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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24. Chapter 24

“I have sand in strange places!” Rye wiggled around, kicking out his hind legs, trying to free himself of said sand. He flicked his tail, a worried look appearing upon his face, and he gave himself another shake as Bloody Velvet rolled her eyes.

“You’re funny.” Woe Betide looked up at Rye, an impish look on her face, and a terrible smile spreading over her muzzle. “I think Miss Mousy and Starjammer both like the way you dance.”

Freezing in place, Rye looked first at Mousy, who was indeed staring, and then at Starjammer. Rye was unable to name the expression upon Starjammer’s face, but it made him feel hot and flustered. Starjammer almost looked sleepy, his eyes were half closed, and he appeared as though he was lost in a dream.

“Right, that’s enough of that, then.” Rye, gritting his teeth together, tried to ignore the sand lodged in the various cracks, crevices, and tender places on his body. He couldn’t imagine being a mare and having to deal with sand—he had no idea how Velvet and Mousy were dealing with it.

Skeeter had vanished and the sound of the shower running revealed the pegasus’ location. The Apogee had a nice shower, even if it was a little cramped. Rye decided that when the shower was available, he would hop in there himself.

“Captain Spyglass wants to talk with all of us,” Oola said from where she reclined upon a small, well cushioned sofa. “This afternoon or this evening when we’ve all settled in. I dunno what’s up, but he seems anxious.” The lounging kangaroo was holding a bottle of wine in her hand and she looked a bit sleepy. “You know, this is so much better than home. Nice weather and everything around me isn’t trying to kill me.”

“Anxious captains never good,” Bloody Velvet muttered to herself.

 

 

There was a soft clink of metal as Rye Mash reassembled the new shotgun. It was a brutal, heavy device, the four barrels had not been rounded off in the slightest, the metal in which they were bored was squared, with hard edges on each corner, edges that would cleave a skull with a hearty smack. The rotating action was smooth, well machined, perfect in every way, but it would need lots of oiling and care on a daily basis to keep it free moving.

As Rye worked, the seed of an idea was planted in his head. The revolving barrels were a great idea so one could keep firing, but they had a lot of issues; weight being the primary concern. There had to be a way to reduce the weight of the weapon but keep the revolving barrels somehow, or at least the functionality of the revolving barrels.

An almost blank expression was on Rye Mash’s face as he stared at his new gun. His eyes twitched, a swift movement, and he focused upon the four barreled pepperbox pistol. The price of rapid fire was steep. The pepperbox was also an ungainly weapon, rather heavy all things considered. It too, was suitable for smashing skulls when it ran out of shot and a large knob was built on the grip.

“Thinking?”

Starjammer never said much and hearing his soft voice startled Rye. He turned his head and looked at his friend. The intense look of lusty dreaminess was gone, replaced by one of curiousity and concern.

“Yeah,” Rye replied, glad for a chance to talk, “the guns… I want to make them better somehow. The multiple barrels are good for rapid fire, but they make the guns heavy. I want to make them lighter, but I don’t know how.”

“Hmm.” Starjammer’s face wrinkled with concentration.

“This shotgun is a marvel of modern engineering. I have four barrels that can each fire separately or all at once. It is a portable deck clearing cannon… when I look at it, I can see the future… I know it sounds funny, but I swear that it is true.” Rye drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, all too aware that Starjammer was looking at him once again, and then he continued, “He that fires the most shots the fastest is the one that is most likely to win a firefight. I just need to figure out a way for a gun to hold more shots without increasing the weight too much. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t think of a better way than what I am looking at in front of me.”

Rye looked down at the wooden floorboards. His cleaning kit was spread over the floor, his cloak was wadded up in a pile near the bed, and his different guns were scattered everywhere all around him. Five pistols in total, including his sniper pistol and his pepperbox. His main pistols, the one that Bloody Velvet had given him, he called Right Nut and Left Nut, for those moments when he needed to go ‘balls out.’ All of this firepower. So much weight and preparation required to keep them all ready to fire.

“You will find a way.”

Lifting his head, Rye looked at Starjammer, surprised to hear so many words from his friend. He felt a little more optimistic about finding a solution. He grinned at his friend and felt his heart pick up the pace a little bit. Starjammer had showered as well and had groomed himself to perfection. Sniffing, Rye smelled lavender and rose oil, a feminine smell, and he knew that Starjammer had pilfered Bloody Velvet’s much treasured soaps. There would be fighting and threats of violence later, which should be amusing to watch.

“Starjammer… if I am going to change the world, I’m going to need a lot more bullets and a lot more guns… I don’t think this is going to be enough. I don’t think I’m enough… I—” Rye Mash’s voice faltered. “Maybe I’m crazy to even think that the world can be changed.”

Shivering, Rye Mash felt Starjammer brushing up against him. He could feel hot breath on his neck. Starjammer’s touch was comforting, but something about it also scared Rye, causing his heart to thump within his barrel and he could feel his life’s blood rushing through his neck. He felt Starjammer’s snoot press into him, just below his ear, which caused his whole body to shiver-shudder. There was a soft kiss, the feeling of two lips lingering against the tender skin just below his ear… and then… nothing more. Starjammer pulled away and Rye felt his head being turned by the warm tingle of Starjammer’s magic. He gazed into Starjammer’s stark grey eyes.

“What?” Rye’s lone word came out as he breathed, his barrel rising and falling.

But Starjammer said nothing else. Rye watched with breathless anticipation as Starjammer rose and left his cabin, leaving behind a perfumed cloud and a feeling of frustration. Was it something profound? Did Starjammer know something that he didn’t? Was Starjammer just messing with him? No answers seemed forthcoming. Letting out a frustrated and flustered whinny, Rye Mash began packing up his guns and cleaning up his mess.

 

 

“Velvet is acting funny,” Woe said in a conspiratorial whisper. “She’s not acting like she normally does, she’s distracted and weird.”

Rye looked into Woe’s single green eye and considered the filly’s words. What was normal for Bloody Velvet? He didn’t know. She was a mysterious sort to begin with, she had the Shivers, and she had some serious mood swings. That said, Woe wasn’t stupid, she was a survivor that knew how to read other ponies, or, as Woe put it, she knew how to find a good mark. She had found Rye after all.

“Now that I think about it, Starjammer is acting funny too,” Woe added after she turned away from Rye and looked at Starjammer, who was sitting in a chair in the corner with a vacant stare, his nose pointing towards the ceiling.

Something was up, Rye found himself agreeing with Woe Betide. Perhaps Velvet and Starjammer had said a few words to one another. Maybe this was about pilfered soap. Soap was a rare commodity, precious, hard to find, prized, a treasure to be hoarded. Bloody Velvet had said in no uncertain terms that if Rye stole her soap, she would geld him, and Rye had found his own supply of soap, something plain and unscented that had caused Starjammer to utter one word—plebian.

“Maybe they quarrelled. Keep an eye on them, I’m going up on deck. There’ll be a meeting with the captain soon and I want some fresh air before we do that.” Rye gave Woe a nudge. “I think you and I might be the only normal unicorns on this ship.”

Woe giggled and nodded her head. “I’ll keep an eye on them.”

 

 

Standing on the deck of The Apogee, Rye Mash watched as supplies were carried over the makeshift wooden bridge that stretched between The Apogee and The Whalefish. The two ships were docked together in the harbour, hovering just above the water, the gasbags seemed to be close enough to almost touch.

The Apogee was a whole lot smaller than The Whalefish. Having both of them together made this far more noticeable for Rye. Modifications were going to be made to The Apogee to make it a little more comfortable for the number of crew it currently had, but Rye didn’t know what those were. He hadn’t been paying attention.

Captain Spyglass was flying around overhead, overseeing the transfer of goods and watching everything that was being loaded onto The Whalefish. A whole lot of cheese had been secured and the large wheels were being hauled aboard on the backs of stout earth pony crew members.

“Oi, there’ll be a fog belowdecks with all this cheese.”

Oola’s voice and strange accent made Rye smile. He watched as the hefty kangaroo lifted up a crate of goods from an earth pony’s back and then hauled it away, taking it downstairs to be stored in the kitchen. The galley? Rye was still learning about the right terms.

In the distance, a bell rang out. It kept ringing and Rye began to feel a sense of worry. Flights of pegasi and griffons mercenaries filled the skies, Regulators. It was hard to see overhead because of the gasbags. Taking off at a trot, Rye moved around the deck, trying to get a better view. He couldn’t fly, so he couldn’t see what was going on.

Looking out towards the ocean, Rye could see the source of the commotion. A gleaming silver airship was steaming into the harbour. The gasbag was long, sleek, and white, while the ship itself suspended beneath was a beautiful vessel made of shiny metal. It bristled with guns and two smaller escort corvettes flew on either side.

Other vessels were moving to intercept. Rye Mash was worried. Pirates? Invaders? A group of minotaurs with muskets swarmed over the docks, mooing and bellowing. Artillery guns were turning.

“Oh we are buggered,” Captain Spyglass shouted as he landed on the deck of The Whalefish. The pegasus looked at Rye, who was standing on The Apogee. “Mister Mash, prepare to be boarded.”

 

 

White pegasi with gleaming golden armor streamed forth from the enormous airship that had invaded the harbour and a large cloaked figure flew in their midst, the cloak billowing out behind them. Rye stood with his guns ready. He suspected he knew who had just arrived. The Regulators were all standing down now and the airships that had moved to defend the harbour were now giving the three ships that had arrived a wide berth.

Captain Spyglass stood beside him on the deck of The Apogee and Rye heard his captain let out a fearful whimper when the first of the pegasi landed upon the deck. Rye stood his ground, defiant, a bit angry, and afraid. He had a sneaking suspicion that he knew why their visitor was here, and why both Starjammer and Bloody Velvet had been acting so strange.

She had come for them, that was what Rye Mash feared. She herself had come for Starjammer perhaps, because of what he had done, or she had come for Bloody Velvet. She had come to take them away, to take them back to Equestria, to make them answer for what they had done. She had muddled their minds somehow to prevent them from knowing that she was coming.

She was landing on the deck right now.

Rye Mash watched as Princess Celestia touched down. She was large, white, her head was covered in a thick hood made of brilliant blue cloth. She folded her wings against her sides and her heavy blue cloak settled about her body, fluttering in the breeze.

“Surrender your arms,” a pegasus said.

Rye, blinking, stared at the pegasus guard, his anger making him grow hot. He shook his head, his heart thudding so hard inside of his barrel that it was causing him pain. No, no there was no way that Rye was going to surrender his arms. There was no way that he was going to let his friends be taken. There was no way that he would allow himself to be taken. He was a fugitive too, no doubt. Missing property. He was standing on stolen property.

“Mister Mash, surrender your arms, if you please,” Captain Spyglass said in a pleading voice. “That is an order, Mister Mash.”

“No.” Rye Mash’s refusal was spat out at the same time that he drew all of his weapons at once, his telekinesis straining to deal with all of them. He leveled his new shotgun at the group of pegasi guards. “No, I’ll not let her take them or me… I’m never going back. I’d rather die.”

“Mister Mash, you are going to get all of us killed,” Captain Spyglass said.

“Listen to your captain,” a pegasus commanded, stepping closer.

“One more step and I will blow your head off.” Rye pointed the four barreled pepperbox at the nearest pegasus, the one that had issued the command. “Try me… you might kill me, but most of of you are coming with me.” There was an ominous clicking sound as Rye cocked all of his guns at once.

Captain Spyglass gulped and tried not to piss himself in front of the alicorn princess.

Moving forwards, her guards parting before her, Princess Celestia approached Rye Mash, her thin white muzzle protruding from her hood. She moved with a smooth, easy grace, and as she came forwards, she held her head high.

“Captain Sparrow, please, stand down. This one will shoot you.” Princess Celestia’s voice cut through the tension like a knife. “Please, good sir, keep your guns but put them away. You are either very brave or very foolish to be so defiant, I am hoping that you are brave.” The tall white alicorn cleared her throat. “Please, be calm and do not be worried. I have come here looking for help, not to cause you trouble or take your friends from you. Yes, I am fully aware who is belowdecks. I know both of them. I give you my word that I am not here for them.”

Swallowing, feeling a lump in his throat, Rye Mash looked up at the white alicorn and then at the pegasus who had given him a command. The pegasus was backing away. He looked up again and saw a gentle smile. This was a misunderstanding, it seemed. With the muffled click of metal, Rye Mash uncocked his guns and began holstering them, his eyes never leaving what little he could see of Princess Celestia’s face.

“My apologies, Ma’am,” Rye Mash said to Princess Celestia. “Perhaps we could discuss what brings you here over tea?” Much to Rye’s surprise, he heard a soft laugh from the much larger alicorn.

“I did not expect any of this,” Princess Celestia replied, “first to find one with such bravery and then to discover that he is well mannered. I would very much like to discuss this over tea.”

Rye Mash bowed his head. “Very well then, I apologise for my rather rude welcome, but I did not know your intentions.”

After clearing her throat, Princess Celestia said, “I am in need of brave, ruthless ponies with stout hearts. I am actually quite reassured by your welcome. I have no doubt that you are just the sort of pony I have been looking for…”

 

 

 

 

 

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