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[caption id="attachment_4776" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Teerah Shepard"][/caption] Teerah remembers her parents. This is not what people expect at first. She is a slumrat, one of the dregs. They crawl up from nothing and come to nothing, which is what everyone says and everyone knows. But she remembers her parents and her father’s bright smile and her mother’s strong hands. What became of them, well, she remembers that too, but it’s not important. What is important is that she kept on; she survived; she did not compromise. When she enlists she’s still a slumrat, crawled up from nothing, who will come to nothing. Everyone says and everyone knows that she will wash out. Her kind don’t do well with authority or structure, taking orders and following rules. It is not the first untrue thing said of her and it will not be the last. She keeps on, she survives, and she does not compromise. On Akuze, she is the only one. She remembers what became of her unit, the ways in which each and every one of them died. But it’s not important. They look at her differently then. Before: she's damaged, no matter how many years of perfect service--perfect soldiering--precede her, a look at her pre-service history paints her in colors that bleed into everything afterwards. After: she’s broken, which is just a more heroic form of damaged. It’s all another skin they want so badly for her to slip into. Teerah would wish to be defined by all of her actions, her attitudes, and the choices she makes, not just the parts of her past that burn bright in other people’s minds, shaping their expectations. But she’s smart enough to know that they will never stop defining her by the things she’s walked away from. She is a pristine whole--unwavering, just, and charitable. They only see her parts. It’s not important. She keeps on. She survives. She does not compromise. Arie Salih.