Dawns Early Light
Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
02:45 EST 12 November 2012.
USS Ronald Reagan
In the Atlantic Ocean Somewhere East of Florida.
Admiral Norris stepped off the back of the plane and looked around. The giant plane, sitting on the deck, still boggled his mind and probably would for the rest of his life. He saw Captain Miller trotting up to him.
"What's up Josh?"
He laughed. "Other than this thing on the deck? President Bryce wants a conference, New Jersey and North Carolina want to know where you want them, the doctor wants to know what the hell to do with these kids, the Supreme Court Justices are waiting on you, oh and we need to figure out how to get this thing off the ship, so we can start landing our planes. The E-2's are getting low on fuel and the fighter pilots are beat."
Norris took it all in stride. "Tell President Bryce I will be with him as soon as I can. I know telling the president to wait is not a good idea, but Jack will understand we are in a bit of a jam here. Tell Leo as soon as they deem they are fit, get all the U.N.I.T. kids in the pilot's wardroom. Tell Myers to make sure they are fed, give them a steak dinner, they deserve it. Have Commander Horne stay with them for now. I will go talk to the Justices now." He looked back at the C-5. "Fuck, see if Illustrious will refuel the E-2s for us, then send over relief pilots for the fighters via chopper and start switching them out until we figure out how to deal with this. Oh, and send the order to retreat from Daytona Beach. Have all units fall back to Bermuda. I want Bucky on board ASAP."
"Yes sir!" Captain Miller trotted away. Norris watched as he stopped for a second to talk with one of the deck Crew Chiefs.
By the time Norris entered the officers' wardroom, where the Supreme Court had been stashed, Doctor McCray was with a team of Corpsmen checking the Justices' vital signs. He ignored them and looked at the two Marines guarding the inside of the door. "Outside and no one enters this room without the express permission of Chief Justice Napolitano, that includes me."
"Aye Admiral." Both Marines stepped out as Norris held his shoulders high and walked to the head of the table they were all clustered at. "Your Honors, I am Rear Admiral Lower Half Augustus Norris, Commander of the US Joint Task Force Nine. I understand you all have questions and may be a little shocked to find yourselves on an aircraft carrier. Trust me, we are just as shocked you are here. First, is there anything you need to make yourselves as comfortable as possible?"
Chief Justice Napolitano stood. "Admiral, in order to answer that question we would need to know how long we are going to be here."
"My apologies Mr. Chief Justice, at this point it is our intention to take you to Bermuda, we should be there in about twenty hours. Once there the Royal Governor and the Premier will arrange suitable quarters for you with the help of the US Consulate General.
Justice Scalia stood. "And just how long will we be held in Bermuda, Admiral?"
"Your Honor, you are not being held anywhere. You are free to come and go as you please. We do not recommend it, but no one has the authority to detain the Supreme Court."
Justice Scalia sat down nodding and Justice Napolitano continued. "So you are telling us once you get us to Bermuda, we are free to return to our homes."
"Yes Your Honor, however you need to be aware should you do that, you will end up right back at Fort Detrick or wherever Ashwood decides it's best to HOLD you. While in Bermuda we will provide personal security, as well as make sure your quarters are secured."
The Chief Justice shook his head. "Admiral, I appreciate the concern but we cannot function under the threat of arms."
"Your Honor, these men are here to make sure no harm comes to you. They are the best trained, most loyal men you will ever meet. You will be refugees on foreign soil. I take your security as my personal responsibility. These men will not interfere with your duties unless your life is in danger."
The Chief Justice cocked his head slightly and smirked. "Admiral, did you just tell me too bad, deal with it?"
Admiral Norris smiled. "I thought I was a little more tactful than that, sir."
"We will accept the security Admiral, until we can operate without it."
"The world is changing your Honor, after recent events the Supreme Court of the United States may need security all the time."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that."
"In the mean time please make yourselves as comfortable as possible, should you need anything please do not hesitate to ask. If you will excuse me I have injured and damage to deal with. I will be sending Lieutenant Roland down to be your liaison to me."
Justice Napolitano nodded his head and sat back down. Doctor McCray followed the Admiral out of the room. "Aggy, I need someone to fly out to Bermuda as soon as possible to get these meds and equipment." He handed Norris a slip of paper.
"What the hell is this?"
"Medication and treatment for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she has cancer and the treatments were interrupted, she is about 48 hours overdue for a treatment. If we don't get her treated soon she will not make it."
"Fuck. Get with Miller, tell him to find a way to send someone to Bermuda to get it."
"Aggy, you told me not to evaluate those kids but the two in my sickbay are wasting away right in front of my eyes. They must have lost 5-10 lbs since they arrived."
"Shit, ok walk with me." They started walking down the corridor and Norris looked over his shoulder to make sure there was no one listening. "Leo listen, these kids were part of some weird science genetic manipulation experiment. They escaped and shut the whole thing down, but the project worked and they are some kind of genetic super soldiers."
"Aggy, I don't have time for jokes."
Norris spun and grabbed his arm forcefully. "Leo, God damn it, does it look like I am fucking joking."
Doctor McCray just stared at him for a second. "My God, who did this?"
"I don't know but it wasn't us, maybe some of Ashwood's freaks, but I don't think so, this is older than Ashwood's term. I do know it wasn't Bryce."
Doctor McCray cringed at Bryce's name and Norris just shook his head. "Oh Leo, for fucks sake! How many times do I have to tell you, Jack knows it wasn't your fault, they called you in too late. He has never blamed you, so stop blaming yourself."
The Doctor just shook his head, reliving the biggest failure of his career. "What do I do about these kids?"
"The rest are in the pilots' wardroom, go and ask them. I have to settle the Congressional Delegation down and then brief the President."
Norris headed to the forward crew mess, upon entering the mess he was happy to see the people were at least being fed. When he walked in he noticed a group of military personnel sitting off by themselves and walked straight to them. He was mildly amused by the fact the Congressmen and women didn't even notice him.
As he approached the military personnel, a US Navy Captain stood and stepped in front of him. "Admiral Norris, sir."
Norris looked up surprised. "Jay? What the hell are you doing here?"
"Long story. They took the Truman away from me and were trying to force me into early retirement. I was at the Pentagon when the shit hit the fan. I got rounded up and shoved into Detrick with the rest of this lot. How the Hell did you get promoted to Admiral?"
"Cathcart thought it would be funny. Captain Hollway, I am short a Carrier Commander, would you be willing to assume command of the Reagan until either SECNAV or the President confirms or replaces you."
"Are you fucking serious Aggy? I would love to get back at these fuckers, shit I would take a destroyer command at this point."
"Ok, head to the CIC, Captain Peterson is there now, she is the acting Captain, but she is a surface officer." Norris paused and looked around. "Actually before you do, get the Ratings and MOS of this group here, we may be able to use them."
"Yes sir, Admiral." Captain Hollway turned and started grabbing the military people while Admiral Norris walked to the center of the room.
"Can I have your attention please." A deafening silence engulfed the room. "I am Admiral Augustus Norris, Commander of Joint Task Force Nine. You are on board the USS Ronald Reagan."
Before he could go any further an onslaught of questions flew at him. He just stood there silent until they realized he wasn't going to answer them and quieted down. "I cannot answer most of your questions at this time, but I can tell you, that you are safe now. I know the last couple of hours were terrifying but please know it was terrifying for us, too. We are currently in route to Bermuda, once there you will be provided with quarters until President Bryce figures out how to get you back to the States. My job was to get you to safety, after that it's out of my hands. You will be on the Ronald Reagan for about twenty hours. I truly wish we had more comfortable arrangements for you, but this is a United States Warship, it's not designed for comfort. I would ask that you confine yourselves to this room; anything you need will be provided by the orderlies. If some of you would like to try to rest, we can clear out a section and set up cots for you. Thank you all for your patience and understanding."
He nodded for Captain Hollway to come with him and left even as they resumed screaming questions at him. As they were exiting the crew mess they were nearly run over by Doctor McCray and two kids, the little Hispanic kid Admiral Norris met in the plane and another, as they were heading for the sickbay. Captain Hollway started to ask a question and Norris cut him off by shaking his head no. Hollway got the message. Norris changed his mind and followed them to the sickbay. When he arrived he saw a couple of corpsmen still stitching cuts on the Air Force pilot who was supposed to fly the C-5. Norris walked over to the pilot, and Dr McCray appeared at his side.
"The bullet wound was the worst, it went clean through, however it shattered the rotator cuff and shredded the scapula and clavicle. We can't repair the damage and are going to have to go back in to remove more bone fragments in a couple of days. He will never regain use of his shoulder."
Norris stared for a second. "Why is his eye bandaged?"
"That's the other problem, shards of glass tore through the eye and separated the optic nerve."
"Leo, can you fix it?"
Doctor McCray shook his head. "No, there is a shard of glass behind the eye, the eye has to be removed to get to the glass, the eye is dead already, we can't save it. The glass seems stationary for now but I need to get him airlifted to Bermuda for the operation once we finish with these other wounds. He is still touch and go at this point. He has lost a lot of blood and is in shock, we have him sedated but if that shard moves at all, it could kill him.
Norris just stared at the bulkhead for a second trying to get his anger under control. He looked down and put his hand on the sleeping pilot's hand. "Thank you for your service son, you have performed your job way beyond what is expected. Now rest and get better."
They all turned and walked over to the two kids being attended by the other kids. The red headed kid looked at them. "They are severely dehydrated and need nutrition, like high protein nutrition. They should be awakening any minute and will need to be treated for heat exhaustion."
As he was saying it, both began to stir a little. They seemed disoriented and out of it. The Hispanic boy seemed nervous, almost scared. "This isn't supposed to happen, Sir. They aren't supposed to be this drained."
The red headed kid put his hand on the Hispanic boy's arm. "They will be fine Juan, their bodies are cannibalizing themselves to make up for the excessive amount of fuel they expended. They just need to eat and eat a lot."
The boy tried to sit up, but Doctor McCray put his hand on his shoulder. "Easy son, you're still pretty weak, just lie still and relax."
"Where are we and what happened?"
Admiral Norris stepped forward and leaned over him. "General Casey, I am Admiral Norris, you're aboard the USS Ronald Reagan."
"I remember you, you're the one who surprised the shit out of Jack by showing up all of a sudden."
He slowly sat up, as did the other boy. Norris stepped back. "You boys ok to walk?" They both nodded yes. "OK Doctor, have them escorted back to the pilots' wardroom and grab the ones I stuffed in my office, so they can eat. The cook should have the steaks ready."
Juan looked up at Admiral Norris."You have steaks on this thing."
Admiral Norris laughed, for being such fierce warriors, they were still kids at heart. "Hell yes, I have them grilling t-bones for you."
Juan smiled, "Adam and Chang may need more than one."
"They can have whatever they want. That goes for all of you, now help them up there and I will meet all of you there after I finish a couple of things.
Juan smiled again. "Yes sir, Admiral Norris."
Norris couldn't help but smile again as he and Captain Hollway headed toward the Bridge. As they entered the Bridge they got the familiar greeting. "Admiral on the Bridge."
"As you were. Captain Peterson, can I see you for a minute?"
"Of course sir." They stepped into the Captain's stateroom off the bridge and Peterson looked at Captain Hollway and smiled.
"Peterson this is Captain Jay Hollway, his last command was the USS Harry Truman."
"I take it he is my relief sir?"
"Yes he is Captain, my apologies but..."
"Admiral, please, it's not needed. I am glad to go back to the Dunham, this old girl is just too much for me to handle."
Hollway laughed. "She is too much for anyone to handle, Captain, but we have learned how to fake it."
Norris nodded. "Peterson, you retain command until Hollway gets up to speed on everything going on, make sure he meets the officer cadre and senior petty officers."
Norris left them chatting and headed to the CIC. The CIC was a blur of activity as he entered. "Sitrep, please."
Miller walked over to him. "The armor unit that came down from the north tried to attack again, during the retreat. Colonel Rodriguez hammered them with the New Jersey again. The rear guard is boarding the landing craft now. The Illustrious has been refueling our planes and getting them back in the air, Bermuda also has two KC-130 Aerial refuelers on station helping. I am keeping a squadron on us and have begun landing the others in Bermuda. We can sortie from there. I sent the relief pilots via helicopter with Leo's list of needs."
"How's Gravely doing?"
"She is making good speed; we have four dead including Commander Fernandez and six wounded. I had the wounded medivaced directly to Bermuda."
"Damn it, Fernandez just had a baby before we started this cruise."
"I know, sir. A baby girl, he was extremely proud."
"Is President Bryce still waiting?"
"No, he said to contact him as soon as you can."
Norris looked around the CIC, everyone was busy, the place was a mad house, every decision he made affected so many people. The star on his shoulder felt extremely heavy right at that moment.
Norris turned to Miller. "What's up Josh?"
"Aggy, you need some rest. You're burning the candle at both ends and you and I both know what can happen."
"Thanks Josh, let me go talk to these kids and figure out what the hell to do with them."
Miller just watched him walk away, concern all over his face. He turned to Payne. "Find Myers and tell her I need to see her as soon as possible."
Norris nodded to the two Marine guards outside the door of the Pilot's wardroom, took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, opened the door and stepped in.
"Attention on deck." The Marine standing guard inside the room called out. Everyone in the room snapped to attention, kids and adults.
"As you were." Norris turned to the Marine. "Johnson, there is a higher ranking officer already present." He turned and nodded to Adam. "My apologies General Casey."
Adam looked shocked for a moment. "No harm Admiral, we don't really wear our rank like you do."
Norris scanned the room and saw all the empty food containers piled up. The group was sitting and cleaning their weapons. Norris walked to an open chair at the end of the central table.
"Ok ladies and gentlemen. First I need to deal with your firearms. US Navy regulations require all firearms be stored in a weapons locker except for the Marines on guard duty. We have room for your weapons and I will have a Marine officer show your weapons officer the location and access process."
Juan started to speak but Adam held up his hand to stop him. "We are in their home and will follow their procedures, just as we would want them to do if they were in our home."
Juan looked down. "Okay."
Adam stared at him for a second. "All of them Juan."
Juan smiled a little. "Fine."
Norris nodded at Adam. "Thank you General, next topic. You all just pulled off one hell of a mission, I expected to walk into a celebration. Why do you all look like someone just shot your dog?"
Everyone just stared at each other for a second until Juan slid a tablet down the table to Admiral Norris. "Sir, watch the video labeled ‘Detrick Withdrawal'."
Norris picked up the tablet and watched the video. The entire room was silent, as he watched. The video ended and Norris slowly put the tablet down. "I take it this is the first time you have encountered such tactics?" Everyone nodded. "Folks, this is a war, it's not pretty and it's not easy. Our enemy has already shown the capacity to use methods that are not only immoral, but inhumane. This will not be the last time we see horrific tactics like this. Yes it pisses me off, but that's why we are fighting the war, to stop this type of thing from happening."
"You want to know what pisses me off even more? The young Air Force pilot in the sickbay fighting for his life. He will probably never regain the use of his arm and he will lose his right eye. He will never fly again. That pisses me off, that man sacrificed everything he values in himself. Why? Because he believes in what we are fighting for. Commander Kevin Fernandez killed in action aboard the USS Gravely; eight months ago Kevin was blessed with a baby girl, he spent one month with her. She will never know her father. Lieutenant Carlos Sanchez, Ensign Mitch Blare, Saber 12 threw themselves in front of a missile to protect the plane you were on. They willingly sacrificed their lives so others may live."
"Am I pissed about this, yes; so much so, if I knew where Ashwood was, I would personally shove a Tomahawk up his ass. However, we honor our fallen brothers' sacrifices by standing up and saying we will stop this, this will not happen on our watch." He pointed at the tablet and looked around the room. "I know what happened in Maryland causes great conflict in each of you, but you must not let it get you down, you have to use it to steel yourself. Let it be your driving force."
He looked around the room and everyone was sitting up a little straighter, their shoulders squared off.
"We will get our revenge, don't worry; we will hit back, and hit back so fucking hard, we will knock Ashwood right on his ass."
Juan smiled slightly. "Thank you Admiral Norris."
Norris nodded and looked over at Jimmy. "Commander Horne, it's good to see you again, it's been years. I thank you for your assistance so far."
"Admiral please, it's Jimmy, I am retired."
"Not anymore, Commander Horne. I am reactivating you and withdrawing your retirement. Your duty assignment should they accept it, is to be the US Navy Liaison to the U.N.I.T."
Will smiled. "Adam, it would be a good idea for someone to guide us while dealing with the US Navy."
Adam nodded. "You're right it would Admiral, we approve of Commander Horne as our liaison."
"Good." He looked at Jimmy again. "You still work for the Navy and will report to me, however we do not need you to be a spy. I don't want to know the U.N.I.T.'s secrets. I just want you to teach them how we operate and develop ways in which we can best work together."
"Understood Admiral, but you're going to tell my wife."
Norris laughed. "Nope, sorry Commander, it would be a violation of protocol for me to brief Senator Horne on Navy personnel assignments."
Jimmy laughed. "Damn you Aggy, you always take the high road."
"Now what to do with all of you? Once we get to Bermuda we will figure out if you're staying longer or going home."
Adam looked a little cross. "Admiral, we fully intend to return to our base, our mission here is done."
"General, I have no intention of keeping you any longer than you want to stay, however once you see the mission we are about to embark on you may want to stay a little longer. On that note." He picked up the phone. "What do you have for dessert?" he paused and listened for a second. "Tell James to get my personal stash of butter pecan ice cream and serve it with the pies. You will have to make something else for the pilots, I want it served to the guests." He set the phone down. "Fresh apple pie with butter pecan ice cream. Someone better save me a slice, but for now I need to go brief the President. Enjoy your dessert. General Casey, when you are finished, would you care to join me in the CIC?"
Norris made his way back to the CIC to try to talk to President Bryce, the effects of the last twenty-four hours were wearing on him but he pulled himself up by the bootstraps and marched into the CIC.
"What the fuck are we going to do about that C-5 sitting on the deck?" He walked all the way in and sat down. "Would someone please grab me some coffee?"
"Sir, we only have two options, we dismantle it and push it overboard. We are not sure we can accomplish that without causing further damage to the ship. As it is we have to replace the forward catapults and seal some micro-fissures in the deck where it touched down."
"What's the second option?"
"Use the harbor cranes in Bermuda to lift it off. We will still have to remove the engines and wings."
"Contact Castle Harbor and make sure they have the cranes to do it."
"Payne, can you get me in touch with President Bryce?"
"Yes sir, give me a minute."
Someone set a steaming cup of coffee next to Norris and he looked up."Thank you Seaman Russell."
"You're welcome, sir."
"Admiral, making the link up now. Just a minute more." The screen came on and the same strange crest appeared, at least this time they knew what it was. As they were sitting there, Bucky entered the CIC.
"You needed me Admiral?" Norris looked over at him and he looked like shit. His face still cameo painted and his clothes muddy.
"Shit Bucky you stink, I have to brief President Bryce, go get cleaned up and meet me back here."
Bucky just shook his head, mumbling something about flyboys and stars, and walked out just as President Bryce came on the screen.
"Good Morning Mr. President."
"Don't you Good Morning me Aggy. What the hell is going on down there?"
"Mr. President, my apologies for making you wait for an update. I was a little busy. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court are secure aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. We are in transit to Bermuda. In order to ensure the security of the Justices I am pulling Task Force Nine out of the Daytona region and regrouping in Bermuda."
"Okay, I don't give a shit about any of that. Did you really just land that fucking C-5 on your deck?" Jack asked with a grin, a serious grin, but a grin.
"Well, actually, yes sir, we did."
"Okay.... so how many medals are we awarding for that stunt?"
"I am already writing up the recommendations sir. The pilots were two of the U.N.I.T. kids and I know they are not US military but I am recommending them for the US Navy Distinguished Flying Cross."
Jack nodded. "Admiral Norris, on top of every single recommendation you give, I am awarding Joint Task Force Nine a Presidential Unit Citation for that mission. That was some damn fine work you guys did, and under some of the worst conditions I can think of." Jack paused and then smiled. "And now you got two fucking battleships with you. Damn, I would have loved to have seen the look on Captain Donaldson's face when they showed up and fired on him."
"Thank you sir, we are honored. The little prick Donaldson was probably shitting his pants. Sir, I have a couple of personnel issues I would like to address with you. First, Captain Hollway, former commander of the USS Harry Truman was in Fort Detrick and is now on board the Reagan; I would like to offer him command of the Reagan. Second, I would like to reactivate Retired Commander James Horne and make him the US Navy's liaison to the U.N.I.T., General Casey has already approved."
Jack nodded, then looked over to the side. "Trent! Get your ass over here!"
"Sir?" Retired Admiral Trent Kennedy, Jack's Secretary of the Navy, said as he walked into view of the video pick up. Looking at the screen Trent's eyes went wide as he grinned. "God Damn Admiral. That was a hell of a operation you just pulled off."
Jack smiled. "Yes it was. Now, what I need you for Trent is this; Admiral Norris is asking permission to do some personnel assignments and re-activations..."
Trent nodded. "Well Vice-Admiral Norris, since you ARE the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, that would be well within your right..."
Norris smiled, seeing his old mentor as Secretary of the Navy made him even more confident. Then realized what the SECNAV had just said and shook his head, even more fucking stars on his collar was the last thing he wanted. "Am I to understand you're giving me another field promotion, Mr. Secretary?"
Trent grinned. "Actually, no. This was confirmed about 20 minutes ago by a Presidential Selection Committee."
Vice Admiral Norris just sat there in shock for a minute. "Sir, are you fucking joking?"
Jack got serious and spoke. "Sorry Aggy, I know you never wanted this. Unfortunately there isn't anyone else in the area. You are the type of person we need leading International Task Force Neptune."
"Sir? International Task Force Neptune?"
"Yes... comprised of the British Carrier Group Illustrious, the French Carrier Group Charles De Gaulle, as well as the two Russian submarines already attached to you. If you need or want anything else, just let me know." Jack said as he leaned forward, the joking time over, now he was getting serious. "And I do mean anything. I will be asking a lot from you Aggy, more than I probably should. But this is war, Aggy, you know that better than anyone."
"Yes sir, Mr. President."
"Now. I need you to do something for me, get your fleet up to Maine. They are trying to hold off Ashwood's troops, but my best estimates say they will fall by next week. So I need you there no later than Saturday. Can you do that?"
"Well Mr. President, I had kind of wanted to visit Disney World first, and after I show you this satellite video recording, I think you are going to want me to take the Marines and the SEALs to Disney World. Ensign Payne, play the video for me please."
President Bryce and his staff sat quietly watching the footage from the satellite play. Norris watched as a range of emotions played out on their faces from curiosity, to surprised disbelief and finally outrage. When the video ended the command center around President Bryce was silent. Bryce took a deep breath. "Okay gloves off, Aggy shut that fucking place down ASAP. Come up with a plan, any assets you need you will have. Admiral Norris I do not want that place standing when you are done, understood?"
"Yes sir, Mr. President. I was about to ask General Casey if his team could join us. While using kids on a mission like this is something that goes against every grain of salt in my body, I have seen what they can do and sir, I need their help."
"General Casey's group is a foreign government in exile, I cannot order them to join you, but knowing what I know about the U.N.I.T., if you show them that video, you are going to have a hard time keeping them from swimming to Orlando right now."
Norris chuckled. "It won't be the first time we had someone threaten that sir."
"Aggy get it done, but you still have to be in Maine by Saturday. I can't lose Maine and they are barely holding on. I will brief you further after you finish up in Orlando, but I intend for you to create a new front and threaten to take all of New England from Ashwood. He will be forced to respond and pull troops from the Western Front."
Norris smiled. "Classic divide and conquer, sir."
"Exactly, I have about three million things to do here, as I am sure you do too, so be safe out there Admiral, and Aggy," Bryce leaned in and almost whispered, "get some rest, you look like hell."
Norris nodded. "Yes, sir. Task Force Neptune signing off."
Norris leaned back in his chair and just sat there for a minute stunned, everything was quickly spinning out of his control. Commander Myers tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a rectangular black box. He opened the box and inside were two rows of three stars, the insignia of a Vice Admiral. They were in great shape but obviously not new. Norris looked up at Myers with a question on his face.
"Sir, would you do the honor of wearing my father Vice Admiral Myers' insignia?" She had a tear in her eye as she asked.
Norris stood and handed the box back to Myers and reached up and took the stars off of his collar. "Commander Myers, lets dispense with the pomp and circumstance, however I would be truly honored and humbled to wear Admiral Myers' insignia. Will you do the honors please?"