Castle Roland

Dawns Early Light
Book III
Twilight's Last

by Ken Barber

In Progress

Chapter 4

Published: 13 Jul 17

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

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

"Neptune 1, this is Shockwave 1, Do you copy?" Sinclair's voice came through the fog in Norris' head. It was dark and something heavy was on top of him.

He pushed at the weight as he tried to talk. "Sound off your status, Now." He heard some rustling.

"Payne, sir. I think my leg may be broken."

"Neptune 1, this is Shockwave 1, come in Neptune 1."

Norris pushed the weight off him and tried to sit up. "Someone find the damn radio."

"Barnum sir. The radio is in the cockpit."

A flashlight turned on and it pierced the darkness and destruction all around them. It landed on Norris and quickly dropped down to the face of Lieutenant Perez laying on the floor of the helicopter where Norris had just pushed him off.. "Private Block, sir. I think Lieutenant Perez is dead sir."

Norris looked down at the body he had just pushed off and sighed "He is son."

Norris sat up more and groaned and grabbed at his ribs. "GOD DAMN IT SOUND OFF WITH YOUR STATUS."

"Shockwave 1 this is Neptune Sierra, we have the crash site in view. We are setting down and moving in."

"Neptune Sierra this is Outback 1 we have a visual on you. We are going into the wood line to your west and will set up a security screen."

"Sir it's Corpsman Taylor. I am ok, I can't find my kit."

Norris leaned his back against the airframe and sighed. "Ok Taylor, Block use the flashlight to help Taylor find his kit and take care of Payne. I am fine."

"Lance Corporal Mitchell sir. Fayette, Kelly and Sergeant Bailey are on the other bird."

There was a groan from the cockpit. "Colonel you ok?" Norris shouted out.

"I think so. My feet are stuck."

"This is Shockwave 1, listen up everyone. Neptune Sierra, you approach the crash site. Outback, you set up a perimeter. The enemy saw that bird go down too."

Norris heard some movement in the cockpit. "Shockwave this is Neptune 1 we are on the ground and we have injured. Neptune Actual is ok."

"Neptune 1, we are coming to get you, just hang tight."

"Roger Shockwave 1, we need to move out of the bird and will deploy in standard fashion."

"Ok, you all need to get out. We don't know if this is gonna blow or not. SOP is 500 meters in the direction we were heading when we went down."

Norris pushed himself up. "He is right. Colonel, how is Major Pike?"

"He is dead sir. Sir, I need you to get out of this bird now."

Sergeant Barnum came forward out of the darkness and reached down and helped Norris up. "Mitchell, Block take lead. Taylor can you support the LT?"

"Yeah I got him, Sergeant."

Norris looked at Barnum. "We need to get the pilot out."

"No sir we need to get you out. The Aussies are going to come get the pilot out."

Norris leaned forward and looked into the cockpit. He grabbed the pilot by the shoulder and started to pull him. The pilot's head rolled towards Norris and his lifeless eyes stared back at him. Norris looked down at the piece of steel sticking out of the man's chest.

"Fuck he's dead. Where is the crew chief?"

"Dead as well sir. Come on let's get you out of here. Mitchell grab Perez's radio. Block, the crew chief has an incendiary."

A few seconds later they both responded. "Got it Sergeant."

"Ok let's move now."

Norris stood and pushed the NCO off gently. "Hold up a second, Block grab their dog tags."

Everyone waited quietly until Private Block carefully removed the dog tags from the Pilot, Co-Pilot, Crew Chief and Lieutenant Perez.

Norris held his hand out to Private Block for the tags. He carefully placed them in his left breast pocket and patted his pocket once.

He looked over to Barnum "I can walk Sergeant, not gonna be running any marathons but I can walk." Norris drew his sidearm and looked back at Taylor and Payne. "I will cover them."

"Good sir let's go."

They hustled out of the bird and started to move away. Barnum stopped them and looked back. "Let em know, Mitchell."

"Shockwave 1 this is Neptune 1, we are clear of the bird and commencing scorch procedure."

"Roger, Sierra and Outback, be advised do not approach the bird."

Norris looked over at Block as he pulled the thermal grenade out. Norris reached over and put his hand on the grenade. "Let me do this, son."

Norris popped the pin on the grenade and tossed it into the downed helicopter. There was no explosion or bang but within a few seconds there was a huge column of smoke as the incendiary started to spread, in a few minutes the whole bird would be destroyed.

They turned and started toward the rendezvous. After what seemed like hours of moving through the woods, but in reality was only a few minutes, Block, who was on point, gave the signal for everyone to stop and get down. He whispered back, "Tangos approaching from the east. I count six." Mitchell keyed his radio. "Sierra freeze."

Block gave him a thumbs up meaning the approaching men froze.

"Sierra, take a knee, pointman walk 25 meters and set your rifle down."

The silence was deafening. Block looked back and gave another thumbs up. He slowly stood and walked to the man kneeling on the ground with his rifle beside him. They exchanged whispers and Private Block waved back to the group."

"Shockwave 1 this Sierra, we have Neptune 1 and are in route back to our bird."

"Roger Sierra, Outback withdraw. Neptune 1, be advised you have a squadron of F-18s to escort you back."

Norris smiled and looked over at Barnum "I feel like a teenager that took his mom's car and crashed it."

Barnum chuckled a little. "Sir they are never going to let you leave the carrier ever again."

0635 EST 28 November 2012
USS Ronald Reagan
Long Island Sound

As soon as the wheels of the helicopter touched the deck of the carrier it was surrounded by corpsman and security. The door was thrown open and Doctor McCray came storming in.

"God Damn it Admiral are you ever going to keep yourself out of trouble?" He kneeled down to take a better look at Norris.

"It kind of comes with the job. I am fine Leo, the ribs ache a little but not bad. Payne has a broken leg." McCray looked over to where Taylor was helping Payne out of the chopper.

"Taylor get those corpsmen to help you. Put him on the gurney so he doesn't put any more weight on it."

"Yes sir."

Leo stood up and helped Norris to his feet. "I want X-rays to make sure you didn't fracture them again, ASAP."

Doctor McCray let the corpsman lead the admiral off while he stayed behind. He stopped every person that was in the crash and quickly assessed their preliminary condition and gave instructions to the corpsmen with him. After he had checked them all, and they were on the way to sickbay, McCray hurried to catch up with Norris.

He caught them in the hall right outside sickbay. "Admiral, a moment please."

Norris stopped and let the corpsman go ahead of him. "What's up Leo?"

"I have Ashwood in there in a private exam room. Major Sinclair and Agent Clausen want him moved to the Brig now. He is not young, and I need to make sure there are no injuries."

Norris shook his head. "I got it Leo, he will not be held in the Brig, He is to be given officer's quarters and kept under guard. He will be confined to those quarters, and access will only be allowed on my orders."

"Thank you, Aggy, I knew that's what you would want."

"Now let's get this over with so I can get back to work." Norris started to turn around but McCray grabbed his arm.

"There is one more thing, Admiral. You have a Priority 1 message in your office that needs your immediate attention."

Norris shook his head. "Now what? Ok fuck let's get whatever it is resolved first.

The two quickly walked to the admiral's office. Once they reached the door Doctor McCray placed his hand on Norris's shoulder.

"Aggy you look really tired so I am gonna warn you, you need to be ready for this and be prepared for the shock."

"What the fuck are you talking about Leo, just spit it out."

Leo didn't say anything he just opened the door and let Norris enter.

Norris stepped through the door and just stared for a minute. Standing before him was a ghost, a ghost of a dear friend. He looked closer and the young man in the Navy Lieutenant Commander's dress uniform, left arm in a sling, snapped to attention and saluted.

"Lieutenant Commander Albert Buchinski reporting for duty sir."

Norris started to take step forward but staggered and collapsed.

He opened his eyes to look up at Leo leaning over him. "God Damn it Aggy I fucking told you, you have to get some fucking rest. That's it you're grounded, and if you you even think about arguing with me I will suspend your command."

Norris just stared at him and whispered. "Leo it's bad, I saw Bucky, he was standing right here."

"You're not hallucinating Admiral, I am right here."

Norris looked over to see the ghost staring at him from the foot of the sofa he was lying on. Norris sat up and started to scoot back.

Leo laughed. "It's not a ghost Aggy, he survived."

Norris just stared at Bucky and Bucky smiled. For the first time since Norris lost his wife and son, his two best friends saw him break down and start sobbing. He slowly stood and walked over to Bucky tears streaming down his face. He grabbed Bucky and held onto him very tightly. "I thought I lost my second son."

Bucky hugged him back. "I know Aggy, I am sorry."

Norris pulled back and started laughing "You Mother Fucker, I ought to knock you on your ass, you damn near gave me a heart attack."

Norris winced and grabbed his rib. "Shit this better be one hell of a story Bucky." He looked back at Doctor McCray. "Leo, you, me, Bucky and a bottle of Scotch. Back here in thirty minutes."

Leo smiled. "That's an order I can follow SIR."

Norris looked back to Bucky. "Felix know yet?"

"No sir, Myers told me he was monitoring your raid, and rescue so I didn't want to distract him."

"MYERS!" Norris shouted out and Myers stepped into the office.


"Get a chopper to pick up Colonel Rodriguez and get him here now. Nobody says a word to him. Bring him straight to my office."

"Already done, sir."

Norris smiled. "Leo, we are gonna need more glasses."

"On it sir."

Norris turned and looked at Bucky again. "Damn son, don't ever do that shit again."

"I don't intend to Admiral"

The two of them left the office and walked arm and arm to sickbay. Once they stepped into the controlled chaos of Doctor McCray's kingdom the corpsman that was helping Norris before stepped up and guided him to an exam room. "Sir, we are gonna have to get you undressed."

"Thank you Corpsman, I can do it. Could you have someone run to my quarters and get my second dress uniform. Seaman James should know where to find it."

"Of course Admiral."

The corpsman left the room and Norris slowly got undressed and put the stupid little gown thing on. By the time he got it figured out the Corpsman came back into the room followed by a technician with a giant portable X-ray machine. "Admiral, we are just gonna take a couple quick shots and get you out of here. Seaman James is on his way with your uniform."

"Thank you, Corpsman Deere."

"No problem at all Admiral. Okay just lay on the exam table and let's get started." The corpsman and the technician turned Norris around a million different ways and took a million different shots before they rolled the machine out. As they were leaving Seaman James slipped in with a garment and accessory bag.

"Admiral, I am glad you're ok."

"Thank you James."

"Sir, I grabbed your toiletry kit as well, and some things for you to clean up. You won't want to meet President Ashwood looking like hell, sir."

"James you still amaze me. Your organizational skills are astounding."

"Thank you, sir. Just doing my job sir."

Norris took the toiletry bag and walked over to the sink. He quickly washed his face, brushed his teeth, and started to get ready to shave when McCray walked in. "Umm, did I get lost and somehow end up in your quarters Admiral."

"Shut up McCray, I have to go talk to Ashwood."

McCray shook his head. "Do you have any idea how much sanitizer is going to have to be used on that sink."

Norris stopped and just stared at him for a minute. "Shut up Leo! I am trying to shave."

Leo laughed. "Your X-rays look clean, just a little bruising around the old injury I want you back here in three days for more X-rays to make sure it's healing."

Seaman James looked at the Doctor. "Sir, I will have Commander Myers put it on the admiral's calendar."

Norris glared at James. "I take back all those nice things I just said, you little traitor."

James smiled. "Admiral, my apologies, I thought you would find taking care of your health a big priority."

Norris glared back at McCray. "How much do you pay them, Leo."

McCray ignored him "Ok Admiral I will see you in an hour. You still have those muscle relaxers, I gave you?"

"I have them."

"Use them for at least a couple days; it will speed up the healing."

"I don't think I am gonna have a choice. This fucking hurts."

"If you need something a little stronger let me know."

"I will."

McCray got up and walked out of the room to attend to other patients. Norris finished shaving, cleaned up and dressed in his full dress uniform. He grabbed his hat and tucked it under his arm. "Ok James, I am ready."

He stepped out of the exam room and hush fell over the room as everyone watched Admiral Norris in full regalia march across the room toward the exam room with two Marine guards standing outside it. The Marines snapped to attention and one reached over and opened the door for the admiral.

Norris stepped into the room and looked at the former President of the United States laying on the exam table in a hospital gown hand cuffed to the table. He spun around and put his head back out the door. "DOCTOR McCRAY, GET IN HERE."

Norris stepped back inside and looked at two additional guards inside the door. "Remove the handcuffs and exit the room Marines."

"Sir! Yes! Sir!" the response was in perfect unison and Norris heard Ashwood chuckle. Doctor McCray came in at that moment.

"Yes Admiral?"

"How is his condition?"

"He is perfectly healthy, physically"

"OK let's find him some clothes. Give me a few minutes alone with him please."

McCray didn't say a word; he just backed out of the room and closed the door.

"President Ashwood. I am Vice Admiral Augustus Norris, Commander-in-Chief-Atlantic Fleet. I just want you to know in a few minutes a Federal Prosecutor with a Warrant is going to come in here and charge you with treason, crimes against humanity and a long list beyond that. After they charge you they will ask me to provide for your security."

Ashwood sat up. "Now listen here Admiral…"

"Sir I am strongly going to suggest you shut up and listen to me. I am the only one that controls how this goes. I can make your life a miserable hell or I can make sure you are as comfortable as possible for as long as you are on my ship. I will have you taken to officers' quarters, you will be fed from the officers' mess. You will not have guards in your room, and can entertain yourself in anyway you see fit. I will have a television and some approved movies for you to watch and any book you want. But do not think for one minute you are anything other than a prisoner. As long as you understand your place I will afford you some of the comfort afforded to someone of your former office." Norris held up his hand. "No sir do not respond, I do not want to regret my decision to show you some measure of respect. You just need to understand it is the office you held that I am showing that respect to not the man sitting before me."

President Ashwood just sat there as Norris turned and stormed out of the room.

Norris walked quickly out of sick bay and saw Sinclair and Agent Clausen walking toward him.

"You two, I gave clear instructions on how President Ashwood was to be treated."

Major Sinclair stopped and came to attention. "Admiral, You are correct; my sincere apologies. I think we were a little rattled after your chopper went down."

Norris took a deep breath. "Major, I appreciate that but next time, even if I am dead you will follow my orders. Is that understood?"

"Sir, yes sir."

"Good, now let's put this behind us. Today is a good day, we have accomplished something amazing, and a friend has come back from the dead. Let's not let a little misunderstanding ruin it."

Sinclair smiled. "I heard about Bucky, damn good news that is. Does Felix know yet?"

"No and don't tell him, we are going to surprise him. He is on his way here now. You, Bucky, and Felix will dine with me tonight, understood?"

"Sir, yes sir."

Norris started to walk off. "Oh, one other thing, Lieutenant Payne is bringing in a special interrogator for Ashwood, no one questions him until that is done."

"Yes sir."

Norris turned and walked to CIC. As soon as he entered the entire command center erupted in applause. Captain Miller walked over and patted Norris on the back. "You did it sir. You captured Ashwood and managed to survive a helicopter crash. I will give it to you; when you do something, you do it big."

Norris scowled at Miller. "Oh shut the hell up." He looked up at the command center and smiled. "Listen up everyone. Thank you for that reception home. I am sure when you thought your miserable old Admiral was dead you had the same reaction. This is not my victory, this is not the SEALs victory. This is our victory. Every warrior here, on the shore, and in the sky owns this victory. Every single person that calls themselves an American owns this victory. Today the good guys prevailed. Today we made the enemy afraid. Today we showed them no one is above the law. Today we showed them what true Americans are made of."

The room erupted in applause again. Norris held his hands to quiet them down. "Ok I need a status update."

Captain Miller stepped beside him. "Sir, all friendly troops are back on the Reagan. We had six casualties, sir. The enemy is mobilizing their troops, but the enemy commander doesn't seem to know where to send them. They started mobilizing and moving south toward the border of Pennsylvania and New York at the start of the attack in Iowa, but stopped outside of Buffalo. They seem to just be sitting there. My guess is currently the orders are confusing. It won't last long that's for sure. I have the Battle Group at Battle Stations as a precaution."

"Ok Thank you Captain. Let's stand down from Battle Stations for now. Let's use this time to regroup. Do we have any targets of opportunity?

"Yes sir. We are keeping the daily airstrikes on the New London Navy Base. They have to be all but ready to give up. We have taken out all the perimeter air defense and are now hitting the destroyers. There are four there, our next strike is at 1500 hours and we will hopefully finish them off. That will just leave subs. The water is too shallow they can't submerge and our surface ships are keeping the mouth of the Thames clear. No one can get in there to work on the Seawise Giant without being shelled by the canoes."

"Ok good keep that up. When is the Constitution back?"

"We expect her and her escorts to be back tomorrow afternoon."

"Ok have her do a little ship to shore fire with her main gun. That should just about finish them off."

"Yes sir. We also have identified an FOB near East Hartford, Connecticut. Intel says based on the size and activity this should be their command center, or at least the command for Connecticut."

"Do we have an air strike plan yet."

"Just got the intel a few minutes ago. It was the same satellite that you guys were using. The Brits had it continue to take shots as it continued east. They sent over the data as soon as they had it."

"Ok get a strike plan together. Let's get started on beating the hell out of them. Keep in mind the enemy is running around chasing their tails. And while that is a good thing, it comes with the negative of them making contact in unexpected places. That FOB may not be there tomorrow. I want birds in the air in the hour."

"You got it Admiral. Colonel Rodriguez saw an opportunity and pushed a couple companies further west and seized the Smith and Wesson factory in Springfield Mass. That puts him on the eastern edge of Springfield. If we hit that FOB hard and Sinclair can get the Marines in there and push the southern end of the line as well we could buckle their line."

Norris was looking at the map for a long minute. "Ok hit everything we can between our lines and the Hudson River. Pound the shit out of them until tomorrow night. Focus on Air Defense and Communications facilities, first. Then start hitting forward units and supply depots. Do not take out the bridges and highways. Let them fall back, when you're done get Sinclair and his Marines to push with everything they have in the south, have Rodriguez and his Cav hold until Sinclair catches up with him. The Canadians push down from the north and west. We seize Hartford, Springfield and Saratoga Springs. The Canadians hold Lake Champlain down to Saratoga and east to Springfield. Then it's just a headlong rush to the Hudson. Get the commanders together and have them start prepping the orders."

"Yes sir."

"I want to review the plans by 1500 hours. How did the attack in the west go?"

"Better than expected sir. The UNIT, supported by Special Forces A-teams and Allied Special Ops, broke through the enemy lines at Davenport, Iowa, and pushed all the way to Chicago. Elements of the 1st Armored Division, with support from the Big Red One, rushed through the break and were able to push the enemy back. The enemy line along the Mississippi now ends at St. Louis and then runs east and north to Chicago. They are wrapping up now and will have the siege of Chicago broken soon." While explaining, Captain Miller pulled up the map for the Midwest and Norris could see all individual units' new positions.

"Damn, they moved fast." He paused and looked at the map again. "Once he has a pause point, I want to talk with General Rose." Norris pointed at Michigan "I think we can take Michigan with a little help. Have Myers get with his people and set up a time to talk."

"Yes sir."

"Anything else I will be in my quarters."

"Sir there is something else."

They both turned to look at Myers. "Colonel Shelton just sent in a report sir. There are massive troop movements to his south and north, sir."

Norris walked over to digital map and switched to Florida. Myers inserted a flash drive and uploaded the new data onto the map. She pointed to the area south of Shelton's position. "The troops to the north we always knew about, and he has slowly pushed them back. He has all of central Florida under his control from Port Charlotte to Port St Lucie in the south and in the North he has Daytona to the mouth of the Crystal River. However recon has spotted large units moving into position on his southern flank."

"Where the fuck did they come from and what kind of units."

"Sir mostly infantry but there is some light armor. The force is almost entirely South and Central American. The Armor is most likely from Mexico, according to the Intel Team."

"Shit, can he hold?"

"He is not sure sir, he says if he falls back to the original lines he thinks he can."

"Ok, tell him to fall back, and he needs to have an exit strategy. If we can tomorrow, find me a way to chat with him via sat. That reminds me, I need to brief President Bryce."

"Sir we have a satellite link up with the President scheduled in a few minutes"

"Good, thank you. Anything else?"

"Sir Colonel Rodriguez will be here in five minutes. And sir? What do you want me to do with Bucky's promotion orders? They were done as posthumous."

"Well shit, is there a regulation on this?"

"Sir, according to NAVPERS 15560D Article 1450-10 states any officer promoted by error resulting from command and not the officer shall retain the promotion."

Norris thought for a second. "That settles it, I signed the orders in error so he retains the rank. I am headed to my office for a few minutes. Myers have McCray, Bucky and Sinclair meet me in my office."

"Yes sir."

Norris left the CIC and walked back to his office. No one was there yet so he plopped himself in his chair, winced and grabbed his ribs and then sighed deeply. He exhaled as if he had been holding his breath for hours and it felt like he had. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of The Macallan 18 year old scotch. He stopped and thought for a second. He had accumulated quite a few nice bottles of Scotch over the years and each one was meant for a special occasion he didn't think he would go through them as quickly as he had in the past month, but hey, at least there was always something to drink to lately.

The door opened and McCray, Bucky and Sinclair walked in. Norris pointed at the chairs. "Sit down everyone." Norris started to pour scotch into a glass and looked up as Myers started to leave the room. "That means you too Myers."

Myers paused, turned around, and pulled up a chair as Norris started pouring. He handed everyone a glass and raised his. "Every one of you have been with me from the beginning of this, never once has your trust or loyalty wavered, for that I am deeply honored. Just a few days ago we were drinking to the memory of our dear friend Bucky, and today we are drinking to his health. Today was a damn good day. Bucky, thank you for everything you have done, and let me just say I for one am so damn happy the report of your death was wrong. I am sure you have a thrilling story to tell us but it needs to wait until someone more important than the rest of us sees you." He raised his glass even higher "Welcome Home. Bucky."

"Here, here." They all raised their glasses then downed the drink.

Norris set his glass down and looked over at Myers. "Is he ready?"

"Yes sir just touching down now."

"Ok Sinclair and Myers go delay him for one minute. Bucky get across the hall. He is going to hate us for this. You two tell him I am in a pissy mood. Go"

All three darted out of the room and Norris looked over at McCray. "Am I being evil?"

McCray laughed. "Yes, but I am loving it. This is something only a few people in the world will ever get to witness."

Norris smiled. "Ok when they come in get up like you're leaving and I am going to bark at you to stay."

McCray looked at him sideways "Ok I think you might be enjoying this too much."

Just then the door opened and Commander Myers showed Colonel Rodriguez in. Doctor McCray started to rise and Norris looked over at him. "Sit down Leo, we are not done."

"Sir, yes sir." McCray sat back down, and was glad Felix was behind him and couldn't see the shit eating grin on his face.

Norris looked up and watched as Felix snapped to attention. "Colonel Rodriguez reporting as ordered, Sir."

Norris returned his salute and just stared at him. "Colonel, who the hell gave you permission to advance your front to just outside of Springfield?"

"Sir, I saw an opportunity and went for it."

Norris watched as Bucky silently stepped behind Felix. Norris couldn't help but smile. "Felix, I am sorry, but this has all been a ploy to get you here under false pretenses. There is someone you need to see. Turn around please."

Felix gave him a strange look and turned around. Norris watched as he could actually see the powerful colonel's guard physically drop. All the hurt and grief that this strong man had been holding in for days, now came pouring out in giant waves. The emotion was so intense, everyone in the entire room stopped breathing. He stood staring and started to sob. Everyone's heart burst as they watched the mighty warrior take a step forward and collapse into Bucky. Bucky as best he could caught him with his good arm. The rest of the officers quietly removed themselves from the room as two of the biggest bad-asses in the country held each other sobbing.

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