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 nicest thing that anypony can do for another pony is to hold back their mane while they were throwing up. And that is what Sweetie Belle did for Apple Bloom as Apple Bloom threw up into the sink, her sides contracting in painful spasms as she puked out her breakfast of oatmeal.

When at last nothing else came up, Sweetie Belle eased Apple Bloom down to the tile floor and held her as Apple Bloom dribbled out the last bit of vomit in her mouth from her chin.

“We have got to get her cleaned up, on her hooves, and get her moving,” Scootaloo said as she turned on the faucet and tried to wash the vomit in the sink down the drain.

“I can’t do it,” Apple Bloom said, clutching her stomach. She suffered through a round of dry heaves and felt Sweetie Belle holding her head up.

“Too late Apple Bloom, you’re gonna do it!” Scootaloo said, the water still running from the faucet. “We’ve come too far to quit now. Prepare for glory!”

“Dyin’ seems pretty easy at this point,” Apple Bloom replied in a low pained mumble.

Rumble poked his head into the fillies bathroom. “Hey, Hawthorne is about to start his presentation. We need to prepare now… you okay Bloomy?”

“No.” Apple Bloom’s honest reply was a strained, raspy grumble.

Breaking the most sacred of all trusts, Rumble pushed his way into the fillies restroom. He had the confident swagger that only a strutting pegasus could have as he approached the three fillies. He paused in front of Apple Bloom, stuck out his neck, kissed the earth pony filly on the cheek, and was rewarded with a soft, weak giggle.

“Scrub her face,” Scootaloo said. “Get her cleaned up. Retie her bow, it’s all rumpled and messed up looking. Rumble, go find some breath mints. We don’t want Apple Bloom talking to Princess Celestia with barf breath because that would be so gross.”

“Got it,” Rumble replied as he turned tail and took off at a run to find breath mints.

“There is no point in doing this… I failed… nothing worked out right,” Apple Bloom said.

“SHUT UP!” Sweetie Belle, who had Apple Bloom in her forelegs, gave the earth pony filly a good shaking. “It isn’t perfect. But we can’t quit now. If we have to, we’ll drag you out there! Now hold still and let me clean your face!”

“Well stop shaking me! I’m gonna barf again!”

 

 

“I have to say Headmaster Bitters, I am impressed. So much promise to be found,” Princess Celestia said as she moved around the auditorium. “You have encouraged your students to do some… unique things.”

“We make it a point to tell them that anything is possible, short of raising the dead through necromancy,” Bucky replied, a faint chuckle punctuating his words when he was done speaking.

“The pomato plant was interesting. Such a clever little earth pony colt, making a plant that grows both tomatoes and potatoes. A farmer could double their yields from the same field.” Princess Celestia smiled a warm smile at looked down at Bucky.

Seeing Celestia smiling at him, Bucky doubled his pace to keep up with her as she crossed the auditorium. “We expect good things from him… he hardly ever speaks, but there is no finer student in school when it comes to grafting and splicing plants.”

“Hawthorne’s ink plants show a great deal of promise, if we can stop the plants from bursting once they become too hot. The black ink causes them to absorb a lot of heat… I wonder if the problem can be fixed somehow. There is always a need for ink and growing these plants could make a lot of farmers wealthy.”

Hanging on Celestia’s every word, Bucky nodded. He stopped when Celestia stopped and they stood in front of a curtain that hung over the entrance to Apple Bloom’s exhibit. Privacy partitions had been set up all around her secret project, just as many other budding scientists had done, adding an air of mystery to their work.

“Might we come in?” Celestia asked in a warm, dulcet voice.

“Please do!” Sweetie Belle squeaked from the other side of the curtain.

Pulling the curtain aside, Celestia entered and was not prepared for what she saw.

 

 

Celestia stood staring at the impossible. For a moment, she had trouble processing in her mind what she was seeing, and it took a few moments of puzzled confusion to piece everything together. One might think that alicorns were used to looking at physical impossibilities, but this was not the case. Celestia stood with her mouth hanging open, her eyes wide, and a stunned expression upon her face.

Inside of a cloud containment system were several clouds. And growing out of each of the clouds were green sprouts. Plants. Growing out of the clouds. It was something that Celestia knew was an impossibility… it was something that had been tried many, many times during the last one thousand years. Even Star Swirl and Sombra had taken a crack at this very thing, and had failed.

Swallowing, Celestia felt very humbled by what she saw. She had attempted this herself, a long, long time ago and had been met with failure with each attempt.

“They’re not perfect! I’m so sorry! I did all that I could! They’re kinda wilted and I couldn’t get everything just right because there wasn’t enough time!” Apple Bloom burst into tears and began sobbing as she collapsed into a miserable lump upon the floor.

“Apple Bloom, do you not realise what you have done? Explain to me how you did this… Apple Bloom, tell me at once how you did this! Do you know what you have done?” Celestia lifted Apple Bloom up and set the filly on her hooves. Moving, going muzzle to muzzle with Apple Bloom, Celestia stared into Apple Bloom’s eyes. “Do you understand what you have done?” Celestia repeated, her voice almost frantic.

“But I failed!” Apple Bloom tried to turn her head away and found that she could not.

“This is not a failure… Apple Bloom, you have done the impossible… ponies have tried doing this since I was very young… no one has ever made this happen… ever!” Celestia lifted her head and looked down at the three fillies in front of her.

“Apple Bloom had the idea, it was her idea, and we all started to wonder what would happen if you could grow food on clouds. But Apple Bloom couldn’t do it by herself… after some testing, we figured that we’d need a team effort,” Sweetie Belle said.

“All us tribes had to work together,” Scootaloo added.

Sniffling, Apple Bloom picked up where the others left off. “We ran into problems right away. Plants need nutrients. So I started to study hydroponics and I gave myself a crash course. I then used my potion making skills to make what we needed, a nutrient soup that could be added to the clouds. Nothing happened with our first batch and everything went wrong. So we got Dinky involved, and Piña, and they suspected that we needed earth pony hooves to add life to the ground, except we didn’t have ground. We had clouds. So Dinky began working on a cloud walking spell… it took her a while, but she got it right.”

“Amazing,” Celestia gasped.

“We had to get a couple of pegasi to get the clouds compacted just right. They have to be dense, but not too dense. It took some trial and error,” Scootaloo said. “Rumble and I did the cloud tending and we kept the clouds at just the right amount of fluffiness.”

“And then we had earth ponies walk on the clouds. With the fertiliser and the earth pony hooves, the clouds changed. But the seeds wouldn’t behave right and so Dinky had to make another spell so the seeds would stay put in the clouds. Turns out, Piña could cast the spell better than Dinky could, we think it is because Piña is an earth pony. So now the seeds were sticking to the clouds and then the seeds bloomed and started growing but everything keeps wilting and there wasn’t enough time to fix everything wrong and this whole thing is a failure.” Apple Bloom heaved a sigh and her head dropped down close to the floor.

“Apple Bloom… you have not failed, please, stop saying that,” Celestia said in a loving, patient voice. “This has been a success… you have made this work. All it needs is a little more work… do you understand what you have done?”

“Made food grow on clouds?” Apple Bloom replied, looking up at Celestia.

“Food shortages cause wars. Famine and starvation… you have just dealt famine and starvation a crippling blow. Apple Bloom, you may have just insured our world’s future,” Celestia said. The majestic white alicorn shook her head. “When creatures are hungry, they become desperate. They resort to violence. When a creature is filled with unsatisfied wants, it makes them dangerous. Food shortages have been the cause of some of history’s worst wars. If we can satisfy basic wants and needs, things like food, shelter, and security, there will be no need for violence and we can be content as we live in peace.”

“Ooooh…” Apple Bloom’s eyes went wide.

“Apple Bloom, with enough food to share and to go around, you have just dealt a crippling blow to war, to greed, to selfishness… this is a step towards worldwide harmonisation… you do not understand what you have done, do you?” Celestia lowered her head once more and stared into Apple Bloom’s eyes.

“I just know that I couldn’t have done this without my friends. The Crusaders made this possible,” Apple Bloom said in a faint voice that was little more than a breathy whisper. Apple Bloom blinked as Princess Celestia’s horn flashed and then, the world went weird.

 

 

Blinking, Apple Bloom looked around. The school auditorium was gone. She was standing on fluffy grey clouds and Princess Celestia stood close by, shining like the sun. There were others here, Apple Bloom saw Princess Luna sitting in a fluffy pile of clouds, hugging Princess Cadance. Princess Twilight Sparkle was watching something that looked like a movie screen, and Apple Bloom saw an image of herself and her friends, all covered in tree sap and in need of a bath. She turned and saw Bucky standing beside her. He was an alicorn though, which was weird.

“What’s going on?” Apple Bloom asked.

“I suspect that Princess Celestia is about to give you wings and a horn,” Bucky replied.

“But I don’t want wings or a horn! I want to be an earth pony!” Apple Bloom backed away from Princess Celestia and hid behind Bucky, clinging to Bucky’s hind leg. “Don’t let her do it, please, Bucky, don’t let her do it, I just want to be a normal earth pony so I can play with my friends!”

“But Apple Bloom… you have earned this… do you not understand what you have done?” Celestia asked as she took a step forward.

“NO!” Apple Bloom shrieked as she buried her face into Bucky’s hind leg. “I wanna be an earth pony! Bucky, don’t let her zap me! Bucky, please, don’t let her do this! I’m happy being an earth pony!”

The gathered alicorns all looked at Celestia, faces solemn, and Bucky’s wings flared outwards, forming a shield and blocking Apple Bloom from view.

“Celestia, I ask that you reconsider. Give the earth ponies a princess… an earth pony princess… with the understanding that wings and a horn can come later, when Apple Bloom decides she is ready for them. Do not spoil her youth with these unnecessary trappings,” Bucky said  as he lowered his head and looked up in defiance, his ears pinned back against his skull.

“I find the words of the Alicorn of War both wise and meaningful,” Princess Luna said. “Cadance was a miserable pony, different than all of her peers, I saw Cadance’s troubled dreams. Apple Bloom will have enough trouble with just the title of ‘Princess,’ we should not make it worse for her.”

“I disagree,” Twilight said, stepping forward. “The sooner she has a horn, the sooner she can begin to learn magic. Magic will be required for her alicorn responsibilities. If we delay her change, it will stunt her growth.”

“The Crusader Project has paid dividends that even I could not imagine,” Princess Celestia said, shaking her head. “I will admit, I am not certain what should be done here.”

“Give the earth ponies what they want… a princess of their own. If you give her a horn and wings, you’re sending a message that earth ponies are useless as ponies… that you need a horn, or wings, or both to be important and serve your function in society… Celestia, I am begging you, do not rob her of what makes her special,” Bucky said, his lips curling back from his teeth in a snarl.

“Buckminster, be calm,” Luna commanded. “I do not like your hostility.”

“In this place, he is what he is, the embodiment of war. It cannot be helped,” Twilight Sparkle took a step forward and smiled at Bucky. “I admire his ferocity and I find myself in partial agreement with his words.”

Lifting her head high, Celestia glowed with dazzling light and her eyes blazed like the sun. “Very well then, I shall touch her with the spark of the divine that she is owed for her great work. In this place, she will appear like us, as an alicorn, but she will retain her earth pony form for her physical body.”

“Spark of the divine?” Apple Bloom asked, still hiding behind Bucky.

“It will awaken within you infinite potential, connect you to ley lines, awaken your internal alicorn’s intuition, and with time, it will make every aspect about you better… stronger, smarter, more capable for your life’s great work… and you have much work to do, Apple Bloom, Princess of Agriculture,” Princess Celestia replied.

Folding in his wings, Bucky looked back at Apple Bloom. “Do you agree to this?”

“I don’t want to lose my friends. I don’t want to go away and live in a castle. I don’t want to have to worry about getting in trouble if I get my hooves dirty or having to wonder which fork I use at the dinner table.” Apple Bloom blinked away a few tears and focused on Bucky.

“Apple Bloom’s friends are what has brought her here. Her leadership and her guidance made this possible. Are you going to take her to Canterlot?” Bucky asked.

“No.” Celestia’s voice was soft and subdued. “No, she must continue to grow in the soil in which she was planted. Taking her to Canterlot would be a mistake. Buckminster, Twilight Sparkle, she will be left in Ponyville, under your instruction, your guidance, and your care. She has much to learn. Keep her with her friends… the Crusader project has more to give us, I do believe.”

“But I wanna stay with my family!” Apple Bloom gave Bucky’s hind leg a squeeze.

“Apple Bloom, you will stay with your family. Celestia is just making Twilight and I responsible for teaching you what you need to know. I will not let you be taken from those you love and the source of your strength. Surely, you trust Twilight and I, don’t you?” Bucky looked back at the foal clinging to his leg.

Sniffling, Apple Bloom nodded.

“Come here Apple Bloom… it is time to awaken your infinite potential… and then I shall return you to your friends, those who made this possible,” Celestia said in a warm, loving voice.

“Okay… I accept.” Apple Bloom stepped out from behind Bucky, took a step forward, and held her head high. “I wonder what Granny Smith is going to say about all of this.”

 

 

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