In my previous installment in this series, I talked about the general outlines of the story for Flight Of The Vajra, as dictated by its influences. Now it's time to look at the characters who populate the story.
Previously, I hinted at three of these folks, mostly to talk about them by name, but didn't dive into proper detail about them.
BONUS FEATURE! My great friend Marc McKenzie (you know him as "Scopedog") created some character designs for these fine folks a while back. I present them here with his permission.
Our protagonist, who went through a number of mutations before arriving in his final form. In every incarnation, though, he was always a creator of Big Things — more like Jony Ive than Elon Musk, though, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. For a while he had a spectacular career as a starship designer, using the Vajra-verse's protomic technology to create luxury-liner-like craft. Then one of them failed, killing his wife and daughter and almost killing him in the process, too. The perpetually guilty and uneasy part of him assumed he was at fault, but the company he'd commissioned the ship from didn't want his impulses to repentance making trouble for them. They paid him tons of money to shut up, and in the end, he took it.
In the five years since Henré vanished from public life, he's been playing the part of the early-retiree — jetting around the galaxy in his ship, making a concerted effort to do nothing. At least, outwardly. His new self-appointed mission in life is to find out what really happened. What's the worst that could happen, he thinks? It's not like he hasn't already inwardly accepted responsibility for it all. But he has no idea where his quest is going to lead him.
Some young people dream of running away from home to join the circus. Enid's home is the circus, and now she's trying to run away from that. She did in fact start as a runaway, when her father more or less abandoned her to join a fringe religious group that worships the galaxy's pontiff in ways not described in their doctrrines. While she's been enjoying the life of a traveling artist, what she really wants to do is get her father back, And then one day, she meets two people who might be able to make that happen: Henré, and the pontiff themselves.
The pontiff themselves, the supreme voice of the Old Way — the progress-skeptical, posthuman-eschewing faith that has kept many worlds just this side of human for generations. Angharad, thrust into her role with great abruptness, finds herself on the horns of a dilemma that have been lengthening and sharpening for just about the entire time the Old Way has been in existence: how can it evolve without losing what it is? Is that even possible? Or is some "New Old Way" in the offing? And upon meeting Henré (and Enid), she realizes a plan for how to make that happen might be within her grasp.
"David Bowie 2099" was how I pitched Cioran to myself. Not just androgynous but polydrogynous; not just a rockstar but an everything-star. His (the "he" is merely nominal) whole public life revolves around spectacle, scandal, a party where everyone is invited and nobody ever has to find a ride home. There isn't anything Cioran wouldn't try once, as long as nobody got hurt (or, if they did, they went out of their way to ask for it). And when a chance arises for him to jump into Henré and Angharad's entourage, he takes it, because he has one advantage that remains an advantage no matter how far you go into the future: he knows people.
Ulli is one of those people. Diplomat, former (and maybe still current) flame of Cioran's, and wicked-witted social peacock, Ulli provides the other half of the social-engineering equation that might come in handy with the new mission. She knows people, but she also knows where their bodies may be buried ... and how to dig them back up again.
Partners as they are, it makes sense for them to be described together. Both are officers of the IPS, the multiterrestrial police force tasked with ensuring a universe of vastly disparate worldviews does not come to blows, again. Kallhander is somewhat more advanced in his biology than Henré is, and has used his extended lifespan to return to school and enrich his work with an extra decade of education. It's one example of how in the Vajra-verse, a person can not only have a second act for their life but a third, fourth, and fifth.
But Ioné is the product of the mysterious posthuman enclave called "Continuum", about which until recently almost nothing was known. She (the "she" is, again, merely nominal) is among the first of Continuum to engage with the rest of the galaxy, in the form of a public servant. One would like to believe there are no real secrets here, but ...
Next time around I'll talk about the supporting characters, and the way they further complicate matters.