Diamond 36: Give me Innocence
Diamond 36: Give me Innocence
Standing in front of the Viridian Gym, Delia made herself focus on the present. She had no more time to get lost in her memories. Her son was all grown up and he was expecting her to watch him participate in the Viridian City pokemon battle tournament, she wanted to be there. She wondered if she was unconsciously setting up an escape route for herself. If she had somewhere to be, she wouldn't be able to talk to Giovanni for long, she wouldn't be able to explain things as she should. That was, if he even spoke to her. She thought about putting it off for another day, but if she did that, a day might turn into a year and a year into a decade. Maybe deep down she didn't want real closure.
Delia made her way inside the Viridian Gym; it was not the same building she had lived in before. The underground facilities survived, but the structure above the surface was destroyed a long time ago. The glass doors opened for her automatically, leading her into a little lobby reminiscent of the generic design of Pokemon Center lobbies. The furniture was better than in Pokemon Centers, yet the room didn't seem special in the least, as if the building hid no secrets. Her footsteps echoed on the white tiles as she made her way to another set of glass doors on the opposite side of the lobby; those doors did not open. She could see the gym's spacious battle arena on the other side with two opposing platforms, it was dark and deserted.
"The gym leader isn't battling today, because of the tournament," a young man came through the automatic double doors at the entrance. He made his way towards a single wooden door in a corner of the lobby, between two fake potted plants with forest green plastic leaves. He took a set of keys from his pocket, a mix of silver and copper with a leaf shaped keychain similar to the Earth Badge that could be won at the gym.
The young man was wearing a pair of old blue jeans and a gray tshirt, he had a few pokeballs attached to his belt. He had no red R anywhere, but Delia guessed right away he must be from Team Rocket. Why else would he be going into the gym with a large set of keys so casually? She could clearly picture him in the black uniform with a red R. The image seemed to fit him perfectly with that look in his eyes as if he knew more than he let on. He was more focused on finding a specific key among the dozen in the ring than on the unknown lady until she spoke a familiar name, "Luke?" He immediately looked up as if searching for something in her face that looked familiar, "no, you can't be, you're too young to be him," Delia realized.
The young man had the same red hair and blue eyes Luke had, though his haircut was slightly different. His face was an almost exact copy, but unlike Luke, he wasn't tanned. Although Luke's tan was not something he was born with, but rather a color he acquired due to his love for the beach, otherwise he would have looked just like this man. "You're that lady from the picture," he paused, searching for a name in his memories, "Delia?"
"You know me?" This came as a big surprise to Delia, even if the man was too similar to Luke not to be a relative.
"You really are Delia?" He was visibly shocked, "wow, talk about unexpected surprises. My name's Comet, my father, Luke, told me about you and all the things that happened in Team Rocket a long time ago. He used to tell me the story of how Team Rocket defeated the Tempest Gang all the time when I was little. He has a picture of the original Team Rocket together; he told me all about his adventures with them!"
The tension of Delia's mission melted away and she allowed herself this little deviation. She couldn't help it but to smile upon hearing the young man's name, leave it to Luke to name his son something like that. "How is Luke, is he alright? I heard from him many years ago and he was going on some dangerous missions."
"Dad's fine," Comet confirmed, "he's in Johto now, his missions aren't quite as dangerous anymore. He's well known in Team Rocket for his skill in training pokemon. He trains pokemon that belong to other members too, to help the team improve." It seemed that after several years of risking his life, Luke finally managed to earn a true second chance. Delia couldn't help it but to wonder how much Luke really had to do for that.
She thought she understood the choice of keeping Luke around. Perhaps it was more than the benefits of a diligent worker, Luke was a remnant of a distant past. Yet there had to be more to it. "I'm really happy that he's alright." Almost unconsciously they had both sat down on the black leather chairs of the lobby, more elegant and comfortable than what they usually had in Pokemon Centers. "Do you know Binks?"
"Yes, I used to see him often when I was little, but I hardly remember him or anything about my early childhood," Comet replied sadly. "Binks passed away a long time ago. He was a scientist working on New Island, I heard he occasionally had some health problems," schizophrenia, Comet didn't specify. "For the most part he did alright as long as he was busy. He was working with some big shot scientist last thing I heard, Fuji or something like that. There was an accident and something exploded in the lab," Comet left it at that, but it was clear that explosion must have been the end of Binks as far as he knew. "Oh man, I have a really big mouth, I shouldn't be saying so much. Dad used to talk about the old Team Rocket all the time so it's almost like I know you. You'll keep this all a secret, right?"
"Of course," Delia assured, "I don't want you to get into trouble or anything." She held back her curiosity, feeling that it wasn't her place to ask, she didn't want to make Comet feel sad or uncomfortable. She had left long ago, to pick up the pieces of her existence and form a new life.
"Good, I don't want the Boss to get mad at me. I heard it really sucks when he gets mad at someone," Comet laughed with the same carefree attitude that Luke had in the old days. He had probably never gotten in Giovanni's bad side if he could still act so relaxed when speaking of the possibility. Comet had grown up in Team Rocket and gotten used to how things worked at a young age. Yet he had the same good heart as Luke, despite being a loyal Rocket. He could never pass for a real villain; he was just a carefree adventurer like his father.
Comet and Luke were really a lot alike, so much that Delia had no guess about who Comet's mother was. She wanted to ask, but wondered if she should. His mother was probably in Team Rocket; Luke wouldn't have a chance to meet anyone outside of the team if Giovanni had kept him under watch during the time of his dangerous missions. Maybe she was no longer among the living. Out of the five people Delia had met that night many years ago in Cerulean City, only Giovanni and Luke still lived as far as she knew. She wondered how many of the other people she used to know were still there. Archer, Ariana, Proton, Petrel, Ben... what had become of them?
"Do you think I could talk to Giovanni?" So many years had passed that the voice of reason in Delia's head told her it was useless to talk to him. They lived their own lives away from each other. The past was apparently long since left behind, but Delia never truly buried it. She only pushed it to the back of her mind where it waited to resurface at a later date.
Comet looked puzzled; he didn't know what business Delia could have with the boss after so many years. He never thought he would actually meet her. "I could ask if he has a few minutes. The boss has to battle the winner of the tournament today, but that won't be for a while. He might have to give a speech when the tournament starts though."
The small wooden door on the corner of the lobby suddenly opened and there stood a blond woman, a few years older than Comet. She was wearing an outfit similar to nurse Joy, save for the dress being mint green instead of pale pink. "Comet, what are you doing sitting there? I told you to hurry up with the keys when I called. Too many people showed up for the tournament, so they're battling as soon as they sign up to narrow them down. That means that the Pokemon Center is getting plenty of customers and the facilities we set up to treat pokemon at city hall might need to open soon. I need to get some supplies in there, the mayor won't get any votes out of this if his medical staff is lacking resources," she scolded impatiently.
"Oops, sorry Laiki, I just got a bit distracted," Comet smiled sheepishly, exactly like Luke. The mayor of Viridian City had been continuously reelected for decades. He had a few important deals with Giovanni, thus it was in Team Rocket's best interest to make sure he stayed in city hall.
"Sorry to have caused a delay," Delia apologized. She noticed that the blond nurse, probably also a member of Team Rocket, was looking at her curiously.
"Hey, isn't this the boss' ex from way long ago?" Laiki asked Comet. Her tone was as if Delia wasn't even there to hear. She pointed at Delia, as if pointing at a picture.
"Is that how everyone here knows me?" Delia didn't expect anyone to recognize her at all.
"Not really," Comet explained, "I know you because of my father and Laiki knows you because she's the resident gossip expert. She must know every detail of everyone's life," he grinned at the pouting nurse.
"You're his ex, for real? I was just kidding about that! And what did you say about a gossip expert? You better shut it, Comet. I know her because my brother, Binks, told me all about the beginnings of Team Rocket," the way they interacted hinted that they had known each other for a long time. Laiki grinned curiously at Delia. "There are only a handful of people in Team Rocket who would know who you are. You're just lucky some of them work here at the gym. Given that, I take it you haven't been around here or else we would have ran into each other sooner. Anyway, my name is Laiki and I'm in charge of keeping the pokemon alive around here. The boss is busy today because of the tournament. I would feel bad if you came all this way to be ignored, so why don't we go to a nice little cafe and talk?"
"Laiki!" Now it was Comet's turn to scold her, "she's not here to share all the secrets of her life with you. Besides, don't you need to set things up at city hall?" He tossed her the keys which she effortlessly caught. "Just get some grunts to help carry the boxes; I'm taking Delia to see the boss."
Laiki pouted, clearly upset at being excluded, but she knew she had her duties to perform. "Alright, fine, but you better give me the details later. I can't believe I'll miss this. It's like a cheesy soap opera coming true and I won't be there to watch it unfold. I hope the boss doesn't get mad at you for this. If he kicks both of you out without having a chance to talk it's going to be too anti-climatic." Complaining about missing out on the fun, Laiki disappeared through the same door she arrived from, leaving it unlocked.
"Is it really alright for you to take me to Giovanni?" Delia didn't want to get Luke's son into trouble. She was beginning to think more and more about what Giovanni would say if he saw her. Maybe he would just tell her to leave.
"I don't think it'll be like a soap opera," Comet assured. "That's just what Laiki hopes because she really likes them. She always keeps saying that it's never too late to be involved in a juicy scandal. She's always been like that and I don't think she'll ever change."
"Laiki is very different from Binks..." they were practically polar opposites, Delia mused. Laiki was straight forward and confident, while Binks had been shy. They had the same shade of pale blond hair, though Laiki's eyes were a deep green different from Binks' warm brown.
"That's what everyone who ever met them both would say," Comet agreed as he led the way through the little door on the side of the lobby. He made sure to lock it behind them. There was a maze of halls beyond the door, one of them leading to an elevator. The elevator took them to the third and final floor of the redesigned gym.
The atmosphere in the third floor was fancier than in the floors below, with smooth marble flooring and polished black wood doors. Comet stopped in front of one of the doors. It was further apart from the others as the rest, hinting that the room was larger. Delia didn't know if the air-conditioner was colder or if she was feeling colder.
There was something very unfamiliar about that place. It was true that the Viridian Gym was different, having been rebuilt a little over a decade after she left. Delia had never set foot inside the new gym, but that wasn't what felt so unfamiliar about it. It wasn't about the building; it was being in the same place as Giovanni. She remembered their past, but she had forgotten what his presence felt like. She knew he would change in time. The added unfamiliarity of suppressed yet eternally present feelings added to the uncertainty in the atmosphere.
Comet retrieved a small device from his pocket; it was a shiny black cell phone with a red R on top. It was smaller than the cell phone Delia used to have when she was in Team Rocket, and much more flat, about half an inch thick when it was folded. The device held a tiny keyboard instead of just digits, which she would imagine must be a little uncomfortable to use due to its miniature size. Comet didn't type anything though, instead he pressed a button then spoke to the little cell phone, "hey boss, if you have a minute, Delia is here to see you."
There was a short silence and Delia assumed Comet had sent a voice message, "should you really say it so directly? I would be shocked if someone suddenly told me Giovanni came to see me." It was something she imagined many times after she went to Pallet Town. Then as Ash grew, she stopped thinking about it and focused on her son. Later, when Ash started his pokemon journey and her life fell into a predictable routine, thoughts of the past surfaced again.
"I guess that would explain the silence," Comet examined the tiny screen; the call had gone through and was active, he was sure of it.
"You mean that wasn't just a message?" Delia tried to picture Giovanni's face upon hearing the news followed by her voice in the background. Would he look surprised, or would he be able to keep a neutral expression as he used to do in most situations? Would he look indifferent or disbelieving? Delia found that she couldn't get a clear image.
"Let her in," after the pause, Giovanni's voice finally came from the little cell phone revealing that it had been set to speaker phone.
Comet quietly opened the door, closing it after Delia was inside and remaining outside. He felt as if Laiki was rubbing off on him, standing there outside the office as if it was of any use. The office was sound proof and sound locked. Even if Laiki was there to put her ear to the door, she wouldn't hear anything. Giving the closed door one last glance, Comet walked away. He was supposed to be on break after completing a successful mission, but he ended up helping set things up for the tournament, moving boxes of supplies here and there.
The random chores reminded Comet of the past. He had been an errand boy for Team Rocket since he was around seven, though he didn't remember much before that. Occasionally, his father would report to the Kanto headquarters in Viridian City and take him along. That was how he met Laiki when she was a rookie pokemon nurse, he had heard about her from Binks before. She treated Team Rocket's pokemon, as well as stolen pokemon that were left in bad shape as a result.
"Good luck," Comet whispered, though there was no one there to hear him. He would tell his father about the chance meeting. He was sure Delia wanted to ask more about him and their friends from the past, but she must have felt she shouldn't. Depending on how things went in the office, maybe Giovanni wouldn't mind too much if Delia took some time to catch up with Luke and the other long time members of Team Rocket she used to know.
Giovanni could always know where Luke went. The tracking chip he carried was never removed even after his long sequence of suicidal missions was successfully completed and his debt was paid. Those missions were not his only payment though. Luke had a small chip attached to his ribcage over his heart; it was a detail that Comet was unaware of. If Luke died during a mission it would be risky to abandon the body and the sooner it was recovered the better. The chip would not only serve as a beacon for Team Rocket's tracking system, but it would detect his heartbeats, thus confirming that he still lived. It also made it impossible to remove it without suspicion, since it had to be close to the heart in order to continuously detect his heartbeats.
A Meowth with several scars and a charm that was cut to a sharp point ran up to Comet and jumped on his shoulder. Her appearance was not his doing, the Meowth was already like that when he got her and it was not due to her previous trainer either. It was because of her life as a wild street pokemon. He received the pokemon from a friend, though he still considered the Meowth to be hers, or perhaps more so a wild pokemon, despite having a pokeball. Comet's first pokemon was a Magikarp his father let him keep as a pet despite being too young to be a legal pokemon trainer. That Magikarp eventually evolved into a strong Gyarados.
Comet petted the Meowth, "where did you run off to? C'mon, we better help keep Laiki's improvised infirmary at city hall well supplied or she'll bite my head off about it later."
xoxox xox xoxox
After so many years had passed, when Giovanni and Delia saw each other again, it almost felt as if they were meeting for the first time. Delia thought she might change her mind about all the things she wanted to say when she finally came face to face with Giovanni, but it was all the opposite. She had to stop herself from shouting the truth too fast and directly without any form of preparation for him.
She had promised Ash she would finally give him the answers he deserved, the things that happened in the past were not his fault and he shouldn't live without knowing of his origin because of it. As for Giovanni, she felt no anger or resentment towards him. Even so she expected to be at least a little upset when she saw him again, but she wasn't.
"Why did you come here?" Giovanni finally broke the silence. At that point he had no more anger or reproach left for her sudden departure so many years ago, though he still kept a strong hidden bitterness. He was puzzled as to why she would suddenly show up.
"I came to talk to you," Delia replied softly, she noticed Persian looking at her curiously. Persian approached and she petted him gently, kneeling beside the pokemon. "Look at how much you've grown and you're fully evolved too!" Delia somehow knew he was the same pokemon from long ago; the little Meowth Giovanni had helped out of the egg she took care of.
Giovanni wouldn't put it past Delia to suddenly show up just to talk. It was something she would do and she didn't seem like the kind of person to change too much over the years. Although he too had forgotten what it was like to be around her, he noticed there was a look of purpose in her eyes. That was his first clue that this wasn't simply a casual visit out of nowhere. "You have something to say, don't you?" He had gone around his large desk, now standing right in front of her, not bothering to hide his curiosity and puzzlement.
Delia took a deep breath, "yes, a lot," she still felt the irresistible need to tell him the whole truth, but tried to find a way to properly phrase it. They sat down on a small couch that was in the corner of the office where Persian often napped while Giovanni was working.
Delia looked conflicted, which puzzled Giovanni further. What could she possibly have to say after so many years that was so important? She thought about starting out slowly, but she was starting to feel his impatience. She was becoming used to his presence again. She would have to cut to the chase, but she would do it step by step. "Do you remember that letter I wrote when I left?"
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Pokemon. Cliffhanger! All that I will say is that there's a lot more going on than what has been revealed so far and nothing will be simple.