“If so, it’s a violation,” Grant said. “What are their orders?”
“To check ’em out and enforce the edict. If that bogey’s a bandit, we
take ’em down.”
In the language of naval aviation, a bogey was an unidentified target,
while a bandit had been positively identified as hostile. And according
to UN resolution 1026, aircraft violating the Georgian no-fly zone were
to be considered hostiles.
“Where’s CAG, anyway?” Coyote wanted to know.
“Getting ready for a meeting with Top Hat, last I heard, sir. You want
me to get him down here?”
Coyote shook his head. “You’ve got the deck, Chad. And you’ve got your
“Yeah, I know.” Chadwick licked his lips. “You know, Commander, it gets
damned scary down here sometimes.”
“I know what you mean, Lieutenant. I know exactly what you mean.”
0923 hours (Zulu +4)
Tomcat 218 UN No-Fly Zone, Republic of Georgia “Hot damn!” Mason said
with boyish enthusiasm. “Just like Star Wars!”
Lieutenant Kathleen Garrity, call sign “Cat,” smiled behind her oxygen
mask with mingled condescension and amusement. Technically, the man up
front outranked her. Tom Mason had made lieutenant six months back,
while she’d received her promotion from j.g. to full lieutenant only
three months ago, while Jefferson had been undergoing her all-too-brief
refit at Norfolk. Still, Dixie was a nugget, a new arrival to the air
wing who’d transferred in from a reserve air group Stateside. Cat, on
the other hand, was a combat veteran who’d seen action in the Kola
She recognized Mason’s eagerness, though. Nine months back, she’d felt
the same way.
Cat had battled to get where she was now. She’d battled harassment,
battled prejudice, battled the sneers and jibes of fellow aviators to
get what she wanted–an assignment as a naval flight officer, as an RIO
in the backseat of an F-14 Tomcat, instead of a routine billet as just
another tech specialist in some rear-echelon base. She’d battled, she’d
gambled. .. and she’d won.
And now she was the old hand, the vet, listening with wry amusement to
the excited edge in her partner’s voice.
She and Dixie had a lot in common, she decided. A decade back, naval
aviation had largely been a private club reserved for white males with
the right connections. A few black and Asian and Hispanic officers made
it into carrier air, but not many, and damned few as NFOS. Those
minority Naval Flight Officers who did make the grade more often than
not ended up flying CODS or other support aircraft. Things had finally
started to open up, though, and if she and the other women on the
Jefferson were a success story, then so was Tom “Dixie” Mason.
Because Dixie was a black–no, an “African-American,” she wryly
corrected herself–his battle had been at least as rough as hers, in a
Navy that still sometimes had the air of an exclusive, all-white country
club at the highest levels of the command hierarchy. There’d been black
admirals and female admirals for some years now, but much of the Navy
was still run by the old boys’ network, a network that could be damned
vicious sometimes when it came to an aviator’s sex or color. .. or even
the fact that a man’s name ended with a vowel.
Mason had graduated near the top of his class at Annapolis and again at
flight school in Pensacola. For the past four years, though, he’d been
struggling against the odds to win acceptance as an aviator. Shunted
into a RAG for most of his career, he’d finally managed to land carrier
duty. .. which any flier in the squadron would insist was the one
assignment that separated aviators from mere pilots.
And she had to admit that Mason was a superb flier, one of the best
she’d ever seen. Despite the enthusiasm, technically he was an iceman,
cold and hard and precise. The emotions showed through when he was under
stress, but all he really needed there was some seasoning.
“Bird Dog, this is Dog House.” That was Lieutenant Chadwick’s voice,
from Ops. “Do you copy, over?”
“Bird Dog Leader copies, Dog House,” Batman replied over the open
channel. “What’s the gouge?”
“Bird Dog, we confirm your bogey, but we still don’t have an India Delta