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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 11: Working the System

Chapter 11: Working the System. Chapter image depicts Teisel and Russell enjoying the sunset.

Russell was not disappointed with Teisel's tales in the least. "Wow," he mused as they rode the elevator to the surface. "I never would've guessed you'd done all of your digging behind the controls of a combat mech. That isn't something you see every day."

Teisel opted to give Russell a very abridged version of the adventures that had led him up to that point, making sure to completely omit any mention of what had happened to Bon and Tron, and any mention of Mega Man Volnutt at all. While the events immediately following the final rocket explosion were almost a complete blur all these years later, he'd ended up learning the hard way that the mission to rescue Mega Man had attracted global attention. It wasn't surprising. Professor Caskett and Werner Von Bluecher had seemed to be under the impression that the fate of all life on the planet was at stake when that boy ventured out into space. The fact that someone had made it into space to begin with would have been enough to attract media attention, but a mission to save the world? That was quality headline material right there.

If Russell ever caught on that Teisel had been involved with the rocket, he'd be able to figure out all the intimate details of Teisel's life story much too quickly.

"I arrived here a few months ago," Teisel concluded as he hiked along the trail and tried to remember where he'd left Max out in the hills. "I ended up crashing my airship out on the cliffs somewhere. I haven't spent very much time outside the city limits. I haven't even seen the wreck since the night it happened. For all I know, the police could've just towed it away. I've been living in the city with some bikers. They're nice kids, once you get to know them."

"That would explain your spotter's charming demeanor," Russell quipped.

"Hey!" Teisel cut in. "Max is usually a good guy. He just doesn't think before he talks!"

"So what possessed you to take up digging all of a sudden?"

Teisel deadpanned. "Promise you won't laugh?"

"I'm not that kind of guy. You have my word on that."

"I'm after the Klicke Lafonica."

The ensuing silence was so thick that they could slice it with either of the beam swords Teisel had tucked under his arm.

"That makes sense," Russell finally responded.

"Hey, what are you trying to get at!?"

"I'm serious, Teisel. It makes perfect sense." He insisted. "Don't tell me you've never heard the stories that say touching it makes you young again! They don't call it the Fire of All Creation for nothing, and everything fits! You spent the prime years of your life living as a pirate against your will, trying to make ends meet for your family, and now that you don't have to worry about that anymore, you want a do-over so you can pursue whatever it was that you really wanted out of life, right?"

Teisel contemplated that notion for a while. He was surprised that none of the books had covered this particular aspect of the legend. Each author had a lot of their own theories about the artifact's function, but he couldn't remember reading about anything like this. Maybe going after the Klicke Lafonica wasn't the greatest idea after all. Turning back his biological clock sure wouldn't bring back Bon and Tron. It wouldn't bring back his parents. It wouldn't let him warn everyone about the dangers of going public about Tron's talents and prevent him from having to resort to piracy in the first place.

Even if he were dealing with a literal time machine, he still wasn't even sure if he'd be able to fix his life to suit his liking. The way things had played out when Bon was born, assuming he now had a means to go back to that moment and make some changes, he'd have a brutal decision to make. Saving his parents' lives would probably mean letting Bon die from HBD during his infancy like he was supposed to. He couldn't help but feel himself start to choke up at the sudden realization that Bon wasn't supposed to have lived as long as he did. He'd had almost fourteen years for that to sink in, so why didn't it hit him until just then?

The only thing he knew for sure was that whatever so-called magic this thing might work on him, should he wind up coming into contact with it, wouldn't erase the baggage he'd accumulated in the wake of his family's demise. An oddly masochistic part of him didn't want it to, either.

Still, Teisel'd had a hard enough time coping with gradually losing his family over the last fifteen years. While he wasn't exactly keen on the idea of ending his own life in a last-ditch effort to shake that baggage off at that present moment, now that he might actually have grounds to consider artificially extending it, he found he wasn't fond of that idea, either. Not if it meant carrying his grief around with him any longer than he absolutely had to.

He hadn't even realized he'd stopped walking until Russell tapped him on the shoulder. "I guess you really didn't know about that part," he stated. "It's something to think about, to say the least."

"I was just planning on selling it." Teisel admitted. "I think I need to go back and re-evaluate"

"Well, if you decide you'd like to go for it, I'm working to get to the top of the summit and find it, too." Russell admitted. "The paperwork might say I'm Class S material, but if we're being honest here, I'm not the digger I was in my twenties and thirties. It's really frustrating, not being able to do a lot of the things I could do back then. I could definitely use a few more years down in the ruins, even if it means tapping into some ancient technology to get it out of me. If you want, I'd be willing to teach you the ropes for 500 zenny an hour. I'd offer to do it for free, since you seem like a decent guy, but I think I can probably guess what you'd say to that. Since I've been digging for as long as I have, I could even get you through the red tape to get you a license right away. All you'd need to do is pass the exam, no waiting list or anything. The Digger's Guild trusts my judgment."

"Look, Russell, I don't know about this," Teisel hesitated. "Max wouldn't react well to the idea of selling out."

"Spotters don't need to be licensed," Russell shook his head. "Just diggers. Your biker buddy doesn't have to worry about a thing. It's really just something to keep you safe from those random license checks. It'd be a shame to get close to your goal, even if you decide to change that goal along the way, and wind up in jail all because you didn't file the right paperwork."

Teisel thought long and hard before answering, "I'm going to have to take some time to think about this tonight. If I could make what I made today, or more, during these training sessions, factoring in at least one day off for the long as the math is right, then I should be good."

"Ah, the good old rental property days," Russell mused.

"Yeah...uh...something like that."

When Teisel and Russell reached the hidden entrance to the Shekuten corridor, Max had mysteriously vanished, spotting equipment and all. "Hm. That's funny. He never mentioned anything about heading back," Teisel frowned. "Last time he even waited so he could make me haul the equipment back to the base."

However, before he had a chance to get himself worked up over the ordeal, he finally noticed the snoring coming from underground. He knelt down next to the hole in the hillside and stuck his head in. "Hey! Max!" He exclaimed in a voice that was probably quite a bit louder than he'd meant for it to be. "You sleeping on the job?"

Max jumped to attention and almost hit his head on the rocky ceiling of the little antechamber. "Dang it!" He exclaimed, stretching out and knocking his arms into the spotting equipment he'd hauled into the cavern. He realized Teisel wasn't in the ruin anymore and started fumbling around trying to disconnect all of the equipment in the dark. "Maybe moving all this stuff wasn't such a good idea after all. I don't think any Guild officials even came up here!"

Teisel squinted through the darkness at him and added, "I'm not even sure how you were able to decipher your own readouts down there. Just finding the tunnel to the ruins in the first place was a pain in the neck!"

The gang leader just scoffed and thrust the heaviest monitor into Teisel's hands. "If your friend with the money followed you all the way out here, tell him to help me get this crap back on solid ground."

It took some convincing, but Russell eventually persuaded Max that it was in everyone's best interest for Teisel to get a Digger's license. Once the three of them made it back to town and hid the spotting equipment in Max's room, Russell instructed Teisel to meet him in the Diggers' Square at ten the next morning before he retreated back to his own lodgings.

"Hey Max," Teisel piped up once Russell was out of sight. "I'm going to go take a walk. I'll be back later tonight, but don't wait up, okay?"

"Something on your mind?" Max asked, raising an eyebrow. "You've been staying out a lot lately. You've gotta be exhausted, too. I wasn't even running around underground and I'm exhausted. Did something happen down there? You know, besides getting mobbed by Reaverbots and almost caught by the feds?"

"I'm fine. I just need to think about some things," Teisel tried to explain.

"But you're always thinking about things," Max groaned. "You know I'm here for you if you ever need to talk, right? Just like I said before."

"Yeah, I know." Teisel nodded. "I haven't forgotten, I just...well, it's complicated. Talking through it would probably just raise more questions on top of the ones you already have."

"Alright, if you say so..."

Teisel didn't get back in until well past midnight, and by that time the others were all fast asleep.

If Teisel thought his muscles had ached the first morning after he woke up from digging, the second morning was ten times worse. He was so sore that he had second thoughts about meeting Russell for the license exam, but somehow he managed to pry himself off the couch and into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Max had his feet propped up on the table as he read the day's newspaper comics.

"Aero's been leaving these out on the table all week," Max replied after Teisel greeted him for the day. "I should really get around to thanking her for that."

Teisel just nonchalantly sipped his coffee.

"You ready for that...test...thing?" Max piped up when it became clear that the new guy had nothing to add to that conversation.

"I think I'll be fine as long as I don't try to bend my arms or legs."

Max sighed. "T-Bonne, if you aren't feeling up to it, we won't hold it against you if you decide to take a day off to get back on your game. You managed to get over 10,000 zenny yesterday! At that rate, we'll be paid off in no time!"

"Yeah, and I almost got myself killed by Sharukurusu doing it," Teisel pointed out. "I spent 200 last night on top of that. We're probably a bit under the 10,000 mark now, not counting what I made two days ago with the Shekuten."

"What?! I figured you were off selling those goofy pink swords you found in the ruins when you took off like that! Don't tell me you still have them. What the heck are you spending our shards on?" Max demanded. "Couldn't you have just borrowed my credit card?!"

Teisel bit his lip and awkwardly glanced away. "It's nothing. If I keep up this pace, it won't make a difference, especially if I pay Russell to help me out. He's good."

Max frowned. "You should've just taken whatever money he wanted to give you back in the ruins," he sighed. "For what it's worth, I hope you know what you're doing, because if you get yourself really hurt out there pushing yourself too hard, then you won't be able to dig for money at all. Then we'd REALLY have something to worry about."

It would have made perfect sense for him to meet Russell, explain that it was in his best interest to take a break, rest for the day, and recuperate, but due to a lack of sleep, common sense wasn't quite with Teisel Bonne that morning. He trudged into the square in his digging suit with a travel mug of coffee in hand and found Russell waiting around by a buster part stand.

"Hey," He exclaimed, "Where've you been all morning? I was just about to give up and go underground for the day!"

Teisel nervously laughed and clutched his coffee a little tighter. "Sorry about that," he replied. "I guess I'm not used to running around for hours on end..."

Russell let out a loud guffaw and slapped Teisel on the back, almost spilling the coffee all over his protégé. Teisel winced. "You crack me up, Green Guy. Now let's head to the Guild and get you in the system!"

The Klickelan branch of the Digger's Guild made its headquarters in the largest and most prominent building in the square. It was the first government building Teisel had set foot into on good terms since his start in the wide world of sky piracy, and even though it looked more like a waiting room in a doctor's office than a vital cornerstone of the lawful side of the planet's civilization, Russell found himself convincing Teisel that he had nothing to worry about.

"As far as these guys know, you've got a clean slate. They don't really run background checks, and they certainly won't if you're with me." He assured him. He glanced around the room and whispered, "You didn't actually do anything to the Digger's Guild back then, did you?"

It had been a while since Teisel had stopped documenting his ill-fated plundering attempts, and his mind was foggy to start with. Worst case scenario, he'd ended up attacking a remote Guild Headquarters after the rocket crash, and they'd completely forgotten the Bonnes since then. It wasn't like his later efforts were anything worth remembering. He'd just become another petty thief flying the unfriendly skies.

He was more concerned about the Guild representatives remembering his name from the rocket fiasco.

"Pretty sure I didn't," Teisel uttered, muffling his reflexive gulp with a sip of his coffee. He walked across the room to examine a magazine rack hanging on the wall. He figured that if he kept moving, he'd have a slimmer chance of falling asleep. Most of the magazines were dog-eared and at least a year old. He pulled out a copy of Uncle Digg's Monthly Tips and started lackadaisically flipping through the pages while Russell approached the front desk and explained the situation to the receptionist.

Just as Teisel was about to check out the crossword puzzle, Russell handed him a clipboard full of forms. "You're in. Fill these out and hand them to the receptionist," he instructed. "You can take the Class B test right away.

"Class B is pretty much your basic digging license," Russell explained further. "If you're registered with the Digger's Guild, that's what you start out with. Once you start climbing the bluffs you'll need at least a Class A license to enter, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The standardized Class A test is alright, but it throws a couple of Gorubeshu into the mix, so watch out for status effects. Class S, though...that one's brutal. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies."

Teisel's face fell. "Class A? I thought we could just..."

That was as far as he was able to get before Russell jabbed an elbow into Teisel's side. "There's a Guild rep right there," He muttered through clenched teeth.

"Oh. Right." Teisel uttered. He set to work.

Russell glanced over Teisel's shoulder as he filled the paperwork out. Part of him wanted to make sure his protégé wouldn't run into any trouble, and part of him was just plain curious about the guy. "Woah, wait, don't tell me you're eight years younger than I am!" The S-class digger couldn't help but sputter when Teisel scrawled in his birthdate. "You're...uh...quite a bit younger than I thought." Russell stated, taking a moment or two to process the fact.

"I started getting gray hairs in my early twenties."

"Fair enough."

Russell decided to go read a magazine instead.

"You will have five minutes to complete the Class B Test." An automated voice filled the room as soon as the lift ground to a halt on the testing floor. "Prospective diggers are required to clear the room of all Reaverbots before proceeding to the next room. The test will begin as soon as you open the door in front of you."

It had taken a while for the Guild to attach the appropriate mods to Teisel's gun, and all the while he was just anxious to get it over with, go back to the base, and take a nap. "Don't worry," Russell had told him. "This should be a cakewalk compared to what you were up against yesterday."

Why was he worrying, anyway?

He took a deep breath and shook his head, almost as if trying to shake off the fatigue and aches with mixed results, before pressing forward into the first room.

Immediately, four garden-variety Horokko sprang to attention. The closest two slid into a spinning tackle and knocked Teisel to the ground before he had a chance to react. He hadn't even fired off his gun yet, and he'd already been hit. This wasn't good. He scrambled to regain his footing and leapt over the two in the back, then pivoted to propel a volley of gunfire into his assailants from behind. He managed to get a few good hits in, but he didn't notice the Foo Roo that had silently sneaked up behind him until it was inches from his face and seconds from exploding. He sprang backward to dodge the inevitable blast and almost tripped over a Horokko as he opened fire on the mook quartet.

"What, no refractors?" He muttered out loud when he finally took out one of the little guys. Somehow it didn't surprise him that the Reaverbots in the Digger's Guild didn't drop any zenny or energy cubes. "What a bunch of cheapskates..." he mumbled, grumbling a string of insults under his breath as he picked off the stragglers.

By the time the hall was clear, he'd taken up almost a full minute out of his allotted five, and it finally registered in his sleep-deprived mind that he was best off just plowing straight through, since none of these enemies had shields. Just like he'd done with the Shekuten swarm. He picked off a few Mirumiji and a Harin in an average-sized room after that, and then found himself in almost a play-by-play repeat of the previous hall with the Horokko and Foo-Roo.

This should have been much easier than Teisel was making it, but with his muscles aching and fatigue threatening to overcome him like the Sharukurusu hoard from the real ruins almost did, this test was anybody's game. Teisel wasn't sure how much time he had left when he burst into the next chamber. Two minutes? Three? There was no way to tell.

Three Arukoitan hopped into action as soon as the door slid open, and at least one of them let loose a fireball that almost set Teisel's hair aflame. He circled around the room and took out the Orudakoitan first before laying waste to the disabled attack units, and mentally prepared to face down a third corridor of small fries.

Unfortunately for him, this hallway didn't go as expected.

The fact that the thing no fewer than ten feet away from him was, in fact, a Jakko's nest did not register quickly enough for him to avoid being bombarded with Jakkos, all diving at him like gulls on a dropped french fry. He spastically fired in a panic and took out a decent number of them before snapping back into focus. Or trying to. He couldn't focus. He just couldn't. Not on that amount of sleep. Not after two days of straight up bot-bashing. The little bugs were distracting him to the point where he wasn't even thinking about everything he'd read about them.

Take a deep breath and concentrate on the nest, Teisel finally instructed himself. Forget the little guys. You've got a job to do.

It took more hits than he'd expected, but eventually the carapace shattered and let loose one last wave of Jakkos. He couldn't stop to think about how much time he might've had remaining. All he could do was point and shoot and run as fast as he could to the green door at the end of the hall as he set off the Shekuten just like he did on his first day in the ruins.

He wasn't sure whether he'd made it back into the elevator room before or after the buzzer resonated throughout the chamber, but he nearly collapsed onto the elevator platform once he was sure that he wasn't in another area filled with Reaverbots. The automated voice might have said something, but he was just too far gone, and the motion of the lift didn't help alleviate his lightheadedness at all.

Before too long, the platform slowed to a stop in the antechamber where Russell was waiting. "Congratulations!" His new mentor exclaimed with a grin. Then the veteran realized just how much of a toll the test had taken on Teisel.

"I made it?" Teisel managed to choke out in an exhausted rasp that Russell was surprised he could even understand.

"Less than a second before time ran out," Russell explained.

The wave of relief that hit him right then and there almost made Teisel crumple to the ground and pass out, but by then, Russell had grabbed his arm to support him and was in the process of leading him off to a small office to pick up his license and get the attachments on his gun reset to their normal configuration. He couldn't remember what the woman who'd administered the test even told him, but before he knew it, he was being escorted into what appeared to be an infirmary.

"He just needs to get some sleep," Teisel heard Russell explain to the nurse while he plodded off to the nearest bed. Teisel thought it was a nurse. He couldn't be too sure. If Russell had added anything else after that, it was anybody's guess, because he was out cold the moment his head hit the pillow.


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