Today we’re chatting with a member of the American Republic’s military, a Riza sergeant. Please help me welcome Asher Jones.
Hello Sergeant Jones!
No need to be so formal. Asher is fine.
Very well, Asher. Thank you for joining us today.
I’m curious about Riza. Which branch of the military is it? Riza is the only military in the American Republic. We’re deployed as needed.
Is that wise? I mean you don’t have a branch dedicated to offshore defense or ground defense? The leaders of the New Order felt that it was a better use of resources this way. Thanks to the Pandemic the world isn’t the same anymore. A lot of countries can’t afford a full military. Fighting off the Virus stripped resources. Riza is big enough to easily send a unit or two to the coast and keep units on the ground if needed.
What about aid to other countries? The New Order no longer sends aid to foreign countries.
Let me get this straight. The New Order doesn’t provide necessary social services to its citizens, nor does it help other countries. You got it right. The New Order is for the American Republic and returning it to a superpower. It is building up its resources for its people. Pure and simple.
And you’re proud to serve in its military? Pride has nothing to do with it.
Care to explain? I’m not at liberty to do so at this time. Can we change the subject?
Okay. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? Easy one. I’d head to the coast, surf some waves, and check out the scenery. Nothing quite like the beaches off the Nevada coast.
Nevada coast? You hear about the Deluge? (I nod.) The whole west coast was devastated. Parts of California turned into islands. Hawaii is gone. My family lived out west before the waters rose. I still have family in New Mexico.
So what does the West coast look like if California is gone? Oregon and Washington still exist, but they’re like half of what they use to be. We refer to them as the Outer Banks. You don’t find too many people living there. Each year a little more washes away. So it’s not safe to stay there. The East coast had it just as bad. Any state on the coast was washed away. States, like Georgia, are half their former size. When the waters rose people who were able fled for higher ground. The country lost a lot of its population with the Deluge.
Unbelievable. Let’s move on.
What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? I’m a fun loving guy. Now my friend Zared would tell you I have two modes. I’m either in Riza mode, all hard ass, making decisions and getting things done, or surfer dude. But I’m not full-on military 24/7. I can be a bit of a smart ass. I’m a bit of a ladies’ man.
You’re a little young for a ladies’ man. Aren’t you only twenty-years-old? Yup. What can I say? I’ve been around.
What type of guy are you really? How do you see yourself? I’m just a guy. A hard working guy who believes in cutting through the bullshit. I’ve had an unfortunate life. I’ve done things I’m not proud of…
Like? Mostly stuff I did when I was a kid. I’m not anyone’s golden boy. I had my share of run-ins with the law. Like I said, I’m not proud of the things I did. I had shit happen in my life and I was trying to cope with it all.
Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected? My parents believed in letting us be ourselves. They didn’t hold any expectations for me nor my brother. They wanted us to make our own choices in life. I think I’ve done that.
You had a brother? Yeah. His name was Shiloh. He died during the Street Wars.
I’m sorry. Me too. He was my idol. I wanted to be like him in every way. Needless to say, I did follow in his footsteps. [He smiles, caught up in a memory.]
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? There was only one thing I thought I wanted to do, and that was marrying my first love. I lost her during the Pandemic. I imagined a life with her. Now I just want to leave this side of the country and go back to the West coast.
What’s out there? My grandmother, Mama Sibley. The woman’s a rebel. She’s had more careers than I can count on one hand. She’s a free spirit. When my parents died, she wanted me to live with her and her second husband. My paternal grandparents, Mom and Pops, wouldn’t hear of it.
Why not? They said she wasn’t a good Christian. In their eyes a good Christian didn’t run off with a man half her age. And she definitely didn’t… um… let’s just say Mama Sibley has a checkered past. I miss her.
You mentioned being a good Christian. Do you believe in God? I believe in a higher power. I believe we all answer to it in the end. I don’t see everything black and white like Mom and Pops. For my sake, I sure hope there’s a God and he or she is forgiving. If not, my ass is toast.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? What did you learn from it? I’d say the time period after I lost my family. Seeing your parents killed in front of you and losing your only sibling does something to you. I was effed up for a while. Hung out with the wrong crowd. Got into trouble. Believe it or not, joining Riza Corps and then Riza saved my ass. Turned my head around.
Zared mentioned the Alliance. Any thoughts on it? [A crooked smile crosses his face.] Zared… dude talks too much. I blame that on his girl. Ever since he met Tru he’s changed. But hey, he deserves it. His life has been just as shitty as mine. I can’t talk about the Alliance. Let’s just say it’s a force. The New Order would like to disavow their existence. Will the Alliance succeed in their mission? Only time will tell.
What are you most afraid of? Living a life alone. I lost my parents and brother during the Street Wars. I lost my first love, my in-laws, and my niece and nephew during the Pandemic. All I have are my grandparents. There may be some cousins left out West to look up.
So, is it safe to say that family is the most important thing to you? It’s more than family. It’s relationships. I value my friends. We’ve all been through some heavy shit. We lean on each other out of necessity. I’d be lost without them.
I understand that Koko Castaneda is a special friend. What do you like best about her? The girl has fortitude, you know backbone. Nothing seems to get her down. She takes adversity and turns it into possibility. Doesn’t hurt that she’s cute as hell.
What do you like least about her? Her moral code! Girl doesn’t believe in breaking rules for shit. We could have some real fun together, but she won’t budge. But I’m a patient guy. If anyone can break her, it’s me.
You sound pretty confident. Hey… It’s who I am.
How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? My life is evolving. There’s big things down the pipeline. Some of them include me. Would a change, anything? I’m working on that right now. I really can’t go into details, but they do include a certain uptight cadet. [He smiles.]
I must say it’s been a pleasure, Asher. Good luck on those changes!
Join me next week when I chat with another character from the future—Harriet Shepard, Tru’s mother!