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 a small, cramped, dirty dive bar, Mask and Fever Cure were having a drink and trying to calm down. The bar was empty, save for a greying, wrinkled waitress, and an elderly stallion that looked after the bar. The bar was old, smelled like mildew, and the alcohol served by the establishment had been watered down a great deal.

“So now, I guess we return to Violet Velvet and Sunset Shimmer,” Fever Cure said, trying to start a conversation even though he didn’t feel like talking. He was so bothered by what they had found together that he had to do something to distract himself.

Mask rubbed his face with his front hooves, squishing his cheeks, stretching and pulling the skin as he tried to rub away the tension. “Yes, we return to them, make a full report on everything we saw, including the live specimens in laboratory seventeen. Fever Cure, I am having a moral dilemma.”

“You are?” Fever Cure looked at his companion with a curious expression.

“We found living changelings in the lab but we did nothing to help them. We left them there. I know why we left them there. Changelings are dangerous and you and I lack the means to contain them. So we left them there to continue to be tortured and dissected.” Mask shook his head as his front hooves dropped away and fell to his sides. He slumped down in his chair, which had a wobble and rocked around with each movement. “Had those been ponies, we would have helped them escape. I have no doubt that you and I could have torn that whole building down. But they’re changelings. Which might be ponies… and we just left them there.”

Fever Cure nodded. “We did. And what makes it even worse is, we study changelings at Hidden Hollow. It makes it very hard to condemn the actions of a private company when the Crown is also doing it.”

“But the changelings at Hidden Hollow were infiltrators. Enemies of Crown and Country. The Enemy… and the Crown is not trying to make new drugs and make a profit off of what they are doing,” Mask said, trying to present a reasonable argument.

“So that makes it better?” Fever Cure asked.

Raising a hoof, Mask scratched his chin and replied, “I don’t know. We ourselves exist in a morally grey area. You and I are experimental abominations now, creations of rogue science and magic.”

“We should get going. There is a four in the morning train we can catch. I think we can make it if we hurry,” Fever Cure said, changing the subject.

“Yeah, let’s go. This place is a dump…”

 

 

Sunset Shimmer was no stranger to burning the midnight oil. She lifted her teacup, took a sip of strong, black tea, grinned at Bartleby, and then resumed her work, returning to her book about resonant magical frequencies and their potential as weapons. It was an old dusty tome on loan from the Canterlot Royal Archives.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is feeling some Great and Powerful fatigue.” Trixie looked up from the book she was studying, rubbed her eyes, and then yawned. “But Trixie can keep going… do not worry.” Trixie blinked, shook her head, and then looked at Sunset Shimmer. “You know, if my idea works—”

“You really will be remembered as the Great and Powerful Trixie,” Sunset Shimmer said, offering sincere praise to Trixie. “Still drawing blanks on how to sniff them out, but your idea was sheer brilliance. If we can find their specific frequency of magic, we can dispel their enchantments and their spells without disabling our own enchantments and spells.”

“That does seem like it would be remarkably useful… detonating some kind of spell bomb that would only undo the enemy’s enchantments and protective wards with no risk of undoing ours.” Bartleby picked up a saucer covered in coffee cake crumbs and then flew over to the small sink.

“It’ll be a long time before this goes from being a brilliant idea to being a functional battlefield tactic though, Bartleby. Years maybe.” Sunset Shimmer’s grin turned into a frown. “We’ll need extensive testing and that in and of itself presents a problem.”

After dropping the saucer into the sink, Bartleby landed on the counter and then peered out the window. He could see two figures down below, two dark shapes that stood out in sharp contrast to the pale white snow. “I think… I think there is somepony playing tag.”

Knowing she needed a break, Sunset Shimmer got up from her cushion, stretched, which caused her spine to crackle, and then trotted over to the window with Bartleby. She smooched the griffon sitting on the counter and then looked out the window. Squinting, she stared.

“That’s Sentinel. I’d recognise those blue bat wings anywhere. And he’s with a griffoness. Is that Boadicea?”

“Oh?” Trixie lept off of her cushion, almost stumbled because her hind legs had fallen asleep, and she made her way to the window. “I just got Boadicea as one of my drama students. She is very theatrical… she has a gift… all those marvelous black feathers.”

“Oh, this is interesting.” Sunset Shimmer felt Trixie pressing up against her side. “Look at him, galloping around and kicking up his heels. What do you think has gotten into them?”

“I would venture a guess that they are trying to get warmed up. It is currently below zero outside,” Bartleby replied.

“Hmm… you might be right. There are better ways to get warmed up though.”

“Sunset, my ray of sunshine, they are foals. The ways available to them to get warmed up are hopefully limited to running around and perhaps a little bit of necking,” Bartleby said as he hopped off of the counter and landed upon Sunset Shimmer’s back.

“Bartleby is right. But now that it's been brought up, I’m feeling a little a chilly.” Trixie turned and looked at her companions. “But I am also exhausted.”

“Hmm.” Sunset Shimmer considered Trixie’s words. “A little snuggle by the fire sounds good. We don’t have to do anything else. I’m still wide awake, but I think I could send you off to slumberland with pleasant dreams.”

“Oooh… Trixie likes the sound of this…”

 

 

Something shook the bed. Derpy could feel it and it pulled her up from the dark depths of sleep. She smacked her lips and forced her eyes to open. Derpy’s ears perked. Somepony was crying, but doing it in a way where they were trying to be as silent as possible. Derpy lifted her head and looked around. There was one pony off by herself, Thistle.

Wiggling over the bed, Derpy crawled on her belly over to where Thistle was curled up by herself, trying to sob while also trying to be quiet. Derpy dropped her voice into a low whisper. “Thistle? You okay?”

“He’s gone.”

Something lanced through Derpy’s heart, something that hurt just as much as the throbbing arthritic ache in her pelvis. Thistle sounded miserable and now, Derpy was starting to feel just as bad as Thistle sounded. Something about the kelpie’s sobbing was heartwrenching.

“I woke up and he was gone.”

Reaching out, Derpy wrapped her forelegs around Thistle, snaking one of them under the kelpie’s neck, embracing Thistle and pulling her closer. Thistle, eager to be embraced, wiggled closer to Derpy and continued to cry into her front fetlocks.

“He’s gone… I wanted to have another foal… I wanted to give Bell Heather a sister or a brother, and I want it to be Bucky’s foal, but he’s gone and what happens if he doesn’t come back—”

“Shush,” Derpy said, whispering into Thistle’s ear. The kelpie fell silent but her body continued to shake and her barrel hitched from her sobbing. Derpy gave Thistle a squeeze and could feel Thistle’s spine against her stomach. “Are you still hung up on Bucky not being Bell Heather’s daddy?”

“Maybe a little,” Thistle replied.

The grey pegasus nuzzled the kelpie just behind her ear. “You gotta stop that. Bucky loves that foal. It’s his in every way that matters. Just like Dinky, Piña, and Sentinel.”

Sniffling, Thistle tried to hold back her sobs. “What if he doesn’t come back?”

“He’ll come back,” Derpy said, but even as she said it, she worried that she might be lying to Thistle. She had no way of knowing. There were no guarantees that anypony would come back.

“I don’t want to have another foal right away, but I keep thinking about Bucky going away and doing something dangerous and not coming back and then I worry that I might miss my chance and it hurts so much—”

“Hush.” Derpy kissed Thistle just below her ear and she felt the kelpie squirm.

“That’s where he kisses me when he’s trying to calm me down.”

“I know,” Derpy replied and then kissed Thistle just below her ear once more.

“What’s going on?” Bon Bon asked as she lifted her head. “Do we have a sad kelpie?”

“Yes we do.” Derpy could feel Thistle’s ear flicking over her lips as she spoke. “We also have a pregnant pegasus that needs to pee. I don’t think I can get out of bed on my own.”

“I’ll wake up Lyra,” Bon Bon replied.

 

 

Standing on the deck of The Scorned Mare, Bucky watched the fleet as it surged forwards towards the dawn. The sky was already looking rosy and the first hints of the sun were ahead.

“It burns, ugh, it really hurts!” Tainy cried. The hippogriff fumbled around for her thick black glass goggles. “It feels like somepony is driving white hot needles into my eyes!”

“I miss the sun… a little… but not much,” Black Briar said as he watched the hippogriff trying to save her eyes. He squinted at the first rays of dawn, his muzzle contorting. “Thankfully, I can stand to be in the sunlight.”

Moonless Night steadied Tainy and kept her from falling over. He felt the sting as well, but nowhere near as bad as the hippogriff. For whatever reason, she was the only one in the group that had developed an extreme aversion to sunlight, so much so that she could no longer stand to have bright lights of any kind. Moonless Night suspected that it was because of her griffon ancestry, and griffons already having good night vision to begin with.

“You okay, Tainy? Say something,” Storm Blitz said to the hippogriff.

“Something,” Tainy mumbled as she leaned up against Moonless Night.

Sitting on his haunches, Deus was sipping a cup of tea that steamed in the freezing air. He was wrapped in a heavy black cloak that rippled in the breeze. He was quiet and enjoying the beginnings of the sunrise.

“I see a real potential weakness with Tainy’s eyes. A flare spell will cripple her,” Black Briar said, giving voice to his concerns to his companions. “I mean, it could hurt all of us, but she’s going to be especially weak.”

“Then we look after her. And whatever flashes the flare spell, I rip its horn off of its head and I shove it up their—”

“Moonie… that’s horrible!” Tainy said as she recovered just a enough to protest what was being said. She turned and looked at the big pony-creature-thing she had been leaning on. She watched as he shrugged. “I’m going belowdecks. I’ll be in my cabin if anypony needs me. I feel really weak.”

“I’ll walk you there,” Moonless Night offered.

“Thank you, you big violent brute.” Tainy looked at her fellow Shadowbolts. “You fellas are great. You know how to make a girl feel special. Thanks guys.”

“It is you, Tainy, that makes the music that soothes the savage brute. We need you.” Deus smiled. “We have to have some way of calming Moonie down and making him a reasonable, intelligent creature once more when he has one of his… spells.”

Tainy let out a weak laugh as she walked away, and Moonless Night followed on her heels. Moonless bounded ahead to open the door, waved her through, he then had to hunch down and shove himself through the doorway, because he no longer fit through standard sized doorways.

“Uh, Bucky?” Black Briar took a few cautious steps towards the black cloaked figure.

“Yes, what is it?” Bucky replied.

“I’m a little nervous about meeting Princess Celestia,” Black Briar said.

“Why are you nervous?” Bucky turned around and looked at the rotund earth pony.

“I don’t know… I just am. I mean, she’s Princess Celestia… she’s important. She’s in charge. And she’s the alicorn of the sun and we’re all shades now and—”

“She is looking forward to meeting all of you. She’ll be here within the hour. Black Briar, do try to calm down. How is your new leg?” Bucky asked, hoping to distract the earth pony from his problems.

“Oh, it’s fine. It has a few quirks but I know that you’ll get them sorted out in time,” Black Briar replied. “I’m still really nervous.”

“I haven’t seen Princess Celestia since my little fall from grace,” Storm Blitz said as he peered off in the direction of the hospital frigate. “I’m nervous too.”

Bucky pulled his hood up over his head as the dawn grew brighter. “Well, get yourselves sorted out. She’ll be here within the hour.”

 

 

 

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