• 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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All Together Now

Radiance Point sat at the desk in his quarters, looking at the gift-wrapped bottle of Lystrottle Dew that had been dropped off just before the Lotus broke orbit, returning to the portal. He held the card that had been delivered with the bottle, which read, ‘After all this time, you would think I have learned to not bet against you. Ixia.’. “There are times I would like to be wrong, Ixie. This was one of them,” he said to himself, Sunrise out handling the new cadet class, the last one to come from Equus for the foreseeable future.

“Damn politicians can’t get their heads out of their asses long enough to get a good look at things and see just how bad they are,” he grumbled, going back to the downloaded news feeds from before departure. He read about the GEC going isolationist, banning any contact with the Federation and closing the portal. Radiance, however, knew that THAT command was going to be hard to enforce, seeing as many of the ships that could reach the portal were owned by House Path, plus the Federation had their own means to open the portal. Of course, Point knew that- he led the team that installed the mana pulse generators on the Pegasus and three other ships that stayed around the Chakona side of the portal.

As he skimmed through the news feeds and his inbox, he caught a message from Jerdian Lighthoof, Chairpony of the Board for Herald Lines, saying their first warp-capable freighter, the Gowanus Herald II, was going to be delayed, due to the war effort taking up resources. They had the plans, but not the parts. All the shipyards that were capable of building spacecraft were engaged in building fighter craft. “That can’t be right, thanks to those boneheaded,” here he let fly with some choice thestral epithets, “idiots in the GEC…” Radiance paused as an idea hit him. He fired off a memo to Herald Lines main office, asking about the status of the Gowanus Herald II. When he got the answer, Radiance’s swearing was so livid, ponies in the officer’s berthing area stopped and listened at the air ducts. Two of them started taking notes, to ask about the meaning later.

Life settled down after that, into a routine that could have been called boring, were it not for reports from the front lines of battle. Whatever plans House Path had cooked up seemed to have some sort of success, with planet after planet being freed from the influences of the Swarm, for the present time, at least. The problem with that is there were so damn MANY of the Swarm, it was like putting out spot fires with a backpack of water and the main fire half a kilometer behind, along with a Force Six gale.

After three months, Cadet Class Four graduated training, and were dispersed to the Fleet. Thanks to the isolation policy of the GEC, while the need for trained pegasi, griffons and unicorns mounted, no more were in the pipeline. All those who could qualify from the cadet class were snapped up by the Fleet, as well as crew volunteering from the Lotus and others who had already left Equus.

For a week or so, Radiance and Sunrise did not have any teaching duties while a different plan was being worked out. An answer was found, that being a mixed class of beings from Chakona coming up to train. Radiance worked hard, changing the class structure to handle non-ponies, but soon had the plan ready, in enough time to greet Cadet Class Five with confidence.

In the classroom were three chakats, two telekinetic skunktaurs, a starwalker foxtaur, three humans, two Voxxans and a Merraki male, all with some experience in space. Radiance started his introductory lecture.

“Students, welcome aboard the Cosmic Lotus. I am your Headmaster, Commander Radiance Point. I will be in charge of your training aboard this ship, but most of the harder work will be handled by your Teacher, Sunrise Flight,” he declared to the group.

“Oh, sure, Brother, leave me with the tough jobs,” Sunrise snorted.

“I’m also Chief Engineer as well as Headmaster, so you will have more time to deal with the students individually,” Radiance replied without hesitating, to a few quiet snickers from the audience, especially from the chakats.

Radiance let loose his most fiery glare at the chakats. “Laugh now. Life here is serious. You should know this by now, or else you would not have volunteered. Teaching non-Equians how to handle the magitek here will not be easy, but I have every hope you twelve can learn it. If you don’t all make it, I will lose a bet with my sister, and I HATE losing!”

“Lose not you will, Shiny Dot. Erralakis promise that!” the Merraki male said from his position up front.

“That’s Radiance Point, Erralakis,” Radiance snapped back.

“Is what said I did, Shiny Dot,” Erralakis replied, causing Radiance to grimace.

“I’m going to have to get you the translation spell. Your translator is not programmed right,” Radiance replied with a small sigh.

“Translator right programmed! Listen you wrong, Commander Shiny Dot!” Erralakis fired back, causing much of the class to start laughing, Radiance included.

“At least you’re not calling me Professor Pucker Butt,” Radiance sighed, knowing that he had lost this argument.

“That’s going to come later, Brother,” Sunrise said sweetly from her position beside Radiance.

Radiance looked up and said some choice Griffonian curses to the ceiling, right after which a light panel blew out. “Calm down, Brother, we have a class to teach,” Sunrise cautioned.

“Have at it, sister. I have other work to do,” Radiance said before heading out.

When the door closed behind Radiance, Sunrise addressed the class. “Okay, students, let’s get started. Who here knew each other before coming here?”

One of the chakats stood. “I’m Chakat Flamepaws, professor of electrical engineering at Dewclaw University. All twelve of us here are either faculty members or students at Dewclaw. We were fortunate enough to hear of your need for students, and we were the first twelve to come to a decision,” shi said, her whitish tailtip waving high over her red-brown body fur, with brilliant orange ‘socks’ and ‘gloves’, of a similar shade as Sunrise’s neck.

“I thought I recognized you. In fact, many of you I know I have seen before. What I want to know is, how many of you knew each other?” Sunrise asked.

This time, it was the starwalker, whose light purple shirt had the name ‘Mio’ on it. “Some of us knew each other well, others just as classmates. While here, we intend to get friendly with everyone aboard, including each other.”

“Are you related to Apastron?” Sunrise asked.

“Yes, but not closely. I was not part of the installation crew for your warp drive, but I know about it in detail. Titan filled me in,” shi replied.

“Profanely, knowing Titan. Now, I want to get a listing of all you have studied, so I can know where to start teaching. Somehow, that data got lost in the transmission,” she said drily.

It turned out that of the twelve students, seven were Engineering candidates and five were Control candidates. Once she got all the names sorted and divisions determined, Sunrise started on the basic one-oh-one ‘introduction to the Cosmic Lotus’ lecture, which wound up taking half again as long as usual, due to the students asking many insightful questions. The chakats, skunktaurs, starwalker and a human were for Engineering, the rest for Control. Personally, Sunrise wondered about the Merraki going to Control, but she did think that he would not have put in for it if he did not have some qualifications.

After the lecture, Flamepaws and another of the chakats, a bright red and sooty black mottled chakat named Nightmare, stayed behind to talk to Sunrise. The two were professors at the University, while two others were teaching assistants and the rest students. Sunrise just had to ask, “Just what is Erralakis’ qualifications for Control? Definitely not communications.”

“Erralakis is merely one of the ablest navigators I have ever met,” Nightmare told the pegasus. “If the controls can be set up for a Merraki, you will see that he’s a pretty good pilot, too. Only on large craft, though. Small craft he tends to overcontrol.”

“Ah HA…” Sunrise said. “That explains that. Now, what else brings you up here, other than the obvious.”

“Flamepaws and I are lifemates,” Nightmare said. “We’re also a bit older than the rest. We have been informed by a reliable source that Radiance needs someone to fill his life. We are going to try to do so, if he will accept us. We have been told we should get your approval first.”

“Just who is the reliable source?” Sunrise asked.

Flamepaws handled that question. “Firesox is my younger sister. Shi called us and told us what was lacking with him, and we just needed a reason to get up here. When the opportunity presented itself, we didn’t hesitate. Prellin filled us both in when we went to see hym.”

“I should say not. I know Prellin did a deep search of Brother a while back, and if hy filled you two in, I can believe the report was detailed. If you can fill the hole in his life, you have my support. I can’t move on until he does. I have to watch over him,” Sunrise said with a small sigh.

“We’re interested in trying. His lectures back at the University were fascinating, as were yours, but we could feel the void inside him that he was trying to hide. Actually, a lot of us felt it,” Nightmare said.

“Can’t hide much from empaths, can we?”

“Only those who know what they are sensing. Many of the students had trouble grasping what they sensed, but the faculty, no problem. It was best seeing him after a camping trip, because that was when he was most relaxed. By Sixthday, he was as empathic as wallboard,” Flamepaws commented.

“Well, if you want to, I certainly will not stop you. I suggest you get together with Ixia and Eridonax before you start. Eridonax is trying the same thing you want to do, but if he does not reciprocate, it is difficult,” Sunrise explained. “Just a quirk of changeling empathic biology.”

“We have a lot to learn, Teacher. We will learn it. One thing Radiance can do, is teach. He forces his students to THINK, a chore I find hard, even after being a professor for two decades,” Flamepaws said with a sigh.

“Learn from him, and we will learn from you as well. Interested in lunch?” Sunrise asked.

“Lead on!” Nightmare declared eagerly.

Flamepaws and Nightmare followed Sunrise’s advice, getting with Ixia and Eridonax on how to best get inside Radiance’s shell. Eridonax first advised that they should pay close attention in class, because he will not relax around the class until they graduated. After that, he will relax more, and accept them as crew.

Ixia advised to watch Radiance on Saturday nights, and observe how he played cards. No one is safe around him on poker nights, they feeling the full impact of his skill and determination. “We had best keep a close eye on our credits, then,” Nightmare quipped.

“You should. Be gracious in defeat, be calm in victory, and go after him with claws bared. He respects those who play cards like he does,” Ixia told them.

“Will do, Ixia,” Flamepaws said.

By day, the cadets trained in various classes, translating the spacing skills they knew from Chakona into what was best applicable to the Cosmic Lotus. In the evenings, they socialized with the crew, learning how ponies and other beings could interact. Nightmare and Flamepaws started work on Radiance, learning about him, observing him, debating between them how to get inside his shell.

The second Saturday after boarding, Radiance called the two chakats over for a chat before the games started. ‘I understand you two are trying to learn about me. Commendable, but why? If you want to know about me, ask. When you are off duty, of course,” he said to them.

“Commander, we find you extremely interesting. Ever since we met you when you were teaching, your breadth of knowledge was exceeded only by one thing, that being the empty hole in your being. Being empathic, we can feel that emptiness sometimes, and we want to help you heal that hole,” Flamepaws explained.

Radiance sipped his Eyrish coffee, looking at the pair closely. “You do, eh? What makes you think that is possible?” he asked.

“Anything is possible, Commander. We won’t know unless we try, so we plan on trying. If it works, good. If not, we’re all no worse than before. Acceptable?” Nightmare asked.

Radiance nodded, his eyes smiling, even if his mouth wasn’t. “I accept the challenge, on two conditions. One, be prepared to accept defeat, and two, make sure Eridonax does not get hurt. She has been trying for a couple of months, and while I may not respond, I won’t have her hurt. Deal?”

The two chakats looked at each other and nodded. “Deal,” Nightmare said. “We do not like hurting anyone unnecessarily. Besides, Eri knows we will be trying.”

Some respect crept into Radiance’s eyes. “You’re showing some wisdom. A point in your favor.”

“We’re both old enough to know,” Flamepaws said. “We’re almost sixty earth years old.”

“While I’m pushing eighty, Equestrian standard. I still have a hundred or so years left,” Radiance said. “That’s comforting to hear, that I’m not being pursued by youngsters. That’s the main off-putting thing about Eri. She’s very young, compared to me.”

“Well, we’re not. We have three children, two graduated school, one still in,” Nightmare told the unicorn.

Radiance gave the appearance he was thinking for a moment, looking into the depths of his coffee mug as if it was a crystal ball. “Ladies, and please pardon me for not using the proper term, thank you for confirming what I have known about you since day one here. I do study all I can about my students, I just don’t let them know I know. Helps my mystique, you see,” he told them, having some more of his Eyrish coffee. That Lystrottle Dew made a better coffee mix than Bushpacer’s, but not my much.

“Radiance, we know you can be sneaky, crafty and conniving, but honest. We got news for you, so are we,” Nightmare said with a crafty smile.

Radiance stood as the poker tables were set up. “The game is on, then. Remember, I win more often than I lose, ladies,” he said politely, bowing slightly to the chakats.

“So, do we, Radiance Point,” Flamepaws said, followed by Nightmare’s “So do we.”

So, began a three-month dance between Radiance Point and the two chakats, the three being completely professional while on duty, and socializing some while off duty. Flamepaws and Nightmare found Radiance to be a stern taskmaster while on duty, but a perfect gentleman off duty. He treated the two with the respect he showed everyone aboard, and the two lifemates appreciated it. But, the two of them could not penetrate his emotional wall, no matter what they tried. Yes, he was polite and friendly, even funny at times, but the empaths could tell it was a wall, a mask, he put up.

Training the Non-Equestrian class did prove to be a bit more difficult than training a fully Equestrian class, but Radiance and Sunrise found ways around it. It was decided until such time as they could come up with a way for the non-Equestrians to handle and program magitek, the non-Equestrians would not take a whole watch on their own in Engineering without at least one unicorn or changeling with them. Other than that, the class did remarkably well.

Commander Bluequill found little to complain about the five Control candidates, finding them to be exceptional ship handlers. However, he did find out early on NOT to put Erralakis on communications, but Navigation, Sensors and piloting, the little Merraki outperformed many of the ponies still left as qualified Control officers aboard the Lotus. How Erralakis was able to keep track of the ship’s position, without constantly looking at the instruments, Bluequill never did figure out, but was not worried about it. The other Control candidates proved their value on the Bridge as well, Galen finding out that many of them had some training aboard spacecraft already and were attending Dewclaw University to further their educations and qualifications. Erralakis was raised aboard a spacecraft and showed his piloting skills after two days learning the controls.

When it came time for Cadet Class Five to graduate, Flamepaws and Nightmare asked if they could remain aboard, to continue their pursuit of Radiance Point. Running that request up the chain of command encountered no objections, and so, after graduation, the pair remained aboard, still gently pursuing their goal.

One day, when Radiance had a question for them, he walked in on the pair in their quarters, demonstrating their love for each other. The emotional storm he walked into was enough to drive the unicorn out of the room, breathing hard to remain in control of himself. Slowly, his calm returned, and he made a beeline for his office before calling the two over the intercom.

“Commander, we just didn’t notice when you buzzed us earlier,” Flamepaws said in explanation.

“I noticed why when I came in. I exited immediately. What you two do off duty is none of my concern. Please accept my apologies for interrupting,” Radiance said in apology.

“Accepted. Maybe you should come in and let us pay some attention to you. No sex need to be involved, just some hugs, cuddles and conversation. Maybe Saturday night, after the party?” Nightmare asked.

The pause seemed endless before Radiance responded. “If that is what you would like, I would be willing to spend half an hour with the two of you after the card game Saturday. Maybe you could learn to appreciate Lystrottle Dew.”

“It’s you we are worried about, Radiance. We want you to relax some more. Would you like to learn how chakats relax each other?” Nightmare asked.

“I have some ideas already, but you have given your word about Saturday night. We will find out more then. Until later, crewmates,” Radiance said before closing the intercom.

The two chakats looked at each other and smiled. “We’ve got his curiosity aroused,” Nightmare said.

“Let’s see what else we can arouse,” Flamepaws replied.

“Not too much, not too fast. He has to prove to himself that he will not hurt us, and we won’t hurt him.”

“You and your psych classes…” Flamepaws muttered, but with a smile.

Saturday night, after the poker game (at which Radiance did his usual cleaning of clocks), Radiance was at the door of Flamepaws and Nightmare’s cabin, carrying a bottle of Lystrottle Dew, a bottle of mixer, an ice bucket and three glasses in his glow. After gently knocking, the door slid open. “Come on in, Radiance,” Flamepaws said from the large low pad that served as a bed.

“As asked for, I am here. Your thirty minutes starts now,” Radiance said, coming in to the room. Flamepaws could feel his rigid will up and in place, plus the tension behind it. Nightmare could feel it too, from the bath.

Flamepaws took the bottle and glasses and put them on a low table, Radiance putting the rest down alongside. “Relax, Radiance. We are not here for your blood, or any blood at all. We just want to show you what chakat culture is like among people we call friends. Come on, sit down. I’ll mix the drinks,” shi said as Radiance settled down.

Nightmare came out of the bath, her black and red fur shining. Shi laid herself down next to Radiance, gently stroking his neck. “Don’t worry, Radiance. No harm is intended. Chakats do like hugs and cuddles,” shi explained.

“I was aware of that from prior visits. Visiting Professor Silverdream’s family was an experience. A not unpleasant one, either. It did take a while for me to get used to the feeling of the cubs snuggling up to me,” Radiance said as Flamepaws mixed the drinks.

“Cubs will know who they can get close to and whom they should run away from. If Sunny and Moony liked you enough to come near, then you are someone worth knowing. May we get to know each other?” Nightmare asked.

“Remember, Radiance, we have done nothing to you, but we intend on doing a lot FOR you. People you never had a chance to yell at, abuse, or abuse you in turn,” Flamepaws said as shi passed out the drinks. “You are in control here, because we want to see the pony you are. No more, no less now.”

Radiance looked like he was going into shock, his iron will getting shaky as he accepted the drink. “You mean that, don’t you? You just want to get to know me as a friend, right? You not out for anything?”

“As you ponies say, Friendship is Magic. Will you be our friend, and show us what magic truly is?” Nightmare asked, hugging Radiance to her gently.

“You… WANT to be my friend?” Radiance squeaked.

Flamepaws nodded. “Yes, we do. No more, no less. You need a friend, close friends. We submit our applications for the post.”

Radiance relaxed some, not much, but the two chakats did notice the lessening of his tension. “Your applications have been accepted for further review. Until a decision has been made, let us not think about them. So, how do chakats show affection among friends?”

The allotted thirty minutes stretched to four hours before a very weary threesome decided it was time to get some sleep. Despite requests to stay, Radiance went back to his cabin. Finding it empty, he shucked his ship suit, showered thoroughly, and went to bed. For the first time in months, he dreamed.

Radiance dreamed he was in Canterlot, in the small apartment he called home while teaching at the University. He was startled to find two ponies in his home, namely his parents, Radiance Shine and Cyan Flight, both looking as Radiance remembered them from before Cyan passed away when he was six.

“Now, you’re starting to show a little sense, son,” Radiance Shine grumbled in his usual manner.

Cyan Flight absently smacked Radiance Shine with a wing in a well-rehearsed move. “Don’t be such an ass, Shine. Why can’t you admit he’s done something with his life, something you should be proud of?”

“Not ‘should’, Cyan, make that AM proud of him,” Shine said before looking directly at Radiance Point. “I forgive you, son, and ask you forgive me. Your mother and I were as close as two ponies could be. When your sister died right after being born, I took it hard. When she died, all I had to remind me of her was you. You could never measure up to my idealized image of your mother. That’s why I was so cross with you all the time.

“I forgive you for beating the living hell out of me and running off. I just beg you to remember one thing- that I never told the City Guard who beat me up and left me for dead. I said I could not remember the beating.” Shine then snorted before continuing. “By Tartarus, for a long time, I did NOT remember who pounded me.”

“It wasn’t until a month before he passed on that he did remember, but he was not about to say anything,” Cyan Flight said, putting a wing around Shine. “He saw the movie more than once, knowing full well it was you, but did not connect you with his mauling. He did notice the fact that you paid for his care, starting about nine years after your disappearance.”

“I did, because by then, I was able to use my new identity to quietly send aid,” Point said quietly, going up to his parents. “Father, I forgave you a long time ago. Helping you was my quiet way to apologize for the beating at my hooves, even though it was my alter ego who did it.”

“He knows the full story, Glow. I’ve been updating him, and he is particularly proud of what you and your sister are doing for Equus and the Federation,” Cyan said, hugging Point with the wing that was not busy hugging Shine. “But now, on to the real order of business.

“Those two chakats, Flamepaws and Nightmare, will be very good for you. Your son and grandchildren are very good for you, yes, but those two will help you stabilize yourself in ways you are not aware of. You know what it’s like to give of yourself, to give love.”

“Now will be a tougher lesson for you, Glow,” Shine said. “You have to learn to RECEIVE love in such a way that it does not make you worry about going over to the dark side of yourself. That will not happen. Let yourself feel the good emotions, not the bad ones. You’ll like it, I assure you. Feel the love I felt for your mother. You already know the pain of separation. Learn the joy of uniting.”

“If you don’t believe your father, you will believe me. Every word he has said is true. You have felt the love of foals and cubs. Now, feel the love a true relationship will give you. We think you’re good now, but later, we will REALLY be proud of you!” Cyan said with a warm smile.

“You will?” Point said, sounding like a colt who did not believe what he had received for Hearth’s Warming.

“We are, and we will, son. Apologies have been given and received. Now, go on out there and live the life you ought to have!” Radiance Shine said with a growl before the scene faded to black.

Radiance awoke with a jerk and a yelp, going from dream state to waking so fast, he was completely confused about where he was. “Something wrong, Brother?” Sunrise asked sleepily from her bed.

“Confused… where… what?” Radiance managed to stammer as his wits slowly congealed into their proper shape. “Powerful dream…”

“Something about your old apartment in Canterlot with our parents there?” Sunrise yawned.

Radiance looked at his sister, dumbfounded. “How did you know?” he squeaked.

“I was there, too, watching from the kitchen. They told me what they planned to do before you arrived. Father forgave me, too, admitting that it was his fault I came out and beat the crap out of him,” Sunrise confessed, stretching her wings and legs. “What time is it?”

“Time for a mug or two of what ales us, for sure,” Radiance said, getting up to fill the two pots they kept in their quarters with water.

“Do you have enough Arisian Civet coffee for both of us?” Sunrise asked.

“I do. Why, you want some?”

Sunrise nodded. “Please. Normal strength with sugar.”

“Three minutes,” Radiance said as he filled his pot with water before putting in a fresh brown paper filter and enough coffee for two mugs before starting it.

“You know, Mom and Dad are right. You know how to give of yourself, but you don’t feel right about accepting. Think you can forgive yourself enough to accept what Flamepaws and Nightmare are offering?” Sunrise asked as the coffee dripped into the pot.

“I forgave Father, he forgave me. That means I should forgive myself, yes? It won’t be easy.” Radiance said from the bathroom, where he was rinsing their mugs.

“You try to make things easy for others, Brother. Maybe now you can accept others making things easy for you. Once you can accept their love, I will be free to leave you in their care and move on with my life.”

“Have I been holding you back, Sister? If so, you have my apologies.” Radiance said as he dried the mugs before adding sugar.

“Only because somepony needed to watch over you, big brother,” Sunrise said in dry tones. “I don’t mind, because I like watching over you, learning from what you do and don’t do. It’s an experience.”

Radiance poured two mugs, passing one to Sunrise before sitting with his. “What do you think of my progress?”

“Brother, you are a wonder. It’s a wonder no one has killed you yet,” she said, sipping her coffee before staring at the mug. “This stuff is better than I expected.”

“It’s about the only coffee that is good weak.”

“Or what YOU call weak. As a teacher, as a technician, as an officer, you are wonderful, period. Not one of your students that you have taught aboard have any reason to complain about you. You have Steel up to the point he could fill in for you in any of your jobs. Every one of your students are in high demand in the Fleet, be they Federation or Equestrian. Both Coppertop and Tormyn were snapped up by Star Fleet when they transferred off, and their evals are something to be proud of,” Sunrise explained while sipping her coffee.

“How do you know that?” Radiance asked after a slug of his coffee, feeling the brew chase the cobwebs away.

“As their Teacher, I asked to have updated evaluations sent to me of every student we have trained, to see if we need to make any changes in our methods or curriculum. So far, I’m happy to say none have been needed, except for when we started including non-Equestrians.”

“And you never told me?”

“Didn’t need to. You had enough to do, and there were no complaints. If there were, I would have let you know,” Sunrise said before having some more coffee.

Radiance stared into his mug. “I’m not going to put Steel ahead of any of the old crew. Would not be polite of me to do so.”

“What if the old crew wants him to move up to Engineer’s Mate?”

“If you can get Danorax, Fornax, and everyone else to come up to me and put Steel’s name up in nomination for Mate, I’ll think of it. It has to be unanimous.” Radiance said with an edge to his voice.

“Steel is like you in one way, Brother… he likes doing paperwork. You know Dano and Fornie really don’t like that.”

Radiance nodded. “It shows, too. Galen has requested I double-check the paperwork whenever they do it, before submitting.” He shrugged. “So, it takes me ten minutes to review and annotate before passing it on.”

Sunrise drained her mug. “Now, on to what you are going to do with Flamepaws and Nightmare. They are good for you, whether you know it or not. Be good to them and they will be good for you,” she said, holding up a wing to stall an interruption. “You need someone to let your mane down with, someone you can be you with, without work, rank or anything else coming between you and them. Think I would not be saying this if I didn’t think it was true?”

“You wouldn’t. Even the parents think well of them, and they have been dead for years. Perhaps I should just relax around them,” he said before letting out a sigh. “Too bad I can’t take them down to the diner.”

“Yeah. Damn politicians…” Sunrise muttered, getting up and heading for the bathroom.

“Hey! That’s MY line!” Radiance shouted as the door shut.

Once the water was on and running, Sunrise took in a breath and let it out with a satisfied whoosh. “Thank you, Princess Luna. You’re the biggest clue-by-four I know. I just hope it is enough,” she said quietly, letting the water mask her voice.

Radiance kept up his ‘business persona’ all week long, being professional to both the chakats and the crew, as usual. After turnaround at Equus, Radiance was surprised by an all hooves meeting in Engineering, called by the Engineer’s Mate, Fornax.

“Point, a proposal has been made that I step aside from being Mate in favor of placing Radiant Steel in that position. After a little convincing, he accepted the nomination. We took a vote, and it is unanimous. We now put to you that Radiant Steel should be Engineer’s Mate. What do you say?” Fornax said in his gravelly voice.

“What do you say, Steel? Do you want the headache, the heartache, the responsibility of being Engineer’s Mate? You thought I was rough before, now I will be utterly merciless when I find an error,” Radiance said, completely serious.

Radiant Steel did not flinch under his grandfather’s baleful stare. “If I had not been convinced of my capability, I would not have accepted the nomination,” he said evenly. “I will not give you any reason to be disappointed with me.”

“Steel, the next thing I find about you that disappoints me will be the first thing I have found about you that disappoints me. You are calm under fire, stress and workload, you can coordinate multiple matters at once, and I am so damn proud of you I can’t express it properly. Go get your uniforms altered, I’ll go notify Commander Bluequill,” Radiance said, the absolute pride he felt in his grandson apparent to everypony there, empath or non-empath, the entire Engineering department cheering the two on.

“That’s my grandfather, a softie at heart,” Steel said, giving Radiance a hug, which was returned with obvious joy.

“At least you’re not soft anymore, Steel. Always good to lay off the doughnuts,” Radiance said, his voice quivering a little.

“Only if you stay away from the coffee cakes, Grandfather.” Steel shot back.

“Deal. I’ll do that. Let’s get back to work.”

Training Steel for Engineer’s Mate duties did not take long. It soon became obvious that Steel was well-trained in all the administrative chores required for being Departmental Executive Officer. “Why do I get the feeling that this has been a set up going on behind my back for some time now?” Radiance said to his grandson in the Engineering Office, which would soon require a second desk.

“I would not call it a setup, Grandfather. More of a desire by Fornax and Danorax to let the most skilled pony take the job. Of course, they have been training me in how to run the department since about a month after I graduated from cadet class,” Steel replied.

“All this time, and I never noticed it. I ought to be criticized for inattention,” Radiance snorted.

“I won’t let you be criticized. You have had a lot on your plate, and we wanted to do our best to ease your load. There have been no real problems since you took over, have they?” Steel asked.

“Not a one. I have a good crew under me. Or, WE have a good crew under US,” Radiance pointed out.

“That we do, Grandfather. I’m as proud of them wanting me to be a leader as you are of me. I do have one request of you, if I may.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“Would you mind if I used Eridonax as an aide as well? She’s been doing a good job as your aide, and I think having her as an auxiliary mind would be a good thing,” Steel managed to say, but with an uneven voice.

Radiance let out another snort. “You got the hots for her, eh?”

The blush in Radiant Steel’s ears would have set off every infrared detector within ten meters, if he was not shut in a room. The air conditioning did pick up a little. “Well, to be honest, yes. She’s sharp, confident, skilled and we get along well. I like being with her. She’s worth someone’s attention, and it might as well be me, right?”

“If you want to, Steel, I will not interfere with you in any way. In fact, go ahead and let her know, so you can tell your parents you finally got a fillyfriend, one that gets my hoofstamp of approval. Just let me know before you send the message, so I can send one of my own. Deal?” Radiance requested.

“It’s a deal, grandfather,” Steel replied, reaching out for a hoofbump, which was returned with a friendly smile, something Radiance seldom let out.

Radiance’s relationship with Flamepaws and Nightmare became a bit easier after that dream, with Radiance being more willing to spend time with them off duty, while being his usual stoic self on duty. Others aboard took notice as well, finding Point to be a bit more relaxed in the evenings, and even more so on Saturdays. Unfortunately for the crew, his poker skills were not blunted by his relaxation. If anything, they got stronger.

Two round trips went by before the next non-Equestrian class was gathered from Chakona. Like before, it was a dozen mixed students from Dewclaw. This time, Radiance tried a little experiment of his own. He spot-checked Radiant Steel several times a day but spent most of his time with the class. He spent at least one hour each week with each student, be it in Control or Engineering. The one Medical student, he let Zubon and Hexanerax have. Putting Radiant Steel in charge of Engineering also let Radiance catch up on his Control qualifications, he not having stood more than Shutdown Command Duty Officer watches in Control for quite some time. Somehow, he always managed to be forward when Radiant had the watch aft, just to see how his grandson would handle matters. Like he expected, he didn’t have to worry. About Steel, at least. Updating his qualifications, on the other hoof…

“Shiny Dot best pilot not. Erralakis learn you better pilot be,” the Merraki squawked the first time Radiance examined the new (to him) flight control panel.

“If you are willing to teach, I am ready to learn,” Radiance replied. A very intense one-hour briefing on the control setup ensued, to which he listened to attentively.

After the briefing, and the quiz afterwards, which Radiance passed with a perfect score, Erralakis looked over the Chief Engineer carefully. “Headache Shiny Dot have, yes?” he asked.

“If it is that obvious, Erralakis, then yes, I do. Please forgive me for saying so, but it is hard to listen to your speech and make sense of it. I just do my best.”

“Best is good, but better can do. Go, coffee get. One for Erralakis, too. Your way is fine.”

“Back in a few minutes, then,” Radiance muttered as he stumbled his way to the mess decks for coffee.

The Sensor Officer for that watch, a changeling named Klikbik, looked at the pilot after Radiance left the Control Room. “Latke, you can be mean, cruel, vicious and a pain in the head,” he said, almost in awe.

Erralakis let out a laugh, one echoed by the Communications Officer of the Watch, a chunky human female named Duela Hunt, like Erralakis, a graduate of Cadet Class Five. “Humans say payback pain in ass is. Show them I do pain better elsewhere!”

“What did Point ever do to you?” Klikbik asked with a smile.

Duela answered that. “The Eng is a demanding teacher, absolutely unforgiving of any errors. What makes it bearable is that he is just as hard on himself as he is to the rest of us. Erralakis is just getting a little of his own back.”

“I see,” Klikbik said. “It’s hard to prank him.”

“Say not prank him I do. Be myself I am. Let him figure me out,” Erralakis said with a chuckle.

“Latke’s always like this, Klik. Don’t worry about it,” Duela said as she watched over the telemetry readouts going out over the subspace radio.

Radiance returned a few minutes later, his headache no longer in evidence, carrying two mugs of coffee in his glow. He gave the one to Erralakis before sitting down in the command chair. “Erralakis, I would like, after watch, to spend an hour with you in the Simulator Room. I want to know if the teaching stuck, and if I can execute it right.”

“Run on simulator, Erralakis do for Shiny Dot. Shiny Dot good boss, Erralakis want Shiny Dot to be better boss,” the Merraki chirped brightly.

“If Shiny Dot has to be boss, Shiny Dot had best be best boss he can be,” Radiance agreed as he took a sip of coffee.

“We’ll help you, Commander,” Duela said from her post. “You’re one of the better commanders I have encountered. If you’re not teaching, you’re learning.”

“Thank you for saying so, Miss Hunt. Just goes to show my teaching ability is suitable for more than just ponies,” Radiance said as his eyes looked over the monitors.

“You’ve been one of my better teachers, too. Thank you.”

“Erralakis say Shiny Dot good teacher, yes. Is good student? Shall see we do.”

That Saturday night, Radiance did something different. He stayed for the show, sitting between Flamepaws and Nightmare, but did not stick around for the card game, instead going with the two chakats to their quarters for a few hours of relaxation.

“Ladies, I have to confess, being with you two is good for me. Just being with you here enables me to forget about work and focus on you two,” he said as he was being the meat in a chakat sandwich.

Nightmare turned and hugged Radiance’s forequarters, mooshing his nose between her breasts. “We like being able to focus on you alone, Point,” she said gently.

Flamepaws hugged Radiance from behind, forcing his nose deeper between Nightmare’s furry breasts. “That we do. We’re going to fill that hole in your soul come hell or high water!”

“What about low oxygen levels?” Radiance gasped.

The two chakats let go of the unicorn, allowing him to get his breath back. “That, too,” Flamepaws giggled.

“Silly ladies- fun is for all!” Radiance laughed, using his glow to ruffle both chakats headfur at once.

“Oh, you’re in for it now!” Nightmare squealed as both chakats caught the pony up in a wild tickle fest.

Months went by, training Cadet Classes Six and Seven, both from Chakona, while the Cosmic Lotus went about its duties as a support craft. All aboard followed the news about the war against the Swarm, cheering victories and mourning losses. Twice, the Lotus pulled in at Chakona for a little down time, maintenance and resupply. Both times, Radiance managed to get a few days leave. The first time, he went with Flamepaws and Nightmare to their home outside Berdoovia, which was being cared for by one of their daughters, named River Edge. They spent their time together sightseeing and meeting friends. Radiance, for once, put his work and duties completely aside and devoted his full attention to the chakats and what they wanted to do, but sleeping alone in a guest room every night.

The second leave period, Radiance called ahead and reserved the campsite by the lake outside the Cat’s Eye, and all seven of them camped for three days, the seven being Radiance, Flamepaws, Nightmare, Radiant Steel, Eridonax, Sunrise Flight and her paramour, a griffon scientist that went by the name of Huron Redshaft. Huron is one of the few remaining scientists aboard the Lotus, more for his skill at maintaining the sensor equipment than his skills in science, which were formidable enough on their own.

The three days and nights the group spent at the lake they regarded as the start of their herd, which they declared to be House Point. The first night there, they built a big bonfire, Point and Steel cooked up a nice meal for all, and they spent the night around the fire, singing, laughing, passing bottles of liquor around, enjoying each other’s presence. That night was the first night Radiance slept with Flamepaws and Nightmare, but not the last.

Back aboard the Lotus, some cabin rearranging was in order. Flamepaws and Nightmare moved in with Radiance, with Sunrise and Huron taking the chakat’s old cabin. Steel and Eridonax did a little dickering, and the two expanded Steel’s cabin to where it was big enough for two. The rearranging came as a surprise to all aboard, nobody thinking that Radiance and Sunrise would ever split apart. They hadn’t, just moving to separate quarters so each can be with the ones they cared for, as Sunrise explained at breakfast the next day.

Radiance went to Wandering Path later that day with an unusual request, to be the celebrant Saturday night at a triple wedding and the formation of a House, the weddings being Radiant Steel to Eridonax, Sunrise Flight to Huron Redshaft, and himself to Flamepaws and Nightmare. Wandering stared blankly at Radiance. “What’s got into you, Point? This is not normal for you.”

“Normal is a setting on a dishwasher, Captain. It does not apply to me. Would you be willing, or should I ask Galen to do the honors?” Radiance asked.

“No, no, don’t worry, I’ll do it. I’m just surprised you would even ask. Just what happened when you were on leave this last time?”

“I finally came to my senses, Captain. I now know I can show affection, even love, to another without worrying my bad side will come out. It is gone, and good riddance to it. I have put myself through the depths of Tartarus for many years, and now I finally find out that my other I has been gone for a while, but I never realized it. It took that little vacation to prove it is gone. Time to move on with my life, wouldn’t you agree?” Radiance said reasonably.

“Point, ever since we started, I have been worried about you being healthy and happy. I have watched you improve step by step for years. Congratulations, Point, you’ve arrived,” Wandering said with pride. “Is that why Sunrise is marrying Huron?”

“Yes, she has said she does not need to watch over me anymore. She’s handed that job over to Flamepaws and Nightmare. It’s about time she got on with her life instead of fretting over mine.”

“Not to mention your grandson marrying Eridonax. Are you all right with that?”

“Of course! I’ve known for a while he’s had the hots for her. Let them be happy together. They have earned it.”

“That they have. Steel has become a fine engineer under your tutelage. He’s almost as good as you are,” Wandering said with a smile.

“Almost? Captain, with some more seasoning, he will be better than I can ever hope to attain. With Eridonax to settle him down, he’s going to go places,” Radiance said before snorting. “I expect some more great-grandfoals from them soon enough. Half-changeling grandfoals. What is this world coming to?”

“I’m sure Mama Twilight will get started working on compatibility spells for ponies and chakats when she finds out about this,” Wandering said with a knowing smile.

Radiance’s ears went a ghastly grayish white. “I never thought about that…” he whispered, wobbling some on his hooves.

Wandering guided Radiance to a cushion, letting him down gently. “Consequences of love, yes?”

“True. I wonder what a unicorn crossed with a chakat would look like?”

“We’ll soon find out.”

After the group wedding, House Point settled in to their lives, not only as crew members of the Lotus, but as a family, too. Radiance became far easier to live with, more confident in his own skin than he could ever remember being. Sunrise went a full week at one point without snapping at her brother, and Steel settled in with Eridonax, becoming a much more mature pony. Messages were sent between the Lotus and Vanhoover, Cast Iron and Hot Skillet being overjoyed at both his father’s and his son’s weddings. Hot Skillet’s only complaint was that she had not yet met the new family members. Politics, however, put paid to those ideas, for now.

Several months after the weddings, Radiance was inspecting Engineering, not truly looking for anything, when a call came from the Bridge. “Bridge to Engineering- emergency start up!”

“What the… emergency start-up, aye! This better be good!” Radiance snapped back as he began the emergency light-off sequence, the Lotus at standby at the Chakastra end of the portal.

Once Radiance reported, “Ready to answer all bells,” the ship jumped in to warp, shuddering some at the suddenness of it. In less than a minute, the ship was at flank speed, going all balls out. He checked the Bridge feeds and saw a magnificent ball of crystal ahead of the ship. “What the…” he exclaimed.

Determined, Radiance made his way to the Bridge, to find out just what was going on. He left the bridge more than half stunned. After making sure Steel had the proper marching orders, he went straight to his quarters, where Flamepaws was resting. After getting filled in on what was happening, Flamepaws wrapped hirself around hir mate. “Don’t worry, love. We have faith in you and the ship’s captain. We shall see when it is time to see.”

“Thank you, dearest. You always know how to settle my unsettled thoughts.”

Once in Equus orbit, the news about what the crystal sphere contained rapidly spread through the Lotus, most of the crew watching on whatever monitor was at hoof. Radiance stayed with Galen up in Control, with Steel back in Maneuvering, until word came from Wandering to stand down for a while.

“Now, I’m glad I got the Chief’s position, Galen. Allows you more time to focus on your real job, commanding the ship,” Radiance said to his long-time friend.

“I’m just glad they listened when I suggested it. With what all that was going on, the Captain was going to be away from the ship a lot. I knew you could handle the department,” Galen said, with as smug a look as he could muster on his face.

Radiance spluttered some before saying, “You sandbagging son of a bird!”

“And damn proud of it. What you going to do about it, eh? Challenge me to an honor duel?” Galen riposted.

“No, you already did, and I won out. Why push my luck?” Radiance fired back before starting to laugh, soon joined by the big blue griffon.

“Radiance, since you married those two, you’ve become far easier to get along with,” Galen told his friend.

“No more potholes in the road, Galen. I’m heading to Engineering. Keep me updated,” Radiance said as he headed for the bridge door.

“Will do, Point.”

With what developed from the advent of the crystal ship, the Cosmic Lotus was forced to remain in Equus orbit while forces gathered for a hopefully final assault against the Swarm. When the banishment was lifted, and it was determined that they would be staying a while, Radiance immediately pulled what strings he could and brought his entire herd to Vanhoover to meet the rest of the family. That led to the diner being shut down for three days in the middle of the week while all hooves and paws had the chance to get acquainted with each other, all expenses being covered by Radiance, Radiant and Sunrise.

“Father, I knew you could overcome your problems. I just did not expect it would take chakats to do it,” Cast Iron said in a quiet moment.

“I didn’t either, but looking back, I think they succeeded when others failed because they are not ponies. I’ve never harmed a chakat, and a chakat has never harmed me. That’s probably what broke my last resistance. I’m glad it did,” Radiance said, sipping some coffee.

“Can I expect any half-chakat brothers and sisters?” Cast Iron asked, looking up at where Sunrise and Huron were playing in the skies with Paradoxis.

“Princess Twilight is working on it, but don’t expect anything soon,” Radiance replied calmly. “War is not over yet.”

“A tolerable answer.”

After the Swarm’s hold on the galaxy was broken, but not without a price, Flamepaws and Nightmare found Radiance sitting in their quarters, a half-empty bottle of Bushpacer’s on the desk. He looked up as they came in, tears in his eyes. “He was the best Captain I have ever had…” he sniffed.

The two chakats went to either side of Radiance and hugged him to them. “He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten,” Nightmare said quietly into his left ear.

“We’re just going to have to prove that he was not wrong in choosing you or allowing us to be aboard,” Flamepaws whispered into his right ear.

After a sniff, he hugged the two even closer with his glow. “You’re right, of course. And, so we shall. Once the higher-ups figure out what they want to do, we will be here to get it done.”

“That we will, love,” Flamepaws said as Nightmare amplified with a “That we will.”

Some months later, Radiance and Radiant looked out of an observation port in the Yards at the recently completely overhauled Cosmic Lotus, keeping the tri-nacelle design, but looking sleeker, ready to get out and start looking around the universe. “Now that we got the old Lotus rebuilt, do you think you can oversee the construction of the Gowanus Herald II?” Radiance asked his grandson.

“Without a problem, Grandfather,” Steel said easily. “Your designs are solid, now all that is needed is to see if the papers meet the facts.”

“I’m going to miss you, Steel. You, Eri and little Faustina. Keep in touch, okay?”

“I will. I’ll keep an eye on Aunt Sunrise as well, and let you know when she delivers. You let me know when Nightmare delivers, okay?” Steel said, leaning against his grandfather.

“And Flamepaws, but Nightmare has your blood relative. Zubon and Hex are watching her closely. My best to your parents, and I’ll call when I can. When we come back, we’ll get together and do some camping, all of us,” Radiance said, hugging his grandson.

“I’ll pick a spot, Grandfather. Be safe and come back, okay?” Steel sniffled, hugging back tightly.

“I’ve come back twice already. I think it’s a habit I’ll keep.”

Author's Note:

Is this truly the end? I may come up with one more chapter, depending on what comes to mind.

Thank you so much, Goldfur, for letting me play in your backyard. It's been fun, it IS fun, and more fun is in store. A round of applause is in order, once I find a bottle of Applause somewhere...

No, Sunrise, that's applesauce, not applause!