CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

different a situation than if one of your generals turned, say, Florida

over to Russian forces for safekeeping.

“But we can work together. We should work together, in the interests of

world peace. In fact, we would welcome your help fighting against the

Ukrainian invasion when it comes. There is an excellent possibility, Mr.

President, that simply the presence of your carrier battle group in our

waters, coupled with your declaration to stand by the rightful,

popularly elected government of the Crimea, will be enough to discourage

Ukrainian aggression.

“I would also remind you of the Ukrainian genocide already committed

against Russian citizens in eastern Ukraine. If they are allowed to

invade the Crimea, I can only expect that-”

“Shut that thing off,” Samantha Reed said. This was the third time

they’d played the tape through, and by now they were beginning to know

large parts of it by heart.

“The rest of it’s flag-waving and grandstanding,” Secretary of State

Heideman said. “With a fair amount of heart-thumping thrown in gratis.”

“The guy’s insane,” Waring said, shaking his head. “The President would

never go for something like this.”

“I don’t know,” Reed said thoughtfully. “We should at least consider the

offer. Discuss it. It may be the only viable option we have.”

“Excuse me,” Admiral Scott said sharply, “but did I just hear that

tin-plated neo-Communist dictator try to extort American military help?

Those bastards just hijacked an entire carrier battle group and a Marine

Expeditionary Unit and are holding them and something like thirty

thousand of our men and women hostage! We do not make deals with


“Of course we do, Admiral,” Reed said testily. “We do it all the time.

We just cloak the reality behind negotiations and settlements and new

breakthroughs in the peace process.”

“Good God, Madam Secretary-”

“Now hear me out!” Reed insisted. “This may not be the disaster the rest

of you are making it out to be.”

“What?” Scott said. “Is this a new way you have of cutting back the

Defense Department? Give our carriers to the Russians?”

“Admiral, I will remind you that you work for me! If you can’t accept

that, if you can’t live with my standards, then you are welcome to

tender your resignation.”

“No, ma’am,” Scott replied, his jaw stubbornly set. “You’re going to

have to fire me, because right now it looks to me like I’m the only one

looking out for the interests of our people over there.”

“Our people should be safe enough, Admiral,” Waring said. “Dmitriev’s

not crazy enough to launch an attack on a carrier group, not as weak as

his forces are right now. All our boys need to do is sit tight. .. maybe

withdraw to a Turkish Black Sea port, and they’ll be fine.”

“Has anyone bothered to ask the Turks what they think of that?” Lloyd

said quietly.

“They still refuse to admit our ships into their waters,” Heideman said

glumly. “We have people talking to them. They’ll see reason, we think,

but it might take time.”

“That’s not likely,” Scott said. “Damn it, they have a war on their

hands now. Don’t you see? Russia just attacked Turkish territory. What.

.. Roger? How many civilians died in that attack?”

“Last number I saw was eight hundred,” Lloyd replied. “That’ll go up,

though. They’re still fishing bodies out of the Bosporus.”

“Well, why are the Turks mad at us?” Reed wanted to know. She spread her

hands. “This puts us and the Turks in the same boat. Russia attacked

both of us!”

“They, ah, may think that we provoked that attack, Madam Secretary,”

Heideman said carefully. “They may be trying to distance themselves for

that reason.”

Scott snorted rudely. “Ankara may also still want to salvage their

relationship with the Russians.”

Lloyd nodded. “The admiral’s right. Remember, the Turks need the

Russians to help control the Kurd arms-smuggling on their border. There

are factions in the Turkish government that would accept a Russian

apology for the ‘accident’ on the Bosporus in exchange for an air strike

or two against Kurdish camps in Armenia.”

“So where do we stand, then?” Reed wanted to know. “You’re telling me

there’s no way we can get through and resupply them?”

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