CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

was here to meet some of the passengers. The Air Wing had been

shorthanded for weeks, and this COD flight was supposed to carry the

personnel they needed to bring the various squadrons up to full


Several officers appeared, walking with the usual stiff, exhausted gait

of Greyhound passengers. The planes were built for cargo and passenger

capacity, not comfort, and after a few hours cooped up in the windowless

passenger compartment, jolted by every air pocket along the way, even

the most enthusiastic flier was happy to feel a ship’s deck underfoot


“Listen up!” he shouted over the noise of the flight deck. “Replacements

for CVW-20, follow me! The rest of you should see Master Chief Weston.”

He pointed to the carrier’s Chief of the Boat, who was standing nearby

waiting for newly arrived carrier crewmen to finish disembarking.

“Commander Grant! Good to see you again, sir!”

Coyote hadn’t been paying much attention to the new arrivals, but now he

recognized the petite redheaded woman striding across the deck to meet

him with a smile on her freckled face. Lieutenant Commander Joyce Flynn,

“Tomboy,” had been part of the original female contingent with Viper

Squadron during the Kola campaign. She’d flown as RIO with Magruder when

the CAG had taken out a Tomcat during the last desperate fight over the

Polyamyy sub pens. When their aircraft took a hit and the two bailed

out, Flynn had wound up with a broken leg. After the two had been

rescued, she had been put aboard a medevac flight for the States and an

extended hospital stay. Now she was back, looking fit and ready to fly.

“Well, Tomboy, looks like they couldn’t keep you away from our little

luxury cruise ship,” he said. “What was it? The colorful ports? The


She laughed. “Face it, Commander, you’re not getting rid of any of us


He chuckled. The female combat fliers had earned that nickname in the

early days of the deployment, but it was hard for him to picture the

petite Tomboy Flynn as a woman warrior. “Good to have you back,” he told

her. “There’ve been a few changes, but you’ll still know your way


“Great.” They started across the deck toward the island. “Oh, hey,” she

said, catching his arm. “Thought you might like to know. You remember


“Of course!”

“I got a letter from her just before I left the States.”

“You don’t say!” Coyote’s eyes widened. “How’s she doing, anyway?”

Tomboy grinned. “Instructor’s slot, no less. At Top Gun!”

“Well! Good for her! That’s great!”

But the mention of her name raised a small shadow in the back of

Coyote’s mind. There was a dark side to women serving in combat, a topic

not often discussed or even acknowledged among the men or the women

aboard the Jefferson, but always, always there. Rape.

Lieutenant Chris Hanson, running name “Lobo,” had been one of that first

batch of female aviators aboard the Jefferson last March. Shot down over

the Kola Peninsula, she’d been captured and gang-raped by

ill-disciplined militia. Hours later, she’d been rescued by U.S.

Marines; they’d found her on display in a Russian village, locked inside

a wire cage, naked, bruised from a savage beating, and shivering with

the onset of deep shock. While her physical wounds could be treated

easily enough, there’d been considerable question about the deeper

psychological trauma she’d suffered. Her medical report had openly

questioned whether she would ever fly again. .. especially in a combat

role where she would have to face the possibility of going through the

same ordeal again.

“There was talk for a while there, while she was in the hospital, that

maybe she’d have to resign her commission,” Tomboy explained.

“I heard something about that,” Coyote said. “I gather she fought it,


“She’s tough. Tough enough she was fighting to be placed back on combat

status, last I heard.”

Coyote didn’t reply. From what he knew of the Navy establishment, it

wasn’t likely that Lobo would see combat again. Back in World War II,

five brothers had all died on the same day when the ship they were

serving aboard together was sunk by the Japanese. As a result, the Navy

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