wars, incidents, and territorial disputes, but more because Turkey
feared being dragged into the rapidly spreading wildfire of war and
insurrection engulfing her once powerful neighbor to the north. Too,
Turkey’s Kurd and Armenian minorities were growing restless again and
might use the chaos across the Russian border to resurrect their own
hopes of dismembering eastern Turkey and creating states of their own.
When the United Nations had passed Special Resolution 1026 five weeks
ago, they’d turned to the United States to provide the military and
technological expertise necessary to enforce the newly imposed no-fly
zone over Georgia. The United States, in turn, had begun pressuring
Turkey to allow the basing of U.S. warplanes on her soil in order to
support UN activities. That pressure, as Tombstone had heard it, had
damned near caused a complete and final break in Turkish-American
relations. Ankara feared that American aircraft and personnel based on
Turkish soil would cause an explosion in the country’s Moslem
fundamentalists, and they’d refused, point-blank. There’d followed
several days of acrimonious exchanges, until at last a deal to allow the
entry of a carrier battle group into the Black Sea had been hammered
Tombstone didn’t know what deals had been struck or what kind of markers
had been called in to induce the Ankara government to permit the
Jefferson battle group to traverse the straits to the Black Sea, but he
imagined that the promises made had been considerable, something
bordering on extortionate. The Montreux Convention of 1936 specifically
prohibited foreign aircraft carriers from transiting the Dardanelles and
Bosporus. In earlier years, the Soviets had gotten around that
restriction with their light carrier Kiev by identifying her as an
antisubmarine cruiser; presumably they’d made other arrangements for
passages by their larger, more recently built carriers.
What had Washington promised the Turks to get them to permit Jefferson’s
transit? Or had the promise been something more on the order of a
He glanced again at Ecevit. He seemed a decent enough sort, if somewhat
restrained. Tombstone wondered what he thought of the political storm
suddenly howling across his part of the world.
At last the shorelines of the Bosporus were passing abeam, little more
now than gray smudges on the horizon. “We’re out of the channel,
Captain,” the helmsman called. “Clear to navigate.”
“Very well, Chief,” Brandt replied. “We’ll be heaving to while Mr.
Ecevit transfers to the pilot boat.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Jefferson’s executive officer had been waiting in the wings for his cue.
“Perhaps you would be good enough to escort Mr. Ecevit to his boat.”
“Aye, aye, Captain!”
“It’s been a pleasure to have you aboard, Mr. Ecevit.”
“Thank you, Captain,” the civilian said in a thick accent, facing
“Permit me to say that this, this vessel of yours is truly remarkable.
I’ve never had such a view of the water ahead.”
“We like her,” Brandt said.
Tombstone chuckled. “Conning a CVN has been compared to driving
Manhattan Island from the top floor of the Empire State Building.”
“I have never been to Manhattan Island,” Ecevit said. “But this ship of
yours does have the feel of an island.” He hesitated, then licked his
lips, a nervous gesture. “You should be careful out here. An island is
an easy thing to find. It would be a pity if the wrong people found it.”
“Just who do you mean, Mr. Ecevit?” Brandt asked casually. “Our status
here will be as peacekeepers.” He grinned broadly for a moment, showing
clenched teeth. “See? We’re friendly.”
It was a variant on a joke popular aboard the Jefferson, but Ecevit
either missed the point or ignored it.
“There are many in this part of the world who do not want peace. To
them, this floating island of yours would be a most tempting target. And
a vulnerable one.” He shook his head. “I was directed not to discuss
politics with you gentlemen. I’ve said too much as it is. But I. .. I
admire this wonderful ship of yours and would hate to see her
“A modern carrier takes one heck of a lot of destroying,” Tombstone
“The Jeff’s been through a few scrapes already and come through in one