After the moment of First Ignition, the Oversoul became sensitized to all manner of physical and non-physical phenomena that had never before been witnessed by science. Physicists had long been puzzled by the fact that matter and energy sometimes seemed to wink into existence one moment, only to disappear the next instant. The Oversoul was privy to a part of the universe that ordinary physical instruments could not detect, for the simple reason that ordinary material instruments did not have the power to observe that which was not, or at least was not yet, material.
Perhaps the most significant phenomenon discovered by the Oversoul was the existence of waves of energy passing through the universe just under the cusp of physical existence, what became known as “Ethereal Waves.” With further study, members of the Collective developed the technology to mine this energy to provide an inexhaustible supply, and infinitely renewable source, of energy.
The Collective successfully guarded the mining technology from being turned to military uses, not that many nation-states didn’t try. The defense of ethereal mining technology from those who would manipulate it for selfish, destructive, violent or oppressive uses was deceptively simple, effortless and foolproof. The ability to detect and use Ethereal Waves demanded a state of consciousness that transcended the individual and recognized the connection between souls. Those who did not live in that state of consciousness–and this included all who would have stolen the technology to gain power over others–simply could not fathom the science of it. The corrupt intention which motivated their desire to gain the technology was the very obstacle that prevented them from doing so.
With the availability of unlimited energy came unlimited wealth and material possibilities. As the Collective perfected the means of distribution of this wealth and energy to eliminate injustices and inequities, the number of people who coveted their neighbor’s goods dwindled. This change in consciousness, individual by individual, accelerated the absorption of the planet’s population into the Collective. When the vast majority of any nation’s citizens entered the Collective and their life forces fed the Oversoul, the geopolitical concept of “nation” became irrelevant for that portion of the planet. As nation after nation fell into line like iron filings drawn by a magnet, an unbreakable harmony arose. This became known as “Second Ignition.”
After Second Ignition, the Oversoul sought a direction for the Collective. It had long been known that Ethereal Waves came from all directions in the universe but that some locations, notably those which had been the center of cataclysmic cosmic events, acted like beacons to draw Ethereal Waves to them. The closest such beacon to Earth was the Crab Nebula, emitting regular signals thirty times every second–a phenomenon that had some twentieth century astronomers believing the nebula might be the source of signals from other intelligent life in the universe until they realized that the source of these pulses was a rapidly spinning neutron star at the heart of the original supernova. What had initially seemed to have great significance in the search for a connection with intelligence beyond the Earth was then dismissed as purposeless.
But when the Oversoul set its intense focus on the Crab Nebula, it found purpose once again. The Crab Nebula was the entrance to the next universe, the place where humanity needed to go, the Gateway. The Oversoul listened to the pulsar and heard the call to come. This was where the Collective needed to be transported. When humanity arrived at the Gateway, the next step in human evolution would occur. This would be Third Ignition.
With infinite wealth and infinite resources, building an armada to carry the population of Earth over interstellar distances was clearly attainable, though research, planning and construction took a hundred years and the actual journey another 500 years.
Now, Chief Engineer Scott and the five other Mentats around the table were responsible for maintaining the harmony of the Oversoul as the SS Clarke and the rest of the fleet drew nearer to the Gateway. Unfortunately, on the eve of Third Ignition, this was not going to be an easy task.