Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book III
Twilight's Last

by Ken Barber

In Progress

Chapter 1

Published: 18 May 17

Dawn's Early Light Book III: Twilight's Last Gleaming

Copyright © 2017 by Ken Barber and the Revolutions Universe Partnership

All Rights Reserved

1200 EST 24 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Twilight LogoNorris walked into the command briefing room just as Myers called the room to attention. He paused and looked around the room. There were too many faces missing. Friends and colleagues that would never sit in this room again and make some wiseass comment while he was trying to deliver a briefing. Comments that he would pretend to be annoyed with but would laugh at once he was alone. But there were some new faces as well, a couple of former XO's now commanding their ships, some of the younger Army officers replacing the dead or wounded officers, and new allied commanders. Norris took a deep breath and thought to himself, the faces change, but the game stays the same.

"Take your seats, before we begin with Lieutenant Payne I need a battle status report. Fleet is up first."

Commodore Chase stood up. "Sir, while we sustained heavy losses, the fleet is still combat ready. We lost the USS New Jersey with all hands." He paused and no one said a word. "The New Jersey was able to take out the USS Eastwood along with a number of escorts. The USS Rhode Island was also lost with all hands. USS Gettysburg sustained significant damage and loss of personnel. The Jason Dunham took two direct missile hits and will be undergoing repairs and will be out of action for at least a couple months. She is enroute to the shipyard in Maine with the Gettysburg now. HMS Rutledge sustained minor damage and is being repaired at the docks in Newport, Rhode Island now. HMS Iron Duke took significant damage and is being inspected now to see if she can be made seaworthy again. All other damage is superficial and the ships are seaworthy. We will be rotating them through the repair facility in Newport one ship at a time. The USS Constitution sustained no damage and saved the battle. Sir, I would like to recommend the entire crew of the USS New Jersey be posthumously awarded the Silver Star with Valor."

"Thank you John, Commander Myers is already working on award recommendations for me to review. Myers add the entire crew of the New Jersey. Air Wing what is your status?"

Captain Miller stood as Commodore Chase sat. "Sir the air wing sustained the least amount of damage. We did lose the AC-130 Spectre and some drones. A couple of fighters were damaged in the ground battle this morning but the good news is the enemy lost more and we now have air superiority over New England and can begin to make airstrikes into New York."

"Thank you Josh, Myers add the crew of Spectre to the awards list. Ground Forces where do we stand?"

Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez stood. "Sir, the ground forces are in good shape. The enemy attempted a counterattack but we were able to hold them back and once the weather cleared we were able to gain more ground with the help of aircover. The enemy garrison at Boston surrendered this morning. Major Sinclair has a battalion of Marines slowly trying to hunt for hold outs. The Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island placed the governor under arrest and took charge of the state. The Rhode Island National Guard did not resist us at all and has surrendered. It should be known sir they disobeyed the orders of the governor, there is a good chance we can keep the units intact and incorporate them into our ground forces. They only have one battery of self-propelled artillery, a company of MPs and a company of Combat Engineers, I am meeting with the commander after this briefing."

"How is Major Sinclair doing?"

"Sir, the RPG round hit the side of the building way above him, so it's just a few scratches and a dislocated shoulder. He will be fine, although my regimental doctor was the closest, so he is treating him. If Major Sinclair keeps complaining about Army doctors he may end up worse than he started."

Everyone laughed a little. Norris just smiled. "Thank you Felix, support and supply reports are due by the end of the day. Commodore Chase, salvage the crew from the Gettysburg and use them as replacements across the fleet, do the same with Iron Duke until she is able to be refitted." He paused and walked around the podium and stood out in front of everyone. "About eighteen days ago this war started. What this team has been able to accomplish in eighteen days has been remarkable. We created a foothold in Florida, took New England and defeated the largest fleet the world has seen since World War II. The pace and death toll is what is going to defeat us. I have sent a message to President Bryce that we will not be advancing into New York until at least mid December. I know you all are fired up and ready to go but trust me, I can see the tired in your eyes. I can see the weight of the losses of our brothers and sisters on your shoulders. We need to regroup, resupply and refit. Now understand, there is still work to do. We hold New England but there is still a pretty sizable group of the enemy at the Navy base in New London. We need to flush them out soon. We also need to accomplish a couple things. One of which will be similar to the mission we did for the Supreme Court. At least a battalion of the 82nd Airborne is under lock and key at Wright-Patterson. We need them and we are going to get them out and bring them back here. But first we have a more important mission. Lieutenant Payne the floor is yours."

Norris took a seat in the front row next to Myers and Miller; as Payne walked to the front of the room. Doctor McCray was absent as he was still working with all the wounded. Many of the wounded had been transferred to Portland and McCray would be headed there soon to check in.

Payne cleared his throat. "Thank you Admiral. Ladies and gentlemen thank you for your time. First there is a little more good that came out of the battle than you're aware of. My Intel team was able to track radio traffic from the enemy fleet to the mainland. Now this radio traffic went all over the place and we were not able to crack it, however we were able to isolate certain codes, Presidential codes. All these codes came from one location, Weather Mountain, Virginia, up until a few hours ago. One of my operators, in attempting to crack the code, gave away the fact that we were tracking it and knew its origin. The transmissions stopped. However they picked up again a few hours ago. Ashwood's administration hasn't figured out how we know where he is. So they made one fatal flaw. They moved him and continued to transmit using the same code sequence."

Lieutenant Colonel Rodriguez raised his hand. "Sorry to interupt, are you telling me you know where Ashwood is at this very minute?"

"We do Colonel."

"Then what the hell are we doing here? Let's go get the mother fucker and end this shit."

Norris stood with a smile on his face. "I had a feeling that would be the response. Let me make this clear people, we are going to go ARREST President Ashwood, but first a couple things need to happen. We need to be sure he is there and this is not a trap, we need ground recon. Drones or air is too risky, there is a greater chance of his security forces detecting them and figuring out we know where they are. Ashwood is on a secure estate in Upstate New York, just north of Rome, New York. He is close and that is good news. The bad news is, if they follow protocol, they will, if they haven't already, bring a battalion of Marines and at least one, if not two, squadrons of fighters to protect the area. Commander Coleson of the New York State Rangers has assets on the ground. He is going to reach out to them this afternoon and try to get them to do some recon for us. Some of you may recall the report of the Militia that took out most of the Air Wing on Fort Drum. These boys are causing hell in the backyard of the enemy and have proven very effective. After the early Christmas gift we sent them, I have a feeling they will be thrilled to help us out. Once we hear back from them we can form a solid plan. Until then we start training for a raid. Captain Miller will command air support. Colonel Rodriguez will command ground support. Our SEAL team is enroute back from Washington state and will be the main strike force, under the command of Snoops." Norris paused and took a deep breath. "I want all of you to look around and remember the faces missing from this group, we have all lost friends, brothers…" he looked right at Colonel Rodriguez, "and lovers. We have not had time to mourn or grieve. And I know I said things were going to slow down but we are not done yet. President Ashwood started all this but we are going to end it. Dismissed."

A couple hours later Norris was sitting in his office reviewing asset condition reports when Myers came in and handed him another file.

He looked down at it and saw the name. "Shit do we really have to do this. Can't we just ship him off to the President and make him handle it."

"Admiral, you filed charges in a Court Martial. He has to be tried by a Military Court. I found a senior Naval JAG officer Admiral Johanson. Admiral Cathcart is sending him over via Canada and he should arrive in a day or two. He is bringing a defense attorney with him. You are entitled to appoint a Judge and defense attorney but I thought in this particular case your hands should be kept out of it. Admiral Buchinski has elected a General Courts Martial instead of a Summary so we need to appoint members of the court. Here is my list of recommendations."

"These are all people that I have placed in positions of command. I am nervous that this is a kangaroo court and these people are going to convict him no matter what his defense says."

"Sir anyone on our side has a bias. Everyone knows about Operation Starshine and we have a sworn statement from Bucky. This is a slam dunk case no matter how you turn it."

"Ok, here, I will sign off on the appointments."

"Commander Caprio will handle the prosecution. Be advised he intends to call you as a witness."

Norris laughed. "Well I would certainly fucking hope so."

Myers just stared at him for a minute. "There is one other thing sir. Bucky's personal effects, Naval regulations state they must be released to a family member. Bucky listed you as his beneficiary on everything."

Norris hung his head. "Fuck, he knew if something happened and I knew about Felix, I would take care of Felix. Have Caprio draw up papers for me to release everything, including personal wealth and assets to Colonel Rodriguez."

"Are we going to have a memorial service sir?"

"I suppose we should. I am not ready to accept it, Myers. I have known him since he was a kid. He was friends with my son you know."

"I know sir. Should I see if Doctor Badger can come out for a visit."

"I am not going crazy Myers. I am mourning the loss of a good friend, someone I consider a son… Yeah see if you can make the arrangements."

"Understood sir. Here is the report from Colonel Shelton. He has managed to hold his own and move north a little. He is concerned about his southern flank as there seems to be a little bit of a build up in southern Florida. His report also includes details from the Army Ranger Recon team he sent to the area where we lost Bucky and Adam. The whole area is crawling with enemy troops and no real intel was gathered. One of the choppers carrying a squad was shot down on its way out, the locator beacon was automatically activated and then turned off as is current protocol. We can only assume there are survivors."

Norris took a sip of his coffee while looking at the report. "Can we get them out?"

"No sir. The area is right smack between Atlanta, Mobile and Texas. Trying to get them out would only result in more losses. They are better off trying to hump it out."

"Ok keep me appraised. Anything else?"

"These are the supply and support reports you requested."

He pointed to the corner of the desk. "Put them over there. Can you tell Payne I want an update on the Ashwood situation ASAP?"

"Yes Admiral."

"Also, make arrangements for me to visit a couple local hospitals. I want to see how they are handling the overload and if there is anything we can do to help."

"Tomorrow ok for that sir?"

"That works."

"I will let Lieutenant Perez know to make the arrangements."

"Thank you Myers."

She left the office and Norris looked up from the piles of papers that seemed to want to collapse on top of him. He stood up from the desk and looked out the porthole as the sun was setting. He stood there watching the sun slowly go down behind the mainland thinking how symbolic the setting sun was. Symbolic of the friends he lost and symbolic of the country. The United States would never be the same. There was a tap at the door."Come in."

Lieutenant Payne walked in. "You asked to see me Admiral."

"Sit down John." Payne sat, a little shocked the Admiral used his first name. "Tell me what we know so far about Ashwood."

"Well sir, we are still waiting for Commander Coleman to get us some on the ground intel but the Canadians did convince the British Home Office to get a satellite to make a pass. Here are the images. You can see the heavy security. This building here is the main residence, we can assume Ashwood would be there. This building here looks like it might be a barracks. Based on movement and proximity to the main building we are extrapolating that there are about forty agents and about hundred ten Marines."

"So we are facing a force of about hundred fifty men, all highly trained and prepared to sacrifice their lives for Ashwood. Ok, when is the SEAL team due back?"

"Late tonight sir. I will brief them on the mission first thing tomorrow morning."

Norris stood and walked to the porthole again to look out. "Why do I feel like this is not going to end the war?"

Payne paused for a moment before responding. "Because it's not going to end sir. We all know that. Ashwood, regardless of how much we hate him, is not doing this on his own. He has had help all along. Who that help is, and how capable they are, we don't know but I will tell you this sir, with everything I am seeing happen, Ashwood is not the one in control, he is not calling the shots."

Norris spun around and looked at him. "Then who the fuck is?"

"You want my guess sir?"

"You're my chief intelligence officer. Yes I want your fucking guess."

"Well sir we know Edgar Recore couldn't pull this off. He is a brilliant man but he doesn't have enough political power to make this happen. He controls the media but he doesn't have the contacts in the military and Congress."

Norris sat back down. "You're right, I know Recore and he is a disgusting fat ass, but not capable of this. So that takes us back to the question of who?"

Payne stood up and poured himself a glass of water. "The AoG group. It's some sort of secret fraternity and we have no idea of its scope and power. It's the only thing that makes sense, I have looked at every member of the cabinet and almost every major Ashwood supporter in Congress and can't find any one individual that could pull this off."

"How do we find them?"

"That sir I have no idea about. We have questioned all the officers in the brig and none of them know anything. Admiral Buchinski was definitely not a part of the inner circle."

Norris looked up at him. "Can we be sure?"

"We are very sure sir. We did a sort of polygraph."

"Sort of, what the hell does that mean?"

Payne took a deep breath. "Members of the UNIT have a way to detect if someone is lying and we questioned Buchinski in front of them."

"And we are confident in this method?"

"Very sir."

"I am not going to ask about the method. I understand there are things senior commanders should not know and we can keep it that way."

"Very good, sir."

"Start putting together a team to figure out this AoG thing. Get your best people looking at political moves, say over the past ten to fifteen years and try to draw connections. Look at everyone, military, politician, civilian and religions." He paused for a second. "Start with religious zealots, a lot of this shit stinks of so called Christian Zealots."

"We can do that sir. I will put a couple of my best analysts on it and see if they can make heads or tails of it."

"Get with the UNIT guys and get all the info they have. Actually set up a time when Logan can come give us a face to face update on what info he has. We will still go after Ashwood, figurehead or not, that can play into our favor as well."

"Yes sir, understood."

"I am going to need your help on this. I need a federal judge to issue a warrant for the arrest of Richard Ashwood and I need someone to execute the warrant. Preferably a federal agent or New York state police officer. We do not want any loopholes here; I will be there when we take Ashwood into custody."

"Sir, I don't mean to second guess you but there are going to be a lot of people here that will be very against that."

"I don't give a shit who is against it. We are placing a former, freely elected, President of the United States under arrest. As the senior officer in command of the theater I will be present for the arrest. Me and my staff will be in full dress uniform and will help the arresting officer. We will not compromise our principles under any circumstances."

"Sir, I understand completely and I agree with you but you're gonna be in for a fight with your security staff and senior officers."

"I can deal with them, you just get me all the info I need."

"Yes sir."

"I want daily updates from you. That's all get back to work."

"Sir, Yes sir."

Norris picked up the phone on his desk. "Myers, gather the senior command officers together to join me for dinner." He hung up the phone and pushed his chair back and propped his feet on his desk. He felt a little ache in his ribs and chuckled. The attack in Bermuda seemed so long ago but in reality it was less than a couple weeks ago.

1858 24 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Off the shore of Long Island

Admiral Norris walked into the senior officers' wardroom and everyone paused. In the wardroom, dinner formalities were set aside and no one shouted out calling the room to attention.

Norris spotted Doctor McCray chatting with Captain Hollway and walked over to join them. As he walked up, one the the stewards gave Norris a glass of cold cola. Doctor McCray paused and watched the steward walk away before reaching into his jacket, pulled out a flask and quickly poured a hefty shot of amber brown liquid into the admiral's glass.

Norris smiled and lifted his glass to the two of them. "Cheers gentlemen."

They both responded. "Cheers Aggy."

After taking a sip of his drink Norris looked at both for a second. "You two old scoundrels together is the stuff nightmares are made of."

Leo laughed. "Add you in and now the entire ship will be pissing their pants in fear." They all laughed.

Norris looked behind him and noticed dinner was ready to be served. While formalities were supposedly put away at wardroom there still was some decorum and no one would sit to dinner until the admiral did. Norris walked over to the table with his two old friends in tow and took his place at the head of the giant long table.

"Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. It's not often at these times we get to relax and enjoy a little time, so I thought tonight we could take a few minutes and relax. Everyone take your seats." He sat and watched everyone sit. "Commodore Chase and Admiral Surette thank you for joining us. Captain Hollway, Captain Miller and Captain McCray always a pleasure. Captain Barnes and Captain Goussard good to see you again. Before we begin dinner I would like to take a moment of silence for our lost friends. We have lost too many of our friends and comrades. We all have lost someone close to us. But we cannot lose focus and we cannot lose hope. We cannot let our friends' deaths be in vain. Captain Cole and Crew of the USS Rhode Island, Captain Marshall and Crew of the USS New Jersey." He paused and took a deep breath "Commander Albert Bucky Buchinski, General Adam Casey." He paused again to regain his composure. "Too many friends to list them all here tonight, but let me finish by saying this, we will always treasure their memory and will honor their sacrifices. A moment of silence please."

The room was uncomfortably silent for a few minutes with everyone's heads bowed. The stewards ready to serve dinner stood completely silent and let their senior officers have their moment.

Norris lifted his head. "Thank you, now let's have some dinner and no more work talk for the night."

The stewards moved forward and dinner began. It was a fun evening for the officers, filled with hearty banter and of course some shop talk. By the end, Norris noticed most of the men at the table were a little tipsy and looked over at McCray and shook his head.

Leo lifted his glass and shrugged his shoulders.

After dinner Norris invited the doctor and Captain Hollway back to his office for one last drink. After they poured themselves a drink and sat down Norris took a deep breath.

"Now what, gentlemen?"

Leo slouched in his chair. "We keep fighting the damn war until we are all dead or we win."

Norris shook his head. "You have always had a hell of a way of putting things Leo."

Leo just shrugged again "I tell it like I see it."

Norris looked over to Captain Hollway "Can we keep this pace, Jay?"

Jay signed. "Honestly Admiral, no. We are getting tired and we are getting low on supplies and men."

Norris shook his head but didn't stop Hollway from finishing.

"Admiral, these men and women will follow you anywhere and give you every ounce of energy, blood and sweat if you ask them to and you may need to. But if we have the time to regroup we should take it."

Norris finished his drink and set it down. "We have to slow the pace, so when we need to, we can push forward with all our might and end this nonsense. Gentlemen I am calling it a night. I am headed to the mainland to visit some of the hospitals. Leo you're coming with me?"

Leo smirked. "To the hospitals? Yes. To Bed? No!"

All three busted up laughing, said goodnight and went in opposite directions. Norris looked down at the letter on his desk. He picked up his pen and started again.

Mr. Buchinski,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I write this letter. Your son and dear friend of mine Albert Buchinski, was killed in action attempting to rescue innocent civilians from a terrible fate at the hands of the foreign soldiers employed by the former President Ashwood.

Commander Buchinski took his responsibilities and his duties very seriously. He was a true patriot and an American hero. While you two did not see eye to eye on the current events in the country, you should be proud of his conviction and loyalty to his country.

Augustus T. Norris,
Vice Admiral, USN
Commander in Chief
Atlantic Fleet

It looks like the fleet is licking its wounds. I doubt that the war will allow Admiral Norris very much time to regroup. Ken Barber

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