"Okay!" Ash said. "My turn now!"
Brawly nodded. "That it is, my man. Oh – how big are we talking here?"
"Not too huge," Ash assured him. "I'm only using one Pokémon I used in the Johto league."
"Good," Brawly said. "That should mean my eight-badge team isn't too badly outmatched... I hope."
He paused. "It's not Lugia, is it?"
"No," Ash replied. "That would be just cruel."
He frowned, considering something. "I wonder if it'd be possible to battle Winona with some of the flying Legendaries... oh, sorry, just a thought."
"Better her than me, man," Brawly replied. "Okay, let's get on this!"
Ash took the first Pokéball and readied it, and Brawly did likewise.
"Who's first, Ash?" May asked.
Ash replied by throwing the Pokéball. "Go, Squirtle!"
"Pangoro!" Brawly replied.
The panda materialized, gave Squirtle a look, and discarded his bamboo twig. "I see it's time for a fight!"
"That's right!" Squirtle agreed, striking a pose. "This is the battle of great champions! Unmatched across the universe!"
Reaching into his shell, he drew out a pair of sunglasses and placed them carefully on his face. Then went right back to the pose. "With new bonds formed from friendship among brothers, even setbacks are turned into ways to move further forward-"
Pangoro punched him.
"It's a fight, not a posing contest," he said, shaking his head, as Squirtle flipped away and landed with a spray of sand. "Pay attention!"
"Oh, I will," Squirtle assured him. He raised his glasses, flipping them around to wield them like a sword. "Just who the hell do you think I am?"
A flash of light engulfed the glasses.
"...wait, what just happened?" Brawly asked, pointing to the shades which seemed to have gained a certain solidity. "Tell me you guys saw that."
"It's Squirtle," Brock sighed. "I gave up sometime in Johto."
"Right..." Brawly shrugged. "Okay, Close Combat!"
"You got it!" Pangoro agreed, lunging forwards with claws ready.
Squirtle replied by sliding a little to the side, using his glasses to knock the bear-paw aside, then blasted his opponent with a stream of water and dodged a second paw swipe. "You're too slow, you big palooka!"
"That's panda, idiot!" Pangoro shot back. His claws glowed, and he slammed a Dragon Claw into Squirtle's shell.
"Right!" Squirtle announced, withdrawing his arms and legs into his shell. "Hydro Pump!"
Pangoro held up his arm against the spray, watching him go for a moment, then crouched. "Sky Uppercut!"
Squirtle spun faster, waves of water blasting the approaching Pangoro, then popped his limbs out again and launched a blast of near-freezing liquid. "Rime Crasher!"
Blocking with a slap, Pangoro shook the ice off his arms, then blurred out of view.
"Wha-?" Squirtle blinked.
A hand grabbed his leg.
"Vital Throw!" Pangoro announced, and threw him back towards the ground.
Squirtle's response to that was to hold an arm forwards, and bubbling water curled around it. "The ground is no barrier to a drill! Aqua Drill Jet!"
True to his word, he vanished underground without slowing.
Pangoro landed, frowning, and then spun as Squirtle burst back out of the beach in a fountain of spray.
They traded a series of high-speed blows – Pangoro using a quick Close Combat combination, Squirtle using his shades to good effect – then bounced apart again, skidding to a stop in different areas of the beach.
"Pretty good," Squirtle admitted. "You're a canny fighter! This will be a great battle!"
"It'll be a short one," Pangoro replied, and blurred out again.
"Behind!" Ash called.
Pangoro slammed a purple-glowing fist into Squirtle's back. "Venom White Snake Reliable Fist!"
"...pardon?" Ash blinked, as Squirtle was knocked flying.
"I think it's just Poison Jab," Brock said, uncertainly.
"It's completely different! It's a backstab!" Pangoro told him.
Squirtle pulled himself out of a crater. "What the hell did you think that was going to do?"
"...poison you?" Pangoro asked.
"Dig that wax out of those big ears of yours and listen!" Squirtle shouted. "I'm a turtle! I've got a shell!"
"...that does pose a problem," the panda admitted. "Right!"
He dashed in, paws glowing. "Vacuum Wave!"
Squirtle jumped, blocking the one headed for him with a shade-swipe, and retaliated with a blast of boiling water.
"Ow!" Pangoro retorted, swiping at his opponent.
"You know..." May frowned. "For some reason, I was expecting that Scald to do something..."
"Okay, you overgrown Zigzagoon!" Squirtle announced, raising his hand. "It's time for you to just accept it! I'm the badass Squirtle who you've heard about, and that means-"
"Hey!" Pangoro interrupted. "Listen!"
"Gurren Lagann sucks!"
With that, Pangoro vanished back into his Pokéball.
A Conkeldurr replaced him, and blinked at the slack-jawed Water-type.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Squirtle ignored him. "Ash! Return me!"
Ash frowned. "Pardon?"
"Return me! That panda is going down, and I want to be the one to do it!"
His trainer complied, returning Squirtle, and switched to Swellow instead. "Okay, if you insist..."
"Right, here we go!" Swellow chirped, hovering for a moment before landing and folding her wings – though remaining crouched, ready for a quick takeoff. "Should be fun!"
Conkeldurr pointed. "I am going to hit a birdie."
She cocked her head on one side. "What's that you say?"
Then she had to rapidly get clear as Conkeldurr tried to use her as a golf ball.
Flipping into the air, she turned in a tight circle and gained height rapidly. "That's not very polite!"
A giant stone pillar swished through the air, once more coming uncomfortably near her. "I'll try for an eagle instead."
"I'm no Braviary..." Swellow muttered. Her split-tail moved, one side going up and the other side going down, steering her as she banked around for an attack.
Conkeldurr swept his other pillar across in a blocking move, and Swellow's beak came up to lift her trajectory just enough that she slipped neatly over the stone.
A white light erupted around her for a moment as she slammed home an Aerial Ace. "Yah!"
Not particularly fazed, Conkeldurr swiped at her with one hand. She dodged back, wings whirring, and dove forwards to slip under his arm and out the other side.
"She's nimble," Brawly noted approvingly. "Just right for a Flying-type!"
"What do you think of Pelipper, then?" Brock asked, with a curious frown.
Brawly shrugged. "It's a very punchable bird."
While they'd been talking, Swellow had come around for another attack. She whistled past Conkeldurr's ear, cuffing him on the side of the head with her wings as she went, and pulled up into a power climb to shed momentum.
A roll, a flip, and she was heading back along the path she'd taken at a higher speed still.
This time, though, Conkeldurr had enough time to line up a trap. He adjusted his grip on the pillars, and then swept them together to offer her no way out.
"Faster!" Ash shouted.
Realizing the danger, Swellow summoned up reserves of speed from somewhere and dove forwards. The two stone pillars loomed up before her – then above and below – then behind, as they collided with an almighty WHAM.
Swellow yelped as a stinging pain hit her. "What was that?"
"It caught your right tail feathers!" Ash called. "I think one of them got pulled out!"
"That explains my balance being all off," Swellow agreed, trimming her feathers to correct for the missing rudder feather. "Okay, that's going to make it a bit harder..."
"I can see," Ash agreed. "Okay, try to make sure you don't lean left too much."
She circled around, maintaining a safer distance, and then bored back in. Her path drifted slightly left despite her best efforts, and Conkeldurr swept a rocky pillar towards her – which she evaded with a wing-flip that turned her base course into a corkscrew, throwing him off.
Staying still just long enough to peck at his knee, she shot past another counterblow and headed skywards.
"Okay, let's give it a go!" Ash told her.
Swellow swerved to the right, and accelerated. A white shock built around her wings for a moment, and then she curved sharply in towards Conkeldurr – then away, and the shock didn't turn with her.
Her Air Slash whipped out, knocking a few chips from Conkeldurr's columns, and Brawly frowned.
"That's going to make things harder... Conkeldurr! Rock Throw!"
"That doesn't mean what I think it-" Swellow asked.
She got her answer. It was those rocks he was carrying.
Two enormous stone pillars spun up at her, and she dodged the first with a sideslip in the air before braking and stopping just ahead of the second one.
"Ha!" she called. "Missed me, missed-"
"Dive!" Ash called.
Swellow did, and the rocky cylinder merely passed close rather than actually knocking her out of the sky.
"They're boomerangs!" Max realized, as Conkeldurr caught his weapon and the second one crashed into the sand next to him. "How does that work?"
Brawly shrugged. "It just does."
Not one to waste time, Swellow swooped around and fired another Air Slash. This one was less potent as she'd fired it from further away, and Ash frowned.
"This could take a while..."
"Yeah," Swellow agreed, willing to take the time to grind Conkeldurr down but not particularly relishing it. "Do you have any ideas?"
"I might," Ash agreed, and grabbed Dexter. "Hey, quick question?"
Swellow missed the next bit of the discussion, as Conkeldurr smashed one pillar against the other and produced a spray of high-speed gravel.
She dodged and weaved, tail flipping back and forth frantically as she compensated for the injury and steered through the dozens of potential hits, and then had to climb just as fast to avoid being smacked by the whole mostly-intact pillar.
"Okay, Swellow!" Ash called. "We've got a plan – go high!"
Swellow rose, spiralling up until she was a good hundred metres in the air. "What now?"
"Use the dive speed and try to go straight past with an Air Slash! The speed should help!"
"My kind of plan!" Swellow flipped a wingtip and dove, air streaming out from her wings and thickening rapidly into the white shock of an Air Slash.
Conkeldurr swept both columns up, one into her path and one to her left.
So she went right.
Ash had hinted at the plan without ever actually saying it – having seen that she was inclining right due to the drag from her mussed right tail, he'd promptly told her to act as though it was making her incline left.
The practical upshot of all that was that she rolled right faster than Conkeldurr thought she'd be capable of, and her Air Slash battered him harder than ever.
"Great work!" Ash called as she pulled up again, then noticed her sudden frown.
Pulling a sharp Immelman, she shot back down again, opened her mouth – then stopped.
The blast of sound formed a visible shock wave in the air, hammering into Conkeldurr and making him stagger backwards with his arms windmilling.
"Whoa!" Max yelled, hands on his ears. "What was that!?"
"I think it was Boomburst!" Brock said, also a bit loud. "I didn't know Swellow could learn that!"
"It's kinda new to me too," Swellow admitted, panting. "I remembered that thing with the pillars, and it suddenly-"
She broke off and dodged a thrown pillar.
"Follow it!" Ash called. Swellow nodded, then did a high-speed loop to avoid the return arc and paced it as it came back in.
The Flying-type put on a burst of speed and overtook the stone column just before it arrived, hitting Conkeldurr's catching arm with an Air Slash that made him flinch.
There was a loud THUD as cranium met conglomerate.
"Oh, look, more birdies..." Conkeldurr said, pointing around him, and then crashed to the floor.
"Is that how battles usually go?" Goomy asked, tilting his... face... on one side. "That seemed to be awfully fast."
Mawile shrugged. "I guess they usually go a lot of different ways! I had my first battle recently, it was fun!"
Goomy considered that. "I see," he said, eventually.
Their ride shifted slightly. "Mawile, can you not move too quickly? I think I came close to falling over..."
"Okay!" Mawile agreed, making sure to hold on more tightly. "I wonder who's next?"
"Should you be worried you keep having your Pokémon knock themselves out?" Brock asked.
Brawly shrugged. "It's a compliment, man – the only thing strong enough to knock out my Pokémon are my Pokémon!" A chuckle. "Well, sorta."
"You okay to stay out there, Swellow?" Ash asked.
"Sure thing!" Swellow chirped. "I want to test this new move, too, that was pretty cool!"
That got a nod.
"Okay, then!" Brawly said, grabbing a Pokéball. "Go!"
Pangoro materialized, and cracked his knuckles. "I see that fool Conkeldurr had trouble with you."
"Yeah, that's right!" Swellow agreed, flapping back into the air. "Okay, how did I do this..."
She flipped around, climbing rapidly, and then turned over into a dive – beak open.
The pressure built up, but she lost her control and coughed – resulting in a pulse of sound, but nothing like a Boomburst should be.
As the faint white pressure wave reached Pangoro – he vanished, as the Double Team image burst.
Swellow pulled up to hover. "Wait, where-"
"Look-!" Ash began.
A Faint Attack hit her from behind, producing a cry of pain, and she dove to try and get clear of the attack. A second came in, this one an Ice Punch, and Swellow's dodge took her so close to the ground that she kicked up a wash of sand with her slipstream.
"Swellow, you're too tired!" Ash called. "Come back-"
As he raised the Pokéball, Pangoro blurred forward and hit Swellow with a nasty scything kick. She spun out of control, stalling, and hit a wave just as she recovered her angle of attack.
"I think that's Swellow out of the battle," Brock said as Ash recalled her. "Not bad."
"Pangoro's kind of a dirty fighter sometimes," Brawly agreed. "Anything goes with him."
Ash switched out Squirtle. "Okay, Squirtle, your turn!"
Squirtle nodded silently, and pointed.
"...yes?" Pangoro asked. "What is it?"
"Surf," Squirtle explained.
His trainer, who wasn't looking directly away from the sea, gasped. "Whoa, dude... isn't that kind of an overreaction?"
Pangoro glanced behind him, then gaped. His hands flashed, and he fired an X-shaped pattern of air pressure blades at the massive oncoming wave.
Plunging through the hole, he spun to face Squirtle – and was met by Squirtle wielding his glasses like a sword in a series of close-in blows.
"Your disparaging words and petty glances may make you feel all big and important!" Squirtle called, as water fountained up around them from the collapsing wave and the push launched them both into the sky. "And you may try to sap the will of fighting mon with your damp, weak spirit! But that's not how I roll!"
"It's just a TV show," Pangoro began, knocking aside a succession of attacks and snapping off a few counterpunches in between Squirtle's strikes. "I don't see why you're so-"
He had to duck back as a Rime attack splashed out at him, and then pushed violently to jump clear and get some distance.
A drop of water flashed green-blue, and then the glow expanded to cover the entire cascade of water that had been carried skywards by Squirtle's moves.
"Gurren Lagann is a TV show! That's true!" Squirtle called, as the water became a swirling vortex. "But it's more than that! It's a philosophy, a way of life, a reality!"
Pangoro blinked as the watery drill formed. "What...?"
"Taste this, panda-brain! Horn! Drill! Breaker!"
There was an explosion in the sky high over the beach.
"Your Squirtle's something else, man," Brawly said, squinting skywards.
"Yeah," Ash agreed. "He sure is."
The tiny turtle Pokémon landed with a soft thump on the sand, and posed. "That's how team-"
Pangoro landed on top of him.
"Ow," Pangoro said, shaking his head ruefully. "I-"
Several tonnes of water landed on top of him.
"...I think they might both be knocked out," Max said hesitantly.
"Yeah, looks like," Brawly agreed, recalling Pangoro. "Okay, dude, what's your final Pokémon? Something not from the Silver Conference, right?"
"That's right!" Ash confirmed.
"It's not one of those?" he added, indicating Tyranitar and the Pokémon on his shoulders.
"No, Mawile and Tyranitar both got used, and I'm still giving Goomy his early training," Ash replied. "Okay, Latios!"
Brawly took a surprised step back. "Latios?"
"La-ti-os!" With a flicker of blue, Latios decloaked.
"...how about that," Brawly said. "At least it's not Lugia..."
He frowned, thinking hard about his choices. "Well, I guess there's no point sending out Toxicroak... right, I know."
Brawly tapped a Pokéball. "Mienshao, let's do this!"
A Mienshao emerged, complete with boogieboard.
"No, dude, break in the surfing," Brawly explained. "It's a gym battle."
A nod, and the mustelid discarded his board before taking a ready stance.
"Right!" Ash called. "Latios, remember what we discussed – your biggest advantages aren't moves at all!"
"Got it!" Latios agreed, and shimmered back out of the visible spectrum.
Mienshao's stance changed slightly, becoming more open and less focused – ready to spring in any direction.
"I guess we've started," Brawly said, in one of the less formal match starts Ash had experienced. "Okay, start us off with an Aura Sphere!"
"Wait, your Mienshao knows how to use Aura?" Ash asked. "Uh-oh – look out, Latios, he can tell where you are!"
A blue sphere snapped off one of Mienshao's furry arms, curving in the air and following a barely-visible moving blur.
"Counter Shield!" Ash called, and Latios sent out a blast of green Dragonbreath. His psychic powers caught it, warping and shaping it from a cone of flame into a shimmering shield, and the blue Aura Sphere detonated on it instead of following through to hit Latios himself.
"Okay, that worked well!" Ash told him. "Let's see – right, stay at a good distance so you get time to block his Aura Sphere..."
Latios squeaked agreement, swerving out over the water and reapplying his cloak – making it harder to see him, if nothing else.
"And... right," Ash added. "Try an Extrasensory!"
Tilting over so one wing was nearly straight down and the other a little the far side of straight up, Latios conducted a hairpin turn and locked onto Mienshao.
The circle of naturally-white fathers on his forehead began to glow an eerie gold, and a beam of opalescent golden light fired out at Mienshao.
Just as the beam shot out, though, Mienshao exploded into motion.
He jinked to one side, letting the attack hit the sand of the beach and blow up a plume of yellow grains, and charged.
When he reached the surf, he kept moving – jumping across the water in great skipping leaps.
It wasn't the water-walking that Lucario and Ash could do. It was simply that Mienshao was moving so fast that he could jump from wave-crest to wave-crest before he had time to sink.
"Look out!" Ash called. "Climb!"
Tilting back, Latios gained height as fast as he could, aiming to get above any possible direct attack.
In reply, Mienshao jumped into the air.
The water dished away around his takeoff point, forced by the sheer impulse of his takeoff, and Latios found himself having to dodge a very nasty high kick over a hundred feet in the air.
Mienshao's follow-up to the High Jump Kick was to bring his whips across in an X-pattern, then bring them back out again to cross a second time.
Both Dual Chops hit Latios in the chest, the first harder than the second, and he cried out in pain before expanding out a Safeguard shield and knocking Mienshao away.
The agile Fighting-type flipped once, skipped off a wave, and returned to running across the water while positioning for his next move.
"He's got to have a limit how high he can jump!" Ash reasoned. "So stay high!"
As he did, Mienshao swerved towards a breaker and ran up the crest – using it as a ramp, and kicking off to get high again.
Rather than go for a direct attack, he fired out a pair of Aura Spheres, and followed them up with a dense shower of Swift stars.
"Safeguard!" Ash reminded Latios, who formed his shield out again and dodged frantically.
One of the Aura Spheres struck the shield, making it ripple alarmingly, and a few of the Swift stars broke through but did little actual damage.
"Man, you're on fire today," Brawly complimented. "Okay, U-turn and back to shore!"
"What's U-turn again?" Latios asked, and formed a Counter Shield out of dragonfire on the grounds it would probably help no matter what U-turn was.
"Bug type contact move!" Ash summarized quickly, and then Mienshao used U-turn.
He broke through the flaming shield, whipping his arms across to blow a hole, and slammed both feet into Latios' chest to use him as a bumper to change his direction.
Air whooshed out of Latios' lungs accompanied by a pained squeak, and he slid backwards in the air before recovering.
"And I thought my sister was fast and annoying..." he muttered, shaking his head and watching Mienshao land back on the shore.
"Okay, new plan!" Ash called. "Catch!"
He threw something into the air, and Latios dove to catch it.
"What's that, man?" Brawly asked, as the Dragon-type rose back into the sky.
"Kind of a speed booster," Ash replied, and his staff began to pulse.
Orange light shone overhead.
"Oh, ouch," the Gym Leader winced. "A Mega Legendary? I guess I'll just take it as a compliment..."
Ash shrugged. "Right! Mega Latios, ready?"
The purple-white Mega overhead did an easy roll, then pulled up to hover and nodded.
"Okay! Basically – he wants speed, we'll give him speed!"
Mega Latios pulled over into a dive.
"Everyone cover your ears!" Brock called urgently.
A moment later, Mega Latios hit the sound barrier.
Water crashed out either side as Mega Latios blew past, forming a trough in the ocean that sliced through waves like nothing, and spraybows shimmered in the air overhead.
Mienshao wasn't nearly fast enough to keep up – but his ability to use Detect was giving him an offsetting advantage, and he was still managing to land the occasional glancing blow.
"Ash, I'm having trouble focusing at this speed," Mega Latios called, slowing enough that he could manoeuvre. "What should I do?"
"Try a Psywave!" Ash decided. "Make it really wide!"
"Won't that weaken it?" Mega Latios asked.
"Yeah, but it'll hit!" Ash countered.
Mega Latios nodded. His eyes lit up, and he pulsed out the widest psywave he could.
The pulse of psychic energy expanded rapidly, and Mienshao was left unable to get far enough away to avoid being hit.
Mega Latios was right, that did make the attack weaker... but given it was fuelled by a Mega Evolution, there was still quite a lot of force.
Mienshao was knocked backwards, hit a wave with a smack, and nearly sank before swimming back to the surface.
"Reversal!" he called, and sent a blast of energy right back at Mega Latios.
"Zen Headbutt!" Ash called.
Mega Latios charged. The psychic energy of the Zen Headbutt attack formed around him, blunting the Reversal, and then he smacked into Mienshao hard enough to send them both underwater.
For a moment, there was only the crash of the waves. Then Mega Latios emerged from the sea, saltwater streaming off his feathers and dripping from his wings, and with the bedraggled-looking Mienshao in his claws.
"Does this mean I win?" he asked.
"Well, guess you get the badge, dude," Brawly decided. "Interesting style that Latios has."
"We're kind of still working on it," Ash admitted. "Most of it involves stealth, and that kind of didn't work here..."
"It's showtime!" Professor Akibahara announced, and activated the latest attempt at an Upgrade.
The Porygon in question (Porygon-twelve) emitted a rising hum.
"How likely is this to work?" Akiyama asked, leaning back into his chair.
"Nearly certain!" the eccentric professor said. "I've calculated out all the variables!"
"That's what you said last time," Katou sighed, running a brush along the hot fur of her partner. "And what happened then?"
"...yes, yes, it took Porygon-nine a week to defragment itself, but this is different!"
"How so?" Katou pressed.
"It'll work this time!"
Configuration loaded. Beginning testing.
"See?" Akibahara said, pointing. "It's never got that far before!"
Then the lights went out.
In the darkness, a blue-pink Porygon materialized itself out of the same flat polygons as always. Power drain excessive, program terminated unexpectedly. Would you like to file a Bug-type report?
"You were saying, prof?" Akiyama asked.
"...maybe I should refactor the code a bit..."
"Okay, Power Gem!" Gary ordered.
Sableye snapped his fingers, producing a gemstone. It pulsed briefly, and he sent it flying out towards the target.
Fearow slipped sideways, evading the Power Gem attack and making it look easy, then flared his wings and launched a blast of wind towards Sableye.
Ducking briefly into the ground, Sableye avoided the improvised attack, and emerged again just in time to get a faceful of Drill Peck.
"Ow!" Sableye winced, as the beak spanged off his eye-gem. "Don't chip it!"
"Power Gem again!" Gary called.
Sableye jumped backwards, evading Fearow's second stab with his beak, and threw another gemstone. This one hit with a crack, and Fearow wobbled before spreading his wings and ascending higher into the air.
"Can't we get to the Mega Evolution thing already?" Sableye asked, rubbing his right eye-gem.
"We could try," Gary stressed. "I'm not sure how much of a bond is required to activate the Mega Evolution... hmm... Dee?"
"Take a note – we should test Mega Evolution twice a day with the Sablenite, and also record how strong Sableye's Return is. They might just run off the same resonance..."
"And how do you suggest I do that?" Sableye asked, tossing a Power Gem from hand to hand. "Headbutt a rock?"
"Yes," Gary told him, after hearing the translation.
"...oh, okay then..."
"How's things going, you three?" Gary added, over his shoulder. "Done yet?"
"It's five-three to me!" Arcanine yapped.
"Only because of some most questionable tackles..."
With a pop, Umbreon's Reflect ball collapsed, and she staggered in a circle before slumping to the ground. "I feel ill..." she said faintly. "You're evil."
Gary shrugged. "Well, if you can keep Reflect up for that long and avoid being disoriented when it's used as a football..."
"Yes?" Umbreon pressed, tilting her head on one side to hear the rest of this.
"...you'll be better able to deflect attacks by staying in Reflect?" The trainer shrugged again. "Makes sense to me..."
Umbreon gave him a death glare, though her line of sight was a bit wobbly.
"Okay, new idea," he added. "You try to hit them through the Reflect ball with Dark Pulse, and try not to make the ball collapse completely when you do it."
"I'm glad I'm not trying to maintain a haircut," Furfrou observed. "This second session sounds much more difficult for us."
"...have you been reading Ash's training session notes?" Umbreon asked. "This sounds like the sort of thing he'd do..."
Fearow crashed to the ground, shook his head irritably, and clawed skywards again.
"Direct hit!" Sableye crowed. "Take that, beakbrain!"
A gimlet gaze focused on the Dark/Ghost type, who promptly tried to hide behind Gary's leg.
"Here you are, sir," Amber reported, handing a cylindrical case of burnished wood to Archie. "The idiots provided the perfect distraction."
"They did?" Archie asked, and chuckled. "Well, that was the plan... so, where are they?"
"They got caught." The Admin shook his head. "The Pokémon Centre turned out to have the latest Silver Conference champion in, his Pikachu beat the lot."
"Electric-types..." Archie shook his head. "Clearly allies of Groudon, the lot of them."
Breaching the seal, he slid a rolled-up scroll of paper out from its hiding place.
"It's never been opened," he observed.
"The fool didn't know what he had," Amber replied. "Just a curio, he thought – flotsam, nothing more."
The boss of Team Aqua chuckled again. "More's the better. But if Maxie had gotten his hands on this..."
A shake of the head, and he unrolled it.
"What's this..." he began, then smiled. "Ah. A map of major research sites of Pokeatlantis... very good indeed."
His finger stabbed at the paper. "Here. This is what we need."
Amber leaned over. "The... no, I'm no good at reading those characters."
"The Blue Orb," Archie translated for him. "It was built to allow Pokeatlantis to empower their greatest ally... and, of course, to interfere with the ability of their great rival to use Groudon for their own aims."
The burly man stood up, and clapped Amber on the shoulder. "You're promoted," he said without fanfare. "Commodore rank. And I've got a new task for you..."
"...so, it's mainly telling us that we need to make sure your attacks are faster," Ash explained. "A spherical pulse would be perfect, but I'm not sure how easy that would be."
Latios nodded, keeping pace with the motorboat carrying them towards Slateport. "Psychic?"
"That might work," he agreed. "I guess Butterfree can help teach you when he has the time."
The Eon Pokémon nodded. "What's the plan for changing me with my sister, by the way?" he asked.
"Well, if you feel like swapping we could do it pretty soon," Ash agreed. "You've still got some practice to do on aiming Steel Wing, and that's practice you don't really need help with – just a target."
Latios nodded thoughtfully. "Thanks for the assessment," he added. "I can see that gym leaders really put a lot of effort into making a strong team for their Type."
"That's right," Ash agreed. "The next one's going to be Mauville, which is Electric-type... I wonder..."
Reaching for a Pokéball, he sent out Goomy. "Hi!"
Goomy looked up at him. "Hi?"
"Everything okay?" Ash checked. "I know it's not been long since we met, and I was kind of occupied training the others..."
"It's okay," Goomy said quietly.
"No, I should have given you more attention," Ash insisted. "So – want to start training properly?"
Goomy looked a little nervous.
"It'll be fine, don't worry!" Ash crouched down, and held out his hand. "You don't have to – but I promise, I'll make you a stronger Pokémon if we work at it together."
Goomy considered that, then nodded.
"Great!" Ash grinned. "Let's see... what moves do you know?"
Ash waited for a moment.
"...no, that's it," Goomy clarified.
"Okay," Ash said, not particularly daunted by the shortness of the list. "Well, you're a Goomy, and Dexter says you've got Hydration... I guess a good first step is just learning to use Rain Dance really quickly. Just being able to slip about in the puddles will help."
Goomy nodded, taking that in.
"After that... well, I guess a Water-type move would be good to make use of that rain," Ash went on. "How does that sound?"
Whatever Goomy thought of it would have to wait, as Max pointed over the port side of the boat. "What's that?"
"What's what?" the driver asked, leaning out of the wheelhouse. "Oh, that's Sea Mauville."
"Sea what?" Brock asked.
He exchanged a glance with the others – that wasn't there last time.
"Yep, Sea Mauville," the driver confirmed. "It's a place that did some kind of research – don't know what, and I guess it's probably a good thing they didn't-"
The engine of the boat gave a worrying cough sound.
"Is it supposed to sound like that?" May asked, worried.
"Nope," the driver said, and there was another sputter. The engine died for a moment, then picked up again before cutting out.
"What do we do now?" Max asked.
"Any of you guys have Pokémon that can tow us?" the driver asked. "I've got enough parts to build a spare engine, but it'll take a while – and it's a bit hard to work on the engine of this thing when the propellor's in the water."
"I've got a few," Ash volunteered. "Sorry about the bother, Latios – think you can give us a tow?"
"No problem," Latios agreed.
And that's Ash's fight.
Brawly may be laid-back, but he earned that gym leader slot!
Incidentally, the Pangoro is a nod to that most unesteemed demipanda, Genma Saotome, while the other two are more generic.
As for the other stuff...
Well, work on the Upgrade continues apace... Gary and Sableye are getting to know one another a bit – and there's an explanation for that rather pathetic raid last time.