“Ugh… I can’t lift it….” Kirere tried desperately to get traction as she tugged on the tarp with the engine that Keroro, Kururu, Dororo, and Mois had pilfered from the abandoned car in the alleyway. She braced herself against a wall, gulped, and then gave it a second try, but to no avail—The machine didn’t move an inch from its spot in front of the old car.
Keroro rubbed his aching back and stretched, doing his best to ignore the pop he heard along with it that had come from repeated attempts at moving the engine, “Kirere-dono, I don’t think….”
“T-This has to work. We have to move it, right?” asked Kirere. “That’s how we’ll get our ship!”
“R-Right, gero!” Keroro exclaimed, gripping on to a piece of the tarp once more. The others joined in as well, but there was still no movement of the engine. They’d managed to get as far as Dororo slicing off the front of the car so they could slide the engine out, and they were now at a standstill. Keroro gave another tug in vain on the tarp, only to lose his grip and going tumbling backwards.
“We’ll… We’ll try plan B then!” Keroro said from his upside-down position leaning against a garbage can, and he hopped back up onto his feet. “We’ll get to the junkyard and build a huge mecha from there! That should take care of it.”
“Kuku, without any shields?”
“We’ll stack up on one another and wear a trench coat!” Keroro exclaimed. Cold water was thrown to this plan quickly, however, as he looked at the sea of skeptical faces. “Or…. We’ll disguise ourselves as a kindergarten class out for a jaunt! Right! Just a lovely midnight jaunt! Eh? Giroro Goucho? Dororo? …Mois-dono?”
Mois gave her best smile, but it was little more than a nervous twitch while she wrung her hands together. “Ojii-sama….”
“Right… Hrm… Gero?” Keroro was surprised by the sudden flashing in front of them, and he had never been more happy to see an outdated piece of technology as when the red phone box appeared in front of him.
And the first one to jump out was Fuyuki, who ran to Keroro without even giving a glance to the chaotic world around him. Keroro didn’t even have time to process it before he was swept up in the sobbing Fuyuki’s arms. “Gunso!....”
“Fuyuki-dono!” Keroro sobbed in return, and looked past Fuyuki’s shoulder to see the other humans and Keronians in the doorway of the phone booth.
“Okay, guys, you remember the plan?” asked Haruki.
“Get everyone to safety!” Koyuki nodded.
“Make sure the Alien Alley isn’t compromised. On it!” Chandi added.
“Also call your mom, she’s gotta be worried!” Haruki shouted as Chandi started to run off, and Koyuki, along with the Martin twins, Tom, and Saburo all ran out in different directions.
“Fuyuki!” Natsumi called out, turning back briefly. “Good luck!”
“You too, Nee-chan! Stay safe!” Fuyuki replied. And then Natsumi vanished into the crowds.
“Eh? You okay there?” Haruki asked Momoka as she fidgeted in the doorway. She nodded, took a single step forward, and stopped in front of Fuyuki, who was still in an embrace with Keroro.
She quickly slipped a piece of paper into Fuyuki’s hand and then ran off, silent, her face red, and—Haruki could swear with tears in her eyes.
“Okay—Lee, you’ll keep in contact with the kids?” asked Haruki. Lee, before piling out of the phone booth, answered by silently loading the magazine into her gun and giving a single nod. “…Not sure where you hide all of those, but okay!”
“Haruki!” Kirere chirped as she spied her Pekoponian friend, and he bent down to take his own hug from her. “You…. You sounded so official!”
“Well, hey, I’ve got to. Got to make your Grandpa proud, right? Now what’s going on, kiddo?”
“We’re trying to build a ship!” she replied, stepping aside to reveal the engine that they’d been unable to move.
“Oh really? Well, I’ve got something just a little better for you…. Everyone come on it!” Haruki stepped aside, and the members of Keroro platoon filed in, Keroro still clinging on to Fuyuki all the while, enjoying the embrace from his best friend.
“…Gunso… You’re going to be in trouble, aren’t you?” Fuyuki asked quietly as they braced for travel by taking a seat on the living room couch.
“Gero! I… I will, but… I… I don’t care…. What matters now is that… Fuyuki-dono and Pekopon are safe. That’s what matters to me most anymore.”
“Gunso…” Fuyuki sniffed. “Eh?....”
He noted the crumpled paper in his hand, and opened it up, closing it immediately a moment later.
“Gero? What’s that, Fuyuki-dono?”
“N-Nothing, Gunso. Something I’ll take care of later!” Fuyuki said with a nervous chuckle.
“We just need to take this thing up,” said Haruki as he passed Fujuju, who was in the living room with his own Keron ball as he piloted his home/ship.
“I’m going to need a new bloody battery after this….” Fujuju mumbled as he gently tapped the side of the device he held onto. “Which building was it?”
“You’ll know it when you see it,” replied Haruki.
They arrived back atop the building just as Tamama and Giroro arrived with all of the weapons they could find—Which was mainly kitchen knives and mace from the downstairs department store. It had not been a plentiful bounty at all.
Giroro and Tamama were surprised to find Hachichi, Romama, and Rokiki on the roof—Even more so to find Fujuju’s house there with the rest of them platoon in it.
“Big old family reunion,” Haruki chuckled as most of the Romama platoon and the rest of the Keroro platoon stepped outside of the box.
“Now you’re sure you have this?” Fujuju asked cautiously as he passed Haruki the Keron ball.
“I’m licensed to drive a big rig. This can’t be that much different, right? And don’t worry—I’ll pick up Rita for you and then Mora and get everyone back to the Grant headquarters.”
“Neh…” Botan shuffled out of the back of the home, and Fujuju instantly fell into a small panic as he saw her. She was tired, and leaning on her staff for support. “….Don’t close that door yet. I’m going to fight this.”
“Absolutely not. You need to stay here,” Fujuju began to usher her back, and she pushed against him. “Botan…”
“I need to…”
“I… I lost someone I loved once already this decade, I don’t intend to again!” Fujuju’s voice was loud. Louder than he’d expected.
Loud enough to stop all of the rest of the movement on the rooftop.
“I can’t…. I can’t lose you, too…” his voice was weakened by his self-consciousness, and Botan sighed and knelt down in front of him.
“You won’t lose me….” she reassured him. “….A million timelines, and you’re the only one I love. I won’t let go of that easily, either.”
“Hey, our reinforcements should be here in a second… We really need to, um…” Haruki shuffled his feet anxiously, and Fujuju sighed as he felt Botan place a hand against his face.
“….You’re lying….” Fujuju said to her quietly.
“….Not about the love…”
“….Let her stay here, Haruki.”
“Y-Yeah… Kirere, are you….?”
“She’s staying to fight,” said Giroro after Kirere looked back at her father worriedly. She immediately lit up, and Haruki couldn’t hide the feeling of his heart dropping to his stomach.
“Yeah…. I guess you would…. I forget about you being a solder, too, heh.”
“Haruki, you’re not staying?” asked Kirere.
“Nah… I’ve got a lot of stuff to work out at the Grant Initiative. Lots of aliens going nuts, lots of confused phone calls… I wanna help, but I know they need me there. Just… Take care of yourself, okay? I don’t know what the hell I’d do if something happened to you,” Haruki admitted as he scratched the back of his head.
“I will,” she replied brightly.
Haruki’s eyes traveled up to the lights shining above them, and he gave a smile of relief. “Looks like the cavalry’s here. I gotta go.”
“Fuyuki-dono, you should go, too,” said Keroro, and Fuyuki shook his head.
“No way, Gunso. We’re going to defend Pekonpon together! We… We were together when you arrived here, I don’t care if this means we’re here at the end together!”
“I’ll see you guys soon—No one do anything too dumb, being dumb is my job!” called out Haruki before he shut the door to the phone booth. The whirring of an engine, and he was gone.
And that allowed everyone to look upwards, towards the Keron military ship. There was a brief moment of panic until Giroro recognized the number on the side of it—The panic for him was replaced by equal parts relief and confusion.
“G-Garuru! How did you get past the dome?!” Giroro asked, slack-jawed, as he watched his brother descend from a ramp that lowered from the ship, backlit by a bright light coming from the inside of it.
“….The Grant Initiative has some interesting technology…. We have to be quick about this. What do you need?”
“Seeing everyone here is like winning the lottery!” Hachichi squealed to Romama and Rokiki, and he couldn’t hide the small bounce in his step. “I don’t believe this! I-I mean, I’ve been through this before, but it’s never been like this! Boy I hope this is a good sign…”
Romama had seen this excitement before. He’d seen it many times.
Romama remembered where he’d seen it, and Romama went completely pale.
“Any weapons you have and anything that can fly,” Giroro answered.
“Right. We’ll have it out for you and then we’ll be on our way before anyone realizes what we’ve done… You realize you’re a war criminal now, right, Giroro?”
“…I’ll also take care of telling dad,” Garuru added, and walked back up the ramp. Moments later several crates floated down, and immediately all of the Keronians, the lone Angol, and the lone human began to unpack them.
The ramp slowly closed up, and Giroro could see them for a brief second before the door totally shut—The worried faces of the Garuru platoon peeking out from the small slit.
“Been a little while since I’ve shot,” Mahihi admitted as he pulled out a rifle from one of the crates.
“Oh this is perfect!” said Kirere as she pulled out a hover board for herself.
“It’s not a ship, but it’ll do. It’s better than what we had,” Giroro admitted.
“Actually, I’ll be taking these….” Rokiki picked up two of the kitchen knives from the pile on the ground Giroro had made, and tested the grip of the handle before giving an affirming grunt of approval. “Do you use—”
Rokiki turned to where Hachichi had been standing, but curiously found him absent. “Where the hell did he…Ugh, nothing makes sense anymore. Romama, do you want one?”
“I think there’s a laser sword in here…” Romama replied.
Lupapa looked at the end of her spear, the one she’d carved herself so many years ago, and she wondered if it would be enough against the large, imposing ship, “Dororo, do you think….”
“I think in your hands, Lupapa-dono, you’ll be a valuable warrior,” Dororo reassured her, putting a hand over the one that gripped her spear.
“…If we make it out here… Let’s get married. And not when we’re drunk.”
“Well, there goes my GiroDoro OTP… But I guess it’s cute,” Chunini chuckled as she strapped on a flight pack. “Dibs on matron of honor!”
“Matrons are married women and you’re not married, idiot…” Lupapa grumbled.
“Nonsense. What do you think I did on the way here?”
“I’m a notary,” Mahihi replied and gave a shrug. “What? They had a free class at the library and I was bored!”
“Anyone have a lighter?” asked Fujuju as he felt around in his own scarf.
“Kukuku, ask and ye shall receive….” Kururu held an unlit silver Zippo under Fujuju’s face, and the Keronian pocketed it after contemplating it.
“You sure you’ll be okay with that, dude?” asked Mahihi.
“I can control it… And even if not, one of you can stop me. I have faith.” Fujuju tucked the lighter into his scarf, and took a small pistol for himself before stepping on his own board. He was a poor shot, but the lighter was the real weapon, anyhow. “Let’s just hope they have some chemicals out in the open.”
“I think this is the best we can do,” Giroro said when he’d loaded enough guns to his liking. “Keroro, what’s the plan?”
“Gero… We…. Get on the ship… And get control of it… And save the day! We attend the celebratory parade the next day!” Keroro chirped. “And then we pave the way for alien-human relations! Not just the kind Giroro Goucho’s looking for, either!”
“Y-You shut up about that!” Giroro snapped. “All right, you take lead. You’ve got us with you.”
“R-Right.” A platoon bigger than he’d ever expected, spanning across four species. “Fuyuki-dono, stay back with Time Bender-sama. We’ll get her if it’s enough of an emergency.”
“You got it, Gunso!” Fuyuki exclaimed.
“All right, Keroro-Romama platoon! Move out!” Keroro called, and one-by-one they took off on hover boards, weapons in hand.
“I hope they’ll be all right…” Fuyuki said to himself as he sat down on the roof alone with Botan. The group slowly faded into the distance of the night—Looking a bit more like stars than actual aliens after a short while.
“Oh I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
Fuyuki looked to Botan, but the calm voice had sounded nothing like her. Botan weakly gripped the staff at her side, and she struggled to stand as Fuyuki turned around to see Fujuju behind them, watching the sight of the platoons in the distance. “What camaraderie. That’s what the military is all about, right….?”
“Eh? Fujuju Soucho, but aren’t you with the others?...”
“He is….” Botan said as she slowly rose from her spot, yelping as she nearly fell onto the ground once more.
And then Fuyuki started to see small differences in this Fujuju… Maybe just a little older, no scarf… No scar on his neck like he’d been told Fujuju had. And no accent whatsoever. There was also something to his eyes…. Something cold. Something that made Fuyuki want to avoid contact with them outright.
“You look awful… You don’t have much left, do you?” Lem sighed as he circled her and Fuyuki. “…What a shame… You could stop it all if you wanted to, but…. You just can’t bring yourself to do it, can you?”
“Botan-san? What’s he—”
“You still haven’t told any of them? Have you told him?” And Lem gave a sigh at Botan’s silence. “Well, this’ll be awkward then!”
“Hey!” Lem gave a roll of his green eyes and, as he had several times before, found Hachichi standing behind him. “Leave her alone!”
“Oh this annoyance is never going to go away….” Lem shook his head and huff.
“I could say the same thing about you! I leave for just a few seconds and here you are again!”
“Now what are you going to do, doctor? Gauze me to death?”
Hachichi returned this with a punch to Lem’s stomach. That was something Hachichi had yet to do in any of the timelines he’d gone down.
“Keroro-dono, we found the entrance!” Dororo called out from his spot under the ship.
“I’ve got this…” Giroro flew over on his hoverboard, and aimed towards the hull, and fired a single shot.
It was enough to blast a hole for them to float into. Mahihi remained stationed outside, set up further away from the ship, with the site from his rifle aimed towards the cockpit.
“This is going to be fun explaining in church…. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that…” Mahihi said to himself as he adjusted his body on his board. He was stomach-down on it, and keeping his eyes intently on the ship ahead of him.
On the other side, also from a distance, was Mois, with her staff ready. Mahihi had his gun aimed if things went wrong—Mois had herself prepared in case they really went wrong.
Kururu split off from the group immediately upon entering the ship, intent on finding the control room, with Tamama going with him as a bodyguard.
“Good-bye any goodwill we had on Keron, huh?” Chunini chuckled nervously. “First my career, now this….”
“But you’ve got your family, so it’s worth it, right?” asked Lupapa. The two women made up the tail of the group, staying behind in case of anything popping out from behind them.
“Definitely. So when’s Lupa-chan going to start her family, huh? You already look pudgy like you’re trying.”
“…Don’t jinx me…”
“Don’t…” Chunini stopped and held up her hands to her mouth, drawing the attention of the rest of the platoons.
“She stepped on something!” Lupapa snapped, taking Chunini roughly by the arm and practically dragging her along with her. “…Make a scene and I’ll stab you.”
“We’re going to have SUCH a good girl talk if we don’t die, Lupa-chan!” Chunini giggled.
“You fight dirty now…. You must be getting tired for me too, huh?” Lem rubbed his aching stomach and laughed as best he could—In spite of the pain.
“You’re messing up the future…. You need to knock it off. You’re taking a risk of making everything unstable again.” Hachichi didn’t bother to unclench his fists, and Lem shook his head.
“You don’t get it or you don’t want to. My future was messed up from the beginning. I had it taken from me!”
“And that sucks, but that’s no excuse for what you’re trying to do here! You can’t just… Give yourself a better life at the expense of everybody else!”
“Says the man from the loving family…. Don’t think that I don’t know who you are. As many times as we’ve met, I’ve figured it out. Do you know what I would’ve given for a life like yours growing up? Nothing but… Loneliness… And a family I never knew… If you found a way to chance that, you can’t say you wouldn’t?! Put yourself in my shoes!”
“I have! But that still doesn’t make this right….”
“What’s going on?” Fuyuki whispered, and Botan shut her eyes tightly.
“I can’t kill Lem… Because that is Lem. What you’re looking at is his true form.”
“W-What?! Fujuju Soucho?!”
Lem turned around at the sound of his name—His real one.
“So finally you tell the truth. No wonder I love you in this world,” he grinned widely, and looked over to the dumbstruck Fuyuki. “…Not every universe is a happy one. I’m from one of the unhappy ones. The thing is… When you spend your life, dedicated to science…. There’s an upside. Like finding different universes week forty into your research. Like finding out that you can rewrite your life. So imagine my surprise when I try it and make a better life for myself, and a Time Bender pops up! Well, she recognizes me as her husband—And she made the worst mistake of her life telling me that. She can erase history, erase people, fix time… But she really has a soft spot for this universe’s me.”
“You… You can’t be Fujuju Soucho!”
“Well, no. I’m not in the military. That never happened in my universe. Just getting taken by the scientists. Just getting locked in a lab for hours on end. Just making huge scientific breakthroughs. Just…. Finding out what a good life I had in universes like this. And she’s wrecked my life enough… The one I tried to rebuild and rebuild… I thought I’d return the favor for a change.”
“That’s… That’s so wrong, you can’t…”
“And then this one comes back with the same technology to save his own skin… He’s just as selfish, really.”
Hachichi clenched his jaw and stared at Lem with his bright blue eyes. Already, Fuyuki could tell, he was calculating another punch.
“Heh. I’m trying to keep the universe from imploding. Existing is just a bonus for me…. There’s still some good in you, otherwise you would’ve stopped me from existing by doing in my parents one of the million times you’ve been here.”
“No one’s perfect…” Lem sighed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have business to get to.”
“Don’t you dare!” Botan, with a sudden burst of energy fueled by anger, stomped over to him. As Lem retrieved a small, Keron-ball like device, she used her staff to strike it out of his hands.
“Let me have this! You… You know what this means to me! You know better than anyone… Don’t you?”
“…Don’t… Don’t start that again… Please…”
“…Please. I don’t want to make this difficult on both of us….” Lem took a few careful steps towards her, and gently he placed a hand on the staff. And with a single motion, he was able to pull it from her hands, and she fell to the ground. “…You’re making this so difficult.”
“E-Eliza Grant!” Fuyuki shouted, and Lem, who had been staring down at Botan, slowly raised his old, green eyes.
“Eliza Grant loved you! S-She started the Grant Initiative for you!”
“…She started that for that other fool.”
“A-And he was still you! You’re the same person, Fujuju Soucho!” Fuyuki answered.
“Rita Grant! She loves you, too!” added Hachichi.
Lem gave a sigh, “This? Really?”
“Oriri and Lizzy—They love you, too!” said Fuyuki.
“And the Martin twins! And the other Martin! I can’t think of her name, but she thinks you’re okay! And Rokiki in a lot of universes! Like… A lot of them! I haven’t really figured that out yet!” Hachichi answered.
Lem’s grip loosened on the staff, and he quietly shut his eyes, “….There’s no way they’d love this version of me…”
“They would…. And they do… And I’ll show you,” Botan huffed, tightly wrapped her hands around her staff, and looked him straight in the eye.
And with a flash of pink, Fuyuki found himself alone on the roof with Hachichi.
Hachichi slowly made his way to the center of the roof, where the Keronian and Time Bender had been, and glanced down at the ground, “Well, that’s new….”
“A-Are they going to be okay…?”
“Eh? Oh, I don’t know… They haven’t been yet, but weirder’s happened…” Hachichi shoved his hands in his pockets and looked out at the ship ahead of him. “….I just they're doing okay in there now.”