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Imogen Trondeau

0 · 661 views · located in Night City

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

Description

Image

Name: Imogen Yvonne Georgina Trondeau (Nee-Thomas)
Citizenship: Canadian
Age: 28
Gender: Female
Marital Status: Widowed
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual

BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Height: 5'6
Weight: 124
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Brown
Handed: Left

Thin and somewhat fragile looking, Imogen carries herself with great poise and grace. She dresses in blouses and skirts in her professional day to day life. Her off work clothes consist of designer jeans and smartly put together outfits. Her hair is always neatly pinned up or styled to fit whatever occasion she may be attending.

Her tiny frame belies toned muscles from years of yoga and pilates. She is religious about her fitness routine as she is about reading and studies. While she couldn't best anyone in a hand to hand combat she would put up a hell of a fight.

Imogen wears very little in the way of makeup, prefering a fresh and natural look though she isn't above highlighting her large blue eyes when dressing up.

Her nails are always done with a basic french manicure and her perfume a delicate floral scent that seems oddly fitting for a woman who spends her days with students and books.

Imogen carries a light french accent and has the tendency to slip into using french words when flustered.


Imogen holds three PhDs. One in Biology with a specialty in microbiology, one in Chemistry and one in Physics. Knowledge is something she values above all else. She is cold and apathetic at times.

Her friends, what few she still speaks to would say that the cold and hard edge to her is a more recent thing, ever since her husband was killed. They would tell those who asked that she used to smile easier.

Many call her stuck up, few call her uptight and Imogen tends to ignore them all.

Imogen would describe herself as refined, polite and controlled in all things. She is organzed even when it appears she might not be. Her desk and office is littered with books and papers but she can tell you where everything is and how the system works. She remembers everything and can find a book about any subject. It is being in the lab that makes her happiest.

Basic Likes:
The lab
Red wine
Quiet restaurants
Books

Basic Dislikes:
Clubs
Crowds
Feeling weak or out of control

Her current home is a small but tastefully decorated apartment in Night City. She lives in a nicer area within close proximity to shopping and restaurants.

Her home is one bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. The main living area is wall upon wall of shelves and books. Her furniture, a comtempory look rounds out the room.

Her kitchen is slick and modern although looks rarely used. Her bedroom too contains modern furniture but looks more like a display room than place where someone lives.

Born to a British father and a French Canadian mother, Imogen was their only child. Her father was a professor at the University of Montreal, her mother a doctoral student who fell in love with him. Imogen was sent to boarding school in England where she discovered a knack for science.

She returned to Canada a young woman and began her studies at University. She caught the eye of Mathieu Trondeau. He was a PhD canidate, eight years her senior. The two married in secret when Imogen was 22. Her father passed away later that same year, a heart attack. Imogen did not mourn the man she barely knew. When her mother passed two years later Imogen buried her without shedding a tear. Her life was Mathieu and her work.

Four years ago she and Mathieu were out for an evening of Opera and drinks when, walking down Rue St Denis they were accosted by three men. Mathieu, protective of his wife took a beating from the men. Imogen was dragged into an alley and assaulted. Mathieu died of his injuries. With nothing left Imogen packed up and moved to Night City, hoping to lose herself in the crowds and to avoid those that knew her and what had happened.

Her degrees finished Imogen went to work in the best labs Night City had to offer. It was here that CKSD found her and recruited her to work with them. She plays two roles for them. She is an inside man, hired as a contract lab worker for the big corporations and as CKSD's head of science. When teams need information or things worked on she is the one to ask.

So begins...

Imogen Trondeau's Story

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: 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

Characters Present

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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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George’s eyes lifted as the door opened and Mark entered. Those same eyes narrowed and her body tensed as he commented that she appeared tired.

She nodded as he moved to towards the table and began talking to Imogen. George sat straighter, folded her hands and did her best to pull it together. The last thing she wanted was for the whole team to think something was off. And she’d be damned if she was going to let Riordan know that he got to her.

For her part Imogen turned in her seat to face Mark as he entered. She smiled sweetly at him. Her eyes went wide as he stated that he was finishing the program and then it turned into a frown as he stated that she might have thought he was going soft simply because he was a gentleman and asked for the information instead of hacking it from her files.

She listened intently as Mark explained her time limits and then asked if she had questions.

Imogen raised a slender hand, one finger resting on her lips in thought. An amused smile played there, tugging at the corners of her mouth. She rested it there a moment, processed all he had said and when she was ready lowered her hand.

“Hmm. First, Bonjour Mr Parnasse. It is very nice to see you again.” Imogen inclined her head in greeting.

“Second, I would never dream of thinking you have gone soft in your skills. I know that not to be the case. Third, I do appreciate you being quite the gentleman and asking me. I hope I answered everything you needed satisfactorily. Now fourth and final, the time limit should be enough assuming their system is up to speed. I will do my best to take notes or anything else I find in physical form in case we run into issues. I trust your ability to guide me through the process and look forward to working with you further.”

He was sitting now. Imogen was smiling at him. Her arms crossed themselves on the table and she leaned forward a little.

“I find this program very interesting. You used my information to give me a pass through the system? Meaning as an employee? Will it let me bypass security going in as well without the need for force?”

Imogen was used to labs forcing staff to scan in. Other jobs she was given permission to have access as per her contract. This was different. She was essentially part of the infiltration team with the goal of ‘retrieving’ information from a secure system.

Her eyes shifted briefly to George, “Will we have communication during the operation?”

George nodded, “Yes I want everyone with coms on. Mark I will need those on a secure channel so only our team can talk to each other and there is no chance of it being tapped into. I don’t want them to know we are coming and I want to be able for everyone to know what is going on.”

Imogen nodded and looked back at Mark, “And this program, you are working on it now? Pardon, finishing it up you stated. I am not surprised.”

Again her mouth lifted in a smile. It was nice to work with a team of people so good at their jobs. She dealt far too much with inept lab assistants or bad researchers. She also met her fair share of frauds. Mark's efficiency and skill was refreshing. She hoped the others would be as far along in their roles as Mark was.

George's jaw clenched, her mouth forming a straight line. She let them talk as she scanned information on her pad. She was trying to keep her mind on work.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark felt embarrassed by Imogen’s kindness, and also a little bit shocked by being referred to as a gentleman. That thought had never crossed his mind, certainly not when he was so focused on breaking laws and stealing money rather than rescuing damsels in peril. Still, he tasted the word in the air for a bit, before pulling himself back together and answering the elegant woman.

“Oh, well, of course you wouldn’t think I’ve gotten soft. Because I haven’t. It was just that, etiquette. Even us hackers have a code of conduct, you know.” That lie almost made Mark giggle. “Anyway, yes, you will be checked in as an employee, however it will only work for a short period of time, like I told you. Using it to enter the facility itself is, of course, possible… However, it’s very risky.”

Mark made a pause, trying to find the right words.

“You see, Portel’s systems are… unique. To be frank, I only encountered a few defenses that were as well set up as this one, and let me tell you, they had really important things to protect. But this is different, it’s… it’s almost poetry.” The Sphinx realized how soft that sentence sounded, and quickly corrected it. “Only without the boring words, of course. Anyhow, that means that, the longer you stay connected, the easier it is for the system to find you and ring all of the alarms… Which is exactly why I think it’s better if the whole facility is blown sky high long before the program expires.”

She looked contemplative for a moment. "Poetry. Interesting. I like poetry. There is nothing wrong with words. Though numbers have their place."

Imogen rested her chin in her hand. "So my goal is to get into the facility, with the help of the others. Then use your program to getting into their system and download as much as I can, as fast as I can get it."

She looked at him to see if he would give her an indication that she understood correctly.

"Yes, that is precisely it... As to plugging the hard drive, all we need is comunication, and I will be able to walk you through the process. It's quite simple, really: all you have to do is insert the..."

Mark stopped, as he realized he was about to bore Imogen with technical details that she probably didn't need to know. He then turned to George, and found that talking to her embarassed him a lot less than talking to Imogen.

"Well, we will have comunications, won't we George?"

George raised her eyebrows at Mark, "As I told Imogen I want everyone to have coms on. I also asked you to make them secure to just us."

She looked from Mark to Imogen to his pad. "Were you just so distracted with your...program.." Her eyes flickered to Imogen again. "That you did not notice? That isn't like you."

The faintest hint of an amused smile played at the corners of George's lips.

Imogen smiled, "Well it is easy to be distracted. What...Mr Parnasse, may I call you Mark?" Her eyes were on him. "What he is doing is very fascinating."

That did it for embarassment. The Sphinx, Mark Parnasse, was completely lost in a sound-proofed room where he just couldn't run anywhere to escape the blush response George's remark caused. It indeed was nothing like him to fail at multi-tasking, especially when what he was doing wasn't even that complex... He was sure George found all the situation very amusing, and silently cursed her for it. He raised his eyes quickly from the pad to Imogen's peaceful face.

"Yes, so very fascinating. So much, in fact, that I couldn't possibly be paying attention to the unimportant things you were saying, George."

Mark knew very well that George was aware of the size of that lie, but maybe he could avoid looking silly in front of Imogen.

"Yes, mademoiselle Trondeau, you may call me Mark. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, it is very important that we have clean communications, and by 'clean' I mean 'private'. Since I'll be up to me to jam our signal, then that won't be a problem. I'm not sure, however, for how long I can protect you... You see, the program is running at 98,99% efficiency right now, and I'm doing my best to improve those odds, but, as I said, Portel's systems are just... Unique."

That raised a question Mark had been avoiding ever since the beggining, but there was no turning back from it now.

"Any idea how they could've got such an advanced encryption, George? You're the one that knows Portel best... Apart from me, of course, and that's because I spent the last four days buried deep in their business."

George caught the blush and she hid her smile as best she could, she ignored the barb as the man seemed very put on the spot and she did not wish to make it worse.

"I did not know anything about Portel other than I have three contracts on my desk for them. They are new, too new but I gather they have the resources to hire some of the better security programmers. Whatever you bring to me today is what we know."

Imogen took it all in. Her eyes moved back and forth between the pair as they discussed the system. The understanding she had and the part that effected her was that the system was dangerous if she didn't follow Mark's orders to the letter and if all the pieces lined up.

"Mark, that still seems like very good odds. In the lab that would be almost acceptable level for correction. I will do what I can to be quick though in the end I guess once I am in then it is up to the program and there is not much else I can do. Oui?"

Imogen reached out and touched Mark's hand briefly. "Imogen, please. No need to be so formal now I would think."

There wasn't any way this situation could get any worse. George was sure to be laughing out loud in the inside at Mark's awkwardness as Imogen softly placed her hand on top of the hacker's. He suddenly stopped working and made eye contact with the scientist, a moment that lasted for far more than he could possibly expect. In a rushed, clumsy way, Mark removed his hand and returned to his work, babbling something about the dire importance of the program and the odds not being good enough.

"I blame you for this", thought the hacker while mentally staring at George, his eyes glued to the screen where the comfort of numbers and algorithms made him not feel so small.

Imogen frowned, just a little as Mark pulled his hand away.

She whispered, "Je m'excuse."

Mark seemed uncomfortable and Imogen felt bad for having caused the situation. She wasn't sure if it was the physical contact or the banter or just her converstaion but he seemed out of sorts now.

She cleared her throat, "So you are trying to make it more efficient then. And once you are satisfied I will, with your help be able to get in. Excuse my ignorance for such things but you mentioned very briefly plugging something in. I would like to hear everything so I know even just the basics beforehand. It is like writing up a lab report with all the hypothesis and the steps you will take to solve it."

Imogen sat back in her chair, her hands folded neatly on the table.

George bit her tongue. She disliked seeing Mark so unsettled. Perhaps his own teasing had gotten away from him. She did like seeing Imogen show more outgoing personality than normal. From the time she had recruited her there had always been a colder edge to the woman. George knew her story and understood but she was pleased that Imogen was making an attempt to connect with members of the team. This mission would go horribly wrong if they did not work together well.

Mark dared look back at Imogen, feeling he had somehow offended or hurt her, but was glad all she spoke of was the work. It was always so much better when people didn't talk about their feelings. That way, everyone could just assume what they had to assume and move on, wihtout having to worry about hurting each other. Damn, were human interactions hard!

"Well, if you insist, the hard drive will consist of two ports: one of them feeds the system raw data, overloading it and making sure it is too busy trying to clean itself for it to notice that Portel has just acquired a new top-clearance level researcher. The other port will provide all the IDs I built for you: they need to be in the number of the hundreds of thousands in order for the program to repeatedly dodge the defense system. However, as soon as the fake IDs end, it won't be long before you are locked out of the system and forbidden all access to the data. But don't worry, there will be more than enough time for you to... Do your thing. I hope."

Mark tried to smile at Imogen, as if to reassure everything was cool between them. He had no idea how hard it was to move those face muscles.

Imogen nodded her head politely. Her smile was smaller now, more out of respect than anything else. "I am very impressed with what you were able to do with the bits of information I gave you. I am sure in the end everything will be alright."

George almost sighed outloud watching the two of them so inepting socialize with each other. They both backed off and into their corners. Both reverted to work. Her fingers drummed lightly on the table. "Yes Mark I knew it would be good but very impressive. As long as the system is fast enough to spit the information out at Imogen before the end of her id's we should get everything we need."

Her gaze turned to Imogen. The woman's back was straight, her head a little higher and she had lost her more relaxed posture. The woman had retreated and was now hiding behind work. "I think you are correct when you say you should take any physical notes you find as well. We will need you to fill in the holes should something go wrong."

Imogen nodded and a silence fell over the small room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
As Riordan drove down to the dock district, he found his thoughts drifting from one matter to the next and all of it revolved around CKSD. He would recall George’s face and the tension found within moments before he spun to stalk out of the door that evening. He thought of how he hadn’t slept for 53 hours after the end of the meeting though thankfully his body finally decided that enough was enough and forced him to slip into slumber whether he wished it or not.

Then, he would think about the mission at hand. Despite the drama and emotion, he wasn’t going to back out of this. No, too much was riding on it and not just as far as he was concerned. Sure, the group could easily find another driver and if George wanted someone else then he would’ve already received notice that his services were no longer needed.

Yet, no cancellation had come through and so the wealthy bachelor decided to pour all of his remaining energy into his new pet project- Atticus.

A quick inquiry to the secretary at CKSD had procured the new member’s address and access information. Riordan had already contacted him via message that they had to have a chat, face to face. How else was he going to obtain whatever Atticus needed?

So, after parking his pricey steel grey coupe a bit down the street and scoping out his surroundings, Riordan exited the car and made his way to the apartment building. He was dressed more casually today though he still stood out in this district. Designer sweaters and tailored slacks didn’t seem to be the norm and what would make it most obvious was that he smelled of cedar and citrus. It was a slightly boozy smell but maybe there was just a touch of that upon his breath as well.

He punched in the code that he had been provided with into the panel by the main door and proceeded to speak into the intercom as he leaned against the wall.

“It’s Riordan. Let me up, eh?”

The conclusion Atticus came to was that he was working with mercenaries and apparently a group of affluent ones if their clientele spoke any volume. It didn’t bother him, he’d had time to calm down from his initial shock, they were asking him to do a job he’d done before and if it would help pay bills and be just a smidge more enjoyable then moving boxes then he was in. So here he was, a few days later sitting in the floor of his cramped apartment going over the information he’d been sent by that computer fellow. He’d have a visitor soon and needed to be prepared.

“Mew.” The small sound came from his right hip as his small kitten walked over to nuzzle him then trample over his papers because of course she were more important than anything that Atticus could be working on. A smile spread across Atticus’ face as he scooped her into his lap. He’d only left Sprinkle and Brutus out of crates, the rest were sadly locked up in preparation for the meeting with Riordan. It wasn’t that he worried what the seemingly high class man thought of having umpteen dogs and cats crawl all over him but it wasn’t good for business. He would have put up the kitten and Brutus as well but Sprinkle was so small that he didn’t see the harm, plus she made him feel better and Brutus, well, Brutus could put on some of the best damn guilt tripping puppy dog eyes you’d ever seen.

As he continued to look over his blue prints for the lab, planning what was needed, a staticky voice cut through on the intercom that immediately sent his menagerie into a fit as always. Atticus winced against the noise but it was more tolerable than if it were humans being noisy, at least to him. Cradling his kitten he hustled over to the intercom and buzzed Riordan up. “It’s unlocked. Come on.”

“All of you be good for Da while our visitor is here, yea? Be quiet and sweet babbies.” He stroked Sprinkle’s head and dodged Brutus whose snout was pressed against the door, anxious for the visitor he seemed to know was coming. Atticus scooped up the blue prints with his free hand and laid them out on his fold out kitchen table. He was dreading this visit, honestly he was, more so than he was when he had no idea where he was being taken. Riordan was exactly the type of person, or seemed to be, that Atticus desperately avoided his entire life, the type that sneered, laughed and scoffed. Why couldn’t everyone just be like animals? They were so much more forgiving of shortcomings.

A knock at the door and Atticus absent mindedly plopped his small cat into his front breast pocket as he often did while walking about, she seemed to enjoy it, and went to open it. Restraining Brutus as well as he could he opened the door a crack, just to check who it was, before allowing him in all the way. He gave a small, half hearted grin of greeting to the man all while trying to keep his hulk of a dog from dive bombing him with slobbery kisses.

Riordan’s hand was still raised as if Atticus had opened the door while he was in mid-knock and he froze in that position as he allowed himself to take in the scene before him. The man who was on their team because of his explosives expertise had a kitten as a kerchief and was barely containing a dog. Not a fancy cybernetic designer animal fashioned from the latest alloys but an actual living, breathing canine.

When in the hell was the last time that he’d seen one of those?

He looked almost confused before his notorious grin crossed his lips and he pulled the sleeves of his sweater up around his elbows as he kneeled down to get a better look at the dog.

“Well, you didn’t tell me you had company… I could’ve come back at another time.” He teased Atticus with a laugh and reached out, letting Brutus sniff his hand though the animal apparently had other ideas and began licking his knuckles instead of sniffing them. Another laugh rolled easily from the club owner and he reached out, scratching the mastiff behind his ears.

It was only then that Riordan took an honest look around the apartment and he saw even more animals tucked away within their cages.

“You own a zoo?! Would never have thought that a man who blows stuff up for a living would have so many animals.” He inclined his chin towards the mastiff and asked yet another question. “What’s his name?”

Atticus cocked his head, narrowed his eyes and gave Riordan possibly the most puzzled look anyone could ever muster. This wasn’t how he should react to the sight of everything. The man was actually kneeling to look at Brutus, pet him and even let the slobbery mongrel lick his hands. Suddenly he realized he’d been asked a question and his eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

“Oh, uh, Brutus. His name's Brutus.” Brutus’ tailless bottom wagged back and forth at the mention of his name with the knowledge he must have done something wonderful if they were talking about him. “Hrm, usually doesn’t like strangers.” On a whim Atticus let the dog go and instead of leaping on Riordan he proceeded to happily walk circles around him, looking up at the stranger adoringly while wagging his bum. Will the oddities ever cease? “Sorry bout him and all the others. Just can’t help but pick em up if I see em.”

Although he didn’t want to interrupt the unusual sight of the well dressed Riordan being danced about by Brutus, Atticus nervously darted his eyes to the kitchen where the blueprints lay then back to the man. Despite the fact this wasn’t turning out as horrible as he suspected so far he still wanted the meeting to be over with as soon as possible because surely this socialization would turn into something awful. “That computer fellow sent me blue prints of the lab. Right over here.”

He walked the few steps to his kitchen/dining room/ almost bedroom and spread the papers out before taking the kitten from his pocket and plopping her on the table as well. “Place isn’t very big, well, not as big as I thought. Won’t take too much, just several pounds here and there.” Quickly he marked out spots on the map. “Collapse it this way, pretty easy. Watcha think?” Atticus knew he was on some sort of probationary period if he heard correctly so he wanted to get input if he was able. His eyes focused on Riordan as his kitten waddled to the middle of the table and unceremoniously plopped herself on the papers in a decree for attention while Brutus continued his odd, bum wiggling dance ritual. Ah yes, completely professional.

To say that Riordan himself was distracted was an understatement. Though he listened intently to Atticus’ words, his eyes were focused on Brutus dancing around him and everytime the mastiff circled around in front of him, Rio would scratch along the dog’s spine before he went around once more. Reluctantly, he stood up and followed Atticus to the table.

A kitten spilled onto the table and Riordan picked her up with one hand, letting her little legs dangle between his fingers as he brought her up to face level. Though the question had danced from topic to topic quite quickly, he took a much more relaxed approach and addressed each statement in turn, as was his way.

“Brutus and what’s this little one’s name?” He held the fluffy kitten aloft so Atticus’ attention would be drawn away from the blueprints. “And you’ve simply found all of these animals? Wandering about?” The thought seemed astonishing to him as he lived in a nicer district where animals failed to roam freely unless they were microchipped and with a caretaker or confined to someone’s property. Even then, fewer and fewer rich folk seemed to bother with having a real pet nowadays. They were either too busy, as in Rio’s case, or too self-obsessed to take care of another living being.

Only then did he skim over the paperwork that Atticus was pointing to and he had to admit that he had nary a clue what the hell the man was talking about. Building empires was his thing, destroying buildings was not.

“Atticus, I appreciate you asking for input but I’ll be damned if I know what would bring it down. You were brought in because you’re damn good in your field and until or unless you screw up, you’re trusted.” A grin flitted over his features before he added, “Well, you’re at least trusted by me, that is. Take care of CKSD and it’ll take care of you.”

Atticus was sure that Riordan was ignoring his words as he plucked up Sprinkle and asked more questions about his animals instead of on the lab, the explosives, on anything other than Atticus himself. It made him very nervous, generally others weren’t interested in him and Atticus did his best to keep it that way. Work was easy to talk about but himself?

Then Riordan blessedly began addressing the topic at hand but managed to surprise Atticus yet again. He trusted him? Just like that? “Oh, uh, thanks.” His eyes jumped away from the other man’s face to stare down at the papers that had been apparently uselessly brought out and Atticus anxiously cleared his throat. “Sprinkle, lil one's name is Sprinkle. Cause, ah, you know, she’s small as one.” He wasn’t use to this sort of interaction but there was a friend here and there that Atticus had somehow managed to attract and if this high society man was so interested in his animals then maybe he wasn’t too bad after all.

“Yea just all over they are, suspect they come from the higher up districts. Brutus was from some sort of fighting ring yea, left to die, probably dropped off here to get far away from the scene and Sprinkle was tied up with her brothers in a bag but they were already dead and uh, this little babbie here…” It was a lot easier than he thought, talking about his animals to someone he hardly knew. His animals were his life so it wasn’t a difficult topic for him to get started on.

He stopped at the cage of a little bird he’d saved from some hooligans meaning to hurt it before turning to Riordan who was being playfully bopped in the face by Sprinkle as she was held. “Why is someone like you with a group of mercenaries? Seem like ya well off, yea? And not cause of what ya do now.” The question had suddenly slipped out; he’d been on a roll with speaking and grew more comfortable as he went until a curiosity that nibbled at him had bubbled up. Atticus’ eyebrows shot up and he turned back to the bird cage and mumbled a hurried sorry quite sure this is where the mess of the social interaction would occur.

Riordan booped Sprinkle on the nose with the tip of his finger before changing positions and placing her in the crook of his arm as his other hand came around pet her head. At first, when Atticus started talking about his animals, Rio’s look was one of quiet disbelief. How could a man so well versed in killing people and blowing up buildings care so much about his pets?

“Ah, so we’ll call you Savior, then. Nicknames make everything sound more special op, am I right?” He reached down absent mindedly to stroke Brutus on the head again before responding to the other man’s inquiries.

“I…”

Well, he had every intention of telling the man why he was working for CKSD but perhaps some of the more personal things he would keep to himself. Like how he’d known George for just about forever and how he had come to her to ask her for work. The actual reasoning though was easy enough.

“I was bored.” He chuckled, making himself at home by sliding into a chair next to the table. “That sounds a bit odd when you say it out loud. I have managers handling most of my clubs now, I have accountants and such to look after the financials to make sure they aren’t skimming and they shouldn’t be anyway because I pay them damn well. So… yeah. I wanted something that will keep me on my toes and I wanted to be around people that weren’t all like me.”

A flash of a grin crossed his face again as he looked over at Atticus. “Plus, CKSD pulls in a hell of a lot of unique individuals. It’s nice to get to know people that I probably wouldn’t otherwise get to know.”

A quick glance at the clock on his retinal display had Riordan shift in his chair and gesture towards the blueprint again before he reached into the small messenger bag he had slung around his torso. With the hand not currently cradling Sprinkle, he withdrew a small tablet computer and tapped a few buttons, bringing a display onto the screen. It featured an odd array of items. It contained everything that one might need to make explosive devices as well as a few pages of premade options.

He slid it towards Atticus with a grin. “Ever hear the phrase ‘kid in a candy shop’? Well, I was told to get you whatever you need so you simply tap on an item you want, press in how many and I’ll have it by tomorrow.”

Atticus couldn’t help the secret grin that spread across his face at the nickname Riordan gave him after he’d finished his ramblings about his animals and how they came to be with him. He kept his attention on his birds as he listened to the other man speak but nodded his head in agreement that yes, nicknames did sound more special op. He actually got a nickname.

When Riordan then began actually answering his question was when Atticus finally turned to look at him. Bored? He was just bored? Huh, well, he was in agreement that it was quiet the odd reason but never the less Atticus found him liking the man. True no one normal just up and joined a mercenary group because they were bored and wanted to mingle with people of different upbringings but at least Riordan wanted to try and socialize with others, it was respectable in a way.

It was back to business then as the time seemed to drag on too long and Atticus walked over and carefully picked up the tablet Riordan had slid across the table. His eyes flitted across the screen, everything imaginable was on here. He could have whatever he wanted on this screen? Pfft, well that certainly could get out of hand quickly but he’d keep it simple as of right now.

Quickly, Atticus tapped in the items he needed, all for bombs he’d make by hand. If it was ever possible he wanted to make his own explosives. Call it cockiness in his abilities or paranoia of others equipment but he just didn’t truly trust what he hadn’t made.

“That’s all I believe. Thank ya and uh, sorry took up your time.”

Gently Atticus took his small kitten from Riordan, knowing the man probably had places to go, people to see. “You know, people usually take up hobbies like collecting when they’re bored. Just so ya know.” He gave a small grin toward Riordan and tugged Brutus aside to clear a path for him.

Riordan took the tablet back and slipped it into the messenger bag from which he retrieved it, casting a look around the room as Atticus took Sprinkle from his grasp and basically wished him a good day.

“Getting kicked out, already?! Eeesh. I thought I was being a good guest and everything.” The words came out playfully and he stood from the chair he had just recently perched upon, smoothing one hand down the front of his sweater. “My driver will stop by tomorrow with the items you’ll need. If you want them delivered to an address other than this one, you’ll have to let me know. Of course they’ll come in an inconspicuous box. I can probably pack it all into pet food bags without anyone being the wiser. I bet they see you bring in tons of the stuff weekly.”

Laughing at his own comment, he leaned over to give Brutus another quick pet but he paused at the door for one last question.

“You have a ride for the meeting?”

Green eyes shot down to the floor at the playful taunting when Atticus began ushering Riordan towards the door. He wasn’t trying to rush the man but surely there were better places to go and he just didn’t realize it himself yet. Picking up on sarcasm and playful taunting was never Atticus’ forte.

“Food bags would be good.” He nodded after the statement, still looking at the ground until Riordan surprised him, how many times did that make it now?, and asked him another question instead of leaving. “Oh um, no, no I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. Last time was, quite an entrance fer me. Dunno where the place is at all.” He looked up at Riordan’s face then quickly back down to his feet in embarrassment. If he wanted to be completely honest he had just been too awkward to ask someone how he was suppose to get there and decided to just let fate play out.

While Atticus was wishing a hole would appear beneath him and he’d disappear and Riordan was busy stooping down to pet Brutus, the sorely ignored Sprinkle who had recently been placed on the ground took matters into her own paws and stealthily waddled over to Riordan. While he was bent over she reached her small, grey paws up and snagged his drooping front sweater pocket, hefted her small weight up and inside. Ah, much better.

Riordan’s gaze at flickered up at the appropriate time, missing the ninja-like kitten’s movements as he cast a look of amusement at Atticus.

“Surprised they didn’t fill you in or get you an escort like last time. They have your contact information, right?” He couldn’t honestly believe George or her secretary would forget a vital piece of information like that and he looked at the time on his retinal display, noting that they still had a bit of time to get to the meeting without being late.

The thought of George being at the meeting tightened his throat which he loosened with a forced cough and he stood up quickly, gesturing with his thumb over his shoulder to indicate that Atticus should follow him.

“Let’s go. I’ve got the room in the car.” He grinned down at Brutus once again and scratched him lightly on the forehead. “Just not for you, big guy. Stick here and guard the others, okay?”

With that, he spun around and left the apartment, obviously expecting Atticus to follow him. The weight of the kitten in his pocket wasn't unfelt but it was ignored. Rio had actually plotted several times over the course of their conversation to steal the kitten and if Sprinkle wanted to hitch hike instead... Well, who was Riordan to complain?!

A small grin popped up on Atticus’ face as Riordan wished Brutus goodbye and the intimidating looking dog then whined, flopped on the floor, jowels spreading out as he lay down then whined pitifully. “Ah hush ya big babbie, I’ll be back soon.” Reaching down he patted the dog’s back then hurried out of the door to catch up with Riordan.

As they walked out into the cold, Atticus shrugged his beaten up, oversized leather jacket of his dad’s on. “I don’t think they overlooked my getting there just…I’m kinda easy to ferget is all. It’s not their fault.” Self deprecation came naturally to Atticus, just as easy as breathing for the lanky, socially awkward man.

Atticus took a moment to pause and look at Riordan’s nice car before climbing in after it was unlocked. “Thanks for..yea.” Ah, smooth.

Riordan laughed easily and shook his head as he climbed into the driver’s seat. “Men who blow shit up aren’t easily forgettable. Plus, I remembered you.” He left it at that, grinning as he waited for Atticus to settle in and buckle up before he sped away towards McCarthy’s.

The ride was quick. It was apparent why Riordan played the role of driver. He had a lead foot but he was also skilled, weaving in and out of traffic effortlessly as they made their way into more violent areas. Once there, he popped out of the car and Sprinkle made her first appearance, peeping out over the edge of Riordan’s pocket and giving a soft mewl with his paws clutching onto the fabric.

Trying to bite back a grin, Riordan waited for Atticus by the front door of the bar. “This is McCarthy’s. I own it, of course. I’m sure you’ve been thoroughly threatened in some shape or form that if you ever breathe a word about our secret locations to anyone then you will be murdered or maimed in some dastardly fashion, right?”

After praying to Mary, Jesus and all other Gods that Atticus could draw to mind while he rode with Riordan and his high speeds driving, they finally came to a stop where the Irishman began swearing up and down in his thick accent as he stumbled out of the car. “Jesus fucking christ man!” He panted looking at Riordan wide eyed then cleared his throat as the quiet, socially inept man quickly came back to the surface.

“Ahem, uh, yea well not threatened in a direct formal way yet but ya know Falke kind of emanates them threats twenty four seven so I got the picture.” In his previous hysterics he hadn’t seen Sprinkle’s first appearance until he felt something snagging at his zipper and he looked down.

Atticus’ eyes shot up to Rio’s and with the straightest expression plastered on his face, asked. “You stole my cat?” The kitten mewled happily from its warm home, swatting at Atticus’ zipper before burrowing back into the pocket.

Huffing out a puff of air, Atticus’ expression stayed serious. “If ya wanted her ya coulda just asked. She likes ya. She likes tuna but not salmon; remember that.” He then grinned. “They’re gonna shit a brick, bringing a wee one into the meeting, yea?” Atticus certainly didn’t like confrontation, not at all. He did have to admit that this Riordan fellow was infectious though and the Irishman found himself just a bit eager to see how this meeting would now unfold with their new addition.

Riordan adopted a wounded look, throwing both hands into the air in a defensive stance. “I didn’t know she was in there, I swear! She must’ve climbed in while I was petting Brutus or something.” It was the truth, though he didn’t actually know it but his words rang true either way. “You…”

He paused, giving Atticus an odd look as the other man basically just let him adopt the kitten on the spot.

“Huh.”

The entrepreneur wondered how he’d fare taking care of something other than himself and he peered down at his pocket as if pondering implications greater than simply taking a cat home with him before grinning widely at Atticus.

“Maybe we should draw up a custody agreement. Won’t Brutus miss her?” Laughing again, he led the way into the bar, flagging Tank down after they had threaded their way through the light midday crowd. “I’m sure no one could be pissed at me for bringing in a kitten anyway. That’s like being ticked at rainbows. There’s probably some sort of mental issue with either scenario.”

“Can of tuna…” Tank shot him an incredulous look and Riordan kept a stoic expression upon his face. “Oh and a round of coffee for us in there, if you could. Cream and sugar, in case anyone wants it.”

Tank chuckled deeply and shook his head, passing along a pull-tab can of tuna across the counter as he turned to begin brewing his boss coffee. “Everytime you come in here, boss man, you order the weirdest shit. I think the high life is messing with you.”

Atticus chuckled at Riordan’s reasoning of why no one would be angry with him bringing in a kitten. Well, he did have a valid point because honestly who could be angry at Sprinkle’s cute face? Really who could be mad at something even named Sprinkle?

The interaction between the intimidating bar tender and Riordan had him smiling again as Sprinkle was ordered up her very own can of fish. He had to admit he was quite enjoying how this visit was turning out; the first enjoyable social experience in quite a long time and with someone who was far above Atticus’ own social class at that.

They waited the few minutes it took to brew coffee; Atticus watched Sprinkle try to be sneaky as she stretched her tiny arm as far as it would go to pat at the can of fish. He rubbed her paw with the tip of his finger, just focusing on her to ignore the sparse crowd behind him until they were finally making their way to where he assumed the meeting room was.

There were a few others already there, George who seemed to be the leader, one of the women and the computer fellow. He slowly slid into a seat, folding his hands into his lap then training his eyes on the appendages. Well, so much for the enjoyable social experience.

Oddly enough, Atticus’ tension at the change in group dynamics was felt by Riordan as well though not for the same reasons. George was in that room, he knew, and he let Atticus wander in first as Rio helped carry in the cream and sugar with Tank following close behind with a pot of coffee and stack of paper cups and lids.

The tension that Riordan felt had everything to do with the woman at the head of the table and little do to with social awkwardness. The argument they had played through his mind again and again over the course of the past few days as well as the kiss and everything left unspoken. Yet, he was no coward and he laid everything out for George to let her decide the next step. Unless that step she took was backwards, away from him, and there was no way he’d settle for that sort of reaction but if he knew her then he knew that today she would be strictly professional.

At least around the others.

He took the time to pour a coffee for himself, thanking Tank as the bartender left the room once again and he greeted each person in turn before taking a seat that was next to Atticus and directly across from George. His back was towards the door which he despised but he wanted to place himself directly in her line of vision.

“Morning. It would be a bit obvious to mention there’s coffee here for you now if any of you want it.”

He settled the can of tuna onto the table and popped it open then reached into his sweater pocket and placed Sprinkle upon the table next, letting her have a bit of food while they waited for the others.

Setting

Characters Present

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
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#, as written by Celedia
Teagan palmed her face as the latest updates from her operatives flashed across her retinal display. Using the information that the Sphinx had sent to her, she had assigned various fact finding missions to separate researchers and even now, the morning of the meeting with the CKSD, she still had little to nothing to go on. At least not as much information as she wanted to have.

Personal data on all of the bigwigs that had been unearthed, sure. She could tell them who was sleeping with whom and what their general lifestyle was like. She could tell you what their actual personalities were and not just the public front they put on for the tabloids and news agencies… Hell she even came across a few shady dealings but Teagan was a woman that liked to be at the top of her game and she just didn’t feel like she had done her best with this one.

Frowning, she began to pace in front of the windows in her modest apartment, reading over the last minute snippets that were streaming through her visual display and it was only then that she noticed some of her informants were sharing similar information.

Stopping in her tracks, she ordered, “Collate data from Logan, Atriyiu, and Siears.” The three files were separated out and placed on their own screen, laid out side by side for her to see. “Statistical analysis, probability scan.” The program began to pick apart the times and places indicated in the separate reports, narrowing them down until it came up with a 97% probability that each of the incidents were related to one another.

“Save date. Encrypt and lock. Voiceprint unlock, me only.”

A scowl crossed her features as she looked at the time display, cursing softly that the information was incomplete at best and she grabbed her armored leather jacket as she left for the meeting.

This time, when she crossed into McCarthy’s she looked a bit more prepared than she had before. Though she still wore the brass knuckles upon her left hand she also had twin thigh holsters holding matching revolvers, a custom made ulu palm knife attached to her belt, and a retractable taser rod.

Never let it be said that she didn’t have an eclectic assortment of weaponry.

Slipping into the back room, her brows arched high upon her forehead as she saw the kitten standing on top of the table but she knew better than to question it and instead she perched upon one of the empty chairs.

“Good morning, everyone.” She greeted the room at large, her eyes scanning over everyone individually before she leaned in to grab a coffee. “Déjà vu….” Teagan murmured more to herself than anyone else seeing as how they almost appeared to have arrived in the same order as they had during the last meeting, with the exception of the new guy.