The Jacket, Part 1

“It wasn’t even a very nice jacket.”

Brendan grumbled to himself as he trudged up the main road of Sector Omega. He’d only been on Belarus for three days, and he’d already grown to hate the colony. Less than a month since he’d graduated from the academy. Three years since he said goodbye to his family, and signed up for the fleet…

“Keep it for good luck. Wear it when you fly.” That was his older brother, Eric. He had been so proud that his kid brother had made the grade. Brendan had only been twelve at the time. It’s not an unheard of age to be accepted to the academy, but it wasn’t common, by any means. Eric had already settled into his life tending the family store back on Earth. Brendan joining the academy not only meant there was one less mouth to feed, but also that at least someone in their family would be making a name for themselves.

Brendan spent his first year in the academy convinced that someone had made a mistake. He struggled with everything, but finally hit his stride. The comm-vids from Eric and the rest of the kids certainly helped. By the time he graduated, he wasn’t quite at the top of his class, but he was a damned respectable pilot.

“Keep it for good luck,” Eric had said. Maybe he should have kept it himself. Brendan sighed, as he remembered the comm-text. Central command never personalized anything. Certainly nothing as personal as a vid call. “Cadet Garrison, it is our deep regret to inform you that your brother, Eric Garrison, has been killed on Earth. You have been granted three days to grieve. — Major Addams, Central Command”. Of course, Major Addams didn’t mention giving him time to return to earth for Eric’s funeral. There would have been no point. It’s nearly a month’s journey from the academy back to Earth.

It took a while to get connected to Jennifer, but when he did, she confirmed the news. Robbery gone bad. Eric had been closing up the store for the night when the robbery happened. The store’s sec-vid system wasn’t very good, but two gunmen entered the store, and as Eric was handing over merchandise, one of the gunmen got twitchy. Jennifer and the kids were getting by, but the insurance money wouldn’t last forever. Jennifer couldn’t run the store by herself. The last time Brendan spoke to her, she was talking about selling the business.

“Keep it for good luck.” Eric and his wife Jennifer had taken in Brendan and Jake when the three boys had lost their father several years back. Eric was ten years older than Brendan, and his own oldest child was the same age as Jake. Brendan had done what he could to help out, but always felt like he was a burden on his older brother, who had taken over their dad’s business when he retired. And now he’d never see Eric again. That had all been about 6 months before graduation.

So when graduation came and went, Brendan signed up for the detail that paid the best. Rather than be a flashy fighter pilot for the Earth Defense arm of the U.E.C., he signed up as a M.E.C.H. jockey one one of the mining outposts. The extra pay, he’d have sent back to Jennifer to help her and the kids. It’s the one thing he felt like he could do, to preserve his brother’s memory. That, and wear the jacket whenever he flew.

Seven months since he lost his brother. One month since he finished the academy. Three days since he arrived on this rock. Two hours since he discovered that some jackass had stolen his brother’s jacket.

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