007: Lost in the Mail
written & directed by Julian Mundy
produced by Julian Mundy, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown
sound design by Mischa Stanton
[SFX: The Startripper’s interior. Feston pulls on a pair of trousers, vocalizing an upbeat tune.]
FESTON: All right! Hello today, travelers, and welcome back to... Startripper!! My name is Feston Pyxis, and I am trying to affect an upbeat attitude as a counter to cruel, cruel reality. The reality is, friends, that I’m pretty much broke. I’ve got enough left to fuel up once or twice, and maybe order a small fries. So I went on the Wave, and I looked at the classifieds, and now we find our intrepid hero and narrator in the uniform of…. a GoBetween delivery-person! It pays pretty well, I still get to travel, and they reimburse me for my fuel stops. I’m making no comment about the job. Or the uniform. Or the sort of person who would pick these colors for said uniform... Hey, Proxy?
PROXY: Yes, Feston?
FESTON: Is it as bad as it looks?
PROXY: Indeterminate. The GoBetween uniform has undergone a number of changes throughout the company’s history. The current version is the one considered an act of aggression to the fewest races across the known universe.
FESTON: Hah! I’m supposed to believe this outfit stands the scientifically lowest chance of getting me shot? I’m pretty open minded, Prox, but come on.
PROXY: Are your nerves still shaken from the procedure?
FESTON: [too quickly] No!
PROXY: Your vital signs suggest otherwise. Your cortisol levels indicate a spike in your overall Agitation Index.
FESTON: Okay, fine, yes. I am, maybe, a little tiny bit spooked out by having a “backup clone.”
PROXY: “In the event of the employee’s untimely demise in the course of their duties, your GoBetween Actuarial --”
FESTON: [interrupting] “Your GoBetween Actuarial Duplicate will activate, becoming a replacement home for your recently-disembodied self, and will be subject to an after-action performance review, for purposes of insurance and any criminal charges employees have made themselves liable for.” The Dread File-Clerk Pyxis reads the whole contract, Proxy! And I’m still pretty sure whatever they say, that whole thing about “your soul will be called back to this empty husk we grew” is actual magic bull-junk.
PROXY: It is part of the complementary health package.
FESTON: That doesn’t make it a not-spooky thing!
PROXY: Does seeing a copy of yourself bother you?
FESTON: It’s… Uncanny doesn’t even capture the feeling, because i--i--it doesn’t even look unnatural or weird when it’s all there. It’s me, just… again.
PROXY: I remember the first time I backed up a redundant version of myself. I recall registering satisfaction.
FESTON: I get it, Prox, but try this one on for size: does a copy of you have a better shot at making a go of this thing? Life? Whatever you want to call it. No, right? Nothing is for sure.
[A quick awkward silence.]
PROXY: [unphased] Does it have something to do with watching your circulatory system-- [grow in]?
FESTON: [interrupting] Yeah, turns out I hate watching my own organs and veins and stuff grow in! There it is! Feston’s a big baby! A baby who gets the twitchy eye when he watches meta-jelly congeal into clone bones! Are you happy?
PROXY: That is difficult to say, and part of a longer conversation.
[SFX: Proxy checks something through the computer, some subroutine chattering briefly.]
PROXY: Feston, in the course of this discussion, something has just occurred to me.
FESTON: What’s that, Prox?
PROXY: The contract does not state whether GoBetween will require me to be refit and repainted. Would this still be required?
FESTON: Nah, they gave me a couple of tracker decals to slap on the hull, just to put us in the dispatch system. Why?
PROXY: I would prefer to remain as I am.
FESTON: You? Aren’t you a… listen, I don’t want to be insensitive, but aren’t you just a program? Well, not JUST a program, but you-- [know what I mean].
PROXY: My classification is “Integrated Assistant,” part of a test program at Physiclast Systems. I was just as much born as I was activated, and the limits of my classification are unclear. I am the vessel, and the vessel is me.
FESTON: Wow. Not something they really covered in the old Phase Gravely movies.
PROXY: Integrated Assistants like myself had a very limited test run within lines of select makes and models. The program was found to be too elaborate to reproduce on a mass scale.
FESTON: Oh. Well, I will try to run into fewer things in the future, then.
PROXY: Not to worry; I register damage, not pain. That aside, you have proven to be a decent pilot, and you adapt quickly. And I am Physiclast Systems QCS-25, Kappa Series. The Startripper. A few minor collisions won’t stop me.
FESTON: That’s the spirit! I guess we should get moving.
PROXY: Understood. Bringing up the itinerary for our first customer.
[SFX: A holomap of their first destination appears on the console.]
FESTON: Okay then, right! Proxy, I’ve never heard of this planet.
[SFX: Inside the Startripper, Feston comes in for a landing on a stormy planet. Sheets of rain whip against the windscreen.]
PROXY: We have arrived on Trappus-3. Hazard protection is recommended in these winds.
[SFX: Feston picks up a medium-sized box. The helmet for his spacesuit folds up over his head and seals, making Feston’s voice sound close in the small space.]
FESTON: Okay, pop the trunk!
[SFX: The cargo hatch of the Startripper disengages locks and the big, solid doors open. Wind tosses buckets of rain inside, and Feston heads out, footsteps connecting with metal paneling, then splashing across muddy field.]
FESTON: [about the storm] Oh jeez... Okay, that must be the place!
[SFX: Feston tromps over an expanse of muddy ground until he makes it to a house, which acts as a windbreak when he makes it to the door. He jangles a primitive door chime.]
FESTON: [shouting] GoooBetween delivery!
[SFX: A hatch in the door thunks open.]
From inside, an alien asks in a chattering language, “The hell you want?”
FESTON: Got a package out here for an individual named Hubb Scowley?
Over the sound of the wind, the alien chatters, “Not here! That’s my cousin!”
FESTON: [incredulous] Your cousin? Got any other relatives out here I should know about?
The alien responds, “Oh yeah, plenty!”
FESTON: Okay, so where the hell do I find Hubb?
The alien replies, “Across the way! Goodbye now!”
[SFX: The door abruptly hatch shuts with a clang.]
FESTON: Um… Ok...
[SFX: Out in the wind and rain, Feston tromps across more mud, almost slipping before making it into another alcove. Feston knocks hard on the door, and a panel slides open.]
A different alien chatters, agitated, “The hell took you so long?”
FESTON: Hey, yeah, sorry about the delay. But on the plus side, I think I met your whole family getting over here! Where do you want this thing?
[SFX: Another, larger hatch opens alongside the door. Feston places the package inside, and the hatch slams shut.]
FESTON: You just have to hit the tab on the side to confirm-- [delivery.]
[SFX: Feston is interrupted by the hatch closing and latching.]
FESTON: Great. Thanks. Okay, Prox, who’s up next?
[SFX: Feston turns around and tromps back out into the wind. Proxy’s chime sounds over the commlink.]
PROXY: According to dispatch, our next destination is the planet Quess. Distance to arrival estimated at three jumps.
FESTON: Great, anywhere with an actual delivery addresse.
[SFX: Wind still howling, Feston comes to a stop in front of the Startripper’s bay doors, which unlatch and begin to open.]
FESTON: Hey wait, isn’t that the planet where everybody is a giant telepathic snake?
PROXY: According to recent census reports on Quess, no. Not everybody.
[SFX: The Startripper interior; science-fictional easy listening plays on the sound system.]
FESTON: [embarrassed] Hey, travelers. So I know I teased the Planet of the Giant Telepathic Snakes, but um… yeah, to be honest, it wasn’t that exciting. I showed up at the address, took a visitor’s elevator underground, and dropped off the package. Everysnake I talked to was really nice, and someone told me about a neat li’l fro-yo place on the surface. But you wouldn’t have heard any of that, because we were all having “brainversations.” So I figured I’d cut that part out. Quess is nice, I guess, but not much to see there. Mostly the buildings are underground; offices and apartments and stuff for, you know, snake-type folks. Topside, it’s pretty much just big flat rocks and other places to sunbathe. So yeah. Snake planet. Moving on.
PROXY: We have several stops to make at our next destination, Feston. Now charting a course for Abrantyne, in The Glittering Configuration.
FESTON: Oh, must be all those “Handle with Care” boxes. Travelers, if you’re not familiar with the Abrant, just know that they’re big fans of anything shiny, and the closest thing they have to a something like a priest, is a gemcutter. They can turn precious, superdense stones into hard drives. They basically speak Diamond. Apparently, very good GoBetween customers.
[SFX: The Startripper’s slipspace engines cycle up. Feston sits down in the pilot’s seat and straps in.]
FESTON: Well, I think I’m going to grab a few ticks worth of power-nap. Hey Proxy, wake me if we’re about to hit anything.
PROXY: I will take the helm for a while, then. Sleep well.
[SFX: Feston walks down a hallway, footsteps echoing oddly off shimmering walls.]
FESTON: [still sleepy and looking around, unsure] Oh jeez, why is everything so sparkly? Should’ve brought sunglasses. Okay, door number... door number…. What was it?
[SFX: Feston turns the package around in his hands.]
FESTON:Tetrahedron-octahedron-cube. Tetra-octa-cube. Right. Okay, well, I’m on floor Tetrahedron. [quiet realization] Oh kak, did I turn left? No wait. No I’m good. Ok, here we go.
[SFX: Feston approaches a door and presses the doorbell, which makes a tinny electronic BEEP BOOP.]
FESTON: GooooBetween delivery!
[SFX: Multiple pointed feet approach from behind the door, which then slides open. An ABRANT COLLECTOR (AC) steps out from behind the door.]
AC: Delightful! Most fortuitous! I have been waiting. If you please, I will confirm the delivery.
[SFX: Feston hands over the package. The AC hits a tab on the side, which makes a little celebration noise.]
FESTON: Thanks! Hope you have a really good one!
AC: Oh. You are… leaving?
FESTON: Well, you know how it is. Other stops to make, aliens to see. Folks waiting on packages just like yourself.
AC: [hurt but trying to play it off] Ah yes. Silly me. I am deep in a project, and became overexcited. I apologize.
FESTON: Oh! No no no buddy, it’s cool. It’s cool… [an akward silence]...um, like a science project?
AC: Debatable. Some of my contemporaries consider it a little self-indulgent.
FESTON: Oh, like art stuff? Sounds kinda zowy.
AC: I beg your pardon?
FESTON: Zowy! Like a real good time! [another awkward silence] Anyway, I guess I have... a tick or two--
AC: Wonderful. Yes, yes, positively… zowy! Yes it is. Please come in.
FESTON: So does this project involve gemstones at all?
AC: [shocked] Why yes! How did you know?!
FESTON: Lucky guess...
[SFX: We stand in the middle of a busy spaceport; ships can be heard passing on all sides in traffic, and others come in and take off from the fuel station intermittently throughout the scene. Feston slurps on a nearly-empty Big Gulp.]
FESTON: [weary] Hello again, travelers. That took a while. But it’s a really pretty hour here on Abrantyne, whatever hour that actually is. I’m not 100% sure how they measure that sort of thing. Anyway, the light is getting low, I have a refreshing beverage, and the Startripper is getting fueled up and restocked at the GoBetween station. Status update, Prox?
PROXY: Moments away from a full hold, Feston. Fuel at optimal levels. All systems: green.
FESTON: Now that’s satisfaction, I think, travelers. It doesn’t usually last long, but when you find yourself equipped with everything you need for a long journey… that’s a special feeling. [laughs] Or maybe it’s all downhill from here. Guess we’ll see. But this is one hell of a job if you’re big on sightseeing, that’s for sure.
SHADY TRAVELER (ST): [across the platform] Hey! Hey! You there! You with GoBetween?
FESTON: Oh! Well, I’m not a smuggler! Can I help you with something, pal?
ST: [drawing nearer] I hope so! Got a package all ready to go, I was just about to put it in the tumbler with the rest. Nothing that needs smuggling!
FESTON: Well... I can take that for you, no worries!
ST: Thanks a quintillion, buddy. Whereabouts you from, anyway?
FESTON: Lorvin. What’s it to ya?
ST: Oh, nothing at all. Just not many of you folks get off-world, I hear. What’s that like?
FESTON: Well, I’m here, right?
ST: Fair point well made. Ha ha. HA HA!
FESTON: ...So, that’s the precious cargo?
[SFX: The ST hands over a wrapped metal sphere about the size of a basketball.]
ST: Gift for an old ecto-anthropology professor. Please be careful with it, the item was very difficult to come by. Blood, sweat, and tears were shed.
FESTON: Right... You’re sure this meets all the postage criteria?
ST: Oh yes, I made quite sure. Good day, and thank you. Fly safe!
[SFX: The ST walks away. Feston turns the package around for a better look.]
FESTON: Oh. Ok... [reading] “Shake all you want, you bastard. You’ll never understand what’s inside.” Well, that’s rude. I’m a professional. Who shakes somebody else’s package?
PROXY: Some level of paranoia is to be expected in transactions like this. To that end, I will perform a scan for hazardous materials.
[SFX: The Startripper interior; in flight, but not currently in slipspace.]
FESTON: “Shake all you want, you bastard.” Can you believe that?
PROXY: It seems unlikely that the message was meant for you personally.
FESTON: Damn right! Whatever job I sign up to do, I do it right!
PROXY: Were you like that in your previous career?
FESTON: Kak yes! I’m a model employee! But that scan didn’t turn up any red flags? You’re absolutely sure?
PROXY: Yes, Feston.
FESTON: Good. Ok. [an uneasey beat.] Professional as hell, that’s me…. Professional Feston… ProFeshton…….Hmm….
[SFX: Feston shakes the spherical package experimentally, producing a combination ringing and rattling sound. He then shakes it in a more vigorous fashion, the single solid something inside thunks back and forth.]
PROXY: Whatever it contains, the packaging is shielded from my more invasive scans. Please note: GoBetween will take damage to cargo out of your paycheck.
FESTON: I’m not gonna hurt it. Sounds pretty solid.
PROXY: Have you determined the contents?
FESTON: I’m not sure what I expected, I guess. Could be anything. Well whatever it is, it’s pretty--
[SFX: Feston slams the package on the console and something inside the package begins to glow an unearthly glow, humming in a menacing sort of way.]
FESTON: It’s pretty much glowing. Goooood. That can only be good.
PROXY: I am detecting an unknown energy signature originating from inside the cabin. Feston, there is very little I can do under these circumstances. You must defuse the device.
FESTON: I’m not sure it’s a bomb we’re dealing with, Prox.
PROXY: Feston, the energy signature is spiking--
FESTON: I’m not sure what-- OH! WHOA!
[SFX: The hum from the package grows until the thing inside triggers, the effect of which pulls Feston into a literal other dimension. All at once, the soothing background noise of the Startripper’s interior cuts out, and Feston appears a foot above a hill of packages. He tumbles down it and crashes to a halt at the bottom. The wrapped metal orb bounces away.]
FESTON: [like “Jesus frickin’ Christ!”] Seffra frickin’ Zai!
[SFX: Feston taps on his wrist display.]
FESTON: Prox? You still with me?
[SFX: Small drifts of packages tumble further above Feston on the hill.]
PROXY: [through a large amount of interference] Fe--on? Fe--on. You have lo-- your link with the Startripper.
FESTON: [looking around] Yeah. Yeah, I thought that might happen. You okay?
PROXY: I am speaking from the partition on your multi-tool. Can you tell where you are?
FESTON: I really can’t. There’s kind of a soft mauve light everywhere. It looks like there’s a sky, but the horizon is dark. [shivers] And you know what, I don’t see any… um… stars. Or moons or... anything.
PROXY: And the landscape?
FESTON: [fighting back nerves] It’s mostly made of packages. Just a bunch of rolling dunes made of things that didn’t make it to where they were going. I think I’m in the Package Dimension, Prox. I just made that up. I guess that makes me an explorer. Zowy.
PROXY: Coordinates unknown. We should not jump to conclusions when I am at diminished processing power.
[SFX: From around the hill of boxes, a figure approaches, hesitant.]
JAVIER DE SILVA (JDS): Never seen one like you before.
[SFX: Feston yelps and tumbles over backward, onto some more boxes. JDS steps forward, slowly, but still causing a few boxes to tumble.]
JDS: You alright?
FESTON: Um, yeah. I think so. I’m Feston Pyxis.
[SFX: JDS extends a hand, helping Feston to his feet.]
JDS: Nice to meet you. I’m Javier de Silva, bike courier from Santa Clarita. That’s on Earth.
FESTON: I’m from Lorvin. You named your planet “dirt?”
JDS: Oh, I didn’t name it. You another alien?
FESTON: We’re all “another alien,” Javier. That’s kind of the point, right? WAIT, you mean you’re not the only one here?
JDS: There’s a bunch of us. Mostly courier-types, a couple shady dudes who freaked and ran off into the wasteland.
FESTON: Wastelan-- Is this not all wasteland? Where are we?
JDS: Well, everybody’s got their own stupid name for it. Some folks believe there’s a place across the dunes where the ground is paved with First Class deliveries. Designer jeans and shit everywhere you step, just waiting to be unwrapped.
FESTON: Oh, so no one calls it “The Package Dimension,” or…? Know what, never mind. Think you could show me around the place?
[SFX: JDS starts walking off. Feston picks up the spherical package and follows.]
JDS: Sure, we’ll get you situated. You’ll want to talk to Elder Crollick. He’ll be the one who’s got the hat and scepter. Hey, were you talking to your computer just now?
FESTON: Sort of. Just what I can fit from my ship onto my wrist comm.
JDS: Ha! That sounds pretty slick. Elder Crollick will definitely want a word with you.
FESTON: Oh, thank you!
[SFX: A bonfire crackles some distance away.]
FESTON: Hello again, travelers, from Expresstown, cobbled-together refuge in the Package Dimension...eh? I just wanted to give you all a status update, now I’ve finally got a few ticks to myself. Then again, you’ll probably never hear this. That’s kind of the thing, my friends; Javier introduced me to the council of elder couriers, and we got to talking about how I got here. When I showed them the thing that brought me here, they told me they had already been in the process of researching a bridge back to our own universe. They have a whole bunch of weird books on quantum physics they got from packages all over this place. It looks as though they could build some sort of portal between dimensions if they use the package that brought me here as a focus for the device.
PROXY: In that case, the decision seems qui-- straightforward. A plan of action with an enormous ris-- factor seems like a reasonable alternative to no plan at all.
FESTON: Thing is, I have know way of knowing if it’ll burn through the stupid thing in the process, or melt whoever steps over the threshold. Either way, I’m pretty sure someone’s going to file a complaint. Probably safer to just stay put.
PROXY: But these people are depending on you, correct? The Startripper’s hold fits twenty people comfortably. There are only seventeen members of Expresstown.
FESTON: [stopped dead] Yeah, but…
FESTON: Well... I… Ugh...
[SFX: The fire crackles merrily.]
[SFX: Feston stands before a portal which crackles with strange energy.]
FESTON: [calling out behind him] Okay! I’ll go first! As long as nothing really, really horrible happens, or the portal closes, I want you all to follow just a few seconds behind me!
[SFX: A small group of alien delivery-people calls out in the affirmative.]
FESTON: Good! Everyone holding onto your buddy? Javier, I want you to give the signal! We’re gonna get you back home to planet Dirt!
JDS: Uh, righ-- right behind you, Feston! Good luck!
FESTON: Ok! All right then, travelers! If you’re listening to this, then either it means I made it out, or my spirit made it back to my insurance clone! Either way, I’ll see you next time… on Startripper!! [to himself] Oh, this is scary... [calling behind him] Okay! Let’s do this thing!
[SFX: Feston steps forward into the portal, energy crackling and crescendoing.]
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,
Michelle Agresti as The Family Scowley and the Abrant Collector,
Mischa Stanton as The Shady Traveler,
And Jose Donato as Javier De Silva.
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.
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Thank you for flying with us. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: Always take the necessary precautions before doing this. [a hatch opens in the spaceships hull and Julian jumps out] AHHHHHHHHhhhhh!!
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE