CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

felt weary, discouraged. .. a tired man who faced impossible odds.

Still, he could not give in to his fatigue or his ebbing morale. There

was still a job to be done here, and he could not let self-pity or

weariness stand in his way.

Nikolai Sergeivich Dmitriev knew his duty, to the Rodina.

And to honor.


Friday, 30 October 1520 hours (Zulu +3)

Bridge, U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson The Bosporus Strait

“I don’t know,”

Captain Matthew Magruder said dubiously. He leaned forward to peer out

of the slanted forward windscreen on Jefferson’s bridge, looking across

the carrier’s forward flight deck toward the dismal gray waters ahead.

“You’d never catch me taking my aircraft carrier into that lake!”

“Ah, these young aviators nowadays,” Captain Jeremy Brandt said, shaking

his head in mock sorrow. He was sitting in the bridge’s high chair, the

leather-backed elevated seat with the word CAPTAIN stenciled across the

back in yellow block letters. “No spirit of adventure at all!”

Magruder, call sign “Tombstone,” turned from the windscreen and cocked a

bantering eye at the ship’s commanding officer. “”Spirit of adventure.’

Is that what you call it?”

“Certainly! What’d you expect, youngster? Nice safe milk runs on the

open ocean? Getting to be captain of a Love Boat? This here,” he thumped

his fist melodramatically on the arm of his chair, “is a man’s Navy.”

“Um,” Tombstone said. “Don’t let Brewer or the other Amazons hear you

say that. She could take exception.”

“Shit, you’re right,” Brandt said. “Though I’m more afraid of Madam

Secdef and the PC Police. Promise not to turn me in?”

“I won’t tell if you won’t, Skipper.”

“Deal.” He grinned. “You know, Stoney, this is the sort of shit you have

to learn to deal with if you want to play with the big boys up here.”

It was a long-standing joke. Tombstone was CAG, commander of CVW-20, the

air wing assigned to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Thomas

Jefferson, CVN74. Sooner or later, however, he would have to move on in

his career. .. and for most aviators who made it high enough up the

chain of command to run an air wing, that meant going on to command a

carrier someday. It was possible–if not entirely likely, at this

point–that Tombstone might one day be sitting in Brandt’s chair,

skippering this same CVN through some other strait in some other

troubled part of the world. As training for that day, Tombstone was

required to spend a certain number of watches on the bridge; at times,

he served as acting captain under Brandt’s tutelage. This time, though,

he was strictly an observer. The situation, both tactically and

politically, called for an experienced captain on the bridge as the

supercarrier cruised majestically into new waters.

Like a vast, gray, slow-moving island, the Thomas Jefferson was making

her way northeast, threading her way along the narrow channel of the

Bosporus and toward the Black Sea proper. Over a thousand feet long,

displacing 96,700 tons fully loaded, the nuclear-powered supercarrier

U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson was heart and soul of Carrier Battle Group 14, a

powerful naval squadron that included the Aegis cruiser Shiloh, the

destroyers William B. Truesdale, Alan Kirk, and John A. Winslow, the

frigates Stephen Decatur and Leslie, and the Los Angeles-class

submarines Galveston and Orlando.

Immediately ahead of the Jefferson, and preceding her through the

straits, was a Meko-class frigate, hull number F240, but she wasn’t part

of the battle group. Her name was Yavuz, and she was their military

escort through Turkish waters. At the moment, the only other American

ship visible was the Truesdale, a gray smudge on the northern horizon,

far out ahead of the Jefferson and already well into the Black Sea.

It was unnaturally quiet aboard the CVN. Personnel on the bridge stood

to their stations, speaking little, and only when required by duty.

Outside, on the roof, flight deck personnel gathered in small groups

among the closely spaced parked aircraft to watch the slow-passing shore

or to enjoy a rare moment of inactivity. The planes themselves looked

like so many huge, sleeping gray birds with their wings tightly folded.

Hight deck operations had been suspended during the passage through the

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