CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Beds. Scalpels. Needles. Especially needles. There are never enough.”

So the medics had treated his wounded as well as they could, but left

them in one of the sitting rooms in the palace, which had been

transformed into a makeshift temporary hospital. If they could just

establish communications again with the CBG. .. if they could arrange at

least for helicopters to fly in and carry off the wounded, they could

receive decent treatment aboard ship. The Saipan, especially, the MEU’s

Tarawa-class LHA, had a three-hundred-bed hospital aboard, with some of

the finest military medical facilities afloat.

If they could just reach her. ..

That, he decided, was a large part of the feeling of helplessness he’d

been enduring over the past several hours. It had him pacing restlessly

back and forth at the top of the steps to the palace, with occasional

stops to stare out across the blue of the sea at the southern horizon.

.. and the battle group invisible beyond it.

Pamela had been able to read what he was feeling, even if he hadn’t put

those feelings into words. “You know,” she told him, “that there are

some things even the Navy can’t fix.”

He wished she would lay off the Navy. For some reason, the pride he felt

for the Navy, justifiable pride, had always seemed to grate on her. He

guessed that was one of the incompatibilities she’d talked about at the

restaurant. He’d known they had differences, but he was willing to try

to work them out.

It still galled him that Pamela didn’t exhibit the same willingness.

There’d been little enough time to worry about that since the attack,

however. In the two and a half hours since the assassination attempt,

Tombstone had managed to round up all of the Americans in the party and

get them into one place–a difficult operation in itself, given the

confusion that seemed to be gripping everyone in the White Palace

complex. He’d put Chief Geiger in charge of all personnel, including the

officers, by declaring him to be “chief of the boat” and delegating to

him the responsibility of keeping everyone together and out of the

Russians’ way.

Chiefs did not outrank officers in the command hierarchy, but Tombstone

had found long ago that they often outranked them in sense. Almost

immediately after making the assignment, he’d overheard a brief exchange

between Geiger and Commander Sedgwick, who wanted to go up the beach

with a party of Marines to find a place where Navy boats could come

ashore and take them all off. Geiger had said, simply, “The captain

wouldn’t like that, sir,” in his characteristic deep-throated rumble,

and that had been the end of it.

Kardesh he kept with him as his personal translator, while Tomboy Flynn

became his aide. Tomboy made herself invaluable by taking on the duties

to which he had originally been assigned–serving as his liaison with

the nearly one hundred press and TV news representatives who had become

his personal responsibility.

Both women carried out their assigned tasks with quiet efficiency.

Kardesh spoke excellent Russian–her mother, she told him, was

Russian–while Joyce proved to be a born public relations expert,

fielding questions and handling complaints with a light, personal touch

that Tombstone knew he never could have managed. .. even if he’d had the


And he’d been working with Pamela a lot during the past few hours, too,

trying to set up a radio connection with the battle group. The available

Russian equipment, it turned out, didn’t have the range to reach

American aircraft which were, in any case, below the horizon, and they

didn’t have the codes–for reasons that were fairly obvious–that would

allow them to tap into U.S. military communications satellites.

American Cable News, however, had equipment that was better in some

respects than that of the American military. They’d originally flown

into Simferopol Airport with a van-load of sophisticated electronics,

including a satellite up-link that gave immediate and secure

communications with ACN headquarters in Washington, D.C. It had been a

fairly simple task, then, to organize a patch to HQ-NAVTEL, the Naval

Telecommunications Command headquarters in Washington, which in turn

routed the communications channel through a MILSTAR communications on.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Categories: Keith Douglass