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.
“Holy cow, holy, freaking cow!” Swain was going bonkers. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God.” He was screaming and running through the corridors of the Phoenix. “Captain!”
O’Hara poked his head from crew quarters, expecting the worst. “What!? What happened?”
Catching his breath, Swain replied, “Captain, the markings on the beacons, they’re not referring to a sixth beacon. There is a sixth beacon. I think—”
He was shaking his head and moving his hands and arms a great deal when O’Hara cut him off. “Slow down, Swain.”
He shook his head in excitement, when his eyes bugged out, causing O’Hara to chuckle; the whole display was rather out of character, but what he had to say was even crazier than the hysterics. “Listen, Cap, I got this all figured out,” his composure slowly returned, “if the frequency output of each beacon is recalibrated to one eighth of the prior, then it’ll created an octave, like musical notes. The five octaves should resonate, and act like a giant beacon. It’s the same effect as planetary harmonics.”
O’Hara was trying to follow. “Plana-who-what? What does the frequency do?”
“Just listen! We’ll use one of the original frequencies the beacons were giving off when we found them, see? Then, together, they act like a single beacon; that’s the sixth beacon that the panels refer to.”
The captain was pensive. “Wait, what’s going to happen if we do this? I mean, what’s the point of activating these things? Besides, I thought the original frequencies were disrupting the electrical components of our equipment.”
“Hold on to your horses; we can relay a message through their satellites, and let them know we found their beacons. As far as the magnetic output, we can set them up in a safe zone on Eon away from the Phoenix.”
“Let who know?”
“The aliens, Captain!”
“Get outta’ here. You think they’re still around after four thousand years? Are their satellites even still around? Where are they?”
“Look…honestly? I don’t know, but we have a chance here. For all we know, they’re out there just hoping someone makes contact,” Swain was practically pleading.
O’Hara rebutted, “If they’re out there, which I doubt, do we really want to tell them: hey listen, we just removed your beacons, recalibrated them, and now we’re colonizing your planet.” Scrunching his face, Swain paused for thought when O’Hara jabbed his point further. “Besides, we won’t be able to go to Presh, and just say: hey listen, we’re going to take your beacons, recalibrate them, and colonize your space station.”
They exchanged glances. The big man was incredulous, but then O’Hara’s last statement had been in fun, if with a serious point.
“Listen, this is important, Captain. I’m sure I know what I’m talking about. Other than discovering alien tech, we could make first contact...first contact,” Swain breathed.
O’Hara mulled it over. “I...will talk to the admiral and see what I can do, but just be ready for disappointment because we’re likely going to go pick up Earth civilians from Century colony.”
“Fair enough,” Swain frowned with content resignation. “If anyone can sway the admiral, it’s you.”
“I can’t wait, Captain,” Swain replied and grinned.
He patted O’Hara on the shoulder then ran off. The captain shook his head in disbelief before getting a jump on his morning routine. After finishing his business in the bathroom, he gathered himself to prepare a speech to convince Admiral Lay.
He was already disenchanted with the possibility of a ten year trip and decided to launch that as his starting argument. That, coupled with the vote of his entire crew, added some weight to his case. He knew them well enough, but also respected them, and decided to ask for a vote. Naturally, they all backed Swain, who by then, had already made his case, so O’Hara went to his personal computer and sent an urgent message to Admiral Lay, requesting immediate response.
No sooner had he sent the message, when he received a response, or a simple inquiry: What’s bothering you, Captain?
In response, he asked for a second meeting to discuss his crew’s disposition. The two went back and forth for a moment, and eventually settled for a meeting on Eon. Surprised that Lay was even willing to discuss the matter, he made for the bridge, where the crew received him with a salute.
“Roberts, plot a course for Eon. I meet with Admiral Lay.”
“Right, Captain,” she replied and punched in the coordinates. “When you’re ready, Miss Day.”
Day smiled and nodded. She then opened a comm. link to the Alpha-3 station where they were currently docked. “Alpha-3, this is Sara Day, we are ready to depart from docking station 6.”
“Ehhh, rrroger that, Miss Day. We are releasing the Phoenix. Overrr, and Out,” the voice over the speaker replied.
Seconds after a subtle shift in pressure wavered throughout the vessel, it vaulted away from the colony. Day set her to autopilot. It was a bit of a trip to Eon from Alpha-3, but after three days at minimal speed, the Phoenix pierced the atmosphere of the purple and green planet once more. During the three days of down time, O’Hara nearly went out of his mind with anticipation. Fortunately, Swain and the others were there to bolster his confidence, lend their emotional support, and lead him to believe that there was no way the old man was going deny them such an opportunity.
Admiral Lay’s new Eon colony was a short distance from the Phoenix’s first landing near the original dig site. The large ship slowed to a hover and released the hydraulic, landing stilts. Upon touching ground, the captain tried to relax. He left the bridge to be alone with his thoughts, but changed his mind, and considered grabbing Swain. His excitement might help to persuade the admiral. He stopped in a corridor next to a comm. panel.
“Lieutenant Commander Swain, please report to the loading zone ASAP.”
From there, he marched to the loading zone. Swain was already waiting for him.
“What’d you need, Captain,” Swain asked with his brow furrowed.
“Just your excitement,” O’Hara smirked.
“Not sure I follow….”
O’Hara had a glint in his eye. “Just dial your spaz factor up a few notches. We’re going to see the admiral, and I want to convince him to allow us to work on those beacons.”
“Yes, Sir,” Swain laughed. “I appreciate you taking me with.”
O’Hara gave a cocked up nod, implying the plan was a long shot. Soon, the ship settled, and the buzzer in the loading zone rang. Swain hit the switch, causing the door to rise slowly. Eon’s orange light spilled over the steel floor. The loading platform then dropped to the ground. The two men took a short walk to the makeshift town. Upon seeing the military tents and bunkhouses, they both glanced at each other and steeled themselves.
As if sensing their presence, Admiral Lay emerged from one of the tents. He was in full dress as usual with his hat tucked under his left arm. He took it and placed it squarely on his head. Swain and O’Hara saluted. The admiral returned the salute once he was within a few paces of the two.
“To what, exactly, do I owe the pleasure, gentlemen?” his tone belied fatigue, frustration.
“Sir, if I may,” O’Hara began. “I know this is asking a lot of you, but Swain and I, and the rest of the crew, have a favor to ask.”
Swain was unable to contain himself; grinning like an idiot, he said, “Yes, Sir, Admiral Lay…Sir, I have a perfect plan for the frequencies the beacons exhibit. You see, according to planetary harmonics.” Swain was cut off in mid-sentence as O’Hara raised a hand in front of him.
“Admiral, we believe we know how to utilize the beacons. I took a vote among my men. We all want to be a part of this. Swain believes we may be able to make first contact with the aliens that left those things behind. At the very most, we only ask for a few weeks of your time. Then, we’ll make for Century colony, as I’m sure that’s what you have planned.”
Lay shifted his body weight and took one of his patented, long inhalations. He locked eyes with O’Hara. Naturally, he said nothing, letting his baby blues create a little drama.
“Captain, you just asked for more time aboard the Phoenix. Now, you take my time from this colony to ask me if you can play with some alien toys?” Admiral Lay accosted.
Swain nearly fell over from the brunt of the admiral’s tone.
“Admiral, I fully understand and appreciate the situation, but this is practically unheard of. You had confidence in me and my men earlier. Please have that confidence now,” O’Hara retorted.
The Admiral almost smiled; an unusual sight. “Well, you get one week. What’s the plan?”
O’Hara and his friend traded a look. They were flabbergasted. Swain actually grabbed hold of the captain’s arm.
“Well, Sir,” he started. “I have the entire theory worked out. I relayed messages to the scientists at Presh. I think I know how to relay a message to the owners of the beacons. With any luck, we can get a response, effectively making history,” Swain said, beaming with pride.
The admiral smirked at that. “I see. Like I said, one week, now, if you’ll excuse me, pressing matters call my attention.”
The men all saluted. Swain and O’Hara watched the old man enter his tent before they celebrated with the slapping of hands. The two promptly returned to the Phoenix, where O’Hara plotted a course for Presh to gather the beacons and scientists. Swain chose Levine, Nandesrikahl, and Tulley to help him with recalibrations.
Within days they had clearance to move forwards. Shortly thereafter, the beacons were taken back to Eon, where camp was erected a mile from the ship. There, Swain and his comrades set about their task.
It was 09:00 hours when Swain and Levine finished setting up. They worked quickly to disable the magnetism module then set the beacons to resonate as one. They had discovered a partition in the mechanism, which provided the frequencies. With the new arrangement, they were even able to set up near electrical equipment.
Tinkering with a panel, Swain pieced all the objects back together. He stepped back to glance at Levine. She smiled.
Behind them, against a tapestry of grayish brown clouds, and shimmering, gold leaves swaying from passing breezes, O’Hara and Lay stood with their feet spread and their arms folded. It was unclear whether anything had happened, so Lay turned to O’Hara with a frown. He, in turn, glared at Swain.
“What’s going on, men?” Lay demanded.
“Yes, Sir,” Swain choked. “Levine decided on a frequency to relay through satellites back to Earth, you know, to make sure they work first….”
Just then, a response team from Earth relayed back via speakers, stating they had picked up the frequency from Eon. The mere fact that the beacons functioned was great news, but Swain wanted more. He and Levine tried using a handful of different outputs. Everyone waited impatiently.
“Fellas’,” Lay chortled. “How long is this going to take?”
“Yeah, Swain…what’s going on?” O’Hara dove in.
“Uh…well, you know, our team on Earth was aware of our signal, which one, and when we were broadcasting. In this case, there’s no way to know if our signal is picked up by the aliens.”
“You must be joking,” Lay sighed. “Look, I won’t lie to you, I’m intrigued by this whole thing, but you get one more day. If they don’t answer in one day, we’re done here. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” everyone replied.
Normally, waiting an entire day for a simple response was something excruciating, but the exercise gave all of Phoenix Crew a chance to play on Eon. Lay also revealed to O’Hara that he was glad to be out of the tents. Matters regarding construction of the colony had him stressed. The captain tried to empathize.
Suns moved across the sky. Soft clouds melded into one another, changing shapes and size. Then, it happened.
“Admiral Lay, this is Doctor Jenson. Do you copy,” the voice asked.
“This is Admiral Lay, we copy. What do you have, Jensen?”
The camp’s monitor station had been geared to receive new transmissions and relay them back to Presh, where more sophisticated equipment was used to sort through various channels, frequencies, and energetic wavelengths. Presh station said a form of communication was coming in from somewhere outside the Gemini system. It was a signal unlike anyone had ever witnessed. Someone was responding.
The satellite, project overseer at Presh came in on the camp’s channel. “Sir, we have a transmission coming in. We are recalibrating our transistors...it’s a repeating signal, Sir. Attempting to trace...it’s coming from the Spider, Sir,” Jenson gasped.
The Spider was a nebula one hundred and thirteen light years from the Gemini system. No Humans had reached that far and had no plans to investigate. It was more reasonable to finish the Eon colony before moving to the next closest area, the DaVinci system. Plans for anything further weren’t feasible until DaVinci was secured, so they had zero information on that area of space.
“This is amazing,” the admiral replied. “What does the signal say?”
“We’re attempting to decipher. It’s going to take some time to translate, Sir,” Jensen replied.
The admiral turned to O’Hara’s crew, who were all standing ready. “Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve outdone yourselves. I must admit, I didn’t think anything was going to happen, but transmissions from the Spider? Seems impossible…now listen, a signal doesn’t mean there’s intelligent life out there, but I’ll head to Presh. From there, I’ll send out coordinates to the Eon colony.
“By the time everything is up and running, there’s a possibility we’ll be able to make contact, assuming we’re dealing with real, live aliens and not some old transistors. If these beings can work with our network of wormholes, we can schedule a face-to-face meeting in about fifteen years.”
“We can send satellites out their way with some of our own frequencies in conjunction with the frequencies we pulled from the beacons, making a sort of language bridge,” Swain added. “This way, we can communicate for the whole fifteen years before they arrive.”
“I know we’re all thinking it, so I’m just going to say it,” O’Hara frowned. “It’s possible they’re hostile, and equally possible that they may not want to meet us. With any luck, though, we can avoid any sort of problem with Swain’s idea.”
The admiral also praised the idea. The wellbeing of Eon was of the utmost importance. Commending everyone for their hard work, he left them for Presh.
While he took a shuttle from Eon, the Phoenix and her crew were ordered to stay behind and assist Rear Admiral Shaw with the continued colonization. O’Hara and crew traded ideas about the possibilities of an exchange with aliens. The captain was worried that his mission might be affected negatively; being solely responsible for starting a war with aliens was a frightening thought, but his friends reminded him that they had all banded together, so they were all equally responsible. Day added that there was no reason to get pessimistic.
Meanwhile, scientists on Presh sent satellites towards the Spider. A total of thirteen were sent, one for every wormhole leading to locations in the Spider’s vicinity. Satellites traveled at just under light speed, but the procedure was not unreasonable for a long-term goal. The satellites carried every deciphered marking from the beacons along with the corresponding, Human languages. These included Sumerian, Cuneiform, Hieroglyphics, Greek, Latin, and English along with some tribal dialects. It was the safest way to initiate the exchange of information.
Along with the data was included a breakdown of the Human form; DNA structure, blood types, psychiatric evaluations, history of space travel, and data recovered from Eon. The hope was that along the way, the other beings learned to make sense of Human languages and return communication or information regarding who they were and what they were after.
Weeks passed during which only the repeating signal was received. In the meantime, the Eon colony expanded to a full-blown, military outpost. Over two hundred people were permanent inhabitants, and a makeshift town was erected beyond a fenced area, where civilians were made to live. There were no schools, or children, or any sort of entertainment facilities yet, but there was a lab, and hangars for small ships and shuttles.