Part 14 of Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1
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!
Rovers thundered over frozen rock at over two hundred miles per hour. Above and behind them, Explorers and fighters scanned for a sign of anything. A Thewlian pilot spotted a large opening in the side of an ice cliff and relayed the information through channels.
“I read metal deposits three clicks away.”
“You think it’s a ship?” Zakowski’s voice erupted in O’Hara’s earpiece.
“We’ll see,” the captain answered.
The crew of O’Hara’s rover stared out over the glistening scenery. Crystalline formations of all shapes and colors reflected sparkles like spherical rainbows. Occasionally, an Explorer knocked out a Lokian, and the smoldering carcass careened into dusty ground. Then, communications blared over the channel.
“This is Admiral Yew. Men, we’re under attack!”
“Under attack?” Nandy was shocked.
Intel regarding the approaching threat came through next, followed by orders for the ground crew to just keep surveying. O’Hara turned around in his seat to see Explorers closing in; a tight formation to ward off the coming threat. Fighters also zipped by, going in the opposite direction.
“Shit’s about ta’ get real,” Marty said, rocking back and forth in his seat.
Swain leaned forwards while gripping the steering wheel. Peering through the force field, he saw glints of orange peppered the sky. Both air support and enemy vessels penetrated the thin veil of Sahagun.
Thirty, Thewlian fighters from the survey squad were the first to meet the Lokians’ second assault. They pulled up in an attempt to avoid an attack formation, but it came too quick and too high; even such a light, atmospheric pressure was sufficient to delay evasive maneuvers. Red beams tore ships asunder, sending blazing remnants crashing into the ground. Puffs of ice wafted away, and chunks of stone careened over the rovers.
Thewls fired rounds of plasma while making an effort to fend off the assault. Red beams carved trenches, forcing rovers to a dead stop. Even with tracks, some still slid into the deep ravines. O’Hara’s crew was jostled as the driver attempted to avoid an incoming laser.
They were all witness to damaged Lokians crashing into the frozen peaks in the distance. Flashes of light followed by rumbles of explosions echoed over the land. The driver told them to hold on. He hit the e-break, cut a tight ninety, and accelerated hard enough to send people into the windows.
Admiral Yew’s voice blared over the speakers again, “Rovers! Find safety. Your mission is of the utmost importance. Do not engage the enemy!”
Cursing under their breaths, they found themselves overwhelmed by both the attack and a demand to avoid helping their compatriots. When a fleet of Lokians swooped overhead, raining red lightning over the ground crew, they hit their breaks again, and were immediately swarmed by brown and silvery insects the size of a home.
Swain whipped around while Martinez took the mounted cannon. “Don’t fire!” someone yelled.
It was too late. Marty unleashed several bursts of plasma. Super heated light soared through the darkness, smacking one of the beetle-like ships.
“Whooo! Take that, ya’ sons of bitches,” he screamed as the recoil reverberated through his knotty arms.
“What did I just say?” Swain bellowed.
Marty looked befuddled; he scanned the eyes of the others in the rover. They all felt the same need to fight. Further chastising his subordinate, Swain cut right to avoid a divot, and sent his crew from their seats. No one said a word, but Marty kept his fingers locked around the cannon controls.
“Jesus Fucking Christ,” Fitzpatrick yelled.
“Keep your cool,” O’Hara shouted back.
“Captain, we’re not going to make it if they keep coming,” DeReaux shouted.
“We’ve got this, just stay calm,” a familiar, guttural voice yelled back.
Suddenly, the driver gave a Thewlish scream, and a wild impact sent everyone headlong. He had mashed the breaks when two rovers collided ahead of him. Laser beams sheared one in half. Thewls scurried from a downed vehicle.
The captain’s mind went blank. His vision grew tunneled as sounds diminished around him. When he heard blaring through his earpiece, a modicum of control returned, and he crawled to his seat.
Dust covered the rover, obscuring vision. Then, he saw something halt outside. As soon as his rover moved again, he took the gun.
“We’re not supposed to engage,” Nandy barked.
Ignoring him, he fired angrily, nailing one Lokian then another. It wasn’t easy keeping his eyes on the enemies barreling in all directions while the rover bounced all over the place. Nandy turned from his captain to the Thewls; their eyes were firm, fierce. He then looked to the agents, both of whom nervously thumbed their chins.
Finally, Explorers gained a degree of control by firing one at time. Volleys of energy blew Lokians out of the sky. O’Hara fired off another round before a bump knocked his head into the ceiling. Nandy held him up.
“O’ course, Sir.”
Three Lokians were hot on Day’s ship. There was no time to worry about her six while planet bound enemies shot past her. She avoided laser blasts as her gunmen dropped the pursuers. Piercing Sahagun’s atmosphere, she then had to adjust her controls for pressure, or come apart in the sky.
With no alternative but to slow for entry, the drop ships coming in hot capitalized by fanning out their tentacles. A brilliant display of numerous, ropey, red lights nearly blinded her. In one fell swoop, over fifty fighters were demolished, leaving her breathless.
Her ship shook ferociously. Then, she broke through the veil, and engaged the enemy. A pang of adrenaline shot through her. With a deep exhale, she kept her eyes wide to zero in on the carnage below.
By the time reinforcements arrived, two, more rovers had fallen. An Explorer had also crashed; sparks and smoke wafted off the vessel. O’Hara grit his teeth as they passed it. Another, screeching halt sent him into Nandy; Lokians circled like mad dervishes.
“God damnit,” O’Hara spat. “Are we going to get a grip on this?”
“Here we go,” the driver screamed.
He executed a sharp left, jostling the crew yet again. When a Lokian came into view, the captain shouted and fired a near miss. Red lasers struck the ground, churning stone and ice and reaching for the rover. Breathing erratically, O’Hara wondered if it was the end.
“Hold on,” a Thewl yelled.
The driver cursed in Thewlish while Nandesrikahl braced himself; a rover was headed for a direct collision; Swain was at the wheel. Martinez fired two rounds a hair over the vehicle. O’Hara saw one enemy take a hit, followed by the other.
Just as Martinez had saved them, more beetles and hornets swooped in, but a B class fighter took their six, knocking them from the sky. The explosions and subsequent crashes sent shock waves rumbling through the planet.
“We’re almost there. There’s an opening in the cliff,” the driver huffed. “If only these assholes weren’t in the way….”
Enemy ships continued to rain blast after blast of red laser between the rovers and their destination. “I’m all over it,” Swain yelled as he sharply turned the wheel.
His amazing capacity to drive got him past enemy ships, and Martinez helped to punch a hole through the Lokian wall. O’Hara turned his cannon on the opposition as well. Blue flashes sent enemies smack into the cliff, where they erupted into shards of chitin and steel.
Rocks thundered off the rover, creating a horrible, staccato sound. One of the windows flashed so bright it blinded the passengers, and right then, the driver mashed the breaks, throwing everyone from their seats. Debris covered the entire vehicle for a moment. All anyone inside saw was white dust, as much fluttered about the interior. Some of the refuse slowly rolled off the roof, and O’Hara saw Swain’s vehicle down.
The captain went for the door handle, but Adams held his wrist. When he turned in shock, the driver took off. O’Hara pulled free from the agent, scrambled over a seat, and demanded the driver stop to let them out.
“No! Our orders are to get to safety.”
O’Hara shoved the barrel of his sidearm into the young Thewl’s face.
“Let us out,” he grunted.
The Thewl nodded and came to a halt. “O’Hara,” the agents yelled.
Shaking their heads, they all ran for Swain’s vehicle. One of the Thewls leered overhead at the impending doom. The cacophony of searing lasers, exploding plasma, screeching Lokians, and crashing ships thundered all around. The ground shook, people screamed in their earpieces, bright flashes forced the eyes shut. All manner of ships flew at top speeds, firing, dodging, skidding off the ground as waves of white stone went sailing.
Mere yards away, an upside down rover sat still. It was badly damaged. Scorch marks covered the doors. Two laser beams had nicked it, causing the frame to melt. All the protective fields had disengaged. Adams and Franklin remained as calm as possible, surveying their surroundings. The driver of O’Hara’s vehicle took the gun in vein.
“There’s movement,” Nandesrikahl choked as he tossed rocks from the vehicle. “Anybody, this is Nandy. Zak, Swain, someone talk to me!”
Martinez tried to climb out when Thewls pulled rocks from a window. He was breathing erratically, retching, and grasped Nandesrikahl’s arm tightly for just a second. Then, he went limp.
Adams and Franklin circled the vehicle to find O’Hara desperately trying to pull people from the wreckage. Zakowski had not survived. His mangled corpse lay still, his face, lifeless.
“Oof,” Swain grunted when O’Hara pulled Zak free. “He-help me.”
The big man was pushing DeReaux and Fitzpatrick through a cramped space. Once the window was cleared, Nandesrikahl rushed to check them. The sniper and spotter were unconscious, but they were breathing. No one else survived.
The third and final rover of the initial eight pulled up right then. O’Hara was shocked by its condition. All the fields were out, and most of the roof was sheared off.
“It’s Korit. Copy?”
“Jesus, we copy. We have to get to safety,” the captain mumbled.
O’Hara’s driver pulled up next to Korit’s rover. Its crew piled in. Swain, and Fitzpatrick and DeReaux, who were then conscious, entered Korit’s. They exchanged glances, wondering where the rest of his crew was. After noticing blood and pieces of armor on the seats, it became apparent.
Finally, the rovers sped off. What remnants of their air support remained covered them as they penetrated the darkened crevice carved into the cliff side.
“Ah, shit,” O’Hara cried. “Lokians followed us in.”
Men took the guns. Plasma blasts hit the Lokians, who countered. A laser hit Korit’s rover, blowing his door off. It ricocheted off icy walls in a spinning craze. Swain cringed as he watched the chunk of steel come right for them.
The captain was unaware of the predicament; he had his eyes glued to the falling enemies. Someone dragged him to the floors and everything went dark. Crunching steel made a gut wrenching noise.
O’Hara turned to find the agents had thrown their weight on top of him. He wriggled free and leered at a door wedged into the vehicle. Three, Thewlian warriors had died.
“Oh, my God,” he whispered.
“We gotta’ go-oh,” Swain yelled.
When the captain got to his feet, he saw one more enemy in hot pursuit. Korit’s rover was nowhere to be seen, so he reached over the wedged door to grab the cannon. The enemy’s laser carved swaths into the cavernous wall. The blast was inching closer, but he squeezed the trigger, releasing all of his pent up rage at the enemy. Bursts of plasma hit their mark, freeing them all of the final threat.
“Captain,” Day’s voice was alarmed. “Did you make it?”
He didn’t know how they were communicating, but assumed channels had been switched. He was both shocked and relieved to hear her voice, yet he didn’t know what to say; he had made it, but not everyone.
“S-some of us….”
“Be careful, Riley,” she whispered.
“You too…stay alive.”
By then, the rover came to a halt. Crews exited their vehicles, shaking their heads in bewildered amazement. The damage they took was beyond belief. Korit’s rover was little more than a scorch marked frame. Swain’s fared no better with the extra door and dead men. Without thinking, O’Hara tried to pull the door away. He wanted to check the Thewls.
“No time, Captain. We have to press forwards,” Korit ordered.