Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book II
Broad Stripes
and Bright Stars

by Ken Barber


Chapter 13

Published: 2 Jan 17

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

Copyright © 2015 - 2016 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved

1912 EST 22 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Off the Coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Broad Stripes LogoNorris and President Bryce left the crew mess and began walking rapidly toward the helicopter flight deck. Even though the activity on the carrier was at the pace of an angry beehive, everyone they encountered stood with their backs against the bulkheads at attention to make room for the president and admiral.

When they reached Norris's office, the admiral paused and looked at Jack.

"Mister President we need to talk privately."

The president just nodded, turned and looked at his entourage and held up his hand to them before he followed Norris into the office. After closing the door he turned and looked at Norris. "How bad Aggy?"

"The entire Atlantic Fleet, sir. The Truman, Eastwood and Roosevelt with all escorts."

"Can you handle it?"

"We out number them but damn it sir this is gonna get ugly. I have better equipment, better commanders but even then it's four carrier groups facing off with three carrier groups. Sir there is no doubt in my mind this is going to hurt us all."

President Bryce sighed. "Aggy, I know you, I know you well, and there is no other commander I would rather have here, right now. With that said, Aggy, do whatever you have to do; we cannot lose New England and Long Island."

Norris turned and looked at the chart of the Northern Atlantic Ocean on the wall. "Mister President, in the unlikely chance we are about to lose this battle I need to know what you mean by do whatever I have to."

President Jack Bryce sat down, rubbed his forehead with his hand for a moment, then stood and began pacing. He stopped, faced Norris and sighed very deeply. "Admiral as a last resort you have Redfin authorization against naval targets in open water only."

Norris turned and just stood there staring at the back wall of his office. He finally walked over, sat down and waited for the president to sit beside him. "So it has come to this. The fact that both of us are even considering this blows my mind."

Jack nodded. "Trust me Aggy it blows mine too."

"I am not sure I will be able to make that call."

"Let me make it easier on you. You better be the last man alive before you launch those weapons."

Norris nodded. "Understood Mister President. I have authorization to use nuclear weapons against naval targets in open water only." There was a long silence, neither of them wanted to say more. "We need to get you out of here. The Canadians are going to escort you north and then back over to the West Coast."

"Let's go Aggy, and Aggy... Godspeed."

"Thank you Mister President." The two left and continued the walk to the flight deck in silence, both deep in thought.

Norris shook the president's hand on the flight deck and watched his entourage hustle off to the waiting choppers. Alexander Lovell stopped and looked back at the admiral. He walked back over. "Admiral when this is all over you and I need to talk, the president and by default I, have big plans for you."

Norris stared at him for a second. "The president's chopper is waiting, Mister Lovell."

Alexander nodded and trotted over to the chopper.

Norris watched the choppers lift off, turn west and dart into the darkening sky. He stood there watching until they were no longer visible, then turned back to look at Myers. "Command group in the Ops briefing room now."

"Aye sir."

1944 EST 22 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Off the Coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Norris walked into the briefing room and waved everyone back to their seats. "Listen up. Charles de Gaulle will arrive on station in about eight hours, the enemy fleet is about six hours behind her. They know she is coming here and they have not attempted to harass her. I have given orders for the fleet to move to this area here. This is Nantucket Bay, a deep water bay with only three access points, the Vineyard Sound to the west, Nantucket Sound to the south, and the Strait of Nantucket to the east. We are deploying a massive amount of sonar buoys in all three access points. We are deploying so many buoys the sonar guys tell me you could walk from island to island. There is no way a sub can get through that net, making the enemy's submarine fleet ineffective against our surface fleet is step one. This will allow our larger more powerful sub fleet free reign to hunt down their subs." he paused and took a sip of water.

"We have at least three more squadrons of fighters than the enemy fleet and a hell of a lot more surface ships. So getting and maintaining air superiority should be easy. Once we have air superiority we will begin using carrier and ground based aircraft to start hitting the ships. Add in the cruise missile arsenal we have, the New Jersey and hopefully the new USS Constitution and we will be able to give them one hell of a bloody nose."

He paused again and looked around the room; everyone was smiling. "Seems easy, right. We have a defensive position, we have the numbers, we have the better equipment, we have the ground based support." He looked at everyone again. "No one, including myself, would order this attack. It's a suicide mission with no hope of winning. So someone tell me WHAT THE FUCK are they doing?"

Captain Hollway stood up. "Admiral there is no way I would fight this battle if I were the enemy commander, unless he has something up his sleeve we are not seeing. It can't be subs because he knows they won't be effective against a reinforced carrier group in the defense."

Captain Peterson stood up. "Sir we received an intel brief a few days ago about the Egyptian carrier group. That's the former USS Kitty Hawk, Ashwood sold it to the Egyptians his first year in office. The carrier was renamed ERN Mohab Momish. Her escorts include four Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates, two Knox Class Frigates and two Descubierta Class Corvettes. She put to sea a week or so back. According to the brief President Bousaid ordered the group to sea to patrol the eastern Atlantic near the Strait of Gibraltar."

Norris nodded. "If the Egyptian Navy is assisting the Ashwood forces that would add a little credibility to this insane assault but counting on a fifty-year-old carrier with an air wing that has only had four years at best of training still doesn't equal out."

Commodore Chase stood. "Admiral we can all try to guess all night but we need more intel. Should we send the subs closer?"

Norris looked at the map. "Possibility, but they would be at a pretty high risk especially if the enemy has more subs than us. We may have to take that risk if we don't have any other ideas."

Adam raised his hand sheepishly. Norris nodded to him. "What have you got Adam?"

"Sir the UNIT can get close and recon the whole fleet for you without being seen."

Norris paused. "True, do you have the time to spare from getting ready for your mission?"

"Yes sir, I have another team inbound, it would be a slight diversion for them to fly out over the fleet and have a look around."

"Ok, make sure their radar jamming equipment is operating properly before they attempt it. Paint me a picture Adam."

"You got it Admiral."


"Yes Commander Owen."

"Sir what about those new decoy buoys we have. Looking at the map sir, if we placed them with the sonar net and activated them once the enemy fleet got close there is no way the enemy subs could effectively target and engage our ships."

"Good point Commander. CAGs get your ASW guys on it and get those decoys deployed."

Captain Miller stood up. "Admiral we are planning to launch Hawkeyes and expand our radar bubble. We were thinking of rotating the Hawkeyes in and out to keep them from getting fatigued."

"Good plan Josh, make it work. Folks we got another issue. There is a major blizzard on its way and it should arrive about the same time as the enemy fleet. This will be way worse than the previous storm, so ground commanders start putting into effect the same plan we used last time but you won't have air assets. The naval battle is the big issue, how are we going to pull this off in a blizzard."

Miller raised his hand and waiting for Norris to acknowledge him. "Admiral if the weather is too bad for our jets, it's also too bad for their jets."

"True, we may have to stare at each other for a couple hours during the weather." He paused and surveyed the room. "Ok people get back to your ships and start preparing for this. Run every drill in the book at least once, then get your people rested and fed. Tomorrow is going to be ugly. Adam let me know as soon as your people have a visual."

2045 EST 22 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Off the Coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

"Red Dragon, Red Dragon, this is Ronald Reagan, sitrep over."

"Ronald Reagan, this is Red Dragon coming into visual now. Looks like three carriers, nope make that four. A slightly smaller carrier with escorts is about twenty minutes behind the main group. The main group is three carriers with escorts. Not much air activity, just a few fighters on patrol."

Norris looked over to Miller and Hollway. "Keeping their pilots rested."

Hollway nodded, "And trying to screen that fourth carrier from us. Hoping we get cocky."

Norris shook his head. "Something still isn't right." He reached over and grabbed a headset."Red Dragon this is Reagan Actual. Can you get a closer look at the fourth carrier and see if you can transmit a radar profile to us please."

"Stand by Reagan moving in for a closer look."

The seconds ticked by and suddenly the screens before them lit up with a radar image and low light image.

Hollway leaned over the console. "That's the Kitty Hawk alright."

"F-14 Tomcats on the deck," Captain Miller pointed out.

Admiral Norris started pacing. "Adding the Kitty Hawk and the F-14s still doesn't make it an even fight. Those jets are are from the '80s. They are no match to ours. The escorts are antiquated. Why even try?" He stopped pacing and grabbed the mic. "Red Dragon this is Ronald Reagan. Do a hundred mile recon circle around the fleet and head back."

"Roger that Reagan we are going to start south of the fleet and run the circle."

Norris looked at the map. "Red Dragon I want sitreps once every fifteen minutes."

"Understood Reagan."

Norris looked around the CIC. "Something is not adding up. Who is the senior officer in that fleet?"

Payne handed him a file. "Our best estimate sir would be Vice Admiral Wellesley."

"Grant Wellesley. Ashwood man through and through but a very competent commander. He is devious, and calculating... he knows he can't win this. There is something else going on."

Myers walked next to him. "Our subs are in screen position and the Brits contacted the Canadians and got them to move their Atlantic fleet to screen our left flank. The Canadian fleet is mostly destroyers but they are very modernized."

"That's good news." Norris walked over and grabbed his coffee.

Payne stood up. "Sir, I have some bad news."

Everyone in the CIC turned to look at him. "The Constitution just reported that in a test fire of the main Rail Gun they blew out an entire bank of capacitors. Captain Rosewood reports that the capacitors were not installed correctly. He says he thinks the technicians were just trying to rush it."

"Shit how long until she is up and running again?"

"Best estimate is forty-eight hours but they are doing their best."

"Ok that takes the Constitution out of the game."

Miller punched some buttons on a console and the icon representing the Constitution on the giant electronic map turned yellow indicating not battle ready.

"Ronald Reagan this is Red Dragon. We have reached the southern point of our circle, turning west now and headed around… Wait a second what the hell is that?"

"Red Dragon this is Ronald Reagan what is going on out there?"

"Standby Reagan."

Seconds ticked off to minutes and the tension grew in the CIC as everyone silently waited. Norris got impatient and grabbed the mic, just as he was about to the push the button…

"Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan this is Red Dragon. We have another fleet about 150 nautical miles south of the advance fleet. Moving in for a closer look."

The color drained from Norris's face. "Shit, Who and What?"Miller looked at him. "Let Red Dragon do her thing and we will know."

"This is Red Dragon, looks like a pretty big fleet. We count thirty-two surface ships, sending radar signatures now."

Norris looked over at Payne. "Get me the IDs on those ships now. Shit! Thirty-two more surface ships. Myers get me the Command Group and immediate subordinates in the briefing room we need to restrategize."

Myers handed him a file. "Sir this is the profile of the Canadian fleet. With the eighteen ships they have we are outnumbered by ten ships."

2157 22 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Norris stormed into the room without acknowledging that Myers had called the room to attention. "Sinclair I want a battalion of Marines on Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket Island and the elbow of the Cape. Jesus Christ, sit down everyone. Sinclair, once they are secure I want all available air defense assets at those three locations. This is going to come down to air superiority, we are in the defense so let's use the natural terrain to our advantage. Make sure we have artillery with those battalions. If they can engage enemy ships they are authorized."

Hollway chuckled. "Shore to ship fire, we are going really old school. The 105mm and 155mm guns could in fact tear up the ships if they get in range."

Norris looked over his shoulder at him. "Sometimes old school is the best option, but if the enemy gets in range of those guns we are in serious trouble."

Rodriguez stood up. "Sir, if we redeployed the MLRS batteries they would give you more punch and distance. I am not used to using nautical miles so if my math is correct they can reach eighteen nautical miles or thirty-three kilometers."

Norris smiled. "Do it."

"Yes sir, we have one MLRS battery on Long Island. Do you want us to pull it back?"

Norris stared at the map. "No, get one of your troops over on Block Island and secure it. This time of year it should be pretty quiet. Redeploy the battery there to cover the stretch between Block Island and Long Island, giving that flank more coverage."

"Yes sir I will get right on it. Also I will deploy a couple OH-58 Kiowa's to patrol the stretch between the two islands. They have a small radar profile and can target the MLRS with laser or verbal targeting."

"Good plan, but if the weather gets too rough call them back."

A man in his mid-thirties in the back of the room raised his hand. Norris realized he didn't know the man. "Yes?"

The man stood wearing a US Coast Guard uniform. "Admiral, Commander John Ash, US Coast Guard area commander."

Norris almost said shit out loud. He was suppose to meet the commander during dinner. "Commander forgive me, we haven't had a chance to meet and catch up yet."

"Understood Admiral, actually we have been keeping a low profile for awhile now. Seems President Ashwood really overlooked the Coast Guard and technically when Congress declared war we fell under the department of the Navy. I arrived only a few minutes before your dinner to give you force status update and to receive orders."

Norris walked through the room and shook the man's hand. "We are happy to have you Commander Ash."

"Thank you sir. I have a force consisting of one Polar Icebreaker, two High Endurance Cutters, one National Security Cutter, three Medium Endurance Cutters, and two Sentinel Class Cutters, plus quite a few small craft. The Icebreaker, Polar Star, I am keeping in port as she is completely unarmed and ineffective in this engagement. However she can handle the roughest of seas, so may come in handy later. The High Endurance Cutters are both stationed on Block Island and with the National Security Cutter from Long Island, can easily patrol between Long and Block islands. I would also like to move the Sentinel Class, Adamas, to join the group. The Adamas has the most firepower with two 25mm autocannons and the retro fitted phalanx. None of the ships have the firepower to make a dent in the enemy ships but they will be very effective at reconnaissance."

"Commander, you are a God send. Use whatever of your forces you can and take command of the right flank. You and Colonel Rodriguez work together and get those MLRS batteries talking to your ships." Norris walked back to the front of the room and turned to face everyone again.

"Listen up folks, this is going to be a tough fight. We are outnumbered and outgunned. Everything you've learned so far in your careers, everything you know about tactics, everything you have tried before: forget it. No one in this room has seen a naval battle of this magnitude. We are going to push our equipment and people to the breaking point. Nothing about this battle will be text book. We need to think outside the box, create new tactics, we need to take risks. The enemy will expect standard U.S. Naval tactics, I intend to surprise them at every turn. Ladies and Gentlemen no matter how tired we get, no matter how many men we lose, no matter how many ships get knocked out, we do not stop fighting, we do not retreat. There is nowhere to retreat to. Losing is not an option, if we lose this battle, the country loses the war. We will fight to the last man and use every resource we have in our arsenal. They came for a fight and we are going to give it to them. We will hit them with everything we have. And when the sun rises Saturday morning and the enemy fleet is in pieces or running, we will stand with our heads high. We are warriors and our nation has called us to do battle for her, we have answered that call and we will not back down or turn our backs, we will not run, we will not hide, we will not surrender. Ladies and Gentlemen we win or we die. Dismissed."

0347 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Norris awoke to someone calling his name. "What is it Myers?"

"Sir the Charles De Gaulle is on station and Commodore Chase has put her at the back of the formation and gave Admiral Surette orders to stand down as many men as he can afford."

"Smart call, they have been running for days now."

"Admiral Surette and Commodore Chase are in route to the Reagan and have asked to speak to you and Payne."

"Ok show them to my office and I will be dressed and ready in five."

True to his word Norris stepped into his office five minutes later just as the two senior officers were sitting down. Payne was off to the side and James was setting out coffee and tea.

Norris walked over and shook Surrette's hand and leaned on the edge of his desk. "Any trouble getting here Peitre?"

"None Aggy, unless you count the fleet chasing me. We sent a couple of squadrons close and all they did was chase us off. It seems they want us all in one place."

"You got the enemy force report we sent?"

"I did and it looks ugly."

"It is, John and I got to look over the radar signatures of the larger fleet and it looks like the Argentinians, Chileans and Chinese have teamed up on Ashwood's side."

"The Argentinians I can understand, you're allied with the Brits and no offense John but they have always hated you. The Chileans have always stayed out of world affairs and the Chinese are risking the start of World War III."

"I think they want to. If one of our Russian allies fires on a Chinese soldier or ship, that will give them the legitimacy to attack Russia and go for the oil fields in Siberia. Something they have always drooled over."

Admiral Surrette reached over and poured a cup of coffee. "I have always loved American coffee, it's so light and delicate. Tea John?"

"Please, black with one sugar. Peitre you said something about secret communications."

"Yes I sent your man Payne the info. Your Captain Kopland of the USS John Worden figured it out. Basically every American ship is a secret communication relay for this Army of God, who is in turn sending the information to Ashwood. Lieutenant Payne could you explain a little more please?"

"My pleasure Admiral Surette. Basically there are secret transmitters and receivers on almost every U.S. ship in the fleet."

Norris stood up. "How is that possible?"

"Well sir they use our radar system and transmit using a device attached to the crew mess microwaves….."

After a few minutes of listening to Payne drone on about signals and microwaves and devices Norris held up his hand. "Got it Payne. You're telling me they have turned every American warship into a communication relay and can monitor our communications. Can we disable them?"

"Sir, not every ship. We have scoured the Reagan and didn't find the transmitters. Either they assumed it would not be necessary or they didn't get a chance before you surprised them. Also the Fort Worth and Jason Dunham were clear. As far as disabling, well sir Captain Kopland's group has devised a way to send a virus through the signal knocking out all of the transmitters. But we will need to take our systems off-line while the virus works."

Norris paced back and forth for a few minutes. "Can we trace the communications signals and get target locations?"

"It's possible sir. Kind of the same way we are tracing the communication from the enemy fleet. It's gonna take a lot of work."

"Get all the help you need. Get in touch with Kopland and see how his people figured it out, that might help."

"Sir there is something you should know. Kopland's people didn't figure it out, it was a small group of genius kids that figured it out. They are the ones responsible for shutting down the Ashwood communications hubs, throwing the Ashwood forces into disarray right after the election."

"I don't give a shit if it was a fucking herd of cats, get them figuring out how to use this to our advantage and do it now."

"Sir, yes sir." Payne turned and very quickly left the office.

John Chase chuckled. "Well Aggy I guess the rumors about you before a cup of coffee are true."

Norris laughed. "Shut up John, let's get Peitre up to speed on the plans so far."

0420 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Norris was sitting in the command chair listening to the attack on the train. So far it was going like clockwork and even though the enemy was sending in a quick response force, Norris was not concerned. The best troops in the world… and other worlds apparently were on the job. He listened as the enemy troops came on the scene and the teams started to fall back delaying them. Classic maneuver and should buy them the time they need. The last Osprey carrying civilians lifted off and Bucky and his team began their final stand waiting for their turn to bug out.

The battle was getting really hot, Bucky, Adam and their teams were feeling the pressure just as the Ospreys arrived to get them out. Norris listened as the troops were loading up, still firing on the enemy as they went. Bucky was one of the last as usual. From one of the SEAL radios he heard the cry "INCOMING" seconds later. Norris stood up. Seconds later the radios exploded with the noise of multiple calls for Bucky and Adam. The calls went unanswered.

Norris grabbed a radio. "Romeo team, this in Ronald Reagan, sitrep over."

A few seconds passed. "Romeo team this is Ronald Reagan Actual, sitrep over."

"Ronald Reagan this is Romeo Bravo, Romeo Actual is down."

Norris gripped the edge of the console. "How bad Romeo?"

"Bucky and Adam are both gone."

The controller looked up at him. "Sir, they just called in an airstrike on the entire area.

The CIC fell completely quiet. Norris just stood there for a second gripping the edge of the console. He picked up the mic and changed the channel. "Magi this is Ronald Reagan over."

"This is Magi Actual go ahead."

"Shelton make sure no one calls off the airstrike. I want the entire area destroyed."

"Understood, Reagan. I am transmitting command override codes to planes now. Only you can call them back."

"Ronald Reagan out." Norris dropped the mic on the console and walked out of the CIC.

0630 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Admiral Norris stood on the catwalk outside the CIC and watched the snow falling. He heard someone walk out beside him but did not turn to look.

"It's really starting to pick up Aggy."

Norris finally turned and looked at Captain Miller. "It's gonna get ugly Josh.

Miller sighed. "You ok sir?"

"He was a friend Josh and I care about him immensely but Bucky was a true soldier and he knew the risks as we all do. No... I am not okay but I don't have time to mourn. We will mourn when the day is won."

"You gonna tell Colonel Rodriguez."

"I am torn on that. He deserves to know but I need his head here."

"If it were one of us we would want to know, sir."

"I know Josh, I know. The enemy fleet still just sitting there?"

"Yes sir. Right out in the middle of the Atlantic about eight hours out from us."

"What the hell are they doing?"

"The Atlas reported the large multinational fleet is still moving and closing with the U.S. fleet. The former Kitty Hawk is already on station with the other three carriers."

"Do we come out of our defensive position and assault before they link up?"

Captain Miller stood there and stared out into the snow for a minute. "I think that's what they want. The two carrier fleets duke it out and the smaller fleet sweeps in after and finish us off."

"That's what I keep thinking. So we just sit here and wait?"

Captain Miller took a deep breath. "I have an idea and it might be a little crazy."

"Josh I think we need crazy right now."

"Ok so our subs are tracking the enemy fleet and we have identified two enemy subs so far."

"That's right, but we have to assume there are more."

"Yes but if we timed this right we could create some havoc on the Kitty Hawk and maybe expose some more of the enemy subs."

Norris turned to look back at the swirling snow. "I am listening."

Josh reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "I bummed these from Jackson." He handed one to Norris and took one himself.

Norris took it and then offered a lighter. "I am gonna need to promote him."

Josh chuckled. "You know those decoy buoys?"

"Sure, the ones that emit a sound wave to make them look like subs or surface ships."

"Yes well the technology is there for it to work with radar as well, and we have a lot of the transmitters. The drone guys tell me we could quickly install them on the drones."

Norris turned to look at him again. "And make it look like we have more aircraft in the air than we do. But how effective is that if we can't get our planes in the air because of this weather."

"We do have a plane that can go through this weather and tear up the Kitty Hawk at the same time, plus we have about fifty extreme weather drones."

Norris furrowed his brow. "One plane?"

"Yup and she has the radar signature of an old school bomber. The AC-130."

Norris reached over and grasped Josh's shoulder. "Son of a bitch, make it look like a shit load of bombers during the height of the storm and the gunship rips into the Kitty Hawk."

"We will more than likely lose the AC-130 in the process."

Norris thought for a minute. "If we time the attack and have the subs engage at the same time, we could create enough confusion to give the crew enough time to get her the hell out."

"We could effectively take out two subs and at least keep the Kitty Hawk from participating in the battle."

Norris started pacing. "The extreme weather drones, do they have hard points?"

"Yes, we could mount harpoons, two on each drone. Plus LRASM's on the AC-130."

Norris stopped. "How much damage will 100 harpoons do?"

"If we target the flight deck and superstructure, enough to send her home. The LRASMs would target the superstructure and if following the harpoons, they should slip through the AMDs. Most of the harpoons won't make it through but even if the missiles don't, it will create enough of a distraction for the Spectre to engage with the 105 and its four SDBs. The SDBs are being fitted with landing strip warheads as we speak. They should rip apart enough deck plates to keep her from launching an aircraft for a long time."

"How far out will they pick up the drones and AC-130?"

"Not too far. The blizzard will keep visibility low and radar cluttered. We already talked with the pilots and they are sure they can skim the tops of the waves mixing with the surface clutter. They can climb and start firing when they are on top of the carrier."

Norris took a deep breath. "It's risky Josh, but we have to take risks…." Norris turned and looked out. "They want us here bottled up for some reason, let's call their bluff. The weather is still ok to get the jets in the air. I want a full scale aerial strike, all squadrons, all planes. Hit them, take out some of their aircraft, try to get some missile or torpedo impacts on some of the escorts and pull back. Wait for the storm to reach its full crescendo and then hit them with the Spectre and drone attack. When the weather starts to slack we hit them again with a full scale aerial assault."

"I will draw up the plans."

Norris turned and put his hand on Captain Miller's arm. "Josh I am glad I have you with me."

Miller smiled. "No place I would rather be Aggy. If anyone can get us through this, it's you." He turned and walked into the CIC.

0745 EST 23 November 2012
1/2nd ACR HQ
Block Island

Norris stood with his back to the lighthouse, his helicopter with the rotors still turning behind the lighthouse. He was holding Flex to his chest as the colonel let out all his grief and anger in one rush.

Rodriguez pushed away from the admiral.

"Sorry sir. I lost myself there."

"Don't you fucking dare apologize Felix. He was my friend too. Bucky was like a son to me and this is killing me. But we have a battle to fight and I can't afford the time to mourn, and I am sorry but you can't either."

"I know sir, Bucky always said, 'Soldier first before anything else'. We are going to crush the enemy and when this is done, we will mourn him. He deserves for us to fight on and I promise you Admiral I will fight on for Bucky."

1135 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Norris quietly stepped into the back of the pilot briefing room and watched Captain Miller address the squadron leaders. Usually he would address all the pilots but this mission was just too large.

"The object here is not an extended engagement. Lead Squadrons, your job is to pull the defending aircraft away so the follow on squadrons can launch missiles and drop torpedoes. The object is to do as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time possible and get the hell out of there. Your assignments and formations are in the briefing notes. Any questions?"

One man raised his hand. "Yes Lieutenant Groves."

"Sir if we see targets of opportunity should we engage?"

"In this scenario yes. Do as much damage as you can, but do not, I repeat do not lose focus on your primary area of responsibility. Any other questions?" No one raised their hands. "Ok squadron leaders we are wheels up in one hour, get your people briefed up and start doing preflight checks. Godspeed Brothers I will see you when you get back. TASK FORCE ATTENTION!! DISMISSED!"

Miller walked to the back of the room. "Didn't see you come in Aggy."

"Didn't want to be seen. Just wanted to reminisce about sitting here listening to some old CAG drone on while we were chomping at the bit to get our asses in the air."

"Those were the days and now we are the old men droning on. Got some good news. Our puddle jumper friend Commander Ash has two WC-130Js. One is a weather recon command center with almost the same equipment as our Hawkeyes."

"So that means we have an airborne command center we can keep up during the storm."

"Yup she is taking off from Portland now and joining us in about an hour. I sent a couple of our Hawkeye controllers to join their crews to help liason."

"That's damn good news."

"Any word on the Constitution?"

"No, she is still installing the capacitor bank. We can't count on her for this fight."

"Damn, she could have turned the tide."

"We will make do. We have a crazy plan but if we do it right we might just survive this."

"There is hope Admiral, now if you will excuse me, I have to get some jets in the air so we can start kicking some ass."

1405 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Norris looked around the CIC and took in all the faces glowing under the red combat lights. He glanced over to Miller and nodded.

Miller picked up his headset and put it on. "All squadron leaders this is Ronald Reagan. You are weapons free. Happy Hunting Boys."

Each squadron one by one acknowledged and the jets shot off into the night. The snow and heavy winds made this a very dangerous mission but the goal was to hit and run causing as much damage as possible in one pass.

Norris looked over to Myers. "Radio Achilles and Rhode Island and tell them to take out the two known subs. All other subs are to be on alert for any other subs that attempt to attack Achilles or Rhode Island."

"Roger sir. Giving Achilles and Rhode Island engagement orders now."

The CIC went completely silent as the attackers closed in on their targets.

"Sonar, fish in the water, fish in the water, two torpedoes from Achilles and two torpedoes from RI targeting Sierra 1 and 2 respectively."

"This is Big Brother One, enemy squadrons are scrambling. Squadrons 1-6 break right and come to heading 65. Squadrons 7-12 break left and come to heading 115. Attack squadrons maintain course and heading."

"Atlas reporting submerged contact relative bearing 145. Identified as Los Angeles class fast attack. She looks like she is moving to intercept RI."

Norris spun around. "Tell Atlas to snap fire on Sierra 3 and get them to break off."

"Lead squadrons are engaging."

"Josh keeping them moving fast and away from the fleet to draw the enemy fighters away so the attack squadrons can engage the ships." He turned and picked up the mic. "TAOs pick up targeting trajectory from Reagan and prepare to engage Tangos with birds. Squadron fire as follows. "Iron Duke Squadron, Tango 23, Jason Dunham Squadron Tango 31, Marseille Squadron Tango 34. Acknowledge and standby."

"Iron Duke TAO Targeting uplink Birds on standby."

"Jason Dunham TAO targets acquired Birds on standby."

"Marseille TAO. Ready to engage."

"Admiral, attack squadrons in range and starting attack run."

"Thank you Josh, Let me know when they reach engagement altitude."

"Aye sir."

Norris keyed the mic again. "TAO's fire on my command."

"Attack Squadrons report missiles away."

"TAOs kill Tangos with birds. Fire Fire Fire."

"Iron Duke Birds away."

"Dunham Birds away."

"Marseille, Missiles away."

"CAG disengage, pull all planes back."

"Got it pulling them back."

"Someone get me a status on the subs."

"Sierra's 1 and 2 have been hit and are surfacing. Atlas is still engaging Sierra 3. RI and Achilles moving to assist."

"CIC this is Task Force TAO, we have multiple direct hits on Kitty Hawk escorts. Two Perry Class Frigates and one Descubierta Class Corvette."

"CIC this is bridge we are receiving an open mayday from Egyptian Naval Vessels 40.0466 degrees north 69.7469 minutes east."

Norris picked up the telephone-like handset. "Bridge, CIC, Task Force Command. Offer assistance from unarmed Coast Guard vessel Polar Star." He set the phone down and looked around. "Commanders and operators put together a force status report. I want to know exactly how many bullets, missiles, bombs, torpedoes we used and what we have left."

A chorus of "Aye Sir" followed. Norris walked over to Captain Miller and placed his hand on his shoulder. "Nice work Josh, we knocked out three escorts and two submarines."

"Thank You Admiral."

"Begin to plan for Phase two. I want the AC-130 crew in the ready room in twenty minutes."

"Aye sir."

1512 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Admiral Norris walked into the briefing room with Captain Miller and Commander Myers right behind him. The group of Air Force personnel waiting for him, jumped to attention. Norris waved them down as he approached the podium, "As you were, ladies and gentlemen, take your seats. Sorry to keep you waiting. This is Captain Miller and Commander Myers. Commander Myers will be your direct liaison with the tech crew here on Reagan. Captain Miller will be your flight control officer. Major Soto?"

"Yes sir." A young woman in her mid to late thirties stood up and snapped to attention.

"Relax Major, have you briefed your crew on the mission yet."

"Yes Sir."

"Good, there is something I need you all to understand. I cannot guarantee that your are going to make it back. My staff and tacticians tell me this is more than likely a suicide mission. We have looked at this from every angle and we don't have a choice, we need to take out at least one of those carriers. We are going to hit them from multiple angles and with multiple attacks at once. The attack plan is pretty basic, we are going to use drones equipped with a radar decoy making them appear to be B-52s. Your radar signature will get mixed in and as you will be flying as close as possible to the waterline we are hoping you will be missed until you open fire. Once you reach close engagement range you will climb to 10,000 feet and engage the enemy carrier with all the munitions you can bring to bear. The goal is to destroy the superstructure and do as much damage as possible to the landing deck to make the carrier inoperable. Once you make one attack pass, you bank hard and descend to NAPE and get the hell out of Dodge. Any questions?"

A young airmen towards the back raised his hand. "Just one sir."

Norris nodded "Very well son."

"Sir, Airmen First Class MacDonald, sir. Since a Spectre Gunship has never engaged an aircraft carrier before, I am wondering what we are going to do when the enemy fleet sees us, craps their pants and surrenders the whole fleet, sir?"

Everyone in the room laughed including the admiral. "Airman if that happens you turn around, come get me and a special pilot, and we'll land that gun slug of yours on the enemy carrier and then promote you to colonel and that's a promise."

Norris paused and looked around the room. "This is a volunteer only mission, anybody that does not want to go on this mission tell your immediate supervisor and we will find a replacement and there will be no ramifications. I will personally make sure of it. That is all. You are wheels up in four hours, get some rest and God be with you."

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