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Erik Felsen

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"The Dogfight and the Sword Duel are really one and the same if you think about it; you are the swordsman, your fighter is your blade, and your weapons are the edge of your blade, and how many strikes you can attempt before your blade becomes dull; the key difference is that in the dogfight, your objective is to shatter the enemy's weapon, rather than to outright kill the enemy warrior, although there is a very high probability of that occuring either way."

-Erik Felsen on the nature of Air-to-Air Combat.

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Early Life

Erik Felsen was born to Josef and Irene Felsen in the city of Sudentor, South Belka on March 25th, 1976. His mother was a school teacher and was the quiet type; his father, on the other hand, was bold and daring, quite fitting for his job: he was a fighter pilot in the Belkan Air Force's 51st Air Division, 126th Tactical Fighter Squadron, better known as 'Silber'. A good friend of Dietrich Kellerman and the aforementioned pilot's wingman, Josef was as happy as he could be with his life. From an early age, Josef began to teach his son the history of Belka as well as that of the Felsen clan of knights, from which they are descended. He also instilled a deep sense of honor and loyalty in his son, which would be the pillars of Erik's very existence until Belka ceased to exist in 2017.

It seemed as if Josef was ready to finally settle down and take an even more active role in his family, but that all changed when the Rectan War broke out. At end of the final battle, he was wounded and grounded, but he still felt he could fly combat. This would prove to be his undoing during the Crescence Islands Incident of 1985, during which he sacrificed himself by using his own F-4E to shield his friend and squadron leader, Dietrich Kellerman. Josef's remains were found a week later and returned to Sudentor, where he was posthumously awarded the Silver Cross and buried with full honors.

This shook Erik to the core; any sense of security he once had all but disappeared from his life, his father's legacy and his sudden lack of a paternal figure was a heavy burden for him to bear, too heavy, it seemed.  His academic performance suffered the most, to the point that within a year of his father's death he went from the top of his class to facing expulsion from his grades being so bad that his teachers were at a loss of what to do with him, not to mention his sudden rebellious shift.  What friends he once had, he lost as he withdrew into a sort of shell, and to cope he took up music, specifically playing the guitar, and swordsmanship, the latter of which helped as he had inherited a strange sword from his father known as "Rache Die Drache", a katana from Shirubā with some sort of etching along the blade resembling an Eastern dragon, along with text he was unable to read due to him not knowing how to read any of that country's four written alphabets.

In 1993, while in High School, he stepped on one too many toes, which along with his poor grades resulted in him being expelled from the school system.  Although Belka had expanded outwards slightly, its economic problems hadn't been alleviated, and so the young Erik was unable to find a job anywhere, the death of his mother from a drug overdose not helping him as he had been stripped of his inheritance, his house and most of his possessions to pay off his mother's final expenses, leaving him cold, homeless and starving on the streets.  Left with no other option, he broke the promise he had made to his mother and enlisted in the Luftwaffe (alternatively known as the Belkan Air Force).

Joining the Luftwaffe (1994)

Basic training went well enough for Felsen, but he was at best average.  His mechanical aptitude had him assigned as an aircraft mechanic, specializing in maintaining and testing the sophisticated "fly-by-wire" computer control systems found on the most modern aircraft in Belka's arsenal.  The fact that he had this specialty also ensured that he was given limited flight instruction for the purpose of test flying the aircraft he was assigned to maintain.  However, most of his "test flights" were more than just testing to see if anything needed additional tuning, but was a time for him to let off some steam, and as a result he tended to push himself and the aircraft a little harder than expected.  The most blatant example of this came on September 3rd, 1994, when he took an Su-27 Flanker up for a test flight and accidentally stumbled into a mock dogfight amongst the Rabe squadron (not to be confused with a certain SR-71 pilot), a fighter squadron led by a highly-decorated veteran from the Rectan War; being mistaken for one of the squadron's planes, some of the fighters dove on him, with Erik evading on instinct.  While he never got in a position to take a shot at them, his unpredictable evasive maneuvers ran the fighter pilots ragged, until suddenly, the squadron leader decided to end it and dove on him, taking him out of the fight.

Erik landed the Flanker, and to say the least his superiors were NOT amused in the slightest.   He was arrested by the MPs on base and informed that he would face a court marshal for reckless endangerment of equipment and derelict of duty.  However, Rabe Squadron's lead pilot was able to convince the base commander to rescend his judgement and instead have him transferred to Advanced Flight Training, much to Erik's surprise: he was to be trained as a fighter pilot.

While training as a fighter pilot, he was about average, in that his skill in one area tended to overshadow his ineptitude in another.  He was quick-thinking and had excellent eyesight, allowing him to evade even the most dogged pursuit, but for some reason he was too defensive, afraid to take the offense.  Nevertheless, upon (barely) graduating from AFT, he was assigned to, of all places, the Rabe Squadron, where he was assigned as Rabe 2, the wingman to Wolfgang "Huckebein" Buchner, the same man who had arranged for his training as a pilot to begin with.  Whilst Buchner saw potential in him, the others in the squadron were less than pleased, considering him nothing more than dead weight, which led to it becoming his unofficial callsign: "Eigengewicht".   Regardless of his skill, however, he was soon forced to fly combat, whether he liked it or not, for within a year, long before anyone thought he was ready, the Belkan War began.

The Belkan War (Early 1995)

For the most part, Rabe Squadron was assigned to the Eastern Front of the war, along the border with Belka's old nemesis in the Fato Federation, where the Rabe Squadron, for the most part, used him as a distraction while they shot down whoever was following him, something that Buchner mostly disapproved of except when it made sense tactically and the enemy appeared to be inexperienced.  Needless to say, Erik scored no kills at all during this part of the war, at the most maybe scoring a glancing blow or near miss that barely phased his adversary.  However, it was during this time that he started to become smitten with one of his wingmates: Eilene Becket, callsign Rabe 7, and Buchner's handpicked successor to lead the squadron if anything happened to him.  She was easily the best pilot in the squadron besides Buchner, and in combat against Fato scored 23 victories, more even than Buchner himself scored against them (primarily as Buchner fought defensively, ironically much like Erik's style at the time, except that he was actually GOOD at it).  She was an aggressive pilot that never let up on the enemy, a stark contrast to Erik's frantic evasion, and needless to say, while the rest of the squadron tolerated him at best, she openly hated him, as she believed that he was a coward, although this wouldn't last forever.

With the opening of Osea's Offensive Operation Number 4101 and the fall of Directus, Rabe was transferred west to the Hydrian Line, where they engaged for the first time with Ustian fighters.  The Ustians were fewer in number than Fato's pilots, but what they lacked in number they made up for in skill and motivation, particularly the mercenaries that Ustio had hired after nearly being completely overrun by the Belkan Blitzkrieg.  In combat against them, Erik was even FURTHER pressed to stay airborne, but remarkably was never shot down despite taking severe damage to his aircraft several times, once having it written off as the damage was too severe to warrant repairs, but by then the entire squadron was in need of a refit, and was equipped with newer Su-37s.

Once Excalibur fell, Rabe was assigned to B7R a place where the rest of the squadron, again save Buchner, was certain that Erik would either be killed and they wouldn't have to worry about him, or they would hinder them more than ever, but soon, everything became even worse.  Without any indication that it would happen, Buchner disappeared, taking off in his reserve plane, a MiG-21, but not before sabotaging his squadron's fighters to prevent them from taking off himself.  As it turned out, he was defecting, for reasons that none of the rest of the squadron knew at the time; however, this may have saved them, as they were not forced to take off and engage in the air battle at B7R; had they been there, Rabe would likely have been completely wiped out by the Ustian Mercenary and Osean Air Force squadrons.  It appeared that Eilene would succeed the squadron, but word of Huckebein's defection went up the chain of command, and  as such she was considered politically unreliable, leading to Erik being placed in command instead.  This was something the squadron could not tolerate, but Erik turned out to be very heavy-handed, and was so furious with Buchner's defection that he forced the squadron to change their name and designation to the 3113th Tactical Fighter Squadron, callsign "Wywyrm".

As time passed, the squadron was forced to retreat further and further back, eventually having to leave their main headquarters in Hoffnung and causing them to relocate to Sudentor.  Once arriving there, they recieved an order forbidding them from retreating any further, expecting them to fight to the last pilot.  The next day, the Allied forces began their assault on Sudentor and forced Wywyrm into combat.  During this dogfight, Erik was pushed to his limit, and found himself separated from his squadron, surrounded by Osean fighters thinking him to be an easy kill.  It became very clear during this fight why he was so evasive: he was scared of dying, although at the time it was dismissed as nothing.  It took a near miss that shattered his cockpit's canopy to suddenly encourage a change out of his desperation not to end up like his father.  His flying became far more aggressive, and in that single engagement he downed ten fighters single-handedly, forcing the Osean squadron to retreat, but by then, a bright flash in the distance made it clear that no matter what just happened, they had lost the war.  Upon landing and hearing of the bombings in Waldreich, Erik completely broke down, his squadron finally learning from him that his father had been killed in a similar dogfight when he was still a child.  While not excusing his poor performance, this led his suboordinates to respect him somewhat more, at least to the point of acknowledging that he was in control of the squadron.

With the end of the war, Wywyrm Squadron was forced to surrender, but there was still one last battle to be fought.

"No Boundries" (Late 1995)

Late in 1995, Wywyrm and the remaining squadrons of the Luftwaffe were scrambled to try and counter the recent Coup De'tat by a group called "A World With No Boundries"; a multinational organization, the group threatened to ruin not just Belka, but the world as a whole, and worse yet, most of the Belkan military had defected to join them, not least of which being the crew of the XB-0, codenamed Hresvelgr, a massive gunship created as a "Wunderwaffe" to try and turn the tide against the Allies, but completed too late to make a difference in the war effort, its sole planned mission during the war cancelled due to a fuel shortage.

They were scrambled to try and intercept the XB-0 after it had been confirmed that it had attacked Ustio, in hopes of preventing it from returning to Belkan airspace.  Instead of the XB-0, however, Wywyrm encountered its vanguard of escort fighters, consisting both of former comrades and of Allied squadrons.  This included some of the Espada Squadron, Espadas 3 through 8 to be exact (the other two guarding XB-0 itself); the engagement proved that Erik's change at Sudentor was no fluke and that he could at least match the others in the squadron by now, but the engagement cost them much of their fuel and ammunition, too much to return to their temporary base in Lumen, forcing them to fly south towards Ustio.  However, they soon encountered the XB-0 itself over the irradiated Waldreich region...just as it crashed into the mountains below.

Wywyrm made an emergency landing at Valais Airbase, where Erik was able to convince the Ustians, with great difficulty, that they were on the same side.  It was here, finally, that he met the so-called "Demon Lord" he had heard about, and was surprised at how...normal...he seemed, if a bit quiet by normal standards.

Within a short time, a joint operation was planned that would hopefully destroy the Coup forces at their headquarters in the Avalon Dam at Mund, a place that Erik knew to be heavily fortified as well as a stockpile for secret weapons that were never used before the war ended, which was enough reason to be nervous, but besides that there were the roles of various squadrons during the attack.  The Allied squadrons were to be split up into two attack groups, one flying above the dam to decoy the air defense systems, and if possible, suppress them, the other to fly low through the canyon and attack the dam itself to hopefully prevent the V2 from being launched.  The Belkan Squadrosn assigned to the mission had a far more dangerous role, however: they were to fly in ahead of the Allied advance and draw away the fighters protecting the dam, which was almost certainly a death sentence, but they had no other option.  With no way to get out of this besides being executed for whatever war crime the Allies could imagine to pin on him and his squadron, Erik ordered Wywyrm into the air for the last time in the war.

Upon arrival, the fighter wing's worth of fighters were immediately set upon by AWWNB interceptors, resulting in half of their number being shot down in a matter of seconds.  Erik ordered the ramining squadrons to break towards the North and hopefully draw away the enemy fighters, and sure enough, they followed.  What resulted was a furious melee, in which both sides suffered heavy losses, but Wywyrm came out alive, the last squadron standing  Low on ammunition, Erik ordered the squadron to return to base, but they were set upon by two remaining squadrons from AWWNB: Sorcerer and Wizard.  This, again, led to firece combat, and by the end of it, the former Osean squadrons and half of Wywyrm squadron had been shot down, the first time Erik had lost a wingman while in command.  Their intent to retreat was cut short, however, as an unknown attacker raked them with laser fire, shooting them all down save for Erik, who managed to stay aloft with an engine out and control surfaces barely functional; this allowed him to observe the final dogfight between Cipher and Pixy over Avalon before he made his way towards the irradiated Waldreich region, where he ran out of fuel and ejected, his Su-37 crashing harmlessly into the small lake north of Stier Castle, later to be salvaged by Osean relief efforts in the region. Of sixteen pilots in the squadron, only four of them, Erik included, survived the engagement and the Coup as a whole.

On to Usea (1996-1998)

On January 1st, 1996, the Wywyrm Squadron was disbanded, having lost too many of its pilots to justify keeping it on the roster, as only four pilots out of sixteen remained.  However, the news soon became even worse, and an already-humiliated Erik Felsen was forced to come to terms with it; not only had the entire world condemned Belka for using nuclear weapons, even though it was on their own soil and killed more of their own people than those of the Allied forces, but they had effectively resolved to castrate Belka's ability to so much as defend itself, in the form of the Treaty of Lumen.  This treaty, among other things, required a drastic downsizing of Belka's military and their military budget, limiting the Army and Navy to 100,000 personel each, banning their use of submarines as well as forbidding them from the use of any fixed-wing aircraft, effectively disbanging the Air Force and Naval Aviation.  To add further insult, they were required to pay for the cost of the war to the victorious powers, and it didn't take a genious that this was a quite-deliberate slight-of-hand by Osea.

Embittered by this final humiliation, Erik, like many others that suddenly found themselves without a purpose, Air Force personel in particular, fled from Belka to fight on elsewhere, some joining the victorious Allies themselves ( some cases only in name...), others heading to other nations in need of military personel.  He himself fled to the Usean continent, leaving his other squadron members behind after it became clear that Osea would try to pin war crimes on him, something they were now able to do because they had annexed South Belka, including his home town just south of Sudentor.

Upon arrival, he joined the USEA Federal Air Forces, a joint air task force combining the Air Forces of each nation on the continent, and found himself assigned to the Erusian branch.  It was here that he met Erich Klinsmann, another ace from Belka, but not just any ace; he was the top-scoring ace of the entire war with 155 victories (officially, since Cipher's kill count was never publicized, and Pixy's was only in the low 70s by comparison).  Unlike Erik, he didn't really seem to mind that Belka had lost, but nevertheless they were forced to put their differences aside when they not only found themselves both assigned to the same squadron (Bravo Flight of the Albireo Squadron, no less), they soon found themselves fighting in yet another war.

The Usean Rebellion was a trying time for the Usean Continent, begun by rebels who feared that the 1994XFO4 Asteroid was going to cause the death of all of mankind, and thus just wanted to do their own thing before they died, causing them to put up fanatical resistance against the USEA loyalists and their mercenary reinforcements.  For the two Belkans, this meant that they had to fight harder than ever before, particularly when the Alpha Flight of Albireo squadron suddenly turned on them, forcing them to return to base; naturally, nobody believed it when they said that Albireo's Alpha Flight had defected, though they were later vindicated when the Albireo Squadron was engaged during operation Alphaville by an ace known only as "Phoenix".

With Albireo disbanded upon the flight lead's death, Felsen and Klinsmann organized a new squadron of their own, although they had already been functioning as a separate unit, consisting of themselves, an Usean and two Erusians.  On December 12th, 1998, the Federal Erusian Air Force 156th Tactical Fighter Wing, also known as "Aquila" (TAC Name: "Yellow"), was formed, with Erich Klinsmann as Yellow 13, Erik Felsen as Yellow 1, Sheleilagh Adams as Yellow 4, Jean-Louis Olson as Yellow 2, and Gene Myer as Yellow 9, although up until then they had been referred to as the "Yellows" due to Bravo Flight's trademark paintscheme: gray camouflage on the upper fuselage and bright yellow on the underside of the fuseleage and wingtips.

(Note: Although Erik Felsen's TAC Name was Yellow 1, AND he was the leader of the 1st Fighter Squadron of the 156th Tactical Fighter Wing, Erich Klinsmann was the WING Commander, and thus had authority over him.)

Yellows and Ribbons (1999-2005)

With the official formation of the Aquila Squadron in late 1998, Erik finally found some semblence of stability after the Belkan War, and soon enough the Usean Rebellion was over.  However, he and many others knew that the peace wasn't to last.  While the Rebels had failed in their overall objective, they succeeded in splintering USEA apart along national borders, reducing the FCU from a federation to a confederate alliance.

Things would soon become even worse, however, as the Ulysses Asteroid passed the Roche Limit, splitting into many fragments.  Stonehenge was able to intercept many of the fragments, but not enough of them, and so several parts of the world, particularly Erusia and Estovakia, were hit with multiple fragments of the gigantic asteroid.  Possibly the most notable impact event was the Ryker collision on July 3rd, 1999, in which a fragment slammed into Farbanti, the capital of Erusia, killing thousands of people and flooding a large part of the city to the point of becoming uninhabitable.  Erik had been in Farbanti on leave at the time and was one of only a few people in the areas that were flooded that survived mostly unharmed.  It became clear that with the economic disruption caused by the impacts, there was going to be another war, something that Erik made very clear to the other members of the Yellow Squadron to expect a conflict to begin soon.

That conflict began on August 23rd, 2003, with the Invasion of San Salvacion and subsequent siezure of Stonehenge, beginning the Usean Continental War.

For much of the war, Erik and the other Yellows swept the newly-formed ISAF's air forces from the sky, with help from Stonehenge; he would later remark that during this time he had "scored the easiest air-to-air victories of (his) life".  This only lasted until the Battle of Comona, the largest air battle since the Second Battle of the Round Table, when for the first time that he had witnessed, Erik Felsen saw Yellow 13 take a hit in combat, forcing him to retreat.  He observed that the offending fighter had an insignia resembling a ribbon on it, and in his memoirs indicated a "...feeling of unease upon seeing that blue ribbon in a figure-8, and a bit of deja vu for some reason."  He began to have doubts about this "ribbon" for some time, wondering if it had been a fluke that the top-scoring ace in the world  had been hit, if he had been careless or if the enemy fighter was actually good enough to LAND a hit on him.  Later, Erik recieved an answer, over Stonehenge, when Yellow Squadron arrived late at Stonehenge due to damage from an airstrike and lack of maintenance, which resulted in him flying into the engagement without a functional radar, and Yellow 4 with a dead engine; he had been horrified to find out that it wasn't just an airstrike that had destroyed Stonehenge's functionality, but that the airstrike had been carried out by a single pilot bearing a blue ribbon on the tail.  Even worse, this fighter was able to pick up the one straggler of the group within seconds, and less than a minute after engaging, Yellow 4's fighter had been destroyed; despite Erik's desire to keep fighting and find out more about this adversary, Yellow 13 overrode him as the Wing Commander and ordered them to return to base.

San Salvacion soon came under attack by the ISAF, forcing the Yellows to retreat, all the way to Farbanti, and then beyond that to their new base at the Twinkle Islands, and sure enough, the ISAF wasn't far behind.  The squadron made the flight to Farbanti too late to save most of the defenders, but they DID have a chance to have a second chance at shooting down the Ribbon, Mobius One.  The result was a long dogfight that to the day of his supposed death, Erik recalls as being one of his most difficult.  Three of the Yellows were down within two minutes, leaving just the two Belkans, and is when the dogfight became really intense as they dropped the Erusian doctrine they had followed and started falling back on their Belkan Air Force training.  Even this didn't save them, as Erich Klinsmann was shot down after five minutes, his fighter crashing into the ocean before he could bail out.  Erik was the last to go, bailing out just as cannonfire shattered his cockpit, resulting in the loss of an eye and severe disfigurement to his face, along with breaking both of his arms (to be fair, he's lucky he didn't lose them).

Due to his wounds, which took quite a while to heal, he wasn't able to take off immediately when Megalith, which had been the 156th Tactical Fighter Wing's base for about two months, came under attack at 0800 hours on October 26th, but was still able to join up with the main formation after a few minutes despite having only had the casts off of his arms for a couple of days, in the meantime handing command of the wing to Jean-Louis, with Gene as Second-In-Command, citing personal reasons for not wishing to take command (he was still begrieved by Klinsmann's supposed death at the time).  To his horror, he and the other Yellows discovered that it wasn't ONE Mobius they were fighting, but no less than THIRTEEN of them, with almost no way to know which one was the most dangerous, not to mention that as elite as the 1st Fighter Squadron (THE Yellow Squadron) of the 156th Tactical Fighter Wing was, most of the pilots were green, as a result of both the high command cycling pilots in and out of the wing to give them combat experience (or as the case was early on, a much-needed break) and most of their experienced pilots being lost over San Salvacion, with only three experienced pilots left.

The Yellows were slaughtered, further helped by the fact that within the first two minutes, both Jean-Louis AND Gene had been shot down, again forcing command onto Erik, but this wasn't enough.  He soon found himself alone in the sky, fighting twelve "Ribbons", which kept him busy wile Mobius One attacked Megalith alone.  The fact that Erik was able to survive this all at once was a miracle alone, and probably wouldn't have happened if he hadn't spent the last several years in the Yellow Squadron, a far greater pilot now than he was at the end of the Belkan War.  In spite of his efforts, he was eventually shot down, and Megalith was destroyed.  A patrolling ISAF Frigate picked him up that evening and he was made a POW; during his short time in captivity, Erik found out just why he had felt deja vu at seeing the Ribbon, and was absolutely mortified, yet at the same time not surprised, to find out that Mobius One was one and the same with Cipher, the Demon Lord of the Round Table (although he only realized this because he knew what Cipher looked like, and recognized his face, something that nobody else could).

After a couple of weeks, an unknown benefactor secured Erik's release.  All Erik recieved from this benefactor was two things: a first-class plane ticket to Apito International Airport and a note describing the man who would be there to pick him up, signed "A.B."

The Plan (2005-2010)

On Ocotber 21st, 2005, with his commission from the Federal Erusian Air Force resolved and his retirement taken care-of, Erik finally returned to the Osean Continent, and found himself greeted by two personal protection agents, apparently hired to get him and his bags over to where this "A.B." was waiting.  After a few uneasy minutes, particularly due to customs' suspicion that he may have been a war criminal fleeing prosecution in Usea, Erik finally made it to the van waiting for him outside the airport, and discovered that "A.B" was merely someone's initials.  His benefactor was Ashley Bernitz, former commanding officer of the Grabacr Squadron, one of the other squadrons in the same wing as the old Rabe, later Wywyrm, squadrons.  The two of them had only met once or twice before, and neither time was Ashley impressed with the former mechanic, and all that Erik knew of him was that he was the one to shoot down Huckebein after the latter attempted to defect.

From there, Erik was driven all the way to Sudentor in what was by then North Osea, and soon arrived at the headquarters for North Osea Grunder Industries, which Ashley revealed himself to be affiliated with, having scouted him out after hearing of the exploits of the Yellow Squadron.  Erik was brought in to meet the CEO, and was offered a new job as a test pilot for Grunder's "Advanced Defense" (AD) program, a research and development project aimed at developing high-performance fighters based on the research of the old South Belka Munitions Factory and Project Pendragon.  Erik had already been acquainted with one aircraft of the AD series: the ADFX-02, codenamed "Morgan", and had suspected that an aircraft he had spotted while in Usea (this turned out to be the ZOE-controlled ADF-01 "Falken" prototype, which had been stolen by a benefactor for the rebel forces in 1998), and so was quite interested in the project; he accepted, but was informed that he was one of four test pilots, the others being his old squadron.  Despite misgivings, their greetings towards him were a bit...warmer than he had expected, besides his former number three's shocked expression and asking about what had happened to his face.  To them, it was clear that Erik wasn't the same man he was when he left for Usea, and it seemed, to him, that they liked these changes.

In the first few weeks of working for Grunder Industries, Erik and the Wywyrm Squadron were given conversion training on the Sukhoi Su-50 PAK-FA, codename "Firefox".  A pair of early prototypes for the Su-50 had seen action in the Usean Rebellion (originally they were loaned to Erusia's EASA, but the rebels stole them and supplied them to two of their pilots), but besides that, the fighter had never been seen outside of Yuktobania itself, and even then the West for the most part knew nothing of the newest counter to the F-22, save Erik who was familiar with the controls (the Yellow Squadron had recieved conversion training for the X-02, which used a similar cockpit layout to the Su-50, but the aircraft wasn't ready for service until the Usean Continental War ended).  This led to a series of intense mock dogfights initiated by Erik to bring the rest of the squadron up to par, or as Ashley Bernitz told him to do, "show them how the Yellow Squadron fought."  At first, the dogfights were laughably one-sided in Erik's favor, but eventually his squadron caught up in skill.  Once this had been done, they were approached by Ashley Bernitz again, but not for what they thought; Grunder's  board of directors had requested to meet with the squadron. The exact details of this meeting are unknown, but what is known is that this led to Erik and his squadron joining the shadowy organization known as the Gray Men, a Belkan nationalist organization with a "revanchist" ideology of restoring Belka's prosperity by avenging their defeat, through pitting the two major superpowers against each other in hopes of weakening them both sufficiently to the point that North Belka could retake all territory that it had lost to Osea and other nations after the Belkan War of 1995.


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