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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The kitchen was calm and quiet. Gathered around the table, the family was enjoying a quiet moment of togetherness. The foals were in school, except for those too little to go, and two ponies had just woken up a little while ago.

Harper, sitting in her highchair and enjoying a bit of a second breakfast, was cheerful. Cadance, sitting in a new highchair, was covered in oatmeal and giggling, spewing her breakfast all over the place.

Dipping her hoof into a large plastic cannister of prunes, Berry Punch chewed upon the dried plums with thoughtful consideration, looking at Bucky and Thistle with a half-awake half-smile that had crept halfway across her face.

Sitting on a cushion, Derpy was sipping coffee and sometimes slipping a piece of dried fruit into Harper’s mouth, but Harper was being left to fend for herself.

“It hurts to sit down,” Thistle said, a rosy glow appearing upon her cheeks.

Derpy nodded. “I wonder why.”

Berry Punch rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Don’t even talk to me about trouble sitting down. I feel like I have a redwood tree crammed up my backside.” Her hoof plunged into the plastic container and pulled out more prunes. She crammed them all into her mouth and began chewing, smacking her lips and trying to scowl with her mouth full.

Bucky, not quite awake, watched more prunes disappear. He sipped coffee and gave Cadance a spoonful of oatmeal. Something brushed by his hoof beneath the table and he knew that Sukari was lurking. He paid her no attention. If she wanted food or love, she had to ask for it.

The grey pegasus yawned, stretching out her wings as she did so.

“Thank you Bucky… I had a lovely time last night,” Thistle said after swallowing a bite of fish. “But you never paid for your filly scout cookies… that’s the last time I ring your doorbell, mister.”

Her wings shaking against her sides, Derpy began to giggle.

Raising one eyebrow, Bucky looked at Derpy. “Do you know anything about all this?”

The somewhat sleepy looking pegasus nodded. “I’ve been the bad schoolmarm that made her stay after class. Berry Punch has played quite a few roles.” Derpy popped a piece of dried apricot into Harper’s mouth.

“Berry?” Bucky asked.

“Yesh? Whashishit?” Berry replied around a mouthful of prunes.

“How many of those prunes do you plan on eating?” A look of horror crept over Bucky’s face as he watched her swallow.

“All of ‘em.” Berry looked over at Bucky. “And once I’m done polishing off the container, I thought we’d do a little roleplaying of our own. You can be the wealthy oil baron and drill my back forty for oil. Maybe when you strike it rich, I’ll feel better.”

“Yeeeeeurgh!” Bucky cringed away from Berry Punch.

Leaning forward, Berry Punch went from sleepy looking to seductive. Her curls tumbled around her face and neck in a most alluring way. Her lips puckered into a most inviting promise of pleasure ever seen. For a moment, Berry Punch was pure sex in the form of an earth pony. Her nostrils flared, a subtle indicator that she was a mare who could keep breathing under trying conditions, even with her mouth full. Her corded muscles bulging, her neck showed promise that it was a perfect place to get a good grip on while sliding across her back.

Bucky dropped the spoon with a clatter upon the table; beads of sweat began trickling down his neck and sides.

The tip of Cadance’s horn blazed cherry red.

Then, Berry sat back in her chair, tittering, her alluring demeanour gone. She rubbed her belly, wiggled around in her seat, and belched loud enough to make the spoon on the table rattle. After smacking her lips a few times, she began to cram more prunes into her mouth.

The fiery red glow on Cadance’s horn subsided, cooling off into a dull pink glow. The alicorn foal giggled and rubbed her sides with her front hooves, as if she was feeling tickled.

“Earth ponies,” Bucky said in a stunned whisper, trying to recover from his encounter.

 

 

His pencils moving in a mechanical fashion, Bucky made sketches of artificial legs. While he could draw, he couldn’t draw like Sentinel could draw. Bucky’s pictures were cold, lifeless, lacking warmth. He produced duplicates of what he was thinking about or what he was looking at. His work offered no comfort to the eye.

The farmhouse library’s table was piled high with papers and Violet was sorting through them. She was scowling, sometimes sipping on a cup of tea, and the pair worked in silence.

Beneath Bucky’s chair, Sukari was curled up into a little striped ball, sleeping.

Dreary needed a solution and Bucky wanted to give one. He glanced at the clock on the fireplace mantle and then returned his eyes to his work. Almost three dozen pencils scratched and moved on six different pieces of paper, printing out various sketches.

There was a soft knock upon the library door. Bucky glanced at the clock. Four minutes early. Good. Somepony was getting a good performance review.

“Come in.”

The door opened and a pale green pegasus entered.

“You wanted to see me?”

“Take a seat… Written Sound, you’re just the pony I was looking for.” Bucky gestured at a chair. “I understand that you have a near perfect ear for musical timing.”

Taking a seat, Written Sound nodded. “I try… I don’t know if it is perfect.”

“One of your musical compositions was played by Octavia Melody. Your personality profile says that you are almost an equine metronome and your sense of timing can be measured in mere fractions of seconds.” Bucky set down all of his pencils and leaned forward in his chair.

Written Sound began to turn a deep purple and he sank down in his chair.

“Winterworx, my own private venture that I run with my son, Rising Star, is in need of your expertise. How would you like to make a little extra money?” Bucky asked.

“What would I be doing?” Written Sound asked.

“Nope… see… I can’t tell you until you agree. Top secret stuff and all that.” Bucky smiled and glanced at Violet.

“Oh.” Written Sound squirmed. Shrugging, he nodded. “Okay, I’m in.”

“Excellent. Verbal contracts are binding.” Bucky levitated over a few sheets of paper for Written Sound to look at. “I have a donkey in need of a prosthetic. Problem is… the means of control doesn’t exist. It isn’t enough to hobble around on a dead peg leg. She deserves to run again, but legs are complex bits of leverage and motion. Getting lifelike movement out of a prosthetic is tough.” Bucky lifted his own talons. “These have a mind of their own. They have countless numbers of subroutines that govern their behaviour. But they connected to my mind and this gives them a sense of timing. My will directs them.”

“I don’t know anything about this stuff—”

“Oh but you do… you do.” Bucky grinned a manic toothy grin. “When a pony or a donkey runs, what do you hear? Does not their hooves strike against the ground in time with one another? A walk has its own rhythm, as does a trot, so does a canter, and also a gallop. A canter is a three beat gait that is very distinctive, is it not? A gallop starts off as a three beat canter, but changes to a four beat as it picks up speed. Everything works in timing. A walk is a four beat gait but very slow. A trot is a two beat gait.” Bucky’s talons flexed into a fist. “Each of those beats could be counted as musical annotations.”

Written Sound looked flummoxed.

“I am no musical genius,” Bucky said. “But I plan to make a leg that is a self playing musical instrument. It will draw a trickle charge from ley lines to give it just enough power to function. And it will work by keeping itself in perfect time with the rhythm of whatever gait is happening at the time. So… when the pretty young donkey wants to run, her leg will move to strike the ground in perfect timing with her other legs, allowing her to run like the wind. Sadly, I don’t think I can get the leg to do much else, all of her control over it will be indirect, but she’ll be able to run again if this works.”

“What do you need from me?” Written Sound asked.

“I need for you study donkeys when they run and write sheet music based on what you hear. Lyra Heartstrings will be helping us in this venture. I have a whole bunch of donkeys coming to help you out. I put word out in the paper that I need volunteers and Dreary is no doubt going to find all sorts of help,” Bucky replied.

“How did you come up with this?” Written Sound asked. “This borders on both madness and brilliance.”

“I find the best ideas require both,” Bucky replied. “Welcome to Winterworx… Violet will have your employee contracts ready for you to sign in just a few moments. The print is all basic and very easy to read. No small print or confusing legalese. All pay is based upon performance… so if you want to rake in the bits, you have to produce results.”

“I will do my best, sir…”

 

 

“That went well,” Violet said.

“I have to keep up with Twilight Sparkle somehow… she has a self charging battery she is going to release to the public.” Bucky frowned and his talons flexed, clicking in a mechanical manner.

“Sir, self cleaning beer puddles are far more practical,” Violet said with more than just a little laughter in her voice.

Bucky’s muzzle contorted into a sneer as he glared at his secretary.

“Princess Luna sent back the combat reports of the spider golem testing.” Violet raised up a folder and waved it at Bucky.

“Summary of results?” Bucky asked.

“Twenty spider golems took out five well trained unicorn guards. The guards were swarmed, injected with paralytic agents, and five spider golems wrapped around the guards’ horns, cutting off their ability to cast spells. The spider golems suffered no serious damage, but six of them were rendered inert for about twenty minutes. They were revived by their fellow spider golems, who reactivated the fallen golems’ ambulation enchantments and routines.”

“Hmm… I had hoped for better…”

“Sir, be realistic, these results are perfect,” Violet said.

“Six failed.” Bucky shook his head.

“Six out of twenty.” Violet set the folder down. “Princess Luna described the effectiveness as ‘chilling’ and ‘mechanically efficient’ and has written down that type twos would stand no chance against a squad of golems sent to subdue them. Type threes would be subdued as well, but may require more effort.”

“If six can fail, all can fail.” Bucky slumped down in his chair. “I’m scrapping this project for now and will rework everything. Out of a hundred golems, thirty of them would fail… maybe more, maybe less. That’s about a one third failure rate. Unnacceptable.”

“Sir—”

“This is twenty against five… what about twenty against ten?” Bucky shook his head. “I’ll rework the defensive enchantments and allow it to spread through the swarm. Once I reach a state of say, one out of ten lost, I’ll consider this a success. As of right now, it is a three out of ten and that’s just not good.”

Violet, looking frustrated, peered at Bucky over the top of her reading glasses. “You expect too much.”

“Our enemies are far too hardened. You don’t think they won’t be calculating these odds and running these numbers themselves? They’ll send acceptable losses forward to test our defenses, find out what they are up against, and change their tactics to compensate. We’ve pushed the mirror travelers out of Equestria, but they are gaining ground everywhere else. Fancy is seeing heavy fighting right now as mirror traveller hit squads just appear out of nowhere in the streets. In the far east of the Sea of Grass, they are seeing incursions. Saddle Arabia is heating up. The mirror travelers are gearing up… it is like they are making ready for a big push. And we don’t have enough troops to push back. It isn’t enough to fend them off while losing ground a little at a time. We need to start reclaiming what we’re losing.”

“Perhaps I spoke out of place, sir,” Violet said in a soft voice as she bowed her head.

From beneath Bucky’s chair, Sukari woke with a cry. She mewled in terror, shot out from beneath Bucky’s chair, and jumped up into the chair with Bucky, her blue eyes filled with terror.

“Panya!” she cried. “Panya!”

“Hush little one,” Bucky said, lifting her into his forelegs and pulling her close. “I don’t know what that means, but you are safe. Hush hush hush.”

“Panya!” Sukari trembled and her tiny forelegs clung to Bucky’s neck.

“Violet, if you don’t mind, send word to Doctor Mawu and find out what ‘panya’ means,” Bucky said in a soft voice.

“Baba,” Sukari said, burying her head into Bucky’s mane.

There was no need to translate that. Bucky knew what it meant. He squeezed the zebra filly closer and kissed her ear. He had been waiting a long time to hear that word come from Sukari’s lips.

“Yes, baba has you. Panyas, whatever they are, can’t get you.”

 

 

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