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 carefully considered the reports given to him by Deadspin and the others, the information gathered from the locals that lived in this area. There were still howls, but they were few in number. They had never had too much of a problem with wolves this far out. Lately, the wolves had been a bit more aggressive than usual, and Bucky suspected he knew why.

“Sir, the loggers say there are caves up along the ridge that overlooks this loch,” Deadspin said as he pointed to the location on the map with his wingtip. “The howls are also heard along this ridge and down in this gully. Produces an echo. Some nights it can be heard and it scares them something awful.”

“Clever, using acoustics to their advantage,” Lyra stated. “Well, clever for something also mindless. Whatever is controlling these monsters knows his… its stuff,” she added, correcting herself after she fumbled her wording.

“We are moving to this location now,” Deadspin reported.

“Quartermaster Bunny says she has prepared the ice bombs. The pine trees burn a little too well ‘cause the pine pitch. We don’t want to burn down the whole isle. I know you could extinguish the flames afterwards, but as dry as it is here, the flames would spread fast and a lot of trees would be burned as you battled,” Sour Mash said, adding her own report.

“My wife, er, Quartermaster Bunny has good horse sense,” Deadspin stated.

“We may not even need the bombs. If there are only a few, I will eliminate them,” Bucky replied, finally weighing in on the plan, his voice a mechanical thrum coming from inside of his helmet.

“Sir, we’ve been wondering, do you want some pegasi to provide you with an airlift?” Deadspin asked. “I mean, when you go down.”

“As I have stated, a red flare for pickup. I have my own way down,” Bucky said, offering no further explanation to the ponies around him.

“Well, the unicorns will be ready to lift you when you need a way back up,” Deadspin said in a slightly puzzled voice.

A howl tore through the stillness of the night, and Bucky found that it was music to his ears. He lifted his head and the green illumination of his visor glowed a little brighter.

“Vengeance,” Bucky stated in a cold mechanical growl.

“Almost to the location sir,” a pegasus reported.

Bucky tromped over to his family and looked them over. “Stay safe,” he commanded. “I love you all. Do not worry for my safety.”

Dinky, sitting on her mother’s back, raised her right forehoof up to her brow in salute, copying what she had seen the earth ponies doing when they saluted. She was terrified and elated all at the same time. She watched as her father turned and approached the deck rail.

“This is a good drop off point,” an earth pony mare reported, shining a spotlight down below. “There is a clearing in the trees.”

“Suits me fine,” Bucky said. He turned and gave one last glance to those he loved.

Derpy nearly took wing when she saw Bucky launch himself over the rail, knowing that he was not a pony with wings that could fly. They were hundreds of feet up in the air and he had simply tossed himself over. A worried wordless cry escaped from her lips, a whimper of fear that she knew spooked poor Dinky. She hoped that her husband would be okay. She felt a gentle touch and looked at Berry, who was beside her.

“We have to trust him,” Berry said in a strained voice.

 

 

Bucky plummeted to the ground, not feeling the least bit concerned. The sane rational part of his mind knew that he should be pissing himself in fright, but that part of his mind was so quiet and helpless now, each day it died just a little bit more. Soon, it would be gone, and Bucky would be free of the nagging worries of meaningless things like self preservation.

And Bucky would not mourn its passing.

A few seconds later Bucky slammed into the earth, his four legs braced for the impact. He hit the ground hard enough to sink in past his fetlocks. He laughed the sort of laugh that one gets when they verge upon insanity as he pulled his steel covered hooves free.

He stomped out of the clearing and into the woods, able to see in perfect clarity. He moved, a shadow slipping between beams of moonlight, and he began to hunt his prey. Roles had been reversed. He could hear them howling, and they were moving closer.

Bucky began to power up his sunstone eye and the green glow from his visor intensified. There was no point in wasting his magical energy. This would be a low power run. Try out a few blasts, open up the sunstone eyes all over his armor, and then stomp and kick the rest to death if they did not burn away completely during the initial exposure.

The moon seemed a little dimmer as darkness began to move around him. Bucky braced himself, rooting himself to the ground, bracing his legs in place. Above him, the lights of The Scorned Mare seemed to dim and he knew that shadow was all around him. He could sense them now, he could feel them in his horn, and he understood that his own shadow essence was reacting to them.

A dark shape lunged and struck Bucky from the side. He did not budge. He turned his head and his visor glowed a piercing green. There was a howl of pain and the dark shape slipped away, smouldering. Bucky felt a tinge of disappointment. His visor would need a bit of work it seemed.

Still surrounded by shadow, Bucky opened the eyes on his armor, exposing the sunstones. There was a brilliant flash of light that flared and grew brighter and brighter in the presence of shadow. He could hear howls of pain. And then, the first dark shape ignited. It shrieked in pain, running around and rolling on the ground, trying to extinguish itself. Bucky stomped down, crushing its skull flat beneath his hoof. Other wolves were combusting around him. The ones that tried to flee Bucky pulled back to him. They could not teleport away.

He ripped one open with a swipe of his claws, smashed another with his tail, and he reveled in his new found enjoyment of death and dismemberment. He bucked out, connecting with a dark mass that was only starting to burn. He killed with slow methodical mechanical efficiency. There was no need to hurry. His prey had no chance to harm him, could not escape, and if they ran, he would only pull them back or run them down.

Bucky carefully extinguished the corpses and made sure there were no smouldering embers. It wouldn’t do to have the forest burn down. Some of the pine needles had ignited when a burning shadow wolf had rolled in them, trying to put itself out.

First contact had gone astonishingly well.

Bucky shot a red flare upwards and then stood there waiting. It didn’t take long until he felt the tug of magic gently lifting him. He rose slowly, not at all concerned about being dropped.

 

 

“No further shadow creatures detected, other than the two on board this ship,” Lyra reported. “How did it go down there?”

“Exactly as planned, my love,” Bucky replied in his mechanical voice as he looked directly at Lyra. After the spree of violence, he was feeling strangely amorous and full of desire. He turned his gaze to Derpy and Berry Punch, and then to Bon Bon. He loved them all, but at the moment, he was in the mood to really show his love to any that would be open to his affection. All of his wives were looking at him strangely, and he couldn’t figure out the looks upon their faces.

He pushed the distraction from his mind. He turned to look at Deadspin. “We will sweep the other isles tonight. Remember, staggered pattern. Lyra’s detection has a maximum range. We want to be thorough in our extermination.”

“Yes sir, of course sir,” Deadspin replied. “For your information sir, you have entrails clinging to your leg sir.”

“Oh? Eeeew,” Bucky groaned as he looked down. “Are those intestines? I’m sorry everypony, I didn’t know and I couldn’t feel them. Somepony needs to tell me these things!” Bucky stomped over to the deck railing and kicked out his front leg, trying to shake the ribbons of innards free from his armor. Finally, they fell over the side and down to the ground below, probably landing in a tree somewhere. Bucky hoped that they didn’t stick to the side of the ship.

“I wanted to say something, but I knew if I opened my mouth, I would have spewed,” Berry Punch said in a wavering unsettled voice. “I don’t know how Lyra handled it so well.”

Lyra shrugged. “I’ve studied haruspication… based on what I saw, that wolf had no future,” Lyra said. After she spoke, she began to chortle.

“What?” Bon Bon said. “Laypony terms Lyra,” she added.

“Haruspication. The school of divination that involves studying entrails,” Lyra explained.

“Oh… YUCK LYRA!” Bon Bon shouted.

“Well, I was an exchange student for a while. I went to the Sea of Grass with the zebras. I also studied another form of divination called hieromancy and then there was hippomancy… oh don’t worry, hippomancy didn’t involve studying dead ponies. The zebras have this neat trick were they can tell a lot about an equine’s future by listening to the sounds they make while rutting,” Lyra said in matter of fact tones. “Squishy squelchy sounds are the portent of a good breeder and some say twins.”

Bon Bon covered her eyes with her fetlock and shook her head.

“And I learned tyromancy from the Saddle Arabians,” Lyra said. “That was an awesome summer.”

“Do I even want to know?” Bon Bon asked.

“Predicting the future by studying cheese,” Lyra explained. The unicorn suddenly became aware that everypony on deck was staring at her wide eyed. She felt a twinge of self consciousness.

“Mmm… cheese,” Bucky murmured mechanically from within his helmet. He began to pace the deck, trodding back and forth along the length.

“You know, this is almost too easy,” Berry said. “Just a few wolves, way out here in the middle of nowhere, and I would almost bet we are going to run into just a few more wolves in an isolated patch of land someplace else. Lyra isn’t the only pony who is a bit paranoid. I get the feeling that something wants to lull us into a false sense of security.”

Bon Bon nodded slowly, and Sour Mash also nodded in agreement.

“Even if there were a hundred wolves, I don’t think Bucky could be harmed by them,” Lyra stated. “That said, I am not trying to be dismissive of your observation. I do believe that something is trying to test our reactions and our capabilities. All the more reason to be increasingly alert. I can still remember the feel of it in my mind sometimes… it used to be a pony…” Lyra said as she rubbed her neck. Her face sank into a worried look and she pulled Harper’s bubble closer to her. “It stopped being a pony. It gave that up because equinity was holding it back.”

Lugus’ feathers ruffled and he appeared much larger than he usually did. “I do not like this discussion,” he stated.

“I hope that Bucky doesn’t give up his own equinity to defeat it,” Lyra whispered.

“We’ll probably have to help Bucky heal. It wouldn’t be the first time and it probably won’t be the last time. He does his job, we do our job. He fixes this problem, we fix him. I’ve come to accept this. This is my duty as a wife. Bucky has his pain he has to endure, and so do I,” Derpy said in a low voice. She relaxed slightly when she felt Dinky patting her on the neck.

“He’s worth it,” Berry said. “Nopony else would put up with my shenanigans.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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