CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Personally, Tombstone didn’t care for the direction things seemed to be

taking. A U.S. carrier battle group under the command of a foreigner

just wasn’t right.

In fact, he thought it was downright dangerous.

A scant two hours earlier, Jefferson had cleared the Golden Horn, that

freshwater arm of the Bosporus lying just north of the city of Istanbul

proper, the Old City, and had slipped into the narrow waterway

separating Europe from Asia. Technically, the buildings visible to

either side of the strait were still part of Istanbul. The four slender

minaret spires of the Sancta Sofia, rising above the sprawl of Topkapi

Palace and marking the heart of old Istanbul, had long since receded out

of sight astern, but the buildings sliding past to the west, part of a

community called Rumeli Kavagi, could be thought of as part of

Istanbul’s modern suburbs.

The Bosporus, the strait linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara,

was eighteen miles long and averaged two miles in width, though it was

only half a nautical mile wide at its narrowest. While the historic Old

City was huddled on the tightly crowded peninsula at the extreme

southern end of the waterway, Istanbul, the modern city, sprawled

exuberantly clear to the airport fourteen miles west, north to the

shores of the Black Sea itself, and eastward, across the Bosporus and

deep into Anatolia. An important seaport and trading center since the

times of the ancient Greeks, it was today a bustling, crowded

metropolis, with modern skyscrapers vying for space with centuries-old

Ottoman minarets and the onion-shaped domes of mosques.

Most unforgettable for Tombstone, however, had been the waters just off

the Golden Horn in the shadow of Sancta Sofia. There, the garish

spectacle of Old Istanbul had crowded in on every side of the carrier, a

cluttered profusion of shapes and colors, the only city in the world

straddling Europe and the Asian mainland. Through the open window at

Brandt’s elbow, Tombstone had heard the eerie, wailing cries of the

muezzins atop the city’s myriad minarets, calling the faithful to

afternoon prayer, mingled with the sound of horns and traffic in the

city’s crowded streets. The straits themselves had been packed with

boats and small craft of every description, from modern yachts to

sail-driven coasting vessels that looked like galleys out of the Arabian

Nights. Fishing boats were especially thick here, for the straits

provided access for a number of species of fish that migrated between

the Black Sea and the Aegean; at times, Tombstone felt as though the

carrier were shooing whole flocks of waterfowl out of her way as the

fishing boats scattered left and right just beneath the CVN’s towering


The next two hours had been a period of slowly mounting tensions as the

carrier navigated up the waterway, slipping–with just room to

spare–beneath two of the three suspension bridges spanning the

Bosporus. The oldest and southernmost dated only to 1973; the newest,

stretching now across the water directly ahead of the Jefferson, the

final barrier between the carrier and the open sea, had been opened only

a few years ago. To Tombstone’s eye, none of those bridges looked high

enough to give the top of Jefferson’s superstructure and radio masts

clearance beneath their gray-silver girders. Ismet Ecevit, the pilot

who’d come aboard at Canakkale, had insisted that there was plenty of

room to spare, and so far, at least, he’d been right. Just one more

bridge to clear, now. ..

The straits had been tight and narrow, but at last they were opening up

and the waters of the Black Sea were spreading out ahead. The sky had

been partly cloudy all day; at Istanbul, shafts of sunlight had sliced

through high-stacked blue-gray clouds, touching the centuries-old

mosques and towers and ancient-looking walls and the sails and canopies

of small craft in the harbor with liquid gold. The clouds were beginning

to close in now, but patches of blue sky continued to peep from among

the towering piles of fluffy cumulus clouds. Jefferson’s met boys were

calling for clear weather for the passage, but probable rain tonight. It

looked like this time they’d called it right.

Tombstone was glad the passage was almost over. Bringing a modern

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