— Roberta Golding
Roberta Golding (born in 2025) was a character in the Long Earth series. Exceptionnally bright for her age, she was born in Happy Landings and is the first Next we encounter even if they were named like this starting only from The Long Mars.
Having been raised in human society most of her life, she thought her best position is to serve as an interface between the Next and the humans.
Being smart as she was, she usually could see the deceptive element of a joke in advance. This is why she liked Buster Keaton movies.
Because of her bright mind, she won a scholarship that allowed her to take part in the Chinese East Twenty Million mission as a gesture of good faith between the Datum US government and the Federated Republic of China. This is how, around spring 2040, she ended up travelling aboard the Zheng He chaperoned by Jacques.
Not very talkative, Roberta had a hard time bonding with the crew and every attempt at humour from Captain Chen Zhong was met with a poker face.
With Lieutenant Wu Yue-Sai, who was assigned as an informal companion to Roberta, and when it was deemed safe, they explored Earth East 2,201,749, home of the crest-roos, Earth East 8,616,289, home of a tortoise civilization, and Earth East 20,000,000, their expedition's target.
When they reached Earth East 20,000,000, a party was organized but Chen Zhong felt that his moment of glory was spoiled by Roberta's lack of enthusiasm and accused her of feeling superior to everyone. Roberta then started crying and ran to her room. The next day, Jacques came to her and discovered that she was crying because she was thiking about the crest-roos who were wiped out by a hypercane.
Jacques, in an effort to comfort her took her to see the trolls on the observation deck and they spent the night there.
In May 2041, now working for President Cowley's administration, she is seen on stage in a group of dignitaries behind the President while he's giving the inaugural speech of the new Capitol in Madison West 5.
In January 2045, now a famous member of Cowley's cabinet due to her quick ascension in only a few years, she is back at Capitol Square, Madison West 5, for the launch of the USS Neil A. Armstrong II and the USS Eugene A. Cernan, for which she advised on the planning of their new expection working with Nathan Boss, the Armstrong II's XO.
At the end of August 2045, after the Armstrong II and the Cernan came back from their trip to Earth West 250,000,000 with the Napoleons in custody, she is at the Pearl Harbor USLONGCOM facility in a glass-walled booth with Nelson Azikiwe, watching the 'Special Contingency Task Group' put together by Cowley discuss the issue of the Next. When the conference ended and the task group decided to authorize the use of a nuclear weapon, Roberta, being related to most of the Next since her maternal grandmother was a Spencer, felt she had to intervene and asked if Nelson could help the Next.
Nelson then contacted Joshua Valienté, who in turn contacted Sally Linsay, just back from her trip to the Long Mars, and they managed to free the Next inmates from the USLONGCOM facility through the soft places and brought them to Happy Landings.
In 2056, Roberta was meeting up with Melinda Bennett, Gerd Schulze and Marvin Lovelace, three other Next in an abandoned farmhouse in a stepwise footprint of Miami. They were together to discuss the case of Stan Berg, a young man living in Miami West 4 and was a potential Next.
Stan, obviously smart, lacked prudence and always ended up in trouble, just like when he got beaten up by a crowd after coming to the rescue of a kobold. It was agreed to contact Stan and bring him to the Grange for his own safety. Roberta decided to break cover and approach Stan and his family.
However, as she reached Stan's home, only Stan's mother, was here to greet here. They both sat at around a table in the living room and she told Martha Berg that her son was a Next and that they might need to bring him to the Grange for his protection as they waited for him.
Stan finally came back home with his friend Rocky Lewis and wasn't surprised to find Roberta there. He actually seemed that he was expecting her.
The four of them talked about Stan's childhood, how his teachers had trouble to keep up with him and how his parents, after attempts of teaching him at home, let him loose on various online ressources. Roberta told Stan about her she grew up among humans herself and understood the frustration it brought.
She argued that if Stan would have grown up among his own kind, he could have learned so much more. Rocky, Stan's friend, didn't like how Roberta always referred to "us" and "them" when talking about Next and humans and it made him cringe each time.
In the end, Stan stepped away to get some air and have time to think. Martha told Roberta that, despite not having a super brain herself, she knew enough of her son to know he would go with Roberta and take a look at the Grange.
Several months after Roberta's visit, the Next sent Jules Van Herp, a human working for them, to collect Stan and Rocky at his house. The trio stepped all the way to the footprint of Miami on Earth West 10 where Roberta and Marvin were waiting for them.
Stan told Roberta that he didn't expected Jules to show up and didn't expect Marvin, who could be seen something around the beanstalk construction site dealing cards, either.
Roberta told him that Jules, as a human who knew them, was some kind of middle-man and that they brought Marvin along since Stan already knew him from his poker sessions.
The group stepped through soft places to reach their destination. On the way, Roberta explained, on Stan's insistence, how, with the proper training, one could be able to step through the soft places.
Once at the Grange, after travelling through a lot of soft places, the group separated as Marvin was leading Stan and Rocky to the house where they would be staying. Roberta came looking for them the next day and started the tour with the school.
On the way to the school, they discussed about the importance of sex for the Next, even if they were not obsessed by it, the governing system at the Grange where most of the people made themselves useful and how they had no visual art, religion, of written fiction since they lacked the ability to enjoy it like humans.
Once at school, they saw children of various ages playing in freedom under the supervision of adults. Stan envied the freedom they had and Roberta told him he could act as a teacher if he decided to live at the Grange.
During their walk, they ran in Jules, who was sweating after digging a drainage ditch all morning. He joined them and Roberta thanked him for joining in on the effort and Jules, pleased, tried to say something in quicktalk. Stan stared at him in disgust and compared Jules to a kobold, trying to get the Next's approval the same way kobolds were trying to act like humans.
This made Jules upset but he said nothing, hoping Roberta would defend him but she didn't say anything. Then Stan snapped at Roberta, evidently disappointed at what he has seen at the Grange so far, took Rocky's hand and stepped away through a soft place.
When Stan came back from the Grange, his head was full of new ideas and his started to preach around the beanstalk construction site. By spring 2059, whole crowds gathered to hear him speak and he even had followers who wrote everything he said and called him 'Master'. The crowd was in turn watched by cops and company security agents.
Roberta was at one of Stan's speeches with Melinda, Rocky and Martha Berg the day Sally Linsay came searching for him to take him all the way to Earth West 1,217,756 and for this, she needed Rocky's help.
Roberta, Rocky and Sally went to the Long Earth Trading Company HQ where Mr Russo lent them a conference room so they could talk privately. Rocky complained that everyone wanted to get rid of Stan because he became a nuisance to the Next, the government and the companies like the LETC. Sally and Roberta agreed to tell him the truth : in New Springfield, an extraterrestrial race named the silver beetles were accelerating the Earth's spin to dismantle the planet and threatened to do the same across all the Long Earths. Having no means to stop them they still came up with an idea to prevent their spreading on other Earths by sealing the planet off.
Rocky asked why they needed him and couldn't ask Stan's help themselves but Sally replied that they couldn't afford him to refuse. Rocky, seeing no alternative, asked if Stan would be alone. Sally, held his hand and promised him that he won't.
When they headed back to the construction site, it was evening and Stan was still sitting at the same spot, still preaching. Rocky walked through the crowd toward Stan as Roberta, Sally and Martha stayed at tbe back of the crowd. Rocky said something to Stan and pointed to his mother. Stan took his jacket, excused himself to his followers and walked towards the three woman with Rocky's arm around his shoulders.
Roberta was present on Earth West 1,217,756 just before its destruction, as people were saying their goodbyes to Stan Berg, Sally Linsay and an android called Lobsang who were giving their life to save mankind. After the goodbyes, everyone was evacuated aboard the USS Brian Cowley except for the three heroes.