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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Killing the ants only seemed to attract more ants. Ripple tried to remember what little she knew about anthills and how ants reacted to an intruder. She tried to remember her biology classes in school. Ants had alarm chemicals—damage or kill one and the rest would come swarming.

The ship was on fire and leaking cloudstuff. She hoped that her fledglings were okay. She didn’t have a lot of time to worry though. She was covered in bug guts, legs, and antennae. She kept smashing through airborne ants but more kept coming. So far, she had avoided being stung, but she had been nipped a few times by powerful, painful mandibles. Her armor had crimps in it, the bent metal pinched and poked at her tender, vulnerable flesh as she moved, making fighting uncomfortable, but not impossible.

Loki fought beside her, he was bleeding, his armor had been pierced, he had been stung and chomped by powerful mandibles, but he was unstoppable. As he battled, his wounds healed, the gaping gashes closing up and the blood flow slowing. The little harrier griffon was on fire, his own fire, and he was immune to the fiery assaults of the ants.

The ants seemed endless. The more they killed, the more of them kept coming. At least the flying ants seemed to be thinning out, but more ants swarmed over the ground. Explosions of lightning and ice devastated their ranks as Kiara and North Star dropped bombs while defending the ship.

This was truth. This was the meaning of life. Ripple felt it in her bones. This was her purpose. She smashed through a winged ant and then darted away before another could grab her, her danger sense precognition allowing her to escape unscathed—this time. Every muscle in her body ached with fatigue and begged for rest, but there was no rest to be had. Sweat poured from her sides, down her neck, and ran down her legs.

She smashed another, then another, and kicked out at a third. She found herself swarmed and while she was clubbing one with her front hooves, another bit her on the back. She felt her armor buckle and as she tried to wiggle around, a stinger made its way through a gap in her armor. Fire filled her blood as she was pierced.

Something got hold of her wing. She felt a crushing sensation as the pressure increased and she feared the delicate bones would be crushed. Spitting, snarling, she lashed out as she began to plummet with the ants that had swarmed her. There was a fierce cry and Loki was there with her, her constant and most trusted companion in this battle. He was a terrible, savage thing, and he laid into the ant chewing on her wing. Ripple felt her body convulse as the venom began to take effect.

She could do nothing to stop her fall as the ground rushed up to meet her.

 

 

Seeing Ripple in trouble, something inside of Belisama’s mind broke. In her ears, she heard the screams of her sister, Bandua, and her mind flooded with the grotesque images of Bandua’s final moments. Holding Huginn and her sword, she rushed to Ripple’s aid.

Ripple was hers… a daughter in every way that mattered, age and species made no difference. Belisama would not allow another that she loved to be taken from her. A terrifying roar escaped her beak, a fearsome, dreadful sound that belied her small, diminutive size.

From their secured locations below, two Raptors answered Belisama’s call—Grunion, and Branwen, the Raptor’s medic. They flew as a pair, with Grunion keeping Branwen the albino griffon safe.

Now a trio, they swooped after Ripple, moving to intercept her fall. Belisama’s sword chopped an ant in half and she fired Huginn at another. The bullet tore through, kept going, and ripped the abdomen off of another ant some distance away. Murderous rage burned in Belisama’s eyes like two live coals. She cut, hacked, sliced, and shot her way through the swarming ants.

Reaching Ripple, Belisama and Grunion began to remove the ants that were still swarming around her, assisting Loki, while Branwen grabbed ahold of Ripple’s armor. The brave little albino griffoness hung on for dear life with her left talons, trying to avoid being bitten or stung as she went to treat Ripple’s wounds with her right talons. Every second mattered with powerful venoms. She stabbed Ripple with a glass ampule filled with powerful healing compounds, synthesised changeling spit.

Branwen somehow ignored the mandibles that bit down upon her hind leg, crushing the armor plates around her thigh. She cried out, but continued to treat Ripple, even as they fell, plunging towards the ground below in a deadly spiral. Loki sliced off the head of the ant biting Branwen and then prised the mandibles apart. He tossed the head away as Grunion and Belisama killed the last ants swarming Ripple, who was covered in ant bits.

What they did not know or understand was that Ripple was covered in ant pheromones from having bodily smashed through so many of them. She reeked of distress pheromones, which made her a prime target. Each and every full body impact of hers had soaked her in dying ant pheromones. Now, she was an irresistible beacon that drove the ants into a frenzy.

Loki grabbed Ripple’s armor, Grunion grabbed Ripple’s hind legs, and Belisama, who had sheathed her sword and holstered her gun, also grabbed Ripple’s armor. Branwen was busy working, trying to stop the bleeding and counteract the venom that burned in Ripple’s blood.

The three griffons lifted Ripple, almost as though they were her valkyries, and began to make their way back to the ship. North Star swooped in close, acting as an escort. The deck gun on the ship thundered and some well placed shots kept the ants from reaching Ripple as she was being airlifted to safety. The ship was still being swarmed though, and things appeared to be taking a turn towards becoming far more interesting as the tension of the situation increased.

 

 

Belisama’s ears rang with the sounds of invisible bells and her talons trembled as though she had a palsy. All she could think about was her sister, Bandua, and everything that had happened. She pulled a small wooden box out of storage and set it down upon the deck. She tried to take a calming breath and ignore everything; the sounds of battle all around her, the sounds of her own sister shrieking, everything. It was all too much.

Looking down, she saw her husband’s flowing script. Something about seeing it calmed her. Bucky made everything better. When she woke up, soaked in sweat, remembering, he made everything better. Pony-catbird-whatever-else repair kit. She fumbled the box open and when she did, there was a blue-green flash. The smell of ozone rose up and tickled Belisama’s beak. She almost sneezed as several teeny-tiny spider golems crawled out of the wooden box. Medic golems, loaded down with powerful healing agents. Medic spider golems that could sew a pony or a griffon back together. Bucky had said that they could even reattach limbs and make everything work again.

The spider golems took off in search of injured victims and found Ripple.

A protective circle had formed around Ripple and none of the ants swarming the ship could reach her. Guns drawn, Ripple’s protectors shot anything that got too close. Archer picked ants out of the air before they could reach the ship. She was an amazing shot with the twenty millimetre deck gun, using it almost as one might use a sniper rifle.

When this was over, the Raptors would have a new heavy gunner.

The spider golems went to work, performing a quick triage and then working to repair Ripple’s many injuries. Tears and gashes in her flesh were closed. The puncture wound where she had been stung was treated. The venom in her blood was neutralised. Her seizing ceased and she lay still upon the deck and the golems continued their work.

Bucky had declared war upon battlefield injuries and his golems did an amazing job.

 

 

“Scootaloo, hold the ship steady and bring it around!” Gofannon barked, which was funny, seeing as how he was a catbird. “We have Raptors still down on the desert floor, holed up, and they need our help!”

Grunting, her small back straining, and swearing in a way her mothers would never allow, Scootaloo struggled to keep the ship level. Fire had damaged stuff. The gasbag had leaked a bit. Power was low. They needed more cloudstuff in a bad way. Gages and dials were in the yellow, creeping towards orange, and some of them might hit red soon. Red was bad.

She fought to turn the ship about. The flying ants were fewer now, but still a problem. The ants below were swarming everywhere, climbing over the bodies of their own dead. Scootaloo’s legs ached, all of them, she was sore from standing on her hindlegs and her forelegs burned from her efforts. An absolutely vile stream of well practiced profanity poured from her lips as she threw what weight she had against the control yoke to make things work.

When Ripple rose up from the deck and gave herself a shake, Scootaloo felt her strength renewed. She found that she had a little more to give. She heard Ripple let out a frog voiced command of, “KILL ‘EM ALL!” and Scootaloo felt her spine go rigid.

“I DON’T LIKE BUGS ON MY DECK!” Ripple growled, still frog voiced. “I WANT THESE BUGGY BASTARDS GONE! DOOOO EEEEET!”

The Raptors scrambled to do Ripple’s bidding as Ripple herself threw herself back into the fray. The ship was coming around and leveling out. The deck gun was now pointing in the direction where the ants were coming from.

Scootaloo, worried, checked on Rumble and saw that he was still battling his own foe, the fire. Her sharp eyes also saw something else. Something had changed about Rumble. There was something on his backside but she couldn’t make it out well enough to see what it was. There was no mistaking it though, Rumble had a cutie mark.

The deck gun thundered with a terrifying, regular cadance. Every few seconds, a shot was fired. Scootaloo’s ears rang with the sounds of war. Her blood sang. This is what it meant to be a pegasus. To command the sky and rain death down upon thine enemies. She had a warship that obeyed her every command. This was beautiful… this was amazing… Scootaloo understood why earth ponies plowed, Wonderbolts flew, and unicorns did mind boggling spells of near infinite complexity.

As the ship was repositioned, Belisama was pulling out the heavy ordnance from another lockbox and it glowed with a terrible golden glow.

 

 

The first of the big bombs fell and the whole of the desert below trembled. The blast caused the ship to wobble in the air and when everything was said and done, when the smoke cleared, the desert floor had been turned to glass.

More bombs fell and an arcing, electrical Tartarus manifested. A storm began brewing. Clouds roiled up from the exploding glass orbs. Ants died by the score. The big bombs were only supposed to be used in an emergency, in the face of overwhelming odds. Belisama had determined that the situation demanded it. They would cause extensive environmental damage, something that everyone wanted to avoid if it was possible.

Now, it felt as though the whole desert was bracing itself. The clouds thickened and swirling vortexes formed. The first raindrops fell. As the storm began to intensify, the Raptors who had hidden themselves in the crevices of the canyon came streaking up to the ship. There was about to be an epic flood, as these particular spell jars had come from the Storm Mother herself, Lyra Heartstrings.

The ship rocked as thunder crashed. The rain became a drenching torrent and giant hailstones smashed the ants caught in the open. Scootaloo struggled to get the ship up above the storm. The ants flying in the air weren’t strong enough to fly in gale force winds mixed with hailstones as large as cantaloupe melons.

“Let’s go find us an anthill,” Ripple said in a commanding voice. “We’ll flood it and when the ants come floating out in those little rafts they form, we’ll blow them to pieces.”

The rains came to the desert, leaving behind a swath of destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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