CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass


“That’s right,” Brandt said. “You should’ve seen the other guy.”

“Well, I wish you good fortune. Allaha ismarladik.”

“Giile giile,” Brandt replied with carefully rehearsed formality. He’d

been practicing the line on Tombstone; Turkish good-byes were two-part

exchanges, with the person leaving saying “God remain with you,” while

the person staying behind replied with “Go with happiness.” The phrase

could literally be interpreted as “Go smiling.”

As the pilot and the XO left the bridge, Tombstone wondered if Ecevit

had been trying to deliver a message with his concern, perhaps an

unofficial warning from people in the Turkish government or military who

were unwilling to risk making an official one. More likely, Ecevit knew

nothing specific beyond what everyone knew, that the Black Sea was a

bomb with a short, lit fuse.

The officers and men of CBG-14 were under no illusions about the danger

they faced inside the Black Sea. It was part of the duty of the U.S.

Navy–and the tradition–to go in harm’s way.

This was something different, however. In the past, “going in harm’s

way” meant stopping an enemy threat as far from the coasts of the United

States as possible, but America’s role as high-tech policeman for the

United Nations was threatening to change that. The Republic of Georgia

offered no threat to the United States at all, not to her population,

not to her trade or even to her foreign policy, nor did it matter to

American policy which of several Russian factions might be in control of

the country at any given moment.

Russia, of course, was still a threat; they still possessed ICBMS that

could obliterate most of the cities of North America, and with the

accelerated fragmentation of order it had become impossible to know

which faction in the civil war possessed how many working nukes–or to

know where they were pointed. American peacekeeper operations in the

Black Sea were certain to attract Russian attention for any of a number

of reasons, and Tombstone wondered whether the UN mission was worth the

inevitable clash.

Tombstone had been in the Navy long enough to know that the politicians

back in CONUS too often either overestimated the ability of forces in

the field to carry out the often vague, scattered, and mutually

contradictory directives issued by Washington or else underestimated the

ability, the strength, or the sheer resolve of a potential enemy. They’d

already decided to send a Marine MEU into the Black Sea, and now some

dim bulb in Foggy Bottom had decided that CBG-14 ought to be there as

well. It was often said that any time there was a crisis, any time the

United States needed to project military power to any part of the world,

the first thing the American president would ask was “Where are the


Well, now one of America’s handful of precious CVNS was inside the Black

Sea, with no certainty that they would be able to leave freely once the

balloon went up in Georgia. Politicians who made the decisions

responsible for getting their country’s military forces into this kind

of pocket ought to be made to serve alongside the service men and women

who bore the risks and the hardships those decisions entailed.

Stupid, Tombstone thought again, and with deep and sincere bitterness.

Stupid. .. stupid. .. stupid. ..


Friday, 30 October 1615 hours (Zulu +3)

Womens’ shower head, U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson Lieutenant Commander Tricia

Conway, “Brewer” to the other members of her squadron, stood in the

shower stall, dripping and half-covered with soap. She looked at the

snake in her hand, gave it a frustrated shake, and swore. The water was

coming out, but in a weak and lukewarm trickle instead of a hot, dashing


They called it a snake. .. and other things, most of them obscene. All

of the showers aboard the Jefferson were equipped with the devices now,

white plastic shower nozzles on flexible hoses designed to spray water

only when the button on the side of the handle was held down. It was a

means of saving water, but for Brewer it was one more way that the Navy

was intruding itself into her life, her private life. Even that wouldn’t

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