HAGANE NO RENKINJUTSUSHI
HAGANE NO RENKINJUTSUSHI
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The Waters Of Lethe, Edward tries to let go of his past
Rating 4 V
IttyBittyPretty
post Jun 27 2008, 07:20 PM
Post #151


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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in it's world and torture Ed for awhile.
Author's note: post movie and slightly AU. Some movie events will happen, but differently
Warning: movie spoilers, also violence and death. Maybe sex.
Beta: Jedimasterwithapen

62. On The Road To Shambala (Die Straße zu Shambala)

"Fraulein!" Heidreich gasped in amazement. He recognized Himmler and Goebbels from newsreel films he'd seen at the movie theater and he was astonished. Plus curious. "What are all those people doing in that circle?"

"Why, Herr Heidreich. We are going to sacrifice them to open a portal to Shambala! You will go down in history as a hero because your fabulous rockets shall take us there. Would you like to come along?"

Still in a state of shock, Alfons stammered awkwardly,"B - but - but you can't mean that Fraulein! The - they are human beings, this-this is wrong, this is very, very wrong!"

Eckart ground her teeth with annoyance, she should have known Heidreich and the other rocketeers- they were also exclaiming in horror-might be bothered by this.

"Don't be stupid, Heidreich! These are sub-humans, the retarded, blind, deaf, and crippled. They will be swept away before Hitler's mighty Third Reich takes its rightful place at ruler of two worlds. If you are foolish enough to try to block our glorious path, you will be brushed aside too."

Heidreich shook his head and took one step back. He looked sick, as if he'd finally realized what uses his rocket ships would be put to. Eckart stopped his flight with merely a nod to the soldiers.

Cries of alarm erupted from the rocketeers when they found themselves surrounded by stern-faced men with guns.

But Eckart hesitated on the verge of ordering all of them herded into the Array. It would be best if she kept one alive in case of problems with the rockets. "I decided Heidreich. I will keep you alive for now. Keep your mouth shut if you want to stay that way."

Alfons continued to protest even as two soldiers bound his hands behind his back, until a third man knocked him out with a firm tap from a rifle butt. He was dragged over to lay unconscious and bleeding by Eckart's feet.

"Fraulein?" the soldier's commanding officer asked. "What about the rest of the rocketeers?"

"Eliminate them."
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dietlinde Eckart would never forget the triggering of the Array as long as she lived. The sight of the blue light leaping high into the air, the sizzling and hissing sounds it made were engraved in her memory. Also engraved was the screams of the sacrifices-despite the tranquilizer they somehow knew something very bad was happening.

Several of the men behind her put their hands over their ears. Eckart very badly wanted to follow their lead, but she didn't dare, she must not show even a hint of weakness in front of them.

The lights reached all the way to the high ceiling of the Great Hall and etched another circle. Everyone was looking at it when the screams ratcheted up to a new and terrifying pitch. Gasps of horror erupted at the sight of black arms snaking down from the ceiling, grabbing people and taking them up into the air to disappear into the other circle.

They were taken in small groups of three or four until all were gone and only the hum of power created by the Puppet Alchemist could be heard.

Then a wondrous thing happened.

A tinkling sound, like thousands of glass windows breaking at the same time was heard and the Portal opened. It was tiny at first, and then it separated into multiple copies of itself before they lined up and described a circle. This circle became bigger and bigger until it echoed the size of the Array on the floor below. The ceiling could no longer be seen, it was now replaced by a shimmering yellow void.

"The road to Shambala is open!" Eckart declared and spread her arms wide, and her triumph rang throughout the Great Hall.

Author's note #2 Love means never having to say "Sorry I killed all your friends."


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Edamame
post Jun 30 2008, 12:21 PM
Post #152


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From: By Yon Bonnie Banks
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I have been keeping up with your work on Fanfiction.net, yet I kept meaning to review your work here. I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying this piece, especially your latest chapters. Edward surely seems to have gotten himself into a lovely little pickle, and your characterization of Dietlinde makes my skin crawl. Your last chapter had me on the edge of my seat- I really wasn't expecting Edward to successfully open the portal. I wonder how Edward will be able to cope with what he did if he every is to escape Dietlinde Eckart's hold. (Go save the day Heiderich!)


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IttyBittyPretty
post Jul 5 2008, 04:51 PM
Post #153


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, nor any historical characters. I just like to play around in it's world and torture Ed for awhile.
Author's note: post series and slightly AU. Some movie events may happen, but differently
Warnings: Movie spoilers. Also violence and death, maybe sex.
Beta: Jedimasterwithapen

63. Through the Portal (Durch das Portal)

April, 1935-Munich,Germany

Stunned silence greeted Eckart's proclamation and it echoed withoout interruption in the Great Hall until the sounds finally died away. Like most of the watchers, both Himmler and Goebbels were struck dumb and both stared slack-jawed up at the Portal.

They started when Eckart spoke. "Isn't it beautiful, gentlemen?"

"Frau-Fraulein, Eck-Eckart," Himmler was quite unlike his usual self. He took out a large handkerchief from his coat pocket, removed his hat and mopped the sweat from his receding hairline. "It seems w - we misjudged you."

"It is a glorious day for Germany!" declared Goebbels who was faster to recover his composure. "The Fuhrer will be very pleased by the news of your coming conquest of Shambala. Heil Hitler!"

He raised his right arm in the stiff Nazi salute and the rest scurried to copy him. Ragged shouts of "Heil Hitler!" echoed around the vast space for ninety seconds before the echoes died away.

Not to be outdone by the propaganda minister, Himmler replaced his hat, clicked his heels and bowed towards Eckart. "Please excuse me, Fraulein. I will telephone Berlin and inform the Fuhrer of your success."

He marched away towards Eckart's office and Goebbels followed right on his heels after mumbling something about needing to prepare a speech.

Dietlinde smiled contentedly. Those two fools would fight and scrap to be the first to tell Hitler and bask in the warmth of his approval. She was startled when footsteps sounded to her left and she turned to look.. With a genuine smile on his face, Karl Haushofer came up and took her hands in both of his and praised her.

Karl was one of the first members of the Thule Society and he was one of the few who stood by her through good times and bad. His simple words of congratulations meant more to her than all of Goebbels's high-flown speeches put together.

The Puppet Alchemist crouched forgotten by the edge of the Array, the dying blue lights reflected in his glassy golden eyes. He didn't even twitch when Rudolph Hess knelt down beside him. Not a murmur of protest did he make when the leather collar encircled his neck. Hess put two fingers between the collar and Edward's neck before he secured the buckle. It couldn't be too tight, nor could it be too loose.

The collar was just a thin band of tanned deerskin, perfectly oiled, with sterling silver buckles. The inner side was lined with lambs wool to prevent the chafing of the Shambalan's delicate skin. He clipped on the matching six-foot leash and gently tugged on it.

"Stand up!" Hess ordered.

Edward slowly rose to his feet, his face still a perfect blank.

"Hess? What are you doing?" Concern colored Dietlinde's voice when she saw Hess so close to her Puppet.

Rudolph Hess started guiltily before he smiled and held out the leash to Eckart. "The future ruler of Shambala should have fine strings for her puppet."

She took it with a surprised murmur of thanks. Hess was a true believer in the Thule Society as well as the Aryan race, and the ideals of the Third Reich. Maybe he believed too much because the man's zealous attitude skated close to the edge of insanity at times.

But Hess was spot on. She WAS born to be a ruler, and now it was time to marshall her forces.

Eckart began to crisply issue orders - the launch of the rockets was set for twelve hours from now - soldiers had to be assembled and briefed, the ships loaded with arms and supplies - she wasn't sure how long the Portal would stay open.

Although she wasn't going to admit her doubts to anyone.

Last of all, she handed the leash over and ordered Edward's keepers to return him to his cell and feed him. He stumbled at first, like he'd forgotten how to walk, as if his legs needed time to remember.

Edward moved slowly, like he was sleepwalking.
///////////////////////////////////
Howls of anguish came from behind a locked door. Alfons Heidreich woke up cold and alone, and with his head aching horridly. He pounded on the door with both fists and demanded to know where his fellows, his colleagues were.

No answer came from without and finally a fit of coughing forced Alfons to stop. He fell to his knees feeling dizzy and sick because the coughing fit was hard enough to make his whole body shake. He breathed in shallow gasps and looked at dismay as blood filled the palm of his right hand.

A key rattled in the lock, the door opened and Karl Haushofer came in with a covered tray. He exclaimed in shock at the blood and knelt next to Alfons before he pulled out his own handkerchief and wiped blood off the younger man's mouth and hand. "Does Eckart know you have been coughing up blood?"

"No. I didn't tell anyone. I was afraid I would be forced to stop and let someone else take over. But, this is MY project and my pride wouldn't let me show any weakness." Alfons looked up at Karl, silently pleading with him not to spill his secret.

Karl smiled and promised, "I will keep your secret, Herr Heidreich. But you must realize this one could be the death of you." He helped Alfons to his feet and led him over to a small wooden table with one chair. Then he returned with the tray, set it on the table and whipped off the cloth cover. "Eat your dinner now. I have orders to bring you to the Great Hall in an hour. Tonight we launch your rockets to Shambala."
///////////////////////////////////////////////
Alfons couldn't help himself, at the sight of the Puppet Alchemist, he tried to launch himself at the silent figure. He wanted to punch him, slap him, pummel him until his arms gave out. But the soldiers holding his shoulders yanked him back and one cuffed his left ear with a fist.

Eckart was imperious before him. "Be proud, Herr Heidreich. You shall get to lead the invasion force into a new world, unlike one you've ever seen before!”

His hands were untied, and he was forced into the rear of the two-seated rocket plane where the controls were. From this cockpit, he would control the ascent, flight and landing of the machine.

He’d designed and built it with dreams, sweat, and his own two hands, Alfons knew every inch of it.

To his disgust, the puppet, the one who killed his friends was cajoled into the front cockpit and strapped into the front seat. The canopy was closed and locked and the launch platform cleared. Alfons hurrridly snapped shut his own belts, a protective webbing of his own design.

There was a gut-churning jerk when the hydraulic arms moved the platform from horizontal to vertical, then the twin engines fired and the entire jet shook as it moved ponderously into the air. Slowly at first, but it quickly gathered speed and roared up towards the Portal.

It glimmered and glittered as if mocking Alfons.

He was in an untenable position because he wanted to kill the puppet, even if he died too. But at the back of his mind, he was curious about this world Eckart kept yapping about. Alfons decided he wanted to see Shambala as well.

He would kill the puppet another day.

His left hand pulled the throttle all the way back, and the engines roared louder. The jet plane leapt forward, the force pushing Alfons back into his seat. The Portal glimmered hugely in front of him for a moment, and then they were inside it. All around the plane was yellow nothingness, but from the corners of his eye, Alfons thought he saw black hands trying and failing to seize the plane.

He figured he must have blacked out for a moment because when he came to himself again, the yellow was fading.

Then it was gone, replaced by a brightly shining sun, blue sky, and puffy white clouds. He said aloud to no one in particular.

“So, this is Shambala.”


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IttyBittyPretty
post Jul 12 2008, 07:30 PM
Post #154


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA nor historical characters. I just like to play around in it's world and torture Ed for awhile
Author's note: post series and slightly AU. Some movie events will happen, but differently
Warnings: movie spoilers. Also violence and death, maybe sex.
Beta: Jedimasterwithapen

64. Operation Longinus begins (Betrieb Longinus fängt an)

The plane shook when first two, then four more of the one seat jets roared past and Alfons fought the controls to bring it back into trim. Once the machine was again level, he descended slowly and carefully through the clouds. He watched the instruments spin down the altitude and kept an eye open for his first view of land.

Then the clouds seemed to break apart and Alfons Heidreich beheld Shambala for the first time. He was conscious of a vague disappointment. This world looked distinctly underwhelming. Below him was endless meters of sand in every direction. Above the sand arced a blue sky full of the same puffy white clouds under a blazing white sun. Very pretty, but nothing to write home about.

Alfons looked at the plane's compass and noticed he was on a heading of due west. Far ahead were small black specks he realized were the one-seat jets. Because he didn't know where else to go, he decided to follow them.

He noticed the faint outline of buildings after a few minutes, and soon after they roared over a good-sized town. Ant-like dots below him were people looking up and he wondered if they knew about rockets, and if they spoke his language. Again, Alfons wondered what all the fuss about "Shambala" was about because so far it looked just like the world he'd left behind.

But before he knew it, the plane had left the town behind and he noticed the other planes were preparing to land. Alfons expertly tilted the control stick and came around in the maneuver known as "side slipping" to lose speed and altitude before he brought his machine down in a perfectly smooth landing. To his relief, the sand was packed hard enough to hold under the jets wheels.

He turned off the engine and listened to it tick quietly before he unlatched and pushed back the canopy over his seat. The heat of Shambala hit him like a mallet, and he gratefully soaked it all in like a sponge. It had been so cold in the factory he thought he would never be warm again. If Shamballa was this warm all the time, maybe he would never return to Germany.

He unbuckled his harness and decided he should release the Puppet from his as well. But he had barely taken a step out of his seat when armed men rushed up and demanded he come down. Alfons had already found out arguing with men holding guns wasn't a good idea, so he carefully backed down the footholds built into the plane's fuselage.

Alfon's feet had barely touched the sand when he was forced to his knees and his arms were bent behind his back and the wrists were tied together. He grunted in pain and protested, "Hey! Don't tie those ropes so tight!"

At least they set him down in the shade under the plane's wing and he watched the rest of the one seat jets, and then the cargo planes land. One came in at too sharp of an angle and it plowed an ungainly furrow in the sand, its nose crumpling flat by the time it came to a stop. But the seatbelts Alfons had mandated be installed in all the planes did their job and all the occupants survived without a scrape.

The Thule soldiers were well trained. They responded to orders bawled by their Grupenfuhrers and mustered quickly to unload the supplies and set up a command post under a tent in a matter of minutes. More tents mushroomed around that central one until a mass the size of a small town was erected, complete with rudimentary streets and a roughly rectangular parade ground.

Eventually, both Alfons and the Puppet were moved to one of the recently erected tents where they sat together in silence. Alfons glanced at him from the corners of his eyes, but when the other man didn't react, he glared openly at the killer of his friends.

"Hey! You!" Alfons snapped in a sudden surge of anger, but the Puppet never responded. Alfons sighed in exasperation and stretched his legs out to relieve the pins and needles feelings in them. He was bored, plus hungry and thirsty. He had to pee too and hoped someone would come by and untie him soon before he wet his pants.

But it wasn't until the sun was beginning to set before two soldiers did come and do just that. He was rubbing his sore wrists when handcuffs were snapped shut around them. But at least his arms were now in front of him. Plus, the guards did lead them to a newly dug latrine and Alfons sighed with the most intense relief.

After they returned to the tent, one of the soldiers gave Alfons a cup of lukewarm water and a bowl of steaming hot beef stew while his fellow fed the Puppet.

"Open your mouth!" was the first order, and the Puppet obediently opened his mouth. A spoonful of stew went in, and it was followed by a second order of "Chew!"

Fortunately, once started, the Puppet seemed to be able to continue eating solely on instinct, although his blank stare was somewhat unnerving. After another hour passed the air grew chillier as the sun lowered under the western horizon, and Alfons began to shiver. His teeth were chattering when Eckart finally came by to inspect her Puppet.

"Make sure the rocketeer is also kept warm!" she ordered and one of the soldiers gave him two blankets. Alfons took them gratefully, he folded one to sit on and hunched in the wooly warmth of the other.

As night drew on and the sky filled with stars, two cots were set up and Alfons huddled under the blankets on one of them. The Puppet lay facing him on another, and he finally closed those staring, barely-blinking eyes once ordered to go to sleep.

Alfons thought he would never get to sleep himself, but exhaustion got the better of him and he slumbered, if fitfully on the narrow cot.

That was how his first day in the more mundane than mysterious world of Shambala came to an end.

Operation Longinus had begun.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Alfons awoke with a jolt the next morning as early sunlight filtered in through an opening in the tent. A bugle was blaring and men were shouting.

"What's going on?" he asked one of the guards.

"We've got visitors, Herr Hedreich. A delegation has come from the nearby town." The soldier leaned over and tapped the Puppet on his shoulder and snapped, "Wake up!"

Those staring golden eyes snapped open, half closed, blinked a few times, then opened fully.

"Sit up!" The Puppet obeyed instantly as Hess entered the tent. He bent down and waved a hand in front of the blond man's face, and smiled when the figure didn't even flinch.

"Get him washed up and brush off his clothes. Feed him some breakfast, give him a pill, and then bring him to the western side of the camp. Eckart wants our guests to see what they are up against in case they plan to defy us."

Alfons tagged along behind the Puppet and his two guards. No one stopped him, and no one seemed to care. He made sure to stop a few feet behind Eckart, who held the Puppet loosely on his leash as the delegation from the town approached.

A group of about a dozen people was led by a pretty woman who had two-toned hair - mostly brunette - but with a fringe of pink bangs. She wore a plain white dress of simple lines underneath a dark blue cloak to keep her warm in the morning chill.

Walking beside her was one of the largest men Alfons had ever seen. Neatly dressed in brown pants and vest, and a white shirt, he was nearly bald, except for a small curl of blond hair on his forehead. Pink sparkles inexplicably flashed next to the man's head and Alfons supposed they were caused by the angle of the sun. That could be the only explanation for them.

The two parties stared at one another for a few heartbeats, and then Eckart opened her mouth to speak.

But she was cut off by the other woman who spoke in a clear voice that brooked no argument.

"My name is Rose Thomas, and I am the Holy Mother of Lior. You are trespassing on Amestrian territory and you must leave. Now."

Author's note #2: Sadly, this is the final chapter to be betaed by Jedimasterwithapen, because her real life has gotten in the way. That is always more important then fictional ife, so I'll be delving back into the beta reader pool on ff.net.


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IttyBittyPretty
post Aug 17 2008, 07:52 PM
Post #155


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in it's world and torture Ed for awhile
Author's note: post series semi drabbles. Some movie events may happen, but differently
Summary: Edward is finally captured after seven years on the run. He is first confined to the Angelika Nursing and Convalescent Home where he tries, and fails, to escape. The Thule Society takes custody after seven months. Edward tries to resist, but drugged and hypnotized, he has no will of his own and he opens a portal to the fabled world of Shambala. Yet the irresistible force of the Thule Army has met an immovable object in the form of one Rose Thomas.
Warning: Violence, death, and really bad language.
Beta: Agent000

65. Occupation (Besetzung)

Time stood still while the two women faced each other and Alfons could feel the hostility vibrating in the cool morning air.

"Silence!" Eckart barked angrily. "I am Dietlinde Eckart, and the leader of the Thule Society. I claim this world for the German Third Reich as proxy in the name of Fuhrer Adolf Hitler."

But Rose Thomas refused to be cowed. "What part of 'you are trespassing' do you not understand, Miss Eckart?" Her voice was crisp and underlaid by a core of steel.

Alfons didn't have a strong understanding of the Shambalan language,though it sounded a lot like English. Rose spoke too quickly for him to catch every word but he understood she was telling them to go away.

"I do not care for your tone, Shambalan." Dietlinde curled her lip. "I am in charge now and you will do as you are told or suffer the consequences, understand?" She gestured to one of the platoon leaders and he stepped forward, pulling his pistol from its holster.

He pointed the weapon at Rose's head and cocked the hammer. "You will be the first example of what happens to those who defy me, Fraulein Thomas," Dietlinde said in a smug tone.

Barely had the words "Shoot her," left Eckart's mouth when there was the distant crack of gunfire and a puff of smoke from an apartment tower in the town behind the Lioran delegation. A neat, red hole appeared in the middle of the man's temple and he crumpled to the ground. Eckart looked furious and Rose grinned at her angry face.

"Did you really think we were helpless here? Now turn around and leave this place, the sooner the better." Rose put her hands on her hips and stared defiantly at Eckart.

"I think not, Fraulein Thomas," Dietlinde repliedwith steel in her voice. She tugged on the leash held between the fingers of her left hand. Edward shuffled out from between the taller soldiers who had hidden him from view. Alfons looked on in dismay when Rose's face paled and her eyes opened wide.

"Edward!" she gasped before her eyes narrowed and she snarled at Eckart. "Take that collar off him! He's a human being, not a damn dog!" She called louder in the Puppet's direction, "Edward! Edward! Snap out of it!"

Even the large man looked stricken at the sight and he stepped forward. "Edward Elric!" He turned a stormy blue-eyed glare in Eckart's direction. "What have you done to him?"

"It's not important," Eckart swaggered forward a few steps, forcing Rose to yield an equal number. "Herr Elric is entirely obedient to my will and if you value your life and those of your people, you will follow his example. For killing one of my men, this will be your punishment!"

She tugged on the leash again and ordered, "Puppet! Destroy that tower!"

Edward's eyes narrowed and his face twisted, causing even the soldiers around him to back away at the sudden change in his demeanor. His teeth bared in a scowl, he raised his hands and clapped them together before he knelt down and slammed the palms onto the ground. Rose and the others leaped aside as a red light hissed along the sand to the town behind him. It struck the tower a millisecond later, and the building shivered before it collapsed with a loud roar.

Dietlinde threw a triumphant smile at Rose. "Do you want another demonstration, Fraulein? My puppet will destroy your entire town unless you surrender. But I will be generous, and give you until sundown to do so. Guten morgen!"

She tugged on the leash again, spun on one heel and walked without a backward glance toward her tent, leading a now quiescent Edward behind her. The other soldiers drifted away in twos and threes until only Alfons was left. He looked helplessly at Rose, who stood staring at the ground. Not knowing what else to do, he bowed and murmured "Fraulein", before he turned away and returned to his tent.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"That b*tch! That damned b*tch!" Rose seethed with fury while she looked at the rubble of the destroyed tower. "People lived here, innocent people! Women and children!" She choked up and couldn't say anymore. Her hands were balled so tight, the nails scored bloody half-moons into the palms. Rose shivered and angry tears leaked from her eyes, rolled down her cheeks, and dripped on the shattered bricks.

Alex Louis Armstrong put two massive hands on Rose's shoulders and he tried to comfort her. Now retired from his military career as the Strong Arm Alchemist, he was the unofficial Mayor of Lior and worked tirelessly on reconstruction of the town. The condition of Major Elric disturbed him and he was ashamed to admit he had frozen in shock at the sight of his young friend.

It had been only six years since Mustang's Rebellion had thrown the country into turmoil. Fuhrer Bradley was dead, the Flame Alchemist was gravely injuired, and the Fullmetal Alchemist had vanished into thin air. For many months, civilization had been just hanging by a thread until the remains of the Amestrian government announced the re-formation of Parliament and elections were held. The country was now stable after the Prime Minister made peace with the border states of Creta, Drachma and Aurego.

Life was returning to normal - correction - it HAD been returning to normal.

Rose's shoulders shook as she gave into copious tears and Alex could feel his eyes welling up too. "Until now, I thought seeing Ed dead on the floor of the opera house was the worst moment of my life, but when I saw him looking like a zombie, and on that leash, like he was a damned dog...!

Rose turned to bury her face into Alex's chest just before she started wailing her sadness. But Alex's eyes, so close to tears a moment ago, had dried up like magic. Edward dead? WHAT opera house? Where? What was she talking about?

These questions and others whirled through his mind while Rose's body shook, but he would let them wait until she was done soaking his shirt. She was calm again in a few minutes and she raised a tear-stained face to look him in the eye. "Thank you, my friend."

At sunset, the Holy Mother decided to that in order prevent any further loss of life, the city of Lior would capitulate - reluctantly - to the invaders. Eckart and the Thule Army officers moved into requisitioned buildings as their headquarters. But before Dietlinde made herself comfortable, she ensured her two most precious possessions - the Puppet and the Rocketeer - were secured in Mayor Armstrong's home.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Alfons didn't pay attention to the click of the door's lock behind him. He was still a prisoner, but he'd just moved up to a more comfortable sort of cage. He explored the room - single bed - small bathroom, wooden desk and two chairs. He sat down on the mattress and bounced to test its firmness. One window over the desk, but it was large and let in plenty of light. He moved over to it and watched the sun sink below the horizon. Shouts from below made him look to the street two stories beneath. The evening patrol was just setting out to enforce the new curfew of the occupied city.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
A week after the occupation began, a tired and hungry teenage boy trudged into the eastern sector of Lior. The sun was setting, and the boy noticed the air was beginning to get chilly. He paused briefly to button his red coat and pull the hood up over long hair the color of warm caramel.

Author's note #2: Please welcome my new beta, Agent000! She is raking me over the coals for my many errors (usually misuses of tense in the same sentence and "wordiness"), but I need someone to to be tough on me.




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IttyBittyPretty
post Sep 7 2008, 06:10 PM
Post #156


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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Group: Members
Posts: 834
Joined: 30-April 06
From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
Member No.: 35,364
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just want to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while
Author's note: post series. Some movie events may happen, just differently
Warning: movie spoilers, also violence, death, bad language.
Beta: Agent000

66. The Prodigal Alchemist (Der verschwenderische Alchemist)

Lior, Eastern Frontier, Amestris. July 17, 1920

Before he continued further into the city, the boy rummaged in an inside pocket of his coat. He pulled out a small coin purse made of brown leather and snapped it open. The leather was cracked and scuffed as evidence of heavy use in the four years since Izumi gave it to him as a parting gift. Dry, wind-reddened lips silently counted the coins stirred by long and agile fingers. Then those lips frowned with dismay. Only 500 cenz left, not enough for a night's stay at an inn.

Oh well, I've slept rough before. I can do it again. He eyed the sides of a nearby alley, they would help break the chilly desert wind. He had just taken two steps in its direction when someone whispered "Psstt!"

The boy stopped and looked curiously at the anxious face of a middle-aged woman, and her hand beckoned him inside. "You have just arrived here, haven't you?"

"Yes, yes I have. Is something going on that I should know about?"

"Lior is occupied and we are under curfew. Quick! Come inside before the patrol sees you!"

The boy didn't need to be told twice. Confrontations with any sort of military were to be avoided at all costs. It was a lesson Izumi had drilled into him. He tripped up the two steps to the threshold and entered, the door closing so fast it nearly struck his backside.

"Shhh!" The woman put a finger to her lips and the boy ducked next to her. He'd never seen another person look so frightened. Voices in a gutteral language sounded just outside and the boy cocked his head, listening hard. He'd learned to distinguish many different languages, and even speak some of them fluently in the four years he'd spent searching for Brother,but he'd never heard this language before, and his eyebrows drew together in concentration.

The voices, and the sound of several pairs of feet went past and faded away down the street and the woman relaxed. The fearful light died in her eyes and some of the furrows smoothed out on her forehead.

"Excuse me," the boy was still confused. "But I've never heard that language before, what sort of military is occupying Lior?"

"They are invaders! Invaders from another world! Just a few days ago, the ground shook, then an eye in the sky opened and flying machines appeared above Lior. They set up camp just outside the city and the Holy Mother went to tell them to leave.

"But," the woman's face crumpled and the boy's heart twisted in sympathy. "The invaders had an alchemist with them and he destroyed part of the city, killing several people. The Holy Mother had no choice; she had to let them occupy Lior to preserve innocent lives."

The boy leapt to his feet. "I have to see the Holy Mother! Can you direct me to where she lives?"

The horror struck look she shot at him seemed to suck all the oxygen out of the room. "No, don't! It's far too dangerous! Several people have been shot dead already. Stay - stay the night and you can go in the morning, after the curfew is lifted."

The boy was sure he could dodge the night patrol and find the Holy Mother's house,but tears brimming in the woman's eyes stopped him. "Please, please don't go. Just this morning the invaders displayed the bodies of two boys they'd shot last night for trying to sneak out of Lior. One of them looked to be your age."

The boy relented, he let the woman serve him a hot meal and give him a warm bed. He slept soundly, and awoke to bright sunlight streaming through slats of the window blinds. The inviting smell of bacon and eggs wafted under the closed bedroom door. He offered her the 500 cenz, but she refused and drew a map while he ate his breakfast. The woman gave him some final words of advice.

"Be very careful; don't look any of the invaders in the eye,and don't speak to any unless you are spoken to first. One of my neighbors was shot between the eyes for speaking sharply to one of their officers. Don't linger near the Mayor's residence either, they keep their Puppet there."

"Their Puppet?"

"An alchemist the head invader pulls around on a leash, like a dog. He's under some kind of spell and he stares straight ahead until she orders him to destroy a building. Then his face twists and he turns into an animal, glaring and snarling. Some people who've seen him close up claim he is Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist who saved Lior from Cornello the False Prophet years ago. But it can't be him, he disappeared the night Fuhrer Bradley was ki..."

Her voice trailed away when she saw the thunderstruck look on the boy's face. "No, please! Don't do anything foolish,boy!" She thrust the map into his hands. "Here is the map. Find the Holy Mother and speak to her. I've heard she is only pretending to cooperate with the invaders,but she is really organizing a resistance movement, and if you want to help Lior..."

"Yes, yes. I want to help! I'll go to the Holy Mother."
************************************************
Rose Thomas dragged an index finger through the wet ring left by her coffee mug and made designs on the marble top of the cafe table, turned her head toward the street the better to avoid the blue eyes staring at her and watched the traffic of carts, delivery trucks and people on horseback jostling for space on the main street of Lior. The city bustle looked normal enough, unless she raised her eyes and saw the Nazi flags hanging from every lamppost. Or the gun-toting men in slate-gray uniforms standing guard at the front gate of the Mayor's House across the street. Or the anxious faces of the residents going about their daily business.

Rose flicked her gaze back to the stern eyes of Alex Armstrong who sat like a baby mountain on the other side of the table. He'd come to this cafe for coffee every morning since his arrival and was such a frequent customer the owner had a specially large reinforced chair made for him. Alex had been touched by the gesture, but he was not happy today. Rose had told him every detail she could remember of that night at the opera house. Yet Alex still had questions.

"Miss Thomas, how did you get a boy, a baby, and an injured homunculus all the way to Risembool without anyone noticing? The military had all of Central under lock down after the Fuhrer's murder."

"Two boys were waiting in the church - Russell and Fletcher Tringham - they helped me quite a bit. Edward and Alphonse had met them a few years ago. They got us on a train, but they left it at Xenotime. I gather both were in a hurry to shake the dust of Central off their feet, although Russell was kind of cagey about what happened. Plus, Alphonse was very anxious to find his brother and he wanted to get to Risembool as fast as he could."

"So, if we were to get word to the Rockbell house, would Alphonse come to Lior?"

"Oh, no. He's not in Risembool anymore! His alchemy teacher, Izumi Curtis, came while I was there. After Alphonse begged her to teach him some more, he went back to Dublith with her and her husband."

Alex half-closed his eyes and hummed softly. "The Elric brothers have the strongest sibling bond I have ever seen. We must find Alphonse because only he can free Edward!"

He was about to say something else when a voice spoke from behind him. "Excuse me, but did you say only Alphonse Elric can free Edward? Do you know where he is? Because I'm Alphonse Elric!"


--------------------
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IttyBittyPretty
post Nov 8 2008, 08:45 PM
Post #157


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Author's note: post series. Some movie events may happen, but differently
Warning: violence, language and death. Lovecraft type vibe in this chapter
Beta: Took-baggins


67. The Long Nightmare, part A

Drops of sweat plopped down on the paper, smearing the barely dried ink and making it bleed into the paper's fibers like spiderwebs. At first Edward thought it was just the deep southern heat that made him sweat. The train clattered fast through the flat Mississpippi delta, but it couldn't outrun the temperature shockwave. At nine in the morning, the mercury in thermometers all over the state of Mississippi were edging past eighty degrees.

Edward kept wiping his face off, but the sweat wouldn't stop coming. When the tremors began to shiver through his body and the car walls seemed to move back and forth, he finally realized why.

He was sick again.

Malaria.

Just one mosquito bite. A simple blemish on his cheek that sentenced him to a lifetime of agony. The bacillus hid in his bloodsteam like a venemous spider, and then every eight to fourteen months it emerged to ravage him with chills,fever,headache and a nausea so profound he wanted to die.

He sighed and capped his pen before he reached into the leather valise next to him. A moment of digging about yielded a small dark brown glass bottle with a cork stopper. Edward pulled it out with his teeth, then tipped the bottle on to his right hand.

One small white pill rolled out and he cupped his palm to keep it in place.

Quinine. His lifeline. The medicine didn't stop the attacks of malaria,but it made them bearable. Edward reached with his left hand for the coffee cup, lifted and tilted it to his lips. He filled his mouth with some of the lukewarm brew,then paused when the train began shaking.

He waited for the train to finish crossing over the "points" before he stuck the pill between his lips, and then threw his head back to swallow the medicine. A shudder ran through him just then,as if the malaria was reminding him who was really in charge.

"Are you all right,mister?" Edward had been so focused,he'd never noticed the child who'd crawled on to the train seat opposite him. A girl dressed like a boy in dark pants,white shirt,blue suspenders and a matching cloth cap.

Klose.

Edward knew he was dreaming right then.

After their difficult first meeting, he'd taunted Klose by jerring at her "you look like a paperboy!" But she'd asked for it because she'd called him a "shrimp", and crudely referred to Al as "a tin can". But despite their adversarial relaltionship, he'd still saved her life when the insane Majahal attempted to put her soul into one of his life-size dolls.

Majahal also attempted human transmutation and he saw the Gate.

But all he'd lost was his sanity.

It was so unfair.

"Mister?" The dream-Klose was persistent. "What is that?"

"My medicine, It's called quinine. It helps me with an illness called malaria." Edward was patient if apprehensive. Benign dream things too often turned into terrifying nightmare monsters.

"Quinine," she giggled,not a good sign. "That's a funny word, mister. What's your name?"

"Edward. Edward Thomson. Will you tell me yours?"

"Maribelle. Maribelle Lyonnase."

"That is a pretty name, Maribelle." Edward shivered again, this attack was progressing quickly. He would need to find a bed very soon. Even with the quinine, he still had to let the malaria run its course.

"Mister!" Maribelle's voice pitched higher in alarm. "You don't look so good!"

The walls of the train car were spinning around him and Edward supposed he fainted right then.
///////////////////////////////////
He woke up to an insistent movement of his head. Increasing awareness told him a small hand was gently slapping his cheek. He reaced out and seized with his right and was rewarded with a cessation of the movement,plus a short sharp shriek.

"OW!" Edward let go and opened his eyes.

Maribelle looked reproachfully at him while rubbing her left wrist. Tears trembled in her dark eyes and her lower lip stuck out.

"Sorry," he mumbled, feeling the heat of embarrassment, or just fever reddening his face. "I didn't mean that."

"O.K? I forgive you!" Maribelle's tears vanished in an instant and she got off him. Edward found himself laying on the floor of the train car. He stood up and instantly sat down again on an empty seat when his legs trembled and threatened to give out.

He wondered where her parents were until he remembered he was dreaming. Logic wasn't applicable in the dreamworld. "Excuse me, Maribelle, but I need your help."

"Sure, Mr. Thomson, anything! What is it?"

"The quinine doesn't stop the illness I have, it just keeps the attacks under control. Because I am going to be very ill for the next few days, I need to find a doctor at the train's next stop. Do you know of any?"

"Yeah,sure! The doctors Faust!"

"Doctors Faust?"

"Yeah, they're twins and they'll take good care of you until you get better. I'll take you to them, c'mon!"

Maribelle took Edward's left hand in an unnaturally strong grip and pulled him towards the door. He hesitated because the train was still moving very fast. "Wait!"

"Come ON, Mister!" An angry, impatient note crept into Maribelle's voice and she pulled with both hands. The door of the passenger car stood open and the landscape whizzed by in a blur. Edward's feet skidded on the floor.

"Maribelle! The train! It's still moving!"

Then they were falling through the air.

He knew the landing was going to hurt. And it did.

Edward jarred himself on the hard ground and he just lay there, breathless for a moment.

"Come ON, Mister!"

Maribelle was standing right next to him and she didn't look friendly anymore. Still, Edward got slowly to his feet, picked up his valise and let her take his hand. The nightmare monster was determined to lead him through hell. All he could do was go along and hope it wouldn't be too bad.

They walked together through the dusty red streets of a small town. No one was about, but Edward had the sense of eyes looking at him from behind curtained windows. The air was still, with a reddish cast. No birds sang, no dogs barked, no cars rattled down the road; but Edward gradually became aware of music in the distance.

It came closer and closer, and he eventually saw the source was a large marching band. The band members looked trim in red coats with white trim, white pants with red stripes down the sides, and shiny black shoes. Tall red hats with white visors and black chin straps completed their ensemble.

None of them had faces, just blank space,smooth and white as eggshells between hat brims and chin straps.

The tune the band played was eerily familiar and Edward caught himself humming along before realizing why. It was the Amestrian national anthem, he'd heard it often enough during army reviews on the parade ground at Central military HQ.

But...

There was something wrong with the song. It sounded strangely discordant and Edward listened harder before the mystery was explained. The marching band was playing two different songs- the second was also a national anthem.

The German national anthem.

The two songs overlapped briefly, and then rang out seperately before overlapping again. The cacophony reminded Edward of an out-of-tune piano and it made his head pound. But just as he was about to scream in pain, the music stopped abrupttly and silence rushed in with such force it hurt.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Time and space moved in a herky-jerky motion, like a badly threaded film. Suddenly, Edward and Maribelle were out in the country, and walking past endless cotton fields. She still held his right hand in a tight grip and he had to walk fast to keep up with her.

The air was still and hot. Great drops of sweat rolled down Edward's face and slid off his chin. They fell slowly, shining like jewels before they hit the red dirt with explosive force. His knees trembled when each drop fell.

"Maribelle, how far?"

"Not far, Mister." She was still frowning when she looked up at him.

Edward knew he would wake up screaming because of her.

The sound of sobbing caught his attention and he looked to his left. There in a bare field stood a large crowd of white people-clothes,hair,faces-all were bleached as if by sun exposure. They began to scream after Edward and Maribelle drew even with them and the sound was a like a drill straight into his brain.

"Why are they screaming!" Edward fell to his knees and clapped his hands over his ears.

"Because you killed them,mister." Maribelle grabbed his wrists and pulled them away, her expression was pitiless.

"I - I killed them?"

"You called the Gate, the Gate came and it took them all away." Some of the screaming turned to hysterical laughter and this new sound was even worse. "They had lives, they had families, but you took those away from them."

The screaming and the laughter stopped abruptly. As before, the silence boomed in painfully.

"But it's OK" Maribelle suddenly beamed a brilliant smile at him. "You didn't know what you were doing."

Such was the illogic of dreams when she suddenly announced a moment later, "We're here!"

They must have walked on further without Edward realizing it. Suddenly, the flat cotton fields were gone, replaced by a high black wrought-iron fence. Behind an imposing black gate stood a massive Victorian-style house of many windows, balconies and turrets. A white wooden sign attached to the fence announced in tall black letters:

PHILLIP AND THOMAS FAUST, M.D.
GENERAL PRACTICE & OBSTETRICS
PRIVATE HOSPITAL
WHITES ONLY


Edward didn't want to go in. But Maribelle was already pushing a large white buzzer located below the sign. There was a loud click and the gates swung open silently.

He didn't want to go in. But she was already leading him forward down a wide driveway paved with white gravel. The gates slammed shut behind him with a terrible finality, like the slamming of a coffin lid.

There was no going back.
////////////////////////////
The air was infernally hot, or maybe it was just Edward's fever. The sun bounced off the white gravel and shone painfully into his eyes. He stumbled and recovered, then stumbled again. He fell to his hands and knees this time and the gravel cut into his palms like shards of glass.

Maribelle was shouting at him but he couldn't understand the words through the roaring in his ears. He was sweating so profusely the water poured off his face. He was on the verge of complete collapse and he couldn't stop trembling.

"Cease your struggles,Shambalan."

Edward whipped his head up,but he was alone. But of course, Mariebelle would vanish after completing her task of delivering him to Hell.

He struggled to his feet, picked up his valise and resumed walking towards the house. The lane seemed endlessly long, it was narrow and wide,straight and curvy. The magnolia trees that lined it were heavy with blossoms which were too big to be normal. They crinkled like paper when the wind blew,and their scent was so sweet it was almost nauseating.

The lane was shorter than Edward realized, or maybe his perception of distance was just shot to hell in the dream world. At the end of the lane was a circular driveway directly in front of the house, in the green space inside of the circle stood a gallows.

Envy hung by his neck from a noose tied to the top bar of the gallows . The rope creaked as the Sin twisted slowly in the wind. He'd been there for some time because his feet were skeletonized and his black outfit was faded and torn.

Edward walked closer until he was directly below the gallows and he looked up at his bitterest enemy,his inhuman half-brother. He jumped back with a startled cry when Envy suddenly turned his head and uttered a loud burst of laughter. Edward lost his balance and he fell heavily on his backside before he stared up in shock at the dead Homunculus.

Envy's long green hair jerked convulsively like it was alive, but his eyes,his violet eyes were gone. The sockets were just black pits where fat white maggots which writhed as if dancing the tarantella. The Sin continued to laugh harshly for another few seconds before he spoke with an ugly sneer on his dessicated face.

"You're a killer,just like me,little brother!"

The wind rose to a howling gale and the magnolia blossoms burst free, the petals whirling like tornadoes. They obscured the gallows and Envy,who screamed in terror. Then the flower storm was over and the gallows was gone,replaced by a green marble fountain of dolphins squirting water from their mouths.

Edward climbed unsteadily to his feet and he skirted the fountain warily. The dolphin's eyes followed him with malignant glares and Edward found himself searching his memory to remember if he'd ever done anything bad to a dolphin. At least they were made of marble and they couldn't follow him up the wide white wooden steps of the house. He hoped.

He stumbled on almost every step and the dolphins laughed with unpleasant chur-chur noises until he finally made the wide veranda. This was a much cooler area which stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction. White wicker chairs sat invitingly next to the door, and Edward made for one because he needed to sit down and rest.

But the front door opened before he could do so and Edward had another unpleasant shock when he saw Gluttony standing there. The fat Sin wore a butler's uniform, the black material straining to cover his bulk, but his eyes were different,dark and sparkling with intelligence. He spoke in a surprisingly cultured tones, "May I help you,sir?"

"Um, I, um." Edward stuttered because he was surprised to hear Gluttony speak so clearly. The formerly dim-witted Sin sounded like an Ivy League university graduate. "I need a doctor."

"Won't you come in?" Gluttony opened the door wider and motioned for Edward to enter a large foyer. He did so feeling like he was making a terrible mistake. "Walk this way, please."

Gluttony led Edward into a small room off the foyer and motioned to an overstuffed sofa. "Wait here in the parlor, please. The doctor will see you as soon as he can."

Edward sat down gingerly on the edge of the sofa as the door closed, and then he heard the sound of a key in the lock. He looked nervously about the room, it was full of more overstuffed furniture, and small round tables, the surfaces of the latter were crowded with porcelain figures painted in garish colors, and glass cases of stuffed animals and birds. The walls were papered in a dusky rose color, that was flocked with strange designs in high relief. Edward assumed the flocking was made of velvet, although it looked like more like black mold.

He turned to look at the wall behind him. It was also papered, but most of the paper was covered over by framed photographs suspended from long wires in the Victorian manner. He supposed they were photographs of the Faust twins's ancestors, but they were mighty strange looking ones. The closest portriat to him, on top of a small round table next to the sofa was the standard wedding photo: the man in a dark colored suit with a white flower in his buttonhole. His hair was plastered down with some kind of oil and he looked acutely uncomfortable.

Maybe the flower smelled bad, Edward surmised. Because the blossom wasn't the usual white carnation, instead it was an an obscene creation which looked somewhat like a lily. The petals were long and drooping,the stamens were dark and fat, and the shade was whiter than white, more like the bloated fish belly white of a drowned corpse. Edward shook his head in a van attempt to rid his mind of that unpleasant picture. He instantly regretted it when a wave of nausea fluttered across his stomach. Only with a strong effort did Edward force back the urge to vomit.

The more he looked at the portrait, the more he disliked it. The background, once the benign standard set of a professional stuio photographer of the nineteenth century had morphed into something like a Heironymous Bosch painting. The nightmarish shapes writhing on the panels reminded Edward of the other dimensional horrors faced by Carnacki, the fictional "ghost finder". But the bride...

She sat in a large gilded chair by which her new husband stood obediantly, and she was quite the fattest woman Edward had ever seen. She could have been a living personification of "the goddess of Willendorf" because she had only short, flabby stumps for arms, her wedding ring was a tiny glint among fingers so obese they looked like gigantic maggots. The rest of her was a round glob of blubber covered by a tent-sized dress of a dark shade of velvet. She had no discernible neck and her tiny black eyes floated like raisins in a bowl of lard.

Her hair was piled indordinately high and fell about her chubby face in elaborate ringlets. Nestled in the hair was a diamond tiara, and from that floated down an enormous white veil which stretched around the back and sides of the chair to the floor. Edward tore his eyes away from the portrait and he looked over at the door, but silence reigned without. He hoped the Gluttony-butler didn't forget to tell the Faust twins a new patient was waiting. He looked back at the portrait.

Here he received another surprise. Before, the bride and groom seemed to be just staring out into space, but now they looked directly at him. Neither looked friendly, in fact the stares were decidedly hostile in intent. Edward knew he was being silly, yet he gulped nervously. Coming here had been a mistake. He wanted to stand up, but his legs didn't seem to get the message. He risked a sidelong glance at the wedding portrait and realized with an unpleasant shock the couple were openly glaring at him now.

A new prickle of fear ran through Edward when the whispering started. It seemed to come from everywhere: the corners of the room, the porcelain figures on the tables - and the photographs on the wall.

He moaned aloud when the word they whispered became audible.

Murderer...

He jumped in inch off the sofa when the word was spoken loudly by both bride and groom.

"Murderer!"

Edward put his hands over his ears and screwed his eyes shut. "Stop it!"

"MURDERER!"

"It wasn't my fault, they drugged me!" a sob crawled up his throat and burst between his lips. "I had no will of my own, stop it! Please!"

"You killed all those innocent people, just so you could go home!" the obese bride accused.

"NO! I didn't! I wouldn't do it willingly, so I was drugged!"

Edward finally screamed, a loud wail of despair and pain. It seemed to break the spell because he could finally stand up. But he fell heavily to his knees after just one step. The entire room seemed to be shouting at him and it made him frantic with terror. Since he couldn't walk, he crawled to the door as fast as he could. He was panting like an overworked steam engine pulling a large train up a steep hill. The air had become hot and thick and breathing was difficult. Edward reached up and grasped the door knob, then tried to turn it, but it wouldn't budge. He pulled himself up and tried again, but the door was well and truly locked.

Edward tugged widly at it. "Please! Let me out, please!"

He let go of the knob with one hand so he could pound on the door. That proved to be a mistake as his knees buckled and he fell back to the floor. Then, a new horror made itself known.

A grand piano was on the other side of the room, its closed lid covered with a colorful fringed shawl decorated with embroidered roses. Over the shawl, the top of the piano was crowded with framed photographs, stuffed birds and animals in glass cases, and a heavy glass vase of red roses. The keys were covered, but now the cover slid slowly back and the piano began to play, the keys depressing as if touched by invisible fingers. Edward recongnized the tune instantly.

Chopin.

The Death March.

Pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you.

The playing was soft at first, then louder and louder, and then the piano began to move in his direction. The vase of flowers fell off first, the glass shattering with a tremendous crash.

The photographs toppled over next, and finally the glass cases of stuffed creatures. They screeched with a terrible sound as the wheels of the piano crushed them. The Death March repeated the same motif faster and faster, the sound punctuated by smashing glass and breaking wood as the piano plowed into the delicate tables that made the parlor an obstacle course.

"No." Edward breathed in disbelief, unable to believe his eyes. "No! This can't be happening!"

The words barely left his lips before the sofa also began to move. First one end swung around until the entire piece of furniture faced him, then it pushed ponderously forward, rucking up the faded woolen carpet.

"No! NO! NO! Edward closed his eyes again and screamed. "Please, stop it! STOP!"

It was a toss-up as to wether the piano or the sofa would get to him first. The figures in the photographs were still shouting at the top of their voices, "MURDERER!!"

Edward was openly crying, fat tears leaked under his hands and rolled down his cheeks along with the sweat and dripped like a waterfall off his chin. "STOP IT, PLEASE! I didn't want to kill them! I - don't want to hurt anyone!"

"I - I'm...sorry!"

The cacophony stopped.

A key rattled in the lock and the door opened, letting in a welcome gust of cool air. A soft voice asked, "What's all this noise about? I came as quickly as I could."

Edward opened his eyes. The parlor was as it had been when he first entered. All the furniture was in place, nothing was broken and the bridal couple stared blandly out of the portrait frame.

This was all too much for Edward and he passed out.
////////////////////////////////////


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IttyBittyPretty
post Dec 6 2008, 05:27 PM
Post #158


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
****

Group: Members
Posts: 834
Joined: 30-April 06
From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
Member No.: 35,364
Gender: Female



The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for awhile.
Author's note: post series, some movie events may happen,but differently
Warning: violence,blood,death and maybe sex.
Beta: Took-baggins

68: The Caretaker (Der Hausmeister)

Sergeant Willi Braun was a man of action.

Why he'd been placed on desk duty was both a mystery and an insult. He wanted to be out in the field, bawling commands at troops instead of herding papers indoors. Yet here he was, filling out requisition forms for toilet paper and tent stakes. After completing one form, he looked over at the IN basket that overflowed with a pile of staggering height. Willi dropped his pen and flexed his aching fingers, sat back in his chair and blew out a long breath.

Boooorrriiinnnggg!

For perhaps the twelvth time that morning, he grunted his displeasure at his change in fortune. His comrades had come by yesterday about lunchtime to conplain about their lot in life. While he got to loll around indoors, they had to sweat outside and dig defensive earthworks all around the city of Lior. It was hot and dusty work, doubly frustrating because of the sandy nature of the soil.

The pilots of the scout planes sent out three times a day had reported sighting a long train pulled by four puffing steam engines headed their way. Hundreds of heads had poked out of passenger car windows when they passed over, plus the pilots counted many shrouded artillery pieces tied down on flat cars.

The enemy was coming.

Time to get ready for battle.

But he was stuck inside,listening to his muscles soften. Sergeant Braun would never admit it to the others, but he longed to be out there with them. When the front door of Thule headquarters opened, he looked up with anticipation, hoping against hope Grupenfuhrer Bauer would finally spring him from this prison.

But no such luck. Instead of his group leader, the visitor was that damn woman, Fraulein Thomas. The so-called Holy Mother. Sergeant Braun couldn't help the sneer plastering itself across his face. What self-respecting woman had pink in her hair for God's sake?

He opened his mouth to say something cutting, then snapped it shut again when he saw she wasn't alone. Right behind her came Mayor Armstrong. Despite the civilian clothes he wore, Braun could tell a former military man a mile away.

He had the bearing,the attitude,the look. He had killed in battle, the smell of death wrapped around all soldiers who'd seen battle was ineradicable.

Out of respect for the Mayor,Braun held his tongue. Yet he frowned at the third person who'd come in behind the Mayor, hidden by his bullk. A tall,thin youth casually dressed in dark pants,a black short sleeve top and over that,an unbuttoned green shirt. He had a mass of hair the color of warm caramel tied in a long , but neatly trimmed ponytail that cascaded down his back, swinging as he walked.

Still, Braun could feel the sneer re-plaster itself on his face. Proper boys did not wear their hair long like girls, nor dress in such a sloppy manner. How he despised these Shambalans.

"Yes, Fraulein? How may I help you?" Braun put as much cold rudeness into his voice as possible. At every opportunity, the Shambalans needed to be shown who was in charge.

The briefest flash of irratation shot across Rose's face before she forced her lips into a pleasant smile.
"Fraulein Eckart requested I supply a caretaker for the Rocketeer and the-ah- Puppet. May I introduce this boy," she took the boy by the arm and led him closer before she pushed him forward. " his name is Alphonse Rockbell."

Alphonse gave Braun a weak smile before he ducked his head, because the invader's cold grey eyes made him intensely nervous. His heart pounded like thunder in his chest,and it amazed him the Sargeant couldn't hear it. If this worked, he would see Brother again.

There were so many thing he wanted to tell him.

I love you.

I missed you.

I can't remember...


So many things he wanted to ask him.

Where have you been?

What happened after we tried to bring mom back?


"BOY!!"

Alphonse jumped when the word cracked out like a whip. His fault for not paying attention, for daydreaming about the day he would find Edward. He pushed the daydreams to the back of his mind and tried to pay closer attention to the barrel-chested man in the grey uniform.

Braun loomed like a wall in front of Alphonse who very properly trembled as if in fear. But the truth was, Alphonse was still a bit excited. After he'd spoken to Rose and that huge man, she'd whsiked him inside the cafe, and then to a small room upstairs.

Here she'd sketched out for Alphonse what had occurred a week ago. At the news the invaders had Edward imprisoned just across the street, he'd jumped up from his chair. Only to be returned to the wooden seat by the huge bald man.

Alphonse looked up at him with an angry glare. He wanted to run down the stairs and across to the Mayor's House. He would burst in and find Edward, and then he would...

"Do what, Alphonse?" Rose's sarcasm was cutting, as if she read this thoughts. "If the guards didn't shoot you dead on the spot, they would arrest you and toss you in jail. Lior is no longer free Alphonse. For the moment, we must be very careful."

The dismay must have been writ large on Alphonse's face because the large bald man suddenly lifted him out of the chair and into a bone-crushing hug.

"ALPHONSE ELRIC! HOW NICE IT IS TO SEE YOU BACK IN YOUR BODY! BUT HOW SAD YOUR BROTHER IS A PRISONER OF THOSE HEARTLESS INVADERS! TOGETHER WE SHALL FREE HIM AND..."

Alphonse squawked in alarm and he drummed his heels against Alex's legs as his need to breathe became acute. He supposed the pink sparkles were a symptom of oxygen debt. Who was this man and how did he know him and Edward?

"Mayor Armstrong! Get a hold of yourself!" The plan Rose was hatching would come to naught if Alex suffocated Alphonse.

She finally got through to the overwrought alchemist and he set Alphonse gently back down on the chair. The boy closed his brown eyes and breathed a large chunk of air in gratefully, and then breathed out slowly. In. Out. In. Out. Until his lungs stopped aching.

"Feel better, Alphonse?" When the boy nodded, Rose smiled again and puffed out the breath she'd been holding. "Okay, this is the plan I've come up with..."
////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Alphonse trudged up the stairs behind Sargeant Braun, his heart pounding so loudly, he still was conscious of a vague surprise no one else could hear it. He'd been accepted as caretaker of the two prisoners and the success of Rose's plan was all up to him now. He clenched his fists as he climbed, and silently vowed not to fail.

He eyed the Sargeant's broad back, it was even wider than Alphonse was and the grey material strained to cover bulging muscles. When the time to rebel came, he would have to be sure he wasn't in Braun's reach, the man looked strong enough to break him in two. Alphonse was so lost in thoughts of the future, he stumbled on the topmost step and nearly fell flat on his face.

"Watch it, boy," the Sargeant's voice grumbled in his chest like faraway thunder, causing Alphonse to blush, duck his head and stammer an apology. Braun removed a ring of keys from his belt and unlocked a wooden door directly across from the stairway, turned the knob and pushed the door open.

"This prisoner is Alfons Heidreich, the Rocketeer. He doesn't speak your language, but he can pretty much care for himself. Your only duties will be to take up meals and whatever materials he requests, and keep his room clean. Go on in and say hello."

Head still bowed, Alphonse stepped over the threshold before raising his gaze to the thin blond man who'd stood up from a desk by a wide window. He gasped and stopped dead in his tracks, and heard an answering gasp from the Rocketeer. It was like looking at a photographic negative of himself.
////////////////////////////////////////
Braun was speaking to him in German, but Alfons only had eyes for the boy who'd been appointed his "caretaker". With a few differences in style of clothing, length and color of hair, and color of eyes, the boy was his doppelganger, a nearly exact twin.

Alfons gulped audibly. His grandmother used to tell him scary stories about doppelgangers, and how meeting one was a premonition of death. Fear froze him for a moment before his rational mind reasserted itself. Grossmutter also told him cats sucked the breath from babies, but he knew that wasn't true. He took a deep breath and shook the hand of the boy, who Braun introduced as Alphonse Rockbell.

By the time their brief meeting was over, Alfons felt calmer than he'd had in a long time, he even felt a small measure of happiness. Despite the language differences, he felt they would become friends. He sat back down at his desk, already covered with blueprints and notes, and watched while Braun unlocked the door in the opposite wall. That was wise of him, because The Puppet was kept in that room, and Alfons still planned to kill him.
///////////////////////////////////////////
Blood pounded through his veins and set up a cacophony in his brain, Alphonse could barely contain himself after the knob was turned and the door swung open. He had this urge to shove Braun aside and run to his brother, throw his arms around him and hug the stuffing out of Edward. Alphonse bit the inside of his cheek to bring this rebellious urge under control until the Sargeant finally moved aside.

A lone figure in a chair was silhouetted against a twin to the wide window in the other room, the light coming through it making it a bit indistinct. The figure was absolutely still and a frisson of fear made Alphonse tremble briefly. The other man had stood up in an instant, but Edward hadn't so much as twitched.

Braun leaned back against the window once they'd reached it, crossed his arms and looked at Alphonse,a smug smile upon his face. "Don't bother talking to him, boy, he won't respond. Or rather he can't. We keep him under control with a special drug. Otherwise, we couldn't handle him."

Alphonse breathed shallowly through his mouth, because he was so overwrought he was afraid he'd throw up. Six long years he'd waited to see the smiling face he loved so much, and...

His brother sat still as a statue in a wooden chair, he was neatlly dressed in a white shirt under a dark green figured vest, and pants of a paler green. His gloved hands were folded in his lap, and his head was slightly bowed, as if contemplating them. Edward was older, the planes of his adult face had emerged from the roundness of childhood, and his blond hair was far longer than Alphonse remembered. His eyes were closed and he appeared to be asleep, until Braun barked in a loud voice that made Alphonse leap fully an inch off the floor, "WAKE UP!"

Alphonse gasped in horror when Edward's eyes snapped open. They were as golden as ever, but glassy and staring, the eerie effect reinforced by the tiny pinpricks his pupils had shrunk to.

"We call this one the Puppet, boy. He can do some things like feeding himself, but you have to get him started first. You'll be responsible for bathing and dressing him, and making sure he looks presentable in case Fraulein Eckart or Dr. Mengele visit "

With a jerk of one thumb, Braun indicated the brown glass bottle upon the white marble top of a dark wood chest of drawers. "You must give him a pill twice a day without fail,because he's liable to come out of his trance if a dose is missed. Do you understand?"

Alphonse tore his eyes away from Edward long enough to nod at the Sargeant. "The two soldiers who were caring for him gave him a bath and washed his hair this morning,so he's good for today. It'll be lunch time in a few hours and the food will be brought up via a dumb waiter in the hall. Come here and I'll show you where."
///////////////////////////
Alphonse had the routine down pat before lunchtime. When a bell rang out, he went out the hall door of his brother's room to a square wooden panel set into the opposite wall. It was set into what looked like a window frame, and had a handle carved into the lower lip.

Behind it was the dumb waiter, a small elevator in a shaft which extended from the kitchens in the basement to the topmost floor of the Mayor's house. A small platform attached to caster wheels set into metal guide tracks on the walls enabled it to move smoothly up and down. When the food was ready, the plates and bowls were put onto covered trays and loaded onto the platform. Then a kitchen worker pulled on a rope to move the platform upwards, a rudimentary system of lights on a wall panel told him the location of the platform after it moved up out of sight in the darkness.

When the platform reached the desired floor, the worker would tug the rope to lock the wheels in place and a bell dinged to signal the occupants on that floor dinner was served. Alphonse pulled up on the door and it slid smoothly to reveal three metal trays with lids of the same material. He took two of the trays to the room Edward was in before coming back for the third. This tray he set on a wheeled wooden cart before he reached into the shaft and tugged on another rope. This unlocked the wheels and he slowly lowered the dumb waiter back down to the kitchens until a voice floated up the shaft. "Got it! Thanks!"

Alphonse slid the panel back down until it closed, and then he wheeled the cart to the door of The Rocketeer's room. He dug into his right pants pocket for the key and unlocked the door before taking the cart inside. Alfons was still at his desk and he seemed to be working hard.

"Lunchtime!"
///////////////////////
Alfons reluctantly got up from his desk to eat lunch, despite the difficult circumstances, he'd had some ideas for improvements to the engines and he'd been busily working on the designs since yesterday. He linked hands together and stretched the kinks out of his back, groaning slightly when his shoulders popped, before he got up and came over to a small square table covered with a white cloth and one place setting. The caretaker swept the cover off the tray and Alfons frowned at his lunch. His doppelganger noticed the collapse of Alfon's expression and looked down. He also frowned.

"What is that?"

Pork hocks and sauerkraut with sides of mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. Good solid German food, the kind that stuck to one's ribs and kept one going all afternoon. Alfons smiled at his doppelganger's frown which had deepened into a scowl and he repeated the sentiment in German. The caretaker looked confused for a moment before his face suddenly brightened, as if an idea had suddenly struck him.

Now it was Alfons's turn to feel confusion when the boy picked up the offending tray and set it aside before he walked over to the desk and rummanged in the mess for a moment before returning with one of the many fountain pens there because Alfons tended to go through one a day at least. The doppelganger bent over the white cloth and he drew an intricate circle design with several intersecting lines before he replaced the tray right in the middle.

Alfons's blue eyes widened in surprise and not a little fear after the boy placed both hands on the edge of the circle because a yellow light rose like a curtain from the table and commenced to whirl as flashes of light like static shot into the air. A subtle humming noise, like a hive of contented honeybees accompanied the light show as the food on the tray began to melt and then rise up, contorting into swirled shapes as they did so.

It seemed to take a long time, but the transmutation was over in a moment, and Alfons stared in shock at his transformed lunch. The pork hocks and sauerkraut now were four thick slices of roast beef covered with a fragrant brown gravy, and the mashed potatoes were now a baked potato, brimming with butter and sour cream. Only the cooked carrots remained cooked carrots, but they'd regained their former bright orange color instead of the pale, overdone mess they'd been only a moment before.

Alfons sat down with a thump in a chair and gawked in utter amazement. Alchemy can do THIS too??!! Struck by a sudden inspiration, Alfons grabbed for the fork next to the tray and dug it into the baked potato, and he paused for a moment before putting it into his mouth. It LOOKED like baked potato mixed with butter and sour cream and it SMELLED like baked potato, butter and sour cream. He stuck it into his mouth and closed his eyes as if in reverence to the Food Gods.

It was delicious. And also very hot, so hot the inside of his mouth was burning. The caretaker heard the frantic noises of distress Alfons was making and he quickly poured a glass from the carafe that was always kept full of ice water on the table. Alfons grabbed the glass and he drank a few sips with gratitude. It was his fault for taking such a large bite and he gave the caretaker an abashed smile accompanied with a slight reddening across his cheekbones. He chewed and swallowed the mass before daring to speak.

"Danke."
///////////////////////////////
After Alphonse left the Rocketeer happily eating his transformed lunch, he went back out into the hall, relocking the door as he did so. He was disappointed to see Brother hadn't moved an inch, not even to investigate the smells coming from underneath the tray lids. Alphonse had a very dim memory of Edward never being late for a meal, plus wonderment at his considerable appetite. But in Edward's defense, he'd been a very active boy with an extremely fast metabolism who needed lots of fuel. Performing alchemy really took it out of him and Alphonse recalled even he was ravenous after a transmutation.

He also performed alchemy on their lunches, but into two heaping bowlfuls of beef stew, the way Mom used to make it. The mashed potatoes he turned into two small loaves of crusty bread, although he left the carrots largely unchanged. He went over to Edward. put one hand under his left elbow and said "Stand up" in a gentle voice and Edward slowly stood up, like a string-less marionnette. This made Alphonse shiver for some unknown reason, but he fought off the uncomfortable feeling and steered Edward over to the table and made him sit down.

He picked up the spoon and dipped up a small quantity of the stew before he moved it to Edward's lips.

"Open your mouth." Alphonse slipped the spoon inside and Edward promptly closed his mouth on it, although not tight enough he couldn't pull the spoon out. "Chew." He put the spoon into Edward's hand and watched him start eating on his own for a bit before he puffed out a breath and went around the table to eat his own lunch.

An hour later, he reversed the table cloth to hide the transmutation circle, no need for the Nazis to see that he could also perform alchemy. Alphonse then went over to his double's room and did the same after he collected the tray. When the Rocketeer smiled from his desk where he was back at work, Alphonse smiled back and held a finger to his lips. This is our secret.
///////////////////////
For fear the light would be seen shining through the windows, Alphonse was unable to transmute supper as well, but slices of roast turkey with cranberry sauce and sauteed asparagus weren't so bad. Before he cleaned Edward's teeth, Alphonse had to give him his second dose of the drug for the day. He glared at the dull brown pill in disgust, but it obstinately refused to shrivel away and disappear. It had a score line through the middle and Alphonse made a quick decision.

He snapped the pill in half, put one in his pocket and gave the other to Edward. After he'd swallowed it with a sip of water, Alphonse leaned in close to his brother and whispered quietly in his ear.

"Many years ago, Brother, you rescued me. Now I'm going to rescue you."

He brushed his lips across Edward's forehead before leading him to the bathroom to help him brush his teeth and wash his face. Finally, after he settled Edward into bed and told him to go to sleep, he opened the connecting door, poked his head through and wished the Rocketeer "goodnight" before relocking it. He set the lock on the main door to Edward's room and looked back at his brother. A shaft of moonlight lit up his face as he lay in an apparent deep sleep and as Alphonse watched, Edward groaned softly and turned over, his back to the window. Alphonse's throat tightened up and he closed the door quickly.

He kept his jaw set as he walked down the stairs, said "goodnight" to the guard at the front desk and walked across the street to the cafe where he'd met Rose and Alex just that morning, although it seemed an entire year ago. He nodded slightly, his jaw still set to the cafe owner who was closing up for the night and climbed the stairs to the small bedroom he'd been given to sleep in. Alphonse got ready for bed with mechanical motions, brushing his teeth, washing his face and using the toilet.

He pulled on a pair of fleece pajamas because Lioran nights were chilly, snapped out the light and crawled into bed, suddenly exhausted from a long and emotionally draining day. But he couldn't seemed to close his eyes and he laid under the blankets, his hands behind his head. The wait seemed to take half the night, but the tears came at last and he cried himself to sleep.









--------------------
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IttyBittyPretty
post Jan 30 2009, 08:14 AM
Post #159


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
****

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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in it's world and torture Ed for a while. On the other hand, I DO claim ownership of any OCs I've created.
Author's note: post series. Some movie events may happen, but differently.
Summary: Deep under control of the Puppermaster drug, Edward is having a mostly terrifying waking nightmare.
Warning: violence, death, and bad language. Possible sex.
Lyrics: "Attack Ships On Fire" by Ministry, although I prefer the version by Luc van Acker.
Beta: Took baggins

69. The Long Nightmare, part B (Der lange Albtraum]

Time and time and time again,
Tossing and turning and freezing and burning.
Time and time and time again,
Another bad dream and another dead ending.


He came to in a room he didn't recognize.

White was his first impression. There was a canopy over the bed, hung with white mosquito netting, and thebed sheets were also white. He turned his head to his right. A wooden chair and a large bedside table, both painted white stood next to the bed. On top of the table was a white enamel basin with a white washcloth balanced upon its rim. Next to the basin was a small clear glass bottle full of white pills, an empty cup and a glass carafe half-full of water.

Edward looked to his left, but it was another white wall. This one was punctuated by a window, but it was covered by white gauze curtains so thick, he couldn't see outside. A cool breeze ruffled them and came through the netting to play over his sweaty face. He picked restlessly at the sheets with his flesh hand; they were crisp with far too much starch and smelled of bleach. A strong tremor ran through him and he moaned softly before he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Someone somewhere wake me up.
Someone somewhere wake me up.
Someone somewhere wake me up.
Someone somewhere WAKE ME UP!


When he came to a second time, Lust was bending over him while she daubed his face with a washcloth. She was dressed in a white uniform, its severe lines doing little to hide her luscious curves, with a small white cap pinned to black hair scraped back from her face and tied into a tight bun at the back of her head. A silver metal nametag pinned above one ample breast said "Desiree" and she appeared to be a normal nurse until he looked more closely at her eyes. She had none, just gaping black caverns with edges that shone red and wet.

Her face was pale yellow and the skin was of a translucent paper-like consistency, as if it would tear easily. Deep lines scored from her nose, past her mouth and down to her chin. More lines radiated, like wheel spokes from the corners of her eyes, and horizontally on her forehead. Her mouth wore lipstick of too red a shade, thickly and inexpertly applied and Edward could see more lines around her mouth as if her lips were often pursed around a cigarette.

Desiree finished daubing his face, straightened up and walked two steps to the white basin on the bedside table where she swished the cloth in the water and twisted it dry with a quick motion like she was breaking someone's neck. Edward shivered involuntarily at the sight, and again when she approached him with the freshly dampened cloth. He closed his eyes before she dabbed the sweat off his forehead.

"You poor thing," she crooned in the same tone of voice Lust used and it made goose flesh pop up on Edward's arms to hear those words spoken by the doppelganger of the homunculus who used to be his enemy. "Other have always used you for their own ends: Colonel Mustang, Dante, Winry, your father and even your own brother. It's time you stood up for youself."

Desiree folded the cloth and set it next to the basin before she picked up the water carafe and poured a few splashes into the glass. Next, she picked up the pill bottle, tipped one onto the palm of her left hand and placed it between Edward's lips. The hand she slid underneath his shoulders was as cold as ice as she lifted him into a sitting position, Desiree seemed unnaturally strong because she firmly held him up with just one hand while she tilted the glass against his mouth with the other. He drank and swallowed while carefully not looking at her face.

"Try to get some sleep now," she ordered while setting him back onto his pillow and pulling one sheet up to his chin. The mattress opened lengthwise, like a gigantic toothless mouth that swallowed Edward whole, so fast he didn't have time to scream.

Time and time and time again,
Same old story till the night-time ends.
TIme and time and time again,
Same dark covers and same dark lens.


He woke up a third time with a strong feeling he wasn't alone and the moment he opened his eyes a face on either side of the bed popped into his field of view. Two men wearing identical crisp white tunics, identical thin smiles, identical blue eyes and identical red hair.

The doctors Faust, Phillip and Thomas.

However, they were not identical twins. The man on Edward's left was extremely fat, his face was as round and red as a cherry pie, the skin straining to hold all the Faust-ness inside. Even his eyes were round and portrubent like over-filled balloons about ready to pop. The other man was the exact opposite, so exceedingly thin he would have disappeared if he turned sideways. His face and eyes were long and narrow, ending in a chin so pointed it could have doubled as an ice pick. Both doctors were such caricatures of body types they could be identical only in that sense.

"He's awake, brother," said the fat Dr. Faust and even his voice was roly-poly, although not particularly jolly sounding.

"Yes, he is," agreed his svelte brother, the other Dr. Faust, who had a deep, lugubrious voice to go along with his face.

Both flashed their teeth at the same time in identical wide grins, but they weren't nice smiles. These were smiles which gave children partularly frigthening dreams of toothy monsters lurking in closets or underneath beds. Nasty nightmare beings which skittered along wooden floors from rug to rug, using them as cover while they drew closer to their prey...

Edward was an adult but it made him shiver with the bolt of fear which suddenly ran through him because the motion looked highly uncomfortable for the Doctors Faust, as if they weren't used to smiling quite so broadly. Almost as if they were nearly, but not just quite human.

"We have to talk," said the fat Dr. Faust and he narrowed his eyes, which was a tough task for although the folds of fat around them were willing, but the eyes didn't want to play along.

"About what?" Edward ventured in a small voice which died away when he swallowed hard and shrank back against his pillow at the annoyed gleam that flashed in their eyes. THey apparently didn't like to be interrupted by patients.

"About your guilt," came the answer from both of them at once. "It has to come out before it eats you alive."

Time and time and time again,
I wake up screaming and I wake up dead.
Time and time and time again,
Wake up sweating and out of my head.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Edward thought he'd only blinked, but maybe he'd blacked out. He opened his eyes and found himself in another white room, and he could see at once this one was different. He was naked and lay upon a stone table so cold he felt stuck to it. Only his head could move and he swung it back and forth to take in his new surroundings. This room had no windows and it was mostly bare of furnishings, except for a lamp on a tall pole at the foot of the table and against a far wall, two smaller tables draped with stained white cloths. Each table was supported by a thin wooden pedestal which in turn was held up by four bent wooden legs which ended not in wheels but human-shaped feet. Lumps underneath the cloths caused Edward to suspect they were instrument trays.

This was an operating room.

Feeling bored, he made a closer inspection of the table he lay upon because it didn't look quite like the usual piece of operating room equipment. This wasn't covered with sheets and a thin mattress, but was entirely bare and had deep grooves carved into it near the edges. Plus his head wasn't supported by a pillow, but instead with something hard and unyielding, like a wooden block. He looked down at the end of the table and eyed a hole between his feet with suspicion. Something was wrong here, very very wrong.

A memory came unbidden to his mind. During one of his many hospitalizations, an orderly pushed him in a creaking wooden wheelchair to the solarium to get some sun. But the orderly was new at the University hospital, he became lost in the maze of corridors and they somehow ended up in the basement of the vast building. While searching for someone to give them directions, they'd passed the open door of one room and saw inside row after row of sheet draped bodies lying on tables. Both Edward and the orderly were staring in shock when an amused looking mortuary student walked up. The orderly asked for the directions, and the student informed them that was not the solarium, but the morgue. "You're not going to get muich sun here boy," he'd replied with what he probably thought was a dry chuckle, but Edward considered rather creepy. He was bothered enough not to be rude to the man because he just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

This was an operating room, but he laid upon an autopsy table.

The instant that thought crossed Edward's mind, straps suddenly came from over the sides of the table, across his legs, arms and shoulders. THey tightened and held him fast, he cried out once in alarm and thrashed against his new bonds, but as the way of nightmares, he couldn't shift them.

Then the Doctors Faust were there, one on either side as before. "Now, now," chided the fat Doctor. "Can't have you running away before we operate, now can we?" He chuckled once before both Fausts burst into laughter, a disturbing black sound which reinforced Edward's opinion the Fausts were only pretending to be human and rapidly getting bored with the whole business too.

The thin Dr. Faust turned his head and whistled in the direction of the two cloth-draped tables and to Edward's complete horror, they came running in response. One stopped next to the thin brother while the other went around the stone table to the fat brother. The feet of each hit the floor in a manner which parodied the innocent patter of children's feet and it seemed even inatimate objects weren't normal at the Faust Clinic.

The doctors Faust each put a hand upon the cloth, absentminded pats to which the tables responded with unnerving little titters, like the chatter of alien birds and they uttered tiny little shrieks like shattering glass when the cloths were suddenly yanked off and Edward moaned aloud with fear when he saw the inistruments.

They weren't the sterile and shiny chrome instruments lined up into a neat rows he'd been expecting. Instead, this was a jumbled pile of the most wickedly sharp tools of torture Edward had ever seen: gigantic scissors, scalpels with curving serrated blades, strangely twisted probes, forceps big enough to encircle a person's skull. These instruments also appeared to be alive for they shifted against each other with clanking sounds and whispered in cold metal voices like mosquito hums. As Edward watched, a scissor pounced upon a probe that writhed like a blind worm and began to hack it into pieces while it screamed with a shrill sound that drilled straight into his brain.

These instruments weren't clean, either. They were either reddened with rust or blackened with mold, sometimes both. All were spotted with flaking brown patches which resembled dried blood. Not that the Doctors Faust seemed bothered by a little insterility because each reached into the squiriming mass which attacked their hands before they pulled out two scalpels apiece.

"Let us begin," they intoned as one, bent over Edward's midsection and began to cut, humming as if they were contented bees making honey. The skin lept apart as the scalpels cut, hissing like two angry tomcats circling and spoiling for a fight. Edward could see a glaring eye on the side of each scalpel, and when one noticed him watching and it chuckled with a voice like sandpaper.

For all his fear, Edward noticed he wasn't bleeding nor was he in pain, but just when he began to relax a little a new sound, a keening noise like mourning women was heard coming from inside the cavity the doctors were opening in his abdomen. 'There it is!" shouted the thin Dr. Faust. "Grab it before it notices! Don't let it get away!"

They tossed the scalpels over their shoulders and reached down into Edward, they tugged hard while uttering piglike grunts of effort,and then with one final jerk pulled out something so horrid Edward nearly fainted from the shock. It looked vaguely human, but that was the only normal thing about it. It had eight limbs which ended in sharp claws, and a circular mouth edged with long fangs, this monster was black in color when it emerged, but began to rapidly turn pale after exposure to the air. A thick shiny liquid dripped off its body which was studded with what appeared to be numerous tumors, they resolved into faces that screamed silently, dissolved back into the body, and then reformed on another part.

All were people he knew.

Some he hated: the Sins, Dante, Frank Archer, Basque Gran, Shou Tucker, Number 66, Majahal, Mugear, Lieutenant Yoki.
Some he cared about: Nina Tucker, Maes Hughes and his family, Mustang's subordinates, Psiren, the coal miners of Youswell, his friends back in Risembool.
Some he loved: his mother and father, Winry, Izumi & Sig,Granny Pinako - and - ALPHONSE.

"This is your guilt, Edward, it's been dining on you for a very long time, ever since your mother died." the fat doctor explained. "You can't move forward until your guilt is expunged and this is the only way to do it." Each doctor grabbed one of the gigantic scissors off the instrument tray and they whooped with high-pitched sounds of glee, Edward imagined he heard one yell "Yahoo!" before they cut into the guilt-monster. The heads went crazy, shaking madly, dissolving and reforming faster and faster until the guilt was cut cleanly into two halves.

"And now, time for us to dine," said the thin doctor. "Have I told you how much I love eating a good serving of guilt?" The man was already drooling in thick white gobbets which rolled down his chin. Without another word, he bit into his half of the guilt, tearing off large chunks which he barely chewed before he swallowed them. Edward watched in horrified fascination as the Doctors Faust ate in savage haste, small bits of meat and what he supposed was the creature's blood flew all about. Those which landed on the instrument trays were viciously fought over by the remaining scissors, scalpels, probes and forceps with much discordant screeching.

This was all too much for him and he passed out again.

Time and time and time again,
I'm waking up shaking and waking in fright.
Time and time and time again.
Same B-movie in black and white.


//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
He woke up back in his bed in the white room. Night had fallen and a pale gibbous moon lit up the room almost as bright as day, highlighting the tattered remnents of the net curtains around the bed. Edward frowned and narrowed his eyes. What is going on here? He sat up in bed and the mattress creaked and sent up a strong musty smell as if in protest. He looked over at the window and the curtains were gone, the glass broken, as he watched one shard came loose and fell upon the floor with a loud shattering noise. He jumped reflexively, then looked to his right and received another shock. The table was covered with a thick coat of dust, the carafe empty of water, the drinking glass was broken and the quinine pills in the bottle were spotted with black mold.

Edward moved to get out of bed and in doing so noticed he was still dressed. He took one step, tripped over his suitcase and fell,sprawling inelegently on the floor where he came face to face with what was left of Desiree. She was a skeleton now, barely covered with rotting bits of once white cloth, the pin back of her name tag incongruously looped over one lower rib. A small round hole with cracks running off the edges like a spiders web neatly decorated her skull right above her left eye socket. She lay huddled in the center of the room, a few feet away from another window, her spine twisted as if she'd been shot through the glass, then fallen to land partly on her side. The window was mostly bare of glass, but a piece which remained bore a matching hole. Something screamed in the grounds outside like a dying animal and it spurred Edward to leave the room.

He found himself at the end of a long hall lined with mostly closed doors, he could hear the wind moaning and sobbing underneath them, like people in torment and he was suddenly too afraid to move until a shuddering crash made him leap fully an inch into the air. But it got him to move forward softly and cautiously because the corridor was littlered with bits of fallen plaster which crunched like bones when he stepped on them. Halfway along the hall was a pair of metal double doors which swung slightly in the wind, Edward peered curiously in and he wished he hadn't because there on the floor, lying on either side of the operating/autopsy table were the mummified corpses of the Doctors Faust. Their clothes were just tattered shreds and their mouths were open in silent screams. The once blindingly white walls were blackened now, the lamp pole was broken in half andthe instrument tables lay on their sides,their running days over. They were strangely charred, and the entire room had a strong smell of old ashes to it.

Gorge rose threateningly in his throat at the thought he'd been operated on by dead men, by ghosts and he backed out of the room, before he turned and raced up the corridor. Edward stumbled down a short flight of stairs to a small landing and turned right where he confronted a wide sweeping staircase. Once it had been beautiful and covered with a thick carpet, but now that was worn down to almost nothing and the bare wood of the stairs showed through like bones through a thick layer of dust.

Bones.

The parts of the Faust Clinic he'd seen were reduced to bones, and he didn't particularly want to see the rest, so he descended the stairs was fast as he dared while they creaked ominously beneath his feet as if ready to give way at any time. The grand double doors were open and mostly off their hinges, the stained glass shattered into pieces, the bits on the floor winked in the moonlight like eyes. He didn't see the remains of the Gluttony-butler but assumed they also lay in the house. He looked to his left, there was the parlor where his nightmare had taken its first terrifying turn. No voices whispered "Murderer" this time, but a fresh bolt of fear shot through him again when a single piano note sounded loudly out of tune. Edward wasted no time in sidling out a gap in the doorway, then he was outside in the warm night air.

The dolphin decorated fountain was in ruins, the once water spouting fish lay in the bottom, broken into large pieces of stone. His heart in his throat,Edward cautiously skirted the basin but Envy didn't appear,and headed up the driveway still laid with crushed oyster shell. It shone brighter because most of the trees which once shaded it were down now, blown down by storms. The ones still standing were dead and they creaked, leafless in the wind. The drive was much shorter than he remembered and he was to the gate before he knew it. The gate was also mostly down, but held up by one last desperate hinge, the rusty metal groaned like it was dying. He walked around it, but just before he stepped onto the road, Edward spun around and looked back once last time at the Faust Clinic.

The place looked like it had been the scene of a battle, the once white paint was mutilated by dark scorch marks and large holes. Most of the roof on one wing was entirely gone, the chimneys all collapsed, shutters either hung askew or were gone entirely, and all the window glass was broken out. It exuded an air of deep and abiding sorrow, as if something once promising and beautiful was gone forever. Edward shivered, but not with malaria. Indeed, he felt fine, better than he had felt in a long time, strong even. His earlier weakness had vanished completely.

A train whistle sounded in the distance and it reminded Edward he still had a long way to go on his journey. He squared his shoulders, set his jaw and started back towards town at a quick walk. Neither Mariebelle, the faceless band nor the town appeared to him again.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
"Wake up, brother."

Edward's eyes snapped open and he slowly sat up in bed when his arm was tugged on. Alphonse put one hand underneath Edward's left elbow and he stood up before he was steered into the bathroom. There Alphonse took off Edward's pajama shirt before he wet a washcloth in warm water he'd already filled the sink with and washed his face, arms, chest and back. While he worked, Alphonse softly hummed a tune, a half-remembered lullaby their mother had sung to them when they were little.

Then Alphonse steered Edward back into the bedroom where he dressed him in clean clothes. Edward sat unmoving and unseeing in a chair while his hair was brushed and gathered up into a high ponytail. Alphonse held a hand mirror up to Edward's face and said in a bright voice, "You're looking very nice today, Brother." But Edward's only movment was a brief twitching of his left cheek and Alphonse sighed in resignation. He shook another pill from the bottle, broke it in half and stowed one half in his pants pocket, the other he set between Edward's lips and then gently tipped a water glass against his teeth until he drank. Alphonse stroked Edward's throat with an index finger until he saw his swallow reflex, then he took his elbow again and got him seated at the table. He took the cover off a china plate containing a steaming mass of scrambled eggs accompanied by fat brown sausages, put a fork into Edward's left hand and urged gently,"Eat your breakfast, Brother."

He turned away to take the Rocketeer's breakfast to him and therefore he didn't see the single tear which erupted from the tear dcut in Edward's right eye and rolled slowly down his face. Edward put food in his mouth, chewed and swallowed automatically so he never noticed it himself.

On the outside.

On the inside.

Siomeone, somewhere...

Deep in Edward's subconscious, the Id and the Ego looked nervously upward at the loud booming noises which came from all about them. A deep crack in the ice began at the shoreline of the pond and rippled all the way across, sending ripples of smaller cracks off to the side. The snow stopped falling and the layer already on the ground began to melt. The clouds shrouding the sky were thinning and the unseen sun struggled to break through.

When Alphonse returned to Edward's room, he uncovered his own breakfast, picked up his fork and then looked over at his brother before he began to eat.

He dropped the fork.

Edward was still eating like an automaton, but his face was covered with tears which rolled down his face and dripped onto his breakfast. The something which gripped Alphonse's heart for the past month loosened its hold and under a sudden impulse, he got up and went around the table to hug his brother and kiss his forehead. He could hardly wait to tell Rose that Edward seemed to be coming out of this terrible walking coma.

WAKE ME UP!



--------------------
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IttyBittyPretty
post Apr 11 2009, 07:03 PM
Post #160


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

{b]disclaimer:[/b] I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for awhile
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: One month has passed since the Thule Society invaded the alchemic world and the invaders have advanced from their base of Lior to occupy the nearest towns. Their next targets are New Optain and East City.
Warnings: violence, death and bad language, maybe sex
Beta: Took-baggins

70. We Have Met The Enemy... (Wir haben die Enemy...)

Lieutenant-Colonel Riza Hawkeye blew a soft sigh before she raised the binoculars up to her eyes and sighted in on the town of New Optain five miles distant. It came in all blurry and her fingers reached over to adjust the focus wheel until it sprang into a sharp definition. Streams of the citys former residents flowed like rivers of humanity from several exits, driving cars and trucks, riding on horseback or in carts, and even walking. The arms of everyone except the very young and the very old were full of their most precious possessions bundled into suitcases or cloth bags, Behind them, the suburbs on the other side of New Optain closer to Lior were already on fire, great columns of black smoke reaching into the clear blue sky.

The occasional explosion could be heard as bits of buildings flew high into the air, and then seconds later was felt as a shock wave of sound; each one startling the streams of refugees, the somewhat neat lines wavering in brief bursts of absolute panic before people resumed their west ward or southward flights. The first few groups who were lucky enough to own cars and even lucker to have enough gas to run them rumbled by the forward lines of the Armed Forces of Amestris. Said automobile occupants looked out the windows at Riza and her unit with faces alternately frightened, resigned, defiant or angry.

Riza was standing on the fender of a military truck, her midsection pressed against its still-warm engine and elbows propped up on the hood to support the binoculars. So far, the enemy was still advancing through the northeastern suburbs of New Optain, they hadn't met any resistance so she didn't understand why they insisted on blowing up people's homes, unless it was to sow so much panic, people would be afraid to fight back. Which wasn't a good idea if the intelligence reports from the varied reconnassance teams were accurate. Best to leave any resisting to the military who were trained and equipped to do so.

It was her job to keep the invaders from coming any closer to East City, although right now she was mostly working on gathering and collating the reams of information coming in about them. Riza sighed again and put the binoculars down, letting the heavy instrument dangle from a thin leather strap which cut into the back of her sweaty neck. It was almost like Ishbal, except this time the Amestrians were on the defensive.

"Lieutenant-Colonel, Ma'am!" She turned sharply to see Captain Kain Feury judder to a stop a foot away and snap an impressive salute, his eyes wide and excited behind his large glasses. Only one or two things would get Feury's attention like that - either he'd managed to find the radio frequency the invaders were using, or one of the recon officers was back with some hot poop - important news in military jargon.

"Who is it, Kain?" Riza was long past the days of bringing military spit 'n polish with her into the field, she saved that for Central Headquarters. But she returned Kain's salute sharply.

"Major Smiley is back from his recon in Lior, Ma'am and he's waiting in your tent to be debriefed."

"At ease, Kain. I'll be right there." She jumped down off the truck fender and started for her tent, but stopped when Kain held out a canteen to her with a solemn half bow.

"You look thirsty, Ma'am." He pushed the canteen closer and Riza took it with a smile and a soft 'thank you' because she really was thirsty, her mouth felt lined with cotton all the way down to her stomach. She wished she could take the canteen and just dump it over her head because the heat, so close to the Great Eastern Desert just sucked all the moisture right out of her skin. But Riza resisted the urge and instead took a long pull of water after removing the canteens stopper, paused to take a breath, then another long pull.

She handed the nearly empty canteen back to Feury. "Thanks Captain, but I have one favor to ask." After Kain's eyebrows shot up in an endearing 'ANYTHING!' move, she continued "Stop calling me Ma'am, just 'Hawkeye' is fine, ok?"

"OK, Riza, um - Ma'am, - um-er, that is..." Feury's face turned brick red as he saluted once, paused, and saluted again before he passed the canteen to his right hand and saluted again with his left hand. "Un - Hawkeye, I mean."

Riza just patted his shoulder before she walked briskly to her tent, her hands reaching up to adjust the clip holding her hair up and off her neck. She was still at it when she ducked slightly to enter the tent to see a tall dark-haired man dressed in civilian clothes, hands clasped behind his back. He paced impatiently like a caged tiger, back and forth behind a low table upon which an olive drab rucksack rested. To his credit, he noticed Riza immediately and snapped promptly to attention, back straight, chin up and gave her a perfectly crisp salute.

"Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkeye! Major James Smiley reporting as ordered- SIR!" His perfect military stance faltered for just a moment as he added weakly, "Er, MA'AM!"

Riza fought back the urge to laugh and instead returned his salute, her features composed into the classic military issue poker face, only a slight twitch on one side of her mouth betraying her amusement "At ease, Major. 'Sir' is fine"

"Thank you, sir." Major Smiley relaxed - only a little - to take his "at ease" stance, legs apart and hands behind his back.

Riza took the opportunity to sit down on a folding canvas chair and she gestured for the Major to do the same. He followed her suggestion with evident relief. He probably hadn't had a chance to truly relax since he'd begun this mission. "Report, Major!"

"SIR!" Smiley barked before he remembered he didn't have to and he softened his tone. "I entered Lior through one of the eastern tunnels at twenty-three hundred hours last Tueday night, reconnoitered the positions of the invaders, their weaponry and their troop strength for twelve days and left the city by a different tunnel at seventeen-hundred hours last evening. I rendezvoused with the Ishbalan Defense Force about eight kilometers outside the city of Lior and they helped me reach New Optain just prior to dawn via a circitous route to avoid invader patrols."

"So you got here not long before they did." Riza crossed her right leg over her left knee and relaxed further into the canvas sling back, but not too far. These chairs had an embarassing habit of falling backwards and tipping startled occupants on to the tent floor.

"It's kind of mortifying, really." Smiley grinned ruefully and rubbed the back of his head. "It was past curfew when I left Lior and I was wondering how it was I made my escape so easily. If I'd stayed a few hours more, I would have witnessed the invaders mustering to march upon New Optain!"

Riza waved a consoling hand, "Not to worry, you got the intel we needed and by the size of your rucksack, it seems there is a lot to see."

"Yes, sir!" Smiley unclasped the rucksack's main compartment. "The invaders seem to be a spick-and-span lot, but there are a few careless ones and I was able to get close to sensitive areas, or the Holy Mother had placed people in position to gather nuggets of information. Her most important placement is a boy she supplied to the invaders to take care of two high-level prisoners."

Smiley continued talking while he brought file after file out of the rucksack, Riza could see they were the buff colored folders the military used, with a stencil of the official state seal: figures of a miner and a farmer over a back ground of an alchemy array, the latter surmounted by the word "FORWARD". There were twelve of them, one for each day Smiley'd been there and Riza knew she'd be burning the midnight oil reading them and digesting the contents so she could brief the HQ brass who were either too impatient to read them, or not smart enough to interpret whatt they read. Possibly both. But then Smiley brought out another stack of folders, also buff colored, but decorated with a strange black cross. The words ACHTUNG!(Attention!) and RESERVAT([Classified) were stamped in thick red letters above and below the cross.

He smiled at Riza's confusion. "I said a few of the invaders were rather careless and the Holy Mother's people ah - 'liberated' a few files, or copied the ones they couldn't make off with. Don't worry about the language, a translation of each file has been typed up and included." He finished emptying out the rucksacks main compartment and opened a smaller compartment which also bulged.

"Oh, and we can stop referring to them as 'invaders'. They call themselves 'Germans'. This will sound rather odd, but they apparently have come here from a parallel Earth on the other side of the Gate."

Riza was still digesting the news about the translations and this next revelation threw her for a loop. She wasn't an alchemist herself, but her father had been a noted practitioner of the art. Her early life was alchemy this, alchemy that, alchemy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He'd been very private about his own research, though and if he'd investigated the theory of parellel worlds, she didn't recall him talking about it. She would need to consult with the senior State Alchemists for more background on this after she returned to East City.

"Sir?" Riza came back to the present to see Smiley holding out an oilskin wrapped packet to her. She shook her head to get her mind back on the here and now before she took the packet and untied the cord around it. "Photographs, ma'am-um-sir of the 'German's' positions and weaponry mostly, plus some of their key people, taken with my buttonhole camera."

He sounded rather pleased with himself and he should be because Smiley had done a very thorough job. All the photographs were clean and sharp and the weapons were taken from multiple angles to show approximate size. The strategy eggheads in Central would be over the moon with delight. Riza flipped over a few more photographs of curious guns(she wouldn't mind owning one of those rifles) and tanks (twice as large as the militarys own) and came to the photograph of a woman. She wasn't bad looking, with short cut blonde hair and Riza guessed, blue eyes. But she was dressed in the most outlandish clothes, the black and white film muted the effect but they must be something to see in person.

It was a darkish color, doubled-breasted suit with shoulder pads of a size Riza had never seen before except on the vainest officers in the days of the old Amestrian Republic one hundred years ago. She'd seen the photographs on the walls of the academy and used to laugh at these long-dead soldiers, but now she was seeing such clothing excess in the present. It was decorated with pale buttons, probably gold-colored and piping of the same shade on the suit's high collar. Riza flipped the photograph over and neatly printed on the lower edge was a name: 'Dietlinde Eckart, leader of the Thule Society'.

"What is this 'Thule Society', Major?"

Smiley picked up on of the Amestrian folders, opened and scanned it before he answered, "This Thule Society is apparently a secret group within the German military who claim their aim is bringin back the 'wisdom of the ancients', um -" he turned a page. "One of my contacts says most of the Society members are also known as 'Nazis', who have this peculiar belief they are descendents of a so-called master race caled 'Aryans'."

Riza snorted derisively, flipped the photograph back and shifted it to the bottonm of the pile before she looked at the next photograph: 'Rudolph Hess'. She kept going. 'Dr. Josef Mengele', 'Hermann Goering', 'Josef Goebbels', 'Klaus Haushoffer'. 'Alfons Heidrech'. She stopped and studied this photograph more closely, Heidreich looked very young, almost like a teenager, with blond hair and obviously blue eyes. But he was the only person, exepting Haushoffer, not in a uniform of some sort, instead he wore civilian clothes of dark pants and suspenders and light colored shirt. Plus, he was the only one who was handcuffed. She gave Smiley a questioning look.

The spy peered over his long nose at the photograph, "Ah, yes. He is one of the Germans, but not an invader. Mr. Heidreich is often referred to as The Rocketeer and seems to be the inventor of the rocket planes the Germans used to cross the portal. Not even the Holy Mother's spies were privy to the exact circumstances, but there was some sort of disagreement and he was brought here against his will. If we could get him out of Lior and interview him, I'm hoping he would spill some important information which will be to our advantage."

Riza nodded and put the Rocketeer's photograph to the bottom of the pile - and stopped - hand in the air and staring,suddenly unable to take a deep breath. That long blond hair in a pony tail, those eerie eyes like the purest gold, there was no mistaking who he was.

Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist.
//////////////////////////////////////////////
Smiley's voice came to Riza as if from far away. "Sir? Sir?! SIR!!"

She returned to her surroundings with an unpleasant jolt because Major Smiley was shaking her shoulders, and none too gently either.

"Sir? Is something wrong?"

Riza flipped the photograph over so he could see the image. "Major, do you know who this man is?"

He shook his head and Riza smiled bitterly. People's memories were so short. "He is Edward Elric, also known as the Fullmetal. He disappeared about the same time Mustang's Rebellion broke out. Once things started to calm down,the Investigations Department scoured the length and breadth of Amestris, but no trace of him was ever found."

Smiley sucked in a quick breath of astonishment. "I am sorry sir, I did not recognize him, but I never knew him personally. I just saw him once or twice around Headquarters, although I heard him yelling often enough." He finished with a wry twitch of his lips. "As well as all the wild stories about his amazing feats of insubordination."

Riza smiled back as if basking in the memory of a small boy in a red coat shouting profanities at Mustang who would lean back,smiling in his chair at the storm of fury he'd just unleashed. Edward knew words no child his age should be exposed to, much less speak. She often wondered why Colonel Mustang never lost it and put the boy over his knee or washed his mouth out with soap.

"You knew him well, sir?"

"Yes, I did Major Smiley, and he was quite a brat."

"I'd always heard he was a wee little fellow, maybe that is why I didn't recognize him right off. He's grown a bit in six years."

Riza turned the photos face back and she scanned it closely. Edward vanished not long after his sixteenth birthday so he would be twenty-two now. He was definately longer in the legs and torso, his hair grown enough to be caught back in a ponytail that swept past his shoulders. But his face and eyes, his features once so alive looked strangely blank, like slates wiped clean. "What is wrong with him, Major? He looks like he's in a trance."

"He is the prisoner the Germans call 'The Puppet' because he is kept in that state by use of a drug code-named 'Puppetmaster'. See the boy next to him? He is Alphonse Rockbell, assogmed by the Holy Mother to look after him."

Riza narrowed her eyes and studied the boy: long hair in a ponytail, but darker than Edward's, the eyes were also darker, but they, plus the nose and mouth were of such a similar shape she was surprised the Germans hadn't noticed the resemblence.

Rockbell my left eye!

He was Alphonse Elric, Edward's younger brother.

So that is what he really looked like and Riza thought Alphonse was a handsome boy. Edward often mentioned his promise to return Alphonse to his real body and he'd obviously kept that promise. Maybe that was the reason for his disappearance. In return for Alphonse's restoration, the Gate flung him into the other world.

She flipped the photograph back towards Major Smiley. "Do you know who this boy is?"

"All I know is what the Holy Mother called him, Alphonse Rockbell."

"She lied." He is Alphonse Elric, the Fullmetal's brother. If you saw Edward, you saw Alphonse right behind him,but he was in an eight foot all suit of armor then."

"Aye," Smiley scratched his head, "I remember always wondering why he wore that armor, it was such a queer thing for a boy to do."

Riza knew she could never tell Smiley the truth, that Alphonse was just a soul bound to that armor. Because that would require her to spill the Elric's darkest secret, their attempt to perform one of two forbidden alchemy rituals: human transmutation. The ancient law mandating the death penalty for offenders was still on the books and the crime didn't have a staute of limitations.

"Alphonse had his - ah - habits, Major." The corners of Riza's lips curled when she said it and the Major looked confused as if not understanding what she meant.

But any further explantation would have to wait when the camp siren sounded so loudly both of them jumped and running footsteps were heard outside her tent. "Lieutenant-Colonel, Sir!"

"Enter!"

Captain Feury entered, saluted and snapped out his report. "Sir! The balloon watch has reported the approach of the invader's planes from the eastern flank! Sir!" He saluted again, and Riza returned it before she rapped out her ordes.

"Call battle alert, Feury! Make sure the howitzer crews are ready! Dismissed!" Feury saluted again before he spun on one heel and raced away. Riza quickly re-wrapped the stack of photographs in the oilskin and retied it while Smiley hastily shoved all the files back into the rucksack. The photos went back into their compartment which Smiley secured before he stood up, throwing the straps over one shoulder.

"Get back to Central as fast as you can with this, Major." She returned his salute before both left the tent, she turned left and he went right. The droning sound of the jet plane engines could be heard approaching fast, they must have looped around New Optain in an attempt to launch a surprise attack. Almost as soon as the thought crossed her mind, the howitzers opened up, shaking the ground as they roared defiance. The blasts were answered with a burst of machine gun fire from one plane that shredded the observation balloon into tattered grey cloth. The other sent small geysers of ground flying around the howitzers and Riza saw men fall.

OH! NO! Riza's first thoughts were for the two men in the balloon, who she was helpless to save. They tried to jump out with their parachutes, but the collapsing balloon came down too fast as the basket plunged earthwards. But at the same time, Riza saw light and heard a crackling sound just as the ground heaved up and re-formed into two gigantic hands with cupped palms facing upwards. They caught the falling basket and stopped its mad fall, then gently lowered it and the two men inside to the ground. Almost immediately after, another burst of alchemic light shot heavenwards and it caught the plane after it came around for a second sweep. Both of the craft's wings suddenly flew off in different directions and it plunged almost straight down. The crash shook the ground like an earthquake and a massive fireball erupted. Riza instinctively shielded her face from the blast of light and heat it released.

The second plane zipped by overhead and she saw it make a wide, lazy turn in the air over New Optain. One of the howitzer crew could be heard shouting "Be ready! It's coming back!" The plane was impossibly fast and it dipped lower as it approached to camp, as if to start another strafing run and Riza ran for cover behind the truck she'd observed the town from only an hour before. But there were no bursts of machine gun fire this time,just a brief unearthly silence before the bomb it dropped exploded next to the howitzers. The truck bounced into the air and seemed to fly apart and Riza was sent flying, something - perhaps a piece of metal struck her head and she landed hard upon her left shoulder. Intense pain flooded her nervous system and she cried out once before she blacked out.
///////////////////////////////////////////////
The pain was still with Riza when she came to, her head felt like it was split open and she couldn't see after her eyelids fluttered open. "Unnhh!" Something was stinging and she closed them again, Even though she couldn't see, Riza could hear fire crackling, men shouting, the thump of boots on the ground and vehicle engines. She winced when she tried to take a deep breath.

"Don't move, sir, you've been badly hurt." Major Smiley's voice held an edge of concern. "We're evacuating you and the rest of the wounded back to East City."

"I thought I told you to go and get that intel to Central, Major." Riza tried to put some steel into her voice but the effort was too much and she nearly passed out again. She rested a bit, and then gritted her teeth. "Major? Just how bad is 'badly hurt'?"

"You were struck on the head, just below the hair line by a piece of that truck. Fortunately, it didn't pierce that hard skull of yours, but you're bleeding quite a bit. That's why you can't see, there is blood in your eyes. A few of your riibs are either cracked or broken, you've probably got a concussion, plus it looks like your left shoulder is dislocated. If your Captain could hold you up into a sitting position, I could pop the joint right back in."

Riza started to nod until she thought better. "Let's do it."

Feury held her up and gave support from behind while Smiley first gave her a piece of cloth to bite down on, and then he put one hand on her loose shoulder joint. "On the count of three Captain," Riza braced herself. "One. Two. THREE!" Both men pushed with all their strength and Riza screamed into the cloth, but she felt the 'pop' of the joint going back into its socket before she went limp again.
//////////////////////////
She woke up in a hospital bed the third time. Riza lay still and and let consciousness gradually flood back. The ward was so quiet compared to the hellish atmosphere of the camp had in the aftermath of the attack. The silence was shocking and almost hurt her ears. Any pain she might feel was just a dull ache in the background, Riza looked to her left and saw an intravenous tube stuck in her hand, morphine most likely to judge by how 'floaty' she felt. Rixa could also feel something was wrapped tightly around her head and her midsection, plus her right leg seemed to be restrained. She shifted the leg to the left and the pressure eased, then sheets rustled and the pressure returned. Riza moved the leg back an inch and she heard a soft growl in response.

She dared to raise her head and found herself looking at two deep brown eyes set in a furry black and white face. "Hayate!" The dog responded to his name by lolling his tongue out in a big canine smile. He shuffled forward closer to her face and whined before that tongue shot out and licked her chin. She pulled her right hand back and out from beneath the covers to stroke the soft fur between his ears. "Hayate" she said again, but more gently. The bed shook slightly as his tail thumped it.

"Hayate missed you so I brought him along from Central, Major Smiley helped me pull rank to get him past the nurses. Those military types are really strict about pets in the hospital y'know."

She never thought she'd hear that voice again and her breath caught after she looked right and saw blue uniform through a mist of tears prickling her eyes. Riza moved her right hand up to grasp the white - gloved hand when it began to brush those tears away.

"Sir."

Author's note: Major James Smiley's name is a cross between two of the best known literary spies: James Bond and George Smiley (Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy, et al). If I had wanted to, I could have given him a couple middle names to possibly shoehorn in "Bulldog" Drummond and Folly of the Yard. (sorry,inside joke).

The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Author's note: Assume another month has passed and the Thulists have consolidated their hold upon Lior. Now they are expanding their territory, first by taking over the towns closest to Lior and then the city of New Optain. Their conquest of the eastern sector of Amestris is almost complete, except for the biggest prize, the provincial capitol of East City.
Warnings: violence, death, bad language, worse German and maybe sex
Beta: Took-baggins
Another author's note: This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Ed x Winry fanfic author extraordinate Serenanna. Rest in peace.

Chapter 71: The Lights Are Going Out (Die Lichter gehen)

The battle for East City started with a bang. About six in the morning, a group of six German jet planes swooped in from out of the rising sun over the suburbs. After one pass over the city, they made a wide turn and commenced a bombing and strafing run. The streets were crowded with people going to work or waiting for busses or trains, and they were helpless targets. Wthin five minutes, bodies were scattered everywhere, and the citizenry was in an an uproar. The raid was over after twenty minutes of terror and confusion, the enemy planes flying back the way they'd come.

Save the rumbling of shattered buildings falling, the roars of many fires breaking out and the screams of panicked citizens, a sickly silence fell over East City.

General Hakuro was in over his head, not that he'd admit it. He sat motionless at his desk and hyperventilated while the phones on his desk rang and rang. Outside in the hall were the sounds of running footsteps and yelling soldiers, although it seemed to come from far away. In Hakuro's defense, his lack of action wasn't entirely his fault, he'd been watching new recruits marching on the parade ground from his office windwo when the raid began. So he had a front row seat to men and women either gunned down or blown into bloody bits.

When the window was blown in by a bombs shockwave, he'd been knocked clear across the room. Stunned and with the wind knocked out of him, he'd just lalin there for a few minutes before he got up and returned to his desk. The heavy piece of furniture was studded with shards of glass from the window and the force of the blast had moved it two or three feet, but it managed to stay upright. He picked up the rolling swivel chair, set it back on its legs and picked glass out of the padded leather seat before he sat down again.

There he stayed, frozen with shock as blood trickled from his punctured eardrums until his adjutant discovered him. When the General refused to reply, or even acknowledge the man's presence, the adjutant took over to answer the phones and take damage reports from all the city sectors. When the captain of the day watch came to find out why Hakuro wasn't issuing orders, the adjutant gladly ceded control to him. He put one hand underneath Haukuro's left elbow and tugged until the General looked up.

"You're hurt, sir. Come with me to the infirmary," he mouthed slowly so Hakuro could read his lips. Grateful someone was takinig him away from the sounds of screaming and sirens, the General smiled and nodded before he stood up and allowed himself to be steered out of his office.
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Lieutenant-General Raven was not a happy camper. A tall, broad man with dark hair and beard shot through with grey, he clasped his fingers together and leaned back in his chair, his grey eyes narrowed. First he glared at the two inch high stack of reports on his desk, before he turned his rapier sharp gaze on some nervous junior officers.

"These Germans are very efficient at making war. Their main strikes were on vital city infrastructure - East Headquarters, the main railroad station, bridges, communications towers and major roads. The slaughter of innocent civilians were just icing on their cake." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers, "This attack was carefully planned to damage vital city services and sow the most amount of terror in a short time. They succeeded admirably."

The junior officers knew better than to interrupt Raven and they kept their mouths shut, although a few did gulp audibly.

"The question is, how do we stop them?"

"Uh, sir?" A recently minted captain raised his hand. "An alchemist succeeded in bringing one of their planes down at New Optain, and -"

"AND WHAT!?" The furious Raven roared at a volume that could have broken plate glass. "That was just luck, the alchemist's timing was perfect. To make the situation worse, there wasn't much left of the plane for our tame geeks to analyze. We need a weapon which can match the speed of those things, otherwise we are just sitting ducks like those recruits on the parade ground at East Headquarters. Poor bastards never had a chance."

The chastened captain stared at his feet and wished he could sink through the floor, but he looked up when Raven growled "The answer isn't down there, you idiot."
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Alphonse ducked his head in a vain attempt to shield his face from the dust blowing into it as the staff car raced along the twisting suburban streets of East City. All around him was the damage wrought by the early morning German raid: crashed automobiles, ruined houses (most of them in flames) and the blood soaked bodies of those who'd been killed by either bullets or bomb shrapnel. The car suddenly swerved to avoid a bomb crater and Alphonse's right elbow banged painfully against a door. But the car couldn't avoid the obstacle completely and tire caught the edge of the crater. The car jounced hard and Alphonse flew a few inches off the seat before he banged his head against Edward's.

Colorful stars danced in front of his eyes and he muttered several curse words under his breath while holding his aching skull with both hands. On the seat directly oppsite, Alfons Heidereich held the edge of the leather in a death grip, his teeth clenched and his face unnaturally pale. The speed at which the car hurtled along was bad enough, but the shaking was giving him motion sickness. Alfons swallowed hard and fought back the urge to vomit but he couldn't take much more of this. At least he hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so he wouldn't have much to lose if he tossed his cookies now.

Alphonse had woken him up before dawn and told him he had to get dressed because they were being moved. The streets outside were alive with the rumbling of trucks and tanks and activity only increased in volume as the sun peeped over the eastern horizon. He'd spashed water on his face and jammed blueprints into two large leather cylinders, suffering several paper cuts in his haste. Alphonse left the connecting door open and when he saw his caretaker dresssing the Puppet, Heidreich called out in English "What is the hurry Alphonse?"

Barely had the words left his mouth when the door to his room burst open to reveal Sargeant Braun and two grim-faced soldiers holding rifles. "Mach schnell!" [Make speed!] the big man shouted before he grabbed Alfon's left wrist and clicked a handcuff closed around it.

"Hey!" Alfons yelled in angry surprise before his other wrist was also cuffed. Braun always made the cuffs too tight, he would have furrows dug into the flesh by the time they were finaly removed. The two soldiers grabbed Alfons by each arm and hustled him out of the room at a swift jog. "My blueprints!" he twisted his neck and tried to look back.

"I have them, Rocketeer, don't you worry! Just get moving!" the Sargeant ordered, so Alfons concentrated on keeping up with his escorts without his feet getting tangled up.

He was practically tossed head first into the back of an open air staff car and he'd barely gotten himself back upright on his seat before Alphonse entered the vehicle, his hand under the Puppet's left elbow. Sargeant Braun tossed his containers of blueprints and some other bags into the trunnk, slammed it shut and banged a meaty hand on the metal. "GO!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs.

An engine roared and wheels spun until they caught and the car leaped forward so fast both Alphonse and the Puppet were knocked off their feet. Both bounced on their seats and very nearly out of the car altogether. After just a week in New Optain, they were on their way to East City in a hurry.
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"Where is his collar and leash!?" a hard-faced man demanded after the car slewed to a stop in front of a hotel in East Citiys historic district. The man rattled the question so fast in German, Alphonse didn't understand at first and he received a brutal slap which made his ears ring. "Lieutenant Hess wants the Puppet collared and leashed. They're in this bag, so get them on quickly!" Braun shoved a leather valise into Alphonse's arms. His left cheek stil burning, Alphonse set it on the car fender, opened it and rummaged around before he found the two pieces of leather. He put the collar around Edward's neck and buckled it with great reluctance, then snapped on the leash. Hess snatched it from Alphonse's hands so fast the skin was reddened. He tugged hard on it.

"Stand up!" Hess ordered and Edward did so, his back bowed slightly from the pressure Hess exerted on the leash. "Come here!" He began to climb out of the car, but Hess was too impatient and yanked even harder, causing Edward to stumble and fall to his knees on the concrete. Without thinking, Alphonse leapt forward and put one hand under Edward's elbow to help him back to his feet. He turned his head and glared at Hess for a heartbeat befjore he remembered he wasn't to look the Thulists right in the eye. He dropped his gaze to the ground and stood very still, his heart hammering.

The fingers of Hess's free hand twitched towards the holstered gun on hsi left hip, as if he was considering shooting the boy for his temerity. Eventually he settled for just snorting. "COME!" he jerked hard on the leash and Edward followed obediently, but Hess suddenly stopped and addressed Braun.

"Sergeant! Have that boy flogged!" Then he turned smartly on his heel and walked away, pulling the Puppet behind him.
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Half an hour later, Alphonse lay face down and weeping in pain on the tiled floor of an inner courtyard. The Thulists had taken over one of the best hotels in East City, assigning the Rocketeer, the Puppet and their Caretaker to ajoining rooms on the fifth floor. But first, two soldiers dragged Alphonse into this open space, stripped him to the waist and then held him down over a round concrete table. A third soldierr rolled up his sleeves and put all his strength into flogging Alphonse with a leather whip. Sixteen lashes in all, one for each year of his life. He'd bitten his lips and refused to scream until the eighth lash, and he was barely conscious after the twelveth.

He woke up with a cry of pain after a bucket of cold water was thrown against his bleeding back and the flogging continued. Just four more lashes, Alphonse thought. If Brother could handle the pain of automail, I can be brave too. But it took everything he had to stay conscious and his teeth shredded the tender skin of his lip until it bled, lines of red snaking down his chin and dripping on the tiles.

The soldiers released him and he slumped to the ground before pitching over on one side and finally turning face first. His back burned like fire and the pain was inescapable, taking a deep breath just made him want to scream. So Alphonse tried to breathe shallowly, but the pain persisted, making him exhale in soft moans like a dying animal. Even the slightest movement of air hurt the cuts and he nearly passed out when a breeze struck up. It dried the sweat on his face, but made the pain pulse like white lights behind his closed eyes. Only peripherally was he aware of someone standing next to him. He slowly, very slowly turned his head to his left and opened his eyes. A pair of scuffed brown shoes badly in need of polishing were planted next to his head. Alphonse shifted his gaze upward to see blue eyes staring down out of a mask of horror mixed with pity and concern.
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Alfons Heidreich felt sick to his stomach. How could one country nuture people capable of great beauty alongside those capable of such brutality? This was not the rational German mind, instead this was madness at it's most illogical. Sargeant Braun told him the Caretaker was "only" a Shambalan, a sub-human being fit only to serve the Aryan "Master race", but Alfons refused to countenance it. The Caretaker, his doppelganger, was his friend. He was fully human, intelligent and kind, with desires and dreams like Heidreich had. Hadn't he learned to speak tolerable German in less than a week? This ability to speak a foreign language that quickly proved the Thulists underestimated him. Alphonse Rockbell didn't deserve to be treated like this.

"Can you stand up?" Alphonse groaned at the thought of moving. But he cautiously nodded his assent before he raised slowly up to his hands and knees.

Heidreich knelt down and awkwardly put his arms around Alphonse's body, trying not to touch the bloody lash marks. He turned parallel and tried to put Alphonse's left arm over his shoulder, but that proved to be a mistake when the boy uttered a scream which he quickly bit back. "Put it around my waist , Alphonse." Heidreich waved his right hand around for a moment before he settled for just clenching the waistband of Alphonse's pants in his fist. He took one small step forward and stopped, waiting for Alphonse to move. He finally did with a sort of shuffle because bending his knees caused certain muscles in his back to shift, which moved the lash-torn skin and...

It seemed to take forever for the two of them to get from the courtyard to the main hotel lobby. The staff was going about it's business, but frowns and glares radiated from faces stiff with anger and resentment. Heidreich knew they hated him too even if he didn't have a gun,he was an invader and unwanted. But he approached the concierge anyway, a tall dignified man with thick salt and pepper hair and goatee. "Excuse me, please. He needs a doctor badly, could you please contact one?" The man didn't respond for a moment while he scowled at Heidreich, then his head moved in a barely preceptible nod before he spun sharply on one heel and walked away.

A dark haired bellboy wearing glasses and dressed in a smart red jacket and black pants approached with a wheeled chair. Alphonse settled gratefully in it, perching on the front edge because lounging against the back was out of the question. The muscles of Heidreich's right shoulder were going numb and he massaged it with his left hand after he set his burden down. The bellboy mumured "Come this way, sir" as he got behind the chair and pushed it across the marble floored lobby to a door made of graceful curlicues of brass set into a paneled wall. It led to an elevator and the bellboy pushed the outer brass door, and then an inner door of softly glowing wood open. He reclosed the doors after they were inside, and produced a key attached to a long gold chain from one pocket and inserted it into a control panel, before he pushed a lever and the elevator began to move.

The trio all faced the doors, none of them speaking or looking at each other while the elevator rose smoothly to the fifth floor. The bellboy pulled the handle back and opened the doors, but allowed Heidrech to exit first before following him with the chair. He apparently had a master key to all the rooms because he produced a large skeleton key of silver colored metal from a pants pocket and inserted it into the keyhole of Room Five-ten. Again he let Heidreich pass first through the door before he wheeled the chair next to the closest bed and supported Alphonse. The boy got slowly out of the chair and crawled forward to lay face-down on the velour coverlet. Heidreich didn't have any money to tip the bellboy so he just nodded and mumbled "thank you very much."

The corners of the bellboy's lips quirked upward briefly before his face resumed its polite mask. He bowed to Heidrech, then whirled the chair around and left the room. "Alphobnse, is there anything I can do?" Alphonse's only answer was a low groan. He could have been saying "No", but he also could have been groaning in pain. Heidreich could fix a broken rocket engine, but he felt so helpless in the face of his friend's agony. Not sure what to do, he entered the bathroom and rummanged through a cabinet underneath the sink, where he found a metal basin. He filled it with hot water, then collected a washcloth and some towels before returning to the main room.

A knock sounded on the door and he called out "Come in" while setting the basin on the bedside table. The door swung open and middle aged man with unruly black hair, as if he'd just rolled out of bed, entered the room. His hair was shot through with grey and his mouth and eyes were bracketed with deep lines. Even his rumbpled and none too clean clothes looked tired. A scuffed leather case which had seen better days was clutched in his right hand. He nodded as if in approval at Heidreich's preparations.

"Do you speak Amestrian?"

"Ames- oh, you mean English?" Heidreich stammered in his gratitude to the doctor.

"English?"

"That is what the language is called in my world," Heidreich hastened to explain, he felt very awkward in his presence.

"Aren't you with the Thulists? the doctor cocked his head and spoke in a sly voice, Heidreich had the sense the man was pumping him for information, but maybe it was just his imagination. He grinned and ruffled the hair on the back of his head self consciously.

"Um, not exactly. You see, I invented the rockets they used, but I didn't think they'd use them to invade another world. They took me prisoner when I objected. Um -" he hesitated and stuck out his right hand. To his surprise, the man transferred the bag to his left hand before taking hold of Heidreich's and shaking it. "My name is Alfons Heidreich, I'm, uh - very glad you came, my friend is in a lot of pain."

Heidreich didn't know why he was babbling so much, nor even why he was telling a complete stranger these things. Just his nerves, he assumed and decided not to worry about it.

"I can see that," the doctor's voice was wry as if he'd seen it all and nothing fazed him. He bent to inspect the lash marks on Alphonse's back and the lines on his face deepened into tiny ravines. "What the hell? Was he WHIPPED!?"

"Yes, he was."

"For WHAT!? He's just a kid!"

"He gave Lieutenant Hess a very dirty look, because, ah, Hess was treating the Puppet roughly."

The doctor shook his head. "Stupid, stupid, stupid. Well, lets get started on relieving his pain, does the sight of blood bother you? No? Good." He set his bag on the bed, opened it and took out a stethoscope, a bottle of clear liquid and a syringe. "By the way, my name is Knox, Dr. Knox."
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Knox was finished barely a quarter of an hour later. He gave Alphonse an injection of morphine so Heidreich could dab up the clotted blood with the wet washcloth and dry off the moisture with towels. Then he swabbed an antibiotic creme over the wounds and lightly bandaged them. Alphonse was drowsy, blinking his eyes in an effort to stay awake, but gradually losing the battle. Dr. Knox replaced his instruments and closed the bag with a loud snap. "He'll sleep the rest of the night and I'll come tomorrow morning to change the bandages. I'll also bring some morphine in pill form for him."

He began to walk towards the door, but stopped and looked straight at Heidreich, "You ever think about being a nurse? You've got a talent for caring for people."

Heidreich blinked in surprise at the question. A NURSE!? Heaven forbid! He preferred to be wrist deep in machine oil, not blood. He finally found his voice and winced inwardly at the squeak in it, "No, I'm actually not very good with people. So I'm an engineer!"

"Pity, that's a great pity," Dr. Knox shook his head but he was smiling. "You'd make a great nurse."

He opened the door, walked through and closed it behind him with a firm bang. The doctor had a larger than life presence and the room seemed unnaturally quiet now. Heidreich was left alone with his thoughts and he just sat on the edge of Alphonse's bed for a moment before he got up and poured the basin of now lukewarm and reddish water down the bathroom sink. He then gathered up and stuffed the bloody washcloth and towels into a laundry hamper. Sunlight slanted sharply through a south window, telling Heidreich the day was well advanced. They'd missed breakfast and now lunch. His stomach growled loudly as if reminding him how empty it was.

Heidreich suddenly remembered his blueprints, he hoped Braun had brought them upstairs. There was a door at the far end of the main room, and he opened to find himself in another room of the same size and layout: tiny sitting area, a table in a nook by a window and two beds. The long leather cases containing his blueprints rested on one of the two beds in the room, a leather valise which he knew held some clothes and few toiletries was at its foot. He busied himself in putting them away either into the drawers of a dresser made of dark wood, or onto the sink vanity in the bathroom. All while he worked, he'd been conscious of dull thuds sounding since he'd entered the room. Now he looked out the window to see a cloiud of black smoke billow up into the sky. It had been a clear blue that morning, but the sky had become overcast, not with clouds, but with smoke rising from dozens of locations all around East City.

So that's why Hess took the Puppet, he sat on the edge of one bed and mused as he stared out at East City. They wanted him for battle. A squirming bolt of blue lightning shot up from street level just then a few miles away, and another loud thud sounded, muffled by the thick walls of the hotel. Something big was under attack, he saw black smoke punctuated by flames rising, more explosions sounded and a shuddering roar loud enough to shake the floor resounded. A part of that something had just collapsed and he remembered the twisted, animalistic face of the Puppet from that morning in Lior. Heidreich had no doubt he was responsible for it.
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Not until dusk darkened the eastern sky did he hear footsteps approaching in the hall outside. someone knocked loudly on the door and announced "Dinner!" in a cheery voice. Heidreich opened the door and a stout man with short reddish hair wheeled in a large wooden cart loaded with china plates under silver covers. The stranger, dressed in a stained white coat and black trousers looked over at Alphonse who lay unmoving and snoring, on his stomach. He looked at Heidreich before jerking one thumb over his shoulder. "What happened to him?"

"He was flogged for glaring at an officer."

The man did a double take and managed to look shocked, "No ....?" Tough army you got here, bub."

Heidreich laughed harshly in reply. "It's not my army. I'm just their prisoner. Hell, I don't even recognize my fellow Germans any more."

The man nodded, as if sagely before he laughed and clapped Heidreich so hard on the back he was nearly knocked to his knees. "It's a weird world, ain't it? Eat hearty now before it all gets cold!"

He turned away and walked to the door, then opened it and gave Heidreich a sketchy wave before he re-closed it with a bang. Once he was sure the strange man was gone, Heidreich lifted each cover one by one to reveal a small feast: pork chops, beefsteak, glazed carrots, new peas in butter sauce, mashed potatoes, rich brown gravy, roast turkey, creamed spinach, and whole kernal corn. A pile of three plates, plus a box of silverware, a jug of water and three glasses sat on the cart's lower shelf. Heidreich transferred all of the plates to the square wooden table set up in the nook beforehe took one empty plate and a fork and helped himself to a little of everything.

He was very hungry, starving even and he ate every scrap on the plate, washing the food down with plenty of water. He wished he could have had some beer instead, a chilled Bavarian lager would have been most welcome about now. If the kitchen steward returned, he would have to ask if Amestrians brewed beer. Heidreich, you idiot, of course they do! He mentally chided himself. Any civilized country has breweries.
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Not long after darkness fell, Braun and two soldiers returned with the Puppet, the latter pair dragging his limp body between them. The Sargeant looked at Alphonse and shook his head while the soldiers dumped the thin blond onto the bed. Heidreich sat at the table and watched, but went over to speak with Braun after the soldiers left. "If the Caretaker is hurt, who will look after the Puppet?

The Puppet sprawled on the bed, looking absolutely exhausted> His eyes were closed and he breathed in short gasps as if he'd been running for miles. His skin, hair and clothes were streaked with dirt, his clothes torn and stained. "You will have to, Heidreich" Braun growled and the younger man recoiled as if in shock. Care for the murderer of his friends?! NEVER!

Braun jerked his head towards the bathroom. "Run a bath and I'll carry him in for you."

Heidreich had no choice but to obey. He went and ran a bath of warm water in the tub and set out towels and a washcloth. A few minutes later, Braun brought in the Puppet who lay slumped over his shoulder like a wet sock. The Sargeant had already taken off his shoes and pants. Together they removed the rest of his clothes before Braun lowered him into the water which immdiately turned black. If Braun hadn't been there, Heidreich would barely have hesitated before he pushed the Puppet's head under the water and held it there until he drowned.

But now he obediently wet a washcloth, rubbed soap on it and then scrubbed the Puppet's face. The skin underneath the dirt was very pale, with a grey undertone to it. Dark purple circles made the skin around his eyes lookd bruised. Heidreich got a glass from on the sink and used it to wet the Puppet's hair, he lathered it with shampoo and rinsed three times before the blond hair looked clean. The Puppet woke up slightly, and he watched them with narrowed yellow eyes. But he made no move except for weak attempts to grab the soap and put it into his mouth.

"He's hungry," Braun grunted with satisfaction. "That's a good sign. After he collapsed for the third time, I thought Eckart had killed him for sure. Mengele is coming next week to examine the Puppet and I expect there will be some 'words' between the two for the way she's been treating him. Because he doesn't react normally, it's easy to treat him like just another machine. But he's mortal, just like us and has his limits."

By the time they finished with the bath, the Puppet was able to stand, if a bit shakily. He climbed out of the tub with Braun's help and stood quietly while his hair and body were toweled dry. Heidreich was sent to rummage in the bags which stood haphazardly about the room to find pajamas. They led him to the wooden table once he was dressed and sat him down. To Heidreich's relief, Braun fed the Puppet after first cutting some beefsteak into small pieces. He put one piece at a time into his mouth and watched him chew like an automotan. "He's exhausted and his body needs protein" was his reasoning for feeding the Puppet mostly meat. Although he did get some glazed carrots into him before the blond head finally slumped until chin touched chest.

"He should have another dose of the Puppetmaster drug, but he's fallen asleep and it's not worth waking him up." Braun said between bites as he ate the remaining food. Heidreich realized while he was cooling his heels at the hotel, Sargeant Braun had been in the thick of battle all day and he was probably starving, a pity the food was probably cold by now. The Puppet had been put to bed and he lay on his back, breathing deeply and evenly, a bomb going off in the hall wouldn't have wakened him. Heidreich pulled the covers up to the Puppet's chin and resisted the urge to smother him with one of the pillows.

"You have to go to your room now, Rocketeer." Heidreich knew better than to argue with Sargeant Braun who could have snapped him in half like a dry twig. He heard a key turn in the lock once the door closed and he suddenly felt so weary as if he'd been fighting too. He washed his face and cleaned his teeth before stripping off his clothes and pulling on his pajamas. He realized the overhead light was still on after he crawled into bed, and half decided to leave it on. But after experimenting with some buttons built into the nightstand, he found one which turned the light off.

Heidreich smiled to himself in the darkness. Well, this WAS a luxury hotel.

He laid back with his hands behind his back and watched the glow of distant fires through the half-closed curtains. The reflection of reddish colors danced upon the opposite wall, like the anger in his heart. Just on the other side of that door was the man he wanted to kill, and Alphonse wasn't in any shape to stop him from exacting vengeance. Heidreich sighed, closed his eyes and drifted off into an indifferent slumber.
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Heidreich woke up late the next morning to the buzz of voices in the next room. He sat up and rubbed sleep out of his eyes before looking out the window. The sky was a perfect periwinkle blue with only a few puffy clouds riding high. Trickles of grey smoke still rose from the city, but it looked almost peaceful now. In the near distance was the half ruined shell of the building he'd seen under attack yesterday. A green banner bearing the strange sigil of Amestris hung from the front of it, but as Heidreich watched, the banner suddenly detached from the roof and floated down. Almost before it vanished from sight behind other buildings, figures on the roof unrolled a new banner - black, red and white - a gigantic swastika flowed over the buildings facade.

East City had fallen.

The connecting door popped open and another man in the uniform of a kitchen steward poked his head in. This man was shorter, but thinner, with sunken cheeks and grey hair. "Breakfast is served," he announced in a dignified voice before retreating like a turtles head into its shell. Heidreich washed and dressed quickly before following. He was glad to see Alphonse was awake, and propped up on one elbow while eating bacon and eggs from a plate set before him.

"Good morning, Hei!" his voice sounded brighter as he waved his fork in the air, but pain was hiding just behind his eyes. Heidreich still felt his heart lift a bit and he returned the greeting.

Heidreich looked over at the Puppet who was curled into a fetal position on his left side, and he looked to be in a deep sleep. His eyelids were still shadowed and he decided not to wake him until after he'd eaten his own breakfast.

He'd finishied eating half an hour later and the trio were alone in the room. Dr. Knox had kept his promise about the morphine pills. He'd come in to change Alphonse's bandages, a tense affair of gritted teeth. Alphonse was trying to be brave, but little grunts of pain escaped from between his scabbed lips. He was pale and sweating after the new bandages were applied, but had the manners to offer Dr. Knox breakfast. But he just set down a squat brown bottle, grabbed a piece of buttered toast and hurried off as he munched it. Alphonse took two of the pills before laying back down and he was already dozing off, eyelids flickering over soft brown eyes.

He would soon be fast asleep and Heidreich could finally avenge the deaths of his colleagues.

"Alfons?" The boy asked in a breathy voice soft with sleep. "Can I trust you with a secret, Alfons?"

Heidreich's heart began to thud in his chest. He could feel his windpipe constricting and his next breath came out with a faint wheeze. So he just nodded because he didn't think he could speak.

"I lied to you, Alfons. My last name isn't Rockbell, it's Elric. Alphonse Elric."

Heidreich's heart sank, right down to the soles of his feet it seemed.

"The Puppet - Edward, he is..." the boy paused briefly when a spasm of pain hit, he continued speaking after it passed.."...my older brother."

The engineer hung his head. His soul still cried out for vengeance, but he couldn't kill the Puppet. Not now. Not ever.

Heidreich swallowed hard and nodded. "We are friends, Alphonse. I will keep your secret."

Author's note: Did everyone recognize the bellboy and the two kitchen stewards? I also used two manga-only characters. First Lieutenant-General Raven, who hopefully isn't the venal and arrogant character he was at Briggs Fortress. Secondly, Dr. Knox, who saw action in Ishbal with Mustang; he later helps the Flame Alchemist save Sgt Maria Ross, and then saves the life of Ran Fan after she's injured by Wrath. (Plus he keeps her and Mei-Chan from killing each other under his roof). He's also tortured by the things he did in Ishbal, but not to the point Dr. Marcoh is.



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IttyBittyPretty
post May 15 2009, 08:59 AM
Post #161


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Warning: bad language, violence and death; may be sex.
Beta: Took-baggins

Chapter 72: Pause (Verharren)

"At ease!"

Grupenfuhrer August Xavier Franz Bauer relaxed his body slightlly, legs apart and hands behind his back. His chin remained up, his hawk-like grey eyes staring straight ahead at a point on the wall just above Dietlinde Eckart's head. A foot behind him and a few inches to either side, his adjutants, Otto Remigius von Augsburg and Hans Christian Jungbeck stood in the same positions. They stared straight ahead at the birds flitting outside the window of East Headquarters and waited. There was no nervous shuffling or coughing from anyone in the room.

"Do you have your report prepared, Grupenfuhrer?"

Bauer flicked his gaze to Dietlinde's, their eyes caught and held. He didn't look away. How he loathed this woman, and he knew she knew it. Her opinion of hm was equally as low, but he didn't care. No emotion showed on his face nor in his body language, he was too well trained for that. It was his personal opnion women should stay in their proper spere: kirche,kiche,kinder(House,church,children). Women should not be interfering in the business of men. Those who stepped outside their God-ordained roles were unnatural creatures and real men should avoid them at all costs.

Except - Hitler put her in command and I must obey.

"This is NOT Shambala, Fraulein Eckart. If this were Shambala, war would be unknown, the people gentle and loving, helpless to defend themselves." He took a deep breath. "Within a quarter of an hour I knew we were facing battled-hardened troops. They were not afraid to fight and they did it very well."

Dietlinde laced her fingers together and propped her chin on the intertwined hands. She cocked her head as her lips curved into a poisonous smile. "But we still overwhelmed them, Grupenfuhrer, didn't we?"

"But not without casualties, Fraulein. Even without air defenses, even though their tanks were no match for ours, they still managed to draw blood."

"Ah, yes," Dietlinde pretended to show interest in the fingernails of her right hand. "My sympathies on the loss of General Kihrmeijer, that must have quite a shock."

Bauer gritted his teeth and fought the urge to pull his service pistol and shoot her. He'd served under General Kihrmeijer in the Great War when he was just a raw seventeen year old recruit in 1912 till the Armistice of 1919. The General was to have retired after the Conquest of Shambala to his Bavarian estate where he bred and raised parrots, but now he'd return in a pine box. Bauer bit the inside of his cheek to keep the tears at bay, death in battle was always a given, but this was so unexpected. One minute they had the enemy on the run, the next, General Kirhmeijer was reeling back into Bauer's arms. He'd died instantly by the bullet of an enemy sniper, a neat little red hole drilled dead center into his forehead.

"We lost a quarter of our forces, Fraulein, most dead but some were captured. Add the number of wounded to that and we will need fresh reinforcements from Germay if we are to continue advancing. I understand our Fuhrer has his own goals in Europe for which he needs a certain troop strength."

Dietlinde didn't seem to like that as her face turned hard as stone instantly. After orienting themselves in Lior, the Thule Army quickly spread out to take more territory in the strategy known as blitzkrieg, or' lightning war'. Attack quickly and hard, never let the enemy have a chance to catch its breath, keep moving forward, keep them on the defensive with no time to make a stand. But it had it's limitattions in the alchemic world, the resistance of the enemy was stiffening and they'd nearly stopped the Thulists in East City.

"Fuhrer Hitler has promised us two whole SS battalions to replace the wounded, who will be evacuated back to Germany. As well as more rocket planes, plus tanks and heavy artillery. The attack on Central will proceed as scheduled, so you may return to your troops and tell them the good news. We have your written report to discuss, so you are dismissed."

This time, a dangerous light did leap into Bauer's eyes. He struggled mightily to contain a thick sludge of anger that boiled in his veins, and only his scarred left cheek twitched. His right arm snapped up into the Nazi salute as three pairs of boot heels clicked. "Heil Hitler!" came strongly from three throats and were answered by Eckart and the others with her. Bauer and his two adjutants moved as one to pivot neatly in a half circle, the latter briefly hung back until their leader was exactly two strides in front.

The great wooden doors were opened by the soldiers guarding them. Bauer made a hard left turn in the hall and his adjutants followed like metal filings behind a magnet. Once the trio was out of earshot, Bauer muttered in a low voice, "How did that British poem go? Ah, yes. 'Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die.' I truly fear the latter will be our fate in this world."

Von Augsburg and Jungbeck both silently agreed, as loyal German soldiers, they would follow their Grupenfuhrer to Hell and back. The consensus between the two was this could very well become a strictly one-way trip.





THE WATERS OF LETHE

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Warnings: violence, bad language, and death. Maybe sex.
Beta: Took-baggins & Nefertekas

Chapter 73: The Flame Rekindled (Die Flamme Rekindled)

He stood before the long mirror in his quarters and soberly studied his reflection in it. Not bad. The new uniform felt a bit stiff, the cloth chafing at the underarms, collar and in the crotch. He half wished he could return to the old uniform he'd worn for the past ten years, six of those in exile at Briggs. It still lay draped over a nearby chair, but Lieutenant General Raven had insisted on the change after he came all the way up from Central to inform him of his transfer. He practiced making a salute in the mirror. The material was stiff enough to slow his arm down, but it would have to do.

His ear caught the sound of three pairs of booted feet approaching in the stone-flagged corridor outside.

He grabbed his coat and hat, opened the door of his room and came out into the corridor just as the trio walked up to him. The leader was an imposing blonde woman who wore her uniform and her rank like a second skin. She stood a hair over six feet tall and had a good two inches on him. Her full red lips, large rounded breasts and half-closed blue eyes looked too seductive to belong to a woman her troops fondly nicknamed "The North Face of Briggs". There was no softness on that face, the eyes glared at him like a laser beam and the lips slightly curled into a snarl of contempt.

Two even taller men stood obediently at attention right behind her. One was trim and roughly his height. His longish grey hair was held back with a clip and sharp angled sideburns defined his face, but his eyes were hidden by sunglasses. The other man was the biggest he'd ever seen outside of Major Armstrong, only he was far less friendly. His mostly bald head was shaved into a ponytailed mohawk while each side of his long, drooping mustache was intricately braided. His entire body bulged with muscle, except for his right arm that was made of automail.

"Major-General," he didn't smile as he snapped a crisp salute to the woman and her companions, all of whom outranked him. The man in sunglasses didn't change his unreadable expression, the ends of the woman's lips barely quivered upwards, but only for a moment. The bulging man merely deepened his scowl. Roy was despised here at Briggs and opinions hadn't softened much in the six years he'd been here. But now he was leaving, transferred back to East City, a place he thought he'd never see again.

The woman returned the gesture without evident enthusiasm. Once upon a time she'd been pleased when this ambitious, arrogant Colonel was busted down to Private and placed under her authority. For six long years she'd ordered him to perform every .... job at the fortress in hopes he'd give her an excuse to run him through with the sword she wore strapped to her left hip. But not a spark of insubordination ever showed in those narrow black eyes, he performed every duty without complaint, even cheerfully. In the end, she had to show respect - even grudgingly - to this soldier. Now he was being transferred, she couldn't wait to see the back of him.

"Major Miles! Give Mustang his new orders!"

The man in the sunglasses strode forward and now Roy saw he held a large manila envelope under one arm. His face was still blank, his eyes barely vislble behind the lenses. His red eyes, because Major Miles was the only Ishbalan still serving in the Armed Forces of Amestris. With military precision, Miles handed the envelope to Roy, it was at least two inches thick and rather heavy. He took it in both hands before transferring it underneath one arm and saluting again.

"Corporal Roy Mustang!" the woman barked. "You have officially been transferred to East City. Now, get out of my sight!"

She spun on one heel and retraced her footsteps, Major Miles and the other man stood aside to let her through before each fell into step behind her, hands behind their backs and heads held high. None of them looked back at Roy who held his salute for exactly ten seconds before he too spun around and walked quickly in the opposite direction.
////////////////
Roy settled into his seat in a third class compoartment and looked blankly out the window at the landscape rolling by. This far north winter lasted eight months of the year. Snow retreated to the foothills of the Briggs Mountain range in the brief spring and summer, but soon enough the bitter cold reigned again. It took a special sort of person to live in conditions like this, and Roy Mustang felt no shame in admitting he wasn't one of them. He sighed at the unchanging landscape of deep snow and bare black trees before he turned to the valise on the seat next to him.

It was time to read his new orders. Roy extracted the envelope from the valise, undid the cord which held it shut and slid the contents out on to his lap. For the next two hours, he read the copies of Major Smiley's reports and stared at the pictures. He recognized Alphonse Elric immediately and smiled to see the handsome boy's face at last. The Fullmetal had kept his promise. But his eyes narrowed at the the photograph of Edward and the state he was in. His former subordinate had vanished utterly that night, time and time again Roy told his interrogators about his final conversation with Edward Elric. His last sight of the boy was him running away to find and rescue Alphonse.

Now you're back Fullmetal, and you've brought trouble with you.

He scanned the photographs of the invaders and read their names: Dietlinde Eckart, Rudolph Hess, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler. Roy committed their names and faces to memory. These people didn't know it yet, but they'd just made a powerful enemy.

He replaced the reports and photographs back into the envelope and shoved the whole mess back into the valise before looking out the window again. It had gotten dark while he'd been reading, Roy grimaced and rubbed the back of his stiff neck. His eyes burned too, and the view from the window hadn't changed at all. He stretched out on the hard bench seat, his head pillowed on his coat and fell fast asleep. Roy dreamed of her while the train rushed across Amestris towards East City.
//////////////////////
Black Hayate remembered him. The dog's mouth opened in a big canine grin, but he walked casually over to sniff the fingers Roy held out. His wet, black nose quivered at the unfamiliar scents before he raised his head and stared long and hard out of those big brown eyes, as if to say Where have you been? The dog's reaction made Roy chuckle, Black Hayate has always been rather cool towards him, as if he was jealous. Roy held up a blue leash, "Hayate? Wanna go visit Riza?"

He wasn't sure about this human, but he was offering a walk, an irresistable treat to a bored Black Hayate.The dog raised an eyebrow as if he was condsidering the idea. It was such a human gesture, Roy couldn't help but laugh out loud. Hayate cocked his head and he gave Roy another appraising look before deciding he would let this man walk him. He sat down and raised his head so Roy could click the leash snap onto his collar. Hayate heeled obediently, just like his mistress taught him, yet he pranced a little with excitement.

"Uh, sir?" the man who cared for Hayate spoke up with a definate nervous edge to his voice. Roy gave him the famous Mustang grin in response.

"You outrank me now, Havoc. All you have to do is say the word and the military police will come and throw my [All hail lord Xenu] in the brig."

Havoc looked horrified at the thought. He didn't want to get Mustang into any more trouble - but he would be in trouble himself for allowing Mustang to take the dog into a hospital. In the end, he gave in just like Roy knew he would and walked with an erect stance a few strides ahead of Roy and Hayate. Something about Havoc bothered Roy, but he couldn't put his finger on it at first.

"Havoc, have you given up smoking?" Roy's voice was sly, as if daring him to turn around, but Havoc didn't take the bat.

"Only when I'm caring for Hayate - sir," the honorific slipped unconscously into Havoc's reply. "The Lieutenant-General told me she she could smell cigarette smoke when she came home from missions, and could I not do it anymore. She said it in a really nice way, but even an idiot like me knows an order from a request."
////////////////////////////////////
East City was warm this time of year and Roy was embarassed to discover he was sweating, dark rings forming under the arm of his uniform by the time they reached the millitary hospitals front steps. Havoc had gratefully lit up during the walk and he stood there, hands in pockets and body relaxed while he looked quizzically at his former commander. Another man was coming down the steps, very tall with dark hair cropped so short Roy saw a few patches of bare skin. He smiled broadly at Roy and Havoc before saluting the latter, and both men returned it. Black Hayate ignored the man with Majors bars on his uniform, sniffed a fire hydrant and delicately cocked a leg at it.

"I'm Smiley, Major James Smiley, Corporal Mustang. I knew you'd bring the Lieutenant-Colonel's dog. I own two myself and realize how strong the bond can be. So I came along to smooth your way. " Roy nodded and puffed out a breath before he pulled a handkerchief from a pants pocket and wiped his sweating face. He looked at the steps without enthusiam because they seemed very steep, but he nodded and said "Let's go" to Havoc.

Once in the main reception area, he let the gregarious blond distract the ladies with his fumbling charm while he picked up the surprised dog, plopped him on a wheelchair seat and tossed a towel from the soiled linen cart over him. Roy did this with a well practiced air of insouciance which returned easily to him and he wheeled Black Hayate away into a corridor without anyone the wiser. If Smiley was at all astonished, he hid his surprise very well, put his arms behind his back and strolled casually next to Roy. Military nurses don't approve of animals - except companion animals - in hospitals, but the few who tried to openly challenge him were quickly intercepted and sent on their way.

Hawkeye was in a small room consisting of four beds, but she was the only patient and slept undisturbed in glorious isolation. Smiley patted his shoulder, grinned and said, "You'll have ten minutes before the head nurse drops the hammer, so don't waste any time."

Roy stopped the wheelchair right next to the bed and whipped off the towel. Hayate was a bit disoriented at first, he shook his head and looked around before his nose began to quiver at a familiar scent. He whined for the first time, then crouched down before leaping onto the bed. His tail softly thumped the covers, but his beloved mistress was still asleep, so he snuggled next to her and put his head down between his paws. But Hayate stayed awake, his brown eyes alert for any sign of recognition.

Riza must have known she had company because she stirred and opened her eyes a few minutes later. A warm glow spread in Roy's chest as she re-connected with her dog. The tears surprised him because Riza Hawkeye was a true soldier who never cried and rarely showed her true feelings.

"Sir."

"Don't call me that Hawkeye, you outrank me now, remember?"

A slow smile crawled across Riza's face and Roy felt himself returning the expression. Damn this woman, she can still make my heart flutter like a lovesick teenager's. "Riza, you stood by me after - that night - and now I can return the favor.."

Riza stopped petting Black Hayate long enough to wave the fingers of her right hand in the air, "You were recalled from Briggs for a reason, Roy. Even though Amestris threw you away, it needs you now. I had a feeling this would happen, our country is facing a grave threat and it doesn't forget it's heroes."
//////////////////////////////////////////

Roy remembered, although six years ago it seemed Amestris would be perfectly happy to destroy its heroes. He'd been put on trial after recovering from the injuries Bradley had inflicted, and the government wanted his blood. No lawyer in Central would represent him, and the public defender who'd finally been appointed to take his case let Roy know from the start that he hated his guts. Fuhrer Bradley had a surprisingly large and loyal fan base. People loved him for expanding the size of Amestris, for standing up to Creta and Aurego, for wiping out the Ishbalan "terrorists" and keeping them safe from Drachman aggression.

With no tangible proof Bradley was a homunculus or of the widespread corruption in Military HIgh Command, things looked black indeed. Roy tried to resign himself to the facts: he would be found guilty on all counts and an ignomious death at the end of a rope or in front of a firing squad would be the fate of "the Hero of Ishbal". Every day public sentiment against him was reinforced by the sight of Bradley's devastated widow, dressed in black and weeping up in the spectator's gallery. She didn't even have her adopted son, Selim for comfort from her loss because he was dead too. Bradley had strangled the innocent and frightened boy to death right in front of Roy, but with no witnesses other than himself, the State Prosecutor easily tore his story to shreds. The public defender barely lifted a finger to argue, rebut or cross-examine.

Only a derisive snort answered Roy's testimony of how the Fullmetal Alchemist was the one who told him, because he'd disappeared the same night, as if erased. The prosecutor suggested Roy had killed both Edward and his younger brother, Alphonse because they oppposed his lust for power. "Those poor boys are just ashes now, blown about by the wind" the prosecutor said in his closing remarks, bringing the spectators, the news reporters, the jury and even the judge to tears. Unless "the People's Alchemist" were to suddenly make a last minute, dramatic entrance and corroborate every last bit of Roy's story, a guilty verdict and death sentence were inevitable. Only his former subordinates stood up for him, but they were labeled "brainwashed" and their testimony mere "hero worship".

A few hours after the jury adjourned to deliberate his fate, Roy paced in his small cell that night, unable to eat or sleep. What had happened to the promise of the sharp young Major who passed the alchemy exam at the age of eighteen and covered himself with glory in Ishbal? Dead, just like poor Maes Hughes, the damn prosecutor had intimated Roy was even responsible for HIS death during the fnal remarks to the jury. Another strike against him, another drop in his brimming bucket of guilt. Roy finally threw himself down on the uncomfortable bunk, once he turned his head and scowled at his untouched and now cold dinner. He rolled over and turned his back on it, closed his eyes, but never went deeper than a light doze.

I'll sleep when I'm dead.
///////////////////////////////////
The guards at the Central headquarters brig hauled him out of the cell soon after daybreak and hustled him upstairs to the court room. There only the judge, a court reporter and a couple of tired looking bailiffs were waiting for him. The judge looked like he hadn't slept at all, his unshaven face was dark with stubble, his eyes were red rimmed and even his white wig was askew on his head. Roy looked over at the empty jury box, then at the closed door to the jury room.

"Don't bother waiting, Mustang. The jury has been dismissed." The man's tone was sour, like curdled milk.

"Y-yuor honor?" Roy was stunned by the hope which surged in his breast.

"The existence of certain - documents - came to my attention last night. Copies of them had been messengered to both the prosecutor's office and the public defender, plus several high ranking officers. These ah-documents detailed accounts of forbidden experimets in human transmutation conducted by our military in secret laboratories all around the city. It didn't name names of those involved, just pseudonyms, but enough to throw suspicion on some highly placed people. More importantly, they backed up your story of official corruption and conspiracy with unnamed foreign agents to the degree the state's case against you is fatally damaged. Therefore, in the best interests of the State and healing wounds, your sentence is commuted to permanent exile at the Briggs Fortress. Court adjourned!"

"Wait, your honor. What do you mean by my sentence?"

"Yes, Mustang, your hearing must be off. 'Commuted'. Ddn't your attorney tell you?"

"My attorney hates my guts and he informed me on Day One, your honor. So, no, he didn't tell me about this."

"Oh, the jury deliberated for five hours before returning a guilty verdict. You were orginally scheduled to be hung in the prison courtyard at sunset. But after I read those documents, I had no choice but to inform Parliament and they went into special session to commute your sentence." The judge seemed rather put out at the thought he'd been deprived of his chance to put on the black cap, no wonder he'd sounded like someone had pissed in his morning oatmeal.

Roy's head was in a whirl. He'd been convicted, but he wasn't going to die. Although if he was going to Briggs, he'd wished the State would hang him instead. Briggs was commanded by Major-General Olivia Armstrong, the older sister of Major Alex Louis Armstrong. She had twice his drive, but less than a fraction of his warmth. Her nickname was "The North Face of Briggs" and it was very fitting, Roy privately considered her to be the most ruthless person on the face of this earth. Glaciers came to her for lessons in coldness, and millitary rumor had it the Drachmans beleived her to be a witch.

He was gonna go through hell.
/////////////////////////////////////////////
Now it was in the past, that hell seemed preferable to the chaos when the Battle for East City exploded a week later. Roy saw the planes and he knew his flame attack wouldn't work. They flew too high and too fast, and in any case, Roy knew ground troops would be coming soon. The wisest course was to evacuate terrified residents from the city. People streamed past him while he battled the flow in the opposite direction, towards the military hospital. He had to find Riza and make sure she got out.

"Mustang! Mustang!" Roy saw the blond head of First Lieutenant Jean Havoc bobbing above the crowd and he felt a brief surge of thanks Havoc was so tall. Eventually, the human tide parted and there he was, pushing Riza in a wheelchahir, Black Hayate sitting like a king in her lap. A week of enforced bed rest had done her good, her eyes were bright and her cheeks had a healthy color to them. "The rest of the hospital staff and patients started evacuation procedures, but Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkeye didn't want to leave without seeing you."

Roy tried hard to fix a stern look on his face, but he didn't succeed,after all, the man meant well. "Good job, Havoc. Please make sure she gets on a train to Central and keep her safe until she's recovered." Havoc snapped a salute which Roy returned before they went in seperate directions, Jean, Riza and Hayate to a train station in the western suburbs and Roy to the east, to face the enemy. He reached into his uniform pockets and pulled on his gloves, the fabric embraced the skin like old friends reuiniting after a long seperation.
//////////////////////////////////////////////
He found General Grumman directing front line defenses in front of Easy City headquarters. "Their ground forces must have started moving before dawn because spotters saw the dust they raised before their planes had finished bombing. A forward skirmish force went out to meet them but they were wiped out in short order. You need to slow them just long enough to give us time to remove sensitive documents from headquarters. Can you do that?"

Roy nodded in reply, but he was stunned. "Aren't you going to try to defend the city?"

"It's a lost cause, Mustang. Central is the ultlimate target of the Thulists. It's the heart of Amestris, so we have to withdraw and save our forces for a last ditch stand."

Roy didn't like it, but he understood the reasoning behind Grumman's order. "Understood, sir!" He saluted crisply, but Grumman just waved his hand filpppantly and went back to issuing orders to the men setting up barricades.

"Give 'em hell, Roy."

Roy smiled bitterly before he turned and walked through a gap in the barricades, towards the enemy. He rubbed his fingertips together while he walked, the feeling of the rough cloth - tradenamed Pyro-tex - helped him calm his racing thoughts. He and his gloves had been through a lot together, and they'd never failed him.

He met the enemy's first forward unit about six blocks later, on the edge of East City's Old Town district. Approaching him were two of the largest tanks he'd ever seen, and walking on either side were dozens of German and Thule sodiers. They all looked armed to the teeth and spoiling for a fight. Roy stood in the middle of the deserted street, one hand upraised, the fingers poised to snap.

The lead tank halted, a man was standing up in a hatchway with an arrogant smile plastered on his face. He waved one hand in a dismissive gesture. "Get out of our way, little bug, unless you prefer we just squash you now."

His command of Amestrian was very good, although it was strongly accented. Roy knit black eyebrows together, his narrowed eyes focussed on his target. "I am Corporal Roy Mustang of the Armed Forces of Amestris, and I'm called the Flame Alchemist. Retreat at once or you will be destroyed!"

The soldiers stared at him for just a moment before one chuckled, then another and another. Finally, all of them started laughing, the officer in the tank joining in loudest of all. When the noise finally began to die down, he pointed his swagger stick at Roy and yelled down into the hatch, "Crush this bug!"

The tanks massive gun moved with a clicking sound like the crack of doom until it pointed right at Roy.

"Ready! Aim! FIRE!"

Roy snapped his fingers as the officer sounded the "eff" of "FIRE" sounded and a tiny flame erupted. He concentrated on adjusting the oxygen level around his target before he unleashed his attack. It leapt forward in the blink of an eye and met the tank, and the shell as it raced down the barrel. There was a blinding explosion and the force of it first ruffled Roy's uniform before it knocked him flat on his back. Hot air and debris rushed over and around Roy, and he shielded his face against the macadam before he looked up. The tank and another one behind it were reduced to smoking holes in the ground, while the street and the sides of buildings were painted with an unholy mess of blood, brains and assorted body parts blown into small pieces. It looked like a particularly violent sort of child's finger painting. Those soldiers not evaporated by the blast lay unmoving and were probably dead.

Roy got back to his feet, brushed dust off his uniform and out of his hair. His handiwork didn't fill him with joy or any other positive emotion. He was a soldier now and his duty was to kill the enemy and protect Amestris. A well remembered line from a famous poem written in the last century echoed in his head as he cut over to the next street in search of more tanks to destroy.

Ours is not to question why. Ours is but to do or die.

Author's note: So much for my pledge to return this story to its semi-drabble roots.





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IttyBittyPretty
post Jun 27 2009, 09:32 PM
Post #162


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and annoy the canon characters for awhile
Warnings: violence and death, perhaps sex
Beta: Took-baggins

Chapter 74: On Tenterhooks (Am Spannung)

Alfons Heidreich shook a pill out of the brown glass bottle and he stared at it laying in the palm of his hand as if it was a poisonous spider about to bite.This pill looked utterly harmless and insignificant at first glance, just a small white disk bisected by a score line right through the middle. If a person didn't know what it was, it would have been mistaken for a more ordinary dose of beneficial medicine.

But this was Puppetmaster, a concoction that robbed a young man of his will to the extent he performed any task his "master" ordered him to. Horrible things that would have revolted Edward Elric had he any conscious memory of those acts.

If Heidreich had his way, he would tip the entire contents of the bottle down the toilet and flush the pills away, all of them. Edward would have to come out of the drug "cold turkey" and suffer withdrawal pains as they came.

Like his friends and colleagues had suffered in their last moments in that hellish circle etched upon the stone floor. A Nazi film crew had immortalized the entire sequence of events onto celluloid, and one day Eckart had insisted he and Alphonse watch it alongside the senior Thule Society staff. No one, not even the projectionist moved after the film had finished. When the film leader ran out, it flapped uselessly on the reel, only the machines low hum sounded in the now silent room. People were absolutely stunned by the power of the alchemic reaction, their senses overpowered by the sight of the Gate, captured on experimental color film. The recorded screams of the sacrifices as those horrible black snake-like arms took them left most of the audience numb, although a few men were overcome to the point they broke down in ragged sobs.

After he and Alphonse were released, they went out into the sunlit hotel courtyard together. It was the middle of the day and the solar rays beat down hot and airless, but neither of them could seem to get warm. Alphonse rubbed his hands up and down his arms, but he couldn't stop shivering and his teeth chattered for a full five minutes before he could say anything without stuttering. He didn't speak much, except to repeat several times: "Brother wouldn't do that. He would DIE first."

As if he was trying to convince not Heidreich, but himself.

Once Heidreich wanted nothing more than to kill the Puppet and his soul still cried out for justice in the middle of the night after he woke up from nightmares of those who died in the array. He would sit trembling and sobbing on the bed while sweat poured down his face and soaked his pajamas through. Those were the nights Heidreich abandoned any more thoughts of sleep. He dressed hastily and threw himself into his work, his pen scratching over sheet after sheet, filling them with drawings of rockets and formulae for new fuel mixtures. He named them after his dead friends in an effort to assuage his guilt.

Sleep would eventually come calling and the staff person who brought their meals, or Dr. Knox would find him slumped over in his chair, breathing deeply and drooling slightly over his papers. He'd wake up muzzily and feel strangely out of sorts because the unnatural position usually left him with a stiff neck and shoulders. Plus the papers his head was pillowed on were crinkled and damp, the ink smudged to the point of illegibility

"Alfons? Don't forget, break the pill in half, and then half again," Alphonse's voice had an anxious tone to it and Heidreich turned slightly to favor his doppelganger with a sour look. He knew Alphonse knew Edward's role in the deaths of his friends, but he probably didn't realize just how close Heidreich had been to killing Edward.

"Alfons? Can I trust you with a secret?"

Of course Alphonse could trust him, but it didn't make the situation any easier to bear.

After two weeks of bed rest, Alphonse's wounds had healed enough for him to get up and take care of his own basic needs. But he still had to move slowly and carefully, any sudden gestures would wring soft grunts of pain from between the boy's lips.

Fully dressed and lying on his side in bed, Alphonse directed Heidreich in Edward's care. On this morning, Edward sat quietly on the other bed in the room while his hair was brushed and pulled back into a ponytail. Last of all, Heidreich snapped the pill in half, and then half again before he placed the pill on Edward's tongue and held up a glass of water for him to drink and swallow. Edward's face remained blank, but Heidreich detected an occasional flash of consciousness behind those staring yellow eyes. The drugs grip was weakening slowly but surely.

"He looks very nice, Alfons," Alphonse nervously chewed the edge of one thumb for he was curiously on edge today. If he noticed Edward was regaining his senses would the Thulists also realize this? Possibly not, for "shambalans" were considered barely human and usually ignored. But this Dr. Mengele was an unknown quantity; he might be sharper than the others and know something was up. Nothing frightened Alphonse more than the scenario of Edward put so deeply under the Puppetmasters spell he would never come out.

He stiffened when someone knocked on the door outside, and again when it swung open even before he had time to call out "Come in!" He threw a nervous glance over to Heidreich and was glad to see he'd stowed the pill fragments in his pocket. He looked back towards the door and was suddenly unable to breathe.

Dr. Mengele was here.

He was a very handsome young man with dark brown hair and blue eyes,who stood tall and trim in his uniform, the medical bag he carried the only incongrous note. But looks were just on the surface, Mengele's face had a certain stiffness to it, and those eyes were cold and calculating. Rather like a snake hypnotizing its prey, judging when the time was right to strike and Alphonse suddenly trembled because he felt cold all over.

"H-H-Ha-hallo, Dr. Mengele," he ventured and mentally cursed because his voice shook so hard and his heart beat double time in his chest with enough force to make the blood roar in his ears. He ventured a quick glance over to Heidreich and saw the other boy had gone deathly pale.

Mengele's lips quivered, almost, but not quite smiling, but when he actually frowned Alphonse thought he would die of fright right then and there. 'And who are you, young man? Your German is good enough, but the accent is strange, rather like the Puppet's voice used to be."

Alphonse gathered the tattered remnants of his courage together and managed to force out, "My name is Alphonse Rockbell, I'm his caretaker - uh," he hastened to point at Heidreich before his nerve failed completely. "And his, the Rocketeer's too."

Mengele nodded once as if to acknowledge Heidreich's presence, but his expression was unreadable as he set his medical bag down on Alphonse's bed, opened it and pulled out a stethoscope. He nestled the rubber ends into his ears, bent down to undo the top five buttons of Edward's shirt before he placed the cone-shaped piece of metal against the younger man's chest to listen.

He didn't speak again until he ordered Edward "Breathe deeply!" and Edward obeyed without a moment's hesitation. This made Alphonse wonder just how aware his brother was of Mengele's presence or if he even realized his fate depended on how perceptive the doctor was. He couldn't wait until Edward's mind was free and they could talk together, his eyes filled with tears and one ran down his cheek and he sloppily brushed it away. Alphonse quickly rolled onto his stomach, but too late, Mengele had noticed the movement.

"Why are you crying, boy?"

"My back hurts." Alphonse's voice was muffled by his pillow which hid the shakiness in it, but he nearly screamed when weight settled onto the bed and cold fingers pulled his shirt up. He could feel Mengele's gaze burning through his skin and he would not have been surprised if all his scars had burst open and poured blood. Mengele's touch, as he examined the wounds, was very gentle, but it still made his skin crawl. What the doctor had said, the accent is strange, like the Puppet's used to be, made Alphonse feel rather strange all over at the notion Mengele may have been the last person to hear Edward speak before the drug finally silenced him.

What did you say to him, Brother? It was a rhetorical question and Alphonse answered himself. Probably something along the line of 'go to hell!'. He'd never said anything worse than "Dammit!" when they were growing up,but knowing Edward's temperament, Alphonse felt sure he'd learned harsher words in six years.

Alphonse felt his shirt pulled back down, he was trembling all over due to the stress and suddenly realized his teeth were tightly clenched. It took conscious effort to relax his jaws and the muscles ached from the strain.

"Do you have pills for the pain?"

"Yes, I just took two, but they haven't taken effect yet."

He hoped Dr. Knox wouldn't come in while Mengele was still here. Although Heidreich was the only one who knew Alphonse was cutting the Puppetmaster dosage, Knox might notice Edward was regaining his self-awareness and let something slip to the German doctor. That would be a disaster for him because his punishment would certainly be worse than just sixteen lashes.

Both he and Heidreich were greatly relieved when Mengele shifted back to the other bed and returned to examining Edward. Heidreich was on tenterhooks as well as he watched Mengele shine a penlight into the Puppet's eyes and he felt even more nervous after the doctor frowned again, and muttered under his breath. "His pupils are reacting too quickly." Just then, a knock sounded softly on the door, it opened after Mengele called out over one shoulder, "Come in!"

It was Dietlinde Eckart and a scowl automatically planted itself on Heidreich's face. But he couldn't help himself and shoved his hands into his pants pockets so she wouldn't see he'd balled them into fists. He'd been a fool all this time for wanting to kill the Puppet when Eckart should have been his real target. But she was too well protected by layers of bodyguards, and two enormous men with the build of two legged bulldogs now stood just inside the door. He could see the outlines of gun holsters underneath their jackets; they would shoot him dead without second thoughts if he attempted to assault her. Although they were so muscular, they probably wouldn't need the guns, they could just tear him apart, limb from limb.

Eckart looked upon Edward with a fond smile and purred like a cat licking cream off its paws, "How soon will my Puppet be ready to fight again, Dr. Mengele?" Her lips curved into a gentle smile which didn't reach her brown eyes. Mengele was not her friend and it was his job to give her the answer that she wanted to hear, not the answer he should tell her.

But he didn't and the smile wavered, fighting to cling to her face.

"The Puppet hasn't suffered any lingering effects from his collapse, but he is still very tired and needs another week of rest. It's my professional opinion the physical stress is weakening the effectiveness of the drug, so you will have to rely on the troops, tanks and planes until he's back to full strength. I understand Hitler has granted you fresh reinforcements, yes?"

Eckart was positively tight-lipped now, her body language stiff as a two by four. "Yes, yes, I can do that." She waved impatiently in the air as if the admission smelled bad and she wanted to disperse it.

"I've been working on a new and improved version of Puppetmaster." He smiled as if to sweeten the offer. "It's not quite ready but I should have a small supply of pills ready before I come back in a week to examine him again. This new version will act more quickly; also it will be longer lasting, so he will need only one dose each day. Plus I've discovered away to formulate some essential vitamins into the drug, to give him extra energy."

Eckart's smile returned, crawling a bit lopsided across her face at first before it gained enough strength to beam brighter than before. But Heidreich noticed it still failed to warm her brown eyes which remained flinty and calculating. His fingernails dug hard into his palms, scoring the flesh with tiny red crescents. "That is excellent new, Herr Doctor, please convey my thanks to the Fuhrer after you return to Germany. I confess I miss summer in Berlin."

"Summer, Fraulein?" Mengele cocked his head and smiled; an evil little facial rictus. "You will be interested to know about the time difference, it's only the summer of 1921 here, but October of 1936 in our world. Scientists all over Germany are very interested in studying this phenomenon, and they are petitioning Hitler for permission to come through the portal and do research. It's very exciting in a way, wouldn't you agree?"

Eckart didn't agree, but the purr had returned to her voice, so it was easy to lie and say this was exciting. First, she he would conquer this world, this Shambala and only when it was subdued would she would allow the scientists to come and study to their hearts content. But she would discover the secrets of alchemy, the wisdom of the ancient Aryan race first and use it to set herself up as ruler. She would be the Shambalans liege, their Queen, and even Hitler himself would have to show her respect.

"You will have to tell me more over lunch, Dr. Mengele. First I shall give you a little tour of East City, yes, it's a horrible name and I plan to re-name every city, town and village in Amestris. Even the country itself shall have a new name, something honoring our Fuhrer, of course." Eckart turned on one heel, expecting Mengele to follow, and he did so with a bemused expression fixed upon his handsome face. The bodyguards followed both of them out, the door slammed and the three were alone again.

The pain pills were taking effect and Alphonse was almost completely asleep, so Heidreich removed Edward's hair tie and urged him to lie down and sleep as well. Then he returned to his room and his plans for new rockets, closing the connecting door softly behind him.

Alphonse breathed deep and even, but Edward was wide awake and half aware. He'd snapped his eyes open almost as soon as he heard the gentle snick of Heidreich's door closing. The drug's hold was very loose on him now and he often felt like a swimmer hovering just under the waters surface, watching events unfold on the other side of a thin, translucent curtain. Things were a bit blurred yet they occasionally switched into sharp focus, like he was turning a radio dial and a station would suddenly burst clear through a layer of static.

Like today when he realized Josef Mengele was just inches away from him, easily within range of his fists. He'd actually balled up his right hand so tightly the artificial tendons creaked, but then the drug kicked in and pulled him away into the fog just in time. He'd blinked at the light shone into his eyes, but the words he wanted to say stuck in his throat like bones and he thought he would choke on them.

Now he stared at the white ceiling decorated with plaster flowers in high relief, he thought he recognized the old Imperial Seal of Amestris, but he might be just imagining it. He shifted in the bed and looked over at the figure sleeping in the bed next to him, had the person there just muttered "Brother", or was he just imagining that too?

Edward Elric was caught at the crossroads of dreams and reality, not fully awake or asleep. Hesitant feet turned first one way, and then the other, not sure of which road to take. Then something in his brain went click and he took a few stumbling steps towards reality as more of the ice in his subconscious thawed under the warming sun.

His eyes closed and he fell into an exhausted slumber. Edward went into a dream soon after and he twitched, moaned, and finally rolled over, facing the other bed. His lips parted and formed words; he spoke a few very softly before his mind progressed to deeper sleep.

Alphonse woke up briefly a moment later, brown eyes stupid with sleep blinking rapidly. He could have sworn he just heard Edward calling his name. But his brother was asleep, curled into a fetal position and Alphonse watched his sides rising and falling in a regular rhythm. He must have dreamt it, so he closed his eyes and surrendered to sleep again.













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IttyBittyPretty
post Jul 2 2009, 02:51 PM
Post #163


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
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From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
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The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Author's note: This chapter will have rapidly shifting tenses as I switch between viewpoints of different characters. So buckle up, 'cause it's gonna be a bumpy ride, buttercup.
WARNING: violence and death in spades this time. This chapter contains plenty of bad language too. No sex - hetero nor yaoi - no, not even if you squint.
Beta: Took-baggins. (have a great vacation!)

Chapter 75: Awakening (Aufbruch)

Where am I?

He crouched and stared dumbly at the ground which rumbled as if an earthquake was convulsing it The sound of his labored breathing was loud and harsh in his ears, almost, yet not quite drowning out the rapid thud of his heart. A pitched battle was raging all around, rifles crackling, bullets flying, shells bursting, people yelling and screaming. But all outside sounds came muffled to him as if he was underwater and hovering just a few inches below the surface, his arms, and legs treading silently. He raised his head and looked over at the enemy lines, but not really seeing the figures in blue uniforms several feet away, he thought he was just imagining them. Clouds of smoke drifted through the air and through his mind, obscuring clear sight and thought. Those uniforms looked familiar, like he should know them, but his pummeled brain couldn't make the connection.

Someone close by was shouting at the top of his or her lungs. He thought the words were directed at him, but he couldn't be sure. All this seemed so unreal, maybe he was just dreaming, and if he closed his eyes and opened them, he would finally wake up. Something pulled hard at his upper body and made pain flare in his neck and shoulders. Pains just sharp enough to break through his meandering thoughts and line them up like tin soldiers. He believed he could just make out the words; someone - his master - wanted him to stand up. Bu he was tired, so very tired, yet must obey, maybe if he did what he was told, his master would let him lie down and rest.

His muscles didn't want him to move, they were comfortable where they were, but the wrenching force around his neck came again. He sighed and reluctantly began to lever himself upwards, tendons and ligaments protested all the way until he was more or less vertical. Something slammed at high speed into a nearby building which seemed to crumble in slow and fast motion at the same time. Shattered pieces of bricks came bouncing and whirling past him on the cracked macadam surface. A burst of hot air sent smoke and fine particles into his eyes; he blinked rapidly and shook his head in a vain attempt to clear his vision. Pain flared in his neck again and he slowly turned his head to look at his master. She was angry with him, her face distorted in a perpetual scream as she pointed to the people in blue uniforms. She seemed to be shouting something like "Destroy them!" but it took his sluggish mind, stupid with exhaustion, a few beats to process the order.

His hands came up so slowly, his shoulders hunching, the palms pivoting to face one another. They moved so slowly, as if he was reaching through molasses. He must clap them together to summon the Power, but the muscles didn't seem to understand the signals from the brain. He felt he must obey, but he didn't see...

This wasn't working, the muffled sounds, his exhaustion, and the smoke all conspired to distract him, why was he summoning the Power?

Oh, that's right, to destroy the enemy.

But - who were the enemy? Nothing was making any sense to him. Perhaps understanding would come if he just rose a little higher...

Edward's arms shoved down through the water and he kicked hard until his head broke the surface. He puffed out stale air and took a deep breath of fresh, sweet consciousness.

He immediately wished he hadn't when the outside world slapped him hard in the face. He gaped stupidly at the pitched battle going on about him: his head swiveled rapidly back and forth, taking it all in and gradually becoming more horrified by the second.

Where am I?

His last truly conscious memory was of a dank, stone-walled cell in Berlin, he struggled for air while several men held him face down on a creaky camp bed that smelled faintly of mildew. He remembered that and the pain of the very unwanted injection between his ribs, compounded by anger mixed with fear, and desperation.

Then suddenly, he felt nothing, he saw nothing, heard nothing, smelled nothing and spoke nothing. Memories he'd forgotten about, memories he'd tried to suppress because they were so painful and raw flooded his mind until he was gasping for breath. He looked at his hands, both were streaked with dirt and sweat, the rubber cover of the right hand was cracked and there was a split between his third and fourth fingers. It gaped wide enough he could see the metal innards which enabled him to move his hand.

Edward was staring at his hands as if fascinated, flexing the fingers, curling, and uncurling them; when the scream came again, the voice hoarse from over use. "Puppet, you must obey me and destroy the enemy! Do what your master tells you!"

The fingers of both hands instinctively balled into fists because he recognized that voice. He slowly turned his face right again to see Dietlinde Eckart.

She wasn't quite so pretty anymore, her hair mussed and tangled and face streaked with dirt. The intricate uniform she wore was torn and stained. Hatred and a little bit of desperation twisted her features into a frozen rictus, she looked like some sort of monstrosity who only masqueraded as human. Edward felt rage start to percolate hotly in his veins; the sensation spread throughout his body until he could hear his teeth grinding. He'd once told Dietlinde the only task he'd willingly perform was wrapping his hands around her neck and squeezing until life left her body. His exhaustion vanished momentarily, pushed back by the urge to kill Eckart.

She tugged very hard on a long dark piece of leather and pain flared like a malign thing in his neck and shoulders again, bringing another spurt of molten anger with it. His left hand went up to his neck and nimble fingers felt the soft leather encircling it. The rage darkened as his fingertips explored and sent information to his brain, then something black exploded behind his eyes after he felt the buckle and realized the object was a collar. A collar: buckled around his neck as if he was a dog. A mental image formed of Eckart throwing sticks for him to retrieve and bring back in his mouth, he dropped them at her feet; and panted happily while she patted his hair and praised Good dog!

She put a collar on me and led me around like I was her DOG??!! That goddamned b*tch!! I'm going to f*!@ing KILL her!!

Eckart tugged hard again on the leash and Edward's rage exploded outward like an erupting volcano. He bared his teeth, grabbed the leash with both hands, and yanked back with all his newfound strength. He would pull her over to him and wrap the leash around her damned scrawny neck. Then he would pull it tight, as tight as he could until she was just another lifeless corpse, like the others lying still on the dusty street.

The flames surprised him because he hadn't seen them coming. It was a veritable wall of fire that cut him off from the object of his ire; he heard her scream shrilly and he hoped she was burning alive. The thin leather umbilicus that connected them quickly parted with a loud snap. He was already leaning back, and he promptly lost his balance. Edward fell hard on his backside before he flopped further on to his back, the impact with the hard road knocking the wind out of him.

Edward lay there, stunned, and stared at the overcast sky of clouds and smoke, and huffed for air for a few moments. He'd also struck his head a glancing blow on the macadam, causing a veil of multi-colored stars to obscure his vision and he had to wait until it cleared. Only then could he sit up slightly to see what was going on.

Eckart wasn't dead and he felt keenly disappointed, for she was still very much alive, and a bolt of fury shot through him, making him tremble with its intensity. Nor was Dietlinde alone, a third person stood facing her, a tall man with a shock of mussed black hair. He stretched his right arm in her direction, a once-white, but now soot stained glove just inches away from her nose. But his face was blurry, and Edward blinked his watering eyes before he swiped an impatient left sleeve over his face. It helped - a little - but what he saw made his jaw drop.
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Mustang stood alone in the middle of the wide intersection of Embassy Boulevard and Parliament Way, his guts leaping and churning with nerves. The two once elegant streets lined with handsome buildings now were almost impassable with piles of bricks, stone and wood. Some had lost their facades due to tank or cannon fire, so each floor was exposed like startled spinsters surprised while bathing. Still others were on fire and thick black smoke curled into the air, causing a premature dusk in Central. The last time he'd been in such a pitched urban battle, the Armed Forces of Amestris were the aggressor in Ishbal. Now they were making a final, desperate stand in the middle of their capitol city. He heard the tanks coming long before they even came into sight, the clanking and squeaking sounds made him want to turn and run, but he stood his ground.

The air around him was thick with the sounds of battle. Smoke from explosions and tiny fragments of burning buildings filled the air, which also smelled of the ozony aftertaste of alchemic reactions. Grumman played his troops like they were chess pieces, some to protect important buildings like Roy's platoon, others to safeguard evacuation routes as citizens were still fleeing north, west, and south. State alchemists were positioned in strategic places all around the city, the best combat alchemists placed on the roof of the tallest buildings in Central. Tall steel antennas were also planted in clusters of three on these roofs; arrays were drawn around them and activated when the enemy planes made their first bombing runs over the city. It took some trial and error because the triangulations had to fine tuned, but on the second pass, a crackling arc shot skywards to hit one plane and bring it down. It crashed into the eastern suburbs and sent up a gigantic fireball that dazzled the eye.

Two more planes were shot from the sky, and a monstrous hand formed to actually reach up, grab, and pull a fourth one down with a shriek of crushed metal. The troops cheered loudly each time, but that was the extent of the defender's victories because the invaders finally deployed the Puppet and his bite was sharp. Roy had to admire the strength of the mature Edward's alchemy. Unburdened by any conscious thought, gigantic roaring bursts of red, yellow and blue light writhed through the air, collapsing buildings, flattening tanks and sending soldiers fleeing in panic. His power was immense and frightening but it was almost out of control and couldn't last.

Roy and the troops under his command fought back as best they could. The men and women hiding behind sandbags picked their targets carefully and mowed enemy soldiers down with massed fire. He snapped his fingers until they throbbed with pain, even when he alternated hands for each reaction. Enemy tanks blew apart like moving shrapnel bombs which mowed down the German soldiers shielding behind them. Grumman had given Roy command of a platoon and he moved them like he was playing a particularly brutal chess match of his own. Once the enemy was weakened enough, Roy would order them to fix bayonets and charge in for hand-to-hand combat. Until then, they stayed behind their burlap ramparts because Roy couldn't afford to waste even a single soldier. He drew his own pistol and carefully picked his shots to bring down officers. Once a bullet tore through the left sleeve of his uniform, the force knocking him sideways, and sending the pistol spinning end over end through the air. He examined the hole with one finger, it was a clean through and through which barely nicked his skin.

Roy winced slightly when a searching digit brushed the sore spot and shot an urgent pain signal to his brain. He pulled his hand back and looked at the tiny dot of blood before he rubbed his fingers together to smear it and add more stains to his gloves. Then he turned smoothly back to the enemy and snapped those fingers in one motion, a massive wall of fire erupted and a squad of German soldiers went up like screaming Roman candles. Blood intensified the strength of alchemic reactions, but it also tired him out and Roy could feel he was nearing the end of his rope. He could maybe summon another few snaps before he would need to rest.

But that was okay because Edward was tiring faster. Eckart and her Puppet had halted fifty yards from Roy's position, with a German tank platoon just behind them. He could see Edward's strength was fading fast, when he walked, he staggered more diagonally than forward, like a drunken sailor. Edward finally stumbled, overbalanced, and fell to his knees when Eckart yanked too hard on the leash. He crouched there and gasped for breath while sweat poured off his face, dripping like light rain. His struggles to stand up in response to more tugs on the leash filled Roy with pity for his former subordinate. But if he couldn't be halted by normal means, Grumman had ordered Roy to put his feelings aside and do what was best to protect Central. All he had to do was point and one of the strategically positioned snipers would end Edward's life with a single gunshot to the head.

But Roy hesitated to give the pre-arranged signal. He remembered the bright and curious child with the actively searching mind; it seemed so cruel not to make an attempt to save him, to just give up on the younger man. Yet, sentiment, sympathy, and mercy had no place on a battlefield; Edward Elric was a threat who must be eliminated. Roy narrowed his eyes, knitting scorched eyebrows so hard in concentration his vision blurred:

Snap out of it, Fullmetal! That is an order!

Roy held his breath for several seconds too long when Edward's left hand came up and began to explore the collar around his neck. Spots began to dance before his eyes until he remembered to puff out the used air and take another breath. It smelled foul and tasted of ash, but the spots slowly faded and vanished. That's it, Fullmetal! Wake up! Wake up and remember who you are!

Eckart tugged even harder on the leash and Roy would never forget the sudden change in Edward's expression. The blank slate shattered and Edward's face was alive again, teeth clenched in a soundless snarl and his yellow eyes blazed with hot anger like heat shimmers over the baking macadam.

Roy snapped his fingers to help him get free, and a tongue of flame shot out to burn through the leash, the umbilical cord which connected Edward to Eckart. Both of them fell backwards, he couldn't see Edward's expression, but the woman was very surprised. His legs moved without his conscious thought and suddenly he was only inches from his enemy. Rage crackled from her like a living thing, and she said something in the strange guttural language. Roy didn't understand it but the tone made it sound like she'd just insulted his manhood or something. Then she pulled a pistol from a pocket in her gaudy uniform. Without him consciously thinking about it, Roy's right hand came up, fingers poised just inches from her nose, and then a dead silence fell around them.

He was so close he could see her blue eyes were really quite pretty despite the crow's feet angling away from the corners, and the dark, bruised skin bagging beneath them. Roy could smell sweat, smoke, blood, and fury, and no doubt she could smell his own anger. Each was still for the moment, but the center could not hold, one of them had to crack eventually.

In the end, Edward made the first move.

Roy dimly heard the slap, then the ground rumbled and he smelled the rising ozone levels as tendrils of red colored alchemic energy snapped and crackled through the air. The road began to melt up before massive spikes shot skywards, either impaling the German tanks behind Eckart or flipping them over like they were toys. They moved almost gracefully through the air with exquisite slowness before coming down and crushing any soldiers unlucky enough to be underneath. Roy heard their screams and then the crunch of their crushed bones beneath shrieks of collapsing metal. He flicked his gaze rightwards and saw Edward slump to the shattered macadam, his body relaxing into unconsciousness as sheer exhaustion finally got the better of him.

Eckart fired and Roy grunted in pain when the bullet tore through his side before he took one large step forward. He grabbed her wrist and tightened his grip, his teeth gritted against the painof his wound before he twisted hard, bone bent and ligaments yielded. Eckart screamed in defiance, but loosened her grip on the pistol and Roy wrenched it away from her.

He pointed the still smoking barrel right between her eyes and snarled in a voice thick with pain and anger, "Dietlinde Eckart, in the name of the Armed Forces, and the Parliament of Amestris, I order you to put up your hands, you are my prisoner!"

Her face twisted with rage and pain, Eckart held her sprained wrist with the other hand and glared daggers at him. She spat in his face and Roy smiled grimly,somehow he expected that reaction. What he didn't expect was her turning away and fleeing while shouting orders in her language. She took one, then two steps toward a surviving German soldier, her good hand reaching for his rifle.

Somewhere high above and behind Roy, a gunshot snapped like breaking glass and the back of Eckart's head exploded in a flurry of blood and brain matter. She stopped, swayed, and then crumpled gracefully to the ground, the soldier also falling as if he was merely going to sleep. The shot from a high-powered sniper rifle must have been another "through and through". Roy twisted around, shielded his eyes from the shrouded sun, and looked at the anonymous office towers behind him. Somewhere above,"the eye of the Hawk" watched over him from one of those high aeries, and Roy smiled in spite of the situation.

The death of Dietlinde Eckart seemed to confuse the German soldiers; some dropped their rifles and fled while the rest milled about uncertainly. Roy took advantage of their bewilderment to turn to the troops he commanded and bellow an order: "Company B, fix bayonets! CHARGE!"

They hastened to obey him, scrambling like eager, bloodthirsty puppies over the sandbags. Their bayonets glinting like revenge, a veritable stream of men and women raced past on either side, as battle cries came roaring from their throats. Unknown to Roy, soldiers who'd retreated from other positions in Central had heard the Flame Alchemist was here and heartened, they'd come to swell the ranks of the platoon to the size of a regiment. Now this new force was in full attack mode and they fell upon the Germans like wolves, gleaming metal dipping down and coming back up, the bayonet ends dripping red with blood.

Roy looked for Edward but he couldn't see him, and he began to force his way through the mob of rushing bodies. He saw an occasional glimpse of brown or yellow, and feared Fullmetal might get trampled in the stampede. It seemed to take forever until he was able to get a clear view, and he rushed forward only to pull up short after just a few strides.

Someone else had beaten him to Edward. A teenage boy who looked to be fifteen or sixteen years of age knelt amid piles of rubble and hauled the limp body into his arms. He had long hair the color of warm caramel pulled back into a ponytai1, several strands had come loose and hung down, plastered with sweat. He looked up at Roy with large dark brown eyes which shone with excitement, yet were also darkened by mental anguish. His face was rounder than Edward's but the determined set of his chin bore a remarkable resemblance to a certain subordinate whose jaw once jutted out in the same manner.

Roy felt a grin begin to pull its way across his face. He's an Elric, all right.

The boy had to be Alphonse and Roy thought he was a handsome kid. This kid looked up at Roy with a mixture of apprehension and the sheer cussed stubbornness Edward once displayed so flagrantly. Back when he'd just been a soul bound to a suit of armor, Alphonse was kindness in a can, but more than once he'd flashed steel inside that velvet glove. Once affairs had settled down and Edward had recovered, perhaps Roy could persuade Alphonse to join the military as a State Alchemist.

A sudden wave of fatigue shot through him just then, and Roy couldn't stand up any longer, so he dropped to his knees in front of the pair. The wound in his side throbbed like fire, but he couldn't seem to stop grinning. Maybe he should sober up now because Alphonse tightened his grip on Edward and shot a very suspicious glare at Roy. Bloodcurdling screams and yells still split the air because the fighting wasn’t over, and here he was, smiling like the village idiot.

Edward Elric was back, and everything was going to be all right.






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IttyBittyPretty

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Tear off your own head, it's a doll revolution! - ELvis Costello
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IttyBittyPretty
post Sep 8 2009, 07:11 PM
Post #164


State Alchemist (Lt. Colonel)
****

Group: Members
Posts: 834
Joined: 30-April 06
From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
Member No.: 35,364
Gender: Female



The Waters of Lethe

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, except for OCs I've created. I just like to play around in its world and torture Ed for a while.
Summary: Last chapter dealt with the POVs of Edward as his mind finally broke free of the Puppetmaster drug; and Roy when he went toe-to-toe with Dietlinde Eckart. This chapter will follow Alfons Heidreich after he and Alphonse become seperated in the chaos of the Battle of Central.
Warnings: More violence and death that isn't good for children and other living things.
The world's best beta because she puts up with me: Took-baggins

Chapter 76: War Is Hell (Krieg ist der Holle)

Dietlinde Eckart watched in disbelief as the first plane went down, and she continued to stare at the dissipating trail of black smoke even after it disappeared behind some tall buildings. A massive fireball erupted soon after, red and orange flames rising into a dark cloud like a funeral pall that rose high into the overcast sky over Central. To everyone's surprise, her face rearranged itself into a mask of grief and pain when she finally whirled around and screamed for Grupenfuhrer Bauer, but her orders shocked even that veteran soldier.

Her voice was still ringing in the hot and humid air as Bauer and the other field commanders turned to look at Adolf Hitler himself, who stood ramrod straight in full dress uniform between Himmler and Goebbels. Those two sweated like pigs and mopped their faces with big white handkerchiefs, the lenses of Himmler's glasses kept fogging up, but Hitler didn't appear to be affected by the heat. He stayed perfectly still, his face unreadable for one, then two agonizing moments before he nodded in a barely perceptible movement. The silence snapped like a rubber band stretched to the breaking point, and Bauer, his stomach churning and skin crawling, repeated the orders to Sergeant Willi Braun. That loyal soldier and others stared at him in astonishment because this didn't seem to be happening.

Their eyes caught and held for perhaps thirty seconds before Braun shot his arm skyward, "Jah wohl, Grupenfuhrer! Heil Hitler!", then he turned smartly and bawled instructions to the troops who guarded the prisoners.

Even with the German army bearing down upon them, some of the more independent-minded citizens of Central hadn't heeded the official pleadings to evacuate, but instead stayed in their homes. On this morning, they'd gone about their daily routine of taking their children to school, going to work, or commencing normal household chores. They were easily rounded up after the initial skirmishing forces had gone by.

A group of perhaps sixty people - sullen men, frightened women, and crying children - either stood or sat on the sidewalk outside the tall brick walls of an elementary school. The adults were mostly quiet but for a few women weeping or shushing their offspring. Alarmed cries erupted after ten men were culled out and forced by rifle - toting soldiers to stand in a ragged line against the wall a few feet away. Several women began to scream "NO!" when those soldiers backed up a few feet and formed a firing squad. Other soldiers moved forward to contain a few women who tried to run over to their husbands, one woman dodged past and actually stood defiantly in front of the men, her arms spread out as if she could protect them from the bullets. But she dissolved into tears after one large soldier scooped her into his arms and carried her back to the main group of hostages. She kicked and screamed lustily in protest, and didn't stop until struck hard in the stomach with a rifle butt. Then, she folded like a paper doll and lay on her side, sobbing, on the sidewalk. Two other women tried to comfort her while their eyes raked the soldiers with hard glares.

"Ready, aim, FIRE!" Sergeant Braun yelled the words in quick succession; ten rifles spit death almost at the same time and ten men slumped, lifeless, to the ground. Blood pooled around them and ran across the sidewalk to the gutter, and a small rivulet of blood began to snake towards the nearest drain. Women screamed hysterically, some fainted and children wailed "Daddy!" in thin, high voices full of fear and grief. Eckart looked at the chaotic scene with grim satisfaction, Bauer and the majority of the field commanders just wanted to puke, while the troops of the German army combined with the Thule forces wisely kept their faces blank and opinions to themselves.

Both Himmler and Goebbels looked elated by the sight, "Who knows how many of them were Jews, my Fuhrer."

Himmler hastened to agree. "This world will give Germany miles of the elbow room it needs! If we must sweep away some of these Shambalans, so be it!"

Hitler said nothing, but the left corner of his mouth twitched ever so slightly before his face resumed its usual blank expression.
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Edward jerked suddenly, as if he was startled by the gunfire, and pulled back hard, nearly yanking a surprised Alphonse off his feet. He grabbed the leash with both hands and held on tightly to his restless brother who skipped sideways and back, like a nervous horse.

His yellow eyes gleamed with a wild light, and he tossed his head, sending his long ponytail fluttering, before he settled down and the light faded away to be replaced by his usual blank stare. Alphonse gripped the leash tightly in his left hand and moved closer to his brother, who suddenly pulled away. He followed Edward who kept backing up, like a balky dog who suddenly decided he didn't like to be leashed.

"It's all right, brother, shhh, calm down." Alphonse whispered sotto voce, and flicked his brown eyes back to see if anyone noticed Edward's sudden alertness. Heidriech had been standing next to him, but he abruptly went over to a parked staff car where he climbed into the front seat and then cautiously stepped over the front windshield and onto the hood. He was there for only a moment before he jumped down and walked back over to Alphonse, his face white as paper, and his mouth working as he apparently muttered curse words in German under his breath.

"Heidreich? What's going on? What's..." Alphonse's voice trailed away in an uncertain manner after Heidreich simply brushed past him and walked determinedly over to the far side of the street. Here he bent over, hands on knees, and neatly vomited his breakfast on to a concrete gutter, Heidreich coughed a few times, spat and then crouched down, his head held between his hands as if he was trying to keep it from flying off. His shoulders were shaking hard and regularly, and it took Alphonse a few beats to realize his friend was crying.

What was going on? Alphonse couldn't see over or around the massed ranks of soldiers, he only knew hostages were taken. When they arrived, he'd seen small groups of people, usually families, herded along the street by soldiers. Mothers led children by the hand or carried them awkwardly; the youngsters were confused and frightened. They were sleepy or hungry, perhaps both, and let their parents know they were displeased with crying and tantrums. Many of the mothers were in tears themselves and that bothered Alphonse because he hated to see women cry. He rubbed Edward's back with one hand and whispered softly into one ear to calm him, because he was terrified his brother would choose this very moment to wake up.

"Grupenfuhrer! Shoot ten more!" Eckart's order hung in the warm air like a dark cloud before the wind blew it apart.

Yet more screams erupted and a flock of pigeons took off from the schools bell tower and scattered into the air after the second round of gunshots sounded. They flew distractedly around in a large circle three times before seeking shelter in the tower again. Hawks hunted this area and they found rich pickings among the local population of pigeons. Alphonse looked up, shading his eyes from the morning sun and he saw one, circling impossibly high in the air as it searched for breakfast; he was growing dizzy looking at it when the third group of ten hostages was shot. The pigeons bolted from their safe haven and the hawk paused before it suddenly dove straight down like a stone dropped from a cliff. The flock blew apart when the raptor struck, and the hawk pulled up, something struggling in its talons.

As if nothing had happened, the flock re-formed and went back to the tower, but they apparently hadn't learned any lesson from their encounter with the hawk. A final group was executed in revenge for the fourth downed plane, and another pigeon was taken by another hawk.

Alphonse still couldn't see what was going on, although he had a solid grasp on an idea by now. Heidreich had stopped crying and he'd sat down in the staff car, the skin around his eyes was pulled tight with tension, with a pale grey tone to it. His lips were bloodless and drawn so thin they could hardly be seen. Alphonse wanted badly to say something to him, to make him feel better, and he made a slight movement in his direction. Heidreich glanced up between his eyelashes when Alphonse's shoe scraped the pavement and something; some kind of warning in his blue eyes stopped the boy in his tracks. His throat closed over the words he was going to say and they remained unuttered.

Something seemed to be happening with the groups of soldiers, sergeants bawled orders and marched them away in well trained formations. Eventually, Hess came stalking over, shouting for the Puppet; Alphonse gulped, ducked his head and held out the leash to him. Hess treated Edward as roughly as before, yanking hard on the leash so Edward had to step out smartly or fall to his knees. Hess didn't even acknowledge Alphonse who kept his face down, a good idea because his usually soft brown eyes were hot and hard with anger.

In a short while, the street was empty of people except a detachment of soldiers who guarded the surviving hostages. The former stood around and spoke light-heartedly, handing around lit cigarettes like they'd just finished a hard day of honest work, instead of murdering forty innocent people. Any fight had gone out of the hostages, they sat in a small circle, and some of the children were wailing "Daddy! Daddy!", in high-pitched, grief-stricken voices. Alphonse's throat tightened up and his own eyes filled with tears until they overflowed and spilled down his cheeks. The bodies of the first thirty executed had been hauled to the side and piled up in a heap, blood ran from it in several small rivulets.

But the bodies of the final ten still lay where they'd fallen and added more sheets of blood to color the sidewalk a garish red. Alphonse made the mistake of looking and he saw two women had been shot, apparently the Thulists had run out of men to force before the firing squad. Such cruelty made him sick.

Gorge rushed up his throat like an express train, so fast he barely had time to fall to his knees and give his all on to the macadam. Some spattered on his hands, but Alphonse didn't care overmuch. He dug his fingers into the macadam, fingernails splintered, and knuckles scraped till they bled while he cried, his body shuddering with each convulsion. He continued to cry even after Heidreich knelt down beside him. "Come on, Alphonse." He stood up ever so slowly and held his doppelganger close, muffling the boy's sobs in his shirt which quickly became wet. Some of the soldiers were laughing at them, so Heidreich just scowled and slowly walked away, guiding Alphonse to the opposite sidewalk.

Before either realized it, they were a block away, and then two blocks. His heart hammered painfully between his ribs with enough force to make his entire body vibrate, any minute now, he expected soldiers to come looking for them, but no one did. Then he turned a corner and was out of their sight.

"Hei - Heidrech. Thank - thank you." Tears still leaked from Alphonse's eyes, he sniffed and dashed some off his cheeks with skinned knuckles.

"Thank you for what, Alphonse?" Heidrech was confused by Alphonse's half-smile. After being flogged and bullied, and now seeing his countrymen and women slaughtered, Heidreich was sure the boy had to hate him by now.

"Even though you are German, Heidrech, I don't hate you." His doppelganger was reading his mind, his words anticipating Heidreich's thoughts. "I can't hate you. Because you aren't an invader, but an inventor; a seeker not for riches, but for knowledge. If you were in charge, you would come in the spirit of friendship, and you've been a great friend to me. No matter what happens today, I will stand by you."

"Alphonse, you would do that?" Heidreich was touched to his core, his lips trembled, and he blinked rapidly to keep away the tears which threatened at the corners of his eyes. He was a man and it was time to stop crying and take action, because that is what men did. He looked up and down the unfamiliar suburban street, jerking when an explosion sounded about a mile away. They'd somehow managed to wander from the custody of the Thule army and he, at least, was utterly lost.

"Alphonse, do you know where we are?"
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Three hours later, Heidreich had become seperated from Alphonse and he wandered mostly alone through the city center. The occasional explosion still shook the ground and he heard the odd burst of alchemic energy, but the fighting had settled down to grim house-to-house skirmishes. Gunshots rang out almost constantly, but they always appeared to be a street over from where he was. This was fine with Heidreich because he was an inventor, not a fighter.

His doppelganger was very anxious about the Puppet and he'd finally just looked Heidreich in the eye and bluntly announced his intention to go find him. "The Thulists won't look after Brother, they'll just drive him to exhaustion; and when that happens, I want to be there to protect him."

Heidreich was himself worried about Alphonse, but he understood the boy's feelings, the sibling bond was too strong for him to fight. "It's just that - please be careful, Alphonse." His doppelganger nodded, his lips fixed in a compressed line and his brown eyes focused; then he spun on one heel and was gone. Just like that, Heidreich was alone on the battlefield.

He was hot, tired, and thirsty after wandering around the dreamscape of the shattered city, most of the buildings were still standing, but all the windows were blown out or the doors smashed down. Some had lost their roofs or their facades, or they were just mounds of smoking rubble after shells had set them on fire. He turned another curious corner that looked so much like the one he'd turned before, Heidreich suspected he was just walking in circles; his feet ached so badly he was absolutely sure blisters were forming on toes and heels. He could hear something spattering and around yet another pile of rubble, he discovered a broken fire hydrant sending a large gout of water into the air.

Heidreich moved to stand underneath it and he was soaked through before long, but the water cooled him down. After a bit, he opened his mouth like a bird and let water fill it before he swallowed. Central water tasted mighty good and he drank his fill of it,enjoying the feel of it dissolving the cotton in his mouth. Then he cupped some in his hands before he rubbed it over his face to refresh his eyes. Heidreich repeated this action several times until all the grit was washed away. He left his impromptu shower with great reluctance, clothes sticking to his skin, feet squelching along in wet shoes.

After he'd limped along for another half hour, he stopped when he heard a number of voices speaking. Heidreich ducked behind a half broken wall and listened. A group of perhaps four or five people were speaking his language, German. From other sounds also heard, he deduced they were urinating on the other side of the wall. His heart began to hammer painfully against his ribs, and he crouched there, afraid someone would look over and see him. His suddenly dry throat began to tickle and Heidreich clapped one hand over his mouth and fought with a strong urge to cough.

Fortunately, his luck held and the men moved away, talking about unimportant things. Heidreich peeked cautiously over the crumblings bricks and what he saw made the blood rush through his body with enough force to make him feel faint. Seven rocket ships stood in a grassy area, it looked like it once had been a park, but the grass was churned up into muddy furrows. The largest of the group was a troop transport, painted gray, its side and the nose area bore large black swastikas, like thick angular slashes of shame, on red backgrounds circled with neat black lines. The other ships were the smaller one-seater jets, their outer skins also decorated - or - marred - with swastikas. Their graceful swept-back wings bore further modifications of machine gun mounts and bomb cradles.

Rage bubbled and fizzed like soda pop in Heidreich's veins, Eckart had lied to him about plans for the rockets he'd built. He originally wanted them to be reserved for strictly scientific purposes of exploration and gathering knowledge. Perhaps, in time to come, they agreed the rocket ships could be put to commercial uses, like swift transport of goods and passengers between nations. Worldwide trade would explode, she assured him, and with that expansion would come more money for the research of his ultimate goal: a rocket that could carry measuring and recording instrutments, and eventually people, into space.

At the back of his mind, Heidriech had suspected someone would want to turn his rockets into war machines, but he'd always thought he and the other racketan could keep enough control to forestall that. So much for noble ideals, he thought bitterly, they are no match for baser human instincts. A stray thought swam into his conscious thoughts which whirled around like water around an open drain. He'd designed and built the rocket that powered this particular ship. Once others had perverted his dream, he had the right, no, the duty to destroy it. Yes, Heidreich nodded to himself, he would end this here and now.

All he needed was a wrench and a few minutes alone with the engine.

Heidreich crept around the end of the wall and looked cautiously left and right. He saw two groups of armed men at either end, and assumed two more groups guarded the far side of the park. Despite being in the middle of a war zone, they were complacent and entirely too casual about guarding the air ships. Their loss and his gain, Heidreich eyed the amount of open space between him and his target, too far to sprint, plus the torn-up condition of the ground virtually guaranteed he would turn an ankle and fall.

The only strategy Heidreich could think of was to walk slowly up and if challenged, brazen it out and hope the soldiers knew who he was. He straightened up, put his hands in his pockets and strolled slowly over to the closet rocket ship. No one shouted "HALT", nor challenged him to show his papers, which was a good thing because Heidreich had no papers. He stood shock still next to the front wheel of the ship and tried to calm the pounding of his heart before he proceeded.

It was so easy, Heidreich was aboard the transport before he realized it. This rocket ships interior was different, once it was just a bare cargo bay, now twelve rows of seats upholstered in grey cloth embroidered with swastikas on red backgrounds were bolted to the floor. Behind them was a long wooden table and chairs, also securely bolted down. A map of the country they'd invaded was pinned to a wooden frame attached to the side of the craft, Hitler's War Room in the air.

A murmur of voices came from the cockpit area, from his vantage point just inside the entry hatch, he saw the silhouettes of two men and guessed they were the pilot and co-pilot. The rest of the transport was quiet and Heidreich went right to one of the built-in tool bins where he found just what he needed. A maintenance trapdoor that led down to the engine compartment was open, and he descended the ladder as quietly as he could, but he froze just as his feet touched the floor.

Someone else was already here, he could hear a low-pitched, tuneless humming accompanied by the occasional clanging sound. Heidreich crept around the great engine while he absentmindedly patted it with his free hand. This nondescript piece of machinery was his baby, his brain had conceived of it, his hands drew its specifications and machined the components. His friends in the Racketan Klub helped him assemble it, but he, Alfons Wilhelm Frederick Klaus Heidreich was its father. He'd brought it into the world and now he was going to take it out.

He came around the last corner and here his luck turned as the man looked up and saw him, his face blanching slightly with surprise. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" He stood up and held his own wrench in front of him, as if for protection. "Stay where you are!"

Heidreich gave the man his most dazzling smile and held both hands with their palms up to show they were empty and he meant no harm. "Sorry to startle you, I am Alfons Heidreich, and I invented these rockets, perhaps Fraulein Eckart told you about me?" The other man's suspicious expression told Heidreich she hadn't and he improvised quickly. "Well, she gave me permission to inspect all the engines and make sure they are in top condition."

"I'm the head engineer and she never said anything about you." He backed away one step and then another. Heidreich, his smile now a grimace, took two steps forward.

"As a matter of fact, I was told these engines were the idea of our glorious Fuhrer," the technician's face turned dead white when Heidreich bared his teeth. "He has lots of great ideas and he's going to lead the German people to glory, starting with getting rid of of those damn Jews who are sucking our blood like vampires, and, uh." He was talking too fast, the words stumbling like drunken men because he was really quite afraid of this Heidreich person who's eyes glowed like blue fire.

In one massive burst of panic, he threw his wrench at Heidreich and bolted for a small hatch at the back of the ship. But his toss was wild and Heidreich ducked it easily. Growling with anger, he shot after the man, pulled out the wrench he'd hidden in the waistband of his trousers and raised it over his head before he lashed once at the other man's head.

The very end of the wrench connected with the top of the skull with a dull thump and the man staggered. Yet he didn't go down, this was only a temporary loss of momentum and he took another stride to resume his flight, but it was too late. Heidreich swung the wrench again and the man went down with a heavy thump. He didn't rise again, but Heidreich hit him twice more, just to be sure. He was gonig to preoccupied for a few minutes and he didn't want or need any surprises while he sabotaged the engine. He rolled up his sleeves and got right to work, and the job was done in twenty minutes.
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Heidreich straightened up and winced as his back protested, so he fisted his hands and set them at the small of his back and bent further backwards. Small cracking noises sounded and the engineer groaned once. His hands were filthy and he wiped them absentmindly on his shirt before he found a rag the other man had dropped. He rubbed them on the well worn material and some more grease and oil came off, but it was ground into the flesh and stuck beneath his fingernails. The other man lay still where he'd fallen, his sides didn't seem to be moving and Heidreich had a feeling he'd killed him. Oh well, his brain said with a mental shrug.

Oh, well indeed, his shirt was also a lost cause, just like Germany's invasion of the alchemic world. Heidreich smiled grimly to himself when he realized he'd come to this conclusion so easily. He no longer wished to kill the Puppet, no wait, it wasn't proper to call him "Puppet" any more. His name was Edward Elric and he was the older brother of Alphonse, his doppelganger and friend. He would stay in this alien world, this country called "Amestris" and he would start his life all over again. He would design and build more rockets, better than before, that is what he would do. This knowledge both exilirated and terrified Heidreich. Because of his illness he believed he didnt have a future and hadn't given it much thought.

He was walking slowly down the gangplank of the ship when all hell broke loose at the far end of the park. Two staff cars came barreling down the street, across the churned up ground and skidded to s simultaneous stop, sending chunks of mud flying. At the sight of them, the guards who were supposed to be watching the ships threw their cigarettes down and came running on the double to forn a protective ring about the vehicles. Himmler and Goebbels practically fell out of the first car on one side, while a soldier ran up, saluted and opened a door on the other for Hitler to alight.

His inner circle was scared to death, babbling nervously in fear while wide eyes stared out of pale faces. But Hitler must have had ice water in his veins, he stared imperiously around before he stepped down and walked with a determined, yet not panicked stride toward the jet, now made into his personal transpot. His head was up and he looked forward, never behind him like the others did. Even in retreat, Adolf Hitler would continue to act like a true born leader, but he stopped when he saw Heidreich standing on the gangplank and glaring at him. The others stopped awkwardly and stood in an untidy group, gaping at the young man.

This strange face confused him, and Heidriech decided to introduce himself, he bowed low and and murmured, "A pleasure to meet you, mein Fuhrer. My name is Alfons Heidreich and I invented and designed these rocket ships." Hitler said nothing, he was playing it cool and he nodded back, as if sensing the dangerous edge to Heireich's mood. "The battle is lost, isn't it, mein Fuhrer?. And now you are running back to Germany to salvage your other war, aren't you?"

Hitler jerked ever so slightly and his mouth tightened a little more until it was just a slightly reddened horizontal slash in his mask-like face. Heidriech advanced a step, and glared at the man he once admired with all the force of his hatred. "Once upon a time, all I wanted was to build rockets, rockets to show the world what the great minds in Germany were capable of. I have an illness that makes me cough up blood and I don't know how much longer I have to live. So, I wanted to make my fellow Germans proud, so they would remember me, even long after I am laid to rest. A man doesn't like to be forgotten, mein Fuhrer, isn't that right?"

Hitler couldn't argue with that and he spoke for the first time, "Jah, that is correct, Herr Heidreich, that is -"

Then Hitler resumed his silence, which Heidreich thought was odd, so odd it was almost funny. The Great Orator, the author of all those fiery speeches in the Reichstag, was finally struck dumb. That night Eckart had ordered him to take off and rest, his friends had prevailed on him to visit a movie theater. Short films of current events were shown before the feature began and one of them was of Hitler speaking in a sports stadium. Hitler drove himself into a frenzy in his speech, he pounded the podium while his lank hair whipped around and some theater patrons were so excited, they stood up on their seats, making the Nazi salute and shouting "Heil, Hitler!" at the tops of their lungs. Girls stood on their seats, crying while they yelled, and most of the boys and men were also in tears, carried away by the force of their patriotism and pride.

The older theater patrons were too dignified to stand up, but not too stiff to also make the salute and call out loyalty to the Fuhrer. Heidreich was bored stiff by the whole affair, but in case anyone was watching, he and the other Racketan made desultory salutes and moved their mouths in lip sync of the general uproar. The movie finally began and it was a total snore, a romance between two pure-blooded Aryans with a brief threat from so over-the-top stereotypical Jews some people openly laughed. There were no rockets in it which he thougth would have enlivened the movie considerably. But except for the brief appearance of a steam engine in a train scene, no machinery was portrayed at all. Heidreich fell fast asleep in his seat and he couldn't be awakened after the theater lights came back up, obliging his friends to carry him home.

The memory made a chuckle bubble up Heidreich's throat and he let it out to crackle through the air, obscene in its disrespect to Hitler. The chuckle became a full on laugh which Hitler watched with weary patience until it was cut off by a sudden coughing fit. Heidreich put one hand over his mouth and tried to muffle it, his lungs convulsed and he bent double until he felt something warm fill his palm and drip between his fingers. When the fit was over, Heidreich looked at the blood with something approaching dismay, he'd hemorrhaged so much the palm of his hand was covered and more dripped between his fingers or down his arm to mingle with the oil and grease to stain his shirt cuffs crimson.

He eyed Hitler through his lashes, "I am sorry, mein Fuhrer, but my time is growing shorter and I have one more task left to perform." He reached back with his other hand to produce the wrench. "Stopping you and ending your reign of terror upon the free peoples of two worlds!" But he'd barely raised the wrench to eye level when a single gunshot rang out. Heidreich jerked back, as if he'd been punched very hard in the chest, his blue eyes fixed and wide with shock; and he looked up to see where the shot had come from.

Rudolph Hess stood on the hood of the second staff car, one arm outstretched, with a Luger pistol clutched in his fist, a faint wisp of smoke coning from the end of the black barrel. The very picture of a courageous Nazi officer putting his life on the line to protect his Fuhrer. Almost everyone looked back to beam widely at Hess, but Hitler looked only briefly, and nodded, before he returned his attention to Heidreich.

The wrench slowly eased out of Heidreich's slack grip and fell as if in slow motion to the metal gangplank which it struck with a loud clang, bouncing once and clanging again, like a cracked bell. Heidreich followed suit, dropping to his knees, his upper body jerking with the force. A red flower blossomed on the right side of his chest. It grow larger with each passing second as Heidreich's eyes rolled back into their sockets and his head lolled to his right. WIth a soft groan, Alfons Heidreich pitched sideways off the gangplank to hit the ground with barely a sound. He rolled over on his back and stared sightllessly at the sky, before he blinked once or twice and his eyes refocused. He noticed the sun was burning through the clouds and now he could see an imposter sun, hanging in the sky near the real one.

It was the portal, glowing brightly enough to be seen, the portal back to a world he would never see again. His ebbing senses barely registered movement around him of many people moving past him and up the gangplank into the rocket ship. The whine as its great main engine and the smaller engines of the escort ships starting up. The gangplank was pulled up and the main entry hatch closed tight as the ship began to roll forwards, the wheels somehow missing Heidreich's prone body. Flames roared from the back of the ship, accelerating it to take-off speed and it soared proudly into the sky, just the way Heidreich had designed it to. The escort jets, which needed even less of a runway were rising into the air alongside it, but as he watched, a red streak of alchemic energy rushed from the top of a nearby building and tore one jet into two pieces.

His vision was starting to grow dim and Heidriech had to fight to keep his eyes open to track the transport as it made a wide, lazy circle to get into position. The engine noise increased in pitch, it needed more speed to get through the portal without being grabbed by the strange black arms other pilots had reported. Three of the remaining six escort rocket ships proceeded it into the portal, and then the ship itself began to enter. It was halfway in and Heidreich's vision was getting blurry but even he saw the flash and then heard the explosion as the sabotaged engine tore the transport apart. The outer edges of the blast caught the other two escort rockets and all three rained down mangled pieces of machinery and men. At this height, anyone who managed to survive the initial incident would have a very short and fast trip downwards.

A trip that would end in a very abrupt and fatal impact with the ground, and Heidreich smiled cruelly to himself at the thought. He didn't normally take joy in the misfortunes of others, but this time he felt justified. He'd given his life to destroy Hitler and his inner circle. A generous portion of generals and other officers had accompanied their Fuhrer to the alchemic world. Heidreich just hoped it was enough to stop the German war machine in the other world too.

The ground had begun to rumble underneath his feet, like an earthquake was coming, somehow Heidreich summoned the energy to turn his head and watch. He stared in bemusement as three tanks, travelling much faster than tanks ought to, thundered into the park, and stopped just short of where he lay. Standing on top of the lead tank, one hand laid gracefully on its massive cannon was the tallest women Heidreich had ever seen. She was at least six feet tall, and had fiery blue eyes that stared forward with deterimination, and full red lips were set in a firm line. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back and flowed over ample breasts barely contained in a blue uniform. She looked fierce, like an angry she-bear and Heidreich's lips quirked in a smile despite the pain. Even if this world wasn't the fabled Shambala, he'd just seen a living, breathing Valkyrie, big as life and twice as terrible in her beauty.
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Major-General Olivia Armstrong looked up at the sky and curled her lip, shaking her head in disgust. Just when she and her troops were having fun, someone had to go and kill the enemy leader before she could get him. Olivia wanted that honor for herself and fantasized about running that ugly man with the weird little mustache through with her sword and watch while the light faded from his eyes. Then she would behead him; the stray dogs of Central could have the body, but she planned to take the head, and mount it on a metal pole. Once things settled down a bit, she would take it to Central Cemetery and stick it in front of the Armstrong family mausoleum as a trophy and an example of her ferocity. Alex would probably throw a hissy fit about it, but that was one of the reasons she wanted to do this, just to piss him off. If he had come to Central to fight the invaders, maybe she would track him down and slap him around a little to burn off her frustration.

The enemy rocket ships had left Armstrong Park a colossal mess, grass churned up, bushes and trees uprooted, walking paths destroyed. She didn't give a damn about parks, they had no strategic value, but her great-great grandfather had donated the land as a living memorial to the Armstrong family. That made it personal and further dampened her mood. One body lay in the muck and she wandered over to look at it, she saw it was a man once she got close enough. He wasn't a bad looking one either, if a bit scrawny for her tastes. Almost the entire right side of his shirt was red with blood, the coppery tang was strong, yet it was mixed with the sublter smells of oil and grease. He must have been an engineer, pity he was dead because he could have been interrogated about those rocket ships. She was about to turn away when a faint groan reached her ears.

A thin line of blue showed at the lower edge of his eyelashes, and his lips moved, he was trying to say something. He was barely clinging to life, yet Olivia sure as hell wasn't going to kneel down in the mud to listen. She jerked her head impatiently at a nearby Briggs soldier, who came over and lifted the man into his arms. The injured man's mouth opened, but no sound came out at first, then he murmured "Tell, tell Alphonse, I am so -sorry." The man swallowed hard and said something in that strange invader language, "Krieg ist her holle" before he sighed once and went limp, arms drooping to the ground and head lolling back.

"Poor bastard," the Briggs soldier said softly, he laid Heidriech's body back down with a touching gentleness and crossed his arms over his chest. Major-General Armstrong had merely shrugged at the blond man's dying message, Who the hell is Alphonse? and walked away. In a final act of mercy, the Briggs soldier unwound the white scarf from around his face and draped it over the corpse's. He didn't know why he'd worn it in the heat of Central anyways. He leaped back to his feet and went to re-join his comrades as they searched out and eliminated any remaining pockets of invader resistance.


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Chiyo
post Sep 9 2009, 05:58 AM
Post #165


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I promised I'd keep up with these, and I didn't. I'm a bad person!

To start with I do have a lot to catch up on but I read the most recent chapter just to check it out. This is just the most epic fanfiction I have ever read. You have taken on so much it's novel worthy and I hope you do more original writing. I shall try my best to catch up.


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