Everyone at Mach Storm was about to start dinner when Sandra rushed in looking very panicked. "Quick! Turn the TV to the ZBC channel!!" She ran over to Helmut and hovered over him, too nervous to sit down. The room's focus turned to the TV as Helmut switched over to the Zoids Battle Channel. A Raynos and a Geno Saurer faced each other in the arena.

"In moments the battle between Mach Storm and the maverick Rotten Roger will commence..."

"What?!" Sweet gasped in disbelief, "But... we're not scheduled for any battles!"

"Do we even have a Raynos?" Sigma couldn't recall one.

"Actually, we do..." folding his arms, Helmut glared hard at the screen. "RD used it to train for our battle with the Matrix Dragon."

"Ohh, that's right." Sigma finally remembered RD's training, "But who's piloting it? Amy wouldn't fly in that thing and the rest of us are here."

"No, we're not." RD stared at the screen almost in horror, "Hop's not here..."

Sweet gasped again, "There's no way!"

"Does Hop have a battle license?" Matt asked, trying to keep up with everything.

Sigma looked down at him, "If he does, it probably expired years ago."

Skip clung to RD's coat, quite confused at everything, "What's going on? Is this bad?"

Amid everyones' panic, Maybelle just glared at the screen with resentment. "That idiot."


"I'm an idiot, aren't I?" Hop clung tightly to the Raynos controls. He hadn't expected to go up against a pilot like Rotten Roger of Battle Royal fame. It had been years since Hop had found himself in the cockpit of a Zoid. The Raynos was his, actually - a classic that he had held onto from his younger years, though it didn't get to see daylight often. He trembled, knowing this was a stupid idea, but Maybelle's excuse kept ringing in his ears. Such a lie! I'm not boring! He tried to regain his focus, or as much of it as he could. I'll prove I'm not, and then I'll get the real reason why she left! Yes, Hop! You can do this! The trembling stopped. He was ready for battle.

The battle begun, and Hop took to the sky. The Raynos shook a little as his piloting was rusty. Rotten Roger observed the other Zoid from his Geno Saurer. This wasn't the Mach Storm he was used to. It was rather... laughable.

"Is this the best Mach Storm has to offer?" Roger sneered. "This is insulting." He followed the Raynos and fired some shots from the Geno Saurer's twin mounted cannons. "This'll be easy."

"Oh, come off it." Banking slightly to avoid the fire, Hop kept his concentration on the Geno Saurer, "I may be rusty, but I'm not a pushover." He finally steadied the Zoid. Circling around, he dove in quick and returned fire.

Roger didn't move, and stared unbelieving at his opponent's attack. "You're not even close!"

"Blast it! My sights are way off!" Leaving the Zoid closed up in a hangar all the time hadn't been good for it. "Well, that's not any good. I must do something different..." He thought for a bit, "The Raynos' talons can do a good amount of damage if I can get in close enough. Time for a second pass!" He circled around again and then dove for the Geno Saurer.

Roger was waiting. "Let's see you dodge the CPC, birdy!" Setting the foot locks, the Geno Saurer charged up its Charged Particle Cannon.


Mach Storm was frozen to the TV. No one was able to move or speak. In the instant the Geno Saurer fired its CPC, the battle was over. The Raynos crashed, kicking up a cloud of dust from the arena floor.

"HOP!!"

Everyone scrambled for the door. They had to get to the arena and quick! Everyone that is, except for Maybelle.


The hospital room where Hop lay sleeping was packed with the members of Mach Storm. Even Dan and Amy were there after having watched the event on TV. Hop was going to be all right, but the rough landing left him with a concussion. His head was lightly bandaged.

"What was he thinking?" Amy sat next to him, showing genuine concern. "That was so reckless."

Dan pulled out his little handheld computer and scrolled through some files. "I did some research and found that Hop had been on a team when he was younger. He piloted that same Raynos."

"Really?" RD was rather interested in the information. "I wonder why he stopped piloting?"

"That's a mystery, actually." Dan continued, "He suddenly quit the team, but never said why. It was then that he went into the Academy to study accounting. And it was sometime after that that he joined up with Harris and Graham when they started Mach Storm."

"Why isn't he in any of the old Mach Storm photos then?"

Sandra laughed softly, "Because they always made him take the photos."

"He doesn't like getting his picture taken either," added Helmut. He sighed. "Now we have to clear up this mess with Peace Keeping Bureau. They aren't too happy that he snuck into battle without a license."

"Poor Hop..." Sweet frowned. She sat near Matt and Skip. "Just what was he trying to prove?"

The door to the room slid open and all eyes focused on it.

"He was trying to prove that he's not boring. He's just an idiot." Maybelle walked in, looking very cross. "Come on, Skip, let's go. You don't need to be here."

"But Mama..."

"This is your fault, isn't it?!" RD glared at the older woman, and she glared back at him. "Hop would never have done this before! He'd never take such a risk!"

"I have to agree with RD." Leaning against a wall, Sigma finally decided to speak up. "This was totally out of Hop's character. I don't know what you did to push him into doing this, but I'm sure it was wrong."

"Sigma! Don't be rude!" Sweet pleaded with him, though she more didn't want the kids to hear the argument.

"Don't be rude?!" Sigma glanced at Sweet for a moment, then turned his glare over to Maybelle, "I'm not the one who walked into a hospital room full of Hop's friends only to call him an 'idiot.' You tell me who's rude!" If Maybelle's glare at RD had been a death glare, the one she was giving Sigma would've put him six feet under and then some. It made him shiver.

"Enough." Helmut said. "There are children here and they don't need to listen to this."

There was a groan and everyone quickly dropped the argument to turn their attention towards Hop. "Can you please keep it down? I've got one heck of a headache."

"Hop!" Amy smiled and took his hand, "How are you feeling??"

"Very, very sore. I..." regaining more of his senses, he noticed Maybelle in the room. "You... Are you finally going to tell me why?"

"...I don't know what you're talking about." Maybelle huffed. "I just came to pick up my son. We're going now, Skip." Without giving the boy any time to protest, she pulled him out of the room.


Things were quiet at Mach Storm the next day. The hospital decided to keep Hop overnight and he was due for questioning by the PKB. Sigma relaxed on a sofa skimming through one of his magazines. He was trying to keep his mind off of everything, especially that hate-filled look that Maybelle had given him at the hospital. Unfortunately the magazine wasn't helping much. He was happy though that Maybelle had gone out for the day again.

"Are you ready?" RD's voice finally registered with Sigma and he peered over his shoulder to see what was going on. Sweet was with him as well at Matt and Skip.

"Yeah, we're totally ready!" Matt grinned happily, "I'm so excited!"

"Me too!" Skip was finally starting to open up more. "I've never been to a Zoids museum before!"

"Well, we better get going." Sweet nudged them all to the door, "It'll take a little while to get there."

"Hey, Sweet," Sigma called out as RD and the two boys went out the door. "You're going to the Zoid Museum? Can I come too?"

Sweet frowned, "Sorry, but this is just for RD and the boys and me! It's not everyday I get to spend some good time alone with RD." She still wasn't happy with Sigma for yesterday. "Maybe next time." She turned and headed out the door to catch up with RD.

Sigma sighed. He looked up again to see Helmut walking by. "Where are you going, big guy?"

"Out. I have... a date with Sandra. And then we're going to take Hop over to the PKB."

"Oh, okay. Have fun then." Sigma watched as Helmut left, then looked back at his magazine. "...aghh. It's way too quiet here!" He tossed the magazine on the table. "Sure, just leave old Sigma by himself. He doesn't mind!" He stood up and headed for the door. "I need some fresh air."


Helmut and Sandra met at a quiet little restaurant down the street from the hospital. It had been a while since they had gotten to do anything together, though this wasn't quite under the circumstances they would've preferred. They had a lot to discuss.

Sandra stirred some sugar into her ice tea and went over everything in her head. "I can't believe that Hop's wife actually came back. That's some nerve she has after what she put Hop through."

Helmut took a sip of his drink and nodded, "I definitely think she's hiding something. Hop said she claimed to have left him because he was boring, but that can't be right."

"Oh, it's definitely a lie." Sandra smirked, "That excuse is so lame anyone can see through it."

"I'm just worried about what this is doing to the team." Helmut frowned. "Hop may not be a pilot, but he's one of the most reliable members of Mach Storm. Plus she's just using us right now to live off of us. We need to get her out of there."

"I'm sure she'll be leaving soon. I do worry about that kid of hers though. For a boy his age, he's way too quiet. She must be one intimidating mother."

Helmut nodded again, "I worry about him too. Especially now that he seems to be growing on RD..."


RD and Sweet followed behind Matt and Skip as they wandered through the Zoid Museum. It was big and had many displays that showed various models, armor and weapons. There were time lines, dioramas, old pilot gear and even some exhibits on wild Zoids. The boys were amazed, and so were RD and Sweet to an extent.

"They're going to leave soon, aren't they?" RD stopped for a moment, wearing a somber look upon his face.

Sweet frowned, "RD, I'm sure everything will be all right..."

RD shook his head, "How can it be? There's no way Hop and Maybelle are getting back together." He sighed, "I finally got some family back in my life. I don't want to see him taken away. None of this is his fault."

"I know..." Sighing as well, Sweet smiled softly at him, "Don't worry, things will work out for the best. And though it may not be through blood relation, you do have family with us, RD. We'll help you through this."

RD smiled back at her. "Thanks Sweet."


Sigma strolled down the sidewalk lost in thought. Ever since Sandra rejoined Mach Storm he always ended up being sort of the odd one out. It would just be him and Hop at the base if they didn't have any jobs going. It was getting to be a bit much. He stared up at the sky, wondering what would happen with all the drama...

...and bumped right into another pedestrian!

Caught off guard, they both fell backward in surprise. "Ow!" Having been pulled so quickly back to Earth, Sigma looked over at the person he ran into. It was a young woman with chin-length, aqua colored hair. "I-I'm so sorry!" Sigma shot up to his feet and went to help her out. He laughed nervously. "My head must've been in the clouds, I wasn't watching where I was going!"

The woman looked at him, squinting a little for a moment, "It... it's okay. Sorry, I lost my glasses, I can't see very well right now."

"Oh?" Sigma looked at her in surprise, then smiled. Finally he had found a distraction from his troubles. "Well, fear not! I'll help you find your glasses!" He posed, doing his best to show off his determination, despite her inability to see him well.

"Y-you will?" She was rather shocked by his gusto.

"Of course! I'm not doing anything else today." He bowed, "I'm Sigma of Mach Storm! I'd be happy to assist you. Where did you last have your glasses?"

She blushed some, embarrassed by his actions. "Wow, Mach Storm? Um... I'm Theta. I left my glasses at the Max cafe."

"The Max?" Sigma looked at her astonished. The Max was blocks away!


"How did you manage to wander so far away without your glasses?" Sigma and Theta finally reached the Max after a good long walk. They wandered over to an empty table to sit down. The business there was good as usual.

"It was because of my teammates, actually. I was cleaning my glasses and they started to drag me off somewhere. I dropped them and they didn't give me a chance to grab them. And then they ditched me somewhere downtown."

"Are you kidding??" Sigma frowned, annoyed at the answer. "That's horrible! I swear, some teammates just have no concern at all!" He paused to look around. "Stay right here, Theta. I'll be right back." He wandered off into the crowd, then came back a moment later handing her something. "Are these what you're looking for?"

Taking them, Theta put the glasses on, and looked across the cafe. "Yes! These are my glasses!" She turned to Sigma and shook his hand cheerfully, "Thank you, Sigma! You're a real hero!"

Blushing a little, Sigma brushed it off. "It's nothing really."


The Peace Keeping Bureau was pretty intimidating on the inside. Hop couldn't remember a time when he had felt more nervous. He'd wondered what he had been thinking pulling such a stunt. His Raynos was in need of heavy repairs and now he'd have a record! At least the questioning was over. They were pretty ruthless for peace keepers, in his humble opinion.

Gummie walked into the room, scratching his head, "Well, we're gonna letcha go, Hop. However, while I could get ya outta jail time, there's still a fine ya gotta pay." He handed the paperwork over to Hop.

"Oh..." Hop sighed, "That's understandable..."

"Also we're confiscatin' yer Zoid til ya get it paid off."

Hop whined, "Oh, my poor Raynos."

Gummie sighed, "Hey, yer gettin' off lucky. Just don't ya dare pull somethin' like that ever again! Y'hear?!"

"Yes, I'm sorry..." Hop looked over the fine papers. This was going to take a while to pay off.