James (Jim) O'Brien ("Diego"). Narrator of the story. Religious historian, former Rabbi of Unitarian/Jewish Congregation (but not a literal believer), hired by TABB (Transnational Alliance for Better Business) to manage the ethical issues of sending life into space. Happily married to Esther, with daughter Rebecca and son Adam. Enjoys talking to robots and treating them almost as if they were human.
Stephanie Goldenrod, PhD ("Estephania"). Flawed heroine of the story. Believes her mission, as the namesake and great-granddaughter of famed physicist and comologist Stephen Hawking, is to save human life and civilization by spreading it out to space. Chief of IFB (Infinite Future Branch) of TABB. PhD in Theater Arts. Former agent in the TBI ( TABB Bureau of Investigation). Unhappily married to a minor functionary at TABB.
Jim's Boss. Head of RRD (Religious Research Department) of TABB, works for Stephanie. Appreciates Jim's punning verbalisms. The very model of a cautious corporate manager.
VI ("Vast Intelligence"). White-suited IRA (Intelligent Robotic Agent, certified as smart as average human). Stephanie's office manager. Female, but no competition for Stephanie in that department.
XI ("Xtra Intelligence"). White-suited IRA. Stephanie's personal secretary. Male in an androgenous way.
Hawking Head. Celi ("Celebration of Life"), an electronic appliance that stores all of Hawking's writings along with photos and videos, etc. Animated head attends to conversations and speaks up when appropriate.
Chapter 2 - Team Building - June 2052Esther O'Brian. Jim's wife, a college administrator. Thinks and speaks in the present tense.
Adam O'Brian. Jim and Esther's younger child, a "cat" (catalog child). Inherited his dad's sense of humor.
Rebecca O'Brian. Jim and Esther's older child, a "nat" (natural child). Plays soccer and collects watches "with hands!"
Sleeplane Medics. A gold-suited IRA with a silver-suited helper. Human passengers who travel by sleeplane are given sleepo (sleeping potion) by the medics who pick them and their luggage up at home and deliver them, in a transport capsule, to the airplane. The process is reversed at the destination, using wayko (wake-up potion).
Preservaciónistas. Highly skilled technicians at Japanese DoHiMuTo (Documentary History Museum of Tokyo), charged with "preserving" the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are also making changes to these documents to provide scriptural support for human space travel, in accordance with Jim's orders.
Automated Sundries Shop. Jim purchases a flashlight, candy bar and drink at this unmanned shop in the lobby of his Tokyo hotel prior to taking a late evening stroll, quite safe given the Positive ID society that existed in most jurisdictions in the middle of the 21st century. With a PID (Positive ID device) and a net worth that is positive, a person can walk into any store and take what he or she wants. It is automatically charged to their account.
Low class prostitute. Middle-aged woman who offers Jim an "Enjo kosai? Buy date?" under a bridge near his hotel. Jim refuses and wonders how "Johns" pay prostitutes in a cashless society.
Members of TABB Planning Board. High TABB officials referred to as "My Lieges" and due a large measure of homage. They control funding for the Hawking Plan and other major TABB projects.
Luke Mathews ("Lucas"). Highly competent system engineer for the Hawking Plan. He has to keep his traditional Christian beliefs sub rosa in these anti-religious times. Stephanie calls him "Ku-Ke Lu-Ke" but respects his technical abilities. Jim and Luke engage in strenuous philosophical debate and come to be close friends. His wife Jane home schools their five children, all of whom are "nats." One is learning disabled and another has MS.
Images of Geisha and Male Dancers. One wall of the Japanese-style bathoom is a 4D display wall with sounds, aroma, and realistic views of a Japanese garden with interactive entertainers. To Jim's delight, a titilating naked geisha appears in the mirror over the bathtub.
Chapter 3 - The Value of Pi - June 2052Contracts Woman. Member of Hawking Plan team who answers interminable contracts questions for the TABB Planning Board. Jim finds this the most boring two-hour period in his entire life!
Schedule and Legal Experts. Ditto and op. sit. previous entry. Dictus (having been said) and opere citato (in the work cited). Another hour of Jim being "bored out of his skull" and straining to seem interested, or at least not fall out of his seat!
MidEastern Board Member. TABB Planning Board representative from the Muslim-dominated MidEast region. An opponent of the Hawking Plan who questions the ethics of sending living human beings into space on what might amount to suicide missions.
Tsar Sahbaka. Representative of the CentAsia region and the villain of my story. He is a successful businessman and leader of the conservadores fiscales (fiscal conservatives) who object to spending money collected from all regions of the Earth on a space exploration "boondoggle" that would mainly benefit high tech corporations in EastAsia, Europe, and NortAmer. As a boy growing up in the area of southern Russia near the Kazakh border, he personally experienced the devastation of a genetic engineering disaster that killed millions of people and left billions of square kilometers uninhabitable.
African Board Member. She is a supporter of the Hawking Plan and has great interest in spreading scientific knowledge worldwide.
European Board Member. Another supporter of the Hawking Plan.
EastAsian Board Member. Chairperson of the Board and a supporter of the Hawking Plan.
Kabuki Performers. Entertainers, in traditional Japanese regalia at Stephanie's soirée, combine kabuki with Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, and Man of La Mancha.
Chapter 4 - Incident in the Ginza - June 2052
Head “preservaciónista.” Director of the secure section of the DoHiMuTo.
Ginza Back Alley Robbers. A short man and a tall one who attempt to rob Stephanie and her Hawking Plan party while they tour the Tokyo entertainment district.
Keiatsu officers. Police manning the koban in the Ginza.
Lolita. Name made up by Jim for the trim mother of Rebecca's friend Carol who he meets when he takes his daughter to soccer games. She plays a part in Jim's autoerotic fantasies.
Barbas Grises ("Gray Beard"). Pseudonym for one of Stephanie's former mentors at the TBI, now retired. Loyal to a fault and toting a gun, he is engaged by her as a security consultant. Has the old coot lost his marbles in retirement or is he feigning confusion?
Jacob Cohen and Moshe Rosenstern. The 89 year-old Torah reader and 79 year-old gabbai who conduct the traditional Torah service at Jim and Esther's synagogue.
Chapter 5 - Troubles and Turmoil - December 2052
Diega Goldenrod ("DG"). Stephanie's daughter, born nine months after Jim's asunto secreto with her in Tokyo and bearing the feminized form of Jim's Latinized name. Stephanie claims DNA tests showed Diega was not her husband's baby, but she later said it was.
George Goldenrod ("GG"). Stephanie's husband, a low-level functionary in another division of TABB, said to be her merkin.
Bill (O'Brian's neighbor). Helpful and handy after a tornado. He and Jim clear a fallen branch from the roof over Rebecca's room and cover it with a tarp.
Jane Mathews. Luke's wife. Home schools their five children. Is responsible for running the church refuge where families whose homes were destroyed by the tornado will live until they find temporary rentals or their homes are repaired or rebuilt.
Martha and Mary Mathews. Luke and Jane's fraternal twin daughters, almost college age. The former, an outstanding student, was at a sleepover PJ party with girls from her Christain home school group and was killed when the tornado destroyed the house they were in. The latter survived because she is learning disabled and was not invited to the party. She rode the tornado out with the rest of the Mathew's family in their storm shelter. She distinguishes herself as a competent and unselfish babysitter for the toddlers of families who lost their homes and were forced to live at the church refuge.
James, John, and Jess Mathews. Luke and Jane's sons. James, the oldest, earns kudos for his work in the cleanup crew and finds a new girlfriend at the church refuge. John, who suffers from MS, helps out and gets along well at the church refuge. Jess, a toddler, is too young to appreciate the scope of the disaster.
Human Waitress. Jim meets a very pretty woman on the p-tran train. She is returning from visiting her parents who live in a retirement community in Central Florida. She lives not far from TABB Regional HQ in Atlanta and works at an upscale restaurant where customers demanded more than robot-level simple efficient service. She tells Jim her restaurant is called Dingle's Verities but he misremembers it as Dingleberries.
Dudley Wagner, aka Bozo D. (for Dingleberry) Wagner. Advanced Projects Manager at TABB regional HQ in Atlanta and Stephanie's boss's boss. Luke calls him "the number one jerk-off at TABB." Stephanie respects his skill at maneuvering projects through the TABB bureaucracy. "By comparison, he makes me look like St. Teresa."
"Latino Gal" Contractor. Member of Luke and Jane's church who Jane sends to do the relatively minor repairs to O'Brian's home. All the larger contractors are overloaded doing major jobs.
Chapter 6 - Israeli Adventure - February 2053
Betsy (Archeologist). Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. Friend of Barbas and most likely a retired TBI agent who used her Harvard connection as a cover. She leads the "archeology expedition" staged by the Hawking Plan team to find a can of film with proof of changes to the Dead Sea Scrolls supposedly hidden in the desert near Be'er Sheva by Yitzchak bar Mats.
La Reyna Abeja ("the Queen Bee"). Pseudonym used by Stephanie while on the archeological dig in Israel.
Tsar Sahbaka's People. A woman and five men from the CentAsian region who are also digging in the desert near Be'er Sheva seeking that can of film.
Chapter 7 - Charade and Confrontation - March 2053
Two Walkers. Jim encounters a man and an woman walking near Mats camp. They turn out to be Yitzchak Bar Mats and his wife.
Officers at Be'er Sheva Mishteret Yisra'el. Jim and Stephanie report Barbas and Betsy missing at the Israeli state police station.
Yitzchak bar Mats ("Izzy"). Lowly document custodian at the Shrine of the Book museum in Israel. Bar Mats queries PID records for Jim, Luke, and Stephanie while they were in Tokyo and supposedly has photos proving the Dead Sea Scrolls were modified while on loan to the DoHiMuTo. Although initially thought to be an opponent of the Hawking Plan project, Izzy turns out to be its savior. Jim, the non-believer, comes to believe Izzy is a tzadik, one of the 36 holy people for whose sake the world exists.
Bertie bar Matz. Izzy's wife who makes the most satisfying chicken soup in the whole world.
Preench Sahbaka. Tsar's westernized son. Runs away after his older brother and his sister kill Barbas and Betsy in the desert near Be'er Sheva.
Chapter 8 - Back on Track - April 2054
Largo ("Long"). Barbas's twin brother, also a retired TBI agent and mentor to Stephanie, engaged by her after Barbas and Betsy's murder to consult on security matters.
Dentado ("Toothed") called Dena. Betsy's twin sister, retired TBI, security consultant for the Hawking Plan.
Schlomo. White suited sardonic IRA owned by Izzy and named after his father. Programmed to the highest levels available. Schlomo has a hobby of finding backdoors to other robots. He befriends Jim who says he is the only Jewish IRA he has ever met.
Chapter 9 - They'd None of 'Em be Missed - May 2062
Glen Goldenrod ("GGjr"). Stephanie's son, a cat.
Alberts and Albertas. Copy cats attending the MbrionX Convention of embryo catalog children at Disney World. The original Alberts and Alberta models are celebrating their 40th birthdays in 2062. Adam, Jim and Esther's son, is a copy cat of the Albert model. Esther, Jim's wife, is President of Cats of Orlando.
Barbas and Betsy Sibs. Younger twin brothers of Barbas and twin sisters of Betsy, all TBI agents. When they retire from the TBI in 2062, they are hired by Stephanie for security duties, replacing Largo and Dena.
Avram bar Mats ("Abby"). Izzy's twin brother, a wealthy venture capitalist and investment banker who lives in St. Augustine, Florida. Jim suspects it was he who funded the impressive facilities at Izzy's Mats Camp.
Tsar's Nephew and Associates. Tsar's nephew, put in charge of his businesses while Tsar fought the Hawking Plan, ruins the businesses and becomes involved with CentAsian criminals. Tsar tricks his son Preench into putting his nephew and his criminal group's PIDs into modo contrario so they can covertly come to Disney and kill Stephanie.
Chapter 10 - Spaceship CentAsia - June 2062
Chief of Security. Highly competent security officer for HETS1 (Hawking Earth Test Site #1, in Kazakstan near Russian border).
Chief Electrician. He is very tall and rail thin. Jim takes an instant dislike for him because he seems unusually nervous during tests witnessed by Luke. He turns out to have been corrupted by Tsar Sahbaka's nephew.
Electrical Specialist IRA ("Voltron"). A blue-suited service IRA who works for the Chief Electrician. He is stationed near the inner circle where Spaceship CentAsia is scheduled to land. Jim befriends him and gives him a name, even though a service IRA should not have a name. When power fails and backup power is insufficient, Jim uses a "backdoor" provided by Schlomo, the IRA owned by Izzy, to reprogram Voltron and have him deviate from the normal sequence and get the roof of the inner circle opened with reduced power. This is accomplished just in time for Spaceship CentAsia to land safely.
Mikhail and Tsarina. Pilot and journalist for Altai Pravda, the leading media company in Khazakstan. They penetrate the "no fly zone" over HETS1 and, at Luke's order, are shot down. Mikhail's father turns out to be the President of Afghanistan and Tsarina's the CEO of Altai Pravda. As a result, primary power to HETS1 is cut off just as Spaceship CentAsia is coming in for a landing.
HETS1 Manager. Resists the order to shoot the intruding press aircraft down because of the influence of the communications company that owns it. She suggests they let it land and then negotiate an end to the flights. Luke pulls TABB strings and has her overruled. She reluctantly orders the Chief of Security to warn the aircraft and, if they ignore the warning, to shoto them down, which he, also reluctantly, does.
Altai Pravda Reporter and Cameraman. In partial repentance for the loss of Mikhail and Tsarina, Jim convinces Luke to allow their colleagues to accompany them to a position near the inner circle to observe the landing of Spaceship CentAsia. Their live TV coverage captures the drama of the near disaster when primary power fails and backup power is insufficient.