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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Settling back in a chair, Bucky studied Dusk Chaser. The stallion was sitting, propped up in his bed, his eyes were dull, glazed over, and his ears were limp. A magic inhibitor was still upon his horn. Bucky knew that Dusk Chaser had been medicated, but the stallion seemed somewhat alert, if a little dopey.

For sanity’s sake, it was determined to keep Princess Celestia and Princess Twilight Sparkle away from him. The shock of seeing his long dead mentor might be too much for his fragile mind and running into yourself was never a good thing it seemed. Twilight Sparkle was still recovering, left in an unpleasant state of mind from seeing Dusk Chaser.

“Do you know why I am here?” Bucky asked in a soft voice, the sort of voice he used to calm foals like Sukari or any number of crying, hysterical students. His eyebrow elevated and he looked Dusk Chaser in the eye.

Nodding, Dusk Chaser gave Bucky a medicated, blissful grin and this gaze fell down to a half-eaten slice of chocolate cake sitting on his plate before him. “Yes, and I have questions too… nothing terrible, just idle curiousity.”

“Hmm, I shall see if I can answer a few questions,” Bucky said in a warm voice, trying to inspire Dusk Chaser’s trust. “You first.”

Blinking, Dusk Chaser looked surprised. His eyes, as heavy as they seemed to be, were lifted and he looked at Bucky. “You look very different. You have… have a hand and claws. And I can see scales. What are you?”

Sighing, Bucky gave an internal shrug. He had expected other questions. “I have endured a number of magical mutations. My body was in very bad shape, I was very nearly dead, when I was revived with phoenix magic. There were side effects.”

“I see.” Dusk Chaser blinked and his somewhat out of focus eyes remained on Bucky.

Bucky sat back in his chair and studied Dusk Chaser, pondering his words with careful consideration. There was a lot to ask, but it was important to do it in such a way that Dusk Chaser did not suffer. Bucky found that he felt bad for the old two hundred and something year old unicorn. Near as anyone could tell, Dusk Chaser was unaware that he had been used, unaware that he had been let go rather than escaped, and the old unicorn had no idea that he had been the Nightmare’s prison.

“Before spring there is going to be a big fight. The Night Stallion has been stealing unicorns from other places, other whens and wheres. Weak minded stupid unicorns that have strong magic but low willpower… we’ve even taken a number of them from here, in this when and where,” Dusk Chaser said with a pained look upon his face.

“What?” Bucky leaned forwards in his chair, feeling a bit alarmed.

“We’ve stolen so many… some as adults, some as foals. But we took them. Some of them weren’t even born as ponies… but humans… we’ve learned to read destiny connections… we’ve gone into the world that is directly connected to this one… we’ve found guns, technology, medicine, things that have helped us survive, and we’ve been able to make connections between the unicorns and ponies that exist in this when and where and tie them to the humans of that when and where. And we take them. And when they come here, they change… they change and it hurts them… they change, becoming ponies, and it breaks their mind, a nightmare, all a bad dream, and the Night Stallion warps them. He blanks them out and wipes away their minds and then he makes them loyal and obedient and the Night Stallion is building an army.”

“Can you tell me more about this army?” Bucky asked in a low voice that was almost a whisper.

“I can tell you that we have an army of over five thousand warped unicorns that will attack before the spring… the place you call Fancy. The Night Stallion is going to establish a hoofhold from the secret base in the mountains. Once we have the area secured, we will begin to take in resources for our next big push, the invasion of the Sea of Grass.”

“That’s a lot of unicorns—”

“That’s nothing,” Dusk Chaser said in a pained wheeze, interrupting Bucky. “We have an army tens of thousands strong… unicorns and pegasi that have been alchemically augmented by a new type of alchemy that is completely alien to you. Arcano-tech… something called gene shaping from one very advanced when and where. We’re creating the perfect tribe of super soldiers… the Night Stallion is learning how to shape and rebuild a pony right down to its genes… soon, weakness will be banished.”

“Wait, are you talking about genetic manipulation?” Bucky asked.

“Teeny tiny scrolls of paper… it is like teeny tiny scrolls of paper.” Dusk Chaser seemed manic and his head rocked back and forth on his neck. “We’re made of little teeny tiny scrolls… we learned that the scrolls that make us what we are can be edited. The Night Stallion has absorbed the knowledge we’ve stolen and he is learning how to apply it. There has been some failures, but also some successes!” Dusk Chaser’s eyes closed for a moment and he began to grind his teeth together. “What is Princess Celestia like?”

Taken aback by the question, Bucky floundered for a moment, as he was still trying to wrap his mind around what he had heard. He looked at Dusk Chaser and felt pity. “She’s kind. Gentle. She is the reason that we all still exist. She is the preserver of life and unrecognised hero that does not get the credit she deserves. I also love her a great deal.”

“I miss Princess Solara… she was my everything. She was beautiful and perfect in every way.” Tears began streaming down Dusk Chaser’s cheeks. “I think she would hate me now… I’ve done some very bad things to survive. It was my magic that made so many atrocities possible.”

Sitting back in his chair, Bucky began putting some pieces together. The Element of Obedience was supposed to have killed Twilight Sparkle. Dusk Chaser was meant to contaminate somepony with the Nightmare. Had things gone differently, had things gone bad, this army of five thousand might have attacked a world wracked with panic over the loss of at least two major figures, prominent players in the big fight. The gamble had not paid off.

“I will never obey the Night Stallion ever again,” Dusk Chaser said in a manic sounding whimper as he stared at Bucky. “Never again. I know the consequences for disobedience. He can’t hurt me anymore. I will die remembering the glory of the sun. I’M SORRY SOLARA, FORGIVE ME!”

“What?” Bucky felt a bit of worry at Dusk Chaser’s words.

And then, without warning, Dusk Chaser seized. His whole body stiffened and something orange tumbled down into the bed. Bucky stared in horror when he realised it was the end of Dusk Chaser’s tongue. Something in the room began beeping. Outside, in the hall, Bucky could hear shouting. Dusk Chaser began to thrash around in the bed, his body flailing, and blood trickled from his mouth as Dusk Chaser’s eyes rolled back up into his head.

Dusk Chaser kicked and thrashed against the bed, his teeth shattering like glass from the force of his snapping jaws. Nurses and doctors began to flood into the room and Bucky began backing out, knowing that every inch of space was needed.

 

 

“—look, I’m sorry Celestia, but I don’t know what happened. He started to talk about disobeying the Night Stallion and remembering the glory of the sun. I was being very, very gentle with him. No magic, no roughing up, no intimidation, nothing that might have harmed him.” Bucky looked up at Celestia, feeling very small and afraid, worried that he might be blamed for whatever it was that had just happened.

“Look, Buckminster, be calm, I heard everything said in there. You did no wrong,” Celestia said in a soft, reassuring voice. “The doctors are doing all they can. Dusk Chaser is not in good health. Everything in that room was being recorded. I wonder what happened.”

Sitting down in a chair, Bucky rubbed the scales on his face, trying to sooth the itch that he felt. His stomach felt queasy and a wave of nausea overcame him. Feeling miserable, he slumped down. “We have an army incoming...”

“Yes. We do. And they cannot be allowed to gain a hoofhold. Not one inch.”

Bucky could hear fear in Celestia’s voice, fear that matched his own, it was beginning to settle in like an unwanted visitor. “An army of thousands of pegasi we could deal with. But unicorns. Powerful unicorns. Even if they are not skilled, brute force can be enough to get the job done, especially if you have thousands of allies backing you up.”

“It is a grim situation.” Celestia began to pace back and forth in the room.

“This is going to be bloody,” Bucky said as the enormity of the situation began to press down upon his shoulders. “Look, I already know what needs to be done. We need to strike now, to draw them out, before they have time to prepare for us. We go into Fancy with airships and everything we can muster… armies of unicorns and bocors from the Sea of Grass. I will lead this offensive.”

Her eyes filled with pain, Celestia looked at Bucky, also knowing what must be done. “Buckminster, this will not be like other battles… The airships will be vulnerable. Dispel magic will undo many enchantments that make airships possible. I will send as many Myrmidons with you as I can, as many as I think we can spare. I will need for you to be ready to go before the week is out.”

“I understand,” Bucky replied, bowing his head. “Give me a list of our resources and I will begin planning. Also, send word to Keg Smasher. I need hardened troops that I can trust, I need hard, fearless fighters with combat experience.”

Closing her eyes, Celestia took a deep breath and steeled her nerves. When her eyes opened, they glittered with fierce anger. “We knew the war was coming, but I did not expect for major conflict so soon. I do not know that we are prepared for this. Our command structure is still in a shambles. The guard is not as well organised as one might hope. Our troops are stretched thin.”

“Institute the draft.” Bucky’s words were little more than a whisper, but what was said was almost deafening. He watched as Celestia flinched. “Mares wanted to be in the military, draft them too. When this conflict is over, if we are victorious, we are going to be far fewer than when we started. We are going to need to rebuild. Begin the draft and ship every able bodied soul off to the Shetlands where they can be made hard.”

“Bucky, I do not wish to do this.” Celestia shook her head. “But I know that it is necessary. I will make a public announcement after the plan to defend Fancy has been revealed. It think it will soften the blow to know that we are in a state of crisis.”

Clearing this throat, Bucky’s ears perked forwards. “Project Equiliser has yielded some great returns. I am loathe to even bring this up, but it could turn the battle in our favour. Should we reveal what I’ve been up to?”

Celestia’s jaw muscles stiffened. “Is anything ready?”

Bucky nodded. “The new pistol design from the pistol I recovered from the derelict ship, the pistol with the magazine feed that loads bullets into the chamber… we have reverse engineered it and have quite a stockpile of our own. It loads a good deal faster than a revolver, but they do tend to jam. The rifles are fewer in number, but we have a good number of them. My griffons have been training in sharpshooting, using crossbows. If you give me the order, I will take them into battle. I do not know that they are ready, but these are desperate times.”

“What of the ammunition?” Celestia asked.

“The liquid methane rounds show a lot of promise. Very safe. The chances of harming friendlies is nil. We have a few other rounds, incendiary rounds with phosphorus, and a few explosive rounds, but I like the liquid methane rounds. The guns tend to get hot and the methane rounds keep the guns cool. But I assure you, the rounds are safe. I have quite a stockpile in my vault. I make a few hundred a time when I have a moment to spare and there are close to ten thousand ten millimetre rounds stashed away.”

“Bucky, the very idea of those rounds sicken me,” Celestia said.

“Very hard for an enemy combatant to bring harm to somepony or somebirdy if they are frozen solid. Even Scorch has a grudging appreciation for the liquid methane rounds and he says they will save lives,” Bucky replied.

“We throw everything we have at them.” Celestia blinked and shook her head. “I will get as many of the guard unicorns as I think we can spare and send them with you. Can you give them a crash course in firearms use?”

Bucky nodded and watched as the door opened. A doctor stepped through the door and cleared his throat. “Yes, doctor?”

“Dusk Chaser is dead.” The doctor fidgeted in a nervous manner. “Massive stroke and seizures. He snapped his own spine during his convulsions. Never seen anything like it.”

“How?” Celestia looked stunned.

“We don’t know,” the doctor replied. “We suspect that there might have been a magical compulsion. We did all that we could to save him, but he suffered brain death and so we decided to let him go.”

Celestia nodded. “That is for the best. Take his remains to Hidden Hollow so that he might be studied.”

“Yes, right away, Your Majesty,” the doctor replied, bowing his head.

“Bucky, begin your preparations at once. We have a lot to do…”

 

 

 

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