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”