Castle Roland


Dawns Early Light
Book II
Broad Stripes
and Bright Stars

by Ken Barber

Completed
Chapters:

Chapter 14

Published: 30 Mar 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


1942 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Broad Stripes LogoThe CIC was quiet, eerily quiet. The storm was raging outside and the wind could be heard howling against the superstructure. The waves were crashing against the hull and the fleet had to keep making small maneuvers in the bay to keep the bows pointing into the waves. The smaller escorts were taking a beating and had been maneuvering around the carriers to keep from getting tossed around too much.

Admiral Norris and Captain Miller stood looking over the weather chart with the Strike Group meteorologist Commander Hanover.

"Admiral, if we launch the AC-130 and the drones now they will reach the assault point at the same time as this high pressure zone. The snowfall rates in this zone could reach 6 to 8 inches per hour with winds gusting up to 60 MPH, you're looking at 30 - 40 foot waves. The enemy fleet is in a precarious position and will be tossed around. I am confident this will affect their response times. If we wait any longer our aircraft won't survive the winds."

Norris stood up. "Miller it's now or never. Final chance to talk me out of it."

Captain Miller took a deep breath. "We are more than likely sending that crew to their deaths, but, we have no other option. I stand behind you Aggy."

"Very well, Operation Spectre Strike is a go. Get the plane in the air and get the drones launched."

The CIC burst into activity like a beehive that had been knocked over. The operators began launching the drones as quickly as they could. The drone controls were divided up between all four carriers and some controls were on the ground. Norris watched the display as it slowly began to fill with electronic signatures.

He looked over at Miller "Activate radar decoys." Miller just nodded and gave the order.

The signatures on the electronic board changed to show 100 B-52 bombers in formation. Norris almost gasped. "I would piss my pants if I saw that coming at me."

"Spectre is in air sir and linking up with drones."

"Very well, proceed."

"Spectre and all drone controllers this is Ronald Reagan. Mission is a go, I say again Mission is a go. Coast Guard Flight 175 this is Ronald Reagan you have maneuver control."

"This is CG 175, Storm Chaser, we have maneuver control. All flights descend to an altitude of 1500 feet and come to heading 045. Winds are gusting at 42 knots from the northeast. Waves are swelling 20 - 30 feet."

"This is Spectre. At 1500 feet. Just in case you were wondering we just washed the undercarriage, not necessary to do it again."

"Understood Spectre. You are cleared to descend to Near As Possible Earth. Use visual to stay above the wave crests."

"Storm Chaser we are going Near as Possible Earth. See you on the other side."

Norris watched as the plane and the accompanying drones dropped off their radar.

Norris walked over to Miller, "Ninety minutes Josh?"

"Give or take. We will maintain radio contact."

"Ok keep me informed." He walked away to the submarine section. "Subs ready?"

"Yes sir. Atlas and Achilles have the destroyers targeted, Providence and Rhode Island have the cruisers. Ready to engage on your command."

"Ok, exactly five minute before Spectre makes its attack run. We sink or draw those escorts away."

"We are ready sir."

Minutes dragged on for what seemed like hours. Norris paced back and forth in CIC waiting impatiently for all the elements to be in place. He stepped out of the CIC onto the outdoor platform and raised his night vision binoculars. He scanned the horizon, visibility was so low he couldn't even see the back of the landing deck. He sighed and stepped back into the CIC.

"Storm Chaser, this is Spectre, be advised the waves are getting taller, request permission to come to 800 feet."

"Spectre, this is Storm Chaser, climb to 800 feet, be advised you could be inside radar range."

"Understood, but if a wave takes us down it won't matter."

"Stay dry Spectre."

Time continued to crawl, the howling winds and pelting snow did not distract from the pressure and intensity of the mission.

"Ronald Reagan this is Storm Chaser. Spectre and escorts are five minutes out from attack point."

"This is Ronald Reagan Roger. Five minutes from attack point."

Norris turned. "Atlas, Achilles, Rhode Island and Providence authorized to kill targets with torpedoes."

"FISH IN THE WATER, FISH IN THE WATER. MULTIPLE FISH FROM ATLAS, ACHILLES, RI AND PROVIDENCE. Enemy ships maneuvering."

"FISH IN THE WATER, FISH IN THE WATER. TWO FISH FROM BEARING 045 hostile fish. Rhode Island taking evasive action. Achilles maneuvering to assist."

Norris leaned over the controller. "Are our torpedoes locked on?"

"Yes sir."

"Tell all subs to assist Rhode Island and then get the hell out of there."

"FISH IN THE WATER, FISH IN THE WATER. Two more hostile fish on bearing relative to Rhode Island. Rhode Island launching decoys, taking evasive actions. Underwater detonations…..Rhode Island reports first two torpedoes went after the decoys. Second set still closing."

Norris was standing straight up looking at the board. "TELL COLE TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE NOW!"

"RI deploying decoys. FISH IN THE WATER, FISH IN THE WATER. Achilles firing on enemy sub."

"Underwater detonations. Two impacts, vicinity of Rhode Island."

"Rhode Island this is Ronald Reagan status report."................ "Rhode Island this is Reagan sitrep over. Rhode Island respond. Please."

The color drained out of Norris's face. "Get Coast Guard search and rescue on stand by. Where is Spectre?""Spectre and drones are two minutes out from attack run. Enemy ships are out of formation."

"Sir, Providence reports enemy sub engaged. No contact with RI."

"Atlas reports Rhode Island breaking up and going down, we lost her sir. She is too close to enemy contact for search and rescue."

Norris paused. "May God have mercy on their souls."

"Sir, Spectre and drones starting their attack."

"This is Spectre, Firing missiles."

"All drone controllers, Fire at will."

"Spectre, we are closing to 105 range. Using guns and 105."

"Sir multiple harpoon hits on Kitty Hawk, but very little damage."

"This is Spectre we are taking heavy fire. SHIT incoming missiles. Firing Chaff and Flares. Still firing. WE are hitting it with everything we have but that big bitch is not taking enough damage."

"Spectre this is Reagan, withdraw."

"Negative we are turning to reengage."

"Negative Spectre; get out of there."

"WE are unloading all ordinance. SHIT VAMPIRES, VAMPIRES! Firing full Chaff and Flare payload."

Norris leaned over the control. "Get them out of there now."

"Spectre this is Ronald Reagan abort, abort, abort, return to base immediately."

"Reagan we are almost finished with our second pass. We can finis….Shit WE ARE HIT. WE ARE HIT. Right wing is on fire. We lost engine 4. Losing altitude control. We are going down I say again we are going down. Crew is bailing out."

"Get out of there, Pilot."

"Negative I still have some control. You want that superstructure destroyed right?"

Norris grabbed the mic. "Bail out Major that's an order. We lost this one."

"Admiral find my husband and kids and tell them I love them. Spectre out."

Everyone in the CIC watched the cameras from the drones as the giant AC-130 with fire raging across the wing, barely in control, and slowly spiraling down, slammed into the superstructure of the aging carrier. The resulting explosion knocked two of the drones out of the sky and washed out the cameras of the others for a moment. When the picture returned, what was left of the carrier's mighty tower looked like a ruined castle. A giant gaping hole, bellowing flames and smoke, was all that was left of what should have been the bridge. A secondary explosion at the base of the tower ripped across the landing deck and tore through the deck plate. A series of secondary explosions underneath the landing deck looked like a string of giant firecrackers going off.

Norris looked around the CIC. "We have lost too many good people tonight. And it's still early. Keep the task force at general quarters. This is not over by a long shot. What is the status of the enemy fleet?"

"Sir former Kitty Hawk is hailing mayday requesting assistance. Mass casualties."

"Admiral, one Oliver Perry Class is going down and two have sustained extensive damage and are withdrawing. It looks like the whole Egyptian strike group is pulling out."

"Well then, we accomplished something but the question is always, was it worth the losses? Payne, get those images and videos from the drones and see if we can figure out what this fleet is planning."

"On it Admiral."

"Captain Miller, with me. Let's plan how we are going to finish this when the weather clears."

"Aye, Aye sir."

Norris and Miller spent the next hour reviewing what they knew about the enemy and trying to strategize how to take on the fleet in the morning. They were still outnumbered and outgunned but not by nearly as big of a margin as a few hours ago.

Miller stood and stretched. "We have to ask the Canadians to help with more air, Admiral it's the only way."

"I intend to, but damn it Josh, I am tired of throwing men and women's lives away. How many more do I need to get killed?"

Miller stood there staring at him for a second. "Fuck you Admiral."

Norris flew out of his chair and got right in Miller's face. "What the fuck did you just say Captain?"

"How dare you, Admiral. How dare you dishonor the people that have sacrificed their lives to save this nation by saying you are throwing their lives away. How dare you disrespect the sacrifices of the men and women of this fleet. How dare you piss on the life work of our friend Bucky."

Norris paled and stepped back. "That will be all Captain, you are dismissed."

"Bullshit, I am dismissed. Don't play that game with me Aggy. You cannot go down this road and you know it. You of all people must keep your head high and you must keep making the tough choices… Yes choices about who lives and who dies. It's not your fucking job ADMIRAL, it's your responsibility. These people need you and they look to you and trust your judgement. If not you, then it will be someone else. Do you really want anyone else deciding who lives and who dies. You at least care and these people trust you. They would follow you into the gates of hell if you ordered them to. You cannot start questioning that now or we will fail."

Norris sat back down. "That's enough Josh, I get your point. Give me a few and we will meet with squadron leaders to go over options for the morning."

"Aye Admiral."

"And Josh… Thank you."

"You're welcome Aggy."

Miller left the office and Norris picked up the phone on the desk. "Tell Dr. McCray I need to see him now… Yes everything is fine, just tell him I said to get his ass up here."

Norris pulled out the two glasses and the bottle of scotch in the desk drawer. He walked to the drink station James had set up earlier and dropped a couple cubes in before pouring two fingers of scotch in each glass. He set them on the desk, sighed and grabbed a third glass and poured scotch in it as well.

McCray walked in, saw the three glasses and without saying a word, sat down and picked one up. Neither said anything for a moment they just sat there sipping the scotch listening the the hum of the aircraft carrier.

Norris looked over at McCray and raised his glass. "Lieutenant Commander Albert Buchinski."

McCray raised his glass "Bucky."

They both downed the scotch and left the office.


As Norris approached the CIC he stopped when he heard Lieutenant Payne call his name. Payne trotted up the passage toward him.

"What have you got Payne?"

Payne handed him a pile of photos. "Troop transports sir."

"Where?"

"These ships that we had a hard time identifying are amphibious assault ships."

Norris stared at the pictures. "With the mini carrier how many troops are we talking about?"

"Sir it's a division."

"Fuck, this was never about us, it was about landing that division."

Norris spun around and walked into the CIC just as Miller was walking out to find him. "Admiral the enemy fleet is on the move."

Norris grabbed a chart. "What heading?"

"Bearing 165, sir."

Norris drew a line on the chart starting at the fleet. "The unidentified ships are troop transports, Josh it's an entire fucking division of troops out there."

Captain MIller's face drained of color. "Shit Aggy they are headed to Long Island. There is no way for us to stop them."

Norris stood there staring at the chart and then moved to the big electronic board and drew a line marking the enemy fleet's expected course. He stepped back and stared.

"Get me New Jersey on the radio now."

Miller was standing beside him. "What are we doing Admiral?"

"We are going to fix Bayonets and Charge."


If you are enjoying this story please let the author know by emailing him at ken.barber@castleroland.net

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