From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
4-09-54 (September 4th, 2054)
You know how I’ve always figured that God won’t throw anything at us that we can’t handle? I’m starting to wonder if I’m right about that.
Over the last couple of months, Lazarus has been busy. He made arrangements for a private security corporation for the team, in addition to helping … Bruce, we’ll say, because it makes me want to smack my head into something solid significantly less than the other option … to arrange for permits and passes and other such legalities for his truck. Antoinette introduced us to a Captain Calico Jack, whom most of the team seemed to get on with reasonably well, and so we took in as a member of the group.
The last day of August, we received word from Iceman that he had a solid lead on one of the movies we’ve been trying to find for The Mogul, Night of the Living Dead. Feeling calm, collected, and finally confident again, I was ready for the mission. Solidly focused. Captain Jack, better at talking to people than myself, made arrangements with the owner of the film for the following night. A hotel manager named Ryan Murdock. We were to meet him next to his green hatchback Toyota Elite at seven in the evening. Being that it sounded relatively straight-forward, we got our things together and headed out.
The drive was uneventful, and in Bruce’s car we travelled to Hotel Liberty, there in Philadelphia. I went to check things out of course, and found a man standing next to a car where he was supposed to be. A little cranial cyberware. Impatient, excited. Nothing unexpected about him, or suggestive of danger. There was a van with a reasonably powerful astral barrier around it, however; suspicious. I went back to tell the others what I’d seen, and we decided Captain Jack would call and inquire about the van and I’d watch his aura during his response. It appeared that Murdock wasn’t attempting to ambush us, and he had security check and apparently the van was legitimate. And so we did the deal. It goes off as expected, and then the doors of the van slammed open.
A couple of grenades I guess flew out of the van, and battle ensued. Nervous excitement and danger started swelling through the astral. Two trolls got out of the van and began attacking. I had Scorch manifest and told him to kill anything coming out of the van, including the trolls. I stand astral security while those in the physical plane battle. Within a few seconds, our side seems to have won, and our enemies flee. We proceed to leave before the police forces show up, and make for the nearest point to mail the package we could find. I continue to play astral security until the package is shipped off.
Bruce’s car rolled slowly to a halt a little way in front of a bug stopped in the middle of the road. A mist had come up. But then in the fog, from near the bus, I could see humanoid figures stumbling toward the car. But only their reflections in the astral. They had no aura. No spirit, no soul, no life. But they were moving around. They weren’t even being animated by magic. They had no mana whatsoever. Perplexed, I wanted to look closer, but Bruce turned the car around to head to a Stuffer Shack and to mail our things there. Captain Jack got out, and more of these… impossible things came out.
At this point I was starting to wonder if I’d lost it. All that work I’d done. All that effort. The blood (loads of it), and sweat, and many tears. Months to cope with what had happened at Madame Ulisha’s. Trying to put it behind me. To adjust to the new reality. Maybe it had been too much.
There are many doors to the mind. Places where the mind can go to cope with things. Sleep is the most common. After a trauma, people tend to sleep, and sleep deeply, while they cope internally with what’s happened. I suppose perhaps as a result of my training from a young age, I went into Intellectualization. I disassociated myself from my emotions entirely, without conscious thought, trying to puzzle out the strangeness before me. The strangeness that shouldn’t be possible, according to every law of magic and physics and anything else I could think of.
While I was pondering this, I manifested to let Captain Jack know what I’d seen. He responded with some smart remark, I think, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him at that point. Bruce hit them with his car, and then took off again, back to the truck stop where we’d placed his rig. And then more of the impossible things showed up.
My mind was racing, trying to come up with an explanation. It wasn’t a magical manipulation. Or a possessing spirit. It wasn’t some psychosis because they were dead. I don’t even think zombie-syndrome could cause your aura to die out. And, trying to figure it out, that’s when I felt something strange around my head, sort of vaguely. Perhaps I was dreaming or something. That would be the only logical option. So I willed myself awake.
There I was, in the dark. I was confined somehow, inside some sort of coffin-like object. There was a blinking red light. And then I felt a sting in the back of my neck. And then I was back with the others. So it was some sort of mental manipulation going on, I concluded, and told the others about it.
Of a sudden, we were in an abandoned storefront, apparently in the middle of nowhere. We had miserable headaches. Our things were there, including the film. I assense the place for any trace of what might’ve happened. I saw curiosity and excitement. An experiment of some sort, perhaps. And then we heard the zombie things approaching again.
Captain Jack announced he knew what was going on, and shot himself in the head before I could do anything. I started to cry out. And we woke up again, in the same abandoned storefront. With all our things. And I should’ve known to try to stop him, but Jack shot himself again, this time in the hand. Blood and bits of bone and tissue sprayed all over the place. And, apparently, horrible pain enough to convince the Captain. No sign of zombies. So it would appear we were indeed genuinely back this time, in reality.
We opened up the film case to check on it, and we found a note from a Chrysis Corporation thanking us for testing their latest SegAtari VR game system, and giving us 500 nuyen each for our participation. Wanting to get out of Philadelphia as soon as possible, we decided to drive back to Chicago to deliver the film, while considering how to make our displeasure as being kidnapped and mentally manipulated best known.
I locked myself in the bathroom for a fair amount of the trip back, once my mind poked its head out of the Door of Intellectualization to see if the coast was clear. I cried a lot. Relief, in part. Anger. Fear. A whole jumble of emotions I didn’t really know how to deal with. I don’t know how much more messing with my head I can take now. Nothing ever seems to make sense lately. It’s like everything I’ve taken for granted as reality keeps shifting. I don’t even know what to say about it. I just feel, somehow, like I know nothing. Maybe it’s His plan to rip away my preconceptions. Or maybe He is just testing me. I wish I knew.
I also began researching a spell to let me awaken people who are unconscious. Just in case.