The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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Bucky worked quietly in the lab, but not alone. Tonight, Dinky, Sparkler, and Rising Star were with him, and the trio worked together to fill the globes. They were all moving towards a more nocturnal schedule now that The Scorned Mare neared completion.

It was a tough adjustment for some, a natural progression for others.

While his students worked, getting a chance to safely practice dangerous spells by casting them into spell jars, Bucky worked on something a little different. Using nothing but his magic, he had created something of a minor metalworking forge. He experimented with brass, and he was working the pliable metal into shape. It was now cooling, two little metal frames that looked a bit like odd figure-eights, one larger, the other smaller. As they hung suspended in the air, his magic leaching heat from them, he worked on creating four glass lenses. This was a practical concern, for him and Sentinel, and he intended to do something about it. Straps of canvas were created. Once the metal was cooled, everything was assembled carefully, and after several hours of magical labour, Bucky placed his finished projects down upon a table.

“Bucky?”

“Yes Rising Star?” Bucky replied.

“I think I can finally feel what you’ve been talking about. I’ve always been a sort to worry. It has been different lately though. I keep focusing on things… and I can’t stop thinking about them,” Rising Star admitted while he worked.

Bucky closed his eye and felt a wash of sadness overtake him. “That sounds like a symptom,” he answered.

“I get like that,” Dinky said. “I keep thinking about being a little brat at breakfast the other day and being so angry, and my brain won’t shut up, and it makes all my muscles feel herky jerky and my eye starts to twitch a bit,” she explained. “I wasn’t like this before my cutie mark showed up.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Rising Star said to Dinky.

“My thoughts feel a little more unsettled lately, but I can’t tell if it is stress or some kind of unicorn neurosis,” Sparkler stated. “There is a battle coming and I keep thinking about it. I am lousy at offensive magic and it just burns me up inside.”

“Petrification is-”

“Father, petrification cannot be relied upon. I have no control over when it happens, and it isn’t like I can sit back and practice to make it better,” Sparkler interrupted.

“Sparky, you are more defensive. Focus on protecting others. You and Rising Star compliment one another. You’re the stop, and he’s the go. You’ve seen him, he has almost no defensive abilities of his own. He can’t make a telekinetic barrier to save his life. He can’t even make simple shields. If something ever gets past his offense, he is in big trouble. Be a shield to others,” Bucky explained, trying to comfort and reassure his daughter.

“It worries me that I have no defense to speak of,” Rising Star admitted.

“And I still don’t have an element,” Dinky said in a pouty voice.

“Dinky, some unicorns never develop a strong connection to a particular element. More and more you are showing signs of strong mental magic, maybe your magical talents are attuned to other things,” Bucky suggested.

The unicorn foal stuck her horn into a spell jar, summoned forth a poof of fire, and then pulled out. “Maybe… but just once I’d like to just burn everything like Rising Star does,” Dinky whispered. “Beautiful fire.”

“Why fire Dinks?” Sparkler asked.

“Why not?” Dinky replied. “If not fire, then lightning like Lyra. Or that thing with the rapid fire icicles that father does or the explosive ice orb… I want the whizz-bang burn off your eyebrows spells,” she added. When she was finished speaking, Dinky yawned and rubbed her belly.

“The explosive ice orb was something,” Sparkler said, recalling the demonstration a few days previous.

“The explosive ice orb is more psychological… sure, it is damaging, but it is as Dinky says, whizz-bang magic. On a battlefield with other sapient, beings, they would see it and panic. There are far more efficient spells for killing but they lack the spectacular whizz-bang effects that Dinky seems to be after,” Bucky explained.

“I dunno Bucky, the other day when you sucked all those wolves into one little spot with that spell, froze them, and then shattered them, that was whizz-bangy,” Rising Star said in an insistent tone.

“I am not even sure how I did that,” Bucky admitted. “Reflexive spell casting perhaps. It almost felt like something else channeled the magic through me.”

“I wish I could have been there to see that,” Dinky said.

“Your day is coming soon,” Bucky said to Dinky. “Well, night. Think you will be ready to defend your mother’s blind spot?” he inquired.

Dinky’s eyes narrowed and a change came over the foal. “Nothing hurts my mama,” she hissed. Sparks flew from her horn as she spoke and her eyes had a manic gleam. “Nothing hurts my family.”

“Easy Dinks,” Rising Star said soothingly.

“I’m fine,” Dinky said reassuringly. “I have it under control. I’m just motivated now,” she explained.

“You look too much like father when he gets that look of his,” Sparkler said to her sister.

“Our herd is all we have,” Dinky retorted in a soft voice. “Daddy told me to focus on a reason to hold back all of the rage… I willkeep those I love safe,” the foal growled.

Bucky did not look up as he examined a spell jar. “Dinky is managing Sparkler. I’ve been inside of her head. She’s doing the best she can. She is honestly giving it everything she’s got, and she has nothing left to give. The stress is certainly affecting her,” he said as he watched the swirling fire inside of the spell jar.

“And what about when this ends?” Sparkler asked. “When we’re no longer draining out her excessive magic into glass jars of death? When we go home and have to live among normal ponies? When there are no enemies left to fight?”

“By then, with no enemies left to fight, the stress will go away and things will be much easier,” Bucky replied.

“Father, I… I disagree…” Sparkler said in a small fearful voice. “When we get home, we are going to have to answer for things we’ve done here. That will be stressful. And we will be a herd of ponies living among other ponies that probably don’t like herds. And that will be stressful. And then there is adapting to life back at home again… Dinky dealing with other foals in school, foals who are going to tease her about her family and how her father looks and the scary bat pony brother she has and… and… and…” the unicorn filly broke down mid sentence and began to cry.

Bucky slumped, feeling a crushing weight bearing down upon his shoulders. “I was hoping to deal with that later… I didn’t want to think about that now,” he confessed.

“It is all I can think about,” Sparkler screeched, her own emotions finally boiling out. “I think about my sister being teased and I have nightmares about a town full of pony statues!”

Rising Star, saying nothing, moved over and placed a foreleg around Sparkler’s withers. He pulled her close and the pair sat huddled together, looking grief stricken and hurt.

Dinky went strangely blank, showing no real sign of emotion, which caused Bucky to feel a rising sensation of panic. Bucky realised that he didn’t know what to say or do. He had only planned for the wolves, but preparing for life at home seemed far more terrifying. The wolves were a threat that Bucky could obliterate… other ponies at home were a threat that Bucky had no idea how to even begin dealing with.

“We’re done here for the night,” Bucky said in a controlled monotone. “We’re going back upstairs, Dinky, you are going to go to bed, Rising Star and Sparkler, you two are going to spend some time together before going to bed, and we will return to this task tomorrow night,” he commanded in a flat voice.

 

 

The dawn broke, the grey light filled with promise. Each day felt urgent now, a strong need to get things done. So much was happening so quickly.

Sentinel yawned, feeling exhausted. He had spent the last few hours slipping in and out of shadow, becoming an insubstantial mass of writhing black darkness and then holding to that form for as long as he could. Now, he was laying on the floor clutching his frizzy maned sibling. Harper’s mane had really fluffed out over the past few days, but Sentinel did not dare to say anything with Bon Bon present.

Bon Bon’s raised eyebrow was the worst punishment that Sentinel could imagine.

Using his wing, Sentinel tried to smooth out the foal’s fluffy orange mane, gently stroking along the contours of her skull and down her neck. The foal giggled from his touch and her mane sprang back to its cloud-like mass mere moments after his repeated attempts to smooth it out. He tried smoothing it out yet again, and this time, as his wing caressed her neck, Harper’s horn ignited.

Raw energy crackled and Sentinel felt his muscles all tense from a strong static discharge. It was over in a moment, and then Harper giggled as she rubbed her head with her forehoof.

“Oh my gosh, Sentinel, are you okay?” Lyra inquired in panic.

“That was… unpleasant,” Sentinel confessed.

“Little unicorns get magical surges… crazy magic sometimes,” Lyra explained.

Bon Bon came over in a hurry and stood over Sentinel and Harper. She looked worried. “Are you sure you are okay Sentinel? Your ear tufts are smoking,” Bon Bon whispered.

“I will endure my sister’s outbursts,” Sentinel replied. He waggled his ears and looked at Harper. “That was a good first attempt at magic,” he said proudly.

“Sentinel’s mane… it looks a lot like Harper’s right now,” Lyra said as she tried to suppress a giggle.

“Shush Lyra,” Bon Bon commanded.

“Is something wrong with my mane?” Sentinel asked.

“No,” Bon Bon insisted.

“Nothing that can’t be fixed with a hairbrush,” Lyra sniggered.

“What happened to Sentinel’s mane?”

Bon Bon turned and looked at Derpy, who was easing herself out of the bed. Bon Bon sighed. “Harper let go of a tiny bit of magic,” Bon Bon answered.

“I want to see Bucky’s mane get zapped,” Derpy said as she looked at her slumbering husband. She stretched her wings and arched her back, trying to get the kinks out. Her usual trumpeting honk to greet the morning echoed through the room and several other ponies began to stir.

“Derpy… I just don’t know what to say. That’s horrible,” Bon Bon said.

“Sorry… I can’t help it,” Derpy said.

“Not the farting, wanting to see Bucky get zapped,” Bon Bon clarified.

“But his mane is down past his shoulders now… he would look funny,” Derpy retorted. She vanished behind the privacy barrier and said nothing else.

“It would look fu-”

“Lyra!” Bon Bon snapped.

“-nny,” Lyra continued as her ears drooped.

Sentinel ignored the adults around him and focused on his tiny sibling. “She looks unhappy,” he announced. “You think she’s hungry after that magical discharge?”

“Maybe,” Lyra said as she snatched Harper out of Sentinel’s embrace with her magic.

“Mamamoo,” Harper burbled when she saw Lyra.

“Nuts,” Sentinel grumbled to his empty forelegs. He scowled. It was much easier to be the cuddle-er rather than the cuddle-ee. His ears splayed out sideways as he contemplated his lot in life.

Lyra settled down upon the sofa, rolled over on to her back, and settled Harper on her belly. The foal sprawled out, made herself comfortable, and began to suckle noisily.

“Look at Lyra,” Bon Bon said to nopony in particular. “She used to be so shy. So closed off. And now look at her.”

“Bonnie… you’re making me self conscious,” Lyra whined. “This is much harder than it looks,” she whispered.

“I know Lyra, but you are doing it,” Bon Bon said proudly.

“Harper is more important than any discomfort that I might have,” Lyra said in a small timid voice.

 

 

As Bucky stepped into the bright sunlight, he adjusted the smoked glass goggles with his magic. His remaining eye was sheltered behind a dark lens, and his replacement eye was hidden from view. He had made a pair for Sentinel as well.

He blinked a few times, and found that he could see much better. Glasses might have worked, but would have let in a lot of light from the sides.

“Those goggles make you look like one of those airship captains from some movie,” Derpy remarked.

“Knight Captain Buckminster Bitters,” Bucky said in reply. “I think that almost every little unicorn wants their own airship at some point in their life,” he confessed.

“Ponies keep talking about movies,” Thistle muttered. “Come on, let’s go get you some breakfast,” she announced.

“You hate your titles, but you seem happy with that one,” Derpy said.

“Lord Bitters sounds dreary, Lord Buckminster makes me think too much about my father and his insistence on being addressed properly, even by my mother and I… yeah, I had to call him ‘Lord Buckminster’ or I’d be in a heap of trouble… but I must confess, I like the title Keg Smasher has given me. I feel like I have actually earned this one, rather than just be born with it,” Bucky explained.

“You need a jaunty hat,” Derpy said as she squinted at Bucky.

“I think I do,” Bucky agreed. “And The Scorned Mare is the first of many airships. Everypony that has worked to restore her has learned valuable skills. Keg Smasher will probably have to hire some unicorns to come and do some of the enchanting, but these ponies understand the industry of airship construction now. Once they get themselves a navy, they will have some feeling of power over their own destiny… even if they do plan to merge with Equestria, they will want some sense of identity and a fleet would provide that. Airship construction is considered one of the foundational cornerstones of an industrialised modern society according to most herdology scholars. This is the first big step out of the dark ages. With their own fleet, they can transport the liquor they produce and sell on their own terms. They’ll have a shipping industry. That will provide jobs. Generate wealth. They will start getting a mercantile presence in the world marketplace. This is the beginning of good things… and all because we needed an equiliser to fight the wolves,” he elucidated.

“My back is killing me,” Thistle said. “And my hips… I’m miserable,” the kelpie confessed.

“Aw, I know how it is Thistle,” Derpy said warmly.

Bucky, saying nothing, scooped up Thistle in his magic and relaxed the effects of gravity upon her body. The look of relief upon her face was almost immediate and she relaxed as she remained suspended in the air.

“Oooh you get extra fish for this… and maybe a little something else,” Thistle promised.

“Hey, you’re little… and you’re something else,” Bucky quipped as he followed after Derpy on the way to the lake.

 

 

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