Beyond the End of the World,
by Aaron Dennis
Find the book for free here.
At a distance, Thewls looked to be red, or mish-mashed shades of red. Fitzpatrick had a better look through her binos, though; she saw their skin was actually translucent, like jellyfish men. It was their structure beneath the skin that was all shades of red, pink, purple, and orange, and she saw their faces quite clearly.
Their heads were similar to Human heads except they swelled out behind the face. They didn’t have eyelids, either; the eyes were completely covered by the thick membrane, which presumably covered their whole bodies, allowing slits for nostrils, and one for the mouth. Other than their hands and heads, they were all clad in black, armor plated suits, and were all very tall, perhaps eight feet.
As they started marching for the captain, who was flanked by Swain and Martinez, he raised his right hand in peace, before taking a step. The remaining crewmembers were on their guard, awe stricken though they were. Once everyone was within speaking range, O’Hara figured the ambassador was the one in red and black garb. His suit—for lack of a better term—was the only one with any color other than black. It had fewer, armor plates and seemed more comfortable, lighter than the others’.
“Ambassador Weh? I am Captain Riley O’Hara. Admiral Lay has asked us to receive you under a banner of peace. We welcome you,” he said, slowly.
The ambassador raised his right hand as well. The fingers were long, there were five, but with an extra joint. His skeletal structure was evident among a plethora of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Their veins were shades of purple, pulsating beneath translucent skin. The tendons and ligaments were orange, and the muscles were shades of pink and red, and everything moved with an eerie fashion, not that it was any different from the way Human bodies moved, but no one ever caught a glimpse off the operating table.
“I am Weh, and it is a great honor to meet the men capable of securing their future through travels in space. There is much to discuss,” Weh proclaimed.
O’Hara and the others were taken aback by the guttural droning of his voice. It was monotone, but somehow musical and gurgling like the warble of a bird that sang only one note. During the greeting, several, other beings came walking out of the alien craft.
They carried chairs, and tables, and other objects. The Humans and Thewls worked together. Soon, an outdoor conference was in session.
The crew was shocked to see the size of the tables and chairs. They were much larger in order to accommodate Thewlian anatomy. Once everything settled down, the captain spoke loud enough to drown out the voices of the aliens, who were likely conversing about the oddities of Humans, and the chatter of Humans, who conversed about the aliens.
“Ambassador, I’m impressed you’ve mastered our language in such a short time. I’m also in disbelief that your kind can travel so quickly. I assume this means your people have mastered faster than light speed.”
“As far as language is concerned, we all find it simple to learn. We have existed for over four million years and have learned many languages. We have also traveled space and time for three million years, so it is not difficult for us to acclimate to our surrounding, social environment,” the ambassador replied.
The captain was astonished, though his reports had stated incredulous facts about Thewls, it was another thing to see them, hear them in person. He remained flabbergasted a moment, saying nothing. The ambassador’s hue then changed. It was like his face brightened.
“As you well know, Captain,” the ambassador continued. “The beacons you discovered were left behind four thousand years ago. Their arrangement on this planet was meant to be a signal to any passing travelers, so they might rest or meet on neutral ground. Was there a need, the beacons were also meant to be used in unison to signal for help or relay some sort of message, and there was a need….”
“So…no one has attempted to colonize Eon,” the captain asked.
“Ah, Eon, you say; before your time, many of us were in agreement that this planet remain neutral territory. No one race dared to seize it, not that we blame you or your people for erecting a colony. You could not have known such details.
“Alas, there have been no meetings here in many centuries. There are other such planets, but this is trivial at the moment. We Thewls are in the throes of a crisis,” the ambassador said.
O’Hara stirred in his large seat. It was not the ambassador’s voice that was earnest, but his words, somehow, seemed genuine, and again, his face changed; it had grown darker, grim.
“The Lokians,” the captain finally said.
“Yes, the Lokians,” the alien nodded. “This insect-like breed; over our long existence we have encountered them on numerous occasions. The first was long before my time. They landed on our home world just after we began space travel. Our Element-115 is a very valuable resource, and the Lokians coveted such treasures.
“They came in relatively small numbers, but we were a peaceful people. We had no real weapons at the time. They came unannounced and attacked us. Most of them didn’t use weapons, but their superior, physical attributes nearly destroyed us.
“Fortunately, we drove them back with our superior numbers. After that encounter, we suspended space travel for a time to fortify our defenses. We engineered weapons. They came a second time, centuries later—still before my time—but we were prepared, or so we thought.
“You see, we were not the only ones who had prepared. We were not the only ones who had advanced. The Lokians are a strange race. They do not cogitate as you or I. They do not adapt or acclimate as you or I. No, these Lokians harvest other races, their technology, mainly. When they attacked the second time, they had augmented themselves physically by using some form of robotic technology. They were stronger, faster, and nearly indestructible. We fought long and hard, but they could not be driven back,” the ambassador took a pause.
O’Hara didn’t note any facial expressions. Thewls conveyed emotions differently, it was something in their faces, a chemical reaction, he thought, that made their color change, and darker seemed to connote darker emotions, sadness, anger, perhaps.
“So, the Lokians are on your planet now?”
“No, no, if you’ll allow me to give you the history, it will all become clear,” the ambassador said.
“I apologize, Ambassador, this is all so overwhelming.”
“Certainly, but we would like to enlist the help of your people, and so it is only proper to explain the situation,” he calmly continued. “We were staring extinction in the face. Everything seemed lost. One night, another volley of ships penetrated our skies.
“These ships were radically different than those of the Lokians. These vessels weren’t alive, yet danced across the horizon. Some of them landed, others fired energy based weaponry at our enemies. Then, strange men clad in suits of light demolished our opposition.
“It took less than a day to turn the tide. Our benefactors were impressive. In a week, the Lokians were banished to space, and once the threat ended, our saviors left as mysteriously as they had appeared, yet a few stayed behind. Twelve of them remained and helped us advance our civilization beyond our dreams. They stayed until we were able to stand on our own again, and then, they, too, left.
“Since then, we’ve encountered the Lokians again. On occasion, we fight a small fleet in the expanse of space. Once, we followed them to a small colony and helped another space faring race secure victory. This brings us to the present state of affairs.
“As I have said, the Lokians harvest technology. They amassed around our sun over two hundred years ago. The interference from the sun kept them hidden from our scanners and satellites. The Lokians are now not only able to bring their ships close to a sun, but they have the technology to create and utilize subspace, compactor photons.”
The captain raised an eyebrow, asking, “What are they? These subspace, compactor photons.”
“They are not unlike your Bose-Einstein condensates. Essentially, they fired packets of light energy into our sun, except those energy packets do not excite the molecular structure of the sun as one expects. They have the opposite effect and create an energy vacuum in the space between the nucleus and electron energy levels.
“You see, there is a tiny space in between the two. Your scientists think electrons are particles with characteristics of waves or wavicles. What you fail to realize is that electrons are everywhere in that energy level at once, like an energetic membrane. The space between that membrane and the nucleus is not empty. It can’t be filled with air, can it? Air is too big. It, too, is composed of atoms. That space between the nucleus and electron is a unique, resonating energy. Some of your ancient minds called it aether.
“Now, these compactor photons effectively destabilize the aether, causing atoms to implode. This starts a reaction, slowing down the movement of the molecules, causing a loss of heat, and finally, crystallization. Two hundred years ago, our temperatures began falling. There were fewer solar flares.
“We assumed it was a natural, climate cycle. The lack of heat and flares allowed our atmosphere to become too cold. Initially, we lost a few degrees over the years. In a decade we were twelve degrees cooler year round, causing crops to fail and trees to die. We then lost Carbon Dioxide, and the plant life was stifled. Then, we lost Oxygen. Finally, we started to freeze.
“After ten years, we attempted to contact other races we had met, but there were complications. Suddenly, our satellites veered into planets or asteroids. We lost all forms of normal communications and were forced to board ships. We began an exodus into space…it took fifteen years to make our home inhospitable.
“As we left our home, we picked up frequencies, which we archived and studied. Eighty years ago, we landed on and colonized a small moon, but resources are short. We sent scouts back to our old home to gather intelligence and discovered what I have told you now and ultimately decided to find the Yvlekesh, a race we saved from the Lokians on that colony I spoke of earlier, but that colony has also been destroyed. Our only hope is to find the men who saved us long ago, but we do not know who they are.
“Most recently, we picked up your transmissions, and so we find ourselves here today. I’m afraid it won’t be long before the Lokians come for you as well. We would like to help you with our skills and knowledge and ask only that you help us in return,” the ambassador then grew silent.
The chilly winds of Eon cut through the captain and his crew. The Thewls seemed fine, though. The moronic thought that their bodies were better insulated than Human bodies made O’Hara angry; he wanted to think about what the ambassador had just said and not biology. After a minor struggle, he brought his thoughts to order.
“So, if I understand this correctly, you’ve been drifting through space because the Lokians destroyed your home world.”
“But the Lokians didn’t take control of your world; you said they aren’t there now.”
“You are right.”
“Then, where are the Lokians?”
“They could be anywhere at this point. All we know is that they have no home base of operations. They likely landed on our world, took the resources and technology then moved on. They either attacked the Yvlekesh before us or shortly after,” the ambassador explained.
“So, now you’ve colonized a small moon and are in search of the people who helped you during that second invasion,” the captain asked in a leading fashion.
“Again, that is correct,” the ambassador responded.
“I don’t think I understand…what could these people do for you now? If your sun is destroyed then there is no hope for your world, is there? Also…I fail to understand how you were helped by a race of people, who then stayed with you for a while, and not know who they are or from where they came,” O’Hara argued.
He was certain his logic wasn’t failing him, and though he intended no offense, he needed to know exactly what was at stake. He thought for sure Weh was omitting something of importance.
“Yes,” the ambassador said after a moment’s pause. “It is difficult to explain. You see, according to our records, the people who helped us never spoke. They simply appeared, fought, and then taught us, showed us new technology. They never used words. They were able to communicate directly into our minds.
“They had no names for themselves, or us, or what they showed us. They had no words for where they came from or where they went. Everything was just concepts, whole blocks of knowledge and ideas, and then, they simply vanished.”
O’Hara was shocked to hear about silent and direct knowledge. “I see, not sure I understand, but I’m on board. My other question…you said you travel space and time, what does that mean?”
“Ah,” the ambassador paused again before responding, “Yes, your people call it String Theory or Quantum Loop, and before you say more, they are the same concepts, but viewed from different angles.”
The ambassador’s face grew lighter, almost pink when he said, “Take something like a rubber band and hold it out before you while it is held in its round shape. No matter how round, how large, or stretched it is, it is round, and if you slowly turn it until you see only one side of it, it appears to resemble a line segment, no? Look at it this way.” O’Hara’s mouth involuntarily gaped a little while the ambassador explained what he thought was theoretical physics. “The universe is a conglomerate of parallel membranes of reality. These people who helped us we have dubbed the travelers, a simple but all-encompassing term.
“They gave us the ability to essentially pin two membranes of reality together with a burst of energy. On occasion, two or more membranes touch anyway whenever their frequencies are waxing and waning at certain intervals. Our technology, which we call wave coalescence, allows us to briefly form a bridge between space, time, and reality.
“What we do is bring two points together. If two peaks in an oscillation are brought together then one can jump a great distance. This is not a simple or easy matter, but we can do it when required.”
“So, you don’t move faster you cut the distance,” the captain exclaimed. The ambassador nodded. “Can the Lokians do it, too?”
“Lokians have different methods, ones we cannot even hope to conceive. They are not susceptible to the same, environmental forces as you and I, and lack the same self-preservation. We believe their technology allows them to generate a tremendous amount of energy, piercing those same membranes. They navigate by some unknown methods.
“You see, their ships are not like yours or ours. Their ships are great, big, living Lokians, spliced with unknown technology. For all intents and purposes, their ships are inter-dimensional beings used for transport,” the ambassador elucidated.
That took the cake. O’Hara’s head was swimming. He felt infinitesimal, useless. What could I do? How can we help anyone in this situation?
“What…what can we do to stop them?”
“I have but a single request, Captain; I would like to use some of your charts and way stations to search for our benefactors. You see, we have reasons to believe that your people know who they are.”
O’Hara grew skeptical. While trying to make sense of the cryptic statement, his eyes darted around. It didn’t sound like the ambassador was accusing them of squelching intel, but he seemed confident in his assertion.
“How is that possible?!”
The alien began another explanation, “As I said, we are over four million years old. We have been traveling in space for much of that time. Of the few, space faring races we’ve met, we have found similarities. The Lokians are the oldest that we know. The travelers possibly older, but we can’t be sure. The Yvlekesh began traveling through space twenty or so thousand years ago, and they have been in existence for roughly one and a half million years. You Humans are the only anomaly.
“There have been many variations of your kind over the past six million years. There was a time when your planet did not harbor intelligent life at all. Your planet was crawling with large beasts you call dinosaurs. Suddenly, those great beasts vanished, time passed, and then there were primitive apes. Just as suddenly, those primitive apes exhibited non-primitive, behavioral patterns. Then, they learned cognitive thinking.
“At one point, your Neanderthal man overlapped your modern man. Modern man was more intelligent, he was able to trap, he was able to invent. He out performed Neanderthal, who was relegated to obscurity.
“There are signs that some species of men cross bred, giving birth to modern men, yet this is not evolution…perhaps adaptation. Your planet still has apes, and they never cross breed with similar species, nor do they give birth to more advanced versions. There is no deformity, no genetic mutation responsible for making that single member of a species more efficient, and there certainly is no genetic mutation responsible for creating an entirely new species.
“Does coelacanth not still exist on your Earth, or the lungfish? It is a strange concept for you, I’m certain, but the truth is more likely that the travelers found your planet and cleansed it of the great beasts, the dinosaurs. Perhaps, they even settled it for a time, and when they felt it necessary, they created your modern man and played with its genetic makeup until they reached a desired result.
“Did you know that some of your religions coincide with this theory, and so does your oldest civilization. Your ancient, Sumerian canisters almost prove it. They even spoke of men clad in light, who traveled the skies.”
The ambassador’s color brightened before returning to its neutral pallor. The captain was simply breathless.