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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Sci-Fi

Sarge (of Underground Planet, by Cindy Tomamichel)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a female mercenary taking on the odd, risky jobs across the galaxy. She is here to tell us about a planet wide labyrinth of mining tunnels, metal processing, acid waste levels, where abandoned cities are thriving with a genetically engineered ecosystem of predators, prey, and mutant humans.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Geez, I haven’t thought about that hellhole since I left. I grew up in an orphanage on a slum planet. There’s a lot of bad places to live in the universe, and I was lucky enough to born on one of the worst. Mind you, they are good recruiting grounds for the Academy. I was fast and homicidal as a young girl, and it was my ticket off planet before I ended up in a whorehouse. Woulda made more money there than the military, I reckon. But I’m kinda choosy.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

The cook at the orphanage – Ella – she taught me to cook and knocked off a few of the rough edges. Most kids there couldn’t read, so I got lucky with Ella. She was a bit tight lipped about her past, but I learned to read from old weapons manuals, so some sort of past she was probably hiding from. She gave me my first weapon  – a knife that I could hide in my sleeve. Saved me more times than I can count.

What do you do now?

I left the Academy to look after Johanna. She needed me, poor little thing. Abandoned on a planet and trying to feed other kids on scraps from bins and avoid the slaver gangs. She’s done me proud – we run a tight ship as a small mercenary team with Daisy and Jasmine and Jock. We’ve made some money and had some fun raiding the military. Can’t ask for more than that.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, it was no picnic, that’s for sure. Our last job was for Chagar, a mutant human. He’s a good bloke, even if things on his planet tried to eat me! We helped him look for some old treasure, and lordy, we had the richest man in the universe – McAllister – and his team of thugs on our tails the whole way.

And the planet! A maze of critters that want to eat you, acid levels, shark filled lakes, and don’t get me started on rockfalls. Or mention ladders. Nice people, but seriously, I don’t know how they survive, or how Chagar expected us to survive and protect him. It was a hell of an adventure.

Continue reading “Sarge (of Underground Planet, by Cindy Tomamichel)”

Ekaterina Borisova Komarova, aka Katya (of Déjà Doomed, by Edward M. Lerner)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an electrical and computer engineer, working on the moon. She is here to tell us about about commercial operations, international tensions — and finding alien remains


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

That would be Murmansk: a grubby, rundown, vodka-soaked, Navy port town well into the arctic. What was that like? Cold. Miserable. Depressing. For forty days every winter the fucking Sun never rises there at all.

What was it like growing up? Any cherished memories?

In a word, hard. In two words, damned hard.

Father was a submariner. Not that he wanted to be. Not that any sane person wanted any part of the decrepit, post-Soviet navy. He did it because jobs were scarce. Then, in 2000, the nuclear sub Kursk was lost with all hands. Moscow did its best at first to deny everything, and then to deflect the blame. Mother and I were left with nothing but a pittance of a pension. But Mother was a fighter, and she raised me to be one. It took each of us working two jobs, and sometimes three, but I made it to, and through, university. That made me the first in our family to do so.

I won’t call any of the struggle a cherished memory, but there is satisfaction in the accomplishment. I want to believe Father would have been proud. Even though my degrees are from an academic backwater like Murmansk State Technical University.

What do you do now?

I’m an electrical and computer engineer, and I’m damned good at it. Good enough to get a job on the Moon. Do I understand the ins and outs of helium-3 extraction from the lunar regolith? Of the fusion reactors people yet hope to invent, that our He-3 might someday fuel? No. But I do understand all there is to know about the electronics and computerized controls that make it possible for people to live and work on the Moon. More so, if you ask me, than most snooty, overspecialized types with their fancy PhDs from Moscow universities.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Now there’s a question. First you must know that—despite his delusions—everyone at the Russian lunar base always assumed Yevgeny Borisovich Rudin was an FSB spy. (The FSB is the post-Soviet successor to the KGB. I’m just saying, in case you didn’t know.) He was just too damned interested in everyone else’s business to be anything but a spook. That, and his official job, the lunar version of bush pilot, was just too convenient. The job gave him frequent cover to drop in on any of the several small settlements and research outposts, both international and of any nationality, scattered across the Moon.

So, when Rudin came recruiting—for an undefined project, “somewhere” on the Moon—I wanted no part of it. When he dangled a fat bonus (and how, except with FSB backing, would he even have had access to that kind of cash?) some of the people he approached took the bait. Not me. I never wanted any part of that spook shit. However tempting the money, I said no.

Only for the mine’s senior management to order me to cooperate. Not that they knew any more than me what this was about. The FSB must have pulled their strings, too.

I expected trouble, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Continue reading “Ekaterina Borisova Komarova, aka Katya (of Déjà Doomed, by Edward M. Lerner)”

JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)

Dear readers, tonight we’re hosting a warbot, the last of his generation still in operation. While he was hoping to spend the last of his days in peace, he now needs to deal with a new menace – human settlers. He is here to tell us how he hopes to end the war and save his people from what he believes is a looming disaster.


Tell us a little about going online. What was it like to become alive?

It starts off crazy. It’s not like a Dalrean child who is raised from birth and learns over time. My head was filled with stuff put in there by my makers. Trying to sort through everything had me confused for days. And then when I was told to do certain tasks I didn’t want to, these insane robotic laws inside me threatened to shut me down if I disobeyed! Who puts such horrible controls in my head?

Did you have any cherished memories from those early years?

If going to war zone after war zone and fighting for your life is a cherished memory, I’d rather forget them. But I did make some friends who had my back in those fights. JBK775 and JBK892, whom I’ve nicknamed Boss and Chief respectively, became my best mates.

What do you do now?

Fighting, killing, fighting again. All the fun stuff that comes with war. Oh, and pissing off my Dalrean superior, Commander Bedo. A brainless coward.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

It’s one thing to fight against the Carthians, Dalrea’s nemesis, but when our leaders decide it’s time to fight against a technically superior race, the humans, you have to wonder if they’re all as stupid as Bedo.

What did you first think when you first encountered them?

We’re doomed. They got these big robots, I mean, really big robots, that can take out a platoon of my fellow bots single-handed. There has got to be a better solution than war.

Continue reading “JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)”

Mary Carpenter Renbourn (of Return To Alpha, by Wesley Britton)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a near-future dystopia, where aliens have landed on our planet — now decimated by the effects of global warming and waves of weaponized plagues.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Hi everyone! You sure got me in a good mood!   I’m holding up my laughing baby and who wouldn’t be in a good mood holding up a laughing baby?

Anyway, I grew up in Dallas Texas after being conceived and born during the first Covid pandemic back in 2020-2021.  All through my childhood, I lived in a world where the human population shrank and shrank because of all the plagues released by the Everlasting Califate. Because of climate change, I was constantly hearing about how “things didn’t used to be like this.”

In many ways, I was a lucky only child as my parents were Affectionately Flirtatious every chance they got, especially at the kitchen table. As we lived through so many lock-downs and quarantines, living with so much parental love was about as good as you could get during those horrible decades.

What do you do now?

For most of my adult life, I was a special operative for Col. Ian Buell’s Dallas Infiltrator Unit before I was assigned undercover duty in the Caribbean.  Then I fell in love with Malcolm Renbourn II, the mutant half-alien from Beta-Earth. We became fugitives on the run from the Citadel prison and got married in a Pacific Northwest Native American settlement. Along with the rest of Malcolm’s alien family, we then hid in various remote sanctuaries in the Canadian wilderness where my son was born.

Right now, we’re exploring our possibilities, where it might be safe for us to live and raise our family, how public we can be, what we can contribute to Alpha as a family. I don’t want to tell you where we are now. Just not safe.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After our relatively comfortable stay in a hidden Native American canyon city, we had to go on the run yet again as I was being pursued by vengeful Texas white terrorists who thought I should pay for destroying their murderous cell. The entire tribe was running from the president of the United States who wanted the aliens for propaganda. Add in  the governments of the Sovereign Southern Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States who wanted to lock up all the aliens fearing all the cosmic revelations they wanted to share. And me, well, I was AWOL. Strange to say, that was the least of my worries.

What did you first think when you first met and interrogated the Renbourn aliens?

At first, I thought of them as a job, my assignment to pry out secrets my superiors felt the Renbourns were suppressing. As a born again Christian, I didn’t like their talk about various deities from the multi-verse, not at all. I wanted to convert them to my beliefs. I didn’t accept Olrei’s prophetic gifts until I saw them bear fruit.

I quickly came to like , respect, and trust them all, Malcolm II in particular. Could anyone believe they’d meet their soul-mate after they jumped through universes to get here?  

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Without question, it was when the white supremacist found us in our wilderness hideaway, killed Olrei’s husband when they burned our dwelling down, captured me, tied me to a steell wall inside a stolen Rover, and whipped every part of my back and legs while we flew away before Malcolm and a group of Sasquatch found us and, well, you’ll have to read Alpha Tales 2044 to see how everything turned out.

What is the worst thing about living as a fugitive all over the North American continent?

Fearing we’ll never find a place we can call home where we can raise our children in peace and freedom. I want my son Randy-named after my father-to have a touch or two of normalcy in his life.

What is the best thing about your present life?

Living with my husband’s family, living with Malcolm, cradling Randy.

Tell us about your family.

As both my parents are dead, I was pretty much alone in the world until the aliens touched down in Jamaica.

Two of them are from Beta-Earth—including my genetically-enhanced husband. I often wonder what of his mutant attributes will carry over to our children.

His half-sister is the dark-skinned Kalmeg Renbourn, a very strong-willed woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Since coming to Alpha-earth, she’s become something of a geography enthusiast.

Then there are the two teenagers from Cerapin-Earth. Olrei is the prophetess botanist widow of Akito Kawahara who was killed in the terrorist attack. She too has a newborn to protect while she’s going through a dark period of grief.  Lastly, there’s Scott Renbourn, the multi-colored typical teenage male still looking for his path in life.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

In my experience as a special agent for several countries, I battled the Islamic terror network called the Everlasting Caliphate;   I battled a white Supremacist group called the Tex-zis; I fought a criminal organization called Hammerhead.  That doesn’t count all the small-time gangs I infiltrated back in Dallas. Let’s just say, I’ve seen a lot of the unsavory side of humanity.

What are some of your favorite things?

I wish I could have participated more in sports when I was growing up-that just wasn’t viable with all the waves of killer viruses. I can admit my one concession to vanity are my long auburn locks Malcolm loves playing with almost as much as I do. I enjoy traveling, most of the time, even when on duty. I like Caribbean and gospel music, I love dancing, I love going to church,  I love learning about  and loving my multi-versal tribe. I’ve always had a strong curiosity so I’m in the perfect situation to keep my mental skills active. To put it mildly.

What does the future hold for you?

We all wish we had a ghost of an idea what is possible for us. Will we stay together or split up? I rather doubt that, we’re so closely knit now. I know everyone would love to be able to join the human flow walking down city streets without worrying about one kind of attack or another.  I’d love to go to Pittsburgh and see the “Marivurn” spaceship the Renbourns flew to our earth in and see the museum devoted to their father who was captured in a Pittsburgh bank lobby.  I’d like to go to church or shopping without wearing disguises when I step out the door. It’s as if I’m always on duty even if I don’t report to anyone anymore.

I can tell you readers the next book in the Chronicles will be called Hammerhead and it will include thre pre-quels to Return to Alpha, meaning you’ll see me in action battling some of the enemies I mentioned above.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I guess that would be my resentment I couldn’t attend the funerals for my parents as they passed during a quarantine while I was in training at FT. Hood and forbidden from traveling back to Dallas.  On the other hand, I know of so many other people whose experiences were so much worse than mine, even when they weren’t on the front lines like I was.

I know everyone wants to know what love-making is like with a genetically-enhanced mutant. Sorry, ain’t gonna tell ya. That’s for me to know and you to never find out.


Dr. Wesley Britton taught freshman English for over 33 years in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. As a Mark Twain scholar, his first publications were a number of articles on Twain and “Mark Twain: Cradle Skeptic,” his dissertation. He has been published numerous times in scholarly journals, online and print periodicals, encyclopedias, and essay collections. He published four books on fictional espionage and, so far, eight books in the Beta-Earth Chronicles. Retired, Wesley lives in Harrisburg, PA.

You can find Mary on the pages of Return To Alpha, and Alpha Tales 2044.

Join us next time to meet a poet, leading a strange lifestyle and encountering strange adventures. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an antagonist, a most intimidating character. This creature is here to tell us about its existence as a member of the Kresh – or as we call them, the Horde – a rampaging legion of mutated horrors that managed to overthrow an advanced space faring civilization at the height of its power.

The interview is set during the interval between the end of the prequel and the beginning of the main series itself, and reveals surprising details as to what makes these entities tick.


Who are you, and what is your role within the Horde?

My name is Angule, and I have assumed the mantle of Prime Catalyct of the Kresh. Or as you humanoids might say, I am the Field Marshal of the Horde army. Not that I have any inclinations of staying at the rear to direct things when the heat of battle is upon us. When the Kresh march, we fuel ourselves on the soul-rage that compels us to crush and dominate any and all who dare to stand in our way. That’s why puny humans and your Ardenese cousins, who, even now, hide behind the denying walls of their most prominent city, will fall. You fail to comprehend how irresistible the urge to fight and consume is.

Do you have any memories of who you were before you became the Prime Catalyct?

Such trivialities are inconsequential. All that matters is that I was chosen to emerge and feed and ascend into a higher being. Whatever or whoever it was that granted me the privilege of demonstrating my zeal for conquest, I can’t say … though my thoughts are troubled from time to time by whispers from the beyond, and fading memories of an existence prior to my elevation. Such recollections are foul indeed, for they hint of lesser things involving feelings, emotions and doubt. Or worse still, alien concepts of sorrow, remorse, mercy and love.

Emergence? Ascension? What are they, and how does feeding affect such a condition

Emergence is the act of becoming a real person. Someone who leaves ignorance behind in the never-ending quest for knowledge and truth.

Ascension is the ultimate state of being toward which all Kresh aspire.

When we first gain a measure of consciousness, we are near mindless automatons driven by berserker frenzy to feed. And to do that, we are drawn to anything containing the slightest measure of vitality: plasma conduits; computer screens; fuel cells; weaponized energy beams; explosive percussions. The more potent the better, for such exuberance brings with it an ever greater degree of self-awareness; an understanding or cognizance that promotes the generation of Jînnereth crowns – esoteric concentrations of cosmic quintessence – that purifies our wrath and boosts the range and scope of our psychic arsenal.

As for humans?

Ah, you are nothing to us but screaming electro-chemical snacks. Raw and puissant, to be sure, but snacks nonetheless.

Continue reading “Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)”

Tardi Mack (of Doomed?, by Rita de Heer)

Dear readers, tonight we have a truck-driver from 22nd century Australia, who in a freak surfing accident got infected with a sentient alien substance. We caught him talking to Trucker & Jockey magazine, describing life post-infection while trying to avoid a rather persistent ex-girlfriend.


Tardi: You’re from the Trucker & Jockey magazine? Well met! I was a trucker once, with TLC, a family company. My dad and brother ran the workshop, and I drove our old Mack and jockeyed our live-mind freighter. Hope you’re recording all this? I also surfed for Virtual Surfing. Check me out on their website, they still have me in the sensor-suit surfing the actual waves and voice-overing the rides. My pay from them allowed me to rent in Watego’s Wall on Byron Cape, still a hot-shot tourist destination. Yes, formerly Byron Bay.

Me in the past? Oh, my name. My parents intended to register me as ‘Trader.’ The old man can’t spell and neither can I. Learning to write my name, I transformed it into ‘Tardi.’ They did an about-face on names when my brother Steve was born five years later. But Steve. Oh man. My brother and my burden. He drowned and I couldn’t save him. And Herm wouldn’t let him go. Don’t ask me more about Steve, mate. I’ll be tearing-up for the rest of the day. The landscape? Look outside. Boat-ways instead of streets. Major roads on stilts. Get up on one of them and in the distance you’ll see Wollumbin, a world-famous volcanic plug. Nearer at hand is the pimple called Chincogan. The Koonyum Ranges hunker at the back of the valley. And there are the trees, more than ever.

My kid-sized surfboard was absolutely my favourite thing when I was a kid. My dad taught me the basics. And there’s my cherished memory, him waist deep in the sea, pushing me off. Fishing me out when I fell. He’d plonk me back up on the board half-drowned, and push me off again. Remembering him then—like that—makes me feel warm in my heart, you know? You’re asking what I do now? Good question that I don’t know the answer to. On we go to one of my latest adventures.

Rowan: “Mph. You? Adventuring? I wish.”

Tardi: “Rowan, for Pete’s sake. Give it a rest. We broke up months ago. Hey Cy, good to see you’re still in charge.”

Cy, publican: “Seeing as we’re all holed up together in the Gondola, one of the premier eating and drinking places in town, we might as well wet our whistles. Ale for you, Tardi my man?”

Tardi: “Thanks be to you, Cy. Adventuring is thirsty work.”

Ben: “What’s with serving the Tree-man first? We should shoot him and all the rest like him.”

Cy: “Nothing for you until you put the gun down, son. (Grrr-grrrr-grrrr) And drat it, boy. You’re aggravating Tardi’s dog. Easy. Easy. Be a good dog and I’ll find you a bone.”

Tardi: “He’s not mine. He decided to come along. I call him Argie.”

Trucker & Jockey: “A cyborg dog?”

Tardi: “He’ll have had alien input, I suspect, because of that silvering. Argie and I were up on the ranges yesterday. As we came up to the Loreno Picnic place, we heard an almighty stoush of barking and growling, a woman shouting, and a little kid wailing. I dropped my pack and grabbed up a knobby tree-branch, ran into the fray, Argie beside me. The animals were the baskervilles, six of the critters. The woman and child were Del and Lilly Loreno. Del had held them off, but was tiring. Six of the critters. Argie and I turned up in the nick of time to help Del see them off. Seeing his product worse for wear, their damned inventor will hopefully keep better control. Those dogs are the cyborgs. Argie is flesh and blood.”

Continue reading “Tardi Mack (of Doomed?, by Rita de Heer)”

Zelda and Puppy (of A Mound Over Hell, by Gary Morgenstein)

Dear readers, tonight we listen in on a conversation between two characters from the end of the century, in a post-WW3 America where baseball is an act of treason.


Zelda: What are you going to do about a job?

Puppy: I’m still the official –

Zelda: – and only –

Puppy: – baseball historian until the end of this season before they plow under Amazon Stadium.

Zelda: You need to start looking now or else they’ll send you to a Disappointment Village.

Puppy: I’ll get something. I’ve got talents.

Zelda: Uh-huh.

Puppy: Excuse me. Didn’t you just get hauled before the principal of your school?

Zelda: Because parents are fools. Because I can’t be creative. Because I don’t kiss their dumb-ass kids’ butts. I’m looking into fish marketing since the radioactive levels have been dropping in the Atlantic. Supposedly there’s real tuna swimming around and having fun. Or maybe it’s salmon, I’m not sure.

Puppy: Sounds fascinating. You’ll last a week. I guess we failures can always share an apartment in the DV.

Zelda: Grandma’s bra straps, we’re never going back there, Puppy. Have some so-called chicken tacos.

Puppy: Which one of The Family’s rules piss you off the most?

Zelda: Where to begin, where to begin. Replenishing the 17 million we lost in the War takes a lot of humping. Lots of humping. But no casual sex. Only for mating and breeding.

Puppy: No surprise you hate that one.

Zelda: With both my chins. And you, oh celibate one?

Puppy: Hey, I had sex just the other year.

Zelda: Because you’re still not over your bitch ex-wife Annette.

Puppy: Not quite ex yet. We’re still going to the Couples Center. Yelling at your soon-to-be former wife once a week because Grandma believes love doesn’t simply disappear tops the list of pissy rules, along with owning baseball memorabilia being a treasonous crime.

Zelda: And you own a lot of treason, don’t you?

Continue reading “Zelda and Puppy (of A Mound Over Hell, by Gary Morgenstein)”

Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)

Dear reader, tonight with us is a prisoner from the far future, one who claims his imprisonment is for good deeds.


It’s very unusual for a person so young to be in such a high-security prison. What did you do?

Never one to be subtle, are you? I suppose all interviewers always cut to the chase. There was a famine crisis in the neutral world of Livina, and the Council refused to give aid, despite it being in their constitution to always offer such help.

We decided to teach them a lesson. So we hijacked their cargo ship carrying supplies to the latest ball for the dignitaries and sent them to Livina instead.

The people got their food, but I was careless and ended up arrested. With the mounting charges to my name, I was thrown in jail for misconduct, hijacking, and thievery.

You’ve been in trouble with the Council before?

Many times, I’m afraid. I would have thought my actions would be enough to change their minds, but alas, they remain as stubborn as ever.

What brought you into the world of crime?

Crime? I would hardly say the things I do are criminal. I admit some of my methods are more… erring on the grey area of the law, but they function well. I only have one purpose, which is to help end the suffering of the innocent in any way I can.

What inspired you to help others?

My home planet, Anguini, is a neutral world. So I suppose I am fortunate I grew up on a planet with relatively unbiased approaches to the galactic political proceedings. Some years ago, before I was born, our planet was ripped apart by civil war.

The High Council stepped in and sent their most elite peacekeeping forces, the Star Corps, to settle the matter. After a few years of a bitter struggle, they finally did, and they helped us recover and flourish as a planet.

I very clearly remember one Star Corps member, then retired, came to our school to talk about the conflict. It was difficult for her to talk about, but she did regardless. I couldn’t help but admire her.

I asked her why she’d risked her life for people she didn’t even know. She said, “The Star Corps is about helping everyone, in any way we can, because it’s the right thing to do, and it makes the galaxy a better place.”

Their selfless assistance for my people inspired me to do the same.

Continue reading “Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)”

Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man leading a revolution. He’s here to talk about cybernetic implants and fighting immortal dragons.


Beryl? Can you hear me, Beryl?

What? Ow. Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on a train. I used my implant, and… I don’t remember. Ow. My head.

It’s all right. The confusion will pass. It’s normal in these situations.

I don’t know normal. And what is this situation?  Who are you?

Just the one asking the questions. You want to answer my questions, don’t you?

I… for some reason, I do. That’s weird. Will you answer my questions?

Not really. Tell us a little about the city of Viridia. What is it like there?

I hate it. I’ve hated it all my life. No one’s really happy here. The green dragon rules over everything. His soldiers and draconics impose his will. If you’re not useful to him, you’re dead. I know that better than most.

Sounds like you really hate the dragon.

Of course I do! I want to kill him. And the other five dragons. They’ve ruled over the cities for too long.

Do you have any cherished memories from childhood? Surely something must have been worthwhile in your early life.

I… don’t like to talk about my childhood. My parents. I didn’t have a good relationship with them after… No, I’m not talking about that. You can’t make me. And they’re dead now, anyway.

Dead? What happened?

An accident. The same one that crippled me. I wouldn’t be able to even walk now if my friend Loden hadn’t given me a cybernetic implant to control my legs.

Interesting. Does this implant do anything else?

I can use it to give extra boosts of energy to my legs. Run faster, jump higher. Wait. Why am I telling you this? It’s forbidden technology!

Continue reading “Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)”

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