I keep forgetting to upload this, so here’s my piece for the @sunforallbnha zine! Two seconds later Kacchan realizes just how bad of an idea playing volleyball with someone whose quirk is controlling gravity was.
If you’d told Geoff a few months ago that he’d be sitting around his penthouse surrounded not only by his own crew but also all three members of the infamous Cerberus he’d never have believed it. Could neither imagine trusting those killers within his inner sanctum nor winning their favour so completely that they were prepared to trust him back.
It’s bizarre, seeing them here, now, looking like any dumb 20 year olds as they flop all over Geoff’s couches and steal his booze. Michael, Gavin and Jeremy are still made of sharp edges sure, still gravitate to one another, still sink into cold calculation when they’re on a job, but there’s no denying the way they’ve opened up. The way they come to the penthouse to socialise rather than simply to collect missions, will drink and laugh and mess around, the way they’ve more or less stopped waiting for Geoff to tightened a noose around their necks.
On any given day one might find Jeremy and Ryan talking shop about various weapons, enthusiastically joined by Michael from time to time though he’s just as likely to be with Jack comparing specs on their cars. For his part Geoff seems to have acquired a Gavin shaped shadow, nosey and overbearing but endearing in his determination to discover everything there is to know. What a ridiculous leap they’ve made since that first meeting.
It happens at an old warehouse, pretty standard for a first meeting where everyone’s on edge, out of the public eye and in reasonably neutral territory, dim and dingy enough to appeal to even the most ludicrous of overdramatic crooks.
And Cerberus are dramatic; dressed all in black as they slink out of the darkness, perfectly in sync and moving so quietly Geoff almost misses their arrival. Might have all together if he didn’t have Jack in his ear, calm and steady as she plays sentry out the front. Even the clothes Cerberus wear stink of intention, a blazer, a hoodie, a leather jacket; casual but sleek, nothing ratty or worn out but not fancy enough to make Geoff think they’re looking to impress him. They aren’t subtle, though, not with the way they’re all wearing that stylised snarling Cerberus emblem of theirs, printed on Jones’ jacket, the buckle of Dooley’s belt, hanging from Free’s neck. They clearly know what people say about them, what Geoff must think of them, and it seems they’re more than willing to drive their identity home.
Understandable, really, considering their appearance doesn’t quite match the stories. Confident and openly armed, yes, standing before the infamous Ramsey without a hint of trepidation, but Geoff had expected them to be older. Taller. Maybe slightly less theatrical, though with a name like Cerberus really that was a bad call on Geoff’s part. Still, the most frightening thing about Cerberus was always going to be their reputation, the rumours of what they had done, what they would do, the level of utter depravity they joyfully excelled at.
For all their many talents Cerberus were best known for outlandish robberies, absurd property damage and disturbingly imaginative wet work; deadly, merciless, and utterly impossible to shake once they’ve got their sights set on something. Each of the three have their own talents, complementary and seamlessly overlapping when need be but distinct enough none the less. The Bostonite specialises in long range and trick shots while Jersey is bombs and heavy weapons, but everyone best knows the pair for their fists, born brawlers with fire in their blood. The Brit works in words, in deals and threats and silken promises and, when all else fails, the ruthless application of knives and poisons. With that in mind it’s little surprise when he’s the one who steps forward and catches Geoff’s eye, smirking as sharp and wicked as a razorblade, and speaks.
This was a risk, and Geoff knew it. He wanted to grow his crew, wanted the best of the best, but all too many would tell him this recruitment was doomed to fail from the start. Doomed to more than simple rejection, given how volatile and bloodthirsty his chosen recruits were known to be. Geoff wasn’t worried, exactly, he’d won over the Vagabond after all, everything else should be easy sailing, but he was certainly cautious. Anyone with half a brain is cautious, when it comes to Cerberus.
Everyone knows Cerberus are assholes. Cocky, obnoxious, outrageously antagonistic and generally unpredictable, the group has a pretty chequered reputation. They’re a roving crew, running jobs wherever they fancy regardless of territories and it’s made them more than a few enemies, but they are efficient. Creative. The kind of vicious that kingpins covet like jewels, if only anyone could keep them. It’s their other key character flaw; apparently unshakably devoted to one another, more loyal to each other than most blood relatives, but iffy on any outside input, impulsive, defiant, bad with authority.
They’re a curious trio, a tiny gang with no aspirations of growing their numbers, no apparent interest in carving out a stationary home and absolutely no intention of bowing to anyone. Which will make Geoff’s proposition a difficult one, to be sure, though he hasn’t given up hope. Geoff’s nothing if not inescapably persuasive when properly motivated, and if all the rumours have done this group justice this is an opportunity he has no intention of missing out on. If for nothing else than because he doesn’t want to be in their sightlines when some other gang inevitably snaps them up.
Given the inherent risks of this particular endeavor Ryan was always going to insist on coming along as backup. Not that Geoff was going to complain, he always did like to have Ryan loom into view halfway through initial meet and greets, a little test to see how people reacted when faced with the walking nightmare that is the Vagabond.
Considering how they’d been treating the negotiations so far, definitely lacking some of Geoff’s experience but still loftily tag-teaming their way through a scathing dismissal, Geoff has Cerberus pegged for a standard flinch and rally, some shock or maybe a flash of fear before they pull it together with a sneering show of indifference. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
When Ryan appears, ghosting out of the dark unannounced in his full Vagabond glory two things happen in quick succession. First, clearly clocking the movement if not the identity of the interloper all three leap into action, Free stepping back without fanfare as Jones and Dooley jerk forward, guns drawn and aimed so quickly Geoff genuinely thinks he’s gone and gotten Ryan killed. Before he can even open his mouth to explain the weapons are lowered again, all three faces lighting up with recognition and as one they grin. Sharp and shark-like and anything but friendly, somehow looking even more dangerous than they had with guns drawn, radiating glee as Free leans forward again and purrs out an overly familiar Well hello Ryan. Which, no. Unacceptable.
For a brief horrible moment Geoff thinks Ryan must’ve been stupid enough not to mention some prior history with the group before realising that this was, of course, simply a demonstration, Cerberus making a little power play of their own. It’s a good one too, considering how few knew the Vagabond’s name, fewer still who’d be brave enough to taunt him with it. Not that Ryan gives them any sort of satisfying reaction, far too professional to even flinch, simply inclining his head in an unfazed greeting.
Geoff holds back a sigh, knowing the moment they’re back home he’s in for a rant about kids these days. Or perhaps an entreatment about adoption, lord knows Ryan has always liked his pets dangerous. Not that the three before them were the type to be kept like that, nothing more clear than their outright refusal to ever again be beholden to anyone but each other.
Everyone knows Cerberus had a master, once. The one who shaped them, who named them. The one who’d called himself Hades with all the arrogance of a man made of money and power, who’d thought himself untouchable, his control absolute. Cerberus were Hades’ most trusted minions, his favourite pets, and outside the ridiculous melodrama of it all the name was certainly fitting, the trio becoming so wholly interlaced, thinking and talking and fighting with such undeniable synergy, that they could almost be mistaken for three heads of the same body.
Distinctive as they were it wasn’t long before Cerberus’ reputation preceded them wherever they went. It was not a pleasant reputation, not when they were doing all of Hades’ dirty work, nothing deemed too terrible, too cruel, no order they wouldn’t follow to the letter. Hades’ was the kind of man who demanded nothing less, saw scruples as weakness and gave unforgivable orders meant to test his own people as much as punish his victims. The kind of man who’d thought his dogs dumb and docile until they tore out his throat.
Hades was no small fish and the news of his downfall spread like wildfire, but with the only living witnesses staying silent everyone’s heard a different version of how that night played out. There are those who say Cerberus were traitors, the lowliest of deserters. They say Hades’ loved them, gave them all they could ask for and still their greed demanded more. Say Cerberus took Hades for all he’d give, then banded together to take the rest, dishonest, treacherous dogs biting the hand that fed them. They were the only ones who could have gotten beyond Hades’ impenetrable security to get at him, they were a large portion of his security, and between their skill and the man’s favour, his faith in their unwavering obedience, killing Hades must have been child’s play.
Others, though, have a darker version, one arguably more fitting with Hades, the rich, nasty piece of goods who dealt in anything from drugs to guns to flesh, knocking off anyone who stood in his way. In those accounts Cerberus were bound to Hades, all chained one way or another, as captive as their namesake. They say Jones was traded as payment for a debt, young enough to stay loyal even to those who didn’t deserve it, made loaded gun for Hades to point wherever he pleased, blood on his hands whether he wanted it or not. They say that Free was brought across oceans under false pretences, kept at Hades’ side against his will, that the sugared words he spun on command were laced with poison and his constant guards were keepers as much as they were protection. They say Dooley’s already shady contract as an underground cage-fighter was bought out under the table, added to Hades’ collection and made to swap bare fisted beat downs for loaded guns and bloody executions.
Some say the attack was just the final straw, the inevitable mutiny after years of disservice. Some believe there was one last insult, say Hades was selling his pets to the highest bidder, indentured servitude of trained killers for a tidy profit. Some think it was just impulsive, the three beaten so broken and vicious it was only a matter of time, lashing out as senseless and bloodthirsty as dangerous animals.
Whichever circumstances you believe the end result was the same. Everyone agrees that whatever went down that night it was brutal. Everyone knows Hades died slow, body taken away in pieces. No tears were shed for the man but his money was keenly missed, empire left to crumble as his killers made off with a fortune.
The three could have done anything at that point, could have gone their separate ways and dropped into wealthy anonymity, but they didn’t. They stuck together, as tightknit as they’d ever been, even kept the name Hades gave them. It was smart, playing off the reputation they’d already earned, letting the death of their master boost them into even greater notoriety, powerful, feared and free. A freedom they ran wild with, pulling jobs all over the country, following their every whim no matter who they upset in the process.
Geoff can feel Ryan’s stare boring into the side of his head, matched perfectly by Jack’s pointed silence pressing down on him over the coms, and yeah, Geoff knows alright. Geoff wants them too, can already see how untouchable his crew could be with the six of them working together. The three standing before him are so fucking young in so many ways that they make Geoff feel ancient, make him feel sad and cold and furious when he thinks about it too long, but he can’t deny the anticipation zinging through his blood when he pictures what they can do, what they will be. It doesn’t hurt that he can just as clearly imagine what a nightmare his life will be if he lets them slip away, knows Ryan and Jack will tell Lindsay, tell Trevor, get all of the support crew on his case. Knows they’d probably be right to, if he messes this up.
Because, sure, Cerberus are turning them down, showed up to this meeting purely to sneer at his offer, to dare him to try and force them, to ruin him if he thinks to use them. But they still turned up. Still curious enough to hear out the proposition, to meet with the infamous Geoff Ramsey, all bristling violence and wary eyes but here all the same. And honestly that’s all the motivation Geoff needs. He is the king of Los Santos, a former Rooster, the criminal mastermind extraordinaire, and these kids won’t know what hit them.
The Penthouse is as full and loud as it’s ever been, a cacophony of noise matched by an entirely unreasonable number of empty liquor bottles. Jeremy is sitting at the dining table with Matt and Trevor, the remains of a disastrously short lived attempt at monopoly pushed by the wayside as they huddle together and plot, shielding their notes and throwing Geoff increasingly guilty glances whenever he passes by. In front of the TV Lindsay and Jack sit on either side of Michael as the three scream smack talk at one another at the top of their lungs, death threats and personal attacks all fair game in the face of a Mario kart tournament. Then there’s Gavin and Ryan, who’ve been throwing knives at Geoff’s wall without a hint of remorse, game only called off when Gavin’s slurring giggles betrayed the way his vision had started to blur. Even when relegated to the couch Gavin’s still pulling an endless array of blades from thin air like fucking Houdini, Ryan laughing helplessly as he desperately snatches them away for safe keeping.
There are guns on the coffee table, scattered across the kitchen bench, tucked into the cookie jar. Someone’s left what is hopefully an unloaded grenade launcher propped against the wall in the bathroom. There are wads of cash stashed all over the living room, poker chips scattered everywhere in the wake of an upended card table. A nearly unrecognisably charred deck of Uno still smokes from a metal wastepaper bin and someone has definitely smuggled another stray cat into one of the spare bedrooms.
Despite all that it’s still the fridge that always grabs Geoff’s attention, entirely covered with articles and headlines cut from every newspaper in Los Santos, a variety of different handwriting artfully editing and rebutting when need be, like a living history of crew shenanigans as seen by the press. The newest addition, stuck dead centre in pride of place, is a photo taken midway through a heist pulled only last week, headline packed with delightful alarm as it heralds the apparently permanent addition of three new members of the Fake AH Crew.