INT- DAY – Spaceport near check in
Port is starkly lit and utilitarian, clean-ish but run-down, not a lot of people, mostly queued up and looking resigned to fate. Focus and pan on Helton as he walks hurriedly toward the check-in area.
He is dressed in a brown travelers coat (like a heavy duster with a longer cape, wide cuffs, layers, and lots of pockets), waistcoat, khaki cargo pants, hiking boots, and carrying a half-full large duffel bag, looking a bit rough-and-ready-and-tossed-together. He scans the reader-boards, and heads for a counter. As he passes a little distance in front pair of security guards in light body armor and carrying carbines (uniforms look like typical police-state blues), they eye him suspiciously, then exchange glances. Helton is focused on getting to the counter, and is oblivious to them. He reaches the counter. There is only one elderly man in front of him, ART, dressed very neatly and looking dapper, talking to the middle-aged, bored-looking, grossly overweight female check-in agent behind the counter. She wears a sharply creased but ill-fitting light blue uniform with Sam Brown belt, high collar, and various award ribbons next her badge.
Art: -Yes, that’s right. Business trip again.
Art: Fine arts dealer. I’m taking several pieces of commission work for a final inspection and delivery.
Art: Three day there. I need to return as soon as possible to continue work.
Checker: Only business, or any family?
Art: Oh, yes, my wife is here. I mean to say “yes, the trip is only business.” No family there.
Checker presses a few buttons and waves him past to head for the boarding area. Then she looks up at Helton and her eyes narrow a bit. She points to the ID scanner on the counter in front of her. He puts his face in front of the camera where it is briefly flashed with a cross-hatch of faint laser lines, he places his hand on the palm-pad
Helton: Helton Strom. Teacher.
Checker eyes her screen, then Helton, then screen, frowns, then Helton, and then over his shoulder and back again.
Checker: (eyes narrow, suspiciously) Reason for travel?
Checker’s eyes narrow more. She taps on her screen a time or two, and eyes him, then taps several more times, while looking back and forth between him and the screen.
Helton: Teacher at the high school.
Checker taps on the screen a few more times. Helton starts to look concerned.
Helton: Is there a problem?
Checker: (rudely) I’LL ask the questions, if you please.
Helton is taken a bit aback, and he steps back slightly and straightens up a bit, and bumps into someone behind him. He starts to turn to say “sorry” and realizes there is a pair of large security guards standing right there, guns at port arms. Helton realizes something is badly amiss, and he bites off his planned retort, and he goes on in a more tightly controlled voice.
Helton: I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
Checker: Who bought your ticket?
Helton: I did just-
Checker: It was bought with CASH, can you prove it was you?!
Helton: I don’t know, I-
Checker: Stop lying!
Helton: I don’t think-
Checker: Lying to a government agent is a CRIME, Mr Strom, so DON’T think, just ANSWER!
Helton: But I did tell-
Checker holds up her hand to silence him as she looks at the screen.
Checker: Well, well, well. And just why is it that you were sent a list of spices in commercial quantities, when you are not a registered and licensed wholesaler? A violation of the Terrorism-Supporting Black Market Reduction Act, perhaps?
Helton: How did-
Checker: You lied to me. Summary fine against assets per false statement.
Helton: (shocked) WHAT?!
Checker: You WERE a teacher, but are now listed as unemployed, without contract. You lied. You said you were going on vacation, but you have a job offer from your sister. You lied. Someone bought your ticket with cash to avoid tracking, you lied. You are obviously attempting to dodge taxes and business licensing. You bought a one-way ticket as an emigrant would-
Helton: Because I didn’t know when I was coming back! I just now decided to go to-
Checker: -but you still tried to dodge the emigration tax!
Helton: But how could I be emigrating if I’m planning to smuggle spices back here!?
Checker: Well, now, that WAS pretty stupid of you, wasn’t it? Didn’t think things through. Tell it to the judge!
Helton gets a shocked expression on his face, as he realizes the turn this is taking.
There is a faint, deep CRUMP in the distant background, barely noticed at that moment, as the smug checker and Helton stare at each other for a moment.
Checker: (to guards) Escort Mr Strom to interview room C for further questions.
The guards step up even closer behind him, and one of the indicates with his arm which way he should start walking. Checker smirks. Background bystanders studiously look at the ground, away, or at things in their hands, not making eye contact as he turns and starts to walk away.
INT – Day – small interrogation room
Helton sits, coat over the back of his chair, at a small table across from a weasel-like uniformed guard
Same room. Helton sits across from a different uniform, with a lot more gold braid and a bigger hat
Helton sits across from a bitterly smiling elderly woman in judges robes, and she bangs her gavel on the small table between them, while off to the side the higher-ranking uniform looks on, smirking.
Fade to black.