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Arc 1 of Ace Combat: Blue Skies.

Prologue

July 20, 2015

I smiled gleefully, looking out the passenger window and down to the clouds below us. I was taking a passenger flight with my parents. We were flying back to my hometown from Oured, where we spent the last few weeks on another one of my father’s business trips. I always did this whenever I was in a plane. I’d always take the window seat and do nothing but stare out the window at the clouds and at the ground below.

“Shane, sweetie.” Mom snapped me out of it. I turn to her with a wide grin.

“Isn’t it cool, mom?” I say, going right back to it.

“You’re always like this when we’re flying.” She chuckled lightly. “You must really like it.”

“I love flying!” I say. “There’s just something about being in the air that… makes me happy. It makes me feel like I can do anything!”

I calm down a bit, keeping my gaze out the window.

“Up here… everything seems so clear and bright. I can see everything.”

My mother leaned over and looked out the window with me.

“It really is pretty.” She remarked.

“Yeah…” I agree. “Down on the ground, it feels like the world is on top of you… but when you’re this high, everything is beneath you…”

I take a deep breath and sigh, smiling softly.

“There’s nothing to worry about up here…”

---

March 18, 2025

“Begin.”

I hear the signal, and immediately I break out. I pull my nose up and roll upside down, leveling myself out when I’m a good distance away from my opponent. I streak down as he homes in on me. I can hear the ping of a lock on from his plane, but that didn’t bother me. I hear the missile warning and see the lights flash, but my eyes are on him. I push my nose down and roll, evading his shot and allowing me to pass underneath him. He pulls up, and so do I, and I manage to line up my guns on him effortlessly. I spray a few bursts his way, some missing but others scraping his wings and a few hitting the fuselage. He breaks before I can really nail him, but he wasn’t losing me. I follow quickly, copying his every move as he tried to shake me off. The constant ring of a missile lock was sounding in my helmet, but I knew now wasn’t the time. With how he was moving the missile would pass right underneath him. I’d need to force him to straighten out.

I eased back on the throttle a bit, allowing some more distance between me and him, requiring less effort to stay on his tail than before. I fire a few more bursts to scare him, but it fails to hit as he quickly makes a sharp right turn. I make a left, deciding to move up to the clouds to break line of sight. My plan works, and before my opponent could reorient himself with me, I was above the cloud line, hidden from his view. I had him on my radar, and I position myself right above him. I push the stick forward, pushing myself down as I gun the throttle, lurching downwards. I gain a missile lock, and throw a single sidewinder his way. He had no time to react with how quickly I launched it at him.

Game over.

“Direct hit!” My flight lead says. “Good job, Hale.”

“Aw, man!” My opponent complains. “How the hell are you so good at this?!”

Our little training duel was over. Of course, if this was a real battle his F-16C would be a smoldering heap of scrap metal plummeting towards the ground. He was lucky we were playing with dummies and not the real thing.

“Practice makes perfect, I guess.” I say.

“Nice work, Sigma.” My flight lead calls as I straighten myself out in formation on his right wing. “Tower, this is Breaker One. Breaker Squadron is returning to base.”

“Copy that, Breaker One. Nice job out there, today.”

“Nice shot there, Sigma.” Our three, Dagger, says as he takes up position on Breaker One’s left, just as Avro takes up my right wing. “Hey Delta, when are you going to ever beat him?”

“I’ll get him one day.” Avro says. “But honestly, the kid’s just naturally talented. I actually had to work to get where I am now.”

“You got a lot more work ahead of you with that big mouth of yours, Four.” Breaker One chides. “Let’s get back. I think that’s enough training for one day.”

We turn to make our flight back to base. Along the way, Avro grabs my attention.

“Hey, Shane.” He says. “It’s a pretty view from up here, isn’t it? I mean, you already know that obviously, but it’s still nice to look out and think about it.”

“Yeah… you’re right.” I look over at the horizon, taking it all in.

That’s right… up here… everything is so clear and bright. I can see everything… absolutely everything. Down on the ground, it feels like the weight of the world is on top of me, bearing down on my shoulders, always unrelenting… the world is full of sadness and death… but up here…

Up here… the skies are not so tainted by the sins of man…

Up here… I have true freedom.

Up here is where I belong.

Chapter 1

March 25th

I’d been on the ground for about a week now and it was starting to get to me. I always felt better when I was in the air… on the ground it just felt like there was this constant weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t shake off no matter what… some would attribute it purely to stress, but I find it more to be a simple sense of longing… homesickness would be the best word to describe it, despite its clear inaccuracy. The sky is always where I felt at home… in the cockpit of a fighter is where I’m in my element. Pushing the throttle up to afterburner and feeling the plane shake as I break the sound barrier is where I’m most thrilled. I look up at that clear blue sky and the only thing I can think about is how much I wanted to be back up there as soon as possible. I always found that being on the ground for too long would make me high strung or irritable… the kind of high strung and irritable that would result from being sexually frustrated without the ease of temporarily alleviation, if you’ll allow me to cross into being a bit vulgar for a moment. I often find myself walking down the runway of Sand Island AFB where I was stationed, as I was currently. The tropical heat bore down relentlessly, as little as it actually bothered me. It was the only real way for me to pass the time around here… not much went on around here other than routine training exercises and the occasional scouting sortie, so it didn’t supply enough air time for my tastes… I was always restless in one way or another as a result.

The runway was empty, save for two F-16s on the far end as I look down at my feet as I walk ponderously down the tarmac. Free time was supposed to be a time for relaxation and hanging out with friends, but it was always the opposite of that for me. I had very few friends, none of which I actually hung out with on a regular basis. There was Avro, who would often harass me and drag me out just to get me somewhere. But of course, the island was small, and was solely inhabited by the air force base, and we were a fair way off the coast of Osea, west of Cape Landers. We were all practically stranded here under the guise of enlistment. Not that the isolation really bothered me; that was hardly the problem. I didn’t care much for people in general, and anything social just seemed so foreign to me that I don’t even bother with trying to interact with others, save for the aforementioned few friends. I was even more restless during socializing with others than I was just sitting around waiting to get back into the air. People around the base learned quickly to leave me alone. They knew all I was good for was taking and executing orders. There wasn’t much else to me. I did my job and I did it well, that’s all that was expected of me. If it’s socialization you’re looking for, you’re either not looking well enough, or you’re just desperate if I’m the first person you come to. There were only two people on the base who dared to even look me in the eye; Avro Renton, who was number four of Breaker Squadron, and Octavia Forthright, who operated under Phantoma Squadron as their number two, and of these two, Octavia was the one I actually enjoyed the company of for the most part. Octavia was quiet and reserved; softspoken. However, under the guise of shyness was a sharp wit and dangerous intellect. The main difference between me and her, however, was that she could actually operate when around others when need be, which is something she had over me for sure, though I don’t really count the ability to talk to others as a blessing, per se.

Sand Island consisted of four combat squadrons: Breaker, Phantoma, Hellhound, and Hydra. Hellhound and Hydra Squadrons operated under the direct command of the Osean Air Defense Force, while Breaker and Phantoma Squadrons operated under Calamity Haven, a private military contractor specializing in aerial warfare that in itself was also under the command of OADF. Officially, anyway. Unofficially we were a mercenary organization and Osea happens to pay for our operations, so our ties to them are based on the paycheck. Of course, due to this we are technically still obligated to follow their orders, but instead of being just another group of pilots for the OADF, we had a bit more freedom to do what we wanted when it came to combat operations. Calamity Haven would often accept jobs from other countries and carry out operations for them and we could pretty much take whatever jobs we saw fit. The only real restriction we had was that we couldn’t operate for a foreign nation that the Osean Federation was currently at war with, but during peacetime this was hardly an issue.

Being this bored, however, almost made me wish for a good war, as terrible as that may sound. At least it’d give me plenty of time to be up in the air… to fight… to feel the thrill of air combat against a powerful opponent. The best I had come up against were simple Yuktobanian rebels that were involved in a small conflict with the neighboring country of Verusa, hardly an outright war. Matter of fact, Yuktobania itself was also fighting against these rebels… I didn’t exactly know what the conflict was about, but I didn’t care. It gave me a chance to actually fly… even if it was up against beat down MiG-21s, or at the very best old MiG-25s or MiG-31s… hardly a challenge at all. At least give me a good Sukhoi to go toe-to-toe with… yeesh…

The last real war that the Osean Federation had been involved in was the Circum-Pacific War of 2010, the details of which were released in 2020. Former Osean president Vincent Harling had released detailed information about the war in an international conference, explaining the existence of an elite secret squadron that operated under the direct command of the president during the war… The Ghosts of Razgriz. They were a group of four that were once known as Wardog Squadron, which operated from Sand Island AFB… just like me. They pretty much single-handedly won the entire war, becoming legends feared and respected by allies and enemies alike. After the war, they disappeared… nobody really knows what happened to them, and details about the squadron itself were still sketchy at best. I had actually done quite a bit of research into legendary aces. Blaze of the Circum-Pacific War… Cipher of the Belkan War… Mobius One of the Second Usean Continental War… Garuda One of the Anean Continental War… I admired these pilots who became legends renown for their skill and ability, who changed the course of history from the cockpit of a fighter. I would often fantasize about myself in such a position… becoming a legendary ace, fighting one-on-one against a truly powerful opponent. Something to test my skills and truly prove myself in the skies.

But it’s not like anything like that would ever happen…

I was already somewhat renown around here for my flying skills… I was regarded as one of the best pilots on the base. During training sorties, nobody would even come close to taking me down, and during missions against said Yuktobanian rebels I would down more than anyone else. In fact, I became an ace during my very first combat sortie… one that also got me into a bit of trouble with command… insubordination… even so, nothing really actually pushed my limits like I wanted. I didn’t know how good I actually was because of that… I never felt like I was actually doing anything special. It was all just so boring and monotonous… the same thing every time with barely any alteration. Nobody to challenge me… nobody to test my abilities… I didn’t sign up for the OADF and join Calamity Haven to sit around on my ass doing nothing.

It was at this point that I had finally reached the very end of the runway, where the two F-16s were parked. I look at the two fighters; both marked in Phantoma Squadron markings. Breaker Squadron’s F-16s were currently parked in their hangar. The fact that two Phantoma planes were out here must mean that two of their pilots had recently landed and were going to get back up into the air soon, most likely for a quick patrol. I sigh, wishing that I was the one getting up in the air, even if it was just for a patrol, just anything to get me in the sky again.

“Feeling restless, Shane?” I hear a voice say behind me while lost in thought, snapping me back to reality.

I turn to see Octavia and her Phantoma One, Emily Lakewind, geared up in their flight suits and approaching what I now figured were their F-16s.

“Yeah…” I say without emotion, stepping back a bit from their planes.

“Every time you’re on the ground you just walk all along the runway.” Octavia says. “Why don’t you read a book to take your mind off things?”

“I don’t have anything else to read.” I say.

Most of my book collection consisted of novels pertaining to air combat, all of which I’ve read at least five times over… I’d long since worn out the thrill I got from reading those, and I wasn’t into asking other people to borrow their books, especially when none of them would really interest me. Maybe when I got some actual time off I could go into town and find a book worth reading… until then, I was resigned to the runway.

“Well maybe see what Avro is doing?” Octavia suggested.

“Why would I want to do that?” I ask.

“Well, don’t worry too much, Shane.” Emily commented. “I’m sure you’ll be back up in the air soon enough.”

“Yeah… I hope so.” I scratch my head and yawn out of boredom.

“In the meantime, we got recon duty.” Octavia said. “We’ll see you around, Shane.”

“Mhm…” I nod and walk to the other end of the runway as the two climb into their jets and fire up their engines. I watch as they taxi to the runway, and shortly after, they both push up the throttle and speed down the runway, taking off a ways down and heading out to sea. The screeching rumble of their engines fade away, and not long after they become specks in the sky before disappearing from view completely. I sigh and once again fit my hands in my pockets, kicking the dirt and beginning my walk back to the other end of the runway.

---

About an hour and a half later, I could be found in my personal quarters on the base; a small room that contained only the necessities, as well as some personal belongings. It wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘homey’, but it sufficed as far as living somewhat comfortably went. I was sat on a desk on one of the walls of the room which housed my laptop. My laptop was pretty much my only outlet into the outside world, and was the only real source of information and news I had to let me know that the rest of the world was indeed still standing and hadn’t been nuked to hell, leaving Sand Island as the last vestige of humanity. It was also the primary way I kept in contact with the few friends I had inland, who I talked to on a semi-regular basis via instant messaging, alongside texting or plain calling on my phone, but I wasn’t exactly talkative, as has already been established, so simple messaging in one way or another was my preferred form of communication.

I lean back in my chair and sigh as I give in to my boredom, thinking maybe I should just go to bed at 3 pm and skip ahead to tomorrow, seeing as there wasn’t going to be anything interesting happening today, as was the case with most days around here. I was about to shut everything down to do so when I hear a knock at my door.

“Yo, Shane.” I hear Avro’s partially muffled voice say. “You in there?”

“Yeah.” I respond. “What do you want?”

“We got a sortie order.” He says. “Breaker’s meeting up in the briefing room, get over here ASAP.”

Fucking finally, holy hell.

“Alright.” I call back as I close everything down and go to my wardrobe to change into my flight suit, gearing up in about half a minute, excited to get back up into the air. I tighten the straps and belts around my suit and exit my room, making my way down the hall towards the briefing room.

---

OPERATION: GOLDEN SWAN

Operators:

Calamity Haven – Breaker Squadron

One: Nathan Whitlock “Viper”

Two: Shane Hale “Sigma”

Three: Jason Mitchell “Dagger”

Four: Avro Renton “Delta”

AWACS Unit: Paladin

Objective(s):

I. Intercept unknown affiliated aircraft (U-2 Dragon Lady)

II. Guide unknown aircraft to land at Sand Island AFB

---

I arrived at the briefing room in no time at all, and I quickly opened the door and entered the room, finding the rest of my squadron was already seated and waiting for me. Colonel Ron Harkley, the main commander of Sand Island AFB, was also in the room.

“Alright, good.” Harkley said as I walked into the room and sat down with my squadron. “Now that you’re all here, we can get started.”

Harkley activated a projector and shortly after, a display of a world map came up, along with other pieces of data all over the borders of the map. The words Operation: Golden Swan was displayed at the top of the screen.

“Alright, time to start the briefing.” Harkley said as the map zoomed in on the Sand Island area. “Phantoma Squadron’s scouting mission has detected an unaffiliated aircraft at high altitude inside the Sand Island airspace.”

The map zoomed in on a red arrow some miles out of Sand Island, well within Osean airspace. The tag on the marker was U-2 Dragon Lady. The U-2 was a super-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, so if it was in Osean airspace, that meant that some foreign power was trying to spy on us.

“Your mission is simple: intercept the aircraft and bring it in so we can identify its affiliation.”

The map zoomed out a bit more to encompass both the red enemy arrow and Sand Island AFB, from which four blue arrows, representing Breaker Squadron, moved out to meet up with the red arrow.

“The aircraft has been confirmed to be a U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble.” Harkley said. “However, if the pilot does not comply, you are authorized to use force, and to shoot it down if need be.”

“Strange…” Nathan Whitlock, Breaker Squadron’s leader, scratched his chin. “Who do you suppose it belongs to?”

“Does it matter?” Jason Mitchell, Breaker Three, responded. “We’ll know once we bring it in.”

“This should be a simple mission for you.” Harkley said to all of us. “Dismissed.”

“Hey, hey, Shane!” Avro said as we all stood up. “Ready to finally get back in the air?”

“You need to ask?” I say in a flat tone that belied the fact that I was more than excited to finally be in the air again.

I follow my team to the hangars, outside of which our F-16s were parked already armed and ready, and quickly hop into my fighter, the one designated with the number 123 on the sides and the vertical stabilizer, also marked with Breaker Squadron’s insignia, red triangular triple pronged arrow pointing diagonally downwards through a red circle. I flip on the console and start the engine, feeling the rumble and hearing the whine of the turbojet as it sprang to life and invigorated me with an indescribable thrill. I put on my helmet and check all my systems to make sure everything was in working order. I test all my control surfaces and weapon systems, clearing myself for takeoff.

“Breaker Squadron, this is the tower.” I hear the mic go off in my ears. “You’re clear to taxi onto the runway.”

“Copy, tower.” Breaker One says, driving his plane towards the runway as we all followed.

Once we were all on the runway and lined up, we hold out position there.

“This is Breaker One, we’re on the runway.” Our lead says. “Requesting takeoff clearance.”

“Roger that, Breaker One, you are clear for takeoff.”

“Alright. Let’s go, guys.”

With that, Breaker One lit up his engine and took off down the runway, and the rest of us followed shortly behind him. We all took off in formation and quickly reached a high altitude.

“Breaker Squadron, this is Paladin.” I hear our AWACS support call. “Nice to be flying again, huh?”

“Yeah, I was getting pretty bored.” Avro answered. “And Shane was really starting to be irritable.”

“Isn’t he always?” Paladin chuckles. “The target is 54 miles out to sea, you should intercept the aircraft in just a few minutes at speed.”

“Alright.” Breaker One says. “Let’s get going.”

He pushes on the throttle and we all follow screaming through the skies as we make our way towards our target.

---

It didn’t take us long to reach our destination. At a fairly high altitude of 40 thousand feet we made visual contact with our target aircraft.

“We see the aircraft.” Breaker One said just as the plane comes into view.

“Roger, Viper.” Paladin says. “Make radio contact now.”

“Got it.”

Our flight lead then switches radio frequencies to reach out to the U-2 ahead of us, which no doubt knew we were tailing him.

“Attention unidentified aircraft.” He says. “This is Calamity Haven’s Breaker Squadron operating under the Osean Federation. Follow our guidance and change your course. If you do not comply we are authorized to shoot you down.”

We wait a few seconds, and find that the plane wasn’t responding.

“No response…” Dagger says.

“He definitely hear it.” Paladin confirms. “It was on all frequencies.”

“I repeat.” One calls out again. “Follow our guidance and change your course. We will shoot you down if you do not comply.”

“Unknown aircraft detected!” Paladin warns. “Coming in at high speed form the northwest.”

“How many?” Viper asks.

“We got a flight of six unknown aircraft coming in at high speed. Judging by their speed they’re fighters.”

Just then, I hear the beeping indicating that an enemy had a lock on my aircraft, followed shortly by the ring of a missile warning.

“They’re firing on us!” Delta shouts.

“Breaker Squadron, break!” Our lead commands, and we all separate to avoid the incoming missiles.

“Six confirmed hostile aircraft, all MiG-29s.” Paladin informs. “You have permission to shoot down all hostiles!”

“Oh, I’ve been waiting for this…” I grin, gunning my engine and arming my weapons as I sharply turn to engage the hostile aircraft.

I dive headfirst into the fray while the rest of my squadron looped around to try to get a good angle of attack. As a result, I drew most of the attention and ended up with two enemies on my tail. I watched as bullets screamed through the air, flying just past me as I maneuver my way around the hostile fire. The F-16 was a lightweight fighter, making up for its lack of power in both weapons and engine thrust with great maneuverability and acceleration and deceleration, and with my flying skill I could easily outmaneuver these Fulcrums. I turn hard, spinning my aircraft around before hitting a sharp nosedive, disorienting the two fighters behind me and ripping them off my tail, allowing me to loop back around and line my sights up behind them. Missile lock. Fire. The sidewinder rocketed off the wingtip rail and sailed towards one of the MiGs, easily nailing it and bringing the plane down in a fiery heap of scrap metal to plunge down into the ocean below. I quickly tail the next fighter, opting to use my guns on him. I spray some shots downrange, some nailing his right wing as he banked to the right, while others flew just shy of that mark. My enemy quickly rolled back and to the left as I hear a missile lock warning in my helmet, indicating another enemy had just lined himself up behind me. I disengage my target and pull up as a missile flies just underneath my fuselage. I look up through my canopy to see my next target, but soon after see the plane explode as one of my flight took it down for me.

“Got him!” I hear Avro cheer. “Hey, Sigma! Whoever gets the least kills buys the drinks, huh?”

“I don’t drink, Delta.” I say.

“Pizza, then!” He says.

“You haven’t beaten me once, you aren’t beating me now.” I say confidently as I turn to engage my second target. Avro was setting himself up for failure with this one. There were only four planes left, and I was lined up with my next target. He’d have to get two of the four to beat me if One and Three didn’t get to them first. I lock onto my next target and throw a missile his way just as he comes out of a turn, not allowing him the time to evade it and easily blowing his plane to smithereens.

“Another down.” I say.

“I got one.” Dagger notified as I see him pull up from recently destroying an enemy.

“That’s one for me as well.” Viper adds. “One left.”

“Most I can hope for is a tie, it seems!” I hear Delta say. “Come on, Shane! Let’s go!”

“You don’t stand a chance.” I quickly get a lock on the last plane, which was trying to gain distance from our flight, and gun it towards him, just as Avro was doing the same. We were both neck and neck as he launches his last missile, which misses as the plane slams hard to the right… right into my gun sights. I easily line up the guns and fire, nailing the top of his plane and putting holes straight through him. A wing was sheared off and he quickly spiraled into a fireball, exploding shortly after falling a ways down.

“That’s three for me.” I say, leveling out as I join Viper in formation. “Looks like I win.”

“Of course you do…” Delta sighs, and I can practically see him slouching in his seat.

“Good work, Breaker Squadron.” Paladin said. “Engage the recon aircraft and bring it down. We’ll identify it after we pull it out from the ocean.”

“Roger, Paladin. I’ll take it.” Viper says as he turns to engage the recon aircraft, which was trying to turn tail. He didn’t get far before Viper nailed a missile right on his left engine, blowing him apart.

“Well, that’s that, then.” I say, leaning back in my seat. “Hardly a challenge at all…”

“What’s the matter, Shane?” Delta asks. “You didn’t get to finish?”

“Shut up, Avro…” I mutter, dismissing the vulgar comment as Viper falls back in the center of our formation.

“Confirmed all hostile aircraft destroyed.” Paladin informs us. “Clear to return to base.”

“Roger, Paladin.” Viper says as he turns, leading the rest of the flight back towards Sand Island.

Well… it was more than I was expecting as far as missions go… but it still wasn’t enough. Only three down… and they barely presented any challenge to me at all… how disappointing. I was almost getting really excited… of course it had to end quickly. When was I going to get a real challenge?

I was silent the rest of the way back to base, dreading having to land back and set my feet back on the ground… how dismal my life felt down there…

---

OPERATION: GOLDEN SWAN

Debrief

Colonel Ron Harkley, Sand Island AFB commander:

“Well done on that operation. We’ve sent out a search party over to the site where you shot down those hostiles in order to confirm their affiliation. The U-2 is suspected to have been in Osean airspace for some time, so no doubt it’s delivered some data back to the nation it operated from, but what they were looking for exactly is unknown. Sand Island is the only place that was within range of its reconnaissance, so we suspect that they were monitoring us for whatever reason. As a result, we’ll be stepping up the number of scouting sorties to make sure our airspace is clear of any and all unknowns. We’ll fill you in on more details once we have them. Dismissed.”

---

I sigh and hit the bed, staring up at the ceiling and yawning… it had only been a few minutes since I’ve been back on the ground and already I was feeling like I haven’t been up in the air for weeks. The thrill of being up in the air wore off the instant my feet hit the ground, and I found my mood dulled as a result. Back to being moody and irritable, I suppose… but at least in the mission debrief the Colonel stated that we’d be upping security of our airspace, which meant more scouting sorties, which will henceforth be armed scouting sorties, which meant I’d most likely be able to go up much more frequently now.

My mind began to wander and I thought about the mission… I wondered what that U-2 was doing up there as well as those fighters. They had to have been sent from somewhere, but thinking back on it I couldn’t identify any distinct marking that would indicate a country of origin. I don’t think they were marked at all… so the only hope we had of confirming affiliation is through the flight data on the U-2, which would no doubt be traced back to wherever it came from… and honestly, they could’ve done better than a U-2. An SR-71 would’ve been a much safer bet… though those things are hard to come by nowadays… I think there are only three left in the world, two of them belong to Osea, and none of them are flight capable as they’re in museums.

I stretch myself out with a sigh, rolling over onto my stomach with my face in the pillow. I hear a knock at the door some time later, maybe an hour or so. I roll out of bed lazily and open the door, seeing Avro standing at the doorway, a pizza box in his hand.

“Oh, right…” I say, remembering the bet he had placed on me which I won.

“Can’t say I’m not a man of my word.” He says as he steps into my room without permission. I sigh and shut the door behind him, walking over to my desk and sitting in the chair, grabbing a slice of cheese pizza from the box as Avro took a slice for himself.

“So, uh…” Avro says between bites of his pizza. “What do you think about the mission? Seems kinda weird for a U-2 to be up there, right?”

“Maybe a little.” I say, actually swallowing what I had in my mouth before speaking. “Can’t imagine we aren’t being spied on by at least someone, though.”

“I guess, but it sure didn’t seem like it was making much of an effort to not be caught.” Avro shrugged.

He did raise a good point. The U-2 was an ultra high altitude surveillance aircraft… I don’t know why it’d be low enough to be picked up by a simple scouting flight, well within the altitude of any fighter. Seemed a bit out of place to me… and those fighter escorts came in awfully fast, now that I think of it. And it’s not like they were long range interceptors either, they were straight up fighters… crossing the sea like that… no, they couldn’t have crossed the sea. They had to have been on standby. They definitely knew we were going to be coming after the U-2, and they had a flight prepared. Just what the hell was going on, I wondered.

“A lot of things about that mission seem off to me.” Avro continues. “Like, I don’t even think those planes had any identifiable markings on them. Did you see anything?”

“No.” I say plainly, taking another bite of my pizza. “The best we can hope for is to trace the U-2’s flight data back to where it came from if there aren’t any markings.”

“Right…” Avro takes a large bite of his slice, taking out almost half of it in one mouthful. “Want to take bets on who sent it?”

“Not really.”

“You’re no fun.”

“I don’t exist for your entertainment, Avro.”

“Can’t humor me, at least?”

“I can’t think of any country that would want to spy on us.” I say, putting some thought into it. “Unless Osea is getting into business we aren’t aware of, I can’t think of any reason anyone would have anything against us.”

“Belka, maybe?” Avro suggested.

“Why them?”

“I don’t know…” He shrugs. “Maybe mad about the Belkan War?”

“It’s been 30 years, Avro.” I say. “Besides, I don’t think they’d risk annihilating themselves again by making a second attempt at Osea… at least not without some serious support from another major nation.”

“Yeah… I guess you’re right about that.”

“And another point is that those planes came from off the coast. Belka is just above us, so it wouldn’t make much sense for them to come from across the ocean… it has to be a major nation abroad.”

“Yuktobania maybe?” Avro said. “Or a country in Anea?”

“We’ll figure out when we figure out.” I say. “I don’t really feel like thinking about it right now. It’s probably nothing important, anyway…”

“I don’t know… I still have a bad feeling.”

“We’ll deal with whatever problems may arise.” I say, finishing a slice of pizza and going for another. “Shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”

“Yeah… you’re probably right.” Avro sighs. “I mean, what’s there to worry about with you around, right?”

It was under no question that Avro somewhat idolized me… well, that wasn’t exactly the right word for it. We had more of a one-sided friendly rivalry, where Avro would try to best me and consistently fail, but he would always have a good time testing his skills against me… and I can’t say he hasn’t improved. He was definitely one of the more skillful pilots on the base just from his unorthodox combat tactics as well as his combat adaptability. He wasn’t quite at Octavia’s level, but… he wasn’t bad. He could hold his own, at the very least.

Avro and I actually came from the same regiment in the Osean Air Defense Force before joining Calamity Haven, and even though we didn’t actually know each other while in the OADF, the fact that we came from the same place and around the same time, we were paired up together based on that fact alone. I didn’t ask to be paired with him, but I didn’t really care either way. I still did my job.

I look out the window of my room as I hear the sounds of helicopter rotors overhead. I look over to the runway and watch as the wreckage of the U-2 we had downed is set down and transported into a hangar. Avro looks out beside me to observe the scene.

“Looks like they recovered the plane.” He says.

“Yeah.” I say, closing the blinds.

I guess we’d have our answers soon…

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