The Truth Within the Truth: A Fullmetal Alchemist RP

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"Unless, of course, you have any objections?"

Instead of answering Frieda's question, Isaac merely gaped at the rouge alchemist, mouth and mind attempting to form words that simply refused to come. An amalgamation of shock, disbelief, and sweet, sweet morphine continued to cloud his mind, effectively derailing any possible trains of thought the bed-bound solider might have come up with. Finally, with little other choice, Isaac's chaotic and ruined thoughts settled on a choice: Laughter.

It started as a slight snicker, a soft noise that could barely be heard even by the room's other occupants. It grew into a series of chuckles that wafted through the air, a slight tremble slowly shaking through the alchemist's shoulders. Finally, Isaac burst out laughing, loud guffaws that echoed through the room and out into the hallway beyond. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Isaac roared with laughter until he was unable to breathe.

Then, he suddenly stopped.

"Are you people serious?" There was no hint of mirth or merriment in Isaac's eyes, as he gazed between Rai and Frieda. "You worm your way into my life, tear everything I know apart, and then expect me to help you, just like that? Are you mad, or just stupid?"

Sighing, Isaac forced back the sheets and blanket that shrouded his body, sitting upright and setting his feet against the ground, the contact between his bare feet and the cool floor sending a shiver up his spine. Grasping his IV pole to steady his footing, he forced himself up, the sudden motion sending a burst of dizziness through his head, his legs wobbling beneath him.

However, Isaac refused to fall. Steeling himself, he remained upright, breathing heavily as the vertigo faded from his system. A clear head on his shoulders, the alchemist turned around, staring at his two companions with a mix of anger and desperation. "I... I need to make a phone call. Please, just give me five minutes of peace; is that really too much to ask?"

From Rai, there was no answer; he merely gazed at Isaac with a cautious eye, as though judging whether or not the alchemist might be thinking of selling him out to the military. That, or he was deciding if he would be willing to sacrifice his noodles if Isaac passed out again. Maybe both.

Frieda, though no more vocal, at least gave a visual reaction, her gaze shifting from analytic to worried, then back again. Considering his frazzled mental state, there was no sure way to predict Isaac's intentions. The safe course of action would be to simply restrain him, ensuring that he couldn't harm them, even unintentionally. On the other hand, allowing the soldier a bit of trust might pay off in the long run. There was no way he'd help them against his will, and this small show of faith would likely lay the groundwork for mutual trust and reliance. Finally, she offered Isaac a nod, stepping out of the way and allowing him access to the door.

"Thank you." Though there was still anger in his voice, there was also a sizable portion of courtesy. Wheeling his IV pole along with him, Isaac slowly paced out into the corridor, leaving his companions behind.

Waving his way past a pair of overly zealous nurses, the alchemist navigated his way to a bank of telephones lining a wall. Taking a moment to steady his feet and collect his thoughts, he reached out, picked up the phone, and dialed the familiar number.

Riiiiiiing

He was alone, confused, and honestly a little scared. The world that he used to feel so safe and comfortable in had been torn away, replaced by a realm of confusion and uncertainty.

Riiiiiiing

Isaac was smart enough to realize that he needed guidance, from a source far wiser and more experienced than himself. He needed help, advice, anything he could get that might help give him some sense of direction, some hint of what he needed to do.

Riiiiiiing

At the end of the day, there was only one man he felt he could turn to.

Riiii-"Hello?"

"Hey Dad. How's it going?"

Leo left the hospital without much fuss. He would greet the others when he will be finished with his investigation and reports back to the Fuhrer. He proudly strode to the military HQ, occasionally receiving a shout from one of Mr. Indigo's men sitting at coffee houses or just passing the time.

Leo burst into the main hall and almost sprinted to the receptionist. Behind the bullet-proof glass sat a small woman in her early twenties, two deep blue eyes making contact with Leo and her small mouth smiling in response. Her cheeks blushed for no apparent reason, that is, until Leo realized he had no shirt on. Leo dug into his pockets and showed her his silver watch.

"Miss, State Alchemist Leopold Mentsi. I need a set of clean civilian clothes and a train ticket to Dublith. I am on an ongoing investigation and I have little time to explain myself-", Leo spoke in a somewhat authoritative tone to the miss, which then hurried off and left through a door behind her.

"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?"

"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."

"If you need anything else, just ask the first nurse you find!"

"Four more years, then I'm free to enjoy my pension and whatever work I feel like taking." Elias sighed as he threw his coat to the floor, followed by his combat gear and harness, probably the only undamaged parts of his outfit. "No more orders, or hurrying up and waiting." Each weapon was dirty from use, but it wasn't anything that would interfere with their operation. Still, he found himself wishing he had a cleaning kit nearby.

"Ah, who am I kidding? I don't know what I'd do out in the civilian world. Aside from not destroying an entire civilization, anyway." As he removed the rest of his outerwear, he inspected each piece's damage. The gray button-up shirt had been thoroughly soaked in blood, as had his white shirt underneath, but the gray shirt just looked darker instead of red. He could identify several dark blue souvenirs from their fight with the monk, and it was only after he'd looked at them that he could feel the sting of potentially cracked ribs. His boots, socks, and lower pant legs were torn shielding him from Mason's gunfire, while the metal underneath only bore scratches and dents that a trained eye could notice.

"Gonna have to change my fighting style once you guys are replaced," he said to his automail limbs. "You're tough now, but I need you fast in this kind of work." Whatever this kind of work entails. After he'd changed into a set of scrubs and found some gloves to wear, he wrapped his belongings in his overcoat. He then looked at the first of the two notes, which held the room Tasha was staying in.

Or so he thought.

"Oh, crap. 'East Wing, West City HQ, Room 14.' So did she mean 'East Wing, East City' or 'West Wing, East City?' Or is she just taking a long train to get some sleep? Screw it, I'll figure it out sometime today after I'm in something more useful." As he rounded the corner, a messenger stopped him while looking at a small list.

"Brandon Elias?" he asked, to which Elias nodded. "Sir, Lieutenant Wilson has asked that you meet him in conference room six at your earliest convenience." I feel like I should take my time finding new clothing today.

"It's Sergeant, and thank you." Elias walked past the messenger and left the hospital, following the directions on the other note to get to that clothing store the nurse had directed him to.

Kallu was hesitantly shaken awake by one of the guards in the prisoners room after a few hours of sleep. It had been good, and he felt ready to face the rest of the day. Whatever it had in store.

"Yes, what is it,"He took a moment to take in the man's rank and then remember which was which,"Corporal?

"There's a private outside saying that another State Alchemist is asking for you."

Kallu shook himself once and got up.

"Find out about this man's brother, bring him in here or take this man to him if you have to, but that's an order."

"Yes, sir." The Corporal saluted him and Kallu reluctantly returned it. He hated that little thing with the military, it was one thing to salute the Fuhrer, but every soldier saluting each other? It was just another way of wasting time to him.

Arriving outside and going where the messenger said to head to, Kallu followed and arrived at the conference room, where Anton and a new man, Alchemist judging by his lack of uniform, the violin case, and the Array on his back the Stone Alchemist saw as he walked in. He got to one of the seats and sat down.

"What is this about? I've got a source that could wake up at any time and give us the information we need to keep moving." He deliberately said this directly to Anton, not sure yet if the blonde man was a new addition to their team or simply a sit-in for Bradley or something else.

Anton and Marcus' alone time was up as the unmistakeable presence of Kallu Ikasti made its way into the room and sat down.

What is this about? I've got a source that could wake up at any time and give us the information we need to keep moving."

"Is that so? With all due respect Major, I called you here on the Führer's authority. Whether any information gathered today is enough to proceed is up to His Excellency anyway."

Although Anton spoke softly, there was a tinge of menace there. He looked straight into Kallu's eyes, sporting his usual eerie expression.

"Ah, I almost forgot!" Anton's tone changed in a heartbeat and his smile took on a much friendlier guise as he gestured towards Marcus.

"The reason I called you here. Stone Alchemist Kallu Ikasti, meet the Resonance Alchemist, Marcus Leonheart. He is the newest addition to our team."

Leo stopped to look around himself and see the beautiful paintings hung on the high walls of the HQ reception hall. Prestige might be a good looking quality, but those hungry refugees and decrepit old veterans could sure use that money the military is flaunting around. Leo let out a sigh - he was sure he did the right thing, and sending those checks to his sister managed to quell his fears every month. The poor girl lived on the border and supported her parents - his parents, all by herself. She could have even found a man, but Leo didn't ask. He specifically told the post office to deny any letters or packages from her.
There was no need to reminisce about home in the west. There was work to be done and books to research. Leo had no time to dwell on the past, he was sure his money had been doing good work and helping his sister. He didn't need to hear about his friends there, or how Lara's unit is doing. They're probably all dead by now. Being fielded at the frontier does that to you. Kills you dead.

Leo smelled an awful and invasive smell in the air. It was the smell of hard liquor mixed with piss, and it unfortunately came from him. The night he spent at the gutter didn't do much good to his personal hygiene, but it didn't matter - he could clean himself at the hotel room in Dublith. The young clerk got back to the counter and smiled back at Leo as she handed him a paper bag with civilian clothes - a white undershirt, navy blue pants ,a grey blazer and brown leather gloves. She also handed Leo a small slip with an 8 digit code, saying that he could use it to get a train ticket in the station.

"Sir, I was told your company-mates are looking for you, you need to reach this address-", the woman spoke quietly but stopped when Leo pulled down his trousers. She stared at the man with a gaping mouth, eyeing his horrible scars on his thighs, but then moving back up to his chest. Leo quickly wore his blue civilian trousers and his undershirt and blazer, changing his clothes in the middle of the East HQ reception hall as other onlookers stared at the strange man. Leo saluted the miss and walked away without hearing the rest of her message.
"I have urgent matters to attend to", Leo said as he walked away.

James had been busy while Vlad did his interrogating. he had left the room to retrieve all his equipment. He had also noticed Major. Armstrong leave, his question ringing in his head.

For there to be peace sometimes there needs to be a feeling of fear in those who will disrupt the peace. The military needs to be that fear. But that fear needs only apply to those who commit wrong doings against the peace. That is why we need to be the monsters to the monsters.

Retrieving his equipment from his hotel and filling his ammo pouch with regular ammo from the military HQ, he returned to the hospital in the hopes that Vlad had gotten any information. Disappointed he sat down in front of the room and start to turn the cartridges into alcheminzed ammo. When the Vlad had finished in the room with no results and the messenger had informed James of the meeting, he stood up and gathered what he had completed. Napalm, Explosive, Smokescreen, Multi-shot where what he had. Four of each. He had planned on making four piercing bullets but he had run out of time. He strapped the rifle to his back and both his pistols to his hips. He slid the boxes for the circles he used for his gloves into his pockets. He still only had one design despite having the capacity for three circles.

As he made his way to the meeting place he passed a mirror and saw his reflection. Starring he decided that the best opportunity he needed to buy a trench coat. Chuckling to himself he thought it would make him look like one of the gun men from the old stories. All he would need was a fedora and a horse.

As he entered the meeting room he saluted to everyone gathered there. Noticing there was some one new in the room he saluted and introduced himself.

"Lt. Colonel James Heldon. The Projecting Alchemist."

"Whether any information gathered today is enough to proceed is up to His Excellency anyway."

Kallu was more or less oblivious the undercurrent of malice that accompanied the statement. The man was simply strange to him, bouncing from one emotion splayed upon his face to the next.

"Please Anton, just call me Kallu, the rest of it's just add-on's I've gotten over the years. And whether or not it happens at all depends on the information. So far all I've gotten out of him is Dublith. Maybe James and Vlad will have gotten more out of the twin."

"Lt. Colonel James Heldon. The Projecting Alchemist."

"Speaking of them, were you able to get anything out of the other brother? Marcus, Resonating Alchemist."

Elias walked out of the store's changing room in essentially the same outfit he'd worn the night before, but with a few changes. He'd gotten black leather gloves to replace the white cloth ones he'd been issued, and the coat was slightly longer to better conceal his shotgun. When he approached the register to pay for the clothes, he spotted a pair of yellow sunglasses out of the corner of his eye. He hadn't worn sunglasses in a while, only when he was home on leave, but he decided to buy the pair since he wasn't in uniform, anyway.

On his way back to the hospital and HQ, he watched the civilians in the city as they passed by. It was just as busy as any military installation, but the sheer chaos of it made him cringe. Everyone had their own goal and went about it in their own way, unlike soldiers who coordinated efforts to complete the mission given to them all by a handful of men. While he preferred to complete his objectives his own way, the presence of a higher purpose was always welcome.

When he got to the hospital, he dumped the scrubs in the nearest pile of dirty clothes that he could find. He thought about finally going to meet Anton, but his growling stomach decided that it wasn't yet his earliest convenience.

Tasha gave a sigh of content as she stepped out of the shower, It felt good to just soak for a few minutes after she had gotten back to her room. She quickly got dressed in a simple pair of pants and a tank top. She was about to lay down to get some sleep when she heard a knock at the door. With a mental groan she turned and went to open the door.

"Ma'am. I was asked to give this to you." The private said before handing Tasha a slip of paper before walking away. Tasha watched the soldier go before opening the paper. With another groan, she turned back into her room to get dressed, she had a meeting to get to.

a Few minutes later she walked into conference room six, a cup of coffee in her hand. She saluted to the room, "Morning all, I can assume we all got a night of well deserved rest." She said with a slight roll of her eyes.

"Sir...?" asked a nurse to the sleeping man. After Roland exhibited no sounds of waking, she tried to find a way to rouse him from his slumber, nudging him cautiously on the shoulder. Still asleep, and growing impatient at the non-injured man lying spread eagled on a hospital bed, the nurse hit him over the head with her clipboard.

"Ow...Can't a guy get any beauty sleep around here? You have no idea...*YAWN*...what I went through last night, I think I more than deserve it..."

The nurse stood at the foot of the bed glaringly down at him angrily, she was obviously not in the kind of mood for such shenanigans, and no amount of his charm was going to melt her ice-cold attitude towards him.

"Mr...?"

"Striker"

"Mr. Striker, we are a very busy hospital, we have a steady influx of people being admitted who are actually injured. You are occupying a bed that could be being used for someone who could be critically ill, not for someone who is tired. My supervisor has informed me, and it is also clear from your appearance, that you are a State Alchemist and as such I have no real authority to order you to cease and desist. But, if my memory serves, a key tenant of your beliefs is that you "Be Thou For The People"? So please, Mr. Striker... could you find it in yourself... to get yourself out of bed?!"

And with a swift kick to his lower left abdomen, Roland found himself falling out of the hospital bed, hopelessly clinging to the sheets as he fell face first onto the linoleum floor.

Damn that broad can be rough, and a nice strong pair of legs on her as well. Any other situation and she'd be eating out of the palm of my hand...

Roland lay on the floor, still exhausted, taking in the smell of disinfectant that had been used to mop the ward. He placed two of his fingers on the back of his neck, just on his spinal cord, and sent a small amount of current flowing through his nervous system which passed into his neurons, instantly awakening him with an effect not dissimilar to a large amount of caffeine.

Filled with this newfound energy, he rolled onto his back, before flicking himself onto his feet like a pro, relying on the sheer exhilaration.

"If only I could feel like this all time, would sure make things more interesting"

The brief spurt of energy produced by his alchemy quickly faded, as did his smile ever slightly. Now came what he was to do; he'd had a good long nap, what awaited next was surely to investigate this Devil's Nest right?

Just then a young soldier walked into the room with a spring in his step, typical new recruit, eager to kiss ass, and not yet experienced the blights and harsh truths of the world.
Maybe he was just the bitter one, he was beginning to sound like a bitter old man.

"Major Striker sir! Private Holden at your service sir! Lieutenant Wilson requests your presence in conference room 2 sir!"

Sheesh, where did they get this one? Lieutenant Wilson? Oh, he means Anton. Wonder why he wants me... Hmm, might as well go, I have nothing else better to do, I can follow up the Devil's Nest later, Chartrisse isn't going anywhere soon

"First off Private, lay off all the 'Sirs' and last names will ya'? You may address me by my title of 'Lightning', you can add major in front of that if you wish. I like the sound of it"

He gave a large stretch upwards, standing slightly on the toes of his feet before resting them firmly again on the ground. Roland examined himself in a nearby mirror, he wasn't that worse for wear but his clothes were in tatters, leaving only his rubber undergarments. That would just not do.

"Hmmm, Private Holden. I'm in need of a new uniform. Could you be a doll and get me one? I'm a very busy man you see"

He gave the private a smile, whilst also offering a look that showed that this was not simply a joke.

"Of course... Sir...I mean Major Lightning." said the private, slightly perturbed at being called 'doll'. "Right away", and he began to make his way towards the door.

"Oh wait... one more thing Holden? Some cigarettes please"

"But, this is a hospital...I'm not sure you're allowed..."

"This is an order"

"Right away sir!"

Roland helped himself to washing his face as he waited for Holden to return, clearing off all the durt and dust that had accumulated from just one night. It seemed like the static probably had something to do with it.

The private returned with a new freshly pressed uniform, which the Major proceeded to change into in front of him, much to the chagrin of Holden. After he was looking spick and span, Roland head off to conference room 2 to meet the rest of the group, who had already assembled themselves.

"Sorry about being late guys, I was enjoying my sleep, until fox-face decided to ruin it. Thanks for that."

Satisfied that it was finally convenient to meet the Lieutenant, Elias walked into the conference room right after Roland. Some members of the team were absent, while a new man stood near Anton. He stopped the thought process on that topic at "new team member," instead letting his mind think about how he'd like some sleep and some alcohol to wash the taste of hospital food out of his mouth.

If he had a choice, he'd prefer the alcohol.

"Isaac, good to hear from you! How're you doing these days?" Resisting a smile, Isaac was comforted by the familiar sound of his father's voice. It had been too long since he'd last gotten in touch with his family; part of him wanted to stop and make some small talk, but the rest of him knew that he didn't have time for that.

"To be honest Dad, I've been better. In a bit of a tough place right now." Despite the nature of his words, the alchemist attempted to keep the depression out of his voice; though he was certainly seeking help, there was no need to reveal the full extent of his troubles.

"Oooh, sorry to hear that. Do you want to talk about it? Maybe your old man could offer some advice."

"Sorry Dad; it's about work. You know the drill, classified, classified, classified. Though, some advice would be much appreciated."

The request elicited a chuckle from the phone's receiver. "Alright, sure. Ask away; More than happy to help!"

Taking a deep breath, Isaac began to speak, then suddenly came to a halt. How was he going to do this? He couldn't just go around asking what people thought about the military or its policies; treason like that would only get him into even more trouble. The situation struck Isaac as somewhat ironic: it hadn't been that long ago that he had trapped Leo in that elevator, questioning his loyalty to Amestris. Might owe him an apology...

"Hello? You still there, Isaac?"

Yanked back to reality, Isaac offered a quick apology. Thinking quickly, he turned to the only other topic he could come up with: Alchemy. Hopefully he could get some moral advice through this line of questioning. There were plenty of alchemists who had experienced similar quandaries after being deployed to Ishvala; though certainly frowned upon, it was at least somewhat acceptable to have a personal crisis.

"Basically... Well, what do you think about alchemy? I mean, you had to have heard the controversies; State Alchemists being deployed en mass in Ishvala, being used to quell uprisings, and all that stuff. I just... it seems like every single day, there's someone else spouting hate and cursing me out for practicing alchemy, and, well, it's kind of getting to me, you know?"

When his father remained silent, Isaac continued, words spilling uncontrollably from his mouth as he babbled, "You never know, maybe it'd be best if I just stopped practicing alchemy, took a break for a while. If I'm not using it, then I can't be doing anything bad, right?

"Right?"

After a brief pause, the response came, utterly neutral.

"Isaac, I think I know what you need to hear. Now listen up, because I'm only going to say this once, alright?"

Nodding, Isaac tightened his grip around the receiver, pressing the piece of plastic against his ear.

"JUST WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"

The hospital hallway ground to a sudden halt as Isaac's pained yelp rang out; clutching his ear with one hand, the angered alchemist yelled back into the phone, "Dad! What was that for?"

"This is what happens when you let them move out... what was the first thing I taught you? Use that useless head of yours and think back; first lesson."

Silence followed for a time, before Isaac softly spoke up.

"Alchemy is not some divine force. It's not magic, it's not sorcery. It's science to be studied and understood. It's a tool to be used."

"Alright, there we go. Next question: Are tools evil?"

"No."

"But tools can be used to commit evil, right? When?"

"When their users are evil."

"Very good. Now, one more question; just one: Are you evil?"

"I... I don't know."

"Well, if you are, do you think you have to stay that way? Don't you think you can change?"

"I..."

"Isaac?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I can change."

"Good. That's better."

Though he was trying to disguise it, Isaac could still hear the worry in his father's voice. A small smile cracked across his lips, as he began bringing the conversation to a close. "Yeah, it is, isn't it? Thanks Dad, I think that helped."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I think so. Alright, well it's probably time for me to head out; back to the grindstone, you know?"

"Son, if there was ever one good thing about retirement, it's the utter lack of grindstones. Alright, it was good hearing from you. Give us a call again soon, will you?"

"Heh, sure thing Dad. Tell Mom I said hi."

As Isaac hung the phone up, there was a bit more strength in his grip, a bit of a brighter light in his eyes. Though his legs still felt like jelly, the odyssey back to his room seemed to pass by in an instant; slamming the door open, the alchemist offered his two companions a determined glance, the ghost of a smile flitting about his lips. "Research, huh? Yeah, I think I can do that."

The East City train station was abuzz with activity. Dozens, maybe hundreds of early-morning commuters were bound in every direction for their comfy villages, and an even greater number of refugees from further east were pouring in, with news of the war. The Amestrian military was winning, but it was an effort. The alchemists were not yet fully deployed to their best ability, and rumors were abound of desertions and fragging of officers. If victory was coming, it would not be coming just yet.

But none of that mattered to Leo. Belongings clutched in his hand, he looked out for anyone familiar. And sure enough, a hand waved back. Mr. Indigo sat on a bench by Platform 3, grinning rather maliciously as the alchemist approached. "Well, if it ain't my big man about town!" he said, standing up in a single motion to reach out and grab his new lackey's hand. "Glad t'see wunnuya made it. Lemme introduce ya t' my team."

He gestured towards the four men with him. "Big one's Casper." The one named Casper was a thuggish brute, nearly twice Leo's height with bronzed skin and a sour face along with some hilariously inappropriate buck teeth. "Strawman fella's called Darrel." Darrel, on the other hand, was easily half a foot higher than Leo, but almost nothing but skin and bones. His suit, while perfectly tailored to prevent a baggy look, still gave off the impression that only a skeleton lied underneath.

"Big-eyes here is Zeke." He pointed down to a man a little bit shorter than Leo, with a very slightly wide build and big, childlike eyes. He held a suitcase tightly in his hands, god knows what was inside it. Finally, Indigo pointed out the one in the front of the quartet, a vicious man in an old-fashioned trenchcoat with a sneer, a five o'clock shadow and a blind eye.

"An' dis? Dis right here is my numba two, Slim Abel. Dese're his boys, an' dey'll be accompanyin' us on our little excursion. I've got a few more fellas waitin' as backup in Dublith already. Now c'mon, get yer ass in gear."

Mr. Indigo waved for the train, and ushered the five of them in. It was time for their ride to Dublith to depart. As they took their seats in a middle car, the locomotive began to move, and Leo watched East City roll away.


As the others all gathered, they heard the door to the conference room open, and Victor Kendrall was led in by a nurse. He gave her a quick nod and a smile, and she left him with his comrades and exited. He walked over, a bit slowly, and sat down in an empty seat. "Er, hey everyone."

He took the initiative, and asked, "So, if it's all right, can I ask what the hell happened? Who were those guys, why did they attack us?"


"Well, hey!" Rai said, looking up with a cheesy grin from his seemingly endless bowl of noodles. It seemed that way, until Isaac noticed the four empty bowls scattered around his bed. "I thought you'd gone and ditched us. That'd be such a shame, me and the fine lady here left all alone..."

Frieda shot him a glare, and he withered under it. She turned back to Isaac and smiled in a more reassuring manner. "I know you don't have a lot of reason to trust us. Either of us; but I think you have what it takes to carry on Amaud's dream. But if that's ever going to happen, you need to see things from our perspective; that's why we'll be going to collect Amaud's records."

She brought his attention back to her map of Amestris, and pointed out Dublith again. "Amaud entrusted his findings to a man he could trust: one who would never give up his possessions to another person. I don't know his name, but I saw him, once."

She described him in detail. A tall, yellow-skinned man with filed teeth, spiked hair and a swindler's face hidden behind little black shades. Rai raised his hand like a child in class, attracting the other two's attention.

"Excuse me, miss, but what makes you think a man who you JUST SAID would never give up his possessions, is suddenly gonna give up his possessions?"

Frieda grinned, in a more sadistic manner than her usual smile. To call it unnerving would be to call a genocide upsetting. "Simple: we take it from him."

"So, if it's all right, can I ask what the hell happened? Who were those guys, why did they attack us?"

"And why were they so eager to kill us that they racked up that kind of collateral?" Elias added right after. "Hell, the Ishvalans wouldn't even kill their civilians to get to us, and they hated our guts. Of course, most of those who died before 3066 were volunteers..." He trailed off, even leaving his mouth slightly open, as he remembered a young boy he'd found in a building they had almost cleared.

"Freeze!"

"Let me see your hands!" Elias followed two of his soldiers into the upstairs room as they aimed at the boy sitting in the room. His back was to them, and he sat there rocking in the fetal position. Elias walked up to the child and knelt in front of him.

"They're dead, aren't they?" the boy asked, staring right through Elias. He nodded, so the boy extended his hand to give him something. Opening his hand under the boy's, Elias watched as a grenade pin landed in his palm.

"Down!" Elias shouted as the spoon popped off the grenade in the boy's hands. Without hesitating, he chose a window in the room and threw the boy through it before he could let go of the grenade itself. Following through with the throw, he ducked to the ground as the grenade exploded. He and his soldiers slowly got up and moved to the window, looking out at the street that was now covered in a red mist that quickly fell to the ground.

"Sarge, you okay?" a private asked as he stared. He assumed it was prompted when he heard the other private leave the room. His gaze didn't shift as a hand rested on his shoulder. "You didn't kill him, Sarge. I saw the whole thing, and you didn't put that grenade in his hand."

"No, but I could've just thrown it out. He didn't have to follow."

"Look at me." He slowly turned his head, slightly annoyed at the command and lack of indication of his rank. "Three to five seconds, usually three. You didn't have time to grab it, and I'll testify to that. Now come on, Sarge, we have a war to win."

"You know, Blake, you're alright. Might need to keep you around for more of these little pep talks, cause I'll bet you a month's pay this war just keeps getting worse."

"Month's pay for me, or you?"

Realizing he was back in the real world, he closed his mouth and decided that was enough on that.

Marcus grimaced slightly as he saw the ramshackle appearances of those who slowly trailed into the conference room. "Sorry to wake you all. You look like you could use any Z's you can get." He shook his head at the double edged sword of the 3066. "My name is Marcus Leonheart, the Resonance Alchemist." Sitting down once more, Marcus slung the violin off his shoulder and carefully laid it on the table, as to not damage it. "It seems this whole mess keeps getting bigger and bigger." Marcus rubbed the his legs where flesh met steel, an old habit of his.

"If you don't mind me asking, just what exactly is going on here? We have skilled revolutionaries in the streets, aiming specifically for State Alchemists. But what confuses me the most are your comments on these two figures, 'Gluttony' and 'Lust.' Regenerating after massive damage, coming back from the dead- it sounds like something straight from a fairy tale." "And I should know- my people are the subject of half of them." Marcus thought wryly. "Would someone mind filling me in? I'm afraid I'm completely lost."

Marlin nodded, grateful and relieved to hear that everyone was doing alright. He had witnessed the Projecting Alchemist's skills firsthand and if he had backup coming as well, then he was surely alright. "Yes of course... My apologies Lieutenant, I tend to worry needlessly at times..." He muttered in reply as the two continued through the tunnels.

After that, Marlin's mind began wander as it often did. His thoughts drifted back to earlier when he was pondering then nature of these tunnels. There seemed to be a number of entrances to them scattered throughout the city, yet this was his first time hearing of them during his time in East City. "Hmmm.... I wonder what these tunnels were built for...." He wondered aloud, not expecting any particular answer. "Is the military even aware of their existence?"

And they were fairly large it seemed. For all the walking they had done, there was still no end in sight. "And just how long to they go on for? Only one way to find out I suppose...."

"Would someone mind filling me in? I'm afraid I'm completely lost."

Crrrreeeak

"Gladly."

The other soldiers already present looked to the door to see the Vampire Alchemist stepping through. He bowed his head to the newcomer. "I was... preoccupied at HQ for some time. I've been briefed on this guy; a pleasure, Mr. Leonhart."

He waltzed over to the room and flopped down into his chair, looking across the table at the others already seated. "So, if nobody objects, I'd be glad to fill him in."

"To put it as simply as possible, last night every member of our unit, no exceptions, seemed to come under attack by various agents, with no apparent connections by place of birth, nationality, or likely motivations. These agents attacked us with coordination and precision, confirming that they operated together with some amount of cohesion; the fact that they knew precisely where we were, and how they sought to exploit our weaknesses implies they'd been watching us for quite some time beforehand. They were likely on our tail the moment we entered East City."

He took a moment to re-wet his lips before going on.

"All of the members of our unit to report back have confirmed either the deaths or the captures of their assailants; we still have yet to hear from the Landscaping, Deep Blue, or Spice Alchemists. Those that we have interrogated report that they were all hired by a single individual, a mastermind: reports vary slightly, but all seem convinced that he possessed the physical qualities of a snake. A human chimera."

He let that sink in before saying, "And right now, that's all we know. A supposed chimera recruiting various agents to try and kill us. And until we confirm the locations of our teammates, we have to consider the possibility of their possible success."


Victor watched as Vlad explained, and his face paled a bit; but otherwise he didn't react. This was his first time hearing much of this information, so the shock of possibly losing three allies in a night would obviously cause him distress.

"A-and the homunculi." he began, addressing Marcus' other question. His skin turned even whiter as terrible memories wracked his mind. "They called themselves homunculi, those two. 'Gluttony', and 'Lust'. They killed our last target, the Hotblooded Alchemist. They attacked us, but when we fought back... we couldn't hurt them. They bled, and they hurt, but everything just... just grew back. They had red stones in their chest, that seemed to be their cores."

He looked up, with a strange sort of curiosity in his eyes. "T-that reminds me. While I was here, I, er, had some books brought in, and I read them. Old legends, tales and such, a few theses. I-I've been thinking. That red gem in Lust's chest... must have been a Philsopher's Stone."


Marlin and Banagher walked further, and further, and further down into the tunnels still. "I'm not mathematician, but I'd say we've walked halfway across East City by now."

As they began to give up hope of ever finding the end of the tunnel, Banagher held out a hand to stop Deep Blue in his place. Silently, he pointed at something further down. Propped up against the wall was a faintly-illuminated figure. They couldn't tell for certain, but it seemed like blood pooled around him. "Wait here, sir." the Lieutenant whispered.

He hefted his favorite weapon before cautiously advancing down the hall. His steps echoed in the darkness as he stepped up to the body, and crouched down beside it.

"My god..." he heard Banagher whisper, before the man's hand waved at the alchemist. "Sir, come here. It's Amon."

Marlin approached, and as he got within ten feet immediately recognized the Major. Or rather, his remains.

Amon's body was ravaged by a vast array of slashes, cuts, and gashes, each one leaking blood out onto his jumpsuit and the floor beneath, staining them. His legs had been ripped away entirely; his face was a gruesome sight, wrenched, his last breath a scream. Dried blood dripped down from his eyes and corners of his mouth. But the largest wound was the massive hole in his chest, the tatters in his clothing making it clear he'd been stabbed from the back, by an object sharp as a spear and thick as a telephone pole.

"What the hell DID this?" Banagher asked with a ragged breath.

He got his answer when something down the hall took a breath in response.

Both Marlin and Banagher looked up, to see all the torches further down had been snuffed out. Now impossible to make out its form, all they could see were a pair of bright red eyes glinting in the little hints of torchlight. It was breathing, heavily, and it seemed to be nearly twice their height. Deep Blue felt Banagher grab his wrist, and take off down the hallway full tilt.

"Move it, Major! Get back to the nearest--"

FWOOSH

Something, they weren't sure what, shot past them faster than they could see. It missed them by a few inches, but the force of the winds it created was so strong that both the soldier and alchemist alike were lifted off their feet and slammed into the wall. Marlin doubled up on the floor while Banagher rubbed the back of his head, bringing his hand back to find a bit of blood dripping. He shook it off and stood back up, pointing to the door they were now a few precious feet away from. "I don't feel like going through that again."

The both of them dashed inside, and clambered up the ladder provided for them, before coming out on the far west side of East City, in a small alleyway looking out into a quiet plaza.

Tasha nearly dropped her coffee at the news. She rubbed her forehead trying to comprehend what she just heard, her previous fatigue forgotten. A Human Chimera AND a Philosophers stone!? But.....how? No one has been able to create even a talking Chimera, let alone a Philosophers Stone! And yet here they both are. Her eyes wide, she looked around the room. "Okay this explains what happened last night, but raises so many more questions." She turned to Vlad. "For instance, how the hell could it be a human chimera? Any practice with that branch of Chimerical alchemy fall under human transmutation. And if it was a freelance alchemist they wouldn't have been able to get any of the needed components easily, we would have heard something if someone had stolen the needed components...right?"

Anton just sat and observed as one by one the alchemists and soldiers came in. James came in without ceremony. Tasha followed suit, sarcastically complaining about her lack of sleep. Roland arrived next.

Sorry about being late guys, I was enjoying my sleep, until fox-face decided to ruin it. Thanks for that.

"Terribly sorry there, Major. Führer's orders an' all." Anton retorted with a smile.

Elias and Victor also came in leaving only Marlin, Leo, Amon, Vlad, Isaac and Ken MIA. It was a known fact that Isaac was in the hospital recovering from heavy injuries.

Maybe I ought to pay ol' Steel Web a visit after this...

Then, the questions started pouring in.

So, if it's all right, can I ask what the hell happened? Who were those guys, why did they attack us?

And why were they so eager to kill us that they racked up that kind of collateral? Hell, the Ishvalans wouldn't even kill their civilians to get to us, and they hated our guts. Of course, most of those who died before 3066 were volunteers...

If you don't mind me asking, just what exactly is going on here? We have skilled revolutionaries in the streets, aiming specifically for State Alchemists. But what confuses me the most are your comments on these two figures, 'Gluttony' and 'Lust.' Regenerating after massive damage, coming back from the dead- it sounds like something straight from a fairy tale. Would someone mind filling me in? I'm afraid I'm completely lost.

"Now just a second there gentl...-"

Gladly.

The Vampire alchemist had just come in. Anton sat and listened as he briefed the rest of the team on what he already knew.

Victor followed suit, giving up the gun on the homunculi, apparently oblivious to the Führer's orders not to speak of them. There was a curious tinge to his words. Curiosity that Anton did not know the Corporal had in him.

This is getting out of hand.

"Ah! As expected from the ever so knowledgeable Vampire Alchemist! All that iron in your diet must do wonders for the old thinking box, hmmm? Indeed these attacks are the work of a human chimera. He is the leader of a group of violent dissidents from the South. He is simply known as 'Milliard'. He must've caught wind of this special operations group of ours and decided to strike at us first. A grave miscalculation on his part, as it turned out."

Anton could feel the suspicious looks around him and continued.

"Now, I feel I should explain why I know this. I'm originally from South Amestris, and before I enlisted to His Excellency's service I was in a less... reputable profession. 'Milliard' tried to recruit me some 5 years back. I respectfully declined and now here I am! Giving you fine gentlemen this information."

Anton knew exactly how anxious his teammates were to act on this information and went on.

"Now this is what I propose, if you'll allow me Lt. Colonel: Their base is in Dublith. This meeting is over and the next few days are yours to do with as you see fit. Rest, find the missing members of our squad and let them know our next step and go to Dublith, either in groups or alone. We'll root out the remains of this threat to our country and destroy them. As for the Führer... Leave him to me. I'll let him know of the situation."

Anton leaned back and took a last sip of his tea.

So? How will you react now, dogs of the State?

And if it was a freelance alchemist they wouldn't have been able to get any of the needed components easily, we would have heard something if someone had stolen the needed components...right?"

"As much as some like to think we hold the keys to paradise and all that can be used in Alchemy, most of our resources are simple things, carbon,sulfur, even gems are easy enough to come by. The few that are rare are not as well guarded as they could be and any Alchemist that no longer wishes to be a part of the military can simply say they used the components in one of their last experiments before resigning their commission, and taking said components with them."

"Leave him to me. I'll let him know of the situation."

He looked around, everyone was worn in one way or another, either from lack of sleep or the fights from the night before. They could take care of themselves, he was going to Dublith, two confirmations was enough for him, the brother wasn't going to wake up for a while yet, so the few days he had, he was going to spend looking for the group. He was not going to spend it sitting around doing nothing when he could be helping figure out what happened.

Kallu stood up, more accurately, he got off the chair, and nodded to everyone before leaving without saying a word. He stopped at his barracks room and took a quick shower and put a change of clothes into a bag(an extra vest and a pair of pants) which he then slung over a shoulder.

He left the barracks and headed for the bank, where he took out a decent sum of money from his account. On the way to the train station, his nose caught a whiff of the coffee shop he'd sat at the night before, and his stomach grumbled. A part of the front facing was destroyed, and was covered by a canvas tarp, the remains of the wall still being carted away. He bought some food and coffee, making sure to add in a bit extra on purpose for the trouble, and ate. When he finished, Kallu put his gauntlets on and transmuted the stone to fit back together, though was only able to do about half the broken wall, law of Equivalent Exchange and all that.

He arrived, bought a train ticket and was told that the next train wouldn't be leaving for a few hours, during which he had nothing to do so he simply sat down and made sure he still had Dr. Marcoh's papers in his pocket, which he did. Another secret to be kept for the good of the team and Amestris. At least until he could find someone he could trust that understood the rules of Alchemy.

Human chimera

Philosopher's Stone

He'd heard rumors, but anything more than that might as well have been a foreign language to the infantryman. Elias' confusion showed in his eyebrows for a moment, but as an enlisted man he could dismiss the Philosopher's Stone. All he needed to know was that it made those homunculi impossible to kill.

For now.

"Two questions," he began. "Well, three. What's a chimera? Facts, not rumors I already heard. Are they as tough to kill as those homunculi? And how many more are there?" As a Sergeant he'd had wars to fight and soldiers to send home, preferably not in coffins, so his natural train of thought went to how to defeat the enemy, not its peculiarities.

Two questions, well, three. What's a chimera? Facts, not rumors I already heard. Are they as tough to kill as those homunculi? And how many more are there?

"Worry not Sergeant. As a fellow blockhead I can't tell you about their origins, but I can tell you that if you shoot/slash/maim them where it counts, they die. That said I'm off. I have a patient to visit and a head of state to appease." Anton waved as he left the room. "Bye bye~!"

Now that that's over with, I think I'll check on Steel Web. Off everyone here he appeared to have gotten the worst of it. Who knows? Could be fun.

With a mischievous smile Anton made his way to the room where Isaac was making his recovery. Frieda had just finished telling the other two occupants her plan when the Lieutenant knocked on the door and entered.

"Hello, hello! How are we doing here then, Ma--... eh?" Anton stopped when he noticed two people in the room. One of them was a strangely dressed young man with foreign looking features while the other was a woman, Amestrian. Anton took his time looking at her, but after a while came to the conclusion that her face didn't ring any bells.

"Oh, my apologies, Mr. Steel Web! I had no idea that you had company, how rude of me!"

Anton made his way to the bed where Rai was sitting and extended one of his arms.

"Lieutenant Anton Wilson, aide to the Führer. Pleased to meet you Mr..."

Let's see what this is all about then, shall we?

human chimera? Either it is acting on its own or someone, most likely its creator. And something like a human chimera merits some major alchemy skill so that narrows it down. Unless Victor is right about the Philospher's stone, which given what we encountered could be true. Whatever powers those two had broke most laws of the alchemy. Something doesn't seem right here. James contemplated about what had been revealed.

"Two questions," he began. "Well, three. What's a chimera? Facts, not rumors I already heard. Are they as tough to kill as those homunculi? And how many more are there?"

"A chimera is a combination of two animals or more into one. Think of it like mixing water into dirt to make mud. Two different pieces mixed to make one. That is a chimera. They are extremely strong with the same dangerous attributes as the animals it came from had. So you could mix a lion and a snake and it would be twice as dangerous. They shouldn't be as hard to kill as the homunculi were. They normally aren't invincible but you never know. As for how many there are, we don't know. There could be one, there could be a hundred. The army has places were alchemists create them but those are the only ones I know about. To be honest I am very concerned of we are facing a human chimera. To my knowledge one has never been made but that area is not my expertise," James answered Elias's question and turned to face everyone else.

" Right so Dublith it is. Everyone should make their way on their own. Travel in pairs or by yourself as Anton has suggested. No more than three if you have to. Space yourselves out between trains. Large groups draw attention. We will find each other in Dublin and make our way to a modest bar or inn to draw as little attention to ourselves. Our enemy is crafty and sure to be on the lookout for State Alchemist in uniform so go in civies. It may or may not work but we shouldn't draw undue attention to ourselves," James told everyone who was still there before he left the room.

James wandered the streets until he came upon a small clothing store. Entering he proceeded to exchange his military uniform for simple black pants, a gray shirt and a long brown over coat with many pockets in the inside to conceal his weapons and anything else he need to hide. He had wanted to buy a cowboy hat but thought that might make him stand out too much so he opted for no hat.

James borrowed a passerby's ligher and burned his military uniform in a nearby alley way. By the time he was done the passerby had left thinking that James had stolen his lighter. Pocketing the lighter James walked to the train station to make his way to Dublith. He opted for a route that went south first and then to the west so that he would enter the city from a direction that their mysterious attackers would not be thinking to look for, at least he hoped they wouldn't be. It may take him a few more days but he hoped it would make up for it in safety.

Marlin had never been so happy in his life to breath in fresh air as he and Banagher emerged from those horrible tunnels. He paused a moment to catch his breath and wonder just what on earth had happened down there. "That was.... Definitely not the chimera we were pursuing... An ally perhaps?" He pondered aloud, knowing that Banagher wouldn't know any more than he did about what went on down there. They were lucky to escape with their lives and if he hadn't had the sense to send Mira and Lila out another way, things could have ended up much worse.

That reminds me... I should make sure Lila is safe. But.... Amon being dead is quite the serious situation. After thinking it through for a moment, Marlin decided that delivering word of Amon's death would be top priority. Someone who had it out for State Alchemists was still at large and was extremely dangerous judging by how mutilated the corpse was.

"Let's head back to headquarters Lieutenant. Even though we don't know much about what happened down there, we'll need to report Spice's death to the Fuhrer and hopefully find out where the rest of the squad is while we're there." Marlin said to Banagher and began making his way to Military HQ.

"To my knowledge one has never been made but that area is not my expertise."

"Two animals mixed together, or a human with animal parts or qualities. Don't know how many, but they should die like anything else. Got it, thank you, sir." Elias waited until James had finished speaking and left the room before he followed suit. Before heading to the train station, he stopped by the telephones and began a call.

"Elias Automail, what can we build for you today?" a young woman answered.

"Kim? It's me."

"Brandon! MOM!" Elias cringed as his sister forgot to move the phone from her mouth before screaming. "HE'S NOT DEAD YET! We heard State Alchemists were being sent to Ishval. What's it like to see alchemy? Where are you calling from?"

"I can't talk about work over the phone, but I'll be coming by soon to visit. Can you-"

"MOM! HE'S COMING TO VISIT!"

"STOP YELLING INTO THE PHONE!" A loud noise nearby told him that he startled the soldier at a nearby desk.

"...sorry. Can we what?"

"Can you ask Mom and Dad to get my mid-mail ready?"

"Do it yourself, loser. Mom just got in. Here, Mom."

"Brandon?"

"Hey, Mom, how's it going?"

"Oh, nice and steady. We've got plenty of work, but nothing too stressful. How are you, dear? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, 'okay' would describe it. I can't go into detail over the phone, though. So, I'll be passing through the area, and I was wondering if you and Dad could get my mid-mail ready for me."

"Nothing happened to your hev-mail, did it? Are you alright?"

"No, no, I'm fine. I just find myself needing to be quicker these days."

"I see. Well, our contracts can wait, then. We'll get right on it, and have it ready when you get here. Kim, go tell your dad to prep Brandon's mid-mail. Anything else, dear?"

"Just that you'll know more when I get there. But I gotta go, I want to get on the next train out. Love you, Mom."

"I love you, too, Brandon. See you soon." Elias hung up the phone, then turned his head to the private at the desk nearby. Her glance quickly shot back to her papers, but she knew she'd been caught eavesdropping.

"Private, if a soldier doesn't still love his mother, he's got no soul."

Isaac was deep in thought, eyeing the map and materials that Frieda has spread out before him. He had to admit, his curiosity was piqued by whatever information Octivar had deemed worth protecting; there was no doubt in his mind that the deceased alchemist had been a master of his craft, and any research that could be dug up would be enlightening, to say the least. Who knows, they might even be able to figure out how Octivar had performed that clapping transmutation. Possessing a skill like that would be an invaluable asset.

"Alright, I say we go for it. But there's no way we're going to just rush on in there; we need to get some intel on this guy and his hideout. And to do that, we're going to need"

"Hello, hello! How are we doing here then, Ma--... eh?"

Damn, not him...

Isaac froze as Anton suddenly waltzed into the room, the man's eerie grin sending shivers down his spine. He had had little to do with the automailed soldier, and would have preferred to keep it that way; Lieutenant Wilson had one of those faces that Isaac could never read, a perpetual smile that never faltered regardless of circumstances. Isaac trusted Anton about as far as he could throw him, and those arms of his looked heavy as hell...

Remaining silent, Isaac watched as Anton introduced himself to Frieda and Rai, hoping against hope that he wouldn't recognize the recently escaped prisoner. Luck seemed to be smiling on him that day, and Frieda seemed to escape his notice; Isaac repressed a relieved sigh as Anton continued to speak.

"Lieutenant Anton Wilson, aide to the Führer. Pleased to meet you Mr..."

"Anton," Isaac suddenly blurted out, failing to disguise the small note of hostility in his voice, "what brings you here? Shouldn't you be out there, trying to round the terrorists and their ilk?"

He could only hope that Rai and Frieda would be able to produce believable backstories; he did not like the way Lieutenant Wilson was eyeing them.

A whistle blew in the East City train station. Kallu looked up, suddenly paying attention as the train prepared boarders to head for Dublith. He stood from his seat, attempting to make his way through the crowd and get to his train. That attempt went poorly, though, and he crashed headlong into someone who was paying as little attention as he was. The both of them went tumbling over into the ground, making grunts and groans as they fell.

"Oh, my head... sorry about that."

Kallu opened his eyes, nursing a new and splitting headache, and saw a man wobbling as he tried to stand back up. Stone extended a hand to reach back to the one offered by the stranger a moment prior, and was lifted back up to his feet. Standing a foot or two above him was a very odd-looking man in a brown coat. His jaw was square, and framed by a blond beard, and he looked to be in his mid-40s, but if not for that he looked almost boyish behind his spectacles. The man shook Kallu's hand with a strong, firm grip, while using his other hand to rub the back of his head in an embarrassed expression.

"I really need to start watching where I'm walking in such crowded places. Er, tell me, were you heading to Dublith?"

Kallu nodded.

"I think we'd better board then; the train is about to leave."

The pair set foot onto the train, and not a moment later it started to pull out of the station. The man in the brown coat nodded politely to Kallu before heading for the back of the train, with as little fanfare as possible.


Though he saw nothing of Kallu and his slapstick misfortune, James wound up on the same train as him; his seat was at the car furthest back, and Projecting was nearly passed out in his seat when a voice gently roused him.

"I'm sorry, sir, but the rest of these seats are taken. Do you mind if I rest here a moment?"

James opened an eye and saw a strange man in a brown coat with a blond--was it even blond? A gold ponytail, he supposed.


"Please! Please, I wanna see Mister Lightning!"

"Urk! Um, sorry sir!" a soldier shouted as the little boy from the other day, Richard, came scurrying towards the Lightning Alchemist. "We tried to stop him, but..."

"You were so awesome!" the little boy shouted, jumping up and down in an energetic nightmare of motion. "The lady was all gonna shoot us, but you were, like, ZAP ZAP! I heard you were in the hospital so I got wanted to come and visit you!"

He suddenly looked very guilty, and bowed his head to the floor. The guard at the door was watching in utter bafflement.

"...sorry I couldn't afford a get-well card, Mister Lightning..."


The doors to the Military HQ burst open, and Banagher marched in flanked by the Deep Blue Alchemist. The young officer manning the front desk recoiled in surprise as the burly Lieutenant smacked his fists onto the flat surface. "I need... to know... where the rest of Unit 0706-Red are located, ASAP."

The young man at the desk tugged his collar, a bit of sweat forming on his brow. "I-I'm sorry sir, but no such unit exists..."

Banagher sighed and smacked his forehead before growling out, "Procedural Override code, Alpha-Sixer Drachman Waltz!"

Apparently, that was the secret code, as the desk jockey immediately produced a small manila folder, handing it to Banagher and telling him quietly, "They're all at the East City hospital; recovering from last night."

Banagher nodded, thanking the man and turning back to Marlin. "All right, we've got the location of your buddies; if they're at the hospital, the night might have gone a little worse than we'd thought. You wanna lead?"


"Shouldn't you be out there, trying to round the terrorists and their ilk?"

Before the good Lieutenant could answer Isaac's admittedly hostile question, an empty used bowl was shoved straight into Anton's face by the Xingese man sitting next to him, who currently sported a scowl. "What he SHOULD be doing, is fetching me another bowl! It's been ten minutes, and nobody's come by to check on me yet! What if I had starved, hm?"

Frieda shook her head and pinched her brow. This was going to get stupid, and fast. Luckily, she was prepared for inquisitive military types. She reached into her pocket, pulling out a well-forged ID placing her as a recently-transferred security detail from West City. Making sure it was in prominent view, she approached the Lieutenant and saluted him.

"Sir, I was told to avert any visitors for the rest of the day; The Steel Web Alchemist is still recovering from injuries sustained in last night's skirmish. Would it be all right if you came back later?"

Anton, what brings you here? Shouldn't you be out there, trying to round the terrorists and their ilk?

While still hunched to shake Rai's hand, Anton simply turned his head towards Isaac.

"Ah, yes you se--"

Anton didn't get very far before having a bowl shoved under his nose.

What he SHOULD be doing, is fetching me another bowl! It's been ten minutes, and nobody's come by to check on me yet! What if I had starved, hm?

Anton turned to look at the young man as he contemplated the bowl and his orders. He just stared at him and smiled. Then, the woman approched the Lieutenant baring a military ID.

Sir, I was told to avert any visitors for the rest of the day; The Steel Web Alchemist is still recovering from injuries sustained in last night's skirmish. Would it be all right if you came back later?

"Melissa Friedrech"? Fake. A well done fake but a fake all the same. What are you up to in here Steel Web.

Anton couldn't hide his mischievous smile, giving the trio in the room a feeling that maybe their jig was up. He stayed mum about it, though. It appeared they were safe.

"In that case I'll just do my job and leave the good Major to his rest then."
Snapping a salute, the fox-faced man continued.
"Sir, our next assignment is to make our way to Dublith and eliminate any remaining members of the terrorist group responsible for the attacks on the night of the festival. When you're feeling better, please do so."

Anton then turned and made his way towards the door. They were finally getting rid of him. He must've been less than 2 meters from the door when, suddenly, he stopped.

"Ah! One more thing!"
Anton exclaimed and turned to Rai with a jovial smile that only managed to make him creepier.
"Please make sure to get your papers in order, sir. If I were to catch you again without proper documentation, why, I'm afraid I might have to arrest you. You know, since you ARE from Xing and all..."

The atmosphere in the room was suddenly very heavy. Rai had been made. For the trio, what were only minutes, seemed like an hour. Anton's smile widened by an inch. Then he turned towards the door.

"Just kidding. Don't get into too much trouble now Major. Bye bye~!"

Closing the door, Anton began to make his way towards HQ.

That Steel Web is quite the character. What will you do, I wonder? In any case, time to go get scolded by the old man again.

Elias had a feeling that he'd miss the very next train to leave, so he decided there wasn't any rush to get to the train station. The outside of the hospital looked much different than it did last night, as most of the wounded were gone and most of the blood had been rinsed away. He began to head for the train station, but stopped when he began to get a bad feeling. An ambulance slowly pulled up to the hospital, and the medics took their time getting a body out, which meant the poor sap was already dead.

"DOA?" a nurse from the hospital asked as he came out to help.

"Yeah, found him this morning. Gunshot, stab wound, not pretty," a medic replied.

"ID?"

"Get this: soldier with discharge papers from Ishval. Guy survives that hellhole just to get mugged when he gets home. Last I heard before we left, nothing at the scene pointed to a suspect." Elias' mind raced to that paper he took from Mason's pockets, and he found his hand slowly digging around his pockets. Once he thought he had it, he pulled it out to see the blood stains still on it. He wanted to read it, but part of him said to wait until he was on the train.

Isaac found himself awash with conflicting emotions. Relief that Anton had left, trepidation that the discomforting man would inform the Fuhrer of his new companions, impressed awe at Frieda's ability to deal with the comprising situation, and a smoldering pile of rage and ire directed solely at Rai.

Barely resisting the urge to strangle the Xingese soldier (Who had somehow managed to produce another bowl of noodles), Isaac allowed himself a few deep breaths, clearing his thoughts and formulating a plan.

"Right, Rai, it's probably best if you avoided this place for a bit; Wilson's got his eyes on you, and I have no idea what he's planning to do, but odds are it can't be good."

Before Rai had a chance to protest, Isaac continued, reaching for a scrap of paper and a pen on a bedside table, "Besides, it looks like I'm going to need some supplies for the immediate future: Ingredients, clothes, that sort of thing. And I get the feeling that you'd be more happy running around outside then staying cooped up in here reading books all day."

Finishing his scribbles, Isaac handed two slips of paper to Rai: One was a rather lengthy list, the other a few numbers connected by hyphens. Pointing to his bloodied, torn up uniform, the alchemist finished his instructions. "Take that account number and my pocket-watch to the bank; it'll let you get as much money as you need. And don't be cheap either; I want some high-quality stuff, got it?"

Though Rai still looked somewhat miffed about being demoted to errand-boy, the thought of having access to all that cash seemed to cheer him up; Isaac suspected that the assassin would pick up a few toys for himself as well. "Sure, sure, no problem Mr. Steel-Web; I'll take care of all the hard stuff. You just stay here and get all better."

Adding another empty bowl to his stack of cutlery, Rai quickly fished Isaac's watch out of his coat, before swaggering over to the window. Wrenching the aperture open, the assassin prepared to leap outside, but couldn't resist a parting jab, "What I wouldn't give to be stuck in bed all day, a beautiful woman slowly nursing me back to health, you lucky dog you."

With Rai's egress, the room suddenly grew a lot quieter. Isaac sunk back into his pillows, relieved that one potential danger was hopefully taken care of. "So, judging by my physical state, it looks like I'll be in here for a while. What's the plan?"

As the conference room slowly emptied, and the team spread out to accomplish their tasks, Victor remained in the room with Tasha for a little while. Only a few members remained when he looked over and stammered out, "Um... would it--er, would it be all right if... oh jeez." he said, rubbing his head and desperately trying to find a way to word this that WASN'T awkward.

"Uh... do you think you might ride on the train with me?"

Put simply, he failed.

His face turned red as he realized just how poorly that came out. "Uh, n-not like, for anything weird or... or anything!" he insisted with a few waves of his hand to accentuate just how platonic this invitation was. "I just, uh, had a few more questions about automail that I was hoping to ask! A-and I thought, since it'd be a long time that was... well, kinda boring otherw-wise I thought it'd, uh, be a good use of the time, pleasedon'thurtme!"

By the time he was finished, the Vampire Alchemist had nearly fallen out of his seat from the rib-shaking laughter he was suffering. By the time he finally finished, his face was redder than Victor's. "--ahahaha... oh, my word, that was perfect!" he let out another guffaw, and died down again. With a hoisting swing he pushed himself up and gave a little bow to his companions. "Well, you two can go ahead and sort that out, but I'm going to be moving on. See you all the next town over!"

With that, Vlad left, leaving Victor nervously twiddling his fingers and hoping his dread foe miscommunication had not bested him again.


"Dublith, eh?"

Fuhrer Bradley sat at his desk, conversing with Lieutenant Anton Wilson. He had just been briefed on all of his agent's experiences since leaving HQ. "An interesting turn of events; we've always heard rumors of... dissidents living in that area, but never anything concrete enough to move on. It seems my little initiative," he said with an entirely unfitting smile. "is proving quite useful."

He stood up, tucking the dossier containing Anton's reports under his arm. "Dismissed, Lieutenant, you have your orders. Find the terrorists and eliminate them, as per your orders by your CO. Also, take note of any suspicious activity, relating to your mission or otherwise, and report back to me ASAP."

With nothing else to say, Fuhrer Bradley left in a brisk walk, leaving his spy to wonder where he had to be in such a hurry. But as he reached the door, he stopped and looked back. "Oh, yes. And do keep a special eye on Steel Web."


As the train chugged along, Leo looked outside at the sun. It was low in the sky, now, and would be setting in a couple hours. Come night, they'd all be off to sleep, and wake up in Dublith.

Or, at least, he hoped so.

The little compartment he was in had walls and a glass door separating the Indigo party from the rest of the train's inhabitants. They were all sitting around a circular table, the quartet of hired muscle with playing cards clutched to their chests. Each was eyeing the other with suspicion, save the gullible little short one. At the moment, their vicious-looking leader held the lion's share of loot, including such gems as a golden pocket watch taken off a rival's corpse, and a revolver with an ivory handle and polished-white metal.

They weren't a talkative bunch in the normal sense, preferring all sorts of witty banter between them liberally sprinkled with curses and various vulgar phrases used in ever-more creative ways. Mr. Indigo was silent, leaning back in his seat and watching the proceedings with half-interest.

Leo either needed to bring up a topic, or be in for the long haul with these knuckleheads.


"I'm sorry, sir, but the rest of these seats are taken. Do you mind if I rest here a moment?"

"Uh, no, that's fine." James said, and watched the strange man sit down. He was actually quite large, like a lumberjack's build now that he thought about it. He couldn't help but wonder who this man was.

Their ride went on for about ten minutes, until the Lieutenant Colonel noticed that the strange man had not moved his eyes away from the window once. Curious, James leaned over to see out with him, and find out what was so entrancing.

Before him stretched some of what must have been the lushest hills he'd ever laid eyes on. The train almost seemed to go silent as he drank in the image of the gently-sloping hills stretching on and off into the distance, only a few farm houses dotting the horizon. Smoke rose gently from their tops, silhouetted against the orange glow of the night and the setting sun.

Shadows fell across the land, gentle ones that seemed to only increase the calmness of it all. He smiled, getting such a beautiful glance at his country; this was what he fought to protect every day.

"It's nothing in particular," the man told him, seeming to see that James questioned what he was looking at. "I'm just thinking of home, is all."

"Home, eh...?" James asked, leaning back into his seat. "Where is your home, exactly?"

The man looked at him with a gleam in his eye and a deep warmth in his smile as he leaned back into his seat. He almost sounded wistful as he said, "It's a little village called Resembool..."


"So, judging by my physical state, it looks like I'll be in here for a while. What's the plan?"

"Simple." Frieda replied, looking rather proud of her plan as she explained it. "As a State Alchemists, your requests carry weight; so you can easily request the chief of medicine for a transfer to Central, to better conduct your research. It's not even a lie, when you think about it. Once you're there, it's be easy for me to dig up some 'long-lost relatives' to check you out and get you on the prowl."

She sat down, and tucked away her false ID. "Only problem is, Rai and I will be a few days catching up to you, since we'll probably have to avoid most public transit around East City. I AM an AWOL soldier, after all."

She pulled a cup of coffee from out of sight, likely one she'd been sipping when Isaac first woke up. "Think you'll do all right by yourself for a couple days?"

Dublith, eh?

Anton stood in the Führer's office. He had told the "old man" everything he had gathered on the team while in the hospital. The fact that Steel Web had a Xingese visitor, however, had... "slipped his mind".

That fella needs some more investigating before I share that information with anyone... Xing...

Bradley stood up and gave Anton his standing orders while briskly making his way towards the door. He was apparently in a hurry.

Oh, yes. And do keep a special eye on Steel Web.

As the door closed, the Lieutenant let Bradley's last words set in for a moment before his smile widened into a disconcerting grin.

"Oh I will... Heheheh..."

Some hours later, a certain "fox-faced" man in military uniform was seen boarding the night train to Dublith. Before going in he turned towards the city.

Might be a while before I see this place again. You take care now, King Bradley...

Anton made his way to his seat. In front of him sat an elderly woman.

"Oh, good evening Mr. Soldier. Where are you off to at this time of night?"

Anton offered the old lady his patented empty smile and said.

"Just business as usual. You know how it is... When your boss calls..."

Inventory had to be taken. Leo hadn't met most of the team earlier that day and he haven't heard a word from the landscaping alchemist. The man begrudgingly helped him against Archer, yet he went off soon after that and made himself disappear. Archer - Leo suddenly remembered that man and began frantically searching his jacket's inside pockets for the piece of paper he drew the circle on. He placed the paper on the table where the others were playing and stared at the thing for a few minutes.

The others continued playing their poker game but each snuck a peak once in a while to look at what the alchemist was staring at. At some point the tall one sitting next to Leo, Darrel he recalled was his name, leaned to the side and looked behind Leo's shoulder to catch a proper look of what the alchemist was staring at. "What's dat?", he asked Leo curiously.

"Hey, hey, eyes on the cards, Cass", the larger brute sitting on the other side of the table remarked as he tried to eye Caspers' cards. Leo returned to reality and realized the others were speaking to him. "This here is a souvenir from the Archer, the alchemist I killed yesterday... I had to draw it, it's an extraordinary piece of work. The man could make anything into a projectile, converting half of the matter into kinetic energy to push the thing forward, it's really an achievement how someone could manipulate Einstein's formula-", Leo stopped blabbering when he sensed a tense feeling in the air. He looked up from the page and saw the other four trying their hardest to not laugh in his face. Whatever Leo had said, it all sounded like Gibberish to them.

The embarrassed Leo put the piece of paper back on the table and smiled an awkward smile at the others, as if he allowed them to laugh at his expense. He could see Mr. Indigo eyeing five of his men in a disappointed gaze, but Leo didn't mind. He had to spend his day with these men, at least he should enjoy their company. "Hey, guys, do you remember that other alchemist guy, landscaping, that can to help? Did you see what happened to him later?", Leo asked the crew a question, and it seemed like the light mood in the air dissipated.

"Ain't seen a goddamn thing of 'em." Slim Abel told Leo, peering over at Zeke. "I'm callin' yer bluff."

"Aw, shucks." the little fella said, throwing his bunk hand on the table and tossing Slim his latest prize -- a trio of gold teeth ripped straight out of a crime lord's skull, and very strange object--an olive green tooth. That one actually caught the crime boss' attention, and Mr. Indigo leaned forward.

"Da hell is dat thing?"

"We call it a 'demolar'." Abel said with a snarling grin. He placed the little prize between two of his fingers and twirled it around as he explained what it did. "Tricky little thing Zeke here cooked up. Looks like a tooth, so you put it inside some lunk's head after you knock 'em out. Wakes up a little sore, just thinkin' you clocked him harder'n he remembers. He goes back to some big joint, maybe even his boss' lair, right? So you trail him back, and when he gets a little too close, you flip a little switch, ya followin'?"

He smacked his fist into the wall, sending a massive CRACK noise through the train. Abel could barely contain his psychotic laughter saying "HA--and--and when ya flip it, the goof blows up like a birthday balloon, takes the whole goddamn building with 'em!"

His cronies Casper and Zeke went into a fit of raucous laughter with him as they imagined all sorts of poor fools getting popped like bloody bubble wrap. Darrel, on the other hand, just shook his head at his fellows' vulgarity. He turned back to Leo and said,

"As our boss was explaining before he went off on his tangent, no, we haven't seen your guy. Disappeared right when you did, and we didn't see a hair off his damned head. For all we know, he's dead."

"Dead or othawise, all dat matters is we've got our big guns here." Indigo chimed in, smacking a hand on Leo's shoulder. "We find dese chumps, and with this fella's help we're gonna get us some real fuckin' big guns, am I right boys!"

"HEAR HEAR!" went the troop, throwing their fists in the air in agreement. Even as night started to fall, their noise rang on unstopped.

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