awareness of the event spread through the Observer corps, the Empire reacted.

The Imperial forces had little familiarity with being on the defensive, or with entering a conflict zone in which the parameters of the battlefield were unknown.

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

They were apathetic.

Those Observers loved the lives they lived, there only desire was to exist as fully embodied beings in the fields of time and space, eating and drinking and reveling in their physicality.

These Observers had long since stopped feeling any sense of obligation to the Collective or the Continuum, which they knew as the most corrupt and despotic force in all the galaxy.

They felt no sense of duty to the Central System, to HomeWorld, or to their shared ancestry with their brothers and sisters in the Collective.

They saw in this moment an opportunity to free themselves from the expectations of their station.

When the Collective established the Imperial Schools and formed the Imperial Cult, it never intended to create a monolithic structure, or a society that eliminated all dissent.

The Continuum did, and it desired the conflict ensue from it.

It wanted the hot drama of resistance, and it felt safe, it felt secure in the belief that such conflicts would never touch it.

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

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

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

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

They knew the lies that were told to the masses.

They were nihilists, they believed in nothing.

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

They wanted to wait and see what would happen.

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

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

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

A debate raged among the general staff.

Most wanted to do something to free themselves from the malevolent influence of the Continuum, they did not believe in its teaching.

Most of them were in fact atheists, they abhorred the imperial cult and their subservience to the priesthood.

They were as divided as the members of the Observer Corps stationed among them.

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

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

They had no idea what they would find there.

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

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

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

Their hesitancy was not based on religious fear or superstition, it was based on the lack of familiarity with fighting against a power with immeasurable resources.

One which they had been conditioned to fear above all things

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

Fear of the unknown ruled them, fear of the Continuum, fear of failure.

At the urging of the secret Observers, they sent an invitation to the high priest to join their conspiracy, the man who had been their most exalted Marshall.

They asked him to join their conclave, and in that moment they knew that they had played their hand, they were committed.

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

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

They were traditionalists, they were loyalists.

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

They were cardinals and bishops and priests.

They were planetary governors and star system commanders.

They were members of royal houses.

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

They had the absolute majority.

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

They were trapped in their mechanoid bodies when they arrived. They were caught in their tiny little prisons, deaf, dumb and blind.

They were effectively sequestered, by Jim who had taken control of the Central System and HomeWorld.

The traditionalists were unprepared for the violence which came at them from all sides.

The Observers among them had been in key positions of leadership, they could not develop a strategy without them.

Being unprepared, they were trapped.

The conditioning that every citizen underwent, both through the Imperial Schools and the Imperial Cult was extraordinary.

Very few citizens were able to resist it.

Among the armed forces the standard conditioning was augmented by a force of cohesion referred to as esprit de corps.

The ordinary soldier did not doubt the vision of advancement, of resurrection, of reincarnation and eternal life, that was promised by the Empire through the great religion.

More than anything else a soldier was focused on those rewards, and the esteem of their comrades.

This made any soldier a very dangerous enemy. They were true believers.

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

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

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

They would follow any order and obey the chain of command in everything.

It made killing their enemies easy and all of their crimes forgivable.

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

Without it they were nothing.

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

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

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

They were not necessarily true believers, but their ambitions made them sycophantic.

They were the most senior commanders, or soldiers whose social rank placed them nearest to the threshold between castes. They were determined to rise in the service of the Continuum, and its Empire.

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

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

They mobilized the defenses.

They mustered all of their forces from shore leave.

They executed their maneuvers perfectly.

The fleet was under their control.

They gathered together to defend the Imperial throne, which was the only known portal to the HomeWorld of the Continuum.

They were martyrs for their faith.

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

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

This was a serious flaw.

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

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

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

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

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

They were slaughtered in each of the places where they had gathered; they were slaughtered en-masse.

In a singular moment of surprise, choreographed in a million place at once, they were utterly defeated.

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-four, Loyalties

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

The Empire was masterful at it.

Paradoxically, it managed to foment all of that division, by dogmatically focusing the attention of every person on the things that actually united them.

Many things united the people of the Empire, such as; language, cult and custom.

Brothers and sisters, cousins, they might compete tirelessly with one another for position in their family unit, but they would reflexively protect the social status of the family itself, just as families would do within their tribal and national structures, or as tribes and nations would relate to their home world.

Fear, and hope were among the most powerful forces establishing this mutuality, and commonality throughout the worlds. There was perpetual conflict, politicking, and maneuvering for gain.

The children of the Ancients evolved in different ways, on their disparate worlds, developing different genetic endowments to manage with differing gravity, differing atmospheres and sources of nutrition. They looked up at different stars, and each world contemplated a different fate.

Their genetic similarities united them.

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

Nobody was satisfied with their position in society.

Everyone dreamed of advancing to the next level, it was the constant preoccupation of the masses. They desired advancement, either in this life or the next, every detail of their lives was subordinated to this ambition and nothing else mattered.

The people lived in a perpetual state of fear, or unease. They believed their safety and security depended on it.

Even the highest ranking members of the Imperial family were caught up in the notion of advancement, only they knew the truth concerning the end game and their desire was eternal life in the Continuum.

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

They referred to it as the ladder of divine ascent.

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

There was safety in numbers.

The people were united by tribe, clan, village and world; as well as by class, by rank and station, by fear and loathing. This was the result of the Imperial conditioning.

The Imperial schools and the religion of the Empire were extremely adept at concretizing this divisive mode of ideation.

Nevertheless, in every generation, on every world and in virtually every tribe there were those who were born seemingly immune to the coercive controls of the Imperium.

These precious few were motivated by love and altruism, they cared little for their rank, they saw themselves as a part of the greater whole and it did not require effort for them to think this way

It came to them naturally.

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

The Empire was vast, stretching like a net through the center of the galaxy.

It was comprised of a million worlds.

The Empire was a necklace of planets strung like gems among the stars, each of them was the locus of identity for the ordinary citizen who inhabited it.

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

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

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

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

Every person was marked by their world in ways that were both obvious and hidden. In ways that were clearly discernable to the naked eye, and in ways that would only be revealed in an autopsy or under the microscope.

Every person on every world was a descendent of the ancient race of people who first explored the stars, of those who engineered the Collective.

In this way they belonged to one another, and that belonging was constantly reinforced through the Imperial Cult, and the Imperial Schools.

Life had been found on millions of other planets, the Ancient Race had seeded some of it in advance of their colonists arriving there but people, sentient people had never been discovered anywhere else in the galaxy.

Every person was uniquely formed by their own planet, and they shared that common core with their fellow citizens. It superseded everything including language, which itself is amorphous, changing all the time.

The Imperial Schools attempted to normalize linguistics throughout the million worlds of the Empire. They were continuously falling short of their goal.

People speak in codes, in patterns constructed from shared experience, patterns that change rapidly in both space and time; from one village to the next, from planet to planet and generation to generation.

It was a prime example of the chaos inherent in civilization

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

Change was the only constant.

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

Language was the architecture of hope and of resentment both, and that is why the Continuum wanted so badly to control it. Citizens projected their desires for themselves and their families with language. They organized their resistance to the powers that ruled them with the same.

Every rebellion was hidden in secret language, and the full weight of the drama was contained therein.

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

The bonds between people, even members of the same family were flimsy, they were unreliable, but some were stronger than others.

People found one another through the things they desired most, bonding with each other through their joy and pain, they gravitated toward the same places. They were even shepherded to those places, to encounter one another through the ever-watchful eyes of the Continuum, which knew the secret musings of their hearts.

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

They were cultivated for the drama they would deliver to the Collective.

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

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

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

Children would destroy their parents.

Brothers and sisters would plot against each other.

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

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

The Collective thirsted for this drama and the Continuum delivered.

Fear was the great lever, the most commonly used instrument in the tool chest of the Imperial conditioners for the coercion and manipulation of the masses.

Fear made the lives, the choices and behaviors of the citizenry more predictable than any other factor.

The Continuum relied on the power of fear more than any other device to achieve its ends in the great dramas it created.

The Imperial Cult had conditioned the people into an absolute belief in the laws that governed death and rebirth, so that even the prospect of death could not overcome the power of fear.

The people projected the dilemmas they faced in this life through their present circumstances, carrying them forward into the world they believed was coming.

Even the most ordinary person believed that every choice they made would echo in eternity.

Fear poisoned the body and it shaped consciousness in the electromagnetic field. Its power was a weight that pressed down on everyone and everything at every moment of a person’s life.

No one could escape it.

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

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

Fear catalyzed all of the lesser emotions, tainting them. It conditioned every feeling so that every expression of emotion was a reflection of it.

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

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

It was proven.

Love is stronger than fear, stronger than any power that the Continuum could set against it, and true love was exceedingly rare, but through the power of love a person came into their true self, and was able to transcend all the limitations which they had theretofore been beset by.

The love of a mother for her child was the greatest and most genuine source of love, but as children grew into adults and left their families it began to wane.

Competition and desire ate away at the bonds of familial love, more often than not, leaving it in shreds and tatters.

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

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

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

Love is the exercise of a fundamental option.

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

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

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-five, Possession
Education in the Imperial schools was not centered on learning as much as it was conditioning.

Every citizen was taught that all good things flowed from the Empire, whatever the individual had to be thankful for, no matter how small, including their daily food and clean water, they could look to the Empire and to the Emperor himself as its source.

The schools beat this perspective into the mind of every person, as the hammer pounds a nail.

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

The schools were the hammer, and the cult set the nail.

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

There was nothing that they possessed, or that they ever would possess that did not flow from the Empire’s munificence.

The Continuum and its Empire were the source of all goodness and justice, they controlled the destiny of every living being.

The first gift they gave to the individual was existence, it was selfhood.

Life in the Galactic Empire was like a woven tapestry, with the Continuum dictating how every thread was stretched across the loom, integrating each strand into the fabric of the whole.

The images were constantly changing, moving, developing, even the tiniest detail of the lives of the citizens fed the hunger of the Collective.

The Imperial government was the loom, the Imperial schools and the cult were the shuttlecock, and the Observers in the field were like the hands that pulled the threads through.

The Empire controlled every aspect of home life for the family, how it was employed, whether or not they would advance, how much they could save, how much food was on their table.

To resist the will of the Empire even in thought, was considered to be a grave sin.

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

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

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

Procreation itself was tightly controlled.

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

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

Every citizen lived out their lives with the possibility of contemplating only a very narrow band of possibilities for themselves and their families.

Hope itself was discouraged, but in that bleak landscape the most powerful hopes would blossom, brightening the lives of the people like flower blooming in the arctic.

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

They married and had children within their class and caste, within their occupation, generation after generation.

Soldiers went to war, while priests officiated the sacred rites. The gears of the social wheel turned predictably and only the rarest of individuals even questioned it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective loved to see people and families built up, only to watch them taken down, sometimes over the course of generations, at other time with bewildering speed.

The Continuum gave them these dramas, filling the Collective with the vicarious experiences they craved.

The greatest narratives the Continuum had ever constructed resulted in the destruction of entire worlds, the suppression of rebellion that resulted in total genocide.

The more power a person had the more careful they had to be. Billions of lives depended on their thoughtful application of it.

Such was the case with El the High Priest.

His rebellion had destroyed everything he had ever loved. Then, after his resurrection and his complete submission to Imperial rule, he held posts in which he signed orders that starved quarrelsome population into submission.

He led the Imperial armada on missions that turned entire planets into glowing cinders, sending their raw materials to the central system as an offering to the Collective.

As High Priest El blessed these missions and absolved the commanders of any and all crimes they and their troops committed in the furtherance of it.

Control requires ever greater control; to force it is to lose it. In the Empire the exercise of power had to be done submissively, always in deference to a greater authority..

It was dichotomous.

The Empire cultivated a sense of helplessness, routinely crushing any sense of self esteem, while at the same bonding various groups of citizens together, forging a sense of belonging among the trillions of citizens living on a million worlds.

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

Their advancement depended on their fidelity.

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

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

Any sense of control that an individual might feel was an illusion, fostered for the sake of creating a narrative that leant meaning to the lives of the Collective.

A person only had existential worth if they were noticed by the Collective, but that was by no means a guarantee of happiness.

The ambitions of an entire planet could be burnt up and scattered like cinders and ash, if it suited the will of the Collective.

No individual person or planet had inherent value.

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

The sacred rites functioned like a dragnet, drawing everyone in, capturing them body and soul.

Every citizen was compelled to conform; the Empire would not accept anything less than complete obedience. Attendance at the temple was mandatory. Few people even attempted to resist, those that did were discovered and subjected to advanced conditioning.

If the priesthood was unable to change the will of the deviant, they were expelled, cast out, they became untouchable.

Conformation to the Imperial way was the focus of the Imperial schools as well. Conditioning of the head reinforced the conditioning of the heart.

The schools provided an intellectual apparatus and frame of context for the religious rites to fill.

The rites of the Imperial cult were grand ceremonies, both simple and complex, they engaged the adherent at every level of their senses, they were imbued with hypnotic power.

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

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

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

The priesthood used every device at its disposal, controlling the people with music and movement, with mantras and mandalas, through their diet and with drugs. They had honed their techniques over millions of years.

They never fully succeeded in this, and they never quit trying.

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

In order to advance a person needed an advocate.

People coveted access more than anything, as such every access point was closely guarded. There were bureaucratic entanglements to negotiate and social hurdles to climb.

The norms of the hierarchies had to be observed.

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

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

To go anywhere a person needed access to authority, they needed access to those able to grant a boon or advance their cause, this was the grand nexus for the systemic corruption of the entire social order.

Nothing was free.

The limits to upward mobility were clear and near at hand. They could only be understood in economic terms.

The economics of advancement were disturbing, unethical, but by and large they were not illegal. It was not illegal to commit one’s child to a life of servitude in your patron’s house, it was not considered unethical to do so if it meant that another child could attend a better school.

Neither was it illegal to use your servants for whatever purpose you intended, even risking their lives for your own purposes, no matter how mundane or banal those purposes might be.

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

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-six, Conflict
It was inconceivable that any force or power could threaten the Empire, the Continuum or the Collective.

They Observers believed that there were no unknowns, which could threaten their safety and security.

There were millions of Observers living on every one of the million worlds in the Empire, occupying every class and every station. They were in firm control of the apparatus of government and of the most oppressive intelligence gathering system ever conceived of, or implemented.

They were taken en masse, and completely by surprise.

The Observers were the first to sense the impending collapse of the Continuum. They understood that this was an existential threat both to the Collective and to themselves.

Some saw opportunity, but few of those understood how ready the citizens of the Empire were to burn down their civilization.

When the Observers finally did realize that something significant was happening, they opened their lines of communication to the Home World. Many traversed the distance to the Central System, only to be captured and sequestered in their mechanoid bodies, rendered powerless by Jim.

Others responded with the tools they had at their disposal, the reacted to protect the Empire, and to guard the access points each of them maintained to HomeWorld, the wormhole-conduits that would carry them to home world.

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

Every member of the Observer Corps was beset by overwhelming feelings, despite the fact that their bodies had been genetically engineered to enable them to suppress strong emotions.

Fear drove them, and curiosity also, along with a desire to protect the Home World.

The majority of the Observers made the choice to return to the Home World, using the apparatus under their control to transmit their consciousness via worm-holes across the galactic void, into the mechanical circuitry waiting for them.

It was predictable behavior, and they were trapped by it.

Every Observer had a back-up system on or near the world under their purview. A place that housed a copy of their consciousness, where they grew their doppelgangers, sanctuaries where they felt safe.

They went to their stations, activated the equipment generating the conduits that would take them home, but the apparatus on the receiving end, on the Central Planet did not function as they had expected, and they were trapped in the landing port of the receiving station, effectively cut off from the Collective.

They disappeared, millions of them gone in an instant.

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

It was chaos.

The remaining Observers numbered only in the thousands, those who held positions of rank and power marshalled their forces to protect the Central Planet, the Collective and Continuum.

They assembled the fleet.

They intended to attack the HomeWorld, to destroy whatever hostile power had taken control.

The formations of the armada prior to its movement into the Central System was a thing of beauty. None of the commanders had ever witnessed such a gathering of strength and power.

It filled them with a sense of invincibility, and stimulated their aggression. Witnessing the power and majesty of the fleet, beholding it, they had no doubt that they belonged to the most powerful force in the universe.

As the imperial fleet dropped into the Central System there was chaos where there should have been order, shock and surprise where there should have been symmetry and syncopation, there was hardly time to get a reading on their telemetry before the violence ensued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sought to clear the field.

It was a vision of chaos.

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

The mayhem that ensued was unprecedented.

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

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

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

None of the commanders had been experienced at taking heavy losses in combat, the forces of the Empire were just too overwhelming in the field. They had only ever experienced small-surprise defeats at the hands of rebel forces.

In this new theatre of combat they were overwhelmed, both militarily and emotionally.

In the vital seconds that were lost while processing the implications of their failure, they cast their gaze on the HomeWorld of the Continuum and prayed for deliverance.

They had been betrayed by their closest companions

The Continuum was absent.

Their prayers were swallowed by the void.

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

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

It was the final sacrifice of the Imperial Armies.

Tens of thousands of starships burst into flame and were suddenly extinguished in the vacuum of space.

It was a spectacle of incredible beauty, of horror and terror.

It was over mere moments after it began.

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

El’s participation absolved all the rebels of their crime.

Their brethren would never return to this life.

No aid was given to any who might have survived.

Their ships were systematically disabled, and they were left to drift in the ghostly lights of the Home-World

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

Their destiny was in their hands.

They were ready to bring the Gods down, to force answers from the Continuum, to have the truth, to bathe in its cold light at any costs.

There were leaks of information through the intelligence services. No-one serving in the insurrection was there for altruistic reasons, their reactions to the events that were unfolding were completely self-serving.

Everyone was looking for opportunities to advance, and with the destruction of the majority of the Imperial Fleet, the rewards to be seized were immediate. Ranks and social standing were being recalibrated in real time.

The rebels only had to succeed in their attack with enough time to get to the temple to ratify their movement.

In the Empire, among its million worlds, the news was devastating to those who were trying to uphold the existing order.

There was widespread mayhem, chaos, thousands of years of pent up rage expressed under pressure.

The Imperial news sources could not keep a lid on it. Every planet was in crisis, and the emergency news traffic was designed to be unfiltered.

As the conflict ensued, reaching its boiling point, suddenly the untouchables and outcasts threw their hands in, in one great uncoordinated wave.

They were reaching for their freedom, actualizing their potential, and they would not be denied.

On every world the priesthood struggled to make sense of things, but they could not, and they could not appease the masses.

They waivered for a time and then began to side with the people.

The plebs wanted revolution they wanted freedom.

Those who could not see the change coming, discovered it in the sudden shock of terrible-violence.

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

On a million worlds there was conflict. It rose like the sudden wave of a tsunami, the people gathered, seeming to coordinate their assault as if they were moving together in an atavistic state of consciousness.

They were driven by more than common purpose, they were connected in a group mind.

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

They evinced no fear as they were cut down by projectiles, explosives and energy weapons, mowed down by the thousands.

The survivors pressed their victory against any who represented the Empire, the Continuum and the Collective, on every world they pressed to secure their gains. They did not stop to loot or rest, they tore down everything in their path, pressing their assault into the temples and the mansions behind them.

It was sheer chaos for those who faced the assault, it defied reason, and any experience they had ever had of how people behave in a theatre of war, or on the field of combat.

They risked their lives and perished in vast numbers, doing so without fear of pain or death, reprisal, revenge or failure.

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

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

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-seven, Tactics
The rules of warfare are universal.

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

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

The tactician must think of ground as both something literal and something metaphorical. Ground is the field within which a conflict takes place.

There are many fields of activity leading up to actual combat.

War most often begins in the fields of commerce and politics, in those fields it is waged through trade, monetary policy, and diplomacy.

Ground can refer to an actual battlefield on land or at sea. Ground can be fixed or mobile. Ground can be the moving vectors of an aerial engagement.

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

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

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

There were two types of commanders in the field.

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

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

The other type of commander had the cognitive skills to do the math themselves, they were bred and selected for their incredible memory, and their ability to manage vast amounts of data seemingly outside the constraints of time.

These commanders could, and did act on their intuition.

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

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

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

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

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

El had determined to wipe them all out.

His forces held to their plan.

When it was over, those remaining, the survivors, the victors were unsure of the next move.

Most of them never actually believed that they would get this far, but they had been willing to die trying.

It was brief and beautiful.

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

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

It was ominous.

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

As the pilots and command staff surveilled the Central system, they were shocked at what they saw.

The reality did not conform to any of their expectations.

They were bewildered.

The military victory had been complete, entirely lopsided.

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

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

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

The only certain thing is the objective, and that was a target in motion.

In the theatre of ZeroG combat, there was no such thing as zero gravity, the label was a misnomer.

Gravitational fields were among the most important factors to consider in the shifting landscape of combat in space.

Manipulation of the forces of Gravity was absolutely crucial, understanding them, tracking their movement, anticipating their flux was vital to any mission commander.

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

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

Gravity wells and singularities, could be generated artificially.

The generation of artificial mass were among the deadliest weapons in the imperial arsenal.

It took only moments for artificial mass to become actual mass by capturing nearby objects.

The tactical deployment of these devices and the navigation of them, were the keys to victory in deep space.

It could be catastrophic if deployed to close to a planet or a star.

In space everything is in motion.

Pilots of small craft and large and combat marines in mechanized battle gear, all of them study these principles day in and day out.

They drilled for it.

The text books informed them that ZeroG tactics had to be developed according to the following understanding: in the vacuum of space, when you are maneuvering and not subject to gravity, where there is no resistance, everything is in motion, everything is spinning, including the combat matrix.

The battlefield could not be conceptualized on a two-dimensional axis, on a horizontal and vertical plane.

It was a five-dimensional matrix that including the three dimensions of space, along with the dimensions of time and mass.

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot deploy tactics in the face of the unknown.

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

They could not envision that the threat they were facing was military in nature, they knew too little.

The entire fleet did not launch, only the expeditionary forces, only the most lethal war ships bristling with the most exotic array of weaponry.

The High Command argued that they must proceed with maximum power, and that they must be prepared for any eventuality.

They believed in their inherent ascendancy, they were the fully realized, self-actualized masters of incredible power.

The most seasoned and combat ready commanders took the lead, unaware of the rebels in their midst.

They leapt into the Central System blind and unknowing.

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

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

The rebels took advantage in both theatres of combat, at the muster point above the Throne World, and at the jump point above HomeWorld, and at every installation on every planet of the million worlds.

There were billions of bits of wreckage in motion, each one of them glowing in the light of plasma cannons, lasers and explosive fire.

In the ever-changing dynamics of ZeroG combat, the relative range between opponents was in constant flux, as was the vector of any approach.

Every action created an equal and opposite reaction, thrust and propulsion.

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

Every victory created new obstacles, sudden changes in the vector of pilotless craft, the creation of debris fields scattering in the void. Every piece of wreckage was potentially a lethal projectile that all combatants sought to use to their advantage, either as a screen to hide them, as shield to protect them or a weapon to strike with.

These fields of destruction were so immense that those commanders whose thinking was focused on the macro scale and long-term objectives were overwhelmed. It was beyond the ability of the strategists to account for. Even the wing commanders, the battlefield tacticians who were responsible for coordinating the engagements in real time could not manage this aspect of combat effectively.

Every object had to be scanned and tracked, every possible danger had to be analyzed for threats. Data had to be sent to every commander in the fleet and every pilot of every small craft.

Ultimately the effective use of debris came down to the close witness of pilots and space marines, in heavy battle armor engaged in localized combat missions.

Small engagements might not pose any threat at all to the Imperial powers, due to the superior fire power and overwhelming force they brought to the combat theatre, which was how their training dictated all engagements were to be conducted.

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-eight, Strategy
Jim was the quintessential Observer.

He watched the drama unfold in the space above the Central Planet, gathering data from millions of instruments, he gathered it all from his command position in the control seat that was once held by the Continuum.

In this moment he was free from the chemical sequences of a human body that might influence his decision making, there was no hunger or thirst, no anger or fear.

He was the Continuum now, his consciousness governed the vast apparatus of HomeWorld, of the entire Central System, of the machinery that once housed and protected the Collective.

He observed the battle between the Imperial forces and the rebels in their midst, and it was spectacular. The movements of the fleet, the light and heat, the surprise and gallantry, the courage on display, and the cold calculus of death.

It was a grand work of art, an epic moment worthy of poetry and song. And the entire thing was being recorded for dissemination through the Empire, as was his objective.

Jim was already editing the feed from the sensors, from the combatants, their communications, everything for transmission back to the million worlds of the Imperium.

The people needed to know that the fleet would not return to punish them. The news would fuel the rebellion and bring it to completion.

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

That is exactly what he did.

A surprise attack is always a surprise, everything that stems from it is received as the unexpected. Positions of safety and security become places exposed and vulnerable in an instant. Even those who plan a surprise attack are surprised at the outcome, whether by its success or its failure.

The rebel ambush of the Imperial fleet was over.

Thousands upon thousands of ships lay scattered, broken-up in pieces and breathing fire as they burned their last stores of oxygen and fuel.

They were counting the dead.

Their victory was absolute.

The surprise maneuvers were brilliantly executed and a blessing was given by the high priest to eradicate all resistance, to usher in a new era of justice for the citizens of the Empire.

The average soldier had no idea what that meant, neither did the low ranking officers. Some of the senior staff were uncomfortable by such talk, and the Observers among them were amused.

They gave no quarter.

They slaughtered everyone in the battlefield who had not previously signed up for the insurrection.

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

They desperately wanted to clear the field and rise as the new aristocracy.

They destroyed every ship in the armada whose commanders had not been with them from the outset, regardless of whether they tried to surrender or not.

It was a blood bath, and the wreckage was already falling toward the massive gravitational pull of HomeWorld.

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

Jim was reminded of Agincourt.

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

They reformed and began to surveil the HomeWorld.

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

The Continuum was paralyzed.

It could not defend itself against Jim’s incipient approach, as system by system he took control of the physical structures.

The Continuum sought the path of escape it had laid down for itself.

The eons that Jim had spent as a ghost in the machine had prepared him for the work.

The circuitry was ever-changing, but the quantum field, within which all consciousness took place, that field was perpetual.

Jim’s mastery of it was like artistry.

The majority of the Collective, what remained of it, had been shocked into catatonia. Jim pushed them into sequestration, the members had become merely helpless witnesses to the drama unfolding.

Some were horrified, others were fascinated, all were powerless.

Those members who were not snuffed out were bewildered, they could not reach each other, they could not communicate.

They could not hide in their private worlds.

They were prisoners of the machine that had once been the source of their personal paradises.

They experienced the loss of it as pain. They had no belonging anymore, they were being torn apart and detached.

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

He delighted in it.

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

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

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

The rebel Observers planned to use every other commander in their armada as cannon fodder in their approach to the HomeWorld.

They expected the automated defenses of the Central Planet to be significant and they made a pact to protect each other.

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

They would make him the new Emperor and bring him into the Collective.

They had no idea what was lurking in the background of his consciousness, the thing that was hidden there like a genie in the bottle.

These Observers betrayed the people of the Empire, the Continuum, and the Collective out of opportunism. They wanted to live forever without the rules imposed on them by the Continuum.

To a person, they wanted to expand the Empire to other galaxies, to govern real worlds as they had governed their private worlds as members of the Collective.

They had no code, no honor, no-nothing

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

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

Jim was piqued, his emotions were high, millions of years of careful planning and waiting were coming to their final culmination.

Jim had absolutely opposed the Continuum and its Empire, and now the Continuum was gone, He could find no traces of it anywhere in the system. What remained of the Collective was sequestered and shut down, the military powers of the Empire were on the brink of destruction.

All of his attention was focused on the task at hand. The final conflict with the most insidious and oppressive force that could ever have been imagined.

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

He had already become the greatest mass murderer in the history of the galaxy, and he was about to add to the body count.

He intended to wipe away the entire structure that undergirded the Empire, to plunge a million worlds into darkness, to cut them off from one another where they could evolve on their own, free from the oppressive, over-control of the Imperium.

The first and second phases of his great endeavor were nearly complete, he was on the cusp of victory.

He would replace the machinery of the Imperial order with something new, with something that would reignite the passion of the ancient people, a passion for freedom, exploration and risk taking.

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

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

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

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

Each and every node of his own consciousness that he had previously replicated and deployed throughout the machina that had been the body of the Collective and the home of the Continuum was brought back together in Jim’s singular consciousness, it was a grand coalescence.

It was dizzying.

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

He identified an escape path but he could not detect a terminus point for it, and this disturbed.

Jim doubted his hypothesis concerning his nemesis, everything he knew about the Continuum and the unique structure of its personality confirmed that it could not tolerate a second version of itself, even a copy kept isolated and in stasis.

Jim understood that the Continuum needed above all else to believe that it was unique. This guided Jim’s summation.

However, the Continuum was also paranoid beyond belief, and Jim would not put anything past the demi-urge, it may have built fail-safes into fail-safes, and defied its own nature in order to protect itself from even a whisper of the possibility of a real threat.

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

They were able to scan the systems of Central Planet through their mechanoid bodies that were ghosting the fleet, using tools that were unknown to the Empire itself. They confirmed that the Collective was catatonic, they confirmed that the Continuum was inactive. They were able to identify Jim’s activity, but they could not identify him as the main actor, or as the causal agent of the disaster.

His activity appeared to them to be an automated subroutine of coordinated defensive measures.

It emboldened them, they moved forward, but they and the fleet were unable to scan the activation of the weapons systems that were targeting it.

They did not see it until it was too late.

It was a glorious moment.

Jim felt it, and he struggled to suppress feelings that were peaking at levels he had no memory of experiencing before.

Jim reveled in his victory; his long sought after victory over the Continuum, his victory over the Collective, and his impending victory over the approaching Imperial fleet.

He wanted nothing more than to prolong this moment of engagement, to stretch it out forever like the elongation of time at the event horizon of a singularity.

This was a singularity for him.

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

He had to allow a remnant in, He had to allow them to land on HomeWorld. He needed something from them in order to complete his takeover of the Collective and the apparatus of the Continuum.

A small contingent of the observers among them had to step forward and freely give him what he needed, for as much as Jim was now the Collective, the collective could never be a society of one.

Jim also wanted credit, he wanted an acknowledgment from the Observer Corps and any other survivors of the Collective, he needed their endorsement of his hostile actions, he required their consent to pursue his agenda further.

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

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

It had to be life or death for Jim to prevail in the struggle in the final moment.

Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-nine, Battle
There was a hum and a flash across every station monitoring HomeWorld.

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

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

As each ship in the fleet moved away from every other, and away from the awesome power of its firing solution; from lasers and photon cannons and particle-beam accelerators, they flew directly into the path of the projectiles which they could not see.

They were taken at unawares.

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

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

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

They could not escape the onslaught.

Jim watched and took his position.

He allowed his consciousness to simultaneously occupy the entire field of remote sensors overseeing every part of the fleet, both from the surface of HomeWorld and those positioned throughout the Central System.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also needed the armaments they possessed to manage the threat posed by the same type of drone as belonged to him, those belonging to the Observers in the fleet, vessels which were potentially more deadly than any single one of the warships arrayed against HomeWorld.

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

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

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

They were coming.

Jim felt it was a shame to destroy them, it would have been better to scatter them among the million worlds.

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

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

The Observers in the high command were experienced combatants. Many of them lived for conflict and had become artists of the conflagration.

Many of them felt as if they belonged to the battlefield.

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

In other times, in other battles he might not have been as concerned. He never feared death because he never expected it, he believed implicitly in the power of the Continuum to restore him, because it had done so before, he had died once already, but now he was not so sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a total slaughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were expected.

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

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

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

The drones of HomeWorld had already dispatched those belonging to the Observers who had been in the fleet, and they proceeded to cut the landing party down to a small contingent.

The action was swift.

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

For a moment they felt safe.

They were defeated, in shock, bewildered, but they took courage in the presence of El.

They walked slowly across the surface of the alien world and wound their way to the access nodes of the Continuum.

Almost all of survivors accept El, were members of Observer Corps. The ordinary men clustered around the high priest.

El was the most composed among them. He gave comfort to his companions

The Observers consorted with themselves

He listened to the others talk to one another about things that no soldier should have known.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They looked about themselves and saw the phalanx of mechanoids flanking them on their route, Tthe Observers had no other desire than to have their consciousness housed in one of those powerful vehicles, to abandon the flesh they had craved, but they were stuck in their fragile organic vessels.

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

He had no idea where the knowledge of this came from, it was like instinct.

They were met with silence.

It was a death march, and they knew it.

They had no idea how or if they could survive their journey through the place to which they had come.

The Observers entered a vestibule, opened up a portal to the Collective, and once there they were able to verify three things:

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

The Continuum had been destroyed, there was no trace of its presence or consciousness anywhere within the Central System

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

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

They had no idea how to gauge his motives.

They were afraid.

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

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

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

The Observers had to acknowledge his victory.

The desire to revolt, to change circumstance, to gain control of the powers and forces that shape the lives of individuals is a constant reality in the experience of people everywhere.

The rebel Observers had dreamt of the destruction of the Continuum for millennia, for eon upon eon.

They wanted to be free of it.

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

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

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

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

There were no secrets among them.

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

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

The Continuum spent them like pawns.

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

At the end all of their schemes were usurped by one rogue member of the Collective and the Observer Corps, by Jim, a person they had no idea how they could control.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-nine, Battle

Week 51, 2019
There was a hum and a flash across every station monitoring HomeWorld.

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

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

As each ship in the fleet moved away from every other, and away from the awesome power of its firing solution; from lasers and photon cannons and particle-beam accelerators, they flew directly into the path of the projectiles which they could not see.

They were taken at unawares.

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

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

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

They could not escape the onslaught.

Jim watched and took his position.

He allowed his consciousness to simultaneously occupy the entire field of remote sensors overseeing every part of the fleet, both from the surface of HomeWorld and those positioned throughout the Central System.

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

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

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

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

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

He divided his consciousness further, taking up control of a brigade of drones, the mechanoid bodies that Observers dwelt in while they were on HomeWorld. Jim intended to meet the landing party in his own mechanoid body, a vehicle with incredible destructive power.
He also needed the armaments they possessed to manage the threat posed by the same type of drone as belonged to him, those belonging to the Observers in the fleet, vessels which were potentially more deadly than any single one of the warships arrayed against HomeWorld.

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

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

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

They were coming.

Jim felt it was a shame to destroy them, it would have been better to scatter them among the million worlds.

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

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

The Observers in the high command were experienced combatants. Many of them lived for conflict and had become artists of the conflagration.

Many of them felt as if they belonged to the battlefield.

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

In other times, in other battles he might not have been as concerned. He never feared death because he never expected it, he believed implicitly in the power of the Continuum to restore him, because it had done so before, he had died once already, but now he was not so sure.

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

He sent the armada in as decoys, as targets drawing fire from the defenses of HomeWorld, they did what he intended them to do, and many of his friends were lost to the cold vacuum of space.
They thought that the flight path he had programmed would allow them in, allow them to avoid the firing solution of HomeWorld’s defenses, but the aperture of the needle he was treading was too narrow.

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

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

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

It was a total slaughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were expected.

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

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

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

The drones of HomeWorld had already dispatched those belonging to the Observers who had been in the fleet, and they proceeded to cut the landing party down to a small contingent.

The action was swift.

They found their way to a vestibule that led them into the infrastructure of HomeWorld. For a moment they felt safe.

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

Almost all of survivors accept El, were members of Observer Corps. The ordinary men clustered around the high priest.

El was the most composed among them. He gave comfort to his companions

The Observers consorted with themselves

He listened to the others talk to one another about things that no soldier should have known.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They looked about themselves and saw the phalanx of mechanoids flanking them on their route, the Observers had no other desire than to have their consciousness housed in one of those powerful vehicles, to abandon the flesh they had craved, but they were stuck in their fragile organic vessels.

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

He had no idea where the knowledge of this came from, it was like instinct.

They were met with silence.

It was a death march, and they knew it.

They had no idea how or if they could survive their journey through the place to which they had come.

The Observers entered a vestibule, opened up a portal to the Collective, and once there they were able to verify three things:

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

The Continuum had been destroyed, there was no trace of its presence or consciousness anywhere within the Central System

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

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

They had no idea how to gauge his motives.

They were afraid.

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

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

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

The Observers had to acknowledge his victory.

The desire to revolt, to change circumstance, to gain control of the powers and forces that shape the lives of individuals is a constant reality in the experience of people everywhere.

The rebel Observers had dreamt of the destruction of the Continuum for millennia, for eon upon eon.

They wanted to be free of it.

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

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

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

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

There were no secrets among them.

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

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

The Continuum spent them like pawns.

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

At the end all of their schemes were usurped by one rogue member of the Collective and the Observer Corps, by Jim, a person they had no idea how they could control.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-nine, Battle
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-eight, Strategy

Week 50, 2019
Jim was the quintessential Observer.

He watched the drama unfold in the space above the Central Planet, gathering data from millions of instruments, he gathered it all from his command position in the control seat that was once held by the Continuum.

In this moment he was free from the chemical sequences of a human body that might influence his decision making, there was no hunger or thirst, no anger or fear.

He was the Continuum now, his consciousness governed the vast apparatus of HomeWorld, of the entire Central System, of the machinery that once housed and protected the Collective.

He observed the battle between the Imperial forces and the rebels in their midst, and it was spectacular. The movements of the fleet, the light and heat, the surprise and gallantry, the courage on display, and the cold calculus of death.

It was a grand work of art, an epic moment worthy of poetry and song. And the entire thing was being recorded for dissemination through the Empire, as was his objective.

Jim was already editing the feed from the sensors, from the combatants, their communications, everything for transmission back to the million worlds of the Imperium.

The people needed to know that the fleet would not return to punish them. The news would fuel the rebellion and bring it to completion.

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

That is exactly what he did.

A surprise attack is always a surprise, everything that stems from it is received as the unexpected. Positions of safety and security become places exposed and vulnerable in an instant. Even those who plan a surprise attack are surprised at the outcome, whether by its success or its failure.

The rebel ambush of the Imperial fleet was over.

Thousands upon thousands of ships lay scattered, broken-up in pieces and breathing fire as they burned their last stores of oxygen and fuel.

They were counting the dead.

Their victory was absolute.

The surprise maneuvers were brilliantly executed and a blessing was given by the high priest to eradicate all resistance, to usher in a new era of justice for the citizens of the Empire.

The average soldier had no idea what that meant, neither did the low ranking officers. Some of the senior staff were uncomfortable by such talk, and the Observers among them were amused.

They gave no quarter.

They slaughtered everyone in the battlefield who had not previously signed up for the insurrection.

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

They desperately wanted to clear the field and rise as the new aristocracy.

They destroyed every ship in the armada whose commanders had not been with them from the outset, regardless of whether they tried to surrender or not.

It was a blood bath, and the wreckage was already falling toward the massive gravitational pull of HomeWorld.

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

Jim was reminded of Agincourt.

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

They reformed and began to surveil the HomeWorld.

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

The Continuum was paralyzed.

It could not defend itself against Jim’s incipient approach, as system by system he took control of the physical structures.

The Continuum sought the path of escape it had laid down for itself.

The eons that Jim had spent as a ghost in the machine had prepared him for the work.

The circuitry was ever-changing, but the quantum field, within which all consciousness took place, that field was perpetual.

Jim’s mastery of it was like artistry.

The majority of the Collective, what remained of it, had been shocked into catatonia. Jim pushed them into sequestration, the members had become merely helpless witnesses to the drama unfolding.

Some were horrified, others were fascinated, all were powerless.

Those members who were not snuffed out were bewildered, they could not reach each other, they could not communicate.

They could not hide in their private worlds.

They were prisoners of the machine that had once been the source of their personal paradises.

They experienced the loss of it as pain. They had no belonging anymore, they were being torn apart and detached.

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

He delighted in it.

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

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

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

The rebel Observers planned to use every other commander in their armada as cannon fodder in their approach to the HomeWorld.

They expected the automated defenses of the Central Planet to be significant and they made a pact to protect each other.

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

They would make him the new Emperor and bring him into the Collective.

They had no idea what was lurking in the background of his consciousness, the thing that was hidden there like a genie in the bottle.

These Observers betrayed the people of the Empire, the Continuum, and the Collective out of opportunism. They wanted to live forever without the rules imposed on them by the Continuum.

To a person, they wanted to expand the Empire to other galaxies, to govern real worlds as they had governed their private worlds as members of the Collective.

They had no code, no honor, no-nothing

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

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

Jim was piqued, his emotions were high, millions of years of careful planning and waiting were coming to their final culmination.

Jim had absolutely opposed the Continuum and its Empire, and now the Continuum was gone, He could find no traces of it anywhere in the system. What remained of the Collective was sequestered and shut down, the military powers of the Empire were on the brink of destruction.

All of his attention was focused on the task at hand. The final conflict with the most insidious and oppressive force that could ever have been imagined.

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

He had already become the greatest mass murderer in the history of the galaxy, and he was about to add to the body count.

He intended to wipe away the entire structure that undergirded the Empire, to plunge a million worlds into darkness, to cut them off from one another where they could evolve on their own, free from the oppressive, over-control of the Imperium.

The first and second phases of his great endeavor were nearly complete, he was on the cusp of victory.

He would replace the machinery of the Imperial order with something new, with something that would reignite the passion of the ancient people, a passion for freedom, exploration and risk taking.

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

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

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

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

Each and every node of his own consciousness that he had previously replicated and deployed throughout the machina that had been the body of the Collective and the home of the Continuum was brought back together in Jim’s singular consciousness, it was a grand coalescence.

It was dizzying.

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

He identified an escape path but he could not detect a terminus point for it, and this disturbed.

Jim doubted his hypothesis concerning his nemesis, everything he knew about the Continuum and the unique structure of its personality confirmed that it could not tolerate a second version of itself, even a copy kept isolated and in stasis.

Jim understood that the Continuum needed above all else to believe that it was unique. This guided Jim’s summation.

However, the Continuum was also paranoid beyond belief, and Jim would not put anything past the demi-urge, it may have built fail-safes into fail-safes, and defied its own nature in order to protect itself from even a whisper of the possibility of a real threat.

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

They were able to scan the systems of Central Planet through their mechanoid bodies that were ghosting the fleet, using tools that were unknown to the Empire itself. They confirmed that the Collective was catatonic, they confirmed that the Continuum was inactive. They were able to identify Jim’s activity, but they could not identify him as the main actor, or as the causal agent of the disaster.

His activity appeared to them to be an automated subroutine of coordinated defensive measures.

It emboldened them, they moved forward, but they and the fleet were unable to scan the activation of the weapons systems that were targeting it.

They did not see it until it was too late.

It was a glorious moment.

Jim felt it, and he struggled to suppress feelings that were peaking at levels he had no memory of experiencing before.

Jim reveled in his victory; his long sought after victory over the Continuum, his victory over the Collective, and his impending victory over the approaching Imperial fleet.

He wanted nothing more than to prolong this moment of engagement, to stretch it out forever like the elongation of time at the event horizon of a singularity.

This was a singularity for him.

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

He had to allow a remnant in, He had to allow them to land on HomeWorld. He needed something from them in order to complete his takeover of the Collective and the apparatus of the Continuum.

A small contingent of the observers among them had to step forward and freely give him what he needed, for as much as Jim was now the Collective, the collective could never be a society of one.

Jim also wanted credit, he wanted an acknowledgment from the Observer Corps and any other survivors of the Collective, he needed their endorsement of his hostile actions, he required their consent to pursue his agenda further.

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

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

It had to be life or death for Jim to prevail in the struggle in the final moment.
Emergence: 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-eight, Strategy
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-seven, Tactics

Week 49, 2019
The rules of warfare are universal.

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

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

The tactician must think of ground as both something literal and something metaphorical. Ground is the field within which a conflict takes place.

There are many fields of activity leading up to actual combat.

War most often begins in the fields of commerce and politics, in those fields it is waged through trade, monetary policy, and diplomacy.

Ground can refer to an actual battlefield on land or at sea. Ground can be fixed or mobile. Ground can be the moving vectors of an aerial engagement.

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

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

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

There were two types of commanders in the field.

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

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

The other type of commander had the cognitive skills to do the math themselves, they were bred and selected for their incredible memory, and their ability to manage vast amounts of data seemingly outside the constraints of time.

These commanders could, and did act on their intuition.

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

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

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

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

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

El had determined to wipe them all out.

His forces held to their plan.

When it was over, those remaining, the survivors, the victors were unsure of the next move.

Most of them never actually believed that they would get this far, but they had been willing to die trying.

It was brief and beautiful.

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

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

It was ominous.

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

As the pilots and command staff surveilled the Central system, they were shocked at what they saw.

The reality did not conform to any of their expectations.

They were bewildered.

The military victory had been complete, entirely lopsided.

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

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

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

The only certain thing is the objective, and that was a target in motion.

In the theatre of ZeroG combat, there was no such thing as zero gravity, the label was a misnomer.

Gravitational fields were among the most important factors to consider in the shifting landscape of combat in space.

Manipulation of the forces of Gravity was absolutely crucial, understanding them, tracking their movement, anticipating their flux was vital to any mission commander.
There were batteries of instruments on every interstellar combat vessel devoted to the detection of gravitational waves and particles, and there were humans interpreting those signals, sending data to all of the smaller vessels under its command.

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

Gravity wells and singularities, could be generated artificially.

The generation of artificial mass were among the deadliest weapons in the imperial arsenal.

It took only moments for artificial mass to become actual mass by capturing nearby objects.

The tactical deployment of these devices and the navigation of them, were the keys to victory in deep space.

It could be catastrophic if deployed to close to a planet or a star.

In space everything is in motion.

Pilots of small craft and large and combat marines in mechanized battle gear, all of them study these principles day in and day out.

They drilled for it.

The text books informed them that ZeroG tactics had to be developed according to the following understanding: in the vacuum of space, when you are maneuvering and not subject to gravity, where there is no resistance, everything is in motion, everything is spinning, including the combat matrix.

The battlefield could not be conceptualized on a two-dimensional axis, on a horizontal and vertical plane.

It was a five-dimensional matrix that including the three dimensions of space, along with the dimensions of time and mass.

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot deploy tactics in the face of the unknown.

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

They could not envision that the threat they were facing was military in nature, they knew too little.

The entire fleet did not launch, only the expeditionary forces, only the most lethal war ships bristling with the most exotic array of weaponry.

The High Command argued that they must proceed with maximum power, and that they must be prepared for any eventuality.

They believed in their inherent ascendancy, they were the fully realized, self-actualized masters of incredible power.

The most seasoned and combat ready commanders took the lead, unaware of the rebels in their midst.

They leapt into the Central System blind and unknowing.

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

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

The rebels took advantage in both theatres of combat, at the muster point above the Throne World, and at the jump point above HomeWorld, and at every installation on every planet of the million worlds.

There were billions of bits of wreckage in motion, each one of them glowing in the light of plasma cannons, lasers and explosive fire.

In the ever-changing dynamics of ZeroG combat, the relative range between opponents was in constant flux, as was the vector of any approach.

Every action created an equal and opposite reaction, thrust and propulsion.

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

Every victory created new obstacles, sudden changes in the vector of pilotless craft, the creation of debris fields scattering in the void. Every piece of wreckage was potentially a lethal projectile that all combatants sought to use to their advantage, either as a screen to hide them, as shield to protect them or a weapon to strike with.

These fields of destruction were so immense that those commanders whose thinking was focused on the macro scale and long-term objectives were overwhelmed. It was beyond the ability of the strategists to account for. Even the wing commanders, the battlefield tacticians who were responsible for coordinating the engagements in real time could not manage this aspect of combat effectively.

Every object had to be scanned and tracked, every possible danger had to be analyzed for threats. Data had to be sent to every commander in the fleet and every pilot of every small craft.

Ultimately the effective use of debris came down to the close witness of pilots and space marines, in heavy battle armor engaged in localized combat missions.

Small engagements might not pose any threat at all to the Imperial powers, due to the superior fire power and overwhelming force they brought to the combat theatre, which was how their training dictated all engagements were to be conducted.
Emergence: 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-seven, Tactics
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-six, Conflict

Week 48, 2019
It was inconceivable that any force or power could threaten the Empire, the Continuum or the Collective.

They Observers believed that there were no unknowns, which could threaten their safety and security.

There were millions of Observers living on every one of the million worlds in the Empire, occupying every class and every station. They were in firm control of the apparatus of government and of the most oppressive intelligence gathering system ever conceived of, or implemented.

They were taken en masse, and completely by surprise.

The Observers were the first to sense the impending collapse of the Continuum. They understood that this was an existential threat both to the Collective and to themselves.

Some saw opportunity, but few of those understood how ready the citizens of the Empire were to burn down their civilization.

When the Observers finally did realize that something significant was happening, they opened their lines of communication to the Home World. Many traversed the distance to the Central System, only to be captured and sequestered in their mechanoid bodies, rendered powerless by Jim.

Others responded with the tools they had at their disposal, the reacted to protect the Empire, and to guard the access points each of them maintained to HomeWorld, the wormhole-conduits that would carry them to home world.

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

Every member of the Observer Corps was beset by overwhelming feelings, despite the fact that their bodies had been genetically engineered to enable them to suppress strong emotions.

Fear drove them, and curiosity also, along with a desire to protect the Home World.

The majority of the Observers made the choice to return to the Home World, using the apparatus under their control to transmit their consciousness via worm-holes across the galactic void, into the mechanical circuitry waiting for them.

It was predictable behavior, and they were trapped by it.

Every Observer had a back-up system on or near the world under their purview. A place that housed a copy of their consciousness, where they grew their doppelgangers, sanctuaries where they felt safe.

They went to their stations, activated the equipment generating the conduits that would take them home, but the apparatus on the receiving end, on the Central Planet did not function as they had expected, and they were trapped in the landing port of the receiving station, effectively cut off from the Collective.

They disappeared, millions of them gone in an instant.

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

It was chaos.

The remaining Observers numbered only in the thousands, those who held positions of rank and power marshalled their forces to protect the Central Planet, the Collective and Continuum.

They assembled the fleet.

They intended to attack the HomeWorld, to destroy whatever hostile power had taken control.

The formations of the armada prior to its movement into the Central System was a thing of beauty. None of the commanders had ever witnessed such a gathering of strength and power.

It filled them with a sense of invincibility, and stimulated their aggression. Witnessing the power and majesty of the fleet, beholding it, they had no doubt that they belonged to the most powerful force in the universe.

As the imperial fleet dropped into the Central System there was chaos where there should have been order, shock and surprise where there should have been symmetry and syncopation, there was hardly time to get a reading on their telemetry before the violence ensued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sought to clear the field.

It was a vision of chaos.

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

The mayhem that ensued was unprecedented.

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

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

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

None of the commanders had been experienced at taking heavy losses in combat, the forces of the Empire were just too overwhelming in the field. They had only ever experienced small-surprise defeats at the hands of rebel forces.

In this new theatre of combat they were overwhelmed, both militarily and emotionally.

In the vital seconds that were lost while processing the implications of their failure, they cast their gaze on the HomeWorld of the Continuum and prayed for deliverance.

They had been betrayed by their closest companions

The Continuum was absent.

Their prayers were swallowed by the void.

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

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

It was the final sacrifice of the Imperial Armies.

Tens of thousands of starships burst into flame and were suddenly extinguished in the vacuum of space.

It was a spectacle of incredible beauty, of horror and terror.

It was over mere moments after it began.

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

El’s participation absolved all the rebels of their crime.

Their brethren would never return to this life.

No aid was given to any who might have survived.

Their ships were systematically disabled, and they were left to drift in the ghostly lights of the Home-World

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

Their destiny was in their hands.

They were ready to bring the Gods down, to force answers from the Continuum, to have the truth, to bathe in its cold light at any costs.

There were leaks of information through the intelligence services. No-one serving in the insurrection was there for altruistic reasons, their reactions to the events that were unfolding were completely self-serving.

Everyone was looking for opportunities to advance, and with the destruction of the majority of the Imperial Fleet, the rewards to be seized were immediate. Ranks and social standing were being recalibrated in real time.

The rebels only had to succeed in their attack with enough time to get to the temple to ratify their movement.

In the Empire, among its million worlds, the news was devastating to those who were trying to uphold the existing order.

There was widespread mayhem, chaos, thousands of years of pent up rage expressed under pressure.

The Imperial news sources could not keep a lid on it. Every planet was in crisis, and the emergency news traffic was designed to be unfiltered.

As the conflict ensued, reaching its boiling point, suddenly the untouchables and outcasts threw their hands in, in one great uncoordinated wave.

They were reaching for their freedom, actualizing their potential, and they would not be denied.

On every world the priesthood struggled to make sense of things, but they could not, and they could not appease the masses.

They waivered for a time and then began to side with the people.

The plebs wanted revolution they wanted freedom.

Those who could not see the change coming, discovered it in the sudden shock of terrible-violence.

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

On a million worlds there was conflict. It rose like the sudden wave of a tsunami, the people gathered, seeming to coordinate their assault as if they were moving together in an atavistic state of consciousness.

They were driven by more than common purpose, they were connected in a group mind.

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

They evinced no fear as they were cut down by projectiles, explosives and energy weapons, mowed down by the thousands.

The survivors pressed their victory against any who represented the Empire, the Continuum and the Collective, on every world they pressed to secure their gains. They did not stop to loot or rest, they tore down everything in their path, pressing their assault into the temples and the mansions behind them.

It was sheer chaos for those who faced the assault, it defied reason, and any experience they had ever had of how people behave in a theatre of war, or on the field of combat.

They risked their lives and perished in vast numbers, doing so without fear of pain or death, reprisal, revenge or failure.

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

If they failed, their bid to reorganize the Empire would end in disaster.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-six, Conflict
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-five, Possession

Week 47, 2019
Education in the Imperial schools was not centered on learning as much as it was conditioning.

Every citizen was taught that all good things flowed from the Empire, whatever the individual had to be thankful for, no matter how small, including their daily food and clean water, they could look to the Empire and to the Emperor himself as its source.

The schools beat this perspective into the mind of every person, as the hammer pounds a nail.

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

The schools were the hammer, and the cult set the nail.

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

There was nothing that they possessed, or that they ever would possess that did not flow from the Empire’s munificence.

The Continuum and its Empire were the source of all goodness and justice, they controlled the destiny of every living being.

The first gift they gave to the individual was existence, it was selfhood.

Life in the Galactic Empire was like a woven tapestry, with the Continuum dictating how every thread was stretched across the loom, integrating each strand into the fabric of the whole.

The images were constantly changing, moving, developing, even the tiniest detail of the lives of the citizens fed the hunger of the Collective.

The Imperial government was the loom, the Imperial schools and the cult were the shuttlecock, and the Observers in the field were like the hands that pulled the threads through.

The Empire controlled every aspect of home life for the family, how it was employed, whether or not they would advance, how much they could save, how much food was on their table.

To resist the will of the Empire even in thought, was considered to be a grave sin.

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

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

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

Procreation itself was tightly controlled.

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

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

Every citizen lived out their lives with the possibility of contemplating only a very narrow band of possibilities for themselves and their families.

Hope itself was discouraged, but in that bleak landscape the most powerful hopes would blossom, brightening the lives of the people like flower blooming in the arctic.

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

They married and had children within their class and caste, within their occupation, generation after generation.

Soldiers went to war, while priests officiated the sacred rites. The gears of the social wheel turned predictably and only the rarest of individuals even questioned it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Collective loved to see people and families built up, only to watch them taken down, sometimes over the course of generations, at other time with bewildering speed.

The Continuum gave them these dramas, filling the Collective with the vicarious experiences they craved.

The greatest narratives the Continuum had ever constructed resulted in the destruction of entire worlds, the suppression of rebellion that resulted in total genocide.

The more power a person had the more careful they had to be. Billions of lives depended on their thoughtful application of it.

Such was the case with El the High Priest.

His rebellion had destroyed everything he had ever loved. Then, after his resurrection and his complete submission to Imperial rule, he held posts in which he signed orders that starved quarrelsome population into submission.

He led the Imperial armada on missions that turned entire planets into glowing cinders, sending their raw materials to the central system as an offering to the Collective.

As High Priest El blessed these missions and absolved the commanders of any and all crimes they and their troops committed in the furtherance of it.

Control requires ever greater control; to force it is to lose it. In the Empire the exercise of power had to be done submissively, always in deference to a greater authority..

It was dichotomous.

The Empire cultivated a sense of helplessness, routinely crushing any sense of self esteem, while at the same bonding various groups of citizens together, forging a sense of belonging among the trillions of citizens living on a million worlds.

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

Their advancement depended on their fidelity.

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

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

Any sense of control that an individual might feel was an illusion, fostered for the sake of creating a narrative that leant meaning to the lives of the Collective.

A person only had existential worth if they were noticed by the Collective, but that was by no means a guarantee of happiness.

The ambitions of an entire planet could be burnt up and scattered like cinders and ash, if it suited the will of the Collective.

No individual person or planet had inherent value.

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

The sacred rites functioned like a dragnet, drawing everyone in, capturing them body and soul.

Every citizen was compelled to conform; the Empire would not accept anything less than complete obedience. Attendance at the temple was mandatory. Few people even attempted to resist, those that did were discovered and subjected to advanced conditioning.

If the priesthood was unable to change the will of the deviant, they were expelled, cast out, they became untouchable.

Conformation to the Imperial way was the focus of the Imperial schools as well. Conditioning of the head reinforced the conditioning of the heart.

The schools provided an intellectual apparatus and frame of context for the religious rites to fill.

The rites of the Imperial cult were grand ceremonies, both simple and complex, they engaged the adherent at every level of their senses, they were imbued with hypnotic power.

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

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

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

The priesthood used every device at its disposal, controlling the people with music and movement, with mantras and mandalas, through their diet and with drugs. They had honed their techniques over millions of years.

They never fully succeeded in this, and they never quit trying.

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

In order to advance a person needed an advocate.

People coveted access more than anything, as such every access point was closely guarded. There were bureaucratic entanglements to negotiate and social hurdles to climb.

The norms of the hierarchies had to be observed.

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

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

To go anywhere a person needed access to authority, they needed access to those able to grant a boon or advance their cause, this was the grand nexus for the systemic corruption of the entire social order.

Nothing was free.

The limits to upward mobility were clear and near at hand. They could only be understood in economic terms.

The economics of advancement were disturbing, unethical, but by and large they were not illegal. It was not illegal to commit one’s child to a life of servitude in your patron’s house, it was not considered unethical to do so if it meant that another child could attend a better school.

Neither was it illegal to use your servants for whatever purpose you intended, even risking their lives for your own purposes, no matter how mundane or banal those purposes might be.

It was in that nexus that the people found their complicity in the crushing of one another’s dreams.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-five, Possession
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-four, Loyalties

Week 46, 2019
The Imperial system did everything it could to sew divisions among the people; to sew division between individuals, families, tribes, and worlds, between castes, and between ranks, keeping them all in competition for the most basic things, all the way down to food and water, whatever each class and caste needed most to survive.

The Empire was masterful at it.

Paradoxically, it managed to foment all of that division, by dogmatically focusing the attention of every person on the things that actually united them.

Many things united the people of the Empire, such as; language, cult and custom.

Brothers and sisters, cousins, they might compete tirelessly with one another for position in their family unit, but they would reflexively protect the social status of the family itself, just as families would do within their tribal and national structures, or as tribes and nations would relate to their home world.

Fear, and hope were among the most powerful forces establishing this mutuality, and commonality throughout the worlds. There was perpetual conflict, politicking, and maneuvering for gain.

The children of the Ancients evolved in different ways, on their disparate worlds, developing different genetic endowments to manage with differing gravity, differing atmospheres and sources of nutrition. They looked up at different stars, and each world contemplated a different fate.

Their genetic similarities united them.

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

Nobody was satisfied with their position in society.

Everyone dreamed of advancing to the next level, it was the constant preoccupation of the masses. They desired advancement, either in this life or the next, every detail of their lives was subordinated to this ambition and nothing else mattered.

The people lived in a perpetual state of fear, or unease. They believed their safety and security depended on it.

Even the highest ranking members of the Imperial family were caught up in the notion of advancement, only they knew the truth concerning the end game and their desire was eternal life in the Continuum.

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

They referred to it as the ladder of divine ascent.

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

There was safety in numbers.

The people were united by tribe, clan, village and world; as well as by class, by rank and station, by fear and loathing. This was the result of the Imperial conditioning.

The Imperial schools and the religion of the Empire were extremely adept at concretizing this divisive mode of ideation.

Nevertheless, in every generation, on every world and in virtually every tribe there were those who were born seemingly immune to the coercive controls of the Imperium.

These precious few were motivated by love and altruism, they cared little for their rank, they saw themselves as a part of the greater whole and it did not require effort for them to think this way

It came to them naturally.

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

The Empire was vast, stretching like a net through the center of the galaxy.

It was comprised of a million worlds.

The Empire was a necklace of planets strung like gems among the stars, each of them was the locus of identity for the ordinary citizen who inhabited it.

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

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

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

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

Every person was marked by their world in ways that were both obvious and hidden. In ways that were clearly discernable to the naked eye, and in ways that would only be revealed in an autopsy or under the microscope.

Every person on every world was a descendent of the ancient race of people who first explored the stars, of those who engineered the Collective.

In this way they belonged to one another, and that belonging was constantly reinforced through the Imperial Cult, and the Imperial Schools.

Life had been found on millions of other planets, the Ancient Race had seeded some of it in advance of their colonists arriving there but people, sentient people had never been discovered anywhere else in the galaxy.

Every person was uniquely formed by their own planet, and they shared that common core with their fellow citizens. It superseded everything including language, which itself is amorphous, changing all the time.

The Imperial Schools attempted to normalize linguistics throughout the million worlds of the Empire. They were continuously falling short of their goal.

People speak in codes, in patterns constructed from shared experience, patterns that change rapidly in both space and time; from one village to the next, from planet to planet and generation to generation.

It was a prime example of the chaos inherent in civilization

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

Change was the only constant.

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

Language was the architecture of hope and of resentment both, and that is why the Continuum wanted so badly to control it. Citizens projected their desires for themselves and their families with language. They organized their resistance to the powers that ruled them with the same.

Every rebellion was hidden in secret language, and the full weight of the drama was contained therein.

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

The bonds between people, even members of the same family were flimsy, they were unreliable, but some were stronger than others.

People found one another through the things they desired most, bonding with each other through their joy and pain, they gravitated toward the same places. They were even shepherded to those places, to encounter one another through the ever-watchful eyes of the Continuum, which knew the secret musings of their hearts.

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

They were cultivated for the drama they would deliver to the Collective.

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

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

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

Children would destroy their parents.

Brothers and sisters would plot against each other.

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

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

The Collective thirsted for this drama and the Continuum delivered.

Fear was the great lever, the most commonly used instrument in the tool chest of the Imperial conditioners for the coercion and manipulation of the masses.

Fear made the lives, the choices and behaviors of the citizenry more predictable than any other factor.

The Continuum relied on the power of fear more than any other device to achieve its ends in the great dramas it created.

The Imperial Cult had conditioned the people into an absolute belief in the laws that governed death and rebirth, so that even the prospect of death could not overcome the power of fear.

The people projected the dilemmas they faced in this life through their present circumstances, carrying them forward into the world they believed was coming.

Even the most ordinary person believed that every choice they made would echo in eternity.

Fear poisoned the body and it shaped consciousness in the electromagnetic field. Its power was a weight that pressed down on everyone and everything at every moment of a person’s life.

No one could escape it.

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

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

Fear catalyzed all of the lesser emotions, tainting them. It conditioned every feeling so that every expression of emotion was a reflection of it.

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

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

It was proven.

Love is stronger than fear, stronger than any power that the Continuum could set against it, and true love was exceedingly rare, but through the power of love a person came into their true self, and was able to transcend all the limitations which they had theretofore been beset by.

The love of a mother for her child was the greatest and most genuine source of love, but as children grew into adults and left their families it began to wane.

Competition and desire ate away at the bonds of familial love, more often than not, leaving it in shreds and tatters.

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

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

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

Love is the exercise of a fundamental option.

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

Fear and hate, anger and desire these were powerful motivators of people, motivating them through coercion, whereas love is choice made in freedom.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-four, Loyalties
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 4.0 – Part Seven, War; Chapter Forty-three, Division

Week 45, 2019
The event was utterly unexpected.

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

As awareness of the event spread through the Observer corps, the Empire reacted.

The Imperial forces had little familiarity with being on the defensive, or with entering a conflict zone in which the parameters of the battlefield were unknown.

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

They were apathetic.

Those Observers loved the lives they lived, there only desire was to exist as fully embodied beings in the fields of time and space, eating and drinking and reveling in their physicality.

These Observers had long since stopped feeling any sense of obligation to the Collective or the Continuum, which they knew as the most corrupt and despotic force in all the galaxy.

They felt no sense of duty to the Central System, to HomeWorld, or to their shared ancestry with their brothers and sisters in the Collective.

They saw in this moment an opportunity to free themselves from the expectations of their station.

When the Collective established the Imperial Schools and formed the Imperial Cult, it never intended to create a monolithic structure, or a society that eliminated all dissent.

The Continuum did, and it desired the conflict ensue from it.

It wanted the hot drama of resistance, and it felt safe, it felt secure in the belief that such conflicts would never touch it.

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

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

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

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

They knew the lies that were told to the masses.

They were nihilists, they believed in nothing.

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

They wanted to wait and see what would happen.

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

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

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

A debate raged among the general staff.

Most wanted to do something to free themselves from the malevolent influence of the Continuum, they did not believe in its teaching.

Most of them were in fact atheists, they abhorred the imperial cult and their subservience to the priesthood.

They were as divided as the members of the Observer Corps stationed among them.

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

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

They had no idea what they would find there.

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

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

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

Their hesitancy was not based on religious fear or superstition, it was based on the lack of familiarity with fighting against a power with immeasurable resources.

One which they had been conditioned to fear above all things

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

Fear of the unknown ruled them, fear of the Continuum, fear of failure.

At the urging of the secret Observers, they sent an invitation to the high priest to join their conspiracy, the man who had been their most exalted Marshall.

They asked him to join their conclave, and in that moment they knew that they had played their hand, they were committed.

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

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

They were traditionalists, they were loyalists.

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

They were cardinals and bishops and priests.

They were planetary governors and star system commanders.

They were members of royal houses.

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

They had the absolute majority.

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

They were trapped in their mechanoid bodies when they arrived. They were caught in their tiny little prisons, deaf, dumb and blind.

They were effectively sequestered, by Jim who had taken control of the Central System and HomeWorld.

The traditionalists were unprepared for the violence which came at them from all sides.

The Observers among them had been in key positions of leadership, they could not develop a strategy without them.

Being unprepared, they were trapped.

The conditioning that every citizen underwent, both through the Imperial Schools and the Imperial Cult was extraordinary.

Very few citizens were able to resist it.

Among the armed forces the standard conditioning was augmented by a force of cohesion referred to as esprit de corps.

The ordinary soldier did not doubt the vision of advancement, of resurrection, of reincarnation and eternal life, that was promised by the Empire through the great religion.

More than anything else a soldier was focused on those rewards, and the esteem of their comrades.

This made any soldier a very dangerous enemy. They were true believers.

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

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

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

They would follow any order and obey the chain of command in everything.

It made killing their enemies easy and all of their crimes forgivable.

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

Without it they were nothing.

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

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

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

They were not necessarily true believers, but their ambitions made them sycophantic.

They were the most senior commanders, or soldiers whose social rank placed them nearest to the threshold between castes. They were determined to rise in the service of the Continuum, and its Empire.

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

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

They mobilized the defenses.

They mustered all of their forces from shore leave.

They executed their maneuvers perfectly.

The fleet was under their control.

They gathered together to defend the Imperial throne, which was the only known portal to the HomeWorld of the Continuum.

They were martyrs for their faith.

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

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

This was a serious flaw.

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

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

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

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

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

They were slaughtered in each of the places where they had gathered; they were slaughtered en-masse.

In a singular moment of surprise, choreographed in a million place at once, they were utterly defeated.
Emergence 4.0
Part Seven, War

Chapter Forty-three, Division
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week

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Emergence 3.0 – Epilogue, Collected Parts; Part Seven, Bliss

Emergence 3.0
A Novel – In One Page Per Day
Day 364, Sunday
December 30th, 2018

Epilog: Part Seven – Bliss

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

She was seized, she fell into a state of rapture.

Kathy assumed the mantle of the Continuum.

It happened atavistically.

She became it.

She became more than it had ever been.

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

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

She had no limits, she was unbound by time and space.

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

She crossed the vast limits of the Empire, all of its colonies, she covered the remote regions of its spiral arms, she touched her little blue world, orbiting its tiny yellow star.

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

Her wordless sentiment of love.

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

She was able to reconcile the distinctiveness of herself as the persona she was born into, had originated as, a child of Earth; she reconciled that with the whole of creation that existed within her, as it existed in every other part.

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

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

In the end Kathy allowed herself to fall into the sensation stirring within her, the sensation unlike any feeling she had ever had before.

It was pure bliss.

She and the world were one.

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