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velvet mace

Pawns

chapter 21. Project Coup D'etat

There was something rather ... fun... yes, fun was the
word, about being involved in a conspiracy. Midnight mused this over lukewarm
coffee and an untidy pile of files. He'd had never been "in cahoots" before.
Not even as an adolescent. His friends tended to be of the prim and rather uptight
sort. Yes. Fun.

Fun and also decidedly terrifying. As in, "Oh my god,
what the hell am I doing, am I crazy?" kind of terrifying. As in "Ashfell is
going to find out." As in "what will the Fuhrer do to me?"

Never had he dreamed he would be helping Mustang. Mustang
as Fuhrer? It was enough to make your head spin. The man was morally corrupt.
But at least he was smart. And practical. And not so power mad that he would
slit his own throat trying to realize his ambitions.

At least Mustang would have the decency to ignore people
like Midnight when they say outlandish crap like: "let's make an array that
will turn our enemies into our slaves." God how Midnight wished he'd just kept
his stupid mouth shut about that, let the idea die, safely unrealized. Then
he wouldn't be in such a ... fun... position.

Thinking about the array made Midnight feel pins and needles
down all his extremities.

It was hard to do the paperwork he needed to do. Right
now he should be calling up his techs and getting the "volunteers" lined up
for the next week. The volunteers were from the local insane asylum, and whether
or not they actually understood what they were volunteering for, he had no idea.
He'd met the 10 of them briefly a few weeks ago, and they were truly a handful
of cracked nuts. Making slaves out of them probably wouldn't do them any harm.
And if the array didn't work right... well, it wasn't much of a life they were
leading. Who knows, that might be a blessing as well.

Of course, they weren't actually needed anymore. The array
didn't need any fine-tuning. It was working just fine—

Midnight choked on his coffee and fought back a sudden
wave of intense nausea.

On the guard. On the guard.

Yes, there was no point in worrying about the volunteers;
he had a more important problem. He had a new project: coup d'etat.

Like all good projects you needed to start with the right
personnel for the job. The guard might have been a logical choice, but hardly
key. Problem with him was that according to the schedule he was off for the
next two days and then he was assigned to work an entirely different part of
the lab for the rest of the week. It would be risky and a rather poor use of
resources to put an array on every guard that came in contact with Al and his
people.

No. None of them were the personnel Midnight would go
for. The one Al and Mustang wanted was Ashfell himself. All information concerning
Mustang's security went through him. Get him and most of the risk vanished.

Ah, but getting Ashfell wouldn't be easy. He wasn't in
Midnight's chain of command at all, even though he shared reports with him.
Midnight couldn't just ORDER him to show up on his day off.

And the man was smart. The man had known something fishy
was going on WEEKS ago. He wasn't going to just let himself be taken down. If
he suspected something was up, he wouldn't go anywhere NEAR the fifth lab. He'd
just send an endless supply of underlings.

And they had to get him quick, because the moment something
out of the ordinary went down, he was likely to know it. Everyone reported to
him, including the guard who had walked Ed from the cell to the lab.

Oh, crap.

The arm.

There was a good chance Ashfell already knew about the
arm. What was he doing about it? What conclusions had he already drawn?

The phone on his desk rang, sending Midnight almost through
the roof. When he picked up the receiver he knew deep in his soul that it would
be Ashfell, telling him how he knew absolutely everything, and that the full
force of the army would be bearing down on him any moment.

It was Al. They needed him again. Of course, they did.

"Al," said Midnight. "Do you think your brother could
fit your uniform?"

"Probably. Why."

"Because I think if this plan of yours is going to work,
you and I and he are going to need to take a field trip."

"When?"

Midnight glanced at his watch. "About an hour ago, but
if we hurry we may just get lucky."

Uniform

Roy felt relieved when Midnight and Al finally returned.
Then he saw the uniform draped over Al's arm and raised an eyebrow. Someone
was making plans without him. That wouldn't do.

It wouldn't be Al, so that left Midnight. Interesting.
Very interesting.

At most Roy expected Midnight to mindlessly follow orders.
At worst he worried that Midnight would actively sabotage their efforts unless
specifically ordered not to. That he should accept his part in the conspiracy
and actively attempt to put his mark on it, now that was something.

It was rather too bad that he was Al's and not Roy's.
It would have been far simpler not to have every order filtered through Al's
rather oversensitive conscience. And yet, Al did have something there. Roy's
way would have ensured reliability, but if Al's way gave him a true ally, that
was arguably even better.

Still, Midnight needed to know who was boss.

"We need to take Ashfell down as soon as possible," Midnight
was saying. "We have to catch him before he's aware that there is anything going
on here, and I got to say that guy is quick. Today is his day off, but he still
checks in frequently."

"Who is Ashfell?" Roy asked.

"You've met him. Big red haired man."

Ah. The Thug.

"He's the number 2 man for security for the whole of the
fifth lab, but you are his special project. He keeps tabs on anything having
to do with you and anyone you come in contact with. He reports about you directly
to the Fuhrer himself."

Roy's eyes narrowed. "Everyone I have contact with."

Midnight nodded. "Me included." The man swallowed. "He
reports to me things he thinks I should know because I run this project, but
he's not under me. Trust me, every misstep I've made in this project was reported
quickly and thoroughly to the Fuhrer."

Roy's heart beat hard. The timetable seemed to get tighter.
"He knows about the arm, then?"

"I'm honestly not sure. It's his day off, but I imagine
if he doesn't he will soon."

"Then we need to get him."

Midnight nodded, eyes locked to his. "As I just said.
I'll take Ed and..."

"WE need to get him." Roy repeated. As useful as Midnight
could be, Roy vowed the rest of their victims would be keyed to him and no one
else. It was just too aggravating to have to work through Al.

Midnight opened his mouth then shut it, then opened it
again. "I'm not sure—"

"I don't suppose that uniform is my size," Roy continued.

"You aren't leaving your jail cell, Mustang." Midnight
drew himself up and crossed his arms.

"I already have left my cell, and have no intentions of
ever going back to it," Roy replied, not breaking eye contact.

"When was this decided?" Midnight asked. "Al said that
you'd be there until the Fuhrer came."

"I changed my mind." Roy took a step closer to Midnight.
"How tall are you."

"My height is irrelevant. You aren't going anywhere."

"Then what was your plan?" asked Roy. "Lure him here.
How? How many guards would he bring with him." Roy knew the answer before Midnight
spoke. He'd known it as soon as he saw the uniform in Al's arms.

"Don't be ridiculous, that would be too risky. We need
to track him down where he is and get him there."

"And how would you know where he is."

Midnight actually laughed. "That part is easy. The other
half to always knowing what everyone is up to, is that you have to pretty much
let everyone know what YOU are up to as well. He leaves his itinerary with his
people, so that they can get a hold of him when they need to. He is having a
late lunch with one of the colonels as we speak.

"And how and where were you planning on 'getting him.'"
Roy smirked.

Midnight broke eye contact finally. "I figured we'd wait
and watch until the opportunity presented itself."

"I'm coming," Roy said again, taking another step closer
to Midnight. "You are 5'10" I'm guessing."

Midnight took a step back. "You are NOT wearing my clothes.
Hell man, you'd be recognized going out the door. That face of yours is distinctive."

"With the right distraction, I'm sure I could get by."

"I'm 5'11, and you are NOT wearing my clothes, they wouldn't
even fit you."

Roy sighed. "Al?"

"Andrew," said Al. "Get the man some clothes."

Time ticked by maddeningly while Midnight went upstairs
to his apartment to fetch a spare uniform. Roy sat at the desk and turned his
eyes speculatively from Al to his brother, taking in their remarkably similar
appearance. Imagine that. After 5 years in the military, it would take a prison
break out to finally get Ed into uniform.

It looked good on him. Very good.

Ed noticed his gaze. "This," he gestured to his clothes.
"Is temporary. Don't get too used to it."

"I won't." Roy smirked.

"Field work is a whole lot easier if I don't shout 'hey
I'm in the Military' the moment I walk into town."

"You convinced me of that when you were twelve. Though
I must say, even though you didn't say 'military,' the way you walked into town
certainly shouted something."

"Yeah, well, I'm resigning again anyway, as soon as you
are Fuhrer. " Ed crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. "It's a
load of crock, retroactively rejecting my resignation."

"Quite unfair, I agree."

Ed narrowed his eyes. "You are scheming."

"Perhaps."

"I'm not changing my mind."

"We'll see."

Ed rolled his eyes and went off to talk with Winry and
Al. It was true, Roy was scheming. His plans went beyond becoming Fuhrer. He
needed a solid base once he got the position. His people would be called back
from their posts and put into positions where they could cement his power best.
Ed would be part of that and Al as well. Winry had potential. And perhaps even
Midnight, if he could be convinced to truly embrace the cause and not just follow
Al's lead.

Ah, and speaking of which the State Alchemist had finally
returned. It was time to get this show started.

Midnight handed him a neat bundle of clothes, a pair of
boots perched on top. "I still think this is a mistake, " he said. "But here
you go. You'll swim in them I'm sure."

"Thank you for letting me borrow them."

Midnight shook his head. "Borrow, no, that's YOURS. I
ain't going to touch it again. Congratulations, you just got yourself a hand-me-down
uniform that's two sizes too big for you. You are going to look like a complete
idiot."

"So little faith," Roy tutted and walked to the bathroom.
"It will work, you'll see."

Skills

Winry had to admit Midnight's assessment was pretty much
right on. When Ed had returned from the bathroom in his brother's uniform he'd
looked positively dashing. When Roy returned from the bathroom, he looked flat
out silly. The shoulders were an inch too broad, the pants draped past his stocking
feet and he had to hold up the waist to keep it from falling off his skinny
hips.

Winry bit her lips. Al gaped. Ed roared. Midnight just
shook his head. "I don't think dancing elephants are going to distract the guards
enough to let you pass. Eh, no matter, have some faith in me, I'll get the job
done. Be back before you miss me."

Roy put the shoes down and raised a finger as if to say,
"Wait a moment." He turned to Ed. "Fullmetal, could you do something?"

Ed snorted, rubbed his nose against his sleeve, and honored
him with an innocent look. "Do what? Laugh?"

Roy tilted his head warningly. "Do I have to spell everything
out?"

Ed snickered, then sighed. "Oh, ok." He clapped his hands
together, and grabbed Roy's shoulders. The material shrunk to fit. The excess
fluttered to the ground.

Midnight gaped. "I didn't know you could do that," he
said.

Ed breathed on the back of his automail fingers, then
held them up to admire them. "Well, I used to rip my clothes quite a bit running
around on missions. Got pretty good at cobbling them together again." Roy's
smirk at that statement was lost on no one.

"So," said Midnight. "What's wrong with the shoes."

"Too small." Roy regarded them and then sighed expressively.
"For a man your size you do have freakishly tiny feet."

Midnight growled. "Hardly, your feet are just oversized.
Like your ego."

"Mmmm," said Roy allowing a sly smile to form. "You know
what they say about foot size." He glanced over at Ed, who missed the point
entirely.

But Midnight caught it, and wasn't amused. "Honestly,
some of us really don't want to know that much about you." Winry silently dittoed
that sentiment.

Roy handed the shoes to Ed who took them, unthinkingly.
"I can't make something out of nothing, Roy" he said.

Roy looked like he was considering debating that.

"We are wasting time here," Winry finally said, because
someone really needed to, and apparently it would have to be her. "Don't you
folks have something to do?"

Ed looked around and found Roy's prison slippers. He brought
those together with Midnight's old boots and in a moment transmuted a larger
pair of shoes.

"Now, what we need is someone who can drive a car." Roy
looked at Midnight. "You are out."

"I don't drive anyway, so it's just as well."

He looked at Ed and Al. "Mmm."

But they shook their heads. "When the hell would we have
learned how to drive?" Ed asked.

Roy looked over at the guard. "Carr?" he asked. The man
seemed to suddenly perk up and blink about. He noticed Roy in uniform and shook
his head in amazement. His hand reached for the panic button but didn't hit
it. Instead he just seemed bewildered. "Don't worry, I'm supposed to be wearing
this."

Carr relaxed.

"I don't suppose you know how to drive?"

"No, sir."

"I do," said Winry.

For the second time in an hour the men looked at her like
she'd turned blue. "What?" she said. "Don't believe a woman can drive?"

"Of course women can drive, I just wasn't expecting..."
Roy said.

"When did you learn that?" demanded Al.

"About six months ago. One of my clients drove up in a
car. He wouldn't let me take the engine apart, so as a consolation, he taught
me how to drive. Honestly, it's not that hard. It's mostly a timing thing."
She turned to Roy, "I'm surprised you don't know how to do it."

Roy fingered the collar of his shirt uncomfortably.

"She does have a way with mechanical things," Ed admitted.

"In any case, " Roy said. "I think it's time to go."