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Fireside Chat: Meet Tru Shepard!


Today marks the beginning of a new feature—Fireside Chats. We’ll discuss issues and topics with important characters, you should know.

Our first chat is with someone from New Detroit in the future—2025 to be exact. Please help me welcome Girl on ChairTruly Shara Shepard.

Hello Truly!

Please call me Tru.

Very well, Tru. Thank you for joining us today.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? Don’t tell anyone, but I love to draw and listen to music. My favorite groups are those which the government banned.

Banned? You know we’re only supposed to listen to that synthesized crap the government promotes. [Looks over her shoulder.] Oh… you don’t have that here? Lucky.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? I can be a bit of a smart ass. I’ve had some people actually say I’m a bee with an itch. That sounds kind of harsh. It’s only because I have a problem with people lying to me. If I find out you’re a liar, I tend to kick you to the curb.

Let’s talk about that for a minute. What is it about lying that disturbs you? It says something about a person’s character. In my world you may easily be putting your life in the hands of another. Why would I trust you with my life if you lie without batting an eye?

I guess I can understand that. So, you’ve never lied? Well… um… Sometimes I have to alter information to do things. It’s the only way I can go to places like the Underground or get art supplies.

Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? No! I fib from time to time, but no one gets hurt.

 If you say so… Are you lying to yourself about something? What is it? You have to promise not to tell anyone.

I promise. If you’re lying… Well, it’s about my best friend Koko. She’s been accepted into the military academy.

That sounds interesting. For her, maybe. Not for me. I’m jealous. No, I’m pissed.

Why? She’s what we call Cogent. They’re really good with math and science, the hard stuff. Sometimes I wish I were Cogent. I’d have better opportunities in life. Instead, I’m a Creative. My kind is banned and the government hunts us down.

Sounds like a rough life. What are you most proud about your life? I’m proud of my artwork. I did this one piece, before Creativity was banned, that won an award. It was my view of Heaven.

What are you most ashamed of in your life? I’d rather not talk about it.

You’re safe here. Lady, give it a rest. I said no.

Very well. If you could spend the day with someone you admire, who would you pick? There’s this artist who lives in France. He does amazing paintings. I’d love to be able to study him even if only for a day.

You’re really into art. It defines me. Without it, I’m nobody.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected? I doubt it. They don’t appreciate me being Creative. Dad said it’s a waste of time. Mom only sees me married off to some influential guy.

How does that make you feel? Sad… pissed off at times. I want them to be proud of me, but I can’t change who I am. I won’t change who I am for no one.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? What would happen if you did it? Travel. I hate the American Republic. It’s too restrictive. But we aren’t allowed to travel freely. You have to get a permit to leave the country. If the Minister of Travel doesn’t agree with why you want to leave, you’re denied. Plus, you go on the Watch List.

That does sound restrictive. Wait. What’s the American Republic? I’ll give you the short story. The United States fell during the Revolution.

The American Revolution? No. Stop interrupting. [She rolls her eyes.] After the Street Wars there was a revolution. The government was overthrown. Scientists and technologists took over. Oh, I forgot to mention the Deluge.

Deluge? You insist on interrupting! Thanks to people in your time period, we had to suffer from coastal flooding. We lost a lot of land. The country was renamed the American Republic.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? So far? Probably my first trip to the Underground.

What is the Underground? [She crosses her arms over her chest.] Does anyone ever finish a thought with you? The Underground is a group of artists and musicians who hang out in the Warehouse District. We listen to music, talk, draw… creative stuff. Now, can I finish answering the question?

Sure. Go ahead. On my first trip to the Underground I met this guy. He was kind of cute, but I wasn’t interested. He kept pestering me. Fortunately, I had my knife. [She puts her hand up.] After that no one else bothered me. Go ahead with your question. I can see on your face.

You carry a knife? My brother gave it to me. He knew I like to go places I shouldn’t. So he taught me how to use one. I don’t leave home without it.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone? There’s this girl at the Learning Center…school… named Nia. We can’t stand each other. Well, I found out she was altering her grades in the computer. I tipped off the administrators. Now her records are flagged.

That wasn’t very nice. Why did you do it? Weren’t you listening? We don’t like each other.

What are you most afraid of? Losing my creativity. And before you ask… I’ll lose my creativity if I have the vaccine.

A vaccine that takes away your creativity? Please tell us more. I mentioned the Street Wars and the Revolution. Well, what stopped everything was the spread of Ebola. It became a global pandemic. A cure was found. Countries started vaccinating people against it. The American Republic is the only one still vaccinating. The disease was eradicated a while ago. [She raises an eyebrow and stares at me. She shrugs her shoulders.] Well, there’s been cases of weird side effects on Creatives. I know this one girl who was a gifted violinist. She had the vaccine and turned into a blithering idiot. She acts like a two-year-old.

Had the media said anything about this? The government runs the media. Nothing gets out the New Order doesn’t want people to know. They keep telling the public, nothing’s wrong with the vaccine. For the most part that’s true if you’re Cogent or a Healer. If your Creative, you get sidelined. You live your life watching everyone else have a good time. You’re back to relearning your ABCs and how to tie your shoes.

Wow! What’s the most important thing in your life? Did I mention I hate reporters? You guys repeat the same questions, phrasing it differently each time. For the last time… my creativity is the most important thing in my life. In order to keep it, I have to avoid the vaccine. When I turn seventeen, I’m supposed to be inoculated.

How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? Please say this is the end.

It is. Okay. Right now I’m not crazy about my life. I want to just be an artist. I want to draw and paint. If I could change anything, it would be leaving this country so I can be me.

If that’s really the last question, I need to go. I’m cutting class to do this interview.

I’m sorry. You should have told me that in the beginning.

Right. You were a little insistent that we do this thing. I’ve got to meet up with my friend Ko. She’s headed off to the academy tomorrow, and I’m supposed to help her pack.

Well, it was a pleasure chatting with you today, Tru. Good luck in avoiding that vaccine!

Join me next week for another Fireside Chat. We’ll be speaking with another character from the future—Zared Aoki.

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