• 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 4: Trials of Conquest

Batman stood on top of the alien creature’s body. It was metallic and covered in rust, just like the rest of its kind. Next to him knelt Cyborg, cables hanging out of his left arm as he stared down at the creature in silence. He had been connected to the beast for the past five minutes as he searched through whatever software it ran on for answers to its origins.

“Anything yet?” Batman asked impatiently.

Cyborg didn’t answer, just as he hadn’t the last two times Bruce had asked. His human eye was closed as a series of strange, repeating algorithms ran down the holoscreen projected by his right arm. Bruce had examined them for a while and quickly noticed a pattern. Every fourth formula in each algorithm was incomplete. He had quickly written down the pattern and was busy trying to decode the missing sequences. The sound of fighting echoed across the alien plain in the distance. Clark, Diana, and Hal were busy too.

“Come in, Flash,” Batman said through his com-link. There was static as the Flash spoke from the other side of the world.

“Rodger, and no, there isn’t much here that we haven’t already seen, just more signs of reckless cutting and running. I’m headed you’re way now.”

“We’ve found four separate alien civilizations in ruins, their populations having left in a hurry. This makes four abandoned planets crawling with these giant robots, plus the reports we’ve received from other Green Lanterns patrolling this sector.”

“They’re not just robots,” Cyborg said as his human eye opened and he struggled to his feet. “They’re sentient, like a race of barbarians with rust covered, steel skin. They even have souls, if you want to call it that.”

“Are you alright?” Barry said as he appeared next to Cyborg. He helped his companion steady himself. Victor nodded in appreciation, his face turning pale. Rust had appeared on his cybernetic armor, not unlike the rust from the monster beneath his feet. “You don’t look so good.”

“These things are invaders,” he said as he rubbed his head. “They’re called Rust Giants, and they’re the harbingers of something much worse.”

“The Lanterns are scrambling to contain the threat while we find the source,” Hal said through the com-link. There was pain and stress in his voice amid the sounds of battle. “Please tell me you’ve found something useful! Things are… a bit hairy over here.”

“Nothing. Not even a name, just bad feelings. I was falling through an endless, chaotic well of numbers. That’s all I remember.”

“What about the algorithms?” Batman said. “Do you know how to complete them?”

“No idea. I saw the algorithms as I fell. It was like something was trying to hammer them into my head. I might have seen the answers, but I can’t recall them if I did. Maybe… at the bottom of the well…”

“Knowing the answers to this question might solve a lot of problems in the future.”

“If you’re thinking of sending Victor back in that thing’s head, don’t,” Hal said through pained breaths. “Get away from that giant you’re on and get the ship ready. I’ve got injured in tow.”

“Injured?” Barry said as he looked to the sky. Hal was flying in as fast as he could, Diana and Clark held in a construct bubble behind him. They were on their knees, Diana holding her neck just above the collarbone and Clark holding his hands over his stomach. “Are they… bleeding? I know these things are tough, but…”

“Less talking, more running, Barry!”

“Flash, move it!” Batman yelled from the ground below.

He and Cyborg were already weaving through the bodies of the fallen Rust Giants as they made for the space ship. Barry looked down at the robot he stood upon in confusion. Only then did he notice the glowing, purple light coming from the holes in the giant’s armor. The giant’s one remaining arm twitched. Then the whole body shivered. Other nearby giants followed suit. Several had already risen to their feet and begun shambling toward the fleeing humans. A massive hand reached for Barry, but he was long gone by the time it closed.

“What’s going on?” he yelled amid the mechanic noises of the giants. He was running next to Batman and Cyborg now, fighting alongside them as more monsters began to shamble into their path. “These things were all dead!”

“They’re not dead now!” Cyborg said as he dodged a massive axe. It’s edge dripped with a dark purple liquid that splashed on Victor’s leg as he blew a second hole in the monster’s chest. Hal released Clark and Diana so they could fight alongside their friends. Their wounds dripped with the same viscous fluid that had suddenly coated the giant’s weapons, but the two warriors fought on. Together, the Justice League cleared the area around their space ship and boarded it quickly.

“More inbound,” Batman said from his control console. “Multiple ships locking onto our position. Green Lantern!”

“Already on it,” Hal said through gritted teeth over the com-link. He was outside of the ship, blowing the giant’s enormous, rusted star destroyers out of the sky. It wasn’t an easy task, though. Each ship was over twenty miles long, and almost as wide. It took multiple shots to bring one down, and even then, they would quickly regenerate and rejoin the battle. Even the most heavily damaged ship regained its heading to continue the chase. Still holding the bleeding cut in his stomach, Superman left the ship to help clear a path with his heat vision. Along with the piloting skills of Batman and Cyborg and support fire from Wonder Woman’s gun turrets, they were able to create a large enough hole in the enemy fleet to escape.

“What is this stuff?” Superman said as he looked at the sterile rags Batman had used to clean his, and Wonder Woman’s wounds. “One second their axes can barely scratch my suit, next second they’re oozing purple liquid and carving me open like a turkey.”

“It has a strange energy signature,” Batman said from the lab counter. He stood over a microscope, staring down at the petri dish underneath the lens. “Its composition is just as strange. It resembles red blood cells in some aspects, but it also resembles rocket fuel, for lack of a better comparison. Though it makes both substances look weak and ineffective. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I assume this is responsible for raising those robots from the dead. How do you two feel?”

“Nauseous,” Wonder Woman said as she adjusted the bandages on her neck. “My heart is pounding and I’ve got a fever. Clark is no better.”

“So nothing’s changed in the last two hours. For a Greek goddess and a Kryptonian to be affected by something so seemingly innocuous is cause for alarm, even without its previous necromantic displays.”

“What’s innocuous about a glowing purple ooze that raises the dead?” Hal asked from the door of the medical lab. He was bandaged as well, but his wounds hadn’t been infected with the dark substance that had coated the Rust Giant’s weapons. “Unless you mean innocuous relative to what we normally see, which might fly. Maybe. Either way, we need to get this stuff back to Oa. The Guardians will know what to do.”

“Fine,” Wonder Woman said. “But I want a sample to take with me to Mt. Olympus.”

“Why?” Batman asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“I don’t think this substance’s similarities to blood are coincidence.”

“What do you think it is, then?” Superman asked.

“I’m not willing to make a claim without advice from my father,” Wonder Woman said, defensively. Batman grumbled as he began dividing up their substance samples.

“Aww, c’mon, Bruce,” Green Lantern said. “You’ll have plenty for yourself, and you’ve got those neat algorithms to decipher. Victor says he’ll only do half of them, and he doesn’t want to see what they all add up to if he can help it. Still, it should be enough to keep you busy.”

“Victor saw things in the mind of that robot that his mind, both human and mechanical, refuses to remember,” Wonder Woman said. “He hasn’t spoken much since we left the planet.”

“Whatever he saw scared him,” Superman said as Batman handed Diana her sample. “The fact that he’s willing to research the algorithms at all means he’s either curious, or he knows that this is something he needs to get over.”

“Or he’s been compromised,” Batman said. “For now, we’ll put him to work while we make our way back to Earth.”

“Actually, our first stop is Oa,” Green Lantern said as he took the sample Batman handed him. “I changed course a couple hours ago. The Guardians need my sample as soon as possible.”

“These alien fleets are headed for Earth! We need to get back and take command of the defenses!”

“Three empires are dead because of these giants, Bruce. They were the ones foolish enough to stand and fight! The fleets passing through our solar system are too scared to begin a serious invasion. They just want to run for their lives, so I say we let them. Besides, John and Guy are keeping the peace near Earth. They’ll let us know if anything bad happens.”

“Something bad is already happening,” Batman said as he brought up a map on the display screen behind him. There was an image beginning to form by the alien fleet’s raiding patterns, but all the heroes could make out was a pair of horns atop a flat head. “These robots are raiding into every solar system they can find, and their attacks are beginning to form a pattern. Every day brings them closer to Earth!”

“The Justice League has things under control.”

“These robots are driving every other race they come across toward the Earth! It’s coordinated!”

“Then we’ll be quick,” Hal said dismissively. “There are other civilizations suffering in the universe, and Earth is in good hands. Besides, we’re closer to Oa now than we are to home. We’ll be back before these things even reach Pluto.”

Hal left the room without another word. The other heroes watched him as he walked through the doors. Bruce glared at Green Lantern, but quickly turned back to his work, grumbling every few seconds.

“Why don’t I head back first?” Superman said, kindly. “I can be there in a day. I’ll join John and Guy as they patrol the solar system. Would that make you feel better, Bruce?”

“You’re infected,” Batman said as he paused once more. “It’s not wise for you to leave on your own.”

“I’m feeling a bit better,” Superman lied. He felt that there needed to be peace within the League right now, and he would do what he must to achieve it. “Besides, this just turned out to be a little cold, more or less. I don’t think it’s going to keep me from getting home or doing my duty.”

“Do what you want,” Batman said as he continued his work. Clark smiled as he saw the angry expression on his friend’s face ease ever so slightly.

“I’m staying,” Diana said. “I’d like to hear the Guardian’s thoughts on the matter. The more information I can take to my father, the better.”

“I’ll have John send a report when I arrive,” Clark said as he left the room.

Superman departed for home immediately. He would arrive to a brewing war between rival races on the outskirts of the solar system, where he would remain to keep the peace for several days. Even with the help of John Stewart and Guy Gardener, it wouldn’t be easy. His body fought the effects of the dark substance for seven days, but despite the sun’s rays shining upon him, he grew weaker. By the time the sentient ships arrived, their crews long dead from exposure to the same substance that had turned their creations against them, the Man of Steel could barely keep his eyes open. He never saw the blast of red sun radiation that struck him.

The two Lanterns moved their comrade to the sun as the sentient ships began to wage war on those that were still manned by the living. Together, along with a number of friendly alien species, they were able to quarantine the threat after several days. They sent word to the Justice League of their blockade while thousands of alien craft continued their fervent migration.

Victor didn’t hear Superman leave the ship, nor did he hear when Green Lantern came to check on him. The cybernetic part of his brain told him that he’d given a satisfactory answer to earn his privacy, but he didn’t remember what it was. Nor did he care. He was hunched over his desk, staring down at the algorithms on the paper before him. They were strange and entrancing. He had solved the first algorithm, only to realize that the answers to each missing formula were the same. It was a single word, a name that repeated itself over and over in his mind.

Unicron.

He looked down at the leg that had been bathed in alien blood. When they had first arrived on the planet, that same leg had been cut open by one of the smaller Rust Giants. The blood that had splashed on it had healed the mechanical components completely, but his flesh burned underneath. Suddenly he felt dizzy again, as he had many times after solving the algorithms. He needed to lie down. He heard Hal rush to his door, yelling about Oa being invaded by the Rust Giant’s fleet. But the noise was vague and distant as sleep overtook him. He returned to the endless well of numbers, and knew that this time he would reach the end.

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