Thanks so much for your reviews ZanyAnimeGirl, Keroro Platoon, jozs001, Rainbowkittyblossomwings, Malsyn (thanks for reviewing anyway ;) ) Inubaki
Back in school again. That means even slower updates. Sucks. Also, I'm now on Tumblr, if anyone wants to follow me (blatant plug). Name's still sarcastictoad. :) Mostly fangirl over The Walking Dead game.
The platoon assembled in Kururu's lab as quick as possible, sirens still screaming through the air. On his huge computer monitor was a map of the area, and Tamama's symbol blinking away in the middle of it. "His tracker has just been activated," Kururu said. "You'll never guess where he is." At the press of a button, a second map overlapped the one on the screen. The map of the Pekoponian Resistance campsites; Tamama was right in the middle of one.
"He's been captured?!" Keroro gasped. No one knew what the Pekoponians were capable of when it came to dealing with prisoners of war- did they use torture? What kind of torture? Dammit, Tamama was just a kid. Keroro grit his teeth and tried to keep down his breakfast. "Platoon! We are commencing a rescue operation; Corpoal Giroro, Liutenant Garuru and I shall travel to this location immediately. Cheif Medic Pururu and Sergeant Major Kururu will remain behind and prepare for any casualties. We go in, we get Private Tamama and we bring him back!"
"Sir, with all due respect," Garuru interjected, "That Pekoponian Resistance camp is the biggest one on the map."
"They will have the means to defend themselves, sir. If we go in without an organised plan, there is every possibility of casualties. I think it is best if you stay behind- if we were to lose our commander, the entire invasion is jeopardized."
"Garuru-senpai is right, Captain...Ku ku, but he's missing one big point..." Kururu sniggered over his shoulder. "A big camp means a lot of Pekoponians. A lot of Pekoponians means a lot of potential servants. Catch my drift, ku ku kuu...?"
Keroro's frown deepened. A chunk of his brain kept saying "The invasion is paramount! Listen to creepy face!", while the rest was screaming "Save Tamama-kun! You call yourself a leader?!" He pressed down on his temples with his pudgy fingertips, the yelling in his head almost getting the best of him. "Alright, alright! This is the plan: Garuru and Giroro will go get Tamama, accompanied by a squad of Kururu's Pekoponian-Catcher-2000 bots to round up the refugees and resistance. Pururu will remain here and ready for any casualties, Kururu will stay and remotely control his bots like usual and I...guess I'll just have to stay here, won't I...?"
"Alright, I'll monitor the situation from here and give any orders via radio. That's the plan; now go get our Private!"
In just about fifteen minutes, Giroro and Garuru had prepared all their weaponry, tactics and were in the hangar bay, about to board their hovercrafts. Garuru had a small, cylindrical camera strapped to the side of his head which would relay everything that he saw back to Keroro.
Out of the corner of Giroro's eye, he noticed Natsumi and that other Pekoponian boy curiously peering around the door to the hangar bay. "Don't you two have work to do?" he called them out.
"Not really," the boy (...Sabu- something. The corporal didn't really pay attention to him) replied, flatly.
The red soldier scoffed. "Enslaved...Pfft, yeah, right."
"Where are you going?" Natsumi asked. She looked...actually, really concerned. Giroro tried his best not to let it show that her attention made his heart leap, but his cheeks still felt far too warm for him to act nonchalant.
"One of our comrades needs rescuing. We'll be back soon." He ignored that sharp look his brother gave him. Telling her wasn't a big deal now, was it?
She eyed the squad of Kururu's robots that stood next to them cautiously. They were ten tall, bulky, gunmetal grey androids that looked like giant Keronians, except more rectangular and faceless. A variety of weapons and equipment were stored inside them, from electrified nets that could shoot out of their arms to tranquilizer darts fired out of their 'eyes' (circles of white glass with cameras and dart guns in) to their main weapon, the Atomiser Transporter, situated square in their chests. The Atomiser Transporter could engulf a target in a purple smog of nano-bots, which would break them down into atoms, transport them back to a holding ship and then reassemble them as if no harm had come to them. It was the favoured method of capturing targets in large numbers because it also acted as a terror weapon, as it made it look as though the purple smog was really melting its victims into oblivion, horrifying any onlookers. As a result, Kururu's robots had done most of the Pekoponian abducting during the invasion. There was even a miniaturized version of it inside the Kero Ball.
Truly, the droids were fierce and terrifying to Keron's enemies thanks to that kind of weaponry. Giroro could see perfectly well why Natsumi was so wary of them. "...We'll be fine," he reassured her.
"We need to leave now," Garuru ordered, already boarding his saucer. The corporal hopped on his own craft and revved the engine. He planned to zoom out of the ship, the sunlight glinting off his face and guns, and fly out into the horizon, not looking back for anything. Yeah, that would have been really cool. Sure to impress Natsumi. And then the whole plan went out when, just before he got to the zoom out of the ship part, she yelled out.
"Hey Thickhead!" She was standing right in the middle of the hangar, while Saburo still lurked by the door, without a shred of a care for the squad of giant androids to the side of her and with a wry grin on her face. "Be careful."
Giroro was going to respond with a low, sexy chuckle...which he did partially manage. Until it degraded into a fit of schoolgirl giggles.
Natsumi stood there and watched through the hangar bay window until even those big, bulking robots were only specks in the distance. "If it wasn't going to be dangerous, then he wouldn't have needed all those things..." The thought kept niggling at the back of her mind. "Please be safe, Giroro."
"So..." Saburo strolled up beside her. "...Fancy a cup of tea?"
"Sure," she smiled.
The trip to the kitchen was short and quiet. When they got there, he went straight to the cupboards, pulling out the mugs, condensed milk and sugar and boiled the kettle, while she just sat at the table. The busy bee had memorized were everything was kept ages ago and she was more than happy to let someone else make tea for a change.
"...You've been crying again."
Natsumi tutted and absent mindedly rubbed her red eyelid. "Jeez, it's that obvious...?"
"You want to talk about it?"
"...I wasn't crying because I was sad this time," she said, deciding to tell the only other human she could rather than bottle it all up. Besides, Saburo was surprisingly quite good to gossip with. For a guy, anyway. "They were...happy tears, I suppose."
"Oh?" He motioned for her to go on, setting her mug of steaming tea down in front of her. She clasped her hands around it, sapping the delicious warmth from the ceramic into her palms.
"I found out that my family are alive."
Saburo's eyebrows shot up so fast they almost jumped off his head.
"Well...Giroro found out for me, actually," she continued, trying not to get cramps from laughing so hard. "He had printed out papers with information the frogs had on them. It...It turns out that my mom is in a coma, in a hospital ship of some sort. And my brother...they don't know where he is, but he's okay too- well, he's alive, anyway."
"That- that's friggin' fantastic, Natsumi-chan!" Saburo grinned. He looked really happy for her, and only then did it strike her like lighting that she had never asked about his family.
"What about you, Saburo-senpai? Do you know about your family? Are they safe?"
"Oh yeah, they're fine," he nodded, taking a swig of tea. "I was lucky; my parents and I all got captured at the same time and transported to the same Holding Ship. Heh, funny sort of luck, I guess?"
"Heh, yeah..." A quiet moment passed while they both sipped their tea. It wasn't spectacular tea...Condensed milk certainly didn't do it any favours. But it was warm and wet and Natsumi would probably have had a much rougher time on the ship without it.
"So, Giroro getting that info for you..." Saburo spoke over the rim of his mug. "...Guess that proves that Corporal Grumpy really does care about you, huh?"
"...Maybe," she replied. It proved that he was a really nice guy, but he might have done that for anyone. Doesn't prove anything.
"And the way you're talking about him now...You have feelings for him?"
Natsumi took a deep breath. "I...suppose I do." It felt good- finally straightening out her thoughts and getting that off her chest. She did have feelings for Giroro, and they were more than the girly crush-type feelings she had had for Saburo. That red frog was the kindest guy she had ever met...and the coolest too. Even that weird, dorky giggle thing he did before leaving was cool in its own way. Kinda cute, too. But he was pretty damn good soldier too. The ship had a training room, with a shooting range and punching bag and a bunch of other alien gym equipment, where Giroro would spend his time when he wasn't out enslaving her race or coming up with plans to invade her race, and even though she would never ever admit it- especially not to Saburo- but once or twice, she be just out of sight and watch him. He was damn good at what he did and looked awesome when he was doing it. It gave her chills watching him, sometimes. Good chills, though.
"Natsumi-chan...Have you ever heard of Stockholm syndrome?"
"Huh?" That completely came out of the blue and shook her violently from her thoughts.
"Stockholm syndrome. It's this thing, a 'psychological phenomenon', were someone who's been kidnapped forms attachments or positive feelings towards their captor and-"
"I know what it is, Saburo-senpai," she cut in. "What are you getting at?"
"Well...I'm suggesting- only suggesting, mind- that maybe, perhaps...You starting to like him might have something to do with that...?"
Natsumi burned inside. A hairline crack appeared in the mug that was slowly being crushed in her hands. "It doesn't," she said slowly. Her voice was more like a low growl. What he said had made her very angry, and honestly she wasn't completely sure why. "Why does that even matter, anyway?"
"It's just that, a love based on something like the Stockholm syndrome doesn't seem like it'd be all that real, and I don't wanna see you getting hur-"
She didn't hear the last of his sentence, because she had already dumped the contents of her mug on his head and stormed out of the kitchen.
"Who the hell does he think he is?!" she roared in her mind. "Telling me my feelings aren't 'real'? What a bunch of crap. It isn't Stockholm...And so friggin' what if it is? I've read about a few of those cases; the person and the kidnapper get married in a few of them. But...They're still my feelings- where the hell does he get off saying they're not real? Jeez, I'm so damn pissed now...!"
Her blood had cooled down in her brain enough for her to realize that she had marched all the way back to her and Giroro's room. Leaning against the doorframe, she folded her arms and let out a long, deep sigh, allowing her eyes to wander around his furniture.
"...Not real my ass. As soon as he comes back, I'll tell him how real my feelings are."
With that, Giroro fired a rocket into the ground. The thundering, roaring explosion shook the air as the ground before them crumbled apart into a deep hole. After the buzz of the explosion left his ears, the corporal could hear faint screams. Terrified Pekoponians were screaming under the earth below his hovercraft. He suppressed a grin as his soldier blood started steaming in his veins. "Our priority is Private Tamama," Garuru reminded him, as if he knew what his brother was thinking, "the bots will deal with the Pekoponians."
"I know," Giroro replied, firing another rocket. After the second impact, a chasm appeared and through it could weak electronic light be seen, along with Pekoponian sized beds buried by rubble. The refugee camp. Kururu's bots made a series of whirring and clicking noises, almost like excited soldiers themselves, and then poured into the hole. The brothers raced in on their hover pads, weaving through the hulking bots and the blasts of their cannons and the swarms of feeling Pekoponians. Some soldiers appeared and tried firing on them with their primitive weapons but the bullets were easily avoidable or just flattened against their shields like papier-mâché. They stopped being a bother when Kururu's bots took notice of them and started atomising them.
"We're almost at where his signal is coming from," Garuru called to him. His voice was almost lost in the sheer roar of all the commotion going on around them. They turned a sudden corner and saw a door with an awful lot of guards standing by it.
A tall lanky man stood behind them, two kids cowering behind him, and shouted "FIRE!" Before the maelstrom of bullets hit his shields and sent them crackling and fizzing yellow light, Giroro caught a glimpse of one of the kids, and his blood froze. Black hair, blue eyes filled with utter contempt, and the Kero Ball clasped in his hand. It was him; the kid from that store, the kid he shot- Natsumi's little brother.
Giroro opened his mouth to call out to him, but his words were lost in the battle cry of the Pekoponians' guns. "Shit," he snarled, a bullet grazing his hat. The shields couldn't take this kind of onslaught. He pulled out his own gun and shot off a few rounds, disarming a few guards here, disabling a few there. Garuru had the same idea, though his shots were slightly closer to being lethal. After what might have been the briefest, most pitiful fire-fight of the red soldier's life, the lanky man ordered "Fall back!" to whatever remaining Pekoponians still stood, and fled out of sight.
"After them!" Giroro yelled.
"Private Tamama is our objective!" Garuru roared back.
"That kid has the Kero Ball!"
"Dammit- I'll get the private, you get the Ball!"
He was just about to do just that, until a blur of blue flashed out of the ceiling. It took just a heartbeat for Giroro to recognize that kind of speed, and that particular shade of blue;
His friend- his childhood friend- he thought was as good as long dead and gone was standing in front of him. With a livid sneer just barely hidden by a grey mask. "You will harm no more Pekoponians!"
Zeroro's hand disappeared behind his back for a split-second and then a black shadow swooped at Giroro. He wasn't even aware his shields had failed until he felt the thing punch into his chest, and he felt like he was hit was a sledgehammer. All the air from his lungs had been brutally knocked out and all he saw was the ceiling, realizing he'd been thrown from his hover pad. The backs of his shoulders landed with a horrendous -THUNK- and he just saw the tip of handle of the black dagger protruding from his chest.
"I've been stabbed, haven't I?"