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