Cosmic Lotus

Advances in science and magic had detected the Anomaly – a star in the heavens that was unlike all the others in the night sky. Intense research had only served to deepen the mystery. Although Equus had a vibrant space program, going forty-two light years to investigate had been considered impossible until now. The Cosmic Lotus program was born, and over a hundred crew-members of multiple species were sent into the void to discover the unknown. This is their story.
The prequel to this story is the "Ad Astra" arc in the story – "Life, Love, and Death in the House of Path".
This will be a crossover story with my "Chakat Universe".

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/375224/cosmic-lotus

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3. Problems Are Relative

Twilight Sparkle was very satisfied with the progress of propelling the Cosmic Lotus. The mana feed by the huge gathering of unicorns had, as hoped, enabled a smooth and consistent supply of power to Celestia. Of course Twilight, her brother, sister-in-law, and son were all playing their part too but inconspicuously behind the scenes, in the room behind the balcony where the Royal Sisters stood. The role of the gathered unicorns was absolutely vital, and the alicorns did not wish to apparently diminish their supposed importance by having all six of the most powerful beings on the world apparently doing most of the work. It also let the four concealed alicorns take short breaks as well, leaving just Celestia and Luna to sustain an uninterrupted effort.

There was one other important thing that it left Twilight free to do – monitoring the process. She was therefore concerned when she received a call from Pif. She disconnected from the flow and answered the comm.

Mama, have you reduced the power output of the mana thrust?” the changeling princess asked.

“No. Aside from minor fluctuations attributed to unicorns switching in and out of the stream, the output has been very consistent, just as planned. Why do you ask?”

I have been checking progress with the TESS, and it clearly shows that the rate at which their velocity is increasing has slowed considerably. They’re just over fifty percent of light-speed now, but their acceleration seems to have dropped significantly.

“What?! How can that be? Is the TESS working properly?” The Thaumaturgically Enhanced Stellar Scope was a cutting-edge magitek device, and their only means of accurately tracking the Cosmic Lotus.

I have run a diagnostic program on the TESS, and it’s working perfectly. The only explanation that my network can come up with is that the Lotus is encountering some form of resistance that we can’t detect.

Twilight frowned in deep thought. “This could jeopardize the mission. Should we increase the mana output?”

We left ourselves a large margin to work with, so I recommend that you compensate. Ten percent more should do it, I think. I will continue to try to identify the problem.

“Understood. Let me know the moment that you learn anything.” Twilight moved up to the balcony, but still out of sight of the crowd. Celestia and Luna needed to maintain intense concentration on their task, so a protocol was in place to not jar them if someone needed to talk to them. A subtle magic pulse caught their attention and Twilight reported the problem. They silently acknowledged the message and turned up their output, hoping that nothing else would go astray with their plans.

# # #

Playbitz updated his report, “Velocity now at sixty-five percent light-speed. No deviation from planned course.”

He had said similar things at regular intervals, but dull as it sounded, it was exactly what Wandering wanted to hear. It meant that everything was proceeding exactly as planned, and that was immensely reassuring. However, he now noticed a note of uncertainty in the voice of the pegasus. “Is something wrong, Playbitz?”

“I’m… not certain, sir. The thrust seemed to diminish for a while, but it has increased again; I thought that we were supposed to be getting a steady acceleration? I’m also getting some odd readings from the instruments.”

“What readings?” Wandering asked with a frown.

“The TESS is showing some strange aberrations in the view both fore and aft.”

“Could it be some sort of previously unknown Dappler Effect from travelling at such high speeds?”

Playbitz shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine, sir.”

Wandering began to feel out of his depth. Time to put someone more competent in charge of the problem. “Starry – I’m going to take over the MRS. I want you to look into this anomaly and determine if it’s a problem.”

Starry nodded and she cautiously transferred control of the mass-reducing spell to him. Freed of that responsibility, she turned her attention to the instrument panel in front of her and studied the readings that duplicated what was in front of Playbitz.

“This is very odd. There isn’t anything that I can detect that would be slowing us down, so Playbitz’s assertion that the thrust reduced seems to be correct. He’s also right about the distortions in the views, and I’m trying to compensate. Without understanding why it’s happening though, that’s difficult.” She stopped to think for a moment. “I’m going to call Mama Twilight.”

They had not intended to communicate with Equus until acceleration to their target speed had been achieved, reserving it for emergencies. Starry hoped that she would not upset her herd mother too much. She activated the comm and sent out a call.

# # #

Twilight’s crystal comm dedicated to ship-to-shore communications with the Cosmic Lotus lit up with reception of a signal. The sympathetically linked magic crystals that were the heart of the device were tried-and-true magitek that would work irrespective of distance, no matter how great. Maintaining contact with the Cosmic Lotus was assured, so Twilight was dismayed when she heard the voice drawling from it.

Coosmiic Lotuus too Eequuss Coontrool – aare youu reeceeiviingg mee?

Twilight recognized Starry’s voice despite the shift down in pitch which she could not understand the reason for. She answered it hastily though. “Equus Control here – what’s wrong, Starry?”

After a slight delay, the response came. “Yoour voicce iss diistoorted, Maamaa. Doo youu prooblemms witthh suupplyiing thruusst?

“We have had no problems, but we noticed that your acceleration had slowed, so we increased the output. Have you encountered any resistance?”

Noo aapparrennt reesisstancce. Wee aare getttinng sstrrangge reeadiings fromm ouur iinsstruumennts aand vieeww monniitorrs toooo.

The drawl was driving Twilight crazy. The way the crystal comm worked meant that voices would be exactly reproduced regardless of velocity or distance. She could not understand why this was happening, and right when it seemed that communications was going to be very important. The information was contradictory too. They reported a loss of thrust and no resistance whereas she knew that thrust had been maintained, but something seemed to be reducing its effect. She had no answers. Something beyond their present knowledge seemed to be happening, so she said the only thing that she could right then.

“We’ll look into it, Starry. Keep us updated.” She then made a call to Pif. Contingency plans needed to be put into effect.

# # #

Starry shook her head in bewilderment, just as confused as her herd mother. She had nothing to explain the slow drawl coming from the speakers of the comm, let alone the growing problems. “Sorry, Captain, I can’t presently explain what is happening. All I can say for now is that the mission seems to be proceeding despite everything.”

Wandering listened to the words from behind closed eyelids as part of himself maintained concentration on the MRS. He sighed before commanding, “Keep monitoring the situation, but unless there is something that will endanger the ship, carry on as planned. Playbitz – keep us updated.”

Everyone carried on as normal, but tension had begun to grow on the bridge. When the next milestone came, everyone hung on his words.

“Seventy percent light-speed. Still on course. Thrust has apparently crept down again.”

Wandering ordered simply, “Inform Equus Control.”

Starry did so, and they all listened to the reply.

Reepoorrt reecceiiveed aandd unnderrsstoood. Wee wiill aaddjuusst ouutpuut aagainn.

“Why in Celestia’s name are their transmissions stretched out like that?” Gizmo Gears swore softly.

“Zip it, Gizmo,” Commander Bluequill said sternly.

There was a long tense wait for the next announcement.

“Seventy-five percent. Thrust increased for a while before creeping down again. Distortions increasing, but still apparently on course.”

“Any recommendations, Starry?” Wandering asked.

“Our ship does not appear to be in danger, nor has Equus Control indicated any, so I recommend carrying on as planned.”

“Commander, have all stations check and double-check for problems. Have them report anything unusual.”

“Yes, sir,” Bluequill replied.

An even longer wait punctuated by negative reports until the next milestone was reached passed by.

“Eighty percent… I think. Distortions are increasing.”

Wandering cursed under his breath. “Starry – you’re the expert here, so speculate please!”

Starry shrugged helplessly. “Brother, I haven’t a clue. My best guess is that we are discovering something about physics that we have had no experience with before.”

“If we keep needing more output from Equus, are we ever going to reach our target of ninety-seven percent light-speed?”

“That depends on how long they can sustain that output. I’d say inevitably if they can keep it up long enough, but the instruments are making a liar out of me even as I speak.”

Wandering groaned. Was this mission going to be a failure so soon?

# # #

“We’re going to have to re-think this,” Pif said, having joined Twilight and the others at the castle after the latest report from Starry. “For now, we don’t have the luxury of time to figure out why this is happening. We have to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. My measurements with the TESS show that the energy requirements are increasing with the speed, but in an exponential manner. Right now we’re only up to a fifty percent increase in thrust output, but if the trend continues, that’s going to rise at a rapid rate over the next few hours.”

“Time! That’s the problem!” Destined suddenly declared.

Twilight and Pif looked at Destined in confusion. The stallion turned to his mother and explained, “Your crystal comms work irrespective of distance, and as we’re still getting reports from the Cosmic Lotus clearly, although seemingly slowed down, then it’s time that is being affected. The comms are still working exactly as they should, but as their time has slowed, so has their speech, like a record on a phonograph which you slow down.”

“So you’re saying that the faster that they go, the slower time gets?” Twilight responded.

“Exactly! I just don’t know why, but I’m starting to see how it affects them.”

Pif nodded. “I’m beginning to understand, but there’s not much we can do about it. My only concern is that we’re not going to be able to provide enough thrust. That’s why Dad and I brought along every Chrome Changeling within reach. They’ll help make up the shortfall in power… at least for a while.”

Canterlot had just seen the biggest invasion of changelings since the one by Queen Chrysalis. Right now, the roofs were lined with changelings ready to add their magic to the effort when given the order.

Free Agent said, “Give the word, Sparkles, and I will have every drone start adding their power. I had them fill up on love gel before coming here, so they have plenty to spare.” Free shifted from griffon to his natural Chrome Queen form. As much as he disliked it, he needed to be able to take in the power from all the drones because they could not feed Celestia directly like the unicorns were doing. Their magic differed too much and would be disruptive if not filtered through their Queen.

“Just let me inform Celestia and Luna first,” Twilight said. She went out onto the balcony, and the others noticed the Royal Sisters frown and nod. Twilight came back and announced, “They said to stand by until they give the word. They can increase the thrust again for now. Save your energy for when they really need it.”

Destined said, “Mom, I’ve been increasing my flow of power gradually, and I can already tell that the drones won’t be able to keep up the power drain for as long as the unicorns. They can’t simply take a break and get their second wind – they’ll have to go feed first.”

“Then we call in the reserves. Five of the six other Queens are here to watch the spectacle. We’ll ask for their help too.”

“No need,” came a familiar voice. Queen Crystal strode into the room, followed closely by Queen Iridia and Queen Carpacia. “When I saw all the Chrome Hive drones arrive, I inquired the reason for it. You know that the Blue Hive will always stand with the Chrome, Aunty Twilight.”

“As will the Red Hive,” Carpacia declared. “Fidelitas is on her way with a large contingent, and all the Red Changelings in Canterlot have been summoned.”

“I have done the same with the Greens,” Iridia said. “The other Queens will do what they can although their hives are more distant.”

“Thank you all very much,” Twilight said solemnly.

“This is a project done for all citizens of this world,” Carpacia declared. “We are as much a part of it as you, so we can do no less.”

# # #

“Playbitz – update please. Haven’t we reached eighty-five percent yet?” Wandering asked.

The pegasus looked at his captain with a distressed expression. “Uh… maybe? The TESS suggests that we have, but everything else is telling me something different. The rear sensors seem to think we’re slowing down a lot, and I have no idea what the forward sensors are saying anymore. If I can believe them, the Far Star seems to be getting noticeably closer.”

The alicorn’s lips tightened in a grimace. “I think we have to face it – we’re really in totally new territory here. We may be getting into something dangerous, although the fact that Equus is still supplying thrust suggests that they haven’t seen any sign of danger. Commander Bluequill – execute a thorough ship-wide systems check. I want to know if the ship is suffering any ill effects as a consequence of these unknown effects that are distorting our instruments.”

“Aye, sir,” the griffon replied.

“Starry – take over the MRS. I’m tiring and I need to think.”

“Ready, Captain.”

Wandering transferred control of the spell, and he called up the status reports on his control board. Section after section reported everything normal except for the astrogation instruments, and he already knew about those. Frustrated, he decided to call Equus once more.

# # #

Ccoossmmiicc Lloottuuss ttoo Eeqquuuuss Ccoonnttrrooll – pplleeaassee aaddvviissee iiff yyoouu hhaavvee iiddeennttiiffiieedd aannyy ppoossssiibbllee ccaauussee ooff tthhee ppaarrttiiaall lloossss ooff tthhrruusstt yyeett?

Twilight winced. The speech was stretching to the point where she could barely understand it. She was about to try to respond when Destined spoke up.

“Mom – take over for me. I have an idea I want to try out.”

Twilight nodded and took up the task of supplying power to Celestia. Meanwhile Destined used his special talent to stretch his passage through time to about twice normal and then called the starship. “Cosmic Lotus, please repeat your message.” He waited for a response far longer than expected.

Equus Control – we were unable to understand a word you said. Your voice has been slowed down too far. Can you understand me?

Wandering’s voice was perfectly clear to Destined now, but he was stunned by lack of comprehension of the situation. If the Cosmic Lotus was experiencing a slowdown of time somehow, then he should have sounded as if he was talking too fast before he had stretched time. Instead, in some impossible fashion, both ends seemed to be slowed down. That just did not make any sense whatsoever! With nothing else left to try, he tried the non-intuitive solution – he compressed time to about double speed and called the ship again.

“This is Equus Control – I understood your message and am attempting to compensate. Are you receiving me clearly now?”

Destined then reversed his time distortion until it stretched out again and waited.

Destined! Thank Celestia! Finally something is going right. Can you tell me what’s going on? Why was your speech distorted? And why do we keep losing thrust?

With his insane theory confirmed, Destined compressed time again. “Wandering, I can tell you what is happening, but not why. Somehow, the faster you travel, the greater the time distortion is becoming, which is why speech has apparently been stretched out. I’m compensating with my time talent, but I can’t do any more than that. As for thrust, we’ve been continually increasing it to try to maintain a steady increase in velocity, but it has been getting increasingly harder. We have enacted a contingency plan to increase our available supply of power, but we might not achieve the planned velocity. Are you experiencing any other problems?”

The alicorn stretched time again.

Ship-wide diagnostics indicate that there’s nothing wrong except for some weird readings that we’re getting from the exterior sensors. These time distortions that you say are affecting us don’t seem to be causing any actual harm. Have you any data to suggest otherwise?

Compress.

“No, not at this time. I will consult with the others and call you back as soon as I can. I recommend carrying on as normal for the moment.”

Stretch.

Understood. We’ll await your response. Cosmic Lotus out.

‘That had to be strangest conversation I’ve ever had,’ Destined thought as he let his time perception return to normal. After he explained everything to the others, he asked, “Is there any threat to the ship that you can detect?”

Pif replied, “Aside from the growing resistance and this time distortion, the TESS has not seen anything dangerous, per se. However, we’re also noticing some distortions that we can’t account for. But as Wandering reports that the ship seems to be unaffected, I can’t classify them as dangerous.”

Twilight said, “It’s not too late to abort the mission, but should we press on? As long as the mana beacon is still operating normally, we can still teleport the crew off if necessary.”

Destined grimaced. “I’m not so sure. That time-distortion might play havoc with a normal teleport.”

Twilight’s face fell. “That’s bad. That was always going to be our fail-safe, and now you’re saying that we can’t even count on that?”

“Sorry, Mom, but space and time are my specialty, so I’ll find a way around that problem, I promise.”

Path spoke up. “It seems that there’s a decision to be made. Does the Cosmic Lotus project proceed as planned, or do we abort? My view is that in the absence of any demonstrated danger, it should proceed, but only if Wandering decides to continue. The Lotus is his to command.” He looked around at the others and saw no dissent. “Okay, Des, inform Cosmic Lotus of our decision and ask for his response.”

# # #

Wandering considered the reply from Equus Control. It was all in his hooves now. Everyone on board the Cosmic Lotus had been made aware that there were bound to be unknown dangers in this voyage, and yet all eagerly came anyway. He certainly had not hesitated to jump at the chance. And yet, were they actually in danger? Despite all the weirdness, without the instruments and the communications, there was no sign of anything awry. With the MRS in effect, he could not even sense the mighty acceleration they were undergoing. Things seemed dreadfully normal! He knew better though, but House Path was never known for backing away from a challenge. He made up his mind.

“Equus Control – continue as planned. Unless a clear indication of danger is demonstrated, Cosmic Lotus is going to the Far Star!”

There were cheers from those on the bridge, and the mood immediately lightened. Wandering smiled. No matter how weird things continued to get, they were all true pioneers doing what they loved, and they would carry on doing so.

# # #

Every changeling was feeding energy to their Queen now, and they in turn pouring power into Celestia and Luna. Twilight had approached them with some concern, but despite grimacing with the unexpectedly long and heavy load, Celestia had managed to say jokingly, “I could do with a nice cup of tea and slice of cake right now.” The Royal Sisters were performing admirably though, and the Cosmic Lotus continued to accelerate. Pif had joined the power supply efforts, so one of her staff was now keeping them informed of progress as determined by the TESS. The energy required to increase the Cosmic Lotus’ velocity continued to increase exponentially, but they were fairly confident of the speed measurements.

“Ninety-three point two percent light-speed,” announced the assistant.

Every tenth of a percent was counted now as each got harder and harder. The decision had been made to do their utmost to get the Cosmic Lotus to at least a minimum ninety-five percent of light-speed. Hopes for the preferred ninety-seven percent or more were completely abandoned. Unicorns more and more and were dropping out and unable to re-join the effort, but Path had called in a mighty replacement. Fortunately he had been at one of the Equestrian branches and not back home in Griffonia at this time, and his arrival caused quite a stir.

Blue Streak came swooping in on his magitek wings, accompanied by his dragon wives. The matriarch had to find a place to perch on the nearby mountainside because the courtyard was still crowded, but her younger self accompanied Blue to the balcony where they carefully alighted without disturbing the alicorns or the Queens. Destined heaved a sigh of relief at the sight of House Path’s Warmaster approaching with his usual confident smile. The alicorn disconnected himself from the flow to talk with his earth pony brother.

“You’re just in time, Blue. We’re about to make one last surge.”

Blue’s grin grew. “I told you that keeping myself fully charged at all times would pay off one day. So it took nearly a century, but I was right.”

Destined conceded the point. They were going to need every bit of the power that Blue brought – power great enough to fling them thousands of years into the future during the Time Wars. If anything, Blue’s capacity had only increased since then. “You know the drill then. Just open yourself to me and I will draw on the power and feed it to Celestia.”

“Ready when you are, brother.”

Destined warned the others, and they braced themselves. Destined reconnected to the flow, and then sought out Blue Streak’s reservoir of energy and tapped it.

Celestia and Luna both gave a cry of pain at the rush of power, but they still held firm. Destined fed the power as fast as he dared, but even so there was still a vast amount more. It seemed to take ages before they heard the assistant announce, “Ninety-four percent.”

Still one percent more to go. Everyone was straining now. Iridia dropped out with a groan. She and her drones were spent. Crystal had dropped out earlier, but her hive was still much smaller and with fewer resources, so that had not been a surprise. Carpacia was wavering, but she had the most drones available, and they were being bolstered by the positive emotions of the awed crowd of ponies that remained fascinated by the spectacle. Cadance’s legs were trembling; despite being an alicorn, raw power was not her thing. Her husband stood rock steady though, as he would until exhausted. He had protected two entire cities for lengthy periods with his shield in the past, and he would not be found wanting now. Free was showing the strain, but she was damned if she was going to let Shining Armor show her up. Twilight, the veritable Avatar of Magic, seemed to be drawing upon an endless supply, but her son knew that was an illusion. Sooner or later she, just like the rest of them, was going to be exhausted. He hoped fervently that they could make it to their goal. Carpacia’s collapse did not fill him with confidence.

An eternity seemed to pass, and Destined sensed that even Blue’s reserve was running out when the assistant finally said what they were all praying to hear.

“Ninety-five percent light-speed!”

Twilight said loudly and firmly, “Everyone taper off. Don’t just stop or the backlash might hurt!”

Everyone had been pre-warned about this, although the reminder did not go astray under the circumstances. Everybody eased off their efforts and shut down the process gracefully. Celestia and Luna sank down onto the balcony, utterly spent, and castle attendants rushed out to minister to them. Path made his way to the front of the balcony and waited for the crowd’s attention. With the benefit of a voice-enhancing spell, he addressed them all.

“My fellow Equians, although the challenge was far greater than we had imagined, we have achieved our goal. The Cosmic Lotus has reached its minimum optimum speed. The journey to the Far Star is under way!”

A huge cheer rose from the courtyard. Tired unicorns were congratulated by the non-unicorn spectators, and castle staff poured out pushing carts laden with a fresh round of refreshments for all. Despite the late hour due to it taking far longer than planned, a party atmosphere grew as they celebrated the great success. Destined made his way over to the comm and compressed time once more. He was not sure how much worse the time distortion had gotten, but he made an educated guess before pressing the transmit button.

“Cosmic Lotus – this is Equus Control. Propulsion phase completed successfully. Minimum velocity achieved. Report when you’re ready. We’re all going to rest and recover for a while. Equus Control out.”

Destined released control of the flow of time and hungrily eyed the snacks that had been brought in. He decided to grab a particularly delicious-looking apple pie before his brother beat him to it!

# # #

Although the stream of energy had stopped, such was the distance from Equus that the Cosmic Lotus had achieved that an enormous amount of energy was still on its way to the starship. For a long time, the crew saw it coming in, although apparently at a far weaker level. However, time dilation meant that the full amount was being spread over a longer period, and the ship’s speed continued to rise.

Ninety-six percent.

Ninety-seven percent.

Finally the thrust ceased entirely at 97.4% of the speed of light. It almost passed unnoticed as the crew stared in awe and confusion at the sight of the stars all crammed into the path ahead of them. What had happened to the universe?

# # #

Destined’s message brought much relief. Another round of systems checks reassured Wandering and the bridge crew that the insanity of what was happening outside the ship did not seem to extend to the ship itself. Starry was still going a little crazy trying to work out why everything was wrong with the stars. Not fully trusting the monitor screens, she went to an actual window and withdrew the shield that had been in place as a precaution. The same bizarre sight greeted her however. The report that came from Gizmo only made things more confusing.

“Captain – I’ve checked these readings twice, and they keep telling me the same thing. Equus appears to be four times closer than it should be, and the Far Star looks to be only about ten light-years away.”

Wandering gaped at the unicorn. “What?! That’s impossible!”

Gizmo just gestured helplessly at the screens and shrugged.

 

 

Starry sighed. “Along with the time dilation affecting communications with Equus Control, according to our instruments, it seems that space has been distorted somehow, but only on the axis we are travelling in. One star that was directly on our port, for example, measures as the same distance as before.”

“Somehow? All we’ve done is go fast – how can that cause all this?” Wandering asked with exasperation.

“I don’t know, but I and my team are going to get straight to work on trying to find some answers for you.”

“Maybe Destined will have some answers for us.” The alicorn took a deep breath and calmed his thoughts. “Okay – we seem to be on course and up to speed, and the ship appears to be in full working order. We’re going to proceed with post-acceleration schedule as planned with the exception of Starry’s team who will work on this phenomenon. Turn on artificial gravity, and let’s get to work, people!”

# # #

With a normal routine established, the bridge crew soon settled down, choosing to ignore the outside universe for the moment. After sending an interim report back to Equus Control, Wandering let the crew do their work while he pondered the ramifications of the unanticipated anomalies. Hours later, he was startled when a blue alicorn suddenly appeared in the specially demarked teleportation area on the bridge next to the mana beacon, and staggered a bit before getting his balance.

“Whoa!” Destined yelped. “That was crazy!”

Wandering got up from his command chair and approached Destined. “Are you alright, brother?” he asked with great concern.

“I’ll be fine. I just never teleported and tried to compensate for a huge time-distortion before. Did you know that time is passing over four times slower for you? Even with the benefit of the mana beacon, I barely managed to get here, and this kind of thing is my specialty.”

Wandering’s face and ears fell. “Do you mean that we’re now without our fail-safe escape plan?”

“Oh, you can escape, alright, but I doubt that you would survive the experience,” Destined replied soberly.

Wandering sighed. “Have you any good news for us?”

Destined grinned. “As a matter of fact, yes. Pif took some final measurements with the TESS and confirmed their accuracy. While we thought that we had only managed to get you up to ninety-five percent of light-speed, we overlooked the delay between transmission and reception of the thrust. This ship is now travelling at 97.4% of the speed of light.”

“That’s very reassuring. Our instruments are practically useless due to the distorted views we’re getting.” Wandering indicated the view on the monitor.

Destined nodded. “I could hardly miss that, and it’s as bizarre as you described. I can assure you though that the universe hasn’t actually gone crazy, and you are nicely on course. Oh – and one other thing that you will probably like. If this time stretching continues unabated, your trip to the Far Star will take only a bit over ten years instead of forty-three or four.”

Wandering tried to reconcile those facts in his head and failed. “Huh?”

“Right now, time is passing a lot slower for you, so you will experience less than a quarter of the duration, even while those of us back on Equus still see you taking over four decades.”

“Well, that’s an unexpected bonus. I doubt anyone aboard this ship will be unhappy at slashing the amount of time just travelling to the Far Star.”

“I didn’t think so. Anyway, Pif and her think-tank will be working on these time and space distortions, as well as why it got exponentially harder to push the Cosmic Lotus the closer we got to the speed of light. We’ll keep you abreast of any developments, and if you desperately need something, I will try to help. Don’t count on me teleporting anything much more than a very small package though – I barely can manage bringing myself!”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for coming, Des.”

“No worries, bro. Glad to be here for you.” Destined clapped Wandering on the withers and gave a wave to the rest of the bridge crew. “Keep up the great work, everyone. Equus is proud of all of you.” His horn lit up and he teleported away, although with a strange stuttering effect rather than the typical flash-bang.

Wandering turned around to gaze at the main monitor and the stars crowded near the center of it. ‘Ten years… this changes things a lot,’ he thought. His stomach gurgled just then, reminding him that he had not eaten in a long time. ‘In a universe of strange phenomena, it’s nice to know that some mundane things stay the same.’ He chuckled a bit before he raised his voice. “Commander Bluequill, you have the bridge. Kale Robe’s culinary masterpieces await me.”

Author's Note:

Dappler Effect = ponified Doppler Effect

As much of a headache the previous chapter was, this one easily beat it for difficulty. Relativity is complicated! Once again – huge thanks to Airy Words to help me keep things straight. Next chapter we get away from the weird physics and have a bit of fun with some of the characters instead.

The picture of the bewildered Gizmo Gears is by Foxenawolf. You scored a freebie, Emtu! I'm a bit crazy to lash out with these illos all the time, so if others would like to see art of their OC here, please consider donating to the cause via Paypal.

   
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