A Favor


benji_icon.gif delia_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title A Favor
Synopsis Vincent takes Benji into Eltingville to retrieve something precious.
Date November 12, 2011

Eltingville Blocks

In 24 hours, Eltingville has made its second major transformation. From the slightly bleak if otherwise peaceful existence of a neighbourhood under guard, its pockets of violence contained to the shadows and within cheap housing, through to the bright and noisy chaos of protest and looting and community pouring out into the streets to pool their resources, to barricade streets and steal supplies, to this.

This is as quiet as it's ever been, and dark in these late hours, the power having gone out since the evening of the protests being dispersed by robots and negation gas and, eventually, FRONTLINE-OS. One day has passed and lapsed again into evening. The rains have let up, the only evidence of which is the way the asphalt of streets shine like oil-slicks. The only light comes from where some enterprising individuals having started fires, outside and in, or have thought ahead to this kind of emergency in the form of kerosene lamps and flashlights.

And, of course, from the sentinels themselves.

As million dollar assets, they do not cover every inch of Eltingville Blocks, but regular patrols mean that the sounds of mechanical whirring and the scrape of metal feet on concrete is a frequent intrusion in the smothering silence. The streets are empty save for where they roam like slow giants, glowing blue sensors.

The location of where Delia was last sighted, according to sparrows and sundry, is information only an hour old, but a lot can change in an hour, especially as cover of night falls. The buildings are as sad and desolate as so many of the developments in Eltingville, a squat apartment building of brown brick and a flat rooftop. From a vantage point, high up and across the street, there's no obvious indication about where to start.

For her part, returning to the place she'd been living in had been near to impossible, both Sasha Kozlow and John Logan disappeared when the robots were sent in, Tania missing, and the place itself raided.

Houses here are easy to break into, most of them don't even have the security of locks anymore. Since being separated from Brad, Delia's been searching for somewhere to hide. The house she's chosen is without windows, allowing her the comfort of hearing what's outside. At this very moment, she's crouched under one, eyes closed, and trying to keep her breathing steady. She has no illusions that the thick bracelet around her ankle is a tag of some kind and likely sending a signal to somewhere. All of her hopes lie that the signals are not to sentinels themselves.

Her cellphone is long gone, dropped sometime during the riot at the community center. She couldn't call anyone, even if she wanted to… though right now the only person she wants to call is her father. In these situations, he always knows what to do. In these situations, she usually does the exact opposite of that, so she's been going against every instinct she has. So far, she's kept out of the way of the sentinels. So far, it's working.

The whirr and scrape of roving machinery echoes hollow in the void between living and something else, reverberation pitched low, more sensation than sound. Water dripping through clogged gutters prattles between buildings, rats squeak and shuffle — and somewhere, behind broken glass, someone is breathing.

Everything is damp as the vapor Vincent and Benji resolve out of atop the roof across the street, excess curling black as pitch around their boots. There's no sound to signal their arrival — just a smudge of darker shadow and the faint gleam of a bald skull against the night sky.

Silently, Lazzaro passes the rifle (and scope) on his shoulder over to Benji.

"Eleven o'clock, first floor, second window."

It's possible that Benji is even more nervous about this mission than she was about the last. Saving the world, saving one person, these things strangely coincide. She knows where Carol Praeger fits into the larger scheme of things. She thinks she knows where Delia does too.

Taking the rifle, she peers down the scope, quiet and anxious.

"She might be hurt," Benji cautions, quietly, lifting her head. "But I think she's alone." So that's at least one convenience allowed for. She angles the rifle back to Vincent, feeling both out of place and yet very familiar handling weaponry and breathing around the bulletproof vest he'd insisted upon.

Down below, at its lumbering, tireless pace, a ten-foot tall sentinel rounds the street corner, and seems to pause. It's easy to project thoughts and feelings onto inanimate objects that even vaguely resemble something living, so perhaps it might be considered a deliberate choice when its next steps taking it down this street. The spill of tentacling sensors glow bright blue, tasting the air, and its heavy footfalls and grinding mechanics fill Delia's ears as it comes down the road, familiar and dreadful background noise.

As the whirring of cervos and clank of heavy paws hit the pavement, Delia's eyes open and she looks up to the ceiling as though in prayer. Slowly, and as noiselessly as she can, she slides from under the window and into the corner of the room. Hugging her knees to her chest with one arm, she uses the sleeve of her other to breathe into. Anything to keep her breath from being visible. She's not sure what the sentinel will do if it finds her, all she knows is that she doesn't want to disappear.

Frantic blue eyes dart around the room, trying to figure out some way to safety. Threadbare sticks of furniture provide little to no cover for her here if she stays. There's a door on the opposite wall from the window but it's visible from the street and a straight line for one of those blue sensors to pick up her trail. But along the wall there's a set of stairs, maybe if she's lucky, she can make it to the top before it reaches the house.

Vincent ducks down behind the raised edge of the roof like a spooked cat, recoil bolting tension down his back, quickened breath stifled through his nose. He looks to Benji, eyes black as the street below, his entire toilette on the coarse side of not having energy to care. He's days out from his last shave, the scar over his ear nearly lost in the shadow of stubble edging in for a foothold, sweater pulled thin under the black of his peacoat. Overdue for maintenance.

And reassuring, after the fashion of a great gorilla hand pressed invisible over Benji's mouth. Pinning her nerves down under the leaden press of his stare. This is fine.

He will not allow it to not be fine.

Rather than take the rifle, he points to his eyes, tips his head to indicate the sound of the sentinel, and falls away into smoke.

Ten seconds later, he churns out of the shadows in Delia's new digs, unannounced and ghostly quiet and distinctly familiar. If she has the time to tell amidst panic and everything else — he stands very still, one hand raised in silent plea. Please don't scream.

Benji sinks down as Vincent does, and is left to navigate the precarious balance between controlling her own breathing without accidentally not breathing. Huddled against concrete, she listens to the terribly familiar rhythm of those grinding robotic steps, knowing she is listening far too closely for what could come next.

The sentinels are deceptive in how quickly they move. They give an appearance of being slow, almost meandering, except that its gait is long, gliding down the street with more grace than too much tonnage of superheated metal should have a right to move. In Delia's room, as a familiar figure appears from the shadows, the glint of blue light and the shadow of the long-legged robostrocity shift outside the window.

And stops.

It stands there, sensors writhing from beneath silver equine skull.

Prayers to the ceiling were seemingly answered. The sight of the ‘angel’ Lazzaro fading into view causes all the air in Delia's lungs to release, not as a scream but almost as bad. The cloud of her breath billows out of her mouth in a long sigh of relief. As a result, the soft glow of blue light crawls closer along the tattered, threadbare carpet. The shadows in the room get a little shorter and what isn’t hidden from view is illuminated by a lovely blue.

The more paranoid parts of Delia's brain begin to work again, it could be just another hallucination of her sleepless mind. Her eyes dart between the glow in the window and the man nearby. She shrinks a little lower, her muscles coiling underneath her ready to spring. Mr. Lazzaro’s, real or not is at least consulted by way of a flick of her eyes toward the stairs and a small lift of her brow, giving a silent command/question of her own.


A barely there turn of Lazzaro's ear feels like a warning in return — don't — his raised hand splayed, steady against eerie blue backlight. It's like something straight of close encounters in here, their breath fogging, glass glittering on the carpet.

He doesn't have long to make his assessment. Two seconds, three. No obvious injuries. Fear, naturally. Paranoia. The ankle monitor.

Light punches through the churn of vapor he plunges into, and he's back again too quick to miss, crouched at Delia's feet. Right hand warm at her knee, he curls the fingers of his left up under the band at her ankle, testing the gap underneath. The robot's glow doesn't reach his eyes — boot black and hard with intent. Stay here.

Vincent vanishes. The ankle monitor goes with him.

He reappears in the street in a snarl of black vapor, 5'8" of hardup italian just behind and between a llamabot's back legs with a house arrest monitor in his hand. There has to be a good place for him to put it in here somewhere.

The llamabot has no tail to flick or ears to twitch, animalistic associations belied by its perfect stillness as sensors, individual, rotate and extend towards the apartment that Delia and Vincent huddle within. And then only Delia.

Sensors twist.

In the mildly damp, cool November air, the subtle steam lifting off metal, even down its legs, indicates the heat travelled down metal. Vincent can feel it, mostly from above, baking down, electronic whirring and humming filling his ears. Its back legs taper down into blunt hooves of rubber set firm against the ground, not so wide that the anklet couldn't slip around it and catch as required. Its forelimbs come down to sharp points.

There's a sudden flood of blue light, however, as the creature arcs its long neck, head lowering right down, sensors at a wild splay between its own four legs.

It greets Vincent with a sudden fog horn cry, loud enough to rattle his bones, for Delia to feel it vibrate through the floor, for Benji across the road and up above to wince.

The sound of the alarm from the llamabot shakes right through Delia’s core, sending a tremor of uncontrollable fear through her spine. The stay order doesn't include being caught by an eleven foot robot, at least not in terror logic. Immediately, she springs from her hideaway with a classic horror movie scream at the mechanical monstrosity, fully visible through the empty window. Outrunning the thing isn't even an option, she knows that much for sure. What she isn't quite certain about is how it will fare against water damaged and rotting stairs. Hopefully it's enough of a distraction.

Like a cliche, she's caught momentarily, by the sight of the blue light. Then she bolts, taking the stairs two at a time as she makes for the top. "RUN," she shrieks, not stay. Underneath the pounding of her feet, the wood protests, splintering and cracking with each thud. Choosing not to think about it, she gathers up all of the courage inside of her and grips the rail in an effort to ease the weight on the steps.

Somewhere, the image of Vincent Lazzaro literally jumping out of his skin into a snarl of pitch and ink is being projected into a network of prohibited activity. He coalesces again in the wane of the robot's cry, tharn in the light, looking dead into optic lenses for the half a beat it takes him to find his nerve.

Delia's screaming retreat registers on an even longer delay.

Ok, so.

They can definitely still salvage this.

A smudge of smog marks his lunge to clap the ankle monitor through (and onto) the nearest steaming metal shank. He dives out and in — vapor striking forth through the forelegs and back into Vincent — his bare hand plunged up into the nest of searing tentacles and sensors glittering down the thing's throat.

Vincent finds purchase on the snarl of flexible metal, a less scorching heat still painful to touch livening up nerve endings in fingertips. Around his grasp, loose sensors flare wildly, and the robot begins to withdraw its head, dragging him with it.

Then, its legs briefly buckle from an impact, heralded by the sound of rifle fire thunder from across the road and up. The rippling heat of its core is replaced with a fiery explosion that blooms up and out, flames curled around and guttered back out of metal vents. Oily fluid spills from some internal rupture, and the llamabot rips its head back up so as best to try to detect where this new onslaught came from — but it comes up with only half of its face intact from where Vincent had, a split second before, turned into vapour and taken that fistful of metal and plastic along with him. Its remaining sensors flicker, and dangle.

The fog horn bellow continues, and now, yellow negation gas gusts out of its vents, surrounding black ashy vapour like oil and water. Fortunately, they won't mingle.

After taking her shot, Benji immediately ducks back down, heart thumping and gripping the rifle close to herself. It's tempting to just stay there, huddled, until she hears, just beneath the sound of the llamabots baritone siren, the sound of metal footsteps from below — a rhythmic kuh-thunk kuh-thunk of something moving at a run, coming down a perpendicular street. She slinks further along her cover, trying to find a good enough angle to take a look.

Through the windows of the apartment building as Delia claws her way up a floor, that dim blue glow is temporarily replaced with fiery red that brings with it a gust of heat felt through open and broken windows.

Delia flattens, tripping over the last few steps as the wave of heat blasts over her, causing a shiver. Face pressed against the ratty carpet, the scent of mildew interlaced with age almost has her in a fit of sneezing but a well placed pinch over her nose stifles it— for the most part.



Not quite a full blown sneeze, the two little snerks of air are quieter than the explosions and the fog horn outside. Hopefully, the second pair of heavy footsteps won't be able to pick them out of the commotion. Horns, explosion, and was there a gunshot? She couldn't remember Vincent having a gun on him, but it's possible.

She gathers herself up and scrambles through the hallway to another window, this one covered in grime but allowing partial visibility. Unconsciously, she rubs at part of the pane, only at the last minute realizing that might have been the worst idea. It doesn't matter now, she can see down to the street below. The sight that greets her is a fiery blob of molten metal and twisted coils that was a llamabot. Now another is coming down the street between two tenement houses, toward the intersection.

Black vapor twists through that gout of yellow gas with force enough to eddy the flow, following the swing of the sentry’s skull up, up and away. Lazzaro plunges back into view on the same trajectory, some six or seven feet in the air, turning as if carried outward by the beast’s momentum. He’s solid for an instant — just long enough to flourish his hand before he cascades back into smog.

A sizzling lump of llamabot drops to the pavement, black ice hissing and spitting along severed cables in the light of remnant robot fire.

You dropped this.

It takes him to the sneeze to sort through the building for Delia, one arm looped around her from behind at the window. He pushes the spare hand he has over her mouth at the same moment, palm still rank with the stench of burning metal.


There isn’t really time for an explanation. He just takes her with him into the dark, swift and sure as a cat swinging a kitten up by the scruff. She’s been there before, without sight, everything in shades of sound, for much longer than the few seconds it takes for him to transport her to Benji’s rooftop. There, well away from the edge, he keeps her mouth clamped over with polite (but firm) force, at least until he can be sure there isn’t a scream trying to work its way out between his fingers.

He doesn’t say anything now that they’re back in the open with hunters inbound — but Benji should be there plain for her to see, stuffed tidily into a bullet proof vest, toting a rifle.

Sights, sounds, and sensation return to Delia, that strange weightlessness replaced with gravity, feet on concrete and the cold night air, wind coming from the south and off the ocean, the mustiness of her hiding place gone. And Vincent's hand clamped over her mouth.

Huddled near the edge, Benji — having seen that swell of black shadow come up onto the rooftop — is half crouched and hidden, but now rabbits forward. Relief to see Delia unhurt, and relief to see Delia, shimmer across her expression, and it's obvious that the impulse to drop the weapon aside her drag her out of Vincent's grasp and into a hug is strong and present.

Stamps it down, looking to Vincent. "You should take her," she says, at a whisper. "I'll be alright—"

There, in the distance — if not distant enough, perhaps a block westward — an answering fog horn sound. It could be related to them. It could be some other incident, drawing attention. It does, regardless, seem to chill Benji briefly, more familiar with these sounds and routines than she'd like to be. From the street that Vincent crosses, the llamabot is buckled, the sound of scraping metal keen and sharp as it tries to operate anyway. Smoother, the sound of a second mechanical construction has joined it, it's thumping sprint come to a halt.

It sounds different to the ten-foot-tall sentinels, less ponderous. Red light — cooler and more stable than flame — is bright enough in the gloom to shift with it, painting the opposite fronts of buildings as it stalks around.

Vincent can feel Delia almost collapse under her own weight as she crumples to her knees, there's a tear between dragging him with her and simply taking his hand away. She's not going to scream. Instead, she takes a deep breath inward and holds it for a moment or two and when it's finally released she looks between him and Benji.

She could argue with Benji, no take her and I'll be alright but that would be — stupid. They came all this way and Lazzaro killed a llama to get her this far. "Benji," she scoots a little closer ignoring the rifle to wrap her arms around her daughter in a tight hug. It lasts, maybe a little too long, but it's been so long. When she finally does pull back, she grips the raven haired woman's shoulders and gives her a hard stare in the eyes. "Promise me you'll be alright," she whispers, softly so the sentinels don't pick her out of all the other ambient noise. "Promise me you know how to handle this."

The look over her shoulder to Vincent is a silent plea for verbal support, at the very least. "This isn't a safe place for her to stay, isn't there.." She stops. “Is there another rooftop? Beyond the fence?”

With a sentinel klaxon wailing in the distance and red light dancing up the walls opposite them, Vincent stands apart, removed from this Ryans family reunion by a step. Robots and drifts of damp garbage are the only movement in the streets below. Rotting architecture and burning oil overwhelm the usual city stink of hot garbage and piss.

He looks like he’s in hell.

“She signed the release,” he cuts in, low on Benji’s behalf. “I can try to lead it away or we can start moving.”

They’re all out of future nightmares, resorting now to the present — Benji had to goad him out here in person, to help. And to see. So he looks to her from Delia’s plea, shabby and shadowed around the eyes and maybe just the slightest bit prickled that she still has her hooks in him. The hand he secures on Delia’s shoulder is as much reassurance as it is a friendly reminder of what’s at stake, here.

“Call it.”

Benji's free hand catches on Delia's shoulder as she's hugged, an awkward configuration of over-sized weaponry and kevlar and her own tension knitted through her muscles like wire cables, but she doesn't do anything to deny the embrace, or bring it to a close. During, she mumbles something that sounds like a jittered, "I'm sorry we didn't come sooner," and her fingers tense in their grip. There's a renewed vulnerability to her expression by the time Delia is squaring with her, and she nods mutely at the promises her mother is pressing her for, hand still laying on her arm.

But yes. They're not done yet. She looks towards the sound of the second robot as Vincent speaks up, shifting back enough to position rifle back into her hands.

"Start moving," she says, meeting Vincent's look, weathered against what she can see there, in and behind his expression. Back to Delia. She's keeping her voice low too, somehow audible beneath the haunting sirens. While they're up here, and being quiet, there's break enough to speak, room enough to breathe. "I promise. This—" She tips her head, a little ruefully; "It's just like home."

It's semi-true. She didn't often cross paths with robots, but she's drilled in what to do when she does.

When the hug is finished, Delia places a hand on Benji's cheek and gives her a grateful smile. "You came at just the right time," she whispers before slipping away and scootching back toward Vincent. There's a distinct impression of regret as she looks back toward her daughter, huddled there with a rifle. And it hurts.

The feeling Delia has is that Benji's mother would never leave her there. Benji's mother also has a wealth of experience to deal with these things when Benji is from. Benji also did this for the Delia that's left, and then there's Vincent of course. Risking his life, again, for her.

"I— I have to go," she tells Vincent, her face contorting into a grimace, "we have to go now so you can come back for her right away. Before I change my mind."

Vincent is a full two inches shorter than Delia, waiting behind her in the queer light like the Goodwill ghost of christmas future. He’s still looking past her to Benji when she turns to face him, warning weary in the level of the brows. Please don’t put a death on his conscience.

He plans to take it personally.

“Alright,” he tells Delia, with all the enthusiasm leaving an ally alone on a rooftop with a rifle against killer robots entails, and reaches out to take her. Mid-back, very professional-like, for a fugitive on a tenement. Worlds more secure in his grip than he feels. “Don’t do anything I would do.”

The pair of them pulse into vapor, and vanish in a flush low to the rooftop — squid ink dissipating quick into the damp and the cold and the dark.

He’ll be back. Eventually.

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