Rafael Abe Padilla,19
Rafael has recently graduated high school, and sits in the wake of his childhood friends moving towards college and away from Port City. Once a part of the same Talented and Gifted Program in school as Tiff and Theo, events in his home life resulted in him only just making it out alive with his diploma. Caught in the unforgiving role of peacemaker for his tumultuous family, he works hard, but often receives little to no pay or thanks for his effort. Rafael moves through Port City with a past stuck to his back, fixed there by his dad, Arturo, and Rafael's own secret moments of personal life unseen by most others-- where, for better or worse, he exists on his own terms, and gay and trans. Daily life is further complicated under the intense scrutiny of everyone around him having strong opinions on his public transition, the cost and travel, his very presence confounding. Within all this, there are moments of solace found in the beach behind his childhood home, Kingfisher Cove, and the marine animals observed there. He categorises them in his notes and drawings.
Currently grappling with the reality of a continued future in Port City vs. the constant dull ache for a change, desperate for something more than just compromise. His unsung abilities suddenly get him hired at Roman Labs, a place seemingly far from yet enmeshed in his childhood. This seems to offer him the change he's been so desperate for.
Royal Romano̶v̶n̶a̶ Romanenko, 22
In his last semester before graduating from college, Royal dropped out. This was a move that seemed abrupt to everyone, but for him was simply the culmination of bone-deep hopelessness anyone else could have noticed if they'd taken the time. School and people have always been difficult, but working with computers, alone, has been peaceful-- and like the rest of his personal life, unknown to many. Royal knows his presence is a burden to his oppressive and distant father, Roman, the owner of Roman Labs. At this point unable to continue coping with untreated illness and unattainable transition, having grown up unable to avoid knowing he's never measured up to any expectation, Royal is eager for change. In a bid to make his child useful, Roman hands Royal the keys to ROMAN LABS, the failing aerospace-turned-consumer-electronics lab he established in 1958 after moving from Ukraine (Royal's place of birth.) An unbelievable but confusing "gift", Royal runs head first into proving himself, finally able to put his private passion for technology to use.
Royal knows he wants to, needs to change the world, even if it's only his own. Finding inspiration from a glitch in his favorite arcade game, SAINT VAGRANT, Royal sets forth, inevitably taking the town and its inhabitants with him.
Kasra "Kas" (ibn Jawad ibn Khaled) al-Ridha, D.Phil, 20
Kas is desperate to atone for past mistakes in their career, although they aren't quick to admit it. From a mixed Persian-Ahwazi Arab family on farmland in Khuzestan, Iran, and diagnosed with Juvenile Open-Angle Glaucoma at age 4, Kas' interest and ability in maths and science propelled them to pursue higher education by age 12 and completed at 19. They moved from Khuzestan to Tehran for education, and between their age, disability, and multiple other factors, Kas is no stranger to forcing the rules 'til they break. Through all this they've developed a devil-may-care approach to mask anxieties about their standing and stamina, from career to family to relationships. They're a firm believer that punk will never die, and have been quietly developing their identity as institutional rules fall away. They spent their time and funding for their doctorate in astrophysics (at Oxford University) on an unapproved thesis studying Hawking Radiation.
Kas has now escaped the stuffy and too-white setting of academia through finally graduating, working a job in interferometry at an English observatory. They try to keep their head down while scrambling to find their footing, but financial security and their natural tendency as an iconoclast leads them to say yes to a job offer from Royal Romanenko.
Tiffany “Tiff” Aquino, 18
A computer nerd that has always done extremely well in school, Tiff graduated with Rafael and Theo as valedictorian. She has been friends with Rafael and Theo since their days in the TAG Program, and considers herself a sister to them both. A go-getter, Tiff applied for an internship at Roman Labs immediately, and is hungry to work, despite it being nothing like she expected.
Theodore “Theo” Davis, 18
The star athlete of Port City’s varsity baseball team, Theo is thrilled to not longer have to play, and is ready to spend the summer before college with Rafael and Tiff. Despite overall popularity and an in with almost all of their peers, Theo prefers the easy, fun company of his oldest friends. Though quiet about his non-school interests (edging into the goth scene) he is beginning to open up and is ready for a fresh start to be himself in college (where he will study forensic science) despite having to leave Rafael behind.
June Sachiko Abe, 38
Rafael’s mother. Has been divorced from Rafael’s father, Arturo, since his final arrest, and worked towards finally being a good mother to Rafael in the aftermath. Supportive and loving of her son, she does what she thinks is right for him, but allows him too much space to care for himself.
Arturo Padilla, 41
Rafael’s father. Friends with Manny’s father, originally part of a dubious religious group. Currently in jail for breaking into Roman Labs in the late 1970s, on a whim to satisfy the beliefs fed to him by his former cult. Rafael hasn’t seen him in a while and doesn’t take his calls.
Manny Cleary, 14
Rafael’s kid cousin, a troublemaker Rafael has to watch follow in his father, Clancy’s, footsteps. The youngest cousin of the Padilla family along with his twin sister, Pilar. Manny doesn’t know how to handle the cousin that always saves him from danger vs. the world of bad choices and fatherly approval laid out before him. (Incel.)
Roman Romanenko, 58
Royal's father, originally from a small town in Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Uneducated but with considerable experience, he moved to the US, and brought his wife and new child over in the 60s. Through a government contract, he worked at what would become Roman Labs, and after the contract was up, he turned the company toward consumer electronics. Inscrutable and increasingly disillusioned (including towards his family) he has settled into retirement after the disappointing fadeout of the Space Race.
"Stacy" "Nastya" (Nazmiye) Romanenko, 47
Royal's mother. Her family moved to Roman's town from somewhere outside Ukraine, and beyond that, her background isn't fully known by Royal. He witnessed how much more comfortable and natural she seemed when they lived in a small apartment together in Port City's soviet immigrant neighbourhood. Now she takes meticulous care of herself and the Romanenko family home, afraid to let anything slip. Often found awake late at night.
Lobo Padilla/Buka Romanenko, 7 goodboy years!
Once the Romanenko family dog, now Rafael’s new best friend. Plucked from (unknowingly) the Romanenko's yard on a bad night, Rafael took the dog home, and renamed him Lobo. Everyone's pretty sure he understands commands in Ukrainian, English, and Spanish.