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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 12: Sprocket

Chapter 12: Sprocket. Chapter image depicts Mega Man Volnutt facing off against a green Bonne mech in a harbor.

As the Einzelgänger's engine roared around him and jolted him back to his senses, Teisel felt the cool, clean ergonomic grip of a thrust lever in his hand. Not just any thrust lever—a Tron Bonne original. He realized he'd been sitting in the cockpit of a green, bipedal mech shaped like an awkward chimerical blend of a kangaroo and a wolverine. It was equipped with claws that could shoot missiles out of its hands and power cores that had inexplicably been installed on the outside. He was also thirty years old.

He could see Tron in the seat next to him. Over a dozen different monitors illuminated her face with an unsettling green glow. She had a clear view of Mega Man Volnutt in the largest one and tears threatening to break through her stoic façade, and that's when Teisel realized what was happening. They were at Haffeston Harbor. They were on a raid straight out of Tron's imagination, one where the three siblings had opted to invade a humble port while Tron and Mega Man found themselves in the midst of an awkward misunderstanding. It was the point in the story where Mega Man realized that the feelings he'd been having for Tron weren't entirely platonic, and unbeknownst to this version of Tron, it ended in a fiery explosion of shrapnel and machine parts, just like the majority of their encounters had in reality. "Teisel, you're in charge of the secondary guns." She instructed.

Her voice did nothing to betray her emotions. If Teisel hadn't remembered reading about how she'd been on the verge of a mental breakdown in her book, he would've been none the wiser.

"Hello, Volnutt," she bitterly taunted over the mic as she shifted her attention to the blue boy onscreen. "It seems we finally meet again."

Teisel's mind was racing. He could fix this. All he had to do was tell her that those funny feelings were okay. Why was that so hard?

Mega Man stared straight into the camera from the docks of Haffeston Harbor and uttered, "Tron, I...I...why are you doing this?"

Tron couldn't stifle her tears any longer. "You did this..." she sniffled. It was all happening so quickly. "If you had answered me last time...I...I might have been able to forgive you!" Her grip tightened around the weapons control module as she shouted, "BUT YOU DIDN'T!" She clenched her teeth, took a deep breath, and added, "So much for a good guy!"

Before Teisel had a chance to interject and keep them from getting into the fight he knew was on the way, she pulled the trigger and let forth a volley of gunfire that rattled the cockpit. He opened his mouth, but against all odds, no sound came out. The words were stuck. He could have sworn he could feel his throat closing up the wider he opened his mouth to try to shout at them to stop fighting. None of it made sense. None of this was supposed to have even happened in the first place, but the alternative he was supposed to have been living was so much worse. It felt like his mind was being ripped at the seams as it tried to reconcile the two situations, and the rattle of the Einzelgänger's missiles firing off on top of all of that turned what had once been a fantasy Teisel dove into when he found himself missing his family into a veritable nightmare.

Even though he was used to finding himself literally under fire, the tension between Tron and Mega Man was so palpable that it hurt, and before he realized it the explosions grew louder and louder until an alarm started wailing. He never had a chance to stop Tron from grabbing Mega Man with the Einzelganger's front claw. She violently slammed him against the ground again and again and again.

"Stop!" Teisel wanted to shout. "You're going to kill him again!" Unfortunately, that sentiment made zero sense given the context of the situation, and he was still frozen in his seat and completely unable to speak.

That was when Tron turned toward her brother in a hysterical rage. "Teisel, why aren't you shooting him!?" She roared. "Now you can finally get him out of the way!"

Teisel could only bring himself to just shake his head, but before he could so much as blink, he was forty again and Tron suddenly had a plasma pistol pointed at him. Her eyes were sunken and bloodshot. As Teisel recoiled in horror, she roared, "Is he dead yet? Isn't that what you wanted since the day we met him?"

"I...I...I...I..." Teisel stammered. He'd read this part enough times that he knew this wasn't at all what Tron had written there. Glancing down, he found that the harness strapping him into his seat no longer had a buckle. He wasn't just psychologically frozen in his seat. He was literally trapped there.

"You've always just been in the way, Teisel! You'll never understand what I've been through!" She persisted. She knocked the gearshift into autopilot with her elbow, not once shifting the gun's position. "The worst part is, if we get blown up again, it's not going to do anything to you! This is the only way he and I can be together!"

Teisel desperately wanted to tell her that she was wrong. He did understand what she felt for the Blue Boy. There was no need to trap and execute him inside their mech! There just wasn't enough time. "Sorry to have to do this, Teisel," she uttered before pulling the trigger.

But nothing came out of the little gun. Teisel's eyes popped open as he lay crumpled in his bed, soaked through with sweat, in the Digger's Guild infirmary.

The clock read 8:21 PM, his new license had been placed on the dresser next to him, and Russell was nowhere to be seen. This had to have been the fourth nightmare he'd had in the past week.

The whole day had escaped him, and he was utterly alone.

A few hours earlier, Aero descended the stairs to the Bright Bats' base, her arms loaded with bags of Manda Express takeout, and kicked the door a few times to let the others know she'd returned with their dinner. It had been a very lucrative day for her. "Guys? Anybody in there?" She shouted after three minutes of silence. The last thing she wanted to do was try and balance the bags in one arm while she fumbled around looking for her key single-handedly.

Pic arrived just in the nick of time to let her in. "Thanks," Aero said with a nod as she walked into the common room and placed the bags on the coffee table. "Go get some silverware and place settings."

As he wordlessly trotted off down the hall, she followed him and shouted, "Max! Grill! Teisel! Get in here and eat!" Then she retreated back into the common room.

It seemed like not even a second passed before Grill's footsteps thundered down the hall and he came barreling in through the doorway where Aero had been standing not even moments before. "Manda Express! Alright!" He exclaimed. "Got any shrimp rolls in there?"

Aero stepped back into the hall. "Better hurry up before Grill gets into everything," she added with a smirk.

Max trudged out of the bathroom as Pic scrambled back into the common room with dishes, forks, and knives. "T-Bonne isn't back yet?" He blinked.

"Back?" Aero questioned. "How long's he been gone?"

"He said he had some errands to do this morning." Max shrugged it off and served himself a bowl of chicken curry rice. "I didn't think too much of it at the time, really."

Aero couldn't help but remark, "I don't know about this, Max. The longer this guy sticks around here, the more I think there's something off about him. Running errands could mean anything, and he's been gone all day."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Max brushed it off. "He's probably at the library."

"Aero, are you sure all this second-guessing isn't really just about Barrett?" Grill said, momentarily glancing up from his shrimp. "Ever since he left, you've barely given anyone outside of the four of us the time of day. I mean, sure, I get that you were a kid and you liked him and all, but that's no reason to shut out everyone else because it didn't work out."

"Don't make me steal the keys to your motorhorse," Aero threatened.

"You know I can hotwire that thing in seconds," Grill reminded her. " really ought to watch yourself, or you might push a perfectly good new member away for the opposite reason this time."

Aero resisted the urge to snap at the mechanic and tore into a box of beef stir fry. "I still think Teisel's hiding something. He keeps coming back to the base later and later, and he does some weird things even taking his life story into consideration. It's been bugging me for a while."

"It's a dog." Pic stated. It was the first thing he'd said all day.

"Dude, we're in the middle of a serious conversation here," Max groaned. He hoped his sweat wasn't soaking through his shirt. "Now isn't the best time to spout random crap at us."

Pic shook his head. "That's what T-Bonne's hiding. A dog." He explained. "He goes out and gives one of the strays in town hamburgers. I've seen him playing with it in the alleyways. I'm 91% sure that he considers this dog his pet."

The rest of the gang just stared at Pic with dumbfounded expressions.

"What? I'm just doing my job."

"I can't believe you're using that ridiculous nickname now, too," Aero rolled her eyes.

"A dog, huh?" Max mused. He wondered if Pic had also exercised his authority as the Bright Bats' self-proclaimed information-gatherer to follow the two of them out to the ruins. He wasn't about to test that theory anytime soon. "I never would've pegged him for an animal guy in a million years. That T-Bonne's just full of surprises. And hey, maybe it's about time we picked up a new mascot..."

And so it happened that quite a few hours later, when Teisel stumbled in late that night wearing his armor to find all four of his new roomies not only awake, but waiting for him, he had himself completely convinced they knew all about his digging expeditions. He mustered up a grin and stammered, "You're still awake. That's...uh...hi."

Aero put on her sternest frown and interrogated, "So Teisel, when were you going to tell us about the dog?"

He sure wasn't expecting that. "How did you..."

"Pic likes following people around sometimes," Grill explained. "He likes to think of himself as an information gatherer of sorts. You can relax, though. There's nothing wrong with wanting a dog or anything. We've had a lot of pets over the years."

"We...?" Teisel trailed off. He was so embarrassed that he was sure his face had to have been at least as red as his eyes. He thought he'd been more careful about covering his tracks. "I...I don't know. Sprocket's kind's complicated. I gave her my fries the night I told Max about...well, you was, uh, that night. I've been keeping an eye out for her ever since. I've always liked dogs, and up until now I've never been in a position where I could have one, so...uh..."

"What's complicated about that?" Max responded.

"I don't know, Max," he sighed. He wandered over to where Pic and Max were sitting on the couch and motioned for them to make room. It had been a long day. "There's a part of me expecting someone to just take her away. It's been so long since I've been able to do something just because I wanted to. I'm not used to that. And, to tell the truth, I kind of liked having the dog to myself. Looking after her gives me something constructive to focus on, and she wound up being someone I could go spend time with when I wasn't feeling too well and needed some...some unconditional support, I guess. Even though I know you guys keep saying you'd be there for me if I needed to talk, there isn't much that beats tossing a tennis ball around in an alley with Sprocket. She always seems to know when I need her most, if that makes any sense. I suppose I might just be worried that she wouldn't be as strong of a support structure if I added you four into the mix."

"It's all good," Grill shrugged it off. "We're just saying, if you want to bring her around, you have nothing to worry about, and either way you shouldn't have to feel like you need to hide anything from us."

Teisel smiled and felt his ears grow warm. "You guys are great," he told them. "I couldn't have asked to get taken in by a better ragtag bunch of misfits than you."

Max slung an arm around Teisel's shoulder and gave him a quick squeeze. "We love you too, man. It's gonna be alright. You're a Bright Bat, and we've all got your back."

He decided right then that they'd meet Sprocket before the next day was through. In spite of all his misgivings, those guys just kept pulling through for him again and again. Perhaps trusting them completely wasn't as crazy of an idea as he'd once imagined, and even though he wasn't quite there yet, he found himself incredibly grateful to have them around at that moment.

The next day, after Teisel finished digging and changed back into his street clothes, he gathered Max, Grill, and Aero together and, carrying a hamburger patty in one hand, whistled and called the dog's name as he paraded them down a series of alleyways that made Grill visibly nervous.

"You sure we should even be down here?" He asked as his gaze darted up and all over the place. He half expected someone to jump out and mug the whole group.

"You know how spaced out T-Bonne gets," Max whispered. "If he hasn't been mugged out here yet, we're probably fine."

"Hey!" Teisel quipped. "I heard that!"

"Don't try and deny it, either," Aero added. "We're all onto your shenanigans, Teisel Bonne."

Instead of setting him on edge the way they might have a few weeks earlier, the gibes actually brought a smile to the older man's face. "Well then, I suppose I ought to just admit it outright. We're not actually visiting a dog...we're going to break into the City Hall and steal all of their pens. This hamburger's really just part of an elaborate scheme to convince you otherwise." He bluffed, but the sparkle in his eyes and the ridiculousness of the assertion tipped the bikers off.

Before anyone could say anything else, though, Teisel stopped dead in his tracks. He'd heard the distinct sound of a large animal knocking over a garbage can, so he whistled again. "Sprocket? That you?" He shouted as he peeked around the nearest corner.

Aero, Grill, and Max followed him as he darted toward a moderately large, gray, fluffy dog with pointed ears. The dog stopped digging around in the garbage and jumped up at Teisel. "Hey, down! Down!" He ordered. The instruction was barely audible over Sprocket's relentless yapping, but as soon as the dog caught a whiff of the other three Bright Bats, she bounded back again and regarded them apprehensively, letting out a growl and a series of threatening barks that made Max second-guess his intention of turning Sprocket into their latest mascot.

"Teisel, that dog has a collar and tags," Aero pointed out.

"Yeah, I bought those. It makes finding her easier." Teisel explained. He shot Max a penetrating glare before he could open up his mouth in objection and betray their plan to the others. He turned back toward the dog and continued, "Sprocket, they're okay, calm down...there's nothing to worry about here, those guys are alright..."

Max spoke up. "Yeah, don't worry about us wanting to bring that dog into the base anytime soon, T-Bonne. No offense or anything, but she looks crazy."

Teisel shrugged as he held the burger out at arm's length and made his way cautiously toward the trash cans. "She's not crazy, she just thinks you're a threat." he insisted. "Getting random street dogs to learn to trust you takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. And an open box of, Johnny's french fries helps, too." He added as Sprocket gingerly stepped toward him and took the burger from his hand before she started barking at the Bright Bats again.

"You sure you're the one looking out for her and not the other way around?" Aero sighed.

"Well, it certainly looks like she likes you," Grill shrugged, "and any dog that makes you feel better is okay in my book, I guess. I can't stress this enough, though, you shouldn't have to worry about any of us kicking you out or resenting you for having a life outside of our base. No more sneaking around, got it? The only reason we even found out about Sprocket at all is because Aero here was getting suspicious about the way you'd just leave all day and come back really late for the past week or so."

"So, uh, you wouldn't mind that I got a Digger's License, either, then?" Teisel awkwardly asked as he crouched down next to Sprocket with his hand on her collar and held her back in case she decided to violently rush his friends.

"Why would we mind that?" Aero frowned while Max cringed and frantically gestured for Teisel to end the train of thought there. "Max and Grill found you in a digging suit. I'm surprised it didn't come up sooner."

"No reason." Teisel abruptly cut off the conversation. "Anyway, now that you've met my dog, we should probably head back to base. It's getting dark, you know."

As he released his grip on the dog's collar and walked off, Sprocket scampered after him, leaving Aero and Grill standing in the alley even more perplexed than Aero had been the day before, and leaving Max seriously questioning whether they'd meet their deadline or not.

They had ten days left to raise 30,000 zenny. With Teisel using what was probably a decent part of their earnings to support this dog, Max wondered if he'd get out of this business with Seedy Leigh in one piece after all.

If he did, he intended to throw everyone a huge party and charge the whole thing on his Teomo Rewards card.


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