"We… have several problems," Ash summarized, and fell silent.
The gathered humans and Pokémon – all of Ash's companions who he'd reminded, including Iris, along with Professor Oak, his mother, Cynthia, and every Pokémon who would be able to remember the events of the conversation – absorbed everything they'd heard. Nobody had had the whole picture, though the people at the Lake Valor battle had come closest, but now they were all up to speed.
Max raised his hand first. "This might be a stupid question, but… why doesn't Mewtwo just go over and beat them up?"
"You'd have to tell me where to go," Mewtwo replied, speaking out loud for the benefit of Dark-types like Tyranitar. "I don't know where to find Team Galactic."
"I know where their base was, last time," Cynthia volunteered. "But I went there weeks ago – before you discovered this odd memory effect. But if I'm immune – and I think I am, because otherwise I wouldn't remember what we're talking about – then I would have seen it, if it was there."
She shook her head. "And I doubt even Mewtwo could dig up the entirety of Sinnoh."
"Give me a few months doing nothing but that, and I might be able to," Mewtwo replied. "Might."
"Probably not a good idea," Brock winced. "I hate to think what you could do by accident – I'm pretty sure there are volcanoes up there."
Cynthia nodded. "I'll defer to you on that."
"What about Ash and his friends?" Delia asked. "How do we know they're going to be safe?"
"We know what we might be dealing with now," Ash said. "Or, at least, we have an idea – and they knew what they were dealing with already."
Lucario looked up. "Mewtwo… how long can you be away from your job?"
"I can telecommute," Mewtwo replied. "It'll slow things down a bit, but they don't need me for launching stacks any more, so I can handle the business end of things from a laptop. I assume you think I should travel with Ash?"
"That's it exactly," Lucario confirmed. "You're the strongest Pokémon we have access to, by quite a long way."
"That would help," Delia smiled.
I have another suggestion, Damos contributed. I have accessed the time stamps for the incident earlier, and I have verified that Absol reacted at least eight seconds before the bomb was used. She can pick up catastrophes relating to Galactic – she just can't interpret it.
"Right, then she'll be on our team as well," Ash decided.
Iris spoke up for the first time, sounding worried. "Ash… I know you're not stupid, but this sounds kind of like a bad idea. You're going to keep going around Sinnoh?"
"I have to," Ash replied. "We're the only people who even know Team Galactic exists, and we need to be ready to stop them whenever they complete their plans… and do what we can to slow them down. Cynthia said they've already got both Dialga and Palkia's orbs."
"Ash is correct," Cynthia confirmed. "I went to check on the Lustrous Orb in Celestic Town, and they had no idea where it was and seemed very incurious about that fact. I suspect Galactic just walked right in and took it."
"This is giving me a headache..." Misty groaned. "They can just walk around without being noticed… we can't tell anyone else… even wishes don't work! Why is that?"
"I think it's because of how my wishes work," Jirachi suggested. "I was thinking about it, and I realized that when I make wishes or grant wishes it's not really me which decides what happens, at least not all the time. And I think that interpreting… thing… is what their thing is working on. I think?"
"I'm with you on the headache front," May told Misty. "Can we do anything to slow them down?"
"Actually, I do have a plan," Cynthia replied. "Two of them, actually, though the second one's really a fall back."
She turned her attention to Manaphy. "Do you know how Samiya can be hidden?"
"Yep!" Manaphy replied. "It's pretty complicated, though… why?"
"I want to use it to hide the Spear Pillar entrance," Cynthia told him. "I'm pretty sure it took them months to find it last time, so they don't know where it is, and if we can hide it discreetly enough then that should slow them down at least."
"Ooh..." Manaphy said, thinking hard. "I… think there's a spare cloaking module. How did they find it?"
"Some kind of odd scanner," Cynthia replied. "I don't know the details."
Manaphy considered that. "Hmmm… yep! That should work! There's an option which means it's undetectable from a distance except when a lunar eclipse shines on it, will that do?"
"Perfectly," Cynthia told him, with a smile. "The other part of the plan was to put an emergency system to warn us if they did find it."
"Ooh, that could be a problem," Manaphy said. "I don't think the warning would get out if the cloak was on..."
He shook his head. "I guess we can work something out, though?"
"That would be great, thank you," Cynthia nodded.
"This really sucks," Gary volunteered. "The only Pokémon I have who can see these idiots is Dee, and even with the best will in the world she's not a main combatant."
Ash began counting under his breath. "I… think you might be able to borrow one of the Pokémon here who has been Reminded, unless you want to just not get involved and stay under the radar. They'll just assume you can't see them, right?"
"Probably," Gary said. "That could actually be useful, though… ugh, it's still going to suck."
"At this point, it seems like there are four places we can say are fairly safe," Mewtwo said. "Wherever Ash and his group are. Wherever Max and May are. Here in Pallet Town. And wherever Misty is."
He gave Misty a nod. "Your skill is undeniable, of course, but the first three named locations have the most Reminded people present and would be most able to react. Everyone else is… probably best served by staying out of the way."
"I might ask Ho-Oh for a favour," Lugia said. "If he can sort out the Birds until this is sorted out, I can fly around Sinnoh, stay with Ash, or stay here… or there is a fourth option."
"What's that?" Dawn asked.
"If Cynthia gets in trouble with Team Galactic, right now, she is in grave danger," Lugia outlined. "I think I can promise that I would not be an easy target."
"I hate not being able to rely on my own Pokémon… but you're right," Cynthia agreed.
"I wonder what they're talking about in there," Suicune mused.
"Future thing and stuff," Guy suggested.
"Probably," Suicune agreed. "Well, I'm sure they have it all handled. How are you finding your soft drink?"
Kari dipped her tip tentatively in the glass of fizzy drink.
"Paradoxical," she summarized.
"What about the Rockets?" Dawn asked. "They're Reminded, or at least some of them."
Cynthia looked alarmed. "The ones who tried to use the Forces of Nature?"
"They've stopped doing that," Ash replied. "And they do generally help us out when something big is coming up, like this… actually, we've sort of been in a truce based on this for the past four years."
"I agree, Jessie, James and Meowth have had a salutatory effect on the entire organization," Mewtwo concurred. "I can say that the number of times they have tried to use me to take over the world is down at least fifty percent across timelines, which is a very good figure."
"You used to be fun, man, what's gotten into you?" Glalie asked.
"...did we meet before?" Mewtwo said, confused.
"No, but still, the point stands."
Mewtwo decided to ignore that, assuming correctly that it was an attempt at being funny.
"If you say they're all right," Cynthia shrugged. "I mean, most of this involves assuming things will work out, and now I think of it I did see them helping out last time… but why aren't they here, then?"
I made attempts to contact them, Dexter stated. We have their phone number, though it is always a bit of a gamble as to whether their Gyarados has eaten the phone lately.
His projector lit up, showing the response – two terse lines of text.
"So… they're handling it themselves?" Max summarized. "They actively don't want to get involved?"
Correction. They don't want to get involved with how we're handling it. They're doing something else.
"Well… that does sound helpful, in a way," Misty said. "Those guys always did things in a bit of an odd way, so maybe they'll come up with something we missed."
"A bit of an odd way? That's putting it lightly," Pikachu muttered. "Do we need to watch out for the giant Meowth-o-tron 4000?"
"That would be awesome!" Squirtle declared. "Hold on, I'm going to go draw up a design!"
The door swung shut behind him.
"Let's be honest, he wasn't going to be able to hold that in much longer," Ivysaur chuckled.
"If we do need everyone who we can get, what about your Pokémon from Unova?" Cynthia suggested. "And your friend Cilan? What about Paul, actually, I remember he was technically possible to remind."
"It'd be nice to have Emolga, Axew and Dragonite back," Iris admitted.
"Paul said no," Ash recalled. "But if it's that dangerous… he might say yes, yeah, that's an option. But..."
"What?" Cynthia asked, seeing Ash's concern.
"It's pretty clear that the Lake Trio were involved with reminding someone," Ash said. "And they're captured. Can I even still do it?"
After a moment of silence, Professor Oak nodded to himself.
"We'll need to test it," he said. "Whether with one of Iris' Pokémon, or with Paul, or with someone else we know should be remindable. But we should plan as if it's not."
"That's going to make things a bit more complicated," Misty admitted. "How strong were your Pokémon? And Cilan's?"
"Dragonite and Excadrill were – or are – the real powerhouses," Iris replied. "I don't think Cilan had anything as strong…"
"It's probably best if Iris stays in Unova," Cynthia said. "I know you might not want to, but it's better for your development for you to stay at home – and make sure you'll pick up your Axew – instead of spending months in Sinnoh when your actual ability to help isn't very great. And in Unova you'll be safe."
Iris looked like she wanted to protest, then subsided a little sullenly.
"That's something we didn't really want to think about," Brock added. "Safety. What if Galactic takes someone hostage? They don't know about Iris – they can't, really – and Dawn's penfriend in Kalos is okay, but everyone else?"
"Pallet Town is safe enough," Oak volunteered. "Or if it's not, nowhere is. But there's still..."
He waved a hand for Damos, and the Porygon threw several locations up on the screen – Petalburg, Cerulean and Pewter Gyms, Ivy's lab, Twinleaf Town, and Lily of the Valley Island.
"We need at least one powerful Pokémon at all these locations, at minimum," Oak explained. "Possibly other places as well."
"I'm not sure we really have enough," Ash frowned. "I know you guys are good, but given what Galactic did at Lake Valor… I think we'd need more than one Pokémon at each place."
"Hold on," Max said suddenly. "Damos, how did you do that?"
I'm a Porygon. Data projections is sort of my thing, Damos pointed out. I cross-referenced your friends and loved ones. Why?
"To do what?" Max pressed.
To… determine who is at risk from Team Galactic, Damos said slowly. Where are you going with this?
"Because I'm pretty sure Ash never actually reminded Damos," Max said. "He reminded Dexter."
Damos is a forked clone of my architechture, Dexter clarified. Indeed, you could call him one of my children, though the term is… imperfect…
There was a silence as everyone got Max's point.
"This feels like a really odd way of sorting out the problem," Ash said. "But… Dexter, would you feel comfortable creating more copies?"
A bit, Dexter admitted. It's because of the old paradox about if I'm still me if I can be copied with all my experiences.
"Damos was cloned from Dexter's data set pretty shortly after being restored," Professor Oak said. "I let the data sit in the computers for a few months, and only loaded it into a Pokédex after hearing Dexter had become a Porygon, but I still have the clean copy. It could work."
"Having a network of computer Pokémon who can notice Galactic would be highly useful," Mewtwo said, a hand going to his chin. "It would let us get warnings and quickly teleport there… or, even better, have the Porygon's projector hidden on the person. They would then be able to give us confirmation of where Galactic's base was."
All right, Dexter said, with an electronic sigh. Let's do it.
"What's our plan apart from that?" Gary asked. "I know the basics, about making sure we stay in contact and getting help when it's needed, but… what should Molly and I do? What about Ash, Brock and Dawn?"
"I… honestly, I don't know," Ash replied. "I want to continue my journey the way I did last time, and I can't see a problem with that, but I'm really afraid I might miss something like I did back at Lake Valor."
"I don't think you missed anything that you could have known," Lucario said. "Many of us were there, and we didn't-"
"I should have caught Azelf!" Ash interrupted. "Then he'd have been safe, or safer at least!"
There was a long moment of silence.
"Ash," May began. "Lucario has a good point. None of us realized it either."
"And though I could understand it," Mewtwo added, a moment later. "If you had thought of it straight away, I might even have thought less of you, Ash."
Ash blinked, startled by the apparent non sequiter. "Uh… why?"
"Ash… thus far you have captured no fewer than nine Legendary Pokémon," Mewtwo clarified. "Three of them – the Beasts – you captured after a battle, but only at their invitation. It is one of your great good qualities, to tell the truth… that you have shown respect to the Pokémon who have put their trust in you."
He waved a hand. "But Azelf had not. And it's true that he might have done – but you had no time to ask."
"But it would have helped, right?" Ash said.
"Not necessarily," Mewtwo replied, surprising him. "For most situations, it would – a Pokéball is one of the quickest ways of containing a Pokémon. But Team Galactic were not trying to capture them in Pokéballs, and it seems clear to me that they could have taken any Pokéball you captured Azelf in."
"Ash, something else occurred to me," Pikachu mused. "Did you actually have any empty Pokéballs on you?"
"...no, actually," Ash admitted. "I didn't think I'd need any for weeks, so I didn't restock."
"All the more reason to not blame yourself," Mewtwo pronounced.
"Yeah, but I'm going to make sure I carry some from now on," Ash decided. "Just to make sure that problem doesn't happen again."
"Oh, hey, that's right, you didn't catch me yet!" Gible realized. "Can we get that fixed?"
"Sure," Ash replied, with a smile, then looked up. "Okay, so… does anyone see a problem with us taking the same route as last time?"
"I might have said it would put you in danger," Lugia noted. "But Galactic would have no way of predicting your movements, so it's as safe as anything that's not just remaining permanently at Pallet Town."
I do not think we have forgotten anything, Damos contributed. Does anyone have something we should address?
After a long moment of silence, he continued. Right, I think we can call this meeting done.
"Good!" one of the five Tauros in the corner said. "Now hurry up and get out of our barn, the game's on in a few minutes!"
Another hit a remote control, and Damos' form vanished from the screen to be replaced by a sports channel.
"...you know, I didn't realize there was a Snow Throw league," Misty admitted.
As they left, Ash gave Lugia a pat on the side. "Thanks for this."
"Hopefully it will be no hardship," Lugia replied. "Though I will miss my mate and my son."
Ash nodded. "Do you need to tell them goodbye?"
"I'll do that now," Lugia declared, and took off.
Ash watched him go, then handed Lugia's Pokéball to Cynthia. "Take good care of him, okay?"
"You're talking about a Legendary Pokémon," Cynthia pointed out. "I think it's me who's going to be the one being taken care of."
Ash chuckled. "I guess that's a good point…"
"Hey, nice to see you again!" Gliscor said. "I didn't want to spend too much time saying hello back when we were having that serious meeting, but how are you doing?"
"...honestly, just the same as I remember!" Gible replied with a toothy grin. "What about you?"
"There's been a couple of new things," Gliscor shrugged her wings. "Hey, actually, I know one of Ash's new Pokémon who'd love to meet you! Let's head over there now, introduce you properly."
She took off, and circled once overhead before dipping down to about three feet above the ground. Gible jumped, grabbed onto her feet, and the two of them shot off downhill.
"...that's new," Pikachu observed.
"Huh?" Ivysaur asked, then realized. "Oh, right, you weren't here when they started doing that. Yeah, they get on pretty well. Cheerful attitude to life, Ground type, Gible's final evolution can fly… Gliscor says she's just giving Gible a preview."
"That's… honestly, I'm mildly afraid on Piplup's behalf," Pikachu admitted. "Still, I wonder what Mawile will think..."
How are we going to do this? Dexter asked. I… wasn't very involved with the creation of any Porygon after I realized what it actually meant. Even Ethan and Kris were done without much of my involvement.
"You don't need to be all that involved this time either," Professor Oak told him. "Mostly it's a matter of making sure we do it with your consent, because we want to make sure we're doing this right."
I'm still nervous about it… Dexter admitted, as Professor Oak got out several Pokédex core modules and a number of combat cores to sync with them. It makes me wonder if I'm really a person, if I can be copied.
"Oh, you're certainly a person," Oak replied. "That bit's easy."
But if you're about to make several exact duplicates of me…
Damos flashed up on the nearest screen. Identical twins aren't the same person, he pointed out. They start out the same, but they begin to change immediately because they have different experiences. Indeed, my preferences are different to yours, Ethan and Kris are different… Dee and I, I think, are more alike than either of us is to you. But none of us are the same… or do you think you'd be happy as a laboratory assistant for four years?
Well… no, but I've never really tried, Dexter said.
"The fact you're worried about it is a good sign that you are a person, in a way," Oak said, typing away. "Let's see… what versions do we have..."
Damos threw up a list of them on the screen.
"Thank you," Oak smiled. "Now we just need to pick exactly which set of files to load in."
What about using different versions? Dexter asked, then looked down at the collection of Pokédexes. And why are there twelve of them? I thought we only had tasks for seven or eight.
"It's because we expect the new Porygon to all be different," Oak told him. "This way there will be enough that some of them don't have to do any of the tasks, if any of them come out especially free-spirited or more interested in research."
That's… a surprisingly statistical approach, Dexter said.
"Hey, Absol," Ash said, crouching down. "I want to quickly check – do you have any stuff scheduled here?"
"Not beyond taking part in the usual group activities, but that's more of a thing to do because I'm here in the first place," Absol replied. "Why?"
"Well, I think you're going to be on my team – and probably out – for quite a long time," Ash replied. "Most of the rest of my Sinnoh Journey."
"Interesting," Absol admitted. "Can I ask why?"
"Yeah, but I don't know if you'll remember the answer," Ash told her apologetically. "Basically, it turns out you can pick up when Team Galactic are threatening us even if you don't remember who they are."
"Team Galactic… doesn't ring a bell," Absol shrugged. "Sorry."
"They're who we came back in time to stop, it's… you know, this conversation's going to get pretty old some time soon," Ash admitted to himself. "Basically, if you start to feel an impending disaster, warn us."
"I think I would have done that anyway," Absol noted. "All right, then."
Ash straightened up, looking over to see how Mawile and Gible were getting on.
"Watch this!" Gible announced, inhaling, then fired a Draco Meteor. The orange spark of light flew high into the sky, exploded, then rained down on the nearby hillside.
Except for one of them, which bent through a ninety-degree arc when it was about to hit the ground and hurtled off into the middle distance. There was an annoyed shout, and Piplup was just about visible shaking his flipper at them.
"What happened there?" Goodra asked, confused.
"Dunno, but it happens a lot," Gible said, looking faintly puzzled. "It's actually really freaky, we used to use it to find him when he got lost."
"Hey, maybe you could pretend your opponent is Piplup!" Mawile suggested. "Try it on me, come on!"
Gible frowned. "But you're nice! I don't want to explode you!"
"Oh, that's right, you haven't heard of the Fairy type yet," Goodra realized. "I sometimes forget that about Pokémon who got reminded."
"...oh, yeah, that!" Gible realized. "Yeah, now I remember I got taught it once! Time travel's odd… anyway, sure!"
He hopped back a bit, and Ash glanced down at Absol.
She raised a paw, waggling it back and forth. "Depends what you call a disaster."
Gible fired another Draco Meteor into the air, and it exploded high overhead. A shower of meteorites descended, and one of them veered off course to hit Mawile and leave a scorched crater around her.
Every single other meteor zoomed off in an irregular swarm, forming a globe around the hapless Piplup before piling in on him all at once.
"That was on purpose!" he shouted, once the explosions had stopped, then stomped off in a black mood.
"Oops..." Gible sighed.
"Let's work on that targeting," Goodra suggested. "Maybe it'd better wait until Piplup's out of the area, though."
Ash looked over, seeing his mother. "Mom?"
"Can we talk for a moment?" Delia asked. "Just you and me?"
"I refuse to provide information on the grounds I might incriminate myself," Absol declared.
Ash gave Absol a slightly puzzled look, then shrugged. "Sure, Mom."
"Zoey? Are you okay?" Dawn asked. "You seemed pretty quiet back there."
"It was kind of hard to think of what to say," Zoey replied. "I… well, there were all these Pokémon, really powerful Pokémon, and Cynthia as well – I didn't really know what was worth saying. It was just easier to let everyone else talk."
"It was good what you said about hearing the explosion, though," Dawn told her, then raised a hand. "And don't worry, you couldn't really have helped. But it's good to get more information about how much of the side effects of what Galactic do aren't noticed by people who haven't been reminded."
"I guess," Zoey agreed. "And yeah, that does kind of worry me. Like how hard it was to remind me in the first place..."
She trailed off. "I… wait, is that..."
Dawn followed her gaze, and nodded. "Yeah, that's Samiya. Want to have a look? I think we've got a few hours, and it's really cool inside."
"Hold on a sec, I'll grab my Pokémon," Zoey suggested. "They'll enjoy it, right?"
"Yeah, almost certainly," Dawn agreed. "Quilava does."
"...Quilava's a fire type," Zoey pointed out.
"Yeah, but Samiya has some special… uh… I'm not sure if it counts as super science or super magic," Dawn admitted. "Basically there's water which is breathable, and Fire-types can swim in it no problem. It's really cool to be able to just sit and think at the bottom of a swimming pool for minutes at a time."
"I keep being reminded how much more Ash has done this time around than last time," Zoey admitted. "And his friends too."
"Actually, I think the main change here was that they brought Samiya back," Dawn corrected. "They saved Manaphy last time too, that's how he was Remindable."
"Right," Zoey realized. "Yeah, this is hard to keep straight. It's pretty amazing Ash didn't end up famous last time around."
"Mostly it just didn't get caught on TV, I think?" Dawn said, a little uncertainly. "I think a couple were, though… maybe it was just hard to connect Ash to it when you met him. He's kind of… not the brightest sometimes."
"That's one way to put it," Zoey said diplomatically.
"Glad you could come over here," Pidgeot said, giving Butterfree a nod. "I know it's hard to find the time sometimes… I had enough trouble last time around, and I didn't have kids like you do."
"Yeah, but it's rewarding," Butterfree replied. "I've been experimenting on some cool stuff, that's one thing that's easy to do."
"You have?" Pidgeot asked, interested. "What might that be?"
"Oh, just a few basic ideas..." Butterfree said, wings flaring.
Then he used something which was a lot like Solarbeam, but which could not be said to be a beam as such. A bubble of yellow-green light formed around him, pulsing every second or so and growing brighter with every pulse.
"That's pretty interesting," Pidgeot noted. "What does it-"
Butterfree decided there was enough intensity, and fired it at a nearby tree. The beam came out pencil-thin and intense enough to drill a smoking hole through the bark of the tree – and a good way into the tree itself – before winking out.
"Neat," Pidgeot summarized. "Basically you're… using the charging phase as a shield? Then using the bigger area to focus it more?"
Butterfree did a quick flip.
"Can you teach me that, dad?" Drew's Butterfree asked, flying over. "That looked really cool!"
"Well, I'm glad to help," Ho-Oh noted. "My Beast Trio – my children – are quite able to manage without me, so I see no particular problem in handling your duties in place of my own. Though I wish to understand what is different about your duties."
"It's pretty simple," Lugia replied. "There's a Bird Trio there – Zapdos, Articuno, and Moltres. They are unable to cooperate without being regularly beaten up. That's your new job."
"...somehow, I thought it would be more involved than that," Ho-Oh admitted. "Why can't they just be left to fight it out?"
"Shamouti is a climate nexus," Lugia told him. "It's prone to causing widespread impacts unless they're kept under control and behaving well."
"Right," Ho-Oh replied, still thinking. "So if the weather remained excellent despite their doing their best?"
He flared his wings.
"...then I suppose you could just let them fight it out," Lugia said. "Why is this my job and not yours again?"
Ho-Oh chuckled. "I will not be able to take on your role on a permanent basis, but it is said a change is as good as a rest…"
"All right, that's all twelve," Professor Oak said. "Now… here we go!"
He pressed the enter key, and a status screen lit up. It said, simply, 'compiling'.
Dexter drifted forwards a bit, watching. Trying to take in all the details.
Seconds went by, one at a time, and congealed into minutes as they built up.
After nearly four minutes, something changed – a number appeared on the screen.
Dexter read it.
Zero point one percent?
"We are trying to compile twelve Porygon at once," Professor Oak said, leaning back in his chair with a sketchbook and a pencil.
But three and a half days? Dexter asked. That's… longer than it normally takes, I am given to understand.
"Based on my own experience – both first and second hand – it's either several hours of anxious waiting or several hours of intense pain," Professor Oak told him, drawing out the basic shape of a Pikachu. "You might be getting off lightly, especially if you view these twelve as dodecuplets."
If you do want to go, there's nothing stopping you, Damos pointed out. In fact, there's nothing stopping you from going and still being there – you're going to be feet away from possibly the most powerful Psychic-type ever to exist, you can teleportcommute.
That's not a word, Dexter said. Not unless they've updated the dictionary.
I've submitted it for approval, Damos replied. While you were talking, sure, but…
All right, you make good points, Dexter admitted. Just let me know if this is more like a file copy dialogue. You know, suddenly jumping to seventy-eight percent and then lingering there for a week…
"Yeah, I can see why you wanted to ask me," Tracey's Marill admitted. "I might not have all the answers because this isn't quite the same situation, but it's close enough I might be able to help."
"Thank you," Drew's Leafeon smiled, relieved. "I was hoping I could at least get told if I was doing something wrong, if nothing else."
"I'm sure you're doing okay," Marill assured her. "I've met Glaceon a few times, and if she had a big problem she'd be less… well, she's confident and self-assured, and she's mentioned you gratefully more than once."
Leafeon sighed. "That's… good to know."
"So is there anything specifically you wanted help with?" Marill went on.
"I just… well, mostly I was interested in knowing how you deal with knowing your child is older than you are," Leafeon admitted. "Or the same age, anyway. And… I'm not so sure that's something you can help with, now I say it..."
"Well, Azurill isn't older than me, that's true," Marill agreed. "But I always try to remember that what a parent should want is for their child to become strong and independent – however that can happen. And in both of our cases, our children are becoming independent faster than you might expect."
She bounced her tail on the floor, with a boing sound. "But at the same time, there's no shame in asking for things like a hug, or a talk – because a grown child shouldn't feel ashamed about that either! So you're not really missing out on anything, at least if you look at it right."
Leafeon blinked. "I don't think I've heard it put like that before, but I guess it's a nice way to think about it."
Her tail flicked from side to side. "And it is great that I get so many chances to see her, especially since I wasn't expecting to be able to at all – and apparently last time around I didn't. I mean, apparently I was a Flareon that time, but…"
Leafeon stopped, counted to three, and started again. "Anyway, um, I suppose I should just be grateful for the opportunity and not complain about it!"
"Nice sketch," Drew said, watching as Tracey shaded underneath Leafeon to show the direction of the sunlight. "I do kind of wonder what it'd be like to know what they're talking about, though..."
"I do, and it's pretty sweet," Tracey replied. "Basically it's about motherhood… though neither of them has asked Meganium."
"I've heard about that Meganium, and her son," Drew said with a chuckle. "Might not be quite what they're wanting to talk about."
"He's very pleasant," Tracey replied, finishing up on Leafeon and moving on to Marill – drawing both body and tail with a spherical shading pattern. "Just, you know, unexpectedly skilled for a young Pokémon. Though given how old he is by now, it's probably just a reputation thing."
"I have noticed that, actually," Drew admitted. "Pokémon seem to age at very different rates, it's a lot less consistent than humans are."
"I think it's related to mind set?" Tracey suggested, finishing off with a few blades of grass curling up around Leafeon's toes. "I'm sure there's research on it somewhere."
Some way north, in Sinnoh, Jessie looked around.
"All right, we're going this alone," she said. "Ash and the others are doing their thing, but we'll probably need to swoop in like usual… any thoughts on how?"
"We could order them lots of pizzas?" Seviper suggested.
"...I ain't gonna dignify that with a response," Meowth announced. "Anythin' useful?"
"Note to self, don't plan before dinner," Seviper mused.
"So… the problem is that a lot of our most powerful teammates can't even see Galactic, right?" Cacturne asked.
"Basically," Victreebel agreed.
"What about a giant robot?"
"Now that's thinkin' proper Rocket style!" Meowth enthused. "Hey, Jessie, James, how big an' cool a robot do you guys think we could get hold of with, like, two months?"
"Good question," James replied, pulling out a brochure and opening it. "They're making some real advances with Porygon-augmented control systems these days."
"But wouldn't a Porygon just be unable to see Galactic?" Jessie asked. "Then we'd be back to square one!"
"I dunno, I think there could be some way'a workin' that out," Meowth mused. "Anyways, let's look at what we can get hold of… hey, wasn't there that one guy who had a robot what could beat up Giratina? Sounds like a good start ta me!"
"The first thing I want to say, Ash, is that I know we've had a talk a lot like this before," Delia began. "More than one of them. And we've said a lot of what we think before, so we shouldn't need to repeat it all. But… there's still some things I do want to tell you."
"All right," Ash decided. "What is it?"
"Firstly… I do love you, and I respect you a lot," Delia told her son. "I won't try and stop you, we've talked about that, but don't ever think that means I don't want you safe."
"I'd never think that!" Ash protested.
"I still want to say it," Delia told him. "And second… second, I want you to promise a few things."
Ash paused. "Is… is it okay if I ask what they are?"
"I'm glad you did," Delia admitted, with a relieved smile. "It shows me you're starting to put some thought into things!"
Ash flushed, and Delia took a deep breath. "All right. First… I know you're a real hero, and I'm proud of that. Really. But you need to remember that you're not the only person who can help out, and you need to promise me you won't run in unless you're honestly the best person to help – or at the very least, the best person who's able to get there."
Ash nodded. "Sure-"
"-and that includes your Pokémon," Delia continued. "Another thing I want you to tell me is that you're going to ask for help from your Pokémon sooner. You have an enormous collection of Pokémon, and some of them are so powerful I don't really understand how powerful they are… so remember to get them to help! I know you have Kari to help protect you now, but I heard how she came about – and you shouldn't have ended up in that situation in the first place, young man!"
Ash looked down, chastened. "I… yeah, I guess that's right… I am going to be bringing Mewtwo along with me for some time, but… sorry."
"And the other thing I want you to promise me is that… one way or another… you'll do your absolute best to make sure that we can sit down and talk about this after it's all over."
Ash's gaze rose again, surprised by his mother's phrasing, and she elaborated. "I know there'll be times when you going into danger is actually safer because if you don't it'll end the world or we'll all be taken over by mind control or something – I remember what happened when poor Molly suffered from her Unown problem – so I won't make you promise me something you can't keep to. But I want to see you grow up, Ash – I want to see you beat the Elite Four, achieve your dream, and become a Pokémon Master. Not a Pokémon Martyr."
Ash was silent for several seconds after that.
"I… thanks, Mom," he said. "I'm glad you thought about this so much. And… yeah, I don't have a problem promising to do all of those."
Time for everyone to... well, cope. Or, at least, everyone who can actually remember the problem.
Bit of a breather this time.