CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

their waters or airspace. Has anybody considered the possibility of

putting the MEU-25 Marines ashore at the mouth of the Bosporus?”

“Write it up,” Brandt told him. “All of you, I want a major

brainstorming session out of each man here. Let’s see exactly what our

options are.”

“I vote we dig a canal through Turkey,” Lieutenant Commander Arthur Lee,

the head of the CAG Department intelligence team, said.

“Nah,” Barnes said, arms folded, shaking his head. He nodded toward the

chart. “Dig it through the southeast corner of Bulgaria and that little

bit of northeastern Greece. Shorter distance. We’re out sooner.”

The others laughed, and some contributed their own outrageous

suggestions, including sinking the entire Crimea to remove that

peninsula as a source of conflict. They’re not licked yet, Coyote

thought with a flash of pride. Not if they can still joke about it.

They were going to need a sense of humor to sustain them for these next

few days. Nothing, not defeat, not fear, not the threat of an enemy

attack, sapped a unit’s morale like being left hanging in the breeze by

one’s own superiors in the chain of command.

What the hell are they thinking about in Washington? he wondered.


Friday, 6 November 0847 hours (Zulu -5)

Cabinet Room, The White House Washington, D.C.

In silence, the men and women at the table watched the screen, where the

hard, drawn-looking face of Vice-Admiral Dmitriev was looking back. He

was sitting in a somewhat shabby-looking office, his hands carefully

folded on the desk in front of him. He was speaking English–very good

English, with only a trace of an accent–and he was speaking

deliberately and with evident precision.

“Accordingly,” he was saying, “I am assuming command of the Crimean

Military District. General Boychenko has been declared an enemy of the

state and will be arrested as a traitor as soon as he can be found.

“American forces in the Black Sea area of operations, specifically the

aircraft carrier Thomas Jefferson and the battle group with it, have

been neutralized. This was necessary because they had already

established contact with the traitor Boychenko and were intervening in

Russian internal and security affairs.”

Admiral Thomas Magruder listened to the tape, like the others, with no

outward show of emotions, but he felt a sharp pang of worry. His nephew,

the last he’d heard, had gone ashore with a party of Navy and UN

personnel to prepare the way for Admiral Tarrant to receive the

surrender of the Crimea and, as far as he knew, they were still ashore,

trapped by Dmitriev’s coup.

Within twenty-four hours of the attack on the Bosporus bridge, this tape

had been delivered to the White House by the Russian embassy in

Washington. The President had seen it. His advisory group was reviewing

it, looking for answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.

“We wish to stress that we have not intentionally fired upon American

ships,” Dmitriev’s image continued. “The tanker sunk during the attack

on the Bosporus bridge was attacked by accident. .. much as happened to

the American helicopter in Georgia a few days ago. We apologize for that

incident. We have also just recently learned that one of your

helicopters was destroyed on the ground near Yalta. Again, that was a

case of mistaken identity. We regret these attacks and stress that they

were accidents, the products of the well-known fog of water.

“At the same time, however, we must stress our resolve. These are

dangerous times for our government, for the safety of our people, our

land. We cannot allow foreign powers to hinder our great purpose or to

intervene in our internal affairs.”

“Watch it,” Herb Waring said, speaking quickly as the figure on the

screen paused to draw breath. “Here it comes.”

“But we do. .. have a proposition for you,” Dmitriev continued. “One

that we hope you will be inclined to accept, Mr. President, as a means

for both of us to resolve this unfortunate and unnecessary confrontation

in which we find ourselves. Boychenko’s mistake, his treason, was in

handing over sovereign Russian territory to foreigners, hoping that they

would guarantee the Crimea’s security. This, you must understand, is no

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