#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Thriller

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

This October Challenge presented another interesting writing prompt in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The war continues to throw up horrific images, but the extraordinary Kharkiv Counter-offensive seemed to be more encouraging.

However, I had sown a spectral seed in the last scene of the August Challenge, with aviatrix Ksenia Zelenko frightened for her brother in a Russian prison.

So, I wrote the Ksenia story as the main arc, and tried to fit in two additional events in real life, which felt significant.

But there was too much ongoing destruction and too much escalation that I had to discard one of those real-life incidents – the discovery of a Russian torture building – and so many more tragic events. This seems to be one of those tough choices writing historical fiction entails, especially in historical flash.

Instead, I pruned enough words to add a closing scene echoing ‘Thriller’ and reality.

I am aware how this war has distracted many of us from other pressing crises like climate change. And there are other humanitarian emergencies, so I’m impressed when the Ukrainians are trying to help others in say African countries. And don’t forget their concern, a few months back, for getting their grain out to those starving abroad.

Although most don’t see this terrible war ending soon, I am outlining an upbeat positive piece for the December Challenge. However, I am prepared to keep writing into 2023, even if the pieces don’t fit with Challenge prompts and I must post ‘independently’.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

As people have asked where to find all my Ukraine stories, I’ve started creating ‘Freedom Flight’, which will be a collation/collection of them all.

Chapter/Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which at present is only available in the IWSG Anthology ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’.

However, there may be complications using a published piece. Will it be difficult getting permission?

Part II will be all my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine, however that may resolve.   

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:


Blurb: In Ukraine, Night Witches gamble their lives against Fate.

Part 4

Winged Death



Tuesday, August 30th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast.

Ksenia leant closer to her brother Kyrylo as darkness shrouded them.

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

“No time to talk about the Azovstal steel mill. Nor enough faith for your miracle. Soon I must go. Tell me about the counter-offensive, please.”

Did he know? Why? Had he chosen to die again?

No. Never let him leave. Sibling persuasion.

“Our squadron received official approval as an active unit… for this offensive. We have fifteen pilots now, all-women. Plus—”

“—six more NATO compatible jets.”

He knows everything. Of course.

“Yes. The Swedes sent more Gripens. With our new command-and-control systems and surface-to-air defenses, we can field an integrated air and missile defense force—”

“—all-women like the original Night Witches, but deadlier. But I must go home now.”

“Not yet, Kyrylo. We need each other. Stay, please.”

“We will be together soon – forever.” His figure wavered in the moonlight.


“Sacrifice. Please. Grandma calls.”

Then, he vanished – joining their ancestors.

A harbinger of fate? Whose?

Thursday, September 8th

Cold Lake, Canada (21.00) and Kanatovo, Ukraine (Friday, 06.00)

Leonid Sokol had been in shock since hearing the news at 11.30. Reaching his wife Kalyna in Ukraine had proved disturbing as front-line information was shrouded in secrecy. Rumors of high casualties made him fear the worst as time passed with no contact.

How dangerous were the current air operations? Were the Witches being used for night missions? What was the cost in lives?

The sound of her voice was relief, but tears flowed as he said, “Queen Elizabeth died today… we knew it would happen. We’ll mourn her.”

“We heard when Zelenskiy extended sincere condolences on behalf of the Ukrainian people. What did our prime minister, Justin Trudeau say? He’s known her personally much of his life.”

“He called the Queen ‘a constant presence in our lives’ and said his compatriots would always ‘remember and cherish Her Majesty’s wisdom, compassion, and warmth’—”

“Agreed. A life of dedication well lived. Time now to end the horrors here. Make all this carnage meaningful.”

“I fear what’s ahead. More than weapons are needed.”

Sunday, September 11th – Eastern Ukraine

The twelve Night Witches went silent as their three majors entered the briefing room, along with the commander of their ground units.

Vasy uncovered a map showing Russian positions east of Kharkiv. “Again, we’re tasked with a front-line night mission clearing enemy command & control targets. First, we must clear obstacles facing tomorrow’s thunder run. The lighter faster vehicles our brigades are using will bypass strong units. So, our second selection of targets are those.’

Ksenia continued the briefing assigning targets to the various wings.

“My wing will clear out this detachment of tanks. Remember everyone, we don’t have air supremacy in this sector.”


Explosions lit the night as the other wings found their targets. But Russian defenses were now alert and their rockets were incoming.

Ksenia’s Gold Wing had yet to attack their target, although their drone operator had locked in the co-ordinates.

As Ksenia and her wing-sister Lieutenant Ganna Kohut flew a protective pattern above, Lieutenants Anzhela Havrylyuk and Mariyka Shevchuk closed, launching multiple AGM-88 missiles.

Several explosions were confirmed as hits by her instruments. Ground defences tried to bring down the attackers as they climbed out of range.

Before Ksenia and Ganna could attack, four Russian Sukhoi Su-30s flew towards them.

“Don’t engage. Evade. Jink home.”

As the enemy launched heat seeking missiles, Gold Wing all fired off flares and chaff. Then began a combination of tight maneuvers, knowing missiles couldn’t maneuver as nimbly as their jets. And their Gripens’ electronic counter measures sent strong electronic signals, jamming radars.

More projectiles closed from below as the wing turned and barrel rolled in different directions.

Unable to track the jets anymore, most missiles flew past, losing their locks.

But the Russian Su-30s kept following, despite the danger of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences nearby.

Russian Su-30

Ksenia prayed at least one enemy would be downed.

But they too were dodging attacks, and the Russians seemed intent on one target now – Anzhela.

Ksenia had to protect her friend. She turned towards the pursuers and when in range opened fire with her Gripen’s Mauser BK-27 cannon. Then rolled away, diving groundward.

All four Russians followed, firing missiles and cannon.

Despite the darkness, she flew as close to the treetops as possible, and under every powerline she remembered.

Approaching Kharkiv, she climbed, hoping her pursuers would flee from Ukraine’s air umbrella.

Hopefully her sisters had followed orders and returned to base.  But two jets remained on her radar – one a Su-30.

Higher she climbed, twisting to lose her pursuer, who before running, launched a final missile.

It exploded by Ksenia’s wingtip.

Blood blurred her vision as her Gripen spun down.

She had to eject.

No. Her plane would hit the city.

Fight to regain control.

Another explosion – the Russian.

Steer to open spaces.

A field of harvested wheat. Food saved.

Too much blood.

“I’m dying. Kyrylo was right. Together forever.”


Thursday, September 15th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast

Anzhela planted the sunflower seedling on Ksenia’s grave. “She saved my life. Why?”

Her partner Larisa and their son hugged her. “For freedom.”

“You avenged her,” said Vasy. “By shooting down that Su-30… not over the city. You saved lives.”

The surviving squadron personnel bowed their heads, then added seedlings to the other graves of their fallen friends.

“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Above the spirits of all departed Night Witches keened, yearning for a peaceful resolution.


Monday, October 10th – Kyiv, Ukraine

The Russian S-300 missile dropped with precise intent toward its military target – Ukrainian children in a playground.

Putin’s genocide mushroomed as deadly explosives fell, and blood was spilt all over Ukraine.

More innocent corpses. Bodies pulled from devastated buildings.

A special military operation with a spiraling cost in lives.

1,000 Words: FCA

KYIV, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 10: A view of the scene after several explosions rocked the Shevchenkivskyi district of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on October 10, 2022. Vitali Klitschko said that multiple explosions were heard in the center of Kyiv today morning. There is no further detail on the incident yet. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Although that’s my October Challenge piece, I have more on the War in Ukraine. So. I’m splitting this post in two. For more on the War, including a link or two and a video, plus plans for the December Challenge, and two female Ukrainian soldiers, watch out for Post II in a minute or two… or go here: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/the-ongoing-war-in-ukraine/

Slava Ukrayini

23 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Thriller

  1. Pingback: The Ongoing War in Ukraine | Writing Wings

  2. I recently visited my friend in Israel. She watches lots of youtube programs about the war in Ukraine, all of them by the Ukrainian commentators. I learned so much about that damn war in the short week I visited her. Too scary for words, and all of it true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi,
    I happened to live 2 hours away from the war zone, and I have done and do what I can to help those who have escaped this hideous war. It is more than heartbreaking. We are dealing with a man and his associates who have lots of blood on their hands.
    Your story is a vivid adaption of what has happened .
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Roland – you have certainly brought the horrors to life – it is appalling – I really don’t want to think what Putin will instruct his people to do next – they can’t refuse … just desperate … I feel so sad for such a strong, full of iron-will Ukrainians coping in so many ways against that tyrant … yes ‘ Slava Ukraina’ … thank you – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: #IWSG – Miracles | Writing Wings

  6. Apologies for the delay in responding to everyone’s constructive comments and encouragement. Many thanks.
    Researching a horrific war provided so many memorable details, which helped craft this segment of my saga. Thanks though for the praise as well as echoing the ‘dark’ words prompted by the situation.
    Sue (Elephant’s Child) – The Night Witches keening, was an image I felt strongly, as I wrote it. In fact, it was the closing sentence… until the Russians bombed that playground. In my eyes, the night sky in the sunflower photo looks like starry spirits watching.
    Rebecca – Many thanks fellow winner (-; for knowing I can re-publish ‘Feathered Fire’. I’m tempted to offer the final compilation to Dancing Lemur/Freedom Fox initially, although I fear the modern stories are outside their genres.
    Olga – Unfortunately, I don’t understand Ukrainian… presumably your friend does. I follow a couple of Ukrainians on YouTube who broadcast in English. I also use various US, UK, and Australian sources… plus, some Russians who fled their home country, because of the war.
    Denise – I pray the bravery of the Ukrainian people will lead to the total liberation of all Ukraine, including Crimea. But I fear an appeasement compromise, that leaves Putin able to resume hostilities, when the situation favours Russia. There are warning signs of political wavering towards Russia, but I pray I’m wrong.
    Pat – Where do you live? It’s encouraging to know my fiction is a vivid adaption of this war. However, I’ve taken a few liberties… such as equipping my fictional squadron with NATO-built jets, although there are a few stories hinting at the possibilities. Your own support for the Ukrainians is commendable and exemplary.
    Deniz – Trying to hone some lines takes time, especially closing ones of scenes or the whole flash. Killing off Ksenia had me in tears too, yet so many real lives have been lost, it was necessary. Also, that ‘evading death’ line proved to have fateful significance, as described in my November 2nd post.
    Mary – Many thanks, but this heartbreaking war has produced some memorable photos, making my task less demanding.

    Slava Ukrayini


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