Two Birds One Stone


chris_icon.gif dumortier2_icon.gif bf_kara_icon.gif ryans_icon.gif sophie_icon.gif

Scene Title Two Birds, One Stone
Synopsis Armed with a signal emitter, a small team from Providence moves to descend on the settlement of an enemy militia. Their distance from Providence, along with intel gathered through intercepted transmissions and reconnaissance, lead the Remnant to believe this is the group that is infringing on their borders… the one that attempted to kill Byron and Eileen, the one that murdered the Kaufmann family by using them as bait for the machines. It's time for payback.
Date August 20, 2019

Whitesbog Village

New Jersey Pine Barrens

5:47 am

The sky is getting brighter by the time Kara Prince pulls the old Chevy off the side of the road a mile outside of Whitesbog, but it's still dark in the dense forest leading up to the historic village. Before the war, the small stand of buildings further north of their position served as a tourist site, the homes erected unlived in, but carefully upkept. In the years following, the wood outbuildings stood strong, oblivious to the war beyond the Barrens, and were afterward maintained by a smaller group now overtaken by the militia that rules the land now.

Not that this last piece of nuance is known to the Remnant invaders as they approach on foot, clinging to the shadows.

The road opens into a large field, a broad thing providing visibility for anyone approaching the town. At least, during the daylight.

This is not yet daylight.

And at night, there is only one guard posted, standing watch facing the southern road. A guard who expects any potential invaders to come from the road, not from the trees.

Not the trees behind, nor the ground below, nor the sky above. But most especially not from the very air she breathes…

It takes Sophie five seconds to coalesce completely. That leaves two full seconds for the guard's brain to fire another blip for one more boring thought, another automated signal for one last pulse of the heart, before Sophie's boots materialize into solid state and give her leverage enough…

Enough to jam the sleek narrow blade up at a forty-five degree angle pointed at the base of the guard's skull. In the same blink Sophie's little hand comes out to cup over the sentry's mouth, as much to assure silence if her aim were ever untrue, as to guide the taller woman's freshly dead weight back onto her tiny person and let it slide down to the ground with a hiss of military-canvas fatigues against Sophie's thick black leathers.

The tiny, mocha-skinned woman crouches with the slumped corpse, taking a breath's beat to scan it and her surroundings, before raising a hand overhead to give a small two-finger signal to the dark treeline at her back.

Definitely not from the road. They should have known better than to dismiss guerilla tactics in the first place. Dumortier has front row seats to Sophie's show and tell, crouched on a perch between branches, hood pulled up over the beacon of his platinum hair. He can appreciate the satisfaction that comes with catching someone by surprise, and he watches Soph work until she signals back to them.

He's not much for the fanfare, and hops down to the brush before slinking out from the treeline. Crossbow at his back and blades at his sides, Rene travels light as ever.

Sheafs of the grass he passes through seem to cling on in wisps; the agrokinetic heads into the meadow, the reedy plants surrounding him reaching more skyward in the dark, quiet and swaying. Small as he is, it doesn't take much for him to disappear if one doesn't know what to look for.

In the shadows of the woods, the tall figure of Ryans is hunkered down. A cowboy hat casts an even darker shadow over blue eyes as he watches Sophie work her magic. Lips are pressed in a line, unhappy with her risk; even if it is a necessary one. His hand adjusts the lay of the rifle slung across his back, shifting to remove the pistol from his coat as the guard goes down. It was easier to use than the rifle.

The trench coat Ben is wearing hasn’t really seen daylight since the night the island fell. It was black enough to hide the stains left by the blood of the innocent and the wicked. It felt like the right thing to wear on a night like this.

Tonight, he wasn’t a SESA agent.

Ben’s head turns enough to glance at Kara out of the corner of his eye before moving forward himself. Somehow, for a man with no abilities, he moves silently; booted feet barely making any noise.

Movement of shadows at the edge of the trees becomes the familiar shape of Chris, engaging as soon as Sophie has gone for the kill. A blind eye is turned on the blood and body, putting the necessary killing from his mind until later.

Then there will be drinking and celebration of a job well done.

Booted feet carry him swiftly from the trees, across the openness of the meadow. Dark colored clothes obscure his form under the blanket of nighttime. He's barely more than a shadow himself as he slinks boldly forward. Sophie’s position is overtaken and passed by the time she's easing the lifeless form to the ground.

Chris’ path is more or less a beeline. He deviates sometimes, a pause or a sidestep, sometimes to avoid a tangled growth and others to listen. He's armed this evening with his rifle, which he's made claim is a versatile tool. It's carried easily in his hands, a hunter accustomed to its weight while stalking.

Kara follows behind them all with a black duffel bag slung across her back like a rucksack. The distance between them all ensures that if they were spotted, they at least wouldn't be taken down as a cluster. But given Sophie's due diligence, the sleeping settlement is none the wiser as they creep forward.

The sounds of nighttime bugs chirruping are loud enough to mask the minutiae of their movement, entrenched in the trees surrounding them and in the green of the overgrown meadow itself. Rene and Chris's wide paths reveal a peek further down the road and into the junction in the middle of the village. A single light is lit at a building on the eastern half, where the office building stands. Someone else is awake at this hour, it seems.

No matter. They're heading for the western half of the camp. To the barracks. Kara presses ahead in a rush to lift her hand and gesture they start to coalesce back together along the western side of the meadow, ready to press into the trees and onto the other side. She's unarmed for the moment, gun at her hip, black-bladed knife sheathed and clipped to her vest. She crouches in the brush to look up the row of buildings between them and the single light far down the way. It's a little easier to see now, in the periwinkle dawn that's begun creeping over the forest.

Eyes narrowed, she nods toward the outbuilding at the end of the row and looks back to the group. “We'll set it up in there,” she directs them, quiet and terse. The building is a long, single story unit with windows that are boarded over from stem to stern. The doors at the end have large handles welded into place, chains with a padlock keeping the building sealed, and the electric light over the door is long-dormant, assuming power still runs to it at all. If there’s a building on the row least-likely to have been repurposed as a barracks, it’s this one.

She jerks her head toward the building, a sure sign she’ll follow last. “Go,” Kara urges.

Small presence means less noise, and Rene takes advantage of that when he pauses to examine the lit window from where they are crossing in. Nothing of note seems to be happening there, so perhaps just some early riser. He sighs through his nose and makes his way to meet on the junction; he watches Kara's movements, then the coax of her instruction has him giving a nod, then tossing Chris a glance before padding off. The muffle of damp earth under soft-soled boots is quick.

Dumortier approaches the longhouse and its boarded, welded entry points, his brow knitting on closer inspection of it. Heck, maybe they'll get some treasure before they leave. And of course, in true fashion, as soon as he gets to the padlock Rene curls into an unobtrusive crouch and sets at it with a pick, ear down and eyes slowly skimming his periphery.

He knows they'll watch his back, but old habits die hard. Rene and 'team player' is a change of recent years, and it still gets tested. Cla-cllick.

While the door is being dealt with, Ryans takes up a position at one of the corners. Knee pop when he crouches, it seems too loud to his ears. To keep his balance, he leans a shoulder against the aged wood. This allows him to lean out just enough to look down one side, giving him a bigger field of view.

An angle of adjustment brings Chris up behind Rene. Like a shadow, one that's clearly got a mind of its own, he trails the smaller man en route to the outbuilding. He takes up a position to cover the lockpicking procedure, his back to Rene, eyes and rifle scanning the yard.

Kara keeps a lookout from her position, too, as they cycle off to work on gaining entry. She adjusts the pack slung across her back carefully, nodding to Sophie to indicate they should go, too.

The lock falls to Rene Dumortier's graces, caught in his hand before it can clatter to the ground under its own weight. The chain is able to be threaded free, door opened with only minimal creak of an unoiled door, though it doesn't move in silence. Their eyes adjusted to the predawn light meet total darkness anew, though shapes make themselves present as the group shelters themselves from sight in the longhouse. Hard corners, crates with tarps draped over them. Further down in the building, though … chain-link fence?

And the sound of stirring.

It goes unnoticed by Kara, who's more focused on the door. She shakes her head in silence at Sophie, indicating to leave it open lest they create any more suspect sounds that could be picked up by light sleepers in the adjacent houses. "Let's find a good place to hide this in here," she says low to the group, swinging the duffel around to unzip it, letting her rifle hang from her shoulder in the meantime.

The box lies within. Kara glances up at her fellow Remnant member as she takes it in hand. "Chris." She holds the dangerous package out to him. Her brow lifts. Quietly, she asides to him, "The moment you hear it coming up on the camp, that's when you shut it off and bolt back to us. Any reservations?"

Rene pockets the lock and coils the chain up to set it over a shoulder; its added weight doesn't seem to bother him. He is the first to slip inside, trained eye scanning for anything that may potentially trigger. It was locked for a reason. A curious hand has him peeking under one of the tarps, then he hesitates, a slip of silhouette going still.

He focuses on his ears more than eyes, one hand resting on the wooden hilt of a blade at his side as he pads forward to investigate. Kara trusts him - at least in these situations - to avoid calling trouble or attention.

It's the sound of the door that wakes him up; he's always been a light sleeper, and they've never bothered to oil the damn thing. Sloppy. Not that he's about to point it out to them; he doesn't object to having a bit of forewarning before they come barging in.

They've never come this late before, though. Something's up.


He eases to his feet, as quietly as he can; the creaking of his old joints sounds impossibly loud to him in the dark; perils of age. The others are still sleeping, sounds like, but his gut is telling him that he should be on his feet for whatever it is that's coming.

He waits and listens, peering out through the chainlink fence; it's too dark to see for shit in here, but his eyes scan the darkness anyway, straining to pick out the details of who had come through the door.

Once in the building Ryans tucks the gun away, watching out the door and listening to Kara’s instructions to Chris. His knees are not exactly happy with what he’s doing, but somehow, he manages not to let it affect it.

The sounds of movement further in, pulls his attention around towards the chainlink in the back. Ben watches Rene for a moment, stiffening when he sees something moving in the darkness. He can’t see it, but he still reaches out to touch Kara’s arm and motioning with his head toward the retreating man’s back; an attempt to draw her attention to the fencing.

“I got it.”

If Chris seemed like he lacked alertness before, he doesn’t now. Now they’re inside, in a possible trap. It’s dark and anything could be hiding anywhere. That doesn’t mean he’s appearing scared or nervous, just alert. Still the hunter, never the prey.

He draws his eyes from delving into the dark lengths of the outbuilding and looks at Kara. He takes the device from her, like accepting a plate of cake at a birthday party. See, no worries at all. Not even the sound, which does gain a flicker of a look that way, earns much outwardly caution. “Get ready,” is all the advisement he offers.

Booted feet take Chris from the rest of the team at a fast pace, feet placed just so to minimize the sound of his steps. Into the deep, dark eeriness of the building, to set a trap of their own.

There are enough eyes turned ahead, turned inward, that Sophie sees no reason to make the same mistake as the lone sentinel theyshe had downed in the field. The tiny, phantom-esque woman lingers near the sliver-cracked doorway. Her little visage is pressed to the cut of pre-dawn illumination, scanning the buildings with careful attention - though it does occasionally slip back to the grassy expanse in the short distance. It looks peaceful there still. You wouldn’t even know there’s a body bleeding out back there…

Sophie makes a motion of clearing her throat without the sound, her dark eyes hardening as they swivel back to the immediate surroundings outside the door.

The box being handed off is done with a slow breath from Kara. Relief it’s no longer in her hands to potentially trip early taking as much precedence as concern to be leaving it with Chris. Who knew just how well the siren’s call would work? Entrusting him to be the last man out meant she’d be looking over her shoulder, ensuring no one got left behind.

Her preoccupation with those matters means that Ryans’ touch at her elbow takes her somewhat by surprise, her head swiveling in the dark toward the sight of the fence. At first, she simply thinks that that’s the oddity … but then she spots the moving figure in the dark. Kara shifts half a step to try and grab Chris by his sleeve as he plunges ahead into the dark, catching nothing but a fistful of air. “Wait,” she hisses in the dark, hand going across her side to peel away a thin, small flashlight and click it on in the direction of the fences.

The narrow beam of light cuts down closer to the floor, anxiety about animals driving that action. But what stirs on the ground is human, as much as they might be caged. Kara blinks once, light unmoving off of the form of a young woman who lifts her hand to try and block the light from her eyes. A simple flick of her wrist sends the sliver of illumination across what are at least four other bodies, some of them blocked by the man standing at the edge of the fence.

They’re not his captors, and he’s definitely not what they expected to find in here.

Another padlock keeps the group penned, and it’s easy to see now that the fencing is reinforced to make it harder to displace. The gap between top and ceiling is left unpatched, though— it’s not like those within would have very far to go if they did scale and squeeze through that small space. The rest of the storage house is about as expected— tarped boxes with sundries, goods meant for living. Dried herbs still hang from the ceiling near the door they’d entered, left from the camp’s previous occupants. The clear indicator of its new landlords can be found in an uncovered crate stuffed with ammunition, situated on the far side of the building. The door on that side is boarded over on the inside as well.

“What’s going on?” the stirring woman murmurs from the ground, equal parts drowsy and nerves as she works on pushing herself up into a halfway seated position.

Outside, dawn draws nearer.

Rene has no light until Kara's shines down and flickers across his back, his slim shadow blotting the far walls as she turns the lamp. The grip on his blade's handle tightens when he is able to study the space ahead of him, a sneer on delicate features when he moves out of the light and tugs part of his hood back to show his profile.

The venomous look he tosses over his shoulder for Kara and the others is about all that gets said about his decision making process. Dumortier doesn't hesitate when he approaches the fencing, the silvery multitool palmed back into hand before he starts in on the padlock as he did the one outside.

Straightening next to Kara, Ryans’ eyes narrow at the figure at the fence and then glances at Kara as a voice speaks up in the dark. One thing they didn’t need this trip, a human wrench in their plans.

Benjamin doesn’t move right away, at least not until Rene moves towards the lock. The old man watches the figures moving in the dark at his approach to the fence and the man behind it. Standing just out of reach of arms or a potential knife. A dark silhouette in a trench coat and hat.

“How many of you?” is asked, a slight lean to peer at the others beyond and try to get a head count himself. Ben’s whisper is still a deep, gruff rumble. It was an important question, followed by another one, “And are you all mobile?”

The man standing in the pen grimaces at the sudden light, grey eyes narrowing to a squint as they try to adjust… but even dazzled by the light, he can tell that the guy skulking towards them isn't one of the usual crew of assholes.

It's apparent, with the light on him, that the standing man is old. He's got a thin, wiry sort of build, and what hair remains on his head is short and grey; he's wearing a grey shirt stained by mud and sweat, and a pair of black pants… though the way his eyes flicker over the silhouette of DuMortier suggests that he's in full possession of wits.

When the hooded figure starts to work on the lock, though, he glances to the others, making a decision; when one of the women stirs and speaks, his grey-eyed gaze shifts to her. "Wake the others," he says, his voice low, gravelly rasp. "Quietly," he adds, adding a small nod for reassurance — he isn't entirely without bedside manner, after all. Then his gaze shifts back to the DuMortier, watching him intently…

…at least until another one steps up and starts asking questions. The right questions, and with not a word wasted; a good start. "Six," is his answer to the first question, delivered in that same low, gravelly rasp. "All mobile."

He isn't sure who these people are, but they're not with the assholes and they seem inclined to open the doors; as far as he's concerned, that's a good start.

There's no waiting when he's told to. Because duck that. Chris has grace enough to glance back at Kara and the others, a typical the fuck is your deal expression. Stop wasting time. He wasn't the one worried the device would prematurely go off and bring robots down on the party. And now he's supposed to….

…. His eyes track the light that comes up. There's the fencing, all the junk behind it.


That junk is actually people. Fuck.

Chris stares at the woman that rouses, then focuses a squinted-eye look at the man. He stops, a lot nearer to the cage since it's clearly a cage now, than if he'd stopped when Kara first told him to. That old frog of a man is robably the source of movement that he'd heard just a few seconds earlier and dismissed. He considers the folk briefly, then inserts his own observation. “Huh. This complicates things a lot.”

Sophie forcibly pries her gaze off the still scene outside to cast an accusatory look over her shoulder - What’s taking so lo-… Ohhhhh. “Nothing ever goes according to plan, why start now, hm?” The whisper is so low as to be only for her own amusement. There’s a secondary glance to the locks on the cage - the briefest of moments to ponder the million possible reasons these unlucky people are inside it. The enemy of my enemy better damn well be my friend. She snorts audibly and hisses at the group, “All aboard. This underground railroad needs to chug-a-lug.”

The tiny, dark shadow in the sliver of dawning light turns her attention back around, keeping guard.

The young woman on the ground undergoes a widening of eyes, what's happening not really sinking in until she's urged to carry on ger business quietly. Any reservations about who the strangers are are left for another time. "Euan," she tells the man next to her, trying both to be soft and heard as she shakes his shoulder. When he stirs, she moves on, but he's squinting at the light and the man standing on their side of the fence. "Carver, what's going on?" he asks.

Kara moves further into the longhouse to cast a better light for Rene's machinations, regardless of the use it might provide. It's the only thing she can do at the moment, besides looking the group over as they wake. They're at least ready to move at a moment's notice, it looks like. She frowns. Her jaw rotates in thought before looking ahead to Chris. "Flip the switch," she decides.

The lock on the cage falls just as easily as the first had, letting the cage gate swing.

"It'd be just desserts to round them up and pen them for their troubles, but getting these people out will have to do," Kara decides. She waves them along with one hand to start ushering them out of the cage. "Come on."

Like the first, the padlock comes out in Rene's hands; this time, he discards it and tugs the cage open wide. Being so close he can see their reactions in the dim, and something tells him he needn't worry about potential danger there. That's saved for the ones that left them here.

The old man inside the pen gets a single look from the fierce little face under hood, a wordless warning just in case. Habit, perhaps. Kara moves in to take over which lets him fall back towards the fore of the building and Sophie. "Still good?" Maybe for now.

“Only a small hitch,” Ryans comments to his other companions as they react to the discovery. Taking another look at the people in the cage, he continues as he takes stock. “Doesn’t change the plan.. Just adds extra step.” All is said flat with no real emotion, but it could be considered trying to be positive about a potentially bad development.

When Kara tells Chris to flip the switch, he turns to man on the other side of the fence. Ben gives a jerk of his head towards the door. “We can’t afford to be slow, so bring only what can be easily carried.” What he says easily carries to the others in the cage, with his rumbling bass.

What isn’t asked by Ryans is what they are doing there. That was a question for after. After they get everyone far from the danger zone and what is coming.

"We're getting out of here, looks like," is the old man's — Carver's — murmured response to Euan. There's a touch of sarcasm there — what does it look like they're doing — but it's low, subdued, probably not the sort of thing Euan's going to pick up on. Not this early.

His gaze shifts back to the group outside the cage, watching them… when the trenchcoated man speaks, he nods once. He takes a step back from the fence, moving to make sure the others are up and get them started moving… though he never quite turns his back on the front of the cell. Not completely. Old habits die hard.

“Better yet, don't bring anything at all.” Probably covered in filth and bugs anyway, and you know who'll have to delegate the task of cleaning it up? Chris. Because it sure as hell isn't going to be him that plays pest control when the work orders come around. No, that fun job can go to someone else thank you very much. None of this is conveyed, except maybe in his tone. But it's the same tone he's been using all his life so that's a terrible thing to judge him on.

“None of it’s worth a life,” is what he chooses to say as his qualifier. It may not sound compassionate, but at least it's logical.

Chris bears a certain lack of dramatics when it comes to flipping the switch. He looks vaguely imposed upon while he waits for the last of the captives to get out of the cage. He exhales a quiet but heavy sigh at his own companions, giving them a couple of extra seconds to get close to the door. Then

he sets his thumb to the switch

and turns it on.

Even without understanding the gravity of the switch flicked by Chris's hand, the half-dozen people in the cage are willing to take what they can get if it means out. And so far, at least, these people haven't encouraged them to move using the business end of a gun. The group, all adults, follow Kara to the door where she pauses by Sophie, leaning forward to get a view across the grounds.

They're brighter than the last time she was at the door. By far. She can clearly see the mist clinging to the field they approached by, when before the shade of the trees masked that far view. The munitions chaplain frowns as she looks across the village grounds, wishing there were fog inside the treeline as well. It would give them better cover for escaping through.

Theoretically, anyway.

"Stay low, stay on me, and if I direct you ahead, go in a straight line where I point you. Understand?" she asks the thin man, Euan, behind her. He nods stammeringly, a little taken aback by the Kara's gruff manner, and even more by the fact she unslings her rifle from a resting position, fixing her grip around it. She looks once over her shoulder back at Chris, giving a rough approximation of a nod, then she's gesturing for Sophie to step out with her. "Keep watch while we move them out. If you see something…"

The lift of her brow says 'do something', but the specifics go unsaid. Kara descends the steps quietly back down to the dirt road, rifle held at the ready. She moves swiftly, keeping as keen an eye as she can on the rest of the camp with mere glances while she keeps a forward pace across the way.

Sophie clicks her tongue twice in the hollow of a cheek - a sound that is affirmative and also a quiet likeness of cocking the hammer on a revolver. Stepping down to the ground, she keeps a lookout on the compound. Reaching up and she one hand props the door open for the short stream of refugees, the other is curled around a leather handle - the knifeblade jutting out from the back of a coiled fist.

Dumortier lines up with Sophie there at the head, looking out where the women aren't, watchful as the stream of people file out in relative silence. It won't be this quiet for long. He angles a look after Kara stepping out as the nose of the group, and before she knows it Rene is popping up a dark shape in her peripheral. Luckily she is quite familiar with his shape, how he moves- - Dumortier is breaking away at the rear, padding some past the edge of the building to survey the dark ahead of the sunrise.

Just for a moment, then he's following again; this time, with a spread of purposefully patchy green blurring the trail they leave behind.

The trenchcoat wearing man, watches as everyone filters out of the cage, moving along with Dumortier to trail after the captives. When he steps out into the open again, the old man tugs the rifle off his back. Fitting the blunted end of his damaged arm into the special rig, allowing him to a rifle like everyone else. Only then does he follow after the rest, with a brief glance to Rene, letting the younger man bring up the rear.

Ben’s attention is on the white clinging mists and the other buildings under the slowly lightening sky. Looking at him, one wouldn’t know that he had a slowly growing knot of anxiety over that calm outward appearance.

Carver moves at the tail end of the former captives, low and quiet in the pre-dawn gloom. He's got nothing but the clothes on his back and his own two hands… but hopefully that'll be enough for this. Hopefully they can get away clean. Hopefully the rearguard of their rescuers, moving along behind him, is good enough to obscure the trail so it won't lead the assholes right to them.

Hopefully. Ugh. Hope is something that Carver has found to be like a particularly capricious cat; purring one second, clawing you the next. Hope in one hand, shit in the other, see which fills up first. But… as much as he hates it, these past few days, there's not been much else to do aside from hope for an opportunity — an opportunity to escape, or even to strike back. Now that that opportunity has come, he finds that mostly it comes down to hope yet again, at least for a little while longer: hope that their luck holds out, hope that these rescuers of theirs can get them out without screwing the pooch… and hope that he's not read these rescuers wrong, and that the survivors of Whitesbog aren't being led out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Chris is the last one to the door, seconds but not quite moments behind the others. His measured pace is set to give the rest of the company time to Get The Fuck Out while there’s time before the robots arrive.

If they arrive.

He may have some doubts.

He stands in the doorway, device in a hand that hangs casually at his side. A glance wouldn’t tell onlookers what his business is. He could very well be watching the sun make the sky turn brighter as dawn moves into morning. In fact, he is. With a deep inhale, a fresh breath of new air, he stretches back and shoulders like a man just waking up.

Except he’s waiting for the moment to arrive when he needs to run like the devil is chasing him.

Chris briefly leans a shoulder against the frame of the doorway. His head tilts to listen. Somewhere in the distance there ought to be those telltale sounds of steel-wrought death monsters. If you’re quiet enough, you might hear them also.

Even in Chris's hand, save for the light indicating the box is active, it gives no clear sign as to its true purpose. It's a simple, unadorned thing, as much as it weighs on the minds of those who brought it to this place. Kara, for her part, strains to hear anything out of the ordinary in the distance. A knot of unease refuses to untangle itself in the meantime, hoping that they're not heading straight in the direction death will emerge from.

Once they break through the first stand of trees and emerge back out into the field, Kara directs that Euan keep heading on straight for the next treeline, hugging the road away from the village. She looks back to wave the rest on, meeting Ryans' gaze for a split second to share her silent concern, one gone in the flicker of a moment it takes for her attention to move on to Carver, nodding to him. "They're about to get what's coming to them. Don't worry," she advises.

Her attention settles on Sophie next, indicating with a short movement for her to join them … and then she looks back to Chris's silhouette in the doorway. Jaw tense, she turns and turns back after the group, step quickened to bring her up to the front again. "Veer left," Kara directs. Left takes them away from the treeline and up a hill.

A hill which overlooks the partially-tended cranberry bog on one side, and the village on the other.

"Head up, find the tallest patch of grass, and get down." is the munition chaplain's order. She turns back in the direction of the village again, staying until the others have moved on. She listens. She waits. The coast seems clear … for now.

At the far end of the village, Sophie can see a light flick on in a small window of the main office.

Sophie moves like an extension of Kara, falling back into the old rhythm as though she’d never taken off her dancing boots to start. The dip of her chin barely constitutes a nod as she moves into position. Only the flicker of light in her periphery makes her hurried bootfalls falter. “Someone’s waking up early for Christmas,” she coos as she jogs a few paces beyond where Kara has stopped to encourage the Underground Railroad on further.

“He’s got this,” Sophie utters, whisper unwavering, as if she can lend some of her belief to the taller woman looking back on the sleepy village… and the man left behind with the triggered box.

The first part of the route passed, Dumortier angles a look to Kara when she moves in to direct them; of course, he's wordless in his assent, giving a small crook of a smile before moving on and leaving her to survey things behind them.

Heading up it's a little easier to follow Rene's shape, the overgrown knoll just a touch more dimly lit. Dawn is a listless crawl. Once the ragtag party starts collecting on the hill he takes it on himself to immediately find the best patch to hunker down, his ability lending them a touch of help.

The look doesn’t go unnoticed, in fact, Benjamin pauses next to her looking back at Chris. There were things about what they were doing that didn’t sit well, but he understood the motivation behind it. His gaze moves from the door to the buildings beyond, as always, the old man’s face is unreadable.

“I wonder how many innocents we just condemned.”

There is no judgement in those rumbled words, just a simple thought. It sounds like something Ryans probably asked himself many times over the years. “I guess that‘s the burden all leaders must bear to protect their own.” He finally looks at the woman next to him, a knowing look there in those blue eyes, before he his back on the village and all the souls within to follow the band they just rescued. A group of souls depending on the Providence folks to keep them alive.

Carver follows at the tail end of his little group, but when the woman — the leader of this group? — addresses him, he pauses, glancing to her.

She'd said they're about to get what's coming to them. Not they'll get what's coming to them — which could occur in a year or a decade or, far more likely, never — but they're about to get what's coming to them. Which implies direct action that has been taken, or at the very least committed to. He considers that for a moment, then nods. "Good," he rasps.

The reassurance also gives him a slightly greater degree of confidence in his assessment of their would-be rescuers.

The trenchcoated man's musing about innocents is another promising sign; Carver's eyes flicker to him for a moment, and he decides to take a risk and speak up to put that doubt to rest. "Those were the only innocents," he rasps, turning his head towards the group that Euan is even now leading towards the trees. "Here, at least. These assholes have got other camps, I'm pretty sure, but this one doesn't really have much as far as holding facilities."

His piece said, he nods sharply, starting to move after his group… Trenchcoat is apparently thinking the same way. Good on him.

Kara looks back at Ryans as he makes his comment, waiting until he does the same before reading at all into the context of his commentary. Her reply is measured, terse. "No fewer than they murdered in cold blood at the old barn." Sophie's keen eye on the village makes her snap her attention back that way. They were waking up? "Then it's important we stay down," she urges, more quietly than before. "Might be preparing for rotation swap. They'll realize their night sentry is gone."

And so she crouches with the rest of them on that hill.

Only then does she notice it.

The forest has gone silent.

The silence gives way before long to the sound of something heavy, distant. The direction it comes from is hard to discern… at least until a flurry of birds take flight about a mile to the east, all rushing to get out of something's way. A hollow crack comes from a tree bowled over.

Only a moment later does it occur to her to ask a very important question, looking to Carver. "Expressives among you?"

Kara looks urgently back in the direction of the camp then, on the western side where the storage house laid. Okay, Chris. This was the hard part— hearing it, but not seeing it. Trusting his judgement on when to cut the signal and escape. She sits poised in tension, waiting.

“Stop looking back here and get moving,” Chris gripes quietly at his companions. They’re too far away to hear him, of course, but since when has that ever mattered?

The answer is never.

He straightens and paces the narrow width of the doorway. A look is spared over his shoulder, maybe there’s something back there that they keep looking at. Some horrible joke, like a monster that’s about to come out of the shadows, someone he’d missed not leaving in a boogeyman mask waiting to jump out and… get shot probably. It’s a bad idea to try to jump scare someone carrying a loaded rifle.

He turns again, balancing on his heels so the balls of his feet hang over the threshold. “Over the hill,” he coaxes, still a murmur, and still only heard by him. “Stick to the plan…”

It’s possible that the young man had more to say, but those birds and that crack can really only mean one thing. A step takes Chris just outside the doorway, head and shoulders turned in the direction of someone’s steampunk creation gone terribly wrong. “Guess this stupid thing works.” He sounds impressed, but waits to run. It’s got to get closer.

Sophie’s gaze might very well feel as sharp as one of her many knives with the way in bores into Ryan’s back. No one likes to be reminded of the value of life in the sense of possible collateral damage. Carver’s assessment of the populace back in the tiny village smooths some of her prickliness and she hunkers down in beside Kara on the balls of her feet with one teepeed hand digging her fingertips into the ground - like a runner poised to spring at the first squeak of the trigger. “Oh, they’ll notice the missing sentry, alright.” The cacophonous crash of a tree makes her bow her head and lower her voice. “But, this is clearly one of those situations where ‘better late than never’ does not apply.”

Even in the dawn light, there is enough dark for Kara to see the faint shimmer behind blue eyes as Rene folds down beside her and keenly directs his attention onto the forest just before the birds flap away in alarm. Her question to the old man they've picked up has him sliding a look to them.

Through waiting for an answer, the sun tickles against the rustle of grass, and Dumortier briefly angles his face to the light. "Here comes a bad time. How long do we intend to stick around…?"

Comments and glares do nothing to shake the trenchcoat wearing Ryans, the man did it for a reason. They needed that reminder. Thankfully, Carver’s assessment eases some of that guilt and he gets a tip of his head in appreciation.

The crack jerks Benjamin’s head in the direction of whatever is coming. Unlike some of the others he came with, the older man has never seen whatever that thing was. Joints pop as Ryans takes a knee next to the others, his attention fully in the direction of that sound. There is a stillness around him, focused and alert.

Carver's head swivels at that distant crash, going on high alert. He drops to one knee beside Ryans; he can hear the cracks and pops of his protesting joints, feel all the various twinges, but it's a distant concern. The majority of his attention is focused on that noise. On the flight of panicked birds rising up in the distance, visible against the pre-dawn sky.

It's bad luck at the very least… and judging by the way these guys are acting, it's probably a lot worse than that. Kara's question draws his eyes to her, and for the briefest of moments he hesitates. He's heard questions like that asked before, and seldom has there been anything good come of it.

But he's already decided to trust them this far; a step further isn't going to hurt. "One. A dirt-mover. Not very strong," he rasps, gray eyes shifting to study her.

At that, Kara's eyes narrow. "Shit," comes from her quietly, under her breath. With how infrequently she loosens her language, she might as well have shouted it. She adjusts her crouch, doing the mental math. That put … three signals for the Evolved-hunting robot over here in the bushes rather than in town.

At least it wasn't already on a collision course with them.

That box must be powerful stuff after all.

Enough that when the cephalopod breaks through the treeline at the far end of the camp, it does so by jumping onto the small tree directly in its path, sending the crackling, young pine splintering off its stump with two legs. The red light of its whole, undamaged eye glows brightly in the shadows of the treeline as it adjusts its arms. It sees what Chris can't from its vantage point — the numerous heat signatures coming to activity within the buildings wondering just what the hell is going on.

It decides to prepare by adjusting its grip on the tree and angling it into a circular grinding chamber just slightly off from where one might expect the mouth of an octopus to be. If the crash weren't enough to rouse those in the houses, the sound of the thing feeding is. The robot might be content to take its time, getting a full reading while it noisily gets its energy up for the hunt, but someone's come to one of the doors. Shirtless, a man screams "What the fuck," his attention firmly on the end of the camp occupied by the metal invader and not the human one found at the other end in Chris. He has a hunting rifle, which he fires out of instinct on the robot…

And, in an instant, becomes its object of interest.

“What kind of sex-depraved maniac dreamt that up.”

So eloquently wondered aloud. Chris stares at the octobot in its tree with a look of… well he's disturbed. And slightly worried. It's probably the same look he would have worn at thirteen, while he was home alone… doing what thirteen year old boys do when they're home alone. And worried the ‘rents are going to come home early.

The details aren't important, don't worry about it.

His head snaps to the sound of the gunshot. “That was fucking genius,” is his deadpan answer. It's accompanied by an are you shitting me look. His attention slides to the robot — and he's actually pretty thankful that it's focused on the trigger happy lunatic — then starts looking for a way out.

“Better be a drink waiting for me when I get out of this hornet nest.” Chris shoots a look up to the hill where he'd last seen his companions. Maybe they'll hear his muttering and be ready for his return. Adjusting the rifle strap on his shoulder, he angles his path to go wide around the madman and his gun, maybe put a few buildings between himself and everything else. And eventually he's got to get that device turned off. Once R2D2’s crazy aunt makes it into the camp.

Sophie’s dark eyes widen as if trying to absorb wholly the massive construct… the massive horror of what’s before her. The automaton cephalopod is disturbing enough, undoubtedly. But, the dark sheen coming from this metallic body refracting the hell-born crimson glow of its singular eye is more sinister still. It’s the mouth, though - the mouth that whirrs and chips and grinds on trees to better sharpen its teeth for… bones?

Her knees hit the earth with a silent thud that reverberates in her bones. She doesn’t feel it, not compared to the growing weight on her shoulders and the tightening knot in her stomach. Sophie slides a little fist, wound tightly around a blade handle still, roughly across her middle as she curls deeper into the brush with dark, lively eyes flitting towards the village.

Dumortier instinctively lowers himself just a little more when the mech comes flailing its way into town. He's become passingly more familiar with the things thanks to Kara, and perhaps even some (very) distant observations on his own. It still has his skin crawling, though. He is silent until the shot rings out and the swivel of cyclopean eye rounds on the origin.

"And there we are." Rene sounds as if he is tempted to add a 'lovely' qualifier, but doesn't. His attention moves to Carver, Sophie in turn. "Soph, we need to get some distance. Who was your te— earth mover? They're coming with us." Two is safer than three, and three is pushing luck.

Benjamin had heard about the robots from Kara, but that was just a description. There is no way that a mere verbal telling could impress upon the former Company Director what they were or how much they differed from all the robots they fought before and during the war.

The sight of it sends a coldness through him. They unleashed that on that town? “Instead of three of you moving away together as a target; maybe the one of us, one of them would be better here. Still protection in numbers but diluting what it can sense?” He glances over at Kara. “Split in different directions while main Non-SLC group head back?” He knows whatever final decision is her’s, he is only offering council.

At the sight of the thing lurking in the tree, Carver tenses, but does not rise; his lips pull back from his teeth just a bit in the barest hint of a silent snarl, his fingers curl inward in a motion that's not quite the clench of a fist.

Not that there's anything he can do. Be damned if that isn't a bitter pill to swallow, but unarmed and against something like that evil-looking robot, he knows it's true; if that thing decides to attack, the sum total of what he can do about it is just about jack shit.

So instead, his eyes shift, neck twisting just a bit as he glances over the others, studying their reactions to this… thing. From what he's seeing, it seems they like this thing just about as much as he does. Good for them.

Then comes the gunshot, and the thing's glowing eye turns to regard it; Carver lets out the breath he'd been holding. At the question directed his way, Carver's lips pull into a thin line, but his answer comes quickly enough. "May Jessup. Brown hair, wavy."

His eyes flicker between the trenchcoated man and the leader as Trenchcoat offers his two cents, gleaning what he can from their exchange about what exactly that thing is. First step to surviving is knowing what you're up against, after all.

May looks up at the sound of her own name, if only just. Her eyes are wide, the anxiety behind their escape and now the thing that could potentially hunt them causing the earth under her feet to loosen and start to rise. She shifts— her one steadying hand on the ground leaned on as she shuffles closer to Dumortier. A nod is given to him, and then she goes right back to looking at the glimpse they’re getting of the monstrosity rolling in on the town.

She’d seen the robots used by the administration during the war— the things that hunted people like her. They held a special place in her nightmares — and this thing looked like it wanted to challenge that. Make them worse. “Let’s get out of here,” May agrees in a shaky voice.

Kara turns her head but not her eyes at the advice thrown out regarding splitting their numbers. She glances away only to look at Rene and his new ward, afterward to Sophie. Never one to turn down good counsel, she directs several pairings. “Rene and May. Sophie and Euan. Opposite directions.” But she’s running out of names at this point. She glances to Benjamin next, weighing something. “Ryans,” she decides in calling him. “You take Carver and the rest when they’re ready.”

Exhaling a terse breath, she looks sternly back in the direction they’d come from, waiting for — hoping for signs of movement in the trees. “I’m here until Chris comes back, maybe shortly after. I want a view of this as long as possible. Get an understanding of how this thing works.”

And if they’re lucky, she thinks to herself, maybe these monsters will even damage it before falling to it. All the better for the group on the hill.

But so far, the eight-legged robot seems entirely nonplussed by the attention bullets thrown its way, taking shots to its reinforced body without hardly looking any worse for wear. More men and women scramble outdoors to assess the threat in their camp, and only one notices with a doubletake what’s taking place at the other end. “Hey!” he calls out as soon as he sees Chris darting across the camp, and where he’s coming from. His arm strikes out and while his fellows fire on the robot, he fires once in Chris’s direction.

It goes wide.

The growth of the tree processed, the octopod rises up and ambles forward, heading for the first house and bundle of people that flare so brightly on its sensors. It lunges in a frenzy, two arms snapping out to make grabs on its assailants. One arm swings and misses, the woman targeted scrambling back in the nick of time. The second arm connects, claws closing around torso and midsection with a silent crunch of ribcage. When he screams, his fellows take up both a warcry against the robot and sounds of horror about what it’s doing.

From her spot on the hill, Kara grits her teeth. “Come on,” she quietly but vocally urges Chris along through the treeline toward them, resisting the urge to meet him halfway.

Rene only stays approximately long enough to make sure that Chris and his tail don't catch up with one another, and the wide shot gives him enough reassurance to put a hand around May's shoulders to usher her with him. Being such a slip of a person doesn't appear to do much to his confidence, which lets him bleed a safer feeling than one might think. At least, he seems sure of himself, and even if untrue- - he tends to fake it til he makes it anyway.

They'll be fine.

"I hope you like scenic walks." seems like an odd thing to say, but Dumortier does intend on taking her a bit of a long route to somewhere safer. "We've had enough of this circus, hm?" Grass splays at his boots as his hand links around May's wrist, and he spares just a glance back before they move off; once they hit a treeline, they'll effectively vanish.

Sophie's little face, darkened by the shadow of bouyant green curls, barely turns to acknowledge Rene's words. Her eyes, nightly and yet sparkling, remain glued on the metallic horror down in the rudely woken village. Rene, Kara, Ryans - it's only after they have formulated something of a plan that, with a fluttering blink and obvious effort, the deadly little woman looks to her compatriots. A squint of concern is cast at the pairing of Rene and May but a quick look at Kara infuses the Sophie with a new resolve as effectively as ever. She gives a loyal nod.

"And I thought clowns were a nightmare," she teases at Rene's circus comment, if just to flash him one last bolstering grin before he sees his ward towards the treeline. "That puts you with me," she instructs Euan quietly with an indicative jerk of her head. "Stick close, stay down. And if you can, stay quiet." She holds a little finger to her lips and winks as a fresh surge of adrenaline kicks in. With a quick glance back down towards Chris and the doomed village quickly being put in his wake, Sophie turns and scrambles away with Euan in tow, cutting a branch out from Rene's path and diving their trail in opposite, rounding directions back to homebase.

Carver's eyes flicker to the leader as she lays out her plan, paying attention when she names names. The one who'd picked the locks is Rene. The younger woman is Sophie. And Trenchcoat is Ryans. He makes a mental note of those names; even odds on whether he'll fumble on Rene or Sophie's names next time they meet, but he makes a mental note of it anyway before shifting his attention to Ryans. "Sounds like we're with you," he rasps. "Lead on. I'll do what I can to cover our trail." Not that it's gonna do a lot of good if one of those robots comes after them; if that comes up, though, maybe he can at least buy time.

There is a short nod, though it wasn’t exactly what Ryans had meant. Still works, either way. Carver's words, earns the man a thoughtful look and another nod. “Signal if you see something.” That is all Ben has to say to that, but it also meant this other old man wouldn’t be the only one sacrificing himself if it followed them.

Ben give’s Kara’s shoulder a simple gesture that a soldier might give another, because he knows she’s totally got this.

Motioning to the other non-evos to follow, Ryans puts a finger to lips and turns away to start the long trek. It won’t be the most direct route, mind you, just in case they end up followed.. But Ben will get them back.

Chris’ body gives an involuntary jerk at the sound of gunfire and ricochet.

Great. Now not only is he literal bait for the damned nightmare of a Dalek, but also the stupid militia posers are shooting at him! How basic can you get?!

His thumb toggles the device off as he spares a second to look over his shoulder. Yeah, that guy with the gun is going to cause problems if he isn’t snatched by Claptrap anytime soon. Chris brings his rifle around, to return a couple of volleys of his own while continuing his retreat. At the guys, that is, not the robot. Hell, maybe he’ll slow them down enough for Megatron’s illegitimate love child to turn into playthings.

As grudging as Kara might be to split the group, there is a sense of relief when the splintering begins. It's reinforced when Ryans pats her shoulder before heading off.

Despite the circumstances, they're all in good hands. She knows it.

The munitions chaplain remains crouched on the hill as she waits for Chris to finish (noisily, she notes with an internal groan) making his escape. The sound of fire from an unexpected angle is enough to make two heads turn in his direction, which brings Kara to clutch the grip of her weapon and prepare to provide cover fire, heart racing. But, the confusion surrounding who is that gives way to them worrying about the bigger problem, one, and the other notes the open door to the storehouse.

In all their eloquence, rather than explain the secondary issue, the second man only swears loudly.

Coming up from her crouch only when Chris draws closer, Kara finally tears her attention away from the havoc unfolding in the village to look his way. "Tell me you turned that thing off already," she says gruffly, a question that's hopefully as rhetorical as she means for it to be.

“No. I figured I'd let Bender back there follow us home.” Chris is, as always, deadpan. He tosses a look over his shoulder, then focuses on Kara a moment later. “After he's done tearing through their camp. Wouldn't be fair to Mecha-Cephalopod to make it stop prematurely.” Still flat of tone, characteristically sarcastic. It should be expected, even anticipated most times.

The device is handed over. He doesn't need it anymore. The rifle is seated in its comfortable, seemingly too casual grasp. “Time to be scarce,” he says with a tip of his head away from the encampment.

As soon as the device is handed over, it's switched off. A moment is spared for Kara to look over her shoulder, in the direction the others split, hoping that—

The sound of a building taking damage brings her head back around quickly. If she could turn the box off twice, she would just to be safe. Instead, she watches as the one bot is rammed with a jeep into one of the village houses … all while a second bot, one missing two legs and with a damaged eye, comes ambling slowly from the treeline by the long storehouse. A chill runs down Kara's spine as she glances to Chris for just a moment, glad he is here and not there any longer.

"In just a moment," Kara agrees quietly, going back to watching the struggle against the toppled bot ensue, and fresh panic arise among the militia when they realize the second cephalopod has emerged— nevermind that it's damaged. She takes note of the robots' reactions with an odd calm as the one closes in while the other works on righting itself, its many legs assisting in that being quickly done. The driver of the jeep is snatched from his seat by the dull guillotine of a pincer and thrown mangled onto the ground before the robot resumes its advance on those firing on it.

What happens is not the same as justice, not exactly.

But it will do.

Eyes narrow as a second, rumbling vehicle comes to life and spins its tires in the dirt before coming into sight, turning and heading north out of the village as fast as the old truck will allow. Screams of frustration lead to the conclusion it was a selfish act. Hmph. Kara takes a moment longer in watching the struggle against the monstrosities play out before deciding she's seen enough.

She nods to Chris, starting a direct path back to their truck with a sense of accomplishment she hadn't anticipated; a sense of feeling they'd done something right in this brutal act. Not only did The Remnant confirm the box's use, they brought hell to their enemy's doorstep. Not only did they decimate a cruel militia, they learned more about another threat to Providence. Which was still nothing to say of the people they had helped escape.

By the time the groups circle back in on the transport they'd taken from Providence, sounds of life have filtered back into the air of the Pine Barrens. Morning dew begins to be warmed away as the last of the dawn fog disperses. Two warblers criss-cross paths in the air and settle on a boulder. Their notes as they circle each other are cut off by the slamming of pickup doors, and the birds take flight again.

The truck begins to roll in the direction of sunrise, the cramped cabin and bed both privy to a view of the cloudless skies ahead. In their wake, they leave behind the ghosts of dawn— and for those rescued, many a dark night that came before it.

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