"Come in, come in!" Gardenia said, smiling, as she opened the door. "It's nice to see you again – how did you do on the Pokémon dress up contest?"
"Mawile and Tyrunt won," Ash answered. "Though Pikachu and Buneary got into the semi-finals."
"That's very impressive," Gardenia replied. She indicated the main room of her gym, which was a giant greenhouse made up of a complex arrangement of fountains and turf and flowers surrounding a huge floral clock.
In addition to the flowers blooming at different times of the day, the clock also included two huge leaf-shaped hands, currently indicating the time.
"That's a really impressive gym design," Brock said approvingly. "It's got a great sense of the Grass-type, and – can the clock move faster?"
"It can, that's right," Gardenia confirmed. "It can add an extra touch of difficulty to a gym battle."
She led Ash and his friends across the gym, walking over the two leaves of the clock, and then to a door at the back of the gym which she pushed open.
"And your gym battle is taking place about two minutes' walk that way," she added, indicating the park.
"You're not doing it in the gym?" Dawn asked.
"I like my gym," Gardenia countered. "Besides, last time I let someone who lives in Pallet Town into the gym I had to remodel it, and I'm out of ideas..."
She shrugged. "Anyway, that's the rule. I just wanted to show you the redesign work."
"I guess that's fine," Ash decided. "Lead on, then."
On the other side of an extensive decorative border, the park contained a grass field with chalked-out marks indicating the battle area.
"This is less impressive than the giant floral clock," Lucario said. "But yes, it's probably easier to fix."
"Thank you," Gardenia smiled, taking it as a compliment. "Do you have your Pokémon selected?"
"The first one at least," Ash replied. "Are there any special rules?"
Gardenia shook her head. "No, I don't see much point in those today."
Ash sent out his Buizel, and Gardenia sent her first Pokémon out as well – which turned out to be a Bellossom.
"Sunny Day!" Gardenia ordered immediately.
Buizel burst forwards with an Aqua Jet, but didn't get to Bellossom in time to interrupt her – and got peppered by a Magical Leaf attack as Bellossom danced out of the way, avoiding taking the hit Buizel had in mind for her.
Bellossom swept her arms around in a circle, producing a Petal Blizzard, and Buizel jack-knifed up into the sunlit sky to avoid taking more hits. The Water-type was still able to keep his Aqua Jet going, using the continuously generated water jet to fly by spraying it out behind him, but the intensity of the sunlight made it harder for him to get up the same level of engine output.
Undaunted by the prospect, Buizel rolled about his primary axis. He spun off a pair of watery missiles, curving them down towards his opponent and giving them enough push to get through the enervating effect of the sunlight, and Bellossom visibly considered her response before flinging two quick Energy Ball attacks to destroy the missiles on their way down.
Pirouetting to lend strength to her own attack, the Grass-type fired up a salvo of Magical Leaves – staying on the move to make herself a harder target for Buizel to deal with, while her Grass-type attacks spread out a little before homing in on the jetting Water-type.
After the third similar back-and-forth exchange, Buizel switched to a new tack. He halted in place, hovering on top of an Aqua Jet of his own creation, and glanced down at Ash for a signal.
Ash held up both hands and waved them towards one another signalling a small distance.
Buizel nodded, then cut his main jet out as well.
For almost a second he dropped towards the grass of the battlefield, and then a burst of water signalled his restarting his Aqua Jet. Now facing downwards, he flicked off a trio of water drill attacks – then another just behind them, so close it was almost invisible.
Bellossom spun in a circle, working up a Petal Blizzard, and using it to blast aside the weaker-than-normal Water-type attacks – then stared, thrown, as she saw an incoming ice drill which broke through her petals.
Dodging quickly to the side with a twirl, Bellossom managed to avoid a direct hit from the Ice Aqua Jet, but by the time she did Buizel had closed through the mid-range and was exploiting his own manoeuverability to stop Bellossom lining up a proper attack.
Her normally-homing Magical Leaf attacks couldn't correct for how quickly Buizel moved across her field of vision, so she summoned a Petal Dance instead as a rapidly whirling cylinder that covered all directions around her at once. She scored a hit on Buizel, then another, but the Water-type reversed direction and began going around the same way as her Petal Dance.
"Get away!" Gardenia called. "He's about to-"
Buizel rolled, icy white-blue spreading over the Aqua Jet he was using for power, then rammed into Bellossom with what was more of an Ice-type attack than a Water-type one. He knocked her flying, turned to come in again, and got beaned by a hasty Energy Ball to deflect him and send him into the sky.
Wobbling for a little before he gained control of his trajectory, Buizel decided to go with it and went higher – so high it was hard to see him, especially with the bright sun overhead obscuring exactly where he was.
Bellossom and Gardenia squinted, trying to see what Buizel was doing.
"You know what's going on, right?" Lucario asked.
"Well, yeah," Ash replied. "Aura sight. I can see through my own eyelids."
"It does sound cool when you put it that way," Lucario noted.
Suddenly, a quartet of Ice Aqua Jet projectiles speared out of the sky. They hit quite a long way apart, and Bellossom breathed a sigh of relief as the next four all missed her as well.
Then the next four, and the next. They came faster and faster, in a sequence which rapidly focused in towards the suddenly less-relieved Bellossom, and she tried to get out of the way but bounced off a just-landed spike of ice.
Finally, Buizel himself hit her at high speed, sending a plume of ice and water everywhere.
Gardenia looked at the result, shrugged, and returned her Bellossom. "Nice work!"
She switched to her Cherrim, and the Grass-type bloomed into a pink-and-yellow flower in the strong sunlight as Buizel ascended into the air again.
"Petal shield," Gardenia ordered, and Cherrim beamed – shaking her flower, sending a plume of petals out to orbit around her.
"Another one, the other way," Gardenia added, waiting for a moment, then nodded. "Okay. Now, Growth, and – Solarbeam!"
Cherrim's smile got wider, and her flower lit up with a brilliant yellow-green energy that shot into the air like a searchlight. Buizel dodged away, firing water attacks down to interrupt the Solarbeam, but as a line-of-sight attack without any delay to it he was largely reduced to trying to not be where Cherrim happened to be looking.
"Ice!" Ash called, and Buizel turned his primary Aqua Jet into an Ice Aqua Jet. The adjusted albedo reflected away much of the sunlight, making it hard to look at, and Buizel kept moving randomly as Cherrim switched to searching the sky with a wider-angled Solarbeam.
Rainbow prisms of light came flashing down around the battlefield, drawing irritated chirps from the Starly nesting in the nearby trees, and then Ash spotted something moving – half-a-dozen little green flecks separating from Cherrim and shooting up towards Buizel.
"-wait!" he realized. "Look-"
His warning came too late. With sunlight pouring from Cherrim's face in a Solarbeam, Buizel couldn't even see the Magical Leaf attack as it flicked up and hit him in the side, and as he lost control Cherrim targeted him with a full-power Solarbeam beam.
There was a moment of resonance, as Cherrim's Solarbeam hit a flat plane of Buizel's Ice Aqua Jet, most of it bounced back to Cherrim, and the light made her Solarbeam stronger. For that brief fraction of a second a bar of what looked like solid light connected Cherrim and Buizel, and when it was over Buizel crashed to the ground in a shower of ice fragments.
Ash returned him, deciding there was no way the Water-type could keep fighting even if he hadn't passed out, and switched to his second Pokémon.
"Testing held item limits..." Gary mused, looking at the email Ash had sent him. "That's got to be doing work that's already been covered, though. Right?"
Dee threw up an hourglass symbol.
It appears that it may not be fully understood, she reported. The most recent reference books about held items mention the problem, but all their citations trace back to individual anecdotes or non-rigourous studies.
"Great," Gary sighed. "That means we're going to be having about half my Pokémon regularly explode until we work out the limits."
In fairness, that is not what will happen. All of them will.
"Furfrou's going to love this," Gary said, rubbing his temples. "Wait, hold on… do I have any Pokémon who need a hold item to evolve?"
You captured a Scyther in the Safari Zone. She has not been evolved yet.
"That would do, but ideally we need to double blind it," Gary frowned. "If nothing else, I think Pokémon have varying tolerance, so we need a statistically significant number of Scizor evolution attempts. I wonder if we can meet her relatives and enlist them?"
"Are we boring you?"
Gary looked up, seeing the band of Snover he and Molly had been studying were standing right in front of his hide.
"Sorry," he winced. "I got an email… and, before you ask, it's a Porygon earbud. That's how I can understand you."
"The Glaceon told us," one of the Snover explained. "She didn't say what you're studying us for, though."
"I'm trying to get numbers on how Snover populations alter the climate on a long-term basis," Gary replied. "But I might need to publish my preliminary results and move on to another project..."
Ash's Houndoom landed on the battlefield, looked around for a moment to get a sense of the situation, and snarled at Cherrim.
Then he spotted Mawile, and waved. "How are you doing? We'll have to catch up after the battle!"
"I'd like that," Mawile replied. "I can introduce you to my new friend!"
Houndoom nodded, smiling, then turned back to Cherrim and cracked his tail. Two Beat Up doubles of Pikachu and Lucario appeared and charged in, followed by the Fire-type himself a moment later, and before he'd gone more than perhaps his own body length both doubles exploded in bursts of smoke – easily disrupted by even a weak attack, much less the Solarbeam Cherrim had hit them with.
Cherrim swept her Solarbeam around again, directing it towards Houndoom's eyes, and the Fire-type closed one eye before using a jet of Flamethrower boosted by the still-operational Sunny Day. It burned through the shield Cherrim had set up, scattering it as smoking leaf ash, and hit Cherrim hard enough to knock the Grass-type rolling backwards across the arena.
She defended herself with a near-instantly growing shield of flowers, fresh growth infused with vitality which deflected much of the heat of the Flamethrower away from her, and Houndoom used Fire Fang to bite his way through the shield before resuming his pursuit.
It was at about this point he took a Dazzling Gleam to the face.
As a Fire type as well as a Dark type, the attack didn't hurt as much as it might otherwise have done – but it did still hurt, checking Houndoom's advance, and while he shook off the effects of the sudden flash of light Cherrim used Morning Sun and healed herself.
"Houndoom!" Ash called. "All her good attacks involve light!"
Houndoom got his meaning, and threw up a Smokescreen to both block Cherrim off from the sunlight and weaken her attacks. The thick, roiling smoke made it so he couldn't see her, of course, but she couldn't see him either – and Houndoom could smell his opponent.
A Magical Leaf salvo came whirring through the smoke, making Houndoom wince, but those were just minor considerations compared to the attacks Cherrim had been using before.
"I can't tell what's going on," Gardenia frowned, shading her eyes as if it would help. "There's just flashes of light inside the smoke, and sounds..."
Houndoom unleashed some kind of attack, which lit up the Smokescreen for a moment, and Gardenia saw the silhouettes of both Pokémon before the flames died down and stopped highlighting Cherrim quite so well.
"Seed Bomb!" the Grass-type specialist ordered. "Blast away the smoke!"
Cherrim quickly complied, but each blast only brought a moment's relief. Houndoom now had smoke pouring from his flames with every attack, producing thick waves of black smog, and Ash cupped his hands.
"Careful, Houndoom!" he called. "Some of us can't breathe smoke!"
Houndoom barked something back, then there was a whuum which made the ground shake and sent the smoke billowing out in all directions. It rose slowly into the air, forming a great cloud buoyed by the heat of the air carrying it, and in the clearing air it was clear Cherrim had been defeated.
Also possibly set on fire.
Gardenia returned her Grass-type, and looked up at the sky.
"That's… very impressive," she said, nodding up at the near-black sky overhead and the way it shaded through different shades of grey as it got nearer the horizon – though the grey dimness was lifting into the air as they watched. "What does it look like from the outside?"
Brock frowned. "So there's a lot of smoke rising because of how hot it is, and not much of it has been blown away, because there's not a lot of wind… I think we might actually have made a little mushroom cloud."
"I'm pretty sure that wasn't Blast Burn," Ash said, as Houndoom's tail flicked slowly back and forth. "Was it?"
"It doesn't have to be, a mushroom cloud is just when you get a lot of hot dust carried upwards," Brock told them. "You get them from volcanoes, though they're a bit different because they have an interrupted heat source. Remember?"
"Oh, that's right, we did see that," Ash agreed.
"How close were you to an erupting volcano?" Gardenia asked, then blinked. "Wait, the one that blew off in Hoenn months ago? You were there?"
She shook her head. "Whatever… okay, Leafeon, your turn!"
Houndoom examined Leafeon from a distance, sniffing deeply, and watched as the Grass-type picked his way over the singed grass.
"New to being a Leafeon?" he asked. "I can still smell a bit of Eevee on you."
"That's right," Leafeon agreed, tail flicking a little.
"Begin!" Gardenia called. "Rain Dance!"
Leafeon dodged to one side as Houndoom pounced, just about evading a Flame Charge, and his tail curled around elegantly as he bounced from paw to paw.
A raincloud formed overhead, and began to rain almost immediately – washing the smoke out of the air, replacing it with drumming rain, and Houndoom wheeled to face his opponent before sneezing in irritation.
"Okay, so, rain..." he said out loud.
While he reconsidered, Leafeon went on the attack – paws digging into the now-damp ground as he advanced on the Dark-type. He slammed his paws into Houndoom's side, hitting with a Rock Smash which made Ash's Pokémon yelp in pain and annoyance, then took a glancing blow from a weakened Ember and dove underground in a Dig.
"Watch out, he's to your right!" Ash called. "No, left now – look out!"
Houndoom jumped just in time to avoid being hit, lashing out with a curl of flame to punish Leafeon, and the Grass-type winced – but, instead of being checked, he darted in to use Quick Attack, followed by a Return with his tail which sent Houndoom rolling across the battlefield.
Sliding to a halt, paws now muddy from the abused battlefield, Houndoom summoned a massive Fire Blast. It wasn't nearly as powerful as it could have been, but it still washed over Leafeon with an explosion of flame and smoke.
Panting, Houndoom shot a brief glance at Ash.
"No luck," Ash replied, shaking his head. "He used Dig, I don't think he caught the full impact."
He frowned. "Does this feel like a Leafeon to you?"
"Not really, now you mention it," Houndoom admitted. "Maybe-"
"-right!" Ash agreed. "He's still fighting like an Eevee!"
"That helps!" Houndoom barked, and his tail flicked to the side.
Half-a-dozen Pokémon doubles appeared, charging towards the just-emerged Leafeon, and Gardenia pointed. "Swift!"
A shower of golden stars flicked out, each one destroying one of the Double Team duplicates, and Leafeon charged through the smoke to hit Houndoom with his shoulder for a body blow. The impact made Houndoom pace back a step, then reply with an Inferno, and steam hissed through the air as it wasted some of its energy on raindrops.
The rest missed entirely as the nimble Leafeon got out of the way, tail trailing behind him like a banner, and shouted a Hyper Voice at Houndoom. Ash's Fire-type winced from the impact of the wave of sound, especially as Leafeon kept it up, and replied with a Snarl before following it up with a much beefier Dark Pulse.
Leafeon took the attack with equanimity, accepting the hit to get in close, and hit Houndoom again with a shoulder-check – this one hitting much harder than the previous one.
"Trump Card!" Ash realized. "Don't let him hit you again!"
Houndoom turned and got distance before enshrouding himself in a protective Fire Spin, and Leafeon charged right through it to knock Houndoom clean head-over-heels.
The sun broke through the clouds as both Pokémon landed, neither of them looking hale or healthy, and Leafeon just about avoided a hasty Fire Blast from Houndoom.
Turning around in a tight circle, Leafeon did something which made his fur glow. His scorched fur faded as he Synthesized, and then he hammered a fourth Trump Card into Houndoom.
This one was enough to knock Houndoom out for the count, and Leafeon stood in the middle of a battered battlefield as steam began to rise off it.
"I'm really glad we're not doing this in my gym," Gardenia muttered. "Can you send out your third Pokémon?"
"Hold on a moment," Ash replied.
He looked over at Mawile. "Do you want to do this one?"
Mawile frowned for a moment, glancing at Tyrunt, then shook her head.
"No thank you," she replied, politely. "Not today."
"Okay, that's fine," Ash said, opening up Dexter. "Who hasn't had a go in a while?"
Dexter produced an ordered list, and Ash began scrolling through it.
"How many Pokémon do you have on you?" Gardenia asked, a little surprised.
"Oh, this is because we can contact Pokémon back where I keep them," Ash explained. "Hmmm… when was the last time Butterfree was in contact?"
Sending a ping.
"Why don't you want to fight?" Tyrunt asked. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not really," Mawile replied.
She sat down. "Getting in battles for fun, like this, is a fun thing to do for me… but I know you don't think of it the same way. And I was afraid that if I did, then you'd feel pressured – you'd feel like you had to get involved."
Tyrunt peered closer at the Fairy-type, and she smiled back at him. "I think what you do is your choice," she explained. "If you don't want to battle, that's fine."
"I know," Tyrunt said, but Mawile held up a hand.
"And it's not just that – because I told you that, so you know it," she went on. "But I also don't want you to feel bad about it, or feel like I want you to… and I don't want you to feel bad if you change your mind, either."
She shook her head. "It gets kind of hard to think of everything you have to think about to not be a bad friend, if you think about it a lot."
Tyrunt smiled shyly at her. "It means a lot that you're trying," he said. "Even if you did make a mistake, I wouldn't mind because I know you're trying – that's a really new thing, for me."
His expression became a frown. "Even trying is a lot better than what it was like before."
Mawile opened her mouth to say something, blinked, then began trying very hard not to giggle.
"Mawile?" Tyrunt asked, worried.
"I'm… sorry," she said, shaking her head. "I just realized I was about to say that was a really old fashioned way of thinking..."
"Well, they were over seventy million… oooh," Tyrunt realized. "That's funny!"
"Go!" Ash called, sending out his Torkoal.
"Wait, hold on," Gardenia protested. "Didn't you say something about a Butterfree?"
"He wasn't answering," Ash replied. "He's probably busy. Okay, Torkoal, withdraw!"
Torkoal's legs and head retracted into his shell, and he went inert.
"That's… odd," Gardenia said. "Leafeon, Rain Dance if he's going to let us."
Leafeon returned the weather to rain, then padded slowly around Torkoal to approach him from the back. Raising a paw, the Grass-type patted Torkoal's shell to see if something was going to happen – then hissed, looking at his paw and giving it a lick.
"It's hot," Leafeon explained. "Why is it hot?"
"Now!" Ash called.
Steam exploded out of Torkoal's shell.
The Fire-type blasted himself into the air with the first burst of steam from all four leg holes, then switched to just firing with the front two and flipped himself upside down to face the startled Leafeon.
He used Fire Blast, which connected this time – hitting Leafeon on the side, and also producing a crater from the portion of the blast which went down. For his part, Torkoal was propelled away from Leafeon, and flipped himself right-side up again before landing with a skid and turning to face his foe.
"What the heck!?" Gardenia asked, completely confused. "I didn't know Torkoal could do that!"
Steam oozed out of Torkoal's shell as he built up his reserve again, and he snorted out a shower of cinders that set a few small fires in the grass below him – being dried out by the heat of his shell.
"Okay, Leafeon, we'll work out what to do!" Gardenia said. "Keep the rain going, it'll make his attacks less powerful… and be ready to attack as soon as you get the chance! Remember, you might be able to manage another Trump Card!"
Torkoal decided he was ready to attack again, and advanced in a lumbering rush. Leafeon began to pace away, turning away from the direction Torkoal was running, then there was another burst of steam as Torkoal switched to steam-jets.
One blast lifted him into the air, another tilted him around to face where Leafeon was headed, and a third launched him towards Leafeon. Then, once he was heading in the right direction, Torkoal switched to using the powerful steam jets to rotate like a spinning wheel – and fired off a Flamethrower.
The sight of the steam-shrouded tortoise coming rocketing towards him spewing out a spiral of flame made Leafeon gulp, and he crouched down slightly before pouncing into the air as Torkoal reached him.
Leafeon's paws smacked into the top of Torkoal's shell, singing him slightly from the heat, but knocking Torkoal off so the Fire-type contacted the ground and rolled along in a cloud of smoke and flame – before finally stopping, some distance away.
At the end of the skidmark, Torkoal shook himself, then snorted out a gout of smoke. The smoke was supplemented by steam, and he jumped into the air before repeating the attack run.
On getting closer, however, he varied it further – using a burst of steam to adjust himself from spinning to tumbling, and going from using Flamethrower to using Fire Spin.
Torkoal's tumbling, chaotic movement made it nearly impossible for anyone to tell where he was headed, including Leafeon, and the unfortunate Grass-type was hit square-on by an expanding ball of flame and steam which contained a tortoise somewhere inside it.
Everyone raised their hands reflexively to block the heat as Torkoal cannoned past, his trajectory destabilizing by the foot, and when the smoke and dust subsided the two Pokémon were inside the burning canopy of what had previously been quite a nice tree.
"Manners!" the nearest Starly chirped at them, then flew back a few feet as Leafeon dropped out of the tree and landed in a bush.
Torkoal came down a moment later, only a little more controlled, but did walk out of the bush and sit down with a satisfied snort.
"...so glad this was outside," Gardenia said quietly, then raised her voice. "Can someone put out the fire, please?"
"Nice work," Torterra said, as they left the park.
"Thanks," Torkoal replied, smiling. "Squirtle came up with the basic idea, and I've been tweaking it with help from everyone else back at the ranch."
He looked up at the larger testudinid. "Speaking of which, do you have any plans for a party? I don't want to miss the first one you throw now you're back."
Torterra shook his tree. "I've been thinking about it. I heard something about legendary Pokémon? Maybe I should ask one of them to help with the entertainments."
"Oh, yeah, the Legendary Beasts have practically moved in, you'll have trouble keeping them away," Torkoal supplied. "What kind of entertainments were you thinking of?"
"There was this one idea I had," Torterra mused. "Basically randomly selecting from all the partiers to take part doing something flashy, with nobody having to do it more than once. If I can get someone like Ho-Oh or Lugia or Raikou to do the opening or closing piece, that would be good, but I'd be willing to help as well."
"That does sound cool," Torkoal said. "So… a bit like a Contest appeal?"
"That's the kind of thing I'm thinking of," Torterra agreed. "One every few minutes, and fill in the rest with music."
"Sounds like fun," Torkoal smiled. "Don't you think so, Pikachu?"
"You realize I'm never going to get a chance to go to one of these?" Pikachu asked. "My place is with Ash, always has been."
"That's a good point," Torkoal agreed, glancing at Torterra. "I never think of that. That's how Pikachu missed that Meganium and Sceptile had had an egg."
"I did hear about that one from Lucario, yes," Torterra allowed. "Well, maybe we can hold a special greatest-hits one next time Ash and you are in Pallet Town, Pikachu."
"That would be nice," Pikachu smiled. "Thanks, Torterra. And I'll try to come up with something for my own turn, too."
"I like that plan," Torterra said, nodding to the Electric-type.
"Now, would my doing a handstand in mid air based purely on the power of my Aura be too much?" Lucario asked.
"Did I hear someone talking about a party?" Infernape asked. "I… now I come to think of it, I can't remember many of your parties, Torterra."
"I think you were usually training, now I think back," Torterra replied. "After that injury at the Sinnoh League, I mean, and then you kept up your regime… sorry, I should have made more effort to schedule when you were available, but it was hard enough getting most of us into the same time slot."
"I don't mind, it happens," Infernape shrugged. "But it does mean I'll be looking forward to one of my first. What's the dress code?"
"...we're Pokémon," Pikachu pointed out. "Most of us don't have clothes."
"I'm wearing armour and Lucario's got a Mega Stone armband," Infernape pointed out reasonably. "And Mawile has an Expert Belt at the base of her horn."
"Good point," Torterra agreed. "Since modesty isn't an issue, whatever you want – within reason."
He shook his head. "I remember when Noctowl showed up wearing a Yveltal illusion..."
"Eterna City is nice," Chansey said, doing a little spin and looking around her with approval. "It's got all the nice modern amenities that make staying somewhere just that little bit more pleasant, but it's also wonderfully in touch with nature!"
Crobat swooped low overhead, then braked and dropped down to fly next to Chansey – mostly hovering, moving forwards only about as fast as the Normal-type. "Nice first place to see now you're back?"
"I didn't feel at all like I was gone, but of course," Chansey replied. "It's a charming city, though nowhere is without its own special merit."
She turned to Crobat. "So you've been with Brock almost since the beginning, as I understand it, and you're here, so I have to ask – how have you all been eating?"
"Very well, thank you," Crobat smiled. "Brock's as excellent a cook as ever. Zorua can give you the chapter and verse on the situation since she joined – she's a real fan of what our trainer can do with just about any ingredients – but I can tell you he's only improved from an already very high base."
He shook his head. "Ninetales got him a cookery book for his last birthday which was all about substituting ingredients in really exotic dishes, and I think he's been taking it as a starting point for doing it the other way..."
"Oh, Ninetales, yes, she does seem like a fine Pokémon," Chansey said. "I didn't have the pleasure of meeting her last time around, but-"
She broke off. "Do you hear something?"
Crobat was already flitting over to Brock. "Brock – sirens, up ahead, near the museum."
"Doesn't that mean Team Galactic?" Ash asked. "Let's go!"
"Before I met you guys I never ran towards criminal gangs!" Dawn said, hurrying to keep up.
"At least the exercise is refreshing," Lucario opined.
Chansey watched them all run off into the distance, smiled slightly, then proceeded at her own pace.
She was sure that she would either arrive in time to be helpful, or be unneeded.
Slowing to a walk, Ash, Brock, Dawn and their accompanying Pokémon looked up at the Eterna Historical Museum.
A large building with a high, glass-fronted entrance and an arched glass roof, there were at least a dozen local police in the gap between the Dialga and Palkia statues in front of it, and several more visible near the shattered glass of the new south wing of the building.
"It looks like someone broke in," Ash said, shading his eyes. "Or broke out?"
"Aren't you supposed to be able to tell by looking at where the glass is?" Dawn suggested.
"Ash?" Infernape asked. "Sorry to interrupt, but… why don't we just ask the police?"
"Oh, yeah, that's an option..." Ash realized. "Sorry, too used to having to do everything myself..."
"I've heard it's a common problem for heroes," Lucario contributed.
"And Legendaries, actually," Suicune said. "I think it's one reason they're glad for the help you give, it's so unexpected for Pokémon who are used to having to solve their own woes."
"All right, sir, let's go through that again," Officer Jenny said, as they approached – looking over her notepad at a tall man wearing green clothing and carrying a harp. "You say you were walking towards the museum?"
"That's correct," the man said.
"Did you know it was closed?" Jenny continued.
"No, or I would not have gone up to it," the man told her. "I had my suspicions, but wanted to check the opening time anyway."
Jenny nodded, making a note. "And what happened then?"
"I heard breaking glass," the tall trainer said. "I sent out my Budew and Sunflora in case we could catch whoever had done it before they managed to get away, and had Sunflora go around the building while I went in the front door."
He shrugged. "There's not much more to it, I'm afraid. I certainly did not see whoever had broken in."
"Did you think it might be a wild Pokémon?" Jenny asked.
The man blinked, then shook his head. "No, sorry. It seemed like something most wild Pokémon would not do, and I had not heard any cries."
Jenny took that down as well. "Not all wild Pokémon make a lot of noise about what they're doing," she said, then looked up at the sound of more feet.
"Sorry to bother you, Officer," Ash began. "We were wondering what – wait, aren't you Nando?"
"Ash, manners..." Dawn groaned.
"I am indeed he," Nando said, bowing a little. "But I fear you have the advantage of me."
"I'm Ash Ketchum," Ash introduced himself.
"In which case, I am honoured you have heard of me," Nando went on. "I had not realized my fame had spread at all, let alone to such a skilled trainer."
"But – wait," Ash began, then realized the problem. "Oh, okay… anyway, Officer, we were wondering what had happened."
"The Eterna Historical Museum was broken into," the Jenny replied. "There was a window smashed, and one of the display cases was broken as well. The Adamant Orb is missing."
"The Adamant-" Ash repeated. "Was it Team Galactic?"
"Well, I've never heard of a group by that name, but it sounds as good a name as any for a team who are after Time-Space artefacts," Jenny mused. "I like it, I might use it in my formal report."
"Given that the last two groups we ran into were teams Aqua and Magma, trying to cause global flooding and volcanic eruptions respectively, I think it's just a thing groups like that tend to do," Brock suggested.
Jenny chuckled slightly, checking her notes over again, then pointed her pen at Nando. "Sir, can you show me all your Pokémon?"
Nando complied, sending out his Sunflora and his other Pokémon.
"I thought you said you had a Budew," Jenny pointed out.
"So did I..." Nando admitted.
His Roselia noticed the transformation, and began inspecting his new flowers with a sniff. As the Grass-type did, one of the other officers came over to speak to the Jenny they'd been talking with.
"All right," she said, eventually. "Mr. Nando, you're off the hook. We've checked the CCTV recordings, they all support your story – though I'm not sure what we're going to say actually happened. Long range psychic powers?"
She shook her head. "You're free to go, though it would help if you could give me a few more details about your side of the story. It's a pity we can't ask if your Sunflora saw anything."
"We can help," Brock volunteered. "Ash and I can translate Pokémon."
"That's going to be a big help," Jenny smiled. "We have sniffer Growlithes, but they can't always tell us what they find."
"I'm actually kind of worried, now," Dawn admitted. "They didn't find anything about who might have stolen the Adamant Orb – and we only know it might have been Galactic because we have future information."
She pointed at Ash. "And you need to be more careful, too – that was the first time we met Nando this time around."
"He is usually better at it," Lucario said. "I should know. I think it's the whole 'save the day' thing that got in the way this time, though."
"You're right, though, I need to watch out," Ash agreed.
He opened Dexter. "I think… there's a Pokémon Centre, right?"
Correct. Then there is Alamos Town.
"Oh, right," Ash winced. "Can you get everyone ready? With how things like that have been going, we might need all the help we can get..."
As they kept walking, Mawile cleared her throat. "Dawn? I have a question."
Lucario translated for her, and Dawn looked around. "Oh – what is it?"
"I've been thinking about how you don't really have a flying Pokémon," Mawile explained. "And I had an idea about how you can have Togekiss carry you."
"We've tried that, it's kind of awkward," Dawn shook her head.
"Not like this, I think," Mawile insisted. "And I drew a sketch! Look!"
Dawn took the clipboard from the Fairy-type, inspecting the diagram drawn on it.
It looked a little like a swing, or perhaps a hang glider, with Togekiss wearing a harness that anchored two ropes coming down from her torso for Dawn to use as a support.
"Tyrunt helped! He was the solid surface I used to write on," Mawile explained.
"That's… actually, I don't think we've tried that," Dawn admitted. "Hold on, I'll see what Togekiss thinks."
The world faded in around Aaron, and he looked to his left to see the captured Grovyle.
"No hard feelings?" he asked. "Sorry for capturing you."
"You were deceived," Grovyle replied. "But that does not matter now – we are to be executed."
He shifted a little in the ropes tying him to a wooden post. "The Sableye will slash us here until we are dead."
"That seems a little bit grim," Aaron winced. "Do you have a plan to get out?"
"Yes," Grovyle replied. "We will wait until-"
Okay, hold on, hold on, Arceus interrupted, and the world froze again. Dialga? What the heck?
"Skitty," the Dragon of Time explained.
Like his brothers, Dialga was tied to an enormous post – far bigger than the ones which were holding Aaron and Grovyle – and had an inordinate amount of rope binding him in place for the execution, but to cap the absurdity he was wearing a pair of pink-and-yellow Skitty ears as a headband along with a paw-shaped tail on his own tail.
Seriously? Arceus asked. This is supposed to be a serious scene.
"Skitty, tty, skit," Dialga stated calmly.
"He is correct," Aaron noted. "This is becoming somewhat of a skit."
All right, look, just don't talk for this bit, Arceus decided, and the world went back to a normal time stream.
"-they swipe at us," Grovyle resumed, making Sir Aaron frown for a moment before he remembered what had been going on before time had been stopped. "If we time it right, we can get out of the ropes when they weaken them – just before they start to cut into us."
"Got it," Aaron said, then glanced to his side. "Though it looks like Giratina's already escaped."
CUT! Arceus intoned. Giratina!
"What?" Giratina asked, fading back into reality. "Dad, I know you cut off all our salient divine powers, but I remembered I was a Ghost-type, so I could just phase through the ropes-"
No, no, no, this is no good, Arceus declared. They are ghosts, they'd know how to restrain a ghost.
Giratina found himself back where he'd been before phasing through the ropes, and his second attempt didn't work.
Don't you start. Okay, here we go, Arceus decided.
Half a second later, Palkia's ropes exploded.
"Absolute Mover," Palkia explained.
Am I going to have to skip this? Arceus asked. I was quite proud of it.
"Guys, behave," Aaron sighed. "You don't want to annoy the omnipotent creator of the entire universe… at least, not too much."
Thank you, faithful servant, Arceus said, a little sarcastically. All right, let's try this again.
"Skitty?" Dialga requested.
No, you may not have popcorn.
And that's the Eterna Gym, Ash's second Sinnoh badge. And quite a lot of collateral damage.
Also, some things involving Creation Dragons in more or less tangential ways.