• Published 15th Jan 2020
  • 808 Views, 89 Comments

In From The Cold - Cackling Moron

Twilight's prized pupil finds something in space.

  • ...


Author's Note:

It's a future not the future.

It's also the most GROSSLY SELF-INDULGENT THING I think I've done on here, ever, so it's quite likely you won't like it one bit.

But I figured I'd followup something everyone did like with something most won't. Just for variety. You know?

Princess Twilight’s - or Governor Twilight, depending on who you were talking to at the time - office was situated central relative to the habitat, not to mention high. It had a fantastic view. The best view, in fact.

Not that she was paying any attention to it. The novelty had worn off, for one, and for another she was too busy scrolling through reports to look up and look out across the rolling hills, the trees, the artificial lakes and whatever buildings were dotted across the landscape.

She’d seen it all before. And those reports weren’t going to scroll through themselves.

So engrossed was she in this that she initially failed to notice the soft, gentle chiming that tried to get her attention. The chiming remained gentle but increased in volume gradually, the light on her desk blinking more rapidly. Eventually, it worked, and Twilight noticed.

This was a sign that someone was waiting down below.

Sighing to herself and setting the datapad down Twilight pushed the button to admit whoever it was - though she knew who it was - and then waited for them to come up. Some moments later the door to her office chimed and, with another button, Twilight opened it.

And there, much as Twilight had expected, was Nova Flare, unicorn, present prized pupil, looking uncharacteristically tentative.

“You wanted to see me, Princess?” She asked, quite resolutely making sure to stand on the other side of the threshold.

“Nova. Come in. There was something I needed to talk to you about,” Twilight said, smiling pleasantly, sitting up straight.

Nova clip-clopped her way inside and took the chair on the other side of the Princess’s (Governor’s, whichever) desk. It was one of those all-size-all-species jobs the Hegemony had come up with. There was a knack to sitting in them and Nova mostly had it.

“Figured, what with you inviting me here and all,” she said, once she was settled.

While undeniably sharp, Nova’s utter lack of anything approaching an ability to take things seriously had required some getting used to on Twilight’s part. Everyone had their foibles.

“Quite. Recent developments have resulted in the Hegemony commissioning several new science and exploration vessels,” Twilight said, getting straight to the point immediately. No sense in wasting time, after all.

And Nova knew this already. A lot of people knew this already. It was hardly secret.

Twilight continued:

“These vessels are in need of crews and captains and one of them has been earmarked to be crewed and captained by the residents of our habitat.”

“Our turn come up, eh?”

“It has.”

The Hegemony was very meritocratic, but also had curious little rules built into its systems with things like selection of crews and important positions being either cycled through or selected according to some Byzantine algorithm. The rules for this were arcane to say the least, but did a fair job of ensuring that every member species got a fair shake.

Horn glowing and magic tinkling, Twilight sorted through the array of datapads neatly stacked across her desk and selected on in particular, passing it across to Nova who took it in her own magic.

“I have put you forward to be the captain,” Twilight said.

Given that Nova had been nursing the suspicion that she was just going to be told she’d been shortlisted to get on the crew this came as something of a surprise. She’d been all set on working out how to say thank you for such an exciting opportunity, but now she was knocked for six.

She looked over the datapad, but all it showed her was the application the Princess had put in, so all it really did was list Nova’s achievements, grades and so on. And, being Nova, Nova knew all about that already.”

“Uh…” Nova said. “Thank you, first off. Second, uh, isn’t that a little bit nepotistic?”

What with her being the Princess famously prized pupil and all that.

“You are actually, demonstrably graduating top of the class - it isn’t nepotism if you are objectively the best choice,” Twilight said.

“Hmm, yes, it does draw on my extensive experience of captaining…” Nova said, stroking her chin and making the most serious of serious faces. Twilight was unimpressed.

“Nova…” She said in tones of regal sternness. She’d had a lot of time to practise this, and the effect was almost tangible.

“Sorry, sorry. Sorry Princess! I’m flattered, really, just, uh, surprised? If you’d said I was going to be on the crew I could have seen that but, well, I never really had myself down as leadership material,” Nova said, partway hiding behind the datapad.

Twilight kept up the pressure of the unimpressed look a moment longer before letting it soften.

“You have a commanding presence,” she said.

News to Nova.

“I do?”

“Yes. This has been noted by several of your peers,” Twilight said, and Nova’s eyes narrowed.

“Who talked? Was it Blithe? It was Blithe, wasn’t it? Who else? Give me names, I’ll sort them out,” she said.

Twilight didn’t smile per se, but her face was at least soft. She could take a joke as much as the next mare, after all.

“Blithe was among those approached on your suitability. He spoke very highly of you,” she said.

Nova couldn’t really speak to this, as clearly Twilight knew what she was talking about and had clearly put the work in, on top of which Nova was undeniably chuffed that apparently she had friends who thought enough of her to say that she was captain material.

The mere idea kind of put a dopey smile onto her face. She shook it off though, back to business.

“Do I have the next thirty seconds to decide, or…?” She asked.

“You have a week,” said the Princess.

A week was that perfect sweet spot between ‘Nowhere near enough time’ and ‘Kind of enough time’.

“Guess that’s not so bad…” Nova said, rubbing her chin. Twilight looked at her closely.

“You’ve already decided, haven’t you?” She asked.

Nova should have known better than to even imagine Twilight couldn’t see right through her.

“Well, yeah! I mean maybe. Mostly. Pretty much,” Nova said.

She’d have been lying if she said it wasn’t something she’d daydreamed about at great length. Space! They lived in it, sure, but to actually go out into it? Into the bits no-one else had? In a ship? To find cool, new interesting things? And be in charge?

What fool would have said no?

“Safety isn’t guaranteed on these trips, Nova, you do know that, don’t you?” Twilight asked, bringing Nova back to the moment with a bump.

“That they had to build a new ship did kind of tip me off,” she said.

The possibility that they were simply expanding the survey fleet was always there, of course, but they weren’t and Nova knew they weren’t so the reason for needing a fresh crew for a fresh ship were pretty obvious. Replacement.

Accidents happened, after all. Space was unforgiving and a lot of the wonderful things you could discover were also wonderfully lethal at times.

Twilight frowned.

“Nova…” She said again, more warningly this time. Even her patience for flippancy had limits. Nova picked up on this but felt she still had a smidgen of latitude remaining before she really started to push her luck:

“I know it’s dangerous but life is dangerous, isn’t it?”

Twilight looked at her flat for a second before delicately retrieving the datapad from Nova, levitating it back across the desk and setting it down exactly where it had been before. All was neat on Twilight’s desk.

“It can be. Though perhaps not always to the same extent. Continuing your studies here would be safer than accepting this, say. Or taking up an administrative position. For example,” Twilight said.

The latter option filled Nova with actual, physical dread. Twilight was aware of this, and this was why she’d said it. Nova’s eyes widened.

“It’s fine, really. I know it’s dangerous. I’m okay with that!”

“I just want you to be aware of the risks.”

For possibly the first time in the conversation Nova picked up on the subtle, subtextual note of genuine worry woven through what it was that Twilight was saying to her, and whatever flippant thing she’d been gearing up to say kind of just died in her throat.

“I’ll be fine,” she said instead.

There was something lurking beneath all of this, something that both of them were aware of but not entirely sure how to probe or whether it should be probed at all. That would be Twilight’s obvious and obviously veiled, high level of concern for Nova’s wellbeing.

She wanted her pupil to excel and to be able to expand and thrive as much as possible. She also wanted her pupil to stay in one piece. Often these things clashed.

Nova could see this, and she could understand this. She imagined it must have been difficult. Particularly as she wasn’t the Princess’s first, and likely wasn’t going to be the last either.

Things got a little awkward and Nova had to look away. She looked out the window with its view of the habitat. From here she thought she could see her house, but it was a long way off. Something twinkled as the sun caught it. Maybe that was it?

The view did make her think, though...

“So, if we - hypothetically, say - came across a planet that we could live on, would that mean we could, you know, move in?” She asked, turning back to the Princess.

Nova didn’t object to living on the habitat - it was all she’d ever known, after all - she was just never able to fully shake the deep-down, gnawing feeling that it wasn’t quite where they belonged.

Irrational, yes, but still always there, needling, prickling.

Twilight looked distinctly uncomfortable. Given that she was one of the handful on the habitat who had actually ever lived on a planet Nova always figured that she would have been more enthused. For some reason though whenever the subject got brought up it seemed to make the Princess - well, not upset, but liked it touched a raw nerve.

“The Hegemony would be...more likely to look favourably on a colonisation request from us were we to be the ones to discover the planet in question first, yes. I have this on good authority. It’s not official, and it’s not guaranteed, but it’ll help. Or so they tell me.”

“Guess that’s the best we can hope for, huh?”

“It is indeed the best we can hope for.”

Nova swallowed and actually, properly looked Twilight in the eye for possibly the first time since their little meeting had started. This wasn’t something she often did. For one, eye-contact was generally uncomfortable. For two, eye-contact with Twilight was particularly uncomfortable as hers were eyes that had seen things.

Didn’t reach her age and not see things, after all.

“Do you - do you think we might find something?” Nova asked.

And Twilight smiled properly this time. Indulgently. The way she sometimes did when she actually meant it.

“I don’t know, Nova. Space is rather large.”

Something of an understatement there.

Again Nova looked to the window. With perfect timing some ship or other - doing something important no doubt - zipped by in the distance, catching the sunlight.

“I hope we find something…” Nova said quietly, more to herself, mostly without noticing.

Then he resolved stiffened. She took on a confident, assured air. She raised her head high, pumped a hoof and declared in a loud, clear voice:

“We will find something!”

“That’s the spirit, Nova.”

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