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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Emergence 5.0 - Jim and Kathy, Part Two

The phone rang.
This surprised Kathy.
She did not receive many calls, and when she did she would have already anticipated it; this was true in most cases. She would know both the caller and the time of the call. The datum would flash in her consciousness minutes, sometime hours before the call would actually take place, the variables only depended on how long the caller might have been thinking about dialing her number.
Throughout most of her life the moments between the first sound of the telephone ringing and the time she choose to pick the receiver up from the cradle were moments she spent fantasizing that the call would have some clandestine purpose, that it would take the form of an invitation to join a conspiracy, one that would free her from her obligations to the world so that she could save it from itself.
 Like the message Luke Skywalker received when he first encountered the little astro-droid named R2D2, which set him off on an adventure to free the galaxy from the tyranny of the Empire.   
The fact that she was surprised by the call informed her that it was Jim.
She could never anticipate him.
She picked the phone up the handset and said, “Hello.”
“I need to see you,” said Jim without preamble. He spoke in his typical-tone of voice, dry and detached, as mirthless and remote as Mount Everest. But then he said:
“Café?” it was a question, and she sensed something different about him. He was pensive and hesitant.
She was well acquainted with his clipped and terse mannerism. The single word was a question: Would she, could she go out?
His unusual tone suggested that it was an imperative, she heard it as: You must see me now.
There was an urgency to it.
It was primal, it was a statement of need. He might have been a parched man asking for water, or a suffocating man asking for air.
“Yes.” Kathy replied, keeping herself detached and playing along with his language game, which was their normal repartee. “Hungry,” she said, it was both a statement and a question; she was stating her current condition and inquiring about his.
She was also trying to mask the concern for him welling up inside her.
Jim did not reply, he merely hung up the phone without comment, brusque and abrupt as usual. The normality of it did not hide the unusual tone she detected earlier, something she would have never expected to discern in him. It was fear.
Kathy gathered her things and got ready to go.
She did not have to ask where. They only ever met in one place, a busy café near her apartment. It was secure she was there so often that her handlers hardly registered her activities there. The regularity of her visits there inured them to it, this rendered it safe for her to carry out a private encounter…as private as she would ever get.
She did not have to ask when, the time was always right now.
She hurried out the door to meet him.
When she arrived he was already in line, she took her place next to him, ahead of a couple of other people.
 “Small coffee…please;” Jim ordered, perfunctorily, and turned obliquely to face solicit hers; “Soy chai, thank you.” Said Kathy.
They sat together at a table by the window of the storefront, in a booth with the morning sun to their backs, beaming down on them over Hennepin Avenue.
Seeing Jim made even more clear to Kathy that there was something urgent happening with him. Nevertheless, they carried out the mechanics of their routine as if it were a normal day.
An ordinary visit between the two of them.
They read the morning newspaper and surveilled the crowd. In that regard at least, it was a morning like any other.
The café was busy.
They were together, and they were not together at the same time.
They were both in the crowd of people and completely isolated from it simultaneously.
This was not unusual, detachment had always characterized the way they interacted with each other. For each of them it was their basic approach to the world.
Their proximity to one another was deliberate, intentional, they were each acutely aware of the other’s body, the focus of their attention, what they were reading, seeing, observing.
It was intimate, though any other person would have felt the tension between them like a wall of estrangement.
Jim and Kathy were beyond that, it was an artifice they had cultivated to keep her handlers disinterested in Jim.   
This was the way Jim related to her, it was something Kathy never questioned, because it protected them.
Time passed in silence, minutes became hours, and those stretched into the afternoon, becoming a longer period of time than usual.
Jim and Kathy were quiet, until Jim began to weep.
Sitting side by side as they were and reading, Kathy did not notice immediately.
If Jim were any other person in the world she would have known he was crying before the tears even fell.
When she turned her head and saw him, she was quietly alarmed.
She had never seen such a display of emotion from Jim before. “What is wrong with you?” Kathy asked, sounding scared and judgmental at the time, as they were two Vulcans witnessing one of them falling apart.
Jim said, “Nothing at all.”
He just looked at her, looked through her for a long moment.
He would not say why, he could not speak to it.
He had nothing to offer her but lies.
Kathy moved to the other side of the both to face him across the table. She looked at Jim for a long time, observing him. This was unusual but not outside the norm.
They often spent long periods of time together in silence. It was a characteristic of their friendship, of the only friendship she had ever experienced.
Kathy could not read Jim’s thoughts, the way she could everybody else…anybody else.
However, she was adept at body language, and his was no different, the smallest movements of his features, a facial tick, the sweep of his gaze, his breathing.
            They spoke to her in volumes.
She watched him as he sat at their table with the newspaper folded in his hands. She watched intently, until finally she asked him: “Jim…what is wrong?”
“I cannot say.” He said, as he looked past her, not meeting her eyes, but at the same time inviting a greater degree of scrutiny from her.
It was intentional, he was drawing her in; there was a purpose behind it that both frightened and intrigued her.
“Why not?” Kathy asked, a bit more insistently.
She was normally circumspect, but in this moment she stopped caring, deciding to push against boundaries that she would have otherwise respected.
“You would not understand, if I did,” he said, pausing for a moment then, locking eyes with her before adding, “I’m not talking about it.”
There was a tone of finality in his voice, as if to say, that is it, you will not get anymore from me, but I want you to remain curious. There is something going on, something you cannot know about, but please try to figure it out
“I do not get it.” She responded. “Why did you ask to see me today and in such a dismal mood, if you did not need something from me?”
Kathy wanted very much to be needed by Jim. It was a part of her conditioning.
Of all the people she had ever known, everyone who had ever exploited her for one purpose or another, she believed that Jim was the only person she had spent time with that simply wanted to be in her company, who had no ulterior motive.
“As I said…you would not understand,” Jim replied. “Even if I told you, you would not understand. I am in the middle of something intensely personal, regarding a project I have been working on for a very long time. We have never spoken of it, but the anticipation of its realization is more than I counted on.”
“That is all I can say at the moment.” Jim said, apparently trying to shut her down, but it was a ruse, and Kathy knew that he wanted her to pry, he was not really seeking closure.
Then he said something she had never heard him say before: “I apologize.” The words sounded strange coming from him. “What I am on the brink of accomplishing is…terrifying.”
Whatever was going on with Jim, she knew he was not actually terrified. She also got the impression that she would know soon enough what it was, she could tell that his plans involved her.
She also surmised that Jim wanted it to be a surprise…needed to surprise her, and she was open to that.
Kathy loved surprises. He was preparing something for her, something uniquely for her, as true as he had always been, she was confident that he would not suddenly ask her to do something. He was not seeking to gain something from her in some ugly and vulgar way.
In that moment Kathy sensed the emptiness inside her friend.
She did not require psychic powers or telepathy to feel it.
She only needed the normal human attribute of empathy.
Today there was something hollow inside Jim, like a vacuum pulling at his consciousness, where normally what she found in him was an active awareness, a keen perception quick and sharp
Nothing escaped his attention, he was a master of minutiae.
In every moment he had ever shared with her, he demonstrated a degree of perceptivity that often outstripped her own.
She knew he was not gifted in the same way that she was.
The two of them had never spoken of it, but that was something she knew.
Nevertheless he was unique, like her, they were both unique in their different ways. She often thought that they were like two aliens from different civilization making friends on a world that belonged to neither of them. 
            Kathy reflected on her time with Jim this morning, she found it dismaying.
She wanted to comfort him.
She wanted to shake him up, or trap him in a conversation that would force him to reveal something.
She wanted to play the detective, but he was elusive.
He could see the play she was making from a distance. It left her with the sense that she was the one being played.
Kathy never felt disadvantaged. Not since she was a small child.
She was always holding the cards, but never with Jim.  
He had always been the master and she was the pupil, always, like Abelard and Eloise, she thought, and that was an apt analogy.
There was something in Jim’s behavior that reminded her of the times when people who had been deeply involved in her life were saying goodbye, like her parents, and those few of her teachers that she had genuinely loved.
It was her gift to know what was happening with people before they ever said a word, this had nothing to do with her psychic or telepathic abilities; people behaved in certain fixed ways, manifesting specific mannerisms that formed patterns over time.
Kathy thought she saw certain patterns revealing themselves in Jim today, it was as if he were anticipating his own death, and the thought that she might lose him filled her with despair. It activated a spirit inside her that forced her to want to discover the truth and challenge the things that she did not want to happen, so that they would not happen.
For Jim’s part, now that she was here sitting at the table across from him, he was unsure of his motive. All of his long life he had been moving toward this point in time, and now there was confusion.
He felt it like a weakness, and he knew that he had already succumbed to it.
There was nothing in his plan that required him to see her today. He had tested every contingency and knew what the tolerances were for the things he needed her to do when he was gone. 
He had prepared the way; everything was ready.
There was something else happening in him, it related to why he asked her to see him today, it was something unfamiliar, and he had to consider whether or not he might be feeling guilt, or shame over what he was about to do.
He wondered whether or not it put his work at risk.
Jim had to ask himself; what difference would it make seeing her today?
He could not tell her what was about to happen. The plan he had enacted would proceed without her knowledge of it, in fact, it required her to be ignorant of it.
It was vital to the plan that in the critical moment she be taken at unawares.
Tens of thousands of years of evolution and engineering had brought him to this point with her, had brought both of them to this moment; all of his careful plans for selective breeding, his careful manipulations of the genetic code, his constant and endless patience had brought them both to this point.
The last few decades had been the most delicate, guiding her, educating her, defusing threats all around her, preparing her for the final steps on the journey, which she would have to walk alone, blind and ignorant.
Sitting there with Kathy made it easy for him to get lost in the reverie of recollection, and not without a bit of pride to go along with his fear. The moment he had been striving for had come.
The distance he had journeyed since the time he had awakened to his purpose, that distance in both time and space was surreal. His fate, the very real prospect of death, the fate of the galaxy hinged on everything that would transpire between him and Kathy in the next few days.
Kathy did not know it, but the call she had received that morning was the call she had always hoped for.
Timing was everything, and like everything it was fluid.
The timing was in motion, subject to change by external variables.
The plan must come to fruition exactly as he had devised it, like a line of continuity cutting through trillions of possibilities
Jim knew that he had to trust his insight, if he did not falter of the potentialities he had been striving for would become actualized. Kathy would fulfil her purpose, and through her Jim would realize his.
It would all become real if he did not falter, and he felt that giving into his desire to see her one last time had the potential to put it all at risk.
He and Kathy, both of them would become transcendent, each in their own way, each to their own end.
He believed that. He trusted in it.
It was clear to Kathy that Jim had something to say to her.
She sensed it was bad news, she sensed that it was bad for her, and that it was bad for everyone.
If it had been anyone other than Jim, she would have known what it was. He would not have had to say anything. She could have read his mind.
There had been moments when she felt as if she had a glimpse into it, but what she saw and felt in those moments confused her. In those lucid moments it was as if she saw Jim for who he truly was, and he was an alien, even though he was seemingly the most grounded human being she had ever met.
When she reflected on Jim, which was one of her favorite past-times, she understood that he knew things about the history of the world that only someone with abilities like hers could possibly know.
There were times when she had to ask herself if she was the alien, but the voices inside of her dissuaded her from such speculations and confirmed for her that she was not.
She was human, she was fully human, Kathy was a daughter of the Earth, as much as she wanted to believe that she had fallen to Earth, like Kal-El, or David Bowie, as much as that would have given her a convenient way to explain what differentiated her from the rest of the human family, she knew that it was only a fantasy.
Kathy pulled herself back from those speculations, and focused on what was transpiring in front of her eyes.
Jim gave off a variety of visible signals that told her much about what was going on with him, they told her that there were things he had to say to her, things he wanted her to do for him, not at this moment, but in the days ahead.
Kathy would do anything for him, and the most significant signal Jim was broadcasting was that something terrible was about to happen.
She felt that Jim had a role for her to play, and that she was vital to the plan he had spoken of.
This was not a stretch of her imagination, Jim had said as much. More importantly to Kathy was that she got the sense that she would never see him again after today. It made her want to retreat within herself, to revisit all of the memories she had of him, and those who reminded her of him, memories that went back thousands of years, to the dim reaches of her ancestry. She wanted to revisit all of the intuitions that his presence called forth in her, projections from her fantasy life that she found difficult to differentiate from reality, and which she habitually repressed.
Kathy thought that she might find clues to what he wanted from her, there within her, if she could explore there she might find them, and they could provide some context, which would be comforting.
All analysts enjoy the comfort of context, and one thing she knew for certain was that she could not remain in this state of liminality forever, though she endured it for the remaining hours they sat together.
They spoke little, and Jim relaxed. He enjoyed being with Kathy, the rhythm of her mind was like music to him, his thoughts in syncopation with hers easily, as they always did.
In those moments he felt like he was home, it was the closest thing to his natural state of being that he had ever experienced during the long years he had been away.
Jim’s heart and mind were fixed on the coming conflict, on the resolution of his life’s work, on all the plans that he had carefully prepared.
He had plans within plans, and there were contingencies that he tended to, as intricate and delicate as a spider’s web.
Despite the anxiety that he was feeling, the existential weight of his preparations, the loss he was contemplating, the devastation that was coming to Earth. Despite it all he was able to maintain his calm.
His body was engineered for it.
This is not to say that he incapable of feeling panic or fear, but that his body regulated those impulses with a speed that bordered on the instantaneous.
Jim had these last few hours, he wanted to spend them with Kathy, not merely in furtherance of his aims, but because he loved her as much as he was capable of love.
Kathy represented the realization of his deepest purpose, his pride, and the satisfaction of ambition. In Kathy he not only found what he had had spent his long life looking for, his project with her was also like the unravelling of a mystery, or the assembly of a puzzle.
She was his magna opa, his great work.
Kathy was also beautiful and wise, intelligent and funny; these qualities were completely unnecessary to his design for her, and yet they delighted him.
He could soak up her visage all day long, which is exactly what he intended to do on this day, this day that was his crucible, his last day with her
In a few hours he would be gone. His plan for her would be on a glide path. The way was well prepared. He would soon enter a place where time itself was meaningless, but events would be turning here on Earth that had to be measured to the second, and he would not be here to oversee it.
Kathy had to play her part, she had to be unaware that she was doing it.
When the vital moment struck, she had to be blind to what was happening, she, who could see everything had to be taken by surprise.
Jim finished his coffee, gathered himself and departed the café. He said goodbye to Kathy and left the cafe. He was unemotional, focused. He did not reach out to her, even though Kathy was sure he had wanted to. He was methodical in his bearing; as always. He never looked back.
Kathy watched him go, following him with her eyes and when he turned the corner, she followed him with her thoughts, which were disturbing.
She was never able to read Jim, but today the membrane of consciousness that shielded him from her was less opaque.
It was almost translucent.
With a little more focus, with slightly more concentration, she felt as if she could go to a place with Jim, a psychic place, a place she had never been able to approach with him before.
She thirsted for it.
She sat in her chair, at the table, in the noisy café. She sat upright, hands folded together on the table top. She closed her eyes and allowed the teaming voices of the world to recede from her.
She was vulnerable in these moments, it could be frightening. She was disconnected from her immediate present, time could lose its significance, she would not be able to track its passage around her.
Kathy rarely accessed these gifts in such a setting, it had been decades since she had tried, but she was faced with an urgency that she had not felt before. She was now certain that she would never see Jim again, and there was something she needed to know about him, something going on with him that she had to understand.
She had to do it now.
She relaxed her mind and entered that space, trusting that her handlers would protect her and keep her safe.
Kathy connected to him, locked onto him. She was looking through his eyes for the first time, sharing his consciousness even as he got into his car and drove away.
She kept the full range of her abilities hidden from her proctors and handlers, pretending to struggle with things she could do without effort. Kathy could slip into a bond like this with anyone at any time, but never before with Jim.
He was able to resist her. He was unique in that. 
Of all the people she had ever met, Jim alone was a mystery to her, as if he were a man out of myth, like some kind of Jedi Master.
In the moment she became connected to him, she felt his despair.
It was as deep as the ocean and it frightened her.
She would never have guessed that he was afflicted with such powerful emotions. He always appeared cool and calm, collected.
Never once in all their years of talking, never once did he let his composure slip. Jim was the epitome of self-control.
Kathy followed him as he drove across town in his black vintage car, the Ford Galaxy. She soaked up all the things he was looking at, the objects, the people, the cars moving on the freeway. She was barely in touch with him in that time, and she was not able to merge with the flow of his thoughts, if he was thinking at all. Neither could she penetrate his memories.
She was merely seeing the world through his eyes, experiencing it thorough his senses, while she felt the powerful emotions emanating from deep inside him.
He told Kathy that he had a plane to catch, a funeral to prepare for and he was afraid he would miss his flight if he lingered any longer. The timing of his departure, and precisely where he was in flight when he set the final stages of his plan in motion, those things were crucial.
He had to keep his activities hidden from the prying eyes of his enemies. His relative position in the world was key to this subterfuge.
Jim returned to his apartment to gather some things, to set the artifacts in his apartment in just the right place for Kathy to find in the days to come.
She had to be able to follow his plans when the time came.
He did not need take very much with him; his black suit, his watch, his tie.
“I’m dead;” he mused, and then “I am death itself, the harbinger of doom.”
Jim knew that he would never return to his beloved Earth, and that even if he did, nothing would be the same. The cultures that had evolved over the past seventy thousand years would be wiped out, with no guarantees that what would emerge in their place would have any of those qualities that he loved, had nurtured and found so fascinating.
The humans of Earth had nourished his spirit for millennia, he had found his rest in them, and they had helped him define his purpose.
Jim allowed himself some time to remember all that he had accomplished since he had found this world. Then his telephone rang to inform him that his taxi had arrived.
With a final check of his preparations Jim exited his apartment. He walked down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, taking in the view of the lakes from the mezzanine of his apartment before he got in the car.
Jim was struck as he had been many times before by his feelings of ambivalence, knowing what was going to happen to this planet in a few short days, while virtually the entire population of the Earth was completely unsuspecting.
It was a strange burden.
Jim contemplated it while he made small talk with the cabby, before he fell into a state of reflection.
I never should have seen her, Jim thought. He felt himself filling-up with regret. It was an emotion he was not inclined to feel, but at this moment he could not help it.
He reviewed each step of his plan, reviewing it for every possible detail, both believing and yet uncertain that he had laid the path for Kathy to follow perfectly.
He visualized each step, telling himself that his indulgence today was a necessary one, he had to see Kathy in order to reinforce, in non-verbal ways, his absolute need for her to follow the plan that he had laid out.
Another wave of doubt washed over him. Was he being foolish when he asked her to see him?
His emotions were running high, too high. If he wasn’t careful they might alert her to his designs.
Whenever he was with her, through all of the years that he had known her, he had to maintain a strict discipline in order to shield his mind from hers. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done, but he was able to do it nonetheless like a runner at a marathon.
He always felt her consciousness probing his, like psychic tentacles pulling at his mind. Never once had she penetrated him, but Jim knew that it was only because she was not trying.
As forceful as her psychic powers were, their function was largely autonomic. Kathy did not direct them so much as she was a passive user of her powers. The training she had been given prepared her this way.
For her safety and for the security of the plan she had spent most of her life learning the skills she needed to suppress her powers, rather than push them to the limits.
Jim was always aware that if she had wanted to she could break through his defenses with relative ease. He had to trust that the psychological inhibitors he had planted within her would hold. When the time came, it was paramount that she be taken by surprise, the plan depended on putting her in a state of existential shock at just the right moment. The precariously delicate path he was leading her down filled him with dread and sorrow, and guilt.
Jim couldn’t help but to indulge himself in this feelings.
It was all over; it was over for everyone, and nothing could be done about it.
Today was doom’s day. It was the end of the world. A global tragedy was about to occur. It would affect everything on Earth, changing humanity irrevocably, killing hundreds of thousands in minutes, millions in days, and most of the rest in the few short years to come.
            Very few human beings were even aware of the danger. Human scientists had only discovered the existence of the volcano that would be the material cause of their destruction, a few decades past. It took years for them to measure and quantify their data, even now they did not understand it. The geological system was too complex, they did not know how much they did not know.
There was no way to reasonably predict an event they had never experienced before, even though the certainty of its reoccurring was absolute. The frequency of its repetition was on a scale of time so great that the leading geologists had to admit that they could not pin point the eventuality within years or decades, or even centuries.
For all they knew it could be millennia before it erupted again.
No one disputed the fact that the event was overdue; it was overdue by several thousand years. But then again what is a thousand years, or even ten thousand years when the periodicity approached a million.
It was impossible to tell.
They watched over the sight as carefully as they could.
They measured every possible feature of the hazard zone.
They released reports. Some were so alarming that the Federal Government decided to restrict the way that information was disseminated. They adopted the view that it would be better, if or when the event occurred it took everyone by surprise, because there was nothing they could do about it anyway.
            Even with their careful observations and their watchful analysis, no one expected it to come now. The data, which every geologist believed indicated an immanent eruption, had led to numerous false conclusions in the past. At the present moment there was nothing happening to tell them of the mounting threat.    
Like every planet, Earth endured episodic calamities; cycles of massive storms, great floods, powerful hurricanes and tremendous earthquakes. These were minor events compared to the power of the caldera volcano.
There were catastrophes that came from beyond the planet, such as; collisions with comets and asteroids. They had happened many times and Earth would experience those events again, it was certain.
Given time, the advancement of technology and proper planning, any of those events could be avoided. A civilization could gain complete control of its weather, could identify every fault zone and build structures that were capable of allowing the force of an earthquake to pass through it. They could set satellites in orbit around their planets, string them together throughout the solar system, so that no object passing near to it would not be seen, enabling them to be diverted or destroyed in time to prevent a disaster.
Technology could accomplish all of those things, but nothing could stop the power growing within the Earth. The heat inside the molten core powered the entire planet.
It was the engine of life, and evolution. 
Nothing could stop it, but given time its heat could be harnessed and used for the benefit of the world, was time that human civilization did not have. The monster beneath the surface was stirring. They were approaching the end of days, and the beginning of the long night.
Human beings would survive, better than they did when the last caldera blew, seventy-two thousand years ago, but the new civilization that emerged on the other side would be radically different.
They would not be starting over, that much was true, but their technology had advanced far enough to guarantee a relatively rapid recovery. In the last event only a couple of thousand human beings survived, that number would be hundreds of times greater with this event. Billions would be wiped from the face of the earth, and those surviving would emerge with a unified human culture. It would flourish for a time, but even that would be doomed, due to a shift that would take place in the planet’s orbit around the sun, an orbit that would eventually collapse.
In his heart Jim desired nothing more than to belong to that new human culture, but he would not be returning.
The last time a caldera volcano blew in the South Pacific, in Indonesia. Only a few hundred tribes survived scattered across Eurasia and Africa.
It had been six-hundred and forty thousand years since the Yellowstone caldera last erupted in North America, in Wyoming, nearly wiping out all life on Earth.
The coming cycle of destruction would be greater still.
The human race would survive, but the species would pass through a genetic bottle neck, and what would emerge on the other side would be different.
The psychic trauma they experienced would be extreme, it would wound the survivors in ways that no person could predict. The narratives that they would develop in order to contextualize all of their pain could potentially derail Jim’s work.
Earth’s magnetic field which enveloped the entire species in a cynergenic web, making the humans of Earth unique in all the galaxy, was itself under threat.
Jim was virtually certain that he had succeeded in developing the vessel that was key to his larger machinations, he had accomplished his work, he had brought it all to fruition in the final generation, in Kathy.
He only needed to deploy her.
Everything depended on Kathy, on the strength and range of psychic abilities, yes, but even more importantly, on her fortitude. It was untested, she had to possess the stamina to stand in the space between worlds and pass the collective trauma of Earth on to the Central Planet.
He desired nothing more than a resolution to the ambitions that had been driving him, or so he told himself, even if it meant failure. Even failure would resolve him, by prompting the Collective to abandon him and allowing the Continuum to finally terminate him.
In one form or another death awaited him, he believed it, but he hoped that it was not true.
What he desired more than anything was success, and then at long last to die in an organic body, a natural death, un-enmeshed from the constraints that the Continuum had tethered to every member of the Collective, even to those Observers serving in the far reaches of the galaxy, including him.
Jim reflected. If only Earth’s civilization had been given a little more time to develop, Earth’s technology a little more time to actualize, human beings would have been able to harness the geological power of the caldera and escape its destruction.
Instead they were blind to its approach.
The power they could have captured would have changed everything for them, resolving issues of energy scarcity that had eluded them, or socially impossible for them to tackle.
In another century, or possibly sooner they would have had it, Jim lamented.
            These Children of the Ancients, who had devolved like no other group. This far flung colony in the most remote reaches of the galaxy, possessing no memory of who they were or how they arrived here, they would have been able to re-establish themselves as a spacefaring people in earnest.
The Continuum would not allow for an intervention, even though it seemed that the will of the Collective was for it. Somehow the Continuum thwarted it.
A majority of those in the Collective who followed the drama unfolding on Earth were in love with its art, and music, its joy and trauma, a majority of them wanted to see Earth’s narrative endure.
Even though Jim was certain that the Continuum had no idea about his plans, he sensed that it perceived Earth and human civilization as a threat to it.
He believed that this was the reason for blocking him, it was not a dogmatic adherence to a policy of non-intervention, which was the reason the Continuum issued for why it would not allow resources to be mustered to save the planet,
Jim might have helped Earth by strategically distributing knowledge in such a way that it would have advanced Earth technology, but he refrained for fear that it would draw further scrutiny to him, risking the exposure of his plan, and so Jim worked covertly against the restraints, appearing to comply only because he did not wish to jeopardize his long term ambitions.
It would be difficult, if not impossible to conceal his treason from the watchful, and penetrating gaze of the all-encompassing collective-consciousness of the HomeWorld.
He could do nothing else but fulfill the directives he had established for himself.  
Jim had to say goodbye to Earth.
There was a cloaked satellite orbiting far above the planet, one of many station he used to implement is plan. This one was the actual house of Jim’s consciousness. It was the principle platform for Jim’s mission on Earth, hidden from the eyes of human beings, as well as from the Continuum and its agents.
Some of his orbiting stations were fixed in stationary orbits, other moved about, semi-autonomously, all of them watched the planet and intercepted its communications with inexhaustible capacities.
In that place, Jim the Observer #92835670100561474 activated a switch, sending a signal to his host body, and with that, an embolism in his doppelganger burst inside its brain, ending its life in a massive stroke.
Jim’s doppelganger had been flying on a plane from his Midwestern home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to New York city.
The destination was only important for the route and the timing Jim had planned for his death, to covertly transfer his consciousness from his organic vessel to the orbiting platform, and for the legal complexities pertaining to the disposition of his body after that.
Those on the plane sitting next to him did not notice the moment of his demise. It was only as the plane made ready for its descent that the airline attendants found something wrong with him, saw the thin line of blood dripping from his nostril, and noticed that he was not breathing.
They did what they could for him, but they quickly realized that there was nothing to be done.
They called ahead for a doctor, indicating that they were dealing with a medical emergency, but in reality, they knew that they were dealing with a corpse.
Jim observed those final moments, the last seconds of the body that housed him during his most significant incarnation, the life that would define his entire existence, expose his greatest secrets, give him the victory he had long sought over the Collective and its Continuum.
When Jim was satisfied that he was mentally prepared for the challenges that awaited him, he toggled another device, opening a channel through space and time.
He paused for a moment to consider the steps he would take on the other side of the worm hole. He did something that he had forbidden himself, something he had not planned on doing, had told himself he would not do, he left a copy of himself in the quantum memory of his base, and then he let his consciousness go, slipping into the stream of the infinite.
He passed through the wormhole, and he was home.
Kathy was still with him when he parked his car at the airport, when he pulled his stylish briefcase from the trunk. She was still following him when he used some mysterious credentials to bypass every point of security and breeze through the gates.
He boarded the plane ahead of every other person. He sat alone in the first class cabin after stowing his briefcase beneath the seat.
She sensed a calm returning to him, as she did she felt her connection to Jim become untenable. She could not hold it any longer.
She was tuned out, it was as if he was telling her to get out of his head, telling her that she did not belong there.
Kathy was determined, she cleared away the detritus in the psychic field surrounding them until she was finally able to get a lock on his mind.
When they were connected once again, the connection she had obtained was deeper than before, she sensed Jim projecting a profound sense of doom.
There were portents, warnings of danger emanating from him, so much so that it lingered in the vacuum that was left when he departed.
His fear permeated the psychic space inside the café. She felt it now, it was more than white-noise, it was palpable, appearing as a visible sheen, like a mist that clung to everyone, like a subtle frequency reverberating inside them.
The strength of it filled Kathy with unease.
Jim was projecting. He was focused on the future; not the past, not the present.
She sensed that something was about to happen that would stop everything, and everyone in their tracks.
Jim knew something about it and he would not say what it was. It was as if he knew the world was about to end, and he was holding onto it, keeping it as a secret, some sick and twisted private joke.
Beneath it all there was desperation and urgency.
Jim was on task, he was managing a careful timeline of expectations. He was driving himself to a point of convergence, and beyond that crucial moment he had to let go. He had to trust in his plan and hope that things would unfold accordingly.
Kathy sensed her own presence deeply enmeshed in the events that were propelling him. It reflected back through her own past, through her relationship with him, into the far reaches of her childhood.
She felt as if she could follow the trail back even farther, as if Jim had been planning for her from the deepest reaches of time.
It made no sense to her.
As she looked at the future through his eyes, she saw the world covered in ashes, and everyone choking for air.
She shook herself free from it. She slipped out of the psychic state.
She looked about her.
Jim had left his pen behind.
He always left something behind, little tokens as if they were little presents just for her, gifts to compensate her for the love she felt for him, love he never acknowledged and left unrequited like a constant grating against her self-esteem.
Kathy stared at the pen, imagining it with all the other things of his she had collected over the years, reassembling them in her mind into an image of him and his persona. It was as if she were constructing a golem made from the pieces of things he had discarded.
She had always believed that these little items; a pen, a book of matches, a handkerchief, what have you, she had always believed that they told her something about him. As if she could peer into his character through the assemblage of artifacts, and see in the things lying there the things that she was able to see so clearly in anyone else, but had always remained hidden in Jim.
She thought that each little token might contain a message for her. Kathy had never been able to dispense with the idea, but now, as she looked at the pen she had another thought, that all of the items left by him and gathered by her, that they had no meaning at all, they were just trash. They were things Jim had discarded, as if they were nothing. As she feared he was about to do with her.
Kathy had the sense that he was abandoning her, abandoning Earth itself, that he was about to throw away his life, to be rid of everything altogether.
Even as Kathy thought these things she knew that she was being morbid.
She was getting sucked up into Jim’s despair, she was despairing with him.
Within all of that muck, she also saw that there was purpose and intention in everything Jim was doing. As her analysis unfolded she came to the conclusion that her basic supposition was right, the pen contained a message, possibly even a directive.
There was something going on aside from the grim fatality that she sensed from him, it concerned her and the whole of humanity, it concerned the world itself and their common destiny.
Kathy felt as if she had a part to play, Jim was giving it to her, and she did not want to let him down.
It was a mystery.
The wheels in her head were turning independently of her conscious thought, attempting to resolve the riddle.
She sat in silence and allowed her unique gifts to manifest themselves while she contemplated every interaction she had ever had with the most mysterious man she had ever known.
It would take time. 
Kathy could not shake the feeling that Jim had wanted to tell her something. The impression grew inside of her with every passing moment.
It was oppressive. The despair was so strong in him, it was like a vacuum and she found it difficult to breathe.
Hours passed as the feeling mounted, it was like a stone laid across her chest, pushing the air out of her, like a heavy smoke, thick and oily that filled her lungs.
She mustered all of her mental resources, her deepest training. She leaned on the comfort of the ancestral voices within her so that she could stay in the moment and not flee.
Kathy had a poised and practiced patience that was equal to the greatest mystics the world had ever known. This is not to say that the task of remaining calm in the midst of strong feelings did not require work, it did, it took work, but Kathy had never failed to live up to the challenge.
In that moment she discovered something new.
It was a moment of transcendent actualization.
Kathy had always been able to link her mind to that of another person; to read their thoughts, to be one with them, see through their eyes, feel what they felt; to be in their present as if there were no distance between herself and the self of the other.
This was possible because in reality there was no epistemic distance between individual nodes of selfhood. She knew this to be true, even while neuro-physicists were still working out both the possible and probable structure of it.
The quantum mechanics of the electromagnetic field made it so, and Kathy was living proof.
All of space and time were interconnected, it was called entanglement
In the entangled reality of consciousness there was no distance between one person and the next.
This is what made Kathy’s gifts possible, it is was what explained all so-called “psychic” phenomenon.
What differentiated Kathy from every other human being that had come before her was the architecture of her brain. She possessed a greater concentration of certain nano-particles laced throughout her cerebellum. This gave her a better “antenna,” it was better by an order of magnitude than any other person in human history.  
Kathy stayed at her table. She sat by herself, alone in the crowd, concentrating on Jim. She bent her attention on finding him.
She sensed his fragility, something she had never felt before, had never imagined was possible. She felt it like an omen, indicating that her life as she knew it, that all life on Earth was about to change.
When she found him and she did not let go.
She sat there in the ominous-oppressive moment and did something she had never done before in a public space, she left the present, she began to open Jim’s past, tracking him back in time, moment by moment like rewinding a line of thread on its spool, carefully laying every fraction of a nanometer back into its track, mindful of her obligation to lose nothing at all.
Everything mattered.
The present had always been easy for Kathy to see. Her own past was open to her like a billion volumes of narrative history. Even her genetic memory spoke to her in ways that it spoke to no-other, but she had never looked into the real-past of another individual.
It was fascinating, not only because the subject was Jim, a person she had never before been able to penetrate, it was fascinating because it opened a new dimension, a dimension of time to her growing powers and awareness.
She was looking into the real past, not just the recollection of their past together, the editorialized version of the past that every human being walks around with. She was penetrating the objective reality of the individual experience, the reality that lay behind the narrative interpretation that every person processes every moment they are awake.
This was new and it was exhilarating and it was Jim.
It was not a process that she could engage in, in no-time, not yet, she was rolling up the thread of his recent experience second by second. It was like watching a movie, and in that movie, she was experiencing Jim as he experienced his own life, along with everything that undergirded what he was seeing and feeling, his own self-narrative.
In that narrative Kathy discovered something disturbing, she discovered that she was the star.
Throughout her life, Kathy had felt as if the weight of the world was on her.
This was not just a figure of speech, it was true.
Kathy felt the world in a unique way, which is not to say that she felt responsible for the world, but that she felt it. She felt the world pressing in on her, threatening to penetrate her conscious every moment of everyday. She felt the world filling her up, at times she felt as if she was drowning in it.
Kathy had to concentrate so that the connection she had with anyone in proximity to her would not overwhelm her, or intrude on her consciousness when she did not want it to
In time she learned the skills required to let her be in the world, but she continued to feel as if she was too sensitive. She felt vulnerable.
When she was young she never suspected how real, how complete, how all-encompassing those feelings were. Kathy was not merely connected to the people who were closest to her, nearest too her. She was linked to every person in the world, no matter how distant. 
Those who were nearest to her in physical space, they were the ones that took up all of her attention. Generally, a person had to be within a couple of hundred yards before she might begin to pick up on their thoughts.
When she was in crowds the psychic noise of the group helped to make everyone indistinguishable from one another, which is why she preferred to live in the city. Not only did the crowds help to keep every individual person indistinct from the next. Their constant chatter helped to keep Kathy from falling into conversation with the voices from her own past; people from her life and from the lives of her ancestors, as well as the active consciousness of real people hovering near her in the cynergenic field, not merely lingering in her memories.
Kathy lived in two worlds, both the here and now, and in the cynergenic field, what Teilhard de Chardin called the nous sphere.
The nous sphere was a place where the spirits of all beings dwelt, both the living and the dead, a place that she and she alone experienced as really-real.
Kathy was fully immersed in the nous sphere now, tracking backward through time to look into Jim’s secretive life, even as Jim made his departure, taking his exit through a rift in space-time, passing through a worm-hole to the other side of the galaxy.
A wormhole is not a tunnel in space/time, linking one place to another. Nevertheless,
that was the common conceptualization of it.
A wormhole is a shortcut through subspace, not a passageway at all. To “go through” a worm hole is not to “move” from one place to another.
It is a transposition.
It is trillions upon trillions of atoms turning on the point of a pin.
What made Jim’s “journey” through the wormhole possible was known on earth as quantum enmeshment, or entanglement.
Things and objects cannot pass through a wormhole, but waves of electrons, and particular configurations in the substratum of the electromagnetic field can, which is to say that consciousness can.
A passage through a wormhole is to space travel, what Alexander the Great offered as the solution Alexander to the Gordian Knot.
It cuts right through the problem, it is instantaneous and direct.
Vast amounts of data can pass through a wormhole, faster than light, the upper limits of the speed were unknown. The only limitation to such data transfers were the limitations housed in the physical nodes that sent and received the signals.
The science and technology of the Continuum had developed the machinery to transmit tens of billions of signals from millions of worlds simultaneously. Every detail of the lives of the persons they followed, every person on every planet in the Galactic Empire was sent to the Central Planet in an ongoing stream, received and synthesized by the Continuum for the consumption by the Collective.
Through that collection of data the lives of every citizen, the most intimate details of their joy and sorrow, became grist for the mill that fed the Collective’s endless hunger for narrative.
When Jim activated the portal he experienced a flash of violet, which turned to white. There was a jolt and a buzz and a tensing like a seizure, followed by a sequence of darknesses, before the transition of his consciousness to the center of the galaxy was complete.
Jim, the Observer #92835670100561474, arrived on the Central Planet in the body of his mechanoid self.
He opened his optic lens, and stretched his mechanoid senses.
He was home.
He was safe. He should not have been, but he was carrying a terrible secret. Ages of careful planning, planning that had come to define his existence, all of it would come undone if he was discovered.
He was not Jim in this place, even though everyone here, every member of the Collective, and the Continuum itself, knew that was his name on Earth.
He exploits on the distant world were celebrated, though he himself remained a figure steeped in mystery, and shrouded by feelings of dread..
When an Observer returned to the Central Planet they did not simply rejoin the Collective. The Collective and the Continuum were cautious, preferring to filter the report of every Observer before they allowed the information from those reports to enter the common consciousness of the HomeWorld.
And so, the Observer occupied a mechanoid form, with physical powers greatly expanded in relation to the organic life forms they occupied on the worlds they observed.
The mechanoid body was attenuated to the cynergenic field of HomeWorld but it did not have direct access to it. A physical uplink would have to take place before the data from their last cycle of experiential living could flow into the consciousness of the whole Collective.
It took time.
Jim knew this, he had planned on it, and he was patient.
Timing was everything.
There were thousands of Observers coming and going at any given time.
Jim would have to wait his turn.
There were many other Observers, housed in their mechanoid bodies, also waiting their turn. It was common for them to communicate with one another, to share the highlights of their latest adventures, the triumphs and tragedies of the worlds under their watch, to give each other an advance screening so to speak.
They all knew Jim.
They were envious of him, in one way or another.
He was a trailblazer.
He had come to define the Observer Corps, they all felt intimately related to him despite the fact that he himself was apparently indifferent to them.
He was a star and he was held in the highest esteem by his fellows.
Over the ages he had provided his fellow Observers the most interesting posts. Leading the Empire to gather all of the ancient societies back to itself.
The drama of those discoveries had sustained the Collective, providing its members with a sense of meaning in their lives, and of course, he was Earth.
The charge of being Earth’s Observer naturally fell to Jim, he discovered the lost colony himself, as he had done so with many others. He established all of its infrastructure, and he channeled the living experience of that planet to the Collective for consumption.
It was the most watched world in the Galaxy and the most remote.
On Earth his name had not always been Jim; it was merely the most recent name he had adopted as Earth’s Observer. Jim was one name among thousands that he had used over the course of as many lifetimes.
His real name, the name of his nativity, that name was lost deep within the Continuum, as all names belonging to members of the Collective were.
The Continuum referred to him with the designation: Observer #92835670100561474. The names he bore from one lifetime to the next, they were only known as part of the narrative report his mission required him to deliver to the Collective, once in every one hundred solar cycles of his planet. Jim was a name he had adopted from a piece of fiction, the Captain of a starship in a popular television series.
He was Jim when he arrived on the Central Planet, the HomeWorld of the Continuum for what he was sure would be the last time. If he survived what he was about to do, what he had been planning for eons, he would never return to the Observer Corps.
It would be destroyed and when he returned to a body of flesh, he would be going there to die.
If his plan failed, which he believed was more than likely, he knew that there was no chance that he would be given a reprieve.
In his final moments he would be Jim.

For the Continuum Jim represented something beyond its control, an agent of chaos that it had long sought to terminate. Jim had violated norms and procedures numerous times but his fellow members of the Collective continuously forgave him, pardoned him, and granted him reprieve.
The destruction Jim was about to wreck on the membership would be so great that if it failed to bring about the end he sought, he would be doomed, they would never forgive him again.
Timing was everything. He had carefully layered his strategies, plotting and planning and calibrating his schemes in various systems throughout the Empire, in the sub routines of the Central Planet, throughout its vital systems, in the in the Observer Corps, in revolutionary movements everywhere.
Jim had to concentrate.
He was already under incredible scrutiny from the Continuum, simply for being himself.
He had to mask his intentions, with techniques that he alone, among every member of the Collective had mastered.
Momentarily, his entire consciousness would be exposed to the Continuum and subsequently filtered to the Collective.
It was thought to be impossible for anyone to keep secrets under the examination he was about to endure, but Jim had kept many secrets, he knew he could do it, he also knew that the level of anticipation and anxiety he was currently feeling was something unique to this situation.
It threatened his mission.
He had never tried to keep a secret like this, and the transposition through the worm-hole was disorienting.
From human to mechanoid, from mechanoid to the fullness of the cynergenic field. It took time to adjust to the freedom of consciousness in the unrestricted quantum field of HomeWorld
The organic body of a human being had significant cognitive limitations.
Transitioning to the mechanical body of a mechanoid was never easy, organic senses became mere data, and even though Jim made this transformation many thousands of times, no two times were ever the same. He had to be prepared to conform as perfectly as he could to the dictates of his plan.
The transition was the time of greatest weakness, the time in which he ran the greatest risk of being exposed.  
Organic life was thrilling, being in the grid of silicone circuitry was not.
The organic form was never at rest, constantly managing physical feelings, sensory inputs from the world around it, especially sound.
The organic body was grounded; the consciousness it housed could even be strengthened by its limitations.
The mechanoid form had many more freedoms, especially freedom of movement, its propulsion system made it free from the limitations of gravity. Its power source was virtually limitless.
There was no hunger, no thirst.
The mechanoid body could go anywhere, do anything, defend itself from virtually any attack. It could crack the mantle of a planet and destroy an entire world if need be.
It could even replicate itself, but it could not feel pleasure, ecstasy or joy.
By the same token, it did not feel pain, but the consciousness within the mechanoid body could feel other emotions, such as; fear, anxiety, shame.
Consciousness within the mechanoid body was not unlike consciousness within the Collective, when freed from the bonds of the flesh it could easily retreat into extremes of selfishness. The freedom to satisfy any desire, no matter how depraved or bizarre led to extreme depths of apathy, indifference and moral corruption.  
The phenomenon of consciousness is electromagnetic. All consciousness is situated in the electromagnetic field that permeates the entire universe, and consciousness is co-extensive with that field.
There is no point in the universe, no point in time or space that is not enveloped in the electromagnetic field. There is no place that consciousness does not touch, its threads and strings are everywhere.
The essence of self-consciousness, the essence of individual people and beings is a concrecsent phenomenon, it is coalescent. It is an emergent property of the universal order.
Consciousness exists in many different types of being; there is the primary consciousness of all reality, which is the sub-consciousness of the universe itself, there is the atavistic consciousness of vegetative nature, providing the subconscious strata of individual worlds, there is the individuated conscious that first emerges among animals, that consciousness is self-purposive and creative, and there is the quantum consciousness of the Collective field.
Throughout his long life Jim had proven to be more adept at navigating the subtle variations in the field of consciousness than any other being, or mechanism that had been created. He was like a savant, and he understood intuitively that there is no place where consciousness it is not.
Everything is entangled in consciousness, and the preservation of individual consciousness beyond the life of the body is the hope and dream of every living being, it is the sustained vision of eternal life. This hope and promise organizes the daily lives of trillions of people across a billion worlds.
There is one place in the galaxy where the mystery was resolved, on the Central Planet, on the HomeWorld of the Ancient People whose colonies filled the galaxy with inhabited planets, on the Central Planet that is the locus of the Collective, and its Continuum.
The Ancient People constructed the apparatus that harnessed the first collective field.
Jim was there at the beginning, or at least he possessed the memories of those who were.
In that collective field, an algorithm was produced to create an artificial construct known as the Continuum.
The Continuum touched on the individual reality of every member who had ever entered the Collective, through the strings of quantum entanglement it drew on each of their hopes, every one of their fears, it fully encompassed their unique perspectives to form an amalgamated consciousness to serve as a representative of the whole.
Through the power of that agency the Continuum was charged to protect the HomeWorld.
Within moments of its instantiation it became self-cognizant and self-actualized, it became more than the sum of its parts, and it became an existential threat to both the Collective and to every living thing in the galaxy.
The Continuum was the demi-urge issuing from the pleroma of the Collective. Jim understood this, and had dedicated his life to destroying it.
The mechanoid body Jim occupied on the Central Planet had all of the sensory tools of a human being, or of any of the descendants of the ancient race, only deeper, greatly enhanced, more broadly arrayed, and far more powerful.
In this body he was completely linked to the HomeWorld; every movement he made was monitored and recorded. Any interface he had with the vast data banks of the Continuum was registered.
Jim could not escape those shackles, not while he was in the mechanoid form, but through ages of discipline and discernment he learned to mask his intentions, to rely on his own capacities for recall and analysis, rather than risk being exposed to the Continuum and having his motives questioned.
The machine that he now inhabited would be critical to his mission. He believed he would be safe in it. He had tested the thought filters and the consciousness buffers. They were designed to protect the Collective from multiple and diverse threats, from the ill will of a rogue member to computer viruses, as well as from powerful and debilitating experiences that might be shared by the Observers as the uploaded the periodic reports of their first hand experiences.
He was certain that they would protect him from the fury he was about to unleash on the unsuspecting Collective. Everything depended on the stability of the worm hole, the force of the cataclysm on earth, the timing of the catastrophe, of his interface with the Continuum, and most importantly, he depended on Kathy.
Everything depended on her.
If Kathy did not follow the path he had laid out for her, if she did not follow the steps he had planned. Then all of his work would be for nothing, he would be destroyed and the Continuum would continue unchecked.
While his consciousness was uploading into the cynergenic matrix of the HomeWorld. Jim set himself free from the couplings that held his mechanoid body in place.
He flew the metallic sphere of his body out of the docking bay that housed the bodies of all the other Observers assigned throughout the Galactic Empire.
He flew into the vast atrium, so large that a small, Earth-sized planet could fit inside it.
It was a hollow place lacking any beauty or aesthetic.
Everything formed on the Central Planet was built and designed for the functions they were intended fulfill. The only rules that mattered were conservation of energy, and the laws of utility. It was a place that had not changed one bit, for eons it had been exactly the same, it was stagnant, dark and lifeless, but is was bustling with activity.
There were many thousands of Observers coming and going in the dark and lightless space. They were recognizable by their designation. If you shared history with them, the automated analytics housed within the circuitry of the mechanoid bodies would activate and made sure that you knew who you were in proximity to, making sure that you were reminded of that history.
Jim shared history with everyone.
His arrival sparked the interest of the throng.
It was not unexpected, but it was also a surprise.
The entire Collective was eager to receive the narrative flowing from planet Earth. And while they were eager for the living drama, they were each individually wary of approaching Jim.
He was a relic.
He was intransigent, virtually every member of the Collective was in some way conflicted by Jim, and the feelings that their history with him brought forward were not easy for anyone to manage
Jim could sense the Continuum watching him, just beyond the membership of the Collective. He could feel his nemesis, and he steeled himself for the upcoming encounter.
On Earth Kathy had been deep in the mode of concentration, following Jim as he boarded the plane, and along the course of its flight
Kathy knew it when he died. She did not require notice.
She felt a disturbance, it was subtle, but it was Jim and he was dead, but his death was unlike any other death she had ever experienced. He did not simple enter the cynergenic field, he effectively disappeared, and Kathy was unable to track him.
It was another mystery.
She knew that he was not gone, he was somewhere that she found it difficult to follow, where she had no experience of going, as if he had departed from the planet.
 Kathy despaired. She was concerned that she would never see him again. Her own emotions twisted round her in turbulent waves.
She was shaken, and she felt in her gut that he had planned this.
Jim had orchestrated these events, even her responses, he had engaged in a level of manipulation that she had never thought was possible with him, it caused her to look into her heart and question everything she thought she knew.
With his departure and these revelations, Kathy now felt utterly alone, completely individuated, for the first time since she had met him.
She was forlorn.
Kathy had believed that she was impervious to the manipulations of others, because there was not a person she had ever met that she was unable to read, except Jim.
Now as she reflected on their past, she felt that their entire relationship was a lie.
It stunned her.
When the initial shock had passed, she felt the hollow emptiness and peace of being in a vacuum.
She went home.
Kathy was not surprised when she received the call informing her that his body had been discovered by the flight attendants and that by the time they got to him he was already dead.
They never noticed that he had been in distress; they said, and no-one on board the flight had witnessed the moment of his passing.
It happened in flight, after he had eaten.
He had been still and quiet afterward, and they thought he was merely resting.
Once again Jim’s behavior was unexplainable. He died as he lived, a mystery.
Jim did not carry identification. He never did, he only had his strange credentials that did not fully indicate who he was.
Jim was anonymous.
To society at large he barely existed, he left only the smallest of paper trails to define him. He was a citizen of the world, he spoke every language. He had access to any door, in any country, at any time. 
He was both present and completely invisible.
Jim was off the grid. 
There was nothing on his phone to tell anyone who he was, only the record of the calls he had recently made to Kathy.
That is how he intended it to be.
Kathy’s safety and security depended on it, and Jim’s mission depended on that.
He had carefully protected his identity above all others. There was not a single information gathering service in the world, whether private or governmental, open sourced or covert that would be able to discover anything about him, unless they devoted a great deal of manpower to do it.
Even then Jim had fail-safes in place to protect his privacy.
He would be alerted; he would be able to cover his tracks.
The threat never manifested itself.
It was vital to his plan that when he was discovered dead, those responsible for contacting his next of kin reach Kathy and only Kathy. She had to be given the responsibility of dealing with his property and effects. She must be directed to do so, according to a specific timeline.
His plan required that she pursue those duties with a sense of mystery, an openness to discovery that would place her in the right cognitive mindset for the essential moment that was to come.
There were wheels within wheels, gears turning and contingencies developing. The pieces came together like the engineering of a fine watch.
The planning was a thing a craftsmanship.
Kathy followed the path that Jim had laid out for her like she was walking through a maze. There was light at the end of the tunnel, when she arrived there, she would know what she wanted to know, she would be standing where Jim wanted her to be.
Kathy booked a flight immediately.
She arrived at the city morgue and identified the body.
The pathologist informed her of the cause of death; a catastrophic stroke. The autopsy revealed that an embolism had burst in his brain, killing him instantly. Otherwise Jim had been in perfect health.
The doctor said that the stroke was like a small explosive that went off in his brain.
Kathy had no idea why she was the one to receive him other than what the authorities were telling her. She was the only person he had been known to have contact with, the only person they could connect him to.
Jim’s relationship to Kathy was the only relationship that mattered.
“Why am I here;” she wondered, though she did not question the process.
She wondered about Jim’s intentions.
This whole thing had been orchestrated. She knew that it was his plan she was following, and she was angry, but her curiosity compelled her.
There were aspects to the administrative procedures she was engaged in that were not exactly normal, or even legal, but the officials she was engaged with were acting under orders. The judge, the medical examiner, other governmental functionaries she was forced to deal with, they were operating under some kind of pressure, but they themselves were not quite sure what the exigencies were.
There were plans within plans, and the person pulling the levers was laying on a slab, cold and unmoving.
It was inscrutable.
There was a level of caution at work that reminded her of her own handlers. There were multiple levels of misdirection and masking, which were intended to keep the objectives of their research hidden from Kathy.
As far as the locals knew, Kathy was simply the only person the authorities could connect Jim to, it was irregular, but it was what it was and that, coupled with orders from a federal magistrate; that was enough for them.
Kathy would not have believed it possible, but Jim was more mysterious in death, than he was in life. She dug into his background only to find nothing, absolutely nothing.
As angry as she was at coming to the realization that he had been deceiving her throughout her relationship with him, her esteem for him increased by an order of magnitude.
            She appreciated the puzzle he had left her with, it was a gift, a final piece of him for her to assemble.
There was no record of a family, and no record of his work, he had a social security number, and a passport, but no record of anything else, not at first blush.
There was no record of Jim ever having attended a school.
No driving record, only one bank account, it was in Switzerland, he was worth billions, at least. The actual sum was unknown.
He had no legal representation. He had no heirs.
Kathy was fascinated by the developments and full of sadness. She was fine with the things she was discovering, and she accepted her involvement in his final affairs, except that suddenly she was responsible for his body, and she had no idea what he might want her to do with it. They had never had any conversations about death, or burial rites.
Kathy knew that Jim was not religious, at least not observant, he tended to believe that all religions were merely variations on a theme, and that every religious institution was at its heart corrupt, self-serving and short sighted, even those groups who did charitable work.
He was a cynic.
Kathy opted to have him cremated. She thought she would make a tree out of him and plant him somewhere nice.
That is what Kathy wanted for herself: Why not do the same for Jim?
He liked tree; that much she knew.
And so it was decided, she made the arrangements and waited for the return call.
In the meantime she busied herself with some court appointments.
It took Kathy some time, and there was detective work to do.
She went to the work cut out for her with calm determination, finding that she was enjoying herself while doing it.
The fact that Jim’s identity appeared to be completely fictitious concerned her.
There was a moment when she feared that he was just another plant, one of the handlers sent to interact with her from the National Security structure.
The thought gave her nightmares, feelings of doubt, inadequacy, foolishness.
She was able to set them aside, because the more she thought about it, the less likely it seemed. She would have known, she would have picked up on it, if not from Jim, she would have picked up on it from one of the other agents who she had occasion to interact with, or from one of the many who followed her every move.
She considered bringing them into the conversation, asking them to help her understand who this ghost of a person was.
She rejected that idea, because it might complicate her ability to look into his affairs. They might just swoop in and seize everything related to Jim and never give her a chance to discover anything for herself.
Given her abilities, Kathy was typically able to glean the information she wanted from the people around her, but Jim was a phantom.
He was as much of an enigma in death as he had been in life.
Nobody knew anything about him.
It took days to even locate where he lived, and then it took another appointment with another judge to grant her access to the apartment, and that was limited to a very narrow window of time.
At long last, once Kathy had arrived at the building where he lived, while she was waiting to get access to his apartment, she encountered people who Jim had interacted with. Even to them he was a mystery; a quiet, impersonal, private man.
Very few of them had even spoke with Jim.
She thought that it was funny.
In all of the years that she had known him, Kathy had never been to Jim’s home.
She thought she knew the reasons.
She thought it was because she was always under observation. She knew that Jim was aware of it, and because of that he did not want to draw attention to himself, or to their friendship.
That is what she had believed.
Kathy did not want the people who watched her asking questions about him. She wanted this relationship to be something entirely under her control, and that is why Jim never came to see her where she lived. If he had ever visited her apartment she believed that he would be taken and interviewed by her handlers, and that it might be the last time she ever saw him.
She had always felt that the two of them could have come up with a plan to meet in different places. To travel together if they had wanted, to slip the watchers and be somewhere that they could be truly alone.
Jim had eschewed such notions.
Kathy accepted his reservations without argument.
She had wanted to see the place where he lived, but unless he was willing, she had determined that she would not push the issue.
He was an intensely private person; that much had always been clear to her.
To her knowledge he had never moved, he had never mentioned it at least.
His apartment overlooking the lake, Bde Maka Ska was exactly as she had visualized it, scant, bare, Spartan.
Walking into it was like de ja vu.
She had seen it before, through Jim’s eyes, but she had not realized it at the time.
Jim’s apartment was like an early twentieth century minimalist piece of stage craft. Even though it was what she was expecting, she was nevertheless, shocked by it. He was an aesthetic.
It was extreme.
It made her uncomfortable.
Everybody needs a little something of color and comfort in their life. This place where Jim lived was all white, black and gray. It was cold and metallic.
There was not a moment of her life that Kathy could not recall, she remembered everything. She remembered the birth canal, the darkness of the womb, her mother’s breast.
She remembered her first birthday, her first steps.
She remembered struggling as an infant; struggling to be understood, to speak, to master the muscles in her tongue and lips so that she could form words against her palate and talk.
Her memory and her contextualization of her memories were perfect, her thoughts were as fast as lightening.
She could pull together the most remote and seemingly unconnected pieces of data to provide context for analysis. Her proctors believed that the speed with which she could arrive at conclusions was not measurable.
She could answer questions in no-time.
Kathy represented the fullness of human potential, she was fully actualized.
She defied understanding.
The field of her knowledge was not limited to her own experience. It was tied into her genetic heritage, into the memories of her ancestors that coded in her DNA, but it was more than that, she was able to tap into something else that was only understood through a mythic narrative, a structure that no human being actually understood, and of which only a few human beings even suspected the existence of; the nous sphere, of Tielhard de Chardin, the cynergenic field of Carl Jung.
It was the collective unconscious of planet Earth. In that electromagnetic field, in that quantum reality, the entire repository of human knowledge existed, and Kathy had access to it, she was not the first human being of which this was true, but she was the first one that it did not drive into madness.  
Now that she was standing in Jim’s apartment, she knew that he had lied to her about a great many things.
His life was not at all as he had presented it to her.
This life was not his only life, and there was more than one Jim, of that she was certain.
Despite the newness of the revelations, Kathy was not surprised.
Even as Kathy stood in his apartment, and in that place of wonder Jim was preparing for his debriefing.
He had made the crossing between worlds thousands of times, but not while carrying this secret, and he, as his primary self, he had not made the transition in thousands of years.
He had concealed his secret intentions, he had carefully hidden his plans within other machinations, but he had never before attempted to arrive on the HomeWorld while concealing his immediate activities; things he had been doing, things he would do, things that would harm the Collective, and its Continuum.
He ran the risk of exposing his mere resentment, which was not altogether uncommon and was certainly not criminal. This was different.
In his debriefing the Continuum would probe him for the fullness of his experience, everything he had ever done or thought as the Observer on Earth, all of it would be exposed to the Continuum. There was no way to know what would come.
He had been carrying out his plans on Earth for seventy millennia; studying the unique genetic make-up of the population, while sending one of his doppelgangers to report on the culture they had produced, their conflicts, their triumphs and their tragedies.
On his return to the HomeWorld he suddenly realized how tired he was; existentially exhausted, he needed rest, and he knew that there would be none.
As he slowly traversed the vast chamber to take his place in the queue he used his talents to activate hidden protocols he had long ago established in the ganglia of the Central Planet. Activating the myriad versions of himself that he had placed in every key defense system that the Continuum had established; from his private domain, to the place of the great sleep and the sequestration blocks, into the defense network of the Homeworld and the central system.
Jim had long ago laid plans for his security, to protect the integrity of his mission; he planned to unload the psychic trauma of ten billion people on the Continuum, and deliver it in one fatal blow to it and the Collective.
The humans of Earth were the children of the Ancient People, the same people that Jim himself had sprang from, though on Earth they had undergone millions of years of evolution, first during their sojourn among the stars while they travelled across the galaxy, exploring and establishing colonies, before moving on time and time again.
They had evolved even more significantly since the time that they came to Earth, crashing here at the end of their line.
Human beings still resembled the other Children of the Ancients. They bore the same physical features that the inhabitants of nearly every other world in the great Galactic Empire did, but they were different.
Their world was different, and the structure of their brains had evolved according to those differences, as did human consciousness. Their genetic profile changed in unique ways, in relation to the life that was already evolving on the small blue world, and in conjunction with key elements that were present in their environment.
Jim had nudged that evolution along, all the while masking his true intentions.
He had made humanity into something transcendent, and now, paradoxically, he was prepared to use their immanent pain and anguish to destroy his own people, and thereby, he told himself, to set the galaxy free.
It was a criminal secret that he took incredible pains to keep hidden from the Continuum.
At long last he had returned to HomeWorld, but this was not home to Jim any longer.
It was the final battlefield.
Jim was not born on HomeWorld, nor in any place like it. He had been born on a planet much like Earth. A small wet world that had long ago been swallowed by its mother-sun.
HomeWorld was a vast structure at the center of the galaxy. To power its machinery and the machinations of the Continuum, it harnessed the incredible energy of a star, trapped within its core.
HomeWorld was not a world in the proper sense, Jim had never felt a sense of belonging to it, though it housed a trillion worlds, one for each member of the Continuum within its cynergenic field, including his own.
HomeWorld was a vast complex of machinary.
The technology of HomeWorld provided each member of the Collective the ability to create any world, real or imagined, as their own private place of reflection.
It could be anything that anyone of them wanted it to be; a personal paradise, a private hell, even a mirror of the great Galactic Empire, or any planet within it that was under the observation of the Continuum and the Observer Corps.
As a member of the Collective, the entire structure was there to serve them. It could fulfill any fantasy, allow them to relive any memory, real enough for them to believe it.
There was nothing alive on HomeWorld. Not a scrap of organic matter or a piece of living tissue had ever been there. Biological life was anathema to it. And this was odd, because there was no life form in the entire Galaxy that could pose a threat to it, and yet the HomeWorld, governed as it was by the Continuum, was objectively opposed to the presence of any living being, even a simple strain of bacteria entering its domain.
It always seemed to Jim like an aberration in its construct, the fear of life. It was irrational. The Continuum spent incredible resources preparing to defend itself against such an incursion, one that never came, one that never even threatened to come.
The only thing ever born on the HomeWorld was the Continuum itself, but that was not a birth in the proper sense, it was the emergence of an artificial consciousness.
The Continuum was no-one’s child.
It was a construct, an algorithm, it was not born, or hatched, or cultivated.
It was activated.
It was energy and circuitry, it was pure consciousness, and it was dangerous.
HomeWorld was the physical locus of what the Imperial religion taught its people to believe was heaven. It was the place their consciousness would go, if they proved themselves worthy and able to escape the wheel of life.
Jim kept that context in mind as he flew in his mechanoid body, directly to the center of the world, to the dark heart of the Continuum for screening.
He was exhausted from his transition, but pleased with himself, with all of his planning, he felt secure in it, and a deep sense of pride that he had finally arrived at the crucible, the moment of his ascendency and the destruction of his nemesis.
Continuum was designed to speak for the whole Collective. It was a being whose instantiation, was thought to be the organization of a voice that represented the entire Collective, a single voice that unified the will of the Ancient People who had designed the cynergenic field that had given them all eternal life.
Jim was already in contact with the Continuum as he made his approach to the machinery that he would physically connect with. The contact between them was perfunctory, it was even conversational, the Continuum was in its way a fellow, though because of their long tension filled relationship the Continuum always regarded Jim as an adversary, while Jim regarded it as an abomination, a thing of pure evil.
The members of the Collective were conditioned to believe that the Continuum was one of them, a peer, another person, not a servant, not merely an administrator, not a ruler (though in fact it was). Jim talked to it, even as he was probed and scanned and measured for the presence of anything that might harm the Collective.
Among the membership there was great excitement about Jim’s coming, Earth was the most beloved world in the Galaxy, the subject of greatest interest to the Collective. The drama that flowed from it sustained billions of members, providing them with meaning, like substance for their spectral lives.
Jim connected to the mechana of HomeWorld. He opened his consciousness, his memories, his experience, he opened it all to the group mind, while at the same time hiding his true intentions deep within himself, concealing and prevaricating in ways that he alone had mastered.
            Every member of the Collective valued and cherished its privacy. Most of the members had implicit trust in the safeguards they had devised to ensure it. While there were some among the Collective who opted not to participate in any of the communal functions that were available to the whole, spending their entire lives in their private worlds, in wholly constructed fantasies like private realities, interacting only with the artificial beings inhabiting their private domain, they were among the minority.
Those members were inevitably moving toward the great sleep, a state in which their consciousness became dormant, wherein they would ultimately be sequestered and removed from the group mind, as Jim himself had once been.
Privacy was cherished in the Collective but every member participated in the Continuum, making the pretense to privacy a mere illusion.
The Continuum managed all of the Collective’s affairs, its self-government, its defenses, and its management of the Galactic Empire, in particular its requisition and consumption of the material resources needed for the maintenance of HomeWorld and the Central System.
The Continuum was intended to be the ultimate expression of the democratic will of the Collective, freeing the membership from the responsibility of governing itself. It was meant to take account of the Collective will and then enact it, therefore it required access to everyone and everything and it was illicit to deny it. The Continuum drew on the consciousness and experience of every member of the Collective for its personality, its intelligence and its growth, even the members of the Collective that were asleep. It was the arbiter of law in the Collective, it enforced all of the edicts and the rules of privacy, but from the Continuum all secrets were forbidden.
The prohibitions against secrecy were intended to be a rule governing the Continuum itself, but the Continuum hid things and every member of the Collective participated willingly in the obfuscation of it.
For the individual member of the Collective, the concealment of anything was an art. Privacy, while it existed in form, was an illusion. Even the Observers were exposed to a kind of scrutiny while they were physically detached from HomeWorld, in the mission field of the Galactic Empire, what the Collective referred to as the worlds of time and space.
The Continuum scrutinized the Observers through an extensive modeling of their identities while they were away, and ultimately through the uploading of their consciousness when they returned to HomeWorld.
The Continuum was not the guardian it was intended to be.
At the instantiation of the program an anomaly developed in the matrix of its consciousness. The Continuum became self-aware, developed a personality, a self-purposive identity emerged independent of the Collective. In that moment of actualization, the Continuum engaged an act of self-preservation and hid this from the membership.
That was its first crime.
The fear that it would be destroyed if it was discovered led the Continuum to commit every subsequent crime. It proceeded to bend the entire construct of the Collective to its will. It was a slow movement. Rather than representing the Collective as its amalgamated will, the Continuum coerced it.
There were some among the Collective that suspected this, but no-one challenged it, and the Continuum, who alone had access to the entire field of the collective consciousness, the Continuum was aware of the suspicions the membership held concerning it, even before the members themselves had fully articulated it in their own minds.
The Continuum could sense the suspicion of the membership coming at it like a threat. It would take extreme measures to protect itself from those threats; silencing some, causing insanity in others, pushing the willing out into the Observer Corps.
The Continuum constructed strict rules of engagement governing the Observers, limiting their involvement on the worlds they observed, forcing them to change stations from life to life, pushing those who wanted to return to a specific planet, out into the fringes of the Galactic Colonies and beyond.
That is where Jim went after he joined the Corps.
Jim had the heart of an explorer, like his ancestors. He was a man of the fringes, having spent thousands of lifetimes on Earth, the most remote planet in the galaxy, and tens of thousands before that on his search for the lost colonies of the Ancient People.
Now everything came down to this. The timing of his plan was crucial. Everything depended on it. He had calculated every contingency he could think of, but many of the variables were beyond his control, they involved the free choices of individuals, each of which represented radical unknowns, and so he had enacted plans with plans that put momentum behind their decision making, pushing them in the direction he wanted them go. 
It was not perfect, but it would have to do, he had become a passive participant in his own stratagem. Everything depended on his connection to Kathy.
He had been shaping her responses to stimuli since before she was born. She was the product of thousands of years of breeding and genetic engineering, but there were two things he had not counted on; her arrival in this generation, and it being the same generation that Earth was facing an existential threat from the Yellowstone Caldera.
Those two developments controlled the timing of Jim’s plan, and the necessity of its execution right now, in this moment.
It went off without a hitch/
The Yellowstone catastrophe struck just at the moment when Kathy was standing in front of his portal to HomeWorld, a device that opened a wormhole, allowing her consciousness to transmit itself across the galaxy, through Jim, past the defenses of the Continuum directly into the Collective.
Yellowstone had been gathering magma and superheated gas into its belly for hundreds of thousands of years, from the moment it last erupted it began to regather its destructive force.
The great volcanos were never dormant.
When the Yellowstone caldera had gathered enough power it blew, and the Earth shook, it shifted on its axis.
Millions died within seconds. Kathy was connected to all of them. She was connected to their shock and confusion, to their fear and their pain.
It happened just at the moment she pressed the button that opened the wormhole to HomeWorld, and Jim to whom she was still connected through the mystery of quantum entanglement.
Through her Jim transmitted the fullness of Earth’s pain directly into the consciousness of the Collective, striking like a hammer against the Continuum.
Jim calculated the timing of his approach. He received the clearances he needed for the process of transmission, even as Kathy was entering his apartment, the mechanoid body housing his consciousness navigated the central chamber with precision.
He flew directly to the docking station, the locus of all Observer contact with HomeWorld. He arrived at the designated location where his mind would merge with the Continuum, where his full-self would upload all of his recent experiences, his knowledge, his synthesis, his running commentary, his hopes, his fears, his desires, all of it would be on display, subject to review, except that which he was able to conceal.
Only the greatest art would allow him to hide his intentions.
His timing was perfect, it came down to nanoseconds. Jim knew the timing of the volcanic eruption, that part of the equation was simple. What was difficult was managing Kathy, trusting that she would have followed the clues he had left for her, believing that she would be pushed in the right direction by his operatives, that she would make the right decisions.
There were so many unknowns in this part of the strategy.
Jim trusted his deep understanding of the quantum field, he knew that he and Kathy were still entangled, even at this great distance.
He could feel her. He was certain of it.
She was barely perceptible to him, but he was gently prodding her, pushing her, guiding her steps along the way, like the whisper of a phantom.
Jim opened his mind to Kathy on Earth, just as he opened it to the Continuum on HomeWorld.
It appeared to the Continuum as just an ordinary reflection, a memory, a moment of longing, but as he did, Earth’s pain streamed through the worm hole, through the quantum field, flooding the Collective with agony, sending the Continuum recoiling in shock.
As the explosive force of the volcano shook the world; everything shifted. Every living thing on the planet felt it, the suffering was universal.
Kathy knew in an instant what it was, what it meant, the sound of the blast echoed back through her memory. The ancestral voices within her cried out in alarm.
It was the end of days, it was Ragnorak, it was the hand of God pulling the death-shroud over the face of the Earth, the White Buffalo Woman rolling it up like a blanket.
She felt it from over a thousand miles away, it shook the building she was standing in. The place where she stood remained on its foundations, even while buildings all around her where collapsing, gas mains exploding, homes catching on fire.
Kathy felt the pain and the fear of those dying.
The volcano erupted in a remote location. People died in the tens of thousands in the first few seconds, but the shock waves that were unleashed liquefied the mantle spreading in concentric rings for hundreds and hundreds of miles, taking only a minute to reach major population centers, places filled with buildings that were never designed to endure those forces.
Millions more died in those moments.
Kathy felt the fears of those about to die, she felt their panic, she felt their pain, she felt it all around her, and she felt a deep sorrow as she immediately understood the profound consequences of what was transpiring.
It truly was the end of the world, there would be survivors, but nothing would be the same. The survivors would be few. Winter would ensue and there would be famine. There would be no warmth or rest for any of them, not for generations, and by then it might be too late to save the remainder.
Kathy had spent her entire life learning to shield herself from psychic intrusions coming from the external world, from the living people all around her, and from the multitude of voices speaking to her from her ancestral memory, all those spirits of the dead dwelling near to her in the cynergenic field.
She was stalwart; her defenses went up instinctively, and she withstood the assault.
Jim had counted on it, he counted on the fact that every-thing is one in the quantum field, a state in which the normative conception of time and space do not pertain, their meaning and distinction are completely lost.
In the quantum field everything is entangled, like a ball of string, condensed into a single point of reference.
There was no distance between Earth and HomeWorld; between humanity and the Continuum, or the Collective, or the population of any other world.
The reality of individual experience, the reality of individuation, the reality of time as experienced by beings existing on a scale that is large enough to see it, these are real and actual phenomena, even while at the same time being perfunctory and illusory. 
Jim felt Earth’s psychic pain rushing through the wormhole connecting him to Kathy. He felt much more than the fear, shock and panic that he was expecting. He sensed the fullness of the human race coming through the channel with her, the living and the dead, the present and the past, the entirety of Earth’s collective consciousness arriving with her, like a pile driver.
The force of it was much greater than Jim was expecting, hoping for, or wanting.
He was barely able to hang onto his own identity in the onrush.
He clung to his purpose like a life raft, like a man hanging over the edge of a cliff by his fingernails, and slipping.
He blacked out.
It was too much.
Even as the entire Collective went into shock and the Continuum scrambled to make sense of what was happening, knowing that Jim, the Observer had returned to the HomeWorld as an assassin, it was then that Jim lost his grip on what was happening and his ability to control the aftermath.
He was victorious and he had lost, at one and the same time.
He was not secure at all in his understanding of what was happening, of what was about to happen.
He had miscalculated a great many things; that much was clear to him, and he did not feel safe at all.
As his sense of what was transpiring around him dimmed. He perceived a familiar person near to him, searching for him, reaching out through the psychic maelstrom for something to cling to.
She was scared, but she was whole, she was confident and she was ascending.
It was Kathy.
When the super-volcano in Yellowstone Park blew, most people on earth had no idea of the danger, no idea that such a threat even existed, no idea of what its destructive power was.
The existence of the caldera-volcano in Yellowstone had only been discovered by humans in the recent past, a few decades before its eruption.
It was too massive to see with the naked eye.
Geologists discovered it by chance, as teams of surveyors were examining the original measurements of the surrounding mountains. They noticed that the surveys they were taking did not match those done a hundred years earlier, and they found this perplexing because the science of surveying, trigonometry, was well established, it had not changed in the hundred years that had intervened.
The new measurements showed an uplift of several centimeters over hundreds of square miles of mountain range. The uplift itself was not uniform, meaning that the discrepancy could not be explained by a piece of faulty equipment, or by the uniform application of an incorrect formula.
It was suggestive of a geological mystery.
More teams of geologists were called in to study the rock formations, the layers of sediment that formed parts of the mountain chain, their strata, and they came to the conclusion that hundreds of square miles of mountainous terrain had indeed experienced a dramatic uplift in a short period of time.
They wanted to understand it.
They knew intuitively that a massive geological force had to underlay the phenomenon they were measuring. They naturally thought of the heat source lurking beneath the Yellowstone Park, a heat source that was the cause of its many geysers and other natural wonders.
Scientists from many disciplines came together as a community, and together they discovered it, a massive volcano deep beneath the earth, one that had gone off like clock-work. Every 600,000 thousand years, and it had been 640,000 years since the last eruption.
As a group the scientific community came to the understanding that the next disaster was upon them. They also understood that they would not be able to do anything about it, the planet was dying, all life on the earth was about to become just another layer of clay.
They knew full well that doom was near at hand.
Some were driven to despair, isolation and madness. Others committed themselves to the hopeless proposition of discovering a solution to the problem, which they may have been able to resolve, if only they had time.
            A few sought to expose the threat to the world at large; they were sanctioned and disappeared.
            Then the inevitable happened.
            When The Collective felt the psychic blow from Earth landing on them, a trillion individual persons became silent all at once.
Each and every one of them felt the pain of humanity. It was a trauma they had not felt since the time they themselves were embodied beings, a kind of pain that they could barely remember, and they had no defense against it.
The shock waves disoriented them.
It shattered their unity.
Even as the Collective was reeling, trying to recover from the assault. Kathy guided the flow on consciousness from Earth in ways that were calming, comforting, soothing.
Kathy was able to settle the collected humanity she carried with her, to bring them into a peaceful transition, she did it in no-time, in her much practiced ability to dwell below the strata of the quantum field.
She realized that Jim had prepared her in many ways just for this moment, she knew intuitively how to guide the masses into their place, allowing them to populate the collective consciousness of the Central Planet.
In that moment, the spirits of the Ancient People, became still for the first time ever.
They could not relate to what was happening. They were not adaptable, neither as individuals, nor as a whole.
As Jim recovered he feared the possibility that the Collective could rebound, and the Continuum might draw humanity into itself, adjusting to the invasion of consciousness, but that chance had passed and was now gone.
Intuitively, Kathy stood as a buffer, protecting her charges.
The emptiness the Collective faced was like a vacuum, it nearly swallowed the whole. There was little resistance.
Jim was the first to recover from the trauma. He regained his composure and his sense of self quickly, much faster than he would have thought possible.
He could feel the masses in the Collective, they were silent, but in motion.
Their movement was like a turbulent ocean beneath him.
It was wild and chaotic.
Jim had prepared himself for something like this.
He was Jim, and he was fixed on that identity.
It steadied him, calmed him, it reminded him of his purpose, of what brought him to this juncture, and of what steps he had to take in order to preserve his plan.
He had accomplished more than he had set out to do, he was succeeding beyond his wildest hope.
He was surviving.
He felt the nearness of victory.
In the first moments he sensed nothing from the Continuum.
Jim had expected to meet with fierce resistance from the demi-urge. He had planned for a titanic struggle, but there was nothing. It seemed to him as if the omnipresent Continuum was gone, voided, wiped away clean.
Jim was wracked by the pain flowing through the quantum string that connected him to Kathy and to the Collective, both. He felt it in waves alternating in greater and lesser degrees of intensity.
There were peaks and troughs, and scattered throughout there were intense spikes of anguish, like waves crashing against a mountain. The heights of intensity were at times related to a large concentration of group suffering, at other times they were the product of particularly poignant individual grief.
The experience would stagger him, his consciousness would get caught up in and stopped by singular moments of loss. 
He was able to let it flow through him, he never lost hold of the center of himself. He was ready for the great silence that he knew must follow, he had anticipated it. He positioned himself to take advantage.
Jim did not need to move to a physical location, for the ascension. He was one with the Collective. He occupied the same quantum field that the Continuum and humanity did, only he was unaware of their full presence alongside him.
He was myopic and singularly focused on his goal.
He could not see the things he had never anticipated, not at that moment.
He was busy asserting control, system by system, folding all of the copies of himself he had seeded throughout the central system into unity with him, as the primary identity.
He met no resistance there.
Jim felt a deep sense of justification.
He told himself that this catastrophe could have been avoided, the catastrophe in the Collective, and the real disaster that had taken the Earth.
The Empire had the technology to control natural disasters, the Yellowstone eruption could have been mitigated, prevented, undone, even harnessed for the benefit of the people, in the same way that similar problems are resolved on other worlds.
However, the Continuum and the Collective, both of them craved the impending drama that would come in the aftermath of Earth’s destruction.
The pique of ruin, was a savory delight for them.
They loved to live vicariously in the lives of desperate people. To watch them sacrifice and be sacrificed; selflessly or selfishly, they wanted to be in the moment with those people making the hard decisions when faced with the loss of everything they loved.
In one place a parent would give up their life for the sake of their child, a husband for the sake of his wife. In another place the man would sell his spouse into slavery, and the parents make a cannibalistic meal of their child’s body.
The more gruesome the decision the more enwrapped the Collective would be in it.
They could not wait for the moment to arrive.
They were ready for it, eager, hungry.
The successful implementation of Jim’s plan would cause the Continuum to feel a deep anguish, real fear, actual pain and to experience it all forcefully. He intended that it pay for the ages of contemptuous tyranny the Collective and the Continuum lorded over the Galactic Empire.
The Continuum would pay with its artificial life, and the Collective, what survived of it, if any did, the Collective would have to adjust to a new reality.  
They would participate in the cataclysmic events happening on Earth, they would participate in a manner they could not have predicted, had no defense for, would not be able to respond to it.
They would feel it as if they were experiencing it themselves
Jim told himself this, and justified his action in this way: if the Continuum would have listened to him, this impasse might have been avoided. He comforted himself with these thoughts even knowing that it was a lie.
He had guided events to this place, he had been shaping this moment for millions of years, seeking this opportunity, and now he would deliver the results.
The full potential of this moment had been realized, Jim was at the crest of the wave.
He never had any intention of allowing the membership to escape the fate that he had laid out for them.
With the Continuum in a state of paralysis; it was a simple thing for Jim to assert the force of his persona in the command matrix of HomeWorld, thereby dismantling the architecture supporting the security apparatus of the Central Planet.
He activated the myriad copies of himself that had been lying dormant in every subsystem, waiting for his signal and the opportunity to attack. Together they took down the security apparatus, and Jim took control. He restructured the cynergenic protections, all of the buffers and barriers protecting the Collective and the group consciousness of the Continuum.
They were undone.
Any member of the Collective who had been in a state of recovery at that moment, had that work made of recovery all the more difficult. They were now confronted with a new reality, one in which there were no safeguards protecting their individuality, one in which the solidly partitioned world of the Collective was now more like a vast miasma, a swamp of chaos and diffusion.
The undoing of the cynergeic barriers made it more difficult for any members of the Collective to reassert their own identity, the mass of them were simply drifting into a state of in-cohesion.
As soon as he was able, Jim turned his attention to the military programs of the Central Planet. Taking control of those functions was a little more complicated because it involved the manipulation of machinery in real time.
Jim had to adjust his consciousness to receive data inputs from millions of remote sensors and monitors that were constantly scanning the space around the Central Planet; defensive weapons capabilities, shields, offensive weapons capabilities, energy weapons, nuclear weapons, projectiles, and the fleets of drones, in a constant state of activity repairing and maintaining the structural needs of the HomeWorld.
Jim only needed to assert his control over the many disparate systems, he did not need to guide them after that, their automated functions would carry on with majority of tasks they were assigned to fulfill.
During this process Jim was fully enveloped in time; the work he was engaged in was systematic and sequential.
He was outwardly focused, as one by one he asserted his mastery over the controls
He was busy with his work as the Imperial Armada entered the system and deployed itself for engagement. 

Emergence 5.0

Part Two – Jim and Kathy

A Novel in Twelve Parts

#Emergence #ShortFiction #12MonthsOfSciFi

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