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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Pacing back and forth, Bucky looked at the seventy one guards who had failed this day. Seventy one guards who had deserted their post. Some were older, some were younger, and all of them had one thing in common; they had not kept their oath. This made Bucky furious.

“One pony died today,” Bucky said in a low voice as he paced back and forth.

Not far from him stood several Myrmidons and a whole host of lunar guard. Guards that Bucky could trust. Guards that, if given orders, would die if required while trying to complete those orders.

“One pony died and there were over two hundred injured. This was a great day for democracy. I do not care why you abandoned your posts. I do not want to hear your excuses. All that matters to me is… you failed.” Bucky ceased to pace and he stared at the seventy one pegasi standing in the training yard. “The entire command structure of the guard was removed. We had to purge that because it was sickly and full of disease. We cut that away. Seems there is some flesh we missed. Now, the question is, what do we do with this diseased flesh before me?”

None of the guards said anything, but one of the lunar guards did laugh just a little, chuckling just loud enough to be heard, and Bucky did nothing to silence him.

“While waiting for your sorry caracasses to be brought before me, I was struck by inspiration, because I honestly did not know what to do with the lot of you. But then it hit me. I am going to hurt you. I am going to hurt you badly. I am going to hurt you and then I am going to hurt you some more and then I am going to keep hurting you for as long as possible. Even after I am dead, I am going to keep hurting you right up until your own worthless bodies die and are dumped into the trash pile where they belong.”

One of the solar guard coughed but nothing was said.

“You are going to pay back every bit invested in you.”

Bucky’s words were met with confused, blank stares. The pegasi looked at him, none of them comprehending Bucky’s words. Wings fluttered. Ears splayed out or perked forwards. But nopony seemed to have an inkling of what Bucky meant.

“You are going to pay back every bit spent on you. The cost of your training, you will pay it back. Every bit paid to you for your service, you will pay it back. The cost of your armor, you will pay it back. The cost of housing you, feeding you, the cost of your medicine, the cost of your medical care, the cost to get you cured of the thrice damned Drip, everything ever spent on you will be added up, accounted for, and you will be responsible for paying every single bit back—”

“You can’t do that!” a pegasus barked.

“I can’t?” Bucky asked. He moved towards the pegasus that had spoken and a Myrmidon followed after him. “I can’t? Pray tell, why can’t I? Do you wish to go to Princess Luna? Perhaps you’d like to deal with Keg Smasher… because those are your only options. Do you think the Princess of the Night will be merciful? Do you even want to know what Keg Smasher secretly does to deserters? Out of the Triumvirate, I am your best option and your only hope.”

The Myrmidon shadowing Bucky leaned forward and let out a low rumbling growl to the pegasus scowling and looking unhappy about Bucky’s decision. Encased from ear to hoof in armor, the low rumbling growl echoed and reverberated inside the suit of reinforced steel. It was the sound of nightmares wrapped in plate mail.

“Each of you will be fitted with a leg band. It will stay with you for the rest of your lives. It will tell of your location. It will mark you as a deserter of your post. You will be kept track of, and each and every one of you will pay back every bit ever given to you or spent on you. Any attempts to remove the leg band will be met with explosive repercussions.”

One pegasus stepped forward. “I have spent twenty three years of my life in service. I am two years away from retirement. There is no way I could work and pay back everything given to me or spent on my care.” The pegasus looked at Bucky with a hurt and confused expression.

“Sounds like you will die destitute and with nothing. Don’t worry, we will not be cruel. We will only take forty nine percent of your gross pay… that is if anypony is willing to hire you once they see you wearing the deserter’s mark. I intend to make certain that every single citizen in Equestria knows what a deserter’s mark looks like. You should feel proud. You’re going to better society by being made an example of.” Bucky grinned and lifted his head high.

 

 

Exhausted even with his fey endurance, Rising Star trotted through the wide arboretum of the diplomat’s quarters in Canterlot castle where he and his family were staying while the Stable of Representatives were in session. The glass dome overhead allowed sunlight in and it trickled down through the trees.

Bugs and birds flew overhead, the season under the glass dome was a perpetual spring on the verge of summer. An artificial waterfall burbled nearby. This was a soothing place, and Rising Star hoped that Ripple might recover here.

“Rising Star… might I have a word with you?”

Pausing mid step, Rising Star froze in place, turned his head, and looked at Princess Celestia. He felt a mild sensation of panic as she approached. She looked sad, upset, and there were plenty of reasons why. Her eyes were red and her step seemed heavy.

“I wanted to speak with you,” Celestia said as she drew closer.

“I was hoping to speak with you as well,” Rising Star replied, feeling nervous and wondering how to bring up the delicate subject matter he had in mind.

“What about?” Celestia asked.

Rising Star said one word: “Ripple.”

Princess Celestia nodded. “Ah, good. That is what I wanted to talk to you about . What did you have to say?”

Squirming, Rising Star wasn’t certain how to say what needed to be said without it sounding as though he was requesting favouritism or leniency. “Is Ripple going to be punished? I mean, everything that happened. And for that matter, Loch Skimmer and Sparkler. Everything kind of got out of hoof. And I don’t mean punished like by our parents… I mean punished. The guard got involved. There was a bit of an incident.”

Her eyes going wide, Celestia lifted her head and pulled back in stunned surprise. “Rising Star… no… you do not punish the sick, that is cruel and heartless! You treat them, kindly if you can.” Celestia recovered her composure after a moment of staring at Rising Star and her expression softened. “Mental illness is a sickness like any other. Ripple lost control of her mental facilities. She was unwell and is still unwell. From what I understand, she is still under quite a bit of sedation so she does not go into an agitated state and begin ranting about all of the worries plaguing her mind. Ripple will be treated and looked after, not punished.”

“I’m a little confused about all of that,” Rising Star said, looking up at Celestia. “I mean, Ripple did something awful to Sparky and there is all this talk of domestic abuse and I don’t want it to look like we’re being shown favouritism and all of this has me worried.”

Stepping forward, Celestia wrapped her wing around Rising Star’s neck and pulled him closer. “Ripple was sick… you need to understand. Fear did a horrible thing to her mind and reduced her ability to act appropriately. She might have seemed okay for a while, from what I understand she even flew to Ponyville to buy some sheets and she seemed to be in control while she was planning and trying to fix the problems at home, but at that point, she was already lost. The breakdown had not happened yet, but the fracture had already taken place. She was suffering horrendously.”

“So is she going to be okay from this? I mean, her career… punishment can mean so many things… I need to know that Ripple is going to be okay because I made so many mistakes and I messed up so badly and I don’t know how to fix all of this and I am scared out of my mind that her life is ruined and it is all my fault—”

“Rising Star… deep breaths… breathe in, hold it, and then let it out.” Celestia wrapped her wings a little tighter around Rising Star’s neck and pulled him even closer. “All of you are so hurt. Each and every one of you. And each of you try so hard in your own way to deal with everything that happened. Ripple will be picked up, dusted off, and allowed to fix her own mistakes. But she is going to need a lot of help. Her future, her ability to cope, her ability to function, I think a lot of it will have to do with her home life. She is not so different from Buckminster when you examine all of the details. She needs a stable supportive environment. She needs a refuge she can come to. She needs love and kindness and a safe place to let down her guard. Truth be told, all of you are like this to some degree, but it is especially bad for Ripple. She has a sickness, but it can be treated.”

“I feel like I almost lost her. I love her so much. I have trouble expressing it though because I am young and stupid and I spend too much time thinking with my dick lately and she’s a filly and it seems like I just don’t know how to talk to fillies lately and there’s been this growing gap with all of my wives and it just keeps getting wider and wider and now it is so wide that it is easier to just ignore it rather than try to talk about it.” His sides heaving, Rising Star closed his eyes and tried to hold everything in. “I tried talking to my parents… my dad said to take them out to dinner. That was his only advice. Dinner doesn’t fix the wolves howling inside of my head!”

The pain was sudden, sharp, and swift. Celestia felt as though an icicle had been rammed through her heart. She closed her eyes and felt the tears coming.

“The noise of the foundry drowns out the sounds of howling inside of my head. I haven’t told anypony. I haven’t said anything because I was scared out how it might make me sound and there is so much riding on my shoulders and so many ponies depend on me and I can’t stumble, fail, or fall down because so much depends on me so I just try and deal with it in my own way and I don’t even want to sleep anymore because I can still hear them howling and in that time when you’re not quite asleep and not quite awake I can still smell the burning of the undead and I remember every horrible thing that happened on the Isle of Wheat where dead things kept moving and I had to burn them!”

Celestia felt Rising Star collapse as the sobbing started. He pitched forward into her, his legs buckling, and Celestia caught him in her telekinesis. She picked up him, holding him close, held against her neck, and then with a heavy heart, she placed one hoof in front of the other as she carried Rising Star back to his room.

“Come on Rising Star… let me get you back to your wives. You need them right now and they need you. You understand each others pain. Just cry and let it out dear… Ripple will be so very happy to see you.”

 

 

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