009: Cliff Terrors Rule
written & directed by Julian Mundy
produced by Julian Mundy, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown
sound design by Anna Rodriguez
[SFX: The StarTripper interior, mid-slipspace flight. Feston rustles the wrapper of a burrito-like object and clears his throat.]
FESTON: Hello travelers! Welcome back to StarTripper!! My name is Feston Pyxis, and we are on our last leg of the slip-space jump to Glissando Beta, in the Glissando system. There’s a zowy open-invitation racetrack there that I’m dying to try out, but apparently, the concession prices down there are murder. So I picked up a sandwich on the way. Figured I’d have some lunch before I work up an appetite.
[SFX: Feston rustles the wrapper.]
FESTON: [realizing something] Lunch… Huh. Hey, Proxy, what time IS lunch supposed to be?
PROXY: Unknown. According to Omnipedia, time is a dubious concept, with a fair amount of scholarship that frames the premise of “mealtimes” as a kind of mass hallucination.
FESTON: Huh... And we’re in slip-space right now. I bet we’re traveling through, like, a million lunchtimes just on this one jump. Or maybe none? Damn you, quantum physics.
[SFX: Feston takes a contemplative bite of sandwich, rustling the wrapper.]
FESTON: [quietly, a serious question] If you eat lunch in slip-space, does it still count?
[SFX: Feston swallows. Proxy chimes on the console.]
PROXY: We are about to exit slip-space. Arriving in orbit around Glissando Beta.
[SFX: Feston crumples the sandwich wrapping closed around the remainder, as the StarTripper re-enters normal space.]
FESTON: Mm! Guess I’ll wrap the rest up for later.
PROXY: Establishing contact with ground control. We have been granted docking clearance in lot fifty-six, close to the race hub. Event listings in the district show a “random grab bag” race set to begin in 20 ticks.
FESTON: Grab bag race?
PROXY: The listing proposes a raffle, with each ticket assigning the owner a previously-owned vehicle. The listed vehicle class tonight is “mid-size commercial.”
FESTON: That sounds goofy! Let’s get in there! Oh, and Proxy, listen, I’m gonna try not to force you into bailing me out this time. You deserve a break.
PROXY: That is an interesting proposition. Let us see what happens.
[SFX: Cut to mid-race; driving a mid-size delivery truck like mad, Feston whooshes around a tight corner, followed closely by a pair of other racers. Someone trailing the pack has a messy turn and bumps into the boundary.]
FESTON: Come on, baby! WHOA!
[SFX: Feston veers around a racer who has stalled out on the track ahead.]
FESTON: So much for that lead, pal!
[SFX: Other racers veer around the stalled racer, some others in the back of the pack are not so lucky. Several wipeouts occur in quick session, and Feston draws level with another racer, the young E-LOW.]
FESTON: Hi! I’m Feston! Where’s the best place to get a drink around here?
[SFX: Feston and E-Low round another corner at speed.]
E-LOW: Tell you what, tourist: you win, I’ll pick up the tab!
FESTON: Sounds good to-- oookay.....
[SFX: E-Low pulls out the turn with a burst of acceleration, launching them lengths ahead and laughing all the way.]
FESTON: Little sneak!
[SFX: Feston cranks the throttle out of the turn, guns the engine and begins to close the gap...]
E-LOW: Oh, I’m gonna get some big stupid novelty drinks on your cred, off-worlder!
FESTON: Sounds great, count me in! [to the truck] C’mon, c’mon, almost!
[SFX: ...But not fast enough. E-Low pushes the engine to the limit and crosses the finish line, and the sound system plays a celebratory tune.]
FESTON: B’AWWW dammit.
From the sidelines, a handful of other young aliens chant “E-LOW! E-LOW! E-LOW!”
[SFX: E-Low and Feston pull into the pit area and come to a stop near each other. E-Low’s engine sputters to a halt.]
E-LOW: First round! Two big-ass Parallax Blurs! On you! I’m E-Low, by the way.
FESTON: They call me Feston. Nice move out there.
E-LOW: Thanks. You kept up okay there until the last part, but it looks like I got the very last bit of go-juice out of my ride.
FESTON: It’s not every day you see someone do that in an old jelly-ice truck. On a school night, no less.
E-LOW: Yeah, well. I basically teach the “accelerated class.”
FESTON: [doing a bit] Oh. Oh I see, yes, you took me to school. I’ve been “schooled.” You’re one of those “cool youngsters,” yes I’ve heard of you.
E-LOW: You did hear them cheering my name just now, right?
FESTON: What would your parents say to you abusing dark magics in public?
E-LOW: Wouldn’t know. Ritual-sacrificed ‘em.
FESTON: Checks out. So I heard we get to drive the vehicle we draw home, but I’m just passing through this system. You can drive us to the bar.
E-LOW: Deal. We can swap some racing stories, and plan the next move from there.
FESTON: Great! Hang on, I’ll scooch.
[SFX: Feston takes the passenger’s seat, and E-Low hops in to drive.]
E-LOW: Hang onto your delicates.
FESTON: What?-- AHHH!
[SFX: E-Low engages the throttle smoothly, kicking up some dirt and rocks with the tires as the truck does a swift about face, and drives on out of the race grounds.]
[SFX: Sitting in a lively bar, Feston takes a long drink while E-Low does a drum roll on the table.]
FESTON: [feeling the kick] Ooo. Yeah, I like that. That is a dangerous beverage. “Parallax Blur,” you said?
E-LOW: [laughs] It’s not a mind eraser or anything, just has that kinda name.
FESTON: Hmm. Any objection to testing that theory?
E-LOW: Not really. Cheers for a good race.
FESTON: Happy to oblige.
[SFX: Feston and E-Low clink glasses and drink.]
[SFX: Elsewhere in the bar, still louder crowds.]
FESTON: [pretty drunk] No! No, it’s a podcast.
E-LOW: [yup] I know plenny of people born in pods. Same thing?
FESTON: Yes! No. What? My--What? Okay, it’s like, you know travelogues? No, it’s not really one of those, I guess. I make recordings of my trip, so’s people stuck planet-side can hear what isss like. I just felt like I was missing out, you know?
E-LOW: Yeah yeah, ‘course. My brother, he went out on a trade frigate, workin’ on getting his own command. But that’s not-- I don’t get down like that; salutin’ people, all up in uniform all the time. I like Glissando-B. It’s home. I just wanna race, and look after Gramps.
FESTON: [hard drunken swerve into “worried”] Oh! Oh no! Is Gramps waiting for his medicine at home or something? What are we doing here! We gotta go take care of your--
E-LOW: Nahh, he’s always in here after I race. Just goes in a li’l too hard some nights, that’s all. He’s down there, one second.
FESTON: Wait what?
E-LOW: [shouting down to lower level of bar] Hey Gramps!
FESTON: [Raucous drunken giggles]
[SFX: Feston and E-Low stumble out of the bar into a vacant alley, leaving the music and merriment behind.]
FESTON: [drunk, continuing a thought] Aaaaah, it's on the tip of my tongue. Maybe it was “Phase Gravely: Burial in Space?” It was great, the theme song was all [vocalizes a stirring tune] with the horns an’ the strings, an’ Klakk Vilius composed it! He came out of retirement and ev’rything! Klakk Vilius!
E-LOW: Dunno what a klabibbitus is. Where’s my hat?
[SFX: Feston continues to stumble down the front stairs.]
FESTON: Wasn’t it in the truck? Tooooo the truck!
E-LOW: Why’d I leave it there? You sure?
[SFX: Feston rounds the corner of the bar, only to stop dead in his tracks in front of a pack of wolf-like creatures which surround the truck; some sniff, others growl at the new arrival.]
E-LOW: [rounding the corner] Hey! I asked if you were-- oh. Oh, kak.
FESTON: [hushed, suddenly a good deal sobered-up] What are they?
E-LOW: [hushed, tense] Uh. Well, the name in the encyclopedia is “Spectroloid,” but--
[SFX: The pack of spectroloids begin to close in around the pair.. One spectroloid leaves its position on the truck’s hood to join the act of group menace.]
E-LOW: But most people just call ‘em “Cliff Terrors.” Hunt in packs in the deep ravines. Usually they don’t come into town.
FESTON: [hates that very much] Okay okay okay-- so, um, what’s the plan?
E-LOW: Stay still. Don’t let ‘em smell how freaked you are. Breathe booze at ‘em.
FESTON: Why is this happening?
E-LOW: I dunno! I was never in scouts!
[SFX: Low growls come from various members of the pack. One spectroloid takes alpha position at the head of the group, sniffing the air. After a moment, the alpha spectroloid, LEADER (LDR), growls a command to the pack, and all at once, motion stops.]
LDR: [perfectly fluent, educated-sounding] We were mistaken. You are the source.
E-LOW: [a talking wolf-thing!] Whoa.
FESTON: [hushed, over his shoulder] “Whoa?!”
E-LOW: I didn’t know they could talk.
LDR: We can, but your word-noises are unpleasant to make with our mouths. I am Leader. I speak your unpleasantness for the pack.
E-LOW: Please don’t eat us.
LDR: You are scrawny. No threat, and not much of a meal. You will not be eaten.
FESTON: Uh...Thank you? I’m Feston, this is E-Low. I have a couple questions, if that’s ok.
LDR: I, too, have questions. According to our laws, we will trade.
FESTON: Laws. Cool, okay. Uh... Source? Haha.
LDR: Of the heavenly scent. A fabulous aroma not found on this planet. It is dense around you.
E-LOW: You’re sure it isn’t the meat truck?
LDR: No, the vehicle only contains traces. We have traveled a long way, and meant to raid the the vehicle for rations. We found nothing inside, but we detected the heavenly scent. One question for you: is the source inside the pouchy thing on your waist?
FESTON: [still drunk, brain-gears clunking] What are you… OH!
[SFX: Feston opens his satchel and takes out the wrapped sandwich. The pack’s attention intensifies at once. Feston unwraps the sandwich a bit and holds it out.]
FESTON: You mean this? Is this what y’all are smelling?
LDR: Yes, that is the source. It is quite pungent. Exquisite character.
FESTON: It’s just a Smokestack from Zero’s Shank-House.
[SFX: Excited grunts and snuffling from the spectroloid pack.]
FESTON: I mean, there’s only half left, but you’re welcome to it. Call it a peace offering. And you have to share!
[SFX: Leader licks its lips.]
LDR: This is acceptable.
FESTON: Catch! Oh wow...
[SFX: Feston tosses the sandwich to the waiting pack, which descend on it in a brief, toothy scrum of spectroloid bodies. Some snapping and scarfing later, and the pack settles; where before there were growls and snarls, the spectroloids fall silent.]
LDR: Very well. We are now friends.
E-LOW: [disbelieving] Awesome.
FESTON: So, uh, Leader, what brings you and the family out all this way?
LDR: A great crime. Our packmate has been abducted. We have come to free them, and have our justice from the perpetrator.
E-LOW: Okay. That’s a way better reason than I was expecting.
LDR: We were out on a day of hunting in the highlands. One of our number strayed from the pack, when a machine bore down on them. Machine-riders fired nets and dragged Shine-Tooth into a cage. The machine they rode was too fast for us, and we lost sight of it. We can only imagine to what sick, mechanized end they will inflict on Shine-Tooth.
FESTON: [feeling those drinks again] Those motherless junk-eaters!
LDR: We have tracked the abductors’ trail to this canyon of hideous metal and light, but we were distracted by the mystery of the scent. Now that it has been settled, we must resume the search for Shine-Tooth. Goodbye, and be careful with your machines.
[SFX: Leader barks a short signal to the pack, which turns to go in unison.]
FESTON: Hey! Hey Leader, wait a tick!
[SFX: The pack halts.]
E-LOW: [sotto, gush of words] Sure okay I mean I’d probably just let them leave though.
FESTON: [to E-Low] Trust me on this. [to Leader] Maybe we can help you folks out!
E-LOW: I’m just saying, they are wild-ass predators.
FESTON: [to E-Low] I’m surprised at you, E-Low. So surprised... [to Leader] Listen, I’m not going to just let you walk into a trap.
LDR: We are quite capable of mounting a search-and-rescue. Better for you not to endanger yourself, since you seem to have eaten some berries you should not have eaten.
FESTON: Okay, listen, I’m a little drunk still maybe. But me and my friend here do walk upright, and we have thumbs!
E-LOW: We even have a van that can fit… most of you.
FESTON: And we are pretty good at word-noises. Words. Talking!
LDR: Very well, but you will leave the machine until you are fit to ride it.
E-LOW: Aw, c’mon! I’m fit as hell!
LDR: We are fighting the sunrise, so we can waste no more time. Our scouts have found where they are keeping Shine-Tooth. We are close enough to make this our regroup point once the mission is complete.
FESTON: Don’t worry, we’ll make a great distraction.
[SFX: Feston, E-Low, and Leader come to a stop with the pack close behind. Some distance away, a compound gate rolls open, allowing a large vehicle to pull out and rumble down the street and past the group’s hidden vantage point. Feston and E-Low are still a little tipsy.]
LDR: This is it, bipeds. Scouts tell me Shine-Tooth is sending coded reports from inside. They are inside a large structure to the North end.
E-LOW: What in the hell? What would D-Nak the Junk Lord want with your friend?
FESTON: This guy’s parents named their child, “D-Nak the Junk Lord?”
E-LOW: D-Nak is the main guy you go to for scrap in this town. There’s a whole smelting thingy on the grounds, and he always needs security.
FESTON: Yikes. You think that’s what he grabbed Shine-Tooth for?
LDR: He will find our packmate quite hard to tame. I do not think that will stop him from trying. I will lead the pack into the perimeter once you bipeds create a diversion.
FESTON: Then let’s make a scene, shall we?
E-LOW: [sighs] Okay. What’s the play?
FESTON: I was just going to talk at them until we found we had something in common.
E-LOW: O, we could do that, sure. If you like being gut-shot, and then being thrown into an alley.
FESTON: Probably back into this alley. Any ideas?
E-LOW: Just follow my lead and look as snooty as you can, tourist. They don’t call me “Smooth E-Low” for nothing.
FESTON: Wait seriously, they call you that? Really?
FESTON: [low] okay... Hey!!!
[SFX: E-Low exits the shadows of the alley, Feston close behind and approach the security gate. An intercom crackles, O-DON’s modulated voice coming through.]
O-DON: No walk-ins after dark. You know the rules, E-Low.
E-LOW: O-Don! Hey buddy, it’s all ok, I made a friend at the race who was looking for some parts, that’s all!
O-DON: Ya, looks like you won, the way you lurched up here. Now, why would you want to go and interrupt my nice, tranquil graveyard shift for this kak?
FESTON: [with a ridiculous British accent] Listen up, you! My name is Raz Bortley-Mardle the Fifth! I happen to drive an extremely rare vehicle, which has seen fit to blow an ignition coil on your little rock of a planet and left me stranded! I simply must speak to your manager!
O-DON: Joke’s on you for flying a bucket, then. No walk-ins, and the “manager” is busy.
FESTON: I guess I wasn’t being clear! I’m prepared to pay ludicrous sums to keep my bird in the air, and there’s more than one scrapyard on this rock. You think your boss would want to miss out on that kind of out-of-town money?
A-DON: Out-of-town money, out-of-town problems. Move along, pal.
FESTON: Well, I (never)--!
[SFX: Some distance away, spectroloids call to each other, signalling the next phase.]
E-LOW: [some of the cool slipping] Come on, dude, you and my brother were in the same class! He always said O-Don was the person to come to if you were in a bind.
O-DON: Hang on. If you wanna blow smoke up my ass, I should adjust my seat.
E-LOW: No smoke! All we want is the chance to look over some of the high-end parts and see if we can find a new ignition coil for my friend. Then you can get back to your Cheesecake Weekly or whatever.
O-DON: So that means we can stop having this conversation?
E-LOW: You open up, we shut up.
[SFX: The security booth door opens, and O-Don’s heavy steps head in the direction of the gate. He pulls a keycard from a pocket.]
O-DON: E-Low knows the way to the main salvage building. Also not to touch, take, or look at anything too carefully. Right?
[SFX: With a low electronic BLOOP, the locks unlock and the gate begins to rattle aside. Hearing a growl coming from behind him, Feston clears his throat.]
E-LOW: [chuckles] Oh. Right, sure.
[SFX: Leader and two other spectroloids come from behind Feston & E-Low, growling.]
LEADER: You will take us to the back door. To Shine-Tooth.
O-DON: [flustered] You--! C--Cliff Terrors in--! How--?! Why did you-?! [swoons] Ohhhhh…
[SFX: O-DON straight-up faints, collapsing like a clubbed snake.]
FESTON: Wow. Really?
E-LOW: Yeah, now I feel kinda bad.
[SFX: Feston, E-Low, and the spectroloids hurry quietly through the junkyard, footsteps on dirt. Feston hums an intense spy movie theme song.]
E-LOW: [whispering] Hey! Just... Shh! The main building is close. I think the back entrance is that way.
FESTON: [whispering] I didn’t see that many guards walking around. Maybe we got lucky.
LEADER: But the metal door is still open. We must secure Shine-Tooth before they notice.
[SFX: A short distance away, a JUNKYARD GUARD [JG] patrols, coming to a stop.]
JG: What? Whose footprints are these?
FESTON: [whispered, scared] Oh kak. Wait.
[SFX: Feston picks up a small piece of metal off the ground and throws it as far as he can. There is a clatter about a hundred yards away.]
JG: What was that?
[SFX: The JG wanders off to check the source of the clatter.]
FESTON: [whispered] See? Thumbs!
Leader momentarily growls at Feston.
E-LOW: [whispered] Okay, go go go go!
[SFX: The small group hurries across another expanse of junkyard, until the howls of a captive spectroloid can be heard coming from a basement hatch.]
E-LOW: It's got a hard-lock on the door!
FESTON: Oh kak, I forgot to grab O-Don’s key!
[SFX: Leader approaches the door and bites down on the lock. There is a brief creaking, and then the lock snaps like Leader just bit through an ice cube.]
LEADER: Thumbs are overrated.
FESTON: After you.
[SFX: The door creaks open, and the group heads inside, following the howls. Feston taps a panel next to the door, and it slides open. The howls are fully audible as D-NAK turns around in a swivel chair.]
E-LOW: Heeey, D-Nak.
FESTON: You have visitors!
D-NAK: Who’s that? E-Low? Why you bothering me when I'm in the middle of--
LEADER: Hold him down.
[SFX: Leader and the other spectroloids growl and lunge into the room. D-Nak screams, scrambling around and sending things clattering every which way. Over the barks and snarling of the Cliff Terrors, D-Nak yelps again and slams hard into a wall.]
FESTON & E-LOW: Oh kak...
[SFX: The van drives along a rocky trail, nobody speaking for several moments. The pack of spectroloids loaded into the back yip and growl in the cramped space.]
E-LOW: Can I just say that I’m glad we didn’t have to watch you eat D-Nak?
LEADER: Don’t be ridiculous. We do not eat that which cannot run first.
FESTON: That’s nice of you! I think.
E-LOW: Glad we got Shine-Tooth back okay, at least. That guy’s rep was a bunch of kak.
FESTON: Haha! Did D-Nak really pee his jumpsuit before running into that wall?
LEADER: He did. One of several reasons we left so quickly. It was quite… pungent.
E-LOW: Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure I just drunkenly pulled a jailbreak with a pack of Cliff Terrors, on a junkyard boss who saw my face, right before he went and knocked his own damn lights out.
FESTON: So what you’re saying is you could use a lift out of town.
E-LOW: Couldn’t hurt.
FESTON: You got it! I feel kind of responsible for your situation, anyway. You won’t be able to race around here for a while.
E-LOW: Don’t sweat it too much, I’ll bounce back. Racers find a way to race anywhere. And hey, maybe I’ll run into my brother out there.
FESTON: How about you, Leader? What’s the plan?
LEADER: We will return to the canyons. You have done our family a great service today, bipeds, and we will not forget. You can drop us off right here. Please.
E-LOW: Sure thing.
[SFX: E-Low pulls the truck to a stop. The back opens and the pack scrambles out noisily, scattering to the dusty winds.]
LEADER: Until next time, E-Low and Feston. May you find your quarry.
[SFX: Leader runs off to rejoin the pack. Feston opens a comm channel with Proxy.]
FESTON: Hey Prox? You there?
PROXY: Of course, Feston. Did you enjoy the race?
FESTON: Huh? Oh, sure. And then some other stuff happened.
PROXY: Naturally. Have you called because you require rescue?
FESTON: [playing casual in front of E-Low] Whaaat? No, of course not, that’s wild. You’re funny, Proxy. We do have a passenger to drop off, though. Kinda needs to not be seen this side of Glissando Beta right now.
PROXY: I am glad you were able to handle yourself out there.
E-LOW: [extremely tired] You think anyone listening is really gonna believe this shit?
FESTON: [to audience] That’s for my audience to decide, good buddy. That's for my audience to decide. Well travelers, (yawning) I think E-Low and I are going to have a nice, long, well-deserved nap. Like rescuing heroes and hungover people do. But it won’t be too long before next time… on StarTripper!!
E-LOW: [hangover sinking in] Ohhhh, my head. You drive.
CREDITS: Startripper!! was created by me, Julian Mundy, and produced by, Mischa Stanton, Ian McQuown, & me. This episode was written and directed by me, Julian Mundy. Sound design by Anna Rodriguez, with performances by:
Ian McQuown as Feston,
Giselle De Silva as Proxy,
Katie Buderwitz as E-Low,
Emma Sherr-Ziarko as Leader,
Tim Karasawa as O-Don,
Me, Julian Mundy, as D-Nak the Junk Lord,
And Anna Rodriguez and Colin Kelly as voices in the crowd.
Music by Ketsa, for more check out KETSAmusic.com. Additional music courtesy of Audio Hero.
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Thank you for flying with us. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: Learn the local etiquette and customs. For example, on the planet Freeboodle whistling show-tunes is a jailable offense.
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE