Ensign Red jerked the flight stick violently as he tried desperately to shake of the ominous black jet closing in on him now. As he looked out the cockpit he could see a burst of bullets that had just narrowly missed his F-35 as his fighter kept spiraling down towards the earth in a vain attempt to escape from the enemy. The young pilot soon began to panic as the missile alert alarm began to ring throughout the cockpit.
"Not here God" he prayed to himself "she'll kill me if I get shot down, I promised I'd make it back"
The two planes continued their dance of death in the sky as the young Ensign pulled sharply into a climb in a futile attempt to break free from his enemy's grasp. His enemy had a superior plane and was far better skilled [its only a matter of time before he gets me] the pilot thought to himself.
Time seemed to slow down and the world around the Ensign grinded to a halt. The of wing his jet was a blaze of fire as the enemy's bullets slowly reached their target. The Ensign turned his eyes away from the fire to a small picture taped on the fighter's dashboard. Two young girls smiled back from the photo. The Ensign reached for the photo as the alert siren continued to ring in the cockpit. The flames began to make their way up the wing of the plane as the Ensign placed the photo inside his flight suit and reached for the ejection handle. Just as the fire was about to engulf the cockpit the Ensign was launched away from his burning plane.
Time still seemed slow as he watched his plane dive into the earth below. His parachute opened and as the Ensign sailed slowly to the ground he saw his enemy circle above in victory. The Black F-22, the rouge pilot from Nordennavik had defeated him.
One hour Earlier
Haruka was still getting used to her sudden promotion. 1st lieutenant at the age of 16 was quite uncommon even for 765 pilots, but with the death of the old squadron leader Haruka was given the position. It was sudden and nerve racking, the thought of being in charge of something. It was almost a bit to much for Haruka.
The job did have its benefits though. She could wear her ribbons with her flight suit and with the new pay she could probably save for a car.
With all of these thoughts buzzing around in her head, Haruka did not notice the power cable lying near the entrance of the briefing room and soon found herself face down with a headache.
[Great entrance] she thought to herself as her comrades' attention now seemed focused to the new 1st Lieutenant on the floor. A small group of her fellow pilots rushed over to help her up. Of these Haruka noticed her two wingman, 2nd Lt Yukiho Hagiwara and Ensign Red along with a third person she had never seen before.
"You ok?" asked Ensign Red as Haruka rose to her feet with a red spot where her face had hit the carpet.
"I'm fine" Haruka replied while rubbing the sore spot on her head "geez I'm such a klutz today"
"You're always a klutz" the Ensign whispered beneath his breath.
"What was that?" Haruka asked, the look on her face clearly showing that she had not heard the Ensign's comment.
"Eh nothing, don't worry about it" the Ensign apologized.
Haruka's attention was drawn to the third unknown person who accompanied Ensign Red and Yukiho. The young scrawny looking man stood at around the same height as Haruka and bore the same rank as Yukiho.
"Who is this?" Haruka asked.
"This" Ensign Red said while pointing to the stranger "is 2nd Lt Yuutarou Takagi, he'll be replacing Lt White as our number four" he turned to Takagi and continued "This is 1st Lt Haruka Amami she's been our flight lead since Lt White died, you'll answer to her, she is God to you while you're here".
"Nice to meet you ma'am" Yuutarou said offering his hand.
"Same here" said Haruka who began to shake the new pilots had. After the handshake was finished she then proceeded to ask "How long have you been flying?"
"One month if you don't count my time at the flight academy. Got myself four kills when they started to box us in at Silvat, hopin' to get my ace wings today. Ma'am" he quickly added at the end.
"Today might be your lucky day" with that comment the four of them took their seats in the briefing room with the rest of the base's pilots. It wasn't long after that the base commander entered the room and began the mission briefing.
"Your target" he bellowed with his authoritative voice, "is a rouge pilot from Nordennavik. The Rouge entered Emmerian airspace about one hour ago and took out five fighters on patrol. Reports from the survivors tell us this pilot is flying a black F-22. The King of Nordennavik himself has asked the pilots of Area 80 to stop this rouge threat.
"If this rouge engages any of the Estovokians it would ruin the neutrality of Nordennavik forcing all of the Emmerian refugees to flee the continent. I'm warning you all this is no ordinary pilot."
"Sir what do you mean by not ordinary?" one pilot asked.
"From what intel we have we know that this pilot is a clone of some unknown donor and was trained from its birth to fight and fly fighters. Faster reflexes and high G tolerance are some of the genetic modification that the Nordens made to the rouge before it escaped so don't approach it alone. Understood.
"Were not taking any chances with this pilot" the base commander continued "3rd, 4th, 6th squadrons will scan the southern half of the airspace over the mountain ranges. 5th and 7th squadrons will patrol the west sector near Area 86. 8th squadron will guard the supply lines to Silvat. Get in your flight suits, takeoff in ten minutes.
[Ten minutes] thought Haruka [and I'm still not in my flight suit]
With the exit of the base commander, the pilots rushed towards the locker rooms and clumsily began to change into their flight suits. Haruka fastened white ribbons to her hair after changing into a white flight suit, after which she went to help Yukiho who was having trouble getting on her boots.
"Thank" said Yukiho shyly. She continued to tie the laces on her boots in silence, her face seemed deep in thought.
"Is something wrong?" Haruka asked.
"Huh?" Yukiho said her thoughts broken, upon realizing Haruka's question she continued "Oh its nothing" with that Yukiho averted her eyes to the floor and began to fiddle with her boot laces.
[What's up with her she's been like this since- wait does this mean that Yukiho has feelings for-]
Before Haruka could finish her thought the loud whine of the base sirens snapped her mind back to the present. Haruka and Yukiho exited the locker room and ran to the hangar where Ensign Red and 2nd Lt Takagi were waiting. Other squadrons could be seen dashing too and fro while mechanics hurriedly finished refueling and rearming the fighters before takeoff.
As Haruka and her squadron reached the end of the hangar where their planes rested the base commander approached the young pilots. They all stood at attention and gave a crisp salute which was returned by the superior officer.
"2nd Lt Hagiwara?" he bellowed
"Sir" Yukiho replied with as much courage as she could muster.
"As of this moment you have been grounded . You are barred from taking part in any sortie for the next 24 hours." A stunned Yukiho starred at the commander in disbelief while he continued "reports indicate that the rouge just took out a fight of Nighthawks over Area 86, since then Command has barred all Nighthawk pilots from flying until this rouge is dead. I'm sorry Lieutenant but you'd just be a sitting duck for the rouge out there." With that the base commander turned and left.
"Sorry Yukiho" Haruka saw the same look on her face that Yukiho had in the locker room. Ensign Red gave Yukiho a pat on the back and headed off towards his F-35.
Yukiho stood there still thinking and then suddenly ran after the Ensign.
"What's that all about?" Takagi asked.
Haruka could see as Yukiho caught up with the Ensign. The roar of the other fighters taxing from the hangar made it impossible to hear what the two were saying. The two appeared to exchange a few words after which Yukiho bowed and Ensign Red began to climb up the ladder leading to the cockpit of his fighter. When he reached the top he turned and gave a casual salute to Yukiho.
"Come on Lieutenant lets get ready for takeoff" Haruka told Takagi who was still watching the scene.
Haruka climbed up the ladder and began the process of strapping herself into her F-22. She then closed the cockpit and placed her helmet and mask on.
"7th squadron, Ribbon reporting." she spoke into the radio.
"Ah Ribbon-chan, Congrats on your promotion" was the reply from the dispatcher.
"Thank you Angel-san"
"Hey" Red interrupted "Cut the slang from the chatter, are we clear to taxi"
"Getting cozy with Spades, Huh Red" Haruka retorted.
"Oh what's this about Red and Spades" the dispatcher chimed in.
"Are we clear to taxi?" Red continued trying to change the subject.
"Yeah yeah have fun kiddies, take out that rouge so the Nighthawks can come out and play again"
"Copy that Angel-Eye, Ribbon moving to taxi" Haruka flipped the visor on her helmet as her plane slowly exited the hangar. She could see the high mountains surrounding the base as her fighter made its way to the runway.
To her right Haruka saw as her wingmen performed a vertical takeoff with the lift fans exclusive to their F-35s. The two wingmen seemed to just float away into the mountain breeze and off into the unknown.
"Control Tower to Ribbon, do you copy."
"This is Ribbon, I copy" Haruka replied.
"Ribbon you are clear for take off, good luck."
Haruka pushed the throttle forward. The force of the fighter moving forward pushed Haruka back into her seat as its wheels lifted up off the runway. The fighter left the earth below with a loud roar and entered the serene skies above the mountains. [As dangerous as this job can be, the view is definitely worth it.] From twenty-thousand feet even the tall mountains seemed dwarfed compared to the vastness of the sky.
"Ribbon to squadron" Haruka said taking charge of her team "fall in and stay in formation, changing course to one-eight-zero, rising to thirty-thousand feet." Within a minute her wingmen were flying at her side almost close enough to be within arms reach.
"Hey Takagi what's your call sign?" Ensign Red squawked over the radio
"That's right you never told us" Haruka chimed in.
"Its Breaker" Takagi replied.
"God that's terrible" Ensign Red cut in.
With that the three fighters continued to fly westward. The flight continued with little conversation save for the occasional check-ins with Angel Eye. The only sound throughout the squadron was the humming caused by their engines.
"Ribbon I'm moving a head" Red said over the radio.
Before Haruka could object the Ensign speed off in front of her and was soon out of sight leaving her and the replacement pilot alone. After a few minutes however a small flicker appeared on their radar. There was no doubt about it, it was the Rouge.
"Takagi be ready we've got company" Haruka told the 2nd Lieutenant. "Red where are you?"
"Not here God", Red swore over the radio, "she'll kill me if i get shot down, I promised I'd make it back" After a few more seconds static was all that could be heard.
"This is Angel Eye, Red jumped off the radar what happened", the dispatcher's voice was grave and indicated a small level of fear.
"It's the Rouge send backu-"
"Takagi look out!" Haruka could only watch in horror as a stream of bullets from below tore through her wingman's cockpit killing him instantly. His fighter soon erupted into a flower of flames leaving nothing but ash and burning metal to fall to the earth below. Shortly after this explosion the enemy fighter could be seen flying through the area where Haruka's wingman once flew. As it flew past Haruka the fear began to take hold of her as watched the pitch black of the enemy's fighter.
[Get a hold of yourself or your gonna die]. Snapping herself back to reality Haruka made a sharp turn to the left and began a steep dive in hopes of taking her opponent by surprise from below. This enemy was one step ahead of her and was soon on her tail.
[Crap]. In a futile attempt to escape her enemy Haruka threw her fighter into a barrel roll. Though this would have worked on a normal opponent, this was no ordinary opponent. This fighter was able to counter her every attempt to escape. No matter where she tried to run the Black F-22 was always behind her.
The loud siren of the plane's missile alert rang in her ears as Haruka pulled her F-22 into a sharp tight loop.
Haruka threw her plane into a series of random spins and dives. She pushed her plane as fast as fast as it would go, nearly blacking out from the g-forces pushing on her body. As Haruka pulled into another climb another stream of bullets hit her left engine.
The words "Losing Thrust" appeared on her visor in crimson red. It would only be a matter of seconds until Haruka would have to eject or face a gruesome death at ten thousand feet. It was all or nothing for her.
Without thinking Haruka blasted her throttle as fast as it would go and launched two of her missiles and all of her flares creating a huge cloud of smoke behind her. She then pulled back on the throttle and shifted the nose of her fighter in the upward direction. Her speed drastically fell and the stall warning soon appeared on her visor. Her opponent who was blinded by the smoke flew straight past her.
In this opportune moment Haruka leveled out her fighter and launched her remaining missiles at her enemy. An explosion along with a thick cloud of black smoke confirmed the missile impact. Haruka could see a black parachute rise from the smoke of her burning opponent's fighter.
Haruka was amazed by the sight but was unable to celebrate her victory for long as her fighters engines gave a loud whine before failing. There was a brief moment where her fighter glided during which there was nothing but complete silence. After this moment the F-22 vegan its plummet toward the earth below. It's pilot wasted no time and quickly pulled the ejection lever. The harsh mountain winds cut through Haruka's fight suit like knives as she was propelled away from the confines of her cockpit.
After a few seconds of free fall Haruka's parachute opened up and she began her slow decent to the earth below. The sky was clear and the wind was calm as Haruka's feet finally touched the ground. Her parachute landed on top of her and she spent the next few minutes trying to get out from underneath the parachute.
[Crap, I didn't pack my radio] Haruka searched the pockets in her vest but to no avail. It would take longer for the rescue party to find her without it. Her helmet and mask were cast the side, they were useless to her now. The cold mountain air filled her lungs as she stood thinking in the snow. A loud roar could be heard over in the distance as a friendly fighter could be seen overhead.
[Thank goodness they're looking for me]. After a few minutes of sitting in the snow waiting Haruka heard a the crunching noise of footsteps coming from behind her. Instinctively she pulled out her Beretta 92 and spun around pointing it at the intruder behind her. Haruka however was shocked to see her own face staring right back at her. This girl standing before her was in every way alike to Haruka down to the ribbons in her hair, though hers were red instead of white. The black jumpsuit and red eyes however indicated that this girl was without a doubt her enemy. [This is the Rouge]. The startling revelation that the Rouge pilot that had shot down so many of her friends was a clone of herself caused Haruka to hesitate.
It was during this moments hesitation that this twin of hers unsheathed a katana from her side and lunged towards Haruka. Quick on her feet Haruka jumped to the left and began to fire her Beretta at the fast moving enemy. The rouge did a quick back flip and begun to swing her katana at Haruka. Haruka was forced to continuously jump back in an effort to prevent the Rouge's katana from landing a fatal blow. As Haruka pulled her sidearm up for a second attempt to hit her opponent the Rouge's katana knocked the Beretta out of her hands.
With the absence of her sidearm all hopes of survival seemed lost for Haruka. She fell to her knees in defeat. [Its over] she thought [ I'm going to die here]. Her twin raised her katana to deal the killing blow. Haruka shut her eyes and waited for the inevitable.
10 minutes earlier
Ensign Red was having trouble pulling out his side arm from its compartment in his ejection seat. "Damn seat" he swore to himself. After kicking the chair in frustration a few times and after a few tugs the Ensign was finally able to retrieve his Berretta 93 from the infernal contraption.
Looking up at the sky the Ensign could see two fighters above him engaged in a dogfight. He starred intently at the two jets waiting to see the outcome of the battle above. "Come on Haruka" he whispered to himself. After few moments a huge cloud of smoke seemed to engulf the two fighters followed by a loud explosion high above. Ensign Red watched as the same black F-22 that had shot him down moments ago now crashed somewhere off on the horizon. He then watched as Haruka's parachute slowly floated to the ground.
[She probably forgot her radio at the base] said the Ensign instinctively. He had worked with her long enough to know how forgetful she could be.
The Ensign switched on his survival radio and began to call for help "Red to Angel-Eye can I get a CSAR over here, we're gonna need a lift home."
"Glad to hear from you Red, any word on the rest of 7th squadron." The dispatcher seemed relieved to finally hear from someone after the chaos only a few moments ago.
"Ribbon took out the Rouge but had to bail out, I'm on moving to her position now"
"Copy that Red, pickups on the way just sit tight when you get to Ribbon."
Ensign Red began to trudge his way through the snow in the direction of where Haruka landed. The wind was calm and the walk was not unpleasant as the Ensign made his way to his friends CSAR point with his sidearm in tow.
As Ensign Red approached the area where Haruka had landed a shocking scene had meet his eyes. Standing before him were what appeared to be two Harukas. One of them stood on their knees in admitted defeat while other wielded a katana and was preparing to strike. The Ensign quickly aimed his sidearm at the one in the black flight suit and squeezed on the trigger. The shot had missed but had caught the "Dark Haruka's" attention preventing her from finishing off the Ensign's friend. Realizing that she was to far to make any effective move against Ensign Red, the Rouge decided to flee rather than risk capture by this new threat.
As the "Dark Haruka" fled Ensign Red fired off a few more rounds in her direction to keep her from thinking about returning. Haruka was still on her knees with her eyes still shut.
"Hey Haruka the bad guys gone you can open your eyes now"
Haruka nervously opened her eyes and sighed deeply with relief as she was now finally safe. The adrenaline that had been pumping wildly through her body during her encounter with the Rouge finally ceased to flow and she became almost too weak to stand. Ensign Red helped her to her feet for the second time that day and the two stood in the snow, the Lieutenant propped up by the Ensign as they waited for the ride home.