011: Pause for Breath
written & directed by Julian Mundy
produced by Julian Mundy, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown
sound design by Mischa Stanton
-- SCENE 01:
[SFX: The StarTripper interior; the ship hums along in slip-space, some calm electronica piping through the speakers. Feston stuffs items into a rucksack and shuts the flap, clicking it shut.]
FESTON: Okay.. This… And That…. Ooo, Space Rope…. Water Purifier… Phase Gravely Binoculars, yes…. Aaand that should do it! Hello travelers, and welcome back… to StarTripper!! My name is Feston Pyxis, and I’ll be honest: I need a breather. It’s been all commotion, danger, and crowds so far, and on one level, that’s a big win. Especially the fact that I’m still here to commentate—
[SFX: A notification chime sounds from the console, announcing the ship re-entering normal vacuum conditions from slip-space. Proxy chimes over the speakers.]
PROXY: Feston, we have completed our route through slip-space. We are now in the Laykus system, approaching orbit around our destination.
FESTON: Thank you, Prox. This time, everyone, we’re shifting down a gear or two, and having ourselves a nice hike on Laykus-6. Some time to recharge, in more ways than one.
PROXY: What made you select this as our next destination?
FESTON: Oh well thank you for asking Proxy. It’s remote, doesn’t have a lot of people on it, and has the most beautiful forests in the sector. I thought a sedate little hike to a cliffside tea-house would be a decent place to start.
PROXY: That is quite a specific example.
FESTON: Well, I think I’m starting to question the wisdom of flying blind. Maybe I’m getting paranoid, but we barely made it out of that scrape back on Medroc.
PROXY: I seem to recall the crowd cheering for us.
FESTON: Only because some kid with the event planners bribed the security guards who came to arrest us….
PROXY: Then they deserve credit for seeing an opportunity for what it was.
FESTON: Yeah, yeah, good for them. I think I’m still waiting for my heartbeat to level out.
[SFX: Proxy chimes on the console, calculating an entry plan.]
PROXY: Surface touchdown vector calculated. Shall I cede all movement controls to you? This is quite an attractive location to practice landings.
FESTON: Didn’t I just say we were taking it easy this time?
PROXY: And we will, but wouldn’t it feel better to do so, knowing you are closer to mastering the fundamentals of piloting?
FESTON: I see your point. Sure, hand ‘em over.
[SFX: Feston sets the rucksack to one side of the pilot’s seat with a soft thump. Proxy initiates a command in the main computer system, and there is a slight change in the sound of the StarTripper’s main engine. The sound system changes to a more up-tempo, percussive track.]
PROXY: Auto-pilot disengaged. Engaging spotter protocols and putting the touchdown vector on your display.
FESTON: Wow… Okay…. Ya…
[SFX: The entry line is displayed on the viewscreen, and Feston works the throttle as he pulls back on the flight stick. The angle of the ship changes, the hull beginning to shudder with the friction of orbital re-entry.
FESTON: [low, resolute] Don’t give yourself an out just because you got lucky last time, Pyxis.
PROXY: Do not be so hard on yourself. This time, you are ready.
PROXY: I have the location of a vacant landing platform loaded into navigation. Displaying.
[SFX: We follow the StarTripper’s descent through the atmosphere. The shuddering intensifies as the air becomes denser, only to break as the ship makes it through atmo and enter an enormous cloudbank for several moments. The entry calculator pings cheerfully once, then again, and the StarTripper exits the cloud cover. The music swells as Feston looks at the horizon.]
FESTON: Wow. Every one hits you a different way.
[SFX: A waypoint appears on the nav display, the landing vector changing as it is linked to the landing platform. Feston points the nose of the ship down, beginning the descent.]
[SFX: The flight controls start to tremble more in Feston’s grip, the StarTripper banking right. Steady rain has begun to patter against the ship’s windshield.]
PROXY: We are beginning the final approach. Automated landing platform pings back all-clear.
FESTON: [voice tense with focus] Yep. I see it, barely. Uh banking in and lowering the landing gear.
[SFX: The engine slows, turning Feston hits a couple of keys on the seat console, engaging hydraulics in the underbelly of the StarTripper. Feston presses down gradually on the brake and brings the ship into an idle hover, landing gear latching into something on the platform. The ship descends and settles on the docking ring, hydraulics hissing and locking into place.]
FESTON: [downplaying the relief] There! See? I don’t know what you were so worried about, Prox….Pop the trunk, please.
[SFX: The cargo bay hatch opens, the steady rain outside pattering in. Feston heads down, grabbing the rucksack, and stops right before the opening.]
FESTON: Looks like it should clear up pretty soon, but what’s the point of having an umbrella hat if you don’t use it?
[SFX: Feston shoulders the bag, and puts on a hat that extends and unfolds into an umbrella.]
PROXY: Can I be of any further help before you enter the trail?
[SFX: Feston heads down the gangway, rain now starting to hit the umbrella hat and Feston’s shoulders. The hatch shuts behind him.]
FESTON: I’m all set, thanks. As long as you’re backed-up on the multi-tool, I’m not worried about a thing.
PROXY: I am glad to see you are already feeling more at ease.
[SFX: Feston begins walking down a wooded trail.]
FESTON: Also, I thought I’d snap a few pictures of the local wildlife on the way up, too, so I brought some old trail mix to get some attention.
PROXY: Just stay alert out there. It wouldn’t be the first time the wildlife has caught you unprepared.
FESTON: Huh? What?
-- SCENE 02:
[SFX: Feston hikes along under a canopy of leaves, droplets of water sometimes coming down to drip to the forest floor. The rain has stopped, and a breeze rustles the branches.]
PROXY: [through wrist-comm] The climate of Laykus-6 is not quite tropical, but we have arrived during one of the rainy seasons. Few settlements exist here, so you are unlikely to run into crowds in the trail.
FESTON: This is kind of unusual for us, actually. We end up in a lot of places where the number-one sport is dodging the crowd.
[SFX: As Feston passes a stand of trees, several birds startle and fly off. Feston takes a quick picture-scan of them with a handheld camera.]
FESTON: Oh ,cute. Hey, tell me if this is a weird question, but do you like busy places?
PROXY: I am not sure. If you are asking me to decide the criteria for myself, I am quite capable of handling high-traffic zones, I do prefer to fly unrestricted.
FESTON: Ya, I did expect more pushback from you when I first floated the idea of a death-race treasure hunt. You like a little danger, don’t ya?
[SFX: Some distance behind, the restless noises of several goat-penguins (Dreckles) come from the underbrush, slowly drawing closer.]
PROXY: Not something I had considered before. I am part of a passenger spacecraft. However, I feel the most… myself, when I am pushing myself to my limits.
FESTON: Then it’s a good thing we ran into each other when we did. You never worry that I might get you into trouble?
PROXY: I suppose that I am always worrying, or - more accurately - calculating odds. My existence is bound to the people in my care, and I reserve my worries for them.
[SFX: The goat-penguins draw closer, becoming a little more vocal.]
FESTON: [smiling] Yeah, you’re kind of an extremophile. [noticing the creatures] Oh, hang on a tick, Prox, a bunch of these bug-eyed things just came up to say hello!
[SFX: Feston snaps a couple of pic-scans.]
FESTON: Aww. Hey, think you could ID them for me?
PROXY: Of course! Processing.
[SFX: Feston sets his rucksack down and pulls out a sealed container.]
PROXY: I have cross-referenced the image with local anthropology journals. These creatures are commonly referred to as “Dolan’s Dreckle” or simply “Dreckles.”
[SFX: Feston pops open the container and shakes it a couple times. The dreckles start to get very excited and hurry over, butting up against Feston’s legs.]
FESTON: Hey, don’t push!
[SFX: Feston shakes some trail mix from the container and tosses it a couple yards away.]
FESTON: There! What a good day.
[SFX: The dreckles jostle each other and make noise as they swarm the scattered trail mix. Feston snaps a few more scans, before turning to continue up the trail. Dreckle noises continue in the background, receding slowly as Feston walks. Then the noises start to regain volume, as the dreckles finish the treats, turn, and make a bee-line in Feston’s direction.
FESTON: Oh kak. Time to move. Stupid Feston….
[SFX: Feston increases his pace up the hill, maintaining the distance as the dreckles trot uphill after him, calling out in irritation. Feston soon comes to a stop and slaps a hand to a cliff face.]
FESTON: Oh no, a dead end?
[SFX: Feston presses himself against the rock wall, leaves rustling on vines nearby as the gang of dreckles closes in.]
FESTON: [nervous] Wait, little guys, just a tick now. No need to crowd like that. [looking around] Okay, maybe I can climb these.
[SFX: Feston gives a vine an experimental tug, only to be pulled up by strong, flexible coils almost immediately. The dreckles screech their protest while Feston clambers up onto the edge of the cliff a dozen yards up.]
FESTON: Looks like we escaped. I should probably dump this though, just to be safe.
[SFX: Feston pulls out the container of trail mix and dumps it over the edge, to the delight of the dreckles still waiting below. Feston snaps one last picture scan down at them.]
FESTON: Later, suckers!
[SFX: Feston gets to his feet and continues up the trail.]
FESTON: I’m sure that’s the last we’ll be seeing of them.
-- SCENE 03:
[SFX: Feston runs along the trail at full speed, pursued by agitated dreckles.]
FESTON: [panting] I should just… shut my Zai-damn mouth!
PROXY: Feston? What is your status?
FESTON: Gettin’ chased. Dreckles must have really good noses, or they’d have lost me by now. Points for persistence, anyway. C’mon… [over his shoulder] Leave me alone! I don’t have anything left for you! Would you stop alrea--WHOOP!
[SFX: Feston trips over something in the path, crashing messily into the brush. The dreckles catch up in seconds and begin to close in around him, snuffling and screeching. Branches and fronds creak as Feston rights himself.]
FESTON: Guys, seriously, I’m tapped out. Unless you want blood, but I’m kind of using mine right-- WHOA!
[SFX: The vegetation supporting Feston gives way suddenly, a branch breaking. Feston begins to tumble and skid down a steep hill, trying to stop himself but simply knocking into things on the way down. Crashing through more vegetation at the bottom of the hill, Feston sprawls out and comes to a stop.]
PROXY: [thru comm] Feston, are you injured? Can you respond?
FESTON: [pained] Yeah, Prox, I’m okay. Ow. Nothing broken, anyway. I just… I’m gonna lie here and... not move.
[SFX: Distant thunder rumbles, many miles off yet, but threatening rain.]
PROXY: Acknowledged. Your vitals appear more or less stable. Please take it slow.
[SFX: More low thunder in the distance almost masks the steps of the solidly built MOLIM LODA (MOL) as they make their way through the edge of the thicket Feston has landed in.]
FESTON: [low, frustrated] What the kak am I doing?
MOL: Getting ready to drown, by the looks of it. We’re expecting more rain.
[SFX: The dreckles hop and shuffle down the hill after Feston. The gang reaches the bottom one by one and starts to close in around Feston, snuffling. MOL thumps a walking stick.]
MOL: Enough of that!
[SFX: The dreckles back off at once, grumbling a little.]
MOL: I wondered what had them so agitated. Well, you’re not armed. You don’t have any food on you, by any chance?
FESTON: Not… anymore.
MOL: See, you catch on eventually. Let’s call it a “dimwit tourist tax.” You all right?
[SFX: MOL pulls Feston to his feet.]
FESTON: Yeah, just some bruises to my pride. Some... actual bruises. Sorry to disturb you like this. I’m Feston Pyxis, pleasure to make your acquaintance.
MOL: Molim Loda. It’s looking to come down hard, so you’d better follow me.
FESTON: Sure. Just you out here?
[SFX: Thunder rumbles, closer and more sustained. Strong wind kicks up, and MOL starts walking away. Feston trails behind.]
MOL: Usually, when folks aren’t crashing into my backyard. Not that I mind hosting, once in a while, for the practice. [to the dreckles] Over here now, runts, hyah!
FESTON: You know, I met someone a while back who’d been living by himself inside a moon, for about eight hundred years.
MOL: Sounds good to me. [laughs] You been traveling long?
[SFX: The rain starts up, building to a steady fall.]
FESTON: Not very, but I’ve seen one or two things. I came up here looking for the tea house at the top, you know it?
MOL: Yeah, well, there’s a problem there. Burned down a while back.
FESTON: Oh. I guess no one’s been back to update the Omnipedia entry.
MOL: It was nasty, I don’t mind saying. I can bring you up there to see what’s left, if you want. But later. This is me right here.
[SFX: A humming security field shuts down as MOL approaches. The pair passes under a hab-canopy, followed by the gang of dreckles, and the field re-activates behind them. The rain noise is reduced to a soft pattering on the surface of the domed canopy.]
FESTON: Nice place. Especially the view.
MOL: It’s not much, but it has a few creature comforts. The storm will pass eventually, so let’s swap a story or two.
[TRANSITION - Long, rolling thunder.]
-- SCENE 04:
[SFX: The rain continues to come down on the canopy, thunder trailing away. MOL pours a steaming mug of tea.]
FESTON: They said they’d send me an update after the honeymoon, so either it’s still underway, or they’re wrapped up in other newlywed business. Or something happened.
MOL: [reassuring] Or they’re trying to find someplace like this to settle down. Simko and Kinellis sound like a fine match, and you more than did your part in getting them together.
[SFX: Dreckles mutter to each other from an open pen across the dome from the pair.]
FESTON: Thanks. Ya, I’ve also done some pretty dumb things, too.
MOL: I didn’t end up living out here because I did everything right, kiddo, I’ll say that much. These days, I mostly read terrible romance novels, write terrible romance manuscripts, and experiment with new uses for dreckle milk.
FESTON: Which is really nice in this tea, by the way.
MOL: Listen, you sent word back home yet? Let ‘em know how you are?
FESTON: Oh… I try to send a photo from as many places as I can. They know I’m okay.
MOL: Does that feel like enough?
FESTON: It did… and then you asked that question.
MOL: Storm won’t pass for a while now. I should tend to the dreckles, so if you want to write home, I have some paper I’m not really using on the desk, and at least one actual ink pen. Write them, and you can send it off when you’re headed to your next point on the star map.
FESTON: I don’t have much practice.
MOL: It’s coming from you. They won’t care how it sounds. Now, I better get to it.
[SFX: MOL sets their teacup aside and rises from their seat.]
FESTON: Thanks, Molim.
MOL: Not at all. First left on your way in.
[SFX: MOL walks off to the dreckle pen. Feston rises and heads inside MOL’s small house, turning left a few steps after entering. Sitting down at a low desk on the floor, Feston opens a drawer and pulls a sheet of paper from it. Through a cracked window, sounds of slightly muffled rain and a tinkling chime right outside the hab.]
FESTON: How to start...
[SFX: Feston goes silent, the sound of rain and another low rumble of thunder. Soon, Feston begins to write, the pen scratching on paper.]
FESTON: [to himself, writing] “Dear everyone, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to send you something more than just a proof-of-life picture. I miss you so much, but...” Hmm.
[SFX: Feston stops writing.]
FESTON: Travelers, I hope you don’t mind, but I think this letter is just for my family to share. Be right back with you, just as soon as I’ve... gotten my thoughts together.
[SFX: The sound of writing starts again.]
-- SCENE 05:
[SFX: Feston and MOL walk up a trail as a gentle breeze blows in the treetops. The dreckles trail behind.]
MOL: [laughs] Come on, you met Captain Vulkor? You join his crew while you were at it?
FESTON: No, but it’s true! We’re buddies now! Chums, even! He was living in a moon!
MOL: I might be a dreckle-herding hermit, but even I know Vulkor’s been dead for, like, a millenium.
FESTON: Well, if you listened to my show, you’d know for real.
MOL: I’ll think about it.
FESTON: Proxy, would you back up my story to the nice hermit, please?
PROXY: [remote] My pilot may be rather excitable, Molim Loda. However, his journey is, in part, a search for genuine experiences.
MOL: What a day this turned into.
FESTON: Broke the monotony though. Hey, are we close?
MOL: Yeah, pretty close.
FESTON: So what happened to the tea house?
MOL: [deep inhale] Mobsters happened, my guess. I saw their gunship come in one night and shine floodlights on it, so I crept up and watched. The owner comes out, this alien called Gu’vay, only the heavies use a different name. There’s an argument, and then one conflagrator shot. The tea house went up in half a tick. That’s the place, up there, at least it used to be.
FESTON: [taking in the scene, saddened] Oh… Oh no. What about, um… not-Gu’vay?
MOL: Heavies dragged them kicking and screaming onto the gunship.
MOL: You might not understand just how nasty it can get out here. Not yet, anyway. You keep bumbling around into people’s back gardens, without any backup, and you will.
PROXY: I assure you, Feston has plenty of backup.
MOL: That may be all right for now. But like I said when we met, you’re not armed. You’ve got a fast, dependable ship. From what you tell me, you do pretty well under pressure. You usually manage to run at the right time, or talk your way out. But that won’t always be enough.
[SFX: Wind blows in the treetops, across the wide landscape below. MOL approaches the burned husk of the tea house, startling some birds from the broken rafters, which scatter burnt wood and chunks of ash on the ground. MOL crouches down.]
FESTON: What did this person do, to have things end like that?
MOL: Doesn’t matter. Gu’vay… well, whoever Gu’vay was, what happened to this place only happened because they thought they could run from the choices they made.
FESTON: You, um…you didn’t run from anything?
MOL: I used to be the CFO of a multi-planet biotech firm. We got greedy. I got greedy. I made bad decisions that hurt a lot of people. There’s a long data trail showing just how bad. By the end, there wasn’t a lot to run from, because nobody wanted much to do with me.
[SFX: The dreckles walk past Feston to graze nearby.]
MOL: [softer, resentful] I just wanted to go somewhere I wouldn’t have to worry about hurting anyone, or being hurt. I just wanted to read some bad romance novels, and be alone with the dreckles. Now my only neighbor is gone, and their house is just a ruin.
FESTON: [softly] Molim...
MOL: [frowning, voice straining] The universe isn’t big enough to hide from yourself, but it’s too big to handle alone. You have to understand that, Feston. Whatever you do.
[SFX: Feston kneels next to MOL, wrapping them in a gentle hug.]
FESTON: [softly] I think I do understand. Then again, I never feel alone.
MOL: [laughs through the sadness] Lucky you.
FESTON: Hey, can I play you an episode of my show? Maybe you’ll see what I mean.
MOL: [sniffs] Sure.
[TRANSITION- The StarTripper!! Theme echoes in on itself for MOL]
-- SCENE 06:
[SFX: The dreckles mill around nearby, restless.]
MOL: Bless the stars, I can’t believe you’re a real person.
FESTON: Oh come on, don’t spare me, tell me what you really think.
MOL: That you’re even crazier than I thought you were. But it’s sweet. It’s a nice project.
FESTON: Thanks. I’m amazed I got this far, honestly.
MOL: So what’s the plan now?
FESTON: Plan? Never had one, really. But I don’t know if I feel right just leaving you here. Do you… have a plan?
MOL: You know, the more I look at that stupid wreck, the more I want to do something about it. Just a big, charred blemish on an otherwise perfectly good cliff. Maybe I’ll turn it into a garden, make a project out of it.
FESTON: That sounds like a— woah.
[SFX: Proxy pipes in on comm, a warning chirp rather than her usual chime.]
PROXY: Feston, I have just picked up a wide-band transmission from the planet Rannitar. There is a developing situation involving the criminal Halya Fang-Tree, and the planet’s orbit itself is in jeopardy.
MOL: What the kak?
FESTON: Proxy, what do you mean, “the planet’s orbit is in jeopardy?”
PROXY: According to Omnipedia, Halya Fang-Tree is renowned in law enforcement circles for heinous violations in the scientific community. Abductions, live experiments, and practices better described as “occult” in nature.
MOL: Yikes. I think I remember that name.
PROXY: Rannitar’s central leadership has called upon all available pilots in range to assist with the evacuation of civilians. Would you like to intervene?
FESTON: Damn. Yeah, we definitely should. Can you pick me up at my current position?
PROXY: Yes, I can. Preparing to launch in five.
[SFX: Proxy closes the comm channel.]
FESTON: Sorry, Molim. Guess I have to cut this short.
MOL: Don’t sweat it. Get to Rannitar and save some lives, you lunatic.
FESTON: I’ll do what I can.
MOL: I know it, kiddo.
[SFX: The sound of the StarTripper’s engines approach from far off, moving fast; exciting music swells. In moments, the ship has flown up to hover right in front of the cliff. The canopy opens.]
PROXY: Holding position. Please watch your step.
[SFX: Feston takes a running start, and leaps onto the ship.]
FESTON: All right, set a course for Rannitar!
[SFX: Proxy processes the order for a moment, connecting a slip-space route.]
PROXY: Slip-space junction keys to Rannitar confirmed. Seamless route achieved. We are close, ETA eighty ticks.
FESTON: Travelers, I’ll keep this sign-off short, because it won’t be long until I see you next time… on StarTripper!! [to Proxy] Let’s get slippy!
[SFX: The StarTripper’s slip-space drive spools up, activating just in time for:]
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 Mischa Stanton, with performances by:
Ian McQuown as Feston,
Sierra Shay as Proxy,
and Korama Danquah as Molim Loda,
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, we’ll see you next time on our Season Finale. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: Take care when talking to the people of planet Trelles, they have Total Recall and they will remember that thing you said.
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE.