Chapter V

Alia was the Maverick Hunter's most highly decorated navigator; she was most often in charge of guiding Hunters through world-threatening crises. She guided X and Zero with confidence and competence through the Eurasia incident, and has been respected as a member of the team ever since.

The world is not always in that much danger. During more "peaceful" times, Alia finds herself on the other line with less agreeable Maverick Hunters. She is very patient with everyone, but she seldom finds herself tested in that way when dealing with X or Zero. The weight of the crisis at hand will take over as the primary source of stress.

It was great being on the line with X and Zero in times like these, in an exhilarating, dreadful sort of way.

X responded first, "We're reading you loud and clear, Alia."
"All available hunters are on FULL ALERT. Our internal network has been compromised and our teleportation grid has been hijacked. Several Hunters have vanished without a trace from teleportation. We can't get available hunter units were they're needed fast enough, and several known Maverick organizations are taking advantage of the chaos."

"What! I was teleported here several hours ago! How could this have happened so quickly?"

"We think this was a calculated move on the part of some far-reaching organization."

Zero suspected foul play.
"This sounds like an inside job. How much do you know about the ones responsible?"
X suspected worse.
"-and has there been any word from Sigma?"


The hunters could literally hear a solitary snowflake touch the ground, then the rest followed suit.

Their navigator thoughtfully interjected in the midst of the painful line of silence.
"We need you both at the Wallace Dustin Cryogenic Facility. It's the closest area to your position that is in need of assistance. I'll brief you on several working theories on the way. I've just unlocked two
Ride Chasers in the hangar area of the Troia Base. You have a lot of ground to cover. It will take you roughly an hour and a forty five minutes to get there."

Without further ado, the red and blue hunters made their way to the hangar area facing the setting sun. Ride Chasers were small, compact hover vehicles used in to get to places where teleportation would be impossible, to cover a lot of ground quickly, or to pursue fast moving targets impossible to pursue on foot.

X was given the reigns of his own personally modified "CheXal" Ride Chaser. It was the second ride chaser he's ever ridden. It was commandeered in the middle of a desert mission to prevent a missile launch during the second Maverick uprising. It was a modified version of the standard issue ride chasers of the time, the Cheval Model, but it was regretfully destroyed over the course of the mission. Lifesaver units were on a mission to retrieve and dismantle weapons and other dangerous equipment left over from the war, but they saved the pieces of the chaser as per the senior hunter's request. They were able to piece together a usable model with the help of the now-retired engineer "Douglas." X has been tinkering with it ever since.

Zero was granted access the Adion Ride Chaser it was equipped with forward mounted plasma gun. With this model, Zero was fond of a maneuver were he would "pop a wheelie," so to speak, and activate the thrusters on the underbelly, incinerating enemies with his "scythe." The standard issue worked just fine for the red hunter. As it was, it brought back memories of when he first rode one during the Repliforce War …And of Iris.

Zero, stepped on his "bike" as if did this every day, and challenged his partner.
"Hope you haven't gotten rusty."

X could not tell whether Zero was talking to him, or his bike.
"I feel like I know this thing by heart, but I haven't ridden it in decades."

The merciless swordsman less patience for sentimentality, and was already warming up the engine.
"Enough banter. Let's get out of here!" And with that, he zipped away in a silent blur into the sunset, his blonde hair flitting in the wind like a cape. His blue brother in arms followed his example, and zipped away in a noticeably noisier fashion.

Despite the sound of the sound of the wind going past them, their internal headpieces allowed them to communicate with each other, and Alia, perfectly well.
"This is X.
What's the situation at the cryogenic facility?"

"The Wallace Dustin Cryogenic Facility is a veritable time capsule for humans wanting to cryogenically freeze themselves for a set period of time, and then awaken into their future. Some people wanted to be kept for months, others for a century. It was a large booming business. It's the world's largest human temporal storage facility, and now all those helpless humans, security guards, and facility staff are at the mercy of anti-human extremists.

With the transportation system hijacked, our enemies have the ability to send their members to any unobstructed corner of the globe, but the system always had its limitations. We hope to eventually set up interference that will cripple ability to move their forces. Right now, they've converged on the human storage facility in the world, and are threatening to kill the humans in stasis unless we submit to their demands. Those innocent people will never know what happened."

X knew there would probably be a violent confrontation from this, but for once, he would like to put "successful negotiation" somewhere on his report.
"What are their demands?"

"They want us to permanently halt assembly of the Next Generation Reploids."

"That's insane!"

Zero was quick to respond to that demand…

"Obviously, their demand is not a realistic one. What's worse is that they refused to give an exact time for when they'll begin to kill the hostages. Our ability to scan the area is very limited., but you should use your eyes to scan for heat signatures of a certain temperature, and listen for heartbeats. You and Zero have to be extremely cautious about harming the humans with stray blasts and the like. This could be extremely bad for the hunters if any humans are killed as a direct result of our actions."

Riding alongside each other at a tremendous speed, the red and blue hunter's looked at each other, as if the other needed special urging to be careful.

X to Zero, because of his well known zeal for combat itself, that he not get carried away with the battle so much to endanger a human.
Zero to X, because of his preference not for long-range attacks and tendency to avoid his opponents long enough to analyze the enemy's strategy and style. His lengthy shooting and dodging might became hazardous to the humans inside.
Zero scoffed at the look X gave him, but the blue hunter was more understanding of his old mentor's doubts. They've consider each other on equal footing now for several years now, but Zero's old habits die hard.
"Don't worry about me. I prefer the deserving party is at the receiving end of sword. I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. "

There was a face value to Zero's words, but his phrasing suggested a hidden meaning.
"What would stop that from happening?"

The two hunters might occasionally glance at each other while on their fast-moving vehicles, but oddly, Zero kept his eyes turned toward the road ahead of him as he said these words:
"When the hunter becomes the hunted. When I get branded a Maverick, and I'll have to fight you again."

X and Zero have fought before. Not in a sparring match, not a simulation, but for real. During the Eurasia colony incident, Zero refused to submit to questioning regarding his break from protocol. He went by himself to investigate the "Zero Virus" phenomenon in hopes of discovering the truth of his origin, despite the real threat that he was particularly vulnerable to corruption upon exposure. Corruption combined with increased power levels, that is. We now know that was Sigma's plan all along… and he would've succeeded too if it wasn't for X's intervention.

"I occasionally nightmares about that, but normally have the one where I'm being put on trial for existing. It happened last night too before Axl's ruckus began… Do you ever dream, Zero?"

As long as Zero has been cognizant, he's suffered from nightmares every single night of his life always ending with either X killing him, or blood on his own hands. Sometimes both. He sleeps less often for than other hunters for this reason. Everyone else chalks it up to dedication to the cause. "Mavericks Never Sleep," they say.
"No. Nothing but darkness..."