Thought I'd share some of the backstory I and one of my players have cooked up. It started as a basic character survey, a few questions to flesh out the character's backstory as we drew closer to the chunk of the campaign oriented toward him.
I liked what he had to say, and with his permission I rewrote it, added a framing story, and helped to clarify a few of the pieces. We both really liked it, so i figured I'd throw it up here.
Hope you like it.
To: Dr. Gideon Kraster, Medical Testing Director, Paired Strings Reinstantiation, Remembrance
From: Dr. Anya Uehara, Chief of Psychosurgery, Vo Nguyen
Subject TR-1172-H “Spencer Pending.” Previous name Unknown.
Forwarding this Terran Recovery to you. Was unconscious when he was brought to the station, and did not respond to standard reestablishment protocols. Our prognosis suggests permanent insanity without heavy alteration. We’re not equipped out here to handle it, but I hope the guy can pull through. I know you wanted to test out Spark Notes. Good a chance as any.
Infomorph Technician Lia Kosova, Patient Care Provider:
Subject TR-1175-H: Fucked up doesn’t even begin to describe it. The emotional response was much higher than anticipated, and we’ve had to synthesize a completely new neural pathway to get at his traumatic memories. He buried them deep.
But we got at them. And now that we’ve cut a road, it should be easier as we progress. The subject responds well to queries, but without them, all we get is incoherent babble. There seems to be a natural inclination toward storytelling, and given clear parameters the results are stunning.
Spark Notes is performing admirably. Consciousness levels never rise above deep sleep; if he’s experiencing anything, it’s as a dream, but his responses are coherent and emotional without the distraction of trauma. The text record only tells part of the story, of course. You should see his self-instantiation. It’s… hard to describe. Wonderful and terrible all at once.
I’ve attached the transcript from our first successful prune.
This part of the job makes me thankful I don’t need to eat.
-Dr. Lia Kosava, IMT Patient Care Provider, Paired Strings Reinstantiation, Remembrance.
Rough stuff here. The subject responded to the query: What is your fondest memory of your time on earth? His response is presented here in its most immediate form.
"Fond memories? No such thing. The only fond memories are the ones that don’t involve death. Survived a TITAN attack or avoided a basilisk hack. Earth didn’t allow for fond memories. Sometimes we had a laugh, though.
Somewhere in the desolate mountain ranges of the Ozarks, after the Fall. Days? Months? Years? Fuck knew. Anthony found a promising new shelter, something half-dry and unoccupied. Something they didn’t have to kill or die for. That’s what passed for promising. Found a toy shop along the way, somehow mostly intact. Wasn’t there when Anthony came through the first time, apparently, but Anthony hadn’t eaten since he left. But there it was. A toy shop. Had a roof. We decided to stay the night.
How long had it been since we saw something frivolous? Racks and shelves and boxes of simple toys, things that looked like they’d come from a different century. Little articulated men and women carrying weapons. Construction toys. Dice games. Toys made of wood. Toys made in the likeness old film heroes. One, from Harry The Potter, in the shape of a basilisk.
We all picked some up and played with them. Of course we did. Was just unfiltered luck it was Sally who picked up the basilisk. The thing was electronic, had a button that made the basilisk scream.
Clever fucking joke.
Sally ate the hack. She was gone in a second, a screaming mass of flesh with a mind bursting with TITAN code. Five of us died. We took their stacks. I took their stacks. That was my job, right? The doctor. Stitch you up, pop your stack, it’s all the same. You hear that, and you must think: if you took their stacks you must have thought there was some hope. A psychosurgeon. Rescue. Something.
You’d be wrong. We took their stacks because we didn’t know what the fuck else to do. Whatever fucking monster put that fucking toy in that shop knew that we were there. Heard echoes of its code in Sally’s mind, knew everything Sally knew, everything Rafiq and Mia and Dev and Sul knew. How many of us were left, where we were heading, how much we had eaten, who was fucking who. It could have come over and killed us all right there, but it didn’t.
And we did what we did every time one of us died. I cut out every useful part and trashed everything else. We were all full for the first time we could remember, and the components we got from their morphs helped keep us going.
You ask about fond memories. I count them over the meals we made of my dead friends.
And that’s the joke. Get it?"
After some careful pruning, we ran the query again, and we got this. Astonishing. This isn’t some hack beta-fork job, this is sophisticated. This is the consciousness retelling a story after subtle editing in a completely different way. Of course, there are still errors, stumbling in the flow of the story that indicate fragments of the memory remain; we’ll clean those up in time. We might have to patch up gaps with earlier experiences, too.
Of course, if the subject were to revisit this trauma somehow it would have severely detrimental effects. The core of the experience is still there. The only way it wouldn’t be is to nuke ten years of the guy’s life, and we know what that does.
I gotta admit, Dr. Kraster, I’m impressed. This is a brilliant piece of software.
"You gotta be smart to survive on Earth. It’s a TITAN playground, and there’s no way to know how many TITANs we stumped across, like snakes in the grass. Sometimes you find them, fight them, run from them.
Sometimes you even win.
Spent some time in what used to be Arizona. It’s just as dry and boring as it was before, but some parts of it had avoided complete destruction. One little town even had a toy shop.
There were thirteen of us then, down from who knows how many. We were alive because we were careful. A toy shop was absurd, made no sense. It was obviously fabricated by the TITANs. We went inside, but we weren’t going to stay the night Just poke our heads in.
There’s this old movie; a story about a large bearded man and how he thwarted the attempts of an evil bald guy with the help of a young boy and an incredibly powerful twig. Hairiest Potter. I knew it mostly from ancient memes. Rafiq used to tell us stories from it during meals. It had all sorts of old myth monsters in it. Dragons, trolls. Even basilisks.
Toy shop had a basilisk toy in it. We all thought it was funny at first, but… something wasn’t right. It was electronic. None of the other toys were. There were wooden toys in this shop, and then this weird little thing in the shape of a basilisk?
Everyone thought I was paranoid when I told them to put it down and plug their ears. |||Sally laughed:::::she laughed and didn’t put it down. She was looking right at me when:::::she didn’t put it down but it was in her hands and it went off but it didn’t we were clever we were so fucking clever and we had we had our ears plugged we must have plugged them before we came in.|||
Our ears were plugged when it went off. Nothing that small should be able to make a sound like that.
But we all got out. Whatever TITAN put it there must have thought we were a bunch of idiots. A few stray Hunter-Killers followed us from the shop that night, but we were ready for them. Even managed to scrounge some food.
We all had a good laugh that night. A basilisk hack in a basilisk. Real funny."