The New Flame Alchemist

Chapter 1

The trees leaned dangerously the one side, buffeted by the gale-force winds. Branches creaked and swept aside, the few leaves slow to succumb to the ripening autumn fluttering and twisting madly on the end of their tiny stems in the wind. The sky had a grayish hue against the blue from the amount of dust carried along in the whipping air. A few garbage cans rolled and bumped down the streets, banging and clanging hollowly as if escaping some oncoming threat that no amount of dirty diapers or rotten vegetables could compare to. Discarded bits of trash and leaves whirled and flipped along the sidewalks, dust and dirt gliding under them like the waves and eddies of a dry river. With her jacketed arm thrown over her eyes, the First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye forced the vehicle door open into the face of the oncoming gale and pulled herself out, letting the wind slam the door shut hard beside her. A sudden gust pushed her hard enough to stumble to the side as she fought the key into the lock, but she regained her footing and secured the door.

Riza Hawkeye hated windy days.

All day in the office, the typhoon had everyone wound up and tense as windows whistled and howled with wind slipping through the gaps, the eerie sound sending shivers down the spines of even the seasoned war veterans. The situation deteriorated when a broken branch shattered the window behind the Colonel's desk and showered him with glass. It became impossible for anyone to get any work done after that point and the rest of the time had been spent reorganizing the paperwork that had been blown about the office.

For the sake of everyone's safety, a general consensus was made to go home early that day. It was dangerous enough to travel in the daylight hours, it would be downright foolish to attempt it at night. Even as everyone gathered their long coats, the power finally cut out. With the wind not showing any signs of slowing down, it would be quite a while before power was restored. Conversation was nonexistent as Hawkeye drove the Colonel home, all her concentration focused on controlling the car and watching various debris being flung in front of her. The two exchanged polite and hurried farewells and Hawkeye carefully made her way home through the windstorm.

During the walk up to the door of her apartment, a piece of cardboard hit her side, nearly knocking her into the small patch of grass lining the black iron scrollwork fence in front of the building. Hawkeye quickly regained her footing and hurried up the few steps to her door, hunched over her keyring to shove the correct one into the lock. Another strong gust pushed her through the open door along with a troop of leaves. Hawkeye shut and deadbolted the door with an air of finality, then turned to frown at the mess scattered around half the wood floors of her apartment.

"Hayate?" She called out for the little dog while removing her coat and waist cape, draping both over one of the dining room chairs. She looked around, but her canine companion didn't come running to her for attention like he usually did when she came home. Hayate must be out, which worried her. For a dog that size, a gust of wind would literally blow him away. Frowning lightly, she walked into the bathroom to clean up.

The wind had been a problem in Ishval, too. It was a blessing her hair had been short back then or it would have looked just as it did now, and more full of dirt and sand. A good portion of her hair had been pulled free from the clip and her bangs splayed wildly all over her face. Hawkeye pulled the clip from her hair and shook out her blonde locks, feeling the grit of dust clinging to it. A good, long shower was in order. Setting the clip aside, she leaned in closer to the mirror and reached for her brush. A heavy hand slammed down around hers and gripped it tightly enough to cause pain. Riza gasped and turned, simultaneously pulling back hard to escape. Even as she reached behind for her gun, the figure snatched it out of its holster just before she could touch it. It all happened too fast, and she found herself pressed achingly backwards over the bathroom sink, her hand twisted sharply at the wrist and her own gun's barrel pressed to her side. Hawkeye looked up at the man- it was a man, she realized, one that looked familiar somehow with his dark brown hair, fair skin and narrow, hazel eyes- with eyes winced in pain. Her free hand froze in midair, unable to reach the gun in her shoulder holster.

"That's right, don't move," he growled softly, leaning in until his face was mere inches from her own, his moist breath warming her lips. "I don't need you alive, but if you behave, you may just survive this, Riza Hawkeye. Now, put your hands behind your head, slowly."

Trying to control her breathing despite her speeding heartbeat, Hawkeye did as he said. The man guided her bound hand close to her head before releasing it, and she pressed both hands to the back of her head. Her mind raced to find a way out, a way to gain the advantage in this situation, planning ahead on how to respond if he moved in certain ways and what to do if she could get outside, but as long as the weapon pressed to her vital organs there was no way to manage a safe escape. The barrel of the gun slid up her body until it rested in the soft tissue under her chin, and it was then that he removed her last gun. His motions were painfully slow, maintaining full control over Hawkeye and of the situation.

"Lay face down on the floor, hands on the back of your head." He took a step back to allow for movement, gun still trained on her head. Hawkeye pushed herself painfully from the counter, and realized that the man was dressed in a military officer's uniform now that she could get a good look at him.

"Slowly!"

She nodded and slid slowly to the floor onto her knees, then lowered herself to her stomach. On the way down she looked to her right, to the shower he had emerged from. It had frosted glass doors instead of a curtain, and it seemed he had slipped through the slightly opened doors from his hiding spot in the bottom of the tub. He came from below and to the side, that's why she hadn't seen him in the mirror. Laying still beyond the frosted glass was a blurred mass of black and white... Black Hayate. Something clutched within her at the sight of her beloved pet laying still from the hands of an enemy, most likely dead. But she had no time to mourn him.

Finally her hands clasped above her head, cheek pressed to the cold tile of the bathroom floor. There had to be a way out of this, Hawkeye couldn't be bested so easily! There had to be one moment, just one split second that she had a chance to exploit and get away. She heard a brief brush of clothing moving, then a small metallic sound. What was going on? The gun barrel pressed to the back of her neck.

"Don't move."

Despite the warning, she jumped slightly from a sharp pinch at her shoulder, but it only lasted a second. An injection! A firearm she understood, but whatever the metal syringe held was an unknown that could lead to something worse than instant death. Her hands flew to the floor and pushed herself up, head also pushing up and rolling away from the muzzle. Instead of fighting against her, the man jumped back into the doorway and slid the gun away into his pocket. The confident smirk on his face worried her, but as she scrambled to her feet with limbs a lot heavier than she remembered, her slowed reflexes were much more worrisome to her.

"What.. did you do?" Hawkeye stumbled sideways into the shower door, one hand grasping the handle with the other pressed against the glass for stability.

"Goodnight, Riza Hawkeye," he murmured. His hazel eyes glinted with a predatory air.

The strength in her body gave out almost all at once. Hawkeye's vision went dim just before her eyes lost the ability to remain open all the way, and her hand slid down the glass with a small squeak. She crumbled into a heap and fell onto her side. I can't move- was her last thought before the world faded to black.