- Terry Fox, a property crimes detective who works Downtown.
- Truc “Rigs” Trang. A tough slaughterhouse worker with a hobby of illegal bare-knuckle boxing, and a past working as a burgler.
- Dr. Jason Jones. A doctor at the local clinic with a background in martial arts.
Truc was in a rousing bout of illegal boxing, earning money on the side to help cushion his sister Cam’s medical bills; dying of lymphatic cancer can be expensive. While he was getting mauled in the “ring” his buddy Terry looked on, cheering for him (and hoping he won, because of a modest bet that he would.) Dr. Jones was there too, because Jeremiah, the fight organizer, promised him antibiotics and clinic supplies for providing medical support. This time of year, the clinic never has enough, so it’s a compelling offer.
After enough battering to make things interesting, Truc got some decisive blows in and put Ian MacDougal, “The Claymore” down. He got his congratulations (and his stained paper bag of cash) and after cleaning up joined the crowd at Dawser’s Pub.
The Second Fight
While they were celebrating at the pub, a woman swayed in off-balance, her eyes rolled up to the whites. She attacked MacDougal, beating him down with seemingly impossible ferocity. As Truc pulled MacDougal outside, two bouncers tried to stop the assailant. She broke a bar stool for clubs, and hammered one down.
Dr. Jones got involved, trying to disarm her, and got battered. However, he provided a distraction so Terry could handcuff the woman to the bar. She could not break free before the other bouncer tased her to steaming unconsciousness.
Dr. Jones heard of this as a side effect developing from abusing the new drug Gangplank. The drug was a tape strip to put under the nose, and it sent the user into several hours of lucid dreaming, after which the user didn’t want food for a day or so. If abused over time, the user would start sleepwalking; innocent enough. But a few reports were beginning to surface of sleepwalkers getting violent, like this woman. REALLY violent.
After making sure she was no longer a violent threat, Jones worked on getting her rehydrated with a milkshake and preparing her for transport.
Meanwhile Truc made sure MacDougal was alright, and found out his attacker was Sadie Williams, a recently dumped lover. (MacDougal had romanced both her sisters, and was still with one of them.) He figured losing him was what drove her into addiction. Truc asked where she likely got the drug, and MacDougal knew that one; at the Highlights, a strip club.
Nobody wanted cops or ambulances at the pub, so Jones, Truc, and Terry took MacDougal and Sadie to Third Son Clinic where Jones worked. From there she could be sent to a hospital to get properly rehydrated, and get some nourishment.
They decided to go get some of this drug, Gangplank, and see if they could figure out how it works. If the drug use spread further, violent offenders could endanger clinic staff all over the city, after all. If the drug was not as benign as its rep, then something had to be done.
They headed to Highlights. Truc mingled, noting the heavy presence of the Shambles Crossroaders, a gang that drove out all the other dealers and updated their weapons, and apparently directs bribes to the police (several of which were relaxing in the club.) A new area with cots for users to relax and enjoy Gangplank was down below the dance floor.
Meanwhile Terry and Dr. Jones bought some disposable credit cards and used those to buy some Gangplank–Dr. Jones to study, and Terry to use. Sonic the dealer helped them out with no fuss. They headed out.
Terry headed home and shaved off his mustache, the better to use the tape strip of Gangplank under his nostrils. Unbeknownst to the detective, Truc followed him, and camped out in front of his door in case he ran into trouble.
Terry put on the Gangplank and went to sleep, lucid dreaming. He discarded high school and the academy, and a tropical island, to return to Grifton and make it as realistic as he could; he wanted to search for clues without leaving a physical trace, in a construct of the city provided by Gangplank.
He wasn’t successful, but he dug deep and tried again, until he conjured men in trench coats and fedoras telling him to leave it alone. Before waking, he had a terrifying encounter with a puddle in a basement, but who knows what that could mean.
When Truc heard Terry walking around, he knocked on the door, and came in to check him over and make sure he didn’t have any obvious side effects (aside from not being hungry.) Satisfied Terry would be okay, Truc headed home.
The next morning, a Sunday, Dr. Jones offered Dr. Campbell, the Dean of Medicine, a favor if he could use the Marlbeth University lab. Campbell agreed, and Terry assisted Dr. Jones in analyzing Gangplank.
Turns out the foundation of the chemical was an industrial cleaner, with some psychotropic elements. The formula seemed too simple for the complexity of its effect, so Dr. Jones kept at it. He sidestepped the rigors of true science to speculate, and wondered if the chemical might change the receptivity of the brain, so it could be influenced by… something else.
After talking it over, the group decided they might check with Sister Stacy’s odd granddaughter. She was into auras and New Age stuff and might have an insight.
They arrived as she was preparing for a party, cutting up little sandwiches and making very alcoholic punch. Truc helped her with cutting things up as they talked over the chemical, Gangplank.
She didn’t have much for insight, but her friend Hodgekins was a dream specialist. They agreed to go visit him, heading to his place Downtown.
The three story penthouse apartment was done up in stone, glass, and steel, white and spare. They met the white-robed hippy Hodgekins, who sat with them to talk about Gangplank.
He had his own supplier, and he had been exploring the drug’s possibilities against the counsel of his friends. (They warned him that the supply was tightly controlled by criminals, but he waved that away.) He considered himself a frontiersman, a lucid dreamer taking a drug for lucid dreaming to learn impossibly more about the dream world and its doors.
He showed them his dreaming couch, and the protective circle inlaid into the floor around it, assuring them that with his meditations and other psychic protections he was as safe as you could be exploring these things. He compared the sleepwalking to the bodies of dreamers being “carjacked” by something else out there, something that could possibly pick up traces of the body’s life and act on them in some primitive way as the body’s owner’s absence became more frequent. He was trying to discover what might be behind this.
His strongest lead was that there was sure to be one person behind making the drug; a Moses, offering tablets of law to the people. Not just a scientist, there had to be a cosmic connection of some kind. But Hodgekins had no luck getting in contact with the person behind the drug.
He also had some crazy theories about how his dreaming stopped Desert Storm, and how corporations became real psychic entities as they fed on their employees, and so on before Circi cut the conversation short and escorted them out. (Apparently he had some sort of crush on her, but she was over him.)
Now sifting more questions than answers, the investigators pondered their next move.