EXT – day – desert valley
Low angle, close up view of Helton’s face, as he lies face down in the sandy dirt, brightly lit by the reddish sun at a low angle. There is a flopping / thudding sound, and puff of dust blows by his face. He twitches, and he blinks his eyes and squints a bit as if he just waking up. Camera pulls back and gets a wider view, and we see that he is lying on the ground, stretched out, with some other people lying in the dirt near him. As he starts to groggily move, some of the others start to make small movements, too. Then, a big brute of a man wearing something vaguely resembling a uniform, SLAVER1 walks into view, dragging two people by their collars. He drops them roughly in the dirt next to Helton, and turns and walks back the way he came. Another man, SLAVER2, also big and rough looking, wearing similar cloths, drags in two more, a child and woman, and drops them like a poorly trained baggage-handler would treat cheap luggage. As the view expands, we see there are about two dozen people, men, women, and a few children, dropped like so many sandbags, scattered about on the dry, dusty ground of a desert basin around the loading ramp of a small anti-grav transport. A couple of them are recognizable from the background of when Helton was at dinner aboard ship.
One of the two pug-uglies working on the transport picks up a large canister, like a 2-gallon fire-extinguisher, and turns it on the unconscious people. He sprays a cloud out over them, sweeping it back and forth as he stands on the ramp. The cloud settles down over the victims.
Slaver1: Wakey wakey, sleeping beauties!
Slaver2 thinks this is hysterical, and laughs loudly. People start to twitch and slowly turn over, shaking heads, spitting dirt out of their mouths, and sitting up or getting unsteadily to their hands and knees. A couple don’t move. Slaver1 goes over and kicks them. One groans and groggily starts to move. The other lays unmoving. He kicks her again. She lays there, unresponsive.
Slaver1: One down already. I might have to put another bet in the pool.
Slaver1 walks back to the ramp, and hops on. He addresses the crowd with an evil relish in his voice.
Slaver1: Welcome to Hell. You can sit here an die, but that’s no fun. For us, that is. Or, you can walk that way (he points down a valley between two mesas) for a few days to get to the prison mine. Those that live that long will dig ‘lonium there ‘till you work off your debt. In the meantime, how many of you die on the march there will entertain us. I’m betting the pool that only 11 of you make it. He’s (hooking his thumb at Slaver2) betting on eight, ‘cause of all the weak ones he sees. But I’m an optimist.
Passenger 1: (unsteady, but with growing rage) You can’t DO this to us! WHAT debt? When we get there, I’ll rip out your-
Slaver2 draws and shoots him, BLAM! He drops with a thud to in the dirt w/o a twitch.
Slaver2: No, you won’t. (to Slaver1) One less tough guy! (chuckle and smirk)
Slaver1 kicks a stack of 1L water bottles off the ramp.
Slaver1: One each. You can fight over ‘em now, or later, your choice. Got bets on THAT, too. (evil grin) See you soon!
The transport lifts up and away, leaving the passengers gaping in disbelief as it speeds away. They slowly start to stand up or crawl toward the water as they recover from the effects of the sleeping gas.
As Helton sits up, he sees a very tough looking Sikh in his late 40s sitting up next to him, alternately looking at him and eying the retreating flier, starting to flex and get loose a bit.
Helton: Helton. Can’t say I’m glad to meet you.
Harbin: Harbin. The same. (he looks at the dead Passenger1, and shakes his head) Stupid.
Helton: What the hell happened?
Harbin: Pirates. They can sell the ship and cargo, but people are harder. A couple of inside guys can put knockout gas in the air, but they might be skittish on just spacing everyone. So, entertainment, then slavery in a prison mine where there isn’t a lot of paperwork filed, I expect.
Helton: (looking around at the terrain) Sssshhhhiiiiit.
Here notices that a little way back, behind Harbin, six tough looking youngish punks are gathering.
Helton: (nodding slightly toward them) That doesn’t look good.
Harbin casually gets a glance out of the corner of his eye that way, back at Helton, then bends as if stretching and surreptitiously picks up an oblong rock in one hand.
Harbin: (very quietly, nodding slightly) Good call. Can you move OK?
Helton stretches a bit, grimaces, and nods slightly.
Harbin: Right. Follow my lead.
Harbin slowly stands up, flexes, and goes several paces to where they are. They look at him suspiciously. Harbin puts on a vicious-looking grin on his face as he approaches, while also taking a moment to leer at one of the ladies. They spread out as if to get ready to fight him all at once. When he gets close, but not quite touching range, he speak quietly, pitching his voice as a whisper for their ears only.
Harbin: Kill the other men, then rape and kill the women and kids and take all the water? Make for an easy walk to the mine.
Thug1: Shit yeah!
Thug2, thug3, Thug4 all smile.
Thug5: Kill ‘em, then rape ‘em. Can’t hurt you that way, and it’s faster.
Thug6: I like the way you two think!
Harbin: (with a nod and an evil smirk) Thought so – here’s how.
Harbin steps a bit closer to them, waving them in slightly as if to huddle for a quick plan. Suddenly, in a whirl of kicks, chops, lunges, smashes with his rock, and a head-butt-and neck-twist, in a few brief seconds of violence five of the punks lay dead or at least out cold. The sixth, who was biggest, is fighting with Helton, who is making a go of it but it’s a close match. As they clinch and struggle, Harbin steps up and efficiently whacks Thug6 in the back of the head, with almost casual precision, very effectively, like it’s something he’s done many times before.
Everyone else is scrambling out of the way, then staring in wonder and fear at the sudden turn of events.
Harbin: (not the least bit out of breath, nods acknowledgment, and speaking quietly, keeping it just to Helton) Thank you. Four isn’t a problem; six is pushing it.
They looks at the bodies, then at the fearful groups of passengers.
Helton: Well, that helps the water problem, anyway.
Everyone has scattered as best they could to get some distance between themselves and the violence as they assess the situation. A few had grabbed a water bottle as they moved. Then, everyone gets still, eyes on Helton and Harbin as they walk over toward the small heap of remaining water bottles, wondering what evil new twist might be showing up. A couple of the adults get their children behind them. Helton squats down to pick up a bottle, and hands a second one to Harbin. They look around to asses the overall situation.