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 city was slowly digging out of the worst blizzard it had ever seen. The sun was shining and warm. Princess Celestia, using a bit of magical manipulation, had the melting snow evapourate rather than turn into water and contribute to the flooding. The residents of Baltimare pulled together, finally coming together as a city, a welcome state of affairs after the city had been torn apart by intertribal violence previously in the summer.

Princess Luna was graciously providing power to a section of the city while ponies worked to restore lines and get the power plants repaired. She also spent the time reading storybooks to foals, helping them to pass the time and alleviate their fears.

Most surprising, and for reasons he could not explain, Bucky found this suspicious, there were very few deaths. A few of the elderly had passed, but that was expected in these sorts of situations. There were serious injuries of all kinds, plenty of nearly dead ponies who had been revived, and a couple of half frozen ponies who had been thawed out. Try as he might, Bucky could not explain the shockingly low death toll.

 

 

Bucky watched as two new airships entered into the airspace over Baltimare, bearing the markings of the Sea of Grass. They came in from off the ocean, flying low, a long lean bodied gunship and a wider frigate following along behind it. The frigate had a heart and palm fronds, indicating it was a hospital ship.

As Bucky stood gawking, a flight of pegasi departed from the gunship, flying down to where Bucky stood near The Scorned Mare. Squinting in the sunlight, Bucky stared as the fliers descended. When they landed, Bucky recognised them.

“Zebra Finch! Skua! Pelican!” Bucky cried, feeling a welcome sense of relief.

“Hello Lord of Winter. We heard word that help was needed. Sorry we’re late, was busy mopping up griffon resistance in the archipelago,” Finch greeted, smiling at Bucky.

“You arrived just in time. We could always use more help. How do the Shetlands fare against the griffons?” Bucky responded, looking worried as he asked his question.

“The griffons who live on the Shetland Isles fought bravely to defend their new home from their evil kin. Your brigade made a name for themselves. The griffons feared them a great deal. It is sad to say that the griffons refused to submit or surrender. We sent most of their ships into the sea. They have been completely routed and their losses are total. Only a few remain and they were taken prisoner. Fancy sent a few vessels to aid us, the Fancy Foreign Legion are fierce fighters and they are currently discussing terms with Keg Smasher about setting up a permanent outpost on the isles somewhere,” Finch reported in reply, smiling broadly as he spoke.

“Well, that’s a relief I suppose,” Bucky said, looking somewhat disheartened. “Evil or no, they were my subjects. I mourn their loss.” The unicorn hung his head and closed his eye for a moment, visibly overcome with emotion.

“The ponies of the Shetlands and the Minnowrock Isles are safe. The griffon defenders, Keg Smasher has promised them their own island to populate. From what I understand, the island was not ideal for ponies, but it is ideal for griffons. Lots of tall jutting rocks, sheer cliffs, ideal places for a rookery or even a fortress,” Finch said, trying to cheer Bucky up.

“I suppose everything worked out for the best,” Bucky said in a low voice, his eye opening slowly as he spoke. He looked at Finch. “I am really glad that you came.”

“Mutual assistance pact. I got a call through the mirror and was dispatched here right away. If something was to happen in the Sea of Grass, our friends in Equestria would be there for us under the terms of the treaty,” Finch responded. The winged zebra peered around at the snow. “For some reason, I suspect that you are responsible for the blizzard here. I was told there was a hurricane.”

“I traded one disaster for another,” Bucky explained in response.

“Ah… righto then. I should start unloading the Bocors. Nothing like an army of witch doctors to bring control to a disaster area,” Finch stated in reply.

“Finch… it is nice to see us… and by us, I mean our two nations, actually coming together. This is what I had hoped for. I know Equestria has made mistakes in the past and the Sea of Grass was not treated fairly by House Avarice. It was most gracious of you to come to our aid,” Bucky said as he looked the winged zebra in the eye.

“It is never too late to try and make things right,” Finch answered, giving a little nod.

 

 

“It was nice of them to give us a break,” Rumble mumbled as he peered down over the rail of The Albatross. The little pegasus colt yawned. “I wonder if I could get away with a nap.”

“I dunno, I really don’t feel punished. I’m enjoying myself today,” Sweetie Belle said in a low tired voice. “Making sure that all of the ponies onboard this ship had food and something to drink was kinda satisfying. A lot of ponies said thank you and were real nice to me for helping them.”

“No cutie mark though,” Apple Bloom said dejectedly, looking at Scootaloo as she spoke.

“That’s okay though. You know, I think when we get home, I’m gonna sign up to volunteer at the hospital. I like feeling needed. I like knowing that I did something that made somepony happy,” Sweetie Belle said, looking thoughtful and distracted.

“I always thought we’d get our cutie marks together,” Scootaloo said in a low tired voice.

“But if we did that, we’d all have the same cutie mark, wouldn’t we? I mean, we do everything together. Maybe that’s what we’re doing wrong. Isn’t a cutie mark supposed to be about what you’re special at? As an individual I think is how Cheerilee put it,” Apple Bloom responded, looking at her friends with wide but tired eyes.

“I never thought of it that way,” Scootaloo replied, looking over at Rumble.

“We can still have adventures together and be friends, but maybe we should try doing stuff by ourselves once in a while. Scootaloo was alone when she got her cutie mark,” Sweetie Belle said as she rubbed her chin.

“We can do stuff by ourselves and then get together to talk about what we’ve done. We can then give each other advice on what we think we do best,” Apple Bloom suggested.

“Bucky told me he didn’t get his cutie mark until he was grown up. He drank some beer and there it was,” Scootaloo said, looking thoughtful and just a little bit devious as she thought about this morning’s conversation with Bucky after he had explained what they would be doing for most of the day.

“I like your cutie mark… being a pilot would be cool,” Rumble said in a breathy sigh.

 

 

The power situation looked grim at first, Baltimare was already suffering brownouts and shortages, but having half of the city wiped off the map reduced the need for power. A dedicated crew laboured to fix the plant, repair the damage, fix the down lines, and restore the grid.

Princess Celestia’s youngest students now worked with a basic water boiling and evaporation spell, drying out vast pools of mud, turning it to dirt, and then the older students pushed it away using barriers of telekinetic force.

The adolescent students and those with sufficiently advanced transmography spells worked to repair buildings, fix cracked walls, restore foundations, fix damaged roofs, fix cracked windows, and dry out buildings. Bucky worked with them, gently offering his own knowledge on transmutation and transmography in general, carefully explaining the virtue of willpower, of focus, of concentration, and how it was needed if one wanted to be a successful transmuter, or any sort of spell caster really.

By the late afternoon, fewer and fewer survivors were being found, not because ponies were dying, but because most of the lower half of the city had been rescued. Bucky’s golem army prowled the ruins, carefully crawling in and out of the rubble, looking for signs of life. Entire armies of pegasi circled overhead, looking for signals, waiting for a golem to begin flashing and blaring its alarm klaxon.

The biggest issue was going to be housing, winter was coming, and there seemed to be no easy answers readily available. Baltimare was a city devastated. The entire city was going to have to come together if they planned to survive the winter.

Walking through the middle of the ruins, Princess Celestia carried a massive ocean going vessel back to the water, holding it aloft in her magic, after it had washed ashore and came to rest almost a half a mile inland.

 

 

Exhausted, but almost bursting with an idea, Bucky looked up at Princess Celestia, noticing her red bloodshot eyes. She looked like how he felt. He cleared his throat and realised he needed a refreshing drink, he felt his thirst keenly. “You know, watching you take that ship back to the ocean gave me an idea,” Bucky said as he gave a weary smile to Celestia.

The alicorn yawned. “I would like to hear it,” Celestia replied, one ear drooping down.

“That was an ocean liner. A passenger ship,” Bucky stated.

“Yes. Yes it is. You are very observant,” Princess Celestia said.

“International travel is somewhat restricted right now, which is probably why that ship was in Horseshoe Bay harbour. How many ponies can stay aboard a ship like that? And are there more vessels we can use to house ponies who have been made homeless? I mean, it has staterooms, cabins, suites for families, dining facilities, it has everything needed for a pony to be comfortable, right?” Bucky questioned, raising his only eyebrow over his only eye.

Celestia’s drooping ear sprang upright. “Buckminster… that is a brilliant idea. There are ships rusting away in the ruined harbour of Manehatten. We can fix them. Bring them south. Fix them up and use them for housing.”

“How many ponies can one of those big luxury liners hold? Not just the passengers cabins, but I know they have a crew area too,” Bucky inquired, now looking especially thoughtful.

“I do not know. Over a thousand I think. One of them bragged about holding some ridiculous number like fifteen hundred ponies. They kept making these luxury ships bigger and bigger, Manehatten and Trottingham had an rival industry going between them. House Avarice funded the construction of some truly massive ocean going vessels and those ships are currently locked away in Manehatten’s harbour,” Princess Celestia answered, her muzzle wrinkling as she wracked her brain to come up with relevant information.

“So we just to need to get those vessels seaworthy enough to get them here, and then make sure they are fit to be lived in. They’ll need power, and most of them burn coal. Can we get some solar crystals or something to help with the power needs?” Bucky inquired, looking pensive and distracted at the same time.

“Those take time to grow, but yes, it is possible,” Celestia responded, nodding her head in agreement, her eyes narrowing as her mind began to see possibilities. “I will send Twilight, she has a knack for making exceptional solar collector crystals. Her very first science fair project involved making one.”

“The less we discuss my science projects the better,” Bucky said, shaking his head.

“Ah yes… the self baking potato,” Celestia said, her eyes going wide as she felt a moment of panic from the memory. So strong was her sense of alarm from the memory that she actually felt her nethers clench in fear.

“I just said not to discuss this!” Bucky protested, a pleading look upon his face. “It seemed like a very reasonable idea at the time… a modified potato battery with an arcano-tech device that drew power from the potato to cook it.”

“You should never be trusted around root vegetables. No other pony in the long history of Equestria caused as much trouble as you have. Carnivorous potatoes. Self baking potatoes-”

“Okay I’ve had a few potato related failures,” Bucky whimpered, interrupting Celestia.

“POTATOES WITH ACTUAL BLINKING EYES!” Celestia shouted as she shuddered.

“I did my detention for that! You have no right to shout at me!” Bucky retorted as he backed away from Celestia.

“Your self baking potato blew out all of the windows in the room when it exploded. Ponies were deaf for days. I heard ringing in my ears for almost two weeks, you little tuber troublemaker,” Celestia said accusingly.

“That’s the past! You can’t be angry at me for this now,” Bucky begged, glancing around as he tried to figure out which direction was most viable for his escape.

“You always held so much promise, even if it came in the form of such destruction and chaos,” Celestia said, suddenly slumping and looking morose. “Looking back, it certainly is clear to me now that you were the one. You were so sweet and gentle in your nature… I honestly thought that the shadow had passed you over. I really wanted to believe that.”

“I’m still kind and sweet and gentle,” Bucky mumbled in a soft frantic voice.

“You are also the embodiment of war. This is so unfair to you. I wish there was a way I could fix this, to take that away from you. You deserve better,” Celestia said sadly.

 

 

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