CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

deployment, one of Jefferson’s horny male crew members had hidden

himself up there with a spy camera; she’d seen the pictures just before

the guy went to captain’s mast. Close quarters and lack of privacy were

still among the biggest problems with women serving aboard ship, and

lonely guys could get pretty inventive sometimes.

The Great Experiment, it was still being called. The problem of female

Navy personnel serving aboard ship or in combat had been plaguing the

service for decades now. The Navy’s first experiment in women serving at

sea had been the result of one of then-Admiral Elmo Zumwalt’s famous

“Z-grams” in 1972, when 424 men and 53 women had been assigned together

to the hospital ship U.S.S. Sanctuary for a four-hundred-day cruise.

Officially, the experiment had been a success–“success” in this case

being defined by those Pentagon bureaucrats whose careers and

reputations depended on the mission’s successful outcome. In real-world

terms, however, the Sanctuary experiment had been a disaster, with

frequent sexual liaisons between members of the crew, several

pregnancies, a number of jealous fights over women, and lingering bad

morale. In fact, Sanctuary’s cruise had ended after forty-two days, not

four hundred, and she’d spent the rest of her career in port before she

was finally quietly decommissioned.

And this with men and women who’d been carefully screened beforehand, in

order to ensure that nothing would go wrong!

But the Navy had kept trying. Federal District Court Judge John Sirica

in 1978 had held that banning women from serving aboard ship violated

their Fourteenth Amendment rights, a ruling that had led directly to

several more experiments. .. and an increasing number of Navy vessels

referred to by an amused news media as “Love Boats.” Despite this–and

despite the civil rights ruling eventually being overturned by the

Supreme Court–the Navy had taken the final step in 1993, when it lifted

its ban on female combat pilots; less than a year later, female aviators

and enlisted personnel had reported for duty aboard the carrier Abraham


The first time in combat for female aviators had come a few years later,

when the Thomas Jefferson met neo-Soviet forces off the Kola Peninsula,

and Brewer still thought herself lucky to have been in on that op. She’d

proven herself in combat then, racking the six kills to become the

Navy’s first female combat ace. Right now, right here, she was at the

very top of her own personal career pyramid. .. and she was poised to

keep on climbing as the opportunities kept opening. Not for her the

glass ceilings that women in mid-level management still complained about

in civilian life. Not for her an executive’s position in some

corporation Stateside, where if she dressed and acted feminine her

coworkers would think she was weak, and if she acted tough she was a

bitch, and where success, any success at all, was assumed by her male

compatriots to be her reward for sleeping with the boss.

Well, screw that. She was the very best at what she did, which was

flying Navy combat aircraft. She loved flying, loved it with a passion

she felt for nothing else in the world. The opportunity to be here, a

pioneer for female naval aviators, made everything–the lack of privacy,

the harassment and innuendo–all worth it.

But, damn, what she wouldn’t give for a hot, high-pressure shower right


1635 hours (Zulu +3)

Sonar, U.S.S. Orlando Black Sea “Contact is turning right, Captain,”

Sonarman First Class Brian Davies said. He spoke softly into his lip

mike, as though fearful that the target out ahead of the American

submarine would hear. “Still turning. .. Okay. Contact on new heading,

course one-seven-one.”

“Very well, Davies,” the voice of Captain Lang replied over the


“Stick with him.”

“Sounds like transients,” Sonarman Second Class Wilbur Brown said,

hesitant at first, but then growing more confident. “Like a. .. clanking


“Someone left a cable dangling,” Davies told him. “An Irish pennant.

When he changes course, it hits the bulkhead. Sloppy, Ivan. Sloppy.”

They sat side by side in the alcove just off the Orlando’s control room,

hunched over the array of electronics that were the Los Angeles-class

submarine’s primary sense at eight hundred feet. The cascade of light on

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