The Gateway loomed large outside the portal of the engineering deck of the SS Arthur C. Clarke. This was the doorway to the Oosphere, the next and highest universe.
Chief Engineer Scott paused briefly from his duties to admire the unlimited beauty of this celestial destination. Beads of fiery color laced an intricate latticework of expanding and glowing gases which were the remnants of a supernova that had exploded with such violence in 1054 A.D. that it was visible on Earth in daytime. Several centuries later, after the first telescopes were invented, astronomers had marveled at the celestial object left behind. Astronomers officially labeled it “M31,” but its more common name was the “Crab Nebula.” Now, several centuries later, few besides Scott knew this particular piece of trivia. To everyone else it was simply known as the “Gateway.”
Scott wondered if the Ancients who first saw the Gateway through their primitive telescopes felt the same awe that he was now feeling on close approach. At the center of the Gateway was the pulsar, all that was left of the original star, now so dense it was spinning at 30 times a second, like a whirling skater with arms held close to the body. Just a few seconds of arc beside it was a high magnitude star. Looking at the two together, Scott felt like he was looking into the eyes of God.
The SS Clarke was the lead ship in the great armada whose mission was to enter the Gateway. Behind the Clarke were the Lennon, the Bolivar, the Newton, the Galileo, the Krishnamurti, the Bovisio and a thousand other monstrously large transports. Together they comprised the Collective, the largest human migration in history, poised to take the next step in human evolution.
The Engineering Section of the Clarke was not what science fiction authors might have imagined. There were no computers, no blinking colored lights, no nuclear drives, and no dilithium crystals. Instead, three men and three women sat quietly around a circular table, with closed eyes.
Scott and the five others were Mentats, highly trained in the art and science of remote empathy. It was the Mentats’ job to monitor changes, spikes and inconsistencies in the global harmony of the Collective. No task in the armada was more important than this, for the ships traveled by riding Ethereal Waves, subtle but ultrapowerful movements of energy that blinked into and out of evidence in the darkness of interstellar space and which could only be detected and harnessed by the coordinated focus of the Oversoul. An entity of separate consciousness, but dependent on all the billions of individual souls which sustained it, the Oversoul was the aggregate emotions and thoughts of the Collective, its spiritual force.
The Ethereal Revolution had been, arguably, the most radical step forward in the progress of humanity. The Industrial Revolution had accelerated the development of tools and technology to assist humanity in mastering the environment, but it had never provided direction. Advancing technologies could produce more toys and more weapons, but the Industrial Revolution never offered innate existential meaning. This changed with the Ethereal Revolution. After centuries of aimless development, greater and greater numbers in the population had joined in the conclusion that none of the toys or power resulting from the Industrial Revolution brought true happiness. Instead, they found their happiness with the discovery of their connection to one another through empathy and participation. Gone was the absolute loneliness of being a separate, solitary being. In its place rose a level of communication and connection that transcended words. The birth of the Ethereal Revolution is usually dated at 2340 A.D., when sufficient numbers of individuals joined together to form a critical mass. In this moment, the Oversoul “ignited,” but its antecedents and influences can be found throughout the millennia which preceded it, wherever and whenever human beings gazed upon the stars or contemplated within the silence of their hearts and became convinced that there was more beyond what was evident to the senses.