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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 and courier 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.

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.

Examples of Courier include:


Anime and Manga

  • GetBackers mixes in super powers and takes it to the logical extreme.
  • This is basically Celty's job on Durarara.
  • The crew of the Black Lagoon call themselves couriers. Smugglers, pirates, and mercenaries would also fit.


Comics

  • The subject of the story "The Courier" in Flight volume five, by Kazu Kibuishi.


Film


Literature

  • Johnny Mnemonic may be the Trope Maker.
  • Snow Crash's Y.T., although she often delivers through suburbs burbclaves.
  • Chevette Washington, the protagonist in William Gibson's Virtual Light
  • The main character in The City of Ember is excited about being a messenger in the city.
  • 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 Abessinia (Ethiopia). This being a serial novel, in Real Life Abessinia 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.


Live Action TV


Tabletop RPG

  • 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.


Video Games


Western Animation

  • Get Ed is about a whole team of these.
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