I know many of you are awaiting my next update to my HP stories. Sadly, that muse had dissappeared for the moment. Unfortunatly, those stoires are on hiatus until further notice as my muse has steered me toward Ace Combat stories. I intend for this to be a bit AU and such with more realistic weapon load outs. If you can name a plane that has unlimited machine gun ammo and a missile load of 60+ missiles, let me know. I honestly don't know of one. Anyway, on with the story! (Note: The main characters name is not based off the SGA character, nor is it a reference to Mass Effect.)


Under The Phantom's Black Wings

The sky was pure blue with hardly a cloud in sight. Winds were light and visibility was unrestricted for as far as the eye could see. But these thoughts weren't on the pilot's mind as he brought his plane in on final approach. It had been a long flight from the mainland out to this little speck of dirt in the middle of the ocean. To him, it was just another Air Force base he was going to for follow on training. To others, it was a career ender. You were pretty much screwed if you were assigned to this base on permanent personnel rosters. He gave a sigh and began his final approach. With in ten minutes, his plane was taxing off the tarmac and toward it's new home for the time being. Final shut downs complete, he opened his canopy and climbed down to the deck and turned, coming face to face with a rather disgruntled looking captain. The two simply stared at one another for a moment before the Captain spoke.

"Let me guess. You're the new guy from Heirelark, right? The real hot shot with a hot head?"

The man frowned slightly, but stood tall. Even if this guy was a Captain, he wasn't going to let the man's words effect him. The Capatin seemed to sense this and smirked slightly.

"Man of few words, huh? Good. Because I've already got a motor mouth here. I'd rather not have a second one. Captain Jack Bartlett. Wardog leader."

Upon hearing his name and position, the pilot came to attention and snapped off a crisp salute.

"First Lieutenant John Sheppard."

Bartlett nodded briefly.

"At ease Lieutenant. We've got other things to do today besides gawk at each other." With that, Bartlett turned and headed toward a simple two story building with John in tow.

They walked in silence, not that John had much to say, and entered the rather dingy building. Bartlett lead the new join to the S-1. A single Senior Airman glanced up before tapping a few commands into her computer.

"I've got a new guy here. Lieutenant Sheppard. Make sure he get's his check in sheet." He told the Airman before turning back to John. "Once you're done here, report to the pilots lounge. I got word to pass to everyone, including you mister hotshot. Be there at 1615." Bartlett told him as he walked away.

"Blaze."

Bartlett paused and looked back at him with curiosity.

"You say something hotshot?"

John looked up at him, his face calm.

"Blaze. My call sign is 'Blaze', not 'Hotshot'…sir."

Most OICs would freak out on a new guy for the ballsy move he just pulled, but Bartlett simply smirked.

"Good. So you do still have a backbone. Alright Kid. Make sure you're at the briefing room on time."

With out waiting for a response, Bartlett walked out leaving a slightly confused John and an uninterested Airman.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

1600 rolled around and Blaze found himself in the pilots lounge as the rest of the squadron filed in. He felt exhausted from running around the base all day. From going to medical to going to the CBQ for his room assignment, he had a pretty dull check in. Not to mention the little heart to heart that the base commander decided to give him.

"Prick. Guy couldn't command himself out of a wet paper bag." He thought rather heatedly.

He'd been told that his tendency to blow off orders would not be tolerated and if he even set one toe out of line, he'd find his ass on the curb. And he had the gull to bring up the training accident that had caused the death of his wingman.. Hell, had it not happened, he'd be a Captain by now. But he pushed those thoughts aside as two particular trainees came over to him and sat beside him. One of them, an older man with rather out of regulations sideburns eyed him with curiosity while the woman, slightly younger than John by the looks, glanced at him in idly curiosity. The man was the first to speak.

"Who are you?" He asked.

John glanced at him, his face still calm.

"It's polite to introduce yourself first."

The man blinked before shrugging.

"Second Lieutenant Alvin H. Davenport. You can call me Chopper." He held his hand out and John grasped it briefly.

"In that case, I'm First Lieutenant John Sheppard. Call sign Blaze." John smirked at the man. "You must be the motor mouth I've heard so much about."

Chopper gave an exaggerated sigh before he responded while the woman smirked at the man's antics.

"I swear. I'll get the captain back one day, you'll see."

"How? By yapping my ear off?"

All eyes snapped to the form of Captain Bartlett. The man entered the room and sat down in front of them, eyeing all of them seriously.

"Alright. Most of you are aware of what happened yesterday. For those that don't, we got bounced by a group of fighters who were operating for powers unknown at the moment. We lost several good people yesterday." He sighed. "So here's where we stand. I know you don't like this, but we're short on people. Starting tomorrow, all of you nuggets are going to be sitting on alert. If we launch, stay glued to me up there." He scanned the room, noticing several fearful looks and others calm faces.

His eyes locked onto one particular pilot.

"Nagase."

The woman next to John sat a little straighter in her chair.

"Sir."

"You're flying number two on my wing." He smirked lightly. "Gotta keep an eye on you or who knows what you'll get yourself into."

Nagase seemed slightly irritated by the Captain's words but nodded her head in understanding as Captain Bartlett turned to him next.

"You'll be flying trail as Wardog Four, kid. Despite what rumors have gotten to me, you've got combat experience and from what I'm told, you're a hell of a pilot. I'll need you to keep our six clear. Got it?"

"Understood, sir. I'll have your back up there."

Bartlett nodded in satisfaction.

"Good. Now, motor mouth, as much as I don't want to listen to your yap in combat, you're a decent pilot as well. You're flying as Wardog Three." His gaze hardened slightly. "Don't make me regret this."

Chopper seemed slightly put out, but responded in kind to the Captain. Bartlett looked back around the room, seeing all the faces, noting that some were pretty young.

"Whatever happens out there, no matter the situation, rely on your training and instincts. I have faith in your skills as pilots, otherwise, you wouldn't be here in this room right now." He paused and leaned back in his chair. "All of you should get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Dismissed."

Almost as one, they rose to their feet and left, with John hanging back. Bartlett spotted him after the room had mostly cleared out.

"Can I do something for you Kid?"

"Yes sir. Actually, I was hoping to speak with you about my record." He informed the Captain.

Bartlett sighed again and knew where this was going.

"Look kid. I know what happened. I know you were not at fault for your wingman's death. And the Air Force agrees as well. The only reason you're here, was because I requested it." he explained to him.

John blinked in confusion.

"Sir?"

"You know that the 108th is a reserve squadron. A remnant from World War Two. We have a low priority compared to other bases such as Edwards and Wright Patterson. But the fact is, we still have a quota to maintain out here. And I'd rather have you than some other officer out there who can barely keep their plane in the air. Fact is, you're good at what you do, but you still have a lot to learn." He looked John right in the eye. "That, and I have a debt to repay to your father."

John nodded and walked out of the room, feeling slightly defeated. He'd avoided telling people about his father, mostly to avoid special treatment. But, it wouldn't be so bad here. An out of the way base that he could begin to make a name for himself, earn his own reputation, whether good or bad, and to just be him. He was completely zoned out and almost walked right into Nagase and Chopper, both looking at him with curiosity. John knew what they wanted.

"I know what you're going to ask. And I will answer you questions, but not now. I will see you both tomorrow morning."

Nagase and Chopper gave him a brief salute and watched as he walked away, Chopper shaking his head, while Kei simply watched him with curiosity.

"Man…that guy is too much like the Captain." Chopper moaned.

"No." Kei spoke. "There's something very different with him."

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

John leaned back in his chair, thinking back to that day when he'd lost his wingman. It had been a simple training flight, a simulated dogfight. They had scrambled to five thousand and had immediately been set upon by three instructors. Blaze could remember exactly what had happened…

(Flashback)

"Tally ho! Three bandits coming in fast at three o'clock high."

Blaze looked in the direction and saw three F-5 Tigers hurtling toward him and his wingman.

"Alright Twilight. Let's turn and burn!" He spoke as he flipped his plane right, pulling back on the stick as he ignited the afterburners.

He could feel the gee forces press him into his crash chair as he pulled his plane in a tight turn in an attempt to get behind their attackers.

"Their latched onto my six!" His wingman called out.

"Hang on. I'll be right there."

Blaze inverted his plane and spotted Twilight with two fighters at the trail position, trying to get a lock. He knew the training computer would be tracking several dozen simulated machine gun rounds flying from the pursuers. Blaze glanced at his own radar and saw number three trying to get behind him.

"I don't think so." He thought and yanked his stick back into his stomach, forcing his plane to fly right toward the ground at speeds in excess of five hundred miles and hour.

He angled himself for a lead on the instructors planes and pulled the trigger, sending simulated lead right where the lead pursuers would be. Sure enough, he landed enough simulated damage on the plane for the smoke canister to ignite in the tail section. The Instructor peeled off, fuming for having been bounced from above. A quick look showed the second one had peeled off and was attempting to come back around to get Twilight while the third one seemed to have a permanent attachment to him. Blaze pushed his bird to the max, pulling up with scant feet to spare. He quickly banked and spotted the second plane. He shoved the throttle as far forward as it could go, coaxing every ounce of speed he could. He wouldn't make it in time relying on guns, so he flipped his master arm switch, activating the simulated missiles he was carrying. They detach from the fighter and fly after a target, and pop open near enough to the target and release a red cloud of smoke, designating as a hit on the targeted plane. He weaved slightly to avoid the instructor behind him from getting any kind of weapons lock and waited for that slight tone, which he got a half second later.

"I've got tone! Blaze, fox two!"

The training missile knifed forward, following the targeted plane which was trying to vain to shake the weapon off. Blaze really didn't care if it hit. All he wanted was for Twilight's six to be clear. And not a second after thinking that, he heard their AWACS signal that the instructor on his tail was down thanks to Twilight.

"That's one for each of us. Now lets get this last one, right Blaze?"

"Affirmative. He'll be gunning for me, so I'll be the bait. Stay high and try to come out of the sun." he ordered.

"Roger that."

He watched the other F-5 shoot up into a near by cloud bank and out of sight.

"Alright kid. No more playing around with you. You and your little buddy are going down."

"If you say so, sir. But you have to admit, the odds are in our favor." He teased back over the comm.

Whatever response he got back was blocked out by the scream of a missile warning. Blaze slammed the throttle forward, hitting his after burners as he cycled through his flares and chaff, trying to shake the simulated missile with simulated countermeasures. But a glance at his systems made his gut tighten up.

"Slammer! We've got a live missile! Repeat, I have a live missile closing on my six! Attempting to evade!"

"Shit! I'm sorry kid! This thing was checked out as cold this morning!" His instructor called back as he tried to self destruct the missile. "Damn it! The self destruct isn't arming! Bail out kid!"

"Negative. I can shake it."

John slammed his throttle into the firewall, his engines screaming in protest as his F-5 knifed through the sky. John glanced at his radar, seeing the sidewinder closing rapidly.

"Just a bit more." He muttered.

Using every ounce of his skill, John yanked the throttle back wile deploying the airbrake and whipping his plan up and barrel rolled to the left. He gave a short fist pump as as the missile soared right under him. But his world shattered in an instant when he saw the missile smash into Twilight's plane. Her screams reverberated in his ears as her plane began to drop out of the sky, spewing smoke.

"Twilight! Bail out!" He screamed into his com.

"I can't! Electrical systems are fired! Some one help!" She screamed.

Blaze watched the plane hurtle into the side of a mountain, screaming out in pain and anguish…

(End Flashback)

John sighed sadly. Despite the fact that he had been cleared of negligence, he still blamed himself for the death of his wingman. But all that was cleared from his mind as the PA crackled to life.

"Wardog squadron. Report to the briefing room immediately. I say again, Captain Bartlett, First Lieutenant Sheppard, Second Lieutenants Nagase and Davenport, please report to the briefing room."

John sighed and hurried to the briefing room as fast as he could. Something told him this wasn't going to be just another drill.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

John eased his plane into formation, taking the trail position behind the rest of the squad. Looking around him, he felt himself relax as the sky seemed open to him, with possibilities endlessly lying before him…until his radio beeped angrily at him. John shook his head as Captain Bartlett's voice came over the channel, irritation clear in his voice.

"Wardog Four! Hello? You'd better be marking our tail, son."

Refraining from saying something stupid over the radio, John moved his mic close enough to pick up his voice.

"Wardog Four, roger. I'm not going anywhere sir."

Either Bartlett didn't care about his response, or he didn't catch the hint of irritation, John didn't know.

"Glad to see you're confident at least. Right." He paused slightly before issuing his orders. "You're not to fire until I give the go ahead, you got that?"

"Roger Heartbreak One."

John idly glanced over his display, noting his full combat load of four AIM-9 Sidewinders, two AGM-65 Mavericks, and 280 rounds for his two nose mounted 20 mm M39A2 Revolver cannons. If this was the standard load used to frighten a spy plane down, he'd hate to see what they pack the planes with should hostiles show up at their doorstep. Though why he would need bombs, he had no idea. Whatever other musings he had were cut short as he spotted the SR-71 in question fly by them at a reasonable speed for the wounded bird. John didn't even hear the call out from Captain Bartlett as he fastened his mask and was already banking his plane in a sharp turn to get on the fleeing plane's six. John increased his thrust enough to come up beside the plane. On his radio, he could hear Chopper issue the demand for the plane to land. Almost comically, the pilot of the Blackbird looked over at him. In universal fashion, John pointed down in an exaggerated way so the other pilot could see him. The one fingered salute was well understood by Blaze.

"Wardog Four to Thunderhead. I just got a universal screw off sign from the Blackbird. Request permission to bring him down the hard way, over."

The almost screamed 'No' just made Blaze grumble his own response as Bartlett came back over the radio.

"Easy Kid. I'd love nothing more than to splash this guy, but we can't do anything unless we take fire."

"Yeah, I understand sir. Just wish we didn't have to play the nice, gracious host to our mystery invader, that's all."

Before Bartlett could respond, the AWACS came on with a warning of multiple high speed bogeys headed towards them. John figured they were coming in to help the Blackbird and Bartlett seemed to agree with him as they altered heading to due south, all of them feeding more thrust to their engines.

"Think we can scare them off with our overwhelmingly intimidating F-5s sir?" Blaze asked sarcastically as he leveled out in the trail position.

"Maybe we can just have Motor mouth talk them to death."

Blaze chuckled as they came with in something akin to visual range. His levity was quickly squashed as he barrel rolled out of the way of the stream of hot lead flying right at him. John whipped his plan around and latched himself behind the MiG, not letting the superior plane dance out of his weapons for more than half a second. Later, Blaze wouldn't remember what words were spoken between his flight lead and Chopper, except for the order to bring these bastards down. John had already flipped the master arm switch, removing the safety interlocks from his weapons. Slipping into a higher position, he strafed the MiG-21 across his engines, left to right. It was enough for smoke to spew from the aircraft and the engines to flame out. A split second after the flame out, Blaze jinxed right to avoid the canopy and saw the enemy pilot punch out.

"Bogey down."

John immediately moved on, already screaming in behind his next target. This one had a bit more sense and used his plane's superior speed and maneuverability to it's max. John gritted his teeth and attempted to angle himself in behind the plane for a perfect shot. His aim was off, though. Instead of hitting his tail, the 20mm round ripped through the wing, sending the bird spiraling toward the waters below them.

"Splash one." John called out as Edge and Bartlett managed to snag the other two.

His short victory was rudely interrupted by Thunderhead informing them they had one more flight of unknowns inbounds. John turned himself along the proper vector and pushed more fuel to his engines, glancing at his fuel readout, noting his had more than enough fuel at the moment to deal with a few angry hostiles. His targeting computer selected the closest fighter, an unlucky MiG-21 that was screaming towards him at high speeds. Not even two seconds later, his AIM-9 got a lock.

"I got tone! Blaze, fox two!" he called out as he let loose the sidewinder.

The AIM-9M was a decent missile to have onboard, as it had improved infrared countermeasures, enhanced background discrimination capability, and a reduced-smoke rocket motor. This increased it's lock-on to a target and a decrease in deflection chances. All this meant was a meaner, deadlier missile. And was it effective. The 20 pound WDU-17/B Annular Blast Fragmentation warhead blew most of the forward portion of the MiG-21 away, leaving the flaming wreckage to spiral out of control into the waves below.

"Target destroyed."

Blaze looped around, searching for another target, but saw that all remaining aircraft had been shot down, with AWACS Thunderhead confirming what he had already known. But what day was complete without a flash report from Thunderhead telling them that this engagement was now classified and Captain Bartlett was to report to the Colonel immediately after landing. Blaze sighed and decided that this was one day he'd just like to forget as he and the rest of Wardog made their way back to base, not knowing that they we're on a collision course with War, or the role that they would play in it.