CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

nervousness behind her dark eyes, and winked. The enlisted woman sitting

beside her, an ordnanceman second class named Natalie Kardesh, had her

arms folded across her chest and appeared to be asleep, though the front

of her cranial was down so far Tombstone couldn’t see her eyes. She’d

been included on this flight because she spoke fluent Russian.

It was Flynn who concerned him, though. Why, why had it been Tomboy

who’d volunteered for this party?

Tarrant, he knew, had specifically wanted some women along on the

flight, especially one of fairly senior rank with flight status, and

Tomboy certainly qualified on both counts. The admiral’s reasoning,

Tombstone assumed, was that there would be lots of news personnel

ashore–including ACN’s Pamela Drake, of course–and he wanted to be

sure that the U.S. Navy’s progressive attitude concerning women in

combat roles was well documented. The coming negotiations with

Boychenko’s people would have a high profile in the media, and Samantha

Reed and her cronies back Stateside would see and approve. Politics,

pure and simple. .. and it grated against Tombstone to see political

standards–worse, standards of political correctness–used to make

decisions such as who would go ashore on this mission, rather than more

straightforward considerations such as who was best qualified.

And of all the women aboard the Jefferson, why did it have to be Joyce?

She’d flown as his RIO over the Kola Peninsula seven months before, when

the squadron had been shorthanded and an alpha strike had been needed

against a Russian Typhoon submarine base. They’d been shot down, had

punched out together, and she’d broken a leg on landing. When he’d

reached her, a Russian soldier was already there, standing over her; in

a blurred confusion of a firefight that would have been funny had the

situation not been so deadly, Tombstone and Tomboy both had shot the man

with their service pistols before he could reach his AK. A recon force

of U.S. Marines had arrived shortly afterward, beating a large Russian

unit in a race to the downed fliers by two minutes.

The two of them had shared. .. something. Call it the camaraderie shared

by all warriors who face fire and death together. Or the camaraderie of

people who owe one another their lives; in that last desperate

firefight, as they’d tried to bring the Russian soldier down with

pistols before he could bring his AK to bear, they’d saved each other’s

lives. She’d then demanded he leave her and save himself, and he’d

refused. There was a bond there, as undeniable as it was deep. It was

not sexual, either, though Tombstone could easily imagine it becoming


But he was engaged to Pamela Drake. At least he assumed they were still

engaged. They never wrote much in the best of times, and after that last

quarrel. .. Well, he guessed they’d both needed time to cool down.

Perhaps they could patch things up now that she was coming out here. He

grinned to himself as he wondered if Pamela would understand the

warriors’ bond, the mutual friendship of military professionals that he

shared with Tomboy Flynn.

Tombstone often thought of those hours on the Kola Peninsula. .. just as

he tried not to think about what would have happened if the Russians had

gotten there first. Lobo–Lieutenant Chris Hanson–had been captured

that same afternoon.

It wasn’t, he told himself, just the fact that female combat personnel

might be–often were–raped or otherwise sexually assaulted when they

were captured. Despite the Geneva Convention, a protocol that somehow

seemed almost quaint nowadays in its assumptions that signatories would

obey the limits it set, POWS could be subjected to a variety of

indignities, assaults, and outright tortures, both physical and mental,

regardless of their sex. No, his concern went deeper, to the very basic

question of whether women should serve in combat at all, partly because

of the physical threat to them, of course, but more because of the

damage it did to the military system that Tombstone was a part of.

Tombstone was still old-fashioned enough to believe that biology had

assigned men the task of defending home and hearth. .. a decidedly

sexist attitude that he’d learned to keep to himself in these days of

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *