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For Love & Country

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Ashlyn traces her fingers over the Liebe tattoo on her wife’s arm. By the light of the moon coming in their window she studies the gorgeous brunette who holds her heart. The sculpted cheek bones. The amazing muscle structure. The luscious lips, still slightly swollen from the blonde’s hungry kisses. She brings the finger that had been tracing Ali’s arm to the distinctive script on the woman’s ribs. She sees a tremor in the skin and realizes the beauty is no longer asleep. She looks up from her tracing to see cinnamon eyes smiling at her.

“You’re so beautiful,” Ashlyn says reverently.

Ali brings her hand up and strokes Ashlyn’s cheek. “So are you.”

Ashlyn rolls so that she lays on her wife, her hips nestled in between strong thighs. “I know you had a game and are probably exhausted but...but I just can’t get enough of you tonight. I need you so badly, Alex,” the blonde pleads.

Ali brings her hands up, cupping the perfect breasts that press against her. “I need you, too, Ashlyn. Always.”

Ashlyn leans down and lets her lips glide over the ones she had been studying. She brings her tongue out and carefully slides the tip along the softness. Her eyes flutter shut as Ali’s tongue slips out to greet hers, a gentle caressing of each muscle. Ashlyn presses her head down, increasing the pressure between their lips but allowing their tongues to still do the slow dance of reclamation. She braces her hands on either side of Ali’s shoulders and starts to rock her hips down into the dark curls that hide a pulsing jewel.

“Oh, Ashlyn,” Ali whispers against her wife’s lips.

“Alex...I love you so much.”

“Love...too...oh...” Ali moans as her center starts to push up to meet each thrust from the blonde.

Earlier they had fast and furious sex. Ali’s fear of nearly losing her wife overwhelming her and she made love in hopes of leaving marks on her soul that would never be erased. She needed to imprint her wife on her in a way that would always be with her should the worst happen. It is desperate. It is frantic. It is animalistic. that the carnal fear had been sated, they were making love. Ali rolls so that the women are on their sides. She bends her leg at the knee as Ashlyn’s hands slides between them.

“Look me in the eye, Ashlyn,” Ali whispers. “I want to see you as we make love.”

Ashlyn’s eyes open. They are dark with desire. She bends her leg when she feels Ali’s hand begging entrance to her warm, wet center. The women moan as they time their strokes to match pace with each other. Their mouths dance once more as their hands orchestrate their love. Ashlyn’s body is on fire. Her heart is bursting with love for the woman in her arms. The woman that loves her despite her childhood. The woman that loves her despite the insecurities that sometimes still bubble up. The woman that loves her no matter how scary her job may be since she left the safety of the soccer pitch.

Ali reads all those emotions in the eyes of her beloved. And why shouldn’t she love her? She, who waited patiently for Ali to come to terms with and accept her attraction to women. She, who has never wavered in her belief that Ali will be a World Champion someday. She, who has nursed her back to health from injuries. She, who taught her what love really, truly means. She, who can be worlds away and still be so close in her heart.

Together they climb the mountain of lust higher, higher. As they reach the summit, their mouths separate and they pull each other closer. And at the moment they both hurtle over the edge, their mouths whisper their pleasure in the ears of the other.

“Oh, Ash!”

“ Alex,” Ashlyn breathes as her legs quiver with aftershocks.

Ali’s legs had stiffened, her hips thrusting with the spasms of climax. “My...Ashlyn...” she breathes out as her body finally stills.

Ashlyn slides her free arm under Ali’s shoulder and pulls her as close as their still buried hands will allow. No words need be said. No more caresses need exchanging. They lie as close as possible as their bodies tingle. After a few minutes, Ashlyn nuzzles Ali’s ear.

“Always, Alex. Always.”

Ali smiles, moaning her agreement. No matter what life may throw at them, they would be there for each other, to love each other, to support each other...Always.

And so they fall asleep, still joined at the hips and at the heart.


And so the NWSL season had gone on. Ashlyn making it to games when she could; Ali doing her best to captain her team to a run for the Shield.

But in mid-July, Ali gets called up to the National Team for a 2 week tournament in Japan. It is the country’s first big women’s sporting event since the devastating tsunami several years back. Ashlyn sits on the bed as Ali packs her bag.

“It’s cool that Japan invited the team and even better that US Soccer agreed, you know, considering Germany and all,” Ashlyn notes.

Ali nods. “Yeah. Still a bitter pill,” she notes with a grin. “But we all have so much respect for the players and the way they play it was a no brainer to accept the invite. This will give us a little international-style competition before Qualifiers in the fall.”

Ashlyn nods, feeling that twinge in her stomach that crops up when her mind thinks about what might have been if she’d stayed in the game. Would she be packing to go with Ali? Or would she still be sitting in the States desperate for a chance to prove she deserved to make the team? She lays back across the bed, her fingers locked behind her head.

“So, uh, what keepers are going?”

“Well, there’s this chick named Hope. She’s so-so,” Ali jokes.

“Smart ass. I mean other than the Great Solo,” Ashlyn teases back.

“Alyssa Naeher, you know the Penn State keeper?” Ashlyn nods with a grin. How could she not know the other Nittany Lion in camps? “And there’s a new girl named Gail Quillen. She was offered a full ride to UNC but turned it down to go to Tennessee. I think she was hoping to do for them what Abby did for Florida.”

Ashlyn nods. “I can see that. Especially for a keeper. I mean, only one position on the field and you want a chance to play.”

Ali studies her wife a moment. “Then why did you go to UNC?”

“Because I knew I could get time to play and...and I knew if I played for Anson I’d get to stay in the National Team pools. And if I did that...well...I wouldn’t end up back in Satellite Beach just...existing, you know?”

Ali nods. “I get that. And I’m so thankful you had that vision.” She leans over, giving Ashlyn an upside down kiss. “If you hadn’t, we’d have never met. And I just can’t picture my life without you.”

Ashlyn smiles and runs her hands up and down Ali’s thighs. “Right back atcha, Mrs. Krieger-Harris.”

Ali smiles and turns to start to pack again. But Ash has other ideas. She quickly yanks down Ali’s shorts and underwear, simultaneously sliding closer to the edge of the bed so her head hangs slightly off. She then grabs Ali’s thighs and pulls her right where she wants her.

“ASH! What are you- -Oh! Oh, fuck...”

Ashlyn smiles against her wife’s center, which is quickly getting wet and not just from Ash’s tongue. Ali spreads her legs, her packing forgotten, and she leans over, bracing her hands on Ashlyn’s thighs. Ashlyn moans, her tongue powering up into her wife; her chin hitting Ali’s clit with each powerful stroke.

“Fuck...Ash....oh,! Oh, I’m so close already, baby!” Just the erotic positioning of this experience has Ali immediately hard and wet. She knows it won’t take long but will enjoy every moment of it.

Ashlyn brings a hand around, she alternates thrusting in her tongue with thrusting in a finger. Ali’s legs nearly give out at the sensation. She starts to rock against her wife’s face, fucking it as best she can. Her head is thrown back as she grunts and gyrates. Ashlyn is nearly mad with wanting to make her wife scream. She withdraws her finger and slowly starts to slide it backwards. They had discussed this. They had considered this. Now...Ash was doing it.

Ali’s head nearly explodes when she feels a finger slowly circling the one place she had never been penetrated.

“Ash...yes, Ash...yes,” she shouts.

Ashlyn smiles against her wife’s center as she carefully pushes her finger in the back. Ali moans, her hips automatically pushing back against the invasion. Ashlyn takes that as a good sign and pushes in farther.


Ashlyn starts to thrust her tongue in and out again as her finger now mirrors the action in another orifice. Within seconds, Ali is exploding.


She falls forward, half on Ash, half on the bed as she is rocked with the most amazing orgasm she has ever had. She may have even passed out for a second because when she becomes aware of where she is, Ashlyn has turned around and holds the brunette in her strong arms. Ashlyn smiles at her wife.

“Good thing your Dad wasn’t home.”

Ali just smiles and pulls Ashlyn in for another kiss. When it ends, her eyes are serious. “You were the first and will be the last to do that, baby. You made made it so good and so easy. Thank you.”

Ashlyn gives her a kiss, grinning when Ali moans at the taste on the blonde’s lips. “Thank you for trusting me to do that. I never want to hurt you.”

“You didn’t. It was perfect, baby.”

The two kiss for a little longer, then get up to get a shower together (with just a weeeee bit of hanky-panky) before Ali goes back to getting her things packed for Japan.


“BADGER!” ARod shouts, immediately flipping her head down to bring up the next answer.

“NO!” her teammates yell, busting out into laughter.

ARod frowns. “Then what was it?”

“A beaver, you nut case!” Ali laughs. “How many badgers do you know with flat tails?”

ARod blushes. “CRAP! I meant beaver!”

The group laughs, all having fallen into the trap of their mouths moving faster than their minds. ARod passes off the game to Tobin.

“Okay, Chuckles, let’s see how you do,” she challenges the middie who can’t even speak she is laughing so hard.

Tobin takes it and starts another round of the crazy game. They had been lucky that a supporter of the USWNT had paid for a charter from LA to Japan for the tournament. Ali begs out of this round of the game and goes back to two seats she had claimed as her own. As she sits down and curls up into a blanket she remembers trips cuddled up against Ashlyn as the team had travelled to games. She sighs as she stares out at the clouds. It’s times like these she wishes her wife hadn’t traded in cleats for combat boots. Well, one of the times. She knows she’ll also miss her in the hotel bed. Sure, they didn’t always room together when Ash still played but they could often carve out a couple hours a day to cuddle. It was always a peaceful moment in the craziness of camp and tourneys.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Ali looks up at the smiling face of Lauren. She scoots her feet over so her friend can sit down. She shrugs. “Just missing Ashlyn,” she admits with a wistful smile.

Lauren grins and nods. “Me, too.”

“You’re missing my wife?” Ali teases with a giggle.

Lauren laughs and shoves her playfully. “No! Missing my husband, you brat.”

“I couldn’t resist.”

“Next time…resist,” Lauren teases, drawing a huge smile from the defender. “What?”

“I often have to tell Ash the same thing.”

Lauren chuckles. “Why am I not surprised?” Ali shrugs as she giggles. “So how is she doing? She home right now?”

“Yep. Got back 4 days ago so we had a little time to reconnect before I flew out to LA yesterday.”

“Wonderful! So, think she’ll make a career out of the military?”

Ali smiles, pride in her eyes. “You know, I really do. She loves what she’s doing and she’s really good at it from what I can tell. I think as long as she feels like she’s making a difference she’ll aim to keep advancing her career.”

“That’s so great. I’m glad she found her calling. I’m…I’m starting to try to figure out my life right now. It’s good to hear there can be life after cleats and grass stains.”

Ali nods. “I know. Of course, I’m not quite ready to just be an officer’s wife. I have some unfinished business at two major tourneys,” she says, thinking of the World Cup and the Olympics.

Lauren smiles. “Yeah, I think we all have our eyes on redemption in Canada.”

Ali nods. “Yep. Will Jrue be able to make it to the games?”

Lauren shrugs. “Depends on the play offs. If his team is doing well it will be tough.” She thinks a second. “Is it bad I want him there which means his team has to do badly?”

Ali giggles. “No, not bad. Just natural to want your spouse there. I’m sure there are times you wish you could be there for him. I know he’d want to be with you in Canada if he can be. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

“What about Ash? Will she be able to go at all?”

Ali shrugs. “Once we qualify she’ll talk to her colonel about getting time off. She’s too superstitious to ask sooner.”

Lauren giggles. “Geez. Keepers and their superstitions.”

“No kidding!”

The two talk for a few minutes more before Lauren gets called over by Morgan Brian to take a look at something. Ali goes back to looking out the window. Her hand slips into her collar and she pulls out the dog tags she wears. Like she often does, she runs her fingers over the raised lettering.

“I love you, Ashlyn.”

She gives them a kiss then closes her eyes to take a nap, the tags still held securely in her hand.


Ashlyn is finishing up her third requisition form of the afternoon when her phone sends her an alert. She smiles, wondering if her wife is sending her an email. By now she is midway through her trans-Pacific flight. She unlocks her phone and sees she has been tagged on Instagram. She opens the app and starts to smile.

A picture posted by Pinoe shows Ali curled up across 2 seats, wrapped in a blanket with her head on a pillow against the plane wall. And in her hands she clutches her wife’s dog tags. Pinoe’s tag to the pic makes Ashlyn chuckle.

Ain’t she cute? The princess is napping and dreaming of her knight in shining armor. #missinghersoldier #sleepingbeautyaintgotnothingonher

Ashlyn chuckles and responds.

Damn right she’s prettier than Sleeping Beauty. My princess is by far the fairest of them all. #missingmyrightback #mylifeisbetterthanafairytale

Ashlyn hits reply and stares at the photo a second longer. “You really are the most beautiful woman I know, baby,” she whispers.

She then locks her phone and gets back to work. Yes, paperwork sucks but that brief respite will give her the strength to get through the rest of the day.


“UP! UP! UP!”

Ali grabs Kling who quickly leaps onto the taller defenders back. The two laugh along with everyone else as Morgan Brian had attempted to get Abby Wambach to jump on her back.

“Seriously, kid? I’d crush you,” Abby teases the embarrassed UVA student.

“Sorry,” she mumbles, wishing she could just disappear.

Abby sees how upset the youngster is and puts an arm around her shoulder. “Come on. Let’s be a distraction and try to knock a few more out of the game.”

Morgan just nods her head, unable to speak to the superstar. Abby knows she’ll need to have a good talk with this kid, and possibly Lauren, to help Morgan recognize she’s there because she deserves to be just like all the other players. It’s a pretty common problem with the newest members of the team: hero worship. Abby will need to get with Pinoe, too. A few pranks will help Morgan start to fit in. She can be an accomplice and the butt of a few jokes for these 2 weeks and that should make her a little more at ease with everyone as time goes on. From what Abby has seen, this kid has a good chance of making the World Cup roster and could, in fact, maybe be an impactful player off the bench on the world stage.

When practice ends, Ali walks over and gives Pinoe a bit of a hip check. “Saw the pic, you freak. How often do you watch people sleep and take pics of them?” she teases.

The blonde starts to laugh. “Oh, Ali...if only you knew,” she says with an exaggerated eye-brow wiggle. Ali bursts out laughing. “But seriously, Kriegs, you looked so damn cute. I knew Ash, and your legions of fans, would love that shot. It was so cute.”

“Right. Sure you weren’t getting revenge for that goal I scored?”

“Of course not.” She pauses. “Hope said she’d take care of you for that one.”

Ali’s eyes widen and she flicks her eyes over towards the keeper. “If you’re serious make sure my body gets back to my wife,” she stage whispers.

“I will. Promise,” Pinoe whispers back.

After getting to her bag, Ali immediately reaches into the pouch inside for the dog tags. Her breath hitches: they aren’t there.

“No, no, no, no,” she starts to mumble as she digs through the bag.

“You okay?” Pinoe asks.

Ali turns and grabs her arm. “Swear to me you didn’t take my dog tags. Swear it, Megan!” she shouts, drawing looks from several people.

Pinoe shakes her head. “Al, I wouldn’t do that. It’d be taking your wedding ring. I swear.”

Ali sees the honesty in her eyes and drops down to start looking around the ground. A few others start to help, even checking their own bags to make sure the defender didn’t put them in the wrong bag by accident. Once she is sure the tags aren’t on the ground, Ali rips into her bag again. She empties it completely, shaking anything that could possibly conceal the precious items. By now the whole team is looking for the tags.

“FUCK! Swear to me none of you are playing some crap-assed joke on me!” Ali demands.

“Kriegs, we wouldn’t pull that kind of shit on you,” Abby tells her.

“Yeah, are you sure you wore them to the field?” Becky asks.

“YES!” Ali shouts.

“I saw her take them off and put them in her bag,” Morgan volunteers, her eyes wide with nerves. “She definitely had them on until then.”

Ali nods her thanks to the youngster and starts to pace. She then notices a man hurrying away from the team. She frowns.

“Who the hell is that?!”

The team turns to look. The man glances over his shoulder, his eyes widening when he sees them all watching him. He starts to run towards the gates of the practice facility. Ali takes off after him. She is soon outpaced by Sydney, Press and Morgan, who cut off his exit, forcing him into a stumbling stop. He looks around, trying to find another way out...

...and is tackled to the ground by Tobin Heath, who looks angrier than anyone has ever seen the laid back middie.

“If you’ve got her dog tags, you better give them back before I stomp your face,” she says, the Jersey girl in her coming out.

The man swallows in fear. A shaking hand reaches into his pocket and pulls out the dog tags. Ali grabs them out of his hand.

“WHY? Why did you take these?” Ali demands to know as two of the coaches grab the man and drag him to his feet.

He looks down. “I just...wanted something of yours,” he says.

Ali steps up to his face. “Bullshit! Check his pockets!”

Tony shoves his hand in and his eyes get wide. He pulls out 4 watches, 6 rings and 1 money clip.

“YOU FUCK!” Carli screams and grabs her ring.

“That’s mine!” Abby states, grabbing her watch.

Jill walks up at that moment with 2 police officers. “Ladies, these two gentlemen will be pleased to take your theft reports and take this jerk to jail.”

As people start to identify for the police what was stolen from their bags, Ali steps away. She slips the dog tags over her head and gives them a kiss. She sighs in relief. Yes, goalkeepers have their superstitions but she is finding out she has one, too. If the tags are safe, Ashlyn is safe. Maybe it’s not always true but it makes her feel like she has some semblance of control of her wife’s life. She feels a hand fall on her shoulder.

“You okay?” Whitney asks.

Ali manages a smile. “I am now. He get anything of yours?”

“Nope. Looks like it was just those of you with bags on the bench. He hid behind it and grabbed what he could and just shoved things in his pockets. He thought we’d be practicing longer or he’d have been gone sooner,” Whit explains.

Ali sighs in relief. “Thank God we ended when we did. The other stuff he took...he’d have been able to sell that stuff and it might have been found.” Her hand goes back to her tags. “These he’d...he’d have just thrown them away.”

“True,” Whit agrees. “And then Ashlyn would have flown out here, kicked his ass, and caused a major international incident. She’s such a damn hothead,” she says with fake disgust.

Ali starts to laugh. “Yeah, she’d have done all that. Of course I wasn’t much better just now.”

“Ali, we get what those tags mean to you. Why do you think we all ran after that guy? Some of us are just freakishly faster than others,” she notes.

Ali smiles and wraps her arm around Whit’s waist as they go back to get Ali’s things packed back up so they can leave the field for the hotel to get ready for team dinner.

And so Ali can call her wife just to tell her how much she loves her.


Ashlyn reaches blindly for her phone when it rings just after 2 a.m. It isn’t until it is up to her ear and still ringing that she realizes it’s her personal phone, not her work phone that is disturbing her sleep. And it is Ali’s ringtone. She grabs that phone and answers at the last possible second.

“Alex?” she croaks out.

“Hey, baby. Where you sleeping?”

“Well, since it’s 2:08 a.m., hell yes I was sleeping. But it’s okay. I like talking to you.”

“Shit! Fuck, baby, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called. I didn’t even think of the time change.”

“Alex, it’s okay. Promise. I’ve been missing you.”

“I’ve missed you, too. I...I...something...happened today,” Ali starts then chokes up.

Ashlyn sits up in bed, instantly wide away. “Alex, baby, talk to me. What happened? Are you hurt? Is Whitney hurt? What’s going on?”

“No, honey, no one was hurt. Not physically, at least.” She takes a deep breath and tells her about the man that tried to rob the team. “ one got hurt but, he’d have thrown your tags away.” She sobs at the end.

“Oh, baby. Alex, honey, listen to me, okay? Listen to me: nothing, and I mean nothing, can change my love for you. Had he taken those tags I’d have sent you new ones. Please don’t chase someone like that down ever again. You, any of you, could have been hurt. Nothing is worth your life or worth injury, honey. I promise you.”

“But...the tags...they...they keep you safe.”

“They what?”

Ali runs a hand over her face. She takes a deep breath and tells Ashlyn the meaning that had somehow attached itself to the tags.

“And I know it’s probably crazy but...but I’d go to the ends of the earth and back to keep you safe,” she finally finishes.

Ashlyn stares up at the ceiling for a moment, then starts to chuckle. “So does this mean I can tell your dad that right back’s get superstitious, too?”

Ali giggles. “No, you ass. You can just tell him that I love you so much and I will do whatever I have to do to preserve the symbols of that love.”

“Oooo, good answer,” Ashlyn agrees. “So, uh, I have an obstacle course scheduled for half my squad tomorrow, including me. I hate to do this but I need sleep, baby.”

“That’s fine, baby. I just...had to talk about what happened and make sure I didn’t make you mad.”

“Never, sweetheart. It’s all on the guy that stole things from you guys. I love you, baby, and what you were willing to do to get my dog tags back.”

Ali smiles. “Thank you for saying that. I love you so much. I’ll talk to you later this week, preferably at a better time for you.”

Ashlyn grins. “Count on it, princess. Win tomorrow.”

“We’ll do our best. Bye, baby.”

“Goodbye, sweetheart.”


Ashlyn is covered head to toe in mud and muck. She stands near the end of an Army Humvee and starts to strip off her outer layers.

“Looking green out there, LT?” Andrews walks up and teases her.

“Actually, they were looking really good. Only had to reprimand them a couple of times. And DAMN Briscoe is a fucking BEAST!” she hoots, talking about her squad, especially a new edition named Greg Briscoe. The young man is 6’5” and built like a brick house. “We could hide the entire damn squad behind him! I can’t wait to see how he handles his first tour away.”

“I get that,” Andrews agrees.

She pulls an Army sweatshirt, the sleeves cut off, on over her sweat-soaked tee shirt and grins. “And Mahoney is still putting some guys to shame with her athleticism,” she says proudly.

Andrews chuckles. “Spoken like a true female athlete.”

“Damn right. So, what’s on my agenda for the afternoon?” she asks her right hand.

“Meeting with Nettles at 2:30 regarding your future.”

Ashlyn grimaces. “Ugh. Wish I could just say I’m happy where I am and leave it at that.”

“No chance. You’re on the way to Captain, LT. And I’m damn proud of you for that.”

Ashlyn grins. “I thought you NCO’s hated us brass desk jockeys.”

Andrews laughs out loud. “LT, of all the officers I know, you are the last one I would ever call a desk jockey.” He gestures to the rain-soaked obstacle course she had run with her squad. “How many do you know that run through that crap with their soldiers? Especially after an unexpected summer storm that muddies the ground and turns the air into a steam bath?”

“I think I am the only one nuts enough to do that,” she states with a grin.

“Damn right! Makes me brag to the other sergeants that my lieutenant is the most kick-ass LT out there.”

“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence. Now, drive my ass to the gym so I can get a shower, Sergeant.”

He snaps into a salute at the order but the smirk on his face shows it’s more for show than for respect. “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”

Ashlyn laughs and shoves him towards the driver’s door. “Smartass.”

Forty-five minutes later she is nearly ready for her meeting with Major Nettles when the man hurries up to her desk.

“Harris, you’re being temporarily transferred to Major Ramos’ team,” he says handing her a piece of paper.

“Uh, okay, sir. May I ask why?”

“Read it, Lieutenant.”

Ashlyn frowns in confusion then looks at the paper in her hand. Her face pales and she feels like she may throw up. She looks up at her c.o.

“ they...”

“Word is they are being moved to the ambassadorial annex to await evacuation. There’s...there’s no definitive word on injuries or...anything. We just know part of their hotel collapsed and some players were hurt.”

Ashlyn stands, her knees shaking. “When do I leave?”

“His team has already been mustering for 3 hours. His car is outside waiting for you for the trip to Andrews AFB.”

Ashlyn hurries to the closet that holds her deployment gear. She grabs her bag and gun belt. She then goes to her desk and packs up what she needs there. Nettles pats her on the shoulder as she zips her backpack.

“If I hear anything, I’ll call you.”

Ashlyn nods. “Thank you, sir.”

She hurries out of the building and climbs into the waiting Humvee. Andrews sees Nettles staring out after her and walks over.

“Sir? Was that Lieutenant Harris leaving?”

“Yeah. She’ll be on Ramos’ team for a few days.”

“May I ask why, sir?”

Nettles sighs and turns to the man he knows is more friend than subordinate to his lieutenant. “An 8.2 earthquake hit Japan at about 10 a.m. our time. Ramos’ team is charged with getting supplies to the ambassadorial staff and families then getting them evacuated.”

“Japan? Isn’t Ali...?”

“Yes. The US Women’s National Team is also being moved to the ambassador’s annex for evacuation. The hotel they were in...part of it collapsed. We know some of the players were injured but don’t know the extent of their injuries or...or if...we just don’t know anything more than they are to be evacuated to Hawaii with the non-essential staff and all families of staff. NAF Atsugi took major damage but should be okay to receive Ramos’ team when they arrive. They are trying to get it up and running well enough to allow for a C-130 to land for the evac.”

“Damn...” Andrews mutters pulling out his phone. He shoots off a text to Ash.

Keeping Ali and the team in my prayers. If you need to vent, I’m here for you, LT.

On the way to Andrews AFB, Ashlyn reads the text but her hands are shaking too much to respond at the moment. Her calls to her wife had gone unanswered; all but one of her texts had popped back as undeliverable. Every time she has gone on these missions she had been wrapped up in nerves as she ran down various scenarios for failure in her head. Never before had the consequences of failure seemed so dire.

Never before had she been too scared to do her job, worried about what she might find out when she arrives on scene.