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Fireside Chat: Meet Zared Aoki!

Fireside

Today we’re chatting with someone else from New Detroit in the year 2025. Please help me welcome Zared Aoki.
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Hello Zared!

Everyone just calls me Z.

Very well, Z. 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? First off, I wouldn’t have a mission. I’m a little wary of people asking me to do a mission.

Sorry. Let me rephrase… No need to. I know what you meant. If I had a free day, I’d spend it with Tru.

That’s right. You two are an item. Can you tell us how you met? We met in school in the recess yard. We’d just watch each other from opposite sides of the asphalt, never speaking. One day I got up the courage to ask to a movie. We hung out a couple of times.

Sounds sweet. Is that how people see you? Not really. I’ve always been more of the bad boy type. I’ve never been one for obeying rules.

Has that presented any trouble for you? That’s an understatement. My life has been full of trouble. Most of it I don’t wish to rehash. Hell, Tru doesn’t know most of it. I’d like to keep it that way.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? My mother passing away and my father abandoning me.

Wow! What happened to your mother? She died during the Pandemic. My father and I were lucky we didn’t contract the virus. Looking back on it, he should have been the one to get it. Mom would never have left me alone to fend for myself.

Sounds rough. How did you survive? In our world, there are no social services. I had no place to go, no family to take me in. I lived in our house until my neighbors got too nosy. Folks kept asking me where my father was at, like I knew. I moved out of the house and started living on the streets.

I’m sorry. Why aren’t there any social services? The New Order got rid of them. The leaders claimed providing people handouts weighed the government down. Stupid, right? Everyone gets lumped into the same bag. It doesn’t matter if a wife loses her husband, and he’s the primary wage earner. If she can’t find work, she suffers along with any kids she might have.

How do people live? On a wing and a prayer. Most of the needy live in New Jefferson sector. When you lump everyone into the same area, you can close your eyes to their suffering. Those who live in New Jefferson occupy abandoned buildings. They eat whatever they can find. It’s a hard life. What’s the saying? Only the strong survive.

So, they’re homeless? That term doesn’t exist anymore. The New Order refers to them as street people. According to the government, they don’t exist.

What do you mean by ‘they don’t exist’? The New Order decreed being a street person, or homeless, is illegal. The propaganda is the government cleaned up the streets, getting rid of all the street people.

You lived on the streets? Yeah. Then things changed for me when I was recruited by the Alliance.

What’s the Alliance? [Lowers his voice.] It’s a covert operation planning to overthrow the government.

That sounds dangerous. It is. I wish I never got involved with it.

Why did you? I had no choice. When someone saves your life, you end up indebted to them. I’m settling my debt.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected? Of course not. Neither of them would have wanted me to be a part of the Alliance. My dad wanted me to be in Riza, our military. I joined the Riza Corps years ago. He was proud of that. But I dropped out. Too many rules and regulations for me. My mom figured I’d do something with my computer skills. She taught me programming when I was five. She said I was gifted. I speak multiple languages, something else she taught me. I’m not using any of it now.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? To be honest, I never thought about it. When you’re busy watching your back every day, you don’t dwell on ‘what ifs’.

Tell me about your best friend. The closest person I’ve ever had to one would be Asher Jones.

How did you meet? In Riza Corps. He was the one who first told me about the Alliance.

He’s the reason you joined? Naw. He helped me see why I needed to stay with it. I was willing to blow it all to hell and take my chances back on the streets. Asher reminded me of the dangers out there. The guy’s like a brother to me. He’s always got my back.

What are you most afraid of? Losing Tru. She’s my world. I’d give up my life for her.

What do you like best about her? Her strength. The girl is a fighter. If more people were like her, our world would be a lot better. And I like how she can see the good in the world. You should hear her describe things around her. Man, sounds like she’s painting a scene.

What do you like least about her? She can be stubborn and short-sighted. She’s got this thing about honesty in others. It’s enough to drive you crazy. She doesn’t hesitate to lie if it serves her needs, though. But if you lie to her and she finds out… let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? Meeting Tru is the good part of my life. With her I feel I can be a better person. If I could, I’d take her away from this country. She deserves a place where she can be free to be herself.

You care a lot about her. Do you love her? [A faint red glow colors his cheeks.] That’s personal. Next question.

Last topic. Let’s talk about the vaccine. Have you avoided it? Yes. I’m not a Creative so I’m not worried about the same side effects Tru might have. I have intel that indicates the vaccine might alter fertility.

I wouldn’t have thought a young man would be concerned about fertility. Our world is a lot different from yours. We’re considered adults at seventeen. We have to think about our future a lot sooner than a seventeen-year-old in your world. Have I thought about kids? It doesn’t occupy my waking thoughts, but I’ve considered it. Whether or not I become a parent should be a choice between me and my spouse, not the government’s decision.

Are you implying that the government is dictating who can become parents? It’s part of something called Operation Restore. I can’t go into any details with you. I’m not supposed to even know about it. My intel is hush-hush.

Anything else you care to share with us? Not really… Maybe a bit of a warning for your world. The New Order is made up of scientists and technologists. Not the people you want running government.

Why not? Everything to them must be proven. Experimentation runs rampant. It’s the reason why Creatives like Tru live scared. When society puts more faith into scientific endeavors and forgets how to express itself creatively… I’ve said enough.

Well thank you for that insight, Zared. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

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

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