HAGANE NO RENKINJUTSUSHI
HAGANE NO RENKINJUTSUSHI
full metal alchemist
full metal alchemist
 



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Fire And Light: Sequel To Conqueror Of Shamballa
Rating 4 V
Sable
post Oct 3 2006, 01:52 PM
Post #1


Citizen
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From: I tend to bounce around...currently at school
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First chapter of my very first published fanfic. Hope you all enjoy.


Summary: Ten years after Ed and Al's return from Germany, World War II has ignited Europe, and Amestrian alchemy may hold the key to victory...or defeat. Rated for language, violence and eventual adult situations.


10/4 Okay. One last try at posting this monster...

Chapter 1: Al in a day’s work.

Rain beat a pattering staccato on canvas tenting, soft and soothing, lulling the sleeper within into a drowse—until thunder crashed directly overhead. Alphonse Elric sat up with a start, the last wisps of his dream fading as he remembered where he was.
That was strange. I could almost swear I’ve had that dream before…
Yawning, he rolled to his feet and stuck his head out of his tent, making a face as the cold rain immediately soaked his scalp and neck. Outside lights of the camp pierced the night, reflecting off the rain-slick ground. Uniformed men and women hurried back and forth, shielding themselves from the elements with oilcloth, coats or sheets of canvas. Gah, it would have to get all muddy right before a scouting run. Being in the south for the short but intense rainy season was starting to wear on him.
He pulled his head back in and sat back down on the regulation cot, reciting his mantra as he stuffed his stocking feet into his boots. One more day until I can go home. One more day until I can go home. One more day...God, I can’t wait.

“Colonel Elric?” someone was calling outside Al’s tent, his voice pitched over the rain.

Alphonse hopped on his one shod foot to the tent flap and yanked it open. “Get in here, Hakuro. It’s too miserable to stand around outside.”

The younger officer smiled gratefully and darted into the tent. “Thank you, sir. I’ve mail for you.”

Al nodded an acknowledgement and clapped his hands, touching them to the lone camp table. An array that emitted heat and light emerged on its surface, bathing the drab canvas in a warm glow. He smiled at it, mentally thanking Roy for showing him this trick. “Here, dry out over that for a minute.”
“Thank you, sir,” Hakuro repeated, hunching over the array.
Alphonse stifled a chuckle as his glasses immediately fogged up. He liked the shy but earnest officer, who reminded him a great deal of the hapless Captain Fury. Hakuro had been attached to Al’s unit as an expert in local communications, despite his being hopelessly myopic and notoriously clumsy. He and Al had met when Hakuro had tripped and fallen against him in the mess tent, sending his laden tray straight into Al’s face.
Al still had to fight the impulse to laugh whenever he remembered the incident. The awkward Corporal had blanched sheet white when he realized the man blinking at him through gravy and unidentifiable meat bits was the famed Soul Alchemist, Colonel Alphonse Elric.
Fortunately, Al managed to salvage his own dignity and the enlistee’s. He smiled kindly through his goopy mask, attempting to assuage the Corporal’s obvious panic.
Far from reassured, Hakuro caught the smile and turned a pale shade of green, certain he was about to be reamed in front of the entire lunchtime assembly. He closed his eyes tight and braced for the inevitable bellow of displeasure. But when a minute passed without reprimand, Hakuro dared to crack one eye. He was in time to see Colonel Elric insert one goop coated finger into his mouth and swallow. Hakuro flinched again as the colonel’s expression twisted in mild disgust.
“Officer Hakuro.” The Corporal looked up in shock. He hadn’t expected any ranking officer to know his name, let alone a colonel of Al’s reputation. There was a hush as every neck in the tent craned, macabrely interested in the fate of the luckless Corporal.
“Thank you for your assistance in testing the aerodynamics of the mess’s food. It seems military rations are better suited as projectiles than to be ingested.”
There was silence as every man in the mess tent processed that Colonel Elric had in fact said what he just said. Then someone at the far end laughed, with the rest a breath behind. It wasn’t long before the entire tent was roaring.
Hakuro’s anxious look melted into stunned gratitude as he realized he wasn’t going to be bellowed at. Alphonse watched, caught between amusement and sympathy as the young officer’s mouth opened and shut, apparently attempting to stammer either thanks or an apology. The young man seemed far too stunned to stand without assistance, so Alphonse pulled the smaller man to his feet with one gravy-splattered hand, then shucked off his uniform jacket and used it to wipe his hair, hands and face. When he finished he offered it to the younger man. “Your glasses are coated, Hakuro.”
Hakuro looked at the ruined jacket uncomprehendingly, horrified all over again. “Sir, I can pay for your uniform—”
A chuckle escaped Al as he reached over and whisked the shorter man’s glasses off his face. He wiped them with an un-spattered corner of his jacket as he spoke. “No you won’t. Not if I’ve anything to say about it. You’ve done me a favor.” He handed the glasses back to Hakuro, as clean as he could make them. “Uniforms aren’t really my style. Thanks to you, I’ll be in civvies for the rest of the operation…as long as no one lets on that I’ve got a spare.” He cocked an eyebrow at the younger man, grinning in a way that, to Thomen’s mind, suited mischevious six-year-olds, not colonels who could have you cleaning toilets for the rest of your career. “You’re not going to report me are you, Corporal?”

Hakuro had gaped at him for a moment, slack-jawed, then shut his mouth with a snap and saluted.
“No sir!”

Al remembered this as the younger man set his glasses on the table and worked past his natural shyness to speak. The effort it cost him informed Al that the younger man wasn’t delivering mail out of his usual thoughtfulness.
When Al inquired how someone so obviously academic had ended up enlisting, Havoc informed him that the young man had been pushed into service by his father, General Hakuro, in order to “make something of him”. Havoc’s sardonic comment had been that forcing incompetent people into the military often made corpses of them. Al had been surprised to learn that this Hakuro was from the family he and his brother had saved on the fateful train ride that brought both Elric brothers to the attention of the state.
Corporal Thomen Hakuro seemed all too aware of the disappointment he was to his famous father. Alphonse, noting this, decided to give Thomen something in the way of the support he lacked from his family.
He had Thomen’s commanding officer transfer him to his own command, then took the Corporal under his wing, reassigning him to research and ciphering after the young man revealed a native talent in both areas. Until Alphonse had requested him, Corporal Hakuro had sat behind a rifle in the field.
The part of Al that loved learning and intelligence for its own sake cringed at the near waste of an eager and brilliant mind.
But despite his genius, Thomen’s redoubtable sense of inferiority crippled him to the point that speaking to friends was an exercise in resolve. So Al waited patiently as Thomen mustered his tattered courage. He seemed to find it in a picture of the twins that stood on Al’s table, with a smaller photo of Arelana laughing (Al’s favorite picture of his wife) tucked in its frame. “Sir, I wanted to request your permission to be a part of the scouting mission today.”
Al stilled. He had been expecting something like this. “Why?”
Thomen looked at him as though he couldn’t quite believe Al had asked. “To help! I mean, to serve the country bravely.” He squared himself into what he likely believed a determined and heroic pose.

The colonel looked at him without expression. “Request denied.”

Thomen stared at him for a moment, crestfallen but somehow unsurprised, before he looked away. “So. I am useless.” The Corporal’s was voice soft and so dead with conviction that Al’s eyes narrowed in realization. If that’s what he’s been telling himself—or someone has been telling him—all along, it’s not surprising he has no confidence.
Al closed his eyes and thought hard about what he would say next. Thomen was smarter than this, he knew. If it hadn’t been for his blasted general father…
“Corporal, why do you think I put you with cipher and research?” Al held up a hand, forestalling his subordinate’s reply. “I’m about to tell you. It was because in the field your effectiveness was limited to the number of bullets in a gun. I put you on cipher because preventing deaths on both sides is my job. And code allows us to do that.”
Al closed his eyes and turned his face from his subordinate. He had to wake the young man to his own worth, before he did irreparable damage trying to prove he had some. “I’ve watched too many people die who didn’t have to, Thomen. Life is too precious to waste hating yourself and refusing to value your own talents.”
Al looked back at Hakuro. The young man appeared to be listening to him, even if bitterness still clouded his eyes, and that gave him hope.
“As long as I’m in command, resources will go where they’re needed, and a soldier will be put where he can preserve the most life. That’s why you’re not in a ditch behind a rifle. That’s why I’m here commanding soldiers despite the fact that I may have to kill with alchemy, a tool that should only be used to preserve lives. My being here preserves lives on both sides because alchemy provides alternatives to killing. Another colonel wouldn’t have the option.”
At Al’s tone, the younger man’s tight expression slackened into understanding, tinged with not a little embarrassment. Al, seeing this, pushed his memories to the back of his mind and gave the Corporal a direct look. “I suspect you would have realized sooner just how indispensable you truly are, if your father hadn’t expressed his opinion on the matter to you.”
Thomen looked at him, eyes widening behind his glasses. “How did you--?” He bit down on his words as the colonel pointed to the letters still fisted in the other man’s hand, giving him a half-smile of wry empathy. “No one goes to get mail and doesn’t check for their own. It’s your business how you deal with your father, but I may remind him that he still owes me a favor, and I would thank him to not second-guess how I assign my subordinates, especially to my subordinates.”
Al wondered if the surprise in Hakuro’s face was due to his daring to rebuke a general, daring to do so within his son’s hearing, or simply for thinking that the young man was worth defending.
None of the above, as it turned out. “Father owes you a favor?”
Al gave him a half smile. “You were probably too young to remember the Eastern Rebellion hijacking.”
“I do remember, but I don’t understand how --” Al watched sudden understanding leave the younger man’s eyes wide and jaw agape. “I never realized…that was you with the Fullmetal Alchemist?” Thomen realized how incredulous he sounded and flushed. “Colonel Elric sir, I apologize for my tone.”
Al laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Most people still don’t know that I was the armor suit that followed my brother around. There’re times I have trouble believing it.”
“Well, I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t mind if you did write my father, sir.” Al smiled at the newborn spark of defiance in the Corporal’s eye.
“I’ll do that, then. But before that…would it be all right if I claimed my mail? The briefing is in fifteen minutes.” Al smiled, holding out a hand.
“Oh! Sorry sir. I forgot I had them.” Hakuro sheepishly handed him the letters.
Alphonse took the proffered envelopes. The first, Arelana’s, got tucked inside his coat pocket to read when he got a moment alone. The second was recognizable by its cramped, spiky handwriting as Ed’s. Al grinned and ripped it open, holding it up to the glow of the array.
The letter was unusually short. He checked the header. Ed had written from the lab in East City a day before his leave should have begun.
Alphonse hoped for both his brother’s and the general’s sake that Ed’s leave hadn’t been cut short again. He had heard about what happened the last time his brother had been dragged away from his own research to assist “some jumped-up, pompous, brigadier general’s toady” (Ed assigned the other state alchemist this distinction with his usual grace and tact) in a state research project that overreached the man’s abilities. Ed had been forced to finish the other alchemist’s research on ethyl mercaptan (the chemical that made skunks so potent) to discover possible military applications.
When the Fullmetal Alchemist arrived back to Central, he sealed the windows of Mustang’s office (it had been vacant at the time; Edward mounted his attack during lunch hour) and alchemized a vile cloud of ethyl mercaptan inside of it. The elder Elric thought it very poetic to provide evidence of the chemical’s potency and usefulness—all while wreaking his revenge. Ed had carefully taped his report inside the door before he triggered the array and ran.
But the letter held nothing of his brother’s usual blow-by-blow account of his escapades. There were only a few short sentences that looked as though they had been scrawled more hastily than usual.
Al—
When you get a chance, take a look at this array and see if you can make it more stable.

--there was a stream of alchemic diagrams, followed by a complex array. It was far neater than his brother’s handwriting. It looked as though Ed had drawn the diagram first, and then wrote the letter around it.
Louis and Rick asked when their dad was coming home when I talked to Winry. They told me to tell you they love you. A letter arrived from Lana today; she asked if I could forward it to you. I didn’t peek, so don’t worry—Al chuckled at that, drawing a glance from Hakuro. There had been a time when he’d had to hide letters by his then-girlfriend from his older brother. His brother had never quite forgiven him for the teasing he had endured for writing to Winry. Edward's retribution had been to commit particularly sappy parts of Al’s letters to memory and recite them aloud, while his thoroughly mortified younger brother chased him around and over the furniture.
--Hers should arrive with mine. Miss you, Al. Take care of yourself—
Ed

Al smiled to himself as he examined his brother’s diagram. With a second look the smile had faded into recognition, then intense concentration. Alphonse snagged his chalk out of his pocket, removed the pile of reports and alchemy manuals to his cot with his other hand, then started to scrawl on the bare wood of the table. Biting his bottom lip, his hand and arm a blur, Al copied his brother’s diagram twice, checked them against the original, and then started making changes in the second copy.
“…Stabilize in the third instead of the fourth…the regeneration point is right…”Alphonse muttered to himself, tapping the chalk above a sigil. “Move the earth element to there…Ha!”
Hakuro, who had moved to stand behind the colonel, jumped at his sudden shout. Al redrew the array with his additions, stared at it critically, and began to laugh. “We did it!” Almost ten years, but we did it. We’re past the difficult part.
Hakuro stiffened in shock as he was swept into a rib-crushing hug.
“Sir?” he managed to gasp. “…I—can’t breathe—”
“Oh. Forgive me,” Immediately contrite, Al set the smaller man back on his feet. He started to laugh again and wiped his eyes, beaming. “Brother, you’re a genius!” Al whooped suddenly, throwing his arms wide to the air in boisterous, boundless triumph. Fearing another spine-cracking embrace, Hakuro began to back toward the door. He had never seen Colonel Elric display this alarmingly physical brand of insanity before. “Sir?” He attempted.
The colonel whirled as if he’d forgotten Hakuro existed. “Oh! Sorry! Do you need me to dismiss you?”
“Yes sir. But sir…” he faltered for a moment, but then his curiosity got the better of. “What were you drawing?”
“This?” The colonel gestured at the table with the chalk, his smile blinding. “This is an array that my brother created to return human-chimeras to their original form. My brother’s finally created a failsafe for all organic components to reform if the human components reach a terminal deconstruction point.”
It took Alphonse a moment to realize that Hakuro was staring at him blankly.
“Oh, um…” Al groped to translate the alchemic jargon. “Chimeras can be separated into their original bodies, but with this array, if they start to die during the process they’ll be reformed without self-destructing.” Al was smiling so hard his face hurt. He and Ed were one step closer to being able to resolve human chimeras. One step closer to ensuring that what had happened to Nina would never happen again. We couldn’t save you, Nina. But if we can save others…it’ll be one less ghost to haunt Brother, maybe even chip a little more weight from the guilt he insists on carrying…
He couldn’t wait to let Ed know about the array. He groped in his pocket for paper and a pen, thought for a moment, then shoved it all back in his jacket.
Why write when I’ll tell him myself tomorrow? Al grinned, picturing how his brother’s face would light up at the news.
“Amazing, sir,” Hakuro contributed, sounding awestruck. He stared at the diagrams as though trying to decipher them. Al grinned at him, and the Corporal smiled back shyly.
“Corporal Hakuro, could you do me a favor?”
“Anything, sir.” Hakuro’s smile was full-fledged now. The colonel’s enthusiasm was infectious.
“Whoever’s on cleaning duty for the tents shouldn’t touch anything in here, especially the table. In fact, my tent is off limits until I clear them. Could you tell them that?”
“Sir!” Hakuro saluted smartly, then turned on his heel and marched out.

Al realized suddenly that he was standing on cold, soggy canvas with one boot off, his shirt only half-buttoned and his suspenders hanging limp against his legs. He sighed good-humoredly and finished dressing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Oi, Al. Over here.” Brigadier General Havoc waved affably from the where he stood by the door of the officers’ tent, shielding his inevitable cigarette from the rain with his other hand. Havoc never had been one to stand on rank with friends.
A bright grin flashed under the younger man’s hood. “Am I late for the briefing?”
“Nah,” Havoc waved dismissively, cigarette flaring in the dark as he took a long drag. “We’re waiting for two more after you.”
Al wrinkled his nose at the wreath of smoke surrounding Havoc’s head. “Those things’ll kill you someday, you know.”
Havoc grinned around the cigarette, blew a puff of smoke that mingled with the mist of the rain. “Not before my wife does.” Havoc cocked an eyebrow at his subordinate. “Besides, I’m your commanding officer, not your brother. Don’t think you can manhandle me like you do him,” he asserted around another cloud of smoke. “How is the little blond head case, anyway?”
“Hey, I’m blond too. And so are you—where you aren’t grey, anyway,” Alphonse retorted, defending the facts if not his brother’s sanity (something Al often questioned himself).
Havoc cuffed the younger man casually, as though it would be a waste of effort to beat him up. Honor satisfied, the young colonel took the abuse with a grin.
“Brother’s fine. Kids keep him happy and busy. The general’s keeping him busy and insane.”
Havoc laughed. “Roy’s loving every minute of Fullmetal hating his guts, I’m sure. How’s your end of the family?”
“Louis and Rick are doing really well with alchemy. The last time I was home they managed to alchemize their spinach halfway into chocolate before the entire thing destabilized and blew up.” Al’s smile was rueful. “That was fun to clean off the walls.”
Havoc laughed. He could afford to; his daughters didn’t routinely attempt to transmute things into chocolate pudding. “How’s Arelana?”
At the mention of his wife, Al’s eyes glazed over and he smiled dreamily, looking slightly dazed.
“Lana is wonderful.”
“Jeez, Alphonse. Almost ten years and you’re still like a moonstruck teenager.” Havoc smirked knowingly at his subordinate.
Al gave the older man a goofy grin. “So? You’re just jealous.”
“You can keep the hormones, thanks. Me and Annette do just fine, and I couldn’t be happier with my girls.” Al had met Havoc’s daughters at a military ball. They were a very cute ten and twelve, with their father’s blue eyes and their mother’s auburn hair. “Though I never got how you and your brother managed to snag two of the best-looking women in Amestris within two years of getting back from—from wherever you were--” Havoc waved a hand blankly “--when I had to look over a bloody decade to find a girl Roy couldn’t steal away from me.”
Al’s merciless grin made his sweet-natured, still-boyish face into something more demonic in nature. It was this smile that let people remember he was, in fact, related to Edward. “You never thought that the General’s getting married had anything to do with the sudden drop in competition?”
The other man stared at him for a moment, cigarette dangling from his lip. “Anyone ever tell you that you fight dirty?”
Al’s grin got a little wider. “Only Brother, and only because you have to cheat better than he does to beat him.”
Havoc looked as though he were groping for something to salve his dignity when he straightened abruptly. “Looks like the rest of the group is here.” Al followed his eyes to the people becoming visible as they trudged through the mist of rain, familiar figures bulked by oil cloth or great coats. Havoc flicked the cigarette away to smolder in a puddle.
Once salutes were exchanged and everyone had found a seat, the brigadier general’s manner turned deadly serious.
“We’ve had reports of alchemy up at the installation in the north-west quadrant.” The room fell completely silent. Havoc indicated the position with an unlit cigarette on the map of Aerugo’s border with Amestris pinned to the canvas wall.
Lieutenant Klaus raised two fingers. Havoc nodded to her. “Isn’t that where our border guards were reportedly taken?”
“Yes.” Havoc’s face was stony. “It also appears that people from the border villages on both sides have been rounded up and taken there. Children, mostly.”
Al propped his elbows on the table, resting the lower half of his face behind his hands. He didn’t want to voice his suspicions before Havoc gave him a reason to do so. He was trying to think of some alternative to what he feared alchemy and captured children meant.
“It looks like alchemy is only being employed inside the complex, not on the offensive perimeter. That could change, so we’re keeping you well-equipped in case of assault, but few enough that you should be able to get in and out without triggering an alert. Make sure you leave no trace of entry. We don’t want let on how you got in, in case another assault has to be made. Remember that we pull out to join General Raven in the west tomorrow. If you have the opportunity to free the prisoners, take it.”
Havoc leaned forward and put his hands flat on the table. His eyes moved among them, looking every man and woman in the eye before he continued.
“If you are caught inside the complex, all bets are off. I want you to grab everyone you can and get out of there. No heroics. Burn your way out if you have to. Any questions?” Havoc glanced around at his men. When no one offered to speak, he straightened. “Reconvene to leave at the south end of camp in half an hour. Colonel Elric is in command. Dismissed.” As they rose to leave, Havoc cut Al a look and tapped two fingers on the table, telling him to stay behind.
Once everyone was out of earshot, Havoc leaned on the edge of the table next to Al. “What’s your analysis of the situation?”
Memories pulled the softer lines of Al’s face taut and sharp in the dim light. “I hate to say it, but it sounds like the Fifth Laboratory all over again. I can’t see any use for prisoners around alchemy except as guinea pigs. Children would be convenient for that purpose because of their weakness and smaller food requirement.” It was discomfiting to realize how easily he could think along the lines of a less ethical alchemist. Then again, Brother and I have come across so many, and tread such a fine line ourselves in what’s considered ethical alchemic practice, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I can recognize and predict their methods. “There weren’t any reports of chimera, right?”
Havoc shook his head. “Doesn’t mean they won’t be there, though.”
Al frowned suddenly at the map. “Something’s bothering me about the perimeter, too. There should be more security than what was reported, if all the prisoners in the area are getting transported there. But the scouts are saying that patrols consist of a handful of two man teams, and they’re very slack about observation.”
“Could be overconfident.” Havoc shrugged, elaborately casual.
“Or this whole thing could be one huge booby trap. Which is what you’re thinking.” Al gave his commanding officer a piercing look. Havoc smiled back grimly.
“When it looks too good to be true…”
“It is.” Al finished the adage. He got up to take a closer look at the map. “Every angle of approach is through dense woods. There could be just about anything in there, but if its alchemy we’re watching for…Brother and I could have rigged arrays to go off if more than a certain number of people passed over them, or if someone weren’t carrying something the traps were rigged to ignore.” Al’s brow furrowed. “There’s no more than one team of two patrolling at any given time? You’re dead sure?”
Havoc nodded. Al’s mouth thinned. “Probably triggered by number of bodies, then. That would be the simplest and most foolproof way of doing it. Rigging the traps for iron content or something would be more fiddly, not to mention having animals set them off accidentally…” Al trailed off, deep in thought. “The traps probably don’t extend into the complex, since they have to move prisoners around in greater numbers. Meaning we have to take out the guards at distance.”
“Sniper?”
Al shook his head. “No good. You could set the arrays to go off if two people were to die inside their influence. I know I could, anyway. We need to move them, somehow…” And I will not kill… not unless there is no other choice.
“Distraction. Have to draw them to you.”
Al nodded. “That’d probably be the best bet. Second option is putting a hole beneath them and hoping outside alchemy doesn’t trigger the arrays. Another is to take the oxygen out of the air around them until they pass out. If I were laying traps, I’d allow for the possibility of unconsciousness. Soldiers aren’t so disposable that you can let them die if they fall asleep on duty.”
“Not yet, anyway. We’re still a valuable resource.” Havoc’s lighter clacked in emphasis as he lit a new cigarette. “I like the oxygen trick. I recommend that you lure them to you and use it to drop them. We need people for questioning. Go on and get ready. And Al…” Havoc paused, exhaled smoke.
“Don’t die.” He said it straight, then cracked a grin. “Your brother would kill me.”
Al smiled crookedly as the tent flap closed behind him. “I’ll do my best.”

---------------------------------------------

They were within sight of the fence before Al found the first array. They had been moving slowly, using sticks to brush aside debris, when Al caught a pattern half-hidden by leaves from the corner of his eye. He had his group back up a few yards, cleared the rest of the leaves away, then studied the hidden trap intently. It was not of a type to be triggered by alchemic reactions. Al’s guess had been correct: this array, and those connected to it, were rigged to go off if three men or more passed over just one of them. It was a nasty piece of work, made to react moments after it detected the requisite number of bodies. Meaning it would wait until more people had moved within its influence before it went off. Then it would deconstruct all the organic material within a two foot radius.
They weren’t designed to kill. They were designed to maim, to leave a man screaming and without whatever limbs had been in range of the reaction, but alive. Al stared at it, feeling his stomach go hollow.
Do they want invaders for questioning...?
He looked away toward the looming black bulk of the prison.
Or do they have another reason for taking people alive?
Al put his hands together, then pressed them to the ground. “Be ready in case this doesn’t work,” he called back.
There was a smell of ozone and a flash of blue light as a wave rippled though the ground, erasing the dirt-drawn arrays. Al watched for the light of new reactions triggered by his alchemy, but there were none.

He moved back into the group. “All right. I’ve removed the ground traps but we still need to watch for arrays on the trees. I’m going to drop the guards when they pass into the blind spot from the windows. Daniels and Tocker, take their guns and stay in the middle. Then we’ll go through the fence. Everyone ready?” Curt nods and grim smiles answered him. They moved into position, crouching among the trees. It wasn’t long before Al spotted shapes moving along the fence.
“Colonel…”
“I see them.” Al clapped and held his hands out to the air. For a moment it looked as though nothing had happened. Then one guard staggered into the other and both collapsed to the ground. Al smiled tightly. There’d been no noise, and the downed guards were invisible from the windows. Best of all, no one had died. Let’s hope we can keep it that way.
Al waved the group forward to the fence. They disarmed and bound the sleeping guards, and Al concealed them under a layer of alchemically-merged leaves. Then they were through the fence and in the shadow of the north wall. “Lieutenant Klaus, where’s the best place to make a door?”
The lieutenant scanned the squat, two-story structure, her eyes narrowed in thought.
“If it’s a typical installation, we should bore in there.” She pointed to a spot on the north east corner. “No more than two feet from the ground, though, or else we’ll run into the basement ceiling.”
“Right. All right, Klaus behind me to navigate, Lane behind her. Daniels and Tocker, Peterson and Ellis, Connor and Bell, Hart and Walder. Double up once we’re through. Don’t follow until I give the word.”
Al pressed his hands to the wall, and a square plug of it vanished. The cross section of the hole was a good two and a half feet thick. He crouched, peering through the darkness. Here’s where being taller than Brother becomes a problem. The thought let him smile a little as he wormed through on his elbows and knees.
Al got to the end and peered through the dark, considering, then widened the tunnel toward the floor and shoved himself the rest of the way through. He landed cat-soft on the stone floor, alert for any sound while his eyes adjusted from the nearly pitch-dark of the outside to the light filtering through the door on the far wall.
They had been lucky. It looked as though they had broken into a file or archives room. Al crossed to the sole door and made sure it was locked. “It’s clear.”
One by one his team moved into the room.
“Ah. Nice to be out of the rain.” Lane, being Lane and therefore a smartass, felt the need to comment on any given situation.
Al smirked a bit as Klaus shushed him. “Where’re we going, Lieutenant?” he requested of her.
“Floors above us should be the main cell block. This level should be high security cells or laboratories, or some combination. We can probably go straight through the floor about…here, to be in the corridor between the cells.” She pointed to a corner overhead.
“Good. I want to check the floors above us, then head back down and hopefully come out the way we came. Let’s move this table so we can get a leg up.” No need to use alchemy unless I have to, Al added to himself. Less to clean up later. He picked up an end and Lane grabbed the other, moving the metal desk soundlessly into place. Then Al stepped up from the floor and placed his hands on the ceiling. After a small flash, he pushed the section he had cut slowly through the floor, listening for footsteps as he did so. Hearing nothing, Al shoved the plug the rest of the way through and set it to the side, then grabbed the lip of the opening and pulled himself off the table to peer around. They had moved into a closed corridor, with iron bars marking the cells that lined one side. Why is does the place seem so deserted? We should have run into more guards by now…
“Wow, Colonel. Been working out? Ow.” Lane had run into Lieutenant Klaus’ fist once again.
Al quietly dropped back onto the table. “Looks like the coast is clear. Lane, you first in case I’m wrong.”
“Ha, ha, sir.” Lane shoved his rifle through first, then Al made a stirrup of his hands boosted him after it.
Al helped Klaus through last, then jumped high enough through the opening that his chest and arms cleared the hole. He flung his hands out to brace against the floor above, pushing up until he sat on the edge, then pulled himself clear and replaced the bevel. It slid seamlessly into the floor.
His team had fanned out around the hole, rifles drawn. “Colonel…” For once, Lane sounded unsettled. “Sir, look.” He lowered his rifle and gestured toward the cells.

Al looked...and felt his jaw clench.
Even Klaus’s stone façade had cracked slightly. “Children…” she murmured.
Behind one iron-ribbed door, the dim stormlight filtering through the sole window outlined a small form. It whimpered softly.
Al’s face twisted as the sound wrenched something in his chest. “Go and wake them up as quietly as you can. Hart, guard the door at the other end. Get my attention if someone comes, but don’t shoot. We’re getting these kids out now.”
“Sir.” They spread out along the cells.
Al turned to the nearest cell and the pair of terrified eyes that peered at him through the bars. Some instinct told him to crouch down, making himself look smaller and less threatening to the frightened child.
“It’s all right,” he whispered, smiling kindly. “We’re here to rescue you. My name’s Al, what’s yours?”
“Kaila.” Her hair had been shaved, and she was so thin and brittle-looking that Al hadn’t been able to tell what gender she was. Hope seemed to flash across her face when she dared to look him in the eye.
“Hello, Kaila. Would you mind if I got you out of there?”
“You have keys?” Kaila’s tone was definitely hopeful now.
“I’ve got something better. But it might be a little startling. Can you promise not to yell? I don’t want the guards to come,” Al explained gently, ignoring the little mental voice that was telling him to hurry, hurry, hurry. You couldn’t hurry a frightened child; he knew from experience with his sons. Especially when it would only take one child crying out at the wrong time to get caught. Kaila nodded vigorously and covered her mouth with both hands. Al clapped, touched the metal—and with a flare of blue light, a child-sized section of the bars disappeared.
“Like fireworks.” Kaila whispered, her brown eyes wide and wondering.
Al smiled. “Let’s get you out of there, Kaila.”
The girl’s bare feet made soft slapping sounds on the stone as she walked out. Al frowned at the noise, realizing he had a new problem. We have to get them through the woods without shoes. There isn’t anything organic to transmute into leather or cloth. That meant slower progress back to camp. Which meant they would be even more vulnerable than he had counted on. Need to give them some kind of protection in case the guards pick up on what’s happening. But what…?
Down the row, Connor’s lock picks had opened two more cells. “Sir, these two are too weak to walk. They’ve been starved.” Outrage tightened his already sharp face.
Inspiration struck Al like his brother’s metal fist. “Everyone back away from the cells. I’ve got an idea.” Al clapped his hands and ran down the row, touching each metal grid as he passed. The metal glowed white-gold, then pooled. As though it had a will of its own, the molten metal streamed from all quarters to form two softly-glowing mounds that rose and solidified before Al. The metal crackled, sharpened, and suddenly two suits of armor stood before him, mirror images of his old body.
Al grinned and touched each gauntlet. Blue sigils gleamed across the armor, then red lights flared to life in the hollows of each helmet. The disorientation of looking back at himself through another set of eyes felt odd, but he was used to it. Me, myself and I. Al grinned to himself. The armor suits cocked their hollow heads, empty eye sockets twinkling as though they also smiled.
With the bars gone, the children had wandered into the arms of their saviors. Klaus in particular had a large knot where she crouched, reassuring them with her kind hands and steady voice. Al took a quick count: about twenty kids, four of whom seemed too starved to move without help. They were all very small; the oldest was probably no more than eight. Some were crying, pathetically relieved and utterly exhausted. Most all of them were gawking at the suits of armor. Al’s team stared too, though less openly.
“Colonel, what…?” Corporal Tocker murmured.
Al patted a metal shoulder. “Don’t worry. These’ll help us get the sick ones out.”
Lane slapped his forehead melodramatically in Tocker’s direction. “Jeez, you rookies are ignorant. Haven’t you ever heard how the Colonel earned his handle?”
The sergeant’s smirk turned sickly as the Colonel cast a wicked eye in his direction. “I seem to recall that you had to be convinced that the armor weren’t ghosts the first time you saw them. Lieutenant Klaus, just how long did we spend talking Sergeant Lane out of that tree?”
“Exactly one hour and two minutes, sir. And he was a Corporal at the time.” There was the barest hint of a smile in Klaus’s voice.
Lane raised his hands over his head. “I surrender. I’ll never pick on rookies again.” Tocker and Daniels shot him meat-eating looks. Klaus merely sighed in a way that suggested if the sergeant got shot he would thoroughly deserve it.
During this exchange one suit of armor moved over to where Ellis had propped the children too ill to walk. It crouched and scooped up the two that looked most fragile with a delicacy that belied its bulk. Then it turned its glowing gaze on the other two, and the colonel’s disembodied voice echoed from its hollow body. “Get on my back, please, and I’ll carry you out of here.” Wide-eyed, the children scrambled onto its shoulders.
“Peterson and Ellis, I want you to take the children back the way we came. I’ll send this one with you.” Al indicated the suit that toted the kids. “Remember, if the armor gives orders, it’s me talking.” Both men shot looks at the metal automaton, but took the statement in stride.
“All right, you lot,” Peterson called cheerfully to his charges. “I need you all to line up behind me. Whoever’s the quietest gets a prize when we get back to camp. My buddy’s gonna follow you, and the, uh…armor person will lead the way.”
“Armor person, huh?” Al’s voice sounded amused coming from his own mouth and both suits of armor. Ellis gave all three a fish-eyed look. The second set of armor found the seam of the bevel and lifted it out, and the one carrying the children dropped through. Peterson jumped down after it and Ellis lowered kids to him. He turned and saluted before jumping through himself.
“The rest of us are going to make sure this floor is clear of prisoners and then go back to the lowest level.” Al continued once the bevel was in place.
They searched the remaining cellblocks on the floor and found no one. The hollow feeling in Al’s stomach grew with every cellblock they found empty. Are we too late? Did they move them, or…? He shook his head. Better to leave that thought unfinished.
They retraced their steps through the archives room. Al waited until his team had armed themselves to unlock the door. Beyond it was a hall washed in livid red by the emergency lighting. Bloody light seemed to drip from their rifle barrels as the moved through the passage.
Suddenly they were before a huge set of barred, metal doors. Al could see the tell-tale fracture patterns of alchemy running across its surface, far larger and coarser than in something he or his brother would have transmuted.
Al ran one hand across it thoughtfully. The coarse work indicated either little control over the alchemic response or that making it had stretched an alchemist to the limit of his or her power. Don’t think much of their taste, either, Al thought, grimacing. Dozens of screaming iron faces writhed around and within one another, straining to escape the door’s panels. I think the hope that this was a detention center that just happened to house an alchemy lab is pretty much shot.
“Eww,” Lane muttered as he caught sight of the door. “Somebody needs to fire their decorator.”
Al fought down the urge to laugh. Someone else giggled nervously.
“Then let’s pretty it up a bit.” Al rolled his sleeves back, mimicking Ed’s customary gesture before he charged headfirst into trouble. Everything I know I learned from you, Brother, Al thought affectionately at his absent sibling. For once Ed would be well out of danger.
“Everyone in double formation behind me, and stick close once we’re in.” The armor trudged over to his side and Al paused, recalling the first time he had raided a lab like this. It was the ghost of Shou Tucker that made him turn back to his group, his gaze encompassing them all. The face that had always seemed too young and far too good-natured to belong to a war-forged state alchemist had changed. Now his men could see, some of them for the first time, the steel that lay at their colonel’s core, as hard and strong as the grim shadow looming beside him.
“You may see things in here that no one should ever have to. Remember: do not shoot unless you are physically threatened. What seems like a monster may be human.” And what seems human may be a monster, Al added silently to himself, glancing again at the faces in the door. The eyes of the Sewing-Life alchemist seemed to loom over them all, pale and thoroughly insane. Alphonse shook the image from his mind and looked to the armor, which nodded to him. “Everyone ready?”
There were nods and whispers of “Sir!”
Al nodded back silently, his pride in them evident in his face. He turned back to the door.
“One—” Al placed his hands together. Rifles cocked behind him.
“Two—” His hands were on the door.
“THREE!” Light flared as the door was obliterated. The armor charged through, shielding Al and the rest as they followed. Al skidded to a halt inside, eyes darting into every corner.
It took an eternal instant for his eyes to adjust to the dank blackness. And then a sickly glow drew his gaze to the floor. A glow that was getting brighter, and encompassed the entire group. Vaccum took Al’s heart as comprehension dawned—They were standing on an array!
“NO!” he clapped his hands—
The layer of super-dense ice had barely solidified beneath them before the array ripped it apart. His team was thrown into the walls and back through the doors. Al leapt as high as he could, attempting to clear the reaction. Icy shrapnel raked his face, leaving burning pain in its wake. A large chunk of ice glanced across his forehead at blinding speed, stunning him. He barely managed to catch himself as he fell. Nausea and vertigo surged as he pushed himself back to his feet. Al pushed it aside with less success than he would have hoped, straining around the ringing in his ears to catch the noise echoing from further inside the chamber, when something struck the back of his head.

Stars burst before his eyes and then he saw nothing at all.

Alphonse awoke to laughter. He shook his head muzzily, grimacing as something warm dripped into his eye and across his lips. Licking at it proved it to be blood, likely his, and just as likely having to do with the sledgehammer pounding in his skull. He squinted into the darkness around him, searching for movement from his men and the source of the laughter. His vision doubled once, then resolved, and Al could make out a thin form clutching something to itself, shaking as it giggled shrilly. He winced as the high pitch of it pierced his head.
“Who are you?” Al demanded, flinching at the way his head throbbed when he talked. He repeated the words in his rudimentary Aerugan, reaching up as though to clutch his head, thought he was truly trying to bring his hands together and hoping the movement would go unnoticed. Only then did he realize he had been restrained.
The figure stepped into the stark light of one of the few overhead lamps, and Al could finally see what it held before itself. It was Lieutenant Klaus, and her captor was a wiry, starved-looking man wearing a suit that must have been fine once, before neglect made it ragged and dyed it with dark, questionable stains. The man was holding a pistol to the unconscious lieutenant’s temple. “Let’s get those hands up, shall we? I’m sure Amestris can’t afford to lose another of its precious alchemists. And it would be a shame to have to shoot such a lovely young lady.” The pistol-wielder spoke Amestrian with a strong accent. With his chin he indicated someone behind Al, who spared a glance behind himself. Daniels and Connor were on their feet, but barely, which let Al hope he couldn’t have been out for more than a few minutes. Tocker was on his hands and knees. Lane was sprawled on his chest, and he wasn’t moving. Alphonse hoped fervidly that the sergeant was only unconscious.
Al took another instant to glance at his restraints. His hands and feet were incased by stone stalactites that had sprouted from the floor and ceiling. He shifted around, testing for weakness, but the rock held him fast and dangling this way offered him no leverage.
“Colonel!” came the alarmed shout. Tocker must have caught sight of him.
“Don’t move!” Al warned.
“I’d listen to him if I were you,” the alchemist mocked. “Now, I wonder what my net has caught me…” He trailed off as Klaus opened her eyes, stiffening when she felt the cold metal pressed to her head. “I suggest you remain on your best behavior, my dear.” He leered at her, and Klaus’ jaw tightened.
“Lieutenant, don’t provoke him.” Al tried to inject as much calm as he could into his voice. He twitched as blood ran into his eye again, obscuring his vision.
“Oh, wisely spoken,” the alchemist mocked, gracing Al with a twisted smile. “I suppose as you are my…guests…I should introduce myself. I am Varys, Aerugo’s most talented biological alchemist.” The man made a derisive bow over Klaus’s helpless, raging eyes. “Now—Colonel, was it? Amestrian rank and reputations are so puffed up I suppose it hardly matters—yet Mother always preached good manners, even if they’re wasted on Amestrians, so if you’d be so kind as to introduce yourself…” Varys tittered shrilly.
“Alphonse Elric.” Al bit out his name, twitching helplessly as blood trickled down his chin. His head was hammering worse than the few times Winry rattled his brains for him with her wrench.
The Aerugan alchemist’s pale eyes widened. “Elric,” he repeated. “You’re the Fullmetal Alchemist?”
“No. That’s my brother.” Al missed Ed suddenly. If his brother were here and fourteen again, he would have turned into a blond ball of fury at the mistake. But Brother’s safe and sound asleep in Riesembul, which is exactly where I’ll be this time tomorrow if I can distract this guy for a few more minutes…
“Actually, you’re lucky it’s me and not him. I’m a bit more understanding of crackpots and incompetent alchemists.” Al said brightly, forcing his face into a broad, blithe smile.
The man’s veneer of sophistication and arrogance cracked, and for an instant Al looked in the eyes of insanity. Then the alchemist slammed back into control, his face smoothing into its condescending mask. “Oho. You’re a brave one, I’ll give you that.” Varys’s look of contempt shifted abruptly, and his eyes took on a gleam of avarice. “I have heard you Elrics can do alchemy without an array, even a tattooed one. Tell me how you accomplish it,” the alchemist demanded abruptly, “Depending on the answer, I may just let you live.” The man’s eyes burned feverishly in his head. The desperation in his face, and the odd, erratic way he spoke only confirmed Al’s impression that the man truly was less than sane.
“Human Sacrifice talent.” Al gritted. His eyes were blurring in time with the throbbing in his head. He only had to distract the man for a few more seconds…
The man threw him a puzzled look that smoothed once again into arrogance. “I’ve already done that. There’s no telling how many lives have gone into my work. But I’ve never been able to accomplish such a thing.”
Al felt his heart sink, cold and heavy as a stone. “You sacrificed humans.” He might have suspected it, but having his suspicion confirmed still chilled him to the bone. Science and alchemy give insanity an irresistible scope. His brother had said that, a decade and a world ago, and it sickened them both to be proven right over and over again. Behind him, there was a silence so complete it seemed to swallow sound. His team’s horror was a palpable thing.
“Of course. Isn’t that what you meant?”
“No. It wasn’t.” Al whispered. He kept the bitter triumph from his face as the man unconsciously edged closer, eyes bulging with greed. He was absolutely desperate to possess Al’s method.
“I sacrificed myself.” Accidentally, for my mother. Unwittingly, for the Philosopher’s Stone. Willingly, for my brother, he added silently.
The other alchemist stared at him, incredulous. “What do you--?”
Al chose to strike in that instant when the man’s attention focused completely on him. An overlooked steel fist shot out of the shadows and wrenched the gun up, away from the lieutenant. The alchemist screeched and pulled the trigger, discharging it harmlessly into the ceiling. The armor batted him away from Klaus, then gave the lieutenant a gentle push in Al’s direction. The alchemist turned and lunged for the armor suit, exposing the twin arrays tattooed on his palms. The armor neatly avoided its attacker’s hands, then grabbed the staggering alchemist by his wrists and hauled him off the floor. It stood stoically as its now-helpless burden kicked and screamed to his heart’s content.
“Lieutenant, would you mind reaching into my coat pocket and pulling out a piece of chalk and the paper?” Al requested over the racket, wincing.
When Klaus had done this, Al picked the simplest array from one of the sheets of paper. “Now, draw that one once on the stone around my feet, and once by my arms.”
As she carefully did so, Al called back to the rest of his men. “Sergeant Connor, please make sure everyone’s still breathing. Daniels, and Tocker if you’re up, restrain our prisoner. If he keeps yelling, gag him.” Al’s head hurt enough as it was.
Once Daniels had restrained the alchemist (he had fallen silent when Tocker took off his sock and offered it as a gag) and Tocker had his gun on him, the armor clanked over to Al and touched the arrays. Al dropped to the floor as the stone crumbled, his gray duster flaring out around him. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
Klaus’ salute was heartfelt. “Thank you, sir.”
Al nodded back soberly, then strode across the room to where Second Lieutenant Connor, the field medic for the group, was crouched over Lane. Hart was standing next to them clutching his arm, which was bloody and hung as though it were broken. Walder stood next to him, tearing strips from her uniform to fashion a sling at Connor’s direction. Bell had been blown back through the doors but was making his way over. Al released a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, raking a hand through his hair. All of his team had survived. He winced again as the adrenaline in his system faded, amplifying the pounding in his head.
“How are we doing?” Al asked Connor, bending carefully. He had a feeling that if he moved his head too sharply he would pass out on the floor.
“Not too bad, considering,” the second lieutenant smiled tightly as he replied. “Lane’s seriously concussed, compound fracture on Hart’s arm and maybe a fractured rib along with it. Bell’s managing to limp over, so I guess he’s fine.” He turned to the red-headed man. “How’re you doing, buddy?”
Bell grimaced. “I hit the floor on my knees. They aren’t real happy with me, but I’ll live.”
“Glad to hear it.” Al chuckled and immediately grimaced at the pain.
Connor caught his expression and did a double take, staring at him. “Sir, you need to let me look at you.”
Al didn’t need a mirror to know that he looked like he’d been through a meat grinder. His face was stiffening with blood and stung with cuts. The front and arms of his cloak were in shreds, and he could feel where more icy shards had penetrated his clothing.
“I’m all right. We need to look around and get out of here before someone comes to see what all the noise was about.” He knew they were fortunate that reinforcements hadn’t already shown up.
Connor looked him over as though debating whether he could successfully browbeat Al into getting looked over.
His commanding officer saw the speculation in his eyes and gave him a flat look. “Don’t make my head hurt more than it already does, Lieutenant.”
The second lieutenant shrugged. If Al had been anyone else, Connor would have instructed his fellow officers to sit on him. But a six-foot-two national alchemist was beyond his ability to bully.
“If you pass out, don’t cry to me.”
Al smiled wryly. “I’m sure I won’t. Let’s move.”

It didn’t take much to convince Varys to guide them to where the prisoners were kept, isolated cells off a corridor of the main chamber. He seemed almost …eager, in fact. Al didn’t like that one bit, and signaled his men to keep their guard up. He wasn’t about to walk into another trap.

Al could smell them before he saw them. The scent of blood, sweat and human waste grew stronger as they passed deeper into the dark. There was an acrid bite to the air that Al recognized as fear. With a clap, Al transmuted the door of every cell into empty air and one by one, the captured Amestrian soldiers stumbled out.
One who seemed slightly less wasted than the others turned and peered at Al. “Colonel Elric? Is that you?”
Al squinted through the dark, trying to match a name to the voice. “Waldenmeyer? Major Waldenmeyer?”

A sound that was almost a sob wrenched itself from the man’s throat. “Thank God you came. Thank God. What they did to us…You can’t imagine…”
Waldenmeyer moved out of the concealing shadows, and the dingy glow of a lamp caught one side of his face, allowing the Soul Alchemist to see the extent of the damage Varys had inflicted on his captives. Dark scales ran down one side of Waldenmeyer’s face and neck, and continued beneath the ragged remains of his uniform. When his eyes caught the light they glowed an eerie red. Al’s mouth tightened, though not at the officer’s appearance. We alchemists have so much to answer for…

“It’s all right, Major.” Alphonse mimicked the bracing tone Granny Pinako had used with her patients, trying to give the other man a purchase on what was happening. “We’re getting everyone out. Are these all of your men?”
“All of them that survived. Officers Joels, Talc, Freeman, Mahler and Dovart were killed by the Aerugan’s alchemist, along with Sergeant Held.” The Major recited the names in a dead voice, as though speaking drained what energy remained to him. “Did you see the alchemist?”

“We captured him,” Al informed the other man grimly, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.
Waldenmeyer stared past Al to the captured alchemist. His alien eyes locked on his tormentor and he went utterly still, a feral-eyed predator scenting prey.

Al moved to block his prisoner from the major’s view. “Waldenmeyer, don’t. Please.”

The Major’s eyes blazed. “You’d defend him? After what he did? What he did to us? Look at me! I’m not—I’m not even….” Waldenmeyer wrenched his eyes from Al’s to stare at the wall, trying to bring himself under control.
After a moment he turned back, slowly and deliberately, looking not at Al but Varys. “Just look at me. He’s got to pay.”

Looking at him, Al could hear Martel’s shriek of hate as they confronted the Crimson Alchemist. The sound blended into Ed’s cry of accusation when they had stumbled upon the Shou Tucker and his most terrible work, his screams of denial when the alchemist compared his crime to their own.

He could see the metal fist slamming into Tucker’s face, over and over and over.

He could see Martel lunging for Kimbley, the flash of her dagger nothing compared to her steel-hard intent.

Waldenmeyer’s eyes held the same look as Ed and Martel had; horror and pain had been the fuel, the source of their rage, blinding them to everything but the fact that their tormentor were before them, and erasing him might mean erasing the pain...

Once again Al was standing between a man and a murder, just as he had for Martel, just as he had for his brother, all those years ago.

He spoke gently, trying to cut through the other man’s emotion and get him thinking again. “If he isn’t questioned, we’ll never find out all of what went on here. We may need him to reverse the damage he did.”

They stared at each other for a tense moment, sober bronze eyes to blazing red. If revenge had become more important to the man than a cure…

Suddenly Waldenmeyer sagged, turned away. “Yes, sir.”

“You! Elric!” Both of them turned as the captive alchemist shrilled. “Don’t forget my masterpieces! You can’t leave them here!”
“‘Masterpieces.” Al was certain anything this man considered a masterpiece would fall into the category of things he never wanted to see.
“Yes! In that chamber there!” He thrust with his head and neck toward a door at the opposite end. “If you were a true alchemist, you’d understand their significance! Those are my life’s work! No one else could even approach the genius it took to create them--”

“Tocker, gag the prisoner.”

“Yes sir.” Tocker pulled his sock out of his pocket and stuffed it in the alchemist’s mouth with relish.
---------------------------------
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Chiyo
post Oct 3 2006, 02:58 PM
Post #2


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Is it possible just to post it rather then download? Its most likely to get more reviews that way. If its too x-rated perhaps you could edit slightly where needed and then add a link to the original?

All up to you though, and welcome to the boards.


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IttyBittyPretty
post Oct 3 2006, 06:54 PM
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QUOTE(Chiyo @ Oct 3 2006, 04:58 PM) [snapback]454672[/snapback]

Is it possible just to post it rather then download? Its most likely to get more reviews that way. If its too x-rated perhaps you could edit slightly where needed and then add a link to the original?

All up to you though, and welcome to the boards.


Great to see you here Sable, not only are you a cool person (hey! you put up with me! biggrin.gif ) you are one of the Twelve FMA Fanfic Authors WHo Are Better Than I Am. I hope you will post some of your artwork based on your fic too.


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Sable
post Oct 3 2006, 09:42 PM
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space holder. text has been removed for your viewing pleasure.


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Lookit the pretty siggy!


Fanart! Fanfic! Come see!
Sable-sama on Deviant Art
http://sable-sama.deviantart.com
Fire and Light: Sequel to Conqueror of Shamballa http://www.fanfiction.net/u/996771/
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Chiyo
post Oct 4 2006, 06:08 AM
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QUOTE(IttyBittyPretty @ Oct 4 2006, 02:54 AM) [snapback]454762[/snapback]

QUOTE(Chiyo @ Oct 3 2006, 04:58 PM) [snapback]454672[/snapback]

Is it possible just to post it rather then download? Its most likely to get more reviews that way. If its too x-rated perhaps you could edit slightly where needed and then add a link to the original?

All up to you though, and welcome to the boards.


Great to see you here Sable, not only are you a cool person (hey! you put up with me! biggrin.gif ) you are one of the Twelve FMA Fanfic Authors WHo Are Better Than I Am. I hope you will post some of your artwork based on your fic too.


Ooh who are the twelve?


This story really looks as if its going somewhere although I believe you were cut off at the bottom. You are descriptive without such a thing taking over and it is a unique idea.


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IttyBittyPretty
post Oct 4 2006, 07:39 AM
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QUOTE(Chiyo @ Oct 4 2006, 08:08 AM) [snapback]454881[/snapback]

Great to see you here Sable, not only are you a cool person (hey! you put up with me! biggrin.gif ) you are one of the Twelve FMA Fanfic Authors WHo Are Better Than I Am. I hope you will post some of your artwork based on your fic too.


Ooh who are the twelve?


Um, lessee. I know Tobu Ishi is one of them, not sure if the others on the list post to this site. I will have to check my favorite authors list to be sure of them.


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Sable
post Oct 4 2006, 10:39 AM
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Dammit.

It said the word count was under the limit. I don't know why it did that. *sigh* I'll post the rest tonight. I apologize, everybody.

QUOTE(Chiyo @ Oct 4 2006, 06:08 AM) [snapback]454881[/snapback]

QUOTE(IttyBittyPretty @ Oct 4 2006, 02:54 AM) [snapback]454762[/snapback]

QUOTE(Chiyo @ Oct 3 2006, 04:58 PM) [snapback]454672[/snapback]

Is it possible just to post it rather then download? Its most likely to get more reviews that way. If its too x-rated perhaps you could edit slightly where needed and then add a link to the original?

All up to you though, and welcome to the boards.


Great to see you here Sable, not only are you a cool person (hey! you put up with me! biggrin.gif ) you are one of the Twelve FMA Fanfic Authors WHo Are Better Than I Am. I hope you will post some of your artwork based on your fic too.


Ooh who are the twelve?


This story really looks as if its going somewhere although I believe you were cut off at the bottom. You are descriptive without such a thing taking over and it is a unique idea.



--------------------
Lookit the pretty siggy!


Fanart! Fanfic! Come see!
Sable-sama on Deviant Art
http://sable-sama.deviantart.com
Fire and Light: Sequel to Conqueror of Shamballa http://www.fanfiction.net/u/996771/
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Sable
post Oct 5 2006, 10:47 AM
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part ii, Chapter 1 cont'd.
---------------------------

Behind him, Al could hear someone heaving their most recent meal onto the concrete. He couldn’t blame them.

He had tried to brace for what they might find as they broke through the steel door. It hadn’t helped much.
Cries of shock and horror began as Al’s team came through the doors and were immediately cut off. They were soldiers, after all.

But Al was the only one who could bring himself to proceed any further into the room.

In the center of the bunker, glass and metal tanks of yellowish preservative were bolted to the floor and backlit, displaying the terrible fruits of the mad alchemist’s efforts. Al reached out to touch the curve of the glass, so cold it bit his fingers even through his gloves. Behind his hand, beneath the glass, what had been a little girl was suspended in the viscous fluid, her wide, blind eyes level with his own. Her pale hair drifted around her like a pall and her skin was stretched thin, as though it was barely enough to cover her tiny, brittle body.
Crowning it all was the deformity that, to Varys and his patrons, must have been their most brilliant achievement. In place of arms, twisted, pinion-covered limbs sprouted from her shoulders, looking for all the world like the wings of a half-plucked chicken. Mouth and eyes agape, she was like some sad and alien bird, crushed and drowned in a rising tide. Every tank held a chimera that was much the same, more or less birdlike, all with the faces of children between ten and three years of age.

Al looked at them, the shadows around his mouth and eyes etched deep into his face. If they had lived, Brother’s array might have made them human again. We came for them too late...just like Nina…

We’ll never even know what their names were…


A muffled sound caused Al to turn, searching for the source. Behind him, the captured alchemist was laughing around his gag, his eyes full of a vicious, insane delight. Al felt his face harden and his fists clench, the anger his discipline had restrained ripping through his control. His eyes shot to the armor suit that restrained the Aerugan alchemist as he gave it a wordless command. The armor trapped both of the man’s hands in one fist and dragged him over to where Al stood. It wasn’t gentle when it ripped the gag out of its captive’s mouth.

“What was the Aerugan military’s purpose here? Why did they want avian chimera?” Al rapped out before the other man had a chance to protest.

“Surely a National Alchemist should have figured it out by now--” the man began, sneering. He was cut off by when an armored hand closed on his throat.

Backlit by the ambient light, the colonel’s face was hooded in darkness, and the armor beside him seemed a blaze-eyed extension of his shadow.
The grim voice that echoed around the chamber might have come from the armor or the man. “If I tell it to, that hand will close. Which do you prefer, a broken neck or asphyxiation?” Al schooled his expression to look as cold and unyielding as the fist closing around the alchemist’s throat. The Fullmetal Alchemist wasn’t the only Elric who knew how to intimidate people.

Varys’s eyes darted to him, bulging with fear—“Soldiers! They wanted soldiers that could assault from the air!” He gasped in choking, drooling relief as the mailed hand released him.

Al closed his eyes and stepped back. It made a terrible sort of sense. Aerugo must have heard of the success of the aerial assault on Amestris during the war of the gate. Being metal poor, they had resorted to the materials at hand--- namely, human lives. They had probably started preying on enemy soldiers, until the weaker, unarmed children became too tempting a target…

“Colonel, look out!”

At Bell’s shout, Al looked up. Within the shadow of the tanks, a darker shadow was inching toward him. It stopped when it felt Al’s eyes on it, shrinking into itself. Al squinted at it. Was it shivering? Something about its pose seemed very familiar…

A memory of his son Richard sobbing over a scraped knee let Al recognize what the figure was, and what it was doing.
Al slowly crouched on one knee and spoke in the gentle tone reserved for injured animals and chasing away nightmares. “Don’t cry. It’s all right. We’re here to help. What’s your name?” Al hoped the small form could understand him.

“I don’t know.” The voice was strangely high and fluid, its inflection that of a child no older than eight or nine. Bell lowered his rifle as the words echoed forlornly around the chamber.

“I don’t know!” the voice sobbed again suddenly. It lunged forward—

And Al opened his arms. He rocked back as the figure crashed into him at full tilt, but he didn’t fall, and he didn’t let go of what flung its strange arms around him and sobbed in piping breaths. “It’s going to be all right.” Al whispered, praying it wasn’t a lie. “You’re going to be all right.”

The creature crying into Al’s shoulder was a little boy, or had been. Alchemy had stretched his upper limbs to drag on the floor when they weren’t folded awkwardly at his sides. The muscles of his legs were overdeveloped, his feet ending in three-toed talons with another vestigial talon sprouting from each heel. A clawed thumb sprouted from the second joint of where hands should have been. His body was covered in pale feathers, from short, fur-like tufts on his head to huge, fully developed flight feathers that made his upper limbs more wing than arm. His eyes were huge when he blinked up at Al’s face, his pupils mere pinpricks even in the wan light.
Al stroked the trembling head comfortingly, feeling feathery down under his hand. Sliding out of his cloak he knelt and wrapped it around the child, lifting him into his arms. The boy tensed for a moment, then sighed and sagged into him. Al felt his heart melt as the feathered arms gingerly reached back around his neck.

Please let us be able to save this one…Al prayed, though he wasn’t sure to whom.

“Are there any others like this?” he addressed the alchemist grimly.

Varys stared back at him, his expression a sickening mix of jealous pride and possession. “It’s mine! I made it. You can’t have it!
The boy in Al’s arms flinched at the other alchemist's voice, shuddering, his arms tightening around his rescuer’s neck.

He belongs to himself!” Al’s clear, furious shout rang out, silencing the man. “Answer me. Are there any others?”
The man glared at him a moment in sullen silence. Then he replied, “No. That is my best chimera, the only one that survived the transmutation process.”

“Fine.” Al raised his voice so that he was heard by all. “We’re moving out. I want my team split between the front and the rear, Major Waldenmeyer and his men in the middle.” Al moved to the front with the suit of armor.

The alchemist it restrained bucked and frothed out, “No! Don’t take my creation! It was a trap! They’re coming, they’re coming, and they’ll destroy it when they kill you!”

Damn. Al thought bitterly. I knew this was too easy…“We’ve got incoming! Everyone, line up now! Double formation! Tocker, Daniels, give the major’s men your spare rifles. Lane and Hart, give them yours too and get in the middle. I want Klaus and Bell behind me, anyone else who can shoot in back.” Al’s eyes went to the burden in his arms. Unasked, his mind summoned images of what a firefight would do to a small body…
“Here, Colonel. I’ll take him.” Lane held out his hands, no longer burdened with a rifle.
Al looked for any sign Lane’s face that his concussion was slowing him down. Finding none, he handed the boy over to the sergeant. “If he’s too much to carry--”

“I’ll keep up.” Lane hefted his burden and gave Al a cocky smirk. “Don’t be such a worrywart, Colonel. Between the two of us, I’m not the one who looks like dog meat.”

The colonel smiled crookedly in reply as he touched the steel door of the bunker. A minute later another suit of armor had joined the group at the rear, one more shield for his men. Alphonse hoped it would be enough. “Let’s go, people.

The gruesome iron doors leading into the lab became three more suits of armor, and then the battle was joined. With a cry “Fire!” from some faceless enemy, the passage behind the entryway erupted with gunfire. The armor suits charged forward without hesitation, unaffected by the hail of half-molten lead. Ricochets whined along the stone of the corridor. Cries of fear and pain came from the enemy soldiers as some of their shots were repelled back into their mass. They split and retreated further down the corridor, still shooting.

Lieutenant Klaus was beside Al, shouting into over the roar of gunfire. “The corridor splits up ahead! They’ll try to catch us in the crossfire!”

“Then we’ll make out own way out!” The wall of armor defending them was just wide enough that Al could reach the wall without being exposed to gunfire. And suddenly there no longer was a wall, only empty air where it had receded into the floor.

A horrendous, grinding groan from the ceiling barely preceded Klaus’s cry of “Sir! That was a load-bearing wall!”

“Too late to worry about it now! Move!” Al yelled, directing his men toward the new exit. They surged through, the armor coming last and closing the gap behind him. Al had already bored a hole through the ceiling, with stone stairs leading up to it.
They were through the ceiling and halfway across the open gallery of the main cell block when gunfire erupted from overhead. One of his brother’s more pungent oaths escaped his lips, but Al didn’t hesitate. With a blue flare, he condensed a wall of ice from the air to shield them, curving from the floor to arc over their heads.
With a wall at their backs, fire from above was cut off from behind and thudded into the ice in front. Fracture patterns formed where bullets struck, obscuring Al’s view of the snipers. His conveniently transparent barrier wouldn’t hold out much longer. Worse, his hands were starting to shake in exhaustion. Grafting several pieces of his soul at once was beginning to take its toll.

“Klaus! Where’s the northern wall?”

“Through here, sir!” the lieutenant called back, pointing to the wall at their back.

Al made a hole barely wide enough for them to pass in double file and ordered everyone through. Then his knees gave out. Klaus and Daniels saw him fall and got under his shoulders. Between them he managed to stagger to his feet.

A second later, a section of the ice shattered, letting the rain of bullets pour through. Al's head whipped around at Bell's scream.

The officer collapsed like a string-cut marionette as a shot ripped through his thigh. Then the armor was there, shielding him. But that’s not going to last…Al watched as a tell-tale shudder ran through it, a sign that the soul-bind was failing.
He couldn’t trust it to take the strain of carrying Bell out…Al pushed Klaus and Daniels toward the gap and dashed headlong for the bullet-proof umbra of the armor. A glancing shot caught him along the shoulder, spinning him halfway around. Then he was at Bell’s side.

Colonel!” Klaus screamed. She and Daniels were starting after him.

“Stay there! That’s an order!” Al bellowed back

Exhausted as he was, hefting the unconscious man was more difficult than he had thought it would be. God, I’m so tired—no time for that, have to lift, LIFT—! Al locked his legs and strained, by some miracle managing to get Bell over his shoulder. Another suit of armor took the place of its failing counterpart, retreating with them as Al staggered for the opening.

They were through. Two of Waldenmeyer’s men took Bell between them and Klaus was at his elbow, supporting him, Daniels right behind as they moved toward the wall, the last wall. The sight of it gave Al another spur of numbing adrenaline. He clapped and the wall was gone, and there were footsteps behind him—he touched the opposite wall and heard the stone scream as it cracked under his hand. With a roar like thunder, the ceiling collapsed before their pursuers, but a rising, grinding shriek from above warned that the rest of the instillation wasn’t far behind. He staggered through with the aid of his men, then there was dirt under his boots, and they were through the fence and into the trees.

Al stumbled against a root and fell sprawling, his weight carrying Klaus to the ground with him. He strained to rise, collapsed back to a knee as his vision wavered and his head spun. Daniels shouldered his rifle, and he and Klaus helped the colonel to his feet once again.

Daniels’s eyes were staring up at him worriedly. “He looks concussed, and he’s bleeding from his head and shoulder. Klaus--”
“’M fine,” The colonel slurred at them insistently, trying to shrug off their help. “Stop worrying, Brother.” Daniel’s and Klaus traded anxious looks, both thinking Just how hard was he hit…?

Suddenly Colonel Elric’s head whipped around. “Here comes the cavalry,” he pronounced brightly. Then his eyes rolled back in his head and he folded into a boneless heap. Klaus knelt over him, yelling into his face and finally slapping him, but it was useless. The Soul Alchemist was out cold.

She and Officer Daniels had managed to lift him halfway when they were suddenly relieved of his weight, and a familiar voice came out of the dark behind them, making them both jump. “Sorry about that,” it said, its tone oddly sheepish. “Here, let me.”

A suit of armor had come back through the trees. It hefted their unconscious leader without effort. Daniels peered at it. Was it his imagination, or did the armor’s movements seem more human, less stilted than before…?

“Colonel, is that you in there?” he asked.

“Well, technically, it always was, but my control gets better when I’m not conscious.” The colonel’s voice replied hollowly.

The steel huge steel form turned glowing eyes on its limp burden and seemed to shiver.
“This is really weird. I’ve never carried myself before.” The colonel’s voice was somewhere between bemused and vaguely disturbed as he peered into his own face. “I didn’t realize that array had torn me up so badly…” The glowing eyes shot up at the shouts filtering through the trees. “What am I doing? RUN!”

Dodging branches and leaping tree roots, they plunged through the darkness, sprinting for the border and safety.


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IttyBittyPretty
post Oct 14 2006, 06:42 PM
Post #9


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Hey Sable, since you have now joined this site, I have been thinking about joining DA, to post my fics, and also photographs of cemetary art I have taken. But I wanted to know, is the joining process easy, complicated, or a royal pain in the derriere? What do members who buy a subscription to DA get which members who didn't don't?


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Sable
post Oct 16 2006, 03:45 PM
Post #10


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Okay! Here's the deal--

Getting on to dA is easy. The account type I have is free. The subscription account is NOT free, 'course; it's only worthwhile in my opinion if you can sell your pieces for over fifty bucks, and even then there are better deals. Subscribed accounts also let you track your viewership to a greater extent.

The only problem I can think of you having is if you don't have a program that can format your images into a .PICT, .GIF, or. JPEG file.

Other than that, it's pretty fool proof. Hell, I can use it; that alone speaks for it. - -;

Be sure to fav me if you decide to go through with it!


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IttyBittyPretty
post Oct 16 2006, 06:49 PM
Post #11


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QUOTE(Sable @ Oct 16 2006, 05:45 PM) [snapback]460805[/snapback]

Okay! Here's the deal--

Getting on to dA is easy. The account type I have is free. The subscription account is NOT free, 'course; it's only worthwhile in my opinion if you can sell your pieces for over fifty bucks, and even then there are better deals. Subscribed accounts also let you track your viewership to a greater extent.

The only problem I can think of you having is if you don't have a program that can format your images into a .PICT, .GIF, or. JPEG file.

Other than that, it's pretty fool proof. Hell, I can use it; that alone speaks for it. - -;

Be sure to fav me if you decide to go through with it!


#That sounds simple enough. I have an HP 1210 PSC and everything I scan is automatically formatted as a .JPEG file. (how many people say "Jay Peg" in their minds when reading that? Raise your hands, don't be shy! tongue.gif ) Now, must I contact a member first and ask for permission to fav, or can I just go ahead and do it? I don't want to make any etiquette mistakes.


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Chiyo
post Oct 17 2006, 04:14 AM
Post #12


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You just fave a piece of work, you don't have to ask. Some people like to have a comment if you fave but not usually. If you really Like a piece I would always recomd looking at the artists gallery and adding them as a friend (if they update that is). They don't have to add you as a friend if they don't want, so your not forcing anything on them.

Good piece Sable, keep it up.


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Sable
post Oct 17 2006, 07:58 AM
Post #13


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#That sounds simple enough. I have an HP 1210 PSC and everything I scan is automatically formatted as a .JPEG file. (how many people say "Jay Peg" in their minds when reading that? Raise your hands, don't be shy! tongue.gif ) Now, must I contact a member first and ask for permission to fav, or can I just go ahead and do it? I don't want to make any etiquette mistakes.
[/quote]

Nah, go right ahead. DA is huge and mulitnational; there's no check in with the admins. It's only on the forums that you have to watch what you do, and read the rules (speaking as a two-time offender - -wink.gif.


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Tobu Ishi
post Oct 22 2006, 04:24 PM
Post #14


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*grins* So, where's the rest of this? You have my interest, and I'm very interested in whatever comes next. Good chimera!fics are few and far between. <3


--------------------

The Restoring Earth Alchemist
Big Sister to Chiyo, Little Sister to Tokage, Edward to WrenchFreakWinry

An Appetite For Grief Dividing the Bones Elysium FULLMETAL FOLLY
Good Neighbors Jaybird Letdown Mater Familias Mea Culpa Play With Me
Rosarium Seven Years The Shadow of Him Some Assembly Required Wired Wooden

<3 The EdWin 100 Themes <3
She remembers the way her inexplicably riveted gaze slid unbidden
down the curves of his back, slowly, like honey. And she particularly remembers
the rush of prickly heat, the unfamiliar melting sensation that made her duck
her head to hide a blush that caught her entirely by surprise; as she realized
for the first time, in an entirely new way, that Ed was a
boy.

Click here to read more...
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Sable
post Oct 22 2006, 09:05 PM
Post #15


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QUOTE(Tobu Ishi @ Oct 22 2006, 04:24 PM) [snapback]463537[/snapback]

*grins* So, where's the rest of this? You have my interest, and I'm very interested in whatever comes next. Good chimera!fics are few and far between. <3


TOBU ISHI LIKES MY FIC! SABLE CAN DIE HAPPY!

...aheh. Sorry. Otaku. I've been reading EdWin 100 themes on Scimitar Smile for a while now. In dealing with EdxWin I can't say that I set out to emulate you, but your writing is always masterful and exactly...in...character...! So I believe that (in the most respectful, non-plagiarizing way) that your writing informs my feel for Ed and Win's relationship.

And...this fic is no mere chimera fic. As you will soon see. *evil grin*

Next up! Chapter 2: The Shadow of Steel!


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Fanart! Fanfic! Come see!
Sable-sama on Deviant Art
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