King Bradley watched the Flame Colonel walk out of his office, followed closely by the Elric brothers. He had been sure there was someone hidden inside the suit of armor. He frowned. He needed to learn more about young Alphonse. He did not like making mistakes about such things. The other two guests had behaved as expected. Fullmetal showed the brashness of his youth, while Colonel Mustang maintained his cool. He had been suitably gutted by the news, of course, but not quite defeated. The Führer President frowned. He was almost...envious...of the man's position. He was himself an ambitious man. But he had had everything handed to him on a silver platter, once he became Wrath. He fought many battles, but he had not fought for his position. The night's conversation had left him contemplative. He did not regret his past, nor his choices. But he admired the fight that he saw in Colonel Mustang's eyes. The man had been dealt a serious blow, true - but he was not cowed, and he had not given up. His ambition and resolve were intact. It would be worth following his progress just to see how he would deal with this opposition. Of course, there was no doubt he would fail in the end. One human could not take on the nation. But to see his struggle, that would be worthwhile. The thrill of the chase - he would relish the feeling from afar.
Or perhaps not so far. With the Colonel's loyal dog under his Eye, perhaps he would see the effects of this uphill struggle first hand. Would his weariness and dissatisfaction be mirrored by her, or would she rather be his foil, strengthening as he weakened? Either way, he knew he had chosen his hostage well. The fury that still radiated off the man regarding Hughes' death was almost...amusing. So he had discovered that Ross was just a scapegoat. Interesting. Of course, hostages worked so much better when they were still alive. He might have to dispose of one to prove he was serious, but that would be Falman in the north or Fuery in the south, not the prize under his nose. No, he would be more creative in his treatment of Lt. Hawkeye. There were so many ways to wear down a man like the Colonel. His weakness was his delusion that he could protect his underlings. But...he must not forget what had happened to Lust. She had paid the price for underestimating her foe. Kindling his strongest resolve, and then leaving him for dead...when he was merely down. Careless.
Lt. Hawkeye watched the Colonel closely after he returned from Military Command. At least...at least he had returned. But things were far from well. He had not meant to show his hand so early. He was caught off guard. It obviously irked him to have matters taken out of his hands, to lose control. He had underestimated the pervasiveness of the problem. And the enemy understood him very well, to get to him by dispersing his subordinates. Major Armstrong's resolve was heartening, though. It was not just their group against the world - there were many soldiers who could be rallied to fight for the country...when the time was right. But for now...as they entered their offices in Central Headquarters (for the last time? she thought), it felt more like a defeat. Everyone was packing up, confused by the suddenness of the change in orders. They hadn't been in Central that long! And now, to move again, scattering... They were a quiet, worried group. She was not surprised when the Colonel called them into his office and shut the door.
"I have warned you in the past that following me would be dangerous. Now, you are not being given the choice. There is no turning back, because the Military High Command has identified you all as people who are loyal to me. The only way out is to follow Havoc's lead and take off your uniform. They wish to break my resolve by removing you from my command. I wish to use your reassignments as an opportunity. I have plenty of contacts in the East. Be my eyes and ears where you are. I will no longer be able to protect you directly. I have been put on a rather short leash. But I am still counting on you! When I reach the top... this country will be a very different place. See you there. Dismissed."
When Breda, Falman and Fuery had saluted and left, she turned to face him. "Sir, it was very foolish of the President to invite me to spy on him. I will not disappoint you." He smiled that slow, calculating smile - and she knew it would be alright. Somehow.
Colonel Mustang sat alone in his office, after all his subordinates had left. He had seriously miscalculated. Why had he gone after Military High Command so...brashly? He had rushed in, unprepared, and only came out alive because his enemy wanted him to live. Had he sent anyone else on that errand...the person would be as dead as Hughes. Maes... He bowed his head. Would that ache ever go away? When Hughes found out, he had rushed to call him. Now...who would he call? The silent, empty room mocked him. He was alone again. But not defeated. He did not reach the rank of Colonel at the age of 26 just to let a discovery like this shake him from his goal. He had always meant to overthrow the President. Discovering that Bradley was an inhuman monster, by choice, only strengthened that resolve. The stakes had been raised, and the secrecy stripped away. He was in the open, now...but so was his enemy. He smiled. Bradley was renowned for his skill with a blade, but he had defeated a homunculus before. He could do it again. His side twinged. Just not...now. Such regenerative powers would come in handy... No, his true enemy was the person behind Bradley. The one who had made him Wrath, the one who had made him President, the one who had made Ishbal into a slaughterhouse. The one who had made the Army into a machinery for murder. That was his true enemy. And he knew nothing about him. Fullmetal had promised to brief him before mugging him. Maybe he'd found out something more about the homunculi... He smiled. That brash kid... The smile fell away. Watching Bradley play him had been far from pleasant. It was his fault. The Elrics never would have come to the attention of the President...if they had not been recruited as state alchemists. By him. He put his head down. "Can I not protect anyone?" he asked the empty room miserably.