The Russian Commander took the podium.
“Our intelligence service has struck a blow for our cause. They have discovered a new plan by Muqtadeh and his cronies. They wish to hit the Canadian base at Gudauta, with MiG aircraft which they will paint to resemble Ukranians. In this way, they sow doubt in our ranks. We will stop this. At the risk of his life, our source has informed us that only three of the MiG aircraft remain to the IRLF. Two are here, in the operations terminal hangar, being fitted for their task. The third has only just been flown in from Syria and is still in Syrian camouflage. It is here,” he pointed to the ramp area, “next to the ground control center. Its task is air defense and it is an early MiG izhdeliye 9-12 which is not fitted for air to ground strikes. However, it is fitted with a full complement of air to air ordinance. It is thought that their ready interceptor pilot sleeps in the ground control area here, next to it.”
He changed to another slide.
“We will split into three groups. Vasily and I will hit the operations terminal and ground control tower, hopefully catching the Syrian on the ground as well. We will skirt the base on the eastern side and come in from the southeast hot, using FAB-500 fragmentation bombs and rockets on the large hangar here. Colonel Martin, your flight will be tasked with three important areas.”
Another slide popped up, which the Commander shined his laser pointer on. Rows of ranked cylindrical tanks lined a field.
“The base tank farm. Also, you will be tasked for the air-defense. We know that the IRLF now has an Osa, what you call SA-8, an infrared SAM with radar targeting, as well as the Shilka vehicle which shot down Sacha. And, ad a tertiary target, the base control tower.”
“What about the runway?” This from a sandy-haired Canadian.
“We have been ordered to leave it intact. The government in Tbilisi has not given up hope of retaking Sukhumi. Your mission, Squadron Leader, will be combat air patrol. We will all be concentrating on the task at hand. If the Syrian gets off the ground, or our Turkish friends choose to appear, we rely upon you to defend us.”
“We’ll be there. We’re looking forward to it, too. That girl of yours put down the F-16 that shot me down last month.”
Tonia Markham broke in. “Commander, any word on Sacha? We’re all pulling for her.”
The Commander’s face darkened. “Da. We think she lives. The Turks have her, at the hospital on the south side of the base.”
My head hurts. I remember so little. I awake in a small white room. The bed is hard, and I ache so. I am stiff as board and do not know where I am… but this must be hospital, no? I am alive? I move, and feel a sharp pain from my left arm. It is splinted, heavily. I wiggle my fingers. Needles shoot up my left arm but all is well, I can move. I am bandaged, but other than my arm and bruising, I live.
I sit up.
“Rest, child. Do not try to get up.”
My eyes focus on a man, sitting in shadows at the end of the room. He stands. He is swarthy and has a thick, black mustache. I recognize the uniform. A Turk. My heart stops. I have not dreamed this. I am at the base hospital, at Sukhumi, in the hands of the enemy. A hazy memory of grabbing for the eject handles between my legs as my 52 Yellow’s right side burst into roaring, orange fire floats through my mind. I got out in time. But this, this may be worse than death.
“Lieutenant S. D. Andreevna. Welcome back to the world of the living.”