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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As Bucky moved through the house, he appreciated that it was full of life. It was mid-morning. The sun was shining just enough that light could be seen in the windows. The endless blizzard had blown over and now there was a moment of rest, a moment to prepare for when the storm continued. He heard laughter. It was difficult being an introvert in a house so full of family and guests, but the guests made other ponies happy and that in turn made Bucky happy.

While there was a break in the weather, Bucky planned to get everypony home. It was time to get everything together and go while the getting was good. The trip, though not long, would take a long time.

He came into the living room and looked around. He was in a wonderful mood.

“Hey Bucky, Brass Note had a really good idea about the trains and I now I am wondering if it is possible, and if it is, why hasn’t somepony implemented it?”

Galaxy Guide was sitting on the floor with the foals and all of them were watching the train as it went around the figure eight track. Bucky watched the train too. Round and round it went, never stopping, and endless loop that never ended.

“What is the idea?” Bucky asked Galaxy Guide.

“Why don’t we use more magic for trains? Like come to life spells. More enchantments. Just make the trains run on magic,” Galaxy Guide said.

One of Bucky’s eyebrows raised. “It isn’t practical.”

“It isn’t?” Sentinel looked up at his father.

Bucky realised that everypony in the room was looking at him.

“But there is all kinds of magic on airships and we use those,” Galaxy Guide said.

Looking down at the train, Bucky gave careful thought to how to explain all of this. “Airships stay in the air. Not many can reach them. This keeps them safe. Well, relatively speaking. They can be sabotaged. A train on the other hoof, it stays on the ground. If someone went through the trouble of making a heavily enchanted train, a saboteur could come along and tamper with the enchantments. A powerful enough dispel magic spell could wipe away all of the enchantments, either intentional or accidental. Equestria has enemies and if they wanted to cripple us, they would strike our trains. Which they already have done by the way. In the outlands we have issues with the tracks being torn up.”

Galaxy Guide, blinking, began to nod his head. “That makes sense. An airship is harder to reach but the same thing is still possible I suppose.”

The Scorned Mare is a marvel of arcano-tech. She is fast, deadly, a capable warship even though she is small. She’ll do fine in a scrap against most anything… but if we were fighting an army of unicorns in a sky battle, it becomes a race to see who can undo the other’s many enchantments.” As Bucky spoke, he thought about his armor, his brilliant armor. It had protected him from so much but had failed him when it mattered. It was useless against unicorns. It had almost cost him his life.

“What about your golems?” Piña asked.

“The golems I prepare for war have powerful defenses against unicorns,” Bucky replied. He looked at Piña, his face serious, his ears perked forward. “I can’t tell you much about it, sorry, but I can tell you that if a unicorn tampers with my anti-gunpowder golems, the backlash will scramble their brains.”

“Can we do that to the trains?” Galaxy Guide asked, his eyes narrowed from his thoughtful expression.

“Golems prepared for war are different than trains used in peacetime.” Bucky did not mention that he wanted to place brain scrambling defenses on everything but Celestia had forbid it, telling both Luna and Bucky that such a thing was not allowed.

“So this is why it is difficult to use magic to help the world? Others will wreck our hard work?” Dinky asked, her muzzle crinkling as she formed the unpleasant thought into words.

“Yes, more or less.” Bucky nodded.

“Back in the early winter somepony went through and burnt out most of the arcano-tech in Ponyville hospital… I can’t imagine how much that cost,” Shining Star said. She looked at Bucky. “I hope they catch him. The papers said nothing about finding a suspect or arrest. It is a real shame when somepony like that just gets away.”

Bucky knew how much it cost and also knew that the pony responsible had been apprehended. He looked at Rising Star’s mother but said nothing. Bucky and Twilight had dealt with the troublemaker and the trouble maker had been vanished, relocated to prison facility, and would never be heard from ever again.

“Even with bad ponies and other bad guys, the world is still worth helping.” Dinky’s face was darkened and she stared down at the train upon the floor.

It was evident to Bucky that Dinky was having deep thoughts but he could not help her face them at the moment. He looked around the room. “Everypony get ready. I’m taking you all home. We leave within the hour if possible. Say your goodbyes and gather up your stuff.”

 

 

Ripple watched as Bittersweet cuddled a bit closer to Rising Star. Something was different between the two of them, but Ripple could not put her hoof on what it was. She was happy about it though. She paced about their room, her hooves kicking empty bottles.

“Never again… oh never again,” Loch Skimmer said in a low whimpering whisper.

Looking at her sister, Ripple felt pity for a moment. Loch Skimmer had imbibed a bit too much holiday cheer in the form of hard cider and then a few glasses of grog nog. Loch Skimmer lay on the bed, rolling around and clutching her head.

Sparkler, also in the bed, was sound asleep, one leg twitching somewhat.

Hearing a snort, Ripple knew that Rising Star had fallen asleep. They had been up late, all of them, having a nice time with the adults. For the rest of her herd, it seemed as though a mid-morning nap was in order. For Ripple, she had too much on her mind.

Bittersweet’s ears drooped, going limp, and Ripple knew that Bittersweet was lost to slumber. Loch Skimmer was still rolling around. For a moment, Ripple hated the holiday, hated how much time had been lost. There was much to do and what felt like so little time to do it in.

Casting a final glance at her sister, Ripple departed, off to find her little brother.

 

 

“Sentinel? I really need your help. Now that company is gone maybe we can get some work done,” Ripple said as she approached. She looked around the living room. Sentinel was sketching something, but Ripple did not see what it was. Harper and Peekaboo were playing with Yew Wood. Dinky was on the sofa with Piña, trying to help her sister feel better.

“What do you need?” Sentinel asked.

“You. Your brains. Your ability to think,” Ripple replied. She watched as Sentinel closed his sketchbook and then stowed his charcoal pencil away in a small wooden box that rattled when Sentinel picked it up. Ripple crossed the room, her hooves making almost no sound on the wooden floorboards, and then jumped up onto the couch with Sentinel. “Please? This is Raptor business, so this concerns you.”

Sentinel turned to face Ripple, his face solemn.

Unable to keep her wings still, Ripple thought about what to say but was too agitated to focus her mind. “The winter games are coming. The Raptors are participating. We’re going to get stomped. Sentinel, we need a plan. I asked father for help, he sent me away and said that there would be no help to be found with him.” Ripple sighed. “I’m a little peeved with father right now.”

Adjusting his glasses, Sentinel cocked his head. “Father expects you to learn. If he solves all of your problems, you learn nothing.”

“I know… I get it… doesn’t stop me from feeling peeved. This affects him too… we’re going to get crushed.” Ripple’s ears drooped and she leaned over on Sentinel.

“Any ideas at all?” Sentinel asked.

“None!” Ripple replied. “None at all! Luna is fielding Myrmidons. It’s not enough that she has lunar pegasi, no… she has to field Myrmidons. Well, she might. Even if she doesn’t, I don’t see how we have a chance. The Raptors are hit and run specialists. We hobble, we cripple… we took out the wyvern well enough. The rules of the fight favour the lunar pegasi though. We can’t cripple them or do any sort of serious harm. The goal is to subdue. There is no way the Raptors can subdue the lunar pegasi… no offense Sentinel,  but it just isn’t fair how tough and strong your kind are.”

Sentinel, agreeing with everything Ripple had said, nodded.

“Even if I took the field, I don’t think I could take a lunar pegasus out. I can thump Lugus pretty good now, but I still can’t take him out. Lugus still thrashes me soundly if I get cocky. So I have no idea how to do this.” Ripple shook her head. “Maybe it would be better if we withdraw.”

“And show that the Raptors are too weak to take on a real credible threat?” Sentinel asked. “It is one thing to take out a wyvern. It is a different matter to engage an enemy army. We have to prove the worthiness of the Raptors.”

“But how?” Ripple felt the sting of tears building up in the corners of her eyes and her face felt hot. “I hate losing. I hate it so much. It isn’t so bad if it is a fair fight, but this isn’t a fair fight. This is just Luna toying with all of us. She knows full well that her Myrmidons are going to sweep the field and destroy all opposition.”

“We lunar pegasi are not immortal nor invulnerable. We can be beaten down,” Sentinel said in a low voice.

“It isn’t fair… I have a cutie mark that shows the world I have a talent for fighting… I was made for war. I’ve proven myself against other pegasi and shown that I have what it takes. But if I was to get in a scuffle with you, I know that you’d take me out Sentinel. I’ve seen you fight. And you don’t even train… that’s the worst part.” Turning her head, Ripple looked away from her brother and stared out the window.

“I hate fighting. I don’t like violence. I don’t want to hurt anypony. I don’t enjoy fighting like you do. I’m sorry Ripple, I can’t help how things are.” Stretching out a wing, Sentinel wrapped it around his big sister and fell silent.

“Maybe Belisama might help you… Bucky was right to send you away, but that doesn’t stop you from seeking help elsewhere. Ask Belisama… and talk to Lugus. Lugus isn’t getting involved in the fighting, Bucky asked him to sit this one out, but Lugus might still help you,” Yew Wood said to Ripple and Sentinel.

“The lunar pegasi are unstoppable juggernauts… I don’t know what I was thinking when I got myself into this.” Ripple shook her head and then blew her mane out of her eyes through puckered upwards lips.

“You’re in a pickle,” Dinky said.

“I wonder where Belisama is… there is no harm in talking to her. Maybe she can figure something out.” Ripple slipped off of the couch and took to her hooves.

“Last I saw her, she was in the kitchen, getting what little bit of sun there is,” Yew replied.

 

 

Ripple and Sentinel found Belisama curled up in the bay window. Ripple pranced in place for a moment, hesitant to wake the griffoness, but this was important. She glanced at Sentinel, saw him nod, and then she screwed her courage to the sticking place.

“Sama mama, we need your help,” Ripple said, reaching out and prodding Belisama with her hoof. She heard a peep, a grunt, and then saw the griffoness’ beak open in a yawn.

Lifting her head, Belisama opened her eyes, blinked a few times, rotated her head around back and forth to get the cricks out of her neck, and then looked at Ripple.

“Belisama, we need your help with the Raptors—”

“Finally, you came to me… I’ve been wondering,” Belisama said. She stretched out her wings, rolled over, arched her spine, and one eye went wide while the other eye narrowed as her spine crackled.

“You’ve been waiting?” Ripple asked.

Belisama’s crest rose. “I am the queen of the griffons. Do you think I want my griffons to look bad? Do you think I want them to fail?”

“Well, no,” Ripple replied, feeling very confused all of a sudden. “Do you have any ideas?”

“Our Raptors never started out as warriors.. with the exception of Loki, the horrible little scamp that he is… Loki is a fearsome fighter.” Belisama scratched her belly using one of her hind paws.

“Loki is a deranged psychopath,” Ripple said.

“Loki was tortured and a lot of bad things happened to him. He was used for pit fighting. And that’s my point. Think about the rest of the Raptors. Cup bearers. Fletchers. Metal workers. What other skills do they have?” Belisama looked at Ripple and her crest rose.

“We have servants, slaves that took up arms,” Ripple replied, not mincing words.

“Some of them are artisans.” Belisama reached up with a hind leg, strained to get around her protruding pudge, and tried to scratch between her wings with her hind toes.

“I don’t see how art will save us from Celestia and Luna’s crack troops.” Ripple snorted in frustration and stomped her hoof.

“Sit down with me… scratch my back… and I will share my plan with you,” Belisama said as she looked up at Ripple. “Come. We need mother-daughter-son bonding time.”

Ripple stood there, unmoving. “I don’t see how art is going to help us win.”

“Ripple, you must use the strengths of our Raptors. All of them. What they are capable of might surprise you,” Belisama said as she made a gesture for Ripple and Sentinel to sit down with her, patting the cushion beside her.

Sentinel sat down in the window beside Belisama. “Well, I’m curious.”

Her lip protruding in a pout, Ripple climbed up into the windowsill and got comfortable.

 

 

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