Torenberg West

Torenberg West Portrait
Torenberg West Portrait
Holly H.
Holly H.
Art Approval:
Feel free to draw my character, but I want to approve it before publication, please!
Torenberg West
Name Notes:
Professor Torenberg West.  Will always introduce himself by his full name and title; but doesn’t necessarily insist on it (unless he’s *trying* to be a jerk to someone).  So folks can call him a variety of things, depending on their preference and degree of relationship to him.  Call him by his surname, call him Prof. West, call him Torenberg, or call him “Tor” if that’s too much of a mouthful (and if you’re on friendly enough terms with him).  We’ll see if anyone winds up just calling him “professor” or “prof”.

(Very technically, he should not be using “professor” if he doesn’t have an active, tenured teaching appointment at a university.  If he did, and was just on sabbatical for research, that’d be fine, but… that would mean he’d been on sabbatical for like 9 years now, and that really isn’t done.  Perhaps he does have tenure?  But I’m not sure how that would work, in terms of the university allowing him to just be out in the field all the time.  People who hold ph.D’s but aren’t professors usually go by “Dr.”, but I think he ran into the problem early on that folks out on the Rim and so on thought he was a medical doctor.  So he started using “professor” to avoid confusion.)

Has used aliases on occasion.  While he is not “famous”, his name would be known in the right academic circles, so if he is doing something he doesn’t want attached to his name / academic reputation, out comes an alias.  Will usually mash together the names of Earth-that-was historical figures he’s studied/admired. 

During the war, he did weapons/explosives R&D for the Independents under the name Nikola Sagan.
Date of birth:
World of birth:
Physical Appearance:
5’10, solid build learning towards burly, square-jawed with a cleft chin, prominent arched nose.  Brown eyes, wears glasses.  On the darker end of fair skinned, tans.  Brown hair with a wavy, springy texture, wears long sideburns (that aren’t quite muttonchops), hair is starting to grey at the temples and sideburns (and it shows in his beard / stubble).  Is polydactyl; six fingers on each hand, with full range of movement.  Deep voice, slightly formal way of speaking (definitely sounds like a professor), American neutral accent.

Has a number of tattoos, though most are not visible when he’s wearing his usual turtlenecks and long sleeves.  If he’s wearing a t-shirt though, you’d seen them.  He has tended to get them out of a combination of curiosity, sociability, and research (he authored a paper about it); and finds that having them can help him break the ice in social situations out on the Rim.  He has two partial sleeves, with some traditional ocean designs.  His right arm has the constellation Orion, above a small sailboat and a waves design.  His left arm has a pair of coelacanths, and also the waves design around the upper arm.  (Possibly something else, tbd.)  Finally, he has a small tattoo on the left side of his neck (usually covered by the turtleneck), of a little cartoon owl and some kanji, which is the advertising mascot of a Japanese brand of beer.  (That’s the most “embarrassing” one, gotten when he was fairly drunk.) Picture references coming!  (Note: did not yet have most of these during the War.)
Casual wear tends to be tees, sweaters (both usually dark; and usually turtlenecks for the sweaters), and flannel shirts (of which he owns about three), basic dark work-pants, well-worn brown boots; sometimes suspenders. 

Has a dark grey great-coat (into which he has sewn some high-tech lightweight armor-fabric.  In addition to a standard gun-belt, will wear a baldric with another holster.  Also has a cross-body leather bag for fieldwork (i.e. something in which he can carry either his data tablet or notebooks, and random papers and stuff.)

Because of the polydactyly, has several sets of custom-made gloves, and can make some for himself if he needs to.  (Although, for EVA suits, if he has to use a standard-issue suit with normal gloves, he’ll try to get a larger size and then will just put two fingers into whichever fits.)  Has a particular fingerless pair that he constructed to be useful in a fight -- allows a full range of motion, but has armor inside over the knuckles.
Most important: data tablet and some external storage bricks that contain his field notes and handy references.  Backs up frequently, occasionally deposits backup bricks in various safe locations, or even ships them “home”.  Also has actual paper journals with various notes (backed up by making digital photographs of the pages).

Weapons: still figuring this out, but he’s definitely a bit of a weapons nerd.  Always was, and it has a practical bent since coming out to the Border and the Rim.  Has two standard pistols/revolvers (one is based on a Colt Walker .44 revolver fitted for cartridges; the other is a Maverick 500, a very large modded revolver with 12 mm cartridges); and at least one rifle or shotgun, and usually several grenades / flashbangs; probably a grenade launcher attachment for the rifle/shotgun?  Also a small, portable crossbow.  Might even have a laser pistol brought from the Core?  Is good at tinkering with weapons, is a good shot, and has absolutely no hesitation with them.

Also certainly has some knives (of various sizes and utility, including a stag-handled bowie knife), and can throw with reasonable accuracy. 

(His two personal revolvers are not for sale or trade; same probably with the bowie knife, which probably has a custom grip made for his bigger hands.  Everything else he has, weapons-wise, he might use for trade or sale. Sometimes weapons-talk is a good way to break the ice in a new place, and being willing to sell or trade is a good way to get on someone’s good side; or get out of a tight spot.)

He’s the type who collects curiosities, especially if they relate to his work / interests (which are, to be fair, broad).  So his personal quarters will eventually come to resemble a cross between a curiosity shop and a museum.  He’ll pick up natural specimens, interesting folk art, and junk that might be useful.  He’s not necessarily attached to the individual pieces, though.

When he met up with the Jin Dui, he had recently lost his own ship, the Gnat-class Coelacanth (in the Sturges space-port collision disaster).  So he lost whatever was aboard it, and only had what he was carrying on his person.  That included: the clothes on his back; his two pistols, a bowie knife, and a couple of small knives; a spare pair of glasses; a pair of goggles; some of his gloves (which live in pockets of his great-coat, which he was wearing); his data tablet and two paper journals; and a duffle bag containing a few armaments he had purchased in Sturges (tbd).  He had fortunately done a back-up on arrival at Sturges and posted the brick “home”.

He had a cache in a locker on Persephone, containing some weapons and other stuff, which he’ll want to visit.  But soon after signing on with the Jin Dui, he had to borrow clothes from ship’s stores until he could buy new stuff.  He did try to build up his supplies at the next good stop (clothes, weapons, ammo, paper journals, back-up bricks).
Father (Josiah West) was a small-time merchant of a ramshackle souvenir/”antiques”/junk shop (Jos. West’s Boardwalk Bazaar) in a seaside town back on the home planet.  Father is dead now, and older brother (Tannenbaum) has taken over the business.  Mother (Miriam West) is still alive.  Has a twin brother, Tiegermann (usually goes by “Ty”), with whom he has a close but sometimes contentious relationship.  Ty is also out in the Border / Rim frequently, and the two do cross paths on occasion.  (Still developing details on Ty.)

(His given name, Torenberg, is a family surname from his mother’s side of the family.  The family’s background is Reform Jewish, but they were already fairly secular, and Tor is an atheist.)
One of his oldest and best friends is Cornelius Samuel Hicks (goes by “Sam Hicks”, though  Tor tends to refer to him as “Samuel”).  They were college roommates and quickly became buddies.  Samuel specialized in engineering and robotics, and has become extremely wealthy on Londinium as the head of the small but sought-after CSH Robotics Inc.  While engineering isn’t Tor’s primary speciality, during college and after he would help Samuel tinker with stuff (the two together tend to result in projects of questionable wisdom and safety). The two maintain a close friendship, and Samuel uses a portion of his vast fortune to bankroll Tor’s research (partly out of genuine interest in Tor’s work, partly out of wanting to help his friend, and partly for the tax write-offs). He’s the patron who Tor is least answerable to, in terms of having to account for what he does or spends money on (he does report on all of that to him, but Samuel is very lenient and gives Tor a lot of autonomy in making spending decisions).  Tor does keep an eye out for stuff that would interest Samuel, and will ship things back to him.  In fact, Samuel is the “home” where Tor ships everything (finds to be forwarded to the museum, back-up data bricks, etc.).  Samuel is married, with one child, a son of about 14.

Also, just making note here of a possible enemy out there, from his War days.  Leaving this vague for the moment, for future development if desired.  Most of Tor’s regular work doesn’t make him serious enemies (until he get involved with Jin Dui!); more the type of people who might try to break his nose if they saw him again. But I’m thinking during the War, he came up against someone who was a weapons dealer / terrorist, something along those lines, and after dealing with him out of necessity for a while, Tor eventually did something that thwarted a scheme or interfered with the guy’s business or convinced higher ups to break ties with him.  As I said, TBD if we want to pick up those threads at some point.  The guy would have known him as Nikola Sagan; but it wouldn’t be that hard to track him down today.  But Tor doesn’t really think that is an open issue, and doesn’t regard himself as hiding or being on the run.  So it’s not something he would think to mention up front.
Piloting.  Can fly in atmo.  Not the best of the best, but workmanlike ability to fly.  Learned to fly so that he could sometimes pilot himself around a planet, or on short trips.  Happy to help others learn.  Primarily (and most recently) flew a Gnat-class personal ship (the <i>Coelacanth</i>); occasionally flew a couple of Fireflies and other types of ships during the War, but was not primarily a pilot.

Languages.  Fluent in multiple languages.  (partial list: Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Spanish, French, German, Navajo; probably some languages picked up during his IHZ research, tbd.)

Good at tinkering with basic mechanical things, like weapons and small machines.  (Not really with big systems, though.  He’s not going to be that helpful in the engine room or anything.)

Lecturing.  ;-)  He can get his professor on at the drop of a hat, and is knowledgeable enough at a wide range of subjects to talk with some authority on them.  As “skills” go, this can be useful for entertainment (and he’s also a good storyteller, with a dramatic flair), or to bamboozle or provide a distraction.

A good artist, who is as apt to put drawings of things in his notebooks as he is to try to take pictures.

Has a good singing voice, and a pretty extensive repertoire (by this point) of folk-songs, both from the ‘Verse and from Earth-that-was.

Because of his seaside upbringing, he can swim very well, fish, and sail small boats.  (Conversely -- he isn’t that familiar with handling animals, or riding horses.  He can do so, but nobody will mistake him for an expert rider.)
There’s huge overlap between his “work” and his “hobbies”, so that they’re basically one and the same.  Always eager to learn and discover, to ask questions, take notes, and if he can, try his hand at something. That’s “fun” to him.  Even in “down-time”, when enjoying games with others, there’s elements of the enthusiastic anthropological observer in what he does.
Combine an eager and enthusiastic social scientist with a bit of a daredevil.  Think of a cross between Indiana Jones, Steve Irwin, and David Attenborough (although with the specialities of the latter two aimed more at folklore and culture and history, than animals; but, Tor’s interests are so broad that yes, he’d get that excited about interesting and unusual animals and insects and stuff as well).  Re. the weapons/explosives side, think of him as falling somewhere in between Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters.

The Indy (and Irwin) part reflects the fact that while he’s an academic, he’s also very physically capable with something of a swashbuckling instinct, whether leaping in to investigate something, or handling himself in a fight (with weapons, or even just fists).

Warm and kind enough manner to keep from seeming like a cold or stuffy academic. Enthusiastic and cheerful, with a tendency to want to include whoever’s around in whatever he’s excited about.  Not always the most diplomatic, or sometimes aware of social undercurrents, unless he’s really, really concentrating on it.  Matter of fact about his own skills and level of genius, to the point where it may seem like arrogance or boasting (he just sees it as being truthful; and thus, won’t claim things that he can’t back up, but doesn’t see the point in being modest.)  Not actually very good at lying.

Likes kids and animals, even if he isn’t very practiced at interacting with either.  But is relaxed enough around them to deal with them pretty well.  Is willing to help take care of animals (or indeed, kids!), as he is always kind of eager to try his hand at learning things unfamiliar to him.

Does have a temper, and it isn’t all that far beneath the surface.  Really rub him the wrong way, and the first thing that comes out is a snotty, condescending haughty-professor attitude.  Usually keeps control of himself, but can be easily provoked (ready to stand up for himself, or others), and won’t hesitate to throw a punch or draw a gun.  Has a protective streak that is pretty easily triggered on others’ behalf.

While he brings a lot of enthusiasm and passion to his work and interests, he notably doesn’t really have a romantic side.  He leans more to the aromantic-asexual side of the spectrum; he’s had sex, in the past, and isn’t really interested in it.  Not a prude on the subject (given his research interests, could hardly be), but if it comes to personal advances, can become flustered and awkward, and will work to escape the situation.
(Still working out some of this)

Grew up on the Core planet Bernadette; but, in a smaller, seaside town with a lot of tourism; to parents of modest means.  Father was a shopkeeper for a small shop that sold junk / antiques / souvenirs to tourists.  So he didn’t grow up rich.  His family made ends meet through the family business, but they aren’t wealthy. 

Torenberg’s academic genius  got him noticed early on in schooling, and he was able to get a scholarship to one of the most prominent Londinium universities, where he earned degrees in multiple fields (as well as studied some things that he doesn’t have actual degrees in).

His *main* area of expertise is anthropology / folklore.  But he has a wide range of interests, including: languages (fluent in multiple languages, tbd, but almost certainly Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, and Spanish); literature; history; art history / architecture; geology; paleontology (although tbh i’m not sure what that “means” in this kind of setting).  In addition, he has a flair for some very basic practical engineering stuff -- such as the weapons tinkering.  (Doesn’t have degrees in that, but has some demonstrated practical small-mechanical skills.)

His main ph.D. in anthropology / folklore was done in relation to Indigenous Heritage Zones, specifically the way that some of them have selected for and adapted their traditions to the physical realities of new worlds, when those traditions were heavily tied to locations on Earth-that-was.  (An example would be the importance to the Navajo of the Four Sacred Mountains on Earth.  I think I’m going to keep his dissertation having been about the Navajo / Dinétah, because I’ve at least done a lot of reading about that.  I intend to keep this somewhat vague, though, because while I think the actual questions related to these issues are very interesting, I want to avoid suggesting an answer in behalf of any of those groups.)

Since that time, his main area of study has been the new legends that have arisen on planets, especially on the Border and the Rim, and those legends/folklore’s function, relation to historical examples, and the reality underlying them, if any.  What folktales and legends are people creating, where are they coming from, what roles are those things playing in the society that develops?  (And it would be interesting to contrast what happens with planet-side populations, versus interplanetary travelers.)  I’d think the Reavers would be of especial interest to him -- it kind of sounds like, in the Core, the Reavers would be regarded as almost mythical?  But he would absolutely believe that the stories surrounding them have a basis in fact; the question is, how much is fact, and how much is amplified by their legendary status, etc. This focus obviously took him out of the Core, to do fieldwork in the Border and Rim systems. 

He started that a couple of years before the War started, and then, instead of high-tailing it back to the Core, stayed out there, went underground by taking on an alias, and did weapons R&D for the Independents (as “Nikola Sagan”).  (I don’t think he’s a “true believer” in either side or cause, but I think he had some sympathy for the point of view of the Independents because he’d been traveling amongst them for a few years at that point. And I don’t think he’s unaware of some of the problems inherent in the way the Alliance does things.  I think his viewpoint is… you can’t be a student of history, especially the history of Earth-that-was, but also just, as a clear-eyed observer of the way human beings operate, without totally understanding why the war happened, and why the Independents rebelled. To his way of thinking, it was stupid that the Alliance didn’t understand that, and modify their approach; and that they were too inflexible to do so is symptomatic of some of the problems the Alliance creates for itself. So he doesn’t think the Alliance is perfect, or that everything they do is good.  He’s not a political scientist and he doesn’t have a solution, which he admits. The existing status quo isn’t ideal, and probably needs more compromise; but that itself is far easier said than done, which history also bears out.)

After the war he re-emerged as himself, and had to go back to the Core to establish that he hadn’t died / to clean up any legal ramifications of having been assumed dead. He managed to convince people that he had just laid low on a very backwater planet and avoided the war.  Then he headed back out, with his funding sources renewed.

(He doesn’t advertise the fact that he was Nikola Sagan TOO widely; but he sometimes isn’t as careful about that as he probably should be.  In addition to taking the alias, at the time he also changed his appearance slightly -- different haircut, different glasses, different choices in clothing, and he also did not have most of his tattoos at the time.  While there are usually other primary reasons to have gotten the tattoos, he does know it helps that he has them, while most people would know that Nikola Sagan didn’t.)

His funding for his research is a combination of grants from the University (which expects reports, and published articles/books); the main Art and History Museum on Londinium (look up it’s real name; which expects reports, and preferably legally-acquired artifacts to add to its collections); and extra funding from his old buddy C. Samuel Hicks (see “Friends”). (That arrangement is a little bit like being a “kept man”, except without romantic/sexual overtones. It does sound a little suspicious to some, though, so Tor is just wise enough not to talk about it too much or advertise it openly when he’s in the field.) 

He has already authored a number of papers for academic journals, from the field, usually about interesting findings that are tangential to his main research.  But he’s always working on articles or books with a view towards publishing, because that’s what keeps the University patrons happy.

After the War, he had a little Gnat-class ship that he used to get around, called the <i>Coelacanth</i>.  It was unfortunately destroyed in the Sturges space-port collision disaster, during which he met members of the Jin Dui’s crew.  He wound up signing on with them because he needed a way off the planet and back to Persephone (where he had a cache in a locker); and then it was discovered that one of Jin Dui’s pilots had skipped out, so Tor started filling in on that role. He’s also found that his weapons interest and experience has proven useful to the ship.

Being on a ship with people again (as opposed to a solo ship, where he’d only see people when doing his field research) has reminded him that he does like company occasionally… and an audience. ;-)  Jin Dui’s trading routes take him around to planets and stations where he can continue both his research and his search for museum objects and other interesting things in his spare time.
5'10", E=brown, H=greying brown. Academic traveling the 'Verse doing field research (mostly folklore).  Fair but not expert pilot.  Has unrelated expertise in weapons/explosives.  Very intelligent, generally enthusiastic, nerdy, a bit swashbuckling.  (Joined up with the Jin Dui during the Sturges disaster.)

Linked Art:

Torenberg West Portrait
Torenberg West Portrait
Holly H.

Prof. Torenberg West
Prof. Torenberg West
Holly H.

Torenberg West - ready to throw hands
Torenberg West - ready to throw hands
Holly H.

Torenberg West
Torenberg West
Holly H.

Torenberg West - profile sketch
Torenberg West - profile sketch
Holly H.

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