CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

something today. But I don’t understand.”

“There were two ACN personnel on that UN flight the other day, a

reporter and his cameraman. He filed a story about the incident, of


“Of course.”

“American Cable News evidently decided to follow things up with one of

their top people. Ever hear of a news anchor named Pamela Drake?”

Tombstone’s mouth gaped open. Pamela!. ..

“Anyway, the admiral seems to think you might have some influence with

the woman. She’s coming here to-”

“What? Pamela is coming here?”

“To Sevastopol. Yes. With a crew. Admiral Tarrant thought you might be

able to field her tough questions. Again, it’s volunteer only. But. ..”

“Of course, of course,” Tombstone said. He was dazed. Pamela, here!

“Then I’ll tell the admiral it’s settled. The staff group will be

assembling to go ashore tomorrow afternoon. You’ll want to have some

things packed.” But Tombstone scarcely heard him. Pamela was coming



Wednesday, 4 November 1047 hours (Zulu +3)

Office of the Commander, Black Sea Fleet Sevastopol Naval Base, Crimean

Military District “All is in readiness, Comrade Vitse-Admiral.”

Dmitriev looked up from the papers on his desk. Starshiy-Leytenant

Kulagin was not looking at him but remained fixed at attention, his eyes

locked on a spot on the wood paneling somewhere behind Dmitriev’s left


“Excellent,” Dmitriev replied. “The crews have been briefed on what they

are to do?”

“Yes, sir.” He sounded almost bitter. “Though it was. .. difficult

finding volunteers.”

“We expected as much.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And I suspect that what you mean is that it was difficult finding

volunteers loyal to me, rather than to General Boychenko.”

“Actually, sir, the majority of the naval personnel opted to follow you.

The army, of course, is loyal to the general almost to a man. Putting

together so many pilots who could be trusted was the most difficult


“That, too, was expected. When the Ukrainians come, the fleet, at least,

would be able to retire to Novorossiysk, while aircraft could simply fly


“Yes, sir. The army would be forced to remain in this, this trap.”

Dmitriev sighed. “Anton Ivanovich, there are many kinds of trap. Some

are more subtle than others. What I do, I do first out of loyalty to the

Rodina, then out of respect for the oath that I took as a Russian

officer. That, in a sense, is the trap that holds me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kulagin was retreating once more behind the unreadable facade of the

mindless subordinate, attempting to mask his own thoughts. Dmitriev

leaned back in his chair, studying his aide. “You don’t approve of this

plan, do you?”

“Sir, it is not my place to-”

“Talk to me, Anton Ivanovich. I need to know what you are thinking.” He

nodded toward the window, and the ships gathered in the harbor. “What

they are thinking.”

“Sir. ..” He stopped, and the stiffness of his posture relaxed a bit as

he moved his hands helplessly at his sides. “Sir, there are those within

your command who see this as a desperate gamble, as something very much

like deliberate suicide. Suppose this operation gets us into a general

war with the United States? We could find ourselves fighting Leonov’s

rebels, the Ukrainians, the Turks, and the Americans all at the same


“The Americans will not go to war over this, Anton. It will be in their

interests to resolve this matter peacefully.”

“How can anyone make predictions about what their government will or

will not do, sir? Cowboy diplomacy-”

“Their president is in considerable trouble because of his foreign

policy just now.” He chuckled. “Or perhaps I should say he is in trouble

because of his lack of anything like a coherent foreign policy. He will

not risk a war with us, because that would deepen his problems with the

American electorate, which is notoriously isolationist.”

“Well, then, the Turks-”

“Will allow things to be smoothed over. They need us to solve their

problems with their Armenian minority more than we need them. When our

representatives have quietly explained why we were forced to do what we

did, they will understand and accept it. A war with us would not serve

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