AMICITAS FLIGHT THREE – MISSION DAY 30
ARES III SOL 33
As a Wonderbolt and a trainer of Wonderbolts, Spitfire had had basic field medic training, though admittedly most of it ended with “get a real doctor as soon as you can”. She’d had a compressed three-week course after she’d been picked for ESA Flight 54, which became the third flight of ESA Amicitas. And these days she spent at least two hours every day swotting up on the contents of her medical textbook, which now had over thirty pieces of the alien’s small supply of transparent tape holding together the brittle pages.
But none of that limited training included one word about what to do with a unicorn who had clearly cracked up.
She watched as Starlight Glimmer spent her tenth consecutive minute banging her head into one of Mark’s storage cabinets. She’d already decided to put Starlight to bed and break open the aspirin bottle once the unicorn wore herself out or knocked herself out- and Spitfire would have taken either end of a bet as to which it would be.
On a whiteboard nearby lay the transcription of a message long enough that Mark had been forced to pull one of his ex-crewmates’ space suits off the rack and begin dumping excess water into it. (Needless to say, the Hab’s soil needed no further watering this day.)
REF S DRV SPECS SHOWS DIM LMTR MSSNG FRM S DRV TPT SP ARRAY. REF YR RPT INCDT HYPOS OBJ AVOID PARAM TRIPPED RSLT UNTRCEBLE 5D JUMP & NOVEL PWR SURGE TO FUEL JUMP. SURGE OVRLD BATT, ATT MORE PWR DRAW COMP, NOVEL MG VACUUM RSLT FAIL CASCADE MN PWR. FAILSAFE FAIL DUE TO NOVEL UNANTCP COND. TRACE OF ENV SYS SP INCONCLUSIVE DUE TO LOW SIGNAL, NOVEL VECTOR. PREP 2ND MSG PROCED CYCLE TELP SP. CT WHN RDY.
Starlight Glimmer had gone straight to the ship manuals after hearing the message, tearing two freeze-dried pages in her rush to look up the Sparkle Drive spell array. Once she did, she dropped the book and began her percussive psychological self-analysis, leaving Dragonfly to translate from geek-speak and abbreviation into proper Equestrian.
Apparently the Sparkle Drive had tried to move out of the way of some unseen object in its path. By some oversight the spell hadn’t been limited to travel in three dimensions, so it made a small five-dimensional jump. That jump soaked up far more energy than normal, essentially draining the engine’s array of over a hundred magic batteries. The batteries, suddenly starved for power, tried to compensate by drawing more power from the universal field. But here, in this universe, there was no such field, and the strain of trying to draw energy from a vacuum, added to the Sparkle Drive’s load on the system, had caused at least one battery to shatter.
With one battery down, the load increased on all the others, and like crystal dominoes they disintegrated in a chain reaction. The fail-safes which should have shut everything down in case of a failure cascade hadn’t worked because they, too, relied on a universal magic field for power. Only the two emergency batteries, being disconnected from the main circuit, had survived.
And now Baltimare waited on them to reply so they could send instructions that might- just might- result in re-establishing the telepresence spell and proper, non-soggy communications.
Mark wandered over, looking with concern at Starlight. “Whut sarong whicker?” he said. Of course it would be their self-designated translator who went nuts first, Spitfire thought. But the first word was probably what.
“Du bahd,” Dragonfly replied. When Mark made a more-please roll of his hand, the changeling added, “Du Roscoe.”
“Dihpstix,” Fireball added.
Mark thought about this a moment, then screwed up his face so his eyes were crossed and the teeth in his upper jaw jutted out. He pointed to his face, then to Starlight. When Dragonfly nodded, Mark sighed, reached over and picked up Starlight and carried her to her bunk, repeating, “Hiss alight, hiss alight…” in a gentle voice.
The others let out their breath. “Well, that’s solved,” Cherry Berry said. “Spitfire, what would you have done?”
Spitfire shrugged. “I’m no shrink. If she were a pegasus, I would have told her to take two laps of the obstacle course and hit the showers.” Actually she would have relieved her of duty and called a psychiatrist in to determine if she should be washed out of the program. In short, she would have hoofed the problem over to somepony else as fast as possible. Which, to be honest, was what she’d just done.
“She’s not crazy,” Dragonfly said. “But she is really ashamed of herself. I think she blames herself for our being here.”
“Yeah, she should,” Fireball growled. When the other three stared at him, he added, “What? It’s true!”
“Not helpful,” Cherry Berry insisted. “Now go get some more of those plastic bins. We’re wasting Twilight Sparkle’s time here.”
Spitfire went to tend to Starlight, who was now babbling something to herself about seeking efficiencies and reduced thaumic churn. She hated being here. She hated being so useless. She hated being so helpless.
Fluttershy should be here, she thought. Fluttershy would have Starlight Glimmer back on her hooves in minutes. Fluttershy would be able to talk to Mark directly. Fluttershy would have the training for her position and the experience to be on an equal level with the others. I’m just a waste of food here.
Then she had a second thought. No, Fluttershy shouldn’t be here. How would she deal with being away from her animals for a month? And how would they cope without her? At least the Wonderbolts are in good hooves back home.
Then a third thought: None of us should be here. Mark ought to be on his way home, and we ought to be getting our third tickertape parade as the heroes who first orbited Bucephalous. And it’s nopony’s fault that we are. This situation is just bucked up, is all.
But I still hate being so helpless.
Maybe, she thought, having Cherry Berry in charge instead of me is a good thing.
TRANSCRIPT – WATER TELEGRAPH EXCHANGE, ESA BALTIMARE and ESA SHIP AMICITAS
(note: all standard telegraphy / Mares Code shortcuts and abbreviations translated)
AMICITAS: Procedures copied for communications experiment Alpha, experiment Beta, experiment Gamma. Alpha not possible at this time due to conservation of battery power for food production procedure estimated four days from now. Over.
ESA: Understood. Prepare for experiments Beta and Gamma in twenty hours time. Over.
AMICITAS: Negative. First available time for tests three days from now due to food production procedures. Over.
ESA: Explain nature of food production procedures. Over.
AMICITAS: You really don’t want to know. Over.
ESA: Fine. Will expect contact sixty hours from now. Over.
AMICITAS: Copy contact sixty hours, out.