• Published 22nd Sep 2019
  • 912 Views, 126 Comments

A Home in the Black - FuzzyVeeVee



In the space-faring future of Equestria's galaxy, the unwitting crew of the cargo vessel Claudia set out to find a home in the space between worlds delivering goods. But of course, the galaxy always has trials to throw at those who venture forth

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Pilot's VLOG, Stardate: Sunday

Author's Note:

The events described in this story's introduction concern Session #1-#30, as described in depth in the Session Summaries document (Link) of the tabletop game, should you wish to see the detailed events between Tami's departure from Chrysolite, and this story.

This particular (quite short) one was written mostly as a chance to try my hand at writing 'as' the other players' characters in the tabletop game, hence it's smaller size. Tami was my own, so I wanted to try out with the others before attempting something much, much bigger, which you may see next...

Tammani's departure from Chrysolite marked a new stage in her life. Her journey to Port Medusa was fraught with more peril than had been expected, as her shuttle came under attack by pirates in the void of space while close to the old Port itself.

Tagging along with the other kidnapped people aboard, Tami thankfully escaped, even if she had to be carried out while nursing a wound to her shoulder. Fleeing to Port Medusa she fell in step with this new group for safety as she recovered, as she waited to see what kind of crew, or ship, Port Medusa might offer her.

As it turned out, she'd already found them.

Thrown together by chance in the attack, that very same group she had escaped with became a crew. Not long after that, and despite a few misadventures and distractions along the way, Tami made good on her promise to report home about what she'd found for herself out in the black...


Pilot's VLOG, Stardate: Sunday

* * *

The video took a few seconds to buffer, warping and tearing the image into a mess of colour and static. The playback was struggling, adjusting as best it could to display on a monitor designed and manufactured half a galaxy away from the device that had actually recorded the video in the first place.

Then, an image suddenly appeared upon the screen; a hazy shape of someone unidentifiable, before the footage began to play a half second after its initial appearance. Quickly, the quality improved and the image of a young, bright orange and cream hippogriff beaming a joyful smile into the camera became apparent. Her eyes widened with excitement, and the speakers erupted into a barrage of sudden music. Impossibly bouncy and sung by a young chart-topping female pop-star, it completely drowned out the hippogriff's voice.

"HI! Ta-...here! I ju-...yo-...wait! I think…-o lou-!"

With her bouncy mane bobbing around her head, and an awkward panic coming over her, she fumbled around pressing several buttons behind the camera. The lens pointed right at her torso as she leaned over the device to try and fix something, before the picture cut out.

* * *

Seconds later, after a period of blackness, the video emerged a second time. This time the music had been cut, replaced with the light droning rumble of a running starship. The hippogriff took a breath, checked something on top of the camera, and sat down again in what was now clearly a hammock.

"Hi! Tami here! Sorry about that, I just thought it'd be cute to have some music playing to introduce this, but uh...I don't think this thing's set up for recording ambient noise too well. It's just a little thing I bought on Medusa! Anyway! Hi Mum! Hi Dad! Hi Orbit!"

Her wings flared out, and she lifted her overall-clad body off the hammock with a strong flap, picked the camera up and looked directly into it. Her enormous smile exploded onto her face, words spilling from her mouth as though she might run out of time to say them all.

"Sorry it took a while to do this, but I know you read my mails to see why. We've got a little time right now while flying back to Medusa from the Republic after a passenger transit, just gotta drop off some cargo en-route. Acid or something. I don't go near it. But I wanted to make this for you all, to get to show you Claudia, and the crew I found to live with! It's all turned out great, look at this!"

The camera's viewpoint whirled around, until it was looking at where she'd come from. The back end of a bridge, with a hammock strung up between a bulkhead and some personal workstations lined against the corner. Bags were strewn under it, along with a small pile of paints, and brushes in a jar. Paintings of nebulae, stars and other celestial objects were dotted along the plating behind it, while a blonde dog-looking soft toy half lay leaning off the hammock itself. Fluffy slippers were lined up below some cargo containers welded to the wall like makeshift shelving. Someone had put a great deal of effort into turning the ship's bridge into a cozy den.

"They let me live up here on the bridge! Technically I have a room, but I've not slept a night in there yet! I can just relax here, watch the black through the bridge windows, or even just get up and fly around when I need to. It's so relaxing up here, nothing but the hum of the ship and the occasional beep of the helm. Buuuut..."

The camera whirled around, looking up at her face. Tami teasingly winked at it, a newly rediscovered energy about her personality.

"I'll show you the workstation I have later, Dad. I know you'll be itching to see it! Aaaand if I do it now I'll talk for an hour. I wanna introduce you to people and show you the ship first! So! It's just turned day-cycle for us, so everyone's just getting up. When better to go meet them?"

Not a single word of her last sentence betrayed even a hint of sarcasm, and Tami excitedly hopped on the spot, making the camera's viewpoint bob and blur.

"I can't wait! I've been wanting to do this for so long! They didn't let me do one in Basic or the Academy, so this is the first VLOG I get to make for you both! It's like confirming I made it, right? C'mon! Let's go see who we can find!"

Tami turned the camera sharply, the viewpoint shifting to look ahead of her as she walked toward an already open metal door. It was heavy, clearly of minotaur design by its size and robustness. Immediately behind it, a set of stairs ran to a lower deck, but more prominent was the long passageway behind them that ran down, presumably, the spine of the ship. Tami hummed and (judging by the movement of the camera) skipped her way past the stairs to travel down the length of ‘Claudia’ instead.

"So this is sorta like the big corridor inside her. You can get from the bridge to the room closest to the stern from here, all the way down the dorsal. I call it the main street, 'cos its the single longest section of Claudia's crew areas there is. But also, it's the way you reach our first destination on the Claudia Tour! Engineering!"

At the very bottom, perhaps a few dozen meters from the bridge a double set of heavy doors were sitting open, and the camera's bobbing finally settled on the powerful shape of a ship's reactor behind them. The microphone buzzed with a lethargic chugging noise, one that only amplified as Tami hopped through the doors and into the room.

"And here's who I thought I'd find in here already! Hey Kiffie!"

Panning over the engineering section with the viewfinder, several thickly reinforced terminals could be seen still blinking into life, scrolling with power readouts, environmental statistics, temperature gauges, fuel line pressure, and maintenance rotas. The churning heart of Claudia in the middle of the room was also visible: a massive section of heavy machinery on struts that dominated the middle of the room with its magic-influx turbine, before Tami’s camera’s pan settled on the sole inhabitant of the engineering section.

An enormous griffon was hunched over with his head bend around a removed wall panel, surrounded by multiple bags of strewn tools. His calico body colours were contrasted by puffed out brown feathers that half enveloped his loose clothing and utility belt.

Not startled, but seemingly more bewildered by Tami's excited greeting, the griffon shimmied backwards and extricated himself from the wall.

As it turned out, this was not a rapid process. And it became even more apparent that his feathers had been compressed by the tighter space, as they now impressively resembled the look of a plush toy that had just gone through a wash and a hairdryer. It was punctuated by a curious tilt of his head, and an innocent look of curiosity.

"Oh, good mornin' Miss. What're you doin' with that?"

Panning upwards to look at his face, Tami waved in front of the lens.

"I'm filming for my parents! So! This is Kerfuffle! He's our engineer. Say hi, Kiffie!"

As though informed that he was suddenly at a formal event, Kerfuffle rapidly straightened out and widened his eyes, before waving a meaty talon toward Tami...and then only after a clear non-verbal prompt, a second time to the camera.

"Oh! Well, hi there Missus...uh...and Mister...uh..."

Kerfuffle blinked, before looking away at Tami again.

"Don't...remember their names. Were they asking anything? Only, never really recorded much before."

Tami's sweet laughter over-rode the chomping of the reactor's cycles, making the camera shake. She spoke loudly, trying her best to hold the camera still at a distinctly fidgety Kerfuffle.

"Oh, don't worry! Now, like I said. Kerfuffle's our engineer on Claudia. He keeps her running smoothly and fixes anything that's gone wrong. And he's real good at it too, like, he can just look at a machine and know what's wrong with it without even touching it. Like that cleaning bot you got, Dad? How we never could get it to turn properly so it just bumps into walls? Kiffie'd be able to see what's wrong, I'm sure of it. And-"

The big griffon's eyebrows shot up, his awkward stance finally letting his gaze come to the camera itself. He leaned in, a saddened look on his face as he took up the camera. He held it high in his own claws, looking upward at the lens.

"Oh, the poor thing's always bumping its nose into stuff? Has it got a broken traverse gear? Oh dear. Is it a Vectronix? A Cleaneasy?"

His look of genuine concern was contrasted by the sight of Tami sliding into view over his shoulder, holding both hands over her mouth and silently giggling away. Kerfuffle, however, continued his questioning. His voice throughout was unexpectedly quiet for someone so large, with a hushed little polite tone underneath it all. A gentle giant by any measure.

"If he's a Confederate RX type, then look under his bottom plate and see if he's got a misaligned chain. And...and let me know if it's an RT unit instead, because I have the manual here since he shares components with Patch. If you send a picture to Miss Tami I can have a look at it to help the little thing not be hurting himself all the time. Oh, and check the front sensor; he might have gotten clogged up if he's been over a lot of dust, he might be blind! And-"

Tami couldn't hold it any longer, her high-pitched laughter picking up as Kerfuffle's rambled through half a dozen known issues, repeatedly expressing his concern for the cleaning bot. The smaller hippogriff finally flew up to land on his back and take the camera.

"I'll make sure they do, Kiffie."

"Oh, oh that's good then."

He paused, going somewhat more silent as though realising his long amount of talking, until Tami giggled and briefly hugged around his neck from behind. Or at least that was what the odd movements of the camera implied.

"Hey, why don't you tell them a little about Claudia and what you're doing this morning?"

Kerfuffle clearly took a second to think, before finally smiling more openly. This was obviously a subject he was more comfortable with. Sweeping his large body to the side and turning them both, he indicated the missing wall panel with an outstretched claw.

"Well, y'see, Claudia's been having hiccups every time she transitions from turbine to fusion power. And she did it again last night just as I was goin' to bed even without a turbine cycle. So I thought I'd get up early and come give her a nice bit of attention until she and I can work out how to make her fly nice and smooth again. The hiccups were keeping me up, so I can only imagine..."

Tami made an 'aww' sound, dropping off of his back. She stepped back to show both Kerfuffle and the reactor, before swinging back to the panel as the griffon moved back over to it and picked up some tools. His voice might have been soft, but his movements certainly had weight to them. While not clumsy, it was clear he was used to working in minotaur-designed environments involving weighty levers and heavy materials. And there was plenty of that around him in the steamy engineering section

"So I figured maybe she's just got a little blockage in her transfer manifold. Lotta power for fusion, not nearly as much for turbine; so maybe some of its just getting dumped from capacitors hours after it got left as excess. Like when you get a cold and your nose runs for a long time after the illness is gone. So I'm just installing a relay to let her direct any excess to the heat sinks, and burn it all off. She don't deserve to be all stuttery just flying at night..."

Tami's hand reached out and patted Kerfuffle's shoulder. Her talons disappeared up to almost the wrist in his thick feathers. She grinned up at him.

"You'll put her right, you always do.” She turned to the camera. “See? Kiffie's super good at all this, 'cos he cares so much."

Kerfuffle looked down at her. He rubbed the back of his head, and bashfully smiled.

"I just don't like seeing her not right, is all. It's nothing big...if we get sick a doctor takes good care of us, right?"

"And if a machine needs help, the engineer helps her." Tami finished for him, as the viewpoint panned around. She had flown off him to land on the deck once more. "Hey, I'm gonna go see the rest of the crew, okay?"

Kerfuffle nodded, and sat back down near the wall panel.

"Okay, Miss Tami. I'll see you downstairs. Oh!"

He reacted suddenly, as though he'd forgotten something crucial, his wings and feathers fluffing up, as his eyes turned back to the camera.

"And bye to you too Missus Rose and Mister Gaius."

He smiled gently, even as Tami's surprised exclamation filtered into the camera's microphone, before shrugging and blushing.

"Just took me a second to remember."

Tami's hand again reached out to pat his forearm, before she upped and turned.

"Bye to you too, Kiffie!"

She got around four feet out of the door, before there was an urgent clattering of claws and a shocked gasp behind her. The camera spun rapidly to find Kerfuffle half out of engineering.

"I almost forgot! Bye to you too, Orbit!"

There was a pause, before the camera dropped to look at the floor, and Tami burst into laughter.

"Oh, Kiffie..."

Still laughing as the big griffon turned back to his workstation, she turned back to the 'main street' and skipped her way back down it. About mid way, the viewpoint turned until it was looking upwards at her face mid-trot. She was red in the cheeks and giggling, her lips curled into a permanent smile.

"He's just the softest, nicest thing. I know he seems a little slow or simple at times, but he's really really smart with machines, and polite to a fault. And...I think a lot of people underestimate him. Including himself. He's a lot wiser than he seems. When I've been upset over something, he always seems to know how to put things in perspective and make me think about it in a better way."

She stopped for a second to compose her words.

"I wish I'd had him around earlier in life sometimes. With, y'know...how I was."

Taking a deep breath, she looked away behind her, before rubbing an eye and smiling at the camera.

"Anyway! Let's go see who else we can find."

The video feed cut-

* * *

-and skipped to a different viewpoint. Looking down the stairs outside the bridge into what was clearly a common room. Tami was, owing to the lack of stepping sounds, flying her way down.

A table with a holo-display dominated the centre of the already well lived-in section of the ship, surrounded by metal seating topped with a variety of inconsistently shaped and coloured cushions to provide some comfort and colour to the otherwise hard and mundane chairs. At one of them, a young colt was sitting with cereal, watching cartoons on a digital screen upon the far wall above the modular kitchen unit.

"And this is where we all hang out or come to relax!" Tami's voice broke in, as she panned around. "We got a table, big screen, and look at all this!"

She turned in mid air, giving a full three-sixty view of the common room. Flanked with what were clearly crew quarters to every side, a room that had once been bare metal had, with a little decor, been turned into something quite homely. Name plates had been added above the doors; and a series of thick rugs brought colour to the floor. A pool table dominated the far side near one of the twin open doors to a much larger room, along with a worn but comfortable couch that resided below the stairs themselves. While clean, the layout bore all the hallmarks of a normal crew used to living around one another. Stacked food capsules and boxes were piled on the kitchen surface, breakfast's washing was still needing done by whomever's turn it was, and magazines were strewn on the table ahead of the colt. A washing basket of clothing ready to be hung up sat near one of the doors.

Aside from the colt, no-one else was present; his cartoons masking the noise of any others in the area.

Tami continued on, trembling as she went. "I do like it here sometimes, can just come and get some munchies, watch things together, or just to lie back on the couch if I need to. There's always someone here for some reason, so I like coming down just to see who's around if I'm free. Aaaand this time we get Jelly Biscuit!"

Tami flew down behind the colt's chair and pointed the camera to him. The colt turned briefly to look at her.

"What are you doing?" His voice betrayed an unexpected maturity for his age, despite his body still looking scrawny.

"Sending a video to my parents. They wanna see who I'm flying with, is all. So, this is Jelly Biscuit! We picked him up from a...uh...distress call a little while ago. We're still getting the meat back on the bones, huh?"

Jelly just stared at the camera, then Tami, then the camera, as though unsure what to say, before unexpectedly pulling a silly face, pulling the edges of his mouth apart and sticking his tongue out.

"Jelly! Don't do that!" Tami couldn't help but laugh as she ruffled his hair. "Say hi to them!"

"Hi 'huu 'hem!" He never changed his face at all, his tongue out giving his voice a lisping rasp.

"Be nice!" she chided.

"He nith!" he rasped.

"Jelly-"

"Helly-"

"-is silly!"

"-ith hilly-hey, wait!" He dropped the face, giving her a harsher look, only getting his mane ruffled again in response and wriggling to get her to stop. "Tami! Stop it!"

She only laughed and patted his back, even as the colt turned back to his cartoons again. "He's such a rascal...anyway! I know where I'll find someone fun before the first hour of the day cycle is up! This way!"

The camera whipped up, and its viewpoint moved to the other side of the stairs, bumping about as she hopped her way toward the door at the very back of the common room, gave it a rapid knock, and then walked right in.

"Hey, hey!" she chimed, coming into a large quarters. It was dominated by a set of patterned canvas panels obscuring the side of the room used for sleeping, and a large hanging monitor that covered the wall closest to the door. A quick pan brought the view to rest on a desk in the corner opposite the door. The quarters was hardly as tidy as the common room outside, stacked with a computer entry unit, various star charts, a chunky looking pistol, a veritable legion of post-it-notes, and a couple empty beer bottles acting as stationery holders. There were two ponies sitting on either side of it, both of whom looked up in confusion and bemusement.

One sparkled gently under the white LEDs of the ship lighting, both on her soft cream body and hazy orange mane: a lithe crystal pony. Every part of her seemed meticulously cared for. From her finely bunched mane, to the patterned eyelash directions, and even her smooth and clearly well exercised body under a pressed suit. She looked completely awake. Her thin, strict eyes betrayed a softer side as they arched up in questioning as to Tami's sudden intrusion.

The other sat behind the desk and seemed to be the polar opposite. Clutching a mug of steaming coffee within light green telekinesis on level with her sunken and tired eyes, as though to let its warmth seep into her still waking brain, sat a smaller-framed unicorn. A strong blue coat on her face was partially obscured by the drooping green mane, forced down by a trucker hat rammed tightly on her head. Her mouth was flat, and after one glance at the rabidly enthusiastic hippogriff skipping in, the unicorn looked at her coffee and, by the increased pace of her chugging it, clearly decided she needed to intake caffeine a lot more urgently.

The camera whipped back between the two, and Tami spoke up before either of the others could query.

"Good, you're both together, that makes it easy! I'm recording a VLOG to send home! So the crystal pony on the left there is Volatility Smile. She's like our business head; handles all the job contracts, border controls, route legality and accounts for the company. All the boring stuff, basically."

Volatility Smile was mid way through a small wave to the camera, but stopped and coughed politely. "Boring stuff?"

"Yeah," Tami brightly answered. "Like when you have to spend hours sitting there reading market share percentages and comparing them in spreadsheets to different systems' versions of the same things."

At that Smile pursed her lips, and gestured idly with a hoof.

"Tami, that isn't work for the company; that's just having fun with shares after work is done."

There was a pause in the room, both Tami and as of yet silent unicorn looking at the crystal pony. Smile spread her hooves as though they had just claimed that space was white.

"What? It's a thrill. Never know what you'll end up being able to do. But speaking of fun, will you be joining Niko and I for our morning aerobics session, Tami? You did say 'maybe later'. I'm sure your parents would appreciate seeing you getting fit with the crew."

"Uuuuuh..." Tami let her tone drone on, the camera shakily looking over at the unicorn, who only shrugged dismissively with a small grin that shifted the freckles on her face, briefly showing a sense of humour below the tired, gruff exterior in the morning.

Smile winked. "And you'd do well with the beat, with how much you dance about on the bridge-"

"I-I do not!"

Smile laughed, a curt and measured noise, with a look of utter incredulity. "One of these days we'll get you all in there with us. It's good for the body on long journeys! I'd ask Patch to bother you about it, if I could stand being around him."

"Maybe...maybe later," Tami muttered, and quickly turned the camera to face the unicorn, clearly seeking to change the subject. "And this is who I thought would be in here in the first place!”

The unicorn looked up, taking a long sip of her coffee, the edge of her mouth crinkling upwards slightly as she leaned back in her chair.

"This is Captain Hair Trigger! She keeps everything going in the right direction and gets us all together. Say hi to my folks, Captain!"

Hair Trigger finally let the long sip of her drink end, and leaned on her desk casually. A cheeky smile crept over her face as she fixed her eyes on the camera.

"A'ight there? Hey, has Tam told you about her new ‘boyfriend’ ye-"

"CAPTAIN!"

The camera whirled away in a frantic rush, the viewpoint spinning into indecipherable shapes, accompanied by the sound of Tami rapidly rushing out of the captain's quarters, accompanied by the unicorn’s raucous laughter somewhere behind her.

Shaking violently, it briefly looked at Tami's blazing red face as she moved through the common room, fumbling for the button to stop recording.

"No, see, it's not-she's just winding you up and...well, I m-mean I’ll likely never seen him again and I hardly know him an-wait, wait no...oh geez, c'mon!"

She finally found the button, and the footage cut.

* * *

The footage resumed on a blank door.

Tami's hand reached out and knocked on it three times.

"Hey, um, you up? Niko?"

After ten solid seconds of waiting, there was no answer. With a short grumble, Tami turned the camera to face her, the common room visible at the edges around her mane.

"Feels like he's never here sometimes. Okay, we'll, uh, we'll find something else. We'll go through the cargo hold to the bridge.”

She turned around, bringing the footage back to the common room itself, in time for Volatility Smile to come wandering out of the captain's quarters. The groomed pony briefly smiled at the camera.

"No luck with Nikomachos then?"

Tami sighed. "None. I think he's still sleeping."

Smile glanced at the door and looked somewhat disappointed, "And morning fitness was meant to start in a few minutes. Oh well, suppose I'll be alone for it. Unless-"

"I-have-a-lot-to-do-on-the-bridge!" The words exploded out of Tami's mouth.

"Okay, okay. Just remember we have our sit-down meeting later, all right?" Smile winked, and went into her room.

Tami hesitated for a moment, before beginning to wander back toward the doors at the other end of the common room, emerging into an enormous hold. Industrial shipping crates and metal containers dominated the middle, surrounding a hydraulic crane system. A ceiling height airlocked door was sealed at the far end, with a second one spread across the floor under the crane. Ladders dropped from above with a line of drying clothing strung between two of them. It wasn't particularly difficult to tell who each item belonged to.

"She'll be talking about doing stuff in here. Those two do a lot of aerobics and lifting all those things."

She zoomed in crudely to show a set of bar-weights and dumbbells stacked against the far wall around a lifting bench. A small music player sat waiting on a crate near them, and a few papers on the wall bore routines and personal records. Three columns of the listed five crew members were entirely empty.

She turned the camera around, briefly looking into it as she walked toward one of the ladders in the middle of the room. "Smile's pretty business first, but she's a nice pony, really. Get this, she helped me out with my student loans by showing me some things I could do, and got them completely written off!"

She hesitated with a single hand clenched on the ladder and bit her lip.

"Only, now I'm pretty sure I remotely own a company in an Avalon tax haven with two very bored employees. I guess that's what she wants to talk about..."

Turning the camera, she started climbing up, presumably tucking the device into a chest pocket.

"So we'll go up here, and we'll be back in the-woah!"

Kerfuffle’s large face suddenly popped into the hatch above her, staring down at her and the camera.

"Oh, sorry. Give you a hand, Miss?"

He stretched out his hand to hers, and effortlessly lifted her up and through to the main street again, just outside engineering.

"Thanks, Kiffie."

Kerfuffle shifted on the spot. "Just heard you coming up. I've been doing some reading and it's a good thing you're still recording. Because there was a Cleanmaster series that had that exact problem, and your homeworld only ever had them come in, so it's definitely a sensor issue. If they take the chassis off and help it out by clearing out the dust, it'll be fine. I guess it musta' been second hand to be like that already."

Tami was quiet for a second, before bursting into a fit of frantic laughter, pushing forward to hug the big griffon. The camera was momentarily nothing but feathers, until she pulled back and angled it.

"Oh, oh my. Thanks. I'll tell them. Gonna go show them the bridge."

"Okay, Miss. Let me know if its still not feelin' too well."

He nervously waved, and clambered back into the engineering section. Even in a minotaur ship he had to adjust his body to get through the door. In his wake, Tami held the camera below her face as she walked, cheeks red from laughter.

"Isn't he such a sweetheart?"

The viewpoint rotated to look toward the bridge again, and Tami passed around the stairwell to reach it. While about to reach the bridge, she paused as a faint humming of rotor blades began to be audible in the recording.

"Oh, now look who it is."

Tami quickly turned to look downstairs, as a floating object came whirring up them to hover in the air before her. Robustly constructed, the drone's main housing was connected to two small rotary units and several extendable arms with multiple joints. It paused in its route, looking at Tami, before speaking in an ill-fitting booming voice, like that of a supervillain's robotic bodyguard.

"Crewmember Tammani. Commencing daily rounds. Delivering personalised medical advice in three...two...one."

It blooped and buzzed in the air.

"Ignoring breakfast is adverse to a healthy life. Return downstairs and acquire sustenance for optimum operation."

Tami snorted, and reached out to pat the drone's housing.

"Aaand this is the last one around. This is Patch. Kerfuffle rescued him from those pirates I told you about in my mail. We fixed him up, and now he's our on board doctor. Hey, Patch, say hi to my parents!"

Patch gently floated up again; the pats had disrupted his level flight, his small rotary units roaring away like the fans in a server.

"Request to connect for proxy-advisory approved. Medical duty requests that parental action is taken to reduce Crewmember Tammani's calorie intake and encourage accompaniment of Crewmember Nikomachos and Crewmember Volatility Smile in daily exercise."

Tami's hand instead rubbed at his chassis, as though the small drone was a pet.

"He cares so much about us all; sometimes a little too much. Besides, I do get exercise! I still dance when I'm alone to get some sweat going."

The drone bleeped. "Crewmember Tammani does not possess medical licence. Unit PATCH provided efficient tempo and collected playlist information for activity titled 'Dancercise' from databanks. Playlist was not accepted by Crewmember Tamanni."

Tami chuckled and wandered on past him. "Because that stuff was boring! No lyrics or fun!” She rolled her eyes into the camera. “See? He's got such a sense of humour for a drone."

The sound of rotary units accelerating as Patch moved off down main street came from off-camera, along with a fading voice.

"Record added. Crewmember Tammani music tastes for dance related programs updated to 'limited'."

Ignoring him, Tami wandered into the bridge, the clatter of her hands and hooves on the metal decking changing to a softer tread as she moved onto the rugs she had laid down to personalise it. Yet immediately ahead was the great void of space itself. Deep space, far away from solar bodies. Without the light pollution of any nearby stars to shine across Claudia’s angular windows, the endless black showed its true beauty. Countless far away dots, blinking lights, and hazy distant auras of colourful nebulas surrounded the ship. A sight that was as deep as it was dark.

The windows, misted at their corners, lay beyond the stations for the bridge crew. Two crew chairs at the very front were surrounded by a series of hanging screens, control levers, a yoke, several button panels, and a large touch screen each. A pack of choconuts lay open and clipped onto a display on the right hand side one, easily indicating which was Tami's side.

"And this is where I do all my things! She's a good ship to fly. Takes a while to get used to the weight, the minotaurs build them hard, and she’s a heavy cargo lifter. But hey! The vectors are good at compensating for it all and-oh, look!"

She shuffled forward, moving to sit in the pilot's seat. Before her, the ship was half way done with the morning diagnostic, flickering words too fast for any organic to follow across the screen as every system was scanned, pinged and -if possible- tested.

"So right here, I got my pilot display unit. It's got a direct link to the navigation, so I don't even need to look up to use that. Unless it's FTL, which is over here. Oh, but the external camera only displays up here..."

She proceeded to go through all the controls at length. The sort of explanation only someone who knew their parents were ship crew themselves could possibly give. She excitedly squealed with delight at getting to work with triple redundancy stick servos, and giggled at the 'silly' minotaur bridge layout of having environmental panel back behind her and not on the main unit, meaning she had to get up.

It went on for some ten minutes, including a demo of how to set destinations on the new automated navigational systems, and on demonstrating an FTL chart for a multi-system jump.

"Oh, and look at this! For such a ship as she is, her roll speed is really smooth. Look!"

With one hand around the yoke, she threw it thirty degrees up, sending the stars spinning wildly around in the window view.

"Sometimes I just love to do this on the night watches. Deep space, nothing to hit, nothing to worry about...just me and the ship. Veer around, try out old maneuvers. It's so relaxing!"

"So that's why the ship’s route-tracker on my terminal has little squiggles at times..."

Tami squeaked, as Hair Trigger's voice cut into the recording. She spun to look, and caught sight of the unicorn dropping into the other seat.

"Uh...y-yeah?" Tami's voice was hesitant.

"But I'm sure it's just good trials to ensure your skills are sharp, right? And that Claudia works fine?"

Hair Trigger winked with a smirk, laying a re-filled mug on the top of a display screen’s casing.

Tami gradually let her voice pick up volume in reply.

"...yeeeeah, that's it."

"Thought so. Still recording, then?"

Tami must have nodded, as no verbal reply was heard at first.

"Just showing them the bridge, Captain. And I guess now you're showing them where you sit up here a lot too. The Captain joins me for chats and seeing where we're going, sits in the co-pilot's chair a lot. It's basically hers now. When Jelly isn't using it."

Hair Trigger raised a hoof and coughed. "Ahem, not 'co-pilot's' chair. This would be the 'Captain's chair."

"That's what you said about the couch two nights ago when Smile was on it."

"A Captain must have a backup. And besides, you can't drink a beer on a metal chair. She needed a better supported surface for the stick up her ass anyway."

There were a couple of seconds of them looking at one another, before they both broke into childish little chuckles. Tami re-arranged the camera, sitting it atop the pilot interface to let it look across the bridge at both of them.

"I got real lucky with the Claudia here. Such a friendly crew, everyone's so nice to me, and the Captain here is really supportive and understanding. Not as much of a grump as she looks. Captain here is the best captain I've ever had."

Hair Trigger rolled her eyes and leaned over to knock Tami's shoulder. "I told you before, I'm the only captain you've had!"

Giggling for a moment, Tami didn't once take her eyes off the camera, before mouthing the word again. 'Best'.

Hair Trigger smirked, and got up from her chair. Wandering around, she quickly grabbed Tami from behind in a small hug, looking over the hippogriff's shoulder at the camera. Tami yelped in surprise, before leaning the back of her head into Hair Trigger’s chest as her Captain spoke directly into the lens.

"In which case, Mister and Miss whoever? Let me tell you straight, you raised one hell of a pilot in Tami here. Couldn't have asked for a better or brighter one to join us. Not failed us yet, have you, Tam?"

Tami blushed severely, looking over her shoulder at Hair Trigger, "Well...there was-"

"Not once, far as I see it, 'cos we're still flying."

The young hippogriff bit her lip and gently nodded. "And that's what matters. That's what you said, wasn't it?"

"That's what I said."

Hair Trigger clapped Tami's shoulder, went back to the 'captain's chair' to collect her coffee, and trotted to the door.

"Anyway, came to tell you that we're throwing something on the grill. Head down in a minute if you want a hot breakfast."

"I'll be there."

With a final grin at the camera Hair Trigger left the bridge, leaving Tami to sit alone. She looked after the captain, before finally turning back around to the camera and smiling.

"Time to get ready for the day. Got four jumps to make. I'll try and add something later on, but just know...I'm happy. I've found what I wanted out here. We're taking pretty mares on honeymoons, I got to visit the Republic, I saw a pulsar, and I've met some really cool people on desert planets and ancient stations. It’s...amazing! Thanks so much for getting me back on top, both of you. I feel like I did in this again."

She panned it around briefly, showing a photo stuck to the side of her console. In it, there was Tami herself while she was much younger, her proud parents, and a golden retriever happily sitting with his tongue out. Tami was hung between her parents, both of the holding her off the ground, with oversized aviator goggles around her head, and beaming with all the hope of a dream about to come true.

There was an indistinct shout from behind her, and Tami quickly panned back to her face as she got up.

"I'll try to send something again soon, but I'll still mail every few days! See you then!"

A few awkward seconds of figuring out the buttons again led to the video cutting.

* * *

The video emerged again on a scene of chaos. All six members of the crew were around the main table in the common room, drone included. Hair Trigger and Kerfuffle were eagerly stretching over to the laid out breakfast, lifting food from the veritable buffet they had laid out. Jelly eagerly stretched a hoof out from under the griffon, beating the much politer and slower reach of Smile to the last fruit pudding. Patch sat on the couch, partially inactive, but ultimately watching with a disapproving glare at the crew. Voices of varying accents clamoured over one another, mixed with laughs and shouts.

"Okay, I got it!"

Tami's voice cut above the din, as she ran from behind the camera into frame, joining them and trying to hustle the crew together.

"C'mon! Just one! Look over at it there! No, there, Jelly! C'mon Captain it'll still be warm! Smile? Okay, okay!"

Nearly diving amongst them, she pulled and pleaded to get them around one side of the table, squeezing into the middle of the assembled crew. Hair Trigger still bore her plate in her magic, while Smile had already sighed, grinned, and sat upright.

"And say...Claudia!"

"Seriously?" Jelly deadpanned.

"Claudia!" Kerfuffle eagerly began, pushing his very best school photo smile despite his hunched body, being followed by a chorus of sardonic, muffled, or willing repeats of the word. Surprisingly, Patch had even flown into frame again for some inscrutable reason.

And with that, the screen froze, pausing on a frame of them together. Tami squeezed between Hair Trigger and Kerfuffle. The former with a sausage half in her mouth, the latter staring directly ahead rather than into the lens. Her arm reached around Smile, tugging the normally upright pony sideways, half bending Jelly over between them. Together, as one crew; one family aboard a ship.

* * *

Staring at the frozen image, Gaius couldn't help but reach one of his long arms over and pull Compass Rose in tight against his chest, leaning down to kiss the top of her head.

"She got there in the end, Rosie."

Rose sniffed, having already been shedding a few tears at the sight of their daughter so happy. The banter she'd shared. The way they'd teased her, helped her with her problems, and supported her wants.

"Looks like she got a good crew faster than we did too; a lucky break. Goodness knows, she needed it by now..."

Gaius gazed at Tami's expression on the screen, knowing too well the honesty in that genuine joy.

"Not luck. She earned this."

They fell silent, just holding one another, before Rose chuckled.

"What's that about?" Gaius inquired, smirking at his wife's amusement.

Rose looked up to Gaius and kissed the end of his beak, winking at him. "Who do you think the Captain meant by boyfr-"

Gaius rolled his eyes. "Oh no, we're not getting into this again. She got her curiosity about other people's relationships from you, you know?"

"She did. And we most definitely are. So, who?"

Gaius sighed, chuckled, and shook his head.

He was in for a long next hour.

* * *

Captain Hair Trigger

A tiny yet gruff-looking unicorn mare. Trigger hails from a large family of spacers, and has spent almost her entire young life aboard one ship or another, before coming to command one of her own. Image by Kalemon)

Volatility Smile

An elegant and authoritative crystal pony mare. Smile is a businesspony from the Crystal League, travelling in search of profitable new ventures after her last job went south. Image by JellyBeanBullet)

Kerfuffle

A big, fluffy male griffon. Originating from a working class family on a Minotaur Confederacy mining colony, now seeking to earn money to send home by working on a vessel. Image by Floots)

All four will be returning in the next story, in the first full length 36k word adventure I wrote for them...

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