Busby walks into the lounge and makes his way to one of the “launch couch” tables, which he slides into before draping his left arm over the cushioned back support and adjusting the blue-lensed sunglasses perched on his nose.

Jensen meanwhile is sitting at the bar with a half-drunk beer sitting next to a PDA on which his attention, at least until Busby enters, is focused. Hearing someone else arrive, he turns to see the Spark CEO sliding into a table, his one eye locking on to him like a missile finding its target. A slight smirk, and he finishes the beer in two large gulps before standing up, sliding the PDA into a pocket. Sidling up next to Busby’s table, he looks down at him. “Well, well, well. Mr. Busby. Fancy meeting you here.”

“General Dude, sir,” Busby replies, extending his free hand toward Jensen. “Saw your thing on the thing, man. Very something, yeah. How’s tricks?”

Jensen snerks a bit, but takes the hand giving it a polite shake. “Indeed. Tricks, as you put it, are the usual. Keeping the peace and trying to keep various nation-states from going at each other’s throats.”

Busby tilts his head, then waves a hand over a sensor imbedded in the table to beckon an automated servobot. As the green-and-blue bot whirs their way, Busby asks the general, “Texas Commonwealth still giving you fits?” He nods toward the seat across from him. “Feel free to sit and stay a while, man. Got my shots and everything.”

Jensen slides into the couch opposite Busby, looking to the servobot as it whirs up to the table. “Whiskey on the rocks.” he says as he turns back to Busby. “Indeed. Satellite surveillance shows them moving troops to the borders. Who the hell knows why.” he says, shaking his head. “Either way we’re well prepared to deal with whatever may arise. I’m not going to waste too many troops on it, as there are far more important things to concentrate on at the moment.”

“Show me the menu, man,” the CEO urges the servobot. As commanded, it displays a holographic representation that queries him about whether he wants information about appetizers, main courses, desserts, or drinks. “Drinks,” he says. Several holographic squares appear in a grid, with images, names, ingredients, and prices. He scratches his scruff of beard, eyes narrowing as he peruses the options. Finally, he says, “Water with a lemon twist, man. And a bacon sandwich.” The menu goes away and the bot whirs off. “Look, man, I hope you don’t take any of that IF/IT shit personally. It’s just business, man. Firing up my base. We all win, either way.”

Jensen looks up to Busby with his remaining eye, speculative for a moment. “Frankly, I don’t. But I will defend the integrity of the corps.” he says simply, crossing his arms on the table top. “There’s a goal, written or unwritten, to get mankind going faster than he’s ever travelled before. Some brainiac will succeed. Could take months… could take years. Could even take decades… but I’m confident it will happen. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t care who comes up with it first. My primary concern is that in the end it lets us find out what is really out there.”

Busby draws his arm down from the back of the couch and steeples his hands in front of himself on the table. “What if we what’s out there isn’t friendly, man?” He leans back, crossing his arms. “I gotta admit, it’s on my mind. I want us out there, blowing through the light years like they’re just so many mile markers on a highway. Damn straight. But…part of me thinks we should go slow. Part of me thinks, man, the shit might be too intense for us out past the fence line. What if we go out there looking to shake hands like you and I just did, but the newbs chomp our hand off instead?”

“Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind either.” the general says. “That’s one thing we’re both in agreement on. Take things slow and easy. I realize most people aren’t fans of the military, but if there is someone out there, and they turn out not to be friendly, I’d rather we have something to defend ourselves with first.” As the servobot returns with their orders, he takes his whiskey off the tray and sets it on the table before looking back to Busby. “Don’t get me wrong, though. I may be an old grizzled solider but there is a bit of an appeal to finding new friends out there.”

Busby plucks his sandwich and water from the table as he slides out of the booth. “Friends, man, I’m good with finding friends.” He grins, then says, “We’ll talk again, chief. Don’t let Texas get you down.” He winks, then takes a bite from his sandwich before wandering toward the door.

By Brody

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