CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

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

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