“Yo, Charlie, you wanted to talk to the therapists?” The supervisor approached Brody holding a stack of papers. He gave no indication that he had heard what Brody and his acolytes had been doing. “I dug up some info here. Take all the time you need.”
Brody couldn’t believe his luck as he took the print-outs. “Boy, you’ve got a thing for paper, yeah?” he joked nervously.
“You could say that,” the supervisor mumbled as he walked back to this office.
Leiming and Alex continued to focus on their own screens. They both let out sighs of relief as the supervisor walked away and Brody began rifling thru the papers. The love for paper should’ve been Brody’s first clue that the supervisor wasn’t all the way on board with this electronic information warfare operation. Seemed he and his students weren’t the only ones ready and willing to be clear-eyed about what they were doing here.
On first glance at the papers, Brody was assaulted by the profusion of acronyms. PTSD, EMDR, SSRI, MDMA, LSD. Then, spreadsheets with lists of medications in one column and results in another. Did they give him all these meds when he first got here from Iran? What did all the meds do to him?
He read further and found that many of the meds were experimental drugs for PTSD. He read that they had a new bunch to try after prior trials had only done half the job. One paper summarized a study done when soldiers were first deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had come back not able to assimilate productively into their daily lives nor be open to becoming ready for redeployment. Those first set of drugs were designed to erase memory so that the soldiers could be redeployed quickly without any lingering trauma. But they were found to erase all memory, even the good stuff. A couple soldiers came back not remembering their own children. One of them even thought his own son was an Iraqi soldier and shot him point blank. A journalist somehow got a hold of the results, and needless to say, the experiments were stopped.
Unlike those first trials, the newest meds took advantage of advances in brain imaging. Brain scans were newly able to identify not only where the memories were located in the brain but also to distinguish the emotional quality of those memories. Through this advanced mapping and labeling technique, in brain scans, good memories lit up in green, neutral memories would appear yellow, and bad traumatic memories would be in red. The paper detailed the science behind it all, something about each emotion signaling different pathways downstream, thus being identifiable. Brody tried to understand what he could, but, unlike the Russian language he had spoken to Alex, neurochemistry and signal transduction were not a thing he’d been taught during his time at this place. The upshot was that localizing specific quality of memories allowed the development of drugs to target only the traumatic ones.
This explained why Brody could remember his children and things from his own childhood and song lyrics, but could remember nothing after the hanging in Iran. Brody had been a guinea pig. The trials had been a success, thus his release into the work camp.
Brody read some of the reports out loud to Leiming and Alex.
“That’s some X-files shit right there, man,” Leiming said. “It can’t be real. Doctors aren’t allowed to do that kind of shit to their patients without consent.”
“Clearly, you’ve lived in Kansas too long, my friend,” Alex said. “Where there’s a will to get around regulations, there will always be a way.”
Brody looked at Alex with disbelief. “So, you’re not as much of a newbie with English idioms as you first let on,” he said. “I have no idea what to do with this information. It didn’t say anything about hallucinations. So, what I saw last night, that woman with Gromov, that was all real right?”
“I told you, man, when you asked me earlier,” Alex said. “She was real. Small, hunched over, blonde hair, just as you described.”
“I have to get to her,” Brody said. His body expressed a resolution that he hadn’t experienced in years, if ever. His spine erect, his face determined. “What is she doing here? Why is she with Gromov? What if they’re running some new experiments on her? This stuff apparently worked so well on me, maybe they’ve moved on to the next challenge? I can’t let them do that to her. I have to get to her NOW.”
Hearing Brody’s raised voice, a few of the guys at the computers around them turned to see what the fuss was about.
Alex and Leiming sheltered their mentor from the glares. The three went back to tapping at their keyboards until their shifts ended.
As they exited the building, Alex whispered to Brody, “Go back home like normal, I’ll signal when we’re clear.”
The wait back in his room seemed interminable as Brody paced, his cell phone clasped tightly, waiting for word. When it finally rang, Brody scrambled to keep it from vibrating out of his hand. It was Alex. “Check your text for the map. North corridor is clear. Leiming and I have your back. Go!”
Brody found his way to the area designated on the map. Gromov had an entire barrack all to himself, it seemed, with hallways all around his central lair. Brody entered the northern hallway and confirmed that it was clear. He walked along the wall of the central room until he got to a window and waited there, listening. Was that music? Aretha Franklin’s Respect, at low volume at first but then turned all the way up. Brody glanced in to the window to see a tall bearded man, his back turned, dancing and singing along to the song.
“And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my propers
When you get home”
As Yevgeny danced about, Brody saw who his dancing and singing partner was. It was Carrie. She was dancing too, her hair tossed wildly around her. Brody went still, his heart lifted so at the sight of her that he momentarily forgot how to breath. He stood at the window rapt at the absurdity of the spectacle. For a moment, with Yevgeny’s back still turned, Brody saw Carrie turn to look at him outside the window. She seemed to make eye contact. But her eyes were… different. A sort of delirium there, something feral brought up to the surface. Carrie saw Brody but looked right through him, as if he were a stranger.