CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

their best interests, either.”

“Wars rarely serve anyone’s best interests, Comrade Vice-Admiral.

Except, of course, for the arms manufacturers and the politicians.”

“Why, Anton! You have the true Russian’s soul of the poet!”

“You told me to speak freely, sir. I am. It could be that those members

of your command who disagree with your plan see General Boychenko’s

initiative as their only real hope for survival.”

“I see. And how do you feel about it?”

Kulagin looked acutely uncomfortable. “I really don’t-”

“Come, come! You may speak freely here. It’s not as though I’m about to

ship you off to some gulag, eh?”

“Comrade Vice-Admiral, General Boychenko is a popular officer.”

“One of the few. Yes, I know.”

“The men and junior officers trust him. They trust him to get them


“And what of the officers and men whose homes are here, Anton? In the


“Ah.” He seemed surprised at the question, but he nodded. “They. ..

they are not so eager to leave, sir. Most worry about what will happen

to their families when they are ordered to leave, to go back to Russia.

The Ukrainians are not known for their forgiving natures.”

“And what about you, Anton Ivanovich?”

The aide hesitated a long moment before answering. “I will tell you the

truth, Comrade Vice-Admiral. I worry about my family, my wife and two

daughters. They live in Volosovo. That’s a town not far from St.

Petersburg, a very great distance from here. The war inside Russia

threatens them directly, far more than what happens to us here in the

Crimea.” He spread his hands, helplessly. “If the Crimea falls to

Ukraine, how does that hurt them? How does it take bread from their

mouths. .. unless, of course, I should die here. That would cause them


“You don’t wonder if Ukrainian aggression might be encouraged by a

display of cowardice in the Crimea?”

“I don’t think any reasonable person expects the Ukrainians to invade

Russia proper! In any case, their border is much closer to Moscow than

to St. Petersburg.” He sighed. “In any case, sir, I would feel much

better if I thought my service, my actions, were protecting them

directly. This, here. .. the Crimea. .. may I speak bluntly?”

“Of course.”

“I feel, sir, that it is a lost cause. Nothing we do, nothing we can

even consider doing here, will keep the Ukrainians out in the long run.

Even the Crimea’s population is divided over its loyalties.”

That was certainly true enough. During the last free elections held

here, a slight majority had voted to remain with Ukraine, rather than be

readmitted to Russia. The region’s current status, as an autonomous

district loosely tied to Ukraine but still administered by Russia, by

the Russian military no less, satisfied no one.

Dmitriev studied his subordinate’s face for a moment. Kulagin’s

expression was that of a man who expected to be struck. Dmitriev only

nodded, however, and gave the aide a reassuring smile. “I appreciate

your candor, Anton. And I understand your concern. You must trust me,

however, when I say that Operation Miaky is the one hope we have now. It

will be our salvation, not a mass retreat, not abandoning our duty, and

certainly not Boychenko’s treason.”

Miaky, was the local name for a cold wind that blew south across the

beaches near Yalta, sweeping down out of Angarski Pass in the chain of

mountains that created a stone wall across the southern Crimea. That

wind, though, was not so cold as the sound of the word “treason,” as it

hung there in the room between them for long seconds after Dmitriev

spoke it.

“Is that how you believe Krasilnikov’s people will see it?” Kulagin

asked. “As treason?”

“Certainly. General Boychenko was tasked with the responsibility of

defending the Crimean Military District against all enemies, against all

threats, whether they be Blues, Ukrainians or Americans. He proposes to

abandon that responsibility, to turn it all over to the United Nations.

To foreigners. What is that, if not treason? You might mention that to

those personnel you speak with who are so eager to return to the Rodina.

They seem to think Krasilnikov’s people will receive them back gladly.

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