• Published 5th Jul 2017
  • 1,837 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!

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Third Rock From the Sun

After the Cosmic Lotus came out of warp near Earth and had settled into a parking orbit, Radiance Point and the Engineering staff got busy, inspecting the warp drive to see how it held up under over a month of being in operation. By inspecting, they did everything but disassemble the entire system in their quest to completely understand how it worked. It took the Engineering team a good ten hours before they felt ready to call their shutdown checks finished. To be honest, Radiance wanted to keep on going, but he found himself suddenly sleepy, passing out in his office.

Fornax picked up his sleeping boss, taking him back to his stateroom. “Just how did you manage to knock him out?” he asked Apastron, who was accompanying Fornax.

“I didn’t mess with his coffee, because I know he likes the coffee we gave him. However, that didn’t stop me from putting a sedative on the filter papers. He just leaves them on the shelf in his office, so I slipped in and put a doctored filter on top.” Apastron explained.

“Appie, you are one dangerous sneak, you know that?” Fornax said in his gravelly voice as he opened the door to Radiance’s quarters.

“I may be a dangerous sneak, but I could feel his excitement and desire to keep on going until he dropped. I have noticed he has unusually high stamina for a unicorn. The rest of us would have dropped before he did.”

“You’re right about that. How long is he going to be out for?” Fornax asked, settling Radiance on his bed.

“Six to ten hours, depending on how fatigued he is. I better go back and clean his office. The most successful crimes leave no traces that a crime took place, right?” Apastron said with a smile.

“Very well said, Appie.”

Radiance awoke to find himself in bed, fully dressed, and hungry. Grumbling, he got up, removed his uniform, tossed it into his laundry basket, and went in for a long, hot shower to wake up fully. Coming out, he asked for a time and status update. Finding out, he headed to the mess decks for a late meal. He heard about the drawing to see who would accompany the Captain down for the official introduction to the Earth government but did not put his name into consideration. He had work to do!

Heading back to his office, the first thing he noticed was that his desk was rather neat, compared to the last he saw of it. Papers were in order, tablets in their proper place, even his coffee mug was cleaned and in position. Checking the pot, he found that cleaned as well, with fresh grounds in it, ready for brewing. “I know I had just brewed a pot… I wonder who cleaned up?” he said to himself, looking to see who was in Maneuvering.

“Dano, who cleaned up my office?” he asked the chrome changeling on duty.

“Can’t tell you that, Point. It was like that when I came on two hours ago. I was surprised you weren’t there. Knowing you, I would think you would still be awake.”

“Apparently, I passed out sometime last night. You haven’t seen Sunrise, have you?”

“Last I heard, she was in Sciences, helping Techbird work on a computer interface.”

“Do you know if they are done yet?” Radiance asked.

“They were getting close. Should not be long now.” Dano told his boss.

“Okay, then. I’ll be in my office. When Fornax and Appie show up, send them over, please.”

“Will do, Point.”

Radiance retired to his office, picking up where he had left off the night before, reviewing how the warp engines performed exiting warp space. He could feel understanding of warp physics dancing just out of his reach, close enough to see, but not close enough to grasp…yet.

One mug of coffee was consumed, followed by another, as he chased that elusive goal… comprehension. His concentration was broken by a shrill whistle, sending him almost to the ceiling before landing back on his cushion. A look to the doorway showed a rather droopy-looking Sunrise there, with Apastron, who looked fresh and ready to start the day.

“About time, brother. That was the third whistle I gave you. The interface is done, you can now access Earth’s computer networks via CONN. Watch the tutorial first before using. I’m heading for bed- after lunch… or dinner… or whatever…” she said before yawning.

“Do you need me to carry you to bed, sister?” Radiance asked as he got to his hooves.

“Might be a good…” Sunrise yawned before falling asleep on her hooves.

“I take it that means yes.” Radiance said as he picked her up in his glow. Looking at Apastron, he told hir, “I want to talk to you later, Appie. My office was too neat.”

“Okay, Point. I’ll be here.”

Radiance put his sister to bed and returned to Engineering. “Apastron, in my office, please.”

The Starwalker Foxtaur quickly made hir way to the office. “You called, Point?”

“Yes. What did you do in my office last night?”

“Why, clean it up after you fell asleep. I found you there with your head on the desk and coffee all over. So, Fornax and I put you to bed, and I came back and cleaned up. I thought you would appreciate the kindness.” Apastron explained.

Radiance considered for a few seconds before speaking. “You are right there, Appie, I do appreciate it. I’m just surprised I passed out in here. Last time I did that was after coming through the portal, and that was after a forty-plus hour repair session. I wasn’t doing that yesterday.”

“Well, you did go off on a tangent, examining the warp drives after shutdown. Dedication and drive is good, but don’t drag the whole department with you in your enthusiasm, okay?” Apastron advised.

“You do have a point, Appie. I do tend to get excited when pursuing a goal. If I taxed you, I apologize. Deal?”

Apastron extended a paw. “Deal.” They shook hands before Apastron spoke again. “We do have the internet interface set up. Do read the tutorial before starting. Will save time in working out how to navigate it.”

“Internet? Rather unusual name. Okay, I will read it before looking. Thanks for the advice. Now, do pardon me so I can get started.” Radiance said before looking at his terminal and sent in a request for the tutorial, Apastron quietly slipping out of the office, glad he didn’t notice the tampering shi did.

Radiance, after reading the tutorial, started diving in to the Earth’s Internet, looking first at warp drive theory, trying to confirm his surmises. Within three hours, the comprehension he had been seeking hit him full on at near light speed. Waking up after the shock, he reviewed the earlier logs, using his new understanding. “I got it! I got it!” he shouted in excitement.

Danorax hollered from Maneuvering, “It better not be one of mine, Point! I’ve only got three its left, and I’m taking leave next week!”

“This one’s all mine, Dano!” Radiance called back, laughing in relief at his new-found comprehension. Finding out that all was indeed well with the Lotus’ drive systems, he next plunged in to starship design.

He sat there at his desk, reading and reading, absently drinking cup after cup, pot after pot of coffee, just taking in all the information he could about true starships. He did not hear anyone calling on him, did not notice CONN trying to get his attention, did not feel the stun blast Apastron hit him with after hours of study. Radiance woke in his bed, seeing Sunrise still asleep in hers. With a sigh, a yawn and a stretch that made his joints snap and crackle, he made his way into the shower. Once fully awake, he consulted the time.

“What in Tartarus? It’s been two days since we arrived?” Radiance exclaimed as he looked over the messages waiting for him. He saw liberty was being granted to those who wanted it, but he wasn’t interested, yet.

A message from the Captain told him that while he was on leave, Princess Galena will be in titular command, but Point was expected to help her out whenever she asked for help, or needed it, in his opinion. “Good enough for me. I have a lot of research to do before I start on what I want.”

Radiance then headed for the mess decks, where the snack bar was set up. Building himself a big meal, he brought it to a table and slowly went through it, his mind and attention on his portable terminal, reading some more. Sunrise walked in before he was finished. “Good to see you awake, brother,” she said drily.

“How long was I asleep?” Radiance asked.

“Long enough, brother. You were in so deep, you didn’t notice us trying to shake you out of your trance. Apastron had to stun you again.”

“Shi did? I didn’t even notice!” Radiance exclaimed.

“You were in that deep. I ought to put a twelve-hour block on your computer access time, so you can come join us on occasion.”

Radiance had a gulp of coffee. “You do that, sister. I know I have tunnel vision at times, but here, I’m just so excited at this I can hardly contain myself.”

“Brother, I can’t fault you there. I’m that way too. Working on the interface with Techbird, I was just as driven.”

“Sister, when you reported it done, you fell asleep on your hooves. I took you to bed myself.”

“Yes, well…” Sunrise said, trailing off in embarrassment.

“Question is, what shall we do, other than bury ourselves in research?”

“Take steps not to get too buried. And make plans for some leave time, in a month or so.”

“Got any ideas?”

“Not yet, but we have time.” Sunrise said. “Let’s get back at it.”

The duo went back to their respective work spaces while most of the crew headed planetside. Radiance did some preliminary outlining of building a ship from the keel up that would incorporate both magitek and warp tech, and Sunrise went back to her studies of gas giant wind and cloud patterns, something that caught her interest and did not let go.

Radiance took breaks from his starship plans by researching the space-based life form he had heard about, the Stariionae. He studied their physiology, then ran comparisons to the Swarm bioships, looking for correlations. He came up with an idea that would change the force balls they used for ship handling into something that would detonate with a stunning charge, hopefully incapacitating the bioship. He could do calculations and submit them for analysis, but for actual use, he would just have to wait and see, knowing full well that the best laid plans can and most likely will go sour upon meeting the enemy.

Day after day passed in this fashion, the pair working away at their tasks, Radiance also helping Princess Galena as required, which wasn’t often. By the time four weeks had passed, they both had sizable volumes of notes stored in CONN of their workings for the past month. Just because they were in orbit did not mean they would remain idle.

Sunrise sat with Radiance at dinner one night, four weeks after entering Earth orbit. “I’ve got a preliminary plan for our vacation, Brother,” she told him, setting papers down on the table.

“Okay, talk to me. What you have in mind?” Radiance asked.

“Three days in this one city here, called Las Vegas. There, we can play poker for as long as we want. Then, we will go here,” pointing to her map with a wing feather, “to a former national park, for four days of camping and visiting with some red foxtaurs. We both liked that spot on Chakona, and I’ve been told we can find similar spots here. Would be nice to do some camping and fishing again.”

“Did you say poker?” Radiance asked, his eyes lighting up some.

“Oh, yes. The city is a place for gambling, like Las Pegasus back on Equus. Think we can turn a small stake into a big one?” Sunrise asked in return, her eyes aglow with the same gleam as her brother’s.

“All depends on the other players, and if the casino deals an honest hand. But, the odds are in our favor, for sure. You and me, playing poker against common folk, should be little contest. I just hope we don’t get tossed out. I don’t think Las Pegasus has ever forgiven me, and that was twenty years before I went to the moon to work on the ship.”

“Yes, Las Pegasus was upset that you took them for several million bits, after uncovering the cheating dealers. Okay, then, I’ll make the arrangements, and we will be ready to leave day after tomorrow, after breakfast. Deal?”

“Deal!” Radiance exclaimed, the two bumping hooves.

That morning found the two shuttling down to the planetary surface, then catching a flight to this Las Vegas place, arriving late morning, Las Vegas time. The pair of ponies did attract a lot of curious attention, but little more than odd looks, as well as some curious children coming up to ask if they were ‘for real’. Radiance handled the check-in, and they went up to their room, up on the sixteenth floor. There, they took off their saddlebags and sprawled on their respective beds.

“I haven’t felt this strung out from travel in a long time. It was rough, but we made it.” Radiance said from his bed.

“That we did. Let’s just rest here a while, order up something to eat, then head down and show these people how poker is supposed to be played!” Sunrise said with joy from her bed.

Together, they looked through the menu. When they were ready, Radiance handled the telephone to place the order. After a very satisfying dinner, the pair headed down to the casino floor to do some serious gambling.

Radiance went up to a well-dressed human wearing a jacket with the casino’s logo near the poker tables and asked, in cautious Terranglo, just how to get chips and start playing. The manager explained carefully how to use their credcards to get chips and guided the pair to a table, exchanging chairs for taur cushions for them. Sunrise thanked the manager politely, using even more stilted Terranglo than Radiance, gave the manager a chip, and settled down to play. The pair started with five hundred credits in chips each, just to start with.

Sitting at the table are a Voxxan, a human female, a skunktaur with a black pawprint, and a Caitian female, introducing themselves as Tyrrenth, Sonya Harding, Preswin, and M’nora respectively, and their dealer is a human male whose name tag said ‘Rocco’. After introductions all around, Radiance doing much of the speaking, Rocco quickly ran through the games played at that table. Once Radiance said they understood, the play started.

There was a lot of curious crosstalk at the table as the unicorn and pegasus demonstrated their skills handling the chips and cards with glow or feathers, which Radiance handled with his usual style and grace, explaining that while they did learn Terranglo on their way here, they have been aboard since arrival and have had little chance to practice the language. As a cover, Sunrise generally spoke in Twinspeak, with Radiance translating.

Radiance answered all questions politely, but in general terms, explaining that he has not yet received instructions on where, when and how to discuss specifics, despite his being a command-grade officer. “Captain Path has been on leave much of the time, and Sunrise and I have been up to our noses in research, learning all we can about your wonderful Federation,” he said when he was pressed for some details on how the ship worked.

Slowly, steadily, the pile of chips in front of the two ponies grew larger as they seemingly bumbled their way through the games, acting like they were seriously trying to win big while looking like country bumpkins. The dealers changed every half hour or so, and beings of all types and species started gathering around the table, to watch the ponies play. Players also circulated in and out, leaving with much less than they started with.

After four hours of play, Radiance and Sunrise decided to cash in their chips and head out, to see some of the sights of the city. Cashing in, Radiance had over five thousand credits, Sunrise four thousand. They acted surprised at the amounts they had won, but they had been keeping a running tally ever since they sat down. They made sure to tip the dealer fifty credits each before heading out, other patrons gossiping some at their game play as they departed, heading outside to see some more of the city.

The pair chatted in Twinspeak as they walked down the sidewalk of ‘the Strip’. <Did you spot what I spotted about that dealer before the last one, Brother?>” Sunrise asked.

“<That she was as crooked as a river course? Oh, yes, I noticed. A smooth operator, she was, rigging the deal and the shuffle almost every time. Good move on folding almost every hand while she was doing the dealing.>”

“<Like I had a choice. The best hand I had the whole half hour was two little pair!>”

“<I was not much better. One dealer out of eight being bad bears watching. We’ll try that table again tomorrow.>” Radiance said, looking around. <Where would you like to go next?>”

Sunrise pointed with a wing. “<How about over there, that place that looks like a badly-designed castle?>”

Radiance shrugged. “<Good a place as any.>”

The two visited three other casinos before heading back to where they were staying at, having banked a total of fifty thousand credits each, playing for bigger and bigger stakes at every stop. Back in their room, they sprawled out on their beds, which were far larger than they were used to. “<Brother, this whole city smells fishier than the Baltimare Quay.>” Sunrise said to Radiance in Equish.

“<Believe me, I noticed too. Most of the dealers we found cheat in one form or another. Cheating with some skill, I must add. If we hadn’t trained ourselves to be hyper-vigilant, I doubt we would have spotted them cheating.>” Radiance replied.

“<So, what should we do about it?>” Sunrise asked.

“<We’re fifty thousand up now. Shall we expand on that by an order of magnitude or two?>” Radiance asked with an evil smile, sipping on some coffee which was far too weak, but had good flavor.

“<Back at the place that cheated the most?>” Sunrise countered with a similar evil smile.

“<Why, Sister, you read my mind!>” Radiance laughed. “<Let’s get some sleep.>”

Early the next morning, after a breakfast that would have sent Kale Robe into a conniption fit, the two went back to their suspect casino. There, they made their intentions clear to the poker room management- they were there for some high-stakes poker. By high stakes, they were starting with fifty thousand in chips each, and wanted to do some serious gambling. The management was very happy to oblige them at that time, so the two settled at a table with some other high rollers and got to work.

It was less than an hour when the first complaint was lodged by one of the high rollers, who had lost a good two hundred thousand by herself. She griped to the managers that the ponies just HAD to be cheating, to be so successful. A quick investigation showed that the two were not cheating in any way, just aggressively pursuing advantages, so she withdrew her complaint and got back to playing. The casino did try to cheat in return, to help their ‘resident high roller’, but the ponies completely refused to bite, rapidly folding as soon as they spotted any form of sneaky dealing by the dealer.

Hours went by, Radiance and Sunrise continuing their steamrollering of the high roller table, being absolutely merciless on the house, the other players, and each other (apparently). Radiance did much of the talking, Sunrise only speaking Terranglo to raise, call, fold, or number of cards. Radiance explained to the table that while Sunrise could understand Terranglo to a degree, her command of speaking it was limited, so he would be doing much of the talking. What really spoke was their game play, the stacks of chips building higher and wider by the two. The other players, and the management, were starting to get more than a little bent at their continuing success as well as their ‘intimidation’ of the casino’s best customers. After the sixth snide comment they overheard from the table, Radiance stood up, Sunrise quickly following suit.

“Not only do I resent any comment that we are cheating at this game, I would take such a matter personally. I have fought a duel and won against a griffin who accused me of cheating at cards, which is something I will never do, because I like the game too much to cheat at it.” Radiance declared to the table and management, who were watching closely.

“I know laws here do not allow for duels, so I will not call for one. Instead, my sister and I will cash out right now and go elsewhere. Rest assured, we will pass the word about what we found here. Manager,” Radiance said, addressing the pit boss, “We will cash out NOW.”

The management tried to convince the Equestrians to relax and continue playing, but the pair dug in their hooves, saying they did not want to stay in a place that accused them of cheating. So, the manager called for some security folk to escort the pair to a cashier’s cage. When they went to pick up the chips, Radiance waved off the security folk, gathering each pile of chips up in his glow, keeping them separate. “It’s not that I don’t trust you folk, but after the insult we were given, it’s that I really don’t trust you folk. Now, let us go cash out.”

The count out showed that Radiance’s pile of chips totaled to almost one million seven hundred thousand credits, while Sunrise’s was just short of one million eight hundred thousand credits. Once verifying the appropriate amounts had been deposited, the two rapidly exited the casino, walking down the street away from their hotel.

“<Brother, we are being shadowed…>” Sunrise said in Twinspeak.

“<By those three big, hulking human males who are doing their best to look like pissed off Ursa Majors? I see them.>”

“<Plan X, brother?>”

“<Plan X it is. Quick, into this alley.>” Radiance ducked up an alleyway between two buildings, Sunrise following. He fired up his horn and teleported the two of them back to their hotel room.

“<Do we want to hit up another casino?>” Radiance asked in Equish.

Sunrise glanced out the window, which overlooked the casino they had come out of. “<Let’s check out and head out of town. There’s a train that leaves Las Vegas and heads to Salt Lake City, stopping at where we planned on camping at. Those goons are just now finding out we are not where they thought we were.>”

“<So, shall we head on out of here?>” Radiance said, only half seriously.

“<With extreme alacrity, Brother. Last thing we need is a pitched battle with goons.>”

“<Back in Las Pegasus, I wound up killing one and wounding two when they came after me.>”

“<I know, Brother.>” Sunrise said drily as she got her saddlebags on. “<Grab your gear and let’s get going. I’ll use the express checkout.>”

“<Sounds good to me.>” Radiance said, lifting his saddlebags in his glow and strapping them on.

The two ponies left their room at a sedate trot, going not to the nearest elevator bank to them, but to the elevator closest to the train station. Taking that, they didn’t have to wait long before a train came, taking them to Vegas Central Station, and from there onto a maglev train to Salt Lake City. Once on the maglev, Sunrise called ahead to their next stop, alerting her friend that they were arriving early.

“I really have to get one of those comm units. Maybe you can show me how to work it.” Radiance commented, looking over Sunrise’s shoulder.

“It’s not that hard, Point. We’ll pick one up at our stop.”

Sunrise’s confidence was a bit misplaced, as the station they were heading to was little more than a platform for the train, the town being rather rustic. They were met at the platform by Keylara, a red foxtaur that Sunrise was introduced to over the phone but had yet to meet.

“Sunrise! Good to meet you at last!” Keylara said, going up to Sunrise and giving her a hug, which was returned warmly.

“Good to meet you too, Keylara. Thank you for meeting us here on such short notice. We thought it best to get out of Las Vegas fast.”

“What happened?” Keylara asked.

“We committed a cardinal sin in a place like Las Vegas or Las Pegasus. Winning. Winning big, winning fast, and winning despite the casino’s efforts to make us lose.” Radiance said in a voice so dry, dust fell from his horn. Purple-grey dust.

“This is your brother, Sunrise?” Keylara asked, letting go of the pegasus.

“That’s my big brother, Lieutenant Commander Radiance Point, Engineer’s Mate of the Cosmic Lotus. Point, this is Keylara, one of the managers of Zion National Park. Apastron suggested I call on her, and while we were sitting in orbit, I did.” Sunrise said with a smile. “You were too busy either researching, redesigning, or captaining that you never did ask about why I locked you out of the cabin three days a week.”

“Captaining?” Keylara asked.

“I am a senior officer, but down some on the list. I have some above me in rank, but most of them were on leave, so, I took the duty on occasion. Let the crew have their time off. After all, senior officers are ponies too. I was happy doing research. It is indeed a pleasure to meet with you, Miss Keylara.” Radiance said in his most gallant tones, bowing gracefully to the red foxtaur.

Keylara hugged the unicorn when he came up from his bow, startling him. “As much of a pleasure it is to meet the two of you? I hope so! Come on, are you two up for a bit of a walk? My home is only a couple of miles from here.”

“Walk, yes. Walk it will be. You lead the way, Keylara. I’m sure Sunrise will want to fly, so give her instructions on what to look for. I will happily walk with you.” Radiance said, getting his composure back. Being hugged like that was highly unusual, but startlingly… nice.

Keylara gave Sunrise the directions to her home, and Sunrise took off, causing Keylara to look on in wonder. “Oh, my… what a sight…”

“It is, isn’t it?”

The ponies spent two full days and nights as guests of Keylara and her large family, enjoying the benefits of a calm home life, meeting the tod, the vixens and the kits of the herd (as Radiance called it, diplomatically only in his head) before being allowed to take camping gear and heading out to enjoy the beauty of the park.

“These foxtaurs are wonderful people, Brother.” Sunrise said as they went out of sight of the big house, following a marked trail.

“They are wonderful, yes. However, some of their sexual mores I find rather disturbing.”

“You would say that, Brother. However, knowing you like I know you, you are right. BUT, you have to get over that reticence sometime. You are missing out on a lot.”

“I may be, but every time I think about broaching the topic, that incident rears its ugly head, I remember what happened to me, and I lose myself in the panic I felt then. You know how I feel about it.” Radiance said as they hiked.

“I know enough about how you felt to convince Ixia to do all she could to help you and help her through the aftermath.” Sunrise raised a wing, forestalling an interruption. “No, you don’t need to know what was done, just be grateful you have shipmates ready to go to great lengths for you.”

“Not to mention friends. I can tell how much the whole family seemed to know when I was getting uncomfortable about the topics. I’m just glad they had a room for us to sleep in by ourselves.”

“Almost. The kits just loved being with you. I saw how they pleaded to have you tell them stories until you fell asleep with them.” Sunrise said as she spread her wings in a clearing, shaking them out before folding them back.

“Sneaky littles, but just plain good to be around. They liked me. They liked ME…” Radiance trailed off, his purple eyes going wide in some realization.

“They are empathic, Point. They are able to look inside you, read your feelings and judge from there. You are a good pony, Brother. They know it, I know it, and you know it. You just have to learn to admit it to yourself.”

“I’ve done a lot of bad things. Things I can’t forget. I try so hard to be polite to strangers, so they would like me even if they find out about me.”

“You have to be the kindest, most generous pony aboard the Lotus, Brother. Two examples are what you did for Skyborn and the pond in the Park.” Sunrise said, putting a wing around her brother’s back.

“Not to mention taking duty to remain aboard so others can get time off. I’m used to making my own way. Seeing others relax relaxes me. My needs are simple.” Radiance said as they walked.

“Just don’t forget you have needs, too. If you don’t fill them, then how can you help others?”

“What am I doing now, Sister? Knitting?” Radiance snorted as Sunrise laughed.

“Another couple of miles and we will be at the campsite Keylara told us about. Sunning, fishing, swimming, and total peace and quiet for three days. Can we stand the strain?”

Radiance snickered quietly. “Well, if you have any trouble, I’m sure we can come up with SOMEthing to keep you occupied!” He then danced out of the way of a playful wing slap.

The ponies found the campsite and settled in for a stay, setting up the tent, sleeping bags and other tools the modern camper needed. Radiance set up a campfire while Sunrise went fishing, pulling up several good-sized fish. Radiance cooked them up just the way Sunrise liked them, and after a nap, the two spent the rest of that day swimming, running, flying, and generally forgetting about their jobs and just chillaxed big time.

The first two days, they relaxed, enjoying the peace, quiet and solitude of the remote location. Both Radiance and Sunrise took a lot of pictures (cameras provided by Keylara and her family) of the scenery, the plant life, and the animal life. They were taught by the foxtaur family on what was good to forage, and so they spent time doing just that, enjoying the berries, nuts and flowers. Sunrise insisted on taking some seeds back to give to Emerald Green and Skye Path for the garden.

Late on the second day, their leisure was interrupted by the sound of feet pounding up the trail at a rapid pace. They looked to see Larik, the fox tod, come racing into the campsite. “Mister Point, Miss Sunrise, we have a problem at the house,” he gasped as he came to a stop.

“What’s wrong, Larik?” Sunrise asked as Radiance got up to his hooves.

‘Some people came up from Vegas, looking for you. They’re at the house, holding everyone hostage while I went looking for you,” Larik puffed as he caught his breath. “Something about three and a half million credits.”

“Is that a fact?” Radiance said, getting a little upset. “Have they hurt anyone yet?”

“No, but they will if I’m not back, with the two of you, in two hours. I bargained for lots of time, because we knew which way you went, but not precisely where you would be camping.”

Radiance and Sunrise looked at each other for a few seconds. “How long will it take you to fly back?” he asked her.

“About fifteen to twenty minutes, if I push it. It took us three hours to get here. Got your ship comm unit?” Sunrise asked in return.

“Never leave the ship without it. It’s in my bag. Take yours and get near the house. It will be dark by then, so hide out and call me when you’re in place. I’ll drop in on them and we’ll play what for.” Radiance said quietly, with an undercurrent of rage that made Larik shake some. He felt the same from her, but not as intense.

Sunrise went into the tent, coming out wearing her saddlebags. “I’ll ping you when I’m in position,” she said before taking off.

“Larik, let’s start walking back. When I get her call, I’ll teleport in and settle their hash. You make your best possible time, but it will probably be over before you get there. Okay?”

“Just douse the fire first, before you leave, okay?” Larik said, getting his breath back.

Radiance levitated a glob of water from the lake over the fire, letting the water into the fire until it was cold and out. “Let’s go. Nobody hurts my friends, and especially nobody hurts my little friends,” he growled.

The two made their way down the path towards the house. After about ten minutes, the ship comm unit activated. “<One-three-six to Eight. Intruder heading your way, on the path, about halfway up. Being casual about it, too.>” came from the speaker in Equish.

“<Eight to One-three-six. Has the intruder passed the little clearing with the big boulder where we found the berries?>”

“<It’s about three minutes from there. Come in up-path of the boulder and you should not be seen.>”

“<On my way.>” Radiance said before turning to Larik. “When I disappear, you come hurrying down the path. This situation should be rectified by the time you get there.”

“Okay. I’ll be there,” Larik said quietly. Radiance’s horn glowed purplish-grey, and the unicorn disappeared with a soft pop of displaced air, startling the foxtaur.

Radiance reappeared on the path, the aforementioned boulder in sight. Quietly, he slipped up next to the boulder, ears tuned to listen for the intruder. His wait was not long, as within a minute, he could hear the grumbling of someone coming up the path, someone not accustomed to walking up a forest path. A humanoid shape came into view, a flashlight pointed to the ground.

“Damn pony, taking our operating funds…” the being muttered just before Point’s rear hooves met its chest at high speed. The being let out a cough as the air was forcibly expelled from its lungs, followed by the sounds of ribs breaking and the being falling to the ground with a dull thump.

Radiance picked up the flashlight and looked at the being. It was a human male, on the large side for humans, an expression of pain on his face and blood seeping from his mouth. He checked to see if the man was still breathing, then applied an anesthesia spell, ensuring the one would be out cold for a good two to three hours. “<Eight to One-three-six. Target down.>” he reported in Equish.

“<Target down, aye. House is quiet, with a PTV parked near it, and not belonging to the park, either.>” Sunrise reported.

“<Think you can disable it without being caught?>”

“<Doubtful. But, if you appear about forty yards from the front door, bearing three-three-zero from looking out the door, you will appear behind the PTV.>”

“<Nice scouting, sister. Give me a moment. Call if any changes.>”

“<Will do.>”

Leaving the flashlight for Larik to find, Radiance teleported to the designated coordinates, appearing with the large PTV between him and the house. Going up next to the PTV, his horn lit up with a dim glow as he used his Virtual Repair spell to learn about the vehicle, especially how to paralyze it. Finding the proper wiring harness, he tugged at it with his telekinesis, rendering the vehicle powerless and helpless. “<Vehicle inerted. Got a distraction in mind?>”

“<Yes. I’ll land and knock at the back door. When I say the word ‘brother’, you come in the front. Will leave comm unit on and under my wing.>”

“<Do it, sister. I’ll be fast.>” Radiance slipped the comm unit back into the pouch on his saddlebag, volume lowered enough for him to hear. He levitated himself cautiously to the door, praising Celestia mentally that his glow is not particularly bright in the dark. He heard the knock on the back door, and footsteps along with some words in Terranglo he could not quite make out.

“I fly fast here. Larik say hurry hurry. I hurry.” Radiance heard faintly over the comm, followed by “Why you two want see me and Brother?”

At that, Radiance used his glow to open the door rather quickly. Seeing one human with a weapon drawn covering the vixens and kits, he didn’t hesitate. He fired a stunning blast from his horn, catching the human in the side, dropping him to the floor like a sack of flour. From farther back in the house, he heard the thumps of hooves hitting flesh, which he took as Sunrise taking out her opponent.

When the human fell, Keylara moved swiftly, taking the weapon and moving it far away from the stunned human. “Where do you want me to put the living trash, Keylara?” Radiance asked.

“What about the third one, the one who went looking for you?” she asked in return.

“Out cold and left for Larik to find. He won’t wake up for a while. Have you called for help?” Radiance asked.

“No, we haven’t. They would not let us near a phone to call out.”

“Okay, then, go ahead and call. Larik is all right and making his way back here.” Radiance then raised his voice. “<All okay back there, Sister?>” he asked in Twinspeak.

“All is well, Brother,” she called out in Terranglo. “How about a little help taking out the garbage?”

Radiance went to the back door, to find a third human there, out cold, bleeding from nose and mouth. He applied a stun blast to the human, ensuring he would stay out, before picking him up in his glow and moving him to the front room. “Just what did you do to him?” he asked.

“Just a quick one-two-three.He didn’t think wings could be used as weapons. Distracted him enough to punch him one in the chest.”

“Who taught you to fight, Kale? That’s one powerful punch.”

“Okay, kick.” Sunrise said, shrugging her wings as they made it back to the main room, where they were surrounded by the foxtaur family. Keylara called for help, and three of the vixens went up the trail to bring back the one they had left there, along with Larik. Before authorities arrived, Radiance and Sunrise spent some time comforting the littles, a job they apparently excelled at. Keeping the kits calm helped the two settle down after all the excitement.

By the time the miscreants were hauled off and statements taken from everyone, it was too late to go back to the campsite, so they decided to leave it for the morning, spending the night with the foxtaurs, in the communal sleeping room, each pony snuggling a young foxtaur in their forelegs, with another holding on to them from the back.

The twins spent three more days with Larik and his clan, two days and a night up at the campsite and the rest at the house before leaving to head back to the Lotus and work. They found out four days later that the three human males were part of a group called Humans First, and the casino that they had won at was a money-laundering front for them, the poker room being the place where they handled large sums of money without too much question. Two strange beings coming in and winning three and a half million credits upset some apple carts.

“Good thing we came home when we did, brother.”

“That’s true, sister, it is. However, they are not going to get their hooves on our money any time soon. We won it fair and square, and we proved it when we were interviewed by that skunktaur in Salt Lake City.”

“The authorities were surprised by all the detail we were able to give them. Surprised, but grateful.”

“Hey, always happy to help legitimate authorities, yes?”

“Oh, yes. Ready to head back to Equus?”

Radiance sighed. “If necessary, yes. Being capable of going back is good. Me going back is not.” Sunrise just hugged her brother, knowing full well why he left, and why he didn’t really want to go back.

Author's Note:

This is what Point and Sunrise did on their stay on and around Earth. Three and a half million credits... how much is that in bits?