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George Delaney

0 · 671 views · located in Night City

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

Description

No one is sure how old George is or how long she has been working for CKSD. Those who have been there a while will tell new employees that George worked there when they were hired. She is a corp through and through. She talks their language, negotiates the deals and all without breaking a sweat or showing signs of stress.

George is direct and fair. From the way she talks she likely has a law degree and possibly a few other degrees as well. She never talks about her personal life. Everything is about the job with George.

She is CKSD's main recruiter and Team Lead. All jobs come through her and she decides if the job is taken and if the contract is fulfilled.

George is responsible for the contract that was given to Kenneth. She ensured that what they offered he would not turn down. When Mark hacked CKSD it was George that put him to work for them rather than letting him be taken out. When he offered his abilities to them it was George that saw the potential above just making CKSD that much harder to find. She has a knack for seeing potential and skills in people that others miss.

Calm and collected most of the time there is one thing George cannot stand. Break a contract with her and CKSD, talk when you shouldn't or get caught and George will ensure you regret it.

So begins...

George Delaney's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney
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A finger moved along the screen. Brown eyes moved quickly, taking in the information. A pink tongue licked her lips as the woman contemplated the contract in front of her. It was a big contract but very complicated. The team she used would have to be very good. That didn't bother her though. CKSD only hired the best so her choices were bound to be sound. She, herself had recruited the vast majority of them and drew up their contracts. She was confident in their ability to do their job. If they did not, well all the contracts had a termination clause.

She placed the pad down on her desk and pressed a button.

“Send Parnasse, Trondeau, Bannister, Belmont and Devereaux to McCarthy’s in the zone. Code yellow.”

She released the button and picked up the pad again. Another scan of the document and she was sure she had made the right choice for this particular contract. Too many and this would get messy but too few and things might get overlooked. Inefficiency and mistakes were not things CKSD liked and it was her job to ensure they did not occur.

“Shall I prepare the details to be sent to them?” The com spoke back.

“No, I will be meeting them myself.”

George could hear the confusion in her assistant’s voice and she almost smiled. It was nice not to be predictable. “Oh I see. Shall I have your car readied then?”

“That will be fine. Tell them half an hour and not to be late.”

She stood up from her desk, slipped the pad into her bag as she walked to the door. One hand lifted her coat from where it sat on the hook and draped it over her arm. Her heels clicked sharply on the tiled floor as she made her way out of her office and towards the exit.

The condemned building that acted as the facade for CKSD had only a few entrances. None ‘looked’ like entrances and only a select few had access codes in and out. Team members were generally sent to other safe locations to receive their jobs and on the rare occasion they were brought in to the building proper they were always escorted.

George slipped her designer jacket on and stepped outside. It was, of course tailored for her specifically as was the blouse and skirt she wore. She climbed into her car and closed the door behind her.

It was a short drive for her and George watched the buildings go by outside the window. Everything was run down. The occasional diner, a pawn shop here or there. A med clinic that had seen better days when there had been money for such things in this area. The fact that the zone was avoided by all who didn't need to be there was the reason CKSD had chosen it for their primary office. It had spider branches all over the city, safe meeting locations for its people of course but its heart was in the combat zone. Here drug dealers and their buyers played duck and cover from the cyber'd up ganger boys. The run down came to squat and the police stayed away unless forced to come out. Drugs, weapons and death. It was what the zone offered all who entered.
---
She was early to the meeting but that is the way she wanted it. George liked to get a feel for her surroundings. She knew the team would find it strange enough that they were to meet here and more so that she was here in person to give them the debrief. She smiled. Good to keep them on their toes

Things hadn’t changed as much as she thought it might have. The bar itself was still the way it had been when she was 19 and working as a waitress. The backroom was the same though with CKSD slipping the owner money it had been soundproofed and security was at the highest to keep others from being able to listen in.

George sat at the table after removing her jacket and draping it on the back of her chair. Her pad was placed in front of her and she waited for the rest of the team to arrive.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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#, as written by Varyar
The sun was beating down on his glorious, shining armor. His well-toned skin and prominent muscles were intimidating to any who might have been foolish enough to trifle with him. His gigantic sword was a sight to see, all adorned with runes and markings that brought destruction and swift death to any who opposed him. His slow, confident steps made the very ground tremble at his presence, with magnificent boots that granted +3 armor and +5 mana…

Something flickered in Mark’s peripheral vision, interrupting one of the most important moments of the day: leveling up his level-75 Paladin. The Sphinx sighed as he single-handedly held back a horde of players who had challenged him for a private match. It was sad when real life got in the way of videogames, but such was the way of things. He disconnected just as one of the frustrated players said some hurtful things about his mother. Mark fantasized about finding out who he was and cleaning all of his savings, but he had no time for that, and even if he did, it would bring no challenge at all. The player was unworthy of The Sphinx’s skill.

Most things were, in fact, but not CKSD contracts like the one that had popped in a tiny window at the corner of the screen. These always had something fun involved, something challenging. And challenges were the very meaning of Mark Parnasse’s life. He clicked on the little yellow box, hoping that he could get the chance to work with Kenneth Belmont again. Mark liked the quiet fellow, who he had a personality and an area of expertise that were completely opposite to the hacker’s. Even so, The Sphinx considered what they had a friendship, and that was a very hard thing to admit for the hacker, especially a friendship with someone that didn’t have half his IQ.

Mark chuckled at his own joke. He would have to tell that one to Kenneth as soon as he saw him.

The flashing box opened up, full screen. A code yellow was interesting in its own, but more so was the lack of a hologram with George’s monotone voice describing a contract, and instead an address for a personal meeting. Strange. And the place was even stranger: a quick run of the address through one of Mark’s countless databases revealed a bar named McCarthy’s. In a few seconds, The Sphinx had access to the place’s security system. It was, quite surprisingly, an ordinary bar: clients went in and out, waitresses strolled through the tables bringing orders, a few people read the news in their pads by the balcony… Completely ordinary. Except for a single room of the complex that didn’t have a camera. And neither had any sound coming out of it. The Sphinx smiled at his discovery, and wondered why would George want to meet in such a place. And in person! The last time they met, it was because of that awful Singapore contract… And he didn’t even know that the scepter was an object of national pride! Mark just thought it would be fun to have it accidently delivered to his house at Night City.

Then he realized the meeting was supposed to take place in half an hour. That made the world’s most skilled hacker jump off his chair and trip on the wires, landing with the grace of a giraffe on the hard, cold floor. He put on his usual sweater from his neatly organized wardrobe, grabbed a pad that contained all that he could possibly need (wireless connection, that was), shoved it in a side bag that was as old as time itself and reached the streets, still curious about the meeting that was about to take place.

When he entered the warm, cozy environment of the bar, Mark felt a déjà vu that he always felt when he had visited a place virtually before even setting foot on it personally. The Sphinx spotted the door to the mysterious room, and crossed the bar aiming straight at it, trying to avoid any contact with the people around him. That was always the procedure when Mark Parnasse was in public: walk fast, make no eye contact, say nothing. Following these simple rules, the hacker would never have to get caught up in small talk that would do no more than insult his IQ.

As he entered the soundproof room, Mark saw George’s inquisitive face and felt a little bit intimidated, but then remembered who he was and walked to her decisively, taking a seat on the broad table.

“So, not only is this code yellow, but we are meeting in person in a soundproof room that I couldn’t access from my computer despite several seconds of trying. That bad, huh?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
In the back of a limo with a glass of champagne in one hand while his other hand rested upon the thigh of his date for the evening, Riordan stared out the tinted windows at the passing scenery in silence.

“What are you thinking of, Riordan?” The sultry flame-haired woman murmured in his ear, biting it playfully as she snuggled up beside him on their way home from the opera. They looked the part of a couple that would attend the opera. With him in a designer tuxedo complete with a fresh red rose boutonniere and with her in a floor-length black gown which clung to her supple frame.

Still, though they looked the part, they weren’t a couple and though he had appreciated her company he didn’t want to lead her on. Her soft whispers, nuzzles, and nips were a little too blatant and he had already begun to assume that she cared for his money or his celebrity more than she cared for his self.

“I was thinking that we should get you home.” He smiled cordially, patting her thigh and readjusting himself in the seat so she was forced to unfurl herself from his side and sit normally. A quick tap on the side console had the window lowering between the back of the limo and the driver’s compartment, ruining their privacy so that he could inform the driver of their destination.

The red-tressed siren pouted, crossing her arms beneath her breasts and sighing loudly. “We could go to your place, Rio…” She began, trying to entice, to hint at what he would be missing but instead of accepting her innuendos the corner of his eye twitched at the nickname.

“Riordan.” Was all he said, pausing a moment before turning to look at her with a smile. “I don’t use nicknames.”

With that, his optical display suddenly flashed to signal an incoming message and he accessed the new file for a moment before a grin slipped carelessly over his features.

“And I do apologize, Lila, darling… But I have work to do. Something just came up and I’m needed at one of my clubs.”

Every word that left his lips was truthful though omission of facts could be considered the next best thing to lying. The meeting place was the specially revamped back room of the bar that started it all. The first he had bought when he moved to Night City and the one that had given him enough cash to continue his empire. The same club where he had met George before she had turned into a bigger bad ass than him.

The grin stayed upon his lips as the limo pulled in front of Lila’s apartment complex and he bid her goodbye before instructing his driver to their next destination.




Though he made it McCarthy’s in record time and before he shut the limo door, he instructed his driver to return home for the evening. The path through the front door gave a sense of nostalgia and déjà vu. A path that had been taken time and time again over the years and he was stopped before he even made it ten feet.

“Boss man!”

The man shouting those words didn’t look like the type of man that would acknowledge Riordan, much less greet him as exuberantly as he had but that was because Tank had been the bartender at this dive ever since the day they had opened the doors to the place.

“Tank!” He stepped forward; clasping the larger man’s hand and drawing him close for a half-hug/back pat. Tank was impressively built and half-machine. Standing at 6’8” he had a solid metal jaw that had been jury-rigged onto his face complete with a set of shark-like teeth and an overpowered bite pressure rivaling that of a great white shark.

“How’ve you been? Anything new happening?” Rio asked, stepping back again to release his grip on the bartender.

“Ay, no. Not really, boss man. Get to your meeting. We can catch up later. I’ll make sure no one interrupts ya.”

Rio laughed, nodding his head to Tank in thanks and he set off for the back of the bar.

Raking his fingers through his hair, Riordan pushed through the door and into the room beyond. His eyes raked over George first and his brow arched almost imperceptibly at her physical presence. Then his gaze turned to Mark and a grin flashed over his lips. “Hello, to the both of you.”

Instead of sitting at the table as the other two did, Riordan circled the room until he could lean his back against the wall farthest from the door.

Mark looked at the newcomer, and analyzed him from head to toe. He looked like a stereotype from an 80’s movie: Tall, handsome, rich and shallow. Well, he was certainly shallow by Mark’s standards. Anyone was.

“Where did you crawl out of? The ‘Hot Bachelors’ page of a gossip magazine?”

The comment caught Riordan by surprise for a moment but instead of getting angry, his grin actually grew wider and he cast a sly wink in Mark’s direction.

“Why, thank you for the compliment.” He knew it hadn’t been meant as one but he ran with it anyway. “If you wish, I could give you some tips and tricks. A comb through your hair, perhaps a new outfit. You could be quite dashing, y’know.”

That angered Mark more than it should have, but like a calculated chess game, he could not demonstrate that his opponent’s move had disturbed him. He simply smiled back, and moved on to plain insults.

“I probably could, if I was willing to sacrifice my moral and intellectual integrity. Oh, I’m sorry, should I use smaller words?”

Still unruffled, Riordan’s reaction was once again unpredictable. He liked this guy’s wit and so he showed his appreciation by letting out a rolling laugh.

“Ah see but you can’t lose what you already possess just by looking a little better for the ladies.” With that, he turned his next wink in George’s direction before returning his gaze to Mark.

“Honestly, I’m not suggesting a lobotomy. You’d still be the same ol’ you. Just prettier.”

Mark laughed at the thought, staring at the tall man that unconsciously reminded him of all the bullies his sister used to protect him of. But that was before he learned how to crack codes from five different continents.

“Funny, I was sure you would approve of the process. Did you not undergo it yourself?”

Riordan adopted a look of shock. “Me? A lobotomy? Such old school techniques! They would leave scars.” He mock shuddered and moved to respond with a quip before he caught George’s look. One of those looks and he was unable to tell whether she was actually annoyed or simply wanted them to stop arguing. So he cut his comment off before it even left his lips and walked over, patting Mark upon the shoulder before finally taking a seat.

Pushing the chair away from the table a bit, he adopted a more relaxed stance by propping his booted feet upon the table, leaning back with his hands cradling his head.

“So, what’s new?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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The glass was poised at the edge of her lips. Blue eyes were closed preparing to enjoy the taste of the dark red wine she was about to drink. Her book was balanced on the couch beside her as she reclined. The day had been a rather trying one and Imogen had wanted nothing more than to go home, curl up with a book and a glass of wine. She had been saving the bottle for a night just like this one.

The apartment was quiet and dark save for the light beside her. It sparkled off the glass as she tipped it lightly and the red liquid crossed over her soft pink bottom lip. The warmth of it as it moved over her tongue made her sigh contentedly. It was everything the seller had promised her.

The noise was loud in the stillness of the apartment. Imogen’s eyes opened. “Of course.”

The glass tinked as she placed it beside the bottle on the side table. Bare feet padded lightly across the floor to where her purse sat. She had hoped it would be an undisturbed evening. Long fingers plucked the small phone from her purse. Brows knitted together at the address and code yellow.

Imogen crossed quickly to her glass. She placed the cork back in the bottle and lamented the fact that she would likely not be back in time to enjoy it tonight. There was work to do. She down the wine that remained in the glass and headed to her room to change.

It wasn’t long after that Imogen sat in the cab. She had changed quickly out of her tank top and cottons pants and into her jeans, blouse and scarf. A smart jacket completed the outfit. Her hair was pinned into a loose bun. The driver informed her he would only take her to the edge of the zone, he didn’t cross the boundary.

Imogen slipped him the creds and stepped out. She looked down the streets. In the distance she could hear the sound of gunfire.

“Merde.”

It was less than ideal but Imogen began walking. The streets here were dirty and she could feel eyes watching her from the shadows. Many of the buildings were falling apart. The sound of her heeled boots echoed and Imogen couldn’t help but feel like a sitting duck. She hated feeling this way.

Her hands moved to her pockets. She was glad she had chosen to leave her purse and home, simply tucking her essentials into her pocket. She picked up her pace.

When she pushed open the door of the bar Imogen set out a deep breath. She looked down and realized her hands were trembling. Her gaze moved across the interior of the bar and she barely contained her frown. Keen eyes spotted the door to the back room and Imogen lifted her chin and walked towards it. Eyes followed her and Imogen glanced to the bartender. The man was large, his jaw metal and he was intent on following her movement across his bar floor. It unnerved the woman and it was with great relief that she pushed open the door to the backroom.

“Mon Dieu...je ne comprende..”

She was muttering to herself as she closed the door behind her. Imogen was unable to hide the surprise on her face as she looked at the table. She hadn’t expected to see George. The fact that she was given nothing but an address and a code in the first place had left her questioning but now George Delaney’s presence brought up more questions.

Imogen smiled as she saw Mark. “It has been some time. It is nice to see you again Monsieur Parnasse”

She looked to the man reclining at the table. She smiled. “Bonjour. I am not sure we have had the occasion to meet? I am Imogen Trondeau. If we have I apologize for forgetting your name Monsieur?”

Imogen held out a hand to him.

----

George looked up from her pad as Mark entered. She gave him a terse nod as he sat down. She had always respected Mark. He was good, a bit cocky but he had a right to be. George had never encounter a hacker of his ability before and had yet to see someone rival him.

“I would not say bad. I believe complex is a better way to describe this particular contract.”

She looked up as the door opened again. George knew he would be coming. She had asked for him specifically but she found herself almost surprised to see him. Perhaps it had more to do with the glimmer of surprise on his face, the barely there reaction to seeing her at the table. She actually smiled as he greeted the pair. He looked good but George knew he would, he always did.

George didn’t say anything as Riordan moved to lean against the wall. She had chosen the seat farthest from the door, facing it so she could see everyone who entered and now he was taking a similar tactic. Her eyes followed him but she didn’t miss the way Mark was looking Riordan over. It was almost like he was analyzing him, trying to read him from just his looks.

George raised an eyebrow at Mark as he started the banter. Riordan brushed it off and followed it up with a critique of Mark’s appearance. George licked her lips. It was fine now but her tolerance for this little pissing contest wouldn’t last. When Riordan winked at her she simply stared back. The banter quickly turned tiresome and the others would be arriving soon.

George looked over at Riordan. It was enough to make him abruptly stop what he was about to say and that was all she wanted. There were introductions and then there was this. There wasn't time for this sort of game.

Riordan sat down, relaxing with his feet up on the table. His question disarmed her. She had a sense of deja vu, a flash of him just like that only younger. They had played out a scene like this once.

George gave a slight shake of her head and was about to answer him when the door opened again. The slim woman entered muttering in french. George noticed immediately that Imogen seemed quite on edge. She watched but said nothing as the woman greeted Mark and introduce herself to Riordan.

George’s hands folded together on the table. Not all of them had worked face to face with each other before and her newest recruit, who had not arrived yet hadn’t met any of them. Introductions were necessary and with the job she was about to lay out in front of them she needed them comfortable enough with each other. Now was the time for this because once they accepted the contract there was no time for making friends.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
A new feminine form entered the room and as per usual, Riordan’s eyes casually swept her figure. He had hoped to hold his tongue but when the lithe brunette beauty held out her hand, he couldn’t help but respond in the only way he knew how; he stood up to greet her in a gentlemanly fashion. Instead of performing a handshake, he clasped her fingers and easily maneuvered her hand so that the palm was down, allowing his lips to barely brush along her knuckles.

“Bonjour, Madame Trondeau. C'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer. Je m’appelle Riordan Devereaux.”

A charming grin tilted his lips as he inquired, “Was that correct? My French is a bit rusty.” Releasing her hand, he pulled out the chair closest to Imogen for her to sit upon.




Sirens wailed in the distance.

“C’mon, Fritz. We’ve got to get this package up to 22nd and Appler. Same deal. No questions, no answers, no looking. Client wants it by midnight. You know the drill.”

Teagan Bannister passed off her latest smuggled parcel, an ebony inlaid box measuring no more than eight inches square was nestled within a more secured vessel with a code that only the recipient would know for extra layers of protection. She had no idea what was in the black trunk but it was paying well and she knew better than to be too inquisitive anyway.

Ignorance is bliss, afterall.

The runner gave a nod before his arid lips split into a wide grin.

“Aye, aye, Cap’n. Be done b’fore y’ know it. No worries, luv. I’ll have it delivered and be in bed b’fore you can count to a ‘undred, aye?”

Turning, the man mounted his dilapidated motorbike and took off down the alleyway, leaving Teagan alone in the worst part of town.

Not that she was afraid. Hell, she had been on these streets as long as most and her reputation preceded her. Only the new bloods would want to tempt fate and that battle usually had only one outcome. The death of whoever was dumb enough to pick a fight. It wasn't like she was armed to the teeth for the fun of it. No, each and every weapon strapped to her body at the moment had tasted blood and she couldn't deny that each battle was an adrenaline rush.

Tilting her head to one side, then the other, Teagan cracked her neck to alleviate the tension that always seemed to weave itself throughout her muscles and it was then that she saw the banner flicker across her vision. The incoming message was short and sweet, displaying an address and a code yellow which was enough to have her hopping on her own hoverbike.

These meetings usually meant a mission and missions meant money. Something she was always willing to collect.




The door eased open again, signaling yet another entry and a woman that looked more like a patron of the bar outside than a member of the CKSD entered. Dressed in a ripped red t-shirt beneath an armored leather jacket, she had brass knuckles worn on her left hand as if they were a common fashion accessory and her black leather pants melded into a pair of matching boots almost seamlessly.

She gave a nod and a smile before pulling her long ebony locks back away from her pale face, tying it securely with a band as her gaze flickered from person to person.

“Hey, I’m Teagan.” She said by way of greeting and her hand lifted in a brief gesture akin to a wave before she settled into the chair beside Mark. Crossing one long leg over the other, she leaned back in her chair and looked in George’s direction, letting her gaze pass over the man in the corner that was flirting overtly with some poor woman.

“Are we waiting for more people or was I the last one in?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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Imogen gave the man a polite smile as he stood and took her hand. He deftly turned it and Imogen felt the brush of his lips. Her face flickered in amusement. She rarely met someone with such manners. True, most of the people she worked with were polite enough and Imogen liked that this was something entirely different.


“The pleasure is mine Monsieur Devereaux. Please call me Imogen.”

He pulled out the chair for her and Imogen sat, a nod of thanks towards him.

“Your french is fine but if you wish to practice more I would be willing to help with that. I get to converse in french so rarely that it would be a welcome change.”

Her hands folded on the table and she looked over at George. “It is nice to see you Miss Delaney. A rare occurrence so I assume this is not our standard job?”

Her eyes turned from George to watch the new woman enter. This was also someone she was not familiar with, Imogen would have remembered a woman like her. She marvelled at the brass knuckles and leather clothing. Inwardly Imogen marked how this woman was almost the opposite of herself and she found it unlikely that Teagan, as she named herself was fearful of the streets as she had been.

Imogen gave the new arrival a smile. She almost reached out to shake her hand but the woman’s ‘wave’ appeared to be all the greeting she was interested in.

“Nice to meet you Teagan. I am Imogen.”

George watched as Riordan stood and played the role of gentleman. He always had more in the way of manners than the rest but as he grew up they grew more refined. An odd sensation took hold briefly in her stomach, something that some might akin to jealousy, others maybe to sadness. George ignored it and chalked it up to hunger due to missed meals.

Imogen was seated and George nodded to her comment. “Yes you could say...”

Her words were cut off as Teagan entered. She was George’s most recent hire. The girl was tough and very good. George knew the moment they started talking that Teagan would be a good fit. Would she sell them out for more money? Maybe but in the end any and all of CKSD’s people might. George felt confident however. She had hand picked them and in the end there was always the termination clause.

George inhaled and looked at the door. She waited to see if anyone else would appear before beginning.

“We are waiting on one more of the pre-determined group. There is a reason I am here in person and part of that has to do with the two others who will be joining us. The other part has to do with your actual assignment. As I explained to Mark this is going to be a bit more complex or messy than your typical jobs. Bigger team, more hands on deck. I will explain more once Belmont arrives.”

George’s eyes scanned over her already assembled team. Unsurprising she was quite confident in her choices. She was surprised however at the fact that she was enjoying doing this in person. There was always much to do. Offers to go over, contracts to sign and assignments to hand out. This was a nice change of pace.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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The first thing Kenneth heard was the sound of a new message on his Infopad. He was sleeping on the couch on his living room, somewhat ignoring the obnoxious sound of the pad, until he could stand it no more. He lazily lifted his hand to the small coffee table in front of him. The sound of glass sliding on the table and bumping to each other followed the movement of his hand. The glasses were mostly of beer and similar alcoholic drinks. There were a lot of bottles.

"Go hard or go home. Wasn't that the saying?" He murmured to himself.

When he finally found the infopad, he took it and sat upright on the couch. He grabbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. The cool feel of his metal prosthesis helping diminish the on coming headache. A headache that would only last a few minutes due to his cerebral augmentations. But for now he would have to stand it.

He looked at the pad. It was a mission message from the CKSD. Code yellow, meet at McCarthy's. He knew the place, he had been there before. Although not because of business. He stood up from the couch and stretched, feeling and hearing the snapping and cracking sounds from his back. The couch wasn't a good place to fall asleep on. He headed to the kitchen, taking the infopad with him.

Once there, he made himself a cup of coffee. While sipping his coffee, he read the message again. Aside from the importance of the mission and the place of the meeting, the message always contained the time in which he had to be there. Normally it was a set hour, one or two hours after the message was sent. This time however, he noticed that he had to be there in thirty minutes, and the message has been sent ten minutes ago.

His eyes widened as he read this. He had only twenty minutes to go there. He gulped the rest of the coffee, something he immediately regretted, for the coffee was hot as hell. He hurried to the bathroom, and washed his face. No time to shave this morning, sadly. He then went to his bedroom and put on his normal set of clothes. Black pants, black T-shirt (with his kevlar best under) and his boots. He then grabbed the gun holster, and put it around his waist. Then he picked up his trusty pistol, and slid it inside of the holster. He then grabbed his coat.

Once he was ready, he left his apartment. Sadly, the place was quite far from where he lived, so he would have to take a cab. Luckily, there was a cab station not far from his apartment. He walked quickly, and with his hands in his pockets. Skin colored prosthetic limbs were nothing strange in the city. Opaque black military grade prosthetic limbs on the other hand, were something not commonly seen, and it would be better no one noticed them.

He reached the cab station in less than five minutes, and was inside one immediately. It took him ten minutes to reach the bar, leaving him with five minutes. Good, he wouldn't be late. He entered the bar, and nodded at Tank, who nodded back at him. He went straight to the door at the back.

When he opened it, he was surprise to see a total of 5 people in the room.

"Hello Mark." He greeted him.

He then nodded at George, who was the only other person in the room he knew. He just looked at the others for he didn't know them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark decided to forget that pointless fight. It would upset George long before it would do him any good, except for peace of mind, and that could be provided by games anyway. He concentrated on his pad, tapping into the live feed of the bar’s cameras and watching Imogen enter the bar with his borrowed eyes. She behaved much like himself, crossing the crowded place in a way as to avoid all interaction. It seemed all the people who were worth talking to followed that simple rule. If only everyone were like that. The world would be a much better place.

She entered the room saying something in French that Mark couldn’t quite understand, but it sounded like a surprise. He nodded as she greeted him. It had truly been a while since they had met, and the tall woman remained exactly the same: elegant and refined, no matter the place she was in. And even though molecular biology wasn’t exactly The Sphinx’s area of expertise, he admired Imogen’s work from the little he could understand of it. Which was, of course, way more than most people could understand it.

As she crossed the room, Mark observed how would “ladies man” over there behave. He did exactly what The Sphinx thought he would: courted her like a carrion bird, babbling introductions in French and kissing her hand like a true gentleman. Ah, so he could speak French. He probably memorized that single phrase a dozen times in front of the mirror, the jerk. Mark took a deep breath, trying to let all that pointless anger out. It could be redirected to much more productive things, like CKSD contracts and his level-75 Paladin.

Mostly the Paladin.

He returned his attention to the pad that transmitted all that happened in the bar. There were a lot of common stereotypes, like that bartender with his augmented jaw and the people that bended over the counter, trying so desperately to forget what needed to be remembered. What would bring someone to such a point, The Sphinx could not know. But watching them from above, from the cold, cybernetic eyes of a camera made it much easier for him to judge them. It was easy to forget he was seeing images happening only a soundproof door away, and put himself in the place of judge, jury and executioner. For he could be an executioner, if he so desired. Clean the world of injustices. After all, the internet was a river, and it watered all the land. Through it, anything could be achieved. Even rescuing the filth that was Night City.

Someone entered the bar in a determined fashion that caught Mark’s attention immediately. It was a young woman wearing peculiar clothing, with something that seemed like brass knuckles and an armored jacket, and The Sphinx imagined they served a different purpose than fashion.

The young woman entered the room, drawing all attention to herself, and sat next to him. That took away the opportunity of silencing observing her further, which in turn made interactions necessary, which quite frankly frightened The Sphinx. But there was only so much one could avoid these things, and maybe she already heard of his alias.

“Hello Teagan, how are you? If you like computers, then you probably know me by the name of The Sphinx, in which case you should be very impressed. If you don’t like computers, than I’m very sorry for you, and you can call me Mark.”

Those pleasant introductions were interrupted when Kenneth walked into the room, barging in as always and greeting him. Mark waved at him, shouting and probably upsetting George more than he should:

“God, you look ugly today. Didn’t sleep well? Or maybe just forgot to plug yourself in a socket last night?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by Celedia
The room began to buzz with activity but Riordan seemed to easily keep up with it all. There was a light floral scent that Imogen carried with her, perfuming the air around her as she took the seat that he held out for her. “That sounds lovely, Imogen.” He used her name as he settled back onto his original chair which had been between her and George. “I doubt we will find downtime to spend on lessons during our upcoming project but perhaps we could arrange something private, afterwards.”

He kept his gaze off of George, for now, but he knew that if he turned his head he would see that slight pulling of the muscles on the outer corners of her eyes that signaled she disliked something. She was a master of masking her emotions and Riordan had come to learn some of the finer movements of her features though he wouldn’t inform her that he possessed such knowledge. He obviously couldn’t tell her that throughout the years they had known each other he had watched her closely. It would sound creepy when said out loud but it was true. She was a fascinating woman and he always found new nuances with which to be captivated when it came to George.

Thankfully, a new entry into the room disrupted his line of thought and set him to silence once more. A woman dressed rather… commonly stepped in and took her seat, offering only a brief introduction and a clipped wave. He pressed two fingers to his forehead in silent salute to Teagan as he didn’t want to interrupt George as she spoke and her words left him surprised. One more left to this group? His head tilted to one side and he counted the bodies already gathered. The total count would make this the largest group he had worked with thus far on one of CKSD’s assignments and that alone puzzled and intrigued him.




Teagan inclined her chin in greeting to Imogen as a return greeting was made but she had to admit that she didn’t really know anyone other than George and that was only because the woman had hired her. The man speaking to Imogen seemed familiar and it took Teagen a full minute to place him.

Riordan Devereaux.

She almost laughed out loud when the information snapped into place and instead a bemused smirk curved her rosy lips. The man was tabloid fodder and one of the richest men in Night City that wasn’t straight up corp. She had a list of facts on him that was quite long and yet her team had barely pulled up anything worthy of selling. It seemed that he was actually a do-gooder, at least on the surface. He had money flowing in regularly but he didn’t keep it all. Some of it he actually donated to programs that attempted to restore order to the chaotic side of town or help with their health programs and most people didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was like throwing money into a black hole.

Her attention then turned to the man beside her when his voice sounded beside her and she couldn’t stop from grinning at his introduction. Her mouth opened slightly as she was about to respond but then another man entered that Mark apparently knew. The exchange was amusing and had Teagan laughing briefly before she finally responded. “Well hello, Mark.”

“The Sphinx? I thought you were a myth that mothers told their children to keep them in line. A tale like Bloody Mary from the days of old.” Her brow arched in Mark’s direction and she grinned again before continuing. “You know… ‘Don’t speak of Sphinx anywhere around a computer or he will make it so it seems you’ve never existed.’ That sort of thing.”

She kept the comments short and to the point though amusement flickered through her blue-grey eyes. The Sphinx she had heard of more thoroughly through her informants but the reports were varied and it seemed as if the name belonged to a ghost. Everyone had tales of the infamous “Sphinx” but no one claimed to know the man personally and even fewer could give positive proof to any of the crimes he was said to commit.

George had stated that they were only waiting for one more person and since that one more person seemed to be Kenneth, Teagan decided to fall into silence so that their leader could finally fill them in on the project as she had been attempting to time and time again.




Riordan decided to break the inevitable tension by finally turning to George with a disarming smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “So, what do you say, boss? We go around the table first and let everyone introduce themselves to the class? I can start.” Clearing his throat, he smoothed a hand down the front of his tuxedo and stood to address those gathered.

“My name is Riordan Devereaux and I enjoy fine wines, good conversations, and moonlit walks on the beach. My favorite color is blue.” He bowed slightly and took his seat, resting his elbow upon the armrest and lifting his hand to cradle his jaw with his fingers pressing along against his mouth to hide his smile.

Then both brows lifted in surprise as the door popped open again and Falke reared his head, talking about a package before returning from whence he came. The amusement had flipped to curiosity as Riordan turned his gaze to George, silently questioning her of this new development.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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George waited as Teagan and Kenneth settled in. She was glad to see Kenneth finally arrived even if he did cut the timing very close. She did not look at Riordan as he flashed her a smile. She was well aware that he was looking at her but she did not dare look at him. She was afraid she might smile back or somehow react to his charming demeanor. He had a way of affecting women and somehow he could always get to her.


“Thank you Riordan. You have all now met Riordan our pilot and driver. Mark is your hacker. Imogen, your scientist. Kenneth is going to be your quiet infiltration. Our newest recruit is Teagan. Think of her as your fists and information gatherer.”


George stood and the door opened. She nodded to Falke as he placed the coffee down, informed her the package had arrived. He closed the door and George met Riordan’s questioning look.

“Good. Firstly this package is a potential new team member. I have been given leave to field test him before I offer him his contract. Due to the nature of his job the board has decided that this is the best way to figure out if he is a good fit for the company.”

George put her hands behind her back and moved to stand behind her chair.

“He is a demolitions expert. His ability will be useful on the job I am going to offer you all. In order to gage his abilities I will be attending this mission with you.”

She watched Imogen’s face as the woman took in the idea of having George along on the job. George only ever went into the field for very particular missions and that was extremely rare. Imogen seemed surprised and that is exactly what George expected.


George picked up her phone. “Bring him in Falke.”

She hung up.

“Once Falke brings him in I will explain our mission.”

George looked her team over and waited for the last two pieces.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by 7achary
Falke slipped his phone into his pocket. He reached over pressed the release button on Atticus' sensation dampener and it disappeared in his coat. "Mr. Lawley, you will follow me into the dining area. There will be a dark haired woman standing there. You will address her as Ms. Delaney; her word is law."

As he turned, the large man stopped almost as an after thought., "And good luck, soldier."

Without another word Falke turned and exited the kitchen, his great coat billowing slightly in his wake.

George stood before the crew with the casual authority of corp through and through. Falke came to a stop to her right and behind her, a reassuring presence. Should anything unexpected happen, he was poised to react. His position left him facing the front entrance.

With a backward glance Falke nodded toward a seat for Atticus.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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Once again, Atticus sensed the great presence of his guide had returned and he resumed his stiff as a board stance. What in the world had he gotten himself into? He should have just left well enough alone and been happy with his job at the docks. Before he could continue on in the private bemoaning of his situation all of his senses suddenly came back with a snap. Atticus flinched at the sudden flood of light, the rush of dull sound and smell. Blinking rapidly, willing his eyes to adjust to the dim light, he focused on Falke and flinched once more as the large man’s voice came off as too loud after the brief stint of having no sensation at all. Dark haired woman that he was suppose to take orders from; seemed simple enough. Falke wished him luck and Atticus could only give him a hesitant nod of thanks at the well wish before following him through a set of doors and into a room full of strangers who all seemed to be focused on him.

Now it might not be true that all eyes were on him but for Atticus, anytime he made a late entrance into a room he always had the sensation that everyone was scrutinizing him; his eyes darted back and forth from the floor up to the different faces that now surrounded him. The feeling of self consciousness grew an exponential amount as he merely stood there, staring at the ground, weaving from one foot to the other until blessedly Falke nodded toward a seat that Atticus assumed was his and a little too quickly he bolted for it. Now that he was seated he once again took up fiddling with the ends of his sleeves, his back hunched in a defensive manner in an attempt to pry off all of the assumed eyes looking at him. For the love of God, someone say something!

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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Kenneth contained a chuckle at Mark's insult. It was a good one, but he would never admit it.

"Did you stay up all night thinking of that insult?" Was all he said.

He took a seat, and listened quietly to George explaining the job of their newest member. He silently wondered why was there such a big deal with him. The pre-entering introduction, calling him in, and what he supposed would be an escort. Could he just enter like the rest of them? He didn't say any of this, of course, no need to bring attention to himself over such meager questions. However, what surprised him the most, was the fact that George herself would be in the mission. Of all his years working for the CKSD, he had never once worked with her in the field.

Just as he was thinking all of this, said new member entered the room. The first thing Kenneth noticed, was that he looked rather uncomfortable. This was probably due to the fact that he was the newest member of the group, and that everyone was staring at him, Kenneth included. He looked at George, and decided to break the growing silence.

"What will our mission consist of?" Was all he asked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark was amused by Teagan’s response. He was absolutely sure, judging by appearances as always, that she wouldn’t even know what a sphinx was. Instead, she had indeed heard of his alias, and even doubted his existence, which was the greatest compliment the hacker could ever expect, boosting Mark’s pride beyond measure. An urban legend? Yes, that could be said about him… A myth, invisible, intangible, yet still present. After all, no greater honor could be achieved than to transcend time in the shape of a story. Alexander the Great had once lamented the fact that his accomplishments were comparable to those of Achilles, and still, he had no Homer to sing of them. Mark felt that he needed a Homer, someone to write an Odyssey that glorified his feats. Perhaps he could do it himself, one day, and reveal to the world that The Sphinx was real. If only he could protect Rose! His anonymity was the only thing that protected himself and his sister, and if that anonymity vanished, the Sphinx’s many enemies were sure to end the Parnasse bloodline forever.

It was strange how he seldom thought of Rose. He had no idea where his sister was, or what she was up to; only a certainty that she was alive. Sometimes he felt that certainty was not enough, however. That he one day would need to reunite with her… But that was for later. Mark needed to focus on the present, and the present included an impressive young woman who had heard of The Sphinx and Kenneth, that now had entered the room and shouted back at Mark. The hacker laughed at Kenneth’s quick comeback, and nodded to him in acknowledgement. He then turned to his newest fan.

“Well, that was kinda the point” the hacker said, overflowing with pride. “You’re not supposed to know Batman’s there until he takes you out, right? Well, that’s me. The Batman of the internet. Except I’m very real, thank you very much.”

Then, Riordan started talking again, and Mark found that the sound of his voice unsettled him almost as much as the sudden sound of a bluescreen completely destroying a computer. No sound was worse than that, but Riordan Devereaux’s voice was pretty close, introducing himself with an annoyingly perfect mix of chivalry and humor. Mark couldn’t help but answer with an ironic high-pitched voice that was his best impersonation of a schoolgirl.

“Oh, please, Mr. Devereaux, please tell us more about your, oh, so very interesting life! How many bad guys did you arrest today? How many million dollars did you make? C’mon, Mr. D, tell us!”

Mark was interrupted by Falke, who entered the room saying something about a package, which was probably a euphemism for something worse. It always was with Samuel Falke. The Sphinx had been in a few missions with him, and they always turned out to be ugly, which was precisely the reason Samuel Falke was requested. They never talked much, and when they did, the conversation consisted of monosyllables; however, the giant always had Mark’s attention: he was silent in a way a man of his size couldn’t possibly be, and the hacker felt that his fists could punch through a wall even without augmentations.

George introduced everyone in a proper manner, and Mark was slightly surprised when he found out Teagan worked with information. An information broker who knew The Sphinx’s identity? That idea upset Mark for a while, but he convinced himself the young woman was not a threat. And if that wasn’t true, she knew very well who she had chosen to trifle with.

The demolition expert George was telling them about entered the room, looking more awkward then Mark in the middle of a club. He was a little thin, but looked really skinny next to the Samuel Falke, and jumped to a chair at the first opportunity he got, hoping that that move would free him from being the center of attentions. That happened when Kenneth broke the silence, talking directly to George in his straight, unmistakable way, making just the right question. What was this mission that required what was perhaps the largest team CKSD had assembled in its history, and that was so important that George herself would accompany them? It could only mean a tremendous challenge. Mark couldn’t help but smile at the possibilities.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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George waited as Atticus and Falke entered the room. Falke stood just to her right and slightly behind her. Atticus looked slightly like a trapped mouse and darted for an empty chair.

George nodded, she ignored Kenneth’s question for the moment. “Atticus Lawley this is the team. Imogen, Mark, Teagan, Riordan, Kenneth and you have met Falke.”

She didn’t give much time for pleasantries as she picked up her tablet and tapped a finger to it. She flicked a couple of things and then looked up at the assembled group.

“As you might have noticed the group is quite large. I rarely send so many but this is a special circumstance.”

Her heels clicked as she walked to the far left of the room. “There is a new player. A new corporation who has decided not only to throw their hat in the ring but start off with a bang. Portel Inc has kidnapped a researcher from BioTechnica. They have taken him and all his research. He was highly protected and working on a highly confidential and experiment bioweapon. Portel has not made very many friends with this little action.”

George walked back across the room, her hands behind her back. “Before you ask no CKSD was not involved in the kidnapping. Portel seems to have quite the little team behind them. I have not found out where their funding is coming from but it seems plentiful.”

She stopped and looked at them all. “Three different contracts have been offered to us and all involve this researcher, Portel and the stolen research. They overlap a little but the end goal of each contract is different. I have brought you all in because I am hoping to capitalize on all three contracts. To do so means assembling a very big team and keeping very close track of the progress of each part in order to make sure things are done to the letter and we get paid.”

George leaned over on the table, her palms flat on the smooth surface.

“In order to keep this clean I need to you understand everything you do will be watched by me. I was already going to keep an eye on Atticus in order to determine if a contract is going to be offered but the board wants to do this and they want it clean. Everything must fall into place for all three to be cashed in on. If we do this and pull it off it will be something that no other company has ever even attempted to try.”


She paused and let the implications of her words settle in. This was big. Not bad as Mark had assumed when he came in but complex as she had told him. They didn’t know the details yet but she was sure, judging by their faces that the magnitude of this was something they understood.

“First we need to find out all we can about Portel. BioTechnica wants to know all about them. We need their backers, we need employees and then you need to find out where the lab is. Teagan and Mark that will be on you. I want every whisper about them from the street and the net. Once we find the lab location it needs to be infiltrated. All security both physical and technical needs to be neutralized.”

George’s eyes passed over Kenneth, Teagan and Mark before she looked over her shoulder at Falke. She hoped she understood that they would be expected to take on all levels of security.

“Imogen needs to be safely taken in and given access to the research. The research is to be returned to BioTechnica. There is no mention of the researcher and this is where contract two picks up.”

She tapped one well manicured nail on the table.

“Arasaka would like the research as well but they are a little more specific. They want a copy. They want access to it so that they can make it their own. They want no survivors however. They are specific. They want the researcher and all persons on premise to be terminated or otherwise made unavailable.”


Another finger tap.

“This plays specifically into contract three. Militech isn’t just happy with the idea of the people involved being exterminated they want the entire lab destroyed and evidence of its existence wiped out. They wish to send a message to Portel. They are not welcome in Night City and if they continue they will be wiped out.”

George looked at Atticus. “That is why you were brought in for this job. You have to make sure that once we have the research, once the lead researcher is dead, once our people are out that the lab ceases to be.”

George stood straight. She knew it was a lot but she also knew they could handle it. “Understand you will be expected to work together in whatever capacity is needed. That means Imogen if they need an extra pair of hands for anything you step in. Riordan you too. You are expected to do your job and do it no questions asked. If you can’t, now is the time to tell me and I will replace you. Remember I will be there and watching everything. I will be making the report to the board and I will be the one to see to the termination of your contract should it come to that.”

She turned her body and faced Riordan. “No, I have not overlooked you. I have a few things I need from you. The primary one being whatever means of transportation they need. The next being I need a mobile command unit. Something subtle that Mark can set up to allow him and I to monitor and to let us assist where needed. And lastly I will trust no one but you to drive it.”

George looked around the room. “Now is the time for questions, comments or concerns.”

She tapped her deck. “Time is limited however. I need to give each corp an answer by this evening.”
--
Imogen listened intently. Her primary objective, getting the research copied and out would be easy given the people assigned to clear the area for her. Her eyes scanned the group. The new arrival looked uncomfortable but she could not blame him given the way he was brought in.

Her main question was if they needed it could she step up and do more. With a quick lick of her lips. She knew her answer.

“Count me in.”

She sat with her back straight, hands folded on the table and instantly began to wonder if things would go as smoothly as she hoped.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by Celedia
The room had quieted down and George became the center of attention, leaving Teagan feeling antsy enough that she leaned forward to grab two of the mochas that the big burly man introduced only as Falke had placed in the center of the table. She passed one to Mark and sat back to sip the warm, silky smooth liquid as their leader led them through the contracts, roles, and expectations.

Teagan furrowed her brow at the mention of a new corp. Usually something like that wouldn’t slip off of her radar but she had heard something akin to a high tech kidnapping lately. Kidnappings in general weren’t that unique but this one had involved chameleon tech, one of the last augmentations that her father had worked on before he had taken a headfirst dive into crazy town so it had stood out.

Reaching into the pocket of her leather jacket, she withdrew a small metallic cube. It was one of her new toys that she had accepted as payment from a customer that had been short on cash and as she pulled the cube’s corners it expanded into a holographic tablet held in position by clear monofilament threads. The moment her fingers paused, the tablet froze and held the shape of an eight-by-eight inch square tablet.

It was constantly linked to her neural-transmitter and within seconds a slew of letters began to fill in the blank canvas. Mostly indecipherable to anyone casually glancing at the information, it actually contained codenames for her own agents as well as reports that they had filtered in recently. A tap of her finger upon the screen caused the scrolling text to stop and then she tapped again to turn it into a map of sorts.

“Reports of half a dozen men with chameleon augments spotted seven or eight nights ago. Two vehicles. No plates recorded. One was a large six-seater van with an illegible logo on the side in purple lettering. Second was a four door sedan with a busted rear passenger tail light. Spotted… Oddly enough… On the road as one of BioTech’s secret research facilities. Over on 13th and Cherry Court.”

Another series of taps had her sending word out to her informants to be on the lookout for both vehicles.

“Sphinx. I’m assuming accessing the street surveillance cams from that area would be no issue for you? We can look at the footage to see if they were the ones to pull the job then follow their tracks and see where they lead.”

It wasn’t a question so much as a veiled request. She didn’t have the technical know-how to tap into secured systems but if Mark truly was the Sphinx then this should be a cake walk for him and they might have their information sooner rather than later.

Switching her attention from Mark to George, she blushed faintly as if realizing she had never truly answered her question.

“I’m in. What was the estimated time of the kidnapping?”




Riordan sat quietly in his chair making the appropriate facial expressions whenever necessary. He couldn’t help but grin and chuckle at Mark’s high-pitched plea. The hacker might hate his guts for unknown reasons but Rio couldn’t help but be amused instead of angry at his antics. His eyes swept over the other members of the team one at a time as he kept his ears open to listen to George’s spiel.

Mark, The “Sphinx”. If this guy was as good of a hacker as he claimed then Riordan hoped to push over to neutral territory instead of being on his shit list. He had worked hard for his money and damn if he didn’t want to lose it all to a man with a grudge.

Imogen, the quiet French scientist. Specialty? Unknown, for now. She had a sense of calm about her and Riordan wondered if that would hold true if things went downhill. They were the tag team for ‘filling in when necessary’ but he didn’t know if that meant they would be working together or not. Playing chauffeur meant that technically he got to work with everyone or at least arrange for their transport.

Kenneth, the ghost. The infiltrator. He looked like he could just phase in and out of the space-time continuum so perhaps his chosen profession was a good one.

Teagan, the newbie. He couldn’t help but be sexist when George listed the new girl under muscle? Maybe she had upgrades. Hell, maybe all of them had combat upgrades. How was he to know? It’s not like they had to have a forehead tattoo listing their qualifications and technical specs.

Then there was Falke. Good ol’ Falke. A grin split Riordan’s lips randomly as George started going on about the last of the three contracts. He had seen Falke punch a man in the face so hard once that all of the man’s facial bones had just shattered. Then, the behemoth of a man had stuffed a grenade into the guy’s mouth, pulled the pin and walked away. Riordan himself had been sitting in the getaway vehicle with his mouth agape. Falke had slid into the passenger’s seat casually as if he had just dropped off a picnic basket at his grandmother’s and the car door shut as the thug’s head had exploded all over his shiny black car.

That had been a bitch to clean off.

Turning his head to the last and newest member of their gang was… Atticus? Explosives. Demolitions expert. The guy seemed kind of twitchy to be trusted around dangerous materials but what did Riordan know? He didn’t exactly recall anyone with such an impressively violent hobby before so perhaps that’s how all bombers acted.

George’s slender frame turned in his direction and he stopped his inner monologue, casting his eyes up to meet hers as she spoke directly to him. ” “No, I have not overlooked you. I have a few things I need from you…..

When she was done with his part in this grand play, Riordan nodded though not without being inappropriate. His eyes skimmed over her figure before flickering back up to her eyes and his grin grew more devilish.

“Anything you need.” He paused, letting her take the comment anyway she pleased before tacking on, “I’m in.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kenneth Belmont Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark gladly took the mocha Teagan offered him. Coffee was always appropriate, and the hacker felt he would need a lot of it for this mission. The Sphinx then paid very close attention to everything George said. It was very important to understand all the pieces of a puzzle before trying to solve it. The rumors about a new company had not gone unnoticed, but Mark didn’t really give it much thought. How could one keep track of all the many new companies that popped out of nowhere everyday in Night City? That’s what temporary, untraceable files were for! With a few taps in his pad, he dug out everything he could find on Portel while still mindful of George’s explanation. The quick search didn’t reveal much, except that the company had done really well in the stock market due to several generous, anonymous investors and that they had very deep pockets.

Mark had to go through dozens of shell companies before he could find Portel’s files, and the level of encryption amazed the hacker. It was comparable, if not superior, to that of Militech! That hack took him months, and they didn’t have that kind of time. He would have to think of something else to find the location of the lab… But if they could pull that kind of resources, they surely had let something slip. An unfinished contract, a problematic worker… You could always rely on human error to reveal a secret, no matter how well buried it was. As always, Mark would have to fill them in about the target, but this time he had company. The hacker could use Teagan’s information, particularly for the places the vast boundaries of the internet couldn’t reach, such as acquiring an address by punching people in the throat. Kenneth was pretty good at that too, except his line work required more… Permanent ways to deal with people.

George kept talking, explaining in detail all of the contracts. Three contracts at once was bold, even for CKSD standards. It sounded risky, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be this team, especially under George’s command. It was the largest team the company had ever assembled, and had the best people in their respective areas available. That also meant he had three times the amount of traces to clean, and a lot of people to cover for, more than in any other mission. But then again, if a contract added no challenge, it wasn’t worthy of The Sphinx’s skills…

Mark frowned when he learned he would have to work the entire mission alongside Riordan. Maybe they could keep communication to the minimal of “I need this, go get it for me”. And by “this” Mark meant coffee. Lots of it. Well, he acknowledged the playboy was quite good behind a wheel, and there had to be some merit in him, seeing as George rarely made mistakes in the field of choosing the right people. And if having a chauffeur meant not having to get into combat, then he was more than happy to spend a few hours next to America’s Next Top Model.

When George was over explaining the magnitude of the contract, she offered the option for any of them to simply leave. Leave. As if that wasn’t the most interesting contract ever! Mark just looked at her, skeptical.

“What, are you kidding? Of course I'm in. You had me at hello. Well, I mean, not technically, but you get the point”. He put down his cup of mocha, already done. Even extra-espressos were no match for his caffeine-addicted system. “Just how much time do we have to find this lab?”

The Sphinx then turned to Teagan, and before she was even finished talking, he was already getting access to the surveillance in the area. When she finally asked him if he could do it, it was like music to his ears.

“If it would be an issue? Did Anakin find orchestrating the fall of the Jedi Order an issue? Wait, don’t answer that, that’s debatable. Here” He showed her the complete footage of the vehicles, and ran a scan on the images. That opened a million of new possibilities that would otherwise have been significantly more time-consuming had Teagan not helped him. There were pros to team work after all, thought The Sphinx.

“Hey, look… When you said Portel hired its own muscle, I figured they had to be outsourcing it. So I crossed references with the images from the surveillance cameras, and found a company called SecComp, a giant in the private security business. They’re officially a ‘consulting’ company, but then again, so would CKSD be, if we even existed. You can thank me for that, ladies and gents.” The Sphinx let the pride of his accomplishments warm his soul like the mocha from earlier before continuing.

“Anyway, back to SecComp. They seem to have contracts everywhere, but I’m looking at their finances right now and, as it turns out, six days ago they received a large transaction from one of Portel’s shell companies. The money disappears at some point, but let me tell you, it was enough to buy a couple of Apache Helicopters. These guys aren’t joking. We should expect the firepower of a small army… and by 'we' I mean 'people that actually have to worry about that'. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kenneth. And I would be looking at you too, Falke, except I’m scared you might look back. And you!” The hacker pointed dramatically at Riordan. “It seems you’ll be driving my base of operations around, which means we’re gonna have to work together. If that’s ever to happen, there’s one simple condition: whatever vehicle you choose, I get to name it. Is that clear? Good.” He turned his attention back at his pad, doing as much as he could to gather more information on Portel and, luckily, on their secret labs.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
George didn't feel the need to say more. The team had their orders, their jobs and there was nothing more to say.

"Three days. Back here at 11:30 a.m. I want us ready to make a plan."

As everyone started to filter out she remained in her seat. Her gaze drifted subtlety to where Riordan sat. He wasn't moving as of yet and George thought perhaps he might have some questions about what sort of vehicle he was supposed to procure.

Or at least that was what she told herself she was waiting for. She would never admit to anyone that she was hoping to talk to him alone. It had been some time since they had talked and this place had a way of making George sentimental. She told herself she picked it because it was the most secure location for this discussion.

George told herself a lot of things.

Riordan told himself a lot of things too but he didn’t seem to repress as many things as George did. He gave brief waves and head nods to everyone as they exited then as the last of them left his eyes slid directly over to George as he tried to suppress a grin.

“Good job with the prep. You’ve come a long way since the day we first met.”

He kept it nice and simple. No pressure, no promises though if she’d ever finally let down those damn walls of hers he might push harder.

Well, he wouldn’t play fair but he wouldn’t push, either.

Standing up, he came up behind her and pulled her hair over her shoulder so his hands could settle upon her shoulders. His fingers pressed and circled into her muscles, easing out the tension that he knew she’d be holding in her neck and back.

George raised an eyebrow at his compliment. A smile tug at the corner's of her mouth as he stood and came up behind her. She was about to turn to look at him when her hair moved and hands rested on her shoulders. George swallowed but found her mouth slightly dry. Damn you. He always did things like this to her. Made it hard to focus.

Strong fingers found knots in her neck and into her shoulders that George wasn't aware had formed. Her eyes closed and despite her willpower she began to relax under his hands.

"Different sort of job this time. I haven't changed that much have I? You haven't changed. You never do." George let out a small chuckle. There was a pause. She bit her lip to stifle a moan as Riordan hit a knot in her shoulder.

“You haven’t changed?” He mused playfully, suppressing laughter though it could be heard in his tone.

“Everything about you has changed. The girl I hired to wait on my customers when this place first opened? When it was just a handful of us?” Shaking his head though she couldn’t see it, he grinned as he pressed his thumbs on either side of her spine and ran them up to her hairline in one smooth, steady stroke.

“I see her in you still, sometimes. Not often, though. The girl back then wouldn’t be able to pull the kind of contracts you get for CKSD. Wouldn’t be able to negotiate with corp big wigs and have them begging at your doorstep for your favor.”

George sighed and tried to shift but when Riordan's thumbs pressed up her spine she stopped moving. She was annoyed that he thought she had changed so much and that she couldn't tell if it was for the better or not.

"Alright so the girl you first met here wouldn't have let you rub her back but you mean there was never an inkling that I'd be more than a waitress?"

Her head tipped a bit downwards. She normally avoided letting someone get so close or so physical but like with everything else Riordan was different.

"We have come far but I wouldn't say people are begging at my doorstep. No one can find it." She chuckled openly now. "Mark saw to that."

George was deflecting, turning the conversation from herself to others.

"What do you think of the team?"

Riordan tsked her change in topics, reverting back to her first question instead of allowing her to shift the focus of the conversation from herself.

“You should know better than that, George. Hell, I’m surprised the woman in front of me if letting me rub her back. Progress!” Teasing one second, serious the next. “No, the girl I met seemed more than a waitress even when she was a waitress.”

He left it at that. Everytime their conversations got too deep or went too far into the unknown then somehow they ended back up at square one so he’d take baby steps this time.

Progress.

He gave one last deep rub, circling his fingertips into her golden flesh before easing his hands off of her shoulders. Riordan circled, sitting in the chair beside her and propping his feet upon the table once more as he leaned back, pondering her last question a bit as a relaxed silence slipped between them.


George stiffened a little under his fingers. Her eyes narrowed a little, though Riordan couldn't see them. Her back went straighter as he came to sit beside her. He was relaxed while George slipped once more into a business-like demeanor.

I will need to be more guarded.

She realized just how careful she would need to be. She had been too comfortable, letting him rub her shoulders. Perhaps it was this place and all the memories it held within its walls or maybe she was just tired. The reason did not matter but the fact that they would be working so closely for a length of time meant caution was needed. Rio could get under her skin in all the ways George was so careful to protect against.

“Eclectic.” A deep rumbling laugh shook his torso and he met her gaze as grew more serious. “A good team for the job. Jobs? I still can’t believe you’re pulling three at once, technically. Parnasse seems either wounded or socially inept. Classic hacker stereotype but I don’t believe it. Intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, with respect to a select few.”

His dimples showed as he flashed another grin at George, proving that she was one of those select few before he continued on.

“Falke. Well, fuck, it’s Falke. I’m pretty sure even if he was close to passing out and surrounded by enemies he would rip out his own spine to beat people to death with it.”

Amused at the visualization, he rested his jaw in the curve of his hand again. It was a pose he deferred to quite frequently when relaxed and his brow furrowed.

George moved one shoulder, a half committal shrug. "The contracts line up just right. I have the resources and people to put together the team why not take advantage?"

She looked him over somewhat critically. "Yes the team is eclectic but very, very good." She tapped a finger on the table. "What is with the little frown? You will give yourself wrinkles if you keep that up."

One dark eyebrow lifted in curiosity. He seemed relaxed but there seemed to be more there. "You think I have missed something?"

This wasn't said with its normal sarcasm. Not with Riordan. They had known each other too long and George trusted him in a way that she trusted no one else in the world. It was the reason he could sometimes sneak behind her carefully placed wall.

He gave a subtle shake of his head though a smile threw off the seriousness of his look. “Not at all. Just wondering where it will all go to hell. Murphy’s Law and all.” Then he gave his own half-shrug and laughed. “Can’t play the what ifs and alternate scenarios if we don’t have all the information, though.”

The truth to his worries came out seconds later.

“Maybe you should sit this one out. I’m sure there’s a way for them to install cams everywhere so you can see how the newbie works out.”

She stared at him for a moment. "Sit this out? You better than anyone know what I have riding on this. Three contracts. Three."

It was George's turn to frown. "You don't want me looking over your shoulder? Is that it?"

She tried not to sound hurt or annoyed. Did her best to be calm and unreadable but there were hints of it if someone were looking and knew her, which of course he did.

Riordan reached up, smoothing his fingertips up along the sides of his nose, briefly pinching the bridge before smoothing them across his brows. The short span of time it took for him to complete the motion reined in his emotions so he didn’t roll his eyes at her or chuckle at her conclusions.

“You know better than that.”

His voice had dropped down. Even in the quiet stillness of the room, it would’ve been hard to catch his words if they hadn’t been sitting right next to one another.

After he eased the tension from his forehead, he settled his steely grey gaze upon her. “I worry about you, George.”

Both her eyebrows raised. "Worry? About me?"

This concept, this idea that he worried about her shook her more than George would have thought possible. She waved her hand as if to brush it off.

"There is nothing to worry about Riordan."

Her teeth clenched and she stared at him. "Why would you worry about me?"

Once again, he suppressed laughter. Sometimes he wondered if she really built her walls so incredibly thick and high that she didn’t realize the signs flashing brightly right in front of her face. It could be partially his fault. He had taken to flirting with every woman that stumbled across his path but he had his reasons. George would’ve turned tail and run if he had been more forward. He knew it by the way she talked of other men in her life, or lack thereof. He knew it by the way she used to flinch or tense her muscles when he first started touching her. Hell, giving her a massage in the early days of their friendship might have earned him a swift kick to the nuts.

Now, she still tensed but she was slowly letting him see more of the woman that she hid so carefully behind the barrier she had erected.

So, instead of professing feelings outright, he danced around the topic again. Sarcasm threaded through his voice as he answered her.

“Obviously, I don’t think you’re up for the job. You’ve spent too long in your cushy office at a desk, answering calls and keeping your contracts in order of priority. Everyone is going to be so worried about you watching their every move that you’re going to throw them off their game and it’s all going to go to hell.”

His eyes sought hers once more, capturing her gaze and forcing her to acknowledge him before the faintest hint of a smile curved his lips.

“Now stop grinding your teeth and acting like an ass, doll. I’m worried about your safety and I have every right to be. You are by no means fragile or made of glass but if anything were to happen to you I would upend the entire combat zone in order to exact my vengeance.”

Then, acting casually, as if nothing of import had been discussed, Riordan leaned forward and grasped one of the mochas that Falke had delivered to them earlier. Taking a sip, the sweetened coffee was barely lukewarm but still palatable and he eased back into his seat once more.

She almost rolled her eyes. Almost. If it had been anybody else the sarcasm would have made her leave. She had zero tolerance for pandering and crap like that. George knew he was playing more than anything. His eyes focused on her and she didn't look away.

"I'm the ass?" He took the coffee as if it were nothing, as if his words were tossed around lightly. George licked her lips. "Nothing will happen to me. I have to be there."

Her eyes shifted, looking down just briefly. The barest hint of doubt. George looked up at him again. "The only way to make sure each contract is met to the letter is to see it first hand. Only way to see Atticus work is in person. Don't worry, I wouldn't want you to play martyr on my account. Too many women would mourn you."

Her head turned. She wasn't sure why she went there but she had and there was no taking it back. "Look. I don't need a babysitter. Never have."

George stood. Her chair slid out behind her. She couldn't bring herself to look at Riordan yet. "You shouldn't worry about me."

He barely prevented a scowl from gracing his mouth as she took his comments in the wrong direction of where they were intended and his stare hardened as she threw in the jab about women mourning his absence.

“If I don’t worry about you then who else will? Obviously not yourself.”

Well, that hadn’t quite reversed the course of the conversation and steered it back to safer ground, had it?

He rubbed his hand over his face again and practically growled. She had a way of driving him insane, in more ways than one, whether she knew it or not.

“God damn it, George. Why is it such a surprise to have someone care about you?”

Her head snapped sharply to face him. She took two steps towards him. "I have always done fine before. Made it to where I am now."

He wanted to know why it surprised her, why it seemed to unnerve her that someone cared but George couldn't bring herself to let him behind her wall. Her hand came down on the table. The echo filled the small room.

"Look around you Rio, has much changed since we were kids? There is still the zone, still the gangers and in the end there is no one to care about you."

It was harsh and she almost instantly regretted it. George shook her head. Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. "If people care they get hurt. Let them in and they hurt you."

Her eyes closed for a moment. When they opened again she forced them to meet his eyes. "I appreciate the concern but I'll be fine. I am there to observe, not engage. The danger isn't to me. Go protect Imogen or Teagan. They will need it."

She bit her tongue. The pain would force away any emotion that might surface as she tried to maintain her composure. "Is there anything else?"

Oh, that did it.

Riordan was suitably impressed by her defiant gestures and words. Hell, it was probably one of the things that he admired about her the most. He hadn’t planned on this… interaction but she left him no choice. He had wanted to wait until after this message. A huge mission with three contracts, a new hire and more people than he had ever worked with at once. Why was he not simply manning up and giving a curt shake of his head before leaving the room? Leaving her all to herself since she so obviously wanted to be alone?

Because it was George, dammit.

He stood, placing them on equal footing with similar stances. He placed his coffee down upon the table and began circling the room. Placing the table between them so that he wouldn’t strangle the ever-loving piss out of the stubborn, hard headed woman.

“Bullshit.”

The word was sharp. His voice lowering as he lost the humorous undertones that always seemed to accompany everything that came out of his mouth.

“You’re a coward.”

Even without looking at her, he could guess her reaction. She would tense. Her muscles becoming rigid as she steeled her spine and her eyes would take that flat, matte look that they always did when she held her anger in check.

“Let them in and they hurt you? You know how I feel about that sentiment. You wouldn’t be where you were today unless you take risks. Chances. Did shit that too many other people were too scared to do. So why, when it comes to… friends…” There was a noticeable pause that was easily swept away by the onslaught. “Do you clam up? You trust your team with the biggest ploy of CKSD’s history but have someone give a shit about you?!”

He leaned forward, both palms flattened against the top of the table as he stared at her.

“Better clam up. Better enter your emotional panic room.”

He kept his lips pressed closed but he ran his tongue against his teeth, silently willing her to come back at him with equal ferocity.

George tensed. Her whole body tightened. Her jaw clenched to the point of painful. "Bullshit? Coward?"

The words were whispered as her hands balled into fists. It took all her willpower not to reach across the table and smack him. George let a slow but hard exhale out through her nose as she stood straight. Her chin raised defiantly, just a little. There was a tremble there, almost imperceptable.

"Heaven forbid a woman keep her emotions in check. Going to call me an ice queen next? What about frigid bitch?"

George lifted a hand and waved it as if dismissing him. She turned her gaze from him. "If it is all bullshit, if I am such a coward then what are you doing here still? Why bother? I am sure there things that need the attention of the wonderfully charming Riordan. Don't waste your time here."

Better to do it this way. Keep him away. Better for both of them.

He was her friend, her oldest and most trusted but even here, even with him she couldn't let the wall down. It only led to pain and someone getting hurt. She wouldn't do that to him. Not Rio. She couldn't stand to know that she had caused him real hurt.

"This path leads to nothing good Rio. I've told you that. I wouldn't wish me on anyone." Her voice dropped and she closed her eyes. "You win. I am horrible and closed off. Anything else you want to tell me?"

He seethed.

Not at the fact that she called him Rio. No, she was one of a small handful of people that were allowed to use the nickname. He held his anger in check but at the same moment he knew they needed this. They had skated along the edges of their emotions for far too long.

His reason was because he didn’t wish to push her into something she was uncomfortable with. And George’s reason? George had shown her true colors. As altruistic as she tried to be, he could hear the pain lance through her voice as she spoke of being hurt. Of not being cared for. Pain worked both ways and she was as scared of being in pain as she was of causing that same pain in another person.

Sadly, Riordan wasn’t always predictable and he rarely allowed others to plot and plan his life for him.

So when she asked if he had anything else that he wished to tell her he let out a low, slow chuckle.

“George.”

The venom in his tone had left and he rose up a little, grasping onto the back of one of the chairs so tightly that his knuckles whitened.

“I’m still here because despite what you think… I will always be here for you. How many years have we known each other?”

His head cocked to the side as he studied her, forcing her to recall the time that they’d been coworkers, acquaintances, then friends though never more.

“Over a decade and how many times have I caused you pain? How many times have I abandoned you, leaving you alone? How many times have I called you a bitch? An ice queen?” He straightened and began to come back towards her, his fists clenched as his tone became slightly more aggressive.

“You see…The only failure to this plan of yours? Of never letting anyone close enough so that no one ends up hurt? Of keeping yourself closed off to lessen the pain?” Riordan came to a stop right in front of her and his eyes remained upon her face as he spoke.

“Is that you don’t get to make the choices, all of the time. People will care whether you want them to or not. People will rail themselves against those god damn walls of yours time and time again, begging entry and even if you hold fast in the name of protection or self preservation, you can’t play God.”

The muscles in his own jaw were strained as the tension rode through his neck. Funny how not 10 minutes ago he was massaging her shoulders to release her stress and now he was the cause of her tension.

I will care about you whether you wish for it or not. Whether you see it or not. If you had ever taken a second to peer over those barriers around you then you would’ve seen the truth in my words way before tonight.”

Actions always seemed to overtake words when emotions ran high, until you couldn’t help but act upon them. His hand raised but he didn’t hit her. He would never hit George. No, instead he slid his hand behind her head, weaving his calloused fingers into her hair and he drew her close whilst leaning down. Capturing her lips in a kiss, as if showing her the truth of his sentiments would be enough for the both of them. His lips claimed hers for the briefest of moments before he tore himself away from her once more.

And his voice was ragged when he spoke again.

“This path leads to nothing good?”

A pause. Silence again until his lips tilted in that roguish grin that seemed to be his mainstay and his eyes inadvertently dipped to her lips before he took a full step away from her, letting her hair slip from his grasp.

“Tell me that didn’t feel right, George. If not me, at least be honest with yourself. Tell me that this…” He pointed between the two of them before his hand dropped to his side. “Isn’t worth it. That the chance of something remarkable doesn’t outweigh the risk.”

Yet, he didn’t give her the chance to respond. Whether fear over her answer pushed him towards the door or whether he felt shame from stealing the kiss. A kiss that he had imagined time and time again yet had never had the chance or the guts to claim it.

So, without a word or a glance back he popped open the door and stalked through the bar, giving only the smallest of nods towards Tank as he exited.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau
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Imogen left the bar and with her head down walked back to where she could finally hail a cab. This time her mind was too preoccupied to worry about the dangers she might find on her journey.

When she woke the next morning Imogen resolved to head to the range and practice. She had let it slide just a little but with this mission and Falke’s reminder now was as good a time as any to get in as much practice as she could.

Finishing her stretching and light workout Imogen stepped into the shower. As the hot water ran over her hair her phone vibrated on the countertop. Concerned that it might be a message from the team or something about the mission she opened the glass door and stepped out. Water dripped to the towel at her feet as her eyes scanned the message.

From: S7H1NX
To: Imogen Trondeau
Hey Imogen, it's Mark. Untraceable e-mail address. Need some of your personal information. Need to make ID more solid. Added a list to your computer of all the things I need. Check Recycle Bin. Don't worry, didn't look for far too long at your things. Except all those pictures of flowers. You should stop downloading so many. Just saying.


“Monde dieu.” She chuckled lightly and placed the phone down. Stepping back into the water she finished her shower.

Everything cleaned up and fully dressed Imogen sat at her computer and clicked on the icon for her recycle bin. It didn’t take long for her to fill in what Mark wanted though. She ended it all by replying to his email.

From: Imogen Trondeau
To: S7H1NX

Finis. I hope I did not miss anything. Also a little beauty never hurt ones soul. Merci.


With that done Imogen headed off to the range.
***
11:15 a.m.

Dark eyes scanned the time as she placed her things down on the table. George looked around the soundproofed room. The splatter of coffee had been cleaned off the wall near the door. She sighed in frustration and looked up at the ceiling. One hand was on her hip.

“I’m still here because despite what you think… I will always be here for you.”

It was like the room was a ghost recounting their argument to her in a whisper. Three days she had stewed in it. The way he rubbed her neck. The mention of sitting out the mission. The talk of concern for her safety. The way he provoked her and she him until they were snapping at each other. The kiss and the way he had just walked away, leaving her to think on it all.

It had taken some time when he left the room for George to do anything and when she finally did it was to throw his unfinished coffee at the wall.

With a light growl George left the meeting room. She was early and no desire to sit there alone where all she could do was think about Riordan. She crossed to the bar.

“What can I get you George?”

She looked at Tank, giving him a small smile. “Something strong.”

He nodded knowingly. It wasn’t long before he brought her a small glass full with an amber liquid. “Boss man driving you crazy?”

He gave her a wink and George laughed humorlessly. “Something like that.”

Tank smirked, “Ah it is only because he knows he can. You two will work it out, you always do.”

George tensed, her hand tightening around the glass. “Thanks Tank.”

She gave him a nod and walked away. Memories flooded back as she crossed the dimly lit bar to the back corner table. She’d be able to see the others enter though she’d be harder to spot in the shadows. It would also give her the privacy she preferred. She slid into a seat.

How many times had she sat in this exact spot? How many drinks had she served to Rio or the others as they sat here talking away?

“I will care about you whether you wish for it or not. Whether you see it or not. If you had ever taken a second to peer over those barriers around you then you would’ve seen the truth in my words way before tonight.”

George took a drink. It burned going down her thought but warmed her the moment it hit her stomach. She told herself that pushing him away was for the best. They were friends and no matter the length of time, no matter how close they were it couldn’t be more than that. Riordan had been right, over a decade and he had never hurt her but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. It didn’t mean that if she let down the wall between them that there wasn’t still the chance of hurt for both of them.

A hand rubbed at her forehead. Maybe having him on this mission is a bad idea. Maybe I should pull him and call in another. One phone call was all it would take but George knew she couldn’t make that call, wouldn’t make that call.

If she was honest with herself she wanted him there. She wanted him to care and she wanted to let down the wall.

George took another drink. She had told herself over and over again that the kiss wouldn’t have affected her so much, shaken her up so much if she had been prepared for it. Rio had caught her off guard that was all it was.

Her shoulders slumped. She knew it was bullshit. Fuck Rio. Why, why couldn’t you just leave it alone? George downed the last of the drink. Her anger wasn’t really for him but it felt better to mentally yell at him rather than herself. She had already lecture herself enough about the whole thing.

Imogen came through the door and George was relieved. She could stop thinking about Riordan, their discussion and all that came with it. George watched as the woman headed directly to the meeting room without so much as a glance around.

Sliding back out of her seat she followed Imogen in.

“Afternoon.”

George offered the woman a smile. Imogen was removing her coat and looked over at George. “Hello to you as well.”

The women each sat. As the time grew closer to 11:30 the pair waited for the others to arrive.

Setting

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Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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#, as written by Varyar
As soon as Mark Parnasse left the bar, he started working on the things Falke had asked. They were simple requests that wouldn’t demand much time, if Portel’s encryption level wasn’t so surprisingly high! Mark had only seen that kind of security once in his life: while breaking into Militech, so many years ago. That hack took him months, and changed his life forever. But he was young and inexperienced then… Still, acquiring the things necessary for the mission would prove to be quite the challenge…

And that in itself led to many questions. How did this company, which apparently materialized out of thin air, manage to set up a virtual defense comparable to that of the big sharks out there? Where had they found the resources to kidnap a researcher from a bioweapon program? And how long did they think they were going to last pissing off a major player like BioTechinca?

Well, that one was easy to answer… The others were still puzzles. Just what Mark could ever wish for.

On his way back to his apartment, the hacker replenished his stock of dark espressos and microwave food in order to prepare for the marathon of crossing digital barriers and leaving IT analysts with a confused look on their faces.

Oh, if only he could see those confused faces! The joy of winning wasn’t nearly as good as the joy of making someone lose, and that fueled Mark, alongside the coffee. Once home, The Sphinx crawled and snarled in its natural habitat, the healthy glow of several computer screens surrounding him and several questions to be answered. Mark Parnasse clicked his fingers.

He was ready to begin.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Yet another e-mail popped in the side of Mark Parnasse’s busy screen, which broke his concentration beyond hope of repair. The e-mail was from his gaming party, asking him why had he been offline for four days. If the hacker had time, he would respond that he had an actual life in the outside world. Which wasn’t entire false. But wasn’t entire true either.

Because The Sphinx’s real life mixed itself to his virtual one, and right now more than ever, as he pondered the surprisingly small amount of data four days of hunting had led him to. Portel hid its dirty secrets very well, and some of the things there would take weeks, if not months, of determined hacking. However, for what the mission required, Mark had acquired just what he needed to. George would be pleased, and so would Falke, if he was capable of human emotions.

Mark made several notes on paper with the information, so that he could remember just what was important to lay down to the team at the meeting, and also to protect the things he had found. If there was anyone who knew no system was uncrackable, it was Mark Parnasse, which meant physical notes were very important things to have, locked in a physical safe. Primitive, it was true, but efficient.

Before his focus was lost, the hacker was working on a program that would give Imogen the status of top-researcher at Portel, allowing her to access their in loco data with ease. Her personal ID had just been submitted, and the program The Sphinx designed ran all its simulations in the blink of an eye.

Mark frowned as the screen blinked, showing a 98,99% rate of success. That 1,01% worried him a great deal, but those odds would have to suffice. The program consisted of a fake ID generator that constantly dodged other detection programs by changing the ID a few hundred times per second. That required creating hundreds of thousands of IDs, a feat the program achieved in a record time.

Its usefulness was limited to a short period of time, however, as the self-resetting, state-of-the-art systems of Portel were sure found the fraud if Imogen stayed logged in for more than a few minutes. Mark was hoping it would be enough for the biologist to acquire all the research data they needed.

Mark glanced at the time. The meeting would take place in fifteen minutes. The program would had to be finished there, thought the hacker, as he transferred all the needed information to his pad, put his usual clothes and set off to the bar.

The place hadn’t changed in the slightest. People still huddled at the counter, looking for a swift escape from real life, and the mechanical bartender gladly obliged them. He crossed the place, just like he did last time, and, exactly like last time, he found the back room a paradise of silence from the outside world. However, unlike last time, he wasn’t the first one to arrive, and George didn’t seem so intimidating from the end of the long table. She looked tired, as if the entirety of her self was fatigued.

“Hello George… You seem tired today.”

The hacker tried his best not to say anything improper, but quickly decided that the best course of action was to focus on the job.

“I brought everything you needed, and probably everything Falke asked me, too. As soon as everyone else arrives, I’ll brief them with what I found.”

Imogen was there too, and she was an antithesis of brightness to George’s melancholy. As soon as Mark saw her, he started laying the details of the program he had tailored specifically for her.

“And bonjour, Imogen… I was just finishing up the program you’re going to need to break into Portel’s files. Your personal information was very important in the process, so… Thanks, I guess.” Mark made an awkward pause. “It wasn’t like I couldn’t have just got it, you know. It seemed more polite asking for it, that’s all. I’m not getting soft, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

He continued talking, trying to put that sentence behind.

“As soon as I’m ready, I’m going to give you a hard drive. You’re going to plug it to Portel’s hardware identification system. Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through the whole process. Once you plug it, you’ll have free, top-level clearance and a thirty, maybe forty minute window to do what you have to do without triggering every alarm at every computer everywhere. After that, well… Let’s hope the lab is already ashes by then. Any questions?”

The Sphinx sat down, making a few alterations in the program while paying attention to Imogen.