22th December 2071
Somewhere on our last run, Slicer asked me if I could read his mind and get access to something he must have buried miles deep in his subconsciousness. He says that he suffers from severe PTSD occasionally and wants to remember in order to get better, which is in my opinion not only a good step on the way of healing, but also an attempt to make him less of a loose cannon. Remember how he opened the vault for us on the last run? Yeah, he neither.
So, after the dust settled for most of us after the whole Fuller/Mallard story, I visited him and his wife Frettchen to lock-pick his mind and see what I could find out in order to help him.
After a short breakfast, I started explaining: “The first thing you need to know about my.. talents is that there are certain rules and limitations to how they work in general. I can, for example, read a person's mind, but the deeper I go, the more painful it will be. It's gonna feel really, really strange.” Slicer nodded as if he already expected something like that. I continued to lay down the plan: “First of all I need to see the things you buried for myself. You told me about some blank spots, what are the first and last cornerstones? I need to know where to start and what to look for. Think of it as an archive or gallery…” - “I will absolutely be triggered by that, won't I?”, the Orc interrupted. “Not at this stage, no. Me seeing those memories does not… automatically unlock them for you. That will be phase two.” Silence.
“Afghanistan… 2040…” Slicer started as he put his coffee down. “My squad was driving a convoy. We went into a chasm and the next thing I remember is waking up in a clinic… Alone.”
“I can work with that. Shall I start looking?”
“Ready when you are.”
The smell of incense started to fill the air around the coffee table and while I was playing around with some lizard neckbones in one hand under the table, I concentrated and began the spell. A second later, my mind's eye arrived at the Slicer Archives. It was a gallery of both old and new paintings, neatly arranged on every square inch of the corridor walls. Like in everyone's brain, there where colorful memories in moving images as well as dusted black and white pictures. A mage can easily lose oneself in the endless aisles and hallways of the patient's (or victim's, depends on the situation) mental cinema, but I focused and started the search for Slicer's trauma memory. Even if it wasn't accessible to him any longer, it had to be in here somewhere.
I tried to ignore as much of the private pictures and narrow it down to the “about 2040” corridor because, you know, Slicer is a colleague and a friend and some of those pictures are definitely meant for his eyes only. Especially some involving Frettchen… Sorry, where was I? Right, war memories.
The whole Afghanistan section seemed somehow… off. Some portraits where in mint condition while other images already withered away. The whole collection had an unnaturally selective touch. And then it struck my eye: A giant frame, covered with a sheet as dark as you can imagine. It even had a certain aura about it that seemed to infect the pieces next to it, which showed exactly what Slicer described: The Convoy and then the clinic where he woke up. Bingo!
The sheet fell tightly around the picture, but there was no doubt about it: This had to be the missing link, the buried memory responsible for Slicer's blackouts. I had to lift the black cloth with all my strenght to get a look at the dusty images flickering over the canvas beneath. With all my concentration, I managed to focus on the movie that unravelled before me. The team really was ambushed, but by professionals, not rebels or mercs. Clean kills, superior positioning, everything from explosives to sniper shots couldn't have been executed with any more precision. I tried to remember as many details as possible and one thing that really caught my attention was a symbol on one of these guys' vest, a triangle of sorts. Other than that, I fixed the storyboard and the sequences in my own mind. Ambush, shootout, and then a careful examination of the victims by the mysterious squad. They rappled down the hillside and put a bullet between every survivor's eyes, only missing A: Slicer, who was stuck under a Humvee for the whole time and looked preeeetty dead already, B: A guy named “It”, who somehow fell down a cliff when the bullets started flying, and C: What must have been a mage or even a free spirit. The latter put up quite the show before vanishing, seemed like he was under cover? Did his team know about him? Hard to tell from my seat in the audience. The professionals left, and after a fast-forward through endless hours in the desert, the backup arrived and transferred Slicer to the clinic where his memories pick up again. Wow, no wonder this was moved to the poison cabinet of La Exhibition du Slicèr. I let go of the curtain and the cloth immediately enclosed the images again, almost as if alive itself. Time to head for the exit.
Back in the real world, only a minute had gone by. Content with myself, I started explaining the next step: “I've seen enough. Sorry for the inconvenience, I know it feels weird.”
“It's OK, I've had worse. Can I see it for myself now?”, Slicer asked, touching his temples with two fingers like on a hangover.
“Do you really want the memory in technicolor and stereo? I mean, I'm not a psychiatrist, you could call Stanley and we could talk about the things I saw first? Maybe that would help you understand without directly sending you on a PTSD shock.” I offered, but to no avail. The orc wanted the whole truth.
I nodded understandingly. “I'll recreate the things I witnessed as a fake memory now and implant it into your brain. Some details will be off, but it will feel like the real deal. Don't worry, I'm good at remembering what I see. That's the moment you'll definitely get triggered. The confrontation, so to speak.” As if she'd waited for her cue, Frettchen tied Slicer to his chair with handcuffs and duct tape. Somehow, I wasn't surprised that it only took seconds and looked very rehearsed. I took a vial of wood frog blood out of my mantle, smeared some between my thumb and middle finger and began another spell. This time, I needed to forge a copy of the forbidden painting and place it in Slicer's mental gallery. These are delicate spells that can do a lot of damage in the wrong hands, so it always makes me feel a little proud to use them in order to help people, like my family did for generations.
The memory hit Slicer like a brick in the face and sent him right back to his personal Afghanistan. He bent the handcuffs and almost tore the chair apart, so Frettchen cut him loose and he started hiding in a closet for the next hours. This time though, it was no real blackout. He had to confront the things his mind so eagerly tried to conceal, which never is a simple walk in the park. I drew the strange symbol I spotted on the uniform on a napkin and handed it to Frettchen, just in case it was important and Slicer would miss it in his shock-therapy. She tried to calm her husband down as nicely as possible and after a few hours, he was back with us. I asked if he was ok - or as ok as it gets in this situation - and informed him about the nature of “fake” memories and that they do not last forever. The more he thinks about it, the more details might seem out of place, but if everything works out, this will help him uncover the real memory from his subconsciousness. I really hope he figures this our. If not, he can call me any time.