The Jacket, Part 3

He spotted Dak at a table near the back of Django’s, one of the busier entertainment facilities on Belarus. Entertainment center, Brendan though, what a bad name. He wasn’t sure how that ever came to pass. He read some about Earth culture before the forming of the Earth Government, and was fascinated at the various forms of entertainment available. Music venues, casinos, theaters, sports arenas, nightclubs, coffee houses… Now they were all just “Entertainment Centers”. Each was capable of hosting nearly any kind of event, and they often did. But most of the time, each center focused on three or four types of entertainment, and offered it in an intermixed, sometimes cacophonous, experience. M.E.C.H. technology had worked its way into nearly every aspect of modern life, he supposed. Even businesses were modular and multi-purpose. Django’s was part coffee house, part arcade, and part tattoo parlor. Brendan had no idea why Dak liked it so much.

Dak smiled and waved him over as he worked his way through the crowd. Dak was sitting at a tabletop arcade game, where holographic monsters destroyed holographic buildings. Well, Brendan assumed that’s what the premise of the game was. He couldn’t see much of it, as Dak had his “kit” spread across the table. He appeared to be prototyping some new project. Where the table was uncovered, he could see a translucent building corner springing up from the surface, and the arm of some hairy monster reaching into the windows.

“Really? This is where you pick to work on that thing?”, he asked by way of greeting.

“Sit down, maybe you’ll see why”, was the only reply he got.

Brendan sat. Between the roar of the monsters on the tabletop and the buzz of the tattoo artist working five feet away, he worried he’d have a headache before he finished his conversation. “Sorry, man, I can’t say it helps”, he half-shouted.

Dak sighed, and looked back down at his project. “It’s a perfect storm of white noise. This is one of the few places I can come to concentrate.” He gestured at his kit. “I’ve gotta get a prototype ready to roll by the beginning of the week.”

Brendan glanced at the datapad and strewn notes. Dak had been working on a new plasma cutter for the mining M.E.C.H.s since Brendan had arrived on Belarus. It was certainly coming along, but it seemed impossible he could turn these notes into a prototype in four days. Dak was an engineer working in the same facility that Brendan had been assigned as a pilot. They’d hit it off immediately. Dak had been on Belarus for a couple of years, but had lived less than 10 kilometers from Brendan on Earth before that. He and Brendan had never met, but Dak actually knew Eric.

“Don’t you fly your first mission on Monday, too?”

“Yeah…” Brendan couldn’t keep the note of worry out of his voice.

“Hey, I saw your scores, man. You’re gonna do fine!” Dak looked up, really noticed Brendan’s demeanor for the first time. “Seriously, it’s gonna be great. I think they’re putting me on board, too.”

“Oh, no, it’s not that. It’s just…” And he told Dak about the Eric’s good luck jacket.

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