They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2 by Aaron Dennis
They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2 by Aaron Dennis

Blurb- The Lokians have been defeated. O’Hara has gone AWOL. His spec ops team has been disbanded and reassigned. The President of the North American Union is working with aliens. Gray-Human hybrids are controlling the Earth from sights unseen, but hope is not lost.
After recovering on Eon, Admiral Lay warned O’Hara of an impending threat, and the young captain left the new planet behind him as he flew through space-time with Adams and Franklin, agents of The Bureau. Now, The Bureau has a new mission for Riley O’Hara, and it involves the Gray Agenda…but what, exactly, is the agenda of mindless, alien drones?

Genre- Scifi

My Rating- 4.5 meows!!

My Review- Just days after reading Beyond the End of the World, I had to jump on They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2.

My jaw has dropped. I’ve never read any book with such amazing aliens and worlds. I’ve never read any book with such cool technology, amazing characters, and superb dialogue. Dennis is truly a wonderful writer.

In the 2nd Lokians book, Riley has been tasked by The Bureau, a secret organization that deals in extra-terrestrial matters, to investigate an Yvlekesh lab where some Lokians may have attacked. At the lab, he runs into Korit, the Thewl, and they exchange some intel.

At the same time, Riley’s crew is working through their punishment for having broken protocol during the first title, Beyond the End of the World, but the President of the NAU, yeah…the NAU, is somehow trying to capture Riley because, presumably, he wants alien technology, and the guy is a total scumbag, the kind of character you absolutely love to hate.

Eventually, Riley, the Thewls, and The Bureau all figure out a way to team up and begin a new mission called The Gray Agenda, something I think was just touched on in the first book. They have to sneak aboard a Gray ship and capture a live Gray for interrogation because The Bureau thinks that Earth is under the regime of aliens or alien hybrids.

This book was so different from the first one, it blew me away, but in a good way. All the characters are the same, which is great because I love Riley O’Hara, but the overal feel of the book was different. There was a lot less action, and a lot of intrigue and espionage. However, I’m not sure that as a whole, this book was better than the last one.

For one, it ends on a giant cliffhanger, which I hate, but I know there’s a third one. It’s either out or being re-released or something. I’m not sure. Also, the fact that there were 3 or 4 stories all happening at once was a little disorienting, so there’s a little less cohesion throughout this title, but I guess it works as a scifi spy novel.

In the end, I’m thoroughly impressed. The Lokians scifi series is where it’s at. I just need the third one 🙂

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Excerpt-

The Clandestine, as its name implied, was a small and sleek vessel used for covert missions. The diamond shaped craft, with rear, twin, F.T.L. accelerators, carried Riley and crew to a new destination. State-of-the-art alien technology kept the ship off virtually any and all energy scanning apparatuses. Moreover, the exterior of the Element-115, alloy hull was covered in meta-materials to bend light. Designed to be invisible when necessary, and fast when crucial, the Clandestine was the perfect vessel for a recon mission to Solnem.

Riley and his companions were running an operation commissioned by The Bureau. He sat patiently in his private quarters as the ship barreled through the galaxy at incomprehensible speed. His destination was one of two moons orbiting Scroccio, the Yvlekesh home world. Scroccio was located in the Solvieng system of the Carina-Sagittarius arm, and Solnem was unique in the fact that it was almost identical to Scroccio, except in size, yet both planetary bodies supported life in a manner compliant with Yvlekesh anatomy. Riley heard the ship’s comm. system ding.

“Go ahead.”

“Riley, ve got two minutes,” the gruff voice replied.

“Copy that, Ivan. I’ll be out soon.”

He left the computer sitting on the steel desk and went to his private latrine for a little pre-landing meditation. He plopped down on the toilet and started his mental review. Such behavior was very common for the former captain. Mental reviews in the privacy of the latrine carried him through the Navy ranks after all. That was prior to the Lokian mission. Now, he was concerned with the Yvlekesh lab on Solnem.

Head of Investigations, agent Adams, had commissioned Riley as an auxiliary of The Bureau. Debriefing reports stated that communications from a lab on Solnem had ceased, so Riley was to infiltrate, ascertain the reason for silence, and recover any pertinent data. Most recently, the Yvlekesh were studying Lokian anatomy, growth, development, and searching for clues surrounding their mysterious origin.

While Thewls may have been experts on Lokians to date, they didn’t have much information regarding Lokian origins, which meant the research and data provided by the Yvlekesh was crucial. According to Adams’s reports, recently submitted to The Bureau by the Solnem lab, it was reasoned that at some point, predating galactic history, Lokians were either created or augmented by a master race of aliens; for what purpose, no one knew.

The Bureau had concerns over the elusive, master race due in part to the possibility that they were the same race responsible for creating the race, who then had a hand in creating the Grays; an alluring chain of creationism. There was simply too much at stake, and maintaining secret contact with the Yvlekesh lab was paramount. Unfortunately, the last report contained detailed information on incubating larval Lokians. That being the first and last mentioning of larval Lokians, The Bureau wasted little time, since it meant that live Lokians were at the lab.

Still sitting on the john, Riley considered the plan. He reasoned that a break in data exchanges occurred for one of two reasons; either the Yvlekesh council on Scroccio discovered leaks to The Bureau, or there was an incident resulting from Lokian experimentation. In either event, an Yvlekesh detail was sure to be present, performing their investigation.

Riley had never met the Yvlekesh. During his training at The Bureau HQ on Earth, he saw vids on the weird aliens. For the most part, they were a scientific people like Thewls. While they posed little threat as an armed force, they were fierce warriors in their own right.

Like Lokians, they were bug-like in appearance. Instead of armored roaches, the Yvlekesh were more akin to Earth mantises. They walked on two, long legs, but were capable of short flights. The exoskeleton on their backs slid away to reveal four, small wings. Their hands had four fingers with which they maneuvered tools, and small heads sat atop their miniscule bodies.

Riley wondered about the familiarity. How is it possible that a race of aliens from another solar system could be so similar in appearance to mantises on Earth? The only real difference is size, having four limbs instead of six, and bipedal movement.

“Ve’re here, Riley,” Ivan said over the comm.

Huffing, he finished up then checked himself in the mirror. He sported the neoprene-type material many of the agents wore. The thin, light-weight armoring provided excellent mobility and protection. Riley’s suit was also covered in a meta-material polymer. When activated, a quick current of electricity powered the material, forcing light to bend around the suit, making him invisible to the human eye. Creatures whose eyes detected heat or energy signatures, like Yvlekesh, were still able to sense him, though. His last piece of armor was the hood with breathing apparatus.

Yvlekesh didn’t breathe Oxygen. Instead, they breathed the Ammonia mixtures rampant on Solnem and Scroccio, so he slid the hood over his head and secured it to the rest of the suit. The hood covered his face entirely. A thin slit at eye level was the only visible seam. In place of a visor, or energy field, was a super thin sheet of Element-115 alloy. It allowed the Human eye to catch enough light to see, so long as ample light was provided. Because Solnem was a very dark place, Riley’s hood was fitted with an L.E.D. headlamp. His athletic physique was apparent through the suit, but his sandy, blonde hair and almond eyes were not.

“Good. I’m all set,” Riley said to the pitch-black figure in the mirror.

Before exiting, he playfully flexed his arms and chest. Then, he proceeded to the bridge. There, he looked over his two comrades. Ivan Iskof was a very large man of Russian descent. Though extremely skilled in combat, he was little more than a soldier of fortune. Ivan was much older than Riley, at age forty-three he was eighteen years Riley’s senior.

The brute of a man had graying hair and a thick, gray beard. A Titanium alloy suit hid bulging muscles, but when covered from head to toe in his armor, the Russian looked like a menacing robot with an even more menacing laser rifle. His weapon, Lyudmila, was his pride and joy. He repeatedly told stories of whom and what he destroyed with it. His last story involved searing through a team of colonial pirates in the Alpha colonies.

Riley’s other crewmember was a sultry woman named Sasha Ford. She joined up after meeting him on Earth, in New York. Riley had had some business with The Bureau, yet in his downtime, he went sightseeing. At a fancy bar frequented by space pioneers, he met the raven-haired and voluptuous con artist. She regaled him with stories of dealing in phony, communication chits, and claimed she conned buyers into believing the devices allowed colonists, and home worlders alike, the luxury of communicating across the vast distances of space without a monthly bill.

In reality, they were little more than old, SMS chips with no function whatsoever. Intrigued by her candor, nonchalance, and ability to con both civilians and military personnel, the former captain decided to introduce her to Head of Recruiting, agent Franklin. Though neither she nor Ivan were formally agents, Franklin allowed their use to test Riley’s skills.

Fortunately, Sasha’s endless finances allowed her to procure various suits and accoutrements for surreptitious, space travel. She stood in a sexy pose with her hand on her hip. Her suit was composed of many, tiny, armored plates. The silvery material gleamed from the lighting in the room. She holstered a sidearm and looked at Riley.

“All set, handsome?”

Rather than replying, he bent over a monitor and checked their immediate surroundings for energy oscillations. Frowning in confusion, as readings came up empty, he wondered if that meant the lab wasn’t generating any power; it also implied that no ships had showed up recently.

Finally, he turned to his crew. “I’m set if you two are.”

He stood at parade rest, observing his crew don their headgear. After they finished, all three marched down the hall to the Clandestine’s airlock. Once the airlock was stabilized, a green light over the outer door came on. Riley opened it, allowing Solnem’s darkness to creep in.

He had landed behind a large hill. The obstruction provided a break in the line of sight between the lab and the vessel. The added darkness of the moon made the ship practically invisible without engaging the cloaking device.

“Govno! I never think moon like this,” Ivan exclaimed.

The Russian whipped his head all around, trying to take in the sights. Both Scroccio and Solnem were rocky bodies with vast reserves of strange fungi and molds, which grew right over the plethora of boulders and seas of gravel. Little else in the way of plant life existed due to the atmospheric composition. By design, Yvlekesh ate molds and mushrooms. Their anatomy allowed them to produce water internally, removing the need for copious amounts of planetary water, of which there was none on Solnem.

The strange, biological cycle was of little concern to Riley, though. The odd gravity was, however; the pressure wasn’t grievous, but it certainly took a moment to acclimate. He clicked on his headlamp, setting it on red to keep a low profile. Scrutinizing his teammates, their shock became apparent. While they were both seasoned space travelers, neither of them had landed on or even seen vids of an alien home world. Ivan was clearly excited, but Sasha was low-key, outwardly she kept her cool.

“It’s dark and ugly…not my style,” she remarked.

Riley winced. “Stay put.”

He crept over the rocky ground before sidling around the hill. The Yvlekesh lab was in the distance. Although the aliens didn’t require light to detect persons, they did require light to perform their studies. Strangely, there were no lights coming from the lab. Riley signaled to his crew that he was rounding the hill.

He then produced a pair of high-powered binos from his thigh pack and inspected the environment. Solnem was mostly dark and damp. The sun, Solvieng, was usually blocked by the immense home world. A few estranged rays of blue light occasionally shone onto the moon, but that night, visibility was low, and the lab looked absolutely deserted.

He clicked the binos for a magnified view and ascertained a reason. The building was in terrible condition. It had clearly been attacked. The hive-like design of the structure was in ruins. Gray stones sat strewn about the ground.

Some of the rooms’ interiors were visible. Riley saw pieces of lab equipment, but little else from his current vantage point. No longer fearing discovery from an Yvlekesh detail, he signaled his crew to move quickly to the next point of cover, a large, purple mushroom hundreds of yards away.

First, Riley ran over while Ivan and Sasha rounded the hill. Their red lights bobbed as they darted for cover. To make matters worse, a gas storm was rolling in; the lack of water didn’t allow for rain. In its place were thick clouds of Ammonia and other gasses. Once the gasses increased in mass, they settled on the ground, and they were certainly obtrusive.

Though gas clouds made it harder to see, Riley welcomed the cloak of concealment. He feared being sighted by Lokians. Eventually, the three convened at the mushroom. It was thick and scaly looking with a round cap. The fibrous stem was not unlike a squat, purple, oak tree, standing almost twenty feet tall. He scanned for the next point of cover, a small hill in the distance.

He again signaled his crew, and they moved to the hill. Ivan’s heavy armor crashed over the loose gravel underfoot. The crunchy sound was nearly deafening against the silent background. It took a little over a minute, but they made it to a point halfway between their ship and the lab. Riley considered using his binos again for a better look, but the gas storm was settling in. If we don’t move quickly, we might not locate the lab at all.

“Listen, we need to make a run for it. I spotted an overhang on the east end of the lab. Follow me.”

In a mad dash, they covered two hundred yards in no time. They huddled together under the awning extended over the hive’s main entrance, yet the doors were blocked by rubble. From there, while facing south, they rounded the rightmost juncture to an opening in the lab’s outer wall, a perforation in the hive-like building with a glass-like door.

With so much gas, and the lack of illumination from the lab, they had to employ sweeping maneuvers of their headlamps. As a master of small unit movement, and night unit tactics, Riley knew red light waves dissipated closer to their source than other colors, on top of the fact that they didn’t affect night vision. Three, red beams cut swaths into the darkness. Riley tried the door handle, but it was locked.

“Thought as much, let’s find another door….”

The crew nodded, and they moved along rounded walls another thirty feet. A second door was located, but it was also locked.

“Good one, Riley,” Sasha snipped.

He arched a brow, wincing beneath his hood. “We climb then. No other alternative.”

He produced a thin cable from a pack on his left thigh. The long cable was attached to a thin, metal rod. After pressing a button at the top of the rod, three prongs shot out.

He stepped out from the hole then looked above. Thick gasses and a lack of light obscured his vision, but a minute of pacing and grumbling led him to the overhang he previously spotted, so he reared back, and holding the cable in his right hand, he swung it a few times to create momentum. Finally, he released his grip. The prongs soared upwards and clanked against the rocky structure. He tugged twice then motioned for Sasha to climb. She easily shimmied up the cable. Ivan then looked to Riley.

“Vhat I am supposed to do,” he asked, earnestly.

“Uh…nothing. Stay put. Sasha, work your way in, and let us in through the door.”

“Copy,” she replied.

They heard a little commotion then the cable came falling. Riley caught the prongs before they hit the ground and put the whole thing away.

“Shouldn’t be much longer,” he said to Ivan.

“Good. You pay well, Riley. I kill many things for you,” he laughed.

“We’re not killing anything yet. You understand what recon is?”

Suddenly, the door opened before them. “I couldn’t hear my surroundings with you idiots chattering.”

“Spot anything unusual on your way down,” Riley asked.

“Everything’s unusual. This is an alien home world,” she retorted.

“Actually, it’s just the moon; home world is back there,” he replied with a subtle movement of his head.

“Funny. Nothing too unusual, really. There’s tons of destruction, but no bodies, and no signs of weapons’ fire.” She sounded baffled. Riley knew why there was no weapons’ fire. He was pensive for a moment and looked down at his boots. “Riley?”

He quickly raised an open hand indicating he needed silence. While he wondered if Lokians had eaten the Yvlekesh, his crew exchanged looks. He took a long inhalation before addressing them.

“Okay, no problem; they’re probably gone anyway, but keep your eyes peeled for Lokians.”

“The fuck are Lokians?” Sasha snorted.

He suddenly recalled they weren’t familiar with his previous mission. Of course, he knew—it was classified—but had momentarily forgotten during his reverie. He met Sasha’s dark, chocolate eyes through her visor.

“Yeah…listen; Lokians are huge insect-like aliens. They use tech to augment their abilities. They probably landed here and destroyed the lab, maybe ate the Yvlekesh, too. That’s why there’s no weapons’ fire and no bodies. They rarely use energy based weaponry, or any long distance weapons, for that matter, but they are extremely aggressive.”

“This Yvlekesh are bugs, too, no,” Ivan asked.

“Different though. Lokians are monsters not scientists,” Riley replied.

“Then, how they use tech?” Ivan rebutted.

Riley let out a groan. “Just follow me in.”

The crew switched from red light to white. Only rubble and destruction was revealed. For the most part, the wreckage before their feet was just stone structure. A few pieces of lab equipment were scattered about. Some stands, scanners, pieces of computers, not much else. The destruction was large scale, like an explosion occurred, but the ground floor showed no indications of excessive heat; nothing was scorched or melted. Pieces of debris bounced off the crew’s boots as they scanned the room with more, sweeping motions of headlamps.

They occupied a large area of the hive, a sort of lobby. Overhead was an enormous opening all the way to the crown of the building. Since Yvlekesh flew, the hive’s design was a most efficient manner of building. Luckily, stairs and lifts were provided for easy movement in the event that something required transportation.

Riley pointed to his left and started walking. The crew hugged the walls where there was minimal destruction. They stepped around refuse towards the stairs. Along the way, they passed an elevator shaft. The door was bent and nearly removed from the opening. The car was nowhere in sight.

They continued up the stairs, which curved around the hive’s interior. On the second floor, they entered a room on the left. There, they discovered the first corpse. Riley came to a halt and squatted. His headlamp revealed a crushed, insectoid creature.

The mantis-like humanoid was green and covered in a yellow puss. Something powerful had ripped it apart and squished it. After a sigh, Riley stood to survey the room. The interior was more of the same, gray stone, but the walls were lined with steel shelves. Most of them were bent. All manner of glass tubes and beakers lay broken on the floor. Some glass crunched beneath Ivan’s giant foot.

“This is Yvlekesh?” the Russian was stunned by the grotesque sight.

“Ya,” Riley answered.

Sasha stopped at the corpse and examined it, too. Riley walked away.

“Let’s move,” he ordered.

They walked out and down the corridor while Sasha peeked over the edge to see the floor below. Riley spotted a second door on his left. He tried the handle, but it didn’t budge.

“I can break for you,” Ivan offered.

Riley shook his head. ‘Least not for the moment, he thought. They tried to continue through the corridor, but it was overly littered with rubble from the above floors, so they backtracked to a second set of stairs. Their headlamps smoothly glided along the walls and floors, revealing small holes in the stonework.

Riley came to a door on the third floor and reached for the handle when a clank resonated from beyond. He quickly threw up a fist. His crew grew alarmed, and Sasha drew her sidearm. Slowly, he tried to turn the stone handle, but it didn’t slide. Lokians wouldn’t lock the doors behind them. Someone’s in there.

He paused for a moment and weighed the possibilities. Yes, an Yvlekesh scientist could be in there. Then again, I don’t know what all they were studying. If they had live Lokians, or larval Lokians, the attack could have come from within. Riley drew his photon blade.

The Bureau had provided numerous perks; among them was a blade of photons contained by a magnetic field. Swainium, or a very special Element-115 alloy, was the only alloy sturdy enough to withstand the blade. The handle operated in sync with Riley’s biorhythm; by holding the handle for a few seconds, the machete activated, releasing a yellow blade of light.

Riley nodded to Ivan. The Russian stepped up to the door. In full armor, he was nearly seven feet tall, and anyone might guess at how much he weighed. He raised his right knee to his chest then delivered a powerful kick to the door. It rumbled. Everyone listened intently for a second. No new sounds were heard. Ivan delivered a second kick, shifting the door. The blow provided a sliver of an opening. The third kick propped it open enough for Sasha’s sleek figure to sidle through.

Riley nodded to her, so she slipped in. Seconds of silence resonated. Adrenaline was coursing through their system.

“You guys gotta’ get in here,” she gasped.

Ivan looked to Riley, who motioned for him to move away from the door. He placed his photon blade against the hinges. Slowly, they heated and started to glow.

“Uh…hurry up.” Sasha was impatient.

Within seconds, the hinges were hot enough. “Out of vay, Sasha,” Ivan said as he stepped up to the door again; the final blow at the hinged end brought it crashing down.

Don’t forget to check out the Lokians scifi series on Google+

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