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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Day five dawned upon the life bustling within the wreckage of the military base. Bucky moved the entire contents of the armory into a secure storage and supply room aboard The Scorned Mare in the hours just before dawn and now he was moving mattresses and other creature comforts aboard the freighter, moving effortlessly in his armor which aided his walking.

Upon one of many of his return trips to the freighter, he saw Sentinel leaning down over the prow of the ship, painting something with black paint and a paintbrush. Bucky levitated the collection of mattresses and beds to the deck of the ship where a crew of griffons and ponies worked to stow them away.

Peering into the pink light of dawn, Bucky saw that Sentinel named the ship The Albatross. Bucky immediately thought of Colteridge and couldn’t think of a more appropriate name… this was certainly an albatross around his neck.

“Sentinel, who told you to name this ship The Albatross?” Bucky inquired.

“Mother Lyra… she said something funny to me,” Sentinel replied in a loud voice as he worked. He never lifted his eyes from his task.

“And what was that?” Bucky asked, still looking up at his son.

“Hang on,” Sentinel replied, pausing his task for a moment to look thoughtful. “Ah, well a day… what evil looks… had I from old and young… instead of a horseshoe... an albatross… around my neck was hung,” the colt recited, trying to remember Lyra’s words.

Nodding, Bucky realised that Lyra understood what was going on.

“It’s a funny poem, I don’t understand it,” Sentinel admitted as he raised his head to look down at his father. “Mother Lyra looked really sad for a moment and started to sniffle. She said that this ship and Belisama are your albatross, and then she told me to get up here and name the ship. Why is this name so important?”

“It is about a curse Sentinel, about a burden carried for penance,” Bucky answered. “But the albatross is also considered a good omen as well. A blessing. I suppose… I suppose it comes down to what you do with it. You’re a good colt for listening to your mother.”

“So is Belisama your curse or your blessing?” Sentinel inquired, peering downward at his father below him.

“I don’t know yet,” replied Bucky as he began to slowly head off to secure more creature comforts. “I would like to think that some good can still come out of all of this.”

 

 

With a flick of her magic, Twilight levitated the entire contents of the vast warehouse full of food. It wasn’t too different than picking every apple in Applejack’s orchard, except that there was more food, and she slowly moved the vast cloud of items out through the door and up the passageway so they could be secured aboard the ships.

She had slept little and was exhausted in more ways than one.

“Twilight, you feeling okay?” Spike asked as he waddled along behind Twilight.

“I’m fine Spike,” Twilight grunted, her concentration going towards other things.

“I’m worried about you Twilight, you don’t seem like yourself,” Spike grunted in worry for the pony he was following. “I’m not fine Twilight… I keep having nightmares. I’m not fine at all.”

“I’m sorry Spike, I really am. I’m starting to think it was a mistake to bring you on this trip,” Twilight admitted as the pair walked up the long passage to the surface.

“Don’t say that!” Spike shouted.

“What?” Twilight asked, stopping mid step.

“That this was a mistake… I’ve made a really good friend in Sentinel, and I saved him… THAT ISN’T A MISTAKE!” Spike growled ferociously, wisps of green fire and sparks spewing from his mouth.

“I’m sorry Spike… I should be more careful about what I say,” Twilight responded, sighing, and getting her hooves moving.

Spike ducked under the mass of food moving overhead and followed Twilight. “Sentinel and I understand one another. He doesn’t like me for what he can get out of me, I am not his assistant, I am not his errand dragon, and he doesn’t keep me around for whatever task I might be useful for.”

Twilight froze again, feeling something in her blood go cold.

“Your friends, as nice as they are, none of them treat me the way Sentinel does… and I’ve noticed the difference,” Spike whimpered. “Funny… real funny that I didn’t learn about friendship from the Princess of Friendship or her friends!” the dragon shouted angrily and then ran away, leaving Twilight alone in the passage.

Her cheeks blazing, her ears drooping, Twilight felt the first tears begin to fall.

 

 

Looking over at Agnetha, Tannis set down his pen and rubbed his throat nervously. “Two hundred and nine… two hundred and nine,” he muttered. “Agnetha, that is not enough,” Tannis said in a low pained voice.

“Actually my love, the warrior died during the night. I held his talons in my own and he told me the things he’s done that he regrets,” Agnetha murmured in reply, looking over at Tannis and feeling his pain.

“Two hundred and eight,” Tannis whimpered. “What… what did he regret?”

“He regrets many things, he regretted not doing something about the situation sooner, even something foolish that would have got him killed. He does not regret doing what he did though. He told me he would do it again. As he died, he said that he failed as a warrior for not looking after those smaller than himself, and he said that we have forgotten our way,” Agnetha answered in a low voice.

“I’m not even sure what our way is anymore,” Tannis grumbled, his beak clicking.

“Tannis, you and I are hunter griffons. It is our way to provide for the servants and the warriors,” Agnetha said gently.

“I am a king without a kingdom!” Tannis snarled, clenching his talons into a fist and banging on the table, causing everything to bounce.

“Things look bleak right now, but remember, there are many griffons who fled our homeland and live in Equestria. They are whole of body and mind. They are healthy. We will reunite with them and then, somehow, life will go on,” Agnetha soothed. “Plus, as small of a consolation as it might be, we have each other.”

“And I thank Buckminster and Twilight Sparkle for that almost hourly. I think… I think I would have cut my own throat,” Tannis admitted.

“Don’t say that!” Agnetha admonished angrily.

“This is your doing,” Tannis said, sinking down in his chair and sulking.

“I don’t follow,” Agnetha said, her crest rising in confusion.

“Goshawk and all those stories about true love and living happily ever after. You… you filled my head with all of these foreign ideas about romance and romantic love. These ideals are not our own… but now that I have been exposed to them, I find that they define my every action. You… your thoughts, your very thoughts have tainted me, infected me, changed how I think and what I do,” Tannis explained.

“Is that so bad?” Agnetha inquired in a subdued voice.

“Yes!” Tannis admitted. “When I think of being forced to live in a world without you, it makes me want to rip out my own still beating heart!”

“Goshawk subverted us both… I suppose this is her fault,” Agnetha sighed.

 

 

Ripple paced the deck, painfully aware of the eyes gazing upon her with unabashed adoration. A small group of griffons followed her every step, moving with her as she prowled the perimeter of the deck of The Scorned Mare, her war shoes clicking with every step.

Finally, she could take no more and turned to look at her admirers. She saw many eyes blinking at her in adoration, some green, some hazel, some gold, eyes of many colours. She saw little crests rising in anticipation and little talons clutching and flexing. “What is it that you want? Why do you follow me?”

“We’ve never had a princess who guards us before,” a little griffoness replied.

“I am not a princess,” Ripple stated, correcting the griffoness.

“But you are your father’s daughter, are you not?” a griffon argued.

“I am,” Ripple answered, her wings fluttering.

“He is our king. That makes you our princess. And yet you perform guard duty,” the first little griffoness who spoke said in a very reasonable sounding voice.

Sighing, Ripple realised she had lost the battle and gave up.

“You are little, but you guard,” a griffon said, cautiously approaching Ripple, practically crawling on the ground.

“I find my small size an asset,” Ripple stated.

“We wish to join you. We want to guard our fellow griffons. We wish to be your loyal guard and work with you… if you will have us. We are servants, but our ways are changing. We throw ourselves and our fates upon your mercy,” the griffoness said.

Pursing her lips, Ripple counted the griffons. Eleven sets of eyes blinking at her. Some male, some female, all of them eager and clearly willing. “I am a Dragoon. I am a harsh officer and I do not tolerate any weaknesses. If you want to be under my command, you will take your lumps as I have taken my lumps, and you will learn to like them.”

The largest among them moved forward. “Our whole life we have done nothing but take beatings, be abused, and suffer the tortures from those larger than us. If you think for one moment that we are weak, you are mistaken.” The large little griffon paused, realising what he had done, whom he had spoken to, and immediately assumed a very submissive posture, averting his eyes and slouching down before Ripple.

“ASSEMBLE!” Ripple barked, her voice shockingly loud coming from a little filly.

The griffons and griffonesses scrambled, quickly forming a two by two formation, with the largest among them up front and alone.

“You are mine,” Ripple snapped in a more reasonable volume. “As of this moment, you belong to me. I’m gonna make something of you little fluffballs, even if it kills you,” the pegasus growled, looking out over her recruits. She felt an immense feeling of satisfaction when she heard several of them gulp. “Now let’s get moving. We have a perimeter to maintain. Stay in formation and follow me. NOW MARCH!”

Ripple took off with a new swagger in her step, and the eleven griffons and griffonesses quickly fell into step behind her, their claws clicking on the deck, tails swishing, little wings fluttering with a newly found sense of pride.

 

 

Already feeling fatigue, Bucky checked over his work, looking at the back end of The Albatross. He had peeled metal plates from the second ship in the hangar and fused them to the open gaps in the The Albatross, sealing off her hind end. The Albatross was mind numbingly big, over a hundred feet in length, and made to be a heavy lifter. She still had a working shield generator, but it was a weak one that would only hold up against a few shots. She had no engines, but still had a working cloud scoop. With the hull sealed, the interior could be pressurised, allowing for high altitude flight. The heating and cooling systems would keep his passengers comfortable.

Sitting on Bucky’s back, Belisama kept a watchful eye on everything around them. She had her two revolvers tucked away in holsters under her wings, and there was an officer’s sabre now strapped to her back. In her mind, her developing sense of freedom equated the right to arm oneself with being free. A small folded blanket had been laid over Bucky’s armor by Bon Bon so Belisama would be a little more comfortable.

Turning from his work, Bucky watched as Lugus flew overhead carrying a large stove in his talons, his wings pumping to support the extra weight. The Albatross needed a larger kitchen to look after the needs of those on board. The fact that Lugus could easily carry such a large heavy object in flight was not lost on Bucky, and he marveled at Lugus’ strength.

“Getting tired?” Belisama inquired, sensing something was off.

“Need food,” Bucky grunted from inside of his helmet.

“Come then, let’s get you fed. You do a lousy job of caring for yourself,” Belisama scolded in a low voice.

“Oh not you too,” Bucky protested. “I have enough wives telling me that.”

 

 

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