Chapter Two – Announcement

Executives and high ranking officials finished shuffling towards chairs adorned with violet velvet, each taking their marked place. Clinks of champagne glasses upon the marble table reverberated through the meeting room, forming a soft sympathy entwined with hushed chatter between the guests. Light filled the room, pouring from walls constructed of glass which granted the assembly a full view of the city beneath.

Silver tapped his fingers impatiently against the thick marble slab in front of him, refusing the drink offered by the waitress as he kicked at one of the table’s many tapered wooden legs beside him in frustration, to a warning glance from Giovanni beside him.

His father contrasted him entirely, whilst Silver grew more and more restless at the length of time it was taking for the Team Rocket leaders to arrive and settle, Giovanni remained unmoving with fingers entwined at the head of the table, appearing as calm and collected as ever.

“Here they come, power hungry hounds ready to lick up our glory,” Courtney hissed from opposite Silver. She pulled lightly on her lilac hair, which flowed wildly to her shoulders and matched the colour of her fierce eyes. Silver always remarked how youthful she appeared, despite her being his mother.

Silence washed over the room as Giovanni rose from his seat, his aura of authority like a wave of power. Silver studied his father, looking from his neatly cropped but receding jet black hair to dark eyes sunken into his skull, failing in his attempts to discern the man’s expression. Giovanni’s creased face remained embroiled in a war against age, but with each wrinkle came years of experience, wisdom and control, all of which emanated relentlessly from the Team Rocket leader. Even Silver respected him immensely, despite his sheer hatred of the man.

“Welcome, all of you,” Giovanni’s said in a deep, commanding voice. Silver hastened to find any chink in the man’s armour. Possibly an unfastened button in his jet-black suit, or a looseness in his violet tie, but found nothing other than calculated perfection, which only made him feel even more uncomfortable in his father’s presence. “I hope you all had a safe journey to Saffron City.” The Team Rocket leader halted in his speech, scanning the room to gauge the attendees, before continuing. “I’m sure you are all wondering why you have been invited here today out of the blue.”

Giovanni paused for breath, allowing Silver a chance to examine the room himself. He noticed that each member of the gathering hung on every word their boss uttered, baying for more. He was indifferent as to their identities, nobodies desperate to climb the power ladder by following at his father’s heels, just to be called fancy titles like his own, “Head of Rocket operations in Viridian City”.

“I’m sure you were all worried about journeying towards the city, cowering in fear of the menace entitling themselves as the ‘Rocket Resistance’.”

“Pathetic,” Silver thought to himself, seeing all the members nod along in agreement to Giovanni’s stern words. “No one dares to even question him.”

“Well you may live in fear no more,” Giovanni said to puzzled expressions from his obedient audience. “The resistance has ended. Their armies lay crushed and scattered upon Kanto’s golden beaches, and we have captured the leader of their operations within Kanto and foiled their foolish plans.” Giovanni picked up a glass of water from the table and took a sip, Silver knowing that his father was discerning the reactions of his subjects. “We discovered that the resistance had emanated from Hoenn, which is a region I promise you we’ll subjugate after we’ve dealt with Johto, but for now their army is crushed and banished from our lands.”

“Where’s my credit?” Silver thought to himself. “I captured Erik, it was my plan to ensnare him in my trap and I don’t even get a mention.” He felt his blood boil, but didn’t dare speak out against his father so simply gritted his teeth and resisted temptation of glaring at his father for fear of the consequences, “Not anymore,” he thought as he moved his hand towards the mask he wore over his face.

“I’m sure you have many questions,” Giovanni continued. “But there was one very important announcement to make, one that will change the Pokemon Championships forever. That’s the real reason you’ve been called here.” Another pause led to Courtney raising her hand in the seat to Giovanni’s right. “Yes, Courtney?”

“Boss tell them about our plans for Hoenn,” she almost squealed in excitement. Silver was always more reminiscent of his mother, but his father refused to acknowledge that side of him. Giovanni had informed him from a very young age that he needed to toughen up, if he didn’t, then Silver would be unfit to carry on his legacy. Silver moved his hand towards his mask again, the burns and scars underneath throbbing constantly.

“Very well. We have a prototype war machine ready for testing, but the research and development has taken time and vast expense, so remains less than fully functional for now. When complete, we shall send armies over in these machines to Hoenn, they’ll be unable to stand against us.”

“Oh that’s not the exciting thing!” Courtney said and bounced in her seat.

“No, but that’s not ready for announcement yet. But believe me everyone, when it is, no one will be able to stand against us.”
“Project Union,” Silver thought. “I’ve heard them whisper it, but even I don’t know much about that.”

“So what’s the big news, boss? Oh wait! Tell them about the resistance leader!” Courtney spoke with glee, her expression softened whenever she was around Giovanni. She became almost like an overly excited schoolgirl.

“The leader of this little resistance was a young man named Erik, who some of you may have heard of,” Giovanni announced. “He is locked away tightly in a secret location, his well-being dependant on future resistance activities. If Hoenn dare to strike again, he will be punished accordingly.”

“Little Eriky boy was the Champion of Hoenn,” Courtney informed the room. “For the idiots who have their heads in the sand. You know, we were close to taking Hoenn without force, but Erik became Champion and rallied the region against us, the idiot.”

“Mother is the only one capable of getting away with speaking in his room,” Silver thought. “If I tried that I’d be punished, like whenever I played up.” His scarred throat now ached, despite him not uttering a word. If he spoke without assistance an agonising pain would claw at him, so his mask contained a miniature computerised speaker, aiding his speech and rendering his voice almost robotic, or demonic, depending on the person who heard it. “All this pain I feel everyday,” Silver reminisced, “all because I wasn’t ‘tough enough’.” A violent image burst into life within Silver’s mind, of his father and a Growlithe, and the fire-type Pokemon’s vicious flames. He touched his mask once more.

“So we need to stop anyone becoming Champion of Kanto,” Giovanni said. “And our tactic of stopping potential threats to the stability of our governance by banning Pokemon trainers from owning Pokemon in the region could’ve only been a short term measure. The citizens of Kanto grow ever more restless.” He finished the sentence with a nod to Courtney beside him, who grabbed a large roll of parchment from below in response and unfurled the paper across the table.

“A map of Kanto,” Silver thought whilst studying the parchment, red rectangles had been drawn across the map, dividing the region into what looked like eight separate zones.

“We need to reintroduce the allowance of Pokemon trainers in the region before it causes civil unrest, but we also need to control who becomes Pokemon Champion. The Gym Challenge is too unpredictable, anyone can complete it as long as they’re good enough.”

“Oh this is the good bit!” Courtney squealed to the awaiting audience, Silver remarked that she hadn’t acknowledged his presence once, not that she ever did.

“Plans have been formulated since the embargo on trainers two years ago to introduce a new format, with a small-scale prototype trialled in Hoenn.” Giovanni waited before finishing the announcement, scanning the room to gauge his colleagues’ reactions. “A Pokemon Championship, held once every four years with the winner becoming Champion of Kanto.”

Slight gasps became confused chatter which engulfed the room, but Silver knew exactly what this meant. Giovanni and Team Rocket could control exactly who would become Champion, they’d give their members easy match-ups whilst eliminating threats by placing them against each other.

“What about the old Champion, and Elite Four?” a man called from across the room. His fierce and wildly spiked crimson hair countered the cool, ice blue eyes beset against an aging face.

“No questions mister,” Courtney roared, to a diplomatic wave from Giovanni.

“It’s quite alright Courtney,” he spoke softly to his wife. “The format of the tournament will be as so.” Giovanni paused to take a sip of water, preparing for a long and detailed explanation to clear the confusion which had swept the room following the announcement. “First up will be a local series, with Kanto divided into eight sectors as shown on the map. Each trainer will be placed in accordance to the locality they find themselves within when the tournament begins, and will face two other challengers during this stage of the tournament. Win both, and they progress to the next round. Of course, seven previous Gym Leaders will be placed into this round, for us to pair up with any problematic trainers.”

“So we decide the battle match-ups!” Courtney declared gleefully.

“Precisely,” Giovanni continued. “Then will come the regional round, where Kanto will be split in two – North and South. Once that’s completed, there will be a national series where the surviving trainers face off up until we are left with four. Then begins the final elimination series with the old Elite Four and Champion introduced against the surviving four, the winner of this round becomes Champion.

“What about Gym Leader number eight?” another voice called, Silver couldn’t tell who.

“That would be me,” Giovanni responded. “I will enter the tournament only if necessary, in case any bad eggs progress far.”

Silver clenched his hands into fists. He wanted to take part in this tournament, but his father hadn’t even given him a passing glance.

“What about me, can I play?” Courtney enquired, bouncing up and down in her seat which squeaked uncomfortably.

“No, you’re needed elsewhere,” Giovanni responded, to noticeable disappointment from his wife who dipped her head, stuck out a bottom lip and crossed her arms. “Rocket ventures shall continue as planned, plans should be set forth imminently to strengthen our grasp on Kanto and push forward our victory in the war against Johto.”

“Father,” Silver croaked weakly, the voice modifier he wore causing his tone to come across more forcefully than intended. Giovanni turned sharply to glare at his son who had spoken out of turn, rendering the hairs on Silver’s neck to stand upright.

“What is it?” Giovanni said darkly.

“What about me?”

“What about you?”

“Can I join the tournament?”

“And risk unveiling you to the region? No.” Giovanni held his glare on his son for a few seconds. “And we shall have a chat about table manners, later.”

Silver knew his father would want him to participate in the later rounds of the tournament instead to give him a better chance of winning. He considered asking his father about Kai, but stayed his tongue. He didn’t dare mention that name to Giovanni at the best of times. Kai was gone now.

“Any other questions?” Giovanni spoke coolly to the room. “No? Good. Of course any of you are free to enter the tournament with insurances given to ensure your progression through the rounds. Meeting dismissed.”

“I can assure you that Blue Oak will take no further part in Resistance activities,” Professor Oak spoke over the phone loudly enough for Blue, Wally and Leaf to hear. “He was manipulated by the boy Erik, who I understand has now been brought to justice. Of course I shall now monitor him closely to ensure this never happens again.” Oak pulled at his greying hair nervously as the voice responded on the other end. “I can only apologise, but you should know not to threaten me, remember our deal. This is strike one, as long as Blue behaves himself in future we have no problem.” Oak slammed the phone down, refusing to give the Rocket member chance to reply.

“You need to be more careful,” Oak declared to the group as he marched over, his long white labcoat trailing along the tiled laboratory floor.

“Alright Gramps you sorted it so no issue,” Blue replied, arms folded as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Leaf did though, her body shook silently as fear gripped her. Without Erik they were lost.

“No, no more ‘raids’ on Rocket facilities or assaults on their members,” Oak said in an authoritative tone that caused Leaf and Wally to suddenly stiffen.

“We can’t give up,” Wally uttered anxiously. “Not after everything.”

“I didn’t mean disband the resistance,” Oak corrected him. “I mean find another way.”

“There is no other way,” Leaf said, the feeling of hopelessness which engulfed her now clear in her voice.

“There is,” Oak once again corrected. “Gabby and Ty phoned me earlier. They have been given advanced notice on a news story they are to report tomorrow. The Governor of Kanto is set to announce that trainers are to be officially allowed back in Kanto.”

“What?” Leaf and Wally gasped in unison, even Blue seemed more alert at the news. “When?” they said together.

“Tomorrow,” Oak said smugly. “Which opens up two opportunities.”

“Two?” Blue was the one to ask as both Leaf and Wally celebrated by jumping into the air.

“We can now hunt Erik freely, in the guise of trainers,” Oak answered, looking his grandson directly in the eye. “I have no clue to his location but Archie has informed me that he’s still alive, kept as leverage in case Hoenn plans another assault.”

“And the other opportunity is that one of us can try to unite the region by becoming Champion, like how Erik united Hoenn,” Leaf caught on. “Whilst the other two hunt Erik?”

“No,” Oak replied. “All three of you will try to become Champion, the odds are stacked against us. You all need to listen out for clues as to Erik’s location, but cannot actively go after Rocket as there will be consequences. I will find out all I can here, using all my resources and contacts.”

“Race you to the first Gym!” Wally challenged Leaf, before Oak cut him off.

“They’ve shut them down,” the Professor announced to puzzled gasps. “There’s now a new tournament format, where apparently high ranking officials draw lots on the match-ups.”

“So Giovanni will match us up against tougher opponents,” Wally said glumly.

“Only Blue, they do not yet know the identities of Green and Yellow. Leaf and Wally.”

“This tournament, how do we find out who we’re facing?” Blue enquired.

“On your wrist devices, worn to declare you as a Pokemon trainer and used to track your location. When a match-up is announced, it will flash up on your device,” Oak answered, before turning and pointing to a cupboard. “I’ve kept them safe, don’t worry.”

Blue marched across the room and pulled his wrist device from the cupboard before anyone could say another word. “I’m off then,” he mentioned as he departed his grandfather’s laboratory.

“Head to Cerulean City,” Oak uttered as Blue stormed out. “Kanto has been split into eight sectors for the first round, we’ll get you all in different areas to avoid matching you up together. Wally, you go to Vermillion City. Leaf, stay here in the ‘Western Region’.”

“Yes sir!” Leaf answered excitedly with a small bounce and a deep grin. Now was her chance to make her family proud, to save Erik, and to unite the region against Team Rocket. Now was her chance to become Pokemon Champion of Kanto.