• Published 10th Mar 2016
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Breaking Down - spitfirepanda

The sequel to Arms of Arceus. In light of Infinity Energy, are the humans of the Pokémon world worth saving?

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Chapter 11: Trials of Conquest

“Report in,” Spitfire said over the radio. One by one the Wonderbolts called in, announcing their status and positions. All five teams, six ponies each, gave clipped reports from their stations around the warehouse. Water lapped at the wooden pillars of the dock. Rain fell in steady torrents, as it had since nightfall. The ponies were initially surprised by the weather’s self-sufficiency, but as they explored the clouds above Gotham they realized that they could still control the skies. Though the clouds seemed predisposed to rain and casting their dark shadow over the city. This suited the Wonderbolt’s purpose well.

Men worked quickly in the docks below. They rushed about, carrying crates and transporting goods. Gilda’s new Cybertronian friend claimed that those crates were full of alien contraband, and that these men were part of a human criminal organization that had sold their world out to an extraterrestrial threat. The ponies weren’t sure about any of this, but Gilda and Joan had assured them that the robotic life forms could be trusted. Strongarm had seemed knowledgeable enough, if a bit overzealous in her pursuit of wrongdoers, so the Wonderbolts had agreed to her suggestions.

The men finished their work and left. Guards were stationed at each entrance, but the ponies counted only six in all. Just as the guards were becoming comfortable with their shift, lightning struck the building and knocked out the power. Lightning struck again, knocking out the backup generators as they came online. Two pegasi in the clouds motioned down to Spitfire, letting her know everything was going according to plan.

“The building’s dark,” Spitfire said, her camouflaged storm cloak blowing in the wind. “Your up, Applejack. Be careful with the humans. Cause as little harm as possible. At the first sign of trouble, get out. We’ll cover you.”

“Roger,” Applejack said as she jumped from her cover and ran for the sentries guarding the doorway. Though smaller than the humans, she was physically superior. She overcame the first two thugs with ease. Her appearance caught them off guard, and two solid kicks sent them down.

“The other guards are already calling for backup after the power outage,” Spitfire said, urgently. “You have five minutes.”
Applejack checked the human’s life signs to make sure she hadn’t seriously injured them. Confident that they would be fine, she turned on her small flashlight and darted inside the building.

It was fairly large, full of heavy crates with a few forklifts parked on the far wall. Applejack closed the steel doors behind her as softly as she could. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, though Strongarm had claimed that the boxes were full of weapons. Yet every crate was sealed shut, and there was no way to know what was in them unless they were opened. She looked around in concern and called in.

“Are we sure these guys are workin’ with aliens?” She said through the radio. “This place doesn’t look too conspicuous.”

“Just hurry and find the papers we’re looking for,” Spitfire responded, her voice contorted by static. “We’re running out of time and we don’t need to be seen if we can help it.”

“Fine, fine. I’ll hurry it up.”

Applejack continued creeping through the warehouse, moving as quickly as possible. She passed shelves of small metal boxes, and stacks of large steel tubs. Each one was air sealed, and cold radiated from them as if they were full of ice. They were interesting, but unsurprising. Based on Gilda’s stories, Applejack had expected something more sinister.

She came to a hallway full of offices, checking each one as she went. They were normal enough, though some had strange green helmets displayed on racks behind their desks. She picked an important looking briefcase that was marked “Prime Specimen: Volatile” and attached it to her saddle before continuing on.

After a minute of moving through the warehouse she came to a room with a locked door. A sharp kick broke the door handle and she was in. A red light began flashing on the far wall, signaling the activation of a silent alarm system. She quickly gathered all of the papers she could find. The little she was able to read in her haste made her anger rise. It was unbelievable, infuriating, and completely unexpected. Gilda had said things were bad, but she hadn’t been prepared for this.

The sound of humans running through the warehouse echoed across the building. Applejack turned off her flashlight, snuck out of the room and back down the hallway. While the Wonderbolts had insisted on wearing blue, Cloudsdale made flight suits, Applejack had accepted gear made in Ponyville. She wore dark, cloth battle armor with the same enchantments on it that Gilda’s had possessed. As she crawled past the humans along the tops of boxes, her movement muffled by her enchanted cloth, she silently thanked Rarity and Twilight for making such effective gear. She was almost to the exit when she slipped.

One of the metal crates was covered in oil that had spilled from another crate on a shelf higher up. Applejack began to rush as the sound of cars announced the arrival of more gangsters. She stepped on the wrong crate and slipped. The oil slick sent her falling downwards. She tried to correct herself while keeping her volatile package sill. Her left, back leg kicked out and hit the row of boxes under her, sending them falling to the ground. Shouts of “Naja Naja” filled the air as the thugs closed in on the noise, but by the time they had trained their flashlights on the source Applejack was gone.

“That was close,” Spitfire said as Applejack walked up next to her. She had watched as the humans ran inside the building, half expecting Applejack to be caught. Her Wonderbolts had been ready to bust through the windows, but Rainbow Dash had insisted that they wait a moment longer. Then Applejack had emerged.

“Fightin’ our way out of there wouldn’t a’ been easy,” Applejack said as she took a storm cloak from one of the Wonderbolts.

“Did you find what we need?”

“Yup, and from what little I’ve read it doesn’t look too good.” She patted the pocket in her armor where the papers were, and then put a gentle hoof on the briefcase at her side. “I found conformation that these humans are tradin’ their own people for alien weapons. I even found the location of the next trade off.”

“Yet we’re still staying in the dark, and avoiding the action,” Rainbow Dash said, angrily from Spitfire’s right. “We should be in there, busting rump and taking names! We can erase memories as we go.”

“We’re leaving that to the Transformers for now,” Spitfire said, though she sounded as if she regretted it. “They can do the job without having to erase memories. Let’s hurry back to base and inform them of the location of the next target. Wonderbolts, move out!”

Yells and screams of surprise came from the warehouse as a bright orange sports car drove up to the entrance. Weapons fired and explosions shook the ground, but the frantic cultists were no match for Drift and his minicons.

Using her mind to search Gotham City, Joan had helped Gilda and her friends capture the rest of the cultists who had escaped their previous battle. Though they had used high caliber weapons, Strongarm’s metal skin had been more than enough to protect Gilda between sorties. After a short battle, the cultists were taken into custody. Now the Equestrian forces had a number of humans to study and interrogate, though Joan added an addendum to her report stating that these were not the best subjects.

Sideswipe had driven Joan and her Clefable guardians to Gotham to treat Gilda’s injuries and help secure their new prisoners. Gilda had insisted that she would be fine, but Joan wanted to make sure of it. The bullet had pierced straight through her leg, despite her enchanted armor. The scar wasn’t pretty, but Gilda said that her fur would cover it in time. Until then, she had to either fly most of the time or walk on three legs.

After the destruction of her previous hideout, Gilda had set herself up in a large garage that had once belonged to one of Gotham’s many crime families. A group of small time car thieves had built a shop there. Gilda had been forced to drive them out. With Strongarm’s help, she and her Litwick had captured them while staying hidden and the Cybertronian had delivered them to the police. Then the second wave had arrived, led by Captain Spitfire of the Wonderbolts. Gilda had returned to Canterlot to deliver her prisoners and receive further medical attention.

The Wonderbolts arrived with orders from Canterlot to protect the innocent while staying hidden. Eager to help, Strongarm had called several of her friends in for assistance. The Transformers protected the city, stopping car chases and destroying criminal hideouts while disguised as vehicles while the ponies scouted out their targets. Yet for each rat’s nest they cleared, twelve more sprang up to replace it. Half of the criminal hideouts that had been uncovered were full of alien creatures that had set up shop in Gotham’s underground. These were the most difficult challenges the Transformers faced, as their weapons were more powerful than those the humans used. That was beginning to change.

“Drift reports that the enemy escaped from the warehouse,” Strongarm said as the Wonderbolts walked into the garage. “The crates were full of weapons, and the cultists were all too eager to use them when their guns failed to pierce Drift’s chassis.”

“We’re not used to these kinds of weapons,” Spitfire said as she removed her wet goggles and sat down on a pillow next to Strongarm. “What does he make of them?”

“Basic plasma blasters, mostly. There were some heavy-duty lasers, and sub-zero ice guns as well. Effective, but I doubt the aliens are giving them their best stock. He and his disciples forced the enemy into retreat, but staying in car mode is becoming too much of a handicap. They’ve taken damage.”

“Both of us have strict orders to stay hidden. I’m afraid there’s nothing to do about it, for now.”

“Bumblebee has gone back home to request more leeway. I doubt he’ll get it. HQ wants us to stay out of human affairs from now on.”

“But you’re here to observe, right?” Rainbow Dash asked as she and Applejack took their seats next to Spitfire. “Why?”

“Optimus Prime wants to understand some things,” Strongarm said, hesitantly. “Humans were born on a planet in our world that was actually the dirt covered body of the Chaos Bringer, Unicron. They were good at heart, but they had a dark side. A… very dark side. Their governments turned away all our attempts at friendship, even after they began colonizing other planets. They hadn’t even left their own solar system before they fell into infighting and self-destruction. They eventually retreated to one of their colony planets, and we haven’t heard from them since.”

“So the humans of your universe didn’t fare too well, eh?” Applejack said, sadly as she gave Ratchet her briefcase. The old medic grumbled about carrying dangerous materials in thunderstorms as he took it. “Not sure that bodes too well for our mission.”

“But they were affected by the presence of the evil one!” Strongarm said, her tone almost pleading as she spoke in defense of the humans. “And it wasn’t the whole species. There were a lot of good humans! I met some, and they were my friends.”

“What proof do you have that this ‘Unicron’ had affected the humans?” Spitfire asked as she opened a bottle of water on the table between them and took a sip.

“W-well, we know that humanity was born and evolved on Earth. Unicron had slept at the core of the Earth for millions of years. He was the core of the Earth! There must be a connection!”

“Twilight’s not here, so I feel obligated to ask this in her place,” Rainbow Dash said, as she took a seat next to Spitfire. “But it sounds like the only proof you have is situational. Are there any experiments you’ve done? You said humanity started living on other planets. What were the humans like who weren’t born on Earth?”

“There were no experiments done on the humans,” Ratchet grumbled. He had opened the briefcase to reveal two containers filled with yellow liquid, which he carefully placed in a stasis pod. “We only watched and waited. Their brutality put Megatron’s to shame, and it didn’t matter where they were born. To think, we actually learned from them once.”

“Their brutality was no worse than that of other primitive, organic life-forms,” Strongarm said, sternly. “Nor were they worse than Megatron. Though… they were pretty bad.”

“They were worse,” Ratchet said, huffing angrily at Strongarm’s correction as he walked away.

“Well, our mission is to understand humans better,” Spitfire said. “And Applejack’s right, this doesn’t bode well.”
Applejack gave Strongarm the papers she had taken from the warehouse. They sat in silence for several minutes as Strongarm went through them. Drift, Slipstream, and Jetstorm came into the garage for medical treatment several minutes later. Though they had several burn marks each, they were still in high spirits as Ratchet tended to their wounds.

“This place is out of our reach,” Strongarm said after she had read through the papers. “It’s at the top of a building, and we don’t have any Ariel Bots on our team. Until we get permission to operate in bot mode, we can’t get up there.”

“We’re not gonna let those people just get sold off to some alien race!” Rainbow Dash said. “We’ll take it, right Captain?”
She turned to look at Spitfire, who was deep in thought.

“Of course we’ll take it,” she said as she rubbed her chin. “But we’ll have to clear out the enemy without being seen.”

“How are you going to do that?” Strongarm asked.

“We’re bringing the wrath of nature with us.”

The storm clouds above Gotham thickened as the night wore on. The weather was becoming more vicious by the minute, though the soldiers of Kobra had strict orders to follow. The alien vessel sat just below them, hovering above a skyscraper owned by a wealthy businessman named George Pascetti, who secretly served Lord Kobra. Batman had suspected him for months now, but he hadn’t gathered the proof he needed for the courts. Now he was off world, distracted by the fighting in space alongside his friends in the Justice League.

The Bat Family was busy tracking down and dismantling alien hideouts throughout the city while struggling to stamp down a gang war. According to reports, two of the kids, Robin and Spoiler, were out of the action. Broken bones and plasma burns do that, Boss Pascetti had said upon hearing the news. His bodyguards had chuckled along with him as he looked through pictures of Red Hood, his face bleeding through a damaged mask, dragging the kids out of the firefight.

The other members of the Bat Family hadn’t fared much better. Batwoman was still the most active, but due to her own injuries she had chosen a different strategy. Alien threats had begun to impersonate the Gotham elite, and take control of human businesses. Choosing to give the majority of the groundwork over to the GPD, she now directed the rest of the Bat Family in sniffing out impostors. The last three raids had ended in success, but the invaders wouldn’t be deterred.

“Word has it you’re dealing with our city’s little vigilante problem,” Mr. Pascetti said as he met with the alien leader. His fake Italian accent was as bad as his fake name. He offered one hand to his guest and patted his round stomach with the other. The alien was a tall, skinny blue creature. It grimaced at the human’s gesture before returning to the virtual data slate in its three fingered hands.

“Those fools stand in the way of our final bulwark,” it hissed. Its green eyes narrowed as it spoke of the Bats and its long forked tongue flickered angrily. “We will turn this solar system into a fortress through which we may finally rebuff these other-dimensional raiders. Your world will be its heart, and its most fortified sector.”

“Why Earth?” Pascetti said, ignoring the alien’s slight.

“Because it is inhabited. You have powerful heroes, and there are armies already here to add to our firepower when the outer walls are ultimately breached. Your kind will be canon fodder.”

“I thought that’s what these people were for?” the man said as he motioned down at the captives. “That’s why you’ve been taking people from all over the world, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but even with our cloning machines they are not enough. The enemy we have encountered thus far stand between fifteen and forty feet tall, and death doesn’t hold them for long. We plan for the worst case scenario, and prepare our actions accordingly.”

“And in the aftermath, my lord will inherit the Earth and his people with him.”

Mr. Pascetti’s dropped his accent with this last statement. His bodyguards grinned at his words, but the alien looked at him strangely. When he spoke, it was as one who was addressing a fool.

“If your lord survives, he will inherit a worthless husk. If that pleases him, then so be it. None in our alliance care what befalls your world once we’re done with it.”

“So, this deal is final?”

“We have both fulfilled our obligations,” the creature said as he looked to the human guards and their shining new plasma rifles. “We are finished. Until next time.”

Ten aliens disembarked from the ship, each carrying a long electric rod in its hands. The human prisoners begged and pleaded through their mouth gags, but the aliens paid them no mind. The cultists watched as the aliens began shepherding their cargo onboard the ship. A wall cloud began to form in the sky above, but so focused were the criminals on their transaction that none of them bothered to care.

Tornados tore through the ship, ripping it apart and sending its insides scattering to the wind before the captives could board. Pegasus ponies created curving gales that forced the debris away from the rooftop and into the skyscraper. Spitfire wanted to leave no chances for the captives to be harmed. She had ordered harsh measures to be taken. Ponies kicked lighting from the clouds, directing it to strike the cultists and aliens below. A fire started on the rooftop, but was soon quenched by a heavy downpour.

The captives looked around in fear and wonder while their slavers twitched on the ground. They looked about the sky, wondering what providence had smiled down upon them. They saw nothing in the pitch-black sky, but slowly dispersing clouds. Sirens sounded below. Police and paramedics had been alerted. Help had arrived. The people began to steadily file through the doorway that led down into the building. The news would have one good report that day, a bright spot in the sea of misery that was Gotham.

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