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More than thirty years ago a hyper-dimensional passageway suddenly appeared... the first stage of an attempted invasion by an enigmatic alien host. Humanity managed to push the invaders back through the passageway to the strange planet nicknamed "Faery." Now, Second Lieutenant Rei Fukai carries out his missions in the skies over Faery. His only constant companion in this lonely task is his fighter plane, the sentient FFR-31 Super Sylph, call sign: YUKIKAZE.
Chohei Kambayashi was born in 1953. In 1979 he won the 5th Hayakawa SF Contest with his debut work, Kitsune to Odore (Dance with a Fox), and followed that with his first long series, Anata no Tamashii ni Yasuragiare (May Peace Be on Your Soul). His distinctive style and approach, and his thematic focus on the power of language and humanity's relationship with machines, quickly made him a fan favorite. His numerous long and short series have won him the prestigious Seiun Award our times, and in 1999 he won the 16th Japan SF award.
Yukikaze flew towards Faery Base, cruising at an altitude of 98,000 feet at supersonic speed. It flew alone.
Second Lieutenant Rei Fukai looked out of the cockpit at the dark blue sky spread out around him. Night was coming on and he could see the first stars. Below him, the planet Faery was ablaze with twilight colors. Soon it would match the color of the sky. Faery’s binary suns glowed crimson above the horizon, their mutual gravitational attraction pulling them into flattened elliptical shapes. A jet of dark red gas could clearly be seen spouting out of one of them. It arced up to the sky’s zenith, looking for all the world like the Milky Way, but instead of a pearly white it was a red suggestive of the color of blood. This enormous whirlpool of erupting gas formed what looked like a bloodstained path, and so it had been named the “Bloody Road.”
Rei set the cockpit illumination to its lowest level and lifted his gaze from the instrumentation. Nothing was out of the ordinary. It was quiet. He thought back to the battle just fought by the 666th TFS.
“Delta 4, engage. Break right. Right. Starboard.”
“This is Delta 4, I can’t see them.”
“They’ve spiked you! Look out!”
“Where’s the JAM?! I can’t see it on my radar!”
Delta 4 had broken into a hard-right diving turn but couldn’t shake the JAM fighter.
A pilot who couldn’t control his plane perfectly was a dead man. To Rei, that was the natural order of things. Emotions had no place in battle. A fighter plane feels nothing, and a pilot is a part of the plane. Therefore, a pilot who couldn’t set aside his emotions and become one with his plane was no warrior. And with someone like that piloting it, even a high-performance fighter would be no match for the enemy. And then that fighter would be–