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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Reclining in the tub, Bucky allowed himself a moment to mourn the loss of his armor. The hot water was soothing, and while Luna had blasted him and the foals with a variety of spells to be rid of the sewer-iffic stench, Bucky was glad to be sitting in a giant tub full of hot sudsy water.

His armor was gone, no doubt about that. It had been in the blast zone. Chrysalis’ bug bombs, along with whatever magical machinery was in the hotel, had proven themselves to be an explosive combination. It saddened him, but he knew it was a lesson he needed to learn. The Black Cloaks wore cloaks for a reason, and he now understood that. Cloaks were easy to enchant, easy to replace, and cloaks didn’t almost kill you when vital functions failed.

Bucky realised his armor was a crutch, a reason to rely upon brute force and never improve, never change his tactics, never evolve, grow, or get better. What had been stopping him from taking his lessons from Lyra and Witching Hour seriously? His armor. What was stopping him from serious study of transmutation and body alteration? His armor.

His armor allowed for a sense of intellectual laziness, and as much as it pained him to admit it, he was better off without it, because now, he would be forced to adapt or potentially be killed. Death wasn’t an option he was happy with, so there was really only one option, which was to get better, which he silently resolved to do.

His ability to use shadow magic was badly neglected, a sore point for Luna, but it had been shadow magic that had saved him. When he had been unable to wink, unable to teleport away, he had been able to use shadow magic. He needed to explore shadow magic more and see exactly what he was capable of, unicorns were quite weak to it, and it was an asset he had not properly exploited.

Bucky cringed, his muscles tensing, as he came to the conclusion that he was really a very lousy archmage all things considered. He was the dreaded Warlock of Winter, the White Death, the Keeper of the Cruel Season, all of those names printed about him in the paper, and he had nearly been taken out by a bunch of type two and type three upstarts that had seriously outclassed him.

Taking a deep breath, Bucky forced his muscles to relax and he tried to think about other things. For whatever reason, Chrysalis had been helpful, the railroad cart had been a particularly thoughtful gesture… however, he was completely repulsed by her now that he understood exactly what she was doing, altering her subjects and converting them into phylacteries by erasing what made them individuals. He wasn’t sure how their next meeting would go, but he had a lingering desire to kill her and simply be done with it, for all of the good it would do him. At least it might make him feel better.

Reaching down with his hoof, and not his talons, he scratched his balls, and as he did so, his eye rolled back into its socket, the feeling of the hot water and getting clean along with a good scratching was overwhelmingly satisfying. He did this for several minutes, his mind going completely blank, he wiggled and scooted around the tub as he continued to tend to those hard to reach places, scratching and scrubbing away the tension in his flesh.

As he slowly came to his senses after a good ball scratching, his mind drifted towards thoughts about Belisama, holding her, her soft peeping, the way her feathers had fluffed out earlier, the feeling of her breathing, and the warm feeling of her feminine flesh against his foreleg while he had held her and supported her in a loving embrace. She was certainly warming up to him, he had no doubt about that.

Feeling much better about himself, Bucky began to drain the tub and got ready to shower to rinse the soap from his long shaggy pelt. There were things he had to do before morning.

 

 

Up before dawn, showered, and ready to face the day, Loch Skimmer watched her sister Ripple, also up before the dawn, working over the eleven griffons known as Ripple’s Raptors. Ripple’s methods were hardcore by any standard, even Sparkler had not been this harsh on her recruits, and Loch Skimmer began to wonder if perhaps Ripple had lost her mind during her trip to Griffonholm.

Life was routine now, which was something that Loch Skimmer appreciated. She got up, she helped to craft the dawn, she went to school, and then she went to her job at the hospital, where she either battled boredom or she battled exhaustion. She came home, did her homework, studied, spent a little time with her family, and then went to bed rather early all things considered, only to get up before dawn again the next day.

Ripple’s hind leg went out in a wide sweep and a griffon went flying away from her, and not by its own wing power, tumbling end over end as it was hurled through the air.

“Loki!”

Whomever Loki was, Ripple had just about kicked him into the stratosphere for attempting to fight dirty. Loch Skimmer shook her head. Ripple’s brutishness knew no bounds, had no equal, and had no end. Loch cringed as a griffon came at Ripple with a long wooden staff, which clearly did the griffon no good. It went sailing away, hurtling through the air, and splashed into the lake a moment later.

“COME ON YOU PANSIES! I’M A FILLY! SURELY YOU CAN TAKE DOWN A LONE FILLY YOU WORTHLESS FLEA BITTEN LITTLE HOUSE CATS!”

Loch Skimmer closed her eyes, unable to watch what was certain to be horrific violence in the dim grey light that existed just before dawn. A pained yowl reached her ears. She felt a warm body sitting down beside her and she opened her eyes just as she felt two lips kiss her cheek.

“Hiya Sparky,” Loch greeted.

“She’s beautiful when she’s fighting,” Sparkler said in a low soft voice, one front leg and her the side of her face shaking slightly.

Reaching out with her fetlock, Loch Skimmer gently touched Sparkler’s cheek, trying to smooth out the palsied flesh. “How you feeling Sparky? I know you had a rough night, your leg wouldn’t stop kicking.”

“I’m tired, but I’ll manage. I’m worried about father,” Sparkler answered.

“Daddy is going to do whatever daddy is going to do. I still worry, but I don’t let it bother me too much. Better to live in the moment and allow life to happen, rather than let it pass you by, lost to a moment spent in worry,” Loch Skimmer said as she watched Ripple perform a flying suplex on some poor hapless griffon. “How is Blossomforth?”

“Recovering,” Sparkler replied, shaking her head in frustration. “Ponies don’t respect the police very much. We try to earn their trust, we try to be gentle, we try to be kind… we try to be friendly… and there are too many ponies that don’t want to give us a chance to be civil. They’d rather just skip right to the conflict or tell us that we don’t have a right to interfere in their lives or stick our snoots into their business.”

“I suppose there is a fine fine line you have to be mindful of,” Loch Skimmer said in solemn voice, thinking about how she had to go in just a few more minutes.

“I can’t even think of his name… one of the refugees… he truly believed that he had the right to beat on his mare like she was a common draft animal… and when Blossomforth was just trying to do her job, telling him that he didn’t have that right, he decided to beat her and put her in her place too… it is infuriating. I keep thinking about… about-”

“About the stallion that made me?” Loch asked, interrupting Sparkler.

“Yeah!” Sparkler snapped angrily.

“I carried Blossomforth to the hospital. She was a mess, but she gave as good as she got. What happened with the mare beater anyway?” Loch Skimmer asked in a soothing voice, trying to comfort Sparkler.

“He’s been sent to Canterlot and is being held. Last I heard anything, Shining Armor wants to talk to Twilight Sparkle about having me turn him to stone for one year so he can think about what he’s done… and I don’t know how I feel about doing that,” Sparkler replied in a bitter voice, one ear spasming wildly.

“I feel sorry for the mare… fat with foal, two little foals, and now, no husband,” Loch Skimmer grumbled, leaning on Sparkler and sharing in her mate’s misery.

“Blossomforth, Big Mac, and Raindrops are asking around for donations to help her out,” Sparkler responded, her front leg now jerking painfully.

“The world is a messed up place,” Loch Skimmer stated, looking up at the sky as shaft of brilliant pink light broke over the horizon. “I gotta go Sparky, sorry. Fluttershy needs me. We have a complicated dawn to pull off.”

“Go have fun,” Sparkler said as Loch took to her hooves and then spread her wings. She watched the pegasus go streaking off, a part of her actually feeling a spike of jealousy for the simplicity in Loch Skimmer’s entire life.

 

 

His eyelid feeling heavy, Bucky looked down at the grains of gunpowder upon his desk and yawned. Nearby, a glass orb hovered, waiting expectantly for further instruction, held aloft by a simple arcano-tech propeller. It had taken him almost all of four hours, but he had refined the tracking spell to home in on even a single tiny granule of gunpowder, something Twilight Sparkle had doubts about him accomplishing.

He snorted, lifted his head, shook away his drowsiness, and pondered the problem of somepony attempting to disenchant his flying golems. It bothered him. He had several options, all of them unpleasant and unsettling. The biggest problem he had was the method of retaliation. Fear spells hadn’t worked as well as he had hoped… or perhaps the mirror travelers were just very resistant to fear, seeing as how they had scrubbed away their other emotions.

The options he was left with were all rather unpleasant, the golems releasing a reflexive spell the moment they were touched by hostile magic. There was mind wiping, the non lethal but questionable option, which was the current most likely candidate, and then there were fatal backlash spells that killed whomever was trying to undo his enchantments, which was the option Sombra took to protect his army of golems and automatons, which Bucky did not like as an option at all. He couldn’t have all of his hard work being undone by saboteurs. He had the full backing of the Council of Immortals behind him, or so he had been told, and he was free to be as brutal or as merciful as he pleased. He had been given free reign to deal with the gunpowder issue however he saw fit. On a shelf in the corner were scrolls, writs of authorisation, the most formal of these was from Scorch, who loathed guns with a heated passion.

On his desk, one of his creations tapped its spindly little leg, trying to get his attention. A small glass orb with eight little glass legs danced around, drumming with one leg, bouncing around in a bid to get Bucky’s attention.

“What?” Bucky demanded, causing the little glass golem with spider legs to cringe.

It dipped a pointed leg into the inkwell and then scratched out a few words on a sheet of paper, moving with quick jerky gestures. Bucky looked down and read the scribbled words carefully, his eyebrow furrowing.

“You’re bored?” Bucky asked in a voice of disbelief after reading the crude letters.

The little glass golem bobbed up and down as though it was saying “yes.”

“Well… go do something then! Go crawl into Minion’s bed and creep along her side, giving her a good scare… I don’t care what you do!” Bucky groused, feeling agitated and out of sorts.

The eight legged golem jumped up into the air a few times, kicking out its legs in what appeared to be a joyful celebratory manner. It pirouetted gracefully and then ran for the edge of the desk. It lept off, wiggling its legs mid air, and then scurried over the floor, running towards the door, its little legs clicking.

“Artificial intelligence… bah, I’ve created artificial stupidity,” Bucky snarled, feeling upset and cross. “Hmm, that’s not a bad idea… something to attract the simple minded… I wonder if I can create a golem that is utterly fascinating to look at, something that would leave a pony stupefied and vulnerable… an orb of living compulsion… a want it need it spell, only with out the need to grab it, only stare at it and drool,” Bucky said, thinking out loud. “A distraction when fighting other unicorns.”

He leaned back in his chair, his face now serious, drumming his now repaired talons upon his desk. “I need an army of small disposable minions that can be deployed during conflict. Like the changelings, each would serve a purpose. Chrysalis had the right idea, little specialised minions,” he mused.

The morning silence was shattered by a high pitched feminine scream, followed by a loud squawk. Bucky ignored both, completely absorbed in his own thoughts. He could make his own army of bugs to do his dirty work. The gunpowder detection golems were only the first step.

“UGH UGH UGH! SPIDERS! KILL THEM BARTLEBY! BEGIN A PURGE!”

Stroking his chin with his hoof, Bucky began to see possibilities for non lethal pacification. Little glass golems were disposable and easy enough for him to make. He could have flying and crawling minions, each created to serve a specific purpose.

“IT CRAWLED OVER MY BELLY! OH IT’S HIDEOUS!”

Pulling out his notebook, Bucky began to take notes, putting his thoughts to paper, carefully cataloguing his creative processes so he could act upon them later when he wasn’t so exhausted. He scratched away with a fine quill, gnawing on his lip as he worked.

“THIS IS ONE OF MASTER’S CREATIONS! DOES MASTER’S EVIL KNOW NO END?”

Having written down the last of his thoughts, Bucky cast a simple spell to dry the ink, blinked his dry irritated eye a few times, closed the book, and with a burst of freezing ice, vanished from behind his desk.

 

 

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