The Battle Factory is Ash's next destination—if he can find it, that is. He and his friends have become lost, but they see snow and an Articuno flying overhead, followed by a plane in distress. The group winds up at a Pokémon Center, where Scott gives them a ride to the Battle Factory. There they meet Noland, who's not just the Factory Head but also a bit of a mechanical mastermind, and the pilot of the plane they saw last night.
Ash can pick which of Noland's Pokémon he wants to battle. Noland has befriended an Articuno whom he helped once, and he takes Max and Pikachu up in his plane to fly with the Legendary Pokémon. Team Rocket wants Articuno for themselves, and they show up in their own plane to steal it. It's no match for Articuno, who quickly sends them on their way.
Impressed, Ash decides he wants to battle Articuno. What's more, he wants to battle it with Charizard! It looks like this is shaping up to be quite a match...
After following Max’s instructions, Ash and his friends find themselves lost while trying to locate the Battle Factory. They eventually start setting up camp for the night. Then, while they take a few minutes to admire the moon, a bit of snow blows by, and they see something fly overhead. After a few brief glimpses, they identify it as an Articuno. The Legendary is soon joined in flight by a small malfunctioning biplane, but both seemingly crash. Team Rocket, who have also set up camp for the night not far away, also see Articuno. Meowth suggests trying to capture it for the Boss. Though James points out that Articuno is, after all, an extremely powerful Legendary Pokémon. As a result, James proclaims that they should go ahead and straightforwardly take Pikachu and the Pokémon from the Battle Factory.
Ash and his friends have been walking around trying to find Articuno again. They don't find it, but they do locate a Pokémon Center. They spend the night there, and the local Nurse Joy promises to give them directions to the Battle Factory in the morning. The next day, Joy is about to give them the directions, Scott interrupts, and he offers to take them to the Battle Factory himself. It turns out that Scott is every bit as insane a driver as Professor Birch, and he takes a shortcut. Fortunately, everyone survives the trip.
They are about to enter the Battle Factory when they hear the noise of an engine. A large vehicle smashes through the doors of the Factory and nearly runs the group down. When a voice from inside the vehicle makes it clear that the thing is out of control, Ash, May, and Brock use their Pokémon to stop it. A hatch opens on top of the vehicle, and Noland emerges. Noland goes on to introduce the vehicle as the Noland J-9, his latest and greatest super-machine. He is interrupted by his assistant Sergio, who runs out and, rather exasperated, asks Noland if he's been playing around with that thing again. Noland replies that he isn't playing, it's his hobby. Noland introduces himself as the Factory Head, and Scott explains to Ash that that means he's the Frontier Brain of the Battle Factory. Ash introduces himself and says he's arrived to challenge the Battle Frontier.
Later, Sergio calls out that it's Pokéblock time, and about a dozen powerful-looking Pokémon come running. May's Munchlax also comes out of its Poké Ball to join them in the meal. May is about to call it back, but Sergio assures her that there is plenty of Pokéblock for everyone. Ash is surprised by the large variety of Pokémon, to which Noland explains that more Pokémon give more possibilities for battles. He asks Ash which one he wants to battle against, but Ash has trouble deciding. Meanwhile, Munchlax grabs one of the bowls of Pokéblock, and runs off into a nearby building. May and Max give chase, but it doesn't take long to spot Munchlax standing on a crate, eating Pokéblock in private. Then Max notices something else: the airplane they saw the previous night. And then, a cold breeze starts blowing, which May wonders if Munchlax has learned an Ice-type move, but Max says it isn't Blizzard or Icy Wind. The truth is revealed moments later, as Articuno arises from behind Munchlax, then soars out of the building.
With Articuno now out in the open, Noland provides some explanation to the group, admitting that it is fact still a wild Pokémon. One night, while he was test-flying his plane, he was quite startled to find Articuno flying alongside him. Then Articuno started having trouble flying. Noland quickly realized that it injured its wing during one of its flights from mountaintop to mountaintop. He got it to land on top of his plane, brought it down, and helped it heal. Since then, it frequently comes to visit him.
Max says he wants to fly with Articuno, and Noland offers to take him up in his plane. Max invites Pikachu along, and they take to the air. Before long, Noland and Articuno are competing at fancy flying. May, Brock, and Scott, watching from the ground, are so enthralled that they don't even notice Ash is gone until he gets back. Brock asks where he was, and Ash says he was just making a quick phone call.
Suddenly, Scott notices something else in the sky. It's Team Rocket in a new mecha, making a very rapid descent to land near them. After their motto, the trio set their sights on their targets, the Battle Factory's Pokémon. Ash orders Pikachu to attack, then remembers that Pikachu is up in the plane with Max. He decides to use Grovyle instead, but before he can send it out, one of the mecha's many hands snatches the Poké Ball right out of his hand. The mecha then takes to the air, grabs about half of Noland's Pokémon, and is about to fly off when Noland rams it with his plane. The Pokémon are released, and the mecha comes crashing down. Noland makes it known that he finds Team Rocket's mecha interesting before asking Articuno to get rid of them. Articuno grabs the mecha in its claws, lifts it off the ground, and throws it high into the air, where an Ice Beam finishes it off.
That night, Noland asks Ash if he's decided which Pokémon he wants to battle, and he says yes. Max thinks he'll go for Venusaur, and May thinks Rhyhorn, but Ash says neither. He wants to go one-on-one against Articuno. This surprises everyone, except possibly Noland. He just turns to Articuno, asks if it agrees to this, and when its reply is affirmative, asks what Pokémon Ash will be using. Ash looks up towards the moon, and says "that one." Everyone looks up, and they see something large and winged silhouetted against the moon; it’s Ash's Charizard. The phone call he'd made earlier was to Liza at the valley where Charizard was training. Charizard greets Ash with the usual Flamethrower. Noland says he's looking forward to tomorrow, and both Articuno and Charizard eye off the competition.