• Published 5th Jul 2017
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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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Vanhoover

It took several minutes to revive Radiance Point from the shock of the news. Fortunately, one of the ponies in the room was the former ship’s doctor, White Wrap. The elderly unicorn mare, now a successful but retired general practitioner in Vanhoover, got the thoroughly stunned unicorn back to his hooves.

“Thank you, White Wrap. Glad to see you have not lost any of your skills at healing,” Radiance said once he was able, aware, and upright.

“You have indeed changed, Radiance. Not a cuss word said so far today. A far cry from what you were,” she said, doing a final scan of Radiance with her white glow.

“I save that for when it’s called for now, White Wrap.”

“Onboard the Lotus, his swearing was the subject of a popular pool until I came about,” Sunrise said. “The crew would bet on how much he swore per day, and in how many languages.”

Steam Line smiled at that news. “He was always good at picking up obscure obscenities from whatever port we pulled into.”

“I still am, Steam Line,” Radiance said before letting fly a few choice ones in Terranglo.

“What did you say?” Cast Iron asked.

Before Radiance could reply, Sunrise butted in with, “Believe me, nephew, you don’t want to know,” before swatting her brother with a wing playfully.

Radiance recoiled some from the swat. “When she says that, believe her,” he said before looking at Cast Iron. “So, you are my son. Just how can you explain that?”

“Mother told me about the last night in Vanhoover before pulling out. She roped you into a date that included a night in a hotel not too far from the pier. You did not take much convincing. Three rounds, she told me when I was old enough to understand,” Cast Iron told his father. “She always maintained you were nicer to her than just about anypony else aboard.”

“I was, and I can tell you why,” Radiance said before looking at the others in the room. “What is Rule Number One of any ship that sails the waves?” he asked in a loud voice.

Over half the ponies there chorused, “NEVER anger the cooks, for they can make life miserable!”

Radiance turned back to Cast Iron. “No matter how angry I became, I never truly vented at the cooks. I would call out any mistakes they made in no uncertain terms, but I always made it clear I was never upset at them personally, but at the bad product they turned out. I seldom had to yell at them, because they learned fast.”

“Mother said you liked plain fare and lots of it, saving fancy stuff for the proper occasions. Like the dinner you took her to that night. You liked her, didn’t you?” Cast Iron asked.

“I liked every mare on board the ship.”

White Wrap snickered some. “That he did. He bedded every mare aboard but one, and that was because he didn’t have a chance to.”

“Yeah, me,” Jerdian said. “I had only been aboard a day and a half. I had been warned, though.”

Radiance’s ears went bright red as Sunrise put her two bits in. “That was him THEN. Him NOW, well, the merest thought of sex with a mare scares him!”

A startled gasp went up from every mare in the room except Sunrise. “Not even once since the wreck?” White Wrap said.

Radiance shook his head. “Not even once. Even thinking about it would possibly give Glow a chance to escape imprisonment and take me over. If I had to deny myself to keep that monster confined, so be it.”

Steam Line came up to clap him on the shoulder gently. “Your word was always good, Radiance. Not always printable, but we always could rely on you. It’s no wonder you rose from oiler to Second Engineer in six and a half years. You kept us all alive when all seemed lost. More than once, in fact.” Everypony in the room shouted their agreement.

Radiance looked over the crowd, tears forming in his eyes. “You mean that, don’t you? You never hated me? I was horrible to all of you, thinking myself better than all of you, but needing to be there so the law would not find me,” he managed to sniffle.

“Now, we didn’t say THAT, Radiance,” Topgallant said. “You were incredibly ill-tempered and foul-mouthed, to be sure, but you kept the ship running when it should have been scuttled years before.”

Cast Iron hugged his father. “We could not show something like that in the movie, so Jerdian decided to highlight your good qualities while downplaying the bad. After all, none of us knew you were still alive.”

“We wanted to honor your memory, because without you, we all would have been dead. The only reason you could not save more was that everypony above decks was killed when the ship rolled over. You did save all of us below decks. Every last one who heard your call and made it to the power room,” Jerdian told the weeping pony soberly.

“See, Brother? You didn’t have anything to worry about.”

“But, my memories say otherwise, Sister,” Radiance managed to say. “I remember just how badly I treated everypony aboard, like they were not fit to even clean my hooves…”

“Oh, you were arrogant, all right. A teenage prodigy who had the skill to keep the ship going when it should have been scuttled before you even got aboard. You had a right to be that arrogant about yourself, which none of us will ever deny you.” Wide Load said when he got close enough.

“We put up with it because you managed to save our skins more than once out there. No matter how nasty you were, we all knew that when the chips were down, you would come through,” said another of the surviving engineers, an earth pony mare named Twin Spin.

“But, how can I ever apologize? How can I set my mind right? I remember every nasty, mean, horrid word I said to every pony aboard. What is wrong with me?” Radiance sobbed, clearly on the edge of distress.

“It was the mana shock, Brother. It fixed everything in place. You became so determined NOT to be Radiance Glow, you’ve managed to gloss over the good things he did while emphasizing the bad. You can let go of all that now. No one here has any reason to be mad at you,” Sunrise told her brother.

Cast Iron held on to his father. “I should have some resentment about you not being there for me while I was growing up, but we all thought you were dead. It was not until Prince Flixtradamus did his tricks that we found out who you were. When we did, we were all proud to have known you. I’m proud to be able to say you are my father. Mother was proud, too,” he said gently, doing his best to calm down the unicorn.

“I have an idea,” Topgallant said. “Why don’t we make arrangements to have Radiance and Sunrise come with us to Vanhoover for a week or so, and show them what we did with our lives after the shipwreck?”

Jerdian nodded in agreement. “I like that idea. We can rotate hosting him with each of us while we have them. How does that sound?”

As the room filled with sounds of agreement, Sunrise spoke a little bit louder. “I’ll speak with the ship and arrange a couple of weeks off for us. In fact, I’ll head back and pack our bags. Brother, you stay here and get re-acquainted with your friends. I’ll be back before the shuttle leaves for Vanhoover.”

“Tonight, and tomorrow, you will stay with me and my family. I claim first shot at you,” Cast Iron said.

“Family?” Radiance asked shakily.

“Family. Wife and four foals, three of which work at the diner with me and one in school still. You have a lot to be proud of, Father.”

“Family?” Radiance asked again, stunned by the news. “I have more family?”

“Cast Iron, get him to a chair. He’s about to faceplant again,” Sunrise said as Radiance’s legs gave way, and he was out colder than yesterday’s pancakes, which were cold enough yesterday. The big gray-black earth pony easily picked up the unicorn and got him to a chair.

“Is he always like this, Aunt Sunrise?” Cast Iron asked.

“Not really but hit him with enough shocks and his mind shuts down for a while. He’s had more shocks in the past hour than he has had in the past five years.”

Sunrise left to plan for some leave time, and the others in the room managed to revive Radiance and get him to the shuttle port. He slept the entire trip back to Vanhoover, his mind going over and over and over the information he had learned that day. Waking just before re-entry, he was guided through the shuttle port to the train to Vanhoover. That night found Radiance and Sunrise at Cast Iron’s house, a modest affair situated above the diner he owned, named Delectable’s Diner. There, the spacing duo were introduced to Cast Iron’s wife, Hot Skillet, an earth pony mare, and three of their children, none of which lived at home, but nearby.

The whole two weeks in Vanhoover, Radiance and Sunrise had the opportunity to reconnect with every pony from the Gowanus, spending time with each and every survivor. They also got to see the monument to the ship that was built twenty years after the wreck, honoring all who were lost that day.

“It’s strange to see my name up there, enshrined like that.” Radiance said as he looked at the monument, a large ship’s bell engraved with everypony’s name who were lost that day, and a smaller section with three names on it, honoring the three who died after the sinking.

“Strange, yes, but we all thought it was worth the while. When we found out you were still alive, we decided not to change it,” their guide for the day, Topgallant Sheet, told them.

“It is truly a wonder, how they whitewashed the bad management of the ship.”

“Well, after you turned up alive, an investigation was started. The surviving company officers were dealt with harshly. In fact, they lost control of Herald Lines and a new board of directors were put into place. They turned the company around,” she told the two.

“I’d like to meet the ponies who accomplished that,” Sunrise said.

“You already have. All eighteen survivors of the Gowanus were inducted into the Board of Directors of Herald Lines. Only four of us do anything more than collect a decent pension and sit in on Board meetings. What in Tartarus, it’s better than being a bosun on a rust bucket.”

“That must have cost a lot of bits, replacing the Board like that.” Radiance said.

“Oh, it did. Took us ten years to return to profitability, but we improved safety standards all through the Merchant Marine, not just Herald Lines. Now, Herald Lines is a model of seagoing safety and efficiency.”

Radiance hmmmed some in thought. “Brother, we have enough to do with the Lotus and the Federation yet!” Sunrise snapped.

“That is true, Sister, but I would like to see the designs they have now for freighters. Who knows, I might come up with something,” Radiance said with a little off-hoofed smile.

“Enough of that for now. Let’s head back to the diner. I can do with a good lunch,” Topgallant said.

Back at the diner, Cast Iron and Hot Skillet both came out to chat over an especially fine lunch Hot Skillet made for them. Joining them was one of their children, Spice Grinder, an earth pony mare who specialized in growing and providing exotic spices for the diner’s use, and a little more besides, in addition to being an excellent cook and hostess at the diner.

When asked about what Delectable did with Herald Lines, Cast Iron said she thought of it as a convenient hindrance. She had no interest in running a shipping line, having opened the diner after the company settled with the survivors shortly after the sinking and having little interest in doing anything else. “Mother started the diner, specializing in the simple meals every pony would enjoy, rather than the fancy, ornate meals you would find in a fine restaurant. Simplicity made her happy.”

“So, after the wreck, she stayed here in Vanhoover?” Sunrise asked.

Cast Iron nodded. “She thought that the Fates decided she should be here, so here she remained. The rest of her life, she lived upstairs, did the books and cooking here, and enjoyed her life, her son, and her grandfoals. Trust me when I say this, Father, she was truly happy.”

“I do trust you, Iron. The way this place feels, anypony could come in, have a good meal, and leave satisfied. I’m going to suggest to some friends of mine to stop by here for a while, to see if any learning can happen in both directions,” Radiance said after a bite of lunch.

“Kale and Lime?” Sunrise asked.

“Kale, Lime, and whoever else wants to stop by.” Radiance looked at his family. “They are the lead cooks on board the Lotus. Never a bad meal from any of them.”

“I will not have any objection, Father.”

“Kale is an earth pony, yes?” Hot Skillet asked.

“That he is, and Lime Sorbet is a changeling.”

“We will welcome them. Never hurts to learn a little different than your normal, yes?” Hot Skillet said with a smile.

“With luck, I’ll get Skye Path to come visit you, Spice. She was the herbalist aboard, and she may know something you don’t.” Radiance said to his granddaughter.

“Just keep me away from your garden, Spice. When it comes to growing plants, I’m toxic!” Sunrise laughed.

Radiance looked at his sister wryly. “Has Fatima forgiven you yet?

Sunrise shook her head. “Nope. Not yet. Not after five years.”

“Seems like this Fatima can hold a grudge,” Spice Grinder said. “Just what did you do to anger her?”

“Mixed two chemicals in the hydroponics bay and managed to poison a tank full of root vegetables.”

Spice winced. “Ouch…”

“You said it, Spice. Ouch it is. I was forbidden to come within ten paces of the hydroponics tanks without an escort for the rest of the voyage.”

Spice went to her aunt and hugged her gently. “I’m so glad to hear you are not perfect, Sunrise. Perfection is boring.”

Sunrise snugged back with her wings. “If I was completely perfect, how would I ever learn anything?” she said quietly.

Radiance snorted. “This coming from the mare who spent a week shut in the lab writing a thesis paper about the wind dynamics of Harpagornis, then finding out a study was published eighty years ago that almost exactly quotes her own paper.”

“Hey, I came up with my paper independently, without any of Chakona’s resources, and I still arrived at the same conclusions that researcher did! What do you have to say about that, big brother?” Sunrise snapped.

As Radiance inhaled for a firm rebuttal, Cast Iron, Hot Skillet, Spice Grinder and Topgallant all shouted, “Tordenkakkenlak!” The two bickering siblings stopped and stared at each other for a few seconds, then at the others. “We were warned.” Topgallant said. “Now, behave, both of you!”

Both Radiance and Sunrise had the grace to look embarrassed. “Sorry, everypony. We do tend to argue a lot, but it helps us out.” Radiance managed to say before taking a big gulp of coffee, which Cast Iron had brewed to his father’s taste.

Cast Iron smiled. “So, we were told, Father. We were also told about you being so single-minded, it takes a clue-by-four the size of a planet to get your attention at times?”

“No, not a planet, son.”

“Just an asteroid.” Sunrise commented before taking a bite of her lunch.

“Still, it must hurt.” Spice Grinder said. “I know Radiant Steel has that tendency as well,” referring to her youngest brother, a unicorn who was away at school, but would be returning later in the week, after exams.

“Just how do you correct him?” Sunrise asked.

“By literally whacking him with a rubber hose if I catch him with his thousand-mile stare.”

Radiance thought for a second. “Looks like single-mindedness runs in the family.”

“It skipped me,” Cast Iron said. “I may be stubborn, but I don’t suffer from target fixation.”

“You’re doing well for yourself, Cast Iron, you and yours. I’m proud to call you my son.”

“As I’m proud to call you my father. But, I suggest you hold your full pride until you meet your youngest grandson, and the only unicorn in the family. He’s a lot like you.”

Radiance and Sunrise exchanged a Look. “Seems like we may have some work to do. He rambunctious?”

Hot Skillet rolled her eyes some. “Just a little bit. He’s shaping up to be a talented mage, but he can be a bit full of himself. He’s at the Seaddle Mage Academy and hoping to transfer to Canterlot University next semester.”

“Is that a fact?” Radiance drawled some. “Let me spend a day or two with him. If he passes MY tests, I’ll give him a full ride to Canterlot. If he doesn’t, we’ll see.”

“<Don’t be too rough on him, Brother…>” Sunrise warned in Twinspeak.

“<Who, me?>” Radiance replied in the same language. “<No, only as rough as I will need to be. You can monitor, if you feel the need.>”

“<Not a bad idea.>”

The three earth ponies looked on in confusion. “What did you just say?” Spice Grinder asked.

“It’s our own private language, Spice. We call it Twinspeak. It bears no relation to any known language. We can pull it off because we were the same mind for years until we were separated. It’s come in useful at times,” Sunrise told her niece.

“Yes, like when we were on Earth, finding out their version of Las Pegasus is just as crooked as ours is,” Radiance snorted. “We put paid to them.”

“To the tune of three and a half million bits, or credits, as they call their currency.” Sunrise added.

“You sure did a number on us aboard the Gowanus, Radiance. That is one thing we never forgot about you, just how deadly you were at the poker table.” Topgallant said. “We knew you didn’t cheat, but damn it all, you were a tough pony to play!”

“Served me in good stead. My profits aboard the Lotus over a decade adds up to over three hundred thousand bits. If Radiant Steel lives up to my expectations, I may gift him the sum for his education, minus university expenses, of course.” Radiance told his family.

“You really mean that, don’t you?” Spice asked.

“You better believe it, Spice.” Radiance told his granddaughter. “I plan on helping you all out, once I figure out the best way to. Radiant, being the only unicorn, deserves some special attention from me. After all, I do have three doctorates, yes?”

Sunrise swatted Radiance with a wing. “Don’t get too full of yourself, Brother! We’re watching you!” she warned.

“Who, me? Full of myself? I’m full of something, yes, but myself?” Radiance said with a laugh.

“Well, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed about you!” Topgallant laughed. “You’re full of something, all right!” The other family members laughed as well at the joke at Radiance’s expense.

It was decided at the diner that Topgallant would bring Radiance and Sunrise to Herald Lines headquarters in Manehattan for several days of touring and inspection, as well as offering them Board seats, even if honorary. Radiance and Sunrise will return to Vanhoover in time to meet Radiant Steel when he came home for semester break.

Topgallant brought the two of them to corporate headquarters, which was in Manehattan, using an overnight high-speed train to do so. There, Radiance and Sunrise re-met with the four full time board members, Twin Screw, Jerdian Lighthoof, Star Glory, a former navigator and the only surviving deck officer, and Forecastle, a former cargo crewpony. Over the next few days, they were given a tour of the headquarters, shipyards, and a thorough grounding on current shipping operations. They were also offered positions on the Board, which they readily accepted, not that they were going to be there full time, but they accepted the gesture in the manner it was intended.

Radiance put in a suggestion that Herald Shipping look in to the space freighting business, seeing as it appeared that ties with the Federation were going to happen. The Board tentatively accepted the idea, providing that plans could be made to build ships capable of hauling freight there and back again. Radiance called up his ship plans that he had designed already that were stored aboard the Lotus and promised that he would update the plans from an exploration ship to a cargo vessel within a month, sending a copy to House Path Archives for reference and storage. Backups, y’know.

The Board members present liked the idea and the plans and told the pair that an answer will be delivered to them once the proposal could be transmitted to the other Board members for review and a vote. On that high note, the two and Topgallant headed back to Vanhoover by overnight high-speed train, so Radiance could meet his grandson when he came home from Academy.

Once in Vanhoover, Radiance and Sunrise were informed that the proposal had been passed unanimously by the Board, and initial plans are being made to get the initial funding to start construction of the initial warp-powered trading ship. With luck, financing will be secured within a year, Jerdian said in the message she sent to Radiance.

In Vanhoover, Radiance met his unicorn grandson, Radiant Steel. Steel did resemble Radiance Glow with his chestnut coat but had a bright green mane and a red tail, with bright steel horn and hooves, with a frame that suffered from the feared Freshman Fifteen, but he didn’t seem too concerned about the pudge. Steel was a bit reluctant to meet with his grandfather at first, but Radiance asked Steel where he would like to go for a totally private chat. Steel suggested a park not too far from the diner, where he liked to relax when he got tense. Agreeing, Point let his grandson lead the way.

Steel was a bit on the shy side, being rather uncomfortable meeting a grandfather he knew about, but didn’t expect to meet, but warmed up some on the walk to the park. Steel said he was studying General Thaumaturgy now, hoping to specialize in engineering once he moved on to a better school.

“Why Engineering?” Radiance asked.

“Because it makes sense to me, Grandfather. Seeing how all the pieces work together is fascinating, and I want to learn more.” Steel said.

“Would you like a hoof up to warp mechanics?” Radiance asked.

“Warp mechanics?” Steel asked, somewhat confused.

“What enabled the Cosmic Lotus to return to Equus from the Far Star in only three days, as opposed to the forty-two years it took to get there.”

“You can do that for me?” Steel asked, excitement creeping into his voice.

“Hey, if I can do it on my own, I’m sure you can learn it as well, with my help.” Radiance said with a proud smile.

Steel took out his tablet. “Show me how to access that information, please.”

“Only if you show me how to operate this thing. A lot has changed since I left.”

The teaching took just a short time, and soon Radiance Point and Radiant Steel were rapturously lost in the joy of science and engineering, lost enough that Spice and Sunrise had to go out and drag the two back for a late dinner. Immediately after dinner, the two unicorns shut themselves up in Radiant’s room for more teaching.

“If there is one thing Brother loves to do, that has to be teaching. That comes before playing cards.” Sunrise told the others after dinner.

“I know he is a purely demonic poker player, but why would he like teaching so much?” Cast Iron asked.

“He wants to bring other ponies up to his level, or at least closer to it. Let me tell you about what happened on Chakona…” Sunrise said before describing the lecture she had roped him into at Dewclaw University on Chakona.

“Impressive. He seems to know how to handle a class,” Hot Skillet said. “Maybe you can answer a question for me.”

“Go ahead, Skillet. I’ll do my best.”

“Why does he like his coffee so strong? Does he drink it or chew it?”

“Good question, actually. He drinks it, but he likes it strong because back when all this started, he was afraid of going to sleep, unsure if he would wake up as himself or his alter. It’s a habit he has never been able to break. I don’t think he wants to. His strong coffee is infamous on the Lotus,” Sunrise explained.

“Afraid to sleep?” Cast Iron asked.

“Yes. He required strong medication or total exhaustion to have a peaceful sleep. After I was untangled from his mind, he did not need the medication or exhaustion. When Flix got me out of his head, he was able to rest even easier.”

Cast Iron sighed wistfully. “I hope Father will have a better life from here on out.”

Sunrise smiled at her nephew. “He will, now that he knows he has a family waiting here on Equus for him. He wanted a true, loving family. Now he has one. You and yours, a resource he did not know about.” She then paused in thought. “For that matter, neither did Mother. She didn’t say anything about it when she untangled us.”

“I don’t think she even knew,” Spice put in. “The magic trauma he suffered on the ship could have blocked any efforts to sense his background, and Father’s conception only happened the night before. He wasn’t even aware of the occurrence.”

“You could be right, Spice. I just don’t know. He may be good in magic, but he never specialized in soul magics. He’s far too practical. He likes magics that has a definite tangible effect.”

“What do you think he has in mind for Steel?” Hot Skillet asked.

“Could be anything, Skillet. All depends on just how much aptitude Steel has for the knowledge Brother possesses. We’ll know tomorrow. When, I’m not sure. They could be up all night and half the day tomorrow before crashing, if Steel likes learning as much as Point likes teaching.” Sunrise said with a wry smile.

“That is entirely possible. As the only unicorn in a family of earth ponies, he was always a bit odd. Good cook, though, but always wanted more than just a diner in Vanhoover to look forward to,” Cast Iron said, refilling coffee or tea mugs at the table.

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Radiance was busy all night long, teaching Steel about warp theory and practice at first, then going on to what he saw and learned about the Federation. In the predawn hours, Radiance sent a request forward to House Path, to allow Radiant Steel aboard the Lotus when it set sail again, as his apprentice.

The two unicorns rapidly developed a rapport unlike anything Radiance had ever developed before, not even with favorite students in any of his colleges. In his grandson, he found somepony as eager to learn as he is, without the regrets and emotional baggage he found himself encumbered with over his life.

It was a true friendly rapport, but there was one thing they disagreed on- music. Steel liked the more modern popular tunes, which Point considered to be raucous noise, not fit to be played to the prisoners in Tartarus. That led to a shouting and swearing duel in the early dawn that was only stopped by Sunrise shouting ‘Tordenkakkenlak!’

Grandfather and grandson came down for breakfast, eyes red-rimmed but alert, quickly consuming the meal before heading upstairs for more teaching. “Will they ever stop?” Cast Iron asked Sunrise when they left.

“Only when one or the other passes out from sheer exhaustion, or they get anesthetized,” Sunrise replied wryly. “I’ve had to do that to Brother more than once, or have it done to him.”

“Too bad we can’t knock them out.”

“I didn’t pack my stunner. Maybe if we ask White Wrap.”

“I’ll call her.” Cast Iron said.

The two didn’t wake up until late that night, fully rested, recharged, and ready to go back to studying and storytelling. While they ate (Steel having done the cooking), Sunrise joined them. “You got a message waiting, Brother,” she said with a yawn.

“From where?” he asked before having a slug of coffee.

“House Path,” Sunrise told him, waiting for just the right second to do so, just to see Radiance snort coffee from his nostrils. Hot coffee. Hot black coffee. Hot black strong coffee. Without sugar.

Once he got his breath back, Radiance glared at his sister. “One of these days, sister, one of these days!” he ranted, waving a hoof menacingly.

“Promises, promises.” Sunrise laughed.

“I hope it is good news, Grandfather,” Steel said, grabbing a towel to clean up the snorted coffee.

“I hope so, too,” Radiance said as he dug out his shipboard comm and played back the message. As he listened, his eyes widened, his ears perked up, and he got the goofiest grin on his face.

“Oh, it’s good news, all right,” Sunrise said, helping herself to some of the eggs Steel had cooked up. “I can tell from his ears.”

Radiance put away the comm unit. “First thing in the morning, we have to make travel arrangements for us,” he said, still smiling, looking at Steel.

“Us?” Steel asked.

“You have been given the opportunity to see if you can come along on the Lotus, as my apprentice. You must undergo a battery of tests before you will be approved. Not all the tests are purely physical or intellectual, they are psychological as well. If you pass them, you will be permitted to be my apprentice when the Lotus next sails. Let’s hope for the best.”

“How did you pass the psych tests, with all your issues?” Steel asked.

“Because when I fix something, it STAYS fixed. I may not be the most social of ponies, but I never really caused any problems among the crew. I made myself valuable, despite my problems.”

“No, you just took their bits at the poker table, or the cribbage board, or in the…” Sunrise said a bit snidely.

“That’s enough out of you, Sister!” Radiance shouted.

Footsteps were heard coming down the stairs from the bedrooms. Heavy footsteps. “Hold down the noise! Ponies are trying to sleep up here!” Cast Iron shouted from the stairwell.

“Sorry, son.” Radiance said. “We’re going to have to leave in the morning, for Ponyville, the three of us.”

“Three of you? Whatever for?” Cast Iron asked.

“I sent a request to House Path to see if I can bring Steel with me on our next trip as my apprentice. He must go to House Path for a battery of tests, to see if he is eligible. Word came in while we were sleeping that he has been granted the opportunity. Success is up to him, though.” Radiance explained.

“Is this something you want, son?” Cast Iron asked Radiant Steel.

“I do, Father. I want to see if I CAN become Grandfather’s apprentice. It’s an opportunity I really should not pass up.” Steel said soberly. “What better teacher can I have than him?”

“I can’t see any reason to stand in your way, Steel. If you pass the tests, know that your mother and I will support any decision you make.” Cast Iron said, hugging Radiant Steel.

“I know that, Father. You taught me that. That’s why we’re all so close, all of us. No matter where I go, I know I’ll always have a home here.” Radiant said, hugging his father back, knowing no matter how hard he tried, he could not hurt his father with a hug, nor his mother, nor his brother and sisters.

“I’ll start searching for transport in a few minutes. It could be a train, a plane, or even a shuttle. I’ll have to see what I can get my hooves on.” Radiance said.

“You do that. Just try not to leave until after breakfast, okay? I’m sure everypony would want to see you off.” Cast Iron said, letting go of Steel, who managed to take a shaky breath, his ribs aching.

“All right, son. I can promise that. Not until the whole family can make it here,” Radiance promised. “If not, may your Aunt Sunrise clock me a big one!”

“I’ll hold you to that, Brother…”

The rest of the night, Radiance looked for transport to Ponyville, settling on an afternoon flight from Vanhoover to Canterlot, an overnight stay at a hotel there, then a train to Ponyville. An eastbound overnighter would have left a little too early for farewells, so they opted for the flight. Once all the travel plans were set, Radiance and Sunrise helped Radiant pack for a stay of at least a week in Ponyville before going back downstairs and filling the young unicorn in on life aboard the Lotus.

“I’ll have to stay in a small cabin?” Steel asked.

“Yes, you will. I’m a senior officer, so I got a good-sized cabin, which I share with Sunrise. We have had some crew leave, and I will not be surprised if there are more than one apprentice shipping with us. If so, I will suggest that a block of small cabins be set up for the apprentices.”

“Just how senior are you, Grandfather?”

“I’m the number-two pony in Engineering, which means I supervise and do every damn job in the department. My superior, Commander Bluequill, is not only Chief Engineer, he’s also the Executive Officer, so when he has to do Command functions, I run the department.” Radiance explained.

“He’s also eighth in line for command, after the Captain, the Exec, and the department heads. While he does sit Duty Officer at times, he prefers puttering around his department, making it and the ship better.” Sunrise added.

“What about you, Aunt Sunrise? What do you do there?”

“I’m a generalist, able to fill in at almost any position aboard. My arrival was not expected, so we had to find a work-around. Most of the training was good.” Sunrise explained.

“Should I mention the one time you dropped a knife while working in the kitchen and needed thirty-six stitches to close the wound?” Radiance asked innocently, earning a wing slap across his muzzle.

“Thirty-six stitches?”

“It was a sharp knife, I dropped it, it bounced off the table and sliced me under the wing, okay?” Sunrise said, a little bent at the mention of her fumble.

“That’s why Kale barred her from setting foot in the galley unescorted.”

“It sounds like an interesting ship to be on. I’ve followed the mission since I was old enough to do so.When Father told me you were aboard, I was so proud to be related to you. I still am.” Radiant said earnestly.

“Back off on the hero worship, Steel. I’m no hero, I’m a teacher as well as a pony who likes to keep his own skin intact. If others benefit, so be it. You being my grandson won’t get you any slack from anypony aboard, so do the very best you can, own up to your mistakes, be diligent in your learning, and above all, obey orders. The why will have to come later, you must DO first without questioning. Space, like the sea, is a hostile environment. It will kill you if you give it the opportunity to, so don’t give it the chance.” Radiance advised his grandson.

“I won’t, Grandfather. It may sound adventurous, but I know it takes a lot of hard work. I’m up to it.”

“Good to hear. Now, let me tell you about what happened when we first encountered the portal…” Radiance said before going into an explanation, with commentary from Sunrise, in as much detail as Steel could take.

In the morning, the family farewells were said, taking leave of the whole family- Cast Iron, Hot Skillet, Spice Grinder, Haybales, a yellow and tan male earth pony who runs a farm outside of town that supplies the diner, and the eldest Blue Plate, a highly talented cook who makes plain home fare seem like a fine dining experience. All three slept on the flight to Canterlot, because they were up all-night chatting before heading out. They arrived in Canterlot early enough to do some sightseeing before checking in to the hotel, dining there, then crashing hard before the train ride to Ponyville the next day. Steel had never been to Canterlot, while Sunrise had yet to experience it on her own. They were impressed by what they saw and promised themselves a longer stay sometime.

When they got off the train at the Ponyville station, all three of them looked around at the town. Radiance and Sunrise both thought the town had grown some since they were there last, while Steel took in the sights he had seen on GemVee with his own eyes. Princess Twilight’s castle, the gleaming metal of the Chrome Hive, and the expanse of the House Path school all clamored for the young pony’s attraction.

“Not like what you see on GemVee, is it?” Radiance asked his grandson.

“No, not at all. It is a wonder, for sure. You know where to go, yes?” Steel asked in reply.

“Once in a place, I don’t forget. Come on, let’s get moving. We can pick up a couple of cupcakes at Sugarcube Corner, not that you need them.” Radiance said drily, looking at Steel’s small, but noticeable bulge around his barrel.

“Freshman Fifteen, Grandfather. I’m in no hurry to lose them, either.”

“But, you’re a sophomore,” Sunrise said.

“Like I said, Aunt Sunrise, I’m in no hurry.”

Radiance led the way to Sugarcube Corner for cupcakes, then to the House Path facility. There, after getting their reservations confirmed, they were directed to Medical, for a preliminary examination. To their surprise, the Cosmic Lotus crewmembers found a familiar face there.

“What are you doing here, Doctor Zubon?” Sunrise asked when they met.

“A mix of helping out and reviewing forty years of medical progress, Sunrise. Who is this young colt?”

“A hopeful apprentice for the Cosmic Lotus, Zubon. He’s here for a full examination. I hope he passes them all with flying colors, something sister dear knows a lot about.”

“I heard something about an apprenticeship program, but this is the first candidate I have met. I’ll give all three of you checkups, to see how you are handling the return to Equus,” Zubon said before turning her attention to the chestnut unicorn. “So, what’s your name and why do you wish to be an apprentice?”

“I am Radiant Steel, I’m excelling in my studies at Seaddle Mage Academy, and I wish to follow my family’s hoofsteps into space, Doctor.” Steel said politely.

“Family’s hoofsteps? Who are you related to aboard the Lotus?”

Radiance and Sunrise looked at each other and braced for a reaction as Steel said, “Radiance Point is my grandfather, Doctor. Someday, I hope to be as skilled as he is.”

Zubon literally froze in place for a few seconds, blinking, before slowly turning her head to look at Radiance. “Grandfather?” she said in a squeak.

“Grandfather. I didn’t know about it until sister dear dragged me off to apologize to the Gowanus’ crew. That’s where I found out I had a son from one of the survivors, who has been living peacefully in Vanhoover. Radiant Steel is the youngest of four, and the only unicorn in a family of earth ponies. He wishes to follow me, and I intend on giving him the chance. Up to him to make the best of it,” Radiance explained with a straight face.

“This, I’m going to check out thoroughly. Why don’t you two wait outside while I do the exam on him before I start with you two, okay?”

“Sounds like a plan, Zu.” Radiance and Sunrise chorused as they left the exam room.

Zubon returned her attention to Steel. “With those two as your grandponies, I sure hope you will be stabler than them,” she muttered.

“I don’t live in their stable, Doctor. I live in mine. Up to you to decide if I live in a stable stable or not.” Steel said almost impassively, the corner of his mouth twitching in an effort to remain still.

“Great Celestia, I thought the two of them were bad…” Zubon groaned, rubbing her face with her hooves before starting the physical.

Later that day, after Radiant was shown to where he will be staying while being examined, the three got together before Radiance and Sunrise headed back to work. “Steel, I hope that the next we meet face to face, it will be aboard the Lotus. Don’t hesitate to give us a call once you find out the results, or even if you just want some advice, okay?”

“I hope that’s the case, Grandfather. I like learning from you. You make learning interesting!” Steel said with enthusiasm.

‘What about me, Steel?” Sunrise asked.

“You’re good, too, Aunt Sunrise. Just different.”

Sunrise nodded. “Good answer, kid. With wit and wisdom like that, you’ll go places.”

“With any luck, you’ll come back from them too,” Radiance said. “Just do the very best you can, and we will meet in space. Sooner rather than later, of course.”

Steel first hugged his grandfather, then his great-aunt. “I will. I promise.”

“See you soon!” Sunrise called back before leading her brother to the campus gates, and back to work. But, when work is fun, is it truly work?

Author's Note:

Surprise, surprise, Radiance's family is growing by leaps and bounds, including a unicorn as interested in Engineering as he is. Can space stand the strain? Can the ship stand the strain? Can the ship's crew handle the strain without snapping? Tune in for the next exciting episode!