It was nearing eleven o'clock at night and the sky was unleashing a surge of water that could only be described as God taking a piss on creation. Not unjustly earned. Still, standing in the doorway of his house clutching a lantern in heavy downpour was not very high on the list of things that Edward Elric imagined would happen to him that day. He certainly couldn't fathom why in the hell someone would be delivering mail in the dead of night during rainfall.
The courier on the other side of the doorway was a massive mountain of a man; much taller than Ed, a broad, stubble covered chin, a flat nose turning red, black hair pulled into a ponytail, eyes narrow and tired, like they been rested in a long while, a lone, wet bang clinging to the front of his face etching a slanted line through his features.
“Yeah?” Ed growled, shrinking back when a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder sounded overhead. “Who're you? Can you at least come in so I can shut the-"
"There's no time; have to deliver the others-"
"What others? Whatever, come in or something I'm getting drenched here!”
The man did not reply; he simply handed Ed a sealed envelope, pulled a ragged gray hood over his head, and faded away into the storm.
The motorcade barreled through the sludge like an out of control locomotive, spraying mud against the sides of the tiny houses. The air was unnaturally still, no stars shown in the sky, a solitary street lamp stood at the intersection of two roads. Thunder continued to clap overhead even though the rain had stopped.
Captain Riza Hawkeye sped up the swampy road towards that solitary light on her motorcycle. Her blond locks clung to her face and neck, eyes squinted from the winds lashings, black uniform drenched and heavy. She hadn’t expected it to rain that day, but the task at hand was far too important to fret about her personal comfort level.
The target had managed to evade her since Dublith City, but after almost five days of scouring the entirety of southern Auster County, a radio message from Bromfield confirmed that he had crossed over into the East Area and been spotted heading toward Resembool in Venti County. It was a piece of information that gave her both feelings of triumph and apprehension.
Many rebel groups almost always ended up dissolving one way or another. The troublemakers often lacked the organization and stability to amass a large enough resistance to make substantial change in the name of whichever ideals-of-the-day happened to invigorate the masses. More often than not, their ends came not because of Hawkeye and her men’s doings, but because of in-fighting among members. Idealistic fools who couldn't see past their own egos to realize that their goals were further away from reality than Earth was from the center of the solar system could never adequately lead a revolution. At least not one meant to last.
The most recent nuisances called themselves "couriers"; they were an elusive bunch in service to a group dubbing themselves Flamel’s Army. They supposedly sprang up in the weeks following the three-way standoff between Sacred Star of Milos, the Sons of Leto, and the military police that had all but leveled the city of Vectora in the North. With the level of proficiency they displayed, the Upper House had to change how they pursued the FA since it seemed the group may have existed longer than they’d originally predicted. Unlike the former rebel groups, the FA was highly organized. During the initial investigation, they’d learned that the FA utilized a complex network of back roads, safe houses, and coded messages that allowed them to quickly disseminate information that would have otherwise been censored by the Information Bureau; information about high ranking military personnel, the locations of Laboratories, as well as classified documents stolen from both. It also seemed that their reach stemmed past the borders of Amestris and into her territories all the way to Northern Creta. It was how the armies of Free Aerugo had been alerted to Amestris’s attack on Bysantia two whole weeks before the operation was set to commence.
The team had followed several promising leads that could have allowed them to severe some of those lines of communication, but each time they’d turned out to be following decoys that lead to “dead ends” in abandoned towns, old factories, or random fields in the middle of nowhere.
It was imperative to Central Command that they apprehend this courier and question him to ensure that there would be no further compromises.
Sergeant Lod Bromfield and Detective Heymans Breda hailed the captain from underneath the lamp post. She halted in front of them, spattering mud on their black boots.
"Where is he?
"We don't know precisely, but we're certain he's still here in Resembool." Breda replied, handing the captain a towel.
“We've had all the roads out of town blocked,” Bromfield stated. “Patrols have been sent throughout the town area and the nearby forest, civilians have been instructed to report any suspicious persons, and all outgoing train traffic has been halted. The only way he’s getting out of here is to go west, right past headquarters.”
Hawkeye had to chuckle at his eagerness. It wasn’t often that anything of note happened down in the boonies, and it was rare that anyone of real importance ever came to the South-East, so this must’ve been quite an exciting moment for Bromfield.
"You've done a very good job here, Sergeant, in spite of the considerable downsizing of many of the facilities here in the South-East Area."
"I try not to let it stop me, sir."
Despite trying to sound chipper, Bromfield momentarily cast a malaise glance down into the mud.
The South-East had primarily been an agricultural hub many years ago, but the nations push towards automated industrial work put a great strain on local farmers, and many others went out of business or were indebted to the companies whose machines they used. Since many of the military personnel stationed in the South-East were often locals themselves, it spoke to reason that they would pack up and leave with their families for West Area or the more northern part of East Area. As a result, funding was redirected to those areas and further south into the conquered Aerugoan territories.
The man must have been bored out of his mind.
"Well, luckily for you, I've brought along a few good men of my own to help you out."
A little boy, no more than five or six, trotted up to the officers in his night clothes.
“What do you need, kid?” Bromfield growled.
“There’s a man at my house! He has my Dad!”
"What do you think it says?"
"I dunno, Al, I haven't opened the darn thing yet."
Alphonse scrubbed away at the dishes as Ed stared at the envelope that had been shoved at him last night and attempted to feed their baby sister Ilian, who had to lean to catch some of the milk that he was letting drip onto the table. Kind of like the way a small spot on the roof that Ed promised he'd fix before the next rainfall was beginning to drip with the weight of the previous nights’ downpour.
"Well, you've been staring at it for almost a three minutes, don't you think you should try and do that?"
"I can't! I'm feeding Sis right now!"
"Yes, she looks so fed."
Right on cue, Ilian's little nose and cheeks turned pink and she let out a little whimper as Ed realized that her breakfast bottle was a good two feet away from her face.
"Oh, sorry, kiddo. Here."
As the one-year old popped the bottle into her mouth Ed took a butter knife from the table and ran it through the top of the immaculate envelope and pulled out a tri-folded, handwritten letter addressed to "Messrs. Elric, Edward and Alphonse" along with two train tickets to North City. The letter was stamped at the top with a strange red ink seal, instead of the official gold dragon seal normally used by a federal agency.
"Well that's different," Ed mused to himself.
"What does it say?"
Dear Messrs. Edward and Alphonse Elric,
If you are reading this letter then I must inform you that you have a limited amount of time before you are visited by the secret police. I advise that you get into the habit of quickly reading and memorizing information. Immediately submerge this letter and the envelope in water once you have read this.
One of our agents will arrive to your home tomorrow morning her name is Sheska. You are to travel with her to East City to take a train through Central up to North City. If anyone asks, you are friends visiting a mutual in North City. Bring along the infant.
Amestris is a great country poisoned by corrupt leaders. War has made them greedy and paranoid - this is something your parents knew! Help us free Amestris from its shackles.
"What the hell?" Ed reclined in his chair. How he managed to be exhausted by a letter less than five lines long was anyone's guess, but it happened. There was so much to unpack.
"'Secret police'?" Al said.
"How did whoever this is know about Ilian?"
"How did this guy know us? Or our parents?"
Before either brother had time to process any of those thoughts, the hardest knock ever sounded at the front door. Al snatched the letter and envelope from the table and ran back to the sink.
Ed answered the door. He was greeted by a tall blonde woman with rather noticeable bags under her eyes. More striking than that was the red lining of her black uniform and the golden epaulets that replaced the typical insignia found on the uniforms of the military police. The woman didn't wait for any sort of invitation to enter and took Ed's seat next to Ilian. Ed removed the toddler her from her high chair and took the seat opposite the woman while Al continued to scrub away at the same plate as if nothing had changed.
"Gentlemen, my name is Captain Hawkeye. I have a few questions that I would like to ask you."