CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass


“Is the submarine maintaining contact with the Americans?” he asked


The aide nodded. “Yes, Comrade Vice-Admiral. The Americans have been

carrying out their routine antisubmarine operations, of course, but

there has been no indication that the Krimsky Komsomolets has been

detected. His captain is more concerned that the Turks may detect the

sub if he moves into the straits behind the Americans.”

“Not a serious problem, I think. The Turks are staying quite neutral

these days. The political situation between Greece and Turkey is still

somewhat, ah, strained. And that has had serious repercussions for the


Kulagin sniffed disdainfully. “They might have blocked passage,” he

said. “Denied the Americans the right to sail through their waters.”

“Turkey plays a careful game. They do not wish to cooperate with those

they believe to be allies of the Greeks, but they will not defy the

United Nations. Wheels within wheels within wheels, Anton Ivanovich.” He

held up his hands and shifted them rapidly back and forth, as though

juggling many precariously balanced objects. “The UN passes resolutions

concerning Armenia and Georgia, then asks the United States to help

enforce them. Turkey denies the Americans the right to base aircraft on

their soil, partly because they still dislike American policies in

Greece, but also because allowing it would further inflame Turkish

Moslem fundamentalists. However, the Turks agree to the passage of the

carrier through their territorial waters because if they do not, the UN

may not see their point of view when it comes time to discuss the way

the Turks have been handling their ethnic Armenian problem. Still, I

doubt they will share information or assist the Americans in any way, so

long as we do not force them to choose sides.”

“Doesn’t that rob us of our best chance to stop the Americans, Comrade

Vice-Admiral?” Kulagin’s eyes flashed. “They are vulnerable as they move

through the straits.” He moved his hands together, defining a narrow

space. “Concentrated. ..”

“If our leaders were willing to authorize a nuclear strike against an

American fleet in Turkish territory, perhaps.” Dmitriev shook his head

wearily. “Short of that, we cannot challenge them.”

“But surely a strike with conventional forces, Comrade Vice-Admiral-”

Dmitriev sighed and got up from behind his desk, moving to the window

overlooking the historic harbor beyond the waterfront below. Once,

Sevastopol had been one of the Soviet Union’s thriving ports, filled

with commercial shipping and the naval might of a superpower. Though the

harbor might now have seemed crowded to the untrained eye, Dmitriev knew


His eyes lingered on the imposing bulk of the Pobedonosnyy Rodina, the

largest ship in the harbor. The sight of the nuclear-powered aircraft

carrier brought back mixed memories for Dmitriev, fond and bitter. Just

a few years before, he’d commanded a Russian naval squadron built around

another carrier, the Kreml, working together with an American carrier

battle group to keep India and Pakistan from escalating a conventional

conflict into a full-fledged nuclear exchange. Ah, those had been heady

days, back when Russians could still hold their heads high and proclaim

that they, too, were a superpower, despite anything the West might say.

But those days were gone now. Pobedonosnyy Rodina was the only aircraft

carrier still afloat out of the three commissioned with the old fleet,

and the rest of the Motherland’s naval power had shrunk proportionately.

Dmitriev had been rewarded for his loyalty to Krasilnikov with this

promotion to command of the entire Black Sea Fleet.

An empty reward. An empty fleet, impressive on paper, but rusting to

scrap as he watched, with few men left to man the few ships that could

still put to sea. .. and with a homeland that was tearing itself apart

in blood and bitterness.

His country was dying.

He gestured for Kulagin to join him by the window. “Even if we were

willing to add to the list of our enemies by mining or launching an

attack in Turkish waters, it would be a futile attempt. Look out there,

Anton Ivanovich. What do you see?”

“I see. .. the harbor. The fleet.” Kulagin sounded baffled.

“The fleet. The Red Banner Black Sea Fleet. During the Cold War we

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