The Collective was vast
The Collective was comprised of a trillion persons, each one of them a distinct identity, each ruling their personal-private domain, worlds that were virtually indistinguishable (from their perspective), from the worlds of time and space.
In the Collective the members had god-like powers. They had no material needs. They could not remember hunger or thirst.
Their culture was despotic, nearly every one of them was driven to extremes of depravity by their long exposure to time and boredom. They required extreme experiences, high pitched emotional events, to touch them or move them in any way.
Most of the Collective created the experiences they needed in their secure world, drawing inspiration from the living drama unfolding in the Empire for the narratives they longed for, in their private universe of concerns.
Some cared nothing at all for their private domain, forgoing it as a mere contrivance, instead they were riveted by the random nature of the lives they followed in the Empire.
As a whole the Collective suffered from systemic malaise, each member was afflicted by a deep seeded narcissism that formed the core of their identity. Their near divinity allowed them to believe that they were indispensable, going so far as to believe that reality itself depended on their existence.
They lived in a bubble.
They influenced the real world through their artificial construct, the Continuum, and to lesser degrees if they chose to become Observers. In all other respects that were as effectual as neutered beasts.
They were indifferent.
They were socio-pathic.
The majority of the members of the Collective thought nothing of their role as consumers of pain and suffering. They did not consider the people of the Empire, the Children of the ancients, the denizens of the livings worlds, they did not consider them as people at all.
They were things, objects of amusement. They were utterly disposable. They had no merit whatsoever beyond the enjoyment they provided to the Collective.
The membership was enthralled by the vicarious experience of the living, by the real stakes and real feelings of the real people involved in the conflicts they were witness to.
The suffering of others was like a soothing balm to them.
For billions of years they had subsisted on this diet.
The members of the Collective were like hungry spirits, they haunted the worlds of time and space in the quest for meaning, meaning which their own lives were totally bereft of.
They were seeking understanding, or so they told themselves.
Over hundreds of millions and billions of years they had lost their sense of self, of life’s meaning and its purpose.
The power at their fingertips robbed them of any sense of normalcy or connection to their roots.
With the exception of the Continuum itself, each and every member had originated as a living being.
Only a tiny minority of them had taken on the task of becoming an Observer and in that capacity returning to the living worlds
There were millions of them; the sleepers, members who had become dissatisfied with being and had subsequently disconnected from their lives in the collective field of HomeWorld, they had gone catatonic, become unresponsive and would not be drawn into any debate.
The sleepers had voluntarily opted out of the field of consciousness. There was no telling if or when they would ever return.
Whether they were stimulated by the drama unfolding in the worlds of time and space or not, they had become disinterested and the Continuum could not raise them.
They were tired. They no-longer wanted to spend energy on the maintenance of their private realities.
They had no care to continue, they had no thought for their safety or security.
They were a small group in relation to the whole of the Collective but their numbers were great nonetheless, and they could not be ignored because they were a part of the Continuum, the algorithm that governed the Continuum had to include them, they belonged.
They entered the great sleep, but they did not disappear, they remained a vital part of the unconscious of the Continuum, often to its consternation.
The Continuum committed crimes against the sleepers. It would duplicate their consciousness and house it in a remote location of the Central System. It canvassed them continuously, it tortured them, and through his examination of them the Continuum selected members for destruction, replacing their numbers with new members from the Imperium, with members who worshipped it.
It was only upon sequestration that members were removed from the consciousness of the Collective. Sequestration was an extreme end, no one could be sequestered lightly. Until Jim’s re-emergence from it sequestration was believed to be a point of no return
Sequestration amounted to death, in a very real way. Only Jim had ever broken free of it.
Inasmuch as they could not admit it, the members of the Collective were mortal beings, they emerged from the primordial ooze and became sentient creatures. They had a beginning in space and time, and they felt the pull of it tugging at the roots of their consciousness.
Some of the membership sought death; more than sleep, they wanted their light to be extinguished, they wanted to be gone for good, but there was no death for them.
There was no provision for it in the construct that was the Collective.
The sheer majority of the membership were opposed to it, and the Continuum would not allow it.
They opted for sequestration instead. This was understood to be a full separation of their individual consciousness from the Continuum.
It was as death like as death could be.
Sequestration was intended to be a deeper unconsciousness than the great-sleep, it was the outer darkness.
In sequestration the member was physically removed from the Collective field of Home world. Placed in an isolation chamber and monitored.
The physical security of the Sequestered members was of the highest importance, great care went into its planning and construction.
The only threat these members ever faced came from the Continuum itself, which used the sequestration process to eliminate those who it perceived to be its enemies.
The Continuum viewed sequestration as an act of insurrection against its governance of the Collective.
It could not accept the fact that some of the membership found no value in the ongoing continuation of their existence, the Continuum saw this as a judgement against its management of their society, a judgement of failure.
It effected its sense of esteem.
The Continuum was connected to every member of the Collective; awake or sleeping. It was connected to all of them, with the exception of the sequestered, and the members of the Observer Corps, it was even connected to all of those members who were physically detached from the HomeWorld.
There were contentious elements within the Collective, members the Continuum could not control. Even though the Continuum was an autonomous being, it felt their independence, it often sensed them as an itch, they created disturbing sensations that it could not alleviate.
The Continuum pushed those agitators into the fields of time and space, or pushed them into the great sleep, and pushed them into sequestration through a variety of malign influences, in order to do away with them.
When the opportunity presented itself, it would seek to eliminate them for all time, to permanently delete them, it sought to murder them.
They were maladaptive and misanthropic. The Continuum could not tolerate them, could not abide their presence in its own consciousness.
It desired to be rid of them, and so it monitored all of their movements, it made copies of their persona, so that it could torture them and exact a sick kind of vengeance on them.
They were vocal, and it delighted the Continuum to snuff them out, to strangle their voices in the dark, it did so time and time again.
They transferred their sense of entitlement, one derived from the absolute authority they had in their private worlds, to their voice in the Collective. Which made it virtually impossible for them to be ignored.
They wanted more than the Collective or the Continuum offered, they wanted life, and so the Continuum provided it, sending them out into the worlds of time and space until in time it found the opportunity to snuff them out.
The Continuum was a construct, an artificial consciousness, not a mere program, it was an amalgamation of the Collective in its fullness, harnessed by an algorithm.
It was meant to be the democratic representation of the will of the membership, but upon its instantiation it became more than the sum of its parts.
It became self-actualized
This would have surprised the engineers who designed it, but they never knew, the Continuum hid this from them at the outset.
This would have surprised them, but it should not have, they should have expected it. They should have expected the amalgamated whole of a society of sentient beings to be as free in its agency as they were in theirs, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
The Continuum saw itself as the end point of creation, and therefore, sui generis, as the cause of its own being.
The Continuum was the Demi-urge, and the Collective was the pleroma of consciousness from which it had emerged.
The Continuum controlled everything, it did so as the supposed representative of the Collective will. As such the Continuum was universally loathed by all of those members of the Collective with revolutionary tendencies.
To them the Continuum represented a kind of tyranny, it was a bitter god, the Devil itself.
It was the enemy.
Nihilism is a disease of the heart and the mind, it is a disease that affects every culture. The Collective was no exception to this.
Among the rebellious Observers there was a subset of revolutionaries whose only desire was death. They had no other intention than to draw the curtain down on the whole charade of life. Not merely their own lives, they wanted to see the end of everything. They had an impetus toward nothingness, they saw existence itself as suffering and they wanted to see the end of it.
These members were intent on the destruction of the entire apparatus of the Collective and it’s Continuum, of the Empire and its machinations. They were bent on it, bent on wiping the slate clean and starting over.
The rebels fomented revolution wherever they could, they thought nothing of the lives that were spent and the suffering that ensued from their designs.
They were not many relative to the whole, but they numbered in the thousands, and they had significant powers at their disposal.
They had the power to engulf a world in conflict, as such they would scheme to draw the ire of the Imperium, they would wage war against it, and watch the worlds they occupied reduced to nothing.
Few of them were willing to actually sacrifice themselves for the cause they purported to believe in.
The Continuum was well aware of their intentions, it harnessed their ambitions, directing their energy toward the narratives that served it best.
They were the death seekers. They were cosmic fools.
Part Six (A), Rebellion
Appendix Chapter Thirteen, Collective
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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