Most of the people in the world had no knowledge of the threat posed by the Yellowstone volcano, even though the information concerning it was available to them through the public domain.
It was on the internet, there had been many documentaries filmed concerning it.
The earliest documentaries, were the most truthful and the most disturbing.
The science, which was relatively new, revealed that the last event covered the world in ash, blocked out the light of the sun, and reduced the total population of the human race to just a few thousand. Tree ring samples, ice core samples, rock stratification and genetic mapping all proved it, to a degree of statistical certainty that could not be ignored.
Yet, people did.
After airing for a decade and raising the level of alarm, newer productions began to slip miss-information into the narrative. This eased public apprehension about the dilemma, while doing nothing in the way of preparing people for it.
The United States Geological Service (U.S.G.S.), closely monitored the volcano, aided by several nearby universities. They began to monitor it as soon as they realized what they had discovered.
They were hungry for information.
Seismographs were deployed, and in time the vast magma dome at the epicenter was mapped out through global positioning systems, satellite tracking that measured uplift and deformation of the surface of the caldera at its weakest point, with enough sensitivity to track even a centimeter of change
In the early days this information was available to the public, but after a year of intense geological activity at the site of the volcano, the crucial and most informative data became restricted.
Then, the eruption came without warning.
It shook the world, throwing it off its axis.
Ash and gas poured into the upper atmosphere, covering everything in a poisonous cloud, hiding the survivors from the face of the sun.
There was no safety anywhere.
When Jim first came to Earth in the centuries before the first volcanic cataclysm that he witnessed, seventy-four thousand years ago, he found the human family and found that it was very small. There were just a few million people spread out across the globe, their culture had devolved, but they were thriving and recovering their footing.
After the eruption of the volcano in Indonesia, the human family was reduced to just a couple of thousand people. Their extinction was looming, they were starving and suffering, living without hope.
Jim starved with them, suffered with them, journeyed with them to places of shelter, water, food, and warmth.
He lived as one of them through the dark days, through the decades when the sun was blotted from the sky, when the air was full of ash, and poison.
Death was everywhere, disease, malnutrition, exposure, the ordinary challenges facing any given tribe, but other human tribes were the greatest threat.
He had some ability to influence the tribes he was with, to keep them from committing the most ghastly crimes, the hunting of other humans for food, crimes of cannibalism.
He only had access to limited technology. His satellite network was still rudimentary, and it did not have the ability to surveille the entire world, but he used it to maximum effect.
There were many tribes that he was not able to reach, those that went underground to escape the deadly air, consequently, those tribes experienced the greatest corruption of their identity and values, and they would plague the rest of humanity for millennia to come.
Jim activated the cloning systems on his orbiting platform.
He bifurcated his consciousness and sent replicas of himself to dwell with every tribe he could find. This was a violation of his directive as an Observer, but that did not matter to him, he was intent on seeing the people through this disaster and rebuilding their communities once again.
Now everything was in process.
Jim had studied the living planet, which he now belonged to, with tools surpassing the greatest assets of any geophysicist on Earth.
The Planet held no mysteries for him.
He had known about the life cycle of this caldera for millennia, and every other volcano on Earth’s unstable surface as well.
He was determined not to be taken by surprise, and there could be no strategy without knowledge.
The humans of Earth had discovered the caldera a mere forty years earlier. There science had only given them knowledge of plate tectonics a short one hundred years before that.
It was a scientific age, but only for a small segment of human civilization. They had barely begun to understand the atom and the genome, and yet they were quick to adapt their new-found knowledge into weapons, and other useful tools.
Fifty years after their first flight in a small wooden craft, they constructed a rocket made of the lightest alloys that propelled them to the moon, where they were able to land safely and return.
It was only when the heat beneath the super-volcano was discovered, only because the found that it was pushing an entire mountain range upward into the sky, were they able to understand the geological forces at work beneath the beautiful and grand oasis that was Yellowstone Park.
Through his observation and the power of his instruments, Jim was able to calculate to the second when the volcano would blow. He wanted to intervene, but he was forbidden.
The Continuum decided it would do nothing.
It knew that life on Earth would be devastated yet again, but it craved the drama that this would produce, it wanted to watch the human race re-emerge once more from the ashes.
The scientists, and their cadres of college students, research assistants, whose job it was to watch the monster volcano, inevitably became inured to the subtle changes they recorded. They monitored the changes and warning signs in a way that was reminiscent of watching a person’s hair grow. While they gathered data they had no means of correlating them to actual events.
As sweeping as the observations they made were, which were as comprehensive as was technologically possible, the data they gathered had no predictive value, because every day was a new day in a completely unknown experience.
There was a deformation of the dome, over hundreds of square miles, there were earthquakes, boiling water in lakes and streams; something big growing below the surface, and they were for the most part, un-phased by it.
There were occasions when activity would spike so sharply that it seemed as if the moment had come, but, after reliving those cycles dozens of times, even the occasional spike became a relatively commonplace event.
Doomsday cults sprang up around the world predicting the imminent end of life on Earth, pointing to the volcano as the instrument of God’s wrath, God’s judgement, the coming of Ragnorak or the return of Kali.
They were not wrong, insofar as the myths of Ragnorak and Kali originated with the last great eruption, but of course there was nothing personal about these events.
It was just geology, there was no divine wrath or judgement at all.
God had no purpose in it, only Jim did.
The doomsayers, spoke to something that everyone knew was true. Every person alive carried the memory of the last event deep within them, and their fears about future catastrophes resonated in the cynergenic field. The collective consciousness of the human race knew that something was happening. It was disturbed, but it did not know by what.
There were documentaries about the volcano, television shows detailing what was known about its history, its cycles, its potential for global destruction, and the relative certainty of the impending doom.
The most prominent scientific journals published articles about it. Those stories made their way into popular publications as well.
There was a lot of information available about the volcano. Nevertheless, few people were aware of the danger.
Those who knew about it, were forced by the rules of statistics to tell themselves “it could happen today, or it could happen in ten thousand years.” This was a true assessment, it represented sound reasoning. They were measuring unknown capacities against geological time. Making it impossible to gauge where an event might happen that took place in a six hundred thousand year cycle.
In the second decade after its discovery, when the reality of the danger that the volcano represented finally made its way into the National Security threat assessment. The information flow coming from the scientific observatories began to change.
Public access to raw data was cut off. Everything about the volcano was filtered, cast in terms of potentials and probabilities, even matters that were well known, established, and certain.
Misinformation leaked into the public sphere every day as the explosion neared. The government decided that there was nothing it could do about the monster beneath Yellowstone Park, therefore they would do nothing, and they decided to work against a state of public panic instead.
They would deal with the aftermath, when the volcano erupted. They would position their forces to take advantage of the catastrophe on a global scale.
This was the only end they could hope to achieve.
Jim’s plan required the most delicate timing and meticulous preparation, it was a precarious endeavor. It came down to seconds, and those final seconds were everything.
The volcano buried beneath Yellowstone would destroy human civilization, but it would catalyze the preservation of humanity itself. A few people would live, but all would be saved through Kathy.
She was the vessel that he had spent thousands of years cultivating. She was ready and he knew it.
The cataclysm would change the Collective forever, the galactic Empire as well, it would destroy the Continuum, and replace it with a new consciousness, one endowed with a fully actualized and transcendent morality, or so Jim believed.
Jim had spent lifetimes building the institutions, and years putting all the right people in place, cultivating relationships of trust, bribing and coercing when he had to. He made sure that there were no obstacles in Kathy’s path, and that she was prompted to take each step that would lead her to the crucible at the precise moment.
She must be in position at the exact second the cataclysm occurred.
The final hours and minutes he was with her allowed him to put a psychic hold on her. This did not give him the ability to control her, or to determine anything.
It was a push, he gave her some momentum and set her on course.
He had established the relationships, with key people to push her further, to get her in the right place at the right time.
There were plans within plans, and contingencies for everything.
His greatest work depended on Kathy, depended on her openness to discovery, her instinct for safety and her genuine care for other people.
There is no fate.
There is no divine hand governing the movement of the stars.
Nothing is predetermined, but there are certainties, there are statistical inevitabilities.
The eruption of volcanoes is among them. They are the result of geological forces that cannot be stopped.
With sufficiently advanced technology, such forces can be harnessed, controlled, used for the benefit of the people.
There was nowhere, no planet in the great galactic Empire that did not have access to these resources.
Earth was alone, floating by itself in the far reaches of the spiral arm of the galaxy. It was an isolated backwater, hundreds of light years from the nearest Imperial outpost.
Earth did not have the resources of other worlds in the Empire, it had no knowledge of the Empire, and the Continuum would not allow it to possess one.
The disaster on Earth could have been mitigated, it could have been used for the advancement of human civilization, but their technology had not develop enough along, they were perhaps a century away from being able to manage these eventualities on their own, without technological aid.
The end of humanity hung there. It was suspended in the balance between the apathy of the Continuum and the fascination of the Collective.
The Collective loved every moment of the feed streaming from Earth, they were hungry for the music, the art, the culture, the intensity of its conflicts.
The Continuum wanted to see the whole thing crushed, set back, and controlled.
Part Three, Earth
Chapter Seventeen, Volcano
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
Like it, Follow it, Share it!