13. Astrid Easter

Astrid Easter - San Patroclus XXIII

The 23rd Profit of Potiguld and Heir of the Bunny Empire

Through generations the Disciples of San Patroclus found their next leader through mystic meditation. The Potiguldans lived through generations in an area targeted by Jormungandr, a colossal being that lived within subspace - a distortion of space and time unfathomable to terrestrial beings. Through generations of exposure to this subspace contamination, the Potiguldans developed prescient visions that led to a cultish religion around those visions. The future almost always revealed itself within the vicinity of the Logisharm Nebula. But in some cases, their sight found something beyond. One such vision brought them to the attention of Astrid Easter, soon to be San Patroclus XXIII begins. 

Astrid Easter, the long-lost daughter of the late Emperor Clint Easter, spent several years adrift in space in the midst of the Chick-Bunny wars. Near the end of the war she was presumed dead. This came much to the dismay of Emperor Easter, who was forced to abandon his hope of her survival so he could focus on the evacuation of his people upon the ecological collapse of Carotene Prime. 

Astrid’s disappearance occurred during her pilgrimage across the four planets Carotene: Solas, Luna, Omega, and Prime*. The pilgrimage marked a rite of passage for imperial heirs. Through a series of trials the pilgrims would have their aptitude for leadership tested. The pilgrimage would force would-be imperial leaders to reflect upon the history of the Bunny Empire first established by Esther Carotonius of the First Carotonius Dynasty. The pilgrims would reflect on the Empire’s victories and triumphs, and its brutalities and failures. They would need to demonstrate their ability to honor the greatness of their ancestors, while also showing an aptitude to understand their flaws. 

The pilgrims would also need to reflect upon themselves. Through a series of grueling physical and mental tests, they could better understand the strengths their leadership would present, along with the weaknesses they would need to address. Astrid Easter had always struggled with her place as the heir to the Easter Empire. Her strengths always lay in the sciences, with a particular strength in subspace communications. She never felt to be inspirational or charismatic. The heiress always struggled to understand how she could be an effective leader. At the same time, the more she worked in her field of science, the more she knew she had to study it, and the more she understood her people needed her to. Still, her father and her people depended on her to find her strength as a leader, so she proceeded with the pilgrimage with the hope to learn. 

While Astrid was en route to Carotene Luna, Emperor Easter got word that her caravan was raided. Though the empire was in the midst of a war against the Chicks of Yolk, he never fathomed an attack so close to any of the core worlds. The raid left few survivors. From their accounts, it became clear that the raiders were led by the Dread Pirate Peep and that they targeted and destroyed Astrid’s ship. It was unclear how they knew which ship to target, or if Astrid survived the attack. After the equivalent of about two weeks of searching the area around the wreckage there was no sign of her. If she had survived, she was either abducted or adrift in an escape pod that would have by this time run out of artificial atmosphere. 

In reality Astrid had been abducted by the Dread Pirate Peep. Peep intended to offer Emperor Easter to exchange his daughter for Admiral BunBun. But before she could make her demands, the Chick-Bunny war evolved rapidly. 

The Chicks suffered a major defeat against Admiral BunBun that resulted in the surrender of Colonel Cockerell and the Chick’s 107th fleet and left Yolk, the home planet of the Chicks, open to attack. Peep knew that, no matter how much Emperor Easter loved his daughter, there would be no certainty that he could give up the Admiral after such a triumph. Peep’s Peeps wanted to leverage Astrid to secure the release of the Colonel and his fleet, but the Dread Pirate was unwilling to sacrifice her revenge. This sowed discord amongst the raiders. 

A small splinter group headed by a comms officer, Lieutenant Kornelius Friesen Chin, who befriended Astrid sowed the seeds of mutiny. He worked in secret to convince sympathetic minds to help him escape from the fleet with Astrid. With defeat imminent he persuaded them that their best chance of survival would be to turn Astrid over to the Bunnies in return for their safety. 

But they underestimated the cunning ruthlessness of the Dread Pirate Peep. The mutiny ended almost nearly as soon as it began. It quickly became apparent that there wouldn’t be enough time to execute the planned escape. 

Peep directed the pirate fleet into unexplored space and scrambled the navigation systems of the mutinous ship so they would not be able to easily navigate back. The only thing they knew about the system they were in was that they were orbiting a planet technically capable of supporting life. When Peep boarded the ship she forced the crew, including Astrid to board the escape pods and land on the surface of the unknown planet. The pods’ navigational and communication systems were sabotaged to prevent the mutineers from going anywhere other than the nearby planet. Astrid and the other mutineers were marooned. 

On the surface of the planet, Astrid and the pirates looked up into the night sky just in time to see a flash of light as the Dread Pirate Peep’s rooster rocket-ship engaged its warp engine, leaving them truly stranded on an unknown planet. As soon as reality set in, all eyes turned to Astrid. Their alliance was forged out of convenience. With their death seeming all but guaranteed, that alliance was crumbling. 

Through desperate negotiations Astrid was able to stay alive in the face of the enraged and terrified failed mutineers. She could no longer just rely on a promise of amnesty for turning her in. She now had to prove her ability to increase their odds of survival. 

Carefully weighing each and every word, Astrid outlined a plan for survival that included rewards and amnesty should she be returned to her people. She convinced the pirates to search the pods for any salvageable materials. Though the comm systems were sabotaged, they may not have been beyond repair. And if the intention of the Dread Pirate was to give them a chance for survival, then the pods would also include rations, food preparation tools, and equipment to test organic material for nutrition compatibility. 

As suspected, the escape pods included rations to survive for one month. They were even able to find a 20 year supply of beta carotene supplements, essential for Astrid’s survival. 

While Astrid and Kornelius worked on repairing comms, others worked to repair the portable environmental scanners so that they could efficiently find safe sources of food and water on this unknown planet. Fortunately, the purification systems were still operational. The purification systems would be able to make slight alterations to food and water so that it would be fit for consumption for the crew. 

With just a few days of rations left and with tensions high, they were finally able to get a functioning environmental scanner. This allowed them to continue their survival for roughly 12 Earth years as they lived off the land. After those 12 years, Kornelius and Astrid were finally able to repair the communications array enough to send out a distress signal. 

Meanwhile, somewhere near the Rainbow Nebula, the disciples of San Patroclus, aboard their black kettle ships that spewed golden light from the back that diffused into a trailing rainbow, were following a vision across the expanse of space. San Patroclus XXII was dying, and in his final visions he saw a bizarre being with large floppy ears, two prominent front teeth, and burnt orange fur. Though he sensed this being had only fledgling prescient visions, he could see that she was destined for something far greater than anything any previous San Patroclus has ever accomplished before. 

Navigating visions of the future is far from a precise journey, even for Giants and Colossi. For the terrestrial species, it is more a supernatural form of intuition. The Disciples recognized and trained this intuition, allowing them, with time and concentration, to discern the patterns of the future. No matter how much they trained, they would never be able to produce a vision of absolute certainty, for across the expanse of the universe, random events caused the future to constantly fluctuate. 

San Patroclus XXII, an elder Potigulden whose hair long ago changed from its ruddy hue to a golden blonde, still maintained his years-long meditations. He only ever stopped when his body forced him to eat and rest. He dared not stop his concentration for long for fear that he may lose his vision of the future, of his successor. And so he and his Disciples sped across the galaxy as fast as the kettle ship could take them. After 3 long Earth years of travel with various course corrections as the streams of time redirected San Patroclus they finally detected a distress signal. San Patroclus knew that they reached their destination at last. 

For the first year after the subspace comms array was repaired and sending its distress signal Astrid and the other marooned mutineers rejoiced and celebrated. At last their salvation felt close at hand. During the second year they began to grow more and more uneasy but still maintained an uneasy optimism. After that the animosity quickly grew as their hope once again began to wane. With each passing day Astrid chose her words with more and more care and consideration. In time her skills as a negotiator grew. Simultaneously, finding the words and actions for survival grew more innate while still feeling unnatural to her. 

At the end of the third year of the distress signal Astrid was involved in a heated exchange with the fellow mutineers.She knew she was losing control and there was no longer anything she could say or do to hold everyone together.  Only Kornelius Friesen Chin remained by her side. When one of the mutineers, overcome with anger, lunged at Astrid, Kornelius jumped in between them and took the blow. At this point, two others joined in on the fight. The rest kept away. One looked up into the sky and saw a dark vessel in the distance. She excitedly proclaimed that there was a ship. 

The fight came to a sudden halt. Kornelius and Astrid rushed over to the comms system. Sure enough, they were being hailed. They quickly sent out a signal relaying their location and urgency. All tensions across the camp immediately evaporated. 

When the ship landed the marooned mutineers circled around the landing zone excitedly. The ship that landed was of unknown origin to them. It rushed towards the ground at alarming speed spewing its gold to rainbow trail. The survivors scrambled away in fear that they would strike the ground with dangerous force. The ship then abruptly slowed, landing on the ground. 

The landed ship looked like an upright black kettle. The top radiated a gentle heat and shone gold. For a few minutes the shine would diffuse into rainbows as the engines cooled, resting at a dull yellow-gold glow. 

A door opened along the side of the ship, which turned to a ramp to the ground. From the door, a wizened individual on a cane carefully stepped out to meet the survivors. He introduced himself as San Patroclus XXII and only had time to speak with Astrid. He said he would gladly return them home to Yolk. The mutineers did not know how this stranger knew of their home planet, but gladly took up their offer, desperate to leave their current planet. 

True to his promise, San Patroclus returned the Chicks to Yolk. All but Kornelius were overjoyed to see their home again. Kornelius worried about Astrid. She spent just about every waking moment with San Patroclus. From the little he could piece together, he learned that Carotene Prime suffered an ecological disaster that forced the Bunnies to evacuate and find a new home. 

He wanted to offer Astrid a home on Yolk, but did not know yet how relations fared between the once warring races. He also knew that Astrid would eventually need more beta carotene. Her best hope for that would be to return to her people. 

Knowing that she would need to leave, Kornelius offered to stay with Astrid, at least until she found her people again. Astrid kindly refused the offer. Kornelius deserved and belonged with his family on Yolk. 

Shortly after the Chicks disembarked, the Potiguldans once again left with Astrid. For several months she continued her discussions with San Patroclus. She learned that her seemingly supernatural powers of intuition were likely gained during her lifetime work on subspace communications. It was extraordinarily rare for anyone to ever feel the effects of subspace contamination. As far as the Potiguldans knew, their kind were the only ones that ever learned to train the power. San Patroclus knew he would need to pass this training onto Astrid. 

For the first few Earth months the ship progressed slowly in the direction of its new destination at the command of San Patroclus. Much like their journey to find Astrid, the ship took an uneven course with several corrections as the visions fluctuated. In time, Astrid’s control of her vision of the future grew more clear. She grew to sense that her people were divided across space in 2 distinct locations. She knew not why, but she felt driven towards one direction in particular. 

With Astrid’s connection to her people, the Potiguldans were able to move much more quickly. It only took 2 Earth months to reach their location, orbiting Earth. Only 2 days after their arrival San Patroclus XXII passed away on a Friday. On Sunday Astrid became San Patroclus XXIII in the eyes of the Potiguldans. 

* Solas was named for its orbit around 2 suns, Luna for its 6 moons orbiting it, Omega for being the final conquest of Carotonius, and Prime for being the homeworld and central seat of power of the Bunny Empire.