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Johan Halvorsen

0 · 334 views · located in Night City

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

Description

Image
Full Name:
Johan Halvorsen

Gender:
Male

Age:
33

Sexual Orientation:
Heterosexual

Height:
6'7"

Weight:
257 lbs

Augmentations/Skills:

Enhanced Thermal Skinweave- Protects the user from extreme temperatures. Enhanced to include durability so cuts, abrasions, burns are ignored unless severe.

Optitect eyeshield- A third lid that moves horizontally across the eye, is transparent, and keeps dust, chemicals, and contaminated water from damaging the eye.

Speed Grafts- Makes him faster than his 6’7” frame would otherwise allow.

Neural Bridge- Grants the user ambidexterity.

Muscular and Osteoenhancements- The basics, just to enhance his normal strength, durability, and endurance.

Equipment:
-Titanium sword-
-Hand crossbow with normal or explosive bolts-
-Militech S-442 12ga. shotgun-
-Arasaka MLD-7 micro-missle launcher with an underbarrel assault rifle-


Image

Personality:
Johan is overly protective, that is the best way to describe him. Silent, brooding. He isn’t one to speak simply to fill the silence but he will respond to questions and interject with his own viewpoint. He dislikes spontaneity and people that don’t go into situations with at least a basic game plan.

He can rub some people the wrong way because he has been used to issuing orders for most of his adult life and he frequently barks out commands when in volatile situations. He processes things quickly but allows for people to think he is slow-witted so he can gain the upper hand by being underestimated.


Image

History:
Johan served in the war and quickly rose in rank because there was something about his aura that made people trust him and every order that he gave. Soon he was the leader of a small SpecOps task force that went where no other teams would go. During one such mission, they were embedded deep behind enemy lines to extract a target and information. The target died in transit, the information was buried deep within the wetware in the man’s head so they decapitated him and called for an extraction that never came.

It took the squad four hours to realize that not only were their calls going unanswered but they had been already listed as KIA despite the fact that the six of them were very much alive.

They decided to push through to safety on their own and in the end only Johan and one other member made it. Sensing corruption, they decided to seek the reason for their abandonment quietly. Using their contacts, they found out that the man they had been sent after was a dangerous war criminal as well as the only son of one of Militech’s highest executives. Fearing the backlash that would ensue if the mission objectives were uncovered, the military decided to cover their own asses by claiming the SpecOps team had defected and then died in the field.

Johan and his teammate then had the information downloaded from their target’s internal harddrive and sold it on the black market to the highest bidder. Splitting the cash, they went their separate ways and Johan found himself still taking on the role of protector in every subsequent job. He started out as a bouncer for a local nightclub then was spotted by a trust fund baby and was hired to be his bodyguard. That lasted a couple of years until he was offered a better position with a corporate exec. Then CKSD came knocking on his door and he couldn’t resist the temptation of being able to work with a team again. Though it wouldn’t be the same as his days as a soldier and he would get new teammates frequently, he still signed on.

So begins...

Johan Halvorsen's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Antony Largo Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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#, as written by Celedia
Procuring items at the last minute was always a hassle, even with a boat load of cash and amazing charisma. Not that respirators, explosives or weaponry even caused people to bat an eye anymore. Hell, his one contact had been more surprised about the elaborately modded RV that he had bought rather than the automatic weapons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I-"

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

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

George felt her pulse race. It is just dinner.

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

"What time?"

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

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

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

So why did it feel like so much more?

"I can be there in half an hour."

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

"Would you prefer to go out?"

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

Baby steps.

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

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

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

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

"Shit"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I doing this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we’re back to speaking about work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could do blunt and honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George started to stand, taking her plate in hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victory.

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

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

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

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

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

"I will see you."

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






Morning of the mission

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

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

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

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




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

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

Oh god, behind them…

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

“How… How did you…?”

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

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

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

“Hopefully you have everything you’ll need?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

She let the exclamation escape in a single breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George stood as Rio and Teagan did.

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

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

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

George looked them all over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She stood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She reached out and gently took it from him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Deal?"

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

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

"Bien! It is a date then."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

"I am all giddy with anticipation"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George took his hand and stepped onto the first step.

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

George was tense.

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

She looked over at Mark.

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

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

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

Outside-

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am in."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is there a problem with the doors?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”That was too close.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How long?"

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

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

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

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

"Oasis do I need to do anything else?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside the lab-

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

In the RV-

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

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

She rubbed her hands together and waited.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Johan Halvorsen
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#, as written by Celedia
After playing the role of sniper for the first two targets, Teagan decided that she could no longer wait on the outskirts of the southern edge of the playground location. All of the teams seemed to be heading vaguely to the west which meant that the new Viking guy would get all the action. Which, in its own way, was a blessing. At least the poor rich guy, Rio, on the eastern perimeter should be safe.

Sticking to the tall grasses, Teagan crept quietly until she was only a few yards behind Johan and she heard an amused, masculine voice sound on her comm.

“Couldn’t stick to your own area? You have to come interfere with mine?” Johan’s voice remained low as he crouched near a large tree, awaiting the arrival of the first patrol which continued to creep closer and closer to their deaths.

“I meant it before when I said no one is allowed to have all the fun.” Teagan unclasped the small leather sheath containing her ulu palm knife and she held it loosely as her enhanced optics scanned the area once again. Switching to thermal imaging, she did another sweep to ensure that no one had attempted to sneak up on their location before switching back to normal sights.

Nodding her head to the first patrol, she grinned and murmured. “I call dibs. You can have the guy behind these two.” And before Johan could so much as part his lips to argue, Teagan had slunk into the vegetation once again and disappeared from sight.

“Women…” He grumbled as he moved forward. If George had hired the woman than obviously she had some skill but he was going to move quickly to intercept the next patrol so they wouldn’t be alerted to the fact that their perimeter had been breached.




Too late.

Gunshots fired within the laboratories and since they weren’t exactly designated as sound proof, the noise alerted the two single patrols, who just happened to be the men closest to the building. Their paths changed and Johan saw the first man raising his hand as if to hit a button upon his communicator to inform outlying teams but the Norse warrior got to him first. His enhanced speed carried him to the security guard faster than the man could draw his weapon and Johan used his sword to slice through the man’s neck, decapitating him. The torso crumpled to the ground as the head rolled off in the opposite direction.

“Patrol one, eliminated.”




Riordan, in the meanwhile, had no one on his side of the perimeter. Instead, he had found what appeared to be a helipad and he set about investigating the area to see if there were any signs of a hidden garage or an invisibility shield on a vehicle as the ones he had on the two they had brought with them today. He wasn’t so arrogant as to believe that he was the only one with the technology and the members of the board of Portel were rich enough to own such extravagant tech.

His search was interrupted when both Imogen and Mark began the interior mission and Riordan’s gaze circled his area as he listened to their chatter. Tension rode his musculature and he was half tempted to move back towards the RV or towards the lab when everything seemed to be settled once again.

Only then did he speak on the comm for the first time since leaving the MCU. “Do we have eyes in the sky? I found a large flat area which could be used to land aero-transport.”




Teagan wasn’t quite as bored as Riordan appeared to be.

Intercepting the first patrol was exhilarating. The surprise on the men’s faces didn’t last long as she used her ulu knife to slice at the first man’s throat. Blood sprayed everywhere, landing upon both herself and the guard’s comrade and the injured man clutched wildly at his throat as if he could staunch the bleeding that way.

Only then did the second man finally reach for his weapon and to Teagan’s disappointment, he had only a small hand gun with laser sighting and a stun option. “Really? I was told to expect better from the lot of you.”

Switching her knife to her left hand, she fluidly drew her own revolver and fired a shot into the man’s skull. Once again, blood and fleshy bits rained upon the surrounding area and Teagan lifted her arm, dragging her jacket across her lips and eyes.

“Two minutes in and I already need a shower. I call this day a success.” She murmured, forgetting completely about the comm attached to her jawline and she slipped back into the brush to find the men in camo that she had spotted earlier.




Johan hadn’t the time to use his sword for the second single patrol. The man was too far away for melee weapons so Johan withdrew his raven crossbow, still trying to cause as little noise as possible until he was assured that the scientist had made it out alive, at least. Switching to normal bolts, he fired three- one into the man’s eye socket, one into his neck and another into his chest.

“Patrol two, eliminated.”




“Ohhh I forgot that whole part.” Teagan teased in a low, breathy whisper. “My patrol is down. Heading for camo guys next.”

Part of her wanted to play it safe and use one of her sleep gas grenades upon the trio of men but on the other hand, her missions seemed few and far between so she should get her kicks in where she could.

As she kneeled in the brush, contemplating, she heard a rustling sound behind her and she turned quickly, raising her revolver in the direction of the noise only to see Johan working his way through the brush.

A frown curved her lips but disappeared quickly as it had appeared. Using hand signals, she motioned in the direction of the patrol, holding up three fingers then motioning that they were slightly spread out. Pointing to herself, she indicated that she would take the two on the right and he could go for the one on the left.

Another silent arch of his eyebrow was the only reply Johan allowed before parting ways with the information broker. As if they had planned the attack in more detail, both sprang from the underbrush at almost the same time. One man, quicker than his comrades, rose his rifle and fired off a shot which pierced through Johan’s right shoulder. Having been shot before, the wound did little to stop Johan’s attack and he simply switched his weapon to his left hand. The whole reason for that ambidextrous enhancement meant that he was just as skilled with either and his sword sliced through the man’s midsection then came back around to cut the man along the legs.

Teagan had finished her guards quickly enough. Her revolver punching holes through each man’s chest cavity in the blink of an eye and as they stood surrounded by carnage, Johan took the time to radio back in for their next directives.

“Last patrol has been eliminated.”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

Come on...come on...

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

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

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

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

In the lab-

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the RV-

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

Outside-

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

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

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

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

In the Lab-

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

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

"Apologies Doc"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Fine. Thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A gurgle followed.

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

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

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

"He will be along momentarily."

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

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

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

In the RV-

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

It was horrible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do this quickly people.We have problems."

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

"Arasaka has fucked us over."

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

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

And suddenly, Mark's wish came true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----

Outside-

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

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

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

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

Now his laser sight was on George.

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

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

Imogen gasped. “No!”

Two guns went off.

In the lab-

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

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

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

"3 down."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[b]In the RV-


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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside-

George hit the ground in a heap.

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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