CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

or for how long. Direct, tight-beam satellite feeds are hard to trace or

jam, but there are some ugly customers hereabouts who might like to


“Roger that.”

“Any ideas about getting us out of here?”

“We’re working on it, Stoney. Air superiority is a problem right now.”


“So is Washington. We’ve not had any clear direction as to what we’re

supposed to do. I can tell you right now that if it was up to the people

here on the Jeff, they’d declare war on Russia right this minute, for

knocking out the bridge, stranding you guys, taking a shot at one of our

planes, wounding the admiral. .. and probably for conduct unbecoming, as

well. But the five-sided squirrel cage is being slow just now.”

“What’s happening with the chain of command?”

“Okay. Captain Brandt, as Tarrant’s flag captain, just got a brevet

promotion to admiral. Confirmed through Naples about fifteen minutes

ago. He’s taking over the entire battle group, but he’ll be under the

command of Admiral Collins, who’s senior.”

“Right.” Rear Admiral Frederick Collins was the commanding officer of

MEU-25, together with Marine Colonel Winston Howell, who commanded the

MEU’s ground troops. From what he’d heard, Howell was a firebrand who’d

won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam, while Collins was a

more cautious, conservative type.

“Commander Hadley’s got the ship, though he’s pretty junior, too. I’ve

been confirmed as CAG. Sorry, Stoney, but you’re out of a job. At least

until we work out a way to get you guys out of there.”

“No problem, Coyote. I think I’ll have my hands full here.”

“Right. We’re on full alert, of course, and flying full coverage

patrols. Lots of intercepts, too. The Russkis are testing us. .. or

maybe trying to use up our JP-5. We’ll keep flying as long as we can,


“We’re going to need to work on getting the shore party back to the

ship,” Tombstone told him. “The admiral needs medical help, better

medical help than they can give him here, and we have some other wounded

as well. We also have a large number of civilians. They might be allowed

to leave from the Simferopol Airport, but I’m not holding my breath.”

“I wouldn’t, Stoney. Last we heard here, monitoring Russian radio, the

military was shutting down all commercial flights, ‘for the duration of

the present emergency.'”

“Did they say what the emergency was?”

“No. They’re managing to say it’s Ukrainians and foreign mercenaries

both, without releasing anything definite. Oh, and Boychenko has been

branded a traitor. Our old friend Dmitriev is in charge of the Black Sea

Fleet, and he’s declared himself the legitimate military governor. No

response yet from Krasilnikov’s people. At least, none we’ve heard.”

“Okay. I think we’re going to have to assume that we’re stuck here for a

while, though I want you to keep working on a way of getting the wounded

off. Maybe at night, by submarine.”

“We’ll look into it.”

The crump and rumble of heavy gunfire–field artillery,

possibly–sounded closer and louder, lending a new sense of urgency to

the conversation.

“Okay, Coyote. I don’t have much time. The way I see it, either

Washington comes to our rescue, or we’re going to be left on our own out

here while they argue about it.”

“Is this a multiple-choice test? How many guesses do I get?”

“We have to start planning for what happens if they hang us out to dry.”


“Okay, here are some possibilities.

Together, they began discussing options.

1630 hours (Zulu +3)

Flag Plot, U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson “Attention on deck!”

Coyote and the other staff officers standing around the large chart

table snapped to attention at the call of the sailor standing guard

outside the compartment door. Captain–no, Coyote reminded

himself–Admiral Brandt walked in, followed by several of his staff

aides, looking grim.

The assembly had been called earlier that afternoon and included not

only Jefferson’s department heads, but the skippers and senior staff of

several of the other ships in the squadron, including those of MEU-25.

Steve Marusko was there, as skipper of the Guadalcanal, as was Colonel

Winston Howell, the commanding officer of MEU-25’s Marine detachment.

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