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The brass was in the house.

 

 It was middle of the week when the regional managers descended on Mike Zeide’s warehouse. Evaluations were coming up, promotions were in the offing, and jobs were at stake.

 

With the state of the world as it was, pandemics, wars, an economy in the tank, supply line messed up beyond belief, it was a wonder the company was still doing any business. The warehouse was only three quarters full because of all of this and they were shorthanded. The company big wigs were looking for someone to blame for profit short calls. Luckily Mike wasn’t the one in the target sights.

 

As a floor supervisor Mike shepherded a shift but wasn’t directly involved in the day to day running of the warehouse. Still as the brass toured the workspace he had to go along to answer any questions his boss passed on to him in the course of the inspection. So far there had been few. But Mike had an extra distraction. Cynthia Gilbert, one o the route managers here with the corporate bosses was the girl Mike had met and struck up a somewhat casual friendship with over the last couple of month. The girl he had a very strong crush on. And today he couldn’t help but notice that she kept glancing his was and smiling a lot when she did it.

 

They were entering the maintenance are where the fork-lifts, hand truck, and cherry pickers were parked and maintained. I was a big space but crowded with machines and tools and since the ware house ran 24/7 bustling with activity. There were a lot of the corporate people here a lot more than needed to do the inspections. There were bosses, managers, and aides and, well, just too dang many of them Mike didn’t know more than one or two and them just by name, Other than Cynthia of course. It was, aside from answering questions posed to him, Mike’s job to make sure the visitors didn’t get separate and lost or mangled by a forklift. Good Thing Mike had excellent situational awareness.

 

In the course of keeping track of everyone and even though slightly distracted by Cynthia’s presence, Mike took notice of one of the visitors, a man in his mid thirties, his suit looked expensive so Mike guessed he was one of the bosses but he wasn’t taking an active role in the inspection. In fact he just seemed to be following along hanging in the back and not even taking notes. But he was watching Mike. And he wasn’t smiling.

 

Had this guy seen Cynthia and him exchanging glances?  Was this her boyfriend?

 

Mike looked over to where Cynthia was. She with the rest of the group gathered around Justin Schell, another floor super and fellow paintball enthusiast, who was showing them the cherry picker and explaining how they put it to use in the warehouse. She spied him looking and gave him that slight smile again.

 

Quickly Mike looked for the sinister visitor to see if he had seen the smile and he was gone. Mike looked all around at the gathered visitors and the man was not to be seen.  Then as Mike searched the section with his eyes he spotted the man across the room just as he ducked into a tool storage area and vanished out of site behind some shelves.

 

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Mike sighed and shook his head. He pressed the microphone on the radio earpiece he wore in his left ear and spoke very quietly, "Justin, we've got a lost duckling. I'm gonna go after him. Stall if you need me." He took his finger off the button and nodded to Cynthia, putting his finger up against his lips as if to shush her. He turns and jogged off in the direction where he saw the unusual man moving. He sped up when he finally reached the area where the man disappeared, his head on a swivel as he looked for the strange-acting man. His fingers activated the mike again, this time calling out for the security supervisor who wasn't involved with the tour/show, "Hey, Gene, got eyes on a guy who got separated from the dog and pony show? He was over near tool shed Lima-0-Alpha. Let me know if you see him on the cams."  

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"Let me check." Gene had been more engrossed by the tik-tok video on his phone than the screens in his office but if one of the big wigs got lost of god forbid hurt and he hadn't seen anything his ass would be in a sling just as bad as Mikes. A quick survey and head count  and he keyed his mic.

 

"Hey Mike you sure you got a wanderer, I don't see anyone and I just did a head count and it looks like they are all present."

 

 

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"He may not have been part of the tour group. Just disguised as one, OR I'm hallucinating due to stress. I definitely saw someone, and now they aren't there. That's not good. I'll check out the shed while I'm here. Keep a weather eye out, in the area. Just in case." Mike sighed and released the trigger for the mic. He moved closer to the tool shed, and got out his keys. He went to open the door on the shed, but found it already open and he began to hear movement within. "Whoever is in there, come on out. You are in big trouble." Mike was shaking, not in fear,  but due to the adrenalin spiking through his system. He gently pushed the door open, and began looking around the tool shed interior. 

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He was in the back of the storage room leaning on a pile on a boxes his legs crossed and he was flipping a coin in his right hand. In his left he held and old fashioned watch on a chain. Mike noticed he was wearing sneakers with his suit.

 

"A minute and twenty eight seconds," he said pressing the top of the watch. "You called the security office didn't you. Hmm good use of resources. So tell me Mike, I can call you Mike, right?" He didn't wait for an answer.

 

"You can call me Dale. So Mike, do you want to do the right thing?" 

 

He emphasized the word 'want' and kept flipping the coin and gazing intently at Mike as if trying to read his mind. Or maybe his soul.

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"I always try to do the right thing. Doesn't always happen, but I really do want to do the right thing." Mike was surprised at the words coming out of his mouth. He seemed to be drawn to speaking the truth to this gentleman. "Dale, why are you here? I know you weren't with the tour. I also know you aren't here to rob the place. You would have been less obvious. If you have a point to get to, I suggest you travel there quickly. I have things to do, and I'd rather not get shit on for not doing them." Mike started to stretch his arms, and unconsciously  began to crack his knuckles one by one. He had a determined look on his face as he gazed into Dale's eyes.

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The man, Dale, chuckled. He flipped the coin. 

 

"I'm here for you Mike. I'm here for all the millions of poor slobs on this forsaken little wet ball. Bad things are coming, a lot worse than some pissed off bosses with golden parachutes.

 

Your gonna have to make some choices Mike. You were the one chosen and it's going to be your responsibility. There isn't any help on the way, no cavalry over the hill. But mostly I'm here to give you this."

 

With a flick of his thumb, Dale sends the coin flipping through the air towards Mike, who watches it as it flies at him in slow motion.  "Remember Mike, this isn't about good and evil, this is about Life and Death." As Dale says this while the coin is midway to Mike he shimmers and fades away in a swirl of light.

 

Spoiler

mikes decision is to catch the coin or let it fall to the ground.

 

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Mike didn't even think of letting the coin hit the ground. He reflexively snapped his hand out and snagged the coin out of the air. "What the hell just happened," He thought to himself as he snatched the coin, "At least i'll have physical proof that SOMETHING happened... but I may not want to say anything. The guy just disappearing, and the coin being the only thing left? I'd be put under observation at least." As he felt the cold coin hit his hand, he sighed, and shook his head. He looked down at the coin, noticing it didn't have any markings on one side, and a star symbol on the other. He traced the star symbol with his fingers, letting the feeling of the edges embed itself in his memory. He then put the coin in his pocket, and turned to leave the tool shed.

Edited by Veral
addition of description of coin.
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After telling Gene that it was all clear Mike returned to the group and the tour but his mind was elsewhere. What did this guy named Dale mean and how did he vanish like that. He kept asking himself, did that really happen, but then he'd put his hand in his pocket and feel it.

 

The coin.

 

It was real.

 

At the end of the day the bosses had gone and they had given the warehouse a pass. No one lost their jobs and nobody got a demotion. Some of the guys he played paint ball with who worked at the warehouse were going to go to a bar they frequented after paintball, Gene among them.

 

"You coming Mike?"

 

The look Gene gave Mike was very curious, Mike was sure that he wanted to know more about the incident during the tour.

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Mike nodded, "I'll be there... may have to leave a little early, though. Not feeling one hundred percent right now."

 

Gene looked over when mike said this, "Something up?" His eyes showing concern and something else... anxiety maybe.

 

Mike sighed, "The stress of the visit is just getting to me, I think. I need to relax and blow off some steam, but I also need SLEEP. Right now, the relaxing is winning, but soon, sleep will win overall. Don't let me distract you from a good time, though. I'll even get the first round." 

 

Gene laughed, "You must have gone crazy... The others will make your wallet cry if they hear about that." He slapped Mike on the shoulder, and continued laughing as they headed to their cars. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The beer was good and cold and the friends were even better.  What was going to be just a beer maybe two ended up being dinner of some of the best tavern food in Jersey.  The conversation was mostly about sports but when Gene cornered Mike and asked about the thing at the warehouse, Mike stuck to the story he had made up at the time.

While they ate and talked, people Mike knew, at least by name and he knew at least by name stopped by the table say to say hi and suddenly it was after nine and the night was in full swing. There was a live duo playing music and even some dancing.

 

That was when Cynthia Gilbert came into the Tavern, but she wasn’t alone. It seemed that she was with James Bickle, one of the other division supers from the warehouse. Mike looked around them to see if they were with a group and he felt a weight in his chest. They appeared to be alone. They appeared to be together.

 

Mike picked up his beer and nodded absently at whatever gene was say and drained it, “Time for me to get home.”  He stood amid the protests and gave a glance at Cynthia but what caught his attention was the couple sitting at the table just beyond where Cynthia and James were.

 

The were pale with light colored hair slicked back the looked like Identical twins but one was a woman and the other a guy. They were dressed in dark grey matching suits, the man wore a tie and women didn’t.  As their eyes locked with Mikes,  both simultaneously slipped their right hands ominously into their jackets!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mike's vision became hyper-focused on the two strange people. He quickly moved through the semi-crowded bar and his target was the strange pair. His gait was strangely unhurried but he moved with a purpose. As he approached the pair, he grabbed a small glass from an empty table. When he got within 10 feet of the suit-wearing pair, he spoke up.

 

"If you have a problem with me, or with anyone in here, let's take it outside, okay? We can discuss it like civilized people. No need for anyone not directly in the line of fire to get hurt." He tried to step between Cynthia's table and the pair.  He motioned to the door with his empty hand, "Well? what'll it be? Do you want to be smart, or foolish?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mikes gamble paid off.

 

The weird twins glanced at each other, hands still in their jackets and back at Mike. He noted that their movements were weirdly in unison. They glanced past him and studied the crowd for a second then slid from thier seats.

 

They nodded at him, and with a slight bow the female spoke, her voice low and her accent non existent, "Our mistake, forgive us please." Nothing else as one the turned and walked out of the bar.

 

Mike watched them go, he intended to follow them but he glanced back into the crowded bar and saw that Cynthia had seen him and was smiling at him. She was alone, Bickle was nowhere to be seen, maybe he had gone to the bathroom.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mike smiled at Cynthia, nodded to her, and made his way out the front door very quickly. His focus was still split between Cynthia and the odd pair, until he got outside.

 

Once there, Mike noticed the two oddities heading in to an alley. He cautiously decided to follow them, and started getting his cell phone out so that if something happened he'd have some pictures and other evidence.

 

Unfortunately, while distracted by his thoughts, he dropped his cell phone while taking it out of the holster on his waist. He heard the clatter and froze for a second, hoping the two people didn't hear it. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The clatter of the phone sounded like thunder to Mike's ears but there was no rush of villains pouring from the ally, so, he scooped it up and sprinted to the corner of the ally. 

 

Cautiously he peered around the corner using his skill and training as a paintball warrior, he had crouched low and exposed only as much of his face as he could. The ally was wide, large enough to accommodate one of the cities Garbage trucks, the kind used to empty big commercial dumpsters. Just like the one at the end of the ally.

 

There were shops on both sides of the ally and they obviously shared the dumpster. there were two doors on the left one about two yards in and the second three qurter in close to the dumpster. The right side had a short loading dock with just enough space for a panel van to back up to to off load. there was a rollup door servicing the dock and right beside it a personnel door.

 

What there wasn't was anyone in the ally.

 

Spoiler

Make a Cunning + Larceny test apply any perception type edges you may have. let me know the result in discord.

 

 

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