CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

feeling that that’s the sort of thing we’re out here protecting them


“You can take that up with Madam Secretary Reed,” Tombstone said. “I’m

sure she’ll be delighted to hear your feelings on the matter.”

“Yeah. Right. Oh, damn! Almost forgot.” He leafed through the papers on

his clipboard, found what he was looking for, and passed it over to

Tombstone. “This came in from the Canal today. They’re looking for

aviation stores. Spare parts. Sidewinders. They’re wondering if they can

scrounge some from us.”

“Not damned likely.”

“Yeah, well, there may be a pronouncement on that from on high. I gather

there may be some problems getting enough UNREP stuff through the

straits. The Turks could balk at letting all that stuff through.”

Tombstone looked at his friend for a long moment. “Goddamn.”

“Oh, nothing serious. Yet. But there’s talk. And I guess the jarheads

are stretched pretty thin right now.”

“You got that right. A little bird told me they’re already scraping the

bottom of the barrel for equipment and spares. They got deployed short.”

Magruder shook his head. “Sometimes I think our only real enemy is in

Washington. The guys shooting at us are nothing but petty little

annoyances, but those bastards on Capitol Hill are out for blood.”

“A little bird?” Coyote raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you’re

starting to play Navy politics.”

“Nah, this was just an old friend. The skipper of the Canal, no less.

We had a chat this afternoon.” Magruder smiled. “He wanted me to say

howdy for him. Steve Marusko. Captain Marusko, now.”

“Marusko’s got Guadalcanal? God, that makes me feel older than I felt


Steve Marusko had been CAG on the cruise where Magruder and Grant had

seen action in Korea, Thailand, and the Indian Ocean. Now he’d moved

further up the career ladder, skippering one of the Marine carriers.

Someday he might wind up as captain of a supercarrier like Jefferson.

“Maybe we’ll get a chance to see him before the cruise is over,” Coyote

said. He looked down at his clipboard. “Well, that’s all I’ve got for

now, Stoney. Anything you need me to take care of this afternoon?”

“Just the Maintenance logs on the War Eagles. Light a fire under those

guys and get those reports on my desk tomorrow morning at the latest.”

“Or heads will roll?” Grant asked with a smile.

“Starting with yours, so make sure they hop to it down there.” He stood

up as Coyote did. “Dinner tonight?”

Coyote shook his head. “I’m going to beg off, Stoney. I want to write a

letter to Julie.”

“Things still not so good, huh? If there’s anything I can do. ..”

“Unless you can get them to send us home, there’s nothing,” Coyote told

him. “But thanks, man. Thanks.”

As Coyote left, Tombstone settled back into his chair and picked up the

picture on the corner of his desk. His fiancee, Pamela Drake. ..

She was a devastating combination of beauty and brains, an award-winning

reporter for American Cable News. After a long and often stormy

relationship, they’d finally agreed five months ago that they would set

a wedding date after Jefferson’s next cruise. But then he’d received

orders for an early redeployment, and Pamela had exploded. It seemed

like she always saw the Navy as a rival, and she’d frequently urged him

to give up his career, to settle down with a nice, safe airline job.

He’d always protested strongly, saying that the Navy was his life, but

sometimes, like now, he had his doubts.

He set the picture down. Magruder was starting to wonder just where his

career was really heading. Working to break in Coyote as Deputy CAG had

reminded him of all the things about staff work that he hated. But even

with his record, it was possible, even probable, that CAG was as high up

the ladder as he’d ever get. There were a lot more candidates for the

high-powered postings than there were available billets, and frequently

merit gave way to politics when it came to picking people for that

handful of openings. Steve Marusko had been lucky to get the

Guadalcanal. Magruder had an uncle who held an important Pentagon post

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