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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“I’ve got to get my daily dose of sunshine or I’ll lapse into the dreadful state of becoming something like a wraith,” Bucky said as he looked up at Chrysalis. “I’m quite weak when this happens. Since I can trust you, I need for you to protect my body.”

Still fearful, Chrysalis stared down at Bucky. Such cheek. Such balls. She guarded her thoughts, letting them go no further. She squinted as Bucky circled around, looking for a comfortable place in the sand. The sun was warm and there was a gentle breeze blowing over the desert, a rare luxury brought about by a gentle spring. She watched as he slipped his cloak off and set it aside.

Right away, he began to smoke. His hide sizzled and she heard him whimper. He had his eyes closed and he collapsed into the sand. A strange new emotion welled up within Chrysalis. It was overwhelming to her senses. No, not new. An old emotion that had died a long, long time ago, and feeling it now was like feeling it for the very first time.

She was feeling pity for another being. It pained her, bothered her, and she hated herself a little for feeling such weakness. She felt genuinely bad for Bucky and his condition. He had never asked for the life he had been given. He was a pathetic heap of skin and bones, however terrifying he might be, he was simply trying to make do with the horrible circumstances he had been given.

Bearing the form of a tall grey unicorn, she sat down beside him in the sand and her drones formed a protective circle around the two of them. Something on Bucky’s pelt sizzled like hot grease in a frying pan, it ignited, and caught fire. Chrysalis hawked up a wad of changeling goo and spat. It hit Bucky’s back with a wet splat, putting out the flames, and the blistered, burned flesh began to knit itself back together.

Feeling pity for somepony that she both loathed and feared, Chrysalis heaved a sigh. She heard him whimper and she turned her head away. She despised weakness, but she could not fault Bucky for his pain, even if she wanted to.

“Bucky?” Chrysalis took a deep breath and readied herself for what was sure to be an enlightening conversation.

“What?” Bucky, his eyes squeezed shut, wiggled in the sand, trying to get comfortable.

“I’ll admit to doing some questionable things. I’ve used mental domination and control on a pony to get my way… but you… you… you just… blanked him out.” Chrysalis hated that she had begun to stammer while speaking. She was losing her composure. She was appearing weak and soft. She hated herself for it.

“I did what was necessary,” Bucky said in a low whisper. “Just one more act to add to my damnation. I’ve learned that morality is a luxury. One life to save a hundred. Thousands to save millions.” Bucky let out pained cry as a patch upon his neck began to smoulder.

Chrysalis hawked up another wad of spit and with perfect aim, she hit her target. The green wad of goo glistened, looking shiny in the sunlight, and began to soak into Bucky’s neck.

“He met me halfway… he made terrible life decisions that brought him to me. Our paths crossed because of the choices he made. It doesn’t make what I did right, but it does make it a little easier for me to justify it.”

Nodding, Chrysalis understood. “It starts off just like that. Can you justify it?” The changeling queen scooted closer to Bucky and leaned over him, trying to offer him some shade and protect him from the direct sunlight. “Once, a long long time ago, there was a little filly, and like so many other little fillies, bad things happened to her. She watched her entire village get ransacked. Most died. Only the little ones were spared and the diamond dogs hauled them off. The little filly became a slave and she learned to live in fear. She feared the lash. She, like the others, was made to pull heavy loads out of the mines.”

Hearing a sizzle, Chrysalis spat out another blob of goo on Bucky.

“She practiced magic in secret. She learned her craft. In time, as she grew older, she became cruel and dangerous. She learned to dominate the diamond dogs. She kept them as slaves. But something was broken in the mare that the filly had become. She kept the ponies as slaves as well. There was no sense in letting good gems and a source of wealth go to waste. She became a raider… a warlord. She became a terror. In time, not only was she wealthy, but she had a vast army. And none of this was enough. She feared death… survival had become such a focus that the fear of death was crippling. Survival at any cost.”

As painful as it was, Bucky cracked open one eye, the Eye of Odin, and peered out at Chrysalis. Dazzled by the sun, he was unable to see anything.

“Beset on all sides, surrounded by enemies, she found that it was easy to justify almost anything. All that mattered was survival. As it turned out, she had amazing magic… the sort of magic that might have made her a princess had she been born in the age of Celestia’s Might. Things might have been different had she lived during a more civilised era.” Chrysalis cleared her throat. “But that isn’t what happened.”

“So what great magical gift did she have?” Bucky asked.

“For her, it all started off with the ability to control bugs. Cockroaches, fleas, flies, all the things that plagued us as slaves. She ended up with a cockroach for what you would now call a cutie mark. But bugs were only the beginning. She learned how to dominate and control others. Not just one, but many. She had a rare gift that allowed her to control multiple minds and not go mad.”

Hearing Chrysalis’ words, Bucky thought of Dinky, which caused his guts to slither inside of him. Three little bumblebees. Hivemind control. Powerful mental abilities.

“She learned how to read the minds of others. She gathered more and more information. She learned. And she continued to fear death. She could justify anything using her fear of death.” Chrysalis shook her head and let out a little cough as her body burbled and produced more compounds deep inside, her inner chemical compound producers churning.

“In time, she changed herself. She adapted what she knew into her own body for survival. She experimented… and one day, her domination of one of her subjects went too far. She finally crossed a line, she began to worry about the state of her soul. She pushed too hard and left a faithful servant completely blank.” Chrysalis drew in a deep breath, held it, and then continued:

“Nothing wasted though. She took the blank body, silenced her own inner voices, and she continued. He became the first drone. An animated puppet of her will. He was trustworthy, he was safe, he could provide for her needs. Animating his body, she was free to breed with him and not worry about being vulnerable. She did not have to think about the many previous rapes and violations of her body. She was in control now… she was the undisputed master. She began calling herself ‘Queen’ and she liked it. In time, the nagging voice of guilt was silenced for the sake of survival.”

All Bucky could think about was Dinky.

“She learned to jump between bodies. Not just dominate, but jump. She could leave her body behind. A means of escape. She bore her first foal, a little colt, and in her selfishness, she did the unthinkable. She dominated him not long after his birth and shoved what little mind that he had away, clearing him out, and she turned him into a puppet to serve her will. She justified it… the colt, a newborn, had no life experiences. He had no memories. He had nothing of his own, he was just a body. He became the second drone.”

Silent, Bucky said nothing. He was in no position to judge.

“With time, it got easier. I soon had an army of drones, some of them birthed from my own loins. I changed them. Altered them. I used powerful magics. I changed their bodies. I used powerful alchemy. I took the first brave step towards immortality. In time, my original body died and yet I continued to exist. Each successive body was an improvement, changed with alchemy and magic. In time, the alchemy became an internal process, like it is now. The little filly with a cockroach cutie mark continued to survive. She became unkillable. Many tried. She outlasted all of them. The first few centuries were the worst, but we changed. We became the changelings. We survived.”

Chrysalis frowned, reached out, and touched Bucky. “Seeing you do what you did brought back memories that we would rather not think about. It starts off so easy, Bucky. You cross a line once and each time after it becomes a little easier, and then the line vanishes. So you find another line or you make one. Each mindwipe gets a little easier. Soon, it becomes no trouble at all. Each kill you make gets a little easier. Soon, it becomes just another act. Soon, the act of justification becomes unnecessary. And you survive.”

This was not a future that Bucky wanted for Dinky. He thought about Chrysalis' words, he thought about himself, he thought about his own life choices that had brought him to this point. He could pinpoint the first time he had crossed the line; summoning the demon. He had drawn so many lines… he had sworn not to bring harm to another pony… that had been a line. He had crossed it when protecting Sunset. He had killed the mirror traveler. After that, killing became a little easier. He had tried to be moral, or at least somewhat ethical, but those things continued to impede what he felt was progress. He had made a promise to Cadance; be good. He wasn’t certain that he was doing a very good job of keeping it. Perhaps drawing the line was his mistake.

He made an uncomfortable realisation; he and Chrysalis were a little too much alike.

“Hey, if it makes you feel any better, you can justify what you are doing as ensuring the survival of others… at least you aren’t being selfish… a lot of really bad things can be said about you, let’s not lie, you are a monster, but you are a faithful and devoted servant to Celestia.” Chrysalis snorted. “You know, I would trade a thousand drones to have just one faithful servant such as yourself. Sometimes I wonder if Little Miss Goody Four-Shoes knows or even understands just how lucky she is to have you. You’d cut your own throat if you thought it would be for her benefit.”

“Be careful with your words,” Bucky said in a low, dangerous sounding voice.

“I actually meant that as a compliment.” Chrysalis shifted form and became a pegasus. She spread her wings and tried to shield more of Bucky from the direct sunlight. Perhaps confession really was good for the soul. She looked down at Bucky and realised that she had somepony she could talk to. Somepony that would actually understand. It was an odd feeling. Some old emotion tumbled around inside of her, something she had not felt in such a long time, and she could not identify it.

“How do I do better?” Chrysalis asked.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking about that myself. I’m the one wrestling with how many lives I am willing to sacrifice to save others. Right now, I’m so lost and confused about what to do… I feel like I have no other options. That’s why I came to you. I knew that you would understand. Celestia? Luna? Twilight? If I went to them for advice for what I’ve got planned, I don’t even want to think about what would happen. I suppose I needed somepony as awful as I was.”

“You’re pretty bad, wolfchow… but Celestia needs a pony like you. Twilight is too soft. Truth be told, she needs Twilight more than she does you though. I’m sure you’ve realised that. Long after this conflict is over, the world will need to be rebuilt. There will be a brave new future. And Twilight will be the one crafting that future… you on the other hoof…” Chrysalis fell silent.

“I have no place in that future. For it to be truly secure, I need to die,” Bucky said.

“Yep.” Chrysalis nodded. “At some point, when all the big threats are eliminated, there will be only one threat left to take care of. You.” Chrysalis shook her head. “Damn shame. At that point, you’ll be so burned out and wasted from the conflict and the killing… you’ll be an empty husk of your former self. Your soul will be so worn down and stretched thin from bearing the consequences of bad choices made for survival that there is no way that you’ll be able to fit into this brave new world.”

“I know.” Bucky swallowed, feeling a lump in his throat. “I know.”

Pity and sympathy. And some unknown long dead emotion. Chrysalis sighed. She was having a bad day. She didn’t get to where she was by having pity or sympathy for others. She had purged herself of those emotions because of the weakness they presented.

“So, care to tell me your grand plan? I might be able to improve it,” Chrysalis said. “I want to survive too… I have a strong interest in your success.”

“The plan is simple. Get as many drones as possible and send them over. With the drones, I want to send plagues… diseases. I need to talk to the zebras about getting some of their most virulent diseases. I don’t know if this will destroy the mirror travelers, it might, but I have my doubts. I do think that this will cripple them though. They’ll have to pull back and consolidate if this goes well. We might be able to buy time and that time will allow me to plan some kind of final solution.”

“I can help you on the diseases… so many diseases have been made to wipe us out. I’ve kept samples of them all… I have cures to all of them, naturally… but I think it is a good idea that you go to the zebras. They know their diseases.” Chrysalis cleared her throat. “They’re not shy about unleashing a plague for the sake of war. The zebras will be very receptive to your idea. You’ll find allies… and they won’t think you are a monster.”

“Really?” Bucky asked.

“Really. The zebras lived closer to the griffons than these soft ponies in Equestria. For the zebras, much will be forgiven for the sake of survival.” Spotting a patch of erupting blisters, Chrysalis spat and applied a wad of healing, pain relieving goo.

“Oh, I should warn you, we’re going to have company,” Bucky said.

“What?” Chrysalis looked up and looked around.

“The tracking spells on my eye and my torque. I allowed them to start working again. We’re going to have company. Don’t panic and don’t be scared.”

“How long?” Chrysalis asked.

“I dunno,” Bucky replied.

“Crap, I don’t want to have to deal with her Royal Sanctimoniousness today.” Chrysalis let out a frustrated groan and prodded Bucky with her hoof. “She and I don’t get along very well. We both reside on opposite ends of the moral spectrum.”

“Funny, I’ve engaged in some morally questionable things and she still loves me. I think. Sometimes I’m not sure and I have my doubts, but I think that’s just me doubting myself.” Bucky could feel the sand making him itch and he longed for soft green grass.

“Well, I have your back. I think your plan has merit. If you really think that you can open a portal into the mirror traveler’s home base, I can give you an army to slip in there,” Chrysalis said.

“Oh, I couldn’t do that. Too confusing and too much I don’t know. But I can help Twilight figure it out. I think that between the two of us, we’ll be able to lock in and force a portal open. Twilight is an amazing pony… although I understand that you are not a big fan of her.” Bucky allowed himself a bit of a grin. He felt something begin to blister, heard Chrysalis hawking up a wad of spit, and then felt a cooling sensation on his back.

“If she can open a portal and strike the home of the mirror travelers, I will personally offer my heartfelt congratulations to her. Beyond that, I hate her. She is too much like Celestia, too convinced of her own goodness, too convinced in her own rightness. She’s never been given the ogre’s choice of die fast or die slow. She’s been too sheltered and lived for too long in her ivory tower. What does she know of pain? Of suffering? What does she know about being like us?” Chrysalis growled and flapped her wings in frustration, fanning Bucky with a cool breeze.

“She knows more than you think,” Bucky replied.

“What could she possibly know?” Chrysalis demanded in an angry, bitter voice, unable to hold back her burning resentment.

“She was there with me in Griffonholm. She still bears scars upon her body and her soul. She is now part of the official triarchy, one of the three greater ruling heads of Equestria. She bears the weight of the entire world upon her back. She lives in fear of making mistakes and she has nothing but nightmares about the consequences for failure. She dreams of a blackened, scorched, burnt planet devoid of life almost every night. She suffers from an insomnia that matches my own. She has plenty of ponies and enemies that want to kill her, including enemies right here in Equestria that do not agree with her aggressive multi-tribal politics. Twilight Sparkle has guts. Back when I was still bedridden, back when I was unable to do much of anything after the battle at Pinto Creek, a unicorn supremacist made an assassination attempt on Twilight in her home. Flash, her husband, killed her attacker. The unicorn mare assassin was put down. Twilight Sparkle is my counterpart and my contemporary. She has my respect.”

“Okay, so maybe the self righteous little twit is learning what the real world is like,” Chrysalis said in a reluctant manner.

“Words like those aren’t going to help you gain Celestia’s trust or friendship. She’ll not want to save you if you speak ill of her prized pupil.” For Bucky, each minute out exposed in the sun felt like hours, but he was determined to stick this out. His family needed him, him in the flesh, not some kind of wraith.

Or a vampire crazed with bloodlust.

“Sadwick is now relocated. The drones escorting his body have arrived back at my hidden home.” Chrysalis tilted her head and her pony ears perked. “The other ponies that live with me are worried for him and are willing to help care for him. The drones report that he will be well cared for.”

Hearing Chrysalis’ words, Bucky felt relieved.

“Guano Grotto.”

“What?” Bucky, confused, wondered what guano had to do with anything.

“That is the name of my home. I suppose I’ll show it off to you someday. The ponies living there seem to like it. There are natural underground hot springs. The air stinks a little of eggs, but it could be worse. There is a well disguised shaft that drops straight down, it is hidden by illusion. The earth ponies have figured out how to make vertical gardens that line the walls of the shaft and take advantage of the sun. Some of the unicorns can shape rocks. We’re building a city. I still don’t know how I feel about these arrangements, but I saw which way the wind was blowing. My days are numbered… hence the experiment. We have a mutually beneficial living arrangement. It’s pretty tense sometimes though. Not a lot of trust I guess. I don’t know.” Chrysalis shook her head and then let out a snort. “I have to say, my hive has grown and I’ve become quite powerful. This arrangement has been good for both parties.”

“Don’t squander it. Don’t mess it up. This could be the key to your survival in the future. If Celestia comes to believe that she needs you, she will find a way to keep you around.”  Bucky, uncomfortable with lying on his stomach, rolled over onto his side. He kicked his legs out and sprawled out in the gritty sand.

 

 

Looking skyward, to the north, Chrysalis squinted. She scanned the skies, trying to see, struggling to spot what she knew was coming. Her drones were giving off all manner of alarms right now. “We have company incoming.”

“That was fast.” Bucky pulled his smoking body up out of the sand, gave himself a shake, and then began to pull his cloak over himself. He wondered about just how much trouble he was in. Not just with Celestia, but with his wives. He was horned and he knew it. Now was time for damage control. With his cloak over his back and his hood over his head, he felt his strength returning.

In the distance, multiple figures approached. Bucky knew who one of the figures was, there was no doubting that she would come, but he was uncertain of the others. He sighed and tried to think about what to say. What was said was just as important as how it was said. He worked himself over and tried to look apologetic.

He watched as the figures landed on the desert sand. There were a few big silhouettes present. Squinting, he could make out a tall white figure. Celestia. Folding his wings beside her, he saw Scorpan. Another tall figure that Bucky did not know or recognise. And three smaller figures that Bucky had to strain to see, but there could be no mistaking who they were. Odin, Loki, and Belisama.

“Oh crap, she brought one of my wives… well… I’m screwed. I can see the glint of steel. Belisama brought her sword and I think I can see her revolvers.” Bucky sat down in the sand and shook his head. “Shallow grave… I had hoped for a better end.”

 

 

“Buckminster… I would really like some kind of explanation. For now, I will trust that you have good reasons to be here.” Princess Celestia tore her gaze away from Bucky and looked at Queen Chrysalis. “You had better have a good reason for being here with her.”

Bucky, now a fully functioning emovore, could feel all of Celestia’s emotions. Is this what Tourmaline felt? It was almost overwhelming, as if Celestia was screaming her feelings at him. There were a lot of emotions, but Bucky focused on the feeling of love. She loved him. Feeling relieved, knowing that she loved him, Bucky realised that everything was going to be okay. Uncomfortable perhaps, but okay.

“Queen Chrysalis, I must say, I am very surprised to see you alive and well. I assume there is a perfectly logical explanation as to why Twilight Sparkle has your head in a box.” Princess Celestia gave Chrysalis a burning stare, the white alicorn’s eyes burned like glowing red cinders.

“Give the word and I’ll take this head as well,” Belisama said as her talons curled around the grip of her sword. “Just move funny… blink funny… make any sudden moves… and I will take your head, make no mistake.”

Clearing his throat, Odin stepped forwards. “There is no need for that. Bucky might have disabled the tracking spell on my eye, but I saw and I heard everything that has taken place. All of you need to calm down and remember who you trust and love, as well as keep in mind what he has done for us. All of us. He’s trying to give Chrysalis here a chance that she probably doesn’t deserve.”

“Hey!” Bucky snapped. “What gives you the right to say who deserves a chance and who doesn’t?” His talons flexed and Bucky gave Odin a hard stare. “The griffons damn sure didn’t deserve a chance after everything that happened… I’m certain that most of the world felt that way! I gave them a chance! I gave you a chance! HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT!”

Odin, wide eyed, backed away. His crest drooped and his feathers fluffed out. His gaze dropped down to the sand. “You’re right. My apologies. I spoke out of place.”

“I hate having to be the voice of reason, but all of you need to just calm down before there is bloodshed. Sun Mother, please, relax your guard… please?” Loki looked up at Celestia, his talons twitching in the sand.

Snorting, letting out an angry growl, Celestia tossed her head around and the fiery glow in her eyes faded away. Her hooves stomped against the sand. She stared at Chrysalis, her eyes narrowing almost to the point of being closed, and her wings fluttered against her sides.

Nodding, Scorpan placed his hand upon Princess Celestia’s back. “Loki is correct. Anger will not help us at this time. I do believe that the Lord of Winter came here looking for much needed assistance and has found it. Are you so proud that you would turn it away?”

Her lip curling back from her teeth, Celestia let out a snarl of frustration. As she did this, Bucky thought about her pride. This was going to be harder for her than she thought. Bucky stood up, lifting his backside from the sand.

“Look, I’ll tell you everything. I just ask for your patience and to let me finish. I assure you, I had good, sane reasons for being here and doing what I did.” He looked at Celestia. “You love me… so please, give me a chance.”

“Very well.” Celestia took a deep, calming breath. She looked down at Bucky. She trusted him. She trusted him with a countless number of lives. She pulled herself together and brought her emotions under control.

“Well then, I had an idea how on how to strike back against the mirror travelers and give us some breathing room… but first, I needed an army…”

 

 

Having heard everything that Bucky had to say, Celestia stood there, feeling stunned, shocked, and confused. She looked down at the glowing glass orb that Bucky held in his talons, the contents of Sadwick’s mind. The strange device that allowed for communications between worlds. She looked up and her eyes focused on Queen Chrysalis, who had given up the pony disguise and was now looking subdued. Submissive even. During the long chat, Chrysalis had started to say something, she had started to become angry, but Bucky had silenced her by raising his talons.

More than anything, Princess Celestia wanted to reject everything Bucky had said. She wanted to be away from here. Queen Chrysalis represented her failure. She had failed to listen to Twilight. She had failed to keep her subjects safe. She had been made to look like a fool, and Celestia hated Chrysalis. But hatred wouldn’t save any lives. Gulping down the lump in her throat, Celestia nodded her head.

“This is a horrible plan, but it has its merits. Buckminster, you were wise to seek her help. I am uncertain about certain aspects of this deal… I do not know if I trust her with the earth ponies you plan to rescue—”

“If you will excuse me for interrupting,” Chrysalis said in a soft voice. She took a step forwards, mindful of Belisama, who was still gripping her sword. Chrysalis had no doubts about how fast the griffoness could be. “To sweeten the deal, I will give you several more changelings like Tourmaline. Healers. I will not make them drones and I will not grow them in pods. They will be hatchlings. You will be free to raise them as you see fit with families that are brave enough to love them. You need healers. I need a reliable source of food.”

Realising that she stood on the brink of much needed peace, Princess Celestia swallowed her pride, feeling bitter and angry. She nodded. “It is a good start. If you provide us with healers to help us secure our future, I will work with you to help you secure yours. After Buckminster rescues these earth ponies, if he is successful, we will give them medical care and see what we can do for them. Once they are stable, once we feel that they feel safe and secure, we will help you integrate them with the ponies you have living with you currently.”

She wanted to say more, she wanted to say so much more… she wanted to shout and be angry and she wanted to put an end to Chrysalis making more drones… more slaves. But Celestia held her tongue.

“Is there anything we can do to help or assist you in the creation of this drone army?” Scorpan asked.

Chrysalis almost spoke, but held back her words so she could think before saying anything. She looked at Bucky, then at Celestia, and then down at Belisama, the Queen of the Griffons. The little griffoness had a crazy, catty, jealous love. The sort of love that got stabby if it was threatened. The little griffoness had the same kind of crazy that Bucky did. Chrysalis supposed that the war had done something to the tiny tigress.

“I think I can handle the creation of this army just fine. I have the resources. Your efforts are better spent helping Bucky secure the resources of the zebras. Load up on diseases and I can infest my drones with them. I can make plague bombs. Give me a couple of weeks and I can grow an army of considerable size, but it will leave me weak. The Badlands are a dangerous place. This will stretch my resources thin.”

“I will send help,” Bucky said. “You need to fix my Shadowbolts. If we are what we eat, you need to do to them whatever it was that you did to me. I’ll also send a few Myrmidons with strict orders that you are to be guarded and kept safe at all costs.”

Chrysalis looked at Celestia and saw the white alicorn nodding. “Very well then, if I can pull away resources from protection and defense, I can devote more resources to creation.”

“Queen Chrysalis…”

“Yes?” The changeling queen looked Celestia in the eye.

“About Cadance and Shining Armor…” Celestia’s voice trailed off.

“I keep biological materials inside of special drones that preserve it. I have already given my word that as soon as I have drones made that have Bucky’s special type of cold, I will return what I have taken. The eggs and the sperm I have in my collection will be viable… I don’t want Bucky killing me.”

A gust of wind blew, carrying sand with it in little eddies. Celestia nodded. “Thank you. This goes a long way towards repairing the harm that you have done.”

“I think we’re done here,” Bucky said.

“Yes, I think we are,” Celestia agreed. “For all future diplomacy, Buckminster, I am appointing you as my official ambassador.. I know that you want to withdraw from as many of your public duties as possible, but certainly you must understand the importance of this task.”

“Of course.” Bucky bowed his head.

Celestia gave Chrysalis a cold smile. “Here is to hoping that by working together, we can secure for ourselves a better future…”

 

 

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