Castle Roland


Dawns Early Light
Book II
Broad Stripes
and Bright Stars

by Ken Barber

Completed
Chapters:

Chapter 15

Published: 20 Apr 17

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

Copyright © 2015 - 2017 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved


Thunder and Lightning

2245 EST 23 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Broad Stripes LogoNorris set the handset down and looked around the CIC. "Ok listen up everyone. We are going to close with the enemy and engage with guns. We have no air cover, and the enemy is attempting to land an entire division on Long Island. We cannot allow that to happen. Flight control operators I want you to keep drones in the air as much as possible. We need as much intel as we can get. Fleet controllers your job is to detect and direct the surface squadrons towards targets. The fleet is in Vee attack formation with New Jersey on point. I want a British air defense destroyer and a French air defense destroyer flanking her. Get two more destroyers on her as well. Their job is to keep the enemy missiles off her for as long as possible. Primary targets are that Chinese mini carrier and those troop transports.

"I want Iron Duke Squadron on the left flank followed by Marseille Squadron and Jason Dunham Squadron on the right, followed by Prince of Wales Squadron. Each squadron will be in secondary Vee formation, carriers to rear. Be aware, once we leave the bay we are outside of our stationary sub screen. Submarine squadron is to hunt down and engage enemy subs before they do too much damage to the surface fleet. The Canadian fleet will approach from the enemy's rear and stay in reserve. If that division lands we will lose New England. The troops on Long Island need to dig in and prepare for the fight of a lifetime. Get the coastal artillery batteries ready. Coast Guard, move to Montauk Bay and prepare to evacuate as many troops as we can." He paused. "We cannot evacuate civilians." He held up his hand before anyone could say anything. "If we lose, the civilians are stuck no matter where we take them, at least if we do enough damage and live to fight another day we may have a chance to retake Long Island, someday. Captain Miller and Lieutenant Roland, a word in private please." He walked out onto the catwalk and waited the couple of seconds it took for Captain Miller and Lieutenant Roland to come.

Once they were out he handed Captain Miller a small black card. "Gentlemen I have been given Red Fin authorization against Naval targets in open water only."

They both just stared at the little black card but said nothing. "Lieutenant I want Vicksburg kept in reserve and have her nuclear warheads armed and ready. I need to know exactly how far out I can use those weapons with minimal collateral damage to the Island. Lieutenant I cannot express enough the need for secrecy on this. Only the three of us and the command group in Vicksburg are to be aware until we need to use the weapons. My intent is to stop the troop carriers before it comes to this."

Roland paused and looked at the little black card in Captain Miller's hands. "Understood, sir. I will get right on it."

"Thank you Lieutenant that will be all for now. Captain Miller a moment please."

The lieutenant left and Miller stood looking out into the freezing cold, snow blown night. "Well Aggy, I had hoped this day would never come."

"Me neither, Josh but we don't have much of a choice. Ashwood has forced our hand. I need you to be my devil's advocate on this. Make sure I don't wait too long or fire too early. Question the order when I give it."

Miller sighed. "I will only if I have doubts."

"No, Josh. I really mean it. I need you to question the order even if you agree. I cannot make this choice alone and I need to make sure I am truly clear in my intent."

Norris leaned over the railing. "I said we were going to throw out the SOP's on this and by God we are. Let's get the fleet into position and begin to disseminate the orders, once the battle starts we will not have much control and it will be up to the individual commanders to carry it out."

The two walked back into the CIC to find it in a flurry of motion. Lieutenant Payne looked up and waved them over. "Admiral we used the trajectory and speed to plot the most likely course for the enemy fleet. They should travel right along this route here. If we change course and slow down to 30 knots we could hit them right here. If they keep formation, there is a small gap in the formation. The only thing in the way of the transports are a couple destroyers and our old friend the Eastwood."

Norris looked over the map. "Lots of ifs there Lieutenant."

"Yes sir, but nothing about this is normal so that's the best I have."

"What's the worst possible outcome?"

Payne looked around. "You mean other than we fail and lose the whole war?"

Norris stopped and stared at him for a minute. "Yes Lieutenant smart ass, other than that."

"The lead amphibious battalion gets on shore."

"One battalion?"

"Yes sir."

"One battalion we can handle. You look like there is something your not telling me."

Payne leaned in and whispered. "Admiral we just did three different simulations and in all three we stopped the enemy fleet but at huge losses. In all three scenarios the New Jersey was damaged beyond repair or she went down."

Norris took a deep breath. "Captain Marshall and I discussed that possibility and he is aware of the risks. They are the spearhead, every gun in the enemy fleet is going to be firing on. Let's make the course and speed changes. Lieutenant Payne's best guesses so far have panned out so let's hope his luck sticks."

Norris sat sipping coffee, waiting and watching as the two armadas of behemoths inched toward each other. As a former fighter pilot this was the part that drove him nuts. Behind the stick of a jet everything blurred by, battles and maneuvers lasted seconds maybe minutes, not hours.

Just over two hours later the radio blared to life in the completely blacked out and silent CIC. "Ronald Reagan this is New Jersey we have visual on the right flank of the enemy formation. Your man was spot on, there is a gap we can slip through. It will just be New Jersey and escorts that get through before we are spotted. Recommend Jason Dunham Squadron engage the enemy flank to draw attention and fire."

Norris grabbed the handset. "Understood Jersey. Jason Dunham get your targeting telemetry from New Jersey and fire on her orders."

"Jason Dunham, understood. Standing by with deck guns."

Norris looked at the charts again and took a deep breath. "Iron Duke Squadron, this is Ronald Reagan, when Dunham fires come to 095, pass behind New Jersey, move to the right flank and engage the lead transports. Wait until the escorts are engaging Dunham Squadron."

"Iron Duke Squadron, Understood."

"Marseille Squadron move into Iron Duke's positions and hold the left flank."

"Understood Reagan."

The radio went quiet and Norris watched as the two fleets once again silently inched toward each other on the electronic board. It looked like a giant traffic accident about to happen in slow motion, and no matter what you can't stop it. Norris shuddered and thought. "Stop it? I orchestrated it!"

Just then the radio startled everyone. "Dunham, this is New Jersey, Fire mission over."

"This is Dunham, Fire mission go."

"Grid 018466 Enemy vessels in the open water, Fire on my command."

"Grid 018466, Enemy vessels in the open water, Ready for your command."

"Standby…. Standby…. Standby…. FIRE"

"On the way."

The seconds seemed to crawl to hours. "Miss up 150 left 45. FIRE."

"On the way."

Once again everyone paused and waited to see what would happen. Norris looked over at the enemy fleet indicators on the board and they didn't seem to notice they were being fired on.

"Hit Hit Fire for effect."

"Jason Dunham Squadron, squadron fire 4 rounds each 30 sec intervals, FIRE."

"Enemy fleet maneuvering, forward squadrons moving towards Jason Dunham Squadron."

Norris looked at the board. "Guide Iron Duke around them. Marseille Squadron to engage targets on OUR left flank. Jersey Squadron, full speed ahead. POW Squadron, engage enemy forward escorts."

The CIC operators quickly started barking out orders into their headsets. Norris stood and watched as the dance began. Lieutenant Roland walked to the Main Board and drew a star well in front of the enemy fleet. He looked back at Norris and nodded. Norris nodded his understanding.

"New Jersey Squadron engaging all guns full battery." Norris brought his binoculars up and watched as the horizon lit up with fire. The New Jersey had let the enemy know she was there and she let them know with a vengeance.

"Vampire Vampire. They have New Jersey's position. HMS Rutledge take lead and deflect incoming Vampires."

"HMS Rutledge increasing speed to flank."

"Rutledge this is Jersey stay to my port side. Engaging USS Eastwood with forward guns. Fix Bayonets and Charge, GOD DAMN! Now this is a fight."

Norris watched as the battle turned into organized chaos. They had caught the enemy off guard but how much of an advantage that would give them still remained to be seen.

"New Jersey, we are hit, aft gun turret down. Sweet Jesus they are raining hell down on us. Multiple hits on Eastwood. She is still up and running."

"Fish in the water, Fish in the water. Enemy torpedoes on intercept course with New Jersey."

"Countermeasures away."

"We are hit, we are hit. This is New Jersey we are taking on water."

Norris grabbed the Mic. "New Jersey this is Reagan you're done, get out of there."

There was no response so Norris tried again. "New Jersey this is Reagan Actual status report, over."

One of the communications operators leaned back. "Sir I have a drone with a com laser on Jersey's bridge, you should hear this."

Norris looked at the sailor "Put it on speaker son."

The operator nodded and flipped the switches. The speaker in front of Norris crackled then came to life.

"So how much fucking time do we have?" the captain of the New Jersey's voice was clear and distinct.

"The watertight compartments are holding for now but the hole is just too big. It's too much water we are going down in about twenty minutes Captain."

"Shit...God damn it…. fuck. Forward batteries keep a steady rate of fire on Eastwood. Target amidships. XO, evacuate all nonessential personnel. Engine room, give me ahead full, override all governors on all engines. Make this big bitch go the fastest she has ever gone. We are not going down without a fight. Ramming speed. Helm, keep the bow pointed right at Eastwood's fat ass center. All forward batteries fire at will. Hit her with everything we have left."

The speaker went silent for a second. "XO I FUCKING TOLD YOU TO LEAVE WITH ALL NONESSENTIAL PERSONNEL."

"Captain sorry sir but we are all going to see this through."

"God damn it Jerry you stubborn mother fucker."

"You kiss your wife with that mouth, sir?"

"Not my wife but your wife on the other hand… alright you work with weapons and keep those big sticks firing. Concentrate forward batteries on Eastwood, smaller guns on port and starboard fire at any target they can find."

"Aye Captain."

The command crew on the Reagan listened to the course and gun corrections over the next couple of minutes, while listening to the battle reports from the other ships at the same time.

"Sir Eastwood is turning to move out of the way." came across the radio clearly.

They could hear the Captain Marshall chuckle, "Too late you stupid mother fucker. Engine room lock the engines open and get the fuck out of there. ALL HANDS THIS IS THE CAPTAIN, BRACE FOR IMPACT, BRACE FOR IMPACT. "

Norris could hear the crew chanting "Big J, Big J, Big J" as they pushed their 58,000 tons of steel and men, the fastest she has ever gone in her seventy year history, directly at the giant carrier. Tears streamed down Norris face as he thought about the sacrifice the entire crew was making. The sound that came from the speakers next was the most horrific screech of metal on metal followed by screams and explosions. Norris grabbed his binoculars and looked out into the night just in time to see a giant fireball erupt on the horizon.

He looked around the room and everyone was quiet. "We still have a fucking battle to fight here. Get your heads back in it. I want squadron status reports now."

"Sir, Iron Duke Squadron is engaging the forward escorts. They have encountered some of the enemy subs but only two torpedoes were fired before our subs closed in and either killed or chased off the enemy subs. Neither torpedo hit. Iron Duke will be engaging the lead transports soon."

"Jason Dunham Squadron has encountered heavy resistance and is now in a pitched battle with both remaining carrier groups. Gettysburg has taken heavy damage and is attempting to extract."

"Move Marseille Squadron to assist."

"All ready on their way sir. Prince of Wales Squadron is engaging the enemy rear escorts and is holding their own, but can't break through to the transports."

"Fuck, it's not gonna work. There is just too many of them. Send the Canadians into their left flank at full speed, fire everything they can."

"Sir direct missile impact on Jason Dunham. Captain Peterson is seriously injured, XO is in command."

Norris looked over at the board and the star Roland had drawn. The enemy lead ships were approaching it quickly. He looked over at Miller and Miller looked at the board and took a deep breath and then nodded.

Norris straightened his shoulders and took a deep breath. "Pull all ships back, withdraw to Nantucket Bay. Have Vicksburg stand by for final strike orders…"

Just before Lieutenant Roland keyed his mic there was a huge explosion on the horizon.

Norris looked out. "What the fuck was that?"

"Sir Fort Worth reporting. It's the USS Roosevelt, sir. CO of Fort Worth says he has never seen anything like it. It's like she was punched in the bow. Stern came up out of the water a little and slammed back down."

"USS Ronald Reagan this is the USS Constitution requesting permission to enter the battle we are on a heading of 068 engaging the USS Roosevelt and escorts."

Norris grabbed the MIC. "USS Constitution come to heading 076, cut between Roosevelt Battle Group and Jason Dunham Squadron. Dunham Squadron form up on Constitution's flank. Constitution focus fire on carriers. Dunham and Marseille Squadrons focus fire on escorts. Holy Shit this is not over yet. Canadian Fleet come to 245 and engage those transports. POW Squadron increase speed and slip past Roosevelt. She has her hands full now. Engage and sink that Chinese mini carrier."

The acknowledgements came over the radio quickly and Norris watched the electronic board as his fleet surged forward with renewed vigor.

"This is Fort Worth. Roosevelt and escorts pulling back. She is running for it, do we pursue?"

"This is Reagan, negative. Shift fire to those transports. Do not let them get away I don't want to fight this battle again."

"This is Iron Duke Squadron. Amphibious landing ship has broken clear. We lost contact last heading 087 in direct line for Montauk Point."

Norris looked over to another operator "Notify Sinclair he has at least a company size element hitting the beach probably closer to a battalion."

"Sir Colonel Rodriguez and Major Sinclair report enemy ground units on the move looks like they are trying to hit our right flank on the ground."

"Damn they are full of surprises. We got any air we can get up in this shit, yet."

"Negative sir."

Captain Miller stepped beside Norris. "Sir, we could get the Ospreys in the air. They are sitting on the tarmac just outside of Portland. It will be rough on them but the winds are subsiding."

"How risky is it? Remember they don't have air cover and we are in the defensive. Let's get them ready but keep them on the ground until we need them."

"Understood Admiral."

"Sir!" one of the operators called out. "The Truman is pulling out as well. Most of the transports are out of action, sinking or dead in the water. The Chinese Mini is attempting to withdraw."

"USS Constitution engage and sink target Sierra 4T with all haste."

"USS Constitution, understood, get a laser from a drone on her and we will engage with railgun."

"Standby Constitution." Norris looked over at the Drone controllers.

"On it sir give me one sec to get a lock and flying pattern set in. Almost there. Got her. Sending targeting to Constitution now."

"This is Constitution we are engaging, rapid fire, two rounds EM effect, stand by."

A few seconds later. Norris heard cheering come over the radio. "Target, Target. Direct hit with both rounds. HOLY SHIT THERE IS ALMOST NOTHING LEFT. ENEMY IN FULL RETREAT."

The CIC broke out in cheers Norris gave them a quick second. "All right listen up. Quiet down, we still have lots of work to do. Pull all damaged vessels back to Nantucket Bay. All seaworthy vessels close with enemy vessels and render assistance. Coast Guard send everything they have to USS Eastwood and USS New Jersey. Those are freezing and rough waters out there we need an all hands on deck Search and Rescue."

"USS Ronald Reagan this is Redcoat 1, sorry to interrupt the party over there but we have a reinforced battalion of Chinese infantry on the beach here. I have one company of Marines in place to defend. I need reinforcements over here and could use a little assistance."

"Redcoat 1 do you have eyes on the enemy?"

"Roger they are entering the woodline now."

"Contact USS Constitution for Fire mission."

"USS Constitution this is Redcoat 1, fire mission, reinforced infantry battalion in the woodline, Grid 345721 Over."

"Redcoat 1 this is USS Constitution, Fire mission reinforced infantry in the woodline grid 3457241, Stand by."

"Roger."

"One round HE Time On Target on the way."

The radio was silent for a moment. "USS Constitution, Redcoat west 25 meters north 10 meters."

"Roger West 25 meters north 10 meters. Stand by….On the way."

"TARGET, TARGET FIRE FOR EFFECT."

"Firing for effect 15 rounds HE TOT. On the way."

"HOLD FIRE HOLD FIRE CIVILIANS IN THE TARGET ZONE."

"FUCK REDCOAT! Too late they don't have strings on them I can pull them back."

"SHIT the enemy infantry advance team is using a line of children as shields."

Norris turned a pale white as he stared at the radio.

"Target Target. Bloody hell we took out the advance team and the kids, Sweet Mary Mother of God. Shit shit shit…."

Norris grabbed the mic. "Redcoat 1, this is Ronald Reagan get it together there is still enemy troops out there."

"Roger that, sorry. USS Constitution shift 100 meters north and 150 meters east. The rest of the enemy is still on the beach in the open. Fire for Effect over."

"Firing for effect 15 rounds HE on the way."

"The enemy is surrendering. Sending in a company to take prisoners."

Norris looked around the CIC. "Let's continue search and rescue."

"Sir our ships are overwhelmed with dead and wounded in the water. We just don't have enough resources."

Norris looked around the room and spotted the emergency civilian radio off to one side and an idea came to him. He reached for the radio.

"MAYDAY MAYDAY this is the United States Warship Ronald Reagan command of International Task Force Neptune off Long Island we have multiple ships damaged and sinking. Massive casualties in the water 40.933936 North by 70.88445 degree west. We are requesting all assistance. We are requesting all available assistance."

The radio was silent for a moment. "USS Ronald Reagan this is Circle Line Ferry 1 responding to your request. En route from New York Harbor."

"USS Ronald Reagan this is the Fishing Trawler Fat Bottomed Lady moving to your location to assist."

"Ronald Reagan this is Charter Fisher Eastern Sunrise responding to your request."

The responses started to flood in and Norris looked around. Lieutenant Roland jumped up and grabbed a chart and took the radio from Norris and started to give directions to the civilian vessels.

Norris stopped and watched as his team did everything they could to save as many people as possible. At this point it no longer mattered if they were enemy or friendly. Dying in freezing cold water with your ship sinking beneath you is every sailor's worst nightmare.

Norris looked at Miller. "Keep this going, I am going to work with ground forces and get them to hold their ground until the weather clears and we can get them some air cover."


0610 November 24, 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Block Island Sound

In the predawn gray light Norris looked out over the deck of the Ronald Reagan where hundreds of black shrouded bodies, rested in perfect lines. The snow had stopped a couple hours ago but the normal silence that typically follows a New England snowstorm was absent. The screams of wounded and choppers buzzing around, desperately trying to find survivors, permeated the air. Most of the ships had launched small boats to troll the waters in an attempt to pull out as many living as possible. The last person to be pulled out alive was over two hours ago and now it was just corpses that were being stacked up on the decks of the carrier.

He raised his binoculars and watched another flight of fighters launch from the Charles De Gaulle. De Gaulle was flying sorties, helping the ground forces hold their ground. They had held on overnight and were starting to push back. Once the enemy forces got word that the expected reinforcements did not make it to shore they began pulling back. Sinclair and Rodriguez used this opportunity to advance, slowly but still advancing. About an hour ago the enemy garrison in Boston surrendered. There were still some holdouts and the Marines, with help from the Urban Rangers, had started the grueling task of flushing them out building by building. One more week and Norris would have all of New England, Long Island and New York City under his control. Then it would be time to take out Fort Drum and take Upstate New York. The Canadians were moving two more battalions to the border with New York ready to push south across the St Lawrence. They were being augmented by a battalion of armor General Rose was able to spare from the western front.

Doctor McCray walked up beside him with Captain Miller in tow. "Aggy it's been a hell of a night, you need some rest."

Norris turned around and looked at him. "Not until every last body is pulled from the water. I will stand here and wait for every one of these soldiers to be brought home regardless of what side they fought on."

Doctor McCray nodded. "I figured as much. I need to get back, still have some I need to try to save. I brought you a cup of coffee." He handed Aggy a steaming cup filled with the ever desired brown liquid.

Norris took the cup and sipped it. "Thanks Leo, how's it going below decks?"

"You don't want to know, we are doing our best."

Norris just nodded and Leo walked away. Miller stepped up beside him. "Feels like a hollow victory when you see it this way."

"It certainly does...it certainly does…" He opened his mouth to say something when Lieutenant Payne came running up to him.

"Sir! Sir! We found him! We found him!"

"Found who Payne?"

"Ashwood sir, we found him."


Author's note: This concludes "Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: Book Two of Dawn's Early Light." The story will continue in "Twilight's Last Gleaming: Book Three of Dawn's Early Light."

The Group will finally get to deal with the loss of dear friend Bucky and will also have to figure out what to do now that they know where President Ashwood is hiding.

I hope you have enjoyed the story so far, and I hope you continue to enjoy the future chapters. - Ken Barber

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