• 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 22: Trials of Conquest

“That concludes my report,” Fleet Foot said as she bowed to the councilponies. She had returned that very morning to deliver the Wonderbolt’s findings, and would return the next morning to fly with her team once more. The councilponies thanked her and she took her seat among them as a representative of Cloudsdale.

“I don’t like the looks of this one bit, princess,” Fancy Pants said as he sat in the council room of Canterlot Castle. “As horrible as this ‘Gotham’ sounds, the inhabitants of this world seem to be ruled by a certain cynicism that I find quite distasteful. Then we have the potential for a war between two large, extraordinarily violent forces. Nothing about this situation sounds safe to our country or our world in the slightest.”

“We are in full agreement, Fancy Pants,” Princess Luna said as she paced before the windows. “However, leaving this other world before now has not been an option. Arceus is expecting answers, and innocent lives are at stake. Even now, as the heroes of this alternate reality return from their battles in space, leaving is still difficult.”

“I understand that they are all injured,” Fancy Pants said, a bit more gently than before. “The defenses of their world are weakened. Innocents must be protected. Yet, we cannot risk drawing the attention of this ghastly Dead Universe. It would be absolutely disastrous.”

“We agree again. Yet we have already made contact. We have an undead prisoner held captive in the Crystal Empire. Even before we reached out to observe it, Crystaller Sunburst theorized that it may have noticed us already. If this is true, then we must know when we were noticed and how. There may be a way to hide us from its vision.”

“Perhaps this prisoner knows?”

“Celestia’s pupils are doing their best to draw answers from it, but no success has been reported. Not even psychic intrusion has drawn conclusive answers, only confusion, as Lady Joan and Lady Dorris can attest. However, I do not come simply to report on our situation to you. I have come to answer your questions and to reaffirm our position.”

The councilponies looked to one another. Each one was a leader of Canterlot in some form, from cooking to fashion to finance. Several of the ponies gathered were not from the Canterlot council, but had been sent for as delegates of Equestria’s various regions. They, too, were leaders of industry and highly respected. Each of them nodded, one after another, as they came to a silent agreement.

“We are at your service, your majesty,” Fancy Pants said.

“I know you are,” Princess Luna said with a sigh and a smile. She forced herself to stop pacing and take a seat. Sometimes she had to remind herself to calm down and relax in times like these. “I thank you for your support. I have given you a run down of all we know, including Moon Dancer’s latest report. The papers will write about it in the morning. In light of these events, we princesses ask that you continue to prepare this city for transition into our subject world. Other than that, it’s business as usual.”

“That is quite the hopeful outlook,” Mayor Mare said. She had come as a representative of Ponyville while Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends were busy helping Moon Dancer’s group interrogate the Insecticon. “Forgive my question, but might it be a bit premature?”

“I will not say that cannot be the case,” Princess Luna replied. “All things are possible in these strange times. I will simply say that we do not believe that to be the case. Either way, there is still much about this situation that we don’t understand. Our options are limited until we gain more information.”

“What level of threat do you see in this Unicron fellow?” Prim Hemline asked from her seat next to Fancy Pants. She sipped her coffee with one hoof while scanning over the briefing papers she had been given with the other. She wore a badge on the collar of her purple coat marking her as a delegate of Manehatten. “His forces seem to be quite heavily committed to this alternate reality we are observing. I’m no military expert, but everypony knows that stretching yourself too thin is a surefire path to failure.”

“You are quite right, Prim. Not only does this other universe have powerful protectors of its own but there are rumors of dark gods turning their eyes toward Unicron’s forces. Unicron’s focus is clearly not us, even if he is aware of us. It is primarily for this reason that we are not worried, yet. The future may change this, but for now our plans haven’t changed.”

“Let us move onto our next topic, if you don’t mind your majesty,” Fancy Pants said. Luna nodded her agreement and he continued. “Mayor Mare, how are food and water preparations going in Ponyville?”

“They are going wonderfully! We have received all of our orders from the various parts of Equestria on time and in good condition.”

The ponies continued their discussion, going down the list of things they needed for Canterlot’s upcoming transition into this new world. It was a pleasant meeting, if a bit long. By the time they were through, the sun sat low in the sky. The gathered delegates and councilponies watched respectfully as their princess stepped onto the balcony and raised the moon. The night air was fresh and clean. A storm was being sent in from the west, its city of origin floating in the sky just a few miles away.

Cloudsdale is as busy as ever, Luna thought. Making our weather for us. Like the rest of Equestria, many of their ponies are being trained to fight as we speak.

“Most of the pegasus ponies training in Cloudsdale are eager for adventure,” Fleet Foot said to Luna’s right, as if reading the princess’ thoughts. “Naturally, we’re only taking those that want to go. There were more volunteers than expected, but there’ll be plenty of adventure for everypony when the time comes.”

“And we will make the best use of their service,” Luna replied as she nodded her head in thanks. She turned back to her council to give one final thought. “Just as we were in Battleworld, we are minor here. There are greater threats for our enemies to face. Their egos will demand it if nothing else, and so we will be overlooked. That is our hope. When the time comes we will strike hard and fast in the places where our foes are weakest, taking no side but our own. We will protect the innocent to the best of our ability, and we will claim victory in the end. Until we meet again, my friends. Good night.”

The councilponies bowed and exited the room as the nightlife of Canterlot began to light up.

There were four great factions in God’s Breath that helped oversee the operations of the city. They were all subservient to the commands of the High Council, with the exception of the House of Ra, which was comprised entirely of council members. Only the servants of Ra were subject to the city hierarchy, and only when Ra and his family allowed it. It was rare that the House of Ra would decline the council, however. Though there had been disagreements in the past, all of the factions were bound by their loyalty to the king. So strong was this bond that his memory still held the city together, even after his passing. This was desire to obey their king was what had tied them to Equestria so tightly in the beginning. The pony’s bravery and strength of character had sealed their friendship in stone.

The House of Eevee had been formed and adopted by King Siebold himself. They had kept him company and served him as his sons and daughters throughout the centuries. The House of Ra was the oldest faction, and being comprised of only five members it was the smallest as well. Lord Ra was its eldest member and leader, though he never truly gave commands to his family. He was first among equals, despite holding the title of patriarch. These two factions had remained in God’s Breath, serving the princesses of Equestria in preparation for the final phase of their mission. The strongest warriors of the remaining two factions had been sent ahead to make ready for their arrival, and they would be at each other’s throats if not for the intervention of the High Council.

Seven Decidueye flew silently through the night. Three of them served under Lady Welshi, while the others served under Lady Potpourri despite having shed their flying-type years ago. They were former members of the Shining Murder Gang who had followed their lady into the ranks of the king’s soldiers. Though, like their lady, they still held close ties to their old organization. The Shining Murder Gang and its rival, the Rainbow Crest Gang, were young compared to the other factions. When at home, they operated illicit activities. The king used them to observe the world above, especially the various human cultures as they grew and prospered. This was a task he deemed necessary despite his eternal hope of coexisting with humanity.

So good were these two gangs at their jobs, and so honest and accurate were they in their reports, that King Seibold chose to ignore the thefts they would often commit on behalf of their clients in the city. The Slowking College would occasionally seek items from the human world, such as new versions of Pokédexes or copies of research papers written by human scholars. The other Pokémon of the city constantly sought human made goods, and information on human pop culture to emulate. The two gangs were more than happy to provide, always taking from the world above and rarely giving back. When they did perform a service for the world outside of God’s Breath, it was always at the behest of their king. They had vied for his favor for the past two hundred years, neither gaining more than the other. His death had only increased their rivalry as they each sought to prove who was more loyal to his vision.

“I can’t believe those stupid Golem,” one Decidueye said as his group passed through another abandoned building. “Losing those thugs in the sewers.”

“Their carelessness will cost us,” the oldest Decidueye said. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot from several nights of sleepless hunting. “We should set the thugs off on their location. Boss Nicolo would get a good laugh out of it.”

“Lady Potpourri would, too,” said the seventh Decidueye. He was the one in front of their formation, and he looked back at his partners critically. He served only the Starter’s Council, and by extension Lord Bartholomew. “She gets a kick out of such pranks, even though Rough and Tumble are more than a match for these humans. Lord Bartholomew wouldn’t like it, though. Such recklessness goes directly against his orders.”

“Always the buzzkill,” the elder Decidueye said with a sigh.

“You’re the oldest, Xiao. You know better, but you prefer to follow in Lady Potpourri’s example.”

“Because it’s more fun,” Xiao said as he withdrew a feather and prepared to nock it. They were rapidly closing in on their target. “Gotham doesn’t hold much for me. I’ve seen plenty of this mess in our own world. Many of us have. So, to cope with the disaster humanity is always making of itself I look for the fun in life. Makes things easer.”

“That’s a nice excuse, but the council doesn’t accept it when used to justify sending our enemies after our allies.”

“Quincey is right,” said one of the Decidueye who served under Lady Welshi. “We’re all members of the Starter’s Council by birth, even if we’re not in the leadership. Lord Bartholomew wouldn’t tolerate such talk. I know my lady doesn’t. You gangsters need to tone down the rivalry a bit so we can get things done.”

The rest of Lady Welshi’s Decidueye whispered their agreement, while those serving under Lady Potpourri fell into an unhappy silence.

“We’re coming up on our target,” Xiao said. “How many are there?”

An Emolga glided down from the rooftops where she had been following the Decidueye, her whiskers twitching as she received tiny electrical signals.

“Six now,” she squeaked happily. “They’re armed, but completely unaware that they’ve been followed.”

“Good,” Xiao said as he took the lead. “Fall in, then spread out. We’ve got three more targets after this. Then we’re meeting with Medusa’s group next for a nice break from our duties. A cozy place to roost would do us all some good. Make every shot quick and silent. We’ll put Master Ryu’s ninja to shame this night.”

The Decidueye obeyed as they arrived at the entrance to a sewer pipeline. Everything was silent except for the sound of approaching boots running on concrete and steel. They drew their arrows back and began to snipe the heavily armed thugs as they left the sewers. In less than ten seconds the criminals lay unconscious on the ground, their shadows pinned to the concrete where they had fallen. The Decidueye had already left before the last thug fell, gliding through the snowfall in search of more prey.

Medusa lay in wait with two-dozen Pokémon at her back. She was a Primarina who had gained a reputation for her strength as she rose through the ranks of the city’s military. The fairy-types had rallied around her as a hero, and Lady Joan considered her a close friend. Though it wasn’t until the death of her husband that she chose to undergo the trials necessary to become a champion of God’s Breath.

As the second strongest fairy-type, she had been left as Lady Joan’s representative in Gotham. She had been brought in as her lady departed, Joan warning her of the cruelty of the humans running this world as they passed. Joan’s attitude had worried Medusa more than her words. Though the fairy-type leader had been adamant that majority of the people of this world were good, she had stated several times that the government here was siding with criminals to deal with threats. From Medusa’s perspective Gotham was different, though. The criminals were running the city, some from the shadows and some in plain sight, untouchable by the law while their lackeys committed crimes without any visible ties between them. Now one of the greatest crime lords of Gotham was beginning an all out war against the remaining forces of the Kobra Cult. This was meant to be the first shot, but it wasn’t going according to plan.

“What are the chances that they’ll just kill each other without hurting any of the people around here?” Sassy asked as she knelt behind a pile of rubble next to Medusa. She was a large Granbull who had served under Rarity during a particularly difficult defense of God’s Breath, according to the Slowking’s records. Like the vast majority of those who fought during that time, she didn’t remember the details of their battles, only that she had fought under the unicorn’s command proudly.

“Slim to none,” Medusa said. “Even if the rest of the block has evacuated, the cultists have already taken hostages. There are police stationed around the building trying to negotiate, but they’re secretly in the pocket of the Falcone gang. With the desperation in the police department they’ve started taking anyone who passes a simple background check. For the criminals here, that sort of information isn’t too hard to fake.”

The Primarina grimaced as she spoke the name of the human gang leader. She had seen him once in the five days she had been here, and his attitude was utterly repulsive. He had driven off in a hurry, shouting at his men over the phone for their failure to collect a certain debt. The debt in question hadn’t been specified, but the method for collecting had been torture.

“So this Falcone is using the police to attack his enemies?” Sassy growled. “Parademons are building portal sites in the sewers and the humans are still preoccupied with killing each other? Why?”

“Why not? It’s not like the lives of others matter to them in the first place. Like most of the people of this world, they expect the super heroes to overcome this threat. They’ll do what they want to do in the meantime.”

“Speaking of Parademons,” squeaked a Dedenne next to Medusa. “Lord Gil says he just fried another nest. Master Drift says he and his disciples killed a big Wraith, too.”

“So how are we dealing with our problem?” Sassy asked.

“We’re going to be a bit crafty,” she replied with a small smirk. Medusa began whispering orders to her fairies and soon the plan was underway.

“Come out with your hands up!” said a police officer as he pointed his gun at the windows of the small brick house.

“We ain’t dumb you idiot!” shouted a man from inside the building. He wore plain clothes like the rest of his group. They had been hiding here, working undercover in the slums of Gotham on behalf of Kobra. “Your Falcone’s! You’ll kill us soon as we step foot out the door! On tha’ other hand, we got hostages. If they die then you all are gonna get investigated by the PD. Think they might find a connection to your boss with a second look atcha?”

The floor of the house wriggled a bit, the rotted wood giving way easily. The family of four sat in their chairs, the father gripping his wife and children tightly as the criminals yelled at one another. The crooked cops were trying to sneak around the yards to find a blind spot in their target’s defense. Fortunately for the hostages, they were in the middle of the only blind spot in the house.

Two Carbink poked their heads out of the broken floorboards and stared at the humans. The humans stared back, their jaws gaping. Satisfied that the humans weren’t terribly hurt, the Pokémon dug through the floor until the hole was large enough for the people to crawl through.

“Follow us,” one of the Carbink whispered.

“It’s safe, we promise!” the other Carbink said. Then they disappeared.

The humans looked to one another for a moment. Then, after a brief conversation, the father crawled forward. His family followed him into the hole, and soon they were all free. The first things they saw were the eyes of a Beheeyem. They fell unconscious, all memories of how they arrived outside of their house forgotten.

“Pretty good idea,” Sassy said with a grin as the humans were checked over. They had been beaten, but that appeared to be the worst of it. There were no broken bones or serious cuts. “How do we want to deal with the problem over there?”

She pointed to the police officers still barking orders to the Kobra Cultists inside the house. Neither side was budging, but Medusa saw no reason to bother with them. She felt an ache in her heart as she looked down at the sleeping family. She missed her own children. She wanted some time to think.

“Let them figure it out themselves,” she said. “I’d like a dip in the lake. At least that place is clean, despite the rest of the city being a cesspool of filth.”

“They only keep that clean because that’s where the rich folks take their boats,” Sassy replied as she hefted the family over her shoulders and their group began their trek through the shadows to leave the humans somewhere safe.

“Clean water is clean water, my friend. I’ll take it however I can get it.”

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