Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Is The End

Well, we're about T-20 minutes to the start of our final Changeling session.  The gaming group (also of Deadlands fame) will be staying together, although we'll be going on some sort of hiatus due to some GM family stuff.  All positive, just not conducive to gaming.

The game session will be up, as always, a million years after the last session, although I'll make some effort—I swear, guys!—to get it up a bit speedier this time, perhaps.

I've really enjoyed myself, and it is going to be really hard to leave behind this poor little tortured artist boy.  This character had been kicking around in my head for years.  I almost played him in another, though less moody, Changeling game when I was either just out of college or about to be at that point.  And that was approximately 7 years ago, so yeah...  He's had such a head canon life of his own, that M'Colleague and I have a nickname for him, Tennant Fae, because, well, he's always been "played by" David Tennant.

I'm a huge nerd.

So there you go.  This is the end.  Play us out, Jim...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Changeling: Session 20 - The Beginning of The End

When we last left our heroes, their worlds continue to fall apart as the Vanishers begin to make their move against them…

Drake barely has time to press his panic button before the flash grenade blows, shattering the windows, and mayhem ensues.  He is immediately knocked out, blind and deafened by the explosion.  Morgan, similarly addled, is able to register a hood being thrown over her head before she is able to call upon her Glamour, using the wind from the broken window to create a protective barrier of air around her.  As her hearing returns, she swears she can hear the choppy whir of propellers.  Her attackers shock her with something, and as she passes out, she swears the propeller sounds change to machine gun fire.

Down in Central Park, Goom lurks in the shadows, watching the pandemonium at the building Morgan had entered, unaware that Drake lives there.  A helicopter hovers outside, rappelling ropes dangling, and flashes of machine gun fire erupt from within it as the window shatters, showering the street below with debris.  Goom begins running toward the building.  The ropes have been swung into the building, and two body bags are being hauled into the chopper as more men rappel in and out.  There is a SWAT van in front of the building, and the street and park have been blocked off on all sides by police cars; police officers shout into phones giving the indication that this is not something that was planned.  Goom goes under ground.

Wally is still in Jimmy’s squalid apartment, watching TV while Jimmy fries eggs on the stove.  Local news breaks in to the broadcast:  In the penthouse of Charles Drake, a firefight has broken out among NYPD SWAT, Drake’s private security, and an unknown group of mercenaries with a helicopter.  Jimmy recognises the building, and yells, “God damn it!  There goes my paycheck!”  The story continues that the SWAT team was there to serve an arrest warrant to Drake for the death and dismemberment of a young woman, a possible prostitute.  Wally shouts, “What the even fuck?” as a picture of Meagan appears on screen.  It is unconfirmed if the mercenaries in the chopper are on Drake’s payroll, or if he has been abducted along with new billionaire celebrity Morgan Jones.  Another shout of “The ever-loving FUCK?!” from Wally, who rounds on Jimmy, getting him to explain what he knows, learning that Jimmy’s boss was contracted by Drake to snoop on Wally and others.  After a while, the news breaks regarding Meagan St. Paul, whose body parts started showing up months ago, but was apparently spotted recently in upstate New York going by the name Melody, and was declared missing earlier that day by her parents.  There is an interview with someone working for Drake’s company who swears that about four months back, Drake changed, almost a different person.

Alia and Gareth, who is riding high, return to their bar of choice just in time to see the Meagan/Melody story break.  Gareth is with it enough to comment to Alia that this is their friend from the support group who had gone missing.  They continue to drink.

Morgan and Drake awaken in pain, in the Chrysler Building office of Madame Butterfly.  They are in her safe room, sitting between two grates of iron bars, cage-like.  M. Butterfly and her tattooed attendant are also there, on one side of the bars near a large picture window, watching the drama unfold on a television.  On the opposite side of the room from Drake and Morgan are twelve armed men standing guard, and on either side of the doorway are the two chained tigers.  Yuri-ko explains that she had prior knowledge of Drake’s impending arrest, and so sent in her team via helicopter to bring them to the safety of her office.  Something is coming for Drake, whatever it was spoke to their “friend in the sewer”, Goom.  She assumes that the dismembered Meagan is the double they knew, but can’t say for certain.  She coughs, and there is blood on her hand.  M. Butterfly continues that she has a series of cages in this room and hopes to capture their pursuer, using Drake and Morgan as bait.  It would be helpful if the rest of their friends would come, too, to help fight, and Drake asks permission to use his phone.

Jimmy’s phone rings, causing Wally to jump.  It is Charles Drake, panicked and hyperventilating, imploring him to contact the others he had been watching and tell them to get the hell out of Dodge.  The line goes dead.  Jimmy passes the message along to Wally, who nods and leaves. 

Still at the bar, Gareth’s phone rings, an unknown number.  Despite Alia shaking her head at him not to answer, he picks up.  A man’s voice tells him that Mr. Drake says to get the hell out of Dodge, and the call ends.  As he tries to wrap his addled brain around it, Gareth’s phone buzzes again, this time with a text message from Goom, who tells them to meet at the Ramble.  Gareth and Alia both know the Ramble to be a spot in Central Park, and head out. 

His high starting to abate as they enter Central Park, Gareth is jittery, rambling on about a dealer he used to buy from who would do business around the Ramble.  Alia admonishes him to be quiet, since they don’t know if they’re going to actually meet Goom, whom they hadn’t seen in weeks, or if it is a trap.  Hiding in the shadows, Goom sees his friends approach, but before he can hail them, he notices movement in the trees.  Alia sees it as well:  vines creep out along the ground and around tree trunks, forming a gateway.  Alia grabs Gareth, pulling him along, as she shouts, “Goom!  The church!”

Goom stays and watches a figure emerge from the hedge, a twelve foot tall butcher, wearing antebellum style clothing and an apron, covered in blood.  He wields an oversized knife that drags on the ground behind him, leaving a trench in his wake.
I will festoon my bedchamber with his guts!
As he passes Goom, he makes eye contact, addressing him as “Private”.  Goom returns the nod, acknowledging the giant butcher as “Totenkopf”.  The thing ambles up the path, though clearly not following Alia and Gareth, who slow their retreat once they realise they are apparently in no danger.  Goom catches up to them and leads them to what he refers to as Goom Lair Alpha.  As they walk, they can hear shouts and gunfire in the direction the Butcher went.  Alia wonders if they should help.  “When,” Gareth asks, “have you ever known us to actually save anybody?”  They continue on.

Wally wanders until he locates one of the few remaining phone booths in the city with an intact phone book.  He flips through it, looking for his parents, to see if they still live in Queens.  He finds a name and address that match, and hails a cab.

Back in the Chrysler, Drake and Morgan watch on television as the giant Butcher comes out of the park and annihilates a cop with a swing of his knife.  Gunfire erupts and he swings at more officers before the picture cuts to a very ashen news anchor.  Madame Butterfly comments “Either tonight we will have our answers, or that is the face of your killer.”

Elsewhere in the city, Alex and his daughter Debbie are recovering from the trauma of their two Fae visitors earlier that night.  Amidst the sirens wailing throughout the city, they both go to bed, Alex never thinking of turning on the television.

Goom is about to start explaining what he’s been up to recently, when a white van rolls up along side them, side door opening to reveal black-clad men inside.  With Gareth spouting a litany of “No, no, no”, they rabbit, with the van pursuing them, though they swear the guys inside are gesturing for them to come in.  Goom manages to smash through a storefront door with the butt of his gun, and they make their way to a restroom with a sewer opening.  Goom leads them to a sub-level, an old tunnel made of old wood planks, and he explains that these are old cow tunnels that were used to bring cattle into Manhattan at the turn of the century.  They arrive at a heady wooden door, the entry to Goom Lair Alpha.  Inside, they can hear a girl sobbing.  When Goom obviously doesn’t know what’s going on, Alia pops her claws, and they enter with caution.

Sitting in an arm chair is Meagan, but different.  Her hair is short and blond, her face streaked with tears.  Goom and Gareth both notice that the neck tattoo their friend Meagan had worn is still present, but on the opposite side – this is not their Meagan.  When the girl sees Goom and his large gun, she screams, toppling out of the chair.  Gareth cautiously approaches her, saying that they are friends of Meagan’s, and the girl relaxes.  She introduces herself as Melody, saying that Meagan is dead.  Before she died, however, she’d given Melody a dream-catcher necklace which would help her find friends that could help her.  Knowing that Meagan thought Madame Butterfly was after her, Melody panicked when she saw an unmarked van outside of her dance studio earlier that day, and she ran, somehow making it all the way to Manhattan without the police noticing, even though they were looking for her as well.  She says that the necklace just sort of let her know where to go, and that’s how she ended up down here; the necklace seems satisfied now that they’re with her.

Gareth comforts her, offering a cigarette, and they both light up.  As the group tries to decide what to do next, they notice a sudden influx of roaches into the lair, and the insects gather together to spell out “PRIVATE”, a picture of a butterfly, and “NOW”.  Their decision made for them, Goom provides Melody with a Kevlar vest and hands both Alia and Gareth each a gun.  They return to the street and proceed to the Chrysler.

As they approach the building, they hear gunfire and helicopters.  About 500 yards down the road, they see the Butcher, slowly ambling towards them, his knife dragging and sparking along the road.  He is flanked by helicopters with search lights turned on him, and although he’s being peppered with automatic gunfire, he doesn’t react.  In a panic, Gareth, Alia, and Melody follow Goom into the building.  The lobby is full of Madame Butterfly’s heavies, but since the group is familiar, they are let through to the elevator without incident.

Press play before reading on...

When the elevator starts rising, Alia demands that Goom explain himself, and why didn’t that thing out there attack them.  He stops the elevator and starts talking.  He asks if they remember the pacts that they’d made with Madame Butterfly and with each other previously.  Alia and Gareth nod.  Goom continues on that M. Butterfly has transgressed against the Fae, what she calls the Vanishers, and that they are coming for her.  There will have to be a sacrifice, and we are that sacrifice.  He has made a pact with the Butcher, although before he can go into detail, the elevator doors open to reveal the Butcher. 

He has shrunk himself to about seven feet, still formidable, but able to fit in the lift.  Gareth and Melody cower in a corner.  The Butcher acknowledges them each by name, but he raises his knife when he sees Melody, saying that he does not know her.  They all defend her, confirming to him that she has value to them, and he lets it go.  He stays standing in front of them, right at the doors, with the four standing behind. 

As they ride up, the Butcher says, “Remember, Private, on pain of death.”  Goom nods.  The Butcher then advises them that they’d do well to get to the side, which the four do, ducking and covering as the elevator doors open on Yuri-ko’s office suite.  The elevator car is bombarded with bullets, but the Butcher just wades into it, blade swinging.

Eventually the hail of bullets stops, the area quiet except for the occasional low moan, and the group in the elevator cautiously step out.  The hall is awash with blood and dismembered bodies.  Alia and Gareth instruct Melody to keep herself hidden behind the receptionists’ desk while they do what they need to do.  The Butcher is coming back down the hall, knife dragging and sparking, and gestures to Madame Butterfly’s safe room, instructing, “Private, you first.”  Goom takes the lead, entering the room alone, Alia and Gareth just on the other side of the doorway, and the Butcher behind them just out of sight.

Goom is greeted with twelve muzzles pointed in his direction, the tigers growl.  Madame Butterfly asks if he is with them, and Goom noncommittally replies, asking if he is the sacrifice, or the whole group perhaps.  Yuri-ko wants to know if she should kill Goom or not, and Drake informs her that he’s the only idealist among the group, and that he’s clearly made pacts.  M. Butterfly asks Goom if he’s made pacts with the fae, but he won’t give her a definitive answer.  Meanwhile in the hall, Alia grabs Gareth’s arm and, with no resistance from the Butcher, begins backing them away from the door.

Drake and Madame Butterfly’s heavies open fire upon Goom.  As his body hits the floor, the primed flash grenade he’d been concealing rolls out of his hand, and detonates in the middle of the group of soldiers.  While they’re distracted, Alia steps in and pulls Goom’s body out of the room, and she and Gareth prepare to give him what aid they can.  As he’s about to enter the room, the Butcher asks if either of them would care to make a pact.  They adamantly deny him, and he shrugs, saying it was worth a try; he enters the room.

He greets Yuri-ko by name, and the tattooed man asks for his, which the Butcher gives as Totenkopf.  Totenkopf the Butcher asks for the Oathbreaker, chiding, “Yuri-ko, you expect me to step into your silly cage?  We have been merciful with you, but we can turn our attention back to you.”  He turns to one of the tigers, which is straining at its collar and chain.  He raises his knife, swings, and the chain is severed.  The tiger sits docile at his side.  Drake tries taunting the Butcher, hoping to entice him closer, but Totenkopf only grins at him, and releases the other tiger.  Still grinning, the Butcher steps forward to engage the twelve soldiers, and that’s when the other set of iron bars drops down from the ceiling, blocking the doorway.  The guards, now trapped in a cage with the Butcher, look back at M. Butterfly nervously.

The Butcher addresses Drake, saying, “You have chosen your allies poorly.  Are you aware that she is the one who invited me?  She framed you for the murder of your friend.”  Drake asks why Morgan is here then, but the Butcher doesn’t know, saying that she is merely collateral.  He does offer her a deal, presumably for her safe passage, but Morgan won’t take the bait.  He asks her that since they’ve got plenty of time, and since they’re not going anywhere, can’t they negotiate?  Drake steps in saying that if she deals, she dies.  Totenkopf offers to change the odds, and he swings his knife, beheading six of the guards.  The remaining six open fire, filling him with bullets, but he doesn’t react.  Drake and Morgan share a look of understanding, and Drake aims his gun at her.  Totenkopf kills the remaining guards.  “This box of yours is imperfect, Yuri-ko.  What is your intent?”

Madame Butterfly says that she will give him Drake, but in exchange he must send her back, back to before all of this happens, back to when she was beautiful.  As her tirade rises, the massive window behind her bursts open, the wind at the high elevation sucking and whistling.  The vine creature, which had previously appeared in Alex’s apartment, climbs into the room, casually tossing the tattooed man outside.  It grabs Madame Butterfly, and without hesitation, twists her head right off.  It breaks off several of its branches and drops them to the floor along with her head.  It then makes like a tree and leaves.

Ain't nobody fucks with tree man.  Ain't nobody.
Drake is able to reach through the bars, pressing a button that will release the first set of bars, allowing the Butcher to leave, but keeping himself and Morgan out of harm’s way.  He waits until he knows the building is cleared before releasing the rest of the cage.

Out in the corridor, Alia and Gareth have managed to tend to the worst of Goom’s wounds, and Gareth calls upon his glamour to revive his friend.  Goom is in pain, but no longer hemorrhaging blood.   The Butcher approaches them, telling Goom, “Consider your deal honoured, Private.  If you want to help your friends further, I recommend you partake of the Death’s Head blossom.”  Goom nods weakly, and the Butcher leaves, entering the elevator and riding down.

Wally’s taxi pulls up in front of his childhood home, and he asks the driver to wait.  He knocks on the door and is greeted by his mother; it looks as though she’s been crying.  “I was told to expect you,” she says, letting him in.  Wally says he isn’t surprised, but asks who told her in the first place?  She merely says, “He’s waiting inside.”  As they walk through the hallway, Wally sees evidence of a life that isn’t his – framed pictures and documents line the wall, giving a glimpse of all the things the other Wally has done—shaking hands with President Obama, awards, ceremonies.  After 2008, his mother no longer appears in the pictures, and around the same time the family pictures just change to press releases clipped from the paper.  The last item is a letter accepting him as a professor at Perdue.  Wally notices that his girlfriend from his old life, Allison, never appears in any of the pictures.

Before they go into the sitting room, his mother comments that he’s very different from her boy, which he acknowledges.  “Are you a good man?”  “Maybe,” he replies.  “I don’t know any more."  His mother replies, "I don't think my son is," and they walk in.  Sitting on the couch is the blue boy with compound eyes and gossamer wings.  It buzzes at Wally, “Ah, welcome.  The time has come to answer the question…”

At some point in the night, Alex awakens with the sense that something isn’t right.  He goes into the hallway to Debbie’s room, noting that the street sounds are loud, as though a window had been left open.  Her bed is empty, but there is a large lacquer box with a red door inlaid.  Alex calls for his daughter, but there is no answer.  Inside the box is a letter, which says “The time has come to answer the question,” and a map of Central Park with a location indicated.

One.  Session.  Left.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Changeling: Session 19

When we last left our heroes, the group had gone their separate ways following the debacle with the Hand Made Man, and had a trulyexplosive start to 2014…

Gareth has been staying with Alia for weeks.  One afternoon, Alia’s pimp, Smokey, knocks on their door, and after chatting with her for a second, he asks to see “her fag”, motioning to Gareth.  Out in the hall, Gareth speaks with Smokey and a short, fat, balding man in a nice suit.  They let him know that the mayor wishes to meet with Gareth regarding the tragedy at his apartment.  They let Alia accompany Gareth as he’s led to the street level where a television crew is setting up outside; Mayor DiBlasio and Luthor Grant are visible through the doorway.  A woman starts doing Gareth’s makeup, donning ear buds when he and Alia wish to speak privately.  Alia tries to get Gareth to bow out, telling him it isn’t good to be visible and public.  Before he can process it, though, he’s dragged out to the blinding lights of the press conference.  DiBlasio grandstands, makes big promises, and informs Gareth that the city is going to give him a new place to live.  Gareth just stares.  At one point, he hears someone coughing.  It is Luthor, Drake’s old pal, and when he wipes at his nose and mouth, there is blood.

Alia texts everyone, “Holy shit Gareth’s on TV”.

Since the news broke about her new-found wealth, Morgan has been staying in a Holiday Inn.  The same evening as Gareth’s press conference, she hears the sound of helicopters, very near, outside her window.  There are two of them, hovering in the space between buildings, both of them with news channel logos; when she opens the curtains, she is blinded by flood lights.  There’s a knock at her door, and through the peep hole she can see a crowd of people, all press, clamoring at her door to get a snippet, a soundbite, anything.  She ignores them, turns the television on loud.  A note sips under the door of the room adjoining hers, “I can get you out of here”, which she also ignores.  After nearly half an hour, the deadbolt on the adjoining door starts twitching.  Morgan shoves a chair under the handle; there is more press on the other side.  She calls the front desk, asking them to please do something.  They inform her she has over 800 messages waiting for her.  In another half an hour there is more shouting in the hallway, but this time it is clear that some security detail has taken charge and removed the press.

One man remains in the hall with a couple of police, and he introduces himself as Josh Goldman, and he works for her now.  She cracks the door to take his card.  He’s nebbish and fumbling, the CFO of Oracle Group, one of the hedge funds created by her double.  Once in her hotel room, he starts talking at her, running through all the things she needs to do now that she’s insanely wealthy.  So much of it goes over Morgan’s head, overwhelming her.  Josh offers to take her to her Bentley, which will take her to her helicopter, which can take her to her house in the Hamptons if she wants to leave the city for a while.  She says she’d rather stay in the city, and after some coordinating and gladhanding, he says he can get her the presidential suite at the Waldorf, but they’ll have to kick Prince out, but it’s okay since The Artist owes them some favours anyway.

Josh presents her with three separate cell phones, all pre-set to only dial certain numbers, for separate purposes.  They’re about as secure as can be, and she can’t use any others.  He of course freaks out when Morgan starts to use her own cell phone to contact the rest of the group, saying that they’ll have to get her a “family” phone for personal numbers.  He is utterly at a loss when she shows him her Goom-radio, but excuses it as just another eccentricity of the wealthy and connected, although he won’t let her use it until they can figure out how to secure it.  He leads her through the hotel lobby, where they are utterly mobbed by press.  They climb into a swank Bentley and head to the Waldorf.

Wally hasn’t been doing much the past few weeks.  He and Alexis are still together, although she isn’t living with him.  He spends most of his time working in his lab.  That same evening, he hears paper slide under his front door.  Grabbing his gun, left over from the raid on the apartment building, he finds that there is an envelope from an unknown source.  Donning gloves, he brings it to his lab and scans it for contaminates.  Nothing.  He opens it and finds a notice that his rent is four days past due, which is funny, as he’s lived in this new apartment for four months and never had to pay a dime.  The bill comes to over $7,000.  Knowing something is wrong, Wally runs to a corner store, buys a burner, and calls Hank.  It rings and rings, never going to voice mail.  He checks on line, to see if Hank is dead or in jail.  Nothing.  It then occurs to him that he hasn’t heard from Alexis in a couple of days – she’s usually good for at least a daily text message.  He heads back out to try to find her. 

As he passes through the lobby and onto the street, he notices people watching him, spying, pulling the old advance-and-follow.  It seems there is a whole conspiracy of people monitoring him.  He also notices a man who has been tailing him, but seems separate from the conspiracy, an old school PI by the looks of him.  Not caring any more, Wally walks right up to the guy, calls him out, demands to know who hired him.  The guy won’t say and starts making threats right back, but says it would really be easier if Wally just lets him go along to… wherever Wally’s headed.  They come to somewhat of an accord, and Wally agrees, although he really needs to shake the other group.  They dip into a subway station and, just before boarding the train, the PI tosses something into a trash bin and shouts, “ANTHRAX!  NINE ELEVEN!”  Mayhem, of course ensues, allowing them to get away cleanly.  The guy convinces Wally to detour to a titty bar he knows, which has great steak, and where “They let you touch everything.”  Wally sees an opportunity to get this guy drunk and talkative, so they make their way to the Joie de Beave.  The PI is greeted by name (Jimmy), and they are given a booth, and set up with steaks and beer.

Alex arrives home from his new job, knowing immediately that something is wrong—there is heavy condensation on the door handle of his apartment, and it is freezing to the touch.  Seeing nothing in the hallway, he goes in.  He immediately notices the 12-year-old boy with electric blue skin, a leather loincloth, compound eyes, and gossamer wings – his were the hands that reached through the portal in Alex’s closet some weeks before.  His daughter, Debbie, is there, too, lying naked on the dining table, her chest and ribs folded open.  She’s alive, though, breathing, and frightened.  There is another figure, tall and limby, looking to be made of sticks and pieces of wood, sporting rams horns, and with black eyes, no nose, and a lipless mouth.  It is standing over Debbie, arms elbow deep in her chest cavity.  The boy speaks, saying that Alex’s daughter is valuable, and if she is so valuable to him, why did he not want the substitute they made and left for him in the underground tunnel with the red door?  The stick man pulls out her still-beating heart, considers it, and puts it back in.  The boy tells Alex that he is not the original Alex, that the original is dead.  It won’t let Alex reply.  They are pulling her apart to understand why she is more valuable than the replica he rejected.  Both creatures speak without moving their lips.  Eventually, the stick thing pushes Debbie’s chest back together and begins sewing her up with vines.  As the creatures back away, the boy says, “We will speak again, Shadow”, before leaving through Alex’s bedroom.  Alex rushes to Debbie as the room grows warm again, brushing the vines from her chest.  She comes to, gasping, and Alex holds her as she sobs.

Drake is summoned by Yuri-ko, when he arrives to her office atop the Chrysler, her tattooed right-hand man is there as well, seemingly recovered.  Madame Butterfly comments to Drake that he doesn’t have many friends left as she turns on the TV.  The  news is covering DiBlasio’s news conference regarding the apartment explosions – a tweaked out, nervous Gareth is visible behind the mayor.  Drake sees Luthor standing behind them, notices the coughing and the blood.  M. Butterfly makes a comment about Luthor being ill due to some broken Pledge he made with Drake, wondering what he did to bring illness upon himself.  The channel changes, showing coverage of Morgan being rushed out of her hotel.  M. Butterfly tells Drake that she can feel the Vanishers, and knows he can feel them too, and that they’re angry about what he did.  She calls out Alia, saying that it is interesting that “the whore did not support your artist friend.”  She leads them into a room lined with little geisha dolls.  As she passes through, their heads all turn and slowly follow her.  When it is Drake’s turn, their heads all whip around, on alert.  M. Butterfly says it is because they hate him, because he “didn’t kill him”, presumably referencing the Hand Made Man.  She tells him that the police are ready to arrest him, for what she does not specify, and that now is the time to mend fences with his old friends.  The Vanishers are now more interested in Drake than in her.  She hands him a phone that he can use to contact Morgan; their companies have dealings with each other.  As he leaves, she lets him know that if he ever needs to hide from Them, her safe room is open.

Alia waits just inside as Gareth finishes his little photo op.  She overhears the mayor telling Gareth that they’ll be in contact within 48 hours regarding his new apartment.  Once the circus is gone, Alia and Gareth decide to go out somewhere to get several drinks.  They hail a cab, although it soon becomes obvious that the driver is not going in the right direction, putting them both on alert.  They turn into an alley so narrow that they can’t open their doors.  Alia pops her claws as the cabbie turns around, revealing himself to have the same blue countenance and compound eyes as the boy in Alex’s apartment.  Alia tries slashing at the window separating the driver from his passengers, but is ineffective, and so starts kicking at the back windshield.  Gareth huddles out of her way as the thing begins talking at them, without moving its mouth.  It tells Gareth that he also turned down their offer, and that Gareth saved “its” life, and why.  Gareth mutters something about there being too many questions.  Before the creature can continue, Alia finally shatters the back window and, grabbing Gareth by the collar, pulls him out with her.  They book it back to the street, and stumble in to the first bar they find, proceeding to get good and drunk.

Back in the Bentley, one of Morgan’s phones ring, the caller ID showing the call coming from Yuri-ko.  It is Drake.  While they talk, Josh hands Morgan a dossier on Yuri-ko and the dealings they have together, to the tune of $1.4 billion.  The one thing missing is a photo of the woman herself, as she is very private and elusive.  Drake is asking if Morgan would like to meet for dinner, privately.  Josh is beside himself at the chance to get a sighting of Yuri-ko, as her picture could be worth, well, lots to the right people.  Drake gives Morgan the address to his private penthouse and says to have her people contact his people.  When the call ends, Josh informs her that she was speaking with the one and only Charles Winston Drake.  Morgan argues that it wasn’t really C.W. Drake, just someone who is an awful lot like him.  Josh argues it a bit, but brushes it off as just another weird quirk of the rich.

Once Debbie has calmed down, Alex sends a mass text to the group about his blue intruder.  Alia and Gareth reply that they’ve seen something similar that same night, and do they want to do another group meeting.  Back in the car, Josh asks Morgan if she’s got some issues he should know about, regarding this support group, and she brushes him off.  Wally replies back asking them to “Cut me out of your loop.  And get new phones.”

Morgan is shown up to the penthouse of the Waldorf, and she and Josh are greeted by a massive body guard who opens a set of double doors.  Inside, they find The Artist Formerly Known As “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”, roller-skating aroundthe suite on a pair of skates emitting purple sparks.  He rolls up to her, taking both her hands, and asks her if she believes in love.  She replies that she does, he kisses her hands and rolls away, calling for “The Revolution!”  A bunch of people, also on skates, follow him out, carrying bags and other personal effects.  Once they’re alone, Josh scours the suite, saying that Prince is notorious for leaving behind odd gifts for people.  Sure enough, in the large bathroom, a bubble bath has been set up, with candles and flower petals all around, and a stack of warm pancakes is sitting to the side.  A note reads “Indulge yourself & make love to your tummy”.

Make love to it
 Alia and Gareth finish drinking, and she accompanies him while he purchases another bump, staying with him while he shoots up to be sure he is as safe as can be, and just in case more faerie people show up.

Wally continues drinking with Jimmy, but the guy is iron clad and doesn’t let anything slip no matter how inebriated he gets.  The guy is nice enough, though, offering to let Wally stay with him since he’s being watched by some other unknown group.  Wally concedes and at the end of the night they both return to the fleabag motel Jimmy calls home.  There’s a threadbare couch in the room, and Wally sleeps there for the night.

Morgan prepares for her dinner with Drake, her people outfitting her with beautiful evening wear, complete with a brooch that doubles as a camera and microphone – Josh wants any information he can get on Yuri-ko, and assures Morgan that this sort of thing happens often.  When Morgan gets out of her car at Drake’s building, right across from Central Park, she is hit by a wave of cold malice washing out of the park and into the building.  She heads inside, turning back just once to notice a man driving a horse carriage around the park, and she notes that he bears goblinoid features.  Once she’s ridden the elevator up, she is shown into Drake’s penthouse, where he greets her with an obviously forced “So lovely to meet you!”  Both are aware that they technically don’t know each other in their new lives.  Drake has cleaned up, is clean shaven, different but not.  Morgan excuses herself to the powder room where she removes the brooch, leaving it and her handbag behind when she returns.  Drake notices the change, cottoning on, and relaxes immensely once they determine that they are alone – he’s even dismissed his staff for the evening.  He wanted to check with her, now that she’s come into this bizarre new life, to make sure she is doing well and to genuinely offer any assistance he can, being well acquainted with the world of the madly wealthy.

There’s a problem, he tells Morgan, related to their last endeavour related to the Hand Made Man.  Drake has pissed off something powerful—Morgan comments about the wave of malice she felt outside.

They continue talking for just a while longer when they both notice Drake’s front door creak open.  Two objects resembling hockey pucks slide in on the floor.  There’s just enough time for Drake to hit his panic button before ———

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Changeling: What Happened Next

The instant Duayane’s head mists, the Statue of Liberty gives one last sweep of her torch, levelling the top three floors of the apartment building.  She contemplates the group before walking back to Liberty Island.  Goom knocks Drake across the back of the head, and he crumples to the floor unconscious.  The three who had gone into the dream—Alia, Gareth, and Morgan—begin seizing where they lay; when the dreamer died, it didn’t hurt them exactly, but it wasn’t good for them either.  Wally and Goom drag them away from Drake and Duayane’s body.  They’re not out long, and when they come to, Wally leaves.  Goom lets them know that Drake shot Duayane, Drake is fine, but they need to go.

As they leave, they notice that the purple haze that has spilled out of the apartments is now affecting the government workers and police on the street—they’ve either fallen asleep or are trying to rouse their fellows. 

Two days after the incident, the power finally comes back on in Manhattan.  The winter is still bitingly cold, but with power, heat, and other utilities restored, it is a bit easier on the city’s less fortunate denizens.

About a week after the incident, Gareth, Morgan, and Wally are visited by the police, who are suddenly very interested in Meagan’s disappearance.  The tone of their questioning has changed, they are more severe, and they seem to show interest in Drake, and are trying to put together a time-line of his whereabouts.

The next few months are a blur. 

Drake has gone radio silent.  Not off the grid, but burying himself in a series of bottles.  He spends his nights going home with whatever piece of ass he can get, no longer holding to whatever standards he may have had before.  Alex and Alia keep an eye on him from afar, and about a month after the Duayane incident, he cleans up, suits up, shaves, and strolls into Madam Butterfly’s place.  He’s now seen, wherever he goes, with an entourage of armed men.  After another two months or so, though, he disappears completely. 

Morgan’s doppelgänger, the Oracle of Wall Street, dies.  She was an old woman, in her 80s, and quite loaded.  Nothing suspicious surrounds her passing, and it is reported that she died of natural causes.  Morgan doesn’t speak much about it.

Also during the time after the incident, a rumour starts going around the city about a monster that has been haunting (for lack of a better word) juvenile facilities and terrorising children.  The group has no other information to go on.

Whatever happened to Gareth in the dream, not to mention the weeks and months previous, whittled away at his resolve.  As much as he makes the effort to fight his old demons, he soon finds himself returning to his old ways shortly after returning home.  Back on the horse, his days are coloured golden-brown.  He tries his best to keep up with his art, but whenever Goom and Morgan come around, his skittish behaviour, sickly appearance, and odd ticks scream that something is wrong.  Morgan eventually gets it out of him, that he’s using again, and offers her support although doesn’t necessarily do anything to drive him to get clean.

Three weeks following the incident, Gareth finds himself stumbling out of his new favoured opium den.  Although it is night, he can’t help but notice a figure writhing on the ground in an alley nearby.  The man isn’t just familiar, he is Gareth.  Or, rather, Gareth’s doppelgänger.  He’s OD’d on something, a needle only partially emptied still stuck in his arm.  Gareth curses, removing the needle and the tourniquet, and tries to get his double to come around, but the older man is in some other place.  Not knowing what else to do, Gareth calls 911 and waits in the shadows until the paramedics arrive and take his double away.  The next day when news breaks that famed artist Gareth Davies has been admitted into hospital on a suspected drug overdose and is now in a coma, the rest of the support group flood Gareth’s phone with messages.  He lets them all know he is fine.  He tries to make contact with his double in dreams, but the other’s head is a blur—there is no one home.

Three days later, his building explodes.  It happens one night towards the end of February.  Gareth’s side of the building isn’t totally annihilated, but the rest of it is rubble collapsed into the sewer.  There are 300 lives lost, as most residents were asleep in their beds.  His friend, Kali, home from her stay in the hospital following her suicide attempt, lives although her arm is broken and she sustains severe burns to her left side.  She will recover, but her face will never look the same again.  Now homeless, and his artwork destroyed, Gareth spends some time at a local shelter, trying to secure some studio space from his acquaintance Adam, who works at the last gallery where Gareth showed.  Adam doesn't promise anything, but will see what he can do.

Once the word gets around to the rest of the group, Alia manages to find Gareth and offers him some space in her apartment, such as it is, until he gets back on his feet, which he gladly accepts.  She’s not a stranger to drug use, and so recognises the signs in him.  She gives him $50 to get some new clothes, maybe some art supplies, but asks him to try not to spend it all on smack.  He doesn’t say yes, but he doesn’t say no, either.  To make a bit of money, he offers to do paintings and murals for the residents of the project building, prettying the place up.

Two days after Gareth’s apartment explodes, so does Morgan’s.  Hers, thankfully, goes during the day when most residents are out, and the death toll is only around 20 or so.  Though it is devastating, Morgan doesn’t seem to be in dire straits as Gareth is.  Both explosions are eventually ruled to be the result of gas leaks, further proof of the poor infrastructure that is plaguing the city.

Morgan even starts the support group meetings again, making sure to personally fetch Gareth before each gathering to make sure that he goes.  Everyone goes, too, except for Drake and Wally, who seems to be distancing himself from the group and the events that go with them.  During the meetings, Alex shares that he is repairing his relationship with his daughter to the point that she has now moved in with him.

Sometime in late March or early April, a news story breaks that the Oracle of Wall Street has left her entire estate to an unknown fortune teller in Manhattan whose building blew up some weeks back…

Following the massive fubar that was the Duayane incident, our GM provided us with some in-game down time.  As this motley is a suspicious and paranoid lot, not all of our individual exploits have been made public (i.e. known) to one another, hence this account being rather Gareth-centric.  More information will, I am sure, come to light in due course.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Changeling: Session 18

When last we met, our heroes made their way back to Manhattan, met with Madame Butterfly, and conned their way into the building that seems to be the source of the bizarre Dream influences upon the city, and witnessed some surreal horrors.

Remember me?
As the abearmination pads off the stairs, Drake steps into its path, flashing his glamour in an attempt to deter the beast from attacking.  He is only marginally successful.  As it begins slashing at them with horrid claws, the rest of the group opens fire.  As puffs of stuffing explode in the air around it, the thing turns its second set of eyes—the baby’s face on its belly—at them in turn, the flashing eyes having detrimental effects upon their weapons.  The hail of gunfire is relentless, cotton flying everywhere, the thing moaning, and the malicious child-like voice from the air protesting, “This isn’t fun any more!”

Drake asks if it would like to surrender now or should they keep going?  Morgan attempts to curse it, and Gareth finally takes it down with a short burst of bullets.  As they ponder their next steps, Goom does his best to repair the guns that had malfunctioned.  He is able to do so, save for Wally’s—whatever the bearstrosity had done to it ruined the clip release mechanism irreparably, at least with what they currently have at hand.  Wally switches to a pistol, leaving the semiautomatic behind.  They ascend up to the next floor. 

As they look up, they see natural light pouring in from the next landing and from an apartment with an open door.  Initially the interior of the domicile seems normal, but it stretches out, seemingly into an endless savannah.  The air is humid, and the stairs, though normal under their feet, has turned into a waterfall.  Drake calls out to the child voice that he thought it wanted to play, and they continue up.  Down the hall to the right is a child’s ride on toy which resembles a dinosaur, to the left is a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe that keeps ramming itself into the wall.  From the savannah ahead of them comes a bass-heavy roar.  Drake closes the apartment door, shutting off the savannah, and as he does the dinosaur starts trundling toward him.  As they step up onto the next set of stairs, the dinosaur bumps at the stairs, but goes no farther.  Goom punts it, and it flies down the hall with a whine.

 Welcome to your nightmares... Well...

As they round the landing to the fourth floor, the child voice comes again.  “You broke my toy.  You brought guns.”  It whines, and then in a booming growl, “YOU’RE NOT VERY NICE!”  Drake reasons with it that they’re friendly to people who are their friends, and they could all be friends if the child would like it.  It bellows again, “FRIENDS DON’T USE GUNS.  I’M GETTING MY FRIEND.”  And then nothing.  They carry on to the 4th floor.

The 4th floor is water .  As though retained by an invisible barrier, the space from floor to ceiling, as far as they can see, is all water.  It is clear, deep blue, and with little illumination.  They all turn on the torches that are mounted to their guns, which helps a bit.  They can see apartments and seaweed throughout the floor.  As they again ponder their next move, fate decides for them.  The water wall comes crashing down, stunning all of them.  Most are able to find a handhold, but Gareth and Alex are swept away, bashing into walls and stairs, down to the 2nd floor.  As the 4th floor drains, the scenery around the rest of the group has changed.

They’re now in a cloud land, standing on an island of clouds.  The rest of the building around them seems to have disappeared.  They see a four-poster bed floating some ways away from them and spinning rapidly, a hand drawn castle, and behind them—the last vestige of any sort of building interior—the Manhattan skyline is visible through a window.

Drake attempts to exert his will against the dream in an effort to restore reality.  They feel the world flex around them, but nothing changes.  Alia also attempts to fight it, but with similar results.  After some discussion, they determine that they should make for the bed.  Alia is able to conjure a cloud that will transport three of them through the sky, pulling up a section of the cloud beneath their feet.  Goom and Wally choose to remain behind, while Drake and Morgan join Alia.  They climb on as their cloud ferry begins to move.

Though it continues to spin, they can see that upon the bed is a middle aged African American woman, limbs akimbo, with a redbrown stain spreading beneath her.  A yellow tube is wrapped around one arm and a needle sticks out from beneath it.  They ask aloud if this is the child’s mother, but only receive silence.  Alia offers to help clean her up, make her pretty again, and the spinning slows enough to allow her on.  When she pulls the needle out, she can see the vein collapse and the woman’s hand clasps around her wrist, milky eyes staring.  Alia asks how she can help, and the woman says that they have to find the needle.  Alia asks if it is a syringe needle, but the woman doesn’t definitively answer, as she begins coughing.  Alia scoops up some cloud, and squeezes water from it into the woman’s mouth.  Some recovered, the woman says, “He’s a good boy, but there’s poison there.”  She proceeds to describe the building, the effect of the sand upon it and its denizens, as well as her boy, whose name is Duayane.  “He’s a good boy, but something happened.  Find the needle.  601. It’s almost here.”

Meanwhile, down on the 2nd floor, Alex and Gareth come to in a bit of pain, but otherwise not drowned or dead.  The water that had washed around them is now falling as rain, and they are standing amidst a roiling stormy sea.  Everything is in grayscale, even they.  As they try to move around, they realise that the surface beneath them is made of faces, screaming, moaning, saying awful things.  Waves of faces rise, crest, and slam into them over and over.  None are familiar, although all of them are “brown”—faces of persons who are not Caucasian.  In trying to figure out what to do, Gareth tells Alex about his last experience in a dream, how he sprouted wings when he appeared as a horse.  At the mention of “horse”, one of the faces perks up, excitedly jabbering about heroin and asking Gareth if he has any, and asking turns to begging.  Gareth replies that he doesn’t right now, but if the man will tell them how to get out of here, he promises to “hit up his guy” and get some real soon.  The face sneers and starts screaming “FAGGOT!” at him, dozens of other faces taking up the cry as well.

Doing their best to ignore the slurs, Gareth and Alex return to their discussion.  Alex figures it can’t hurt, and so exerts his will and glamour, and finds that he has sprouted wings.  He scoops up Gareth, who is running low on his reserve of glamour, and they take to the sky.  Both of them agree that this is more than a bit awkward, Gareth nattering on about some similar dream he once had (but not about Alex, he swears) and they speak no more of it.

As they rise, they see a hole appear in the stormclouds above, as though someone had pulled up a plug.  Alex gives one more push with his wings, and they’re both able to grab onto the lip of the hole and haul themselves up.

Back on the ground of the cloud world, Wally and Goom see a pair of grey hands scrabble at the edge of the cloud where Alia had pulled up her transport.  They level their guns at it, not knowing what to expect.  When Alex and Gareth appear, they’re slightly relieved, although the two men are still completely grayscale.  Just as they’re starting into their updates for each other, darkness washes over them.  Above, Alia, Morgan, and Drake are similarly plunged into darkness, and they plummet to the ground inside an apartment.  As they land, the others feel the surface beneath them become solid hallway again.  The child voice booms around them, “I BROUGHT A FRIEND.”

There is a sound like a wrecking ball, and something large and orange begins crashing toward them, plowing through the walls, floors, and ceilings of the apartment building, centered on the 4th floor.  Not used to seeing it from this angle, it takes the group a moment to realise what it is.  The Statue of Liberty’s flaming torch is headed straight for them, and quickly.  Panic ensues.

Gareth and Wally sprint down the stairs, away from the rest.  Alia and Drake are able to sprint out of the apartment and into the hall, Alia yelling about apartment 601, that they need to get the boy.  Goom heads to the 6th floor.  Alex, Alia, and Drake are not swift enough and are swept up by the torch , falling to the floor below, Drake and Alex passing out from the extent of the injuries they have taken.  Alia manages to dodge the worst of it and, spying another staircase at the far end of the building, begins taking the stairs to the 6th floor.  Still in the apartment, Morgan watches in horror as the torch passes within inches of her.  She can see outside, that the tarp over the building has been ripped away, and purple haze is venting out of the structure.  Some floors down, Wally and Gareth stop, and similarly make for a side staircase, knowing that the stairs they had been using are now rubble.

Up on the 6th, Goom faces the door of Apartment 601.  It is locked, so he invokes one of his contracts, and kicks the door open, shouting “BOY!” as he does so.  In one bedroom, he sees a young black boy asleep in a bed.  He shakes him, but the child does not wake, he gets some water from the toilet reservoir (the taps aren’t working) and splashes the boy in the face.  Nothing.  He picks the boy up, intending to shake him again, when he hears wood, plaster, and glass shattering behind him.  He turns, holding Duayane in front of him, as a shield.  The torch stops at the last second; the boy does not awaken.  Goom says aloud that they’re only trying to help, and that he’d be much obliged if they weren’t attacked any more.  As the torch is in the way of the apartment’s entrance, Goom searches for another way out.

Alia has made it up to the 6th floor where she is eventually joined by Wally, Gareth, and eventually Morgan.  On their way up, they could all see the big green wall of Lady Liberty’s skirt obstructing the windows.  Alia begins explaining to them what she learned from Duayane’s mother, when Goom bursts through the wall carrying the sleeping boy. Morgan tries waking him, to no avail.  When she mentions the needle Duayane’s mother spoke of Gareth decides to search the apartment—between his past history with drug use and Alia’s regular contact with junkies, they figure they should be able to suss out any hiding places.  Meanwhile, Goom goes down to the 3rd floor to aid Alex and Drake.  Morgan eventually joins Alia and Gareth, while Wally waits in the hall.

The search for a needle, any needle, is fruitless.  After some debate among the three of them, knowing that time is precious and short, Alia and Gareth decide to enter Duayane’s dream, and Morgan will keep watch over them.

In the dream they are still in the apartment.  Everything is off, but not alarmingly so, the way things appear when one dreams a familiar place.  They do, however, hear a scratching coming from the door that they know to be the boy’s.  They do a quick once over of the apartment and, finding nothing of note, decide to open the door.  Immediately they see Duayane cowering in a corner, transfixed by something.  That something is a man-sized medieval marionette with a giant iron needle sticking from its head and a massive black widow, easily a couple of feet across or more, also impaled by the needle, and scratching at the marionette’s face.  Gareth goes to help Duayane, who starts yelling that the spider is hurting his friend and they’ve got to help.  Gareth tries explaining that the marionette is a bad man, who has caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people in the city, but the boy won’t listen. 

Alia manages to free the spider from the needle, and it immediately turns against them.  She, Gareth, and even Duayane try fighting it.  They eventually dispatch it, although in the scuffle Alia is bit and falls unconscious.  Trying to process that and keep Duayane from freeing the Hand Made Man, which he still assumes to be the right course of action, he grabs the child and manhandles him out of the bedroom. 

Back in the real world, Morgan watches in horror as Alia’s body begins spasming.  She’s still alive, though unwakeable; she calls for Wally.  When he realises that Alia and Gareth just decided to go into the Dream without consulting the rest of the group, or at least bringing him into the discussion, he starts freaking out.  Morgan explains that they felt they had no time and acted they way they thought was best.  And now since something has happened to Alia, she has to go in after them.  Helplessly, Wally agrees, and stands watch while Morgan lies down next to Gareth and Alia, slipping into the Dream.

She enters right as Gareth is carrying a squirming Duayane from the other room.  He makes brief introductions and explains, quickly, what’s going on with the Hand Made Man in the other room. While they talk, Duayane manages to wriggle free and dash into his room, where he proceeds to start pulling the needle from the Hand Made Man’s head.  After a short struggle, Morgan has him with his arms pinioned behind him, and instructs Gareth to set the puppet on fire.  He pulls out his lighter, holds it to the thing’s clothing.  It catches… a little, but it isn’t going up fast enough. 

Back in the real, Goom has returned to 601 with Alex and Drake.  When they see the two girls and Gareth asleep, and Wally explains what has happened, shouting commences.  In the anger and commotion, Drake says he knows the only way to end this for certain, M. Butterfly even said they might have to do this.

He pulls his pistol and places it to Duayane’s head.

Wally pulls his own pistol and levels it at Drake, warning him that there has to be another way, and if Drake shoots, so does Wally.

Drake pulls the trigger.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Changeling: Session 17

When last we met, our heroes fought their way through the Dreaming, only to emerge out of a dressing closet in a gay club.

“You sure know how to make an entrance,” the dancer in the dressing room says, directly to Gareth.  He clearly knows him, although Gareth has zero recollection, and just stands there, staring, as the rest of the group tumbles out around him.  The dancer puts down his hair brush and pulls a cigar box out of a drawer.  Then the SWAT team arrives, and he shrieks, throwing the box in the air.  When it hits the floor, a lighter, spoon, baggie, and two syringes spill out, one of the syringes full of brown substance cracking and emitting purple smoke when the air hits whatever is inside.

Wally tries to reassure the flustered dancer, and Drake asks where they are.  “The Candy Bowl”, he replies; Gareth, Alia, and Drake (because he remembers everything) know this place to be in Brooklyn. 

The whole motley crew exits the dressing room to the stage beyond, though Gareth stays behind, still trying to figure things out, and Goom sticks with him.  On stage is a man in Barbarella  drag writing atop the face of a shirtless man in low rise jeans.  One of the SWAT guys comments this isn’t the strangest thing he’s seen today, and moves on stage, the rest following suit.  The club patrons, predictably, freak.  Drake puts on an air of authority and shouts that they are the police, but if everyone clears out without issue, no one else will be called.  The club is promptly vacated. 

Back in the dressing room, Gareth starts asking the dancer (his name is Steven) questions, trying to figure shit out.  Steven is still panicked over the appearance of the SWAT, but makes it clear he thinks Gareth is mental, as these are all things Gareth should know.  The junk is Gareth’s, he paid for it, and they were hanging out just recently.  Gareth finally pieces together that Steven must know his double, meaning that his double is still somewhat local.  Steven says that Gareth can keep the drugs but please, can he please just be allowed to leave?  Gareth lets him go as he crouches down to collect the paraphernalia, and Steven passes Wally in the hallway as he exits.  Wally lets Gareth and Goom know that people are getting ready to leave.  Goom suggests that the drugs should come with them, to be analysed, and Wally collects the mess from Gareth, prompting him to grumble that he really can be trusted with the drugs without breaking.

The soldiers, thugs, and others remove their body armour and place it and their weapons into whatever assorted duffel bags, boxes, and other totes can be found around the club.  They depart in staggered groups of five or so, a group of soldiers and thugs escorting one of the rubes, and meet up several blocks away at a warehouse owned by Harajuku Importers.  They know they need to get back to Manhattan, but the evacuation is still in progress (it has only been about 16 hours since they left) which complicates things significantly.  Madame Butterfly’s crew makes contact with her to figure out their next step.

While plans are being made, the group questions Alia about what happened with the root-headed woman.  She explains the offer for information on defeating the Hand Made Man, the supposed bloodline that M. Butterfly is withholding, and the root-woman’s request to be named and freed.  Upon learning that Alia gave the creature a name and touched it, they of course react with the appropriate amount of indignation.

The soldiers come back from their private chat, announcing that the situation changed while they were away – now the FBI, Homeland Security, and EPA are on the scene, in addition to the island being evacuated.  Drake demands to talk to M. Butterfly, and is eventually granted his request.  He confronts her with the information they obtained in the Dreaming, and while she agrees it is all interesting and merits further investigation, she denies hiding any sort of bloodline.  She has news for them:  the feds have converged on a building in which she has financial interests.  It seems one of her companies, dealing in pesticides, has found a loophole in EPA requirements that as long as the building residents agree to their building being sprayed with this untested chemical, the company is free to test the effects on humans.  Apparently the EPA has taken notice.

She provides an address, which Alia recognises as being in her neighbourhood.  M. Butterfly can arrange for a news helicopter (the only way in or out of the island) to pick them up, although the soldiers and thugs cannot go with them as the chopper is only so big.  Drake asks for two hours before the pick up, and M. Butterfly agrees.  He departs, looking for a suit shop.

The rest of the group takes body armour and automatic firearms each, although Drake declines either – it will mess the lines of his suit, and if he’s going to sell whatever deception they’ve got going, he needs to look official.  The helicopter arrives and takes the group plus the tattooed man over the deserted city.  They fly near Alia’s building, and focus on what is surely the object of the feds’ attention – an apartment complex that has been covered in white tarp, with emergency vehicles and figures in yellow HAZMAT suits swarming about orange triage tents.  They discuss acquiring clean suits of their own as the helicopter departs to land on a building near the Chrysler. 

The building is abandoned and the streets are empty as the tattooed man leads them through the Chrysler lobby and to a private elevator that takes them directly up to Yuri-ko’s.  Once in her suite, they can smell spray paint.  On the floor are several clean suits, with FBI stenciled on.  Madame Butterfly appears, explaining that it isn’t the best, but with the time she had it is enough for Drake to bluff them through. 

In her safe office, she explains to them that there will likely be a child in the building, one which may need to be eliminated, and that they’ll need to make sure they are up to that task.  It may also be necessary to confront the Hand Made Man in the child’s dream.  The tattooed man says it is easier to go in and out of an individual’s dream as opposed to the Dreaming where they had been, so this shouldn’t be as daunting a task. 

Drake inquires if Yuri-ko has a way of replenishing his Glamour as he’s spent a lot of it recently.  She says yes she has something he can access, but only as part of an agreement, which he must never divulge, even to his death, and takes him aside.  Once again, the rest of the group feels that tingle in the air as Drake’s pact is made, though this one is far more intense – great power is at work here.  Drake returns looking positively flush with Glamour. 

They get in a van and suit up on their way to the apartments.  The group of them strolls in with purpose, tattoo man included, until Morgan stumbles, drawing attention.  Someone waves at them and runs over, but Drake is on him in an instant, telling the guy to back down, that he never saw them here.  He comes off so convincing that the fellow doesn’t even argue, just lets them pass.  Drake tells him to keep everyone out until the group exits the building.

Inside they find that all power has been cut as they stare down an empty dark hallway.  An old fashioned cage elevator is in the centre, with stairs spiraling around it.  Wally looks for purple haze, weak spots between worlds, but finds that the whole damn building is full of it.  Goom hears a sliiiideTHUMP sliiiiiideTHUMP coming from the floor above, and they ascend the stairs.

At the landing they can all hear it clearly, and Goom removes his helmet to smell the air.  Though he can’t smell anything at first, he eventually smells both stale and fresh sweat, dried urine and faeces, rotting bodies in the apartment with the noise.  There are living people in the other apartments, but they head to the one with the obvious noise.  They arrange themselves around the door, weapons drawn.  Whatever is inside starts rapidly thumping towards the door, and Goom kicks it in.

Inside the room is a crib, and a TV with an armchair, with a corpse reclining in it.  The face and most of the chest have been eaten away.  In the crib is the body of a half eaten child.  The thing coming toward them has a frog’s head, a human’s upper body, and a large umbilical cord that is leaking blood and clear fluid.  Wally fires an automatic burst of bullets into it, spraying goo everywhere.  It deflates and contracts, turning into a broken bath toy.  Alia pops her claws through her suit and begins slashing at any other child’s toys in the space, ensuring that nothing else from this room comes after them. 

Alia and Goom, both with open clean suits, both begin feeling sleepy, surely an effect of whatever Dream substance is in this building.  They manage to seal up their suits again, and carry on.  In checking the rooms with the living, they find that everyone is asleep, having nodded off in the midst of their daily activities.  They proceed room to room searching for the child Yuri-ko mentioned. 

That’s when they hear it, out in the hall.  Something is coming down the steps from the floor above.  Something big.  They take cover in a doorway and aim. 

A sick sadistic voice echoes at them, “Have you come to play?”  The cage around the elevator shaft shakes with every step it takes.  One enormous furry leg comes into view, then another.  There is the sound of knives dragging against the wall.  Finally they see it. 

It is another giant teddy bear, easily seven feet tall, though this one with long curved black claws.  When it finally turns to face them, revealing itself to be truly gruesome.
The mouth in the torso shrieks, “IT’S TIME TO PLAAAAAYYYY”