• Published 5th Jul 2017
  • 1,773 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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Plans and Plots

Radiance Point sighed quietly to himself after leaving a briefing led by Commander Bluequill for the Lotus’ department heads after Captain Path’s expedition to a Swarm ship. While the news was not very good at all, it was not totally hopeless. To Point, it seemed like the Swarm was a distorted form of changeling, and their controllers were all linked together everywhere in the galaxy. “Speed of thought is only limited by the speed of imagination,” he muttered as he stopped by the mess deck for a nosh and a mug of coffee.

“We are going to have to be real innovative to counter this threat, but in which way?” he said to himself as he carried his snack and mug of mud to his office. “Maybe send unto them a few messages that will give them the clue to buzz off. Just how can…” he trailed off as he saw Apastron talking with Coppertop near the mini-star’s containment.

Putting his luncheon down on his desk, he stepped back out of his office. “Appie? Coppie? Can I chat with you, please?” Radiance called out to the starwalker foxtaur and chakat.

The two looked up from their conversation. “What’s on your mind, Professor?” Coppertop asked.

“I need to ask some questions about a branch of Federation technology that we have sidestepped for Equestrian use. You would know more about the topic than I do. Will you step into my office, please?”

Curious, the two went over to Radiance’s office. Inside there, they took notice of the pictures he had mounted all over the walls of his son’s family. Individual shots of everypony, plus group pictures, abounded. Directly across from his desk were pictures of all seven of his great-grandfoals, where he could see them from where he sat just by looking up.

When the door was shut, he looked at his two guests. “What I would like from you is information on antimatter. What I want to know is, what is the smallest amount that can destroy a ship the size of an average Swarm vessel, how can such an amount be contained safely, and how can the containment be breached upon command. Once I know those parameters, I can work on a probe craft that can deliver a load of antimatter to a Swarm craft and blow it out of space,” he said with little raw emotion, but plenty of determination. Determination fueled by an intense feeling to protect his family.

The starwalker and chakat looked at each other for a few seconds, considering the depth of feeling they were receiving from the unicorn. This was not the usual Radiance Point. Then again, he had not felt ‘usual’ ever since he got back from a family visit some weeks ago. More like a normal Equestrian instead of his usual stoic self. “We can do that, Point,” Apastron said. “It will take us a few days to download and correlate the information you want. Can you wait a few days?”

“I can,” Radiance said after swallowing a chunk of dandelion sandwich. “We are not exactly in a tearing hurry right now. With that data, I can work on a delivery system.

“We will be back at the Chakastra system in a few days to drop off another load. How about you get me that data as we are returning to Equus next week?”

Coppertop smiled. “That would be ideal. Before we get there, we can formulate our data request, and send it when we enter Chakona space. We will have an answer before departure,” shi said with confidence.

“That would be very good indeed. Thank you for your work in this matter. Now, go get started. I have to be in Sim Room One in twenty minutes, and some paperwork won’t wait.”

Both Apastron and Coppertop saluted smartly. “Yes, Professor Pucker Butt!” they chorused before walking out of the office.

Radiance allowed himself an internal laugh before getting back to his paperwork. “So long as we can keep our sense of humor, even in the darkest of times, we do stand a chance.”

Between his duties as Chief Engineer, Chief Instructor (currently working on Class Number three), training on the simulators, and Saturday social time, not to mention his project, Radiance was lucky to sleep more than three hours a night for the next week. The one who noticed was his sister, Sunrise Flight. Just before return to the Chakona system, Sunrise confronted her brother, in the privacy of their cabin.

“<Brother, just what in Tartarus is taking up all your time?>” she asked in Twinspeak.

“<Coming up with a plan for something to use against the Swarm.>” he said, looking up from the desk.

“<What makes you so sure you can come up with something while the best minds on Equus and in the Federation are busy beating their brains out over the matter?>” Sunrise snapped.

“<I’m not. Just another suggestion to put in the box. I just want to see if it is possible,>” he said, facing his sister, who was standing by her bed, wings raised, looking annoyed. “<If I do nothing, in essence, the Swarm has beaten me. I will not allow that.>”

“<What do you think the odds are of you being correct with what you’re planning?>” Sunrise asked, her wings dropping as she saw the grim determination on Point’s face, his horn sparking a little.

“<Slim to none, to be completely honest. It’s just that I feel that if I don’t try, I’m not protecting the family. They are what’s important to me.>” he said quietly, his gaze falling on the family portrait that hung in their quarters, a poster-sized picture of him, Sunrise, Cast Iron and Hot Skillet, their four foals and seven grandfoals.

Sunrise stood there for a moment, her wings slowly furling, thinking over what she knew about her brother and all the changes he had undergone in the past year, her ire dissipating. “Brother, you have surprised me yet again,” she said, dropping Twinspeak. “How much more work do you have to do on it?”

“I am expecting some data from Chakona after we pass through the portal. Once I have that, I can integrate that data with what I have already put together. If it all seems to work, I will turn my findings over to House Path R&D when we next get back there.”

“Just don’t kill yourself doing so, okay? I know you want to spend more time in Vanhoover, when we’re not needed as a ferry.”

“So, do you, sister. Especially with Paradoxis,” Point said, referring to Spice Grinder’s four-year-old pegasus filly, who spends most of her time with her father’s family, learning how to be a proper pegasus. Her father, Rumble Ground, is an earth pony, but his father is a pegasus.

“While you want to train Silver Horn and Turning Soil,” Sunrise commented, referring to Blue Plate’s eldest colt and Haystack’s middle child, both unicorns.

“That I do. I would love to retire, settle in Vanhoover, and hopefully find a mare to settle with. But, we will have to deal with the Swarm first before I even think of settling down. My sense of duty to this mission, the space program, and to Equus in general prohibits me from doing anything more than fantasize about settling down now.”

“Hey, Brother, no need to preach that to me. Remember, I was you and I know how and why you think. You don’t have to explain yourself to me about that. It’s why I won’t settle down with any stallion myself. Only when this is over will I think about it,” Sunrise said, putting a wing over Radiance’s barrel.

“Thank you, Sister. Once I get the data I’m seeking, may I ask you don’t bother me while I work on my chosen problem for several days?” Radiance asked.

“I can do that, only if you promise not to skip Saturday night. Team cribbage, and I think we’ll wipe the decks with our play.”

“Sister, you have got a deal.”

Radiance did get his antimatter data when they returned to Chakona, and from there back to Equus, he closeted himself in his office, except for the Saturday night social, which they did win by a big margin. He managed to design a missile about one and half meters in length, twenty centimeters in diameter, with a hundred-gram antimatter warhead. The targeting system was primed to seek and find Swarm bioship readings, and it came with a sensor-spoofing system that was designed to render the ship invisible to most Federation and Equus standard sensors. That part was admittedly tough, but he figured he had all the bugs worked out of it by the time they returned to Equus. Once in orbit, he sent his specs down to House Path R&D with a note to have these plans examined soonest and checked for potential. He then collapsed from exhaustion, waking up in sickbay with an IV tube going into his right foreleg.

Hexanerax was standing over him when he woke up. “Professor, do you ever look after yourself?” she asked when his eyes opened.

“Of course not, Hex. I have a reputation to uphold. Hasn’t Dr. Zubon told you that?” Radiance replied.

“She has, but this is the first I have seen it. You’ve been out of it for almost three days, and your systems were toxic from all that coffee you drank. I’m surprised you don’t have any ulcers.”

“I’m immune to the stuff by now, Hex. Been doing it long enough,” Radiance mumbled, looking away from the yellow changeling.

“Professor, I know you are just doing what you think right, but if you’re not careful, we will be referring to you in the past tense. Where will we be then?” Hex asked before leaving the bay where his bed was located.

Radiance thought about Hexanerax’s words. “Maybe I should be more careful about myself, but this war effort demands the utmost out of everypony, myself included,” he said to himself before going back to sleep.

After waking up ten hours later, a big meal and stern lectures from Doctor Zubon, Commander Bluequill and Ixia, Radiance was released back to duty, where he found that all was well in his absence. Fornax kept the Engineering Department running smoothly, Sunrise had the class well in order, and Coppertop and Tormyn were doing their part to help. “Gotta love a good crew,” Point said to himself as he checked the logs.

Radiance got back to work the day after his ‘nap’, as he referred to it, to snickers from the crew, who knew his tendencies. Checking on the students, he decided they were ready to graduate, next week. That would give the Selection Committee back on Equus enough time to get the fourth class ready to go. Of the previous classes, much of the first class had remained aboard, while only three of the second have, the others being snapped up for other spacing duties. Radiance estimated that he would be lucky to keep two out of the twelve in the third class, and made his crew plans accordingly. An inspection of both the class records and of the students while they were on duty, maintaining his ‘Professor Pucker Butt’ persona the whole time, solidified his decision on which ones he would like to keep aboard.

After turnaround at Chakastra, at the next Saturday night party, Coppertop came over to him. “Professor, may I chat with you for a while?” shi asked.

“Sure. Sit down, Coppertop. What’s on your mind?” Radiance asked, sipping from his Eyrish coffee.

“You are, Professor. You know chakats are empathic, skunktaurs are telepathic, and one of our parents is a skilled psychologist. My brother and I are a bit worried about you,” Coppertop told the unicorn, sitting down at the table.

“What’s causing you concern, if I may ask?”

“Your intense monomania last week. After the cribbage game, you vanished from all sight until we arrived at Equus. Next we knew, you were in Medical much of the return trip. We can feel you drive yourself hard when you feel the need, but we do not think it is healthy for you to push yourself that much regularly. Tormyn and I are worried you will burn yourself out prematurely,” Coppertop said, the concern visible on hir face.

Radiance thought about the words for a moment, taking another pull of his coffee. “I do so because it’s my family that is threatened, however indirectly. Up until not long ago, I did not HAVE a family that I knew of. Finding out about my son was a shock to me.

“Before meeting them, my life was focused on one thing, that being getting as far away from Equus as I possibly could, for good. Now, I have them to live for. I will do all I can for them.”

“What about yourself? Yes, you take part in social activities,” she said before muttering “to the dismay of my purse,” before resuming normal volume. “I know Poppy sent you his music files, but I have not heard you perform anything in a long time. You and Sunrise do sing well together.

“I would like to know; do you have a ‘special somepony’ you can relax with? Somepony with whom you can forget about your duties for a while and help you share the burdens you take on yourself?” shi asked.

The reaction to the question startled her. Outwardly, he showed no sign, the ideal of being calm, cool and collected. However, with her empathy, she felt a surge of fear, followed by panic, followed quickly by a determination to remain calm and not lash out. Radiance took a breath and slowly released it.

“Coppertop, believe me when I say this, I am not mad at you at all for asking me that question. I would suggest you go and talk to Ixia, Dr. Zubon, or even Sunrise Flight about that topic. Bring anti-nausea medication when you do,” he said in cool, smooth tones. “When you have done so, I will be happy to discuss matters along that line with you. I want you to know just what you are doing before doing anything. By all means, get Tormyn into the loop if you feel the need.

“Now, it is time for me to go kick some ass at cards tonight,” he said, getting up from the table. “I hope you have not placed any bets on my performance tonight. Betting against me is not wise.”

“So, I have found out, Professor. Go kick some tail!”

Coppertop did hir research, talking to first Dr. Zubon, then to Ixia, and last to Sunrise, before going to talk things over with hir brother. “Tormyn, now that I have filled you in about the Professor, I now ask you. What can we do to help him?”

Tormyn didn’t hesitate a second. “I think he needs to get laid, then find himself a lover that would care about him, not anything he does. I would like a chance to discuss that with Mother before I say anything about it to him personally.”

Coppertop nodded. “That’s exactly what I think. I agree, talk it over with Father. He sounds a bit like Poppy did years ago, afraid of close contact with anyone. Different reasons, though.”

“Yes. Poppy had issues with unscreened telepaths. The Professor still has issues remembering about what his ‘alter ego’ did years ago, even after getting it purged from him. Thought patterns just get installed, and he’s afraid to change them,” Tormyn said, thinking, drawing on all he knew about psychology. He may be an engineering student but growing up a telepath and having a top psychologist for a mother meant he knew something about the topic.

“We need to find him a proper friend, of one species or another. The problem is, I really don’t think there is anyone suitable aboard. He’s kind, dignified, efficient, polite, but he refuses to get intimate with anyone. If there was anyone aboard who wanted him, they would have staked a claim by now,” Coppertop said quietly.

“There is one possibility I know of aboard. The Chrome changeling from the second class that stayed aboard.”

“Eridonax? How would you know that?” Coppertop asked.

“I’ve seen her more than once looking at him, in an appreciative way, like she wants him to make a move on her but won’t do so herself.” Tormyn replied.

“That’s because she can’t,” Coppertop fired back. “It’s a changeling thing, if someone loves a changeling, said changeling can and will reciprocate, but can’t start it themselves. The other part of the relationship has to make the first move.”

Tormyn paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. “I didn’t know that. Then again, I have not looked hard at the psychology of changelings. I’m just reporting what I think I’m seeing, is all.”

“You’re going to find it interesting,” Coppertop said. “You may want to sit down with Ixia and have a discussion about it. Maybe even a good grooming as well, and a massage.”

Tormyn gave a big stretch and a crick. “Don’t mind if I do, big sister.”

Tormyn did just that, booking a three-hour appointment with Ixia the next day, getting a good grooming and massage while talking about both changeling psychology and the psychology of Radiance Point. “I’ve been working on Radiance for years now, and I have to agree with you. It’s not going to be easy, though,” she told the skunktaur.

“Oh, I believe you. The Professor can be a tough nut to crack.”

“It’s all a matter of getting him to change habits. That’s the hard part. Thanks to his actions during the shipwreck, his thinking patterns, his habits, have become so ingrained, deviating from them is difficult at best and nearly impossible at worst,” Ixia said, working on Tormyn’s back. “I’ve been trying for over a decade. It only works when he wants it to, or when presented with such evidence, he is convinced a change is necessary.”

“Like when Prince Flixtradamus brought forth his sister?” Tormyn asked before grunting as a knot was found and released.

“Before that, actually. He was electrocuted in an accident some months before that, and his split personality was healed somehow, Sunrise Flight being brought forth from his ‘alter ego’. That cleared up a lot of issues, but a lot still remain.”

“Like his sexual hang-ups, for one.”

“Exactly. His relationship with his sister is one of deep love and respect but is completely asexual. Sunrise does not have those problems at all. His alter ego slept with any mare that crossed his path for long enough, but Radiance is still afraid that entering a relationship will bring out his ‘bad side’,” Ixia told the skunktaur as she worked.

Tormyn thought for a moment or so while Ixia continued the massage. “There is one thing I would like to do, but it will have to wait until we go back to Chakona.”

“Oh? What is that?” Ixia asked.

“I’m going to call in a consultant. My mother, specifically. Hy is a professional, with more than one doctorate in psychology. Do you think that is a wise course?”

“How would hy get to the transfer point?”

“Poppy has a spacecraft. I can arrange for him to bring the family out for a visit. I know I would like to meet my little brother and sister again. A couple of hours with Mother should provide us with some answers, or at least another opinion.”

“I would like to meet hym too, if we can arrange it.”

After hys massage, Tormyn drafted a message to be sent to Chakona, asking that Poppy bring Prellin and Firesox out to the transfer station for a brief meeting when next the ship returned. The request was granted, and arrangements were made for the Nannewitt II to head out to the transfer point. The request was even made semi-official, because Julius is a respected cyber technician, and was curious to see how his technomancy worked with the magitek on the Lotus.

Several days later, when the Lotus was back in the Chakastra system, they were met by the Nannewitt II. The family aboard, Julius, Prellin, Firesox, and their two at-home children, Livewire and Deko, beamed over to the Lotus, materializing in the Park. There, they were met by Radiance, Sunrise, Coppertop and Tormyn, as well as Commander Bluequill and Ixia. The two children were allowed to explore the park with Coppertop supervising, Julius and Firesox went with Sunrise and Commander Bluequill to check out their Technomancer abilities, while Prellin took the rest over to the waterfall and pool.

“Commander, I have been asked to do a telepathic probe of you, to get an idea of how you operate, to use an inadequate word. Do I have your consent?” Prellin asked.

“Yes, you do, Dr. Prellin. Tormyn did let me know that hy wanted it done, as a check against what he has learned. Hy’s admitted that hy is not the best of psychologists, and I have been told I do give other psychologists headaches,” Radiance said, looking at Ixia, who did have the grace to blush a bit.

“Good! Now, just relax and look into my eyes. I want you to think about yourself. I know you have been examined telepathically before, and you may rest assured I will not pry any more than needed, and most especially, I shan’t talk about things I find that should not be spoken about,” Prellin said calmly, entering Radiance’s mind.

The telepathic scan lasted a good twenty minutes, the pony and skunktaur settling onto the grass by the pool. Prellin came out of the trance first, blinking as hy looked about. “Oh, my. That was definitely an experience,” hy muttered as hys eyes opened and focused.

“You just ain’t whistling bluegrass, Doctor,” Radiance said as he woke up. “That experience was different than my questioning on Earth.”

“Different intentions behind the scans, Professor,” Tormyn told the unicorn as he got back onto his hooves. “Then, the telepath was looking for specific memories about a specific series of events. Here, the scan was broader, attempting to learn about you.”

“I did learn a lot. Your memories are exceptionally vivid and clear. I’m going to have to do some thinking about what I have found before I can render any sort of opinion,” Prellin told the group as hy got to hys feet.

“Then, if I am not needed any more here, I do have lots to get done, and little time to get it done in. It’s been interesting meeting you, Doctor Prellin, and hope to do so in less professional surroundings,” Radiance said as he shook hooves with the doctor before taking his leave.

Once Radiance had left the Park, Ixia and Tormyn turned their attention to Prellin, Coppertop watching over hyr siblings. “What did you find, Doctor?” Ixia asked.

“You were pretty close in your evaluations. He does need a lover, better still a mate, to assure himself that he is not as bad as he thinks he can be. The problem will be finding someone who could be his compliment, being supportive without dominating him. He is outwardly a complex individual, but inside, he is simple.”

“I agree with that, Doctor Prellin,” Ixia said. “The main problem I see will be convincing him to change his mind about himself. He is good, stalwart, noble, polite and friendly, but getting him to change his mind requires a clue-by-four the size of the Pegasus!”

After the three stopped laughing, Prellin went on. “I am going to go through my list of contacts back home, to see if I know anyone who could possibly be his complement. Wish me luck.”

“That I will do, Mother. Now, we still have some time. Would you like a tour?” Tormyn asked.

“That will be a pleasure. Shall we make it a family affair?” Prellin countered, looking around for Coppertop and the younger pair.

“If we didn’t, Livewire and Deko will never forgive me!” Tormyn laughed.

“I know somepony aboard who may want to form a relationship with Radiance,” Ixia supplied, “but it’s going to be hard to convince him of the need to form one.”

“Eridonax?” Tormyn asked.

Ixia nodded. “That’s the one. Problem is, he’s going to have to want the relationship with her, and he’s not going to want to do that voluntarily.”

“You go your way, Doctor Ixia, and I will go mine. Between us, we should come up with something,” Prellin said as they went looking for the younger cubs.

On the return trip to Equus, Eridonax decided to visit Ixia’s spa, for a grooming, massage and soak. While she soaked in the hot tub, Ixia sat down on the seat outside the tank. “Mind if I ask you a few questions?” she asked.

“Not at all. Wondering why I have not come in here before?” Eridonax countered with an easy smile.

“No, nothing like that. It’s about Commander Point. What do you think of him?”

Eridonax blinked once, twice, three times before answering. “Professor Pucker Butt? I have to say he is one of the kindest, gentlest ponies I have ever met… off duty. ON duty, he can be a real grouch, but I can understand why he is like that. He demands nothing from us that he would not demand from himself. It’s keeping up with him that is the hard part.”

“Do you like him?” Ixia asked.

Eridonax thought about her answer. “I respect him. I do like him, but he is also one of the most tightly-held ponies I have ever met. He has such tight control over his emotions, there’s very little leakage that is not deliberate. Who aboard really knows him, other than the Teacher?” she said, referring to Sunrise Flight.

“Nobody, not even himself. There is a lot about himself he does not want to experience, because he is afraid.”

“Afraid? Of what?” the Chrome changeling asked.

“Of how he will react to the feelings,” Ixia said before explaining about his background as Radiance Glow.

“From the movie? But, he died when the ship sank, right?”

“Yes and no. He was already a split personality, and how he was shown in the film was not the way he really was. He was coarse, hedonistic, a know-it-all smartass who happened to be extremely skilled in keeping the ship operational. After the sinking, he showed up in Baltimare five days later, burned and changed. Up until a few years ago, he was determined to be as unlike his prior self as possible, and succeeded at it,” Ixia explained.

“Does he ever allow himself to feel love?”

“Yes, but he’s very careful as to whom he shows it. His family gets that love now, especially his grandfoals and great-grandfoals. Even there, he’s so driven by duty, he will work himself to death to protect them, or anypony else he cares about. Problem is, he has no one to really care for HIM. No special somepony. I’m trying to find somepony suitable. Interested?”

Eridonax nodded. “Yes, I am. I know full well he cares about all of us aboard, students and crew alike. I know that because he has let that feeling out when any of us exceeds his expectations. He’s proud of us but is all alone inside. We should not let that happen.”

“He’s not going to be an easy nut to crack. I have others looking as well. You’ll have my support, but it will not be easy, and success is not guaranteed. Try being more pleasant to him than he expects and see how he reacts to it. Maybe we can push him into being loving back.”

“I’ll give it my best shot. He is a very good pony indeed, who needs love. I’m sure he can give a lot, to the right pony,” Eridonax said quietly, thinking about the matter.

Eridonax put her plan of attack into effect the very next day. She started by smiling more in Radiance’s presence, asking how he brewed his coffee (even though she refused to drink it), and started to learn more about his work habits in general, so as to be almost like an aide to him. Her efforts were noticed by both Radiance and Sunrise, but in different ways.

At the next Chakastra turnaround, Sunrise managed to get a few minutes alone with Eridonax. “Eri, what are you doing with Brother?” she asked bluntly.

“Why, trying to make his life easier. Somebody should show him some caring, so I decided to try. I’ve liked him ever since I got promoted from student to crew,” Eridonax said.

“From student to crew. I take it, that means you were not a big fan of him as a teacher?”

Eridonax looked away for a few seconds, blushing slightly. “Well, as a teacher, his job is to teach, not to be everyone’s friend. Once we qualified, he allowed himself to treat us former students as shipmates, and he didn’t have to be as rough on us as he was as a Professor,” she managed to explain.

“Have you been talking to Ixia?” Sunrise asked. At her nod, she went on. “Did she put you up to it?”

“I would not say put me up to it, she gave me the confidence to try. I have admired him for a while now. I hope to fill a void in his life, a void he needs to have filled.”

“I cannot say you are wrong, Eri. He’s a caring soul who’s afraid to let the caring show, in case his past returns to haunt him. He does not have to worry about it, but patterns of thought are very hard to change,” sunrise told the changeling. “Just do not expect to have an easy win. I’ve been trying to get him to relax now ever since Prince Flix brought me out. See how much luck I have had?”

“Not much. Ixia already said not to get my hopes up, but if I do not try, how will I know if my plan works or not?” Eri asked reasonably.

“You have my support, Eri. Just be careful, okay? If he starts getting mad, get out of his line of fire fast.”

“Don’t worry, Teacher. I won’t let myself get caught like that.”

Another week of round trip went by, ferrying pilots to and from Equus. Eridonax kept up her good cheer and quiet assistance the whole time, not worrying if Radiance noticed or not. On the Saturday night returning to Equus, at the social, Radiance sat down at a table in the Lounge and gestured for Eridonax to sit with him. Eri complied, trying to get a read on his emotions, but failed as usual. He was not letting anything leak.

“Eridonax, I have noticed your assistance this past week. What I would like to know is, why?”

Eri smiled. “Simple, Professor. I have respected you since we first met. I thank you for requesting I stay here on the Lotus as crew, rather than transferring. This is simply my way of repaying my thanks. It just took a while for me to get up the confidence to try,” she explained.

Radiance took a sip of his weekly Eyrish coffee. “Are you looking for something more than that, possibly?” he asked.

Eridonax hesitated, thinking of how she wanted to say what was on her mind. “Permission to speak freely, Commander?” he said hesitantly.

“You may do so, Eridonax, but I wonder why you would ask for that. Go ahead and speak your mind.”

“Commander, there is a void in your life, a hole that can only be filled with love. What happened to you before, while not to be forgotten, should not be an inhibition to your life in the future. I want to help fill that hole, to allow you to feel inside what ponies like me feel on your outside, when you let it out for us to feel. May I, and others, be allowed to try to help you?” Eridonax asked, clearly ill at ease as she spoke.

Radiance sipped at his Eyrish coffee. His willpower was in full force, letting nothing leak out that Eridonax could detect. “Eridonax, I cannot and will not stop you in your efforts. They are commendable, and I do so commend them. What I want to know is this- is this truly what you desire, coming from within, out of the goodness of your heart, or is it being helped along by others?” he asked, his tones carefully neutral, looking Eridonax full in the face, awaiting her reply.

Eridonax barely hesitated. “While I do admit that Ixia has talked to me about it, she did not plant the seed, only gave me the confidence to try. I have respected you since we first met. You are a good instructor, and getting a passing grade from you, and your request to have me stay aboard, only speaks good about you. Goodness that you rarely let out. You should let it out more.”

Radiance drains his Eyrish coffee before replying. “By saying that, you do reveal a lot about yourself, Eri. I shall tell you that I do not object to your intentions, or your goals. What you choose to do is your choice. I have to caution you that others have tried what you are doing, either to win a bet or get me under their control. You are not doing any of that.

“I appreciate the attention and concern, but, while I do want to settle down and raise some foals the proper way, now is hardly the time to do so. There is much to be done, and I should not allow myself to deviate from my intention of making Equus and the Federation safe from the threat of the Swarm. I cannot relax unless I meet the right pony, who can dissuade me from my goal. You are not that pony. Do keep up what you are doing, if that is your choice.

“I will keep my affections solely on my family for the time being. I hope I do not disappoint you. You are a good student and better crewpony.”

“Commander, I was warned that you would be difficult to get through to. Am I disappointed? No, I cannot say that. Determined, yes. I shall persist in my attempts to get through your shell because I want to. You are truly a good pony, Commander. I want to see more of the goodness and less of the Pucker Butt side of you,” Eridonax said truthfully.

Radiance played a little with the dregs of his coffee mug. “I can detect your honesty, so I will accept your words. Do I like you? Yes, I do. Do I love you? As of now, no. No one deserves my love at this time except for my family, a family I did not know I had until recently.

“I will try to show a little more of the kinder side, but habits of a lifetime are not easy to break.”

“I understand that, Commander. I accept your words, knowing there is no ire in them. May I still attempt to be your friend?” Eri asked.

Radiance smiled. “Of course, you can. And, please, while not on duty status, my name is ‘Radiance’ or “Point’, not ‘Commander’ or ‘Professor’. Okay with you?”

Eridonax smiled back, reaching out to tap hooves with Radiance. “It’s okay with me, Radiance. Want a refill of your coffee?”

Radiance pushed the mug her way. “I usually don’t, but tonight, sure. Get something for yourself as well, and put it on my tab. The card games are about to start, and I should get ready for that.”

“Radiance, honestly, why would anyone play cards against you?” Eri said as she picked up his mug with her glow.

“I don’t win all the time, Eri. Just most of the time. There are bragging rights aboard to anyone who can defeat me at cards, who is not my sister,” Radiance said with a small smile and chuckle.

“I’ve noticed that. I, however, like my bits where I can use them as I see fit, so I will refrain from playing cards with you,” she said, taking his mug to the bar.

“Smart lady. I like that. She’s going to go places. Where, I’m not going to say, because that will be cheating, and I don’t like to cheat. Gets boring.”

Eridonax kept up her gentle pushing, to get Radiance to relax. It was successful, for a short while. Then came word of the political upheavals taking part in the Equus system, which had the ship’s crew on edge for a while. Most of the crew. Radiance, upon hearing the news, just snorted and said two words. ‘Damn politicians’. He went about his work as if nothing ever happened. However, his frustration mounted as he read about the GEC council meeting and the formation of the Lunar Federation. “Now you know why I never aspired to high rank or office,” he said as Ixia worked his knots out in the hot tub, an appointment arranged by Eridonax when she noticed his tension building.

“Politics getting in the way of business, Point?”

“Politics get in the way of everything, Ixia. Or is that politicians?” Point snorted.

“At least somepony’s showing some sense. May sense and peace prevail.”

“A nice wish, Ixie, but I’ll bet you a bottle of Eyrish whiskey it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“You’re on, Point. A bottle of good Eyrish says peace will win out.”

“Let’s make it a bottle of Lystrottle Dew, okay?”

“You’re real confident, Point. A bottle of Lystrottle it will be,” Ixia said as she worked down his legs.

“Remind me also to thank Eridonax for suggesting this,” Radiance sighed as he felt his tense muscles relaxing.

“Suggesting? From what I heard, she threatened to drag you down here, kicking and screaming, with the help of Steel and Pholus, if you didn’t come here voluntarily.”

Radiance blushed some. “Yes, well, she did say that, in my presence, with Steel and Pholus present as well,” he managed to say without stuttering, but it took a big effort on his part to do so.

Ixia held back a laugh. “Knew you were smart, Point.”

Author's Note:

Will Radiance Point find someone to let down his mane with, to allow himself a chance to be the good pony others want him to be? Will he win or lose his bet with Ixia, for a bottle of top shelf Eyrish whiskey? Stay tuned!