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- "The Demon Lord of the Round Table. A warrior who soared through the Belkan War, inspiring both fear and admiration. His presence filled the skies for but a few short months before he disappeared. Apart from that, nothing is known about him. I was never able to find out what kind of a person he really was. But whenever they talked about him, they always had a slight smile on their faces. That, perhaps, may be my answer."
- ― Brett Thompson
Cipher (サイファー Saifā) was a mercenary pilot who led the Republic of Ustio's Galm Team during the legendary Belkan War. Widely recognized as one of the greatest aces of all time, his presence struck awe into enemies and friends alike. Cipher is credited for having a high number of kills in Area B7R, earning him the nickname "Demon Lord of the Round Table".
Following Belka's assault in the early days of the Belkan War, Ustio began hiring mercenary pilots to bolster their surviving military forces, one of whom was Cipher. The pilot's first recorded participation in battle was in April 2, 1995 at Operation Crossbow, a mission where the mercenary pilots were tasked with defending Valais Air Base, Ustio's last remaining airbase, from the Belkan bombers. During this time, Cipher was assigned as the flight leader of the 66th AFU Galm, with Larry "Solo Wing Pixy" Foulke as his wingman. Operation Crossbow ended in a success, as the Belkan bombing force was annihilated. At the end of the day, Larry casually asked Cipher "Yo buddy, still alive?". This would mark the beginning of their relationship. Two weeks later, Cipher & Pixy partook in an operation to clear out Belkan forces blocking Route 171, a transport route in the region of Arlon in order to establish a supply line between the Ustio military and the Osean Federation.
On April 20, Galm Team was issued an emergency order to conduct a reconnaissance mission (codenamed "Operation: Choker One") at the famed Airspace B7R, a desertic valley located in the Ustio-Belka border known as the "Round Table". After penetrating the local defense perimeter and entering the Belkan side of the Round Table, the mercenaries were intercepted by an elite Belkan squadron. A fierce engagement ensued, but the Galm Team eventually prevailed. Their victory at B7R would mark the beginning of their fame. Later on, they assisted the 3rd Osean Naval Fleet in April 24 during the Battle of Futuro Canal, clearing out the Futuro Canal of Belka forces so that a link between Ustio and Osea (from here on out referred to as the Allied forces) could be secured, and in May 12 cooperated with the Osean Air Force's 101st Airborne Division and the 122nd Airborne Division in retaking the mountain town of Solis Ortus, so as to establish a foothold for the upcoming siege of Directus, Ustio's capital city.
A day later, Galm Team and several Ustio/allied battalions launched an all-or-nothing attack on Directus, ultimately sanitizing the town of all occupying forces. Operation Constantine, as the mission was known, ended in a climactic duel between the Galm Team (Cipher and Larry) & the Gelb Squadron, a pair of Su-37 aces ordered to keep the city under Belkan hegemony at all costs. The flight leader was killed, while Rainer "Cormorant" Altman, his wingman, safely ejected, later parachuting into the town. The Ustio branch of the Belkan Army defeated and expelled from the country, the crew at Valais decided to start a party, commemorating the country's liberation. From this moment, the Allied forces were ready to bring the war to the Belkan homeland.
Assault on Belka
Five days after the liberation of Ustio, Cipher and Pixy participated in Operation: Hell Bound, a large-scale Allied invasion of Glatisant, a region on southern Belka's Mt. Ivrea region, launched under the suspicion that Belka was manufacturing nuclear weaponry. In the 19th of May they assisted in a mission to open a safe passage for tanker aircraft through the Schyane Plains, Belka's 2nd line of defense. Once the battle was almost over and the Halo Squadron arrived, Galm Team was forced to flee after the former were annihilated by a strike from Excalibur, Belka's ballistic missile defense weapon. In May 23, Galm Team participated in a mission to destroy Excalibur at the plains of Tauberg. After having its firing radome destroyed and its mainframe dangerously tilted in an angle, Cipher dealt the killing blow to the weapon, causing its upper area to shatter and collapse. In the ensuing celebration, an Ustio fighter pilot claimed that Cipher was "the guy who pulled Tauberg's sword", alluding to the tale of King Arthur.
Five days following the destruction of Excalibur, the mercenary pilots were dispatched on an emergency sortie at the Round Table, where the largest air battle of the Belkan War was taking place. After arriving to the battlefield, Cipher and Pixy singlehandedly turned the tables, helping the Allies clear most of the skies. Towards the end of the battle, Galm was engaged by a Belkan ace team, but easily managed to win. The outcome of Operation Battle-Axe would result in Cipher earning the nickname of the "Demon Lord of the Round Table".
Last stages of the war and Operation Ravage
In June 1, the Ustio military was requested assistance by the Osean Air Force, who were conducting a bombing raid on Hoffnung, one of the Belkan Federation's leading weapons production centers, and Galm was dispatched. Upon arriving to Hoffnung, they discovered that the city had become a smoldering inferno, the Allied bombers having started their attack run with no regards whatsoever to civilian casualties. After sanitizing the city of all remaining ground and air resistance, the mercenary pilots departed, a shocked Solo Wing Pixy muttering "Damn them all..." as they went.
Four days after the Hoffnung incident, the Galm and Crow teams launched on a mission to assist ground troops on an invasion of Belka's last remaining weapons facilities at Sudentor, taking a shortcut through the Waldreich Mountains. Halfway through their trip, the mercenaries came across a Belkan bomber unit with nuclear weaponry headed towards Ustio. Fighting against time, they scrambled to intercept the bomber aircraft, dealing with their escorts as they went. After an unusual turn of events involving a flight of Belkan aircraft assisting the pilots in destroying the bombers, all targets were eliminated. Several seconds after the end of the battle, a flash of light filled the sky as the Belkans detonated seven V1 nuclear bombs on their own soil, killing an estimate of 12,000 people in the process. In the seconds following the catastrophe, Pixy was contacted over the radio by Joshua Bristow, who had fought with them during Operation Battle-Axe. After a short conversation, a morally shattered Pixy decided to defect, but not before attempting to kill Cipher. Following his failed assassination attempt, Larry fled to North Belka, disappearing from radar while his former buddy was left behind to deal with incoming reinforcements. Later on, Cipher returned to Valais AFB alone.
Aftermath of Ravage and insurgence sweep operations
A week after Operation Ravage, the Ustio military received reports of Belkan forces opposing the country's change of government. In June 13, Cipher was dispatched to Mt. Schirm in North Belka, his objective being clearing the area of all insurgent forces. Prior to this mission, the Galm Team was reformed, with Patrick James Beckett, the Crow Team's number #3, becoming his new wingman. Later on, they participated in the 20th in a secret operation to clear out Belkan insurgents at Anfang, a coast region in Belka, during the peace treaty between all belligerents of the Belkan War.
A World With No Boundaries insurgence
Several months after the Anfang siege, the Galm Team saw action once again. In December 25, the revolutionary group A World With No Boundaries revealed itself to the world by laying siege to the city of Lumen, where the Belkan War peace treaty had been signed in June, using a hijacked prototype heavy command cruiser, the XB-0 Hresvelgr. The Hresvelgr then headed to Ustio, launching an airstrike on Valais Air Force Base. While the base suffered considerable damage, the attack ultimately failed. Hours after the attacks, the Galm team launched and intercepted the airborne fortress at the Walreich Mountains. At the end, the ship was destroyed.
Four days later, in December 31, an investigation conducted by the Allied forces revealed the location of A World With No Boundaries's main headquarters at Avalon Dam, a military facility at North Belka, as well as the fact that they were in possession of a V2 MIRV weapon. Taking off at 11:00AM, Cipher and PJ took off in their final sortie. Their destination being Avalon Dam, they flew northwest, taking a shortcut through Area B7R. Upon reaching the mountain area at the Round Table, they were greeted by the ringleader of the coup d'état and his squadron, who were shot down following a fierce dogfight.
A few hours later, the mercenary aces arrived at Avalon Dam, during a massive engagement between the revolutionary soldiers and the Allied forces. Weaving through Mund Valley's canyon, they arrived at Avalon Dam proper. Cipher dove into the innards of the facility, destroying the V2's launch controls systems and their defensive lock joints, thus preventing the imminent launch of the weapon. After Cipher escaped from within Avalon, he and PJ remained in stand-by while AWACS Eagle Eye analyzed the situation.
End of the war
While they awaited for Eagle Eye to report, Cipher and PJ flew over the skies of the missile facility. Patrick James commented how he was planning to propose to his girlfriend upon returning to base, but were interrupted by the unexpected appearance of an unidentified aircraft on radar. Having noticed a beam of light coming from the horizon, Beckett dove in Cipher's way, being presumably killed by a laser beam. Seconds later, Pixy's voice was heard on the radio.
Following this transmission, Cipher and his former comrade, flying an experimental Belkan fighter, engaged in one final duel. The mercenary ace managed to overpower Pixy's advanced technology through sheer skill, all while weaving through laser beams and ballistic missiles. Towards the end of their engagement, Pixy activated the ADFX-02 Morgan's secondary V2 launch system, and the missile sprung back to life. With his enemy being protected by an advanced ECM shielding system, Cipher was forced to attack Foulke head-on, in what is best described as a duel of airborne jousting. Ultimately, Galm 1 managed to critically damage Pixy's Morgan, narrowly evading a direct collision with his enemy. After the destruction of the ADFX-02, the V2 missile self-destructed in a colossal explosion over Avalon Dam, marking the end of the Belkan War. Following his victory, Cipher and Eagle Eye returned to Valais.
Several months after the war, the Demon Lord disappeared from the skies, never to be seen again.
In other games
Cipher's legacy as a main character has expanded into a number of subsequent Ace Combat games.
Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
- The Ace of Aces version of "Heavy Command Cruiser" features an enemy ace named "Galm", who spawns to defend the P-1112 Aigaion with a number of ace pilots named after characters from previous games. However, the F-15C is replaced with the F-15E Strike Eagle, which is adorned with the Estovakian SP colors.
- A Strike Eagle variant named "F-15E -CIPHER-" can be downloaded from the XBL Marketplace.
- In Chandelier, when the player and their allies assault the titular railgun a minor radio transmission can be heard amidst the battle chatter. Said transmission says "Galm 1, shoot down the enemy ace and your reward will be multiplied by ten...", but is sometimes is cut off by mission dialogue at the word "and".
Ace Combat: Joint Assault
- In Ace of Aces, the 40th aircraft, "Garm 1" is featured as an enemy ace. The difference is that the aircraft is an F-15E Strike Eagle and that his plane has no Ustio Air Force roundels.
- Cipher's paint scheme is an unlockable for the F-15E, with the exception of Cipher's number (032), Ustio Air Force roundels and the Galm squadron logo on its tail is missing.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
- Cipher's paint scheme is made available for the F-15C Eagle. It is unlocked alongside a Pixy scheme and the "Galm" callsign when the "Ace Pilot" bonus has been achieved five times in competitive multiplayer.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy
- There is a customisation part named "Garm's Eye", alluding to the Galm Team's Nordic namesake.
- In Final Countdown, one of the ship´s crew says "That pilot reminds me of the Demon of the North" (though this may also refer to the "Demon of Razgriz" legend).
- During the fights against Beast Squadron, Sergei Brynner frequently says lines that both further enforce his life as a Round Table ace and that he actually fought Cipher at some point. Among them; "Nice going, Flame-O! I've been looking forward to the next chance to fight a demon like you!" (demon presumably meaning Cipher).
- Cipher's paint scheme is available for the F-15SE Silent Eagle as the fifth colour.
Ace Combat Infinity
- The F-15C -Cipher- and J35J -Cipher- were available as Ranking Tournament rewards and were later added to the Skilled Pilot Medal Exchange.
- Cipher's "Demon Lord" nickname corresponds to the Galm Team's designation: "6th Air Division, 66th Air Force Unit", which includes the number "666", the Number of the Beast in Christianity.
- The full nickname, "Demon Lord of the Round Table", is a Japanese wordplay on "Knights of the Round Table" (円卓の騎士 Entaku no Kishi). Changing the word "Kishi" (騎士) to "Kishin" (鬼神) changes the meaning from "Knight" to "Demon Lord".
- In old English dialects, "cipher" means "zero". This matches the game's title, as well as the game's many Arthurian references since Arthurian legend took place in old England.
- Cipher's name could have also been derived from Lucifer, further complementing the demonic references.
- Cipher's F-15C livery is reminiscent of the default F-15C livery in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, which was itself derived from the JASDF's Hiko Kyodotai aggressor squadron's F-15DJs, based on the F-15's prototype colors.
- A named ace in the Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War mission Fortress flies an F-2A with the callsign "Cypher".
- Some Ace Combat fans have argued that Cipher is the same person as Mobius 1. No evidence exists to support this theory, and Kazutoki Kono has confirmed that they are not the same person.
- Cipher's history in the Belkan War bears a striking resemblance to the Razgriz legend from Ace Combat 5. The Belkan War can be considered a point where "history witnesses a great change", and Cipher "reveals himself". He quickly gains the reputation of being a "dark demon", using his "power to rain death upon the land". Cipher then "dies" by losing his squadmate, Pixy, and enters a "period of slumber" by disappearing for six months after the war's conclusion. He then "returns, this time as a great hero" by saving the world from A World With No Boundaries and the V2.