Preparing for Liftoff (PXR import) (claimed)
#1
Originally posted July 11, 2018 to PXR. Claimed November 8, 2018 by Elrond.

I wrote this for a prompt of the PXFire creative writing contest. Submitting it to try and catch a Swinub.
Rating: Teen, comments welcome!
Concise grade is fine on this piece.

***

During a break in the court proceedings, Giovanni gazed out the window at the devastation from the war Kanto had lost. Not physically – the buildings and plazas still stood but that merely hid the ruin. The streets were nearly empty, shops were shuttered, and the only knot of people stood outside the soup kitchen. His own company had done no better; in a few minutes he would return to the bankruptcy hearing, where the vultures would casually divide up the Enko Rocket company which he had built from nothing. Gunpowder had been mandated a critical supply by the government, and there was nobody left to buy the fireworks they couldn’t make anyway.

He felt a bump against his leg, caused by a pink Slowpoke trundling to look through the window as well. It brought the hint of a smile to his face, but it was enough to break the melancholy. “What do you think they’ll leave us, Proton?” he asked without turning around.

The other man stepped up beside his Slowpoke. His light hair almost looked green under the odd bulbs they used in the courthouse. “You know I still hate that nickname,” he replied. The shortest of the executive team and the most science-minded, a glib intern had first used called him that and it’d stuck. “I don’t think we’ll even get to keep the company name. Either way, we owe so much that we can’t possibly stay in business.”

Giovanni sighed, but he had known it was likely. He straightened his tie and smoothed down his suit jacket. “Then I guess we let them take the tooling, and see if they’ll let us use the cash reserves for final pay.”

Proton nodded. “I mean, they have to let us pay the workers. The bank freeze put us three weeks behind on paychecks, people can’t afford to not have that money.”

An hour later he was proved wrong. The creditors seized every physical, electric, or copyrighted asset the company had built up; even the small bit of operating money went towards paying their debts. The workers would get nothing from it. Ariana tried a last minute, tearful plea but the lenders must have had ice stones for hearts.

“Those workers aren’t just employees. They’re family,” she had said, a few wisps of red hair escaping from her bun. And it was true – most of them had been at the company for years, a few of them from the beginning. Making fireworks was dangerous, and they’d had a few accidents despite their caution – the shared danger had bonded everyone from the paper rollers to the executives themselves.

After the verdict they retired to one of the few coffee shops nearby still open; it catered mostly to the lawyers and judges of the courthouse. Missing from their number was Petrel who was occupied with an estate proceeding from his brother and would join them later. “I’m not sure what good it will do, but if we pool some of our own money, maybe we can do enough for our team,” Ariana suggested.

Giovanni nodded. “I was saving for a summer home, but that’s certainly not going to happen any longer. They’ll have what I can spare.”

“And from me,” Proton added. “Our people deserve at least that much.”

They figured out that even what they could spare would be less than half of what the employees were due, but when Petrel joined them he had another solution.

“When my brother was killed in the war, I was the only family left,” he explained. “He owned a gambling parlor in Celadon city that’s pretty run down, but maybe we can pay our team what we have and offer them jobs if they move there, to help make up the rest.”

Giovanni nodded. He had hoped to account for more than running a casino, but perhaps this could be turned to his advantage somehow.

***

What he didn’t account for was his wife’s attitude.

“That was going to be our vacation house!” she yelled at him through the bathroom door.

He had to make her understand. “Those people have run out of savings. They can’t even afford the tiny ration the government will let them buy.”

“Then they can find other jobs! That was our money!” she yelled back.

Why was she being so unreasonable? “This is just temporary. We are going to run a casino that Petrel owns. I know we can make more, and help my team as well.”

Silence for a moment, broken only by sniffles from the bathroom. “That’s really it, isn’t it. A casino, of all things. And your precious team. A bunch of grubby firework makers are more important to you than your wife!”

“Now that’s just preposterous,” he replied. “You know I love you.”

“If you loved me, you’d keep your promise to me and get that beach house!” she retorted.

Before he could respond, he caught a flash of red from the corner of his eye. His young son stood outside the open bedroom door, looking at Giovanni with confusion. The fire red mop of hair, inherited from his mother, and the silver eyes which had earned him a nickname already.

“Son, your mother and I are talking. Please go back to the kitchen.” The little boy didn’t move from his spot. With a sigh, Giovanni left the bathroom door and went over to him. “Son, please. I brought you home a special present. Don’t you want to know what it is?”

The boy nodded. “I will give it to you as soon as your mother and I finish talking. Please, go wait in the kitchen.” Finally his son turned, sticking a finger in his mouth as he wandered back towards the front of the house.

He returned to the bathroom door. “I promised you that vacation house, and in time we will have it. But I will not pay for it with the misery of the people who’ve given so much to help put us there in the first place.”

He heard no reply except the sound of the faucet as she started the shower running. Turning, he delivered an angry kick to the laundry hamper, toppling it to spill shirts and slacks across the carpet. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and went to find his son.

Sure enough the boy was at the kitchen counter, having just poured himself some juice. Reaching into a pocket Giovanni pulled out a red and white Pokeball. “Son, the surprise I brought you is a new friend. Do you want to meet him?”

The boy nodded solemnly. He’d inherited Giovanni’s serious demeanor, even in little things.

Giovanni pressed the button on the front of the Pokeball, and in a flash of light a small, furry lump appeared on the kitchen tile. It was tan with darker brown stripes and an oval, pink nose at the front. “This is a Pokemon called Swinub. It has one of my favorite types. Do you know which that is?”

His son pulled the finger from his mouth. “Gwound?”

With a smile, Giovanni knelt down. “That’s right, he’s part ground type. And he’s part ice type, too, so if the summer gets too hot he can help you keep cool. When you’re older you can take him out for Pokemon battles, too.”

“Nub,” the small lump added. It began snuffling about the tile exploring the kitchen.

“I think he’s hungry. Would you like to feed him?” The boy nodded, and Giovanni opened the fridge. Sure enough, a small carton of mushrooms was in the crisper and he pulled it out, handing it to his son.

The boy carefully took a mushroom from the carton and bent down to the small Pokemon. Smelling food, the Swinub turned around and opened its mouth wide – nearly as wide as it was! His son tentatively reached forward until the mushroom was in reach, and the Swinub happily gobbled it down. That finally brought a smile to his son’s face as he reached for more mushrooms.

Giovanni left them there, gathering his suit jacket as he went to the front door. Ariana was going to pick him up for their first trip to Celadon to see what the future held.

***

It was unimpressive. The Celadon Game Corner was dingy and worn, reeking of stale sweat and spilled beer. Paint was cheap, and new carpet would be the first order of business, he resolved. The lighting was poor, many of the machines were out of order, and the crowd was terrible – compulsive gamblers, mostly, with a scattering of despondent veterans and unemployed businessmen trying to get rich quick. None of them had.

“The sale of my brother’s house should be enough to pay for the renovations,” Petrel told them. “Not much more than that though.”

Ariana eyed a dying shrub in a gaudy ceramic pot. “This place needs more than fixing up. It’s barely making enough to keep the lights on. We need to find a way to get more people in here.”

“I had an idea on that,” Giovanni said. “Right now the people who have the most money, other than those blasted lawyers, is Pokemon trainers.” He pulled one of his own Pokeballs off the clip at his belt. “If we have rare Pokemon as prizes, we can get them to spend that disposable income on tokens for a shot at winning.”

“Where are we going to get rare Pokemon though?” Petrel asked. “I like the idea, but I think we’d spend more on getting them for prize winnings.”

Giovanni smiled. “Use our team. Several of them even took the gym challenge back in the day, but if we send four or five to Mount Moon to hunt for Clefairy, I’m sure they’ll come back with a decent haul to start with.”

Ariana laughed softly. “They probably will, I’m sure they’ll come back with an army of Zubat. What do we do with all those?”

“Why, give them to the other team members, of course,” Giovanni responded. “It’ll be a loyalty bonus for sticking with us. We have more people than we need to run this parlor; get everyone else to start learning about Pokemon. It’s a start, but I’m sure that’ll pay off for us down the line. They can hit the forests, the mountains, even the oceans finding rare Pokemon that trainers won’t want to track down themselves, and we can draw those in here.”

Petrel was nodding. “Yeah, I like it,” he said. “Archer was one of the shift foremen, and had a few badges. I’ll ask him who he thinks will be most helpful on this.”

“This will just be a setback for our team,” Giovanni said. “We will come out of this even stronger than before. No matter what we do, remember – Team Rocket will persevere.”

***

The house was dark when Giovanni returned home. The air was warm as he stepped through the door, and the gentle hum of the air conditioner was absent. “Dear? Are you here?” he asked, knowing that there would be no response. “Son?”

He went to the kitchen first, and an envelope on the marble counter caught his eye. There was no name on the front, but who else would it be for? He pulled a folded piece of paper from it and read the flowing handwriting.

“Giovanni,” it began. “When we married you promised to provide for us and give us a better life. You convinced my father you could support me, and our children. I don’t know if you can anymore, and I don’t want our son to see what you have become.

“We are going back to my parents. If you come to your senses, send us a letter. I hope you do so soon.”

She hadn’t even bothered to sign it. Angrily, Giovanni crumpled the letter and turned to throw it away when his boot bumped something that rolled across the floor. Reaching for the switch, he turned the kitchen light on and saw a small, red and white sphere.

He didn’t need to pick it up to know what it was, but he did so anyway. The heat of anger froze solid within him – she hadn’t even let their son take the Swinub with him. He felt calm for the first time in days, and a flash of his old determination.

Maybe she was right. Maybe he did love the team more than her.

Maybe that was enough for him. They would persevere.
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#2
Right, I've been putting this off long enough.

The Good
- Loved that you took an existing set of characters and gave them a believable backstory. You did a really good job of explaining how, in this universe, Giovanni's organization became casino owners and developed a gang-like mentality, and you even left some threads that show a burgeoning view of Pokemon trainers as prey for their new business (and later, their crime).
- A nice bit of world-building at the beginning. I love the use of the mysterious Kanto war as a backdrop for what became of the region later on.
- Though it was a bit sparse, you did really well describing the handful of settings where the story takes place.

Room for Improvement
- The story was made up of short scenes with potentially large-ish time skips in between. While you included the most important events, there's a ton of room to really develop the plot and characters.
- Your unique characters, Giovanni's family, suffered the most from the story's short format. There's little explanation given for his wife's harsh reaction toward the situation... More accurately, it's strange that her main reaction is anger at the loss of a potential vacation home, rather than fear of overall financial instability. She goes from 0 to "taking my son and leaving my husband" in the space of two short scenes. That's a pretty drastic step to take after one discussion (that we can see), so it's a bit jarring because it doesn't make a ton of sense that the otherwise calm, collected, and by this account rather kind Giovanni would end up married to someone so superficial and rash without a bit of a buildup.

Verdict:

Swinub not captured for now, but it's very close. I think what the story really needs is a little more explanation of why Giovanni's wife reacted to the news in the way she did. As an example, you might be able to craft a longer discussion between them, to explain what their financial situation has been for the past few years. The dialogue you do have is well-written, but there isn't much between those two characters, and since it's such a huge event in Giovanni's life, there really should be a bit more development.
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