Breaking Down

by spitfirepanda

Chapter 12: Trials of Conquest

Joan looked out over Metropolis from the rooftop of a building on the city’s outskirts. She had teleported here, so as not to leave a trail for Lois Lane to follow. Lex had a number of security cameras set up in this suburb. He owned almost everything in Metropolis, and through his security system he knew everything that happened on his property. At least he did under normal circumstances.
Joan had put in one last request for the second wave as it was coming through. Now, several members of the Porygon family controlled all of Lex Luthor’s methods of observing this place. They had invaded his computer mainframes undetected, and blocked his machines from picking up any sign of the Pokémon. Confident of her privacy, Joan had dropped her psychic illusion. This place was their safe haven while they prepared for the arrival of God’s Breath.
Over the past several days Joan had learned that Lex Luthor had once served with the Justice League, and was regarded as a hero of Earth. Lois didn’t believe he was a hero, and she was busy trying to disprove his claims. She printed articles daily about who Lex had once been and why he shouldn’t be trusted. She argued that Superman didn’t trust him, and neither should the public. Yet he wore a strange, blue power suit with the symbol of Superman on it, and the more he fought crime in it the more people loved him. He gave them hope, just as Joan did.
She was greatly admired, as well. What had been a growing respect from the public had turned into something more as Lex acted on Joan’s visions that Lois published in the Daily Planet. Lex had even released information pertaining to her visit to his mansion, though most of it had been fabricated. She was associated with him now, and she didn’t know what to think of it. All she really knew was that Lex and Lois were playing a political game that she didn’t want any part of.
“It’s getting cold lately,” Welshi said as she came to sit next to Joan. “The seasons are changing.”
The Whimsicott had arrived with the Wonderbolts several days prior as leader of the second wave of Pokémon. The Slowking and Alakazam had improved their cross-dimensional portal machine and everyone had appeared in one place this time. The Wonderbolts had remained in Gotham to take over for Gilda, while the Pokémon of God’s Breath had traveled to Metropolis. The hope was that each party would see a different side of human society. Every member of both teams would record their thoughts and observations. Those records would pave the way for the joint effort that would begin once the cities arrived. Joan had already taken extensive notes, but she had yet to reach a conclusion. Welshi hadn’t talked much about their mission, but Joan felt that she was already reaching her own conclusions.
Welshi was carefree, and whimsical. It showed in her leadership style. All of her guardians were Lilligant, and while they were powerful they didn’t adhere to normal military protocol. When their mistress called for them, they appeared. Until then, those Pokémon under her charge were given the leeway to do what they wanted. Only two of them stood guard near their leaders, though they were busy grooming each other’s petals while Laurel and Ada gave advice.
Joan wished she could be so carefree, just as she wished to escape the rivalry between Lex and Lois. However, her visions were needed, and she couldn’t deny these people her help. She tried once more to navigate the future, the seventh time in the last hour, but it was too much. She reluctantly pulled her sight back to the present.
“All I see is darkness in our future,” Joan said, softly. “I no longer know if something is blocking my vision, or if the paths of fate are so horrific that I subconsciously block it myself.”
“You’ve been doing this for too long,” Welshi said, simply. “It’s not healthy, especially under such stressful circumstances. You’re losing focus on the present as you live more and more in the past and future. Even Dorris gives her psychics a break on occasion. Perhaps it’s time to leave the public eye.”
She removed a seed from her hair and held it in her hand. It grew into a beautiful red rose in the span of a few seconds.
“What are you doing?” Joan asked as she watched her friend make more roses.
“As you know, when I was younger I traveled the human world, too. I was barely evolved back then.”
“As I recall, you caused several fashion disasters for a runway model in Kalos,” Joan giggled. “That poor girl was hit with a media storm when the video leaked of a Whimsicott throwing cotton balls at her from off stage.”
“They made her dresses look prettier!” Welshi said, defensively. Then she grinned. “I should have sewn them on before the show, though.”
She had three roses in her hands, now. She stopped pulling seeds from her hair and glanced behind her. Their bodyguards were still chatting about color patterns and hair treatment.
“I made my trip to the human world at the same time you made yours. We both saw a lot of neat things, but I saw something different. You avoided humanity, watching them from the shadows just as we are now. During my travels, I spent as much time with the humans as I could.”
She twirled the roses in her hands. Then she gave one to Joan and put the other two in her hair.
“I’ve got countless stories of humans. Did you know, the first person I ever traveled with was an Aroma Lady? Her name was Joan, too, and she was very kind. She’s the only human I journeyed with that didn’t try to catch me.”
“Did she ever say why?”
“Not in words, exactly. I saw her battle once and realized it, though. She wasn’t the best trainer. When we met, she knew she wasn’t strong enough to capture me but she still loved battling. I watched her battle a young Rising Star the day we started our journey together. Her entire team, all four Pokémon, lost in just under five minutes. Not a single Pokémon from her opponent’s team was beaten.”
“So what did you do?”
“I jumped in as her fifth Pokémon,” Welshi said, with a reminiscent laugh. “She called moves, though they were moves of all different types that I couldn’t perform. Still, I beat the entire enemy team. After the battle, I trained her and her partners.”
“You didn’t speak the human language, I presume?” Joan asked. It was forbidden for the Pokémon of God’s Breath to speak the human language to the humans of their world, so as not to risk discovery of the city. Though Welshi had been known to ignore rules when it suited her.
“No, no,” Welshi said as she waved off the idea. “I spoke in our language, but I got my point across. It turned out, she was trying to become strong so she could teach her son one day. His father had been a strong trainer when he was alive, and Joan wanted their son to follow in his footsteps. She just didn’t have an affinity for battle, and in the end I couldn’t fix that. I made her Pokémon strong, though. Defeating them wouldn’t be easy for your average trainer.”
“So, they carried her through battles from there on out? That seems a bit unfair to Joan. She should have been allowed to grow alongside her Pokémon.”
“Oh, she grew,” Welshi said, proudly. “She grew in character as she tried, and repeatedly failed to beat me alongside her partners. She learned from her mistakes, even though she was never able to master the basics. She also learned from her Pokémon as they strived to grow stronger and make their friend’s dreams come true. During the course of our training, that Aroma Lady learned that she had some skill with medicine. She learned something new about herself, something she could pass on to her son alongside her husband’s love of battling.”
“And what did you learn, Welshi?” Joan asked. A Mimikyu sang softly as he walked along the rooftop’s ledge until he came to stand next to Joan. She picked him up and held him. He cooed happily at the attention.
“I learned that growing together, and striving to better the lives of others is a vital part of our mission in life. But the humans of this world… are different. They look to the skies for their savior, rather than trying to save themselves.”
“The heroes of this world can fly,” Joan said, jokingly. “Where else would you look for them?”
“But what do they strive for?” Welshi said. Joan marveled silently at how serious her friend was being. This wasn’t a side of Welshi that was often seen. “They look to this ‘Lex Luthor’ and see a man who will save them from the terrors of the universe. Adversity makes us stronger, but how strong can these people be if others face their adversity for them? I became the adversary for Aroma Lady Joan and her partners to make them stronger. What makes these people stronger?”
“That might be a question for the Slowking College,” Joan replied. “Though I can say, with confidence, that the humans of this world have begun looking up to me as a hero. At the very least, I’ve become an idol. My visions of the future have given them hope where their hope was failing. This problem is beyond them, but I help to bridge that gap between defenselessness and safety.”
“And how do you feel about that?” Welshi asked.
Joan considered the question as she hugged the Mimikyu closer.
“I’ve gotten too involved, haven’t I?” Joan said, blushing slightly as she realized that she had tainted her own mission.
“Yes,” Welshi said, kindly yet sternly. “You were only supposed to observe, make friends, and understand the state of their world. Instead, you’ve been leading these people, in a way. Though perhaps the heroes of this world are too involved, as well. I wonder what these humans would do without them?”
“Yet another question for the Slowking College,” Joan said with a sigh.
“Pikayu, Pikayu,” the Mimikyu sang as he rocked gently in Joan’s arms.
“You’re forgetting the ‘chu’, my dear,” Joan said as she smiled down at her new friend. He had come with several other Fairy-types to support her. Welshi said he was quite young, but had provided strong protection for the psychic circles that had served in the Battleworld kingdom of Ashes. At least, that was what the Slowking’s records said.
“I don’t want to be a Pikachu,” the Mimikyu replied. “I just want to look like one, and sound a bit like one, too. I’m still me, Lady Joan.”
Joan hugged the little creature tighter. He was so cheerful and confident, unusual traits for one of his kind. Joan had been that way once, but the past two years had changed that. She wanted to take this little one home and keep him safe, but they were soldiers of God’s Breath. They had an important mission to accomplish. Arceus demanded an answer, and it wouldn’t wait forever. In the meantime, they faced unknown horrors and an uncertain future.
Sideswipe drove up to the parking lot and honked. He had been driving around for several hours, watching the people and keeping himself occupied.
“I’m going for a drive, little one,” Joan said to the Mimikyu as an idea began to form in her mind. “Would you like to come with me?”
“Yes, please!”
“Should I come?” Welshi asked.
“We’re coming!” Ada said as she and Laurel ran over to Joan’s side.
“Gather your Lilligant and stand by,” Joan told Welshi as she rose from her seat to hover in the air with her Clefable guardians. “I’m going to confront Lex Luthor. Then, I’m leaving the public eye.”

“We’re calling them the ‘Wraiths’,” Lex Luthor said to the crowd before the Daily Planet. He hovered in front of them, his blue power suit gleaming in the sunlight. “Don’t worry, my friends. We have everything under control.”
“You’re working with the Justice League, again?” one man said from the group of awestruck onlookers.
“I have been in talks with the Martian Manhunter. He’s gone to the battle in space, and reported back to us with some very valuable information.”
“The majority of those kidnapped have been rescued,” Joan said as she walked up. She was disguised as the brown haired woman that the public knew. Hwan, the Mimikyu she had invited along, was limp in her hands. He was enjoying his role as a rag doll, and the fact that everyone around him fell for it so easily. One man saw him blink through the holes in his costume. He scratched his head in confusion, but said nothing.
“Thanks to your remarkable insights,” Lex said. He nodded to Joan in respect and crossed his hands behind his back authoritatively. “The Martian also revealed the true face of our alien insurgents. The Wraiths, as we call them, have been to Earth once before. Our country had one working for them for decades, but he and his technology were Trojan Horses. An armada came to conquer our planet, tracking the loan Wraith they had sent as a decoy. They would have stripped our civilization clean and left us in the Stone Age, or wiped us out entirely, if not for Superman.”
“And what have you discovered about these Wraiths, Mr. Luthor?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” Lex replied.
Joan sighed, and looked into the past. Visions filled her mind. She saw Lex meeting with his security contractors. They were discussing something on a screen, but Joan couldn’t make out what it was without proper meditation. Dark shapes moved about in the background, marring her vision. The buzz they made was so painful and infuriating that she had to retreat to the present.
“You found one,” Joan said, though it was a guess. She blinked as the buzzing rang distantly in her mind. “You found a Wraith living on Earth. Living among us. Plotting against us.”
“I did,” Lex said with a satisfied smile. “Your vision impresses, as always. That is why I need your help, Madam Joan. I can defeat this foe, but I need your psychic powers at my side.”
This wasn’t going how Joan had expected it to. She had planned to tell off Lex before announcing her retirement to Lois. Then, assuming Lex chose not to attack her for not being human, she would have teleported out of the office before her new friend could convince her to stay. Instead, Lex Luthor was pulling her into another one of his plans. Yet, as Joan looked at the pleading faces in the crowd she knew what answer she had to give.
“I’ll go with you, Lex. I will lend you my foresight.”
“Excellent,” Lex Luthor said with his most cunning grin yet.