Broad Stripes and Bright Stars
Dawn's Early Light Book II
Copyright © 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
1155 EST 22 November 2012
On board a MH-60S Seahawk
En route to USS Ronald Reagan.
Norris looked out the small window to see the chopper carrying the president in formation to the right and beyond that the gunships forming an outer circle. He let out a sigh and looked at the passengers around him. He settled on Alexander Lovell, the president's Chief of Staff, who was staring at him intently, so he keyed his headset."Mr. Lovell is everything ok?"
"Admiral I don't like surprises and neither does the president. You took us off itinerary and are rushing us out to the Reagan with no explanation. I think the president deserves an explanation. Actually I think he is entitled to one."
Norris just stared at him. "Mister Lovell, I have known Jack Bryce far longer than you have even been alive and let me tell you why he doesn't question me in something like this. Because he trusts my judgement. However, if you feel like you are entitled to an explanation, I will be more than happy but first things first. No one in this theater, including the president and myself, are entitled to anything! In this case you might need to be prepared for what is going to happen on the Reagan, so I will share with you. A team of very skilled operatives have rescued some of the president's family from somewhere in Pennsylvania, including his mother. The issue is that they are all in bad shape and are undergoing emergency medical care on the Reagan, and they have taken some casualties. I don't know who is alive and who is dead, so telling the president would have freaked him out for no reason."
Alexander just looked at the admiral and thought before he responded. "Admiral, I am sorry if I offended you. I did not intend any disrespect, I have no idea how I would have explained this to the president. I agree with your call to get more information first. I am concerned about one thing. Isn't your Chief Medical Officer Doctor McCray?"
Norris stared at Alexander knowing where this was going and trying to keep his anger under control. He looked over at the Crew Chief. "Chief, I need a private channel please."
"Yes sir. Use channel four sir."
Norris switched to channel four and waited for Alexander to. "Go ahead Mister Lovell, tell me why you are concerned."
"Sir it's a well know fact the president's first wife died in surgery and Doctor McCray was the attending surgeon. I am concerned that this might be an issue."
Norris took a deep breath. "Mister Lovell, Captain Leo McCray is the Navy's best trauma surgeon. And no one blames him for Nancy's death not even Jack Bryce. No one, that is except Leo McCray. Leo and Jack used to be very good friends but since Nancy's death Leo has not been able to look Jack in the eyes and takes sole responsibility on himself. So let me tell you something Alexander, if you so much as even mention Nancy's name in front of Captain McCray or Jack Bryce while I am there, I will have you thrown overboard. Do you understand?"
Alexander laughed. "Admiral, I think you are misunderstanding me. I am concerned about your doctor not the president or his family. I know that Doctor McCray did everything he could to save Nancy, and so does the president. But in this circumstance Doctor McCray will already be under a lot of stress, add the fact of his history with the president's family and it may be too much for him."
Admiral Norris leaned back and closed his eyes. "I apologize, I am a bit protective of my people."
"Nothing wrong with that Admiral Norris."
"I would rather Doctor McCray be in charge of this than anyone else. He is the best and will do what he needs to do in order to save as many people as possible."
"I am sure he will and I am sorry if I offended you in any way. You are held in the highest regard by President Bryce and that says a lot."
Their conversation was cut short by the crew chief tapping him on the shoulder. He switched back to the main channel."Ok everyone, we are going to be on the deck in about two minutes. Everyone keep your seatbelts on and your butts in your seats until I give the signal to exit. We are the first bird on the deck so once you get out, follow the ground crew's instruction right away to get clear." The chopper landed and everyone waited; as soon as the crew chief gave the signal and the door flew open, Admiral Norris jumped off and immediately walked towards the superstructure where Captain Hollway was waiting. Captain Hollway rushed up to meet him. "Admiral we have multiple wounded and Doctor McCray has started emergency surgery on two casualties. We sent a chopper for Doctor Varner to assist."
"The president's mother?"
"She is ok. Malnourished and dehydrated but the medical teams are working on that."
"What the fuck happened Jay?"
"Sir, as best we can tell, the Bryce family and some allies tried to get out of Dodge and have been on the run for the past two weeks. They got pinned down in western PA or eastern Ohio and the lead agent, Agent Billings, made an emergency radio broadcast that the UNIT choppers picked up."
"Damn lucky they were close. Okay, I will wait here and brief the president."
"Yes sir, his chopper is coming in now."
Norris turned and watched the chopper land. A few seconds later the door opened and the Secret Service poured out before the president stepped out and looked around. He spotted Norris waiting and walked over. "Aggy, you going to tell me what the hell is going on?"
"Sir, the UNIT choppers were en route when they received a distress call from a Special Agent Billings of the Secret Service."
Jack's eyes got wide. "Where are they Aggy?"
"In the sickbay. The good news is other than dehydration and malnourishment your mother is safe. I don't have an update on the rest of the family but I know Leo is in emergency surgery now."
Jack nodded. "Leo is the best we have, I trust him."
"I know sir, now let's get down there and find out more."
President Bryce nodded and followed Norris into the bowels of the floating city. The walk was quiet and tensions were high. As they approached the sickbay, Norris looked back at Myers and nodded. She stepped to the front of the group and held up her hands."I am sorry folks during a medical emergency like this only absolutely essential personnel are allowed into the sickbay. The president and two agents may accompany the admiral; the rest I will show to the officers' wardroom for coffee."
Someone started to protest but stopped when the two very mean looking Marine guards stepped up behind her.
President Bryce turned and looked at everyone. "It's fine everyone, too many people in there will get in the way. This aircraft carrier has the best medical teams in the Navy aboard. We need to give them room to do their jobs. I will join you in the wardroom in a moment when I have a little bit more information." He turned and walked into the sickbay.The chaos of noises, screams, and crying assaulted them as they stood in the doorway. Norris spotted Corpsmen Taylor and waved him over. "Taylor give me a sitrep please."
Taylor looked up and noticed the president. "Yes sir. Mister President sir it's an honor. Sir, your mother is fine. She is one tough lady. We have her on an IV now with a basic dose of antibiotics. As soon as we have her hydrated, we will start her on some semisolid foods to get her nourished. Everyone else is in pretty good shape except your sister Sarah and UNIT member Jory. Your sister took a hit to the chest."
He paused as Jack groaned and leaned against the wall. "Sir, Doctor McCray is treating her now. He has stopped the bleeding and reinflated the left lung. She is stable but they need to go back in to get the bullet out. Jory however, took six hits to the back, the problem is his unique physiology if the wounds heal around the bullets, the scar tissue will press them against the spine."
"Adam took a large calibre bullet to the right shoulder but that went clean through, and he will be fine. Juan is attempting to assist Doctor McCray with Jory but he was impaled in his leg."
Norris was standing there staring at him. "Taylor, let the doctor know we are here and take us to the president's mother please."
"Yes sir; right away sir."
As they started toward the treatment room Norris noticed a body on a gurney. He walked over and pulled the sheet back. Adam came to his side. "Agent Billings, head of Mrs. Bryce's Detail."
Norris looked over at him and stepped back looking at the now nineteen year old beside him. "What the fuck happened to you...no, you know what? I don't want to know; nothing surprises me with you guys." Norris turned back to the dead secret service agent and put his hand on the young man's forehead. "You did your duty Agent, rest now." He paused for a moment looked around and noticed Captain Miller. "Josh, I lost count."
Captain Miller looked over at him and seemed completely dumbfounded for a minute. "I did, too, sir."
Doctor McCray walked into the OR where Jory was. "Ok, what do we have?"
The Physician's Assistant Lieutenant Elsel stood up. "Sir, here are the X-rays. Multiple gunshot wounds to the upper rear torso." McCray walked around and looked down at Jory."Why the fuck is this patient still awake?"
The anesthesiologist got very nervous. "Sir, I have given him the maximum dosage and it still doesn't have any effect."
"I told them it wouldn't," McCray spun and saw Juan sitting in the corner watching.
"Juan how do we knock him out?"
Juan got a mischievous smile. "You got a baseball bat handy?"
"Juan, I am going to kill you for that. Doctor, I am fine just do what you need to." The pain could be heard in Jory's voice even though he was trying to mask it.
McCray kneeled down beside Jory. "Jory your wounds are already starting to close around the bullets and I need to cut them back open and use a pretty gruesome device to spread them as far as I can. The pain alone could kill a man."
Juan hobbled over. "Increase the anesthesia to a fatal dose. Trust me it won't kill him."
McCray looked at Juan and then the anesthesiologist. "Do it."
"Okay sir, but this won't be on my head."
McCray glared at him and then went back to the X-rays to study them for a minute. "Juan how long until Doctor Hayes arrives?"
"She is in surgery in Kettle Falls, sir. She can't get here until this evening..."
"Shit we can't wait. This bullet is less than a half inch from the spine and if the muscle starts to heal it will push the bullet into the spine and could sever it. It could kill him or paralyze him for life."
Juan looked at the X-rays as well. "I see what you're saying. How can I help?"
"You can assist. Corpsman Patel prep the wound area, Corpsman Kinsley get the foreign body extraction tray. Elsel, I want the patient completely strapped down and immobilized."
A round of 'Aye sir' followed. McCray and Juan went to the scrub sink to prep. When they returned McCray looked at the monitors. "Is he under?"
"Barely but the equipment won't allow me to increase the dosage any further."
"It will have to work, let's begin. Juan I am going to make an incision from right above the entrance wound to right below. Once I remove the scalpel insert the wound spreader and spread it open to about 3 cm."
"What is it Elsel?"
"I have serious objections to a child assisting in a surgery."
"Get the fuck out of my OR Elsel. NOW! Making incision."
"Nice work with the spreader Juan. Let's see if I can see the bullet now. Shit the muscle is already closing in. Making a secondary incision about a ⅛ of an inch deeper. God Damn It. The muscle is healing all the way down already; this is not working. Think McCray, think."
The OR was silent letting the McCray try to figure out a solution. McCray looked around and spotted the back up ventilator. "Corpsman Kinsley take the ventilator tube and cut it into ⅛ inch segments. Juan as I cut back the muscle slide the tube sections in, holding the wound open."
"You got it Doc."
Kinsley laid a tray with four tube segments on Jory's back. "Ok, I am going to slide the first segment in. Then make another cut." He carefully slid the small section of tubing into the wound. "Ok cutting, Juan take the next section and slide it in on top of the first pushing the first further down."
"Ok good. Patel I need some suction here. Ok, again making the incision. Juan add the tubing. Perfect, I will be damned this is working. Kinsley more tubing please." The procedure took thirty more agonizing minutes before McCray could see the bullet. "I see it. Extractor please. Shit, just barely have enough room in the tubing to work this. Ok, here we go inserting extractor, careful, careful and I am at the bullet. Deploying extractor tips. And I have the bullet extracting now." The metal cylinder with a little claw like device on the end slowly pulled the bullet back out of the now widened and protected hole it had created. "Now we have to remove the tubing, Juan I am going to reach back down and grab the bottom one and have it push the others back up, as they start to clear use a pair of hemostats to grab and extract them one at a time. Here we go and sliding them back up."
"Got the first one Doc."
"Good here comes the second. Nice and smooth now." Each section of tubing slowly and carefully came out.
"Well done. Now let's close him up. Juan start with sutures deep and work your way back up and then we can prep for the next round. Let's get some new X-rays and I want to see if any more have migrated. We know what we have to do now so everyone get prepped. I am going to see if Doctor Varner is here to help with the other patient."
Leo removed his gloves and stepped into the sickbay. He immediately noticed the secret service agents standing outside Mrs. Bryce's room. Leo took a deep breath and walked in. "Mister President, Admiral."
Bryce and Norris stood, but Bryce walked over to him and grabbed him into a bear hug. "Leo it's been too damn long."
McCray looked extremely uncomfortable so Norris changed the subject. "You got time to give us a status report Leo?"
Jack broke the embrace and stepped back. "Your mother, Mister President, is in good shape, we have her sedated so she can rest. The rest of the group that came in is pretty beat up, broken limbs, dehydration, malnutrition, sprained joints, cuts and scrapes. Jory, from the UNIT, took six rounds to the back. One was dangerously close to his spine, we just finished extracting that, there are five more to extract. Your sister Sarah took a shot to the chest. It deflected off the armor she was wearing which slowed it down. However it did some pretty serious damage inside her. It pierced her left lung, nicked her descending aorta and is resting against the right ventricle of her heart. We were able to suture the nick in the aorta and that is no longer life threatening. We have her on a ventilator so her body doesn't stress the right lung. Doctor Varner and I are going to go in and remove the bullet fragment against the heart and repair the damage to the lung. I will be completely honest with you sir, she is in very critical condition and even if the surgery is successful she will have a long and hard road to fully recover."
"Thank you Leo, I know you will try your damndest as always."
"Thank you sir. I need to be getting back and will update you as soon as I can."
Norris walked him to the door. "Leo how long are you going to be in surgery?"
"A few hours at least and we haven't even dealt with the fact that Juan has an Elm tree stuck in his leg."
Norris looked at him sideways."That's an exaggeration but with these kids it's gonna seem like extracting a tree."
"I am going to get this circus out of your way and get back to shore for the president's lunch with the troops. Good luck Leo."
McCray walked out of the treatment room and noticed Doctor Varner talking with Doctor Campini. "Doctors thank you for coming so quickly. Doctor Varner, Sarah is in OR 1, if you want to review the X-rays and charts. Doctor Campini thanks for coming, I appreciate it."
"Not a problem Doctor McCray I am glad you called me to help. I have been looking at the charts and I am going to reset the break in Corporal Bryce's arm. Private First Class Gaines has a fractured leg that he has been walking on for about a week and Deputy Sheriff Caffe has a torn achilles tendon. I have already made arrangements with Captain Miller for a chopper to take them back to Maine General. You need all the room you can get."
"I appreciate that Doctor Campini."
"Tony please, it's a new world and titles have so little meaning, right now we are all just survivors."
McCray smiled "Very well Tony, I have a collapsed lung and bullet fragment resting against the right ventricle in the president's sister to handle now."
Norris had a hard time convincing the president to leave his family again but Alexander Lovell stepped in to help out.
"Mister President, pardon the bluntness but you're in the way here. These are some of the best medical professionals in the world. Let them do their jobs and you go do yours."
Norris was standing next to Lovell and smiled. "Damn Jack, he sounds like me, I might just grow to like him after all. I will have Myers make the arrangements to move your dinner this evening to the Reagan. We can use a crew mess and any of your family that is able can attend."
Jack looked up at him. "Thanks Aggie, I would appreciate that. Alexander you're right, let's go meet the troops."
The flight back to Portland International was smooth and easy. About half way there Lovell got Norris's attention. Norris looked over at the crew chief. "Chief I need a private channel again."
The Chief nodded and held up four fingers. Both Norris and Lovell switched. "Admiral, I have been thinking and we need a secure place for the president's family and I am going to need help convincing him to not bring them with him."
"Mister Lovell I agree having his mother and family with him will be a distraction so I will work with the locals here and find a place to set his family up."
Norris glanced past him and saw Myers nod. "I will have an answer for you today Mister Lovell."
"Thank you Admiral."
Thanksgiving lunch with the men and women of Task Force Neptune was a pleasant affair. The commanders had done a great job of rotating people through the event and the mess crews had outdone themselves. President Bryce went back and forth from serving turkey and chatting with the soldiers. Norris noticed many times the smile on his face and that of the men and women he was talking with. At one point Jack stood up on one of the benches.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, can I get your attention please. One of your fellow warriors recently asked me 'What do we have to be thankful for this year?' I would like to take a moment to respond to that question. I know what I have to be thankful for and I know what this nation has to be thankful for: You! You, the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, National Guard, Coast Guard, our International Allies and Law Enforcement that have stood up to the tyranny that has brought this country to the brink of collapse. If not for you I would not be here today to eat with you and laugh with you. We have a long, hard road ahead of us but I am thankful all of you are on that road with me. What do you have to be thankful for? That's an easy one too, look to your left and right and be thankful for the fellow warrior sitting beside you. Look over at the man cutting the turkey, Admiral Norris, be thankful for a commander that is willing to risk everything for the sake of his country, and his fellow warriors."
The room erupted in applause and everyone got on their feet. Norris waved and motioned for them to settle down."I know I am thankful Admiral Norris ignored the orders from President Ashwood and brought all of you together to fight the oppression and tyranny that has gripped this great nation. I am thankful that being an American means standing up for what you believe in and being willing to fight for those beliefs. But most importantly I am thankful that I get to be here today to eat a little turkey with you. Even a civil war doesn't stop our traditions. And I am working hard every day to get the American way of life back on track. Speaking of traditions, I understand some of us are going over to the local high school to watch the 2nd Cav play the Marines in a little game of football. What is Thanksgiving without football? Enjoy the food and the game this afternoon. Being a Retired Army Officer I can't help but secretly root for the Cav guys!"
The room erupted in mixed cheers, boos and laughter. "But the Marines are a tough bunch so it should be a damn good game." He waved and stepped down as once again the room erupted in cheers and every person in the room stood and applauded him.
The move to the high school was done in the armored vehicles again. The RCMP team was in charge of security for the event and it looked like they had it well under control. President Bryce handled the coin toss. It was suppose to be a friendly game of two quarters but quickly turned into a slugfest and went into overtime with a score of 7-7. The Cav guys received the ball on the kick-off and Lieutenant Cunningham returned the kick-off to the Marine's 35-yard line. The first play resulted in a sack of Army Sergeant Howe by Lance Corporal Reale. The second down Army gained six yards with a running play up the middle. The third down looked like another running play but after the ball was hiked Howe laterally passed it to Cunningham who in turn passed it to Specialist Jones who ran it in for the touchdown. The stadium erupted into cheers and it took a few minutes to get everyone settled down so the president and Governor Masson could present the trophy to Colonel Rodriguez and the team on the field.
The ride back to the airport was filled with laughter and recapping the game. It was nice to see everyone act slightly normal even if the president of the United States did have to travel in an armored vehicle because the state of Maine was considered a combat zone.
The group flew back to the Reagan for the intel briefings before dinner. Before the briefings President Bryce and Norris went to check in on the sickbay. Doctors McCray and Hayes were leaning over a desk chatting excitedly and didn't notice them enter. Norris and Bryce walked up behind them.
"When I see two doctors huddled up planning I get very nervous." Norris smiled when they jumped a little.
"Mister President, Admiral Norris, welcome back aboard. Your sister came through surgery well; we still have her on a ventilator to give her lungs the rest they need. Your mother is doing great as well as the rest of the survivors. Mister President there are some family members missing, I have not had anyone question your family as to what happened yet and while the need to know may seem great, I advise caution. These people have been through a hell of a lot over the past two weeks and they need time to adapt to the fact that they are safe. Many of them have been running on pure adrenaline and are now crashing. Your nephew Corporal Bryce will not leave this room and still feels as though he needs to be on guard. We have allowed him to keep his side arm for now but he may be experiencing PTSD. Admiral I think he needs a senior officer to relieve him."
Norris nodded. "Thanks Leo where is he at?" Doctor McCray pointed over to the corner where the Corporal was sitting, his arm in a cast but still unshowered and watching the room like a hawk.
Admiral Norris walked over to him. "Corporal Bryce, on your feet." The young soldier stood at attention. "Corporal you have successfully completed your mission. Please report to Corpsman Taylor for a physical and reissue of uniforms. Once completed you will report to Lieutenant Peters for debriefing and reassignment."
The young man looked for a moment like he was going to protest before squaring his shoulders. "Yes sir."
"You are dismissed, Corporal."
Corporal Bryce walked over to President Bryce and saluted him. "Mister President, sir."
Jack squared his shoulders and returned the salute. "Job well done Corporal."
"Thank you Mister President." Corporal Bryce's posture and tone of voice betrayed the pride returning to him. As he started to walk away Jack reached out and put his hand on his shoulder. His nephew looked back and smiled before walking away.
Norris turned and walked away back to the group. "He needs to be kept busy. Mister President, I would like to assign him to Colonel Rodriguez's group for now."
"Do what you need to Aggie, but take care of the kid please."
Norris smiled. "That's what I am doing. So what are you two so excited about." Norris asked turning back to the two doctors. Norris looked past them to Juan sitting on a gurney, pale white, sweating profusely and his jaw spasming. "What's wrong with Juan?"
They both looked over and moved to him. Doctor Hayes started to take his vitals. "Infection should not be an issue and I made sure the wound was very clean."
McCray looked at her oddly and then over at a corpsman. "Get a tongue depressor now." He forced Juan to open his mouth and pressed the tongue depressor against the back of his throat. Juan's jaw involuntarily clamped down on the depressor instead of the normal gag reflex. "Tetanus."
Doctor Hayes looked up at him. "Tetanus? Tetanus has been eradicated for years."
McCray smiled. "Not here it hasn't. He has never been exposed so his immune system has no idea what it is. Ok, get him strapped down I need a 10cc drip of TIG, 15cc drip of metronidazole and 200 mg of diazepam orally, shit, double that and do it every two hours." McCray looked back to the others. "He will be fine, just need to monitor him and treat it until his enhanced immune system figures out what to do."
Doctor Hayes sighed. "We are going to have to come up with an immunization for the kids."
Norris stepped in. "Seems like the perfect project for you two. What else are you working on?" He pointed to the rough sketches on the desk.
Doctor Hayes smiled. "First Admiral let me tell you this man is a genius. His method of getting around Jory's rapid healing was incredible and we are going over the plan to make a surgical device that will help all of us do surgery on all the UNIT members."
Norris laughed. "That's great and I am sure I will hear about it for the rest of my life. Doctor McCray would you take the president to see his mother please. I am going to go get the briefing materials ready. Doctors, I will see you at dinner in a couple hours."
Admiral Norris was standing at the front of the briefing room. "Mister President, Task Force Neptune has successfully secured Bermuda, Central Florida, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York City. We have identified eight different resistance groups across New England, New York, New Jersey and Northern Pennsylvania. We have sent supplies to six of these groups and are still working on the other two. The most effective militia group has been in upstate New York near FT Drum. They have managed to disrupt or stop all reinforcements and supplies out of Drum to the front lines.
"But the enemy is hunting for them very aggressively. They are calling the group the 'fantasmas del jaguar en las montañas Adirondack'. Or more commonly the Jaguar Ghosts. I have considered sending some of my SEALs out to them for a link up when we start to push toward upstate New York."
President Bryce looked up from his notes. "Admiral can they hold out that long?"
Norris paused. "We don't know sir. The mercenary unit Blood's Honor captured the two prison ships holding the Ashwood undesirables. The ships are currently docked near Montauk Point, we are assessing the condition of the prisoners and trying to find a location to house them.
"We have Boston under siege and plan to start our attack as soon as this next storm passes."
President Bryce stood. "Thank you Admiral. You, your officers, and all the men and women of the task force should be commended. Your work has been outstanding, you have gathered allies from every possible corner and you have been hitting the enemy relentlessly. Thank you. This war is changing the face of this country and it is bringing to light some serious issues." He looked around the room and looked into the face of every senior officer. From Admiral Norris to Major Sinclair. "What you're about to see is classified need to know only. I am required by law to read the following to you.
"'Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully or through gross negligence communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.'
"I don't need to tell this group how important and vital it is the enemy does not find out we know any of the following. Let's begin, lights please."
The lights dimmed and a slide projector started the first slide which was a plain white slide with black lettering centered.
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