Warehouse of the Wondrous and the Weird
Zachary Bolton grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, where he went to high school with Raffi Baradarian, who would later become Doctor Afterburner. The two of them bonded over a common interest in cars- Zach loved the feel of sitting behind the wheel of anything with a big enough engine in it, and Raffi built engines as a hobby. Eventually the two moved to the Fort McMurray region looking for work, and ended up employed in an car scrapyard. It was there that the unthinkable occured; a late-night accident caused an engine to explode, severely burning Zach’s body and face and seemingly killing Raffi. While his physical recovery was comparatively free of complication, he suffered extensive scarring, and seemed dazed in a way that the doctors diagnosed as post-traumatic stress.
However, the doctors didn’t have all the information. Zach couldn’t clearly remember what had happened, but fragments of memory drifted through his head… an impossibly powerful engine, with Raffi explaining the science that went way over his head, and sounded coherent one moment, then completely ridiculous the next… and the moment when suddenly, he got it, just before Raffi flipped a switch and the world caught fire… Zach couldn’t explain what had happened, or how he knew, but somehow, he understood that Raffi had figured something out that went beyond ordinary science, and Zach couldn’t explain it, but he was unshakably sure that Raffi could. But Raffi was dead…
And then, Zachary found out that he wasn’t. Having gone through his own recovery, and now wearing coverings to hide his own scars, Raffi had become Doctor Afterburner. This Doctor pledged to restore what Zach had lost, and Zach was sure that, given time and help, his old friend would deliver on that promise. Zach offered to assist in any way he could, not even batting an eye when Afterburner started to explain the madness of true Genius, and the perils of being what Zach now was, a Beholden. The most pressing concern became one of social interaction: Zach’s scars were not as severe and comparatively easily concealed, and he was known to be alive, meaning that where Afterburner would invite fear, revulsion, and uncomfortable questions, Zach could handle the day-to-day tasks necessary to live in Western civilization. Zach is also a capable mechanic, one of few Afterburner can trust to assist with his devices. But where Zach is perhaps most valuable is in his ability to provide Afterburner with something he might otherwise lack: a reason to push forward, a motivation to improve his grasp of mad science, a purpose to work toward.
Zach’s most distinguishing physical feature is probably his hair: although it is shaved short on the left side of his face, he wears it long on the right, extending down to the shoulder, and covering his right eye and most of the right side of his face. The look has been mistaken for a variation on the stereotypical emo hairdo, or perhaps a cleaner version of a Skrillex hairstyle, but it serves a practical purpose: the cut covers up the worst of Zach’s burn scars.
Zachary’s personality is surprisingly upbeat, given the bad hand he’s been dealt. His enthusiasm and optimism sets him apart from the generally dourer attitude of Doctor Afterburner; indeed, Zach often ends up serving as a sort of cheerleader for “Doctor Raffi” (Zach being one of few people from whom Afterburner doesn’t mind being referred to by his old name). One would think this difference of attitudes would lead to conflict, but in practice it rarely does; Afterburner appreciates Zach’s efforts to keep him from lapsing into hopelessness, and Zach knows his friend well enough to not overstep. Zach has unwavering confidence in Afterburner’s abilities, and is convinced that everything will work out in the end- even (and maybe especially) when Afterburner himself is ready to give up and die.