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Fireside Chat: Meet Ko Castaneda!

Fireside

Today we’re chatting with someone else from New Detroit in the year 2025. Please help me welcome Koko Castaneda.

Hello Koko!

Ko is fine.

Very well, Ko. Thank you for joining us today. Rear view of girl

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? No such day exists in my world. Every citizen has responsibilities.

Let me phrase it another way. What do you do for fun? I enjoy watching streaming movies and hanging out with my friends.

I understand that you are a military candidate. What makes a pretty girl decide to go military? [She rolls her eyes.] I get asked that question a lot. Why would I consider a career based on my looks? That’s very shallow. I’m more than a pretty face. I have a brain and I like to use it. I’m Cogent. I was in Riza Corps. Need I say more?

I guess not. Moving on… What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? People have this opinion that I’m bossy. Can I help it if I know how to get things done? I hate it when decisions need to be made and no one steps up to the challenge. I also believe in following the rules. They’re made for a reason.

So you like bossing… I mean leading people and following rules? Life is made up of too many followers and not enough good, qualified leaders. I’m training to be one of the good ones.

Understood. What are you most proud of in your life? Being accepted into the Riza Military Academy, RMA. I’ll spend four years living in an amazing facility and learning the latest technology our government has to offer. When I graduate my family will receive a brand new smart home. My parents will also have their security status upgraded.

Security status? Thanks to years of terrorist attacks in this country, all citizens have a security status. [She holds up her wrist. Around her slender arm is a black band resembling a fitness tracker.] This is our Health Tracker. It provides instant access to our records, health and government. The color of your Tracker coincides with your clearance. Military wear black. Criminals wear red ones. If you’re a health worker or if you’re Cogent, you wear green. Most citizens wear blue ones. My parents wear the blue ones. Once I graduate theirs will be upgraded to black as a military family. They will have all sorts of benefits because of it.

Is it safe to say that you joined Riza for your family? Wouldn’t any good child choose what’s right for their family?

What are you most ashamed of in your life? The few times I let my friend Tru talk me into sneaking out after curfew.

Oh, you broke your parents’ rule to hang out with a friend? No. I broke the city’s curfew. That’s an offense which is punishable by imprisonment. Fortunately, we never got far. My next door neighbor kept an eye out. She always stopped us before we got past the driveway. I’m thankful to Mrs. Emery for that. If it hadn’t been for her, I’d never been allowed into the Academy.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected? Yes! My parents are very proud of me. Mami talks about me to all her friends. So does Papi. I’m an only child. It is up to me to keep their best interests at heart.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? I am doing what I want to do.

Come on, Ko. You sound a little too perfect. Isn’t there one thing you’ve considered doing? [She lowers her voice.] I’d love to go to the Underground. Strictly a fact finding mission.

What would you hope to find? I’d like to know why Tru enjoys going there. I hear it’s a place where lots of nonconformists hang out. Not the type of place a law-abiding, loyal citizen should go to.

Tru is your best friend. How did you meet? We met when her family moved to the New Jefferson sector. She was quiet. (Really?) Yes. The girl was painfully shy. I think it was because she didn’t know anyone. Whenever someone new enters the Center, the administrators make sure he or she is assigned a helper.

Tru has commented that you two are opposites. What do you like about her? I like her willingness to take risks. I know I get on her back about being reckless, but it’s jealousy on my part. I like knowing all possible outcomes before I act. I wish I were more comfortable with the unknown.

What do you like least about her? Her recklessness is also something I don’t like. She doesn’t always think before acting. It gets her into trouble. Tru doesn’t realize that she could still have fun planning things.

But if she plans things, she wouldn’t be reckless. Do you think if you were a little less uptight about life, you’d like her more? I am not uptight. I’m just cautious. This world requires caution. If not, the government comes after you.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? Nothing bad has ever happened to me because I’m cautious.

Could it be that nothing bad has ever happened to you because you haven’t lived? Who are you to judge me? I live in a dangerous world. People who take risks end up on the government’s watch list. People who take risks don’t get into Riza.

People who don’t take any risks are boring. People like you started the wars in our country. Move on.

What are you most afraid of? People like you.

I thought you wanted to move on. You asked. Let me ask you a question.

This should be interesting. Go ahead. What would you do if you lived in a world where your every action is questioned? Would you be obedient or disobedient?

Good question. It would depend on what I gained from obedience. If my life was boring and everyone was protected, I’d have to tip the scales. Is that what’s going on with you? Have you chosen to protect people and live a boring life? I’ve chosen to do the right thing because I’m a good citizen. [She looks over her shoulder and then whispers.] Maybe.

Ah, I think we’ve uncovered something. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? My life is good. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ko, are you lying to yourself about something? [She scribbles something on a sheet of paper and pushes it toward me.] Just read it after I’m gone.

Okay. [Ko walks out of the room. Once the door closes, I turn the paper around.] Let’s see what she wrote:

“Lady, you ask a lot of personal crap. But to answer your question… I can’t reveal anything about my life, my real purpose. I had to be accepted into the Academy, not just for my parents. Another pivotal change will happen in my world. It’s inevitable when you take liberties away from people. They will revolt. Tru is right about the vaccine. It’s all I can say.”

How’s that for a revelation? Join me next week when I chat with another character from the future—Asher Jones, a Riza sergeant!

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