It was supposed to be a simple “milk run”: a field agent, code-named Hearken, had not reported in at his designated time. Origin’s directive: show up at the agent’s apartment as his friends, deliver the coded message “The boss is looking for you”, and find out why he has not kept in touch. Wrap up the mission, and come home.
A brief morning drive brought the team to Woodland Arms Apartments, one of the many low-rent dives in the city. The silent and resilient Mother’s Pawn stepped out with Candyman and Zero while Enigma and Skynet maintained a lookout. Sensing something was amiss, Candyman knocked on the neighboring unit’s door for questioning before making contact with Hearken.
A middle-aged woman answered, suspicious of the early morning visitors. He easily calmed her nerves and asked her son Anthony and herself about their “friend”.
Three days ago, the mother, Marilyn, was asleep through the ordeal. However, Anthony was up playing with her mobile phone past midnight when he heard and saw what had happened: four masked white men kicked in his neighbor’s door and charged inside. A brief struggle ensued before he peeked through the blinds and saw a couple of the men carry Mr. Pickett’s body outside and around the corner. He could not tell if the man was unconscious or dead…
Little Anthony heard the men ransack the apartment before leaving with a computer tower and nothing else. He told his mother of the ordeal the next morning, but they did not contact law enforcement, fearful of possible retaliation from local criminals. Both Candyman and Zero assured them that they would be safe, thanked them for their time, and turned their attention to the apartment.
A missing agent is never good news. At best, Hearken would turn up dead – at worst, a turncoat on the side of the unknown enemy.
With gun at the ready, Mother’s Pawn edged the door open. The entire apartment looked like a wreck; furniture was smashed, couch cushions were slashed open, carpeting had been torn up, and vent covers ripped out, and the television was smashed open. Wordlessly, they searched the empty apartment for clues of the events that had transpired.
Their first clue was a large pile of cash sitting undisturbed on the dining table. A brief and very quiet search revealed an audio bug hidden among the dollar bills, set to call a local number upon detecting loud noise nearby. Fortunately, they had not triggered the bug to activate, and continued their search through the apartment.
Their second clue was a flyer for a seedy bar called “The Slim House”. Writing on the back read: “2ND STALL”.
Their third clue was a cap to a USB drive. “DYNABAND”, Hearken’s cover job, was printed across the smooth black plastic but the USB drive itself was nowhere to be found.
Lastly, Zero found a narrow crawlspace leading behind the apartment’s old boiler. With great effort, he squeezed through the tiny passage and searched the cramped gap behind the device. He found a loose baseboard, pried it away, and searched the dark opening of the wall.
The hidden cavity was trapped. A loud click gave him enough warning to avoid being struck by a series of tiny, poisoned needles, designed to knock out their victim with only a prick of the finger. He felt his way past the needles and retrieved a small, sealed bag containing a twisted piece of plastic. With nothing left to find, they submitted the suspiciously-hidden clue back to their base before making their way to Dynaband.
Dynaband was a small-op communications company that employed only a few hundred to maintain their phone, internet, and cable services to the local area. Candyman, Enigma, and Mother’s Pawn made their way inside. Security was a joke; the guard on duty, a shaggy, red-haired twenty-something dutifully ignored the doors and cameras while playing on his phone and listening to his mp3 player. His partner was nowhere to be found.
On their search for his office, they were stopped by an employee for a brief chat. Candyman smoothly bluffed her and told her they were here to pick up “Douglass Pickett’s” belongings as he had not shown up for his shift in days, but they could not find his office. She pointed them to Technical Services after their conversation.
Only minor diplomacy was required for Candyman to calm down the I.T. staff, nervous of their intrusion. The supervisor on duty told them more of the same: Pickett had not clocked in for three days, and invited them to “box his junk because he’s as good as fired”. After a brief and undisturbed search of Hearken’s gadget-filled office, they discovered a note left by a janitor: it was an innocuous note about him never picking up a requested cleaner from the maintenance room, which was their new destination.
The maintenance room was packed with tools, crates, boxes, and materials. A lengthy search revealed their quarry: the USB drive was sealed in a small plastic bag inside one of the drains in the floor. The drain pipe was thin enough to cause significant trouble for the agents who attempted to reach it by hand. Only after a few minutes of struggle did they find a nearby litter picker to freely capture their prize.
The USB drive revealed only a few encrypted photos taken by Hearken only recently: an infamous terrorist known as Jack Whicker, thought to have died ten years ago, was seen alive and conversing with multiple persons of interest. In the first image, Whicker was caught having a meeting with the unsavory Detroit Crips gang; the second image showed him conversing peacefully with the vicious MS-13; and in the last and most disturbing image, Whicker was seated with an FBI agent in what appeared to be a conversation over dinner. With Hearken’s data unveiled, the agents began to understand the gravity of the situation: a powerful terrorist was somewhere in Detroit, and he seemed to have access to some very powerful people.
With data in tow, the agents pulled out of Dynaband, and made one more stop: the Slim House. The seedy establishment was located easily within the territory of the Crips. The agents all arrived in the hour of the early evening, and paid a “cover charge” for the privilege of entering the bar. Once inside, they ignored the multitude of hostile stares from all around and sat down at the bar. The plan: look as unsuspicious as possible (as much as a well-dressed group of Caucasians and one Asian can appear in a bar full of grungy gang members), buy a few drinks, and then investigate the writing on the back of the flyer.
After a few drinks, Enigma investigated the men’s restroom and opened up the water tank of the toilet in the second stall: inside the frigid water lay a Slim Battery sealed within a plastic bag. He took the package, dried it off, and stashed it beneath his coat before the agents prepared to make their exit.
Before they left, they caught one suspicious detail: seeing that the group of men were on their way out, one of the crips – a rough-looking woman – tossed her cigarette butt to the floor and hurried out. This at least warranted investigation; Candyman followed, and Enigma trailed along at a distance. Candyman tried to unsuccessfully sweet-talk the tough girl, but Enigma followed her trail to an abandoned, collapsed house. There, she met in the basement with a newcomer – a sureño, oddly enough – and they held a secret meeting in a language that none of them understood.
The agents submitted their findings to the Ford Factory for examination, and were returned with a few interesting discoveries:
1) The “Crip” that had met peacefully with the “Sureño” were both ex-military, medically discharged with honorable records, no criminal history, an indicate some sort of involvement with vigilantism.
With their initial agent check-up concluded, the agents have learned that bigger fish have come to the city of Detroit. The game has become significantly more dangerous, especially with a fellow agent allegedly having been abducted. Only the future holds their fate…
02: Missing in Action