Posted on July 28, 2010 by Flames
Last week David Hill shared some of his thoughts on the creative process that went into the new RPG, Maschine Zeit in an essay called: Ghost Stories on Space Stations here at Flames Rising.
Now we’re pleased to show you a sneak peek at the setting of this game with a little bit of fiction called The Scholar and The Sages.
AZIF: A joke?
RENNY: Uh-huh. You know, “A nun, a rabbi, and a Muslim cleric walk into a defunct floating intraspace station to commune with the specters of the dead.”
JAKE: I’m not a rabbi. Not yet. I’m an intern.
RENNY: Rabbis need interns?
JAKE: No, dolt. I’m interning at the yeshiva. The Talmudic academy.
RENNY: Ah. Rabbi school.
JAKE: Yes. Rabbinical school. It’s part of the requirement. I need hours. So here I am.
AZIF: Since we are on the subject of correcting ignorance? I am not a Muslim cleric. I am an Islamic lawyer.
AZIF: Be quiet and I’ll explain. No, I’m not going to sue the ghosts. This is not about jurisprudence, though it is a question of philosophy and law. These spirits are between life and death; they are uncertain and unclean. It remains a question as to where they fall in terms of, are the souls now corrupt? Do they cede property? How do they fall into a strict reading of the Quran, the Tafsir?
RENNY: And you. You are a nun, right?
KATHERINE: I am.
RENNY: …and a quiet nun, at that.
KATHERINE: And what do you want me to say? We’re walking around here in the dark and you’d like me to sound off on my beliefs? Fine. This is Purgatory. Many died, and many are now caught between Heaven and Hell, unable to be ushered into God’s embrace or into the fires of Hell. These souls are not free from the burden of sin, and so they must be dealt with and made clean.
RENNY: “Clean.” There’s that idea again. Azif called them “unclean.” You think the same thing. That’s interesting to me.
JAKE: And who are you, anyway?
RENNY: I’m a religion major. At the University of New Philadelphia. I applied for a grant to get me on this trip. I have a paper to write.
AZIF: Cut him some slack. We have not yet asked him what he believes. So. What is it you believe, Mister University Religion Major?
RENNY: Okay. Fine. Honestly? I’m kind of into the Socratic thing right now.
AZIF: Go on.
RENNY: Well. The souls of the wicked—or, at least, the souls of the “uncertain and unclean,” to borrow your language—do get trapped in a sort of purgatory, reborn in the wrong bodies. Socrates posited an almost Hinduistic vibe that had sinners trapped in animal bodies, animals that were sympathetically appropriate to the sin: so, a sex addict is reborn as a snake, a too-proud man is reborn as a lion, and so on and so forth.
JAKE: Staggering genius. Note my sarcasm. You do know that Socrates was just making all that stuff up, right? What do you think we’re going to find up here? We’re going to wander in the greenhouse room ahead and find… a monkey with a ghost inside? A spectral donkey?
RENNY: No. No! That’s not what I’m saying. Listen, this is a world a lot different from the one Socrates lived in, c’mon. Look around. Look at the world we live in. Animals are not the king of the land anymore. Neither are we. It’s the machines. I shine my flashlight beam around up here, and what do I see? Technology. Code locks. Humidifiers. Ionizers. Vid-news stations. Terminals at every corner. The food comes from machines. The drinks come from machines. Both childbirth and burying the dead are driven by what? What? Say it with me now: “By machines.”
KATHERINE: So. That’s your theory? Everyone is being reborn as machines?
RENNY: That’s the theory. You can’t tell me you haven’t heard the tales—the things people have heard. Have seen. Shit, what did we see when we first got here? That one door, just… opening. Closing. Opening. Closing.
KATHERINE: A glitch.
RENNY: Bullshit, a glitch.
JAKE: I don’t buy it, and I think—
AZIF: Shh. Shh! Did you hear that?
JAKE: Hear what? I didn’t hear—
(The transcription is followed by a note.)
That’s when it all went pear-shaped. We started hearing whispers. The ionizer module above Jake groaned and like that came down on him. Broke his neck, but he was still alive. He made an awful sound. Katherine? She’s just gone. Like that. We were so focused on Jake, we didn’t even hear her leave. Did she run? Was she taken? I have no damn idea. What I do know is that, as Azif and I made our way off the station, we heard her. In the vents. Calling to us. Trying to get us to come to her.
And it was her. Make no mistake. It was no mimic. I’m sure of that now.
I want to go back. I know I dropped out of school. This isn’t about school. This is about finding what happened up there. And what’s happening still. Because it isn’t over. The Cataclysm was a punishment by God. I believe that. I’m converted. I don’t know which God, and I don’t know that it matters, but what I do know is that the machines up there are alive, and the dead are a part of it. We need to answer this. Before it happens down here. Down here in the trenches.
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This preview was provided by and posted with express permission of David Hill.
Maschine Zeit is available now at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.