• Published 5th Jul 2017
  • 1,400 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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Prelude to War

With renewed hostilities breaking out between the Swarm and the Federation, the Cosmic Lotus’ mission parameters changed radically. With scientific endeavors being put on the sidelines because of the war, The Lotus was pressed into service as a ferry, bringing fresh pilots, they being pegasi, changelings, hippogriffs and griffons, from Equus to Chakona. Most science personnel were transferred off the ship at Chakona, their berthing spaces taken up for the new pilots.

Radiance was tasked with installing simulators, so the new pilots could keep honing their skills during the transit from Equus to Chakona. For that, he organized his apprentice crew into a working party, emptying two cargo holds, moving the cargo from them to other holds, and installing the simulators in Cargo Bays one and two. Next, the apprentices assisted in the installation of the simulators, guided by the skilled techs who operated and maintained them. When that work was done, Radiance called an assembly of the apprentices in the classroom.

“The reason I called you all here today is a simple one. I want all of us, who have the requisite skills and abilities, to train in the new skills demanded by the war effort. This means the unicorns are to learn the new offensive and defensive spells, and the pegasi, griffons and changelings are to learn how to pilot the fighter craft. Sunrise and I will be leading the effort. We, too, are to submit for training in what we can do.

“I have no idea yet if any of us are going to be called up for service, but I aim to have us ready and able to go if the need arises. Of course, if any one of you want to volunteer for front line service, I will not stop you from doing so. I would suggest you wait until you have undergone some training before making that decision, but I will not compel you in any direction. Yet.”

Sunrise picked up the narrative. “It is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to keep the Swarm away from our homes and the homes of our new friends. That is why Brother and I stepped forward to take the training. Not that we hope to BE called, but to be ready in case we are called. If we can do such a thing, why can’t you?”

“We are going to step out for a cup of coffee. You remain here and discuss among yourselves what we have just said. When Sister and I come back, I will ask about what you think” Radiance said. “We will not compel you in any way. The decisions MUST be yours.”

Radiance and Sunrise stepped out of the classroom. When they did, all the apprentices looked at each other. “Does anyone have anything to say?” Gravy Train asked.

Zorya was the first to speak. “I, for one, am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our homes, and our friend’s homes, are safe from the Swarm. I may not be a pilot or a mage, but I’m willing to do my part.”

“Same here,” Furox said. “I intend to take as much time as I can on the simulators, so I can learn how to fill in at need.”

Steel was next to speak. “If Grandfather is willing to put himself up for this, how can I do anything less? Besides, it will be good training for me.”

“Me, too,” said Gradient Test. “Learning new spells is always fun and interesting. These new spells could help in driving the Swarm back out of our friend’s space. I’m willing to try.”

Pholus was next to speak up. “It may not be my field of interest, but it is a job that needs doing. I’m willing to learn what to do in case I am needed for the job.”

“As am I,” Triska added. “Serving to protect others is honorable, and griffons have been Equestria’s strong right arm for over a hundred years now. I intend to volunteer for front line service and disembark at Equus for flight training.”

“If they let you,” Hexanerax said. “What with all the turnover in crew the Lotus has undergone, we apprentices will soon be stepping up to be full crew members. Face it, we’re becoming senior crew sooner than we expected.”

“Hex is right,” Xandros agreed. “many of the new crew members are changelings from the Chrome and Blue hives, because we could train up the fastest, and get guidance through the changeling network if needed. We may be pressed into service as teachers in our specialties.”

“While I do intend to take the fighter pilot training,” Wanderer said, stepping forward, “I hope to remain here aboard the Lotus. Commander Bluequill likes how I operate the ship, and I intend to pursue matters here until I get my commission, then see how far I could go.”

As the apprentices discussed their feelings in the classroom, Radiance and Sunrise were standing outside the room, sipping coffee or tea, listening to the discussions via CONN. “<We have a fine bunch of students, Brother. I’m proud to be able to teach them.>” Sunrise said in Twinspeak.

“<As am I, Sister. Listening to them talk about stepping forward like this makes me feel like I’ve done my job as a teacher. They have listened, they have learned.>”

“<And they are applying their learning. That’s what makes me the happiest.>”

The teachers stayed outside the classroom, listening to the discussions, until they were sure the students reached a consensus. That’s when they entered the room. “Okay, students, what is your decision?” Radiance asked.

Wanderer spoke for the class. As a Control candidate, he had the tendency to take charge and speak for the group as a whole. “Professor, we intend to join the war effort, taking what training each of us requires. Triska wanted to leave immediately, but we talked her into taking some training first, before putting in for a transfer. We have friends to defend, and since we are here now, let us defend them.”

Radiance looked at the twelve apprentices. “Does Wanderer speak for you all in this case?”

“SIR, YES SIR!” all twelve shouted in unison.

Radiance let out something none but one of the class had ever seen before- a proud smile. “So be it, then. While the trainers will be in use on the outward leg from Equus, there will be less demand on the inbound leg. That will be when we will have time to train. In the meantime, all of you will be picking up slack in the schedules of your departments.

“I will still be in overall command of your educations, but as of tomorrow morning, you will no longer be considered apprentices. Report to the mess deck at 1930 hours for an awards ceremony in your honor. You will always be my students, but as of tomorrow, you will be my shipmates. I’m proud of you all.

“What this will mean now is on social nights, I will be joining the card playing, as is Sister. Watch your bits, because I will be out for them! Class dismissed!”

When everypony had left the room, Sunrise looked at her brother. “The first of many. We did a good job with them,” she said.

“Hard not to do a good job with such exceptional students. We’re going to need the best out of everypony we teach, if we are going to have peace in our time.”

“Have faith in the screeners. They did well this time.”

Radiance sighed. “This time. May their excellence continue. None of my students are going to fail because they didn’t know what they needed to know when they needed to know it.”

“Let’s go speak to the Captain and the Princess. I’m sure they will want to say something tonight,” Sunrise told her brother, putting a wing across his withers.

“And let Twilight know we will have room for another class when next we return to Equus.”

That evening, there was a ceremony on the mess deck, where both Princess Twilight and Captain Path formally advanced the former apprentices to the rank of crewpony, to much cheering from the rest of the crew. The former cadets were asked to continue in shared quarters for the next however long, because many spaces were needed for transporting pilots to Chakona. Princess Twilight also congratulated the apprentices on how well they did, and she was looking forward to working with them as crewponies, not just as students. That impressed the former cadets.

After the meeting, Radiance gave each of the newbies their assignments, requested from the respective department heads. “You ponies have the load now. Enjoy it,” he told them before going off with the Princess for discussions on the next load of apprentices, to be picked up not the next trip to Equus, but the one after, so selections could be made, and the apprentices made ready.

In the interim, Radiance managed to get quarters assigned to the old batch of cadets, and their old quarters made ready for the next wave. He also came up with a tentative training schedule, to be revised when he found out who would be in the next class. He got with Sunrise in his office.

“What do you think we can do better with the next batch, Sister?” he asked, once the door was closed.

Sunrise sat and thought, sipping her tea. “Not much, really. It’s the composition of the next class that will determine matters there. A bit more one-on-one time, especially in phase one, which I think should be extended to a week, because we got the best of the best already. Maybe the next group will need more basic spacer training. Right now, I can only guess.”

“I know how you feel. We had an exceptional group before. May the next one be as good, if not better,” Radiance said with a soft sigh. “Before, a failing grade would not do more than embarrass a pony. Here, a failing grade can be fatal, if not to the student, to others.”

“You won’t allow that to happen, brother. I know you too well. Maybe you should have at least an hour of one-on-one time with each student during the first week and sound them out. How big a class do you think we can handle?” Sunrise asked.

“As of now, twelve at most. We could handle more, but do we have the quarters for them? The Lotus is a ferryboat, bringing pilots and techs from Equus to Chakona. You see how tight things are at the moment. How can we fit in any more?”

“By converting Cargo Three into a barracks room for the cadets. We can work on that on the way back. Good thing we have ten holds to play with. You over planned when the ship was built.” Sunrise said.

“We’ll have to get the okay from both the Captain and Galen, clear Bay Three on the way back, and order ahead for the parts we need to make it some sort of barracks,” Radiance said, hope shining in his eyes. “Now you know why I like working with you.”

“It’s because I’m the only one here with the nerve to whack you a good one when you start going off track.”

“There are others, but you’re the closest to me,” Radiance said with a small smile.

Radiance made his suggestions and placed an order, to be filled when they returned to Equus orbit, for supplies to turn Cargo Three into a barracks. He also put forward the idea of putting mounting points on the outer hull of the Lotus, so fighters could dock there and be carried along while pilots are being delivered. Sure, the quantity would be small, and the fighters would be inaccessible in flight, but who knows just what will be needed in the fight? One extra fighter could make the difference, he argued, but that idea was shot down once he got the specs on the fighters and realized the Lotus could not handle the stresses under warp. “Back to the old drawing board…” he muttered once he finished his analysis, wadding up the paper he had been figuring on, tossing it into his waste basket. His OVERFLOWING waste basket…

Princess Twilight also called ahead and got House Path moving on selecting more candidates, ones willing to be trained to maintain and operate the Lotus, as the war effort was draining skilled crewponies from the ship. The first batch would be mostly changelings from the Chrome and Blue hives, with a couple of ponies in the mix, but Radiance would not mind that. “Sure, the changelings can learn a lot through their links with the network, but that cannot replace actual practice and training,” he had argued, and did win the argument.

The return trip from Chakona to Equus that week was occupied by emptying Cargo Three, restowing everything removed in the other cargo bays. Six hours of that a day, followed by three hours in training and simulator practice for Radiance, Sunrise, and the qualified former cadets. Turnaround had the goods to turn Cargo Three into a barracks delivered, as well as a listing of the tentative candidates for the next cadet class, which gave Radiance something to think about in his off moments. The trip out to Chakona had many of the ‘passengers’ detailed to help put together the barracks when not in training. That work did go swiftly, under the main supervision of Radiant Steel and Pholus, with Sunrise in overall charge. Radiance kept himself busy being Chief Engineer.

One good thing about how the flight pattern broke down was that the weekend happened on the return trip from Chakona to Equus. The usual weekend socializing took place, as well as the card games. Radiance soon proved to the hot shot passengers that they did not know squat about playing poker. This time, he was absolutely ruthless, out to get as many bits as he could. Out of seven trips, Radiance won five poker nights, Sunrise took one, and, oddly enough, Zorya took it all one night. For some unknown reason, Radiance that night got knocked out in the first round, Sunrise in the second. Not that either of them minded, they got to kick back and watch the others play, sipping beer (or, in Radiance’s case, an Eyrish coffee jazzed up by a very expensive bottle of Eyrish whiskey he had procured at Equus Orbital), watching, relaxing, and learning.

On the eighth week of pilot running, on a Saturday afternoon, Radiant Steel sought out his grandfather privately, in his office. “Grandfather, can we talk?” Steel asked.

“Sure can. Come in and shut the door. You want some coffee?”

“Yes, Grandfather, I would like some coffee. However, I will only take half a cup. Please cut the rest with cold water and a dose of sugar. Your coffee rejects cream, and it is rather potent,” Steel said in level tones, shutting the door and sitting on the other chair in the room.

Radiance poured a cup to Steel’s taste and set it down in front of his grandson. “So, what’s on your mind, kid?” he asked as he sat down.

“I want to ask for a week’s leave when we go back to Equus. Haystack’s wife, Meadow Blossom, is due to have her foal about then, and we like gathering the family together at such a time. Will it be possible?” Steel asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Radiance said, leaning back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling. “That one Chrome from the second class, Eridonax, she’s well enough along to fill in for a week. I’ll send the request up the line, and you will have an answer within 6 hours of return to Equus. I just have a request for you.”

“A request? What for?”

Radiance used his glow to pull open his desk drawer. Reaching in, he pulled out a higher-end camera. Passing it to Steel, he said, “Play the messages on there to the family members named. After that, there will be space for plenty of pictures and clips. I can’t make it there, so you go. Deal?”

“It’s a deal, Grandfather. It’s a family tradition to gather all that we can to witness a birth in the family.”

“So, Cast Iron told me. This makes number seven, yes?”

Radiant Steel nodded. “Yes. Three for Blue Plate, this will be Haystack’s third, and one for Spice Grinder.”

“I look forward to seeing the pictures.”

Steel smiled as he sipped the coffee. “Face it, Grandfather, you don’t want to have to face all the littles at once. You’re worried your stoic exterior would crumble to dust,” he commented. The coffee was indeed quite good, despite its potency.

Radiance smiled thinly at his grandson. “Guilty as charged. Gonna do something about it?”

“I challenge you. The day the Lotus come back, you come to Vanhoover personally to bring me back to Canterlot. If you can manage meeting all seven of your great-grandchildren at once, without breaking down with a case of the cutes, I will take ship’s janitor duties for the next week.”

“Brave words. What if I do succumb to the cutes?” Radiance responded.

“Then we all get to see you surrounded by your great-grandchildren. I’m sure the family would like to see that.”

Radiance chuckled around his coffee. “You’re learning, kid. I’m proud of you. I’ll forward your leave request. Get packed, and have Eridonax report to me when you see her, okay?”

A week and a half later, after the next round trip, Radiance and Sunrise managed to get a teleport from the ship to Vanhoover and Delectable’s Diner, with the firm understanding they had six hours before pickup. The whole family was there, even all the great-grandkids. This was the first time Radiance and Sunrise had met all of them at once. The first one they were brought to meet was the newborn, a red and green earth pony filly that was named Tender Shoot. Radiance did struggle mightily to maintain his dispassion, but the walls broke down in a mere forty-five minutes. For two hours, he was in the back yard of the restaurant and home, playing games with six of his seven great-grandfoals.

Radiant Steel stood next to Sunrise Flight, who was filming the scene being played out in the back yard. “You know he’s going to blow his stack when he finds out you are filming, right?” he asked his aunt.

“No, he won’t mind the filming. Now, posting it in the open news sector of the Lotus’ forum, there he might get a bit ticked. It’s for his own good, though. He’ll thank me for it,” Sunrise replied.

“Hopefully sometime before I become a father,” Steel said, leaving the window to help finish cooking the meal they were going to have before returning to the Lotus.

“Long before that, Steel. He’s mellowing out some. This will just be a reminder to stay mellow.”

“Radiance Point? Mellow? Professor Pucker Butt? That will never happen!”

Author's Note:

Front lines may be where the action is, but where would they be without a good support staff?