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Felix Grelin

Anything for the cause, my friend. Anything for the cause.

0 · 286 views · located in 22nd century Earth

a character in “Spireheart Network: Redux”, as played by fallout539

So begins...

Felix Grelin's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiana Shamshiri Character Portrait: Vasska Kresh Character Portrait: Selena Delacroix Character Portrait: Felix Grelin
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#, as written by Ion


Image

New York City, 7:15 a.m.



“Ya,” the woman bit off in a rich contralto, “I am aware.” Her accent, the rolling, slightly guttural one of a very particular wasteland tribe, made her clipped words sound all the more imposing, perhaps, impatient as they already were. The voice on the other end of the phone, masculine but clearly frightened, trilled for a few seconds after that. Her eyes narrowed, sweeping the central room of her apartment with displaced suspicion. The rat was trying to scurry out from underneath her, and she didn’t like it. Cowardice didn’t sit well with Kiana, and they needed this shipment to come through, or they were going to be unarmed for too long. Operations were starting to pick up, and they needed every spare bullet they could come by, to say nothing of the guns themselves.

“Ahmq nfran,” she hissed lowly in her native tongue, then shook her head. Not worth becoming angry about. Hanging up on the call, she tossed the phone onto the sleeping mat on her floor and threw open her closet. Now she was going to be late for the meeting this morning, and the bearer of bad news, no less. Such was the lot of someone in her position, perhaps.

Shrugging into her trademark trenchcoat, Kiana tied up her hair and pulled on her preferred boots, lacing them with deliberate, quick motions. Some things, you could rush. Making sure you wouldn’t trip at a vital moment was not one of them. Returning to her kitchen, she poured the abandoned hot water into a thermos rather than her usual cup, dropping the teabag in after it. She didn’t like coffee, though most of her comrades seemed to live on it. Well, except Vasska. He just ate animal carcasses—sometimes almost entire ones in a sitting.

Treading with cat’s paw softness down the rickety stairs of her fire escape, she jumped the last story or so and landed in a crouch, threading through the alleyways and backstreets that were not so closely monitored by Signet. And why would they? Nobody up there in the big, shiny buildings with official titles and more resources than sense wanted to see a bunch of starving homeless people and criminals, now did they? For these were the only people Kiana passed on her journey. Several of the bums tipped their hats or threw her a half-mocking salute, and she simply grinned in response. These people always had their eyes open and ears to the ground—the best intelligence network she could think of, anyway. The criminals scattered, having learned some years ago that tall, dark woman was not a potential victim, and neither was anyone else if she happened to be around at the time.

Reaching a particular manhole, she glanced around a few times before lifting the cover, climbing down the first few steps of the ladder before replacing it over the top and sliding down the rest of the rungs, to land lightly on a slightly-damp stone floor. The main sensation in this place was auditory: a steady dripping of water. Counting bricks, she at last came upon what she was looking for—a nearly unnoticeable divot in the cement walls. Sliding her nondescript identification card into it, she took it out when it was returned, slipping it into a pocket of her coat and stepping forward as the wall slid into the ground. Inside the second room was the retinal scan. She hated these; every time, she wanted to blink when she should be holding still.

Whether she was getting better at fighting that instinct or the software had learned to compensate, she was let in after one scan this time, and ascended a staircase to the main hideout through its secondary entrance. Just in time, apparently, as she heard Felix inquire after her location and Vasska’s snarky answer. Blinking languidly, the Lieutenant approached the other body-manipulating elemental from behind soundlessly, casually planting a booted foot onto his back when he bent over one of the crates. “Perhaps, if you were less talking and more listening, you would know where the ‘stupid chick’ was,” she speculated, her tone just as deadpan as her catlike movements would suggest. Returning her foot to the ground, she shot a glance at the boss.

“Bad news, Felix. The weapon dealer you found, ya? He is… pancaking.” She meant to say ‘waffling,’ but occasionally Kiana confused her English-language idioms, and in this case picked the wrong breakfast food. “I do not think he will provide what he promised, the rat.” She looked displeased by this, if a few steps short of angry. She was far from as volatile as some of her comrades, after all.




Image

New York City, 6:45 a.m.



In Signet’s New York, the sun rose always at six a.m., or so it seemed. Whatever the case, Lena rose with it, most of the time, and spent the next forty or so minutes preparing for her day. Daily preparations were a routine, honed almost to an art form, and one that she found soothing, in their own way. Just as well, when the rest of her life had a tendency to be anything but. Every day at the office was something new or unexpected, and that was to say nothing of the rest of her life, which was quickly unraveling in front of her eyes. Sometimes, she almost wished she could return to the days when she’d been so flawlessly together at all times, controlled, cool, and always collected.

In the end, though, that wasn’t what she wanted, and she knew it well enough.

Taking up the briefcase beside the desk in her room, she used her other hand to collect the jam-coated toast from the plate on the counter, slipping her feet into the red heels by the door. Violet may have been her mother’s color, but she’d always preferred red, after all.

As design would have it, she lived no more than ten minutes from her office building, one of Signet’s so-called ‘field offices.’ From the outside, it was rather nondescript, if a little nicer-looking than most, a sky-cutting spire, perhaps made to be reminiscent of that which it stood to protect. The entire structure was of steel frame and glass panel, though reinforced so many times it was entirely unlike what most would think of when it came to glass. Her team made its home on the thirty-third floor, and this morning, she was alone in the elevator. That was quite normal; she was always the first person into the office, like clockwork.

These few minutes, before anyone else arrived, gave her a chance to situate herself in front of her bank of consoles and read any reports that had come in overnight. Today, there was just one, something about Delta Team zeroing in on an arms dealer suspected of supplying the Network. Interesting, but it could wait until later. With a flick of her fingertips across her glass interface, she sent it to one side of the curved screen that synchronized all of her hardware, and tapped something else, bringing up a list of personnel files, then the next brief. This was what she needed; the field team was going to be sent out today.

Glancing over the brief, she sighed. They were going to need to split the team then, which meant twice as much work for her. Not an issue—she was more than capable of handling the extra load, and she knew it. It was simply that the fact that so much work lay before them meant that the Network was gaining ground. An undesirable circumstance at best.

“Recon and infiltration… now, who to send where?” The team had a variety of talents, and part of her job was assessing those relative to the mission data she received and making recommendations to Mr. Serafino, the leader of Alpha Team. Well, for a start, Mr. Turinn would be valuable for the reconnaissance…

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiana Shamshiri Character Portrait: Porter Buchanan Character Portrait: Vasska Kresh Character Portrait: Felix Grelin
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Porter Buchanan


Dantius Apartments, NYC
7:24




Porter Buchanan woke from his dreams of smoke and burning metal with a name on his lips. He lifted his head from the computer terminal desk where he had once again fallen asleep. He swiveled in his chair to stare into the cool dimness of his room and swallowed a mouthful of the dank air as he watched the ever creeping daylight probe his home. Light sunk through the cracks of blinds hanging from the single window of his apartment cell. It crept through the darkness along the beige carpeting. It stopped a foot short of a writhing mass of black wiring matting the floor in a second carpet lit by the steady white glow of several computer monitors crackling with video feed. Porter turned back to his display. Each screen held half a dozen or more windowed scenes of different resolution and clarity from all over 22nd century New York City.

A panning view of an old, suited man with a bottle of unopened wine standing amidst the morning crowd of Times Square. A wide angle of a dog convulsing on the electrified gate of a pierside warehouse. An ovaline viewport tracking a man with a shock of blue hair as he kneed a grubby man in the stomach and left him clutching his stomach on the pavement. A shaky thermal image peering down the holographic sights of a hip height Signet firearm loosely swaying from side to side. A crowded elevator heading to the 33rd floor. Shaky, skipping video of a rickety slum apartment with a barely noticeable blur flashing from the fire escape to the alley below. A zipping, whirring feed from a security detail shuttle pursuing a smaller craft across the crowded air transport lanes amidst the towers lining the steel sky. A single static shot of the monolithic Spireheart, a towering monument to mystery and power.

A wan smile appeared on Porter’s face as he watched New York. Dozens of mornings from all walks of life played side by side in a quietly humming mosaic. So many people and places unknowingly unified in a comprehensive whole. New York in all of its dirty, beautiful splendor woke him up each morning.

“Beautiful,” he breathed into the dark.

A faint feeling of regret struck Porter. He lacked the poeticism to capture the amazing diversity of this city. Here he was, a single man watching New York with a million metal eyes, staring both within and without. And the most he could muster was “beautiful”. He picked up the half eaten cherry Danish and a cold McGriddle he kept in reserve, nomming them as he ran over a mental checklist of data reports, maintenance, counter-intelligence, and hackwork to be done before he headed to the operation for which he was becoming dangerously late.

(He paused briefly to wonder at the survivability of the 20th century American food chain in a cutthroat competitive market nearly a century later. An uneasy Cold War between the Golden Arches and Signet’s Signoms chain had been simmering for over three decades now, with no side gaining the clear advantage. Quite a feat considering Signet’s control of Spireheart xenotechnology. Porter would have to look into infiltrating McDonald datasystems sometime after today’s op to confirm or deny his suspicions of a second unnamed xenotech supporting their position against the Signet megacorp.)

With some hesitation, he raised a hand to bring up the holographic type interface. His fingers danced across the hard light as he robotically recoded the security framework of his computer and maneuvered around a handful of clumsy attempts to lock out his Signet authorization. A lazy slap of his fingers hurled a data packet through the electronic ether from Porter’s terminal to a reasonably secure Network database with the most important video feeds collected from the last 72 hours. The bug inserted into Signet’s Eastern Upper District cIOS (citywide Infrastructure Operating System) by Network operative granted nearly unprecedented access and control of Signet operating systems. As far as Network personnel were concerned, Porter had only been on the consulting board for the plant. However, as sort of a personal challenge (one undertaken while he was not entirely sober), Porter personally “bugged the bug” through a series of risky Network and Signet hacks which managed to both extend the reach and control of the Network information systems and provide Porter with a personal series of bugs within the Network himself. Old habits die hard.

“Grelen would kill me if he found out,” muttered Porter. The clock display the screen to his immediate left reminded him that he had an op to get to. He quickly set a dead man’s switch to his console, which would send a data packet to hidden terminals all across New York known to himself and a select precious few shortly before causing a chemical fire to engulf his cell if not the entire apartment in the event that his home was discovered by Signet operatives. His displays dimmed and he made his way to his closet to get dressed.

After throwing on some underwear, a pair of brown slacks and a white tee, Porter reached for a hidden compartment within the desk of his control terminal. He took out a grey mesh-like article and slipped it on his right forearm. It consisted of an array of impossibly thin wire wrapped into the shape of a glove-sleeve. The forearm portion held a nano-processors array in a carbon-fiber matrix. Just below the wrist on top of the radial artery was a smooth and flat node housing a holographic projector for a hard light interface operating on the time-tested technique of quantum superimpositioning. The pHOSTI, (portable Hard-light Operating System and Terminal Interface), was an invaluable tool and labor of love for Porter. It was also a mouthful to say, so he dubbed it the Terminal. It wasn’t the tech itself; arm terminals were quickly becoming a must have for the average middle class citizen. What made Porter’s Terminal unique its ability to direct link with the centralized Signet operating system. He held much more than the eyes of the city on his arm; with this interface, he had a finger on the electric pulse of an ever growing array of Signet infrastructure. Porter flexed his fingers as the mesh flashed with white current running through the fibers of his Terminal as it powered on. Status reports and diagnostics flashed in front of his eyes in a vivid orange holographic display, cast from a position to make it unreadable from any point of view except that of the user. Another flick of his wrist minimized the display.

Porter threw on a sweater vest and reached under the relatively tidy bed to retrieve an innocuous brown box. He removed the lid and took out a shoulder holster carrying a Network manufactured automatic pistol; a modified design emulating and improving the lightweight and low recoil MP9 design of the Heckler and Koch company, privatized by Securitas Defense Manufacturing over sixty years prior. After securing the automatic and a few clips of ammunition, Porter withdrew a small black cylinder from the box. He whipped it in the air and with a soft shink the telescopic baton locked into its full 26” length. When he slid his thumb down the side Porter could hear the rapid, tapping sound of electricity coursing along its length. He cut the power to the baton and forced the length of the baton back into its retracted position. It was a gift from a friend and he always regretted never thanking them.

Finally, Porter put on his dull tan duster, retrieved his spinach-green scarf, and collected brown baseball cap from a clothes rack hanging by the door way of his apartment. Unlike his fellow Network agents, Porter saw quite a few benefits to rooming in an apartment with Signet utilities. A flicker of light and a flurry of keystrokes on the holographic image on his Terminal immediately looped the hidden camera feed in the apartment hallway in front of Porter’s room. The door gave a short sharp squeak as Porter left the room, locking it behind him. With another flick of his wrist, the elevator at the end of the hallway opened just as Porter reached it. The elevator descended to the first floor without a single stop. Porter nodded to the attendant with a perky smile on the first floor reception desk, He pulled up her Signet employment profile while he waded through the cold spring air.

“Marceline Kovacs, 28, Receptionist,” he read as he absentmindedly weaved through the early morning rush.

“Income, $33,021 credits per year, Bisexual, recently purchased an apartment in Brooklyn with fiancé, Katrina Petrov, upscale painter who suffers from acute anxiety disorders, depression, and addiction to Mizchu peyote. Petrov was charged with possession of contraband and later convicted on Febuary 24th, 2165. She is serving 4 years in Muscgrove Penitentiary. Marceline is currently taking yoga classes offered by her supervisor, Nathaniel Chu and paid by Signet. Frequents Viva La Java, coffee store owned by husband of neutralized eco-rallyist and suspected Network sympathizer, Vivian Henders.” Porter ran the profile through his head while checking video feed of surveillance cameras tracking him through the bustling streets. Occasionally, Porter stopped to double back on his steps to both confuse potential trackers and to add stock video to Signet databases if he ever needed to set up false video trails for those particular cameras.

“Kovacs is less likely to be a Signet agent. She must be going through a lot. Should pick up a coffee for her at Viva La Java,” he said as he inserted stock footage of him entering a shuttle bus downtown into the last Signet security camera before reaching the NYC slums, where cameras were scarce and in poor condition. Porter tugged down his cap and pulled up his scarf. The eyes and ears of the street folk were the major intelligence network here, networks of back alley connections and shady deals. In the slums abandoned by Signet, a hacker had a much harder time cracking infrastructure technology if there weren't any in the first place. The few electronic systems which thrived in the underworld consisted of independent and decentralized control centers coded with ingenious security. The survival and persistence of these networks proved that necessity was the mother of invention when it came to Network telecoms and utility. But in spite of the challenge of hacking non-Signet regions of town, Porter's Network ties gave him some access to the underworld data networks. For a man like Porter, a crack was all you needed.

A small beep from his Terminal caught his attention as he hurried along the alleyway towards: an audio trigger from one of his Network bugs. Someone with very high security clearance just used his name. Porter set the audio to transmit to a location directly on his eardrums and he began to listen to the static laced voice of Felix Grelen.

(In the infancy quantum mechanical tech, many a headphone company derided the idea as lunacy; they were promptly bankrupted by the first reliable and non-fatal quantum entanglement auditory entertainment handhelds or “music players” as they were dubbed by the common folk).

“-and Porter Buchanan please all report to the comms room? Thank you,” chirped the leader of the Network. Porter stared down at his Terminal for a few moments and he sprang into a light jog down into the alley way entrance to the Derelicts.

“Shit. It’s already 7:40. I’m going to be late,” grumbled Porter. He stepped into the alleyway behind a decaying brick apartment building with no name and resisted the urge to simply hack open the entrance while he fumbled for a shoddy laminated ID of a goofily grinning “Theodore Battier.”

(Porter had been convinced that all high level personnel were required to smile in their Network pass IDs as a practical joke by a Network security technician. That technician later lost a good month recovering from a broken jaw as well as his Earth elemental girlfriend when she received a series of ethernet messages from her boyfriend asking a mysterious “Leah Battier” to “do that thing again with your tongue” next time the met. Porter was a man of restraint and if the man was just a guard or resource allocation he would have passed it off with a laugh. But by God, no techie was going to get the better of Porter Buchanan.)

Porter slid the aforementioned ID into the reader and entered the back door. He searched for the tile marking the hidden reader (“What was it? From the trash can three up and two across?”) and hastily swiped another ID card (“I swear I’ll never live that picture down”). The tile opened, revealing a ladder into the darkness. Porter clambered down the ladder to find two security guards eyeing him blearily. Porter yanked down his scarf and leaned forward for the retinal scan. As the thin red line swept a single green eye, Porter hazily remembered something about some new technology present at the today’s briefing for the rest of the ground team.

The ground team. Make no mistake, he was no cushy mission control hacker (there was a kick you just couldn't get from sitting behind a desk when you saw firsthand the flawless execution of an operation) and if Grelen put his trust in these men then so could he. But judging from the psychological reports and classified Network dossiers, they had their failings. When you boiled down all his talk of loyalty, Vasska was a hungry dog on a leash. All Felix had to do was point him in a direction and things would die. It brought Porter no small manner of relief that he was on the right side of the leash. de Tempestas was an unknown, but his previous encounters with air elementals all pointed to caution. Porter had the least qualms about working with Kiana. A battle medic with the smarts and determination to get the job done. But she lacked the social subtlety and judgement needed when fists and bullets were not the order of the day. Luckily, Grelen had enough of both to go around.

The doorway shifted aside and he entered the atrium. A few empty boxes lay strewn about with a wetness lying at their bottom. He forced himself to slow his pace despite being a full 17 minutes late. At the security measures outside the stairway leading to the Network Command Center, Porter scanned a teary left eye and swiped his IDs a total of five times.

“Porter Buchanan, Tango, Romeo, Alpha, One, Seven, Zero, Romeo,” said Porter. The door slid open with a slight hiss and Porter shuffled his way down the stairway and set his Terminal notification to admit only the triggers of highest importance. He crossed the threshold into the glowing Command Center with the meeting already in progress. Though he kept his expression neutral, a slight pinch at the brow indicated his annoyance.

“Sorry I’m late, everyone. Got stuck in foot traffic.” said Porter as he stiltedly grabbed a chair as his eyes flicked over the data pads. He placed a thumb on the pad to begin the data transfer from pad to Terminal.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiana Shamshiri Character Portrait: Felix Grelen Character Portrait: Celero de Tempestas Character Portrait: Porter Buchanan Character Portrait: Vasska Kresh Character Portrait: Felix Grelin
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Porter Buchanan

NYC Network Comms Room, NYC
7:50





“Download complete.” Porter glanced down at his Terminal and flicked the briefing into his “Current Assignments” folder. He returned his attention to Grelen, who delivered a practiced smile to the hacker. Porter scanned the comms room and examined the field team with a cold, deliberate eye.

Operative Vasska Kresh sat with a languid carelessness with an empty cup of coffee in front of him as he picked his fingernails. The white of his outer mandible gleamed in the Comm room’s blue lowlight. “’Sup techie,” he said, mandibles moving in time with his lips. Porter found the effect intensely unnerving and he recalled the operative’s dossier retrieved from his personal Network hacks. ’An animal in every sense of the word.’ He’s a bludgeon of a man. More power to the one who wields him. His body-elemental abilities synchronized well with his brutal efficiency in hand-to-hand. He currently held a federal bounty of somewhere around 350 million credits for murder, assault, terrorism, destruction of public property, and a variety of other charges which quickly began to bore Porter.

The hacker gave a quick nod to Kresh.

Beside the bludgeon sat Operative Kiana Shamshiri, codename “Stiches”, body elemental, who glanced over Porter with an inscrutable expression. She had a tawny complexion derived from one of the many tribal groups in the Wastes. Tautness wrapped her entire muscled physique. Her hair hung in black bangs which framed intense charcoal eyes. They’re a lot alike, you know. The same look in their eyes. But Shamshiri’s more…still. The soft blue light of the rooms managed to illuminate the curve of her robust Amazonian figure. Porter caught himself beginning to stare and he politely coughed as he checked her dossier. Surprisingly, she was marked as their medic instead of fire-arms support, which had been Porter’s first guess. It also seemed that she was a cage fighter. No surprise there.

He nodded to her as well.

In the corner sat the illusive Celero de Tempestas, code-named Cell, wind elemental who could induce a relaxed, almost hypnotic psychological state using her voice. Porter was about to reinspect her dossier when a voice interrupted him.

“No worries, Porter. You’re here, that’s all that matters,” said Felix Grelen with a practiced smile. The leader of the entire NYC Network was a tall man for a tall role, his eyes flashing a dangerous yellow-green behind his glasses. Porter didn’t need to pull a dossier on him. They had long ago come to an understanding of their working relationship.

With a swish and hiss of electronics, Dr. Brooke Williamson and Dr. Silas Theodore, Co-heads of the Technical Staff, bustled into the room. Judging by the bluster in Williamson’s face and Theodore’s thin lips drawn into a narrow line, the two had been arguing just moments before and were straining to remain professional. Both held countless degrees in the diverse fields of engineering and had an expertise in the mechanical which rivaled (and at times exceeded) Porter’s own. They provided the Network with invaluable equipment and tech that kept the Network alive. They also shared enough belligerent sexual tension to power the entire Brooklyn county for a good half of the year. They were also horrible at maintaining Network data security and Porter mercilessly exploited this fact to expropriate their designs and piggyback on their networking.

“So Felix, what is on the docks for today?” said Operative Shamishiri.

“I do believe you mean docket, love. And on that topic, allow me to get to the mission today,” said Grelen. Porter watched intently as activated the hard-light consoles in the Comms room. The Network had put an amazing amount of resources in adapting old power systems of the derelict subway systems to service their organization. The resourcefulness and ingenuity of Grelen’s predecessors still managed to awe Porter even after five years as an operative. A light blue holographic diagram of the Signet field agent building appeared on the holographic table in the center of the room. It was a remarkably plain building labeled only by the Signet logo rising high amongst the megatowers in upscale Manhattan. Porter pulled up some data on his Terminal which identified the building as the Signet New York Human Resources Building and little else.

"Today, we will be breaking into this field agent building to tap a line of data that is kept off the main network. As such, we haven't been able to reach this line before now,” continued Grelen. The display changed to give a floor plan for the 34th floor. Little orange blocks depicted a large server system. "This is a block of servers holding data we do not currently have. It could be accounts for an online store, or it could be sensitive security details. Either way, I don't like information being withheld from us. As such, the doctors here have developed a program that will ease this issue.” Porter allowed himself a twitch at the corner of his mouth. A man after my own heart.

"Thank you, Mr. Grelen,” said Dr. Willaimson as she rose to her feet. “As you can see, this server block is quite high up, and it will be very difficult to reach undetected. As such, Mr. Kresh, Ms. Shamshiri, Ms. de Tempestas and Mr. Buchanan, you will be infiltrating the building under the orders of Mr. Grelen. “You will be given ID codes for your arm terminals, and will be testing this.” Williamson motioned to Theodore, who withdrew a set of thin, metallic collars which was studded with holographic projection emitters. He went around the table, handing one to each of the field team. Porter was quite familiar with the prototype; he had in fact tracked its rocky development nearly a year ago when Williamson first keyed in her schematics into a Network terminal. Porter ran a gloved finger over the outer rim and quickly connected the device to his Terminal.

"A holographic facial reconstruction device we call HIDE, or Holographic Disg-."

"That isn't what we agreed on! We said it would be called the Incognito!" Williamson whispered loudly.

“Shut up! Just go with it!” spat Theodore.

(Porter would have suggested they just fuck already if recent maintenance records in the laboratories didn’t already confirm this occurrence.)

“Real neat, now will the pair of ya quit bickerin' like a married couple and make the presentation." Vasska chuckled
Porter weathered the rest of the presentation. He was well aware of the bug. Williamson and Theodore had reluctantly consulted with him in designing the data-bridge. To their credit, Porter had little to improve in their mechanical design beside correcting a few glaringly unnecessary elements which “looked cool” but were ultimately inefficient and energy consuming. Of course the two were too proud to mention it. And of course Porter had placed his personal access line in the bug.

"Thank you, you two. You may be seated. Now, I'm sure you get the gist. Porter, you will be going up to the servers, while Kiana, Vasska, Celero and I wait on standby in case you are discovered. In that case, you're authorized to do anything that won't blow up our image.” Grelen fixed the body-elemental with stern, fatherly disapproval. “Vasska, I'm looking at you.”

"Aww come on bossman, that's no fun. It's been ages since I got inta any REAL trouble. That bit with those guards the other day, that doesn't count. It was over 'fore it started."-said Vasska. Grelen ignored him.

“So any questions?” Vasska was the first to speak up.

"So what would happen if say, our cover was blown? I ain't sayin' I'm lookin' forward to it, though crackin' some skulls could be fun. I'm just sayin' what if things go horribly wrong? You wan' me to make a distraction and get you guys out? If not, what AM I allowed ta do?" Vasska prodded."Further," Vasska continued. "What if our lil' bridge gives out or gets noticed? How do we service and or reclaim that lil' sucker if we start gettin' into some heat?"

This stunning display of impatience, recklessness, and transparency once again reminded that Kresh was a viscious, psychopathic manchild. He would have been content to let Grelen handle the query. But sabotage, stealth, and tech was his expertise and perhaps Operative Kresh would do well to remember that. The hacker cleared his throat to save Grelen the trouble.

“Operative Kresh,” said Porter as he absentmindedly checked the surveillance video of the area surrounding the Human Resources Building and double-checked the team dossiers. He kept his tone flat and even but refused to give Vasska his full attention in a measured power move. “I am the one placing the bug. You will be doing guard duty. If my cover is blown, I will die. I do not intend to die. Your ‘distraction’ would cause unnecessary loss of life and fuel media backlash against the Network. Look up when you walk by Times Square, Operative. Signetwork calls us terrorists, anarchists, and psychopaths an average of eight times a minute. And the average New Yorker believes them.”

(Porter understood that all of this was technically true.)

“Instead-” Porter glanced at the Tempestas girl. “-I suggest Operative Cell should accompany me.” This seemed to get De Tempesta’s attention. “Her psycho-auditory based xenogene-derived manifestati-ah!” He had bit his tongue. Porter took this moment to cool his temper; throwing a tantrum wouldn’t help anyone. “We won’t need to punch someone when we can say please,” Porter simplified. “Less bodies that way.”

“I’ve connected the beacon to my terminal with an effective range of two miles. It can cause a short circuit in the chip if we blow our cover.” The hacker finally looked at Kresh. “If worst comes to worst and we’re discovered, then a diversion might be necessary and if anyone can make a big noise, it’s you.” He let a touch of grudging (and artificial) admiration color his voice, an unspoken apology for the tongue lashing earlier. “I’ve heard about your service record (read it personally). Never leave an operative behind (that wasn’t already dead). But this isn’t a battlefield. We’re on a stealth-intel mission, we have personnel IDs, and we have a working knowledge of the terrain. Unless Agent Whitehaven himself is going to be there, no one has to die today.”

Kidding, of course.

Porter collected himself; this was most he had said in a very long while. He wasn’t one to give speeches. That was Grelen’s job. The man must have been rubbing off on him. Whether that was good or bad, he couldn’t tell. “Back to the operation,” he said. “What IDs are we using for infiltration? We’re going to need matching uniforms for the disguises to work; I do no not think that Signet employees come to work wearing trenchcoats, baseball caps, and very short jeans. In addition, what’s our transport in and out as well as estimated drop off and pick up times?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Celero de Tempestas Character Portrait: Porter Buchanan Character Portrait: Felix Grelin
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Porter Buchanan

SIGNET FIELD OFFICE BUILDING, NYC
8:43




"Please remain calm," said a soothing, clinical voice from the server room intercom as a warning klaxon blared overhead. "An emergency situation has occurred. The building is currently on lockdown. Our security personnel is currently working to ensure your safety. Do not leave your workstations and follow lockdown procedures. The situation will be resolved shortly. Please remain calm. An emergency...."

Porter frowned. Complications. He tapped the small red X on his current Terminal window and accessed the Signet security system. Outside the server room, a security nodule hidden in the ceiling popped out and began tracing the hallway. Just outside, Operative Cell eyed the now roused guards at the far end of the hallway and made for the door. Porter glanced quickly over his shoulder as she crept inside with him. He could see panic beginning to worm its way into the operative. Her gaze darted quickly from him to the door, wide-eyed with fear. She seemed to vibrate with tense energy and she leaned against a server tower by the left side of the doors, just out of the doorway line of sight. Porter crouched low and moved behind the server tower opposite to Cell. He looked back at the holographic video feed.

On the first floor, Felix Grelen was floating in a chair. Porter pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to three before releasing a heavy sigh. Stealth mission. Of course. The leader of the Network floated past a few stunned guards (who should have been filling him with holes instead of watching him in disbelief) and landed behind an overturned office desk after incapacitating a guard with a psionic projectile. His security armor registered his quickly dwindling vital statistics, noting a single puncture through the right ventricle of his heart. He was flatlining as he fell. He was unconscious in four seconds. In seven seconds he was listed as KIA. Terrorist Response Team Officer, Naseer Ayad, 32, bomb disposal experience and current American Lev-Trans Association member in good standing. Survived by sister, Hafsah Ayad, 34, risk management.

He switched his monitor to his current floor. The three security guards stood at attention with weapons drawn. Securitas brand name kinetics, a reliable if aesthetically unappealing manufacturer in Porter's honest opinion. The woman by the door hefted drew a Viktor series semi-automatic rifle and kept watch of the elevator. Two of them equipped with wide-spread kinetic firearms (the archaic shotgun had survived through the centuries in everything but name) moved down the hallway, checking side rooms and guiding frightened staff to a safe room just beside the elevator.

"What's the plan," Cell mouthed to Porter from across the doorway. "Do we hide or do we fight?" Porter turned the options over in his head. Hallway, three guards between current location and elevator. Side rooms full of staff. Alarm raised. Alarm is sound system controlled. Porter nodded once before looking up at Cell.

"Follow my lead." He slowly reached into the waistband of his service uniform and pulled out his telescoping stun baton. On the holographic video feed, the two searching guards positioned themselves just outside the server room door, one giving the other a countdown. In a flash of fingers, Porter pulled up an audio file on his Terminal. He set it to play over the speakers in the room to the right of the server room. A series of loud thump came from behind the closed door of a Mr. Carson Mikado. The two guards instantly wheeled around on the noise. They slowly approached the door and kicked it down, guns drawn. Inside they found Mr. Mikado who was busy trying to send a SigTweet regarding the emergency situation in his office building and the two personnel who were currently telling him to stand up with his hands on his head while they patted him down.

They did not see nor hear the the service technician or the secretary slipping out of the server room past Mr. Mikado's door. They were unaware of the service technician quickly typing up false security ping, ordering the third security guard at the elevator to abandon post and proceed to the fourth floor through the elevator to take care of the security threat endangering property and civilian life. The security guards also returned too late to see the service technician quickly reopen the elevator doors. They certainly did not see the service technician and secretary jump on top of the elevator roof as it descended, with the secretary dampening the sound of their landing to soft tap. Nor did she realize that the security cameras in the elevator were aimed squarely at the wall. As the elevator doors closed behind her, the guard arriving on the fourth floor didn't notice the air-elemental secretary opening the elevator roof hatch with a sound-muffled click. No one saw the service technician and the secretary go through the hatch into the elevator as it opened up to the first floor.

No one saw aynything at all.