In the Mindscape:
Colonel Nicky Chandrasakar
In the fifth of our monthly Mindscape Updates, David Donachie delves into the strange world of Mindscape fictions.
Every user of the Mindscape has encountered fictionals that they could barely distinguish from the real. Fictional exo-memories can be particularly affecting, especially when they are taken to be real. Stories abound of people who have encountered such rogue fictionals and been deeply traumatised by the memories that they have acquired. Luckily Mindscape Sentinels hunt down and remove such dangerous anomalies, leaving the Mindscape safe to use.
Colonel Nicky Chandresakar is a different matter, a fictional person who seems to recur time and again in different parts of the Mindscape.
Nicky Chandresakar is a charming woman with a military bearing. She appears to be of late middle age, although the with the characteristically old eyes of one who has used Commonality anagathic treatments. Her hair is black, worn in a shoulder-length bob, and her skin has the melanistic tone of a world with high solar radiation. She wears a slightly faded dress military uniform in field grey, high collared, epauletted, and with tight cuffs suitable for easy access to a vacuum suit. Despite bearing both a pair of medals on the left breast, and insignia at the collar, the uniform does not belong to a recognisable military unit. The Colonel’s conversation is nostalgic, peppered with old war stories, but also congenial. Those who have talked with her usually remember the experience fondly, and are happy to relate her anecdotes to others, even if they are generally unsure to which war they actually refer.
Except of course that no one has ever actually spoken to Colonel Chandresakar, they only think that they have.
The Colonel appears in the Mindscape as a memory of a conversation. People who have encountered her are convinced that they once shared a long talk, often at a party or other social gathering, the context varies slightly, as does the content. The conversation is never recent, but pleasantly remembered. Mention of her name brings back a warm feeling of familiarity – the Colonel is the sort of person you mention to others in the hope that they might know her.
The Colonel is in no way dangerous. Those who learn that they are carrying a false memory of her are seldom particularly upset, indeed talking about the fake Colonel is even more fun than discussing the apparently real one. Nevertheless she is most certainly a counterfeit and as soon as reports of her surface the Sentinels swing into action, excising the rogue memory from the Mindscape.
And yet the Colonel persists. Memories of Chandresakar appear in groupings, centred around specific Mindscape nodes, but the nodes in question are separated by thousands of light years and countless inhabited systems, with no detectable pattern. The nodes are not connected, either by travellers, Mindjammers or political ties, and yet some entity, inside or outside of the Mindscape, must actively be spreading her. Given that some people claim to have encountered the Colonel as long as two centuries ago it seems a particularly pointless and yet long lived endeavour.
What, or who, is the Colonel? The product of a creative artist? a rogue AI? a real person wrongly classified? a co-incidence mis-interpreted? or a meme repeatedly expressed by tricksters who have heard the story from others? Does a deeper meaning lurk within her otherwise cheerful tales of combat, or is she no more than she seems?
Using Colonel Chandresakar in play
An encounter with the Colonel, perhaps one recalled only when another person mentions her, is a gentle way to introduce the complexity of fictionals and the untrustworthy nature of exo-memories. Introduce her early in a story, perhaps as a convenient conversation starter, and then let the characters hear the story of an imaginary acquaintance only later, when the players have already accepted her reality. Alternatively an important clue, message or hint might be concealed within her imaginary conversation. Characters who think that they have spoken to her can use the fictional aspect as a permission to make declarations based on things she is meant to have said.
Or perhaps you could introduce the real Colonel – a woman rather bemused to find copies of herself appearing in other people’s recollections all across the Commonality. Is she pleased to be notorious, or more traumatised than any of the people who think that they have met her? What does she know about the creation of her fictional self? Perhaps your players can find out – or at least think that they did.