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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It was the one thing that Bucky feared more than just about anything else; coming home to a commotion. There were wagons parked in the snow, two of them, there were several ponies milling about the dark hours before the dawn, and Bucky was almost overcome with panic.

He opened up the door of the sky carriage while it was still flying and lept out, causing both Luna and Twilight Sparkle to cry out in alarm. Halfway between the carriage and solid earth, Bucky dropped into shadow and a black mass floated down to the ground, unharmed. His black cloak settled around his body and he began to take in the situation.

A body was being carried out of the house. Bucky felt a growing sensation of terror. He stood in the snow, struggling to breathe, feeling very small and helpless at the moment. He watched as the body was laid down into the back of a buckboard wagon and covered with a tarp.

Barley, whose joints were stiff, hobbled up to Bucky with a sad expression, reached out, and touched Bucky on his cloak covered shoulder with his hoof. “Aye lad… try not to get too worked up. Door went off on the big sleep. While he was sleeping. Apparently, Broom was having a nightmare and she called out for her brother, and he did not answer. Poor lass… she seems to be taking well though. She hasn’t shed a tear.”

“Door died? But he was… he was…” Bucky’s voice trailed off into nothingness. “Door had a lot wrong with him. I didn’t think it was this bad.”

“Poor lad had his brain stirred with a stick. No telling what else they did to him.” Barley’s face settled into a grim frown. “Yonder griffons will take it hard.”

Bucky saw them, sitting on the edge of the wagon. More were coming, the sounds of wings fluttering in the night were all around. Bucky could hear little peeps, soft sounds of griffon sorrow, he could hear it all around him and the sound made his soul ache. Griffons peeped for a lot of reasons, and Bucky was learning to understand each peep. These peeps were of sorrow, of grief, and of loss. Each peep was a mournful sound.

“You there, all of you… go with him on his last ride,” Bucky said to the griffons who had landed upon the wagon. “Guard him on his final journey and then come home.”

 

 

The house was quiet in a strange way now and Bucky felt out of sorts. Broom had just gone back to bed, and she had said very little other than complaining that she was tired. Others had gone back to bed as well, some were awake in the kitchen, and Bucky sitting in the living room with Dinky beside him.

“I don’t understand,” Dinky said in a raspy voice as she sniffled and snuffled back tears. “Door wasn’t that old. How does this happen? Barley is so much older, but he’s still alive.”

Bucky drew in a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment, and collected his thoughts, hoping he could answer this. He opened his eyes, cleared his throat, and looked Dinky in the eye. “Age is more than just a number. Door had a lot of health problems. Door lived a very hard life, didn’t eat very well, and some very bad things were done to him. His years were robbed from him by cruelty.”

Shuddering, Dinky’s eyes dropped, unable to meet the gaze of her father. “But here, he was eating well. He was happy. He had a soft bed and everything he loved. Why didn’t he recover? Why didn’t he get better? Why?”

“While all of that was a comfort, it wasn’t enough to save him, Dinky.” Bucky shook his head. “He experienced things that aged him. No amount of comfort, no amount of good living could reverse that. It isn’t fair, but that’s how life is.”

“How could Broom just go to bed after losing her brother?” Dinky asked.

“We all deal with death in our own way. I suspect that Broom is relieved that her brother is no longer suffering. I don’t know. I suppose you should ask her when she wakes up, but do so gently, Dinky Doo,” Bucky replied.

“Barley had a hard life too… he’s told me stories… I wonder how long he has…”

“I don’t know, Dinky. Life is funny like that. Some ponies… some ponies live a long life no matter what life throws at them, like Granny Smith.” Bucky dropped his head and gave Dinky a kiss on the her nose.

“That’s why they came here, isn’t it?” Dinky asked in a low whisper. “To live out whatever days they had left and be happy?”

“Yes Dinky. They came here to live, and laugh, and dance, and sing,” Bucky replied.

Dinky closed her eyes and leaned against her father. She yawned, smacked her lips, and then yawned again. Her father smelled like a thunderstorm, the strange smell of rain and ozone. Resting her head against Bucky’s side, Dinky felt her body going limp as she relaxed.

Quite without meaning to do so, Dinky slipped off into slumber.

 

 

Outside, there was freezing rain, which coated everything in a layer of ice. It was cold, damp, and miserable. Inside, a few ponies felt the cold and the damp in a keen manner. In particular, Derpy, Broom, and Barley felt it in their bones; the cold and the damp made their joints ache like a rotten tooth. For these three, the living room was pleasant and warm. For everypony else, the living room was a sweltering furnace filled with unbearable heat. The fire was stoked and extra wood had been thrown on the grate. The front room now resembled an oven more than anything else.

Barley sat near the fire, wearing a thick robe and wrapped in a blanket. Beside him, the table next to his chair, a hot toddy steamed in a tall mug.  A soft felted flat cap was on Barley’s head, keeping him and his ears warm. The old stallion smelled of camphor and the strong medicinal smell of his joint balm.

Derpy lay on one of the couches, wrapped in a blanket, and wearing a long turtle necked sweater that had been knitted by Berry Punch. Her eyes were glazed over from her medication and one ear hung limp.

Broom sat in a high backed chair, staring into the fire. She too was wearing a sweater, also knitted by Berry Punch, and her lower half was covered in a thick, heavy, tartan blanket. A sad smile was upon her lips and her eyes had a faraway look as she gazed into the fire. She sipped a whiskey sour as the occasional tear slid down her cheek.

“Broom, lass, do you need another drink?” Barley asked in a low, sleepy sounding voice.

“Not at the moment,” Broom replied. “Thank you for asking though.”

“You holding up okay?” Barley took a sip of his hot toddy as he waited for answer.

“Me brother is dead. I don’t know what to say. I’m relieved more than anything. I’m glad that he died happy, in his sleep, in a kind place. His final days were damn good ones.” Broom lifted her foreleg and wiped at her eyes with her fetlock. “All me hopes and dreams and all that.”

“Yer brother was well loved by the griffons.” Barley held his hot toddy up near his nose and inhaled the vapours, trying to get the ache out of his lungs. “He was always willing to offer help with his magic.”

“I’m just glad that he died here. I would have been happy if he had died on the Isle o’ Groats, too. Anyplace was better than the Shire Isles.” Broom’s face darkened and she looked at Derpy. “Lady Hooves, I am most gracious that you made us welcome in your home.”

Snorting, Derpy pulled herself from her half doze, closed her bad eye, and peered at Broom with her good eye. “I’ve been very happy to have you.” Derpy cleared her throat, yawned, and then opened her closed eye.

“All me days, I never saw this coming. He was so lively just the day before. He was happy. He played with wee Cadance and kept sneaking Sukari cookies.” Broom shook her head, sniffled, and then her smile widened. “We had us a hard life, but at least we were together. I’m grateful for that. We endured together. How do I get along without him now that he’s gone?”

“I dinnae know, lass… life is all about finding ways and means.” Barley lifted his mug in salute, then put it to his lips and guzzled down its contents.

 

 

Moving around the forge, Rising Star was glad to be working again. A second gyrocopter was being constructed, this one a mere skeletal frame with no body. This one promised to be unique, as it would fly without magic of any kind.

“Stupid fiddly bits!” Spanner grunted as he pulled on a wrench, trying to loosen a bolt.

“This diesel engine is fascinating. The saw that it was a part of made for a terrible weapon, but this little motor is going to change our world. I can see so many potential inventions being powered by something like this,” Scorch said. The big fire elemental shifted into a massive minotaur and lifted the engine in one hand. “For every weapon of war we make with this engine, I expect two peaceful developments to be made to clear our consciences. Am I clear?”

Looking up from his work, Lugnut nodded his head. “I’m already working on a new tractor design. It’s just on paper for now, but I think I could mate that engine to one of the gearboxes from a steam powered tractor to give it all kinds of improved power and torque.”

“Good.” Scorch smiled.

“Spanner has an idea that the diesel motor could be used to power a generator to make electricity. A small motor powering the generator could be used to power big electric turbines, like the ones on airships. Spanner seems to think that you could power up a train, but I don’t know.” Lugnut dropped his head and returned to his work.

Reaching up with his massive hand, Scorch began to rub his chin.

“That’s actually a pretty good idea,” Rising Star said as a curious look appeared upon his face. “I wonder if we could do that? The electric turbines produce so much more power than the steam engines we have, but getting the electricity is the problem. Having a stormcloud generator on the ground is risky because of sabotage or accidental dispelling. But if we had a means to generate electricity, we could have some powerful and fast trains.”

“This is an idea worth looking into.” Scorch nodded as he spoke. “I want a working scale prototype made… high priority. Being able to move materials from one coast to another is a wartime priority. I want a scaled down model made as soon as possible.”

“You heard what he said… everybirdy, Princess Celestia is depending on us to secure the future of Equestria in this workshop. We don’t want to disappoint the Sun Mother,” Rising Star said in a loud, booming voice that carried over the mechanical cacophony of the forge.

“I’ll get Heifer Aestus to help us as well. My previous apprentice will likely have much to say,” Scorch said as he shifted into a pegasus pony. “That is if I can pull her away from her students.”

“If you can’t pull her away from her students, then get her students involved.” Rising Star levitated a steel support strut into place on the gyrocopter frame and then began to bolt it into place with magic. “I can’t think of a better way to get students interested in our craft than to tell them that the hard work they do might one day save Equestria and perhaps all of the world.”

Nodding, Scorch grinned. “I think I’ll do that.”

 

 

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