They stood regarding the abandoned Sears department store/mall. Terry knew he had to go in, to follow the series of strange impulses that led him here. Truc had to go in, to look after his buddies and face down this thing menacing his home. Dr. Jones had to go in, because if things got bad on a broader scope he would see it in his clinic. Lawrence looked at the others, and reached his limit; whether they ran into law enforcement because of this jaunt, or criminals, either way they’d need someone on the outside to help them get clear. He drove off, instead of going into the ruin.
Let’s All Go to Sears
Truc got them through the padlocked fence, and they strolled around the exterior looking for signs of activity. The loading dock had tire tracks, and a wireless security camera, recently added. Not wanting to be seen, they climbed a tree to get on the awning of an unused entrance, up to the roof. There they found signs of a foot patrol, so they got away from that and got to one of the roof access points that was unused.
Truc struggled with the lock, and someone was coming with a flashlight, along the route. He got the lock open, and threw a rock to distract the patrol, then they all ducked inside. Down the stairs, and they were in the back of a shoe department. Truc remembered getting shoes here as a kid; the Sears closed 15 years ago.
They jacked up the security door and crept out into the abandoned department store. Breaking into an area that had an internal staircase, less likely to be guarded, they headed down.
They paused when they saw two guards below with walkie talkies. One also had a shotgun. They talked about the “package” being secure. Dr. Jones and Terry crept down the escalator, in position, and Truc got one of the mannequins left in the store, positioned it like it fell, and rolled its head down the escalator. (The power was off in the building.)
One guard went up the stairs to investigate. He growled, and sniffed?! His eyes glowed green. He was armed with a knife, and dressed with leftovers scrounged from the Sears (fashions 15+ years old.) He closed in on Truc’s hiding place.
Meanwhile, the others jumped the guard with the shotgun. Terry wrestled it away from him before Dr. Jones sailed in with his kung fu and knocked the guard out cold. The upstairs guard went to the top of the stairs to see what was going on, and Truc body checked him to tumble down. The guard caught himself halfway, and Truc landed a massive uppercut on him that hurled him down the rest of the way to break his neck as he landed.
His blood was iridescent green, and he smelled like cleaning supplies and a septic tank. They took the guns and radios, and continued downstairs.
The radio squawked, follow up to the guards calling in a disturbance, asking if it was sorted out. Truc tried to cough and obscure a response, and the radios were switched to alternate channels. They looked for a place to quickly hide, and Truc found a pile of stacked corpses under a tarp that weren’t decomposing normally, but were withering and mummifying.
They were still hiding when three guards came by; one was huge, with the glowing green eyes; another was weedy, but with the glowing eyes; the third was a guy with a ball cap, flak vest, and submachine gun.
The fight was short and sharp. The thin weirdo was shot but escaped to report back. The guy with the vest and submachine gun was shot down before he could do much. The big guy, on the other hand, brutally attacked the intruders. Also, one of his arms elongated through the flesh and became a claw, and his face opened up to reveal a mass of vileness behind it. Still, masses of gunfire put him down.
Truc had been smacked around pretty good, and Dr. Jones had some sort of projectiles lodged in his chest from the weirdo who ran away. They found a spot to treat their wounds, and a woman came to talk to them. One of the weird things she said was that she wasn’t all there. She just wanted to talk, or so she said, but Terry tried to shoot her down. His shaky hands betrayed him, only winging her, but Truc leaned out of hiding and shot her square. She fell over.
Terry approached her, and he was ready for it; she popped up and he gunned her down with the submachine gun.
After they were quickly patched up, they headed into the underground theater. Sneaking up to the projection booth, they saw that two of the theaters were used as drug labs, the other two as storage for a massive shipment of Gangplank. They were checking out the film room, finding nothing flammable–except it was also the armory, with shotguns, submachine guns, pistols, and grenades. They wondered where the “package” was.
A man in the hallway answered them; it’s in the pet shop. They pivoted to see Jim Gunderson, dressed in a white suit and pink shirt, barefoot. He explained he was getting revenge on the one who killed him. They were confused, and he remembered they were seeing his shell; he revealed his true appearance to them, which was utterly revolting (but somewhat matched the charcoal sketch from Gunderson’s dream.)
Enough talk! They opened fire on him, and snatched at the armory supplies. He was knocked down, but his blood was reluctant to leave him. They ran for it, and he casually pursued.
The Pet Shop
Rushing into the stinky abandoned pet shop they shot the guards looking after it, with Gunderson right behind them. They found a man in a suit chained to a chair; breaking the chair was easier than dealing with the chains.
The man said he was Ralf Singleton, a lawyer with Singleton, Rye, and Oaks, with offices Downtown; he claimed to have no idea why this crazy guy was after him. Thinking fast as they broke him out, they figured he was probably the lawyer that denied Jim treatment.
Then Jim was on his way into the pet shop. Ralf said there was an elevator to get out the back way, into the parking garage. He told them he’d hold the coming monster off, buy them time; at that point they realized he might not just be a lawyer. Terry challenged him on it, and looked into the man’s eyes–they were terrifying, for just a moment. A paralyzing gaze. And the man muttered that he was starving and this was NOT a good time to challenge him. Then he took a few steps–and pretty much disappeared into thin air.
Swearing, they ran for it. As they dashed up the stairwell by the freight elevator, some guards pursued. They tossed a grenade down the stairwell before banging out, sending casing fragments propelled at high speed around the concrete chimney. They gunned down the guy in the parking garage. He was guarding a taxi, a way to get around the city invisibly.
As they were making their adrenaline-fueled getaway, Terry was distracted for a moment. He took a few steps, and saw off to the side, a chughole with water in it. It was the same hole that had filled him with dread in his lucid dream. It matched the charcoal sketch. Something about that hole–
And Truc grabbed him and tossed him into the back of the cab as Terry laughed uncontrollably. They escaped, driving all the way to the university campus.
In the days that followed, they retrieved their vehicles from the parking lot across from the Sears ruin. Some smoke came out of it, but no first responders bothered with it. Nothing showed up on the news. It was like the whole surreal assault was a dream, unseen by the waking world. They all returned to their duties, and life went on.
However, Gangplank’s price skyrocketed as the supply dried up. Few could get enough to manage any long term abuse. The Shambles Crossroaders returned to their relative insignificance, and no gang war erupted. Dreams were quiet and personal reserves of helpless reaction once again. Ralf Singleton was back at work like nothing ever happened.
Terry, Truc, and Dr. Jones felt the touch of something otherworldly. They have reason to doubt that other world will leave them alone now. A cold caution underlies their days and nights as they find a new normal–one that isn’t.