This is the first of four chapters today.
"What's going on over there?" Houndoom asked, tilting his head.
"I don't know," Goodra replied, shrugging. "Maybe it's some kind of reunion?"
He shook his head. "I guess it must just be a nice thing, rather than anything important – if it was, we'd know about it."
Houndoom nodded. "Yeah, that sounds about right. When's Ash's birthday?"
"That would qualify as important, I'd have thought," Goodra mused. "And I don't think it's just yet."
The Dragon-type thumped down on the floor to soak up some sunlight, and as he did Gary's Umbreon came loping over.
"Oh, hey, Umbreon," Houndoom said, tail flicking from side to side a little in a proto-wag. "Any idea what's going on over there?"
"Not really," Umbreon passed on. "Gary said we could have the day off, though – probably an experiment or something."
"That would make sense," Goodra agreed. "Glad we worked it out."
"We can't have everyone go," Gary said. "Not quite. Gramps, you're a great trainer, but we need someone here who can tell what's going on."
"You know that's not what's going on," Professor Oak replied. "This is to make sure I'm one of the ones who's safe. Who isn't going into danger."
"Yeah, it is," Gary agreed. "Partly. Not all of it, but some of it. And that's because – well, because you're family. I want to know you're safe."
He pointed at Ash. "Ash is going to know his mom's safe. Brock's family is safe. Misty's sisters are safe… May and Max are both coming, but that's because they have powerful Pokémon whose help we're going to need. But none of your Pokémon are reminded apart from Damos, and none of mine are apart from Dee, and that means it's a choice between you and me – and I'm going."
The elder Oak took a breath, ready to protest, then slowly let it hiss out.
"All right," he said eventually. "You already said Damos is staying back, and that makes sense – he's much more familiar with the lab systems than any of the other Porygon."
The Professor then rubbed his temples. "Just… stay safe, okay, Gary? I don't want to lose a grandson in all this."
Gary nodded, and gave him a quick hug – one uncharacteristic enough to startle the Pokémon Professor.
"We'll be okay," he promised.
"I kind of wish we'd been doing drills at this or something," Ash admitted. "This is really complicated and I'm having trouble keeping track… wait, Jigglypuff? We reminded Jigglypuff, right?"
"Yeah, I remember that," Pikachu confirmed.
On my way, Mewtwo announced. He picked up Guanna, whose screen was showing a map of Orre, then vanished with a flash.
"Orre?" May said, noticing. "Huh. She must have gone a long way on tour."
"Wait, we're talking about the Jigglypuff who's a big name singer, right?" Iris asked, blinking a few times and trying not to yawn. "I've got some of her albums. I didn't know you guys knew her."
"Yeah, the first time around she kind of kept running into us," Misty agreed. "It was really annoying, she drew all over us after we couldn't stay awake for her songs."
"...you're why she always has a Pokéflautist for backing, aren't you," Iris realized. "Huh. I should have wondered why that was different, but I guess I always put it down to the whole… things go different the second time around… thing."
"That might be involved too," Lucario said.
Mewtwo rematerialized, complete with Jigglypuff.
"Okay, I only have the really basic story," she said. "But if you guys need help, I'll give it… just tell me that you have an explanation for why I'm a Fairy type now. It was kind of a shock."
"That was actually me!" Molly's Eevee called. "I was a Sylveon at the beginning of time, so suddenly there were Fairy types."
Jigglypuff stared at her, then shook her head. "Okay, whatever. So there's people that anyone who hasn't been reminded can't see… I guess my job is to sing? And without my backing flute?"
"That's right," Brock confirmed. "And anything else you can do as well."
"Oh, I've got a few things," Jigglypuff confirmed. "It'd help if you have Pokémon who can fight while asleep though."
Ash nodded. "Yeah… okay, um, is everyone here who's going to be going?"
"I am!" Molly announced.
"Molly, you..." Ash began.
"I know!" Molly replied firmly. "I know you want me to be safe. But I can help, a lot, and I'll be safer helping you than I will be waiting for everything to go wrong."
She touched Eevee on the head, for reassurance, then looked back up at Ash. "I trusted you, when you said you'd be my friend and my brother… and you are, you're a really cool older brother. And I trusted you when you said you'd get me my family back, when I was really lonely. Now I want you to trust me… please?"
Ash wavered, not sure what was the best idea. "Uh… hold on a sec. Absol, can you tell anything about it?"
"This is an incredible mess," Absol replied. "Everything's kind of… twisting in on itself, and I don't know why. It's like I can see tree branches snapping off, rain pouring down, everything you'd associate with a hurricane except no hurricane!"
She put one paw to the side of her horn, wincing, then lowered it. "But… but… okay, we were talking about Molly, right?"
"Yeah!" Molly agreed. "Can I come with Ash?"
"It… ugh..." Absol muttered. "Defining disaster as Molly Hale being harmed… small risk. Defining disaster as any of Ash's friends being harmed… smaller risk than if she doesn't, but..."
The Dark-type shook her head. "I can't even make sense of this, if I look further I'm going to get a headache. What were we talking about again?"
Drew listened to the translation of the Porygon he'd been assigned, and winced. "That's… yeah, I don't want to think about how confusing that is for her."
"I don't think she wants to think about it," Sceptile agreed.
Mars nodded sharply. "We have our teams spread out all over the inner space of Spear Pillar, Pokémon ready – except the Shadow Pokémon."
"Good," Cyrus replied, remembering his own instructions on just that subject. Shadow Pokémon were to be sent out only when needed – to use them as guards would consume too much energy. "And Charon's equipment?"
"All moved here," Jupiter said. "We had a little trouble keeping the Lake Guardians in the Styler influence field, but that was resolved."
"Good," Cyrus repeated. "Report to me if anything goes awry."
Saturn came hurrying up as he finished speaking, and stood with hands clasped. "I am sorry, but we were unable to catch that Porygon."
"Hm." The Galactic Leader's face was set. "Unfortunate – but a setback, nothing more."
He turned to Charon. "How soon can you be ready?"
"As soon as you want me to be," Charon answered, checking a readout. "We have the summoning grids ready to go active, and all three Red Chains are ready to go."
"Then begin," Cyrus ordered, without preamble.
Charon waved a hand to one of his assistants, who spooled up the generator they were using to supply power, and then began feeding it to the nest of equipment surrounding the two Space-Time Orbs. The air began to hum as the complex machinery built up, ready to reach across space to pull Dialga and Palkia forcibly to the Spear Pillar itself…
...but, as the machinery rose to a keening pitch, nothing seemed to happen.
"Charon," Cyrus said warningly. "Explain."
"I… don't really have an explanation for you," Charon replied, a little distracted as he checked his screens. "The machinery is all functioning according to specifications, the heterodyning frequencies are correct… it's as if everything is working correctly but they're not doing anything."
He turned to his boss. "You have to understand, this is one part of the machinery we couldn't test. If we have to use the summoning grid up at the spear point, we'll need a few minutes to move everything-"
"Jupiter," Charon said, snapping his fingers. "Shadow Lucario, now."
Jupiter produced a Pokéball from her pocket marked with the Galactic G symbol, and Cyrus took it from her hand.
"Remove the Lustrous Orb from the machinery," Cyrus added, and two of Charon's assistants hurried to do so – nearly getting an electric shock before the power was spooled back down again.
Once the orb was placed on the glassy nothing that served the Spear Pillar for a floor, Cyrus opened the Pokéball. "Shadow Lucario, destroy the orb."
The corrupted Fighting-type obeyed orders instantly, hurling a thick lance of unshaped Aura which shattered the crystal into a thousand pieces.
"The Space-Time Orbs are invulnerable," Cyrus pointed out. "These are not the Space-Time Orbs. They're fakes."
"But – how?" Charon asked. "Who could-"
"That attack weeks ago," Cyrus said. "It's the only time which makes sense. No matter."
"What are we going to do, then?" Saturn asked. "We need the Orbs to summon Dialga and Palkia."
"We always planned on snaring Giratina with the danger to the other two," Cyrus replied. "We'll just have to snare Dialga and Palkia with the danger to the Spear Pillar. Shadow Lucario, smash three of the support pillars."
Shadow Lucario growled softly, and hurled out three spheres of dark Aura one after another. Each one hit a pillar about halfway up, making the stone break off and sending chips everywhere, and one Galactic team had to quickly move as the upper half of a pillar crashed down.
"I'm reading dimensional instability," Charon said. "It's about twelve… no, thirteen… it's growing. Slowly, but it's growing."
"Then it will be an excellent way to get the attention of Dialga and Palkia," Cyrus said, smiling thinly as he returned Shadow Lucario to the Pokéball. "Spear Pillar will not be needed in the new world without spirit, so sacrificing it is no loss."
He pointed. "Charon. Make sure the Red Chains are ready to use at short notice. We do not know where Dialga and Palkia will come from."
"Of course," Charon agreed. "Erin, unhook them from the monitoring equipment..."
Outside the entrance portal to Spear Pillar, the Porygon Babbage was trying his best to both complete his mission and stay hidden.
As a basic Porygon, not an evolved Porygon2 or higher like his copy baseline, the extent to which he could modify his base form was limited – he could not render curves and had a limited triangle count, and his form largely needed to consist of a single mostly-contiguous mesh.
Right now he was stretching those constraints to the limit, forming himself into a wide-array dish to gather as much information about the portal and the far side of it as he could. It was a distraction from his worry about whether he had made a mistake in being located, and certainly about how bad the situation was in other ways.
There was a blue flash inside Spear Pillar, the information collected and resolved together by all his wide-spread sensors, and Babbage fed it into his model of the situation inside the pocket-reality space Team Galactic was guarding.
The pattern of the flash looked familiar...
Match found: Cherenkov radiation.
Babbage reconfigured, switching from data-gathering mode to transmit mode, and sent an alert out tagged with Dragon's private key.
Alert: high probability that Team Galactic has acquired Dialga. We are now on a time limit.
Confirmed. Dragon sent back. This station preparing to shut down and transfer for combat purposes. Please send all available information on the guards posted outside Spear Pillar.
Babbage double-checked his sensor take. Three Galactic troops, with a mix of Pokémon – a Mightyena, a Gardevoir, a Drapion and a Salamence were the stand-outs.
Sending live feed now. Be advised, substantial additional combat power inside the portal.
Confirmed. Please wait, strike package incoming.
"If they have Dialga, we need to move now," Ash said.
"We need to do this quickly and carefully," Cynthia corrected. "They might or might not know just how many Pokémon you have which can see what they're doing, but they're clearly not just relying on their weird perception thing."
"Right," Ash agreed. "But-"
He paused, raising a hand. "Hold on. Okay, I think I know what we can do. Mewtwo, we're going to need to go in two trips..."
"Hey, uh… question?"
One Galactic Grunt looked at his teammate. "What."
The first speaker waved around at the surrounding terrain. "You ever wonder why we're here?"
"No. I listened at the briefing."
There was a long pause, as they kept a lookout for any sign of a trainer or Pokémon that might disturb the operation.
"So… why are we here, if nobody can even see us?"
"Because some people can see us," the smarter Grunt pointed out. "You remember that attack that took place on HQ? Those might turn up again, or it might be those other guys who Charon said could inexplicably notice us."
Mightyena paced back and forth in front of them, occasionally sniffing the air, and just behind him Gardevoir kept up a faintly shimmering psychic shield.
Then something moved in the trees, and Gardevoir launched a pulse of psychic energy in that direction. There was a crash and a rustle, and Salamence raised her head – ready to blast whatever the intruder was – before settling back down when no further signs of movement came.
Then, quite suddenly, an enormous blast of psychic energy appeared from thin air. It tore though Gardevoir's shield and hit Drapion square on, who absorbed most of the energy, but the remainder of the thick beam of energy bypassed Drapion and hit the ground underneath him – with enough force to cause an explosion, knocking them all away.
Dragonfire lanced out of nowhere, striking Salamence just as she unfurled her wings, and slammed the whole wide wing shape painfully down into the ground. A moment later, a sudden gust of wind blew past, and a Latias appeared in a flash of blue light – shimmering silver wings held out for the Steel Wing she'd just used to knock Gardevoir flying.
The Latias vanished back into cloak, and a Latios appeared instead – using Psywave to slam Gardevoir back into the ground, knocking her out for the count – and the first Grunt finally recovered enough from the shock to reach for his communicator.
"We're under attack-" he blurted, but a squeal of static emerged from the speaker. "Damn – Drapion, Dark Pulse!"
Drapion hurled out a bolt of sizzling darkness, then another, and the second one hit something – making a stealth effect fail, and outlining Latios in crackling dark-light before sending him crashing to the ground.
Mightyena got hit by a Dragon Pulse as he moved to pounce on the Dragon-type, leaving just Drapion, and the multi-legged Poison-type flung a gobbet of Toxic at Latios before finally being hit by another Dragon-type attack and knocked out.
Then Latios dissolved in shimmers of light.
"Owwl-noct!" a Pokémon hooted overhead, and then more appeared with a flash.
The Galactic grunts slowly raised their hands.
"Nice work, Noctowl," Ash Ketchum said. "Uh… any idea what to do with these guys?"
I have one, Mewtwo noted. Cynthia, you have authority in this situation. Would it be all right for me to take these people off your hands? I'll return them later.
"Go ahead," Cynthia agreed.
"So where did Mewtwo take them?" Misty asked.
"Probably the moon," Brock replied. "They had a Gardevoir, but I doubt she can teleport all the way back from the moon, and so long as he makes the point about how dangerous it is to teleport without coordinates they should be pretty much stuck."
"That would work," Misty agreed. "Okay, so… that's the portal, and on the other side of it is… basically all of Team Galactic?"
Correct, Babbage stated. I was able to jam their communications equipment, but I am unsure if the alarm was raised anyway.
"We'd better go quickly, then," Misty said, as Mewtwo reappeared. "Everyone ready?"
A series of nods went back and forth.
"Then let's go!"
Passing through the portal was an odd experience. Like stepping though from one room to another, but as if the threshold blocked all sound and almost all light – as if the moment that someone went through, they suddenly saw the new area instead of the old.
In this case, the new area was the pocket reality of the Spear Pillar. Two ranks of stone obelisks either side of a long walkway, all in a glassy darkness like obsidian but with everything inside seeming to be naturally well lit – almost as if the whole space was suffused with light, but there was nothing on the floor, walls or ceiling for that light to reflect off.
Team Galactic was ready, but they weren't alert – the ambush had done that much – and there was enough time for the whole group to pile through the portal before the first reaction. That also meant that the first trainers and Pokémon through could see Team Galactic spread out in a defensive posture, laid out to protect the 'tip' of the spear, with some of them hiding behind fallen obelisks… and they could see Dialga and Palkia, wrapped around with two glittering chains of ruby that glowed with an inner light.
And, twisting and coiling in on itself like a snake, a third Red Chain – just waiting for the chance to snare Giratina in the same prison.
Absol yelped, her horn flashing up blue and white, and blocked a blurring lance of fire aimed directly for her trainer. In the next moment Mewtwo's shields slammed down, Pokéballs opened, and three explosions of shadow announced that Team Galactic had acquired additional Shadow Pokémon… an Articuno, a Zapdos, and a Moltres.
"What should we-" Gary began, glancing at Mewtwo. "Can you keep us shielded?"
Yes, but there are a lot of Pokémon here, Mewtwo replied. Some of them are Dark-type. I can advance gradually, but it will take a long time.
"We can't take long!" Molly insisted. "They're doing… something funny, or, they're making Dialga and Palkia do it!"
"Then I guess it's plan B," Ash said. "Remember, guys, the most important thing is to stay safe and recall the Pokémon you're in charge of if they're in trouble – and Pikachu, that includes you! If you're in trouble, recall yourself!"
"Won't you do it?" Lucario asked.
Before Ash could answer, there was a tooth-grating vulpine scream as the Shadow Zoroark from Iron Island came charging towards them, and as if that was a signal the whole cavern exploded into violence.
Lucario ran forwards, aiming an Aura Sphere at the Shadow Zoroark, but a bonemerang flew in to block the attack and reduce both it and the bone to dissipating chunks of Aura.
A second Bonemerang came curling in a moment later, and Lucario blocked it with an Aura-enhanced Force Palm. His Lucarionite flared up as Ash focused behind him, and within a few seconds he'd mega-evolved to Mega Lucario – and he'd spotted his opponent, the Shadow Lucario they'd met at Iron Island.
That Fighting-type snarled, then crouched for a moment before launching himself forwards, and Mega Lucario blurred into a dodge – then a block, matching his strength against the savage kick his opponent launched.
The blow made a wham sound, and Mega Lucario could see a little pulse of displaced air rippling out from the contact point. They held in position for a fraction of a second, then Shadow Lucario punched instead and Mega Lucario just about managed to block in time.
Blue aura condensed around his right wrist, forming into a Sacred Sword that took position from his arm spike, and swept it across in a rising attack which forced his shadowy opponent back. He rotated his wrist a little, lowering again to a guard position like the one Kari had taught Ash, then swiped for a second time as Shadow Lucario moved in to attack.
The Galactic Pokémon summoned a pair of Bone Rush staffs with an audible crack of displaced air and dark Aura snapping into place, used one to block, then summoned a replacement as it splintered and dissolved from the contact point. Seething energy began to build in his paws, and then Roland joined in the fight – one hand holding a glowing blade of fire, the other an Air Slash.
Shadow Lucario's staffs blurred, one hammering into Roland's blades and the other glancing off Mega Lucario's Sacred Sword before the still-intact end hit Mega Lucario in the right temple.
Stepping back a pace as Roland began crafting new weapons to replace the ones he'd lost, Mega Lucario rubbed the impact point for a moment before firing an Aura Sphere into the ongoing combat.
Roland was teleporting around like crazy, switching from Psycho Cut to Fury Cutter to Ice Blade as fast as he could, and the Shadow Lucario he was fighting was a blur of dark smoke and crafted bone and the staccato crashes of Bone Rush being used far too often.
The Aura Sphere snapped through with a trail of blue light, coming close to hitting Roland before he teleported out of the way, and hit Shadow Lucario hard enough to knock him flying even before it exploded. For a moment that looked like it was it, and then a second eruption of Aura – this one dark, sickening and immensely powerful – pulled Shadow Lucario back to the ground as if magnetized.
The Fighting-type threw his head back and howled, and a pulse of Aura raced out from him like a hammerblow – hitting Roland and nearly flipping the Gallade head-over-heels, and sending Mega Lucario sliding back several inches. Quick as a whip, Shadow Lucario reached up and conjured Bone Rushes as if snatching them out of the air before hurling them end-first at his opponents.
Mega Lucario caught one and blocked the second with a Mach Punch, and Roland teleported out of the way for a moment as the third staff came reaching for him. He conjured a fire-type blade and a flying-type blade, slammed them together into one longer sword, then added a Leaf Blade to give it more fuel before jumping right back into the fray again.
"Now!" Misty's Togekiss called, firing out her Fairy Wind attack.
Dawn's Togekiss did the same, sending out a cone of shimmering Fairy-type energy half a second after her wingmate, and the double-pulse cleared almost all of the swept area – dissipating Shadow Zoroark's shadowy constructs for at least a second, before they began to reform again.
During the gap, Marshtomp briefly chambered a punch and then lashed out. The Zoroark took the hit, flipping backwards before landing with a flash of shadow to soften the impact with the ground, and spikes of dark smoke which turned into lightning bolts flashed up into the sky while vines crafted of shadow itself turned into Power Whips.
Marshtomp's fists flared up as he hit the glassy ground below – producing a shockwave which dissipated the first of the vines – then turned, using Ice Punch to hammer at the next vine cluster, freezing it and making it shatter to disrupt the shadow constructs within.
"Hah!" he shouted, spitting out a wave of water and then punching it with an Ice Punch as well. The water froze on impact, and the force of the Ice Punch shattered it and sent it flicking out as a cloud of icy shrapnel – but without enough force to do much of anything, and it only destroyed a few of Zoroark's shadow conjurations before falling to the ground.
Slightly annoyed, Marshtomp tried a Thunderpunch next, and nodded to himself at the increased effect.
"Stop trying to optimize and just fight!" Casper requested politely. The Mega Banette shot out a shower of little Shadow Balls from up his sleeves, then used Night Shade to lay a wide-area effect on their opponent.
Zoroark barked, an unsettling vulpine noise, before crouching slightly and pouncing at Casper with a guard of shadowy fox-shapes coming alongside. One of them snagged Casper's arm as he dodged, biting into it before using Foul Play, and Casper grunted in pain and annoyance before swiping at it with a Shadow Claw that dissolved it into mist.
"That worked pretty well, do more of that," Marshtomp suggested.
Casper muttered something, glowing claws of purplish Ghost-type energy fizzing off his real ones and extending them to a length of several feet, then dropped so he was at ground level and began to drift forwards with his claws swiping in all directions. The sizzling claws smashed through shadow conjurations left and right, forcing the Shadow Zoroark to keep re-creating them and re-creating them, and also keeping the Dark-type aspects of the attacks from actually reaching Casper.
The two Togekiss came over for another strafing run, this time mixing Fairy Wind with Sacred Fire, and Zoroark howled before dousing himself in shadow-crafted water.
Max crouched down, partly so he didn't feel quite so exposed with all the attacks going off everywhere but mostly so he could talk to the Psychic-type in his bag. "Jirachi!"
"Yeah!" Jirachi replied, sticking his head out of the bag. "What's up?"
"Well, they might know I have you, but I don't know if they know you know they exist," Max explained, then blinked. "You know?"
Jirachi's eyes had wandered off a little. "Uhh… I think maybe that's more a Skitty question."
They looked over at May's little Normal-type, who at just that moment had a big glowing orb of light in her paws.
"Like… Assist!" she shouted, and triggered the orb. It trembled, then surged outwards in an Ominous Wind aimed roughly towards the nearest Galactic Pokémon.
"I think she's busy," Max replied, then winced at the kerrack of a powerful Electric-type attack going off. "Can you try and solve this with a wish?"
"I'll try!" Jirachi replied. "Okay, uh… I wish that Team Galactic would let all the Legendary Pokémon go- ow ow ow ow!"
Max blinked, shocked, then gave Jirachi a hug. One of the Legendary's metal tags pressed into his side, and after a few seconds Max reached for another one to check what he'd just felt.
"They're… hot," he said. "What's that about?"
"It felt like that thing that happens when a microphone gets too close to a speaker," Jirachi said, hugging back. "It really hurt, and it didn't work either..."
He shook his head. "It was like… the wish was valid, so it should have worked, but it couldn't find the target? I've never felt anything like that before."
"Hey, Jirachi?" Chansey called, hurrying over. "If you're available, Meganium and I need help setting up the medical station."
"Is that okay, Jirachi?" Max checked.
"Well… I guess, yeah, if I can't help some other way," Jirachi agreed.
"It is important," Chansey pointed out. She jumped as there was another explosion from overhead, this one accompanied by a flash of green light. "Some of our friends might get hurt – soon – and this is the best way to keep them safe and healthy."
"I've got to keep an eye on the others, a bit, but I'll come with you and do it from there," Max decided.
"Where did I put them..." Ash muttered, rummaging around in his bag. "They've got to be somewhere… there!"
"What is going on?" Kari requested. "You seem most agitated, and I am unaware why."
"I'll explain later, Kari, I promise," Ash replied, retrieving two smooth stones almost like river rocks from one of the shelves in his bag. "I've got some practice to do for now, though."
He channelled a little Aura through his fingers into one stone, and it lit up with a blue tracery almost like a circuit board. Then the other, which did just the same.
"What are those?" Keldeo asked, then brought his head down sharply – sending a Sacred Sword slashing off into the fighting, before sighing as his target dodged. "I don't think I've seen them before."
"They're Aura batteries I made years ago," Ash explained, fitting the first one into a space on his gloves. "The idea was I could use them to charge up and then drain them in a fight."
"That's pretty cool!" the Water-type told him, switching to Ice Blade and flicking a tri-beam Meteorain attack at a Dragonair. This time he did hit, and the Dragon Pokémon hissed at him before dropping back down out of the sky. "But I've never seen you use them before."
"Yeah, they have a problem," Ash agreed, finishing the process of fitting the second one into the space left for it. "There's only one way to get the Aura out of them."
With that said, he pulled his hands apart before sharply smacking the stones against one another. There was a stony crunch, and Keldeo stepped to the side in shock as a burst of power came out – and kept coming, rushing into Ash's Aura reserves and making him light up with blue witchfire.
Taking Kari from his belt with one hand and unlimbering Sir Aaron's staff with the other, Ash took a moment to settle himself – then broke into a sprint, aiming for where Lapras was fending off a Zebstrika and a Hariyama with quick bursts of ice and water.
With Aura flowing through him as fast as he could use it, Ash covered the distance in seconds. His staff smacked into the Hariyama with a burst of enhanced strength, knocking the Fighting-type off balance, and while it was still trying to recover he turned to block Zebstrika's hooves with a Leaf Blade channelled through Kari.
The Honedge held back Zebstrika's attack for a second or so, then it began to use Flame Charge, and Ash spun Kari one-handed to both avoid taking a hit with type advantage and switch from Leaf Blade to Sacred Sword. That let him hit the Electric-type in the side and knock it over, before blocking with Kari and the staff crossed in an X to absorb the force of Hariyama's haymaker.
Ash snap-kicked Hariyama in the chest while they were still locked together and while Zebstrika was still getting to its hooves, and followed that up by letting go of Kari's hilt – trusting her to grip his wrist at all times, even when she had no idea what was going on – and charged up an Aura Sphere. It grew almost as fast as Mega Lucario's did, the power from his charged-up Aura batteries flooding into it, and he threw it at Hariyama before retrieving Kari with a flick of his wrist and shoulder-charging Zebstrika.
The Electric-type discharged a Thunder attack through him, but that was just a typical day for Ash and he ignored it. Then Lapras called out, and Ash shoved the Electric-type back far enough for Lapras to freeze his opponent.
"Look out, guys!" Iris called, and Ash spun – spotting what she meant, a Fearow with long beak glowing. He brought Kari up again, charging her with an Ice Blade, and brought her down with a sword-beam slash.
Fearow dodged right – and took an ice blast from Lapras, drawing a shout of indignation as the Flying-type pulled up and abandoned her attack run.
In the skies overhead, Mega Charizard roared. He rolled his neck around, exhaling flame in a long stream that swirled in the wind from his wings, then swept them forwards all at once to throw the air and flame forwards as a single massive wall of fire.
His target – the Shadow Articuno – let out a cry, then used Sheer Cold. The pulse of intense anti-heat negated Mega Charizard's attack, cutting a hole through it like a cookie-cutter, and Shadow Articuno flew through the gap with her beak glowing for an Ice Beam.
Mega Charizard heated himself up for a Flare Blitz, charging up the beam and sending it splashing away. It was more damaging to him than it would have been to a pure Fire-type, but his new typing was no more vulnerable to ice than the old was, and he grit his teeth and pushed straight through.
Before he actually reached Shadow Articuno, however, Shadow Moltres spat down a ball of corrupted fire at him. The Shadow Pokémon was immediately hit by an Aeroblast from Pidgeot, preventing him from following up, but Mega Charizard had to break off his attack run and still got hit hard enough to drive him halfway to the floor.
Mega Latios appeared briefly under him, matching trajectories in case he needed a boost, then stealthed again as soon as he saw Mega Charizard recovering.
There was a thunderous bang as Shadow Zapdos strafed at both Pidgeot and Lugia, mixing a conventional high-powered electrical attack with one made of sizzling black lightning, and the Psychic-type blocked the attacks aimed at him with a tough Safeguard before using his aeroblast cone to physically blast Pidgeot out of the line of fire before she took too much damage.
"Thanks, but I'll handle that myself in future," Pidgeot notified him, wind swirling around her wings as she built herself air control layers, and Lugia nodded for a moment before turning his attention back to the Shadow Birds. Mega Charizard was gaining height, sending up a blast of flame every few seconds to make sure he wouldn't run unexpectedly into the ceiling of the altered space around the Spear Pillar, and Lugia reached out with his psychic powers before charging up a hammerblow Psychic attack.
Shadow Zapdos dodged the attack successfully, only to be hit by a Zen Headbutt from a barely-subsonic Mega Latias, and the female Eon Pokémon skidded sideways in the air with a burst of self-telekinesis before rolling and barely evading an Aurora Beam.
"Charizard!" she called, yawing and climbing to join him, and Mega Charizard glanced in her direction before shooting a Fire Blast at her. The attack detonated about ten feet from her, producing a massive plume of flame, and Mega Latias grabbed the lot in her telekinesis to form it into a Counter Shield. That done, she inverted herself and dove at high speed towards Shadow Articuno – dodging away flawlessly from a thunderbolt sent her way by Shadow Zapdos, then hitting Shadow Articuno a heavy blow with a second Zen Headbutt enhanced by her captured flames.
A moment later Shadow Articuno pulsed out another wave of Sheer Cold, which vanished the flames instantly and made Mega Latias' shield ice up on the outside. Lugia fired a precise Aeroblast, hitting Shadow Articuno hard enough to prevent her making a follow-up attack, and Mega Latios fired a Draco Meteor attack to force the Ice-type to dodge as his sister made her escape.
Overhead, Mega Charizard rolled over and dropped into a dive. This time he had the advantage of height, and Pidgeot's aircrafting boosted his speed further with a sinuous Tailwind, and the Dragon-type slammed into Shadow Moltres with all his talons glowing with the green light of a Dragon Claw attack. Shadow Moltres screeched, unleashing an inferno of intense flame to try and burn Mega Charizard off, then augmented it with Shadow corruption and exploded in a sphere of purple-black flames.
Both other Shadow Birds attacked as well, sending their respective corrupted attacks – a Shadow Bolt and a Shadow Chill – at the fight, and the combined barrage of attacks knocked Mega Charizard bodily backwards and falling halfway to the ground before he got his wings sorted out and pulled up again. Rolling briefly onto his back as he climbed, Mega Charizard fired off a Dragon Pulse, and had the pleasure of hitting Shadow Zapdos – then a loud crack from below drew his attention, and he rolled back upright to see an Alolan Golem blasting successive railgun-like Rock Throw attacks up at him.
Two hit him, producing grunts of pain, then Mega Latios scudded into position to block them with bursts of psychic energy. The deflection meant they could skitter off his shield without penetrating, and then there was a brilliant blue flash as Ash knocked the Golem over with a Sacred Sword beam from half the battlefield away.
There was a rumble, and the sky began to turn dark and misty – imbued with the power of the Shadow Birds now regrouping, and Mega Charizard accelerated to intercept as they combined their attacks to try and blow Lugia out of the sky. His shield flashed into visibility as it held off all three attacks at once, the force sending him sliding backwards in the sky, and Pidgeot fired an Aeroblast at the group at the same time as Mega Latias fired Mist Ball and Mega Charizard used Draco Meteor.
Half-a-dozen overlapping explosions lit up the sky, but none of the Shadow Birds went down – the sinister energy empowering them making them uncommonly durable – and Mega Charizard growled, wondering what it would take to defeat them.
"Stantler, I want you to listen carefully," Brock said. "I know this is strange, and you don't know what's going on, but I want you to trust me – okay?"
"Sure," Stantler agreed.
"I want you to promise," Brock went on. "You need to cloak yourself, and Mawile, and the other Pokémon who got brought here who aren't Reminded. And you need to keep that cloak up no matter what, okay? I'll let you know when you need to stop by returning you."
"I… well, I guess I can do that," Stantler replied. "But… what's going on?"
"Just promise me, okay?" Brock insisted.
"I promise," Stantler agreed.
"Thanks," Brock told him, and gave him a hug. "And I'm sorry you're here."
After a moment, as Brock walked off, Stantler turned to Mawile. "I wonder what that's about?"
Mawile shook her head. "I don't know..."
Jigglypuff checked her microphone, tweaking a few buttons, then nodded firmly to herself.
"Is that going to be a problem?" Tracey asked. "I'm pretty sure we're not all immune to being knocked out by Sing."
"Yeah, things got kind of hectic to hand out Worry Seeds," Jigglypuff agreed, then winced as something exploded overhead. "But that's okay, this is a shotgun microphone."
She hit something, and began to sing – or, at least, Tracey assumed that was what was happening. He couldn't hear a thing, but the air seemed to be faintly trembling in front of her.
The Fairy-type waved her hand, and the Pokémon she'd picked moved forwards – Snorlax, May's Munchlax, and Ash's Mega Heracross. They crossed into the area where the air was shaking, and promptly fell asleep – though in the case of Snorlax it was a little difficult to tell if anything had changed.
"Sleep Talk!" Jigglypuff called, then went right back to Singing, and Mega Heracross rose to his feet with his arms raised in front of him in a classic sleepwalker pose. His fingers drooped down a little, but the big chunky power-fist sections of his arms began to spin and shoot Bullet Seed attacks wildly out at the Galactic Pokémon in front of him.
Snorlax fired out a Hyper Beam, hitting an Exploud and knocking it sliding backwards – the tough Pokémon benefiting from Soundproof to let it fight in the one of influence of the Sing effect but not really protected from anything else that was going on there. A Bastiodon advanced to shield it, the Fossil putting its face down to hit the ground with a clank as Exploud readied a Boomburst, and Jigglypuff huffed.
She toggled a switch labelled ANC on her microphone, then began singing a new tune, and the Boomburst fired – then quickly weakened, turning from a potent pulse of weaponized sound into a mere loud noise as Jigglypuff cancelled it out from the source.
Both Galactic Pokémon looked very annoyed, and then Mega Heracross blasted them both away with an Aura Sphere – then peppered them with Pin Missiles and a Rock Blast.
Jigglypuff smirked, then switched a few more options on her microphone and went right back to singing. It thrummed faintly as an Electrode approached, revving up before rolling at speed towards her.
"Boom!" she called, and her own Boomburst blasted out. It hit the glassy ground just in front of the rapidly-braking Electrode and knocked it into the air a little, and Munchlax contributed with a Sleep Talk that became a Metronome that changed in turn into a Solarbeam.
Snorlax Ice Punched the Electrode into the air as it dropped out of the beam, and it Exploded safely out of range of any of the teammates before dropping back to the ground with an electronic wheeze.
"Nice," Tracey said, blinking, then looked around at the other Pokémon he was supervising to make sure they were okay. "How many modes does that thing have?"
"Enough," Jigglypuff told him. "Okay, if they run out of Soundproof or Insomniac Pokémon… I guess we get to see how many Worry Seeds they have."
She got back to Singing, moving forwards a little to extend the effect just a tad.
Molly frowned, most of her attention on her own hands, and only a little on her multi-form Eevee and the other two Pokémon she'd been given responsibility to watch out for.
"Remember, let me know if either of them get hurt," Meganium said. "I can reach them from here, and they're the ones without Pokéballs."
Molly nodded. "Right!"
She moved one hand into a shape with her thumb and first two fingers perpendicular to each other, frowned, then repeated the gesture.
"Test," she whispered.
There was a little flicker of light around her hand, and she brightened.
Making another pass, she shaped both hands together. "A."
The second flicker of light was stronger, more definite, and Gary looked at her. "What's going on, Molly?"
"I'm trying to remember how to do something," Molly replied, still concentrating. "It's sort of like riding a bike, if you never rode a bike by yourself but you remembered it. So… not really like riding a bike at all?"
She took her hands out of the pose she was making, and looked up at Gary. "But… I also remember doing it for years, too, only I don't remember very well. It's like I don't remember it at all unless I really concentrate, but concentrating on remembering makes it harder to concentrate on doing it."
"Doing what?" Gary asked, then looked up at the fights going on. "Donphan, use Muk as a ramp! Muk, ramp!"
Ash's Donphan accelerated, and Muk froze a chunk of himself with a self-directed Ice Beam, Blizzard and Ice Beam – sending him flying skywards, and letting him knock the annoying Fearow from before out of the air with a Rollout impact.
Muk remelted himself with a Flamethower three times over, and Gary returned his focus to Molly.
"It's, um… I felt like I shouldn't say because it'll be really embarrassing if it doesn't work," Molly confided. "But, uh..."
Both her hands were glowing now, more consistently than before, and she pressed them together before slowly pulling them apart. "A."
The light clung to both hands and formed a pattern in the space between them, a pattern like a slice of swiss cheese – solid in places, with holes in the rest of it.
The holes slowly closed up, forming a single sheet, which then abruptly detached from Molly's hands and collapsed into a single orb. The orb hung there for a moment, then blinked, and between one instant and the next it had black lines defining the rest of its shape.
"An Unown?" Gary said, startled. "How did you..."
He trailed off, and Molly smiled proudly.
"Can you help us with Team Galactic?" she asked.
The Unown looked at her, glowing faintly, and Molly's smile faded.
"It doesn't know what I mean," she said. "But… um… I think I can solve that anyway!"
Her hands went back together, and the glow built up again.
"What are you going to do?" Gary asked. "I – look out, Tauros!"
The Tauros he'd called to skidded to a halt and turned aside, barely avoiding the psychic blast of a Shadow Alakazam, and Gary half-raised one of the Safari Balls Ash had passed him before lowering it again.
"Well, um… one Unown can't really help us," Molly replied, her tongue sticking out a little as she tried to summon the state of mind she was after again. "But a lot of them might… and even if they can't help with Team Galactic, they made this place so they should be able to help keep it on one piece!"
"They – huh?" Gary asked.
Molly touched the glassy dark substance of the Spear Pillar floor. "It's a lot better made than what I could do, but it's the same sort of thing!"
"That's… going to be a whole monograph by itself," Gary said, a little amazed.
Ninetales girdled her paws about with flame, using them to reduce her traction on the floor just a bit, and ran forwards before sliding to the side. Her tails flickered, and she shot a Fire Blast at the nearest vulnerable opponent – a Dodrio – only for the attack to be blocked by a Flareon who jumped in the way and absorbed it into his fur.
Tweaking her appearance a little with an illusion, Ninetales moved left and slowed down a little. Then she stopped, all at once, and let her image keep moving – encouraging Flareon to focus on the moving target, and drawing attacks from both Flareon and Dodrio.
A Shadow Ball and a Tri Attack both passed through the image in the same moment, and both Pokémon realized they'd been tricked. Ninetales watched, building up her counterattack, then fired out a Psyshock that caught Flareon a direct blow and did a glancing impact to Dodrio.
Breaking into a run again to reposition, Ninetales wove another illusion around herself to disguise where she'd actually gone. Half her attention was on keeping track of the fight – it would be a very bad thing to end up somewhere where her teammates would send an attack that they thought would only catch Galactic Pokémon – and she changed position again before getting quite close to one of the fallen pillars.
A Houndour barked hysterically before jumping over the pillar, his excellent sense of smell letting him know Ninetales was in the area, and she rolled over to one side to saturate that area with her scent before jumping ten feet in a single bound and considering.
Psychic attacks were out, as were fire attacks, because the canine Fire-type was immune to both. Grass-type attacks, or Ghost, or Dark – none of them were much use, and that left her with Normal-type attacks.
Still, she could work with that.
Ninetales crouched, making enough contact with the ground to give her some traction, and darted towards the pillar. The sound of her takeoff drew Houndour's attention, but it drew him in the wrong direction – the real clue for what she was doing, the thump as she bounced off the pillar, came too late to let him avoid a Tail Slap with all nine bundled-up tails.
To everyone watching, she knew, it looked like she'd just knocked him backwards with a Psychic attack – impossible if you thought about it, but enough to provide an explanation for-
A hammerblow hit her in the side, sending her flying, and a moment later a blast of electrical energy hit her from overhead as the Shadow Zapdos took the target of opportunity.
"Ninetales!" Brock called, his hand going to her Pokéball. "Should I-"
"Do it!" Meganium called, reporting that her vines couldn't catch the Fire-type at that speed, and Brock recalled her in a blur of red light.
He sent her out again a second or so later, already in the medical area, and Chansey examined her quickly with the help of a medical program being run on Dragon's projector.
"She definitely needs healing," the Normal-type reported. "Did anyone see what hit her? I think this leg's broken."
"I didn't – aah!" Ninetales yelped, and tried not to whimper. "I… think I jostled my leg..."
"I think I saw," Gary said. "There was an Alakazam – I think it's a Shadow Alakazam. It blasted the whole area with a psychic attack, I saw rock chips go flying. Houndour was immune, but Ninetales wasn't."
"Just get me healed, so I can..." Ninetales began, then trailed off at the glare from Meganium.
"Just so you're aware," she said, sweetly, "I would like nothing more than to be out there fighting alongside Sceptile and the others. But I'm not, because this is the best thing for me to be doing. And with how you are now we don't have the ability to heal you back up to fighting trim – we can probably fix the leg, but you won't be on form."
She inhaled, using Heal Pulse to spread glowing golden pollen over Ninetales, then continued. "Basically, if we healed you, it would be at the cost of healing someone else later – what with how today is already going."
"Right, sorry," Ninetales said, wincing. "I just feel… kind of useless."
And here we go, the Battle Finale of Legend.
Some elements of this final battle have been under development since, yes, the very start of the fic.