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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Sitting in the library, sipping a glass of apple jiggered gin, Bucky made a few adjustments to the shaped glass object he held in his telekinesis before him. Small, round, it was almost cup shaped. It had three fingers that came off one of one side of the cup, and a thumb that protruded from the other. As he worked, he lifted up his own talons and compared his talons to the glass mock up.

After seeing Bon Bon working with her hooves, after watching how she had stood on her hind legs and worked with her front hooves, Bucky had an idea that was just now taking shape. While manipulation shoes were useful, wonderful things, and had changed the world for ponies in general, they had limitations.

Squinting, his tongue sticking out of his mouth, Bucky examined his mock up shoe. It had fingers. He looked at his talons, then at the glass mock up, and he realised he had made a fundamental design flaw. Why have three fingers and one thumb? Why not have the fingers move and change positions to what was needed, able to slide around the outer rim of the shoe? If he did that, there could be two fingers and two thumbs. Or three fingers and a thumb. Or four fingers and no thumb, if it wasn’t needed.

If earth ponies stood up like Bon Bon did in a bipedal stance, and used their front hooves the way Bon Bon did, why not have fingers? Even as he worked, Bucky realised that this was an idea that was going to change the lives of earth ponies and even pegasi, forever.Octavia, an earth pony with incredible mastery over her mental focus and the ability to make beautiful music with her cello was still working with clumsy manipulation shoes. Bucky had trouble imagining what she might do if she had actual fingers.

With fingers, Earth ponies could rival the griffons as mechanics and tinkerers. They could be just as adept as unicorns who had fine control with telekinesis. He lifted the mock up, changed the angle, and wondered what it would be like to walk on it. The fingers would need to fold up and away from the shoe so it could be walked on.

It was the beginning of an idea that would change everything.

Bucky saw plenty of problems though. There was the cost of manufacturing. There was the complex enchantments required. His brow furrowed. He could give them the same swarm mind as his golems. Bucky nodded. If one pony’s fingers went out, being near another pony with working fingers would allow them to be reset, much in the same way that golems revived one another, restoring each other’s directives and subroutines. In theory, he would only need to enchant the first set of finger shoes and then the magic would swarm through the rest.

In his magical grasp, the fingers waggled and moved as Bucky made adjustments, lengthening some joints and shortening others. Having them made out of glass would make them cheap. All that would be needed for their construction was sand. There would need to be hardening spells. Glass was easy to keep clean as well.

Steel would have a few advantages but might be expensive. The glass joints and points of articulation would need spells for smooth action, because glass sliding over glass had some issues. Aluminum seemed too soft and impractical. Earth ponies lived hard lives. Farmers, labourers, they would need something that would be as tough as they were.

Bucky’s muzzle scrunched as he gave it some serious thought.

Copper and zinc were dirt cheap, common, plentiful, and easy enough to acquire. Brass, hardened brass, was a tough and durable metal. Reaching up with his own talons, Bucky rubbed the withered side of his face and ignored the gurgle in his gut.

Brass was cheap, practical, smooth enough to use in both hinges as well as ball and socket joints. Also, with a bit of spit and hard work, it could be polished up to a mirror finish to make it look presentable.

As Bucky took a drink of his apple jiggered gin, there was a knock on the front door.

 

 

“Twilight.” Bucky stood, looking up. Twilight had become quite tall, now a match for how Cadance was, or Princess Luna when Luna had been larger.

“Bucky.” Twilight leaned her head down and kissed Bucky on the good side of his face.

“I got your message. The messenger pegasus arrived not long after I belched up flames.” Bucky looked Twilight in the eye. “I would really like to know just how you knew about this.”

Stepping aside, Bucky gestured for Twilight to make herself at home. “Want anything? Food? Drink?”

“Some tea would be nice,” Twilight replied as she headed off into the kitchen.

 

 

Hunched over an oversized mug full of steaming green tea, Bucky was starting to feel queasy again as the pressure continued to build up in his stomach. He looked at Twilight and watched as she gobbled down a second brownie. Raw, insatiable curiousity was devouring Bucky’s insides and he felt irked that Twilight wasn’t spilling any answers at the moment.

“After your regeneration by phoenix flames, I started to study about the healing process, I was wondering if perhaps it might be a viable means to heal traumatic injuries, even if it is horrible, unpleasant, and unspeakably painful to endure,” Twilight said with a wad of brownie in her cheek. The alicorn shook her head. “There isn’t a whole lot of information available.”

“Twilight… being burned to a cinder by Minion was right up there with hanging on the hook as far as unpleasant experiences go.” Bucky rubbed his stomach and wondered when he would belch flames again.

Swallowing, Twilight nodded. “See, I started to get concerned when the shadow generator system controls registered chaos magic coming from you. You had a phenomenal amount of magical energy that night, and you were giving off chaos energy. Fluttershy is giving off chaos energy as well, I’ve done a little studying of her condition, but her changes are sudden and pronounced. Stuff just appears. At first, I thought you might become a draconequus after I saw the chaos magic in your magical signature.”

Bucky blinked and felt more than a little alarmed. He lifted his mug and took a sip, pondering Twilight’s words. He had seen himself as a draconequus. The thought sent cold chills up and down his spine and he shuddered.

“But you suffered no sudden changes. You’ve been experiencing slow changes though. Your horn has darkened. I see you’ve been shedding. The scales on your talons have darkened and taken on a metallic appearance. And I have a working hypothesis as to what is going on.” Twilight grinned, picked up a spoon, and added far too much sugar to her tea. The spoon clinked against the sides of the cup as she stirred.

“Well?” Bucky asked, wishing that Twilight would just get to the point.

“Tell me Bucky, what exactly were your talons made from?” Twilight’s face became serious and she leaned closer to Bucky.

Bucky, feeling more than a little afraid, took a moment to consider his answer. “Fulgurite as the base, so it could fuse with the bone well… and a steel alloy.” Bucky felt bad for leaving out one little detail, but he didn’t think that Twilight Sparkle needed to know that it was demon blood infused steel alloy. The less said about that, the better.

“Spike has metallic scales. Bio-organic-metalloid-metallic compounds.” Twilight’s brows knitted together as she became focused and thoughtful. “Keep in mind, this is a theory, but when the phoenix fire began to consume your body, you had a few body parts that were not quite the standard equine body structure. It had to recreate an approximation of your body, an amalgamation of the materials it encountered. The composition of your body was remarkably draconic… I mean when you stop to think about it. You had silicon from the fulgurite and metallic compounds from your steel prosthesis.”

And demon blood, Bucky thought to himself as he began to feel concerned.

“So, when your body was reconstituted, rebuilt, when your hind leg was regenerated and your whole body was restored, you were rebuilt with all of the parts and replacements you had added to your body. Your metal prosthesis is still with you, in a sense. I suspect the chaos magic is what is allowing you to become… whatever you are now. Spike has a whiff of chaos magic about him too, because he is a dragon. I bet if we took one of your scales and and one of his scales, they would either be similar or identical in composition. Your horn appears to be the same material as the scales on your talons.” Twilight cleared her throat, took a sip of tea, and looked up at Bucky. “I am betting that you have some new organs inside of you… and right now, they are developing and becoming functional. I can’t say for certain, but I think chaos magic is what allows dragons to be living metal. Spike has just a tiny touch of chaos magic, and I have a theory that this is what allows him to function as a dragon. Tell me Bucky, do you feel any strange lumps under your skin?”

“Yes… how did you know?” Bucky asked.

“A guess. I strongly suspect that you will grow some scales.” Twilight sniffed her tea and her eyes half closed as her ears relaxed.

“I can feel little lumpy bumpy places under the scarred side of my face… but only the scarred side… why there? And the othered scarred places on my body. Why?” Bucky set down his mug, reached up with his talons, and rubbed his face.

“If I had to guess, I would say it is because those are the places on your body where you were touched by fire. Cauterised. I suspect the scales are developing to grow over and replace the damaged skin. Just a hunch, mind you,” Twilight replied. The alicorn sighed a contented sigh and slumped down in her chair. “I’d like to study you and compare you to Spike if I can get the chance. And Fluttershy I suppose.”

A creeping fear crawled up Bucky’s neck, leaving behind goosebumps with every step it took. He swallowed. “Um, sure. A study might be good, but we’re both kinda busy. When will we find the time?” Thoughts about demon blood lingered in the depths of Bucky’s mind.

“Funny you mention that. We can pick up our work at Hidden Hollow. It was you that spiked the machinery last time. We don’t need Luna’s magic, we can just plug you into the machine and get everything we need. While we’re working on the Shadowbolt program, in between creation cycles, you can let me poke and prod at you.” Twilight smiled.

“That sounds like a really good idea,” Bucky said, thinking it was a terrible idea even as the words were leaving his mouth.

“Oh, and before I forget, I will have some scale cream sent your way. I bet you’re being eaten alive by the itchies. Spike gets them real bad when he is molting and growing new scales. The medicated cream I made just for him should also make you feel a lot better.” Twilight gulped down some of her tea and then set her mug down upon the table. “When Spike was a little itty bitty baby dragon, he had terrible tummy troubles as his fire developed. Painful gas, cramps, he’d complain about feeling sick and dizzy. He had a real rough time, but he got through it.”

“Twilight… I still don’t know how you knew about this.” Bucky looked Twilight in the eye.

“A hunch. Like I said, I started to study after we came home. I studied even more after you spiked the system. I started forming different potential hypotheses based on things I did know, like my studies of Spike, and then I took an educated guess on when you might have symptoms based on what I know. And it seems that I was right. You will probably grow scales all over your scarred places. You might become a bit more fire resistant, perhaps through magical means since you lack scales everywhere. The clacker organs in the back of your throat will continue to develop and you may feel a pinching feeling back there. If you feel gassy, be careful letting it out when you burp. Try taking a powdered charcoal supplement, it will make your stomach feel better. It worked for Spike.” Twilight picked up her mug and  then drained about half of it.

“Twilight… uh…” Bucky tried to think about some way to bring up the demon blood issue, failed to think of any good way to say it, and then realised he had Twilight’s attention and she was waiting for him to finish saying something. Bucky spat out the first thing that came to mind. “Um, will I need to worry about hoarding? I already feel kinda possessive and protective about stuff.”

“I dunno.” Twilight’s expression became thoughtful. “Perhaps. Your psychological profile already shows a strong possessive streak, but not a greedy streak. However, you should be careful around gold, silver, and other precious metals just to be safe, this is something we should study. I have books on draquus ponies… I am going to read them and learn what I can. Some of it might be relevant to you.”

Feeling a bit queasier, Bucky drank more of his tea and began to worry about what he wasn’t telling Twilight Sparkle.

 

 

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