Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book III
Twilight's Last

by Ken Barber

In Progress

Chapter 2

Published: 8 Jun 17

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

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

0530 EST 25 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Nantucket Bay

Twilight LogoThe tap on his door woke Norris from an unusually deep sleep. "Just a minute." he shouted as he reached over, clicked on the light and looked at his watch. Damn, 0530. He had overslept by a half hour. He reached into the night stand and pulled his USS Ronald Reagan sweatpants and sweatshirt on.

"Come in."

The door opened and Seaman James entered carrying a tray with his breakfast. Norris stood up and stretched as Corpsman Taylor followed James through the door.

Norris rolled his eyes. "What did that old sawbones send you to nag me about this time, Taylor?"

Taylor smiled. "He thought you might need a couple aspirin, Admiral."

Norris mumbled something under his breath about not wanting a wife but took the aspirin and downed them with his coffee.

James took the lid off an omelette and hash browns, and put it on Norris's desk. "Sir, Commander Myers asked me to tell you that she and Lieutenant Perez would be by at 0630 and the chopper would be ready to take you to the mainland."

"Thank you James, can you please tell her the chopper will take the staff members to the mainland, but I arranged with Captain Miller to fly an F-18 over to Portland."

"Yes sir, I will let her know."

The pair left Norris' quarters while he finished his breakfast, showered and got dressed. He packed his ACUs and put on his flight suit. Just as he was finishing, Myers entered the office with Lieutenant Perez.

"Sir, good morning. I understand you're flying over to Portland?"

"Yes I am, Myers, I need some stick time."

"Yes sir. Lieutenant Perez and his team will meet you on the tarmac in Portland. With one exception, Private Kelly will sit second seat for you."

Norris paused and looked up at them. "Has he ever been in a fighter before?"

Lieutenant Perez smiled. "No sir, the men all drew straws to see who would go with you. Kelly drew the short straw. Sir, one favor please, go easy on him."

Norris laughed. "Nothing crazy on this flight, Perez, straight shot up. Just want a little air time is all. I promise Private Kelly will come back in one piece."

"Thank you sir. Private Kelly is all suited up and getting a safety briefing from the Deck Chief. The rest of the team is already loaded with your staff and the doctor. We will head out in just a few minutes."

Norris nodded. "See you there, Lieutenant."

Perez and Myers left and Norris finished another cup of coffee and looked down at his desk again. The letter to Bucky's father was still sitting there. He grabbed his pen, signed the letter, folded it and stuffed it in an envelope with the detained admiral's name on the outside. He grabbed his flight bag and started working his way to the flight ops room.

The room snapped to attention as he entered. "At ease, good morning everyone."

A chorus of "Good Morning, Admiral" followed and Norris tried to make sure he acknowledged everyone in the room.

Captain Miller walked up to the podium and everyone took their seats, then Norris noticed someone pointing Private Kelly to the seat next to him. When Kelly sat down, Norris noticed he was extremely nervous.

Norris leaned over and whispered to him. "You nervous because you have never been in a fighter jet, or because you're flying with the admiral, or maybe its because your pilot is really old?"

Kelly's eyes immediately had that 'deer caught in the headlights' look in them. Norris laughed. "Relax Private, you're going to love this."

Captain Miller rapped his knuckles on the podium to get everyone's attention. "Listen up, pilots. Quiet down now. You all have your mission briefing packets. This is a simple escort mission. Flight of five formed up on Neptune 1. For those of you that don't know the admiral well, I have one thing to tell you. No matter what he tries, do not let him out of your sight until he lands at Portland. We have a pick-up team to bring his jet back here. He will return via chopper. His second seat is a member of his security detail, He has never been in a fighter before, so go easy on him guys. That said, should anything go wrong and if the admiral ends up on the ground before Portland, Private Kelly takes command until reinforcements arrive. Of course it's your job to make sure that doesn't happen. We go in thirty minutes, begin preflight checks now. Be safe out there. Dismissed."

Norris looked over at Kelly. "Let's go Private." He stood up and walked out with the private in tow. As they approached the flight deck, a couple members of the deck crew came over and met them and helped them do the walk around and preflight check. They helped Kelly get settled into the rear seat of the aircraft. Norris climbed the ladder and looked into the rear seat. "Kelly relax, this is gonna be fun. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy. Should anything go wrong and I give the order to eject, you pull that yellow handle right there really hard and put your head down. You're Airborne, right?"

"Yes sir."

"Same thing as a static line, except a little faster."

"Understood, sir."

"The catapult is gonna be a little scary; we are going to go from zero to hauling ass very fast, but just close your eyes and it will be over in seconds and we will be soaring."

Kelly took a deep breath. "Yes, sir."

Norris reached in and checked to make sure the private was harnessed in correctly. "Ok, put your helmet on and snap the oxygen mask on correctly. DO NOT remove that mask under any circumstances."

Kelly put his helmet on and snapped the mask on, and gave the admiral a thumbs up.

Norris climbed into the cockpit and strapped himself in. The crew chief stepped up and checked the admiral's harness and got a thumbs up from Norris. They closed the cockpit and Norris turned to watch the first two jets get ready to be launched into the air.

The first jet got the green light and rocketed off the deck. "Holy Fuck!" Kelly couldn't help but swear when he saw the jet launch.

A few minutes later and it was their turn. Norris looked out to the deck crew as the catapult locked on the wheels. He got the signal to power up the engines. The wheel locks held the plane in place as the giant jet engines quickly came to max power. The huge engines were screaming and pulling against the restraining bolt of the catapult, and the jet was literally vibrating with the massive amount of power being held back. The deck crew chief looked up to the cockpit and got another thumbs up from the admiral. He gave the go signal and the catapults launched the jet down the deck and into the air.

Norris tuned out the scream from the back seat and expertly lifted the multi-million dollar machine into the air. A few minutes later he heard laughter coming from behind him.

"You ok back there, Kelly?"

"Hell yes sir, that was awesome. Can we do it again?" Norris couldn't help but smile.

The flight seemed like it was over even before it began, and they were lining up for landing in Portland. The jet came to a stop and the ground crew rushed up to get the admiral and his passenger out. Norris climbed down and looked back at the huge shit-eating grin on Private Kelly's face. He would be bragging about this for weeks to his buddies. The admiral's staff and security detail rushed out to meet them and whisked them into the waiting vehicles.

The tour of Maine General Hospital went quickly. Most of the doctors were extremely busy, but all took some time to talk to the admiral and his team. They seemed to be handling everything as well as they could.

After leaving the hospital, they jumped on helicopters and flew to the field hospital outside of Boston. The field hospital was a flurry of activity, but seemed much more organized and controlled than the civilian hospital. Once again the visit was short. Norris did get to spend a few minutes talking to a couple wounded sailors and soldiers. He was impressed at how positive morale was.

As they were leaving the field hospital Norris turned to Myers. "What is Major Sinclair and Colonel Rodriguez's current location?"

Myers smiled. "They are standing by at Portland, Sir. We assumed you would want to meet with them."

Norris nodded. "Good. Let's go"

They boarded the helicopters and headed back to Portland. As the giant helicopter slowly came in to land, Norris spotted a group of officers near the main terminal. As soon as he got out, he walked toward them. He spotted Colonel Rodriguez and Major Sinclair off to one side and a large group of Naval officers in dress uniform, including an admiral he had never met, standing away from the colonel and major. Norris turned and headed over to Rodriguez and Sinclair.

He smiled as he approached the two. "Gentlemen, good to see you. If you will give me a few minutes to find out what this dog and pony show is all about we can get down to business."

Felix smiled. "Always willing to wait and watch a good dog and pony show, sir."

Norris shook his head and chuckled and reached out and patted the colonel on the shoulder, before he turned to find out what was going on with the group of Naval officers.

As he walked towards them, a lieutenant commander broke away from the group and started to trot towards them, until Sergeant Barnum and Private Block stepped in front of him with rifles aimed at his head.

Norris stopped. "Lieutenant Perez, can we let the commander through please."

Perez nodded. "Let him through, Sergeant."

The young officer was visibly startled, but continued carefully through the security detail. He snapped to attention and started to salute the admiral, but Lieutenant Perez grabbed his arm.

"No saluting sir, might be snipers around."

Again the officer was startled and started to stutter. Norris just shook his head. "Commander, relax."

"Sir, yes sir. Lieutenant Commander Strum, sir. I am Admiral Johanson's Flag Aide. It would be my honor to introduce you to the admiral, sir."

Again Norris shook his head. "Very well Commander Strum, carry on."

The commander turned and marched over to the waiting admiral. "Admiral Johanson, may I present Admiral Norris?"

Norris reached out his hand to shake the waiting admiral's hand. "Admiral Johanson, thank you for coming out this way so quickly."

"I am sure we can get this resolved rather quickly Admiral."

"I hope so. The first thing we need to do is get you and your people into ACUs, you're prime targets for snipers."

The admiral scowled. "If you say so, Admiral."

Norris turned to Myers. "Commander Myers, will you get the admiral and his staff back to the Reagan and get them into combat uniform as quickly as possible?"

"Of course, sir."

Admiral Johanson stopped. "Admiral Norris, holding a trial on an aircraft carrier is not optimal. Please tell me the officers under arrest are still not held on the carrier."

Norris spun around. "Admiral Johanson, I understand that you may not be used to working in a combat theater, and with due respect to your role in the Navy, let me make this very clear. This is a hostile combat zone, and we have had senior officers targeted already, myself included. There is no safe place to keep the prisoners at this time. The conditions may not be optimal for you, but they are all we have, so if you don't mind my aide is going to escort you back to the Ronald Reagan and make sure you have everything you need, while I attend a briefing of my senior ground commanders."

Norris spun around and stormed off to the waiting Army and Marine officers. "God damn paper pushers, never could stomach them. Let's get inside before those idiots get us all killed."

Major Sinclair laughed and the three went inside to go over the theater details.

1607 EST 25 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Block Island Sound

The helicopter came to a rest very softly on the deck of the carrier and Norris and his team exited quickly and moved toward the superstructure. The wind and snow were howling around them as they trotted toward the hatchway.

Captain Hollway was standing just outside the door waiting. "Welcome back, Admiral. We had to move out to the sound as the weather is picking up. Not expected to last very long but it's easier to maneuver out here."

Norris nodded. "Works for me; Admiral Johanson and his staff get settled in?"

"Yes sir, very demanding that one is."

"I will talk to him and try to get this over as soon as possible."

Admiral Norris and Captain Hollway entered the carrier and walked to CIC.

On their way, Captain Hollway filled the Admiral in on everything that had transpired in the past couple of hours.

Just before they entered, the captain stopped him. "President Bryce sent a message. You have a green light on capturing Ashwood. The message is on your desk, but basically he says whatever you need, you got it."

Norris chuckled "Good. Now we just need a plan so we can identify what we need."

"Lieutenant Payne wants to see you when you get a chance. Myers is still busy dealing with our guests."

"Are they that troublesome?"

"She is trying to show him places to hold the trial and he is poo-pooing everything."

Norris took a deep breath. "You know what? Fuck it, give him what he wants. Find me a military location ashore and ship them all off the carrier, including the prisoners."

Hollway smiled. "Be happy to do it sir."

The admiral walked into the CIC. "Need a status update."

Captain Miller looked up. "Welcome back, Admiral. Enemy fleet is still off the coast of South Carolina. The Brits are little concerned they may make an attempt at Bermuda."

Norris looked at the map. "I agree it is a possibility. Dispatch the Queen Elizabeth Battle Group to Bermuda to monitor the situation. Tell her to keep clear of the fleet unless they make a move for Bermuda. If they do she is to use delaying tactics until we can get there." He paused. "Better idea, let's send Constitution with her, and have them take a couple pot shots and try to push them further off. Send some escorts with Constitution, and when the QE arrives in Bermuda, Constitution can make her way back here."

Captain Miller nodded. "I will get the orders generated. We should have them moving in about eight hours."

Norris looked around. "I will be in my office if I am needed."

As soon as he sat down Commander Myers stepped in. "I am sorry Admiral, but Admiral Johanson is insisting on seeing you immediately."

Norris sighed. "Show him in."

The JAG Admiral stepped into the office and took a deep breath. Before he could start talking Norris held up his hand. "Admiral, we are currently looking for a place on shore for you and your staff, and a place to hold the Court Martial. I have one warning though, you need to provide security for the prisoners. I cannot spare the men for it."

Admiral Johanson got red in the face. "Admiral that is not acceptable. We do not have the means to provide security for the prisoners. I am afraid that is your responsibility."

Norris slowly rose out of his chair. "Admiral Johanson, I have about had it with you and your staff giving orders around here. I am not sure if you are aware of this, but we are at war and this is a combat theater, and if you're not clear, I AM the theater commander. I have been very patient with you up to this point, but my patience is wearing thin. I understand you have a job to do but so do I, and my job is to win this goddamn war! You asked for billeting and facilities on shore, I granted that. I suggest you start figuring out solutions on your own and then forward them to my aide for my approval. That will be all Admiral."

"Admiral Norris, this is highly unusual….." Norris interrupted him.

"You are dismissed Admiral, goodnight. Myers, a moment please."

They both waited until the fuming admiral left the office and closed the door behind him. Norris looked up at Myers. "I was hoping all the paper pushing nitwits went over to Ashwood. I guess there still are a few on our side."

Myers smiled. "Admiral. I had been researching the idea of moving them ashore and have a location at the Navy Seabee Base in Newport, Rhode Island."

"How quickly can we move them?"

"NOW, if you wanted to sir."

Norris got an evil smile on his face. "At 0330 hours, we move the JAG team and the prisoners to the US Navy Seabee Base in Newport, Rhode Island. Send a platoon of Marines with them to set up and then leave them." He paused. "Get me Colonel Rodriguez now. He might have a company of MPs we could borrow."

"On it, sir."

A few hours later, Norris hung up the phone and smiled. He looked up at Myers. "The Rhode Island National Guard MP Company is more than happy to help provide security for the admiral and his team."

"Very well sir. I will get everything set up on our end and notify the admiral and his staff at 0300."

"Perfect. Send in Payne."

"Yes sir, he is outside waiting."

Norris waited for her to leave and the young lieutenant to come in. "Sit down, John."

"Yes sir." Payne smiled at being called by his first name. "Admiral, we got some more sat images and should be getting intel from the Militia soon."

"What do the sat images tell us?"

"Based on the transmit codes and the images, I am 60% sure Ashwood is there."

Norris looked down at the map on his desk. "I have one nagging question. Why move him this close to the front line."

Payne nodded and smiled. "I have considered that, sir. First, and I must stress these are only theories, this close to the front is the last place they would expect us to look for him. Second, there is the element of over-confidence that we have seen in many of the tactics used by Ashwood's administration and third, this may just be a stop over while they get a more secure location planned."

Norris looked up at Payne. "I hadn't thought about that. OK, we need to act fast. Gather the senior commanders as soon as the SEAL team is back, and let's get an action plan together. Once we have the intel from the ground team, we move."

0630 EST 27 November 2012
Operation Retribution Task Force
Myles Standish State Forest, MA

Norris looked through the binoculars at the hastily constructed training complex. He was impressed at how quickly the engineers had built the training area. It looked identical to the complex they believed Ashwood was in. The plan had gone from a massive scale operation to a much more refined smaller scale operation. He watched the edge of the clearing carefully watching for the SEAL team to make their move. The opposing force was made up of Colonel Rodriguez and Major Sinclair's best men.

He switched his view to the sentry closest to the SEAL's entry point and watched him. He almost jumped when a bright red paint spot appeared on the soldier's chest. The soldier looked down and chuckled and sat down on the grass. Norris scanned back to see where the paintball had come from. He was not surprised that even though he knew exactly where the SEAL was, he couldn't see him. A few seconds later, he watched as the SEALs appeared out of thin air and moved quickly from the woodline and up against the closest building. He watched as the team moved quickly around the building and toward the main building. As sentries approached, the snipers would take them out, clearing the way for the assault team. Just before they approached the building holding Ashwood, the snipers took out the two sentries standing outside. The team darted across the small clearing and just as they reached the building, a guard stepped out with a cigarette in his mouth. He saw the SEALs and shouted, but one second later he went down in volley of bullets fired from silenced weapons.

The call came over the radio. "Compromised. Started the clock. They have exactly six minutes to get him and get out. Everyone weapons free. Send in the birds."

The team sprinted up the steps and across the porch. Another guard attempted to exit and was gunned down. Norris watched as a member of Ashwood's security detail took a knee at the corner of a nearby building and fired. Blue paint appeared on two of the SEALs before other team members returned fire and hitting the 'enemy'.

The team tossed flash bang grenades into the house and followed right behind them. Norris could not see the action going on in the house, so he motioned for his vehicle to pull forward. He got in and they started down the hill just as four Blackhawks streaked over head just barely above the treetops.

Norris' team arrived and stayed just on the edge of the extraction point. Norris looked down at his stopwatch. Five minutes and fifteen seconds had passed when the SEAL team raced out of the complex and onto the waiting choppers.

As soon as they were aboard Norris grabbed the mic on his radio. "This is Retribution 1 Actual. Stand down, I say again, stand down. Take twenty minutes, and then NCOs get everyone together for an After Action review."

The officers all began to gather around Norris's vehicle, and the 1/2 ACR Squadron Sergeant Major pulled his Humvee up and unloaded giant containers of coffee. His driver quickly had them set up and everyone was getting in line for coffee. The Sergeant Major handed up a cup to Norris.

"Coffee, sir?"

"Thank you Sergeant Major, and thank you for setting this all up. I am thoroughly impressed with how quickly you got all this in place."

"My pleasure sir. It's an important mission and these boys need to be ready."

Norris paused and thought for a minute. "Sergeant Major may I speak privately with you for a moment?"

The sergeant major smiled. "Of course sir. Let's have our coffee and a smoke over by those trees. I am sure anyone that sees two old timers like us talking will know to keep clear."

Norris chuckled, grabbed his coffee and followed the most senior NCO of the ground troops over to the trees.

As soon as they arrived CSM Twiggs pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Norris. Norris quickly looked to see if anyone was watching, "Oh fuck, why not?"

He grabbed one and took the offered lighter. "So, Sergeant Major, what do you think about this mission."

The Sergeant Major thought for a minute. "Well sir, if I may speak frankly?"

"Of course. What's on your mind."

"Sir, it's downright foolhardy. We all know it ain't gonna mean a damn thing in the end. It's not gonna stop the war. And it's ridiculously dangerous; we don't have enough intel, hell, we don't even know if Ashwood is really there. For all we know this could be a trap…" Norris started to interject but the grisly CSM didn't let him "You said I could speak my mind, sir." Norris nodded and let the man continue "But sir, it's necessary and required. The men need to think they are taking steps to bring this to an end, and by God, sir, if I was even ten years younger I would be jumping up and down trying to get on this mission, even though I know it wouldn't make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things. Those SEALs lost not only their commander but their brother. Everyone of us have lost friends and lovers, and we ''need'' this chance to hit them where it hurts, sir. Something that will say, 'mother-fuckers, no one can stop us'. And this is that chance, sir. They just need to keep training and keep training until they get it perfect. Don't let up on them, don't let em rest. Keep pushing them, sir."

Norris clapped him on the shoulder. "Spoken like a true warrior." He turned and shouted to the group. "Finish up and reset we do it again."

Just as he said that, another Humvee pulled up, and Lieutenant Payne jumped out and trotted over to the admiral. "Sir, we have the info." He handed Norris a file. "That militia group has reported that they have seen and identified Marine One and Secret Service agents on the ground. They have also seen and identified former President Ashwood outside in the open smoking a cigarette. It's him sir, we are 100% certain."

Norris just stared at him for a minute. He spun around. "Colonel Rodriguez, Major Sinclair, Snoops, on me, now." He turned back to look at Payne. "Get back to the Reagan and start planning, we'll move to the staging area at oh dark thirty tonight, and the raid begins at 0245 tomorrow. Get the militia boys to our insert point, and see if they can guide us in."

Lieutenant Payne immediately jumped back into the Humvee and headed back to the carrier. Norris turned to look at the senior officers.

"We move tonight. Target is confirmed. Get your men back to base, get them fed and rested. Mission briefing at 1300 hours. Operation Retribution is a go. Dismissed."

Really? Are we finally going to get Ashwood? Ken Barber

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