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 doors, while they had been locked, were not trapped. The stairs leading down were also not trapped. There was a worrying lack of defenses now, just empty space and darkness. Endovelicus Pharmacological Research Labs’ darkened heart was almost too easy to access. Fever Cure, who stood at the top of the stairs, scowled in the dark.

“Unicorn arrogance,” Mask said, muttering in a muted whisper.

“That’s tribalist,” Fever Cure replied.

“It isn’t tribalist when we say it about ourselves.” Mask stopped staring down the stairs and looked at his friend. “You can actually spot the signs of a superiourity complex. I mean, look around you. Past the outer ring of magical traps, there have been nothing. It is like they just assumed that nopony would make it this far. A pegasus certainly could not, and as for an earth pony, that’s just out of the question. This is why we have fallen from grace… we make these arrogant assumptions about the world around us, believing our magic is vastly superiour, and then we sit back and rest upon our laurels.”

“Ouch, that’s harsh.” Fever Cure shook his head.

“But you do nothing to deny it or disprove it.” Mask began to descend the stairs, half in an half out of shadow.

Drifting along behind his friend and companion, Fever Cure fell back into silence, bothered by Mask’s words, which held more than a little truth. What Mask had said disturbed him far more than he cared to admit.

The stairs were long, narrow, and rather steep. As Fever Cure went down the staircase, his mind drifted off, filling up with useless and obscure minutiae. Like the fact that as an equine, it was odd for his society to have stairs. Horses and their larger equine cousins were incapable of using stairs, yet somehow minima forma equus sapiens had mastered the ability to use staircases and now built entire civilisations dependent upon their common, everyday use. It somehow seemed paradoxical.

At the bottom of the staircase, there was a small round room with three doors. Two off to one one side, and one off to the other. The doors were locked, but not in a magical way. The air smelled musty and a bit mildewy; there was also something sour lingering in the air. There was a faint hum from some piece of machinery that laboured into the dark of the night.

Something about the smell reminded Fever Cure of a hospital. It was both reassuring and disturbing at the same time. Being a doctor, he liked the smell of hospitals. They were supposed to be clean and safe. But this place, while clean, reeked of wrongness.

Knowing that a door had to be chosen, Fever Cure selected the door off to itself. It was locked, but that was no problem. A little telekinetic tap to the tumblers opened it right up. He pushed the door open and peered ahead into the dark room, his shadow nature allowing him to see only outlines of things in the dark. Taking a bit of a risk, he ignited his horn and then stood frozen in place.

Ahead were several glass tanks and inside the tanks floated preserved, pickled corpses. Fever Cure was only somewhat aware of Mask, who stood by his side, also staring. Along with the pickled corpses, the room was filled with shelves and thousands of ledgers.

“Well… right… this is pretty much what I expected,” Mask said in a low scratchy whisper. He walked ahead, his head tilted as he looked at the preservation tanks. “That however, is not what I expected. Will you look at that. I’d say that’s evidence of illegal experimentation, wouldn’t you agree, Fever Cure?”

Nodding, Fever Cure stared up at the earth pony corpses floating in the tanks, along with several changelings. He felt sick. Some of the earth ponies had been visibly dissected and then sewn back together. He swallowed when bile from his stomach crept up into his throat.

“I don’t get it… why keep the bodies? Why keep such damning evidence?” Mask asked his companion.

“Unicorn arrogance,” Fever Cure replied in a raspy voice. “They’re assets. Research assets. You never throw away assets because something can always be reused.”

“Well… right then. We’d better have a good look around and then get out of here…”

 

 

Prowling about the house, Sentinel stuck his head into the nursery. He sniffed, his nostrils flaring, and then his ears locked on the sounds of four hearts beating. Cadance and Bell Heather were in the crib together. Magpie had fallen asleep in the rocker and Bandua was swaddled in a blanket and held in a shawl. One ear flickered when the griffoness sleeping in the rocking chair let out a soft, faint peep. He backed out of the nursery, making not a single sound.

He crept down the hallway, his hooves making no sound, his ears perked and listening to everything around him. Most of the house had gone to bed. His sisters were sleeping. The nursery was quiet. Some of his parents were still awake and he did not disturb the master bedroom. Luna, Barley, and Erebus were still awake.

His ears perked at the sound of a heart beating above him. Craning his head, he looked up the stairs and saw Boadicea. Her feathers were disheveled and she looked out of sorts. Sentinel sniffed and smelled fear. Looking up, he said nothing.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Boadicea said in a soft voice as she came down the stairs.

Sentinel watched as she moved with feline grace down the stairs. Her words did not explain why she was afraid or why her heartbeat was now increasing. His ears perked forwards, the tufted tips pointing towards Boadicea, and he could feel the subtle vibrations of her movement in his ears.

“I’m worried about Yew and I’m missing Lugus,” Boadicea said to Sentinel.

“I’m sorry. We’re all missing somepony or somebirdy that we love,” Sentinel replied. He cocked his head to one side, turning one ear away from Boadicea, which gave depth to his hearing. Her heart was thudding inside of her girth now.

The griffoness cub sat down upon the floor, her tail twitching from side to side. “I finally got Peekaboo to go to sleep. She wanted a story from Lugus, but he’s not here. I had to read her a book.”

“She likes the book ‘The Milk Bottle Mystery,’ but you have to read it slow and show her the pictures,” Sentinel said as he watched Boadicea’s tail twitching from side to side. Something about the erratic movement made him want to pounce upon it, to hold it down and make it go still.

Unaware that her twitching tail was driving Sentinel to distraction, Boadicea tilted her head and looked at Sentinel. “I find myself missing Lugus more than I thought I would. I  keep thinking about him. About when we first met. We didn’t like each other very much. He gave me a good thumping… I tried to ambush your father and Lugus set me straight.”

Intrigued, Sentinel sat down upon the floor and tore his gaze away from Boadicea’s tail, which appeared to have a mind of its own. The scent of fear was still strong in his nostrils.

“Lugus has become like the father I never knew I wanted. I’ve grown very fond of him. As for Yew, I can’t imagine how I’ve lived so long without her. And Peekaboo… I can’t even put into words how I feel about her. It’s complicated. Lugus loves her so much and I think I do too and he said he was trusting me to look after something very dear to him and when he said it I got so nervous and I felt so proud and so important… I felt so special…”

“I feel the same way when my father tells me that he’s trusting me with looking after what he values,” Sentinel said

“Do you?” Boadicea leaned a little closer to Sentinel. “I like this feeling… this… this…”

“Sense of purpose?” Sentinel’s ears drooped and fell down to the sides of his face as he relaxed a little bit more.

“I guess that is what it is.” Boadicea’s head bobbed and her crest rose. She scooted a little bit closer to Sentinel, her claws clicking upon the wooden floor. “I like the feeling of satisfaction that I get from protecting others.”

“So do I. Which is why I was checking the house.” The scent of Boadicea was strong in Sentinel’s nose now. Her fear, the scent of soap, her own unique scent, which was feminine and predatory. Sentinel began to feel a little overwhelmed and he began taking deep breaths to keep control of himself as his senses continued to take in everything around him.

“Do you think I will be a good soldier? I want to be a good soldier… I want to know that I am making a difference,” Boadicea said to Sentinel in a girlish, unguarded voice. “Diamond Tiara and I were talking about social activism and she read me something out of her textbook. It made me think.”

Feeling pensive, Sentinel took a moment to think about how to reply to Boadicea. Her heart was no longer thudding in her girth and Sentinel continued to wonder what had spooked her so.

Unaware that Sentinel was trying to think of what to say, Boadicea continued. “I have hopes and dreams now… not just the hope of surviving, picking a living out of the sands of the Hinterlands, but actual hopes and dreams. There are things I want, there are places I want to go, things I want to do… I have become aware that life is full of possibilities.”

“Life is overwhelming,” Sentinel said, his voice cracking and becoming a shrill squeak.

“I am going to go outside to look at the stars… do you want to come with me?” Boadicea asked.

“I’d like that… but you should be mindful of the cold outside…”

 

 

Overcome with emotion, Coco, using a soft voice, crooned the words, “Oh, she’s so beautiful...”

Pacing around the mares gathered around Fluttershy’s bed, Discord strutted in the sort of way that only a draconequus experiencing paternal pride for the first time could, his eyes never leaving the little yellow face peering out of a blanket. After getting cleaned up, the foal turned out to be, a well, a foal, more or less, which surprised Discord to no end.

“She looks like you,” Rarity said as she gazed upon the newborn foal.

“She looks normal.” Applejack looked at the  foal and then noticed that Rarity looked agast. Applejack sighed and prepared for drama princess theatre…

“Of course she’s normal! She’s a foal! She’s perfectly normal for… whatever it is she is!” Rarity narrowed her eyes at Applejack. Rarity shook her head and then gave a delicate stomp with her well cared for hoof upon the tile floor.

“Girls, please!” Twilight rolled her eyes. “Now is not the time.”

“Have you thought about any names?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Well, now that you mention it—”

“Discord, you named Lunacy, I’m naming this one… if that’s okay.” Fluttershy looked up at the pacing, strutting draconequus.

“Well, actually, I had a few good ideas—”

Staring at Discord, Fluttershy’s voice dropped a full octave and came out as a throaty, terrifying growl, an alien sound that did not seem like it should be coming out of the sunny yellow no-longer-quite-a-pegasus. “Discord…”

“I had some very good ideas which I shall keep to myself. You’ve earned the right to name her, I suppose, after sneezing her out into the world and coating the Solar Empress in snot.”

“No more ‘snot funny’ jokes…” Twilight cleared her throat and then looked at her friends. “You… you just don’t know what it was like, and no, Pinkie Pie, I don’t want to talk about it. Talking about it will not make me feel better.”

“Awww… nuts.” Pinkie Pie slumped and looked dejected, her lower lip protruding in a pout.

“It seems to me that she came early.” Applejack’s face crinkled with concern. “But she seems okay. She doesn’t seem like she’s premature, but what do I know?”

“A draconequus is born when they feel like it, I suppose,” Twilight said to Applejack.

“Born? More like sneezed out.” Applejack made a silly face, waggled her ears, and crossed her eyes at the foal.

“Applejack, you’re a silly pony,” Rainbow Dash said, grinning at her friend.

“No I ain’t! You take that back! Why do ponies keep saying that? I ain’t no silly pony!”

“Who’s a silly pony?” Rainbow Dash, speaking in baby-talk, leaned down to get closer to the newborn foal. “Applejack, that’s who.”

“Dashie, I ain’t amused.” Applejack rolled her eyes and shook her head. “You’ll get yours, just you wait, you cuss headed pegasus.”

“Three perfect little hooves…” Coco gushed and then she squirmed as she held in a squeal of delight, not wanting to disturb the newborn.

“Yes… three perfect little hooves and one perfect little paw. She is adorable,” Rarity agreed, leaning up against Coco. “Two perfect little wings—”

“Even if they are two different types of wings,” Pinkie Pie said, finishing Rarity’s sentence. “She’s so cute and perfect and adorable and she looks so much like Fluttershy.”

“Ooooh… ooooh! She just yawned… I could just die!” Twilight let out a squeal and began to prance in place at Fluttershy’s bedside. “I gotta hug something, come here Rainbow!”

“Hey! Hey, you keep your mommy hormones to yourself!” Rainbow Dash replied as she backed away from the bed, looking fearful and apprehensive.

“But you’re so little… and huggable,” Twilight Sparkle said, presenting a logical argument and trying to appeal to Rainbow Dash’s sense of reason.

“Ugh, no!” Rainbow Dash backed away a bit more, bumped into the wall, turned tail, and then fled the small room.

“Hey, come back here!” Twilight Sparkle took off in hot pursuit of the fleeing pegasus. “Don’t turn this into a huggle struggle!”

Staring at the door that Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash had exited through, Applejack sighed, her tail swishing around her hind legs. She looked over at Fluttershy, then at Rarity, and then at Pinkie Pie.

“What are you thinking, Applejack?” Rarity asked as she took a step closer to her friend. “You must stop frowning, dear… you’ll get worry lines and wrinkles, and you have such a beautiful face.”

“I was thinking about how things are gonna change. For all of us. I know what raising a foal is like, I done raised Apple Bloom and I think I did a pretty good job, seeing as how she turned out to become a princess and all. But for us, all of us, things are gonna change. Twilight is so different now because of little Glass Slipper… and she’s pregnant. So’s Rainbow. Rainbow has finally grown up and is taking life seriously.” Applejack turned to look at Pinkie Pie. “And you, you’re pregnant. You’ve changed.” Applejack shook her head. “We’re all at that point in our lives when everything changes. We’ve all gotten married and settled down. Adventuring has gotten a whole lot more complicated because we know there is more at stake now. Sometimes I feel kinda sad because I know the days of how things used to be are over.”

Pinkie Pie giggled and looked at Applejack with wide amused looking eyes. “Applejack, don’t be silly… those days aren’t over… adventures end and new adventures begin… we’re just beginning our new adventures… and they’re going to involve a lot of scary things like diapers and projectile vomiting… but at least we’ll face them together!”

 

 

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