24 Jan 2009

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Gaming - GURPS We Are Borg)
All the Department Head Rawlings columns in one place.

For those of you not familiar with Director Rawlings, he is the head of a mysterious agency that battles equally mysterious agencies (and his own brilliant but twisted half-brother) using technologies beyond what is normally found. Any of these columns would make a great GURPS game; taken together, they're an entire campaign!

Never forget Barcelona!
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
The Guardian's list of F&SF books you should read before you die.

The rules of the meme are familiar: bold the books one has read, italicize the ones on the pile to be read, strikethrough the ones you wouldn't be caught dead with and/or violently disagree with.

Books from the ships... )
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
Taking the run was my first mistake. A late January trip over the Rockies was pretty much guaranteed to be a nightmare, and this one was worse than most. I was coming down I-70 in the midst of a freezing rain; the lousy weather had cut my ability to see to near zero, and I was wrestling the wheel every inch of the way. Even down shifting to third gear wasn't keeping me from accelerating on the steep grade; and I was trying to watch the road, my brake pressure, and my speedometer all at the same time. As I felt my rig start to slide towards the guardrail, I shouted "I am getting this load through, and God Himself will not stop me!"

That was my second mistake.

I remember hitting the rail, and the feeling as the rig started to slide off the highway and into a deep gorge, but I never hit bottom. Instead, I woke up to find myself lying on the ground, dry and warm and amazingly not dead. I looked around, and all I could see was level reddish sands, pocked with an occasional rock, stretching away in every direction. No sign of a road, or power lines, no clue as to how I got here. Dusting myself off (and that's when I noticed I wasn't wearing what I had been before, just jeans and an old Testament t-shirt) and tried to figure out what was going on. OK, first thought. I'm in a coma in some Denver hospital, and this is what being in a coma is like. Second thought, not quite a coma, but unconscious and whatever drugs they had dripping into my veins were giving me weird nightmares.

"Third thought. You really did hit bottom, and this is Hell."

I whirled around and there, not ten feet from me, was a freaking picnic table with an umbrella. Sitting there was a guy in a white linen suit drinking lemonade. Blond, chiseled features, sort of looked like Redford. But he hadn't been there two seconds ago.

"Well, come on over, have a seat, have a glass; it's a warm day, after all." he smiled, and I felt like grabbing my wallet and making sure it was still there. I slowly walked over and sat down in a chair that I'd swear hadn't been there a second ago.

"Mr. Alan Durfey! Pleasure to meet you!" he reached over and pumped my hand vigorously "I wasn't expecting you for years, and then under very different circumstances."

I took a cautious sip of the lemonade. Pretty good stuff. "I'm afraid you have me at a loss, Mister...?"

"Oh, Alan, mind if I call you Alan? Alan, I'm Satan. AKA Lucifer, the Devil, the Morningstar, etc., etc. This is Hell, and you've been bad." A file suddenly appeared in his hand "gluttony, anger, misuse of the Lord's name in some rather creative ways; you really can't be surprised that you ended up here."

"Honestly I never gave much credence to religion."

"That's another reason why you landed on my doorstep. But let me tell you why I'm meeting you personally, rather than feeding you into the system. When I said that you had hit the bottom, I wasn't lying. But you didn't die, Alan, I made a point of snagging your soul before death and judgment. Truth be told you are one of a number of people I've been watching just in case this opportunity arose. Tell me, did you ever take a class in comparative religion?"

The question caught me off-guard. "Well, no... but I did date this Jewish chick once..."

Satan cut me off with a raised hand. "I see. Let me explain some basic things to you then. Everything you thought you knew about religions and god is wrong. We exist only because people believe in us. That's where we get our power and our responsibilities. Vox Populi, the voice of the people, made me, and made the being called God, and all the rest of the deities." Satan noticed the look on my face "Yes, deities. Think of it. A billion Muslims, a billion Hindus, and enough people worshiping and believing in entities like Odin and Guan-Yu to keep them real. all it takes is a few hundred true believers to give us a spark. A few thousand, and we can start to really do things. But it does lead to problems."

Satan waved his arm and the desert shimmered and vanished. Suddenly, we were sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking a vast lake of molten rock. There were things down there, struggling, screaming... I turned to Satan in horror.

"Yes, this is the famous Lake of Fire, brought into existence by the beliefs of over a billion Christians. Oh, don't worry, everyone down there is an actual believer who knew what they were doing was a sin, and whose sins actually caused harm. I have other punishments for people who cheated on their taxes and the like."

"So, where do I come in?"

"As I was saying, there are a multiplicity of deities and realms and afterlives, and other concerns that aren't your worry. But sometimes we need to move things between realms." Satan waved his arm again, and we were back in the desert. "Used to be we'd use chariots or barges, but there are six billion people in the world! New religions every day! We need to modernize."

At this Satan pointed behind me. There, on a highway that hadn't been there, sat a beautiful long-nose sleeper, glossy black with red highlights. Attached was a box trailer in the same color scheme. The name "Route 666 Trucking - Damned if we do, Damned if we don't" was painted on the doors and trailer. It was the most amazing truck I had ever seen. "The rules of the game" Satan said from behind me, "are simple. Drive for a set period of time and I return you to your life at the bottom of the ravine with survivable, non-debilitating injuries. In addition, your life after that will be one of good fortune and luck. The period is 100 years and a day. In this realm you will not need to eat or sleep, but may do so for your own pleasure. You will haul what I tell you to haul without question, and take it to any destination I designate."

I couldn't take my eyes off that truck. "Why me?" I asked in almost a whisper.

"Alan, you are a driver." I couldn't help but hear the emphasis in his voice and turn to face him. "You are an old soul, Alan, and you have been driving things since man invented the cart. You are almost the Platonic ideal form of a driver. Really can you ever imagine yourself doing anything else? I need people like you handle the challenges of this job. I have other drivers, but some of them are very old and set in their ways. I need you Alan."

Driving for Satan. I've had worse jobs, I suppose.

"Give me the keys, and let's look at that contract."

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