14: The Road to Michigan

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): November 19 - December 9, 2002

Who Was There: George Phillapoussis (Storn), Jonathan Wertham (Matt), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris), Yukio Ohta (Bob)

What It Was

Art meets the Aces. Mark heads off a revolt of the proletariat. And Ken takes to the mat, where he gives better than he gets. But then comes a visit from Captain Patrick Cole, and the Aces find themselves burdened with a mission they can't refuse: find Curtis Book and remove him permanently from the field. That takes the Aces to Ann Arbor, where they find something they do not expect: a secret lab with an orgone engine of its own.

The Full Horror

George and Yukio tell Jonathan about their meeting with Art, which gives Jonathan a powerful feeling of deja vu. He realizes he's known about Art for some time, but hasn't been conscious of it. Soon after, the Aces all visit the ballroom, and Art is there once again. This time, he actually looks up from the keyboard and meets Jonathan's gaze as he greets them. With a touch on the shoulder from their Gifted colleagues, Mark and Ken are able to share the moment too. George even discovers that a bit of Essence allows him to sit in one of the ghostly chairs.

Jonathan tells Art about his plan to incorporate the orgone engine into the Renaissance. Art goes silent for a moment, almost as if he's listening, and then says that seems like something Jonathan "was meant to do." What exactly that means, Art doesn't say.

Yukio wonders if the spirits of dancers and musicians at the Renaissance would be willing to help defeat the Dominican bokors, and Art assures him they are. Jonathan decides to find one of the bokors, and his search ends on the restored basketball court on the second floor. With a burst of insight, Jonathan makes contact with a bokor, and a pure black flash, like anti-white lightning, strikes him in the forehead. The bokors are there all right, and they are not friendly.

Later that day, Jonathan asks Latrell if the guards are aware of the spirits. Latrell replies they're used to them. Strange noises, odd lights-all just part of being in the Renaissance. Lately they've even been hearing a piano from the ballroom, when they all know it doesn't have one yet. But in the course of the conversation, Latrell also mentions the long hours the guards have been pulling lately. They all like and respect Mark, but he hasn't been giving them much time off. A couple of the guards nearby quietly chorus "Yeah" and "Damn right."

Mark is quick to sense the guards' unrest. In the next day or so, he sits down with the men and admits that, yes, he has been asking a lot of them, but only because he knows they can handle it. By the end, Mark has shown a true gift for employee relations. He agrees to a more generous vacation schedule, but the men are even more committed to him than they were before.

Not long after that, Mark and Yukio have a conversation about their previous lives in the military. The two men end up having a little more in common than either of them realized.

Shaolin in the Village

One day in late November, Jamal stops by to talk to Ken about the USA Shaolin Temple in Greenwich Village. Jamal has noticed Ken getting a little out-of-trim, and thinks it would be a good thing for the Ace to meet with Sifu Shi Yan-Ming. Ken agrees to go see him.

The meeting with the sifu goes smoothly until he asks Ken to demonstrate his skills in a sparring match with student Michelle Chan. Michelle is attractive with a slight build, but that doesn't stop her from nearly wiping the floor with Ken. Fortunately, Ken regains his center:

North Star Fist of Lingering Regret! South Star Chain-Link Retaliation! Bronze Cross Torso Detonation! Slumbering Lotus Awakes in Flames! And, Sword of Ice Unsheathed at Dawn! Ken emerges battered but triumphant. Impressed by his combination of passion and humility, the sifu welcomes Ken into the school.

Call to Duty

On the night of December 3rd, Mark is about to take a nap in CentCom when Latrell calls over the intercom that they have a visitor. The man salutes Mark and says that an officer he will recognize will be at the Renaissance the next night to deliver a Warning Order to Mark, George, Jonathan, Ken, and Yukio. Mark is not happy about this, but the others agree to be there.

The next night, the officer turns out to be Captain Patrick Cole, the man most responsible for Mark becoming a Ranger. He was there the day Mark earned his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and Cole had been a kind of patron to Mark for the rest of his military career.

Mark has not seen Cole in years. When they first met, Cole had been a Warrant Officer in the SFO (Green Berets), though there had always been rumors that he was really part of Delta Force. Cole retired early as a captain, which seemed odd at the time given his promising career.

Cole is not happy. His problem is well outside regulations and he'd rather have some protocol to help guide him, but that's just not going to happen. He begins by saying he knows about the ACO break-in because the four of them were picked up on surveillance-not by the ACO, but by the group Cole works for now.

Cole explains to Mark that ever since they met, he has been attached to INSCOM (Army Intelligence & Security Command), specifically the ISA (Intelligence Support Activity). That should be impossible, because the ISA was disbanded in 1982. But in fact, the ISA continued as an informal body, staffed by veterans who handle intel the Army can't afford to know. ISA deals with shadows even covert ops can't explore. Cole's early "retirement" starts making sense.

The ISA has NOT been keeping a comprehensive file on Mark or the others. Cole does know they have been busy, but "X-Files stuff" is not what the ISA is about. Besides, "With planes slamming into Trade Centers, we just don't have the resources." Nor does Cole see any need to spy on Mark. Cole trusts him, and his judgment.

Cole is there tonight for two reasons: first, to tell Mark that Carla Madajewicz is very talented, but that she nearly got herself and Mark into serious trouble by running a background check on Curtis Book and Gregory Sloane. She needs to be more careful the next time she tries something like that.

"The second reason is the stinger, so I'm going to get this one out quick. I've been giving you specific information about shadow operations you definitely should not know. And you already know exactly why I did that: because I'm here to task you for a mission. Curtis Book is becoming a problem. He needs taking down. And I'm making you the man who's going to do that."

When Mark agrees, Cole continues, saying he knows Book was hired by Sloane for his merc group Defense Solutions, Inc. in February, 1999, and that DSI signed a contract with someone in the ACO on September, 2000. "Sloane always was an arrogant son-of-a-bitch, but it took balls to accept a contract on American soil. For a while, he kept it to basic intelligence gathering. Mostly about a bunch of whack-jobs-fake science, as far as we can tell. We didn't like it, but their actions were just gray enough to keep us from risking our cover to deal with them."

"That all changed last August. Three members of DSI, including Book, infiltrated the Newark Convention Center during an ACO-sponsored demonstration. Something must have happened there, because two weeks later, DSI stepped up operations: they went back to all the whack jobs, only this time, they started smacking them around." Mark tells Cole they had been there at the demonstration, and that was also where he ran into Book. This is news to Cole, and he says that does help explain some things.

Cole tasked an agent named Steve Lauer to tail Book and his team, and Lauer overheard Book asking one of the whack jobs about a "Michigan group." Only a couple of days after that, Book finally stepped over the line, leaving an administrator dead at a center in Rangeley, Maine, not far from the ACO's Jackson labs. .

"So now Book is engaged in an aggressive operation on American soil. I'd gut that motherfucker myself, but then his men would scatter and we'd have even more of a mess. I need someone who can take Book and his team down with extreme prejudice. Congratulations, Mark. That's you. As for the rest of you, consider yourselves deputized. Congratulations. You all get a chance to fight for your freedom."

Lauer turned up dead on November 10, and since then Cole has lost track of Book, though he's sure the man is somewhere in Michigan by now. They may find something in Book's Princeton apartment. One thing's likely: keeping a trained man like Book in the dark isn't easy, and that suggests the "Michigan group" might be something federal. "Whatever the hell it is, it's deeper than my people can find, and that's got my respect."

Cole leaves. Yukio insists he will not accept such a violent mission. Mark understands, and says he doesn't consider any of them obligated in the same way he is. But the other Aces are firm about seeing the job done, and Mark and Yukio part with a handshake of friendship.

Jonathan contacts Lesek Czernin, asking him to send a request to Alex Abel that TNI take out Cole if the Aces don't come back. Meanwhile, Mark contacts Carla and delivers Cole's message. When he mentions Michigan, she pauses and asks Mark to call her again the next day.

Gathering Leads

Book's apartment has been deserted for a month by the time the Aces get there, but a careful search of the apartment turns up a strongbox hidden under the stove. Inside it, they find reports from Merrill Lynch about savings accounts worth $50,000. There are also brochures and printouts about the American College of Orgonomy, and oddly enough, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Book's strongbox also contains profiles of the Four Aces, Lady Margaret Jameson, Cassandra Moon, Latrell Dupree (and the other guards), Martin Murray, Lesek Czernin, and the start of files about Yukio, Kaori and Tamara Westcott. And there are photographs of Jamal, the Katsoulakis residence, Alexandra Pappas and Niko, as well as each of the Aces' apartments and the Renaissance. Book seems to have started the files right after the demonstration in Newark.

The Aces immediately deplete Book's savings accounts, and make sure they use his money to buy ammunition for the mission.

The next day, Mark calls Carla. She says she needed the time to go back over her files about Reich, so she could look at what she had about a man named Theodore Wolfe: "He knew Reich for a long time, helped him develop some of his ideas. In fact, he was the guy who convinced Reich to emigrate from Europe in the Thirties to get away from the Nazis. They got into a big fight in the Fifties, because Wolfe was an anti-communist Lefty. Reich was a Socialist, which was also reason he got into trouble with Joe McCarthy. Anyway, Reich was dead by '57. But Wolfe knew him pretty well, and by then Wolfe was with the Psychology department at the University of Michigan."

Wolfe's successor is a man named Ken Inada. He is still on the faculty, despite the fact that he hasn't published an article in twenty years and doesn't teach a single class.

Bound for Michigan

The Aces leave for Michigan a couple of days later, taking a van so they can do surveillance if they have to. They check into a dive on Washtenaw, right by the freeway, and then head for campus, where they stakeout the Psychology Department from a parking garage across the street. At 6pm, they spot Ken Inada entering the building, but by noon the next day he still hasn't come out again.

George volunteers to go in and look around. He won't have to bother hiding his headset because everyone in sight has a cellphone. But he gets a surprise when he goes inside. there is an orgone engine running somewhere in the building. He can feel it. (Which leads Jonathan to ask if he has a boner.)

George goes to the second floor, and breaks into Inada's office. There is paperwork everywhere, but no computer, no recent records, no picture of Inada's family. George realizes the place is just a front, and then also realizes it's probably under surveillance. Moments later, his headset goes out. All the Aces can hear is static.

Alarmed, they go in after him. Jonathan definitely senses a powerful orgone engine, but when he tries to detect where it might be, he flubs the effort and makes a mess in his pants. A quick search of the basement turns up nothing, but Jonathan scans the building and detects an independent generator connected to a sub-basement accessible only through the elevator.

Jonathan fries the elevator's electronics and manages to get them down to the secret level. But no sooner have they pried open the doors and stepped into a hallway when Inada steps out into the hall, sees them, and drops an expensive-looking piece of equipment. It shatters on the ground, just as two men call out "Freeze!" from heavily covered positions.

Previous Recap | Next Recap | Updated 3/19/12, by the Croupier