CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

kill him” in Russian? The foreign country guidebooks never gave you the

really useful phrases.

One soldier, though–a lieutenant–barked orders and cuffed two of the

soldiers aside. In a few moments, they’d sorted things out and half

dragged, half carried the man away.

Tombstone scrambled back onto the stage and raced to Tarrant’s side. The

admiral had taken one round through his chest, up high, and was


“Tombstone!” Joyce cried, reaching his side. “My God, are you okay?”

“Fine, Tomboy,” he said. “Fine.” He wasn’t sure he was ready to believe

that yet. His knees now, as reaction began to settle in, felt terribly

weak, and his breaths came in short, almost panting gasps. He looked at

her. Her dress uniform was disheveled and she’d lost her hat. His eyes

widened as he saw a bright smear of blood on her jacket.

“It’s not me,” she said, reading his expression.

“You’re okay?”

“Yeah. What about the admiral?”

“Damn. I don’t know. I don’t know!” They needed a doctor. No. .. they

needed a Navy doctor, someone off the Jeff.

Nearby, Boychenko was standing again, staring around at the carnage with

an expression as dazed as Pamela’s. Several soldiers, eyes nervously on

the building and the milling, panicky crowd, started to urge him away to

safety, but he shrugged free and walked over to Tombstone.

“Captain Magruder,” he said, the words heavily accented. He took

Tombstone’s hand in both of his, shook it, then pulled the American

close and hugged him. “Spasebaw. Thank you, for my life. That was very

brave deed.”

“It was nothing,” Tombstone said. “I was running for cover and tripped.”

Boychenko blinked, looking puzzled. He probably didn’t speak enough

English to be able to understand more than a word or two of what

Tombstone was saying.

“Is Admiral Tarrant?”

“He needs medical help. A hospital.”

“We do what we can.”

One of his security men tugged at the general’s elbow, imploring him

with his expression to hurry. Tombstone could understand their worry.

There might well have been more than three assassins, should have been,

in fact, given the number of Boychenko’s guards.

As they hurried him away, Tombstone moved to the far side of the stage

and found Abdulhalik sitting up, one hand clutching a shoulder soggy

with blood. “Lie down,” Tombstone told him. “Damn it, get down!”

“Yes, sir.”

Sandoval was lying nearby, his eyes wide open in death. Whitehead was

dead as well. Damn. .. damn!

The security man complied and Tombstone used a length of cloth torn from

the man’s sleeve as a pressure bandage on Abdulhalik’s wound. It looked

as though the bullet had smashed through his chest, high up near his

shoulder, shattering his scapula but, so far as Tombstone could tell,

missing his lung. At least there was no blood in his nose or mouth, and

he seemed to be breathing okay.

“Tatars,” Abdulhalik said, his voice weak.


“Damned. .. Tatars. Descendants of the Mongols. You know Genghis Khan?”

Tombstone kept working, tying the packing in place with more strips of

cloth. “Not personally. I never met the man.”

“Think. .. Crimea is their. .. homeland.”

“It is, from what I’ve heard.” He’d read the history in a guidebook

several days ago. Before the Russian Revolution, the first revolution in

1917, the Crimean Peninsula had been settled largely by Tatars–as

Abdulhalik had said, descendants of the Mongol hordes that had swept

across southern Russia in the thirteenth century. Crimea had been their

final stronghold in Russia until the time of Catherine the Great, and

they’d still been a significant part of the population well into the

twentieth century. After the Communists had taken over, Crimea was

redesignated as a Tatar Autonomous District.

Then had come the Second World War, and the invasion by Hitler’s


Crimea had been occupied, then liberated, but with liberation came

persecution. Stalin accused the Tatars of collaborating with the Nazis

and used that excuse to exile all of them to central Asia. The ban

against their return to Crimea had been lifted in the 1980s, and they’d

been returning ever since, in larger and larger numbers. Many were now

demanding that the Crimea be returned to them, as an autonomous district

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