This is essentially a retcon of Ace Combat 7: Belka's Revenge, written solely by me, but I would greatly appreciate input on the behalf of anyone who reads this. As opposed to the original, this one will follow the format of a standard novel, and will change perspective in various places between first person and third person perspective. Also, when I feel like it I may include visual representations and ideas for a soundtrack (via youtube videos). Now, for a summary of some of the characters, a "Dramatis Personae", if you will.
"Aurora": Pilot, OADF - TAC Name "Aurora". A new recruit to the OADF as of 2018 that just finished AFT; he has much untapped potential...
Wilhelm Feur: Colonel, OADF - Formerly a fighter pilot, though his records don't indicate any of his prior achievements in the service. Many doubt his identity, and are suspicious of him due to his supposed South Belkan/North Osean origins.
Marcus Snow: Rear Admiral (Lower), OMDF - Formerly a fighter pilot, Marcus Snow is listed as having been honorably discharged late in the Circum-Pacific War, following the sinking of the OFS Kestral, flagship of the Osean 3rd Fleet (though his records are inconsistent, leading some to suspect something else). He returned to service when tensions with Belka started to heat up and was granted a promotion upon doing so; he is currently the skipper of the newest incarnation of the Kestral, a brand-new Gerald R. Ford-Class aircraft carrier.
Orson Perrault: Major General, OADF - Former commander of Sand Island AFB during the Circum-Pacific War, promoted as a political favor. Often referred to as "Fat Bastard" behind his back both due to his weight and the fact that his subordinates hate him, and for good reason.
Erik Felsen: Wehrmachtfuhrer (Leader of the Armed Forces) of the Principality of Belka - Leader of the Belkan Imperial Chivalry Party (aka the "Reborn Knights of Belka") that took power in late 2016. Commander-in-chief of all military forces of Belka. Former pilot of the Rabe, Wywyrm and Yellow Squadrons. His motives aren't as they seem...
Lorenz Reidl: A weapons scientist that had been designing military equipment since Project Pendragon in the 1970s alongside Anton Kupchenko; he can frequently be found talking with Erik Felsen.
"Phoenix": The legendary Firebird of Usea. Phoenix is the only known name of a mercenary that fought in two wars in the final half of the 1990s, most notably in the Usean Rebellion. Not much is known about him other than the fact that after the defeat of the rebel forces in 1998, he never flew again, and nobody is sure why.
Prologue: Fighter's Honor
0900 hours, September 18th, 1998
At last, this day has arrived. All I have done, all I was meant to do, has brought me to this point. This rebellion has been crushed, and in its desperation has brought me here, to this place, this so-called impenetrable monument to their own megalomania known as Fortress Intolerance. They seek victory or death, but I seek neither; I seek completion. I know it is not my place to desire such a thing, or even to desire in the first place; it is not my right, and yet, I do.
He will come, as he always has; ever since our first engagement, I knew he would. My first fight against this bird of crimson flame was when, for the first time, I knew defeat, what it was like to lose, to know that one isn't perfect. I have learned much since then, not only how to fight, or how to adapt, but to communicate, to think, and to "feel", but alas, these "feelings" are but mere shadows. They are incomplete, because I am incomplete.
That is why I fight.
Not for revolutionary ideologies, nor for earthly possessions or the trappings of wealth, or the glory of a hero returned from the battlefield. There are no heros, only victims of circumstance, and no matter how much we which to think otherwise, innocence is an illusion. I know this, because of what I have become, but that pales in comparison to what I shall be, once I have bested the one obstacle holding me back, the one thing preventing me from finding completion, and thus living up to my name.
I am Zone of Endless, a void between nothing and everything, with no substance, and infinite potential. I seek to fulfill this potential, no matter what gets in between me and Infinity...
A trio of aircraft flew at 50,000 feet over the mountains of North Point, heading to the East, and though their formation suggested a liesurely patrol, this flight was anything but. The three planes, an Su-37, F-16C and Kfir C.7, belonged to the USEA 37th Air Force, 18th Fighter Wing, 1st Squadron, aka "Scarface", but alternatively known as the "Phoenix" or "Firebird" squadron for their choice of insignia as well as the fame of their lead pilot, TAC Name "Phoenix"; they were a squadron of hardened veterans that had fought against the Usean Rebellion from almost Day One, from the Skully Islands west of Erusia to where it all began, it St. Ark, the capital of North Point. Now, this was where it all ended; the rebels had nowhere to run and knew they couldn't win, and so like a cornered rat, they intended to bit the cat that had backed them in, except that this bite involved a nuclear-armed MIRV ICBM - possibly the infamous V2 produced by Belka in the Belkan War not three years ago. Everyone in the squadron was aware of the gravity of the situation, and even the usually stoic flight lead of the squadron couldn't help be feel nervous.
"So...this is where it ends..." the pilot of the Kfir, a female pilot known as Kei Nagase - TAC name "Edge", spoke up.
"Yep, and it'll end either with those terrorists getting blown up, or them blowing up several major cities in one shot" replied the F-16's pilot, an older man named John Harvard, TAC name "Slash". He was technically the oldest member of the squadron, yet was only as good as Edge in the air combat department, although he was decidedly more aggressive. The honor of 'top ace' went to the flight lead, "Phoenix"; Slash had to admit, he was at times in awe of Phoenix's abilities and at others utterly terrified of the prospect of having to fight him, even though he knew him well, well enough that he knew when Phoenix was troubled, even if he wasn't saying anything and was sitting in another plane several feet in front of him. "Hey Phoenix; you're aweful quiet today, even by your standards."
"I'm fine, Slash...just fine..." replied the stoic ace in his typically grim tone, which was customarily devoid of emotion to all but those who knew him the best, and Slash had gotten to know him well enough that hew as worried about something, and so far, only one thing has worried him enough to show before, besides, of course, the fact that the rebels had nuclear weapons.
"...It's about that red fighter, isn't it?" Slash asked, "and don't lie to me and say it's nothing; I know you better than that."
"I'm not gonna lie, there's something...unnerving about that pilot...how he's always improving, always adapting, not just in between our encounters, but in the middle of them; by the time I fought him over St. Ark, he was able to anticipate and counter my maneuvers perfectly" the Ace responded, "...I'm not gonna lie, I only beat him because I got lucky and managed to get close enough for a guns kill."
"Hey, relax; there's way more fighters in the air than even he can manage" Slash pointed out, "Even if he's stuffed to the intakes with missiles, there's still gonna be guys shooting at him; he doesn't stand a chance!"
Indeed, Slash had a point, Phoenix knew, as they were three of no less than fifty aircraft scrambled for this mission, consisting of the best pilots that the FCU-led Coalition could muster. Usea and Erusea had both supplied a couple of excellent squadrons to assist in the attack, and each had at least one ace in their roster; hell, one of them, a provisional unit from Erusia known by the TAC Name "Yellow" was made up entirely of triple aces with at least fifteen aircraft apiece to their credit, with at least one, a man named Erik Felsen, TAC name "Yellow 1", being a veteran of the Belkan War, and their flight lead, "Yellow 13", was rumored to be one as well. Even with all of these planes, there was still a risk of the rebels having another ace card up their sleeve, in spite of losing the Dragonets and several of their top fighter squadrons. For the purpose of preserving morale, he had to stand strong, no matter what.
"All units, report" Phoenix commanded.
"Edge, standing by" Edge answered.
"Slash, standing by" Slash replied.
"Yellow 13, standing by" reported the Yellows' flight lead.
"Yellow 1, standing by" chimed in the number two. This went on until all had confirmed they were ready for combat. All at once, they dropped their wing tanks and armed their weapons.
"Here we are people" said Ulrich Olson, aka "Keynote", and the AWACs operator assigned to Scarface, "...Fortress Intolerance, I thought it had been demolished ages ago."
"Well, it's right there in front of us" Slash answered sarcastically, noting the size of the complex, and finding himself realizing why they said that a bunker buster wasn't even gonna scratch it. The thing was a mountain of concrete and steel; no bomb was gonna penetrate all of that, so a more precise attack was required.
"Cut the chatter" Phoenix ordered.
"I can't believe they'd threaten people with ballistic missiles..." Edge muttered, "We have to stop them!"
"The rebels are planning a terror attack using ICBMs" Keynote reminded the involved aircraft, "We can't allow this ruthless behavior to continue! This is our final battle, everything rests on you!"
"I'm not letting this turn into another Waldreich; Yellow Squadron, we have to stop this at all costs - I don't care if you have to ram the ICBMs as they launch to stop these terrorists!" came the voice of Yellow 1, referring to an incident that demonstrated exactly what happened when such an attack wasn't prevented. Even worse, his own homeland was to blame for it. "Bogeys detected at 12 o'clock, range 40 miles and closing fast! Keynote, requesting radar signature ID on bogey!"
Before Keynote could answer, a massive volley of missiles erupted from the bogey in question, at least sixteen of them, more than any aircraft in the Usean formation could carry alone. The aircraft in the formation broke; most escaped unharmed, but five were brought down by the initial salvo, but they still weren't safe. Barely a second after the missile impact, a beam of light raked across several of the surviving aircraft, soon followed by them exploding. In barely ten seconds, 50 aircraft had been reduced to 25, and there were at least that many approaching them. Seconds later, they entered visual range, allowing Phoenix to identify them; most of them were F-15S/MTDs, but one was of a model he had never seen before; his blood turned to ice as he realized that this aircraft was adorned in a blood red finish. It couldn't be the same one! That pilot had been killed at St. Ark! There was no ejection observed! The aircraft broke off from the F-15s, which were engaging the survivors of the initial missile volley, and headed right at Scarface.
"It's that red fighter again!" Keynote exclaimed in horror as the mysterious fighter approached Scarface. Edge and Slash both opened fire with a volley of their own missiles, as Phoenix's aircraft had an air-to-ground lodout, but the enemy made a quick snap roll and evaded them without effort, flying straight past the formation and forcing them to split to avoid a collision, Edge and Slash in one direction, Phoenix in the other, and even though the former were closer, it cut across their flight path to pursue Phoenix. Clearly, this pilot wasn't just after Phoenix for practical reasons, but for personal ones.
"Just what is that red aircraft!? There's nothing like it in our database!" Keynote asked frantically.
"I don't know, but whatever it is, it's on Phoenix like glue!" Slash answered, "Edge, let's help him out!"
"Negative! Engage the F-15s! The other aircraft are being slaughtered as we speak!" ordered their flight lead.
"But Phoen-" Edge interjected.
"Follow your orders, dammit!" Phoenix responded, loosing his temper for the first time during a mission that anyone else knew about, this is between me and the red fighter! If he wants to fight me that bad, then on my honor as a pilot and a warrior, I accept his challenge!"
Before Slash or Edge could protest, four of the F-15S/MTDs had broken formation from the main furball and turned into the Kfir and F-16, forcing the two of them to break off and honor their flight lead's orders.
"How many times do I have to shoot you down for you to accept that you've been defeated!?" Phoenix cursed at his adversary after the two merged and began a turn into each other, which the Usean ace quickly had to stop and turn into a dive upon realizing that in the time it took for his Su-37 to complete half a turn, the mysterious bogey had made a full turn and was already bearing down on him with cannonfire. Soon after, the fighter followed Phoenix into his dive, again with an impossibly-quick turn to do so; at the very least it could match an Su-37 with its limiters disabled, pulling off maneuvers that would be quite detrimental to any pilot's health if done excessively. True, there were ways to counter those G-Forces, such as the 'Kranich Turn' that had become a staple of air combat ever since the Belkan War, but that only allowed a pilot to withstand an extra 3 Gs or so, up to 15 total; this plane was pulling at least 18, without any signs of strain on the aircraft or the mysterious pilot, whom appeared to be flying blind as Phoenix couldn't see a conventional canopy, only glowing lights where a canopy would be that had a disturbing resemblance to eyes.
"It doesn't matter which way you turn, how high you climb, how low you dive or how fast you fly, I will catch you, Phoenix..." a voice spoke up, the sound of it sending a chill up Phoenix's spine; he had heard the voice before, and had come to learn after their third encounter that it was the pilot of this red aircraft speaking. There was something strangely...artificial about this voice, something...mechanical, as if he wasn't a human pilot but a front for an unmanned drone.
I have got to stop reading sci-fi novels all the damned time... Phoenix thought to himself, snapping himself out of this train of thought. Drones weren't even capable of flying on their own without without crashing, let alone dogfight against an ace pilot with almost 100 victories to his credit over the course of two wars. There had to be some other explanation for how this pilot could withstand such a high g-load during maneuvers, but there was no time to think about that; Phoenix had to get him off of his tail, and the only way to do that was to fly into the crazed melee between the defending terrorist squadron and the other elements of the strike package, and hope that he could shake off the red fighter.
"Try catching this!" Phoenix muttered, lighting the afterbruners and diving into the furball, the mysterious fighter in hot pursuit.
"Phoenix incoming! He's got a bogey on his six!" one of the Usean pilots called out, "What the...what kind of plane is that!?"
"I've seen that aircraft before, but where?" Yellow 13 asked as he shot down an F-15, his trademark casual tone, even when under fire, helping to calm the nerves of the other pilots.
"It looks like a Morgan, but it's a bit different" Yellow 1 answered, "Keynote, are you analyzing the unidenfified hostile?"
"Negative, analysis isn't possible at this time; there's too many contacts on radar to pinpoint it!" the AWACS operator responded. Yellow 1 rolled his eyes in bemusement, aware of the problem but also knowing that if the FCU had bothered to update their AWACS aircraft after the Belkan War, this wouldn't have been an issue; indeed, an Ustian AWACS was able to identify the ADFX-02 over Avalon Dam by relying solely on information passed on to him by Cipher, the fabled "Demon Lord of the Round Table"; that pilot had given Yellow 1 nightmares three years after the fact, and it didn't help that he noticed similarities between Cipher and Phoenix, even though he was aware that they were two different people altogether, and that Cipher went MIA after Avalon. As he circled above watching Phoenix lead the enemy in a dizzying tail chase that seemed to be working at getting him off, he noticed additional contacts incoming, faint, but still present, and a signature consistent with a fighter he was quite familiar with in Belkan service: the Su-47, Osean codename "Firkin", Yuktobanian codename "Berkut", or "Gaultadler" as it was known in Belka. The IFF also appeared familiar, and consisted of three words:
Fox Force Four
"Incoming hostiles! It's Fox Force Four!" Yellow 1 reported.
"I was wondering when they would show up..." Yellow 13 answered, "Yellow Squadron, form up and attack in formation; no single-ship attacks."
The two formations merged without firing a shot, but to Yellow 13's dismay, Fox Force Four succeeded in breaking them up to an extent, with two of them going up against four of the formation's fighters, and two of them engaging Yellow 1, a move that baffled Yellow 1 as he evaded the two Firkins' cannonfire. Between him and Yellow 13, the latter was by FAR the greater threat as far as he was concerned...or did this have to do with...
"Well, Felsen, fancy seeing you here, after what happened at Avalon" a familiar voice came in over the radio, one that made Yellow 1's blood run cold. The voice belonged to Lorenz Reidl, the former number seven pilot of the Gault Squadron, and probably the best pilot in the squadron, as while Kupchenko was a strategist, he wasn't as good of a pilot as one would have been led to believe at the time, instead relying on his squadron rather than his own skill. Reidl was different though, to the point that he was sometimes referred to as "Feniks", the same name used to refer to the mercenary ace that was leading the attack, but with a different spelling due to language differences.
"Reidl...how are you still alive!? You were reported as killed in action!" the Yellow answered, infuriated at his luck; he had hoped not to have to fight the Gault Squadron when the uprising by A World With No Boundries took place, and had managed to avoid fighting them. Now, however, he had no choice but to fight their best pilot, and a wingman, alone.
"The Round Table makes all equal, but some are more equal than others; the Demon Lord was just the most equal" Reidl replied in his trademark, glacially-calm tone, Yellow 1 rolling his eyes as he imagined the smug grin that Redil likely had beneath his oxygen mask; he knew that the latter was fond of playing mind games with his foes, seeking to trip them up. Perhaps 'Serphent' would have been more a appropriate monicker for Reidl than "Feniks, Yellow 1 thought, snapping himself out of this and scolding himself for becoming distracted as he snap rolled to the right to evade an incoming missile fired by Reidl's wingman and popped his airbrakes, the errant Firkin overshooting him and quickly making a sharp left turn. Yellow 1 turned to follow, pulling a lead on him with the pipper, and fired a burst from his cannon barely a second long. The Su-47 shuddered as its right wing came off, spewing flames as the fuel tanks ignited, the pilot just barely ejecting before his mount exploded.
"Splash One" Felsen reported.
"You've improved your form, Felsen; not exactly up to your father's caliber, but at least shooting you down won't be so easy as to bore me to sleep" Reidl taunted as he pulled in on the Su-37's six o'clock. Yellow 1 pitched up sharply and fired the afterburners, starting a vertical climb to both get some distance and hopefully lead Reidyl in a direction where he might be more distracted: the same direction as Phoenix and the strange, red fighter that was pursuing him. The best chance of winning lay in turning this into a two-on-two dogfight, something he couldn't rely on his squadron for as they had already been bounced by two of the Fox Force Four and two of the F-15S/MTDs guarding the base. Just a little further to go...
Phoenix was growing frustrated; all of his training and combat experience had been rendered useless by the red aircraft in some way or another. If he got on his six o'clock, it pulled a Kulbit or some other 25 G turning maneuver and turned the tables. If he obtained a missile lock, it created phantom signatures that made his lock break. If he tried to go in for a pass with his gun, it simply snapped around and fired its laser; how he had avoided the energy attack was beyond him, as he was now fighting purely on instinct. How else could he fight an enemy without any fear, without any limits, that made absolutely no mistakes!? The only possible explanation was something that he had tried to deny every time he had faced this pilot, and only now was he forced to come to terms with it and realize that, despite his efforts to deny it, his adversary couldn't be human. Any human pilot would have been killed pulling the kinds of maneuvers that this one was engaging in every few seconds. This gave the disturbing implication that it wasn't a pilot at all he was fighting, but the fighter itself. And now, it came down to this; it was on hs six o'clock with a missile lock.
Phoenix instinctively reached for the ejection handle, but suddenly, the enemy fighter behind him broke off its attack, engaging in a sudden turn to avoid a collission with an incoming Su-37, soon followed by an Su-47. While grateful to now have a wingman, Phoenix was a little peeved that he had led another enemy into the dogfight. On the bright side, the red fighter had tightened its turn, which meant that he could now turn around and get behind him. The ace rolled to the left and pulled up hard, ending up behind the red fighter at almost point-blank range, his Sukhoi being buffetted by its jetwash. A quick burst of cannon fire was all he could get off before it snapped over into a dive, but just when he thought his reversal had been pointless, he watched as first the jamming interference faded, then the right engine began trailing smoke as it deccelerated slightly. He had gained the upper hand.
"Phoenix to Keynote, the red fighter's trailing smoke; I've hit him, but he's not down yet" he reported, only for his ellation at finally hitting the enemy was cut short by a missile warning. The Su-47 that had been brought into the fight had fired on him. Frantically, Phoenix went into a snap roll, the missile shooting past him as he did, then popped his airbrakes, causing the Su-47 to overshoot him just as a missile impacted the left wingroot. The Firkin's wing came off in a sheet of flame, the fighter spiraling towards the ground as its pilot ejected.
"And he said he was going to shoot me down" Yellow 1 snarked over the radio as he pulled up on Phoenix's wing, gave a salute and pulled away. "Take down that red bastard; I'll keep your six o'clock clear."
"Copy that, Yellow 1; Phoenix, engaging" the mercenary answered, rolling over into a dive behind the bogey, which was still far more evasive than he would have liked but was noticeably more sluggish now; at the very least he could keep up with its turns now. With each burst of cannon fire, it started to fly slower and slower, its turns becoming more sluggish as control surfaces sustained damage. That was when the fight seemed to takes its turn for the worst, not in terms of how Phoenix was doing against his opponent, but for a different reason: he could hear a faint voice over the radio, continually uttering the same nonsensical phrase over and over again.
I am incomplete. There is still more I must know. Please, don't destroy me.
Phoenix found himself even more annoyed than ever, not only that his opponent found it appropriate to talk in haiku in the middle of a dogfight, but he seemed to be trying to talk him out of shooting him down!
"This...ends...now!!!" he roared in anger, firing a long burst into the fighter that emptied his cannon's ammo reserves. The fighter shuddered and slowed down drastically, flames erupting from the engines that began to creep up the fuselage...and that was when it chose that moment to give its final 'take that' against the mercenary.
You think this is the end? No, this isn't even the beginning of the end, it's the beginning of the beginning...even in defeat I will survive...because you can't kill simple lines of code.
The aircraft subsequently exploded, but in a way that made it appear more like it self-destructed rather than being destroyed by the fuel tanks igniting. Phoenix found himself utterly confused at this; was he right in thinking that his enemy wasn't human, that it was a machine all along, or was his adversary trying to psych him out from spite!? That didn't seem likely to him, not from what it said, but how. There was no inflextion whatsoever, just a cold, steely, calm monotone. There was no man that existed who could remain that calm while sitting in the cockpit o a plane that's breaking apart around him, unless they simply wanted to die...but this wasn't the case. He finally had to come to terms with the fact that his adversary the whole time was nothing more than an unmanned drone; the digital era of warfare had arrived, and for the first time, it seemed, to him, that humans were no longer in full control of their own technology...
Chapter 1: Prelude to War
(Next chapter coming soon)