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Matters of State

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"So, if I'm filing a folder, and it starts with 'the', like The Spedford Case, do I file it under 't'or under 's'?" Havoc asked, waving a folder from the stack of folders Hawkeye had given him.

"How the hell should I know?" Breda asked, lounging at the big table, picking his ear.

"Under 't'," Fuery said.

"Under 's'," Falman said.

Havoc worked his jaw back and forth, then tossed the folder on the table. "I'll come back to that one," he said, going to the next in his stack. "Oh great, does McDonald go under 'm' or 'd'?" he asked the room again.

"File it under Farm, as in Old McDonald hada," Breda grinned unhelpfully.

"Under 'm'," Fuery said.

"Under 'd'," Falman said.

Havoc casually tossed the folder over his shoulder. "The consensus seems to be nothing can be filed," Havoc said, shuffling the folders again.

"File them all in the big catch-all file," Breda said, nodding at the trashcan and lining up a rubber band shot. "That's what I'd do."

"The First Lieutenant would pistol whip you if you did," Fuery warned.

"You'd have to take out the trash after, that would fill up the can," Falman observed.

"How come I'm the only one doing any work?" Havoc groused, "I know there are things to be done, I mean the First Lieutenant handed out the assignments didn't she?"

"You are so out of the loop," Breda said, snapping the rubber band and watching it miss it's mark fantastically, "all that roach shit we inhaled in the old store room must have gone straight to your brain."

"The Colonel and the First Lieutenant are at a meeting today, they won't be back until late," Fuery pointed out.

"Not that you should take that as a reason to slack; like we are," Falman nodded.

Havoc was careful to drop the files on the table top before settling his ass into the seat of a chair there and propping his boot heels up on the table itself. He began fishing in his jacket pocket for his pack of smokes and matches.

"So we wait it out until the end, then all get up and charge around like maniacs to make it seem like we been slaving all day to get this shit work done?" Havoc said, tucking the butt of a cigarette between his lips.

"That's how it's done in this man's army," Breda said.

"Just like all the other times we've been left unsupervised," Fuery agreed.

"The motto is don't ask, don't tell. I think that applies to the busy work or lack of when the boss is away," Falman stated.


Slack would be better if sheer boredom didn't often accompany it. Slack and sheer boredom where best of friends and were rarely far from each others side. Sheer boredom was so damn bored that sometimes it played tricks on the mind; like making it think it would actually prefer to do some work as distraction rather than sit around all day.

"Hey, wasn't this report suppose to be finished last week?" Havoc said, sitting in the colonel's chair behind the colonel's desk and going through the colonel's things.

"You know, no matter how fast you do a report it's always late. You could be told 'write a report' and do it like right away, like five minutes later and go to turn it in, and it's late," Breda said. "I gave up report deadlines a long time ago. I think they're fake, I think that reports are always just late but if they let that out then they'd be that much later, so they pretend you have some time to do them, but you don't. It's a big higher-ups lie meant to keep the little man down," Breda rolled a pencil back and forth on the table in front of him, elbow on table, chin in palm.

"That's a lot of thinking," Fuery said, pencil poised over his crossword. "We still have a couple of hours before the First Lieutenant gets back, that's too much thinking, it's being disruptive of the calming aura I've been generating around myself in this stress-free, slack-filled environment," then he serenely filled in twelve across.

"I..I just don't understand public restrooms," Falman said, sitting with knees crossed, one hand tugging at his chin. "Why can't people just hold it until they get home? Why do they go so far from home for so long they have to go to the restroom anyways? Don't they planfor things like that? Don't they know how unsanitary and disgusting public restrooms are? Why should the rest of the public have to deal with the notion that someone is inside that little building or stall doing something like going to the restroom in a place that is not even their own home? Why? I don't understand, someone explain it to me."

"Oh my GOD," Havoc said, " you have the brain rot! You mean you just sit there thinking about people going to the bathroom in public? Okok, so what is your take on people going to the bathroom in the woods, like you know, going to the bathroom where there isn't a bathroom?"

"Don't ask him that!" Fuery hissed. "You know, they never said it, but that last leave of absence he had was to go see a loony doctor because he got the notion in his head that someone was pissing on the back of the building in the same spot over and over again!"

"Oh, that was Ed," Breda said, picking at his nails with the end of the pencil. "He said it was for scientific evaluation, but really it's because his lazy ass don't wanna walk up the back steps to the enlisted's john on the second floor. After the whole toilet with teeth incident they took his officer's room key away from him," Breda wiggled his eyebrows. "I don't think Lt. Colonel Melbourne will ever be the same."

"Maybe I should finish this report for him," Havoc mumbled, and lifted the paper to sniff at it. "What do you think he'll give me if I do?"

"Now who's got the brain rot? Don't do the Slack King any favors, besides, he's just gonna make you do it anyways, just wait until he makes you do it," Breda said.

"I think there should be a way that people can remove their bladders when they are leaving their houses," Falman said, one foot tapping nervously on the floor, " I just think science should find a way."

Havoc shoved the report back under the colonel's desk blotter where he'd found it and lay his chin on the desktop and sighed.

"What cup size do you think the First Lieutenant is?" Breda asked. "You know doing the hands thing is kinda hard with her, because when I hold them up to you know do that measure at a distance thing, which I am really good at, she just stares at me and fingers her holster, so I never get to air measure them long enough to get an accurate guess."

"B," Fuery said, reaching up to adjust his glasses.

"What? No way, 'c'," Havoc snorted from where his chin was grafting to the colonel's desk. "Definitely a 'c', and I bet she's a no lace type, too."

"What horror it is for a female in a public bathroom, they don't have the luxury of standing as far away form the toilet as they dare," Falman whispered and pressed his fingertips to his lips.

Suddenly the door leading out into the hall cracked open and all the air in all the lungs in the room congealed and all the muscles in all the bodies in the room went rigid and all the brains in all the craniums in the room started to come up with good excuses as to why they were all laying around on the furniture.

Ed poked his head in and cocked and eyebrow. He tracked his eyes from Havoc at the big desk, to Breda at the big table along with Fuery. Falman was near the big table, but not right at it, seated in one of the chairs from the big table, but pushed away from it. They were all staring at him.

"Uh, where's the Colonel?" Ed ventured.

Havoc sat up suddenly, put his hands on the desk in front of him and laced his fingers and squared his jaw.

He's not here, but he told us, if you showed up, there was an important mission he had just for you," Havoc intoned and looked slowly at Breda across the room.

"Uh, yeah, that's right, really hush hush, you know, something only an alchemist can handle, that's what he said," Breda agreed.

"What sort of assignment?" Ed asked cautiously, hovering in the doorway.

"An infestation," Havoc said, then unlaced his hands and beckoned Ed in with a wave of his fingers. "Something serious. We were going to handle it, but he said it was your field of expertise."

Fuery looked up from his crossword and looked slowly back and forth between Havoc and Breda, but decided that he really didn't need to participate, because truth be told, he was a little afraid of Ed, so he filled in seven down instead.

Ed sucked in his bottom lip, then stepped across the threshold of the office doorway and shut the door slowly behind him. He looked between Havoc and Breda again and then nodded.

"Ok, so what's the big deal? I mean, it looks like he would have mentioned it this morning when I was in, but he didn't," Ed shifted from foot to foot.

"He didn't know this morning," Havoc said. "He just found out about it."

"Yeah, that's why he and the First Lieutenant ain't' here; emergency meeting with the brass, hammer out the details," Breda coaxed.

"But if you were to handle it, say before he got back, how much of an ass do you think you'd make him look like?" Havoc wheedled.

Ed squared his own jaw, nodded and approached the big desk. Behind him Breda hooked a finger in his mouth and mimicked reeling in a rod. Falman made a simpering noise in the back of his throat, but he was off in unsanitary land and unlikely to give them away.

"The whole building is crawling with them, that's why we're here, staying put, sort of like a last line of defense," Havoc said, keeping his voice low and leaning forward conspiratorially. Breda hopped up and came over, leaned on the desk beside Ed and nodded grimly.

"So...what are we dealing with?" Ed said, his voice also low. He was rubbing his thumb over the tips of his fingers and looking between Havoc and Breda, eyes lit with curiosity and intended malice for making the colonel look like an ass.

"They seem to be focusing on women," Havoc said. "We've had reports they've decimated the secretarial pool and are working their way up, floor by floor, no female officer is safe."

"It gets in their hair, their nose, their eyes, they uniforms, it makes them insane," Breda said, pinning Ed with his eyes. "If you suspect one, then the only means of action is a strip search, it's the only way to make sure."

Ed swallowed, his eyes like saucers now. "You''re putting me on," he said weakly.

"Ed, this is the military, nobody puts anybody on in the military," Havoc said.

"It's against regulations," Breda intoned.

At the big table Fuery cleared his throat, but said not a word.

"So... so what are they?" Ed asked, almost breathless.

"Snipes," Havoc said. "Little black snipes, almost to small for the eyes to see."

"You gotta get right up on them," Breda said. "You gotta be like this far away," and he did a measurement with his fingers, "and sometimes they can be blue, almost the exact blue of your uniforms. You're lucky because you're not wearing blue...OH NO wait...!" Breda suddenly slapped at the back of Ed's coat frantically and Ed half shrieked and tried to turn his head all the way around to look at his back, but Breda let out an exaggerated sigh of relief.

"False alarm," he said, "It's just that black snake thing sewn on your coat, as you can see, we're a little edgy."

"We figure, if you can catch one, you can break it down alchemically, see how it ticks and then make an array thing to get rid of the lot of them," Havoc said, doing his best to sound official and like he knew what he was talking about.

Ed, still shaken from almost having one on his back nodded curtly. "Ok, got it, find a snipe, break it down then take them out," he said, trying to sound tough and not like he'd just shrieked like a girl.

"We'll wait here, report back as soon as you know something," Havoc said, then he saluted. Ed snapped off a salute, too, forgetting he didn't have to salute a lower ranking officer and turned and dashed to the door, throwing it open and slamming it shut behind him.

"Candy from a baaabbbyyyy," Breda said, "bets on who slaps the shit out of him first?"

"That will be Connie," Havoc said, "her office is the first one down the hall and she's in. Bet she'll think twice before telling a fellow solider he's about as interesting as watching paint dry on a date, now won't it?"

They fidgeted around some, waiting for Ed to come back. Havoc tried to initiate a game of ceiling darts with sharpened pencils, but they couldn't find enough to have even teams. Then, just when they figured Ed had wised up the door of the office slammed open and Ed stood huffing in the doorway.

"Fuck you fuck you I'm gonna get you all back better watch your fuckin' backs you bastards I'll get every last one of you sleep with your eyes open fuck you fuck you!," he yelled, looking close to tears, then he tore off down the hall again.

"We should feel bad," Havoc said, "what is he? Ten?"

"You should feel horrible," Fuery said from the big table, "He's twelve."

"What kid ain't heard of a snipe? Come on, he had that coming," Breda snorted.

"Yeah, I kinda feel bad, he's a good kid and all, I feel kinda bad," Havoc said again.

"I should have said something," Fuery said. "You shouldn't pick on him, he's got it tough as it is."

"You pansies, let the kid toughen up a little, it builds character, it ain't gonna kill him. I got worse from my old man when I was a kid," Breda said.

"Well he is in the army," Havoc reasoned. "He's gonna get some ribbing, better from those of us who like him than the other guys being pissy because he's a kid who's a major."

"Better hope he doesn't think about the fact he can use that against you," Fuery said from the depths of his crossword puzzle.

"Ed is just a child," Falman agreed, "he doesn't know any better than not to piss against the wall out back, someone will have to teach him the error of his ways."

"Well I don't feel bad," Breda informed the room. "He'll get over it, and it was funny. The set up was classic and we were perfect. You know for such a genius he sure is gullible."

"It was a pretty sweet set up, man you were on the mark," Havoc said. "The performance was sterling and I wasn't bad myself, did you hear me use the big words like 'alchemic'?"

"You were worthy of being in a talky and I'm not just saying that," Breda said and held up his hands, then he did a slow clap. "Bravo my good man, bravo."

"I would hope you're applauding Second Lieutenant Havoc because he kept an eye on the lot of you and you got all the work the First Lieutenant left for you done?" The colonel strolled in, not missing a beat and Havoc jumped up form his desk and half way saluted before moving out of the way.

Fuery has transfered his crossword book from in his hands to under his ass and he'd grabbed some of the abandoned files Havoc had left on the table to shuffle through. Breda pursed his lips and nodded his head.

"Yeah, I was just showing my appreciation to the Second Lieutenant for what a fine job he was doing keeping my slacker ass in line without you know, the First Lieutenant here to watch me, really, he did a great job," Breda said.

"Is that so? So why is Falman comatose and who told Ed to hunt snipes?" the colonel said, hanging his coat on the coat rack behind his chair before sitting down.

"Falman is having a public restroom episode," Fuery said from where he sat shuffling the same three file folders over and over, "No one started it, he went there on his own."

"I was just teasing Ed, it builds character," Havoc added quickly. "He's suppose to be a genius, I didn't think he'd take me seriously," Havoc said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Man, I must really feel bad about it because I just confessed and I didn't implicate anyone. Damn, getting soft in my old age."

"I can't believe he believed you either, it must have been one hell of a story Second Lieutenant, I feel rather proud of you," the colonel said, giving him a half grin and an arched eyebrow. "However, for your own safety, you should know that Alphonse is down the hall ratting you out to the First Lieutenant as we speak; if I were you I would look exceedingly busy when she gets here."

Everyone dived for the folders at once.