CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

gathering news stories. Why couldn’t she just accept the fact that he

had the same kind of dedication and drive, the same kind of


Tomboy stepped up next to him as Pamela walked off. “You know her?”

“Pamela Drake? Yeah, I’ve known her for, oh, four years, I guess. Met

her when the Jeff was in Thailand.”

Her dark eyes widened. “Oh, that was that Pamela! I never made the


Tombstone chuckled. “I have trouble with that too. Connecting the woman

I see when I get back off a deployment with the face on the evening

news. Yes, that’s Pamela.” He’d told Joyce about the love of his life,

back when they’d been flying together. Aviators and RIOS often shared

more or less intimate details during long flights–or during the longer

watches in the ready room.

“An ACN anchor, yet,” she said. “I’m impressed.”

“Nothing to be impressed about. She’s got a job. Just like the rest of


Tomboy glanced in the direction in which Pamela had gone. “Well, flyboy,

it looks to me like you’ve been stood up.” She jerked her head toward

the lobby entrance. “Want me to show you the town?”

Tombstone considered the offer, then grinned. “Why not?” He offered her

his arm. “Let’s see the sights.”

As they started out the front door of the hotel, however, a lanky,

swarthy-skinned man with black curly hair and a closely trimmed mustache

almost collided with them. “You like guide? See city?”

Tombstone looked the man over. He might just be an eager entrepreneur,

but there was something about him, a sharpness of character, a focus

behind those liquid brown eyes, that suggested he was also a watchdog.

Possibly he was only on someone’s payroll, Tombstone thought. More

likely, he was working for either the FBS or for military

intelligence–the GRU. In any case, both he and Tomboy were wearing

their dress Navy uniforms, making them somewhat conspicuous. Tombstone

decided he would actually feel safer wandering the town with someone who

belonged here. “How much?”

The man broke into a toothy smile. “For you, ten dollars American, each

day! I have car, A-okay!”

Their guide’s name was Abdulhalik, and it turned out to be a remarkably

pleasant afternoon. They ignored his car for the time being in favor of

a stroll along the waterfront.

It was a bit disconcerting, walking through the town with Joyce at his

side. He was remembering when he’d first started falling in love with

Pamela … while walking with her through the streets of Bangkok, seeing

the sights of Thailand’s exotic capital, and exploring Thonburi’s

floating markets.

Yalta was not as glamorous as Bangkok had been. The climate might have

been like southern California, but the town itself reminded him of the

more depressing and concrete-clad parts of Atlantic City, without as

much in the way of advertising or gambling casinos. There were

occasional surprises. Many of the buildings showed a distinct Turkish

flavor, especially on the western side of town, and in some areas it was

almost possible to forget that they were in the former Soviet Union, but

for the most part the buildings were drab, Stalinist-utilitarian and in

a depressing state of decay. There was a boardwalk, of sorts, along the

waterfront–though there were no boards in sight. Instead, the strip

between highway and water had been paved over, an endless expanse of

sterile concrete. .. sterile in the aesthetic sense, at least. The

uncollected garbage had attracted clouds of flies; in the full heat of

summer, Tombstone thought, the stink must be atrocious. From time to

time, he relieved his eyes by looking up at the Crimean Mountains,

bulging huge against the horizon northwest of the town. Some of the

tallest peaks there reached to over fifteen hundred meters, and the

breeze coming down off their slopes was fresh and pleasantly cool.

Tramlines were in place to take tourists up to the top of the mountain

overlooking the town, but the queues were impossibly long.

“So why’d you join the Navy, Captain?” Tomboy asked.

He made a face. “Not “Captain,’ please. Or “CAG.’ Not when we’re out

like this, just you and me.”

“Tombstone, then?”

“Or “Stoney.’ Or “Matt.'”

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