CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

“You are cheerful today.”

“Yeah, well. Two bolters, a ‘fair’ for my recovery, and I get to paint a

little silhouette of an American helicopter on the side of my plane.

Kind of hard to top that, right?”

“Hey, the day’s just half over.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Conway was silent for a long moment, eating her hamburger and looking


“Okay, Commander,” he said. “Out with it.”

“Out with what?”

“You’ve got something churning between your ears, and it looks serious.

Want to talk?”

“Well. ..”

“Look, it can’t make my day any worse than it already is. Go ahead. Hit


She sighed, then nodded. “Okay. Skipper, I think we’ve got a problem

with the squadron, and I don’t know how to handle it.”

“Let me guess. You heard about Nightmare and Big D.”

She nodded. “That’s part of it. But a lot of the guys have been

sidestepping me, not just those two. I can’t do my job if nobody will

accept me.”

“I know.” Wayne frowned. He had seen this situation coming for a long

time, another of the petty frustrations that were making it hard for him

to get a handle on the squadron commander’s job. “Look, Brewer, you know

every man in the Vipers respects you and the rest of the. .. women.” He

stumbled over the word. It was so damned hard to choose words carefully

to avoid giving unintended offense. You could refer to “guys” or even

“boys” without a second thought, but never to “gals” or “girls.” Even

after months serving together, the men and women of the Air Wing were

finding it hard to keep the gender wars from flaring up over the most

trivial excuses. “The Kola fight proved you’ve got what it takes to be

aviators. But you’ve got to understand what it’s like for some of these

guys. They’ve never had to deal with a female Exec before.”

“I didn’t ask for the job,” Brewer said.

“No, but you got it, courtesy of Directive 626. You get extra points for

being a woman with combat experience, so you get pushed ahead of men of

comparable rank. Nightmare Marinaro has been in the Vipers almost as

long as I have. He flew with us in Korea and India and all those ops off

Norway. And Dallas Sheridan has a lot more time in rank, even though his

combat duty was limited to Norway and Russia.” He paused, then pushed

on. “Look, you asked me, so I’m going to be blunt. Either one of them

deserved a shot at the XO slot more than you. Hell, Malibu deserved it

even more. He’s just not making a big thing out of it. But they are.

Those two guys are ambitious. They know a shot at Exec will lead to

bigger and better things down the road.”

“And if Malibu had it?”

Batman shrugged. “They’d both know he earned it,” he told her.

“And I didn’t.”

“Look, Brewer, this isn’t some male chauvinist thing. They don’t resent

you because you’re a woman. Not anymore. You’re a naval aviator, one of

the-” He stopped. He’d almost said “guys.” He took a deep breath and

started over. “What I mean is, you’re an aviator like the rest of us.

What they don’t like is the idea of someone getting special treatment

that makes the work they’ve done all these years count for nothing. If

you were a man and you were given a leg up because you were a minority,

they’d feel the same way.” He shrugged. “So if Big D and Nightmare are a

little sullen, can you really blame them?”

She looked away. “I guess not. But what about the others? Lieutenant

Davis went behind my back to see you last week. So did Whitman. I didn’t

take the Exec job away from them. They weren’t even in the running.”

Batman rubbed his forehead, his eyes closed. “Some of the men have

trouble dealing with a female Exec,” he said at last. Before she could

protest, he held up his hand. “Think about it, Brewer. One of the main

jobs of the XO is to deal with the people problems in the squadron. All

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 *