Week 45, 2019
The event was utterly unexpected.
The crisis brought catastrophe to the Collective and the Continuum, striking rapidly at the heart of the Central System, and thereafter reaching the Empire in a slow moving wave, rolling outward in a series of concussive movement.
As awareness of the event spread through the Observer corps, the Empire reacted.
The Imperial forces had little familiarity with being on the defensive, or with entering a conflict zone in which the parameters of the battlefield were unknown.
Observers across the galaxy faltered, half of them exhibited no care at all about the fate of the Central System, some among them even desired the complete collapse of the Continuum. “Let it fall apart, do nothing,” they said amongst themselves.
They were apathetic.
Those Observers loved the lives they lived, there only desire was to exist as fully embodied beings in the fields of time and space, eating and drinking and reveling in their physicality.
These Observers had long since stopped feeling any sense of obligation to the Collective or the Continuum, which they knew as the most corrupt and despotic force in all the galaxy.
They felt no sense of duty to the Central System, to HomeWorld, or to their shared ancestry with their brothers and sisters in the Collective.
They saw in this moment an opportunity to free themselves from the expectations of their station.
When the Collective established the Imperial Schools and formed the Imperial Cult, it never intended to create a monolithic structure, or a society that eliminated all dissent.
The Continuum did, and it desired the conflict ensue from it.
It wanted the hot drama of resistance, and it felt safe, it felt secure in the belief that such conflicts would never touch it.
The Continuum fostered rebellion on the fringes of the Empire, among the outcastes and the lowest classes, as well as in the hierarchy.
It gave the ruling families, the high priests and leading generals just enough knowledge of the truth to allow skepticism to creep into their worldview, and thereby have a perpetual foothold in the Empire.
The Continuum sewed dissent with one hand and crushed it with the other.
There were many people in the higher orders of the priesthood and in the leadership of the armed forces who knew enough to have lost their faith in the Imperial system, its religion, and its social norms.
They knew the lies that were told to the masses.
They were nihilists, they believed in nothing.
In the moment of crises some among them argued that they do nothing in response to the conflagration occurring on the Central Planet.
They wanted to wait and see what would happen.
They knew that they were controlled by a supernatural force called the Continuum, a power that consumed the resources of star systems to feed its endless appetite for minerals and energy, they knew it and they desired to be free of it. Though they had never before imagined that they could.
They saw this moment as an opportunity, they could do nothing and allow the Continuum to collapse. If they did nothing they would be safe, or so they surmised.
If the Continuum did not falter, if it survived and they did nothing, they might not be held accountable for active insurrection.
A debate raged among the general staff.
Most wanted to do something to free themselves from the malevolent influence of the Continuum, they did not believe in its teaching.
Most of them were in fact atheists, they abhorred the imperial cult and their subservience to the priesthood.
They were as divided as the members of the Observer Corps stationed among them.
Regardless of their desire to take action, to change the fate of the Empire, only a few of the commanders believed the best course of action would be to move against the Central System in its moment of weakness and uncertainty.
These were the bravest among them, perhaps the most reckless.
They had no idea what they would find there.
Not even the Observers knew what they could expect and could not counsel them, they had never been privy to the defenses of the HomeWorld, of the Continuum. They could only assume that those defenses would be formidable.
The Observers guided the discussion as best they could while trying not to give away the fact that they had special knowledge of what was taking place.
Very few of the senior staff believed in the dogma of the Imperial Cult.
Their hesitancy was not based on religious fear or superstition, it was based on the lack of familiarity with fighting against a power with immeasurable resources.
One which they had been conditioned to fear above all things
There was only one person that any of them could think of turning to in this moment of existential dread, but he had left the general staff decades ago, and was now the high priest at the temple of the Imperial Capital.
Fear of the unknown ruled them, fear of the Continuum, fear of failure.
At the urging of the secret Observers, they sent an invitation to the high priest to join their conspiracy, the man who had been their most exalted Marshall.
They asked him to join their conclave, and in that moment they knew that they had played their hand, they were committed.
If El accepted, they would belong to him, he would take them to victory, or down in defeat but they would follow him to the end.
There were far more members of the hierarchy, both in the priesthood and among the general staff who would never have even considered the notion of rebellion against the Continuum.
They were traditionalists, they were loyalists.
There were a far greater number of Observers guiding them than those who plotted against the Continuum.
They were cardinals and bishops and priests.
They were planetary governors and star system commanders.
They were members of royal houses.
They held leadership positions throughout the Empire, across a million worlds. They were loyal to the Empire and its institutions, regardless of their faith (or lack of it) in the religious beliefs and the promises of the Continuum.
They had the absolute majority.
When the crises struck, the Observers associated with this faction were quick to leave their post, to return their consciousness to HomeWorld, to attempt to forestall the collapse of the Continuum.
They were trapped in their mechanoid bodies when they arrived. They were caught in their tiny little prisons, deaf, dumb and blind.
They were effectively sequestered, by Jim who had taken control of the Central System and HomeWorld.
The traditionalists were unprepared for the violence which came at them from all sides.
The Observers among them had been in key positions of leadership, they could not develop a strategy without them.
Being unprepared, they were trapped.
The conditioning that every citizen underwent, both through the Imperial Schools and the Imperial Cult was extraordinary.
Very few citizens were able to resist it.
Among the armed forces the standard conditioning was augmented by a force of cohesion referred to as esprit de corps.
The ordinary soldier did not doubt the vision of advancement, of resurrection, of reincarnation and eternal life, that was promised by the Empire through the great religion.
More than anything else a soldier was focused on those rewards, and the esteem of their comrades.
This made any soldier a very dangerous enemy. They were true believers.
The rank and file could not afford to doubt the things they had been taught. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves depended on it.
Doubt would cripple them in combat, it would leave them vulnerable to feelings of shame at the horrors they were routinely asked to commit.
They risked everything for those beliefs, for fidelity to the Empire, the royal family, the high priesthood and the promise of the Continuum, including their own lives, and the lives of those under their command.
They would follow any order and obey the chain of command in everything.
It made killing their enemies easy and all of their crimes forgivable.
Through the command structure they were fully realized and completely actualized beings.
Without it they were nothing.
Any person, city or planet that they were ordered to attack was to them a non-entity.
The small faction among them calling for rebellion were not incautious men, they understood that they would face fierce opposition from their friends and comrades, people who knew them well, who they had served with, had trained with, or had trained under.
Among those serving in the armed forces, the most dangerous people to the rebellion were those seeking advancement to the priesthood. They were derisively called the God-Fearers. Their ambitions for themselves and their families hung on the slender thread of these hopes.
They were not necessarily true believers, but their ambitions made them sycophantic.
They were the most senior commanders, or soldiers whose social rank placed them nearest to the threshold between castes. They were determined to rise in the service of the Continuum, and its Empire.
The God-fearers were ruthless, determined, and dogmatic. They controlled the bulk of the Imperial forces spread across a million worlds.
Few of these people ever did advance, but the hope they clung to burned in them like a fever, they saw this moment of crises as the moment for them to shine, to prove themselves worthy.
They mobilized the defenses.
They mustered all of their forces from shore leave.
They executed their maneuvers perfectly.
The fleet was under their control.
They gathered together to defend the Imperial throne, which was the only known portal to the HomeWorld of the Continuum.
They were martyrs for their faith.
There is a beauty to military formations when lighted in the ocean of space, a sublime blend of the simple and the complex; every ship, every vessel in motion, it is the greatest of all dances.
The god-fearers never considered that any faction within the Empire would oppose them. They had been conditioned to expect obedience, they cultivated it among their subordinates, rewarded it in those who evinced the greatest capacity for following and sending those who did not to their death in combat.
This was a serious flaw.
They had never engaged a military power in which they did not possess the greater force. The Empire rolled over everything, every person, every planet who would oppose them. The power they brought to bear was only limited by their objectives, their code of conduct, and the rules of engagement those codes articulated.
Every objective, every code, every rule was relative, a dispensation for deviation from a rule or a violation of orders could be had at any time from the Emperor, or the priesthood, speaking on behalf of the Continuum.
The underlying truth that governed the reality of their experience was this: Might made Right.
The Imperial forces were supreme, they were accustomed to being on the offensive, it was an offensive posture that they took where they gathered. They thought nothing of their defenses.
Their maneuvers were totally predictable by those on the general staff who had decided to rebel. From the reserve forces that were left behind on each of the million worlds, to their planetary and star system defenses, which in this moment of conflict were little more than auxiliaries, to where the majority of the fleet had gathered in preparation for the jump to the Central System, there was nothing unscripted about their planning.
They were slaughtered in each of the places where they had gathered; they were slaughtered en-masse.
In a singular moment of surprise, choreographed in a million place at once, they were utterly defeated.
Part Seven, War
Chapter Forty-three, Division
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
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