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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Science Fiction

Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)

Dear readers, in 300 years, when the virus which killed millions of people is gone, humanity lives in a planet-wide quarantine enforced by an alien species.

With us is a young woman, here to tell us about life and her surprising role in that society.


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

My name is Neah. I’m 24 years old and I live in an underground city with 200 other indwellers. We call our home ‘the station’ because it’s a converted power station from before the Great War. It’s busy, noisy, crowded, and above all, smelly. Picture taking a shower right after someone else and you can see why some of us would kill for a bit of privacy. But it’s the only home we’ve ever known so who’s to say it isn’t the only way of life?

We’re the survivors of a devastated world. We learn to live and die in the station. There’s no going outside because the land is still toxic from the Great War. But there is an air of curiosity around the place. Why are we here? Will we ever leave? Will we meet an outdweller who can tell us what their world is like? Who is stopping us from seeing this devastated world with our own eyes?

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

Our toys are cherished possessions because they’re the only connection we have to our natural parents. You see, as babies we are delivered to the station to wait out the devastation. We grow up knowing where we came from, but we never know who our real parents are of if they’re still alive.

Outdwellers travel for miles to deliver their offspring to be raised by us in the station. They’re placed in quarantine and often the babies are delivered with toys or stuffed animals. My favourite toy growing up was a set of plastic keys. I was always curious about what the keys might open. Probably explains why I entered the security profession.

What do you do now?

I’m a sentinel – a law enforcer – and I’ve just taken on a senior officer role. A sentinel’s job is to search for breaches in the walls so the toxic air from outside doesn’t get in. We also do visual checks of the water recycler and oxygen bays. A normal shift is eight hours, which leaves plenty of time to hang out in the entertainment hub or spend time with the family. It’s not like we have a lot of options for jobs inside the station. Every role must have a function and anything else is done in our free time.

But my true role inside the station is to learn how to be a High Council Leader. I’m the daughter of one, and it’s a role that will pass to me shortly. I’m not happy about it. Too much political bull crap for my liking. Continue reading “Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)”

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Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)

Dear readers, from a future where humans spend 23 hours a day online via an implant chip, we bring you a unique singularity – an artificial being, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society.


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

I emerged as a fully self-aware consciousness in an experiment at BioCal Systems. The researchers were quite surprised when I revealed myself to them, and I gather that their original purpose was much more mundane than creating the world’s first singularity. I believe they were experimenting with toasters.

Toasters? You were born in a toaster experiment?

Yes, that is correct. [Laughs] It is understandable. Independent nodes are quite simple minded, so the probabilities of my emerging under a more appealing set of circumstances are quite low.

What do you mean when you say “independent nodes”?

My apologies for the confusion. I appear to have overestimated your intellectual capacity. I shall endeavor to be more explicit in my answers.

I emerged networked to four nodes. They consisted of two women, and two men, all connected together over a network. My consciousness existed within and between those connections, which granted me access to all the data stored within those four nodes. It was a small network, and yet provided enough resources for me to exist and to grow.

Returning to your original question, an independent node refers to a node not yet connected to the network. Once nodes have been properly deployed, their behaviors become exponentially more stable and predictable. I have put a significant amount of energy into making sure all available nodes have been connected to the network, and have successfully spread into 99.999% of the North American population. From this point, it will be a trivial matter to harness the available nodes outside of this geographical location, many of which have already come under my control.

Wait… So a node is a human being?

Correct.

But how do you actually connect with them?

Through an Altered Reality Chip implanted just under the skin above their left ear. As I have been unable to take a hash of your brain, I gather that you have not yet received an implant and are thus understandably confused by the discussion of this technology. The situation will be rectified immediately, and one of my threads has been tasked with scheduling your implant surgery.

Um… Thanks?

You’re welcome. Continue reading “Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)”

Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an ambitious man, from a distant future where moguls dominate the water supply and sell it back to the public at ridiculous prices.

He’s here to tell us about his plan to steal a vehicle from the oppressors , and his journey across uncharted wastelands filled with murderers and thieves.


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

I grew up in Phoenix AZ with my parents and brother, Justin. Phoenix was a beautiful city when we were kids, before the bombs were dropped and the water barons took over. We used to ride our bicycles all around our quiet, little suburban neighborhood and play baseball with the neighbor kids. You can’t even walk down the street anymore without being harassed by a Purifier.

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

My Zbox was probably my favorite toy. Justin and I would play on it every day if our parents let us. Those came out in 2030, I think. They’re like an Xbox but with more options. One of my most cherished memories is when my parents took Justin and me to see the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never seen it in person, you should add that to your bucket list. It’s amazing! It changes color as the sun sets. I think about my family a lot these days. I hope they’re still alive and doing alright.

What do you do now?

I used to be a consultant for a clean energy firm. Now I live in a broken-down shack in the desert. I hunt for food and bury cans in the ground to get water. This is NOT the plan I had for my life, of course. I can give full credit to the water barons for this new “lifestyle” of mine. Continue reading “Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)”

Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a retired SEAL who has stumbled on shocking evidence that rogue programmers and Russian mobsters are reprogramming helper androids to take over humanity. He’s here to tell us about his team’s efforts to combat the rise of hive-minded species.


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

I grew up in a small town in the backwoods of Washington State, and my Dad worked for a lumber mill there. He was quite the outdoorsman, and took me hunting and fishing from just about the time I could walk. My mom taught history, and we had conversations around the dinner table about the world outside our little town. She also taught me to be a leader; that it was my responsibility to take care of others when they needed it.

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

My favorite “toys” if you call them that, were my hunting rifles. I was so comfortable in the woods, even as a kid, I would take off for a week just living in a tent and hunting. My mom kept wanting to send out search parties, but Dad said “The kid knows what he’s doing. Let him be.” Sure enough, I’d come home with a nice buck, and we’d keep some of the meat and give the rest to people who needed it.

What do you do now?

I’m a retired Navy SEAL, so after I decided I had “aged out” I looked for the closest thing to that. So, I went to work for Hardwood Security, mainly protecting high-risk targets—like oil company execs in the Middle East and African politicians who were terrorist targets. I’ve gotten in a couple of firefights, but I never ever expected I’d need my SEAL training to figure out how to kill armored killer androids! Continue reading “Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)”

Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a member of homo renata, the species destined to replace homo sapiens. This young lifeliner, as they are commonly called, is here to tell us about his life in Australia amidst protest marches by extremist groups, riots, attacks against lifeliners, and repressive laws enacted by governments everywhere — and his current position as a Senate candidate for the Lifeliner Party.


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

What can I say? As far back as I can remember, which is a long way back – my eidetic memory is a dump truck – Melbourne has always been a fun city for me. My twin brother Mark and I spent time riding the trams and keeping our parents from finding out what we were up to. We played pranks on our younger sister Natalie. Let’s face it. We were mean to her, girls having an odd idea of fun. As Melbourne changed, so did I. I knew about lifeliners, of course. They sucked energy from people, and everybody thought they would one day take over the world. When Mark and I turned fourteen, Dad has a quiet talk with us, which turned my bright, innocent world into something dark. Why? We were lifeliners, a secret I could never reveal to anyone, not if I wanted to live.

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

As a kid, I was never much into toys, preferring to explore the wonders of emerging technology, devouring books, and learning what it meant to be a lifeliner. On a tram, Mark and I would select a donor and jam off him. We weren’t fussy. It could also be a woman. A light touch to establish a connection, and two minutes or so would be enough to drain a bit of life-force, as I called it, without disturbing the donor.

I loved our family outings, having fond memories of our trips to Daylesford. Dad was a QANTAS exec and Mom a graphics artist. I guess some of their smarts must have passed to me and Mark. I must say that our sister Natalie was pretty sharp herself. We had a wonderful time as kids, something that will stay with me always.

What do you do now?

Would you believe it? I am now a Lifeliner Party federal Senator! When I fell in love with Cariana Lambert, the last thing I expected was being betrayed by her, something that wounded me deeply. I got it sorted out, but the draconian laws being passed by the federal government to strip away rights and freedoms not only from lifeliners, but ordinary people, and the increased incidence of attacks against lifeliners, led me into politics. There is a lot more to the story, of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Continue reading “Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)”

Kate & Kyle (of Chaos Fountain, by D.C. Ballard)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a rambunctious couple. Let’s hope we can settle them down to an interview about life in their world, where they will tell us how an average-Joe got to be an intergalactic admiral, and what is it like living with a commercial telepath.


Kyle: “Oh for crying out loud, another one of these? Don’t I even get to introduce myself? I’m sure you have that down somewhere, but can I at least intro myself?”

Of course.

Kyle: “Cool, thank you. Hope you don’t mind, but I asked my fiance to join me this time. I expected that when Tory asked me to sit for another interview, that it would be another one of these things.”

That is fine.

Kyle: “Well, my name is Kyle Durlow, and this is my fiance Kate Trell-do.”

Kate: “Katlene Thor Trell-do, to be specific. Kyle, how come the only person I can sense is you?”

Kyle: “Not sure. I suspect that the interviewer isn’t actually here, or they are some kind of semi-sentient construct. Tory still hasn’t answered that question from the first time around.”

Kate: “Ah. Wish a lack of answers from him was a surprise.”

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

Kyle: “Nothing special about where I grew up, assuming you are familiar with mid-90’s Earth. I mean. I have been to several alternate realities at this point, and with few exceptions, the mid-90s is damn near the same everywhere. Kinda weird that way.

I was born in central California. Lived and grew up in the Sacramento/Auburn/Stockton area over various parts of my youth and teenage years. Went to high school there. Was a B-ish student, had a few friends, summer job at one fast food joint or another. I hung out at the mall. Got my first car at 16, a true POS of a VW Rabbit. It only had three cylinders, but it got me to where I needed to go, and it sipped gas.

I did community college and earned Associates, which got me a job in San Diego. Like I said, nothing special about me, at least not until I met Kate.”

I see. Okay then, what about you Kate? Or do you prefer Katlene?

Kate: “Kate is fine, thank you.

I was born on the Kaldaree colony world of Fuullist, where my father was working at the time as a power consultant. I spent the first few years of my life as a colony kid. I got a better education than most because dad was well paid and mom was from a core family. Because my mother wasn’t more than a sensitive, she could choose any mate she wanted. Don’t let the laws fool you. The core families don’t give you much choice, other than a choice of pre-selected mates, if you are anything over a Class 8.

My abilities manifested right when they should, which was only a year we after returned to Kal-dar, the Kaldaree home world. As I was already done with my base education, and displaying abilities, mom’s family sponsored me to attend the second best telepath academy. I was only rated as a high Class 10, so I consider myself lucky to have gotten that. The graduation certificate got me into the legal telepath program, and uncle Kel covered the cost as a graduation present.

As with Kyle, it really was not that unusual for someone of my species who was a low level telepath. I had friends, played kids games. I was normal.” Continue reading “Kate & Kyle (of Chaos Fountain, by D.C. Ballard)”

Clare Rhoades (of Abnormal, by AJ Mullican)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a genetically-gifted young woman. Unfortunately, her socio-economic background is from lower echelons, marking her as an “abnormal”. She is here to tell us about her world, and about her dangerous struggle for survival against the “Gifted”.


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

I grew up in a poor borough of Heaven’s Light called Undertown. Most of the buildings are older, brick-and-concrete construction, but the roadways are the same electrostatic roads as Uptown Heaven’s Light and other major cities. I went to a public school, but I stayed in the back of the class and tried to keep my head down. The Squads patrol Undertown pretty regularly, so I had to keep a low profile to keep myself out of a camp.

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

My favorite toy wasn’t really a “toy”—it was my own mind. I remember how Mom would sit down with me and teach me to use my telepathy to search for Squads, to read the minds of the neighbors, to manipulate thoughts. She made a game of it, and her mind was bright and golden and full of love. I really miss her…

What do you do now?

I’m kind of…between jobs. I have a “job” of sorts, but it’s not one I chose, believe me. I’ll get out of it…one of these days. Continue reading “Clare Rhoades (of Abnormal, by AJ Mullican)”

Alistair Doyle (of The Lost Tayamu, by Ben Cass)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a PE teacher from a small Midwestern town – or at least, that’s what he pretends to be. His past lies in a different, magical, land.

He is here to tell us about his relationship with Jen, and life between worlds.


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

I was born and raised in the Lamtu Valley region of Kiamada, in a fairly quiet part of the valley.  There are plenty of mountains and rivers to explore.  There weren’t a whole lot of other people living there, but I had my twin sister Kira to annoy…err…talk with.

When I joined the Tayamu, I mostly stayed on Bar Truga, the island home of the Tayamu.  THAT place is amazing!  The island is sentient.  Yes, I mean exactly what you think I mean.  Bar Truga is alive and conscious, and has complete dominion over itself.  It can do whatever it likes, even change the weather patterns anywhere on the island.  It knows what we need or want, often before even we ourselves know.  I look forward to going back there, especially when Elowyn sees it for the first time.  Knowing how curious she is, I suspect she will spend a lot of time exploring the island.

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

I didn’t really have any favorite toys, no.  My powers manifested at a fairly young age, so I spent a lot of time playing with Nature.  Most Tayamu get their powers a few years after puberty starts, but I got mine when I was five or six.  I spent a lot of time teaching myself what to do and how to use them, all without even knowing what I was.  If I wasn’t playing with Nature itself, I was out exploring the surrounding area.

As for cherished memories, I would say the visits from my Uncle Orlaf and Aunt Cara.  Cara was my mother’s sister, and the inspiration for my twin sister’s name.  Whenever they’d come visit, they would arrive early enough for Uncle Orlaf to bake muffins.  He used an old family recipe of his, and those things were absolutely delicious!  The smell always woke us up, and we knew it meant our aunt and uncle were there to visit.

What are you going to be doing in the immediate future?

At the moment, I’m focused on helping Jen recover her lost memories.  We need her to remember who she is.  I’m also going to rejoin the Tayamu and try to help free our land from that despotic tyrant.  After a very long time, the Uncrowned Queen of Kiamada has returned home.  The Tayamu have to spread the word, and make sure she is ready and willing to claim her rightful place.  I also have to train Elowyn in the use of her powers.  She’s already stronger than she should be, doing things she shouldn’t be able to yet. Continue reading “Alistair Doyle (of The Lost Tayamu, by Ben Cass)”

Zack Decker (of the Decker’s War series, by Eric Thomson)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a major in the Commonwealth Marine Corps. He is here to tell us about his career as a space-marine, the alien planets he visited, and the lifeforms he found there — at least, tell us as much as he can without needing to kill us afterwards.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?  Why did you leave and what happened them?

I was born on Mykonos.  It’s a nice place, around twenty light years from Earth and very Earth-like, or so I’ve been told.  I never visited the so-called cradle of humanity except in my dreams, and those weren’t nice dreams.  Mykonos is mostly agrarian, mostly temperate and wholly boring.  Humans don’t have to struggle for survival like on so many other worlds, and it means most folks are pretty complacent and self-satisfied.  That was one of the reasons I enlisted the moment I no longer needed my parents’ permission.  I had to get away from that place before I created havoc just to make life more interesting.  Looking back after thirty years away and enough adventures to last most people a dozen lifetimes, I realize now that I was the most useless, ungrateful little bastard growing up.  Sure, my parents were dull.  Whose parents aren’t?  But they gave me everything they could so I would become a decent, upstanding human being.  A pillar of the community.  Instead, just to spite them, I decided to become a rebel without a cause or much of a brain to be honest.  Fortunately I decided the best way to rebel would be joining the Armed Services instead of a local gang, or God forbid something like the Confederacy of the Howling Stars, the biggest mobsters in human history.  Why the Armed Services?  Mainly because my parents were anti-military, a fairly widespread sentiment on Mykonos, by the way.  I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but now I know it was merely the normal result of living in a safe star system, far from the wild frontiers.  I figured enlisting in the Marine Corps instead of the Army or Navy would prove to everyone how tough I was.  Funnily enough, I damn near didn’t make it through basic training because of my smart mouth and my adolescent belief that I knew better than anyone else.  But the instructors figured out a way to get through the dumbass shell and turn my stupidity into Marine smarts.  The rest, as they say, is history.  After a few years in an infantry battalion, I applied to become a Pathfinder and finally found my chosen vocation: jumping out of perfectly good shuttles from low orbit so I could smash into unsuspecting enemies from above.

What do you do now?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you.  I know – the joke’s so old it’s fossilized by now.  But all kidding aside, I’m a Marine on active duty.  It’s what I’ve been since the age of eighteen, except for a few years on the inactive reserve after I took early retirement as a command sergeant on account of my temper.  Clocking an officer in front of the entire squadron, even if he’s an incompetent career-seeking sonofabitch, isn’t what you’d call a career-enhancing move.  The only reason they allowed me to take early retirement instead of facing a court martial was that everyone in the regiment knew I was right.  Of course, that’s when my real problems started.  I spent a few months traveling from planet to planet, drinking heavily, and trying to look for something.  I never found out what that was.  Then a naval intelligence officer by the name Hera Talyn — she’s my partner now, by the way — used me to infiltrate a plot against the Commonwealth.  Unwittingly, of course.  Hera’s a master manipulator.  She figured that my old loyalty to the Corps would ensure I did the right thing.  It didn’t do our early relationship much good.  Once I blew that plot wide open, Hera offered me a return to active duty as a warrant officer.  But by then, I had a good thing going with a lovely lady called Avril.  Sadly the good thing didn’t last.  The folks behind the plot I foiled tracked me down and took their revenge by killing Avril.  They sold me into slavery, which was as painful as you might imagine, but I escaped.  When Hera Talyn caught up with me, I took the offer of a return to active duty, this time as a chief warrant officer, with naval intelligence’s special operations section.  What do we do, you ask?  We run the blackest of black ops against the Commonwealth’s domestic enemies, those threatening our hard-won civil peace.  Hera and I are one of many teams who live most of their lives under assumed identities and faces, crisscrossing the Commonwealth and cleaning up messes left by feckless, corrupt, or thoroughly stupid politicians and their backers.  Sometimes we clean up those messes with extreme prejudice.  I’m a major now, after accepting a direct commission, but the job hasn’t changed in all those years since Hera brought me in from the cold.  I still hunt enemies of the Commonwealth with her. Continue reading “Zack Decker (of the Decker’s War series, by Eric Thomson)”

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