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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Staring down her muzzle, Berry Punch examined her list of things to do today. It wasn’t often that she wrote lists, but for this day to happen, a list was both prudent and necessary. It was going to be a long and involved day and it would start with saying goodbye to Sour Mash, who was scheduled to leave. The last of the rescued earth ponies arrived late in the night and were ready to continue their journey to the Shetlands. The changelings were ready to go as well. And Sour Mash was itching to return home.

Once that was accomplished, the rest of the day would be planning Barley’s wedding and everything that went with it. The wedding would be a small, intimate affair, which meant it had to be perfect. Barley would be following an ancient tradition of the Shetlanders, a binding ceremony that was sometimes called ‘hoof-fasting.’ He and his chosen bride would have their legs bound together with cord or ribbon, and then they would walk through a carefully constructed obstacle course, complete with other ponies who wanted to ‘help’ them. Along the way, they would ask for various ponies’ blessings and might have to perform various labours or tasks, often comical ones.

Poor Luna had no idea what she was getting into, all of this was Barley’s idea, and his repeated insistence that he wouldn’t marry anypony who couldn’t handle the old traditions of his kind. Berry suspected that Luna would be just fine with the whole thing. She wanted a small, intimate affair with friends and family present. Something memorable without it being a public spectacle.

Small was debateable. Berry bit her lip and looked Berry serious. The mare planned to stick with friends and family, but there was a lot of friends and family. She stared at the list, waging an internal debate, and decided to stick with the plan. Twilight and the other Elements of Harmony had to be invited. They had restored Luna, saving her from the shadow of Nightmare Moon.

They had saved Luna from the shadow of Nightmare Moon, and, after much work, Luna had been saved from herself as well. She was a different mare now—much had changed—and with a sigh, Berry realised that things would continue to change. Barley, she supposed, had something to do with that. All of them had some part, in some way, but it was Barley who loved her most out of all of them.

Looking up, Berry saw Thistle, and in a frantic voice asked, “Hey, Thistle, do you have to work today?”

The kelpie, perhaps expecting another greeting this early in the morning, stared at Berry. After a moment, she replied, “No. Today is a waiting day, where I have to wait for things to get done.” What those things were, she did not elaborate.

“Good.” Berry’s ears pitched forwards and she gave Thistle a smile. “I need your help. You’re on wedding planning duty with me.”

“Oh goody!” Thistle pronked in place and her hooves clickety-clopped on the kitchen floor when she landed. Right away, she hurried to where Berry Punch was sitting and climbed up into a chair beside her. “Just so long as I can spend a little time with Bell Heather and Sukari, I don’t mind.”

“We’ll put Sukari to work too. She’s old enough,” Berry said in an absentminded voice.

“Berry—”

“Look, nothing too strenuous, and she’ll be with you, so it will be fun.” Berry’s eyebrows furrowed and she set her list down upon the table. “I am well aware of her background and what happened to her. Look, I’m not stupid.”

The kelpie’s ears splayed out sideways and she gave Berry a reproachful look. After a moment of squirming and looking uncomfortable, Thistle nodded, but looked a little uncertain. “I’m sorry… for a moment, I just… for a moment I just had a moment. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course we’re not putting her back in the mines, we’re just asking her to help.”

“You had a mama moment,” Berry said in a knowing voice, shaking her head, “you and Derpy both. Your need to protect overrides your ability to be sensible. Don’t worry about it. I’d rather have you be too protective.”

“Berry!”

The voice calling out Berry’s name sounded a bit demanding and Berry could hear from Derpy’s tone that she was needed. The earth pony slumped over in her chair, shook her head, and let out a weary sigh of resignation. She was needed yet again, it was time to feed.

 

 

“Are you moping?” Rising Star asked Bucky, who was standing in place, and quite obviously moping. Rising frowned and shook his head. “There is a no moping rule in this foundry. Mopers are tossed into the furnace and slagged.”

“Sorry, I got to thinking… it was a long night,” Bucky replied as he turned to face Rising Star. He lifted his hoof and gestured at the top secret project that had just been finished. “This looks good. Ready to fly? Think it will work? No magic at all, right?”

Grinning, Rising Star moved to stand beside the fantastical contraption. “No magic, all technology. Scorch is certain that it will fly. That chainsaw weapon that Princess Celestia gave to us… it took us in new directions, gave us ideas, the griffons have spent a lot of time improving it.”

“So… does the engine power the propeller directly?” Bucky asked.

“No.” Rising Star blinked once, twice, and then his eyes went wide. “We tried that a few times, and while we made it work, we found a better way. We use a small, light diesel engine, which is connected to an electrical system, and it generates electrical power. Electrical power is further boosted by the top blade, which spins in flight because of airflow, which provides lift, but also a fair bit of electrical generation. There is a modified airship airscrew assembly in the back which provides thrust, and there is an electric motor driving that.”

“Sounds complex.” Bucky began to circle the new type of autogyro.

“It’s actually far, far simpler than the older crafts of the previous generations. Everything is light and we’re still trying to pull weight were we can. The batteries are heavy and there’s not much we can do about that. If you turn off the diesel motor, it is capable of flying in near silence, but even with the diesel engine running, it is remarkably quiet.”

“So you’ve given up on the direct drive?” Bucky’s eyebrow arched as he looked at Rising Star.

“No.” Rising Star had a look of pride on his face as he focused upon the aircraft sitting in the middle of the foundry. “For the bigger craft, the electric engines we currently have aren’t enough. So those will be direct drive. They’ll be big and slow, but they’ll carry quite a payload. The little combat craft, they’re small and spritely. They’re perfect for an electric motor.”

“Hmm.” Bucky nodded. “I’ll be taking it for a test flight later. But first, I have to go and have a chat with somepony special. I feel that I would be letting them down if I didn’t talk to them first.”

“Well, everything is ready for you. The tank is full and starting it only takes a button push. I think you’ll be impressed.” Rising Star bowed his head. “If you will excuse me, I must go and say goodbye to Sour Mash.”

 

  

 

School, it seemed, was going to have to wait. Berry watched as Sour Mash was buried under a whole pile of ponies. Dinky, Piña, Sentinel even piled on, Cadance, even though Cadance was just getting to know Sour Mash, Harper, Ripple, Loch Skimmer, Sparkler, and Rising Star.

Feeling a vague, but annoying sense of worry, Berry spent a moment of absent minded wondering about Sparkler and her secret project. Some of her fears were alleviated when she saw Bucky. He was up and about… he was being social… it was a minor miracle. She looked at him, studying his face to read his mood.

He was miserable, but hiding it. He looked tired, which was no surprise. He had been working all night after he had gotten up from a short nap with Sukari. Berry bit her lip and wondered if there was a way she could squeeze in an additional task on her list of things to do today. Wear Bucky out and make him sleep. It didn’t seem possible, given that there was so much to do, but Berry realised that she might have to delegate the task to somepony (or somebirdy) else.

Berry’s thoughts were interrupted by a grey pegasus crashing into the pony pile and attacking Sour Mash as she tried to recover. Derpy’s affection could be measured by how she squeezed, and by the looks of things, she was going to squeeze the life out of poor Sour Mash, who didn’t seem to mind.

Smiling, with tears brimming in the corners of her eyes, Berry waded into the pile and then tossed herself around Sour Mash’s neck. Sentinel squirmed out of her way and retreated from the cuddle puddle.

“Promise you’ll come back to the Shetlands,” Sour Mash said to Berry Punch.

“I will,” Berry replied, “I promise.” Even as she spoke, Berry wondered how she would keep her promise. Life was busy, but she knew that she had to keep her word. Somehow, time would have to be found. It might be nice to return to the Shetlands and see how things were developing.

Piña pulled out and wiggled away. She stood, blinking, her face pinched with worry, deep wrinkles appeared above her eyes, making her look older and wizened. She looked up at Sour Mash and Berry Punch, opened her mouth to say something, but then fell silent. No words seemed forthcoming. Looking troubled, Piña darted off, her eyes glistening with tears.

Always a dutiful brother, Sentinel darted off after her, loping along with a gait most equine. Bucky turned his head and watched them go, his ears perked, and then he turned to look at Sour Mash.

“Goodbye, Sour Mash… I’ll be heading to the Shetlands soon enough and I’ll be seeing you.” Bucky paused, then turned to look at Piña and Sentinel. “I’d better go and see if she’s okay.” Saying nothing else, Bucky took off at an odd gait on four mismatched legs.

Derpy pulled away from Sour Mash, looked at Bucky, then turned her head to look at Berry, and she asked, “He’s going to the Shetlands?” The grey mare looked confused for a moment, shook her head, and looked at Sour Mash. “I didn’t know he was going to the Shetlands.”

“Probably just business,” Sour Mash said as she shrugged beneath the bulk of the ponies crushing her. “I know they are building a magic school and a military academy.” The earth pony mare wrapped a foreleg around Ripple’s neck. “I’m so proud of you… I knew you had it in you! You show these mainlanders how a Shetlander does stuff!”

“Yeah!” Ripple’s head bobbed around and then she was put into a headlock by Loch Skimmer, who gave her a noogie. Ripple rolled away, pulling her sister with her, but she didn’t punch her sister or body slam her, because Loch Skimmer was pregnant and had a free pass.

Berry, who felt at ease with the crush of many bodies, heard a whistle blow. It was time to go.

 

 

Piña had taken refuge under a tree heavy with spring buds and tender new leaves. Dew glistened on the leaves and branches. The grass was a bit long and a rather wet. Sentinel had a wing around her, and for a moment, for reasons he could not explain or express, Bucky felt an immense feeling of pride for Sentinel.

He understood the why of the whole situation—Dinky, Piña, and Sentinel had endured a trauma together, a terrible trauma that most would have trouble imagining. So instead of the usual antagonistic relationships between brothers and sisters, instead of the usual bickering and teasing, these three were tight. They had presented a united front against life. Hardship, fear, terror, and suffering had brought them together. They had a bond that few would understand.

He saw Sentinel look at him… his son had one eye just like he did. Bucky could not help but wonder if the Eye of Odin would be passed along to Sentinel, who had already inherited so much. Thinking about this inflamed Bucky’s sense of duty… it was why he had to deal with the harshest threats the world had to offer, it was why he had to put down Hades, it was why he had to suffer… he had to make sure that Sentinel had a better future. The worst and hardest things had to be put down.

Sentinel, an alicorn now, would have a hard enough life. Bucky sat down beside Piña, scooted closer to her, and felt the wet grass soak his backside. It felt good, all things considered, it was cool, delightful, and soothing.

“I’ve been so emotional lately,” Piña said in a low voice that was almost a whine, “and I’ve been having trouble with my moods. They’re a mess. They’re all over the place.”

“You’re becoming a little mare.” Bucky’s voice held no trace of laughter, no sense of mirth. “Berry lies awake at night thinking about it. Worrying about it. You’re about that age when the changes start, and mood swings are bound to happen.”

“This stinks.” This time, Piña’s voice was a whine, a rather high pitched somewhat nasal whine.

“Sentinel is growing up and so are you. Dinky will start feeling the changes as well. The demon puberty is now stalking you, and will devour you the first chance he gets.” Bucky turned his head and looked down at Piña, trying to read her face.

“I wanted to tell Sour Mash that I wanted to come to the Shetlands, but then I thought about it, and I felt angry, and I thought about all of the horrible things that happened there, and then I felt even angrier, I felt rage, and then the rage was gone all of a sudden and I just felt really sad, and then I felt guilty because I knew that I didn’t really want to go to the Shetlands, and I felt real bad because I didn’t want to go and visit with Sour Mash.”

Hearing Piña’s confession, Bucky nodded, understanding.

“And now I feel like crying and I don’t wanna cry, because I still have to go to school, and now I feel all bitchy and I just know that at some point today, I am gonna shoot my mouth off at somepony that gets on my last nerve.” Piña slumped over and her lower lip protruded in a pout. “And that somepony might be you if you try to punish me for saying ‘bitchy’ so it would be best if you just let that slide.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” Bucky said in a low voice as he glanced at Sentinel. “Did you hear anything Sentinel?”

“Not a damn thing,” Sentinel replied.

Sitting between her brother and her father, Piña smiled.

 

 

 

 

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