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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 5: Klicke Lafonica

Chapter 5: Klicke Lafonica.  Chapter image depicts Max's messy dresser, which contains his crappy computer and figures of the Steel Samurai, the Nickel Samurai, Zero, Zero III from Virtue's Last Reward, and Monokuma from Dragon Romper.

"Are you serious?" Grill sputtered. "He used to be a real sky pirate? The kind with guns and ships and a massive crew of terrifying minions?"

"I'm still trying to process the part about his brother," Aero admitted. She looked unusually shaken up by this turn of events. "On top of everything else, it's all just…a lot. It's a lot to take in."

"Do I look like I'm making this up here?!" Max nearly shouted to his dumbstruck cohorts.

It was well after dark by the time Max and Teisel got home, but Teisel had insisted on hanging around outside until after Max had briefed the others on his background. The last thing he wanted after that unexpectedly painful dinner was to have to listen to the abridged version of his own life falling apart, so the four bikers congregated in the common room without him. Pic sat cross-legged on top of the side table, fiddling with his goggles. Aero was pacing around, Grill leaned against the workbench holding a bowl of ramen that he'd stopped eating when Max first brought up the rocket days, and Max had collapsed back onto the couch. He really needed to sit down to tell this story. Just thinking about it stressed him out.

"I kind of figured he'd seen some harsh stuff, but this goes above and beyond anything I could have imagined," Grill stated.

"Yeah, I know," Max sighed. "He just…I dunno. He totally fell apart at Johnny's. I'd hate to think about what might've happened if we hadn't found him when we did."

Grill raised his eyebrows. "Weren't you the one arguing that we ought to just leave him there and show up for the race with Bullbreath?"

"Oh come on!"

"Well then," The mechanic grinned. "Glad to hear you've finally had a change of heart, Max!"

"I don't know, you guys," Aero finally spoke up after she'd been able to take some time to think about everything, "How can you be so sure that, given what you now know, he isn't just going to be dead weight we have to pay for? I had to practically scrape him off the couch to get him to pick up a free book, and the guy says he likes reading!"

"He's not going to be dead weight," Max insisted. "He'll bounce back if we give him a good environment and a lot of support. The four of us are already like family, so what's one more?"

"If I catch him trying to take advantage of either of you, he's gone." Aero warned. "Just because you've labeled someone as family already doesn't mean that you can automatically trust they'll be worth the emotional investment. It's not that I don't want to help him out. I really do, more than you're probably thinking I am right now. But I also think it's important that at least one of us keep an eye out for anything off about him so it doesn't backfire, and you two don't seem capable of making an objective call on this one."

"Well look at you, miss ‘watching our backs,' getting all protective of us," Max taunted with a wink. "It's nice to know you actually care about our well-being!"

Aero rolled her eyes, but couldn't help cracking a smile at that. At the very least, the gibe seemed to settle her nerves. "How long have we been friends again? Fifteen years? If I didn't care about you by this point I'd probably belong in a mental ward."

It took the three of them every ounce of willpower they had to not steal a glance at Pic, who seemed to have completely zoned out.

"So. That's it, right?" Grill turned to Max. "That's everything?"

"Everything he told me," Max replied. "Of course, it'd take a lot to top that. If there's something he isn't telling us and something even worse happened to him after that, I think my brain would explode."

Grill set his ramen down on the bench. "Alright then, I think we'd better go get him. The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of leaving him alone anywhere."

Max, Grill, and Aero ascended the stairs and found Teisel sitting against a wall in the alley with his foam container open and his books carefully propped up so they wouldn't get too dirty. "Huh, so you ate your fries?" Max asked redundantly as he noticed that the only thing left in the box was the panini.

Teisel looked up in their general direction with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had a hard time looking any of the gang members in the eye now that they all knew what he'd been through. The fact that there were finally other people in the world who knew what was really going on should've brought him some comfort, but the idea of any of them feeling pity for him made him want to vomit. The last thing he wanted to do was start crying all over again. Crying in front of Max in the café was bad enough, but crying in front of everyone would have been four times worse.

Aero spoke up before Teisel had the chance to put his thoughts back in order. "Hey. You clean up alright for an old guy," she remarked as he shut the container, picked up his books, and pulled himself to his feet. Grill nodded in agreement as she turned toward Max. "To think I was worried you'd put him in a bedazzled leather jacket for kicks."

"Hey now! You're acting like they make those in his size!" Max retorted. He started walking toward the stairs leading back into the base. "Besides, T-Bonne made most of the real decisions there."

"Even I can tell that it looks better than my old jumpsuit," Grill added. "Nicely done, Teisel."

Teisel felt his ears and cheeks grow warm. At least they weren't treating him with kid gloves. He couldn't help but smile a little as he muttered a self-conscious "Thanks," on his way inside.

He barely got past the threshold when Pic leapt off the table and darted over to give Teisel a sudden, bone-crushing hug that nearly knocked the wind out of him. Teisel stared down at the eccentric teenager in disbelief.

"Woah. I guess he was listening that whole time after all," remarked Aero. She watched as Teisel wrestled his arms out of Pic's death grip and responded awkwardly in kind. He looked almost like he'd forgotten how hugs even worked.

However, when it became painfully clear that Pic wasn't going to let go without intervention, Aero and Grill had to pry him off before Teisel got too uncomfortable. "Is he always this physical with you guys?" The former pirate asked, wincing as he gingerly checked to see if his ribs were still intact.

Max shook his head. "I was just as surprised as you were." He admitted. "There was this one time a couple of years ago when he went through this weird phase where he started randomly giving us all back rubs, but Aero punched him in the mouth over it back then and he's kept to himself ever since. I guess your tragic backstory struck a chord or something."

"Are you alright?" Grill asked.

Teisel sighed, and felt a pang in his sides as he did. "I'm probably going to be sore for days." He groaned. Nonetheless, he couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of vindication, knowing he'd managed to get through to a guy like Pic. Even if Max had been the one to actually tell the story. "But yeah. Don't worry. I'll be fine."

Until the next disaster struck, at least. In the back of his mind, Teisel knew better than to rely on anything good to last very long.

The Bright Bats had a small kitchen down the corridor, right next to the bedrooms, which they used primarily for food prep and dishwashing. Like most of the HQ, it was dingy, dilapidated, and a lot of the appliances were held together with duct tape. But it was functional, and every morning, before the sun had a chance to rise, Aero would take the opportunity to make herself a pot of coffee and check the paper for potential odd jobs.

However, on one particular morning, a considerable while after Teisel got his library card, she wandered into the kitchen with her newspaper to find the mysterious newcomer not only awake, but sitting at the folding table in his pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee he'd brewed himself and mulling over his sister's old book again. "Hey," she said.

Teisel nearly jumped out of his seat. "W-what are…" He stammered. "Are you…were you having trouble sleeping too?"

Aero shook her head. "Nope, this is right around when I usually wake up. You know, if you're trying to sleep, coffee probably wasn't the best idea…"

"Oh, right," Teisel replied. "I'm not sure what I was thinking. Force of habit, I guess."

"Mind if I grab a cup?"

"Be my guest."

The two of them sat across from each other and read in silence sipping coffee for a while. It felt strange for Teisel to have someone else so close by while he read Tron's book. It also felt strange living with other people again, but Aero wasn't really doing anything disruptive, so he figured it couldn't hurt to keep on reading. He wasn't anywhere near that fateful chapter where her handwriting just stopped, and unceremoniously dumped him back from the fantasy world where Mega Man had come home safely and given Tron the relationship she'd always wanted, straight into the unfairly harsh reality he'd been trying to avoid.

He felt his breath hitch as he remembered that the story would never have the ending Tron had wanted it to have. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to read this with Aero, or anyone, in the room after all.

"Hey. Aero." He suddenly spoke up with a distinct twinge of distress in his tone. "Anything good in there?"

Aero snapped out of her concentration. She hadn't expected Teisel to try and initiate a conversation. "Huh? Oh, nothing really. I'm just looking at the classifieds. Want to read something else?"

"Does that paper still get the funny pages?"

The blue-haired young woman looked across the table and eyed Teisel curiously. That was one of the last things she'd thought he'd say, right up there with a request for the sports section. "Yep," she replied, rifling through the newspaper and extracting the comics. "Just a heads up, though, they're not very funny."

Teisel nervously snickered. He was sure it was from the lack of sleep. "Good to know some things never change."

"I guess you're tired of reading that book," Aero noted. "What's it called, anyway?"

"It doesn't have a title." He admitted. He positioned the newspaper between the two of them. That lack of a proper title didn't sit well with Teisel at all. Even a story that stopped in the middle without any rhyme or reason relevant to the plot deserved a title. "I can't think of one that fits."

Aero took the hint and dropped the subject. "Good luck with that."

Teisel eventually managed to fall asleep after Aero left. At least until Max shook him awake sometime around noon with a manic expression and the Klicke Lafonica book tucked under his arm. "Hey T-Bonne!" He shouted. "Get up! You really need to read this book!"

"Ughhhhh…" Teisel groaned, running a hand through his disheveled hair as he pulled himself into a sitting position on the couch. "Why'd you have to do that? I was just…you messed up a really nice dream I was having."

"Sorry about that," Max shrugged it off, "But this is important! This book is our one-way ticket to Easy Street! I stayed up really late last night reading it…"

"…Sure you did…"

"…and it sounds like there is some SERIOUS scratch buried deep under this island!" Max finished with a grin. "This Klicke Lafonica thing is big. They call it The Fire of All Creation. Nobody's been able to dig deep enough to find it, but I'm sure if we manage to do it ourselves we'll be set for life!"

"Uh, Max…" Teisel uttered, "That book's title seemed to hint that maybe the whole thing's just an urban legend. Besides, it's probably overdue, and I'm pretty sure you don't even dig."

"Hello?" Max scoffed. "We found you in a digger's suit, remember? And you even told us you've done this kind of thing before with the rockets and…"

Teisel turned pale. "Not outside a mech!" He exclaimed, his voice leaping an octave as he leapt to the defensive. The sudden increase in volume actually made Max recoil in surprise for a moment. "Remember what ELSE I told you? The part about how I'm only immune to explosions? That suit was just a fashion statement, and even if I had some real hands-on experience and a decent robot to pilot, I'm getting a little too old to be running around underground, don't you think?"

"But T-Bonne," He pleaded. "You're the closest thing to a digger we've had since Barrett ran off! We can't just pass up the chance to look for a legendary treasure!"

Teisel thought back to the last legendary treasure he'd tried to make off with and cringed. "Max, I really doesn't seem like you've thought this one through."

The younger man shoved the book into Teisel's hands. "Read this first," he persisted. "Then you can try and convince me that you're not up to the task. But trust me, if you care about making money at all, you're going to want to get in on this one!"

He felt the stiff edges of the library book digging into his palm. Did he even care about making money anymore? He'd spent so much time and energy desperately trying to scrounge together refractors, but with Tron and Bon gone, what would he even buy?

Max just stared at him with that insane grin plastered on his face, thinking of all the new clothes and gadgets he could snag for himself. "Trust me, T-Bonne. We'll never have to worry about accidentally betting Bullbreath the last of our savings again!" And with that, he scrambled back down the hall at the end of the common room, presumably to his bedroom to figure out the best way to get into Klickelan's ruin network.

Teisel examined the book he'd borrowed—well, the book Max had borrowed on his behalf—and scrutinized the fiery red jewel sketched in the center. If anything, he needed a break from losing himself in Tron's work, enticing as the fantasy she'd woven had the potential to be. He was painfully aware that spending so much time mentally living out the happy ending he could never have was probably not healthy by a long shot, especially considering the emotional punch in the gut that happened when the ending, or so he'd been calling it, hit him full-force. At least this one looked like an easy read.

The notion of potentially becoming a burden on these bikers was still a very prominent concern as well. Setting the book aside and checking out something different would at least keep him from turning into a depressing liability. After all, he'd have to return the Klicke Lafonica book sooner or later.

The first time Teisel lived in the Ambagry region, he'd spent most of his spare time relaxing at the lab Roll and Tron had set up. On occasion he took a boat out to Klickelan to make sure the Servbots hadn't set the family's gyro stand on fire. Even without the library to keep him busy, Teomo City genuinely seemed to be the most interesting thing on the map at the time. He was so tired of all of his earnings from their digging endeavors going straight into rocket development. He knew the Casketts and Tron would make him give up any real treasure he might have found, so there really wasn't much of a point in getting into the digging scene back then. After all, there were important action figures to buy and Steel Prince marathons to watch instead.

However, as he sat curled up on the Bright Bats' couch a decade later, researching the island's legendary treasure in the empty common room that afternoon, he found his mind start to wander. According to the book, Ghiotte Summit, that giant, pipe-covered edifice that towered over Teomo City, required a Class A license to enter. A room at the top of its taller tower housed an out-of-service elevator that allegedly led straight into the heart of the Klickelan ruins, an area far deeper than any of the other entrances could take him. Some said it led straight to the center of the planet itself.

While this particular tidbit was clearly over the top, Teisel couldn't shake the notion that there might be something up there worth checking out. A broken elevator with no clear point of exit anywhere on the island. He knew Tron would've been all over that challenge if she hadn't been so busy with the rocket. Thanks to that other book he'd been reading, he was desperate for any connection to his family that he could grasp, no matter how tenuous it might've been. Even one based purely on speculative research.

Furthermore, the Klickelan ruins were well-known for their interconnected tunnel network. Aspiring diggers were constantly looking for new routes to help them bypass the Guild-regulated entrances, and there were entire factions devoted to rendering the Guild's barriers obsolete. It was a perfect setup, really. It frustrated Teisel to think that he'd only ever really scratched the surface of the free ruins in the Donner Wels trying to raise funds for Tron and the others before that kid with the ponytail blew it up. Maybe he should have taken the time to talk to the other diggers instead of beating them down for their findings and running off with whatever he could steal.

He realized it would be a while before he'd be able to reach the top of that monolith, if he ever reached it at all, considering the fact that aside from the "freelancing" he'd done for Loath to pay off the Gesellschaft, he hadn't done any digging without the safety of a mech to fall back on since he was a teenager. He didn't even think he'd been that good, and back then he was in much better shape. Still, it was the first time he'd felt like he had any sense of direction in years, even if it was based in some ridiculous fantasy about his dead brother and sister teaming up with him to find a mythical artifact that probably didn't even exist.

Before he even realized what was happening, he found himself laughing uncontrollably. It was the hardest he'd laughed in over ten years. It was so sudden. One moment he was concocting an elaborate plot to get back into the digging scene, and the next his emotions had kicked into overdrive. It was like he'd completely lost his fragile hold on reality itself, and like that breakdown at Johnny's, it just wouldn't stop. The thought of having a plan for his life again, any plan, was simply too much for him to deal with.

It was at that moment that Aero kicked open the front door brandishing a rusty pipe and scanned the room, poised to attack. She almost dropped the pipe when she realized that maniacal, psychotic sound was coming from Teisel. She recoiled on instinct. He barely even sounded human.

The moment their eyes met, Teisel's voice caught in his throat and he froze on the spot. The two of them just stared at each other until Aero broke the silence.

"W-WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!" She shouted.

Teisel panicked. "I didn't do anything, I swear!"

"Then what possessed that…that sound…to come out of your mouth just now?" Aero persisted, still clenching the pipe. "I thought some psycho had broken in and assaulted you while we were all away!"

"No! That's not…" He faltered. He'd never thought his own laugh was that off-putting before, but then again, the only people who'd ever heard it much were his own family, the Casketts, and everyone he'd ever tried to rob. He had no real way of understanding just how strange it must have sounded to an average bystander without the context of a hostile takeover in effect. He couldn't help but remember how Max had reacted to the outburst he'd had earlier in the day, either. The last thing he wanted was to get kicked out of the Bright Bats on an insanity charge. "I…I always laugh like that," he begrudgingly admitted.

Aero raised an eyebrow skeptically and let the pipe drop to the floor with a clang. "…Always…?"

"When I really laugh."

It didn't come to Aero as much of a surprise that none of them had heard him laugh over the past month or so, but it did pique her curiosity. "What brought this on, anyway?" She inquired, setting aside her wariness for the moment and sitting down on the sofa next to him to get a glimpse of what it was he'd been reading.

Teisel held the book up with the cover facing outward so she could see it.

"Klicke Lafonica: Fact or Fiction..." Aero read aloud with a smirk. "Yeah, I don't blame you for laughing that hard. Well, whatever makes you happy, right?"

Telling Aero what he was plotting clearly wouldn't have been a wise move, so he just nodded absently, suppressing his relief…along with any other extreme emotion that might have accidentally slipped out with it. He really had to be careful about that, at least for the moment.

Teisel finally mustered up the nerve to knock on Max's bedroom door once he was sure the others were asleep. He hoped it was Max's room. The placard nailed to the front had Max's name on it, but one could never be too sure about those things. And even though he didn't know the gang all that well yet, he had a hunch Grill would probably be too concerned for his safety to let him try going on a dig.

He heaved a sigh of relief when Max actually answered in the gaudiest purple bathrobe he'd ever seen. "Oh hey T-Bonne," Max greeted him, poking his head out into the hall and glancing around to make sure they were alone. "This about the…er…you know?"

The taller man held up the Klicke Lafonica book and nodded. "Yeah. Count me in."

"Great!" Max exclaimed, reaching to grasp the book from Teisel. "Goodn…"

Teisel snapped the book away from him and tried to catch the doorframe with his other hand before his boss could run off. Max ended up smashing Teisel's hand in the door, and Teisel clenched his teeth hard to keep the bloodcurdling scream stifled. "Not…without…a plan." He uttered as his eyes watered from the pain. He didn't have the strength to push the door open, but he could sure stop it from closing all the way.

Thankfully he didn't need to wedge it open much longer. Max quickly pulled it back as soon as he realized what he'd done. "Oh crap, sorry about that! Nothing's broken, right?"

Teisel shook his head. His fingers were throbbing in agony, but at least he could move them. "I'm fine," he choked out, blinking away the tears, "Just let me in so we can plan this out. Please."

Max, taken aback by Teisel's sudden persistence, opened the door wider to let him through, revealing a small bedroom filled with dirty clothes, action figures, and empty boxes. It was as if the Home Shopping Network had exploded in someone's basement. "I guess you can sit at my desk," he shrugged. The desk in question boasted an older desktop computer and was covered in papers and little toys, which Teisel couldn't take his eyes off of.

He instinctively picked up a little figurine of a robotic samurai with his uninjured hand. He'd never seen the character before, but somehow it looked strangely familiar.

"Hey, hands off the merchandise," Max suddenly exclaimed. "It's almost impossible to find Nickel Samurai stuff anymore! I had to pull an all-nighter to snipe that dinky thing in an online auction!"

Teisel immediately put the little guy back where he found it. "Sorry," he apologized.

Max sighed and plopped down on his bed. He muttered something about nobody understanding the value of collectable figures anymore and sighed to himself as he balled up a dirty sock and tossed it across the room, where it bounced off the side of his laundry basket. "So what kind of plan were you thinking, huh?" He prodded Teisel after several moments of awkward silence. "I figured you'd just go in the ruins, find the treasure, get out, and sell it."

The lack of foresight involved in that "plan" was disheartening. "Max, I already told you that I have next to no experience at this." He shook his head. "I'm not sure what kind of experience you have with digging, but unless you've got skills like that…that blue boy…you can't just expect to be able to run straight to Ghiotte Summit right away. When you tried to shut the door in my face, I was trying to catch it and push it back open. That's the kind of shape I'm in right now. And when I was still a pirate, Tron used to make all of us robots so we could just rush in with our guns blazing, but…well, we just don't have that kind of luxury anymore."

"Oh. Crap. Yeah, that's a really good point," Max conceded.

"For this to work I'm going to need some kind of ruin network directory," Teisel continued, massaging his sore hand as he brainstormed out loud. "After picking up a decent weapon from the parts shop, we need to find a free entrance point that isn't going to dump me off in the middle of a deathtrap. We'll also need to rig up a spotting system, all on a budget."

"You don't have to worry about that last one," Max replied with a grin. "A while back Aero thought she wanted to be a spotter, but she never got the hang of it. She managed to rewire a telephone to function as a walkie-talkie and connect it to some radar equipment, though. It's still somewhere in the common room."

"That'll probably be harder to find than the perfect reference material for studying the Klickelan network." Teisel groaned. "If you don't know what you're doing yet tomorrow—scratch that, I'm sure you don't. Go into the city and start looking for groups of unlicensed diggers. Talk to them and find out where the best places to learn the ropes are located. While you're doing that, I'll find myself a weapon I can actually use, and then I'll go back to the library and try to find as many good books about the ruins here as I can. Meet me there an hour before closing time, and we'll formulate the best strategy to tackle this there."

"Hey, how come you're the one giving the orders here?!" Max suddenly realized. "I'm the leader! No way am I letting the new guy tell me what to…"

"Have you got any better ideas, then?"

Max couldn't argue with that logic. "Sure. Fine. I'll do it. You know, you're the only person I know who likes doing this planning stuff. It's a good thing, don't worry," He added quickly. The last thing he wanted to do was set the new guy off. "I'm glad you want to do this, for whatever it's worth."

"Yeah," Teisel pensively replied, standing up and pushing the desk chair in and walking toward the door. "Me too. See you tomorrow."


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