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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Lifting his eyes from the sheaf of paper held in front of him, Bucky looked at the unicorn sitting in front of him. Named Mask, he had been selected for the Shadowbolts, hoof picked by Luna herself.

An actor, an infiltrator, and a mid ranking spy, Mask came with a great deal of experience. He sat, with one front hoof folded over the other, staring up at the ceiling. Bucky studied the the unicorn sitting across from him.

“How is the cleanup going?” Mask asked.

Bucky set down the stack of papers and set his talons upon the table, allowing them to settle into idle mode. Soon, they would begin doing what talons liked to do in their spare time.

“Ponyville is quite a mess from what I understand… and Canterlot is even worse,” Mask said in somewhat cheerful but bored sounding voice.

Clearing his throat, Bucky nodded. “The past few days since the attack have been difficult. No windows in the middle of winter makes it difficult to deal with the cold.”

Mask nodded. “I would imagine so.” The unicorn raised one thin eyebrow. “Any more rats? I understand they carried a nasty bite.”

“There has been a few, but their days are numbered.” Bucky’s talons, now bored out of their simple mind, began to drum upon the table. “Enough about rats… Mask… tell me… why are you here? What is it about the Shadowbolts appeals to you?”

“Princess Luna is making you interview me, yes?” Mask asked.

Nodding, Bucky sighed. “Look, I’d rather not be doing this. There is so much more to do.”

Mask lifted one hoof and made a gesture. “Life is all about change… adaptation… evolving… one day, Princess Luna, she comes to me… and she tells me that I could be part of a new breed of ponies… she explains to me how you changed… how you have been altered. And as she talks… I hear about a way to change, to adapt, a way to evolve. To move forward and become something new. But I must say, the name lunicorn seems so very silly.”

“So… you want a change… but it still doesn’t tell me why you are doing this.” Bucky looked Mask in the eye.

Mask raised both of his forelegs out to his sides and shrugged. “It will make me a better thespian…”

 

 

The pony across the table was a little pudgy and had a stubby neck. A shock of bright green mane sprouted upwards from between the earth pony’s ears. A smile split his muzzle and his eyes were friendly.

“Would an earth pony become a moon pony?”

“I’m sorry?” Bucky asked.

“What will I become? I’m an earth pony… if a unicorn becomes a lunicorn, does an earth pony become a moon pony?”

“I would suppose so, Black Briar.” Bucky cleared his throat. “You’re a good cook, you have a good knowledge of medicines, and… you have a talent for poisons from what I understand.”

“I am also utterly immune to most poisons and my blood can be used to make antivenin which is really neat if you don’t mind me bragging. Earth pony blood is really awesome stuff.”

After a moment, Bucky nodded. The earth ponies were almost as hearty as the lunar pegasi when dealing with the recent cases of septicemia. Where many pegasi and unicorns were still in the hospital recovering, most earth ponies were already out and about, rebuilding Ponyville.

“I want to be able to travel the world, gather exotic ingredients, and learn new recipes… I’m a dirt poor earth pony… and this will give the chance to follow my dreams… I really don’t mind killing a few deserving sorts if I have to,” Black Briar said, his smile never leaving his face.

“Oh… trust me… there is going to be lots of killing…”

 

 

Bucky studied the hippogriff sitting across from him but tried not to stare. She was pretty in her own way, had lion paws rather than talons, and had a blue-grey pelt that looked like a pregnant thunderhead.

“Rainy Sky Tainy—”

“Call me Tainy.”

“Tainy. You signed up for the experimental part of our project. To see what the shadow generator does to non-ponies. Feeling confident?”

“Always.” The hippogriff’s eyes narrowed. “You just became a daddy to a little hippogriff… trying to see what your little cub is going to grow up and look like?”

Bucky nodded. “Yes, actually.”

“Stare all you want, I don’t mind. I want to be the center of attention. It is part of being a skald… if I’m not being stared at, if I am not being adored, I cannot make the magic happen.”

The hippogriff’s voice was pouty and Bucky could not help himself, he smiled.

“You are more like a sphinx than hippogriff… you have a pony face,” Bucky said.

“I know… I’ve been told that before.” Tainy smiled, revealing long fangs. “Being part lion has a few perks though. Check out my fangs… they’re shiny.”

“Impressive.” Bucky smiled, revealing his own. As his lips peeled back, more and more horrible jagged teeth were revealed.

“Oh… that’s not fair… I hope this shadow infusion gives my smile a bit more… bite. Teeth are so important to making a good impression. Ponies… look at me… and I look like such a soft, cuddly, adorable, fluffy little creature… and I am!” Tainy’s smile grew wider. “But then I flash the fangs and right away, I make it known that I mean business.”

“I think you’ll take well to the shadow grafting… looking forward to working with you, Tainy…”

 

 

“You are one very big pegasus.” Sitting in his chair, Bucky looked up at the pegasus on the other side of the table. “Says you’re a strong precog and you’re a supercharger… you came out gifted. And you’re big as well.”

The pegasus nodded. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

The pegasus’ voice was such a low whisper that it was almost inaudible.

“Rumour has it there are some lunar pegasi in my family tree. We don’t talk about it, I don’t know why.”

“Storm Blitz. You… you were thrown out of the guard academy. Want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“We need to talk about it,” Bucky said.

Storm Blitz’s ears drooped. “Must we?” he asked in a breezy soft whisper.

“I know the truth of what happened. I know why you ran amok. You did the right thing. You’ll be better off working for us. We might be killers, but we’ll try to be moral killers.”

“She was so young… she was a teenager, but she looked younger…”

“It’s okay… really… I know you came here to avoid being in trouble, but you aren’t in trouble. I wanted to tell you to your face that I think you did the right thing.”

The big pegasus, hunched over in a chair far too small, sighed. “I don’t feel bad about what I did.”

“Look, what your fellow cadets did was deplorable. What you did was commendable. I just thought it might be nice for you to hear something positive about what you did.” Bucky leaned forward over the table.

“Thank you, sir,” Storm Blitz said in a tiny voice that did not match his body.

 

 

“Hi Erebus… you are so cuddly and adorable… yes you are!” Holding Erebus up in front of him, Bucky bumped snoots with the colt. “I hear you are starting to eat solid foods!”

Shaking her head, Princess Luna watched Bucky and her colt for several long moments before she got back to work, making certain that each focusing crystal was perfect in its calibration. It was something only an alicorn could do.

Flapping his tiny, stubby wings, Erebus giggled as he looked into Bucky’s eyes. A stubby horn protruded from his forehead.

“I understand that the Royal Pony Sisters’ School for Gifted Unicorns is still quite a mess,” Bucky said as he pulled Erebus to his barrel and sat back in his chair. “The rats swarmed Canterlot castle and flooded into the school.”

“The teachers’ defense of the school is admirable, but they are scholars. When faced with actual combat, many of them shut down from fear.” Luna’s voice was cold and unfeeling. “We sustained casualties. I wonder if this will change my sister’s mind about the need to teach combat oriented magic in the school.”

Bucky began to rock Erebus back and forth.

“Meanwhile, in your school, many of your students marshaled their own defense and began to fight back. Vicious little griffon cubs and diamond dogs gave the rats a good thrashing. Your unicorn students used combat spells… simple spells, but helpful nonetheless, to defend themselves.”

“You sound irritated,” Bucky said, looking down at Erebus’ smiling face.

“I am.” Luna turned away from one finished calibrated crystal.

“Luna, I am not saying this to patronise you—”

“Oh just spit it out,” Luna said, rolling her teal eyes.

“But for whatever it is worth, we need both. Think of the winter games… a diplomatic approach was useful there, and much was accomplished that day. We need a school that provides a high polish, a sense of refinement, and classes that teach the difference between a tea spoon and a table spoon. A dinner fork and a salad fork. A water glass and a wine glass.”

The alicorn did not reply, but went to work on the next crystal, looking sulky.

“Once those crystals are done, we can start work on altering the first test subject. Excited?” Bucky asked.

“Very.” Luna’s terse response allowed her to keep her focus.

“What sort of pony will you grow up to be I wonder? Will you be a little fighter? A little scrapper? Are you a born diplomat? Will you be a rake and a rogue?” Bucky asked Erebus as he rocked the foal in his forelegs.

Erebus’ eyes bulged and he belched.

“Oh… one of those sorts of ponies.” Bucky smiled and bounced Erebus up and down a little. “When you get a little older, I’ll see to it that Sparkler gives you lessons.”

From behind the crystal columns, Princess Luna began to snicker.

“Sparkler chugged down an entire quart of hard cider, another quart of beer, and then she burped and blew out Scorch’s mane. Poof! The fire was gone and Scorch did not look amused at all. Rising Star thought it was funny though. Scorch had to stomp his big earth pony hoof to get his mane to ignite again.”

There was a chortle from behind the crystal columns.

“Because of that one embarrassing incident, Scorch has promised to make any foals that Sparkler has interesting." Bucky leaned his head down and kissed Erebus on the bridge of his muzzle. “The moral of the story is, never embarrass a primordial fire elemental and blow his hair out. Very old creatures can become quite vain. Ask your mother.”

“Thou art a most roguish knave…”

“Luna… mind if I ask you a question as your apprentice?” Bucky asked.

Luna cleared her throat. “Go ahead… ask.”

“What do you know about words of power? Like… lullabies… manifestations of magic as spoken words… skalds… or… say, a pony shouting something so vulgar and obscene it makes the target drop over dead?”

“I know a lot about lullabye magic.” Luna lifted her head, her task finished. “I could teach you about lullabye magic. I know very little about skalds. As for your last query, it sounds preposterous.”

“I have a candy shop full of witnesses that saw it happen,” Bucky said.

“What?” Luna stepped out from behind the crystals and stared at Bucky with wide eyes.

“Bon Bon saw some rats when the invasion started… now… Bon Bon don’t take no guff. She’s a Shetlander you know. She’ll lecture your ears off if you swear around her.” Bucky took a deep breath. “So Bon Bon sees these rats and lets go a string of expletives so foul that the air around her actually glows blue. The candies on the counter singe.”

“Is this a joke?” Luna asked.

“No. I spoke to the witnesses. They were telling the truth. The air around Bon Bon did in fact, turn a bilious shade of blue. She killed the rats by swearing at them. The candies were all magically charged. I’m still studying them. Raw thaumaturgic energy. I don’t think they’re safe to eat.”

“You have to be joking.” Luna looked incredulous.

“No, I’m not. I interviewed the witnesses myself. None of them can remember exactly what Bon Bon actually said, but all of them report their ears burning. All of them saw the same thing more or less. A shimmering burning aura of blue in the air around Bon Bon and the rats just died.”

“Killing with words is… just… just…” Luna, stammering, fell silent.

“If a lullabye can drive shadows back and keep them away, I suspect a mother’s emotion can be redirected from something sweet and innocuous to something horrid and potentially fatal.” Bucky looked down and saw Erebus’ eyes had closed.

“I want Twilight Sparkle to study this phenomenon if possible… try to recreate the incident. We need to observe this strange new magic and see if we can harness its destructive potential.” Luna’s eyes narrowed and the alicorn looked serious.

“Trying to get Bon Bon to swear is the problem…”

 

 

 

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