especially if Krasilnikov gets wind of it before everything’s in place.”
“Krasilnikov doesn’t know?” someone asked.
“We don’t think so,” Sykes said. “After all, the Reds have been
funneling what troops and supplies they can into the Crimea for several
weeks now, at least. That suggests they’d like to hang onto the place.
One possible explanation for Boychenko’s move, incidentally, is that
Krasilnikov told him to hold at all costs, or else. Now, Boychenko has a
rep as a humanitarian commander. Always trying to get the best for his
men, that sort of thing. Could be he looked at the Ukrainians getting
ready to pounce and knew that he and his people didn’t stand a chance.
By surrendering to us, all of his people get to go back to Russia and
continue the fight there. Of course, he’ll probably claim amnesty and
defect. He won’t be able to go back to Krasilnikov, that’s for sure. Not
unless he’s eager to face a firing squad.”
“How long will our people be on the ground there?” someone in the back
of the room asked.
“Don’t know,” Tarrant replied. “The Brits, who were originally slated to
relieve our people in Georgia, are going straight into Sevastopol as
soon as the surrender is signed. A battalion of the Black Watch, for
starters. There are pledges for more troops from Britain, France,
Canada, and Italy, but Washington didn’t send me any kind of timetable.
The Marines will be on hand if the Special Envoy decides we need them,
but I think everybody’s hoping they can go ahead with the relief mission
in Georgia as soon as we’ve got the Crimea situation under control.” He
glanced at his notes again. “You’ll all be getting your orders, such as
they are, before you leave. Meanwhile, Commander Sykes and the rest of
my staff will be glad to answer any other questions you might have.”
Eventually, the questions ended and the meeting came to a close.
Tombstone sat for a moment as the other officers stood and began filing
out. Admiral Tarrant had left, but Commander Sykes remained at the
“What do you think, Stoney?” Coyote asked.
“Damn. Hard to know what to think. Looks like Washington just dropped us
into another war zone. I’m beginning to get the feeling that they want
to get rid of us.”
“Captain Magruder?” Sykes called. “Can I talk to you for a moment, sir?”
“Catch you later, CAG,” Coyote said.
“Yeah,” Tombstone turned as Sykes approached. “What can I do for you?”
“Admiral Tarrant wanted me to ask if you wanted to go ashore with him.”
Tombstone raised his eyebrows. “Ashore? What-”
Sykes grinned at his evident confusion. “The admiral will be going into
the Crimea to receive Boychenko’s surrender, of course. Yalta, to be
specific. Wonderful symbolism there, you know. He’ll be sending me and
some of his staff officers in ahead, to lay the groundwork, as it were.”
“He told me to ask if you’d like to ride along.”
“Did he say why?” Tombstone was genuinely puzzled. Admirals generally
didn’t ask captains if they wanted to do something or not. “I’m not much
of a diplomat, Commander. And I have an air wing to run.”
“Of course. And this is rather irregular, I admit. But, you see, Admiral
Tarrant is concerned about the view the American press will be taking in
regard to the Navy. There was the sinking of that Russian sub. Then the
helicopter shoot-down. Now the press will be wondering just what we’re
doing here, and if we can handle the job.”
“I’d been wondering about that myself, actually.”
“Aren’t we all? But the news people are going to be flocking around the
admiral’s staff as soon as they hit the beach. Admiral Tarrant would
like you to be his special liaison with the media, as it were.”
Tombstone opened his mouth to give a sharp retort, then closed it again.
Damn it, why the back-door approach? “if the admiral wants me to do
this, why doesn’t he-”
“Order you himself Of course. This is strictly a volunteer assignment,
Captain. And very much off the record.”
Tombstone shook his head. “Damn it, Commander. Maybe I’m dense or