INT – day – brightly lit, crowded and busy spaceport lounge
Helton and Harbin and a few of the other passengers from the pirate rescue are sitting around a long table with drinks and the remains of meals in front of them. The other passengers talk among themselves.
Harbin: It’s been a while since I had more action on leave than in the field. Felt good to be in a fight where the only rule was “WIN.”
Helton: Too bad about your getting shot, though. The leg seems to be healing nicely, no noticeable limp at all.
Harbin: Shouldn’t be. The Boss and the Wife both frown on getting damaged outside the line of duty.
Helton: I’m sure they’d cut you some slack, given the situation.
Harbin: Part of my job is to teach people how to NOT be careless and die from stupid. I wasn’t careful enough when I boarded the tramp ship, and let myself get gassed and dropped in the desert. That would be unforgivable if we hadn’t managed to get ourselves out of it.
Helton: (looking at him as if trying to tell if he’s being serious or not) Your boss must be a serious hard-ass.
Harbin:(tipping his head as if thinking about it) He’s among the best, but he doesn’t suffer fools or stupid mistakes lightly.
Helton: Next time, then, we’ll just have to take a ship with better armor.
Harbin: Hard to find. Most ships don’t have it because it’s generally useless.
Helton: Like souvenirs?
Harbin: (shoots Helton a dark look, like it’s been said before) A first for everything. Normally it is useful as a screen door on a space-ship. (shrugs, as if to say fate will do what it will do) Been a while since anyone one-upped me on getting shot and lived to talk. That’s something to tell the grand-kids about. Any more ideas about it?
Helton: Nope. At least it’s open, now. A lot of damaged pages, but they are seriously tough – some sort of metalized carbon-nano-tube stuff, I think. Still no idea who made it, though, and we can’t go back to the cave without government clearance, and they are not letting us anywhere NEAR that prison or mine again. Still haven’t told them about it. Ah, well. It all worked out OK- good guys lived, bad guys mostly died, official investigation started-
Harbin: (cynically) -likely just a whitewash-
Helton: -but started anyway, some official reward cash and a couple of cute new friends who owe me their lives (looks over at the young ladies nearby who were passengers, one with a kid next to her, who smiles back when she notices him looking at her).
Harbin: (smiling) Don’t let it go to your head, Hero.
Helton: After a near death experience, you think about those things. I am, anyway.
Harbin: Been there. Were I still younger and single, I would now, too. Met my wife that way, just after- (he cuts himself off, perhaps realizing he’s being too open) Being close to death DOES make you think about life.
Helton: Feels good to have a BIT more control of my life again…
Harbin: (nods agreement) Any plans till your flight pulls out next week?
Helton: (shrug) See the sights. Meet people, hopefully a cute one. Get a new coat. Find a game. Try to stop being amazed that I actually landed something without killing anyone.
Harbin: If you call THAT a landing.
Helton: (jokingly sarcastic) Picky, picky, picky. We walked away, didn’t we?
Harbin: (grudgingly) Technically, if you define “walk away” broadly enough… All things considered, you did well. You did your family proud.
They sit back in their chairs, clink glasses in salute to events and each other, and take a drink.
Fade to black