This is from an in-progress scenario/editor experiment. I haven’t decided on the details, where this post-Soviet conflict should be, or even who it’d be against (either a real or fictional amalgamated former SSR), but figured I’d have too good an idea.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

199X.

As a foreign journalist, I was very lucky to be able to witness the oncoming offensive at all. I was-sitting at an airbase in central Russia, taking pictures of the red-starred fighters as they roared into the sky. While it wasn’t as dangerous as the frontline (to which I was incredibly thankful to be away from), I wasn’t exactly going to be getting infamous scoops, like the crazy gonzos who were going deep.

So, when six bomb-laden Sukhois roared down the runway, all that meant was footage of them taking off. Just like the last time they took off. Then it was back to sitting around and hearing the well-rehearsed official claims.

A few hours later, we were taking more pictures of the unit returning. The unit of five fighters. Now, this would not be the first aircraft lost in the conflict, but they were understandably tight-lipped about it.

I reported the loss anyway. Somehow I got away with it. The loss of a single fighter aircraft wasn’t really worth covering up, especially as ten had fallen already.

SU-17 FROM (REDACTED) AB HAS NOT RETURNED TO BASE ENEMY ACTION SUSPECTED.

Years later, I was sitting in retirement, reading about the war I’d played a small part in covering. There it was. A credible picture of the wreck, and a listing. On that day in question, Su-17s from the air base I saw launched an attack. One was hit by an enemy SAM and shot down. The pilot was killed on the ground-likely inadvertently, as regulars and other aviators were prized POWs. I learned that Su-17s were pushed extra hard because they’d soon be retired anyway.

But at the time, all I saw was six aircraft leaving and five returning.

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