USAF fighter pilot Janet Kerrigan is not having a good Christmas. It's bad enough she is stationed in Balad Air Base, Iraq and away from her three-year-old son, but to make matters worse, she has to spend her Christmas day on Combat Air Patrol.
A friend and fellow pilot tells her to make new Christmas memories, and much to Janet's surprise, she does, though not the kind of memories she expects. While flying her F-16 Fighting Falcon in the Iraqi skies, Janet is faced with a difficult choice: follow orders and have the glory or ruin her Air Force career to save Christmas for boys and girls everywhere.
“Medusa, Pancho, this is Base Command. We’ve got an unknown object showing up on radar, 116 nautical miles to the northeast. Be prepared to engage.”
Janet frowned. An unknown object, a bogey? Most of the Iraqi Air Force was destroyed at this point. She quickly glanced at her heads-up display and scanned her information. Altitude: 20,438 feet, air speed: 424 mph, compass: east, bogey: check. Janet’s breath caught at the sight of the tiny dot on her HUD. What the hell? Where did he come from? She watched the moving dot and felt her heartbeat spike. “Base, this is Medusa. Unknown object alert acknowledged and verified. Preparing to approach and engage target upon visual ID.” Switching frequencies, she attempted to reach her wingman. “Pancho, this is Medusa. You got the bogey?”
There was only static in reply. Janet frowned again before pressing her communication button. “Medusa calling Pancho. What’s your location?”
A few seconds passed before she heard a crackling response. “Medusa, this is Pancho. I’m eighteen nautical miles to the west of you. Having some difficulties.” Was that fear in her wingman’s voice?
“What kind of difficulties?” Janet kept one eye on the dot, and remembering her orders, prepared to approach the bogey. Nothing bogey-like was visible outside of her 360 degree cockpit yet. According to the HUD, the bogey was still 100 nautical miles away. She placed her right hand on her side-stick controller and pressed against it slightly. Janet applied pressure to the left rudder with her foot, commanding her flight control system, FLCS, to make the necessary manipulations to the aircraft. With her left hand, she controlled the engine throttle. The vibration of her Falcon increased with the speed. She felt a trickle of sweat near her eye under her visor. She was going after the bogey.
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