CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

personnel. If it was the former, there wasn’t anything to be done about

it. If the latter, then someone was having some twisted fun at the

women’s expense. .. or worse, they were using this particular form of

harassment to let the women know that they weren’t wanted aboard, and

something most certainly would have to be done about that.

But Brewer wasn’t sure how to go about finding out which it was. What

was she supposed to do, walk up to the ship’s Exec and ask him whether

or not his shower was hot? Ask to inspect the enlisted men’s shower

heads? Or demand a return to the bad old days when men and women had

shared one of the carrier’s shower heads on a rotating schedule? God,

that had been a nightmare.

Their last overseas deployment, earlier in the year, had been a comedy

of inconveniences and logistical headaches. A shared shower head had

been just one of the problems. After the Kola Peninsula deployment,

Jefferson had returned to Norfolk for refits and resupply in May, while

her carrier wing had transferred to NAS Oceana for training. Normally, a

Stateside deployment would last for at least six months, but with things

going to hell all over the world, the U.S. Navy’s twelve-carrier fleet

was stretched to the absolute limit. .. and maybe a bit beyond. After

only four short months, Jefferson had been ordered to sea again; the men

and women of CVW-20 had said good-bye to families and loved ones at

Oceana, then flown their aircraft out to a rendezvous and trap aboard

the carrier as it cruised several miles offshore in the Atlantic.

Some reworkings when the ship had been back in Norfolk over the summer

had made things considerably better for the female contingent; they

still were forced to take a multi-deck detour from points aft of the

hangar deck, but they at least now had one whole, entire shower head

that belonged to them and them alone.

She had to keep reminding herself that things were improving for the

women aboard. .. but they still had a long way to go. The women had

their own berthing and shower facilities now. Most of the men accepted

them, too, despite the inevitable jokes about “Amazons” and “skirts.” In

most ways, it was no worse than being stationed ashore; an aircraft

carrier was such an enormous place it was sometimes almost possible to

forget that you were actually aboard a ship at sea.

A sudden thunder followed by a harsh rattling sound from overhead was an

adequate reminder, however. The thunder had been suspended for most of

the day by the lull in flight operations that had brought them through

the straits from the Aegean Sea, but it was in full force once more,

with a full flight schedule resumed almost the instant the Jefferson had

left Turkish waters. It was even noisier one level up, on the 0-3 deck,

where most of the enlisted men were quartered directly beneath the


She released the sprayer’s button and hung it back on the side of the

shower stall, still feeling a bit gritty and soap-filmed. Her hair, she

decided, would just have to wait for another time. She kept it cut

short, the blond tresses reaching only halfway down between ear and

shoulder so they wouldn’t interfere with wearing a flight helmet, but

even that much was a pain to keep clean when the water was as sluggish

as this. The guys had the right idea there; most had crew-cuts, and some

wore little more up top than razor stubble, which made washing their

hair as easy as passing a washcloth over their scalp. Some of the other

women in the squadron had already taken that step and cut their hair so

short the skin showed through. Brewer wasn’t quite ready for anything

that drastic. .. but each time she took a shower in here, the day got

just a little closer.

Stepping out of the stall, she reached for the towel she’d left on the

bench and started drying herself off, sparing only a brief glance for

the off-white cork-tile panels of the overhead. During their first

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