Cosmic Lotus, 19.847 light-years from destination, or thereabouts…:
Radiance Point, the engineer formerly known as Purple Point, sat at his desk in the Engineering office, a tablet in front of him, stylus held in his glow. He glanced at a reflective surface, looking again at the white stripe in his mane, a thin red stripe running down the center of the wider white. Knowing his sister, Sunrise Flight, had just started a session with Ixia, he began to write, confident he would not be interrupted.
To: Flix Path, also known as Flix the Magnificent, Flix the Prognosticator, Flix the Wish-Granter, Flix the justifiably arrogant pain in the ass, Flix the Chaotic, yadda, yadda, yadda….
From: Radiance Point, Engineer’s Mate, Cosmic Lotus
Decryption key: BPH9895
Subject: Just what in Tartarus were you THINKING of?
Flix, it has been six months and a couple of days since you brought forth my sister, Sunrise Flight, removing her soul from where it had been entangled in mine, giving her form, substance and life. Ever since you have done that, my life has become a mix of embarrassment, torture, and humiliation at her hooves. She knows me better than I know me, or her, for that matter.
Let me tell you about one of our recent disagreements.
“Point, for Celestia’s sake, you’ve been approaching this problem from the wrong direction!” Sunrise snapped at her twin brother, clearly vexed.
“What do you mean, the wrong direction? I’ve been working on the Virtual Repair spell now for a decade! How can I be doing it wrong?” Point snapped back. This argument was in the privacy of their cabin, so they did not need to lapse into Twinspeak.
“The way you have it plotted right now, the only way it can work is if the pony casting the spell has detailed knowledge of the system before starting to fix any possible problem. The only one here who has that in-depth knowledge of every system aboard is you! Nopony else can even use the spell!” Sunrise hollered at him.
“So, what do you think should be done?”
“You need to add a spell component to either interface with the ship’s maneframe for data, or scan the systems affected so the user would know what to do to restore normal function!”
“And just how do you propose to do that?”
Sunrise then launched into a description of more than one spell equation, outlining the interface with maneframe as well as the system scan. Her equation also included options for the user to find all malfunctions, and ignore some to focus on the most critical. The spell duration she had described caused Point to snort.
“Instantaneous duration for system scan?” Point asked.
“Why use any more time than that? Maneframe access to start as soon as spell is initiated, to give the user more decisions. If this is going to be used in critical situations, why waste time hunting for the issue?” Sunrise asked back.
“Just how could you even understand all the equations? It took me decades to learn it all!” Point said, more than a little startled.
Sunrise sighed. “Brother, dear, I was in your head the whole time, remember? I may not be able to do anything with the spells now, not having the equipment to use magic like you do, but I remember it all. You may be innovative and creative when repairing a broken system, but how in Tartarus did you EVER get a thud?” she asked, referring to Radiance Point’s doctorate in thaumaturgy.
“Good luck, good skill, and filling a need. The patents I got from that spell alone will keep the bits flowing in for a long time to come. Some of the spells are in use on the ship, in fact.” Point said smugly.
“Yeah, upgrading and increasing efficiency of the recycling systems to scavenge trace minerals from waste products. Rerun the VR spell including the additions I suggested. You might be surprised, big brother.” Sunrise said saucily, getting up from her chair. “I’m going to stretch my wings.”
Flix, she was right! The problems I have been bashing myself against for a decade, she resolved in a matter of minutes! You made her, yes. I love her more than I love anyone, I’m getting the sleep I need, I feel better now than I have in decades, but why didn’t you include a tech manual for her?
That was merely one incident, Flix. Why did you have to give her my observational skills as well? Sunrise is the only pony on board who can clean my clock at the poker table, or ANY card table, for that matter. When we meet at a card tournament, she beats me roughly sixty percent of the time. Okay, not just beat me, trounce me! Yes, I know the shoe is on the other hoof now, but, what were you trying to teach me, humility?
Here’s another incident I want to tell you about.
Radiance and Sunrise were at dinner one Saturday night, awaiting Willow’s weekly after-dinner show.
“Radiance, have you ever tried stand up?” Sunrise asked.
“You know full well I have not. Why would you ask me that?”
“I challenge you, brother dear. I challenge you to a joke-off during Amateur Hour tonight. Loser gets to be janitor for a day. Winner gets bragging rights.” Sunrise said with a smile.
Radiance could smell a trap coming, but could not conceive exactly how the trap was being laid. “Okay, sister dearest. A joke-off it is. Shall we sign up?”
“No need to. I already did, yesterday. Hope you have some good material in that dry filing system you call a memory store, brother!” Sunrise laughed.
Everyone near could swear they saw smoke coming out of Point’s ears, as well as a spark or two leaping from his horn. “Oh, you’re on, sister dear. You are so on! Add this- the loser, on their janitor day, gives up tea or coffee for twenty-four hours.”
“Deal!” Sunrise called out. “I would love to see you in withdrawal, brother!”
Flix, she humiliated me on stage! She won by such a margin, Willow asked her to join him in comedy acts! I decided to work the night shift for a week, to avoid ponies braying at me! What can I do? Guide me, Flix the Omniscient! Send a letter, send a video, send a text, send me off to Appleoosa (no, don’t do that… Appleoosa is a nice town, let’s leave it on the map). Send me guidance! Coffee withdrawal was absolute agony!
Here’s another incident:
Radiance was in Linear Park, doing some maintenance in the upper levels. It was hot and humid up there, because Sunrise and two others were up there, fogging system on, bowling with cloud pins and balls. One of ColdFire’s shots went astray, engulfing him in cloud. Point snorted, clearing the mist away from his work area, but kept on working.
“Sunrise, can anything distract Point when he’s working?” ColdFire asked.
“Yes, but it is a real dumb idea to push him that much. You will feel the sharp edge of his tongue. Now that I’m out of his head, he feels free to swear at ponies, rather than in private.” Sunrise replied as Epic Prose set up the cloud pins.
“You sure of that?”
“I’m sure. Remember back at the start of the voyage, when you messed up the water valve in the shower room?”
“Yes, I do. That was difficult, but I pulled it off!”
“Well, he admires the skill involved, but he was cursing up a storm inside his head. Something about plucking all your feathers, dyeing them, then putting them back in just such a way they will display obscene imagery both furled and spread?” Sunrise told her friend as she formed up a cloud ball and made ready to throw.
“Oh, come on, he wouldn’t do that to me, would he?” ColdFire replied.
“He would, and he could.” Sunrise sighed before explaining in excruciating detail just how the procedure would have been done. ColdFire went pale as she followed the explanation, realizing Point WOULD do such a thing to her.
“I’m just glad he likes me now,” she said as Sunrise rolled her cloud ball, getting a strike.
“Of course, he does. You’ve paid him enough. And me, too.” Sunrise said as Epic Prose set up the pins again.
“Just how does he do it? And you, for that matter?” Epic Prose asked once the pins were reset.
“Well, we…” Sunrise started to say before she was interrupted by a loud shout from Point, “NO TELLING SECRETS, YOU BUCKING AIRHEAD MARE!”
The bellow caused all three pegasi to jump in surprise, as well as Skye Path, who was tending her herb garden below and aft. Point glared at the pegasi, nostrils wide, horn sparking different colored motes of light. All three could have sworn there was smoke coming out of his ears, too. Point snorted once and went back to his maintenance.
“He is aware of everything around him…” ColdFire whispered, stunned some by the outburst.
“I swear, I’ve never heard him lose his temper like that before.” Epic Prose said quietly.
“Now that I’m out of him, he has little reason to show restraint.” Sunrise said, equally quiet. “How many more frames left?
“Three in this match, then you play pinsetter while Epic and I play.” ColdFire whispered.
“Let’s go to the other end. Otherwise, he may get louder.” Sunrise whispered back to her friends, all three taking wing to the far end of the park, where they marked off another lane and finished the match.
Flix, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my temper under control! What am I doing wrong now that she’s out of my head and no longer hostile? I don’t want to hurt anypony! What shall I do? Then, there was this incident…
“Big brother, I’ve been thinking.” Sunrise Flight said to Radiance Point one morning at breakfast.
“Little sister, when you say that, I don’t know if I should be exultant or go into hiding. What have you been thinking about?”
“Your virtual vacation idea. I feel you left a step out of the process.” Sunrise said after a mouthful of egg.
“Oh? Like what?” Point snorted as he dipped his toast in his coffee.
“After you map the memories, what you should do is turn the memories into computer programs, then back again for reading. That way the vacationer can control what she does, instead of being constrained to the memory’s playback. If she wants to stop and look off a cliffside or admire a flower, she can.”
“And how do you propose to do that?” Point snapped. Sunrise then launched into a spell formula recitation that would boggle most Th.D.’s, programmers and system operators, but not Point.
“You know, I never thought of that. One would think simply writing a program would be enough, but to get enough resolution, it would be easier to simply take a scan of a memory. The recorder must look all around each area, to capture everything around them,” Point said, seeing where Sunrise was leading to.
“Exactly! Now, think you can handle the memory/machine conversion interface?” Sunrise said sweetly, in just such a manner that alarm bells went off in Point’s head.
“I’m sure I can, but do you have any ideas you would like to share with me?” Point asked gently, hesitantly, wondering what would happen next.
“Of course, I do! Finish your breakfast and let’s head up to the lab. It will be easier to explain there.”
Flix, her method worked, and worked well in small scale testing! We sent our findings back in the data stream. Still waiting on an answer. Is it natural to feel threatened by a family member? I’ve worked hard all these years and have built up quite a reputation. Now she comes along and is upsetting my applecart. I don’t want to hate her like I hated her other form. She’s my sister, and I want our relationship to be a pleasant one, after years of unpleasantness. Whatever can I do?
Engineer’s Mate, Cosmic Lotus.
Point encoded the letter and had it inserted into the data stream heading back to Equus. To his surprise, he received a reply less than four hours later. Going to his office, he had CONN display the message. Flix appeared on screen, an orange changeling partially visible behind the hippo-whatever. Words appeared at the bottom of the screen as he spoke.
To: Radiance Point, Engineer’s Mate, Cosmic Lotus
From: Flix Path
Re: Your recent message.
Radiance Point, you surprised me. Not by contacting me, but how you did it. Most ponies would send a verbal or video message. No, you wrote it out. How old-fashioned can you get?
Sunrise Flight is heavily influenced by you, since her soul and yours were entangled for so long. She got your observational skills and memory, along with your education, but from her own viewpoint. How she got her pegasus skills, all I can say is, ask your mother. I just built her body, not her mind or soul.
She is very much her own pony, as you have discovered. Don’t see her as a rival, see her as a colleague that looks at matters very much different than you would. She’s the sister you never had. Treasure her, as family and as an ally.
You’re too stodgy, Point. Learn from your sister and loosen up! Thinking only one way only leads to stillness. Time to put a little disorder in your life! You’ll be a better pony for doing so. Extend your innovation to other than making things work! Be a pony! Be alive!
This is a recording, operator seven-seven-two.
Now, how do I turn this thing off? Orlonda, can you show me how to the screen went black as the orange changeling leaned into the picture clearly to push something with a hoof.
Point snorted as he read the note. “Loosen up, indeed. I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”
“But you can be so much more, brother dearest. Sleep on it.” Sunrise said from right behind him.
Point let out a yell and headed up to the ceiling before falling, landing with a spraddle-legged splat on the floor, fortunately missing everything in the small office. “Going to try for the high jump record in the next Cosmic Games?”
“Sunrise, how in Tartarus did you get in here?” Point gasped once he got his breath back.
“You didn’t lock the door, Point. Flix sent me a note as well. He wants me to be more than just your sister, but your friend as well. Loosen up, bro!” she said as she helped Point back to his hooves. “Seems like you need a drink or two.”
“I don’t drink, Sunrise. You know that.”
“Well, it’s time you started! Just one, no more. I’ll help you back to the cabin, if you need it.”
“Sunrise, I don’t want to do something so radical…”
“<We’re going to the bar and I’m buying you a drink, and I’m going to watch you enjoy it!>” she snapped in Twinspeak.
Point hung his head. He knew not to go any further. If he did, she would uncork on him, and that would not be pleasant. “Bourbon. Neat.”
“Rum and cola, in a tall glass. I want you mellow, not blitzed.”
Point could only nod. “As you say, sister dearest.”
“Change is never easy, Radiance. You need it, I can give it. You’ll like it, in time.”