Sunday, November 10, 2013

Changeling: Session 7

Pre-post warning.  Some of the links here are NSFW.  Click away from this page at your own discretion.

When last we met, the day following their strange night at The Box and beyond continued to be even stranger…

Wally is still mulling over what to do with the invitations received from M. Butterfly when there is a knock at his door.  Peeking out, he sees it is one of his building neighbours, Alexis.  She’s dressed very nicely for work, her hair is up, and her face is plastered with makeup.  He opens the door and she greets him as Edward, the name by which he’s known in the building.  She’s holding out a casserole dish with Fritos on top.  She seems very excited to see him and asks how his apartment has been since the police raid earlier in the week.  They make the stilted small talk of two socially awkward people before he finally invites her in.  She noted that he hasn’t been around the building in a while and she thought, after the debacle wit his neighbour, that he might want some food, so she made him a Frito Pie.  She starts acting really coy, playing with her hair, and he notices a few bruises on her neck and under her arms.  He’s deciding whether or not to comment when his phone rings.

It is Hank, his landlord and drug dealer, and he wants to discuss business.  Since Wally had to take his production kit with him when the police arrived on site, Hank has run out of product and his customers are getting antsy.  He’s not overtly threatening but serious, and Wally suggests they meet in an hour.  When he steps back into the apartment, Alexis has gotten out bowls and silverware and has served up the Frito pie.  He notes that she seems a bit calmer now and they eat and soon wind up on the couch, talking.  When she puts her hand on his knee, giving it a squeeze, he freezes and she freaks out.  She tried to leave, but Wally stops her, saying it is OK, and that it isn’t a big deal.  She breaks down into uncontrollable sobs, and he brings her back into the apartment where she proceeds to cry herself to sleep, head in his lap.

Knowing he has to meet Hank, he gently rests her down on the couch and writes a note saying he has to “see the super about something” but will be back soon.  When he gets to Hank’s office, he notes that he’s been chain smoking and is on edge.  Hank’s “investors” are starting to breathe down his neck, and he wants to know when Wally can have more product.  Wally says two days is realistic, although if he really wanted to push it, he could have it done in a day.  Hank suggests that Wally call in sick to work and get started now; he’ll be expecting product tomorrow, and make sure that there’s some beer for him when he picks it up. 

Wally goes back to his apartment, and when an hour passes without Alexis waking up, he amends his note explaining he has to “run an errand” and leaves his number for her.  He takes what remains of his Pyrex set and descends to the basement where he spends the next several hours cooking.  He checks on Alexis periodically, and sometime after dawn, she’s returned to her apartment, although she’s cleaned their dinner dishes and put away the rest of the casserole in the fridge.  Wally texts the group to say that he’s gotten caught up in things, but he’s received some information and will get it to them soon.  Knowing he’s got the better part of a week’s worth of product ready for Hank, he pops down to the corner store to get some beer.

Meanwhile, back at Gareth’s the assembled group – Gareth, Alex, Drake, Morgan, and Goom – decide it is a good idea to see Goom’s lair so that they know it’s location for future reference, just in case.  Everyone except Drake heads out, as he has had a notion pop into his head about his doppelganger and, feeling he is on to something, he wants to research it further.  The rest of the gang heads out, following Goom into subterranean levels of the city through twisting, turning pathways.  They do note, however, that he’s cleverly and discretely marked the way with brown yarn that blends in with the shadows and dinginess. 

  Eventually they make their way to a heavy metal door, which Goom pulls open.  The interior of Goom’s lair (as he calls it) is shockingly nice.  He’s managed to siphon electrical power from somewhere, and has a fridge, TV, a recliner (with a basket of yarn to one side) and an elevated sleeping area; he even has a small vegetable garden with a grow light.  He offers them refreshments, and everyone takes beer or water while Goom has a glass of milk.  After hanging out for a little bit and marveling at Goom’s ingenuity, they all go their separate ways, Alex heading home to sleep, Morgan returning to her apartment to prepare for work, and Gareth returning to his apartment to update Drake.

Morgan gets dressed appropriately and heads to work to tell fortunes – a small back room in a new-age shop.  The proprietress quickly motions Morgan aside and tells her that people came by earlier saying that they are investigating fraudulent and unlicensed business practices in NYC.  They wouldn’t give any ID or business cards, but kept saying they were with a federal agency.  The “agents” had a very unsettling vibe, and Morgan acknowledges that there have been strange things in the air lately and thanks her for the information, saying she’ll likely take a few days off to see if it blows over.  The woman comments that she’s so unnerved she might close shop early and go home to “pop some Wallies”.  Morgan again returns to her house, changes out of her fortune telling garb, and heads back to Gareth’s.

Alia, having returned Mia to their apartments after the unsuccessful visit to the free clinic, realises that she’ll need to cover both her wages and Mia’s while Mia is out of commission, goes into the city and tries to scrounge up an odd job or two.  She’s able to make $40 washing dishes for a few hours before she has to go to her “real job”.  She’s just been dropped off on a street corner by her pimp, Smoky, and who does she encounter, but Morgan.  She’s a bit suspicious about suddenly encountering this person from the previous night of supreme weirdness, but they chat a bit.  Morgan reminds her of their meetings, and says that they’ll be doing a Thanksgiving dinner at one of the group member’s place the next week, and that Alia is welcome to join them.  Alia says she may, confirming that she’s got Morgan’s contact information, when they’re interrupted by a guy in a sedan pulling up and propositioning them both.  Morgan quickly declines, despite the guy’s insistence, and backs away, leaving Alia to her work.  After the car pulls into an alley with Alia, Morgan continues on her way.

Alia is asked to do a host of freaky shit (vaginal sex, analingus on the John – no condom – followed by tongue kissing).  She agrees, provided that he uses protection when they fuck, and she can use some sort of sanitary wipe on him before she goes down.  He busts out a handful of wet-naps from his glove box (he’s got kids, he says) and they get down to business.

When he gets back, Gareth finds that his apartment has become host to an impromptu chaotic art installation – papers with hasty scribblings, and thread and twine connecting various papers have been taped up around the apartment – and Drake has a mad glint to his eyes. 
Drake's "Art"
 He explains that after looking up what his doppelganger has been doing (investments in concrete and steel) he realized that something must be up and started delving deeper, and the resulting madness is his flow chart.  To cut a very long and involved story to its briefest possible point, Drake explains thus:

He knows that his doppel has business with a hedge fund and investors at Goldman Sachs, though apparently there has been some tension of late, possibly stemming from “Drake’s” poor investments in steel and concrete, which are dying industries in the US.  Recently, “Drake” and others had been involved in lobbying for NY to pass legislation giving preferential treatment to companies that are based out of the state and owned by racial or gender minorities when large contracts are offered for things like rebuilding, city beautification, and so on.  Two of the companies that “Drake” recently invested in fit the bill perfectly (NY based, owned by minorities). There wasn’t a lot of industry in the United States for steel and concrete – most product coming in from over seas – until the September 11th attacks when the American companies contracted to rebuild the World Trade Center raked in billions.  Were there another disaster that cleared the way for the rebuilding of a new skyscraper, these two companies invested in by Drake’s doppelganger would be perfectly poised to receive said contracts, and he would make a financial killing.  Drake just doesn’t know when, where, or how his doppel intends to pull this off, although it will probably take a decent amount of time before the plan is executed.  Off the top of his head, Drake thinks that the Empire State or Chrysler buildings seems like prime targets.

Gareth is in the process of downing his second beer of the afternoon while listening, and suggests a connection between this plot and the “Christmas Day Massacre” being planned and promoted by Alex’s double, the magician/illusionist known as Konstantyne, which will be going down in just about a month in Times Square.  Both are mildly horrified when they realise that Times Square, while not a high rise, is a large portion of expensive – and more importantly iconic – real estate, and may very well be another potential target, although Drake thinks that the timing is too quick for what he thinks his double’s got planned.  At one point in their discussion, Drake casually touches Gareth on the hand or the arm, and suddenly Gareth feels refreshed, as though he had received a solid night's rest, despite having been strung out on no sleep since well before The Box the night before.  Gareth looks suspiciously at Drake for a moment, but says nothing.  Knowing they need to do away with the incriminating evidence of Drake’s brainstorming, they pile up the papers and string at Gareth’s welding apparatus, turn on the vent hood, crack another beer, and fire away. 

That’s when Morgan gets back, and they fill her in on everything, making sure that all traces are burnt to a crisp.  The rest of the day proceeds without incident.

The following week is fairly mundane. 

Wally tries to get ahead of production for Hank and visits with Alexis again.  He manages to catch her during the week, which has gotten difficult – he thought she had a 9 to 5 job, but has recently been getting in around 2:00 in the morning every day.  They hang out briefly, and she invites him over for Thanksgiving dinner at the end of the week.

Morgan tries to figure out what she’s going to do about work.  The shop that she uses is still under heavy surveillance by whatever suspicious party has taken interest – her host tells her that they’ve been sitting outside in a car each day, although every time she’s tried to call the cops, as soon as she begins dialing, they drive away.  Morgan hasn’t been back yet.

Goom explores the city using his new-found heightened sense of smell and looks into procuring a shotgun on the black market.

Gareth begins having erotic dreams, every night, about the devilish host at The Box.  They’re always frustrating and incomplete, causing him to awaken every morning in an extreme state of arousal, although the memories of the dreams soon fade.  Freaked out by that and what he saw in the red door, Gareth goes to a local free clinic to get tested for HIV.  He also takes time to look up Sam’s family, finding that they moved to Virginia sometime after he died, and that there is still a memorial web page set up for him, obviously dating back to the mid-90s.  The picture on the site of Sam he knows to be one of the two of them, although Gareth has been cropped out.  Following that, he also looks to see what his own doppelganger (a moderately well known artist) has been up to, but only sees that he’s recently had some trouble with a piece overseas.

Drake predominantly spends his week looking for a more permanent place to live, while also continuing to keep tabs on his doppelganger.

Alia spends her week babysitting Mia, trying to get her as sober as possible without going cold turkey, so that she can try again to abort her pregnancy without doing serious harm to herself.  Alia also does what she can to over-earn each night, and working during the day at odd jobs, to cover both her and Mia’s wages for the week.  She also tries to squirrel away some extra money ($50 here, $100 there) for her own, without letting Smoky know.

During the week, through text messages, they determine that the next meeting will be on Thanksgiving and since Gareth has the room and an oven, he’ll host.  Everyone decides what they’ll be bringing, although Wally says he might be a little late.

Alex goes to work as usual, although notes that he has stopped receiving bizarre phone calls and has seen no more butterflies.  The night of November 27th, he has a strange dream.  He finds himself in a room with stone walls, manacled and chained in a corner.  The room seems to be precariously balanced, and keeps tilting around, causing him to be slammed into the wall, or dangling by his wrists over a black vacuum of space.  His hair is long and stringy and hangs in his face.  The room gives one final lurch, and he falls, free of the manacles, landing in a sewer similar to the spaces that Goom led them through earlier in the week.  He hears a din coming from the end of the tunnel and approaches it.  He hears chanting, which he knows to be in English, but he cannot understand it.  He walks into a massive room with concentric levels of stairs going down, like an amphitheatre.  Sitting in it are thousands of homeless people, chanting, and they all have black orbs for eyes, with flickering candle flames for pupils.  Seven levels down, the space bottoms out at what appears to be a subway track (Alex can see the third rail) with a block of concrete with a stop sign in it to one side.  Secured in the concrete are also the manacles he’d been held with (he just knows it) but in them now is a woman, and he knows without looking that she is his daughter. 

He leaps over the ledge to the first row of the amphitheatre and everyone goes silent and stares at him, flames flickering in their dark eyes.  However, they make room for him and allow him passage down, level by level.  When he makes it to the bottom, he turns to look at his daughter, but finds he is blocked by the red door.  He tries to look around it, but he is compelled by some unseen force that stops him.  Giving every ounce of his willpower, he makes his way around the red door, and all of the people in the seats start hissing at him.  His daughter looks up at him, her face haggard, spent, as he’s never seen her, but when she sees him, a wave of hope washes over her and she starts calling to him.  He starts towards her, the image breaks, and Alex is awake.

The afternoon of Thanksgiving, Wally goes to Alexis’ apartment around 2:00.  He knocks and announces himself, and he hears her call out to wait a minute.  Through the door, he hears a rustle of plastic being shoved into a trash bag, cabinets being slammed shut, and other noises.  Finally the door opens, and Alexis greets him with a puff of flour covering her head and shoulders, though conspicuously none on her apron, and there is a smell of burning coming from the oven.  She lets him in and goes to get dressed, coming back out sans flour.  Wally offers her the pumpkin pie he picked up at CVS, and they sit down to eat what is obviously a meal, portioned for at least ten people, that was picked up at Boston Market.  As before, Alexis is bubbly and awkward, but they fall into a pattern of small talk and comfortable silences.  Wally apologises for having to leave, as he has to go to the meeting at Gareth’s, but she sends him off with Tupperware full of leftovers.  At the door, he kisses her on the cheek.

Wally drops off his leftovers at his apartment, bringing some of them, another CVS pie, and the invitations for the next day with him to Gareth’s.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Changeling: Bonus Material - Gareth's Place

Since Gareth's apartment seems to be fast turning into Gareth's Home For Wayward Lostlings in our Changeling game, I decided to do up a fancy-shmancy floor plan of the loft space.  I used Florplanner, a really awesome free site that lets you do 2D and 3D renderings of architectural plans.  I do recommend checking it out, as it was really easy to start using, and I intend to do a lot more with it in the future.

But the apartment.  I've had this space kicking around in my head since the game began, although it took a lot of restraint not to make it massive.  I keep having to remind myself that, though the (fictional) building in which Gareth lives is an "artists' colony" which is geared towards low-rent living/working space for otherwise starving artists, I couldn't go all out.  I must say, it was a great creative exercise, and I am much pleased with the result!

The building itself is an old warehouse that has been converted into various types of living and creative spaces from lofts like this to more conventional apartments.  Gareth's flat is about a 660 sq ft, high ceilinged loft space, with a concrete tiled area off the kitchen for with an Ansul hood system for his welding and sculpting apparatus.  There is a regular door as well as a garage-style door to allow for the coming and going of large art pieces and materials.  Conveniently, the main elevator (which in game continuity is an old fashioned grate-style contraption) is right outside his door.  Gareth's home is on the second floor.

An overview of the whole place.  That window in the curtained-off bed space is where they saw the frosty footprint.
The entrance and garage doors.  That's Wally's crash couch in the foreground, and an easel and work bench to the left.
The work area (no good objects for a welder, so it is empty space) and the "bedroom", sectioned off by curtains and a wardrobe.
And from the other side, showing the kitchen, washer/dryer, "living room", and a closet.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Changeling: Session 6

When last we met, our heroes arrived home after a night at the box and began to experience all manner of even stranger strangeness…

Alia falls back to sleep after her strange nightmare and is awoken by a knock at her door.  It is Mia, a fellow working girl, and she looks incredibly rough, as though she’s not been to bed at all and is still intoxicated.  Alia lets her in.  Mia offers her a cricket (marijuana laced with meth) out of an Altoids tin, which Alia declines as she starts making breakfast.  Mia lights up and confesses to Alia that she’s afraid she’s pregnant.  After giving her grief for not using protection while working, Alia asks what she can do to help.  Mia says she’s got no money, not enough for a legitimate clinic at least, but she’ll give Alia what she’s got if she’ll do something to end the pregnancy.  Alia refuses and takes her to a free clinic after helping Mia into clothing other than her tight stained dress. 

Drake is asleep in his apartment.  He is shocked into wakefulness by the sound of automatic gunfire from outside his apartment, spraying his apartment from the street below.  Brick explodes, glass shatters, and holes are peppering his ceiling and floor.  Something ricochets and gets him in his left arm.  After what feels like an eternity, the gunfire stops and tires squeal away, followed by screams from people outside – this is not the sort of neighbourhood where drive-by shootings happen.  Drake rolls out of bed and huddles for a moment until he is sure it is over.  When he hears sirens, he scrambles to get dressed and joins the other building residents in evacuating the building.  On the street, he sees officers entering the building, one uniformed man poking his head out of Drake’s window to view the street.  An ambulance shows up, and Drake eventually gets help for his graze wound while an officer questions him.  

A plainclothes officer named Detective Matthews asks permission to look in Drake’s apartment, as he seemed to be the target, and if there is anyone who might have wanted to harm him?  Drake gives permission – he’s got nothing to hide and the laptop where he does all of his nefarious book-cooking is heavily protected and encrypted.  He makes up some story, not entirely untrue, about calling out Diggles at a bar or club, and that Diggles seemed very upset.  The cop buys the story, says Diggles has been linked to another “act of dramatic violence” recently, and that he thinks he received a big break recently – a new source, better business – something that has given him confidence to step up his game and assert himself.  Drake senses something off in the detective’s story, but goes along with it, saying that he’s got a safe place to stay with family near Buffalo.  He gives Det. Matthews his burner phone number and asks if he can get his laptop.  As the apartment is a crime scene, the detective won’t let him do it himself, but radios up to have someone bring it down.  It takes a lot longer than Drake feels is necessary, though at a brief glance, it appears to be OK.  Drake leaves, getting on a bus and making several changes throughout the borough on his way to Gareth’s loft, shaking the police that were sent after to tail him.

Meanwhile, outside Gareth’s apartment, Wally has just been struck by a taxi.  Thankfully, it was going the speed limit in a residential area, so he’s not terribly injured.  The cabbie gets out of his vehicle with a cry of, “Oh no, not again!”  Goom, still standing just outside of the alley, says that he is a paramedic and that he will attend to Wally.  Wally, of course, will have absolutely none of this, although Goom insists and does a cursory examination of Wally, noting that he’s pretty much just bruised.  The cabbie offers to take Wally to the hospital, or call paramedics, but Wally again refuses help.  He picks up his duffel bag from where it was flung across the street, dismayed to hear his entire Pyrex collection making a cacophony of brokenness.  He brings it with him anyway and begins to limp away.  At this point, Gareth and Alex have arrived streetside and Gareth tries to go after Wally.  Wally ignores Gareth’s requests to just come back inside and continues walking. 

Goom, Alex, and Gareth all return to Gareth’s loft where Goom starts to explain his bandaged face (even revealing his empty eye socket for them – Gareth grabs a beer) but says the full explanation should wait for everyone to be together. Goom sits on Gareth’s couch and begins knitting.  Alex asks what he’s making, and Goom says it is an eye patch.  Gareth is fascinated that Goom knits, and suggests a collaboration for a future art installation.

Wally gets about four blocks away, when he again feels that thrumming in the air, to his right.  He stops, partly because he’s got a stitch in his side, and looks downtown to where the skyscrapers rise.  He sees one of the buildings (he thinks it’s the Chrysler) vibrating and emanating that violet darkness, with tendrils whipping out from the top floors, reaching skyward.  “Motherfucker” he whispers as the pain in his side eases and his violet vision fades.  He looks around – no one else seemed to notice – and begins heading to his apartment. 

Morgan awakens with no incident, has a cup of tea, and checks her messages, seeing all of the back and forth from earlier in the morning and over night about the butterflies and other strange goings on.  She gets dressed and begins to make her way over to Gareth’s.  She and Drake end up arriving at the same time.  Once inside, Drake tells the tale of his morning misadventure, Goom reveals what happened with his dream and waking nightmare, and Alex tells the full story behind the butterflies at the high school.  When he mentions the part about not having a face, something odd happens – everyone in the room sees his facial features disappear.  It is only for a brief second, the blink of an eye, but it definitely happens.  Goom keeps knitting his eye patch in the green red and yellow colours symbolizing Vietnam, stitching “Death” and “Forgotten” on it.

At the free clinic, Mia is refused service, as she is too inebriated to give consent, and there is a good chance that she would lose a lot of blood as a result of said inebriation.  Alia tries to convince them otherwise, but they are steadfast.  She is given the third degree about how serious this procedure is, how critical it is that her friend be sober for this, and what complications may and will arise after the procedure if Mia has sex, continues to use drugs and alcohol, and so forth.  Alia hears and understands, but gives flippant responses and eventually the health worker gives up – bring her in once she’s sober, and they’ll see what they can do.  Alia leaves with Mia, returning to their apartment building in the projects, all the while explaining again and again that Mia has to be sober, and no, she can’t have any drink or drugs until the whole thing is over.  She is finally able to convince Mia to do it by offering to cover her wages while Mia is out of commission after the procedure.

Back in the loft, Gareth has started into his and Wally’s strange encounter from the night before – the “TOUCHED” note, the footprint on the windowsill, the unsettling feeling that they’d missed something.  Goom says he might be able to figure something out, and Gareth gives his permission for Goom to investigate.  While this is happening, Drake examines his laptop and sees fine scratch marks around a USB portal – someone had tried in a hurry to plug in a flash drive, and he knows it had to have been the cops.  Nothing seems removed or damaged, though, and he asks Gareth for a hot glue gun, to fill in the open ports on his computer to prevent future tampering.  He then begins to look up what his doppelgänger has been doing, noting his odd purchases of stock in concrete and steel.  He wonders what his Other is up to – building something?

Meanwhile, Goom has started sniffing around Gareth’s apartment.  Literally – nose to the ground, at the windowsill, going all over the space, tracking almost like a hound.  He goes from the window, across the apartment to the bathroom door (though not in), over to the couch, and back to the window.  He says that is the path the intruder followed, noting that the person stopped in the bathroom door, and paused for a while at the couch where Wally slept, presumably to leave the note, before exiting the way they entered.  He says the  person smelled of sweat and stale beer, he smells metal, like a bunch of body piercings, and blood.  This description doesn’t seem familiar to Gareth or anyone else.

Wally finally makes it back to his apartment, but doesn’t go in.  Parked about a block down is a sleek black limo, definitely out of place for this area, and the back door and window are thrumming violet black.  It starts rolling towards him, and he walks quickly away, turning down a side street.  It changes course and follows.  Wally runs down an alley.  The back door of the limo opens and someone shouts, “Mr. Kim!”  He keeps running.  He dashes into another alley and disposes of his Pyrex shards, keeping anything that managed to make it through the accident.  He circles back around to his apartment.

Back at Gareth’s, Morgan notices something in her pocket that hadn’t been there before.  It is a golf ball sized sphere, dark and shiny, like a large black pearl, and it is cool to the touch.  She hands it to Goom to sniff.  It has no smell.  Not just that, it is the absence of smell.  She recalls from her red door dream that she had put a bottle in her pocket, although it hadn’t been there when she came back to The Box.  This is the same pocket.  Goom picks up a scrap of something from Gareth’s work bench, and has Morgan put it in her pocket; Goom’s theory is that it is a magic pocket.  He adds that it may be best for them to find a new meeting place, if they’re all already being watched, and he offers up his lair as a meeting place, provided no one is opposed to entering a sewer to get there.

Sneaking back to his building, Wally again sees the limo.  This time it is parked directly in front of his building.  Again he turns tail, calling 911, reporting that “There are people threatening me outside my apartment, they’ve been threatening me all day” and provides the address and hangs up, avoiding the area for part of the afternoon. The limo is, of course, still there when he returns.  Giving up, he approaches it with his arms out.  A man wearing a cross between a chauffeur’s outfit and a Nazi SS uniform steps out of the driver door.  His head is shaved and his face is covered in piercings.  “Mr. Kim?” he asks, and Wally nods.  The man pulls out a small box topped with a blue bow and a black butterfly, offering it to Wally, who tells him to put it on the ground.  The man confers with his passenger and then places the box on the street.  He gets back in the limo and drives away, past Wally.  Wally makes sure they’re good and gone before picking up the box.  The butterfly atop it is fake, made mostly of wire.  He brings it up to his apartment where he finds the hole in his wall has been patched and poorly painted.  He shoves as much of his book collection as he can fit into his duffel bag, and then opens the box.

On top is nice parchment with Japanese writing.  (Wally is Korean, but knows some Japanese).  Beneath the parchment are envelopes, each with the name of a person in the abductees group, along with one addressed to “The Woman In White”.  Getting a rough translation, Wally reads the parchment as “Any nice dreams lately?”  He ponders it for a bit before opening his envelope which, like the others, is sealed with a butterfly stamp.  It contains an invitation card with an address, date and time, and instructions to be dressed in “business casual” attire.  He looks up the address.  It is the Chrysler building, and the suite number on the card corresponds to the 75th floor of 77.  According to the information he finds online, floors 75 – 77 are owned by an unpublished occupant.  The meeting time is at 1:30pm the following Friday – Black Friday.