• 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 2: Trials of Conquest

Gilda pulled herself up and rubbed her head with a shaky talon. She had arrived on a brick roof under a clear night sky. In the distance were tall buildings and smokestacks blowing pollution out across a large industrial district. Even further out, across a long bridge, were skyscrapers with glass windows that glistened in the moonlight. To Gilda, the city across the bridge looked darkly pristine and inviting. She knew that her first job was to find food, and that city looked like a good place to start. Her two Litwick, Ichabod and Ebenezer, flew in circles above a building two blocks away from her. The mighty griffon spread her wings to meet them, but before she could take off a loud BANG caught her attention.

Gilda turned and flew to the other side of the building. The alley was pitch black and misty below her, but her eyes could see through the gloom easily. Three humans stood before two other humans who lay on the ground. One was small, a child. The other looked to be her father. A streak of red slid down the father’s face as he coughed uncontrollably. His daughter hugged him tightly and cried. The faces of their attackers were nonchalant and business like. There was no change in their expressions as they raised their weapons and shot the man on the ground.

“Papa!” the girl cried. One of the bullets had hit her arm and she recoiled against the wall. She squirmed as she screamed for her father, but Gilda could see that his wounds were fatal. His body slumped to the side. Two of his killers lowered their guns. The one standing in the middle aimed for the child’s head. Then, he and his friends looked up to the sky and froze.

Gilda was roaring her anger at the human’s cruelty as she pounced. The thugs raised their guns to shoot her but it was too late. She was among them like a predator before prey. With her front claws she forced them to the ground, tearing at them ruthlessly as she beat them with her wings. Though she was smaller, the humans couldn’t hope to match her strength or speed. Their guns were knocked from their hands before they had time to fire. It was only her griffon instincts, changed over generations of living in a land overseen by Princess Celestia that prevented her from tearing the thugs to pieces.

“You could have killed them,” said a haunting sing-song voice from Gilda’s left. She turned from the cowering humans to see her two Litwick, Ebenezer and Ichabod.

“They’re murderers, right?” Ichabod said, his voice a higher pitch than his older brother. Their words formed a perfect harmony together when they spoke in turn. “Your claws could end them easily.”

“Griffons have been a part of Equestria for so long, we don’t even eat meat anymore. Besides, my friends wouldn’t kill them.”

“So griffons are as kind as ponies?”

“No, not exactly. But some of us are trying to be better, and I’m trying to change my whole species. It’s… tough.”

“So you want to spare these humans, despite their awful behavior?” Ebenezer asked as he cocked his head to the side. “They’re fearful of us. Look!”

The Litwick pointed at the humans as they whimpered and searched desperately for salvation, but their guns were unreachable beneath Gilda’s talons. Behind her, the child had passed out from the shock of losing her father and the pain of being shot. Gilda sniffed the air. The criminal’s blood was pounding in their veins, and they were covered in a cold sweat.

“If we aren’t going to kill them, what do you want to do with them?”

“You guys couldn’t make them forget about us, could you?” Gilda asked.

“Nope,” Ichabod said. “That’s psychic-types.”

“We can confuse ‘em though!” Ebenezer said with a sinister grin. The two Litwick raised their tiny hands in the air and cast Confuse Ray on all three of the thugs. Gilda held one of the men down as he struggled to swipe at his friends. The other two men ran into each other and screamed at hallucinations in the sky as they tried to run out of the alleyway.
“Pull out everything they’ve got in their pockets,” Gilda said as she began rifling through her captive’s clothes. A siren began to sound from down the street. “What’s that noise?”

“Probably the police,” Ichabod said as he took the keys and wallet from the bumbling man below him.

“Leave their weapons,” Gilda growled as she took the man’s belongings and ran into the shadows. Her Litwick obeyed, dimming their flames and hiding behind a large trash bin.

A pair of flashing red and blue lights stopped just beyond the corner of the alleyway. Slammed doors and footsteps announced the arrival of three humans with guns drawn. They looked the scene over and cursed. One of the officers bent down to pick up the girl. As she carried the child to the car her partners struggled to handcuff the confused humans. One of them lay down and allowed himself to be cuffed, only fighting back once he realized what he had done. By then it was too late. The other two mumbled intermittently, hitting their heads on the walls and crying as they were forced into the restraints and lead to the police cars. Gilda heard the words “griffon” and “candle monsters” as the men were dragged away.

The man on the ground watched the officers leave, panting as the confusion began to wear off. His eyes lit up as they turned to the guns and Gilda could see his mind working frantically. He was extremely skinny and his handcuffs appeared loose on his wrists. The police had made a terrible mistake, and the thug smiled as he carefully freed one of his hands. He reached for a gun, and paused as Gilda growled from the shadows. She stuck her head out from behind the trash bin and stared at the criminal. Though her angry, golden eyes were all he could see of her it was enough. His face pale with fear, the man lay his head down and forced his wrist back into the restraint. Gilda hid once more as the police returned. They pulled the man to his feet and dragged him off.

“He would have shot them if it weren’t for you,” Ebenezer said, softly.

“What were those humans thinking?” Gilda growled. She had been furious at the criminals, and now she was furious at the police as well. She leapt into the air and perched atop the building to her right to watch the cars leave. “That was the dumbest, most pathetic mistake I’ve ever seen any professional make!”

“Well, I guess that’s why this place is such a dump. They didn’t even have someone stand guard over the crime scene! They just left it as it is!”

“Why did we pick their pockets, again?” Ichabod asked as he looked through the wallet in his hands. Papers and receipts fell out haphazardly. A series of photos hung limp from the inside of the wallet, their subjects dour and unhealthy with phone numbers written next to their heads. “I don’t think these are his family members.”

“Those guys were probably just goons,” Gilda said as she sifted through her own pile of goods. “They work for someone. If we have their stuff, we might be able to find out who they work for and watch them.”

“You’re really choosing these guys as our subjects?” Ebenezer said as he scowled in disgust at a poorly written note. “Surely there are better people to watch, right?”

“You gotta take the good with the bad. We’ll find people in the good parts of the city to examine, too. I’ll bet their leader lives there, somewhere.”

“Well, at least we won’t be found out. Those guys were acting pretty crazy. I doubt they’ll be believed if they say anything.”

“We’ll step in only when lives are at risk,” Gilda said as she looked down at the dead man below her. She fought back tears as she turned her face away from the crime scene. “Come on. Let’s follow those cops.”

Gilda led her friends from building to building, sticking to the shadows as she ran through the night. These criminals had made a child fatherless because of greed, and they were likely just small fries. There were worse people in this city. That thought burned in Gilda’s mind from day to day as she observed Gotham from the shadows.

“This place is wonderful,” Joan said through the psychic link. The Mega Gardevoir’s words entered Gilda’s mind almost as if they were her own. It felt strange, but not as strange as the clear contradiction of experiences. “The first night here I met a young reporter and a man with superpowers. They both work quite hard to find the truth and defend the innocent.”

“That’s Superman and Lois Lane, right?” Gilda said, a bit weary from three nights of observing a city of evil. “I found a paper called the Daily Planet in a trash can yesterday. They were both in it.”

“They’re wonderful people. I met Superman again yesterday as I set up my palm reading booth. His real name is Clark Kent, which is public these days, but it didn’t used to be. His future was rather murky, as if something dark was blocking my sight. He confronts such evils on a regular basis, though. He didn’t seem too surprised. Oh, and I got to see him fight a monster! It was a giant snake creature, presumably alien. What have you been doing?”

“I stopped four murders yesterday,” Gilda said with a hint of jealousy in her voice. She was glad for Joan, but wished that her experiences had been as positive. “The majority of the creeps I’ve seen are working for someone named Black Mask, but that’s just because we’ve made our base in his part of town. We send all the thugs we catch away in confusion, acting like lunatics. So far, both the gangs and the authorities think it’s the work of a villain named Scarecrow testing a new chemical. There’s a group of people dressed like bats who patrol this place, too. They’re crime fighters. I’ve had to hide in the clouds to keep from being spotted, but I think the bat people still suspect something. We need to get in touch with Canterlot soon.”

“You don’t sound like you’ve had the best time of it,” Joan said as Gilda’s frustrated voice momentarily pierced her excitement. “So, you, uh… found some bad people?”

“I found a city full of bad people,” Gilda said with a heavy sigh. “There’s a gang war brewing, too. That’s why the crooks are so active. The first murder I saw was the result of a shop owner refusing to change sides. The cops are spread too thin, and the news is reporting that they’ve had to take on rookies to…”

She paused to watch three police cars race down the street. They followed a car with two passengers who hung out of the windows, guns blazing. A hail of bullets passed through the windshield of the closest police car. It swerved out of control and crashed into a dilapidated building, forcing the ones behind it to move out of its way. Gilda scowled as she watched two officers run from one of the unharmed cars to help their comrades while the other functioning vehicle raced forward.

“One sec,” the griffon said, her feathers and fur bristling as she scowled at the fleeing car. “I gotta take care of something.”

She spread her wings and took flight, ignoring Joan’s questions as she dove down to the street. She soared through the shadows of the night, catching the speeding car easily. Without a moment’s hesitation, she raised her claws and slashed the back right tire. Then she dove into an alleyway, avoiding the gunfire from the thugs as their car spun out of control. She read a single word on the mouth of the nearest thug. With a grin, she ducked back into the shadows and disappeared from sight. The car’s momentum pushed it into a roll as the criminals in the windows were thrown out.

“Are you sure this isn’t going to blow your cover?” Joan asked, nervously. Gilda could feel the Gardevoir looking through her eyes. It was a strange experience, like having a pair of glasses on that she couldn’t see.

“Relax. I’m dressed in black and grey and I’ve begun positioning my wings so they look like a cape behind me. Gotham thinks those bat people are responsible for the things me and the Litwick do.”

“You mean Batman and his family. They’re the local superheroes.”

“Right,” Gilda said as she watched the thugs struggle on the ground. They had both managed to land on their sides and roll with the impact. Their injuries weren’t serious, but they weren’t moving fast enough to escape the police. The third car drove forward, stopping next to the criminals. The officers jumped out and quickly began to subdue the thugs. They were still reeling from the crash as they were handcuffed and the officers moved to pull the driver out of the overturned car.

“I’ve seen those guys a few times. The bat family, that is. They’re impressive, but they’re just human.”

“They fight dangerous criminals and face incredible danger while being ‘just human’. They don’t have the natural abilities we take for granted, and they don’t kill. Doesn’t that make them more impressive?”

“It does,” the griffon admitted. “Humans aren’t very strong without their weapons and tools. Refusing to kill when faced with the criminals of this city is a further handicap, too.”

“See? You’ve found a bright light in a dark place.”

Gilda began to respond, to join Joan in her optimism for the first time since arriving in this strange new world, but a noise up the street stopped her before she could form the words. A loud engine screeched down the through street, stopping just before the accident. A man with a gun climbed out and opened fire, forcing the police to hide behind the overturned car. The two criminals on the ground struggled to their feet as the officers drew their weapons and returned fire. The man they had been trying to handcuff charged into them, knocking them to the ground before joining his friends in running through the now open door of the new car.

There were screams as the thugs called for the driver to move. The gunman cheered as one of his bullets hit home, and an officer fell onto his back grasping his side in pain. Gilda saw this as she reached the rooftop and took the sky. The car shot forward, its tires screeching as the gunman barely made it back in. The man leaned out of the window, his eyes searching the shadows. Gilda knew he was searching for her on the advice of his friends, but the shadows of the murky street hid her well. She landed on their rooftop and tore a large gash in it before he could spot her. Bullets tore past her from the panicked men inside, forcing her to jump off of the vehicle. Ebenezer and Ichabod appeared next to the tires, flying alongside the car as it sped down the street.

“What are you two doing here?” Gilda asked as she dodged the gunfire from the car. “I told you to watch the Bat Family!”

“The guy called Batman is out of town on business,” Ebenezer yelled as a hail of bullets passed through him, lighting on fire on their way through his body and exploding on the brick wall behind him.

“He works with the Justice League,” Joan said through the psychic link, her mind already having joined with the two Litwick. “Superman is gone, too. Ms. Lane says that he leaves on League business now and then.”

“What are you doing? Making friends over there?” Gilda asked as she dove down to the ground to grab a brick and throw it at the gunmen. They scrambled to escape the projectile, but the men in cuffs were too slow. Gilda’s brick hit one of them in the shoulder, and he screamed in pain. Her attack had succeeded in disrupting the gunfire, however, and she was quick to take advantage of it. She flew low to the ground to follow the car just behind its bumper.

“Burn their tires!” Gilda yelled as the gunfire resumed, more erratic and desperate than before. Ebenezer and Ichabod obeyed, pointing their flames at the sides of the car and letting loose. The criminals were forced to the center of the vehicle to avoid the twin Flamethrowers. The car turned sharply to the right, passing through Ichabod as it smashed into an electric pole.

Gilda caught the three men who were thrown from the car and slammed them to the ground. The Litwick pulled the other two free. All of the criminals were unconscious from the impact, but still breathing.

“What are you going to do with them, now?” Joan said through the psychic link. She sounded worried, as if she could read Gilda’s emotions. Gilda suspected she could. At that realization, the griffon took a deep breath and calmed herself. Her anger and disgust faded, but with each look at the humans those emotions threatened to return.

“I’m…” the griffon said as she looked back in the direction they had come from. There was no sign of the police, though there was a large, blue and white truck parked several yards down the street. She wasn’t sure it had been there when the chase had ended. It seemed unoccupied, but Gilda couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. “I’m just gonna ask them some questions.”

“Gilda…”

“We’ll talk again later,” Gilda said. She focused on her surroundings, forcing the telepathic connection to the back of her mind. Joan’s voice disappeared, though her presence remained. It was a method Joan had taught her to signal that she wanted privacy. Though it wouldn’t hold up to a forceful intrusion of her mind, this was a signal that all decent psychic-types respected out of courtesy.

“What do we do with them now?” Ebenezer asked as he and his brother stared down at the unconscious humans. The Litwick had curious, almost angry looks on their faces. Gilda chose to ignore it as she began lifting the humans and putting them on her back.

“Get the rest on,” she said after the second human. They smelled of smoke and hard cider, making her stifle a gag as she moved them over her head. “We’re gonna get a better idea of this city, and these creeps are gonna help us.”

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