CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

It was a roundabout method of talking to the CBG’s bosses Stateside.

Tombstone was reminded of the story of Marines during the invasion of

Grenada in 1983 who’d lost radio communications with the rest of their

unit a few miles away and had used a credit card to place a telephone

call to Camp Lejeune, South Carolina, which in turn relayed their

fire-support request to the appropriate units in the field. The tale was

possibly apocryphal but had enough of the ring of truth about it to make

him suspect that it was at least based on a true story.

The faster they could get Tarrant and the others medevaced back to the

Saipan, the better. They’d been able to stop the bleeding and to give

him saline–what medical personnel would refer to as a BVE, or

blood-volume expander–to help make up for the lost blood, but he needed

more blood, and even if they’d had access to Russian blood supplies,

Tombstone knew he’d be happier trusting Tarrant’s life, through

cross-matches and donor blood, to Navy doctors and corpsmen who weren’t

forced by necessity to recycle their disposable equipment.

“How is your admiral?” Pamela asked him, as they waited for the

communications patch to go through.

“Stable. We need to get him to some decent medical facilities, though.”

“There’s a pretty good hospital here in Yalta, I hear.”

Tombstone made a face. “If we have to. But they’re crowded. Besides,

‘pretty good’ in Russia, with all of the shortages and problems they

have here, isn’t even in the same league with Navy medicine.”

She sighed. “Matt, you have such complete and unbounded confidence in

the Navy.”

He shrugged. “I suppose I do. It’s a confidence based on. .. what?

fifteen, eighteen years of experience.” He nodded toward a small group

of naval personnel, including Joyce and Natalie Kardesh. Sykes was

there, and Lieutenant j.g. Vanyek, looking vulnerable and scared. They

were sitting on the grass talking together. “They’re good people,” he

said. “Whatever you think of the organization as a whole, it’s composed

of good people who know their jobs and do them.”


“What do you mean, ‘why?'”

It was her turn to shrug. “Matt, you must know they’re abandoning you


“I don’t know any such thing.”

“Come on. Step out from behind the uniform and take a whiff of the real

world. Do you seriously think they’re going to risk a

three-and-some-odd-billion-dollar nuclear aircraft carrier to rescue

thirty-some men and women? At a risk of a hundred million per sailor? I

don’t think so. You and I both know how Washington works. They’re not

going to lift a finger to get you out unless they can make political

capital on it, and I can tell you from personal observation that the

tone back in the States right now is for us to stay the hell out of the

Russian war.”

“The public usually supports military personnel in the field,” Tombstone

said stubbornly. “They wouldn’t like it if Washington left us stuck out


“Really?” She cocked her head. “Remember a little picnic in a place

called Vietnam? They–the people who put you here, I mean–they don’t

care. And as for John Q. Public, well, I think Norway and that battle up

in northern Russia frightened a lot of people, let them see how

terrible, how destructive and deadly modern warfare really is.”

“Mr. Magruder?” Tombstone turned to face one of Pamela’s ACN

technicians. “Yeah, Ted?”

“We have your line. A guy named, uh, Coyote is waiting to talk to you.”

“All right! Thanks!”

He nearly sprinted to the mobile communications van, which was now

ringed by determined-looking U.S. Marines. When he took a headset from

another ACN tech and held it to his ear, he could hear a faint hiss of

static, but the line was unusually clear. “It’s encrypted, sir,” a Navy

radioman sitting at the console said. “You can talk in the clear.”

“Thanks.” He pressed the transmit key on his mike. “Coyote, Coyote, this

is Tombstone. Do you copy?”

“Loud and clear, Stoney,” Coyote’s voice came back. “I gather you guys

had to go around Robin Hood’s barn to get this comm hook up.”

“That’s affirmative, and I don’t know how often we’ll be able to do it,

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