Purple Point: His Life in Space

by Alden MacManx

That Shining Star

Radiance Point had a grin a kilometer wide on his face when the word came down from the bridge, ‘Engage!’. He watched the new monitors in Maneuvering as the warp fields took shape around the ship before giving the good ship one heck of a kick in the backside, sending them hurtling through space, faster than light. “Now, this is how one REALLY should travel through space!” he said exultantly to Fornax, who was beside him in Maneuvering.

“You got that right, Point.” Fornax said in his gravelly tones. “Who would have thought such a thing was possible?”

“Not I, for sure. Now that it is operating, I can think of some ways to do the same effects magically, but I don’t think it will be easy to. First, I’ll have to come up with a way to duplicate the warp field, then to scale it up,” Radiance said before snorting. “I’m still having trouble figuring out how their maglev trains work. If I can puzzle that out, the income from the patents will help my foundation no end.”

“Got an idea, Point. Take it up with Techbird. You and she speak the same language, on occasion.”

Radiance smiled at the suggestion. “You know, I just might do that. I’ll have to see if she’s free, though. She’s been in some sort of rapture for days now, just thinking.”

“Don’t remind me…” the chrome changeling groaned, rubbing his head absently. “We all take turns as backups in her network. Gives me a headache, it does. I’m an engineer, not a theoretician.”

“Well, I’m both, but I take greater joy in being an engineer. Theory is good in its place, but practice is where the theories become useful.”

Fornax waved a hoof around Maneuvering, indicating the displays, both old and new. “Can’t get more useful than this, right?”

“Right, Fornax,” Radiance replied, looking about himself before sighing. “Reminds me some now of the old Gowanus’ engine room. A ship should be moving under its own power, not dependent on sails.”

“Hey, you did good when we lost the sails, coming up with that pulse drive. Got us where we needed to go, right?”

Radiance nodded. “That it did, Fornax, that it did. I only have one small regret about all this new stuff, though.”

“Oh? What that be, Point?” Fornax asked.

Radiance pointed to a spot against the wall of Maneuvering occupied by an interface box between the electronics of the new drives and the ship’s magitek systems. “They had to take my coffeepot out of the room!” he shouted. “Now, when I’m on watch, I’ll have to send all the way to the galley for coffee, and they NEVER make it right!”

“You’re a smart pony, Point. You’ll think of a way around that.”

“I admire your confidence in me, Fornax.”

“Hey, we got this far, trusting you. That confidence is earned, believe me. Your imagination, your logical illogic, your generous nature, give us all a reason to believe in you.”

The third being in Maneuvering, the Stellar Foxtaur named Apastron, chose that moment to look up from hir monitoring of all the indicators. “Point, what you call coffee I call toxic waste. We made it a point to remove your coffeepot from here.”

“You did WHAT?” Radiance yelled, almost coming to a rage but holding himself back from a full out rant.

“You heard me, Point. We all agreed that pot had to go, so we removed it to a safe location. It should be ready to be recovered in a day or so.” Apastron answered without taking hir eyes off Radiance.

Radiance let fly with a blast of something guttural before stomping his way out of Maneuvering. Fornax shook his head. “No, Point, you’re wrong about that,” he muttered.

“What did he say?” asked Apastron.

Fornax thought for a few seconds before answering. “He told you to do something to yourself that is not only anatomically impossible, but extremely painful to do. I would not recommend it.”

“What, to go fuck myself?” Apastron asked.

“With a large metal appliance attached to a high-speed drill with a long-life power crystal.”

“I hope that’s a good sign.”

Fornax nodded. “Around him, it is. It means he thinks you are worthy of taking his maledictions without getting offended. Thing is, he will do so in languages most of us don’t know, so we’re always left wondering what he said.”

“But you understood what he said, Fornax.”

The Chrome Changeling grinned. “Only because he has said that to me sixteen times since we came through the portal, and to others in Engineering several times more that I know of. As to elsewhen and elsewhere, I could ask CONN, but I doubt she will tell me.”

“That’s another thing. I can’t properly visualize just how you can make a full ship’s control system out of a bunch of crystals and fiber optics,” Apastron said, hir confusion about that point plain.

“Apastron, we got what, a month before we get to where we are going, right? Plenty of time to learn you on magitek enough so you can figure things out,” Fornax said with confidence.

Apastron looked up at the changeling. “I hope you’re right, Fornax.”

Radiance, meanwhile, had stomped his way to his office to sulk a little and to cool down before he made his next move. Actually, he was still thinking of what his next move would be. He looked around the small office he shared with Galen whenever the big griffon decided to look in on Engineering. Looking up over his desk, he pondered if he could fit a coffeepot up there. Looking around, he found all the power taps were in use, all two of them. After a snort, he went to a cargo bay to get a fresh coffeepot, along with some shelving material. Another stop got him some power crystals. Back at the office, he mated the power crystals to the coffeepot, then got to making a shelf for the thing, measuring carefully to allow enough clearance space to slide the pot in and out without banging the ceiling.

Satisfied with his progress, Point went to his coffee cache and prepared a pot, his way. Listening to the slow drip, smelling the aroma of the brew, went a long way in settling him down. When the coffee was done, he poured himself a mug full and took a long, satisfying sip.

The scream of horror echoed all through Engineering, followed by a stream of the foulest language anyone has ever heard from Point all journey, language foul enough to have a purple haze start forming, drifting through the ventilation systems.

Fornax winced at some of the words. “When Princess Galena hears that, she’s not going to like it, and he knows it. I wonder what set him off?”

Apastron had the grace to look embarrassed. “While he was on leave, we took the coffee from his office and hid it in a vacuum-tight packaging. We replaced it with what we felt was an appropriate substitute.”

“What’s the ‘appropriate substitute’, if I may ask?” Fornax asked. “Point never gets that way unless he means it.”

“Coffee, grown on Arisia, that if not prepared right, has the flavor of excrement. If it is done properly, it makes Chipinge coffee look plebian.”

Hoofbeats went by Maneuvering as Point raced flat out to the nearest head, slamming the door shut, followed by the sound of him losing his lunch for the past two weeks. “You people are evil, you know that?” Fornax said in what sounded like admiration.

“So is his coffee, as if you didn’t know.”

“Oh, I know full well how bad it can be. That’s why he uses his own coffeepots, so as not to poison everyone’s coffee. We still don’t know if he drinks it or chews it.”

Apastron blinked in surprise. “Even after ten years?”

“Longer than that. Point’s a plankowner. Last time he was on Equis had to have been fifteen years or more. That’s why he had to be ordered and dragged to take a couple of days off. This ship has been his life for a long time,” Fornax explained.

“His dedication is admirable. His methodology, however, leaves a lot to be desired,” Apastron said as shi checked the instrumentation again.

“Giving you a stunner sure helped. Sometimes he needs a clue-by-four the size of a planet for him to change his mind.”

“It was figured he would not hurt a child, or one he thought of as being a child. So, I’m a little small.”

“He won’t. He loves foals, wanting to make their lives better. Maybe now, he will let himself associate with them,” Fornax said before describing Point’s former split personality and why he would not allow himself to be near a foal for a long time.

“How do you know all that about him?”

“Changelings are all connected telepathically, Apastron, through our Princess or Queen. She can choose to let every changeling know something or not.”

Apastron nodded at the news, thinking. “I’m impressed.”

“I thought your name is Apastron…”

Radiance Point had taken himself to Medical, looking for something, anything, to get the foul taste out of his mouth and to stop the nausea. Dr. Zubon found something that would do the job on her third attempt. “Just what did you do to get this?” she asked, once Radiance managed to stop groaning.

“The foxtaurs switched my coffee for something else. It’s unbelievably foul…”

“Unlike what you call coffee? Your blend is toxic!” Zubon replied.

“That stuff is far worse. There’s a sample of it in my office,” Radiance panted, the urge to revisit last month’s Sunday dinner slowly fading.

“Wait here. I’ll go get it and have some tests done on the stuff.”

“Plans like a sound to me, Zu…” Radiance sighed, flopping on the exam table, preparing to nap. Power puking the last month’s meals is draining on a pony.

Zubon went to Engineering, specifically Point’s office. There, she took a sample of the coffee remaining in the pot for analysis. As she was leaving, Apastron came up to her. “All it needs is a brown paper filter to remove the bad esters. Is he all right?”

Zubon nodded. “He will be. It takes a lot for him to come to Medical on his own, especially for nausea. You know, messing with his coffee is one sure way to put a big strain on his equanimity.”

“What does that mean?” Apastron asked.

“You’re pissing him off. That can only lead to one of two things, either he will start a prank war more vicious than his card playing, or he will consider you and yours absolutely reliable allies.” Zubon said in a bland voice, remembering the few times Point became involved in a prank war on the trip.

“Vicious? Radiance is not vicious! He’s kind, polite, suave, and a whole lot of other nice things to say! He was very complimentary of what we were doing to the ship!” Apastron said, amazed. “We’re considering adopting him into the family when we get back together. He’s sharp, witty, a good musician, and quite funny as well. He even taught us a new song during installation!”

Zubon stopped short, almost spilling her coffee sample. “A new song?” she asked in almost a whisper.

“Yes! It’s funny, it’s long, and the verses fit a nice working cadence.”

Zubon snorted. “He promised me he would never do that song!”

Apastron looked a little abashed. “Well, you weren’t around, and we did want him to loosen up. ‘Barnacle Tail the Sailor’ is fun! Don’t put him to sleep for a decade, please.”

Zubon smiled at that bit of news. “He said that?” At Apastron’s nod, she laughed. “I won’t put him to sleep for a decade, but I will let him know of my unhappiness. MY way.”

“Can I help?” Apastron asked. “It’s nice to see him smile.”

“It is. Before launch and the first half of the voyage, while he was quite polite, he never relaxed. Now, he can. No, don’t help me. But, thanks for the information about the coffee. Just how good is it?”

“Properly made, wonderful. Improperly made, it, well…” Apastron said, gesturing to the sample, indicating she should try it.

Zubon sniffed at the coffee, then took a taste. She recoiled from it, nearly dropping the sample and almost backing into a power switching panel. “That’s horrible!”

“Run it hot through a brown paper filter and all the bad esters come out. Just try it and see.”

“Not a bad idea, don’t mind if I do.” Zubon said as she made her way out of Engineering. Analysis of the sample revealed the bad tasting esters, and a little experimentation with filters proved the foxtaur correct. “You know, I just might switch to this,” she said in admiration.

After filtering a full pot, she brought the pot to Medical. Radiance was sound asleep on an exam bed. She filled a mug and put it on the table next to Radiance’s bed before waking him. “Here, try this,” she told him.

Radiance picked up the mug in his glow, sniffing it carefully before taking a sip. His eyes went wide at the taste, taking a bigger gulp. “A little thin, but great flavor. Where you pick this up, on Chakona?” he asked, smiling up at the doctor.

“You can say that, Point. Behave and I’ll tell you the secret of making it taste the way it does. Otherwise, you will get the raw, which will bring you here almost every day...,” she said with a growl.

Radiance knew he had put his hoof in something nasty. “Something bothering you, Zubon?”

“Why did you teach the Stellars ‘Barnacle Tail the Sailor’?” she shouted at him. “I warned you about even thinking about that song!”

Radiance set the mug down with a thump. Getting off the bed, he glared right back at the doctor. “Hey, I like it, they like it, and it made us happy to both teach and learn the song, Zu! So, what if it is one of the filthiest, dirtiest, most pornographic songs in my repertoire! It made new friends happy, and that’s all that matters! We traded songs all week, and if you ask nicely, I MAY share some of the better ones with you and the crew on the trip, but if you want to act like an offended ass about a song which I promised you I would not do in your hearing, I will happily remain silent the whole trip to Earth!” he ranted. “I got enough to do, making the impossible comprehensible!”

Zubon was taken completely by surprise by the outburst from the normally quite polite unicorn. “I didn’t know you cared so deeply, Point,” she said in apologetic tones.

“Oh, I care, Zubon. I care a lot more than most ponies aboard think. I have ideas about merging Fed tech with magitek that will startle many folk all over. What irritates me is people who try to hobble me in any way, shape or form,” he said in a low, but powerful voice. “Their attempts are ludicrous compared to what I can do to myself, by myself. I tolerate it from you because I like and trust you. Please, don’t make me question that trust, okay?

Radiance then glanced at a clock. “Please to pardon me, Doctor, but I have a meeting coming up. I’m willing to overlook this, provided you do so as well.” He set the coffee mug down on the side table. “Do enjoy the coffee. Good flavor, even if it is a bit thin for my taste.”

Radiance quickly left Medical, leaving a startled Zubon in his wake. “Just when you think you know a pony, he can come back and surprise you with something you would never suspect,” she mused as the doors closed behind the departing unicorn.

Radiance made his way back to Engineering, where he brought Apastron and Helen Baines into a conference to discuss the warp engine light off. Helen was there because shi had come up with more than one insight that increased the efficiency of the power converters, which drew power from the miniature star that powered the Lotus into power usable by the warp drives. While the warp drives, by themselves, were of a proven Federation design and quite durable, using them in the fashion they were being used to move the Lotus at supraluminal velocities was quite unusual to Federation engineers in general and the Stellar Foxtaurs in particular, which called for close monitoring by the Engineering staff to make sure they stayed working properly.

The discussion turned to a question and answer session, mainly Radiance asking and Apastron and Helen answering, of just how ship design worked with the warp fields to control speed through warp space. Ideas started flowing fast and furious as Radiance started seeing applications of nautical engineering applying to warp sciences. The trio began sketching out plans for a whole new ship to be built from the keel up, merging Equestrian science and magitek with Federation warp sciences.

When the Captain walked in, it took several minutes for the three to become aware of his presence. Actually, Radiance knew full well the Captain was there, but he was following an argument- the Captain could wait a moment or so. The Captain wanted a report, and Radiance was pleased to give him one.

“The system is working perfectly, Captain. The power conduits to the warp engines are coping exactly to spec and the warp field is stable. Since the engines are rugged and highly reliable, there is very little that we have to do on top of our regular work.” He gestured to a monitor screen which displayed the view from a camera mounted on the hull at the rear of the craft. It showed two of the three warp engines which had been fixed into position at 120° to each other, thereby creating an even warp field around the ship. The nacelles glowed blue along their length as the energy made its way through them to be converted into space-time contortion fields that let them slide into hyperspace and out of the tyranny of the limits of light-speed. “These little beauties will get us to Earth in thirty-four days. That sure beats the years it would have taken us previously.”

“It sure does,” the Captain replied, “although Boyce tells me that commercial ships can do the journey in only about twelve days, and the Pegasus can do it half of that.”

“Well, sure – any ship designed for the purpose will do better than our adapted version, but what Apastron, Helen, and I are working on could blow even the Admiral’s ship out of the cosmos. The Federation knows nothing about magitek, and with the efficiencies introduced by our technology, interstellar travel will become even more practical and cost-effective.”

Wandering smirked. “I can see that you’re enjoying yourself, Point. Just let me remind you that I won’t let you overwork yourself anymore.”

Radiance glanced at Apastron who grinned back at him innocently. “Okay, Captain – I get the hint.” He had no intention of letting the black-furred foxtaur stun him into compliance again.

“Excellent. I’ll check back with you tomorrow to see what your brainstorming session has achieved. Have fun,” the Captain said before heading off to his next destination.

“Us? Have fun? Perish the thought.” Radiance snorted before going back to the discussion, which went on until dinnertime. Apastron and Helen went off to dinner, while Radiance sought out his sister, to bring her up to speed on the day’s events. Most of them, at least.

Radiance and Sunrise met in their quarters, bringing each other up to speed on their doings. She asked for access to the notes and specs on the warp drive. When her brother asked why, Sunrise said to him, “I have a feeling, Brother. The flow patterns remind me strongly of fluid patterns through different media. I’ll have to do some more digging to see if I’m right or wrong, and if my thoughts will have any effect.”

Radiance quickly consulted CONN, giving Sunrise access to the desired information. “Sister, when you have an idea or even a feeling, I have learned enough to listen.”

“Good of you, brother. Now, what’s up with your coffee?”

Radiance grimaced. How had she found out? Slowly, he told the story of the coffee.

“Serves you right, Brother. Now, let’s get something to eat. I can’t subsist on coffee alone.”

“Don’t tell anyone my secret, okay?”

Going to the mess decks, they found out about the duel Ortzi had fought with Marlo Firefeather, about Helen. “Looks like Ortzi learned from the training we gave him on observation,” Radiance said.

“That, and the way you kicked his ass years ago. Then, he went high, you went low. This time, he went low. I’m glad he prevailed. Helen is a nice…” Sunrise paused, trying to think of a word. “…person. I like working with her.”

“So do I. Shi’s smart, capable, and innovative. I’m glad Ortzi and Helen are forming a relationship.” Radiance said with a bit of a snort. “He got hir first, so I shan’t get in his way.”

“Have feelings for her, Brother?” Sunrise asked with a little surprise.

“Feelings? Me? I would not go that far, Sister. I like working with hir. Shi’s bright, capable, and sharp. I don’t have feelings like that- I reprogrammed myself with a crowbar a long time ago, and I have yet to repair the damage,” Radiance said after a bite of dinner.

“You will, Brother. I have faith in you, as do a lot of others.”

Thirty-four days of warp travel sped by. Radiance, along with his crew, made the time go by faster by learning more and more about the warp systems, how to run them, how they worked, and most importantly, how to fix them when they broke. While learning how to do things using the Virtual Vacation setup does speed learning, nothing beat hoofs-on training, putting systems together, tracing field flow paths, learning a new system and making it an ‘old’ system. The Engineering staff aboard the Lotus, as well as the Science staff, when it came to learning aptitude, were far ahead of the curve.

Sunrise’s surmise proved to have value, so, working with Radiance, Techbird, Apastron, Fornax, M’Ranna, Helen, and others from Engineering, Sciences, and Star Fleet, they had come up with plans for a starship, utilizing Equestrian and Federation tech, that theoretically would have a speed through warp space an order of magnitude better than what Star Fleet possessed at the time. The last week of the flight was spent on checking, rechecking, rerechecking, and checking again their calculations and designs to see if it would work for sure. “We’ve done all the guesswork we can,” Radiance told Fornax and Apastron as they were on duty in Maneuvering as they neared their destination, “next step is to actually start building the thing, and that will have to wait for a while yet.”

“Hey, at least we got the foundation designed.” Fornax growled out in his gravelly tone. “Up to others to put it all together.”

Apastron chipped with, “May we be those others.”

“Got that right, Appie,” Radiance said, using Apastron’s gifted nickname. “If I have anything to say about it, we will.” Radiance had got over his mad about the coffee and had asked about getting a steady supply of the brew, along with a fabrication pattern of the brown paper filter needed to make the stuff properly. He would still make his own older vile stuff, but only in the privacy of his office.

“Bridge to Engineering. Prepare for warp drive shutdown.”

“Prepare for warp drive shutdown, Bridge, Maneuvering aye.” Radiance responded before looking at Apastron and Fornax. “You heard them. Let’s get to it.” They watched carefully as the ship came out of warp, ensuring all worked as designed.

On the main monitor, relayed from the Bridge, a pale blue dot hung in the black vastness of space. “There it is… that shining star, known as Earth.” Radiance said with respect.

“It ain’t Equestria, but I’m sure it’s a good place.” Fornax grumbled.