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 Stable of Representatives, mired down with no visible means forward, could not come to an agreement on what was perhaps, the most important issue of the spring session, the Equestrian age of adulthood. Rising Star himself had no clear answers either, his own views had changed several times during the long discussions.

This wasn’t a bad thing. Many things had been discussed that had needed to be talked about. A few new laws were passed to protect the young going into apprenticeship and internship positions. Truancy laws were updated, made harsher, and a lot less forgiving, with punishment landing not only upon the student in question, but the parents as well.

Rising Star was proud of that accomplishment—it was the work of the Tea Party and the Progressive Coalition working together. The Tea Party was split almost down the middle, with part of the party willing play fair with the Progressives so that progress could be made. The other half wanted nothing to do with the Progressives, and lambasted their fellow ‘teabaggers’ for ‘conspiring with the enemy.’ Rising Star sensed another party split coming in the future. He had spent a lot of time with Keen, Elm, and Spitfire trying to hammer out a mutually beneficial deal. He didn’t like Keen or Elm, he couldn’t stand them, but he understood the necessity of working with them and was willing to put personal differences aside.

But for the big issue, there was no answer, no resolution forthcoming. Nothing. Nada. Negatory. The age of adulthood being brought into question opened up a can of worms. Now, more discussion was required about things like statutory rape, the age of consent, and old societal traditions were being brought into question, much to the chagrin of the Tea Party, the staunch defenders of old traditions, or least the old traditions that they felt were good ones and beneficial to them. The other traditions, the ones that had brought about the collapse, those could be left in the past.

It was agreed that it was no longer permissible to trade an unwanted daughter for goats, cows, or chickens, even though it was a tradition that went back to the very founding of Equestria. Interestingly enough, there were Tea Party members that fought a pitched, vehement battle to preserve this tradition, not to actually trade daughters for goats, cows, or chickens, but to have as a threat to fall back upon for unruly daughters that did not listen to their parents. The threat of being traded for goats, cows, or chickens was often enough to bring about compliance.

Much to Rising Star’s dismay, the original tradition also included donkeys among the list of goats, cows, or chickens, and somepony had to bring up the fact that this new political correctness was destroying the Equestrian way of life.

All of it, both the good and the bad, the feeling of accomplishment and the feeling of loss, all of it left Rising Star feeling satisfied. He was doing good work here. His status as a political celebrity gave him leverage, and rather than abuse it, Rising Star felt that he was doing good work, beneficial work, things he could be proud of, rather than be ashamed of.

 

 

Looking down, Princess Celestia watched her ponies at work as they began to secure their own future. She was proud of them, a fierce pride, a mother’s pride. This session had been amazing. With the Canterhorn purged, a new Canterlot had emerged. Tough issues were being tackled. Questions about both the past and the future were being asked. The ponies below were working  to make things right.

Even the political herds, the factions, were helping the process, as the scales needed checks and balances. There were hardliner traditionalists, traditionalists, nationalists, progressives, radicals, and even a few ultra-radicals that made Celestia worry a bit, but she knew that both the hardliner traditionalists and the ultra-radicals were necessary. Somewhere, in the middle of it all, there was the balance that everypony needed.

In the center, acting as the balance point, was Twilight Sparkle, doing what Princess Celestia had always hoped that Twilight would do. Twilight made for a fantastic mediator, she was a good speaker, Twilight was tough, but also fair. She could be impartial, at least, for the most part, but there were issues that ruffled Twilight’s feathers. Twilight didn’t intimidate the representatives into voting for what she wanted, but rather, let them sort it out amongst themselves, with Twilight stepping in to act as a referee when necessary.

The Aurora Guard did their job well and Princess Celestia was pleased with them. The little griffons were unobtrusive. As Twilight had intended, they spent more time passing out papers, pamphlets, and programs than bringing unruly ponies back into line. Not one pony had to be stoned during this session—no bedlam or outbreak of anarchy even necessitated the threat of it.

Even the ‘teabagging’ of Twilight Sparkle had worked out for the best, Twilight had made her detractors look like fools by starting the session the very next day with a hot, steaming cup of coffee and the quiet mention that she felt that it was time for a tax increase on tea—if tea had become cheap enough to be thrown around, perhaps it was time to raise the cost so that ponies would appreciate it for what it was, a luxury.

Princess Celestia, high on her balcony, looked over at her special guests sharing her lofty aerie. Diamond Tiara was studying the politics that Princess Celestia knew that one day she would be a part of. Sentinel, propped up in his chair, had listened to everything. As for Boadicea, the griffoness looked bored. It was okay though, Boadicea was meant to be the one in action and Diamond Tiara had a far better temperament for politics. Sentinel had nothing to worry about as a future leader. It was Princess Celestia’s most sincere hope that Sentinel would indeed be betrothed to the little pink filly as well as the griffoness—she saw nothing but good things coming from the union.

 

 

Violet Velvet picked up the scroll case, opened it, pulled out the scroll, and began reading it. The scroll case had the royal seal of Prince Keg Smasher upon it and the wooden scroll tube was a bit battered and worn down, but still serviceable. An Equestrian scroll tube would have been disposed of long before it had reached the point of looking ‘well used.’

Her eyes, which peered through her half moon reading glasses, scanned the paper, devouring the words in much the same way that Harper devoured mangos—with terrific speed. After reading, she set down the scroll and looked over at Berry and Derpy, who both were waiting with eager looks of anticipation upon their faces.

“Deadspin and Bunny can’t make it, but Sour Mash is on her way. She’s departed upon a supply ship and Keg Smasher is insisting that when the ship returns, it returns with supplies to make the trip justifiable.” Violet gave Berry Punch a meaningful look.

“Okay.” Berry nodded her head. “We’ll load that ship down with anything and everything we can. That doesn’t seem so bad, fair is fair.” The plum coloured earth pony let heave a sigh of relief. “I knew that Sour Mash would come through for me. I haven’t lost all of my family… just most of them.”

“And you are set upon this course of action?” Violet asked.

“What else can be done?” Berry replied, her eyes narrowing. “Berry Pinch belongs with family. She needs to be in a better environment, keeping her locked up in that room out in the carriage house is making her worse. We can’t let her run free around here because of the Everfree. We can’t give her what she needs.”

“This does seem wise.” Violet took off her reading glasses, folded them, and set them down upon the table. She leaned forwards, her muzzle now over her steaming teacup, and she looked Berry in the eye. “I think that you are doing the right thing. I know this has to be tough. If I might confess something…”

“Yes?” Berry gave Violet an expectant look.

“I sometimes allow myself a bit of a fantasy… Bucky finds yet another foal in distress and I end up adopting it… I thought about seeing what I could do for Berry Pinch, but I knew that would be folly.” Violet sighed, lifted up her teacup, and took a sip. “I can’t bring myself to go into the orphanage and adopt… I’ve tried, and I just can’t. The amount of choice is paralysing and so many foals are worthy of a good home, but I can’t save all of them. But I have this dream that fate and providence drops just the right foal right into my lap through Bucky.”

“That’s a good dream.” Derpy smacked her lips and her wings twitched against her sides. “The collapse created an orphan crisis… I don’t think most of them will ever have parents. They’ll just grow up and become adults and walk away from the orphanages and it will be awful.”

“Ah, but what is the legal age of adulthood,” Berry said, thinking about the newspaper headlines. “There’s always been a problem with orphans in Equestria. Foals wander away from home, can’t make it for whatever reason, can’t get apprenticeships, and end up in orphanages.” Berry lifted up her own teacup and held it between her front hooves. “Just think about Pinkie Pie, since Twilight used her as an example… if the Cakes hadn’t of taken her in, if they hadn’t given her a job, she might have been stuffed into an orphanage so she could be cared for.”

“Yeah, but she has parents that she could go home to,” Derpy said.

“I know that, I was just using her as an example… what if she didn’t have parents or her parents didn’t want her back? It was just an example, that’s all.” Berry Punch took a sip of tea and glanced over at Derpy. “I know it sounds strange to you, but there are parents that don’t want their foals.”

“Awful.” Derpy, who looked distressed, slumped down in her chair. “And here I am, feeling guilty for taking a little time for myself and leaving the newborns in the care of Magpie and Broom. I just wanted an hour to myself and a cup of tea and now I feel bad, like I’ve abandoned them and it’s just awful that some parents don’t want their foals at all.”

“Firelock.” Violet’s words blew ripples across the surface of her tea.

“Who has parents now… Lugnut and Spanner adore her.” Berry’s enthusiastic response caused her body to jerk and some of her tea sloshed. “Those fabulously gay griffons make wonderful parents. Sprocket and Cog are adorable and Firelock is getting so much love that she’s getting spoiled. She’s never had that much love and affection.”

“You know, as far as orphans and such go, it says a lot about Fancy Pants and Fleur… they’re free now… they don’t have to keep running the orphanage if they don’t want to, but I don’t think you will ever drag those two away… they’re doing what they love. I wish more ponies were like them.” Derpy let out a morose huff that caused her tea to slosh over the side of her cup and dribble down to the table. “There needs to be a better way to fix this problem. Bucky is really frustrated about it. If we offer ponies bits to be foster parents, then a bunch of ponies who want bits will adopt, but they’ll be doing it to get paid and not because they want to help foals in need. Bucky and I have talked about this so much… it bothers me so much… it bothers him… this is a big problem for society… how do we get ponies to adopt? If we offer rewards, how do we stop the wrong ponies from adopting?”

“Or farmers, who adopt for the spring, summer, and fall, and then return the orphans before winter so there isn’t another mouth to feed.” Berry Punch slumped down in her chair and looked downright miserable. Her ears went limp, her lips sagged, and her heavy eyelids drooped half shut.

“There needs to a Stable of Representatives session dedicated to this issue.” Derpy leaned over a bit and touched Berry, rubbing the depressed, despondent earth pony on her withers.

“Foals are the ultimate disenfranchised group. They can’t vote, they’re a drain on society, they cost a lot of money, there is no good reason to be motivated to help them… there just aren’t enough good reasons to fix the current system. It would cost too much and take too much effort. Which is why things will continue to languish as they are.” Berry Punch grimaced, closed her eyes, and gritted her teeth together.

Violet felt the bitter sting of Berry’s words and the cynical, sardonic part of herself was in agreement. The Sweeps were over. The Fillydelphia Floodgates as they had been called, were closed. Equestria was still rebuilding, still getting back upon its hooves. Starvation had been a real problem during the winter for some parts of the country.

Even now, farmers were already seeking out labour from their local orphanariums, foals that could be paid in room and board rather than bits, foals who would be returned to the orphanariums come late fall. Violet felt disgusted, but there was nothing she could do. The entire system had been built upon the constant influx of available labour made possible through the Sweeps and the endless flood of foals coming out of Fillydelphia.

Now that the flow had been staunched, Violet could not help but wonder how it would affect the future. There was an addiction to slave labour… free labour. The cost of food had been kept artificially low because so many had laboured in the fields with no pay. Moral farmers who loathed the practice did not last long—it was impossible to compete in a market with rock bottom prices brought about by exploiting captive labour. If one farm exploited foals and the other used workers that it paid fairly, the farm with fair wages could not possibly offer goods at a price that others were willing to pay.

The entire system had profited upon the backs of the exploited, the Sweeps had affected so much of Equestrian society, even the cost of food. Violet had no idea what the future held, but the current generation of orphans would grow up and the last vestiges of the system that exploited them would be well and truly screwed. Who would replace them?

The three mares sat together in silence for a time, sipping tea, enjoying the quiet break, each of them thinking their own thoughts upon the subject and the many issues that it involved.

As was often the case, Berry Punch broke the silence.

“You know, Velvet… there is a foal that Bucky rescued a while back… he’s in need of a parent. He’s quiet, a bit shy, something of a nerd, and bursting with potential…”

 

 

 

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