Broad Stripes and Bright Stars
Dawn's Early Light Book II
Copyright © 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
The helicopters created a massive tornado of snow on the ground as they came in for a landing. Norris and the rest climbed out and walked to the cluster of Humvees, where Snoops was waiting for them.
"Admiral, Governor. This is the closest we could get the choppers. We are headed to a little wooded village about a half mile up the road."
Norris nodded. "Snoops you going to tell us what's going on?"
"I can't put it into words sir, you have to see it." The group loaded up into the vehicles and took off through the still falling snow. They shot up the road and came to a small village. Ahead they could see a group of people and military vehicles near the village square. Norris was looking out the window at the small cluster of buildings. Perfect, quintessential New England village. It was like it was out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The river running behind the single line of buildings, the faded paint and swinging signs. Norris was getting a very ominous feeling by the time the vehicles came to a stop. He opened the door and the cold air hit him but what hit him more was the quiet. The almost absolute silence. He walked towards the square where he could see the silhouettes of soldiers standing in the darkness. The line of Navy SEALs and Maine Game Wardens parted to let the group through. Colonel Clark and Bucky stood out in front.
Norris walked closer to Bucky, his unease growing. "Bucky, what the hell is going on here?"
Colonel Clark signaled to a couple of men and the vehicles' lights turned on. Norris heard a collective gasp, his stomach lurched and he heard someone behind him vomit. His vision blurred as the tears streamed out. He walked up beside Bucky and stood there staring at the bodies. One massive pile of bodies, all stripped bare. Men, women, children, old and young. Thrown in the square like a pile of trash. The snow slowly accumulating on the pile added to the now grotesque feeling. Norris looked around the square and the town. No sounds. No lights. No movement. Just a pile of bodies, thrown one on top of the other.
He looked at Bucky and watched him as he shivered standing there with tears rolling down his face. "How many Bucky?"
"As best we can tell, about fifty-seven sir."
"Dear god almighty." Norris turned and looked at the grotesque pile once again and his breath was taken away as his eyes locked with the lifeless eyes of a girl about five years old clutching a doll with a red dress on. In the pile of white, lifeless bodies that spot of color stood out, grabbing his attention. He couldn't turn away. He could not stop staring. He could feel his body begin to warm and his face grew hot. He felt the rage boil his blood. He could not control the anger and he raised his head and his fists to the heavens. What followed was perhaps the most animalistic scream anyone had ever heard. Then Norris fell to his knees, crying.
No one approached him, no one tried to comfort him, this wasn't the time for that. Myers and Colonel Clark moved all the soldiers back and let the Admiral have his moment of anguish. He knelt there crying and staring at the red dress on the child's toy for what seemed like hours.
The chopper landed on the Reagan and Norris stormed off without saying a word. He threw open the door to his office, startling Lieutenant Payne and Ensign Collins. He turned back to Myers. "Give me the memory card." He held out his hand and she placed the memory card from the camera in his hand. "Is he ready?"
Lieutenant Payne nodded. "Yes, sir. We have President Bryce on standby and he is alone as you asked."
"Good, everyone out. Now!"
The three officers hustled out of the office. Norris sat down in front of his laptop and saw the smiling face of President Bryce.
"Aggy, how are you?"
"Mr. President, I am fucking pissed."
"Aggy calm down; what's going on? What's happened?"
"Everything is happening SIR, people are dying out here. The country is ripping itself apart, innocent people are being slaughtered in the streets. Soldiers are marching to their deaths every day and where, Mr. President, are you? In some hidden fucking bunker safe and sound? Doing what, Mr. President? How the fuck do you plan to save this country? With the blood of more innocents?"
"Admiral Norris you listen here..."
"No Mr. President you listen, we are here on the front lines everyday and every night. We are seeing what is happening while you sit in your safe little bunker and dick around. It's time you take off the fucking blinders and see what is happening out here. People are freezing to death, starving to death and being slaughtered like cattle. Your people, Mr. President...." Norris hit send on the files from the memory card. "Innocent men, women and children. Ripped out of their beds in the middle of the night and gunned down like animals, their bodies stripped and piled in the middle of the street, like cord wood. These are someone's parents or wives or husbands or sisters or brothers or children...." Norris began to cry. "Jack, I can't take it anymore. I can't watch this happen anymore. You're the only one that can do anything about it. Jack you need to lead these people, you need to lead me."
Bryce sat there staring at the pictures as they downloaded not saying a word. When they had finished he just stared at the face of the grizzled veteran on the screen crying. "Aggy, you're right."
"I am sorry Mr. President but I can't do this."
"None of us can. We are alone at the top of this Aggy, no one to turn to and god damn you are right. I need to be their leader. Neither of us ever wanted this but we are all the country has. Aggy, if we walk away who will pick up our swords? It's us and only us and damn it that's the hardest burden in the world. But what else can we do? Ours are the shoulders it falls to and mine more so than any. You are right I need to lead them, I need to lead you. But I don't even know where to begin."
"Jack, the citizens of the country need someone they can trust, my soldiers need to know they can trust you. No one is sure of anything. These people..." He paused to catch his breath. "They were told to evacuate before Ashwoods troops arrived. They ignored that.. not because they are stubborn but because they don't know who to trust. Fuck Jack, someone in my command tried to kill me and killed a young Marine in the process. We need a leader not an administrator."
Jack nodded his head. "You're right Aggy I need to be the face they see."
"Jack, I need support. I need all the troops we can marshal. I need to feed, shelter and clothe all the displaced people out here before the weather gets any worse, but I don't need you to handle that stuff, I need you to reach out to the people, the soldiers, and keep their morale up. Shit, I need you to keep my morale up."
"I will get my cabinet on getting you the help you need. I will be out to visit you and your troops this week."
"Sir, I didn't mean for that..."
"No Aggy, you're right. I need to be seen and that includes to be out with the soldiers. No more half-assed measures. And Aggy, before we lose the satellite, you do realize you just dressed down the President of the United States, right?"
"Yes, sir and I apologize for that..."
Bryce waved his hand to stop Norris. "No apologies needed. I put you in command because I have enough yes men around me, sometimes someone needs to tell me like it is and I can always count on you for that."
"Jack thanks, I needed to vent."
"I know Aggy, and there is no one you can vent to, I am all you have."
"Thank you sir."
"No. Thank you Admiral Norris. Is there anything else you need me for?"
Norris reached up and felt the video card in his breast pocket. "Actually sir there is. I have been sitting on this for a couple days now trying to decide what to do with this info. I have tried to think of the best way to bring this to your attention but there is no best way, so I am just going to send you this video." Norris reached into his pocket and pulled out the card, he stared at it for second the inserted it into the satcom console.
"Jack," Norris using Jack's first name got the President worried. "First, I am sorry I did not give you this sooner. Second, this is the enemy you're fighting. The video you are about to see is Cadet Peters and his family in Washington DC on Veterans Day. If you remember, I asked you to commision the Cadet to Second Lieutenant and award him the Distinguished Cross."
President Bryce smiled. "I remember and I remember thinking the request didn't have any details and assumed you would tell me when you were ready."
"You will understand completely once you finish watching the video. It's ready for you now."
The president reached up and pressed a button to start the video. Norris sat and watched and listened to the sound of the video he himself had watched everyday since it was delivered to him. He watched the president's face go from curious, to annoyance, to pride, then shock as he realized what was happening. Norris closed his eyes as the singing began and watched the scene in his head. He still jumped as he heard the shots. He looked at the screen and saw President Bryce's pale white face frozen in abject horror. President Bryce just sat there staring for what seemed an eternity.
Bryce didn't respond.
"Mister President!?" Norris repeated a little louder.
President Bryce looked up at Norris and the look in his eyes scared the Admiral a little. "Kill him Aggy."
"Find Ashwood and kill him."
"Mister President, try to keep calm."
"Fuck calm. Find that mother fucker and skin him alive and then kill him. I want that piece of shit dead. That's an order Admiral. Bryce out."
The screen went blank and Norris just sat there staring at it. That didn't go as expected but hopefully Jack would calm down soon. The president being that angry could be bad, very bad. There was a tap at the door after a few minutes. "Enter."
Myers cautiously opened the door. "Sir?"
"Oh for Christ's sake Myers, I am not going to bite your head off."
"Yes sir, you wanted to know when Commander Rosewood was back?"
"Great, tell him I will see him tonight after he is settled in."
"I will let him know."
Norris paused. "Myers?"
"Go spend some time with Rosewood."
"What do you mean sir?"
"Myers, I can see the way you two look at each other. I know damn well what is going on but, Christ Commander, don't you lose a chance at happiness, god knows there are so few of those chances today. Go spend some time with him. I am fine for the night, tell Rosewood to come see me in the morning."
Myers blushed. "Yes sir and thank you."
0840 EST 19 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Off the Coast of Portland, Maine
Norris looked up from the reports at the knock at the door. "Come in."
Commander Rosewood entered and closed the door behind him. "Admiral, sorry I am late. Captain Hollway was running a Damage Control Drill this morning."
"Not a problem Ted, please have a seat. So tell me about her."
"Oh my god sir, I don't know where to begin. She is the most magnificent thing I have ever seen. Sleek like you would not believe. You can just feel her power beneath your feet. She is going to revolutionize naval power."
"How far along is she?"
"Further than I thought sir. When everything started going crazy a few months back my brother had the team working on her go into overdrive. They are almost done with the electronics installation and want to do sea trials with her."
"They can't. She cannot be seen until we're ready to put her in service. Her sea trials will have to be a trial by fire, we don't have a choice."
"I told the techs that and they don't like it sir, but they are willing if they can send a team along with us."
Norris thought for a second. "I can accept that. What about the rechristening? Are they open to that?"
Rosewood smiled. "She had never been christened."
Norris smiled. "Hot damn. Captain Rosewood, how do you feel about commanding the USS Constitution, second of its name?"
"An Honor I cannot put to words."
Norris smiled, then stood up and walked around the desk and sat back down in the chair next to him. "Anything else Ted?"
"Actually sir there is. The original plans had 16-inch guns instead of the 5-inchers. Someone screwed up and sent a load of shells for the 16s. They are sitting in a warehouse. Forty-five rocket assisted shells."
Norris nodded. "Damn lucky for us. Get with Captain Marshall on the Jersey and arrange transport of the rounds to him."
Norris reached over to his desk and grabbed a box. "Captain Rosewood these were my insignia, I would be honored if you wore them. As soon as the paperwork is complete we will hold an official ceremony but your promotion is effective immediately."
"Admiral, the honor is all mine." He reached out and took the box. "We need to work out the crew issue, there were some petty officers assigned to the project that my brother screened. As far as the Navy knew, they were working with the new destroyer project."
"I am running out of officers and crew. I have asked the Gravely to reduce to a skeleton crew while in Bermuda and send everyone she can spare. That should give you about fifty percent strength. Lieutenant Costa was the XO. I asked him to come with the replacements,. Would you be willing to consider him for your XO."
Rosewood smiled. "Timmy and I were at the Academy together and he is a damn fine officer, I would love to have him as my XO."
"Good, he really proved himself in Daytona and is chomping at the bit to get back into the battle. They are arriving Thursday morning."
"I am looking forward to working with him."
"Ok, start putting a list together of all the personnel you're going to need to crew her. I will check in with you later."
"Admiral, thank you again for this opportunity."
"Don't thank me Captain you earned it. Now get back to work."
As Rosewood was leaving Myers entered and Norris noticed the quick smile they exchanged. "What's up Myers?"
"Sir, the ground troops report ready to begin movement to Saco. Captain Miller says weather is clear and has resumed flying sorties. The AC-130 from Orlando arrived late last night and the pilots report they will be ready to support the attack tonight."
"Good, have Bucky and Felix move their elements to get a visual on enemy positions and have New Jersey join the fun."
Norris closed his eyes and the doll with the red dress was still there. He sighed, opened his eyes, and made his way to the Infirmary.
McCray looked up when he entered. "Admiral, you're becoming a fixture around here."
"You complaining McCray? Because I can move my office here if you would like."
McCray snickered. "That won't be necessary sir, you can visit as often as you like."
Norris nodded and walked over to Peters. "Lieutenant, I know last night was tough on you but I want to thank you. The people there will support us to the end without doubt or hesitation, however, I am sorry I put you through that."
Peters sat up in his bed a little. "Admiral, I understand and would do it again if needed. I was thinking about it and once I can get up and out more, maybe I can help do some recruiting or getting the people to understand we are here to help."
Norris sat down in the chair beside the bed. "Back in World War II, there were groups of soldiers that traveled around making public appearances to keep the people supporting the war effort. We might need to reenact something like that. The governor and Senator Horne are putting a committee together to look into that kind of concept, I can suggest you as a military spokesperson if you feel you're up to it?"
"At least it would give me a chance to do something."
"I will talk to them. But not until Doctor McCray releases you and then only until you are fit for combat. We need every soldier we can get on the ground."
Peters smiled. "Yes sir."
Norris rose and walked over to Brett's bed. He pulled the curtain around the bed closed. "Brett, you wanted to talk to me?"
Brett used his arms to push himself up. "Yes sir. First, can I say you are not like any of the officers I have ever met before?"
"I hope that is a good thing."
Brett smiled, "It is Admiral. You are not fighting because someone told you to, or because you want power. You are fighting because you believe in this country and its people."
Norris sat there for a moment with his mouth wide open. "Wow, Brett. That is high praise, thank you."
"Admiral, as a rent boy on the streets most of my regular clients were senior officers, politicians or government agents. There was one agent, Michael Carter, he was actually a good guy for the most part and hated a lot of what he saw. He would vent to me and tell me all sorts of things."
"Like what kinds of things?"
"There are two prison ships in New Jersey Harbor. They are being used to house undesirables, but some of the younger male prisoners were being taken and sold at auction. Homeland Security was helping with these auctions."
"Is this rumor or have you seen this for a fact?"
"Admiral everything on the street is rumor, the talent is finding out the truths in the rumor. Another friend of mine who had a couple of clients that worked on the ships confirmed the story for me. He then got confirmation from a girl that took care of the Secretary of Homeland Security's driver and main bodyguard."
Norris just sat there for a minute considering this new info. "Anything else you want to tell me?"
"Most of the US military on bases that were not loyal to Ashwood have been detained and replaced with troops from South and Central America."
"How did you learn this?"
Brett sighed. "General Connor's aide, a major, would often use me after the general, he liked to bitch about the things the general had him do. One of them was to create a list of what he called potentially disloyal Units and Commanders."
"Did he give any specifics?"
"Not him sir, but I asked around and one of my friends said they heard that a battalion commander from the 82nd Airborne and all his troops were ordered to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. A couple nights later I mentioned to the major that I was expecting the commander soon. He laughed and said the colonel and all his traitorous soldiers were being detained at Wright-Patterson."
Norris again just sat there staring at Brett. "Son, I want you to talk to Lieutenant Payne, my head of Intel, and give him everything you know."
"Yes sir, on one condition."
Norris smiled. "I will keep you aboard the Reagan for as long as I can. Deal?"
Brett looked like he was about to cheer. "Good, 'cause there is this really hot corpsman I am trying to get to know."
Norris shook his head. "And if you get to know him too well he will end up in the brig."
"You're a cool guy Admiral but you really know how to spoil all the fun."
"Get some rest Brett and if I hear about you sexually harassing my crew, you will end up in the brig."
"Hmmm, wonder if the guards are hot?"
1950 EST 19 November 2012
US Navy SEAL Team 4
Along the southern bank of the Saco River
Bucky silently slithered up beside Snoops and tapped him on the shoulder twice. Snoops handed him thermal binos without saying a word. Bucky looked at where he was pointing.
It was a large warehouse-like building with lots of vehicles and soldiers in and around it. "Looks like a command center." His whisper so quiet, even Snoops next to him had a hard time hearing it.
"I think it's division command or at least a brigade command." Snoops whispered back.
"Agreed. They start blowing the dams in about thirty minutes. As soon as the first goes let's have New Jersey hit this hard and see if we can knock out some command and control."
Snoops keyed his radio. "USS New Jersey, this is Juliette 2 standby for fire marker."
"Juliette 2, send fire marker."
"Grid 034764, C and C in two story building."
"Standby Juliette 2."
Snoops and Bucky waited patiently.
"Juliette 2, this is Jersey we show a cluster of four buildings there, can you confirm?"
Snoops and Bucky raised their bino's again as they were looking the internal radios crackled. "This is Superman, I can confirm four buildings, looks like all four are being used."
"New Jersey, Juliette 2, we confirm four buildings all in use, we may have division command here."
"Roger Juliette 2, setting this as marker 3 Delta priority 1 at your command."
"Roger Jersey, I confirm marker 3 Delta at my command. Juliette out."
Bucky nodded and slid back down the small embankment to the rest of his team. "Gather round. After we hit the ADA battery we push through and take that command center if there are any survivors after the Jersey gets through with them."
Everyone gave him a thumbs up and then continued to prep for the assault. A few minutes later everyone's head perked up to listen to the radio broadcast they were all receiving at once through their headsets.
"All Units this is Romeo Romeo, all assets in place, stand by to begin Operation Noah at my command."
No one responded and the quiet night settled back in as they all pulled on their head gear and began moving toward the embankment.
"This is Romeo Romeo, initiate Operation Noah."
"Demo team one stand by......Target destroyed."
"New Jersey, Juliette 2 fire 3 Delta."
"Firing 3 Delta." Bucky listened carefully and soon could hear the whistling sound the giant shells made as they cut through the night air. Right before impact all the SEALs averted their eyes, but could still feel the ground rumble as six rounds from the 16-inch guns impacted all at once. The sound was deafening as the roar and concussion raced toward them.
The entire team moved silently up the embankment and down the other side through the trees towards the battery of air defense vehicles and their security team. The SEALs moved like wraiths through the night and began firing on the sentries who were distracted by the huge explosions behind them.
The SEALs cut through the defenders as if they were targets on a shooting range. They continued forward into the clearing, firing as they moved. The defenders, distracted by the naval fire and now facing the best trained and prepared soldiers in the world didn't stand a chance and fell one right after another. In a matter of seconds all the enemy in the clearing had been neutralized and Germs began setting charges on the missile batteries. Bucky and his men continued on to the wood line behind the ADA unit and waited for Germs and Ghost to catch up.
Face Plant and Ricochet moved forward to the next target, a company of military police securing a major intersection. As Germs and Ghost caught up, the snipers opened fire on the MP's and the rest of the team rushed the company with weapons blazing as they went. This group fared even worse than the ADA team and was neutralized within moments. The SEALs quickly took off their arm bands that helped friendlies identify them and took the places of the MP's. Bucky waved the Roc crew to him. "Go scout the remains of the command center. If there is anyone left finish them." Just as the crew disappeared into the woods Germs pushed the button on the remote detonator and the fireworks from the clearing they just left was an amazing sight.
A second later, two Humvees came careening around the corner from the west. Bucky and Snoops both stood in the road and waved them to stop. The passenger in the lead vehicle stuck his head out the window. "Get out of the way, the Division CO is injured, we need to get him to a secure area."
Bucky jogged up to the side of the lead vehicle and drew his 9mm pistol and fired two rounds, one into the front passenger and one into the driver. He heard two shots near the rear vehicle. One of the doors in the back opened and someone started to get out and made it about halfway before one of the snipers took him down. Bucky looked back at the second vehicle and saw a couple members of his team securing it. He turned on his flashlight and aimed it at the last person in the vehicle.
The general was bleeding heavily from the massive wound in his abdomen. "I need a corpsmen over here now." The general was unconscious so Bucky stepped away to let his medics do their jobs. He looked around and could hear artillery, gunfire and aircraft in every direction. Soaker stepped away from the general, turned around and looked at Bucky and shook his head no. Bucky nodded. "Snoops get these vehicles off the road and hidden. Let's set the ambush here; any attempt of retreat from this area will come through here."
"Romeo, this is Juliette, checkpoint Bravo secured. Establishing ambush. Be advised enemy Division CO KIA."
"Roger Juliette, harass the enemy retreat as much as you can."
Over the next hour Navy SEAL Team 4 ambushed small groups three times. They completely destroyed each group, cleaned up and reset. During the second hour the enemy was in full retreat and there were too many, so the team melted into the woods and awaited reinforcements.
As dawn was approaching, Bucky heard the sound of armored vehicles approaching from the west.
"Juliette, this is War Eagle 1 approaching your position."
Bucky smiled, stood and waved his team forward. "Taxi's here boys, let's go and see if they need us to cause any more trouble!"
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