Special delivery—can't be late!
A courier came to the battle once bloody and loud
And found only skin and bones where he once left a crowd
— Remember the Alamo
You, an unimportant background character, need something delivered to or across a barren wasteland, deadly jungle, or simply a dangerous urban environment
. The internet, phone, or regular mail service isn't going to cut it. You're going to need something special. And what is that something special?
Why, it's the local Courier! A Courier is essentially a mercantile mailman/woman, delivering messages through cities and towns on foot or other single-person conveyance. In fiction this often comes with some level of danger involved, either from the environment the Courier crosses, the package they're delivering, people who may be after the package they're delivering
, or simply through the Courier
's own recklessness. Even if there's not an element of danger, there will usually be a tight deadline the parcel must be delivered by, forcing the Courier to bust their hump getting it there on time. Le Parkour
or other fancy tricks may be employed to get safely from Point A to Point B (the words parkour
both derive from the French for "to run").
Since it's a romantic spy type of job that still allows cynicism
with money, combined with the fact that it's an easy way to bring characters to new places or into contact with interesting people, it's ripe for protagonist-hood, but this is not always the case. Can often turn up even in futuristic settings where you'd imagine advanced technology would make human Couriers obsolete, generally as a form of commentary on the presence of Big Brother
in the setting.
See Pony Express Rider
for the mounted variety and Unstoppable Mailman
for the government-employee version. May involve Deadly Delivery
, Shoot the Messenger
or You Got Murder
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Anime and Manga
- The crew of the Black Lagoon call themselves couriers. Smugglers, pirates, and mercenaries would also fit.
- This is basically Celty's job on Durarara!!.
- Get Backers mixes in super powers and takes it to the logical extreme.
- The entire point of Letter Bee
- The Gunsmith Cats manga has Bean Bandit (from spiritual predecessor Riding Bean). His line of work in general is getting things to their destination: guaranteed, almost no questions asked. His reputation comes from Combat Pragmatism as well as being a Badass Driver.
- A filler episode of Naruto introduced courier ninjas, shinobi trained to deliver their packages and defend them against any ninja who might attempt to steal it.
- In Suisei no Gargantia, this is what Amy and her friends do for a living. They make heavy use of gliders in order to get around the fleet in good time. It's also portrayed as completely normal and non-dangerous (though Amy's sometimes reckless use of said gliders might prove otherwise).
- William Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic" is about an underworld courier who transports digital information in a brain implant.
- Snow Crash's Y.T., although she often delivers through
- Chevette Washington, the protagonist in William Gibson's Virtual Light
- Lina Mayfleet who is excited about being a messenger in The City of Ember.
- The cover story for Miles Vorkosigan as opposed to his real job as head of the Dendarii. A mistake during the rescue of a real courier is what eventually ends his military career.
- In Umberto Eco's Loana, the protagonist remembers reading a fascist children's book about a hero trying to smuggle an important message to Italy's then-colony Abyssinia (Ethiopia). This being a serial novel, in Real Life Abyssinia is liberated from the Italian fascists long before the story ends. And at the end, the oh so secret message delivered essentially boils down to: "Hold out!"
- Matty from Messenger by Lois Lowry pretty much embodies this trope, minus the money-making aspect (though he does crave the admiration and prestige that comes with doing a dangerous job).
- In The Company Novels book Black Projects, White Knights, Kalugin has a run-in with a brain-damaged immortal literally named Courier, who goes berserk if he spends the night in one place for more than one night in a row.
- Fiona from William Gibson's Zero History has this as her regular job. Gibson really loves this trope.
- In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's book Good Omens, a courier is tasked with informing the Horsemen of the Apocalypse that Armageddon is imminent. He tracks down all of them including Death, despite having no apparent powers of his own.
- In the Warrior Cats series, apprentices play this role during the battle against the Dark Forest cats - traveling through a battle-filled forest where any enemy will kill them on sight so that the Clans can send messages to each other on the status of their warriors.
- In the Honor Harrington universe, there are no Subspace Ansibles, so messages are instead run between starsystems via specially designed Courier Boats, which are basically some cramped living spaces and a very powerful hyperdrive crammed into a hull with not much else. Occasionally, characters will hitch rides on these as the most expeditious way to get to a location quickly.
- "The Ultimate Rush" by Joe Quirk: Chet Griffin is the only rollerblading messenger at a San Francisco courier service.
- Several secondary characters in the Temeraire series. Couriers hold the rank of captain, because they each have their own dragon. But they're low-status captains, because their dragons are of the smallest breeds and they don't have a crew to manage.
Live Action TV
- The job of half the cast of Dark Angel. It's a bike messaging service called Jam Pony that pays minimum wage and has high turnover. Max and Alec particularly like the free sector passes and opportunity to case joints.
- While it's just a throwaway gag, Vince in The Mighty Boosh subscribes to hyper-cutting-edge fashion magazine Cheekbone, which has to be delivered by ninjas to avoid being obsolete by the time it's read.
- Because of the way Faster-Than-Light Travel works in Andromeda, messages have to be relayed by couriers, so courier ships are a common sight.
- On Babylon 5, this is one of the roles taken on by the Anla'Shok, also known as the Rangers. Due to the density of conspiracies that happen to pass through Babylon 5, a wide variety of one-off (and often killed-off) minor characters will also fill this role for various parties.
- New Horizon: While all the major cities have communication links to each other as well as railroads and ports, smaller towns need couriers to deliver goods and messages, and sometimes, it's better to send someone to ensure the package arrives. Also, this is a background that can be selected, allowing the player to smuggle and depending on the type of courier, better movement in areas or the ability to operate certain vehicles with ease.
- Shadowrun: Runners sometimes get hired to do a courier job. One memorable one was to deliver a dragon's egg.
- I.C.E.'s Cyberspace: The Skateboys is a gang that carries messages and packages while riding motorized skateboards.
- Dying Earth RPG supplement Scaum Valley Gazetteer. The River Skaters use ice skates to carry messages along the frozen Scaum River during winter.
- Traveller: Justified in that FTL communications are not possible so messages have to be carried through jump space on a starship before being transmitted.
- Likewise seen in the BattleTech setting. Here, FTL communications do exist...but they do so primarily in the form of large stationary installations run by the same ostensibly neutral monopolist throughout the Inner Sphere, so all the alternatives remain alive and well.
- Get Ed is about a whole team of these.
- On one episode of The Simpsons, Bart and his friends get stranded halfway across the country, so he gets a job as a courier in an attempt to get back home.
- Donald Duck plays a courier in the cartoon "Donald's Lucky Day", in which he unwittingly carries a Time Bomb - on Friday 13th, no less.
- "Yay, I'm a delivery boy!"
- Phineas and Ferb have an episode starring Paul the Delivery Guy, the guy who always delivers Phineas and Ferb's supplies.