Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book II
Broad Stripes
and Bright Stars

by Ken Barber


Chapter 7

Published: 17 Dec 15

Broad Stripes and Bright Stars
Dawn's Early Light Book II

Copyright © 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

10:35 EST 20 November 2012
Portland International Airport
Portland, Maine

Broad Stripes LogoNorris watched as the snow began to fall softly. The activity of establishing a command post didn't slow the weather.

C-130's were landing at an impossible rate. The ground crew, pieced together from the two carriers and whatever airport employees they could round up, didn't even have time to unload them. The planes were being parked anywhere they could find a space. This was happening at airfields all over Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Commander Myers walked up beside the admiral. "Sir they are ready for you."

"Thank you Myers. I've always loved the snow, even now I still think it's beautiful… beautiful but deadly." His eyes never left the window in the terminal until he turned around and walked through the terminal to where the airlift planning group was waiting.

They all started to rise and Norris waved them back down. "What have you come up with?"

Major Smiley stood up. "Admiral this is very doable, we have the list of the emergency supplies on each plane as it comes in. We can leave the planes loaded and rig a chute to each pallet for an airdrop. Leave it on the plane as is and then drop them tonight during the peak of the storm."

"The planes can handle it. They are not the J series of the C-130s, which are more equipped for weather recon, but they will get the job done. The pilots are well trained and prepared, the issue is where to drop. We have figured the best places would be open areas. In the cities, that would be major parks like Boston Commons, or Central Park."

Norris sat down. "Ok, How many cities can we hit?"

Captain Barnes of the HMS Illustrious coughed. "Sir, we have enough supplies to make airdrops to every major city in the North East and most outlying areas as well. That would include New York."

"Let's put it into motion, someone figure out a way to include material that would let people know President Bryce and his allies are sending them help."

Lieutenant Payne stood from the end of the table, until that point Norris hadn't noticed he was there. "Sir, this is an interesting idea. Here in Portland there are two major radio broadcast stations; with power we can begin transmitting. Anyone that is in range of the broadcasts can receive them on a standard radio. AM broadcasts have a longer range but less quality, and since we won't be broadcasting music, AM is the best choice. The Fort Worth has an even higher powered transmitter so they can rebroadcast the transmission. We could reach all the way to New York if we push the transmission to max power."

Norris stood and turned and looked out the windows at the snow falling. "How are people going to know to listen?"

"It's strange for me to say this, but sometimes old school tech is the best. When we drop the supplies we also do a leaflet campaign. Commander Patrick is preparing the leaflets as we speak."

"And what are these leaflets going to say?" Norris asked as he sat back down.

Payne smiled."Tune to AM 1660 at 11:00 am Wednesday morning."

Norris smiled. "That's it?"

"Yes sir, you know that old saying curiosity killed the cat? Well just that on the leaflets coming down with the supplies ought to peak some serious curiosities."

"Very well. Major Smiley this is your OP, you have the full support of my staff."

Major Smiley stood again. "Thank you Admiral."

Norris nodded as he turned to leave the room but paused. "Lieutenant Payne may I borrow you for a moment."

Payne jumped up and followed the admiral out the door. "Yes Admiral?"

"Payne I need to know where Ashwood is getting these non-American reinforcements from."

"So far I have only identified Argentina and Venezuela."

"Find out how they are getting here. We need to stop the flow of troops somehow. Also any idea who the enemy commander is?"

"Well sir the 10th Mountain Commander was General Carlton, he was killed in Saco. General Marts was his deputy, but we are not sure if he is still in command."

"I know Marts, not well, but I know him. He is a very careful man, he does not upset the status quo. He might still be in command and if so speed is on our side. He won't react quickly and will try his best to make sure his supply lines are more secure than his front. Get some interrogators to questions the prisoners. Use Agent Clausen to help."

"Yes sir, and, umm, sir Commander Patrick thinks that you should record a radio broadcast speech to the people."

"The hell I will, I don't have time for that shit."

"Sir, no disrespect but I think you should at least consider it. They need to hear the voice of a leader and sir, you're that leader, at least until we can get a recording from President Bryce."

Norris squared his shoulders and was about to admonish the young lieutenant but paused. This man who probably hasn't slept in days, eats standing up in the OPs center, has never questioned an order, and has always delivered whatever Norris needed, was standing his ground. "Very well Lieutenant I will agree, let's do it tonight when things quiet down."

"I will let Commander Patrick know sir." Payne was visibly relieved at the admiral's change of heart.

"Very well, I am going to check on the civilian hospitals with Dr. McCray and when I return we can get the speech recorded."

"We will be ready, sir."

Norris walked off and barely noticed the two bodyguards fall in behind him. He could just about stifle a chuckle when he heard Sergeant Bailey speak into his radio. "Get transport ready, Tomahawk and Butcher will be on the move."

He glanced over his shoulder and smiled at Private Block and Sergeant Bailey. "You guys ready to get cold?"

Sergeant Bailey laughed. "Sir, I am from Nome, Alaska, this isn't even an inconvenience for us."

Norris laughed. "How about you Block?"

"Sir, honestly this freaks me out. We don't see shit like this in Central Texas."

"Welcome to New England in the winter Private. It's only going to get worse."

"Great. Well at least I will learn how to drive in the snow."

Norris laughed. "Not with me in the vehicle you won't."

The trio stopped and looked at the new medical center which had taken over a whole section of the terminal. Dr. McCray noticed the admiral standing there and walked over. "Admiral, you ready to go check on the civilian doctors."

"Ready as ever. How are Lieutenant Peters and Brett doing?"

"Other than Brett driving the staff insane they are doing well. I think they are helping each other heal, they are having fun...odd word in today's world. But they are. It's like Brett has a new older brother and Peters has the younger brother he always wanted. They are getting stronger and will be moving about more, soon."

"Good, I have plans for both of them." Norris was looking over the doctor's shoulder but noticed the shake of the McCray's head.

"You have something you would like to say Doctor McCray?"

"Not here in public, Admiral."

"Ok... let's talk on the ride. Grab your gear Leo."

Doctor McCray turned and walked away without saying a word, leaving Norris standing at the door waiting. He returned a few minutes later with his heavy coat and gloves. Neither man said a word as they both walked to the vehicles. Once the small convoy started its short journey Norris looked over at Doctor McCray.

"Leo, what's bothering you?"

Doctor McCray sat there for a second thinking then looked at Norris. "When did you get so good at using people like pawns?" Norris sat back in his seat with a look of shock on his face, while Leo continued. "Aggy, you are one of the most passionate men I know and you have always been the most passionate about the people under your command. But to hear you say something like, you have plans for those two boys scares me. But not as much as the cold calculating eyes I saw when you said it." McCray turned and looked out the window and stared at the snow falling heavily. He heard Admiral Norris release a sigh and turned and looked at him.

McCray leaned forward. "Lieutenant Perez, pull the vehicle over and you and the driver get out."

"Sir, I don't think I should do that."

"Lieutenant that was an order not a request. The admiral and I need a moment that you do not need to hear."

"Yes sir. Mitchell pull over and get out."

Without responding, the driver eased the vehicle over to the side and put it in park. He grabbed his rifle and jumped out at the same time as Lieutenant Perez.

Once they were out of the vehicle and Norris and McCray were alone, McCray looked over at Norris again.

"Aggy, maybe I was a little harsh, but it's my job to remind you that these are people not just uniforms."

Norris took a deep breath. "Leo, am I becoming the monster I hunt?"

Leo chuckled a little. "Take it easy there Captain Ahab! You're not as bad as Ashwood or his minions. You're a good man Aggy, if you weren't I would not be sitting here having this conversation with you. You should make plans for them, you should figure out how they can help the war effort, but you have to remember they will blindly follow you. Fuck Aggy, every man, woman and child associated with this army you have amassed, will follow you blindly."

"So then, what the fuck do I do Leo? I cannot let this tyrant destroy that which I have protected for thirty-two years."

"I know you can't, but I want you to stop and think every time you have to throw these kids into the lion's den."

"Do you really think I don't Leo? Do you know how many letters are sitting in my office right now ready to be sent as soon as I find the parents or spouses of the kids that have already sacrificed more than I should ever have had to ask for?"

"Yes I do. And seeing you like this now tells me you are still in there. Never lose your humanity Aggy, never."

"You're right of course Leo. Now get Perez and Mitchell back in here before we have to thaw them out."

Leo opened the door and stepped out to signal to the lieutenant, they were ready to move again. Just as he raised his hand, the sound of a rifle shot rang out from the distance. Leo fell backwards against the vehicle and slid down into the snow. Norris started to jump out but was physically thrown back into the vehicle as his security team returned fire. Two Cobra gunships appeared out of the clouds and raced towards the empty building where the sniper shot came from, firing their full arsenal as they moved.

Lance Corporal Mitchell used that moment to pick the doctor up and tossed him into the back of the vehicle. He then jumped in the front, threw the vehicle in drive, just as Perez was diving in yelling. "GO GO GO!"

The Humvee lurched forward and raced down the street. Norris climbed over the center section and was checking on Leo. "Mitchell, Maine Health is closest."

"Yes sir."

Norris was practically sitting on the doctor as he ripped open his winter coat and looked for the wound. There was a hole in the doctor's uniform jacket on his right breast. Norris ripped open the uniform and stared at the bullet protruding from the bullet proof vest.

Leo mumbled something. Norris leaned in. "What?"

"Get off me."

Norris couldn't help but start to laugh as he pushed himself back into his seat. "The old fart is fine; his vest caught the round."

Perez looked back and grabbed his radio. "Tomahawk and Butcher secure, no major injuries, rally at Maine Health."

They raced through the snow covered streets and arrived at the emergency entrance of the Maine Health Center. The escort vehicles blocked them in and the security team quickly surrounded them. They practically ripped Norris and McCray out of the Humvee and carried them to the waiting trauma team.

Doctor Varner started shouting orders and the orderlies and nurses picked Doctor McCray up and put him on a gurney.

McCray tried to sit up but was pushed back down. "This is nonsense, I am fine."

Varner looked down at him. "In my hospital you're not fine unless I say you are."

McCray sighed and gave up. "Last time I go for a nice winter drive with you Aggy."

Norris laughed. "Doctor Varner take special care of him and don't be afraid to use restraints."

Norris looked up and saw Doctor Harkins standing off to the side. "Doctor Harkins, sorry about all this. We were hoping for a quick visit to see if there was anything you needed help with."

"Admiral it's quite all right, I am just glad you both are okay."

The two chatted for a bit while Harkins gave Norris a tour of the facility. At one point they were walking past a door marked prostheses clinic. Norris stopped. "Doctor, is your prostheses research still active."

"Yes, I mean we have pulled all the personnel to work in different areas during the storm but the lead researcher Doctor Campini is still around. Why do you ask?"

"We rescued a teenage boy from Orlando that had both of his legs blown off below the knees. He was a street kid that had learned some secrets from some very powerful people. He risked his life to get us those secrets and probably saved thousands of lives in the process."

"How recent were the injuries?"

"About two weeks ago."

"Tony, Doctor Campini that is, has been working on a project designed for teens. The sooner he could evaluate this boy the better."

"Can you spare him for a few hours. I will have him brought back as soon as he is done."

Harkins nodded and smiled and walked over to another office with the door open. He picked up a phone and pushed a couple of buttons. His voice echoed through the whole hospital. "Doctor Campini please report to your office. Doctor Campini please report to your office."

Harkins walked back out. "He will be here in a minute, in the meantime let me show you some of his work."

The pair entered the dark clinic and the lights flickered on. The first room was a small waiting room with a reception desk at one end. Doctor Harkins led the admiral through the door behind the desk and they walked past two exam rooms. Through a set of double doors and they were standing in the research center. Models of people with different limbs missing lined the wall, tables with laptops and notes and prosthetics filled the center of the room. Just as Norris was taking it all in someone cleared his throat behind them. They both turned to look.

The short, very muscular doctor flashed a brilliant smile. "Admiral Norris I presume. Tony Campini, please call me Tony."

"Tony it's a pleasure, Aggy Norris."

"I hope your interest in my work is purely fascination and not a professional interest."

Harkins stepped beside them. "Actually Aggy might have a patient for you."

The men spent the next few minutes explaining who Brett was and what his injuries were. Tony asked a lot of questions and Norris did the best he could to answer.

Tony smiled and looked like he was about to jump up and down. "Blades."

Norris looked confused. "Excuse me?"

Tony laughed. "Blades." He walked over to a table and picked up a prosthetic limb that had an odd curved blade where the foot would be. "The curved blade is actually a leaf style spring. The wearer would not only be able to walk but run as well, possibly faster than he did before the injury."

Norris cocked his head a little. "They actually look pretty cool."

Tony laughed. "We have a shop here where we can custom make him a pair. Based on what you have told me about Brett, I would design him a set myself. Maybe something that is a little sassy."

Norris laughed. "That would fit Brett alright."

"It's too early for him to begin wearing them. We need the scar tissue to form a little more, however, we have been working on that as well and have developed a gel that uses a series of numbing agents to get the prosthetics on earlier than normal. This will help develop calluses over the scar tissue. When can I see Brett?"

"Tonight if you are willing to brave the weather and snipers."

"Well the weather isn't an issue but snipers are a little out of my league."

"My team is quite good at dealing with the snipers."

Tony laughed. "I would love to meet Brett tonight. Let me gather some equipment and supplies and a couple of trainers. They are like the prosthetics but are just weights to get him used to the feel of the attachment. The feet are removed to prevent the patient from attempting to walk. May I also bring two of my techs?"

"Lieutenant Perez, we will have three visitors returning with us."

"Not a problem sir, I asked for a chopper to bring you back."

"I had a feeling you would. Tony gather whatever your need and meet us back in the ER."

Admiral Norris and Doctor Harkins left the clinic and returned to the ER where McCray was sitting on the gurney talking quietly with Doctor Varner.

Norris walked up behind Doctor Varner. "Doctor Varner, thank you for looking after him, I hope he didn't give you too hard of a time."

Tiffany turned around and smiled. "Admiral Norris, I would say it's a pleasure but next time you want an excuse to see me you don't have to get a friend shot."

Norris stood their speechless. "I ...Um...I wasn't..."

Tiffany laughed. "Aggy relax, I am teasing you. Doctor McCray has a bruised rib and should try to take it easy for a couple of days."

"I will see that he does. Thank you Tiffany, but I'm not sure how I would get on without this cranky old man nagging me."

Tiffany chuckled. "Aggy, it was good to see you, now if you gentlemen would excuse me, I need to get back to work."

Norris nodded at her. "Of course. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday Tiffany."

As she walked away, Norris watched her until she turned the corner. He looked back at McCray and Doctor Campini, who had just arrived. "Ok there is a chopper waiting, let's get out of here."

Norris' security team, McCray, Tony and his techs were all loaded up in the Sea Knight and had just started taking off when Lieutenant Perez handed Norris a head set. "Sir, command center has an urgent message for you."

Norris put on the head set. "This is Tomahawk, go ahead."

"Tomahawk, War Eagle 6. We have a situation developing out here. There is a civilian school bus, thermals indicate about thirty passengers, traveling at high speed being chased and fired upon by two enemy Humvees."

"War Eagle 6, can you intercept and engage without exposing yourself?"

"Roger that. I have two gunships on standby to take out the Hummers and a platoon from Comanche Troop sitting on the bridge the bus is racing for."

"Very well, weapons free."

"Roger, weapons free. Saber 4 and 5 engage the chase vehicles, Comanche Red 1 move out and secure that bus."

"Saber, roger that."

"Comanche Oscar Tango Mike."

The radio was silent for a minute. "War Eagle 6, this is Saber 4, the bus has crashed, I say again, the bus crashed. It's on its side and smoking. Engaging enemy combatants approaching downed vehicle."

"Comanche Red 1 to all Red elements pick up the pace, Red 4 get a security team and medics to that bus."

"This is Saber 4, enemy combatants neutralized."

"This is Comanche Red 1, we are approaching the bus now."

The radio was silent again, the wait was terrifying.

"Dust off, Dust off, this is Comanche Red 1 requesting immediate Dust off, mass casualties. We have about sixteen seriously wounded."

"This is Medevac 1, all units clear the net, Dust off in progress, we have five birds on the way, ETA two minutes. Saber 6 we need additional air coverage on scene."

"This is Saber 6, roger escorts in route."

Norris listened to the now silent radio, a sense of dread growing with every second that ticked by.

"This is Medevac 1, Comanche Red 1, mark the LZ."

"Roger marking LZ with smoke."

"Acknowledged purple smoke..."

Norris switched channels to the internal. "Pilot, get us back to the command center as fast as you can possibly make this thing fly."

The chopper lurched forward as the pilot increased speed. Norris stared out the window and into the snow once again. It really was beautiful.

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