Obviously, it had been RONI’s idea. All of them had scheduled holidays coming up - to celebrate Erhard’s release - but they’d only planned to meet for dinner, maybe have a small get-together at someone’s house.
But someone had to mention the road trip Alyssa, Naomi and Navel had taken last month, on top of RONI and Erhard’s sudden interest in the band 100 gecs, and so here they were, in a small, shitty rented van, getting ready to go see the elusive 100 gecs tree.
What made matters even better, is that absolutely none of them had even considered the notion that the 100 gecs tree actually existed in their plane of existence until RONI looked it up on her databases; and it was too late to turn back now.
“This is going to be fun,” Maria had said, when Hank had asked what 100 gecs was.
Gabe, who was helping Tomoe pack some things into the trunk, piped up, “Yeah.”
Ever the optimist, although his smile was faltering a little, Hank tried to reassure himself. “I’m sure I’ll find out on the way,” he said, but the glint in Erhard’s eyes unnerved him slightly.
“Fuck yeah!” Maria exclaimed, “100 gecs tree!”
“Has anyone seen RONI? I swear she was here a moment ago.”
Erhard poked his head around the side of the van, “I just saw her get in.”
Tripping up the steps climbing inside, Gabe looked over the seats (and underneath them), but didn’t see a single prosthetic limb. “RONI?”
“Hello, Doctor,” chimed a voice, and Gabe jerked in surprise and hit his head on the ceiling. “Are you alright?”
“RONI?” he repeated, alarmed, rubbing at where he’d hit the roof. “Where are you?”
Still out of sight, RONI let out a surprisingly human-sounding sigh and replied; “Look up.”
Glancing up, seeing the familiar sight of a horrifically oversized 100 gecs t-shirt, Gabe instantly knew who’s fault it was.
Somewhere between fuming and despairing, he came storming back out of the van, nearly knocking over Erhard, who quickly dodged out of the way. “WHY IS RONI IN THE OVERHEAD COMPARTMENT OF THE VAN?”
At this, Tomoe, looking over to Maria with a concerned but affectionate expression, silently handed Erhard a 10 dollar bill (which he’d probably use to buy 100 gecs merch).
“Hey! I mean-” she turned towards Hank, begging him silently for help, but he didn’t say anything. “Well, she didn’t mind! And it’s a bit cramped in the van already.”
Gabe put his head in his hands. “You’re going to make me an alcoholic, Maria,” he lamented, but climbed back into the van, with it’s peeling blue paint, nevertheless.
Quietly, under his breath, Erhard whispered, “You won’t need alcohol once you’ve heard 100 gecs.”
It had only been an hour, and everything had proved itself to be great.
First of all, the 100 gecs - money machine they were blasting every time a truck passed aside, they’d given the aux cord to Erhard, and due to the fact that he was the one out of all of them who held the braincell they all shared most often, and despite that he’d been locked in a fridge for eight years, he still had the best music taste (which consisted almost entirely of 100 gecs).
And Erhard, being Erhard, was thoroughly having a good time - and the group, being the group, were also thoroughly having a good time. RONI, halfway through reaching down to take a card to win the 5th game between herself, Gabe, and Tomoe, commented on the situation, stating that she was also thoroughly having a good time.
Needless to say, Erhard stayed as the aux cord master the entire time, and had fun talking to RONI about favourite songs and the fucking insanity that would be actually going to a concert.
Second of all, to take a break from her relentless (and arguably, quite bad) back-seat driving, interrupting everyone else’s vibing to 100 gecs, Maria had decided to wrench open the sunroof and stand up. Normally, this would be fine - part of the quintessential road trip experience - and it absolutely was, because this was a normal road trip to see the 100 gecs tree.
Realising this, Tomoe decided to improve the mood even further and start singing along as best she could to 100 gecs - hand crushed by a mallet, which caused everyone else to start yelling too - and once Maria was finally seated, she gladly joined in too.
From the driver’s seat, Hank, who had barely staved off 5 heart attacks within the past 2 hours, having awakened the inherent trueness of 100 gecs, felt enlightened.
And third of all, was the simplest of all. They were finally getting closer, scanning the trees for the right one while RONI reached past her medical databases and told them all about the intricacies of genre and how much she’d like to meet Laura Les, and sure, there was the small debate here and there over whether stupid horse was the best piece of art ever created, and Erhard was still getting used to the whole ‘sharing his interests with other people’ thing, but they were nearly there.
Until, of course, they were there.
Hank hit the brakes so hard all of them went flying, RONI almost falling down on top of Erhard, and Tomoe being knocked into Maria, while Gabe got stuck underneath one of the seats.
“We’re here?” Gabe asked, worried he was getting brain damage after getting banged around so much in such a small space of time and the concerning volume of their music.
His question, however, was answered by Erhard scrambling out of the sunroof, RONI being carried on his shoulder, and breaking into a sprint towards the tree.
“THE 100 GECS TREE!!” Maria screamed, already kicking open the door.
Tomoe, who had rented the van, winced.
A few seconds later, all of them regrouped around the tree.
“We have to take a picture,” she suddenly yelled, and RONI and Erhard turned to her like she had just solved the meaning to life, “I want to take a selfie with it, at least. Go do your thing, guys.”
“Don’t get hurt by the pins!” Tomoe offered, smiling.
Hank grinned too. “Have fun, pissbabies.”
“What.” Everyone turned to him.
“I’m just trying to be hip with the kids! They said that in one of the songs, right?”
Their smiles and laughter were infectious, and Erhard found himself leaning over to Gabe, saying, “Thanks for taking us here. I couldn’t possibly imagine what would’ve happened if we came out here without a plan.”
“You’re right, although that would make a very heartwarming family story.”
Little did he know, in an alternate universe in which RONI and Erhard never got into 100 gecs, exactly that was happening.