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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Upon hearing the news that Bucky had recovered, Twilight felt like a foal on their birthday. She hurried over the deck of The Scorned Mare, through the door to go belowdecks, trotted down the hall, and came to an open door. She stood just outside, and waited, her ears perking as she heard voices.

“You seem well enough,” a male voice said.

“I told you I’m well enough,” Bucky replied, “Now, tell me what I want to know!”

“Sire, there are unaltered eggs in the many thousands—”

“Don’t call me that!” Bucky snapped.

“Sire, it somehow seems inappropriate to call you ‘Queen’ and I—”

“Don’t call me that either!” Bucky sounded irritated and short of temper. “Look, just tell me relevant details to the situation… please?”

“There are many unaltered eggs, eggs that have not gone through the drone creation process. They still retain their gender, their minds, their free will, all of those things. For now, the eggs are in stasis. Many of them are still blanks though—”

“Blanks?” Bucky asked.

Twilight almost held her breath.

“The eggs hold a basic changeling template. They can be primed by a worker and this priming process changes them. A common stock changeling can become a medical specialist if they are primed to become one, or they could be primed to become a bug bomb.” The drone’s voice was patient and soft as it explained everything to Bucky.

“And this priming, it can be done without turning them into drones?”

“Of course, Sire,” the changeling replied.

“And what of the flutterponies?” Bucky asked.

“The new type of changeling hybrid modeled after you?”

“Yes.”

Twilight took a step closer to the door.

“Those eggs number in the thousands.” There was a long pause before the drone continued, “Our Queen tried a few variations and prototypes… the first model, like the one named ‘Crisis’ proved to be the strongest template. Some of the prototypes remain and are dormant, but most have been repurposed and their biological matter has found new form.”

Twilight felt queasy and realised that unneeded changelings were recycled. She shook her head and tried to fight her lurching stomach. She leaned against the hallway wall, took a deep breath, and tried to focus upon something else. Anything else.

“You know, Twilight, you should just come in…”

Grinning sheepishly, still queasy, Twilight stepped around the doorway and into the room. She paused upon entering and looked at Bucky. He looked okay, seemed okay, he was reclining on the bed and holding Bandua in his talons. Belisama was beside him, brushing his coat. Of Discord and Fluttershy there was no sign.

“Sire?”

Bucky’s eyebrow raised. “Yes?”

“Before your arrival, Queen Chrysalis prepared a special medical drone to present as a gift for you.”

“She did?” Bucky’s head swiveled to look at the changeling in the room.

“A special medical drone that contains the neurological restoration process for the disease you call ‘the Shivers.’ She wanted to give it to you as a peace offering, no strings attached, so that you would know that her intentions were good and sincere. She wanted you to be happy. She was very, very fretful about the event and wondered how it would play out. She was going to give it to you after the invasion. She thought you might need cheering up.”

Twilight’s ears perked as she heard the “Hyurk!” sound come from Bucky, she saw his barrel hitching up and down, she saw Belisama reacting, the little griffoness was holding him, and then the floodgates broke. Watching it was awful. Bucky collapsed into a miserable ball on the bed, shoving his face down into the mattress, and the whole bed trembled as his body shook.

“Sire, she wanted you to be happy… are you displeased?” the drone asked, sounding very confused.

There was no reply from Bucky, only sobbing, and Belisama patted his neck. Bandua peeped and there was a grunt beneath the blanket. A moment later, something pink poked out and a very sleepy looking foal blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light.

“He’s been though a lot,” Twilight said as she moved closer to the drone. “He lost somepony that he cared about. He’s endured a terrible ordeal.” Twilight, feeling the need to comfort somepony, placed her wing over the drone, which was much smaller than she was. everypony was a whole lot smaller than Twilight now. She had grown a great deal. She felt the drone go still beneath her wing.

“She was very concerned about your happiness… that was the reason that Crisis had to be perfect… Crisis was designed not only to be a perfect physical specimen, but to be beautiful and pleasing to the eye as well.” The drone, confused by Twilight’s touch, stood there unmoving and still as it spoke. “She wanted you to like her. She acted strangely, very much unlike herself. She had many of us watching you to ensure that you were safe. I think she treasured you.”

On the bed, Belisama closed her eyes and pressed her head against Bucky, whose body was wracked with painful sobs. Bandua, still held in her father’s talons, let out a worried sounding peep, and then began squawking to express her worry. Cadance crawled out of her blanket nest, yawned, then wiggled over to be with her father, her ears drooping and her eyes shimmering with tears.

“We need some time alone,” Belisama said in a low voice. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but we need time alone. I must ask all of you to leave. I know Bucky wanted to get work done, but I think he needs more time to recover.”

“Come on,” Twilight said to the drone, “come with me and you and I can talk.”

“What shall we talk about?” the drone asked.

“I don’t know,” Twilight replied, “but I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

 

 

Sunset Shimmer stood in the rising sun, feeling triumphant, but also sad and a little empty. It was an emptiness that breakfast would not fill. She missed Trixie and Bartleby. She missed life on the farm. She missed helping the students in the school. The dawn was golden and a bit chilly due to the wind.

She was exhausted; it had been a long night. Some of the earth ponies had seen the stars and the moon for the very first time, and she had been there to witness everything. There had been a few downright magical moments that Sunset Shimmer knew that she would treasure forever.

There was a lone figure sitting in the sand, off by himself, and Sunset Shimmer moved towards him, feeling worried, concerned, and relieved. As she came closer, she saw that he appeared to be drawing something in the sand with his claw. When she was close, he brushed whatever he had been drawing in the sand away and looked at her.

His eyes looked tired, his face looked worn, but he was still himself, more or less. Sunset was very happy to see him. She bowed her head and in a quiet voice said, “Master… I am so glad to see that you are well.”

When Bucky made no reply, Sunset went over and sat down beside him in the sand. The sun began to fill the canyon, which ran east to west, with brilliant beams of golden light, which caused the sand to turn shades of pink. Everything was beautiful when bathed in the golden light of dawn.

Feeling the faint chill, Sunset shivered and then scooted over the sand to be closer to Bucky. He was a bit longer of body and he was hunched over in the sand. The changeling leg now appeared normal and Sunset understood that it was just the nature of changeling legs; they could look like anything they wanted to be. His goat leg was thinner than his equine legs, of which he only had one left. Sunset squinted as she studied Bucky and after a moment, realised that his antler buds were still almost invisible in the mess that was his mane. His muzzle had grown a little longer and seemed almost lupine now. There had been some changes, but he was still the same pony that she knew and loved. She could see it in his grey eye, which glittered in the sunlight.

“Best laid plans, Minion… best laid plans.”

Sunset felt her eyebrow arching.

“I was making plans to help Chrysalis… to steer her back into the light. Princess Celestia was giving me liberties that she trusted no other pony with”—Bucky paused and raked his long, curved claws through the sand—“perhaps Twilight might have been trusted with the same liberties, had she been in my position, but we’ll never know.” Bucky blinked and shook his head. “Celestia and I, we had plans. It seems that Chrysalis had her own plans. We all had such plans and each of us were trying to outplan one another. Chrysalis had planned her first tentative steps back into the light and she was doing so to try and impress me, as if she was some kind of filly with a schoolyard crush.”

Bucky let out a long sigh.

“Bucky?” Sunset scooted a little closer, lifted her foreleg, and wrapped it around Bucky’s withers.

“I’ve learned much from her drones. We all had these plans and then through random chance, these plans came to an end. Why did she follow me and put herself into danger? What did she hope to accomplish? Now, she’s gone, I have all these changelings to look after, and I feel as though she was robbed of her chance of redemption. She no longer has a chance to make things right.” Bucky slumped over, closed his eyes, raised his talons, and then wiped away a few tears. “Why did she follow me, Sunset? She could have stayed here… Crisis could have had a chance to know her mother… maybe even see her mother do some good… maybe even acknowledge Chrysalis as her mother.”

“Bucky… you and Twilight both… you bring out the best in ponies. And others. We follow you because it makes us feel good about ourselves. You and Twilight treat us as being worthwhile. Even after all of the horrible things I did, you still treated me like a pony and Twilight tried to be my friend.” Sunset gave Bucky a squeeze.

“She was weak… exhausted. She’d been working herself overtime to have the army ready… and Sentinel… she helped Sentinel… she made herself even weaker… she didn’t take any time to rest… the drones told me that saving Sentinel’s face weakened her a great deal. She had taken no time to rest, no time to recover. I didn’t know she was as weak as she was. She was in desperate need to recover, recharge, and recuperate.” Bucky shook his head. “She willingly went through the portal with us though… why?”

“Maybe because she loved you,” Sunset replied. “Love makes ponies do things they would normally never do. Just look at Rainbow Dash and Flash Sentry. Love can bring out the best in us.” Sunset shook her head. “Or the worst, I suppose. But when we love, we try to show it. At least, I know I do.”

“I was stupid… I should have been thinking. I should have realised that she was weak and I should have—”

“Bucky, you had no way of knowing. She was never one to show weakness. She was always the strong one. The brave one. She was always defiant. She died keeping others safe. Had those detonations spilled out into the cavern, many would have died.” Sunset rubbed Bucky’s withers with her foreleg.

A short distance away, a butterfly landed upon a small pink cactus flower. Birds trilled in a nearby mesquite tree. The desert, thought to be a barren place, was full of life. Down in a hole, there was an underground city known as Guano Grotto, and it was a place thriving with life, now more so than ever. The rescued earth ponies were comfortable down in the caves, it was what they knew; only now, they were free.

“Minion, there is much work to be done. I have plans, Minion. Queen Chrysalis’ creation of drones might be questionable, but I will use the remaining drones to good use. I will see that they have happy, purposeful lives and that they are comfortable. I am already forming plans, Minion.”

“Master?” Sunset turned her head and saw a familiar manic glaze in Bucky’s grey eye.

“The drones need a purposeful existence. There are thousands of them, Sunset… thousands. An army. I have an army and now I have the means to strike a devastating blow to an enemy that bothers me a great deal.”

Sunset Shimmer’s ears stood straight up and she looked at Bucky, trying to figure out what he was up to. He did not deal with grief, or stress, or pressure of any kind, none of them did, really, and all of the signs of Bucky slipping into his work so he could avoid his grief were showing.

“The foals of the Shetlands need caretakers… orphanages everywhere… and changelings, they need love and a well balanced diet of other emotions to stay healthy and functional. I can fix things, Sunset… I can fix things… sure, ponies might freak out about changelings looking after foals, but that can be dealt with… I can use one problem to take care of another.”

Sunset nodded, but she saw a number of flaws in Bucky’s plan. Still, it was a good plan. She wondered how much of this was influenced by the fact that Bucky had sent many drones to their deaths and now, in his guilt, he was trying to shelter them, trying to make up for what he had done by offering them a better life. Sunset felt an ache in her heart.

“Master, shall we get some breakfast?”

 

 

A tall flaming figure approached a pale white earth pony. The flaming figure, bipedal, shifted and became a flaming earth pony. The two equines stared at one another for a moment and then the flaming earth pony spoke.

“The powers that be are a little miffed with how things turned out. She did much to defy them, to thwart them, and even in death, she has eluded them. Some are displeased.”

“Scorch… I…” The pale white earth pony, who had been about to say something, fell silent. He shook his head and looked upon the elemental plane of fire, gazing at a roiling sea of magma.

“Let me guess… you feel bad for your part in this act of vengeance?” Scorch shifted form again, this time becoming a blazing pegasus.

“I do,” Thanatos admitted. “After much reconsideration, I have come to realise, it really is time for me to step aside. I was so focused upon the end result that I overlooked that the situation itself had changed. She might have done some good for the world, had she kept living.”

Scorch sighed, his barrel heaving, and he let out a fiery snort.

“I have chosen to share her pain, so that I can—”

“Punish yourself?” Scorch rolled his eyes. “You of all ponies know punishment like nothing else. You and your self righteous need for self flagellation, only one pony I know can come close to what you do.”

“Already, he is trying to make amends for what he has done,” Thanatos said in a low voice. “I’ve thought about asking him to take up my mantle, but deep down in his heart, he hates killing. He would do it if I asked, make no mistake, his sense of duty would force him to act, but he would be miserable. Moonbow will be a better choice, at least, that is my opinion.”

“You know, Thanatos, you did fulfil the requests of the powers that be. Lord Hades demanded that Chrysalis be utterly destroyed and repurposed. And in a sense, she has been. The entity known as Chrysalis is gone, and now, there is only Posey.” Scorch spread his wings, shimmered, exploded in a fiery conflagration, and in the place of the pegasus now stood a unicorn.

There was an explosive burst of flames and a third figure appeared, standing on the edge of the magma sea. Tall, tripedal, and possessing nine arms, the figure bowed to both Scorch and Thanatos.

“The Vizier of Lamentations… what brings you here?” Scorch asked.

“I thought I’d have a little break. I’ve been a very busy sort you know,” the figure replied.

“How is Posey?” Thanatos asked.

The Vizier of Lamentations made a gesture with a few of his spidery arms and looked at Thanatos. “My Lord, the one known as Posey broke quickly. She now knows a keen sense of regret and sorrow for her many misdeeds. I barely had to do my job at all. I began carving into her soul and we spoke of love and much to my disappointment, she broke right away.”

“No more torture than absolutely necessary,” Thanatos said to the Vizier of Lamentations. “This is no longer about vengeance or revenge. This is about doing what is right. So where is Posey right now?”

The Vizier of Lamentations turned away and looked out upon the burning sea. “When I left Posey, she was in the company of Princess Platinum. She of the Noble Soul offered to share in some of Posey’s discomfort and pain in exchange for the chance to comfort Posey and speak to her.”

“And you allowed this?” Thanatos asked.

“Of course. Knowing that Princess Platinum suffers for her will only further serve to hurt Posey.” The tall tripedal figure let out a sigh. “Causing pain is my purpose. I make others lament their poor choices. Princess Platinum made a poor choice by offering to comfort another.”

Scorch snorted and a stream of fire shot out of his nostrils.

“Keep this in mind, oh Great Vizier of Lamentations… should War ever find out that you take pleasure in harming Platinum or Posey… well, I feel I should point out that you can die and War will know of a way to kill you. His imagination is every bit as terrible as yours. I dare say that you will know some of the torments you have done to others before you die. Do your job as you must, but do not be excessive.”

The tall figure turned, stared at Thanatos through five square pupiled eyes, and let out a frustrated grunt.

“And what of you, Thanatos? What do you think would happen if he discovered what you have done?” Scorch asked.

“I would very likely get what I deserve,” Thanatos replied in a low, hissy whisper.

“You do realise that Celestia would be right on his tail, right? If she knew that you were the cause of all of his current pain, sorrow, and anguish… tell me, Thanatos, ever been hurled into a star?” Scorch shifted form and became an amorphous fiery mass.

“We all had our part in this!” Thanatos hissed. “I already feel some regret for what I’ve done… there is no need to rub my nose in it… I am fully aware of what my sister’s wrath is like. She would probably toss me into a star and then slam two stars together and that would only be the beginning of my well deserved suffering.”

“Princess Celestia is becoming dangerous and unpredictable,” the Vizier of Lamentations said in a low voice. “More and more, she is allowing emotion to rule her heart. She is too involved and invests too much feeling into what she does. Many of the powers that be feel threatened.”

One massive fiery arm shot out from the amorphous fiery mass that was Scorch and then the rest of him took shape. Tall, bipedal, massive, a titan of flames, he snatched up his underling and squeezed until the Vizier let out a pained shriek.

“She is mine,” Scorch said in a low rumble. “She is mine and mine alone. She is to be given a chance to grow, evolve, and change. She is not to be touched… ever, under any circumstances. She has suffered enough. I have faith in her goodness”—Scorch gave a cruel squeeze to the demon he held in his massive burning fist, and the demon shrieked in agony—“and if I find that you are conspiring against her to remove her from power, I promise you, there will no longer be any powers that be. Am I clear?”

“As crystal,” the demon squealed as Scorch squeezed ever tighter. “All hail Scorch the Usurper!”

Disgusted, Scorch hurled his minion into the sea of magma and then let out a furious snort. He pointed a finger at Thanatos. “I mean what I said… you go and you tell them… I’m not playing around. She is our best chance of saving this pathetic rock. We’re going to need a celestial entity capable of holding the fabric of reality together if we ever hope to replace our Creator. She is the one… not Luna, not Cadance.” Scorch waggled his finger at Thanatos. “If necessary, I will twist Bucky into the draconequus of war to do my bidding and I know he will be a willing servant if I explain to him what is really going on and what we’re trying to do. Remember, Thanatos, I am called Scorch the Usurper for a reason.”

Thanatos bowed his head, blinked, and looked Scorch in the eye. “Yes Lord Scorch. I will go and speak with Lord Hades at once and give him your message.”

“And Thanatos…”

“Yes, Lord Scorch?”

“You would do well to remember that it is through my power that you will be able to pass along your mantle someday. Remember your loyalty. Fail me… and I will have you serve in chains until the end of time. Remain loyal, and I shall see that you will be rewarded.”

A pained, fearful expression crept over the pale white earth pony’s face as he nodded. “Yes, Lord Scorch. I understand.”

Letting out a frustrated growl, Scorch vanished, leaving the pale white earth pony all alone.

 

 

 

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