• Published 5th Jul 2017
  • 1,772 Views, 151 Comments

Purple Point: His Life in Space - Alden MacManx

How Purple Point manages his life in space aboard the Cosmic Lotus, and how others handle him. Let the battle begin!

  • ...

Deceleration Profile

The Cosmic Lotus, sixty or so light-days out from the Far Star (opinions vary):

Radiance Point looked over the unicorns and changelings that comprised the deceleration team. “At long last, we are about to arrive. Deceleration mode will start in under an hour. Sunrise Flight, Crystal Twist and I will be monitoring the production and launch of the mana balls, while the rest of you put the spells on them to change them into photon bombs for the light sail. It’s up to us to get this ship stopped, and we’re the team to do it! So, let’s all get into position and get to work!” he announced to his team.

“Brother, has anyone told you that you that you really can’t deliver a motivational speech to save your life?” Sunrise commented as she and Radiance moved to the mana ball production console.

“If I have to motivate anypony here, Sister, the Selection Committee made some bad choices.” Radiance replied as he started final diagnostics on the production unit.

“Point made, brother dearest.” Sunrise said as she backed up Radiance’s checklist.

“That’s my name. Don’t misuse it.” Radiance countered as he turned on the intercom. “Engineering to Bridge. Ready to start deceleration procedures on your signal.”

“Thirty-eight minutes and counting, Engineering.”

“Thirty-eight minutes, aye.” Radiance looked to his team of unicorns. “Anyone need coffee or a head call, do so now.” Three of them did so, one last time before the work really began. Three teams of three, to trade off while the deceleration profile was in effect.

Radiance poured himself a mug of his coffee before getting some tea for his sister. “You watch over the port side team, I will handle the starboard, and Crystal Twist will control the backup team. We’ll alternate shots for the first thirty minutes, then we’ll go on eight-hour rotation until we’re done.”

“Yeah, you’re nervous, brother. Why else would you tell me something I know perfectly well?” Sunrise countered before sipping her tea. Fortunately for Radiance, he knew better than to slip his sister some bitterant in the tea, not at this time.

“At least, with you, I can be nervous without worry.” Radiance said before taking a bite of his coffee, his eyes widening a touch as the caffeine kicked in.

“We can’t hide anything from each other, can we? Not for long.”

“No, not for long.”

Precisely on time, the word came down to start deceleration. Every thirty seconds, a mana ball was produced, altered and fired out of the launch tubes. The three teams alternated shots at first, then, once the routines had set themselves in, swapping out every eight hours, to allow each team of three plus one some down time between shifts. The backup team will fill in two or three times a week, to give one team or the other some additional down time, or if one of the team members needed additional off time.

This went on, day after day, slowly decelerating the light-sail craft, until, just before a shift change, came a call from the bridge.

“Bridge to Engineering!”

“Radiance Point here, Bridge.”

“We need an immediate increase in the rate of light bomb production to triple its current rate,” came the order from Commander Bluequill.

“WHAT?! No way, Commander. Double is no problem, but triple is virtually impossible.”

“You have your orders, Point. Get it done however you can!”

“On it, Commander.” Point said before looking to his crews. “You heard the commander! Port team, settle in, starboard team, step it up! He wants us to stand on the brakes, for some reason! CONN, alert the backup team to get to their deceleration stations, code red!”

“Alerting backup deceleration team to get to their deceleration stations, code red, yes, Lieutenant Commander.” CONN said in its pleasant voice.

Sunrise watched over the port team while Radiance stepped up the mana ball production, the starboard team increasing its pace. Minute after minute, the two teams took the mana balls, worked their magic, changing them to light balls, and firing them out. Sunrise started shouting out a cadence for the port side team, which helped them maintain the pace. Radiance could not do that for the starboard team, because he had to focus on the production process.

“Shit! I didn’t get that one right!” cried the detonator unicorn on the starboard team.

Immediately, Radiance called the bridge. “Engineering to Bridge! We have a misfire – one of the light bombs did not have its detonation spell set correctly. Commander – the crew can’t keep up with the demand. They’re starting to make mistakes.”

“Engineering, we don’t have a choice. Keep up the pace.” Commander Bluequill said.

Radiance pondered the implications of those words for a few seconds. “Aye, sir,” was all that he could say.

He called up the view from the Bridge main screen, to try to figure out just what in Tartarus was going on. He saw the rapidly approaching sextet of moonlets, feeling a chill start from the tip of his horn, moving along his body to his tail. Memories of the sinking of the Gowanus Herald came to the forefront of his mind, but his adamantine will, which had seldom seen any use in the past five or so years, rose up and beat down those memories. He read the bridge instrument feeds, not liking what he was seeing.

“Engineering, is there any way to increase the output of the light bombs?” Commander Bluequill asked from the bridge.

His mind racing ahead, considering the question, Radiance said in a bleak voice, “No sir, we’ve already done that. Commander, I’ve looked at the feed from the bridge instruments. We’re not going to be able to overcome both our inertia and the pull of whatever that is. We just aren’t equipped for it.”

Commander Bluequill did not reply, shutting off the intercom as Radiance heard Starry start to say something. He checked his team, then Sunrise’s, making sure there were no more bobbles as the teams got the light balls out. Looking back at the instrument feed, he noticed something he hadn’t noticed before. “Cerberus fuck us all eight ways at once…” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “They’re furling the sails…”

Seconds, then minutes, crept by very slowly to Radiance’s perceptions. He could see what was going on, thanks to the instrument feed, but he knew damn well there was no way they could reef in the entire sail structure in time to miss the ring of moonlets. As a senior officer, he knew all the protocols the commanders had, as a backup in case of need. Instantly, his glow flashed over one set of controls on his board, knowing what was going to be coming next.

“Halt production of the light bombs,” came the order from the bridge.

“Thank Celestia!” Radiance exclaimed as he dialed production of the mana balls to zero. “Production halted, sir.”

Radiance then shouted to both crews, “ALL STOP, EVERYPONY!”

Immediately, the two teams stopped making the light balls, the starboard team sagging some in their seats, the port team not showing much signs of wear. “What’s going on, Radiance?” Sunrise asked, sounding more than a little perplexed. She had not been paying attention to much behind her, all her attention focused on making her team work accurately and rapidly.

“They’re detaching the sails. Explosive bolt commands have been sent.” Radiance said bleakly as a muffled thump shook the ship.

“Detaching the sails? Why?”

Radiance sent the images from the bridge to monitors visible to both teams. “So we can fit through that,” he said in the same bleak, hollow voice.

All seven members of the team watched in stunned silence as the sail booms were severed, number four boom failing to detach fully before breaking in half, the sails shredding, falling into the hole between the asteroids. The all-call from the Captain shook all of them out of their shock.

When the Captain had finished, Radiance looked at his team of ponies. “You heard the Captain! We have six minutes to batten everything down before we strap ourselves down! Rough seas are ahead, and we better be ready for it, because it ain’t gonna wait for us!” he declared. The six unicorns and changelings took off to get to their acceleration stations.

“What are we going to do, Radiance?” Sunrise asked, still a bit shaken.

“You are going to go back to the cabin and lie down on the bed, after putting everything loose away into any place possible, the drawers, the closet, under the bed, it doesn’t matter. Keep your ears open for further announcements.”

“What about you, brother?”

“I’m heading aft, to Engineering Control. If this is a rough passage, we’re going to be busy putting the ship back together. Once everything stabilizes, come back aft.” Radiance ordered, looking very determined indeed. “We’ve come this far, we’re going all the way!”

“You got that right, brother!” Sunrise said, saluting Radiance with a wing before tearing out of the deceleration control room. Radiance did as he said he would do, heading aft, getting to his post thirty seconds before entry into the whatever-it-was.

He had time to get strapped in before the going started to get rough. “Come on, Lotus! You have a stout heart! You’ll get through this!” he shouted as the ship bucked and shook, sending loose items flying about. “You can do it!”

Radiance saw the shields working to deflect not only stray bits, but keeping the radiation down as well. He boosted power to the shields, hoping the rough ride would end soon. After a short time that was far too long, it did. “Ah, ye fair lassie, ye did it! Ye pulled us through!” he said with an Eyrish accent. “Now, to see where ye be hurtin, and put ye back to rights.”

He called up the Damage Control readouts, and winced some at the extent of the damage. Not major, but widespread all through the ship. “All damage control teams, report to Engineering Control for assignment!” he called through the shipwide intercom.

After he handed out assignments, Radiance put on his own equipment saddlebags and went to work as well, leaving Sunrise in Engineering Control to monitor situations. He worked non-stop for hours, righting wrongs in the ship’s systems, until exhaustion overcame him in mid-coffee, causing him to drop his favorite mug, not breaking it.

After waking up back in his cabin, he showered, changed, grabbed some coffee and something to eat, and went right back to work. His work ethic spread among the Engineering crew, who also worked until they were ready to drop, caught some sleep, and went right back to repairing the ship again.

Radiance listened to the Captain’s speech while working on repairing equipment in the spa. The hot tub cover had leaked, soaking some equipment. When Starry mentioned ‘Wandering’s Flatulence’, he let out a snort and went right on working. “Of course, space is extremely gassy,” he muttered.

Once the spa was put to rights, he went forward to get something to eat, finally listening to the complaints of his empty stomach. He found Sunrise there and sat across from her. <Brother, I have an idea.> she said in Twinspeak.

<Let me hear it.> he replied. Sunrise launched into an explanation of an idea she had while watching the monitors. He thought for a while, mapping out her idea. <Good idea. Let’s refine it some.> Together, they talked back and forth in Twinspeak, before heading to their cabin to do some research. It took the pair three hours to get their idea down in both their heads. “I’ll take this to the Captain, after I get things started. You head down to Deceleration Control and start on the retuning figures.”

“Will do, brother.”

As Sunrise left the cabin, Radiance called out, “CONN, where is Captain Path?”

“Captain Path is currently in his office with Commander Bluequill.” CONN reported, its smooth feminine voice unharmed by the rough passage.

“Please inform Captain Path that I wish to speak to him immediately. I am on my way to his office.”

“Captain Path has been informed. He is awaiting your arrival.”

Once in the office, Radiance looked at the Captain and the Executive Officer. “I believe I have a way for us to propel ourselves,” he reported to them. Radiance outlined his idea, and received clearance to go ahead. Outside the office, Radiance called his sister. “It’s a go. I’m heading for Shield Control to work on the retuning, you call the members of the decel team to the decal room and work on recalibrating the mana balls.”

“Need any help in Shield Control?”

“If I do, I’ll call. We need less light and more force behind the blasts. You can launch test firings with a minimum of a thirty-second delay as I get the forward shield retuned to be a shock absorber. Up to us to get the ship stopped!”

Radiance spent hours recalibrating, retuning, and reinforcing the massive forward shield, making it a thrust plate for the Cosmic Lotus, with Albite Feldspar a willing aide. Sunrise and her team had the force balls reset long before he was finished with the shield, so they got to work on other ship repairs while he settled the shield into place. Once all was ready, he called the team in for some calibration testing, to find the optimal distance for deceleration thrust detonations. Without the mass reduction spell in place, the force balls had little effect, but what little they had were enough to plug values into equations to work everything out.

Twenty hours from the initial proposal, Radiance called the captain. “Skipper, you now have an engine for the ship. Give me a course so I can figure out deceleration parameters.”

After getting the data he needed, he considered matters. “Okay, Captain, we can handle that with about forty percent of our capacity for safe thrust. Just give the word.”

“The word is given, Radiance Point. Commence deceleration thrust on the profile outlined.”

“Commence thrust, aye.” Radiance said, then called the deceleration room. “Sunrise, commence thrust. Forty percent of max. Sending you the course.”

“Forty percent, aye. Get some sleep, brother. You’ve been awake too long.”

Radiance did not reply, having passed out from exhaustion in the field control room. He did not wake for many hours, having driven himself to his limits getting the ship moving. Fortunately, he had trained his staff well, and they were able to get the work done while he rested. He woke in Medical, wondering what in Tartarus had happened to him, finding an IV line in his right foreleg.

Doctor Zubon came into Radiance’s room, looking a bit worn about the edges herself. “Have a nice nap?” she asked.

“No, why? Do you think I should have?” Radiance replied, a bit blearily. “What’s this?”

“Just some IV feeding. You trying to starve yourself as well as setting records for lack of sleep? Albite dragged you in here after you passed out in Field Control.”

Radiance blushed a little, the inside of his ears pinking some. “Well, I was needed…”

“Just rest a while, Radiance. While our situation is not optimal, it is a lot better than it was three days ago. The ship is out of danger, and the crew needs to recuperate. This means you, too. So, recuperate!” Zubon said a bit sharply.

Clearly, she was tired and snippy too. Radiance caught that loud and clear. “I will do so, ONLY IF you do so as well. The ship needs me, and the crew needs you,” he snapped back, catching the doctor seemingly off-guard. Then the import of some of her words sank home. “Three days? How long was I asleep?”

“Over thirty hours. You needed the sleep. Now that I know you are all right, I’ll get some as well. Tablet to the right, and I’ll have some food sent in before I get some rest. You worried me.”

“Well, you look worn yourself. Now, go get unworn!” Radiance snapped as he pulled up the tablet.

“That’s the Radiance Point I have been wanting to see. Don’t you dare leave that bed until I come back, or else you’ll be spending more time in it!” Zubon fired back, raising a hoof in warning. Radiance didn’t notice, calling up reports.

Radiance stayed in bed, reading repair status reports, absently eating the double-sized lunch that was brought to him without even noticing what it was he ate. He stayed right there until a white feather brushed across his nose. Looking up, he saw his sister standing by the bed, furling a wing. “Sunrise? What are you doing here now?” he asked.

“Looking in on you before I take over from Crystal as drive supervisor. Once the doctor releases you from care, you can rejoin the rotation,” Sunrise told him.

“How is everypony doing? I can read the equipment performance, but you see the ponies.”

“Quite well. Now that we have a clearly-defined goal, everyone is willing to work hard to get there. We’ve come this far, we’re not stopping now!”

“You got that right! We’ll get this ship to our destination, then call Equus and celebrate!” Radiance said with a smile, one which was not returned by Sunrise. “What’s wrong?”

“We’ve lost touch with Equus. I’ve used the VR horn to check the gear, but it’s not damaged. It’s like we’re cut off, or been thrown so far, we’ve broken the connection and can’t yet re-establish the link.” Sunrise reported.

Radiance frowned from the bed. “I can’t think of anything that would cause us to lose signal like that. Suggest to the Captain that we send a drone back to the outlet of that tunnel and see if we can stick some sort of antenna through.”

“I’ll bring it up with him. You just rest and get better, brother. I don’t want to see your ribs poking out when you walk around.”

Radiance sighed. “Yes, mother…”

Radiance was released several hours later, and he immediately checked in on the drive systems, making sure all was well before going to the mess deck and having a prescribed double sized dinner. He then checked the crystal comms himself, merely confirming Sunrise’s report. There was nothing obviously wrong, just no signal to be received.

Watch after watch, day after day, the Cosmic Lotus slowly backed down, shedding the remains of its speed, so they would not go sailing through the system ahead and beyond. Radiance kept occupied by supervising what repairs remained to be done, taking his turn as decel supervisor, and getting the rest he needed. He was on watch when the order came to secure deceleration.

“Engineering to bridge, why the all stop bell?” he called, using the intercom.

“We’ve discovered another ship out there, Engineering. We’re taking a closer look.”

Radiance’s thoughts raced for a few seconds. “Bridge, Engineering, aye,” he said before hanging up.

“Did they say another ship?” the changeling on duty for the shift asked.

“That’s what the pony said, Zirath. Another ship. This is the start of something interesting, for sure.”

Author's Note:

Rough ride getting there, but they have arrived at the Far Star. Stay tuned to Cosmic Lotus for more details on what happens there.