Chandra Press
Great Science Fiction Starts Here
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Soteria

A book about love, betrayal, and what it means to be human.

 


An asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Twins from another planet sent to stop it.

With a vibrant art movement, thriving music scene, and culture of change, 1960s Manhattan is pulsating with energy. Twins Mark and Jason appear human, but they have been given powers beyond anyone’s imagination. The city embraces them and they dive headlong into all it has to offer.

As the time for them to fulfill their mission grows near, the twins sense that something is wrong. Have they been sent to Earth to save it or to be eliminated? With the fate of both planets in the balance, and everything they’ve grown to love on the line, can Mark and Jason unravel the truth before time runs out?

If you enjoy a tantalizing journey into Manhattan in the 1960s, aliens among us, and rogue AIs, you'll love Soteria: The Crisis Forge.

What Reviewers are saying about Soteria: The Crisis Forge:

“Loved this book! Truly original premise with authentic characters you’ll root for in all their mischief and fantastical exploits. So fun to see the events of the novel mingle with famous characters of the sixties winding their way in and out. Roberto has built a wonderful world that I’m excited to explore in future books. Can’t wait for book 2!” - NewYorkerBust

“Arcoleo’s debut novel doesn’t feel like a debut. Instead, Soteria smacks of seasoned craftsmanship in its handling of diverse characters and its winding array of plots. It tackles timeless tropes - the sex and energy of rock and roll music, the lust and hunger of a first love, the danger of impending intergalactic doom - with a subtlety that pays respect to the archetypes but a vibrancy that underscores the novelty of his creations. That is to say, this novel is FUN, but also immensely mature. Nothing feels on the nose, and yet the book is still loud, brash, and unapologetic. And this is precisely the kind of story that wants the volume turned all the way up.” - MSatterly

“This book by Roberto Arcoleo was a heck of a read. Super fun, right from the beginning. The characters in the book are all insane in the best way, and when they get together, hilarity ensues. I especially like how strong and bold the female characters are, like Saya and Gabriela. I also like how the book dips into the past, the present (1960/1970s!), and the future. I highly recommend this book to not only science fiction fans, but people who enjoy humor and adventure. Great job, Roberto!” - A. Waters

”Soteria is a fun filled romp through the late1960’s. The protagonists Mark and Jason are visitors from another world who have taken the form of gorgeous young men while possessing the power of Greek gods. The book is both romantic and action packed. I loved the setting of the East Village of New York City music scene that is the background to much of the story, the clubs and the rock stars Mark and Jason meet as they seek the reason they are here. The book’s main characters love and live within these days of sex, drugs and Rock and Roll while the story unfolds with a bang. These truth-seeking hero’s gain our empathy as they try to make sense of humanity, and find themselves embroiled treachery from their home world and one adventure after another. It is a must read.” - D. Kang



Chapter 1: In a Tree

It was the Sunday after Easter, and my Uncle Walter was going fishing. I begged him to take me. My mother said no at first, but since I had just received a perfect report card from Saint Patrick’s, she reluctantly agreed. I was bursting with joy about my big adventure. My younger brother was more than jealous. The sun had just come up, and we packed up the old Buick station wagon and hit the road. I was small for an eleven-year-old, but I made up for size with unending energy; my uncle loved having me around.  We were mid-way across the Tri-Borough Bridge when the car overheated. The fan belt had snapped, and steam was bubbling from the radiator. We pulled over and stopped near the railings. My uncle jumped out of the car and popped open the hood to check out what was wrong, and with a frown and a firm tone, he gave me instructions to stay put. I did my best to obey, but it felt like an oven in there, and I was sweating like an overworked horse. I was never able to sit still for long, and since there were no cars in sight, after about ten minutes I got out and looked at the tugboats moving down river. They looked lazy as their white wakes spooned strings of foam rippling along the gray water. Strangely, I was at peace when the panic swarmed over me. My heart started to pound. I was unable to catch my breath. The clouds spun, and I felt my legs buckle. It was only the fast-moving arms of my uncle that brought me to the ground safely. I guess I had never been up that high before, but since that day, the fear of falling from high places has been with me. 

So here I am, sitting fifty feet in the air, balancing my skinny ass on this twig of a branch, not knowing how I got here. Okay, I mumble to myself, stop freaking out. Think. I left my place with that strange Asian beauty I had just met named Saya, and then what happened…? Okay, go back to the beginning.

I left that boring photo gig I did late into the afternoon and was just going to be by myself. It was my twenty-ninth birthday and I was depressed. I was going to have a drink in the neighborhood, head home, roll a joint, put on some Dylan and chill, decide whether I’m going to be a filmmaker or a photographer, and maybe… maybe, I don’t know what. I stopped into the local bar a block from my apartment and was on my second Jack Daniel’s staring down at my glass… “One more year until thirty,” I said talking to my drink. The year I decided I would have to start acting like an adult, or at least make the effort; focus on a career, stop staying high half the time, and definitely stop fucking around like an ally cat. Get a steady girlfriend instead of jumping in bed with one hippie chick after another that I’m always meeting in these grunge east village bars. I was getting even more melancholy and was about to leave when this completely gorgeous Asian walked into the bar and sat down next to me. 

She was young, but different from the usual Cooper Union or NYU types that wandered in there from time to time. 

She pulled out a zippo and looked around. The place was empty except for the two old drunks that never seemed to leave the corner table. She lit a cigarette and in a perky tone said, “Hi, I’m Saya. What’s your name?”

She looked good, and I was more than ready for someone new. Of course, all my friends tell me that I’m always looking for the answer in the next pretty face. I’m a well-read, self-centered, hedonistic jerk with a few degrees and a high IQ. I know I’m totally wrapped around myself, but at least I feel bad when I’m an asshole.

It’s that I just love women. I’m obsessed, and honestly can’t get enough, and it’s not just the sex thing, I love everything about them.

The next second, she turned to the bartender, acting like I was not there, and ordered Vodka straight-up in Russian, then asked him for one of the hard-boiled eggs he had behind the counter.

“Thomas. But people call me Tommy,” I said, trying to draw her back. She looked a little young for me. I had just spent the last year dating someone who was still in college, and her fickleness and eclectic desires, although fun, especially when she was in the mood for another girl in bed, were even getting a bit too much for me. But this one was different. Special. Not only gorgeous, but smart. I could sense it. “My name is Tommy Martino,” I said again. “Are you Russian?”

 “No,” she said. “But I speak it. Why?”

She was wearing an almost-nothing white top and jeans, no bra, of course, her nipples pressed against the thinness. Her breasts were perfect. When she leaned forward, she shared a view as the blouse dipped. I was sure she was doing it on purpose. I acted disinterested, but when I looked her in the eyes, I knew she could have anything I had in the world just for the asking. She was ravishing, and in seconds her intensity owned me. At first, I thought it was only the head of my penis talking to my brain, but there was more. Tommy, you are not in her league. You have never met anyone remotely as enchanting as her.

I knew in a minute she was smart, very smart. You could see it in her eyes. I wanted to say something intelligent, and not seem like just another jerk on the make, so I said to her, picking up on the Russian, “I just finished Anna Karenina. Did you ever read it?”

“Yeah,” she answered, “but in Japanese, when I was sixteen. I didn’t learn Russian until I was seventeen. She smiled sweetly, but it was obvious she was telling me not to try to impress her. “Listen, I know you are not here looking for a scholar tonight, and you’re really more interested what’s in these clothes than in my head. I don’t have a lot of time. So…”

“Wow,” I said. “You’re direct.”

“I think you look good, and you don’t smell too bad.”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so I said, “Well, Okay.”

“Listen, I have one day in the city before I go back upstate. I kind of live like a monk up there in the woods by myself. So, if you want to hang out later, write down your address. I’ll ring your bell in a couple of hours. I know you live nearby.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“I just do.” She handed me her paper napkin and asked the bartender for his pen. “If you like what you see… write!”

“I will give you two long rings and then a short one. You’ll know it’s me. It’s 8:30 now. I will be at your place around midnight. I have to go pick up my VW from the garage, and I have a special meeting with this finance guy. It will take a few hours, maybe.”

She turned to the bartender and asked for another Vodka in Russian. I realized now that she knew him. 

“My VW is a ‘68, I love it, but it’s five years old now, and it needs a new alternator. The garage is doing me a favor in fixing it tonight so I can get going.”

I wrote down my address, not really giving a shit about her car, printed it carefully to be sure there would be no mistake, all while thinking, is this really happening? She picked up the napkin and threw back her vodka like a pro. “Four-sixty East 12th, apartment 6 West. I know the building. Okay, see you later.” She smiled devilishly as she smartly left the stool and walked towards the door.

Before she could leave, I asked, “Saya… Why me?”

“No reason,” she answered. “You were just here.”

Saya and I had sex until about 2 a.m., two of the most intense hours I could remember. Never in my life had I had someone say, “I might come back sometime if you keep doing what you’re doing.” I did my best to please. After a while, she got up and got dressed. She was cool; almost indifferent. 

“Gotta go now. Maybe I’ll see you again when I’m around.”

I said, “Let me walk you to your car. I kind of don’t want to say goodbye like this.”

“Why?” she asked, then she looked at me sweetly. “Well, I know we didn’t talk much, so if you really want to.” I looked into her eyes and repeated that troubling and forever agonizing word in my head. “Why?” Three simple letters that search for the meaning of everything, I had no answer, just a feeling… a feeling that I should not let her go.

“I do,” I said, hoping if we could talk some, maybe I’d see her again.

But it was funny. When we were in the street, we hardly spoke. I took her hand. She looked back at me and said, “There is no future with me, you know, except maybe another night or two like this. I like you, but there is no real future, so please don’t wish for one.” There was firmness in her tone, but it was kind. I felt she was almost wishing she did not have to say it. Then it happened. I saw it coming. The headlights blinded me, and I froze. I was sure it was the end when I felt her arm firmly around my waist, air under my feet. And then she was gone, and here I am. 

***

Shit. There is a crowd gathering below me. There are police cars and a fire truck, and a bunch of crazy people yelling, “Jump! Jump!” Are they nuts?

“Son! Are you all right?”

What am I seeing? Is there a fireman coming up in the basket attached to that ladder? 

“Son! Just relax. It’s going to be all right. Don’t move. I’m coming up to get you,” hollered the voice of the young, rosy-faced fireman standing in a basket from the rising extension ladder.

“It’s going to be all right. Just try and relax. Whatever it is, we can talk about it. Just let us get you into the basket, and it will all be better. There is a doctor waiting down there.”

God, I cannot believe how long that ladder can reach. Holy shit, this guy thinks I am trying to kill myself! If he only knew how bad I want my feet on the ground.

“Just lean forward when I come closer. I can get you if you just lean a little closer. It will all be all right. Whatever is bothering you, believe me, it will feel better when I get you down. This is not the answer.”

His eyes were sincere; I could read his name above his badge: Patrick Regan, Fireman, Hook and ladder Company 27. He was a burly looking guy, broad-shouldered, and with bright red hair. He spoke with a slight Irish brogue. For some reason, his accent was calming.

“Relax,” again he said.

I really wish he would stop saying that. “Sure,” I answered. “Anything you say. Just get me the fuck down!”