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Teagan Bannister

What did you want? And how much did you say you would be willing to pay?

0 · 673 views · located in Night City

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

Description

Image
Full Name:
Teagan Bannister

Nickname:
“Phoenix”- Given to her because of the rather large phoenix tattoo that spans her entire back.

Gender:
Female


Age:
25

Sexual Orientation:
Heterosexual

Height:
5'7"

Weight:
132 lbs

Augmentations/Skills:

Armor/Health Enhancements:
Subdermal armor has been added throughout her body and she has also had an advanced muscle and bone lacing done to increase her strength and endurance without the use of full cybernetic prosthesis.

Eye Augmentations:
Infrared, Thermal Imaging, Teleoptics, Micro-optics, Color shifting. Infrared allows her to see in the dark. Thermal lets her see heat imaging. Teleoptics lets her see things far away as if she were using a pair of binoculars. Micro-optics allow her to see things at a enhanced level of detail. Color shifting was simply for cosmetic reasons at first though now she uses them as a way to aid her disguises.

Sensory Augmentations:
Tactile, audio and olfactory senses have been enhanced at a minimum as most other humans though she has added a Voice Stress Analyzer so that she can tell when people are lying to her. In her line of work, it was worth the money.

Equipment:
Teagan wears what she considers to be normal street clothing. T-shirts, corsets or henleys beneath an armored jacket with either leather pants, cargo pants or jeans. She always has at least three weapons on her at any given time with her favorite combination being her twin 454 magnum revolvers with 30mm grenade launcher attachments in matching thigh holsters along with some sort of blunt or bladed weapon in case she ends up in a melee fight.


Image



Personality:
Teagan is a woman of many faces. She has experienced the dark side of human nature and has learned that manipulation can get you just as far as being physically threatening, though she much prefers to skate through any situation without putting forth a lot of effort. To those that she likes and trusts, she lets her true personality shine through a bit. Showing her self to be teasing, humorous, or sarcastic though she is serious when she needs to be.

To those that she doesn’t know or simply doesn’t trust, she will put on whatever countenance makes them feel most at ease and perhaps in the process she can gain some information about them which she can later sell to the highest bidder.

History:
Teagan was raised by her father with the help of a nanny since her mother died shortly after her birth. He was a prominent scientist who created prototypes of cybernetics that are still around today. Sadly, he was never satisfied with just creating his augmentations; he had to test them too. When Teagan was 14, her father had installed his 23rd enhancement. He possessed sensory alterations, cybernetic limbs, chameleon skin grafts, the works. Now that he was more machine than man and his mind was no longer his own, he ended up being the perpetrator of a massacre. In the end he killed 27 people, left an additional 14 wounded and he was brought down by a special tactical unit designed to handle people affected by cybernetic psychosis.

This left Teagan with no adult supervision as the nanny was dismissed through lack of funds and the police locked her father’s bank accounts until she turned 18, putting the credits in a trust for her though they ended up taking out a hefty amount to cover damages. They tried to put her into a group children's home but she quickly ran away, not wanting to be cared for by the same people that had murdered her father. (As she saw it, anyway.)

For four years, Teagan had to scrounge to get by. Living on the streets, she worked her way into the good graces of a local street gang and though at first she was timid and a follower, she soon grew to realize that she was smarter than the rest of them. Using equal doses of intimidation, persuasion and brute strength she ended up becoming the leader of the ragtag group of orphans and soon channeled their thievery and energy into an underground business. Running packages, smuggling, information brokering, they had a run of it until she hit the age of 18 which allowed her to move up slightly in the world. Teagan bought a studio apartment for herself and began expanding her network slowly so that now her informants are vast and varied.

Still, she wishes to climb higher and higher and when approached to join the CKSD, she jumped at the chance to make more creds than she had ever thought possible.

So begins...

Teagan Bannister's Story

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: 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.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I-"

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

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

George felt her pulse race. It is just dinner.

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

"What time?"

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

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

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

So why did it feel like so much more?

"I can be there in half an hour."

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

"Would you prefer to go out?"

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

Baby steps.

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

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

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

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

"Shit"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I doing this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we’re back to speaking about work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could do blunt and honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George started to stand, taking her plate in hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victory.

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

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

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

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

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

"I will see you."

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






Morning of the mission

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

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

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

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




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

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

Oh god, behind them…

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

“How… How did you…?”

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

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

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

“Hopefully you have everything you’ll need?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

She let the exclamation escape in a single breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George stood as Rio and Teagan did.

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

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

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

George looked them all over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She stood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She reached out and gently took it from him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Deal?"

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

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

"Bien! It is a date then."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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