be so bad, though, if the damned plumbing worked.
Water conservation was always of critical importance aboard any Navy
ship; all crewmen, officer or enlisted, male or female, were treated to
several training and indoctrination films before their first tours of
duty aboard ship on the proper and approved method of taking a Navy
First use just enough water to get your body wet.
She’d heard of some captains who cut the water to the shower heads if
the usage meters showed someone spending more than five minutes under a
running stream. It wasn’t that bad on the Jeff, thank God, but the rules
were strict, and if the nearly six thousand men and women aboard used
the fresh water supplies too quickly, then there were standing orders
posted for rationing.
Then, with the water off, work up a lather an soap yourself down.
Brewer had always been somewhat fastidious, and the thought of the
population of a fair-sized city crammed cheek by jowl inside a steel
can, most of them young and athletic, most of them putting in
eighteen-hour days of some of the most grueling work in the world, and
not enough water for daily showers was fairly disgusting. There was
always a slight stink of sweat and humanity clinging to the carrier’s
berthing areas, the natural consequence of too many bodies in too little
After you’ve scrubbed yourself, turn on the water again, using just
enough to remove the soap The snake was a relatively new addition to the
Jefferson, one installed just a couple of months ago during her last
rotation back Stateside. Scuttlebutt had it that several city
commissions and representatives from the California state legislature
were interested in the thing, that there was talk of passing laws
requiring houses in the southern part of the state to have them
installed in order to enforce water conservation measures there.
Remind me never to live in California, she thought. One of the few
sybaritic luxuries that she’d learned to enjoy during her lifetime was a
good, long, piping hot shower–and since coming aboard ship that luxury
had taken on the dimensions of an addiction, one that she could never
get enough of. After spending sixteen hours or more wrapped up in a
stinking flight suit, the thought of coming here to face the snake could
be damned near unbearable.
The worst of it was that the snake didn’t work all that well, though she
didn’t know if the flaw was in the snake’s design or somewhere in
Jefferson’s plumbing. The best the thing could manage was an anemic
stream of tepid water, when it was supposed to blast the skin with a
high-powered jet. When she’d complained about it to Group Seven, the
ship’s engineering and hull department, they’d laughed and told her to
get in line.
“Shit, Commander, you want us to tear half the ship apart so’s you can
get a decent shower?” one old-Navy pipe fitter chief had asked, grinning
at her around the stub of a reeking cigar. “Maybe you got yourself in
the wrong career track, know what I mean?”
She could have reported the guy for that crack–published Naval
standards about what constituted sexual harassment in the wake of the
Tailhook scandal were exhaustive, specific, and draconian–but she
preferred to handle that sort of thing with professionalism and wit, not
a reliance on regulations. She’d replied with an icy, “And maybe your
people are in the wrong jobs if they can’t make the plumbing on this
ship work,” and let it go at that.
Grimly, she continued sluicing the soap off her body, occasionally
giving the shower attachment another shake, as though the hose were
blocked and a good shake might free it. Navy showers were just one of
the countless adjustments Brewer and the other women serving aboard the
carrier had had to make as the price of equality, and generally the
feeling was that if the men could put up with it, so could the women.
Still, she wasn’t entirely certain whether the low pressure in the
women’s head was something everyone aboard suffered with, or whether it
was a problem restricted to the shower head reserved for female