The shock wave that struck the Continuum was all encompassing; the crisis it carried rippled through the Galactic Empire, touching every one of the inhabited worlds.
Every Observer was entangled with the Collective through the sub-atomic and quantum organization of its consciousness. The depth of this entanglement had never been explored in any formal way, but it was an ontological reality even if it was not perceptible. Even the Continuum did not know for sure how substantial the entanglement was. The existence of this sub-stratum was treated more as quantum theory than as a hard actuality, and there were no formal structures within the Collective that were built on it.
Nevertheless it was real, even the most distant Observer on the most remote outpost were connected to the Collective like a fetus to the placenta, it fed them, nourished them and kept them alive.
Jim knew this, and had been exploiting it from the moment he first awoke from the great sleep.
When the moment of crises came, they all felt it. They heard the pain and anguish, the panic and confusion ringing out like a primordial scream, the were momentarily overwhelmed by undifferentiated terror.
Of all the members of the Collective, only Jim, Observer 92835670100561474, only he had explored the extraordinary scope of what that entanglement could mean. He understood what no other had ever even suspected, that all consciousness, everywhere in the universe was entangled in the same way.
He had explored this ontological reality, intending to exploit it as he carried out his plan.
Every Observer felt the crisis, it shook them to the core, no matter where they were in the far flung worlds of the Empire. They understood intuitively that this was the end of everything they had known.
Most of them returned to HomeWorld immediately, using their wormhole-conduits to transfer their consciousness to the Central Planet. However, the apparatus that would normally receive them, the machinery that had been in use since the advent of the Observer Corps, it was among the first of the systems that Jim disabled.
Those Observers charged in to rescue the HomeWorld and the Collective, projecting a heroic return, running to rescue the membership from whatever threat was attacking it, only to find themselves trapped and cast into oblivion.
It was a massacre.
Those Observers who were of a more cautious disposition, banded together, from their stations in the Empire. Those with military powers summoned them, preparing for a different kind of intervention.
The Continuum, while it was a singularly paranoid consciousness, it had done little in regard to the preparation of its self-defenses.
It possessed defensive systems, but it did not regard itself as vulnerable, believing itself to be secure in its power.
In its billions of years of existence, the Continuum had never encountered another rival, or any sentient life apart from the living beings that were descended from the same Ancient People who had originally formed the Collective.
In the universe of the Continuum there was the Collective, constructed by the Ancient People as the ultimate repository of its knowledge and consciousness. There was the Continuum formed by the Collective as a means of representing its unified will, and administering the vast material, technological and administrative requirements of the HomeWorld, the Central Planet and the Central Systems. There was the Galactic Empire, formed by the Continuum, to supply it with resources.
The Empire served the Continuum, worshipped it, prayed to the Collective, and delivered all of its wealth in metals, and energy to the Central System, to feed it.
The Empire also provided the Collective with a never ending stream of dramatic narratives that served to keep the attention of the Collective focused on it, on something other than itself.
There had been another group, wild cards, the descendants of the Ancient People who had launched themselves into the cosmos long before the Collective had been built, long before the Continuum had been imagined, and long before the first vestiges of the Galactic Empire had taken shape. They established colonies on habitable planets through the galaxy, forming new societies that grew independent of one another.
They had all been discovered, tracked down, brought into the Empire or destroyed, all except one, the small colony on the tiny blue planet, Earth.
It was remote, on the other side of the galaxy, it was technologically stunted and did not represent a threat to the Continuum at all.
The defensive systems of the HomeWorld were automated, but still required thought and an active hand to manage them, they collapsed in shock when the crises struck.
Within the Collective, those members who had formerly been assigned to the Observer Corps, those individuals who had experience in the real world, those who were closest to the Empire, they kept some composure during the catastrophe. They put forward a bulwark against the onrush of chaos. They offered a fixed position, a place of defense agaisnt the maelstrom Jim had brought down on them.
The former Observers reached out to one another, drew close to one another and for a moment they felt as if they would survive the onslaught, they took strength from their sense of belonging and common purpose.
They were wrong.
Other members flocked to them, clung to them, sought refuge behind their calm and steady influence. They held themselves together for a moment, doing everything in their power to stabilize those nearest to them. They formed a critical mass, marshaling what forces they had.
It was a significant achievement, more than Jim had expected.
They began to reverse the flow of energy and consciousness all around them, their efforts were focused, deliberate and imbued with a specific and literal intention..
They moved toward the central nexus of the Collective. Their intention was to occupy and hold it.
It was a trap.
There was no center, none other than Jim.
The place they sought to occupy was itself moving into the field of oblivion.
The former Observers drew the strongest among themselves together in a fool’s gambit, encouraged by their growing strength, the steadiness they affected, and their common resolve.
They never realized they were heading en masse, toward dissolution, the ultimate synthesis of entropy, it was like sipping over the terminus point of an event horizon.
Jim, who had once been Observer 92835670100561474, Jim took control.
Jim was now the Continuum.
He had absolute control of the apparatus of the HomeWorld, and the Collective, the whole structure conformed to his will.
Everything flowed through him.
The dramatic expansion of his consciousness was surreal, it was shocking, he had attempted to prepare himself for it, but in the end he had no idea of what was coming.
The reach of the Continuum went far beyond the Collective, for beyond the HomeWorld and the Central System. The tendrils of the Continuum snaked all throughout the Empire.
It took Jim some time to recover, and reorient himself to the battle that was in front of him. In those moments a resistance had mounted.
The Continuum was not, and discontinuum had taken hold, everything was moving-haltingly, moving in starts and fits.
Jim turned his attention to it.
He magnified the agony that each individual member felt, instantiating within them the instinct to flee. Whether they were in flight or attempting to remain firm, Jim manipulated their perception of the quantum realities underlying the crises.
He guided them en-masse to the same place, he closed off access to the quantum field of the Collective, he built buffers against their return, cutting the strings of their quantum entanglement.
Jim sequestered them, the whole group, building partitions around them as they had once done to him, isolating them behind electromagnetic fields.
Jim had escaped from such a prison himself, even though he was the only person who ever had he knew that it was possible, and he prepared the machinery of the Collective to prevent such an event from ever occurring again.
He fought these battles on multiple fronts, focusing his attention on every bubble of resistance as soon as it emerged.
The entity known as the Continuum had been bludgeoned into paralysis by the trauma of the crisis on Earth. For a moment it went dark, lost control of itself, slipped into unconsciousness.
It was in that moment Jim seized control of the entire physical apparatus of the Collective, in so doing he had achieved the singular ambition he had nurtured for ages.
Jim had prepared for this, but it stretched him to the limits of his individual capabilities.
In the period of time that Jim was ascending to the position of control, assimilating to its demands and assuming the mantle of leadership. What remained of the Collective rallied, they found a place of stability, and they moved to defend themselves, through this resistance consciousness slowly returned to the Continuum. The entity had lost much of itself, where it had been an amalgamation of the consciousness of a trillion beings, it was now the representation of the collected consciousness of a mere tens of thousands, but it was awakening.
Jim witnessed it, like a a flicker of lights, a sequence of bright illuminations in the deep-dark of the collective field. They were still entangled with him, with each other, and with the entire body of the Collective that had already been dissolved in a coriolis of chaos.
It was a decisive moment, Jim took a microsecond to reflect on it, all of the ground that Jim had captured at this point could be lost, and the Collective could return, which could return nemesis to power.
He fought against it, isolating each individual member as they reached out for another. Isolating them as he himself had once been sequestered, pushing them, through the power of illusion, into the storm that led to oblivion.
He was relentless.
The Continuum was powerless to work against him. It struggled, but it could not prevail. Every individual being that Jim was able to isolate weakened it.
Even as Jim fought this epic battle of will, something was happening within the quantum field of the central planet that was just beyond his awareness.
The vacuum he had created was being filled with a force completely unknown to him, and a feeling that had long been forgotten rose within what remained of the Collective, and its group mind.
The chaos that ensued in the first moments of the impact happened so fast that the membership had little chance to reflect on the events that were transpiring. For those who survived the first wave, the strongest feelings began to spread in ever broadening waves, expanding until they touched and were shared by the whole.
The feeling they experienced came from a place deep within them. It was a response to the agony they were experiencing. The Collective felt an instinct to seek a place of safety, to flee.
For age upon age, both the membership of the Collective and the Continuum had dwelt within their fabricated worlds, existing in their imagination, or vicariously through the experiences of the living worlds. They were godlike and immortal, they had few limitations, with the paradoxical exception of boredom and malaise.
What the remaining members of the Collective felt now was sheer terror, they had no practice with the management of it. They had seen it in the millions of people they had watched being tortured and torn to shreds for their own amusement, but it had been billions of years since they had the direct experience of fear for themselves.
What the Collective felt now was impending doom and they experienced it as an existential threat, the inevitability of their certain destruction.
Each individual sensed the specter of death looming over them, death, the thought of which had been unimaginable. It was such a remote and distant concern that they had no place within themselves to set aside their fear of it.
The last vestiges of unity collapsed.
The bonds they had formed as their final defense against Jim, broke apart. They became individuated. The Collective collapsed, and with it the Continuum.
The primal forces that had shaped a society of sentience, which had spread itself throughout the galaxy, suddenly imploded.
It was gone.
Those few members of the Collective who were able to retain their sense of self, retreated from everything, seeking refuge in the comfort of a transcendent isolation. They went looking for access to their private realities, only to find themselves alone, sequestered in the cold and dark.
Jim had directed all the energy of HomeWorld toward breaking up the bindings of consciousness that united them, preventing them from acting in anything that resembled cognitive unity.
As soon as they realized that coherent action was impossible they fled, seeking to put as much distance between themselves and any other being as possible, thereby aiding Jim in his task.
As individuals, they erected mental barriers to shield themselves from the faint din of voices that represented the last vestiges of the Collective, each of them becoming like a quantum singularity in the field of consciousness.
It was relatively easy for Jim to lure them into this trap with the promise of safety and relief, something which they were expecting to find in their private worlds.
Jim sequestered them there.
Everyone else dissolved in a schizophrenic chaos.
It required incredible powers of concentration to manage the physical structures of the HomeWorld’s energy systems, at the same time as he was scrubbing the quantum matrix of the Collective.
But he did it.
Jim was engaged in the greatest act of genocide that had ever been conceived, and in the moment he felt at one with the universe.
He scrubbed and he swept and he pushed every minute echo of what had been the Collective into storage vehicles that were physically isolated from the cynergenic field of HomeWorld, then he launched those vehicles into space, where they would travel until they found there final destination in the dense-dark-heart of a black hole, in another galaxy….far, far away.
Part Five – Interlude
A Novel in Twelve Chapters
#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi
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