A Novel – One Chapter Per Week
Week 13, 2019
This knowledge was lost.
Ages before the technological advent of collective consciousness, before the invention of the Continuum, the Ancient People were adventurers.
The Ancient Ones came to being in the oceans of a hot planet, long forgotten.
Their planet of origin had orbited a massive red star, near to the center of the galaxy, a star that was now just a dark-pulsing shard, a tiny remnant of what it once was.
The Ancient People emerged from water, crawling from the primordial ooze to stand on two feet and then they learned to fly.
They escaped the gravity of their birth world.
They explored their solar system, colonizing every planet, exo-planet and satellite.
They sent their genetic material to every planet they discovered in the habitable zones of every star they could see, seeding them with the building blocks of life.
They set their sights on those faraway places, determining to make homes of them, determining that there would be life on those worlds, foodstuffs growing when their children’s, children’s, children arrived.
They launched themselves into the galaxy on ships and planetoids that crossed the dark and empty chasms between the stars, never to return.
They were spacefarers.
They were adventurers without limits to their hope and imagination.
They undertook journeys that would take generations to complete.
Most of the missions failed, they understood the likelihood that they were facing a virtually certain doom, even as they launched into the void.
This prospect did not daunt them.
They did not fear for their safety, their security lay in the unknown.
Millions upon tens of millions of years passed.
The Collective was founded, and the Continuum arose.
In time, a curiosity formed within the Collective, and that curiosity became too much for the Continuum to ignore. The Continuum also wanted to discover the end of every trail that had ever been cut by the Children of the Ancients, though its own motives were different from those of the Collective.
A search began.
The Collective desired to discover what had happened to those ancient explorers, the adventurers who gave everything of themselves to the quest for knowledge, the colonists of asteroids and comets.
They were the children of their own ancestors, cousins, with a common set of ancestors.
Space travel changed people. It altered their DNA. The sojourneers mutated as a means of compensating for new environments. Colonizing planets did the same thing. It was the nature of life to adapt to new conditions; breathable gasses, heat, gravity, protein structures, conditions of light, and many other extrinsic factors played their part in altering the life form.
Many mutations occurred naturally, many others were developed intentionally, as long as the explorers retained their scientific skill, with the means and the ability to do so, they would use their science and technology to augment the natural processes, allowing them to adapt that much more quickly to the exigencies of their new environment.
Physical mutations had a great deal of effect on cognition, and every other mental faculty. These things were of the utmost importance to the Continuum.
The Continuum launched probes into space to follow their trails, to discover the records of their passing.
The probes were sensitive enough that they could follow a stream of particles in the void between stars that was millions of years old. A trail that had gone cold could be reconstructed through the extrapolation of data, and statistical analysis.
The search uncovered the living remnants of thousands of colonies.
The Galactic Empire mobilized to bring them into the fold.
Many thousands of more were found cold and dead.
They discovered colonies spawned by colonies. The searches called for an in-person examination of the ruins of those civilizations.
Jim positioned himself as the Observer assigned to those missions.
After millennia upon thousands of millennia all of the lost colonies were found, both the living, and the dead. Every last trace of the great sojourn was tracked down, every record, every file, every artifact was recovered that could be recovered.
Through the auspices of the Imperial schools, dead civilizations were recreated, so that their stories could be absorbed by the Collective.
Of the living, very few remembered anything of their origins or the long dead, long cold star system from which their progenitors hailed.
Everything for them was shrouded in myth and legend.
The Empire found it relatively easy to bring these lost colonies into the Imperial fold. There was always some resistance, but the homecoming was inevitable, resistance was always crushed; mercilessly and systematically.
The Collective was fascinated by the drama that ensued through these interactions. Their attention would be riveted on the process of colonial integration.
It was easy to coax the returning people into the Imperial cult, into worshipping the Continuum, into believing in its promises of prosperity and eternal life. It was relatively simple to recast them, and forge them anew as belonging to the Empire.
Integration might take centuries. It was a long process. Generations would be born and die while the Imperial infrastructure was extended to those remote locations.
The process was welcomed by most of the citizens. Inclusion in the Empire was accompanied by a certain loss of heritage and identity, a loss of freedom, but the technological gains were so great that the majority of the people accepted it without question.
They wanted it, they wanted the things that the Empire promised.
They wanted to believe in the hope for Eternal life.
A priesthood emerged from the civilizations founded by the Ancients.
The priesthood was the primary social structure in the advancement of the Galactic Empire. It was the pinnacle of the social order. The emperor was the titular ruler, but he was governed by the priests of the Magisterium.
As with all things, civil and social power concentrated closest to the center, the pinnacle of the hierarchy and the center of greatest esteem. Those worlds in greatest proximity to the HomeWorld of the Collective, to the Central Planet, they became the drivers of Imperial activity.
The core worlds of the Empire were also the oldest, they had been pulled together and unified at a point nearer in time to the formation of the Collective and the birth of the Continuum.
As the Imperial structure cohered, the command and control function began to be governed by a hidden agenda of the Continuum, and guided by the Observer Corps, in violation of its edicts.
Even though the Observers were sworn to a path of non-intervention, the Continuum could not resist using this vehicle as a means of controlling the Children of the ancients, drawing their resources to itself, and uncovering any threat to it that might be lurking in their science and technology.
The Continuum created the doctrine and dogma, it created all of the binding rituals that structured the spiritual devotions of the Empire. The Observers implemented it, and built up the ideology of faith and belief, of education and service that consolidated its power among the people.
Every living being was motivated by two principle psychic forces, the power of fear, and the power of hope. Pain, hunger, pleasure, satiation, those feelings only had significance insofar as they related to the basic divisions in the psyche of fear and hope.
The Continuum wielded this knowledge with brute force and surgical precision both, in everything that it did through the agency of the Observers, and through the vast complex of the Empire.
Star system by star system, planet by planet, the Imperial missionaries recovered the lost peoples, bringing them all together.
The integrative process took hundreds to thousands of years, it was the great occupation of the Empire over the course of eons that the Empire came to refer to as the Missionary Epoch. They conceived of the work as a harvest, a harvest of people and cultures, of languages and art.
They translated all the fruits of the harvest to the Collective through the Continuum.
The Empire took its final form after those remnants of the ancient race, the race of beings that had given birth to all of them, were brought into the fold.
They formed a unified and coherent society, even though each planetary grouping had changed in significant ways. They had different languages customs, different cultures, different modes of work and living, of leisure and art. They had different forms of conflict, and different forms of conflict resolution. They were genetically different, but alike enough to be recognizable as kin, and able to be bred with one another.
The Imperial Missionaries offered them peace and prosperity through inclusion in the Empire, it offered them an understanding of their past, redacted and altered to fit the imperial narrative, and it offered them the hope of eternal life in the Continuum.
It was a great time for the Observers, they were constantly bringing new information back to the Collective. It was an era of high drama, of conflict and conversion.
In this era the Empire achieved its highest potential, it was a fully realized civil body, at the end of the missionary era, it began to contract, and corruption, which was always present, began to magnify.
Jim was in the vanguard of every discovery.
He was the lead explorer, hunting down the most miniscule clues, tracing contrails of particles through the deepest-darkest places in the void between stars, unearthing long buried archives from long dead worlds to point him along the paths those Ancient Colonists had taken.
The children of the Ancient People evolved into many different life forms, with varying cultures and alternate ways of being on a million worlds.
The Empire collected them all, gathered them into a cohesive body, bound them to one another through ritual, by dogma, with doctrine and the promise of eternal life.
The Empire was the threshold of the Continuum, it was the gatekeeper.
In truth there was little hope that any of the citizens of the Imperium would ever make it into the Collective.
The only candidate were from among the priesthood of the Imperial Cult, the smallest sect with the greatest power.
The Imperial religion ranked each world, and promoted the belief that a person had to be reincarnated through billions of lifetimes until they were born on the world that was at the heart of the Empire. Progress through reincarnation was slow, eternally slow, and even when the soul of a citizen arrived and was finally incarnated there, they still had to progress over thousands and perhaps millions of lifetimes in order to rise through the classes and multiple stages of the chain of being.
Even when a person made it into the priestly class they had to rise through the stations over the course of hundreds of life-times, until finally their soul was ready to ascend to the highest place, and upon their death be ready for translation into the Continuum.
This was the wheel of life, it was the great chain of being. It was the Dogma of the Imperial Cult.
It was a lie.
Merging with the Continuum was the ultimate aspiration for each and every citizen, and it was an effective means of control, working to keep the population of every planet in line.
There was no reincarnation, there was no eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth.
There was no fulfillment in the Continuum, no joining the Collective, save for a very select and popular few, there was only the continual feed of consciousness, of memory and experience to the Continuum, the individual consciousness of the citizen, extracted, and abstracted to serve the appetites of the membership of the great society
The Empire was organized hierarchically, like a great pyramid, with the Emperor at the top.
The Emperor was viewed by all of the people as the living manifestation of their will.
The Emperor was the one person who must be obeyed at all times.
The Emperor managed everything pertaining to the normal function of life and society, all of the material resources, but most importantly the Emperor commanded the armed forces of a million worlds.
The Emperor was the focal point, the sword tip, the apex of the vast galactic civilization which imagined itself ruling the lives of countless people.
Only the priesthood operated outside the Emperors sphere of influence, technically, in reality the Emperor had great sway over priests, especially in the lower orders, among the corrupt and those who could be bought and sold.
The Emperor was actually an Observer in almost every iteration.
The station he occupied was one of the many bridges that had been established, connecting the functions of Imperial government directly to the Continuum.
The Emperor, whose word was law, who ruled by decree, whose will was imperative, he was the Pontifex Rex.
The role of Emperor had been filled by many Observers over time. Handing out the position of supreme authority was one of the rewards that the Continuum used to coerce members of the Observer Corps into doing its bidding.
With an obedient Observer safely ensconced in the role of Emperor, the Continuum was able to effectuate its will throughout the million worlds of the Imperium.
Most of the direction the Continuum gave to the Emperor was merely intended to generate the drama which the Collective craved, to feed it.
This violation of the standards of the Observer Corps, of the rules against intervention were seen as an absolutely necessary means of control over the vast and sprawling civilization, therefore it was allowed.
Part Two, The Continuum
Chapter Twelve, The Empire
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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