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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All of the house plants were dead. The room was covered in dust. Other than that, everything was the same as when they had left. Somepony had boarded up the shop windows and the glass door. The apartment above the store smelled of neglect and emptiness.

The trip here had been largely uneventful. Ponies had stared a bit, a few had waved, but most had simply left her alone, which she had not been expecting. Bon Bon didn’t know what to make of it. She had expected something else, a different reaction, but now, more than anything, she felt like an outsider.

She dared not open the fridge, fearful of whatever eldritch horror might be lurking inside. They had done nothing to clear out the fridge before leaving. Or the breadbox. Or the fruit and vegetable bins. There was something nose crinkling lurking somewhere in the kitchen. Her husband might have bravely faced the crystal lich, but Bon Bon had no desire to face whatever was causing the nose crinkling stink.

“Eeew,” Bon Bon groaned.

Staring at the living room, Bon Bon felt a spike of emotion. There were two high backed chairs with a small wooden table tucked between them. Many nights had been spent in those chairs, one Lyra’s, one her own, sometimes quietly reading and other occasions passing time together in conversation. There had been many conversations about starting a family.

The apartment could be called cozy, but Bon Bon could only think of her family, and the apartment would be cramped now. There was one bedroom. This was no place to have a foal. There was no yard. There was a street just outside both the front and back doors. There was no place to play.

She took the steps from the apartment down into the shop proper, and found everything covered in dust. They had given away all of the candies the day before they had left. Large spiders crawled over the floor and Bon Bon watched them warily. Her sharp eyes saw tiny footprints in the dust, indicating rats. Ponyville was having a problem with rats lately, or so the paper said.

Something stunk horrendously down in the shop, and she suspected the supply fridge down here was also full of eldritch horrors waiting to unleash tentacles upon her if she opened the door. Lyra had some very strange books about tentacles and the terrible things they did to ponies.

Shuddering, Bon Bon moved away from the fridge.

 

 

The group of cadet hopefuls attempted to stand at attention. Sparkler smiled as she studied them. In their faces, she saw hopefulness and dedication. She saw eagerness. She saw bravery and kindness. Certainly, there were a lot of pegasi, but others had turned out, and Sparkler had no intention of turning any of them away. She wanted all three tribes represented.

“Greetings, I am Buck Sergeant Sparkler. Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. I have the Shivers, and it causes me some problems, but it will not prevent me from doing my job. I am very glad that all of you showed up, and I hope that all of you stay.”

There were a few grunts and nods, and one very loud “YEAH!”

“Well, one pony here has spirit and guts,” Sparkler announced.

YEAH!

“Snowflake, right?” Sparkler asked as she drew near the musclebound pegasus and looked him in the eye. He snapped to attention as she came closer and his large nostrils flared.

“Yes ma’am,” Snowflake replied in a surprisingly soft voice.

“Why are you here Snowflake?” Sparkler inquired.

Swallowing, Snowflake tried to think of a good reason as to why he was here. Nopony told him there would be a test. Feeling nervous, he began to sweat. “Because… I want… to live… in a nice city?”

“Very good. That’s what I want to hear,” Sparkler responded, her ears snapping forward sharply. “Ponyville is a nice city. But we have some growing pains. We have some ponies here who are new and don’t understand how we do stuff here in Ponyville. We have some ponies who don’t know that all three tribes live in peace here and work together. And we want to help them.”

“I’ve been helping them.”

Sparkler turned and focused on the voice. “And you are?”

“Cadet Twinkleshine,” the unicorn replied. “I’ve been working with Barley for a long time now. Ponies know me, I know them, and I have been helping them readjust.”

“I haven’t announced who I will select as cadets yet,” Sparkler stated.

“I know for certain you will pick me. I have absolute confidence in your ability to make wise decisions and do what is best for Ponyville,” Twinkleshine replied.

“Very good answer cadet Twinkleshine,” Sparkler said to the confident unicorn.

Moving down the line, Sparkler picked a pony at random. “And you are?”

“Blossomforth,” the pegasus answered.

“And why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish?” Sparkler questioned.

“I gotta problem with bandits. A big problem,” Blossomforth replied. She raised one front leg and cracked her fetlock, put her hoof down, lifted her other front leg, cracked that fetlock, and then she looked pointedly at Sparkler. “So, are you going to do something about the crime or am I going to have to be a vigilante again?”

“Blossomforth, now is not a good time to harass your future boss,” Thunderlane warned.

“Now is a perfect time. I want to know if you plan to take a hard stance or not,” Blossomforth grumbled sullenly. “Otherwise, I am wasting my time.”

“I plan to do something about crime, but I don’t want ponies hurt unless it is absolutely necessary,’ Sparker stated firmly.

“I can live with that,” Blossomforth said in return. “That’s how it should be.”

“Excellent,” Sparkler said as she turned to Thunderlane. “How you doing old friend?”

“Just fine,” Thunderlane replied. “How is your mom?”

“Pregnant,” Sparkler replied. “Drop by the farmhouse.”

“Will do,” Thunderlane answered.

“So why are you here?” Sparkler asked.

“The flock looks after its own. I want to be paid for it,” Thunderlane replied.

“Well, that’s honest,” Sparkler responded.

She moved down the line until she reached the other unicorn. “Holly Dash?”

“Yes ma’am,” Holly replied.

“Saved the mayor?” Sparkler inquired.

“I did my part,” Holly answered.

“Want to keep saving ponies?” Sparkler asked.

“Yes,” Holly replied, wasting no words.

“Good deal,” Sparkler replied.

Standing in front of Big McIntosh, Sparkler smiled. “I know better. Welcome aboard.”

Blushing, Big Mac said nothing, but grinned shyly.

Stepping heavily, she moved on, feeling so confident about the situation that she barely even noticed any annoying symptoms of her Shivers. Everything about this felt right so far, almost like this was meant to be. She came to the next pony in line.

“Sunshower Raindrops, what brings you here?” Sparkler asked cheerfully to the pegasus mare who was beaming with pride before her.

“Twilight Sparkle believes that my spy network and me will be useful in police work,” Raindrops replied. “Plus, I can do things like pick Big Mac up and fly with him. If he’ll let me grab him and fly away with him,” she clarified.

“Eenope,” Big Mac interjected.

“It was just an example Mac,” Raindrops said sheepishly.

“Yes, you and your birds… I’ve read about you. Impressive. We’ll need you to be our ears,” Sparkler said, affirming Raindrop’s position.

The young filly sidestepped over and moved close to her next subject. “Cherry Berry. Balloonist. Highly observant. An earth pony who likes to fly.”

“Yes ma’am… embarrassing really… time for a full disclosure. I am a terraphobic earth pony,” Cherry Berry blurted out.

Raising her eyebrow in confusion, Sparkler took a deep breath and looked Cherry Berry in the eye. “Say again?”

“I am an earth pony. I have a fear of the ground. I’ve seen a therapist on and off about it. Like right now I am a bit nervous and I’m freaking out only slightly. It isn’t as bad when I am indoors and I feel safe. But on the ground and out in the open?” The earth pony stopped speaking and shuddered violently.

“How is an earth pony afraid of the ground?” Sparkler inquired.

“I dunno, I just am. I feel comfortable being in the air. Nothing looks right unless I am looking down on something from above and the fear goes away,” Cherry Berry explained.

“So this is why you founded the Airborne Watch Union and why Ponyville has ponies in balloons and pegasi in the air watching and waiting to sound the alarm. Sounds like your phobia is useful. Let’s put it to work,” Sparkler said to Cherry Berry. Sparkler watched the earth pony take a deep breath and relax slightly, which made Sparkler relax as well.

“And that leaves me,” Orange Swirl said nervously.

“I hear that you’re fast,” Sparkler announced.

“Oh, I am no Rainbow Dash,” Orange Swirl said modestly.

“I also hear that you are fearless,” Sparkler said, stating what little she knew to develop a rapport with her cadets.

“I am a pegasus wing semaphore specialist. I took communications in university. Ponies seem to think that I am organised,” Orange Swirl said, listing her traits.

“Very useful,” Sparkler said. “Alright, all of you are my cadets now. I want you out at the farmhouse early tomorrow morning. Last pony to arrive is going to run extra laps around the house and the lake. I’m tough but fair. You all take care of each other, and I take care of you. I am your Buck Sergeant. As of right now, I am your best friend, your boss, your big sister, your little sister, and I demand to be the center of your attention. We are all ponies first and foremost. We all have different strengths that we bring to the table being different tribes and what not. And I plan to make all of you damn useful. Am I understood?”

YEAH!

“Thank you cadet Snowflake. Because I like you, I am going to run laps beside you tomorrow. We’re gonna run until we puke together. Do you like the sound of that?” Sparkler asked.

YEAH... Wait, maybe?”

Laughing, Sparkler turned to face the ripped muscle bound pegasus. “I bet you think I’m joking,” she said.

 

 

“Lugus, I need to study your talons if you don’t mind. I want to make a sketch. Should only take a few moments,” Bucky explained, holding a pencil ready.

Coming closer, Lugus lifted up one set of talons and held it up before Bucky, flexing his talon fingers and talon thumb. “Raptor talons. Three forward talon fingers and one talon thumb. My claws are somewhat retractable,” Lugus explained, demonstrating, his claws slipping into sheaths so it would be easier to walk without his claws digging into the floor. Fully extended the claws at the end of his talon fingers were several inches long, bladed, and razor sharp.

Studying them carefully, the pencil moved over the paper for Bucky without him looking at it, creating an exact print of what he was looking at. “Anisodactyl,” Bucky muttered to himself.

“And I have never once brought harm to Peekaboo or Yew with any of my claws or my beak,” Lugus said, his voice full of pride.

“Those are impressive. Nature worked overtime creating those,” Bucky said as he continued to observe. “So the sheath extends over the claw, retracting it slightly and angling it upwards and away from the ground when you are walking on it.” As he spoke, the pencil copied down every single detail perfectly, as though it was printing out a photograph.

“So why are you looking at my talons?” Lugus asked.

“I intend to create my own,” Bucky responded. “I’m missing a hoof. A set of talons seems more efficient for my purposes. I think I will include fully retractable claws and rounded fingertips for safety. I’m not as careful as you. They’ll function like my armor, powered by my body’s natural mana reserves. They’ll work both passively and actively as I need for them to. I’ll have to develop a walking routine and standard adaptable behaviours. Plan to make them from the same metal as my armor and then enchant it into usefulness.”

“Retractable claws might be nice, but that would make the fingers hollow and restrict flexibility when the claws are pulled inside. Make claws appear when needed. Out of ice or something,” Lugus suggested.

“Brilliant,” Bucky said, the pencil darting off to one side to make notes. “I plan to make the connection point out of fulgurite since it seems to like fusing with my bones so well. And then, I’ll just teleport the whole limb into place. That’s gonna sting a bit.”

“You are mad, my chief,” Lugus said in a quiet voice, his beak clicking.

“Totally and completely,” Bucky agreed. “But I mean, that’s been medically established, right? At this point, saying I’m mad is flogging a dead pony.”

“How did your meeting with Mister Rich go?” Lugus inquired.

“City Hall is undergoing some restructuring. There were some ponies there who immediately wanted to spend the new city surplus on useless expenditures. I’ve sent Mister Rich off with a mandate for infrastructure work. Laying in sewer and water pipes. Putting the refugees to work in paid positions. Going to be hundreds of new jobs created and maybe a dozen jobs lost. Maybe the bureaucrats can work to create efficient means of waste removal laying sewer pipes instead of flooding us with more crap,” Bucky answered.

“This is not going to win you many friends in the higher places,” Lugus warned.

“I don’t give a flying feck at a rolling donut if this makes me friends,” Bucky retorted, sounding angry.

“But those friends might be useful in later ventures,” Lugus said patiently.

“Maybe so. Maybe you are right… ugh,” Bucky sighed.

“Mister Rich has left his foal in your care,” Lugus stated as he placed his talons on the ground, the drawing now completed.

“Yeah, Diamond Tiara is going to spend a few days with us while Mister Rich goes to Canterlot for me and deals with a few issues. This new means of communication… Morsel Code. I’ve issued a decree, I want an office established in Canterlot and one here in Ponyville. Somepony smarter than me needs to figure out the logistics. How much wire we need. How to string that wire. I’m thinking tall poles sunk into the ground with the wire strung between them. I’ve made this a national defense issue so it can’t be ignored or put off. I hope Luna doesn’t rake me over the coals for overstepping my bounds, but I do see it as a national security issue. We need a way of instant communication between cities that does not involve magic,” Bucky ranted.

“That seems prudent,” Lugus replied.

“Why is it that you, me, and Mister Rich are the only ones that seem to think so? I have a whole bunch of pissed off unicorns that want to keep the magical message monopoly going for themselves, and a group of concerned Pony Express workers are worried this will put its flying messengers out of jobs and the postal service is already breathing down my neck with some worry. The postal service which currently barely functions by the way,” Bucky grumbled. He reached up and nervously scratched at his neck with his stump. “Ah that feels good… on my neck and on my stump… the end of it gets itchy.”

“Seize control of the Pony Express, draft the workers, and then station them at the Morsel Code offices. When a message comes in, dispatch a flier to the recipient immediately. Everypony stays happy,” Lugus said, his crest at half mast and his tail swishing from side to side thoughtfully.

“Good idea,” Bucky said, snatching a fresh sheet of paper with his magic and making notes. "I’ll make the Pony Express workers a national asset for our defense. It will keep them employed. We’ll call them the Civil Defense Message Corps or something. That will keep them happy. We need better means of communications. I’ve been hearing these horror stories about how during the worst of the collapse, Twilight Sparkle was completely unable to contact Celestia.”

“The lines will be vulnerable,” Lugus warned. “And can be sabotaged in times of conflict.”

“I am aware of that, I don’t have a good solution yet,” Bucky mumbled in frustration. “I’ve put out a call for arcano-tech tinkerers to come up with a fix.”

Gritting his teeth with frustration, Bucky slammed his right hoof down upon the table. He made a wordless snarl and then with a flash of his horn, he conjured a bottle and two glasses from the nearby bar in the back of the farmhouse’s library. Still grumbling, he poured the conjured rum into two glasses. His horn flashed a little brighter and several ice cubes manifested mid-air and then fell into the glasses with a splash. He grabbed one and took a sip, offering the other to Lugus, who took it gratefully with a nod.

“To the simple pleasures in life,” Lugus said, raising his glass in his talons and saluting Bucky.

 

 

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