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!
Chapter Twenty One
The following morning came abruptly for the spec ops team. All the members of the crew woke simultaneously with a feeling of urgency. The traveler quite simply snapped them awake. It was time to get moving; migraines, nausea, nor fatigue were his concern.
O’Hara ran off to find the admiral. The old man was conversing with Bragg just outside the Phoenix. Groans and snores sounded all around.
“Just go get that ship, and come back in one piece, son,” Lay said. Laughing, O’Hara asked if that was really it. “I need your friend, Yon, to stay behind and help build relations. She’ll be indispensable in communicating with the Carrier as well as transitioning the colonists into a multi-racial society,” Admiral Lay explained.
O’Hara relayed the message to Yon. At the end of the exchange, the admiral took it upon himself to wake the rest of the Phoenix’s crew. They all pitched in to dismantle camp, so O’Hara dashed past Yon on his way to the traveler ship.
With everyone onboard, Day connected and shot off the ground. The rest stood there, looking at each other. Some of them ate or quietly talked about the previous night.
“So, now we wait in orbit,” Swain asked.
“That is one approach,” Jor-Tune said.
Nandy shot him a look. He knew the Thewl had been sarcastic, which made him chuckle.
“There are systems the Lokians stake out. In fact we may be able to go to our old, home world,” Flem suggested.
“I thought the Lokians destroyed it like eighty years ago or something,” Fitzpatrick remarked.
“Well, we might as well start there and work our way out,” Korit replied.
Day was on her own, no guiding hands, eyes, or otherwise. She took deep, slow breaths and worked her way through the ship’s systems. She found the Thewlian, home world in a data archive. After honing in on its location, she activated the warp drive. The ship rocketed out of Eon’s orbit.
It was a fantastic experience, a thirty second thrill ride through space and time, after which, the ship emerged on the other side of the space-time tube in a vast expanse of darkness. Peering through the ship’s perspective, she saw a damaged satellite listing by.
“I wonder what that does,” she murmured.
“What what does,” O’Hara asked.
“There’s a busted satellite out here.”
“Grab it, get it inside,” Swain clapped.
“Uh, okay…let me see….”
It took her only a moment to locate a tractor beam, which protruded from the cat’s head. By releasing a simple, electron field, Day engulfed the object then pulled it in. everyone heard a clang ring through the vessel; the satellite had struck the fuselage. Frowning, she rummaged through more programs before finding a secondary bay door.
“Okay, hold on.”
First, she regulated pressure and lockout systems. Next, she opened the bay door, and she finally brought the satellite inside. Once secure, she re-pressurized, and set off through the expanse in search of the Thewlian, home world.
“It’s in, so you guys can check it out.”
“Roger that, Miss Day,” Swain said.
He invited others to inspect the item. Jor-Tune and Korit were intrigued. When they ran off to have fun, the captain asked what was out there. She explained that all she saw was an immense, frozen rock, not unlike Marduk. Beyond the rock, were other planetary bodies. It dawned on her then that with the sun being out, there shouldn’t have been any light with which to see planets, yet there they were.
Beyond them was another object. It was difficult to tell how big, or what color, or much at all, but like highlighting a touch screen, she managed to hone in on the shape, and bring it in to focus. A tinge of sadness accosted her when she realized the black ball was the sun.
“Anything,” O’Hara asked.
“Nothing, Captain,” Day frowned.
While Day spent time navigating through data, Phoenix Crew members relaxed and examined bits of their own data from the previous night.
“What are you smilin’ at, Frenchie,” Fitzpatrick asked.
DeReaux had a cheesy grin. He didn’t reply, but comically raised and lowered his eyebrows. She laughed and sat on the ground next to him.
“You had some fun, too, didn’t you? I can tell,” he stated.
She shook her head, but neglected to answer. Suddenly, Nandesrikahl burst into laughter; he was on fire that day, reading people like books. The agents, who sat cross-legged with the backs of their heads against the wall of the bridge, stirred when Nandy laughed.
“Something’s funny,” Adams said.
“Apparently,” Franklin agreed.
“How shall I put it,” he said. “Some of the crew bears the glow o’ release.”
Day blushed beneath the helmet, but didn’t say anything; she was preoccupied with exploring her ship’s data. After a moment, she grew irritated. Practically everything that had to do with plots, coordinates, travel, and space-time had a file, but what she wanted was a defined section of space rife with Lokian activity.
The crew spent the next few days roaming around the galaxy. The satellite they pulled in didn’t reveal anything helpful, but Swain enjoyed using his newfound talent. The fact that it was disabled made it easy to dissect the components used in its creation.
Korit and the other Thewls became a little nostalgic, homesick. They longed for the day when peace might finally come to the galaxy, a day they might pick a new planet to colonize. While they tossed around ideas trying to get more help from the traveler, the rest of the crew made time to settle into the ship.
Adams and Franklin searched the armory, hoping to find the suits of light the ambassador had mentioned. Instead, they found a handful of outdated, plasma weapons. The medical lab was something else. Neither Adams nor Franklin were shocked to see its contents, though. Adams ran his hands along the smooth glass of a very large canister. There were some lining the lab’s wall, all attached by metal contraptions running the length of the ceiling.
“Remember these,” he asked.
“If only I could forget. My God…the pain,” Franklin commented.
“Still, I think it was worthwhile….”
“Getting marooned was not.”
“No…no it wasn’t,” Adams whispered.
Download Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free via Barnes and Noble online
Furniture and niceties were lacking throughout the ship. Travelers had no use for any luxuries or creature comforts. By the time everyone started getting antsy—wondering if there were any clues—Nandesrikahl suggested they try going back to Sahagun.
“Since the Lokians attacked Sahagun, they must have been trying to find the travelers. Logically, they wanted to destroy them in order to achieve galactic control. They probably didn’t expect a Thewlian presence. If we return, we may find them employing a similar strategy,” Nandesrikahl said as he held his fingers to his chin in thought.
“Doubtful,” DeReaux snipped. “If what you’re saying is true then they probably regrouped and attacked again after we left, probably destroying the whole planet and all the travelers there.”
“Oh,” O’Hara didn’t like the sound of that.
“Don’t be pessimistic,” Korit intervened. “We can at least visit Sahagun and see what’s there.”
“Well, hold on,” the captain started, “Day, do we have stealth systems? Maybe we can show up undetected. If there are Lokians there, we could get swarmed. You remember those fish-type transporters? They can clearly punch a hole into subspace.”
“You know what,” Fitzpatrick asked. “That’s probably the kind of ship we want. That thing’s gotta’ be able to get to their subspace, queen hive.”
They shuddered at the thought. Not only was nabbing a transporter dangerous, but it was filled with fighters, and the added prospect of entering the hive was beyond disturbing. Nevertheless, Day listened and sifted through files related specifically to her vessel. Apart from the fact that a strange word kept popping up, not that it was a word per se`, but that’s how she managed to understand it, she found that the meta-material coating was designed to do more than bend light; it reflected and refracted oscillations. Moreover, there was very little heat exhaust from the engine, which by design employed a neutron cloud containment field to fabricate a special, energy residue.
As a whole, the ship was undetectable, except no one knew whether or not the Lokians had the ability to pick up on the residual energy left behind by the actual movement of the ship. She told them as much and suggested scanning the Centaur system. Having no other leads, the crew voted on that course of action. Moments later, they popped out on the outskirts of Sahagun.
They held their breaths until Day told them there were no anomalous signatures in the vicinity. O’Hara told her to widen her path and scan for a sign of anything. By then, Swain and the others had returned. DeReaux caught them all up.
“How do we take the Lokian down anyway,” Swain asked.
“There’s a few weapons on the ship. Most everything here deals in photons, so taking out the Lokians won’t be too tough. I’ve also checked our shielding. We have to exit stealth mode in order to activate photon shields, but they should hold up to pretty much anything. Seems only dark matter and anti matter are threats to our safety,” Day replied.
“Do Lokians have anything like that,” Swain asked.
“I’ve never seen anything of the sort,” Jor-Tune replied.
“What’s the attack plan? We don’t know anything about the Lokian ships,” O’Hara said.
“Data archives show they use some sort of biological organ to produce energy. If we disable it, they should lose power,” Day clarified.
“Then, we need to remove all the little ships they carry,” Fitzpatrick complained.
“Right. What about their power source,” the captain asked.
“Mm, data shows they use organic batteries, which recharge when inside the transporter ships. They could be a problem,” Day said.
“So, wait a sec’,” Nandy said. “The little fighters recharge when onboard?”
“But where do the drop ships recharge?”
“They use the gasses from nebulae….”
“Good Lord,” he said.
Glances were passed. The Lokians were a serious threat, and efficient. Swain said he wanted to get a hold of one and tear it apart, find out how it worked. DeReaux told him to keep it in his pants.
Eventually, they discussed possible, battle strategies. The best case scenario sounded like finding an empty, transporter ship, but it was agreed that a more likely situation was finding multiple transporters, destroying or disabling them while fighting an armada of small, fighter ships, and scooping up whatever was available before they were blown out of the sky.
“What about the other Lokians, the ones we fight on foot,” Flem asked.
“Maybe they’re in the fighters,” Franklin replied. “Maybe they act like actual cockroaches….”
Everyone looked at him.
“Cockroaches have a worm inside them—a parasite—that lives in the bug. Maybe the fighters have pilots that act like parasites,” Adams elucidated.
“This keeps sounding worse and worse,” Fitzpatrick cringed.
“What about that satellite,” Jor-tune suddenly said.
“What about it,” Swain asked in return.
“What if we configure it to send out a signal or energy reading that might attract a small group of Lokians? Hopefully, they just send a single scout to check it out.”
Swain thought long and hard. Most of the satellite was intact. It was just the relay components that had rendered it useless.
“If it could be rebuilt, rigging it to send out a distress signal, a fake S.O.S. of sorts, might entice a very small group of Lokians,” he admitted
“That’s actually a really great idea,” O’Hara weighed in.
“I think maybe we can work something out. The Lokians have never attacked the Thewlian Carrier outright,” Swain began.
“Except for the time when they did,” Day interjected.
“That was a different situation. They were trying to keep us from succeeding at a specific task,” Korit responded.
“Right, anyway, as I was trying to say, it’s big, it’s powerful, but moreover, I don’t think they can track it because of the way it travels,” Swain ventured. “There are too many possibilities of when and where it might appear.
“If we rig the satellite, and send a distress signal, some Lokians might appear in the hopes of using it as bait. If they suspect an Explorer vessel or even a Carrier might appear to rescue crewmembers they might sit and wait in order to mount a surprise attack.”
“That’s a lot of mights,” O’Hara remarked.
“Yeah,” Swain frowned.
“How did they know to appear when we went to Sahagun,” Flem inquired.
Eyes narrowed and brows furrowed, but no one had any answers. There was a short pause then someone spoke up.
“It’s not illogical to assume that when we were attacked on Marduk, one or more of us left with some sort of tracking device. We might not have noticed,” Adams replied slowly.
A brief moment of fear and uncertainty washed over the crew. “Surely, after all the battles and gear repairs, someone would have noticed,” Fitzpatrick cut in.
“This is all speculation, for all we know they have an organic method for tracking the Carrier’s data archives,” Swain remarked.
“It’s irrelevant at this point. Let’s get back to the satellite,” the captain ordered.
“Okay. Say they do in fact choose to hide and wait, won’t they do so en masse,” Day asked.
“Not if they do recon to check the signal first,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We’d have to get them immediately,” DeReaux added.
“This is assuming they cogitate like Humans…or Thewls, and I don’t believe they do,” Franklin said.
“Well…I say we give this plan a shot,” Korit said.
“Alright, people, let’s get on it,” the captain commanded.