Sep. 23rd, 2015

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5) Roy sighed and stared at the mountain of paperwork trying valiantly to collapse his desk. With power, came forms in triplicate and security clearances and expense reports. Every time it seemed he'd conquered a pile and set it to be taken away, someone usually Hawkeye, set another one on top twice as high.

More than half of course came from his predecessor for whom the words 'efficiency' and 'backlog' had never been explained. If the man ever returned from commanding troops near Creta he'd enjoy transmuting General Bernard into a decorative paperweight.

When he became Fuher, this would be a task he gave the people he didn't like. The ones he didn't drop right into a cell somewhere. Surely if there was a Hell as so many religions claimed, the desk of a Colonel was part of it.

"These are the most current." Hawkeye told him as she interrupted his day dream of Gran Basque covered in papercuts with another stack.

With a sinking feeling in his stomach he realized the top sheets were in Xing. 

"Extra strong coffee please Lieutenant." He sighed, picking up the packet that constituted Spitfire's weekly 'report'. Not only was it in Xing, it was in double code. Sometimes triple. When he wasn't cursing her for a foul-hearted harpy shrew he was taking notes to improve his own journals. 

This time not only was it written Xing style from right to left, but she'd done it back to front as well, bottom to top. In the style of poetry. Warrior death poetry about bodies and blood and the futility of war. After a few hours cracking that he mostly got ranting about how stupid the commanding General Margras was and how she'd like to dump him and Mustang both in a cesspit. Intermingled with questions of their ancestry and dubious sexual prowess were the hard numbers of men wounded, killed or captured. Aerugo had no intention of surrendering an inch of blood drenched soil, and as the years ground on that soil was getting steadily more crimson. 

Transcribing the most useful of the numbers into something he could actually present, a pattern caught his eye. Spitfire typically made something of a point never to repeat her insults, and yet he'd seen the term pervert and bastard at least five times... 

Going back to the original Xing characters he fought down a shiver. //I Need Help. Send M-Stone. Supply Line Compromised.//

She was only two months into the six month tour he'd assigned her. How bad could the lines be, that she was asking for *those*?

"Lieutenant, get me Captain Hughes on the line please, and requisition forms 9140 A and C."

Hawkeye's brows went up for just a moment, then she was back to her bland stoicism. "Sir."

It was a day for drinking and bets when Mustang asked for *more* paperwork. Damn that little witch.

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"Compromised?" Hughes eyebrows went almost through his hairline before he became serious. "Did she specify if it was just alchemy or medical supplies?"

Roy shook his head slightly, dedicating himself to his coffee. "Nothing, but considering who she is and what she's asking for..."

Maes eyes went flinty for a moment. "Things are getting desperate. More desperate than usual for a war that's been going on since we were our parent's imaginings."

"Could anyone have ever imagined you Hughes? I find it terribly improbable."

"You flatterer, I can see why the ladies all swoon. What would *she* need *that* stuff for anyway? It's not for use on like... people right?"

Roy stared at his cup, but all he saw was the past. 

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//M-stones. All this suffering and... and *killing* people is for some damned M-stones?//

//Philosopher's stones. Incomplete ones but... it's the first time anyone has come close to even producing that. Marcoh is a genius. A twisted murdering genius maybe but...//

//So what?! They're just M-stones! They're worthless against people's *lives*! He's murdering people for power! Borrowed power!//

//And you gave him the idea.//

//What?!//

//Well, no you gave him the insight to make it *work*. What you did with your potions, the way you refined your materials... that was the catalyst for his Crystal Array. He already had the idea... this war is his laboratory but...//

She was so pale, so horrified, he almost felt sorry when she started to vomit, if he could have felt anything through the numbness.

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"They boost any alchemy, including the alchemy she uses to create her medicines. She's either running herself into an alchemist's exhaustion, or she has enough people who will die without the most powerful curatives she can create that she's desperate enough to use the very things she despises." 

Maes still looked worried. No, he looked more worried. "Can you.. I mean can we even *get*..."

Roy couldn't keep the grimness from his tone. "There's stockpiles."

His friend blanched nearly white before he managed anything like control. Thankfully no one at this hour paid attention to anything but their breakfasts. "What?"

"Marcoh's research wasn't complete, not by a long shot but the process for *those*... we couldn't keep it enough of a secret from the higher brass. What was left over from Ishvar got locked up, studied, and replicated. I don't know all the details but... every State Alchemist since the war has been issued a few. Requesting more is just a matter of forms."

"But *who*..."

"Maes. There are some questions it's not safe to ask until one has no enemies of power *left*." Roy cautioned, still staring into the past. "I need you and the boys on this one, the supply lines have to be kept clear."

"Right... right. Let me make some calls. Why did you send her to the front lines any way? *Again* I mean, this is her third tour if you count Ishvar." And none of us ever care to see another battlefield since then he doesn't say with anything but his telling silence. 

"Captain, there comes a point where she's safer tending to immediate triage, than letting herself get strange ideas in the safety of a civilized hospital." I can't keep her from trying to kill herself, Roy said with his bleak eyes, but I can give an honest enemy the chance to do it for her.

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The report from Major Armstrong three weeks later indicated that his Second Lieutenant Ross and Sergeant Brosch had successfully delivered the shipment of supplies to the commanding medical officer on the ground, aka Major Spitfire. They were stopped not by brigands and rebels or even Aeruga hijackers, but the General himself, one General Carcano. The General had not issued the supply request and was therefor quite surprised to find it there. 

He had also not approved any requests since coming into command ten months ago, except for food and ammunition.  

The General did not 'approve' of the 'look' of Second Lieutenant Ross, and made rather suspicious commentary regarding Major Spitfire's abilities due to her ancestry and gender. 

Major Armstrong had apparently, at that point, made a few comments about his own elder sister Major General Olivier Armstrong, and her strong friendship with Major Spitfire, as well as a point to the fact that while Major Spitfire was not the combat alchemist General Carcano had hoped for, General Carcano had not *been* in Ishvar. 

Nor had he dealt with the likes of Doctor Knox and Doctor Marcoh. One who was there simply to study the dead and one who was there to kill, and ended up running. 

Somewhere about that point, the report says, Major Spitfire had come out of the tent, grabbed the shipment entirely with a clap of hands and hands alchemized from the round, beamed at Major Armstrong as 'if they had been separated for years and wished only to test their mighty warrior spirits and fighting fervor in a beautiful spar'. Roy assumed there'd been sparkles and even fewer clothes involved at that point. 

Roy had never personally met General Carcano, but he was already wording a polite letter reminding the man that Major Spitfire was on *loan* and he could keep her for the price of a good bottle of vodka. He was also planning on asking Brigadier General Grumman if there weren't a way to *audit* the man and make sure that supplies weren't going 'missing'. It wouldn't be the first time after all a supply line to the troops became a piggy bank to a man's pocket. 

Five more months until the Harpy was here trying to claw out his eyes again, he'd try to savor it and get some actual work done. 

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