CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Andreevich Boychenko. Intelligence tells us he was something of a

compromise for the post, a man trusted by both the fleet and Red Army

elements in the area.

“In fact, Boychenko has been rather cool toward the Red cause. He sided

with the Reds initially, but he suffered a lot of defections and at

least one fair-sized mutiny within the fleet, and he’s voiced opposition

to the Krasilnikov regime more than once.”

Sykes paused as if for dramatic effect. “Last weekend, while negotiating

for the return of the Russian nationals from that Victor III we sank, he

put out feelers to both the United Nations and to Washington, offering

to surrender the Crimean Military District to international control. His

stated reason is a desire to avoid an expansion of the civil war, but we

believe his real fear is that the Ukrainians might be about to assert

their claim to the peninsula. Intelligence sources, including satellite

surveillance, suggest that the Ukrainians may be about to move, probably

through an amphibious landing on the Crimea’s west coast. Boychenko’s

forces would be completely inadequate to stop a determined attack.

“Washington and the UN have decided to honor General Boychenko’s


The briefing room dissolved in a chaotic babble of many noises. “Christ,

CAG!” Owens said. “They’re getting us involved in the Russians’ war


Admiral Tarrant stepped up to the podium once more, waiting patiently

until the noise died down. “There’s no doubt,” he began, then stopped,

waiting until absolute silence descended on the room before continuing.

“There is no doubt at all,” he continued, “that if the Ukrainians take

over the Crimea, they will bring their ethnic cleansing operation right

along with them. In that sense, at least, this will be a humanitarian

effort. The United Nations sees Boychenko’s offer as an opportunity for

the cause of international peacekeeping. But it is also a huge

responsibility. Basically, if the UN takes Boychenko’s surrender,

they’re guaranteeing the Crimea against outside attack, and that’s a far

cry from sending in humanitarian aid to some third-world nation still

locked up in tribal warfare. The Secretary General won’t accept that

responsibility without a firm commitment of American support. That’s

where we come in.”

He paused, and to Tombstone it felt as though he were wrestling with

something unpleasant. .. and trying not to show it.

“The UN has asked for,” he said quietly, “and Washington has granted,

operational authority over U.S. forces in the Crimean Peacekeeping

Operational Zone. For the duration of this mission, my immediate boss

will be the UN Special Envoy in Sevastopol. He will determine exactly

how, when, and where we will be used in support of the other United

Nations personnel that will be deployed into the region.”

A babble of protest erupted throughout the room. “UN control!” Commander

Hough shouted. “What dim bulb thought that one up!”

“I thought we’d settled that in Somalia!” someone else cried.

Tarrant raised a hand. “Quiet!” he roared. “Quiet down there! This is a

briefing, not a free-for-all!” He waited for the room to be silent

again. “Okay, people, I know how you all feel. This breaks with our

whole military tradition. It’s not what any of us bargained for when we

signed on. But the Administration, the President, has his reasons for

agreeing to these terms. Maybe you don’t agree with him, but by God he’s

our commander in chief, and when he gives an order, each of us is going

to obey it, or die trying!

“We will, therefore, operate under United Nations command until the

President says otherwise. In the interim I expect my officers to uphold

the standards of military decorum. That means you keep your comments to

yourselves. .. and you treat United Nations personnel, military or

civilian, with the same respect you would treat fellow American

servicemen. Do I make myself clear?”

There were muttered responses and a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Apparently, though, it was enough for Tarrant. .. possibly because he’d

gauged the emotions in the room and decided that it was the best he was

going to get. Or possibly, Tombstone thought wryly, he agreed with them

but couldn’t admit to the fact.

“Very well,” he continued. “That’s the background to this operation. We

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