CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

from the bow of a carrier, his chair flying off the back of the stage;

he hit Boychenko low and from behind, driving the man forward into the

podium and the forest of microphones, then toppling man and podium

together in a splintering crash.

Gunfire cracked, a thundering, stuttering fusillade as the trench-coated

assassins opened up with their weapons on full auto. Tombstone heard the

bullets snapping through the air overhead or thumping loudly into the

heavy podium. Microphones clashed together, and the sound system gave a

shrill squeal of feedback that mingled with the steady crack-crack-crack

of automatic weapons. Shrieks from the audience rose to a shrill,

terror-stricken cacophony mingled with cries of pain.

Everything was chaos, raw and uncontrolled. He was lying on top of

Boychenko, one arm thrown protectively over the Russian’s back. Rolling

to the side, he looked up, past the toppled podium and off the stage.

One gunman was going down under the combined gunfire from Abdulhalik and

another security man. The man with the pistol was out of sight at the

moment, but Tombstone could see the other assault-rifle-armed assassin

clearly as he ran up to the edge of the stage, firing wildly as he ran.

Abdulhalik staggered, dropped his weapon, and collapsed onto his back,

legs sprawling. Captain Whitehead flailed his arms and fell off the back

of the stage, his face a mask of blood. Tarrant was down, too. .. and

Sandoval. The assassins had sprayed the entire front row of VIPS,

killing or wounding eight or ten of them in one long burst.

There was the man with the pistol, collapsing under a hail of automatic

fire as he exchanged shots with the security guards. But the running man

was closer, much closer now, so close now Tombstone could see his bushy

mustache, see the wild light in his Oriental-looking eyes. Reaching the

stage, he leaned over the railing, aiming directly at Tombstone and

Boychenko from a range of less than five feet.

He pulled the trigger and nothing happened.

Tombstone was up and on his feet in the same instant, scooping up an

overturned metal chair, pivoting, and hurling it as hard as he could.

The gray chair struck the gunman and momentarily tangled with his

weapon, knocking him back a step and confusing him. Tombstone was in the

air right behind the chair, lunging for the man’s throat even as he

tossed the chair aside and tried to bring his AKMS to bear once more. He

hit the man high, hands lancing toward the throat, his arms held stiff

before him; the impact of his legs splintered the frail structure of the

railing as he crashed through and knocked the assassin down. The gunman

continued fumbling with his weapon, dragging a loaded magazine out from

inside one of the capacious pockets of his trench coat. Tombstone

battled him for that heavy black magazine, wresting it away from him,

picking it up like a flat rock and bringing it down on the side of the

man’s head with tremendous force. The gunman raised his arm, trying to

block the attack. Tombstone struck him again, and the man’s head lolled

to the side.

Tombstone looked up, blinking. People were still screaming, shrieking,

and running in all directions as security troops converged on the stage.

Half a dozen civilians were down on the grass, faces and clothing

smeared with bright scarlet blood. Pamela!. ..

There she was, apparently all right, kneeling on the grass a few yards

away next to the body of her cameraman. She looked up and locked gazes

with him, but there was no recognition in her eyes, none at all. She

looked like she was in shock.

Then a half-dozen troops arrived, muscling Tombstone aside and pouncing

on the semiconscious would-be assassin with an almost gleeful


“Don’t kill him!” Tombstone shouted as one soldier hammered at the man

with his rifle butt, but he didn’t even know if any of them spoke

English. He reached out and grabbed the soldier’s arm before he could

strike again. “Nyet!” Tombstone yelled. The soldier spun, face a twisted

mask of anger. “Nyet!” he yelled again. Damn, how did you say “Don’t

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