Chapter Sixteen – Showdown
Strong sunlight burst through the large glass window and onto the Slaking’s back, the beast roaring and thumping a barrel-like chest with two fists which seemed more like boulders than paws covered with brown fur.
Erik felt his pulse racing, like his heart intended to leap out of his skin. This was it. The moment he had been working towards for what seemed like a lifetime.
As he launched Leaf’s Pokeball into the air, the spherical device appearing to move in slow motion, an anticipation of the match-up with his father twisted the very fabrics of time in his mind.
He had chosen Leaf for her versatility, her ability to adapt to any challenge with a number of different spores. He knew that if his Gloom could either attract the Slaking, or send it to sleep, he would be able to take down Norman’s first Pokemon with ease thereafter.
Another huge roar burst out from the beast’s large mouth, the sound reminiscent of a clap of thunder, as Leaf crouched down and aimed her head at the Slaking, ready to shoot spores directly at her foe.
The Slaking moved with surprising speed, hurling its large frame across the room to the wooden table and chairs in the corner. It picked up the table like it was as light as a feather, despite it looking large enough to hold Erik’s entire team atop of it, and launched it with force at Leaf. The Gloom was hit face-on with the object, which split in half and sent Leaf rocketing back into the wall as the spores were launched out from within her, the force of the blow releasing them into the air.
Norman shouted out to his Pokemon, calling on it to be relentless; and the beast obliged. Slaking picked up one of the wooden chairs, but instead of launching it at the Gloom who lay unmoving on the floor, strolled over to her in order to use the chair as a physical weapon. Each stomp of the Slaking’s feet created a mini-earthquake inside the room as it moved drowsily over to Leaf, before collapsing in a slump on the floor. The sleeping powder had had its desired effect, with the beast crashing to the floor, the impact of which causing vibrations so powerful Erik fell backwards into the wall behind him. Norman remained unmoved.
Leaf climbed feebly to her feet, shaking verociously as she did so as the Gloom used the last of her energy to send abnormally large spores into the air. The green circular grains moved through the air smoothly, like they weighed nothing at all, before suddenly honing in and attaching themselves to the Slaking. The large spores began sapping energy from the beast before floating back to Leaf and transferring the minerals back to her. Despite all this, Erik could see she remained weak, as Leaf struggled to hold herself steady on her feet.
Erik grabbed Leaf’s Pokeball and withdrew her, before sending Sunny into the fray for his first taste of battle. The Solrock loafed around aimlessly, seemingly unsure whether it was in a battle or in a dream, as the Pokemon from space looked from Erik, to the Slaking, and then back to Erik.
Norman’s Slaking woke up and groggily grabbed the chair again, launching it at the floating sun-shaped rock and sending Sunny smashing backwards into one the room’s wooden walls. Erik’s Solrock hit the ground, before racing back into the air, powered by rage. In a sudden furious frenzy, Sunny spun up to the Slaking at lightning-fast speeds. Before the beast had time to react, the Solrock covered itself in flames and began rapidly spinning around it, circling the Slaking with intent over and over. Sunny managed to create a fiery vortex, trapping his foe inside.
“Yes!” Erik thought to himself. “There’s no way Slaking’s getting out of that.”
Moments passed by slowly, but with each millisecond that passed, Slaking’s doom seemed more and more certain to Erik.
Until the normal-typed Pokemon leapt out of the fire, its wild and unkempt fur soaking up the flames as if they were made of water. Slaking grabbed the Solrock with a paw so large it encompassed most of Sunny, before the beast lifted Erik’s Pokemon into the air with ease, then slamming the Solrock down forcefully on its outstretched knee, smashing Sunny’s shell mercilessly.
“That’s exactly what will happen to Blaze,” Norman taunted, a small chuckle following which hit Erik’s ears with poison.
“How did he just soak up the flames?!” Erik questioned demandingly.
“I knew you’d be coming to challenge me here one day, with Blaze,” Norman responded, keeping his eyes locked directly at Erik’s own. “So I trained my Pokemon to withstand fire, as well as making the entire gym fireproof.”
Erik wanted to respond sharply, but held his tongue. He needed to fix his focus on the battlefield, not in a war of words with his father. He grabbed another Pokeball from his belt, he desired to send in Blaze, to let his Combusken teach Norman a lesson. But he was afraid to. Instead, he sent out another new Pokemon, Snappy.
The Trapinch took to its first battle by opening its huge jaws and roaring at the Slaking. The sound made by Snappy however was more of a soft growl, which only made Norman and his Pokemon laugh in unison. Infuriated, Snappy lowered its head and charged, aiming for the Slaking’s knee in an attempt to send it crashing into the ground.
The Slaking caught Snappy mid-charge, picking it up and hurling it through the window for the Trapinch to painfully land in one of the garden’s flower beds. Snappy climbed weakly to his feet, before slumping hopelessly back down to the ground. The Slaking moved to jump out of the window and finish it off, until Norman held out a hand calmly to stop it, spotting something his Pokemon hadn’t.
The Slaking turned slowly, lumbering around to be blasted by a paralysing wave of electricity. The beast stuttered and shook violently, the paralysis coursing through its body as it spotted Dancer. The Pikachu charged up another wave of electricity, but this time instead of launching it at the Slaking, she ran at him, aiming to inflict maximum damage.
Norman’s Pokemon still moved quickly enough to grab Dancer, holding her in a tight grip by the tail as she hung upside down. The Pikachu didn’t give up, sending an electrical blast from her crimson cheeks which slammed into her opponents stomach. The Slaking reacted by hurling her into the wall, then charging into her, and grabbing her by the neck with one hand.
Dancer was pinned up strongly against the wall, the Slaking launching a fist with full force into the Pikachu’s stomach, smashing the wind out of her. Before Dancer had time to recover, she was met by another fist, the power of which sent her rocketing out of the Slaking’s grasp and into the floor.
The Slaking went in for the final blow, launching a third enclosed fist at the weakened Pikachu lying breathless on the wooden floor. But suddenly stopped, standing frozen as his fist lay in mid-air. Sparks of electricity flew aggressively off of the beast as the paralysis had caught up with it, Slaking couldn’t move his arms, in fact, he seemed unable to move any part of his body apart from his head. Roaring in pain, Norman’s Pokemon was hit by a final blast of electrical energy emanating from Dancer’s cheeks, as Erik’s Pikachu slumped to the floor, unable to carry on battling.
Erik’s team had finally taken down Norman’s first Pokemon, but the price of the feat was horrendously high. Only Blaze and Bounce were still at full fighting strength, and whilst Leaf was weak, she was the only other member of his team able to fight. Norman still had two unused Pokeballs attached to his belt.
Norman threw out a Vigoroth as his second fighter, Erik fearing to send out Blaze so instead asking the weakened Leaf to take down the normal-typed opponent. He was unsure if the time was right for Bounce’s psychic attacks.
Vigoroth seemed to glide as it moved even quicker than the Slaking before it, bolting across the room to Leaf and slashing her with claws like knives. Leaf recoiled, falling backwards but not before launching spores into the air which latched onto the creature and drained health from it, transferring the energy into Leaf. It was a finely balanced contest, but the Gloom was still weak from the earlier fight with Slaking.
A ferocious wave of swipes from the Vigoroth left Leaf kneeling down, too weak to muster up the energy for a counter-attack. Again, she had managed to use the force of the blow in order to send more spores into the air, which zapped onto the Vigoroth, sapping yet more health off of the foe. Both Pokemon could barely stand, the Vigoroth may have moved a lot faster than the Slaking, but lacked its immense fortitude.
Erik refused to risk Leaf any further, withdrawing the Gloom and sending out Bounce, hoping the Spoink would finish off the weakened foe.
Bounce began hopping around joyfully, like she didn’t have a care in the world, but Erik knew that underneath the happy demeanour she was focused her mind on a psychic attack aimed at the Vigoroth. Norman’s creature moved rapidly, the Spoink left vulnerable as she was fixated on a psychic attack.
Vigoroth slashed Bounce relentlessly and without mercy. After the unabiding flurry of swipes, Erik’s Spoink was left in a lifeless slump on the floor, leaving the battlefield as quickly as she had entered it.
Erik shed a tear, but couldn’t decide why. Was it because he had just lost Bounce? Or because the only Pokemon he had left able to fight was Blaze? After Norman had spent almost the entire time informing Erik that he would kill the Combusken.
Blaze launched itself at the weak Vigoroth with a kick of his left foot. The attack slammed into the creature, sending it crashing to the ground. The Combusken didn’t allow his opponent time to recover, kicking out with his right foot this time and launching the Vigoroth through the window, the weakened Pokemon landing with a thud onto the solid pavement, defeated.
“You’ve done well to get this far, son,” Norman smirked. “But now it’s one on one, your Gloom, Pikachu and Trapinch are so weak they will be easy pickings. My final Slaking is much stronger than the last, I hope you will be able to handle losing Blaze.”
Again, Erik chose to kept his attention fully focused on the battle at hand, rather than giving his father the satisfaction of a reply. He shouted to Blaze to use the same tactic as before, and try and send this new Slaking rocketing through the window and out into the garden like the Vigoroth before it. As always, his most trusted friend obeyed without hesitation.
Blaze threw himself at his foe, both feet hanging in midair as he rocketed across the room, before slamming into Slaking with all his might. The beast didn’t move an inch.
Norman laughed, louder and more confidently than he ever had done before. For the first time, Erik could see defeat looming, as the Slaking picked Blaze up by his leg, the Combusken launching a burst of flames into the creature, but Norman’s Pokemon effortlessly soaked up the fire in its thick fur.
Erik had never lost a battle, but if all his Pokemon were to fall here he’d be left with only Rocky, the Numel he had caught whilst climbing Mt. Chimney who rested securely in storage. His Journey wouldn’t be over, but it might as well be.
Slaking threw Blaze with all the strength it could muster, the Combusken crashing into the sofa with such force it sent the couch flying back into the wall behind, Blaze following. The Slaking pounced after him, both arms raised so high they almost burst through the roof. Blaze was in a daze, sprawled uselessly over the floor as the Slaking began its descent downwards into the fire-typed Pokemon.
“Blaze!” Erik roared, almost screaming his friend’s name in desperation. “Get out the way!”
The Combusken snapped to attention with his trainer’s cries, rapidly rolling out of the way as the beast smashed the sofa in two with so much power the entire room began to shake violently. Erik fell backwards into the wall, struggling to remain upright as what felt like an earthquake took the room.
Blaze leapt to his feet, sending another wave of fire at the creature from his beak. Once more the Slaking’s fur soaked up the attack, the beast seemingly bursting into laughter at the attempt as he shook the flames from himself. Blaze inhaled in preparation for another attack, but was hit full pelt by a powerful fist, the Combusken being launched back into Erik as the two crashed to the ground together.
“Blaze..” Erik whispered, winded. His Pokemon looked him dead in the eye, too weak to pick himself back up, too weak to carry on fighting. “Please, keep going. I need you, my oldest friend.”
Erik could see his words were no use, Blaze tried to get up but couldn’t bring himself to. He remembered Maxie’s words, how his Pokemon channelled his fear, and there was no denying it. Erik wasn’t only afraid, he was terrified. Blaze was about to be finished off and the only Pokemon he had left would make for “easy pickings’, they were all in no condition to fight. All the bonds he had made, all the friends he had gained, all about to be taken away from him by his own father.
“Wait!” Norman shouted, it took Erik and Blaze a second to realise what at. The Slaking clambered over to the two, ignoring his trainer’s commands, and went to slam a fist into Blaze to finish the Combusken off, uncaring that Erik lay underneath his Combusken.
As the beast’s enclosed fist clouded out the light, time seemed to move in slow motion. Erik’s life flashed before his eyes as he felt as if it were about to come to an end. Firstly, he saw his father’s face, much younger and happier, he then saw his mother, Caroline. Now Wally flashed before him, then Cecilia, then May, the thought of her held in his mind for a split second longer than the rest, before Blaze came before him.
His Combusken roared, a sound so shrill it caused the hairs on the back of Erik’s neck to stand up on end, as Blaze leapt up and grabbed the fist with all his remaining strength. Using the last of his energy to save his trainer, the Combusken began to be overpowered by the single fist from Slaking, but it allowed enough time for Erik to roll out of the way.
As Blaze was about to be crushed by the fist, he spun his gaze to look Erik in the eye, and held it for a moment. Erik swore he could see fire in his Pokemon’s eyes, a re-energising flame that said to him, “I can’t let you down, Erik.”
Blaze found the strength he was searching for, pushing Slaking’s fist but up to both the beast’s and Norman’s surprise. The Combusken then took his chance, blasting flames into the Slaking’s gaping mouth, fire filling the inside of the creature. Norman’s Pokemon began swinging his huge fists wildly around the room in pain, lashing out at anything and everything in complete agony as it punched a hole through the wall and nearly hit its trainer, before Norman dived gracefully out of the way.
Blaze flew across the room, tackling the flailing beast out of the window as they crashed down into the garden below, the Combusken having a soft landing on the Slaking. Erik’s Pokemon wasn’t finished there, Blaze launched an unrelenting wave of flames across the garden, setting it alight and trapping both Pokemon inside a fiery circle.
The fires rose quickly, licking up at the sky and emitting fierce crackling sounds as both trees and flowerbeds melted in the heat. Erik and Norman stood side by side at the window, both failing to spot either of the Pokemon in the flames.
Suddenly, Blaze rocketed out, having been thrown with force by the Slaking. The beast emerging from the garden not long after, his fur covered in fire. Blaze struggled to his feet, having used up the last of his energy as the Slaking stumbled and staggered in its menacing approach, before collapsing on the floor as it was consumed by flames. Erik quickly recalled Blaze into his Pokeball, he had beaten his father.
Erik didn’t know quite how to react, a rush of emotion overcoming him as Norman stood in stunned silence. He had beaten his father fair and square in battle, but had also lost friends whilst doing so. He wanted to jump for joy and touch the sky, sigh wholeheartedly with relief and break down in tears, all at the same time.
For the last few years he had dreamed of this very moment, and each time he expected to be elated when it finally happened, but now it was here he just felt shallow. Norman was defeated, but it seemed to Erik that any chance of having his old father come back to him was now gone.
“Well done, my son.” Norman extended a hand out as he stared Erik directly in the eyes.
“Just hand over the badge,” Erik replied, refusing his father’s hand.
“Okay, but there’s something I also wish to show you.” Norman handed over the badge, a grey object in the shape of two interlinked circles, one sat neatly atop the other. “Follow me,” Erik’s father continued, gesturing to his son with a strong wave of his hand as he lifted the metal trapdoor with the other, and descended down the newly revealed staircase.
Erik followed, the stairway was steep and short, his feet hanging precariously over the edge of each step as he held onto the walls to either side with his hands to stop himself from falling down into the dark abyss his father was seemingly leading him into.
A sharp creaking sound pierced Erik’s ears, the sound being shortly followed by a dull light penetrating the darkness from the door Norman had just opened. Erik followed his father into the room, which looked to be Norman’s bedroom, with a double bed accompanied by an oak desk, topped with candles, papers and pens at the far wall.
A large man sat on a leather chair, facing the desk. Erik could only see the back of him but from what he could tell he looked to be aged around forty or fifty, possessing a bulky frame comprised entirely of muscle, with chestnut brown hair which was short and finely cropped.
“Norman,” the man spoke, a voice laced with authority. “And from the extra set of footsteps, I presume young Erik has beaten you.”
“He did,” Norman replied, standing aside and letting Erik take centre stage as the man ascended from the chair. Turning around, Erik noticed a familiar face, one which embodied menacing features with narrow, dark eyes. The man wore a jet black suit, with purple undershirt and tie, a large letter “R” above his left breast. It was Kanto’s Foreign Minister.
“It’s good to see you again, Erik,” a smile cracking the man’s features as he spoke, his piercing eyes judging Erik. “Giovanni, if you didn’t remember.”
“Why is the Foreign Minister wearing a Team Rocket outfit?” Thoughts echoed around Erik’s mind, the notion of his dad working for the criminal organisation stung his brain like an angry Beedrill. “Or maybe,” a new thought arose, “Giovanni is the illusive leader of Team Rocket. He would certainly be in a position powerful enough to influence them.”
“Why so silent?” Giovanni added. “I would hazard a guess at your thoughts? You’re wondering why the Foreign Minister would be wearing a Team Rocket uniform, correct?”
Erik hesitated before answering the elected official. “Yes,” he finally replied.
“Because I lead them. Your Father joined us a number of years ago. In fact, we sent him to Hoenn to influence things over here.”
Erik was stunned. “What..” was the only reply he could muster. “Why?..” he meekly continued, he knew his father wasn’t exactly an honourable man, but he never would have thought he would be working with Rocket.
“Because he wanted what’s best for you, Erik,” the boss replied instantly, a wry smirk remaining on his face throughout.
“How is your organisation having influence over Hoenn of any benefit to me?!” Erik snapped, more out of surprise than anger.
“Oh no we don’t just influence it, we control it,” Giovanni’s smirk grew wider with each word he uttered.
“You’re the authority of Hoenn?!”
“Two thirds of it. You see, the authorities of this region are made up of three parts. Firstly, the Trainer’s Union, which is comprised of the eight Gym Leaders. Secondly, a foreign diplomat, where I used my influence over in Kanto to take the role. Finally, the Corporate Partnership, led by a certain Mr. Stone.”
“You see, Son,” Norman followed on. “Any law or rule passed within Hoenn has to have a majority vote, out of three voters. Giovanni and Mr. Stone are two of those voters, whereas a member of the Trainer’s Union volunteers for the role, which I make sure to always be myself through bribes and favours to the other Gym Leaders.”
“But what about the common people? Do we not get any say?” Erik asked of them, but Giovanni just laughed before he could finish asking a plethora of further questions.
“The common people?!” Team Rocket’s leader chuckled. “Why would they have any power?!”
A thousand arguments entered Erik’s mind, but two questions at the forefront of his mind had still been left unanswered. “Why tell me all this? And who are Team Magma really?” he enquired.
“Team Magma are our strikeforce over here,” Giovanni replied. “We have established a Pokemon monopoly over Kanto and Johto, and we now wish to move onto Hoenn. They have two tasks, to increase the landmass of this pathetic little island to make it more hospitable for us humans, and to cause general mayhem so we can force votes to control who is able to use Pokemon in the region.”
“But so far,” Norman continued again. “Almost every time to question has been put to a vote, one of the other Gym Leaders has passionately wanted to volunteer to deny the proposal. We are getting closer though with every mischievous deed Magma commits. We’ve even managed to ban trainers without a badge”
“What about Team Aqua? Are they your minions too?” Erik enquired to the two, he could feel his anger surging from a pit in his stomach.
“They were a minor mishap,” Giovanni answered. “Roxanne and Mr. Stone voted them in to help counter Magma after the break-in back at Rustboro. They are nothing to worry about, however.”
“You didn’t answer my other question,” Erik snapped again. “Why tell me this.”
“Do you not remember our conversation when we were at your parents’ wedding?” Giovanni replied, the smirk suddenly disappearing off his face; he now looked at Erik with complete seriousness. “You are to be my successor, that’s why you were moved to Hoenn, why you’ve had so much help along the way. Norman here was supposed to kill Blaze to toughen you, then your training to join us would’ve been complete.”
“Wait!” Norman interrupted before Erik could reply. “You promised me that you’d leave Erik out of this!”
“Norman, you have allowed this all, you gave him Blaze and led him along our path. Deep down, you’ve always known that this course of action is what’s best for your son.”
Erik thought his dad was going to reply, but Norman just dropped his head and said nothing. He could feel raw anger surging through his body, his whole life had been controlled and manipulated by Giovanni and Team Rocket. All his achievements, his successes, and his losses; was it all part of some grand plan laid down by the mafia boss?
“I have told Maxie you would join and lead Team Magma when you are ready. The fool believed me,” Giovanni continued, noticing the silence. “Our true intention is to release Groudon back into the world, an ancient Pokemon of untold power that we can control and manipulate. With his power we would be unstoppable, however, we are yet to find where he is buried, or how to release him. We believe some orbs could possibly hold the key to this.”
“What would you want me to do?” Erik asked.
“To make sure Magma and Maxie are completely buried within the rubble when Groudon explodes back into this world. Their job will be complete, and we can leave no trace of our involvement. Then, you will be ready to fully join Team Rocket as my second in command.”
“I will never join you!” Erik growled. “Now you’ve told me your plans, I will do all I can to stop you!”
“Brave,” Giovanni replied with complete calm, like he was expecting this reply. “But foolish.” The Rocket boss then turned to face Erik’s father. “You see Norman, you fail to kill Blaze, and this is what happens. Oh well, we have a plan B,” he finished, facing Erik once again.
“What plan B?!” Erik retorted.
“In case you failed to comply, Norman has been training another for this role. He’s not as strong as you, but with our guidance and the power of Groudon handed to him upon release, he will eventually become unstoppable.”
“A friend of yours by the name of Wally. In fact, you aided us by helping him capture Ralts.” Giovanni turned to Erik’s father. “Make up for your failure of killing Blaze, and kill the boy’s Ralts instead, it will harden him up, making him vulnerable to conversion to our side.”
His friend’s name screamed around Erik’s head like a klaxon repeating the word “Wally!”.
“I’ve got to save Wally before they can get to him!” he thought, before bolting out of the room and back to where he had last seen the green-haired boy.