• 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 17: Trials of God

The road to Mt. Coronet wasn’t terribly long. After several hours of arguing with Midori, and waiting for news from Lord Akira while relaxing inside the Celestic Town Pokémon Center, they were on their way. From their vantage point on the roads leading to its base, the mountain range extended off into the horizon on either side. The tallest peak loomed high above them, like a monument to some long forgotten history. There was a feeling to this place, a painful ache in the air and a strange sense of emptiness. Twilight Sparkle flipped through articles on her Rotom-dex as she went, intent on understanding their situation to the best of her abilities.

“You should really focus more on where you’re walking, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said as she braided Twilight’s hair.

“What?” Twilight said, her friend’s words pulling her away from her thoughts. She brushed her hair reflexively. When she pulled it away, her hand was covered in pink and silver glitter. “How long have you been…?”

“About five minutes,” Pinkie Pie said with a smirk. “Now you really sparkle!”

“Pinkie Pie!”

“I’ve also been steering you away from trees and rocks and things. Your hair looks pretty like that, too.”

She pulled a mirror from her pocket and held it up for her friend.

“I suppose so,” Twilight Sparkle said with a smile as she admired her hair. “There’s just so much to learn here and… Well, some of the things I’ve been reading make me a bit nervous about this trip. Midori said that the Slowking put a few news files on our Rotom-dexes that aren’t in any online publication. Some of them are from newspapers in God’s Breath itself. Some are human stories that were blocked from publication, but passed around through hidden channels in human society. The ones I’m reading now only reinforce what Midori told us. This mountain is shrouded in sorrow. It’s a fascinating, and terrible history.”

Her smile faded as she explained her concerns.

“But if we let it get us down, we’ll never solve this problem,” Pinkie Pie said comfortingly. “Besides, I’m too excited about beating bad guys to let the sadness of this place get to me. Let’s even the score on those crooks for our Pokémon friends!”

“Yeah,” Twilight Sparkle said, cheering up slightly as Pinkie Pie pulled a hand held party canon from her bag and set it off. She gripped the magical amulet around her neck and sighed as she pushed her fears to the back of her mind. Pinkie began suggesting games to play on the road, and the group’s mood lifted as they made their way toward the base of the mountain.

Midori had given them the most recent information he had about this place, making it sound like a terrifying wasteland. He had advised them not to go. When they had insisted, he had made a call to his Uncle’s manor house for reinforcements to accompany the girls. They had refused, arguing that they didn’t have time to wait with such an important lead to follow. The argument had lasted a while, and had been quite heated. Midori was strict, but kind. He knew the dangers and had the girl’s safety in mind. Lord Akira had ordered him to protect the humans and follow them on their journey. They had accepted, grateful for some support after the events on Route 210, but eager to get back to business. Yet, Midori and his troops weren’t their only companions on the road to Mt. Coronet.

They had run across Sarah on Route 211 and had eaten lunch with her while Midori and his guards watched from the shadows of the trees. It was a short reunion, and their pony friends had been forced to hide in the bushes. Susan’s destination was Eterna city, though she had given them some advice when she had learned of their journey to the mountain.

“Go somewhere else,” she had said. “Mt. Coronet isn’t a safe place. Most people travel over land, through the pathway the people and Pokémon of Snowpoint City made a while back to avoid the dangers of the cave system. It’s not just the Pokémon, though rumor is they’re as violent as the ones on Route 210 were.”

“What’s wrong with Mt. Coronet?” Rainbow Dash had asked as Nara sat next to her, looking from the mountain in the distance and back to Susan. He had been afraid ever since the group had decided to storm the criminal base there, though he refused to acknowledge it when asked.

“My dad warned me about it before I left home. He said it’s just not safe for anyone, especially young trainers like us. No one goes there, except the police on occasion, but even they avoid that place if they can help it.”

That discussion had been four hours ago. The girls had thanked Susan for her advice, and had reassured her that they would be safe despite being determined to go to Mt. Coronet. Now they stood before the entrance to the route through the mountain, staring into the dark cave as the sun set at their backs.

“Susan’s dad warned her that we shouldn’t go on,” the pony Fluttershy said, nervously. She and Sunset Shimmer were disguised as Keldeo once more. “A-are we sure we want to go in there?”

“Not at all,” the human Fluttershy said. The Fluttershys shivered as the sound of angry Zubat echoed from the cave mouth.

“Come on,” Applejack said as she turned on her flashlight and entered the cave. “We gotta get to the bottom of this. There’s no tellin’ what we’ll find, but we need more insight into this criminal group and their customers.”

“Not to mention we’re sure to see some action!” Rainbow Dash said, excitedly as she and her friends entered into the unknown. The Fluttershys shared a look of nervousness. Ashley nudged her partner’s leg encouragingly. The girls gulped back their fear, and followed their friends into danger.

The cave was cold, dark, and filled with life. Everywhere they turned, the girls found groups of Pokémon staring back at them. Some just wanted to hide, while others wanted to battle. The girls were eager to accept these invitations in turns. Those on the sidelines would cheer on both sides, knowing full well that the training their partners had received from the House of Eevee would give them the edge. Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, and Sunset Shimmer would give tips to the wild Pokémon on how to make their attacks flashier and more powerful. The two Fluttershys had stocked up on potions before their journey, and made sure that both sides were given medical treatment before they went their separate ways. The wild Pokémon didn’t quite know what to make of this, but they were grateful all the same.

“Why is it that so many wild Pokémon want to fight us?” Sunset Shimmer asked after a particularly difficult group battle with a horde of angry Golbat. “It seems like every corner we turn puts us in the middle of another battle. Most of them aren’t even interested in Korish and Charles.”

“No, but they do like to throw down,” Rainbow Dash said as Nara walked briskly alongside her. “It’s great experience for our Pokémon partners.”

“I wish I had a Pokémon partner…” Sunset Shimmer said, under her breath. Though she had gladly given advice during the battles, she had regretted not taking part in them. Her friends were having fun. Even Fluttershy was enjoying the competition, so long as it remained friendly.

“Pokémon fight for a number of reasons,” Poe said as he sat atop Twilight Sparkle’s shoulder. “Some want to get stronger, others want to increase or protect their territory. Some are just grumpy and violent.”

“That seems like a big contrast from the civility of God’s Breath.”

“I doubt you’ve been to the nature zones much,” the young Rowlet replied. “My parents said they tend to be much more wild than the city.”

It wasn’t long before the girls discovered a problem along the way. A large boulder obstructed their path. The wild Pokémon had disappeared, showing no signs of following them down this corridor.

“This is strange,” Applejack said as she examined the wall and floor around the boulder. “It looks like this thing gets moved regularly. There are well worn marks all over the place that make it look like this rock’s been dragged here.”

“How do we move it?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“I can move it!” Leon said, cheerfully. He and the other Pokémon were confident and excited after several wins under their belts.

“I’ll be the one to move it,” Gem said as she flexed her paws. Her claws glinted in the glow of the girl’s flashlights.

“Your claws won’t do any good!” Nara protested. “I’ve been training with Rainbow Dash. I can punch that boulder to pieces!”

“My claws are beautiful and deadly,” Gem hissed. “Would you like to find out just how deadly?”

“Rainbow Dash! We’re challenging Gem and Rarity to a Pokémon battle!”

“How about no,” Rainbow Dash said as she stepped in between the little creatures. “You’re just high off of how awesome you guys did bringing us through this tunnel, but fighting your friends is never a good idea.”

“I saw you trade punches with several Machoke during our chase through the woods, Applejack,” Archi hooted. “I bet you can move this!”
Applejack looked from the tiny Rowlet hovering in the air beside her to the boulder.

“I had ta’ use some magic to keep from gettin’ pounded into cider. Those Machoke were tough customers, but I held my own. I suppose I could muscle us through here.”

“Wait, you used your magic during that fight?” Rainbow Dash asked with a small smirk. “None of us had to resort to that, AJ. We only used it in the cave, when we were taking down those goons.”

“We were all so tired we couldn’t have fought off Team Galactic without our Rainbow Power,” Rarity said, joining Rainbow Dash in her teasing. “Yet we did fine before then. You broke our ‘last resort’ agreement, darling. We’re supposed to be walking in the shoes of the humans of this world as best we can.”

“I wouldn’t a’ had to break it if you all hadn’t kept duckin’ and dodgin’ behind me!” Applejack protested. “I took a lot a hits for you gals!”

“Your the tank, though,” Pinkie Pie said, cheerfully. “Rarity’s support. Twilight, Rainbow Dash and I are damage dealers and Fluttershy’s a healer.”

“This isn’t a video game, Pinkie,” Applejack said as she frowned disapprovingly. “I felt my ribs bend several times, and I still got a few big bruises left!”

“You dodged quite a bit, too,” Leon said as he rolled a bubble on the ground in-between his flippers. “Besides, we took the brunt of that fight. Let’s refocus and get past this boulder.”

“But where does it lead?” Rarity asked. “That’s an important question, especially since the Pokémon here are avoiding it. We can’t simply charge through here without knowing what we’re charging into.”

“It leads further into the mountain,” Gem purred at Rarity’s side. The Litten licked her paws and sniffed the air casually. “It smells like humans here. Big, sweaty humans. Not you six, of course. The smell is about a week old, but it’s still strong enough for me to pick up.”

“The humans smell dirty, like they’ve gone a while without a good bath,” Ashley said as she sniffed the air, too. “Though, there’s also traces of… perfume?”

“The bad smelling humans weren’t the only ones to come through here,” said a Geodude as he and his three friends rolled up to the group. “Rich humans from the cities come down here every once in a while. They’re the primary reason most of us are so mistrusting. We’ve tried to drive them out, but they had powerful Pokémon with them. A lot of us got captured last time.”

“What do they do down there?” Twilight Sparkle asked.

“Pokémon Hunter J has a black market set up further ahead,” one of the other Geodude said, his gravely voice shaking slightly with nervous anger. “She lets Team Galactic do the manual labor, while she provides most of the Pokémon and furnishes the cave system. As such, she gets the biggest cut of every sale. She even leads every auction in person. The grunts say it’s their second black market site here in the Sinnoh Region. Korish sent us a mentor to help us train. We’re getting ready to attack the humans the next time they hold an auction.”

“Rumor is, Charles himself will come to help us,” another Geodude said in a soft, awed tone.

“We’re gonna beat the humans down soon and set their Pokémon free!” the fourth Geodude said, excitedly. They pounded the ground with their fists and cheered.

“I don’t think listening to Charles is a good idea,” Sunset Shimmer said as she and the pony Fluttershy walked up behind the group. “He’s only interested in revenge, and that never ends like you expect it to.”

The Geodude huffed angrily, muttering their disagreements as they rolled back down the way they had come. Sunset sighed as she watched them go. Then she turned her attention to her friends.

“Those Geodude were right, though. Midori said that the black market is beyond this point. It’s heavily fortified, and with all of the problems leading up to King Siebold’s death, as well as the war that came after, the House of Eevee hasn’t put in the effort they usually would to shut something like this down. Normally these bases are in the city, and the Pokémon let the human police handle it. But this place is different. It has a bad history. The Pokémon don’t like the peak of this mountain like they used to. They say going there is bad luck, even without Pokémon Hunter J here.”

“There’s also been confirmation that J’s ship will land here soon,” the pony Fluttershy said. “The Pokémon of Route 210 hid in time to avoid them fortunately, but Midori’s scouts have managed to track its current route to the peak of Mt. Coronet.”

“If we’re going through with this, then we’d better get up the mountain,” Twilight Sparkle said. She held up her Pokédex and gave it a friendly smile. “We may even need your help.”

The Rotom’s eyes opened and it smiled back.

“That’s what we’re here for,” she said.

“I think our Equestrian friends should follow behind and watch our backs,” Rainbow Dash said. “It sounds like there’s nothing but trouble up ahead. We’ll need the support, and they’d do best with the element of surprise on their side.”

“I’ll use my magic to hide us,” Sunset Shimmer said. “Midori’s recruited the strongest Pokémon on this side of Mt. Coronet. Together with his guards, we’ll have you covered.”

“In that case, let’s get movin’,” Applejack said as she took hold of the boulder and dragged it out of place. The rock was big, but she moved it easily. Two metal doors stood behind it, but she forced them open with a few punches and the girls began the long climb up Mt. Coronet.

The group’s intrusion triggered a silent alarm through the mountain. This was expected, and the girls were prepared. They surprised the guards at the door, knocking their Pokémon unconscious and tying the humans up. The humans were then teleported outside of the mountain by Sunset Shimmer to be taken into town by Midori’s scouts.

The caves were large, with plenty of hiding places. When more Team Galactic guards ran to investigate the entrance breach, the girls were already out of sight. Travel through the caves was slow and deliberate. They hid when possible, avoided or disarmed traps, and overwhelmed groups of grunts with surprise attacks when there was no other way forward. Security had increased, but with careful planning and coordination they made their way to the top.

“Up ahead is the final cave of this hideout,” Twilight Sparkle whispered as she skimmed through news articles on her Pokédex. “That’s where the auctions are held. According to the maps provided by God’s Breath, this room used to lead outside, to the path that led to the Spear Pillar. That exit was sealed off after the Team Galactic leader, Cyrus, captured Dialga and Palkia with mysterious red chains and tried to force them to create a new universe. He was stopped by the Champion of the Sinnoh Region, and the Lord of the Distortion World, Giratina. Rumor has it he abandoned his world and his followers when Giratina dragged him to the Distortion World. Team Galactic was disbanded afterward.”

“Now they’re back, and their only goal is profit,” Poe said. He and Archi were perched atop the bodies of two unconscious grunts. The other Pokémon were gathered around them, watching as Midori’s Empoleon dragged their unconscious combatants away. All of the Pokémon that belonged to Team Galactic were being freed and taken back into the wild as their owners were defeated.

“Well, there’s no time like the present,” Rainbow Dash said as she stepped out of the shadows. “Let’s get in there and crack some heads!”

Sunset Shimmer watched her friends run into the final cave. She steeled herself, expecting to charge after them at any moment. She turned her head, eager for Midori’s order to aid the girls, but his attention was focused elsewhere. His ears were twitching, and his gaze was centered on the dark tunnel through which they had come.

“What’s the matter?” Fluttershy asked as she flapped her wings nervously.

“Shh,” Midori said. The group stood still and silent for a moment. Then a large form came flying through the air to crash into a rock on the far wall. It was one of Midori’s Empoleon guards, and he was hurt. The rock shattered as he connected. For a moment, Sunset Shimmer could hear cries of shock and disbelief echo from his mind through her empathic magic. The Empoleon rolled backward, rising to his feet and taking a battle stance despite the blood running down his face.

A familiar shape hovered into view. It turned its head to stare directly at Sunset Shimmer.

“Charles?” Sunset asked cautiously.

“No,” the Mewtwo said. More Team Galactic Grunts came running from behind as the ground beneath the ponies and their allies erupted with psychic force.

The group charged through the entrance to the final cave. It was colder than all of the other caves they had traveled through. Two-dozen people stood on the far side of the room. Two massive boulders made up the center of the left hand wall. Several grunts stood there, next to a lectern behind which the auctioneer would stand during business hours. There was a strange feeling coming from that wall, as if something invisible stood just behind the grunts, watching the group with great interest.

Several of the people on the far side of the room began striding forward, their movements strange, as if they were overcompensating for their fear by appearing supremely confident. Yet their eyes gave them away, darting to one another in worry and peering backward to look at someone in the crowd behind them. Most of the people were dressed in Team Galactic uniforms. Four of them were dressed in long, white scientist robes. As battle strategies began running through Rainbow Dash’s head, she felt a sense of relief knowing that there was backup nearby.

Nara hesitated a moment at the sight of the enemy numbers. He looked to the other Pokémon in his group, and then at Rainbow Dash. Her confident smile filled with righteous anger gave him the boost he needed. He wanted to make her proud, and so he steeled himself. He raised his fists with a loud “Chimchar”, and set them ablaze.

“Why would you interrupt my work?” said a man from behind the enemy group. The Team Galactic gang members parted to let him and his retinue through, the grunts watching him with deep respect and fear. He wore a long, black trench coat with a large red “R” on the chest over his heart. A Persian walked beside him, its movements fluid and deadly. The man’s guards wore black uniforms with the same “R” on their chests. Each of them held a pokéball in one hand.

“W-we came to ask you to s-stop hurting Pokémon,” Fluttershy said as she stepped forward. She shook nervously. Ashley brushed up against her leg reassuringly. Then she hissed at the criminals.

“Pokémon exist to serve humans,” the man said matter-of-factly as he looked down at the hissing Litten. His eyes were focused and intense. There was an undeniable feeling of confidence coming from him, like he was in command of every situation he encountered. “Specifically, they will serve Team Rocket. Those who ally themselves with us shall be rewarded appropriately.”

“There’s no way to reason with them,” Rainbow Dash said. She could feel the excitement building within her, but even more than that, she felt anger at these people for their casual attitude toward the abuse of innocent Pokémon. “We’re taking down this operation now!”

The criminals responded by throwing their pokéballs. The leader’s Persian smiled cruelly at the girls as it stalked forward. The sound of fighting came echoing through the cave from the pathway outside. The tension in the room seemed to pause as the girls stopped to watch the entrance. There were screams, a loud explosion, and then silence. After a few moments of shock, a single form moved through the entrance to flank the girls as the sounds of boots running through the caverns faded in the distance.

“Where are the others, Mewtwo?” the Team Rocket leader said.

The Pokémon fixed the girls with a hard stare, measuring their strength. She grimaced in disappointment, the red collar around her neck emitting a soft, sinister glow.

“They teleported away, Boss Giovanni,” the Mewtwo said. “I sent your underlings after them. They’re still in this mountain. They won’t be difficult to capture.”

“Good,” Giovanni said. His voice was cold and business-like. “I want you to test these young trainers. The grunts they captured told us that they possess some sort of strange power. Bring it out of them. Make them show it to us, then crush them.”

“As you command, Boss Giovanni,” the Mewtwo said, with a small bow. She raised a hand, and the ground erupted once more.

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