As Isaac left the elevator, Leo followed and rolled out of it. The conversation with Isaac disturbed him. He was making enemies out of comrades in such delicate times. Perhaps the man was right. Such thoughts were high treason. Even thinking that what Octivir said might be true... it was absurd.
Leo rolled himself away towards the receptionist. "Miss", he said from his chair, "I need to check out this chair. Leonard Mentsi, State Alchemist. Can you direct me to the nearest library?".
"Ha!" Banagher said, making as pointedly insulting a laugh as he could. "Yeah, I guess you're right, sir." He didn't waste any more time speaking with a man as disgusting as Anton, and went back into the hospital room, where James was still lying in bed. Banagher saluted him, and at the same moment Mira slid past the other crowded-in occupants to do the same.
"Sir!" They announced in unison. "Tasks complete."
The woman at the desk happily directed Leo to a nearby library, thankfully on the same floor. "Just down the hall and it's the last door on your right." she informed him.
"Alright Sergent, time to reconnect your arm to the nerves. On the count of three." This was the part Elias always dreaded about getting work done on his automail: the pain always reminded him of how it felt to lose the actual limb. He clenched his teeth and braced for the reconnection.
"One....two....three!" Elias' nerves lit up like a wildfire, and it showed in his face. He kept from screaming, but only because his mouth was closed, so instead the sound came out in a loud, drawn-out grunt. Before he could stop himself, his vision flashed to that house in Ishval. The grenade rolled into the room. His hand grabbed the grenade. His arm disappeared around the corner, grenade in hand. An explosion.
His arm didn't come back from around the corner.
Elias found himself taking deep breaths as he forced the image of the bloody stump from view. Slowly turning his head, he looked at the reattached arm and began to manipulate all of its joints, from the shoulder itself down to the fingertips. Last but not least, he extended and retracted its blade. Satisfied, he put his shirts and coat back on, now with both sleeves occupied.
"Thank you, ma'am," he said with a sincere grin. "Nice to be back to a hundred percent. You just fix it up, or are there any adjustments I should know about?"
After a few hours of nursing his drinks, Kallu stood and made a decision then and there that he didn't care what the Fuhrer said about not researching homunculi. The people of Amestris counted on the Alchemists to protect them from what the military couldn't, and that law superseded the law of the military.
He arrived at the library, not drunk, but the smell of alcohol could be faintly smelled on him. He nodded to the librarian behind the desk and headed to the Alchemy section, searching for anything on studies of Philosopher's Stones, impossible creations, and studies of chimeras. Anything was possible, and he intended to find any edge he could against them, and he had a sinking feeling that they would meet again. Finding the books, he began to read, looking for any mention of them in the library, unsure of exactly what he'd find, fearful of possibly finding exactly how they were theoretically made.
"You just fix it up, or are there any adjustments I should know about?" Tasha smiled, glad to hear that Elias was happy with her work. "A few adjustment's, not much you need to worry about though. Greased up the ball-bearing along the joints, replaced a few of the other parts that were either broken or weak. All I can recommend is that if we keep getting missions in Ishval you may want to keep a couple of oil applicators with you. The sand and wind really screw with the joints, especially with you military customizations. Don't want the lade to stick in combat, and knowing luck that's exactly when it'll happen." She said returning to the pile of tools. She quickly packed the tools up and grabbed two small oil droppers from the side pouch. "Here I got a couple of spares I can part with. And don't worry about paying, the government's stipend keeps me covered in the price of parts. Plus it's best if every one's at a hundred percent." She handed over the oil droppers and returned to her bed with a grunt.
She winced as she slowly laid down on the small bed. "Geez I don't look forward to the rest of our assignment's if this is what we'll be dealing with." She said rubbing her side trying to make the pain go away. "Hope Victor accepts my offer when he comes to, I'd hate to see the guy lose everything cause of missing arm." She said, worried about the injured Corporal.
As Vlad drove away from the hospital, back to his private lab, he thought about all that had happened recently.
There is something the old man isn't telling us. And for-baying us from investigating? We're scientists, it's our job to figure things out. But still...the existence of homonculi, Octivir's claim of human transmutation giving him the ability to transmute without a circle...this is more than science.
Vlad pulled up to his lab. It was an unmarked building, like any other. From the outside it just seemed like some kind of office. As he entered he hung his coat and headed for the back room, but then he remembered Bradly's note. He walked back to his coat, reached in and pulled it out, then he began to read it.
Kallu found all sorts of things within the library. Dozens of books on chimeras were available, though it was all simple creations, research notes on failed experiments, and a few on the success stories. He found one book by an alchemist named Tucker which seemed to be a study on the theoretical possibility of intelligent, human-like chimeras. Of course, it was nothing but conjecture and may-bes at the moment, so it had little to hold his interest.
There were a dozen volumes of retellings of the legend of the Philosopher's Stone, and how the great Philosopher from the East had brought alchemy to Amestris. All the same legends and, ultimately, bullcrap though. Nothing held any truth or permanence. He nearly gave up, when he spotted a single bit scrap of paper, hastily stapled together and stuffed between two books in the section on other State Alchemist's research notes. There wasn't much there, it looked like a rough draft and only a small piece of a much larger collection. It was a collection of some kind of cooking recipes, by a State Alchemist named Marcoh.
Kallu, as an alchemist, recognized that the recipes were only code for the real alchemical research. Though garbled without the rest to complete it, he was almost certain it had something to do with what he was looking for.
A pair of soldiers walked past the room Elias and Tasha found themselves in, conversing.
"Did you hear the Fuhrer was here a couple minutes ago?"
"What? Why would the Fuhrer come here?"
"Beats me, looked like he was visiting a bunch of patients or something. Some kinda publicity stunt, I guess?"
Their conversation droned off, and they drew out of hearing range shortly after.
Vlad read the note silently, and felt his temper rise as he realized he had been duped.
The envelopes you handed me contain the latest update to the research notes of Doctor Tim Marcoh. When you are feeling ready for action again, meet with me in East HQ. There we will discuss your next, individual assignment.
Fuhrer-President King Bradley"
Leo thanked the nursed and rolled away towards the library. He sat in front of the front desk and had to raise his voice so the librarian could see him in his chair. He held a small note he had from his bag and placed it on the desk. Before his hand would give the librarian the note he jotted down two more sentences and then handed it over. "I need these, miss. Composition of rock, metal, simple organics... Also, if he hear me scream, I apologize. Don't be alarmed.", He raised his watch and showed her he is a state alchemist, "This chair is only temporary".
Leo rolled away and found himself a quiet private study room at the edge of the library. He did manage to catch a glimpse of Kallu, but he didn't think he should disrupt his studies.
Marcoh...where have I heard that name before? This is either very important or nothing at all to be stuffed here.I think I've found everything I'm going to find here.But I'd better keep this.
He began stacking the books he'd found and putting them back in their respective places. The note he hid inside a pocket on his vest, all he knew was that it held some kind of secret and he intended to begin research into this Marcoh, tomorrow. The sun was already down and he heard the library begin showing citizens out the door. Now was not a good time to keep looking, he didn't want to attract anymore attention to himself than he already had. It was best not to tell the others just yet either, he wasn't sure who he could trust just yet. Who had the best interests of Amestris at heart and who followed their orders without question.
He left the building and climbed a ladder to a roof, eager to be away from the city. It was too closed in, the farthest you could see was only a few dozen yards, and Kallu was still not used to it, even after the last decade spent in them. He stared out at the expanse that was the city, that was where he belonged, not stuck in this man made wonder to sure, but it had never suit him.
After around a half-hour of simply staring off into the east desert, the Stone Alchemist climbed back down and returned to the hospital. He asked how Victor was doing and felt that he was one of the few he could trust, but it was best to know for sure first. He sat outside where Victor was being operated on and then moved when he was sent out to his room. He waited the rest of the night, falling asleep on a bench in the hospital a few times. Each awakening brought the feeling that he had lost the pages of Marcoh and he checked, but they were still there when he woke with the early patches of dawn began streaming through the windows.
After some time to collect the materials necessary, the librarian brought a bag full of the stuff to Leo. She nodded at him in silence and walked away, to leave him to his research.
Leo grabbed hold of the materials and rolled himself away from the desk. He set them all on the desk alongside him bag and began to look through them. It took him several hours to trace about half a dozen of transmutation circles he wanted to make and the day almost ended before he thought of a proper circle for himself. Then it hit him - he crudely drew a strange circle, something he had never seen before used by an alchemist. He then added a few descriptions and held both of his arms on the piece of paper. Underneath him table shook and over it appeared three more paper pages. The light coming from the transmutation worried the librarian but Leo managed to calm her down and continue with his work. What he had done - representing the erratic movements that matter must go through, and try to imitate it. By combining the elemental stage of the separate transmutation circles, Leo managed to create one that could operate on a greater array of materials with the same proficiency as he did with rock.
"This is insane... I need to test it on the field as soon as possible", Leo mumbled to himself. But he couldn't touch his feet, they were still wrapped and healing from his wounds. He grabbed his flask of strong alcohol and took a few swigs. After it came the pistol and a ragged piece of paper. He copied the circle onto the piece of paper and took another swig from the bottle.
"Don't disrupt me!", Leo shouted at the Librarian and she replied by asking him to quiet down.
Leo began to carve up his skin and paint the circles on the palms of his hands. An excruciating process, he had to endure it for almost an hour before finishing it and the bottle as well.
"Can I... Can I get some water?".
Ken headed down to the library after the fuhrer left the room, he looked through the library for books about the transmuting of liquids, he couldn't work on his notes about deep blues alchemy circles though he could sure read up more about the subject and hopefully find a way to combine the circles with his alchemic knowledge. While reading in the library for a couple of hours his mind started to wonder how victor was doing, he sat trying the read for another hour before he checked the books out of the library and headed back to the hospital, he went to were victor was being treated he sat down on a chair next to were kallu was at the moment sleeping on a bench.
James smiled at the Banaghers.
"Thanks a lot. You two have been a great help," his face growing serious he struggled to Mira, "It may be in both your best interests to keep these books on the quiet. I may have put you in more danger than I meant to. I didn't realize how dangerous this may have been until recently. Forget what you saw and what I asked you to. Keep one eye open for the next week at least. Sorry about this. I'll keep my eyes open if I can but stuck here and away in the field I may not be able to," James walked to the windowsill looking over the city.
"There is something going on with the military. I think there may be a conspiracy. If anything Octvir said was true it would be all the conflicts along the borders. I don't know but I feel like we have too many conflicts for a country fighting for peace. Maybe its just a coincidence but there may be something to that. So keep quiet and be watchful."
Banagher was angry. This delighted Anton. Getting under peoples' skin was a great feeling.
"Step aside, Lieutenant Anton. I don't speak with monsters. Why don't you go find Kimblee or something? You could spend a night by the fireside, telling stories about killing babies or something."
"Oooh, sorry, sorry Lt.! Didn't realize you were still sore about that... incident with the hostage."
Anton's smile grew just an inch wider.
"Oh, I dunno about that, Lieutenant Banagher. Babies are all fat, ya know. Lt. Anton here probably feasts on young children. Gotta get your red meat somewhere, am I right, Lieutenant?"
"Ha! Yeah, I guess you're right, sir."
It seemed Amon had followed the Lieutenant, no doubt allured by his automail.
"Again with the demonizing! I like a good omelette myself. I'm human too you know..."
Anton feigned dismay again.
"In any case, don't let me hold you up. See ya around Lt!"
Anton made a curt bow as he made room for Banagher to leave. He then turned towards Amon.
"Ah! That's right! I promised you I'd show you my arms, didn't I? Well, I'm just about to go see my mechanic, so how about it? Bourbon and Automail?"
I really shouldn't take a member of the military there, but I do have to keep an eye on someone. Might as well be him.
"We're going to an inn in the north of town. Called Demitri's."
Vlad took a deep breath and relaxed for a moment.
Is he toying with me because of the weakness he saw when we spoke in his office? Or is it something else...could he have told Antonof my thirst? No no no, he would have no reason for that. Damn, he is hard to read for an old man.
The vampire alchemist burned the note, as usual, and drank a small bit of the blood he had hidden in the wall so he would be satisfied for the important next few hours.
Vlad put his coat back on and drove to the H.Q. where he proceeded directly to Bradly's office.
"Vampire Alchemist Vlad Dracule reporting Fuhrer." He said with a salute after he closed the door. He only did it half sincerely, but then again, most of the formalities between he and Bradly weren't sincere. They were past that by the time Vlad was 19.
Marlin watched the former gangster walk away for a bit in silence. Did I do the right thing? The military is a dangerous life, but surely it's better than a life of crime... I suppose only time will tell. After a bit, Marlin shook his head and snapped himself out of his thoughts. He had little left to do here with Victor in surgery and the others recovering so he decided to leave for the time being.
He couldn't think of anything else that he particularly needed to do so he returned to his quarters for the evening to continue his research. "... These new enemies are far more powerful than I... I was hoping I could put off completing this research for awhile longer but it seems it now requires my full attention..." Marlin muttered quietly to himself as he scribbled down various notes, recording any ideas he had to weaponize his moisture absorbing circle. It wasn't what he wanted his work to be used for, but if it would save his life and the lives of others in battle he had no choice.
With Leo heading off on his own, followed by the majority of the rest of the group, Roland was at a loss as to what to do.
He then remembered what he said to Leo about improving his circle. This gave him a few ideas. If he ever met those monsters again, he wanted to be prepared, if they showed their faces, he was going to blow it off.
Roland left the Hospital shortly after Isaac, stopping briefly at reception to sign himself out.
He hailed a cab shortly after, ordering it to take him to a well renowned tailor.
The librarian was shocked such a brutal act was perpetrated under her watch. A man had deformed his hands and written ink into them, all by himself, while being intoxicated. She begrudgingly gave Leo the glass of water and he thanked her. Raising the cup, his hand began to glow and the water turned cooler but not reaching freezing degrees. "This is unexpected...", Leo mumbled as he drunk the contents of the glass. Tired and drunk, Leo simply remained in his wheelchair and spent the night at the library mumbling about rythms and circles.
Demitri's was an inn in the very northernmost part of East City. On the surface, just another inn. But this one was not just your ordinary B&B.
Demitri was an enemy of the government. Member of an underground organization of anarchists and dissenters. A tall, dark, muscular man, with a large scar on his left cheek. He was an excellent, if foul-mouthed automail mechanic. Which suited Anton, although Demitri's prices were enough to wipe the usually so persistent smile right off the Lt's face.
Jeanne was Demitri's girl. Bartender at th inn. Covered in tattoos and sporting a neatly trimmed red haircut. Usually welcomed Anton with a barrage of insults and physical violence.
Then, there was Abel. A 14 year old orphan from Resembool. Adopted by Demitri and Jeanne, Abel was Anton's self-proclaimed disciple and, happily unaware of the true nature of his "Master's" work, idolized him like a big brother.
"Family huh...?" Anton muttered to himself as he stood outside the inn.
"Home sweet home." He opened the door.
"Hello, Hello! Bourbon and an arm maintenance pl... WHOA!"
Anton dodged a shot glass that had been flung at his face. Behind the counter Jeanne scowled at him.
Lt. Banagher smiled at James' words, trying to look reassuring and relaxed. "Don't sweat any of that, sir. We can keep secrets just fine. We'll leave you alone for now, but we'll visit when we can. Oh, and we'd love to have you and the others over sometime whenever you get out of this place."
With a casual wave from the man and a sharp salute from Mira, the both of them exited the hospital room, leaving Projecting with his books.
As Anton entered the bar, a silhouette danced across the rooftops and out of sight, their vigilance broken by the walls of the building. Though the others did not know it, they too were being watched. All across the city unassuming folk conversed, and traded knowledge, and secrets, And plans.
As Vlad walked in, the Fuhrer gestured towards the chair in front of him. There were no formalities, indeed. Straight to business. He was speaking before Vlad even finished sitting.
"Vampire. I've brought you here for a very important reason. I don't know just how deaf your comrades seem to think I am in my old age, but it's not so bad that I can't hear dissent right behind my back. Leo, the Barefoot Alchemist. I hear him lending support to the idea of Octivir's ramblings holding some form of fact. I planned to have him arrested, but then I thought about it. No prison can hold him; so instead I am making you an offer."
The Fuhrer's glare was deadly. Vlad knew there was no jest in the words he said. "I have complete faith in your abilities, and if you do this then you will be rewarded beyond your imagination." He pulled a small vial out of his desk and held it up. Inside was a viscous red fluid. He opened the vial and poured it out onto the table, only to see the liquid take the shape of a perfect red orb.
"This has many names; but you know is as the Philosopher's Stone. They say that it has untold alchemical power; perhaps it could even bring back the dead?"
Silence again. The Fuhrer was aiming for what was Vlad's most likely weak spot, with cold and unerring precision. "Do this for me, and it's yours. Otherwise, remain silent on this meeting or consider yourself in the same boat as Leo. Leave me now, and do as you will. But remember the consequences for your actions."
Four days later
Today was a day of change. It was the first time that Victor was awake and capable of taking visitors, and everyone was told ASAP by various messengers. He had specifically asked to see Elias and Tasha, as he'd seen the soldier's automail, and had been informed that Spark might be able to help him in overcoming his new handicap.
James, Leo, and the other more heavily wounded soldiers were finally released from the hospital, free to do as they pleased. They understood that today was the anniversary of East City's founding, and that there was to be a festival. Food, games, and all sorts of other attractions to garner their attention. Surely they could find something to do amid all the excitement.
And, of course, it was also the day when the silhouettes who stalked from the shadows would take to the daylight, and avenge themselves on the dogs of the military.
Leo sat on the edge of a two story building, looking down at a group of young men moving in strange ways. "How do you call it again?", Leo asked the men. One of them, a bald man in his late 20s stopped and looked up at Leo. "It's breaking. It's our own thing!", he proudly announced. Leo looked down between his legs and noticed a younger man approach the building wall and begin to paint on it. "What's that?", Leo asked the boy, "It's art", he replied without looking up. Leo sighed and dropped down, properly falling from the second floor and rolling to soften the impact.
He rubbed his hands again, the fabric of his gloves never stopped itching him. "I didn't think I couldn't stop these when I first made them, but these gloves are handy. Thanks, Jey", Leo said and smiled at the first man. The man turned to him and raised his hand, both of them locked their fists and hugged each other. "Another go?", Leo asked Jey. "Sure, lets see what you learned yesterday", he said and took a few steps back.
Leo began to hear the music. It pounded in his mind. The same eastern beat that these boys introduced to him now dominated his psyche. He spread his legs and turned to his left, then jumped up and landed on his hand. He began to spin himself and then jump up and stand back on both of his feet. He ran forward and leaned down, then fell on his hand and jumped up in the air. His legs hit the stone wall and stopped him in his place, standing diagnolly to the ground.
"Leo, you got to teach me that!", Jey said with excitement while Leo continued to keep himself on the wall. "I think you should stick with what you love, Jey", Leo said and jumped back, landing on both of his feet and his right hand. He straitened up and greeted the others for the day.
Leo walked through the bustling streets of East City. The streets were packed with booths and people celebrating and the walls covered in bright colors and flags. "STOP, YOU FUCKER!". A voice was heard from afar. Leo looked back and froze in his place. They were after him. He turned around and ran for his life. Behind him were a posse of a dozen men, some holding clubs in their hands.
Leo's training with the gang proved to be very useful. He expertly evaded incoming citizens and maneuvered his body to push forward no matter what, but the posse still gave pursuit. "Stop there, scum!", they cried out. He went through tight streets and tried to lose them in the alleyways, but these men knew that city from birth. At last they caught Leo, his back to the wall. Inside an alleyway, Leo stood in front of his pursuers, his back rubbing against a metal wall. Those damn factories and their iron walls.
"We gotcha now, punk!", one of the men shouted. Another came forth and held a small knife in his hand. "I know what you did, you barefoot freak. You won't let you get near my daughter ever again, you fucker. 'Cause you'll be dead!". The man shouted and charged at Leo. Leo stomped his leg at the floor of the street and a stone pillar came up right in front of the man, causing him to crash into it. Confusion struck the other members of the posse.
"She was old enough, at least nineteen. So what if you wanted her to marry your friend's son? He's a lunatic!", Leo tried to explain himself in front of the other men. "Damn you.. You raped her!", the father cried at Leo. "She said what?", Leo cried out in anger. "She led me to her house...She opened the door to her room", Leo continued to speak, but by then the father regained his composure. Leo removed his glove and held the metal walll behind him. In a few seconds, the metal wall itself ripped in half and allowed Leo and take three steps back and then reattach the wall again. Leo sighed in relief, but before he could turn around he heard a pistol being cocked.
The day began gray, but blossomed into a rich dark blue as the sun crept over the hills where Kallu had spent the past past two days about three miles outside of the city. He had found a small clump of stones in the desert, and had been spending his nights in a tent, happy to be out of the city and back where he belonged. He had spent the time between trying to crack this Marcoh's code, hiking and living in the brutal environment, and simply taking in the simple but unforgiving beauty of the desert.
With the dawn, he attempted to think of one more thing the code might be using before packing up the tent from the quartermaster and heading back to East City, where the Festival of the Founding was underway. After turning in the supplies he had checked out, he went back to the hospital where Victor was recovering well, there was news that he was up and about, though without an arm. He was known as a regular visitor by this time and headed up to the Corporal's room without much overwatch.
The man's parents were visiting when he opened the door, talking family things, he supposed. He fished a stone he'd found out in the desert shaped in a vaguely arm-like position, the thing must've weighed twenty pounds, the legs shook when he dropped it on the side table.
"Hey, kid. You decided what you're going to do about your arm yet?I brought ya this, thought you might have more use for it than I did.Keep it as a paperweight or something."
Victor's parents greeted Kallu warmly as he entered the room. By this time they'd been there at the same time long enough to be well acquainted. Victor looked fairly surprised to see him there, as nobody had informed him how often Stone had visited. "Uh, hey, Kallu!" he said. A bit of a stutter was still there. Unfortunate, but to be expected after how badly his heroism blew up in his face. He couldn't help but let a bit of absolute befuddlement show when he looked at the massive stone. "Uh... thanks?"
A moment of brief silence was followed by the Corporal speaking up. "So, er, is everybody OK? Nobody's really told me what happened. It was all kind of a blur after the huge guy a-attacked me."
"Yo, who's tha freak?!"
Leo found himself in the middle of a crossfire. Or rather, a fire, he supposed. There were two very distinct groups of men present, but only one of them seemed to have had the foresight to bring guns. The armed group was dressed uniformly in white suit pants with white dress shirts and baby blue vests. The other was in all black suits, with indigo shirts and blazing red ties; a wide-brimmed cap sat on each of their heads, hiding their eyes.
"You tryin' to pull a fast one on us?!" a vested man said. "Bringin' in a friggin' alchemist, huh?"
"Don't try none'a that!" the apparent leader of the suited men shouted back. "At least we didn't bring no guns to a damn neutral ground! This was a set-up!"
"Well, tough luck, buster!" the head vest retorted. He looked... a little too close to the Crimson Alchemist for Leo's tastes. His hair was in the same style, though bleach-blond, and his eyes were somehow even shiftier looking, and a shining blue. He gripped his pistol and aimed it straight for Barefoot's skull. "Sorry, mister. But you just walked into the WRONG alley."
He clicked back the hammer and prepared to fire.
Vlad had not left his lab for the last few days. Thinking, planing, despairing.
Leo was a good man, and Vlad knew it. They all knew it. It was obvious that it was worth exploring Octavir's claims, and anyone would have begun doing so immediately if not for Bradly's forbidding of it. Now Vlad was being asked to murder a good man and a fellow alchemist for thinking about something he had every reason to think about.
He took me in, he helped me survive. Vlad thought to himself.
He made you into his weapon and allowed you to live. His sister Adriana's voice said, cold, judging.
Vlad remembered many of the faces of the people he had...tasted. Then there was the liquid stone Bradly had shown him. The ability to bring back the dead. Human transmutation.
Vlad violently jumped from his laying position on the couch and swung out his arm in frustration at the glass of blood on the table. It shattered against the wall and blood splashed everywhere, some of it hitting Vlad. In his state we was about to lick it off the wall, but he saw a reflection of himself in a piece of broken glass, and he was horrified.
His hair was a mess, his eyes were dark from lack of sleep, and there was dried blood on his face. He looked like a monster. Like that disgusting cannibal Gluttony.
"Disgusting...cannibal..." Vlad stammered. "...monster...not human..." then the Vampire alchemist screamed in rage and fell to his knees. He could see his sister's face from that horrible day at the manor. His tenth birthday.
She was covered in blood. Her teeth look like that of a predator. Her eyes were frighteningly calm. Her blood splattered face held an image of serenity, and a partial smile.
Vlad was no better. He couldn't help himself. He was covered in blood as well. He had taken it from the bodies, and the floor, and the walls. He was crying, he held his sobs, but his tears fell freely. Adriana held him in her arms and she was rocking him.
"Shhhhh baby brother," she re-assured him. "Everything's okay. This is what we are. We didn't need mom and dad. We don't need anyone but each other. Shhhhh...".
She tried to wipe the tears from his face, and only succeeded in smearing the blood. He rocked him a little slower and began to hum a soft melody to him. The one his mother would help him to sleep with. He cried out. He cried out with all his soul for his mother and his father, for anyone but her. She just kept rocking him, but then, ever so slowly, she raised a cup of blood to his mouth.
"Shh Vlad, drink as much as you want, you'll feel better."
And he tried, but this blood was cold. He could feel the hot rushing blood inside his sister from his hand that rested on her neck. Without even meaning to, he lurched upward, teeth bared and...
Vlad was sittng on the floor of the shower, fully clothed, letting the water run over him.
"This is what I am." He said to himself "I will have the Barefoot Alchemist's blood."
This is on auto-pilot, Leo.Just let it work for you
Without responding, Leo turned around, his leg stretching out and sweeping the concrete floor. A veil of stone shot up diagonally in front of Leo and managed to stop the bullet before it would hit Leo. He pushed his hand on to the stone wall and a bright light appeared. From the wall came dozens of small darts that pierced through the men standing in front of him. Another man tried to shoot him, but he missed. Instead of raising another shield, Leo took off his other glove and fell back. He hands grabbed the metal wall and from it came spikes that extended through and beyond the man's stomach.
He fell to his right and began to hear that music again. Another sweep on the floor and a spike shot up from the floor straight through one of the man's mouth. Not a pretty sight to be seen. It took him less than three minutes to relieve the men that tried to kill him of their lives and afterwards he was already ready for more. A stomp of his leg brought up a vertical pillar of stone, and a hit from his hand offered the other men a sight of small, stone darts sticking out of the pillar.
"Why shouldn't I kill you now? You friends here tried to kill me too".
"everyone's fine,minor injuries mostly, you're really the only one that got hurt too badly.You're actions probably saved most of us. Definitely, you saved your fellow Soldiers. We've been recommending you for a commendation, if not a full-on pay bump."
He turned to the Corporal's parents,"I'm sorry sir, miss, but can I ask you to leave now? Military business, civilians shouldn't be hearing this, nothing to worry about, but it's best if you don't know, and don't ask."
His parents protested for a moment before realizing the small, powerful Alchemist in front of them would not move on the issue. They respectfully left, Kallu followed them out and locked the door behind them, he then moved to the window and closed the blinds.
"Now Corporal, or Sergeant, whatever the higher-ups decide, don't worry,"He noticed the slightly frightened look on Victor's face, "Anyways, what you fought was a homunculi, something we, as Alchemists, have determined to be impossible. Legend states that a Philosopher's Stone is capable of amazing feats, this may be one of them. I'm not sure, they may just be highly advanced chimeras, it's theoretically possible that way. But the Fuhrer has forbade us looking into the matter of the homunculi and anything relating to them. But while researching in the library, I came across this.Just hear me out, kid."
He pulled the paper out of his pocket, and showed it to the man in the bed.
"All I can make out about this is that it concerns Philosopher's Stones, and that it's either extremely important to be hidden there, or it was a simple misplacement. Considering the code it's in, I'm inclined to believe the former. A Dr. Marcoh is the man responsible for this paper to be in existence. The problem is, I cannot remember where I have heard of him, and his records are non-existant. I trust you to not bring this to the attention of the Fuhrer or his underlings. Amestris is in enough danger as it is, without the threat of these things in the shadows. I'm asking if you will help me try to solve this puzzle."
"Whoa, whoa, hold it dere tough guy." The leader of the suited men said, holding his hands in front of him, palms-down. "No need to get all threatenin'. Me an' my associates were in the middluva deal, but I guess dese fella weren't lookin' t' play fair. Those fellas? They AIN'T our friends, an' if I may be frank I'm glad they're dead. So you got no reason t' kill us, right? Mr. Alchemist?"
Victor looked at the notes, visibly not able to make heads or tails of it, but after he handed it back to Kallu he thought on it for a moment. "Um... I'm not 100% sure, but I think I've heard the name Marcoh before. Only hearsay, he's one of the doctors working for the military; I think he might be an alchemist too."
He shrugged, a sight that looked extremely arm with only one arm. "That's only what I heard from all the way in Ishval, though. But if, er, those notes are part of a bigger, um, thing, then I bet it'd be at the military's library in Central, right?"
James looked at the stack of books Mira Banagher had brought him. They had sat by his bedside for the past four days, unopened. One part of James had wanted to read the books, to find out what those creatures were but another part, his solider part, said no and he listened to that part. Orders were orders and nothing could change that fact. James was a solider through and through. If he was told to do something by his superiors, he did no question asked.
James turned his attention to a second pile books, scattered all over his bed. He had asked Mira to get everything she could about the military from the library three days ago. He may have been forbidden from researching the homunculus but the Fuhrer hadn't said anything about researching the military's past. Despite researching everything he could in the past three days he had discovered nothing. No hints to a conspiracy, no one who could be implicated. Just a lot of conflicts and expansion of the military.
Despite his lack of findings, James wasn't giving up. The amount of conflicts Amestris has engaged in was staggering and astonishing. It just seemed unnatural to James. He had been taught they were fighting for peace but their history sure didn't show it. There was something there and someday he was going to find it.
James slid out of bed with no difficulty at all. His ribs had only been cracked slightly despite how hard he was hit. He figured his bones were stronger than what he had thought. He was moving with very little pain. He had a little trouble breathing but the doctors had assured him that a couple of days he would be fine, at least his ribs would be. His arm would be another story.
Lust spike had gone clean through. Thankfully that meant it was easy for his body to heal. It had missed most of his nerves, leaving clean cuts that felt like they were already healing. Some bone had been pierced but that been pushed out the back of his arm from Lust's attack. Apparently the Calcium Phosphate was healing the outside already and the marrow was already replacing itself according to the doctors. He still had to keep his arm wrapped in bandages but the doctors had said that within two weeks his arm should be fully healed.
As James finished getting dressed with one hand he heard a knock at the door.
"So ya had to go and get your gun broken didn't you," a short man stood at the door, half the height of James, carrying a large metal case.. He had automail arms that nearly touched the ground and automail below his knees. "Ya lucky I've been experimenting with different designs. If I didn't keep around those circles for the first ones I would have had to start from scratch."
The short man made his way to James' bed and tossed his case up into the bed. Grabbing two small cranks on both his legs, the short man cranked himself taller until he was half a foot higher than before. Opening the case he pulled out a pistol just like James' old one. James took the pistol and held it up inspecting it.
"Its feels exactly the same as my old one Issac. Same weight, sights are the same. Perfect"
"Of course it does you twit. That's what you asked for. Now I have two more for ya," Issac said as he pulled out a rifle. "Its a slow firing rifle but its got range. A hundred feet its good for. Gives you lots of space to pick out your targets. The scope also allows for greater accuracy. The second gun is a bit of an adaptation of your first. Its a pistol but it carries a detachable scope. Nice for situations where the rifle is to big and you still need accuracy Also useful as a backup or a duel wield guns. They all use the same magazine you were using before, so you can switch on the fly."
James picked up the rifle, being careful with his right arm.
"Good weight. Scope may need adjusting but the rest is good. Thanks," he put the rifle down and picked up the second pistol. "The scope missed up the weight a little bit but I can adjust. Thanks. Here is the payment," James tossed Issac a bag full of money.
"Bah. I'm not done yet. These are your new gloves," Issac handed James a box. James opened it and there were two gloves with metal bumps but no circles. James looked quizzically at Issac.
"Don't get your panties all in a knot. I just made a few changes to those gloves," Issac pulled out two more boxes, "These are where the circles are. Just press the gloves against the box and the pieces attach. Press again and they go back onto the box. I have four more allowing you to make three different circles. Just have someone sew them into the inside of your jacket or something. Quick and easy access," Issac gave four more boxes to James. "And last but not least I have something else for you. I hear your carry only five cartridges. Don't know why but that seems stupid to me so I had this made," Issac pulled out a long belt, with many pouches. "Its a belt with twenty pouches for your ammo. Lots to store for you to use. I recommend you make good use of it."
James took the belt and replaced it with his current one. He placed all the weapons back in the case.
"Thanks Issac. Much appreciation that you came here."
"Yeah, yeah. Ya would never have gotten these without me so be grateful. Now I'm off to Rush Valley. I have too much work there to be gone for long," Issac pressed a button on both his legs and they returned to their original height. Issac turned to the door and was walking out before he stopped.
"It was good to see ya again James. I'll let the wife know your doing fine. She nearly freaked when she heard you were in the hospital. Your Mama too. If you get the chance you should come to visit," Issac left the room.
"Goodbye Issac," James said. He threw all the books he had in the room into a bag, which he had gotten from one of the Nurses and swung it over his back. He picked up the gun case with his left arm and left the hospital.
"Yeesh. This is the down side to these here 'Wolverines'. They might be high end but they take forever to fix..." Anton complained as he sat at the bar, armless, taking a sip of his morning tea through a straw.
"It's your own fault for breaking it, you degenerate fox-faced dumbass. You got Demitri holed up there for 4 days straight." Jeanne berated Anton while contemplating whether or not she should dropkick him in the face. Putting on a devastated face, she continued. "He hasn't even had time for... his marital duties!"
"Oi, oi! I don't need to know whatever the hell you do when others ain't watching! Damn deviant. Where's the Watch by the way?" Anton asked, looking for Amon who had followed him to the inn and stayed there for the last 4 days.
"Sleeping like a baby. For now. Why'd you bring him here? If he finds out and rats us out, I'm going to cut you into tiny little pieces and feed you to the dogs, you jackass." Jeanne said, brandishing a kitchen knife in front of the Lieutenant's face.
"Relax, he thinks I'm military too. The most he can have is suspicions." Anton said in a hushed tone of voice.
"Why did you even get involved with the Fuhrer? You're getting in way over your he..." Jeanne stopped as she heard Amon come down the stairs into the bar.
"Ah, morning there, sir! Have good night's sleep? Yesterday's training must've really taken a toll on ya. Care for a hearty breakfast?"
Anton greeted The Spice Alchemist as he got on a stool by waving his armless torso from side to side. Truly a weird sight. He had asked Anton to improve his reaction time and the Lieutenant had complied. For the last 3 days he had been pushing Amon to his limits.
Tasha was on her way towards Victors room, a smile on her face. She was happy to hear the Corporal had pulled through okay. She kept her hands in her pocket's, more out of habit than to actually keep them warm. She needn't worry about cold until near sub-zero temperatures anyway. She rounded the corner to Victors room and held up a hand in greeting as her smile grew into a grin. "Heya Corporal. Glad to see your feelin better." She said before noticing Kallu. ""Oh? Hello to you too Stone, didn't see you there for a sec." She noticed the papers in Victors hands. "Am I interrupting something?"
Music and laughter wafted through the streets, cheers of delight and boisterous roars pulsing through Isaac's ears as he traversed the now familiar streets of East City. The festival was in full swing; booths and stands had been set up everywhere in the main square, merchants shouting out their best prices to date and street performers clamoring for some attention and coin. The scent of roasting meet and seasoned vegetables enveloped Isaac as he walked through a section dedicated to food and treats, a small smile crossing his face as he watched the scenery around him.
There was no denying that war was brutal, that fighting was hell. On the front lines, it could be so easy to lose yourself in the chaos and bloodshed, slipping further and further into that hellish pit of despair and death. Still... coming back here, and watching as the citizens of Amestris went about their daily lives, laughing, loving, living, somehow made it all worth it. This was why he fought, so that these people could celebrate their freedom.
It's why I'm about to do this. Isaac's smile slowly faded, as he left the town square, forcing his way through the crowd rushing the opposite direction. He had little time for celebrations or indulgences; he was not dressed in full military regalia for the fun of it. Today was the day he finally completed his assignment, the day he finally spoke with the prisoner again.
The girl had sustained heavy injuries during her capture; it had been touch and go for those first few hours, the doctors barely able to keep her stable and breathing. However, Amestris' medical expertise was some of the best in the world; the girl had pulled through in the end, and had spent the last few days in recovery, safely secured in her hospital room. According to the phone call Isaac had received earlier that day, she was finally ready to be questioned.
The alchemist's footsteps grew heavier and heavier as he approached the hospital, his face a mixture of determination, revulsion, and fear. This was not something he was looking forward to; nevertheless, orders were orders. He would follow through, no matter what his task.
In an attempt to calm himself down, Isaac reached into his coat pocket as he walked, fingers probing past his pocket-watch and gloves, seeking and finding the quintet of over-sized rings jangling together. Even without looking, he was able to slip a few of them onto his fingers, the bulky circlets stopping as they reached his second knuckle. Running his thumb over the surface of the rings, Isaac felt the tiny transmutation circles he had painstakingly inscribed onto their surfaces, the product of a late night research binge. Alcohol may or may not have been involved.
Sighing, Isaac walked through the doors of the medical complex, approaching the nurse's station with a few quick steps. Clearing his throat, he nodded to the young lady working the desk, his voice crisp and clear, "Major Isaac Berelan, here to speak to the patient."
Here's hoping things don't go to hell right off the bat.
Roland stood outside. He could hear the sounds of the crowd that had gathered to take part in the celebrations. He himself was contemplating seeing the parade, no use to stay here by himself all day, that's what drives people insane.
He promised himself that after he hit these last targets, he would join in with the festivities.
A target stood in front of him. It was a rough resemblance to the human body, using the bodies of pigs. It was the closest thing to a human that Roland could practice on, save for stealing bodies from the mortuary. But he his followed his better judgement.
The first target stood at 30 feet away, there was no wind and the dry air offered easy static for him to use. In his hand he placed a rifle round, he had been perfecting this technique for a while, though only recently had he been testing it practically. He took his time and took a deep breath, before gathering the necessary charge. His new rubber under suit was working to his specifications, it allowed him to handle much higher voltages without the possibility of it backfiring.
Roland remembered the look on the tailor's face when he asked him to make him a rubber suit. The tailor looked at him like he was some kind of fetishist, though his pocket watch and uniformed swiftly dismissed the look and silenced any possible questions. The money helped too. He also instructed them to fit his boots with metal plating, whilst also carving a transmutation circle into it's sole.
Roland's hand glowed with the charge, and then he passed the current into the round. He stopped just so it was enough to ignite the propellant, causing the bullet to fly from his hand, straight into the chest of his Frankenstein-like target. It had pierced right through the carcass's heart, leaving a trail of bloodied matter.
Hmph, not bad, though considering I was aiming for the head...
He placed several rounds in his outstretched palm. Once again, he guided the current through his arm and hand, into the casing of the bullet, only this time he fired them all in quick succession. The target in front of him was riddled with holes from the gunfire.
That's more like it
He walked over to where the next target was, this one was closer, about 10 feet. He had made it a full-scale imitation, complete with limbs.
Roland reached over to a small table, upon it lay a variety of different rounds, as well as including a new edition to his arsenal...
It had taken him several days to investigate the ideal composite to be able to carry a charge, whilst being strong enough to cut through thin materiel, and yet loose enough to disengage from a target.
Another several days was spent trying to find someone in East city who was still proficient with the art of making a whip, yet alone making one for military use.
It took time and money, lots of money, but eventually he was convinced to make the whip for Roland, though he warned against improper use, it would take time to master.
Roland took the whip from the table, and moved it with force and speed. The loud crack as it broke the sound barrier would take some getting use to, though it was a plus in it's intimidation factor.
He took aim at the target's left arm, twirling the whip above his head, he brought it down swiftly, the end unravelled and caught the target in the middle of the forearm. Roland flicked it back, and took aim again, this time at the target's face. The same process, and the same noise as metal hit meat and bone.
He went to inspect his handiwork up close. There was a deep gash in the arm, almost going to the bone, on a live target the wound would cause immense bleeding.
The slash to the face had carved at the pig's dead eyeballs, the same attack would blind the most stubborn man.
Content with his practice for the day, Roland left the field, taking his new whip tightly coiled at his side, along with several rounds in a pouch on his belt. He went of to join the townsfolk in their celebrations.
Time to have some fun
"Not really", Leo said nonchalantly. He slowly walked towards his discarded gloves and put them on. "Tell me what kind of deal it was first".
Victor looked at Tasha with a grimace denoting shock and maybe a bit of terror mixed in for good measure. His eyes then drifted down to the papers, and he quickly handed them back to Stone, putting on an overcompensating grin to balance the suspicion. "Oh, this?! Nah, don't worry about it! Kallu was just, er, showing me some of his research notes!" There was one good thing about Victor's stutter. It made it nearly impossible to figure out when he was lying.
"The truth is," Victor said to continue the bluff. "I kinda always wanted to be an alchemist; but I could never really get the hang of it. But I still like to learn what I can." He rubbed the back of his head with his sole hand, trying and failing to look nonchalant. After a few seconds of this he spoke up again. "So, uh, if you're here then I guess somebody sent my message for me?"
The secretary at the desk pointed Isaac to a room on the third floor. A short trip up the elevator brought him where he was going; his first peek inside the room didn't really tell him much, so he went ahead and walked in. The girl from before was lying in the bed. There was an ice pack on the back of her head; he figured she must have smacked it against the wall from that impact that hit her. Only her head and shoulders were visible above the blanket that covered her. She was looking out the window for the moment, so he got an unbiased look at her demeanor. She looked peaceful, if a bit worried. The slightest hint of a frown tugged at her lips. That frown grew a dozen times stronger when she turned to see him there. "You..." was all she said.
"Well, lemme put it dis way." the suited man said, grinning as he stooped down to pick up the silver revolver of the vested men's leader. "Wit' all tha new toys dey brought us, we don't need th' deal anymore. But lemme as YOU a question, mistah. What's an alchemist doin' in dis parta town? An' why'd ya jump in like dat? If you'd decided t' run or sometin', we'd'a all been dead."
Kallu calmly folded the notes and secured them in his vest pocket, taking care to not allow Tash to see them. He wasn't sure of her loyalties just yet, but he felt he could trust Victor.
"What the kid said, figured it would give him something to think about while he sat in bed. But, since you're here, I pass the entertainment torch to you." He smiled for a split second before returning to his neutral expression.
He went and told the Corporal's parents they could come back in, and sat in one of the chairs near the door.