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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 2: The Bright Bats

Chapter 2: The Bright Bats.  Chapter image depicts Aero, Max, Grill, and Pic mugging for the audience so I'd only have to do half as much work describing what they look like as adults. Alas, there is now alt text, so I've done both parts of the work. Aero has a blue braid and goggles on her head and always wears long sleeves and pants with black combat boots. Max is skinny with a brown quiff.  You know, that one haircut every male celebrity in existence seemed to all get at the same time in 2014. It's shaved on the sides and long on top with a lot of gel in it. His outfit changes a lot but it's usually bold and colorful and expensive, and he usually ties his goggles around his upper arm. Grill is blond and fat with a shaggy beard. He always wears a baggy green mechanic's jumpsuit and goggles over his eyes. Pic is fairly tall and thin with a red ponytail, a gold T-shirt, a green vest, shorts, and sandals. He keeps his goggles hung around his neck.

Teisel rolled over, clinging desperately to the last lingering fragments of the dream he’d been having as he tried to drift back to sleep and pick up where he left off. The moment he realized he wasn’t holding onto Tron’s notebook, though, his eyes quickly snapped open and he glanced around trying to scan the hillside for where he might have dropped it.

Unfortunately, at that particular moment, he wasn’t on the hillside anymore. Somehow or another he found himself on a couch inside a cozy, cluttered, dimly-lit room that he’d never seen before in his life. It smelled like soup and machine parts. There was a dented old television set resting on a pile of cinder blocks a few feet away from him, a fat guy with a tangled blond beard slurping something out of a bowl near a workbench on the other side of the room, and nobody else in sight. Just a bunch of random objects and cardboard boxes packed into the room. If he had to guess at its function, he’d have pegged the place for a glorified storage unit.

The book was nowhere to be found, either. In a panic, he bolted upright. “Where’s my notebook!?” He hysterically exclaimed. His gaze darted across the strange room as he looked for any sign of the tome he could find.

The fat guy set his soup down on the workbench and swiveled around on the stool to face Teisel. “Woah, relax! I put it next to the couch, right on the floor. My name’s Grill Pitmaster. I’m the mechanic for the Bright Bats.” He explained. “Help yourself to some soup. You could probably use some food. Honestly, I’m shocked you managed to get so worked up so quickly.”

Teisel glanced down to his right. Sure enough, Tron’s notebook was neatly propped up against the patched couch he’d been snoozing on, with the faded Bonne emblem in the center facing outward. “Oh.” He flatly stated, as if that sudden burst of energy had never even happened. “Right. Yeah. Food. Yeah. That…that sounds like a smart idea.”

Grill stood up, nodded, and headed into the kitchen. Several minutes later, he returned with a bowl of broth and handed it to Teisel. “So, have you got a name or anything? What’s the last thing you ate? What were you doing up there, anyway?”

“I crashed my la…er, my airship,” Teisel explained in between shoveling down spoonfuls of broth. It tasted better than it looked. He’d learned over the years that running out of food generally tended to make things taste better. “I ran out of rations that night. Was it last night? I’m really not sure what I was thinking, coming here. I couldn’t even find the place. They probably left years ago.”

“Well, if you’ve got nowhere to crash, you’re welcome to stay here. All of us agreed yesterday that you could stick around as long as you’d like,” Grill assured him. He dismissed Teisel’s other ramblings and simply repeated, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name…?”

“My name’s Teisel. Teisel Bonne.” Teisel replied. “I could have sworn I’d mentioned it earlier...”

“Don’t worry about it,” Grill shrugged. “Airship crashes can really mess you up sometimes. If it were me in your shoes I’d probably be forgetting all sorts of things.”

“Forgetting things sounds pretty nice.” Teisel sighed. He finished up the alleged soup and pulled himself to his feet. He didn’t remember standing taking this much effort. “You have a working shower in this…er…” He trailed off. The more he thought about it, the less likely it seemed that they’d dragged him to a storage unit. He didn’t want to take any chances. He gazed lightheadedly around the room and tried his hardest to properly identify it, but he was completely stumped. For all he could tell it was half rec center, half garage.

“Yeah, it’s down the hall on your right.” Instructed Grill. “Feel free to borrow some of my clothes so you can wash that suit you’ve got on, too. I’ve got a fresh change in a crate in the bathroom. No offense, but, uh you smell like…”

“None taken.” Teisel curtly cut him off as he picked up the book and wandered down the hall. He accidentally wandered into a real storage closet before he finally figured out which door Grill actually meant. 

Teisel had a hunch that Grill’s spare jumpsuit wouldn’t even come close to fitting him. He knew he’d lost a lot of weight over the years, especially as times grew tougher, but he still wasn’t quite prepared for the sight that awaited him when he caught a glimpse of himself in the dingy bathroom mirror after he stepped out of the shower. He wasn’t sure he’d have even helped himself had his and Grill’s roles been reversed.

Part of it stemmed from the fact that he was just so used to seeing himself in that bulky suit of armor, despite how ill-fitting it had become over the last decade. Now he finally had a chance to really see how gaunt he’d become after all those years of failure stacking up on each other. He couldn’t remember if he could ever see his own ribs before then, and he couldn’t be sure how long he’d had those dark circles under his eyes or where all those wrinkles had come from. The scruffy facial hair wasn’t a great look for him, either, even though he’d tried to shave it as often as possible back when he still had the Drache. He just didn’t seem to have any spark left in him.

It also didn’t help that the belt Grill had given him, figuring the jumpsuit would be a bit large, didn’t cinch close enough.

He cracked open the medicine cabinet for a makeshift hair tie. Shaving with someone else’s razor was probably completely out of the question. At least he still had a full head of hair, he figured. There were a few times where that fact was the only thing that kept him going. It was a frivolous thing and sometimes he felt bad that he’d even consider it important in the first place, given the circumstances, but it was something.

To Teisel’s surprise, the cabinet contained a jar filled with various implements he could use to keep his hair out of his face. He tied it back into a loose ponytail with a sigh and plopped himself down on the rim of the tub to collect his thoughts.

“So this Teisel guy told me that he crashed his airship.” Grill explained as Max and the rest of the gang tried to piece the situation together over their share of the soup. They’d returned from the rematch with Bullbreath, and it hadn’t ended well. “Apparently he came down this way looking for something. Someone, it sounded like.”

“And you didn’t press for more information?” Max chastised the portly mechanic.

“The guy was just involved in an airship crash!” The Bright Bats’ wire tapper, Aero, reprimanded. She ran her fingers through her freshly dyed blue hair and heaved an exasperated sigh. “Max, he’s probably disoriented enough as it is. There’s no sense in turning this into an interrogation!”

“He did go through that bowl of soup faster than me, even if I just gave him broth. I didn’t want to shock his system.” Grill shrugged. “He seemed a little on-edge. He took that book of his with him into the bathroom just now, too.”

“Book?” Pic, the youngest member of the group, chimed in. He had a collection of books. He stacked them by color. His mind raced wondering what color book it was.

“If I catch you trying to steal that man’s book I’m taking your gasket collection away!” Grill frowned. “I didn’t even ask what was in there. The way he kind of lost it when he woke up and realized he wasn’t holding it…I felt like asking about it was like an invasion of privacy. If he wants us to know what it is, he can tell us on his own.”

Aero raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean by, ‘lost it?’”

“Hey, it’s not what it sounds like,” The mechanic defended. He raised his hands and stepped backward. “He’s probably harmless. The red eye implants make him look a little intense, I guess, but he doesn’t seem dangerous or anything. As soon as he realized he still had his book with him he kind of slumped back down and acted…well, he acted about what you’d expect from a guy who just crashed his airship, wandered around for a while, and passed out in the middle of the wasteland.”

Max glanced toward the hallway and asked, “How long did you say he’s been in that bathroom again?”

“Oh geez,” Grill realized as he fumbled for his cell phone. “He’s been in there for…almost three hours now.”

“Grill, that’s not normal,” Aero seemed taken aback. “For all we know he could be stealing my hair care products.”

“He’s a guy,” Max interjected. “He’s probably stealing my hair care products.”

“He’s got a lot of hair. You never know.”

"200 zenny says he's stealing mine."

'What if he brought his own?" Aero retorted.

Grill shook his head, “I’m just worried something might’ve happened to him in there. He seemed too shell-shocked to even think about robbing us. Spaced-out, disoriented…he just didn’t look well. Physically, I mean. He said he ate yesterday, but maybe he had too much broth. He could’ve passed out again, or worse…” He trailed off, glanced back at his fellow Bright Bats, and then all but scrambled down the hall toward the bathroom.

“Hey, Teisel? Teisel, are you okay?” He called out in concern, knocking on the bathroom door. “You still in there?”

After about a minute of hesitation that felt more to Grill like five, he heard Teisel respond, “Yeah, I...I’m here. I’m fine.”

Grill took a moment to evaluate that and replied, “Okay, if you’re sure you’re alright...the rest of the gang’s back. I made sure to warn them not to overwhelm you or anything when they first arrived, so if you’re worried about that, there’s no need to be. Still, you should really go meet them. They’re nice.”

His suggestion was met with a dead silence that seemed a lot longer than it actually was, but to Grill’s surprise, the door clicked open and swung inward. “Yeah, sure. Okay.” Teisel uttered. The jumpsuit barely hung onto his wiry frame and almost came up to Teisel’s knees. Even slumped over as he was, the new guy turned out to be pretty tall. Grill thought he’d been able to make a rough estimate of his stature when he helped carry him in, but clearly that estimate was off by quite a bit. Teisel was also still holding onto that book, which made the mechanic wonder if he’d been distracted reading it the whole time.

“Where’d you put your suit?” Grill asked.

“Where I found yours.”

“I’ll go send Pic to drop it off at the cleaner’s,” Grill offered as he motioned for Teisel to follow him into the base proper where Max, Pic, and Aero were waiting for them.

“About time,” Max muttered under his breath as Teisel gave them a slight, nervous wave. “I’m Max. I’ve been the leader of the Bright Bats for more than ten years now, so if there’s anything you need or anything you need us to know, I’m your guy. These two dorks are Aero and Pic. It’s good to see you’re up and about.”

“T-thanks,” Teisel softly replied. “I’m Teisel Bonne. I guess Grill must have told you that by now. Sorry for the trouble.”

“There’s no trouble here,” Max assured him, “No more trouble than we’re used to, at least. Trouble tends to come with the territory when you’re a Rebel Rider.”

“What now?”

Grill stepped up to explain. “Basically, we’re a gang. Teomo’s got more motorhorse gangs than you can probably imagine. We, uh, try to stay away from the police if we can help it. We’re not bad people, honest! We’re just…well…honestly, we’re not even that good at making trouble. Or racing, for that matter. We’re probably the lamest gang on the entire island.”

“You one of those goody-two-shoes types?” Max skeptically asked. “You wouldn’t rat us out to the fuzz after we saved your life, would you?”

Teisel barely knew how to respond to that one. All he could bring himself to do was shake his head as Pic wandered off to one of the junk piles in the corner and started rearranging things.

Max heaved a sigh of relief. Aero, who hadn’t taken her eyes off of the rubber band holding back Teisel’s slightly damp hair, finally stated, “He totally stole my hairband, Max.”

The ex-pirate immediately felt his hands start to shake. “I, uh…I just…there wasn’t any…”

“Aero, he probably just wanted to put his hair up so it wasn’t in his face,” Grill sighed. “If you care that much, I’ll give you 10 zenny and you can go buy a new rubber band. And to think, you were the one who didn’t want this turned into an interrogation! Does the phrase, ‘this guy almost died’ mean anything to you?”

“I’m sorry,” Teisel muttered as he awkwardly fiddled with the drawstring on his borrowed jumpsuit. “I…I’ll buy one if you want. I’ll get some money and replace it.”

Aero’s face fell and flushed in embarrassment as she realized Grill had an extremely valid point. “It’s fine, Teisel. It’s not important. Max and I were just betting on…ah, forget it. It was a stupid bet anyway. You don’t have to worry about paying me or anything.”

“You do know you can sit down if you’d like, right?” Grill added. “Don’t feel like you have to stand this whole time or anything.”

“Oh right,” Teisel awkwardly responded as he laboriously lowered himself onto the couch. His joints cracked audibly from a combination of age and abuse. “Sorry,” he added again with a nervous grin.

“So what kind of things do you like to do?” Aero asked in, what was obvious to everyone save for Teisel himself, a blatant attempt to make up for her accidental indiscretion.

Teisel paused. “I…I suppose I haven’t given that much thought in a while.” He admitted. “Nothing’s really coming to mind right now.”

“Oh.” Aero responded. She wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about that. “What about reading? You took your book into the bathroom…is that one special, or do you just read a lot?”

“Both, I guess,” Teisel replied. “I had a lot of books back when…” he trailed off.

He wasn’t ready to talk about the Gesellschaft. Or anything from his past, really. At least not with people he’d barely met. They probably already thought he was a mess and all he’d told them was about the Drache crash he’d just been in. The last thing Teisel wanted to do was to come off as a burden or a crackpot.

Grill waved a hand in front of Teisel’s lifeless eyes and whistled to try and get his attention. “You okay there?” He asked. “Bad topic?”

“N-no, it’s fine. Really.” Teisel shook his head once Grill’s interjection registered. “I do like to read. I just haven’t been able to get around to it in a while.” He glanced at the book in his hand again and added, “Last night was the first time I even read this one. I wanted to save it for…er…an emergency, I guess. I got through it in one sitting but, well…it was a pretty tough read.”

Max glanced over at where Pic was restacking his book collection. “Yo! Pic!” He shouted. “Got anything for this guy to read that you’re not, uh, stacking at the moment?”

Pic glanced across the room at where the rest of the gang was staring at him in annoyance. The three of them had explicitly forbidden him from adding the new guy’s book to Stack N, and now they expected Pic to dismantle his carefully constructed book towers just to keep him occupied. It hardly seemed fair to the gangly teenager.

“He only takes the ones on top.” Pic offered as a compromise. “If he puts them back in the wrong order, he has to get his own, but I’m 78% sure he’ll mess it up.”

Aero sighed. “Why do we even keep that guy around?” She wondered out loud as she rubbed her temples in frustration.

“Really, you don’t have to go to the trouble,” Teisel tried to cut in. “I’ll be okay.”

“You know, the more you keep saying you’re okay, the less the rest of us are buying it,” Max sighed. “Aero, think you can hook T-Bonne here up with a library card?”

“…T-Bonne?” Aero frowned. “You’re giving a corny nickname to a complete stranger who’s old enough to be Pic’s dad?”

“Come on, Aero,” Max insisted, “He even looks like a T-Bonne! Huh? Am I right?” He glanced toward Grill and Teisel, looking for some sign of affirmation.

If Teisel had an opinion on that one, he didn’t show it. Grill just shrugged. In his eyes Teisel looked more like a wreck than anything.

“No objections? That settles it then!” He announced, clapping a hand on Teisel’s shoulder quite a bit harder than Teisel could handle. “Welcome to the Bright Bats, T-Bonne!” He reached into his pocket and produced a pair of goggles. “I went out and got these for you while you were out cold—there isn’t really a uniform, but all Rebel Riders have to own a pair of goggles. You can wear them however you’d like.”

Teisel just stared blankly at the goggles in Max’s hand. “You really…you really want me to join your gang?” He tentatively asked. “As a member?”

“Like I said, we talked about it after Max and I brought you in. You can stay with us as long as you need to. And that means if you want to stay with us forever, then that’s absolutely fine as long as we can still afford to stick together.” Grill explained with a warm smile. “You don’t have to even be there when we race our rivals. You just…this is stupid, but you look like you could use a family.”

Teisel’s fingers instinctively tightened around the edge of his book as Grill’s analysis cut straight through his defenses. A surge of unexpected emotion came rushing forth to the surface and hitched in his throat. He looked from Grill to Aero to Max and even back toward where Pic had stopped moving boxes around. His mouth hung open as he struggled to bring himself to speak, but no matter how hard he tried, nothing came out. The amount of kindness these strangers had shown him was beyond anything he’d felt in a very long time. He could feel his eyes start to well up as he grinned a grin he hardly believed could still even fit on his face.

He grasped the goggles with his free hand, and his voice cracked as he said, “Thank you.” It was the only thing he could bring himself to say.

After all those years of nothing but one disaster after another, something had finally gone right.


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