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Somewhere Nowehere

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Imai felt the warm September sun on his face as he stared out at the countryside. He and the other Buck-Tick members were on a vacation in Tennessee. They didn’t plan on going to that state, but when they started planning their trip to Lincoln County, Nevada, Atsushi suggested they all stop in Tennessee for two reasons: Dollywood and the Cracker Barrel headquarters. Somehow, they ended up on a ranch on the countryside, not too far outside of Nashville.

Imai and Yutaka sat on the porch of the ranch, breathing in the fresh country air. After a few minutes, Toll came out to join them. “You’re finally up?” Imai asked, causing Yutaka to turn around and look at his older brother.

“Yeah,” Toll answered, rubbing his eyes. “Where are the others?”

“Riding horses,” Yutaka answered.

“You didn’t join them? You seemed to really enjoy it when we rode yesterday.”

“Oh, I didn’t feel like riding today.”

“You’re nervous about tonight?”

Yutaka sighed, and looked towards the countryside again. “You see right through me. It’s just… I don’t want to be away from you. Just in case anything happens.”

Toll hugged his younger brother. “I promise you no one is going to get hurt. The meme died months ago.”

“But--.”

“--Toll is right,” Imai interrupted. He was kind of nervous too--it was impossible not to be when they were going to a military base at 3AM--but he didn’t want Yutaka to worry about losing any of the members. “No one’s going to be there. Just a few dumbasses like us. We’ll take pictures outside, post them on my Instagram, and then leave.”

“Then why are we taking the car back instead of a plane? Wasn’t the point of that to bring the alien home safely?”

“You and Atsushi made those plans,” Toll replied.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”

“Imai and I almost considered taking a plane back on our own. And Atsushi probably just wanted an excuse to have Cracker Barrel three days in a row.”

“It’s true,” Imai affirmed. “As much as I want to know what’s going on in there, we’re not going in if it will put any of the members in danger. I promise.”

“Aww, but I really wanted an alien friend,” Atsushi said.

Imai wasn’t sure how he didn’t hear the horse’s footsteps; they must have really been invested in that conversation. “Shut up, Atsushi.”

“I’m only kidding! But if we find an alien outside of Area 51,” Atsushi got off his horse and held Imai’s hand, “can we bring them home? Please?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hide, who had just arrived at the house, said. “There are no aliens just chilling outside Area 51 because that’s exactly where you’d expect them to be.”

“Maybe they’re going for the meme too! Imai, please?”

Being honest, Imai thought the idea of meeting an alien was interesting too. “As long as it doesn’t try to kill anybody.”

Atsushi hugged Imai. “Thank you!”

“Okay,” Yutaka said, “but what if people actually do storm Area 51?”

“Then we’ll watch them get their asses kicked,” Hide answered.

“Don’t joke about that!” the bassist shouted.

“He’s right, though,” Imai said. “If it actually happens--.”

“--It won’t happen,” Toll interrupted.

“Well, if it does, we’re not joining in. We’ll watch from a safe distance.”

“I have a question,” Atsushi said, raising his hand like a schoolboy. All the members just stared at him, and he lowered his hand awkwardly. “What if aliens can change their appearance to look like us?”

“That’s a rather specific question,” Yutaka replied.

“He’s worried about getting stranded again,” Imai explained. “That won’t happen, because you’re keeping your phone on you at all times.”

“What if aliens can mess with technology? Or there’s a bad connection?”

“Atsushi, we’re not going through that hell again,” Toll answered. “You’re not getting stranded.”

“I don’t know. He has a point,” Hide said, grinning. “Maybe we should keep him on a leash just in case.”

“What happened to, ‘Think of the children?’” Atsushi asked.

“We’re no longer in a family restaurant. That’s what happened.”

“We’re not keeping Atsushi on a leash,” Imai said.

Atsushi grinned. “You say that now, but when we’re in the hotel tomorrow night--.”

“--Shut up,” Imai interrupted. “There’s a solution to Atsushi’s concern about aliens imitating us, though. The moment we get out of that rental car at Area 51, we’re not splitting up. Got it?”

“Thank you, Imai,” Yutaka said. “You’ve really made me feel better about all of this.”

Imai smiled. “I’m glad I could help.”

“Oh yeah!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Hide and I were planning on going on one last ride.” He grabbed Imai’s hand, and pulled him out of his seat. “Imai, come with us!”

“Shouldn’t we get ready to head for the airport?”

“We’ll only go for a short ride. Please?” Imai’s answer was going to be yes, but before he could answer Atsushi got back on the horse.

“Well, alright.” Imai got on the back of Atsushi’s horse.

“I’m going too,” Hide said. “Yuta, you wanna come?”

“Sure! Oh, but Toll?”

“Don’t worry,” Toll answered, and whistled. Suddenly, a horse ran up to them.

“Whoa!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Where did he come from?”

“Where did he go?” Hide replied.

“Where did he come from, Cotton Eye Joe!” Yutaka said. “But really Toll, how did you do that? It’s like you’re Link in Breath of the Wild or something!”

“Beats me,” the older brother answered before getting on his horse.

The five members started riding. “Anyways, Imai, why didn’t you ride with us earlier?” Atsushi asked.

“Oh, I felt tired.” That was partially true, but he also wanted to appreciate the view from the porch. He enjoyed riding horses, but he wasn’t very good at it, and he didn’t get to focus as much on the beautiful countryside.

“I see. I’m glad you’re riding with me now, though.” Imai nodded, but it took a moment to realize Atsushi couldn’t see it. Before he could respond verbally, though, Atsushi started singing “Old Town Road.”

“Oh, again?” Hide shouted from his horse, causing Atsushi to chuckle while singing it. However, he didn’t seem as annoyed with it once Yutaka joined in.

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with him singing it,” Imai replied. “He sings in the car all the time.”

Suddenly, Atsushi started moaning.

“That,” Hide said. “That’s what’s wrong with it.”

“He really has to add moans to everything,” Imai said, sighing after.

Atsushi stopped singing. “Do you think they’ll get me featured on another remix of ‘Old Town Road?’ I’ve been trying to get in contact with Lil Nas X about it but I don’t know if it’s working.”

“From now on, I’m praying every night before bed that that doesn’t happen,” Hide replied.

“How many remixes are there of that song anyway?” Imai asked.

“There are ten so far,” Yutaka answered, “but the eleventh is predicted to drop tomorrow.”

“God, I hope Dolly Parton is in it,” Atsuhi said.

“What does she have to do with aliens?” Imai asked.

“Nothing, but I want her in an ‘Old Town Road’ remix. That’s all it boils down to.”

“If you had to choose between a remix featuring Dolly Parton and a remix featuring you,” said Hide, “which would you choose?”

Atsushi took a minute before responding. “Dolly, of course.”

“An intellectual,” Imai said.

“Hey!”

The five of them finished their ride, and got off their horses by the house. They put their bags in the rental car, and Toll drove to Nashville International Airport. On the way, Imai thought about how the next day would go. They were really going to the outside of a top-secret government building over a two-month old meme. Plenty of people went to look at the outside of Area 51, so he figured it would be safe. But still, he worried about how many people would be there, what would happen, and if this trip was even worth it in the first place, especially since they were driving all the way back from Nevada. He hoped the fun memories would make such a silly--and even somehow scary--road trip worth it.

Chapter Text

Imai felt the cool air conditioning as he walked through the doors of the Nevada International Airport. After finding the check-in line for Southwest Airlines, the members went to get their boarding passes.The members didn’t bring much with them--they planned on driving back right after the Facebook event ended--so they didn’t have to check in their bags. However, that moment--checking in--was when Imai finally realized that they were really doing this. They were really flying to Nevada just to take some pictures outside some mysterious, possibly extra-terrestrial government building, and then driving all the way back. It seemed so foolish, and he was dreading all those hours with all the members in a single car, but he wasn’t too worried. Atsushi and Yutaka requested a minivan as the rental car, “just in case we find aliens and they need a seat,” so it would be roomier. Plus, he was curious what would happen that night.

“Let’s go through security before the line gets any longer,” Toll said once they got their boarding passes.

“Shouldn’t we see which restaurants are before security first?” Atsushi asked.

“They’ll serve lunch on the plane,” Imai answered. “Besides, we don’t have much time before boarding.”

“But--.”

“Maybe we would have had more time if you and Hide didn’t want to go horseback riding.”

“To be fair, we didn’t know there would be traffic on the way to Nashville,” Toll said.

“You’re not helping, Toll,” Imai replied. “Anyways, we all know you did this to get Cracker Barrel three days in a row on the way back, so just deal with it.”

“Alright,” Atsushi said, pouting afterward.

The five of them made it through security with no trouble, and then walked to their gate. It wasn’t long before they had to board the plane, and it took off a half hour later.

On the plane, Imai and Toll fell asleep. They had to get up at 3AM the next morning, and knew they would probably do most of the driving back, so they knew sleeping was a good idea. That made things boring for Atsushi though, because he was stuck in the middle of the two of them. Plus, it didn’t help that he could hear Hide and Yutaka playing Super Smash Brothers Ultimate in the seats behind him. He considered playing the peg game that he had packed, but he was worried he would lose the pegs on the plane.

After a few minutes of being bored out of mind and wishing he had a way of joining them, he decided to speak to them. He turned around, and looked at them through the crack between his and Imai’s seat. “Hide, I thought you were going to take a nap.”

“I was, but I couldn’t turn down Smash Bros. I’ll nap in the hotel room.”

“I still don’t get why we booked rooms for tonight,” Yutaka said. “We’re leaving at 3AM, so couldn’t we just stay in the car until then?”

“Well, it would be scary to just sit in the car that late,” Atsushi answered.

“That would be scary,” said Hide, “but going to an air force base at 3AM won’t be?”

“The aliens will protect us!”

Completely ignoring Atsushi’s unrealistic claim, Yutaka continued. “Anyways, even if booking a hotel room made sense, we did we book two hotel rooms?”

“I know why,” Hide answered. “Trust me, you don’t want to know. And I made sure the rooms weren’t conjoining for this very reason. I actually want to get some sleep this time.”

“Oh yeah. Sorry about last time, Hide,” Atsushi replied. “I didn’t realize we were being that loud.”

“What is it?” Yutaka asked. “What happened last time?”

“Oh, basically--.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Hide interrupted. “Anyways Atsushi, you probably won’t get any sleep when we get to the hotel, so you should probably take a nap now.”

“You have a point, but I suck at sleeping on planes. Maybe it would be easier if I didn’t hear the Smash Bros. theme every time I tried to.”

“So now you understand how it feels.”

“So that’s it!” Yutaka exclaimed. “Atsushi and Imai were playing Smash on the way to Disney last time!”

Atsushi smirked. “Well, I guess you could say we were smashing,” he replied, winking afterward.

“This is a family plane,” said a half-awake Imai.

“Oh, I get it now,” Yutaka said. “That kind of smashing.”

“I said I didn’t want to talk about it!” Hide exclaimed. “That was one of the worst nights of my life.”

“Oh, come on,” Atsushi replied. “You’re exaggerating.”

“First, you got lost. Second, we ran out of gas. Then, you and Imai finally made it to the hotel and ‘played Smash’ and I had to hear all of it.”

“Okay, that is a pretty bad night.”

Hide sighed. “And tonight is probably going to be even worse.”

“Aww Hide, don’t say that!” Yutaka exclaimed. “Tonight’s gonna be fun!”

“Easy for you to say. You and Atsushi planned this trip.”

“Why are you so down about it?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Are you ready to start the next round?”

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for you to select a character.”

“Oh wait. You’re right.” Hide selected his character--Snake--and the two started playing Smash.

Heeding Hide’s advice, Atsushi decided to sleep until the plane was getting ready for landing. He didn’t expect to fall asleep, but riding horses earlier must have worn him out. Once they landed in Las Vegas, they got their rental car and started driving to their motel. Along the road, they got dinner at Arby’s.

When they reached the motel, they got their keys and headed for their rooms. However, Hide got worried when he saw the room numbers. “27,” Hide said.

“Is there something wrong with it?” Toll asked.

“Well, it’s just that their room number was 127. Probably directly above us.”

“There’s no way you’re going to be able to hear them from the floor below.”

“You say that, but this motel is pretty cheap.”

“We’ll only be here for a few hours,” Yutaka said. “Just get some rest and don’t worry about those two. I’m sure if you don’t think about it, even if you could hear it a little you wouldn’t notice.”

“I hope you’re right,” Hide replied as he unlocked the door and entered the motel room.

Yutaka was not right.

At first, the room was pretty silent, and Toll fell asleep quickly. Yutaka played on his Nintendo Switch while wearing headphones so he wouldn’t disturb the other two. He knew he should have slept, but he was worried about how things would go that night and figured he would have plenty of time to sleep on the way back. Hide tried to go to sleep, but before he had the chance, it started.

All Hide could hear was the floor--and presumably the bed--of the room above them creaking. It was more tolerable than the roleplay and moaning he heard last trip, but he was even more frustrated. This was the second time this happened, and he went through the trouble of not getting conjoining rooms for this very reason. Even if he could sleep with all the noise Atsushi and Imai were making upstairs, his own frustration at the situation kept him awake.

Finally, he snapped and got out of bed. “Hey,” he whispered to Yutaka, “did you pack your dock?”

“You mean for the Switch? Yeah, do you wanna play?”

“Will it wake up Toll?”

“No, he’s a really heavy sleeper.” Yutaka got out of the chair and set up the Nintendo Switch dock. “You wanna play Mario Kart or Smash?”

“Smash.”

“Alright.” Yutaka put the cartridge in and then slipped his Switch into the dock. Once he opened up the game, Hide picked up the TV remote.

The Smash logo appeared on the screen, and then Hide started turning the volume up. Suddenly, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate theme was blasting through the hotel room.

“Why is the volume so high?” Yutaka asked loudly.

“I don’t want to hear them!” Hide shouted back.

“That creaking noise was them?”

“Yeah! And I’m fucking sick of hearing it!”

“Jesus Christ, can you two turn that down?” The two of them turned around, and saw Toll staring back at them.

“Yuta, you told me he was a heavy sleeper!” Hide exclaimed, still not turning the volume down.

“Well I didn’t know you were going to raise the volume like that!” Yutaka replied while trying to get the remote out of Hide’s hand.

“Hide, you’re going to get us kicked out,” Toll said. “The whole motel can hear that!”

“Good! Maybe that will give them a hint to stop fucking!”

Toll walked up to the TV and turned it off. Now that there was nothing to block it out, the creaking noise was all Hide could hear again. “Oh. They are fucking,” Toll said. “But it’s really not that loud. We have to be up at 1:30AM tomorrow morning, so both of you should go to sleep.”

“This whole trip sucks,” Hide said as he jumped into bed.

“Don’t say that, Hide!” Yutaka replied. “I’ll do my best to make it fun for you.”

“I’m missing such a good opportunity.”

“Oh, you’re still mad about that,” Toll said.

“Mad about what?” Yutaka asked.

“There was some other Facebook event. About storming the Federal Reserve while the government is distracted with Area 51.”

“We could’ve gotten so much cash,” Hide added, sighing after. “I wanted to go so bad. But you and Atsushi booked the tickets, and I didn’t want to disappoint you guys. And not gonna lie, I wanted to go to Dollywood. That was a good time. I just wish we could’ve flown to DC afterward.”

“Nothing is going to happen at the Federal Reserve, or here for that matter.”

“I know you’re right, but what if something does happen? We could’ve been rolling in it.”

“Oh, Hide, I’m sorry,” Yutaka replied while hugging his friend. “But think about it this way. If we find an alien, that might be even more worth it than money!”

“I guess you’re right. Thanks, Yutaka.”

His mind distracted from the noises coming from upstairs, Hide was finally able to get some rest. He wasn’t looking forward to waking up at 1:30AM, but he figured the next day would be fun. Despite his resentment at the group not choosing the destination he had hoped, as well for Atsushi and Imai’s noisiness, the trip had been a good time so far. And to Hide, time spent with Buck-Tick was worth more than all the money they could get if they stormed the Federal Reserve.

Chapter Text

At around 1:30AM, the five members met in the parking lot. It was kind of scary, to be outside of a motel that late, but they figured their destination would be much scarier. Imai wondered why they were going at 3AM; sure, the original Facebook event was set for that time, but no one was going to be there anyways. Although, he figured there would be interesting people also there at that time; even the creator of the original Facebook event said he had something planned. He just hoped whatever interesting things happened there that night would be worth going to the middle of nowhere at 3AM.

When they got into the car, Atsushi yawned. It would be a while before they reached the outskirts of Area 51, so he figured he would rest on the way there. “Did you sleep well, Hide?”

“Don’t mock me,” Hide replied, looking away from the vocalist.

“Oh, don’t tell me you could hear us.”

“We could,” Toll said.

“Oh shit. Sorry guys!”

“It’s whatever,” Hide replied. “I still got some sleep.”

“Oh, by the way Hide,” Yutaka said, pulling up Facebook on his phone. “Look at this!”

Hide took the phone and read it. “Storming the Federal Reserve was cancelled?”

“Apparently. Now you can join us in storming Area 51 with no regrets!”

“We’re not storming Area 51,” Imai reminded them. “Anyways, I’m going to take a nap.”

“You might wanna wait before doing that,” Yutaka said as he opened Spotify. “Because Lil Nas X just dropped a new Old Town Road remix!”

“What? Who’s on it?” Atsushi asked.

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise.” Yutaka set up the bluetooth in the car, and the song started.

All five members listened to the remix, singing the parts that they knew from the previous remixes. Most of it was the same as the one featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, except--.

“Oh my god bitch it’s Dolly!” Atsushi cried. “Dolly came through!”

“And on such a historic day too,” Imai replied jokingly, although he did wonder if September 20, 2019 would actually go down in history over this Area 51 thing. “Anyways, I’m going to nap now. If you want to overplay the new remix, use your AirPods.”

“Sleep well, Imai!” Atsushi exclaimed before doing exactly what Imai suggested.

~

After about an hour of driving, Toll reached the point where he couldn’t drive any closer to Area 51. “We’re going to have to walk the rest of the way.”

“Are we really sure about this?” Yutaka asked. “What if we get too close to the building?

“They have signs telling you to turn back,” Hide explained. “I saw it in a YouTube video or something.”

“Yeah, a YouTube video really helps. Anyways, what if there are weird meme people or aliens there?”

“Isn’t that what we came to see?” Imai asked.

“Okay, but dangerous weird meme people! Or dangerous aliens!”

“Yuta, do you really think your older brother would let you, or any of us for that matter, go anywhere he felt was unsafe?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Atsushi said. “He did say B-T won’t disband until one of us dies. Maybe he got sick of us but doesn’t want to break his promise.”

“Atsushi,” Toll replied, “don’t joke about that.”

“I was only kidding!”

“I know. That’s why I said not to joke about it.”

“Listen.”

“I’m listening.”

Atsushi took a moment before responding. “Anyways, Imai is right. No one’s going to get hurt. We won’t split up because we’re not in a horror movie and we definitely won’t do anything dangerous. We’ll watch from a safe distance and take some poor-lighting pictures. Okay?”

“Or, if you feel it’s unsafe,” Hide added, “we can turn back. We don’t need to go walking around Area 51 at 3 in the morning.”

“No, I want to go,” Yutaka replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I know that if I chicken out now--.”

“Cheep cheep cheep cheep!” Atsushi interrupted. All of the members glared at him. “Sorry!”

“As I was saying, I know that if I chicken out now, I’ll regret it.”

“Alright then. Let’s go storm Area 51!”

The five members got out of the car, took out the flashlights they brought, and walked towards the Air Force base. Once they reached the signs saying to turn back, they stopped.

“What time is it?” Atsushi asked.

“2:49,” Imai answered, “so if anything happens, it will be soon.”

“I can’t see anything,” Hide said. “It’s pitch black out here.”

“We’ll just have to take pictures by the sign then,” Atsushi replied. “I really do hope other people show up, though.”

“There were other cars pulled over,” said Yutaka, “so hopefully we’ll see some Naruto runners or something.”

“At 3AM we should blast the new Old Town Road remix.”

“Yes! Maybe we can even record a remix with the aliens. God, imagine if an alien actually shows up.”

“Or Tupac,” Hide said.

“You believe those theories?” Imai asked.

“Nah, I just think it would be interesting if they were true.”

“Speaking of theories, what if the Earth turned out to actually be flat and the truth is hidden at Area 51?” Yutaka suggested.

“There’s no way,” Toll replied. “People have done the math. The Earth is spherical.”

“Well, what if we’re living in a simulation and in that simulation all math points to the Earth being spherical but it’s actually round?”

“What time is it?” Atsushi asked for a second time, despite having Spotify open on his phone. “Oh, 2:59.”

“I feel like someone else would be here by now if anyone else was coming,” Imai said. “Are we really just going to stay here until 6AM just in case something does?”

“Yeah, we have to! Besides, the stars are so pretty out tonight.”

Atsushi was right; since there was no light besides the members’ flashlights, they could see so many stars shimmering through the night’s sky. Imai was so focused on what would happen once that clock reached 3AM that he hadn’t even noticed. “I guess you’re right. It will be like we’re camping.”

“Yeah! And when we leave at 6AM, we’ll see the sunrise as we drive. We’ll probably be tired as hell then, but our good and loyal friend Cracker Barrel will be there to wake us up.”

“I guess staying here until 6AM isn’t that bad of an idea after all. You better not be complaining about how tired you are when we finally leave though.”

Finally, it was 3AM, and Atsushi pulled up Old Town Road. Before he could press play though, a bright light distracted him. All five members looked towards the light, and realized what it was: The first wave of Kyles. They must have been standing there, somewhere in the nothingness that surrounds Area 51, and waited for it to hit 3AM before turning their flashlights on. There weren’t that many of them--certainly not even close to the over one million people interested in the Facebook event--but it was still a large amount of them, running towards the base. And it wasn’t just them; the Karens and the Naruto runners and all the other groups detailed in that plan were all there.

“How many do you think there are in total?” Hide, the first member to say anything after the sight of the Kyles sent the members into shocked silence, asked.

“I’d estimate about twenty thousand,” Imai answered.

“Oh my god,” Yutaka replied. “Like Tanacon.”

“We’re not joining them,” Toll said. “None of us are dying here tonight.” He looked at Atsushi.

“Hey, I told you I was kidding earlier!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Anyways, I don’t want any of us to die, either. Let’s just watch.”

Somehow, with only twenty thousand people there, they managed to enter Area 51. And just as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared into that mysterious base.

“What do you think is going to happen?” Yutaka asked.

“I don’t know,” Imai replied. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Can we at least Naruto run around here for some fun?”

“Uh, yes?” Atsushi answered, while playing the new Old Town Road remix. “Of course?”

And with that, the members started Naruto running around, and Imai put it on his Instagram story.

Once they were done Naruto running, the members waited for something to happen. Imai felt like they were children on Christmas morning, waking up way too early to open presents but too excited to see what they would be surprised with to go back to sleep. So, they waited to find out what that surprise would be, if anything.

It took about an hour for something to happen, but to them it felt like forever. They saw a few people Naruto running out of Area 51, but even more importantly, they saw something they assumed they would never see in their lives: UFOs. Toll suggested they leave, but none of the others wanted to; the UFOs seemed to be more interested in picking up aliens that were escaping Area 51 than humans.

They watched from a distance for a while until Atsushi saw something. “Oh my God. Hide!” he cried, and then ran off.

“Atsushi, wait!” Hide shouted. “I’m right here!”

“What the hell did he see?” Imai asked.

“I guess he was right,” Yutaka said. “There are aliens that can change their appearance to look like us.”

“And I was right,” Hide added. “I knew we should’ve kept him on a leash. I need to show him that I’m right here.”

“Hide, don’t go!” Toll exclaimed. But he was gone, just as fast as Atsushi.

“Fs in chat,” Yutaka whispered.

“I thought you were the one worried,” Imai replied. He grabbed Yutaka’s hand, because despite the bassist’s joking he expected him to go running after Atsushi and Hide.

“Yeah, but I trust both of them. Hide will get Atsushi to come back, and everything will be fine.”

“He’s right,” Toll said. “ I don’t think either of them are dumb enough to get themselves killed.”

“True,” Imai replied. “I hope they bring an alien back with them, and make the trouble they’re causing us worth it.”

~

Atsushi ran as fast as he could towards the person he saw. He couldn’t believe his eyes at first, especially when none of the others noticed, but as he got closer he knew his eyes weren’t lying to him. That long, red hair was unmistakable, and there were conspiracy theories that the man was still alive. He just hoped that it was actually him, that it was actually hide, and not some cosplayer who came for the meme.

Finally, he reached the man. “Is it really you, hide?” he shouted.

The former X Japan member turned around and looked at Atsushi. “Oh my God. Atsushi, the US Government got you too?”

“What? No, I just came here to see Area 51.”

“Oh, I see. Well, I know nothing about this ‘meme,’” Atsushi cringed at the way he pronounced it, “but I’m glad all these people came to free us. I was getting sick of those aliens.”

“So you’ve just been here all these years?”

“Well, Tupac and I were hanging in Cuba for a while. He taught me how to rap. But then we were taken here.”

“Oh my God. Tupac’s alive?” Atsushi and hide turned around to see the other Hide staring at them both. “Oh hey hide. Wait. HIDE?”

“I told you I saw him!” Atsushi replied.

“I thought you meant me. But even more shocking,” Hide said, “look behind you.”

Atsushi turned around and saw an alien standing behind hide. The shock from seeing the X member hadn’t yet worn off, and this only added to it. “Holy shit! It’s a real, live--.”

“Alien,” hide replied. “I’m aware.”

“You’ve saved our lives,” the alien said. “We are eternally grateful!”

“So Toy Story wasn’t lying!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Aliens really say that!”

“Nah, they don’t,” hide explained. “Tupac and I showed them Toy Story. Whenever we show them movies with aliens, they just quote whatever the aliens say, even though they have no idea what they’re actually saying.”

“Take me to your leader,” the alien said.

“Will they follow us?” Hide asked. “Imai really wants to see an alien.”

“Yeah, they’ve been following me since we escaped. I think they’re scared. Maybe they don’t have a UFO ride to hitch like all the other aliens.”

“Do you guys have Uber?” Atsushi asked the alien. It didn’t respond. “UFOber?”

“Isn’t that next month in English?” hide asked.

“No, that’s October,” Hide answered. “Anyways, Atsushi, the members are all probably really worried about us.”

“Nah, I’m pretty sure Yutaka made an Fs in chat joke. Once he explained that meme to me, I told him to say that if he ever thought I was going to die.”

“Still! Let’s get going before something dangerous happens. We have both hide and an alien with us; the FBI is probably going to be on our tail!”

“I guess you’re right. Let’s Naruto run back!”

“Naruto run?” hide asked.

"You've watched Toy Story but not Naruto?” Atsushi asked.

“I’ve seen Naruto, but I'm not sure why relevant. If you think it’s a good idea, though, let’s do it.”

~

Imai, Yutaka, and Toll waited impatiently for the members to come back. Imai knew he should trust them, but he was worried that something could have happened. There were two separate threats--aliens and the military--and Atsushi and Hide were gone for a while. He was really worried they wouldn’t come back, and he no longer had the stars to comfort him. UFOs now filled the night’s sky, adding to his fear that something would happen to those two.

Finally, Imai saw them. But they weren’t alone; they had two others with them, and the sight before him was too shocking for it to register until they were right in front of him. They really found not only an alien, but also X Japan’s hide.

Imai desperately wanted to know what was going on, all the secrets about Area 51, about aliens, about how hide was alive and in Area 51 of all places, but he didn’t get a chance to ask. “We have to hurry back to the car,” Toll said. “I know you all wanted to stay until 6AM, but we can’t risk hide or the alien getting caught.”

“I told you the minivan was a good idea!” Atsushi shouted as he started Naruto running towards the car. He and Hide were out of breath at this point--they had to run towards hide, and back, and now to the car--but they knew they couldn’t stop until hide and the alien were safe.

Once they reached the car, Imai started driving. Atsushi started playing the original Old Town Road--hide and the alien hadn’t heard it yet, and he wanted them to listen to all of the versions in order--and they headed back towards New Jersey. It would be a long drive, and possibly having the FBI on their tail made it scarier, but Imai knew the two new passengers would keep things interesting. However, he was worried about what would happen when Atsushi’s stomach would inevitably start growling.

Chapter Text

Imai drove as fast as he safely could. He worried the FBI--or something like that--would be chasing after them due to the two passengers they had rescued from Area 51, so he wanted to create as much distance between himself and the Air Force base as he could. Once he started driving though, he finally started to think about what just happened. Hide, someone who he thought had been dead for years, was alive all this time. It was strange, not only seeing someone who hasn’t seen in decades, but also seeing that person as he looks now, at 54 years old. In addition, he had an alien with him. Imai hadn’t gotten a good look at their extraterrestrial passenger yet; he was so focused on running away from Area 51 that he didn’t look at them, and now his eyes were focused on the road. However, he knew the alien didn’t look much like the stereotypical aliens he’s seen in movies. To his relief, they didn’t look like one of those hot, sexualized aliens from movies either. Still, he was curious, and hoped he would get a chance to see, or possibly even speak to, the alien soon.

Finally, Imai decided to break the silence in the car. “Can someone explain to me what the hell happened back there?”

Atsushi took an audible breath, and then answered: “I just saw him in the distance and ran towards him. I knew there was a chance he could just be a cosplayer, but so much other weird shit happened and I was willing to take the risk of checking.”

“Wait,” hide said, “I have cosplayers?”

“Yes,” all five of the Buck-Tick members answered in unison.

“I guess we all have catching up to do,” Imai said, chuckling after. “Anyways, how the hell are you alive?”

“It’s a long story that I’d rather not get into,” hide replied. “Unlike Area 51, let’s keep that a mystery.”

“Well, then how did you end up at Area 51?” Yutaka asked.

“The military came for Tupac. I was with him, and they figured they’d take me too.”

“Oh my God,” Atsushi said. “So what did you do for all that time?”

“I told you already, didn’t I? We showed the aliens movies. And did a fun of other fun stuff with the aliens. I mastered rapping, too.”

“You should be in an Old Town Road remix.”

Hide chuckled. “I guess so. The song sounds good. Especially because the dad from Hannah Montana is on it.”

“Billy Ray Cyrus,” Imai replied. “He’s her actual dad.”

“What? We only had the show in Area 51, so I don’t know anything about the actors. I thought he was just playing her dad.”

“Damn, we really have to catch you up, hide.”
“It’s like in The Winter Soldier when Steve had the list of things that happened while he was in the iceberg.”

There was an awkward pause, and then Yutaka responded: “You really did just watch stuff in there, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, basically.”

“So, what about the alien?” Hide asked. “Do you know them?”

“Not this one specifically. I know what planet they come from, though. Or at least our name for it.” hide said some planet name of just a bunch of numbers and letters that none of the B-T members remembered. “Oh, and they don’t speak any human languages. I’ve always wanted to learn their language, but it’s so hard. Things are so different there that we don’t have equivalents to their words and vice versa. But we’ve found other ways of communicating more important things.”

“Well, do they have a name?” Imai asked. “And do you have any way of finding out what it is?”

hide performed some kind of sign language--probably something he and Tupac came up with to communicate with the aliens--and then the alien said, “Xrek.”

“Xrek?” Hide replied. “Is this a joke?”

“Nah, they’re serious,” hide explained. Aliens from their planet have those sorts of names. They felt really special when we watched Shrek that one time.”

“Wow,” Toll said. “Anyways, how long have they been at Area 51?”

“I don’t know about Xrek, but there have been aliens there since before I got there. And a few have come since then.”

“Do any of them look how they do in the movies?” Yutaka asked.

“Yeah, there’s one group of aliens who kinda do look like the stereotypical ones. They’re not green, though. Apparently they’ve been at Area 51 the longest. So, how did this whole storming Area 51 thing start?”

Imai decided to explain, going into as much background information as possible because he wasn’t sure what hide did and didn’t know: “So, there’s this website called Facebook. People go on there for all different reasons, but it’s mainly to keep in contact with people you know and post about your interests and hobbies and stuff. And there was this event on there about storming Area 51 on September 20 because, ‘They can’t stop all of us,’ and the description joked that, ‘If we Naruto run,’ you know, run like the character Naruto in the--.”

“He knows what Naruto running is,” Atsushi whispered to Imai, although everyone in the car could hear it.

Imai cleared his throat and continued. “As I was saying, the description joked that, ‘If we Naruto run, their bullets can’t hit us.’ Anyways, it went viral, or I guess you could say it spread all over the internet and everyone was talking about it. And on Facebook you can say if you’re interested in the event or RSVP for it, and like millions of people did one of those things. We all saw it as a big joke, although the military did prepare for it just in case.”

“Was this in July?” hide asked. “I did see some officers discussing it.”

“Yes, it was!” Yutaka exclaimed. “Anyways, when something funny becomes popular on the Internet, it’s called a ‘meme.’ And memes don’t really last that long anymore because of how fast things move on the Internet.”

“Not just the Internet. Everything seems so fast now. It’s been so hard to keep up with everything in that place.”

“I could imagine. So, we thought not that many people would be there. We really just went as a joke. We’re all older, too, and it’s normal for people over the age of, like, 40 to participate in memes that are dead. So we came to Area 51 to take some pictures and stuff, expecting only to see a few Naruto cosplayers.”

“And cosplayers of me?” hide asked.

“Relax, you don’t have that many cosplayers,” the other Hide joked. “And most of them are in Japan.”

“But people actually did storm Area 51 in the end,” hide said.

“Yeah,” Imai replied. “We were surprised. I hope no one got hurt because of that silly meme, but I’m glad it allowed us to find you.”

“So, what about you guys? What are you doing in the United States?”

“That’s also something we’d prefer to remain a mystery,” Atsushi said. “But it’s a good thing we’re here!”

“Yeah. It’s good to see a familiar face that isn’t too familiar. Tupac and the aliens are great, but I spent so much time with them I kind of got tired of them. And I wouldn’t have wanted to be only out here with no friends. So it’s good you guys found me. Anyways, where are we driving to?”

“Oh, New Jersey,” Imai answered.

“Isn’t that super far from here?”

“Don’t bring it up, hide,” Hide replied. “I don’t want to think about it.”

“Well, it’s not like we have a choice now,” Toll said. “We have two passengers with us, and the FBI is probably looking for both of them.”

“Sorry guys,” hide said.

“No, don’t apologize!” Yutaka exclaimed. “We’re glad you’re here, hide. And we’ll have plenty of stories to tell each other in the car. And we can play the license plate game! We have a real shot at getting all 50 now.”

“What’s the license plate game?”

Imai sighed “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll figure it out soon enough. Anyways, Atsushi, now that the Dolly remix is over--.”

“He fell asleep,” Hide interrupted.

“Oh, then whoever wants to put on music can.”

“I don’t know if you guys listen to your own music,” hide said, “but can we listen to some of your albums that released since I’ve been gone?”

“Oh, good idea!” Yutaka exclaimed while putting on No.0. “Let’s start with our most recent album.”

“Shouldn’t we do the opposite?” Toll asked.

“Nah, I’m interested in hearing what you guys have been up to more recently,” hide answered.

The sun now rising, Imai continued to drive towards New Jersey. He was glad Atsushi had fallen asleep, although he wasn’t surprised. The vocalist got no sleep in the hotel, and he only slept a little bit on the plane and on the way to Area 51. But it was a good thing, because he had time to make distance between the group and Area 51 before Atsushi would start asking for breakfast.
For the next few hours of the drive, Imai only stopped when they needed gas or when someone needed to use the restroom. They played Buck-Tick’s albums while Yutaka started taking notes of whatever license plates they saw. Their new passenger caught along quickly, and started looking for plates. Imai found hide’s attempts at pronouncing the state names amusing, although Toll and Yutaka always helped him out. When they saw both Kansas and Arkansas plates, Yutaka played the “America explain” vine.

Imai wanted to get involved in the fun, but he was so focused on the road ahead of him. He was starting to get hungry though, and he could tell the others were too. He wasn’t sure about Xrek, but he decided to ask hide what aliens eat when they finally had to stop. He figured they would stop at some place with a drive-thru though, so they could keep driving for as long as possible.
Overall, those couple hours were quite peaceful. The group was tired after everything that happened that night, and all of them were worried about the possibility that they were being chased. That peace ended, though, when Atsushi woke up.

Atsushi was calm at first. He still felt a bit groggy, though he did look at the list of states Yutaka had recorded and joined in the game. It wasn’t long, though, before his stomach started to growl.
The vocalist could tell Imai had no intention of stopping at Cracker Barrel; it had been a while since anyone joked about Atsushi’s desire to go there, and no one had even mentioned food. It was almost like there was an unspoken agreement to not talk about stopping for food; they never shut up about it on the last road trip they went on, but now, at the unique opportunity to show two foreigners American chain restaurants, no one even suggested a place to stop at. So, he figured he would ease their way into the conversation.
“So, hide, how much have the United States have you seen?”

“Actually, none of it, really,” the former X member answered. “As I told you, I was in Cuba before I got taken to Area 51, so I don’t know much about what this country is like.”

“What about food?” Hide looked at Atsushi when he heard that word come out of his mouth, but he said nothing.

“Oh, well, occasionally the military would bring us stuff. Usually just McDonald’s and things like that. They brought me Japanese food a few times. It’s nowhere near as good as it is in Japan, but it still felt nice.”

“Oh, interesting! Well, there’s this one restaurant that I really feel is unique to the American experience--.”

“--Atsushi,” Hide whispered.

Atsushi ignored his bandmate and continued on. “But it’s not that well-known by foreigners. It’s called Cracker Barrel. Have you heard of it?”

“No, I haven’t,” hide answered. “What is it like?”

“Oh, it’s kind of hard to explain. It’s something you need to see to--.”

“--Atsushi,” Toll interrupted.

Atsushi looked at Xrek. “What about them? Do they eat human food?”

“Yeah, they love it,” hide replied. “They don’t eat as much as humans, though. Damn, Atsushi, all this food talk is making me hungry.”

“Me too! And this is the perfect opportunity for you to see Cracker Barrel!”

“Atsushi!” Imai shouted, sending the car into silence.

It was Yutaka who finally stepped up and broke that silence. “Look! It’s Hawaii!”

“So, about this ‘Cracker Barrel’ thing,” hide said. “Where is it? From the way you’re describing it, it seems pretty special and unique. Is it in New Jersey?”

“That’s the best thing about it!” Atsushi exclaimed. “In Europe, all roads lead to Rome, right? Well in the United States, all roads lead to Cracker Barrel!”

“Wow! A restaurant is that important?”

“It’s a chain,” Hide explained. “They have a ton of them on every highway.”

“Yeah Hide, that’s what I said!” Atsushi said.

“You didn’t say that,” Yutaka replied.

Imai tried to ignore Atsushi’s rambling about Cracker Barrel, but he couldn’t anymore. He needed to shut this idea down before he actually persuaded the rest of the group into it. “We’re not going. There are plenty of other American restaurants we can show hide and Xrek.”

“Why?” Atsushi asked.

“How the hell don’t you get it?”

“Imai’s right, Atsushi,” Toll said. “We have to keep driving until we can ensure hide and Xrek’s safety. We can go to a Cracker Barrel once we do that. But for now--.”

“--But Cracker Barrel is only special when it’s on a road trip!” Atsushi shouted, crossing his arms and looking out the window after. Yutaka was right; there really was a Hawaii license plate. They were used to seeing them on the East Coast, but seeing one away from any major city felt special.

“As much as I want to go, they’re both right,” Hide replied. “The FBI is probably on our ass right now.”

“Well, I haven’t seen them! We don’t have to buy anything there, just let hide and Xrek see Cracker Barrel, get a bite to eat, and then leave!”

Imai sighed. He could tell Atsushi wouldn’t shut up for the rest of the trip if they didn’t stop, and at this point he was so hungry he didn’t care anymore. “You promise?”

“You’re really giving up, Imai?” Toll asked.

“Yeah. We all should get something to eat, anyways. And maybe sitting down for a while without thinking about the FBI will calm us down.”

“So we’re really going to go?” Yutaka asked. But before anyone could answer, Imai got off at the exit. “Fuck yeah!”

“I hope you three know what you’re getting us into,” Hide said.

“Imai, thank you so much!” Atsushi cried. “You don’t know how much this means to me! To finally be able to show new people the wonders of Cracker Barrel.”

“We’re eating and leaving. Understand?”

“Of course!”

Imai pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot. He knew it was risky, going out in public with an alien and someone who most of the world thinks is dead, but he hoped good food and watching Atsushi try to explain Cracker Barrel to two people who had never been would make the stop worth the risk.

Chapter Text

As usual, Atsushi’s eyes lit up when he saw the entrance of the Old Country Store as they parked. Cracker Barrel was always exciting, but the fact that he was bringing two people who had never been before made it even more exciting. He couldn’t wait to explain the rocking chairs outside, the history of the store, the menu, the peg game, and just how much of a staple to American road trips it was. Since he was from Japan, he remembered the first time he went to Cracker Barrel, and how strange and special it was. He wouldn’t call it love at first sight, but he was intrigued enough by the chain to go back on his next road trip, and he fell in love with it more and more each time he visited. He hoped this time, the same thing would happen to hide and Xrek, that they would get that sweet strange feeling from the store, and maybe even would want to go back in the future. No matter how they felt about it though, he looked forward to seeing their reactions.
Imai, Yuta, Hide, and Toll watched as Atsushi put his arms around hide and Xrek, and started showing them around the store. Imai could hear bits and pieces of their conversation, if it could even be called that. It was basically just Atsushi talking on and on about the store, explaining every object and food item that didn’t exist in Japan. He didn’t know who he felt worse for: Xrek, who had no clue what Atsushi was even saying, or hide, who came back from the dead just to listen to someone rant about some yeehaw American chain. Still, in a weird way it was cute seeing Atsushi so passionate about something so silly. He was glad he was watching it happen from the sidelines, though, and didn’t have to actually listen to the rambling.

Once the host called out Imai’s name--pronounced wrong, as usual--the seven of them walked to their table. Atsushi not only translated the menu for hide and explained the items he didn’t know, but he also went into a history of the menu and told him what the more common orders were, courtesy of some video on YouTube where someone tried all the menu items for the chain’s 50th anniversary.

“I want fried chicken,” hide said.

“Oh, that’s the newest menu item!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Maybe you should go for one of the classics, since it’s your first time here?”

The X member paused a moment before responding. “I want fried chicken,” he repeated.

Atsushi chuckled awkwardly. “Okay! Anything you order here is great, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. What about Xrek? What will they have?”

“Oh. I’ll just ask them to point to something they see on someone else’s table that they want.” Despite hide saying that, Atsushi went on to explain the menu to Xrek.

“Poor Xrek,” Hide said. “Having to listen to Atsushi say all this bullshit that barely makes sense to us, let alone an alien who doesn’t understand Japanese or English.”

“This reminds me of the Spongebob Squarepants episode where Spongebob was stuck in Rock Bottom and no one could understand him because he didn’t spit in between words,” hide replied. The Buck-Tick members--minus Atsushi, who was still talking to Xrek about Cracker Barrel--just stared at him. “What? None of you have seen Spongebob?”

“I’ve always wanted to see it,” Yutaka explained, “but we were in our thirties when that started. So we didn’t really get the chance to watch it.”

“Wow. I pity you all.”

“You were trapped at Area 51 for years,” Toll said.

“Listen. At least I’ve seen Spongebob.”

The waitress came, and they all gave their orders. She stared at Xrek strangely, but somehow couldn’t tell they were an alien. Yutaka and Hide did try to disguise them while they were in the car, but they weren’t sure if they did a good job.

After they got their drink orders, they started playing the peg game. However, while Atsushi was playing and trying to show hide how to play, the Xrek picked up the second peg game that was on their table and put it in their mouth. “No, Xrek! Don’t do that!” Atsushi shouted. “It will spoil your appetite!”

“That’s what you’re concerned about?” Toll asked rhetorically. “I was more concerned about the destruction of property. We’ll have to buy another one from the store to replace it for them.”

“That won’t do. The ones on the tables always have mismatched pegs, and have different color options from the ones you buy at the front. It won’t be right!”

“Why are you both concerned about such unimportant things when the main concern about them eating the peg game is that it will give away that they’re an alien?” Hide whispered. “Have you two forgotten? The fucking FBI is after us!”

“This is a family restaurant,” Imai replied. “Watch your language.”

“You’ve been waiting all trip to say that, haven’t you?” Yutaka asked, while Hide teasingly covered his ears. Imai nodded in response. “Thought so.”

“Sorry about that, guys,” hide said. “I forgot to mention that the folks from Xrek’s planet also eat wood and plastic sometimes.”

“The two materials used in the peg game,” Hide replied. “How convenient.”

To prevent Xrek from eating the other peg game on the table, Atsushi tried to show them how to play. They figured it out right away, and ended the game with only one peg left. “Look at that, Atsushi!” Hide said. “It was their first time and they still did better than you.”

“Hey! Last time you and Imai didn’t do better than they did this time, either!” Hide took the peg game from Xrek and did it, leaving only one peg left. “Whoa! How did you--?”

“--You memorized the solution too, Hide?” Toll interrupted.

“Fu--fudge!” Hide exclaimed, trying to avoid having to hear the same over-done half-joke from Imai.

Only instead of Imai interrupting, hide did: “Only he didn’t say fudge.”

“A Christmas Story references aside, why did you have to blow my cover, Toll?”

“If everyone knows that I memorized one of the solutions, they have to know that you did, too.”

“What kind of logic is that?”

“Toll logic,” Yutaka answered. “Don’t question it.” Toll didn’t know what his brother meant by it, but he smiled anyway.

Their food orders came, and fortunately the waitress didn’t question the missing peg game. The members began to eat their meals, but then silence filled the restaurant. “Did something happen?” Imai asked.

“This is the FBI,” someone--who was in the store part of the Cracker Barrel so they couldn’t see him--said.

“Do you think he whipped his badge out like in the cop movies?” hide whispered.

“Now isn’t the time for jokes,” Atsushi replied.

“You’re the one to talk,” Hide said. “You’re the one who got us into this mess!”

“Not on purpose.”

"Does it matter? God, what if they take us all to Area 51 and we all gotta pretend we’re dead like hide?”

“And watch movies all day,” Yutaka added. “Shit! We’re fucked.” Imai wanted to tell Yutaka that this is a family restaurant, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“You all need to be quiet,” Toll whispered. “Act normal.”

“Today, two individuals, a human and an alien, escaped Area 51,” another person, presumably a member of the FBI, said. “We followed them to this location, so no one is allowed to leave until we find them and those who assisted them in escaping.”

Imai didn’t know what to do. By listening to Atsushi and stopping at Cracker Barrel, he may have endangered not just himself, but also his bandmates, hide, and Xrek. Not only that, but the FBI’s claim that “a human and an alien escaped Area 51” sent the whole restaurant into chaos, which made it even harder to focus on figuring out an escape plan. He worried that this really would be the end, that they would either die or spend the rest of their lives at that cursed facility.

That was, until they heard it.

That voice.

Atsushi could immediately tell that it wasn’t on the radio; it was right there, in that Cracker Barrel. Dolly Parton was in the Cracker Barrel, and she was singing Jolene. Everyone got up from their tables to see what was going on, but before they could leave, Dolly entered the restaurant. Mic in hand, she winked at the Buck-Tick members’ table and continued to sing that iconic song.

“She’s making a distraction for us,” Imai whispered. “Let’s get moving!”

The seven of them, plus practically everyone else in the restaurant, moved closer to Dolly, all wanting to cheer but feeling like it was too far in the song to do so. Slowly, they all moved back into the store while the FBI members watched and waited for her to finish performing. Once they were in the store, the seven of them crouched down and crawled around the shelves and racks to find a way to the exit without being seen.

Once Dolly was finished singing Jolene, she spoke for a moment about how she was in town and decided to put on a surprise performance at Cracker Barrel. Imai didn’t believe her explanation; they were in the middle of nowhere, and it seemed strange that she was randomly putting on a performance the same day that her collaboration with Lil Nas X released. It seemed unbelievable, but he genuinely thought the only explanation was that she knew about them storming Area 51 and went to save them.

After Dolly’s little speech, she started singing 9 to 5. “I love this song!” Atsushi exclaimed.

“Shhh!” everyone, including Xrek, replied.

“Atsushi, we have to leave!” Hide whispered.

“But when else will I get the chance to meet Dolly?”

“I promise we’ll meet her one day,” Imai answered. “But right now, we gotta go!”

“You better mean that!” Atsushi ran out of the exit, and the rest of them followed. Once he was outside of the store, he shouted, “Dolly really came through!” as he ran to the minivan.
“This is really just like the Hannah Montana episode!” hide replied. “Remember? She met the kids at the diner when they went back in time somehow? And they had to worry that if she didn’t talk to their dad, they would cease to exist?”

At that moment, due to all the stress and excitement they had just experienced in those last few minutes, and because of just how many movie and television show references hide kept making, Atsushi hugged hide. “I’m so glad we got you out of there! Now we can show you things other than American movies and TV shows.”

“Yeah, because showing him Cracker Barrel really turned out to be a good idea,” Imai replied, though he joined in the hug because he was so stressed over what had just happened back there. For some reason, prompted the other Buck-Tick members to join in, creating a huge group hug.

When they were done, hide looked at Xrek, who was staring at the sky. “What is it, Xrek?” The alien pointed up, and hide looked to see a UFO in the sky. “Whoa! Are they gonna take you home?” Xrek nodded.

“Aw!” Atsushi cried. “I wanted to get to know you better!”

“hide, can you ask your friend to give us a ride?” Hide asked. “After what just happened back there, the idea of going back to driving is really unappealing.”

Before hide could say anything to Xrek, though, a bright light engulfed the seven of them and the rental car, and they started floating into the sky. “Just like the movies!” hide exclaimed.

“I just hope we’re not getting abducted,” Toll replied.

When they got in the spaceship, an alien was waiting for them. “Xrek!” he exclaimed, and then hugged his friend while saying something in their language. Once they were done with their hug, he turned to the others. “Thank you for taking care of Xrek until I could come and save them," he said in Japanese. "I got on my way here as soon as I heard the plan to storm Area 51 was confirmed, but our planet is super far away. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them; I’m so glad they’re safe.”

“You’re welcome!” Yutaka replied. “I’m glad we got to meet you guys! This ship is so cool!”

“Really?” the alien replied. “This is one of the cheapest ships back on my planet.”

“We have nothing like this on Earth,” Imai explained.

“Nah, there were way cooler spaceships in Area 51,” hide said, sitting down on the UFO’s couch and crossing his legs. “Anyways, these dudes need to get dropped off in New Jersey.”

Imai glared at hide. “I heard that, You said, ‘these guys.’”

“Yeah, and?”

“You’re coming with us,” Atsushi answered. “We’re not risking you disappearing again!”

“I was just gonna go back to Japan!”

“We can’t know that for sure,” Toll explained. “We’re actually going to Japan soon. We’ll take you with us. Besides, don’t make Xrek and their friend have to fly around more.”

hide sighed. “Alright, I’ll stay with you guys for a while. It’ll be fun, anyways. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, and we still have more things to catch up on.”

“You’re going to make us watch Spongebob, aren’t you?” Hide replied.

hide smirked. “Maybe.”

The UFO started flying towards New Jersey, and Xrek said something to the other alien. “Oh, Xrek wants me to redact my statement of gratitude to that one,” he said, pointing to Atsushi.

Atsushi took a moment to realize he was being spoken about. “Wait, me? What did I do?”

“They said you were super annoying and kept trying to explain stuff to them. They had no clue what you were talking about, and felt so lost. The fact that hide, the one person who they knew before today, also had to deal with your rambling made it worse. They just wanted me to find you guys as soon as possible so they could finally see a familiar face.”

“I’m sorry! I thought they would like hearing about Cracker Barrel! Everybody does!”

“That’s not true,” Yutaka said.

“I don’t like it,” Hide added.

“It’s annoying,” Imai said.

“I don't think anyone likes it," Toll admitted.

The four of them looked at hide. “Well, at least you’re passionate about it?” hide replied.

“Thanks, hide!” Atsushi exclaimed, smiling. “Oh, by the way, Friend of Xrek, have you ever been to Cracker Barrel?”

“We’ve arrived!” the alien replied.

“Wait, really? Already?”

“Thank God,” Hide said. “I thought we were going to have to go to Cracker Barrel again.”

“Thank you for the ride,” Imai said. “I’m glad we got to meet you two.”

“If you’re ever in the cosmic neighborhood, call us up!” Yutaka exclaimed while writing down his phone number. “I’d love to see you guys again.”

“And take you to Cracker Barrel!” Atsushi added.

“Let’s get going,” Toll said, afraid that they actually would end up going to Cracker Barrel again if Atsushi kept talking to the aliens. “Thanks for the ride. See ya!”

And with that, the five Buck-Tick members, hide, and the rental car were sent out of the spaceship. Imai drove the members back to their houses, but hide stayed with him while he drove the minivan back to the rental car place. Somehow, this trip that just started as an excuse to go to Dollywood and something they were doing for the meme turned out to be the wildest trip he had ever been on. The discovery that aliens were real--and that they found Atsushi’s rambling about Cracker Barrel even more annoying than he did--was amazing enough, but what really made the trip special to Imai was finding hide. This journey wasn’t just about making memories with the members or the friends he made along the way, but also discovering a friend who he thought was lost to time. And that made everything--dealing with being in the same car as the members for hours, with Atsushi’s ever-present desire for Cracker Barrel, with the FBI trying to catch all seven of them, with all the American shows and movies he knew hide would force him to watch over the next few days, with the fact that he would eventually have to fulfill his promise to Atsushi and find a way for them to meet Dolly Parton--worth it.