Sunlight peeked through the thin curtains draped over Edward Elric's window. He closed his eyes a bit harder and squirmed a bit as he opened them with a groan. "Fucking sun..." He murmured as he sat up, the blankets pooling around his waist. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and grasped for his glasses, settling them on the bridge of his nose.
Ed shifted and pushed the blankets off of his legs and got to his feet, hissing a bit at the cold, sterile floor. His apartment was excessively tidy, it almost looked completely new. He didn't spend much time there. He shuffled out of his bedroom and into the bathroom, stripping off his tank top and boxers. He turned on the taps and paused as his cell phone rang.
With quick reflexes, he pulled his cell off the bathroom counter and answered quickly. "Elric." He backed out of the bathroom to keep the sound of running water at a minimum for his associates.
"Agent Elric, there's been a bit of a problem in sector 17-6. Mustang's been spotted, staking out a bank."
Edward frowned a little bit and glanced at the clock. It was already after eight in the morning. "Give me fifteen minutes, I can be there. We'll get him."
"Of course Agent Elric. Rockbell out."
He snapped his cell shut and hurried back into the bathroom to complete his shower ritual. Mustang was becoming a real thorn in Ed's side with his string of robberies. The fact he hadn't caught the man was really looking bad on his track record. Director Curtis wouldn't take much more of this, he figured. She was tough when it came to her agents.
The water turned off, he stepped back out of the shower, towelling off quickly. He glanced in the mirror and pulled his hair up in a high ponytail and touched an unseen button on the side of his frames, clearing the water and fog from his lenses. Edward pulled on a turtleneck, black pants and socks and headed to finish getting ready. A coat and a pair of boots later and he stepped the small square of light beside his front door. "Headquarters."
With a flash of light, he was gone.
Winry Rockbell stretched her arms above her head as she sat back at her desk, one leg over the other. She'd been up all night monitoring the public surveillance equipment and making sure it was all kept in proper order. After all, Edward needed her help in catching the syndicate known as 'Soldiers'.
She yawned, tilting her head back. Soon Ed would come and she could go home for a rest. That sounded incredibly appealing right about then.
The next thing she knew, one of Edward's hands was on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "Winry." He said softly. "You fell asleep."
"Oh crap!" She looked horrified.
"It's alright, I was on my way." Edward said. "Where's Al?"
"Right." She smiled. "Al is looking at the blueprints for 17-6 and searching out the possible routes the Soldiers might take to get into the bank." Winry leaned forward and pulled out a keyboard and began tapping in a sequence of codes. "These are the recordings from the public cameras."
A video popped up on the screen and she fast forwarded it to 0134. A man with jet black hair, dressed in blue was taking a stroll in front of the bank. He disappeared from view of that camera, but returned three minutes later.
"How many times?"
"Eight." Winry said. "And this jogger..." She moved the video again to a man jogging in grey sweats with two toned hair and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. "Passed by four times under the guise of circling the block."
"Just that block?"
"Based on the timing, I'd say so."
Edward nodded and tapped her. "Alright, go rest. I'll work on pulling a composite video to monitor both their movements the entire time we can see them, as far as I can see them and work on hacking into the bank security systems to see what I can find."
"On it." She grinned and vacated her chair for him. "Al should be back in an hour or so, I think. He can give you a hand with the composite video."
"That would be good, I'd like to work on finding their hideout and tapping into their communications equipment."
"See you in twelve."
"Yep, see you then." Edward said, waving a bit over his shoulder and leaned forward, rewinding the video and beginning the painstaking process of pulling video off the cameras.
Al smiled a bit. "I see you're succeeding this time."
Edward shook his head. "Not until we can prevent them and stop this. I know times are tough for some but these robberies...have you come up with a profile?"
"Yeah, actually. I've done a bit of research on Mustang. He used to be a soldier. He and his unit were honourably discharged, at least, that's the official word of it, but I don't think that's exactly true."
He paused in his typing. "Well?"
"There's a bit of secrecy about an incident around that time, the assault of a female officer, and the rumour is that Mustang paid a little retribution to the man. One..." He consulted his notes. "Shou Tucker. When he was discharged, his unit left with him, citing they would only follow that one man, including the female officer."
"They have names?" Ed asked as he went back to work, typing away quickly.
"Even better, they have personnel files." Al grinned.
"I ever tell you I love you?"
"Only when I bring you the goods." Al chuckled and turned to another screen and produced a new keyboard to pull up the requested information. First he pulled up the leader's file. "Sending!" A few taps of the key and the file moved from his screen to Ed's.
The file came up on the screen and Ed leaned back, taking a good look at the picture. The picture was standard as far as military files went and he scanned the information. "Roy Mustang...explosive expert, huh? Makes sense. Pyromaniac, nicknamed Flame...that explains his codename in the first three robberies."
"They always call him Flame, yeah." Al agreed. "What do you make of the blacked out portions of his file?"
"Confidential information. My specialty." Edward grinned a little. "Another thing to work on I guess. Alright, give me the next one."
"Female officer, Riza "Hawk" Hawkeye." Al said, moving the next one on screen.
"Sharpshooter." Edward noted. "That might complicate an arrest. Next."
"Jean "Blondie" Havoc." Al said thoughtfully. "Another sharpshooter. Rumor has it he helped Mustang give that man that beating...and his commanding officer."
"Which officer was that?" Ed asked.
"One General Basque Gran."
Edward frowned. He was actually familiar with the man, having dealt with him on a previous case. "Kinda deserved that, don't you think? Next one."
Al nodded and quickly did as he was asked. "Kain "Kid" Fuery. Barely a recruit. Communications specialist."
Edward grinned. That sounded like a challenge. "Next."
"Vato "Grey" Falman."
"You know, they might have wanted to make this more challenging and change their nicknames from service." Ed commented. "He looks upstanding. Nothing blacked out, clean record. He was a clerk of all things. I wonder what they need him for...any more?"
"One." Al answered and put up the last file. "Maes Hughes. Codename unknown."
"Again, a pretty clean file. Intelligence expert." Edward said thoughtfully. "That's quite the team they've pulled together. Anything on their whereabouts after the discharge?"
"None, they vanished until Flame hit up that museum.
Edward frowned and chewed on the back of his pen. "Look into that. Try and get addresses, family members and that sort of thing. Did you come up with a plan of attack?" He said as he cleared the files from his screen and got up to join Al at his desk.
"Well I think the likely route they'll take is the back entrance, through the ventilation ducts. There's a drop outside the vault. If they got the code somehow..."
"Right, if they got the code they could make a fairly easy break of it."
Edward nodded. "Sounds plausible. Alright here are the videos." He sent them to Al as he took his seat once more. "Follow them and figure out where they're hiding. I'm going into the security systems and the files."
"On it. Later." Al said, taking a flash drive with the information and leaving for another office.
Ed was almost disappointed he was able to get in so easily. Didn't anyone safeguard themselves anymore? That was something he should get Director Curtis to advocate. It shouldn't be this easy to break into places.
Since he was in the menu he needed, he continued tapping away, cracking codes. He was an expert for a reason—within half an hour he was exactly where he needed to be. He pulled up the video surveillance and started to scan the footage. He set it up to record and minimized it before heading into their own database, pulling up the files on the Soldier organization.
"Six months of this Mustang, I'm not letting you get away with it." Edward vowed as he scanned the man's file for anything he might have missed. He was still making notes on a notepad when his cell phone rang. He dropped his pen on the desk and raised it to his ear. "Elric."
"Meeting in ten minutes Elric."
"Got it." He hung up and pocketed the phone once more, going back to his notes. When the ten minutes had passed, he got off the chair, powering down everything and moved out of his office to the conference room. It was his turn to present, after all, Mustang was his case.
"Six long months we've been investigating Mustang and finally we have a lead on a target before he hits it. We're fairly certain he's going to hit Central Bank in quadrant 17-6. We've identified him and his party." He turned and logged into the computer, bringing up their images on the screen, complete with their names beneath them.
"We can't get arrest warrants on any of them yet but if you see one, capture them for interrogation. We're fairly certain Mustang is the ringleader, although he does a fair bit of the dirty work himself. Once we find their hideout the plan is to install communication devices to monitor their discussions, see what sort of information we can gather from that and then try and bring them in."
He paused for a moment and then Edward leaned forward on the table, his palms flat on the surface. "I suspect that these thefts are actually a distraction from their real goal."
"What do you think their real goal is?" Izumi asked him, leaning back in her chair.
"I actually don't know that yet." Ed admitted. "But I have Al looking into their backgrounds, hopefully we can gain some information that we can use to get them."
"Sounds rather comprehensive. What are you doing in terms of prevention?"
"Beefing up security at the bank. I think that will deter them a little, at least, I hope so. Otherwise...if we happen to fail that way, I'm certain I'll be able to get some evidence at the very least." Ed was frustrated by the lack of evidence.
"Get it done Elric. Tringham?"
Russell nodded. "I've been trying to find their hideout with no such luck. My informants say they're not recruiting, so the opportunity for infiltration is incredibly low."
She tapped her fingers. "Scouting?"
"Likely." Al answered. "Considering the professions of each of the Soldiers an the skills they bring, they would scout their comrades instead of mass recruiting. After all, they apparently don't need pawns. However like my brother says, I believe they have a bigger goal. They've stolen a sculpture from a museum, some communications equipment from a retailer and rations from a military base, now they've set their sights on money. I think the first was a test, to see if they could manage a criminal game, but now I think they're after their goal."
Izumi nodded and turned to Broche and Ross. "What about Scar?"
"He's still committing mass homicide in quadrant 1-18, all of his targets so far have been former military officials. He doesn't appear to have any records whatsoever."
She frowned. "Find out more information, we need to stop Scar and the Soldiers. Roze, the Homunculi?"
Roze shook her head. "I'll keep patrolling, but so far they've vanished."
"I don't like a vanished consortium. Find them." Izumi said curtly. "Everyone get back to work. Elric, stay here."
The others filed out of the room, Al glanced back at Ed and then moved along. Edward swung around a chair and sat in it, crossing one leg over the other. "Yes Director?"
Izumi closed the door behind her agents and frowned at Edward. "Your progress is moving quickly. If there really is a bigger ultimate goal, you need to find it. Do you think you could infiltrate...?"
"I wouldn't be scouted." Edward said, shaking his head. "I'm an Agent."
"That's true. Regardless, I need you to find them. If you need any more resources, let me know. The three of you are my best agents, this case gets priority right now."
He nodded. "On it, of course."
"Of course." She smiled a bit. "Go on, get back to work."
Edward smiled and headed out of the boardroom. At least he wasn't in trouble, Mustang was one slippery bastard.
"What happened? Are you in trouble?"
Ed shook his head. "You worry too much Al. I'm fine."
Al let out a soft sigh of relief and glanced at his office door. "This where you're going to be?"
"No, I'm going back to the com room office." The door opened itself and Edward stepped inside, glancing around at the multitude of filed folders stacked on every available surface.
"Brother! You really need to clean this up!"
He shrugged. "It's fine, I know where everything is." He stepped over to a bookshelf that was clearly overloaded and he scanned the titles before pulling out what seemed to be a random journal. Grasping it gently in one hand, he sipped the coffee in with the other.
"...I can't believe you can do that."
He grinned and waved a bit with the journal in question. "It's a gift."
"So what's in that one?"
"You can't read it." Edward said simply and stepped around his desk back to the doorway. Once Al had stepped back and he had gone through it closed behind him. "How's it going on the video decoding?"
"Slow. You'd be faster if you weren't so busy. I can do it but...I'm much better at profiling and research. I'll keep at it though."
"Sounds good." He nodded, sipping the coffee again. "I'm getting back to work. I'll see you later Al." He smiled and headed into the com room, taking his crosslegged position back up at the computer. Settling his coffee by his left hand, he squirmed and wiggled until he was in the right position, held his hands over the keyboard for just one moment and dove in, both hands moving rapidly.
He pulled up the military's website and paused. He would have to be careful as they were technically a branch of the same type of service. Ed swiveled around in his chair, scanning his shelves...there! He kicked off the ground and slid the chair into the wall, catching himself with his left foot at the last moment. Ed reached up and pulled down a small box and kicked himself back into position.
The box was set on the table and he opened it, poking at the small microchips inside. Seeming random, he pulled out one and slid aside the small door that hid the computer terminal and slid the microchip into a slot and slid the door closed again. With a smirk, he went back to tapping the keys in rapid succession.
Edward was almost disappointed with the lack of a security system. The government really needed to beef it up, he could probably get a lucrative contract suggesting that. For the moment, it wasn't his problem and he was taking advantage of the flaws in the government database.
Within the hour he was browsing uncensored military files. He pulled up Roy Mustang's file and set it to print off. The pages popped out of a thin slot on the desk and fell forward onto the desk in a neat stack. Another nudge with his foot and he was fetching a manila folder to put the paperwork into. He continued the process dutifully with each member of Mustang's team including a few possible suspects Alphonse had missed.
The door opening made him jump a bit as he had been concentrating and he swiveled around to face his brother. "What've you got?"
"It looks like this building might be the place." Al said with a grin. "It's in 17-3. It took a lot of work to find them, but they disappeared into this bar here, 'Devil's Nest'. Either their hideout is the bar or it's above or below it. Or in the surrounding area, but they didn't access it from outside."
"Valuable information. Call Winry in, she's gotta head out there."
Al nodded. "Right." He pulled out his cell phone, dialing the number from memory. "How's it going here?"
"Got all their files."
"The security is shit." Edward muttered and pulled the folders closer to himself.
"Hey Winry, we need you back here, we've got a hot lead." There was a pause and a nod. "Elric out." Al's wrist flicked forward as he snapped the phone shut. "Give her fifteen minutes."
Ed nodded and got to his feet. "I'm going to gather the equipment so we can calibrate it and set up the frequencies."
"Can I take a look at these?"
"Go nuts." He answered and headed out the door.
Winry Rockbell arrived, stretching her arms above her head and flopped in Edward's favourite chair.
"Sorry I woke you." Al said gently.
"It's okay. Sleeping's been erratic the last six months anyway."
He smiled and leaned over her, his hands on the arms of the chair. "Yeah I know. Maybe we can all get a vacation when this is over. You and me we could take a trip out to Xing, or even further."
"I'd like that." Her eyes softened and she leaned up to meet his lips with her own.
"Ahem." Edward said from the doorway, glancing at them with a disapproving look. It wasn't their relationship that bugged him but the public displays of affection at work.
"Sorry Brother. Oh, but I did find you some interesting information."
"Maes Hughes has a family." Al grinned.
A slow smile tugged at Ed's lips. "Al, once again, I think I love you."
"We have some serious family issues if you only love me when I bring you things."
"Are you two finished? I didn't get out of bed to listen to you bicker." She turned around to face Ed with a small wave.
"You took my chair!"
"I didn't see your name on it." Winry huffed.
"You know damn well that's where I sit when I—"
"Please!" Al mediated. "Can we just concentrate?"
"My chair." Edward muttered as he set down a couple of plastic boxes on the desk. He opened the largest one and then the smaller ones. "Winry, standard bugs, alright? If you can get the video ones inside, do it but move cautiously, we don't know how they'll react to being infiltrated."
"No need for the warnings, I know what I'm doing."
Edward nodded and put each bug into the bigger box, pushed a button and removed it again. "They're all calibrated to frequency 37." Placing them all back into the smaller box, he put it in her hands.
She grinned and flashed him two fingers. "No problem."
"This one..." Ed said and put it into the box. "Is calibrated to frequency 17. Use this to keep in contact with Al."
Winry nodded again and stood so he could help outfit her with the earpiece.
"Do you have your gun?" Al asked her.
"Always keep it in my holster."
Edward crawled under the desk and slid another panel aside, pulling out a pouch and tossed it at Winry, sliding it shut and squirming his way out of the enclosed space again. "There you go. You should have all you need. If you hit a rough patch, just abort the mission. Whatever you do, don't get discovered. At the same time Winry is placing the bugs, Al you keep in contact with her and give her directions. We'll hit them up at ten tonight, so be in position by nine thirty. See if you can find the blueprints to Devil's Nest Al, should be in the city databases. I'm going to try and get into their communication systems and try and get some information that way. Any questions?"
Neither one of them asked any and both shook they're heads. Edward pulled out his pocket watch, something he was constantly mocked for as it was rather archaic and he flicked it open. "It's eight. Take a break, eat and reconvene here at nine."
"Got it Ed." Winry smiled, taking Al's hand. "We'll go have dinner together."
"Good, I can have my chair back."
"Oh no you don't." Al scolded. "You're coming with us. I know for a fact you've had nothing to eat all day."
"But Al—" Edward couldn't even protest very much when his brother grabbed his wrist and yanked him from the room.
Winry laughed as she followed after them, shaking her head. It was just like old times sometimes.
Walking back into the com room office, the atmosphere was a bit sombre. Edward led the way, looking grim and determined, Winry behind him and finished out by Al. He tossed the pouch now filled with all the necessary equipment to Winry.
She caught it easily and looped it through her belt loops, tying it securely.
Alphonse moved quickly to the second chair to run the programs necessary to keep in touch with her. While booting them up, he glanced back at them. "I'm getting coffee. Ed?"
"Okay." With the screens set up to do their own thing, he moved out of the room.
Winry took a deep breath and checked that her gun was loaded.
"Just...don't get caught." Edward said by way of goodbye.
"I wouldn't." She shook her head and smiled, putting her gun back in its holster and hugging Ed around the shoulders before kissing his cheek. "Have to become your sister-in-law anyway!"
Blood rushed to his cheeks and he pushed her off to him. "Quit that!"
"Oh but Ed you're so cute when you blush!"
"Get away from me you freakish girl!"
Winry just laughed and looked at him fondly. "I'll do what I have to."
"You're the only one Winry, don't forget it."
"I know you two are useless at installing devices. You owe me an hour though, later."
Ed smiled. "Sure, sounds fine."
Al came back and smiled, handing Ed his coffee. "Better head out now Winry."
She leaned in and gave Al a quick peck on the lips. "See you soon. Bye!" With a quick wave she hurried out the door.
Edward set his coffee down and settled into his chair, pulling up his own hacking programs, and Alphonse set up the communications systems.
"Here." Al murmured and handed Ed a headset.
"Thanks." Ed answered and pulled it on over his ears.
Both brothers sat in silence. At 9:27 pm, Winry's voice came over the headset. "In position."
"Okay." Al answered, looking serious and determined.
The trio remained still, not even Edward was clicking away at the keyboard like he usually was. They had to time this perfectly, Edward would not only have to break into the system but cause a distraction to help Winry out. He took a sip of his coffee. He was ready.
There was no sound, no movement and finally the clock chimed ten and it was chaos. Edward's fingers moved faster on the keyboard then they usually did, he was very good at working himself into a frenzy.
"Go ahead." Al answered, keeping his eyes on the monitor.
The small clicks continued, as one after the other boxes popped up on his computer screen were glanced at and rejected. "Almost there." Edward murmured.
"Come on Ed, you can do this."
"I know, I know, I have to. Almost."
A few minutes passed. "Come on Brother, you have to! She's almost inside!"
"Don't rush me!" Edward hissed.
There was a soft beep and finally their computer screen appeared on Ed's. "Got it. Here, I'll send you the feeds—"
A loud gunshot was heard in their ears.
"Winry!" Al shouted into his headset. "Winry!" He slammed his hands on the desk. "Answer me dammit!"
Edward's eyes had widened at the shot and he looked at Al. "Fuck, we didn't take into account the—"
The screens in front of him went completely dark as the information was erased in front of Edward's eyes. "Shit they've found me!"
He scrambled for the mouse to get out immediately. In Edward's haste he knocked his coffee aside, the hot liquid splashing on the desk and dripping onto the floor lasting only moments before the cup itself fell with a crash.
"Pull out Winry!" Al shouted into his headset, tears in his eyes. "Talk to me!"
Before Edward could grasp the mouse and pull out the black screen suddenly changed to one with a slightly greenish tint. A cursor appeared, flashing tauntingly and then, five words.
Hello intruder. This is Flame.