INT – Night- Helton’s cabin
Low angle camera shot with his desk in the foreground in dim light, and bunk in the background. On the desk is the medallion that the monk gave him. Helton lays in bed under a light blanket. He tosses and turns.
Ship AI: (OC, very quiet, ghostly tone) The monks at the abbey on Eridani. Go to the monks of Possenti on Eridani. You need the monks. The monks of Possenti need the news… The monks of St Possenti on Eridani-
Helton sits bolt upright, eyes wide. He looks around, confusion on his face. Looking unsettled, he lays back down, and tries to return to sleep.
INT – Day – officers mess (modest-sized room on top deck, port side).
Helton and Lag sit eating breakfast.
Lag: What’s on your schedule for the next few days?
Helton: Not much. Stenson and his crew seem to be keeping a good handle on repairs and training, spending what’s left of my money with abandon. Harbin and his guys are busy with the recruits and training. Kat is helping straighten out some of the legal kinks in the ownership title on the ship. Likely help Allonia with the cooking more than anything else – trying to handle food for even two dozen is a full-time job, and she likes to do a good job, so she’s getting a bit overwhelmed. If we get many more guys here, we’ll need to hire someone.
Lag: Want to take a trip?
Helton: Maybe. Where ‘n’ why?
Lag: Eridani to-
Helton: (surprised) Eridani?
Lag: Is that a problem?
Helton: Don’t think so, just… You were saying?
Lag: I need someone to courier some messages there.
Helton: Why not just beam it to a message drone?
Lag: We usually send orders and important items via couriers – we assume electronics are compromised when sending sensitive data. It’s only slightly slower than FTL message drones, and can serve to do other things as well. I’m pretty sure no-one will steal your ship while you are away.
Helton: Yeah, I think so. Stenson wanted some parts from Eridani, and there is some personal business I need to take care of there, too.
Lag: Excellent! There is a passenger liner leaving tomorrow. I can provide you with an official courier credential to help with security. Makes you a sort of very low-level military diplomatic attache.
Helton: That would be nice, since I’m officially without citizenship anywhere right now.
EXT – Night – Orbital Transfer Station
A large transfer station in orbit about 5 AUs from a star has a number of various ships attached to it. Blocky, non-aerodynamic deep-space-only freighters, haulers, and passenger liners, as well as the much more streamlined (and generally smaller) atmospheric-capable ships, used for ferrying between ground-based ports and orbital stations. Some are arriving, some are leaving. It’s busy. Several smaller private ships zip around on various missions.
INT – DAY – Starship transfer-point station lounge
Bipasha sits at a small table by herself, eyes on screen built into the table-top, scanning the news and sipping a drink. Helton walks by, then suddenly backs up, and stares for a moment as if to make sure he’s not seeing things.
Bipasha: Helton? Helton! What brings you by here? I thought you were headed for Niven?
Helton: I was. I got kind of side-tracked. What brings YOU here?
Helton takes a seat across from Bipasha at the table.
Bipasha: Business, mostly. Scouting some merchandise for my uncle, and visiting some friends. The business is boring beyond belief, but it does let me get out occasionally. You? Business for your sister and brother-in-law that you talked about?
Helton: Yes and no. Business, but for myself.
Bipasha: I’d LOVE to be in business for myself – the challenges, getting to make my own decisions, not just sitting at a desk or running errands!
Helton: Well I’m not just sitting behind a desk, THAT’S for sure. I own a starship now.
Bipasha: (sounding genuinely impressed) That IS quite a move up from an unemployed and homeless teacher.
Helton: Yes, and as soon as we get it flying, we-
Bipasha: It’s grounded?
Helton: At the moment. I’m going to Eridani for parts.
Bipasha: So, it’s not really a starship? More of a… money-pit?
Helton: Well, it IS costing a lot of money to-
Bipasha:(somewhat skeptically) Weren’t you almost broke?
Helton: I was, but after we freed ourselves from the pirates, we-
Bipasha: (now very skeptically) Pirates? Now you’re fighting pirates?
Helton: (very matter-of-fact, as if he expects to be believed) That’s what I’d call people who hijack your ship, gas you, and dump you in the desert to for their entertainment. So, after we-
Bipasha: (incredulous, changing to exasperated) Dumped in a desert for-? Can you stick to a single story long enough to be believable? Homeless teacher I believed. A starship, MAYBE. Next, you’ll be telling me you are a diplomat on a secret mission!
Helton: Well, the ID says diplomat, but I’m really just a courier, and it’s not so much a secret mission as one of mutual convenience…
Helton fades off into silence as Bipasha looks at him with a look of angry disbelief on her face.
Bipasha: (incredulous, then with increasing anger) … Got a jail-break any time in the last three weeks, too? Find an ancient artifact? Maybe a show-down with the mob? Stick to something realistic, like-like-like… finding an exciting job for a friend!
Helton: (sort of apologetically) … Well… technically, we didn’t wind up IN the prison mine, so we couldn’t really break OUT, and it wasn’t so much a show-down as –
Bipasha gets up and stalks away. Camera watches her leaving, then pans back to Helton.
Helton: (to himself) Smooth. Really smooth… They don’t want you to lie, but they can’t handle the truth.
Camera view closes in on him, and he sits back, takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly as he slumps down in his seat, closes his eyes for a quiet moment of frustration. He sits for a long moment, resting, trying to be Zen.
Kwon: (OC) Helton?
Helton’s eyes pop open, and he sits up and looks around. Camera pulls back, and nearby stands Kwon, tray of drinks in one hand, serving drinks two tables over, looking at him in amazement.
Helton: What are YOU doing here?
Kwon finishes placing the drinks and hurries over and sits hurriedly where Bipasha has just been.
Kwon: Working. Things started getting crazy, and we had to get out. Was accused of smuggling, and all kinds of criminal conspiracy stuff – what the hell was up with them calling you a felon? Barely made it this far, and ran out of money.
Kwon: The family. Me, Sar, John and Julia, the grand-daughter. Don’t know anyone else that made it this far.
Helton: Oh, that’s terrible. I mean, it’s good you got out, but-
Kwon: We sent word in a couple of directions, but things happened so fast, and we heard that some of the message drones got hit.
Helton: How long-?
Kwon: Ah… wow, it’s only been three days since we got here. (shakes his head at the thought) Crazy. More refugees come in every ship. WILD stories. Not sure where we go from here.
Helton stares at him with a look of realization and growing excitement.
Helton: …I do!
Kwon: So what’re YOU doing here?
Helton: (talking fast and excitedly, with a lot of energy and hand-waving) Long story-fill you in later. I’ve got a ship to catch in (looks at wall clock)… 13 minutes. Here’s the plan. I’m buying the five of you tickets on the next hop to Adelaide. Looks like there is one in… (looks at flight reader board) about 9 hours. Get everyone packed, and GET ON IT. At the spaceport in Adelaide, ask for directions to pad D9. Tell them you are there to cook for the ship. D9. You used to cook on a ship in the Navy – cruiser wasn’t it?
Kwon: That was a long time ago, and what ship-
Helton: The Tajemnica. No, the Dutchman. No… never-mind. Like I said, I’ll explain later. I’ll send a message so they expect you.
Kown: But… what? They? WHO? You can’t-
Helton: Later. Things are crazy – I know. Tell Allonia you are there to take over kitchen duties – she’ll be thrilled. Pay will likely be shit for a while, but you’ll get free room and board, and a killer security detachment.
Kwon: Allonia? Who? You are-I don’t know what to say, I mean, so fast…
Kwon gets a smile on his face by now, Helton’s enthusiasm and excitement is so infectious.
Helton: Just glad to be able to return a favor. Not trying to save the world, just make my little corner of it better! Finish your shift, collect your pay, and be on that flight! Oh, and I heard that SGT Kaushik likes hot food; see what you can do for him! Gotta run! Have a good flight, and see you soon, my friend!
Helton leaves Kwon staring after him as he rushes off, coat-tails flying, down the corridor and through the crowd to catch his flight to Eridani.
Fade to black