Part 17 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!
Swain was brooding over the outcome of their previous battle. Busy hands allowed him an escape, so he joined Thewlian repair technicians and helped to fix everything from comm. lines on ships to personnel armor. One of the engineers was chewing on ice chips, making obscenely loud crunching sounds, which brought to the Human an epiphany; he decided to fill the Swainium bullet tips with a Bose-Einstein condensate.
After finishing a repair shift, he bolted to the weapons lab on the Carrier. There, he conversed with Thewls about his idea. They first stated he needed to contain the B.E.C.s with a miniscule force field—one so tiny it fit within the bullet—then, they claimed it wasn’t going to kill Lokians anyway; they were resistant to cold, but Swain believed the crystallization of their exoskeleton or armor made them weaker, slower.
“I don’t know why you’d want to continue firing physical ammunition. Energy based weaponry is more efficient,” an engineer advised.
“I agree, but,” he paused in mid-sentence as he moved to a computer. At the screen, he showed schematics for a new weapon, a lightweight, Swainium, mini gun. It was something he had tinkered with during his downtime. The engineer looked over Swain’s head at the screen. “Until we get the time and materials to build new weapons for Humans, I gotta’ go with what works, or, you know, what might work….”
Rubbing his chin, the Thewl was in agreement. “I’ll have words with my superiors. It’s high time we provide you our kinds of weapons.”
“Well, hold on, now,” Swain smiled. “I was thinking about the arc laser. A rifle that can fire a miniaturized version of that beam will really get us going.”
“We’ve tried, but there is no way to build a small enough version of such a lens.”
“I’ll get to work on something…I think we can do it.”
It took some doing, but he figured there was a way to design a miniaturized lens using fullerenes. He then disassembled a photon, field generator in an effort to devise a method for pumping highly charged photons through the new lens. It took a great deal of work and ingenuity, but when he presented his idea, they gave it a shot.
The days were filled with excitement for everyone, especially Nandesrikahl, who was determined to learn the Thewlian language. Basic orders were no problem, but they didn’t just have words, they had turns of phrase, expressions, metaphors, which had bypassed him on numerous occasions. On top of that, they had told him it was impossible to understand every nuance without being familiar with complexion changes and the distinct scents of certain pheromones.
In agreement, he did his best to learn to read and write. He liked that they had only the one language, unlike Earth, where every ethnicity practically spoke their own tongue. He asked his alien friends about the oddity, but they had no answer, so he pestered the ambassador.
The two conversed about the changes, which largely affected Thewls after their home world was destroyed. Weh stated that at one time, there had been multiple languages, but that like Humans, facial cues and body language were universal. What remained upon their reintegration was a generic form of their language, which evolved into what they spoke currently; a militarized speech conforming to a survivalist mentality.
Nandy pointed out that they all spoke remarkably well, professorial even; they were hardly survivalists. Weh told him to consider the fact that they had already abandoned their religion after the arrival of the travelers. Though they were very spiritual, they no longer worshipped deities. On top of that, they no longer spoke of art, music, dancing, colors, entertainment. He agreed that they were still a scholarly people, and intelligent, but there was no way to compare the past to the present.
“Are there no physical records? No old books, movies, nothing?” Nandy was shocked.
“Yes, yes of course, but there are very few of us with the time to study something so menial. First, we must defeat the Lokians. Then, we must build lasting colonies. Perhaps, after that, we will revive our ancient culture.”
Nandy had rifled through screens of historical events, and glossed over scant details of cultural traits relevant to present day Thewls, but he knew very little of their past. Since they had some time before reaching Soft Light, he asked Weh to educate him. Together, they both perused historical data, ancient mythologies, and past philosophies, which they promised to reintroduce when the time was right.
Sirt was eating in the mess hall when the two agents walked in. She saw them and motioned for them to join. They received plates from the cook then sat next to each other across from her.
“You two are very different from the other Humans,” Sirt said. “Are there different kinds of Humans?”
“No,” Franklin smiled.
“Your equipment is also different… does this mean that you are not part of the Navy?”
“We work for a secret agency back on Earth,” Adams said, nonchalantly.
“We have some experience in alien relations. The Bureau monitors alien activity in our solar system, but this is the first time we’ve ever made this level of contact,” Franklin added.
“Normally, we just exchange messages, or maybe a few schematics and cultural or historical information,” Adams explained.
“Sometimes, we exchange certain practices or pieces of functional technology. That’s where our training and gear came from,” Franklin continued.
The alien looked them over. “What other races are there?”
Adams and Franklin exchanged a glance. “Our area of expertise is Pseudo Exodermea, what we call Grays,” Adams said, reluctantly.
Franklin gave Adams a dry look, but said, “They came to Earth on and off after their initial crash. It took decades, but we reached amicable terms.”
“Not too long ago, we volunteered in an exchange program where five Grays came to The Bureau. The two of us and three other agents went to their ship,” Adams revealed.
“Should we be discussing that,” Franklin asked.
Adams ignored him and went on to say, “We never made it to their place of origin. What they asked of us was too demanding. We underwent some cybernetic surgery and gene therapy. What they wanted were splinter cells. Franklin and I were the only two who refused, so they dumped us in space where we had to be retrieved,” Adams explained, stoically. “That was the end of that for us.”
Franklin gave Adams a sideways glance. He chuckled and shook his head. Then, he looked to Sirt and shrugged.
“There are some other races of which we know, but you have to understand, knowing they exist, and knowing of them are two totally different things. I mean, consider what you knew of Humans before you met us, and compare it to what you know now.”
“We’re not so different,” Sirt said.
The agents shrugged. Sirt asked if any of the races were hostile, if any were willing to lend a hand against the Lokians, and she was especially interested in new technology.
“We don’t think any are a threat,” Adams said.
“The Lokians are the scariest race we’ve every seen, and with the weirdest tech,” Franklin trailed off.
“I hope the traveler’s technology is better,” Sirt replied.
DeReaux wandered into the mess hall. He stopped by to smack the agents on their shoulders. They exchanged pleasantries before he sauntered off, claiming he needed to talk sex-ed with Thewls. Sirt looked from him to the agents.
“Everyone has an obsession,” Adams said.
While they returned to conversations about aliens, DeReaux invited himself to the table of a lone, Thewlian woman. After introductions, he mentioned he had not seen any children aboard the vessels, and asked to know all about their reproductive practices, stating it was imperative they shared such information as their superiors both needed to know such things. Freely, she revealed they were an egg laying race, and that mating had become something cold and sterile. He had intended to play it cool, maybe even invite her back to his room, but what he learned made him feel dirty.
With only a limited area of space—four Carriers and a handful of colonies—they were unable to rear as many children as they liked. Furthermore, there was little time to court. She admitted that they still had sex to relieve stress, if seldom, but it was a complicated ordeal, which had to do with their pheromones, which were stifled by the constant fear of Lokian attacks.
“I had no idea,” he said. “To tell the truth, many of us Humans don’t have relations quite as often while in the middle of training…now we’re at war, yet I find myself curious; your people know of other races, but you are the first race Humans have met, so I’m certain you can understand my interest.”
“I thought you needed to speak of these matters for your superior….”
“Yeah,” he chuckled, running fingers through his hair. “Tell me more about children.”
The alien said that after eggs were laid, they were kept in special warehouses—egg monitoring hospitals, really—until they hatched, at which point the babies were raised communally; they no longer had mother and father roles; they had only parents, which no longer meant what it used to; it meant caregivers.
“Once the children reach age twelve, and that’s our age twelve, which is closer to your one hundred, they are given assisting roles in labs, machine shops, communications….”
“Have you had children?”
“I have not,” she said. “You?”
“No… I wouldn’t know where to begin,” he laughed. “Obviously, a little a wining and dining, and then maybe some music and candles to set the mood, but after the act, well… I find my mind wanders. Does that kind of stuff work for you? Does music and ambient lighting arouse Thewlian ladies?”
“Do you mean for friendship or to relieve tension?”
“I think we can do both,” he smiled and touched her wrist.
“Are you suggesting the two of us engage in sexual relations?”
“Have you ever experienced relations with another race?”
“Never, though I assume some may have,” her complexion swirled between purple and greenish.
“So it isn’t unheard of… you see I just like to be educated,” he sneered. “I’m just, what do you call it, scientifically curious about what you do during sex.”
After a polite silence, she said, “Since you can’t read my cues, I’ll use my words. Find someone else.”
DeReaux laughed, “Maybe you can just tell me.”
“I have work to do,” she stood and walked away allowing her hand to linger on his shoulder as she left.
“Joi de vivre, I wonder if that was a sign….”
The loss of friends took its toll on everyone. Some found solace in solitude, others in groups, some wanted to punch walls. Fitzpatrick had slept for over fourteen hours, something she never did, but recent events had left her worn out, totally drained.
Awake, she stared at the ceiling. It looked perforated, which reminded her of the mesh tubes growing out of the Lokians. Fighting those things was a serious issue; the creatures were simply unbeatable by Human standards, which made her wonder about the queen and their home world, so she washed up, and made off for O’Hara’s room, only he wasn’t there.
“Seen the captain,” she asked his Thewlian roommate.
“He went to Flem’s quarters to see Day.”
Fitzpatrick nodded, frowned, and left. She walked to the open door then knocked out of politeness. The three greeted her and invited her in.
“’Sup, guys,” she said.
“Hey,” Day smiled.
“You two gettin’ cozy,” Fitzpatrick asked.
“Nothing like that… I guess,” O’Hara frowned.
Day winced, gave him a look, and excused herself.
“Wrong move, Captain Love,” Fitzpatrick snipped.
“Yeah, well it’s probably best to keep our distance anyway,” he replied and looked down at his boots.
“Well, that’s a load of shit,” Fitzpatrick spat.
“Maybe, I should leave, too,” Flem said, slowly.
“No, hold on,” he said with a contained smile. “I want to know where this is going….”
“Listen, I’m just saying,” Fitzpatrick mumbled while attempting to calm herself. She had gone there to chat about their upcoming fight, but her emotions were so frazzled, she became belligerent for no reason. “What you said was passive aggressive—anyone can see that—and it’s offensive to a girl in her state. I don’t know if you can pull your head outta’ your ass for a minute, but we’re not on the Phoenix, and this isn’t a Navy mission. You get what I’m saying?”
He looked her over and smiled. Unable to fight off a smile of her own, she jokingly elbowed him.
“Whoa, hey, easy on the ribs,” he said.
“Please. The traveler healed you up….” she sighed and scratched at her hair. It was growing out just a bit, but still too short to style. “I was wondering what the plan is regarding this queen.”
“Plan,” he laughed. “No plan. I have no idea what to do. All I know is we’re going to Soft Light.”
Shaking her head with a deadpan look, she stood, made to turn around, halted, shook her head more grievously, and opened her mouth as though saying something. She quickly shut it, indicating it wasn’t worth the effort. O’Hara chuckled at her display.
“What just happened,” Flem was curious.
“Fitzpatrick is disappointed in my lack of organizational skills.”
“Well,” Fitzpatrick said. “At any rate…you should probably track down Day.”
“If I see her first, I’ll let her know you’ve been under a lot of stress.”