Breaking Down

by spitfirepanda

Chapter 16: Trials of God

“Nara, use Fire Punch!” Rainbow Dash yelled as she punched the air in excitement. Nara followed her lead, striking the rival Heracross with a small, blazing fist. The other Pokémon took the blow full in the face, and was sent flying several yards to skid across the ground on its back. It came to a halt next to its trainer’s feet, struggled to rise, and failed. Susan’s Pokémon was defeated. Rainbow Dash was declared the victor.
“Good battle,” Susan said as she shook Rainbow Dash’s hand. They had met just outside of Celesctic Town. She had seen Rainbow Dash training her Chimchar near the city’s entrance and had requested a battle. The rules had been one Pokémon each, since Rainbow only had one Pokémon. After a furious five-minute fight the winner had been decided.
“Same to you!” Rainbow Dash said. “That spinning move was crazy. How did you manage to deflect our Ember so easily like that?”
“Manipulation of the downdraft created by my Heracross’ wings,” Susan replied as she spun in place, mimicking her Pokémon’s movements. Her long, curled ponytail hit her in the face as she came to a stop and she laughed. Her Pokémon was pulling itself up slightly. She withdrew a max potion from her pack and held it up to the Heracross’ mouth. “Still need to work on it, though. How did you guys open up Route 210? Only the strongest trainers have been able to do anything like that, and it doesn’t normally last long. Even the Pokémon seemed nicer, though none of them wanted to battle.”
“They got their fill a’ battle from us,” Applejack said as she and her Rowlet walked up alongside Fluttershy and her Litten. Archi puffed up proudly, shifting a bit on Applejack’s arm to make himself more visible. Ashley was more casual about the praise, choosing to sit in front of the Heracross and begin her own conversation. Archi quickly landed on the ground next to them and joined in while Rainbow Dash knelt down to treat the scrapes on Nara’s arms and chest with clean cloth and a disinfectant spray.
“Do you mind if I ask you how you and your Heracross met?” Fluttershy said. She knelt down beside the defeated Pokémon, watching in admiration as Susan fed her partner in between its replies to Ashley. The young trainer was caring and supportive, and her Heracross seemed to be quite healthy despite the recent battle.
“Not at all,” Susan said, with a bright smile. She put the empty potion container back in her bag and her Heracross let out a happy burp. “My Heracross was actually given to me as a gift from my father last year after we moved to the Sinnoh Region. We waited a few months to train at home. The wild Pokémon started going crazy soon after we departed. Travel has been slow, deliberate, and careful for a while now.”
“Heracross!” the Pokémon cheered, flexing his arms fiercely.
“My Pokémon are the only reason I’ve been able to make it this far,” Susan said as she patted her Heracross on the head.
“Well, at least you’ve got a strong ally to travel with,” Fluttershy said with a smile. Though Susan couldn’t tell, Fluttershy’s friends thought her smile was a bit forced. Applejack patted her shoulder encouragingly as the other girls arrived from their trip to the Poké Mart.
“Now I’ve got a few more questions for you,” Susan said, nervously. “If you don’t mind me asking… Why is your skin so differently colored? Is it like a new fad you’re starting? Your names are quite unique, too. A-are they nicknames? What do they mean?”
The girls looked to Twilight Sparkle, who sighed and began to give the same explanation she’d given to the people of Celestic Town and the news crews that had come from Jubalife City to interview them. She described an experiment with hair dye and the fruit of crossbred berry plants. It was a well thought out, scientific explanation for their skin tones that seemed to satisfy the people’s curiosity. She also conceded that their names were, in fact, nicknames they’d taken as stage names for their band and they were using them as common names to publicize their music. While untrue, no one had questioned it, though the girls had been gently coerced into playing a song for the news crew who had provided instruments shipped in from Jubalife.
Most of their makeup had been lost in the fighting through Route 210, and what was left wouldn’t have allowed them to disguise themselves effectively. Rarity had managed to save just enough to keep them looking fabulous for a few days, and had insisted on the other girls looking good while in this new civilization. They had been given no choice but to lie about their condition when the group of searchers from Celestic Town had discovered them. The other girls could recite the explanation as well, but Twilight Sparkle’s authoritative knowledge of science made it seem more plausible when she gave it. Susan accepted it just as easily as the news crews had.
With their story told, the girls wished Susan farewell, and they returned to their gathering spot near the Pokémon Center.
“Giving Pokémon as gifts…” Fluttershy said, thoughtfully as she took a seat in the shade of a large tree. The old, wooden benches creaked slightly as the girls sat down.
“What’s wrong with that?” Ashley said as she jumped up into Fluttershy’s lap. “You told me once that the humans in your world give puppies and kittens as gifts, sometimes.”
“But that’s different! You’re driven by your instincts. Only a handful of animals are capable of such things, and none of them to the extent that humans are. Dogs have been domesticated for so long that most of them can’t survive in the wild effectively. Cats are different. They can survive by themselves more easily than dogs can, but even they have changed over the course of prolonged domestication in ways that harm their natural ability to survive without people. Yet we saw God’s Breath, and there are Pokémon in this very Pokémon Center capable of operating high tech machinery to treat injured patients just as well as the human nurse can.”
“She’s right,” Twilight Sparkle said as she swiped through the pages of her Pokédex. “You Pokémon are capable of so many things humans take for granted. You’ve built sophisticated societies. You’re analytical and able to think in the abstract. Primates will often fight in the wild for the same reasons humans fight each other, such as territory and resources. Yet their reasoning skills are still driven by instinct and basic survival, and they lack the capacity to create anything remotely close to human civilization. We only spent a night in God’s Breath and I can already tell that you’re technology is far more advanced than ours. There are Pokémon who are easily as smart as humans, and some who are even more intelligent. My only question would be why do wild Pokémon stay in the wild? Why not build more civilizations like God’s Breath? You could rival the humans of this world overnight if you wanted to.”
“My question would be, why build those societies at all?” Archi said from his perch atop the tree.
“Indeed,” Poe said from his seat next to Archi. The Rowlet looked to one another, then back at the humans, cocking their heads in a mirror image. “Pokémon have always lived close to nature. It is our way. The ponies of Equestria are the same, are they not?”
“He’s right,” said a strong voice from nearby. The group looked around but saw no one. Then the air shimmered, and two Keldeo walked forward out of seemingly nothing.
“Ohmigosh!” Pinkie Pie yelled as she withdrew a pokeball from her belt. “I’m gonna catch me a legendary! Who wants the second one?”
Leon shifted nervously, unsure of how serious his friend was as he considered the possibility of facing down a living legend so soon after their close call on Route 210.
“Pinkie Pie, it’s me,” Sunset Shimmer said as she dispelled the illusion on Fluttershy and herself. The surprise didn’t last long. The girls greeted Sunset Shimmer eagerly, hugging their friend, unbothered by her pony form. Fluttershy watched with a smile of appreciation for the happy reunion. Sunset Shimmer quickly took hold of her with her magic and brought her into the group hug. The girls embraced her like an old friend, and her human counterpart seemed especially grateful to see her safe. The Pokémon cheered happily.
“We need to be discreet,” Sunset continued after the girls had separated. Her horn began to glow with a bright light, and she teleported the entire group outside of Celestic Town.

They appeared on Route 210, far from the path and prying human eyes. The wild Pokémon in the area watched their arrival anxiously. They were in a clearing with four Empoleon standing guard nearby. A single Leafeon sat on the edge of the clearing in the shade of the trees. His hazelnut colored eyes were clear and focused, his ears twitching on occasion as he listened to the sounds of the forest. He turned his head toward several wild Pokémon watching from the bushes nearby. He met their eyes and frowned. Without a word, they ducked back in the foliage and scampered off into the forest.
“You girls did a wonderful job of calming this place,” Sunset Shimmer said. There were eight large pillows arranged in a circle for them to sit on. Sunset fluffed them with her magic as they approached. “The Pokémon here were among the most violent toward humans in all of Sinnoh. Now they’re… Well, they’re not violent anymore. That’s a plus.”
“It wasn’t easy, darling,” Rarity said as she and her friends took their seats. “They tried to kill us most of the way to town, all so they could push us in the direction of that criminal group’s hideout. Korish has a terrible way of getting others to do favors for her.”
“She’s a maniac,” Pinkie Pie said as she pulled a chocolate bar from her bags. She split it and gave one half to Leon. “I had to use so much of my confetti, throwing it at monsters that were trying to kill me, that I didn’t have any left after the battle. We had to use torn up pieces of notebook paper for our ‘We Survived Certain Death’ party! Don’t even get me started on my candy stash. It got lost in the forest when someone poked a hole in my bag. This candy bar is my last bit of sugar.”
Pinkie Pie looked out at the forest longingly, and Leon joined her.
“I picked some up,” he said as he looked out toward the wilderness, a hint of guilt in his voice between bites from his chocolate bar. “I ate them while we were fighting.”
“And you didn’t share?” Pinkie Pie yelled as she picked Leon up and shook him.
“It was a moment of weakness!” Leon cried, dramatically.
“You weren’t so weak that you couldn’t fight!”
“I was morally weak!”
“Is that why you were spitting on other Pokémon while they were trying to recover?”
“That wasn’t spit, it was my Water Gun attack!”
“Wait, that’s actual water? I just thought your saliva glands were overactive. Do you make, like, gallons and gallons of water in your body? You’re so small. Where do you store it all? If it came out the other end would it still be water or…”
“Answering that question would be a fascinating study in non-human anatomy,” Twilight Sparkle interrupted with a small cough. “Though shouldn’t we return to our very important discussion, for now?”
“Sorry,” Pinkie Pie said as she set Leon back down on the table.
“So, tell us the details,” Sunset Shimmer said, excitedly. “How did you girls survive against those wild Pokémon?”
“Well, it wasn’t easy,” Applejack said. “We managed through brute force, mainly. We were so exhausted by the time we got to the bad guy’s hideout that we had to use Rainbow Power just to survive!”
“We held back on the magic, though,” Rainbow Dash said. “We used just enough to capture those Team Galactic goons and make it out in once piece.”
“Korish is still out there,” Nara added, with a cautious look over his shoulder.
“We can’t keep track of her, unfortunately,” Sunset Shimmer said. “She’s too skilled at hiding, and countering her call to arms against the humans isn’t easy. The best way to do it is by showing the Pokémon a better way. That’s why you girls are here.”
“Can the humans of this world not show this ‘better way’, too?” Fluttershy said as she pet her Litten’s back. “Korish claimed that the people that live by the law are worse than the criminals we faced in that cave, but everyone seems so nice.”
“It’s likely she was exaggerating,” Twilight Sparkle said. “She hates all humans, no matter who they are or what they do. She even hates us, and we have no prior connection to this reality!”
“I think she’s probably exaggerating, too. But I feel like there’s some truth to her words. The majority of the people of this world may be kind hearted, but Team Galactic is selling Pokémon to someone. We already know that there are people who give Pokémon as gifts to their children, so…”
“Are you saying Susan’s dad bought her Heracross from Team Galactic?” Rainbow Dash said, incredulously.
“No. Though we don’t know where she got her Heracross from. While I don’t want to believe it myself, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that normally law abiding people are buying Pokémon illegally or worse yet… legally.”
“I would hope it’s illegal to buy and sell Pokémon,” the pony Fluttershy said. She flapped her wings nervously when the group turned to look at her, but continued. “We heard part of your discussion earlier, and you girls are right. Pokémon are smart enough to create things that our civilizations take for granted. They can form civilizations of their own rather easily. Buying and selling them should be a crime, in my book.”
“But don’t ponies have pets?” Applejack said. “Princess Twilight’s told us that she has a pet owl named Owlowiscious. You folks must have domesticated animals, then. As a farmer, I know first hand the importance of domesticated animals. They’ve helped humans survive for countless generations, and we’ve helped them survive in turn. Now that we’ve got machines ‘ta help us with the hardest stuff, we can keep ‘em as companions and friends. We do raise some animals for food, and we try to be as humane as possible about it. Some folks think that’s cruel in itself though, like we should go back ‘ta livin’ in the stone age, or somethin’. Not talkin’ about you of course, Sugarcube.”
Applejack addressed the human Fluttershy with this last sentence. Her friend smiled and nodded in understanding.
“It’s Ok,” she said. “I don’t eat meat personally, but I don’t mind that others do. The truth is, the wilderness is a terribly brutal place. Animals use all sorts of means to kill and eat each other. Most people have been living in the luxury of modern society for so long that they lose sight of this and romanticize things they don’t really understand. I don’t agree with the harmful animal testing, of course, and we could do a better job of living in harmony with nature. But giving a loving home to a furry friend is never a bad thing.”
“Oh, I agree,” the pony Fluttershy said with a smile. “Equestira is different than your world, though. Nature takes care of itself in your world. That’s not the case where Sunset and I are from.”
“But ponies do keep pets?” Applejack asked.
“Yes, because the animals of the wild need help to survive. We help them build homes. We take the birds north when the seasons change, and we keep order within our forests. Those animals that are incapacitated or incapable of living in the wild, be it due to a physical wound or an emotional inability, are adopted by ponies. Some become pets simply because they want to. Though, cats and dogs have been commonly domesticated for a long time as companions and assistants in some cases.”
The creatures of our world can be quite intelligent. Yet even our animals are incapable of creating societies such as ours. Our world is magical, with threats far beyond those of your average eagle or bear. Ponies have thrived due to our own magic and creativity. Our societies have dealt with these problems one-way or another until the largest problems were caused by creatures of our… um, caliber. We give back to nature by providing other creatures with the things they need to survive when they’re unable to do it themselves.”
“Fascinating as that explanation is, the question arises, are Pokémon comparable to the animals in our worlds?” Rarity said as she took a brush from her purse and began to search her hair for split ends in her pocket mirror. “I believe we already have an answer to that, and it is a resounding ‘No’.”
“Though if we were to compare them to the animals in one world or another, I think the animals of Equestria would be more appropriate,” Rainbow Dash said. “They sound a lot more advanced than the animals in our world, even if they seem to lack some basic survival instincts.”
“Do you girls want to know where that Heracross came from?” Ashley said from her curled position in Fluttershy’s lap. “We asked him, you know. He told us exactly where he came from.”
“You girls should continue this discussion elsewhere,” said the Leafeon before any of the girls could respond. His voice was serious and urgent as he approached from the far end of the clearing.
“Sorry,” Sunset Shimmer told her friends. “We forgot to introduce you. This is Midori, a noble of the House of Eevee and one of their top lieutenants.”
“It’s good to meet you all,” Midori said without looking at the group. His eyes were focused on the horizon beyond the trees. “We wanted you see the fruits of your efforts before you left. We were even going to introduce you to the Oranguru we brought in to instruct the Pokémon here, but things have changed. An airship has been spotted several miles away, coming this direction. It’s in stealth mode, invisible to the naked eye, but our scouts can hear it. They suspect that it’s a model used by Pokémon Hunter J. With her technology, she shouldn’t have a problem evading the police barricade. That means you girls need to go, now.”
“This Pokémon Hunter is hunting us now?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“Possibly. If it’s not her, then it’s one of the apprentices she’s taken in recently acting on her behalf. She’s been hired by Team Galactic before. If their bosses are angry enough to bring her in, then things just turned sour.”
“But if her clients are normally law abiding citizens using her services for illegal purposes, then we shouldn’t run from her,” Rarity said. “They could give us insight into whatever black market operation they’re working on. This would be a perfect opportunity to see where this leads, would it not?”
“Rarity’s right!” Rainbow Dash said, defiantly. “Let’s rush that ship and give ‘em a good beat down!”
Rainbow Dash punched the sky, and Nara copied her eagerly.
“That’s insane,” Midori said. “J’s team is always competent, ruthless, and effective. You’d be greatly outnumbered on her ship, and I’m not confident we can trust the wild Pokémon here to rise up on your behalf in the numbers we would need.”
“I can cast an illusion spell on them,” Sunset Shimmer said. “The only reason I didn’t do it before was because Rarity said she had more than enough makeup to do the job.”
“No. Even if we could disguise you successfully, none of you know the first thing about fitting in with J’s goons. You’d stick out immediately. We don’t have the time to teach you enough about them to make a difference, either. It’s best to leave and make sure they can’t find us.”
“We could follow them,” Pinkie Pie said.
“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash said, determined to see some action. “If I Pony-Up, I bet I can hold onto their ship without being noticed. Besides, it’s not like us to hide from the bad guys.”
“Excuse me,” Ashley interrupted. “There’s a better way, right Archi?”
“Of course,” Archi hooted. “Rather than infiltrating their group here, we should go to where they will be in the future.”
“None of you are psychic-type,” Midori said, with a dead pan stare.
“I had déjà vu once!” Leon said, clapping his flippers excitedly.
“That doesn’t count.”
“Susan’s Heracross told us where to go,” Ashley said, slyly. “He wasn’t sold by Team Galactic. He was sold by Pokémon Hunter J.”