CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier through the Bosporus wasn’t quite as

needle-threading a challenge as guiding the 1092-foot-long vessel

through the Suez Canal, but in his opinion it came damned close. He

hadn’t felt this hemmed in since the Jeff had hidden from Soviet

reconnaissance forces inside a narrow fjord in Norway.

Somehow, though, he didn’t think he’d feel much safer when they entered

the Black Sea the Chernoje More.

Stupid. .. stupid. .. stupid.

Something about his expression made Captain Brandt chuckle. “It’s okay,

Stoney. We’re past the narrow part. You can breathe now.”

Tombstone grinned at him. “You know, sir, we missed a bet. Back there

where the straits were really closing in, we could’ve tossed a handful

of lira to the kids on either bank and had ’em scrape down and paint our

hull as we passed.”

“Shit,” Brandt said with considerable feeling. “This is nothing compared

to the Suez. Man, I hate taking a CVN through there.”

“I don’t know which would make me more nervous,” Tombstone replied.

“Scraping paint to port and starboard, or the security threat.”

Brandt nodded toward the flight deck, where a number of U.S. Marines in

full combat gear stood at key positions around the perimeter, facing

outward. Jefferson’s Marine contingent, together with an armed party of

the carrier’s sailors, were responsible for protecting her from any

threat imaginable–or unimaginable, for that matter–from gunfire from

either shore, to grenades dropped among the aircraft on the flight deck

from those suspension bridges, to kamikaze speedboats, and they took

their responsibilities very seriously indeed.

“Security, Tombstone,” Brandt said, all trace of bantering gone from his

voice. “It’s always the security.”

Then they were up to the final bridge, cruising into its shadow.

Tombstone repressed an instinctive desire to duck as the shadow drifted

slowly up the flight deck, then blotted out the sun as the bridge

slipped momentarily out of the direct sunlight on the strait. Half of

the Marines on the flight deck were scanning the bridge overhead,

watching for threats. .. an impossible task, actually, since the span

was crowded with Turks gathered to watch the passing of the American


Brandt cast a measuring glance toward the Turkish pilot. “I thought your

people were supposed to close those bridges off, Mr. Ecevit?”

The pilot replied with an exaggerated shrug. He didn’t care, that much

was certain. He ignored Brandt after that, carefully pointing out a set

of channel marker buoys to the helmsman, a quartermaster chief standing

at the carrier’s wheel. The chief tossed a covert glance at Tombstone

and rolled his eyes toward the overhead; he’d obviously seen those buoys

and made any necessary adjustments to their course long before.

Ninety-thousand-plus-ton supercarriers did not stop on the proverbial

dime; even at her current slow and ponderous crawl up the waterway, it

would take her the better part of a mile to come to a complete stop if

she needed to.

The sun came out again as they cleared the bridge. The shorelines to the

east and the west were receding swiftly now. In another few moments, the

carrier would be out of the Bosporus and inside the Black Sea.

Tombstone watched the pilot for a moment, trying to decide if he

genuinely didn’t care about the botched security arrangements or was

pretending nonchalance to mask embarrassment. The latter, probably,

Tombstone decided. He was only a minor functionary, a civilian pilot

with the Turkish Port Authority, and quite far down in any hierarchy of


The Turks had been sticky about allowing a carrier battle group to

traverse their territorial waters, formal and correct in their dealings

with Navy officials to the point of an almost icy disdain. Their

reaction, perhaps, was understandable. Turkey’s government was strictly

secular, but there were powerful Moslem fundamentalist groups within the

country who would see the Jefferson as a golden target, a symbol of the

hated United States and her foreign policy, a high-profile incident to

capture a segment on World News Tonight. Ankara did not want a terrorist

incident. .. which made the security failure on the bridge hard to


More than that, though, Turkish-American relations were not good just

now, partly because of U.S. support for the Greeks in various recent

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