EXT – day – near the foot of a long mesa
Helton and Harbin scramble rapidly along at the a narrow flat spot at the foot of a mesa, Helton’s traveler coat flapping in the wind, with a steep side going up on their left, and a deep, even-but-rough, nearly semi-circular valley going down to the right (it’s a cut made by a terraforming machine). They hop from one rock to another, moving smoothly along, a half-dozen paces apart.
Cut to a series of short aerial fly-by shots of them making rapid progress along the foot of the mesa, first in shadows then with the sun working its way overhead. Interspersed with this is a series of shots showing some of the other groups of people walking along a sandy valley bottom, steep canyon walls rising around them, and they march along, helping people who look like they are struggling a bit, such as one man lifting up a child and putting her on his shoulders.
Cut to a flying zoom into the two of them standing side by side, surveying the way ahead, pointing out a possible path, then standing arms akimbo as they just take in the view across the valley.
Cut to a much closer view of them standing, looking, and taking a breather.
Harbin: Where did you serve?
Helton looks at Harbin with a question on his face, as if to ask “Why do you think that?”
Harbin: The way you talk, move- like most of the good officers and NCOs I’ve known. Either officer training, or good command instincts.
Helton: Thanks. I did the traditional two years everyone in my family did. Army on Asimov 3. (sounding faux haughty) Attained the exalted command rank of corporal, second class, promotable. (then, more sarcastically) The 500 they asked me to pay for a five year reenlistment and one-grade promotion didn’t quite seem right.
Harbin laughs out loud, and nods knowingly.
Harbin: I’ve worked with that sort of force before. Payoffs and corruption throughout.
Helton: You’re a soldier?
Harbin shrugs to indicate “more or less.”
Helton: … Mercenary?
Harbin: I prefer “freelance righter-of-wrongs.” My wife describes it as “negotiation failure contingency planner” to keep from scaring people.
Helton: Anywhere in particular? Lots of stuff going on right now.
Harbin: I work for a Plataean unit wherever it goes. Here and there.
Helton: You Plataean?
Helton: Now I believe some of the things I’ve heard about them. Native or earned citizenship?
Harbin: Born there, but citizenship is ALWAYS earned. Passed my Komenagen at 19 with an 8. Kinda bothered my parents that I passed the test in the field with the only person in a generation to score a 130.
Helton: 130? A perfect score?
Harbin nods the affirmative.
Helton: And you barely passed? Ouch.
Harbin: It worked out well enough.
Helton: … She mind you being gone, out to places like this? Your wife, I mean.
Harbin: Hadn’t planned on being HERE. She likes me being good at what I do, and standing by her. A steady income working for good people are good things for a marriage, too.
Helton: Glad you’re on my side… You are on my side, aren’t you?
Harbin: We have a strong mutual interest in each others’ success.
Helton looks at him as if to say “there’s more that you are NOT saying than you are”
Helton: What now? Rest ‘till it gets cooler?
Harbin: You’re in charge. But, since you asked, I’d say we should look for a good shadow to hide in.
Helton: (skeptically) I’m in charge, huh?
Harbin shrugs matter-of-factly.
Harbin: You know the planet, the mine, and the terrain, made the plan, and took command in a very decisive way. I’m just along for the scenery until we get to reintroduce ourselves more properly to those who -as you said- handed us this “crap sandwich.”
Helton: well, then I guess-
Helton suddenly cocks his head as if listening, and scans the horizon, then the rocks around them.A slight hum can be heard.
Helton: Damn. Flier of some sort. See any place to hide?
They both take off at a run along the scree slope, trying to find someplace larger than small rocks to hide behind. They bounce along the slope rapidly, then come around a small spur and see a dark spot in a draw that looks like it might be cave entrance, partially covered by rocks and debris falling down the slope. They scramble quickly over to it and slide down in.