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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Spike the dragon looked around him, feeling rather puzzled and somewhat unsettled. There was something that had been in the back of his mind, but he didn’t know what it was exactly, other than something had changed profoundly since Griffonholm, and the agreement that Twilight Sparkle was now to be recognised as his mother.

Reaching up with his hand, he idly scratched at an ear frill with his claws, which caused a -scritch scritch- sound with each pass. All around him were ponies… well, mostly ponies. There were a few griffons now, and some diamond dogs as well. Reaching around, Spike grabbed his tail, gave it a tug, and began squeezing with his other hand.

All around him, there were groups, those that had paired up or had gathered together. There was Sweet Pea and Growler; the entire school was talking about those two, and Spike felt happy for them. Beneath a tree sitting together were Babs and Piña, both of whom were probably working on their astronomy homework together. Dinky was sitting with Diamond Tiara, and the pair were working together to tutor younger students using flash cards to display the alphabet. Sentinel and Rumble were reading books together. Cloudstreaker, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo were all working on a diorama project together.

As Spike glanced around, he realised that he knew all of them. At some point, they had truly become friends. Instead of feeling like an outsider with Twilight and her friends, and he felt that way far too often, he actually felt close to everyone here and counted them as a dear and personal friend. These weren’t adults tolerating him or taking advantage of his helpfulness, these were friends his own age, more or less, in a manner of speaking.

Quite without meaning to, he found himself gazing at Sweetie Belle, only he wasn’t aware that he was staring at her, his eyes wide and almost unblinking. Squeezing and tugging on his tail with both hands now, he thought of Sweetie Belle and how different she was from Rarity. Rarity used him… and preyed upon the fact that he had a crush on her, and Spike was fully aware of this. Spike was not aware however, that childhood crushes on fully grown adults always ended in heartbreak in some form or another. But Sweetie Belle was nice to him. Kind to him.

Sweetie Belle would also die of old age before Spike hit adolescence, and he knew this. Sighing, Spike’s eyes fell downwards and he stared at the grass he was sitting on. Sweetie Belle was also sweet on Rumble, and Rumble was now a friend… a close friend.

Becoming friends with Sentinel had really opened Spike’s eyes as to what friendship was, at least with creatures near his own relative age. He treasured each and every single one of them, and a part of him, he supposed it might be his inner dragon, felt very protective about his friends… his hoard.

They were his valuables. His treasures. As he stumbled into this realisation, his body actually grew a little bit, his dragon greed kicking in as he slowly arrived at one very important conclusion.

They were all so very important to him.

As his thoughts manifested, his claws grew a little longer, his tail grew a little lengthier as well as plumper, his ear frills became a little wider, and his scales became a little harder. Little wisps of smoke came out of Spike’s nostrils and there was an audible gurgle in his belly as his fires stoked.

Spike was completely unaware of the change.

 

 

Looking down at her homework, Piña drew a series of lines through a constellation that she recognised, drew a deep breath, and then rested her hoof upon her paper that was resting atop a book so she would have a smooth surface to write on. Pausing, she looked over at Babs, who was engrossed in her own homework.

“Babs?”

Looking up, her pencil held on hoof, Babs looked at Piña, her eyes bright and flashing. “Yeah?”

“Do you think the stars can really tell us the future? I was reading a book about Nightmare Moon and how her return was predicted by the stars…” Her words trailed off and Piña concentrated for a moment, tapping her other hoof upon her chin. “Unless the stars predicted Nightmare Moon because Princess Luna controls the stars and maybe, just maybe, just enough of her remained to warn the world that she was coming so ponies could prepare and do whatever needed to be done to stop Nightmare Moon. Maybe I’ll ask auntie about it.”

“Um… that’s kinda brilliant actually.”

“Oh, thanks Babs.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Piña saw Babs’ ears pitch forward as the orange earth pony foal stared down at her homework, and then Piña heard Babs groan in frustration, followed by an annoyed whine.

“Do you really think they hid forty different constellations on this paper?”

Looking down at her own sheet of paper, Piña pondered the possibilities presented to her by Babs’ inquiry. After a moment, she said, “Some of them overlap, so I guess there could be forty. Might even be more for extra credit.”

“Oh brother… do you mind if I stay late so we can work on this together?”

Looking away from her homework, Piña looked at Babs and nodded. “Not at all Babs… I’d like it if you stayed. You know you’re welcome here.”

“Found one,” Babs said as she slashed a few quick lines from star to star with her pencil.

Her eyes moving from her own paper over to Babs’ Piña saw that she already had that one. She glanced up from Babs’ paper to Babs herself. “I don’t wanna sound snobby or anything, and I know how this might sound, but you’re pretty smart… it’s nice to have somepony else that is really smart to talk to. It gets lonely sometimes… don’t get me wrong, Dinky is smart, but she isn’t… smart. Dinky is clever though and she is a fast thinker.”

“I try not to sound smart… makes life easier. Eggheads get bullied. So it is easier to grunt, never say too much, and act stupid so you just get left alone. Be a good stupid earth pony and you won't get hurt.”

As Babs spoke, Piña could see a brief pained expression upon her face. It vanished just as quickly as it appeared, and Piña saw a rather blank looking expression appear for a moment.

“Huh, I feel lightheaded. I think I need a study break. I’m gonna stuff my books in my bag and go for a walk around the lake. Maybe we’ll see Thistle,” Babs said as she opened her book, stuffed in her paper, and then stuffed the book into her bag.

Putting away her own homework, crinkling her paper somewhat in the process, Piña looked over at Babs once more. “I’ll come with you… if you ever want to talk to Thistle, I’ll show you what to do to summon her when she is in the lake. Thistle is a really nice pony and she’s having a hard time right now.”

 

 

Rubbing at his eyes with his central knuckle on his left wing, Sentinel then blinked afterwards and looked around. It was difficult to read in bright daylight with his eyes. Reaching up with hind hoof so he could get good leverage, Sentinel scratched behind his ear and then gave himself a shake.

Yawning, he cricked his neck, enjoyed the crackling sound he heard and the tingles that followed. Smacking his lips, he looked over at Rumble and saw that the pegasus was busy staring off into space.

“Hey Rumble, what’s the difference between moral and ethical?”

Rumble, alarmed by Sentinel’s interruption, jumped slightly and Sentinel watched Rumbles wings fluff out and flutter for a moment in the usual startled manner of pegasi.

“Whahuh?”

Grinning, having caught Rumble slacking off yet again, Sentinel felt a little moment of personal satisfaction at the chance to get Rumble back on task. “I asked, ‘what’s the difference between moral and ethical?’ We both have the same homework, I wanted to see what you were thinking.”

Sentinel observed as Rumble reached up and rubbed his head.

“I, uh, was actually thinking about the hug I got from Apple Bloom earlier… and, uh, how soft she is. You’d think she’d smell like apples or something, I think she uses some kind of rose scented soaps or shampoo… kinda like my moms use, which is weird, cause now I like the way Apple Bloom smells, but I feel kinda creepy knowing she smells like my mothers.”

“Oh… um…” Taking a deep breath, Sentinel’s attempt at a reply died off. He looked away from Rumble and focused his gaze upon a distant tree instead. “So… anyway, morals… morals… morals… morals are scruples, habits, social contracts that define right or wrong conduct. Morals provides guidelines for what to do and not to do, but is ultimately bound by personal indicators from within and our own sense of conscience.” For a moment, Sentinel allowed himself to feel a burst of pride for having said all of that out of memory and not having to look at his book, which was closed.

“And ethics?”

Clearing his throat, Sentinel looked back at Rumble and made eye contact with the colt. “Ethics are the prescribed rules of conduct to a particular field and or class of actions found within a profession, group, culture, or even a social class, with the notable exception to the ruling noble houses of Canterlot, who had their own defined sense of ethics.”

“I’m never going to remember that,” Rumble said as he fell over backwards in the grass.

“If you would like, if you are willing to allow me to do so, I can help you,” Sentinel offered.

Still laying flat on his back in the grass, Rumble heaved a sigh and then Sentinel heard him speak, “Do you think my dad ever wonders what is moral or ethical when he works as a police officer?”

Refusing to go off topic, Sentinel held firm. “Ethics come from an external source, morals come from an internal source.”

“Aaaaah this stuff is really boring… why do I have to take this class!”

Smiling faintly, Sentinel continued: “Ethics change over time as new standards are adapted and evolve, or at least they should. Stagnation is an issue. Mister Chips says that the ethical treatment of earth ponies is way out of date, for example. Morals on the other hoof—”

“Sentinel, buddy, you’re killing me!”

“—are usually fairly fixed, unless an individual suffers radical changes to their worldview or their sense of self that forces them to shift their morals, as two working examples. There are others.” Taking a deep breath, Sentinel made ready to continue to torture Rumble for his own good. It was never easy doing the right thing, but Sentinel was a friend, and Rumble was going to learn something this afternoon, like it or not. This was the moral thing to do, or so Sentinel believed.

Banging his head into the grass, Rumble kicked his legs around. “Fine! Fine then! So what happens when somepony is put into an impossible situation and they are forced to do something awful because there is no other choice!”

Taking a deep calming breath, Sentinel replied, “A pony who is strictly ethical might not have any morals at all. Like the noble houses of Canterlot, who followed their own ethics and did incredibly immoral things. On the other hoof, one may find they need to violate ethical guidelines in order to remain moral, like breaking, er, bending a rule, because a rule might violate moral integrity, an internal sense of decency, and old fashioned horse sense.”

“And morals?”

Taking a few moments to consider his answer and recollect his thoughts from his lessons, Sentinel closed his eyes and brought to memory everything he could think of. “A moral pony, when faced with conflicting ethics, may try to work within the system to change them, ignore immoral ethical practices completely, and pick and choose from a list of ethical guidelines if they encounter a system of ethics or an ethical situation that they find morally reprehensible. If faced with an impossible situation, a moral pony might ignore ethical guidelines completely and try to find the path of least harm.”

Going still, Rumble lay in the grass, silent for several long moments, until he broke the silence with a low thoughtful sounding voice. “My dad does that. There are a list of things that he says are right and wrong. He told me that sometimes, you have to break the law to do the right thing. Like his marriage to my moms. He made a vow to both of them and he does everything he can to be a pony of his word. For a time, herd marriage was illegal, but my dad did it anyway because he felt it was right. And he’s always talking to me about how sometimes you have to do what is right and forget about everything else and then just take the consequences on the chin. I think that’s why I got into so many fights for a while… I thought I was doing what was right. Instead, I was just being an overprotective jerk.”

“Rumble… I am… surprised…”

 

 

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