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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Hidden Hollow Fortress, while still a work in progress, was now a far more comfortable place. Much of it had been finished. It was an amazing place, but promised to become wondrous in time. Trotting through the halls, Bucky went looking for Luna, knowing she would be here.

Or at least, she should be here. If something had gone wrong, she might not be.

Approaching the labs, Bucky came around the corner and almost bumped into Luna herself. Smiling, he looked up at her and then he nosed the shawl she had tied around her. There was a giggle from Erebus.

“I do hope everything is well,” Luna said.

Bucky nodded.

Gesturing at one of the doors, Luna took on a fierce proud look. “Twilight’s personal lab. She is about to change the world yet again. Working on a new type of magical battery. Arcano tech. I do not understand the complexities, but it draws upon a trickle charge from the ley lines. The magic causes the chemicals inside of the battery to vibrate. The vibration produces electricity. Provided that the low power draw never exceeds the battery’s output, it never runs out of energy.”

“Impressive,” Bucky said, looking at the door. “I hope Twilight is enjoying her trip.”

“I hope so as well. My sister was looking forward to spending time with Twilight, her friends, and their families.” Luna began to walk down the hall and gestured for Bucky to follow her. “Any new projects from you?”

“In the planning stage for a beer that cleans up its own vomit puddles,” Bucky replied.

“Amusing.” Luna’s voice was dry, but there was a hint of laughter lurking in there somewhere. “Come on Bucky… give me something better. I expect great things from you as my apprentice. Celestia and Twilight keep showing us up.”

“I have been playing with sand in my office—”

“How droll… my apprentice plays with sand while my sister’s apprentice changes the future of energy creation as we know it.”

“Luna, let me finish… I have been playing with sand… and by accident I had an idea and I’ve been following up on it. I don’t know if it is practical, but I have made a little toy wooden ship sail over sand as it was water. Still working out the issues, but it skims over the sand in the same way a ship sails through water.”

Turning her head, twisting her long slender neck, Luna looked back at Bucky. “Well, that is… interesting, I will give you that. Could be dispelled and that would be a problem, but there is potential there for moving goods through the deserts.” Luna’s hooves clicked upon the floor as she strode down the hallway.

“And just like in the water, if the ship collides with rocks, there is a problem.” Bucky’s gait had an odd staccato rhythm as he trotted after Luna; three hoof strikes and one metallic clank. “Any word on… the um… the Heartstrings file?”

“Revenge is a dangerous path Buckminster…”

 

 

The crystals glowed with a strange black light. Crystal, glass, they were so similar, Bucky found that working with both was easy. Dozens of spider golems were weaving webs of shadow infused phased glass, weaving a fine mesh into the massive crystal spires.

The room stank with magical energy of different kinds.

“Twilight was able to collect a small sample of raw chaos magic from Discord and Fluttershy. Her hunch was correct. The chaos magic actually brought stability to the system and smoothed out the random fluctuations that were causing so much trouble. The harmony magic, the dark magic, and the shadow magic were not meshing well. Twilight’s hunches are most invaluable.”

Bucky did not respond to Luna, but kept working, burning a series of glyphs on a platform that was in the center of the crystal spires that glowed with black light.

“Do you approve of Ripple’s desire to change?” Luna asked.

“No.” Bucky did not raise his head or become distracted from his work.

“But you will allow her to be altered?” Luna lifted up a massive support strut and fitted it into place. Wires and conduits were secured to the support strut and bolts moved to anchor everything.

“Ripple’s choice. I am her father, but this is Ripple’s body, and therefore, her rules. My desires and what I want end where her body begins.” The glyphs were magical perfection. Not one flaw manifested as they were burned into place. A bead of sweat ran down Bucky’s neck.

“Most fathers would not take such an enlightened attitude.” More pieces were bolted to the support strut.

“I love Ripple. As far as I am concerned, she is my own flesh and blood.” Bucky drew in a deep breath, ignored the tickle of sweat dripping down his neck, and mentally directed some of the spider golems to began going over Luna’s work. “A father has certain obligations to his daughter, but he needs to remember, a daughter’s body is her own. He has the right to protect, to instruct, to defend, and to care for her, but ultimately, her decisions are her own.”

After a few minutes, Bucky lifted his head from his task, blinked a few times, and looked at Luna. “So… about our first batch of Shadowbolts…”

Levitating a gargantuan power conduit, Luna began tucking it into the groove along the ceiling.  “Some of them are here. Now. They have undergone the geas and are being conditioned while dreaming. Some were bad… some were good… none of that matters now. All of them are mine and I need both good and bad ponies.” Luna looked thoughtful for a moment. “And other creatures I suppose. Some of them are not ponies.”

“I have read a little, but the files were… sparse.” Bucky levitated an orb filled with crackling purple-black lightning out of a wooden crate lined with protective padding. He moved it through the room and placed it on an ornate brass stand. Arcs of energy began to flow from the orb and connect to small spires of blue crystal around the brass stand. The blue crystals began to glow.

As the blue crystals pulsated, they grew. It was only a tiny bit of growth, something that would only be seen by the most observant of souls.

“That looks interesting.”

“Shining Armor!” Luna’s voice was ecstatic. “Nephew… how have you been? What made you drop in?”

Shining Armor, his face stern and serious, looked up at Luna. “I have been having a lot of troubles with ice wights.”

“That is a problem.” Luna’s voice was now cold.

“He is getting stronger.” Shining Armor looked at Bucky. “Princess Celestia’s charm will only hold for so long. Sombra’s fell shadow is now becoming a threat to Empress Cadance’s Empire. Something must be done… and soon.”

“Wait, refresh my memory… what’s an ice wight?” Bucky asked.

“A powerful variant of undead. A reanimated corpse that radiates freezing cold and has an insatiable hunger for warmth and warm flesh,” Shining Armor replied.

“And you think Sombra’s shadow is reanimating these?” Bucky asked.

“I know Sombra’s fell shadow is animating these,” Shining Armor replied. The white unicorn shook his head and his blue mane tumbled along his neck. “He is sending them to attack the Crystal Empire. I am dealing with them, but I fear that Sombra’s shadow is testing my defenses, probing what I am capable of, and trying to find weakness.”

“Where is he getting the bodies?” Bucky asked.

Shining Armor’s nostrils flared. “The damnable cultists keep heading north. Some of them go out into the freezing wastes and die. They worship him… they want to bring him back… and they are willing to give their lives to him. He grows stronger by the day. They foolishly believe that the fallen king will share his power with them if they help to resurrect him. These… imbeciles believe that Sombra will give them positions of wealth and power for their assistance… others believe that Sombra’s shadow will restore unicorns back to their rightful glory. All of them are fools!”

“This is bad…” Luna looked troubled.

Shining Armor smiled, a sarcastic false smile. “Oh, there is some good in all of this.”

Luna’s eyes narrowed. “What good could possibly come out of this?”

“The cultists are fighting with the mirror travelers. They have become aware of the mirror traveler’s desire to kill Bucky. The cultists need Bucky… Bucky has the body that Sombra’s shadow needs if it is to revive. The rotocopter golems that Bucky has given me to use as my eyes in far away places have brought back reports of fighting in the lands south of Saddle Arabia and beyond.”

Bucky, hearing all of this, began laughing, dark, disturbing, troubling laughter that echoed through the chamber.

“There was also a half baked plot to have assassins come north and kill Twilight. Using Bucky’s golems, I was able to put down the conspirators. They were in a little pegasi village about halfway between Mustangia and Saddle Arabia.”

The maniacal laughter stopped. “If they threaten Twilight again, and you know of it, inform me at once. I’ll go kill them myself.” Bucky’s eyelid twitched.

“Calm yourself. The equipment in here is sensitive and the cold would damage it,” Luna said, looking over at Bucky, her teal eyes glittering with internal rage. “Shining Armor, thank you for keeping your eyes and your ears open.”

“You have an obligation to look after Cadance. I had the means, I dealt with them.” Shining Armor’s face was hard and impassive, almost statuesque. “One day I will not need golems to project myself that far away. I grow weary of this constant threat. I would burn them all away if I had the power and the reach.”

“Shining Armor… your purpose is to be a defender. A protector. Not a machine of war. Do nothing to buck against your purpose.” Luna took a step towards Shining Armor and looked him in the eyes.

“Yes, sorry Princess Luna,” Shining Armor replied as he bowed his head. “I… I forgot my purpose for a moment. I still love my sister a great deal and I would do anything for her safety.”

“You are still capable of independent thought and emotion. Interesting.” Luna’s mouth pressed into a tiny puckered line.

Refocusing upon task, Bucky went back to work. He lifted up a large disc of metal and set it down into a circle bored into the stone floor. In the circle there were holes sunk down into the earth, and in the holes strange crystals lurked. With a thump, the metal disc covered everything below it, concealing it away.

Bucky began inscribing glyphs upon the disc, protective arresting glyphs that would halt magical surges should they happen. As he did this, a coil of crystalline fibre cable began to glow. This was the overflow channel and should there be a surge, it would travel through the crystalline fibre cable and into a storage capacitor crystal.

The capacitor crystal still needed to be installed.

“Princess Luna?”

“Yes? What is it, nephew?”

“The veins of harmonic crystal grow a little more each day. I do not know when I will reach Canterlot and Ponyville, but the roots of the Crystal Empire move though the earth. I burrow towards our other cities as well. Soon I will be able to raise defensive barriers over everything held dear to us.” Shining Armor’s face softened a little.

“We have lifetimes available to us to finish our work. Do not feel pressured, Shining Armor. One day, you will look back, and all of this current fret and worry about this effort of yours taking years, you will look back and this will feel like minutes.” Luna smiled.

“I suppose you would know.” Shining Armor watched Bucky work. “Time is funny now. Already I can feel it slipping away from me.”

“A little help here might be nice… because I don’t have lifetimes. And we’re trying to have this done on schedule. And I have a family at home that I want to be with, foals to play with, and my time is limited. So stop flapping your gums, both of you, and get to work rather than just standing here.” Bucky snorted to punctuate his point.

 

 

 

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