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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Down deep in the canyon, the sound of thousands of changeling hooves (if they could be called that) echoed off of the stone as they marched. The column stretched through the length of the canyon, twenty drones wide and five hundred drones long. It was one of the most magnificent things Bucky had ever seen, all of them marching in perfect unison.

The plan seemed oh so simple. The army would go in through the portal rift, then they would begin teleporting and infiltrating into the upper levels of the mountain fortress. Once inside, the army would engage the enemy, going for targets that Twilight had found through careful, masterful scrying, using the very height of her powers of divination. Twilight had punched through all of the defenses of the enemy, breached their spells, slipped through the many wards, and she had seen much.

Twilight had also showed Bucky the home of the enemy. It reminded him of Canterlot, except that Canterlot was on top of a tall, narrow spire. The mirror travelers lived in a massive fortress that sprawled over the top of a cluster of mountains and just like it was with Canterlot, there were mines as well as caverns below the fortress city.

Outside the city was a sea of swarming evil, a never ending siege. Bucky had seen it. Terrible titans, demons, and other supernatural horrors threw themselves upon the shielded city and its protectors in a never ending war. Pegasi, augmented by magic, and unicorns, who were some of the most powerful spellcasters that Bucky and Twilight had ever seen, they defended the city and sometimes managed to kill a demon or one of the attackers. This was but a temporary reprieve—a fallen demon would only return to Tartarus, be reborn, and then would return once they recovered their strength.

This was an engine of indifference. Only the strong would survive and all weakness was purged on both sides.

Once the army made its way in, more changelings and a number of unicorns would slip inside; once there, they would begin lifting out the earth ponies, which were in a sad state. Many looked diseased. They were pale, many had milky eyes, and some even had some kind of strange fungal growths protruding from their bodies. The earth ponies, left to rot in the sunless caverns, had changed, and perhaps even more horrifying, they had survived in the dark depths, adapting, evolving… life had found a way.

Bucky and Twilight waited, watching, viewing the enemy, Bucky was hoping for the perfect chance to strike. Bucky knew that time was on his side in this instance. When the fighting outside of the fortress became a chaotic, nightmarish mess, Bucky would begin the invasion, knowing they had their best chance when the mirror travelers were busy defending themselves from total annihilation.

 

 

“This seems more like an exchange than anything else,” Twilight Sparkle said in a low voice to the ponies and not ponies sharing the room with her. “We’re sending in ten thousand troops and pulling out about ten thousand or so earth ponies.”

Queen Chrysalis looked irritated and her lip curled back from her fangs in a sneer of derision. “Don’t be an idio—” The changeling queen fell silent mid word and she could almost imagine the crushing invisible force around her throat as Bucky glared at her. She gulped, an audible sound that made every ear in the room capable of twitching to jerk at the sudden noise. The look that Bucky was giving her was horrible and she saw his talons fidget.

Clearing her throat, Chrysalis tried again. “Twilight, don’t be foolish. This isn’t about just sending ten thousand in and pulling ten thousand out. The ten thousand ponies we steal will be a tweak upon the nose. We are going to deal to a crippling blow to our mutual enemy. Bucky’s plan might go down as one of the most tactically brilliant maneuvers in your history of equinekind.” Chrysalis hoped that a bit of honest flattery would appease Bucky before he got down to the foreplay of strangulation.

Twilight’s lips pressed into a tight, narrow line as she reflected upon Chrysalis’ words.

“We might be condemning our enemy to an ignoble end.” Shining Armor shook his head and then looked at his sister, his eyes lingering for a moment before his gaze shifted over to Bucky. “I’m not terribly bothered by it though. They brought this upon themselves.”

“Shining… I… you… you can’t be…” Twilight stammered. “You’ve changed, Shining.”

“I have since come around to Bucky’s way of thinking,” Shining Armor replied. “This is a terrible thing we are doing, make no mistake. This is morally reprehensible. This is ethically unsound. It is also our best course of action. Princess Celestia has given me the final approval and we are to go forwards as planned.”

“I understand that this is necessary,” Twilight said in a strained voice, “but I worry about what sort of terrible vengeance this act might bring down upon us.”

“If we had more time, I could make a bigger army and we might finish them off this way,” Queen Chrysalis suggested.

Shaking her head, Twilight let out a grunt and then replied, “Nope. They’re mobilising. I’ve been watching. They’re building up another army. They have a lot of unicorns stolen from other places. They’ve mindwiped them. They’re planning another invasion. If not us, then some other unfortunate target. We don’t have time. We have a good solid plan, we have the troops we need, we should act upon it. You know, strike now while the iron is hot.”

“They brought this ruin upon themselves.” Bucky’s voice was low, sonorous, and filled the room with a pleasant, soothing baritone. It calmed Twilight’s frazzled nerves, made Queen Chrysalis feel a bit aroused, caused Shining Armor to feel proud, and made Belisama fluff out and also look a little overheated.

“I have my golems ready. Mindless, soulless automatons who will serve one purpose. Destruction. Queen Chrysalis has generously provided us with an army of drones… drones that, very much like my golems, we are sending to their death and destruction.” Bucky paused and gestured at a metal box upon the table, a plain box of grey steel. “And these were provided by Princess Celestia and Scorch.”

With a slow, casual movement, Bucky pulled open the metal box and a glowing, golden light filled the room. In the box, something clinked, the faint sound of glass rattling together. Five glowing glass spider golems sat inside of the box, which was lined with cushioned fabric.

“What are those?” Twilight asked as she eyed the glowing spider golems.

“These are plasma elementals. Beings of burning hot plasma, given crude intelligence and purpose by Princess Celestia and Scorch the Usurper.” Bucky stroked the edge of the box. “Beings of fire and fusion. They’re hungry. They need a lot of matter to ingest if they wish to keep living. I can’t even begin to understand the spell matrices being used to suspend them inside of the spider golems… and believe me, I’ve tried.”

“Plasma elementals?” Twilight’s eyebrow raised and she heard Shining Armor clearing his throat.

“The Solar Empress is done being nice. She is sending the plasma elementals to the Night Stallion to remind him that his darkness is easily dispelled by her dawn. The Solar Empress now rises.” Shining Armor’s words had a profound impact upon the group around him. Twilight looked thoughtful. Queen Chrysalis cringed, realising that Princess Celestia had been gentle with her up to this point. Bucky smiled, a terrible, horrible, all together too toothy smile that had far too many fangs and misshapen teeth to be pleasant. Belisama stared into the box at the spider golems with wide, curious eyes, and her talons clutched Bucky’s mane.

“So…” Twilight said in a voice that was almost squeaky with strain, “we’re all in this together. We’ve all committed ourselves to this action. Well then.” Twilight coughed and cleared her throat. “That makes things a little easier, I suppose.”

“Be ready. As soon as I feel that it is time, we strike,” Bucky said to everyone gathered.

 

 

Easing back into a chair, Bucky pulled Tranquility closer to him, buried his muzzle into her mane, and inhaled her scent into his lungs. She yawned, letting out a faint squeak that made her sound very much like her mother, and then she began kneading the side of Bucky’s neck with her lion’s paw, her tiny claws flexing with each touch.

“How are you holding up?” Fluttershy asked as she looked up from her knitting.

Bucky, who almost felt drowsy, gave Fluttershy a sleepy smile. “I think I’m okay.”

On the floor of the common room and dining room of The Scorned Mare, Lunacy sat on a blanket, eyeing the world around her, an angry, ferocious scowl upon her face. Not far away, Cadance also sat upon the floor, but she was smiling, a warm, loving grin. Belisama was nesting in a pile of pillows while feeding Bandua. A group of griffons were studying sheet music and trying to ignore Discord, who peered over their shoulders.

“This is always the worst part of any conflict… the waiting!” Discord said as he stood up while suspended in midair. “This is downright boring… boring!”

“Discord, hush!” Fluttershy commanded. “Bucky needs quiet time.”

“Yes, because we want the demiurge of conflict to be at the top of his game when this starts.” Discord let out a chuckle, hovered over the griffon musicians, drifted over to where Cadance was, lowered his his head down, and looked Cadance in the eye. “Hello Cadance.”

Giggling, Cadance reached up with one foreleg and touched her hoof to Discord’s nose, booping him. The draconequus crashed to the floor with a thud as gravity reasserted itself over his body, which lived in defiance of the natural order.

In her chair, Fluttershy giggled as Discord raised his eyebrow at Cadance. Bucky closed his eyes as he held Tranquility. Lunacy let out a rare giggle and her whole body shook with mirth. The griffons present all had a good laugh.

“Young lady, I bet you think you are hilarious,” Discord muttered.

Head bobbing, Cadance replied, “Yup.”

Discord’s mock seriousness vanished and a gleeful smile appeared up his lips. “You know, Cadance, I think I like this new you. You understand how to have fun. Not such a stick in the mud. You’re going to grow up and be a fine princess.”

Just as Cadance was about to make a reply, Shining Armor materialised in the common room, his projection becoming solid and real. Cadance let out an excited squeal and forgot all about Discord and his violation of the law of gravity. She was up on her hooves in a second, her wings flapping, and she ran for Shining Armor.

A moment later, Twilight Sparkle appeared, but did so in Cadance’s path. She had to make a quick sidestep to get out of Cadance’s way. Twilight let out a laugh, avoided stepping on any griffon tails, looked over at Bucky snuggling with Tranquility, and then she let out a contented sigh as everything felt right.

“Boat!” Cadance pointed at a cardboard box in the corner and then bounced in place, her knees flexing as she looked at Shining Armor. “Get in!”

Shining Armor, a dutiful sort, shrank down his projection, eyed his sister, daring her to laugh, and then he went to the box, where he climbed in without complaint. A second later, wings flapping, Cadance launched herself at the box and just managed to leap over the edge. She tumbled into the box on top of Shining Armor, then, giggling, she pulled the cardboard flaps closed, sealing both her and Shining Armor inside.

“Bucky, your precious little alicorn filly just closed herself into a box with her future beau,” Discord said in a voice that writhed with mischievous laughter. Discord doubled over on himself, his long serpentine body folding in half, and he slithered closer to Bucky’s chair, gravity still having a strong effect upon him.

Still holding Tranquility, Bucky snorted to let Discord know that he could not be bothered. After a moment, Bucky yawned, then took a deep breath, and then said, “Cadance, look out… sea monsters.”

From inside the box, there was a shrill squeal of panic followed by a thump and a grunt. The box shuddered and then a magenta bubble appeared around it, shielding the box from all invaders, land, sea, or air.

Twilight, who was now sitting beside Fluttershy, watched the box with keen interest, a part of her wanting to climb into the box with her brother and Cadance. She had done this so many times as a foal. Boxes made for excellent boats, airships, and fortresses. There was just something special about being tucked away in a box with a friend or a loved one. Twilight’s mother had even managed to find time to stow herself away inside of a box with Twilight, and Twilight had a fond of memory of the time spent together in a box, her mother reading to her by horn light, as they braved the imaginary night full of hideous, unspeakable monsters that lurked outside, kept at bay by cardboard.

Even at the brink of battle, there was happiness to be found…

 

 

 

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