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 Three
Jor-Tune leaned against the bridge’s wall, speaking to Admiral Yew through his comm. unit. Then, he addressed the crew, relaying that he announced their success. Day waited patiently for Thewls to finish their correspondence as she needed clearance to dock with the Carrier.
“You may proceed, Miss Day,” Jor-Tune said.
She maneuvered closer to the giant ship, looking on while the bottom compartment slid out and into place. First, she released the Lokian by gingerly laying it onto an unoccupied platform, which rose into a sealed compartment. After operatives announced that it was clear, Day landed on another lift, which also rose into position. Finally, the interior lockout system re-pressurized, and beneath them, the whole Carrier closed docking bay doors.
The crew marched from their ship to witness a sea of Thewlian scientists using small cranes and lifts to move the defeated Lokian to the proper area. The head Thewl on the project was a short, stocky alien, who introduced himself as Frep. At a modest, seven feet in height, the twitchy alien ambled up to the captain and initiated a handshake then called for his team to begin studies.
“Wow, a real live ship,” Frep commented.
“Better believe it,” O’Hara replied. “Enjoy it.”
The captain excused himself before announcing they were ready to contemplate the next step.
“Sir, I’d like permission to join the Thewls in studying the Lokian ship,” Swain said.
O’Hara raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Are you sure it’s what you want? I could really use you here while we plan.”
“Yes, Sir. I’d really like to dissect that thing and find out how it works,” Swain responded with barely contained anticipation.
Swain rarely wrung his hands, but when he did, everyone knew he was about to leap out of his skin. Smiling to himself, O’Hara nodded. Swain bit his lower lip, fighting off a cheesy grin. The big man sashayed off with Frep; the two were overheard chatting about the battle.
Once the science team sprawled the Lokian onto the floor, a moment of hushed awe ensued. Several Thewls started poking and prodding with tools and instruments. A few carried some recording devices. They took their scans or gave out readings while both the admiral and ambassador supervised.
Swain found the view refreshing. It reminded him of Humans working while their supervisors stood by idly. For a moment he was unsure as to where to begin, but he took a breath and calmed himself, just staring for a time.
An exterior pull helped him to quiet his mind. Slowly, the sounds of chattering Thewls subsided. His vision grew dark, tunneled, and then everything evaporated into darkness, everything except the Lokian.
Its girth demanded all of his attention. Suddenly, a plethora of images barraged his mind. It was an overwhelming experience, but it ended abruptly. He saw O’Hara had placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Sorry, Swain. Didn’t mean to startle you,” the captain giggled.
Swain laughed and wiped his face. “No, it’s fine; just excited.”
When O’Hara raised his brows, looking at the ship, Swain returned all his attention to the enemy transporter.
DeReaux took a look at Swain then turned to the captain. “What do we do now?”
“We gotta’ wait to find out how this thing works,” Fitzpatrick interjected.
O’Hara nodded, and said, “Probably not much we can do. I’ll check with the ambassador. Maybe he’s had some luck on his end. After that, we can relax and hopefully figure out where to go from here.”
“My Captain,” Weh said when everyone amassed beside him.
From a balcony, everyone looked down at the aliens rummaging about. “Well, I guess we’re doing pretty good so far. That cat ship we got from the traveler is something else,” O’Hara trailed off.
“Yes. The design seems a bit strange, but it’s the only vessel I’ve seen that can move through space so efficiently, save the Lokians,” the ambassador replied without taking his eyes off the research below.
“Any headway on contacting the Ykelvesh,” O’Hara asked.
“Yvlekesh...and no. I find this disturbing. We’ll travel to their home system and see if we can find something. I fear the worst, however. They may have suffered serious attacks. I think the best course of action is to drop the Lokian at your station on Eon and allow the research to continue while we travel to Scroccio,” Ambassador Weh said.
“Scroccio? The Ylvekesh home world,” O’Hara asked.
“Yvlekesh...and yes, Captain.”
O’Hara took a deep breath and excused himself. Move the Lokian to Eon? Boy, that’ll give the colonists a reason to unite. Maybe that is a good idea. He walked carefully down the enormous, steel steps to his crew. Seeing these things up close and personal should light a fire under Horizon’s ass.
While making for the elevators, Adams revealed that he was against moving the Lokian. O’Hara looked at him askew for a second then looked at Franklin, who shrugged as if he didn’t know why Adams was acting surreptitiously. Before O’Hara said anything more, Korit spoke up.
“I have business with Admiral Yew. Men….”
The Thewls took a different lift. Everyone else gathered together. The captain frowned, giving Adams his attention.
“What’s the issue?”
“Protocol, really. Certain actions must be undertaken before we introduce this thing to Horizon colony,” Adams explained. “It’s an alien. We have regulations for these matters. Don’t we, Franklin?”
“Didn’t we just skip all that nonsense with the Thewls,” Fitzpatrick countered.
“No,” Adams said, unhindered.
“Well, I don’t think there’s time for much protocol, here. You’re just going to have to make some shortcuts,” the captain ordered.
“Okay,” Adams replied, still unhindered.
“Alright…soon as everyone’s ready, we’ll snatch the transporter and head back to Eon.”
Later that day, O’ Hara convened with the science team. Their preliminary scans revealed nothing dangerous about the alien; for all intents and purposes, it was dead, so the Humans boarded the traveler ship while Swain stayed behind to join the Thewls on an Explorer bound for Eon.
Outside the carrier, Day maneuvered the Lokian beyond Eon’s atmosphere. Right after landing, she opened a channel to Lay, informing him of their arrival. In reply, the admiral said to bring the alien to the colony. Just moments later, all ships grouped on dusty, brown soil.
Outside the ships, crews huddled together to gasp at the beast, and Swain revealed his instructions. “We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to study, so we need a crew for the exo-skeletal plating, a crew for whatever organs are in there, a crew for weaponry, and so on.”
More equipment was hauled from a hangar, and everyone struggled to tow the alien carcass out of the suns. Immediately, Swain went to work, but O’Hara had other plans; they hadn’t been off world long, but he wanted to give everyone some downtime for a successful mission.
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“See here,” Swain started as he held a small piece of the transporter’s outer hull. “The exoskeleton is Carbon based with heavy metals woven into the chitinous material. Iridium is the most prominent of the metals followed by some Nickel and Zinc.” Swain paused then walked around freshly removed chunks of the vessel. “I believe the frame of the insect was organically grown into the ship while it reached maturity. A great deal of its mass is Calcium, allowing it to flex to a small degree, enough to prevent fractures, the way Humans bones do.”
Day-by-day, engineers and biologists dissected, removed, reorganized, and studied the transporter. Swain sat or stood by, meditating over each component. Sometimes, his ability only worked while components were being tested. At other times, he had to lay his hands on Lokian segments.
“Mister Swain,” Frep called. “I didn’t find any kind of shielding. They have virtually nothing employed for defense against weaponry. What do you make of this?”
Swain thought long and hard. He paced over and around scattered tools, rubbing the back of his head.
“Well, Sir, seems this particular Lokian doesn’t use shielding technology. They’re vulnerable to energy based weapons. The Element-115 alloy provides some protection against H-4 plasma, but not much more.” He thought about the Lokians they fought on Sahagun. “The roaches—we called ‘em brawlers—had similar plating fused to their bodies.”
“Yes, I think I know which ones you mean, likely; a new modification,” Frep replied. “I’ve seen those bipedal ones without plating….”
“Their alloy must have been augmented somehow…or their particles were excited by extraneous forces,” Swain said as more of an afterthought. “This Lokian ship was probably shot out of some sort of organic mold. Maybe it received one round of modifications, but little else. Think of it like a car…you guys got cars?” Frep shrugged. “The rovers, then; they’re all built, all assembled the same way, but if they were grown like that, or with basic equipment then with a single round of modifications, you get a whole line of rovers, right?”
Frep nodded. Later on, while Thewls studied Lokian weaponry, Swain learned a little more. He made an effort to organize his knowledge before presenting it.
“Instead of being artificially constructed, the tentacles on the Lokian contain lenses of organic origins,” Swain relayed.
“How do you mean,” a scientist asked.
Swain looked away from a splayed out tentacle, and the work station rematerialized before his eyes. “Levine? I didn’t know you were part of this,” he exclaimed, scrambling to his feet.
“Yes. I’ve been here almost two days,” she said as she adjusted her tight ponytail.
“Why didn’t you speak to me earlier?”
“I have been, but you’re so engrossed in your work, you always are,” she commented with a smile.
She wore black lipstick and painted her nails black; a strange sight to Thewls, but not to Swain. He chuckled then finished his previous point.
“As I was saying, the tentacles grow the lenses, like clams make pearls. A small piece of organic matter similar to the lens in an eye is placed inside the tentacle tip. In time, the appendage grows, adding materials about the lens. The lasers are produced by a bioluminescence organ contained at the base of the tentacle; it turns food energy into infra-red light, which is focused through the lens after photons reach a state of high agitation.”
“Gasses from nebulae….”
“Wow…I’m speechless,” Levine replied as she continued to chronicle Swain’s assertions. “So, what else is there? I was speaking with the group you put in charge of propulsion. They said the systems were dark matter particles contained by an organ filled with liquid Xenon. Apparently, it creates an anti-gravity field, allowing the Lokian to maneuver.”
Swain bobbed his head up and down slightly as he both agreed and thought about the discovery. “That’s just about it. We pretty much know what makes this thing tick.”
The final mysteries revolved around whether or not the beast had awareness, and how it punctured space-time. Long days drifted by as the team started piecing the creature back together. At the end of one of those days, he discovered something peculiar inside the Lokian’s tubing.
Originally, it was thought that the tubes, which were clearly a mechanical addition, served to move hydraulic fluids and condensed gasses throughout organs or appendages, which was only partially correct. One set of tubes in particular carried neurons assisted by nanobots. The discovery implied that the creature was not only alive and aware of itself, but it implemented assisting programs, and that led to the discovery of an uplink system.
Swain sat in a swivel chair, rotating from side-to-side. Blankly, he stared at the monstrosity hanging from cables in the hangar. Whatever time it was there was no one around. The squeaking of his swiveling chair echoed throughout.
The image of the hangar sank into darkness as Swain focused on the swivels’ echoes. After the suspension systems vanished from sight, he felt a buzzing in his ears like the static from a detuned radio, and then all that remained were the tentacles on the Lokian’s face.
Somehow, he knew they weren’t the same. They can’t be. There’s no lens. They’re antennae…. Like the whiskers of a cat, they received data of the physical world at large, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. There was something else, something green, like a light that didn’t allow him to focus.
It clicked. It wasn’t a single object, but many acting in unison. It was the nanobots. They existed inside the antennae as a permanent uplink to a central system. The drop ship, like the nanobots, was just one of many. Essentially, it was a rogue piece of the puzzle, the puzzle being all Lokians.
“Hah,” Swain shouted and returned to the everyday world.
He looked around noticing that he was not alone, he never had been. “What,” Frep asked.
“Hive men-ta-li-ty,” Swain replied with a smile.
“Oh...excellent,” Frep seemed confused. “Now, we can’t figure how it manages to manifest black holes and subsequently patch them.”
“Mmm…” Swain said and pondered.
His elation subsided. He knew the power supply they punctured to disable it was located behind the face. Upon searching, he found some sort of protuberances implying an electrical arc, or a circuit, was completed following an unknown action. For some time, Swain and the Thewls were totally stumped. All the scientists wracked their brains, but failed to discover anything new.
They had learned a great deal while toiling in the stuffy hangar, but everyone was getting fatigued, irritable. Luckily, Swain had an insight; complete repairs on the alien then reboot its systems. No one wanted to risk such a maneuver.
“We have to reboot it at some point; we’re supposed to fly this thing into subspace and fight the Lokian Queen,” he argued.
There was no debating that, but people had their reservations, and for good reasons; that lone Lokian was able to wipe out Horizon colony. In the end, they agreed to activate all systems except core runtimes.