The gravity of Leo's actions began to sink in. Without even flinching he killed a dozen men. He did not ask for their allegiance nor was he ordered to, he just killed them. They were going to shoot me... I had to, I had". Leo couldn't hear the men that pursued him behind him. "I was running from a mob... turns out this woman I slept with had her father promise her to someone else and now he-", Leo's explanation was interrupted by the shouts of the men that pursued him. They entered the linen factory and barged into the meeting place. "You!", one of them cried out. Before they would try to lynch Leo, they saw the bodies littering the other end of the hall.
A hand clasped on Leo's shoulder. It was the leader of the men wearing hats. "Tell ya what, pal. You did me an' my boys a solid, now we do you one, 'kay?" He pointed at the mob, and his men picked up all the various armaments littering the ground, and a few out of the crates they were supposed to be trading for. In a few seconds over a dozen weapons were trained on the mob.
"'Ey, dis fella's now officially under th' protection udda Indigos, gottit? So scram, before my boy's trigger fingers get itchy!"
The mob may have been angry, but they weren't stupid. The scared civilians scattered, getting out by any exit they could. In a few moments the entire factory was empty. "Now how's THAT fer power, eh? You must be new here, because anybody worth their salt knows about my little, er, troupe here. Even yer fancy alchemy can't clear a room as fast as our name."
He gestured to the group around him. "We own dis city, no madda what the military tells ya. Say, y'know, if we really wanted t' consolidate our power, y'know what we need? A fella like YOU, stranger. So whaddaya say? Wanna roll wit' my boys?"
Roland found a veritable festival to select his entertainment from. Foods of all sorts were being sold by stands out in the streets, and people were so thick on the cobblestone that no cars could even hope of moving around. Balloons flew in the air, just out of reach of depressed children. Games of all sorts were open, and rumors spread of various music acts and contests to take place later in the day.
After ken found out that victor was fine he left the hospital and walked back to his flat. Ken was more alert then usual always looking over his shoulder as he tried to stay aware of all of his surroundings. If there were two of those humonculi creature what says there aren't more of them, also if lust was another humonculi that means that there is someone further up the later then it. On his way home he picked up a pair of gloves at a shop, he had something he wanted to try out.
When ken arrived at his flat he looked up and down the corridor to check no one was following him, he locked the door behind him and got himself a glass of water. Ken entered his secret room and picked up the note book that he placed there about 5 days ago, he flipped through the note book and made some alterations to his previous notes using his new knowledge, once done he placed the notes in front of him as he slowly and carefully started painting alchemy circles on the tip of the fingers of the gloves. He tried out his new alchemy circles of his glass of water and they seemed to work. Ken left and sealed his secret room.
He decided that he had do much stress on his shoulders and that he should take the short amount of time he has to enjoy himself, so he put his new gloves into the pocket on his chest and decided to go and enjoy the festival. Leaving his flat he walked around the streets watching the performers and the fresh air, though he couldn't shake the feeling that he should continue his work.
Standing in the middle of the room, rummaging through two crates were two men that were a part of that gang. They both held strange rifles in their hands. A long, wide tube that no bullet can fill lead to a cylinder of five spaces for such strange bullets, ending with a strap to lean on your shoulder. Leo had never seen those things before.
"I agree to help, but I want one of these cool things for me after I help you", Leo said and pointed at the rifles. This is something new altogether... Enemy technology, perhaps? I have to investigate
Amon yawned widely in response as clomped onto the main floor. Stumbling across the room with his eyes mostly closed, he bumped his way through chairs and tables to haul himself onto a stool and drop his head onto the bar, grumbling indiscriminately. Amon wasn't a morning person.
"Coffee, please," came the muffled response.
Marlin had scarcely slept the past few days. Besides the occasional meal and shower, he did little else than work on his circles. And in all that time he had little to show for it. He had also taken to running and getting more exercise lately. Since it seemed being called to combat would be a regular thing now, he would need to be more physically fit. Marlin had finally dozed off for a nap one morning when he was awakened by a knock on the door. Groggily, he rose from his desk and made his way to the door to find a messenger from the military there. "Major Frederic, sir! I have a message for you. Corporal Victor Kendrall has awakened after his surgery and is currently recovering." The man said with a salute.
Marlin smiled slightly at this news. ".... I see.... Thank you for telling me..." Now that his attention was drawn back to the outside world, Marlin could hear a strange commotion outside. "... What's going on out there...?" He asked the messenger.
"Today is the anniversary of the founding of East City, Sir! There's a festival going on outside and quite the lively one at that. Anyway, I've got more messages to deliver so I'd better get going." The soldier said before saluting again and leaving.
Marlin walked over to the window and watched over the festivities for a bit. I suppose peace like this is worth fighting for. If my work can make moments like these possible, than weaponizing my circle isn't such a bad thing after all... But how? I've made no progress... Marlin frowned and turned back to his desk, flipping through his notes some more. The simplest way would be to put the circle on my own body, but then I'd have to absorb the water into myself and risk over hydration...
Eventually, he sighed and walked towards the door. He needed some fresh air to clear his head and the festival would be a good way to do that. He stepped out into the streets and took a deep breath, ready to take in the sights and enjoy a much needed break from his research.
"Me." Isaac's reply was short, simple, and to the point. He was not here to be friendly or kind; there was no room for kindness or mercy here.
Stepping into the room, Isaac walked over to a small chair in the corner, picking it up and dragging it over to the girl's bed. His face was kept expressionless, betraying nothing of his intentions as he made the short trip.
Letting the chair fall back to the ground, the alchemist slid his backpack from his shoulders, allowing it to thud down next to the chair. Reaching into one of its many pockets, Isaac pulled out some of the equipment he had brought along for today: A pad of paper and a pen.
Sitting down on the chair, Isaac set the pad onto his knees, situating it in such a way that the girl could not see its surface. Without a word, he brought up his pen, and began scribbling away, writing arbitrary words and phrases. There was nothing of meaning written there, but that was not the point: A simple fact of the human condition was that they were always so curious about things they did not know.
There was no need to say anything yet; she would speak first.
Roland meandered through the crowd, taking in the sights and smells of the festival. It was great distraction from all his recent woes about the military and the homunculi. He wondered if, one day, he could lead a simple life such as the people here. It was a fleeting thought, quickly cast away. The simple notion was laughable to him, nobody could make an honest man out of him. He had always been a lone wolf after all, and it had been successful so far, why change now? Roland cast his thoughts back to his team; all these new people around him. He knew them, he worked and fought with them. In turn they relied, and even possibly trusted him. Would he die for them?
No... It's not over yet
He wasn't through living his life how he wanted just yet.
Roland looked around for the source of the voice, he couldn't pinpoint it.
He looked down to find a little boy. His face was mottled with dirt, and he was dressed in ill-fitting, patch worn clothes. He was surely a beggar, or an orphan. Perhaps both.
The boy tugged at the pocket watch that was tucked into Roland's coat pocket, the boy pulled it out and began looking at it with fascination. Roland pushed the boys head with palm and quickly tucked it back inside his pocket.
"Wow... Hey Mister, are you a real State Alchemist?"
What is this kid's game? If he was a pickpocket he would've taken the watch without me noticing...
"What do you want?" Roland said in a faux, gruff voice, trying to be as intimidating the child as possible.
The boy simply smiled up at him.
"So are you? Like, a real state alchemist? What's it like? What do you do? What's your nickname? Are you rich? Can I get a hot-dog?"
Roland was taken back by the boy's barrage of questions immediately after he made it clear he was annoyed.
"Yes I am, a real one, it's very boring, I follow orders, Lightning Alchemist, no it's all the military's money, and yes you can if you shut up and leave me alone"
Roland walked swiftly onward, the boy followed him, tripping over his own feet in a hassle to keep up. Roland found a nearby food stand where the line was mostly short, after a brief wait he payed for the hot-dog, and stuffed it into the boy's hand.
"There you go, enjoy you little urchin"
Roland then proceeded to walk off, whilst taking a bite of a burger he had gotten.
Jeanne contemplated wheather she felt like doing the dog any favors. She complied in the end, however and in a matter of minutes, a steaming cup of coffee was in front of Spice.
"Black, no sugar." Jeanne said. Apparently this was not the first coffee she had made for Amon.
"I'm pleased to see you're still keeping up. My training is not exactly a light workout, and most State Alchemists I've... met, we're out of shape losers who relied too much on their lil' magic tricks."
Anton paused as he remembered a contract a few years back. Jack Tollins, State Alchemist in South City.
Heh... He died as slowly as he moved.
"Although, you don't get into a merry lil' group like ours with just good looks now, do you?" Anton mused, while Amon was busy with his cup o' joe.
Then the door opened. It was Abel.
"I'm back! Oh hey, Master! Hey Mr. Foern! We gonna train again today?" Abel asked as he bowed to Anton like a student of a martial arts dojo would to his master.
"Yup. As soon as Demitri re-attaches my arms. I guess you could say that our last lesson is going to be a bit more... hands-on than usual. Heheh." Anton chuckled at his own lame pun and turned towards Amon. "I hope you have it in you for one more session, Major."
At that moment Demitri came out of the basement.
"Hey, Anton. Your damn arms are ready. Come on down so I can re-attach the damn things, will ya?." He said in his usual uncouth manner.
"Roger that! Sorry Major. Going to have to ask you to stay out this time. Mechanic/Client confidentiality, you know?" Anton said, smiling as always.
Anton followed into the basement. Awkwardy took his tank top off and sat on a stool in front of his mechanic, revealing a large snake tattoo that dominated his entire back. A memento from his younger, gangland days.
Demitri attached the arms and proceeded to connect the nerves.
"Okay, you ready?" Demitri didn't wait for an answer. He connected one and then the other, in quick succession. Anton's response was minimal. Strange considering the process was famous for being quite painful. "You really are a bloody freak, Anton. Although, I guess that a guy who willingly gets his arms removed for this shit has to be a lil' messed up in the head already, huh?"
Anton didn't answer. The day he asked for his arms to be surgically removed and replaced with automail was a long time ago.
"In any case, I made some modifications like you asked. The claws are no longer pure diamond. They're a mixture of Duraluminum, Titanium, and fiber glass. Should keep those alchmist sons o' bitches from breaking them again. Downside is, they don't cut through everything like butter like the old ones did. I also re-enforced the problem areas from your last fight. Your arms should be able to take more hits now."
Anton flexed his arms and turned his hand into a fist. "Very nice, Demitri. You've outdone yourself. You'll find that the cash has been deposited to your safe already." Anton said with a slightly more sinister smile,
"Yeah, whatever. Just try not to screw them up again. Got more to do than fix your shit." Demitri grunted in response.
Anton got his tank top back on and returned upstairs. Flexing his arms he said to Amon who seemed much more alert:
"Well then Major, shall we get started with the last lesson?"
Elias walked through the graveyard, still in his civilian garb that he'd worn while fleeing the homunculi. He'd expected someone to protest an enlisted man's lack of uniform while on duty, but perhaps his assignment to a team of state alchemists gave him the necessary clearance to dress more casual.
Unlike a traditional civilian outfit, underneath his coat he carried a pump-action shotgun, grenade launcher, handgun, and ammunition for each on a custom combat harness. Long range wouldn't be an issue with alchemists around, and the grenades would at least slow the homunculi when they ran into them again. Given Lust's speech, he felt that this was a reasonable course of action.
Following the directions that he'd found in the military's records, he stopped when he reached a grave with "SGT ERICA BLAKE" at the top. Grass hadn't had time to start growing, which left the naked, brown dirt to sit over her resting place. He sighed as he ran his gloved, metal fingers through his hair, wondering where he should start.
"Hi... Eri," he began, wondering how people didn't feel awkward doing this. "I, uh, I'm sorry I missed your funeral. I just couldn't... I couldn't look your folks in the eye, not yet. And, I couldn't tell them how, how I'm alive and you're not. How none of you are." He looked over at the undisturbed patch of grass to the right, where no coffin had been buried. "That should be me. Six feet under, a corpse, right beside you. Where I belong." He broke his gaze long enough to look around and make sure no one was within earshot, then looked back at the dirt mound.
"I, I remember when you first got to the platoon, back before the war, with that red hair out of reg, and those blue eyes full of innocence. You had no idea what you were getting into, signing on to the infantry. None of you did. None of us did. But you caught on quick. A few in each unit always do, but I never thought you'd be one of them. Maybe that's what I... what brought us together." Elias could feel some tears forming, but a head tilted upward along with rapid blinking kept them at bay.
"We saw each other at our worst. When that idiot shot the kid, started the war, I pulled you back from that line when you took one in the gut. When I jumped out of that rigged building, lost my legs along with half your squad, you dragged me to the medics. When you... had that gun to your head, I took it, and the fractured ribs as you hit me, begged to get it back. When I tried throwing that grenade back, you had a tourniquet on the stump before we were outside. When that sniper hit your neck..." he closed his eyes and knelt down, "I held you in my arms." His full-length shotgun was jammed between the ground and his ribs, but he didn't care.
"Fan-TASTIC!" the man in the hat said. He slapped Leo on the back and pulled him over by the rest of his boys. "My name's sometin' uvva trade secret, so my adorin' fans in th' public know me as Mr. Indigo. Classy, you know? You'll meet th' rest'a my boys soon enough. Dey can tell you their names if they feel like it. But right now, dat ain't important. If ya really wanna help us, dese fellas in the vest here? They're called the 3rd Street Wheelers. An' we could REALLY use a few less'a them around, y'know?.."
The girl could only take a minute of Isaac's writing before she spoke, just as he'd expected. "I haven't said anything yet. What are you writing?[/i]
High above Roland, a shadow leaned against the corner of a building, talking into his radio pack. "You're sure you don't want me to do it now? He's on a side street, only witness is an orphan. Niiice and simple."
"No!" A voice called out from the other end of the line. "This has to be coordinated. If they're not all taken at once, they can help each other, and that complicates things. We wait until everyone's in position. When the fireworks go, so do we, got it?"
"Ugh. Yeah, yeah I got it. Over and out."
"They intruding in your business?", Leo asked Mr. Indigo as he walked with him, "I'll do it, But I think it's better to cut the snake's head first so you could pick up the pieces later".
"Then in that case, follow me." Mr. Indigo led Leo out of the building, and with the rest of his men strolled down the street. Nobody seemed to notice their presence; indeed, almost everyone was at the festival, so only the shady elements were even around this part of town at the moment. "The head of these guys is a fella by th' name of Mr. Z. Nobody knows whaddit stands fer, all we know's that we don't want it bein' spoken no more. He lives right up in dere."
Indigo pointed to a warehouse complex, seemingly like any other. "Be warned, dis right 'ere's th' home base'a dese guys, so don't take 'em lightly. We'll back ya up, but yer gonna be th' big push here, capiche? We go in, we snuff dis guy, an' you've got yerself some connections, kid."
With immediacy, a door burst open, and a vested man stepped out with a gun drawn. "Get outta our territory, ya Indigo freaks!"
Mr. Indigo snapped his fingers, and one of the men with the strange rifles fired its salvo. A grenade careened through the air and smacked straight into the vested gangster's gut. The explosion was devastated, smashing his corpse back into the warehouse and taking out a huge chunk of wall with him. "Get goin', kid."
So this is what those guns can do . Leo witnessed the might of the rifles he saw the Indigo gang acquire from the wooden crates. The man was hit by the large round and tossed back like a rag-doll, impacting the warehouse wall and exploding it - alongside his body. Leo walked straight into the fray, discarding his gloves and shoving them into the pockets of his trousers.
He could hear screams coming from the warehouse, terrified men being shouted at by their superiors. "Listen Up!", Leo shouted at them, "If you don't want to die, put down your guns and run!". Leo's generous offer was responded by a barrage of curse words and bullets, but the wall of stone Leo brought up withstood the onslaught of bullets, shielding the Indigo gang members as well. He pressed the palm of his hand forward and the wall began to move with Leo towards the hole in the warehouse wall. "I will kill you, punks. Get out while you still-", Leo's shouts were interrupted by having a large combustible round which came from the same strange rifle the Indigo gang used moments ago hit the wall and blew it away, throwing Leo back and causing some shrapnel to his his right arm.
Rage ensued. Leo began to run towards the warehouse, raising pillars of stone to try and block the barrage of bullets and his hands hitting the pillars, allowing small stone darts to fly in the direction of the men. The smoke screen helped Leo avoid most of the bullets and as he entered the warehouse he noticed a young man lying under and boiler with his hands over the back of his head.
"Somebody is listening to-", Leo's words were cut short by a stream of four shots that flew right next to him. Instead of aiming for him, the shots hit the boy's forehead and left him to die. "We don't need cowards", a man in a red suit was standing atop of a metal walkway ten feet in the air holding a scoped rifle announced his presence. "Yes, Mister Zero!", two other men said as they stood next to him, each from a different side, holding the strange gun. "Blow him up", Mister Zero commanded the two. They both pressed their triggers at the same time, prompting Leo to throw in two very large darts from the ground and meeting the fire rounds in the air, causing a massive explosion which almost brought the whole place down.
"I haven't said anything yet. What are you writing?"
Isaac hid a small smile as he looked up; there was always a feeling of satisfaction when people acted according to your predictions. "Just because you haven't said anything doesn't mean you haven't told me anything. It's quite amazing, the truths people reveal about themselves without even knowing it."
For the first time, Isaac got a good look at the girl. No longer was she stained with her own blood, swathed in yards of bandages, or surrounded by doctors and nurses trying to keep her alive. Now, she was entirely exposed, no cloak, no disguise, just a simple hospital gown and a bed sheet.
Brown hair hung down to her shoulders, framing a defiant but clearly worried face. Olive eyes glared daggers at Isaac, the slight bags surrounding them stubbornly remaining in place even after days of rest. A nose that, under the closest scrutiny, was only slightly askew; probably broken once, but healed almost expertly well. Thin lips were locked in a tight line, her anger evidenced by the way she locked her jaws closed. Makeup-less cheeks and a chin, slightly tanned by time spent under the sun, a few nicks and scrapes giving the otherwise pristine features some character.
Under different circumstances, and with a little bit of personal care, the woman might have been considered attractive, beautiful even. As it was, she was a criminal being interviewed by the state.
"Alright, let's start off simple. What's your name?"
Amon handed Jeanne some money and listened with a stone face as Anton rambled. He nursed his coffee as the Lieutenant disappeared down the hall and regarded the boy that just came through the door. He was an ok kid, as far as Amon could tell. He wasn't the most observant, but Amon supposed that came from living there all the time. Stay in one place, and eventually you start seeing everything the same, even when it changes. Espeically, Amon thought as the kid walked off to do whatever it was he did around here. when you like where you live. That's when the denial kicks in.
But it was probably better the kid didn't suspect anything was up. And likely, nothing was up at the moment. But in a place like this, the general hostility didn't escape Amon's notice. Even when it was filled up, Dimitri's was, on the whole, too quiet. Even for a quiet, out of the way bar, it was too quiet. Amon hadn't survived the south by relying solely on his gun, after all. He'd been through officer assassinations before, and damned if they hadn't had a calm before the storm like this. The people who came to the bar fit the type, too. Dissidents, most of them. Bitter, angry. Not many Ishvalans, though that wasn't surprising, given the extermination. Local Ishvalans mostly cleared out when that happened, wherever they were.
I guess the army isn't that much different than civvie life. Among thought. Or, maybe it is, but we've just been at it too long. Thoughts about the unnatural amount of conflict surfaced in his mind briefly, then went back under.
Amon glanced at the door. Speaking of lack of noise, Mr. Bright and Cheerful should be getting his nerves reattached. That's generally not a quiet process. The man is odder than I gave him credit for. Even psychopaths feel pain.
Moments later Anton walked through the door. Amon got off the stool and stretched. "Might as well," he answered as he walked past Anton. A step past him, Amon paused.
"Oh, and Lieutenant?" Amon turned and slapped him upside the head, none too gently.
"No more puns, Lieutenant," Amon said, his voice and face emotionless. "I hate puns."
Tasha frowned and narrowed her eye's as Kallu walked past. He was hiding something, that much was clear. What he was hiding was another matter altogether. Very interesting, this could bear some looking in to. But later, more pressing issue''s at the moment. She thought turning to face victor once more, her smile returning. "I'm glad to see your getting through everything Victor. If you don't mind me saying; what you went through was hard, not many people, myself included, probably couldn't have pulled that off. Your a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for." She said pulling up a chair beside Victors bed.
"Which leads me to my question. Victor, do you want the automail surgery? It'll be painful to be sure, but with that strength you showed I believe you could recover far faster than most people. Most take about three years, you could do it one, or less even." She said watching Victors reaction. "This way you could be back on your feet, and doing....well what ever really." She said giving him a reassuring smile.
"Well, I've got, uh, good news and bad news," Elias continued as he began to draw in the dirt with his finger. "Good news, the war's gonna be over soon. Bad news..." he froze, only moving to close his eyes, "Fuhrer's not playing nice anymore. He... Orders are to kill every Ishvalan. Even civilians." Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and continued drawing. "I've avoided it so far, and not everyone on the team is all that eager to follow this one. Well, we do have a few crazies, but what unit doesn't?" When he felt a tear finally slide down his cheek, he took a break from his drawing again.
"I-I don't know if I can do this. Out in Ishval we all had each other, but here... they can't just throw me in a new unit and ask more than ever. I may be with watches... but they can't replace being with my platoon. With you." He looked over at the nearby graves, and like he expected, didn't recognize any of the names. "It's my fault. I tried not to focus on you, tried to keep everyone alive, but... how did we justify it? How did we end up using our own friends' bodies as cover? Was it really that bad?" Several tears had followed the first before he stood back up, drawing complete.
"You were the last to go, and now you're the first here. All because you were the only one still in one piece." He tilted his head back slightly, closed his eyes, and let more tears fall as his hand slowly went for his sidearm. "T-there's a darkness ahead, and I c-can't face it," the handgun was now out of its holster, "w-without you." Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes as he turned the handgun's muzzle upward. "I can't w-win this fight, a-and I can't break our promise." He paused to savor the feeling of cold steel pressing up against the bottom of his jaw. It had been too long since he actually felt his sidearm.
"I'll see you soon." He closed his eyes and moved his finger to the trigger.
"Sergeant Elias!" Elias' eyes shot open as he slowly lowered the weapon to chest level. Half-turning to his left, he spotted a soldier approaching him from his 8 o'clock, a position that kept the handgun out of the man's sight. After the acknowledgement of his presence, the soldier broke into a jog to close the distance, while Elias lowered the weapon to his side. "Sergeant, Corporal Kendrall requests your presence in the hospital. I've got a car waiting, for whenever you're ready." If the private noticed the signs of tears or the handgun, he didn't acknowledge them.
"I'll be there shortly, Private." Once the private was on his way back to the car, Elias turned back to Erica's grave as he racked the handgun's slide, ejecting a round onto the dirt mound. "Funny. When this is over," he knelt down and pushed the round into his drawing, "I'm coming back for this. And I will use it."
"Ouch. Duly noted sir!" Anton said while jokingly rubbing his head, his usual facade covering for the fact that he did not much appreciate being slapped by Amon.
They made their way back to the basement. Next to Demitri's workshop there was a small training room. It was here that Anton had been helping Amon with his speed and reaction time issues. As they settled into their respective sides Anton began the last lesson.
"Well then. I've been going easy on you, on account of me not having any arms. You've been performing very well regardless. You're a very fast learner, I'll give you that. Then again, you did survive the very same South I did, so I shouldn't be surprised, really."
Anton's smile grew a tad wider as he dropped this new nugget of information on the Spice Alchemist.
"However. Now that I have my arms again, you'll be defending yourself against the full extent of my Sun stance. I suggest you grab your weapon. Going against these barehanded is not fun."
Anton adjusted his footing while extending his right arm in a fist towards Amon and placing his left arm in an open palm near his face. Then, he struck. His assault was vicious and left no visible openings. Amon was performing well however, blocking and parrying every strike with the weapon he had transmuted for himself 4 days ago.
"*Hm*. Not bad. *Ha*. You've definitely improved. *Hm*." Anton commented as he kept up the pressure. "But those things don't fight fair!" Anton exclaimed as he stopped, jumped back and threw a knife at the alchemist's leg.
Amon reacted in a split second and deflected the knife. Not an easy task, when your weapon is a spear. He clearly had skill with the instrument.
"Hahah. Well done Major! Short of teaching you this style of mine, there's really nothing more I can do for y... Well... I have been developing this new move. Not quite ready yet. Huge pain in the ass with normal legs... But I guess I could try."
Anton let his arms down. His footing was just a bit wider than if he was standing normally. His breathing slow and controlled.
His eyes opened wide and for split second he seemed to just dissapear. Amon then felt Anton's claws at his back.
"Game over. Hm?"
Anton felt the tip of a spear at his abdomen. Apparently the blinding speed was still not enough for an eye trained by war. His legs however felt like they were on fire.
"Well damn. Still needs work I see. Well, that's all folks! What'll you do now Major?"
As the smoke cleared, the man in the red suit, Mr. Zero laughed in a raucous, uproarious manner. "AHH-HAHAHAHA! You're kidding me! So that wily old bastard went and got himself an alchemist, huh?! Well you won't be able to keep that kind of trick up long! Melt him to scrap, boys!"
The men with the grenade launchers took aim again, and two snaps of a gun heralded the arrival of two fresh bullets into their skulls. Their bodies went limp, one falling from the walkway and landing at Leo's feet. Behind him, Mr. Indigo strolled up. Behind them, chaos was unfolding as the Indigo men smashed through the vested boys, using their own weapons against them, cracking open crates for more ammo. Mr. Zero observed all this, and looked down at his rival.
"So, Mistah Zero." Indigo said with a grin. "You seem t'be in a rather... compromisin' position, eh?"
"Indeed I do, Mister Indigo." He responded. "Or at the least, I would be, if you hadn't sorely underestimated the resources at my disposal." He gestured to the wall below him, and as if on cue it burst open in a scattering of rubble, revealing a thin man with bleached hair and an insane smile. He was dressed in the same red suit as Mr. Zero. "Allow me to introduce my friend, a little stray I found walking the streets after being ditched by the military."
The thin man grinned, and ran a hand through his hair. "It's a pleasure, boys. The name's Kessler, and they call me the Archer Alchemist. Wanna see why?"
He held up two palms, with dozens of tattoos etched on the palms. He smacked the wall next to him, and the stone reformed into a dozen arrows, flinging themselves at the Barefoot alchemist with marvelous speed. Leo contorted his body and did a mid-air roll to his left, landing on a hand and spreading his legs to let one of the arrows pass through. He was back to his feet in an instant, and a transmutation from them sent a spike of rock towards Kessler's chest. The thin alchemist was fast, though, and spun around it, smacking a hand into it and throwing another volley of arrows at Leo from them.
Barefoot brought up a wall to block them, and hid behind it as he considered his options.
As Ken went about his activities of the day, traipsing through the festival and all the smiling faces, he heard what no one else seemed to. Gunshots, and were those... explosions? Coming from the warehouse district, he believed. Perhaps it beared investigating.
"Don't patronize me." the girl said to Isaac with a hint of a snarl in her voice. "You know damn well what my name is."
He didn't follow at first, but he finally caught sight of the clipboard at the end of her bed with her name listed on it in bold print: "Frieda Montierre." Well. That was one question solved.
"How much are they paying you?" she asked him. "You know, to come in here and talk up some girl beaten half to death for info on a dead man?"
Victor smiled a bit, letting a little bit of pride show in his reaction to Tasha's estimation of his recovery time. "Y-you really think so?" he asked. He thought it over, weighing the options in his head. It wasn't much a challenge, really. Gaining the use of his arm back again, versus living life crippled. The only thing that bothered him was the pain. But Tasha said he could get through it.
"I... I think I want to do it." Victor said with a faint beam. "But, before I do, I, uh, I think I want to get Elias' opinion. Since, you know, he's been through it too."
That was when he remembered the Major's hands. "N-not that I don't discount you or anything!" he said, correcting himself with the smoothness and style of a 6th grader. "I, er, it-it's just a tough decision, and I want to hear from as many people as I can before I commit."
He looked towards the door, as if he expected to see his fellow trooper there, but the frame was empty. "Come to think of it, he was one of the people I asked that guy to speak to first. I wonder what's taking him so long?"
Elias turned and walked away with the Private. In the gray bleakness of the graveyard, he never noticed the man on the opposite side of it standing there, thick coat and umbrella shielding his identity. Once the man was entirely out of sight, the figure turned and made the slow walk to the grave he had been visiting. A small device slipped from his pocket, and he spoke into it.
"Center, this is Low East Branch. Target's weakpoint confirmed, log it. Time for phase 2. Requisitioning an alchemist and a pair of shovels."
"You know, to come in here and talk up some girl beaten half to death for info on a dead man?"
Mentally, Isaac sighed. Two people, standing on opposite sides of a great divide, each convinced that they were in the right. Two worldviews clashing against each other, the stalwart soldier and the rebellious revolutionary, each determined to emerge dominant from the fray. Just how he wanted to spend today, debating politics with "some girl beaten half to death."
Taking a forward approach would do nothing; if Frieda was this hostile already, how far would she go when the questioning really began? A more diplomatic approach would hopefully yield better results, giving Isaac insight into how the girl thought, and what drove her.
Isaac took a few moments to scribble Ms. Montierre's name down, using the time to formulate his next response. Ideally, this coming statement would help to bridge the gap between the two of them, giving Frieda a reason to explain herself. Ah, yes, that would do it.
"They're not paying me anything to interview some poor victim. I'm here to question an enemy of the state, a terrorist who conspired to undermine the very foundation of Amestris. Don't bother painting yourself as some kind of martyr or noble rebel; you've been accused of some very serious crimes."
Isaac's pen stopped writing, as he met the girl's challenging stare, both of them refusing to be the first to blink. "Or have I been grossly misinformed?"
Roland savoured the last bite of his burger, and disposed of the serviette it had came in. He walked past open booths, children playing carnival games, men and women dancing. He heard talk that later on in the night there was to be a firework display, and every year's was better than the last.
Roland took note of this, he had always loved fireworks, the way the exploded and sparkled in the night sky evoked something inside of him. They were similar to lightning, yet, without the inherent danger or fear, they were quite the opposite in that respect, a joyous occasion.
He pondered this for a few moments, the things that people might say about him. Was he, like lightning? Intriguing and powerful? Or was he how others saw it, frightening?
Was that the way people viewed him... equivalent to his namesake?
His thoughts were disturbed by the sound of small feet attempting to sneak up on him.
He turned and caught the boy with such speed, that he didn't even know what hit him.
"Woah...I bet not all state alchemists are as fast as that"
Roland slowly lowered and released the boy. His interest was piqued, this child had surely taken a liking to him, was there a way to use him to his advantage?
"What's your name?"
The small, bedraggled boy looked genuinely confused, before answering " R..Richard... Richard Johnson"
He looked him over more carefully, he couldn't be more than 9.
"Are you all alone, out here?" he asked.
The boy nodded slowly, a sad look was on his face and his eyes had reddened.
"How about this, you stay with me until the firework display, and then I'll find you somewhere where you can stay. Alright?"
His face burst into a smile as he grabbed onto Rolands leg.
"Thank you mister!"
"Just get off me before people start looking, sheesh"
The boy released and took a few steps backward, Roland brushed the dirt and dust off his jacket. He didn't know why he just did what he did, it was unlike him to help complete strangers, still, he was only a child, and there should be no reason why tonight should be dangerous.
He was at a loss as to what to say, he didn't have the faintest idea what children liked. Perhaps it was best to ask.
"So...what do you want to do?"
Tasha smiled, happy to hear Victor was going through with the surgery. She chuckled as victor spoke. "No worries Victor, I understand. And approve of you wanting more opinions. This wasn't something believe me, if I hadn't known for sure I had wanted the surgery after getting my hands crushed, I would have asked, any- and everyone who visited me. So take your time deciding." Tasha said her smile spreading to a grin.
For the dead... For the Damned... THIS is a real festival now!
"Pray now, dead man!", Leo screamed, followed by a maniacal laughter.
He pushed forward. For every step taken, more blood was spilled. The pawns fell as the bishop rushed forward, breaking the rules of the board. His movements were graceful and fluid, the sound of music in his head was accompanied by the sound of death rattles.
"This is a happy day!", Leo cried out immediately after the Archer Alchemist struck, cutting through Leo's right arm and leaving a nasty laceration near his shoulder. The stone listened and contorted into various forms and shapes, breaking through the Archer's disguise and hitting him. But the man was a cunning one. He brought in a metal shield to protect himself from Leo. "Never fail", Leo shouted while still in mid-air, his leg extended forward. Leo tore through the shield and brought his elbow down at the Archer. This wasn't a solo dance any longer. It was a duet of two Alchemists, one Leo hadn't had in years.
Another hit, his knee smashed against the Archer's pelvis and sent him flying to the side of the room. "Dance with me, boy-o, dance!".
"Be careful what you get for your arm, kid.We don't need you to lose a shoulder too."
He was genuinely happy that Victor was going through with the surgery, though, he didn't have much choice in the matter. It was either get it done, or an early retirement and nothing but light deskwork the rest of you life.
He didn't quite trust Tasha yet, and so decided to wait on letting her in on his find. He might go back outside later tonight, but the day was too loud, too crowded for his liking.
While it harmlessly bounced at his side when he was standing, Elias' shotgun had to be removed from his harness to comfortably sit in a vehicle, so he laid it on his lap as he rode in the car back to the hospital. The barrel and magazine were full-length, allowing it to hold eight shells if one was in the chamber, but the stock was a simple pistol grip because his automail could easily compensate for any advantage he would've gained by having the weapon against his shoulder.
This kid's damn good at saving my life, he thought as he stepped out of the car, concealing his shotgun as he entered the hospital. Maybe I should return the favor at least once before I go. As he walked, he wiped each eye with its corresponding arm, trying to clean off signs of his eyes leaking and evoke a slightly more happy mood at the feeling of having his arm reattached.
"Be careful what you get for your arm, kid. We don't need you to lose a shoulder too." Elias stepped into the room, pausing as he walked right into Victor's gaze.
"Sorry for making you wait," he began, walking closer as he noticed Tasha's grin and Kallu's... well, Kallu. "I was, uh, visiting an old friend. Am I interrupting, or did you want all of us here?"
Frieda scowled at Isaac from the gap of air between them. It felt like a vast canyon with her icy glare. Still, there was a spark in her eye. She knew he was trying something, at least partially. But she didn't seem to care that what she said next was exactly what he wanted.
"Nothing I say to you matters. You'll get told what the military thinks, and that'll be your new truth. That's how it always was in the military. Do this, shoot him, take her in for questioning. They're all evil; kill them." Her voice got scratchy and oddly high-pitched as she slowed down on the last few words. "Kill every last one of them." She looked at Isaac with an accusatory stare.
"Not everyone who leaves the military's some rebel who wants to blow up the establishment, bomb cars and all. We're human beings; some of us just can't take the pit in our stomach we get when we kill a man with no bigger reason than "The Fuhrer decrees it.""
She leaned back into her pillow, and got a hostile look on her face, and an unfitting smile to go with it. "You want to know when I left? Ishvalan War, back when it broke out, years ago. That officer, killed the child? Everybody assumes he was killed; one life for another, right? Equivalent exchange? Well, a few of us went digging. And we found out what really happened."
She tried to slam her fist on the bed, but it only made a soft thump. "Desk job. Got reassigned to a little office in Central. No discharge, no criminal prosecution. Just swept under the rug. Heh. And we all called the Ishvalans crazy. Their man got what was coming to him, right? You get a cozy chair and lifetime job security for murder, right? That's why me, and so many others left. We couldn't stand the thought of being called into that war; because we'd be the villains. We never fought back, we just wanted out. Away from the madness. And this is what we were led to by our government: living off scraps in the back alleys."
She leveled her eyes with Isaac's. "I take it you didn't know all of that. Or have I been grossly misinformed?"
Richard looked up at Roland, a bit of a guilty expression on his face. If Roland was a bit more accustomed to children, he would know he was about to be guilted into buying the child something. "U-um... I kinda wanted to try those candied apples they're selling. But I can't afford them."
The pleading in his voice was so audible it practically clawed at Lightning's ears.
A man about half a block down from Roland retreated from manning a drink stand and went inside the building behind him. He walked downstairs into the basement, where a radio was waiting. He spoke into it.
"Uh, sir? My target's been spotted, and... it looks like he's got a kid, sir. What do I do? I'm not sure I can do this in good conscience if there's gonna be an orphan out of it."
"If that's a request to transfer, agent, denied. The child will be cared for after the mission. In the meantime, he makes excellent bait. You know what you have to do."
The voice from the radio silenced, and the stand owner sighed to himself. If this job wasn't so important, he probably would have quit long ago.
Kessler hit the wall and slid down, clutching his gut and grinning like a madman. "Oh, so you're one of those guys, huh? Well, I know JUST how to deal with you." He slammed his hand into a metal beam. The transmutation contorted it, but the effects only came at the top. A salvo of metal arrows launched from it down, spreading across half the warehouse to hit anyone not able to reach cover. And even those were subject to weak cover like crates giving out under the strain of all the metal bullets.
As Leo moved to cover the others with his Alchemy, Kesller then transmuted the ground. From below, a volley from another direction also came up at Leo. The alchemist danced, walls blocking the onslaught; as he finally stopped on his feet, though, the dancer found Kessler leaping over one of the walls he'd just created, slapping it with his hand only a few feet away from him. The arrows came out much closer than any wall could stop as they tried to shred Barefoot to pieces.
"No! Y-you're not interrupting anybody." Victor assured him, and welcomed him in with the others. "The reason, er, that I called you here was about my arm. Tasha was talking to me about it already, and... I think I want to get the surgery for automail. But I wanted to get your opinion first."
The Music. It haunts me.
Leo fell back. All of his weight was thrown down to the ground, the palms of his hands stopping him from crashing down on the floor. The arrows flew over Leo's head towards the metal wall on the other side. His hands glowed and sent sharp spikes at the Archer which managed to cut his left thigh. Leo smiled. He jumped back up and looked around to see who might be in the vicinity.
"One of those guys, Archer?", Leo took a step forward and launched a pillar at Archer's arm.
"What am I, Archer?".
"My opinion?" Elias asked as he crossed his arms. He tilted his head down, obviously looking over both of his arms, then momentarily shifted his weight onto his heels so that he could glance at his feet. "I've chosen to get automail more than once. If my opinion was anything but approval, I'd be quite the hypocrite, don't you think?" He could feel a slight high from his near-death experience earlier, and it put a small but sincere smile on his face.
"Automail's a second chance, Corporal. Without it, Tasha and I would need help for things people can normally do on their own. With it, we're even stronger than before. But, I think you already knew what you were going to do, so we'll just get you that arm and let you know what to expect."
"U-um... I kinda wanted to try those candied apples they're selling. But I can't afford them."
"Of course you can't. Come on, you can have as much as you want, every kid deserves to get spoilt once in their lifetime."
Richard led him to the stall where they were selling the candied apples, there was a rather long line.
"Must be popular" he said.
Richard's mouth began to water ever so slightly, he tried to hide it from Roland, but his excitement got the better of him. It took a few seconds to reply.
"Oh yeah, they're a kinda tradition down here, everybody gets one at the festival"
Roland looked from Richard to the front of the que. They could be stood here a good 10 minutes. He saw the price for one of the candied apples, what the vendor was charging for caramel and toffee apples on a stick was ludicrous, he was glad he didn't have to worry when it came to money.
"I take it you didn't know all of that. Or have I been grossly misinformed?"
It took Isaac a second to process the information, as Frieda poured all her rage and anger into those words. He could the logic behind her arguments, the reason backing her actions. He may not have agreed with it, but he still understood it. Now it was his duty to destroy it.
"Ah, I see. You disagreed with the politicians' decisions, so you decided the best course of action would be to leave your comrades behind, betray your oaths and break your word, flee your post, and throw your hat in with a known traitor and terrorist. Of course, that was obviously the best course of action you could have chosen."
Isaac allowed the derisive statement to linger in the air for a moment, silently watching as Frieda attempted to formulate a response. He didn't give her the opportunity.
"This isn't about desertion, or the Ishvalan war, or whatever schemes the top brass are playing at. This isn't about your motives or influences, your reasons or self-righteous justification."
Isaac paused for a moment, leaning forward as he resumed speaking, "This is about you willfully joining and supporting Lieutenant Colonel Octivar, a known traitor to Amestris. Had you merely been a deserter, do you think things would have gone this far?
"You're an accomplice to some horrible crimes against the people of Amestris. Attempted bombings, assassinations, illegal experiments! Explain to me how you can possibly justify that!"
Reclining back slightly, Isaac scrutinized the girl, offering one final statement: "Who knows? If you're capable of defending yourself well enough, you might not face the firing squad alongside the Lieutenant Colonel."
Isaac had seeded his words with lies and half-truths, for a variety of reasons. The accusations of bombings and assassinations to force Frieda to defend herself; most people's knee-jerk reaction to such horrible allegations would be to respond with their actual, but less severe, crimes. Purporting that Octivar was still alive, however, was a bit of a gamble. There was no way that Frieda could have heard that information from an official source; odds were she had heard it in passing from some gossiping soldiers or nurses, hardly a reputable source.
Still, if she fell for it, then such a realization could cause her to open up entirely, doing everything she could to defend her commander.
Marlin spent a bit of time walking around the town and seeing what there was to see of the festival. Occasionally he would try a bit of the food vendors were selling, but the games and other events didn't hold interest him much. Instead he was simply content to watch the others enjoy their time at the festival and witness the peace he was helping to protect.
Eventually, his lack of sleep caught up with him once again and he thought that maybe it would be time to take a break. He found a bench in the shade and took a seat, intending to rest for only a few minutes. But sleep quickly claimed him and he found himself drifting off again.... Until a voice disturbed his sleep yet again.
"Hey, a soldier like you shouldn't be sleeping on the job ya know!" Marlin groaned quietly and opened his eyes to see a woman about his own age standing in front of him. She seemed to be a few inches shorter than he and was wearing a lovely dark red dress that matched her short red hair. Her warm smile and bright green eyes gave her a very pleasant aura even though she seemed to be chastising Marlin. "... Well? Come on, get up before your commanding officer comes around and you get in trouble!" She continued after Marlin simply stared blankly at her for a moment.
That jolted Marlin out of the half asleep daze he was in and he quickly answered. "I'm.... uh, not on duty right now.... I appreciate your concern though...."
"Ohhh! Gosh, I'm so so sorry! I just assumed you were because you're still in uniform." The woman apologized and Marlin expected the conversation to end there. He was ready to resume his nap, but she continued. "Why are you wearing that if you're off duty at festival? Even a poor gal like me dressed up for the occasion!" She said with a giggle, clearly pleased to have someone to show her dress off to.
Marlin didn't mind the company, but he was clearly unused to such persistence and became a bit flustered. "W-well.... I actually didn't even know there was a festival until just a few hours ago... I've never been to a festival like this before so I didn't know this would be inappropriate... My apologies."
This response only elicited more laughter from the woman. "You don't have to be so serious... I was just poking fun at you! So you're not from around here eh? I thought as much. Mind if I sit with you?" She inquired, getting closer to the bench. Marlin nodded and then realized that his jar was occupying the rest of the bench. He set it on the ground between his feet and the woman took a seat next to him. "Say, what is that anyway? Seems like an odd thing for a soldier to be carrying it around." She asked him, staring curiously at the jar.
"Ah... It's the results of my current research. I'm a State Alchemist you see. I specialize in alchemy that manipulates water. The circles can change the state of the water in the jar and manipulate it's contents as I see fit. And the large one is my special circle... It can absorb moisture in the air around it and fill the jar with water. Ideally it would be used to increase access to water in dry regions. Although, it's not quite complete yet..." Marlin explained, more comfortable now that the conversation had switched to the topic he was most familiar with.
"Wow... A State Alchemist... This is my first time meeting one!" The woman turned her gaze from the jar back to Marlin, eyes wide with awe. "What do you mean, it's not complete though?"
"Oh... Well, the military is most interested in it's combat capabilities. They'd like me to be able to use it to drain the water from a person, but I haven't yet been able to devise a way to..." Marlin began to trail off and mutter to himself, but was cut off by an involuntary yawn.
"Oh, shoot! That's right, I woke you up for nothing... I'm sorry, you go ahead and go back to sleep. I don't mind, honest!"
Marlin thought that such an action would be rude, but he was much too tired to object. "Ah yes... Forgive me, I've been so busy with my research lately that I haven't slept much..." He said as he closed his eyes. ".... What is your name, if I may ask?"
"Name's Lila. Lila Jennings. Pleased to meet ya, Mr. State Alchemist!" Came Lila's cheerful reply. It seemed she had no intention of leaving anytime soon.
"... I'm Major Marlin Fredric, the Deep Blue Alchemist... You can just call me Marlin..." Marlin muttered as he drifted off to sleep.
Ken didn't hesitate he started running straight towards to source of the gun fire and explosions, he took longer then expected having to push past the crowds before getting to the alleyways. When ken arrived he saw a hole in the side of a warehouse, the approached it carefully, just as ken was about to look through the hole a series of metal arrows shot through it narrowly missing his head, he stopped for a few seconds before looking through the hole were he saw leo launching a pillar while shouting "What am I, Archer?", 'my ally and someone who needs to remember that' ken shouted into the warehouse, ken placed his hands onto the floor warehouse ready to help leo in the fight.
"Well damn. Still needs work I see. Well, that's all folks! What'll you do now Major?"
Amon panted and sat on the ground. "Hell, I dunno. I wasn't doing much before I got assigned here. Mostly playing around in iron mines." He transmuted a bit of his spear into a small hoop and swung that around on his finger absentmindedly while he thought.
Amon eyed Anton for a moment before opening his mouth. I figure this is as good a time as any. What he just pulled can't have been easy on the muscles.
"S'cuse me for being nosy, Lieutenant, but what is Dimitri's a cover for?"