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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 22: Back in the Saddle

Chapter 22: Back in the Saddle. Chapter image depicts a pile of manga with crumpled snack food wrappers scattered about and a can of soda. The manga on top has the same title as the chapter.

With Aero taking it easy for the next few days, Teisel wasn't sure about what to do with himself. Even though, by all logic, she'd seemed to want to keep putting up with him, it was hard for him to look at her the same way anymore. Now that he'd let it slip how often she accidentally reminded him of Tron, he had himself fully convinced that she spent all of the time she had to herself freaking out about it. He hated the way their dynamic shift stung. At least he and Aero had never really talked much. There wasn't as much of a need to maintain conversation as there might have been if they'd actually spent a lot of time together.

For the most part, Aero was sore but recovering quickly. Her knee, however, was visibly swollen, and while she could stand on that leg and hold it in most positions, the actual act of bending it sent a spike of pain shooting through her. She knew from experience that the swelling would go down eventually, but sitting around with ice on her knee and waiting for it to happen was taking a frustratingly long time.

As for Max, the only thing he could discern from their interactions over those tense days was that Teisel seemed a lot less comfortable about everything than Aero did. The minute the rest of the gang managed to successfully assure him that Goodwin had probably moved on to bigger criminals than a random stranger whose only known crime was trying to stick up for Aero, he started spending most of his time away from the base.

As soon as Max realized what was going on, he ventured out that afternoon to try and talk some sense into Teisel. After he searched the streets of Teomo for a while, he found the old guy in the library's teen room with a stack of manga and some snacks from the vending machine. It might have come off as creepy if real teenagers actually visited the Teomo City library. Thankfully, aside from the two of them, the place was deserted as usual. Teisel almost lost his place in the tenth volume of a steampunk graphic novel called Action when he finally spotted his boss lingering in the doorway.

"Max!" Teisel exclaimed. "I was...well, know..."

"Drowning your anxieties in a manga binge? You know that series has been running for almost twenty years now, right? They'll never finish it."

"That means I'll never have to worry about it going anywhere," Teisel countered.

"You're not camping out here reading manga all day. What'd Aero say to you that made you want to hide out all the way over here, anyway? I know she couldn't have kicked you out of the group if you're still sleeping in the base."

"I don't know if you'd understand if I tried to explain it to you..."

"Try me."

"I suppose I just never realized how heavily the decks were stacked against the two of us being able to live peacefully in the same environment until we started having conversations that weren't just about whether or not Rover the Reaver is supposed to be exclusive to the Kattelox Times." Teisel grabbed an empty corn chip bag, stuck it into the graphic novel like a bookmark, and moved over on the couch to allow room for Max to sit next to him. "Not only did it turn out that she and Tron didn't like each other very much, which, knowing Tron, I probably should have expected anyway, but she showed me a picture of Barrett. Guess what, Max? He blew up the last robot Tron ever built! And Aero? She just laughs it all off like it's no big deal while she sits there at the edge of her bed bleeding all over the place with her knee in a splint!"

Max plopped down next to him and kicked his feet up on the table, planting his new boots with reinforced Reaverbot shell toe protectors right on a copy of The Pink Princess: Warrior of Neo Olde Tokyo, Volume 8. "T-Bonne, if she's still letting you stay with us, then you're obviously overthinking this, and we should go get some cheese fries."

"She told me she wants to trust me someday!" Teisel sputtered. "That's just...I don't know what I even DID to deserve that! From what she told me, and from what I now know about the sheer number of things she doesn't talk about, the way I see it, she's probably the poster child for serious trust issues! And then she just expects me to act normal?! DOESN'T SHE KNOW WHO SHE'S DEALING WITH?!"

"Please remain quiet in the library, Mr. Bonne. I can hear you from the lobby...again." The librarian flatly announced over the intercom.

Teisel cringed. "SORRY!" He shouted back to her. He had a feeling she was slumped over her desk and trying to decide whether to laugh or throttle him through the loudspeaker.

"I thought we told you we were pretty much a big, weird, mixed-up family a while ago." Max pointed out.

"Aero mentioned that part too, but it didn't really sink in until just now." Teisel whispered in an almost comical attempt to overcompensate for yelling. "Does that mean I was supposed to have told everyone about how my mom used to braid my hair before bedtime when I was a kid instead of telling you to keep it between us when I let it slip that one time?"

"There's just something about seeing your teammate get beat up by her own father because of something you did that really smacks you in the face with the responsibility stick, huh?"

"I can't believe you just said that like it was nothing."

"It's how we cope with it." Max grabbed a stack of manga. "Now come on."

"I'm not really in the mood for cheese fries right now, Max."

Max frowned. "T-Bonne, you can't hide out here forever. They make the curly kind at the stand over by the marketplace..."

"I think I want to take the motorhorse out on the wasteland instead." Teisel elaborated. He plucked the snack wrapper out from between the pages of Action and crumpled it up into a ball. "You know, to get a feel for the different racing routes. If I'm really going to be one of the Bright Bats, then I'm going to race motorhorses like you, too. It seems like a safer way to pull my own weight around here than digging, all things considered."

"Huh. You really do take your family crap seriously," Max remarked. "Does that mean you're going to give up on the Klicke Lafonica?"

Teisel nodded and tossed the greasy, crumpled bag at the nearest trash can. It bounced off the edge and rolled to a stop near the center of the room. "If just finding the generator to get to the summit nearly killed me, I'm not sure I can handle searching the rest of the ruins for a third card key, flying back up to the generator room in the Drache, and then climbing the main tower. Not even with Russell covering for me." He picked up the bag and tried again, and it just barely made it into the receptacle. "It doesn't seem worth it to find a legendary treasure that would just complicate my life even further if I accidentally figure out how to use if Russell comes around looking for my card key and I'm not there, make sure you give it to him."

"Would you be able to race without trashing the motorhorse this time, though?" Max asked. "The payoff isn't normally anywhere near 100,000 zenny...not saying you aren't a good rider without resorting to a fireworks show, but you're going to have to do a lot of practicing."

"If I can go from barely being able to pass the Class B digging exam to finding the generator for the Ghiotte Summit elevator, I don't see what the issue is." Teisel replied. "Riding those machines makes me really happy, Max."

"And you're fine with than legal aspects of the circuit?" He asked, glancing around to make sure the librarian wasn't looking.

"Have you already forgotten what I used to do for a living?"

"Oh. Right." Max stated. He snickered and led the way out, confident that the librarian would put the manga back where they belonged. "Man, I can't wait to see the look on the Roast Beefs' faces when you annihilate them out in the wasteland! That'll make blowing them off to save you even more worth it!"

Without the 100,000 zenny safety net that might have allowed Teisel to burn through motorhorses like it was nobody's business, he turned out to be a generally average racer. Considering the Bright Bats' track record, average was actually pretty good, and since the betting crowd was used to the team placing last every time, he even managed to bring in some refractor shards when he placed at all.

The Rebel Riders' standard-issue motorhorse races usually featured representatives from four to eight teams at once, depending on the average width of the surface they'd be riding on and the difficulty of the terrain. Nitrous boosts, weapons, and other modifications were generally understood to be off-limits during normal runs, but it didn't stop some gangs from equipping that stuff anyway and running private races to settle their various scores under the table.

Max, Aero and Teisel were the Bright Bats' primary racers, with Grill and Pic on pit crew. With Teisel actually bringing in some money, they managed to scrape together enough zenny for a second motorhorse. It didn't really belong to any of them, so they'd rock-paper-scissors to determine who had to double up.

Despite several trips to Bakerly's Bakery to track him down, Teisel didn't run into Russell again. He eventually gave up on trying to find him, but he still stopped at Bakerly's for cupcakes whenever he had the money. Bakerly might have been a strange fellow, but he did make a fantastic cupcake.

After that last brush with Chief Goodwin, the Bright Bats' lives became significantly more mundane over the course of the year. The five of them more or less settled into a routine for the first time since Teisel joined up, and although Teisel still had trouble getting to sleep, Grill had already started digging out another room in their sub-basement for him. That way, in the event that he ever wanted to turn in early, nothing would be able to stop him. Against all odds, Pic even found a mattress that sort of fit Teisel. By the time it was ready for him to move in, he still didn't have very many possessions besides what he'd had with him when they found him, so Max thought he'd surprise his strategist with something from his favorite online store to make the cavernous room look a little more personal.

Unfortunately, when the package came in the mail, Max took one look at the contents and shouted a string of curses that made even Pic flinch from all the way in the kitchen, where he was reorganizing the food in the fridge by color. "Ugh! Not again! This was supposed to be a robot, not a bunch of PIECES of a robot!" He shouted.

"Max, it's fine! I actually like the ones you build yourself better!" Teisel insisted. "In fact, I think I used to have one just like this when I was...younger. A lot younger."

"So you mean when you were my age, right?" Max taunted. "Heh, I've got plenty more where that came from in my room if you really like building them so much! You're going to have to get the glue and crap yourself, though..."

And so that was how Teisel ended up browsing the shelves of a dilapidated little hobby shop just off the main road. If Max hadn't given him directions, he wasn't sure he would have been able to locate the entrance at all, but once he did, he found himself alone in the tiny shop, staring at model-building supplies. As he meticulously deliberated whether to opt for the quick-dry or standard model cement, he heard the front door jingle from across the room. "Don't worry, Art, I'll only be a minute," he heard a woman shout from the entryway. "I just need to get some paint. Try not to drip any of that ice cream on the sidewalk, okay?"

Teisel couldn't remember what it was that compelled him to glance up, but the moment he did, the young woman who'd just stepped in locked eyes with him and gasped. "I—it's you!" She stammered, trying hopelessly to rack her mind for Teisel's name, all thoughts of buying paint completely forgotten. "You'''re Tron's brother!" She trailed off as she nervously gripped the edges of her zenny pouch and shot Teisel a grin she hoped would be able to mask her awkward blunder.

On the other hand, it barely took a second for Teisel to remember this girl's name. One look at the red cap she still wore, even all these years later, was all the reminder he needed. He raised his hand in an awkward attempt at a wave.

"Hi, Roll." He said with a shaky smile. "It sure has been a while, hasn't it?"


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