CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

tail hook snag one of the cables stretched taut across the deck, and his

body surged forward hard against his harness. He cut his power back to a

grumbling idle as a deck director and a gang of Green Shirts ran toward

his aircraft. To the side, he saw other people running toward his

aircraft, including the brightly clad fire detail and a number of rescue

personnel and duty hospital corpsmen. The yellow-painted mobile crane

stood ready close by, but there were so many people on the deck that it

would have been difficult for it to get through. That sort of display

was against regs, but nobody seemed to care this morning.

Easing back, he spit out the wire, then followed the deck director

toward a waiting slot aft of the island. He cracked his canopy as a

plane crew chief popped his access steps. He reached up, yanked off his

mask and helmet, and gulped down cool, delicious air. It had never

tasted so good.

“Nicely done, sir,” the plane chief said as he leaned in and safed the

ejection seats. “Welcome home!”

“Give me a hand with Mickey,” he said.

“That’s okay, sir,” a hospital corpsman said, scrambling up alongside

the chief. “We’ve got him. You just take care of yourself. Are you all


“Yeah. Yeah, I think so.” His knees felt weak, his legs shaky. Helping

hands unfastened his harness and helped him out of the cockpit.

“Well done,” someone called as he set foot on the deck. Someone else

clapped him on the shoulder. “Good job, Dixie, bringing old Mickey Moss


“How is he?”

“Can’t tell yet, sir,” a corpsman said. “He’s alive. Can’t find any

bleeding. Side of his helmet’s dinged. I think a piece of shrapnel must

have whacked him.” Several rescue people worked together to ease a board

down behind Mickey’s back and strap him to it. With his head and neck

immobilized, they began lifting him out of the cockpit and into a Stokes



He turned and found himself face to face with Cat Garrity. She threw her

arms around his neck and kissed him, quick and hard. People standing

nearby cheered or clapped or laughed.

“That was some damned good flying,” she told him.

He grinned at her. “Does this mean I’m off the shit list?”

“Dixie, my man, I’ll fly with you anytime, anywhere!”

He felt like he was home.

1235 hours (Zulu +3)

Yalta, Crimea Military District Gunfire crackled in the distance–the

expected attack by Dmitriev’s naval forces. For Tombstone, it was a

particularly helpless feeling, to be trapped at the palace with a group

of nearly thirty American service personnel, with a pitched battle being

fought nearby and nothing that he could do to help himself or the

others. His first consideration, certainly, was the treatment of the men

wounded in the assassination attempt. There were four dead–Captain

Whitehead, Special Envoy Sandoval, and two civilians. Wounded, besides

Admiral Tarrant, were a Lieutenant Billingsly from OC, one Marine

private named Garibaldi, five civilians, and Jorge Luis Vargas y Vargas,

Sandoval’s personal aide.

Ambulances had shown up within twenty minutes of the shootings, and

doctors and medical assistants had provided first aid, but Tombstone had

not authorized the release of any of the wounded Navy personnel to the

local civilian medical authorities, and the senior UN people had

requested that Vargas be taken to a Navy ship as well. The Russians had

not been insulted; in fact, they’d been relieved, for facilities at the

Yalta hospital, between casualties from the Russian Civil War and the

ongoing critical shortage of medical supplies, were already strained to

the limit.

The shortcomings in the Russian medical service were legendary, of

course. Earlier, a Russian doctor, a woman named Vaselenova, had

complained about it to Tombstone as she’d prepared an IV saline drip for

the wounded Admiral Tarrant. He’d watched in horror as she’d stropped

the tip of a disposable syringe needle on a whetstone, then dropped it

into a pot of boiling water. “Da, da,” she’d said a few minutes later,

using a spoon to fish the needle out of the water. “There is never

enough of what we need. Plasma. Penicillin. Clean sheets at hospital.

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