The Catch

This story takes place roughly 200 years before The Chase.
If it wasn't for bad luck, Rye Mash would have no luck at all. As a foal, he was taken during one of the infamous sweeps of the Shetland Isles. Now, as a young colt, he is an indentured servant, forced to spend the rest of his life working for his master, a unicorn named Lace Collar, so he can pay off the bill for his education.
However, Rye Mash's bad luck ends up being Lace Collar's bad luck as well, and both of them end up as prisoners of the infamous sky pirates and their dreadful leader, Captain Spyglass, the mass murdering lunatic that is feared the whole world over.

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14. Chapter 14

The guts of The Apogee’s control system lay strewn about the navigation cabin. Several crystals had been pulled out, crystalline fibre was stretched across the floor, and in the middle of the mess, Starjammer worked in utter and complete silence.

“What’s he doing? Rye asked, leaning over and whispering into Bloody Velvet’s ear.

“Making a much needed improvement,” Bloody Velvet replied.

“I don’t understand.”

“The ship flies in a straight line if left unattended. That’s bad for us. There aren’t enough ponies on board this ship to pilot craft at all hours. If we follow The Whalefish and that ship changes course, we’ll be separated. So, Starjammer is rigging the controls to follow a beacon he constructed aboard The Whalefish.”

“Oh.”

Sticking out her hoof, Bloody Velvet gave Rye a playful shove. “Your breath stinks like garlic and bad cheese. Begone, foul smelling pony of lowly peasant birth.”

“Hey!” Rye cried in a voice of mock indignation.

“What do all of the crystals do?” Woe Betide asked as she began to giggle from Bloody Velvet’s remark to Rye Mash.

“Store spells, Woe. And hold energy collected from ley lines,” Bloody Velvet replied.

“So the spells act like a command… hmm… nope, I don’t understand.” Woe flopped over onto the floor and kicked out her legs. “Boring.”

“Woe, why don’t you go and help Rye look for secret compartments on this ship?” Bloody Velvet reached out and prodded the unicorn filly with her hoof.

“Okay!” Woe sprang up, bounced, bounced again, and then looked at Rye, watching him sigh. “Come on Rye, we have orders! Let’s go!”

 

 

Rye tapped on the back of a closet wall, trying to hear if it was hollow. They were still finding hidden nooks in this ship, though all of them were not really hidden, just out of the way places to hide stuff, and all of it had been empty.

The idea of a hidden compartment persisted though, even Spyglass was certain that something was hidden aboard The Apogee.

“Rye?”

“Yes Woe?”

“Have you ever noticed that the space beneath the stairs is closed off?”

Rye Mash lifted his head.

“Aboard The Whalefish, the space under all the different stairs is open and it is used for storage. Stuff can be secured there. But here, under the stairs is all walled in.”

Rye Mash stepped out of the closet, turned tail, and left the water treatment room he had been searching. As he exited, he snatched up a pry bar that he had been bringing room to room with him, in case he found something promising. He looked at Woe Betide, who was poking at the boards with her hoof.

The space under the stairs was closed off, forming a triangle. The stairs were a little less than a yard wide, and the space beneath them extended from the wall that the stairs were anchored to. Rye walked to the stairs themselves, peered down, trying to see between the risers. Aboard The Whalefish, you could see through the spaces between the stairs.

These stairs were sealed off.

This was just bad ship design to create an unreachable, unusable empty space that was sealed off. Or not… it was a good place to hide something. Rye Mash began to look around for the best place to start peeling the enclosed space open.

Rye chose the corner, where the wooden planks were held together with pegs. He sunk the tip of the pry bar in between the planks, doubled down with his telekinesis, stabbed inwards a bit more, and then heaved. There was a creak as the wooden panel popped free from the pegs. He gave another shove, and soon the entire wooden plank fell away and clattered to the floor.

Lighting his horn, Rye Mash looked inside.

The light of his horn showed a shapeless mass of grey canvas inside of the small triangle shaped area beneath the stairs. Rye Mash felt his his heart begin thumping inside of his chest as he looked down at Woe and smiled.

“Velvet! We found something!” Woe Betide cried.

 

 

Several more planks fell to the floor as Rye Mash pried the wall away. Inside the compartment, there was a large grey canvas draped over a pile of stuff. A wooden trunk was also visible. A collection of wooden scroll casings could be seen sticking up out of a crate.

“Oh stars… this looks interesting,” Bloody Velvet gasped.

After pulling away one more plank, Rye Mash tugged at the heavy grey canvas. As it slid away, it revealed the almost glowing glimmer of gold beneath it. Gold bars were stacked atop one another and upon seeing it, Starjammer let out a long whistle of surprise.

“That’s thirty six gold bars. Each bar is four hundred and forty four ounces of gold if they are following the Avarice standard. We’re looking at, uh, um… uh…” Velvet fell silent as she tried to to do the math inside of her head.

“Nine hundred, ninety nine pounds,” Starjammer finished.

“I don’t even comprehend how much that is worth,” Rye said in a low whisper as he backed away from the pile of gold bricks. “I’m having some trouble taking this in.”

Using her magic, Bloody Velvet flipped open a small wooden chest and saw it was full of gold coins. The mare lifted her head and whinnied.

“Trouble,” Starjammer said in a low worried voice. He stared at Bloody Velvet.

Bloody Velvet stared back at Starjammer for a moment and then looked at Rye Mash. “Rye… tell me, what do you see when you look at those coins?”

Rye Mash shrugged. “More money than I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”

“No, Rye… keep looking… tell me, what do you see?” Velvet asked.

Rye stuck his head down and studied the shining gold coins. They were beautiful and perfect in every way. They were Equestrian bits. “I don’t know what you want me to see.”

“These coins are freshly minted or have never seen circulation. There are no teeth marks, the edges haven’t been shaved off, they’re all clean, no smudges, no filth, no coal dust down in the nooks and crevices, these coins came from a treasury.” Bloody Velvet gave Rye a nudge. “Each one of those is a one hundred gold bit coin.”

“So… these coins have never been touched by commoners?” Rye asked.

“Can I have one?” Woe Betide asked in an excited squeak.

“No,” Bloody Velvet said. “Something like that would get you in trouble, and then Rye would have to start killing a whole bunch of fools to keep you safe. And he’s the sort that would do it, too. That much gunfire would give me a headache.”

Pouting, and giving Velvet a sullen glare, Woe Betide mumbled, “Shite.”

“I wonder what is in the scroll tubes… the large wooden trunk might have anything… so what do you think all of this is for?” Rye Mash asked as he glanced over at Velvet.

“I don’t know. It seems House Avarice was off doing business though. This, along with that stew recipe you found, this has me very upset,” Bloody Velvet replied.

Rye shook his head. “The stew recipe has left me puzzled for a couple of days now, I’ll admit. It just seems so out of place. I mean, no one on this ship had any use for it. It had no place being here.”

“So we have a stew recipe to feed thousands and enough gold here to buy Saddle Arabia. We have a real advanced prototype ship that’s probably still loaded down with more secret compartments and who knows what else is tucked away.” Bloody Velvet frowned took a step back, and sat down, the spasms in her hind legs becoming too much for her to bear. “In the past, House Avarice has pushed two opposing sides to war and then made a mountain of gold off of exploiting both sides.”

Starjammer nodded but said nothing. He sat down beside Velvet and then pulled Rye Mash down beside him.

“What will one thousand pounds of gold buy you?” Rye Mash asked.

Bloody Velvet shrugged. “Anything you want. Right now, Starjammer is thinking that he’d spend one thousand pounds of gold to get you under the covers for a snuggle.”

Choking, Rye Mash darted away from Starjammer, coughing, and he felt his cheeks blazing with an internal fire. He turned and looked at Starjammer and the unicorn gave a nod, followed by a saucy, lewd, lascivious wink.

“Rye, calm down. It’s just a snuggle. There is nothing wrong with two grown stallions snuggling,” Bloody Velvet said in a teasing voice.

Overcome with the giggles, Woe Betide lifted up her hoof, pointed, and then fell over, her giggles becoming guffaws.

“Really, Rye… deep breaths… you would be the snuggler and Starjammer would be the snugglee. When Starjammer is with a mare, he’s all stallion, but when he’s with a stallion, he’s all mare, if that makes it any easier on you.” Bloody Velvet’s face contorted and spasmed as she started to laugh.

Beside her, Starjammer scowled and then prodded Bloody Velvet with his hoof.

“I need me some fresh air!” Rye Mash bolted away, running and leaping up the stairs.

 

 

The cold wind felt good as it blew through Rye Mash’s pelt. He shivered, glad to feel the cold, and he could see The Whalefish ahead of them. He stood on the small deck of the The Apogee and tried to sort out his thoughts.

Feeling confused and out of sorts, Rye Mash didn’t know what to think. He had felt nothing but confusion since that kiss with Starjammer, and then this had happened, bringing up everything that had settled down somewhat in his memory.

But now, all those feelings were fresh once more.

He watched as a group of pegasi pushed a bank of clouds towards The Whalefish so that the gasbag could be refilled. He tried to distract himself by looking at anything that might take his mind off of the current problem that was stuck inside of his brain.

Starjammer was handsome. More and more, Rye was noticing that Starjammer was somewhat effeminate in his mannerisms. He had noticed it while watching the stallion eat, or drink his tea, or the way he read his book, or the way he moved.

Rye Mash closed his eyes and admitted that he had been watching the way that Starjammer moved. Starjammer’s hips swayed more like a mare’s hips when he walked. His tail bobbed and flicked in a most inviting way. Starjammer wore his mane and tail a little longer than most stallions.

Starjammer was, in fact, quite pleasing to look at, and it was a pleasure to watch the way that Starjammer moved. The stallion was graceful, sleek, and meticulous with his appearance. There was something about the pouty expressions that Starjammer made, the way his lips protruded and the way his eyes narrowed. The way his mane spilled down over his face, covering his eyes. The way that Starjammer blew his mane out of his face, snorting in frustration when it would not stay back.

Rye Mash opened his eyes and gave himself a good shake and he felt his balls slap up against his inner thigh. The cold blew over all of the right places, cooling him off and making him feel better.

“He’s pretty. There, I said it. He’s pretty in the same way mares are pretty and it shouldn’t matter that he’s a stallion.”

But it did matter. Rye Mash sighed, allowed his ears to go limp, and then enjoyed the feeling of them flapping in the breeze. Rye Mash couldn’t figure out why it mattered. Feeling confused, he tried to clear his head once more so that he could think better, but his mind continued to race as fast as his heart.

“Why do these things have to matter?” Rye Mash asked himself, glad to hear his own voice outside of his mind, away from the confusion. “Why does who you find pretty have to be so complicated? Why does a set of balls have to make things so difficult? Why am I so squeamish about all of this?”

Nopony answered and Rye Mash was left alone with his thoughts.

 

 

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