"Can you pass me the spice?" Brock asked.
Zorua handed him the allspice, and watched avidly as Brock measured out a pinch before sprinkling into the mix and stirring it around.
"So that's going to be made into all the burgers?" she asked, leaning her elbows on the table to watch.
"Yeah, that's right," Brock agreed, glancing over at his Dark-type – currently in the guise of a Zoroark, purely so she could participate in the cooking without having to use her mouth as an implement. "Don't forget to finish those baps as well."
"Oh, right!" Zorua realized, picking up the bread knife again and unpackaging the second packet of burger buns. She sliced them all in half at once, forming two 'slabs' of bread, and put the lower one next to the matching one already taking up half of a baking tray.
Brock sniffed the burger mix he was making, judging it to be about right, then scraped it all into a layer over the top of the lower bread. He stepped back, and Zorua put the bun tops on to form a 'lid'.
"Then it goes to be cooked," he directed, and Zorua put it carefully into the oven – using heatproof gloves, both because that was a good habit to get into and because if her illusion took any damage it would revert and she'd drop the tray.
"Done!" she reported. "How long until it's finished?"
"On that heat setting… about fifteen minutes," Brock judged. "It takes longer than on a grill, but it'll do them all at once and the buns should end up nice and crispy as well."
Zorua took that in with a nod. "Then we cut them up and serve them?"
"Exactly," Brock agreed.
"I can hardly wait."
As the smells of cooking wafted over from where Brock and Zorua were at work – making Rockruff's leg twitch a little as she snoozed – Ash frowned at the calendar.
"Something up?" Dawn asked.
"I kind of feel like we're late for something," Ash explained. "I'm not sure what, just… a feeling?"
"Late for something..." Dawn repeated. "Well, when are we expecting-"
Absol rolled to her feet. "Something's up."
"What?" Pikachu asked, cheeks sparking. "Lucario, you get ready to use Aura Drizzle and I'll-"
"No, hold on, it's not bad," Absol replied. "Not that bad, anyway – it's not anything you'd need to blanket the area in Aura projectiles for..."
She tilted her head, her horn glittering in the sunlight, and tried to narrow down what she was getting from her disaster senses.
"It… seems more like a culinary disaster than anything."
"Probably not Galactic, then," Dawn decided. "We'd better go see what the problem is."
"Hey!" Zorua demanded. "Get away from that!"
"What's wrong?" Brock asked.
"There's a sooty Shaymin eating the cookie mix!" Zorua replied. "Don't do that, we were going to eat that!"
"But you weren't," the Shaymin replied, then took another bite. "This stuff is great, though!"
"Isn't that dangerous?" Zorua asked, glancing at her trainer. "We haven't baked it yet."
"No, it's edible dough," Brock replied. "We didn't include any eggs or flour, remember?"
"Right – but still!" Zorua said, waving her hands at the Shaymin.
"She's got a good point," Brock went on. "Taking food without asking is very rude, and it could have been dangerous."
"But it wasn't," Shaymin countered, finishing her snack and licking her lips.
At that point Ash, Lucario, Pikachu, Dawn and Absol all arrived, along with Mewtwo.
"What's going on?" Dawn asked, then saw the Shaymin. "...Ash, I think I know what it is you were worried about."
"Oh, yeah – that's right," Ash realized. "So… that means we need to sort Shaymin out, and then find Giratina."
Shaymin hadn't been listening, but the name made her look up. "Giratina? Why would you want to find Giratina?"
She shook herself. "He tried to eat me!"
"That sounds unlikely," Zorua said. "...is it unlikely? I'm still getting used to knowing Legendary Pokémon."
Giratina is like Dialga and Palkia, Mewtwo stated. While they presumably might eat for pleasure, none of the three need to eat – more than just about any other Pokémon, they are manifestations of a concept as much as living beings. They draw sustenance from their own aspect of reality.
"Then he tried to eat me because he just liked the taste!" Shaymin insisted stubbornly. "That's even worse!"
"What happened?" Brock asked, both for information and to try to help persuade Shaymin otherwise. "Why do you think he wants to eat you?"
"He got in a fight with Palkia, and I was nearby, so I got knocked into his icky reverse world, it's all full of smoke and stuff," Shaymin replied. "Then I used Seed Flare, blew a portal open, and he tried to follow me!"
"Couldn't Giratina just be trying to escape?" Brock asked.
"Hey, isn't Seed Flare that cool attack which absorbs pollution?" Zorua interrupted. "Like that soot?"
"I've got soot on me?" Shaymin asked, shaking herself. The soot lifted up and cascaded down around her, making a glow spread over her leaves.
A small Seed Flare lashed out, exploded just in front of Zorua's Zoroark disguise, and knocked her head-over-heels – reverting in a flash of blue light.
"Ow," she mumbled.
"Shaymin, did you mean to do that?" Brock asked.
"No..." Shaymin replied.
"Then can you see how Giratina might have not been trying to eat you?" he went on.
Shaymin looked thoughtful. "I… guess that might be possible," she said, grudgingly. "But it doesn't matter, I need to get to that place!"
Mewtwo looked sideways at his trainer. "What should we do?"
"Well, get her home and then look for Giratina," Ash summarized. "I think… Shaymin, is 'That Place' the Gracidea valley?"
Shaymin did a double-take. "How do you know about that?"
"My trainer is an Aura Guardian," Lucario informed Shaymin. "He's also quite experienced at interacting with Legendary Pokémon."
"Like who?" Shaymin challenged.
Hello, Mewtwo informed her, settling to the ground with a faint thump. I am the most powerful Pokémon on Earth.
He paused. For the purposes of completeness, I should note that Rayquaza flies and isn't currently in Mega Rayquaza form, and nobody knows exactly where Arceus is at this point. But apart from that it qualifies.
Shaymin gave him a long look up-and-down. You don't look it.
Mewtwo snapped his fingers, and they were all suddenly in a mountain valley carpeted with Gracidea flowers. A long icy glacier wound down to one end of the valley, glittering in the noon light, and a gentle breeze sent the smells of Gracidea up into the air.
That do? Mewtwo asked, then frowned. Whoops, forgot the oven.
There was another blurred movement, and they were back where they started. Then the surroundings switched a third time, and they were back in Gracidea Valley – this time with the oven, and their other baggage.
"...I was going to ask for a lift, but that is pretty cool," Shaymin admitted, more than a little reluctantly.
On the other side of a mirror, Giratina roared in frustration.
Maybe it had been a bit churlish of him to just find Palkia and demand an explanation – in between smacking his fellow Legendary about – but one look around at the Reverse World should have shown how important the whole matter was. The place was absolutely choked with thick purple smoke, to an extent he didn't remember ever coming up before, and there was no surer indication of serious strain on the Reverse World.
And who exactly would be doing that, except for Palkia? Or Dialga, or more likely both.
Over the endless years they'd worked together – or apart – Giratina couldn't remember either of his counterparts having done something quite so irresponsible, but they'd been close sometimes and right now he felt like the only one who was willing to listen to sense.
He opened a rift in the Symmetry Barrier again, ready to plunge through and return to the sidereal world, but as he got closer the very space around it distorted. Palkia's field of influence warped the world around the portal, twisting space around it like a lens, and Giratina found himself sliding away from the portal despite his best efforts.
"PALKIA!" Giratina bellowed. "Messing with my world wasn't enough – you had to trap me in it? I'm going to turn you inside out!"
He probably wouldn't actually do it, but it was just so infuriating – there was no way that was accidental, and it was reacting directly to him getting closer…
Giratina tried again with a different location, this time aiming to come out in a smooth pool high in the mountains of Sinnoh. The portal formed as normal, swelling as he put energy into it, and there was no sign of Palkia's spatial distortion trick – until he moved closer, and the whole of the Reverse World around the portal area lensed to prevent him getting in.
Abandoning the attempt and letting that portal dissipate, Giratina began thinking about what he could do.
If the portal only reacted to his presence, he could perhaps enlist help… that Shaymin would do…
Well, best not to try something so drastic until he'd exhausted all other possibilities.
Newton Graceland let his viewing lens retract back into his backpack. "Hmmm..."
The scientist sat down, resting his back against a slab of grass tilted at a ninety-degree angle to local 'down', which happened to put him 'above' Giratina from the point of view of the Legendary. After so long in the Reverse World he was quite used to the peculiarities of the world, but Giratina's latest actions were unusual.
"What do you think, Shieldon?" he asked.
"I agree," Newton nodded. "We just don't know enough to be sure – hold on, Giratina is making another portal."
The portal shimmered as it began to grow, and Newton slid his viewing lens into place again so he could look more closely for the distortion he'd seen last time.
The Legendary surged forwards, and the distortion appeared on cue – so Giratina dissolved his portal, sliding backwards through his world, and tried again. This time the portal was much larger, at least twice as big as it would need to be to let Giratina through, and the Legendary Of Symmetry moved again.
The distortion appeared, making Giratina slide away from the portal and never actually reach it, but this time that made him roar in what sounded much more like triumph than rage.
Newtwon frowned, entering a few parameters into his computer, then raised an index finger. "Of course! Giratina's thinking scientifically, just like he should!"
Looking at the two films he'd taken of the attempts, Newton overlapped them and viewed them with Giratina's movement normalized to take four seconds each time. The distortions appeared in both at the same time – and the distortions were just the same size, not larger for the larger portal.
Checking back with Giratina himself, Newton saw that the giant Legendary was already putting the conclusion into practice. His glowing portal was already big enough to fit him through it, but he was just pumping more and more energy into it – making it larger, and larger, until it would be so large that even the spatial distortion wouldn't be able to stop Giratina getting through.
This was the best idea.
Giratina's streamers rippled in an artificial wind as he drove the portal wider and wider, congratulating himself for having picked somewhere he could safely do it. It was going to be pretty obvious, admittedly, but at least it would be out of the way so there shouldn't be too many problems.
Once he was out in the normal world he could see about breaking down that barrier of Palkia's, which should be easy enough, and…
...Giratina frowned, distracted suddenly.
Something was heading towards the portal. Something big, sort of like a five-pointed star…
"What happens now?" Shaymin asked. "Aren't you going to make sure Giratina doesn't come after me?"
"Giratina isn't going to want to hurt you," Ash said. "But your Seed Flare made a portal, right… he might want that."
"You mean… if Palkia trapped him or something?" Shaymin said slowly. "But I don't want to let Giratina out again!"
"Palkia?" Ash repeated. "But… no, you did say Palkia before. I can't believe I missed that..."
"Is that a problem?" Shaymin asked.
Ash was about to reply, but Absol suddenly tensed up.
"Trouble!" she called. "Big one this time!"
Ash's hand went to Kari's hilt automatically, and everyone began looking around – particularly Mewtwo, trying to pick up the first sign of Team Galactic's presence.
For several long seconds, there was nothing. Then the ground trembled.
Dawn saw it first. "The glacier!"
They could hear it now, a shriek of ice against rock, as the nearby glacier began to slide down towards Gracidea Vale.
Raising his paw, Mewtwo focused a burst of psychic energy, and the glacier slowed – then stopped, holding in place as he held every part of it in place at once.
"What's going on?" Shaymin asked. "Did someone do that?"
"I can't see anyone," Lucario reported. "Absol, any clues?"
"The problem came out of nowhere," she replied. "But – something else! That mountainside!"
Mewtwo diverted his attention to that as well, and caught the rockslide even as it began. Boulders quivered free of the mountainside, but were held in place by Mewtwo's powers before being lowered comparatively gently to the ground where they could cause no harm.
"That's got to be the Reverse World," Brock said. "Damaging it affects the real world, and-"
"It's Giratina!" Shaymin declared. "I told you he was after me, idiots!"
"Giratina is not after you," Absol said firmly. "I can literally detect danger. You're in no more danger than the rest of us."
"But what if-"
The idea of Giratina damaging his own world in order to harm someone else is preposterous, Mewtwo said, calmly but firmly – his mental voice betraying no hint of the strain involved in postponing the collapse of a glacier. And, quite apart from that, you should ask yourself why Giratina might be after you. People – humans and Pokémon alike – do not do things for no reason. What they do makes sense, even if it is only to them. So why might Giratina be after you?
"To eat me!" Shaymin replied, stomping on the ground. "Aren't you listening?"
"We're listening to you," Brock told her. "But we're trying to work out the truth, and there's no need to shout at us like that."
"You don't even care!" Shaymin snapped.
Shaymin, I care, Mewtwo told her. I have had occasion to give thought to the matter of whether or not I care, from the moment of my birth. And I do.
He swept his hand across the area. This place is beautiful, and full of life. It is valuable. You are valuable… and Giratina, too, is valuable. And that is why I reserve judgement.
Mewtwo's expression changed. However. It seems that either Giratina is damaging the reverse world, or someone else is and Giratina cannot stop them. Either way, we should investigate.
"How are we going to get in there?" Brock asked. "Doesn't Seed Flare only open portals from the Reverse World to the regular one?"
That, I can handle, Mewtwo told him. It is not easy, but I can transport myself and some others into the Reverse World.
"But you're the only one preventing Gracidea from being destroyed," Dawn realized.
Correct. So before we go, we should make sure that we have some other plan. Ash, I think it is time to call your Pokémon in.
"That's a good point," Ash agreed.
"Togekiss, come on!" Dawn called, sending out her Fairy-type. "I'll go make sure the local Pokémon are helping!"
"That sounds like a good plan for most of my Pokémon as well," Brock said. "Zorua should go with you, and probably Flygon-"
Dexter's transceiver lit up, and began to dispense Pokéballs at speed. These promptly produced Pokémon – Suicune, Meganium, Quilava, Keldeo still blinking sleep out of his eyes – and the next few moments were more than a little bit confused.
"All right, I think I understand," Ho-Oh said, after some explanation. "Giratina is in some way threatened, and this is threatening the world. So we must avoid damage being done to the area, and thus free up Mewtwo to take a team to save Giratina."
"That's right," Ash agreed. "And I think I know who's doing this, he's obsessed with Giratina. He's got a giant airship that can steal Giratina's powers – but what I hope is going on is that Giratina's still fighting him off."
"Unfortunately a lot of us have trouble flying," Entei noted. "Mawile has done sterling work in getting many more of us airborne than might otherwise be the case, but there's still plenty who can't manage it."
"Ash can take a few with him in Pokéballs," Keldeo suggested. "But yeah, it's important to keep Gracidea safe."
"He's got a jet fighter, remember," Brock pointed out. "Anyone who's planning on flying needs to be fast."
"Then my sister and I are obvious choices," Latios said. "How fast are you, Lugia?"
"I'll give it a go," Lugia decided. "And I believe Ho-Oh has his ramjet, so he is capable of the same speed..."
"Count me in!" Charizard declared.
As the discussion continued, Shaymin walked a little way away from the group and pouted.
"What's wrong?" Mawile asked, sitting down next to her.
"Nobody's listening to me when I say Giratina's dangerous," Shaymin mumbled.
"Of course Giratina's dangerous!" Mawile replied. "They believe you! They just don't think a dangerous Pokémon is a bad Pokémon!"
She waved over at Tyrantrum. "Tyrantrum wouldn't hurt a really annoying Flying-type, or if he did he'd feel really bad about it!"
"But they should listen to me!" Shaymin demanded. "I said Giratina was a bad Pokémon, that should be good enough!"
Mawile was silent for a long moment after that, as some of the Pokémon in the group split off to start helping all over Gracidea Vale – her friend Tyrantrum being one of them, quite happy to help save Pokémon instead of battling them.
Then she spoke up. "Shaymin… I don't think you're being very nice."
"What?" Shaymin demanded.
"We all know you're scared," she explained. "But what my trainer's trying to do is to solve the problem – he won't let you get hurt, but he's going to be in danger while he does. And it's not very nice to tell people off for trying to help, especially when you want them to just tell you you're right instead."
Suicune ran across the grass and flowers of Gracidea Vale, her paws touching only lightly before springing ahead again but her slipstream sending flower petals whirling away in an artificial wind.
Dawn held onto her mane with one hand, looking around. "This is… I forgot how smooth it feels when you're running! It's almost like we're not moving, there's no wind, but then you look outside and wow!"
Suicune smiled, despite the situation, then shifted course slightly. She ran over the gravel hill at the base of the glacier's lake and pelted across the icy-cold water, then skidded to a halt on the far shore.
Dawn got off and sent out her Pokémon, Mamoswine first, then added some of Ash's Pokémon from their own Pokéballs – Glalie, Totodile, Buizel, Lapras and Kingler, for their help with Ice Beam attacks, and Snorlax and Tyranitar to help by simply pushing.
Suicune began to help as well, blasting ice at the base of the glacier to help shore it up, and the others joined in a moment later.
"Hey, how come Squirtle isn't here?" Totodile asked, in between firing blasts of freezing energy.
"Probably because he'd try to turn the glacier into a robot," Lapras replied. "Or a volcano, a volcano's possible too."
He used Surf, sending a wave crashing against the base of the glacier, then the whole group – from Buneary and Piplup to Glalie and Suicune – froze it in place to act as an extra buttress against the movement.
Dawn was already heading out with Togekiss, looking for the Regigigas who they knew would be somewhere around there, and for a long moment there was nothing but the sound of Ice attacks crashing against the glacier.
Then Noctowl flew overhead, wings working hard, and dropped a large fridge next to them.
"Tally ho!" he called brightly, and the fridge door swung open. A glow emanated from it, and Rotom began using a powerful Ice Beam to help out.
"Hey, my ice lollies are in there!" Totodile said. "Are they okay?"
"...probably," Rotom replied, then fired another burst.
"How much further?" Swellow asked, looking down at Mega Absol.
"It's kind of hard to tell, this takes a lot of concentration," Mega Absol replied, loping along towards the middle of the vale. "I'm doing… it's almost second order metacatastrophe stuff, trying to work out where I need to stand to minimize the catastrophes that would come from my not being able to warn about other catastrophes fast enough."
"I'm glad I don't need to deal with that," Staraptor muttered. "Okay, just let us know when you're in place, right?"
"I can assure you I'll be doing that as soon as possible," Mega Absol agreed.
She felt out with her senses, reaching for each of the groups assembling all over the valley. There was a knot of potential representing the pending arrival of Misty and her Water-type specialists over by the lake, and other Pokémon spreading out along the high mountain flanks to stop any large landslides by reducing the risk from the boulders.
Just as importantly, another group of Pokémon – Mawile among them, using her collapsible glider wing – were alerting the inhabitants of Gracidea, recruiting them to help out and warning them of the danger. Even from here she could see the flares of light as two Shaymin went into Sky Forme, helping to alert other Pokémon in their turn, and the sight brought a smile to her face.
Deciding she was nearly there, Mega Absol slowed a little. She padded along at a walk, then stopped.
"Okay, here I think," she said. After a moment, she relaxed and let the Mega state drop away from her.
"Why did you de-Mega-Evolve again?" Staraptor asked. "It seems kind of a bad idea."
"I have to," she replied. "Ash is going into another world, and if that means a forced reversion I'd lose concentration right when the problems started."
She rolled her neck a few times, then nodded. "Right. Okay, let's get ready for this."
Crobat and Flygon joined them, then Noctowl, and Absol nodded her thanks to the flying Pokémon who were ready to send instructions.
"The emergency reserve is over in the middle of the field," Crobat reported.
Absol glanced over at the area Crobat had indicated – which contained both Muk and Squirtle – and winced slightly at the thought of what would make them use it.
Cynthia says she's on the way, Dexter reported. She was close enough to a Pokémon Centre to send Lugia over, but she'd rather come herself with the rest of her Pokémon.
"Good," Ash said, a little distracted. "Okay, have we missed anything…"
He looked over at Mewtwo. "Are there any restrictions to who you can take?"
No major ones, Mewtwo replied. But it's harder the more people you take.
"Right..." Ash said. "Giratina might be in trouble, so you're coming, Meganium. Lugia… I think you'd better stay here, I don't think you're fast enough, and you're a strong enough Psychic to be really useful here."
As Lugia nodded his acceptance, Ash frowned. "Hold on, what about the Orange Islands – are they okay?"
"Silver and his mother were there when I left," Ho-Oh supplied.
"Good," Ash said. "Okay, so… Latias, Latios, Charizard, Ho-Oh… Dexter, if everyone who's coming by transceiver has arrived..?"
They have. The Not-Zodiacs are alerting the Elite Four elsewhere, though. The Reverse World is a bit iffy on things like distance, so the damage could spread out – Ethan's going to coordinate with Absol.
"Okay, and I'm going to take Lucario, Pikachu and Kari for if we get onto that big airship," Ash continued. "Zorua, how can you do at being a Pidgeot?"
"I'm not as fast as a real one," Zorua replied. "But I'm light, and I can help out if you catch up."
"Good point," Ash agreed. "Okay, Mewtwo, I think that's everyone-"
The Shaymin came running over to them, slowing to pant for a moment.
"I want to come," she declared. "I… you're all helping my home out, and helping me out – and… and I'm sorry for what I said. And I want to help you out."
Ash nodded. "Sure," he agreed. "Are you going to come like that, or in Sky Form?"
In reply, Shaymin stuck her snout into a nearby cluster of Gracidea flowers. There was a bright flare of light as she transitioned into Sky Form, then stood there with a much more confident stance.
"All right," she declared. "Let's go. I'm ready."
Ash looked at Mewtwo, who nodded, then the trainer recalled almost all of the Pokémon he was taking. Kari and Dexter remained at his hip or in his pocket, Pikachu took up his customary position on Ash's shoulder, and Zorua tensed up – ready to switch to Pidgeot form in a moment.
Shaymin shifted a little closer, ready to come along as well.
"Good luck, Ash," Brock said, and then Mewtwo switched his attention from preventing the Vale collapsing to warping space.
Unlike the other teleports Ash had been involved with, the shift to the Reverse World was not instantaneous. Everything around them vanished, replaced with a blank blackness so complete that the only illumination was the witchfire light of Mewtwo's psychic energy.
After five or six endless seconds, with no sound either, letters appeared in the darkness. Unown eyes appeared, one at a time, until a complete alphabet were circling around the travellers.
Then there was another sudden un-movement, and they were standing on a fragment of cobbled road which stretched away for perhaps ten feet in all directions.
"What just happened?" Ash asked, one hand going to his throat as he checked he could speak again. "Where was that?"
The process of transiting is complex, Mewtwo informed him, as Ash send out the Eon twins to scout the area. It was quicker to request help from the Unown than to do it myself – much quicker.
"Well, it worked," Ash admitted, looking around.
The Reverse World was even stranger than he remembered it being. The odd purple mist hung in the air everywhere, but he hadn't seen – or had forgotten – the more unusual examples of altered gravity which only added to the strangeness.
There was a little segment of river which poured over a waterfall, only for the water to loop around and replenish itself as a splattering rainfall barely eight feet back from the precipice of the waterfall itself. There was a tree which grew out in all directions, lacking a visible trunk as a riot of leaves concealed everything but the occasional branch.
There was not, however, a Giratina.
"Did we… I don't know, take a wrong turn?" Ash asked, using his Airslip Aura trick to keep the purple mist away.
It's an entire reality, Mewtwo replied. Either it's directly concordant, in which case we might be as far away from Giratina as we actually were in the real world, or it's not, in which case we might be anywhere.
"You've got to admit, it's a good point," Pikachu said.
Shaymin began to gasp, one paw going to her nose. "I… think I'm going to sneeze!"
Deducing that that meant Seed Flare, Zorua quickly hopped behind Shaymin – just in time, as Shaymin failed to entirely stifle her Sneeze Flare and sent out a burst of energy. It cleared away a bit of the fog, but failed to open a portal.
"Shouldn't that-" Ash began, then stopped. "I mean, didn't you say Seed Flare could blow a hole into the real world?"
I suspect we're going to turn over the task of working out how that works to Gary Oak once all this is resolved, Mewtwo noted drily. Maybe there's a minimum explosion threshold.
The purple fog rippled as Latias shot past, heading on a widening spherical sweep.
"Nothing yet!" she squeaked, vanishing into the distance again, and they just about saw her jink around an outsized geode.
Ash frowned. "It's going to take ages to find Giratina at this rate… wait, hold on – can I try something?"
We're not going to stop you, Mewtwo replied with a mental chuckle.
Ash sent out Ho-Oh. "Quick question?"
"Go ahead," Ho-Oh agreed, hovering in place. "Just a moment, though."
He spread his wings and flashed with iridescent rainbow brilliance. The Storm's End exerted his power, and the purple fog rolled away under the influence of his powerful Defog move – opening up the horizon in an ever-widening sphere.
"There," he said. "What were you going to ask?"
"For you to do that," Ash answered. "I… guess I don't have to ask now, though. Thanks!"
"It is my pleasure," Ho-Oh told him gravely, turning to look around the Reverse World. He flew a little higher, then nearly did a somersault before recovering himself.
"Is something wrong?" Zorua asked. "Why did you do that?"
"The gravity in this place is odd," Ho-Oh replied. "Suddenly I felt like I was upside down. I'll have to be careful about that, it seems."
Ash was about to reply, but a flash of light caught their attention.
As soon as Mewtwo vanished, the power of his psychic pressure dissipated. Absol flicked a sword-beam to her south – a Leaf Blade – and Lugia's wings swept at the air, driving him through the bowl of the valley towards the north-facing slope of one of the girdling mountains.
By the time he arrived it was already starting to crumble, some subterranean trauma making it give way, and Lugia used his own Psychic attack to slow down some of the largest and more dangerous chunks – though he could only slow it, as it seemed like the whole mountain was trying to move down the slope. High cracks echoed through the air as layer after layer of rock gave way, and Lugia was joined by Entei and Sceptile.
Sceptile jumped straight into the air, aiming for one rock at a time, and Lugia released each one from his psychic grip as Sceptile got there. The Grass-type slashed it into hundreds of smaller pieces with a blur of Leaf Blade attacks, putting just enough force into each to break through the rock, then jumped on to the next and left a cloud of gravel that was slowed by air resistance to a much more manageable speed.
Entei, on the other end of the rock slide line, used sheer brute force. He slammed one Sacred Fire after another into the falling rocks, blasting them apart into dust, then jumped up to the level of the fracturing rock and slapped it with an Inferno to spot-weld the whole mess in place.
That stopped the immediate problem, but Absol was already signalling with another sword-beam as a different problem arose in the direction of the glacier. Despite the efforts of the Pokémon working to shore it up, the mass of ice was moving and shifting downslope – grinding rock to powder beneath the weight of a million tons and more of hard ice.
"Lugia, Absol says stay in the south!" Swellow reported, flying up and around him in a blur of wings. "Entei, head towards the east – Sceptile, the west!"
She shot back to Absol for further instruction, then turned towards a knot of Pokémon who hadn't been given a task yet – Raikou among them, along with Chansey and both Quilavas.
"Next valley over!" Lugia faintly heard her say. "Help the Pokémon there get out!"
Two of the four Pokémon went into their Pokéballs, and Ash's Quilava shot off in a spindash. Raikou paused just long enough to pick up the Pokéballs, then ran after her in a lightning-fast lope.
"How far away was that flash?" Ash asked, squinting – seeing more flickers of light now. "It's so hard to tell, this place has no scale to it..."
Latias came rocketing back to meet them, skidding to a halt not ten feet away. "Latios just saw something!" she announced, then her eyes lit up and she began sight-sharing.
Ash and the others saw the scene as if they were floating around Latios – a giant five-pointed star of an airship, the Megarig, and Giratina held in a crackling cage beneath it.
There was a beam of silvery light as a Shieldon tried to break Giratina free of the cage with a Flash Cannon, but to no avail, and then the cage pulsed once and opened out again.
Mewtwo immediately teleported them there, causing a strange moment of double vision as they saw themselves through the sight-sharing effect, then Latias ended it and swung Ash up on her back. Zorua was caught out of the air by Latios, and for a moment all they could do was stare as Giratina fell sideways to crash down into a shallow lake floating at right angles to their 'down'.
Mewtwo's psychic power whipsawed out, hammering at the Megarig, and it faded out of corporeality to evade the attack.
"This... seems bad," Pikachu winced, then looked around. "Everyone look out for where it's going to reappear!"
Ash sent out the rest of his Pokémon aside from Meganium, glad the clear air created by Ho-Oh's enormously powerful Defog reached this far, then pointed. "Over there!"
"Got it!" Latias agreed, speeding towards the shallow lake. An explosion behind them made Ash look around, and he saw the remains of a burst of green Dragon Breath smashing at an agglomeration of earth and splintering it into powder.
"Cliff collapse coming!" Absol called up. "Team five!"
Staraptor dipped his wings once, confirming he'd heard, and took his directional cue from the glowing Slash she launched off her horn. Lining up with it and powering ahead, wings bulling through the air by sheer force, he dove to the ground for just long enough to pick up two Pokéballs.
He was already too far away to hear what Absol was saying, but not long after he'd collected his reinforcements a blur came pounding up behind him.
"Good to see you!" Staraptor called. "You sure you didn't oversleep?"
Blaziken gave him an unimpressed look, then deposited Grumpig and Venusaur's Pokéballs a little way back from the danger zone. Working out that they were going for evacuating the Pokémon below the cliff, Staraptor pulled up in a hard climb and lobbed both the Pokéballs he was carrying.
Gliscor was the first out of her Pokéball – her lift from Staraptor buying her precious extra seconds – and she crested the top of the cliff as it began to quiver ominously. Staraptor flew past her at about the same moment, and the two of them quickly assessed how many Pokémon were up here before Staraptor nodded to himself.
"Houndoom, safe!" he called, and Houndoom came bursting out of his own Pokéball. He skidded to a halt in the grass of the cliff top, and did a double-take at the sight of an entire family of Aron and an Ursaring with two Teddiursa clustered around his paws.
"What's going on?" the Ursaring asked. "Who are you?"
"Cliff's collapsing, please get ready to be helped!" Houndoom replied, flicking his tail across and producing two dozen Beat Up doubles. They shimmered and changed shape, picking flying Pokémon like Gliscor or Lugia or Staraptor for their base forms, and the display made all the Aron step back in surprise.
"This cliff's going to be gone soon!" Staraptor told them urgently. "So pick something with wings and take a ride!"
One of the Aron was the first, stepping up to a Staraptor duplicate, and the Beat Up double took her claws before jumping off the cliff.
"What just-" the Aron leader began.
"They can't fly, but they can glide – they still have big wings!" Houndoom pointed out, dancing on his paws as the cliff began to sag. "Hurry up!"
The sight of the ground itself starting to give way provided the catalyst that was needed, and all the Aron ran to pick up Beat Up gliders. Gliscor took the two Teddiursa, leaping off the cliff edge with them, and Staraptor wheezed slightly as he carried the Ursaring off the cliff edge a moment later.
Houndoom was the last one left, and he peered over the edge at the team on the ground below – seeing Blaziken rescuing Pokémon after Pokémon to get them out of the danger zone in a blur of orange flame, and Venusaur's Vine Whips lashing out to take the closer Pokémon and move them further back as well.
His doubles were losing altitude, but it looked like they'd all make it out of the danger zone too – so Houndoom stepped back, ready for a flying jump so he could rescue himself with one last Beat Up double.
"Need a lift?" Delta called, and Houndoom shrugged to himself.
That worked too.
"Yes please!" he barked, double-checking he had both the discarded Pokéballs with him before running flat-out at the cliff edge. He reached it and pushed off just before it collapsed entirely, falling away beneath his paws as he sailed out into the air, and two seconds later he landed on Delta's wide back.
The big Water-type absorbed the impact without any trouble, and Houndoom breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks."
"No problem, what are friends for?" Delta asked, shedding altitude so he could put Houndoom down by the cliff base. Staraptor had deposited the Ursaring and was already flying off again, probably back for more instructions, and Houndoom had the feeling this wouldn't be the only time he got involved before all this was over.
Well, so much for normalcy.
This is what I've been doing the last few weeks, of course.