Thirty Minutes Or Less


conrad_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif helena_icon.gif

Scene Title Thirty Minutes Or Less
Synopsis Phoenix and the Vanguard negotiate.
Date December 10, 2008

New York Public Library

And so after the meeting, Helena gathers up those she thinks would be of most help when the call is set to be made. Conrad and Elisabeth are using their abilities to listen in, Diego's got an ear piece that's working courtesy of Wireless. But the only person that Ethan will hear is Helena.

She stares at the phone a moment, white faced and whiter knuckled, then hits the dial back on the number that Ethan used to call her. The tones chime in order as she holds it to her ear and waits for the pickup. Ring. Ring. Riiiiiiing.

Conrad keeps half his concentration on listening to the phone receiver from several feet away. He somehow feels the need to crack a joke and say, "You think we oughta ask for the fingers he cut off? I mean, to make sure they're hers."

Elisabeth slants a glance at Conrad, not a smile in sight. She's entirely focused on the conversation (she's not as skilled at listening in with her powers and she doesn't want to miss anything), and she's formulating strategy in her mind even as the call begins. First on the agenda, find out exactly what Ethan wants. Because as of this moment, all we really know is he wants the hostage that Phoenix is holding. Specifics are called for in this instance — is she all he wants? When? Where is he suggesting the trade take place? What is he demanding for the return of Phoenix's people besides that?


An irritated sigh is given. And then the sound indicating an inhaling. A drag on a cigarette. Then the breath of the exhalation. He is certainly taking his time about answering vocally. A few moments pass, the man on the other end just allowing silence to pass. Another breath, it is obvious that he is there… Though he's not speaking to Helena right now. Maybe she hurt his feelings?

Of course, Helena's not terribly concerned about Ethan's feelings. Her tone is strained, and she doesn't bother with niceties. "My superiors have advised me to go ahead and ask you what you want." She tries not to sound shrill and scared.

"Quit that bit." Ethan puffs, giving another sigh. "So your superiors, is this a democracy? A monarchy? Let's get it straight that I'm no thug off the street bumbling about." The cockney accent is as clear as day. "I know that most of you lot are still going through pubescence. And I don't care what your mates are whisperin' to ya right now, you've done fucked up already." A long exhale…

"Do you want these girls to die, 'elena Dean? Because in my experience, if there is a cold muh'fucker on the other line of the phone, who 'as given you clear and cut rules, I reckon it would not be a good idea to 'ang up on 'em. You broke my rules 'elena, the only way these girls die, is if you wish them to. Clear? I will not kill them unless you go acting like a little babe fresh off the tit. I should kill one already, but I'm decidin' to be a bit generous. My moments of generosity are few and far between, but I'll take it one step further, do you need for me to repeat the rules?"

Elisabeth moves nearer Helena to stand behind her, a pad of paper and a pen in her hand for scribbling notes to the other woman. And in truth? The woman … no, the GIRL, because really that's all Helena is … seems to need the moral support. She sets the pad down where she can write if she needs to and have it seen by Helena, using her physical nearness to offer the sense of solidarity in the hopes of calming the other blond down. She puts a hand on Helena's shoulder, and then whispers in her other ear (the one not on the phone, obviously), "Tell him you're sorry, but that yes, you would like a repeat of the rules and a list of his demands."

Helena actually does seem a bit more stoic for the presence of support. "Yes," she says, adding quickly, "I'm sorry." There's a catch in her voice as she says it, and she really is sorry - sorry for the way things are, that this had to happen, that Dani's been maimed, and that if this doesn't go down right, there could be more violence. "Could you please repeat the rules…and tell me what you want done." The stress in her voice isn't faked, though oddly, Hel's expression, seen by her compatriots, has settled into something more focused.

"You sound like you're going to be cooperative now. That's good, but 'elena. If you're just pretending to go along, and then try to catch me wtih my pants down, there will be a storm like you could never compre'end." A moment passes. "And you're very familiar with storms, aren't you, 'elena?"

A soft chuckle. "The rules are, no games. Obviously you 'ate me, and I'll be quite 'onest, the way you've been running fings, I probably won't be rubbin your back with suntan lotion anytime soon, either. But 'ere's the thing. You 'ave something of mine, I want it back. I 'ave something of yours, and you can 'ave it back. If you make me angry, or run off and start acting like a little tart again.. Fucking strewth, I'll 'ave to kill one of them. Let it be clear, the blood is on your 'ands. I'm no sadist, 'elena. I just want this 'ole messy situation to be over wit'. So, no games on my end, and I promise, I will do no 'arm to you during the exchange. Unless you fuck it up. And if you do, 'elena, I guarantee you and your band of fucking Evolved Merry Men shall be crucified so quickly, time itself will 'ave to stop to understand what just 'appened. Am I clear?"

Elisabeth doesn't want to talk too much here, hence the pad and paper. She moves to sit next to Helena, since her presence seems to bolster the younger woman. God, looking around the group that comprises Phoenix tonight made her realize just how fucking YOUNG all of them really are. And that's kind of scary in and of itself. She focuses, though, on this conversation and hopefully getting Helena through it… and getting her people back. She writes quickly once Ethan gives the information. <If no games, where and when?>

Conrad raises eyebrows and keeps his arms crossed, nodding in thought. His eyes cut toward Liz and Helena as this goes on.

"I understand." Helena's voice is tight and angry, but kept calm and moderate in volume. Her capacity for self-control is sorely tested. "How is this going to work?"

"Well, well.. all business now, are we? That's cute. That really is. For one fing, you can tell your fuckin' cyberpath to fuck off. And the next, I'll tell you when, and where. Later. I expect she was treated well? I would like to speak wit' 'er. Make that a reality, 'elena, and we'll be B F Fs, eh?" says Ethan.

Elisabeth shoots a questioning look at Helena when he demands to speak to the hostage we're holding. Liz knows what's been done to the girl so far, but that doesn't mean Helena wants to let her speak. When Helena gives her the negative headshake, she considers and writes quickly. <If Hana's doing something, make her back off. He can talk to her if we can talk to Cat or Dani and verify their state.>

Helena honestly doesn't think Ethan has any real way to detect if Hana's doing something or not, but she motions for the Israeli woman to cut Diego's feed, just in case. "The technopath isn't a factor. I can arrange for you to speak to her within an hour, but I want to speak to one of ours and verify they're alive." A pause. "Please." Her eyes dart to Elisabeth and Conrad's face, then down at the page.

"That's reasonable. One is missing all of 'er fingers on 'er left 'and. But, that was your fault, you already know 'bout that. Now this next bit might seem pretentious, but I don't like you thinking, 'elena. Because if think, you might stop being smart and start tryin' little plans to fuck this 'ole deal. So, I know this will sound a bit unreasonable. But you get my firl on the phone within a 'alf hour or I shoot Danielle in the fore'ead. Understood 'elena?" Ethan asks, as kind a voice can be when threatening a life.

Elisabeth grimaces briefly and merely nods to Helena. Giving in is the only option in this case - he's already proven his willingness to follow through.

Conrad speaks in such a way that his voice comes only to the ears of those in the room with him. "He's lying about Wireless." That's all he has at the moment.

Helena nods to Conrad. She believes that. "Thirty minutes or less from the time we hang up, and you'll be able to speak to her at this number. Like Dominos." Her jaw works, mouth quirking bitterly. "Put one of our people on, please."

"After I talk to the girl. Let's just say it's a lesson to trust me. Like I said, I don't want your fuckin' technopath fuckin' about. Not now, not in the future. Got it? Pulled enough stunts already, you know what? The more I think about this, the more I realize how generous I'm being. You're very fucking lucky I'm not an insane killer." He cocks the gun he's holding next to the phone. "Thirty minutes."


Helena sets the phone down, swallows hard. "What instructions do I need to give to Teo regarding Eileen on the phone?" she asks. "I don't know if we can make it there in time."

Elisabeth glances at Con and nods. Always better in this case not to take the chance, though. She's silent as Helena handles it, and then she says quietly, "You're not going to get a lot of leeway here. Tell Teo…. she's allowed to acknowledge Ethan, tell him what time it is to prove it's not a recording, she's allowed to tell him her physical condition," she pauses, considering that. Not like the girl's been terribly well treated, but neither have Phoenix's. "I don't see any way around that - he's going to demand to know." She looks at Helena. "Is there anything she could say that's going to make him shoot his own hostages?"

At this point Conrad just sits there, arms crossed, watching.

Helena looks completely baffled. "I have no idea, she could say anything. But all Ethan has to do is threaten to maim or hurt Dani or Cat and we'll just do what he wants anyway, right?" Her hands ball up into fists. "He's got all the power."

Elisabeth shakes her head. "He's got most of the power, and he knows it. Whoever pulled this off ought to be beaten severely about the head and shoulders — this is a clusterfuck, start to finish. Don't even think you're going to pull one over on this guy, Helena — your people fucked up royally. A 'win' for you is getting your people back in one piece. Tell Teo to give her a script. Greet Ethan, tell him the date and time, tell him she's physically okay. You'll have to take this gamble — I would suggest Teo tell her that if she cooperates and does what she's told, she'll be home in a few hours. If you're not willing to actually kill her, there's no point in attempting to threaten her into compliance." She moves to stand up, walking restlessly.

Helena can't help herself, says sullenly, "I didn't tell them to do this. I had no idea until after the fact." But she's dialing Teo as she speaks, prepared to give him the instructions.

December 10th: Olive Branch

Previously in this storyline…
Critiques on the Art of Negotiation

Next in this storyline…

December 10th: Crossing Phonelines
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