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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His meal of junk food was satisfying and hit the spot. Dozens of sweet sugary snack cakes had been brought back, and cookies in cellophane packaging as well. The oatmeal cookies with creme filling were really quite satisfying. It was pleasant to eat in relative safety. The department store was now well lit, several changelings had their horns lit, and Bucky was able to see all around him.

Internally, he wrestled with feelings of rage and depression. A part of his life had gone into that armor, at some point it defined what he was, and now it was gone. This was obviously why Myrmidons had strength training… they wore heavy plate that was actually heavy, with little or no magical enchantment. Powered magical armor was liability against unicorns, but a boon against non magical foes. It was a painful lesson to learn.

“There is no point in moping about what you’ve lost,” Chrysalis said in a low voice, while her words were antagonistic, her tone was actually quite warm and heartfelt.

“Stay out of my head,” Bucky requested.

“It’s that big black spire of glass you have… it broadcasts your thoughts… at least to changelings. I suppose I shouldn’t be telling you this, but you have been surprisingly reasonable in your dealings with me. In the future, when we are enemies, you may want to find some way to protect yourself,” Chrysalis explained, offering a fanged smile to Bucky. “To be truthful, I’d rather us not be enemies though. We might wrestle for dominance, but I know what you are capable of. I would willingly roll over for you and submit to your every demand.”

“I’m not interested,” Bucky responded.

“I know… and it is infuriating. You… do you even know how infuriating you can be at times?” Chrysalis questioned, narrowing her eyes at Bucky.

“I’m told that I have a gift,” Bucky said, turning to look at the changeling queen.

“You are a funny creature. You feed on hate. You grow strong on hate. Your magical strength is proportional to the hate you can draw in around you. But you choose to love. You have so much love. I am sitting here basking in your love and growing strong… so very strong. Strong enough to lead the assault upon our mutual enemies,” Chrysalis said in a silky purr.

“I know you are feeding on me. I can feel it. I don’t mind and understand the necessity,” Bucky stated, studying the big vaguely alicorn like insectoid creature.

“You could have killed those unicorns. You could have ripped a building free of its foundations and smashed them with it… no spell wards or shields they possess would have saved them from that. But you choose not to kill… you fascinate me. I find myself feeling an honest sense of admiration for you,” Chrysalis confessed, her voice smooth and still very seductive.

“Your swarm… your horde… you tried to become an alicorn, didn’t you? You failed though I’m thinking. Something went wrong. Now… now I’m thinking that you maintain your swarm so you can maintain a sense of quasi-immortality. Every single one of your minions is a phylactery of a sort. So long as one survives, you continue in this form you currently possess. But you want something more… permanent,” Bucky said as he stared at Chrysalis.

“Damn you… you are infuriating,” Chrysalis hissed, glowering at Bucky.

“So long as you keep even one egg stashed somewhere, you continue to exist, probably hoping to correct whatever went wrong so you can ascend fully,” Bucky continued.

“Son of a bitch!” Chrysalis swore. “How do you do that?”

“I am intended to be the alicorn of war… I know every weakness… and I just had a hunch about yours,” Bucky answered honestly.

“You must make enemies with astounding ease,” Chrysalis spat, glaring at Bucky, her fangs exposed and glittering in the ghostly green light.

“I would rather make allies. I have no desire to become the alicorn of war. One might even say I’ve waged war on war itself,” Bucky stated in a forthright voice.

“You might accept me as an ally… but the others of your kind would not. As I have admitted, I have made mistakes. Errors. Now that I have seen a potential end, I am worried,” Chrysalis confessed, her anger now gone and an expression of concern upon her face. “Stop thinking of me as a lich. I am not a lich. I can be considered many things, but one thing I am not is a lich.”

“Very well,” Bucky said.

“I find necromancy vile,” Chrysalis stated, looking hurt.

“I don’t know that I believe you,” Bucky responded in a soft voice.

“Piss off wolf chow!” Chrysalis growled. “You are an infuriating creature!”

“It is the cost of my love,” Bucky remarked.

“We should be going soon,” Chrysalis hissed. “My special agents are ready.”

 

 

The sewer was dank, dark, and smelly. Bucky walked behind several large heavily armored drones, and behind him was a healing drone and one dozen curiously fat changelings of unknown purpose. Bucky had cast aversion spells on his group, sticking with what he did best, which was raw enchantment.

The chubby changelings puzzled Bucky, they were fat, bulbous even, like a tick that consumed too much blood. They moved slowly, ponderously, their curved chitinous bodies ill suited for the bulkier form they possessed.

The escape plan involved trust, and after much internal debate, Bucky had chosen trust. There was a teleportation beacon established for him in some distant secured location, a small blob of changeling spit had been placed on the base of his horn. Breaking through any wards or defenses that prevented teleportation was his own problem.

He was able to walk on his talons, but it was awkward. The individual talons did not function properly and were slow to respond. Bucky had augmented himself to allow for ease of movement, and he slogged through the sewer with relative ease.

After much thought, he was able to figure out how Chrysalis had frozen him in place. His horn. He suspected that not only did his horn broadcast his thoughts, but he had a suspicion that the function was two way… Not only did it broadcast, but Chrysalis no doubt had direct access to his mind and mental functions. It was a glaring weakness and it worried Bucky. He had been completely unable to resist her when she had seized him.

Bucky realised that she could have taken him, kept him, probably even made him her slave. For whatever reason, she was letting him go, perhaps hoping for some favour in return in the future. Whatever the reason, the changeling queen had acted fairly and honourably, and it was something that Bucky planned to remember for future interactions.

“Majesty, are you well?” the healing drone inquired.

“I’m fine,” Bucky replied, offering a smile to the drone.

“Your body looks very frail. Your hind legs have been weakened. You have a partially healed head wound. And you are soft and fleshy. I can fix these things, all of these things,” the healing drone offered.

“You can fix soft and fleshy?” Bucky questioned.

“Oh yes… very easy. I just mix up the right spit in my internal alchemical lab and then I slather you down with it. In just a little while, you will have a marvellous black chitinous shell. Very hard. Very durable. No longer will you be so soft and fleshy on the outside,” the healing drone explained.

“I must say, that is tempting,” Bucky answered, pondering the idea of living body armor. It was far more interesting to him than Chrysalis’ previous offers.

“I can make all manner of alchemical compounds. Chrysalis designed my type to be a walking pharmacological factory. I can heal wounds, cure diseases, create drugs of all kinds, painkillers, mood stabilisers, given enough time to study, my type can cure almost anything,” the drone said, chatting amicably with Bucky as they traveled.

Mentally pausing to think about what the drone had said, Bucky thought of Sparkler, and he began to wonder if the drone could find a compound for The Shivers. Could the Taint be cured? Did he want the Taint cured? He looked at the healing drone. “I suppose a lot of your enemies have tried to poison you or kill you with biological warfare?”

“The zebras made a dedicated effort. They failed,” the healing drone replied. “Many of our enemies poison us, gas us, or use harmful chemical agents. We survive and adapt.”

“Fascinating,” Bucky said, his thoughts lingering on Sparkler.

“We near the hotel, be ready,” one of the heavily armored drones announced from up ahead. “Our queen prepares for the assault. We are cleared for infiltration.”

 

 

The room they emerged into was filled with old barrels, crates, boxes, and an old coal bin that was flaking away from rust. They left the heavy iron grate open for a quick escape if it was needed. Above them, they could hear the sounds of fierce fighting. Every few moments, the building shuddered and shook from some massive explosion.

They exited the room, walked down a hallway, found stairs, and went up one level. There was another hallway. At the end, there was an open door and light spilled out into the dark hallway. Voices could be heard, and Bucky could also hear the faint sounds of a foal sobbing. A truly horribly murderous rage began to boil through his body.

Two of the big armored drones moved off silently, swiftly, rounding into the doorway with unbelievable speed. A second later, there was a loud blast and one of the drones was blown through the doorway, minus a leg.

Screams filled the hall, shrill screams of a troubled foal. Bucky rushed forward, not caring about danger, and charged into the room. There were two dead unicorns and one drone still functioned. In the room was a row of jail cells and in one of the jail cells was not one, but two foals.

Bucky did a double take. One foal shimmered and became something else, a black changeling. Something about it seemed off however. It was tiny and foal like and it looked up at the other changelings with fear and dread, backing away from the cell door.

“This changeling is… unaltered,” the healing drone announced. “This is outside of my parameters. I do not know how to function.”

“Leave it be,” Bucky commanded. He looked down at the little soft green crystal pony foal. “You must be Glass Slipper. I’m here to rescue you.”

The foal looked terrified. It looked at the dead unicorns, then at the changelings, and then up at Bucky. She shrieked when she saw Bucky’s face. When she was done shrieking, she took a deep breath and let out another piercing scream of terror.

“Hush little one… I know I look scary, but I’m here to help,” Bucky said in his best foal soothing voice.

The crystal pony foal hiccuped once in fear and then stared at Bucky. “Can my friend come along?” Glass Slipper begged.

“Yes, anything, we need to be going, the sooner the better before more bad unicorns come. I will take your friend with me and both of you will be rescued,” Bucky promised in his most loving fatherly voice.

The crystal pony foal sniffled and then hugged the changeling foal.

“Lord of Winter… you should depart out of the sewer entrance. This building is warded against teleportation. I have been given instructions to arm the bug bombs. Our time is up and we have served our functions. Good bye Lord of Winter. It was pleasant to know you. Would you like anything else before you go?” the healing drone said, his last words a question.

“Bug bombs?” Bucky asked, looking confused.

“The big changelings you see. They are bug bombs. The time has come for me to arm them. They will detonate and this entire building will collapse,” the healing drone explained.

“Oh bugger!” Bucky swore. He ripped the cell door free from its hinges, grabbed up both foals in his telekinesis, and then hurried out of the room. Augmented, he nearly sprinted down the hall, down the stairs, and then he went down into the sewer.

Not caring about the filth, he moved as quickly as possible, trying to teleport as he ran, hoping the beacon would work. He failed several times but kept trying, moving as fast as his legs would allow, two sniffling and still crying foals in tow.

Finally, he was able to wink, and he felt an odd tug on his body…

 

 

A moment later, he appeared on a hoof powered railroad cart just outside the city. He immediately heard retching and vomiting from the foals. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. These weren’t the tracks he came in on, but there had been an offshoot. In the distance, there was a massive explosion and a pillar of fire rose up into the air. Bucky watched in awe and the distant skyline erupted into flames.

He then came to the painful conclusion that Chrysalis had probably perished in the flames and would rewaken in some other body. For a brief moment, he felt pity for her, real pity, and as the spike of emotion went through his heart, he looked down at the changeling.

It was black, shiny, and something about it was very odd. It didn’t have holes in its body. There was no fangs. Its mouth was open and Bucky could see flat square teeth. It looked very much like a pony, only it had chitinous plating like an insect. It had the strange eyes that changelings had.

“My friend… she’s hurt… the bad ponies cut her open and did things to her,” Glass Slipper whimpered, looking up at Bucky. The foal still had vomit around her mouth and her expression was terrified. She heaved once, then twice, and then took a deep shuddering breath.

“Are you hurt?” Bucky asked, gently lifting up the changeling foal. He examined her and saw incisions in the chitinous plating. Dried green goo had crusted around the slits but they moved and flexed as her body moved. “Why did they do this to you?”

“They cut me open and did things. I wasn’t changed like the others, they wanted to know how and why I can heal,” the changeling said in a fearful voice, staring at Bucky.

“Not changed?” Bucky asked.

“The others like me… they get dunked in something. It makes them not think anymore,” the foal said, struggling to talk.

Bucky felt sick, he could feel it in his stomach. His brain burned as he slowly came to the realisation of what this foal was. The mirror travelers were replicating whatever process Chrysalis used to make them into drones. He remembered the undead changeling from the underground lab. The remembered the words of the healing drone in the cellblock.

“This changeling is… unaltered.”

Suddenly, a lot of things made sense. Chrysalis was magically lobotomising her subjects somehow. He looked down at the small black changeling and felt pity. “You can heal?”

“Her spit can heal wounds… she healed me,” Glass Slipper said as she slowly rose to her hooves and looked up at Bucky.

Using a ‘come to life’ spell, Bucky set the railroad cart in motion, the two handles moving up and down. “Can’t you heal yourself?”

“They did something when they sliced me open… they drained everything out. There was a big fight happening,” the foal answered. “It hurts when they cut me open but they don’t care… they just hold me down and keep cutting.”

“What is your name?” Bucky said as the breeze soothed his fevered feeling skin. He felt his eye twitching and struggled to contain his slowly building rage.

“Experiment four four two,” the changeling replied.

“That’s not a name,” Bucky said in a soft gentle voice. He studied the changeling for a moment and then looked down at Glass Slipper. “How about we call her Tourmaline?”

“That’s a black gemstone. I know what that is,” Glass Slipper said, still looking miserable but no longer crying.

“Why?” the changeling asked.

“Because, tourmalines are pretty stones and you are a pretty foal,” Bucky said as he lifted Glass Slipper in his telekinesis and looked her over. He felt somewhat relieved when he saw that she was okay.

Still feeling disturbed from his revelation, Bucky immediately began to plan. Enough harm had been done to the changeling, enough experiments, and he began to worry what Luna might do. Not only was the changeling valuable information, she was a panacea of healing, an alchemical supply depot.

That could potentially heal Sparkler…

He began to wonder if Luna would want to cut the changeling open to study it. A cold creeping sensation blossomed in his dock and began to creep up his spine. He couldn’t allow that to happen. His instincts told him this was a foal. Insectoid perhaps, but a foal. It was entirely too much like a pony. Her cheeks were still slick with tears. Some cruel heartless bastards had cut her open and had done surgery on her and she had felt everything.

Sitting back on his haunches, Bucky pulled both foals into his embrace, holding them both carefully and making sure he didn’t hurt the changeling.

“I like the name you gave me better than Experiment Four Four Two,” the changeling whispered in a soft voice.

“Are my parents okay?” Glass Slipper asked.

Bucky’s heart sank. He wasn’t prepared for this. He could fight wars, slaughters his enemies by the thousands, but he wasn’t capable of this. He didn’t know what to say. With a strangled sound, Bucky began to cry.

“Don’t cry,” Glass Slipper said, wrapping her legs around Bucky’s neck. “It’ll make me cry,” she whimpered, pulling herself close to Bucky. “Did they hurt you?”

“Yes,” Bucky sobbed, his answer honest. They had hurt him.

The railroad cart was moving swiftly and Bucky could hear the rushing of leathery wings, a comforting sound. Suddenly there was lights around him and he saw Luna, flying with several Myrmidons. She landed on the cart and folded in her wings.

“You blew up Las Pegasus,” Luna said in a flat voice. “One quarter of the city is gone. Where is your armor? Why are you holding a changeling?”

“YOU LEAVE HER BE!” Bucky snarled, his lips curling back from his teeth. His eye flashed dangerously and the air became quite chilly.

“You are distressed… be calmed. Tell me what happened,” Luna said in a calm soothing voice, trying to reassure Bucky.

“I won’t let you hurt her… give me your word that you will not harm her,” Bucky growled, his nostrils flaring.

Backing up the edge of the cart, Luna realised she was dealing with something every bit as ferocious and dangerous as one of her lunar pegasi. Her own careful mental programming was now working against her. Buckminster was currently unpredictable and dangerous, livid, and doing exactly what she had constructed him to do. The devious mental instructions to protect foals at all costs had been triggered, and Luna felt her blood run cold as she understood that Bucky now saw her as a threat. And she immediately understood the reasons why.

“Stay back, he’ll kill you, make no mistake,” Luna said, waving her wings at the Myrmidons. “Buckminster, be calm. Your Mistress is telling you to be calm.”

“If you hurt her, you will make me your enemy,” Bucky said in a wavering voice. The foals were crying again and it made his ears ache. Something inside of his head felt wrong. His aggression seethed and bubbled inside of him. The corner of his eye twitched and his throat felt tight.

“Buckminster, I give you my word that she will not come to harm,” Luna promised.

“I don’t believe you…” Bucky whispered. “I know what you do,” he hissed.

“Buckminster… Bucky… as the Godmother of your foals, I give you my word as a family member that no harm will come to the foals you are carrying,” Luna said, her voice genuinely fearful. This was a nightmarish scenario that she hadn’t predicted or accounted for, and as such, had not created a failsafe for. She nearly lost control of her bowels when she heard the creak of metal from Bucky’s mechanical talons.

“Must keep foals safe,” Bucky breathed.

“You’ve kept them safe,” Luna gently whispered. “You did good. Both of them are safe and I’ve given you my word. Buckminster… you have to trust me… just like I have to trust you.”

Turning his head, Bucky looked directly at Luna. For a moment, his Tainted eye flickered with strange energy. “Trust,” Bucky grunted. He wrapped the sobbing foals in a protective spell bubble.

The railroad cart slowed and there were lights around them. The airship loomed in the distance. More Myrmidons began to circle around the cart as it neared the anchored ship, and the stare down between Bucky and Luna continued.

“Buckminster, we can learn a lot from her, but it can be done without harming her, I promise you,” Luna cajoled.

“No… no labs. No cells. She’s been tortured enough. Just try to take her from me… I dare you,” Bucky growled, his ears pinning back against his skull.

Internally cursing, Luna began to hate herself. She had carefully created Buckminster to be utterly fearless when it came to the defense of a foal against anything he saw as a threat, and she had done it at her sister’s request. She had done her job too well. Buckminster was completely unafraid of her. All that time spent in the dream realm was now paying off, and Luna felt a perverse sense of pride.

“No labs, no cells, no harm,” Luna promised as the cart came to a halt.

A long string of drool dribbled from Bucky’s mouth as he the stallion continued to growl and bare his teeth. The foals were frightened, and Glass Slipper continued to cling tightly to Bucky’s neck.

“Buckminster Bitters, I give you my word that my sister and I both will look after that foal ourselves, give it the love and respect that it deserves, and any studying that will be done will be done in a gentle, loving and kind manner, after trust is earned and she is happy,” Luna promised in a fearful voice. Much to Luna’s relief, she saw Buckminster relax slightly and she allowed herself a deep breath.

“I get to speak to her… whenever I feel like it. I get to see she is okay. Her name is Tourmaline… not Experiment Four Four Two,” Bucky said in a quavering voice that was half whine and half snarl.

“Yes, of course Buckminster. And please, look after them both during the trip home. I will make no move to take either from you,” Luna said as she hopped down off of the cart and backed away from Buckminster. She was genuinely terrified of her own creation at the moment.

“You deserve to be happy,” Bucky said to the changeling, the side of his face twitching as he spoke. “Foals shouldn’t live in fear. You deserve to laugh and play and be outside.”

As he spoke, Bucky felt a second pair of legs slowly wrap around his neck and give him a squeeze. Something in his mind suddenly let go and his muscles began to relax. The painful feeling inside of his head began to go away. He blinked a few times, looked around, and then he looked at Luna.

“I’m thirsty… I’d like a drink,” Bucky said in a scratchy voice, his eye now rather dull and exhausted looking.

Luna heaved a sigh of relief, thankful that Buckminster had regained control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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