"So, you're Ambipom," Togekiss said, sketching a small bow. "It's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too, I guess," Ambipom replied, offering her tail to shake. "Look, this is all kind of weird from my point of view… I mean, you know me and I don't know you."

"Actually, I don't know you either," Togekiss corrected. "From my point of view, you're someone my teammates talked about because I joined after you left. From your point of view, I'm a new Pokémon you've just met."

Ambipom considered that, then nodded.

"Okay, I think I can go with that."

"That's good," Togekiss said. "Now, I think it's time to make sure everyone knows everyone else. Did you meet Quilava?"

"...no, but I did hear about him from Lucario," Ambipom answered. "And… okay, I think I've got this right… you met Buizel, right?"

"He wasn't on Dawn's team at the same time as me, but he was part of Ash's Sinnoh team – so yes, I did meet him," Togekiss confirmed. "How is he?"

"Really, really annoying," the Normal-type grumbled. "He's taking to this like he time travels regularly-"

"He does," Buneary volunteered.

"And that's what makes it so annoying," Ambipom replied without missing a beat. "Plus, he challenged Ho-Oh because he was bored."

"Yes, I can see that," both female Pokémon agreed, not quite in unison.

They stood there for a moment longer.

"So," Buneary began. "What's this about Pokémon Ping-Pong?"

"Oh, actually I had an idea about that for training purposes," Ambipom said. "I managed to earn a fourth dan black belt before the time screwup, I think it would be a good way to give you all training in-"

"Black belt?" Togekiss repeated. "How do you get a black belt in Ping-Pong?"

Ambipom grinned. "Find me four bats and six balls and you'll see."

As they talked, Dawn gave Ash a thumbs-up.

"Not long now," she said. "Looking forward to it?"

"It will be good to see Sinnoh again," Ash agreed. "There's still the Grand Festival, which is all May's thing, and we might need to help Manaphy out again, but… apart from that, I can't really think of anything."

He snapped his fingers. "Well, apart from Max's League challenge, but I think the Indigo League doesn't start until after we're supposed to get going here."

"Kind of sucks that you can't watch," Dawn volunteered.

"Yeah..." Ash agreed. "Well, I'll hear all about it from May and Ethan. I hope Max does well, his first League got kind of… cancelled..."

"Excuse me," Lucario said, interrupting them. "I thought I should raise this issue with one of you, because I am honestly not sure how to react."

"What's that?" Dawn asked.

"There appear to be two Legendary Pokémon in your rhododendrons."

"Well, this has gone well," Uxie grumbled. "Why did you think this was a good hiding place?"

"Beats me," Celebi replied. "My future self told me it would be a good one, but I think she was trolling me. Why did you think this was a good hiding spot?"

"Because I can't see," Uxie countered.

"...oh, yeah, that's right," Celebi blushed. "Sorry. But we can still go deeper?"

"Not much point hiding now," the Lake Guardian replied.

"Shush, we can totally leave and they will never know we were here."

Ash coughed.

"Or not," Celebi sighed. "Fine, okay."

She floated out of the plants, with the Lake Guardian behind her.

"Okay, so the first thing," said Dawn. "We're really lucky Barry is off with his Dad today, because otherwise the town would be completely replanted in rhododendrons before the end of the week."

Pikachu sniggered.

"But… why are you there?" Dawn went on. "Is this why I've been getting all my Pokémon?"

"Yes," Uxie answered, nodding. "You are going to need at least some of them. And we like you. Azelf especially likes Ash and Mesprit likes you."

"Sure, give away all the mystery," Celebi grumbled.

"So… memory, right?" Dawn asked. "That's your association as one of the Lake Guardians."

"Correct," Uxie stated, tails waving. "There is a reason Ash can hold enough memory to restore several dozen people and Pokémon, and a lot of that is my work."

"You know..." Pikachu began, frowning. "I… had not considered that. It is a lot to hold in one head, even one as empty as Ash's is."


"There are limits, of course," Uxie went on. "A connection of a certain strength is required. But Celebi has been very helpful making sure that all works out."

"I've only seen her a couple of times," Ash said. "Shouldn't I have seen her more if she was doing all of that?"

"Time travel~" Celebi reminded him, good cheer restored. "Basically, if it went wrong I rewound and tried again!"

"That… doesn't fit with how I understand time travel works,"Dawn frowned.

"Who's the expert here?" Celebi asked. "Besides, you're one to talk. Remember how you went back in time and helped Arceus?"

"Well… yeah," Dawn agreed. "But I don't understand how that's relevant."

"Why did you have to go back in time?" Celebi pressed.

"Because Arceus was destroying Sinnoh," the Coordinator answered promptly.

"But he didn't destroy anything," Celebi replied, crossing her arms and doing a backflip. "Because you helped him in the past. So why did you go back in time?"

Dawn began to speak, stopped, then put her hand to her forehead.

"Okay, now I have a headache..."

"Good, you're starting to understand time travel," Celebi giggled. "Anyway. The important bit is, you have the band back together now. So… you know, practice the music?"

She frowned. "I think I crossed the metaphors."

The Time Travel Pokémon then waved her hand. "Whatever. Hey, want a trip back to Kanto? It'll be quicker than flying!"

"How much quicker are we talking?" Pikachu asked.

"That was weird," Ash muttered.

"Ash?" Brock said, looking down at him, then back towards the north. "But… you haven't even left yet. I can see Mega Latios flying off right there!"

"I would say it's a long story," Pikachu began. "But it actually has negative length..."

"How do you work out who takes part in Contests?" May's newest Pokémon asked. "Is it just who seems to be the most ready?"

"That is part of it," May replied. "But a lot of it is making sure there are good Pokémon team-ups ready to go if there's a doubles contest next – and that Pokémon do their routines at the right point in development."

"Right point?"

"Well, you can't really do a routine before it clicks," May said. "But if you leave it too long, then a routine can kind of lose the spark – sometimes that's just what happens, and you have to switch to a different one. Then the first one can come back into focus."

"I think I understand," Joltik said. "So the problem is that when performed with insufficient familiarity it shows that by lacking the skill required to pull it off. But when the performer has too much skill or experience, then it means the audience sees it as unnaturally polished."

"That sounds about right," May agreed.

She clicked her fingers. "That reminds me, actually – how are you getting on with your web trick?"

By way of reply, Joltik shot out a Sticky Web and stuck it to one of May's other Pokéballs.

She used a second Sticky Web to snag onto the nearest tree branch, then retracted that one very quickly and pulled herself – and the ball – into the air.

What followed was very complicated and very hard to follow, and ended after about five seconds with the ball going thump as it hit the ground.

Then Beautifly emerged.

"...this doesn't seem to be the right part of the routine," she said. "Shouldn't I be in mid-air?"

"Sorry," Joltik said, softly – making it very hard to hear her at all. "I'm still working on the momentum issues. I don't have enough mass to make it work out in angular momentum terms."

"That's fine," May told her. "Actually, I did have an idea for that – you can use your own Pokéball as a counterweight."

"That sounds like a good approach," the Electric-type agreed. "We should try that next time."

Ethan's holodisplay appeared, showing a grid of all of May's Pokémon matched with all the others. Am I correct in thinking this routine would work with any Pokémon?

"It'd be a bit dangerous for Joltik if she had to do it with Blaziken," May replied. "But apart from that, I think it could work."

Manaphy raised a fin. "Does this mean we can be Captain Manaphy and Elec-tick? I had this great idea for a superhero theme!"

May laughed. "It does sound like an interesting one… actually, staying in character for the whole battle section has got to be worth some points."

She pointed at Manaphy. "So, what's the backstory of Captain Manaphy?"

"Oh," Manaphy said, thinking. "Um… he used to be a normal-type Pokémon… but one day he fell in the water and got super water powers!"

"Why didn't other Pokémon who fell in the water get super powers?" Beautifly asked, settling on May's shoulder.

Manaphy put his fin to his lips, thinking. "Ummm… I know! The water was water Suicune had just stepped on, so it was super pure! That meant the water made him pure as well!"

"I like it," May said, giving him a grin. "So he has all kinds of abilities over water, right?"

"Yep!" Manaphy agreed. "And on land as well!"

That one, I like, Ethan said. What about Elec-tick?

"I was thinking about that," Joltik volunteered. "I think that it would make sense if Elec-tick was a normal Joltik until she was bitten by a radioactive Joltik."

May gave her a confused look. "But… you, I mean she… are a Joltik."

"I did not say any of this was easy," Joltik replied. "But a paradoxical backstory is a minor component in the development of a superhero compared to compelling plot lines and interesting powers."

Manaphy giggled again. "Okay, that's good! So, how did we meet?"

"...seriously?" came a familiar voice. "How do I keep running into you?"

May and her Pokémon turned, seeing Drew just slipping off his Arcanine's back.

"I don't know, how do you keep running into us?" May replied. "Nice to see you, Drew. Ready for the Grand Festival?"

"You bet," Drew agreed. "Are the others around? I wanted to see if Ash had some advice on training one of my new Pokémon, and now seems as good a time as any."

"Sure," May agreed. "I think Brock's taking cooking suggestions."

"Okay, now add the egg mixture," Sudowoodo said. "That's right… and stir the dry ingredients and egg mixture together."

Zorua nodded, shifting to the form of a Mienfoo to get a better grip on the spoon. "Will do," she said. "Okay, how long do I mix it for?"

Sudowoodo looked down at the recipe. "Until it's a thick, lumpy dough, apparently."

"Right," the Dark-type said.

She could already smell the main meal, but it was their job to do dessert and she was looking forward to the feeling of having helped.

"Sudowoodo," she asked. "What's this recipe for, anyway? It's a kind of cookie, right?"

"Not quite," the Imitation Pokémon replied. "Close, but not quite. It's a kind of cake."

"It is?" Zorua paused stirring for a moment. "This doesn't feel much like cake dough."

"That's because you're making the perfect dish for any of Brock's Pokémon to make," Sudowoodo told her. "Rock cakes."

The really-vulpine-but-currently-mustelid Pokémon looked down into the mixing bowl. "Rock cakes? But this doesn't feel like rock, and it doesn't taste like it."

"They're called rock cakes because of how they look," her teammate told her. "I'm sure you see the connection."

"Oh, come on!" Brock complained, but a chuckle escaped him even as he protested. "Now even my own Pokémon are getting in on it!"

Sudowoodo shrugged. "Don't blame me. I'm a tree."

"Nobody is being here but us types of Fighting," Zorua agreed, speaking in bad Mienfoo. "How is mixing done, tree man?"

Sudowoodo leaned over to look, then decided it was good enough. "Now, let's spread it onto the baking tray. Make sure to leave some space, they're going to get bigger when they bake."

"Looks like I turned up at the right time," Drew said, as Brock began dishing up.

"Pretty much," May agreed. "How are things?"

"Well, I did pick up the last two Pokémon I actually knew were on the way," Drew replied. "Actually, they're both Pokémon Ash have already."

"Right," Max said, frowning. "I think I remember. The Butterfree and the… Absol."

Drew sent out his new Butterfree, who promptly floated over to the table and cleared her throat.

"May I have a glass of juice, please?" she requested.

Ash handled that, pouring out a tall glass of apple juice, and the Bug-type began drinking it.

"She's got good manners," the Battle Frontier Completionist noted. "They both know about the time travel thing, right?"

"Yes, I told them," Drew confirmed. "Butterfree is a bit bemused, but Absol seems more accepting."

He sent out the Dark-type.

Said Dark-type took one look at Ash, yelped, and hid behind Drew's leg.

"...huh?" Drew asked, a little confused. "Absol, what's wrong?"

Ash raised his hand. "That's… probably me, yeah."

With a flash, Ash's own Absol appeared from her Pokéball.

"Okay, I know you're in a difficult situation," she said, soothingly. "Ash is kind of… well, to put it in terms we would both understand, he is not a disaster but they tend to happen around him."

She smiled. "Sound familiar?"

The other Absol began to relax a little, then looked at Ash and winced again.

"It's like looking into the sun," he mumbled. "It hurts a bit, my eyes water, and I feel this urge to look away."

"I know," Ash's Absol told him. "But I can assure you, it's nothing to do with him. The most you'll get from being around him is either direct front-row seats to the world being saved or a certain blasé attitude towards smaller problems."

The other Absol did a double-take. "World saving? Seriously?"

"Remember that comet? I helped detect it coming in, we helped stop it."

"You know, it'd kind of help if I understood this conversation," Drew commented, then took an involuntary step back as a heads-up display appeared in front of his eyes. "Oh. Uh, that's helpful."

You are welcome.

"Okay," the male Absol said, hackles lowering. "Okay. I'm not seeing someone dangerous, I'm seeing someone who regularly encounters danger. I'll be fine."

He looked down, then peeked out from behind Drew's legs at Ash. That made him half-raise a paw to his eyes, then he lowered it again.

"Do you have to alert everyone when he enters a town?" he asked.

May snorted. "That's a funny image," she said. "Make way for Ash Ketchum! There's a thirty percent chance your town will be destroyed!"

"It's not that bad," Ash protested.

"When Team Rocket was around it really was," May countered. "You've just traded quantity for quality."

"Tell you what," Ash's Absol said, nudging the other. "After we've eaten I was going to give Max's Gallade a lesson in the finer points of sword work. You might want to attend."

"You mean… things like using Night Slash?"

"That's a pretty good start, but there was something Keldeo invented back when we were in Johto," Ash supplied. "That's really helped out."

"Hey, don't give him too many tips," May protested. "It'll make the finals battle a lot more inconvenient!"

"All right, Roland," Absol said, walking around the Psychic-type in a circle. "I know you've seen Sceptile, myself and Lucario using our blades to fight – what do you think is important about that style of combat?"

"Well… I was going to say getting in close," Roland replied, thinking. "But then I remembered seeing you using your blade beams a lot. So I don't think that's it…"

"Blade beam?" the spectator asked. "What's that?"

"You'll see," Ash's Absol assured her co-Disaster Pokémon. "Any other thoughts?"

"I think it's about aiming," Roland decided. "All the sword moves I know are really single-target, so you need to get something pretty close to a direct hit."

"Yes, that's the one." Absol charged up her horn, turning to a convenient rock as little wisps of shadow curled off the tip. "Thanks, Geodude."

"No prob, sistah," Geodude assured her, already preparing to replace the target if needed.

"If I hit head-on, then the sharp nature of the sword attacks means that they're likely to be significant," Absol said, stretching a little to be sure she was limber. "But a miss does nothing. Whereas if I used Flamethrower, then it's more diffuse but also more likely to hit – and I can correct my aim once I see where the attack is going."

She swept her horn across in an arc, and a blue beam of light flicked out to strike the rocky target. It cut a deep gouge diagonally across, but faded out near the lower left edge.

"And that's another thing," Absol went on. "The strike has a point of greatest impact – ideally, you want the point of greatest impact to coincide with the moment you make contact, but realistically that's often very hard. You just need to make sure you don't hit when you're just starting your swing – or when you're overextended."

"Hold on, hold on," Drew's Absol said. "That… thing you just did. What was it? What attack was it – I thought it was Night Slash because of the dark stuff around your horn, but..."

"Sacred Sword," the other Dark-type answered, with a smirk. "Keldeo taught me. He came up with the blade-beam thing too, but that's for later."

She turned back to Roland. "As a Psychic-type, the first blade move I'd expect you to learn is Psycho Cut, but there are several others it should be relatively easy for you to learn. For now I think it would be good to focus on Night Slash – I know that one, and it will actually work on me if we do some sparring."

Roland held out his right arm, and examined it. "Where is the blade going to appear?"

"That depends on you, a little," Absol answered. "Generally Absol use their horns, but I've worked on also being able to use my tail at the same time. You'll also want to think about using both your arms, because that will give you a choice of styles..."

"It's been… an experience," Arcanine said, lounging next to her trainer. "I remember it was a little odd when we first met, but since then – well, I've become convinced that you only had good intentions."

"That's good to know," Drew replied, still using Ethan's subtitles. "But it just occurred to me – perhaps we should go and visit your kids again before the Kanto Grand Festival."

"That would be nice," Arcanine agreed.

"Rock cake, coming up," Brock's Crobat called, and Arcanine watched it approach before heaving herself up to snatch it out of the air.

"Tasty," she said, her huge jaws crunching down and shattering it in a single bite.

Drew chuckled. "Wow, it's nice to have a chance to catch up with everyone… well… nearly everyone."

He rolled a little way over, looking at where Leafeon and Glaceon were talking earnestly together. "I think it's probably best to just let them have their time."

That said, he sent out Flygon – then glanced over at Brock's Flygon, who was examining some homemade pocky. "Actually, now I come to think of it a lot of my team is Pokémon that Ash or his friends already have."

"That's just because you have good taste," his Flygon opined.

Drew chuckled.

"I can't get over how cool this is," he said. "I wonder if someone's marketing Porygon translation services by now… I know some Psychic types do it, but not everyone's comfortable with a Psychic type putting words into their mind."

"Good question," Flygon said. "Maybe you should ask someone who works with Porygon?"

"Maybe, yeah," Drew agreed. "Though it's kind of surprising they haven't done it already back home."

There was a long, comfortable pause.

"Wonder who I should use for the opening to the Kanto Grand Festival," Drew mused.

Arcanine was about to express an opinion when he heard Ash say something. It was hard to hear at that distance, but he sounded surprised.

"What?" Drew's Butterfree asked. "I… hope I phrased the question right?"

"You just asked if I was as insane as your dad said I was!" Ash replied. "Your dad… is my Butterfree? Is that right?"

"If you're Ash Ketchum, then yes," Butterfree agreed. "Why? Is that a problem?"

"It's certainly a surprise," Brock said, trying to help explain. "There are a lot of Butterfree in the world, and it's quite a coincidence."

"But I wanted to travel like dad did," Butterfree said, lifting a little way into the air with a gentle flap of her wings. "That was part of why I went with Drew. Not all of it, though – I decided it would be good to try and use some of mom's skills as well."

"That's not what I was expecting," Pikachu said, frowning, and twitched his tail. "Didn't Drew have a Butterfree last time? And was that the same one?"

"Yes," Celebi said, then vanished again.

"...one of these days, we're going to get used to that," Brock said. "And on that day, our journey is complete."

"What journey?" Butterfree asked.

"The journey to being completely ridiculous."

"If dad's stories are right, you got there a very long time ago."

"Experiment four," Philena Ivy said, half to herself, as she wrote in the lab notebook. "We've done the controls, now let's see if we can get the analysis itself done."

Finishing with a results header and underlining it, she stepped away from the desk and turned to the oscilloscope – making sure the settings were just as she'd set them up previously.

Everything looked fine, so she began recording data and nodded to Luxio.

The Electric-type lifted one paw, examining the clips around each claw, then closed her eyes for a moment. Almost immediately, the oscilloscope began to jump – showing the patterns from each claw as a separate trace.

Ivy nodded to herself. "Okay, it looks like there's at least some redundancy – I'm seeing identical traces for some of them. We'll need to look more closely at that later. Now, can you try some specific messages?"

Luxio nodded, tail waving lazily.

"Message one," Ivy said. "Danger."

The oscilloscope traces jumped, producing a new pattern for a few seconds before settling back into the carrier wave. Then they did it again, producing the same pattern.

"Good," Ivy told her. "Now let's try satisfaction."

There was no change.

"That's strange," she said, then looked at Luxio's smirk and chuckled. "Okay, maybe that is just the default state. You may not be a Shinx any more, but you're still a minx!"

Luxio chuckled.

"Okay, message three," Ivy said. "Something good – food, perhaps."

Again, the signals didn't change, but Luxio gave her a pleading look.

"I should have expected that," Ivy sighed, and put a Poffin in front of Luxio. Immediately there was a change in the signals, and Luxio ate the Poffin with dainty care – unable to use her claws because of the wires leading to them, but managing anyway.

"Thank you," Ivy told her. "We should have enough for analysis now. Hold still a minute while I take the clips off."

Each one came off with ease, going back into a pile on the workbench, and she gave Luxio a second Poffin as thanks for being calm during the experiment.

Then she hit a key on the laptop, and Luxio got up with a sudden movement – tail crackling, looking around for something.

Ivy hit the key again, and Luxio relaxed – then gave her trainer a suspicious look.

"You're right, that was me," Ivy told her. "Sorry, Luxio – I played the first signal back through the clips."

She gave Luxio a stroke, and the Electric-type considered that before deciding that being stroked was acceptable.

"It was helpful," she said, still stroking. "It tells us that it doesn't matter where the claws are – and that the signals can be recreated by artificial means, at least for a signal that simple."

Ivy presented Luxio with another Poffin. "Thanks for helping out, Luxio. We might do this later, once I've properly analyzed what we already have..."

Luxio luxuriated in her treatment, apparently deciding she liked this kind of experiment.

Shaymin yawned, back legs going out behind her to get a proper stretch in.

Rustling her flowery back and blinking a few times, she crawled out of bed and checked herself in the mirror.

"Not bad," she decided, then headed over to the high door – far higher than she was at the moment, built to fit her Sky Form.

Checking the ramp was in place, she walked down onto a tree branch – then followed the spiral staircase of wooden battens tied around the tree trunk, reaching the ground a minute or so later.

"Good morning," Delia called, looking up from weeding the flower bed. "Did you sleep well?"

"Wonderfully, thank you," Shaymin replied. She took a deep breath of the fresh air, enjoying the feeling of the sunlight on her back, and walked over to the flowers. "How about you?"

"I'm all right," Delia said. "What do you think of these lilies?"

Shaymin gave them a sniff, examined them critically, then nodded her approval. "They're quite fragrant."

Delia carefully lowered one of the lilies in to replace the removed weeds, and spread earth around it with her trowel. "There."

She looked up at Shaymin's tree house. "Is everything all right?"

"It's fine," Shaymin assured her. "The leak in the roof seems to have stopped, there was no water last night – and the battens are working fine to let me get up in Land Form."

The words were interrupted by a yawn, and she shook her head. "Oh, dear… sorry, I think I must still need a bit more sleep..."

Delia smiled, then started work on a troublesome dandelion.

"How are you finding Pallet Town as a whole?" she asked. "I-"

"Mime!" Mimey interrupted, putting down a tray on the grass next to them.

"Thank you, dear," Delia told him. "That looks lovely."

"Mime-ime," the Psychic-type said, putting his hands together and bowing for a moment.

Delia took one of the biscuits and broke it in half, then dipped it in her cocoa. "I think this is right, Shaymin?" she asked, indicating the white tea.

"That's right," Shaymin confirmed, tilting the cup slightly with her forepaws and taking a sip.

"So, what are your plans for today?" Delia added.

"Well, I was thinking of going over to see Chikorita again," Shaymin said. "I understand he's going to be doing some practice battling with the Growlithe."

She frowned, then looked over at the Gracidea forming one end of the flower bed. "I might fly over there, actually. It'll be much quicker."

"Oh – before you go," Delia said. "Do you want a light for your house? I found some nice battery powered ones which can stick on the wall."

"That would be nice," Shaymin nodded. "Thank you."

"I'm just being a good neighbour," Delia told her.

Roughly two hundred million kilometres away, a woman in a spacesuit materialized.

"Wow," she said, stumbling a little. "That's… not a normal sensation."

She looked around at the room she'd landed in, which was large and a little spartan – but a lot better than she would have said it would be a year ago, or even a few months ago. The walls rippled ever so slightly, made of multilayered pressure fabric, and there was a large target marker printed on the floor where she'd landed.

"Welcome," said a calm voice. "Was your journey acceptable?"

"It was short," Kidd Summers replied, looking around. "Who said that?"

A Mewtwo formed out of light in front of her.

"It is a pleasure to meet you," the Mewtwo said, standing oddly still. "I am the monitor of this installation."

"What does that mean?" Kidd asked.

"I make sure it is in good shape for biological entities to visit," Mewtwo answered. "You are visitor number: One."

"Heh," the adventurer said, reaching up to her faceplate and sliding it up. "Nice to meet you, I guess."

She walked ponderously over to a window and looked out, seeing the harsh beauty of the landscape outside – sand-dusted stone, strewn with butterscotch-yellow boulders and wispy dunes, and a magnificent cliff a few miles away that seemed to stretch impossibly high into the thin air.

"It… doesn't look right," she said. "I thought this was supposed to look red?"

"Previous analysis has indicated that the red colouration of the surface is partially an optical illusion from a distance," the Mewtwo said.

Then a pink shape came into the room, slowing down and resolving into a Mew.

"Hello," it said, waving. "You are a human!"

"I've noticed," Kidd replied.

She looked out the window again, then stepped back a few paces and jumped experimentally. Despite the weight of her spacesuit she went a good few inches into the air, and chuckled to herself.

"Wow… it may not be one small step for man, given there's already a tent here when I arrived, but – still, I'm the first human on Mars!"

She turned to Mewtwo. "Do you know where my room is? My schedule says I'm supposed to stay here for two days… and I don't want to spend it all in the space suit."

"Please follow me," the Mew told her. "The rooms for visitors are in a section which has been constructed to be independently air tight."

"The rooms for visitors?" Kidd repeated. "So you don't have air tight rooms?"

"Correct," Mew stated.

"Why not? Is it a Psychic type thing? Or a Mew thing?"

"It is a nonbiological thing," Mew told her. "Our projectors are multiply redundant and our kernels are backed up in multiple locations."

Kidd stopped walking for a moment.

"Wait, you're… computer Pokémon or something?" she asked. "I… actually had missed that. The Mewtwo who sent me just said there was another Mewtwo here."

"Our manager is insistent on artificial Pokémon rights," Mew said. "Your room is in here. Please ensure that when leaving the pressure vessel you have either a spacesuit, or an emergency air pack and alert beacon."

The virtual Psychic-type gestured, and the airlock door opened.

"Have a nice sol," Mew concluded.

The phone rang.

Professor Elm looked up from his latest investigation, then hurried over and picked it up.

"Professor?" came a familiar voice.

"Ah, Koji," the Pokémon Professor said. "How is Hoenn?"

"It's kind of odd," the trainer answered. "I met up with Jimmy like you suggested, but he wanted to do Sootopolis first."

Elm made an understanding noise. "I see. And you're taking a different route through the region?"

"We tried to plot it out so we'd meet up a few times," Koji said. "But I wanted to check – what was that Pokémon you asked me to look out for?"

"I asked you to look out for a lot of Pokémon, Koji," Elm said with a small frown. "Hold on, I'll bring up the list now."

"Good, that would be – wait a moment. Typhlosion, use Fire Spin!"

The sound of a roaring inferno came down the speaker, and Elm winced.

"Don't let her hit your face!"

Deciding to ignore the battle he could hear for now, Elm opened his list of the Pokémon he'd like to gather data on. "All right, Koji, I'm checking them," he reported.

"Is there Zangoose on there?" Koji asked. "I think it was, but I wanted to check."

"That's right, Zangoose is on here," Elm answered. "They're supposed to have two abilities that interact with poison, and I'd like to study them."

"Okay," the trainer said. "Thank you for the confirmation. I'll let you know how it goes."

The line went dead, and Elm smiled for a moment.

"Maaar," said one of the participants in his latest investigation.

"Sorry," Elm said, standing up, and headed back over to the incubation area.

Perhaps it wasn't so surprising that there weren't any good statistical studies on the relative effects of Magma Armor and Flame Body on helping Pokémon eggs to hatch – it was quite a pain keeping so many Fire-types happy for a good couple of months.

"Okay, here we are!" May said, throwing her arms out. "The Kanto Grand Festival!"

Manaphy copied her, then looked around. "There are a lot of people here," he said, sounding awed. "Are they all Coordinators?"

"I don't think all of them are," May replied, looking around as well to see how many people there were. "I seem to remember there's usually about two hundred and fifty to three hundred participants a year in the Kanto Grand Festival."

"That's a lot of ribbons," Manaphy observed. "A lot! About… twelve hundred and fifty to fifteen hundred?"

"Right," May agreed. "But there has to be at least that many Contests a year in Kanto to keep it going – that shows you how popular it is!"

The Legendary made an ah sound in realization, then frowned. "What are the rounds like?"

May snapped her fingers a few times, trying to remember. "Okay, let's see… there's a first round where your Pokémon has to do an Appeal with only one move. Then the second round it can be as many moves as you like, and after that there's five Battle rounds with either one or two Pokémon."

Manaphy counted under his breath.

"Oh," he said. "I don't think everyone's going to get a turn, unless they're all doubles."

"I know," May agreed. "It's kind of a tricky situation – but I'm going to talk it out with everyone, and work out a schedule which should make as many happy as possible."

She patted Manaphy on the head. "And don't worry, I'm pretty sure you'll get a go!"

"Thanks!" Manaphy said, smiling happily.

"Now, let's get in line to register," May suggested. "I-"

"Is… is that a Manaphy?" someone asked.

May looked to the side, and saw a girl with a Spearow on her shoulder and a shocked expression on her face.

"That's right!" Manaphy agreed, waving. "Hi!"

"And he talks?" the girl asked. "I didn't know any Pokémon talked like that except Mewtwo! I know there are some psychic types, and some with Aura, but..."

"Aura's cool," May smiled. "It's actually really useful being able to discuss tactics with your Pokémon – especially when trying to work out new Contest regimes..."

She shook her head. "Sorry, I should ask – is the Spearow one of your Contest Pokémon?"

"That's right," the girl said, still a little bit shocked, as her Spearow fluffed his wings and posed. "He's a bit full of himself, but he's very good at detail work – and he's got a costume with some very long ribbons."

"That sounds cool," May chuckled, as Spearow danced up and down his trainer's arm.

Then there was a splash from May's shoulder, as Manaphy created a ball of water and started playing around with his hydrokinesis. It formed a splash-shape, then bounced back up into a teardrop, and Spearow looked at it suspiciously before crouching down.

Manaphy giggled, and spread his flippers to turn it into a watery ring. Taking the invitation, Spearow jumped into the air and dove through the ring – then did a backflip, and gave Manaphy a cocky grin.

They watched – with some of the crowd paying attention now too – as Manaphy made his water ring split into two smaller ones, then lined them up for Spearow to dive through.

The Flying-type completed that challenge with aplomb, and then did the next few as well – including one where the Spearow had to make a sharp right and turn back on his own course to get through both rings.

On that last one, his wings clipped the side and produced a little spray of water, and his trainer waved her hand.

"Okay, that's enough," she called, laughing. "If you crash into one of those rings it's going to take ages to get you dry again!"

Manaphy reformed the rings into a single ball, then drank it to get rid of it.

"It's a pity that probably counts as more than one move..." May sighed. "That was wonderful, Manaphy. Thank you."

Manaphy beamed. "I've been learning from Wartortle!" he announced proudly. "She sang a song about how it's better underwater – I think..."

He frowned, putting one fin to his mouth. "I don't know why she sang it with a weird accent, though..."


Back to regular chapters, for a given definition of "regular".