Dawns Early Light
Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
03:38 GMT 10 November 2012
(22:38 EST 09 November 2012).
USS Ronald Reagan.
East Of Daytona Beach Florida.
Throughout the day Admiral Norris had slowly and cautiously edged the fleet closer to the coast of Florida. The major winter storm pounding the southeast helped to cover his approach. Even though most of the aircraft were grounded, he and Captain Miller had taken the risk to keep the Hawkeyes in the air using Passive Radar to monitor their airspace. The subs were patrolling the waters all around them and the fleet was in an open formation allowing them to screen further out. At exactly 22:40 EST The four V22 Osprey VTOL aircraft launched from the amphibious landing docks, carrying the Marine Expeditionary Unit Command Element and the Security Company. The one hour flight was slightly bumpy as the storm was just starting to dissipate. The USS New York, Arlington and Somerset began their race for the coast, to land the rest of the unit. The USS Ronald Reagan and her escorts kept station further back but ready to race in and provide support if it was needed.
The Ospreys landed at Daytona Beach International and were met by Bucky, Flex and a group of 5-ton trucks to move the equipment and Marines to the University Campus. Sinclair, Bucky and Flex headed off to the TOC to monitor the landing operation.
Once inside the TOC and out of the cold, introductions were exchanged and the three got down to business. Sinclair immediately sent two of the Security Company platoons with 1st Platoon Bull Troop to the landing site. Their job was to secure and provide cover for the rest of the Marine Unit coming in on the ships. Flex got the Squadron quartermaster doing final checks to make sure they were prepared to host 2,400 more Marines. Bucky began reviewing the plans for the refugees, so he could brief Sinclair and Flex. The first wave of refugees was waiting for the Ospreys to refuel and then would be taken to the Ronald Reagan. After a slight layover on the carrier where they would then be transferred the C2A Greyhounds, and would continue on to Bermuda.
After making sure everything was going to plan, Bucky, Sinclair and Flex hopped into Flex's Humvee and toured the area of operations. Flex and Sinclair discussed the best ways to deploy their units so they could complement each other. Flex was the senior officer, so was technically in command of the ground troops; however he was very respectful of Sinclair's expertise in the use of Marines and amphibious warfare. Sinclair was excited about working with a Cavalry unit, something he had not had the chance to do yet. The two teased each other insistently, using terms of endearment like Jarheads and Grunts. Bucky just listened and smiled as his lover made a new friend.
After the tour of the defensive positions, they pulled into the University campus to make sure the Marine Command Post was being set up and functioning. Gonzales had everything well under control, so the commanders got out of his way and headed to the landing zone to watch the ships and to see if they could generally be in the way.
By 04:30 EST all the Marines were ashore and the landing craft where moving back out to the larger ships. The three commanders went back to the airport to get the Refugees loaded on the Ospreys and sent out to the Ronald Reagan with Bucky. The hangar was buzzing with activity as all 87 kids were getting ready for the flight. The adults were trying to keep them excited, but a few were very frightened. When Bucky and Flex entered the hangar, a quiet settled over the group. Bucky saw a boy of about eight whimpering in a young lady's arms. He crouched down next to them.
"Hey, Buddy, what's wrong?"
The boy looked up at him. "I'm scared, mister."
Bucky smiled. "Can I tell you a secret? The first time I got on a plane I was very scared, too, and I was a lot older than you are now. The plane we are going on is really cool, it's called an Osprey and it takes off straight up like a rocket ship."
"Really, that's cool!"
"What's your name buddy?"
"Kevin, what's yours, mister?"
"That's a funny name."
"Yes it is. I will be right back. And when we leave, you can sit right beside me in the cockpit."
"Really, you promise?"
"Yes I promise. Now, I will be back, okay?"
"Okay Mister Bucky, I will be watching for you."
Bucky stood up and looked around. "Can I get everyone's attention, please, in a few minutes we are going to get loaded up in some very cool planes and fly to an honest to god aircraft carrier. After that, you will be taken to Bermuda and will spend some time aboard a cruise ship. Captain Norris is the commander of the aircraft carrier and my boss; he is making sure you have a safe comfortable place to go until we can get you back to your homes."
A teenager towards the back raised his hand. "What if we don't have homes?"
"Son, I don't have an answer to that, but I can promise you, when all this is over, we will find somewhere safe for you." By the time he finished, another boy had raised his hand.
"Yes?" Bucky pointed to him.
"Are you really a Navy SEAL."
Bucky chuckled, "Well actually I am the Commander of Navy SEAL Team 4, so that makes me the Boss Navy SEAL." Flex came up and whispered in his ear; after listening for a second Bucky nodded. "Okay everyone, in a few minutes we are going to line up at the big doors in four lines. As you're walking out, an Army soldier is going to give you a warm blanket to wrap up in. It's kind of cold out there and these are military planes and they don't have heat in them, so it's going to get chilly. The flight is only an hour, so keep the blanket wrapped tight around you. Okay let's get lined up and ready to go. Kevin, you're with me."
Bucky took the little boy's hand and stood at the front of a line, watching everyone get lined up. Flex stepped out and came back in with a whole line of soldiers carrying boxes, and they began distributing blankets. Bucky smiled when he overheard one little girl stop a soldier.
"Mister Soldier, how do we give these back to you?"
The soldier smiled. "You don't, sweetie they are yours to keep."
Once the blankets were distributed, the doors opened up and everyone was staring at an empty tarmac. As if on cue, four giant spotlights from the sky lit up the tarmac as the Ospreys descended from above in perfect formation. Bucky just shook his head, as all the kids and even some of the adults gasped in awe. Bucky picked up Kevin and started trotting to the planes as the back ramps slowly came down. As Bucky trotted up the ramp and looked over his shoulder to see all four lines jogging to the planes.
Bucky found the Crew Chief waiting for them. "Chief, this young man is my VIP guest. Can we use the jump seat on the Flight deck?"
The Crew Chief smiled and saluted Kevin. "Of course, any VIP of yours gets the Red Carpet treatment." He reached out for the young man who shied back.
"Kevin, it's ok, he is going to take you to your special seat while I help everyone else get settled in. I will be there in just a couple of minutes."
Kevin nodded and went with the Crew Chief, as Bucky helped the rest of the crew get the passengers settled in. After a few minutes of checking seatbelts and pulling the blankets tighter around the kids, Bucky gave a thumbs up to the Crew Chief and went back to the ramp to check if anyone was on the Tarmac. Flex was standing there and smiled at Bucky just as the ramp started to come up. Bucky waved back and went to the Flight deck. Little Kevin was pestering the Pilots to let him fly the plane, Bucky chuckled and put a headset on himself and another on Kevin.
Bucky cut through the chatter of the Pilots. "Flight leader, this is SEAL one, what's our status. "
"This is Skipper. Status Check?"
"Dusty; we are green to go."
"Ripslinger; green to go."
"Bulldog is green to go."
"Skipper is green to go. Stand by for lift off on VIP Kevin's command."
Kevin's eyes lit up and Bucky leaned over to him. "Ok push that button and count down from three with me when Skipper tells us to. Kevin nodded."
"Fantasia Flight, this is Skipper, all engines to full pre-lift power. We link up with fighter escort at 15,000 feet and cruise at that ceiling all the way back to the Reagan. Stand by for lift."
He looked back and pointed to Kevin. Kevin pushed the button and Bucky held up three fingers.
"3....2....1.... Lift off." The planes all started lifting straight in the air at the same time and Kevin started giggling with the button still pushed. Bucky heard a couple of the pilots chuckle before he could reach over and take the excited boy's hand off the transmit button. The transports climbed and then leveled off and paused as the rotors tilted and moved to the horizontal position. Bucky pointed out the window and watched Kevin's eyes bug out of his head as the rotors shifted to flight position. Once in position, the Transport surged forward and started a normal climb. a Few minutes later they were at full speed and cruising at 15,000 feet. If Kevin hadn't been buckled, he would have jumped out of his seat as two jets went screaming by.
"Fantasia Flight, this is Aladdin Flight on your twelve and six. Clear skies all around."
"Thank you Aladdin. We are at cruising speed and are loaded with Precious Cargo. Skipper is Flight Lead, and Honorary Flight Commander is Kevin."
"Got you Fantasia. Kevin, we are at your command."
Kevin was speechless. Bucky leaned over and shouted to him to tell them to assume escort positions.
Kevin pushed the transmit button. "This is Kevin. Take escort places now, mister pilots, please!"
"Roger that, Kevin, this is Aladdin Flight moving into escort position. Safe flight, sir. Aladdin Flight out."
The rest of the flight was fairly smooth and Bucky checked on the rest of the passengers a couple of times. The plane was chilly but not as cold as Bucky feared it would be. Many of the kids were dozing huddled together. After his last check, the pilot informed him they were approaching the Ronald Reagan. He nodded and got strapped in.
"Lion King, this is Fantasia Flight, requesting approach vector."
"Fantasia, this is Lion King, come to heading 259.56; winds 5 knots from the south; assume horizontal approach."
"Roger, Lion King. Fantasia Flight come to heading 259.56. Moving into linear formation and beginning approach."
Bucky and Kevin watched as the other three Ospreys came up beside the lead plane. Once all four were in formation, they began their descent and out of the front window Bucky and Kevin could see the Ronald Reagan appear in the predawn light. Kevin could barely contain himself. The planes slowed drastically as they approached the carrier and Kevin could see the rotors begin to tilt back up. By the time the transports were directly over the carrier the rotors where in the full upright position and they began descending. The touchdown was exceptionally smooth and as soon as they landed, the ramp began opening and aircrew from the carrier began helping get the passengers unloaded. They hustled them over to an entrance and down to the crew mess. Bucky walked up to Myers, who was standing by the entrance overseeing the passengers. "Myers, I need to see Captain Norris, can you take care of my friend Kevin?"
Myers smiled. "You mean Admiral Norris. He is in the CIC, and I am sure I can put Kevin to work."
Bucky looked at her with a questioning look for a second, then handed Kevin to her. At this point, Kevin was in such shock by everything he just went along. Bucky raced up to the CIC. When he entered, Admiral Norris and Captain Peterson were looking at the tactical board.
"Admiral Norris, sir." Bucky shouted.
Norris spun around. "Damn it, Bucky, I hear Admiral, and I expect your father to be standing behind me."
"That's one hell of a nightmare, sir."
"You're damn right it is. You know Peterson, right? She is acting Captain on the Reagan until I get my hands on a senior carrier officer."
"Thank you Commander Buchinski. I feel a little like a fish out of water, but I will whip the crew into shape in no time."
Norris looked at her sideways and Bucky was a little shocked. "I am sure you will do fine, Captain."
"So Admiral huh? How did that happen?"
"Finally got in touch with Bryce, and low and behold Cathcart goes and gives me a field promotion. That bastard owes me a drink for this; he knows damn well I never wanted a star."
"Well, Admiral, desperate times call for desperate measures."
"If that ain't the biggest load of bullshit ever. What's going on in Daytona?" He held up his hand to Bucky. "Peterson, you can head back to the Bridge and ask Myers to make sure the guests are very comfortable. I want them fed and relaxed before we ship them off to Bermuda."
"Yes, Admiral." Peterson left the CIC.
Bucky watched her leave. "She is kind of a hard ass, isn't she?"
Norris laughed out loud. "She is, but the Reagan will break her."
"Daytona is secure. Sinclair and Rodriguez have it wrapped up tight. Do we have orders from President Bryce, yet?"
"Not yet, but take a look at this." Norris had Payne pull up the video of Vice President Recore being impeached and removed from office and then the same proceeding for President Ashwood. He paused the Video right after the vote.
Bucky looked shocked. "So, we don't have a President right now?"
Norris chuckled. "Keep watching." The video resumed when Speaker of the House Haley Buruel took the oath of Office. President Buruel appointed Jack Bryce Vice President, the Senate confirmed him and he took the oath." Norris paused the video again.
Bucky looked very confused. "So Buruel is the President and Jack is VP, until he takes office on January? Is this all legal?"
"Looks to be legal to me. But watch this. This is like damn good TV." He started the video again and Buruel quickly resigned as President and Jack took the Oath of Office of the President of the United States and promptly nominated Mike Reynolds for the Office of Vice President. The Senate quickly confirmed him and he took the oath. Norris paused the video.
"Little bit of trivia for you, that is the first time a man has held the bible for the Oath of Office and of course you know Mike is the first openly gay man to hold an office that high."
Bucky smiled. "I am kind of proud."
"Good you should be. Now comes the bad part. Between 9:30 and 11:30 Ashwood hit multiple infrastructure targets with cruise missiles. It was a massive barrage and as far as we can tell, the damage and all of the targets were west of the Mississippi."
Bucky looked pissed. "How did we miss this?"
"All of the launch sites and impact sites were well out of our radar range, especially since we are in a passive mode to keep hidden."
"Damn. Are we setting up a counter strike."
"Not yet; we need to get Daytona under control and wait for President Bryce's orders. I am sure he is planning a massive counter strike and will put us to use."
"I hope so, hanging out on the beach in Florida is going to get boring quickly."
Norris chuckled."From your report about the raid on the detention center, I would guess you're keeping yourself busy. How are the refugees doing?"
"They're scared, in shock. They don't understand why this is happening to them. A couple of adults have taken charge, one is a pediatrician, Dr. Harlow; he has taken charge of all the refugees."
Norris thought for a second. "Good, until President Bryce appoints someone, he is now the Regional Director of Refugee Services."
Bucky chuckled. "Did you just make that up?"
Norris laughed. "Yup, let's go meet them and see what we can do to help."
Norris and Bucky walked into the Crew Mess and had to chuckle to themselves. Seeing an aircraft carrier overrun by kids of all ages was a once in a lifetime thing. Many off duty crew members were in the mess playing and generally goofing off with the kids. As soon as Norris walked in, someone shouted the traditional "Admiral on Deck."
All the officers and crew snapped to attention and a couple of the kids tried to mimic them. Admiral Norris laughed. "As you were." Bucky led him over to a group of adults that were chatting with the Ship's Doctor. Norris patted him on the shoulder "Leo, you miserable old bastard, how are you handling all these kids running around."
Leo laughed. "Makes me glad I never had any of my own. Aggy, meet Dr. Harlow, Dr. Gaines and Mr. Hall, they have been looking after this group of hellions since this all started."
Norris reached out and shook their hands as he introduced himself. "I am extremely pleased you have been looking out for these kids. I know your lives and their lives have been in turmoil for the past few days. We have secured safe haven for you all in Bermuda, actually aboard a Disney Cruise ship. The crew is very eager to entertain again and I think you will find this enjoyable, even if it is forced. I have been told the Queen Regent is sending a personal representative to assist you while you are in Bermuda. However, if you have any issues or concerns we will establish a direct communication line to me."
Dr Harlow stepped forward from the group. "Admiral, thank you for everything you are doing for these kids. They have been overlooked and kicked around most of their lives and it's a shame they have to go through this, but at least we can do our best to make sure they know they are still loved."
"The Prime Minister, Royal Governor and Military Commander in Bermuda have all given me their assurance that all of you will be treated with dignity and respect. As the Senior Official Military Commander in this Sector, I have appointed you as the Regional Director of Refugee Services. You are President Bryce's Representative for all refugees until he decides otherwise."
"Admiral, I am honored and shocked. I am just a pediatrician."
"Would you rather me find some bureaucrat, Doctor."
Doctor Harlow just stared at him for a second. "You have me there, Admiral, are you always this direct?"
"If you ask my Crew they will tell I am a very amicable man. Right, Leo?"
Dr McCray laughed. "And full of shit, too."
Everyone laughed and a seaman entered and whispered to the Admiral. Admiral Norris nodded. "Excuse me, folks, duty calls. We should have the planes that are carrying you to Bermuda ready in just a bit. We are retrofitting them for cold conditions so you can travel in relative warmth."
Dr Harlow reached his hand out to Admiral Norris. "Admiral, thank you for everything."
"Just doing my job, Doctor." Admiral Norris turned and trotted back to the CIC.
Petty Officer Walters looked up when Norris entered the CIC "Admiral, incoming data packet from POTUS."
Norris chuckled "Which one?"
"President Bryce, sir. It's an Operations Order."
"Well, it's about damn time. Send it to my tablet, I will be in my office."
Admiral Norris retreated to his office. He was still using the Captain's office and Peterson was using the Admiral's office and stateroom for now. He sat at the desk and opened the file on his tablet and once again reminisced about turning actual pages in a paper op order. Everything was electronic these days, at least they were saving a few trees. Forty-five minutes later, he set the tablet down, rubbed the bridge of his nose and picked up the phone connecting him to the CIC.
"I need Peterson, Myers, Miller, Sinclair, Bucky and Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez ASAP. Have the ground guys take an Osprey to get out here."
He set the phone down and pulled out a notepad and began taking notes from the Op order. An hour and a half later, there was a rap on the door. "Come in."
Captain Peterson poked her head in, "Sir, the Osprey is landing with the shore commanders."
"Thank you, Captain. Have someone show Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez and Bucky to my office and tell everyone else to give me a few."
"Of course, Admiral." She quickly departed and Norris picked up the phone again and pushed a button.
"Seaman James, I have a command briefing can you send a couple cold soft drinks please." He hung up the phone just as there was a knock at the door. "Enter."
Bucky opened the door and stepped in and let a very attractive short Hispanic man in an Army uniform step in beside him. "Admiral Norris, sir, may I present Lieutenant Colonel Felix C Rodriguez."
Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez snapped to attention and saluted. "Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez reporting as ordered, sir."
Admiral Norris came around the desk and returned the salute, then reached out his hand to the Colonel. After shaking hands, Norris chuckled. "So, you're the one trying to make an honest man out of Bucky."
The Colonel laughed. "In the words of the great General George S. Patton, only fight the battles you know you can win. That, sir, is a battle I could never win."
All three laughed at Bucky's expense, just as Seaman James was bringing in a tray of cold soft drinks. "Right over there is fine, James. Thank you."
"I wanted a chance to meet and chat with you one-on-one before I started the briefing with the other commanders, Colonel."
Bucky stood up. "Sir, I can step out?"
"Sit the hell down, Bucky. I meant without all the others, not you."
Bucky shook his head and sat down. "Yes, sir."
"Colonel, how are you getting along with Sinclair."
"Just fine, sir, he is a very competent officer."
"Well, that's damn good to hear. Bucky briefed you fully on what the Ashwood administration is doing?"
"Yes, sir. And I must say, sir, we are pretty pissed and want a chance to do something about it."
"And you will get the chance. I know you, Bucky and Sinclair are putting some plans together for Orlando. With your intel and the recon Bucky will be doing, we should be able to pull something off after we finish the operation President Bryce just sent us. This is going to be a long ugly war and I am glad we are on the same side. From here on out, we will be identified as Joint Task Force 9 and you, Colonel are the ground force commander.” Admiral Norris smiled. "That does not include SEAL Team 4, so no, you won't be Bucky's Boss. He still reports to me.”
Bucky and Felix laughed.
Bucky interrupted. "Sir, I have Snoops and Ghost planning a LRRP into the Orlando area as we speak. By tomorrow morning, we should have some better intel."
Norris nodded. "Good, I don't like the way things are looking there, and we have to do something about it. Colonel, you have any questions for me before I bring the rest in?"
"Are your Troopers ready?"
"Always Ready, sir."
"Damn good answer. Let's get the rest of the motley crew in here." He picked up the phone. "Send in the others, please."
He stood as Peterson, Miller, Sinclair and Myers all filed in. "Everyone grab a drink and find a seat."
Once everyone was seated, Norris sent the files to their tablets. "Ok everyone, we have a Mission; Operation Justice For All. First off, we are in mission status as of now. Mission time is Eastern time, so from this point forward we use Eastern Standard Time. Miller, you have the first leg of this mission."
For the next two hours they went over every aspect of the plan from front to back. They broke up and the ground troops headed back to the shore to get ready for the upcoming mission, and Admiral Norris got all the ship commanders on video and briefed them on the plan. A few hours later, Admiral Norris finally finished all the briefings and sat staring at the map of the East Coast of the US. Still grappling with the fact that the country was hip deep in a civil war. He knew the next day would be spent checking and rechecking everything, until they were sure they had it right for the mission.