INT – night – sparse and spare starship lounge, dimly lit in red-ish light
Helton is sitting half-facing Art with a dazed expression on his face and a half-empty drink in his hand, looking absently out the viewing port. His coat is tossed over the back of a chair, his bag supporting his feet as he slouches down.
Helton: …So, by the time it was over, I’d had virtually all my assets forfeited on the spot, stripped of citizenship, and searched WAY more personally than I’d like… How…? (shakes his head, at a loss for words) How did we get here…?
Art: (quietly) It could be worse.
Helton stares at Art, incredulous
Art: You are here, yes?
Helton: Well, yeah, but-
Art: Not in jail. Not in uniform.
Helton: They wouldn’t-
Art: Still breathing.
Helton stares at Art, comprehension dawning on his face at how badly it could have been. He takes a drink.
Helton: I don’t understand… Why-?
Art: They get a percentage of any fines or forfeitures they asses, as an “incentive” to be attentive to the letter of the law. You likely got put on a list some time ago, and this was just the easiest opportunity to make you go away. If they hadn’t gotten busy with that bomb on level 8, you might still be there.
Helton:(confused) Wha…? Bomb?
Art: The disturbance that called them away?
Her: But that was some sort of transformer explosion in an electrical vault-
Art looks as him with a slight shake of his head, and a knowing, apologetic smile on his face.
Art: Always buy a round trip ticket. Always have the appearance that you have good reason to come back, and no plans to do otherwise.
Art: You are just now realizing what’s been going on these last months and years?
Helton nods slightly, slowly.
Helton: (feebly, not even accepting his own excuse) -been busy.
Art: People have had to flee on a moment, packing light, for thousands of years. The warning signs of collapse are always the same. The debt. The scapegoats. The lies. The “temporary emergency measures.” I was cutting it closer than I should have. (shrug) My family is all safely away, and everything else shipped ahead for us by others.
Helton stares at him in near disbelief.
Art: And, it looks like you won’t be returning, either. (he smiles a small, sympathetic smile)
Helton: (quietly, in shock, to himself) Homeless.
Helton stares off blankly, dazed.
Art: You are lucky, though…
Helton: (discouraged/sarcastic) If this is lucky, I’d hate to see unlucky.
Art: (looking intensely at Helton) They did pick you clean, but they let you leave. And, think… What do you have, where are you going?
Helton: (looks blankly for a moment, then shrugs and waves to his coat and bag). My sister’s.
Helton shrugs, still not sure what he’s being asked. Art taps his temple, then his chest. Then waves to the room around them. The glass in Helton’s hand.
Helton: (slowly, as if forcing himself to think positively, like he would encourage a student to do. He taps his temple) I have… useful skills… and knowledge. (he touches his chest) I’m heading for family… who will welcome me… work… I’m not sucking vacuum or (he holds up his glass) dieing of thirst in a desert…
Art: (Big smile as he sees Helton have a better assessment of his situation) Never forget your assets, just because you acquired some new liabilities. Have faith in yourself, and you’ll be OK… God works in mysterious ways.
Helton looks at Art silently for a long moment, trying to understand it all. He drains his glass, not looking very convinced.
Fade to black.