Part 20 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!
Camp was set up between the ships. Questions regarding the odd vessel arose, but O’Hara maintained it was nothing special. His old crew was glad to have him back, and even happier to finally have a meet and greet with Thewls.
Day and Roberts met up to discuss recent events. Nandy and Swain stuck around their new, Thewlish friends while occasionally chastising the scientists for a lack of manners. Conversations revolved around missing crewmembers, the Lokian threat, and what the future held.
Hours into R and R, and O’Hara felt both relieved and exhausted. Glossing over recent tribulations wasn’t his thing, so he told everyone to bug Fitzpatrick and DeReaux. The two didn’t seem to mind anyway.
Chilly winds had settled over the area, making golden-green and reddish foliage dance. Thick, black shadows reached across the ground. Everything was as close to pleasant as possible, homey, even.
Admiral Lay came from the Phoenix, Yon trailing behind him. The captain looked from him to the agents. They were relaxing in chairs, but remained silent, stoic.
“Glad to see you join us, Sir,” O’Hara said.
“Even this old, Navy dog enjoys some down time,” Lay smiled.
“Everything alright?” the captain glanced at Yon, who was trying to get away from Humans, albeit politely.
“Everything’s fine,” he replied, and motioned with his head to walk. They went just out of earshot. “Are you ready for this?”
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“No…I suppose you don’t. I won’t lie to you, son, if you fail, we’ll probably have to leave Eon colony to fend for itself while we protect others, like the Alpha colonies.”
“Why? Why would you abandon a new colony and its people?”
“Don’t you see,” Lay chuckled. “There aren’t many people here, but the other colonies, the Alphas, Century…even Earth; they’ll need help to stave off an invasion. Let the Lokians take Eon, and let the Thewls and Yvlekesh handle it.”
O’Hara was in disbelief. Why Lay was acting so calloused was beyond his comprehension. For a second, he stared at the ground, trying to figure out the angle.
“I can’t fail….”
“You have to protect our home world, make sure it isn’t destroyed, because if it is, we’ll wind up a fraction of our race.”
“Like what’s happened to Thewls. I’m glad you get it. Say, there’s someone I want to introduce you to.”
They made the walk back to the Phoenix. O’Hara overheard Roberts and Day. They held hands and expressed their grief, wishes, and recent adventures. Roberts smiled and saluted her superiors. The admiral didn’t so much as glance her way, but the captain saluted; he missed his old squad. They were analogous to simpler, happier times.
Just inside the loading zone, sitting by a table laden with food and drinks, a middle aged black captain stood and saluted. Lay returned it. O’Hara and Captain Bragg looked each other over.
“You must be the young O’Hara,” Bragg said as he held his hand out.
O’Hara shook hands. Bragg’s skin hung a little off his face, making his throat jiggle from the pleasantries. He had the appearance of a battle hardened man. His gray stubble and wrinkled eyes gave him a subtle air of malevolence countered only by his clean, warm smile.
“Yes, Sir. Good to meet you. How’s the ship holding up,” O’Hara asked.
“Quite well, I must say, though I’d love to hear about your travels if you don’t mind.”
“Uhhh,” O’Hara faltered as he was unsure where to begin.
“If I may,” Korit interjected.
He stood and walked over to Bragg. They, too, shook hands.
“You are…? I’m sorry,” he apologized. “Always been bad with names. That’s why us Humans got these name tags,” he added and laughed.
“Korit. I led my own team before joining the captain. I was there most every step of the way.”
“Fire away, Korit. I’d love to hear the story from someone else’s perspective,” O’Hara remarked.
Korit emerged as a wonderful storyteller. His lack of tone was contrasted by his dramatic timing and subtle mimicry. Drinks were passed around and both men and Thewls appreciated the spirits. The aliens had never imbibed alcohol, but that night, while recounting tribulations and giving homage to dead friends, they knocked back a few in a very Human fashion.
Eventually, everyone made their way outside. Someone even started a little fire. Korit’s words were remarkably articulate as he told of their initial meeting. He explained the search on Marduk, the recovery on Sahagun, and terrible stories of the Lokians. O’Hara listened intently as everyone spoke, but something played at the back of his mind. He looked over at Day, who was drinking a glass of wine with Flem and Fitzpatrick.
She caught his glance and excused herself, an obvious sign. O’Hara smiled to himself before sneaking from camp. He caught up to Day by a small hill.
“Care for a walk, Miss Day,” he asked with a smile.
“Love to, Mister O’Hara,” she replied and took his arm.
“That’s Captain O’Hara,” he joked. She laughed and hit him softly in the ribs. They walked a little ways, just far enough from prying eyes. “I’ve been thinking about us, when we used to be together…I realize we’ve been through quite a bit more now.”
“You don’t have to say anything, Riley.”
“I think I do…Sara, I don’t think I can bear to lose you.”
“You’re not suggesting I stay away from this mission?!”
“What? No! We can’t even pilot that space cat. No…no, what I was saying is, um, that,” he was having trouble getting his feelings out. She looked at him, expectantly. “I’m not asking you to be my girlfriend again, I’m asking that you always be my friend, my rock, the one who makes me be the best person I can be….”
He took her hands, interlocked fingers, and kissed her. Her sweet aroma, warm embrace, gorgeous eyes, and consideration were everything he needed. His determination, compassion, and selflessness were her inspiration.
“Riley...I’ll always love you. You know that. I can’t bear to lose you, either, and you’re right; the battles—this journey—it’s helped us forge a relationship that will stand the test of time. We may have our ups and downs, but I’ll always be your rock,” she said and placed her forehead to his shoulder.
O’Hara felt a wave of emotion envelope him. In a very real way he saw events unfolding before his eyes. Some of the events were very unpleasant, others were peaceful, but only one was right. He searched his soul. They made love under gray clouds that night.
Back at camp, DeReaux polished off quite a bit of wine himself and noticed two crew members missing. “I think maybe ze’ captain and Miss Day have gotten themselves lost,” he said with a mock French accent and laughed.
Fitzpatrick elbowed him and laughed, too. “I think we could all use a little getting lost tonight,” she fired back and downed a shot of bourbon.
While Adams and Franklin avoided drinking, they chuckled at the crew’s behavior. They even took bets on who was going to score that night. Admiral Lay leaned over, behind their chairs, and when he spoke, they nearly jumped out of their skins.
“Whoa,” he chuckled. “I didn’t think you two were so jumpy.”
“Cheesy crackers,” Adams snipped.
“Frank and beans,” Franklin gasped.
“I was saying, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in your shoes, and I wanted to tell you two to lighten up. Life is short…precious, and you only get one chance to make of it what you want.”
They noticed the scent of alcohol on his breath. He wasn’t drunk, though, buzzed, maybe, and he smiled before patting their backs. They exchanged a look.
The agents, naturally, knew about Admiral Lay’s ties with The Bureau. Prior to his ascension to admiral, he had been a young captain. During that time, undisclosed battles in space and pirate activity on the colonies were a rampant problem. Much of that information was hidden away in order to make the history lessons on space travel seem flawless and romantic, but there had been a dirty side to colonization.
The drunk Thewls, their inhibitions gone, decided to take a moment and show something they held sacred. Jor-Tune was the first to stand. He called everyone’s attention. Then, he abruptly took a step forwards. He shifted his weight and leaned back almost so far as to fall over. The Humans didn’t know what to make of his shenanigans, until others joined. The Thewls were dancing. Korit and Flem even kept a beat by making musical, barking sounds.
When it all subsided, and everyone clapped, Korit wandered off, but Nandy followed him. “What’s wrong, friend?”
“I miss my wife. I would like to see her,” Korit said and took a deep breath.
For the first time, Nandesrikahl really understood Thewlian sentiment. He easily distinguished the levels of emotion flowing through Korit. Nandesrikahl didn’t only see color cues, he actually felt Korit’s longing like a punch in the gut.
He was so overwhelmed for Korit’s love of his wife that he placed a hand on the Thewl’s arm. “That love must drive you very hard. You must succeed for her.”
The two men smiled. They had made a bond and Korit told Nandesrikahl about his wife. “Before all this mess with the Lokians, she was a dancer. We lived happily on a colony; though, happily may be a misleading word. Naturally, we both longed to see the end of the Lokians, see a true return to our culture. Nevertheless, she kept our culture alive with her dancing. Her parents had passed it on to her, as their parents had done. One day, perhaps, I will pass it on, too.”
As they spoke, DeReaux strutted by them, a lady beneath each arm. “What?”
They didn’t say anything, but watched him march into the traveler vessel. Then, Fitzpatrick’s voice thundered from the party.
“Anyone lonely tonight?” she yelled with arms raised overhead as booze spilled from a cup. “I’m lonely! You, pretty girl, come keep me company!”
They all laughed. Word was not only did the girl want a shot at her, but her male friend did, too.