003: Go With The Flow

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 the good folks at Sunday Scaries. It’s not hard to imagine how stressful it is to navigate an unfamiliar asteroid belt. It’s stressful enough working out your calendar for the week! Sunday Scaries are gummies designed for the treatment of anxiety, containing cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive sister of THC. CBD is found in industrial hemp and cannabis plants, and is found 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 hypotheticals, so our friends at Sunday Scaries would like to offer you a chance to try an alternative in treating your everyday anxiety. Just visit sundayscaries.com and use the promo code “PROXY” to get 10% off your first order! That code again is  “PROXY” if you would like 10% off of your first order of Sunday Scaries! I know we’ll be very glad to have something soothing around, the next time the slipspace drive starts acting up.

And now… for our next destination.

[[THEME MUSIC]]

–Scene 01–
[[SFX: Feston floats along a river, a festival taking place along its banks. Folk music plays from the shore as he passes. Feston takes a drink from a flask.]]

FESTON: Ahh, that’s lovely. Hello, travelers, and welcome back to StarTripper!! My name is Feston Pyxis, and I am coming to you now from the gently rolling surface of the Belt River.

[[SFX: Feston opens the ship's canopy, rooting around inside for a cooler containing drink mixture ingredients.]]

FESTON: I got here just in time for the yearly harvest festival here on the planet Nikodos. Get this, the Belt River literally flows around the entire planet like a belt, under and, in a couple cases, up and down a couple mountains! But also through huge tracts of arable land. It’s the first thing you see when you fly over, and some of the best fruit and veg in the system comes from Nikodos, and to avoid looking smug the whole rest of the year at the bounty it provides, they light up the whole river in a week-long celebration.

[[SFX: A firework launches from the shore, exploding overhead.]]

FESTON: It is zarking magnificent out here! You can easily see this party from orbit.

[[SFX: Feston sips his drink.]]

FESTON: We kind of showed up at the tail end, and today’s the last day. The atmosphere lit up magenta and gold, infrared lanterns making the locals’ skin glow a soft leaf green; colors like I can hardly describe, and you can find most of them in the stuff they grow around here. It’s pretty common for visitors to arrive and tour the festival by just letting their ships go with the current, so I’ve got the flotation gear active; just bobbing downstream like a very handsomely-made lantern. How are you liking the place, Prox?

[[SFX: PROXY appears in Feston's remote node.]]

PROXY: Viable evasive action is extremely limited, Feston. Please be advised: I cannot engage escape thrusters with the canopy retracted.

FESTON: Exactly, pal, and there’s no reason you’d possibly need to! Cycle down a little. Disengage whatever’s got you so preoccupied.

PROXY: During atmospheric entry, my scans detected anti-air and armor-piercing fortifications at regular intervals on each side of the river. Risk assessment protocol demands I prepare a course of countermeasures.

FESTON: Risk is exactly the reason FOR the big guns. These Nikodosians, they’ve got plenty to lose, and quite a few people who wouldn’t mind helping them lose it. Armies travel on their stomachs, if you’re familiar with the expression. The Nikodosians don’t have a standing army (they’re merchant farmers), but they do have some friends, and THEY have standing armies. Who like to eat. They don’t just stand, either; they also walk, run, stomp, and burn your house down if the order comes through. With a festival like this, you never know who might show up, and the Nikodosians take a dim view of anyone who pollutes the river. Since we are the careful, conscientious sort that we are, we should be in no danger of getting shot at. I trust you, you trust me. Sound good?

[[MUSIC: summery, acoustic guitar]]

PROXY: Acknowledged. We must rely on each other.

FESTON: Glad you agree. Now try to enjoy yourself, yeah?

PROXY: I can appreciate a new challenge. I will try.

–Scene 02–
[[SFX: Onshore, meat sizzles over the dull roar of the crowd.]]

FESTON: Three skewers, if you please!

[[SFX: The chef grunts. A young Nikodosian, SIMKO NOOT-KADACHEE (SIM), runs up and sits down next to Feston at the counter, breathing hard.]]

SIM: May I… have some… water please?

FESTON: Here, kid, have mine. Never touch the stuff if it’s in a glass.

SIM: I thank you.

[[SFX: Simko takes Feston’s offered flask and drinks hastily.]]

FESTON: Jeez, slow down, will ya?

SIM: Cannot. I have to go, you are very kind. Please excuse me.

[[SFX: Simko goes to leave, but Feston stops him.]]

FESTON: Whoa, what’s the hurry? Miss your stop on the hover-tram?

SIM: I… Please, it is complicated, I must go if I am to catch up to him in time! I have to reach the base of Rolling Hill before Kinellis marries that… that jerk!

FESTON: Well, what are we waiting for? I’m docked over there.

SIM: Yes, exactly! I--hold on, what?

[[MUSIC: breezy, acoustic, hopeful; continues throughout the next scene]]

–Scene 03–
[[SFX: A group of children plays along the riverbanks, following the StarTripper as it floats.]

FESTON: Hey, you little squirts! Happy harvest to ya! Wait– Hey!

[[SFX: Feston catches a large wicker basket full of flowers and ornaments soon after it is thrown from the riverbank. Several kids jump into the water, still laughing, and swim over to the Startripper. They climb up, dripping.]]

FESTON: What are they doing?

SIM: Sharing the bounty of their spirit, I think. The river was very good to us this year.

FESTON: Ohhh I get it. Yeah, go ahead.

[[SFX: The kids set to work adorning the Startripper with harvest ornaments and flower arrangements.]]

PROXY: Feston, external sensors indicate several lifeforms mounting plant matter to the hull. Several hull camera lenses will be obscured, limiting visibility of hazards.

FESTON: They’re just making you look nice! I won’t let them block up anything extra important. Hey, kid, toss me one of those, she needs a new hood ornament!

[[MUSIC: fades up]]

–Scene 04–
[[SFX: The festival continues on boths sides of the river as Feston and Simko sail down it on the Startripper. Simko’s fingers tap out a nervous rhythm on the hull.]]

FESTON: Would you quit that for a second and chill out? Come on, have a skewer. Fresh maffalo steak, some kinda citrus marinade.

[SFX: The tapping halts right away. A silence opens up.]

FESTON: So that’s a no on the maffalo?

SIM: I am sorry. This just seems… slower. No offense meant.

FESTON: Listen, I know it seems that way, but you’ll be fighting the crowd every step of the way up there. And then you have to think about how many times you’ll have to stop and catch your breath, how many drinks of water you’ll need on the way. Forget it, you’re much better off riding with me and conserving your energy for... heartfelt oaths of love and devotion, or whatever. What’s the deal there, exactly?

SIM: We intended to run away together tonight, but Kinellis’s mother caught wind of our plans. She has arranged the ceremony for her choice of suitor tonight, where the Belt runs under Rolling Hill. My rival’s name is Jasker Tem-Safaril, the son of a syndicate executive. He is very well-connected, and I am… not. This is embarrassing.

FESTON: Not at all, my friend, this is just the sort of thing I came for.

SIM: What do you mean?

FESTON: Let’s just say I came for the party, but I stayed for a good story. The party was nice, but this is what I was hoping to find.

SIM: You are a journalist of some kind? Lifeform interest pieces?

FESTON: Not officially, but I guess you could say so. I am recording pretty much all of this for a little pet project I have going. Do you mind? I can cut out the personal stuff, bleep names, whatever. Wouldn’t want to put you in a messed-up position, by any means.

[[SFX: Fireworks sound distantly as Simko considers.]]

SIM: No. You should leave it all in. Maybe it will stand as a monument to what Kinellis and I shared, if I am unable to stop the ceremony. I should not have even asked you to help.

FESTON: I’m going to read that as a self-esteem thing, and not you knocking my skills as a matchmaker. I’m talking tactics, guy, watch a war documentary. Not fast enough on foot? You find transport. They expect your troops to come in overland? You bring those suckers in by boat, under dead of night. Riiiiiiight?

SIM: Your analogy falls apart in several places. I do not know quite where to start.

[[SFX: PROXY appears with a chirp.]]

PROXY: After some investigation, my findings show that, historically, nuptial gatherings have often been the pretense for insurrection, assassination, feuding, and financial transaction. An armed response to our presence is not as unlikely as you suppose.

SIM: Wonderful.

FESTON: Kid, you have a lot to learn about love. But hey, so do I! Here, have a slug of this, relax, and think about what you’ll say to him.

[[SFX: Sim sniffs the offered flask]

SIM: Noku wine? [a pause to reconsider Feston] Thank you.

FESTON: What’s that look for?
 
SIM: I thought you might prefer some gods-awful firewater, not the wine we offer to friends. You hear stories about travelers, and the stuff they drink. I didn’t want to be rude.

[[SFX: Up on an approaching bridge, a reed flute player pipes a song for a delighted audience; a single drummer comes in to accompany.]]

FESTON: Not at all. You wouldn’t believe some of what they sell at long-haul fuel stops. Go on, it’s a good bottle. [hearing the music] Oh wait, I saw them dancing to this one before! Wait, I’ve got this, somebody showed me...

[[SFX: Feston clumsily attempts the dance]]

SIM: You look like a drunk toddler!

FESTON: Then you show me how to do it so I can pull a cute wedding guest or something! Come on, get up here!

[[SFX: People on the bridge laugh after the two men dancing on the hull of the StarTripper as it passes.]]

FESTON: [laughing] Hey! Happy harvest, everybody!

SIM: Just what are you, exactly?

FESTON: Breaking old habits of moderation, Sim good buddy. Breaking old habits.

[[MUSIC: anticipatory, hopeful]]

–Scene 05–
[[SFX: The StarTripper floats down the river; the sounds of the festival are more distant here, and insects click in the evening air.]]

FESTON: Okay, Sim, I’ve held my tongue for almost three full ticks now, but I don’t think I can anymore. How’d you and this Kinellis guy meet? School dance? Museum trip? Those are always cute.

SIM: Well, you remember when I called Jasker my “rival?” I wasn’t just being dramatic because you have a microphone in your neck. About a year ago, he invited me to a party he was hosting as an insult...

FESTON: Okay, wait–

SIM: And Kinellis was meant to be his dance partner that night. At first.

FESTON: You didn’t.

SIM: I didn’t mean to. Granted, once we had gotten lost in the crowd after the third dance, we mostly had the night to ourselves. To be blunt, he is too good for me. Kinellis is supposed to inherit a prosperous farm estate dating back centuries, and has been working on the family accounts for several years already.

FESTON: Well, shoot me down, kid, I am impressed. So what is it you do?

SIM: My family has cleaned the Belt River for at least as long as Kinellis’s has been farming. There have always been those families who tend to the water with their hands, who sleep beside it. It is an antiquated practice, but it runs deep in us. Mostly, we perform our duties and stay out of the way of the Embankment patrols. Nominally, we are affiliated with Embankment, but they’ve simply taught us how to defend the river. They get to operate the lasers.

FESTON: I thought this river was kind of a holy site, but a lot cleaner. I mean, they vaporize litterbugs and river-racers. Your family sound like a bunch of low-key badasses, they don’t get any respect?

SIM: We do not directly contribute to the economic boom. Some are drawn to our calling from other walks of life, but there is no political influence to be had. The produce syndicates and merchant farm alliances make the most money, have the most connections, and bend the public to see things their way. It was not always so. Kinellis never saw me in those terms, even after he pulled the truth of my background from me. He is like the people I grew up with, in a way. He sees this place for what it is, only he knows a lot of people who know a lot of people. He wants to make things better for people like my parents.

FESTON: But the mom has other ideas.

SIM: Yes, the marriage to Jasker is too tempting for climbers like Kinellis’s parents to pass up.

FESTON: Makes sense, but playing 4D chess with your offspring? Creepy.

SIM: Indeed.

FESTON: You lovebirds don’t have any comms? No, I guess you wouldn’t, he’d be on lockdown while they do wedding prep.

SIM: You see now why I was so frantic. I only heard about the change of plan because Kinellis’s social wave-feed suddenly went berserk.

FESTON: I was never very good at social media. Hey Proxy, look into setting up a feed for the show and–

SIM: Wait. I can see Rolling Hill now. There, with the white lanterns floating overhead.

FESTON: Ready for this? That’s a lot of guests.

SIM: I know what I have to do. Please, just get me there, and I will be in your debt.

[[MUSIC: officious, lovestruck, strings]]

FESTON: Kak me, it looks like the ceremony is almost over. That’s them in the finery? Not some other couple? Because I’m going to feel pretty silly if we--

SIM: It is them. Hold on, he is turning. [calling out to the shore] Kinellis! I’ll be right there, just hang on!

KINELLIS (KIN): [distant] My love! Let go of me, Jasker! I said--

[[SFX: The wedding guests are shocked to see Kinellis knee Jasker in the sensitive bits, causing him to howl with pain and collapse.]]

FESTON: And the groom goes down!

SIM: Kinellis, let’s run away from here!

FESTON: Here he comes!

[[SFX: The guests continue to make noises of alarm and consternation as Kinellis makes a break for the shoreline.]]

FESTON: Hey! Hop aboard, there’s room for one more!

[[SFX: Kinellis leaps for the ship and lands hard on the hull]]

SIM: I’ve got you!

FESTON: Hi! I’m Feston!

KIN: [out of breath] Kinellis Toti-Hendin! Pleased to meet you!

[[SFX: Blaster pistols fire from the bank, hitting the surface of the water beside the ship]]

JASKER (JAS): [distant] No, you idiots! You might hit my betrothed! Kinellis, come back!

KIN: Oh damn, I should have hit him harder.

SIM: You were marvelous. Feston, thank you so–

JAS: Kinellis! Get back here and marry me, you idiot! You wait until my father hears about this! He’ll find you and you’ll regret it!

KIN: That’s not what he said when he left my room last night!

JAS: What?! You-- WHAT?! [grabs something and yells incoherently]

[[SFX: A distant splash of something chair-sized hitting the water is followed by a sharp warning sci-fi klaxon note, then a high-caliber laser blast hitting the riverbank by Jasker with a spray of dirt. Screams and shouts from the guests. The laser turret woops twice; a caution.]]

FESTON: Warning shot? That’s generous.

SIM: They know of his family.

JAS: [furious, nearly gone] You! I see you there, you filthy offworlder! I’ll remember! I’ll find you and make you wish your mother had shoved you back in the-- [he fades away]

FESTON: Jeez. That guy needs a hug.

KIN: That was a lie, by the way, sweet. The thing about his father. But it will keep them arguing and off our butts. [laughs delightedly]

FESTON: Sim, I can see the hype was real regarding this sweetheart of yours.

KIN: You hush. But is there any way we can go a little faster? Just to be safe.

FESTON: Proxy, increase our cruising speed ten percent, please. Keep float-gear engaged.

[[SFX: PROXY appears.]]

PROXY: Acknowledged. Brace for acceleration.

[[SFX: A low ripple of extra velocity goes through the engines.]]

SIM: Feston, my friend. Thank you for this. I do not know how I could ever repay such a thing.

FESTON: Tell you what, Sim, ask me again after I get you folks eloped good and proper. [feigning seriousness] I was going to ask for some dance tips, but it looks like bridesmaids are off the table, so to speak. Need to give it some thought.

PROXY: Please feel free to sit back and relax. You have had a trying evening.

FESTON: Good idea, Prox. Hey, isn’t the big pyrotechnics show starting soon?

SIM: I believe so.

PROXY: I will chart a course to the nearest observation deck. Enjoy the ride.

[[MUSIC: jubilant]]

–Scene 06–
[[SFX: In the beating, jangling, laughing heart of the festival. Fireworks boom and crackle in the sky in a rhythmic series. The crowd ooh’s and applauds, cheers its delight.]

FESTON: [a little tipsy] We made it, travelers. We crashed a wedding, ran off with a groom, and nobody even had to get atomized in the process. These two done got themselves well and truly eloped, and we found, just, the best damn spot for this show. Nikodos is a good place, I think. It’s easy to see what matters here, and what happens when the people show how much those things matter. Nikodosians don’t have much use for things that tear them apart, because if you don’t live near the Belt River, life isn’t so easy. In places, the mountains stretch for thousands of miles, hundreds of miles across the ranges. You only find hermits there, with nothing much but snowmelt to drink. But here, the people are contented. Young lovers start getting old together. They make the future. And here I sit, just one more brief, tiny glint on the Belt, with Simko and Kinellis, my new friends. They shine so bright tonight. I hope they’ll do me one small favor, and help me in signing off this episode. Coming to you from Nikodos, on the last day of the harvest festival, my name is Feston Pyxis. We’ll meet again next time, friends…

FESTON / SIM / KIN: ON STARTRIPPER!!

[[THEME MUSIC]]


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,
James Bachelor as Simko,
Scotty Shoemaker as Kinellis,
and Zach Ehrlich as Jasker.

Music by Ketsa, for more check out KETSAmusic.com.

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.

If you have a spare moment, it’d really help us out if you could rate & review us on your platform of choice. That’s a really easy way to help new listeners find the show. And if you wanna go even further, you can support us on Patreon, even a pledge of as little as $1 helps us immensely to keep making cool shows for you.

Thank you for flying with us. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: Four words–MILITARY-GRADE NECK PILLOWS.

A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE