SUPER ROBOT WARS G

Welcome back! It was about time I remembered to work on this, wasn't it? I know, I know... other stories kinda took precedence, and I didn't have much time to work on this, but it's okay now! I'm sure I can churn out another chapter other than this one before the end of the year!

So, where were we, exactly? Yeah, right... after a few tense moments with the LOGOS higher-ups in Dannar Base (mosty Lord Djibril trying to bully the Dannar Base crew into joining him), another important player seems to have entered the scene: Dancougar Nova, a mysterious Super Robot that just saved a resistance group from being wiped out by Phantom Pain, LOGOS' elite military force. We have caught a glimpse of Sven Cal Banyan and his comrades (I'm not gonna say friends, considering the guy is one of the most scarily apathetic human beings in the Cosmic Era) as well as their machines. And while they didn't manage to put up much of a fight against Dancougar Nova, you can be sure that they will be better prepared next time!

However, now that Dancougar Nova has entered the scene, things seem to have become a little more complicated. Considering nobody as of now really knows who is piloting that robot or what its objective is, I'd say this is cause for worry! At the moment, the higher-ups of Dannar Base, the Gran Knights and the Gutsy Geoid Guard - yes, you heard me, the heroes from GaoGaiGar! - are discussing the matter at the moment, and you can be sure that things will get much more heated later on. Especially when you consider that a new player will soon enter the battlefield...

Okay, here we are! Are you ready to enter the world of Super Robot Wars oonce again... and maybe discover what Mist, our not-so-beloved protagonist, is up to? The long wait is over, so get ready to rumble!

oooooooooo

Chapter 6 - Dancougar Nova

The news seemed to be quite shocking to all of the Dannar Base crew, and to the Gran Knights as well... the only exceptions, of course, were Eiji, Luna and Mist, who had no idea what Kotaro Taiga had just spoken of. To them, the words Dancougar Nova were little more than cool-sounding gibberish. Of course, judging from the others' reactions to this name, it must have been quite a serious matter...

"Dancougar Nova, huh?" Miyuki mused, her expression turning sour for a split second. "Well, now this is interesting... I never thought it would be under these circumstances."

"It appears that Dancougar Nova intervened to stop Phantom Pain, LOGOS' elite military force, from wiping out a resistance cell in Eurasia." Taiga explained, his eyes narrowing like a stalking lion's at the mention of the shadowy organization. "Three Gundam-like units were also part of that squadron, but none of them really managed to be a match for Dancougar Nova."

"Indeed..." Kiriko mused, rubbing her slender chin as she nodded. "I can see that this unknown robot is quite a formidable opponent, and we would be in quite some trouble if it actually turned out to be an enemy. Still, we can be glad it's doing the job of taking out Phantom Pain for us, at least for now."

"However, that still leaves the question of the motives of whoever is behind it." Sandman said. "As of now, we know that Dancougar Nova randomly appears in areas of the world where warfare is more violent, and always intervenes to fight along the losing side, only to retreat once balance of power has been restored. It is not inconceivable that Dancougar Nova might return to fight against those it helped in the past, should it appear that they're getting the upper hand."

"What?" Mist asked himself. "I really can't for the life of me understand why it would do that..."

Kotaro nodded gravely. "Dancougar Nova seems to know no good nor evil. It is a wild card that could potentially affect the crisis in a very significant way, so it will be important to keep an eye out for it."

"Of course. The sooner we understand its modus operandi, the better." Kagemaru said with a frown. "We will keep investigating on its whereabouts, but we might need some help with that, especially in the light of the current Mimetic Beast crisis."

"Of course." was Kotaro's answer. "I will inform the Gutsy Geoid Guard personnel of the current situation as soon as possible, and I am sure we will be able to work out a rendez-vous soon enough. Hopefully, a cooperation between us will lead to a faster resolution."

"This is our hope as well, Commander Taiga." Sandman answered. "We are grateful for your cooperation, as we trust we will be able to work out our next move soon enough. For now, we wish you good luck."

"Likewise!" Taiga answered, grinning cockily as the communication faded, leaving the large screen blank once again. Kagemaru cleared his throat, before giving the crew the new orders.

"Very well, everyone. For now, we'll remain on standby, and get ready to intervene should a Mimetic Beast or any other danger show up again." he said. "Later on, we will meet up with the Gutsy Geoid Guard crew and work out a plan to deal with Dancougar Nova and the encroaching dangers. Are there any questions?"

Luna raised her hand. "Commander Kagemaru, could I ask about the Gutsy Geoid Guard? I've heard about them from my father and Mr. Sandman on occasion, but I don't know much about them..." she asked, with Mist nodding in agreement.

"The same goes for me." the red-haired boy continued. "Who are these guys, and what's their business?"

Kagemaru nodded again, a small smile playing on his hardened face. "Glad you asked. I guess you could say they're a secret organization created by the ORB government to fight alien threats, following an accident that happened more than eight years ago. At that time, an unknown object fell on Earth, causing widespread panic and destruction. While we had no idea who it was at the time, it was actually an alien, sentent creature calling itself EI-01, sent to invade Earth and bringing four other Zonderians like itself to aid it in accomplishing this task. After its initial drop, EI-01 aka Pasder travelled underground towards ORB, absorbing many types of machinery in the process while evading detection and finally settling right below Tokyo Tower. It then waited, biding its time for the moment where it could rise and realize the Zonerians' plans to turn Earth into a single, planet-sized machine. However, the Gutsy Geoid Guard was founded to combat this threat... and thanks to their mighty robots and especially their ace unit GaoGaiGar, they eventually managed to defeat Pasder and his Four Machine Kings, averting a terrible danger... but I guess telling you the whole story would be needlessly time-consuming. You just needto know that they've been staunch allies of ours ever since, and I'm sure many of you will be glad to know them."

"Sweet! I sure am pumped up for this!" Eiji said, clenching his fist and smiling in anticipation. However, not that far away from him, the blonde and buxom Miyuki Tachibana seemed to be deep in thought, and in fact, she had been that way ever since the words Dancougar Nova had been heard. It must have carried some significance to her, though Miyuki was a good enough actress not to let anything slip through. She just nodded to herself, thinking about the strange irony of her situation.

"So, Dancougar Nova... soon we might be crossing paths, it seems..." she thought to herself. "Very good... how it plays out, though... is for show!"

oooooooooo

Some time later, inside Dannar Base's simulation room...

"Alright! I cleared it!" Anna shouted enthusiastically, her left fist pumped in the air as the words 'RANK-A CLEAR' appeared on her simulator screen. The young bride-to-be had proven herself to be quite a natural at handling a combat robot, and her mother could frankly not remember anyone getting so good in such little time. Except for Milla...

Again, a growing suspicion rose unbidden to the back of her mind, but the red-headed scientist quickly shoved it back. This was not the time to think about it. Sure, there wasn't much room for doubt, but what if she had been wrong? Bringing it up right now would have had no other effect than needlessly upsetting both Goh and Anna, so she decided to keep quiet about it...

"A nice job indeed, Anna!" Kimiko praised her daughter, who emerged from her simulator's cockpit and gave a victory sign with her fingers, a beaming smile on her cute face. "I think you're ready to try with the highest difficulty level."

Anna's eyes widened a little. "Huh? Wasn't the one I just cleared Rank A? You mean, there's one right above even that?"

"There is, Anna..." Goh answered, standing near the computer and scratching the back of his head in embarassment. Being in charge of following his beloved's training was somewhat awkward to him... "In fact, our computer has been programmed for an S-Rank test, and if you're ready for that... well, we can run the simulation right now."

The spunky redhead nodded and went back in to the simulator's cockpit. "Gotcha, Goh-chin! Crank the difficuly level all the way to the top! I'm sure I can take it!" she said, before closing the hatch behind her. Goh cleared his throat and punched a few commands into the console, bringing the difficulty level for the simulator to the maximum before giving the start signal. The simulator immediately began flashing to life, and Anna frantically moved her controls in order to follow the targets and hit them at the right moment...

"Well, she's really enthusiastic about it, don't you think so?" Kimiko said, calmly walking to Goh, who just kept staring in the distance. "She's definitely giving it all of her own. I think she'll make for an excellent pilot in very little time."

The large man adjusted his glasses, trying to look nonchalant. "Er... well, Dr. Aoi, I have to admit, she's making some solid progresses." he commented. "Though, I still have to wonder whether she'll be ready for the upcoming battles. I mean, things are going to get tough..."

The red-haired woman chuckled. "My, my... I never though the day would come when you'd doubt Anna's spunk." she said. "I mean, you were the one who was eventually won over by her persistance. Or do we have to once again talk about the time where you literally groveled at my feet in order to convince me to let you marry her?"

Goh grit his teeth, and his face took on an interesting purple hue! "Ugh... Dr. Aoi, didn't we say we would not bring that accident up anymore?"

"Hehehee... I was just kidding!" she answered, before casting a glance at the console's screens. Sure, Anna was doing rather well for now, but... "Hm. She's doing fine for an S-rank simulation, but I'm afraid she still hasn't gotten the technique. If it goes like this..."

The run didn't last much longer. A few seconds later, the sound of a loud crash was heard from the simulator, which meant that Anna hadn't managed to keep up with the increased speed of the targets. The program halted and the machine powered down, allowing a rather befuddled Anna to climb down.

"That... didn't go too well, I gather..." Goh commented.

"It didn't. At all..." Anna murmured, clearly disappointed by what, in her opinion, was a pretty lackluster performance. "But I don't understand what just happened... I kept my eyes on the target the whole time, and I never let it go..."

"Actually, I think that would be the problem, Anna..." Kiriko answered, having gotten an idea of what her daughter's problem with that simulation was by simply viewing it onscreen. "As you said, you kept your eyes on the target the whole time. Now, this is normally the sensible thing to do, as it allows you to lock on the target and shoot it with optimal accuracy. However, in the S-Rank simulation, it's just not good enough. The targets move with such speed that your eyes simply cannot keep up with them, so that you cannot rely on your sight to reliably clear this difficulty level. What you need to do, instead, is try to use your gut feeling and your experience with the previous difficulty levels to try and predict where the opponent is going to move. In other words, forget your perceptions, and just go with the flow. I wish there was a more... scientific, let's say... way to deal with this difficulty level, but this is the most reliable tip I can give you."

"I went through the S-Rank simulation lots of times... and the first few times, I did the same thing you just did now. Got knocked out in five seconds flat." Goh answered. "However, to gain full clearance to be a Dannar Base pilot, you have to at least gain a good enough score in this test. I know it's a rather tall order, but the situation we're in calls for these extreme measures."

Kiriko knew all too well that the need for qualified pilots was just one of the reasons Goh was so adamant on having his wife-to-be get through this training; the other one was easier still to guess for someone who knew of Goh's past and the previous tragedy he had to deal with. Since having Anna stay on the sidelines was not an option at this point, he at least wanted her to be as well-trained as possible, in order for her to have an higher chance of surviving the war. Anna herself understood that, and her disappointment over her low score quickly turned into determination to do better.

"Alright, Goh-chin!" she exclaimed. "Just watch me! I'll clear the S-Rank test before you can imagine it!". With that, she disappeared inside the simulator once again, and Goh rolled his eyes slightly as he turned back to the console in order to run the program once again...

oooooooooo

One shot. Another. And another. The targets fell in short order before they could even get close to the Levrias, and Mist nodded to himself as he saw the simulated enemies disappear into nothingness... but one of them had managed to slip thorugh the shots, getting dangerously close! Gritting his teeth, Mist pulled back and barely managed to block the hit by raising his sword-gun, before countering with a vicious overhead slash that turned the enemy into smithreens...

And the simulation prompty shut down, leaving the red-haired young man in the cockpit of his simulator, breathing a sigh of relief. That was a little too close for confort...

"That's still not good enough..." Mist said to himself, looking at his hand covered in a fingerless leather glove. "I still haven't regained my piloting skill, and I'm afraid I won't be able to last long, if they reappeared here... which I'm afraid will be the case. I hate all this fighting and killing, but this time, much as I hate to admit it, it might be a necessity to do so. The lives of billions of people are riding on this..."

Still, as of now he was too exhausted to continue his training, and it was late in the evening anyway... so, he turned his simulator off and unfastened his seat belt, sighing in relief as he stepped down from the simulator's cockpit. The other simulators in the room, perfect replicas of the Gran Divas piloted by Sandman's Gran Knights, continued functioning for some time before they too shut down one by one, allowing their tired but satisfied pilots to get out.

"Ooooh, man, I'm busted!" Luna said, stretching the kinks out of her. "First thing I'm doing as soon as we get back home, is getting a nice hot shower, and then heading straight to bed! This has been such a tiring day..."

"Y'know, for once, I actually have to agree with miss Luna here!" Eiji said snarkily. "Man, to think we came here to be the guests of honor to a wedding... and instead, we get to fight some monstrosity that came from God-knows-where, and crashes the wedding! And we even got that Blue Cosmos jackass to try and boss us around... Hey, Mist, man, how are you doin'?"

"Could be better..." Mist answered, chuckling a little in order to relieve the tension of the day. "It's been quite a long time since I quit being a professional pilot, and I'm afraid I have a few things to relearn. Let's just say I'm out of practice, and I hope I can get it back soon."

"I would not worry about that too much." Leele gently said. "After all, Mr. Mist, you have been a great help when fighting those Mimetic Beasts."

"I would agree with Leele." Touga answered, smiling that carefree smile of his as he approached Mist. "Your Levrias is quite a fine machine, and it was a great help. We would be glad to fight alongside you again."

Mist smiled sadly as he rubbed his right temple. Those kids didn't realize it yet, but what was going on was going on was way bigger than ay of them could imagine... bigger than the Mimetic Beasts, the Zeravire, Blue Cosmos or even the Bloody Valentine War that had ended only a couple years before. They would not be ready to fight that... only he could avert that threat, and save the planet he was beginning to consider his new home, in spite of all its faults...

"By the way, where's the bride-to-be now?" Mizuki asked out of curiosity. "Is she still doing her training regime?"

"I believe so, Mizuki..." Eina said, adjusting her glasses. "After all, she is the newest member of the Dannar Base crew, and if she is to be up to speed for the battles against the Mimetic Beasts, she will need to undergo an intense training program. They just don't have the time to do it the slow, gradual way."

"I see..." Luna answered, feeling a little sorry for Anna. She did have to undergo training in order to pilot her Gran Diva, but at least she did have some time to start acclimating to her piloting duty... "Well, what about it? Shall we go pay her a visit, just to make her see we're right behind her?"

"Not a bad idea." Mizuki answered. As soon as all the Gravion pilots and Mist had picked up all their belongings and left the simulation room, heading to the gym... where Anna was at the moment undergoing what, under normal circumstances, would have been your run-of-the-mill swimming lesson. Considering it was part of Anna's intense training program, it was anything but ordinary: it consisted of Anna having to swim upstream against an ever-increasing artificially-induced current. It was impressive to even see her struggling against the rushing waters... and it was even more impressive to see how valliantly she kept at it, even though exhaustion was setting in. Goh, Kiriko, Kouji and Shizuru were watching from a nearby bulletproof glass, obviously anxious to see how she would have held up.

"Hey, if it isn't the Gran Knights and Mist!" Kouji greeted the team as they approached the training room. "Well, how did the simulation go? Did you get good scores?"

"We can say we're satisfied for now." Touga said, nodding seriously at the hot-blooded Dannar Base pilot. "What about miss Aoi? She's really giving it all she's got, we can see..."

"Well, Anna has always been the persistent kind..." Shizuru commented with a slight smile. She had to admit, her stubborn will to prevail was not the only thing she envied about Anna... "And you should have seen her during the ombat simulation. I've never seemn anyone breeze so easily through the various levels of difficulty! She only had to stop once she reached the S-Rank tests. And she's been scoring consistently high scores in all the checks she went through today."

"Heh, the little girl means business!" Eiji commented. "Goh, man, you sure are lucky finding a girl like her!"

Trying to cough some embarassment away, the large bespectacled man called for attention to what seemed to be the last part of that particular training session. "Ah-ehm... anyway, before everything is said ad done, we need to see how she fares in this final part of the test!" he said, pointing at the swimming pool where Anna, her body dotted with several plaques that detected her vital signs and clad in a form-fitting one-piece black swimsuit, was visibly struggling to keep up with the current. Her arms and legs began moving even more frantically, as she swam faster and faster against the current that had reached its maximum pressure. That was the most important moment of the test indeed... this was where Anna's endurance and willpower were put to the test the most!

"C'mon... I can... do... this..." Anna gasped between breaths that were getting harder to take. "I... can't... let... up... not... now..."

Time seemed to slow to a crawl, and the last minute of the test looked more like an hour to both the Dannar Base pilots and Anna herself... but finally, just as the red-haired girl was using up the last of her strength just to keep herself afloat, the stream slowed down gradually, until finally it stopped and let Anna relax in the now-calm waters. Anna wheezed and walked over the edge of the pool, where she collapsed breathlessly, causing Goh and Kiriko to gasp in alarm.

"Hey, look at her!" Mist exclaimed. "I don't think she's feeling well right now..."

Anna's mother and husband-to-be quickly rushed inside the training room to support the redhead... who simply looked up as if nothing had happened and gave both a thumbs-up and a beaming smile!

"You saw that? Piece o' cake!" Anna commented. "Told ya I could manage that!"

Kiriko blinked twice in puzzlement... then put an hand in front of her mouth and chuckled in amusement. Goh, on the other hand, was not quite so amused by Anna's joke, and after a short moment of surprise, he smacked his hand on his forehead and shook his head no!

"Ugh... I wish you were more serious about this, Anna!"

oooooooooo

The loud beeping of an alarm clock resonated in the darkened apartment, followed by a slender feminine hand clutching it from above and silencing it. Soon after, a sleepy moan was heard from below the blankets, and a figure moved and stood up from the bed, rubbing her still-sleepy eyes.

The day seemed to have started quite early for 23-year-old Aoi Hidaka, a young woman of striking presence whose life had taken a turn for the strange only a few days ago. Well, not that her life had been what one would call ordinary even back before... but it was only a few days ago that things actually got weird.

It had been rather normal at first - she, a professional Formula One racer, had taken part in a big competition, where she had managed to score first place, and gain herself a sizeable price and the cheers of all her numerous fans. However, as she went back to her room and relaxed a little before the inevitable interviews, pleasantries and whatnot, a strange feeling had come over her... and before she could understand what was going on, she had blacked out, only awakening a few hours later on a soft bed, inside an unfamiliar room. And she was not alone, either... as it turned out, three more people had had the exact same thing happen to them.

In the end, the truth was far weirder than Aoi herself could imagine: she, along with those other three, had been "chosen" by a mysterious secret organization to be the pilots of a powerful combining robot called Dancougar Nova, whose duty was to keep the balance of power between warring factions, in order to make sure nobody got too powerful. And they had been offered quite a lot of money for such a dangerous job... with the caveat that, should they have refused, the Dragon's Hive would have had to erase their memories of the whole incident - secrecy and all, they had said as an excuse.

Aoi sighed and wrapped the covers of her bed around herself, before a small device on top of her drawer began beeping loudly. Frowning a little, the young woman picked it up and activated it, and the holografic image of a blonde young girl of about fifteen, dressed in a dark yellow uniform, her hair kept combed by a small circlet, appeared in front of her and bowed in greeting. "Good morning, Ms. Hidaka! I apologize for the early call, but we needed to make sure you were okay, after yesterday's sortie!" she said, in an all-too-cheerful tone.

"Oh, it's you..." Aoi murmured. She and the other three "kidnapped" people had met that strange girl right after awakening, and she had introduced herself as their consultant and their guide to the Dragon's Hive. Not to mention, she was the one who had introduced them to the one who seemed to be the top hog in all that mess. "Well, nice to see you... it was Ruri-Ruri, or something?"

"It is Ruu Riruri, actually." the blonde girl corrected. While she never lost her affable demeanor, Aoi had already noticed that the mispronunciation of her name seemed to be a pet peeve of that kid. "Anyway, I hope I am not intruding at a private moment."

"Shouldn't you have thought of that before you made the call? Oh well... no matter." Aoi answered, running a delicate hand through her hair. Aoi was truly a striking young woman, tall and physically fit, with long red hair that was a little messy on the forehead and on top of her head, but flowed smoothly doen her back, almost reaching her hips. Her eyes were red as well, but despite this, there was never anything threatening about them. They just seemed natural on her, and indeed they gave her an air of warmth and generosity. At the moment, she was throwing on a pale green robe, the bare minimum not to be exposed. "Next time, remember that I don't like being seen when I have just woken up. Especially by men."

"Okay, I'll remember that." Ruu Riruri answered with a nod, never losing that smile of hers, her purple eyes almost shining with curiosity. "Anyway, before I lose track of what I was going to say... Mr. Tanaka would like to confer with you four about yesterday's battle, and discuss about our next moves. Can you join us in about, say, an hour?"

"Now, hold on a second, kiddo. I still haven't decided whether I want to join your little association or not." Aoi answered as she slowly paced towards her apartment's kitchen in order to grab some breakfast. "And for the record, I am not a fan of the idea of you erasing my memories of Dancougar Nova should I turn down your generous offer."

Ruu averted her glance, clearly embarassed by the subject. "Well, I don't really care for that myself... but you must understand, it is vital for us of the Dragon's Hive to keep our existance a secret to the world." she said.

Aoi sighed. She had the feeling she had been roped into something she couldn't escape from very easily... yet, if she had to be completely honest to herself, she didn't really dislike the idea of becoming a pilot for that powerful machine. Back then, when she and her three companions were fighting the Phantom Pain forces, being able to command Dancougar Nova's weapons had been quite the experience. It had given her a shiver of pleasure to be in that battle zone... she had never felt more alive than that time, when she was risking life and limb. And besides which... while the other three pilots were perfect strangers to her, she was curious to know a little more about them. Who knew, that may even have turned out to be cool. "Anyway, tell your boss I will be ready to come soon. The usual means of transportations, right?" she said, referring to the peculiar way she and the other three designated pilots had been transported to the Dragon's Hive. A strange, hyper-technological vehicle had simply teleported them to the secret organization's HQ...

Ruu nodded. "Yep! Therefore, try to be ready for that time! See you soon, Ms. Hidaka!" she cheerfully waved her hand, before she disappeared from Aoi's visual. The Formula One racer sighed again before placing the transmitter back in its place. Nothing to do now, but get ready and make that trip to Dragon's Hive.

"Alright, then... let's get this one over with." she told herself. "I'll speak with the others, and see what they think about it."

oooooooooo

One hour later...

Aoi had to admit, the feeling of having been teleported inside an high-tech base was quite strange, but nothing unpleasant nonetheless. As her eyes could focus again, the young woman stepped out of the teleporter to see that the other three Dancougar Nova pilots were already standing in the large room, only waiting for her to come.

"Bang on time, Ms. Hidaka." a young man about Aoi's age, with short blond hair and looking-glasses, dressed smartly as a salaryman, with a blue-violet suit on a white shirt, a red necktie and black shoes, said after casting a glance to his wristwatch. That was the only non-Japanese member of the quartet of pilots, Johnny Burnett, a salaryman from the Atlantic Federation that seemed to be the most knowledgeable about the world in general... if only because he spent most of his free time reading strange magazines that Aoi never even thought existed! That said, he seemed a rather personable guy, though Aoi had a hunch he was also a bit of a money-grabber. "We were only waiting for you to go report to Mr. Tanaka."

"I'm sure of it." Aoi answered, straightening her long, fiery red hair as she stepped outside, dressed in a yellow shirt with a jeans jacket, long ochra trousers and white trainers. She had opted for a more comfortable look for the day. "Alright then... if everyone is present, let's hear what the boss has in store for us."

Standing near Johnny were the other two members of the Dancougar Nova team: standing the closest to Johnny was Sakuya Kamon, a brown-haired man of about twenty-eight with a rather unkempt appearence, who acted and looked like a slacker: somewhat short for his age, he had brown hair combed in a series of "spikes", making him look younger than he really was, and other than that, Aoi only knew that he was an unemployed, homeless man who spent most of his time lunging around in the poorer parts of his city.

And finally, a little farther away, was the youngest member of the team at only 15 years of age - Kurara Tachibana, a petite blue-haired girl with deep brown eyes who looked rather intense for someone her age. In fact, Aoi supposed the reason for that was because, despite her tender age, she was already a very well-known policewoman working for Interpol, and she had already taken down her fair share of criminals, mob bosses, drug traffickers... and, above all, she had cleaned up her own division from corruption, when nobody would even give her the time of the day. She was dressed in a black sleeveless shirt with a pink collar, with a white skirt, thigh-high stockings and white ankle boots, and her gun was safely placed in a holster at her side.

After checking on everyone, the team began walking to the Dragon's Hive main room, only stopping when the door in front of them slid open, revealing a smiling Ruu Riruri joined by her strange robotic pet, a rabbit-like robot that seemed to follow her around wherever she went... and another person Aoi and her companion hadn't seen last time they had been there. A beautiful woman with tanned skin and blond hair tied in a ponytail, dressed in a rather revealing mechanic's outfit, stained with grease here and there. Aoi guessed that must have been the chief mechanic - after all, the Dragon's Hive workers did need to repair things from time to time.

"My, my, what interesting people we have here!" the newcomer said, eyeing the four pilots with curiosity in her bright blue eyes. "So... you're the ones who have been chosen to pilot my baby Dancougar Nova, huh? Best of luck to you all... and remember to treat Dancougar with care, or you're never gonna hear the end of it!" she exclaimed cheerfully, earning herself a few weirded-out glances. "Oh, but where are my manners? My name is Seimi, and I'm the chief mechanic around here! If you need something repaired, just call on me!"

"Er... thanks, I guess..." Sakuya murmured, as the two women began giuding the quartet towards the main room, going through a series of conveyor belts that passed near several windows. Taking advantage of that to cast a good glance at the surroundings, the four Dancougar Nova pilots could see that the Dragon's Hive had been built on a beautiful tropical island that seemed to have popped up right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - they were ready to bet that it wasn't even charted, which in fact was in line with the island's role as the HQ of a secret organization. A bright blue sky, with only a few scant cloud floating aaround, completed the soothing vista, along with the green palm trees and the golden beach.

"Do yuo like this place?" Ruu asked cheerfully. "As the consultant for all potential Dancougar pilots, it is my duty to also choose a place that allows for maximum relaxation and stress relief, and a tropical island was really the only logical choice for that!"

"You certainly think of everything, don't you?" Kurara said in a rather standoffish manner. It took more than a few little tricks to distract Kurara Tachibana... "But I should remind you that, when everything is said and done, you are still guilty of kidnapping, which is a serious crime. You should know that you will have to answer for that."

"We are well aware of that, miss Tachibana." Ruu answered with a nod, completely unfazed. "And we are obviously prepared to defend ourselves in that regard, or else you would not even be here in the first place. But that is not the reason why I brought you here today, so no need to worry about that just now! Please, make yourselves at home, ladies and gentlemen!"

"You sure have a weird way of making one feel at home... especially for someone like me who doesn't even have a home in the first place." Sakuya commented as the automatic door to the Dragon's Hive main room slid open with a low buzzing sound, and both Ruu and Seimi motioned for the four pilots to enter.

"Your lucky day, kids! The boss is in a particularly good mood today!" Seimi said, winking at the team. "I'm sure he's gonna give you some breaking news!"

The four, unimpressed by Seimi's optimism, orderly got in front of the chief's desk and stood at attention, just as the chair behind the desk turned in their direction and revealed the man sitting upon it: suave-looking, with a short stubble on his chin and small dark-tinted glasses perched upon his nose, he had short, dark green hair and wore what looked like a miliary uniform, except for the fact that it didn't belong to any military the four of them knew: it was dark blue, with some green and red highlights, long trousers and black shoes, which gave him a rather relaxed and jolly demeanor... completely at odds with his supposed role as the chief of a military organization. He was someone Aoi and the other Dancougar Nova pilots had already seen, right before having to head out to fight Phantom Pain the other day: Chief Tanaka, the commander-in-chief of Dragon's Hive and de facto owner of the Ryuuga Island, the uncharted place where the HQ were situated.

"Oh, welcome back, my friends!" Tanaka greeted the still-unconvinced quartet of pilots. "So, it seems none of you have decided to bail out just yet, which makes me very happy. If I am not being too nosy, may I know what reason brought you to decide in favor of our offer?"

"Well, for what concerns me, I had nothing better to do." Sakuya answered, his hands behind his head in a devil-may-care gesture. "In fact, it's not like I ever had much to do ever since I became homeless."

"My reason is a little more... personal, if you can call it that." was Aoi's explanation. "If I refused, then you would have to erase for my mind every single memory of Dancougar Nova. And I don't exactly take too kindly to people tampering with my memories. They are all very important to me, each one of them."

Kurara nodded. "Well, I can respect that. As for me... well, I decided to join you because I think this Dancougar Nova thing is even more mysterious than the Mafia I fight against every day. It'll be a more stimulating challenge." she said, before adding to herself. "And besides which, any job that gives me a chance to throw some mud in Blue Cosmos' plans in a good job in my book."

"I understand." Tanaka answered with a nod. "Well then, Mr. Burnett? You seem to be the only one who hasn't expresses his opinion yet. What do you say about that? Have you decided?"

"Well, it's not like I have taken a definitive decision." the blond salaryman answered, adjusting his glasses. "Everything has a trial period, am I correct? Still, I have to admit that I like that feeling of power that piloting Dancougar Nova gave to me, and the pay is very good too. So, I am definitely leaning towards accepting your deal."

Tanaka smiled radiantly as he clasped his hands in front of himself. "That's stellar news, everyone! I am sure we will be able to do a good job of it! Now, before we go any further, are there any questions you would like to ask of me? Yes, Hidaka, what is it?" he said, right before Aoi raised her hand.

The redhead cleared her throat. "Ah-ehm... actually, there are quite a few questions I'd like to ask... for example, what's with the big idea of interfering with conflicts in various parts of the world, so that there can never be a clear winner? And, more to the point... who exactly is running the whole thing? I don't think you would possess all the money and the resources you need to run such a huge organization, so... what's the truth?"

Tanaka nodded, keeping remarkably calm in front of the young Formula One champion's relentless questioning. "Hmm... as sharp as you're skilled, I see. Just what I would expect of Aoi Hidaka, after all!" he stated, causing Aoi to frown in annoyance. There was something about the way he had said so, that made the girl think he knew a lot more about her than he let through. "Er... anyway, this is a good question, in fact. Let me just say that there are some factions, in the Atlantic Federation, that disagree with how the higher-ups are running things, and some of them have been founding the Dancougar Nova project ever since it was first conceived. As of recent times, we have received huge foundings from the Allster family, who up until two years ago had been a staunch supporter of the Atlantic Federation."

Johnny nodded in satisfaction. Despite being a citizen of the Earth Alliance, he never had anything against Coordinators, and saw them as people instead of the monsters propaganda was hell-bent on depicting them as. To know that there were people other than him in the Atlantic Federation who agreed with his opinion was rather relieving.

"Furthermore..." Tanaka went on. "None of this would have been possible without the help of two people I am proud to call friends. Ladies and gentlemen... let me introduce you to the real minds behind the creation of the Dragon's Hive and Dancougar Nova!"

With a somewhat over-the-top gesture, Tanaka stepped sideways and pointed to the huge screen right behind him, which was already showing adarkened room... and a mysterious person sitting in the shadows, a shady-looking man of indeterminate age - though he still looked quite young - with pale skin and wearing a white shirt, with whom his long, curly dark hair created a sharp contrast. He was sitting at a wooden desk, and his air of mysyery was only enhanced by the fact that little more could be seen of him.

"That will do, Tanaka. Thank you for your help." the mysterious man said in a calm voice before addressing the quartet. "I am, indeed, one of the founders of the Dancougar Nova project. You can call me Fog Sweeper, or FS for short. I am not going to bore you with details, all you really need to know is that I am responsible for getting several important personalities all around the world to lend their contribution to this project which might shape the very future of the Earth."

"Fog Sweeper, huh?" Kurara said, her brown eyes narrowed at the enigmatic person. "How do we know we can trust you? You are not exactly being very forthcoming, in this whole deal."

"Your suspicions are understandable, miss Tachibana." Fog Sweeper answered, never losing a bit of his stoic countenance. "However, things will be revealed to you in due time and, since you have pretty much already accepted the deal you have been offered, we kindly ask you to be patient. Answers will come on their own accord."

Kurara nodded, understanding that, shadowy as he may have been, FS did have a point.

"That is good." FS continued. "However, I am at liberty of introducing you to the one who came up with the Dancougar Nova project in the first place. The Artificial Intelligence we have dubbed WILL."

FS turned his chair sideways just a little... and, right in front of his desk, the holographic projection of an alien, eerie-looking creature began taking shape: it was nothing more than an innaturally perfect disembodied head, with metallic white skin etched with strange vein-like circuits, and expressionless black eyes with white pupils, that seemed to stare into the distance before of it. It seemed to be wearing a large hat that gave its head a shape not unlike an inverted cone. Its expression was completely emotionless, its mouth set in a firm, robotic frown, and the strange resemblance to a human face only served to give the strange creature an "uncanny valley" feel to it. Despite not having been very impressed one way or another beforehand, Aoi found herself widening her eyes and gaping at the newcomer.

"I am WILL. I am an Artificial Intelligence, and the Dragon's Hive main computer." it spoke, in a metallic droning. "I will answer to all your questions regarding Dancougar Nova."

"Well, will you look at that..." Sakuya said in wonder. "This is getting more and more like one of those sci-fi movies, isn't it?"

Johnny sighed. "Well, that's not exactly how I would put it... but I see your point. So, WILL... exactly, why have we been chosen to pilot Dancougar Nova?"

"First off, it should be noted that Dancougar Nova is a countermeasure against terrorism, war or conflict." WILL spoke. "Its main purpouse is to cause both warring factions to reach a stalemate and exhaust themselves, so that there cannot be a winner, and neither faction can get too much of an advantage. As you probably already have been told, Dancougar Nova fights for the faction that is at a disadvantage, in order to re-estabilish the balance of power. Good and evil do not enter the equation. Dancougar Nova simply fights for the losing faction."

The four pilots were somewhat confused by this whole explanation... and Johnny most of all. "Well, this is a strange breed of logic, if I ever heard it..." the blond salaryman answered. "In other words, our duty is to make sure no conflict ever gets resolved unless said resolution involves both parties getting exhausted?"

"Sounds very much like an article I read once." Sakuya said with barely-concealed pride. "By Isabelle Cronkite, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Hey, don't look at me like that, Johnny, even the homeless read papers! They're so easy to come by, it's not even funny!"

"There is an important caveat to this." WILL went on. "This policy does not apply to the invading aliens and to other forces that are threatening humanity at large, such as the Zeravire or the Mimetic Beasts. Dancougar Nova's objective is also to protect mankind and preserve Earth. Should humanity be wiped out, Dancougar Nova's very existance would cease to have meaning."

"Well... that kinda goes without saying." Aoi said snarkily.

"But that still doesn't answer an important issue." Kurara spoke up. "Which is, why have we been chosen as Dancougar Nova's pilots? Why us, and not someone else?"

"The issue is more important than you might realize, agent Tachibana." Fog Sweeper answered, speaking again. "But this is not the time for all the answers. For now, it should suffice to say that you were not chosen at random. For starters, notice that all of your blood types are different, as well as your personalities. It takes a unity of seemingly different elements to bring out Dancougar Nova's full power."

The teenaged cop was probably about to add something more to her question... when an alarm sound reverberated through the room, causing the four pilots, as well as the other people present with them, to turn in the direction of the sound. Laid-back as usual, Tanaka smiled to himself. "Well, regretfully, the time for talk has past." he commented. "It seems that a new threat has popped up near Tokyo... and we've identified it to be a Zeravire. Goody, and here I thought it was strange that they hadn't shown up in quite some time... well, everyone, let us postpone the rest of our conversation. Please, get ready to get onboard your respective vehicles... and head to the crisis point!"

"And make sure to treat all those machines with care!" Seimi said, winking. "I know I am the best when it comes to fixing machines up, but I still care about my little babies!"

"O... kay..." Aoi murmured uneasily, a huge sweatdrop pouring down the back of her head. "Geez, we just had to have one of those nutcases who thinks machines are children or something for our chief mechanic..."

"The Zeravire's ETA is about one hour." FS stated, after taking a look at his computers. "More than enough time for us to intervene and intercept it. However, do be careful. It is highly likely that the main Zeravire has taken some drones with it, and other robots will definitely come to combat the threat as well. I have no idea what their reaction to us might be."

"Understood, we'll be careful." Johnny answered. "The fact that we might find ourselves facing them as the enemy sometime does not mean we should antagonize them right off the bat..."

oooooooooo

Indeed, Dragon's Hive was not the only place where the threat of the incoming Zeravire had been intercepted. The ever-alert Dannar Base, their mechs repaired and in full function after the battle with the Mimetic Beasts, were already mobilizing and getting ready to intervene... as well the Gran Divas, with Eiji and the rest of the Gran Knights at the controls! At the moment, commander Kagemaru was briefing the pilots in the Dannar Base's main control room, illustrating them what was going on with the latest threat.

"Alright, this is the current situation." the Dannar Base commander stated, illustrating a screen upon which the danger zone was highlighted in blinking red. "An alien life form, identified as a Zeravire. At the moment, it's descending upon Tokyo... luckily, we've already warned the population, and the evacuation of the area is proceeding smoothly. Alll we have to do is step in and take down the Zeravire before it does too much damage."

Touga nodded, his eyes taking on a serious, determined glint. The blue-haired youth was faced with the kind of situation he had been trained since early childhood to face... and, as usually was the case in these situations, his apparent absent-mindedness had dropped completely, leaving the toughened soldier behind. "We understand. We will intervene right away, and stop the Zeravire. Are we expecting more enemies to show up?"

"Not at the moment." Kagemaru answered. "However, do not drop your guard. You of all people should realize how unpredictable and dangerous these creatures can be."

Luna nodded grimly. It was common knowledge that no two Zeravire were alike, and one only had to wonder what kind of new threat the defenders of the Earth were going to face in this occasion. However, up until now, they had always been able to find a weak spot in every Zeravire. It was just a matter of finding this one's, and hopefully it would have been smooth sailing.

Goh, for his part, was a little worried about his partner. "Anna, I would like to remind you to be careful..." he stated. "The Zeravire are very much different from the Mimetic Beasts, and you will have to adopt a wholly different technique to face them. Do you feel up to it?"

"Goh-chin, you've been asking me that lots of time already..." Anna answered. "Of course I am ready! I wouldn't have signed up as the Neo Okusaer's pilot if I wasn't feeling ready."

"Right..." Goh answered with a small sigh. "In any case, stay near me, don't be too reckless, and get ready for the joining as soon as this opponent proves to be too tough for Godannar alone."

Anna nodded, as the briefing ended, and the pilots began heading to their machines. "Alright, no more needs to be added." Kagemaru answered. "Everybody scramble to your respective machines, and get ready for the battle. Best of luck to all of you."

The pilots all saluted, before rushing to the hangars, with Kouji being blatantly enthusiastic about the chance to show off again. "Yeeee-haw! Way to go! This time, I'm gonna show all of you what I'm made of!"

"You'll have to deal wih me first!" Eiji replied with a cocky grin. "When it comes to taking out Zeravires, we're the authorities in the field!"

"Oh, man... the bulls have begun butting heads!" Luna murmured snarkily, hoping the two of them would not start some silly competition for whoever racked more kills right in the middle of the battlefield. Knowing those two, it was more than probable that they would do that...

Mist, for his part, kept quiet and focused on the misssion at hand. As long as they were dealing with a Zeravire, at least, things would have been easier... the real threat was still to come.

oooooooooo

"My lord and master... the new Zeravire has been sent. It and the drone squad should arrive on Earth soon, and meet with the Earth resistance in due time."

"EXCELLENT. THAT WILL BE A GOOD WAY TO TEST THEIR CAPABILITIES AND SEE HOW LONG THEY WILL BE ABLE TO HOLD UP. BUT REMEMBER, WE ARE NOT TO COMPLETELY DESTROY THEM NOW. BEFORE WE PROCEED WITH PURGING HUMANITY, WE NEED TO DRAW OUT THE EDAX AND ANNIHILATE THEM AS WELL."

"I am well aware of that, master... I am sure this Zeravire will be able to put a sizeable dent in the Earthlings' defences without destroying them completely. By the way, master, I have some news that should be of interest to you."

"SPEAK UP THEN, MY FAITHFUL. WHAT IS IT?"

"It appears that a new Earth weapon will soon take to the battlefield and meet with our Zeravire and the drones. We do not have many informations about it, but we have identified it as Dancougar Nova."

For a moment, the mysterious master remained silent, as if the news were surprising to him... then, he cracked what could reasonably be considered a smile, and a series of deep, menacing chuckles left his throat, as if he was amused by this new development. "HUHUHUHUHUUU... HOW INTERESTING INDEED! DANCOUGAR NOVA, IS THAT? IT APPEARS MY COUNTERPART HAS STILL DECIDED TO STRUGGLE AGAINST DESTINY AND WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE UNIVERSE! DOESN'T MATTER... SOON ENOUGH, THE FUTILITY OF IT ALL SHALL BE APPARENT TO HIM. WE WON'T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANYTHING... HUMANITY ITSELF WILL PROVE ME RIGHT."

"We know, master... we know that very well..."

oooooooooo

TO BE CONTINUED...

I was trying to make this chapter a little longer, but I seem to have hit a snag in my intent... which is, I cannot find my Gravion Zwei episodes! Anyway, I am currently working to remedy this, so that you won't have to wait too long for an update! Anyway, what I was aiming for in this chapter has been achieved - I managed to introduce the Dancougar Nova pilots, and they seem to be a bit of a wild card for now. Will they be able to work alongside the Dannar Base and Gran Knights in the long run, or will the two factions come to blows before an agreement can be reached?

By the way, there is a hint in this chapter that someone might still be around... did you manage to see it? ^_^

We will begin answering all these questions next time! For the moment, I hope you have enjoyed this chapter, and I hope it won't take too long for the next one to come out! Peace out, everyone!