On the Job Training
An Ace Combat 5 story
Kei tells me that as soon as I saw the majority of the Yuktobanian fighters beginning to maneuver towards us I ordered her and Chopper to form up on me and fly support. I can believe this, as the three of us were flying mutual support by the time that I can recall the battle clearly. I do not remember anything but a blur of control inputs, missile and gun shots, and the acquiring of new targets. Kei called it 'the most amazing series of combat maneuvers' that she had ever seen up until then. According to her, each and every move seemed calculated to control the enemy, letting us spend as little time as possible on each of them.
My comprehensive memories return as an element of three planes engaged us in a head-to-head joust, two of them receiving missiles to their noses for their troubles. Chopper's was quick enough and lucky enough to just barely get out of the ATM that he loosed. But then we were arcing up and over to drop in on his tail, still within gun range as he broke exactly the wrong way. Three short spurts of cannon fire converged on his tail and we broke away from him, hunting for our next targets.
Flicking a glance over my shoulder, I saw an explosion where the cannon shells had landed, then the welcome sight of our target ejecting from his wrecked plane. But my attention was more focused on the tactical map that my HMD projected in the lower left of my field of view. "Chopper, take Bandit 12. Edge, Bandit 3 is working his way into advantage on you. Continue right. I've got your tail covered."
"Got it, Kid. He's all mine!"
"Confirmed, Blaze. Continuing right." Edge's voice was surprisingly level, all things considered, but there was some unease leaking through. "Blaze, an enemy element is targeting you…"
"I know. I've got enough time." As I said that, my EW board lit up and the cue of an enemy searching for a lock sounded in my earphones, along with the red 'WARNING' box in my HMD. "Tighten your turn, but prepare to reverse left on my mark."
I cruised right in on the Tigershark's tail that had picked Kei for its target. He had left his SA back at home, that pilot, just doing his best to lock up Edge, so much so that he didn't even notice my ATMs sniffing at his tail. "Break now! Blaze, Fox 2, Fox 2!" I squeezed the side stick's trigger twice, releasing my weapons to blow the F-20 clear out of the sky.
Then "Bitchin' Betty" was screaming enemy missile lock in my ears, followed shortly by the missile warning. An eyeflick down and to the left confirmed the situation on the tactical map. Four missiles were streaking towards my tail, courtesy of a pair of Yuke fighters that were at a lower altitude than me. It was just like I had predicted. "Edge, take the fighters on my tail…Bandit 7 and 8. I'll cover you from Bandit 11."
"Got it, Blaze! I promise I'll get them." She rolled over into a Split-S and dove at the two Tigers that had launched on me.
I wanted to reply that I knew she would, but the only thing I was saying was "hook", forced out through gritted teeth as I pulled into a 9-G downward turn that the missiles couldn't follow at that close of range. I didn't bother to pop any countermeasures without a radar lock warning. Yuktobanian standard missiles used a lidar seeker much like our ATMs, and neither chaff nor flares do anything really useful against them. You have to simply force more Gs onto the missile's tiny wings than they can handle.
I continued the bank just long enough, then spiraled up into a zoom-climb which ended with me in an intentional hammerhead stall, ruddering over to stoop on Bandit 11, who was turning into Edge's arc, just as she ripped Bandit 8's wing off with cannon fire as the Yuke pilot tried to keep up with his more skilled pair leader, who was jinking well.
Shoving my throttle far forward, I ignited my afterburner, picking up speed quickly, and reaching Bandit 11 as he realized that I was screaming down upon him. I could see his helmeted and masked face staring up at me as he started to frantically evade. My mind placed his frightened eyes in place of his sun visor even as I opened up with my guns. It wasn't pleasant, especially as my first few shells impacted on the nose of his fighter, after which the rest marched down the plane's centerline, including the cockpit.
Needless to say, he didn't eject. Neither did Bandit 7, buying a missile from Edge and exploding in a massive fireball. As Bandit 7 went, I rolled and pushed forward on the stick to avoid the debris of Bandit 11.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but the killing was made worse by the fact that Osean policy, and indeed the policy of most militaries is to have a 'secondary channel' that is overrode by your primary channel but puts through enemy chatter during the dead space in your radio chatter. They teach you other languages so that you can glean tactical information from it. Now, I'm a horrible linguist, and I do mean horrible, so I only know a little Yuktobanian, but I don't need to know any to know what a death scream sounds like, and the subtext of a man pleading for his life as he spirals towards the ground in a ruined fighter with an equally ruined ejection seat and major wounds is not something found in grammar and vocabulary. Emotion sounds the same the world over.
Mercifully, Chopper's radio call overrode the screams of Bandits 7 and 11. "I got Bandit 12…and 10. Anything else you want me to do, Kid?"
Fates, I hated that nickname. "Just form up on me, Chopper. It looks like the Yukes are bugging out." Indeed, the remaining members of the strike force seemed to be heading back the way they had come. "We'll flow to low-altitude cover of the Kestrel, racetrack pattern."
I pushed forward on the stick, sending my Falcon into a gentle dive that Kei and Alvin followed, pulling out at about Angels 3. That was about when the Yuke A-6E that somehow had gotten cut off from the raggedy formation that was heading out to whatever carrier or airbase had launched this attack took a final ATM from Marcus's rails. Flames engulfed its tail as it spiraled down, crashing in between the Kestrel and the nearby Aegis-class cruiser. The fireball it became touched off an oil slick from a foundering destroyer that had made it out of the port earlier, only to start sinking near the bridge after taking a number of bombs as it exited the port.
It's amazing what the mind can perceive…amazing and terrible. I say this because I, and the rest of Wardog saw bodies in that flaming water…the lucky ones dead, the unfortunate burning alive, skin melting…I cannot write anymore about this. Some memories are best left alone.
A tense silence followed the horrible sight, broken only by our shuddery breaths into our masks as we orbited the carrier. It was a good fifteen minutes before Chopper broke the silence. "Kid…did you see that?"
I cut him off with perhaps the curtest "Yes" I had ever delivered in my life. I really didn't want to think about it.
"So you saw it too…that sea…"
I was almost glad to see the wingpair of Mirage 2000s come to try and divert the fleet's fighter cover from the three ASM carrying BAE Nimrods behind them. It gave us something to focus on. I don't believe those pilots really knew what hit them, as we turned in behind them and ripped their planes to shreds with cannon fire. Snow led the remaining F-14s in a sortie against the Nimrods, a sortie that quartet of F-4s tried to break up.
We arrowed up in a hard climb and punched through their formation, firing just enough rounds from our cannons to make the Phantom drivers think that it would be a very good idea to scatter their formation as a triad of gray-painted Falcons punched right through the middle of it.
Too predictable, they played right into my hands, as I ordered a formation break that dropped us each in on one of the larger planes' tails. Three missile shots later, we each had an extra kill.
That was when my threat warning alarms started going off. The last Phantom pilot had been better than I thought. He figured out my plan, and took advantage of the fact that by its very nature, my plan left him uncovered.
I grimaced as my HMD went red. He had fired a missile at my tail, and at a lot closer range than I liked.
Honestly, I expected to be hit. My first time out from under Bartlett's wing, a chance to gain some real respect from him…and I was about to get shot down by someone flying a almost-obsolete fighter. I knew that, even as the thoughts flashed through my head, that it was too late to evade. I was going to be one of those horrible screams over the radio, or if I was lucky…I'd have a long ride on the silk elevator to the waves below, where the pissed-off Yuktobanian sailors might just pick me up.
But I was already evading. When I realized the G-forces were shoving the blood in my body towards my feet, even as my hands and feet moved through the most fluid flying I had ever seen out of myself, I was amazed to find myself coming about in a reversal, even as Kei's horrified gasp turned into one of amazement. The Phantom's missile flashed past me…and my finger tightened on the trigger, sending the last of my gun's ammo into the F-4's wing. He didn't fall from the sky, but he did disengage.
"You haven't lost you lead plane yet, Edge."
"Hey, Kid…you want me to finish off the guy you winged? I've got a solid tone."
I unclipped my mask. "Negative. We've had enough death today. They're no threat, so just leave them." I felt myself almost pull away from the fighter, like we had become two separate entities again.
"…my thanks to our brave warriors of the sea…and in the air." The admiral's voice. I glanced at my tac map. The Kestrel had made it.
"So…did you like being squadron leader, Jack?"
I had to really consider that question. This leadership crap, it had been remarked, was an excellent way to get killed. Still… "I guess so."
"That's good to hear."
Kei was about to say something, but the radio was beeping for attention. Thunderhead calling to give us our vector to the refueling craft, and then to Sand Island. I let my body automatically punch in the necessary waypoints and sent them over to Kei and Alvin through the squadron computer net, an Osean add-on to each of our planes that I heartily agree with.
"One, two, three. One, two, three planes. Count em all up man, we're all back safe." I smiled. Alvin was right. The mission was a success, and we had taken no casualties. That was what was important. "The Captain's going to freak when we get back to Sand Island."
That got me thinking. What would that insufferable old…highly skilled…bastard think about how things had went? Would he be mad that I had taken squadron command against orders? Was my performance good enough?
A moot point, as we would find out later.
AN: Hello all you wonderful readers...those who haven't gotten fed up with how long this chapter took to get out. And to any new readers, hello as well. I am sorry with how long this one took to come out. Personal troubles is all I'm willing to say. Nothing serious, but bear with me, please. I love writing far too much to stop, and this story is one that I do enjoy quite a bit.