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Summary: four years after ISAF crushes Erusia, Mobius 1, the legendary ace who helped bring the war to a close disappears. Now the Circum-Pacific War starts…

The Ultimate Ace

September of 2004: The ISAF and Erusian Continental War heats up

September of 2005: The war is brought to an end by the legendary Mobius 1.

June of 2008: Mobius 1, for reasons unknown, drops from view. Rumors have his whereabouts some where in the country of Osea across the sea but these are unconfirmed.

Present day: Wardog squadron is on an intercept mission to force an unknown spy plane to land…..

The voice of the orbiting AWACS aircraft cut through the droning 'whoosh' of the tiny fighter's air conditioning,

"Attention Wardog Squadron, unknown enemy is a your twelve o'clock, altitude Angels 20." The pilot of the tiny F-5E Tiger shifted in his seat the best he could, restrained as he was by the harness holding him tightly to his ejection seat.

He listened with half an ear as his flight lead, Capt. Jack Bartlett, responded to the AWACS call, "Rodger that AWACS. OK Wardog listen up, We are to intercept this guy as he tries to exit our airspace. Bad news is it's an SR-71." The pilot of the F-5 groaned. They would never catch the fast bastard in these things, "Good news is somehow our guys managed to peg him with a SAM."

The pilot felt astonishment ripple through him and he just had to ask the question burning on his lips, "How the hell did they manage that?"

"Good question Wardog 4." Bartlett replied, "Guess the pilot musta been asleep or something." Wardog 4, a pilot by name of Brian Forrest, privately agreed. The man was in his late twenties and there was way more to him than his rather ordinary appearance would suggest. Though he was billed as a nugget in the Osean Air Defense Force, he was, in fact, the legendary ace who destroyed Stonehenge, the feared superweapon of the Erusian military, five years ago. The man had been just twenty-one then, now at twenty-six, his already formidable skills had matured to truly frightening proportions. Few knew where the amazing ace had gone when he had resigned his commission with ISAF and just disappeared. Most thought Forrest had died in a plane crash or something. Only Brian and a select few within the ISAF government knew the true story.

After being harassed by the media and greedy senators and other assorted politicians he just couldn't take it anymore. So Maj. General Brian Forrest packed his bags and moved to Osea. He had fully intended to spend the rest of his life living in the blessed solitude. He was famous through the world as Mobius 1, but Brian Forrest was just your average guy. The international press had never gotten a photo of his real face. This was due to the fact that Mobius 1 never took of his helmet in their presence. Heck, he never even raised his visor to any press ever. How the local news hounds had gotten an image of his face was beyond him, but they had and Brian had never known a moment's peace since.

But, as that old military axiom said, "a plan never survives first contact with the enemy." This had rung true for General Forrest as well. Well, maybe not general anymore. Now he was Second Lieutenant Brian Forrest, a nugget with the OADF. Flying a fighter proved to be too addictive to just leave behind and he had signed on to the OADF after months of dead-end jobs. He had been very careful to hide his skills during flight training even if he desperately wanted to cut loose on some of the more arrogant cadets who all seemed to come from the Officer Training program that Osea ran in most of its colleges. Those fools wouldn't last two minutes in combat with that attitude, especially against someone like Yellow Thirteen or him.

"Wardog 4, hellloooo? You awake back there? You better be marking our tail son." Forrest jerked in his seat as Bartlett's annoyed voice cut through his thoughts.

Shaking his helmeted and masked head, Forrest keyed his mike, "Yes sir. I'm still here. Oh, and your six is clear."

"Good. At least you're confident." Came the gruff voice. Brian glared through his visor at the green and brown camouflaged F-4 that his flight lead was driving.

"Man, I'm glad you drew the short straw instead of me!" Chopper said brightly. The nugget was also in an F-5. Not that that said much, all of the trainees were in F-5s. They were the standard jet for ACM, Air Combat Manuvering, that the trainees had been practicing prior to this impromptu mission.

AWACS broke in with a stern "Cut the chatter," then the controller, callsign Thunderhead, started to issue more orders, "Wardog, continue on current course to intercept. Weapons safe." Forrest suppressed a sigh. Weapons safe meant do not fire until ordered. Generally regarded by most pilots as a death sentence. Oh well, orders were orders, so he reached forward and flipped off the Master Arm switch on the panel in front of him. Now, even if he pulled the trigger, nothing would happen.

"Rodger that Thunderhead," came from the plane to Brian's left. That was Kei Nagase, an Oriental looking female pilot, "Weapons safe until further orders." Right as the woman nugget said that, the former Mobius 1's keen vision spotted a rapidly moving black speck in the distance.

"Wardog 4 tallyho, bearing twelve o'clock low." Forrest stated crisply. The bogey was on their nose and about five hundred feet lower than the four-ship formation. The deadly ace felt the adrenalin begin to surge through his system. He clamped down of the feeling before it made him betray something he didn't want known. Bartlett came up on the radio and told them to go. The flight banked as one and rolled out right behind the crippled SR-71. As Bartlett and Chopper argued over who would send the surrender request, Forrest banked again and slid into position off Chopper's wing. The new position would allow him to get off a missile shot if that was necessary. His other position would've resulted in him shooting down his flight lead. And, knowing Bartlett, Forrest would never hear the end of it.

As Brian listened to Chopper's rather weak surrender order, the ace scanned the skies around them. A useless action, seeing as they were still in Osean airspace, but Forrest had spent so much time in hostile skies that he just couldn't quit doing it, even in peacetime. "Negative on the landing gear," Forrest said as he dipped down to check the 71's underbelly, "guess he's not gonna surrender."

"Big surprise there Wardog 4," Bartlett said, "did you really expect him to?"

"Not really," the other pilot replied, "I wouldn't have done it." That was true. He would have turned around and slaughtered the enemy squadron behind him. Mobius 1 wouldn't ever be caught dead flying a recon mission unarmed. Later, during another mission, Forrest would look back at that thought and want to kill something.

"You and me both Kid," Bartlett answered. Brian smiled behind his mask. Despite whatever his thoughts might say otherwise, he really did like the gruff old flight lead. He had seen him in action once on the news.

Fifteen years ago, Brian had been in high school in Commonwealth, a small suburb of Comberth Harbor on the southern shore of the Usean continent. He had seen the footage of the mad aerial battle in the Round Table. The young Forrest had been fascinated by the grace and precision of the fabulous war machines. Especially two F-15 Eagles who had just devastated the opposition. The news anchor had identified them as Galm 1 and 2, two mercenaries who had been serving the country of Ustio after their air force had be decimated. Brian had also noticed an F-14 that wasn't doing too bad either. That one had been identified as Heartbreak 1, who the former Mobius 1 was now flying with. Forrest had decided right then that he was going to join ISAF and become the best pilot he could. Who would have guessed that he would end up being the best?

"Enemy aircraft identified bearing 280 altitude 6000. Hold fire until further orders." The radio blared again, jolting the fourth Wardog from his thoughts once again. He silently berated himself for losing his focus for a second time. If he kept doing that, he might kill himself or, even worse, one of his squadron mates.

"Crossing the pond to fly cover for their spy plane huh? Now there's a fighter pilot worth his wings," Bartlett stated. Brian wasn't so sure. Who in their right mind would risk a war by overflying a superpower and then sending fighters into a sovereign nation's airspace, especially a superpower like Osea?

"Wardog 4 to Wardog 1," Forrest called, "Isn't it weird what's going on?"

"Just a little strange Kid," the older man replied, "but it's not our place to ask questions." Brian scowled behind his mask and visor. Who would do something so stupid? Not the Erusians. He knew that. Their economy was in shambles after ISAF had gotten through with them and they were on the other side of the ocean. His radar bleeped a warning at him. Forrest glanced down at it and saw four contacts about thirty miles away from them. The four bogeys continued to fly at them head on. Forrest decided he wasn't gonna be caught by four, possibly hostile, planes with his thumb up his ass. A deft flick sent the Master Arm from SAFE to ARM. Now he was live again and ready to take one of the four fools out in an instant.

"I-I can see them," Chopper stuttered, the nervousness clear in his voice.

"Rodger," Edge, Nagase, replied. Her voice was accompanied by heavy breathing. Even though she had been the only surviving trainee from the bounce a couple of days ago, she now had time to think about her predicament. That was a real good way to raise the pucker factor.

Brian, TAC name Blaze, squinted and spotted four dim specks, "Wardog 4, tallyho. Four bogeys confirmed off our nose, altitude 6000." In contrast with the other two, his voice was calm and collected. He had done this hundreds of times before. Now would be no different.

"Copy Wardog 4," Thunderhead replied, "Continue on current course."

"Rodger." That was from Bartlett. Now the two opposing groups were within Sidewinder range. Brian's instincts screamed at him to break. He trusted it, ramming the throttle to full afterburner and pulling as hard as he could on the stick. His F-5 responded instantly. He was shoved into his seat from both the sudden acceleration and the g's applied to his body by the violent pull. Forrest got out of the way just in time because four AIM-9Ls and tracer rounds singed the space he had just been occupying. Ignoring the startled cries from the two nuggets below, he rolled onto his back at the top of his climb and pulled again. The Split-S took him right onto one of the bandit's tail. Forrest was able to identify the jinking enemy as an older MiG-21.

"Hold your fire," came from Thunderhead. Brian wanted to rage at Thunderhead to clear them to shoot, but Chopper did it for him,

"Oh come on! Those aren't blanks they're firing out there!"

"Shut your mouth and fire back!" Bartlett yelled as he sped past a MiG on a high speed 'slash-and-dash', using the F-4s weight and brute engine strength to his advantage.

"Rodger that! Blaze engage!" Forrest yelled, pulling the trigger for his twin cannons, the pipper right on the MiG attempting to evade him. The guns came to life with a loud 'braaawwww' and twin tongues of flame and smoke appeared on the lower part of his canopy. The angry red tracers reached out and seemed to caress the MiG in deceptively gentle and harmless looking touch. A tracer struck the fighter's delta wing and the small fighter blew up in a spectacular orange and red fireball. The ace banked and loaded the g's onto his fighter, broadcasting the call 'Splash One' to let everyone know that there were now three enemy fighters.

"AH! Damn! Get him off my tail!" Chopper yelled. Brian's head whipped around and found his comrade in deep shit. A green MiG was just yards behind him and pulling lead, trying to get Chopper in his pipper.

"Chopper! Break right!" Forrest screamed at him, "Get him in front of me! I can nail him!" Chopper didn't seem to understand. Forrest knew what was going on. Chopper was so afraid of having an enemy on his tail, scared of dying, that he couldn't remember anything about what to do.

'Damnit! I gotta get to him!' pounded through the former ISAF ace's head. He reversed his turn, grunting to try and keep the blood in his head. His vision grayed from the g's despite his and his g-suit's best efforts, time slowed down to a snail's pace. Forrest could see all the details on the MiG ahead and above of him. The sun glinted off the glass of the canopy, the seeker head of the Sidewinder slung underneath the wing and he could see the brilliantly orange afterburner flame flickering as the hunter pilot tried to take out Chopper. He flicked a switch on his throttle, blessing HOTAS as he did. Without it he couldn't switch from guns to missiles in time. The HUD in front of him had a diamond moving across it, the Sidewinder's IR seeker on his wingtip looking for a hot target.

Brian wished it would hurry up. The diamond merged with the target box around the MiG-21 and turned red. At the same time a loud growling tone blared through his headset, telling him the missile was locked and tracking. He pressed the little red button on top of his stick. Time sped back up and a white and orange blur streaked into his vision from his left and sped across to the right. The AIM-9X was tracking beautifully, pulling lead on the enemy in front of him, following his prey's turn so it could deliver its deadly payload. A split second later and the MiG vanished in a large explosion when the missile found it.

"This is Blaze, scratch one more MiG," Forrest grunted as he reversed again, pumping out flares and chaff to try and spoof any missile that might have been launched against him.

"Thanks Kid!" Chopper said as he rolled away and joined up with Bartlett.

"Next time keep your head on a swivel," Forrest grumbled. He didn't really mind his teammates, but working with inexperienced nuggets meant that he had generally had to work twice as hard to keep their asses in the sky…"BLAZE! BREAK!" Edge's panicked voice brought him to back to the task at hand. In his inattention, he had not eased his turn and that meant there were still g's on the plane which, in turn, meant he was slower than he should have been. A bad combination that screamed 'hey kill me!' Of course a bandit would have capitalized on it, recognizing an easy kill. At that moment, his missile alarm started beeping at him. Time slowed down for a second time, his flight members were screaming at him, garbled, meaningless, noises faded by both the alarm and his own deafness, brought on by his intense focus on the task at hand: evading the speeding death behind him. Another millisecond passed and he rolled onto his back for a second time and pulled again, letting go countermeasures as he did to spoof the missile. This time, though, instead of following through and reversing course, he delayed his pull for what seemed like several hours, even though it was only a couple of seconds. Then he pulled through and kept it, doing a bastardized version of a loop.

The maneuver brought him up on his opponent's six o'clock. Now he was the hunter and the idiot who tried to get an easy kill was his prey. The stunt he had pulled to get on the MiG's tail had put Forrest outside of Sidewinder range. Mobius 1 smiled grimly as he shifted weapons again, going from Sidewinders to Sparrow missiles. A ring appeared on the HUD and surrounded the target designator box that showed the MiG. 'This is your own fault,' Forrest thought as he shook his head, 'trying to shoot down Mobius 1…stupid.' He pressed the pickle button and the Sparrow lanced from the pylon under his wing and blazed a smoke trail across the sky to the ill-fated fighter. He kept the doomed sucker in his radar's ring so the Sparrow would keep track.

"Wow Blaze!" Edge exclaimed when yet another MiG became a fireball, "That's three kills!"

"And only one for me," Bartlett grumped as he popped up off to Blaze's left, "If I'm not careful you're gonna upstage me Kid."

Brian laughed, "I doubt it sir," he replied modestly, "You're to stubborn to let me do it." He chuckled again, this time at the knowledge that he probably had as many, if not more, kills than Heartbreak 1.

"Well you still have three up on Edge and me," Chopper broke in, "I owe you though. You saved my ass back there."

"Alright cut the chatter," Thunderhead said for what must have been the millionth time that mission. His exasperation showed in his voice, even over the radio, "HQ wants you four to RTB and Capt. Bartlett to report to the Colonel's office." Bartlett's groan was the only response as they formed up and banked away, heading back to their base at Sand Island.

Several hours later, the members of the Wardog flight that had, against orders, shot down several enemy aircraft were informed that the kills the Captain and Blaze had racked up were to be stricken from existence.

"Man, that really sucks!" Chopper yelled to the open air outside one of the maintenance hangars. Brian sighed at his loudmouthed comrade's outburst,

"Relax Chopper," he said, "it's not the end of the world."

"Are you kidding me?!" the other cried, rounding on him, "You should be pissed off too. You were only two kills away from making ace!"

'If only you knew pal,' Forrest thought but instead answered with, "It's no big deal," Chopper snorted and Brian continued, "Seriously. Kills aren't everything."

"Yeah but you would have been the first ace since that Belkan war fifteen years ago," said a new voice from behind them. The duo turned and saw Edge coming up behind them, "Don't you want that kind of recognition?" she asked.

"Not really," Brian answered truthfully, after all, that fame had been the reason he had left ISAF in the first place, "I kind of like my peace. Famous people get in trouble too much."

Chopper snickered, "Yeah, just look at the Captain man." The other two pilots smiled at the remark. Their IP did seem to get in more than his fair share of trouble.

"I was gonna head over to the chow hall to get dinner," Edge said, "You two want to come?" Chopper agreed, but Forrest declined, claiming that he had already eaten.

After the other two had gone, Blaze turned to look out over the ocean at the setting sun. The fiery orange ball had dyed the normally teal ocean a bloody red. A slight sea breeze lifted his short, fair, brown hair that normally hung just above his ice blue eyes.

He sighed, for a moment truly missing the Mobius squadron. They had been like a second family to him. He was just twenty-six, but he was all alone in the world. His parents hadn't wanted him to become a fighter pilot. They had wanted him to find a job closer to his home in Commonwealth. His dad had even suggested being a dockworker in Comberth. His mom had wanted him to become a lawyer. After he had signed his life away to the ISAF and shipped out to basic training, he had gotten a letter saying that he was not to come home and that his parents wouldn't be attending his graduation. That had crushed him, but Forrest had thrown himself into his flying, graduating at the head of his class and was assigned, straight off, to the Mobius squadron. There he had found a new family. They hadn't resented him because he defied his parents' orders. Quite the opposite actually, they had praised him for his willingness to make his own way in the world and all of the top pilots had proceeded to teach him everything they knew. It hadn't been easy for him, even if flying came as naturally to him as walking or breathing. He'd had to apply himself even more than he had in flight school.

After Central Command had broken up Mobius to help shore up the units that were close to wiped out by the Yellows, Brian had gotten a letter saying that the previous Mobius 1 had retired and that the old codger had named him, specifically, as his successor. That had been the best day of his life, but there wasn't much time to celebrate because the Erusians had forced ISAF into an all-out retreat to North Point not too long after.

"Keep staring at the sun like that and you'll shorten your flying career real quick Kid." Brian whirled, startled, and saw Bartlett standing behind him with a lopsided grin on his face.

Forrest returned the grin. "What do you want sir?" he asked, then added "Whatever it is, I swear I didn't do it."

"No. You sure did do it," Bartlett replied, both men turning serious, "today with those guys at Cape Landers. What happened?"

"Not sure I follow you sir," Brian answered, puzzled. What was his Captain talking about?

"You fought like a seasoned ace up there Kid," Bartlett elaborated, "I've never seen anyone with your fighting skills, except maybe the Demon Lord or Mobius 1."

"Really?" Brian replied, tensing up. This conversation was getting into uncomfortable territory real fast.

"Yeah," said Bartlett, nodding, "you were beyond amazing up there today. A nugget shooting down three enemies in his first real engagement? I can see you going places real fast Kid, just wanted to wish you luck after you leave here." Brian felt the tension drain away. Was that what this was about? Bartlett thought he was a shit hot pilot and was wishing him good luck on his next assignment. 'What a relief!' Forrest thought weakly. Though that remark told him he would have to tone down his flying on future missions.

"Thank you sir," he replied, snapping up a salute, which Bartlett returned, then the older pilot sauntered away, leaving the former Mobius 1 with his thoughts and memories once again.

"Ok, listen up people," Perrault's nasally voice droned, "Today several flights of UAVs overflew Sand Island and other points on the mainland. We have pinpointed them as originating from this ship," At his words, a point on the map behind him pulsed red, "Wardog is to stop them by any means necessary. You are not to attack the ship for any reason. Am I clear Bartlett?" Forrest scowled at the obese commander. He thought that since he was in charge of the base, he didn't have to respect those who served under him. Every briefing the ace had had with the fat man had ended with some dig on Bartlett.

"Yes sir."

"Good now get out there and get rid of those pests." With that, the arrogant Colonel saluted and the pilots walked out to their jets. Today, since they were on an intercept mission, the flight would be in F-15C Eagles with Bartlett in his trademark F-4.

Blaze scaled the ladder to the 15's cockpit and seated himself in the seat before Pops, the best damn mechanic and crew chief on two continents, helped him strap in and handed him his helmet.

"Thanks Pops," said Forrest as he hooked up the mask and g-suit to the air supply and sat his helmet on his head and strapped it down.

"Good luck up there Kid," replied the middle aged man with a gentle smile, "come back in one piece eh?"

"Sure thing. I'll see you at the O'club later tonight." Pops just grinned and descended the ladder. Meanwhile, Brian held down a switch that lowered the canopy and sealed it. He began flicking switches with practiced ease and, system by system, brought the jet to life. He took a brief moment to pause and listen to the growing hum of the twin turbofan engines behind him as they tried to kick over. He advanced the throttle a fraction and the fighter lurched against the brakes as the hum abruptly became a whine. Forrest pulled back to idle and finished his checklists.

"Wardog 1 to all planes," Bartlett's voice crackled in his ear, "sound off."

"4, 2, 3" came the rapid fire replies from the pilots as they made sure that their machines were at 100.

"Rodger that, Sand Island ground, Wardog 1, Wardog flight is ready to taxi." Static followed the statement for a few moments then came the answer,

"Wardog flight taxi to runway 27 and hold short. Contact tower on 144.8 when ready."

"Taxi to and hold short runway 27, call tower on 144.8, Wardog 1," Bartlett rattled back, "OK kiddies, you heard the man, let's move out." The mammoth F-4 next to Brian began to move and turned to the right, then passed in front of him.

"4 taxiing." Forrest stated then moved his throttle a fraction and felt the Eagle strain and then begin to roll. He waited a few moments then pushed the right rudder pedal all the way in. The jet turned and then Brian was on his way to the runway. At the Hold Short Line he hit the brakes and raised his hands, bracing them on the canopy above him. Only then did the weapons guys approach his jet and remove the safety pins on the eight missiles that weighted down his bird. The techs moved away and Forrest tossed a quick salute before he punched 144.8 into the primary radio.

"Wardog 1, Sand Island tower, position and hold runway 27." A few feet in front of him, Bartlett's lights came to life and he advanced across the four yellow lines that divided the taxiway from the runway, "Wardog 1, Sand Island tower, cleared for takeoff." A second later, a roar cut through Forrest's canopy as the huge F-4 began to roll down the runway at full afterburner, the twin ten-foot flames scorching the pavement as Bartlett pulled back and roared into the sky.

"Sand Island tower, Wardog 4 holding short runway 27," the former Mobius 1 said into his mask. One more time static followed the radio call then,

"Wardog 4, tower, position and hold." Brian advanced past the hold short line and flicked a row of switches to turn on his wingtip, beacon, and strobe lights. A second later his left foot pressed the rudder pedal all the way in and the jet wheeled left, right in line with the white dashed centerline. He disengaged the nosewheel steering and stopped and began to run down his jet's systems one more time. The ace's heart was pounding in anticipation of hurtling down the runway at more that 100 miles per hour. "Wardog 4 cleared for takeoff."

"Cleared for takeoff runway 27," he rambled back. Now there was no stopping him. His left hand pushed the throttle all the way forward. The F-15 shuddered like a horse in the gate, not liking being held back by the brakes. His feet left the top of the rudders and the jet began to roll once more, quickly gathering speed, a deep-throated roar reverberating in his ears. Forrest pushed the throttle that extra inch into full afterburner. There was a second lag then the jet lurched one way then the other as raw fuel was dumped into his red-hot exhaust. He tapped the pedals to keep the yaw under control. Now that he was moving, the control surfaces worked better. A second later and he pulled the stick back and held it. The jet flew off the runway and into the sky.

Now Forrest slapped the wheel-shaped gear lever to raise the gear before the wind of the speeding plane's slipstream tore off them off. He pulled the throttle out of afterburner to conserve fuel and, still climbing, turned right to exit the pattern. The pilot found Bartlett on radar and sped to his location. Bartlett, who had turned off his lights, now flashed them and Forrest slid into position behind, and a little below, his lead. About five minutes passed and the other two joined them and got in position, then the whole flight turned onto the course Bartlett had been given to intercept the UAVs.

"Thunderhead, this is Wardog checking in," Bartlett called.

"This is Thunderhead. Rodger. Wardog continue on present course to intercept the recon planes as they return to their vessel," the deep-voiced AWACS replied. The flight continued to streak north on the way to a date with some stupid UAVs. As they continued on their way, Brian began to scan the skies, looking for any white dots in the sky. He knew that they would be dealing with the Predator.

Despite the fierce name, the UAV was only good for recon and maybe some light close air support, depending if the flimsy thing carried anti-tank Hellfire missiles or not. No, he didn't like the new UAVs that everyone and their brother was hawking as the future of air combat. That was utter bullshit in his opinion. You just couldn't replace an on-location pilot with a remote team. But Forrest wasn't unreasonable; he knew that the UAVs had their own niche in the combat world. It just wasn't in front line air combat.

"Tallyho, we've got company," Bartlett's voice crackled in his ear, "show me what you've got Kid."

"Rodger that," the ace replied as he throttled up and rolled over the top of Bartlett's F-4. He could see the Predators already, two tiny white specks in the distance so he punched it to close the distance and get into firing range. He flicked his Master Arm to ARM and went to guns. He wasn't about to waste valuable missiles on some plastic UAVs. The first Predator was in range now. He put the pipper on the fuselage and pulled the trigger. 20mm red-hot tracers lanced from the wing root of his Eagle with a buzz saw like noise, striking the unmanned plane right where the gunsight said. He raked the second Predator with a second burst, this one shattering the wing and sending the UAV into a death spiral. He looped away and rejoined the flight.

"Great shooting Blaze!" Nagase said enthusiastically, "You're already way better than me and we graduated at the same time!"

"No joke Kid, you're a natural!" That was Chopper.

"Cut the chatter," Blaze stated in a monotone, " There are still more Predators around. Just look at the radar." The 15's greatest asset that made it such a formidable air superiority fighter was the enormous radar that had an unbelievable range. Well, that and a good pilot who knew how to work the thing. You could have a Wyvern and still get shot down if you couldn't fly the thing to the max.

"The Kid's right," Bartlett said in his usual gruff phone, "That ship launched more than one Predator flight." The flight split now, Blaze and Chopper going after one element and Heartbreak 1 and Edge going for another.

"Mind if I take this one Kid?" Chopper asked, the excitement clear in his voice. Blaze clicked his mike, a signal that he had heard and acknowledged. "Sweet! Let's see how I stack up!" Chopper pulled into position and opened up. His burst was a little off, but still hit the fuel tanks. The little plane went up in a big fireball considering its size.

"Woah! He blew up good!" the talkative guy exclaimed.

"No surprise there," Forrest replied, "Any weight they saved by taking out the cockpit was used for fuel. These little bastards can stay up for way longer that we can."

"So let's shoot 'em down eh?" Chopper said gleefully, "Then we go back to base and listen to 'Back of the Coin'!" Blaze rolled his eyes and the younger pilot went after the second Predator. He really didn't care for the rock music that Chopper seemed to like so much. The second Predator went into a nosedive, its propeller shattered by a 20mm high explosive round.

"Wardog 3, report on status," said Bartlett's voice curtly. Forrest spotted two specks heading towards them and knew it to be Heartbreak 1 and Edge returning.

"Both UAVs shot down Boss," Chopper said brightly, "I'm glad there weren't any people in these things aren't you?"

"Yeah," Edge said feverently, "I don't think I'm ready to take on real pilots yet."
Bartlett snorted derisively, "Don't sell yourself short Nagase. You did fine against the MiGs yesterday."

"Only because you had my back sir," she replied, "Blaze took out half the flight on his own and saved Chopper from walking home."

"Well that's me and not you Nagase," replied the ace, "I probably just had beginner's luck." 'and the experience of a war.' At that moment he really wanted to tell them that he was Mobius 1, but then his secret would get out and he would have to move to Ustio or Yuktobania or something.

"Wardog, this is Thunderhead," came the almost monotonous voice, "We have leakers again." Blaze's eyes widened. This was the third time in less than two weeks! He knew they were out in the middle of nowhere, but this was still Osea. Hell, even frickin' San Salvacion had better anti-air defenses than this! What was the early warning network doing?

"Same attack axis as before?" Bartlett asked. Forrest could tell by the tone that the older man was wondering the same thing.

"280, same axis as last time."

"Jeeze, how many planes they got lined up at the border? We only got four on our side. We better abort. RTB. Now!" And he rolled the F-4 away, back towards Sand Island. Edge followed suit, leaving Chopper and Forrest to try and catch up.

"Let's move Chopper," he said, "We don't wanna be around when those guys catch up. Trust me."

"But what about the ship?" Chopper asked, "are we just gonna leave it?"

"It was never in the orders to begin with," the former ISAF ace replied, "Come on. We gotta get out of here." His tone left no room for argument and the two F-15s turned away to head to Sand Island. Brian didn't realize that Chopper had fallen behind until he heard the frantic call,

"I can't make it, they're running me down!" Blaze's head snapped around so fast he cricked his neck. That minor pain wasn't helped by the g's that he was loading on as he snapped his plane into a hairpin turn to go help his distressed teammate. He lit the burners as Bartlett made some crack at Chopper about the trail position. While that happened, Blaze's fingers danced on the throttle and stick, setting himself up for a BVR shot with one of the AIM-120 AMRAAMs slung to his belly. The missile's onboard radar began to track the MiG on his HUD.

"Hang on Chopper," Forrest said reassuringly, "I've got him all locked up."

"Take him out Kid!" Bartlett yelled. Blaze pressed the button and launched the AMRAAM. The missile raced after its target as the ace took full advantage of the missile's fire-and-forget feature as he locked another MiG and launched a second AMRAAM. The counter on the HUD marking the time to impact of the first missile hit zero.

"Chopper how you doing buddy?" asked Blaze. A crackle of static met his ears and, just as his heart began to sink, a very welcome voice burst over the radio,

"Hey Kid! Could you have cut that any closer?" Chopper yelled at him. Blaze just grinned,

"Well, don't skip the details. Did I get him or not?"

"Kid, the bastard is on his way for a little dip." Chopper replied, "The missile buzzed my canopy man." Blaze grinned as he zoomed past the enemies in pursuit of the MiG-29 Fulcrum that his second AMRAAM had missed.

"Enemy squadron has commenced counter-attack," a heavily accented foreign voice said blankly over the radio. Forrest wondered for a second who it was then he remembered that AWACS was transmitting intercepted comms to the four fighters so they could gauge what the enemy was thinking. A useful concept, but the efficiency of it was limited to the willingness of the enemy to jabber. Most of the time, it was either the pilot swearing about being shot down, or the pilot was flipping out over the fact that the guy behind him was really good. The former Mobius 1 had lost track of how many Erusian ground-pounders and airmen had screamed, "It's the Ribbon!" over their radios. It also worked both ways. Blaze had noticed that most of the enemy pilots tended to go after Chopper, probably because he talked so much.

The MiG in front of him suddenly reversed his turn, but the ISAF ace was right there with him, matching him turn for turn. The MiG-29 was a good platform, Brian knew, because he had flown one himself during the Continental War. But this guy didn't seem to know how to fly it that well. His finger flicked again and, in an instant, he was in the guns mode. The pipper trailed behind the MiG just slightly and Forrest was pulling as hard as he could as it was. Nine times the force of gravity made him feel like an elephant or hippo was setting on his chest as he fought to stay on the other pilot's tail, then the MiG's pilot made a fatal error; he Split-S'ed. The maneuver forced the pilot to straighten his path so he could roll onto his back to follow through. The Eagle's superior power and better pilot made the attempted evasion a piece of cake to keep up with and also made the pipper slide into position. The tracers slammed into the area of the MiG's cockpit and the plane just kept diving. Blaze followed for a moment, then it hit him, he'd killed the pilot.

"Blaze, splash one," he radioed with a dead voice.

"You splashed an enemy fighter without permission to engage!? What are you thinking Wardog?" AWACS raged. A beeping jostled Blaze into the present. He had been locked up by an acquisition radar. That usually precluded a SAM or air-to-air missile launch.

"This is Blaze," he called, "I'm spiked. Where is it?"

"This is Thunderhead, the signal is coming from the ship," the airborne controller replied, "I'll see if I can jam it. Standby." A second later and the spike vanished.

"Thanks Thunderhead," replied the ace as he banked away.

"Edge, splash one," Nagase's voice cut in. The engagement lasted for another minute or two before the remaining two MiGs were shot down. Edge managed to rack up another kill and Chopper racked up his first after Forrest had scared the MiG into climbing right into Davenport's sights.

"Picture clear," reported Thunderhead, before Chopper spotted a puff below them.

"MISSILES!" he yelled into the radio. All four pilots began to jink and roll crazily before it became obvious that the deadly projectile only had eyes for Edge.

"Come on Edge!" Blaze yelled, "Evade it!" He watched as the woman tried desperately to spoof the thing, but it was really dialed in and, despite her best efforts, the missile just did not want to break lock. In the heat of the moment, everyone, including the former Mobius 1, forgot to use countermeasures. Then Brian witnessed something he would never forget as long as he lived, Bartlett's Phantom came out of nowhere and cut right in front of the missile. The rocket couldn't resist the newer, closer, target and changed course immediately.

'What the hell is he doing?!' Forrest screamed silently, 'the crazy bastard's gonna get himself killed!' His dire prediction came true when the SAM and the Phantom merged in a most unpleasant way. The resulting explosion was enough to tear off the wingtip and fatally wound the big fighter.

"Captain!" Edge cried, clearly worried about the man who may have just killed himself to save her. How could she have let this happen?

"Hey! Save the waterworks. I'm just gonna bail out here, make a call to scramble the rescue chopper and my reserve plane OK?" Bartlett told her trying to inject a reassuring tone into his voice. Then a bright flame lit up the Phantom's cockpit as Bartlett pulled, what some ISAF pilots had come to call, the 'get me the hell out NOW!' lever, and then the flame was followed by a stark white parachute as the seat left the man sitting in it behind to dangle from the risers.

"Thunderhead this is Wardog 4, Heartbreak 1's ejection is confirmed. Scramble the copters. Now." Forrest ordered.

"Rodger, rescue team is enroute. Wardog refuel and rearm at the base and get back into the air immediately."

"But the rescue chopper isn't here yet," Edge protested. The higher-ups really didn't expect the flight to abandon their Captain did they?

"Leave that to the rescue team. The enemy has declared war on us!" Thunderhead ordered curtly.

"Rodger that Thunderhead," Brian replied icily, "Wardog flight is on the way back now."

"Blaze! You can't really expect us to leave Captain Bartlett do you?" Edge cried, shocked that her normally distant, but amicable, comrade could be so cold.

"Seriously Kid!" Chopper yelled angrily, "what the hell are you thinking!?"

"Both of you shut the fuck up!" Forrest yelled, slipping up and showing the command presence that Mobius 1 was well know for, "There's nothing we can do! Besides, we have our orders. If you have a better solution, I'm willing to listen!" The ringing silence that followed his words convinced him that neither did. "Didn't think so. So quit bitching and RTB. The rescue team can handle it from here." The other two seemed too scared to talk to him so they clicked their mikes and fell into formation behind him, following his lead without any further complaint.

Author's notes: I'm going to be running this as a real military might, so that means possibly cutting out some parts or altering the story. Sorry. If you don't like it too bad , so sad.

Glossary Fox Two: Radio code word for heat seeking missiles i.e. the AIM-9 Sidewinder

Fox One/Three: Code for radar guided missiles. The former needs guidance from launching plane, the latter is self-guiding. Examples are the Sparrow and AMRAAM

Flight: A unit. Consists of four aircraft. I.e. Wardog.

RTB: Return to Base.

Angels: Altitude in tens of thousands of feet. Ex. Angels twenty is twenty thousand feet MSL.

UAV: Unmanned Arial Vehicle. Ex. Predator, Global Hawk, Voguls.

AWACS: Airborne Early-Warning and Control. Generally a JSTARS or E-3 Sentry. Basically a flying control tower.

SAM: Surface-to-Air Missile

Thanks for reading. Please review and let me know any constructive criticism.