There is only one chapter today, but it's a long one. Also, happy 250th chapter!
"Okay, I think that's snug," Ash said, pulling on the strap a little more. "How does that feel, Togekiss?"
"It does feel a bit tight," Togekiss replied. "But not as tight as last time. Let's try putting weight on it."
"All right," Brock agreed. "And… there, that should be good as well."
The two stepped back, and looked Togekiss' harness over.
"It looks quite good, actually," Dawn noted. "I know that's not the point, but it does look snazzy."
Togekiss did a twirl, pleased, then looked at Brock. "You're going to make sure it'll be safe for Dawn, right?"
"We'll be there to catch her if anything goes wrong," Brock assured her. "Latios is going to be on one side, and Flygon on the other."
"Good," Togekiss smiled. "Though, even if this does work, I'm not sure that Salvia is going to take it up…"
"I kind of thought that the Pokémon a Princess would use to get around would be a dragon type, or something," Ash said. "I thought that was how that worked?"
"You're thinking of kidnapping," Flygon told him. "That only happened once, though, that I heard of."
"Twice," Lucario volunteered. "But the one you hadn't heard of was a Lucario Princess, and she ended up marrying the dragon."
He shrugged. "They had no children, but the story goes that they loved one another a lot anyway."
"That's an odd story, but a nice one," Dawn smiled, then looked at Togekiss' harness again.
"Don't go too fast, okay?" she asked, as Lucario returned himself with a flash of red light and Pikachu clambered into Ash's backpack.
Togekiss smiled. "I'll be careful."
Thus reassured, Dawn clipped the bar onto the harness and held onto it.
"We're not going far at first," Flygon said. "Just over to Alamos over there."
Togekiss spread her wings, then took off – hovering, to lift Dawn into the air, then moving forwards so the bar – and Dawn – trailed out below and behind the Fairy-type.
Either side of her, Flygon and Latios flew with care. Each had their own trainer ready to help catch Dawn if anything went wrong, and the whole group flew over the valley floor towards Alamos.
Some way behind, Mawile waved her hand.
"Okay, that's great!" she said. "You can stop now, Tyrunt!"
Tyrunt stopped pulling, and looked at the rock he'd been dragging. "Is that a good result?"
Mawile unhooked the sturdy rope from the rock, and brought it back over to her friend. "Yep! That rock weighs more than you do, so if you can pull it without the rope having a problem then Staraptor can lift you without the rope having a problem. That's just physics!"
"Oh, okay," Tyrunt accepted. "So part of the rope is tied around my chest, like this, and Staraptor holds the other end?"
Mawile tied a knot in the rope, testing it carefully to make sure it wouldn't come free. "Yep, that's right. Okay, Staraptor, ready!"
Staraptor hovered down, claws closing around the rope, and began to hover upwards to take off the slack. "What about you, Mawile, how are you getting to Alamos?"
"With this!" Mawile replied, opening the paper bag she'd been carrying, and revealing that the rope hadn't been the only thing in it. There was also a collection of bits of wood, which she sorted out and clicked into place as Staraptor tested his ability to carry Tyrunt properly.
"What's that?" Tyrunt asked, spinning around gently as the rope relaxed.
"It's part of a model glider," Mawile replied, holding it up against her chest. "I thought of it yesterday! Watch!"
The Steel-type took three steps back, hesitated, and picked up the now-empty bag. Putting it between the glider wing and her chest, she bent forwards and began to run.
Then she used Flamethrower.
The burst of rocket propulsion accelerated her suddenly, making her wobble a bit, but the glider wings did just what she'd wanted them to do. More than just giving her lift, they also gave her much more rotational inertia so she didn't corkscrew wildly out of control using just her single flame jet.
"Yes!" she shouted happily, stopping her Flamethrower. "It – wait, um, Staraptor, I think I might have trouble going much slower than this!"
"Go ahead, then!" Staraptor called. "I'll catch up!"
Using another burst of jet power, Mawile headed for Alamos. The sound that drifted back to Staraptor and Tyrunt could have been a shout of fear or happiness, but if one thing was clear it was that Mawile was certainly excited.
"How are you holding up?" Flygon asked.
"I can keep going for a little longer, but then I might start getting worried," Togekiss admitted. "What about you, Dawn?"
Dawn shook her head. "I can keep going as well," she said. "My arms hurt, but not too badly."
"Well, we've reached the bridge," Flygon said, checking for a moment that Latios was still in place to catch Dawn if needed. "Let's stop there, and we can walk the rest of the way."
"Right," Dawn agreed readily.
Togekiss slowed a little, circling gently around, then flared her wings and shed as much of her momentum as she could as she reached the ground. Dawn's legs began to move, and she made a running contact with the ground and let go of the bar immediately.
Now without Dawn's weight holding her down, Togekiss flew up a bit again, then regained control of her vector and made a grateful landing.
Latios landed next to her, and Ash got off. "What did you think?" he asked. "It looked kind of awkward."
"It was, yeah," Dawn agreed. "Right, Togekiss?"
"I was worried about it," Togekiss confimed. "It's not your fault, Dawn – I don't think it's really anyone's fault – but Dawn swinging back and forth was difficult to compensate for. I think we need to work on it again before we keep going."
"I know they use a rigid bar support on a hang glider, but maybe that's not the best thing to go for," Brock mused. "It'd make the running start and stop problem worse, and might make a landing dangerous."
"We'll keep trying," Togekiss declared. "I've mentioned the difficult things because that's the point of testing, but it felt very good to be able to carry Dawn – even with the problems."
Dawn gave Togekiss a hug, which the Flying-type returned – though after a moment Dawn broke away again and rubbed at her nose.
"I think we need to get the harness off first," she laughed.
She began to unclip the fastenings, but before she was more than half done a new sound became audible – a rising whooosh, echoing off the cliffs nearby.
As they watched, a rocket plane approached them, wobbling a little as the pilot tried to keep herself on a steady course.
"Mawile!" Ash called, waving to her. "It's working?"
"Yeah-" Mawile called back, but before she could say more than a word she was out of hearing range again.
They watched as she wove through the town, avoiding hitting at least two buildings mostly by luck, then came circling back again.
"…to slow down-" Mawile shouted this time, then stopped abruptly as Latios caught her with a pulse of telekinetic power.
There you go, he said, setting Mawile down. What were you saying?
"Thanks!" Mawile beamed. "And… um, how much did you hear?"
"About four words," Ash told her.
"Oh, okay," Mawile nodded. "So I said that it was working! It's much easier to fly like that… but it's also kind of hard to slow down, or steer when I'm not using Flamethrower, so I have a lot of trouble managing to stop."
"Well, it's still an improvement," Ash told her. "I think it's great that you're getting better at that, and maybe you can work on doing a less powerful Flamethrower so you can use it to steer without speeding up too much."
"That sounds like a great idea!"
Mawile inspected her glider wing, taking it apart and folding it up to go back in the bag she'd brought with her, and as she did Tyrunt was lowered carefully to the ground next to them by Staraptor.
The Flying-type let out an audible sigh of relief when he could release the rope, and hovered overhead as Mawile collected that up too. "That was kind of painful."
"Am I too heavy?" Tyrunt asked sadly.
"No, the problem's not lifting you, it's lifting you with my feet," Staraptor explained. "I'm going to have to rest them for a bit, so that's why I'm hovering."
"That's an interesting way to rest," Brock said. "Do you want me to give them a look over?"
Staraptor shook his head. "Don't worry about medicining me, I'm fine."
"We really need to talk to you about your tendency to verb nouns some day," Pikachu opined, sticking his head out of Ash's bag.
"I can verb a noun if I want to," Staraptor shot back. "I can adverb an adjective too, if it makes me feel superiorly."
Please stop, Dexter requested.
"Okay, so… what do we need to do, again?" Ash asked. "Obviously we know how to solve the problem, once it happens, but how do we find out if the problem's happening in the first place?"
"Find Tonio, right?" Dawn said. "He's the one who can detect time-space anomalies..."
"Yeah, that's right," Brock agreed. "Or if we can find Alice, that would do as well. It's a pity we didn't meet her on the way into Alamos."
"All done!" Mawile announced, putting the bag she'd finished refilling back in Ash's much larger bag.
"Good work tidying up, Mawile," Ash smiled. "Okay, Tonio's lab is… in the middle of town, I think. In the Time-Space towers?"
"But we'd better keep an eye out as well on the way up there," Brock contributed. "If we spot any time-space disturbances, we'll know something's up."
"This town looks different from Eterna City, and Eterna City looked different from… was it Oreburgh?" Tyrunt asked.
"Yes, there's a lot of variety in human towns and cities," Brock told him. "They're shaped by all kinds of things – where they're built, what people do there, tradition, and things like that. We often say it's called culture."
Brock waved his hand around at Alamos. "This town's built on top of a mesa, which means they only have so much space. So having large open plazas and small buildings is kind of a statement – they're saying that they don't mind if their town doesn't get very big, because they'd rather stay small and intimate."
"Ooh… I see," Tyrunt nodded. "And are towns in other parts of the world different to this one?"
"Towns in Johto are really different from towns in Sinnoh," Mawile volunteered. "And towns in Hoenn are different too, I think that's because of the temperature, partly at least."
"That sounds pretty likely to me," Brock told her. "And another example is that Kanto has more skyscrapers and tower blocks than the rest of the Home Islands, because it's got more people and is higher tech."
"Tech is technology?" Tyrunt checked, getting agreement from Brock. "Okay, thank you."
He pointed. "What about those? Are those sky scrapers?"
"Those are the Time-Space Towers," Brock replied. "They're part of why we're here – it's a long story, though."
"We're nearly there, right?" Ash asked, looking down at Dexter.
We are nearly to the Pokémon Park, yes, Dexter told him. Fortunately, the instructions were hard for even you to get wrong.
"'Just go uphill', I can handle." Ash looked up again, seeing the Time-Space Towers looming closer, then looked back down at his Pokédex again. "What's the special thing with a Pokémon Park?"
You can have your Pokémon out of their Pokéballs, Dexter stated.
"...so… how is that different to normal?" Dawn asked. "I've had Piplup or Buneary out pretty much the whole time we've been journeying, and Ash has never put Pikachu in a Pokéball ever."
"I've heard it did happen once," Lucario said. "It may be mythical, though."
"I don't remember this," Pikachu noted. "It must have been a rumour."
In all fairness, Ash is ridiculous and you have mostly travelled with him, Dexter noted. It is quite possible that people just don't care enough to make it a thing.
"That or, first time around, it was just Pikachu," Brock noted. "Or other small, cute Pokémon. But now you're well known and a bit absurd."
Ash nodded, crossing the entrance to the Pokémon Park.
"I guess we should let everyone enjoy themselves," he decided. "Sound good, guys?"
Infernape came out, nodding, and then paused.
He pointed at Brock. "Probably not Steelix."
"No, that is a good idea," Brock admitted. "Steelix isn't for… most built up areas..."
He shrugged, sending out Geodude, Chansey, and Rockruff. "Are any of you Zorua?"
They all shook their heads.
Brock sent out his Zorua, who looked quite miffed that he'd stymied her plan to pretend to be one of his other Pokémon, then waved them off. "See what the park's like!"
Ash did the same, and Dawn sent out her Pokémon as well – except for her Mamoswine, which she had to admit was probably not a good idea to send out in a park in general use.
Almost as soon as they'd finished, however, someone hailed them from across one of the lawns. "I say, over there!"
Ash turned to look, and blinked. "Isn't that Baron Alberto?"
"Ah, I hear you've heard of me," Alberto said, striding across the lawn, and bowed when he was close to the group. "Baron Alberto of Alamos, and it's very good indeed to meet you, Sir Ketchum. Sir Slate."
"...oh, yeah, that thing," Dawn said. "I keep forgetting that."
"I didn't think anyone would actually know," Ash admitted. "Not in Sinnoh."
"Well, perhaps most don't bother to keep up with such news, but I most certainly do," Alberto told them. "The peerage is updated regularly, and the latest notes included both your knightly selves."
He indicated Ash's sword, scabbarded mostly inside his bag. "Though I must say it is rare to see a true belted knight in this day and age. What deeds has your sword been won for?"
"Well, we helped beat someone trying to steal the Togepi of the Togepi Kingdom," Ash replied, taking the sword out of its scabbard – making Alberto blink as he realized it was a complete blade and not just a hilt. "But after that, I did a lot of training, and I've used the sword to help block attacks by Groudon and Kyogre… and I've battled the Lucario of Rota and Registeel there, as well."
Alberto looked again at the sword. "May I, Sir Ketchum? I confess I expected you to say you'd done something like… oh, saved a life, perhaps, but not to have actually used your blade. Most knights don't get swords at all, and they're not used these days..."
He tilted it, inspecting the metalwork, then the hilt. "What is this made of?"
"Steel?" Ash suggested. "What are swords normally made of?"
"Combat swords were made of folded steel," Alberto answered. "But this appears to be a display sword – a frippery."
"It's supposed to be, but I haven't managed to damage it yet," Ash said. "I do use a lot of Aura on it, though, so maybe that helps."
"I don't know either," Lucario volunteered. "I've hit it pretty hard, and it's not dented."
"Well, quite the mystery," Alberto decided, handing the sword back, and Ash sheathed it again. "Now, if I may inquire, what brings you to Alamos?"
"We're here because of the Space-Time towers," Ash summarized. "Do you know where Alice is?"
"Ah, Alice," Alberto said, with a mixed tone to his voice. "I expect she's spending time with that Tonio fellow. He seems a smart enough sort, but he is a bit eccentric, so I'm not sure – anyway, if you want to see Alice, that's where we'll need to go."
He turned on his heel. "This way," he called. "It's not far."
"Well… I'm surprised," Brock admitted, in a low voice. "Was he like that last time?"
"He seems very impressed with your knighthoods," Lucario suggested. "That might be it."
"That sounds likely," Dawn agreed, then noticed something. "Buneary? You're not going off with the others?"
"I'd rather hear what's going on," Buneary explained, then glanced at Ash – and Pikachu.
"Okay, I understand," Dawn told her with a smile.
"Any news?" Quilava called up, aiming his question at Staraptor.
"Nah, they're just heading for the big building, the Time-Space towers," Staraptor replied, shrugging his wings mid-flight. "I'm sure we'll hear about it if we're needed."
Quilava nodded his understanding. "Gotcha."
He turned his attention to Latios, inspecting the rushes by the side of the pond. "So, how does this compare to Altomare?"
"Well, it's very different in a lot of ways," Latios replied. "Altomare is full of the smell of the sea, of water, and the secret garden itself is hidden away from everyone except my sister, myself, and a few other people and Pokémon. Here the Pokémon Park is fully exposed to everyone, and it's high over the valley floor so you can't even hear the water – most of it, anyway."
He indicated the pond. "I wonder if they pump the water for this, or if there's a natural spring… it could even be refilled just by rain, like the freshwater pools are in Altomare."
Quilava shrugged. "I don't really know, I'm not much into gardening."
"This is going to be fun," Charizard said, tail lashing from side to side in anticipation. "It's not every day you get told you're going to be fighting someone that powerful."
"I'm assuming the thing you're looking forward to is the chance to really cut loose?" Absol suggested. "I wish I were as confident as you."
"Aren't you always confident?" Charizard asked.
"Well, under normal circumstances, yes," Absol admitted. "It's quite easy to be confident when you can literally sense problems coming and be ready for them. The problem here isn't that I think we'll be surprised, though, it's knowing that what we're going to be dealing with are two of the most powerful Legendary Pokémon that exist."
She looked over at Buizel. "You were there last time, right? What happened?"
"Well… you have to understand, a lot of this isn't exactly clear," Buizel shrugged, then took a mug full of hot cocoa and marshmallows from Goodra. "Thank you."
Goodra went off to give some of the others mugs as well, and Buizel took a drink before going on. "So there were space time anomalies, and Darkrai, and because of Darkrai – who was helping out – there were a lot of odd dreams interacting with the space time anomalies, so dreams were coming true."
"That sounds… problematic," Absol noted.
"Yeah, the baron turned into a Lickilicky or something?" Buizel shrugged. "Anyway, after that there was that big fight between Dialga and Palkia, and I forget the rest."
Absol blinked at him.
"Well, there was a lot of sleep in there, if that counts," Buizel added.
"I suppose it might let us know to bring Chesto Berries," Absol muttered.
"Already taken care of," Ivysaur told her, putting a small bag down in front of her. "I put them together yesterday – there's some for everyone. There's also a few Worry Seeds in there just in case."
"My thanks," Absol told the Grass-type.
They went silent for a long moment, looking at the transceiver and the pile of Pokéballs around it.
"We're going to have to move fast," Absol noted. "When I run for the transfer device, everyone should do so as well – I understand Damos is going to be sending us through as quickly as possible."
"Right, and then on the other side we get involved with slowing down some Dragon types," Charizard agreed with a chuckle. "Dragon type Legendaries, sure, but still..."
"All right, dear, we're both going to be somewhere else," Sceptile told his son. "So if you have a problem, go to one of Ash's other Pokémon or to Professor Oak – they'll help you."
Chikorita nodded his understanding.
"And what do you do if you get in a fight?" Meganium added.
"Try not to get in a fight," Chikorita said. "And if you can't avoid it, Sacred Sword at their knees and run away."
Meganium smiled. "That's right."
Chikorita's vines came snaking out, and he quickly hugged both parents before retracting them again.
"It's a pity we couldn't keep that Houndoomite," Houndoom said out loud.
"Yeah, I think you're right," Heracross agreed. "But then again, your job doesn't involve actually getting in the fight yourself – just sending in Beat Ups of everyone else to keep Dialga and Palkia occupied."
"That is true," Houndoom admitted.
He looked over at Absol, who was pacing back and forth – ready to go, but clearly not thinking it necessary just yet.
"Let's hope it works out okay," he added.
"It's just down here," Baron Alberto explained, leading the group through the lower level of the building containing the Space-Time Towers. "I'm not entirely sure what Tonio studies down here, I'll admit, it's never seemed very important to me."
Opening a door and taking them down a flight of steps, Alberto knocked on the second door at the bottom.
"It's not locked!" called someone from inside, and Alberto opened the door.
Tonio and Alice were both looking at a screen as the party came in, examining a map of Alamos.
"It keeps happening," Tonio was saying, before spotting the Baron. "Oh! Alberto, I didn't expect you!"
He adjusted his glasses. "Who are these?"
"I met them outside, in the park," Alberto replied. "Alice, these are Sir Ketchum and Sir Slate, and their friend."
Dawn frowned, a bit annoyed, then shrugged it off.
"Ketchum?" Alice repeated. "As in Ash Ketchum?"
"That's me," Ash agreed. "What's going on?"
"Time and space has been distorted all over Alamos for hours," Tonio answered. "My equipment isn't good enough to get as much data as I would like, but what we're getting does show that the distortions are forming a sort of ripple pattern around the Time Space Towers."
Can I get a closer look? Dexter requested, and Ash brought out his Pokédex body to look closer. The Porygon2 was silent for a moment, then emitted an electronic buzz. Interesting.
His own projector activated, showing a holographic model of Alamos, and their route through it. We should have run into several of these distortions, but we didn't see any of them. That suggests the distortions are quite weak.
"But they're fairly high on the scale," Tonio said, a little dubiously. "Much stronger and they'd start being dangerous."
He hit a key and replayed the whole sequence. "Look, they've been getting stronger and stronger..."
Dexter's model reset, and he replayed their path through Alamos again – this time with the distortions flashing up at the times Tonio's equipment had recorded them.
"...oh," Brock breathed. "So we've never been in the same place as one?"
Correct, Dexter confirmed.
"So they could be getting really strong..."
"Hold on, there's another one coming," Tonio said, as his computer raised an alert. "This one looks bigger… much bigger, actually… in fact, it looks like it might be about the size of Alamos!"
Dexter emitted a loud beep, and then half a dozen Pokéballs landed on the floor.
"What just happened?" Ash asked, picking them up.
Absol came out of her Pokéball as he was about to reach it.
"I hate Time Space nonsense," she announced. "I only got about three seconds of warning."
The time space distortion's also cut us off from the rest of the universe, Dexter informed her. And don't ask me how that works, I might get a headache despite lacking a head.
"Did everyone make it through okay?" Ash said, suddenly very worried.
The Pokémon Transfer System is one of the most secure systems in the world, Dexter replied. Everyone either made it fully through or didn't start. And yes, that has been mathematically proven.
"Someone mathematically proved that that specific transfer went through?" Brock asked, completely thrown.
Of course not. The proof is of the general case.
"I don't understand what's going on," Alice confessed.
"I understood those words and they still don't make sense," Tonio chimed in. "Why is there an Absol looking worried in my lab?"
Ash made an important contribution to the discussion by passing out, though fortunately Absol's back was already in place to catch him.
Ash blinked, finding himself in a featureless black void.
"Not again," he said, the words dissipating almost as soon as they were spoken. "What is it with featureless voids?"
The void rippled, and developed into a shape – a pair of grey walls, one either side of a grey cobbled street, with the darkness still present overhead but rendered more distant by the addition of extra features.
Human, came a voice. There is not much time. You must understand what I tell you.
"Sure," Ash agreed. "Is this about Dialga and Palkia?"
The voice paused, before continuing more cautiously. I… was not expecting such a good response. Normally humans must be contacted by dreams and signs and suggestions.
"Yeah, it's kind of a long story," Ash shrugged. "I… think I'm used to this by now. But if you wanted to give a warning before the space-time disturbances made it impossible to get help, I'm afraid you're late."
A pity. I had hoped that I could warn Alicia.
"Don't worry, Darkrai, I'll let her know you wanted to help her," Ash told the Legendary. "Well, help Alice, because Alicia is her grandmother – humans usually only live about seventy years..."
How do you know my identity?
"I've met Darkrai twice before," Ash said, then frowned. "Or… more than twice, depending on your view of linear time."
The Dark-type Legendary phased into view in front of him, completely thrown off by Ash's statement.
I am starting to get the opinion you are overqualified for this task, Darkrai stated, then gathered himself. You must warn... Alice, then. Save Alamos. If Dialga and Palkia fight, they will destroy Alamos – and each other.
"We've got a plan for that," Ash replied confidently, then frowned. "But I'm not sure if we've got what we need for it… can I wake up now?"
Awakening is beyond my power, Darkrai admitted. I may bring others into the dream world, or the twilight realm, or cross them over – or aid those who have crossed into the twilight realm to return. But to awaken one who merely slumbers, I may not do.
"That might be a problem..." Ash said, frowning. "Are you sure?"
I can bring others hence, but that would not resolve your problem, Darkrai replied. And I would not advise it. When space and time are disturbed, dreams may take on a material aspect.
Ash nodded, understanding, then frowned and vanished with a faint pop.
Darkrai stared at where Ash had been, then shook his head. Whatever.
"He just collapsed!" Alice said. "Tonio, do you have something soft we can put him on, so that poor Absol doesn't have to support him?"
"Allow me, my dear," Baron Alberto suggested, sweeping his coat off and laying it on the floor. "I must aid Sir Ketchum to the best of my ability."
Alice shook her head a little, but helped Lucario move Ash from Absol's back to the floor.
"Is he going to be okay?" Brock asked, glancing at Absol.
"Yes," Absol said bluntly. "Meganium?"
The Grass-type emerged with a flash.
"Keep him stable for now," Absol advised. "I need to talk with Brock about what we do now."
"By stable, you mean..?" Meganium checked.
"No change in his status," Absol confirmed. "Now, Brock? And Lucario, bring the Pokéballs please."
Brock nodded, walking over to the corner with her, Dawn and Lucario.
"Okay, so here's the bad news first," Absol said. "We might be in trouble – and the reason for that is because I'm saying 'might' about being in trouble," she clarified. "This could be a tricky one, those Pokémon are really, really powerful."
"What's your solution?" Lucario asked, putting down the Pokémon.
"First we need to know who we have," Absol replied. "I'm not a hundred percent familiar with who was with you, or who came through. And wait your turn, guys, there's not necessarily enough room without knocking over something important."
Lucario translated the first part, and Dawn nodded. "Okay, so… everyone's here, for me, either on my belt or outside. Buneary, Pachirisu, Piplup, Quilava, Togekiss, Ambipom and Mamoswine."
"Thank you," Absol said, with a nod.
"I've got Steelix with me, and Chansey, Flygon, Zorua, Rockruff and Geodude are outside," Brock supplied. "Lucario?"
"Pikachu, obviously, and myself," Lucario began. "Dexter, or you wouldn't be here. Mawile, Latios, Staraptor and Infernape are outside as well, and I think you should know about Tyrunt, too – though he is a pacifist."
"And whoever's in this specific Pokéball can come out," Absol went on, tapping it.
Charizard came out, looked around, and nodded. "Okay, you're right, we can't all come out. I'm pretty sure that's Sceptile's Pokéball, and that's Buizel – he was right near me."
He shrugged, then frowned. "Wait… wait!"
"What?" Lucario asked.
"I don't have Charla's Charizardite!" Charizard explained, worried. "If it got deleted in the transfer she's going to use me as a rug!"
"Don't worry, I don't sense any major relationship crisis in the next few days," Absol provided. "And… I think it must have been dropped when you went into your Pokéball, we had a lot less time than I was expecting."
Charizard let out a sigh of relief, then returned himself.
Buizel came out next, and Goodra a moment later.
"I did not expect this to count as a held item," he admitted, tugging on the apron he'd been wearing as he carried the cocoa mugs around. "Should I just take it off?"
"Put it in Ash's bag," Lucario advised.
"Especially if you borrowed it from Delia," Brock added.
Dawn smiled, then glanced around at Ash to make sure Meganium wasn't worried. She seemed fine, though, so Dawn concluded her friend was okay.
"And… counting Sceptile, that's everyone," Brock noted. "I was hoping for more Legendary Pokémon, though Charizard and Sceptile are great news in particular. You as well, Absol."
Absol nodded, waving to Meganium. "Okay, go ahead."
"So we know what Pokémon we have," Dawn summarized. "We've got a few able to Mega Evolve, and a couple more able to fight pretty well, like Goodra, Pikachu and Infernape. Mawile as well?"
Brock gave it a little thought, then nodded. "She and Togekiss are immune to the nastiest space-time warping attacks, which is going to help, but still..."
Ash blinked, then jolted upright.
"Worry Seeds are really… wow," he muttered, wiping his mouth.
"Ash!" Dawn said, glad to see he was okay. "What happened?"
"Darkrai," Ash replied.
"Darkrai!" Baron Alberto repeated. "I knew it!"
"Knew what?" Alice asked. "What about Darkrai?"
"Darkrai is why I passed out," Ash explained. "He has trouble communicating with most humans without using dreams and things – I don't think he knew I can understand Pokémon when they talk."
"But what did he have to say?" Tonio asked, spinning his chair away from his computers. "Was it something about the space time disturbances?"
"It was," Ash confirmed. "He told me to warn you – warn Alice – about the danger Alamos is in, because Dialga and Palkia are fighting here."
Alice's hand went to her mouth in horror.
"The Creation Dragons?" Tonio asked, then shook his head. "Of course – sorry, you wouldn't say that lightly. Is that why Alamos has been cut off from the outside?"
"I think it is," Ash answered. "But Darkrai said we need to stop them, because if they fight they'll destroy Alamos – and either Dialga or Palkia will be destroyed too."
"But… they're both critical to the function of the universe," Tonio said slowly. "That would mean destroying everything."
"This is one of those times it would be really, really, really good to have a Legendary Pokémon around," Lucario sighed. "Well, more Legendary Pokémon."
"There's already three involved, how many more can there be?" Alice asked.
"Four, actually," Dawn said. "Latios is outside with the rest of Ash's Pokémon who were here."
"All right," Tonio announced, turning back to his screen. "Now I know that Dialga and Palkia are the source of some of the readings, I can redo my simulations – we might be able to tell something about what they're going to do next."
"What we're going to do next is obvious!" Baron Alberto announced. "Sir Ketchum, Sir Slate, lend me your aid! We are going to go and stop Darkrai and save Alamos!"
"Alberto, have you been listening to a word they said?" Alice demanded. "It's like you stopped paying attention once Darkrai was mentioned!"
Alberto looked faintly embarrassed, but shrugged it off. "I will go ahead, and-"
Lucario took his shoulder, not unkindly but firmly. "You might want to stop there."
"Why?" Alberto demanded. "I am doing what is right for Alamos."
"But you're not!" Alice told him. "You're not even doing close to what's right for Alamos! You just want to do something, and this is something so you're doing it!"
"She's right," Lucario added. "You need to stay calm and listen."
He let go, and Alberto didn't just run off up the stairs – which was fortunate. Instead he turned towards the group.
"All right, what do you suggest we do?" he demanded. "Darkrai is up there causing damage, and-"
"Enough with the Darkrai!" Dawn interrupted. "Darkrai's helping us, that's exactly the point Ash was making, and if you'd listened to him for more than four words you'd know that!"
She waved her hand towards the monitor. "Tonio said it just now – there are distortions in space and time powerful enough to knock Alamos out of the rest of the world entirely! Does that sound like something that would be done by a Pokémon whose main power over the living is to manipulate dreams? Or does it sound like something that dragons of space and time would do?"
Alberto scowled, but before he could reply Lucario held up a paw.
"I suspect I may know what is going on," he said. "Alberto, would you mind if I used my extensive background in courtly romance to explain what you're doing?"
I wondered who was downloading those, Dexter muttered.
"I… am not sure what you mean," Alberto confessed.
"It seems to me that the situation is as follows," Lucario began. "You wish to catch the eye of Alice, but her heart is for another. As such, you will try to seize on the opportunity to do something noble to match and exceed him in her eyes – no matter whether it is the right thing to do, since what is important is impressing Alice rather than doing good."
"That's – but..." Alberto said, suddenly troubled. "But Darkrai is a threat!"
"In my experience, most Legendary Pokémon are only a threat because they don't know that what they're doing might harm humans," Ash supplied. "The exceptions can be solved with talking or with punching. But Darkrai knows what he's doing might be a problem for humans, the reason he's doing it – pulling people into nightmares – is because the other option is worse!"
He held out a hand. "Alberto, we want your help to save Alamos, and it does need saving. But you have to work with us, because doing this the wrong way might make things worse – a lot worse."
"How much worse?" Alberto asked, apprehensive.
"Dexter, can you translate?" Absol requested, then paced a circle around Alberto.
As she examined him, Dawn pointed. "Baron, do you think Absol are dangerous?"
"Of course not, only fools believe Absol bring catastrophes," Alberto dismissed.
"Then can't you see the same thing is happening with you and Darkrai?"
As the baron thought about that, Absol stepped back again and nodded. "Yes, there's a very definite case."
"A case of what?" Alberto asked, worried now.
"If you go and trouble Darkrai, the Legendary will – in self defence – put your Lickilicky into a dream," Absol told him. "And the space and time distortions will bring Lickilicky's nightmare into reality – specifically, a nightmare that you are the Lickilicky. You would end up turned into one."
"The translation was correct," Absol nodded. "I stand by what I said."
"Mawile?" Tyrunt asked, looking up. "I'm still not very familiar with this time. Is that normal?"
"Not really, no," Mawile replied, looking up as well – at the sky which had abruptly gone dark in the middle of the day. "I don't think it's an eclipse..."
Staraptor came flying down to them. "I just checked," he reported. "It's the space time distortions all right. I tried to fly out of town and just got kind of twisted-spaced back in the same way. It was kind of odd..."
"Okay, that probably means things have gone wrong," Infernape decided. "This is early, right?"
"Earlier than we were expecting," Staraptor confirmed. "Yeah, this could be bad. Hey, Latios, you go find Dawn's Pokémon, I'll make sure we've got Brock's ones together too."
As the two flying Pokémon zipped off, Tyrunt shuffled a little closer to Mawile.
"I'm scared," he said. "Sorry."
"Don't be sorry for being scared," Mawile told him firmly, waving a finger at him. "Brave Pokémon do things even though they're scared. Experienced Pokémon don't feel scared because they think they'll be fine. Normal Pokémon don't do things because they're scared, and that's fine… and Pokémon who don't feel scared even when something big and nasty is nearby? They're the stupid Pokémon!"
Infernape chuckled, giving Mawile a thumbs-up. "I wish I'd had you to tell me that one last time around, Mawile."
"Okay, so… Dialga and Palkia are coming here," Alice said. "What can we do to help?"
"Well… the most important thing is going to be calming Dialga and Palkia down," Brock replied. "That means we're going to need to use the Space-Time Towers to play Oracion."
"They can do that?" Alice asked.
"Well, we know they can play different tunes," Tonio pointed out. "There's no reason they have to play the tune they normally do, it's all stored on some disks."
"Of course," Alice realized. "I didn't realize Oracion was so famous, though… my grandmother taught it to me, but I didn't think anyone else knew."
"Legendary Pokémon tend to pick up information like that," Brock said. "We're here to help, but we got the timing wrong… sorry about that."
"The only problem is, we need to play Oracion after Dialga and Palkia appear, or it won't work," Ash supplied. "That's why I had so many Pokémon arrive, but we were hoping for a lot more… I don't even really know how powerful the Space and Time Dragons are, except that it's scarily powerful."
He counted off. "Steelix, Latios, Lucario, Sceptile and Absol can all Mega Evolve. Charizard can't, but he and Pikachu are really powerful anyway… and Mawile and Togekiss have special advantages. That's not a lot of Pokémon, though."
I can fight as well, Dexter stated. I'm redundantly backed up on both platforms.
"Okay, that's about ten Pokémon," Ash summarized. "Everyone else is going to have to do things which don't involve getting too close to the two dragons, but that shouldn't be a problem… it's a real pity we don't have Suicune with us, though, or someone else who knows more about Legendary Pokémon. If we knew more about Dialga and Palkia, and why they might be fighting, that would be a help."
All I can tell you is that the Dragons of Creation would normally only fight when they see a major danger to themselves or to their duty, Dexter stated. At least, according to what I've heard.
"Another disturbance," Tonio reported. "This one's more of a ring around the town… I can't say more than that."
"Okay," Ash decided. "Right. Buizel, can you go and make sure everyone outside knows what's going on? They should probably come back to the Towers, so we can sort things out, and we should head upstairs to coordinate things properly."
Brock tapped Ash on the shoulder as Buizel headed upstairs. "Ash?"
Ash turned. "Huh?"
"When you said about how Legendary Pokémon don't usually know what they're doing might harm humans," he said. "Are you sure about that?"
"Well… mostly?" Ash asked. "Why?"
"I was thinking about it," Brock explained. "The Legendary Birds came to mind, and so did Mewtwo – and Arceus..."
"Yeah, but-" Ash began, then stopped to think about it more.
"I do know what you mean," he said. "But...I don't think I put what I meant very well. I meant that… Legendary Pokémon don't usually just cause trouble without being provoked, and when they do it's because they don't realize what they're doing is causing trouble."
"Excuse me?" Tonio called, interrupting them. "Do you have any idea what this might be?"
Ash and Brock hurried over to the screen, which Dawn was already looking at.
"I ran the time scale back," Tonio explained. "All the way back to the beginning of my data set, when I first set the recorders up."
He indicated the time scale, which showed they were back at least a month.
"The major disturbances started a couple of days ago," he explained. "Well, nothing compared to what happened today… but going back even this far, there's a continuous ripple effect, right here at the lab."
Brock studied it. "How strong is that?"
"Not very strong," Tonio answered. "But I've checked as best I can, and it's not a data artefact."
"Can we see it from the side?" Dawn requested.
Tonio did something with his keyboard, and the perspective of the model rotated so they could see it from the side.
"It's not at the lab," he realized. "It's above the lab… in the Space-Time Towers."
"It's not really known why they're called that," Alice said dubiously. "Do you mean there's an actual ripple in space time being caused by the towers themselves?"
"That or they're built on top of one," Ash suggested. "There's this thing called a Time Ripple, I've seen it before – they might just be like that."
"Time ripples are left behind by Celebi, though," Brock pointed out. "And they don't last long."
"Yeah, but what if there's something like it that happens when…" Ash paused. "I think I might be about to say something really silly, but what if the result of Dialga and Palkia fighting now is that there's a ripple in space, going back in time, and that ripple is why they fight here?"
"Hold on," Pikachu said, sliding down Ash's arm to his pouch. "Can you say that again, this time so I can draw a diagram?"
"That would explain why it's Alamos specifically that this is happening," Brock mused. "It's a bit hard to tell unless we can ask them, but it does explain what's going on."
"Except for why they're fighting in the first place," Dawn sighed. "Unless… maybe they each have a reason they need Alamos, and the distortion, so they're fighting over it?"
There was a clatter at the stairs, and everyone turned to look… as Ash came running down the stairs, followed by most of their Pokémon.
As he reached the bottom floor, the other Ash shimmered blue and reformed into Latios.
"Sorry about being you," he told Ash. "There was someone asking why so many unsupervised Pokémon wanted to get into the Towers, and I had to pretend to be you."
"That's okay," Ash replied, shrugging it off. "But we should really go back upstairs again – Tonio, can you stay here and let us know if anything goes wrong?"
"I'll do my best," Tonio agreed. "What do you want me to look out for?"
"Just… any change in the disturbances, I guess?" Ash suggested. "Dexter, can you give him your phone number?"
"So these are the Space Time Towers," Charizard said, taking off a few feet to get a slightly better view. "Neat place… bet it's hard for people to climb all those stairs, though."
"Sure, show off that you can fly," Pikachu grumbled.
"Given that some of us have the option to walk up the side of the towers, we're not a good group to really tell how practical climbing up some stairs is," Lucario observed.
As they talked, Ash rechecked the list of Pokémon. "Okay… it looks like you're going to have to be somewhere we can bring any injured Pokémon, Meganium."
"That's all right," Meganium replied. "I was sort of expecting it anyway. Chansey and I are the only ones with healing, and that might be important – more important than an extra Petal Blizzard out there during the battle."
"For what it's worth, I'm glad you'll be there to help," Sceptile volunteered.
"Thanks," Meganium smiled. "I'll do my best."
"Hey, I have an idea!" Zorua suggested. "I could fly up and turn into Dialga or Palkia, and try to confuse them into being reasonable?"
"No chance," Brock replied firmly. "Your disguise would burst after one attack – and that attack might be one of the most powerful attacks there is."
Zorua thought about that.
"...yeah, good point," she admitted. "That wasn't something I really thought through."
"You can still be helpful," Brock pointed out. "In fact, if there is a serious fight, your job is going to be flying around as something impressive and telling everyone to get to safety. Is that all right?"
"Sure," Zorua agreed, glad to have something helpful to do.
As she started considering what to turn into, Dawn looked between her Pokémon.
"Togekiss, are you okay with this?" she asked.
Togekiss gave her a firm smile. "I am, Dawn. I'll be careful, of course, but you've trained me well and so has Salvia."
"What about the rest of us?" Quilava asked. "I'm fast, don't get me wrong, but I don't think most of us have the kind of power that would be needed."
"Speak for yourself," Piplup countered.
Buneary, Ambipom, Pachirisu and Quilava all gave Piplup tolerant looks.
"Okay, fine," Piplup muttered.
"We might still need you," Dawn pointed out. "Ash is going to be busy with handling the fighting outside, and I might need a Pokémon able to, say, make staircases out of ice..."
"Better than nothing," the Water-type shrugged.
"It's amazing to see all these Pokémon of yours," Alice said, watching as Brock had Geodude set up some rocky walls just outside the entrance to the towers. "What are those for, though?"
"They're so we have something to hide behind, basically," Brock replied. "Though we're going to have everyone Mega Evolve outside them – that and the other Pokémon who are taking part, like Flygon and Mawile, are going to take off from outside there."
"I've got my wing ready," Mawile announced proudly, holding it up.
She turned to Tyrunt. "And… Tyrunt, don't put yourself in danger trying to see what happens, okay? None of us want you to get hurt, you didn't ask to get involved."
"If this is what being friends with you means, it's… okay," Tyrunt decided. "I'd rather not have it, but it's something I can cope with if I know about it."
"A moment, Sir Slate," Alberto said. "The way you put that, it sounds like a lot of Pokémon are going to be going Mega."
"Well, I've just got the one, Steelix," Brock replied. "He's mostly going to be down here helping to keep us safe. But Ash is going to Mega Evolve Lucario, Absol, Latios and Sceptile."
"Four Pokémon at once?" Alberto blinked. "I… didn't know you could Mega Evolve that many Pokémon."
"I think Ash's record is over a dozen," Brock said. "He did an experiment before we came to Sinnoh, it was pretty impressive."
"Then… if he had a Charizardite, he could Mega Evolve his Charizard as well?" Alberto pressed.
"Yes," Brock confirmed. "Why?"
"Because I think I have one in my collection, back at my manor," the baron explained.
"Then we'd better get it," Brock decided. "If it's okay to borrow it, that is."
"If it's a real Charizardite, Sir Slate, I dare say Sir Ketchum can keep it," Alberto replied. "A small price to pay for the safety of Alamos, indeed."
"I'm grateful for the thought," Brock told him. "And I'm sure Ash is, too."
He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Latios! Can you get Ash and Staraptor over here?"
A few minutes later, both flying Pokémon touched down in Baron Alberto's garden.
"It's through here," Alberto said, getting off Latios. "My collection's in the first floor display room."
They hurried up the wide stairs, and Alberto led Ash into a room full of all kinds of things – from a few old, ornate weapons, through rare books, to some fine polished stones from all over the Home Islands.
"This is the one," Alberto said, taking a box out. "Does it look like a Mega Stone to you?"
"It looks like one, yeah," Ash agreed. "We'd need to get back to Brock and his Mega Ring to be certain what type, but… yeah, it looks like one."
"Which is a good thing, because otherwise Charizard would be really disappointed," Pikachu chuckled.
Alert, Dexter stated, interrupting them. Incoming message from Tonio.
Ash flipped his Pokédex open. "Bad news?"
Instability is rising, Dexter informed them. It's focused this time – right next to the Space Time Towers.
"Okay, we need to get back!" Ash decided. "Right now!"
Latios rubbed his forehead.
"Something wrong?" Staraptor asked.
"It's just that… my bond with Latias stopped working," Latios replied. "No sight sharing. I've never felt that before, not really, but I know Latias has – and I hope she doesn't fear the worst."
"Why, what – oh," Staraptor realized. "Yeah, I could see how that would be-"
"Staraptor, Latios!" Ash called. "Pick us up from the balcony, we need to get back to the towers!"
Both Pokémon took off, stopped by just long enough to pick up their passengers – Latios with a pulse of telekinesis and Staraptor by being there to catch Ash as he jumped – then shot back towards the towers at the top of the hill.
As they did, however, there was a sound as though space itself was being used as a stringed instrument. A shimmering nacrenous sphere formed, like the skin of a soap-bubble but deeper and more translucent, and within it Palkia emerged into the air over Alamos.
"That's really Palkia, right?" Alice asked, looking up at the glowing Legendary Pokémon. "That's not some kind of illusion or something?"
"That's really Palkia," Brock confirmed. "Or if it's not, it's got some really good special effects."
The greyish bubble of warped space around Alamos rippled, pulsing like a heartbeat, and a matching pulse developed on the pearl visible on Palkia's nearer shoulder. Hanging there in a localized override of gravity, the Dragon of Space shifted a little and the air around him seemed to become oddly warped.
"Alice!" Tonio shouted up from his lab. "There's a lot of disturbance going on around Palkia, and it seems like the one in the Towers is reacting to it!"
Steelix Mega-Evolved in a flare of light, and Brock frowned. "Wait, where's Ash?"
"Down there," Lucario replied, pointing. "I think Latios and Staraptor are staying below the level of the houses, so they don't draw attention."
"Right," Brock agreed. "Zorua, if you go out there – you do that too, okay?"
"Okay," Zorua agreed, rubbing up against Brock's leg. Then she transformed into a Crobat and set off, and they faintly heard her as she reached the other side of the gardens. "Everyone please stay indoors, or get to safety if you can! Do not try to get involved!"
"What I don't know is what Palkia's doing," Brock said, squinting into the sky. "That looks like some kind of gravity thing is going on, but… is it me or is that pearl getting brighter?"
A black shadow shot past him, heading up the side of the tower, just as Ash arrived and slid off Staraptor's back. Latios dropped Baron Alberto off as well, and Pikachu jumped from Ash to Lucario as they reached Brock and Ash's other Pokémon crowded around.
"Brock, can you check this?" Ash asked. "Is it a Charizardite? It looks different from Charla's one."
Brock took the Mega Stone automatically, pointing up. "Look!"
"Darkrai?" Ash asked, then shook his head. "No, stop! Darkrai, don't-"
If Darkrai heard, he either wasn't listening or had already committed. Lunging out from the shadow of the Time Tower, he threw a ball of blacklight at Palkia.
The ball struck home, expanding and enveloping Palkia in a giant sphere of darkness. It was wider and larger than the shield bubble around Palkia, and engulfed it totally in seconds.
"Oh, no..." Brock groaned.
"Why, what did Darkrai do?" Alice asked.
"That's Dark Void, Darkrai's special move," Brock explained. "It puts Pokémon to sleep!"
"But isn't that a good thing?"
"Not really," Dawn supplied. "If we were only dealing with Palkia, maybe, but there's got to be a reason only Palkia showed up..."
The ball of darkness dissipated, and Palkia swayed before slumping forward. The area of null gravity remained in place, and so did Palkia, but the additional distortions faded.
Then the sky tore open, misty grey warped space replaced in a ripple by a marbled darkness shot through with veins of pinkish light.
"I don't get it!" Latias said, voice full of stress. "We're right here! This is where Alamos should be!"
She flew around the lake and its truncated mesa, covering it in about ten seconds, and came back to where she'd left Bianca.
"What do you think happened?" she asked. "One moment I was talking to him, the next he was gone – and it was quicker than… than when he died… and I don't know what happened! I can't feel anything from him!"
"I don't know, Latias," Bianca sighed. "I don't think any of us know. The maps say there used to be a town here, and the bridge is cut off halfway across – it definitely used to be here.
Latias clenched her fists, and flew towards where Alamos had been. She quickly reached the far shore of the lake, and turned to fly back – then frowned, suddenly noticing something.
Now moving with more purpose, she flew a steady course around the mesa a second time. Then she flew over it, frowned, and returned to Bianca.
"...circles work the same everywhere, right?" she asked.
"Of course," Bianca replied, wondering if something was wrong with Latias' telepathy. "Why?"
"Because I think something's wrong with where Alamos should be," Latias explained. "It took me a lot longer to fly around than it did to fly through and back… I think the space Alamos used to take up is actually missing."
She frowned. "But… we still don't know where it is, we just know something happened to it. Something… really odd."
As she was about to go and have another look, Bianca held up a hand. "Can you hear sirens?"
"I think we might need to explain to the police what we know," Latias said. "Which is a lot less than I'd like to know."
"You think Palkia was keeping Dialga out of Alamos?" Alice asked.
"Yeah, and I think it just failed," Dawn agreed, pointing at the sky. "But where-"
A bolt of something dark red flashed across the sky, hitting Darkrai square in the torso, and Darkrai was knocked back into the Space tower in a blur of reddish motion. The Dark-typed Legendary hit with a wham and a musical jangle from the tower, and stopped there as if pinned in place – enshrouded in a dull red shadow, which affected not just Darkrai himself but also the surrounding tower surface.
"What happened?" Alice cried. "Darkrai, are you all right?"
"What's that?" Ash asked, holding Dexter up so his analyzer could see. "Is Darkrai okay?"
Impossible to determine the latter without further data, Dexter replied. In layman's terms: I do not know. But as to the former… it appears from the redshift that Darkrai has been trapped in an altered timestream. This means that to Darkrai the impact with the tower was at an extremely high speed.
He emitted an electronic buzz. I do not know how long the effect will last.
"So that has to have been an attack from Dialga, if it involves time," Ash said out loud. "That must mean Dialga's here already."
He took the Mega Stone back from Brock and handed it to Charizard. "Let's see if it works… okay, guys, get ready!"
Ash's staff began to glow, then flared brilliantly – lighting up the whole area with a warm silver-gold radiance – and Absol, Lucario, Sceptile, Latios and Charizard all Mega-Evolved, not quite at once but over the span of only a few seconds.
"All right!" Mega Charizard roared, inspecting his fine black scales and the seething blue flame from his tail. "So that's what this form feels like! I'd almost forgotten!"
He whirled, facing into the sky. "Okay, let's get this..."
Mega Charizard's voice trailed off, and he watched along with the rest of Ash's team as Dialga approached.
His gem was pulsing gently, in time with the rippling of the ethereal darkness of the false sky, and he flew silently over the rooftops without any particular care for them.
Bypassing Palkia without either word or action, the Steel-typed Dragon of Time spread his fins and began to do something. The air around him became tinted blue, and the diamond at his breast began to glow slowly brighter and brighter.
"Do we do something?" Mega Sceptile asked.
"I… don't know," Mega Absol admitted. "but I do know you should go and get Oracion set up, Dawn!"
"Oracion," Buneary repeated, and Dawn nodded.
Ash glanced back at the door, then stepped back towards it – staff in one hand, and his other hand on the hilt of his sword. "Guys, you should get inside – you'll be a bit safer in there."
"Do you think any of Dialga's attacks are going to be stopped by the towers?" Alice asked, watching with interest as the team quickly organized itself. Mega Steelix stayed where he was, as did Meganium, but Mega Sceptile and Staraptor exchanged a look of understanding and moved a little closer together.
Pikachu took position on Mega Latios for now, ready to move if need be, and Mega Lucario summoned a flare of Aura around himself. Mega Absol spread her furry wings, ready to ride the currents, and Mega Charizard took off to hover just over the rest of the group with Togekiss.
For Mawile's part, she carefully checked her flying wing.
"I don't know," Ash replied, answering Alice's question. "But I do think the attack might destroy the tower side and stop."
Dialga halted what he was doing, turning to regard the team of Pokémon ready to come up against him if need be, and as he moved there were little glints of light from different places around him – as if there were a giant invisible gemstone enclosing him, visible only when one of the facets reflected the light.
Mega Latios waved everyone else down, and rose into the air towards the mighty Dragon-type.
"Your shields are up, right?" Pikachu asked.
"Yeah, full thickness," Mega Latios confirmed, then spoke louder. "Dialga! I apologize if this is rude, because I'm still young for a Legendary Pokémon. I wanted you to know – we're trying to solve what's going on without any fighting. What do you want?"
Dialga examined Mega Latios, looking for something, and the Psychic-type tried not to stare back.
"THIS PLACE IS A PLACE FOR HEALING," Dialga declared. "I AM-"
Any further comment was cut off when a Spacial Rend hit him in the back. Most of it splashed off his faceted shield, but some got through to slam against Dialga's fins and scales, and the Time Dragon whirled to face the Space Dragon.
"Ulp," Pikachu said succinctly, as a Roar of Time pulsed out in the other direction.
"All right!" Mega Absol called, running up the side of the Space Tower. "Everyone try to distract them! Keep them focused on not attacking one another!"
Togekiss got there first, wings sparkling with Fairy Wind. She whipped around in a turn, sending a glitterdust of Fairy-type energy between Dialga and Palkia, and their attacks both hit it and detonated.
The blast blew the air away, and the air carried away the dust of the Fairy Wind, but the attacks had been blocked – and Mega Charizard flew in, roaring and sending a blast of blue-tinged Flamethrower down Dialga's flank.
There was an odd scatter effect as the energy dispersed off Dialga's shield, and Dialga turned his attention to Mega Charizard – at about the same time that a Sacred Sword flicked out from Mega Absol, hitting the multi-layered shimmershield around Palkia and deflecting off.
Palkia discarded the Spacial Rend he was preparing and turned his attention to Mega Absol as she kicked off from the Space Tower. Her wings flared, and she dodged away from a Water Pulse attack Palkia launched after her with a moment-perfect read of the situation.
Slightly less fortunate, Mega Charizard had to use a Counter Shield to ward off Dialga's first attack – an Aura Sphere which blew him some twenty feet to the side despite his managing to avoid a direct hit – then dove for cover as Mega Lucario intervened with a cloud of seeker Aura Spheres, producing a continuous barrage of impacts across much of Dialga's lower shield.
There was no sign the attack had actually broken through like Palkia's one had – or that it had even strained Dialga especially to block it – but the Legendary turned his attention from Mega Charizard down to Mega Lucario, already soaring into the sky on brilliant blue jets of Aura from his footpaws.
What do you think? Mega Latios asked silently. Can you get a Thunder Wave through to Dialga or Palkia?
"Good question," Pikachu replied. "Let's find out..."
"Which one is it?" Dawn asked, looking at the set of music disks in their holders.
There was a throbbing roar from outside, and she winced – imagining what was going on between Dialga and Palkia and the friends' Pokémon.
"That's it," Alice said, tracing the outline of someone playing a leaf whistle on one of the holders. "My grandmother taught me how to play Oracion on a leaf whistle, it has to be. Dawn, can you-?"
Dawn stepped up to the machine, hauling on it to spin it around, and after a moment so did Ambipom and Buneary. They rotated it so the Oracion disk was available, and Ambipom popped it out with both hands and both tails.
"The player is at the top of the tower," Alice went on. "I… don't think my hot air balloon is going to help here..."
"It's okay, we'll take it up," Dawn replied, hefting the disk. "Buneary, can you go and see if Brock can help?"
"There's no need to ask him," Alberto cut in. "I'll come with you – Alamos is my town, I should help to save it."
"Right," Dawn agreed. "And… right, Pachirisu is here as well. Okay, let's go!"
"Staraptor! To your right!" Mega Absol called out, landing for a moment on a house and kicking off again to extend her flight time. Staraptor rolled right, just about avoiding the Draco Meteor Palkia launched up at him and his passenger, and dropped Mega Sceptile off in mid-air. The Grass-type launched a Leaf Storm from his tail at Palkia, the Grass-type missile whipcracking across space before exploding and spraying Palkia's shield with plant matter, and Staraptor conducted a forward half-loop before picking up Mega Sceptile again just before he got hit.
Palkia's attempt to follow up and catch Staraptor was interrupted by a sudden tearing CRACKATHOOM as Pikachu fired two intense Volt Crash attacks at once, one going towards Dialga and the other towards Palkia.
They hit home on the shields of their respective targets, digging in deeper than any of the attacks so far, but ultimately failed – sending electrical backlash whipcracking back and forth across the town airspace.
"Was that really a good idea?" Mega Lucario asked, flying alongside Mega Absol for a moment.
"Well, he aimed so it wouldn't connect with the Dragons if he broke their shields, so yes," Mega Absol replied. "Boost me?"
"Sure," Mega Lucario nodded, dropping down a bit before spinning upside down in mid-air. He crouched, his hindpaws meeting Mega Absol's forepaws, and with an explosive shove sent her much higher into the air so she had more scope to manoeuvre.
The push sent Mega Lucario down to ground level, and he rolled to dampen the impact before running along to pick up momentum and jumping back into the air. On the way up he went past Togekiss – orbiting to see if she might be needed – then exchanged a wordless glance with Mega Charizard, and brought both palms together for a huge Aura Sphere which burst against Dialga's diamond-hard shield.
The explosion provided cover for Mega Charizard, who swept in and hammered Dialga with an Inferno attack before landing on the shield with claws out. He swiped twice with Dragon Claw, both times making the shield chime in an oddly pleasant way, then had to hastily retreat as Dialga threw a Roar of Time at him.
The time-twisting attack missed Mega Charizard, flicking across the battlefield towards the Space Time Towers, and there was a burst of speed from Mawile as she tried to intercept it – but failed, unable to get enough speed out of her still-new flying machine.
Mega Steelix threw a Stone Edge in the way of the attack, and it exploded just short of reaching the tower door itself.
Ash lowered his upflung arm, glancing back. "Is everyone okay?"
"I'm all right," Buizel supplied.
"Me too," Meganium agreed.
Brock coughed out some of the rock dust the exploding Stone Edge had produced, and nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay… it looks like everyone else is, too."
Ash looked over at where one of Geodude's walls had collapsed. "What is it, Tryunt?"
In reply, the Dragon-type stood up, rubble cascading off his back.
"Is that how evolving normally works?" Tyrantrum asked. "I thought it was different."
"Usually, yeah," Ash admitted. "Are you okay?"
"Ask me later," Tyrantrum mumbled.
He looked down at himself as best he could, moving back a bit to get more under cover – something that was much harder now, with his greatly increased size. "What happened?"
"I… think maybe one of Dialga's time attacks hit you," Ash guessed. "Not directly, but on the edge? But that's just a guess..."
He winced as Mega Charizard and Dialga exchanged Draco Meteors, producing a brilliant orange explosion overhead, then waved. "You'd better get inside," he advised.
"Right," Tyrantrum agreed, stomping past Mega Steelix' tail and gingerly going to the right of Ash.
"I hope Dawn gets the Towers working soon," Brock said, watching as Staraptor wove out of the way of Dialga's Dragon Pulse and Mega Sceptile blocked Palkia's Ice Beam attack. "The next hit might not go as well as that one did."
"I know!" Ash replied, then subsided. "Sorry… I know. I'm just worried..."
"This place needs some kind of lift," Baron Alberto panted. "How many stairs does it have?"
"A lot," Alice agreed, only a little less tired than he was after their run. "But it looks like we're at the top, finally!"
Dawn went past them both, cradling the Oracion disk, and looked around for the playing machine.
"Okay, it's right here," she said. "So… the disk fits in here..."
She ignored the four music players around the edge of the machine, going right for the larger holder in the middle that was of a size to fit Oracion. As she did, Ambipom readied herself by the power lever, then pulled it as soon as Dawn had put the disk in and had her hands clear.
Alice hovered over her anxiously. "Is it working?"
"No, it's not," Dawn replied. "But that might just mean the power's gone out. Pachirisu?"
Pachirisu nodded, jumping up to the top of the machine and touching her tail to the power supply. Her cheeks sparked, and then a pulsing current flowed into the music machine.
There was a single, pure note – then the whole room shook, and the music stopped.
"That… probably isn't good," Alberto said, wincing. "What just happened?"
"I don't know-" Dawn began, then ran to the nearest window.
Despite the best efforts of Ash's distraction team, the fighting had shifted again. She could see Palkia firing a barrage of attacks towards a point on the Space Tower not far below them, and a combination of the dust of a recent impact and the rippling of the faceted energy shield made his target – clearly Dialga – all but impossible to see.
The Steel-type came into view a moment later, dust and rubble sliding off his flanks, and roared a temporal attack back at Palkia. It missed as Dialga got out of the way, hit the rippling edge of the space-time bubble, and vanished.
"Togekiss!" Dawn called.
Neither Palkia nor Dialga took any notice of her, too busy jockeying for position – then a shower of leaves broke their view of one another, and Mega Charizard hammered a Flamethrower into Dialga's shield to distract him as Mega Latios and Pikachu hit Palkia's shield to try and breach it – with no luck. But the Pokémon Dawn was actually talking to heard her, and Togekiss swooped in a moment later.
"What is it, Dawn?" the Fairy-type asked. "Is there something wrong?"
"The towers are broken," Dawn explained. "I think whatever Dialga and Palkia just did broke something – can you have a look?"
"All right," Togekiss agreed. "I'll let Ash know downstairs as well, then come back up to you."
"I'm still having trouble getting my head around this," the local Jenny admitted, looking at the space where Alamos had been. "The whole town is missing?"
"Not just missing, so is the space it took up," Bianca answered. "That's what Latias says, anyway."
Jenny got out her binoculars, adjusting them to focus, and followed the truncated bridge into town. "Are you sure? I can see the bridge, then rock, then ground on the far side..."
"That's what's so odd!" Latias squeaked, using her telepathy to ensure she was understood. "It looks different from different directions and distances – watch!"
She flew off, leaving both Bianca and Jenny to watch as Latias took a wide looping path around to the left. Then she flew across their vision, aiming to pass through the area where Alamos had been-
-and she was on the far side, to their front-right. Instantly, without having gone through the intervening space.
"What the-" Jenny began, staring, then watched as Latias did it again more slowly. This time there was clearly a period of at least a half-second when Latias' head and her fins were apparently separated by a considerable distance.
"I didn't realize it was that odd," Bianca admitted, then watched as her friend flew up to well above the former location of Alamos. She dropped slowly, looking down and tilting her head, then knocked on something with her clawed fist a few times.
"How did you two get here so quickly?" Jenny asked.
"Latias' brother is travelling with Ash Ketchum, and they can share what they're seeing," Bianca replied. "They were in Alamos, and then Latias suddenly stopped being able to feel Latios on the other end of the connection. We've got a Mega Stone for Latias, and Mega Latias is one of the fastest Pokémon in the world – and we really hurried all the way here."
"Oh, Ash Ketchum's involved," the Jenny sighed. "We had a seminar about him last summer. I'm entirely willing to believe he's involved if a town disappeared completely."
Latias came flying back over, and alighted next to them. "It's even more odd than I thought!" she announced to them both. "From above it looks like the ground's really close to you – I was able to fly down and knock on it much earlier than I would have expected."
"You were knocking on the ground?" Bianca asked. "But… we saw you doing it in the sky. That's… really odd."
"I know," Latias agreed. "I'm almost tempted to try using an attack to see what happens, but that would be a really bad idea..."
"Well, if Alamos came back at the wrong time you'd be firing an attack into it," Bianca pointed out.
"I know, I know," Latias sighed. "I'm just trying to find something to do… I trust Ash, and Latios, and all the others, but I'm worried..."
"I am too," Bianca told her. "I am too."
"Do you mind if I ask you some questions?" Jenny said, after a short pause to make sure their conversation was over. "It would be good to know as much as I can about why one of our towns is missing."
Staraptor and Mega Charizard exchanged a glance, both flying at speed towards the battling Legendaries.
Neither was particularly experienced in fighting alongside the other, so they glanced down at Mega Sceptile – who gave Mega Charizard a succinct hand signal and Staraptor a terse nod.
Thus coordinated, the two split. Mega Charizard banked to the side, rolling his neck as he shrouded himself in Dragonbreath to form a Counter Shield, while Staraptor climbed with a sweep of his powerful wings and pulled up hard.
The motion flung Mega Sceptile forwards, and the Grass-type ignited both his arm-blades into Sacred Swords as he flew. Landing on the upper surface of Palkia's lustrous defensive shield just as Mega Absol's Ice Blade hit the lower edge, he rammed both blades into the shield and ran as fast as he could.
Swords sparking and hissing with energy bleed, Mega Sceptile ran along Palkia's shield from front to back. Reaching the peak of the shield, he kept going – feet slipping a little as the steepness increased – then launched himself clear, tail flaring out behind him and launching a Leaf Storm as he fell.
Guiding his movement with his leaves, Mega Sceptile shaped a gliding course to intercept Staraptor. The Flying-type flared his wings, claws reaching out to catch Mega Sceptile, but just before he made the catch a torrent of water slapped Staraptor in the back and carried him all the way to ground level – driving him into a house with a stunning impact.
Mega Sceptile dove, shedding height for speed as fast as he could, and Palkia's Hydro Pump missed him as it swung down. The sheer force of the water dug a trench through the grass below, and Mega Sceptile jinked to the side to avoid being targeted again before pulling out of his dive as late as possible.
The Mega-Evolved Pokémon landed hard, rolling once to shed momentum, and twisted around to face back the way he'd come. His fear of a follow-up attack by Palkia was negated by Mega Latios using Luster Purge to knock Palkia aside, but Dialga unleashed a Flash Cannon at almost the same moment Mega Sceptile saw the Steel-type turn towards him.
Sacred Swords flaring up again, Mega Sceptile crossed them to block the torrent of energy. The recoil drove him sliding back along the grass, leaving gouge marks, and he held in place for several seconds to outlast the Flash Cannon – finally getting a reprieve when Mega Charizard made a serious attempt at ripping through Dialga's faceted shield with nothing but claws and teeth.
Tired by the effort of holding off a direct attack, Mega Sceptile was unable to block the Dragon Pulse Palkia smacked him with, and he fell to the ground – Mega Evolved state reverting in a flash of light.
A vine whipped out from the shadow of the Space-Time Towers, gently lifting Sceptile and pulling him towards safety. A second or two later, a red beam of light returned Staraptor to his Pokéball, getting them both out of further danger.
"Whoa!" Kai gasped, wincing. "One hell of a battle going on up there!"
"Yeah," Allegra agreed. "Was it me or did two of the Pokémon just vanish? The Sceptile and the Staraptor?"
"I haven't seen them," Kai agreed slowly. "That's… probably not good..."
The Coordinator looked at his two friends. "Any way we can help?"
"Against Dialga and Palkia?" Maury asked. "Not really – I mean, Torterra's tough, but not Legendary tough. Especially not those legendaries."
Allegra shook her head. "I just… kind of want there to be some way we can help."
Even as she spoke, there was a titanic explosion as Dialga tried to hit Palkia with a Draco Meteor. The Togekiss flying around managed to interpose herself in the way of the attack, and most of them were cancelled out, but several of the glowing orange rocks went flying into the air.
"Is it me, or are they coming towards us?" Maury asked slowly.
"Looks like it!" Kai agreed. "Empoleon, Ice Beam!"
"Good idea!" Allegra nodded sharply. "Infernape, use Flamethrower!"
Maury's Torterra used Seed Bomb, as well, and their combined attacks blew the meteors out of the sky before they landed.
"That's how we can help!" Allegra realized. "We can make sure those stray attacks don't hit anyone hiding out!"
"Sounds like a plan!" another voice agreed.
"Who said that?" Allegra asked, confused.
A Crobat landed next to her. "Hi!" it waved. "I'm trying to help make sure everyone knows to stay out of danger, but your help would be really useful. My trainer and his friends are up at the Space Time Towers trying to solve that, and there's not a lot of Pokémon left to help elsewhere..."
The Crobat – which appeared to be female, from the voice, if anything about a talking Crobat was normal – put a wing near her mouth, then perked up. "Oh! Actually, could you guys help organize all the trainers who have Pokémon that might help keep Alamos safe? I'll try to find people elsewhere in the town who can help too!"
With that, she set off.
"...how?" Kai asked.
"I guess Crobat can use their sonar to do that, or something?" Maury shrugged. "Whatever… okay, let's see if we can find anyone."
"They seemed nice," Zorua said to herself, flying a little higher so she could get a better look at this area of Alamos. "I wonder how many other humans there are who are likely to be that helpful."
She slid a little to the left in the air, Crobat wings beating in counterpoint, then frowned and looked closer at the area near the rippling boundary of the space-time bubble.
It was quite a surprise when a garden wall began to evaporate.
"Oh! Oh no, that can't be good!" Zorua yelped, and landed quickly on the nearest rooftop. She wracked her brains, wondering what to do, then changed quickly to a Ninjask and shot back towards the Towers.
This was a little too complicated for her. She needed advice.
Preferably from someone who might know what they were talking about.
"Dexter, good to see you," Dawn said, looking up from the playing machine. "Can you see what's wrong?"
Let us find out, Dexter replied. He reconfigured from his base form, sprouting some extra sensor nodes, and scanned over the top of the machine before circling around it and doing the same from the back.
"That's a digital Pokémon, right?" Alberto asked. "A Porygon… 2?"
"Yes, the evolved form of Porygon," Dawn confirmed. "None of us know how the machine's supposed to work, and he's the one who could work it out in the shortest amount of time."
"Right," Alberto agreed. "I see. I think there might be an operating manual somewhere, but I don't think it ever mentioned anything about the central disk player – we all thought it was ornamental."
Dawn nodded, then walked to the window and looked out. The one she'd picked wasn't facing where the fighting was going on at the moment, but she could see one tower surface lit by flashes – each one coming just perceptibly before a sharp bang or a lower whooom as powerful attacks detonated, sometimes on each other.
Mega Latios came into view, almost hidden behind a Draco Meteor counter shield, and Dawn turned away from the window again.
"Any luck?" she asked Dexter.
I am starting to determine the cause, Dexter replied. Has there been a recent impact on the system?
"Yes," Alice replied. "Yes – just after we got up here, a moment after it started to play. Dialga hit the Space Tower, and the whole room shook."
Dexter rose up from behind the complex mechanical computer, and his projector flared to create a 3-D model of the entire complex. Analysis indicates that the impact probably hit the area of one of the control cables – the systems which transmit the pulls from the player system to the instruments themselves. It doesn't seem to have broken the cable itself, but the sudden pull wrenched some important components out of the player mechanism.
"So… it's broken?" Dawn asked. "The Space-Time Towers are broken?"
The playing mechanism is, Dexter corrected. The instruments themselves appear sound.
"But if we can't get the music off the Oracion disk, what do we do?" Alberto said, then frowned. "Wait… Alice, you know this tune, don't you?"
"I can play it on a grass flute," Alice replied. "I don't even know if you can play this manually!"
"I… think we might need to rely on you, Alice," Dawn told her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Can you at least try?"
Alice swallowed, then gave a tiny nod.
"I'll do my best," she said. "But… I'll need some practice, even if we can find a way to play it manually."
"That's what we should do first, then," Dawn decided. "Baron Alberto, can you help look? If there's a way to play it manually, there should be some kind of gap in the machine to let it open."
Tonio frowned at his screen, then tapped a few keys. In response the computers reran the last few minutes, and he squinted closer.
"Excuse me! Tonio!"
Tonio looked up and around, then blinked at the sight of the small black fox running down the stairs. "Are you – oh, the Zorua, of course."
Zorua slowed a little as she reached Tonio, frowned in concentration for a moment, then turned into a small human girl with purple hair and a squint. Her transformation had produced jeans and a shirt from nowhere, and she tilted her head. "This is kind of important."
"Um," Tonio said, a little confused.
Zorua shrugged, her movement showing she had a tail poking out of the back of her jeans. "Yeah, I was working on it as a prank – look, I was near the edge of town, and… the edge is getting closer."
"You may have to explain," Tonio confessed.
Zorua sighed. "The edge of town – as in, the edge, the bit where there's no more town because of the space stuff? It's kind of getting closer, and bits of the town are disappearing. What's going on?"
"Disappearing?" Tonio repeated, then turned back to his screen with a ferocious frown of concentration. "So that must mean… ah, there we are!"
"Where?" Zorua asked, looking closer.
"The bubble," Tonio explained. "It's a high potential barrier. But it's not stable, not something that can just sustain itself without an input of energy, and neither of the Pokémon who might be doing that are bothering to do so – they're too occupied fighting over… whatever they're fighting over. So it's losing energy, and as it does it's shrinking to reduce the energy of the bubble meniscus."
"So you mean it's using up the energy that made it?" Zorua asked. "And it'll shrink to nothing once it runs out?"
"Actually, it's using up all the energy inside the bubble," Tonio replied. "Mass is energy, just in a different form, and as it collapses it's converting some of the mass it's absorbing in town into energy instead. That's why it's not already collapsed..."
He rotated his model, looking at the variances, and circled a few points. "There, there, and… there. Those are the places where the effects will take longest to reach."
"That… doesn't sound good," Zorua admitted. "Do you mean it's going to start making places disintegrate that aren't right at the edge?"
"Exactly," Tonio confirmed.
Seeing her worried face, he blinked – adjusting to think about the implications, not just the scientific problem to solve – and paled slightly. "Which means we need everyone to get to those places as soon as possible – it'll give them longer for Alice and the others to sort out Oracion!"
"Already on it!" Zorua called back, transforming back into her base form as she headed for the stairs, then changed a second time and flew up them as a Swellow.
"Hey, Brock!" he heard her shout, a little distantly. "Tonio says people are going to start disintegrating unless we move them to that baron guy's house!"
Tonio looked back at his screen, only then noticing that the largest of the three circles was indeed Baron Alberto's house.
Well, it probably had enough room.
Mega Lucario grew a sphere of Aura to enormous size in his palms, supporting himself on blazing spikes of blue energy flaring from his feet. Then he crushed the ball with a convulsive motion, sending a torrent of conventionally-sized Aura Spheres flying in all directions, and they spread out to englobe the battle area before changing course and pouring in on both Dialga and Palkia.
The two Dragon-types nearly vanished behind balls of brilliant blue explosions, and when they emerged they had clearly stopped trying to fire Dragon Pulses at one another.
Mega Lucario considered this a mixed victory at best, as they were now focused entirely on him.
His palms flared as he knocked aside the first attack from Dialga – a Flash Cannon – then he took a Hydro Pump to the chest. It knocked him downwards, hard enough that he had to twist in mid-air to recover, and he was still out of position when Dialga launched an Aura Sphere down at him.
The attack detonated on Mega Lucario's shoulder, making him wince. He was able to focus his attention on avoiding the worst of the next attack from Palkia – his fists glowing bright blue as he Ice Punched some of the Draco Meteors away and used the recoil to avoid the rest – but by the time that was over Dialga had something new for him.
A Roar of Time whipped past, barely missing as Mega Lucario spent Aura like water to generate a miss, and Dialga was pounced upon by Mega Charizard for several seconds as Palkia's attacks came back to the forefront.
Dodge. Block. Spin. Roll. Punch. Mega Lucario lost himself in the rhythm of the fight, too busy blocking and countering to pay any attention to where he was, and got a rude reminder when he hit the ground with an unmusical crash of metal and skidded ten or twenty feet along the paving stones.
Rising to his feet, he had a moment to notice some trainers with a Torterra, an Infernape and an Empoleon to his left. Then Dialga flared bright blue, dodging around Mega Charizard and the rest of the distraction team as though they were standing still, and both dragons launched Hyper Beams at him at once.
Mega Lucario's paws flared as he anchored himself to the ground, using the wall-walking trick, and all the rest of his concentration went on using Mirror Coat with both paws.
There were people right here who were counting on him – a lot of them – so he held his ground, not dodging away or deflecting the beams somewhere they might hit people. The area around his paws creaked as the pressure nearly moved the entire area he'd anchored himself to… then, after an eternity, the beams dissipated.
Mega Lucario flung both paws forwards, launching the brilliant beams of energy back at the Pokémon who'd fired them. Then, silently, he fell forwards onto his face.
His Mega Evolution reverted with a quiet flash.
"Whoa..." one of the nearby Coordinators whispered, as Mega Absol distracted the two Legendary Dragons from any thought of further retaliation by flinging a ranged Dragon Claw attack at them both.
"Mega Steelix, I just had an idea!" Brock called.
Mega Steelix turned a little, so he could see his trainer. "I'm listening."
"Stone Edge, you and Geodude," Brock explained. "Make as many supercharged rocks as you can and send them up, then Geodude takes them over!"
"Got it!" the Steel-type agreed, and his crystals pulsed – brighter and brighter, every impact by the sandstorm seething around his midsection making them just a little brighter than they'd been before.
The intensity of the light got greater and greater, closer and closer to a peak, then suddenly Mega Steelix roared – and the ground erupted.
He kept his focus to two small areas of the gardens, both of them already damaged by the ongoing clash in the sky, and solid slabs of rock shot into the air as he used the strongest Stone Edge he could.
Hands waving, Geodude took control of each one as it rose into the sky. He formed them into two piles of roughly equal size, waited for a long moment as their numbers grew, then took a deep breath and shoved them all at once.
Shimmering rocks imbued with Mega Steelix' Infinity Energy came looming up towards Dialga and Palkia, spreading out so each pile roughly englobed one of the two warring dragons. Neither seemed to notice, Dialga more preoccupied with trying to catch Mega Latios off-guard and Palkia trying to swat Mawile as she flew wobbly rings around him.
Then Geodude closed both his fists.
The rocks shot together with a rumbling crash, forming solid spheres of stone around Dialga and Palkia a little further out than their shields. Any view of the Pokémon was blocked completely, and Brock nodded.
"Great work, Geodude," he said, then cupped his hands. "Guys! Come down for a breather!"
Mega Absol landed first, flanks heaving, and looked pleadingly at Buizel. He obliged, mixing up Scald and Water Gun in his mouth to produce a warm shower, and hosed down her sweat-drenched fur.
Brock reached into the bag he'd gotten ready, and passed her a Berry Juice. The next two went to Mega Latios and Pikachu, then Mega Charizard, and Togekiss and Mawile arrived last.
"How is everyone doing?" Ash asked.
"Tired," Mega Latios replied, taking a swig of the Berry Juice Brock had handed him. "It's rough we lost Mega Sceptile and Mega Lucario, and Staraptor as well, but so far I think our main problem is just getting tired. I thought we'd have to be careful not to do too much damage to Palkia, especially, but it's so hard to just get through those shields of theirs to-"
The sphere overhead containing Palkia rang like a bell, and everyone jumped.
"What was that?" Brock asked.
Ash looked up, eyes closed, and then Dialga's sphere tolled and jumped and he nodded. "Thought so – they're using attacks, but the attacks just blow up as soon as they hit the rocks. So they're sort of getting a glancing hit from their own attacks right in the face."
He looked over at Sceptile, Staraptor and Lucario – the latter having been brought in by Flygon only a moment ago.
"Are they okay?" he asked. "Meganium – is there any chance we can get Lucario or Sceptile back up?"
"If the main problem was being hurt, maybe," Meganium replied. "I've healed their injuries, but they're exhausted as well – I don't think there's really a way to recharge anyone as much as they need without a move like Healing Wish, and I don't have it."
"Okay," Ash said, nodding understandingly. "Good work anyway, Meganium – I'm glad they're healed, at least."
He looked up. "What's taking them so long with Oracion?"
"Didn't Dawn say something about it being broken?" Brock reminded him.
"Um… you know those rock things?" Tyrantrum asked. "Should they be doing that?"
Everyone looked up.
The sphere around Dialga was starting to crumble apart. The glow around it had gone from the iridescent blue of Mega Steelix' crystals to a frozen paleness, and flakes of crystal were cascading down the sides.
"What's happening?" Brock asked.
"It's kaolinizing," Geodude replied, trying to do something with his hands to stop the disintegration. "Really fast!"
"But – oh, right," Brock winced. "Dialga. He must be doing this."
"What's kao...linizing?" Ash asked.
"It's how some rocks chemically fall apart over time," Brock summarized. "Dialga's doing something to time to make the rocks do it much faster."
Palkia's sphere began to warp, visibly bending under the forces it was trying to endure.
"Well, here we go again," Pikachu sighed. "Thanks for the drink, Brock."
Almost at the same instant, both rock spheres shattered.
Jumping into the air with a burst of flame, Mawile was the first up. She wobbled her flying wing just a little, making sure she could steer it as well as she hoped, then flew towards Palkia.
The flying Steel-type shifted her weight, then hoisted herself up off her wing a little to give her horns more room. They glowed as she imbued them with Fairy type energy, and she smacked a Play Rough attack into Palkia's shield – causing it to flicker a little, but hold.
Mawile slipped back into her flying position, and powered away in a kind of half-controlled corkscrew. She reasoned that her attack might have distracted Palkia, so if she could try and keep Palkia distracted it would be really helpful for everyone else – who was much more tired than she was.
Then there was a peculiar blur in the air around her, a brief flash of seething pink light, and suddenly there wasn't a wing any more. Mawile had been on the downwards arc of her spiral, and the sudden loss of the wing meant she couldn't pull up as she'd been planning – so instead she pushed herself into a somersault, turning around to face back upwards, and Flamethrowered all over again.
The burst succeeded in braking her fall, a little, and she crashed to the ground with a loud, grinding clang.
Flygon's head poked out of the rock-and-ice fortifications the Ground-type ground team had produced, which had a little gravel lining around the entrance to the 'letterbox' door so he didn't have to touch the ice. "Mawile! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" Mawile replied, shaking her head a little to clear the dizziness, then inspected her hand.
There was a little ball of extremely dense-feeling brown material, which still bore the faint patterns of the wood that it had been seconds before.
"But I think Palkia squashed my wing," she added, a little indignantly. "That's not very good manners!"
"I'm sure you can complain to him later," Flygon said, relaxing a little. "But… wait, squashed? You mean you got hit by Spacial Rend?"
The Dragon-type shook his head. "Even if he knew you were immune, that's still kind of worrying."
Mawile nodded a little. "Well… I guess I can't get in the fight any more now, you're needed to help with any Pokémon who get injured."
She brightened. "Oh, right! That means I can talk to Tyrantrum to help see if he has any problems from evolving. I know Tyranitar did, so I'd better make sure it's not a Rock-types-with-Tyran-in-their-name thing."
Flygon chuckled, then withdrew his head from the door to let Mawile through.
Tonio looked from one screen to the other, overlaying the pattern he was seeing now on the latest previous version of the pattern – then scanning back to find the one before.
"That's not good," he said to himself, confirming what he was seeing. A change in the space-time disturbances, which were getting stronger and closer together at the same time – repeating a pattern which was shorter with each repetition, heading in the direction of a final collapse as the warped space-time of the bubble gave way.
It looked like Alamos was in worse trouble than he'd expected. The zero points he'd identified were stable, but everywhere else things were starting to subtly distort compared to the surroundings – some physical objects just disintegrating entirely, and others being warped as the simple effect of gravity suddenly became too much for them to cope with.
The space around the Towers was still fine, for now, which was odd – especially since it actually looked like two superimposed areas of stability, right near the strongest sources of the disruption itself.
Shaking his head, Tonio tapped out a phone number.
"Do you have any idea how much longer it is before your solution?" he asked.
We are working on it, Dexter's flat electronic voice replied. My apologies, Tonio, we have no better information.
"It looks like that kind of Mega Charizard is much better at close-in fighting," Ash reported, staring towards the ceiling. "He seems to be getting into Palkia's shield more easily when he uses things like Dragon Claw – look out!"
Brock watched as Ash sighed in relief. "What happened?"
"Mega Absol nearly took a hit," he explained. "She seems fine, though."
"It's so strange when you watch something through a wall..." Brock said. "Don't you guys think so?"
"Definitely," Buizel agreed.
"It's something I'm sort of used to," Meganium volunteered. "It's been how Ash is for almost half his time as my trainer and considerably more than half my time interacting with him."
Buizel nodded, considering.
"Ash – if you need me, I'm here," Infernape suggested. "I don't know how much good I'd do, but if I use Blaze I think I could be some help."
He frowned. "The problem, admittedly, is getting up there safely."
"That's not the problem," Ash replied. "I'm sorry I didn't explain this, Infernape, but someone like you is needed down here in case something really bad happens – you've got enough power to block attacks for a bit, and there's a lot of Pokémon down here who might need you to keep them safe if things go wrong. Your job is just as important as Flygon and Meganium."
"I understand," Infernape agreed. "I want to help, but… well."
"I know," Ash agreed, putting his hand on the Fire-type's shoulder. "And if this were a battle on the ground, or if there were more flying Pokémon around, you'd be right in there helping out-"
He stopped speaking suddenly, and Infernape frowned. "Ash?"
Ash bolted for the stairs.
To the left! Mega Latios warned, and Pikachu's cheeks flared before he turned to his left and discharged a powerful bolt of electricity at Palkia.
The attack hammered into Palkia's shields, crawling over them and making them ripple and shimmer, and the Dragon-type rolled right away from the return attack as Palkia launched Draco Meteors at them. Pikachu kept up his electrical fusillade, hitting the dragon-type projectiles in sequence, then he spread a Counter Shield around them both and Mega Latios did likewise.
A Dragon Pulse attack from Dialga scored a glancing hit, knocking them downwards, but the three-layered defences of Thunder, Dragonbreath and Light Screen prevented too much harm reaching them.
"How much longer can you keep it up?" Pikachu asked.
Don't know, but a while, Mega Latios replied. So long as-
He stopped, and Pikachu spotted the problem at the same time. Palkia had just done something with a burst of controlled gravity, sending Mega Charizard and Mega Absol flying out of position, and was getting a Dragon Pulse ready. But, at the same time, Dialga's diamond was shimmering through a spectrum of colours as he charged a Flash Cannon.
Togekiss was flying in to block the Dragon Pulse, which was aimed directly at the control pod of the Space-Time Towers – and at Dawn – but she hadn't seen the Flash Cannon.
Mega Latios and Pikachu didn't even need to discuss it. They blurred forwards, Mega Latios shoving Togekiss aside before the Flash Cannon caught her, and both Pokémon pushed their abilities as far as they would go at the same time.
The Dragon Pulse hit first, crashing into Mega Latios' counter shield and eroding it away over the space of a couple of seconds, then it reached his Light Screen just as the Flash Cannon hit as well. The shield shone, augmented by the swirling ball of Pikachu's charging Volt Crash as he swept around no fewer than eight crisscrossing rings and built up a powerful, twisted electromagnetic knot ready to discharge.
Palkia's Dragon Pulse ended, and so did Dialga's Flash Cannon, but the two Pokémon just prepared something even more powerful – and through the shimmering shield and the dancing rings of Volt Crash, the friends could see both Dialga and Palkia preparing their signature moves.
Mega Absol and Mega Charizard were recovering, coming back, but they would take too long. So Mega Latios glanced back at Pikachu, nodded, then prepared his own special move.
Dialga fired. Palkia fired. Both Ash's Pokémon fired.
Volt Crash, Roar of Time, Spacial Rend and Luster Purge all collided at once, seethed for a moment, then produced an oddly silent burst of warped light and space and power. It had no shockwave, no concussion, just a brilliant white flash that sent a suddenly-devolved Latios slamming back into the wall of the control booth hard enough to collapse the side.
As Mega Charizard and Mega Absol smashed into the Legendaries from behind, Sacred Sword and Dragon Tail flaring, their teammates rolled to a stop in a cloud of brick dust.
Why do I...
Dawn coughed out dust, hand going to her mouth in learned reflex, then stared for a moment at the two unconscious Pokémon.
Leaving the machine behind, she ran over – along with Buneary – and stopped just before reaching Latios, suddenly unsure whether by trying to help she would do something wrong.
Through the newly created hole, Dawn could see Dialga trying to slap down the Mega Absol battling him – darting around, wings alight, occasionally getting a boost from Togekiss to let her fly for longer – and Palkia, who was having trouble pinning down Mega Charizard long enough to do anything to him.
"You'd better be okay, you… you!" Buneary said urgently. "Or I'll… I don't know what I'll do, but you won't like it!"
There was a clatter of footsteps, and Chansey said something. Startled, Dawn looked down again, and saw that Brock's Pokémon was looking up from Latios to speak to Ash.
She turned to look at Pikachu, and Dawn gave Ash a confused look.
"When did you get here?" she asked.
"Just now?" Ash replied. "Chansey says Latios is okay."
Chansey spoke up again, and some of the tension left Ash's shoulders.
"Pikachu okay as well?" Dawn said, getting a nod, then frowned. "Wait, hold on, how did Chansey get here?"
"I carried her," Ash explained. "I was in kind of a hurry..."
He looked over at the machine. "Any luck?"
"Not really," Dawn replied. "I don't think the machine has anything to cope with being played manually – this might be more than the designer expected."
"That this is happening at all is more than I expected, and this is my town!" Alberto burst out. "How are you all being so calm about this?"
"We're used to it," Dawn said simply. "Ash is a lot more used to it than me, though."
Alert, Dexter called. I may have a breakthrough.
"You do?" Alice asked. "What is it?"
Dexter manifested his body, all curves and bezels, and floated over to Ash. I will need you to place my Pokédex main body inside the machine, where I direct, he stated. Alice, you can play Oracion – correct?
"Well, yes," Alice nodded, visibly uncertain. "But how? Did you find some kind of keyboard?"
I found a place I can interact with the mechanism, Dexter replied. I can use my projector to create a keyboard, and you can play it.
"I – right," Alice said, thinking that over for a long moment. "I do know the tune, but it might take me a few tries to get used to it."
Dexter generated the keyboard from his projector, replacing his Porygon2 form, and as he did Ash slid the Pokédex into the indicated part of the machine.
Pachirisu, please provide power, Dexter requested.
The Electric-type took a deep breath, then fired off a burst of electricity. The machine lit up, and Alice began a few warmup exercises – quietly at first.
Every few notes she winced, starting over again.
"Sorry," she said, hitting another wrong note. "I know we don't have much time-"
"Don't get too worried," Dawn advised. "Stay calm. Don't think about what's going on."
Alice nodded, and began her exercises again – trying to get used to the keyboard as fast as possible.
Mega Charizard blasted out a shotgun-salvo of Draco Meteors, hammering into Dialga's shield, then rolled around in a tight circle and dipped under the return attack.
"Hey!" Ash called, just loud enough for Mega Charizard to hear over the fury of the battle. "You can go Blast Burn!"
"Finally!" Mega Charizard roared, understanding why they'd waited that long but still annoyed about it, and dove lower again. Togekiss blocked a Dragon Pulse aimed to hammer him into the ground, and the Fire-type levelled out just above the rooftops of Alamos before climbing again with the blue fires of his breath already intensifying.
He swept closer, wanting to place his shot right where he needed it, then exhaled a cone of shimmering blue gas. It spread towards Dialga in the space of a fraction of a second, bulged in the middle and oddly hollow right where it intersected Dialga's shield – such that a line from Charizard up the middle of the cone would pass just over Dialga's shoulder.
It would be a bad idea to actually defeat Dialga. The goal here was to keep him as distracted as possible.
Then the Blast Burn detonated. The shock front raced up towards the bulge, which it consumed in an eyeblink – but left the containing Aura behind for a moment longer, shaping and directing the whole energy of the explosion in a mighty jet which hammered into Dialga's faceted diamond shield.
And broke through.
Most of the attack splashed off, deflected away by the angle of the facet itself, but at least some sprayed through into the protected zone of Dialga's shield and made the Dragon-type roar in surprise and rage.
A moment later, Mega Charizard's wings abruptly stalled and he went falling diagonally sideways – an oddly weightless feeling, at least until he rammed directly into Togekiss.
The impact took them out of Palkia's directed gravity field, but both Togekiss and Mega Charizard hit the gardens hard. The Fairy-type hit the pond, and Mega Charizard hit the muddy ground beside it – not hard enough to knock him out, but enough to leave the tough Dragon-type seeing stars.
Do as I always have.
Ash had just enough time to see that Mega Charizard was still in his Mega state – still conscious – before Mega Absol shouted a warning.
With only one Pokémon still out there to distract the Creation Dragons, they now had an unprecedented amount of attention to divert to dealing with their other problems. And right now, with Ash's call for Blast Burn combined with where Latios and Pikachu had gone, the control booth was the place with the greatest apparent threat to both dragons not consisting of one another.
Ash drew his sword, charging it with as much Aura as he could muster as he did so, and managed to interpose it in the way of a Dragon Pulse fired by the Temporal Pokémon himself. There was a violent explosion of violet light, and when it faded Ash's sword was humming and the Dragon attack was gone.
Mega Absol leapt across from Palkia to Dialga, preventing him from firing a second blast, but now it was Palkia's turn and all Ash could do was grit his teeth and block this one as well.
Darting back and forth like a black-and-white missile, Mega Absol kept up the pressure on both Legendary Pokémon – keeping them from ignoring her long enough to both attack Ash at the same time – as Ash dropped his staff to hold his sword with both hands and put all his focus and concentration into catching every last attack.
Dragon Pulse. Flash Cannon. Aura Sphere. Power Gem.
Ash couldn't say how many attacks came, or how he managed to keep going. But he did, sweeping his golden Secret Sword across to keep his friends safe, and it seemed to ask less of him every time.
Until, finally, as he was about to finally give way, Mega Absol dove clear and a bubble of darkness engulfed Dialga, Palkia and Darkrai all at once.
Ash's sword slipped from nerveless fingers and landed on the floor with a clatter – still glowing, now with a colourless white light from hilt to tip.
I think, therefore I am.
"That – was that Darkrai?" Baron Alberto asked, tearing his eyes away from Ash. "I thought Darkrai got pinned in place?"
"The time dilation must have worn off," Dawn suggested. "The fight's been going on a long time, probably longer than Dialga was expecting…"
Mega Absol landed on the edge of the broken wall with a soft thump, said something incoherent, and fell asleep. Her Mega state reverted with a flash, and the light of Ash's staff dimmed a little – now only sustaining a single Mega-Evolved Pokémon.
"But what did Darkrai do?" Alice said, watching the black ball.
"Darkrai definitely moved forwards, he's inside that ball," Dawn told her. "And now he's trapped Dialga and Palkia inside… something."
The darkness rippled, briefly matching the sky outside.
"But he might not last long," she added. "How can we-"
She stopped. "Hold on a moment. Dexter, you can interpret sound, right? And all Alice is doing is pressing keys for you to trigger the right note from the machine?"
That is correct, Dexter agreed.
"Then – Alice can play her leaf whistle, and you can interpret that!" Dawn explained.
Alice stared at her, then reached for her pocket.
"I… don't think I have a leaf," she said, after a moment trying to find one. "Does anyone have a Grass type with them?"
Dexter's digital keyboard vanished with a flare of light. In place of it, carefully rendered, was a single leaf – pink and blue, rather than green, but moving just like a normal leaf as Alice hesitantly took it.
She folded it over, blew a few notes to check it was making the right sounds, then began to play.
"It looks like she's all right," Meganium reported, looking up from Togekiss. "What hit her?"
"Me," Mega Charizard admitted.
He looked up at the sphere of blackness that had replaced the legendary battle. "I don't know if I can do that again, though, not without anyone to cover me."
Infernape stepped forward. "If you will have me, I'll do my best."
"I'll be grateful," Mega Charizard replied. "Buizel, Flygon… you guys as well?"
"I'm coming too!" Mawile demanded. "If you're all going up there then you need my help!"
"I just hope-" Brock began, and then the music started.
The wavering notes rose into the air of the control room, ascending to a high, sweet note, then dropping back down for a sustained C note. Then the scales repeated, higher this time, and after the second sustained note Alice folded in lower bass tones as well.
With every vibrating tone, the tower responded. Bells tolled, strings hummed, and an ethereal glow spread over every wall and surface of the tower.
Oracion's power swelled, and as it did Darkrai's sphere of energy crumbled into nothing. The two Dragon-type Legendaries within made ready to resume their battle, but the notes of Oracion washed over them as well and their attacks collapsed unfired.
The music swelled, getting stronger and more resonant, taking on a life of its own far greater than the leaf whistle or even the towers could have produced. Whole structures, hidden until now within the towers, spread wide – then vines and flowers of light grew out from them, and the towers sent great streamers of energy rising into the air like radiant wings.
Where they touched, Pokémon healed and awoke. Everyone down below injured by the battle was restored, as good as new, and the space-time of the town itself began to heal over – the immense energy controlled by the Towers repaying the entire energy debt of the castaway fragment of reality.
The place where the energy flowed most of all was to Dialga and Palkia. Fractures in their gems – Dialga's diamond and Palkia's pearls – healed over flawlessly, revitalizing both Pokémon, and their shields dropped silently as the two Pokémon were finally calmed from their rage.
It seemed as though the whole town was lit with golden fireflies as the power of Oracion lay across it. Then, slowly, it began to fade away – leaving only healed bodies, soothed minds, and wondrous memories.
On the floor of the control booth, Ash's sword finally dimmed from the glow it had possessed.
It was different now. Not so much in the blade, which looked the same as before, but in the hilt – with a large stone set into the point where the quillon met the blade – and in that it had gained a long blue tassel, which was wrapped around an altogether more ornate sheath than the one Ash had had on his belt a moment before.
Looking up from where Pikachu was assuring both him and Buneary that he was okay, Ash caught sight of it and frowned in confusion. "Huh..."
The stone blinked.
Then, with the suddenness of an eyeblink, the tortured dark sky outside Alamos was replaced with the calm clear blue of a fine afternoon.
"I can feel Latias again!" Latios announced, his mental tone distracted as he tried to hold two conversations at once. "No – we're fine – wait, what do you mean-"
"We did it!" Mawile cheered. "Well… we helped!"
"You're right, Mawile," Brock agreed. "Alamos is safe. We're safe."
He breathed a sigh of relief. "That was a tough one. I don't think things have gone that far off plan in a while, at least not for something we knew about in advance."
Overhead, watched carefully by Darkrai, both Dialga and Palkia came in to land on the lawn outside the Towers.
Then there was a brilliant purple flash of light, and everyone arrived.
Mewtwo was in the middle, arms outstretched, but they could see Keldeo, both Suicune, both Entei, both Raikou, Charla as a Mega Charizard with Liza on her back, the rest of Brock's team, Lugia and Ho-Oh, Pidgeot, Torterra, every single other Pokémon Ash had on his team, Shaymin, Misty and her team, May and her team, Max and his team – complete with Deoxys-Orange, hovering with the other three Deoxys working for Mewtwo – and the other three members of the Swords of Justice.
Also a floating Mudsdale, which was probably Mew.
"Wait!" Brock hollered, waving his arms. "It's okay! Everything's under control! You don't need to fight!"
"Okay, someone is clearly planning this out," Ho-Oh muttered. "Has our trainer and friend nearly killed himself again?"
"If he did, I didn't see it!" Brock called back.
"It looks like everyone's arrived," Dawn said, looking out the gap. "Wow, that's a lot of Pokémon to see all at once… it's nice to see everyone's here to help us."
She glanced down, catching sight of Ash's sword out of the corner of her eye, and stared. "Did… did that just move?"
Ash bent down, and picked up the sword in both hands – one near the end of the fuller, just shy of the tip, and the other on the hilt. "That… doesn't look normal..."
The sword shifted a bit again, then a metallic voice spoke up – a definite female timbre to it. "I… what? What happened?"
"We don't really know either," Ash admitted. "Wait… you're a Honedge!"
"That's what they're called!" Dawn remembered. "But… they're Ghost type Pokémon, right? That's your sword."
"I know, but Honedge are swords as well," Ash replied. "Maybe Honedge was just sleeping in the armoury at the Togepi Kingdom, and only woke up now?"
"Honedge," the sword repeated. "I must be. But… I didn't think I was..."
Ash sat down. "Why not?"
"He makes a good point," Pikachu agreed. "You're pretty clearly a living sword."
"But I remember being-" she began, then stopped. "It's so hard to remember. I was… I remember wearing armour and carrying a sword, not being one. I remember fighting, and then… suddenly hurting, and feeling tired..."
She twitched from side to side. "It's all very vague, and very old. It feels like it was a long time ago."
"You mean you were human?" Ash asked.
He turned. "Dexter? Can you come over here?"
Dexter remanifested his core body and flew over, then stopped at the sight of Ash holding a Honedge across his lap. Ash?
"Yeah, we know, she's a Honedge," Ash agreed. "We're trying to work out where she came from."
Not that, Dexter replied. Honedge drain life force from anyone who touches them, especially by the hilt.
"I don't especially want to do that, though," the Honedge protested. "Besides, I… don't feel like I need it, anyway. I feel like I have enough energy, but I don't know how I know that."
"Oh, that's the thing I wanted to ask," Ash remembered. "Dexter, she says she used to be human, but she can't remember much about it. Can you help?"
In that case, the first thing to do would be to ask for a name, Dexter suggested, apparently having decided that the spontaneous living sword was a matter for the normal types of discussion. It is certainly recorded that at least some ghosts – both Ghost Types and others – are verifiably humans or Pokémon who passed away, but most Ghost types are born as Ghosts and most humans or Pokémon who die do not come back as ghosts.
"That's a really long winded way to say 'yeah, probably'," Pikachu pointed out.
"A name..." Honedge repeated, the tone of her voice like a blade being whetted. "I… yes, I had a name. What was it..."
"You were a knight, right?" Ash checked. "Or… I said you were female, is that right? So you'd be a dame."
"Dame," Honedge said, considering. "Dame… Burns. Yes, I remember."
A note of triumph entered her voice. "I am Dame Burns, and I was a belted knight of the Togepi Kingdom. Yes, I remember that now."
Searching, Dexter informed them. Unfortunately the records of the Togepi Kingdom are quite incomplete. There may be little more to go on than… aha.
His projector flickered, and a scanned image of an old ledger appeared.
This is the only record I found of you, he stated. Unfortunately you are from a time period that was many hundreds of years ago, which is particularly incomplete.
Ash held her up so she could see better, and her gemstone eye read the sparse lines – recounting the casualties from a long-passed battle – then closed once in acknowledgement.
"Kari," she said. "My first name is Kari."
"I guess that means there's still a few questions," Ash frowned, as Dawn got a quick précis of the information she'd missed from Buneary. "Like… how this happened."
Probably some combination of Aura, Space-Time confusion, contact with some of the most powerful Pokémon attacks, and the use of the healing song Oracion, Dexter suggested. I don't think anything else has ever been treated like that.
"That does sound possible," Dawn agreed. "Or, at least, I don't really know how we could test it."
"Another one is if I need to get a new sword," Ash added. "I don't want to-"
"Excuse me?" Kari interrupted. "I know I am a knight no longer, my good sir, but I can still serve one!"
"Does that mean you'd be one of Ash's Pokémon?" Dawn asked. "Or… how would that work?"
"Maybe it would be a good idea for her to get an idea of the situation before making a decision," Ambipom suggested.
Inquiry? Deoxys-Green stated.
Yes, it is quite pleasant not to be the one doing most of the clean up, Mewtwo agreed, watching as Dialga swept an ever-widening circle through the parkland at the middle of Alamos.
When the Dragon of Time encountered damaged stonework, battered pavements, or wrecked trees, he paused for a moment. His multifaceted diamond gem blazed, and he exerted a transient temporal reversal field upon the injured area to undo the damage entirely – restoring it to the status it was at before anything happened to it.
Palkia watched as Dialga turned a twisted mass of splintered wood into a park bench and a fold-up model plane wing, then turned his gaze elsewhere.
The Spatial Pokémon waved his clawed hand a bit vaguely, pearls lighting up, and a fallen pot plant floated into the air before slowly turning right-side-up and landing back where it had been.
Distinction, Deoxys-Purple stated sagely.
He is doing his best, Mewtwo pointed out. There are not many problems here that can be solved by manipulating space.
As Palkia crossed his arms and looked away, seeming offended, Mewtwo noticed Flygon was conveying Brock up towards the collection of Legendary Pokémon.
"Hello!" Brock called, waving. "Dialga, Palkia?"
Dialga paused his restoration of a tree – literally leaving it in a half-splintered state – and turned in the air to face Brock. Palkia looked down as well, seeming interested in what the human had to say.
"I thought you should know," he explained. "There's a group after you called Team Galactic. We're not sure how far along their plans are, but they plan to create two Red Chains and control you both so they can create a new universe."
Dialga and Palkia exchanged slightly baffled looks.
I advise you to take the words of this trainer seriously, Mewtwo stated. He knows more than you might guess, as he has undertaken a time-inconstant path.
"I know," Dialga replied, voice full of power. "I smell it on him – on many of those here."
"But there is something else as well," Palkia added. "Somewhere near here, near the nexus we sought to heal from. Another spatial disturbance… but not an important one."
He turned. "I will remember your warning."
"I, too," Dialga agreed.
"If you're from the Togepi Kingdom… then maybe it would be a good idea to go back there," Ash suggested. "To look around, at least, and see what it's like now."
"If it's been long enough that the battles I was in have almost been forgotten… maybe?" Kari replied, sounding hesitant.
"Well, if you want to, Mewtwo's right outside," Ash pointed out. "So we should be able to ask him for a ride there."
He exhaled. "After today, I think I'd quite like a few days off before we head to Hearthome..."
"I wonder if Mewtwo can take a few days off work," Pikachu suggested. "He does have a lot to do these days. Maybe you – and as many of us as want to come – could take a whirlwind tour of the Home Islands? Drop in on everyone?"
"If it would be easy, then – yes," Kari decided. "I… think I'd like that."
"Sounds good," Ash said.
He picked her up, then frowned. "Uh… how do we do this? Should I… capture you in a Pokéball, or…?"
"You'll need to work that out with Tyrantrum as well," Chansey pointed out.
"I'll come with you without the Pokéball for now," Kari requested, floating out of Ash's hands and taking up position next to him – her sheath in place. "I still need to think about this… being a Pokémon… thing."
She blinked. "Wait, I just noticed I can understand Pokémon now. That's… odd."
"How much do you remember of what happened on the journey?" Ash asked. "Since I got… um, you?"
"It's a bit vague," Kari stated. "Like… a lot of memories are there, but I'm having trouble working out what shape they are."
"Maybe going back to the Togepi Kingdom would help, then," Pikachu suggested.
As Ash stood, Baron Alberto cleared his throat.
"Sir Ketchum?" he said, a little uncertainly. "I wanted to let you know – that is – I was thinking, and I decided – for your service in saving Alamos, I wanted to give you the Charizardite your Charizard has used so well today."
"You do?" Ash checked, then smiled and extended his hand. "Thank you. We'll make good use of it."
"I'm sure you will," Baron Alberto smiled.
Meowth turned off the TV.
For a long moment, he and the other Rockets sat in silence.
"I said there was something we were missing today!" James reminded them.
"Yeah, an' you thought it was a two-for-one deal at a restaurant," Meowth countered.
"Still, that was a good restaurant," Jessie mused. "It was nice to give Audino a treat."
"Hey, if Moltres had been there, they would'a had twenty-seven Legendary Pokémon in one place!" Meowth said. "Tink that would have been a record?"
"I think it already was with twenty six," Jessie said.
"But if it were twenty seven, we'd have been part of it!" James realized.
"Oh, yeah, and we'd have been able to help out and stuff too," Meowth agreed, waving it off. "Maybe we oughtta keep a closer look on those guys."
"That does sound like a good idea," James nodded. "We can always do the things the Boss wants us to do on the side."
They considered that for a moment.
"Or maybe we'll keep the Boss happy, and do the checking on Ash on the side," Jessie suggested. "We do have a teleporter, even if he's the laziest Pokémon in the world."
"Nah, he ain't dat," Meowth said. "There was an award thing a few years back, a Snorlax won it. Of course, he only won it 'cause he was the only finalist whose trainer dragged him up there..."
Alice looked up, seeing Darkrai and Dialga hovering over the playing system.
Dialga's power played over the machinery, restoring it to full functionality, and Darkrai landed in front of Alice before offering her an elegant bow.
When I first saw you, I mistook you for your grandmother, the Dark-type said. When I saved you from falling, you mistook me for Tonio. But I feel that neither mistake is one which insults anyone – I am honoured to be compared to Tonio, your friend.
"I – I see," Alice said, as Darkrai rose back to his full height. "But… how are you talking to me? I thought you could only do that if someone was asleep.
You are asleep, Darkrai told her, reaching out his hand and giving her a small green object. You just need to wake up-
-Alice jolted awake, and looked around.
Darkrai was nowhere to be seen, and nor was Dialga. But the Space-Time Tower mechanism was sparkling new, and a folded-over laurel leaf whistle rested on her palm.
"Alice?" Alberto called. "Ash and his friends say they're leaving fairly soon!"
"All right!" Alice replied, putting the whistle carefully in her pocket.
As she left the room, there was a click from the mechanism. A soft tune began to play, lending a spring to her step as she descended towards the ground floor.
"I think I need to challenge Ash to a battle some time soon," Gary said.
"Why's that?" Molly asked, looking up from where her Pokémon were playing catch. "Is something wrong?"
"Oh, just that he seems to have forgotten I exist again," Gary replied, holding up Dee's screen. "I always find out about this stuff from the news."
"A battle," Umbreon mused, as Molly took Dee to have a closer look. "I could get behind that."
She looked aside at Anorith. "What do you think?"
"I think it's amazing this stuff didn't exist back before I got turned into a fossil," Anorith replied, plucking up some grass. "I've seen it hundreds of times, but it's always pretty amazing."
He looked up. "But about a battle with Ash? Not really interested, sorry."
Umbreon shook her head. "Why not?"
"Wow..." Serena said.
She pointed at the screen. "Look at that, Blitzle! Can you imagine what it must be like to see that many Legendary Pokémon in one place?"
Blitzle moved a little closer, watching as Mewtwo rose into the air, and as red beams returned two or three Pokémon in the group. Then he took a startled step back as the whole collection of Pokémon vanished at once.
"It's a pity there's not more," Serena said, calming him with a stroke along his mane. "And… oh, looks like they're showing stuff they got before."
She smiled faintly, watching everyone running around in surprise at all the powerful Pokémon, then stopped. Stared.
Grabbing the remote, Serena paused the news.
"Serena, dear, what is it?" Grace asked.
Serena leaned forwards, counting. "Togekiss… Mamoswine… Ambipom…"
She passed the remote over to her mother. "Sorry, Mom… I've got an email to write."
So that's where I've been for the past few weeks.
It's been interesting doing this particular one, not least because a few people appear to have assumed that – as I didn't update for a few weeks – I was dead.
I'll take it as a vote of confidence on my ability to produce the story at speed!
Apart from that – well, there are a few changes here, both to the plot as a whole and to the team in particular.
I'd also like to voice my thanks to everyone who's helped me produce this story, especially by providing proofreading or inspiration.