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Strangereal Study: Pilgrim 1

​The following could be considered a spoiler to the story of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown but it is also an explanation of an unseen and unexplained side story. Events that happen in the final mission of Ace Combat 7 are mentioned. Consider this to be a spoiler warning. ​Many nations constructed the International Space Elevator (ISEV) from the Usean continent with the Osean Federation taking the lead. The ISEV also referred to as the Lighthouse, is the centerpiece of a continent-wide reconstruction effort. Though the space elevator would become viewed by some parties as the source of conflict that leads to the Lighthouse War of 2019 (Ace Combat 7 single player), this focus overlooked its utilities. Besides utilizing solar power generation satellites to transfer energy gathered from space to provide energy to the Usean continent for reconstruction, ISEV is referrenced to as an Earthport. Something similar in function to a seaport or airport but for interstellar types of vessels. This means that the space elevator played a silent, off-screen role to a story not explained in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. 

During the final mission of Ace Combat 7, pilots and personnel of various nations cooperating to end the Lighthouse War come in radio contact with what can be determined to be a spaceship returning to Earth. 
​ ​The spaceship is identified as Pilgrim 1 by its captain, Kei Nagase. While making its approach, the spaceship needed to utilize the Earthport to return to the planet's surface. After the final air battle in and around the space elevator ends, ISEV is then open to give Pilgrim 1 a safe return. During its descent, incomplete radio transmissions from Pilgrim 1 speak of the asteroid belt, a seven-year mission and the path to the stars now being open to humanity. Without any context, this is an exciting cameo of a staple character tied to the very identity of Ace Combat as a whole, but it is lost on a majority of those wondering what her mission was. 

The latest book released for the Ace Combat franchise, Aces at War 2019, contains various short stories that explain untold events that happened in Strangereal, the original world of Ace Combat. One unusual short story is told entirely through letters sent between an author, an editor, and fans of a particular book. This short story is called "After The Blue Dove" and can be found between pages 70 and 73 of Aces at War 2019. ​"After The Blue Dove" focuses on the author of the "The Twelve Colors of the Sky," a book published within the Strangereal world. Throughout these letters, it is revealed that the author of Twelve Colors of the Sky is Kei Nagase. 

At this time, Kei Nagase is a former member of the Osean Air Defense Force 108th Tactical Fighter Squadron 'Wardog'. Unbeknownst to many, she was also a member of the Razgriz Air Division who played a leading role in ending the Circum Pacific War (Ace Combat 5 single player campaign) and revealing the truth of the Belkan Conflict which unfurled in the background. Within Strangereal, these facts would not be revealed to the world until the year 2020. It is clear that the communications presented in the short story take place before 2020 with Nagase's role remaining a secret. 
​ The second to last letter within this series of communications is name "E-mail from Writer to Friend." The email is written by Kei Nagase to a "friend" she refers to as Mr. Harling - the President of the Osean Federation during her time as a pilot in the Circum Pacific War. The letter discusses a dinner she had with her editor and the editor's family at their home. 

​​While Kei Nagase met the editor's family, the husband was introduced astronomer Jonathan Payek. He was working at Seals Bridge University in Usea in October 1994. He is credited as the person that first discovered the incoming Ulysses 1994XF04 asteroid. The fear, pain, and war that Ulysses wrought is detailed Strangereal history, but Nagase thought to herself "he is guilty of nothing." His discovery of Ulysses in no way makes him responsible for what damage it had caused. As the conversation continued, Kei Nagase casually asked Jonathan Payek and his son, also an astronomer, if they had observed anything interesting lately. Earlier they had said their work focused on observing near-earth asteroids and calculating their orbit. The Payek family suddenly went silent with the eyes of the family fixed on the birthday cake of their youngest daughter. It is in this part of the letter that Kei Nagase writes to her 'friend':

"At that moment I understood the meaning of what you offered me, Mr. Harling. Another asteroid is approaching, isn't it? It's coming for Earth." 

Later in the letter, she continues:

"Mr. President, the spacecraft I am to captain is to fly on a mission to destroy that asteroid, isn't it?"

The letter would continue with Nagase confirming her willingness to take on a mission presented by Mr. Harling at an earlier date. The final letter within the "After The Blue Dove" short story was from Nagase to her editor, discussing how her fifth book would be her longest work thus far because she would be "spending a lot of time in a confined space." 

Some research correlating the date Pilgrim 1 returns to the planet (November 1st, 2019), her radio transmissions about it being a seven-year mission and the end of her military service in the Circum Pacific War (2010), place this chain of letters between 2011 and 2012. Assuming that the seven-year mission time frame was an estimate of a total round trip, destruction of the asteroid far out in the asteroid belt would have occurred sometime in 2016. The exact launch date and the means it used to leave the planet are unconfirmed, but with construction of the space elevator beginning in 2012, it is unlikely to be have been the ISEV itself. 

While Osea, Erusea and the Usean nations struggled with the construction, political implications and eventual war over the International Space Elevator, Captain Kei Nagase and the crew of spaceship Pilgrim 1 were silent saviors which protected the world from a second asteroid impact. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |

Strangereal Study: Pilgrim 1
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