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

In From The Cold - Cackling Moron



Twilight's prized pupil finds something in space.

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#3

Author's Note:

Hmm? What's that? No I'm not a scientist in anyway whatsoever.

Why do you ask?

Nova did not get to enjoy her nap for long. It felt as though her head had barely touched the pillow before there came the annoyingly polite but persistent chime of the door telling her that someone wanted to come in. She grunted, and whatever system ran the door took this as acceptance, the door opened and the lights in the room came gently up once more.

“Captain?” Came the voice of Blithe and Nova grunted again, rolling over and kicking off the sheets.

“I’m awake, I’m awake. Ngh? What’s - what’s up?” She asked, squinting around the room a bit before finally pinpointing where it was Blithe was standing and then keeping her squint trained on him.

Or the vague blob she assumed was him. She hadn’t quite blinked her eyes clear yet.

“We think - from some preliminary scans - that the third planet in the system might be a captured rogue planet,” said Blithe. He didn’t sound as excited about this as she might have expected him to sound.

Nova thought about what he’d said a second just to see if she’d missed something, brain still working up to speed and having to fumble around to pin down what half of the terms in that sentence had meant. Once she got it straightened out her eyes widened in mild shock. The pleasant kind. More like mild surprise, really.

“Huh, that’s pretty neat,” she said, tailing off into a yawn.

“Just out of curiosity we also checked present observations of the system against Hegemony records - we estimate that this rogue planet must have only shown up some time in the last hundred years. Give or take a few decades.”

That was unlikely. Not impossible, but pretty unusual. Galactic timing being what it was you most-usually turned up a long, long time after whatever had happened had happened. A hundred years was basically turning up mere seconds after the fact.

Kind of weird that they were only noticing it now but at this point in the galactic tour monotony had perhaps set in, and eyes were perhaps not quite as keen as they had been at the very start.

“Wow, okay, lucky us I guess,” Nova said.

“It’s orbit is completely stable,” Blithe said.

That took her a little longer to work out. Why shouldn’t its orbit be stable? How long did a rogue planet’s orbit take to stabilise? Presumably it would depend, though in her still-waking-up state she couldn’t be sure. Over a hundred years? And how completely was completely? Nova felt she was missing some important contextual clues here.

Then again, Blithe wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t worth mentioning, would he?

“When you say stable you mean...?”

“We mean it has the sort of orbit you’d expect to see from an object originating in-system. The kind you’d get after having spent billions of years going around the star with no outside influence. Not a few hundred.”

Even more unusual. Not that this was Nova’s field, but she at least knew enough to know this was odd.

“Huh,” she said again.

“That’s not the issue though.”

Nova had expected this. His tone had suggested it. He sounded like he was working towards a bombshell.

“I thought you were building up to something,” she said, finally pushing the covers aside and rolling around so she was sitting with her legs off the bed, eyes still fuzzy.

“It has an ecosystem. A complex ecosystem. A perfectly habitable, complex ecosystem. We’ve seen forests on the surface. Of trees.”

Nova, who had been about to hop to the floor, paused and blinked very slowly.

“Alright, okay, now - I’m still waking up I think so I’m just going to run through some things out loud, stop me if I messed up anything you told me: one of the planets in this system is a rogue planet zipping by that got caught by the star, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Not impossible. And this happened sometime in the last century?”

“Yes.”

“And during that last hundred-years-and-change this planet - which had previously spent however-long just zipping through the lifeless, icy-cold, oftentimes radiation-rich and generally inhospitable blackness of space - has managed to develop life? And not just, you know, slime, but life-life? Trees-life? Could we breathe down there?”

Blithe checked his pad again.

“Uh, looks likely. There could be pathogens or something we’re missing but early analysis suggests that-”

“Are you sure?” Nova cut across.

“We triple checked,” he bristled.

“You are allowed to go up to quadruple, you know. Sorry, sorry, that was grouchy, I’m still waking up. This is insane though, right? Can we agree on that?

“It is...inexplicable.”

Blithe was generally the one willing to believe that if he could see it there was an explanation for it if you sat down and worked it out and, generally, this was a fair position to take. But apparently he had limits.

“Suppose that’s one way of putting it. Come on then, show me this thing,” Nova said, holding out a hoof for his pad. He held it out to her and she hoiked it from his grasp, lifting it over into her hooves and starting to flick through the findings.

This she did - it should be briefly pointed out - not with magic. She could have done, but it would have been an effort. Magic was a universal force as had been observed, and existed everywhere. However, that did not mean it existed everywhere in equal abundance. When surrounded by other ponies it came thick and fast. Out here? Far, far away? Not so much.

So Nova was wearing one of the telekinetic devices that had been developed in cooperation with the Hegemony. It served to cover most of the mundane things a unicorn might do day-to-day, at least as far as manipulating things went. Very handy.

The Hegemony had initially offered to develop the device as an implant, but as a rule ponies were a lot more leery about cutting bits out of themselves to replace them with implants than Gorf were, so mostly it was worn.

Typically this levitation was being referred to as ‘k’ing’ and objects moved in such a way were said to have been k’d, by the kids. This was because it was the future, and such slang was to be expected. Shit was wild.

Apparently. As agonising as it was in practise to hear.

But this was all by-the-by. The future was an odd place and the people in it did odd things.

Nova was busy looking through the pad, flicking the screen with a hoof.

Pretty much everything that he’d said was as he’d said it was. She didn’t have time for anything full or comprehensive but everything she looked at seemed to match up, especially the most important part - the planet had life. Had a full and proper atmosphere that, by all accounts, looked positively comfortable.

Nova stared at the pad hard, willing what she was seeing to make an easy kind of sense. But it refused. She sighed, and passed the pad back.

“We’re going to have to land on it,” she said with a sigh, rubbing residual sleep from her eyes. Blithe looked surprised.

“We are?” He asked.

“Yes! This place is breaking who knows how many rules! Think what it could mean!” Nova said.

“What could it mean?”

“I don’t know! That’s the point! I want to find out!”

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