Chapter Forty Five

January 11th, 2097

New Athens, The Commonwealth

Laguna Bend, Lake House

"Tell me about Cypher."

Such a question was easy to speak into existence, but those words are the foundation of his idol's legend.

And that thirst for knowledge that laid within Amanda's tone was palpable for Morrison to hear. Every fiber of his being wanted him to respond with terms that would prompt even more questions if only to keep the reporter guessing.

"What's left to tell that you don't already know?" The Legend of Cypher was an oversaturated tale that ran amok within the civilian population. Many of the Headhunter's actions were forgotten, and countless stories were spoken of his motivations that remained inaccurate.

Perhaps it was time to set the record straight, at least from the point of view of a simple grunt serving in the prestigious ranks of Warlock Battalion.

"During the foundation of Sicario," Morrison leaned forward, eyes boring into Amanda as she spoke. "Your detachments didn't know much about him. From what many of my colleagues and I understand, his part in establishing Blackwatch and the Custodians was...uncertain."

"He provided the means necessary to keep the Custodians well funded and well equipped." Morrison began with a bite to his voice. "His presence in our foundation was felt through Kaiser and the other detachment leaders such as Commander Kolarek and Colonel Reyes."

"Would that not infer that Cypher was little more than a contributor?" Amanda's question earned several narrowed looks from their captive audience of Mage Company Veterans. One would have to be suicidal to speak ill of Cypher in the presence of some of his most staunch supporters, but the reporter was seeking an answer to questions that plagued the general public.

"To the uninformed and the ignorant, yes." Morrison gave Amanda a knowing look, which prompted an unimpressed stare. "On the surface, his involvement appeared to be arbitrary. He supplied us with tools when we needed them, but he was rarely involved in the command structure…."

One of the best tenants of Cypher was his willingness to allow his subordinates a certain degree of freedom when it came to leading their detachments.

So long as their objectives were completed and their houses were kept in order, Kaiser and the other Corps leaders were allowed their freedom of sorts.

"…Make no mistake, when we first laid on eyes on Cypher, there wasn't a doubt in any of our minds that he was a man to be ignored or trifled with. He exhumes a gravitas that is almost indescribable, and his very presence envelops any who stands next to him."

During his time with Warlock Battalion, Morrison had the honor of being one of the few who stood alongside Cypher. And there is no other man alive who could instill such turmoil and devotion in the former Blackwatch operative like he did.

Morrison became engrossed in his memories of meeting the Headhunter for the first time. It was a memory that would stay with him for the rest of his life, a constant reminder that Cypher was more than just a hunter.

"…He is a force of nature, and in the rare instances he could be seen or heard, the Custodians knew that victory was a certainty. You need not look farther than the landing at San Lucas to realize his reputation."

"San Lucas?" The name and its recent history flashed in Amanda's mind. "That city, if I recall correctly, was the site of an important battle between the Republic of Azonea and the now-defunct Sinaloa Confederation. I had no idea the Custodians were involved."

"My company was liaisoned to the Republic of Azonea for their landing operation. Our objectives were to insert in the city's east district and capture a Sinaloa General with ties to Militech."

"And Cypher played a part in the ground battle?"

"To a certain degree," Morrison emphasized. "His involvement in the opening hours was providing top cover with a few other squadrons from our aerial corps."

"He was a pilot then?" Several onlookers snorted at the notion Cypher was little more than an air jockey.

"On that particular day in that field. Cypher was everything to us, and it was breathtaking to watch him and Monarch share the same skies."

The Battle of San Lucas could have turned out to be one of the worst days in the history of Mage Company, but it was one of the finest moments in their history.

Mage company was given the honor of establishing first contact between Cypher and his army.

And they were not found wanting.

September 1st, 2077

Longitude 31.65054, Latitude -120.10985

North Pacific Ocean, Air Corridor A-7C

A fleet of pure Custodian steel soars across the restricted airspace designated as corridor A-7C.

The contour trails of cargo planes, interceptors, and massive airships litter its overcast skies. All of whom are traveling towards a collection of offshore sea platforms for deployment.

To the general public, these seaward platforms are waste disposal rigs that are well within standard corporate jurisdiction.

To the members of Sicario, these rigs serve as the Custodians' center of power and the beating heart to their paramilitary group. No one knew what to call their new home at first, but once the grandeur and scale of the offshore facility was revealed to the bulk of Sicario, the designation became easy.

Fort Olympus.

Because even the gods would have approved of its creation.

At least, that is what Hitman One's WSO, Robin 'Prez' Kuo heard from the Aviation Corps' rumor mill. Even Sicario wasn't safe from the bickering of soldiers in between combat deployments.

Robin hadn't had the pleasure of laying eyes on her new home for the last few days or maybe even weeks at this rate.

Hitman Squadron was constantly rotating with other air wings over the pacific on security detail for the mass transit of all Sicario and Logistics Corps elements from Sword Base to Fort Olympus.

The Aviation Corps, codenamed Chimera, was working overtime in ensuring that the curious were discouraged from looking into the fleet of airships transferring thousands of men and untold tons of materials across the Pacific Ocean.

It was a boring assignment, and Prez had spent more time glued to her co-pilot seat than anything else in the last week. At least she had Monarch to keep her company, but he only provided basic comfort in the form of his steady breathing.

Her pilot wasn't exactly the most talkative person in the world, and Prez often found herself conversing with other Hitman Pilots far more than the one she was assigned to. It was an odd dynamic, to say the least, but there weren't any other WSO's in Chimera who could handle Monarch's 'bullshit.'

Prez knew her pilot was one of the most effective pilots in Chimera, and his skills matched the likes of other squadron aces that have earned their reputations through war. Monarch's constraints were often dictated by how much ammo and fuel he could carry per sortie.

Hitman's crew chief fucking hated their flight lead because every time he came back from a sortie, his plane was in bad shape. Monarch burned through three F-44 Manta's already, and it boggled Prez's mind that Colonel Kolarek was willing to give him a ninth-generation ASF in the X-25 Wyvern.

With state-of-the-art variable-geometry technology and a forward-swept wing layout, the X-25 Wyvern has a one-of-a-kind architecture. The forward-swept wings and vertical stabilizers fold inward and downward as the aircraft speeds up to reduce air resistance, then retract to their neutral position when the Wyvern slows down.

Its armaments consist of six Falcon-37 air-to-air missiles underneath the air intakes. A quartet of specialized Vulture quick-action missiles sat in between the intakes and an Archangel railgun with two dozen specialized projectiles.

Robin had a bet with Hitman that the experimental aircraft wouldn't last more than two sorties with Monarch. There was a lot of money in that pot, and Prez really wanted the whole damn thing to herself.

However, it would be a shame to lose the Wyvern because the leather seats were some of the most comfortable Prez had ever sat in, and she was positively dreading the prospect of having to return to the VX-29 Griffon whenever Monarch required a multi-role plane.

Hitman Squadron consisted of seven pilots and four WSO's who worked as assistant crew chiefs whenever their pilots weren't assigned to ground attack/multi-role duties.

And since Monarch was the only pilot to take out a two-seater, Prez was on WSO duty for the duration of their assignment to airspace AC-7. She would have preferred a little less monotony in their tasks because staring at a radar screen lost its luster after the first hour passed by without a single foreign radar contact.

As hour number five on picket duty passed, their air to air comm channel with their resident AWACs came to life.

"Hitman One, this is Galaxy. Requesting perimeter assessment over." Robin manipulated her console and reactivated her Wyvern's communication transponder.

"Airspace is clear, Galaxy. Ain't nothing out here but us and the clouds." A missive glance towards her radar screen showed six friendly IFF's spread evenly to their south and no other foreign contacts within their periphery.

In short, there was a whole lot of nothing happening.

"Copy that. Got a priority mission for your Squadron." Robin's brows rose in interest. "Gather up your flights and push to these coordinates."

Prez's HUD flashed with a set of coordinates approximately thirty miles to their north, and she couldn't stop the surge of adrenaline she was experiencing at the prospect of their new assignment.

"Hitman One copies all, standby." Prez dipped her head towards her silent companion. "You hear that Monarch looks like our day won't be so dull after all."

Robin's day was significantly better when her pilot decided to say something other than communicating commands with his tongue.

"Quiet days are few and far between, Prez," Monarch stated while banking their Wyvern to the right. "You should enjoy them while they last."

Somehow Robin should have expected such a bland statement with infinite amounts of wisdom.

"God, you are literally the definition of a grumpy old man, you know that Monarch."

"Just make sure the squadron gets to the coordinates." Robin blew a raspberry towards her grumpy pilot, who understandably ignored her immature antics.

"Fucking buzzkill," Prez muttered under her breath and reconfigured the Wyvern's comm frequency. "All Hitman callsigns, rendezvous on Monarch's tail so we can step off this god awful guard duty."

A half-dozen friendly IFFs were already on their way to their designated coordinates, and of course, someone had to point out the obvious.

"Hitman One, this is Two. Were you not aware that everyone can heardGalaxy's transmission?" Lieutenant Irena 'Vega' Dvornik, Monarch's famous wingman and number one pain in Prez's ass, responded with a slight Russian accent.

When Hitman members exchanged banter, the rest of the Squadron chipped in like a rabble of high school kids. Lola 'Iris' Sommer, callsign Hitman Three, was the first to voice her unwelcome opinion.

"Come on, Vega." Iris began. "You know Prez likes to hear herself talk. Why do you think Monarch never jumps on the net."

"Eat my ass, Lola." Prez's derisive statement earned a chortle of laughter from her intended victim.

"Oh, please." Robin could practically feel the grin plastered across Iris's face. "If I were into that kink, I would have my wingman do it for me."

Gunther 'Dzhoker' Kleiber, Iris' wingman, was not as thrilled as she had hoped.

"I wouldn't do it for all the money in the world," Dzhoker responded with a snarky tone. "I know where that ass has been lately."

The Squadron's comm frequency was filled with mirth, and Iris' face flushed bright red from humiliation. As her fiance, Dzohker was the only one who knew how to make his soon-to-be bride blush without serious repercussions.

"Damn, I felt that one." Prez couldn't help but agree with Vega's statement, and before she could respond, another squad member chimed in.

"Hitman One, this is Five." Stephen 'Sky Kid' McCarthy's IFF appeared on radar. "Hitman Six and Seven are trailing my stern, and we're approaching your seven o'clock about twenty miles out over."

Krebber 'Strom' Ludwig, Hitman Six, and Axel 'Schwan' Reinhart, Hitman Seven, were formed up on Sky Kid's wings. They didn't speak as much as the rest of their Squadron, but they were at the very least far more talkative than Monarch.

"Thank you for the readback, Hitman Four." Leave it to the Squadron's youngest member to be the most ordinary. "Christ, why can't everyone else be like you, Sky Kid?"

"Hitman One does say I'm one of a kind." Vega snorted in amusement, Monarch saying anything nice about a member of Hitman Squadron was as likely as Arasaka turning into an upstanding and moral corporation.

"Was he intoxicated or drunk when he said that?" Iris remarked.

"No, he was asleep." Sky Kid was suddenly as strange as the rest of them, but Prez was the most bothered by his creeping of Monarch.

"Hey! You stay away from my pilot, Sky Kid!" Robin denounced over the comm net. "Only I am allowed to make Monarch uncomfortable, and I'll be damned before you start doing it."

It was her sworn duty to ensure that Monarch was always conscious of his surroundings, and Prez was very committed to that duty no matter the circumstances.

"You don't make him uncomfortable, Prez," Vega spoke up, her voice light with amusement. "All you do is piss him off with your constant jabbering."

Monarch's voice came over the channel just as Robin was about to retort to Hitman Two's accusations after Prez took offense to her remarks.

"Lock it up." All chatter ceased with but three words from their flight lead. "Galaxy, this is Hitman One. We're in position and ready for briefing."

"Galaxy copies all. I'm pushing necessary intel to your HUDs now." An overhead view of Baja California flashed across Monarch's HUD, and he deftly switched his Wyvern to autopilot while Galaxy disseminated the necessary intel.

The provinces of Sinaloa, Sonora, and southern parts of Baja California were controlled by the Sinaloa Confederation, while the rest of the Baja peninsula was owned by the Republic of Azonea.

"Alright, Hitman, here's the situation." Their satellite view of Baja California centered around its southern tip. "Our contractors in the Republic of Azonea are currently involved in a complicated and ever-expanding civil war in the failed state of Mexico…."

"Multiple principalities and local warlords are seeking to unite the shattered country under their banner, and our dog in the fight is the Republic of Azonea. So don't shoot the guys marked in green on this operation, or Kaiser will have your ass."

"Well, be sure not to add any GREENFOR marks to our planes, Galaxy," Vega remarked under her breath loud enough for the AWACS to hear.

"You do that, Hitman Two." Galaxy deadpanned. "Anyway, Kaiser needs a squadron from Sicario to assist in a Republic landing operation at San Lucas. We have assets in theater but not enough to settle our commander's nerves. Your job is to ensure top cover and provide necessary CAS when called upon. Any questions?"

Dzhoker was the first to raise an inquiry. "You know we're not equipped for air-to-ground sorties, right?"

"Yes, Hitman Three, I am well aware of your inadequacies at all times." Galaxy's voice leaked sarcasm. "Omega Squadron will rendezvous with your flights about twenty miles out from the AO along with a refueling tanker. Anything else?"

"Whose our assigned AWACS?" Prez queried. "Unless you're sticking with us for the journey."

"As much as I would like to sink my teeth in a war zone again, Skyeye is already on station and coordinating Republican air squadrons." Prez breathed out a sigh of relief. Chimera Corps had six AWACs controllers in total, and her least favorite was Long Caster, a notion mimicked by the rest of Hitman.

"Oh, thank god," Iris grumbled over the comm net. "If I had to hear Long Caster eating into his mike again, I might have shot his bird down."

Galaxy did not grace Hitman with his opinion of Long Caster. "Ok if that's all the bitching done for the night, get off my radar and out of my sight. Galaxy out."

Prez shook her head in annoyance at the AWAC's remark and switched off the broadcast. A cursory glance to her left and right revealed the stunning sight of six F-44 Mantas flying in perfect unison.

"He's a dick, but he has a point," Prez stated. "All Hitman callsigns stick close to Monarch and keep an eye out for Omega."

Monarch switched off his commlink and engaged his stealth field, reducing his radar signature and allowing him to release the tension in his body. A sigh of relief from Prez indicated that she felt his stress via their neural link.

Much like the Militech Basilisk, the X-25 Wyvern required two pilots to share the neural uplink. If Monarch tried to run the experimental interceptor by himself, he'd probably overload his cerebral cortex.

He concluded that there could have been worse choices than Prez to operate the electronic and navigational equipment while he concentrated on flying and gunning.

Their journey towards Galaxy's pre-designated coordinates was thankfully quiet and without much ceremony. There was the annual trade of barbing words between squad members over the intercom, but there was nothing of significant note to mention.

When Hitman arrived at the RV point, a squadron of A-165 Hammers and a trio of KC-36 refueling planes awaited them. Monarch disengaged the Wyvern's stealth fields, allowing Prez to communicate with their new guests.

"Hitman One to Sicario IFFs, flash identification codes." There was slight feedback before a response was given.

"Is that you out there, Hitman?" A smile crossed Prez's expression when her eyes registered the friendly callsign.

"Affirmative, Omega." Monarch banked the Wyvern, shifting their squadron formation just enough to align with Omega. "I see you're all geared up for a busy night."

A-165 Hammers were the cream of the crop when it came to close air support aircraft. It is a single-seat aircraft designed for close air support and limited air interdiction operations.

The Hammer replaced the A-10 Warthog, which was taken out of service by the NUSA in 2025. Its armament consisted of a 35 mm eight-barrel Minigun, a pair of Eagle-28 air-to-air missiles, eight Maverick-35 AGMs, four unguided Screamer HE rockets, and two bunker-buster laser-guided GBUs.

Omega was one of the lucky few Chimera Corps Squadrons outfitted with these machines of war.

"Money talks, Prez," Omega's flight lead replied. "And if Kaiser is willing to spend Eddie's on these babies, then I am most certainly ready to use them."

Prez's smile turned predatory as Omega One came into view. "Speaking of money, Avalanche. Where's mine?"

A sudden silence overtook the comm channel, and Monarch rolled his eyes at Prez's antics. He didn't precisely know the running bet Prez made with his fellow Squadron Lead but what he did know was that Avalanche lost and actively avoided Prez during their downtime at Fort Olympus.

"…Are you still on about that?" Avalanche's anxious voice emitted a chortle of chuckles from their fellow squadron members listening in.

"We made a bet, boyo, and you lost. So I'm expecting a pay-up when we get back to base." Avalanche tossed the thought in his head before concluding that as Omega Lead, he had the authority to share his burdens with the rest of his Squadron.

"How about my Squadron doubles your money if Monarch can get us home alive." Predictably Avalanche's subordinates cursed his cowardice and unwillingness to face the music alone.

"You'll make it, Avalanche." Monarch's declaration was spoken with no small amount of confidence. "I can promise you that much."

"How generous of you lead," Vega commented. "Most Mercs nowadays would charge extra for bringing back a squadron of 'Hammers' intact."

"We're not Mercs anymore, Vega." His wingman silently curled in on herself at his reproachful tone. "…Omega, fall in behind our formation while we refuel. We'll be approaching the AO soon."

"Roger that."

Hitman and Omega Squadron found themselves skirting the edge of a massive Republican invasion fleet. Dozens of destroyers and frigates maintained a constant vigil on the perimeter, screening their heavy cruisers and landing ships as they approached the San Lucas coastline.

Trailing the sky above the Azonean battlefleet were dozens of interceptor and attack squadrons buzzing in between the clouds as they anxiously awaited the call to duty. A single interceptor squadron peeled off from the swarm and made a beeline for Hitman and Omega.

"AWACS Skyeye to approaching Mercenary IFF's. Flash identification or be flagged as hostiles." Prez was quick to activate their transponder before a friendly fire incident occurred.

"Ah, Monarch, I was wondering when I would see your Squadron again." Prez's toes curled in on themselves as she heard Skyeye's fascinating voice, and she breathed a sigh of pure auditory bliss.

Monarch snorted at Prez's antics in amusement. "Good to see you, Skyeye."

"Likewise, but we're not here to exchange pleasantries. There's work to be done. Fall in with the rest of the Squadrons just above the fleet."

"What's the situation, Skyeye?" Monarch inquired.

"The landing operation will begin shortly." The AWACS controller relayed. "I've configured your IFF to match other Republican forces in the region, so check your radar before pulling the trigger. Follow these coordinates and join up with other allied squadrons in the AO."

"Roger that." Monarch replied. "Hitman and Omega stay on my six."

It didn't take long for Monarch and his flights to find themselves lost amongst the swarm of aircraft. At first, the mass of tempered steel looked unorganized and undisciplined, but Skyeye was more than capable of whipping them into shape.

Kaiser pulled some strings to get a Custodian AWACs controller to manage all aerial operations for the Republic. Skyeye was the best in the business when it came to tempering the egos of fighter pilots and coordinating an inconceivable mass of metal.

Monarch navigated both Chimera Squadrons into the direct center of the Republican aerial formations. By his estimation, there had to be over a hundred interceptors alongside more than three dozen close air support platforms.

Every Republican asset was eager to get this party started, but their commanders were content to let their subordinates steam in place for a while longer. Even Hitman and Omega weren't exempt from the growing tension, but Monarch was more concerned with the lack of orders.

"That's the biggest invasion fleet I've seen since the unification wars," Dzhoker commented as they circled the naval fleet below. "How the fuck does the Republic of Azonea have the resources to field that many soldiers."

"Cypher?" Schwan's reply earned a chorus of exasperated groans. He was the foremost authority on conspiracies regarding their mysterious leader, and Hitman had soon grown tired of his random accusations.

"That's your answer to every little conspiracy involving the Custodians, Schawn." Monarch agreed with Iris's assessment but remained silent in his support.

"This one isn't a conspiracy, though," Schwan explained. "The Republic of Azonea is critical to our operations in North America. If they go down, we're going to have Militech sniffing up our asses before we know it."

Iris was quick to criticize Schwan for being a conspiracy nut, and the comm net soon filled with the typical murmur of agitated pilots. Monarch and Vega were the only ones who did not engage, preferring to spend their time familiarizing themselves with their Republican allies.

Vega was the first to notice a familiar IFF belonging to another Chimera Corps Squadron.

"Caliburn's off our nine o'clock." Vega relayed to her wingman. "I was hoping not to see those adrenaline junkies again."

"Galaxy did say we have other assets in the region," Prez said. "I'm pretty sure I saw a Warlock Battalion IFF down there amongst the landing ships."

If a Warlock Battalion asset was involved, there was more to this conflict than Monarch initially thought. Kaiser would never jeopardize his most valuable ground assets unless he had a compelling reason to do so.

"Ronin's got them working overtime. Poor bastards are probably still recovering from Maracay."

Warlock Battalion was still recovering from their losses at Maracay. They were one of the unfortunate few to suffer a deadly trial by fire during the deployment phase. Nearly a quarter of the battalion were killed or wounded by the end of the battle, but their troopers were some of the most experienced and deadly ground assets available Sicario had to offer.

"They're probably hoping for an easy mission tonight." Vega theorized. "You think Mage Company's down there?"

"Maybe." Monarch vaguely recalled Mage One-One and their calls for support during Maracay. "But it doesn't matter. Our job is to bring as many of them home alive."

"Roger that, lead." Their resident AWACS presence quickly resonated across all Republican transmissions.

"Airborne warning and control system Skyeye to all Republican callsigns maintain combat formations until orders are relayed, out."

A series of impatient grunts reverberated on his Squadron net once more, and Vega was quick to pacify their subordinates. Monarch was as eager as they were, but impatience often culminated in a pilot's death in the sky, and he did not want to bury a squadron member any time soon.

Monarch motioned his Squadron to maintain formation and maneuvered his Wyvern in between flights of Republican F-36 Eagles. He pulled up next to a VX-29 Griffon, emblazoned on its tail, a faux peace sign belonging to a pilot that Monarch had known since their time in Militech.

"Diplomat." One of the Caliburn pilots called out to their flight lead. "You recognize that emblem?"

"Sure do, Gonzo." Diplomat glanced to his right, making eye contact with Monarch and bidding him a respectful nod. "Caliburn One to Hitman One. How you doing, Monarch?"

"Still alive." Monarch replied with a whimsical tone. "My Squadron was assigned last minute alongside Omega. How long have you been in-country?"

"A few hours or so. We were escorting an HVI to Fort Olympus when we were reassigned here." Monarch couldn't keep the surprise off his face, an expression mimicked by his WSO.

If Caliburn was supposed to be on a protection detail, how did they end up knee-deep in a warzone?

"Where's the package at?" Prez questioned.

Diplomat dipped his head to his front. "At the head of the formation in a stolen F-44 Manta. My boys and I almost shot him down by accident."

"They came to a warzone?"

"Something tells me they're used to doing that. Either way, my job is to make sure they survive this battle, and their plane gets back to Fort Olympus in one piece."

"Sounds like a tall order Diplomat." Caliburn's flight lead snorted in amusement, and an easy smile graced his features.

"We'll make do like always, Prez." Monarch allowed his WSO to engage with Diplomat for a few moments while he pondered their HVI's actions in silence.

A missive glance towards his radar allowed Monarch to view the stolen F-44 Manta with a critical eye. Their HVI's interceptor was isolated from the rest of the Republican formation by almost a kilometer.

No doubt a few Republican flight leads sent missives towards Skyeye regarding the solitude fighter, but for whatever reason, the AWACS operator was unconcerned with the seemingly AWOL pilot.

Diplomat may not have recognized it at the time, but the fact that their HVI was willing to throw himself into the meatgrinder was a dead giveaway as to who they were dealing with.

"What's his call sign?" Monarch's inquiry earned an unsure shrug from Diplomat.

"He didn't give us one. The only thing we got from him was his tac name…" Monarch's brows furrowed in further confusion, eyes scanning his radar and staring at the blinking Chimera IFF belonging to their HVI.

The next words out of Diplomats mouth would soon become synonymous for Cypher whenever he walked amongst his men. A term foreign in every sense of the imagination to the uninformed but to the Custodians, it indicated a change in scenery.


Monarch was still contemplating the oddities of Caliburn's HVI when Skyeyes voice broadcasted across all channels.

"Skyeye here, all squadrons check-in." A slew of Republican callsigns immediately flooded the channel, forcing Monarch to wait for Diplomat and Avalanche to check in first.

"Hitman Squadron awaiting tasking." Skyeye was quick to relay orders and missives between the mass of jet fighters before setting his sights on his fellow Chimera Corps members.

"Omega Squadron, you're tasked with ensuring Mage Company's landing zones are clear of hostile armor. Hitman makes sure they get there and keep any Confederation ASF's from shooting down our support planes."

"Roger that, Skyeye." Monarch switched his focus to his anxious Squadron. "Hitman, stick close to your wingmen and engage hostile air targets piecemeal. Vega, keep close to my wing and don't stray until I tell you to."

"Roger." Vega banked to the right, preferring to shadow Monarch's right side. Skyeye continued relaying orders, and soon Diplomats squadron was set to receive their directions.

"Caliburn, we have multiple Confederation IFFs approaching the Republican invasion fleet. Intercept them immediately."

"What about Oxide?" Diplomat asked.

"Don't worry about them, Caliburn One. Now get to it. Those ASFs ain't going to shoot themselves down." Diplomat rolled his eyes at the AWACs dismissive tone and glanced towards his fellow flight lead.

"Good luck, Monarch. See you back at Olympus. Caliburn Squadron engaging." Diplomat rolled his Griffen to the left, and seven contrails from his squadron mates followed after him.

Monarch felt a stillness enter his bloodstream as he bore witness to the clashing of Republican interceptors and Confederation fighters. The radio was frantic with calls for assistance and warnings, but it was a familiar sound that he had grown used to over the last few years of constant warfare.

Militech used to be his home, but he had grown tired of the corporate bullshit like many others. Chimera Corps was a welcome change to the monotony of force projection and posturing while working for Militech.

Off the Wyvern's left wing, an F-44 with a sleek black design and the symbol of a white eagle on its tails fell into formation. Prez pinged Monarch's hud just in time for the flight lead to hear a voice call out to their AWACS.

"Skyeye, this is Oxide." Monarch's attention was ripped away from his reminiscing. "Requesting permission to join Hitman Squadron for intercept sortie."

"Permission granted, Oxide," Skyeye replied. "Try not to bite the dust on this op. Kaiser will be pissed at all of us if you get killed out here."

Oxide remained silent, and Monarch wasn't sure what to make of their newest addition.

If only he knew the man who sat inside that cockpit.

This chapter is when we start exploring the world outside of Night City and expanding upon the foundations to Cyrus's plans.

In other news my week off barely qualified as a vacation. We have a family member pass away, another go missing for two days, and I got into a car accident. It was the most stressful week of my life and a very shitty birthday. That being said I may choose to take another week off because I have had zero time to write up until tonight.

On to better news so to speak. The DXD story is far and away the most wanted story for me to update so be on the lookout for chapter over the next three weeks. Once the first one drops you can expect weekly updates.

However there is a growing support for a Skyrim/Halo crossover so if I can find the time I may do three a week but two is my limit for now.

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes, stay classy.


Bluzerker: Yeah you right, I'll fit one it every now and then at best but they aren't a mainstay for the story.

thelonewander117: I am assuming this chapter answered your question about Monarch and Prez.

Next Chapter: November 1st

The next chapter is available on my Pa t re on for those who would like to see it. The Link is below.

www .(p)at (r) e o n. co (m) /Cypher1597 (remove the spaces and () to access)