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AU; Ed is captured as a prisoner of war and chosen as the personal hostage of the field commander, one Colonel Roy Mustang.
Chapter 1, Prologue: Capture
"Four of the resistance fighters were captured," Lieutenant Hawkeye reported as they approached the makeshift POW camp. "No major casualties, but nine soldiers are currently out of action. At last word, they were still . . . stuck."
One corner of Roy's mouth twitched with amusement in spite of himself. "Another booby-trap?"
"Yes, sir. The men are working on extracting them but it may take several hours."
Someone in this city had quite a sense of humor. The design of the traps was ingenious, really. They were never lethal, but always caused plenty of inconvenience and lost resources. So far no one had been able to figure out how something so elaborate could get set up so quickly. Roy had his suspicions, but nothing he wanted to send to the higher-ups just yet. Accusations of that sort could have serious consequences.
"Any casualties among the prisoners?"
"Have them checked over by a medic anyway."
He schooled his face to a distant mask before they entered the courtyard. At the far end, the prisoners were being searched and registered. They would be relieved of anything deemed dangerous or suspicious, then collared and given a set of clothes before being locked behind the high fences with the other POWs.
Roy hated this procedure. Controlling prisoners was a necessary part of war, but a battlefield shouldn't be an excuse to treat another human being—other Amestiran citizens, in this case—like so much livestock. But it was mandated by the state, and as field commander he had to oversee it.
As field commander he was also expected to choose one of the prisoners as a personal hostage. On paper it was a way to acquire knowledge about the enemy. Get in close, get to know your opponent, glean the kind of information that can only be won through prolonged association. But in practice it usually served much more base desires. The thought left a sour taste in his mouth, but he knew he'd have to address this eventually. He hoped to put it off for as long as possible. Like maybe until they transfered him out.
He was snapped out of his thoughts when a prisoner at the far end of the field, a small blond boy, punched one guard in the gut and twisted out of the grasp of another. Roy tensed and pressed his thumb and fingers together, but hesitated, waiting to see how this would play out. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his lieutenant draw her gun, but not take aim. The guards should be able to handle a solitary prisoner, especially one that looked only half-grown.
Two nearby soldiers immediately cut the boy off and tried to restrain him. It seemed ridiculously unfair, the boy didn't even come to their shoulders. But as Roy watched, one soldier stumbled back from a blow to the face while the other was lifted off his feet and dropped flat on his back. The sun flashed off a blade in the boy's hand—no over his hand—and Roy raised his hand. He'd let the kid get a few feet away before stopping him.
It turned out to be unnecessary. A guard caught the kid in the back of the knee with a baton, and the soldier with the bloody nose tackled him. The two of them held the writhing, cursing boy pinned while another guard grabbed his arm, using his weight to pin the bladed wrist to the ground while he groped at the shoulder for the catch to the prosthetic. The boy thrashed and spat a venomous curse as the metal arm fell free.
The two men struggled to hold the captive while the guard stood with his prize. "Little shit," he muttered—and slammed the toe of his boot into the kid's ribs.
The guard got in another solid kick and had pulled his foot back for a third before Roy could shout, "Enough!"
The colonel glared cooly at the now-frozen tableau. The soldiers and guards looked startled and nervous, but not nearly as contrite as he would have liked. The boy snarled up from the ground, glaring at him through a fringe of dingy hair, far from cowed. That decided him.
"Have that one cleaned up and sent to my quarters," he barked. "I don't want him damaged further. Understood?"
He turned his attention to the other prisoners, effecting cool indifference and ignoring the covert stares from his soldiers and the mix of fear and relief from the prisoners.
Hawkeye met his eye briefly before dropping her gaze to make a notation on her clipboard. To anyone else she would have looked at most mildly disapproving, but to Roy her expression spoke loud and clear: I hope you know what you're doing.
He suppressed a grimace. He sincerely hoped that he did.
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