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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10. Repairs and Replacements

Have you got all your readings done, Starry?” Wandering asked as he looked over the bridge from his Captain’s chair.

“All complete, Captain,” she replied. “Sending the results to Navigation now.”

Playbitz got busy as he fed the data into his calculations. Wandering waited patiently, monitoring the flow of information on his screen while the pegasus triple-checked his work.

“Ready to apply course correction, sir.”

“Go ahead,” Wandering ordered.

Playbitz addressed the artificial intelligence, “CONN, rotate ship 19.8 degrees clockwise and give me a 3.7 second burn on vectoring nozzle five.”

Confirm rotation positive 19.8 degrees and course adjustment on vectoring nozzle five for 3.7 seconds,” the A.I. paraphrased.

“Instruction confirmed. Execute.”

A faint sound was heard as the attitude jets spun the huge ship slowly before the vectoring rocket burned for exactly the specified time and then cut out.

“Course correction completed, Captain,” Playbitz reported.

“Very good.” Wandering always liked to be on the bridge when the course adjustments were made. Despite the high degree of accuracy of their initial departure thrust, even the tiniest of deviations would result in missing the Far Star system entirely after travelling forty-two light years. Every month since they had begun their journey, Starry had taken readings that measured the deviation from their course and a correction was made. Fortunately, it only took a very small burn to achieve this for the same reason as their initial deviation – a little added up to a lot over the time they traveled. Starry’s readings had a secondary purpose too. “So, Starry, how far have we got to go yet?”

“Approximately 28.6 light-years. The visual distortion makes it a lot harder than planned, but each time I measure it, the accuracy improves.”

“With about two thirds of the trip yet to go, high precision isn’t of great importance yet. Anyway, that seems to be all the excitement for now.” Wandering turned to Playbitz. “You’re due to go into hibernation after this shift, aren’t you? Just think of all interesting stuff that you’ll be missing.”

Playbitz gave the alicorn a flat look. “Oh, yeah. The eight hour watches when nothing happens until the monthly course corrections have me flat out busy for ten minutes. Woohoo,” he replied drolly.

Wandering grinned and was about to reply when an unexpected flash of light and loud pop came from the location of the mana beacon.

“Dang! I’m never going to get used to that weird time transition when I come here!” the newcomer exclaimed.

“Des? What are you doing here? You weren’t scheduled to pay us a visit for another month or so,” Starry said.

The red-maned alicorn smiled and replied, “Special occasion, Sis.” He looked over to his other sibling sitting in the Captain’s chair. “I have some family news.”

“Well, spit it out, Destined. You’d think the Alicorn of Time would not waste it so much!” Wandering said with a smirk.

Prince Destined Path grinned back. “Congratulations, you’re an uncle again.” Turning to Starry he added, “And of course that means you’re an aunt again.”

“What?” Starry replied. “Who had the foal and why weren’t we told sooner?”

“Lucida and Hype had a son. It was a bit of a surprise to them, so they thought that they would surprise you too.”

“A surprise to them? What do you mean?”

“Well, after Lucy decided to retire and pass on the leadership of House Path to her younger daughter, Gidela, she and Hype went off on an extended vacation. Apparently they got a little carried away with their newfound freedom from responsibility and had a little accident. Or not. Lucy has often said that she wanted a son, and happily, she did this time. They named him Glide.”

“Glide Path.” Wandering chuckled. “I look forward to seeing him.”

“I brought photos and some birthday cake for the both of you.”

“Awesome!” Starry said as she crowded her brother.

Destined fished out the photos from his saddle-pack and passed them around to his siblings. Even Playbitz huddled around to take a look. Wandering chuckled at how anything novel occurring on the ship was valued by the crew even higher than Kale Robe’s dessert creations, and he made a mental note to add the photos to the ship’s daily status report later for the crew’s entertainment.

The foal was a hippogriff, as they expected, with plumage similar to his sire’s, and a pony half the color of sand. There were picture of him by himself, with his happy parents, and with his two sisters, not to mention the rest of the extensive Path family. Destined fetched out slices of the celebration cake and passed them around, with enough for Playbitz too. They were still talking about the newborn when someone suddenly burst onto the bridge.

“Captain! Commander Bluequill and Ortzi have started fighting!” gasped Radiant Spark who promptly dashed off again.

“Oh, crap!” Wandering swore, and then galloped off in pursuit of the mare.

Startled, Destined hastened to follow. “What’s going on Wandering? Is there some sort of trouble?”

“It’s the duels!” Wandering called back over his shoulder before hurtling down a stairway.

“What duels? Is there some sort of crew rebellion that you haven’t told us about?”

He didn’t get an answer, and was chagrined to lose sight of his herd-brother and make a wrong turn. When he did catch up, it was in the mess hall/common room where it seemed the majority of the waking crew were gathered around a pair of battling griffons, shouting encouragement to one or the other of the combatants. To his astonishment, Wandering was doing the same.

“What in Tartarus is going on?” he demanded.

Without taking his eyes off the griffons, Wandering replied, “It’s the ultimate event of the Cosmic Games. Galen and Ortzi are the finalists in the freestyle unarmed combat event. I was supposed to come down here to watch it straight after doing the course correction when it was due to start. I would have missed it except for Radiant noticing that I was absent. We have a bet going on who will win.”

Destined now noticed the gauntlets each griffon was wearing to prevent injury by their talons. “Oh. So you’re not undergoing a mutiny then?”

Wandering chuckled. “No, we’re not. The Cosmic Games are just another way we found to entertain the crew in a manner in which they could all participate.”

“You had me worried there.”

“You think I’d hide crew problems from you and the family? That isn’t like a surprise foal birth!”

“No, I suppose not. So, two griffons are finalists, hey? I know that they’re both bigger than the average pony, but I would have thought Eon at least would have been in there.”

“Probably would have, but he’s in hibernation at the moment. Security isn’t a big issue, and his side job of engineering assistant is more than adequately covered by other crewmembers at the moment, so he’s taking a later segment of the journey.”

“Ah, I see.”

“That said, both of the griffons have said that they hope to have a match against him. Not that I think either has a chance. He’s been one of Blue Streak’s best students.”

Destined laughed. “I think Eon would win through sheer dread of disappointing our Warmaster!”

Wandering matched his laughter, but his attention was dragged away as the match appeared to be coming to a conclusion. Galen had Ortzi pinned, and despite the latter’s best efforts, he could not get free. The referee called a halt and Galen got up.

“Rats! Ortzi lost,” grumbled Wandering.

“What made you pick Ortzi over Commander Bluequill? It seems to me that the commander would be the clear choice.”

“Not as much as you would think. Galen is very experienced and broadly skilled, true, but I found out that this was one of Ortzi’s stronger talents. They were actually very evenly matched. Radiant disagreed with me and bet that Galen would win. So, I had to back up my opinion and take her bet, of course.”

Destined nodded. “I suppose that you did.”

Radiant Spark stepped up to Wandering at that moment. “Yeah, and now he has to pay up,” she said with a smirk.

“I’ll have the bits transferred to your account soon,” Wandering said with a sigh.

“Thanks, Captain!”

The mare walked off along with the rest of the dispersing crew, and Wandering started following suit to head back to the bridge. Destined fell in beside him and asked, “Are there more events to attend?”

“Nope. As I said, that was the ultimate one. Want to contend in the next one after crew rotation?”

“I’ll consider it. Anyway, while we’re on the subject of hidden talents, have you learned anything else of interest about your crew?”

“Well, not talents, but I did learn an interesting fact about one of our crystal ponies.”

“Oh? Which one?”

“Albite Feldspar. He and I were chatting when he brought up Dad’s first visit to the Crystal Kingdom.”

“You mean when Papa Free overdosed on love energy?”

“Yeah – when he became the ‘Alicorn of Lust’ as Mom described it.”

“Was he even born then?”

Wandering shook his head. “Nope, but that’s when his father was conceived.”

“Ooh! So his grandparents were caught up in one of the lust blasts?”

“Yep. Turns out that they were married, so the unplanned conception wasn’t too big a problem, but Albite still credits Dad with his existence because his grandparents didn’t have plans to raise any more foals.”

Destined grinned. “I’ve heard plenty of stories from that incident, but that’s a new one for me. Is that why he joined House Path?”

“One of his major reasons anyway. Apparently he got the chance to meet Dad and they had quite a chat.”

“Ha! Papa Free has never quite lived that incident down. He was probably happy to hear something positive from then. Any other news from home?”

As a matter of fact, I have a juicy bit of gossip.”

Wandering stared at his herd-brother. “Since when do you pay attention to gossip?”

“Since it involves Auntie Celestia. She has a special somepony!”

Wandering halted in surprise. “What?! After all this time, she’s finally dating again?”

Destined nodded and grinned. “Yep.”

“Okay, now I wanna hear about that!”

“Auntie’s personal secretary passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, so there was no one lined up to replace her. One of Celestia’s honor guards volunteered his time until the secretary could be replaced. He said that he was fairly familiar with the routine and would do his best to fill in until a new secretary was chosen. Auntie was intrigued by the offer, and agreed to give it a try. Turns out that while he was hardly as proficient as the former secretary, he was good enough and he was kept on because, and I quote Auntie, ‘I enjoy his company’. Eventually after no replacement was forthcoming, the guard queried Celestia about his position and he was asked to stay on in the job. However, he informed her that he felt that he could not continue as both her guard and as her secretary.”

“So, what happened?”

“She promoted him and discharged him from the Royal Guard on the spot.”

“She can do that?”

“Of course – Princess Celestia is Commander-in-Chief of the entire Equestrian military.”

“And how did he feel about that?”

“He asked her for a date!”

“Ha! I like him already. And what’s the name of our bold stallion?”

“Auric Thunderstrike – he’s a pegasus.”

“How did you find out all of this?”

“Well, their relationship has been growing over the past year, and they recently decided to take a short vacation together – anonymously of course. However, Auntie needed someone to take over Day Court in her absence, and she confided in me before leaving the responsibility in my hooves for the duration.”

“I want photos next time you visit!” Wandering demanded as they entered the bridge.

Destined chuckled. “Will do.”

“Will do what?” Starry asked curiously.

“I’ll tell you later,” Wandering replied. “Anyway, Des, do you have anything else to tell us before you go back?”

“I have the usual batch of hoof-written messages to pass onto you and the rest of the crew,” he replied as he levitated a bundle out of his saddle-pack. “I also have a piece of equipment for Techbird that she could not manufacture on board. I’ll still be coming at the next scheduled meeting. I just wanted to let you know about Glide Path in person rather than via comm.” He passed the packages to Wandering.

Starry gave Destined a hug. “Thanks for coming, Des. It’s been good seeing you again, even if briefly.”

“Same here, Sis. Anyway, gotta go. Can’t wait to tell the family about the mutiny.”

Starry blinked. “Say what?”

Wandering laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Starry – the insurrection was suppressed.”

The mare was really perplexed now. “Are you going to explain that, brother?” she asked Destined.

“Nope! Seeya!” he winked and teleported away.

Starry turned and glared at Wandering. “Talk! Now!”

“That’s ‘Talk! Now! Captain’,” replied with a laugh.

“Grrrrrr!”

Wandering decided that he had teased Starry enough and it was best to quit while he was ahead. “How do you feel about gaining a potential new uncle…?”

Starry settled down by the stream and waited patiently, appreciating the gentle sounds of the babbling brook and the breeze through the trees. Occasionally a bird would flit by or a butterfly would flutter around some flowers, but otherwise she was undisturbed. After all, that’s exactly how she had designed it. When your mother is the mistress of the night, you learned early how to shape your dreamscape. Tonight though, she hoped that she would be sharing it.

Time was fairly meaningless in this dreamscape, but she felt that she did not have to wait long before she heard hoofsteps approaching. Without turning around, Starry said, “Hello, Mom.”

Luna settled down beside her daughter and nuzzled her. “It’s good to see you again, daughter.”

Starry nuzzled her mother back, saying. “Thanks for making the effort to come see me.”

Even though distance was no barrier to Luna in the dreamscape, even the Moon Princess was subject to the tyranny of relativistic time dilation, and she found it difficult to synchronize with any of the crew of the Cosmic Lotus. Therefore she tended to restrict her visits to the most important ones.

“I thought you would want to talk more about the news that Destined brought today,” Luna replied.

“Why did Lucy keep her pregnancy a secret, Mom?”

“You do not accept the explanation that she intended it as a surprise?”

Starry shook her head. “Who keeps that kind of thing a surprise?”

Luna sighed. “In truth, there was some intention of surprising you. With the time dilation, you would only have to wait less than a quarter of the pregnancy anyway. But that certainly was not the main reason. Your sister is much older than you – far older than a griffon would normally consider having a child, or even a pony. No one was sure if this applied to a hybrid hippogriff too, but it became plain that, unlike us alicorns, they are no exception. Lucida’s pregnancy was unexpected because she thought that she was past fertility, but she was happy nonetheless. That is until she miscarried. It happened just before Destined was due to visit and pass on the news.”

Starry was shocked. Destined had not even hinted to Wandering that there had been a problem previously. The fact that the family had not informed them of Lucida’s pregnancy earlier was not an issue – they always preferred telling that kind of news in person, and Destined was their proxy. However, obviously they had chosen not to burden their voyaging children with the sad news.

“What happened after that? How is it that she now has a healthy foal?”

“Lucida was exceedingly distraught over the loss. Even though the child was unplanned, he was already loved. As the weeks passed by and Lucida remained mired in misery despite our best efforts, we came to the conclusion that she had her heart set on having another foal. She and Hypotenuse were encouraged to try again, but this time it would be with the utmost attention to the care of both mother and unborn child. Fortunately, Hype was able use her changeling abilities to imbue Lucida with enough of her love to facilitate the conception. We spent all those months worrying and caring for her and the child, none of us daring to announce the pregnancy due to fearing another miscarriage. Fortunately the foal was carried to full term and was born healthy.”

“I understand now. Do you think Glide Path has been affected by his unusual conception?”

Luna shrugged. “He has no obvious trait such as Wandering’s twisted horn, but I would not be surprised. We will all just have to wait and see what eventuates.”

“I’m happy for Lucy, whatever happens. Glide looks like an adorable foal.”

“He is indeed. I fear that he may be thoroughly spoiled.”

Starry smirked at her mother. “With you as the prime culprit, I suspect.”

Luna gave Starry a quiet smile in return. “It took me centuries to make a family, and I will do whatever it takes to make any additions feel loved. Besides, I think you turned out fairly well despite my best efforts.”

Starry giggled. “I’m sure that I must have given you some troubles.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Some? Daughter, I can’t wait until the day that you have a foal of your own to take care of. Then I will watch and smile smugly while you desperately try to cope.”

“No you won’t. You’ll help me because you’ll want to be the best grandmother in Equestria,” Starry stated with conviction.

Luna chuckled. “Ah, you know me too well. So, is there any chance yet of making that come to pass?”

Starry shook her head. “Not while we are on the Lotus anyway. Mom – Wandering and I have been sharing a bed since early in the voyage.”

Luna raised an eyebrow. “And you are only now telling me this? How deep does this go?”

“We comfort each other and fill each other’s needs, but we are not lovers, if that is what you are thinking.”

“Are you sure of that, Starry Path?”

When her mother addressed her by her full name, it always made her pause to think. “We cannot afford to let it be more, Mom. We are siblings, even if not related by blood.”

“Sometimes I wish for simpler times when such an association would be irrelevant, but I must bend with the mores of the present. Starry, I see no fault in your present relationship, but I understand your reluctance to go further. Know this though – I will support you, whatever you decide.” She enveloped her daughter with a wing and pulled her into a warm hug.

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Anytime, dear daughter.”

The two enjoyed a long moment of quiet togetherness before Starry thought of something else that she wanted to bring up.

“So what’s this I hear about Auntie Celestia finding a special somepony?”

Luna’s face lit up with the most gleeful of grins.

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