006: Ready to Lawnch

written & directed by Julian Mundy
produced by Julian Mundy, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown
sound design by Mischa Stanton

[[AD MUSIC]]

JULIAN MUNDY:

This episode of StarTripper!! is brought to you in part by our friends at Sunday Scaries. Let’s face it: the galaxy is a stressful place, and dealing with life on this planet is tough enough. Sunday Scaries are gummies designed specially for the treatment of anxiety, and contain cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive sister of THC. CBD is found in industrial hemp and cannabis plants, and is proven to be effective in the management of chronic ailments like insomnia, inflammatory skin conditions, and most notably, anxiety. To increase their natural mood-boosting effects, the gummies also include vitamins B-12 and D-3. Life is hard enough without having to obsess over “what-ifs,” so our friends at Sunday Scaries would like to offer you a chance to try an alternative in treating your everyday anxiety. Just visit ForSundayScaries.com and use the promo code “PROXY” to get 10% off your first order! That code again is “PROXY” - P-R-O-X-Y - if you would like 10% off of your first order of Sunday Scaries! It’ll be nice to have something to calm down with when the slip-space drive starts acting up.

If you’ve got a minute after the show, please do us a favor and answer a few questions at whisperforge.org/STSurvey. That’ll let us know how to make this show its best for you, our fellow travelers.

And a special word of thanks also goes to the generous folks who now contribute to the show on Patreon! We get to keep flying because of lifeforms like you, so if we touch down in your city, the first round is on us.

And now… for our next destination.

[[THEME MUSIC]

SCENE 01:

[SFX: The interior of the Startripper is livened up by some upbeat music coming through the speakers. Feston drums along on an armrest.]

FESTON: Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES... Hello, travelers! My name is Feston Pyxis, and welcome back to Startripper!! where you find me with a little bit of excess energy on our way to the picturesque little planet of Sylder Prime. Hahaha. Oh, um, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in time, but it looks like I can finally collect my pass to the MerryStems Eco Expo! They’re the biggest fertilizer conglomerate in the galaxy! One year, I had to collate all the complaints the expo received, and at least half of them were complaints that the event was a week too short! The others were mostly about wheatgrass poisoning... and the pet-eating hedge maze... But I hear they’re dialing back on the wheatgrass this year.

[SFX: The dashboard console chimes.]

PROXY: Feston, we are about to reach the checkpoint above the planet Sylder Prime.

FESTON: Thank you, Prox. Oh kak me, look at the line. Glad I sprung for the VIP treatment this time around.

[SFX: An alert flashes on the console. The Startripper comes to a halt under a vast checkpoint balcony.]

FESTON: That’ll be them. Transmitting our particulars… now.

[SFX: Feston enters a code into the console and hits “send.” The engines cycle down to a slow taxiing speed. The comm rings, and Feston answers. The CHECKPOINT OFFICER (CO) is cheerful, but clearly having a busy day.]

CO: Welcome to the expo, patron Pyxis! It looks like you’re one of today’s big thrill-seekers.

FESTON: That’s a pretty neat and tidy description of me, yeah. Really excited to get in the mix, after all I’ve heard.

CO: That’s fan-tacular. I’ve got your Demo Participant badge ready with your swag bag, as well as a schedule so you can get to all your favorite demos. All you’ll have to do is open your cargo hatch and a drone will drop it off for you. Thank you for coming, patron Pyxis. Have fun, and don’t hurt yourself in there.

FESTON: Thanks! And no promises. Oh, by the way, I’ve got a recording implant, figured I’d keep it rolling on the expo grounds. That okay?

CO: Not to worry! Our legal department will send a request for an unedited copy of whatever you record, just to be double super-safe.

FESTON: (should have expected this but didn’t, at all) Oh, uh, right. Yeah! Sure. Whatever you guys need. But, uh, what t if I have to, you know, use the facilities, or, I dunno, find myself in an… intimate situation?

CO: Not to worry, we employ a legal team from a diverse pool of races and species, none of which experience disgust! Hope you have a fantastic time at our expo, and thanks again for picking MerryStems! If you’ll proceed straight ahead, please.

[SFX: The Startripper’s engines cycle back up, taxiing to the cargo transfer bay.]

FESTON: Ok, bye! (to himself) I did not miss interacting with corporate….

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 02:

[SFX: Feston stands atop a hill overlooking the crowd, which mills all around an open-air fairground; children laugh and chitter in strange alien tongues, people OOO and AHH at attractions they pass, and odd muzak plays in the distance. Feston slurps the remainder of something liquid out of a straw and lets out a thirst quenching “Ahh”.]

FESTON: Well, my friends, I am currently enjoying an algae- and zero-grav-orange-based smoothie on a hill overlooking the expo grounds. The sky is just the right shade of lavender, and the aroma of fresh compost reaches my nostrils even this far out from the main event. I just wanted to get my bearings before the topiary competition. The crowds make it kind of tough to move around, but if I had a yard in which to put adjustable nano-hedges, I’d be at the front of the crowd. But that’s not why I’m here. My friends, I’m here to be… “Lawnched.” If you’ve never heard of this most excellent blend of ballistics and botany, I’ve heard of a similar phenomenon on some other planets commonly called “punkin-chunkin.” Now, lawnching is a little different. Instead of a catapult made out of plumbing parts, each contestant has to devise a potent concentrated fertilizer, and then apply it to a square of grassy earth big enough to contain your average-sized alien, one of whom stands on the square. The idea is that the formula should act in such a way that the grass grows EXPLOSIVELY, with enough thrust to propel the alien as far as possible from the point of origin.

[SFX: Feston brings up a map on his wrist display.]

FESTON: Okay, looks like there’s a demo set to begin in a couple ticks over at East Stage 3.

[SFX: Some distance away, several drunk patrons begin to roll down the hill, some shrieking with laughter as they tumble downward.]

FESTON: Whoa! Hey, now there’s an idea.

[SFX: Feston deactivates the map with a soft electronic “woop.”]

FESTON: (clearing his throat for effect) I hereby dedicate this tumble downhill to everyone listening back home on Lorvin, where there isn’t a single hill to tumble down anywhere! Okay. Okay, okay! Three, two, one! HERNG!       

[SFX: Feston drops into a roll and tumbles down the grassy hill, grunting and barking laughs as he goes. This continues for several seconds until Feston comes messily to a halt at the bottom, surrounded by expo-goers, who laugh and mill around.]

FESTON: (also laughing) That! That was good! Hey! Hey, anybody know if the Lawnching competition has started?

[SFX: A nearby alien hoots several times. Feston is handed a cup of highly-carbonated something.]

FESTON: Wha--? Oh! Oh, thanks. Uh, it’s that way, right?

[SFX: The alien gurgles a response.]

FESTON: And that’s very nice of you to offer. Maybe I’ll see you around!

[SFX: The alien hoots three times in quick succession and disappears into the crowd.]

FESTON: Better hurry, that spokes-alien told me the bell should sound any moment now, and then handed me a cup of something they called “Daxxy Cleansing Very Extremely Lime-Fusion.” Huh... One of those health tinctures? I hope?

[SFX: Feston downs the fizzy liquid, and the cup suddenly crunches in his fist. Feston jostles his way through the crowd.]

FESTON: (enjoying it but decidedly more full of fizz than anticipated) Whoa… WHOA!... Haha…  WOO!... Huh. Haha, ok-- WOO... Gotta go! Gotta go! Gotta go! ‘Scuse me. ‘Scuse me, please, I am a PARTICIPANT! Whoa. Haha, hi! HELLO! OH WOW ISN’T IT NICE OUT TODAY?! WOO!!! ‘Scuse me--OH, OW! Sorry, sorry, my fault--MY FAULT--it was my fault--GOTTA GO! (fizzy grunts)-- Hi! Nice to meet you, Feston Pyxis, I run a PODCAST! (more fizzy grunts, bumping into another patron) Oh! Sorry, love to chat, gotta go, TOO FIZZY…. WOW… Daxxy Fizz!

[SFX: In a single shot traversing one section of the fairground, Feston continues to navigate through the river of expo patrons. Passing hawkers and garish adverts, he arrives at the back of a crowded stand of bleachers. The crowd is lively, but hushes as the MC arrives for the opening address.]

MERRYSTEMS MC (MMC): Allllllright then folks! Thank you all so much for coming out today! The raw excitement of watching the grass grow has never been realized like it has here, at the 105th Annual Sylder Prime Eco Expo!

[SFX: Applause from the enormous crowd.]

MMC: Brought to you proudly by MerryStems. Now, we’ve had a minor change in the program, as our brave volunteer projectile today is currently indisposed with a lung condition.

FESTON: [hushed, still behaving kinda fizzy] Wha--Omigosh. Omigosh omigosh! Is this happening?

MMC: I’m told they’ll be just fine, but it is reaching the time in its lifespan where it begins to grow sets of backup lungs, and needs to check with the doctors on-site to see if it will be able to continue. In the meantime, we do need a single volunteer to be our standardized projectile for all the entries today! So do I have anybody else in the crowd with a participant’s pass?

FESTON: [hushed] My destiny! [to MMC] Hey! Down here! It’s me!

MMC: Hey hey! You got a badge to flash at me, young hominid?

FESTON: Wha--? Oh ya!

[SFX: Feston hits a small trigger, which activates a hologram badge with a BWOW.]

FESTON: Ready to fly!

[SFX: Proxy’s chime sounds from Feston’s wrist display.]

PROXY: I will have a triage unit standing by in the cargo hold. Please enjoy yourself today.

FESTON: Oh… Thanks Proxy!

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 03:

MMC: Folks, please join me in welcoming to the stage, from the Macro-Biome Research Institute on the planet Freeboodle, our first Lawncher of the day: Tansey Flick! I hear they’ve got a real firecracker of a formula to show us today!

[SFX: The crowd erupts in cheers.]

MMC: Is our projectile ready to begin?

FESTON: Ready!

[SFX: The cheers redouble, but are soon hushed by the MMC.]

MMC: Projectile, please take your mark on the grass!

[SFX: In the hush, we clearly hear Feston take a step or two onto a patch of thick grass. Behind him, the contestant approaches and activates a sci-fi spray-bottle.]

MMC: Whenever you’re ready, Tansey, would you please escort our guest from the premises?

[SFX: Tansey gives the grass under Feston’s feet three quick sprays, and retreats at speed. The audience does not need to wait long before a low rumble begins under Feston’s feet.]

FESTON: Haha, escort our guest-- HERNG!!!

[SFX: What follows immediately after is the sound of Feston being launched several hundred feet into the distance by explosively growing grass. Feston yelps with the initial shock, and screams most of his way back down to the ground, until being caught by a large holo-net apparatus. Back at the Lawnch Site, the crowd is bellowing its approval.]

MMC: (distant) Beautiful shot! That’s a total of 480 feet! And a very special thanks to our net operator, Big Grizzle, who will be keeping our projectile nice and un-pulped today!

FESTON: Thanks for the assist, Grizz!

[SFX: Up in a nearby control cabin, Big Grizzle makes a grunting reply in what sounds like kangaroo/water buffalo.]

FESTON: Hey! How do I get down from he--UH? WHOA!

[SFX: Big Grizzle honks a reply and hits a series of keys. The holo-net stretches down, opens at the bottom and deposits Feston into a smart-cart.]

FESTON: Woo! Hope you’re having as good a day as I am, travelers.

[SFX: The cart starts zipping back to the launchpad.]

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 04:

[SFX: The crowd is hushed, and Feston steps gingerly onto a new patch of grass. A new contestant approaches, gives the grass three quick sprays, and moves back. The grass rumbles, for a slightly longer time than the previous attempts, before Feston is propelled by grass across the pitch and caught in the net by Big Grizzle. The crowd applauds.]

MMC: (distant) 344 feet! Not too bad! But it looks like Tansey Flick is still the one to beat today!

FESTON: Hey Grizz! How many contestants did they--WHOA (sliding down the net and landing back in the cart) --say signed up today?

[SFX: Feston taps his wrist display.]

FESTON: Hey Prox, is there a program posted for this thing listed anywhere?

PROXY: One moment. Yes. You are in the fifth round, out of a total of twenty-four. The next Lawncher is a crowd favorite: Jaylee the Chunk, of the Chunk Empire.

FESTON: Aren’t they from the planet Chunk? There’s no grass there!

PROXY: Jaylee is thirty-third in the line of succession for the Throne of Chunk, and as such is mostly left alone to explore exotic hobbies. Jaylee’s Omnipedia entry states that they have grass imported from off-Chunk.

FESTON: Huh...So we have a dabbler. From a world with no grass….

PROXY: I see your stress levels are rising, Feston. Please do not worry. This “Big Grizzle” seems quite capable.

[SFX: Big Grizzle lets out a long supportive ‘moo’ sound]

FESTON: Um… okay.

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 05:

[SFX: Thunderous applause from the crowd dies down. Feston steps on the Lawnchpad, followed close behind by Jaylee’s very heavy footfalls.]

MMC: Fire away, young Jaylee!

FESTON: Nothin’ to worry about…. Nothin’ to WORRY about---

[SFX: Three quick sprays on the grass. Instead of rumbling, explosive growth, this is steady and more prolonged. Feston balances atop a twenty-foot column of thick grass. Down below, the crowd cheers.]

FESTON: Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa! Hey! OKAY! Holy kak, how is grass even doing that? [to Jaylee, on the ground] How’d you do that?

MMC: [down below] Jaylee the Chunk, folks, they never disappoint! I think I might see a few hungry investors in the crowd! Just look at it, you could build houses with that stuff! Jaylee the Chunk, folks, give it up!

[SFX: More applause from the crowd down below.]

FESTON: (laughing but unsure) Can I come down now? What’s the story?

MMC: [below] Just half a tick while we retrieve our projectile, everybody! Give it up for Feston!

[SFX: The crowd applauds, with a smattering of laughter. Aliens hoot and chatter.]

FESTON: (still unsure) Thank you! Thank you very much! (to himself) Okay, everything’s fine. Just tell yourself, Pyxis, this is all part of the experience. This is all part of the trip.

[SFX: A large hover-drone rises to Feston’s level and scoops him up.]

FESTON: HERNG! This is all part of the trip!

[SFX: Proxy chimes on Feston’s wrist display, playing back a recording of Feston saying--]

FESTON RECORDING: This is all part of the trip.

FESTON: Thank you, Prox...

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 06 (MONTAGE):

[SFX: A series of several quick, consecutive Lawnches, each separated by a brief LOGOTONE. Some pleasant, some wild unsettling. A similar range of noises escape from Feston as he is repeatedly Lawnched and caught, bouncing several times on the holo-net on every landing.]

SCENE 07:

[SFX: Feston zooms through the air, making a sustained noise of discomfort and grunting on the catch in the holo-net.]

MMC: [at other end of pitch] Beautiful! That’s 730 feet, on the button! Just beautiful stuff! All right folks, let’s call that intermission! Stretch what you need to stretch, empty what you need to empty, and check back in two ticks! That’s about ten minutes if you’re from a place with just one sun!

[FESTON groans, somewhere between cheering and begging for the sweet release of death.]

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 08:

[SFX: The crowd is in full swing by now, hooting and whistling for the next Lawnch. Three quick sprays on the grass and a low rumble.]

FESTON: Oh man. Keep it together Pyxis. It’s all… It’s all part of the--AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

[SFX: Feston is Lawnched with great force, sending him much higher and further than usual.]

MMC: (more distant each moment) What a Lawnch! Looks like it’s overshot our volunteer! He’s on course into the Pet-Eating-- I mean, the Mysterious Hedge Maze!

FESTON: Oh kak! Ohhhh kak! Grizzle! GRIZZLE, I’M GOING IN! OOOOOOHHHH--

[SFX: The holo-net extends from the ground and catches Feston. Slowly, it lowers him, stunned, into the smart-cart.]

FESTON: (surpised and relieved) ...That was actually pretty good!

MMC: [at far end of the pitch] Great catch! Let’s give them both a hand while we run the MerryStems Lawnch Simulator on that extra-spicy meatball!

[SFX: Feston claps along with the crowd at the crowd, in a stunned sort of way, drawing closer as the smart-cart zips the many hundreds of yards back to the Lawnchpad.]

MMC: Well, folks, we’ve run the simulator on that shot. The Lawnch -- by Slip-Foil Drinn, a bright spark from the MerryStems Hall of Everyday Botanica, totals in at a projected 1658 feet! That’s a record! That’s a hell of a record!

FESTON: [exhausted] Wait, what? I didn’t think they let company people enter. Proxy?

[SFX: Proxy chimes on the wrist display as the smart-cart comes to a halt at the Lawnchpad.]

PROXY: There is nothing in the rules to exclude MerryStems employees from entering the Lawnch contest as long as they enter a formula of their own design.

FESTON: But that’s kak! They’d still have all the funding and lab space that MerryStems gives them access to!

PROXY: The rules stipulate a minimum laboratory standard, but not a maximum.

FESTON: Oh. I see. I see how it is. [to MMC] Hey, time out! Can I call time? Something is very wrong here!

MMC: Is there a problem?

FESTON: Actually? Yeah, kind of! To be honest, how do I, or any of these fine people who paid for tickets, know this isn’t just a rigged publicity stunt? Who’s running that simulator, anyway?

[SFX: Gasps from the crowd. Muttering ensues; Feston has a point.]

MMC: Now, let’s not ruin a really super event with baseless accusations, Feston, old pal.

FESTON: I don’t know you, shiny-teeth! So answer the question! Is this whole thing just a MerryStems ad? Huh?! Let the truth come out! Let the truth come-- hey!

[SFX: Feston is cut off as large metal hands close around his limbs and lift him from the cart. The crowd is building to an uproar.]

MMC: (quietly) Get him outta here.

FESTON: It’s all lies! Lawnching is just a cynical cash-grab! We were all lied to! Demand your money back! Demand your money--!

[SFX: Feston is muffled by security clamping down.]

[LOGOTONE]

SCENE 09:

[SFX: Startripper interior, down in the cargo bay. The engines rumble softly through the hull, and Feston speaks while lying on a bench. He slurps something through a straw.]

FESTON: [exhausted, sore] Oh ow… Well, MerryStems security threw me out. Stomped on my badge and everything. Also, Lawnching is ruined. I guess that’s okay, it’s not the only botany contest in the galaxy. Anyway, thanks for joining me, travellers. [losing consciousness] Feston Pyxis. StarTripperrrrrrr. [snoring]

CREDITS: Startripper!! was created by me, Julian Mundy, and produced by me, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown. This episode was written and directed by me, sound design by Mischa Stanton, with performances by:

Ian McQuown as Feston,

Giselle De Silva as Proxy,

Alex Marshall-Brown as the MC,

And Emma Sherr-Ziarko as the Checkpoint Officer.

Music by Ketsa, for more check out KETSAmusic.com. Additional music this week by the Jahzzar via the Free Music Archive, find out more at FreeMusicArchive.org

Check us out on the web at whisperforge.org/StarTripper, for transcripts and links to subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or your preferred audio curator, or on social media, where you can find us @StarTripperHQ.

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Thank you for flying with us. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: People come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and appetites; don’t be a jerk.

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