Original story based on and including characters and material created by Project Aces for Namco Bandai. The author claims no ownership over them.


Prologue

0921 hrs.
Onboard Auras Flight 216, 35000 feet over the Osean Continent

October 2020


At a speech in Alendal earlier today, Leasath Premier Diego Navarro announced that militarization along the border of Aurelia will continue. He also reiterated the threat of war against Leasath's neighbor.

"Soon the exploitation of our country will end. Soon the regime that has oppressed our people will vanish from the earth. The proud Leasathian people will rise up and reclaim what the Aurelian thieves have usurped as theirs for generations!"

The speech was made in front of a military parade that featured the Gandr, the prototype airborne fortress that marked Leasath as a rising military power when it was unveiled last year amidst global condemnation...


I've been assigned to cover the tension between Aurelia and Leasath, both in the Southern Hemisphere, and I've got my notes and background material on the seat table in front of me. I'm focused on the airline's provided TV screens though, as I've already memorized my material many times already.

Leasath's Civil War finally ended about a year ago due to the efforts of Leasathian Premier Diego Gaspar Navarro. But rather than work for peace, they've mobilized their newly-united armies at the Aurelian border. I've been tasked to cover the front line while my other reporter buddies can relax and watch the emergency meeting at the AN Security Council. I'm getting in whatever relaxation time I can get before I start.

The morning news plays out onscreen, and it has my undivided attention.


A spokesperson for the Department of Defense announced that the Osean Air Defense Force records on the Belkan Conflict of 2010 will be made public on schedule. The records, which are expected to detail the involvement of the famous "Demons of Razgriz", are to be released for public access this December.

The spokesperson also stated that the records will not contain any significant omissions except for those that pose threats to national security. However, many of those on the historical committee in charge of these records have expressed their doubts.

"We actually lost some data in the chaos caused by the recent Oured Blackout, the entirety of it about one of the pilots in the Sand Island Squadron. We haven't been able to recover the data so far, but we have been pressured to continue with the release anyway."


It was the time I spent in the back seat of Heartbreak One's old plane that still causes me to feel dizzy when traveling at high speeds...even when riding trains or cars.

Thankfully, there's nothing up here but calm sky for now as the news show moves on to international business.


..a major shakeup in the aeronautics industry.

General Resources has acquired the remaining assets of industrial giant Grunder Industries through government auction, including the Sudentor facility in North Osea. Gründer was formerly a Belkan state-run company until the annexation of North Osea in 1995 when it was privatized.

It was determined that Gründer executives had been colluding with former officials of the now-outlawed Belkan National Worker's Party to fuel the Ceres Conflict of 2010. All Gründer assets were seized following the end of the international tribunal in 2014.

GR had expressed interest in the facility as early as 2015 to supply their defense industry division. However the Valahia Crisis of 2017 and the controversy surrounding the GR Defense Force - then called the Security Enterprise, significantly delayed these plans. CEO Carlos Lazaro quietly revived the acquisition plans six months ago.

The company has yet to comment on the fate of projects shuttered by the former Belkan weapons magnate, including new aircraft in development for Osean and other continental air forces. A GR spokesperson had this to say:

"GR will remain committed to nuclear disarmament while keeping Osean-Continental defense at its highest priority."

The company is expected to unveil plans for an expansion of Belka's high-speed rail network to Sudentor within the following weeks.


It's already been a quarter century since the war that changed the world...and long enough for the anxiously dreamy eyes of a rookie correspondent to fade into the hardened disillusionment of a cynical veteran.

Yet it was my experience caught in the middle of the war ten years ago that caused my boss to pick me out of the OBN Staff to lead the Griswall Bureau at the frontlines. "After all," he told me, "You faced down two superpowers with all their armies, navies, planes and who-knows-what-else. How hard could two little countries be?"

I accepted this assignment regardless of how serious my boss actually sounded with that question.

As much as I've always tried to keep in the thick of real matters - my primary responsibility as a journalist - it seems that things really haven't changed much in the last few years. Conflict brews every now and then, but nothing to keep more than the Internet blogs churning.

GR and Neucom continue to develop their rivalries, adopting failing and ruined nations into their fold. The superpowers bicker over what's left while the wannabe powers of the world like Aurelia and Leasath try to compete.


In a press conference in Farbanti yesterday, defense giant Neucom announced that it will conduct its Rising Power military upgrade program exclusively with the Aurelia Defense Force amidst rising regional tension. The new contract will enable Neucom to supply the Aurelia Air Defense Force with new aircraft and upgrades through 2030. The first of these aircraft are scheduled to arrive next month.

The decision was reached after the conclusion of flight tests in several countries, including Aurelia and its neighbor Leasath.

Aurelia has repeatedly faced AN sanctions over accusations of alleged human rights abuses by its military against Leasath refugees as well as manipulation of Leasath politics. The Aurelian Government officially maintains that it cooperates with the International Red Diamond and AN protocols to ensure humanitarian treatment of refugees. Neucom also maintains that the aircraft provided are strictly for defense purposes.


Having enough of the news I pull out my laptop and flip it open as I wait for the breakfast cart to roll toward my row. With a few clicks, I load up the OBN documentary on the Demon Lord. It's an old documentary, but it's been one that's always piqued my interest and continued inspiration as a journalist.

My mentor was behind the documentary, travelling back and forth across the continents to get the interviews. He even went all the way to the front line of the Usean Continental War for the feature piece - a face-to-face interview with the wingman of that unflinchingly merciless ace of the Belkan War they called the Demon Lord.

Rather than watch the video again, I decide to look out at the window, as the jetliner sails above a gentle sea of clouds in an endless blue sky. The narration helps me imagine that dazzling array of metal and fire that always seemed to signify when a war truly had to be fought.

"My first thought was...he had potential." the voice of Larry "Pixy" Foulke seemed as respectfully fearful as it did when I first watched it.

'Potential' is an understatement, I thought to myself.

I took on this assignment not just to satisfy the Editor-In-Chief, but because I knew I would meet one of the three people that still knew him personally.

I had thought they had all disappeared - and likely died - after the end of the Valahia crisis three years ago. At least until I received an e-mail that I was sure came from one of them, stating that they had joined the Aurelian Air Defense Force.

And perhaps, in the miraculous chance that person had really survived that crisis, meeting them would rekindle that fire of hope that once burned in this journalist's heart.


To be continued...

(Please leave a review. Thanks.)