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Antony Largo

What you see.. is just the surface..*smile*

0 · 546 views · located in Night City

a character in “Cyberpunk 2038”, as played by Oborosen

Description

Name/Alias:
Nevil Antony Largo
The face snatcher, Mr Faceless

Age:
33-estimated

Gender:
Male

Description:
Height: 6'2 Weight: 196-210lbs
At one point Antony was quite the heart throb in his youth, he was a great sportsman and competitor until he left for the war. That was the day he found that life was so easily offered and taken by capable hands. Now he is a shadow of his former self, though his body is strong and fit his attitude and standing are not. His eyes bare a vacant dead stare as if he were a fish in a bowl looking at the world on the outside. Or perhaps he is the one looking in on the fish, he has yet to decide. He does still dress with fine clothing at times but its hard to deny a strange air about him. His long black hair cuts over his shoulders and is kept swept back most of the time he can be seen. His dark eyes are eerie to look at, seeing as the operation that made him the way he is also nearly ended his need for moisture on them. So he can go some time without remembering to blink at all.

Personality:
Antony is a strange man, though well mannered and possessing a high upbringing he is at most times a difficult person to deal with. At times he can show sociopathic tendencies but that can be attributed to how he was brought up as well. He does not care for others or they're possessions, however if they are in direct commonality to him then he has his reasons for paying what attention he does. Worst of all Antony can at times have a very possessive and hyper attached personality. Which is shown in his care for his own personal items and at times will gain the same attachment to someone until he actually needs to possess them as well.

Training/Abilities:
Antony has received extensive amounts of training in multiple fields of combat and improvised weapons, His years spent as a soldier of fortune have hardened his mind and body to a point of nearly meta perfect conditioning and he has been known to act with an animistic instinct on more then one occasion.
-Assault weapons training-
-Heavy weapons training-
-Improvised/CQC weapons-
-Marital Combat training (hand to hand,armed)-
Antony is a capable pilot, being able to fly in and out of combat zones with relative ease. His ability is shared with multiple aircraft and even more advanced types that he came across during his stint with TrT.


Equipment:
Among most of the other operatives, Antony has some of the best toys available to him. Not because of his standing within the group but because he is a compulsive collector of sorts and not a moment goes by that he isn't willing to spend his own money to get his hands on the newest weapons or gadgets available. He keeps all of which meticulously maintained and is actually rather a dick when it comes to handing them out to anyone else.
"Favored items are as follows"
-Stern'meyer Type 35 Heavy Pistol-
-Beretta M-24 Medium SMG-
-Arasaka WAA Bullpup/Underslung Launcher-
-Excalibur Taser stick-
-Spawnblade (highend blade)-

Clothing/Armor:
Antony wears a black street jacket with normal leather wear from a day to day basis and only carries a side arm when wearing normal clothes. But when it comes time to fight he is not easily put down and he wears the material needed to do his job.
-Kevlar Assault Vest, ammo and tool storage-
-Metal Gear Assault attachments, Shins, Forearms-
-Nylon head cover with a thermoplastic face mask-


Augments/Cybernetics:
Aside for his more cosmetic augmentation, Antony's body has only received very limited amounts of alteration and strengthening.
Combat Augments: [Shark Weave] Antony's dermal layer has been enhanced with a nano mesh weave that makes his skin highly resistant to small arms fire, chemical burning and impervious to most types of low grade blade weapons. His spine and sections of his skeleton have been re spun as well with a similar mesh to make his frame more absorbent to impact. His chest cavity can support a 5G impact proportional to his own weight and his limbs can support an impact equal to half of that.
Cosmetic Augments: One of the more disturbing things about Antony is that he hasn't looked the same as when he was younger in a long time. His face is a synthetic fabrication and it is made to look the way he wants. If it does not fit his style he will just take it off and replace it with another face that he has in storage. Or for gaining his own namesake he has taken the faces of others to add to his own little collection.
Without a face his skull is nearly bare and there are sections of wire and mesh lashings that make his chosen face operate as if it were his own.


History:
In the years following the first official handshakes among the corporations it was believed that anyone and everyone who wanted to make and name for themselves tried their best to get on the corporations good side. They would fight and kill for those ruling bodies and even more then that when the time came for it. But as time moved on it was certain that the ones that shined in this line of work were those with military and actual backgrounds of espionage. Seeing as normal hoods didn't really cut it and they were at most a one use design.

Antony was one such man that shined after his life in the military was cut short due to a very brash dishonorable discharge.
His life in war soon landed on the radar of several large end corporations and his services were vied for over half a decade. That was until he received a contract from Trauma Team [TrT] and left the states for outer reach work. What is not known publicly is that he spent this time raising hell among the stars, he spent several months straight jumping from one orbital station to the other taking and killing all to his own content. It was here that the fact of his affliction was noted when several of the more higher up work staff were found faceless and strung up in the halls. He was given rights to a certain medical procedure and techniques that allowed him to switch identities rather quickly. He came earth side not long after and was sent around the remaining third world states to search out medical cures with a small team who by all means shared a medical disposition like himself.

However it was only a matter of time till TrT would turn its back on him and set him to the stake, he was pitted against his own squad who summarily thrashed him heavily. It was only with the use of a singular grenade that he managed to escape and proceeded to head underground. But as with all things buried, there is a chance that one could always dig them up. Antony was discovered by an operative who he nearly killed in the attempted completion of their own mission. He had come to know the reputation of CKSD and requested to be added to their roster after releasing the operative and helping in the completion of said mission. Though he still has yet to gain full trust of those within the corporate body, he has proven that he is still a capable asset.

-Other Info-

Antony was raised in a high standing family and has always been accustomed to being wealthy. So he has always done his best to keep his personal accounts high and fool, even going so far to keep separate books on the side for emergency cases. That is not to say that he does not spend his wealth.
Antony is a heavy player in the stock market and under several assumed names he has stocks in many major and not so major businesses. His most recent acquisition was a hostile takoever of another shareholders savings and he now has 16% of Milatek's and 12% Arasaka stock profiles.

So begins...

Antony Largo's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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She tapped a few things into her tablet, notes of things she needed and messages she needed to send. First order of business was to bring on at least one more person, a more combat oriented person to compliment Teagan. She knew exactly who she would contact and also knew of course that he currently was not on a job.

Imogen stood and donned her coat. "I will see everyone in two days time then." She gave Mark a smile and nod a she turned to the door. She still felt bad for having made him uncomfortable but in the end everything seemed to be alright. Imogen headed out of the bar and to the street.

George did not look up as she heard everyone moving. She knew Riordan wasn’t leaving. He was waiting to talk to her. She decided that it would be brief, that she would not give him the chance to do what he had done last time. George disliked being taken by surprise and put on the spot. He had done both.

The kitten mewed softly. Her eyes flicked up from her screen to it. She wanted to ask him what the deal with it was but that was too much of an opening, too friendly. She needed to be hard and closed off. There was a job to do and his silly...notions had no place here right now.

George stood and picked up her things as the last of the team left the room. She came around the table, the opposite side from Rio and headed towards the door.

“Let me know if you have any trouble tracking things down for Teagan.”

He wouldn’t, he never did but it felt like a good ending before she walked away.

Riordan had seen Atticus off. Thanking him again for Sprinkle, who was definitely an odd yet welcome addition to his life before telling the demolition man that his driver would be waiting for him outside to give him a ride home. It was the least that Rio could do for Atticus, seeing as how he had driven him here and he wouldn’t leave him to his own devices but as soon as the Irishman walked out and into the bar that left Riordan and George alone.

Apparently, George didn’t want to be near him in that context again because she moved quickly towards the exit. Trying to avoid him? The thought made Riordan’s mouth twitch slightly yet he managed to suppress the grin that threatened to follow. Instead, he let his own long legs carry him to intercept her trajectory and before she could reach the door he wrapped his fingers around her slender wrist with enough strength to force her to halt but not enough to bruise her.

He had meant it when he said he would never hurt her.

George's breath caught in her throat as a hand gripped her wrist. She stopped her attempt to leave the room and looked down to where his hand held her. Her eyes slowly travelled up to meet his face. If it had been anyone else, anyone but him she would have smacked them.

“That’s it, then?” His tone was amused though there was the threat of heat hidden below his words. She had to know why he wouldn’t…couldn’t let her leave yet and as if proving his intentions, he reached back with his free hand to close the door shut, affording them privacy for what was to come. Lord knows they didn’t need an audience.

She did not look from his face as he closed the door. She also did not make an attempt to pull away from him.

Sprinkle had finished her tuna and was now butting the can playfully across the table. The light rattling of metal against wood filled the silence.

“You’re not going inside of the building.”

George gave a slight chuckle, her tone sarcastic. "Sorry mom but I have to be a team player too."

She stared at Rio in silence for a few moments. She shifted to her more businesslike voice. "Look we are down two people. I can get one but I am running dangerously low on people I can call in. I have a lot of other contracts out there, it is how this business works. Sometimes we have to do things that are not in our normal repertoire. It is good to push out of one's comfort zone every once in a while."

George looked away quickly. They were standing very close together and the last time that had happened...

She forced herself to think of something else. "I can't ask them to do something I am not willing to do myself. I am asking you all to go in and that means push comes to shove I go in too. Besides last time I checked I am the one who makes the calls not you."

She was trying hard to convince herself that there was nothing between them, he was just being over protective because they had known each other for such a large chunk of their lives. Much to her annoyance she found herself trembling. George did not know if it was from anger or something else but the last thing she wanted was for Riordan to see her as weak. George gently pulled her arm back attempting to untangle her wrist from his hand.

His fingertips retained their grip around her wrist, not allowing her to retreat.

“You can guard the van. Atticus will need to be inside the building anyway or at the very least be allowed to move to plant his charges.” The words flowed easily from his lips but then he paused, reconsidered. He also didn’t want George left alone with Sphinx if for the soul reason that he didn’t consider the hacker good backup if the van was attacked.

“Better yet, pull in Johan. You can’t tell me he’s on a job, I just spoke to him yesterday.”

Johan was as close to a Norse warrior as they could come in this day and age. Bastard actually still used an honest to God sword in close range combat though he never minded using his guns, given the chance. Riordan had played chauffeur to the man a time or two and had come to admire his skills.

“You make all the calls, George. I am not arguing that and you know it. I just don’t understand why you have to make this mission the one you show everyone what a rough and tumble boss you are.”

Oddly enough, his voice was stubborn but gentle. An oddity in itself that someone could pull off such a combination.

George stood there and listened. It did not go unnoticed that he still held her wrist. She made a mental note to look into Johan's current status. Admittedly she hadn't thought of the man when it came to this mission. None of this was given away in her face as she looked back at Rio.

"If not this mission what about the next? Or will you play protector there too? Better yet what if I do not call you in, you'd never know if I go in or not. Hell for all you know I have gone in on a lot of missions."

It wasn't true of course. George almost never went on a mission, never got involved as an operative. Even this time she would not go in if they had not lost members already.

"I told you I can't ask them to do something I am not willing to do myself. Riordan do you think I like the idea of sitting in my office knowing I have sent people out and the only way of knowing if they made it is if they come looking for payment?"

She tried to shift her wrist in his grip again. It was not that it hurt but they were so..connected at that moment that it was making her more open than she'd like. George could still feel trembling in her muscles and she told herself she was just hungry.

Her teeth clenched, "Do you think I enjoy sitting there knowing I have sent you off to god knows, what sort of scenario? Not knowing if I will ever see that stupid smirk of yours again?"

Her eyes stung now though she'd never admit it was from tears. She lifted her arm, taking his hand with her as she stepped closer. "This job is big. Biggest gamble I have ever taken and I cannot just sit by and wait to see if it gets done and if everyone makes it back. I need to see it go down and if I need to step up and get in there then so be it."

George placed herself very close to him. She could feel his breath on her cheek. "You are a stubborn man, you know that? I will look at what Johan is doing but I am going and if need be I will get involved as part of the team. I did not make it this far by letting everyone do the dirty work."

She closed her eyes. This whole thing was overwhelming for her. She wanted to yell at him for kissing her, for messing with her emotions so much but all she could do was stand there and wait for him to back away.

The anger that Riordan felt at the meeting itself had simmered down and faded into its true form… Worry, fear. He was scared of George getting hurt and he hadn’t come this far simply to see her gunned down in front of him.

Apparently she felt the same way.

The moment she admitted that she wasn’t just worried about the mission or about her employees but about him specifically, he knew he had her on the precipice of admitting that he meant as much to her as she meant to him.

She simply needed the tiniest of pushes.

Perhaps she knew that as well because despite her ineffectual attempts to break free from his grasp, George ended up pressed closer to him instead. Where she apparently wished for him to stop messing with her emotions and to simply step back, he took the closed eyes and their proximity as an invitation to repeat the after effects of their last meeting.

It took but a moment for his head to dip and his mouth to claim hers again. His free hand rose to cup her cheek whilst his other hand tugged at hers as if to bring them even closer together, if that was possible.

Time stopped. Riordan would have sworn that he had finally mastered magic itself for in that moment his world was wrapped up in George. Her scent, her taste, the subtle and soft cadence of her breath after it hitched initially.

Though this time when he broke away, he didn’t run. Instead he met her gaze with a fierceness that goaded her silently with the same question he had asked the last time he had kissed her.

Tell me that didn’t feel right, George.

His lips were on hers. George had not seen him lean in, had not been expecting it. Like last time it was just as shocking. Fuck this isn't supposed to happen. Walk away. Damn it.

She moved closer, she couldn't help it. Rio's hand was on her cheek. True he did pull her closer but George could have fought, could have pulled away. She didn't. Despite herself she moaned softly and kissed him back.

It was now that the stinging in her eyes stopped as a couple of tears trickled down her cheeks. When he pulled away, leaving her out of breath, George opened her eyes. Anger already smoldered there as she expected Riordan to walk away again. Sharp words were on the tip of her tongue. Go ahead. Walk away and I will throw something at you this time.

What she was met with however were his eyes staring into hers. The look and all it said struck a chord within her. Her chest was rising and falling quickly. He was challenging her silently, wanting her to admit that she wanted him, wanted more.

God help her she wanted to give in. It would be so easy just to lean in and kiss him again.

Her voice was low, almost sultry "Rio..."

She did not pull away though every fibre of her being said she should, it was the right thing to do. He did not need to get involved with her. George could not admit that it was more about her fear, fear of letting someone in close, fear of getting hurt and being vulnerable than it was about Rio.

George cleared her throat and tried to replace the mask of pure professionalism on her face. He had seen her open and emotional. She needed to regain herself and put the wall back up.

Riordan watched George’s features shift subtly and he knew she was trying to ignore her feelings for him once more, to rebuild those walls that kept him out.

I will care about you whether you wish for it or not. I’ve told you that, George. With that affection brings worry. See if you can pull Johan in for this job? For my sanity?”

The words left unspoken were plentiful. He was afraid that if she was on the inside with him then he would be more worried about her safety than anything else which could cause fatal errors. He wasn’t a poor marksman but if his gaze was constantly trained upon her instead of the path ahead, he could miss something.

Hell, he didn’t think he’d even be able to concentrate correctly knowing she was anywhere within the blast zone but hopefully being out with Sphinx in the van would be safer.

His hand stayed resting upon the curve of her jaw and the pad of his thumb traced lightly over her cheek as he awaited her reply.

Damn you Rio It was all she could think as he told her that he cared for her. Did he not see that caring meant being vulnerable and open and that meant you could be hurt. George knew Riordan would not hurt her but she could not bring herself to open up, to let him in. It was just too risky and despite the years between them there were still things he did not know about her.

His hand was still on her cheek and the movement of his thumb there made her stiffened and simultaneously weak in the knees. George wanted to push him away and yet wanted to step closer to him all at the same time. She did not like feeling so confused.

Her chin lifted a little as she tried to don the mantle of recruiter and boss once more. "I will see what he is up to. I have at least one other person in mind as well. If I can get both it is better for the mission overall. Thank you for suggesting Johan."

George tried to step backwards, to untangle herself from being so close to him. "I should get going. There is work to do."

There was a waver in her voice, a tremble to the sureness she was trying to portray and she hated herself for it. He was the only person that she knew that could shake her like this. Correction, shake her at all but this...this intimacy was a line they had never pushed so far on. Yes, George would admit they stray close to the line but she was always careful not to let it go over. Keeping people out was one of the things George did best and it was what made her so good at her job. Outwardly she was cold and businesslike and those that she recruiter were bodies to fill a job. Showing emotions and humanity in this world left you open to attack.

George frowned, "Rio, I know you care and I..."

She was looking at him, her eyes on his and the words would not come. "We-I should go."

He chuckled abruptly. The sudden forceful sound of his laughter breaking the otherwise muted interaction. “There is work to do. There will always be work to do but if you allow work to become your life then how fulfilling will it be for you, George?”

His words stung more than she liked to admit. Work was her life. Work was safe. Work was all there should be because to do anything else invited trouble. George looked away.

Riordan let her pull away if she wished. His hands dropped down to his sides and he walked back over to the table, petting Sprinkle which caused the tiny kitten purred like a tiny motorbike. Then he scooped the kitten up, tucking her into the crook of his arm and as he passed George on his way to the exit, he pressed his lips to her temple so she wouldn’t be allowed to rebuild her walls. Not quite yet, anyway.

“If you need me, you know where to find me.” He refrained from tucking that loose strand of hair behind her ear, "G'night, George," and with those words, he left the bar.

George just barely stopped herself from calling him back. She bit the inside of her cheek hard in an effort to keep herself quiet. She was trying to pull everything back in but he went and kissed her temple.

The door closed. George’s shoulders slumped, her head dropped and silent tears fell. She could not do this. She had a company to run, contracts to take care of. If she gave in to her feelings it would give her competitors something to hold over her. It would be leverage against her.

One hand came to her face as she wiped away the tears. She hated crying. George looked up at the door. It was more than that. He knew that. Why Rio? You deserve someone who can open up and be with you fully. I...I can’t do that.

Her head went back and her eyes were on the ceiling. She felt elated from his nearness and sick to her stomach with the realization that she was scared. Scared to let him close, scared to let him know all of her in a way she had never let anyone.

Anger came now. Her thoughts were too focused on Rio when there was so much to do. Other people’s lives depended on her getting things done. There was no time to think about her feelings.

She left the bar. As her car drove her back to the office she sent off her first message. She knew that Largo would be free. Before the car pulled up to the building George’s phone flashed with a response.

-Contract accepted-

Good. One down. One to go.

Antony Largo would be a strong addition to the team and he would be willing to do what needed to be done. That was her goal. To fill in where her team was weakest. To make them able to focus on their jobs, knowing they had people doing their part.

George sent off the message to Johan. She also brought up the scheduled contracts and saw that indeed the man was not busy at the moment. There you go Rio. I am calling him in.

For a moment her thumb hovered over Riordan’s contact on her phone. All it would take was a simple touch and she could call him. And do what? Invite him to dinner? A drink? You think you can what...date him? Her teeth clenched and she slipped out of the car.
----
George sat at her desk. There was no one in the building now. It was late. There was a half empty glass on her desk and she was sitting back in her chair. On the screen were pictures. Pictures of a car accident. The picture changed to her and Rio as teenagers. They were in a club with some others. They were smiling. Another picture. Again she with a group of people, Rio among them. Most of those others were gone, faded from her life. They all went away. People could not be trusted to see anything through. George loved contracts for that very reason. One could not back out without paying the penalty. In life there were no such things as penalties for those who just walked away.

The picture changed again and this was a smaller group. Some of their ‘friends’ had already moved on to a different life or had died. Rio’s face smiled at her. Except you....

George downed her drink. She picked up her phone. Once again her thumb hovered over his number. This time she pressed it. It rang. A lump caught in her throat as she panicked. If he answers what will you say? She almost hung up with voicemail suddenly kicked in.

“I got in touch with Johan. He is free. I got another person as well. I am still going but I will not have to go in. I thought you’d like to know. For your sanity and all.”

George hung up.
-----
Two days later George waited for the van. Everyone would be picked up and they would move out. She was not dressed in her typical business attire. No suit jackets or skirts. Today was dark pants, dark boots and a dark shirt. Her hair was braided and hung down her back. In her bag at her side she carried the communication devices for the team. There was one for each of them, secured to a channel just for the team and programmed to block others from trying to intercept. A gun was at her back in its holster. A knife was strapped to her calf and hidden slightly by her boot.

George picked up her phone. She began to furiously typing a message. She hit send. Insurance.

She watched for her ride.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony

It was a silent morning in the highrise district thousands of smaller lives pattered across the streets below, but to those above they might as well be ants skimming across glass. Antony sat as a lone figure in his chair overlooking the view of the city skyline.
Despite the morning there was a slight mist of rain falling from the sky and very little sun to be had, however the skimmers would make sure that no one below would ever see a touch a moisture. He enjoyed a tall thin glass of wine as the sound of a record could be heard playing from the other end of the room with only the fireplace to cast its own wavering light.

The only place in the world where he could be himself and not have to worry about persecution or distraction in any circumstance. The contract he had just accepted was still visible on the screen atop his desk he did not really pay it much attention anymore. He was wondering all that he would have to prepare for this certain job and how much fun it would entail for him.
It had only been a week since he had the last chance to thoroughly enjoy himself and he was already feeling like it had been a year or longer then that. His hand absentmindedly itched the crease where his face met his chin and though the mark was not readily visible, it was still there to be felt.

A tone sounded from his desk letting him know that the desired hour for the job as closing in and he stood with a slight exhale from his lips, shutting off his screen and setting the large windows to close. With that he moved towards the fireplace and pressed and section of the mantle above it, this caused the fired to quickly die and the whole section of the wall to slide to one side revealing a small neatly packed room of hardware. Stepping in he striped down to his underclothes and began to redress in his gear. The act only took five minutes due to the fact that he had done it time and time again in the past.

He then proceeded to load two duffel bags with his weapons for completing the contract and he knew to pick wisely.

For close quarters he pulled a shotgun from the wall, a man-hunter series which was one of his favorites. Holding it lovingly like a child before placing it inside one bag only to return to the wall. His next choice was Sub Machine-gun from militech, very stable and reliable he thought as he checked the action and break hearing the pin "click" once before setting it in the bag. His last choice was a precaution, they would have guards and mostly likely partial conversions as well. Pulling a rather large hand gun from a small stand on a nearby counter he took a moment to admire the weapon. It was heavy and powerful with the articulated name "THOR" pressed into the side of the barrel. With a smile be placed that in the bag as well, only to follow with a long blade and several reserves of ammo just in case. His last trip was a box next to the exit of the small room that had a large warning label plastered on it. This was a box of grenades that he kept at hand and it carried several types as well.

Antony pulled out six grenades and placed them in the other bag along with the more bulky sections of his armor which he intended to strap on in transit. He left the room and pressed the panel again only to have the door slide closed and the fire pop back on like it had never been turned off.

As he left his home the biometrics set and several heavily bolted locks clamped down to ensure all but the most enthusiastic invaders would even chance to see the inside. Outside his home the mood and atmosphere was different, the building looked run down and there was garbage littering the halls as he walked down them. The only real working piece of the building was the service elevator that he rode down to ground level. Those who lived there never looked at him or paid him attention, mostly because of what he did to the last two that did and also the one that tried to mug him. The threat of mutilation has a way of keeping mouths closed with very little after effort on his part.

He gripped both bags in his right hand as he looked at his watch, the transport would not be long now.
Antony could almost count the seconds till its arrival..

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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#, as written by Celedia
Procuring items at the last minute was always a hassle, even with a boat load of cash and amazing charisma. Not that respirators, explosives or weaponry even caused people to bat an eye anymore. Hell, his one contact had been more surprised about the elaborately modded RV that he had bought rather than the automatic weapons.

When he finally returned home, he climbed the stairs and went straight for his study to wrap up some loose ends and for the first time since the meeting Rio flicked on his phone. Incoming alerts flashed across his retinal display but one in particular caught his attention and he accessed the voice mail from George first.

“I got in touch with Johan. He is free. I got another person as well. I am still going but I will not have to go in. I thought you’d like to know. For your sanity and all.”

Riordan couldn’t… No, wouldn’t stop the grin that greeted his lips at the sound of George’s voice on his messages. She had taken the time to call instead of text or email which was a step in the right direction and he wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste.

“Contact George,” he ordered his communications panel and within seconds the line was ringing through.

George had finished her drink and poured another. She began going through contracts. She knew she should go home, knew she should get some sleep but she could not bring herself to leave. The apartment was going to seem big and empty.

Her phone rang. George frowned. Who is calling now....

Her finger reached out and tapped it, activating the speaker. "Delaney here."

“Delaney? Such formality…” Riordan’s laughter followed the teasing statement easily as he hit the ground running, so to speak.

“Come to my place, George. Have dinner with me.”

George bit her lip, happy he could not see her. She could make an excuse, say that she had work to do but everything she was looking at were for jobs in the coming weeks.

"I-"

She hestitated once more. It is just dinner. A meal. What can it hurt.

"Okay Rio. I will have dinner with you."

George felt her pulse race. It is just dinner.

So why was she so nervous? George could not remember the last time she had dinner with someone when it was not business related.

"What time?"

Riordan grinned in triumph as she accepted but he tried not to let the joy seep into his voice. “Have you eaten yet this evening?” It was late but Riordan actually hadn’t eaten since lunch time with all of the work he had to do between now and then. “If not, feel free to head on over and I’ll fix us something. If you have eaten… Tomorrow works for me.”

Sauntering over to his desk, he settled into his upholstered leather chair and awaited her reply.

George went silent on the phone. She could not remember when she had last eaten. Yesterday? No I had coffee this morning.Can I really do this? Maybe I should wait till tomorrow. If I wait I can think this through more. Maybe reschedule. I shouldn't have agreed. But it is just a meal, with a friend.

So why did it feel like so much more?

"I can be there in half an hour."

Panic immediately set in but not as badly as it would in car on the way to his place.

"Would you prefer to go out?"

The reality of going to his apartment, the intimacy of it sunk in. She would be in his place, on his territory.

Baby steps.

Dinner shouldn’t feel as much like a triumph as it did but with George… Dinner would mean more than it did to most women. Hell, he barely remembered the last time that she had even come to his clubs for anything other than business or meeting purposes.

“No, no. Here’s fine. I can make you that chicken dish that I always brag about.” A low chuckle left his lips as he got back up from his chair, wandering out of his office and down the stairs as they spoke. He would actually fix the meal himself, too. Though he had automated help in the form of a chef and a butler, he preferred to do most things himself if he had the chance.

“Don’t sound so distressed, George. It’s dinner. It’s me. I’ll see you soon.”

Not giving her the chance to back out, he hit the disconnect button just as he was walking into his kitchen and Riordan started to prepare their meal.

"Shit"

The phone had gone dead on the other end before she could argue or try and take control, steer it to her comfort level. He had the upperhand now.

George pushed her chair away from her desk and stood. Should I change? She glanced down at her skirt and blouse. With a shake of her head George donned her coat. She might be going to his turf but she could keep things professional.

So why did you agree to go? Nothing professional about being in his home.

George ignored the voice in her head and walked down the hall. She was the last person in the building that was not security. She locked the door behind her, marked the time and briefly noted that it was an hour earlier than when she would have normally headed for home.

Her car was waiting and with an even tone she gave Riordan's address. George had it memorized, for business purposes as she reminded herself. She would arrive exactly on time but by the time the car pulled up in front of his place she was doing her best not to panic.

Do not let him know he can shake you. It gives him the upperhand. George lived by the idea of never show weakness because someone would use it against you.

With a deep inhale George got out of the car. It wasn't long before she found herself at Rio's door. She knocked.

Why am I doing this?

The chicken that he had prepared was staying warm in the oven and the sides that he had made were in bowls on the tiled island in the center of his kitchen. Riordan was just getting out a bottle of wine when the security system informed him of his visitor’s arrival.

“Approaching humanoid. Scanning….” The mechanic voice sounded overhead and announced a few minutes before the soft knock could be heard upon his door. “George Delaney.”

Riordan snorted at the system and settled the bottle onto the closest flat surface, completely forgetting about the hand towel he had draped over his left shoulder as he made his way from the kitchen towards the front door.

“I’m going to have to see if they have another voice pack for that system.” He muttered to himself as he finally reached the entrance and twisted the doorknob to allow her entry. Grinning, he allowed his eyes to quickly scan over George before he stepped back and made a dramatic sweeping gesture towards his inner sanctum.

“Welcome, George. You look lovely as ever.” Riordan was dressed quite comfortably compared to George’s clothing choice. He was wearing a black t-shirt and designer jeans and his hair looked a bit disheveled as if he had run his hand through it one too many times recently.

Her heart stopped as Rio opened the door. I shouldn't be here. She almost backed away.

"Rio, ever the charmer." She shook her head and smiled. George hesitated before stepping inside. It hit her that she had been here before. His clubs, his cars but never here.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. George did her best not to look as nervous as she felt. Her hands slipped into the pockets of her coat. Her eyebrow rose at the sight of the towel on his shoulder.

"You shouldn't have gone to so much trouble. We could have met up somewhere."

“You say ‘charmer’ like it’s a bad thing.” More laughter and another grin hid the reply that almost left his mouth.

Like I would take you out somewhere generic for our first date. The thought slipped in but he simply shrugged and shut the door the moment she stepped through. “Let me take your coat for you.”

George smiled though it was a bit more strained than she would have liked. "No, not a bad thing."

The door was closed behind her and George shrugged off her coat.

"Thank you."

Her eyes took in her surroundings. "Nice place Rio."

She faced him now, a polite smile on her lips. "You really did not have to go through any trouble."

George frowned. "I should have brought you a bottle of wine or something."

She suddenly felt at a loss. Entertaining, visiting people's homes or the concept of friends were a bit foreign to her.

He seemed to note her awkwardness, an adjective that he would have never associated with George before recently. After placing the coat into the closet situated right next to the door leading out, Riordan grinned and tilted his head in the direction of the kitchen.

"I have wine so no worries. We'll do a grand tour later but dinner's almost completely ready now so let's eat."

He turned, walking down the hallway so she had no choice but to follow. Everything was spacious and well-designed with everything in muted shades ranging from grays to blues to greens. An open floor design made it easy to get to the kitchen. They simply veered right at the first available opening, cutting through the dining room and right into the kitchen itself. Drinks were poured, the meal was plated and George was ushered towards her seat as Riordan took the reins with the conversation. He spoke of his clubs, updating her on people that she had known or had worked with before CKSD entered her life.

George followed Rio to the kitchen, relaxing a little as they went. Once they were at the table she was able to move past her initial panic and enjoy his company. The food was tasty, though George had no doubts it would be with the amount of time Rio had bragged about his cooking. The wine hit her enough to make her fully relax.

The conversation turned to his clubs and the people she once called friends when she had time for that sort of thing in her life.

George sat back in her chair, wine glass in hand. Her plate was almost empty. She could not remember the last time she had really enjoyed a meal so much.

"Funny you should bring up old acquaintances. I don't know if it is this mission or what but I actually looked at some old pictures earlier this evening."

She raised the glass to take a drink. "Before you act all shocked I do in fact have pictures from when we were younger. I am not so closed off that I got rid of them. I do have good memories of that time just no time to linger in them."

George put the glass to her lips and took a drink. Her eyes watched him as she swallowed the wine. It is time to go. You ate. You had some wine, talked a little. This is where you cut things off before it gets personal. Her normal routine when recruiting someone at a meal and she thought applying it here would help ensure that things stayed as they were between them despite the shift that had taken place, the one that George was almost desperately ignoring.

"You know you did not have to make me dinner just because I called Johan. It made sense and I had not checked on his status yet. We are set and ready now. I will be there but I won't leave the van."

She lowered the glass to the table with a small clink.

And we’re back to speaking about work.

Riordan knew that CKSDs contracts and the search for new talent to hire onto the teams took up a large portion of George’s life but he half-wondered whether she simply reverted to talking about work because it was a safe topic or because it was all that she knew anymore.

His grin grew however at the way she started her sentence and he shook his head while chuckling. “You know why I made you dinner, George, and it has nothing to do with work. I am glad that you brought on Johan, however, and it eases my mind to know that you won’t be directly in harms way.”

He already had a second plan in action for making sure that it would be near impossible to find the mobile command unit once it was parked but he didn’t tell her that portion of his plan. That would wait until the day of the mission.

“You do realize that you’ll probably be the one to protect Mark…?” Riordan hid his grin behind his glass as he took another sip, watching her over the rim with eyes that were still sharp despite the pleasant haze that the wine had wrapped him in.

George looked up the ceiling for a moment. A small amused smile played on her lips. "I will watch out for Mark and the rest of you. My hope is that I will be able to keep a sort of eye in the sky on you all as you move. At least with the coms I have for you we can all stay in contact."

She leaned forward on the table. "About your reasons for making me dinner." She paused and looked at him. "As if it could be so simple. I am not one of your women Rio. I am not looking to be wined and dined."

Her head cocked a little to the side. "But you know that and aren't really trying to work me over. This is not like that. And that scares me."

George was being candid and honest. If she couldn't hide maybe being up front would make him understand more why she couldn't be the normal woman he could take out. "How many years have we known each other? You date, go out, go to parties. How many boyfriends have I had?"

Her eyes narrowed and she picked up her glass. "I am not datable. Not girlfriend material. Fuck, you are the only man I know not intimidated by me to the point where they'd actually try and kiss me."

She took a drink of the wine. It was hitting her a little, making her a little more free with her words.

Amusement flickered over Riordan’s face as well. Both at her words and the fact that they seemed to flow from her easily whether it was the atmosphere, the wine, or whether she was just tired from dancing around the subject and hiding behind her walls.

He could do blunt and honest.

“I’ve wined and dined women, of course, but how long was my longest relationship, George?” If she thought back, he had never been with someone for more than a few months and he had always made his intentions clear. He kept the façade of the playboy alive and well because he had slowly been falling in love with one of his longest known friends. George.

Yet he kept it light and simple. He didn’t want to put pressure upon her when they were so close to this mission which he knew was important to both her and the CKSD. “Perhaps you haven’t had many boyfriends because you’ve simply been waiting for the right person to date?” Another grin curved his lips and he leaned in to set his glass upon the table, leaving his hands free.

“What better basis for a relationship than honest to god friendship?”

George put her glass down and looked across the table at Rio. Her face lost some of its colour and she frowned a little. If she really thought about it he had never dated anyone for very long but he was a rich playboy, not wanting to tie himself to one girl. They were such good friends; she had reminded herself just that night how he had always been there, no matter what. Her closest and really, her only friend.

Her eyes moved to her hands as she thought on his words. "I am not good for a relationship, Rio. You know me better than anyone. Hell, likely better than I know myself since I can't seem to be honest with myself half the time."

George looked up at him. "I can't let myself be open like that. If my competitors found out they'd use you to get to me. You have no idea the lengths corps will go through to get the advantage. The board...."

She stopped there and sighed. Certain things did not need stating with him. "Look you know the deal with this company. I slip up and it is all downhill. I show even a crack and they will find a way to make it a hole."

Riordan had reverted to his relaxed pose as they started talking in earnest. He had his right ankle resting upon his left knee, his elbow propped against the arm of his chair so that his thumb and forefinger could support his jawline. He snorted at the mention of the board but otherwise let her speak unhindered.

George was skirting the issue now. Her bluntness seemingly fading, hiding again in the face of an option she had never considered. She closed her eyes, her fingers intertwined on the table. "Rio, there are things you don't know about me. Even after all these years. You don't want a relationship with me; it will only cause you frustration. I am far more work than you may realize."

Her eyes opened. There were tears in the corners of them but she fought hard not to let them fall. Show no weakness Her voice went quiet.

"I can't risk losing you as my friend. You are all I have."

George squared her jaw and grew angry at herself. She should not have put that out there. It was too honest and she knew that right now he would not use it to hurt her but one day, one day that could come back to bite her.

She took another drink of wine and cleared her throat. "Let me clean up and then I will go. It was a lovely meal."

George started to stand, taking her plate in hand.

The boldness in her had faded and his brow arched as she moved to gather her things so she could make her escape. Pushing himself out of his seat, he encircled her wrist with his fingers and took her plate from her hand only to set it right back down upon the table.

“George. You are one of my closest, dearest, and longest held friends. I trust you above all others and I, for one, am willing to risk everything to prove to both myself and you that there is something more here.”

His fingers left her wrist, circling gently over her pulse point before moving to weave between her own fingers until they were holding hands.

“We’re strong enough to withstand whatever your enemies throw at us. You know that and yet you balk at the idea of a relationship. You’ve thrown out reason after reason to validate why you shouldn’t even attempt a relationship but I know you, George. If you weren’t interested at all, you would’ve said no. Strongly, defiantly, and I would have accepted it and stood back.”

He brought up their locked hands and pressed his lips gently against the back of her knuckles while his gaze stayed trained upon her eyes. “I’ve never known you to be a coward, George Delaney.” His sly, charming grin swept back across his lips as he egged her on. “Why not take the leap and see where we land?”

Rio took her wrist. George turned and as his lips touched her knuckles her breath caught in her chest. His eyes were on her. "Rio...I...there are things that happened that you don't know..."

Could she do it? Could she take the step forward?

She wasn't a coward she just knew that she would be no good with him. She would hurt him and she could not bear to hurt him. George had gone up against a lot of people, proven she could play with the big boys and do it better. She had seen the worst and the best of people. The only thing that she could think of that would really upset her would be if she ever did something to ruin the relationship she had with Rio. Could she really bring herself to risk it for the chance at more?

Her resolve wavered. "Riordan...I..." Her eyes softened and there was pain there. George leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

She held her lips there for a moment before leaning back and breaking the contact. "I am not a coward."

George looked him over. A smile played on her lips now. "I agree to nothing but I am not a coward. Let's get through this mission and we can discuss. Wipe that grin off your face. You haven't won yet."

Her free hand went to play with his dishevelled hair. "I do not like uncalculated risks. You know that. But I am no coward Rio."

Victory.

Well, perhaps not true victory but things were certainly not moving in a backwards direction or coming to a complete halt. So, for the moment, Rio was satisfied with the answer. Despite her words to wipe the smirk off of his face, the look remained in place as he escorted her back through the rooms to the foyer where he took out her coat and held it aloft for her to put on.

“This isn’t an uncalculated risk. You’ve probably gone over it time and time again in your head, if I know anything about you.” His voice was light and teasing as he watched her prepare herself to leave.

“Be careful getting home, George. I’ll see you when I come to pick you up for the mission.” And since he liked the taste of her, he dipped back in for a quick parting kiss, a mere brush of lips before he pulled himself away from her.

He was teasing her, she knew that but he also wasn't wrong. She had already gone over the pros and cons in her head a million times since he had first kissed her. She had done it before too when they were younger.

George was already doing it again when Rio told her to be careful and as his lips found hers her little list disappeared.

"I will see you."

She stepped into the hall. Damn you Rio. All arguments against had been wipe away by the brief contact.






Morning of the mission

Bright and early that morning, Riordan could be found in his elaborate subterranean garage going over his final checklist. The vehicles he needed were prepped and stocked. Three in total, including what he had by now dubbed the Mobile Command Unit or MCU. The MCU was a modified RV. The exterior was notable due to its dropped undercarriage which actually housed a low profile armored two-person transport which they hopefully would not need. The RV’s interior had been completely gutted and transformed for their personal use. Behind the driver’s seat were three rows of chairs, one on each side of the aisle which were crafted from padded leather. Riordan had spared no expense and if they escaped this mission unharmed then he would definitely be using this beast again, if any other missions called for it.

Then placed behind each line of chairs was a steel locker. The one on the left walking down the aisle towards the back of the vehicle held random pieces of armor and a box of high-tech ventilators which he had promised Teagan he would acquire. The locker on the right held weaponry for those that didn’t have it ranging from knives and daggers to SMGs and shotguns.

Then, behind all of that, was what he had dubbed “Mark’s space”. Nestled into the entire back of the RV was a desk that spanned all three walls in the shape of a U and outfitted with all of the latest technology. He hoped that the hacker would have all he needed.

One last check through everything and he gave a cursory glance at his watch. He was hyped up, on edge in anticipation of the mission and he knew that George would be up early so he decided to swing by her place first. Climbing into the massive MCU, he set off to pick up the rest of the team.




As he expected, George was already outside and waiting as he cruised by. “Morning, sunshine.” He cast her a grin as she nodded in his direction. No small talk was necessary, they both knew that today was going to require their full concentration so they sat in amiable silence as he drove to Sphinx’s place next.

Mark didn’t have to wait in the cold of the morning for long. The Sphinx saw something huge turn the corner, and when he realized that was what Riordan had got for him, his legs almost failed him. It wasn’t just a van, it was as big as a bus, but still not as bulky as a bus. The gigantic vehicle parked flawlessly, and Mark climbed the stairs in pure amazement as the door closed behind him.
Something inside the hacker poked him and warned him not to look so dumb in front of everyone, but it couldn’t be helped. He saw Riordan at the driver’s seat and looked around him, seeing George, who sat at one of four seats and behind them…

Oh god, behind them…

He gestured some sort of greetings towards the driver, his eyes glued to the endless blinking and systematic noises of the enormous amount of hardware in the back of the bus. He looked back at Riordan, then at George, then at the rows of computers, with a rapt look on his face.

“How… How did you…?”

Riordan had one hand still resting upon the wheel but the other moved up to rub at his jawline, partially sweeping over to cover the grin that passed over his lips before he could obtain a more neutral look.

He shrugged a shoulder and this time didn’t try to hide the pleased look upon his face. He had made the hacker speechless.

“I had one of my tech security guys give me his dream wish list of computer and security equipment. Then I had it installed in the offices of my most popular bar as well as another set in here. It was an easy way to keep it on the down low while still getting everything that you should need.”

“Hopefully you have everything you’ll need?”

Mark turned and looked at Riordan, putting on an expressionless face. The hacker shrugged as if he didn't feel exactly like a kid in a candy store, looking at everything at once and just unable to decide which one to choose first.

“Yeah, I guess it should suffice… If you have a powerful enough next-gen 3D rendering Zero-Model processor, that is, which I doubt very much…” Mark lied, having recognized the newest Militech model from afar, blinking its gorgeous red light, calling him closer.

"And I see you've got Arasaka's most recent cooler, that one that can put cybernetic particles in stasis for you to use and manipulate them as you wish... Yeah, I would have chosen a different model, but that works, if you're into that kind of stuff." Said The Sphinx in a very fast pace, turning to Riordan and the machines at the same time.

“I have no idea what you just said but I’ll take that as “You did great, Riordan! Thanks for all the stuff!”.”

Riordan grinned again to show Mark that he was joking and he hoped the hacker didn't take his teasing words the wrong way. “Honestly, if it had been left to me to pick out you probably would’ve ended up with something barely functioning. I’ll try better next time.”

"Yeah, you do that. I'll just... Put my things over there... And check if everything's working." Mark was already halfway to the computer oasis on the back of the van when he turned, and whispered an almost unintelligible "thank you" to Riordan, and then ran to the back and started tweaking with all the thousands of functions the wonderful machines could offer.

The next few pick ups were uneventful. Imogen, the slender scientist was next. She nodded her hellos as she made her way to her seat and smiled at Mark before sitting down. Next was Antony, then Teagan and last was Atticus who came aboard lugging a duffel bag full of supplies.

Once everyone was ready to go, Riordan started driving out of Night City towards the location that Mark had somehow snapped up from the ‘net. Everyone seemed quiet, content to let their thoughts entertain themselves and in a little under an hour they made it to a spot that was far enough away from the closest security cameras but close enough to the building.

Riordan parked, immediately getting up to stretch his legs and arms. Rarely did he travel outside of Night City, especially not while driving and he wanted to make sure that he was limber before heading into a building full of armed security guards.

Teagan stood up as well, dressed as she had been during the past few meetings with the group. Her weathered armored jacket zipped up tight which barely revealed the black old school band t-shirt beneath, worn over a pair of flexible leather pants in a deep black that were tucked into matching boots. She had at least a dozen visible weapons on her and a few more hidden about her body while a small pack clung tightly around her torso. Its strap went from her right shoulder, across her body and clung to her left hip. It held a variety of small packs containing ammo and the bag itself nestled against her hip which contained the sleeping gas grenades that she had promised to bring.

Pushing her way passed Rio, she exited the RV and began to scan the area, using her enhanced optics to zoom in on the building itself.

“Three patrols. Two single, one team. Sniper on the roof, lone man at the door and a trio of men that seem to be patrolling a loose perimeter in camo.”

She turned towards the people on the RV and arched a brow, grinning. “So, we sticking to the latest plan?”

Before she even got the last word out of her mouth, a tall man with blond hair came from seemingly nowhere.

“Riordan.” His accent was heavy and slightly Nordic, making the man sound almost like a viking from the movie vids. “Your SUV is acceptable. If George wishes to waive my normal contract fee I will happily accept the vehicle in its place.” A grin formed on his broad face and he gave a nod of acknowledgement to everyone that he saw.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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Antony

Antony was right for the most part, as he dropped his arm he could already hear the heady wheels of the armored vehicle plowing its way through the desolate streets. Several homeless would scatter thinking that the sound was an armored patrol moving its way through to clear them out, or worse it could be one of the company transports looking to find new test subjects for unspeakable elicit material tryouts.

His eye's cut a sharp glance at the machine as it began to slow and he picked up his other bag.

Though he had yet to meet any of the team himself, he did know of them through contacts and other information. So when the face of Riordan looking down the small slope of steps at him. He glanced back with a grin and walked up turning to see the others.

But no words were spoken for he had none to speak, these people most likely did not know much about him aside from George herself. But that was not going to stop him from enjoying the silence and as he sat he set the bags down.
Weapons on top of the nicely placed locker and the bag with the remaining pieces of his armor at his feet. He unzipped its cover and quickly began to dress in his gear as he felt the wheels and familiar bur of the street move on. His vest was the first to go on, it being the platform for all his material it was the most essential of all his gear. He could feel the hardened plating underneath its lacing as he slid several clips into its forward pockets.

After that his legs and arms followed, with plated sections that sheathed well over his clothing and buckled down to the rest of his gear. This formed a rather secure and intact seal on his body and he would give his armor a novel tug every few seconds to get himself used to the feel.

Lastly he set his helmet to hang next to his head, using the edge of the seats back to a degree as a makeshift hook so it would stay secure. He kept to himself only as long as he could however and could not refrain from speaking as he began to load his weapons. "Well.. George, its good to see that your face matches such a lovely voice.." He gave a sly smile as he slid the bolt back on his SMG, letting its snap into place as he depressed the trigger.

He then looked over from him and stared blankly at Imogen for a few moments.

"So you are my charge for this mission.. can you handle a weapon? His question was more or less aimed at the fact that she looked like a scientist other then a contracted soldier. But he was not sorry about what was going to happen, rarely did his "Partners" appear so lovely at first glance. So as the transport pulled to a stop, the other woman removed herself from they're company and began to assess the military standing of the forces at hand.

He stepped out with his weapons slung to shoulder and helmet in hand, moving behind Teagan's shoulder.
"It looks to be a standard triage layout.. and I would not be surprised to see some emplacements scattered out among them." He looked back over his shoulder.
George.. you never said our first date would be this fun.." He lifted the strange shell over his head as he smiled back at her and slid it over his head, tucking his hair in on the back. Then within a moment the strange misshapen places of the helmet began to contract, tightening on his head and it quickly became a sleek form. Six holes on the front were his form of sight, armored lenses that kept his eyesight clean and there was a distinct molding to the materials section over his mouth. It allowed breathing and filtered the air.

He spoke now, with a low driving tone to his voice. The modulator his helmet provided allowed him to speak with a crisp distortion but his voice could still be heard, somewhere in there. "I am all giddy with anticipation" He leaned his head back to Teagan and even with the mask the sense of delight could still be seen on a non visible grin.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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George had to smile and shake her head slightly as Rio pulled up to pick her up. He had of course, done exactly as she asked and done it superbly. Not that she ever doubted him but it he had a tendency to amaze her. When she climbed inside, taking her seat her eyes drifted about the interior. God damn Rio. I don’t know how you do it. It was perfect. She spied the computer set up. Mark is going to die of excitement. George bit her lower lip to stifle the smile as she thought about what Mark’s reaction might be when he glimpsed his new home away from home.

The ride was quiet but pleasant. She was looking things over on her pad and he was driving . Both were in work mode. There would be time later to discuss.

When Mark stepped in George only slightly glanced up, doing her best to watch him but not make it known that she was indeed watching for his reaction. She saw the way Mark’s eyes lingered over the equipment, as if it was a beautiful woman’s body.

The men bantered in a good natured way and George relaxed. There would be no time for petty arguments or name calling. Not today.

George smirked as Mark tried to appear nonchalant and approached the system. Good. Be happy, settle in and get to know her. She would never admit it out loud but she was extremely tense. Not because of her team, they were the best but so much could go wrong, so much could change on them. I hope we are as prepared as we seem to be.

Imogen watched the vehicle pull up. Her eyes going wide as she took it all in. “Monde dieu...”

She let the exclamation escape in a single breath.

She entered, a nod to the three people already there and she added a smile to Mark though he seemed extremely caught up in a system the likes Imogen had never seen, especially not outside of a lab.

Imogen found her seat and let her eyes stray to the window. She knew her job. Her feet were around her bag. Her things, everything she needed were in there.

George looked over at the scientist. She seemed calm and as poised as ever. George admired the woman’s ability to be so refined in any situation. She had seen the tapes of Imogen with the police after her attack and even then there was something almost regal about the woman. I don’t know many who could exude so much strength and dignity after that.

The vehicle stopped again and both women looked up as the next team member entered. Only George and Rio knew he was coming. George nodded to Antony. “Glad you were free. Welcome aboard.”

Everyone was quiet as the new man sat. Imogen glanced over and only barely hid her surprise at the sight of the arsenal the man had brought. He is here to help with taking out the security. Imogen instantly relaxed. She would not have to do anything more than protect herself. George had gotten another person to round things out. She breathed a little easier.

"Well.. George, it’s good to see that your face matches such a lovely voice.."

George looked over at Antony, one eyebrow raised slightly. “Thank you Antony. I see you prepared yourself for today. Good.”

Imogen had looked over as the new man, Antony, as he and George conversed. She now found him staring at her though she could not get a read of this thoughts from his face.

Imogen nodded. “Oui, I am the one going in for the retrieval of the data. And yes I can handle a weapon and I am armed for my protection. I am glad to know I will have someone capable watching me.”

The last two stops went just as easily with Teagan and Atticus joining them all. Everyone had come ready. George focused on her pad until Rio brought them to their final stop.

George stood as Rio and Teagan did.

“Three patrols. Two single, one team. Sniper on the roof, lone man at the door and a trio of men that seem to be patrolling a loose perimeter in camo.”

There was no time to answer Teagan’s question about the plan as Johan appeared. George looked over at Rio and then back to Johan. “Thank you for joining us Johan.”

Imogen blinked as another new man appeared, this one blonde with an accent. She nodded back to him in greeting. George picked up her bag and waited for everyone to settle down. She looked at Antony. The man, judging by his comment to her and his overall demeanour was thoroughly enjoying himself.

George looked them all over.

“First, I have coms for everyone. You will wear them and you will keep in contact with us here at command. They are on a secure channel for us only thanks to Sphinx. Which brings me to next bit. No names. Make up a code, give each other odd nicknames I don’t care but no names, no initials.”

She gave them a hard look and did not wait for them to agree. If they didn’t do as she stated there would be consequences later.

“Antony, you and Imogen will head to the building. You will pick an entrance and you are responsible for getting her in quietly. Imogen once you are in, make your way to the lab. You and Mark know the drill. Get everything and get out. Nice and clean and quiet.”

George took a breath and crossed her arms. “Johan, Teagan, and Riodan you are on perimeter. You are to take them out quietly only if they come upon you. I don’t want any bodies until Imogen is out and safe. I don’t want them alerted to our presence before it is necessary.”

She looked over at Johan and Teagan, “Decide now who is on the sniper. They go now before Antony and Imogen head in. I don’t want him picking them off before we even get started.”

Her eyes flicked back to Antony, “You are to guard the door with your life. If something goes wrong inside you are to go in and get Imogen. You take out anyone who gets between you, her and the data. Assuming we run smooth, once she is out you get her back here.”

George looked them all over one more time, she paused to ensure everything was sinking in.

“Now, once we get word that Imogen is out it is time to take down everyone of those guards. We need all personnel eliminated. All. That means in and out. Security, lab workers. If there are here they do not leave this site by the time we are done. Once that is done Atticus will set the explosives.”

She looked over at the demolitions man giving him a nod.

“At that point you are all to cover him. He needs to plant everything and if there is a chance reinforcements or others are around you are to take them out. Once he is ready, when he gives the countdown you all get your asses back here stat. No lingering, no double checking. When he says it is ready you haul ass.”

George knelt down to her bag and began pulling out the coms. She handed the small buds around. “Stick them on your jawline. They activate when you speak and you don’t have to talk loud.”

She stood.

“I will be in the van with Mark. We will be watching and listening. He is going to hack their cameras and help with electronic security. We will guide you when we can. Be careful.”

Imogen placed her com on her jawline, hiding it as best she could with her neatly pinned hair. She pulled her lab coat out of her bag, placed her gun in its holster at her back and looked to Antony.

“I am ready.”
She had everything she needed to hack the system as Mark told her. Everything and some fake files were stashed in a small briefcase she carried. Imogen looked like any other scientist that might be in the building.

George looked at Rio though she said nothing. Her eyes found his and she kept them there for a few heartbeats before pulling them away.

“Johan, Teagan the sniper and then we are a go.”

She moved to the computer area, to Mark. “Here.”

George stuck his com on his jaw. “We set?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark was so entertained with the computer paradise Riordan had set for him that he barely took notice of the people coming in the vehicle (except for Imogen, with whom he dared exchange a glance), nor did he realize they had arrived until he noticed they were no longer moving.

People were talking outside, and The Sphinx considered not taking note of the conversation as he tweaked and played with his new toys, discovering every new function as he went, even more delighted than before. But he couldn’t help but overhear his name when they talked about coms, and forced himself to climb down the steps of the vehicle and sit on them, not leaving the van but also not entirely out of the odd circle of people gathered together to execute a job.

George sure had a way of choosing people. Mark saw two faces he didn’t recognize: a large, broad-shouldered tall man who looked a bit like Technoviking, and another slim, rather shadowy looking man with what looked like several different augmentations all over his body.

He sat there while George gave them a quick briefing, and suddenly remembered, cursing himself for having possibly forgotten, that he had to give Imogen the newest version of the program that would allow her top-level clearance in Portel’s systems. He should have e-mailed her! What would he do now? He had it in his pocket, but he couldn’t possibly hand it over to her in person…! Maybe if he sent it to her right now… No, there would be no time! He had to do it. Had to deliver her the program personally.

Mark climbed down the steps and approached Imogen shyly, trying not to attract much attention to himself, but certain that he had failed. He looked at her, having practiced the conversation a hundred times over ever since he decided to move moments ago, but still his words failed him.

Instead, The Sphinx simply took out of his pocket a small, silver flash drive that was empty except for the program. It could remotely connect to his Oasis (he decided that was going to be both the name of his operations center and his code name) so the hacker could oversee the entire process. Still, it would require skill to activate it just in the right time, just in the blink of an eye where the system would open a gap. He handed it to Imogen, as a kid would hand something he was proud of to a school crush.

"Here... I updated it. The version you have is... Not good enough. I made it better."

Imogen looked up and smiled a little as Mark approached. She opened her mouth to greet him but she halted the words as they formed when he handed her the small flash drive. It was almost identical to the one he had already given her and her eyes went down to it before looking back to his face.

"Better? Ah, you were not happy with it." Imogen smiled at him a bit bigger now. "You are very good at your job Mark."

She reached out and gently took it from him.

"Well, I try my best. To be good at my job, I mean. Well, it's not a job, it's more of a lifestyle... That incidentally makes my living. I have fun with it, actually. When this is over, you could..." His heartbeat was so high he was sure the guards would hear it all the way from the lab. "You could... You know... See how the work is done? If that doesn’t bore you too much. You know what, it probably will. Forget I said anything."

Imogen chuckled a little as Mark mentioned that his lifestyle also was the way he made his money. He had a way of making her laugh without being overly silly. He was smart and his humour reflected that. She was thankful for the respite from the tension of the mission. She thought at first that he was asking her to work with him or at least perhaps get to see where he worked. Imogen frowned and cocked her head a little as he told her to forget it. Perhaps it is a language thing... Her english was good but she felt like she was missing something.

She reached out and placed her hand on his arm. "Je m'excuse Mark but I think I am not understanding. You do not want me to see your work? Or you do? I would very much like to see where you do the things you do, the programs but that was not what you asked me?"

Imogen had a look of confusion on her face as she tried to fully understand what he was telling her.

This made Mark want to disappear, and made him regret everything that he had ever done in his life that led to that point. Still, in the time that took for a pixelated image to achieve full resolution, Mark had an epiphany: conversations were just like security codes. All you had to do was say the right thing in the right time, as you would with a bit of junk files to stop a self-coding program from finding you and flushing you out. Suddenly, it was all as clear as a scripting table.

"What I mean is, if you'd like, you could, maybe, come to my place, and maybe let me explain to you the art of the computer? For it is an art, let me tell you. This program you have in your hands is nothing short of a Mona Lisa, or a Beethoven symphony, or maybe a romantic sonnet: Just the right things, arranged in just the right places at just the right time." It was easy now, as easy as if he had the comforting screen of a computer in front of him. "I know it may be boring to some, but I take it you're a woman who appreciates art, Imogen?"

Her face shifted from confusion back to its easy smile. "Art? Yes, I enjoy art of all kinds. I would very much like to see your work."

She held up the flash drive. "I have no doubt that it is as priceless as any painting and just as beautiful."

Imogen licked her lips just a little. "I would enjoy spending time with you and your work but..." She faltered for a moment. It had been a long time since someone had asked her to their home for work or otherwise. She spent her time alone most nights or at dinner with a very select few friends. She held up a finger. "I will only come if you agree to let me take you into a lab one day and show you my work."

The scientist smiled, a light laugh following it. "I think you would appreciate the complexity of DNA and the inner workings of brains."

"Deal?"

Old Mark Parnasse would have never even considered setting foot in the same room as another living thing, let alone virus and bacteria. Old Mark Parnasse would've said no without a second thought... But Old Mark Parnasse wasn't very fun, either. He didn't go out, nor did he have a lot of friends; And The Sphinx thought that maybe, just maybe, it was time to let Old Mark Parnasse go away.

"Deal." Said New Mark Parnasse, a person who had just been born out of the ashes of reclusion and social awkwardness.

"Bien! It is a date then."

Imogen reached into her bag and took out the old flashdrive. She handed it to Mark and slipped the new one in. She inhaled deeply and looked at him once more. "Be careful today Mark."

Mark took the flashdrive, putting it in his pocket quickly.

"Yeah... You too Imogen. Good luck out there. Remember" He tapped the coms George had given them. "I'll be there the entire time."

She gave him a small smile and then looked to the lab. "That is comforting. Thank you."

Mark turned and quickly climbed the stairs back to the Oasis, smiling widely and overflowing with proud in his triumph. He tested the coms, hoping George hadn’t noticed the conversation and neither would notice the happiness in his voice as he spoke to the team.

“This is The Oasis, checking in. I’ll be guarding your asses from over here and making sure this nasty little defense system doesn’t cut you to bits with lasers of anything cliché like that, as long as you do exactly what I say when I say it. Got that? Good. I’m ready.”

That was an understatement. He had never been more ready for anything in his entire life.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony looked at the small transmitter that George handed him and he gave its small case a quick look. She said that it could be placed along the jaw bone for communication to work but he had seen similar ones in the past and thought that something could be easier for him. He pressed a thumb to the base of his mask and a small snick of sound popped as the mouthpiece slid down and he attached it to the inside of his face plate. As the portion of his mask slid back into place he gave a small cough and then spoke. "Testing.. test..1 2" His voice could be heard ringing from the transport and the other receivers around, thankfully without the same harmonic distortion that his mask gave off.

He gave Imogen a look with the turn of his head. "So Doctor.. should we do this calmly?.. or messy?"

Imogen jumped slightly as the man's voice came through her com. She looked over at Antony. "Trondeau. My name is Imogen Trondeau."

She ran a hand into her hair, tucking a few loose strands back into place. She stood tall, back very straight.

"Calm. I do not wish them to have any idea that I am not part of their normal team. As George said we must get in easy and out can be less..."

She frowned a little. "Organize....mmm organized. Once we have the data it will be fine. I am hoping you will not have to come in after me."

Imogen smiled though it was a bit strained.

His head slowly bent to one side as she spoke, as if a dog trying to listen to a far off sound.

"I understand how you feel miss.. though I will still call you doctor. Try thinking of a slick nickname for me."

Imogen nodded. "Ah oui. I forgot."

She looked him over slowly. She seemed to be in deep contemplation. "I am not used to this sort of thing. I usually go in and come out. If someone is with me they do not talk to me until I return. This..." She pointed to the com. "Is a bit odd for me."

Imogen tapped the side of her cheek. "I will call you Ombre."

She gave him a curt nod. Her eyes moved to look to the lab that sat in the distance. It looked nothing like the sort of labs she was used to. This one looked ready to move at any time. "Do you know what door you wish to use?"

Antony walked his way up to Imogen's shoulder and looked on as she did, only to begin digging an item out of his vest. It was a long cylinder that was more commonly seen as a suppressor and he slowly began to attach it to his barrel turning it counter clockwise. Then he spoke.."I know how you may be used to doing your job but I want you to know something" The sound of metal scrapping together was droning in the background.

"Your going to go in there and work your way past many faces.. maybe even speak to them by chance."

"You will hear they're hopes and dreams perhaps.."
He pulls the slide on his gun and chambers a round before looking dead at her. "It is my duty to take all of that from them.. are you ready for that?"

"Because I am.. and I will rather enjoy it." His voice drew a long sigh of an almost pleasurable sound with his last words.

Imogen looked over at him. He was standing very close to her. The sound of the metal made her tense. "I have no desire to engage anyone more than necessary. You have your job to do. I have mine. They are points of data along the way."

She swallowed hard. It was easier for her to think of it like that. This was more extreme than her regular contracts. Imogen had a job to do and it did not involve making friends with the others in the lab. She hoped that she would not have to talk to anyone at all. In many labs people just did their work and conversation was limited to numbers and data. Imogen liked that sort of professionalism. She had no idea what she was walking into but she knew what she had to do. Her hand reached into the bag and lightly fingered the flash drive Mark had given her. It was the key to everything.

"Do not worry about me. I have seen things in this world far more brutal than what will go on here today."

Imogen had been in war zones, worked on research with horrific results and had lived through something no one should have have to experience.

Antony's smile widened against the back of his face plate and he looked at her one last time before turning towards the building. "We will see then.. we will see."

He squared his feet away and tucked his gun up a moment before readying.
"Over-watch.. Ready when you are.. front door seems as good as any" This was an obvious call to the sniper to take out the guards, because frankly Antony could feel himself getting anxious.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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#, as written by Celedia
“Thank you for joining us Johan.” The tall, muscular blonde responded with a simple nod of the head and stood with his hands clasped behind his back and his feet placed slightly apart as he awaited instructions. The small comm was placed against his jawline the moment it was received and he awaited everyone else to do so as well.

"I am all giddy with anticipation"

Teagan arched her brow but the curiosity flickering across her face turned into a full blown grin as she heard the masked man’s delight.

“Try not to have all the fun. Leave some for the rest of us.”

Until that comment, Teagan watched and listened. It was what she was best at, after all, and the little telltale signs that she caught were what made her good at her job. The way George and Riordan looked at each other spoke of something deeper than a business relationship. The same could almost be said for the scientist and Sphinx but that seemed to be in the earlier stages. She looked down a tad too much for their feelings to be out in the open and the hacker blushed several times simply after looking in the scientist’s direction. Both buried themselves into whatever they were doing with an intensity that told Teagan they were trying to hide their emotions but when they emerged from the RV, they both looked happier.

“Johan, Teagan, and Riordan you are on perimeter…..Decide now who is on the sniper..”

The information broker raised her hand, calling the position before Johan could even speak a word. “Me.” She offered up, heading back inside of the RV for a moment to grab the sniper rifle which she didn’t think she would’ve needed. As she reemerged with the rifle in hand, she nodded her head towards Riordan. “You take east. New guy can take west. I’ll head to that crest next to the copse of trees and take out the eagle eye.”

As she started walking for the spot she had already picked out, she heard George say, ” “Johan, Teagan the sniper and then we are a go.” and she chuckled softly into her headset before murmuring. “I heard you, Mom. Give me a few to set up, now.”

Johan walked in the same direction as Teagan as he headed towards his area of the perimeter and in a low voice he told her, “Your call sign will be Apex.”

Teagan cocked a brow at the blonde and snorted. “My call sign is Phoenix. Always has been, always will be.” A grin stretched across her lips as she recalled that the comm picked up everything that was spoken out loud. “When we go to celebrate the success of this mission with drinks I can show you all why that’s my call sign.”

More gentle laughter followed as she tried her best to keep to the tall grasses bordering the perimeter of the laboratory’s crisply landscaped yard and Johan frowned at her reply before offering his own. “I will be Apex, then. Suitable name for a predator, no matter the gender.”

Teagan settled herself into position, using her optics to align her first shot as Johan continued past her towards the western border of the building.




Riordan let his eyes linger on George during the entire conversation. A smile curved his mouth as they all went about their call signs and he took his comm from George, pressing it against the curve of his jaw as he lifted a hand to ‘fix’ hers.

“You should be our Alpha.” He commented as his smile widened into a grin.

George kept her eyes level with Rio's as he lightly adjusted her com. She let out a small chuckle. "Not Ice Queen?"

The smile dropped away and she stood there for a moment in silence. "You can be Beta as long as you don't mind being under me."

George raised her eyebrows just a little. Her heart was racing though she told herself it was do to the tension in the air as they were about to embark on the mission.

Riordan's grin turned devilish. "I have so many comments that aren't work appropriate so I'll stick with... Yeah, Beta works as my call sign."

As his area of the perimeter was called out, Riordan stopped himself from stealing a quick kiss and instead he purposefully took a full step back. "Now, ready for my next trick?" He tapped a button on his wristwatch and the entire RV disappeared though not entirely. The technology still made the general shape of the RV visible up close though from a distance it appeared that there was no massive MCU. He kept his hand next to the door and offered George his free hand so she could step up into the RV.

George swallowed hard as he stepped away. Did I just openly flirt with him? She was beyond surprised with herself.

She shook her head as the RV disappeared. "You sir are full of surprises. Well done. Do you really think it necessary though?"

George took his hand and stepped onto the first step.

Riordan’s face went serious for a moment before his ever-present grin reappeared. “Anything to protect our most valuable assets.” With that, he tapped another button and the RV’s door closed, allowing the illusion to fall into place.

With that, he turned and began walking towards the eastern perimeter making sure that he stayed out of sight of the guards until told otherwise.




Anyone looking at the sniper mounted on the roof would notice his crouched form suddenly crumple to the ground.

“Yessss….” Teagan hissed under her breath before repositioning and drawing in a deep breath as she took the shot for the man at the door where Imogen and Antony would be entering.

"Over-watch.. Ready when you are.. front door seems as good as any."

“Copy that,” she murmured, still keeping her voice low as she took a moment to scan for the patrol before resetting her sights on the lone door man. If he saw the two approaching on foot, he would probably alert the rest of his team. If they could keep their presence under wraps until Imogen was inside, the better their plan would work.

Inhaling slowly, she held her breath for a moment to steady herself and then took the next shot and the man at the door crumbled to the ground as well. Thankfully, the wandering patrol was on the north side of the building away from the entrance so nothing would seem amiss until they came back around.

“Clean up assist would be appreciated. Don’t want anyone to wander over a corpse on their way into work.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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George stood in the RV, just over Mark’s left shoulder. “Get me a visual. I want to see what their security cameras see. We will be watching them and I want to be able to give them a head’s up. I want to see everything their people do.”

She crossed her arms and took a deep breath. She heard Teagan give the call that they could head to the front door. Step one, sniper down.

Imogen head the call as well and squared her shoulders. This will be fine. In, get all the information and out. Lots of people watching. While a comforting thought the weight of the mission as a whole still sat heavily. She would be glad when the day was done and they could go home. She had a special bottle of wine waiting for her. Maybe this time I will be able to enjoy it.

George’s mouth was set into a line as she waited for the video feed and the team’s next move. Antony would be taking Imogen to the door and getting her in. In the meantime Teagan needed clean up done and there was the other patrols to watch.
---

The sniper on the roof lay in a heap. His death would go unnoticed by other security teams. On the ground the lone man at the front door fell to the ground as well with no noise.

One patrol, a team of two were headed North around the building. They were in basic uniform for SecComp and armed with their basic gear. Another man did a slower patrol about twenty minutes behind the pair, again heading North. He was dressed as they were but his job was to check for more subtle breaches. He checked accesses like the vents for signs of tampering. The last patrol of the building, another lone man again dressed in SecComp uniform seemed to be going even slower. He was carefully looking the building over.

About 150 feet away from the building, in the brush and surrounding cover were three camo’d men. SecComp employees as well, their job seemed to be first line security. Anyone got near the perimeter and they would see them or at least see signs of a breach. Their patrol had them currently on the West side of the building. Dressed to blend they were harder to spot but not impossible.

The area itself was once used for oil refining. There are ruins of the old plan, a parking lot that is now cracked and overgrown in places. The mobile lab is step up a good distance behind the old refinery plant, using it to cover them from quick looks though rarely does it seem that anyone comes out here. There is an area to the East of the lab that appears to be used for a helicopter or aerodyne pad. The majority of brush has been cleared away.

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Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony slides his weapon around to his other shoulder as he slowly leads Imogen along towards the door.

He reaches down and takes the recently deceased by the collar, hefting him up and over a shoulder. He looks over the mans body and takes several items of interest, His ID and comm being two of them as well as the mans side are and weapon strapping the holster on his other thigh. "Hmm.. Militech straight line 45.. not bad.. not good.. but not bad either." He pulls the comm up which looks to be a normal attachment model and he snaps it onto his vest, running its line up and connecting it to his helmet. The light rifle getting leaned against the outside wall of the building as he turns and looks around.

Leaving the comm on its original channel he waves Imogen on while turning off the receiver so the device cannot pick up his voice.

He leaves her at the door for a moment as he hefts the body of his shoulder and marches several feet away, where he finds a sewer grate. He had walked over it on the way in and even would have not noticed it unless he heard the sound of running water below. He is quick and decisive as he pulls the barred grate up, its crusted underside cracking open as he snaps it away from its anchoring and rather un-ceremonialy drops the man in.

He is returns to his charge and puts his back next to the wall beside the door. "Now Doctor.. I must stress we will have at most a ten minute window before the other patrol makes its rounds. Please.. be swift."

"Oh.. also."
He reaches to his side and pulls off one of the grenades seated there. Holding it out to her, its dark green shell with a dim blue line encircling it and the pin facing her. "Flash bang miss... just in case" Its obvious this is an item he is willing to spare with especially if the mission is to succeed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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In the RV-

George was tense.

“Good work Phoenix. Ombre and Doc wait until Oasis gives word that we are into the system.”

She looked over at Mark.

Mark had been overseeing the whole thing, in complete radio silence. He watched with the cold, glass eyes of the cameras when the guards were put down, one by one, and only hoped they had painless deaths.

When George mentioned his codename, he was already prepared. The locks on the door were surprisingly complex for a mobile facility, but still they were no match for The Sphinx. With a few clicks, and a few dodging the self-rewriting system (that would have to be permanently dealt with in a moment) the door clicked, and as music to his ears, Mark heard it slide away swiftly, blinking a green light, through Anthony's coms.

"You're good to go, Ombre. Doc, let me know when you get to that door."

Outside-

Imogen was as ready as she would be. There was nothing more she could do to prepare. Antony led her towards the door and she stood waiting as he took care of the body. Her eyes remained on the door, her ears listening for signs of others approaching.

Her guard was searching the man and Imogen was staying alert. Her hand was white knuckled on her bag and she forced herself to breathe.

Antony moved away, the body over his shoulder. Imogen let her eyes roam a little as she waited. She felt exposed. This wasn’t the first time she had gone into a lab but everything about this felt different.

When Antony returned and gave her time frame Imogen frowned but nodded. It was not much time. “I will be as quick as I can.”

Her eyes fell to the item in his hand as he held it out for her to take. She felt her heart begin to speed up though her face remained a mask of poise and calm. She said nothing as she took it and slipped it into her bag.

Imogen faced the door and then scanned her card. The door opened and Imogen let out the breath she had been holding. The scientist stepped inside and the door closed behind her.

"I am in."

The first team, those circling the immediate perimeter of the building were just reaching the Northwesterly corner of the building. It would be a few minutes before Johan, in his position on the Western side, would be able to have a good visual of them.

George’s voice filled everyone’s coms. “Doc is in and now we wait. Beta, Apex, Phoenix. Status report.”

Imogen walked down the narrow hall. Occasionally there would be a door on her left or her right but she headed straight. She knew where she need to be. Straight ahead one hallway, first right and third door on the left.

Mark accompanied her through the virtual eyes of the cameras he had tapped in as she walked, seemingly calm and resolute, through the white, anti-septic hallway. He didn't even have to break radio silence to tell her where she needed to go: it seemed she was very sure of what her part was, and when to play it.

She scanned her card at the end of the first hallway. The door opened presenting her with a T-junction. A lab to her left, a hallway leading straight and one to her right. Imogen turned right.

The Sphinx's gaze turned from the several screens on his personal oasis to the smaller one where he could see the scientist's progress. He was now completely immersed, completely unaware of his surroundings: all that mattered were the screens, and what they told him.

While watching over, silently, for Imogen, Mark had started to deal with Portel's intricate defense system. It was the kind of hack that would be easy, if he had enough time on his hands. In the current situation, he was just running against time, checking every variable, every bit of data that could go unnoticed and make a world of a difference.

He had just enough time until Imogen moved from door to door to get them open, but once he recognized the pattern (for no matter how complex, how impossible, how small and unnoticeable, every system had a pattern) it was easy: It was just a matter of finding the correct data cluster that opened the respective door. Simple.

Here another door waited and she lifted the card to scan it and allow her access. The light flashed red and the door remained closed. She tilted her head a little and scanned it again. Once more the red light flashed and the door remained closed.

Mark was on the next data cluster already, when he noticed he did not have to change the view of the cameras, because Imogen hadn't gone through the last door yet. He zoomed in, and saw the red light flashing, threatening. He mumbled something like "It can't be..." and returned to the previous data cluster, only to find it unlocked. The system told him, in clear and large bytes, that the door was unlocked. Yet, Imogen was still there, scanning her card in vain.

Her voice was tight in her com. “Oasis...is there a problem?”

George looked over at Mark. She said nothing but grew concerned. She didn't know what was happening but he seemed unsure of things and that made her nervous.

"I'm not sure" whispered Mark, as if he were talking to the machines and bytes, instead of another human being. "It is open. I see it, it's open."

“Is there a problem with the doors?”

Imogen’s heart was in her throat as she turned and nodded to the man behind her. She hadn’t heard him approach. He was about her age, wore a lab coat similar to hers and had dark hair. His eyes are hazel Imogen turned back to face the door. He is going to die today.

“Yes something seems amiss.” Her voice was strained though she gave no outward signs of her stress.

Mark leaned over the screens, unable to believe what he was seeing: in the time it took for Imogen to form her sentence, The Sphinx had gone over the entire cluster dozens of times, and could find nothing. Then, a chill ran down his spine, as he realized, as clear as the night sky, what had happened. It was only a hunch, but deep down he knew his hunch was correct. He checked the system again, from the begining, and started noticing what he should have noticed at first: A lost byte here, a tenth of a data cluster gone just as he had located it.

"It's rewriting itself." Whispered the hacker, his voice so low it could barely be heard. "No... Not yet... Not now...!"

The system had begun its rewriting process minutes before scheduled, and Mark watched, helplessly, as entire data clusters simply vanished from the screen as if they had never been there.

George was not surprised that Imogen was playing it so calmly, sticking to her role despite this hitch in the plan. She listened intently to the voices over the com though said nothing. She wouldn't step in unless it was necessary and right now she needed to let Mark figure things out. She stay just behind him and waited.

"No, no! It's too soon!" He was screaming now, going over all of the contingency measures he had prepared, but none of them predicted this. Without the program in place, it would be impossible to fight the system as it erased itself...

Then he realized what needed to be done. Mark located the clusters that were still in place, confirming he still had a few seconds before the system got to Imogen's door and noticed the irregularities, sounding the alarm and sending the whole operation to hell. Then he spoke to Imogen alone, completely focused.

"Doc, I need you to listen to me very carefully. The system is rewriting itself as we speak, and minutes eralier than expected. We have to plug that flash drive right now, and I need you to do everything I say. Do you understand?"

Imogen swallowed. She wasn’t in the lab, there was another person standing here with her. A hand casually went to her hair as if fixing it as she contemplated the situation. Time is short... Her hand went to her bag, seeking her gun.

“Is it the door or your card?” The man looked at her quizzically.

Imogen was very still. “I do not know.”

The man stepped past her. “Let’s try mine.”

The man scanned his card and the light flashed green. The door opened and she stepped into the hallway.

“Thank you.” Imogen could not face him again.

“No problem. Tech right?” He laughed and headed down the hall, passing her quickly. He entered a nearby door and Imogen kept walking.

Imogen kept her eyes straight ahead towards her goal as she spoke.

”That was too close.”

George had been tense as Mark began screaming at the screen. Now that Imogen was closer to the lab things were a bit better though time was ticking. She knew the rest of the team would be on edge.

"Okay team things are good. Everyone breath easy. Oasis and Doc have this. Time crunch though so everyone be on your toes."

George hoped her voice would be reassuring enough to them all, including Mark and Imogen. She still trusted them to do their jobs.

In the building, Imogen walked faster almost running down the hall, passing the first two doors on her left and found the third at the far end. Just beyond it was another junction. She scanned her card and the door opened.

The lab, much to her relief was empty. She crossed quickly to the computer. “Alright I am in and alone. Walk me through it.”

Imogen pulled the flash drive from her bag and awaited Mark’s instructions.

Mark could see Imogen now, holding the tiny object that would be their salvation. He cheked the time: the system was advancing, relentlessly. He spoke faster than he had ever spoken before, hoping the scientist could understand.

"There is going to be a port on your left, between two other larger-sized ports. Plug it there. Then, as soon as the screen flashes, type 'y'."

>>>>clearence/directory/foreignuser/allowentry? >Y >N.

Imogen plugged it in and hit the key. "Next."

As she waited for the next step her eyes raked over the desk. Her last job would be to grab as many files as she could and she began to take stock of what she was going to be dealing with.

"Now, I need you to scroll down until you see the words 'selfrewrite' all together. Then, select that and press 'y' again."

>>>>clearence/directory/foreignuser/selfrewriteprotocols/allowchange? >Y >N

Imogen scrolled down the screen and it felt lik it took forever. She hit the key. "Okay. Done."

Mark was processing all the loads of information he got now that he was completely inside the system. It was beautiful. Designed flawlessly, and by a genius. He had to found out who did it, one day, just to shake his or her hand and say... "I broke your self-rewriting code. Me. I did it."

"Now, type the words the_sphinx... and watch the magic happen."

Imogen inhaled and held her breath as she typed the '_sphinx'. She hit enter and waited. Her head turned to look behind her. She worried at anytime someone might come in. As her head turned back to the screen she caught sight of a what appeared to be a sphinx moving across the screen. It was little and pixelated but recognizable for what it was. Imogen couldn't help but smile. "C'est bon Oasis."

She shook her head a little, enjoying that he was able to put such a personal touch on things. Something about the little image made her feel better.

"How long?"

"Not long now" said The Sphinx, looking at the program as it was downloaded straight into the system, watching impatient as the 98% turned to 99% and then...

Then, as simple as that, the computer emitted a short, high-pitched 'ping!' and the entire database of Portel was open and ready to be browsed.

"Enjoy, my dear" said Mark, barely hiding the utter joy in his voice as he leaned back, smiling.

Imogen began to grab files and put them in her bag. She was calm but her movements were swift. There was little time to waste.

"Oasis do I need to do anything else?"

Imogen waited for Mark to give her more instructions as she picked up every paper in sight. She didn't care what they were and did not take the time to read them thoroughly. In the end they would likely not matter and the papers would be destroyed, all evidence of Portel's work gone save for the computer files now in CKSD's possession but she was told to take everything and that is what she was doing.

"Not at all, Doc. The program made the big and scary security system his bitch, if you pardon my language. It's completely harmless now, so take the time you need... Virtually speaking, of course."

Imogen tried to relax. As if to counter Mark's comforting words the door behind her suddenly opened. Two figures in lab coats stood there, stunned by her presence. "Can we help you?"

The woman turned to look at them. She appeared completely unphased by their appearance. "I am just doing the safety inspection. There were some issues earlier today. Surprise inspection was warranted."

Imogen began to move towards the door. The two people, a man and a woman stood there with looks of surprise on their faces. "Oh...well..." The woman stuttered a little and looked at him.

He frowned. "I hope we are alright. I know we were told to be ready to move out by five. We were just finishing up locking some of the samples and then we were going to finish the clean up."

Imogen gave a slight nod, "Yes, things look find here. Ensure everything is done by five."

They were moving the lab? She passed the pair as they stepped into the lab.

Imogen's voice was a whisper over the com. "I am heading out."

It was then that she spotted the two security officers walking down the hall towards here.

She paled but tried to remain calm. "We have a problem”

In his own happiness, Mark had forgotten to check the cameras outside to see if anyone was approaching. Stupid, stupid. A rookie mistake, and The Sphinx was no rookie... He stared at the camera images, impotent, only hoping, wishing, begging the team could somehow get her out of there alive...

Outside the lab-

By the time Imogen was sending the program running the patrol was clearly in Johan’s sight and moving down the West side of the building. Behind them was the first single patrol and behind him would be the next man. The three camo’d men were still on the distant perimeter.

In the RV-

George bit her lip. The fact that they had been planning to move the lab that evening sat wrong with her. A sense of unease came over her.

“Ombre get in there and get her out. Once he has her, the rest of you deal with the patrols. Let’s do this.”

She rubbed her hands together and waited.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony had been waiting patiently at the side of the door for word to progress.

As the conversation of the com moved on and he could hear the tension elevate in Marks voice he was starting to focus more on the worry that his reaction would bring. He himself had been on many missions that didn't turn out as they were normally planned to, such was the way of things.

But when Imogen began to get worried he could not really wait, she was his to take care of after all.
So he pressed off the wall and turned towards the door pulling his gun off his shoulder and pointing the barrel at the door. The guards ID was wearing a hole in his left hand from his want to just swipe it and charge in, but he was a good soldier. He had been on several missions for George in the past and when she knew it was time to act he would receive the order from her.

Keeping an ear on the conversation he could tell that things may be tense, despite the small mix up what the computer itself.

But still he waited, patiently.

But he heard it after she was able to get the information and begin making her way out. “Ombre get in there and get her out. Once he has her, the rest of you deal with the patrols. Let’s do this.”

Not a single being there could see the smile running across his face, as if a cowboy riding a bronco over the plains.

He leaned in and ran the card over the scanners beam and run his hand back to the grip. "Breaching.."
Stepping through the door he could see the ongoing area change drastically, with such a white sterile environment it was strange to him. Though he was never one to go to a lab for any arrant reason other then to get his "condition" checked.

Every step was with a heavy foot of caution and he would glance his eyes from right to left when he passed a door or opening. The small windows revealed nothing at most and he would pass, but along came the first to see him. A man was in the worst place of his life as he opened the door and was unable to move out of the room because his eyes fell on Antony. He was so frightened when the barrel pulled into his direction that he took the small clipboard in hand and used it like a shield to cover his face from his oncoming fate.

The snicking noise of several rounds being fired and brass casings hitting the floor was all that could be heard for just a short distance. The bullets chewing holes through the flimsy board and caused a rapid spurt of red mist before he fell. Antony kicked his feet back into the room and closed the door back, after locking it from the other side of course.

The next several feet before his first door was uneventful as he started reaching out with the ID. However the door slide open as he approached and he say a rather tall young man in a lab coat spot him, with an understandably wide eyed look. He had a pen sticking out of his mouth and before he could speak Antony rattled him with three rounds, him biting the pen off in the process.

"Paul!!!.." A voiced screamed as Antony leaned around the doors edge spotting a woman as she stood there terrified. Giving her no real time to act he fired, he body going limp from the impact of two rounds. After that it got more intense, Antony was no longer worried about being found out. He shot anyone and everyone that came across his path be them in a separate room or through a door and all along he counted rounds off in his head.

The corner from before where Imogen was and he was reloading, sliding the clip from his weapon and chambered another round as he loaded up. He peeked slightly around the corner to see and what he found were the two security officers standing mere feet from Imogen.

He tightened his grip in the spent clip and whispered into the com. "Doc.. stand very still.."

In that instant he tossed the clip down the hall, its bouncing and slapping across the floor cause such a racket that it got more attention then thought. Sliding the whole length of the hall it hit the shin of one guard as they both turned to see the ruckus and several scientist followed suit, head popping from doors to see what was happening.

Antony stepped out from the corner and began advancing.. FAST.

He fired every time a pair of eyes met him and never pulled his finger from the trigger as he sent rounds down the hall. The three faces that sprang out from the doors became empty as he moved forward. He was a merchant dealing sweet serine sleep to the people around him and the awestruck guards did not know what to do. One fumbled to grab his weapon up from his side and the other was dead before his sites were lifted at all.

As Antony fired he felt the last round leave as it left the weight of the gun slightly off, seeing the last guard almost entirely pissing himself. He slung his SMG and pulled the side arm he lifter earlier, its barrel flush to the mans face as his surprise maddened his expression. The back of his head split as the singular bullet pierced his eye and sent the last of his thoughts spraying past Imogen.

Antony stood for a moment, pulling the man-hunter from his shoulder. The shotguns duel ammo reserves latched loudly as he chambered the first shell. "Well Doc.. your chariot awaits.." The last of the bodies fell. The dead and dying were strewn across the floor and the walls painted with fine crimson specks. Antony had done his duty and he was still hoping to do more damage before the night was through.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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In the RV-
George’s lips formed on thin line as she waited for some sign that they had heard her orders

When Antony stated he was breaching George let out a slow exhale through her teeth.

Come on...come on...

She had been focusing on what Rio had told them, about the landing pad but all that was forgotten when Imogen had stated there was a problem. Her hands now reached for her pad though she could not bring herself to look at it or type. She was too focused on the com.

The scream of a woman yelling the name Paul made George jump. She let out a slow exhale and turned away from Mark and his screens.

She heard him tell Imogen to stand still and George closed her eyes. It was hard to just stand there and listen

The teams outside began to report that the patrols were eliminated and George’s shoulders relaxed just a little. Antony had Imogen, Teagan and Johan had taken care of the obvious threats. There was only one last thing to do.

In the lab-

Imogen stood there in the hall. She heard George order them to get her out and her hand began to slip into her bag. Her gun waited there. She had hoped she would not have to pull it out or use it and now it seemed that was not going to be the case.

She tried to be as subtle as she could easing the weapon out of the bag. She did not want to raise any alarm until she knew Antony was going to be in and closer to her. If she set things in motion too early it could mean the very worst for all involved.

The men drew closer. Imogen swallowed. That is when she heard Antony tell her to be very still. She closed her eyes and stood as still as she could. She took a deep breath as the clip bounced down the hall. She heard it, the bouncing down the floor before it came to a halt.

Just like that the hall was full of the sound of gunfire. Imogen didn’t move but her heart was racing. She had only been this scared one other time in her life though that time the adrenaline from her attempts to fight them off overrode her fear in the end. Now she could do nothing but watch as bodies hit the floor. The sound was odd, the mix of bullets and thuds. Sharp booms and strange gurgling noises.

She flinched as she was hit by the cast off spray. Her face and white coat as well as her pants were covered now in flecks of blood. It went suddenly quiet and Imogen stared at the lone figure who stood before her. She pulled her gun from her bag and began to walk towards him and then down the hall.

“I am fine and we are moving.” Her voice was steady over the com.

In the RV-

George nodded though Imogen and Antony couldn’t see her.

“Good everyone regroup at the front. Beta you are to bring Doc to the us and the rest....clean house. You have twenty minutes before D-time.”

She turned once more to look at Mark and his screens. Relief and concern mixed though she remained as professional as ever.

George looked down at her pad. A message blinked, waiting for her. One tap of a finger.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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In the RV-

Mark accompanied Anthony's movements through the cameras as best he could, switching from place to place in order to see if he was doing all right, even though the hacker was impotent to do anything about it. He merely watched, as an ancient vigil, to the bloodbath that ensued when Anthony started eliminating everything and everyone in the lab. The Sphinx kept telling himself that it would all be worth it, if only he could get Imogen out...

He heard the screams of the scientists, and the silent perplexity of the guards, realising they never had a chance. Then the operative got to Imogen and, as Mark held his breath, all of the guards were eliminated in an impeccable display of agility and skill.

Outside-

Johan finished his last victim by standing over him and piercing him through the heart with his sword before he removed a cloth from his pocket to wipe the blade clean. His brow arched at the directive for everyone to meet at the entrance and with a quick inclination of his jaw towards the laboratory, he signaled for Teagan to move on without him.

“I will just be a moment.” He wiped blood from metal as Teagan gave a careless shrug, holstering her own weapon as she turned and began walking away with an evident sway of her hips. “Don’t keep us waiting or Ombre and I will clear the whole lot without you.”

Laughter trickled from her lips as she moved into position, folding her arms beneath her breasts as she leaned herself against the entrance which gave her a clear view of both the interior hallway and the front of the building.

Riordan approached moments later, his blue-grey eyes scanning the area though they continually flickered over towards the general direction of the MCU.

In the Lab-

Antony looked at Imogen as he kneeled and picked up the spent clip for his weapon, his fingers still gripping the Manhunter in his right hand.

He smiled slightly as the glee of the moment crept over him and he reached forward on her pulling a small piece of unmentionable flotsam off her shoulder.

"Apologies Doc"

Imogen said nothing but nodded towards him. She was tense and alert. There was bile in her throat but she ignored it. They needed to get out. George ordered them to the front doors and that was her goal. She would not think about what just happened, at least not while they were still in the lab.

He tightened the stock of the weapon on his shoulder and aimed it down the hallway away from the good doctor. Walking slowly down the way he came, only treading lightly as he stepped over the bodies of the recently gone.

She followed him, picking her way carefully through casting no more than a cursory glance over the obstacles in her way. Her pulse was pounding in her ears and her mouth was dry. Just need to get out of here... Imogen was so close to finishing her part of the job. The bullets should have come later but there was no helping that now.

Antony rounded the corner and he could see the way was clear as his feet did not cease to tread a path.

His duty was to get Imogen out and return with the express intent of cleansing the whole structure. His ears kept to a high strung note as he was trying to hear what could be coming from behind or ahead of them and he was not really wanting to get caught in a firefight with her at his back."How are you feeling Doc?" He asked with a cursory glance over his shoulder before returning to his sites.

Imogen's face was a mask of apathy. No smile, no sadness. Nothing registered on her face. Even her tone was cold, almost detached.

"Fine. Thank you."

He chuckled slightly which could be heard over the com, it was obvious that seeing her in this state tickled a part that was running around inside of him like a child hyped on candy. But he was stern for now to get the mission done as he could see the exit coming up after a few doors that he knew for a fact were clear. But Antony stopped as if something were wrong and stood there as if to ponder the moment. "I suggest you make your way out now Doctor, it would be better if you were to leave now."

Imogen frowned. "We are under orders to meet outside at the entrance."

She looked at him for a moment. She knew that George could hear the conversation and hoped there was an explanation why he was sending her out alone. Imogen raised her eyebrows as if expecting that reason to come before she moved any further.

Antony turned towards her slight and let his hand lower to a point, there was a trail of red on the floor as if something had dragged itself by. The trail lead into a door that was closed and that was the source of his current attentions. "I can see how this affects you.. so as a kindness I am willing to spare you this moment. Or would you like to go in and finish my work?" He let out with an attentive sigh to his voice.

Imogen's chin lifted. "You are coming back in to finish it. I do not see how I factor into this but not my place to question." She was annoyed and angry though she was not entirely sure it was directed at the man in front of her. He was doing her a service by not killing someone else right in front of her but implying that she was some how not handling it set her blood to boil. This is not what you do. It does not matter. Yet he perceived her as weak and that bothered her more than anything.

The scientist walked past Antony. She headed down the hall towards the exit.

Antony watched as Imogen walked passed and he turned slightly towards the door putting the barrel of his weapon on point and slowly opened it. Creeping in and watching as the room unfolded to him. The trail lead over to the wall and there was obviously someone there hiding under a large coat, which he slowly removed to see the frightened face underneath. He smiled behind the mask as this woman peered back at him and though she had been crying for several minutes now it was apparent that his return was going to start her up again.

She began to cry loudly, so loud that it was echoing on his own com as his face came closer to hers. Antony reached forward to the girl and she pulled a weapon on him, if one could call a letter opener a weapon compared to someone like him. He easily snatches the item away and she becomes hysterical screaming and raving as if it would somehow drive him away. But Antony reached forward and gripped her hand pulling her up into his reach and her voice stopped sounding though the com.

A gurgle followed.

It was easy to tell now that his other hand had seized her throat and even now this instant he was wrenching life from her body. But his absolution was not instant, no not at all. He was enjoying every moment of what he was doing and the others could hear a slight draw of his own breath peeling in delight. This continued for several seconds, in fact nearly a full minute as she thrashed weakly from the loss of blood as he held tight. The last moments of her life sounded as if it were a lifetime of pain condensed into several small miniscule fragments and the last sound was a seizing crack from her neck as he finished her.

Antony breathed once as he spoke in the following seconds. "You're welcome.. Doctor."

Imogen heard a woman's cries in the com but she kept walking towards the door. She recognized them for what they were: desperate, fearful and panicked. She remembered a time when she had made the same sound but she had fought as much as her body had allowed. This person, this woman would have no chance. As if to punctuate the thought a gurgle sounded in the com. Imogen closed her eyes for a moment and swallowed. When her eyes opened again she was at the door and her mask of apathy had returned.

"He will be along momentarily."

Her words were not needed, everyone had heard over the com but it felt better to say something than for them to stand in silence. Her eyes scanned the figures that waited. Imogen moved to Riordan's side and his protective nature took over. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders despite the blood spray on her face and jacket, drawing her to his side as they began to move. "It's almost over." His words were a soft murmur, meant to calm and his piercing eyes swept from side to side looking for threats as they made their way towards the MCU.

After wiping his hands on what was left that could be called clean fabric, Antony took two small items into his hands. The womans ID and the small impromptu weapon she wielded against him. Sticking the letter opener in the cuff of his bracer and the ID under his vest he stepped clear of the room, shutting the door with his foot.

"Ready to commence with purging the building Alpha, no need to leave the building just yet at least." He said as he tapped his hand across the barrel of his weapon, eyes scanning the bodies lying about before he turned his gaze to a camera situated above his head. "Oasis.. any more mishaps like with the Doctor and I will make you one with that keyboard.. understand?"

In the RV-

The Sphinx accompanied the scene, trying his best not to care.

It was horrible.

All the others could do was listen to Anthony torturing the terrified woman, but Mark, Mark could see it. Mark saw the woman's expression of sheer horror as the mercenary played with her, enjoying it. It was far too much to handle, but nonetheless, the hacker watched. Nonetheless, he mourned silently her terrible passing, as if her blood weren't also in his own hands for letting that monster inside the lab. The Sphinx had never had any delusions of morality: he knew well the nature of his work, and what it did to people. Ruined them, destroyed families and lives. But still... This was too much.

Yet, The Sphinx said nothing. Not even when the mercenary, once his bloodlust was quenched (or was it? Could it ever be?), threatened him. Empty words. With the click of a button, Mark could arrange a clean, untraceable accident... No one would ever know it was nothing more than that...

Mark shook his head, letting these thoughts vanish from his mind. Too much work. Anthony was not worth it.

The hacker heard Imogen's voice, void of all warmth. That scared him more than the mercenary, more than the horrific death the woman had suffered, a death that would surely haunt his nightmares for a long time to come. He felt compelled to say something, to comfort her, but he couldn't bring himself to say anything. What was there to be said? Mark suddenly wished he was there, in person, not simply an eye from a camera. He wished for a second he could be useful in some way, that he could somehow protect them, protect her, using the skills he had gathered from stealing and deceiving.

Be careful what you wish for said a voice inside his head. It was perhaps his conscience, who had been long asleep, and had suddenly flickered to life like an old computer starting up for the first time in many years. Mark chose not to listen to it, nothing good could come from growing morality now.

George heard everything that went on though she was focused on the pad infront of her. There was no time to order Antony to leave the person until later. She ignored the woman’s cries and the ending of her life. There were bigger issues.

“Phoenix, Apex. Get in there and help him. Ombre save the threats and focus on your job. Do you understand?”

George was pissed and in no mood for showboating or team members going at each other.

“Do this quickly people.We have problems."

There on the screen was an announcement that Arasaka and Portel were working on a new joint venture together. George was angry. It made sense now that the lab was going to be packed up that day. Arasaka had a contract with her and knew she would be hitting the lab soon. They got lucky that they hadn't taken more time for the set up or the lab would have been gone and George's other two contracts would have been unfulfilled.

"Arasaka has fucked us over."

Her fingers worked on her pad as she typed out multiple messages to send off. Damage control....

At least if the team cleared out the lab she could cash in on two contracts. The third, well she'd be taking that up with Arasaka and they would learn the hard way why it did not pay to mess with CKSD.

And suddenly, Mark's wish came true.

A dozen perimeter alarms were set off at the same time, and the camera feed confirmed what they all had realized: CKSD had been betrayed.

Somewhere in his mind, Mark found room to find the situation delightful. Now he was needed, and now he could put his skills to good use. Something else also grew inside of the hacker, a sense of joy, a joy of knowing with absolute certainty the people responsible for this would pay dearly. He would see to that. George would see to that.

"People, I've got alarms flashing all over... We've been ambushed!" There was no fear in his voice, no surprise. Only excitement. He was eager to deliver punishment to those dots on his screen. "Get ready, multiple enemy readings converging on your location. I'll try and slow them down."

Johan took the lead, letting Teagan watch their backs as they moved down the hallways towards Antony's position. Teagan unclasped the snap on her pack, leaving her with free access to its contents- a combination of sleeping gas grenades, a couple of flashbangs and a handful of frag bombs.

George's voice was calm in the com."Clear the lab out. I want them all taken care of. We still have two contracts and we are going to show Arasaka not to pull this shit on us. The three of you no one but you walks out of there."

She was beyond pissed off. No one double crossed her, no one dared come at CKSD like this. She had so much dirt on everyone she ever worked for that the they wouldn't know what was going on by the time George was done with them. Arasaka was big but she had no qualms with taking them on.

His multi-tasking mind was already thinking several solutions as he saw the dots that represented danger advance in an orderly way towards the team. If he could tap into their own coms, and make a mess, that was sure to slow them down...

With a bit of tinkering and a few ridiculous firewalls bypassed, Mark was able to download the entire discography of The Rolling Stones and play them, as loud as the hardware permitted it, into the enemy's coms. He watched with a smile from ear to ear as the dots stopped in utter confusion and as a technician (the poor thing) tried to clean up the transmission. Once The Sphinx had pinpointed his location, the technician's hardware too was playing The Rolling Stones. At least there was a use to century-old music.

"Beta, get the Doc here now. You guys can't get caught in this firefight."

George stayed calm not letting fear cloud her voice but neither Imogen or Rio were shooters. They would if they had too but the teams coming in were going to be armed to the teeth and pros. No match for a duo. "Get to the RV stat."

Riordan's voice, slightly teasing despite the obvious weight of sincerity evident in his tone came over the comm. "Believe me, Alpha... We don't wish to get caught in this either. On our way."

In the lab the teams of men stopped in the hallway. Their ears were filled with music from another time and they were confused. The team leader from each held up a hand to halt them while their technician tried to fix things. Each team was coming down a different hall. They too were there to exterminate witnesses and take out the CKSD team. They had planned to work their way through the lab until they found them.

George was tense in the RV. It would slow them down, Mark's hack but they were trained professionals and they would soon run silent and keep moving. She looked over at Mark. "Good job. Won't stop them but will give our team time."

Outside the lab Imogen and Rio slowly moved towards the RV. Inside the lab the trio moved down the halls. Imogen had her gun ready. She was looking around a little but was focused on the direction of the RV and Riordan.

“George's right, I bought you some time, but not much.” It wouldn’t be long before their system rebooted and the interference was gone. Mark had to be fast. “I see two main teams coming towards you, and a lone reading from somewhere… I can’t quite pinpoint his location, but he’s definitely coming towards you."

George's mouth set itself in a straight line. This was not how it was supposed to go.

"I've got visual... The lone reading, it's a sniper. Coming in between the two teams. His coms are isolated somehow, I can't get to him."

This frustrated Mark, but his powers were limited to things connected to a web, and this man was entirely off it.

George shook her head. "No. Shit..." She leaned over Mark's shoulder. "Where? Where is he?"

"He's breaking formation... Moving away from the teams... I don't see..."

Then Mark noticed the pattern. It was like a click, but there it was, as if highlighted, the path the sniper was taking. His heart froze, and his voice came out as a whisper.

"He's going for Im... He's going for Beta and the Doc. How did he...?"

George stared in disbelief at the screen. “No....Move...you two have to move....”

She knew they would never make it. George straightened and pulled out her gun. Her eyes were on Mark. “You watch the teams in and out. You do whatever it takes to get them out of there if this goes south. Drive the fucking RV into the lab I don’t care.”

With that George headed to the door of the RV and stepped out into the dirt.
In the lab-

In the lab the teams were moving again. There were six individuals in total, three in each team. Gunshots could be heard as they shot anyone they saw. They were the opposite end of the building from the CKSD group and at their first junction they now split into three groups of two, each team taking a hallway.

The CKSD Trio moved up the hallway. Before them was a junction, behind them the main hall and front door. The junction split one hall to the right and one straight ahead.

Antony lets the voices play out on his comm, several of the returns are funny and some are just lightly entertaining by his standards. But when George told him that it was time to get the job finished and to keep his own words to himself, he was redoubled in his mindset. He stands there waiting for Johan and Teagan, small dabs of blood still clinging to the bottom of his boots and he fiddles the small impormptive blade between his fingers. Only to slide it into a small sectioned pouch on his vest.

He runs several lines of memory through his mind before returning to his comm. "Well.. Arasaka, we can expect light assault make ups.. mostly AW-65s."

"They fire 5.56 rounds so I suggest you stay behind me if things get hairy." He taps the plating over his ribs to make an emphasis to himself about how bad the idea of impact might be.

"Oh and ladies.. if you see their hand reach for the under rail, yeal grenade and hit the deck.. hehe."

Arasaka isn't one of the more techy corps but they do have a rather large research division and they have been know roll out with highly modular equipment.

Antony points his gun towards the opposite direction and gets ready, letting his back sit towards Teagan and Johans entrance. "Holding position, you two better hurry.. I won't wait forever." A slight snicker left his mouth as he left the sound of the comm.

His words came mere moments before two forms shifted into position behind him. Teagan kept an eye on their six with her revolver in hand and Johan's larger frame filled the corridor as he gave a silent nod. "Let's get these bastards then go the hell home."

----

Outside-

George had her gun drawn. She began to move towards the lab. She could make out Imogen and Riordan’s forms but that was not who she was looking for.

“Where are you?” She whispered through clenched teeth.

The pair grew closer, George could see their faces now. They were about eight feet away.

And then she saw him. At some point he had changed his target. He wasn’t aiming at them anymore. He was on one knee behind some brush and would have been in the perfect spot to pick them both off as they came by.

Now his laser sight was on George.

From their vantage point Riordan and Imogen could see something rather interesting. George was standing there, gun drawn. A laser sight aimed at her chest and one appeared at her back.

"Geo-" Rio tried to warn her, stress and fear straining his voice as his footsteps quickened.

Imogen gasped. “No!”

Two guns went off.

In the lab-

The Arasaka infiltration team was moving swiftly through the lab hallways. They kicked open doors, shooting anything that moved.

"We can't stay together or else they'll come at us from both sides. I'll take the right." Teagan adjusted her mask making sure that it was sealed properly over her face and eyes as she gave a nod to the two men and slipped away from the group. Her enhanced optics swept the area as she checked each room that she passed methodically. Gun in hand, she would duck down, scan the room, then search for survivors and shoot any that still dared to breathe. As she neared a corner she heard footsteps falling lightly upon the hard flooring and she switched her revolver so that the under barrel grenade launcher was activated instead.

Fate was on her side and as she swung around the corner, the trio of men were facing in the opposite direction. Apparently they had just turned into the hallway themselves and without a sound she lifted her weapon, aimed at the man in the middle and fired off a 30mm frag grenade right into his back. Without waiting to see the impending bloodshed, she shifted, spinning to press her back against the opposite wall to shield herself from the debris as shrapnel ripped through all three men and the surrounding walls with equal ferocity.

"3 down."

Antony was second to leave the group, he turned the other way from where Teagan moved. This way made sure he would find his own little slice of fun instead of having to share his quarry with the other two. His feet tread a path very quickly and quietly around corner and wall to make sure he was not taken by surprise.

Keeping his manhunter held high and to his shoulder, the weight of the weapon lead to into his turns as he dipped the barrel and spun under the edge of the corner. But as he got further in he began to slow his steps, coming upon every new turn through the tight corridors and peering around to make sure of his advance and then it was he noticed them. Three men in body armor moving up the hall, one behind the other in straight sequence. He pulled his weapon up tight before swinging out and pulling the trigger on the first man in the line, the 10 gauge shot tore through most of his clothing and flesh in equal measure while another shot made short work of his remaining life.

The two behind split and hit seperate rooms, bunkering behind the heavy frames of the doors as they began to blindly fire back in quick succession. Antony could feel the pressure of the passing rounds as he kept advancing releasing shell after shell in their direction. Every moment or so a round would glance off the edge of his body armor and one even struck across the cheek of his mask. Antony let the gun kick to full auto fire and he began to shell the hallway with lead as he reached the first mans body. Then in a quick motion he let the gun swing to his side as he pulled his revolver, its heavy barrel nearly matching the weight of the weapon he just released.

Pulling the hammer back he clenches tight on the grip and lets the first round fly just as the two kneeled from cover.

Antony's weapon issueds its arrival by shaking loose mostly everything in reach as it fired, kicking up dust and ripping a stream through the air. The office windows on the hall shattered in place as the gun discharged and the fired round tore through everything in its patch. It caught the mans weapon and shattered its frame, tore through his forearm and punched a two inching round hole in his chest. The inside of his face mask filled with a red coloration as his lungs could no longer contain the flow of life and with that his partner retreated, ducking once more into his room. Antony smirked behind his mask as he aimed dead on the wall and pulled the trgger again with the same resounding blast. The round punched through the wall and from the spray seemed to hit a sensitive target, only to travel further and not only kill the man. But two chairs, a table and the three computer towers situated on the desk in the next room as well.

"Three down.. west corridor.[b/]

Antony said as he marched forward, picking up the first man's weapon and slinging it over his left shoulder. Searching the second to fall he grabbed the man's ID and side arm, placing the small gun in a pouch on his left thigh.

[b]In the RV-


On Mark's screen the little blip that was the sniper went out.

The feeling of powerlessness hit Mark again. He was jamming Araska's coms, but that didn't seem to affect them for long. All he could do was watch the little lights that meant so much to him move around in the screen, trying to survive...

And when had they started to mean so much to him? Was it when he met them for the first time, in a dimly lit, sound-proofed room in a bar he would never set foot on in any other circumstance? Or was it when he learned about their lives, about who they were outside of work?

Any of that might have been true, but it wasn't essential. Mark Parnasse started caring about these people when he started being responsible for their lives. When he started being responsible for Imogen...

Two gunshots were fired, and the hacker already had the visual: George was on the ground, and Imogen was there, alone, trying to bring her to the RV...

There was only so much that could be done on a computer. The Sphinx got up and, picking any gun he could find laying around in the vehicle, left it and started running awkwardly towards them as fast as his sedentary body could take him.

Outside-

George hit the ground in a heap.

"NO!" Pure rage filled Riordan's voice but he didn't release the Doctor from his side. Instead, he pulled her with him as he ran the last few feet towards George, only releasing Imogen when they were closer to the RV. "George," he tried to calm his tone as he fell to his knees beside her but the damage he saw made him seethe. He sprang into action, standing up and clasping Imogen on her shoulders as he stared into her eyes.

"Doc, protect her. Move her into the RV if you think it's safe. I have to clear the area."

Imogen nodded and knelt down, taking Riordan's place beside George. She began to assess the wounds. She had her gun drawn but her attention was on George not any dangers that might be around.

He couldn't think of George lying on the ground or he wouldn't move from the spot where they stood and so as soon as he released Imogen's shoulders he spun in place, gun drawn as he moved in the direction of the first sniper only to see him already laying in a puddle of his own blood. Anger fueled his movements, making him unload another two shots into the already dead body with a snarl of anger before Riordan spun around, eyes searching the area behind where George had stood to find the second shooter.

When he reached Imogen, Riordan was already gone. Mark wished he could help him find the second shooter, but that was less important than getting George to safety. Gasping, Mark helped Imogen bring George back to the vehicle, cursing his lack of exercise.

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Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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Antony took a last cursory stomp on the head of the last man in the group, just on the premise that he might start moving again.

After he raided the almost every pocket in sight and taking ammo as well as weaponry for his own collection he stands.

Looking over the waste that he had brought and the lives he had taken he lifts his weapon once more "Returning to transport.." He backed himself away from the hall and as soon as he passed around the corner he broke into a full run. Stepping high over the fallen and ignoring his flanks, simply for the fact he had already been that way.

He was well aware of what had transpired outside of the structure, it was simple enough to know by the chatter that the others were worrying about George and to be honest Antony was slightly worried as well. Not for the fact that she was going to die but for the fact that he would miss out on her death. She was a rather nice person to him and in the moment he knew that she was a better organizer then those he had followed before.

Even during his years of TrT service.

Cutting through the entrance, even refusing to notice if Johan was still there at that point of his leaving.

He exits to see the body of the sniper who shot on George.
Walking around he scans the area as well as he can not seeing much other then the surrounding foliage and the endless range of storage containers, even the landing pad as well. He rolls the sniper over as he steps up.. "Oasis.. sniper is down" He raises his boot and stomps one good time on the mans head, despite his flush pale skin. "Permanently.." He leans down, relieving the man of his weapon.

"WSSA.. not a bad weapon.. You okay in there Alpha? Or do we need Oasis to roll out a bag?"

Antony returns to the RV stopping at the door and turning back to look at the surroundings.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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George looked up at Imogen. “Of course only one. What makes you think there should be more?”

Imogen was looking around, “There were two....” Her voice was full of confusion. She and Riordan had seen them, two laser sights. She sat back on her heels frowning.

George pressed the gauze more firmly to her shoulder. It was already soaking through.

“I am fine. All of you back here now that the lab is clear. Alright demolition when you get all the clear.”

She grimaced and tried to get up. Imogen shook her head. “Stay there for a moment. You need more bandages.”

The scientist was muttering to herself in french as she pulled more gauze from the kit. “There are two snipers...were...one is dead...the other...”

George closed her eyes and nodded. “The other was my insurance.” Her face was very pale. “All clear in the lab Omega, just waiting for the team to return. You can join us now.”

Imogen looked to Mark and Riordan. She had no idea who George was now talking to over the com and she was looking for a sign that they did. From the looks it seemed no one knew. Antony appeared, Teagan and Johan just behind him.

George opened her eyes. She avoided looking at Riordan. She couldn’t handle the concern and anger that resided in his eyes right now. “Atticus blow it to the ground....” Her voice was a little weak over the com.

“Now help me up.” George held a hand out to Imogen.

Imogen shook her head, “Just hang on a second...” She removed the old gauze that George held and pressed the new gauze in place. “You need to get your shirt off so I can look at it and then we should get you to a trauma centre.”

George growled in her throat. “I said help me up. The rest can wait.”

Imogen looked at Mark and together they helped her up from the ground. George looked over her team. “Good job everyone. They tried to screw us over but we still pulled it off.” Her voice was level though had an edge to it. The movement had sent a fresh wave of pain through her body. “I need a drink...” She commented through gritted teeth.

From the shadows of the run down buildings, “Scotch. I always carry a flask.”



What appeared to be part of the shadows detached itself and walked toward the group. Dressed in tight black clothes and hood the man almost remained invisible. The long barreled rifle hanging from his back the only true give away of his presence.

“You?” George pointed to her shoulder. “If not I am not paying you.”

Imogen stared at the man who seemingly appeared from nowhere. “Merde.” The woman whispered.

Over the coms everyone could hear Atticus. “We are ready to go....in ten, nine, eight...”

‘Omega’ raised an eyebrow at George, “I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Stay out of my line of fire next time.” He shrugged, “It’s clean. You’ll heal quick. I didn’t hit anything critical.”

He paused and turned his head slightly away from the lab.

In the distance a massive explosion went off. Imogen jumped a little. George was still looking at the newly appeared man.

“I would hope you didn’t hit anything or I am docking the repairs out of your pay. Team, this is Erik, our insurance.” George looked at everyone. “I called him in as our...just in case and I am glad I did. Omega this is everyone.”

George inhaled and exhaled through her teeth. Atticus came sauntering up to the RV as the rumble of the explosion died down. Imogen stared at Erik. “You shot George? But....why?”

George closed her eyes, her good hand on her forehead and she smiled a little. To her the answer was clear and she didn’t begrudge him his action but the others might not get it the same way. Riordan especially. George opened her eyes and looked at Rio. If she wasn’t already in pain and angry she’d be more unnerved by how much this had affected him. There would be time for the conversation later. George expected a lot of yelling from him.

Erik stood with the relaxed readiness of a professional. He was constantly scanning and re-scanning the team and their surroundings, “I did not shoot George. I shot the sniper who was about to shoot George. George just happened to be in the line of the shot that would ensure the quickest elimination of said sniper. It was either take that shot or risk the sniper being able to get their shot off. Eliminate the threat. Whatever the cost.”

He focused briefly on Riordan, “You didn’t need to waste your ammunition. The target was neutralized. I don’t miss.”

George shot Erik a look that made it clear that he should drop that topic entirely. Riordan had said nothing but she didn’t want there to be any sort of altercation between the men over the statement. She knew Erik was a particular personality type that would not understand Rio’s desire to inflict revenge on the sniper even though he was dead. She remembered what Rio had said he would do if she got hurt and even though it was a teasing statement there was feeling behind it that George recognized now in his face.

Imogen frowned and tried to understand. Logically it made sense but she was not able in the moment to only think in logic. “But you...you shot her...” She rubbed her face with the hand that was not holding George’s arm.

“Doc. Look at the wound now that you know she’s not dying. Now imagine if the other sniper had hit anywhere in the chest, as he was aiming. What kind of mess would you have had then? Sure, George is bleeding a bit. First aid and a scar. A shot of scotch and she’ll be fine to drive home. You think the other sniper would have had the same consideration?” With that he tossed a flask to Imogen, “You might want the first belt to calm your nerves.”

Imogen caught the flask, releasing George to do so. The woman didn’t waiver on her feet and took the opportunity to pull her arm from Mark as well. She hated being perceived as weak.

The scientist opened the flask, letting Erik’s words sink in. She took a drink and with a small gasp as the liquid slid down her throat handed the flask to George.

“You are right. It was a clean shot. She lost a lot of blood but not a dangerous amount.” Her eyes were focused on Erik for a moment, a methodical survey of the man and his demeanour. Imogen nodded.

George took a drink of the flask. “I’m going to hang onto this for a moment Erik.” She held up the flask.

Erik nodded, “I’ll get it back at the debrief. Nice working with a pro again George.” With that he pulled his hood back over his face and faded into the shadows.

George nodded to Erik. “Good job but I think it is time to head out. What about you guys?” She took another drink.

In silence the group moved to the RV. George gave Rio a look that told him they would speak once everyone was dropped off. Imogen settled into her seat, followed by Teagan, Atticus, Antony and Mark. Johan moved away to his own vehicle with a nod to George and a promise of contact for the debrief in the near future.

Her steps were a bit slower but George was the last to enter the RV just behind Riordan. She sat down and closed her eyes, flask in hand.

Riordan started the vehicle and began the long drive back to the city and the team’s respective homes.

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Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony sat in his seat, rifle resting between his heels and leaning against his body. He leaned back and pressed the tip of his thumb under the edge of his helmet causing a small puff of compressed air to release and it returned to a more open shape. Gradually he slide the shell off his head, letting his long hair fall back into place.

He stretched his mouth a moment as he got his face used to the the extra movement and sat the section of armor on his thigh. His hand retrieved the small mic from the confines of he cheek guard.

"Thanks for the toy, I'll hold onto this for next time." He slides it into a pocket on the edge of his vest.

The ride of the RV was smooth despite its size and as the wheels ran along the road everyone could feel he slight sway of its chassis on the frame. Antony spent his next few moments leaned back on the seat as he let the drift help him relax only choosing to look to his side at Imogen who was not far from him. He smiled for a moment as he eyed the small flecks decorating her at the moment. "Heh.. apologies Doc.."
"Next time, I'll aim wider."


There was a tone in the back of his voice, like he was a frat boy hazing a newbie.. But there was a look in his eye that the choice was far from a slight measure for him.

As he spoke to her he pulled a small object from his other vest pocket and for a moment he kept wringing it between his own fingers. It was an ID card that he had taken during the mission, the small polymer surface still had small droplets of red now slightly dried onto it. "Did you enjoy it at least?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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Everyone sat down and the RV began to move. George sat back in her seat. Her face was pale from blood loss and she frowned in discomfort when jostled but she said nothing as they made the trek back into the city. She was angry but at that moment was too exhausted to show it or do anything about it. Once the wound was tended to then she would take action. For now she just wanted to be still.

Imogen watched George, concerned about the blood loss and the pain but the woman didn’t say anything so the scientist respected her silence. It didn’t mean she couldn’t observe. It also gave Imogen something to do other than relive what happened in the lab.

Beside her Antony was stripping away his armor. When he spoke to her she turned to look at him, confused for a moment. Her eyes drifted over the front of her shirt and her arms. There was blood, some of it George’s but most of it from the people Antony shot in the hallway. There was also pieces of them that were now dried bits stuck to her clothes.

Imogen took a deep breath in through her mouth in an effort to stop the wave of nausea that suddenly struck her. She would not waiver, not now.

“Yes well, I suppose it could not be helped. If you had aimed wider you might have missed.”

Her voice was level but lacked emotion as she remained as calm and detached as she could. The smile on his face sent chills up her spine, though not as much as his question did.

“Enjoy it? I do not think I understand.”

Imogen was not entirely sure she wanted an explanation. Antony seemed to be enjoying the end of the mission though those around him seemed a bit more sombre.
***
Riordan dropped Teagan and Atticus off first. The next stop was Antony’s followed by Imogen’s.

Imogen stood and turned to Mark.

“I hope, perhaps we can still make plans to meet up? I would like to see your work. If the offer is still there please feel free to call on me sometime soon. You know how to reach me.”

She managed a smile though it looked odd with the blood that flecked her pale cheeks and seemed to dot itself up and into her hair.

Imogen placed a hand on George’s good shoulder as she passed her. “If you need anything please let me know. I will start going through the files as soon as I can.”

George managed a nod. “Rest Imogen. There is no rush. Take a few days downtime to recoup. It has been a rough day.”

Imogen dipped her head in understanding and left the RV.

The vehicle pulled away. It’s next stop was Mark’s residence.
***
Imogen’s entered her apartment, locking the door behind her. She dropped her bag and immediately went into her bathroom. First she emptied her stomach of everything then she stripped, tossing her clothes into the garbage before finally showering.

She scrubbed her body clean. When she had undressed there had been places where the clothes had stuck to her, the blood having seeped through and to the skin. If she focused on it for too long, the actions that led to the blood being there her stomach threatened to rebel so instead she shifted her mind to chemical formulas, DNA coding strands, anything that was not the sound of guns or visions of bodies hitting the floor at her feet.

Hair still damp, wrapped in a silk robe Imogen went into her kitchen. There she poured herself a glass of scotch. Not wine, this called for something far stronger. Something that would help her sleep as she feared it might not come easily.

Her eyes drifted to where her bag rested on the floor. It too had blood and bits stuck to it, it too would find its way into an incinerator. I should get to work on....no, not right now.

She took a deep drink from her glass, the liquid burning as it went down. The apartment felt entirely too quiet. Normally she liked it this way but for the first time in a long time Imogen felt completely alone and it frightened her.

Mathieu, right now I am angry that you are not here. I am angry that I am alone...

Tears stung her eyes and she downed the rest of her glass. She immediately poured a second.

She retrieved her phone. Imogen took another drink, the alcohol warming her empty stomach. I have no one to call. She prided herself on the life she had built in the aftermath of Mathieu’s death and her attack. She never minded being alone and independent until now.

Imogen closed her eyes and downed a good portion of her second scotch. Her cheeks grew warm. She sat on the couch, phone in hand.

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Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony's boots landed down on the pavement and the RV sped off not long after, he barely gave a cursory glance back as it rounded the distant corner. He was more interested in making his way towards the dilapidated building ahead and only gave a single look to a group of transients that were warming themselves by a fire in a dark alcove.

Though his bag was heavy with what trophies he took this evening, the weight was no more of a bother then usual and he just wrote it off to the back of his mind as normal.

The loading dock door ahead gave way to the hall and freight elevator after as he made his way back to his loft.

The sounds of the old building were exaggerated by its massive size and as he rode the lift up its wires and cables popped and swayed with the extended use of past years. Small gleams of light would bounce of the surface of his helmet as they showed down past the sides of the elevator and a loud clang of connecting metals issued his rides end to his own floor.

The short walk ended with him in front of his door and for a moment he just stood there, as if he were searching the hall to his left and right consciously. He leaned forward as he ran his finger along a slim bar causing a panel to slide up revealing a biometrics screen. Quickly it lit up and buzzed to life as three lights shot out and spread, scanning over both his eyes and face as they moved and jostled from side to side.
However it was not his face that the screen was reading, more so of what lied beneath.

Once in he dropped his bags and gear next to the fireplace and walked his way over to his desk situated next to the large windowed wall. A few swipes and key presses on the board at the desk had the music playing once again with its ambiance swaying through his homes confines as he leaned back in the chair.

His eyes glanced around the room as he could feel himself coming down from the high of the mission and once again a more timid mood was overtaking him as he reached forward and pressed a key that caused his home to lock down. The he slid all the dials down to lower the lights, though he left the music untouched and he leaned back once again to drift off too sleep.

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Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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The morning sun was already breaking light over the window into Antony's home, but he was no longer in his chair.

The beginning of his day was full of training in his home, one room far from the front hall was a large area that he had fitted to help him maintain his own body. After an hour of working out he was into the shower and out of that in the course of fifteen minutes, as was the beginning of many of his own days.

It only took that time before he was seated at the other edge of the same room, with the weapons and gear he had used from the night before set out on the able and disassembled. Every few seconds he picked up another piece and cleaned it, only to set it down with the other and move on. The adjacent wall had several screens up across it, along with a rather large TV screen in between a majority of them and his eyes would scan across as he worked.

There was very little news about the mission last night so apparently the company had done some word to control the situation at least and make sure no one heard too much. Still as the sight of the burning mass lay in the back of his mind he could feel a genuine smile inch its way across his face.

The last the he was working on was replacing the face plate on his mask, it was the only thing that took a hit during the whole time of the mission. He eyed it slowly as he was finishing one of the last screws and locked the plate in its resting position. The whole of his nights take was laying in front of him, some of the weapons he took from the other security guards and the personal items that would be going into his collection.

The left furthest screens showed another thing altogether, hundreds of numbers and lines of information that turned out to be vast amounts of stock information. He snickered for a minute as he watched while Karasawa's stock numbers took a nice sharp dip in the last hours after they lost the security team and whatever else it may have been that they were looking for there.

It only took him a moment to see his chance and withing a few moments of work on his nearby screen did he come into possession of another three hundred shares of their company. "Money well spent" He said too himself as he stood to put his items away.

Afterwords he stood back in that same room and lifted the glass of orange juice from the edge of his table to finish it off.

Antony opened his mail on the screen, his life was full of aliases and these few names would get him a vast amount of messages each day. But looking through them was more of a pleasure then a chore, because there was always the chance that something good could come from them.

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Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Antony Largo
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Antony stood for a few minutes outside of Georges location, though he did not know if it was her house. The building was nicer then his current place being in one of the more well off sections of the city and it dawned on him that he did live in a legally condemned building to boot. He just shrugged for a moment as he took the last drag of his cigar, tossing the slim into a nearby storm drain and walking in.

Stepping into the elevator he waited for the doors to close and his ride to begin.

Every few seconds he would adjust his dark red coat and check his belt, only once though to check the sling on his holster that ran across his back. The Colt-Alpha still felt slightly cool through his shirt and he began to think back to the last time he used this particular gun on anyone. This train of thought did not last long though as he snapped too when the elevator made a low toned ding, signalling the arrival to Georges floor.

Finding the door was simple enough and he looked at the screen on the right side for screening visitors.

Antony took a moment to adjust himself one last time and pulling his hair but, popping a mint for final measure.

He leaned in and pressed the call button.

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Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark Parnasse woke up a new man. In fact, he was feeling better than he had for years. A little voice in the back of his mind seemed to know exactly why that was, but the hacker chose to ignore it.

The lights of his many computers flickered to life, and within moments he was connected to every news agency, every MMORPG, every social media page there was, all with countless different identities. He knew he had an appointment soon, however, and could not spend his morning bathing in information as he did most mornings. An appointment in real life, not online. Unfortunately.

Even so, it was something he simply could not miss. A meeting with George, a meeting with CKSD, this organization he had pledged his life for, something that had acquired new meaning with recent events. As a hacker, he would never had expected any field action, let alone dragging George’s unconscious, bleeding body. It had opened perspectives for him, showed him what he was really into. It was no longer about pressing buttons behind the safety of a computer screen. It was about being a part of the team, of being present… Even if part of the team was a psychotic, trigger-happy maniac.

The truth was, Mark had mixed feelings about Anthony. His initial impulse was to hate and disregard him as a simple hitman, nothing more than a puppet killing who he was told to kill. But that would be the easy, hypocritical approach, and would ignore the fact that Mark had as much blood in his hands as Anthony. The Sphinx opened the doors, turned off the cameras, released the beast. And one cannot blame a sword for striking… For without sure footing, the sword stroke will go amiss. Mark gave the sword its footing, and there was no denying that.

Still, he would try to hold Anthony back the best he could in the future, lest his conscience haunted him forever.

Later, Mark found himself standing outside the address of the meeting, supposedly George’s house. He felt tempted to break into the security system and take a look through the cameras to make sure he was at the right place, but he resisted that urge. It would be… Disrespectful.

Cursing his new found tact, Mark went in, and then received the certainty he was at the right place… Because standing there, exactly as Mark remembered him, was Antony, waiting in front of a closed door.

The hacker again resisted the urge of opening the door through his pad in a pointless display of skill, and instead approached the man, trying to be as polite as possible, something he wasn’t very used to.

“Hello, uh, Antony. I see you were also called here. How are you?”

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Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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(collab) Oborosen/Varyar

Antony looked down the small hall as the greeting followed out towards him and he turned his head slighty to see the young hacker approaching him.

"Ah.. Mark." He said with a slight pause in his throat as he spoke. It was a strange thing for someone to be seen so outside of their element and it was not lost on him that Mark was not the one to really be about in such a way, unless he really needed to. "It seems George has plans for everyone today.

He looked down at his Rolex and smirked.
"And two minutes early to boot as well.

"Well, you know how she is" said Mark, still insecure about what he could say or do that wouldn't irritate the mercenary. "When the matter is CKSD, she has her head fully in the game, all the time." A small period of silence ensued, during which Mark looked at the plain doors of the elevator and nothing else, breathing slowly, remembering from a tv show how one should behave when trying to move away from a wild bear. Then, he broke the silence, feeling he simply had to say something.

"So, do you, ah, have any idea why we're here?"

"Well it could be a few reasons for that actually" Antony started as he pulled a comb from his inside jacket pocket and taking a few cursory swipes of his hair.

"We could be here to receive mission details for just the two of us or she could have a package for one of us as well." Shortly putting the comb back.

"Then again the last time one of my contractors invited me over I learned upon arriving that there was a price on my head.. Not the best way to end a business relationship if you ask me." He gave Mark a slight lean of his head and a cheeky smile before standing straight once more with a small sigh in his voice. "I really miss that little ginger..."

Antony takes a step back leaning against the wall on the other side of the hallway and keeps his eye trained on George's door. "Was the other night seriously your first time in the field?" He asked rather bluntly.

"Well, in the actual field... With real bullets and stuff... I guess so, yeah." said Mark, feeling the contempt hidden beneath Antony's question. That angered the hacker, who spoke without thinking. "Truth is, I can probably do more damage in a single morning in my pajamas than you can in the whole year. So if it's my first time in the business... Definitely not."

Antony smirked again for the second time today and nodded. "Maybe so.. But I do take pride in being there in the moment." He looks at his watch again as the time slowly slips by and he wonders in his mind what George could be doing behind that door that would warrant not answering his call at the door. But he thought for a moment on how Mark could be so sure of himself even if he was just a button pusher. Though he knew how bad a hackers attentions could be and so he kept all personal information physically filed for that very same reason.

"A whole year huh.. next time you bring a space station out of orbit let me know and I'll be impressed." He kept a wry smile on his face despite how insane such a statement was. Even though he knew that the station wasn't even the target of the mission and that little fact brought a chuckle to the back of his throat as he looked blankly off into space, remembering the finer days gone by.

But Antony felt that he could at least talk to Mark about one subject that they both could agree on and he used that as a sort of olive branch. "So.. what kind of side arm do you carry with you? I couldn't help but notice the small lump from before.

"A... Side arm? You mean like a fire arm? Oh no, those things aren't for me." Mark pulled out his taser, which he always carried with him, more a reminder of the dangerous life he lived than anything else. "I have this for when things get ugly. Besides, death is so final, don't you think?" Mark laughed, much more comfortable now that he started talking. "No, of course you don't."

"Besides, getting a station out of orbit? What am I, a James Bond villain? If I told you the things I do on a daily basis, and if you could actually comprehend them, you would be more than impressed. But what about you, Mr. Largo, what do you do in your free time?"

Antony keens his head a bit at the question and thinks though he does already know the answer.
"Collecting mostly... Information.. Objects. Whatever suits my taste at the time." He shrugs a bit as if to add emphasis to the answer.

"Say, you look like a man who keeps it to himself. Something rather difficult in the age we live in. I say that because I have never heard of you... Which says something. Are you technophobic, Mr. Largo?"

Mark was enjoying this, as if he was poking a tiger with a dangerously short stick, knowing the tiger could do nothing other than look threatening. Or so he hoped.

Antony laughs again as a funny statement passes through his mind.
"No not really, I have some pretty nice toys when it comes to tech.. but lets just say for a while now, I've had to drop myself off the grid. Being on the bad side of several different people can make life that way for you." He reaches under his coat and slides the colt from its holster on his back. "You would do good to get a real weapon. If you like, I could actually do you such a favor?" He holds the large gun flush in his palm as if to show it to Mark.

For the moment he knew that Mark would never truly get face to face with someone, not like he is suggesting and of course not anytime soon. A desk and console is where the hacker could find his safety and power, so somewhere in his mind Antony knew he would not really risk such a venture.

The hacker looked at the gun, as if it was something completely alien. He pictured himself holding something of that magnitude for a second... And the thought sent shivers down his spine.

"Ah, no thanks. I would probably just shoot myself in the foot with it anyway"

Antony smiles as Marks premiss to shooting himself in the foot. "You wouldn't be the first or the last to do that." He puts the gun back in its place, sliding the barrel back into the holster and knocking the clip back on to hold it in place. He leans back against the wall and peers towards the door once again.
"Oh and as a matter of fact I am not inept with the cyber wold. I do have some experience net-running, though I do rather prefer the feel of the real world compared to that of the artificial."

"Yeah, well, most people do. But then again, most people have no idea what they're missing." Mark wondered if he was talking to the same person who shot all those people, the same person who had been Mark's reason to question himself day and night, He seemed so... Calm. As if the things he did were simply work. The hacker felt compelled to ask him that, but he felt it wasn't his place to do so.

"If you'd like, I can make sure you're invisible... Really invisible... To those people you're running from."

Antony did like the idea but for the time being he just swayed his head for the moment. "While the though is tempting.. I must refuse. You see.. I want a certain someone to find me." He trains his eye back on the door. "And when they do.. I will kill them all" The air goes quiet for a moment as he stares out into the world. As if the door were a void and all he could see was what existed within it.

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Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Laney Knobs
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George watched the monitor. Antony and Mark had arrived and were making their way to the room where she waited. She wondered if they were confused about the location, perhaps they even thought it her home. She smiled. It was one other building CKSD owned. An Arco that featured condos, offices and of course all the shopping and restaurants that a person could need. In essence, anyone who lived in the arco never had a reason to go outside.

She used this backroom office for smaller deals, for recruiting meetings and it was really the furthest her doctor and Rio would let her venture. She rolled her head, grimacing at the tightness that seemed to still be present in the healing synthskin over her wound. A small price to pay, much smaller than Arasaka was going to pay for double crossing her and her team. She had plans that would be played out over the coming months. Why attack them all at once when you can slowly undermine them? George smiled at the thought. Never fuck with me, it doesn’t end well. It wasn’t cockiness, it was fact. Most who got on George’s bad side weren’t around any longer to testify on that behalf.

She looked up to the door as the men entered, “Welcome gentlemen. I see you found it easily enough.” The screened showed them approaching the door so she knew the moment when they would be entering.

“Sit. I have a new contract to discuss with you as well as a new arrival to the organization. She should be here shortly. I wanted to give you time to ask questions about the last contracts before she arrived. Ms Trondeau will not be joining us today as she will not be needed for this mission.”

George checked her messages. She had sent for Laney to arrive today. She couldn’t help but wonder how Antony and Mark might react to her newest acquisition.

Her eyes followed Mark and Antony as they came in. “There is coffee, please help yourself and if you have anything you wish to address please feel free.”

George sat down in her chair across from them, facing the door. Her hands were folded in front of her and her back straight, her face the mask of professionalism it always was.

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Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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Antony sets himself down in the small office chair as he begins to lean back, only to adjust to one side so he can acquiesce to the feeling of the holster in the lower section of his back. He leaned to the other side seeing that the fit there was better and for a moment he thanked himself for now deciding to wear his blade today as well.

sliding down the cuffs on his jacket he just looks up at George and smiles before speaking.
"No coffee for me thanks, I like to keep my nerves straight." He sits back comfortably now with his hands down on the arm rest with one leg shelved over the other. "How unfortunate anout the Doctor.. some more bonding time would have been nice." He chuckled. "But a new face might just be what we need." He said with a wry smile, running a finger down the left side of his chin.

However he doesn't hold such a jovial look for long, Antony makes a grim expression for a moment and speaks. "All kidding aside George.. when we hit Arasaka back.. I want to hit them hard." Clasping his hands together as if he were a villain in a sitcom. "I'm rather tired of being hung out to dry by my supposed employers."