Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book I

by Ken Barber


Chapter 15

Published: 10 Jul 15

Dawns Early Light

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

21:45 EST 13 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
International Task Force Neptune
Castle Harbor Bermuda.

Dawn's Early Light LogoThe harsh white light caused intense pain as Norris's eyes fluttered open and quickly shut again. The throbbing in his head momentarily flaring to a crescendo. He winced as he realized it hurt to breathe. Carefully he opened his eyes, trying to figure out where he was. There was movement all around him and lots of noise. He could almost make out voices as the ringing in his ears slowly began to subside. He looked to the side and saw a group of people in a circle talking. The memory suddenly washed over him, the explosion, the blood, there was so much blood. Adam and Bucky were in the vehicle, he needed to check on them. He tried to sit up and the pain washed over him taking his breath away, he felt hands pushing him back down.

"Aggy take it easy, you're pretty beat up."

Norris tried to speak but his mouth was so dry the air coming out was closer to a hiss. He opened his eyes and cleared his throat. Dr. McCray and Captain Miller were looking down at him. He managed to squeak out, "Adam? Bucky?"

McCray looked over to the side. "Adam will be good as new in a few hours. Bucky is doing ok, just some major bumps and bruises. He reopened the gunshot wound on his shoulder so we had to fix that up."

Norris nodded and winced at the pain. "Downey ok?"

McCray looked over to Miller. Captain Miller sighed. "Forty-four Aggy, forty-four."

Norris closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath. When he reopened them his resolve was clear. "Get Sinclair and the senior officers. I want to know what happened and how. We need to get to the Orlando briefing."

McCray put his hand on Norris shoulder holding him down. "No, right now you need rest, just relax Aggy."

"Damn it Leo, I need to get back to work I need to take command and fight a god damn war."

"No Admiral you do not. Do not make me relieve you of command."

"Leo enough bullshit, help me out of here."

McCray leaned in really close and whispered in Norris's ear. "Let me tell you something Admiral, you even attempt to get out of this bed before I clear you and I will relieve you on the spot as not medically sound to command and if you think I am bullshitting try me and see."

McCray leaned back and the two of them stared at each other for a second. Finally Norris caved and allowed himself to be pushed back down. McCray nodded, "Good, now the concussion should be starting to subside by now, so I will allow one officer at a time to brief you. Starting with me. You have two fractured ribs and a dislocated shoulder. You are suffering from a class 2 concussion and multiple lacerations to your arms and face."

Norris smiled. "There go any chances at a beauty contest."

McCray chuckled. "Adam was pretty smacked around as well but has begun to recover already. Bucky was lucky he was furthest from the blast and your briefcase ended up between the side of the vehicle and his head cushioning it when you rolled.

"Downey however, was dead before the vehicle stopped. The explosion caused a piece of shrapnel to enter his body from beneath him. It ricocheted off his lower vertebrae and then tore through his internal organs. The good thing is he wouldn't have felt a thing."

Norris closed his eyes again trying to control the anger. "How did this happen?"

McCray nodded to Miller who turned and walked off. "He is getting Sinclair to brief you on everything we know."

"Thank you." Norris looked over to see Sinclair walking over towards him. "Dixon be straight with me, what the fuck happened."

"IED, very hastily made, minimal embedded shrapnel."

"Do we know who or why, yet."

Sinclair turned and waved someone over. "Admiral, you know NCIS Agent Clausen."

"Of course, tell me what we know Agent Clausen."

"Sir, the explosive was packed into an empty ammo can. We found a portion of it left with the USS Ronald Reagan logo intact."

"Are you telling me that someone from this ship did this?"

"We believe that is the case, Admiral. The explosives used were stolen from the weapons locker sometime between inventory check early this morning and the time of the explosion. Of the people that had access to the forward locker we have identified five that were on board the Reagan when you told everyone you were going to the U.N.I.T. base. Three of those five left the Reagan on shore liberty immediately after you did. Bermuda Police picked up two of them at a small hotel near the beach. Sir, they were very indisposed at the time of the explosion."

Norris nodded. "Agent, keep that out of the official report, make sure Hollway knows to ensure they are working in different departments. So who was it?"

"Seaman Russell sir."

Norris looked at them all carefully. "You haven't questioned him yet have you?"

"No sir. Major Sinclair initiated a lockdown and ended all shore leave recalling all personnel back to their ships. We are still at general quarters. Captain Hollway knows, so he and Rosewood and the Marine guards in CIC are keeping a close eye on him."

"Get it done, if he cooperates I will take the firing squad off the table."

"Aye sir." Agent Clausen left them to carry out his orders.

Norris looked at Sinclair. "I want to know why."

"We all do sir. Downey was a damn good Marine. I personally chose him to be your driver. We have begun to move the Reagan and its escorts out of the harbor. The U.N.I.T. guys were a little prickly about letting us handle it but Colonel Shelton resolved that. I will say this; they are a passionate group."

"Thank you Dixon, you're a damn fine Marine."

"Thank you Admiral. Lieutenant Payne and Commander Rosewood need a minute with you."

Norris nodded and closed his eyes; as he opened them he noticed Dr. McCray looking at him intently.

"I am fine Leo. Just tired physically and emotionally."

Leo walked over and sat down beside the bed. "Aggy, you have to take care of yourself. None of us know how long this war is going to last and damn it, we need you. I know you were happy as skipper of the Reagan but when our country calls we do what we have to, and Aggy she is asking more from you than any of us. We can't do this without you, we need you, every Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, and Officer. Its more weight than any man should carry but you are not any man you are Admiral Augustus T. Norris, Commander International Task Force Neptune, and the bane of Ashwood's existence. So let your people do their jobs and you rest. Trust me they are going to get to the bottom of this attack with or without you. They will need you to lead the charge in Orlando and Maine and keep leading the charge all the way to DC."

"Thanks Leo."

Dr. McCray stood and walked away as Lieutenant Payne and Commander Rosewood, who had been waiting patiently, walked over.

"Commander, Lieutenant, what do you have for me?"

Lieutenant Payne looked at Commander Rosewood who nodded at him. "Sir, first I have to say we are all very relieved you're going to be ok. We have no new information on Cadet Peters, we are 100% sure he is being held in Disney World. We have used a couple recon drones and developed a really good picture of Disney World."

Norris looked at him. "Thank you Payne, keep the search going for the Cadet. I will look at the recon photos later. Commander?"

"Thank you Admiral. Using the recon drone and the help of the British subs we have a clear understanding of what is going on in the gulf. The USS Charles Read seems to be the command center of a small task force cobbled together between Navy and Coast Guard assets. I am not sure they are aware but they are pinned in by three carrier groups. The USS Dwight D Eisenhower is positioned in the Straits of Florida, between Florida and Cuba. She has the full Strike Group 8 with her. The USS Theodore Roosevelt and Strike Group 12 is on patrol in the Caribbean south of Jamaica. The USS Harry Truman and Strike Group 10 is stationed in the windward passage between Haiti and Cuba. We assume to keep an eye on us. There is a small Marine Rapid Response Force attacking the coast of Louisiana as well.

"We all know the Eastwood and escorts are licking their wounds in Jacksonville. So essentially, other than the small task force, Ashwood has a firm grip on the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea."

"Have we made contact with the Read yet?"

"No Sir, we have the ability to break into their comms through the drones, however we would need to authenticate our status."

"Can we get video?"

"For a short time, the drones will relay the signal and there could be a short delay of 30-45 seconds."

"What about satellites?" Norris was getting frustrated.

"We have a Hydradyne Sat coming into range late tonight and that could give us 10-15 minutes."

"Ok, get with Sinclair and Commander Wrens from the Illustrious and come up with a plan to get them to trust us. We need them to understand they are bottled in and see if there is anything we can do to help them. Also see if there is a way they can help us on the west coast of Florida for the Orlando raid."

"Understood Sir."

"I want to talk to them tonight when we have the window."

"Aye sir."

The two officers were dismissed and Norris drifted off to find solace in sleep, until the dream started. He was sitting in the same Humvee as that afternoon except they were traveling down the main street outside of US Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington. It was the same street that Justin and Linda had been killed on. He looked over at Corporal Downey and the Corporal smiled. Norris turned to look at Bucky and Adam in the back seat but it wasn't Bucky and Adam it was Linda and Justin. He tried to scream stop but he was too late, the sound of the explosion threw him out of the dream and he woke with a gasp.

Leo was by his side in an instant. "You okay Aggy?"

Norris sighed. "Bad dream."

"The explosion?"

"Yes, but Justin and Linda were there."

Leo nodded. "We all still miss them."

Norris just nodded as Leo waved a corpsman over. "Admiral, Corpsman Taylor is going to take your vitals and if everything checks out well enough then we can get you out of here. But Aggy I am not kidding when I say you need to take it as easy as possible. I know that's a tall order but you need to listen to me this time."

Norris smiled at the corpsman. "Does he mother everyone like this?"

"No sir Admiral, just the ones that need it."

Norris about choked, laughing. "He has all of you trained well."

The Corpsman went to his task of checking Norris's vitals and Leo walked away. After Taylor was done he grabbed his supplies and left the Admiral there going over all the details of the current situation. Here they were, for all intents and purposes, isolated from the rest of country, about to conduct a raid on, of all places Disney World. Most of them had no knowledge of what was happening to their families. He stopped and thought about his sister and her husband as well as his nephew. He had seen them right before he departed for the Med. Trevor had been excited about a project; working with the Extreme Winter Games in Aspen, Colorado. Janice, Norris's sister, and her husband Gary Kwon were headed back to San Diego where Gary was currently stationed. Norris feared the worst for Janice and Gary but was very hopeful that Justin was ok.

Leo opened the curtain and stepped in. "Ok Aggy, time to get you back to work. Here are some pain meds." He held up his hand to keep Norris from interrupting him. "I know you don't want them and you think you don't need them but Aggy if the pain gets too bad, you have to take them or you will do more damage."

Norris just nodded in resignation.

"Good, I am going to be checking on you a couple times a day. Corpsman Taylor is now a part of your staff. He has been cleared by Sinclair along with Lance Corporals Mitchell, Fayette, Privates Kelly and Block from the Marines and from the CAV you have Lieutenant Perez and Sergeants Barnum and Bailey... that's not a joke."

Norris just stared for a minute. "Ok, can you tell me why the fuck I have a personal army on my staff."

Leo just shook his head. "Aggy they are your bodyguards. And don't you dare try to argue, your senior officers are beating themselves up because of what happened. They blame themselves for not preparing for this. Bucky was going to put a whole boat crew on you but Miller put a stop to that. He told Bucky all his guys were needed."

"I don't like it."

"Deal with it. Lieutenant Perez and Lance Corporal Fayette are waiting for you outside. They will escort you to your office, where the rest of your protection detail is waiting to meet you.

"Don't try to fight it, Aggy," Adam said from the bed he was laying on. "You won't win. Either they will be near you at all times, or they will be following you, mother-henning you, and stalking every movement you make. It's easier just to let them do it. Not to mention many of your officers will sleep better at night."

Norris looked over at Adam. "I think the best way to sum this up is never fight a battle that you gain nothing from winning. How are you feeling Adam?" Norris sat up and with Corpsman Taylor and Leo standing there like he was made of glass and about to fall apart, he slowly walked over and sat on the side of Adam's bed.

"Honestly Aggy, physically I feel fine but inside I am raging."

"Me too bud, me too."

"It doesn't help though. The rage that is, it just eats us up on the inside."

"Has anyone ever told you that you are way too smart for someone your age."

Adam smiled. "More often than I care to remember."

"So when is Nurse Ratchet here", he hooked his thumb in Leo's direction, "going to let you out of here?"

Adam laughed. "Dr. McCray has been really nice, it's my mom Janet, that is in charge of that decision."

Norris nodded. "Leo, can you see if Dr. Hayes is around please."

Leo stared at Norris for a second. "Aggy, even I won't mess with that woman, I strongly suggest you tread carefully there."

Norris smiled. "I have no intention of messing with her Leo. But very well, I will leave well enough alone. If she has not released this soldier in my command by the time we need him for the Orlando briefing I expect you Captain Leo McCray, Chief Medical Officer of the International Task Force Neptune, to make the call. If there is no sound medical reason then I expect to see him at the briefing. If he is not there you had better be prepared to explain to me why he isn't." Norris turned and winked at Adam then stood.

"Let's meet Lieutenant Perez and Lance Corporal Fayette." Leo gave him a death glare and then opened the door to the sickbay. A young Hispanic male in his early 20's in the uniform of an Army Lieutenant entered followed by a young Marine.

Norris walked over to the lieutenant and held out his hand. "Lieutenant Perez, sir. I will be handling all of your security from this point forward, sir."

"Very good Lieutenant, first let's go find Agent Clausen and Seaman Russell. Do you know where they are holding the Seaman."

"Agent Clausen and Major Sinclair have just started to interview him sir, in the onboard NCIS offices sir."

"Okay, that's where we are going." He turned and looked at Adam. "See you in the morning Adam, get some rest."

"You too Admiral."

Norris headed for the door and noticed Taylor grabbing an already packed bag and following them out. The NCIS offices were just a short way away which relieved Norris as he realized he was still very tired. The offices were really just a stateroom and an interrogation room. The interrogation room was more often than not used to store the agents' under-way gear. Norris stopped at the door and the two Marines on either side made no attempt to stop him from entering.

As he entered the room Agent Clausen turned around with a very angry look on his face until he saw who it was. Sinclair shot up and shouted. "Attention on Deck." Seaman Russell also shot to attention.Norris walked into the room and Perez followed. "Agent Clausen, Major Sinclair, you are relieved. Please wait outside."

Agent Clausen squared his shoulders. "Admiral this is highly irregular I…"

Norris just stared at him until he stopped talking. "Agent you are relieved." He turned to Perez "That goes for you too Lieutenant."

Perez looked at him firmly. "My apologies Admiral but that is not possible."

Norris stared at him as Sinclair and Clausen both left the room. "Very well but anything said or done in this room will never be repeated. Am I clear Lieutenant Perez?"

"Crystal clear, Admiral."

He sat down at the table and just looked at Seaman Russell.

Sinclair and Clausen waited outside the office for about fifteen minutes pacing up and down the corridor before the door opened and Norris walked out. He handed Clausen a slip of paper. "Have those men and women quietly rounded up and placed under arrest for suspicion of treason. Do it quietly and quickly so no one notices. Seaman Russell has plead guilty to sedition and will be summarily discharged after serving fifteen years in military prison. Until such time as a prison is found in operation he will stay in the brig on board the USS Ronald Reagan."

Agent Clausen just stared at him, as he walked off with his small entourage in tow.

Norris got to his office and found Myers at her desk in the outer office. "Myers, inside please." He stated flatly as he passed. The office was filled with his security detail. The room was called to attention and Norris just waved them down. He sat behind the desk and looked around at them all. "Myers, we need to find a place to stash the guys when they are not clinging to me."

"Already on that sir. The command supply room is being disassembled and moved to the command pantry. It's going to be a little tight in the pantry but we will make it work."

"Hmmm didn't even know there was a command supply room. Not important. Lieutenant Perez please introduce your team."

Perez went around the room introducing the team and had to pause for Norris to regain his composure when he introduced Sergeants Barnum and Bailey.

"Sergeants, please forgive me but I can't help but laugh. My command officers have decided I need a circus following me around and I can't help but wonder if they chose you two on purpose."

Sergeant Bailey smiled. "Sir, no offence taken, when Sergeant Barnum and I found out we would be on the assignment together we knew there would be some laughs."

"Well I am glad you guys have a sense of humor. Everyone relax and find a seat." He paused and picked up the phone. "James, a cup of hot tea please and some soft drinks as well. Oh crap, I had forgotten about dinner with Shelton and his wife. Myers will reschedule for tomorrow. Well don't waste it, bring it here I have a gang of hungry bodyguards in my office. Oh and James, you better keep all the cutlery where they can see it." Norris laughed as he was hanging up the phone. "Dinner for everyone will be here in a bit."

He paused again. "All of you have been assigned an impossible mission. Your job is to keep me out of harm's way. I understand why you are here. I respect your dedication on accepting this posting. I will try to make this as easy as possible on you. I understand that your orders are to keep two people on me at all times Lieutenant Perez?"

'That is correct sir."

"We are going to modify that a bit. First, when I am in the office there may be a guard at the door but no one will be standing guard inside my office. Second, while on board the Reagan only one of you at a time will be following me around." He held up his hand before anyone could protest. "I am always surrounded by senior officers while on board which is why Russell didn't try something prior."

Perez nodded. "Understood Admiral, I will notify Major Sinclair of your decision."

"Very well Lieutenant. Everything you hear or see will be treated as top secret, need to know only, and none of you have the authority to determine who needs to know. Myers will give you a list of personnel that has access to this office unannounced." The door opened and James entered carrying a tray. "Speaking of which James is one of them. James, this is my new security detail and my personal corpsman, you will be working closely with them, get to know them."

"Of course Admiral. Here is your dinner sir, the rest is setup in the wardroom across the hall for now."

"Thank you James. The rest of you go eat. If I need to go anywhere I will have Myers let you know."

Perez stood "Thank you Admiral." The entire group filed out leaving Myers and James. James finished getting Norris's food on his desk and exited.

Norris looked down at the steak on his plate and the arm in a sling; he tried to lift the knife with it but the movement caused him to gasp in pain. Myers walked over and took the plate and began cutting the steak.

"Admiral, Captain Miller and Captain Hollway need to see you urgently."

He looked at her cutting his steak and sighed. "Very well send them in and we can talk while I am eating."

"Yes sir." She handed his plate back to him and left the office leaving him to realize eating among other things was going to be a chore while his right arm was in a sling. He fumbled with the fork in his left hand for a couple seconds before he was able to grasp it with a slight semblance of comfort. Just as he got the first piece of meat into his mouth Miller and Hollway walked in. Norris waved for them to sit down.

After he finished chewing he looked up at both. "You both look like you just lost your virginity, which if that's the case, then that's pretty pathetic at your ages and second I don't want to know."

They both chuckled and then Miller handed Norris a tablet.

"Zulu message from Speaker of the House. Transmitted on all radio channels in the open and clear, released to all Government bodies worldwide.

Norris started the video and Speaker Haley Burruel stood at a podium. "I have a statement to make and will not be taking questions. Just a few short hours ago in an emergency joint session of Congress the following resolution was passed."

He paused and began reading. "The Congress of the United States Assembled, declares that former President Ashwood is in a state of insurrection against the lawful authority of the United States, and further that this Congress declares the current actions of the Administration of former President Ashwood to be in a state of insurrection against the People of the United States.

"Therefore, this Congress Assembled, hereby authorizes and directs the President to employ the entire military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to suppress this insurrection. To bring the conflict to a successful termination, all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States."

"Given this day,
Tuesday November 13, 2012 AD"

Speaker Burruel closed the folder. "People of the United States make no mistake. The United States is at war. Not a war to be fought by sending our young men and women half way around the globe. Not a war we will watch safe at home on our TVs. No, a war right here in our streets and our yards. We are fighting against a most terrifying concept, a dictator attempting to set up his rule in the United States. We will defend our homes, our churches and yes even our schools. As former President Ashwood has displayed already in his desperate attempts at control, he will use every tactic available. This Congress has also declared the following."

Speaker Burruel re-opened the folder, "The Congress of the United States Assembled, declares any United States Government Agent, Officer or Member of the Armed Forces that attempts to stop the lawful execution of the previous order shall be arrested, detained and tried for treason. Any of the above stated persons that lay down their arms and surrender within twenty-four hours will be granted clemency."

The video ended and Norris just stared at it and then smiled. "Burruel and Bryce just called Ashwood to the carpet. They delegitimized his administration and gave themselves the authority to put him down in one fell swoop. I knew Burrell had it in him but this is devious of Bryce."

"What does it mean for us?" Captain Hollway looked like a kid at Christmas. "Does this give us wartime authority."

"Yes, but let's take it one step further and get all three branches on the same page. Have JAG take this over to the Supreme Court and ask them if this constitutes a declaration of war. I need a formal opinion. Take the files we have of the impeachments and transfer of power to President Bryce. They aren't aware of those Congressional proceedings. Oh, and ask them to convene at the US Consulate. They need to be on Sovereign US soil, tonight if possible."

Miller stood. "I will send Commander Caprio over now. He is aware of the entire situation."

Norris nodded. "If they confirm everything, have Caprio offer the clemency deal to the officers in the brig. They will be stripped of rank and put ashore at the earliest possible convenience."

"Done sir."

As they were leaving, Myers stepped back in. "Admiral, Commander Rosewood needs to see you as soon as possible."

Norris waved him in. "Well, where's Payne?"

"Admiral he is running down some leads with the U.N.I.T kids that are helping search for Cadet Peters."

"Ok, so do we have an update?"

"On Peters, not that I am aware of sir. But we have the recon and comm drones in place to communicate with the Read in one hour."

"Ok, so walk me through this, again. How exactly are we going to contact them?"

"Sir, one of the comm drones will send a message telling the skipper to be prepared to receive a comm link up. That drone will also transmit via laser the encryption key. Once it has finished that it will immediately erase all its data files and return here. The Skipper can ignore the transmission of course but if he does then we will use another drone to activate his comms with command override. Either way once we are connected we will be passing the info through the drone that will encrypt it and send it to the sat."

"Ok, have we figured out how to convince them we are legit."

"Not really sir, we are hoping Commander Wrens can convince the skipper but if he refuses to accept that, the only other thing would be to bring President Bryce into the connection."

"If we have to we will set that up for another time."

"Yes sir."

"Thank you Ted. I will see you in CIC in a couple hours." As Rosewood was leaving Myers stepped into the room.

"Dr. McCray is here to see you sir."

"Send him in Myers and when he is through I am going to get a little sleep; be sure to wake me in an hour."

"Yes sir." She left and Leo walked in.

"Aggy how are you feeling?"

"Like I got run over by a Battleship."

"You're going to be sore for a couple days. Just try to get as much rest a possible."

"The way I feel I don't think I have much choice. You here to poke and prod at me already."

"No, there is something else I wanted to discuss with you in private. I was talking with Janet Hayes, the U.N.I.T. doctor, brilliant woman, and we both agree you need to see a therapist."

"Leo I don't have time for this shit."

"You have to make time. Aggy, you are carrying a lot of weight and a lot of grief and it's only going to build. The U.N.I.T has Dr. Badger at their base. Janet made the arrangements and she will be here tonight at 2345 hours. Commander Myers is arranging a chopper and we will try to get her in here without much fuss. Talk to her Aggy, what could it hurt."

"Leo, I don't need a shrink, I need to work."

"Aggy it's not a request, it's an order."

Norris looked at McCray. "You know Leo in all the years I have been your commanding officer, you have only ever used your position to give me orders twice, both today. Okay I will talk with your Dr. Badger this time."

"Thank you Aggy."

"Now get out of here so I can take a nap."

Leo smiled and left the room while Norris settled down for a short rest. Exactly an hour later Myers voice brought him out of his sleep.

"Admiral Norris you asked me to wake you."

Norris stretched and winced as his ribs screamed at him to stop moving. Every muscle in his body felt like a super wound coil. He slowly sat up and then tried to stand. Myers reached out and help him get to his feet.

"Thank you Myers."

"Of course sir. They are waiting for you in CIC."

"Let's get this show on the road. There is a senior officer in the Gulf we have to get out of bed."

23:30 EST 13 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
International Task Force Neptune
Castle Harbor Bermuda

They left the office and Norris noticed Private Block fall in behind them. As they entered the CIC, Block took a post beside the door on the inside. Norris waved them all down when someone called the room to attention. Just as Norris sat down Commander Caprio, the JAG officer, hustled in and handed Norris two envelopes.

"That was fast." Norris opened the first and read it out loud.

"Opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States
Per Curiam:

"Having read the sworn statements of the petitioners and having viewed the video documents of the Transfer of Power, it is the opinion of this Court that the Constitution has been faithfully carried out and further that the Power of the Executive Office has been and is transferred to Jackson Bryce.

"So Ordered.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 AD"

He smiled. "If this second one is what I think it is then the game has changed, folks."

"Opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States
Per Curiam:

"Having read the sworn statements of the petitioners and having viewed the video of the Congressional proceedings, it is the opinion of this Court that a lawful exercise of its constitutional power, within the meaning of Article II, Section 8, clause 10, to declare war on any and all insurrectionists, was made by the Assembled Congress of the United States.

"So Ordered.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 AD"

Norris rose and looked around. "Taskforce wide transmission. Record and disperse as a Zulu message."

Norris picked up the M1C. "Now hear this, this is Admiral Norris, Commander in Chief, US Navy Atlantic Fleet, at 18:30 Hours Eastern Standard Time, the Congress of the United States issued a Proclamation declaring former President Ashwood and his Administration and supporters to be in Open Insurrection against the lawful government of the United States. Furthermore, they have given all Agents, Officers and members of the Armed Forces supporting the former President's unlawful seizure of power, twenty-four hours to surrender and be granted Clemency.

"The Supreme Court of the United States in a unanimous opinion just moments ago confirmed Jackson Bryce as the lawful President of the United States. The Court also declared the Congressional Proclamation of Insurrection to constitute a Declaration of War. Fellow Americans, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen. The United States is now at War."

He cut off his transmission and looked around. The CIC was eerily silent, everyone was just staring at him waiting for him to say something.

He sat back down "Rosewood, Payne, we ready?"

"Yes sir. The satellite is in range, we will attempt a standard link up with the USS Charles Read, if they refuse we will do a command override. They will not be able to shut down the link if we do that."

"Ok, let's knock before we kick the door in. Commander Wrens thank you for joining us. Are you sure you can convince Koplan that we are legit."

"Best I can say is I will certainly try, sir."

Norris nodded. "Best we can ask for. Rosewood, how will this look to the USS Charles Read."

"Well sir, the Read will get an urgent alert and will see the USS Ronald Reagan Logo on their screen. They must enter a deny or accept code."

Norris looked around and sighed. "Ring the doorbell Rosewood."

"Message transmitting, Standby for confirmation."

The entire CIC was quiet. After about a minute Commander Rosewood leaned over to the Admiral, "Sir do you want me to begin command override?"

"Not the best way to make friends. Give them a minute, their assholes are probably so puckered they could sit on a sharpened pencil."

Just then the speaker blurted out. "USS Ronald Reagan, this is the USS Charles Read. At this time we are blocking outbound video transmission and reserve the right to go to full blackout conditions at a moment's notice. Over."

Norris actually smiled, damn smart of them even if he could override their blackout conditions "USS Read, this is Admiral Norris of the USS Reagan. From what we have been able to glean from third party friendlies, you all have done an outstanding job out there, but are in a tight spot."

There was a slight pause then the voice responded "Admiral, no disrespect meant, but we have already had to exchange shots with other US warships, so trust is more than a bit of an issue."

"Understood, Read. Things are dicey all over the globe and not showing any signs of improvement. Maybe it would help if I put on someone you know. Which officer am I talking to?"

"Lieutenant Commander Bickford, Sir."

"Commander Bickford, I have someone here who may help smooth things out. I understand you know Major Sinclair?"

Sinclair stepped in front camera, "Damn it Bick, let me see your ugly mug, cause the voice sure doesn't sound like the one I was drinking rum and coke with back in San Diego!"

"It wasn't Rum, it was Jack, and I put you under the table with it!" Bickford retorted.

"Only cause I was paying and drinking more than you since you outshot me on the range."

Bickford moved in front of the camera and nodded for Reeves to enable the vid-link. Once he was sure his face and only his face was being seen he gave a nod, "Nice tab you had to pay off for all of us non-shooting Navy guys."

Sinclair's lips turned upward into a smile, "Last time, buddy. Next time I ain't taking on the ship's best shot without finding out more info. So you in command? Cause our records show a Commander Kopland is."

"He still is. I'm sure he'll be down shortly." Bickford motioned for one of the crewmembers in CIC to run and grab Kopland without being seen by the camera. "In the meantime, Major, you will have to forgive my caution, but my ship had to engage that of my former commanding officer, so while it is nice to see a friendly face, I still have some trust issues going on."

"As do we, my friend. Still, you know me and I am under no duress. We are on ships fighting for the same side."

"And what side is that, Major?"

Admiral Norris's face reappeared, "Commander, from what we know of your actions out there, which is very limited, I'd say your ship and this one is on the side of the People of the United States. The same cannot be said for many of our ships, however, and I need to talk to your CO."

"He's on the way, sir. Oh, and good answer. But I need some information if you have any. Was Austin hit?"

"Unfortunately it was," Norris responded with a shake of his head. "Best intel we have is sarin gas, but we know almost nothing as to how hard or how bad. We know you all tried to stop it, which is why I am on the horn with you, risking my neck in the process."

From off to the side, another voice spoke up, "I can tell you, Admiral, we are feeling pretty much the same way. However, my XO has a very personal need to know the situation on the ground in Austin. You want our trust, getting us some hard intel on the situation there would go a long way in earning it."

"I'll see what I can do." Norris nodded to someone off camera then turned back and his voice had a slight edge to it. "Commander Kopland?"

Kopland moved over and nudged Bickford out of line with the camera so his face could be seen. "Yes, sir."

"First off, from me to you and all of your crew, damned fine job out there. Wish there was more just like you all out here on the waves with us. Now, I have some details I need to go over with you and we don't have much time cause this is one of the few sats left we can hit you with from where we are and it will not stay in range much longer. However, there is someone I think will help to further ease your concerns. So here, say hi to Commander Wrens. Then, hopefully, we can get down to business."

Commander Wrens stepped into view. "Commander Kopland, I would say it's a pleasure to see you again but under the circumstances I think I think 'pleasure' is entirely the wrong word. How are you fairing?

Kopland smiled. "Wrens, I gotta tell you it's good to see a friendly face. I have a question for you, the night in Reykjavik, we were at a bar having a drink and I said something to you that had you laughing so hard you damn near fell off your stool. What was the bar and what did I say?"

Wrens smiled. "Vergamoit, we chose it because you heard some scuttlebutt that they had the best Scotch around. Pure horse piss by the way, which I realize is how you Americans like your scotch, but of course that didn't stop us from drinking it. You told me..." He cleared his throat and looked a little embarrassed. "You told me I was your brother from another mother."

Kopland laughed. "Thanks Wrens, forgive us, we are still not too sure as to what the hell is happening and only getting a small amount of intel. Admiral, I am open to talking."

Commander Wrens stepped back out of the way allowing Admiral Norris to take center stage again. "Commander, now that all the hand shaking and ass sniffing is out of the way. How are you and your people faring?"

Kopland sighed. "As best as can be expected under the circumstances; we really don't have a clue what is happening stateside."

Norris paused for a second. "There is not a lot of intel east of the Mississippi; that seems to be the battle line. Bryce controls the west and Ashwood the east. That puts us behind enemy lines. But we do have help, His Majesty the King of England, the President of France and the President of the Russian Federation have promised troops and support. I have some intel for you about conditions in the Caribbean and the Gulf. You need to be aware you're boxed in. The Eisenhower and Strike Group 8 is positioned in the Straits of Florida, between Florida and Cuba. The Roosevelt with Strike Group 12 is on patrol in the Caribbean south of Jamaica. The USS Harry Truman and Strike Group 10 is stationed in the windward passage between Haiti and Cuba. There is a small Marine Rapid Response Force attacking the Coast of Louisiana as well. You have 2 Royal Navy Subs screening to your south and I am dispatching the USS Olympia to you as well, she should arrive on station in a few days. Captain Grant is a top notch sailor, he will effect a link up with you and the Brit subs. Commodore Chase is assigning them to you, use them well.

As of now I am President Bryce's Commander of the Atlantic Fleet so that means you folks fall under me. Just moments ago Congress declared Ashwood and his cronies to be in open insurrection. A few minutes after that, the Supreme Court ruled the transfer of the executive office to Jackson Bryce to be lawful and the Declaration of Insurrection constitutes a Declaration of War. The one standing order is keep your backsides dry. Be careful and don't take risks. We need every asset we can get our hands on. I understand that you have some help from the Coast Guard, under Title 14 of The United States Code Paragraph 3 Section 211 at the Declaration of War the United States Coast Guard transfers to the operational control of the United States Navy. Kopland you are the senior officer in your group, correct?"

Commander Kopland nodded. "Yes sir.

"Very well under the Title 10 of the United States Code article 123 Paragraph 3, I am giving you a field Promotion to Captain and assigning you the position of Joint Services Task Force Gulf Coast Commander. You are entitled to the privileges and pay as long as we are in a state of hostilities. After hostilities have ended a review panel will review the promotion within 90 days."

"Thank you, I think, Admiral."

"My response exactly when President Bryce did the same to me. Captain we don't have a lot of time so there are a couple of things you need to hear. First as I said earlier, your people and the Officers and Crew of the Worden have taken extraordinary measures to protect the lives of innocent Americans and I am recommending all members of both crews be awarded a Bronze Star. You have shown what it is to be true guardians of our Nation.

"Next, we are about to launch a major raid near Orlando with a multinational task force, the operation will take 24 hours to complete. After the mission, the Ronald Reagan and the HMS Illustrious will move north to create a front in the state of Maine. Colonel Shelton is the Southern Theater Commander and will oversee the operation. Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez will be the Northern Theater Commander. Your job is to harass enemy shipping, slow movements of combat units, and most importantly protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the People of the United States." Norris paused as he was handed a piece of paper, everyone waited patiently as he read it.

"Well it seems promoting my Intel officer worked. I have some info on Austin. The Governor and some of his staff are safe along with some Texas Rangers and state police protection. The State of Texas has seceded from the Union. Unlawfully I might add, but not without good reason. I think I have the information your XO wants. The Governor along with a group of kids from a science contest, one Craig Bickford among them, is in an undisclosed secure location. Does that help?"

Captain Kopland turned the camera slightly so that both him and Bickford where in the frame.

Bickford's eyes were wet but he was holding it together. "Thank you Admiral, I can't tell you how much of a relief that is to hear."

"We are all concerned about our loved ones and as we get intel on them we will share it. Captain Kopland, our satellite is going to be moving out of range soon so I need to cover a couple more things. A drone is going to make a water landing off your port bow in just a couple of minutes. Fish it out and have your comm people extract your new encryption keys then destroy the drone. Is there anything I can do for you right now."

"I don't think so Admiral."

"Thank you to you and your team out there. Fair Seas and Following Winds. USS Ronald Reagan out."

The screen went black and Norris leaned back in the chair and took a deep breath causing him to wince in pain. He sighed thinking how quickly the death toll was going to climb at this point. He stood and looked at the time, 2320, 25 minutes before he had to talk to the witch doctor. "I will be in my office, Operation Black Pearl briefing at 0900 hours tomorrow. All ship commanders, senior ground troop commanders, carrier air wing commanders, strike team commanders and special operations commanders will be present. Carry on." Norris turned without waiting to see if his orders would be followed, he knew they would be.

23:50 EST 13 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
International Task Force Neptune
Castle Harbor Bermuda

Petty Officer Jackson snuck out of the CIC at 2341. Lieutenant Reese saw him go and smiled. Jackson's secret smoking date was not that big of a secret but no one said anything to him because he was one of the most trusted and reliable petty officers in the CIC.

Jackson hid just behind the aft ladder and pulled out two cigarettes and looked around. A second later Lance Corporal Blevins came around the corner. He took one of the cigarettes and quickly looked around to make sure no one was in sight, he leaned in and kissed Jackson quickly. Both wanted it to last longer but both knew they could get caught. They had heard that Seamen Raster and Budders had been picked up at a motel in Bermuda and the rumor was they were right in the middle of the act when they were caught. But so far nothing has happened to them. The Admiral didn't seem to care nor did most of the officers but still, it was scary.

Just then they saw a chopper coming in, they stepped away from each other a little and watched from the shadow as the chopper landed and the Admiral's aide Commander Myers, the one the new XO had the hots for, escorted a very pretty lady onto the ship, from the direction they were going it looked like they were headed for the Admiral's office. They watched for a minute before Blevins leaned over and kissed Jackson's ear, sending chills down his spine.

He whispered. "See you in an hour babe."

Jackson smiled "As long as I can get away." They both headed back to their posts.

An hour later Jackson stood from his station and yawned.

He looked over at Petty Officer O'Brian, "Hey Doug can you cover me I am going to go grab some coffee."

"Sure thing bring me back some. Reese is looking drowsy bring him back a cup as well." O'Brian smiled at him. "Nothing happening right now so take your time."

Jackson headed to the usual meeting spot and Blevins was already there. They shared a quick kiss and then lit their smokes. Just as they took their first drag they noticed Myers escorting the same lady back to the chopper and the chopper lifting off.

Blevins looked at Jackson smiling. "What are you smiling about."

"Dude, I think the Admiral has a girlfriend."

"Could be but why are you so giddy about it, you planning on asking him if he wants to double date."

"Shut up man." They both stood and watched the helicopter take off, then put their cigarettes out. Jackson looked at Blevins. "My entire quad will be in the CIC for the briefing but since I have night duty, I don't have to be there. Come to my room an hour after we get off duty." He leaned over and kissed Blevins a little harder than usual while reaching down and grabbing the front of his crotch.

Blevins kissed him back and then stepped back. "The Admiral's little rendezvous got you all worked up?"

Jackson just smiled. "I have to run and get a couple of coffees. I love you babe."

Blevins smiled. "I love you too, can't believe I fell in love with a squid."

They both laughed and went their separate ways, both excited to tell their co-workers about the Admiral's girlfriend.

Author's Note: This is the end of "Dawn's Early Light". The story and characters will continue in the special 4 chapter "Black Pearl". The Story has moved from the beginning of the 2nd United States Civil War to the actual fighting of the Civil War. This will be presented in "Broad Stripes and Bright Stars" after "Black Pearl"- I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

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