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Riordan Devereaux

Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a hell of a lot of entertainment.

0 · 410 views · located in Night City

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

Description

Image
Full Name:
Riordan Devereaux

Nickname:
Rio, to a very select few. Anyone else that calls him that might just get a swift kick in the ass.

Gender:
Male



Age:
30

Sexual Orientation:
Heterosexual

Height:
6'4"

Weight:
220 lbs

Image

Augmentations/Skills:
Most, if not all, of Riordan’s augmentations are for vanity purpose. The rest are simply tech upgrades (like an upgrade that lets him alter his retinas, fingerprints, vocal pattern, etc) or to keep him alive (top of the line medical sensors and nanosurgeons that keep him in good condition and if they fail then an alert is sent to his personal medical team with his exact coordinates for an extraction).


Equipment:
As far as clothing, Riordan dresses well. Some of the more ‘fashionable’ choices he leaves to the trail blazers but he is always in brand name designer duds or a custom-tailored suit. He buys whatever toys he wishes. Once he even bought an orca whale just to say that he owned one until he realized the cost of taking care of the poor thing so then he donated it to an aquarium.


Image

Personality:
Charismatic, confident bordering on egotistical. He believes he is suave and a ladies man and flirts with most any woman whether she’s working with him, for him or even if she’s just a stranger passing him in one of his clubs. He is cordial to everyone unless they give him a reason not to be. He is loyal to a fault and would do literally anything to prevent someone he considered one of his own from getting hurt. He enjoys expensive toys and doesn’t mind sharing the wealth if he benefits in some way.

Being vain and slightly arrogant are his worst traits. He tends to be shocked or think someone is joking when they dislike him or wish him harm on a personal level. He is in the business of entertaining people so who in their right mind would have reason to dislike him?

It’s unfathomable.

History:
What is there to say about Riordan Devereaux that isn’t already tabloid fodder?! He comes from a suburban family and decided that he wanted more. (Isn’t that always the way with people in Night City?) So he bought a club in the combat zone, built it up and made it popular with the locals. With the profits he bought another club and repeated his success. Then he decided to move to the classier side of town and up his game. Now he owns a half a dozen establishments and several buildings for ‘future investments’. Several of his clubs are high end attracting celebrities and debutantes as well as corporate bigwigs while he never forgot his roots by retaining ownership of the biker-style run down brawler bars which started it all.

Riordan has known George for awhile now and he’s quick to point that out to anyone and everyone that will listen with a quick grin and a knowing wink. He owns all the latest toys and he has convinced George to give him a reason to use them. Boats, planes, helicopters, hovercraft, motorcycles… You name it, he’s probably got one in one of his subterranean garages stationed at strategic locations throughout Night City.

So begins...

Riordan Devereaux's Story

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

“Boss man!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, what’s new?”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Merde.”

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

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

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

“Mon Dieu...je ne comprende..”

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

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

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

Imogen held out a hand to him.

----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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




Sirens wailed in the distance.

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

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

Ignorance is bliss, afterall.

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hello Mark." He greeted him.

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

Mostly the Paladin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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




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

Riordan Devereaux.

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

She hung up.

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

She tapped one well manicured nail on the table.

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


Another finger tap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Count me in.”

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

That had been a bitch to clean off.

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

George told herself a lot of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What do you think of the team?"

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

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

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

Progress.

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


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

I will need to be more guarded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth to his worries came out seconds later.

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

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

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

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

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

“You know better than that.”

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

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

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

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

"There is nothing to worry about Riordan."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, that did it.

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

Because it was George, dammit.

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

“Bullshit.”

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

“You’re a coward.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He seethed.

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

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

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

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

“George.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And his voice was ragged when he spoke again.

“This path leads to nothing good?”

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s Riordan. Let me up, eh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have a ride for the meeting?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least around the others.

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
Teagan palmed her face as the latest updates from her operatives flashed across her retinal display. Using the information that the Sphinx had sent to her, she had assigned various fact finding missions to separate researchers and even now, the morning of the meeting with the CKSD, she still had little to nothing to go on. At least not as much information as she wanted to have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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The room remained quiet save the sound of Mark working away. Imogen looked uncomfortable and George did not blame her. That had been beyond awkward.

George kept her eyes on the door though not without the occasional glance at the time. It was getting close.

When the door opened George kept her mask of professionalism on. It wasn’t hard she told herself after all there was no reason not to be professional. Riordan had probably brushed the whole argument off and thought of the kiss like a game. That was fine she could play the ‘it never happened’ game too. Better for both of them. At least that was what she was telling herself as Atticus and Rio entered, Tank right behind them.

Her eyes were on Atticus as he entered and slipped into a chair. “Morning.”

Imogen turned a little in her chair. “Bonjour. Nice to see you both again.” She offered them both polite smiles before turning her attention back to the table. She avoided looking towards Mark.

George’s eyes drifted to Rio and Tank as they put the coffee down along with cream and sugar. Her mouth went dry as her eyes fell to Rio’s face. She didn’t let her gaze stay there long however. She wouldn’t give Riordan the satisfaction of thinking he had shaken her. Her mouth set itself into a line.

There were plenty of chairs open. They were still waiting on some arrivals. George waited as Tank left, nodding her thanks as he did and for Riordan to find a seat. She knew he would do like she herself had done, face the door and eyes able to see the whole room.

It was almost infuriating the way he took his time to get his coffee and George had to bite her tongue to stop herself from snapping at him to sit his ass down.

Imogen waited until Riordan was done with his cup before she poured herself one. Without looking up and almost completely unthinking she addressed Mark.

“Would you like me to pour a cup for you Mr..Mark?”

The carafe was poised to pour a cup as Imogen turned her head to look at him.

George’s eyes went wide though only those looking directly at her would see it as Riordan sat down across from her.

What the hell are you doing? Why are you sitting there? You hate sitting with your back to the door. We both do.

Her eyes bored into Rio.
Anger was very quickly replaced with confusion as George watched him open a can of tuna and produce a small kitten from his sweater.

It took everything in her power to keep her face a mask of placid acceptance as she looked at Riordan, the cat and then at the others.

“Well just a few more arrivals to wait on.”

Imogen looked from Mark to the kitten and then to George. Something in the room had shifted. Everything felt different the moment Atticus and Riordan entered. The scientist deduced pretty quickly that it was Riordan and George that were the source, the rest of them just had to tolerate the change in environment.

“Coffee?” Imogen looked to Mark again.

George pulled her eyes down to her pad. She tapped the screen harder than was needed. She honestly did not know what stunt Riordan was pulling but she had already been flustered enough when she arrived and now with him sitting right there with a kitten it was no better.

A notice flashed on her screen. It was information she had been waiting for. At that moment the door opened and Teagan slipped in.

Imogen smiled. “Good morning to you as well.”

Once the door closed behind her George looked up again. She paused as the first thing she met was Riordan’s face. She swallowed. “Alr-..” She cleared her throat. “Alright hopefully we will have word from Falke’s shortly. First order of business is Kenneth has been diverted to another mission. Something came up that needs his attention and the board decided it was best to pull him from this mission to that one. They feel you are capable team and while he added you are certainly capable without him.”

As she spoke she looked around at the others. Finishing up her eyes landed on Riordan again. You asshole. You are doing this on purpose. George glared at him for a moment. She did her best to ignore the kitten.

“Mark can you brief the team on what you have found? Teagan you are next and from there I want to know what is done and what is still left to do. By the time we are done here I want a plan.”

George crossed her arms and waited. Her eyes drifted to Mark and back to Rio. How can you just sit there and look like that, like you don’t care? Like... She felt her jaw clench to the point of pain.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Varyar
Mark was still trying to forget all the awkwardness he had just been through, when the door opened and people started pouring out of the door all at once. The playboy/driver was there, and so was the Demolition Man and the gigantic bartender.

Mark wouldn’t even care about their arrivals and would continue to work on his pad, the sound of the digital keyboard the only one in the room, had he not smelled the familiar scent of coffee fill up the room. The tapping on the keyboard slowed down gently while Mark waited for the common pleasantries, nodding at both men and waiting for the bartender to leave the room.

The silence returned as the giant of a man left, but there was something else in the room… An almost tangible tension permeating all the room, as if the air itself got heavier as Riordan sat and pulled out something out of his pocket. A strong smell replaced that of the coffee, and Mark frowned. A can of tuna. What was Mr. Playboy doing with a can of…

Then something alive came out of Riordan’s pocket. Mark almost had a heart attack when the small kitten was placed on top of the table and started licking itself as if it was nothing. An actual cat. Not a virtual image, not a hologram, not a robot… A cat. Made of flesh and bone. Weren’t those things supposed to be extinct? Or was that the Dodos?

Mark shook his head, letting the information that an alive animal was in the same room as him sink in. Yet, that did not erase the sour taste in his mouth, the feeling of tension that still engulfed all of them. He was unsure what was it that he was feeling, but it wasn’t normal.

The Sphinx drove that thought away. He was no psychic, and there was no point in trying to guess whether or not everyone was feeling okay. But, just as he had concentrated back into his work, Imogen’s voice froze the blood in his veins once more, as she politely offered him a cup of coffee. An offer impossible to refuse, both because of the coffee and because of the person who handed it.

“Thanks” said the hacker, nodding in acceptance and looking into Imogen’s eyes for a split second before reaching for the cup and taking it faster than it would seem normal. He thought their hands touched when he grasped the hot beverage, but he was too preoccupied in appearing normal for the others to notice.

As the natural taste of caffeine filled Mark like a magic infusion, Teagan arrived. Just as impressive as last time, the young woman now portrayed a small knife that didn’t look like anything Mark had ever seen in his life before… But then again, Mark hadn’t seen much of the outside world. He wondered if she had uncovered anything that would impress him. He hoped so. Mark liked to be impressed, particularly when he was impressed in his own field, and Teagan sort of worked in his field: information. Getting leverage, always knowing more than the person next to you, and using that to your advantage. He was sure the young informant understood that.

As George spoke, Mark felt a little saddened that he wouldn’t have Kenneth around to make his ambience feel more familiar. Now the only people he knew in the team were George, a woman colder than the planet Hoth, Falke, who wasn’t even human, and Imogen… Who was sort of an old friend. They had worked together in the past, but it was brief and never with a chance to actually talk. If that was true, why did Mark feel so strange about her? It made absolutely no sense.

“Thanks, George.” Said the hacker. There was no time to feel strange, now it was time to present the results of his work. He put his pad in the center of the table, turned off the lights with a tap and made the object start emitting a hologram that displayed all he would need to explain the situation to the others.

“As you are well aware, Portel Inc. is a new company. So new, in fact, that their records appear out of nowhere somewhere in the past six months. Nothing can be found of them before that, and they only came to public as a R&D company two months ago, with this kidnapping as their grand entrance in the corporate world. All their projects are secret, as you would expect, but it seems they are focused on pharmaceutical research. Except, in this case, the word “pharmaceutical” applies to military-used drugs that, when you mix a carbon or a hydrogen bond here and there, become highly addictive.”

He let his words in the air, happy with his use of technical terms. Had Imogen realized that he knew what hydrogen bonds were?

“I think you can see the potential in that… Selling reflex-enhancement drugs to the military by day, flooding the streets with cheap ways to get stoned by night. The best from both worlds.”

“Now, they are very careful with who they hire, which makes a bit harder to find everyone in their payroll, especially because they contract out most of their security and supply needs. I did manage to find, however, the board members… I think Teagan has more to say about these fine gentlemen in a moment, so for now I’ll just introduce you to them.”

Pictures of the four board members were now being displayed in the hologram, their names and position right below the images.

“There’s Gregor Miley, the CEO. This guy’s pretty good at hiding his tracks. He, just like Portel, pops out of thin air six months ago, with no reputation and an immense capital. I would need more time to properly figure out who he is and where he came from, but we can’t afford that. For now, we’ll have to stick to this: He’s good, he’s dangerous and he’s ruthless.”

“This lovely lady is Lucille Fuller, their financial genius. She multiplied Portel’s already considerable accounts in a matter of months, getting investors and juicy military contracts. She, too, is good at covering her tracks… but not as good as me, of course.”

There was no point in diminishing his achievements. It was hard, and Mark did it. People should know that. The hologram changed to portrait two more men, their images floating right above their names.

“I found the names of two of the major shareholders… Tutti buona gente! One of them is Patrick Henderson, a name you might recognize. He’s the owner of AcroCorp and sold, negotiated or owns half the very expensive real estate in Night City. The other shareholder is a bit of a common figure around here… A young playboy whose only concerns are his parties and his fat inheritance. Why would he invest in anything, much less a shady company like Portel, is beyond me.”

The hologram shifted back to the four board members.

“Mitchell Vinger is their CTO, but all his credentials are so blatantly fake it’s not even funny. My guess is he’s a mad scientist who lost all his licenses for experimenting with human beings, but that’s just me. His biography, like that of all the board members, is highly protected. I still wonder how did they get such an advanced defense system… Well, moving on.”

“Our last esteemed gentleman is James Koller, head recruiter. He commands all the contracted out personnel Portel uses, and that includes all of the complicated security you guys will have to get through… With my invaluable help, of course.”

The hologram changed again, now to display a satellite image of old, obsolete oil drills in a large field.

“Now, this is interesting: Portel is so concerned about their research being stolen, they don’t even have a fixed lab: they use mobile labs instead. Very sophisticated stuff, all you could ever wish for in a normal lab, except you can pack up and leave anytime you want. They are real popular in areas with constant warfare, but Portel uses them just to stop hackers like me from tracking them down. They failed miserably, as you can imagine. A bit of well placed digital tracers and careless security personnel made finding their address easier.”

Mark zoomed the image in order to display small lights in the middle of the abandoned oil drills.

“This image is their current location: an abandoned oil extraction field, 45 minutes out of Night City. Ten security guards patrol the location at all times, and I already have access to their camera feed. Oh, and one last thing…”

Mark turned the lights back on and grabbed his pad, clearing his throat.

“While analyzing every pixel of footage we recovered, I was able to find the name of the kidnapped researcher, written in his lab coat, of all places. And it was a good find, because the guy apparently doesn’t exist. Someone took their time to erase the name Eric Polten out of the virtual world. That obviously means they’ve got someone good on their side, the same person who set up all these intricate defenses… Someone good at making people disappear. But don’t worry, if he’s half as good as I think he is, he’ll have heard of The Sphinx, and that will make him shit his pants… Pardon the language, ladies.”

Mark turned to Imogen with a smile, excited with the result of his work and forgetting his awkwardness towards the biologist for a moment. He was feeling accomplished, as he always did after a job well done. He looked at all the presents, barely hiding the smile in his face, and then turned to Teagan, giving her room to talk.

“Now, I have to admit, there are things not even the internet is aware of… And for that, we can always count on street wisdom! Teagan, if you could enlighten us…”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux Character Portrait: Falke, Samuel
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#, as written by Celedia
First, Riordan sat back in his chair with his hand moving up to cover the grin that stretched across his lips. Amusement clearly danced in his eyes as he watched the reactions of everyone else at the table and he dared not explain himself since the hacker man that already hated him was in the middle of speaking. Yet he managed to wipe the look off of his face by the time that his eyes met George’s and if anything, he was quite honestly surprised by her reaction. A brow arched slowly upon his forehead as if he were silently asking for her to explain herself. Sure, there were a lot of things that George should he feeling at the moment…. But pissed?! That one he wouldn’t have pegged. He had left the entire decision of their fight in her hands and there was nothing he could do until she voiced it.

Then he would know whether he had to fight to show her the error of her ways or if he would be shocked that she had finally admitted that she had the same feelings for him that he had for her.

His look changed instantaneously and he furrowed his brow, still looking at George. One hand reached up to idly pet poor Sprinkle who was pushing the can of tuna across the table as she joyously nibbled at the tuna within and only when Mark turned the tables over to Teagan did his attention shift. The woman was armed to the teeth and Riordan cast her a sideways glance as she began to drone through with her own info.

“Thanks to Mark, I had a lot of preliminary data to work off of and could dig a little deeper than normal.” She leaned forward, placing both hands on the table before her as she flashed Mark a quick grin before she proceeded.

“Now first, I’d actually like to rewind to SecComp, which Mark actually told us about at the last meeting. I did a little digging and found that they’re pretty flexible. They’ve pulled jobs ranging from single person security to full on infiltration teams in war zones so protecting these bastards at Portel would fall somewhere in the midrange for them. I’ve already forwarded this info to Falke since he’s going to accompany me on the way in but I figured you guys should also know what we’re up against.”

She nodded towards Imogen in particular since they would be escorting the scientist inside of the labs. “This means that they’ll be armed and allowed to use deadly force but they’ll probably underestimate us. They’ll think their big bad security system will keep us out, not knowing that we have the best damn hacker on our side so they’ll be alert but possibly not planning on actually having to use their weapons.”

Teagan paused, letting that bit of information sink in for everyone involved as she pushed off of the table and circled to another empty section, pressing a small button on her wrist unit which displayed 3D holograms of the same figures that Mark had just shown them. The first to be displayed was the CEO. “Once again, Mark gave you most of the info and I’m going to give you the down and dirty on each of the bigwigs. Greg Miley here is a little too clean. High powered and barely a lick of info of him, even on the streets. Word is that he worked on the board for Arasaka long ago.”

Next popped up a picture of the CFO, “Lucille is a piece of work, privately. Not like that’s a surprise because I find most people with money and power are of questionable moral codes…” She barely refrained from casting a glance at Riordan simply because he played well into that stereotype despite her lack of evidence to back up the bias. “Lucille is married, not so happily I assume because she has a boyfriend on the side.” Pictures popped up in place of Lucille’s hologram. The first picture was a wedding photo showing a man with salt and pepper hair and then the next was of Lucille exiting from a penthouse onto an adjoining balcony whilst in mid-kiss with a much younger man sporting blond hair.

Another man popped up as a hologram and she rattled on, trying to make the boring info fly by quickly while still trying to paint the full picture of everyone involved. “CTO, Mitchell Vinger. He actually used to be the head researcher of a company called SovOil. Bastard is a real piece of work and right now he’s the most juicy of the bunch. While at SovOil he helped to develop an additive that was used to sabotage cars. He’s sadistic though and wasn’t happy on just destroying the lives of machinery so he switched gigs and moved to drug research so he could play with live subjects.”

She paused to give the point weight, “Humans.”

“I collated some of my reports from my operatives and I think he’s the one behind this.” Another click of her wrist unit and several news articles flashed in the air, displaying what seemed to be random outbursts of gang violence, including a high number of deaths. “Cops avoid these combat zones so they haven’t linked the deaths yet but a new drug has moved into these areas and suddenly there’s an outbreak of gang members going batshit crazy and murdering the hell out of each other. Cheap stuff, so everyone and anyone is trying to get their hands on it and if this is the outcome then we have another reason to shut this operation down.”

She shook her head, a scowl replacing the more amused look that had graced her features earlier and she switched to an image of James Koller. “Everyone that had info on this guy, hated him. He’s sleaze with a capital S and he’s the recruiter, as Mark told us. He always has an escort of two cyber’d up body guards when he goes recruiting and let’s just say that if the participant doesn’t want to work for Portel… Well, it doesn’t matter much to James. He’s not above blackmail or extortion to get what he wants.”

Pausing, she circled back around to her own seat and grabbed her coffee, taking a long sip to wet her throat before she went down through the home stretch of her spiel.

“Okay, so last two are the investors. Mark sent me the names and Henderson is, once again, scum. He somehow has the city officials paid off so he can ensure his acquisition of any prime real estate that gets onto the market before anyone else knows about it. Yet his public portfolio pretends that everything is on the up and up. He’s squeaky clean on the surface but when you dig deeper you see that it’s not so. He recently bought two apartment complexes but he’s not doing anything with them. Word is that he has a habit of buying up property and letting it sit until the values of all surrounding properties drop rapidly then he’ll buy up that property too and build AcroMalls, high end condos and other useless establishments.”

Drawing in a deep breath, she cast a smile at George, hoping that she was making an impact on the woman as she went over the last investor. “William Minkner. As Mark said, he’s a partier. Trust fund baby with nothing better to do with his life. Into drugs, women, anything recreationally fun that he can get.”

Teagan was startled out of her seriousness as Riordan suddenly erupted into laughter.

“Wil? Wil is an investor of Portel?” He shook his head, laughing again as he pulled back into his seat so his hands could press against his ribs through his sweater. “The guy’s a douchebag. A frequent flier at Crimson.” He looked towards George, momentarily forgetting the fierce look that had been on her face earlier as he asked her, “You remember Crimson, right?” It was one of his clubs, a higher end five floor establishment where your name had to be on a specific list to reach any of the floors other than the main floor. William just happened to have enough cash that he was allowed pretty much anywhere and the trust fund baby usually rented out the VIP lounges for his private get togethers. Riordan hated the man but if he turned away people based on their personality than he probably wouldn’t be in the entertainment business at all.

Riordan continued, “Anyway, he’s an idiot but not exactly what I’d call threatening. He racks up hefty bills but always pays. Never stiffed any of my servers. Though he’s not allowed to have them in my clubs, he’s known to be heavy into the drugs and he is always into the latest, the best. The designer drugs that will set him apart from the crowd. Always accompanied by a flock of groupies, his entourage. If he’s not willing to get caught on vid making a transaction he has a dozen people just waiting to do it for him.”

Shaking his head, he leaned back once again and motioned towards Teagan. “I’m sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to interrupt I just… Wil….” He shook his head and rubbed a hand over his face, trying to hide his surprise that the man was an investor in something so devious.

Teagan paused, mouth agape for a moment before she closed it and shook her head. “Actually.. I was going to say that there wasn’t much on the man outside of the tabloids. Couple of hits in the magazines since he’s one of those guys that’s famous for being rich but that’s it. No real dirt on him.”

Sitting back down in her chair, Teagan crossed her legs and switched off her holographic display before gesturing over to George. “So? What’s the plan of attack then, especially now that we don’t have our stealthy cohort?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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George listened as Mark began going over details on Portel. She tried to make her sole focus Mark and the information but Riordan and his pet were distracting. He was just sitting there.

When he frowned at her, their eyes still locked and his hand idly stroking the kitten George frowned back. Rio seemed to be questioning her but she did not know why. What did he hope to gain from all this? Did he just want her to admit that the kiss had felt more right than anything else in her life? George closed her eyes, her frown dropped. It was then that she realized just how tired emotionally she was. Their fight and the days of dwelling on it afterwards left her feeling exhausted.

Why are you putting so much energy into this? It is Rio. There is no place for emotions. Why does it matter so much? The answer was simple. Because it was Rio and they had known each other a long time. Because she did not trust anyone the way she did him. Because deep down she wanted what he was offering and she couldn’t bring herself to admit it. Because he left the decision in her hands and for the first time in her life George was stuck between what she wanted and what she thought made sense in the world that they lived in.

A small fire of annoyance burned in her eyes as she opened them again and forced herself to pay closer attention to Mark. Work was more important than some kitten, Rio’s kiss or her own personal issues. Work was all that mattered. At least that was what George told herself.

She tapped a finger on the table when Mark talked about Portel’s drug research and their essential double dipping in the market. Interesting. Smart business to hit both. Military contracts were big money but the street value of drugs, especially good ones was far more.

Imogen was frowning and she began to type notes onto her phone. Drugs with dual purpose. Highly addictive. She looked up at Mark. She did not like the sound of this at all. Any number of drugs on the market could be used in this way though it was illegal and typically regulated. If a new company was coming in and somehow skirting the radar on their illegal activities this could mean that they were not doing all their lab testing above board.

She began typing out quick questions she wanted to ask once they had received all the information.

Eyes moved to the hologram. George did not like the fact that some of these people seemed to just appear when the company did. It was done all the time. New identity or staying below the radar until the right moment. Hell, CKSD had appeared almost the same way. Just because she understood it did not mean she liked going against it. It meant that they could be hiding other things, things that might make it harder for her people to do their job.

George made notes of her own, jotting down names. She had business resources that she could tap now that she had identities.

Imogen went pale as Mitchell Vinger’s picture appeared on screen but she said nothing. Her head went down and she began typing again on her phone.

As the last image appeared and Mark kept talking George’s demeanour changed. She looked annoyed though like Imogen did not interrupt.

The images of the area came up. George noted that Mark, as expected had been very good and very thorough.

Imogen looked up just as Mark turned and looked at her. He was smiling and she could not help but return it. He had found out so much and again she was impressed with all that he was able to find. As he turned the floor over to Teagan, Imogen nodded towards him. The awkwardness of earlier was forgotten in the face of all the information and shear amount that he was able to discover.

There was only the briefest silence as Mark sat and Teagan began. The rattling of the tin can on the table made George turn her eyes once more to Riordan. She glanced down at the kitten and then to him. Her head tilted slightly and she raised an eyebrow as if questioning the animal for the first time. What are you thinking? A cat? Part of her wanted to laugh and reach over to scratch between its ear but she could not appear as anything but the professional recruiter she was.

Teagan started to tell them about SecComp and again George was making notes. The team would need to be very well prepared for anything they might encounter trying to get in. Weapons check. Everyone armed.

Imogen set her mouth into a line as Teagan addressed her. She nodded to her. The scientist was glad she had been going to the range like Falke told her too. It seemed more likely now that she might need to at least pull a weapon though she hoped she would not have to use it.

George was impressed on the amount of personal data Teagan was able to find. Between her and Mark there was very little they could not find out about anyone.

As Mitchell’s hologram appeared again Imogen’s hands clenched. She felt a wave of nausea as Teagan showed them reports of gangers high on something and killing each other. That is not how research is done. I tried to tell him that... Teagan had moved on and Imogen forced herself to stop the negative train of thought.

George nodded as Teagan talked about James Koller. Just as when Mark mentioned him George’s face changed to show only the slightest annoyance. She knew him and she could not have disliked anyone more.

She noticed Teagan’s smile and nodded her appreciation for the woman’s work. She honestly couldn’t have asked for better from either of them.

The laughter seemed to throw the whole room off. All eyes moved to Riordan.

He mentioned Crimson and George nodded. She knew the place. It wasn’t a place she enjoyed due to the majority of the clientele but it was a useful resource. Besides it made Riordan a ton of money.

Teagan sat and asked about the next step. George licked her lips. “I am impressed on what you were both able to find out in such a tight deadline. Not surprised, I hired you for a reason but I am impressed.”

She looked to Riordan for a moment, “Nice of you to help fill in the holes. At least we know one of them is only tied into it with the money. Devious enterprise or not he is backing them so anything we know on him is good.”

Her eyes fell on Imogen and the scientist sat a little straighter. She met George’s gaze. The recruiter said nothing.

Imogen spoke up, “I can tell you that I worked with Mitchell years ago, when I was still a student. I was in his lab but this was before he was at SovOil. Even then he preferred live testing to lab research. I never agreed and a few of us even reported some of his research but we were students and in the end he moved on to bigger companies.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment, “He is...sadique. Um...cruel and mean even in the way he talks to people as if he hopes they will cry or be put under pressure by his words. He had a habit of standing very close and looking over your shoulder as you worked. Talking low in your ear and questioning everything you did. Or he would take mice and....”

Imogen shook her head. “He is not someone I wish to meet again if it can be helped and I am now fearful at what we will find in this lab, the research they are doing. You say they are doing military drug research and testing it on the streets. That would be Mitchell and there is no telling what I might find once I sort through it all.”

George nodded. “Alright so we know security will be high and dangerous. We know that they are researching something that is sure to make our stomachs turn but this is about fulfilling contracts. We know the people involved and I am hoping that other than a few researchers and some surprised security we won’t have any issues.”

She ran a hand through her hair and sat back in her chair. “Their recruiter and I have had dealings before. I do not like him or his tactics. I also have some corporate contacts and now that I have names I will see what I can find on that end.”

George looked around the table. “For now we plan this with just us. With Kenneth gone and Falke currently AWOL we have to work around them and cannot delay. I will deal with Falke. Number one is everyone goes armed. Everyone.”

Her eyes moved over Imogen, Atticus and Riordan. “This isn’t just a fill in if needed deal anymore. Imogen needs to get in and Mark is on security so he can’t go in. Teagan, Riordan and I will be Imogen’s security. Mark is working on a program that will allow Imogen access to the computer system. Mark, without Kenneth you are going to have to walk me through how I bypass the external security to give her access to the lab without setting off alarms. Door scanners, badge pass whatever it is you show me and I will get her in.”

George’s gaze moved to Teagan and Rio. “You two will be on guard detail ensuring that we are safe. Imogen has to go into the lab alone. Two on point outside, me on the door, Mark in the vehicle monitoring it all. Atticus you are our security around the van. No one comes near it while Mark is alone in there.”

She stood and looked at them all. Her eyes locked on Riordan and she could tell that he was not going to be impressed with her being hands on now. He had already mentioned he wanted her to stay and now she had just upped her involvement. Too much was at stake for her to just sit back.

“I do not want to bring in a new member to the team, not at this point. I think we can do this. We get Imogen in, she gets what she needs to get from the system and gets out. From there we take care of taking out anyone we need to and then Atticus brings the whole building down. But...”

George inhaled. “One contract specifies that the researcher and all lab workers need to be terminated.” She looked around at all of them. “I need to know now can you do that? The first contract will be done by simply getting the research. The second is research copied and all people involved wiped out. The third is research copied and everyone and the building destroyed.”

She paused. Kenneth was the man she had planned on pulling the trigger as it was part of his specialty. If they couldn’t do it then she would either have to drop the contracts or bring in someone else.

“Can you all do that? Or do you want me to call in another who can?”

She was asking them all to kill the scientists and she knew what she was asking was a lot. George did not know if she could answer yes to that. She would not hold it against them, she just wanted to know honestly how far they were willing to go and if she needed another on this team.

Imogen spoke up first. "If I was threatened I could do it but for a contract non. I am a scientist. I vote you bring on someone who can do that job."

George nodded, "Thank you for the honesty."

She looked to the rest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Varyar
After his presentation, Mark sat down to watch Teagan’s. He was interested to see her skills, especially the things she had found that The Sphinx himself could not. He always wondered what the exact limits of the internet were, and how to break them.

This, however, was a limit he would never cross: leaving the comfort of his coffee-stained keyboard for a more direct approach. The mere idea of having to put someone against a wall and ask in a rough manner what he desired to know send shivers down his spine. Still, he was fascinated with those who could do it, and do it well.

She too couldn’t find much on the mysterious Gregor Miley, which unsettled Mark. How could someone stay hidden from both spheres of information? Disturbing. As for the CFO, the woman had a lover, which was hardly a surprise, but still something The Sphinx would never find through his ways.

Their CTO was a bad person, that, Mark knew, but that he was a sadistic, demented neo-Nazi? Whoever ran background checks at Portel needed to be fired urgently. Or perhaps that was exactly what they were looking for…

And then there was Koller, a ‘sleaze’, as the informant put it. The hacker could easily agree to the term. She moved on to the investors, and Mark listened in closely. He couldn’t find all that he wished on them, and perhaps Teagan could fill in the gaps.

Henderson was involved with all sorts of wrongdoing, and even though Mark suspected he was bribing officials and the sorts, he didn’t really find anything solid, apart from the virtual rumors. As if the world needed more AcroMalls… Islands of solitude, where one could completely forget the disgrace and misery that surrounded them while being fed with flashing lights and sweet colors, completely drunk with illusions. The Sphinx hated them, and by extension, their owner.

When Teagan moved on to William Minkner, Mark was surprised to see that not only Riordan knew him, but further still despised the playboy much like himself. Perhaps there was some sense in the driver, after all.

At first, Mark couldn’t see the connection between a party boy and a shady drug dealer company, but then when Riordan mentioned Minkner’s refined taste for narcotics, it all became clear. What better way to get the best of the market than to invest directly on it? Just the kind of decision a teenager with obscene amounts of money would make.

Imogen also jumped in, and when she mentioned having worked with the 21st century Josef Mengele, something boiled in Mark’s insides. How could something so pure have come in contact with such evil? The hacker felt like he could kill for a second, but quickly calmed down and rushed put such dangerous thought away.

As if the past haunted each and every one of them, George too said she knew a member of Portel, James Koller, the recruiter. In a normal contract, so many personal connections would deem the agents unreliable, but it was understandable in this case, since Portel had so many contacts in the information world, and that was the world CKSD lived in.

George then asked the team the question that would have to be asked sooner or later: Were they willing to kill? That was the utmost question. The Sphinx had never killed directly before, and even though he facilitated the deed, many times simply by unlocking a door or turning off a light for Kenneth, he had never considered that murder. This time would be no different in the hacker’s part, since he would be inside the van at all times, but he still felt it was wrong to allow someone like Imogen to do it, even though it would be remotely as always.

Mark nodded to himself, convinced that was the best course of action.

“Well, I’m not sure if my vote counts, since I won’t be doing anything other than turning off alarms and opening doors, but if I had to choose… I’d say bring someone else. But it’s up to you guys; you’ll be the one doing the dirty work anyways.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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#, as written by Celedia
Riordan’s mood shifted quickly throughout the remainder of the meeting. In that small span of silence between the two monologues from the information gatherers, George had cast her gaze down at Sprinkle and then in his direction as if to ask what he was thinking. His grin widened and he shrugged a bit, indicating to her that it wasn’t planned at all but without speaking to one another that was the only portion of the story she was going to get.

Teagan went through her entire spiel before George reeled them all in with a closer and at the mention of Imogen’s security team, his grin switched to a threatening scowl. George? On the infiltration team? Fuck no. He would bring up his… issues with the switch but it wouldn’t be in front of the rest of her team. He knew how it was to be called out in front of people that were supposed to look up to you and trust you and especially on a mission such as this, he didn’t want to leave anyone doubting her decisions.

So he waited quietly until she presented the question and his jaw was now clenched tightly as his eyes captured hers, letting her know without saying a word that they would be talking later. In fact, he was so sure of the fact that he had used his neural communicator to contact his driver already and arrange for a ride home for Atticus, if he so chose to take it. The poor demolition man needed a ride home and Riordan certainly wasn’t going to make him hoof it the entire way back to the dock district.

“Can you all do that? Or do you want me to call in another who can?”

“Well, I’m not sure if my vote counts, since I won’t be doing anything other than turning off alarms and opening doors, but if I had to choose… I’d say bring someone else. But it’s up to you guys; you’ll be the one doing the dirty work anyways.”

Teagan laid her hand over Mark’s and patted it briefly then withdrew so he wouldn’t feel awkward at her touch. “Your vote counts. You’re an integral part of this team, Sphinx.” Her reassuring words were followed by a flicker of a smile as Riordan answered George’s question.

“I’ve been to the shooting range like our Imogen, here…” He gestured to the scientist and smiled before folding his hands back upon his lap. “But I’m no Beaumont and I am no Falke. I will do anything and everything to protect the team but I don’t have the experience.”

Interjecting at this point, Teagan added her own viewpoint. “I am quite willing, of course, but it won’t be a one woman job. I’d prefer the back up.”

Riordan fell silent, staring at George once again as the information broker continued to speak.

“I’m not stealthy.” As if to prove her point, she drew one of her revolvers and spun it around her finger until it came to rest with her finger upon the trigger. The safety was on but she still pointed it away from people, towards one of the walls. “And if I have to draw these then we’ll probably alert others. Using my other weapons, I can take out perhaps two at a time silently but if we run into a group, we’re screwed.”

She holstered her revolver again and folded her arms across her chest, casting her look at each of the others.

“If the team can get respirators, I can get access to some sleeping gas grenades which will help contain the problem a bit more than normal.”

Riordan nodded to Teagan and mentioned, “I can get access to… Pretty much anything we need as long as it isn’t black market.” He cast a quick and knowing grin at Atticus, seeing as how the bomber already had seen his catalog of incendiary components.

“Just let me know what we need.”

Though the missions that CKSD gave him were initially received to alleviate his boredom, he had to admit that deep down he probably actually volunteered because of George. CKSD was her life and he felt that by implanting himself into every aspect of her life that she'd be forced to reckon with him instead of brushing him aside constantly.

He leveled his gaze at her and silently willed the meeting to end.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Teagan Bannister Character Portrait: George Delaney Character Portrait: Imogen Trondeau Character Portrait: Atticus Lawley Character Portrait: Mark "The Sphinx" Parnasse Character Portrait: Riordan Devereaux
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George was silent as Mark made his stance known, followed by Teagan reassuring him that his vote did indeed count.

A team already and not even in the field yet. I can work with this. Inwardly she was overjoyed at how well they had come together and were working out. It was more than she had hoped for professional yes but this was more. They were being personable and incorporating each other.

George had not missed the change in Riordan’s face. The smile had fallen to a full on scowl. She knew the reason behind it but did not say anything. The look he gave her spoke volumes. He seemed convinced that it would be up for discussion, hell he seemed convinced there was going to be a discussion. George pulled her eyes from him and focused on Teagan.

So far the answers were what she expected. Imogen, Riordan and Mark were not made for killing. Defending when needed yes but not taking on a target.

George could feel Riordan’s eyes on her even as he spoke about getting what the team needed. Only once did it flicker to anyone else. She did not look at him.

There seemed to be options and satisfied George stood straight. “Here is the deal. I know at least one gun not currently on a mission. I will work on getting us another but there are no guarantees.”

Her eyes moved to Rio, meeting his hard look. ”Riordan you have two days to get the respirators and anything else Teagan needs. Everyone needs a weapon, even you Mark just in case all else fails and someone gets to the van.”

George placed her hands on the back of her chair. “Mark will finish his program. We go in two days. Pick up at 0700. We arrive on site and move out from there. Teagan, Rio, our new people and I head to the facility. Atticus watches the van. The four take watch and subdue any incoming targets. I will break the electronic security with Mark’s guidance and act as Imogen’s back up until she is in. Imogen, you go in and work on the computer.”

She looked around to ensure they were all following the plan. George silently curse Fawke for not being there. Her job was not planning missions, that was part of his.

Imogen was listening intently. The plan sounded simple enough but she was not sure it would go off as easily. Many things were easier in theory than once they were actually tested.

“Once Imogen is out it will be time to take out any and all targets. The whole thing needs to come down. No one left standing but us. Teagan once the team has respirators you do what you need to do and everyone will back you up. Now once we all make it back to the van Atticus will take the place down and fulfill the last part of the contract. We need to be out of there before the authorities or any of their own can come to the scene.”

George stood there in front of her team. “Any questions, concerns or clarifications? If there are not then meeting adjourned and I will see you all in two days time at pick up.”

She looked at Riordan. He clearly had a lot more to say and it was all going to be directed at her though she knew it would be done once the others left. She was glad the place was sound proofed. George began to form a few choice words for him in her mind.

Imogen looked contemplative for a moment. “I understand the plan. I will be ready in two days time. I am going to do some research about what they are doing so I can focus on those files first and know what I am looking for. I trust Mark’s program will be done and working as he wishes in two days time.”

The scientist smiled at the man. The idea of going in and carrying a weapon made her nervous but at least his skills did not. He would make the program work the way he wanted and would not be happy until it was done. “If I am needed for anything I will be at home. I will also send you anything I can remember about Mitchell and research he has done. I will see what journals or articles I can find as well.”

George nodded to her then waited for the rest to add their voices with anything else.

Imogen looked around and waited to see if anyone else had anything to say before standing and making her exit.