"You made your choice, and I made mine. You believe you protect the Amestrian population by attacking civilian centers where soldier may or may not be. I believe that by getting rid of your employer, I can actually make them safer. But I can't take care of him, her, or them unless you tell me something. You've had bad dealings with the military, and I won't argue that there are men out there that disgrace the uniform daily.
"However, you disgrace your cause by blowing up innocents, you weren't conscious when I carried you in here, but there are children, women, shopkeepers, carpenters, and parents crying over lost siblings, children, and limbs because of what you were told to do. Is that really the Amestris you want? A place ruled by fear of both certain members of the military and their self-proclaimed protectors? I have done things that I am not proud of in my life, but when I give my word, I keep it. I have seen most of the world, and Amestris is the one place I have been able to call home, and I intend to keep it safe, from enemies both internal and external. I gave my word that you would be given leniency, and I will do everything in my power to make that promise come true."
He looked the man over, and thought he saw a glint of hope in his eye that winked out as soon as he recognized it. The man kept silent however, and Kallu sighed and shook his head again. He opened his eyes and they were again just as hard as granite.
"But... I also gave my word that I would protect the true citizens of Amestris, and you have proven yourself an enemy of them, therefore it is my duty to take the information you have of your employers by any and all means. For mercy's sake, I won't take your other hand, but your foot now. You will still be able to feed and mostly care for yourself when you are released, but a prosthetic or a wheelchair is now going to be your mode of transportation."
He knelt down and gripped the stone encasing the foot, he looked up and studied the man,"Are you sure that what you are doing is the right and true thing to do?" He received only a face ready to bear the pain that he knew would be coming. The Stone Alchemist again looked down at the foot he held, and quickly switched to the other foot, the one on the same side as the crushed hand and transmuted. It would again be only a slight tightening, progressing to the complete and utter destruction of the foot. He set another bag on the IV, this one filled with blood that matched his prisoners type.
"Tell me what I ask of you and I will leave you just as intact as you are now, I can stop it before you lose everything. Please do not throw your life away for an organization that disregards the sanctity of life this easily. Think of your brother, he is most likely going through the same, if not worse, torture as you are. You can save both yourself and him from anymore pointless pain, but only if you reveal what you know."
While the Banagher's were handling the remaining chimera, Marlin took the extra time to secure the one he had ensnared. He absorbed more water into the jar and used it to fully encase the creature from the neck down in ice. That would ensure that it wouldn't be escaping anytime soon, though he wished he could let the poor creature go if it weren't a threat to the peace.
Once he had finished, he turned his attention to the Banagher's. His gaze swept across the room, taking in the gruesome results of the carnage that had taken place. The sight made him a bit queasy and the idea that it could have easily been his blood that was spilled did not diminish the feeling any. If anything, the experience confirmed that a battlefield was truly not the place he belonged.
His saviors seemed much more comfortable with the situation than he, though he would never fault them for that and refused to allow any disdain for the violent acts committed show on his face as he approached. ".... Excellent work you two, though we aren't finished yet. Their leader escaped and has some rather nasty plans for the other State Alchemists. There's also a civilian we'll need to escort to safety... But first, I have to tell you both something..."
He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts as his gaze shifted back and forth between the Banagher's. He became vaguely aware that his hands were trembling, causing him to almost drop his jar, though he couldn't quite place why. Having accepted his death only to be saved at the last minute was an odd feeling indeed and was making it harder than normal for Marlin to put his thoughts into words. ".... Thank you.... So much...." He finally said, barely managing to keep the trembling out of his voice. "You've saved my life and the life of another in the process... I can never truly repay you for this.... But should you ever need my assistance, know that I am in your debt and will do anything in power for the two of you...."
"I di-didn't want t-t-to hurt anyone! They s-s-said t-they-they'd kill me if-if I didn't--"
P-p-please, you ha-have to help m-me! I c-can't go back to them, they'll--they'll..."
Roland's expression changed from rage to solem, as his hand stayed his whip from being launched at Chartrisse yet again. His stance remained planted as he anticipated her trying to lower his guard, before softening as he genuinely became intrigued in her plight.
"Oh really? Who are 'they'? What do they want with me? Answer me!"
Roland's hand cocked back, before springing forward and crackin his whip on the ground in front of her.
"You can save both yourself and him from anymore pointless pain, but only if you reveal what you know."
As the stone around the bomber's foot continued to compress, Krant's screams of agony gave way to shouts of rage, as he stared at Kallu with nothing but hate in his one good eye. "Damn you, you filthy dog! I'll kill you, I'll kill you, I SWEAR TO GOD I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"
The crack of bone was audible even over the man's frantic cries, as his limb was ground into shreds of flesh and crumbled bones. Krant's threats once more devolved into mindless shrieks, tearing the mercenary's throat and piercing the alchemist's ears. Finally, the prisoner allowed his head to fall forward, his shoulders bent and trembling, little more than ragged gasps escaping his mouth.
"Damn you to hell..." Krant no longer shouted, his voice cracked and horse as he whispered. "Dublith. That monster found us in Dublith; that's where he recruited us. Took us back to his base, gave us the tools and materials we needed...
"Just... just let Kren go. You promised."
"But should you ever need my assistance, know that I am in your debt and will do anything in power for the two of you...."
As Marlin finished thanking the couple, he felt the weight of Lt. Banagher's hand upon his shoulder. The soldier offered the alchemist a reassuring smile, his kind eyes full of strength and determination. "Sir, we'e just doing our jobs here. There's no need to thank us for doing our duty."
"Oh, let the guy say what he wants sweetie." Mira turned her back on her husband and Marlin, hobbling around the large, mostly destroyed room, looking behind pillars and examining the chimeras' corpses. It was obvious by the way she favored her right leg that she'd injured the limb; nevertheless the hardened woman continued to examine the scene.
"Besides, it's always nice to have someone owe you a favor," she continued as she retrieved her knife from the wolf-chimera's shoulder. "Especially when they're an alchemist," Mira finished, wiping the blood from her weapon off on the creature's fur.
Lt. Banagher weakly grinned at his commanding officer, whispering a quiet apology. "I promise, she's much nicer once you get to know her. Now," the soldier turned around, methodically scanning the room, "where's that civilian you were talking about?"
As the whip cracked against the floor, Chartisse flinched back a bit, her sobs continuing unabated.
"He-he t-t-told me that if I j-just did what he said they'd le-let her go..."
Looking up at Roland with eyes full of tears, Chartisse begged the alchemist, "Please... if I don't beat you, then he'll k-kill me, and make her j-j-just like him! He's going to turn my sister into a m-monster!"
The woman let out another loud sob, tears freely running down her cheeks as she stared at Roland, despair painted across her face.
"Just... just let Kren go. You promised."
Kallu walked to the man, and gently raised his head, and looked the man in the eyes as he spoke,"Thank you. But do you know the man's name? Or what he looks like? I need every piece of information you can give me.We are done for now, you will receive medical attention. And yes, I will do everything in my power to make sure that both you and your brother are treated well. I will not promise that you are both let go, but I will say that once you are sent to the prisons, your chances of escape are much better than they are now."
Kallu set the man's head against the stone again and opened the locked door to a gathering of doctors, orderlies, and nurses standing by.
"The man in there is extremely dangerous, but weak. He needs medical attention now."
Kallu walked back in, the group behind him rushing in to take care of him as the alchemist put the stone encasing the man back into the wall, back where it belonged. The man's leg and arm ended in gruesome, broken ends. After being taken off the adrenaline, he quickly fell into an unconscious state, and carted off to the nearest operating room.
Kallu grabbed one of the orderlies by the elbow,"Do you know where his brother is?"
"Yeah, he's down the hall, third door on the second corridor on your left."
"Thank you, make sure he's taken care of, I need him able to speak again in a few hours. And make sure you take every precaution, he may be a prisoner, but he's still dangerous."
The Stone Alchemist was left alone in the room then, well aware of the glares and looks he'd received from the medical staff, and gripped his eyes in a hand and sighed before heading off in the direction indicated by the orderly. He arrived to find Armstrong, still in a tattered shirt, standing forlornly with an angry red vein throbbing staring at the door to the room.
"Major? What's the matter?"
"Now," the soldier turned around, methodically scanning the room, "where's that civilian you were talking about?"
Banagher's words echoed a bit in the silence of the nigh-motionless room. On the far side, a collapsed tapestry shifted, and Lila's head poked out from under it. "I--I'm here. Is it over? Did those things leave?"
The two men simply glared at each other for a time, before Isaac finally broke the stare, collapsing back to the ground, his body exhausted. "Look... I'm having a bit of a rough night, what with you trying to kill me and being told that my superiors have been lying to me for god knows how long. Just... tell me why you did it, alright? I'm in no mood for secrets and half-truths; just rant about your damn manifesto or whatever, and I'll make sure you get executed, alright?"
Rai laid there in silence for a while, letting those last words stew in his mind. Then, wheezing, he let out a laugh. "Ahehe... manifesto, huh? What, am I not the first to let you in on the little secret? How you've been playing the bad guy all along? I--*koff*--I heard you talking with the charming young lady over there... it was her, right? She started you on this path of self-examination, am I aiming for the right target?"
Visibly straining himself, the man called Rai pushed his back up to lean against the pile of rubble a bit more upright. "Then she must know. All the horrors of this nation. A creeping sensation crawls through your skin just walking its streets. When I say your alchemy is tainted, I--*ngh*--I mean it in the most literal sense."
He could see the look of confusion on Isaac's face and groaned, this time out of frustration and not pain. "All right, it's not hard. Listen carefully, because I won't explain this twice--your guards would likely show up before I got to explain it twice anyway. Imagine a font of water. This water, beginning in a reservoir, flows out in streams to all living things, connecting them all through it. This is called the Dragon's Pulse, and it's where alkahestry--real alchemy--draws its power. I'm no expert, but, best as I can tell you get it from somewhere different. Perhaps a lake of fire might be a suitable visual?"
He threw up a hand, shaking violently from the attempt. "Is any of this even getting through to you? You--*kooooff, koff*--you want my manifesto? Here. Your country is tainted, and mine's trying to kill me. So I became a mercenary here to make a living. When my employer told me he would hire me to overthrow the government--responsible for the taint--and make a better nation, well, how could I turn that down? All right? So now you've got my life story, are you going to kill me or what?"
"Major? What's the matter?"
Armstrong's eyes gleamed a bit, hearing Kallu, but he did not remove his gaze from the door. "...The Projecting Alchemist has ordered me not to interfere with the Vampire Alchemist's 'interrogation' of our prisoner, at penalty of my family's disgrace. I made a vow never to let myself become the monster all of my comrades did... and instead I'm here watching yet more make that change instead. I reject one torture to have another placed upon me, it seems."
"Alright, that should do it," Elias commented as he finished another child's bandage on her leg. "Just be careful and don't get any of this dirty while you're playing, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you, Mister Sergeant!" she replied as she surprised him with a hug. Elias smiled and returned the hug as he shifted his gaze to the girl's mother, who had a smile of her own. But as he got a better look at her, she seemed more tired than the rest of the crowd.
"Ma'am, are you alright?" he asked as his eyes moved to her damp sleeve. "How long has that been bleeding like that?" He followed the long sleeve down to her wrist, where blood was dripping off of her fingertips. Elias and the girl released their embrace as she turned to look at her mother.
"Mommy?" the girl asked, a clear sound of worry in her voice.
"I'm alright, sweetie," the mother replied as she slowly raised her good arm to the tear in her sleeve. "It's just a piece of-" Elias shot his hand out to stop her, fully aware of what she was about to do.
"Let the medics do that," Elias suggested as he lowered her arm. "Okay, anyone feeling faint, get up front." He tore off her sleeve to reveal the piece of metal embedded in her upper arm. "If you've got shrapnel in you, do not- I say again, do not- remove it."
"Ah, crap," a man in the group moaned as Elias was about to stabilize the metal in the mother's arm. Elias just sighed as the mother stifled a giggle in her giddy state induced by the blood loss.
"Okay, idiot, get up here."
"I reject one torture to have another placed upon me, it seems."
"I've started to get some information out of his brother. Something about Dublith, I'm going to ask him later about the man who employed him. All he's saying right now is that he's a monster."
Kallu tapped his arm after taking off his gauntlets, leading him away from the door and to the railing, where the main area of the hospital was filled with people, from the front doors to the stairs, where they were bunched in a group.
"I'm not going to pretend to understand this country's obsession with family honor, Armstrong, but the only way to see what we do is that we have to. Each and every one of those people out there,"He waved his hand around the hospital, "were harmed in some way by those two brothers and a handful of others. Family was lost, friends killed, and the only way we can get to the bottom of it is through interrogation. Torture and pain if it has to be done, but they aren't supposed to see or hear that. The people don't know the sacrifices we must often make to keep them protected. But we have to make them, or else they become involved in military matters, a place no civilian, however skilled, has no place."
He looked up to see the man openly weeping, staring out over the crowd gathered for medical attention. Kallu sighed, of all the people he had ever met and the cultures he had been received in, this man was by far the most emotional of them all. There was more than a hint of anger as well, but the worst of it had passed, he believed.
"The lives of a few men and women who would do something like this mean nothing beyond the information we can garner from them, so that it doesn't happen to another family, friend, sibling. Be Thou for the People,"He quoted,"We are soldiers with skills above the average grunt, and as such, our responsibility is first to the Fuhrer, but more importantly, we're a tool of the people, and as such, they deserve every shred of protection we can offer to keep the civilians safe. This is simply one of the darker days and things we must contend with. Nothing more, and nothing less."
"So now you've got my life story, are you going to kill me or what?"
"Eh, screw it," Isaac muttered, allowing his head to rest against what remained of a nearby wall. "This is, without contest, the worst day. As in, ever. I almost get my head cut off by you, get my ass saved by the 'traitor' that I psychologically abused to wring information out of her, learned that the government that I've spent nearly half my life defending and risking my life for is probably evil, and now you're telling me that one of the few things I'm actually good that, the one skill that sets me apart from the masses, is based on hellfire and is apparently an affront to nature!
"And despite the aforementioned fact that you tried to kill me," the alchemist continued, "I'm inclined to take you at your word, because it seems that everything I believed was A GODDAMN LIE!"
Thrusting his arms skyward, Isaac shouted out to the heavens. "Alright, I get it already! I'm the bad guy here, I'm the one who screwed up! For crying out loud, will you leave me alone already!?"
His outburst finished, the exhausted soldier allowed his arms to slump back down, his anger and frustration finally spent. When he spoke again, his voice was weary, defeated, empty. "Never dispute an order. Never seek an explanation. Just obey. That's the nature of the military. As soldiers, we aren't supposed to seek our reason to exist. It's our duty to act as tools. It never used to be a problem before, but now... I kind of really don't like it.
"I think I'm done. Done fighting, done caring, just done. No, I'm not going to kill you. No, I'm not going to try to arrest either of you. No, I'm not going to do anything."
Unsteadily, Isaac forced himself to his feet, staring past Frieda and Rai, looking at nothing in particular. "I'm just gonna go back to my hotel, get into bed, and sleep for a while. That sounds nice."
Resolute that this course of action could not possibly worsen his situation in any way, Isaac stepped forward. He immediately stopped as the world flipped 180 degrees, and began to slowly spin around and around and around. "Huh. Did not think I lost that much blood." Eyes lolling into the back of his head, the alchemist fell forward, passing out before he even hit the ground.
Tasha's worry had subsided when she had left Victors room an hour ago at least, she had been checking on every room she could and still no sign of Victor. After hearing he hadn't been discharged and and probably just moved to another room she had relaxed and moved through the crowded hallways quickly trying her hardest to stay out of everyone's way. She was unsuccessful. Every time she turned a corner a nurse or doctor was on their way in the opposite direction.
Tasha sighed It's no use, things are too busy and I'm just in the way. We'll have to check on Victor when things are a little less hectic. She thought as she made her way to the exit. A few minutes later she was outside, though it was no less hectic. She looked around and made her way over to Elias. "Hey there Sergent. no luck with finding the Corporal. A Nurse said he hadn't been discharged so he probably just got transferred to another room." She explained looking down the line of wounded. She winced looking at a few of the injuries. "I'll make you and offer Sergent, let me go take a shower real quick then I'll be back to take over for a bit. After earlier you could probably use a break." She offered looking back to Elias.
"Please... if I don't beat you, then he'll k-kill me, and make her j-j-just like him! He's going to turn my sister into a m-monster!"
Roland looked at her with a mix of anger and pity. This poor creature before him, stuttering and taking deep breaths between terrible sobs, made him question himself on what to do with her, he would normally take such an attack on himself as a personal offence, something that in his mind, he could not forgive.
"So that justifies you trying to kill me?!"
His voice grew louder, growing increasingly frustrated at the women who stood before him, Roland cracked his whip against the floor next to him in frustration, his other hand clenched tightly as he continued to shout at Chartrisse.
"And you think it's okay to harm an innocent boy, as long as it serves you?! You're trying to save your family, that's understandable, but to do that by harming someone else, that makes you one of the worst kind of people in this world. A hypocrite. And I detest hypocrites!"
As he saw her shrink at each word barked at her, Roland began to relax a little, letting out a long sigh whilst he holstered his whip to his hip. He approached her slowly wary of any possible ploy she was trying, if she was even still capable of such a thing. He extended a hand to her as slowly as he could, trying not to frighten her any further, she still flinched as he offered to help her up.
"There's no way that I'm letting you beat me... so why don't you tell me who 'he' is? That's the only way that anyone can save your sister"
"We are soldiers with skills above the average grunt, and as such, our responsibility is first to the Fuhrer, but more importantly, we're a tool of the people, and as such, they deserve every shred of protection we can offer to keep the civilians safe. This is simply one of the darker days and things we must contend with. Nothing more, and nothing less."
Major Armstrong's eyes were focused, even through his barely-restrained sobbing, as Kallu spoke with him. He could tell that the Strong Arm Alchemist was hearing every word he said. And yet, none of it broke through. When Stone finally seemed to be finished, Armstrong bowed his head and closed his eyes. What he said next was more reserved than expected.
"Major... I understand what you're trying to tell me. But I fear that you do not understand my position. You are right what you said. We exist for, and we serve the people. THAT, is the Alchemist's creed! But... I'm not."
His eyes opened again, and looked downward. Kallu followed the Major's gaze to see them resting on his hands, palms up, trembling quite visibly.
"I'm supposed to guard the people! Their lives, their SOULS! But I've done the opposite! I've killed innocents with these hands, Major... I see their blood every time I look at my palms. And it was done by the orders of the military! An organization, by definition, meant to guard the people we've slaughtered! I came back from my tour in Ishval, and I swore to myself that I would never let another innocent suffer when I could stop it. I would NEVER become the monsters I saw in Ishval. And now... now I've arrived too late to stop all of this pain, and I've been forced to stand aside and watch as we commit the same atrocities I swore to stop. I beg you, Major, tell me what I'm supposed to do!"
The tears were streaming down Armstrong's face again, silently sobbing as he pleaded for some form of consolation.
Rai watched, eyelids heavy, as Isaac's frame hit the wet ground. The rain was picking back up again; the Xingese prince groaned to himself, and dragged a soggy palm across his blood-spattered face. That idiot was going to catch his death if he was left there. "You!" he shouted, pointing at Frieda. Up until now, the woman had watched on silently. "I thought you bandaged this chump?"
"I did!" Frieda snapped back, kneeling by the State Alchemist's side to inspect the wound. "He's bled through it; you hurt him a lot worse than I'd thought."
"Good to know I haven't completely lost my touch." Rai chuckled to himself; this was cut off by a dagger of a glare coming from the rogue alchemist several feet away. The chuckle died, and Rai groaned in frustration. With a considerable effort, he hoisted himself up from the rocks and shakily rose up to his feet. Family swords a wreck, contract completely ruined, goal for a better nation postponed at BEST, and now the closest thing he had to a friend in Amestris was a man who he had been trying to kill--and vice versa--several minutes beforehand. Well, him and his weird stalker.
Rai shambled over to Frieda's position and collapsed to his knees, letting out a weak chuckle. "So, looks like you're attached to this guy, huh?" A weak cough escaped his lungs. When in this much pain, there was simply no time to care about formal dialect.
Frieda glared at her pseudo-foe, and gave a curt nod. Rai nodded back, and gave his best attempt at a cheesy grin. "Well, as it happens, this man's sparked my interest, too. Might be the first Amestrian I've met who isn't dumb as a sack of bricks." Frieda glared at him, waiting for him to make some kind of point. Rai stared back, and said "Sooooo, we should probably get him to a hospital?"
The Alchemist nodded and hefted Isaac up onto her shoulder, dragging the Xingese man up by his forearm. "Hurry up." she stated shortly. "He'll bleed to death if we don't start moving now."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you..." Rai muttered as he matched pace with her. In a nearby alley, a shadow watched them gleefully. His form obscured by the night, the young man was joined by a curvaceous figure from behind.
"So, then, Envy." Lust began. "Found where our other potential sacrifice has wandered off to?"
"Just look at 'em!" the other homunculus exclaimed. "It'd be so easy just to waltz right out there and kill him. Crush him like an insect! Such a waste of meat..."
"Calm down, Envy. These humans aren't so bad; they gave you that charming little skin you're wearing now, right?"
Envy glanced back at her with a wicked grin. "Yeah, I guess there's that. Not quite as stunning as the real me, but it'll serve Father's purposes pretty well. Gluttony found those sacrifices Father nixed yet?"
"Actually," Lust told him. "Pride's working on that..."
"There's no way that I'm letting you beat me... so why don't you tell me who 'he' is? That's the only way that anyone can save your sister"
Mascara stained Chartrisse's cheeks as she struggled to speak through her sobbing. "H-he never gave me his name! He's a monster!"
"I-I don't know! He called himself a chimera!" the thief sputtered. "He looked like a snake, or something! H-h-he hired me i-in Dublith... He, he said he came from a place called Devil's Nest!"
Roland couldn't help but feel a wave of self-pity roll off the thief's every motion as her wobbly legs threatened to topple again.
"I beg you, Major, tell me what I'm supposed to do!"
"What you are supposed to do,"Stone began,"Is to ask yourself if the chance of becoming a monster is worth the risk when compared to protecting the lives of countless thousands. In my case, there is no question, Amestris is my first true home, and I intend to protect the people within it, no matter the cost to myself. If it helps at all, there are many religions I've found around the world that the protection of the soul is pointless, the soul knows it's path from birth and that many know the way back to life from the other side."
He stepped away from the balcony. He began walking away when a thought occurred to him.
"Armstrong, maybe you should take some time off, you have to have some leave saved up. Spend some time with your family, and ask yourself the tough questions, if it is still worth it or if you need to resign your commission until this war is over. Travel around and see the people of Amestris."
Kallu walked back to the balcony and stood next to the Strongarm Alchemist. He intended to stand by him until he either made his decision or he left, whichever came first.
"Do whatever you feel you need to, I've got no place to be for a while now, so I may as well just stand out of the way up here."
"I'll make you and offer Sergent, let me go take a shower real quick then I'll be back to take over for a bit. After earlier you could probably use a break."
"Tempting," Elias began as he tightened the tourniquet around the man's thigh, "cause I am pretty worn out. Tell you what," he pointed at the group who refused his treatment, "if you can sit over there and watch me patch these folks up for half an hour," he paused to yawn, "I'll take a break." Elias began packing gauze into the man's wound on his lower thigh.
"Believe it or not, an infantry combat medic is the highest form of helping people," he began. "It's doing whatever it takes to help, whether it's shooting up bad guys or patching up good guys. People think the ultimate sacrifice is to give your life, and I wish they were right." Elias began wrapping the gauze to keep it from moving. "The ultimate sacrifice is to give up your soul, to kill a human being so that another may live. To weep at night, knowing that a part of you died with that man. To return to your family, so they can see the monster you've become. Father, mother, and sister all see a different man, and less of him is left as time goes on. You're all set, just go find a spot to sit." A woman came up to help the man find some space, while Elias turned to Tasha.
"The ultimate price is to watch yourself die inside. Most run, leave after their first few deployments while they're still mostly intact. Some give in, can't take it, and sooner or later they eat a bullet so the pain stops. Some of us can take it, can take anything, and go on to be the sergeants that the privates can look to. Officers are good, but most haven't seen what we see. A little more mental trauma and some fatigue are small prices to pay to keep helping. So," he put a hand on her shoulder, "you go get that shower, then you come help me help them." Spotting movement out of the corner of his eye, he turned to see some of the wounded who had refused his help, move to the end of the line.
"You know, you yell at privates enough, you forget how to lower your voice." Elias patted Tasha's shoulder twice, then moved to the next civilian in line.
"You know, you yell at privates enough, you forget how to lower your voice. Tasha chuckeld at this statement. "I wouldn't know Sergent, Never had to yell at oe of the privates before." she said with a smile. She watched as the ling grew longer. This was going to be a long night.
"For the most part, Elias, we agree. If we all shared that sentiment, there would be fewer rifts between people and us alchemists. People say we're dogs of the government, but even dogs with bad masters still know the meaning of sacrifice. We give up much to get our positions. That comes to light especially in times of war. Those who's alchemy permits them to use long range combat are much like any other soldier. But those of us whose alchemy relies on being close.....we get to watch the life drain from our enemies faces, to see in their eyes the knowledge that they're about to die."
Tasha said staring along the line. Seeing the pain in the faces of people young and old was something he would never grow accustomed too. "That's another reason I plan to stay on as an alchemist once this whole damn thing is over. I have to at least try and make up for what I'm going to have to do. Even then I doubt it will be enough."
"I promise, she's much nicer once you get to know her."
Marlin smiled slightly and chuckled a bit at this, feeling a bit more relaxed by the Banagher's response. "No need to worry Lieutenant, I'm not offended... I'm imagine that's a fairly normal reaction. Now, where did Lila go during the battle...." Marlin muttered to himself as he joined the lieutenant in searching for her as well.
"I--I'm here. Is it over? Did those things leave?"
Marlin turned to the sound of Lila's voice and spotted her underneath the tapestry. He quickly made his way over to her and helped her to her feet. "Lila! Are you injured anywhere? I'm so sorry you had to get involved in this just because of me...."
Lila shook her head and took a moment to brush the dust off her dress. "Well... They didn't hurt me anyway. But being held captive by those.... things was pretty scary... Especially when you surrendered because of me. I really thought they were gonna kill you right in front of me!" She answered, looking back up at Marlin with slight frown and a worried look in her eyes.
"Right... I apologize for that, but as a soldier it's my duty to protect civilians such as yourself. Even if it costs me my life." Lila's frown deepened at Marlin's words and she opened her mouth to say something, but Marlin cut her off. "I'm sorry, but now's not a good time to continue this discussion. One of them escaped so we need to get you to safety quickly and apprehend them." He said. It was clear that Lila wasn't happy about it, but she nodded and fell silent.
Marlin's gaze drifted to the door that the last chimera had run through before turning back to the Banagher's. "I don't know how much you two know about this situation, but these chimera were out for revenge against alchemists and the military in general for the experiments that were done on them. The one that got away seems to be their leader and I'm sure he has something planned for the rest of our group. We cannot allow him to escape."
Throughout the conversation, Marlin had noticed Mira favoring one leg. He didn't want to bring her into a potential fight injured, but he also doubted that telling her that would go over well. Thankfully, he had an idea on how to handle this situation. He turned to address Mira. "Could I ask you to look after Ms. Jennings until we can get her to safety? I fear she may be targeted again and I feel you're better suited to the task than I...."
"That's another reason I plan to stay on as an alchemist once this whole damn thing is over. I have to at least try and make up for what I'm going to have to do. Even then I doubt it will be enough."
"Even if it is enough, you won't forget," Elias commented as he patched up a woman's arm. "Hell, I've done this job sixteen years now, and I still remember my first. Won't go into detail due to present company, but just know you'll see their faces down the road." As he finished the woman's bandage, he noticed the blood on the outer layer of gauze. He examined his hands to see that blood had soaked his gloves and lower sleeves.
"Sarge..." Blake muttered, sitting on the floor as she stared at the bodies, "what was that?" Elias stood in the middle of the room, staring at his previously white gloves. In his left hand of flesh, he held a combat knife, while his right automail arm had its blade extended.
"That was close combat, Private," he replied, turning to face her as he sheathed the knife, "not something very fun." Raising his right arm, he retracted the blade as he helped her up with his left. "And this is our little secret. No need to spread around that I'm not all original parts." He looked at his handiwork on the floor, four dead Ishvalan rebels. "You're welcome, Private."
"You'll see them everywhere you go." Back in the real world, Elias shifted his gaze to Tasha. "No turning back now, so I hope you can handle it."
Isaac awoke to the gentle pitter-patter of rain against a window, the soft rhythm slowly pulling him from the depths of unconsciousness. Opening his eyes, the alchemist winced as his blurry vision was assaulted by the electric light overhead. As he awkwardly tried to sit up, pushing against the scratchy sheets pinning him down, a wave of vertigo washed over Isaac, the nausea nearly forcing him to recline again.
Persevering, and still half-asleep, the soldier forced his bleary eyes open, staring blankly forward as his surroundings faded into existence. A small, white-walled room greeted him, perfectly bland and sterile. To his left, a small window was set into the wall, providing a view of the grey city landscape. To the right, the chamber's sole door was cracked slightly open; if he focused, Isaac could just barely make out muttered voices and muffled footsteps from outside.
It took a few moments for Isaac to notice the pole that stood next to his bed, and the two fluid-filled bags that hung from it. It took him a few more to spot the tubes that ran from the bags to the needles poked into his arm. Hazily, Isaac attempted to figure out what they were doing in his arm of all places, before wondering about where he was, or where his clothes had gone, or how it would feel to hug a cloud.
Dimly registering the bandages swathed around his hand, the alchemist groped for the needles, missing them entirely his first two attempts. His third try, however, managed to dislodge one of the tubes; by nothing more than sheer luck, it was the one full of clear liquid, not the one filled with blood.
The small effort managed to deplete whatever strength kept Isaac sitting upright. Slumping back into his pillows, he sighed, content for now to merely stare at the ceiling while his inhibited mental faculties slowly came back up to speed.
"Do whatever you feel you need to, I've got no place to be for a while now, so I may as well just stand out of the way up here."
Kallu and Armstrong stood in silence after that, for quite some time. No more words were shared as the minutes, and the hours ticked by. Stone could tell that it was not time spent in vain, though, as Armstrong was clearly deep in thought by his expressions. The tears had stopped almost immediately, as he forced himself to face what Kallu had told him.
The sun was already rising, ushering in the new day when Armstrong spoke again.
"Major. I've thought about what you said. And I think I'll take you up on that suggestion to use my leave time." He turned to him, and was wearing an expression more subdued in its determination than Kallu had expected from the flamboyant Major. "You see, I've thought it through, and I've come to a conclusion. I may be able to save some number of people on one day by becoming a monster; but after that, I can't protect anyone. I'll be a monster. And even if I could, I wouldn't be fit to do it."
He began to motion as though he were leaving, speaking as he made for the stairs, gesturing Kallu to follow. They walked through the hospital, out towards the front doors as Armstrong continued.
"So, I'll be heading to my family's estate in Central. I haven't been there in quite some time, and it will be good for me to clear my thoughts."
They finally stepped out the front doors, and found the sun beginning to peek over the rooftops into the streets of East City. Smoke still rose above the skyline from last night's catastrophe. Kallu noticed Armstrong turning towards him, and the bulky man extended a hand. "I don't know how yet, but I'm going to find a way to protect the innocent, without stooping to the level of those that I fight. This is goodbye, Major; I wish you the best of luck."
He shook Kallu's hand firmly, and without another word swiftly turned around and walked off into the bitter air of the Amestrian morning--neglecting to find a new shirt.
"Could I ask you to look after Ms. Jennings until we can get her to safety? I fear she may be targeted again and I feel you're better suited to the task than I...."
Mira's face shifted a bit as Marlin made the request of her. It was obvious enough to the state alchemist that she was fully aware of why she had been singled out for this task. But, she was a soldier who knew her place, and gave a well-practiced salute to her superior. "Absolutely, sir." she replied. Her husband, at that point, sauntered over; he had slipped away during the conversation with Lila to investigate the tunnel the chimera had escaped through.
"That tunnel goes for miles." he stated, making a few accompanying hand gestures to illustrate. "Exits every couple hundred'a feet. If he's even down here anymore, he's way too far ahead of us to catch. If anything, I'd say we should probably find out if the rest of your squad's all right, see if they learned anything."
Mira nodded and added onto the Lieutenant's words. "Sir, we've neglected to mention: the rest of your unit was assaulted under similar circumstances, presumably by the same individuals last night."
"Right." Banagher noted. "You just happened to be the closest one of the bunch to us; we saw you wander off into the alley and followed you."
"By the way, Dear," Mira said. "I'll be accompanying this civilian to safety; it's just going to be you and the Major on this one." She turned to Marlin and requested "Please, sir, try and keep an eye on him. He has a bit of a tendency to rush into situations without thinking them through."
"Please, honey, don't bore the man." Banagher retorted. "There's no need to tell the man about how we got married."
That one struck a nerve, and Mira's normally stoic face turned red as a beet; her expression was almost pouting, like a little girl's. It was jarring to say the least. "Just don't die out there because you were too thickheaded to duck, all right, dear? I lost my first husband like that."
"I AM your first husband!"
Their banter finally ceased, Mira came to Lila's side, and slowly guided her up and out of the chambers, leaving Banagher and Marlin as the only ones present. The bigger man gestured for the door, as well as the escape passage. "So, choice is yours, sir. Wanna check out the tunnel, or head back street-side?"
Elias and Tasha spent the whole night as they'd been spending it, treating a seemingly endless line of patients as they streamed in to the hospital. They hardly even noticed as the moon went down on East City, replaced by the sun as it slowly peeked over the horizon.
Their breather only came when the last patient filed out the door. The facility's employees looked ready to up and die themselves by the time they were done, and the two military volunteers were hardly looking any better when the door to their room opened once more. A collective groan was silenced when they saw a familiar face staring in at them: Victor's.
At the moment, he looked positively devastated.
"I... I left the hospital last night looking for you two..."
As Isaac came to, he took in his surroundings. Medical equipment everywhere attended to his every need through some manner of tube jammed in some manner of entry port, be it natural or artificial. Machinery beeped, whirred, buzzed, and trickled--that last one didn't sound right-- as he tried to recall his situation last night.
He was, to say the least, surprised to see the bed to his left occupied by none other than the assassin he had fought for his life against, hungrily devouring a bowl of noodles. Rai gave a curt wave and went back to his bowl, speaking through his slurps. "So, were your dreams as weird as mine with those painkillers? I dreamed about this really bratty kid with a ponytail fighting God."
"You wanted to see me, sir?" Lt. Anton asked, sitting down at Fuhrer Bradley's office the following morning. His eyes were immediately drawn to the man sitting beside him. His golden hair spoke of an Amestrian native, though which region and culture he couldn't quite place.
"Yes. Good morning, Lieutenant." Bradley said, with his brightest smile on; apparently, whatever mood had possessed him last night had passed. "I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Marcus Leonheart, the Resonance Alchemist. He's also the newest recruit to your special operations unit."
Anton understood immediately. This was his newest target to keep a close eye on.
"There are no tasks for you at this time, but I figured you might want to catch up with your comrades." Bradley mentioned. "As I understand it, they're at the local hospital, recovering from last night's little soiree. So, consider yourself free to join them, Lieutenant; and while you're at it, try and get our newest friend acquainted with the others. Dismissed."
With a salute, both Anton and Marcus stood and exited the room. The door shut behind them rather loudly, leaving the two of them alone in the hallway outside of the Fuhrer's office.
Elias felt the fatigue vanish from his body as he removed himself from the wall he'd been leaning against. Bearing the full gravity of his rank, he slowly walked up to Victor and smacked the back of his head.
"Corporal, there's a fine line between courage and stupidity," he began as he kept his arm suspended behind Victor's head. "Courage is bringing a rocket launcher to bear against an enemy your team is fighting. Stupidity is chasing after two teammates who are pursuing the man who tried to kill you, while missing an arm." He then lowered the arm to Victor's shoulder.
"But we're fine, and we appreciate the concern. Are you okay?"
Kallu watched as Armstrong walked off into the early morning, shirtless as always, intending to head home. His choice wasn't what he himself would choose, had chosen, but they were different men, with different morals and what was most important, he couldn't fault him what he believed, no more than he could fault a mountain lion to prey on the goats that wandered into its home.
It was late, more accurately early, and he sat down where he was and intended to catch at least a few minutes of sleep. He awoke from a sharp smack from the main floor of the hospital underneath him, where, after he stood up, he saw Elias, Tash, and of all people, Victor. Judging from the red quickly rising, he was slightly embarrassed about something Vitor had said.
Kallu arrived with the small group, Tasha and Elias obviously exhausted, they'd spent most of the night up helping patients, forgetting to care for themselves, the fools.
"The Corporal is fine, what you all need, what we all need, is sleep. I've got some very important information to get, but I'll get you all to your rooms."
It will be a long day.
"So, were your dreams as weird as mine with those painkillers? I dreamed about this really bratty kid with a ponytail fighting God."
A moment of awkward silence ensued, as Isaac blankly stared at his neighbor, trying to see through the haze that clouded his memories. When he finally recalled last night's events, he nearly toppled out of his bed, practically shouting at Rai: "Gah! What the hell are you doing here?"
Dealing with the sudden rush of memories, the bed-bound soldier frantically began to examine his various wounds and injuries, attempting to take stock of the severity of his situation. Gauze was wrapped around both of his hands, protecting both his burn and cut from further damage. More bandages were rolled around a large portion of his right arm and shoulder, and Isaac was also able to feel the strange sensation of new stitches sealing the wounds. Finally, a large swatch of cloth, and more stitches as well, covered his abdomen.
Convinced that he wasn't in immediate danger of dying, Isaac allowed himself to flop back onto his pillows, muttering irritably as he relaxed. "Just when I thought I'd get a break... Don't you need a passport or some kind of ID to get in here? Seriously, how the hell did you even get in the hospital, let alone my room?"
"And where did you get the food? I'm starving."
The night continued, but Leo was in no condition to continue drinking. His table was already filled to the brim with drinks and glasses that he had to toss a few of them down on the ground to find some room where he could place his head and sleep. The pub he was in had had enough - not only did this soldier not pay for his drinks but he almost killed one of the bouncers and wrecked a wall. Even though the crowd cheered for his supposed victory, the drinks he supposedly bought for everyone weren't paid for. Instead of waking up the slob - or more accurately, after having failed to wake up Leo for more than a couple of times, the owner's son decided to search him for any valuables - what he found horrified him - a piece of human flesh and skin in one of his pockets, and then a fancy silver watch in the other. Deciding that the silver watch would serve as a proper form of payment, the owner's son took it from the hopeless drunk and tossed him outside in the gutter.
Leo woke up to the sound of screaming as two MPs shouted at the soldier for sleeping in the gutter. Leo laid on his side, hunched over and shirtless, his hair cut to an almost bald hairstyle. The night was a rough one - Leo had found out about some strange new weapons being smuggled from the military and found in the streets, and he had to continue investigating the matter.
"Oy, you, what's your name, soldier?", asked one of the MPs as his leg kicked Leo's eight shin. Leo shouted in pain and tried to stand up, but all of his body was sore and the night he spent in the gutter didn't do him any good. It was an alleyway, one a few streets away from the establishment Leo was in earlier, but Leo had no time to remember what happened in his drunken night out.
"Leo-", Leo shouted out in response, but then let out a yelp of pain as his ears were hurt from his loud voice, "state alchemist", he added in a softer tone. The two MPs laughed as they eyed the poor man. One of them was kind enough to help Leo up on his feet, a feat Leo wasn't too certain he was able to do on his own.
"Hey, you look familiar - did I see you running around with that dancing gang?", the other MP asked Leo. Leo wasn't sure he should answer the question - his hands frantically searched his pants' pockets but couldn't find the watch. "I can't find it", Leo said quietly, "Where the fuck is my watch", he cried out.
The first MP, the nice looking one - a man in his early twenties with brown hair and blue eyes and a medium build - he pushed Leo forward and onto a wall, bashing his head on the concrete. "Soldier, you are an embarrassment to our military - prepare to be set to a military trial for impersonating a state alchemist". Leo was shocked at the response he got from the Military Police - Is that how normal soldiers are treated?
Leo tapped his foot and the ground and moved the angle of the small bit of the alley where the three were to the other side, thus throwing them both back. "Barefoot Alchemist, officer-", Leo finally regained his composure. He spoke in a somewhat authoritative tone, but he couldn't help think that the first MP looked good. "-I'll talk to you later", Leo said before he took off and ran away from the two.
Leo made his way to the pub where he spent his last night. "Closed my ass", he shouted a moment after he saw the sign on the front door. Leo walked a few steps back and brought a pillar forward, completely smashing the door to little bits of wood. Leo entered the pub - the floor was mostly wood, which wasn't the greatest element for Leo - but it had to do. He tried walking in a straight line as he continued to scream for his watch. He was greeted by a young man that froze in his place the moment he saw him.
What followed wasn't pretty. Later the military would ignore the pub owner's pleas for reimbursement over the state Alchemist's actions, claiming that it was a rogue alchemist pretending to be an official state Alchemist. Leo used his charm on the first MP, allowing his to walk out of the incident unscratched.
Leo then marched ahead shirtless, towards the hospital where he planned to properly skin the sample from Archer and preserve it for future study.
"The Corporal is fine, what you all need, what we all need, is sleep. I've got some very important information to get, but I'll get you all to your rooms."
"I'm sure he is, sir," Elias commented, still looking at Victor, "but I prefer to hear it direct from the source. And I believe we're more than capable of finding our own rooms." He walked around the Corporal and towards the door. "Wouldn't want to keep you from that important information." Elias dug his hands into his coat pockets as he left the room, where he felt Mason's empty pistols.
He knew who I was. How did he find it so easy to shoot at me? Was it too dark for him to identify me until I got close? Did he intentionally miss, knowing I'd end up killing him? As he moved to his room, Elias focused on nothing in particular ahead of him. I never thought I'd actually hope they're all dead, but I can't go through last night again.
"I'm sure he is, sir,"
After saying his goodbye's to Victor,Tasha, and Elias, Kallu went looking for one of the doctor,orderlies, or nurses he'd seen run off with one of the brothers. After finally finding one, he asked where the room was and was directed to it. Once he found the corridor it was on, it wasn't that hard to find him, he had two guards parked outside the door, and after being led in, there was another two inside. Apparently the hospital had taken him a bit more seriously than he'd intended.
The man was asleep, so Kallu settled down into a chair and waited for him to wake up. He was covered in bandages, from minor scrapes he'd received during the fight, a brace over his nose, bruises where his goggles had been once, and two stumps. He'd lost about two extra inches above his wrist and ankle where the transmutation had stopped the crushing. Kallu couldn't help but feel pity for the man, but he'd chosen his path, and Kallu had chosen his own as well, the end result being that they'd crossed and Kallu had done this to him. He didn't regret it, but he did regret the man's refusal to give up the information that would've saved his hand and foot. In the silence of the moment, Kallu felt himself being dragged deeper and deeper into sleep, the chair, the gentle banter of the guards inside the room as they played their checkers, and the gray morning light streaming through the window. It all culminated in the Alchemist falling asleep, though he still heard everything that was going on, albeit as if he were half-submerged.
Too many dead by this war already, how many more before the wars are over and Amestris can finally be at peace?
He dreamed of far-off places, the Ruins and surrounding desert of Xerxes, the cold and inhospitable, but comradeship that was the north, and Ishval, as it had been before the war, peaceful and quiet...so quiet...
Marcus hummed quietly to himself, composing the notes he would need to encode his latest research. While by nature Marcus was a very generous man, his research was literally destruction itself, and thus could be devastating in the wrong hands. Alchemy required a very specific skill set as a whole, but almost anyone could perform Destruction with little training. Thus, nobody but himself and those he trusted would be able to obtain his research. A fox-faced man entered the room, and while the Fürher seemed to trust this man, the only thing Marcus trusted this man to do was find the perfect spot for the knife in his back. "Well... I hope he's the exception to the group, and not the rule."
Marcus stood up as the Fürher began to address the two. "Damn 3066... Why can't the Ishvalians sue for peace? They're going against literal forces of nature now. At the very least, they could escape to Xing- there isn't an army in all Amestris that could cross that desert and still remain battle ready. The Ishvalites would live- they are accustomed to the desert, after all." Marcus sighed, knowing that he was one to talk. His entire area of focus was built on the complete dissection and destruction of all materials. And as much as he hated fighting, he fully understood with the Fürher's decision to send one of the most battle oriented State Alchemists to the front. "Still, if I don't have to kill, I will do everything in my power to follow my conscience." Marcus was careful not to let these thoughts be known- they would most likely be treason. The Fürher dismissed them rather abruptly, and Marcus decided to take Bradley's advice.
He turned to his traveling companion, slinging the case that carried his precious violin over his shoulder. "Little soirée, huh? I suppose Alchemists know how to throw the best parties, huh? We should check up on them- I'm sure that you're pretty worried about your comrades, right? I'd also like to see the guys that I'm going to entrust the remainder of my limbs to." Marcus chuckled as the pair made their way to the hospital.
Marcus arrived at the front desk and began ringing the help bell. When someone finally arrived, Marcus smiled and asked his inquiry. "Hello, have you seen a group of State Alchemists? They're the recent cause of your increased profits, probably all dressed as strangely as I am by military standards, and each one of them about as crazy and over the top as a circus clown? Ah, you have? Thank you kindly." Marcus continued down the hall towards the others, whistling to himself and spinning his pocket watch. "Though I'm surprised you haven't just bought a wing of this hospital. It seems like the cheaper option, considering how often your files said you've been here." Marcus joked with Anton.
"He looked like a snake, or something! H-h-he hired me i-in Dublith... He, he said he came from a place called Devil's Nest!"
What she's saying is crazy, talking about chimeras and men and monsters. She could easily be hysterical. But there's something in her eyes as she speak, sincerity. She isn't crazy. And she's not lying...
"I'm not going to say that I believe you, you could easily be leading me into a trap. But honestly, after all of this shit, I couldn't give a rat's arse about whether it is or isn't"
As he helped her clamber ungracefully to her feet, he offered himself to support her as she staggered slowly. Roland lead her to lean against wall nearby the rubble where she had tossed Richard. He took out his whip from on his whip, and she flinched at the sight of it.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. Not if what you're telling me is the truth. But if what you're telling me is a lie, or a ploy to lure me into a trap, I will be sure to find you, and god himself will not be enough to save you from my wrath"
He offered her a malicious smile that shook Chartrisse to her very core. Her legs quivered and collapse beneath her yet again, leaving her slumped against the wall cowering in fear.
Roland simply looked at her dead in the eyes as he began to tie her hands together with the whip, ensuring that the knot was tight and double checking that she was a good distance from that crate of hers.
"But don't worry my dear, because if what you're saying is true, then it'll be the other extreme. I will do everything in my power to ensure the safety of your sister, as well as eradicate all evidence of the men that threatened to harm you and her. Deal?"
Chartrisse sat silently as she looked at Roland wide-eyed, which was strange, as they were were both reddened from the tears, as well as panda-like from the smearing of her mascara. She looked up to him and slowly nodded her head.
He would hold her to that.
He made his way over to Richard, as he looked down at him, he saw that was covered in minor scratches from being tossed to the ground, as well as having a small gash on the side of his temple that was most likely the reason for his lack of consciousness.
Roland picked up the small lad and hung him over his shoulder, he was heavier than he looked for a scrawny street urchin.
" Hmph. Probably my fault for feeding you so much. Remind me not to help children ever again "
He looked over at Chartrisse, who was staring at him in both fear and confusion.
"Hey, don't you go thinking I'm crazy, you're in no place to judge"
Roland picked up the handle of his whip, which now restrained her, and he began to lead her out of the warehouse like a lost puppy. Covered in ragged clothes, cuts and grazes, dragging along a tear stained woman, and with a child slung over his shoulder. It was a testament to the military's scaremongering that not one person stopped him on his way to the hospital. Well, both that, and he looked like he was seriously not in the mood to be messed with.
As he approached the receptionist's desk, he was greeted by a slew of strange looks and gasps as they saw both the child and the women being dragged behind him in would-be manacles.
"Hello" he said as he smiled at the woman behind the desk.
"I have a boy here who has suffered some head trauma, along with some minor injuries. I also have with myself a dangerous fugitive who tried to kill me, you can make sure she's treated for her injuries as well, if you have to"
A man and several nurses rushed to him with a gurney, and proceeded to lift and place Richard on it, before taking him off to be treated. They were not going to make a state alchemist's patient wait.
Roland whistled, and two smartly dressed soldiers who he filled in about the situation, instructing them to both chain Chartrisse to the bed, as well as take shifts to watch over her every move.
Exhausted, and looking like he had been seen enough action for the night, he wandered over to Accident & Emergency, before collapsing into an empty bed, knowing wholeheartedly that he would be awoken by the cries of angry nurses.
But for now, he didn't have a care in the world.
Tomorrow would be a different story, as the Devil's Nest awaited.
"Sir?" a nurse asked, prompting Elias to turn around to face her. "Do you need medical attention?" Confused, Elias found his gaze drawn to small red spots on the floor. It made a perfect trail of where he'd just been walking, so he looked to where he was standing. Sure enough, small puddles were accumulating at his feet.
"No, it's not mine," he replied, after which he saw the nurse's expression go from concerned to worried. "Sergeant Elias, I was here last night treating the wounded. Is there somewhere I can wash these clothes?"
"You're the one who was with that woman and all those people." The blonde nurse smiled and took a step closer. "Thank you so much for your help. Good work, too. I was one of the nurses who finally checked on all of them, and those dressings were just about perfect. Are you a medic?"
"Medic-trained, but I'm in the infantry." Judging by her expression, he knew what question was coming up next.
"Wow, so how many people have you killed?" Instead of answering, Elias just held up his hands to show her the blood-soaked gloves he wore, hoping to get her back to his original question. "Ten? That's not really that many, compared to what other soldiers from Ishval have said."
"Can we talk as we walk to wherever I can wash these? They're not supposed to be wet." The nurse quickly facepalmed as she started walking, then motioned for him to follow.
"Right, blood-soaked clothes. We've already got a lot to clean, so you'd be better off just getting a new set from supply, or buying your own if you want something else. You know your way around the city?"
"Not really, and I don't have time to wander around. Orders could come at any time, not to mention," he paused to yawn, "sleeping sometime this week."
Leo tried to avoid the conga line of people he knew getting in through the reception. Some were soaked in blood, others accompanied with unknown soldiers or hostages - It was all so chaotic. Leo had no time to deal with it or hear these tales, maybe at a different time on a pint of ale. He walked to the side-entrance of the hospital where nurses would throw biological waste and entered the facility. He made his way to the second floor to the supply cabinets for any preservative substance.
He broke the lock and entered the small room, turned on the lights and started looking for anything that could help him get rid of the smell. Unfortunately for him, Leo was no medical expert or chemist, so he was satisfied with drawing the circles on a sheet of paper he found in the closet in a few copies - just in case - and he then disposed of the piece of flesh. He had to see how that circle worked and try to incorporate it into his tattoos.
Leo let out a sigh. He saw remains of battlegrounds in the streets as he walked to the hospital. What he had missed must've been big, but he had little time to dwell on the matter. He had to pursue his own investigation concerning the stolen experimental firearms in Dublith and meet with that mobster character.
Last night had been a boring one for Anton. He was glad to be up and moving again. As he entered he noticed a new face at the table.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
The new addition was one State Alchemist Marcus Leonheart. The man was almost sickeningly handsome and seemed to react to the Lieutenant's presence with suspicion.
The Führer's words were clear. A new person had just been added to Anton's list.
Another one? What's the point of all this, anyway? Well, at least the old man seems to have calmed down from yesterday...
As the two men exited the office, The Resonace Alchemist hoisted what looked like a violin case over his shoulder and adressed Anton.
Little soirée, huh? I suppose Alchemists know how to throw the best parties, huh? We should check up on them- I'm sure that you're pretty worried about your comrades, right? I'd also like to see the guys that I'm going to entrust the remainder of my limbs to.
Anton detected the slight sarcasm in Marcus' voice but his smile remained.
"Heheh, I guess we should sir."
As the pair reached the hospital. Anton looked around while Marcus chatted with the receptionist. He seemed to be quite the joker. Anton recognized several of his "comrades" and it seemed most had been separated and worse for wear.
And all I did was kill my mechanic's girl and get grounded...
The lieutenant chuckled half-heartedly at the new Alchemist's jokes while he scribbled something on a piece of paper.
"Oi, you!" He gestured at a nearby soldier. "Gather everyone you can find on this list and tell them to meet at conference room 6 at their earliest convenience."
Anton and Marcus made their way to the conference room, where after pouring himself and the Major a cup of tea, he took off his jacket, sat down across Marcus.
"Our friends seem to have scattered quite a bit so I've sent for whoever is available. Meanwhile, I am Lt. Anton Wilson, aide to the Führer's cabinet, pleased to make your aquaintance Mr..."
Anton said while standing up, grinning and extending one of his M1905s for a handshake.
Tasha shook her head, trying to shake the haze. She was tired, this hadn't been her first all nighter, but the combination of mental exhaustion and emotional she had heard during the night had taken their toll. Now all she wanted was a shower and her bed. She had been happy to see Victor safe. There was no doubt about it. And now the she knew, she felt she could finally relax.
Orders could come at any time, not to mention, sleeping sometime this week."
Tasha laughed as she heard Elia explain their predicament to the nurse. "Couldn't agree more Sergent. In fact if no one else here need me, I'm off to do just that." She patted her pocket's an pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen. She scribbled down East Wing, West City HQ, room 14. "Here Sergent," She said handing over the paper. "If anyone needs me, tell 'em they can find me here. As an alchemist I may be a dog of the military, but it comes with a few perks." She said with a smile. With a nod to the nurse, Tasha turned and headed off to the East City HQ.
Marcus gratefully accepted the tea with a smile. "Thank you, Lieutenant." He stood up as Anton stretched his automail hand, and began to return the gesture when he hesitated, mid-motion, after seeing the back of his hand. His eyes widened as he realized his mistake. Quickly fumbling for one of his cotton gloves, he was careful to put it on before shaking Anton's hand. "Leonheart. Marcus Leonheart, dog of the military, at your service." Marcus smiled sheepishly as they broke contact. "I'm sorry for that, Lieutenant. I'm testing out a new Array, you see, and I didn't want to play guessing games as to the composition of your automail. Wonderful work there, by the way."
A thought occured to Marcus as he mulled over his tea. "Oh, and please, don't be like the rest of the military. 'Major' is purely an honorary rank, and I'm not exactly cut out for the rigors of military life, I'm afraid." He chuckled before taking a sip. "So sorry to put you through orientation, but I think I only have a few more questions. The first is this: what is the team like? Yes, they're State Alchemists, and yes, I read the files available to me, but there's only so much paper can say. Are they reliable?" Marcus smiled once more before continuing. "Amd the second is: who in the hell did you piss off enough to get stuck with the Alchemists?" While said jokingly, the question itself was quite serious. For all the hatred directed towards the Dogs of the Military, it sounded like every last one practiced Human Transmutation.
Marlin found the Banagher's banter quite adorable actually, which was quite the contrast to their performance in the fight earlier. Still, it brought a smile to his face as he stood by quietly. "You have my word that I shall keep your husband safe. It's the least I can do after all the help you two have been.... Be careful though." He replied giving as small wave to Mira and Lila as they left.
"Now then..." He started as soon as they left, turning towards the tunnels Lt. Banagher had mentioned. "I say we start with these tunnels. That chimera made this place his base of operations so even if we can't find him, there may still be something of use to us in these tunnels." The news that the rest of his squad had been attacked was troubling indeed. If Marlin could do anything that would help ensure the attacks were stopped here, it would be time well spent.
"So Lieutenant... Do you know the current status of the squad? Any casualties?" He asked Banagher as the two stepped into the tunnels. He knew his comrades were all well-trained and formidable soldiers, but he feared the worst.
"Heheh, I'm far too thick-headed to even understand what a Transmutation Array is, I'm afraid. I do know that my mechanic has seen to it that after that incident with Octivir, my arms are not that easily disassembled,"
Anton said while shaking Marcus' now gloved hand. The lieutenant took a few sips of his tea as Marcus asked him to drop the formalities and apologized for being a bother.
"So sorry to put you through orientation, but I think I only have a few more questions. The first is this: what is the team like? Yes, they're State Alchemists, and yes, I read the files available to me, but there's only so much paper can say. Are they reliable? And the second is: who in the hell did you piss off enough to get stuck with the Alchemists?"
Ugh... Of course he's a curious pain in the ass. Typical alchemist... Oh well, I guess it's time to bust out the ol' southern charm.
Anton's facade didn't wane inspite his foul humor. He set down his cup and, with a smile started adressing his new teammate.
"Whew, what a relief! I hate all that military jibber-jabber. Such a pain, dont'cha agree? And this assignment just saved me from boredom so the pleasure is all mine. To answer your first question, the team is quite capable. We have our share of dedicated soldiers, brilliant scientists and... uh... wild cards, I think you could call them? You're in good hands."
Anton paused as he thought about how to answer Marcus' second question.
"That second question is a tough one... As I said, I'm an aide to the Führer himself. I guess you could say I'm here to make sure that operations proceed smoothly. I'm no alchemist, but my hand-to-hand skills are apparently an useful tool in a team where most members are confined to long range combat. That's probably why the Führer placed me on the team, he's not one for details, really..."
Anton took another gulp of tea as he let his explanation set in with the Resonance Alchemist. He looked up once again, and with his deceptive grin, continued.
"Once the team arrives I'll introduce you and then, hopefully, we'll have a brief respite before our next assignment."
"But we're fine, and we appreciate the concern. Are you okay?"
"Hm?" Victor looked at Elias with an odd look. Elias couldn't place it, but something seemed odd in the Corporal's eyes. Like all the life had been drained out of them; he must have been exhausted. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be fine. The arm still hurts, but-- YAAAAH" he paused to stretch his remaining arm out and yawn. "I think what I need most right now is sleep. I'm going to go back to my room for a while; I'll come find you later, okay?"
Before Elias could respond, Victor was already making a beeline for the staircase. Oddly abrupt of him.
"Just when I thought I'd get a break... Don't you need a passport or some kind of ID to get in here? Seriously, how the hell did you even get in the hospital, let alone my room?"
"And where did you get the food? I'm starving."
Rai didn't answer either question with words, he just casually pointed at the door that was opening into their room. Frieda stepped in and shut the door behind her. She was holding a steaming bowl of soup in her hands, and set it down on a tray in front of Isaac. "Amaud had friends all over the city;" she explained. "I've known some of them for years. They're glad to help however they can."
She walked over and threw the window shades open, allowing that blistering, accursed enemy called the sun peek in. Rai shielded his eyes, somehow continuing to eat the ramen as he went. "Jeez, would ya shut that?!"
"You two need a bit of sunlight." she insisted. "You're going to be doing a lot of reading soon, so I don't want either of you getting adjusted to darkness."
"Reading?" Rai asked, his kingly facade more or less evaporated by this point. "What the hell are we gonna be reading for?"
"For information." Frieda told him. She unfurled a piece of paper she'd brought with her, and showed them a map of Amestris. She pointed to a small, unassuming in the bottom right half. "All of Amaud's data, all the information that he put together on the military and their wrongs, is located her. In a town called Dublith. And we're going to find it."
Rai nearly burst a lung laughing. "Oh, that's beautiful, sister, but tell me why I'd stick my neck out for your mission for one second?"
"Simple. We take out the military, we take out the oppression. We take out the oppression, and the common man gets a leg to stand back up on."
The Xingese prince scowled at the rogue alchemist for the longest time, before finally nodding once and returning to his noodles. Frieda turned to Isaac and said, "Unless, of course, you have any objections?"
"Not really, and I don't have time to wander around. Orders could come at any time, not to mention," he paused to yawn, "sleeping sometime this week."
The nurse scratched her chin for a moment, thinking, before finally leading him around the hospital a bit and to a large bin of scrubs. "These haven't been intentionally dried; they got washed and we just didn't have time to finish the job after all the chaos last night. But they should at least be comfortable enough to wear until you get some rest, and get out into the city."
The blonde then took out a piece of paper from her scrubs' pocket and nicked a pen off a nearby desk, and wrote some quick directions down to the nearest clothing store, handing it to Elias with a cheerful smile. The nurse walked away, waving at the soldier. "If you need anything else, just ask the first nurse you find!"
After what felt like ages, Vlad finally exited the room of the remaining bomber brother. He didn't say anything to James, only shaking his head. If there was any information to be gleaned from him, it was not gained through his long night of "aggressive negotiation."
Vampire and James were both then greeted by a messenger, who alerted them that Lt. Anton had summoned them to meet with him in Conference Room 6.
That messenger went off, and in short order contacted Victor, Tasha, Kallu, and all of the others present at the hospital; most of them had been in the middle of their precious naps, and had reacted... less than pleasantly at the interruption. In the end, they'd all gotten the message, and would get there... on their own schedules. All, that is, except for the Deep Blue Alchemist.
Banagher grinned and nodded as Marlin suggested their next course of action. "Anything you say, sir."
They stepped into the tunnels, and at once Deep Blue realized that Banagher's guess had been correct. Though it was well-lit by torches, the passage went on so far into the darkness that it all combined into a single orange spark in its furthest reaches. The two began to walk, going that way for several minutes before finally reaching a nondescript wooden door. Marlin tested it, and sure enough it led to a staircase leading out to an alleyway not far from the one he'd first followed the chimera into.
They continued on into the tunnels, and a minute or so later they found another door on the left side of the walls, instead of the right. They progressed further and further, until Marlin could not take the silence. He began conversing. "So Lieutenant... Do you know the current status of the squad? Any casualties?"
Banagher sighed, and shrugged as they went. "It's hard to say, sir. It all happened so fast, there was really no way to tell. We lost all communications when we came down the tunnel after you. As best as we know, everyone was safe. The only ones in big trouble were the ones with the Lieutenant Colonel; went up against some real nasty bomber twins. But by the time we dropped out of contact, Major Armstrong had arrived to help them. I doubt any of 'em are in any real danger, sir. So just relax, sir."
In the darkest alleyways of East City, blood dripped from every wall as a single, pathetic figure struggled to get away. His legs long since ripped from their very sockets, his trembling hands dragged him down, further and further away from the darkness.
Into the light. he thought. It was the only way to be safe. He had to get away from the--the--
All around him, impenetrable shadow coalesced. The man's eyes bugged out as he saw utter blackness dripping over the walls around him. Inhuman shifting noises rang in his ears, and out of the sea of darkness rolled a single eye. And under it, a spiked grin.
NOW NOW. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING, MR. SPICE?
Black tendrils wrapped around his wrists, and dragged Amon Foern back into the darkness. "No! N-no!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO--"