Fire and Brimstone: Chapter 1

A/N: Yes, I'm back! I spent most of the last year deployed, and I thought I would have so much time to do so much writing, but alas, my muse was not a fan of the sands of Kuwait, and elected not to come on the trip. And then when I got back home, I moved and started a new job and yada yada yada. Life is hard and all of that.

Anyway, this is a short story that I wrote entirely while I was at a course a couple of weeks ago. We couldn't have our computers, so I wrote the whole thing in a green notebook and made it look like I was taking notes (I was not). So now I'm in the process of transcribing my wonderfully awful doctor's handwriting into my computer so I can post it here for you all to enjoy. And I'm having a really hard time doing it, because I have this great idea for a completely different cast of characters, and I just want to start writing that.

But first, a story that was requested. In a few short chapters.

Sgt Devin Day squinted into the sun as he stepped out of the Humvee. Still too damn hot, he thought as he pulled his cover over his head. At least by October, the temperatures in Iraq had mostly dropped to the high double digits, damn near chilly after the 120+ degree days they had when he arrived a few months before.

"C'mon, girl," he said as he opened the rear door, allowing his Belgian Malinois Ronni to bound out excitedly. "I do not know where you get your energy," he muttered as he closed the door behind her.

He turned toward the tent he had parked in front of and sighed. Getting called to the brass was never a fun thing. He was pretty sure it wasn't because of anything he had done wrong, but he also couldn't think of anything he had done recently that was particularly extraordinary.

Whatever. At least the brigade commander's tent had air conditioning.

He clipped Ronni to the leash and scratched her behind the ears before they continued forward. "Sgt Day and SSgt Ronni reporting as ordered," he said to the clerk just inside the tent's door.

"Yes, Sergeant," she said, smiling down at Ronni before looking back up at him. "The colonel is expecting you. I'll let him know you've arrived."

She got up from her desk and knocked lightly on what must have been the colonel's door, sticking her head in and passing along the message before returning to the desk. "He said to go on in," she reported as she sat back down.

Day took a deep breath before signaling Ronni and heading to the door, still open from the clerk. "Sgt Day and SSgt Ronni, reporting as orderd, sir," he said, standing at attention in front of the small table where the colonel was sitting.

"At ease, Sergeant," Colonel Herzog replied. "Please, have a seat." He gestured at the remaining chair at the table that appeared to be far too nice to be inside a tent in the middle of a warzone.

"Thank you for coming," Col Herzog began. "I know this was a bit of an unusual request, and I know that your instructions were particularly vague. Let us explain to you the situation, and then we'll try to answer any questions you may have."

"Yes, sir," Day replied.

Col Herzog glanced at the woman at the table, and Sgt Day followed his lead and did the same. He had no idea who she was or what she was doing in the hellhole that was Iraq, and he couldn't decide if she belonged or not. Asian and tiny, but somehow giving the impression that was tougher than she looked and that maybe Iraq was exactly where she was supposed to be. Maybe it was the well-worn Marine tan boots under her khakis, but somehow it seemed less defined than that.

"Sergeant, this is NCIS Special Agent Kim Cunningham," Col Herzog said, turning back to Sgt Day. "She's actually the one who wants to talk to you."

Cunningham smiled slightly at that. "Thanks, sir," she said, almost dryly, and that's when Day knew that she was hot shit; nobody talked to the colonel like that unless they could get away with it, and not just anybody could get away with it.

She fully turned toward Day, and addressed him directly. "As the colonel said, I'm Special Agent Cunningham, NCIS' chief of anti-terrorism in the Middle East, based out of Cairo. How familiar are you with Daesh's use of WMDs?"

Day blinked at the unexpected question. "Uh, I know they've been using them in Syria and some poor attempts to use them in various places in Iraq. Uh, Ronni is a CBRNE sniffing dog, ma'am."

Special Agent Cunningham nodded. "Distribution has been a problem for Daesh, thankfully. Most attempts at using chemical weapons have failed because of that, but as you know, it's still a very serious concern." She paused and briefly glanced over at Col Herzog. "We have intelligence of a possible chemical munitions plant at the sulfur processing factory outside Q-West. That's why we asked to see you and Ronni today."

"Yes, ma'am," Day replied. "When do we leave, ma'am?"

She smiled thinly. "We have a ULN for the flight to Q-West tomorrow morning. I want to emphasize, Sergeant, that this is an ask, not an order. We will be going out with minimal support."

"I understand, ma'am," Day said. "Ronni and I didn't go through all that training to sit around Al Asad."

Special Agent Cunningham raised her eyebrows and smirked slightly. "Spoken like a true Marine," she said dryly. "We'll provide you with a full briefing at Q-West tomorrow after we arrive. Call time at the PAX terminal is zero-six. Hopefully we'll be up and down in a couple of days, but as with any mission in this godforsaken place, prepare for a week or longer."

"Understood, ma'am,"

"In that case, I'll see you at 0600 tomorrow," Cunningham said.

"You're dismissed, Sergeant," Col Herzog said to Day. "Thanks for coming in. I'll clear your absence with your chain." He gave a final nod, and that was Day's cue to get up.

"Thank you, sir, ma'am," he said respectively, then signaled Ronni and turned toward the door.

It was time to prepare to go to war.