Part 6 of Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1

Chapter Six

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, will be out soon, so be sure to visit www.storiesbydennis.com for updates!

The spec ops team was sound asleep in crew quarters while the ship hauled their butts ten thousand miles to the colony. Day and a skeleton crew of deckhands remained awake. They milled about the bridge while she sat at the helm, rubbing her eyes.

****

O’Hara awoke with a deep inhalation. His comm. unit had dinged, demanding all of his attention. He rolled out of his bed and placed his feet on the cold ground, flashes of Thewls playing behind his eyes. The comm. on the nightstand read 04:37.

“Well…might as well get a move on,” he sighed.

O’Hara quickly donned his uniform. He was meeting the admiral again and had to be at his best. Clothed, ready, and awaiting confirmation from Admiral Lay, he noticed it was a few minutes past 05:00, and he was getting a little nervous.

Do I have time? I have time, he thought on his way to the men’s latrine. He opened the stall and sat down. There, he attempted a mental review of yesterday’s meet and greet. I do want to help, but at what cost? They want to go to Earth to study something practically incomprehensible. Maybe we can request the data and have it relayed to Presh instead. That should circumvent any commotion these Thewls would certainly cause if they landed on Earth.

“Captain, this is Admiral Lay. Do you copy,” Admiral Lay called through the earpiece.

“Copy, Admiral. I’m on my way.”

His voice reverberated throughout the steel room. The captain finished up, washed his hands, and proceeded to the loading zone, where he was received by the admiral and two men he didn’t recognize. They mystery men wore pinstriped suits and bore no facial expression.

“Riley,” as the admiral began, O’Hara winced and wondered why he referred to him by his first name. The admiral wasn’t usually so friendly. “There’s much to discuss. These are my...associates, Franklin and Adams.”

The admiral took a breath and gave the captain a stern look. The four then proceeded towards a small, drab, green building.

“These two gentlemen are from The Bureau,” Lay said it as if it meant something. “They made their way out here to meet with us. We were up all last night reviewing your dialogue with the ambassador. They feel, and I agree, that we should do our best to keep Thewls away from Earth. I won’t lie to you, this will be a difficult maneuver, but,” he took a pensive inhalation before continuing. “I’ve requested as all the data I can from Earth. We’ll be inviting the ambassador to take a look at it. I hope that satisfies him…. ”

After that, Lay scrutinized O’Hara. What bureau, was his only thought. They weren’t FBI, that agency had no jurisdiction over alien matters, and they didn’t look like CIA, Made their way out here? From where? The captain looked around.

There was no wind on Eon that morning, and the dark clouds overhead lingered. O’Hara was steady as they walked into the small, and cluttered, makeshift office. It contained a great deal of communications equipment, which gave the feel of a storage room more than a workspace, but military men made due. The admiral took his earpiece off and connected to a computer. He pressed some keys and turned a knob.

“This is Admiral Lay for Ambassador Weh. We would like to set up a second meeting in order to provide help,” he said as he looked over his shoulder at the two associates.

O’Hara also scrutinized the clean-cut men. They still showed poker faces.

A voice then erupted over the speakers. “We thank you. We will send a squad for a second meeting in two hours.”

“If it’s possible, give us some time to prepare and arrive, say eight hours,” the admiral asked.

“Of course, Admiral,” the voice replied and then there was just the hissing of the comm. channel.

“I’ll upload all the data to the Phoenix. Franklin and Adams will accompany you to the meeting. Pick your best men, and show the Thewls anything they ask for,” Lay heaved. “I’m afraid this as far as I go.”

He smiled then, but it was a sad expression. O’Hara saluted, and the admiral returned it. When Lay started to leave them, O’Hara called out.

“Sir, what do you mean?”

The old man’s smile flickered. Instead of replying, he turned again and left. The captain looked over his new companions. They were strange.

Both men were roughly six feet tall, athletically built, and wore black, pinstriped suits, but their shoes were military, combat boots, which their slacks didn’t effectively hide. Their striking similarities also gave them the appearance of brothers.

Both had angular features, hard eyes, and though Adams had black hair combed back, and Franklin had short, curly, brown hair, both had chiseled chins, and high cheekbones. After further observation, which they didn’t mind, he noted something else strange; their eyes were in a state of repose; they were both totally unruffled by everything. 

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The captain had seen gray and blue eyes before, but the calculating, almost all-knowing, confidence the men possessed culminated in their stare. Finally, they slightly gestured with opposing hands, inviting the captain. O’Hara nodded, and they made their way back aboard the Phoenix.

It was a quick return trip to the meet and greet with the ambassador. Adams and Franklin didn’t say a word for the whole ride. They simply sat, staring at the wall on the bridge, not even the screen, which displayed all kinds of terrain over which they zipped. The rest of the crew eyed the duo curiously.

Suddenly, Adams said, “My associate and I think it best to keep this meeting a small one. Perhaps, you’re willing to have the two of us accompany you and no one else.”

Furrowing his brow, he scrutinized them yet again. He felt a little uneasy. They were too calm for whatever was taking place.

“I’m sorry, what bureau are you two from again?”

Adams and Franklin exchanged looks. “The Bureau,” Franklin replied.

They even sound the same, O’Hara thought. “I’m taking Swain and Nandesrikahl. Fitzpatrick and DeReaux will post outside.”

Minutes later, the AMS came on, stating they reached the programmed coordinates. The group of seven went out to meet the Thewls. Seeing the new faces, the four, spec ops members looked at each other. O’Hara knew they were wondering about Adams and Franklin. He gave them a shrug of resignation, so they assumed information was on a need to know basis.

Fitzpatrick and DeReaux posted up on a different hill than before. Their vantage point was less appealing, but it wasn’t wise to set up in the same place twice, even if it was under friendly conditions. Thewl ships pierced Eon’s hazy veil, silvery, soundless, vessels landed, blowing a puff of dust into the air. Once the loading platform released, a rover pulled out while other Thewls set up chairs and tables. Something intriguing caught DeReaux’s eye.

Thewls have a translucent skin, which covers their entire body

“Joi de vivre, they brought women,” he nudged Fitzpatrick.

She smiled and nodded. “Maybe...Thewl men have tits, and the women are the ones we’ve been dealing with.”

With a slight frown, he shot her a dirty look. At that time, Adams and Franklin sat down on chairs placed in front of the ambassador. The captain remained standing directly behind them, practically holding his breath.

“I’m glad to see you again, ambassador. These two men are the admiral’s associates, Adams and Franklin,” he said, carefully.

“Yes,” Adams agreed. “We understand that you require certain data for your project.”

Adams produced and opened a tiny, chrome briefcase he had concealed in his suit jacket.

“What we have here,” Franklin began as he produced a memory unit from his inner, jacket pocket. “Is a rather extensive, data archive, and we are more than glad to help you and your men find what you need.”

O’Hara interjected, “We believe that your landing on Earth may cause a disturbance. Our people back home haven’t received word of our collaboration.”

The ambassador nodded and called for someone, “Let us have a look at this data.”

One of the Thewls stood and walked over to Adams and Franklin, who didn’t exhibit the faintest sign of shock. It was like they had met and dealt with aliens all their life. The briefcase Adams had produced was in actuality a computer, which he placed on one of the high tables. Franklin showed a Thewl how to access the information from the memory unit. She suddenly turned to the ambassador and spoke Thewlish.

“My Captain, is this all the help you will provide,” Ambassador Weh asked.

“What more can I give?” he rebutted. “Is nothing there helpful?”

“I was hoping to travel to Earth together and make some acquisitions.”

“With all due respect, Ambassador, going to Earth will be difficult. It’ll take too long to get there, and I’m sure all the data you require is in that computer,” he said, pointing at the machine.

The ambassador nodded. “Yes, some data does seem to be here, but there are a few pieces of equipment which reside on Earth that I need to see. I’m certain they will provide clues regarding where to search for the travelers. As far as time is concerned, we have methods of travel which surpass yours, as you already know.”

O’Hara was getting angry. He ground his teeth, huffed, and shook his head. At his wit’s end, he turned to the men from The Bureau.

“Allow me to confer with my men on a course of action,” he motioned for Swain and Nandesrikahl to come over. “Do you think we should go to Earth?”

Swain chimed in first. “If we do, we absolutely need to clear it with the admiral.”

Adams cut in, “Actually, we asked Admiral Lay to sequester himself from this mission.”

Franklin added, “Yes, we are here to steer you in the right direction.”

Nandesrikahl was uneasy as he addressed the suits, “You’re not Navy. You’ve no say in this matter.”

Adams smiled and said, “I may not be Navy. Anything extraterrestrial is, beyond measure, absolutely my matter, Sir.”

Franklin added, “Let’s see what they turn up from the data provided then see what else they need.”

Swain and Nandesrikahl looked at their captain with incredulity. “Who the Hell are these guys, Captain?” Swain blurted as his mouth remained agape.

He said it was my mission now, the admiral. O’Hara looked off into the distance, where a rocky hill hid a patch of golden-green trees. The swaying foliage was visible beside the hill’s crest, and pressed against the hazy, purple sky, it brought to life a feeling of nostalgia. When Swain asked about the new men again, O’Hara watched the female Thewl’s work on the computer. She was cross referencing black hole theory with ancient scrolls and artwork.

She looked up and said something to the ambassador then went back to cross referencing beings of light with the Sol system. Her gurgled speech animated her superior, who nodded before addressing the captain.

“We may be in luck. It seems there is another planet. Somehow, your scientists overlooked it.”

O’Hara looked confused. “What, what do you mean? What other planet?”

Nandesrikahl’s face lit up, and he answered, “I know the planet. Yes. It all makes sense. The Sumerians believed that there were other planets we don’t include when teaching the Sol system. They’ve written that men came from one of these planets.

“A story says that once, there was a large planet, which collided with another planet. One planet was destroyed, and it became the asteroid belt of our system, the Kuiper belt. The remaining piece of the badly damaged but surviving planet became Earth. Men came to Earth from yet another planet, an immense planet, far away, with a strange, elliptical orbit around the sun. If this planet is real, it may be the home of the travelers.”

The Bureau agents glanced at him. O’Hara thought he saw them smile, but they both hid their faces with a hand gesture. Weh, however, was pleased; he patted Nandesrikahl gently.

“How is it that your astronomers have left this planet out of history, yet the first civilization was familiar with its existence,” a greenish hue grew over his face.

“I still don’t understand,” O’Hara was ruffled. He looked from Swain, who was just as confused, to Nandy, who grinned like a buffoon.

“We shall go looking for this planet. I invite you to join us,” the ambassador said.

Swain nearly burst as he grabbed the captain’s shoulder.

“Someone needs to explain what’s going on. Ambassador, are you saying there’s another planet in Sol system,” O’Hara asked

“I think your man, here, has already said as much,” Weh replied.

“Okay, but if we go looking for it, the Phoenix would take over ten years to travel that far.”

“You may gather your crew and board our ship if you must.”

O’Hara already knew he had to go with them, but his mind raced. He tried to focus on the steps required to undertake such an adventure. First, he needed to pick his crew. Next he had to have them board the Thewlian ship, and since he had to bring Day, that meant placing Roberts in charge of the helm, but he was dealing with a top-secret mission, so it was imperative to send her back to Presh. The only problem was what to do with Adams and Franklin, who were both eyeing him at the moment.

“Yes, Captain. We’re ready to move when you are,” Franklin said.

“I need some time to get ready, Ambassador,” O’Hara spoke, slowly. “We can’t just drop everything and hop aboard. Do you mind if I take some time to organize?”

“We will depart in twenty four hours. I hope you are ready by then as there is little time to waste. Lokians are always on the prowl, I assure you.”

With that, the Thewls thanked the Humans for their assistance, packed up, and entered their ships. O’ Hara called the rest of his crew back, and together, they all boarded the Phoenix, and marched straight for the bridge. During the hike, Nandesrikahl tried to answer their questions about the elusive planet. The captain was mired in thought, however, and until they set foot on the bridge, where others were chatting about the new colony, he kept his eyes glued to the ground.

Eventually, he noticed Day sitting at the helm with her chin resting on folded hands. She stuck out her bottom lip and looked at O’Hara, who was obviously frazzled. He went straight for the intercom.

“Attention, crew of the Phoenix. This is Captain O’Hara. We’ll be returning to the colony now. After most of you have been reassigned, the Phoenix will return to Presh station due to certain, residual, energies registering in the AMS. The engineers will reconfigure the system to solve the problem. Thank you.”

Day furrowed her brow. She was taken aback and didn’t believe O’Hara’s claims for a second. Searching his face for some clue, she did a double take when he winked.

During the next twenty four hours, the spec ops team, and Adams and Franklin, packed their gear. Day manually flew to the colony. There, they dropped off the remaining, grumbling crew. After that, it was a slow flight to Presh at minimal speed. At the moon station, O’Hara and his crew boarded a small shuttle.

Day took the helm, and flew right back to Eon, but it had been less than twenty four hours, so they caught some R and R. As twilight set in, they stepped out to walk around a stretch of golden-green grassland. Martinez hooked ear buds to his comm. unit and closed his eyes, relaxing against the hull of the shuttle, listening to music. Nandesrikahl, however, was irritated. He approached the captain, who was cleaning his gear.

“Sir, if I may?” he began. O’Hara looked up from his work and gave a half nod as he returned to wiping sections of his rifle. “I don’t trust these two blokes. I mean, who are they and what are they doing here?”

O’Hara took a deep breath and replied, “I don’t like it, either, but Admiral Lay didn’t give me an option. They’re here to do whatever they do. So long as they don’t get in my way, or cause problems, it should be fine…but look at them, doesn’t it seem they know about aliens? What was it Franklin had said? Extraterrestrial matters were his concern?”

“Most intriguing…right, well, anyway, I suppose they’re just cubicle jockeys, eh?”

O’Hara chuckled and shook his head, amused. Then, both he and Nandesrikahl heard a ruckus. Becker and Imes were arguing, which was nothing new. From the snippets they gleaned, Imes had started exercising in front of her again, something he often did to try and elicit a romantic liaison, and instead of taking it in good fun, Becker exploded.

“You two need to settle down,” Franklin said.

“Hey, this isn’t your business,” Imes retorted pointing his finger.

“Both of you need to shut up, and I swear,” Becker screamed. “Oh good, Captain, settle this!”

“Nothing to settle, really, Captain,” Adams interjected. “They–”

“Whoa! I won’t have either one of you telling me how to run my crew,” O’Hara barked. “Now, all of you shut it, and get over whatever stupid squabble you have with each other.”

Becker and Imes both winced before stomping off in opposite directions.

“They just need to fuck,” Zakowski said, laughing uproariously at his own comment.

Swain and Day shook their heads, giggling.

“Alright, I know tensions are up, and I’m sure everyone’s anxious as I am to see what’s aboard that vessel, and certainly, we’re all freaking about leaving our ship and flying for light years with aliens, but we need to get some rest,” the captain stated.

“Are we maintaining communications with Eon while we’re gone,” Swain inquired.

“Yes, as a matter of fact we are. The…agents, here, told me they’d send reports. Besides, if the admiral can open a channel with the ambassador then we can use that same channel,” O’Hara answered.

“Good enough for me,” Swain sang.

The Thewlian ship arrived shortly thereafter. Fitzpatrick had been the first to spot it, and she called everyone over. When it landed, everyone snatched their equipment. Quickly, they jogged over to the extended platform. The bay door was raised, and the ambassador motioned for them to make their way inside. Cautiously, they all stepped aboard, their boots clanking as they walked.

“I’m glad to see you all here. We will make introductions soon. For now, follow me.”

The loading zone had a few vehicles, chairs and tables, everything a traveling ship carried. There were six, massive, cylindrical elevators all in a row at the center of the spacious zone. Phoenix Crew was escorted aboard two of the elevators. The ride took them up two levels then the doors to both elevators slid alongside the inside of the car to an open position. The Humans observed the narrow, but rather high corridor before them. Innumerable, tall, oval doors, which turned on hinges and opened into rooms, revealed Thewls, who eyed the Humans.

The design of both the doors and rooms were rather primitive. Each room had two, long beds alongside one wall, two foot lockers, and a large, steel dresser. Each crewmember was instructed to share time and space with a Thewl in order to better understand each other. Captain O’Hara called his crew together for a last recommendation.

“Alright, we’re guests here, so, as long as you’re up and about, I want you to explore and interact with our new friends. For now, I want Swain to learn as much as possible about how everything here works. I want Nandesrikahl to learn about the languages and culture. Zakowski, find sickbay and see what they know about medicine. DeReaux, see if they have small arms. Martinez, check on their explosives and electrical devices. Ask every question, but don’t be abrasive. We’ve been invited to learn what we can, so let’s see what’s out there. Day and I will go to the bridge. Adams and Franklin, see what you can learn about their history.”

After a salute, the crew broke off to learn whatever there was to know. Imes and Becker also split up. Since neither had been given explicit orders, Imes joined Martinez while Becker joined Nandesrikahl. Fitzpatrick teamed up with DeReaux and everyone was off. It was a seven hour trip from what the ambassador called the Explorer to the Thewlian Carrier vessel, so everyone had some time to mix and mingle.

Swain’s job was likely the most difficult. He found the ship didn’t contain very much in the way of comfort or technology, until the engineering deck, and the bridge. He was shown the zero-gravity generator, which powered and propelled the vessel. The generator employed a large, magnetic sphere of Element-115 encased in a hollow, larger sphere of Element-115 with opposing, magnetic charges. A gyroscopic room was built around the hollow sphere with other, crescent shaped bars also made of Element-115.

The bars maneuvered around the spherical room by arms connected to the walls. The movement of the magnetic arms caused the hollow sphere to spin, and because the interior ball was being pulled equally from every angle as the hollow sphere rotated around it, it gave off an electric discharge harnessed by the Element-115. An accumulated discharge given off by the contraption, harnessed enough speed and a powerful enough magnetic field to actually lift the ship from the ground.

The only obstacle was getting the arms started, which required power from a Uranium generator. Once they were engaged, there was always power being generated and diverted to other areas including communications, life support, and anything else.

The zero-gravity generator provided movement, but not coalescence. The Explorer was a scout ship set to dock with a larger vessel, the Carrier, so, while the shuttle didn’t have the ability to bend space-time fabric, it was necessary to board the Carrier. Once Swain was told that the Carrier housed numerous Explorers, and various other vessels, he grew curious about its technology.

****

DeReaux and Fitzpatrick were shown twin, telescopic cannons. They were located on either side of the ship. Panels fanned back into the hull, creating an opening, allowing two turrets to protrude through the hull. The action kept the ship pressurized, and since the cannons were inside turrets mounted to a hydraulic beam, a partition between the ship’s inner and outer hull created a firewall. The cannons were powered by the zero-gravity generator and fired ionized, super heated Helium-4.

The gas was highly compactable, and very little was required to emit a high frequency energy burst, or plasma charge, allowing the ship to carry huge quantities in little space. One drawback to the plasma cannons was the delay involved in firing. Because each cannon used a canister of H-4, there was no simple way to eject and replace each one. The canisters were removed by hand and stored in chambers within the turrets. Each turret only held six, at which point they had to be retracted.

While the weapon’s destructive abilities were prominent, DeReaux and Fitzpatrick were unimpressed with the design, it was a hindrance in battle, but Thewls stated it was a supply vessel. The Explorer was never intended for extended, combat situations; it was designed to blow something to smithereens as quickly as possible, and then flee to safety.

****

Zakowski meandered about the ship, enduring stares from statuesque aliens. After ten or so minutes of walking around, he finally asked someone for directions to sickbay. A Thewl woman introduced herself as Il-Ahner and personally escorted him. They went up two floors by way of auxiliary stairs then crossed a corridor shining with a soft, blue radiance. The woman motioned with a long fingered hand for Zakowski to proceed beyond a threshold.

“Oh, thank you. I would’ve wandered for hours,” he said and laughed uncomfortably.

There was no door blocking the entrance to the recovery room, so he strolled right on in. Many beds were empty, but two Thewls were receiving treatment for injuries. Zakowski observed the standard routines employed by the aliens. They didn’t seem in anyway different from Human nurses and doctors, excepting their specialty in Thewlian anatomy.

“Uh excuse me? Can I get someone to show me some medical equipment,” Zakowski asked a nurse at a counter by the far end of the room.

The Thewl looked up, saying “You must be the Human medic. We were told to help you,” she turned to another, adding, “go find Rala.”

The other Thewl nodded perfunctorily and walked away.

“Gee, thank you for your time,” Zakowski replied.

Shortly thereafter, two Thewls came to the counter, and Rala introduced himself. He was shorter than most of his compatriots, yet towered over any Human.

“Glad to meet you, Rala. I’m Earl Zakowski. They call me Zak, and I was hoping to get a rundown of the equipment used, and the techniques you guys employ.”

“Sure,” Rala replied with a pinkish face. “I can walk you through most of the areas. We haven’t had any battles, so no one is in surgery, but I’ll be glad to show you some vids. You can study the information at your leisure”

Towards the back of sickbay, Zakowski was shown a handful of surgical instruments and first-aid supplies. At the conclusion of the sickbay orientation, he attempted to make his way back to quarters, but again became discombobulated, resulting in a need for directions.

Meanwhile, Martinez and Imes found themselves in the mess hall adjacent the recreational quarters. A handful of Thewls were eating. Martinez approached one of the men.

“Hey, greetings, good to meet ya’. I’m Martinez. You can call me Marty. This here’s Imes. How you guys doin’?”

“Greetings, Martinez, Imes. I am Un-It,” the Thewl said. “This is Rettor; and that’s Isf-Ero.”

Martinez glanced at them, forgot all their weird names immediately then smiled, and said, “Our Cap’ wants us to hang out with you guys, so we can all get to know each other. All right if we sit and eat with ya’?”

The Thewls nodded and Imes sat down while Martinez went to get some food. The cook handed him two, large plates with enormous silverware. The forks and knives were similar to Earth utensils. When he made it back, Marty set the plates down in front of Imes, who was having difficulty sitting at the high tables. The difference in size made the little things, like eating lunch, uncomfortable. Marty laughed as he went through his pack to grab Human utensils for himself and Imes.

“So, you guys been on this ship long,” Imes asked.

“I have. I was on this ship before we abandoned our home world, but Un-It and Rettor came aboard only years ago,” Isf-Ero replied.

The other two Thewls nodded in conjunction.

“You guys been on any missions lately,” Martinez asked.

“Not recently, well not one that required leaving the ship. This last mission was to make contact with your people on Eon. Before that, I was just doing exploration work,” Un-It said.

“I was working on the colony we established, but my knowledge of other races and cultures seemed pertinent, so I volunteered for this mission,” Isf-Ero added.

“That’s really something,” Imes smiled. “I can’t imagine knowing about different races. We have so many cultural differences back on Earth. Being colony, raised I’ve never even had the chance to see those differences…do most races have different cultures within their regions?”

“As a matter of fact, many of them do,” Isf-Ero replied.

“One sec,” Imes said with a frown. He turned to his comm. and added, “hey, Nandy, get your butt down to mess hall. There’s a guy here specializes in alien cultures.”

“Be there shortly,” Nandesrikahl replied.

“Mind waiting for our friend,” Martinez asked.

The Thewls didn’t mind at all. It was difficult for the Humans to get a sense of how the aliens felt, since they didn’t smile, or blink, or sigh, or anything, but their colors kept changing. Eventually, Nandesrikahl found his way to them, and they resumed recounting.

“As I was telling your friend,” the Thewl started. “The Yvlekesh, for example, have different cultures because they have many colonies, wherein many people are separated from the main population on their home world.”

“Like us,” Nandesrikahl smiled.

“In our case, we lost cultural differences after we united to fight the Lokian threat. Before then, we did have different subcultures,” Isf-Ero explained as his complexion lost some color.

“I see. That’s not unlike our colonial men and women behaving slightly different than our Earth counterparts,” Nandesrikahl added. “Colloquialisms, and what not….”

They passed the hours with lively conversations regarding everything from dancing to art and languages. Imes and Martinez never had the opportunity to talk rifles or sidearms, but had a blast anyway.

****

Becker had wandered away from Nandesrikahl after Imes called him. She didn’t feel like expending the energy required to make what she thought were fake, new friends. After walking around on her own for a bit, just looking at the aliens, the lights, the strange panels with incomprehensible glyphs along the walls, she grew tired, and retired to her room, which she shared with a bridge officer. She was glad her Thewl roommate wasn’t around.

“Who cares about any of this? There’s crazy, bug aliens need an ass whippin’; that’s what I’m about….”

****

Day and the captain joined the ambassador on the bridge, where she had fun learning how to pilot the Explorer. O’Hara, on the other hand, had no time for fun. He was overly preoccupied with being in charge of such a delicate mission. The agents’ presence didn’t make matters any better. Franklin and Adams were already on the bridge when he arrived. Looking at them from across the sea foam, colored carpet, he found them as alien as Thewls.

“Are we to stay aboard this vessel once we dock,” he asked Weh.

“You are not confined to this vessel. When we dock, you may explore the Carrier as you please, though, there will be some areas off limits, but I’m sure you can appreciate the situation,” the ambassador replied.

“Of course, Sir. What about quarters?”

“Each Explorer has an extensive quarters deck, as you’ve seen. If you would like to take quarters upon the Carrier, I’m sure it can be arranged. You must be so eager to learn of our ways.”

“Yes,” he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. “At any rate, I was wondering how the Carrier’s different from the Explorer.”

“It is a bit different; mainly sickbay, the defense systems, and of course the coalescence drive. Structurally, it is a sphere; it is not designed to land on planets, but to roam through space. It also harbors schools for children, training facilities for adults, and complex, recreational areas for friendly competition and various, other releases. We will dock soon enough, and then you can explore to your heart’s content. For now, I suggest you and your crew simply make yourselves comfortable.”

With that, the captain decided to try relaxing. After just hours aboard the Explorer, the crew felt an imperative need to sit with their own kind and met up in the mess hall, where they exchanged information. During their conversations, the ship’s intercom announced that docking procedures were underway.

The docking system employed was more an absorption than a docking. Two of the elevators, which ran through every level of the small ship, were designed to reach the first floor of the Carrier’s interior. Panels the size of Human cities were positioned along the bottom of the vessel, and when they fanned away, special precautions were required to maintain pressure throughout the other decks.

Up to four Explorers fit within the Carrier’s central station and connected to internal elevators. Once pressure was stabilized, Thewls were free walk around the docking zone or use two of the elevators to reach all the Carrier’s main decks. It was then revealed that Carriers and Explorers were the main portion of the Thewlian fleet. Other ships were either mining vessels or fighters and composed a much smaller portion. The mining vessels were used to extract and move resources, either from one ship to another or from one asteroid to a colony or other ship.

The fighter vessels were of two types. Type A vessels were small one and two man ships used in dog fights, either space side or planet side. Normally, either one Thewl flew one ship and manned everything on his own or two Thewls manned a slightly larger Type A, in which one man piloted, and one man worked guns. Type B ships were twice the size of As, and required a crew of six; one pilot, four gunmen, and one man to reload. Those vessels had four guns and a small, Helium-4 cannon. The cannon was fired by the pilot, but required a second man to reload.

Explorers occasionally doubled as drop ships as well. Their ability to fly into a planet side war zone, pop off some rounds, drop off a platoon, and fly to safety was quite effective. Otherwise, they were used in the traditional way of supply drops, reconnaissance, and survey missions.

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Part 6 of Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1