With Bian dead and the remaining DC forces scattering, there are no major threats currently harassing the crew, so they get to work on repairing the ship's Tesla Drive while the troops get some much-needed rest. Sure, the DC headquarters has been reduced to a pile of smoldering rubble by now, but at least the Kurogane's dock is still functional enough to allow ship repairs. The Kurogane itself is nowhere to be found, but that hardly matters to them right now. Daitetsu and Tetsuya can hang back as well as they don't have to issue any commands for a while, and so Daitetsu bluntly invites Tetsuya into the captain's quarters for a drink. As Tetsuya points out, it's illegal under EFA regulations to have alcohol on board, and Daitetsu counters with this wonderfully crap argument:
DAITETSU: Nonsense. Alcohol is a natural antiseptic.
Much as Tetsuya continues to protest, Daitetsu insists and eventually they have a drink together. As for this being illegal, they figure no one needs to know and agree to keep quiet about it. I can't decide if this kinda decision-making makes Daitetsu either a very good or very bad captain, but I can at least see it's the kind of thing that he'd do.
Irm is overseeing Rio and Ryoto spending their time battling each other in the simulators, and Ryoto just won a ten-round match. Rio is not satisfied with losing, and calls for a rematch. All efforts by Irm to dissuade Rio from such a lengthy, frustration-induced rematch fall on deaf ears, though admittedly he wasn't trying very hard here. Ryoto wants him to do something, but Irm explicitly says Ryoto is supposed to handle this on his own — Major Ingram's orders. Ingram is giving some increasingly bizarre orders, I'll say that much.
Rai is informed that the UCC's flagship was practically destroyed and burned up when in re-entered the atmosphere. This means his father is most definitely dead, which leads to him having a rare moment of introspection about the relationship with his father. Turns out he was a pretty domineering man who pushed his opinions on his children, not caring whether they agreed or not. This resulted in a conflict over the death of his brother's wife, which is why he left the family, as his internal monologue explains. Then again, a lot of this came up in his earlier meetings with Elzam.
As he's wandering about the hangar, Aya has taken note of his ponderous look and instantly guesses that Rai is thinking about his father. Well, there's little else that would be on his mind at this time, but still a very nice guess. She says he's welcome to talk about it if he wants to, but he shrugs it off as usual. Masaki's also in the hangar, as he gets ready to leave the ship; his mission was to hunt down Shu, who has escaped once again, and so they once again have to go their separate ways. Dammit, and he was one of my best pilots too. Hope the rest of the troops can pick up the slack. Despite working with the EFA on all these missions, he never was an enlisted soldier, so he just gets to leave like that. Interesting, really.
Garnet and Giado watch Cybuster leave as they're sitting outside to look at the stars, sad to see him leave but convinced he'll return once he gets lost
. Garnet thinks this is the perfect moment for some romantic business, but Giado is more interested in looking at Meteor 3 and speculating on its nature. Of course, this does not
go over well with her and once again we get to witness her chewing him out over his moment-killing abilities.
GARNET: What's wrong with you? You've got a hottie in front of you and you'd rather look at a rock?
Giado is undeterred, and convinced there is something very wrong with this rock. Between all the usual sex jokes, he actually demonstrates some proper thinking here, noting that if a meteor of that size crashed into the Earth, the whole planet would be pretty much screwed. New York and Moscow had already been obliterated by meteors much smaller than this one, so what's going on here? Latooni now pops up out of nowhere
, explaining that Meteor 3 seemed to slow down before impact. Now that these two have gone into full exposition mode, Garnet is left pouting that she missed her chance at...something she'd rather not mention, but at least has some advice to give to Latooni.
GARNET: Next time you come to a nice, quiet place like this...bring a boy with you, like Ryusei.
This leaves Latooni all flustered and confused, and Garnet considers her suspicions confirmed. Score one for her shipping predictions. They talk a bit more, but they're suddenly interrupted by a swarm of Aerogater recon units heading their way. Yep, it's those things from way back at the beginning of the game, back for a vengeance. The alarm is raised, and everyone springs into action.
Well, almost everyone. Turns out Tetsuya is in no state to take command after drinking with the captain
, and excuses himself by claiming he is ill. Daitetsu himself isn't there yet, and thus we end up in the very unlikely situation where Eita is temporarily declared the commanding officer, as this is an emergency. This is really no problem to Eita, as he had always wanted to try doing this anyway. In the most dramatic voice that he can muster, he broadcasts an order for all PT units to scramble, which mostly leads to confusion about what's going on and why Eita is giving orders. He's got no time to explain, and just says that he's temporarily in command because of special circumstances. He sends them off with a notice that the Hagane can't be deployed this time due to repairs, and wishes all units luck in their mission. (He then silently congratulates himself for sounding awesome during his few minutes in command.)
Same map as two chapters ago, since we're back outside.
To be honest, this is pretty much a zero-effort map. These bugs could barely do any damage at the start of the game, and at this point most of my units can one-shot them. It's quite a surprise to have a level that is so easy compared to the previous stages, but it's a nice opportunity to grind. Since I don't need to use my SP for much else except the occasional Accel, I'll be using units' EXP and money boosting buffs as much as possible. Garnet is great for this, as she can give this buff to other pilots with her Bless and Cheer abilities, and multiple pilots have the Gain and Luck abilities.
I guess it's a way to wind down after the big boss fight last time, and even the Battle Mastery is not that hard to achieve this time. Still, I will once again be using a bit of my foresight, and spreading my troops. I'll send my usual frontliners like Irm and Ryusei forward, along with other sufficiently fast units. The others really don't need to bother moving, since this group of enemies will be dead by the time they've joined the fight. Just the two aforementioned units seem to be enough to take care of this wave, and all of them are slain through counterattacks by R-1's AA Missiles and Wing Gust's Omega Laser. Not particularly powerful attacks, but that doesn't matter against enemies like these.
Of course, that wasn't the end of it, or this would be a one-turn stage. Another batch now appears from the top of the map, which is where the units I left behind come in handy. Same procedure, even though my non-flying units have some trouble navigating around the base buildings. Still, it gives my weaker units some target practice, as even a standard Gespenst is frequently enough to one-shot these things. The experience buffs seem to have been a good idea, because levels are going up all over the place.
After these are dealt with, a third group spawns near the place where the first one had appeared. This time it's not the standard Bug units, though, but the slightly tougher AGX-02 Spiders. They usually go down in two hits instead of one, and do a bit more damage. They have a net attack that restricts movement when it hits a unit, but that's not really a concern for me, as my units are already in position for ranged attacks anyway. Also, Daitetsu has finally arrived, and once again takes command. Amusingly, according to the dialogue my units are losing ground, even though I could keep this up all day if I had to. Gameplay and story segregation, I guess.
The pilots are mostly concerned about running out of ammo at this rate, and they start to suspect that is what the enemy wants. When their guns are empty, attacking multiple enemies will become a lot harder. On top of that, even more Spiders start to appear now, further tilting the odds in the enemy's favor and causing Ryusei to steadily lose his morale.
RYUSEI: Damn...if Masaki and his Cybuster were here...
???: Don't be so negative, Ryusei!
[BGM Change: Neppu! Shippu! Cybuster!]
Yep, he decided he wasn't just gonna leave us while we're still under attack, so he turned back around and instantly obliterates most of the newly arrived enemies with a single Cyflash. Wish it worked that well outside of cutscenes. As an amusing side note, this sequence of events is almost exactly recreated in Another Century's Episode R
when Masaki makes his reappearance. Don't know whether it was intentional or not, but I'm guessing as much.
Within one turn, I finish off the remaining enemies, with no one having sustained serious damage. Well, Giado took one hit, but even for him it's practically no damage. Seriously, these things were so weak that even the bullet magnet survived this map. Anyway, now that they are all destroyed I receive the Battle Mastery for this map, and Masaki once again says his goodbyes.
TETSUYA: He left us as he came to us, on the wings of the wind.
Ooh, poetic, Tetsuya. He has mostly recovered by now, by the way, and apologizes to his captain for failing to take command when needed. Daitetsu considers it his own fault anyway, not knowing that Tetsuya couldn't drink. Which he really shouldn't mention where Eita can hear it, for that matter, if he wants to avoid any more trouble.
After the battle, the pilots meet to speculate on what Aerogater units were doing there. They could've been scouting the location, or testing the pilots' combat strength. Since this is the crew that defeated the Valsion, which is just about the most powerful mech humanity has produced, the latter would be a reasonable assumption. It's likely that they're a plausible threat to the aliens now, and warrant further investigation. If the bugs were there for recon, it's most likely they were after Meteor 3 instead, which is still a big mystery.
Exposition time: at first glance Meteor 3 is a mere rock, but closer inspection strongly hints at the fact that it's artificial, mostly revealed in its internal reinforcement and gravity anchor. As Rob explains, this gravity anchor is basically what allowed Meteor 3 to land without pulverizing the Earth, so the observation that it slowed down before landing would be correct. Rio is clever enough here to consider the idea that the DC would have data on what Meteor 3 is, but all the computers were wiped and Ryoto was never told about it because he was just a grunt. Well, can't fault them for lack of data security.
Meanwhile, Daitetsu receives a call from Laker, congratulating him on a successful mission, as well as giving him more worrisome news. The remaining DC forces are about to rendezvous with the remaining UCC forces, and together they'll become a force the EFA can't handle on its own. Norman Slay is trying to get everything organized, but the EOT Council is waylaying him once again. Laker's most likely guess is that Karl Schtleseman is trying to control the EFA from the top, and reattempt negotiations with the aliens. Yeah, good luck with that, Karl.
Also, to strengthen its influence on the EFA and Federal government, the EOT Council has sent a fleet there which will take credit for the conquest of Aidoneus, which means the Hagane should get out of there as soon as possible to avoid any confrontations. That's Laker's advice, anyway, but fair enough. Best that Laker could manage was keeping the Hagane's status within the EFA as-is, so he'll just give them a new mission and they can be on their way. He would've liked to have them perfect the R-Series and other new mechs, but since that isn't currently possible he'll just send the Hagane to track down the DC remnants and the missing Kurogane. As he puts it, this will be their mission until the alien invasion starts for real.
Obviously, Cybuster is no longer along my list of units, but at least all the parts it had equipped are neatly dumped back into my inventory. I'll just give Ryoto and Rai those speed upgrades, then. I also have loads of money now, but I'm still not spending it until I get a unit I want to spend it on. They'll appear soon enough, though, so that money won't be sitting there for much longer.