Welcome to Beyond the End of the World. My name is Aaron Dennis, and I will be presenting this published novel to you one chapter at a time. The entire novel is free for download via Barnes and Noble online.
This is an action-packed, scifi military novel. Some language may not be suitable for minors.
They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2, has officially been released, so make sure to visit www.storiesbydennis.com too!
O’Hara and crew marched to the loading zone where they piled into multiple rovers. Rather than keeping Humans and Thewls separate, everyone shared seats. O’Hara was stuck with the agents, who stared at the ceiling while a Thewlish countdown ensued.
In the far reaches of space, against a backdrop of distant stars and the hazy light of a glowing, gas giant, the Carrier employed stabilizers, reducing speed to a standstill. As immense panels released hydraulic pressure, rotated, and slid beside the enormous sphere, Explorers and various fighters took formation. One Explorer took point, locking onto Sahagun, a tiny speck of white like a snowball floating amidst the interminable void.
One-by-one, the space crafts pierced the thin atmosphere. Zooming over crags, mountains, smooth webs of ice, and numerous depressions formed from millennia of crashing comets, the Explorers finally touched down, where hatches opened to release eight rovers. Swain occupied the driver seat of one carrying Martinez, DeReaux, Fitzpatrick, Zakowski, and three Thewls. Another vehicle carried O’Hara, Nandesrikahl, the agents, and four Thewls. The squadron of surveyors barreled over bumpy, frosty terrain
All were awestruck by the glowing, gas giant; it resembled a pulsating, reddish moon. Flares of pinkish fire gushed out in all directions, giving the impression of a beating heart. Though the planetary body was too far to fully light Sahagun’s surface, it provided a degree of luminescence.
High hills and deep valleys of crystal reflected dazzling patterns. Bright flashes shone back inside the vehicles; headlights bounced off the shining environment, forcing everyone to squint.
“Did we get any signs of civilization,” Nandesrikahl asked.
“Not that I heard of. I assume they landed here, though. Maybe they left their ships or something. What are we looking for, anyway,” O’Hara inquired.
One of the Thewls answered him. “A sign of a sign, I suppose. There was nothing specific, so we’re just systematically scanning on the ground while the air crew surveys overhead.”
“If traveler technology advanced, a sign of their existence here may be more difficult to find,” Franklin commented.
“Meaning,” O’Hara asked.
“Meaning they very well could be or have been here, but easily covered their tracks. They were underground on Marduk. Logically, they dwelled underground here, too,” Adams explained.
“We had readings and energy signatures on Marduk,” Nandesrikahl added.
The agents shrugged.
“Oh, that’s reassuring,” O’Hara snipped.
Back on the Carrier, Lam-Yung picked up an energetic anomaly. A sort of harmonic distortion was working its way through the surrounding subspace, but data revealed nothing in their vicinity. After reviewing heat and magnetic resonances, her scans indicated a mass collapse of a section of nearby subatomic particles.
“Admiral, we may have a problem!”
Glossing over the readings, he first ordered his men check for a miscalculated jump. A tear in subspace was not an impossible result of such, but everything turned up fine. Then, readings spiked; six, enormous objects of incalculable mass were coming from nowhere; they literally appeared from dark space, and headed straight for the Carrier at an alarming speed. Scanning for material composition revealed alloys often found in Lokian construction.
“Admiral, that can’t be!”
“It has to be,” he yelled. “They’re moving at faster than light speeds. Look, it’s the only way they can escape the pull of their own black holes.”
“Their own black holes?”
Suddenly, readings stabilized. The enemy had patched the space-time fabric. No sooner had Thewls taken a breath that the Lokians came to a halt. Readings indicated a flood of information.
“They’re releasing fighters, Sir,” someone barked.
“Damn it,” Yew grumbled. “Message the rovers. Inbound enemies. Tell them to make exploration their only concern. We’ll handle the Lokians space side, and the scrambled ships can handle them planet side. Got it?”
All aboard the Carrier, Thewls darted off for their posts, for ships, and those unable to cram into lifts took stairs and maintenance shaft.
Back on Sahagun, the crews of each rover braced themselves. “Aw, shit,” Swain gasped.
“Stay focused. They got us covered,” Martinez reassured.
Swain looked to the Thewl on his left, who nodded. “You’re doing fine. Head for the ice mountains in the distance. You there, take the gun,” he said.
Martinez wasted no time, moving to a seat on a slightly higher level towards the rear of the rover. Another Thewl quickly ran down instructions on how to operate the cannon.
“Hell yeah! We gonna fry these bitches,” Martinez yelled.
Just beyond Sahagun’s atmosphere, the Carrier powered its weaponry. Apart from plasma cannons was a devastating, anti-matter, reverse, magnetron charge, or just AMRMC. Swain and Martinez had studied its properties extensively during their week long trek. It was an ingenious weapon, which fired a conglomerate of anti-matter particles. The reverse, magnetron charge contained the explosion caused by collisions of matter and anti-matter particles. In short, the AMRMC caused a destabilization of spatial particles, a potent, high-frequency explosion, but partially contained in one spot.
Lokians were closing in at a phenomenal rate. Their fighters, creatures bred and built in a fashion resembling mechanical beetles and hornets, took the forefront. Quickly and efficiently they arranged themselves in such a tight formation that they maneuvered as one single unit; they were like a swarm of fish, which sensed one another via lateral lines.
Thewlian fighter pilots looked on in horror as shiny, sleek, space bugs bore down. Gritting their teeth and dimming their faces, they prepared for the worst. Then, Yew’s orders blared over speakers.
“Once the enemy fighters close the gap, fire the AMRMC. I want to blow this alien trash to Hell and back!” The enemy came in, shifting panels to reveal all manners of protuberances, cannons, glowing membranes, and arcs of fizzling energy. Thewlian fighters held firm, however, they knew what an AMRMC did, and they wanted no part of its catastrophic damage, so they waited, breaths held, for the enemy to move just a little closer. “Fire,” Yew shouted.
From the Carrier’s cannon, a black blast flew through space. It covered some serious distance before the reverse charge broke down. Suddenly, as anti-matter particles were freed from their field, they collided with standard particles, resulting in an expanding array of black and white lightning. Carnage knocked out half the Lokian fighters—the whole of their rear—in mid-flight, yet the enemy transporters remained a safe distance as if gauging the battlefield.
Slowly, the AMRMC blast vaporized, leaving Thewlian forces an opportunity to engage half as many enemy vessels. They broke into various formations, fired plasma bursts at the insects, and tried to dodge laser beams.
Download Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free via Barnes and Noble online
“Steady,” an unfamiliar Thewl voice spoke into Day’s earpiece.
“Who’s that,” she asked from behind the helm of her Type-B vessel.
“The coordinator, he’s piloting one of the ships,” one of her men replied.
Day and her comrades remained poised as the enemy headed directly for a collision course. “Why are they coming in straight?” she was freaking out.
“Stay calm,” the coordinator advised. “My squadron attacks when I say, Human.” Day sat wide-eyed, fingers shaking over the controls. She wanted to make eye contact with someone, but her vessel was designed with several partitions. “Now!”
A volley of blue-green struck Lokian forces. Day immediately executed evasion maneuvers. To her dismay, a second wave of Lokians pulled up at the last second, efficiently avoiding the brunt of the cannon blasts, and after pulling up, they took a wall-like formation, firing red lasers from tubes resembling stingers.
“Oh, my God,” she cried.
“Steel yourselves, men,” the coordinator yelled. “Ready for a second volley.” She pulled away from enemies in flight, held her breath, and once the word fire erupted through the ship, another volley of plasma lit up her surroundings. “Quickly, now! Initiate attack formations! Move! Move! Move!”
The second round of blasts took out several Lokians, so they broke formation to zip around like angry bees. They struck back with red lasers, tearing clean through multiple, friendly fighters. Day saw explosions flash over her screen.
By then, the coordinator gave them the freedom to fight or fly as was needed. Both forces spiraled through space, firing on one another. Flurries of blue-green bursts erupted against dark exoskeleton, leaving chitinous debris floating in space while rays of brilliant red sliced through Element-115 alloys.
The admiral’s voice came through the comm. links, nearly frightening Day to death. “Listen! Fake a retreat. Regroup behind the Carrier!”
“What are we doing?” she screamed.
“Just move, Day,” the coordinator replied. “The arc laser is ready.”
All pilots turned tail and took cover behind the Carrier. Day’s head swam, but she held firm and followed suit. Lokians, however, lacked cognitive thinking and gave chase.
“What’s that, the arc laser,” she managed to ask.
There was no answer. She halted behind the Carrier, her weapons experts popping what few Lokians managed to round the sphere, when she saw something reflect light in the distance. Squinting and looking from her console readouts to the object, she realized it was one of the drop ships, a Lokian the size of a corporate building, wide, flat, and dark.
“Whatever you do, don’t move,” the coordinator stated. “The arc laser is ready, and it maneuvers all across the Carrier. Its course has been plotted and can’t be changed while it fires.”
“Okay,” she breathed.
Enemies fell for the bait; they grouped tightly in order to strike at the Carrier, when a beam of pure white shot forth from an alloy ball connected to a special lens mounted on a track system, which ran all over the Carrier’s exterior. An elegant pattern of super heated ultra concentrated photons glimmered through space, cutting through Lokian forces. Suddenly, the enemy broke off and retreated.
“They’re running away,” Day sighed.
“Never,” the coordinator growled. “Here we go. Get ready.”
A sort of rumble went through the enemy drop ship. It was something like a muscular twitch, which reflected light as the movement passed. Then, the enemy fighters swarmed in, and all of them moved out in a wide arc before making for the Carrier again. As the drop ship drew closer, Day saw it looked like a fish, or an angular jellyfish, with two tendrils extending from the forefront above optics. She knew it was alive, conscious, and searching for prey.
Executing a rocking motion to propel itself, the transporter fanned out something like a tail, which displayed even more tentacles and reflective webbing. Two fins slowly unfurled from the thing’s flanks, and those, too, had tentacles. She was totally shocked, wondering if she was dreaming the unbelievable monster swimming through space.
“Fighters, regroup ahead of the Carrier, and hit them with a volley of plasma bursts. Go.”
When the coordinator barked, she blinked rapidly; a modicum of awe remained with her, but she was ready to move. Maneuvering amidst friend and foe alike, she maintained a trajectory for the transporter. Both forces received heavy damage from radiant fire power.
A wave accosted her vessel. Shields kept errant lasers from destroying her, but just a handful of direct hits were enough to blow her to dust, so she cut right, barrel rolled, and locked on to enemies’ rears. New orders blared over the speakers to hightail it towards Sahagun; more drop ships were engaging, and their efforts were aimed at the Carrier.
Ropey, red lasers cut swaths through deep space. Sparks and flares bounced off the Carrier’s shielding before snuffing out. Several of the individually linked plates sizzled and popped as force fields broke down or overheated.
“Break away,” the coordinator yelled.
“Get out of there. Get to the planet. The admiral’s engaging the arc laser again.”
She cut a tight circle, dipped her ship’s nose, locked on to the white rock, and made a straight line for it. Behind her, the enemy amassed around the Carrier, creating a living dome. In response, the arc laser decimated the insect forces. Exoskeleton, shining steel, all manner of debris bounced off the Thewlian vessel, but the fight was far from over.
While friendly forces pierced the veil of Sahagun, another wave of Lokians gave chase. Day took calming breaths. Her eyes were glued to her console, which indicated a great deal of enemies were still inbound.
“Coordinator? Day. Copy?”
“Aren’t we leading them to the planet’s surface?”
“Yes. One of their drop ships has already penetrated the skies from the other side. Ground forces are under attack.”