CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

there. But until this has a chance to settle out, I don’t want you in

the no-fly zone.” He looked at Batman. “You’ll see to the scheduling?”

“Aye, aye, CAG,” Wayne said. He sounded unhappy.

“All right, then. Case closed, at least for the moment. You’re all


The four from Bird Dog Flight filed out of the office, but Coyote didn’t

leave. “You have a problem?” Magruder asked him when the door closed

behind Garrity.

“More than you can imagine,” Grant said. “But a couple of immediate

concerns. Don’t you think you could’ve been a little nastier? Like maybe

call off Christmas or something?”

“We’ve had this talk before, Will,” Magruder said with a sigh. He leaned

back in his chair. “CAG staff’s not like being in the squadron, not even

like being squadron CO. You know how I feel about Batman and Malibu. And

those two kids are going to be hot when they get some seasoning, as good

as we ever were.”

“Better, maybe.”

“Maybe. But I can’t be their buddy anymore. Neither can you. our

responsibility isn’t to the individuals, or to the squadron. it’s to the

whole Air Wing, to the Jefferson, and to the mission. If this incident

had resulted in Americans being killed due to friendly fire, I’d’ve been

forced to recommend relieving them of duty. A court of inquiry. You

think I’d want something like that hanging over Batman? Next to you,

he’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“I don’t like it much,” Coyote said quietly. “Sometimes I think I wasn’t

cut out for this staff shit. Maybe I should’ve turned you down.”

“You can’t sit in the cockpit forever, Coyote,” Tombstone told him. He

jerked a thumb at a mug that sat on the corner of his desk. A dozen

cigars stuck out of it, still in their original wrappings. They had

belonged to Tombstone’s predecessor as CAG, the man who’d taught him at

Top Gun school years before. He kept them on his desk as a reminder of

the lessons the man had taught him, both at Top Gun and later, when

Magruder was his Deputy CAG and Jefferson was sailing into the Norway

crisis. “Stinger Stramaglia made my life a living hell when I was his

deputy. But he also taught me that if I didn’t grow I’d end up being

left behind. The first time I realized just how big this damned job was

I almost cracked. All I wanted was a chance to strap on a Tomcat and go

up with the Vipers again. Trouble is, that isn’t an option. Sometimes

you have to sit behind the desk and cope with all the petty little

details so the other guys can get in the air.”

“I’m just not sure I can cut myself off from everything that’s gone

before,” Grant told him. “I’m not a machine.”

“Neither am I. I’m worse. I’m the CAG.” Magruder looked away. “You said

there were a couple of things bothering you. What else?”

Coyote frowned. “Just wondering if you knew what you were doing with


“By rights, I should’ve grounded him. I have the impression he saw

exactly what he wanted to see out there, and we damn near lost an

American air crew. I took it easy on him because. .. well, because I’m

not a machine. He’s got the makings of a good aviator, but he needs some

drudgery to put things into perspective.”

“I read his file. He’s got friends in high places.” Magruder raised an

eyebrow. “His sponsor when he applied to Annapolis. Sammie Reed

represented his district and made the recommendation.”

“Well, well. Our brand-new Secretary of Defense.” Magruder shrugged.

“If I read Mason, he isn’t the sort to run for help just because he gets

his ears pinned back.”

“Yeah, but you know how these things get out. He mentions it in a

letter, somebody back home gets outraged, phone calls get made. ..”

“You really think it could be a problem?”

“Come on, Stoney, wake up and smell the avgas! George Vane resigned as

Secretary of Defense because of policy disagreements with the President.

Mostly the Kola deployment, but also all the damned social experiments.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *