Location: Republic of Delarus, Year: 2005
In every generation there is one that stands out above the rest, someone unexpected, one that defies all odds, and the pilot and the plane become a single entity. The skies held the finite and infinite making them seem separate. None could foresee that the history of the two would become one. This is often true of the legends that amass around the entity of pilot and plane so if one had seen them together, one had seen a mixture of mortal and metal, a mesh of fabric and wings, fingers and weapons are only tools, and the music in its beautiful and bittersweet taste is the legacy of the two as one. Perhaps one should stop before romanticizing a profession that usually compels the pilot to one day disappears, to leave the legacy to the next two as one, but for as for me I had begun my search for a legend. The legendary Demon Lord, the Demon of the Round Table, and one might ask why search for someone who does not wish to be found, but again my curiosity always got the better of me even as a child.
I had after all seen the footage of that time stopping day, when Belka set off seven tactical nukes within their own borders, obliterating seven cities and twelve thousands lives in less than a heartbeat, quicker than a blink, and faster than an exhale. Nobody could find the words, all they could do is hope to act fast enough to end the war, officially it ends at Lumen, but like all wars, there are secrets, files classified, and people told to keep quiet. A decade later armed with sparse information I began my investigation in Offensive Campaign No. 4101. The war had been going badly for those opposing Belka including the breakaway Republic of Ustio, which had been largely occupied by the time the Offensive took off.
Ustio Air Force barely deserved the name after 90% of its numbers were wiped out leaving a meager force so they turn to foreign mercenaries to bolster their ranks. The pilot that would become the Demon Lord is said to be among them and is made part of the 66th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 6th Air Division, there seem a hellish anecdote from the start if one believes in angels and demons. The infamous and famous pilot is brought together with another mercenary pilot who had been longer in this conflict and of course this veteran is Larry Foulke, call sign Solo Wing Pixy. My interviews are likely to begin with him if I could find him.
His name virtually faded into oblivion though of course his actions after the seven nuke detonations certainly made him more enemies than allies, but when I finally met Larry, he held no resentment towards his former wing man whose call sign was Cipher as I had found out. Some still think of Cipher as purely a legend brought on the battlefield to rally the demoralized Allied Forces including the Ustians. The Ustians even went so far as to build a monument in honor of Cipher, but of course it is small, not meant to stand out even for a legendary pilot like Cipher.
"You are here about Cipher aren't you?" he asks with unexpected certainty.
"How did you guess?" I reply to him.
"For the longest time it was either what was it like flying with the Demon Lord or how could you betray the Demon?"
"Well how did it feel?"
"You better start recording because this will take awhile, not just with me, but any other pilots still around from those days. As for Cipher, we barely met before the Belkans roll out a welcoming party."
"They were planning to shut down the last pocket of Ustian resistance?"
"Right, well we went up as the Galm flight. Cipher becomes the lead and I became Galm 2. I might have had complaints about going second fiddle to an unknown yet by something felt different from the start with this one."
Foulke pauses almost as if caught up in memory, and I expect the others might do the same whoever and wherever they are now. He had a peculiar smile on this face too.
"Did you know...there are three kinds of aces? They are those who seek strength, those who live for pride, and those who can read the tide of battle. Those are the three. And Cipher was a true ace."
I felt like a kid on holiday waiting for my presents or someone eagerly listening to a story that never has been told in such detail before. He begins the tale with the Belkans attempting to bomb out the last pocket of the Ustian Air Force, but he and Cipher were on hand that day. It is the day would turn the tide of war against the seemingly endless advance of the Belkans in every direction. Cipher for better or worse would become the talk of mess halls, crew rooms, intelligence files, and eventually the pilots in virtually every well known squadron among the virtually invincible Belkan Air Force.
Valais Air Base is the final Ustian Air Base in service on their front line as of early 1995, built around the hinterland of Tyrann Mountains. During peacetime, its main tasks were routine border patrol and airspace surveillance. However with the aggressive all-out assault on multiple nations that border Belka, Ustio is most vulnerable insofar as it being a breakaway from Belka less than a decade earlier. Belka typically could be seen on top as it put out everything it could muster and nobody seem quite able to stave off their ferocity yet sometimes the most unlikeliest people in the most atypical of places tips the scale.
Mercenaries who a losing streak could be broken by them thought who am I talk about shifting fortunes in war yet they merely made others belief in the seemingly impossible because especially Cipher did things that many thought impossible for a plane or a pilot to do. I almost think by those amazing feats alone Cipher lives up to the call sign in essence an enigma that seems impossible to work out, but the pieces are all here.
"Anyway it was a cold, snowy afternoon in April 1995, we were sent up to shoot down the bombers on a strafing run to obliterate Valais, which would seal Ustio's fate…"
A two plane flight is virtually unheard of today except back then planes always took off in even numbered flights, well almost all then anyway, but Galm was not seen as a threat, they were quite literally the underdogs despite Foulke already having the reputation of bringing a fighter back on only one wing thus Solo Wing Pixy is born as a call sign for Larry Foulke. Seasons vary from nation to nation and Ustio even to this day is still well like its self-proclaimed legendary Cipher. Ustio has a mountain range that covers the length of the small country. This accounts for the alpine and tundra conditions in the south near the mountains. The B7R is more arid, forming the craggy canyons. Directus is instead more temperate unlike the other regions.
I rarely saw much from the air except when flying in charter flights during this investigation I found myself marveling at the landscape and wonder if this is why pilots fall in love with flying.
I try to imagine the description of that April afternoon when Pixy first took flight with Cipher.
A/N 1: Told from P.O.V. of Brett Thompson in this segment. Meets Larry in Delarus.
A/N 2: Not sure if I'm making Cipher, male or female, he's listed as male, but who knows its fanfic after all.