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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 Six
The alien’s interior was surprisingly barren. Apart from the rich, brown walls and bony framework, the ship looked like a ship. Swain and the Thewls had worked diligently to forge a familiar atmosphere. It lacked niceties, though. There were no crew quarters, no mess hall, no tech lab, or bridge.
The reasoning wasn’t just a concern over time or resources, but the fact that there was no guarantee the ship was coming back. For all intents and purposes, O’Hara’s men were on a suicide run. As they stood inside a partitioned, storage room spanning the length of a football field, dual-system lockouts engaged in the event of a hull breach. Hisses followed by clanks rang ominously. The captain’s mind played on the image of a coffin sealed shut.
“Hm,” he groaned.
“What is it,” Day asked.
“Nothing…it’s just so….”
“Ascetic,” Adams asked.
“Sure…anyway, Day, would you take the helm?”
“Copy.” Once settled, she broke the silence. “I found data archives with some details about their world.”
“Thank you, Day. Now, if you don’t mind,” O’Hara interjected.
She sighed at his dismissive attitude, but removed her headgear to listen. The captain stood before everyone with his hands at parade rest. His eyes hardened before he spoke.
“First and foremost, I’m honored to be accompanied by this brave crew. You’ve all gone above and beyond what’s asked of you. The truth is….
“Well… the truth is that we’re going into subspace to travel to the Lokian home world. Our mission is to find the queen and destroy her. You know, we started this mission on an alien craft without comprehending the horrors that lied in wait, and oddly enough, we’re ending the mission in a very similar fashion.
“Sadly, there are friends who should be here, but they’ve given everything for the cause. Martinez, Zakowski, Imes, Becker, and several Thewls…countless lives gone in the blink of an eye; for them, we must put this mission—the fate of our world—before ourselves, and know, not fear, that we may fall as well, but not until we’ve succeeded. Failure now is bigger than the end of the world…it’s beyond the end of the world…it’s the end of all intelligent life in this galaxy….”
Furrowed brows, stoic faces, and deep breaths resonated. Adams and Franklin traded glances. DeReaux smiled. O’Hara smiled, too. He took one, good, hard look at the crew.
“Phoenix Crew, can I get a hoorah?” the captain screamed.
The crew resounded with a booming hoorah in return.
“I said, what’s that? Can I get a hoorah?” Again, the crew fired back, hoorah! O’Hara’s smiled melted away, then. “Alright, as far as the plan goes,” he started, but gave one of Lay’s patented, long inhalations. “We kept the original Lokian programming embedded in our own runtimes in order to hide that we’re using a rogue ship. Hopefully, this lets us blend in.
“Remember, we are one ship amidst billions of enemies. Any foul up, and we’re dead. Day, bring up the screen.”
On the bridge’s wall, a screen glowed. They turned to find it displaying a 3-D layout of the Lokian home world as provided by data within local servers.
“Lokians don’t dock the way we do. They organize like pieces of a program. Data is shared via their satellite uplink,” Day explained.
The image spun, revealing an odd mass. The labeling indicated where vessels docked and registered. The captain weighed the possibilities as he observed the image. Something clicked in his brain; they were not only a hive; they were a digital hive.
“The plan is to show up with information of a new civilization ripe for harvesting,” he started. “Obviously, it’s false information, but it’ll entice them to send out a scouting party…we believe.” Swain and the agents nodded. “While they scramble, their systems will detect an anomaly within our vessel. If I’m right, and let’s pray that I am, the Lokians will order us to a physical docking in order to flush the memory core and re-establish programming.”
“Similar to re-installing an OS on a computer with a virus,” Swain added.
“Right, this is our opportunity to leave the ship and enter the Lokian’s system core. Day’s data shows it here,” O’Hara said, pointing to a darkened, round opening in the flashing, 3-D display, “like an enormous hangar where they store everything including the physical equipment they need to do whatever it is that they do. Now, we move down this path.” By sliding his finger over the screen, the image spun. “At this juncture, we need to drop explosives on a time delay; I am hoping to make it back to the ship after all. Once on the ship, we haul ass out, and try to get back to standard space.” Adams stepped forwards. “Yes?”
“Sir, we have some very special explosives.”
“Heh, very special, very dangerous, we obtained some anti-matter particles from Admiral Yew. A miniature AMRMC ought to wipe the Lokians out of existence,” Franklin added.
“Nice,” Fitzpatrick exclaimed.
“Yeah,” O’Hara remarked.
DeReaux stepped forwards next and spoke. “Once we enter on foot, won’t we be detected?”
Nodding, O’Hara admitted that was a very real possibility. “I’m betting we’ll have to fight security forces. Think of them as antibodies; they’ll know a foreign substance is present, and they will try to eliminate us.”
“With what?” Fitzpatrick barked.
“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “Regardless, this ship’s archives show internal defenses are minimal. The enemy is designed to believe there is no way to enter the core without being Lokian, which means access will be simple if we get past docking procedures, but once inside, we gotta go, go , go.”
“Designed by whom?” DeReaux interrupted.
“By the Lokians,” Swain said.
DeReaux said it didn’t make any sense; that they designed themselves. He and Swain then got into an argument. The agents reprimanded them, but O’Hara laughed.
“Okay…what about the queen,” Fitzpatrick asked.
“The memory core is the queen. She’s a series of programs contained in a physical shell. The blast should sever connections with her minions, making them both blind and disorganized, which hopefully disables everything. These things don’t survive independently; they can’t; they don’t know how to move, where to go, how to eat, where to recharge–”
“What if we’re detected immediately?” Nandesrikahl interrupted.
“We integrated a stealth system similar to the traveler ship. By the way, I heard we named that thing,” O’Hara said.
“Yeah, we settled on Mittins,” Day replied.
The captain winced, shaking his head in mock disappointment.
“But if we are detected,” Nandesrikahl pried.
“Then, we have to overload the subspace drive and destroy it there,” O’Hara responded.
“Which will kill us,” Swain interjected and pointed with his left index finger for drama.
The captain shrugged, “Well, I mean, regardless, it’ll kill the queen and save the galaxy,” O’Hara said, unable to hold back a smile.
“Oh, okay this is funny,” Fitzpatrick inquired as she raised her hands to her sides.
“Well…maybe not haha funny….”
The agents shook their heads, exchanged a glance, and smiled.
“Is there a way to drop the subspace drive, maybe, and set it on a time delay to explode so we can avoid danger,” Fitzpatrick asked in a leading fashion.
“No,” Swain said. “Without the drive, we can’t leave subspace. Even at F.T.L. travel we might survive the blast, but we’ll be marooned.”
“So we could drop it,” DeReaux countered.
“But we’d still be dead,” Swain chortled.
“What about a second drive? A back up or something,” Fitzpatrick probed further.
“No, not without a second, Lokian ship. Even if we captured another, we have no way of piloting it. Day is the only one who can do it,” O’Hara snipped. “I need you guys to understand, this could very well be a one way trip.”
Silence hung in the air for a moment. Abruptly, Fitzpatrick exploded into a belly laugh. The joke was lost on everyone.
“They’ve all been suicide runs, man,” she said. “Fuck it. Let’s do it!”
“Real quick,” DeReaux started. “What if their ships attack us? Like, what if the queen calls for back up while we’re docked?”
“We’ll just have to use the F.T.L. or some other crazy scheme that’ll get us killed in the process,” O’Hara replied, nonchalantly.
“Oh, this is rich,” Nandesrikahl remarked.
“We have a fighting chance,” Franklin said.
“That’s something,” Adams added.
“More than we’ve had lately,” Day agreed.
“Roger that,” O’Hara said.
“Okay…so…are we all set, Captain,” Day asked.
“Admiral Lay? Captain O’Hara. Copy?” he called into his comm. link.
“Go ahead, Captain.”
“We’re set to go. Do we have clearance?”
“Clear on my end. Good luck, Captain. Lay, out.”
“He’s so chipper,” Fitzpatrick joked.
“We’re set, Miss Day. Power the propulsion systems,” the captain ordered.
“O’Hara to ground crew, unseal the hangar door.”
“The door is open, Captain. You may proceed,” a soldier answered.
Day hovered out of the hangar. Flying the Lokian was just like Mittens, if a little less responsive, more stiff. She saw the scientists and military officials gazing. Finally, she reached so high, the hangar was but a speck.
Beyond Eon, and completely out of the Gemini system—a ploy to create a safe distance from the effects of the space-time puncture—Day engaged the subatomic, condenser organ, causing the surrounding space-time continuum to collapse into itself. As soon as the hole was punched, the ship was inevitably sucked into a void.
Readings registered as flashes of glowing symbols, shapes of impossible designs, and colors without names. Simultaneously, readings on the monitor suggested the Lokian automatically sealed the area behind the entry point like a spider plugs holes with webbing, only there were no physical means at work.
“What is this?” Day muttered.
Everyone was equally bewildered; the monitor’s display broke down into blips, dots, little more than waves and sounds. They cast glances at each other, then Day.
“Holding up,” the captain yelled.
In response, she gave a thumbs up. Grunting, she was trying to regulate speed, but in subspace, speed had no meaning; the ship simply went, as guided by the antennae, wherever the surrounding reality pushed it, or pulled it, as coming and going also held no meaning. To her, the membranes swirling around were chaotic, infinite tubes interconnected to infinitely more tubes. Although there were no tubes—only oscillations of energy, which rendered navigation impossible—their destination was a point of origin, so no guiding hands were required.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered over and over. “Entering subspace is strange. Each dimension is a sort of doorway, and subspace is like…like a giant hotel or something. We all enter into the same tube because we’re entering from the same dimension regardless of where in that dimension we are… or were…. So weird.”
“What tubes,” Adams asked with furrowed brow.
“Apparently masters of inter-dimensional travel can enter subspace from various dimensions and invariably different tubes.”
“That really doesn’t answer the question,” Franklin muttered.
“I don’t know—the damn tubes—you have to see what I see!”
Laughing, O’Hara stated she was probably having a hard time working the ship, and paying attention to them wasn’t her priority. The agents shrugged. As much as Day wanted to explain what she was seeing, it was simply ineffable.
With his back to the wall, and his arms crossed over his chest, O’Hara maintained an askance view of his helmsman, but his mind was wandering. Then, finally, something cleared up. He understood the explanation given by the traveler when they first met.
O’Hara knew that everyone he had met, every step he took, every decision he made led to their current outcome. He also understood the Lokians were not just a galactic threat, but a threat to every dimension, every possible reality, existing separately or unified, because they were located in subspace; they weren’t creatures of a single dimension, space, or time, which meant carrying out his plan to destroy the Lokians affected everything.
Logically, there must be some universe, some dimension, out there negatively impacted by the destruction of the Lokians. It doesn’t matter, though, he thought. Every choice I’ve made has led me to this one. No second guessing…there really is no choice; I’m just here to act.
“Captain,” DeReaux asked.
“Running systems cover, Captain,” Day stated.
It was a program to disguise all other programs, except the original, Lokian runtimes. After that, she released a signal, indicating the ship had found a civilization. Since data transfer between Lokians was instantaneous, as soon as she fired off her message, she received transmissions from headquarters.
“Whoa, they’re fast,” she whispered.
“What is it,” O’Hara asked.
“Data was downloaded and spread to surrounding Lokians.”
Many other ships, some of a monstrous magnitude, traveled from subspace to standard space-time. They whizzed by Day’s vision, frightening her, but everything was working out as planned. She allowed the ship to drift a moment. Suddenly, the transporter lurched. A painful flash of light forced from her a cry.
Download Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 for free via Barnes and Noble online
“What happened?” O’Hara yelled in darkness.
Everything was out, and the helmsman was totally disconnected. “Uh…it’s a systems lockout. The ship shut off life support and pressure,” Day gasped.
The crewmembers scrambled to put on their headgear. Day groaned, saying she had to relinquish control in order to put her headgear on. Her lack of communications posed a problem.
“We’re blind, Captain,” she complained.
“Don’t worry about it…we’ll figure it out. Get your damned helmet on!”
When they clicked on their gun lights, DeReaux huffed, “You know these helmets should have headlamps…I mean, really.”
Slight vertigo brought them a sense of disorientation, but it quickly passed. Then, they were vaulted into walls, from which they bounced off before floating aimlessly without gravity. O’Hara closed his eyes and relaxed. He allowed the situation to unfold, knowing that an opportunity was going to present itself.
“Nandesrikahl, access the display monitor, see if you can understand what’s going on.”
“Good thinking,” Swain said. “It has its own power supply, but make it quick.”
Nandesrikahl propelled himself off a beam, reaching the display. “Let’s see, here,” he huffed impatiently. The monitor just warbled incomprehensibly. “It’s…uh. One second,” He grew quiet. A portentous series of hisses and clicks were embedded behind the data. Nandesrikahl heard the Lokian runtimes and attempted to translate. “We have hard dock, Captain,” he said, surprised.
“What? How,” Day inquired.
“We were hit by a tractor beam of sorts. Shhh.”
There was a moment of silence. Nandy’s gun light was rolling about; the rifle strapped to his shoulder was free floating. When he didn’t say anything, the captain whispered.
“Can we access the airlock and step onto the queen’s quarters?”
“I have to ask for permission,” Nandesrikahl whispered back.
“How? Day’s lost the connection.”
“Irrelevant, Captain,” Swain chimed in. “Nandy can route runtimes through the nanobots, which essentially are the ship’s awareness.”
“Can you ask permission without giving away what we’re doing?”
“I think so,” Nandesrikahl responded.
He then translated the program into English before feeding a request back to the computer, which in turn was translated into Lokian. Information went through the nanobots, which carried the intel along with the creature’s neurons straight to the queen. Nandesrikahl also stated an anomaly in the ship’s programming was causing it to perform certain actions outside the norm. One of those actions just happened to unseal the airlock. The queen attempted lockout of all base functions, momentarily killing the Lokian ship.
“I’ve tricked it. Wait,” Nandesrikahl stopped as he listened. “Okay, it’s working as predicted. She’s starting a scan. Now, yes, the circuit program will engage, causing an infinite loop. That’ll buy us some time, but we have to move.”
“You heard ‘im,” O’Hara said. “Let’s go!”