This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine website in 2003, and was reprinted in the November/December 2016 issue.
- Zachary Higgins-David,
- Lvl 4 academic; Age 22; 180 cm; 56 kg.
- STR-15; DEX-14; CON-13; INT-12; WIS-7; CHA-8; EDU-18; SOC-6
- Decipher script-6; Drive-4; Entertain-2; Gather info-4; K/Antares-2; K/Imp. history-3; Liaison-7; Move silently-3; Navigation-5; Pilot/grav-0; P/Prospecting-0; Read/write langs-6; Sense motive-2; Speak langs-4; Spot-0; T/Computer-6; T/Commo-6; T/Sensors-4; Use alien device-4
- Connections/Underworld, Endurance, Hacker; Mental discipline;
Research, Skill Focus(K/Imp. history); Vessel/grav; Langs: Galangic,
Stamina: 13; Experience: 8,000
Homeworld: Antares/Antares; Cash: Cr21,000
Zachary was raised in an orphanage in a run-down district (Eastwood) beside a sprawling industrial complex (Shurinkin Valley). He grew up destitute and depending on wits and luck. He has no known family, which doesn’t matter as he is no longer on Antares.
Growing up, Zachary remembers two boons. One New Year’s he received a donated computer with a flexible AI already installed. Everyone else got a blank one, suitable only for schoolwork. Zachary named it ‘Hal’. It has been his constant companion since then, with Hal collating information Zachary collects for it.
The teachers thought he was obsessing with the computer. The following year Zachary received a guitar. He tried to play it, but one day it mysteriously disappeared. No one would tell Z who took the guitar; this incident reinforced his distrust of his orphanage companions. Instead, he spent his time off-grounds around gangs, and in malls and coffee bars.
He began his lifelong research into conspiracies. He spent his middle school years scouring the areas outside Shurinkin Valley, looking for evidence of fossil or earlier settlement. Sometimes he fantasized about traveling offworld to prospect.
Entry into College could have been a turning point. His academic learning was offset by his poverty, low social status, and strange social contacts. Zachary could not get a recommendation from anyone who knew him.
Zachary got a minor job where he proved talented but unenthusiastic. One of his classmates, recalling Zachary’s prospecting, involved Zachary in quality control at a site where the organized crime syndicate sorted ‘misdirected’ raw materials. Zachary’s ability to decipher foreign scripts proved key to the operation. Zachary continued to make friends with people from different backgrounds, asking about their groups’ histories, stories, and so on.
Mr. Goshi, a local crime boss, recognized his ability to work with others. Zachary was ‘invited’ to help with a project involving employees of a subsector trading company and workers at the spaceport maintenance section.
The break was slow in coming. Mr. Goshi sponsored Zachary into the local Church of Absolute Dignity. With its requirement of ancestor worship, the orphan Zachary was a hard sale, and never fully accepted. His marriage offer to a member girl was flatly refused (producing heirs is a requirement for ancestor worship). The project was under police investigation, the church had turned against Zachary, and Mr. Goshi cut his losses in a sad farewell. Since he liked Zachary, Mr. Goshi had him placed in low berth and shipped him and Hal 15 jumps away from Antares, using Zach’s Cr30,000 share of the project.
A curious Hiver, ‘Anton’, had Zachary unfrozen. Anton thinks he made a wonderful choice by befriending Zachary afterward. Zachary likes meeting people; he can’t help explaining how he thinks the universe really works; and the Hivers get to observe the customers’ amazed reactions. The whole Hiver colony now uses Zachary as their go-between with transients needing computer or other work.
Zachary did have some mental damage from the unauthorized low berthing. He has less control over his action (reduced WIS) and acts more impulsively than before.
Appearance: Zachary is recognizable by the photo-optic shades implanted over his eyes (to counter Antares’ brightness). He dresses neatly, in white with black trim, but always firmly lower class. He is perversely proud of the status that helped get him shipped off Antares.
Talk: In negotiation, he is humble about his talents, and sells what the Hivers can do instead. Zachary is obsequious to anyone in authority. Once work is in process, he relaxes and chats with the customers. The Hivers take as long as it takes to run out of interesting reactions from their customers.
Hal: Once Zachary starts explaining his theories, Hal will ‘speak up’ in a firm, friendly voice. Hal will, throughout Zachary’s exposition, assist with video and map holo displays.
Zachary’s Favorite Topics:
To Nobles: A Vilani faction used the Terrans to overthrow the established regime of the Ziru Sirka. Hal has an assortment of charts and graphs of relative industrial capability and charts mapping the movements of various ‘key’ individuals designated by Hal as go-betweens.
To military characters: A Terran faction called the Illuminati runs the Imperium through the Archdukes. That is why the Archdukes stayed out of the Imperial Civil War. The ‘real’ nobility considers the Navy and Army to be expendable toys. Hal displays the relevant sections of library data about the Imperial Civil War, which records Admirals claiming the throne but makes no mention of the Archdukes.
To others: Antares/Antares must have been created by the Ancients. There are rumors of underground tunnels disappearing miles under the surface. Hal displays orbital charts and maps of how a hollow world could work. And so on.
Developments: When he was shipped off world, his DNA and ID were processed. He has received a one-way message from his natural parent(s) asking for a meeting. It included contact information, but he is no longer on Antares to use it. He is looking for someone going to Antares, who he will ask to relay a message to the contact address.