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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 23: Catching Up

Chapter 23: Catching Up. Chapter Image depicts the Flutter docked in the fields of Klickelan Island.

Somehow or another, and Teisel couldn't recall the specifics, he'd ended up sitting on the couch in the Flutter. He gripped a steaming cup of green tea that had been served by a slender blond man with wire-rimmed glasses. The man had introduced himself as Artillery Sparks, and from the look of it, he seemed to know his way around the airship.

Teisel wasn't sure why he'd accepted Roll's invitation so quickly, given their problematic history. The mechanic in question seemed completely oblivious to his misgivings. She sat across the room from Teisel and excitedly prattled on about how great he looked and how she couldn't believe he'd finally returned to Klickelan Island after all those years.

To Teisel's surprise, not much had changed about the cozy little airship. Barely anything had changed about the place, in fact. It looked so much like it had the last time he'd been in there that he was pretty sure the middle door on the top level, right across from the entrance, still had the letter M emblazoned across it. The Casketts' monkey had even survived the years, and it still looked like it was locked in its permanent jitterbug with that silly grin on its face. In fact, Teisel found himself almost uncomfortable with how friendly and how normal Roll and Art acted, especially knowing the extent of the loss Roll had to have felt when the rocket crashed on a disconcertingly personal level.

"Art and I just got married last year," she explained. "He's been researching the civilization that originally inhabited the underground ruins, and trying to learn more about where the Reaverbots might have come from. He studied under my grandfather for a while...on Kattelox, actually! He keeps telling me he liked me right away, but I guess I just didn't notice him until we met again all these years later. He's been studying Data for a while now, right, Art?"

"Yup! He's a fascinating little guy, that's for sure," Art elaborated as he set the teapot on the coffee table. "I've managed to decipher a good chunk of his squeaks and translate it into something we can understand, and we really think we're heading toward some amazing discoveries. Of course, most of it seemed to be about food, but he's bound to mention something about the Ancients sooner or later, right, Roll?" He beamed and winked at his wife.

Roll glanced over at Data, who was blissfully dancing away. He seemed to be completely unfazed by the idea of either of them potentially understanding his otherwise unintelligible chatter. "That's the idea," she answered with a smile. "In the meantime, I've been developing a first-class weapons line for diggers all over the world. I've even found a way to make a slightly weaker version of my Shining Laser affordable to build, while still charging my customers the full retail value. It's one of my most popular products!"

Art rolled his eyes and replied, "I'm still shocked that there are diggers out there who can afford your weapons. The fact that they come back for upgrades later is completely ludicrous." He shot Roll a joking grin before adding, "So what have you been up to all these years, Mr. Bonne?"

"Teisel. Call me Teisel."

The older man almost missed it, but out of the corner of his eye he caught Roll letting out a nearly imperceptible sigh of what appeared to be relief and mouthing a quick thanks to her husband. She clearly hadn't wanted to come forth about forgetting his name.

"We think about you and your brother a lot," Roll added. "Did you guys just get here, too?"

Right. She had no way of knowing about Bon.

"I've been living here for a while," Teisel replied, skirting any mention of his brother. Trying to act natural. The last thing he wanted was to come off as a complete mess, at least as long as the woman who'd lost her mother and brother in the same rocket crash could just sit there like nothing was wrong. It wasn't fair that Roll could move on and he couldn't. He focused on the steam rising from his cup of tea and continued, "I'm part of a Rebel Rider gang. We live in town, in the basement of one of the buildings."

"That's...different." Roll admitted. "I keep a small motorhorse in the cargo hold, but it's not really designed for racing. I just use it for getting from one end of town to the other. You aren't a pirate anymore, are you?"

Teisel shook his head. "To tell the truth, I'd never planned on needing to become one in the first place," he admitted, "so it didn't make any sense for me to keep doing it when a slightly less illegal means of earning money came around. I like racing. I'm good at it, and it makes me happy. So how about you? What brings you and this Art fellow here to Klickelan after all this time?"

The couple on the other side of the living room exchanged an incredulous look. "He doesn't know...?" Art whispered after a moment of silence that felt like hours. Roll glanced over at Teisel and watched his knuckles turn white as he involuntarily tightened his grip on his mug. The older man looked downright lost. "We should really tell him."

Roll wasn't so sure about that. While she hadn't spent very much time with Tron's older brother even when they lived in the same lab, she'd seen enough of him to know how prone he was to violent fits of rage at the slightest provocation. Anything from finding out someone had taped over his video collection to realizing that the last person to do the grocery shopping had accidentally purchased yellow mustard instead of brown mustard was enough to send him flying off the handle.

In fact, she hoped that it wasn't too obvious how much she was actively trying to avoid making this man get even the least bit worked up. Unfortunately, she hadn't mentioned that particular tidbit to Art, who'd been staring at her for some time now whilst silently urging her to answer the former pirate's seemingly-innocent inquiry.

She realized Teisel was staring at her as well, and in a voice so unusually soft that it rattled her to the core, he asked, "I don't want to know what you're doing here, do I?"

"You need to tell him," Art whispered again, with a palpable sense of urgency.

"Teisel," Roll began. She hoped with all her might that she hadn't messed up his name. "Mr. Von Bluecher, my grandfather, and I have been coming back to the Ambagry Archipelago for a long time to hold a memorial for...well, for everyone. We'd always wanted to invite you and Bon, too, even back then, but you didn't leave us any way to keep in touch with you. We kept searching for any sign of your ships out there that we could find, but to tell the truth, we sort of gave up hope that we'd ever see you again after the five-year mark came and went."

Teisel looked lost. Roll wasn't sure whether it was from the rambling nature of her explanation or from the mere act of thinking about that life-changing tragedy, but she was in too deep to back out at that point. "What I'm trying to tell you is that the ten-year anniversary is in four days, Teisel. I don't know if you've noticed that the launchpad is still up, or if you've been over to our old island at all, but you can both stop by if you'd like. I won't try to force you into showing up or anything, since there will probably be some kind of media presence, knowing Mr. Von Bluecher. Ten years is kind of a big deal. Still...this is the first year Gramps hasn't been able to make it out here. He says he's getting too old to have to come back to this again and again, and even though Art's been amazing, it'd really help if I had someone around who really understood what we all lost when that rocket..." She took a deep breath and shook her head. "Don't mind me. Like I said, I can't force you and Bon to show up or anything. It's up to you."

When Teisel didn't reply right away, Roll turned to Art and asked in a slightly anxious tone, "That made sense to you, right?"

"Ten years...?" Teisel suddenly uttered, as though he'd just snapped back to reality after a particularly long lapse of consciousness. He set his tea down on the table in front of him as he tried to mentally sort out and assign timeframes to the jumble of events that had transpired between the day he and Bon fled the lab and the day he woke up in the Bright Bats' hideout that fateful afternoon. "It hasn't been eleven years?"

" It's been ten," Art insisted. He pulled a newspaper out from underneath the coffee table and pointed out the date.

"Teisel?" Roll's voice conveyed an unmistakable concern that he never would have expected her to show him before the accident. "Teisel, are you going to be alright?"

After another tense conversational gap, Teisel looked up at Roll. His hands were clenched into fists and visibly trembling, and both she and Art could see that, despite all the effort he was putting into trying to stay calm, he wasn't going to be able to continue their conversation. "...I think I need to get out of here." He managed to articulate as he stood up, leaving the cup of tea completely untouched, and leaving Roll and Art mentally scrabbling around in a desperate search for the most appropriate response.

"Wait!" Roll exclaimed, as Teisel made his way toward the ladder to the top floor and the exit hatch. She jumped up, dug into her pocket and pulled out a business card. "Take my card. Please. I know it sounds stupid considering our history, but now that I know you're still out there...I don't want to lose you again, okay?"

Teisel thought about ignoring her entirely and just climbing up and out without a second glance, but the desperation in her voice made him pause just long enough to take the card from her hand. He glanced down at it, and the phrase "Get a Weapon!" leapt out at him in bold red lettering. "Thanks, Roll," he replied, and before she could so much as wave goodbye, he'd already disappeared. The exit hatch clicked open and slammed shut, echoing throughout the eerily silent airship with a resounding thud.

The only movement after that came from the dancing monkey. Despite everything, he didn't even miss a beat.

Teisel nearly tripped over his own feet as he scrambled downhill through the streets of Teomo City to the base. He'd completely abandoned any thoughts of going back to the store to get his model cement. There was only one thing on his mind at the moment, and he needed answers. The sooner, the better.

Max and Aero both snapped to attention when he came barreling through the front door and into the common room, gasping for breath and sweating like he'd just run a marathon. "Why...didn' ME?!?!!!?" He thundered so loudly that their underground headquarters almost felt like it was caught in an earthquake.

"Teisel, what are you talking about?" Aero asked. She clutched her cell phone a little tighter and added, "I thought you were buying glue!"

"It's 8415. The year. 8415." Teisel stammered. He paced around the common room and ripped his tie out from around his neck so aggressively that he popped the top button on his shirt. All the while, he scanned the room for any sign of a newspaper, or anything else that might have had a date stamp on it. He flung the tie at the TV and roared, "WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY HERE TELL ME IT WAS ONLY 8415!?!"

The two veteran Bright Bats found themselves at a complete loss for words.

"Are you saying that in all this time you've been living with us, you never bothered to check the date even once?" Max skeptically inquired.

"I did!" Teisel insisted. "The postmark Aero forged for my library card said that it was 8415 LAST YEAR, remember? I've probably incorrectly dated dozens of forms since then, and nobody's ever bothered to correct me!"

Aero cringed and tried to recall the exact details of that particular forgery. "Did I set that date stamp incorrectly...?" She wondered out loud. "You never looked at a calendar or anything before today? Not even the date on our newspaper comics?"

"I had other things on my mind!" Teisel snapped. "Haven't you ever accidentally let days slip by and blend into each other until you've completely lost all sense of how much time has passed since your life fell apart at the seams?"

"I can honestly say that I have never been there." Max awkwardly responded. "I...I'm sorry you had to find out this way? Not that...not that either of us know how you found that one out or anything...but..."

Teisel grabbed one of the throw pillows he'd grown accustomed to sleeping with and hurled it against the wall with a guttural growl of frustration that made both Max and Aero recoil. It nearly toppled one of Pic's book stacks and dislodged a stock picture of a tiger from its hanger. He didn't even bother to pick the pillow up as he collapsed face first onto the couch, momentarily forgetting that he had a bedroom now, and just let everything sink in.

Neither Aero nor Max had any idea what to do. They couldn't tell if he needed to be left alone, or needed to be held, or wanted them to throw a second fortieth birthday party for him the following year. All of the Bright Bats were well aware that the tenth anniversary of the rocket disaster was coming up, and they thought they'd prepared accordingly. Unfortunately, they'd assumed that Teisel didn't need to be reminded, and now it looked like it had completely snuck up on him as he curled into the couch. He buried his head in the cushion and gripped the patched upholstery until his hands started to shake.

"We thought you were rounding up when you said it had been ten years ago all those times." Aero finally uttered. Once she said it, she immediately second-guessed whether speaking at all was a good idea. The silence that followed made her grow increasingly lightheaded, to the point where she felt a need to prop herself up against Grill's workbench.

Without pulling himself up to face them, Teisel just whimpered into the couch cushion, "I didn't know what day it was when Bon died. Now I don't even know what year it was anymore."

Bon. That's what this is all about. Max thought to himself as the realization threw a fierce uppercut straight into his gut. Even though Teisel seemed to talk about Tron and her book often, he generally kept quiet about his brother. He'd even told Max, all those months ago, that he'd been the first person he'd ever spoken with about Bon. Max didn't want to admit it to himself, but he felt an inkling of doubt creep up, even though Teisel was very clearly falling apart on their couch in very real agony. How could anyone lose a sibling like that and not know what day it had been when it happened?

He glanced over at Aero. She seemed to be just as perplexed and astonished by it all as he was. "I'm sorry," was all the gang leader could bring himself to say. There just weren't any other words he could think of.

Aero nodded in agreement, momentarily forgetting that Teisel couldn't see her with his face buried in the cushion like that. "I don't know what Max has planned, and I was going to head into town to get a pizza, but I'll keep my cell phone on if you need me for anything, alright?"

"Ditto," Max said. "I can't say I can imagine what it's like to completely lose your grip on time like that...but I can say for sure that I'm your friend. And, uh, both of you should really know better than to think I've made plans..." He trailed off and desperately searched for any sign of a response out of the big guy. "I'm here for you, buddy," he added once he realized Teisel wasn't going to reply. "Always will be."

Although Teisel eventually retreated into his new room for the night the minute Max had to step out and go to the bathroom, Aero wasn't surprised to find him nursing a cup of coffee in the kitchen when she woke up the next morning. He was still in the same outfit he'd worn the day before. She'd grown to expect it during the rougher patches, to the point where this time, she'd arrived with a shrink-wrapped item stuffed inside her newspaper.

"Hey." She said with a nod as she set the publication down in front of her usual spot. "I found something at the junk shop that you might find useful."

Aero extracted her purchase, slid it across the table, and walked over to the counter to go fix her coffee. Teisel took one look at the gift and his jaw dropped open. "Where'd you find an 8415 Rover the Reaver calendar so late in the year?" He sputtered after gazing at the present for a while. "I thought we wrote that series off as a Kattelox exclusive!"

Aero just poured her coffee and noncommittally replied, "You have absolutely no excuse to forget the date now...because I know you just can't resist reading your cheesy newspaper comics!" She flashed him a grin and tried not to laugh too hard at his dumbfounded expression.

Teisel just stared blankly at her, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he couldn't help but break into a goofy smile. After all those uneasy months of wondering if she meant it when she'd said she wasn't going to stay mad at him, it was as obvious to him as it had been to the rest of the gang that she'd put it behind her. "I've got to say, if this isn't the last thing I was expecting you to do right now, it's definitely close." He hopped up from his seat and gave her a quick, one-armed hug. "Thanks, Aero."

"If I'd known how badly you'd lost track of the time out there, I would have been way more careful with that one postmark," Aero assured him. Once she'd fixed her coffee to her liking, she sat down and started scanning the classifieds again. "You're going to be okay, though, right?"

"The initial shock seems to have worn off for now," Teisel replied. He swilled the carafe of coffee creamer around absentmindedly as he leaned against the kitchen counter and completely neglected his own coffee. "I don't understand why it took this long for me to realize just how little of a sense of time I'd had back then. It was never easy for me to think about that in the first place. About him. Bon. I can't believe I could even bring myself to say it out loud. It felt like if I just never mentioned it, it would keep itself from being real. That sounds completely nuts. You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"

"I do, but I think I'd be acting crazy too if it were me in your shoes," Aero admitted. "I mean, I did some pretty messed up stuff while I was still recovering from that whole thing with my parents. I'm sure I'm the reason our toaster's duct-taped together."

"I saw Roll in the hobby shop. Roll Caskett. Your friend." Teisel changed the subject. Hearing Aero talk about her parents made him nervous, considering what had happened the last time she'd brought them up in front of him. He sat back down and gazed into his coffee cup. "She's in town. She got married. She was nice...unusually nice, all things considered. Happy to see me in spite of everything. It was weird."

"Did you tell her about Bon?"

Teisel shook his head. "I...I couldn't. Not any of it. She looked like she had everything under control, and I...don't. I can't. I can't do that. I didn't want to ruin it for them. She invited us to that...thing. That ten year whatever. Memorial. Me and Bon. I got out of there after that. Couldn't hold myself together."

Aero sipped her coffee and let that sink in.

"I don't know if I want to go." Teisel admitted. "She...Roll seemed to want me there, but I just don't think I'm ready for it. In fact, I've deliberately avoided going anywhere in town that would give me a decent view of the place, even after all this time I've spent living here."

"Don't go, then. Nobody's forcing you."

"It's not as easy as you make it sound, Aero. There's only going to be one tenth anniversary memorial, and this is my family we're talking about."

Or is it? Teisel suddenly wondered. Tron hadn't actually been on the rocket the way Mega Man and Mrs. Caskett and that strange girl had. He'd always counted her as one of the casualties, but...what if he was the only one?

"That's tough. If you'd regret missing it later, then it might be a better idea to...wait!" Aero suddenly had an idea. "Would it make any difference if the rest of us came along with you?"

Teisel glanced down at his coffee and mustered up a sheepish smile. "You guys don't have to go to all this trouble, but, uh...yeah. I guess I really do want someone to come along. I was thinking something more along the lines of bringing Sprocket, though now that you mention it, she probably wouldn't be able to behave in front of a bunch of strangers, would she?"

"Guess that means taking Max is out of the question," Aero muttered. "In all seriousness, though, I really think I want to see what Roll's been up to all this time, even if the others don't want to come along...for whatever reason. I can't even imagine Grill ducking out because he has to work, though. Those guys really care about you."

"They really do, don't they?" Teisel replied with a self-conscious smile.

Aero nodded, leaned back, and flipped through the paper while Teisel slipped off into his own thoughts again. He didn't think he could handle any more surprises, and he'd realized a while ago that he needed to be prepared for any and all curveballs Roll and Art might accidentally lob his way, especially considering the high-profile nature of the event.

He had a feeling he wouldn't be getting very much sleep over the next few days.


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