"I think I found it!" exclaimed Ash, retrieving a small iridescent shard of stone.
"Indeed, you have found a piece of the Wish Stone," said Alakazam. "And with that, my aid is no longer needed."
"Thank you, my friend," said Charizard.
"The last thing I can do for you," Alakazam went on. "Is to send you back to Union Cave."
An instant later, he had used his Teleport upon them.
"Oh, I wish he'd warn us before he does that…" said Misty.
At her words, the shard in Ash's hand glowed with a brilliant light.
"He will from now on…" said Charizard, dryly.
Misty covered her mouth, blushing.
"Never mind," Brock told her. "Be thankful it wasn't something else you were wishing for."
"When did you guys get back?" asked Amanda. "Did you find the…?"
She trailed off as she saw the stone.
"Never mind," said Ash. "What's the news?"
"Well… I don't know if you'd classify it as good news or bad news, but you know those two from Team Rocket—Jessie and James?"
"I've got a bad feeling about this…" said Misty, slapping a hand to her forehead. "What did they do this time?"
"From what I can hear, they're down in the cave right now, running around, smashing things, and driving Ivy half out of her wits," said Raichu.
"Why am I not surprised…?" sighed Brock.
"Come on, we'd better bail them out," said Ash, with a shake of his head.
"I don't know what you're after," they heard Ivy growl as they approached. "But you are not stealing my hard work to give to that brainless boss of yours!"
"I don't think he'd appreciate that remark…" mused James.
"Didn't you ever learn that you shouldn't talk about people behind their backs?" chided Jessie.
"Don't try my patience!" Ivy roared.
"If we're annoying you this much now, it will be most interesting to see how you fare with the boss," said James.
"He's on his way here!" said Jessie. "And I just hope he gets here soon!"
As she said this, the Wish Stone in Ash's pocket began to glow.
"No!" he yelled to the stone. "Not now, not--"
There was a flash of light, and behind them, a large helicopter with the Team Rocket insignia appeared.
"How did we get here?!" a voice thundered from within it.
"Now what!?" asked Misty.
"Between Team Rocket and Ivy, I'll take my chances with her," said Ash, and he ran for the main lab, with the others in tow.
"Hey!" he greeted Jessie, James, and Ivy. "Just picking up Pikachu; I won't take a moment--"
"I don't think so!" Ivy snarled, reaching for her control panel, but James beat her to it.
"Oops!" he taunted, pressing a button that unlocked the cages.
Ivy threw a punch at him, which he dodged, as the Pokémon proceeded to exit their cages.
"All of you, stop right there!" Ivy ordered them.
Bound by the transmitters, they obeyed. But that was exactly what Ash needed. As Ivy turned to confront the others, he raced up to Pikachu and pulled the transmitter from his fur.
Pikachu roared and turned on him.
"You fool!" Ivy shrieked, realizing what Ash had done. "Without that transmitter, the Pokémon will be completely out of control!"
"Anything's better than being controlled by you!" Ash retorted.
"Stop!" Ivy shrieked, for as soon as she had turned on Ash, Jessie had pulled the transmitter out of Meowth's fur, too.
"What's going on in here!?" a new voice demanded.
Everyone turned now to see the approach of Giovanni, flanked by a dozen Rocket followers, Butch and Cassidy among them.
"Get Meowth out of here before he sees him!" Jessie hissed at James.
Ivy glared at Giovanni, and then turned to the mutant Pokémon.
"All of you, get out of here!" she ordered. "Don't let those Rockets near you!"
"Get every last one!" roared Giovanni.
The wave of mutant Pokémon swarmed around Ash as they fled. The Gyarados struck him unintentionally with his tail, but that was enough to send the Wish Stone flying. Ash made a grab for it, but it was lost among the scrambling Pokémon.
"Vulpix!?" Brock called to the panicked mass of creatures. "Vulpix, where are you!?"
"The Stone is gone!" Ash fumed, furious with himself. He glanced back around the room to see Pikachu, still in mutant form, bounding through a different passageway.
"Pikachu, come back!" he cried, the Wish Stone driven from his mind.
He chased after Pikachu, with Misty and Amanda chasing after him.
Brock, unable to find Vulpix, concluded that she must have gone with the other Pokémon who were still under Ivy's control. It would be a race between him and the Rockets to find her first.
Meanwhile, Meowth noticed Butch and Cassidy. Whether or not he recognized them didn't matter to him at this point; he proceeded to chase them around the lab.
"Really," sighed Jessie. "I shouldn't be enjoying this…"
Pikachu was blindly running deeper into the caverns. A small opening led to the outside world. Pikachu proceeded to the exit, but was soon cut off by Charizard.
"Pikachu!" Ash called.
Furious, the mutated mouse sent several sparks his way.
"Pikachu, come on! It's me!" he said. "I got the transmitter out, so Ivy can't control you anymore!"
"Nor can you!" he retorted.
"Of course not!" Ash agreed. "I would never want to control you! And I'm sorry I let this happen… I had the Wish Stone right in my hands, and I lost it. If I hadn't been such a butterfingers, you'd be back to your old self right now…"
"Ash!" called Misty.
She and Amanda arrived.
"Stay back!" Pikachu ordered, charging up electricity. "Stay back and leave me alone!"
"I know you can remember me if you try, Pikachu!" said Ash, taking another step towards him.
Pikachu unleashed a series of bolts at Ash, but Amanda's Raichu stepped in and absorbed them.
"No, Raichu," said Ash. "I can do this alone. Know why? Because Pikachu can remember me on his own!"
He took another step towards Pikachu, who sparked again.
"Don't try his patience!" cautioned Charizard. "He's not being wild on purpose like I was; he honestly doesn't have access to his true mind!"
"Then I have to help him get access no matter what it takes," Ash replied.
Misty covered her eyes as approached even closer to Pikachu.
"I can't look…" she whispered. "What's happening?"
"Nothing…" said Amanda, with an air of amazement.
Pikachu didn't move as Ash knelt beside him. Neither one could sense any hostility in the other. Though Pikachu couldn't remember Ash, he knew enough to trust him.
Ash carefully placed a hand on Pikachu's back, scratching the fur right behind his neck. Pikachu tensed, but didn't attack.
"Ash, you did it!" gasped Misty.
"You'll be OK, Pikachu," Ash said. "We just have to wait for the serum to wear off a little bit, and then you, Vulpix, and Meowth will be back to--"
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Misty. "We didn't get a chance to take Vulpix's transmitter out!"
"Don't tell me…" Ash began.
"Brock's searching for Vulpix right now!" gasped Amanda. "Ivy will order her to attack him if he finds her!"
"And he'd never fight back," Ash realized. "Come on!"
Brock was indeed searching for Vulpix, and his quest led him to where Ivy and Giovanni were arguing.
"Turning Pokémon into monsters…" mused Giovanni. "Who would have suspected you of such a thing?"
"You would!" she snarled. "I was the one who gave you the idea about the Mewtwo project! And not only did you go ahead with the project without consulting me, you didn't give me any credit!"
"Admit it," Ivy ordered. "I am your biggest rival. You purposely went ahead without me so that you could turn Mewtwo on me! You knew that I was the only one who could devise a way to put an end to your precious Team Rocket! And now I have done it!"
"What I intended to do with Mewtwo is now irrelevant," said Giovanni, maintaining his composure far better than Ivy was. "I lost control of the beast."
"Of course you did!" Ivy retorted. "Because I had the means to prevent a loss of control! I had my transmitters! I would have been able to control Mewtwo just as I am able to control the mutant Pokémon!"
"You flatter yourself," said Giovanni. "Though I admit your plan is to be applauded. However, what shall become of your reputation when word of this gets out, Felina?"
"What do you want?" Ivy asked, coldly.
"A dose of your miracle serum, some of those wonderful transmitters, and a few of your Pokémon," the head of Team Rocket replied.
"And you'll steal my work yet again!?" she countered. "Vulpix, forward!"
Brock's heart seemed to stop as the monstrous fox came into view, challenging Giovanni.
"Perhaps we can work out a deal," said Giovanni, not seeming worried in the least. "How about proper payment for your struggles in exchange for some serum, some transmitters, and this one Vulpix?"
"And I'll never hear from you again?" asked Ivy.
Ivy paused, considering the deal.
"Agreed," she said at last. "Vulpix has served its purpose."
"This Vulpix will make a fine addition to my collection," he mused.
"Not if I can help it," Brock said, coming into view at last.
Vulpix didn't give him any sign of recognition.
"Are you the beast's former trainer?" asked Giovanni, bored.
"I am Vulpix's trainer," he retorted.
"Felina, this livid youth shall prove to be a thorn in my side so long as the Vulpix is mine," said Giovanni.
"Vulpix," Ivy ordered, snapping her fingers. "Now!"
Vulpix went after Brock, roaring.
"Vulpix," he pleaded, as he retreated backwards from the fox, trying to keep eye contact. "Vulpix, just try to remember… just try…"
"The fool isn't even battling," muttered Giovanni.
"The present-day trainers grow far too attached to their Pokémon," said Ivy, with disapproval.
"That is what makes their Pokémon so weak," agreed Giovanni. "The primal instincts are forgotten, and they become pampered pets. You may very well have saved this Vulpix by allowing it to reach its full potential."
"I've devoted myself to ensuring that all of my Pokémon reach their full potential!" Brock retorted, now glaring at Giovanni and Ivy. "Vulpix was perfect until you turned her into this--"
He was cut off; he had been distracted for only a second, but that had been his undoing. Vulpix seized the opportunity to pounce, trapping him beneath her now-massive paws.
"Vulpix…" he whispered, trying without success to hide his fear. "I'm so sorry this happened to you…"
Ash, Misty, and Amanda had arrived now; Pikachu had lagged behind them, but was following Ash now, despite the mutant state.
"We're too late…" whispered Misty, horrified.
Brock turned his face away, Vulpix snarling in his ears. But for some reason, Vulpix was hesitant to attack further.
"What are you waiting for!?" demanded Ivy.
Vulpix roared as the transmitter dealt her more pain, ordering her to attack, but still she wouldn't move.
"Vulpix…?" Brock asked.
Vulpix let out a crying whine and proceeded to lick Brock's face gently.
"What!?" shrieked Ivy. "This is impossible! How can you control those monsters!?"
"They're not the monsters," Ash said. "You are."
Vulpix released Brock, who immediately removed the transmitter from her neck.
"I take it back, Felina," said Giovanni, with disapproval. "Perhaps your experiment was a failure after all--"
"What is the meaning of this!?" a new voice asked.
"Professor Oak!" exclaimed Ash.
Oak arrived, flanked by the police.
"Samuel!?" gasped Ivy. "I… this isn't what you think… Giovanni blackmailed me--"
"Don't you dare bring me into this!" Giovanni snapped.
Oak caught an eyeful of Pikachu and Vulpix, who were both growling at the new arrivals, unsure of whether to trust them or not.
"What have you done!?" he asked, horrified.
Ivy growled in frustration.
"Oh, I wish I'd never even started this experiment!" she fumed.
As soon as she uttered those words, a bright light gleamed from under a kiosk that Brock had fallen against.
"So that's where it went…" muttered Ash.
"Ash!" gasped Misty.
Ash looked down to see Pikachu back to his normal form.
"Oh, I'm so dizzy…" he groaned. "Huh? Ash? What's going on?"
Vulpix shook the cobwebs from her head as she, too returned to normal.
"What? What was I doing? Where are the Venomoths? Brock, what happened?"
The lab equipment around Ivy started vanishing before her eyes.
"What's happening!?" she shrieked. "What's going on!?"
"Whatever it is, I'm done with it!" snarled Giovanni, and he vanished behind the cover of a smokescreen.
Ivy tried to make her escape, but was soon cut off by the other Pokémon, also back to normal—Gyarados, Venomoths, and all.
In the moments that ensued, Jenny arrested the furious Ivy and took her away as Ash and Brock reunited with Pikachu and Vulpix. Brock had unobtrusively grabbed the shard of the Wish Stone that had been uncovered after the kiosk disappeared to prevent Team Rocket from getting their hands on it.
Professor Oak spoke to the trainer.
"Well, I'm glad this is all over," he said, and the others agreed. "You can be sure there'll be a full investigation of what happened."
"What about all the Pokémon from Valencia Island?" asked Ash, glancing at them.
"They'll be treated by the Pokémon Center and then released to wherever they so choose to go," Oak assured them. "But I must ask… Brock, what was that stone that had glowed a while back?"
"Uh…" he began, mumbling something.
"What stone?" he asked, shrugging.
"Must've been a malfunction with the kiosk!" offered Amanda.
"I suppose," said Oak. "Well, I have to look into the investigation. I'll keep you all posted."
They thanked him as he left.
"Brock, where is the Wish Stone?" Misty asked him.
"Gone," Brock said, with a smile. "I wished for it to back to Wish Cave."
"You really got the Wish Stone!?" asked Pikachu, amazed.
"Was there ever any doubt?" Ash asked.
That got a laugh out of everyone.
Jessie and James had been just as happy to be reunited with the old Meowth again. Giovanni had ordered the Rockets to pull out, but the three didn't go back with them.
"Looking on the bright side," said James. "The boss can't blame us this time; he messed up all on his own. Not that I really wanted him to succeed…"
"I know what you mean," said Jessie.
"Well, I don't!" said Meowth. "What are you two talking about?"
"Hey!" exclaimed Ash.
"Greetings, Twerps," mused Jessie.
"Glad to see things are back to normal with Meowth," said Misty.
"Likewise with Pikachu and Vulpix," said James.
"Stealing a monster Pikachu is no fun at all," sighed Jessie. "So we'll stick with the normal one… next time."
Jessie and James left with the bewildered Meowth in tow.
"When did Pikachu become a monster?" he asked then, as they all clambered into their hot-air balloon. "I thought that was Vulpix… Hey, wait a minute… did I…?"
"You're back," said Jessie.
"So it doesn't matter," said James, trying to bring an air of finality to the discussion.
"Guess not…" said Meowth.
The three fell silent as the balloon took off. But over the roar of the burner, Jessie and James heard a sound they had never heard before.
It was the unmistakable purr of a cat.
Ash, Misty, and Brock were getting ready to part ways with Amanda.
"Thanks for everything," Ash said. "We couldn't have done this without you."
"We don't have to leave so soon," said Brock. "Well, I don't, at least… Maybe we could…"
He trailed off as Misty seized his ear.
"Never mind…" he said.
And with that, they took their leave of her.
"You know, it's too bad about the Wish Stone," said Misty, after a while.
"What do you mean?" asked Ash.
"Well, think about it… we went through all that trouble to find it, and we didn't get a chance to use it," she explained.
"I'm kind of glad we didn't," said Brock. "See… when this whole thing happened, I thought I deserved to lose Vulpix because I wasn't good enough to save her."
"But that's ridiculous!" said Ash.
"Maybe it was," he said. "But the knowledge that I was able to get through to her, even though she was in that controlled state, without any help from the stone…"
"You believed in yourself again?" asked Vulpix.
"I'm sorry," said Vulpix. "For everything I put you through…"
"OK, if you're going to start blaming yourselves again, then stop," ordered Misty. "We're all agreed that everything was Ivy's fault."
"And we're further agreed that we'll let each other know about any other ploys to take over innocent Pokémon!" declared Pikachu.
"Agreed," the others vowed.
The worst now behind them, and all friendships still intact, the group traveled on in higher spirits.