Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Stygian Conspiracy (Nexus Arcana) by Kodai Okuda


 

 
Kabuto Tokugawa was no novice when it came to war. He'd fought through his fair share of conflicts in the past, but this one was different. It wasn't about nation against nation or conflicting ideologies. No, his keen instincts told him the secrets held by the alien ships found at Alpha Centauri were the impetus for this new struggle. So dangerous was the information that he was willing to do anything to keep it out of the wrong hands.

Gideon Krieg didn't join the Earth Federal Space Marines to become a hero. He was not sure why he signed up. Maybe it was to impress the girl he was madly in love with, or maybe it was to prove to himself he was worth something. Deeper still, perhaps it was due to the woman that plagued his dreams...sometimes his nightmares. Whatever had drawn him into the war, it did not prepare him for the destiny that lay ahead.

Alphonse Zhukov risked everything: his career, his position, his friends, even his life in order to free his people from the iron-fisted grip of the Solar Empire.

Each man's intentions were different, but collectively their destinies were rapidly intertwining on a path that would change the course of human existence forever and invoke the wrath of The Stygian Conspiracy.

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A true Campbellian science fiction adventure in the vein of Starship Troopers. This first volume in the Nexus Arcana Sci Fi epic combines elements of space opera with hard SF to forge an exciting tale of the future. A Solar System in turmoil. The mistakes and conflicts of the early twenty-first century peak in a clash of ideology and mechanized steel that spans across the planets of the inner sphere of Sol. A contention of worlds ensues as the Earth Federal Republic and Solar Empire battle for solar supremacy. On one side, caught within the currents of war, is a band of young spacemarines, the Sledgehammers, who quickly find themselves embroiled in a plot that transcends the politics of the struggle around them. A dark and ancient secret looms throughout Sol in a myriad of alien artifacts that are the intense focus of one man's mad ambition. On the other side, a revolutionary puts his own plan into motion as the would-be liberator of his people. Taking advantage of the conflagration, Alphonse Zhukov and his conspirators risk everything to free their proletarian brethren from the iron grip of the Solar Empire. Both sides quickly find themselves immersed in a storm of lies, betrayal, love, and romance as plans within plans and schemes within schemes forge their individual goals into a common cause. At the eye of the tempest is an alien warship that holds the key to finding the Goddess Device and unraveling the Stygian Conspiracy that surrounds it.


WORD COUNT: 360,000 words



Excerpt from my book (from Chapter 9: Anamoly Part One: Artifact)

 “The events of my escape from the Solar Empire through the asteroid belt still haunt me to this day. I know not who or what made the thing we found, but I do know this, my dear friend, it was not fashioned by any known technology nor any science in our universe. Our discovery that day led my thoughts back to the first chapter of that book you pushed upon me to read so vehemently:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the
deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
I think on that day, my crew and I touched upon something from the darkness of the face of the deep. A something that only God, himself, could shield us from with the light of his creation.” —Excerpt from an e-letter written by Alphonse Zhukov to Kabuto Tokugawa, dated June 22nd, 2082 AD. 

March 2072 AD 
The UN transport ship sped towards the vast expanse of asteroids in the distance with four of the formerly six AS-01 assault shuttles doggedly pursuing it. The pilot of the large transport ship dodged bursts of rail cannon fire with as much grace as the craft’s bulk would allow. The transport vessel’s armored hull was pitted and scarred from numerous grazes and hits by the rail cannon rounds of the UN assault shuttles that hounded it. The transport’s pair of dual PHELAC cannon turrets shot forth volley after volley of green-white, phased energy laser bolts at the nimble AS-01s. The ship’s crew scored only two kills in the nearly twenty minutes the assault shuttles had been attacking the craft.
“There are still four on our tail,” Elizabeth told Zhukov as she watched the digital icons of the AS-01s on the LCD monitor of her navigational station.
“Athena, Leonard,” Zhukov called to Warrant Officer Athena Corbin and 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Mill, who were manning the PHELAC turret controls on the bridge, “I’m going to cut the engines and allow the shuttles to fly by us. When they pass, I want you to hit them with everything you’ve got.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” they both replied simultaneously.
Zhukov throttled the ship’s ion engines up to full speed and allowed the UN assault shuttles to follow suit before he shoved the ion engines into reverse. The UN ships overshot the transport ship rapidly. As they did so, Athena and Leonard unleashed a hail of brilliant, green-white bolts of death upon them. Three of the four shuttles erupted into balls of nuclear flame as they exploded. The detonation caused the fourth to spiral out of control into a nearby asteroid, where it blew up on impact.
Leonard wiped the sweat from his brow. “Phew, that was close.”
“Tell me about it,” Athena sighed in agreement.
“It’s not over yet,” Elizabeth said, looking into her monitor. “There are six AS-02s and a trio of AS-03s some sixty-five thousand kilometers and closing fast.”
Alphonse leaned back in his pilot’s chair. “Time to go. Elizabeth, there should be an Atlas gap somewhere around here.”
“A what?” Athena asked curiously.
“An Atlas gap. It’s an area of the asteroid belt that is sparse enough to allow large spacecraft to travel through at high velocity,” Elizabeth answered Athena as she scanned the area with her navigational sensors. “The Atlas gap was named in honor of the UNSS Atlas after she traversed through such a region in the early 2050s. It’s odd that this gap is not on any of our space charts.”
“How small is it?” Zhukov asked as he flew the transport ship towards the coordinates Elizabeth fed to his flight control monitor.
“Pretty darn small, Alphonse.” She sounded worried. “Maybe we should try a different route.”
“There is no time,” Alphonse said confidently as the ship came close enough to the field that individual asteroids were distinguishable from the rest of the debris cloud with the naked eye. “We must get into the asteroid field as soon as we can in order to avoid further confrontations with the UN space fleet. This ship has already taken a beating.”
“You’re right,” Elizabeth agreed with him woefully. “We’ll never make it to the next gap, and the transport’s number two and four engines have been damaged. According to Major Suvorov in engineering, we need to shut down those two engines, or else their directional cones will rip away, and those engines will be useless.”
“Understood,” Alphonse spoke to her calmly as he switched off the two damaged engines. The hum of the engines lessened noticeably within the ship as the two ion drives shut down.
“Commander, won’t the UN ships reach us sooner without those two engines?” Athena asked in a nervous tone.
She saw him smile in the translucent reflection of the bridge cast by the ship’s main viewport glass before he spoke. “Don’t worry, Athena, we’ve already begun our final approach into the asteroid belt. Once inside the field, we’ll have a better chance of eluding them by creating a debris field behind us.”
“You’ve got to be joking, Alphonse,” Elizabeth interjected. “If you plan on blowing up asteroids behind us as we travel through the Atlas gap, then you need to consider the fact that the blast is likely to create a shotgun effect that could end up tearing this ship into metallic ribbons.”
Zhukov guided the transport ship towards the narrow Atlas gap in the asteroid belt. The gap was no wider than a thousand miles in diameter and looked more like a tunnel of open space between the floating rocks rather than a gap. Thousands of iron and stone stellar boulders tumbled through space all in a synchronous dance along the gravitational plane of the Sun, giving the field the appearance of a group of undersea fish swimming together in formation.
“Leonard,” Alphonse spoke to the lieutenant with a commanding voice, “ready the aft space torpedo tubes, numbers seven and nine, and ten and twelve.”
“But, sir…,” Leonard started to ask.
“No buts, mister,” Alphonse cut him off sternly. “I need the torpedo warheads set to remote detonation at a range of sixteen kilometers from as close to the center of the gap’s diameter as possible. Understood?”
“Aye, sir,” Leonard responded meekly. The lieutenant turned back to his station and immediately brought up the digital controls for the ship’s torpedo inventory. He touched the screen’s sensitive surface and set four torpedoes to Zhukov’s specifications.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth was calling out the distance of the pursuing UN craft in 5000-kilometer intervals as they got closer to the transport ship. “Twenty-five thousand, twenty thousand, fifteen thousand, ten thousand and closing. Alphonse, they’re gaining on us too fast; we’re not going to make it into the asteroid field before we’re within their firing range,” she blurted out frantically.
“Don’t worry, Elizabeth,” Zhukov spoke with boyish enthusiasm, “I’m going to lure the assault shuttles to the edge of the Atlas gap and then fire the main ion engine for three seconds. That should be sufficient time to accelerate us into the asteroid field with enough speed to give us the lead we need over the UN bloodhounds while keeping our quarry following us with a fierce tenacity.”
Lt. Warden looked at Zhukov uneasily. “Assuming we’re not ripped apart by the explosion ourselves.”
“Trust me,” he said, winking at her briefly and smiling from ear to ear.
Commander Alphonse Zhukov energized the main ion engine of the transport as the laser blasts from the first trio of AS-02s could be seen zipping past the ship through the bridge viewport.
“They’re here,” Elizabeth announced nervously as the vibrations from the main ion engine pulsed throughout the ship with an audible rumble. The asteroid field ahead of them appeared to close in on them at lightning speed as the transport ship accelerated rapidly towards the Atlas gap.
“Our pursuers are following us at maximum speed, Alphonse. They’re only a few hundred kilometers behind us,” Lt. Warden exclaimed as she looked at her navigational display.
“Leonard, are the torpedoes ready?” Zhukov asked impatiently.
“Almost ready, sir,” the lieutenant replied in a frustrated tone.
“What do you mean almost?” Athena teased him, trying to break the tension. “Would you like some help?”
“Um, sure if the commander says it’s alright,” Leonard replied, a bit unsure.
“It’s alright, Leonard, just prep those damn torpedoes,” Alphonse snapped at him.
Athena pressed an icon on her LCD screen, and a small, digital window of Leonard’s display screen came up on her monitor. “I see the problem.” She typed in a few commands on her keypad, and the red error flags on Leonard’s screen turned green.
“You did it, Athena!” Leonard shouted with relief.
“Duh, all you had to do was tell the torpedoes’ computers to arm themselves with the remote command Live-wire,” she replied like an expert.
Leonard was beet red. “Oops.”
Elizabeth huffed without looking up from her screen as she whispered to no one in particular, “It’ll be a miracle if we survive this.”
Zhukov laughed aloud upon overhearing Lt. Warden’s remark as he spoke, “Leonard, Athena, prepare to fire those torpedoes.”
He dodged the thickening barrages of laser bolts as the rest of the assault shuttle force caught up with the lead trio. The nine UN shuttles slowed down considerably upon entering the Atlas gap, but they still kept the transport ship within firing range of their laser cannons.
The transport ship shook violently as a volley of laser cannon fire hit the craft. Red lights appeared on Zhukov’s and Elizabeth’s LCD monitors simultaneously.
“Alphonse, the main engine has been severely damaged, and the hull has been penetrated on decks three and six near engineering,” Elizabeth said in a panic.
“I can see that, Lieutenant Warden,” he spoke calmly. “I just need a little more time.”
“We don’t have any more time, Zhukov!” she yelled at him.
He ignored her as he piloted the damaged transport ship through the tunnel of floating rocks towards a narrow area in the gap where the diameter of the tunnel was only five- or six-hundred miles.
“There, just as I thought,” Zhukov blurted out with confidence as he flew through the narrow area. Stray asteroids were tumbling through the narrow zone towards a slowly moving, large, iron-ferrite asteroid in the center of the tight space, making their travel through it very dangerous. The hail of debris in the small flight path also provided a shield for the transport from the continuing volleys of laser cannon blasts of the UN shuttles.
The UN force of assault shuttles flew into the narrow corridor of the Atlas gap as fast as they could manage while Zhukov guided the transport ship out the other side into the wider space beyond the gravitational influence of the iron-ferrite asteroid.
Once they were completely clear of the narrow space, Zhukov bellowed, “FIRE TORPEDOES!!”
The twelve torpedo launchers of the transport ship were in groups of three on the port and starboard sides of the craft just under the surface of the ship’s armored hull plating. Six were mounted aft, three port side and three starboard side. Four of the six rectangular, outer doors of the torpedo tubes sank into the hull of the ship at about a forty-five-degree angle, exposing the circular gate of each launcher. Rocket exhaust shot out of each of the four torpedo tube gates seconds before the cylindrical missiles shot forth from them and streaked away from the transport ship at thousands of miles per hour.
Elizabeth watched the torpedo detonations on her navigational monitor as Zhukov flew the ship as fast as he could away from the shower of debris. As she had feared, the shock wave of the torpedo warheads’ explosions shattered most of the asteroids close to the epicenter, creating a shotgun blast effect. The positive effect of the shower of deadly debris was that it shredded the UN force of assault shuttles into metallic confetti, destroying all nine of the pursuing ships. The negative effect was that a swarm of asteroids now headed towards their transport ship.
“We’ve got a big problem, Alphonse.” Elizabeth gave Zhukov an I told you so look as she spoke to him. “There is a multitude of debris headed our way at over a hundred kilometers per second. We need to move fast, or else we’ll suffer the same fate as those assault shuttles.”
“Leonard,” Zhukov spoke to him quickly, “use the transport’s PHELAC batteries to destroy as many of those asteroid pieces as you can.”
Alphonse’s voice never betrayed even a hint of fear as he spoke calmly to Athena, “Warrant Officer Corbin, load all the space torpedo tubes, and set them to detonate forty kilometers behind us in a dispersed pattern. The resulting shock wave should have an umbrella effect and deflect the asteroid chunks.”
“Yes, Commander,” they said simultaneously.
Leonard began blasting away at the larger fragments while Athena readied the torpedoes for launch. Within a few minutes, she fired the salvo at the rapidly approaching asteroid shower. The warheads exploded with deadly, computer-guided accuracy at the locations Athena had chosen. The result was close to what Alphonse expected, though a few pieces did make it through the destructive envelope and accelerated towards them.
“Alphonse!!” Elizabeth shouted. “There are several large pieces that are about to hit us.” The blips on her screen vanished into the icon that represented the transport ship.
The hull shuddered and moaned but held together as Leonard yelled, “Whew! I got them, sir.” He had allowed them to get close enough to blast them with both PHELAC batteries in tandem. The combined barrage blew the chunks of rock into harmless fragments that bounced off the hull, doing only minor damage.
“Thank you, Leonard,” Elizabeth said with a sigh of relief.
Athena winked at him with a smile. “Good job, Lieutenant.”
Alphonse spoke to him with a grin immediately after her, “Yes, well done.”



Hello.  I am so happy to get this opportunity to find out a little more about you. Thanks so much for stopping by! Where do you research for your books?

At home, I am blessed to have access to a personal library of over 6000 books (many antiquarian and rare). With these I am able to research a wide range of both non-fiction and fiction sources for a variety of subjects. Any information that I happen to require that is not in my inventory I will try to get online or go to my local library.

What do you think makes a good story?

In my humble opinion, a good story is one that is not cliché. It should run against the grain of the genre that it is written in, though it should do so tastefully and with integrity without the need for excessively foul language or erotica.

What books have most influenced your life?

There have been many books that have influenced me over the years. However, the most influential would have to be The Sefer Yetzirah by Aryeh Kaplan, Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, Majick by Aleister Crowley, Socialism and War by Vladimir Lenin, The Idea of Freedom by Mortimer J. Adler, Hyperspace by Michio Kaku, Black Holes & Time Warps by Kip S. Thorne, and Human Action by Ludwig VonMises. These books shaped my love of science, my respect for spirituality, and sparked within me a passion for politics and economics. 
 
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

My plots and characters were developed years ago during my youthful days of spending endless hours writing detailed and complex story-adventures for role-playing game campaigns. During that time I constructed rich, vivid worlds of science fiction, fantasy, and horror for an RPG club that I was apart of. This group of fifteen players vetted my ideas and plots thoroughly, many times with brutal honesty.

My formula is to clean up, and use these old adventures written more than two decades ago as the foundation of my stories. I combine intensive research into the subject matter that a particular adventure covers for the story with the basic plot from the existing material. This allows me to weave multi-layered plotlines that all converge into a single theme or final destination point while allowing the greater story to continue into the next book(s).

How do you react to a bad review of your book?


It depends on the review. An honest one-star review that points out any serious issues with the book is very welcome. However, a dishonest review that clearly shows the reviewer didn’t read the book, or has an ideological reason for a bad review, is not welcome. Those kinds of reviews are unproductive and I do not react well to them. 

 
Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?

Yes they are.

Many of the names of my characters reference historical or political figures of significance such as George Bernard Shaw, Charles Furrier, Karl Marx, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Rosa Luxemberg, etc. The main characters, Kabuto Tokugawa, Alphonse Zhukov, and Gideon Krieg were given their names as a means of describing both who they are and what their purpose is in the story.

Gideon for example, was a name chosen because it represents the mighty warrior from the biblical tale, while the last name “Krieg” is German for war. Thus, the name Gideon Krieg signifies that my character is an indomitable warrior and that he is bound to a destiny of war.

Kabuto Tokugawa’s name signifies that he is hiding under the helmet/mask of a Samurai (the Kabuto), and concealing his true power as the Tokugawa did in Japan during their control of that country by using the Emperor as a puppet. In the same manner, Kabuto Tokugawa hides his true nature under a mask of normalcy and acts through conventional machines and governments so as not to expose his true power.

Alphonse Zhukov is a reference to both Alphonse Rothschild who was a French capitalist that believed in the gold standard and classical liberal principles, and Soviet General George Zhukov of World War II fame. My character, Alphonse Zhukov, is the military leader of a classical liberal revolution and a brilliant tactician like George Zhukov. 

 
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

The Stygian Conspiracy is probably the most unique science fiction novel you’ll ever read. There simply is no other sci-fi novel like it that I am aware of.

Do you have a Website or Blog?

Yes, I have both.
Nexusarcana.com is the website, we have a full color compendium, a free online Role Playing Game, and a forum (powered by VBulletin). I also have a blog on the site that has additional insight and information on the technology and history of the world of Nexus Arcana.



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