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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“Nightmare Night is nearly upon us.”

Bucky did not reply to Luna’s words, but focused instead on the creation of two lenses for the long brass scope he was constructing for Belisama’s crossbow. The optics demanded perfection… perfect glass. Princess Celestia was already pressuring Bucky to use his glassmaking skills to make telescopes.

“My patience wears thin my apprentice… my curiousity about this web grows worse and demands to be sated. Do not make me ask you as your Mistress,” Luna warned in a voice that contained a trace of laughter, but also a hint of hard edge.

Feeling only slightly peeved, Bucky inserted one of the glass lenses into the brass tube and then peered through it. He inserted the second and then pointed the scope at Luna. The alicorn was greatly magnified and everything looked good. He would have to make more tests in the daylight. His last attempt caused images to be distorted at a distance.

“How is Erebus?” Bucky asked as he looked over at the quietly sleeping colt wrapped in a blanket and placed in a basket.

“He is now a unicorn… his horn appears normal, his wings are gone, he is much smaller and very nearly white, which is odd… I find it very odd that he is almost white during the new moon, which is black. By the time the full moon comes back, Erebus will be almost black, while the moon will be white. He is a peculiar creature,” Luna answered as she crossed Bucky’s office and then peered into the basket. “A few nights ago, I noticed the change in his eyes. They ceased to be slitted and he instead gained the round pupils of solar ponies. His fangs are almost non existent now. Makes it so much easier to feed him.”

“Fascinating,” Bucky responded as he set the scope down upon his desk.

“How is Sunset Shimmer?” Luna inquired as she looked up from Erebus and focused her stare upon Bucky. The alicorn’s expression became one of intense worry.

“My apprentice recovers. She is down in her room… but probably asleep at this hour. She is recovering a bit more of her eyesight. She is up and walking around. She eats enough food to feed a small army,” Bucky replied as he rose up out of his chair and stretched his legs.

When he was done speaking, Bucky slowly crossed his office, moving towards the object that had caused Luna so much curiousity, and as he drew near, Luna, in an almost filly-like state of excitement, pranced over to have a look.

“I know it is connected to dreams,” Luna stated as she peered at the wondrous device.

Nodding, Bucky reached out and gently touched the black support rod with his talons. “Yes,” he answered as his eye narrowed. “It is not yet finished.”

“So what is it?” Luna asked impatiently.

“I began to realise that as the headmaster of this school, I needed an upper edge in making sure that my students have every possible advantage that I could give them. I had to have a way into knowing my students… knowing everything I could about them… to see if I could spot problems before they became problems. I had to know their fears, their hopes, their dreams. I had to know their secrets,” Bucky explained in a low whisper.

“Hmm,” Luna hummed.

“The shadow web allows me to do that. It shows me the dreams of those around me in a limited radius and turns them into a projection. With this, I can spot if a foal is being bullied or if they are afraid of something that is affecting their schoolwork. I can see what they are afraid of and then move to help them before that fear becomes a stumbling block that holds them back from success. With this, I can know the minds of my students,” Bucky said as his horn ignited and he powered the device up with his magic. “Observe.”

The support rods glowed and the delicate web of spun glass illuminated. Bucky’s office filled with a low thrum that made the teeth and the sinuses vibrate. After a moment, a hazy image appeared over the web, it was dim, but grew brighter.

“This is my wife… Derpy… and it is appears she is dreaming once more of Sentinel, Diamond Tiara, and Moonbow,” Bucky announced in a low whisper.

The image showed an earth pony mare, a lunar pegasus stallion, and a massive lunar pegasus mare in plate mail armor. The earth pony mare was very, very pregnant and the three of them looked happy together.

“Hmm… she dreams of such simple yet happy things. If only more ponies dreamed of such things, I would enjoy my duties so much more,” Luna remarked as she leaned closer to the projection to have a look at the image as it grew sharper and gained more detail.

The image shifted, becoming wispy, and then reformed into a stallion that was small and slight of build. He was tan in colour and had a black mane and tail. He had two grey eyes and his body was unblemished, whole, unmarred, it had not been ravaged by life. He was running and laughing, prancing around in a circle, and it was clear from the way that the image was moving that the stallion was being chased by the dreamer.

“She still sees you as you once were… love preserves the vision of what once was,” Luna stated as a pained expression crept over her face. She turned to look at Bucky and saw that he was already crying silently, his cheek was dark, damp with tears, and his barrel hitched silently as he viewed the image. She turned away quickly, suddenly feeling that it was somehow wrong to intrude upon this private moment. Never in her whole long life did Luna suddenly feel so awkward for intruding upon a private moment. She closed her eyes and backed away.

When Luna opened them again a few moments later, the shadow web’s projection was gone and Bucky was behind his desk once more, pouring himself a glass of what smelled like gin or perhaps engine degreaser. She took one step towards his desk, then another, and then she froze in place.

“You did a marvelous job… this will give you the edge you need as headmaster. I approve of this machine and its purpose… you are certainly becoming a legendary enchanter much like Sombra once was,” Luna said in a low soft voice, offering flattery and praise, hoping that it would offer comfort. She watched him gulp down the entire glass of liquid, she saw him grimace, then shudder, and then she watched as he poured himself another drink.

Failing to distract Bucky from his troubles, Luna scowled and changed the subject completely. She took a step closer to his desk. “My sister plans to make a public announcement the day after Nightmare Night. She is going to allow you and I to travel to Minos and deal with Labyrinthia. We’ll be taking one of the new corvette zeppelins, very small, sleek, and fast. We’ll be there in less than two days. You and I will show them the error of their ways and then return home. Prepare yourself,” Luna said. Much to her relief and a little to her surprise, she saw that her words had the desired effect. Bucky’s face became a little less troubled and she saw him look up at her intently.

“You would think that a gunship would be more appropriate,” Bucky remarked.

“Like we need a gunship,” Luna retorted with a loud snort that made Erebus let out a whimpering cry in his sleep. “We are going to raze the city. While we are dismantling the city, the Fancy Foreign Legion is going to cross the borders and invade. They’re going to hit the death camps that dot the countryside and free the prisoners. I already have Myrmidons on their way to Fancy right now to help them prepare for the invasion and my sister has sent some of her most useful unicorn guards.”

Bucky swallowed down the contents of his glass in a single gulp, then set the glass down and wiped his muzzle. “I will be prepared,” he said in a raspy voice.

“This is not a pacification mission. This is punishment. There will be no taking prisoners or accepting surrender… this is annihilation. Celestia is depending on the two of us to make an example out of the enemies of global stability as she so cleverly puts it. So… as your Mistress, I will expect you, my apprentice, to help me craft a nightmare so terrible that the world defecates itself in fear and then falls in line,” Luna explained in a cold voice.

“Yes Mistress… I understand and I will begin planning,” Bucky replied as he bowed his head slightly. “If the residents of Labyrinthia survive to grovel at our hooves, it will mean that we have failed at our task… destruction must be total if a message is to be made to the rest of the world. By taking a few lives now, we potentially save many lives in the future. I will begin planning a way to maximise fatalities and destructive output now so that when the shock and horror of what we’ve done settles in to the global consciousness, we will get the highest returns possible for our efforts later.”

Shivering, Luna realised that Bucky understood his task a little too well. His words were chilling and she felt the back of her neck prickle. “Buckminster… my apprentice… in the future… your Mistress would appreciate it if you did not speak like an accountant when planning for an invasion.”

 

 

The brewery was warm, pleasant, and smelled of yeast. Still perfecting his sample spell, Bucky brewed a small batch of beer in a spell bubble, speeding up time, pressure, and a variety of other factors. It was not quite perfect, not yet, but his spellcasting ability had grown considerably since he had first constructed this spell back on the isles in the crude brewery where he and Berry Punch had spent so much time.

Barley, sniffing some of Bucky’s work, lifted up a test glass and took a sip, carefully allowing the liquid to swish around inside of his mouth.

“Barley, remember, this spell isn’t perfect… I realise the taste may be slightly off,” Bucky warned as he continued to work his magic.

Swallowing, Barley peeled his lips away from his teeth, inhaled sharply, and then belched thunderously. “Aye… toasty… a hint of caramel… malty, hoppy, and something else I can’t put my hoof on and I don’t think it is yon magic giving it a funny taste… what is that?”

Grinning, Bucky gave a sly look to the old stallion.

“This has potential… I do believe I am going to brew up a test batch once you give me a list of ingredients,” Barley grumbled. He belched again, shook his head while grimacing at the strange aftertaste, and then let go of a terrifying gastric disturbance, a belch that made the test equipment in the room rattle.

“In just a little while, you are going to feel very relaxed,” Bucky announced in a low voice. “This was Fluttershy’s idea… you know, she grows cannabis plants so she can get the seeds to add to her special custom bird seed blend. The birds love the seeds and they are very healthy. Being such a clever and frugal mare, she doesn’t let any of the plant go to waste. She uses it in a variety of balms, lotions, salves, and medicines to help calm animals. Funny thing… cannabis and hops are related… so I took a whole bunch of cannabis buds and had Fluttershy carefully toast them just so… and then I’ve been using it to make these test batches.”

“Aye… ye crafty bastard… what have ye done?” Barley said in a voice filled with curious alarm. He picked up his glass once more and then drank down the remainder. “Aw… stuff it. That’s good even with the funny aftertaste. We’re gonna brew that.”

“I feel peckish,” Bucky remarked as he looked around the test lab.

Barley squinted at Bucky. “How much of this stuff have ye drank?”

Bucky grinned stupidly at Barley. “Um… I have a responsibility to sample my work and make sure it is fit for consumption.”

“You silly sot… hmm, this is pretty good,” Barley muttered. “This’ll be liquid tail lifter for certain… this’ll make a mare hot to trot.” The old stallion looked around and blinked a few times.

“Yon fair mare,” Bucky said as he lifted his hoof and pointed.

“That’s a good name lad,” Barley agreed. “Yon Fair Mare...” he said in a fine Shetland lilt as he reached up and rubbed his neck with one front hoof.

“No… here comes Berry Punch to see what we’re up to!” Bucky warned. “Quick, act normal!”

“Hey… Longhaul is here to speak with you Bucky… he has some special sand from the buffalo for you,” Berry Punch announced.

“My Berry beautiful mare,” Bucky sniggered. “Come here and let me tap your bung.”

“Bucky, I worry about you when you don’t get enough sleep,” Berry Punch replied as she rolled her eyes.

 

 

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