The Truth Within the Truth: A Fullmetal Alchemist RP

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Alone or in pars huh? Can't say I approve, from the reports we're being targeted. But nothing I can do about it. Orders are orders She thought with a sigh. She downed the rest of her coffee wishing the caffeine would work a little faster. She glanced at Victor as he tried to speak. It was a little sad really, he tried his hardest and yet his foot wouldn't let him. She chuckled and and smiled. "Easy Corporal, easy. Don't worry you have to do a lot harder than that to offend me. Yes we can go to Dublith together. And I'd be happy to discuss auto-mail on the way. It's a big decision, and plenty of options to go through." She chuckled again glancing towards he no empty cup.

She glanced towards the clock on the wall. "We have sometime before the next train, so go get changed into civvies now, grab anything else you'll need. A gun might be handy, smaller model, one that's easy to hide. In the mean time, I'm gonna grab myself another cup of coffee and get changed myself." She stood and walked towards the door. She turned and smiled at Victor again. "And try to go easy on your self Corporal, stressing yourself out isn't good for you."

Kallu sat in a compartment alone as the train pulled away from the station, but was unfortunately joined about an hour into the ride by two sharply dressed men and a woman hanging onto as ostentatious a display of auto-mail as he had ever seen.

"Theo, don't you think it a bit odd that a commoner has purloined our car?" The taller of the two men with the woman on his arm said.

"Why yes, Lord Straddlestep. I will deal with him shortly,"The stockier of the two replied, who then flexed his auto-mail limbs and turned to "deal" with Kallu,"Hey, circus freak, get out of the lord's and lady's car before I throw you off this train."

Kallu had been enjoying the quiet, the whizzing by of the scenery and the general calmness in the air. He was traveling, and then these three had to go and ruin it. He pulled out his Alchemist's watch to see Theo's eyes widen and look back at his boss for instruction.

"It's obviously a fake, any Alchemist would have circles somewhere and this vagabond has simply defiled his skin with primitive markings more akin to a Cretan or however you pronounce what those animals are."

"Yes, yes. They are vile beings, it's so fortunate that our great Amestrian state has brought peace and prosperity to their once pitiful lives,"The woman said,"Frederick darling, why haven't you gotten rid of this...thing yet?"

"Because,"The lord replied,"Theo has yet to proceed with his assignment, Daphne dear." He looked at his man-servant, or bodyguard, or whatever and Theo regained his composure and nodded.

"As I said, freak, get out before I throw you off."

Kallu sighed, tired that he couldn't enjoy the ride in peace any longer,"I'm a State Alchemist on his way to Dublith. Now, we can either sit together in this car, or you can leave, your choice."

Theo responded by throwing a punch with his left, which Kallu dodged by sliding out of his seat onto the ground, where he then struck out a left of his own, at the base of the man's spine,causing him to lose control of his legs and topple to the ground, where Kallu then trapped his arms by standing on them and punching Theo in the face once, breaking his nose.

"Now, I ask again, can we just sit quietly? Or will you continue to ruin the train ride?"

Frederick and Daphne both visibly swallowed and nodded before sitting across from the man who had just dispatched their butler so handily. Kallu grabbed a rag out from his satchel and ripped it into two separate pieces before shoving them up both nostrils and tugging him up to sit on the seat.

"There, now just leave me alone. Stone Alchemist."

"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?"

Marlin merely nodded in response. If what they had heard was true than there was no more time for words. Marlin and Banagher quickly made their way to the hospital.

Once they had arrived, Marlin made his way to the front desk. Getting a hold of someone who could answer his question wasn't easy in the wake of the attacks as the hospital was incredibly busy, but eventually Marlin got to talk to a nurse. "Excuse me, I need to find a group of my fellow soldiers who I heard were here. Could you tell me where they are?"

"Oh, you mean the ones who were using the conference room? Some of them left, but I think there are still a few in there...."

Marlin thanked the nurse and hurried straight for the conference room she had mentioned. He opened the door to find Tasha, who was just on her way out it seemed, and Victor still inside. They seemed to be OK at least and Marlin let out a sigh of relief. "Ah, Tasha.... Victor... I'm glad I finally met up with someone from the squad...." He began, catching his breath from having rushed to the hospital so quickly.

"...I have some important things to report..." He continued. "But first... Where are the others? How are they doing? When I heard you were all here after last night... It had me a bit worried."

"Think you'll do all right by yourself for a couple days?"

"What? Did my performance last night not convince you I can take care of myself?" Isaac's halfhearted chuckles quickly faded away, as he again looked at the swathes of bandages around his body.

Shaking his head, the alchemist continued, a smile still on his face, "Eh, I'll be fine. I'm a soldier first and an alchemist second; unless somebody sends another super-assassin after my head, I should be able to deal with any threat that might be thrown my way. Besides, I've spent some time in Central. I know my way around that place pretty damn well.

"But, if you don't mind me asking, how do you plan on getting yourself and the bottomless pit there? You have some contacts in the railways or something?"

Victor gave a little smile as Tasha started to walk out of the room. That was right, he told himself. He needed to calm down. Take it easy. Of course, all the stress he felt he might rid himself of came back with a vengeance as Marlin of all people burst in the door.

"But first... Where are the others? How are they doing? When I heard you were all here after last night... It had me a bit worried."

Victor spoke up, explaining all of what had transpired to them that night. From the first explosions up through the interrogations of the bomber brothers, and what they had divulged. "...so now we're all heading for Dublith, to try and track down whoever is in charge of these attacks."


"But, if you don't mind me asking, how do you plan on getting yourself and the bottomless pit there? You have some contacts in the railways or something?"

"Er, no." Frieda admitted, appearing a little flustered. "Chances are, I'd be spotted and arrested on a train. Especially if it's a guarded one. So Rai and I will be hitching a ride with a carriage out to Central; that's why it'll take us longer. But, it'll guarantee we're not caught, so I'd say it's a safe bet."

"But, it'll guarantee we're not caught, so I'd say it's a safe bet."

"Yeah, hard to argue with that logic. Still, can't say I envy you; probably going to be some cold nights out on the road. Need to get Rai to get you guys some warm clothes or something."

At a loss for anything else to say, Isaac simply sat there in silence, slurping down the soup that Frieda had brought in earlier. Though it had cooled somewhat, the tasty broth still held most of its heat and sent a wave of warmth through the alchemist's tired limbs.

Marcus smiled as he took out his violin, completely unnoticed by the other State Alchemists. "Well, as a old thief, I suppose I should take that as a complement." Still, he couldn't help a tongue-in-cheek response as Tasha walked out the door. Pouring as much emotion into it as he could, Marcus began to play the most romantic song he could. Cutting off about halfway through, Marcus smirked at Victor.

 "Perhaps I should come along with you two, set the mood." Marcus laughed as he packed away the violin and slung it once more over his shoulder. Marlin burst in the door and Marcus nodded his head in respect. "Ah, Deep Blue Alchemist, right?" Marcus asked as he noticed the signature flask. "A pleasure to meet you. Anyway, I'll be on my way. I doubt there's going to be too much trouble- but then again, we seem to attract it wherever we go." On his way out, Marcus paused, as if remembering something. "Oh, and if you see State Alchemist Isaac, give him my best. I hope he recovers quickly; I also hope the same for you, Victor." And with that Marcus made his way past Tasha and out the door.

As he waited for the train, Marcus decided to make people a little happier and took out his violin. Opening his case for donations, as any wandering ministrel might do, he began to play a jubilant piece, one that quickly drew a small crowd. Hidden by such a crowd, Marcus watched as several of his fellow Alchemists boarded the trains, one by one. Marcus resisted the urge to hop on with them, and instead decided to wait until he was the only Alchemist boarding. A beautiful woman,bedecked in pearls and surrounded by bodyguards, paused to listen to Marcus finished the piece. He grinned at her, then whispered something in her ear that caused her to blush bright red and throw a large amount of money in the case. Marcus smiled even more, then began to play again as the woman walked away. A minute later, a shriek pierced the air, splitting the sea of people better than Moses ever could.

 "My purse is missing!" the rich woman shrieked. Looking for a target, her eyed clapped on Marcus, and he knew what was coming next. "Oh God. Here we go again." As per his usual preparations, Marcus closed and locked his case and steeled himself. 

"Him! That... That.... That gypsy must have taken it!" The venom within that one word was palpable. "In three...two...one..." Marcus muttered, and his timing was perfect. Everyone immediately began to pat pockets, searching for their own wallets and purses. "You would think people would realize by now they just showed the gypsy exactly where they keep their money." Marcus stood up, still playing, as the rich woman shrieked her next command, laughably cliché as it was.

 "Get him!" 

Marcus sighed as the majority of them pulled out switchboards and other knives of the sort. Turned his attention to the rich woman, Marcus readied his next insult even as the crowd screamed and fled. "What, spend all your money on paste diamonds, so you couldn't hire anything more than two-bit thugs? I guess you're selling your body to the wrong kind of gentlemen, huh?" The woman turned red once more, but this time it was anger, not attraction, that drove the metamorphosis.

 "Kill him! In the name of the Rinoa house, kill him! You can search that... Bastard for my purse later, but I want his blood on the ground. I will not let such a vagabond sully my name like that!" Marcus smirked once more as the well-dressed thugs menaced closer, forming a circle, each one of them ham-fistedly holding the knife with the blade extending past the pinky. 

"Oh, it's an honor killing now, is it? Well that just makes everything right 'n dandy, now doesn't it? I'll just lie down and wait for your dogs to slit my throat, now won't I?" Marcus shook his head as he turned away from the airheaded woman and back to the immediate threat. "Would it help if I mentioned that I'm a State Alchemist?" The circle grew tighter, and Marcus shook his head. "No, I didn't think it would. Still, I think we should have a bit of background music, to set the mood." Marcus becan strumming as quickly as he could, opting for an... explosively suspenseful piece. With all of the preparations in place and his violin warming up, Marcus began his attack. 

"Oh, come on!" He jeered. "You guys can't be serious. The only mugging you've ever seen must be in a picturebook if you're holding a knife like that! You're killing someone, not spearing a steak!" As several of the bodyguards took their attention off Marcus and focused on their hands, the cunning Alchemist struck. Using his powerful Automail legs, Marcus sprang towards one of the fumblers, introducing the man to his foot with a satisfying crack. The second bodyguard fared no better, as Marcus pushed off the first and delivered a bone-shattering roundhouse kick to the man's shoulder, taking him out of the fight and Marcus out of the circle. "Alright boys, playtime's over. Last chance to run away."

The bodyguards did run. Unfortunately, it was towards Marcus. "He's just one man! What can one man possibly do? There's a bonus to the man who can take him down!" The leader shouted. As one, the group charged. "Well, at least they're holding their knives the right way now. That makes things a little easier."

Marcus breathed in deeply, stopped playing, and began to transmute. The Array on his back activated, the light shining through his clothing, even if faintly. His bow began to sing as the energy from the transmutation flowed through it. The first bodyguard swung his fist forward, intending to impale Marcus. Smiling, Marcus quickly raised his leg and stopped the knife, catching it in the fabric of his pants. Bringing his arm down, Marcus cut through the knife using nothing but the string of his bow. Completing the motion, Marcus gave the man two quick cuts across his chest that would make it all but impossible to use his arms through the pain.

 Gleefully dancing backwards, Marcus avoided the next knife, and began to play once more. The violin glowed as the low note growled, slamming into the bodyguard and sending him flying. Smiling once more, Marcus switched to a Minor key and began playing "Devil went down to Dublith." He made the violin wail for all it was worth, and the effect was immediate. The bodyguards caught in the area of effect all began to act as if they were drunk, swaying and falling over. One even vomited. Marcus finished playing, and carefully wiped down his bow, making sure to take good care of it. The bodyguards, afraid of what they now knew to be a State Alchemist, turned as one and stumbled away, desperately hoping to escape with their lives.

 "In answer to your question, That's what one man can do." Marcus called after the fleeing thugs. He counted his money and pocketed it, placing his violin carefully back in its case. Whistling, Marcus approached the woman, who was too afraid to even move. "I think that's your purse over there in the alley. You dropped it, and it got kicked away by the fleeing crowd when you sicced your bodyguards on me." The train pulled into the station as Marcus once again strapped his violin to his back.

"If you're still looking for a bed to share, honey, mine is a bit cold sometimes." Marcus said bitterly, still irritated at the woman's prejudice. As he stepped onto the train, Marcus paused to give one final piece of advice. "Next time, think before you accuse someone. It saves a whole lot of misery on both ends, and next time, you might not meet someone as lenient as I was." Spinning his State Alchemist's pocket watch, Marcus boarded the train to Dublith, still whistling.

Before boarding the train, Elias had bought a duffel bag for his larger weapons. Due to his military status he wouldn't have had a problem bringing them on board, but maneuvering on a train would be substantially easier with his larger weapons off of his body. He walked through the train until he found a relatively empty car, and when he stepped inside a small child ran up and hugged his leg before he could get a good look at everyone inside.

"Mommy, it's the man from the hospital!" the boy yelled to a couple who sat a few rows back. Spotting their bandages, Elias picked the boy up in his arms and remembered wrapping the boy's leg with the still-clean gauze. "Are you going to visit Dublith, too?"

"I'm going there for work, but I'm stopping somewhere else before I get there," he replied as he carried the boy back to his parents. "So we won't be on the same train the whole time, but we will for most of the trip. Stay with your parents, alright? And keep this clean."

"Mommy says I can't play as much while I got it on." Once the two got to his parents, the boy climbed into his seat.

"Because Mommy knows you'll get that bandage dirty if you're out playing," his mother began. "Don't worry, Eric, it'll heal soon, and then you can play all you want. Thanks again, mister. I know you didn't have to stay out there all night just for us."

"Our job is to respond in a time of emergency, ma'am. I just like to respond to more emergencies. You folks enjoy the ride." Elias and the father exchanged nods and smiles, then Elias moved to the back left seat. Yawning, he leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes, bag of weapons tucked between his legs.

"Hey, miss, are you that man's friend?" the boy asked. Elias opened his eyes to see the hooded woman he hadn't heard approaching. She glanced over her shoulder to look at the boy, giving Elias the time he needed to stop her from using the pistol in her hand on him. As she turned back to him, he rushed up and grabbed the pistol with his right hand, pushing the slide back so it couldn't fire. With his left, he reached over her shoulder and hugged her.

"It's so good to see you again!" Elias called out, pretending she was an old friend before lowering his voice. "I've got an automail arm with a blade inside. Don't make me kill you in front of the kid." Playing along, she raised her left arm to hug him back.

"Then you should've done it in Ishval," she whispered back, and instantly Elias knew who he was talking to. "Goodness, it's been too long. How have you been these days?"

"I've had my rough spots, but nothing I couldn't handle." He released his embrace and stepped back as he let go of the pistol's slide, retaining the ejected cartridge in his hand. "Please, have a seat." The two slowly sat down, careful to maintain the small distance between them. Both sat with arms crossed, left over right; Elias so he could drive his left blade into her chest, she so that her left arm concealed the pistol.

"Why not just kill me?" she asked softly. "You keep getting the chance, and it's nothing new to you, so why stop at me?"

"I try not to think of violence as a proverbial hammer," he replied in the same hushed voice. "Otherwise, I know several people who wouldn't be alive right now."

"What's 'proverbial hammer' mean?"

"You know, 'if all you've got's a hammer, everything looks like a nail.' Guess it's an automail thing."

"Right, that *other* abomination Amestris is known for."

"Lady, I'm half metal and work with wat- alchemists, so if you're just going to focus on what's wrong with my people, this is going to be an unpleasant trip. Besides, why didn't you just kill me?" She paused for a moment.

"I only brought two bullets, and you have one."

"Cartridge. Or round. But not bullet, that's just the part that'd lodge itself in my side if you pull that trigger. But if you're really wanting the whole murder-suicide thing, I've got a pistol of my own on my belt. Unless you want that boy to be traumatized by watching you kill the guy who saved his and his family's lives, better shoot them, too. I've got more than enough ammo for that, but I see you didn't plan ahead."

"I didn't want to use more violence than I had to."

"See why you're still breathing?"

"Blades are much quieter, though."

"But not usually instant. If I ejected my blade right now, it'd drive straight into your heart and kill you in five to seven seconds. In that time, you could stare at me silently as you breathe your last breaths, or you could cry out in pain as you pull that trigger, which draws the boy's attention to the two bleeding people back here. I might survive, but he'd still be scarred for life."

"You sure like to overthink things."

"That's why I survived to make Sergeant First Class. That's why you survive to enjoy this train ride with me."

[b]"Perhaps I should come along with you two, set the mood." Tasha turned to meet the man who had spoken, the new guy. huh, good it'll be a chance to get to know... She thought as the guy rushed past her. "Wait we're..." She tried to call after him, but he was gone a moment later. "....supposed to spread ourselves out. " She sighed. "Well that guy is off to a wonderful start." She turned to Marlin.

"So yeah that about sums it up, your welcome to come with me and the Corporal, of course. We're supposed to go in small groups or alone so we don't attract the eye's of whoever after us, but apparently half the team was eager to make it to the first train." She aid with a yawn. "Anyway, Me and the Corporal here plan on catching the next one, that way we can take our time getting ready and I can drink a pot of coffee before we leave." She yawn again. "Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to do just that."

Elias awoke suddenly after feeling his head dip to the side and hit the window. Quickly turning to his right, he noticed the Ishvalan woman was still beside him, and still had her pistol against his ribcage.

"Is the poor little soldier a little tired?" she asked with a smirk on her face. Elias yawned before pointing at the nearby family with his right arm, keeping his left in position to strike.

"Remember how I was patching them up last night?" he began, stifling another yawn. "Well, they were in a long line for treatment. My unit got hit last night, and they weren't too concerned about who else they hit."

"I thought they all died in Ishval," she piped in with a confused look on her face.

"Yeah, they did." Pausing to remember killing Mason, he didn't catch that he hadn't told her about his platoon. "They hit that team of watches I'm assigned to. I ran down one assassin, killed him, then got to stay up all night playing medic."

"You talk to every enemy of the state this much?"

"Okay, you know about a lot of dead people, more wounded people, and some not-wounded people I'm working with. Explain to me how any of that constitutes classified information. Do you even know where we're going?" Her face turned into one of shock as, almost on cue, the train's conductor came by to check tickets, prompting a tired laugh from the Sergeant. "What, did you just see me and jump on the train?"

"I was just hoping to chat before you took off," she replied, careful not to turn and look at the conductor, lest he see a bit of her hair or her eyes. Remembering her plan, Elias dug out his wallet from inside his coat and purchased a train ticket for her. "Thanks."

"No problem. Here, these'll do you more good than me." He removed his new sunglasses and handed them to her, and she put them on slowly but without hesitation. "People think it's suspicious if you're wearing a hood and avoiding eye contact."

"You're a strange soldier, you know. Bringing the enemy along on a train ride after she tries to kill you again, and helping her conceal her identity. Speaking of-"

"Rush Valley. Home of the abomination that's over half my body composition." She didn't speak for a few moments after he guessed her question correctly, so he took it as an end to the conversation and rested his head against the window.

"Can I take this as a sign that you won't be killing me?"

"Not on the train, no. After that, it all depends on if you can behave yourself." He noticed that a certain piece of metal wasn't pushed into his side anymore, so he lowered his hands to his lap as he closed his eyes. "Good girl."

Victor gave a half-hearted smile at Marcus, and then Tasha as they left the conference room, more from sheer embarrassment than any sort of displeasure. He quietly stood up and gathered up the few things he'd brought down with him. He went to the door, and gave a nod at Deep Blue. "Uh, yeah, you can come with if you'd like!" he assured Marlin. "W-we'd, uh, be glad to have you."

He stepped out the door, and started walking away; presumably, towards his house to gather up what he would need for the trip.


"Hey, Mr. Sunshine!" came a now-familiar voice as the door to Isaac's hospital room swung open. Rai stepped inside with a bag of various goodies carried over his shoulder. "Got that stuff you wanted. But, get this, every noodle shop in town's closed down on account of last night. Karma, am I right?"

With somewhere between no and little care for Steel Web's injuries, Rai slapped down the bag in the soldier's lap and sauntered over to the window, leaping out to go find a hiding spot as Frieda stepped over to Isaac's bed side.

"So?" she asked. "We get everything?"


"WE'VE HIT OUR FIRST STOP! EVERYBODY BOUND FOR RUSH VALLEY, THIS IS YOUR STOP!"

As the train ground to a halt, the conductor's booming voice carried across nearly half the train. A few fellow workers alerted the back cars. The Ishvalan girl that had pursued Elias sat silently with him as people began to leave their seats, making a crowded line to step out the door. She gave him a silent observance beneath her borrowed shades.

"So." she said, sounding a bit unsure under her forced attempt at stoicism. "Is this your stop or not?"


In the cars behind them, the Projecting Alchemist sat, relaxed with his newfound friend for the course of the train ride.

"Sounds wonderful." James told the man he'd come to know as Van Hohenheim. "A beautiful wife, two sons... why did you leave?"

The man adjusted his glasses, slouched in his seat as he observed his own feet. For the first time, James realized how tired he looked. "I can't excuse myself; a man has a responsibility for him family. But there are other responsibilities that I have. Ones that I've shirked for a very long time. I tried to put them off, stay with my family as long as I could... but I can't do that anymore."

"Responsibilities like what?" James asked. "I'm a State Alchemist, you know; I might be able to help."

"Believe me, if there were anyone else to take these responsibilities from me, I would gladly hand them off. But they're isn't, and I can't."

""WE'VE HIT OUR FIRST STOP! EVERYBODY BOUND FOR RUSH VALLEY, THIS IS YOUR STOP!"

"That's me." Hohenheim said, lifting himself off of his seat, and procuring his suitcase from the shelf above them. James stood up with him, grabbing the bag.

"Please, allow me, sir."

The man smiled, clearly unused to such courtesies. The both of them began to move up a few cars, to one capable of setting them off on the platform. As they moved, James stopped when he heard a familiar voice. Looking over, he looked into a booth to see none other than Elias.

"Well, Sergeant!" Heldon exclaimed. "I didn't expect to see you on here!"

"Friends of yours?" asked Hohenheim, leaning in to get a good look at the soldier his traveling buddy was talking to. The girl jumped in her seat at the sudden arrival of strangers, and quickly looked away. A single lock of hair peeking out of her hood was lucky enough to go unnoticed by Projecting; the man with the blond ponytail, however, seemed far more interested.


As the train at Dublith disembarked, the smooth tones of Indigo's quartet of troublemakers drifted over the heads of the various travellers. Their voices loud and their mood incorrigible, they sang at the top of their lungs, doing some rendition of a song Leo had never heard before and, powers that be willing, would never hear again.

He turned to Mr. Indigo, who had two fingers jammed quite securely into his ears as he walked, leading his troupe away from the train station. "FER DA RECORD," he said to Leo as he saw him looking over. "NO, DEY DON'T EVAH SHADDUP. DEY'RE MY BEST BOYS, BUT DERE'S A PRICE FER WORKIN' WIDDEM."

The town of Dublith was certainly smaller than East City, but it was by no means small. Multiple story buildings on either side indicated a bustling, thriving city. Children ran through the streets, a few vendors peddled their goods, and multiple hotels all cited vacancies for any would-be patrons to fill.

Once Abel and his boys had finally silenced themselves, Mr. Indigo piped up to explain the situation.

"Okay, so I've gone and gotten us a hotel ovah on da East Side'a town, goddit? So go ahead an' get yerselves dere whenevah yer ready. We've got ourselves a meetin' place, but dat's our rally point. Meet me dere, an' we'll head out around midnight."

With that, he began to march off into the streets. "Me, I got utha bizness."

"So. Is this your stop or not?" Elias rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he yawned. Though it'd been risky to fall asleep next to the woman, a tired enough soldier just didn't care.

"It's ours," he began, stretching his arms, "unless you're giving up your exciting quest for revenge to settle in the countryside." One good thing about automail was that the limbs never "fell asleep" like organic ones did, so he could always count on being fully mobile if surprised in his sleep.

"Well, Sergeant!" Heldon exclaimed. "I didn't expect to see you on here!" Elias didn't go to attention or salute, but he immediately straightened up when he found James standing in the aisle next to him.

"Rush Valley's home, sir. Just coming back to get some better gear, since I'm out of the sandbox."

"Friends of yours?" a blonde man asked who stood next to James. He could see the man eying his would-be killer, so he quickly thought up a cover story.

"Sergeant First Class Brandon Elias, Amestris Infantry, sir. Heldon and I have worked together a few times, but it's been enough to remember each other. And she's a customer for my family's automail shop. Sometimes my father asks me to meet up with a client if I'm headed home, make sure they find us alright." He'd actually escorted several potential clients to the family shop over the years, so that hadn't been a challenge to come up with.

Leo tried to keep a straight face as the four goons burst into song. He nodded at Mr. Indigo's words and waved at the group as they went off to do their own shady dealings. He would find the source of these weapons and plug the leak, for that he is sure the Fuhrer will thank him.

Leo waddled through the streets looking for the name of the hotel he was supposed to go to. "The sleeping giant" sounded more like a pub than a hotel, but either would do for Leo. Last night was a complete mess, and the encounter with Archer had brought the bottle back to his lips for the first time since almost six months. The things he had seen in Ishaval and that damned madman... People killing others for money. He said he got paid to do his job. And what does a State Alchemist do? I do have a grant, you know.

He stopped in front of the hotel and tried to evaluate the place. An old wooden structure, almost neutralizing the circles on his feet. He should take some time for himself and have another look at Archer's circle. The cute receptionist smiled awkwardly when she saw the silver watch and directed Leo to the second floor. The room was plain, with a small desk and complimentary pens and a few pieces of paper stacked on it. Leo quickly undressed and went to soak his tired body in the shower.

"I can finally scrape that filth off my skin..."

"So, we get everything?"

"Well, let's find out, shall we?"

Taking hold of the sack that Rai had dumped onto the bed, Isaac overturned the bag, allowing its contents to thud, clatter, and fall onto a bedside table. The bed bound alchemist whistled appreciatively as he eyed the prizes that his companion had managed to accrue. "Heh, nice job Rai. Looks like you found it all."

Aside from the large chunk of steel, a packet of glimmering dust, and a new backpack, Isaac had requested a few other accessories, namely a pair of white gloves, a spool of black thread, a few needles, and some civilian clothes (More comfortable and subtle than his uniform). As he began to sort his new possessions into a few piles, Isaac continued speaking, "I'm betting that you took a bit more out of my account than you needed to, right?"

While Rai chuckled nervously, Isaac found that he couldn't resist a slight grin. "Eh, I thought as much. It's just as well; sounds like you and Frieda are going to need some for traveling expenses anyway.

"Alright, so I've got my stuff, we've got a plan..." trailing off, Isaac looked between his companions, seeing if either of them had anything to add. "Now I guess I need to talk to the head physician about my transfer, huh?"

"Sometimes my father asks me to meet up with a client if I'm headed home, make sure they find us alright."

"That so?" asked James, chewing on his tongue a bit as he mulled that over. "All right. Hmm."

Hohenheim, who after the initial moments had awkwardly been trying to look in any direction but the girl who was clearly trying to hide herself, gave the officer a quizzical look. James nodded to himself, working out the end of some sort of internal monologue.

"You know I've never been out to Rush Valley? Always seemed like an interesting place. If you'll have me I think I'll join you. I'm gonna go see my friend here off, and I'll meet up with you later, OK?"

James didn't really bother waiting for an invitation; if he'd been denied he probably would have pulled rank anyways. With Hohenheim in tow, he marched off the train with the throng of other passengers. All the while Hohenheim couldn't help but feel odd, scratching his hand as he followed his traveling companion. Truth be told, he'd had a strange sensation since he'd gotten on the train. I know this feeling well... but where is it coming from?


A single car back, a black-haired woman in a violet sweater casually slouched in her seat, looking half-asleep until a pair of figures passed by her window. A blonde man, who she paid little attention to, and one in particular that caught her eye: The Projecting Alchemist.

She stood up, silently moving past the man in the aisle seat and exiting the train.


"Now I guess I need to talk to the head physician about my transfer, huh?"

"Yeah, guess you do." Added Rai, who was now perched up by the open window. He gave a curt wave and leaned back, falling through the opening as the words "Good luck with that" trailed behind him. Frieda gave an incredulous glare after the Xingese would-be prince, before giving a reassuring nod to Isaac.

"You're a State Alchemist, you shouldn't have any problems if you're transferring to help your research."

She went to the corner of the room and picked up a few bags of all sorts of materials, likely things she'd gathered while Isaac was still out cold. "I'll be leaving too," she added. "but I'll make sure somebody comes up with a transfer request for you."

She moved for the door, opening as she slipped out. With a thud and a click, it closed behind her, and Isaac was alone.

....

About twenty minutes passed before a nurse came to Steel-Web's room, the young man peering in cautiously and entering with a clipboard in hand. "Uh, Mr. Steel-Web, sir, these are the forms you requested."

With a surprisingly over-angled bow, the nurse handed the clipboard to Isaac and quickly retreated through the door, getting back to his other duties.

"Uh, Mr. Steel-Web, sir, these are the forms you requested."

"Oh, thank you miss." Nodding his head, Isaac accepted the clipboard. As she stepped back through the door, once more leaving the alchemist alone and bedridden. Abandoned by his friends, his squad mates, everyone had left him in this cold, sterile room. Oh, what a cruel, cruel world.

Getting over his bout of self-pity, Isaac blankly stared at the ream of sheets and forms the nurse had given him, enough paper to make the clipboard creak and groan as it strained to keep it all in place. Sighing, the injured soldier scanned the countless lines and boxes that he would need to fill out, the unending rows requiring information so trivial, yet so crucial. He wasn't even sure he knew his dentist's mother's maiden name.

Well, there was little point in complaining. The nurse had been kind enough to attach a pen to the clipboard; reaching out to grab the writing instrument, Isaac was awkwardly reminded that his right hand was still swathed in bandages. He had the same revelation when he reached out with his left hand.

Clearly, there was only one course of action available to him: bemoan his fate with an overly dramatic yell. "NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


Over the next few hours, ink ran like blood, and the boundless fields of white became stained and muddied by rivers of the dark liquid. Countless errors and mistakes had been crossed out, the contents of dozens of lines had been swapped, and hundreds of smudges marred the pages. It seemed as though every inch of Isaac's exposed skin had been marked as well; there was almost as much ink on him as was on the paperwork.

Still, he was done. Finally, after hours of painstaking effort, the forms were complete.

Isaac slumped back into his pillows, relief splashed across his heavily inked visage. He had faced a worthy foe, and he had emerged victorious. Now to just turn in the paperwork, and his task would be completed.

Knock knock

"Mr. Steel-Web? The doctor says we can take off most of your bandages now."

"...Of course."

"You know I've never been out to Rush Valley? Always seemed like an interesting place. If you'll have me I think I'll join you. I'm gonna go see my friend here off, and I'll meet up with you later, OK?"

"It'd be my pleasure, sir," he answered. No Sergeant would dare refuse any Colonel on something like this, but Elias knew it'd be fun explaining to his family why he has two guests in tow, even if the woman's true identity stayed hidden.

"Who was that man?" the woman asked as Elias shouldered his bag.

"The watch I answer to. Alchemist, sorry. Lieuten-"

"No, the man with him." He shrugged his free shoulder as she stepped aside to let Elias lead the way off the train. "Something about him troubled me."

"Lady, you're a bit out of your element in the rest of Amestris. If strangers didn't trouble you, there'd be something wrong upstairs." He looked ahead and spotted a woman with a violet sweater quickly getting off the train.

"Faith." He thought she looked familiar, but not enough to keep him from turning his attention to the Ishvalan behind him.

"No, faith won't protect you from those who wish you harm. I mean, look at how well it's worked so far." She raised her arm to smack him, but his automail was quick enough to catch her arm. "Look, lady, it wasn't some imaginary friend in the sky that spared you back there. It was the one standing here, holding your arm, taking you to the safest place he can think of." Elias released her arm and continued walking out to the station, disappointed to have lost sight of the woman in the sweater.

"A lovely point, but what I meant was that instead of 'lady,' you can call me Faith. Maybe someday I'll tell you my real name."

"Just tell me before you kill me, or have you already chosen the 'live and let die' route?"

An hour or two after the first, another train rolled into Dublith. This one had only one passenger of interest, and a peaceful one at that compared to the rowdy sort that had passed through earlier in the day.

The Stone Alchemist stepped off of his car, surrounded by listless looking folk all seeking some form of business or another. Their eyes never rested on him, despite his odd appearance, leaving him to roam the streets unhindered in search of... whatever he was looking for. In a city this large, tracking down one man might be difficult. This was compounded by the fact that said man was half-snake and likely avoiding any places one would expect to find an individual.

Of course, it was completely unknown to Kallu that, while he sought to find someone, someone else had already found him.

On the roof of the station, a shadow lurked away. No one saw him; no one ever did, as he made his rooftop scramble back home. An unassuming joint known as the Devil's Nest.


Deep inside the hideout, the little rooftop scamperer felt a pair of deadly eyes on him as he explained his situation. When the messenger was done, the man moaned in curiosity, re-adjusting his small black shades.

"A second watch in one day, huh?"

"Yes, master! I could smell the silver of his watch."

His "master" stood from his seat, re-adjusting his fur-lined jacket as he stepped closer. Leaning down, he met his servant to look him straight in the eye. "Heheh. Well then, you already know what needs to be done, don't you? Go watch them. Tell me everything they do, and tell me if any more show up."

The taller man turned away, waving off his servant. "Now get going. I've got other business to attend to."

A sharp feeling prickling up the smaller man's neck told him what he already knew: his master was smiling. Like he always did when he got into his more malignant moods.

"I've been told that an old friend's come back to visit."


"Just tell me before you kill me, or have you already chosen the 'live and let die' route?"

Faith sneered at Elias, inching a step away. "Don't think that just not killing me twice has left you with a positive image."

As they stepped out into a more clear section of the platform, the bodies of strangers melted away to reveal James standing about twenty paces away--with Hohenheim beside him. The Lt. Colonel looked none too happy, about ready to collapse as he struggled to hold both his and his companion's luggage. They approached the soldier and the Ishvalan, the man in the ponytail nodding silently while James struggled to eke out some words.

"Gah...I was going to see him off, but apparently he's decided to travel with us for a while..."

Hohenheim shrugged a bit, giving a slight smile. "I hope I'm not intruding, but I've always wanted to learn more about other cultures. Resembool is a bit out of the way, so I'm curious what things are like around here."

The stranger's glasses were so thick, the sunlight turned them into nigh-opaque barriers to conceal his intentions. But Elias got enough glimpses to get a good idea that he was focused more on Faith's culture than Rush Valley's.


In Leo's room, he kept a careful eye on the clock as the hours dwindled away. It would soon be time for their meeting. For the big moment. The research he'd compiled on Archer's tattoos was laid out before him. It truly was complicated, but it was clear. Leo could replicate it, possibly even incorporate his own alchemy into it. He'd be stronger than ever like this. The question was, could he possibly make use of it in time for tonight?


At the East City train station, a timid little man with one arm sat at an otherwise unoccupied bench, anxiously checking his pocket watch every few minutes. A slightly outdated manual on automail rested open on his lap. He was actually a bit early, but he was still quite nervous being alone in such a large crowd. As strangers passed by, he saw familiar faces plastered over their own. The cold woman that killed Amaud, and that... beast...

Victor shivered, and clutched the side where his missing arm would have been in an effort to huddle up. I wish Tasha or Marlin would get here already...

Unseen in the midst of the crowd, but in reality only a dozen yards away was Roland. The Lightning Alchemist had taken more time than he'd have liked to finally convince Richard to stay and let him do his work, but he'd done it. All he needed to do now was find the train in this throng of bodies...


The blinds were pulled in a dark room, only small flecks of light illuminating a psychotic scene. Blood spilled from fresh packets stained the carpet as man in the barest of clothes writhed on the ground. Images of nights long passed flashed in his mind. All the gore, the icy-warm stares of his sister. The promises of Fuhrer Bradley.

Suddenly, mid throes, the man stopped, stomach arched into the air, before collapsing to the ground in a heap. This is. I'm going mad. It's finally happening... or has it always been..? Was I sane to begin with?

He looked up at the portrait of his family. Before the "accident". All alive, all smiling. Vlad pulled himself to his knees, and looked at his hands, still stained red from tearing open his newest drink packets. They shook, and inside his family clashed with the image of a silver watch. Alchemists... for the people... I'm a person too... why can't I have what I want? I CAN. But...

The image of the Barefoot Alchemist flashed in his mind. He's a person too... get what I want, at the cost of what he wants. E--equivalent exchange. I sacrifice him and I gain.

His family seemed to loom over him. I gain you.

It clicked. Vlad stood, and licked his teeth, on reflex. His fangs forced a lisp into his speech. "Yesss. Yesss, that'sss right. Equivalent Exchange! I'll, ha, I'll kill him! And then Bradley will give you back! I'll do it! I'LL DO IT! HA! AH-HA! AAAAHAAHAAHAAHAAHAAH, HEE-HEE-HAAAaaa..."

He collapsed to his knees once more, as the laughter overtook him. Why hadn't he seen it before? It was so simple? To regain life, one must only sacrifice life. That was it then, it was settled.

The Barefoot Alchemist had to die.

"Yes, I'm sure I want to go Dublith!"

Isaac's exasperated exclamation was almost entirely lost on the nurse accompanying him. The white-clad woman gave the alchemist a confused stare, seemingly unable to comprehend his request. "Sir, I have to remind you that Central is stocked with better medical equipment and supplies; if you want to fully recover, then you should be going there!"

Sighing, Isaac dragged a hand across his face, ignoring the slight twinge of pain that accompanied the motion. A couple days in the hospital may have taken care of his blood loss, but the majority of his other wounds had yet to heal.

East City's train station was still its bustling self; crowds of people made their way around the pair of people standing in the middle of the platform, the droning chatter of a hundred conversations almost drowning out the nurse's repeated rebuttal, "But sir..."

"I don't want to hear it!"

Cutting off his guide's response, Isaac wearily sat down on one of his suitcases, exhausted by the unending argument. "Look, I understand that Central's the epitome of medical care and whatnot, but Dublith is more than capable of taking care of a few injuries like mine, and I personally think that being in a smaller town would be better for me, alright? Please, I understand that you're just trying to do your job, but I'm a soldier; I know how to take care of my own body."

It was clear that the nurse didn't fully buy Issac's logic, but it was equally apparent that the alchemist was adamant. As it was, their standoff was brought to an end by the cry of a nearby conductor: "East City to Dublith, departing in three minutes!"

Rising back to his feet, Isaac gathered up the trio of suitcases he had condensed his belongings into. Although the nurse still eyed him with disbelief, she did nothing to hinder him as he slowly made his way towards the train. Following the alchemist into the carriage, she helped him lift his luggage into the overhead rack, before performing one last cursory examination. Satisfied that her charge wouldn't be dying anytime soon, she exited the train just as a final whistle blew, and the vehicle began to chug forward.

Isaac, meanwhile, collapsed into his seat a mixture of relief and exhaustion flooding through his body. Handing his ticket off to a conductor and receiving a stub in exchange, he allowed himself a small smile. Things finally seemed to be working out.

"Don't think that just not killing me twice has left you with a positive image."

"More positive than mine of you, I'm sure. Or do you not remember that entire magazine you emptied at my face?" Faith turned to meet his glare. "Yeah, you tried to kill me and failed, but you're still breathing. Oh, and not only have I not tried to kill you, but I actually helped you save yourself from dying or...being taken prisoner." Despite a lack of firsthand experience, they both knew what a number of Amestrian soldiers did with female prisoners who were any kind of attractive. It wasn't many soldiers, but it was always too many. He uncomfortably shifted his bag on his shoulder as she turned away.

"You've still destroyed all that I hold dear." Sighing, he looked over her head to see James struggling with his own and his friend's luggage. "Think he's ready to come with us?"

"I think both of them are, actually. Great, three unexpected guests. Dad's gonna be thrilled." Elias led the way to his commanding officer, who had just set some of the luggage down.

"Gah...I was going to see him off, but apparently he's decided to travel with us for a while..."

Hohenheim shrugged a bit, giving a slight smile. "I hope I'm not intruding, but I've always wanted to learn more about other cultures. Resembool is a bit out of the way, so I'm curious what things are like around here."

"Not at all, sir. Family's always happy to entertain guests." Without asking, Elias grabbed for all the luggage he could carry. "Let me get that, sir. Can't have my guests carrying what I should've." He could feel the extra weight in his back, but his automail didn't complain about the increased load as he led them towards his home. "Lady and gentlemen, welcome to Rush Valley, home of all things automail. You can find everything from a shiny new peg leg attached to a two-piece foot, to a fully mobile leg with a mortar inside. Most pieces try to look like what folks used to have, but there's plenty of wrenches who make arms big enough to flip a tank."

"Wrenches?" Faith asked. She could probably guess, due to his explanation of 'watches,' but the more talking he did, the less chances there were of her revealing her heritage.

"Automail makers, mechanics, whatever term for them you like. Sadly, none of it can really replace what folks lost. It's harder, faster, and stronger, but in the end it's still just a piece of tech. Deep down, most everyone who has it still wants their old limb back."

Kallu got off the train with the Lord and Lady Saddlestrap and went his own way. The city was much like any other he'd visited, loud,full of people, and each with their own scent. After asking a few questions and keeping his watch in the bag, but his gauntlets still on his belt, he found a place to rent for the next few days as he looked around for any bit of information that he could about this underground army.

He dropped his satchel on his bed and he soon followed suit, he'd had a few hours of sleep over the last two days and it was starting to catch up to him.

Roland found himself in the middle of the East City train station, he took out his silver pocket watch to check the time to ensure that he was indeed not late for the train; it was also the only thing that he had on him that identified himself as a State Alchemist, the only other thing he had which might give that impression was the amount of money he had on him; dressed in civilian clothing, he was about to head into what was most likely a trap after all, better that he didn't stick out immediately, to give himself to adjust to and investigate his surroundings at Dublith.

I hope whatever's at the Devil's Nest is ready... Because when I get there I am going to tear that place apart. After I check for Chartrisse's sister that is.

Moving amongst the throng of bodies in anticipation for the train to arrive, the lightning alchemist spotted a familiar face positioned in the crowd, a small one-armed boy who looked incredibly nervous as he kept on glancing at his pocket watch.

Well I'll be...

"Victor?"

He moved closer to the occupied bench, before incredibly rudely sitting in the minuscule gap between him and other patron, who looked at him disapprovingly, and also like a stereotypical ass, voiced his contempt. Roland gave them an electrifying stare, which did not easily dissuade him, and so he placed his bare hand on the metal bar that was part of the bench, and sent a small shock travelling towards the man's undercarriage, sending him jolting upright and jumped slightly off the bench with a yelp.
Roland then turned to face Victor.

"It is you! What are you doing here lad? Not keeping an eye on me I hope?" he said with a devilish smirk.

It was an act of pure luck that Leo managed to procure liquor for his rather brave, new endeavor. A sweet lady in her 70s was blissfully ignorant of the dangerous man as he stole the bottles of hard liquor she tried to sell illegally in the town square. That is the fate of criminals, though Leo, as he marched off back to his hotel. He wanted to stay in the square for a while longer but a deep sense of urgency descended upon him like a cloud of fear. Something was in the air, and if he was to use Archer's circle, he should do it before his encounter with the Indigo crew.

The young receptionist was rather surprised at the entrance of the young blonde man, now holding a long necked bottle of liquor in his hand and making his way through the hall in his bare feet. "Sir, sir! We do not allow drinking in this establishment!", she cried out in protest. Leo wassled back and threw his body to the side. His hand flashed his silver watch at the oblivious girl and his mouth widened into a skewed smile. "If you got some morphine, I wouldn't mind trying some of that, but for now I need painkillers-", Leo returned his watch to his pocket and opened the bottle, letting out a loud uncorking sound and taking a swig of the drink. He started to cough rather violently and stopped after a few moments, "-See? Good 'ol painkiller. Now... If ye hear me screaming, don't check up on me. I got some business to tend to".

Leo found himself in his room an hour later and half a bottle empty as he finished changing the circle on his left hand according to Archer's design. "Archer, you demented Genius...", Leo mumbled under his breath as his ink gun stopped working. Leo wiped his left hand and looked at the new mutated circle, one that takes on some of Archer's qualities and gives Leo an edge over the competition.

"Speaking of competition... Indigo told me to be 'tere in midnight", Leo looked at the small watch in his room and saw the time indicating eleven PM. His right hand struggled to find the bottle of liquor and he quickly took another swig of the drink, this time almost finishing the whole spirit.

He stood up and held his bottle with his right hand, his left too sore to do anything. He was sure to put on his gloves beforehand, but he didn't care much for his feet. A walk downstairs granted him the worried gaze of the young miss who offered to accompany Leo out as she finished her shift in the hotel. "Sure, girl, you can come with me, but you won't get to stay where I'm goin' too. Too dangerous for little girls", Leo smiled at her and extended his left hand to her.

As Isaac's train pulled out of the station, chugging along over the horizon, a pair of hooded strangers were hardly noticeable watching it pull away. One of them turned to the other, and opened her coat, revealing an unassuming set of traveler's clothes. She handed her partner a laminated card.

"Your new ID." she told him. The man plucked the card away from her, looking closely at it. It was indeed his face, and his physical description, along with some very fake, but very hard to prove fake background information.

"Miles Morales?" asked Rai, looking at the supplier of the card. "You're not very good at names, are you?"

"Hey, it's the best I can do." Frieda spat back. "At least now you don't have be so... freaky with all the... rooftop jumpy stuff."

"Uh, maybe you didn't notice sweetheart, but I like the "rooftop jumpy stuff." The would-be prince replied.

"Whatever. Did you get the transport situated?" she asked.

"Yeah, of course!" Rai, or "Miles", rather, replied cheerily. He led her outside the train station and on a brief walk to the edge of town, where a dirt road led off into the countryside. A wagon full of ragged travelers and a few farm animals, pulled by a pair of horses, was currently at rest along the side of the road was the only thing of note. Frieda stared at this, and sighed.

"PLEASE tell me there's another wagon hidden behind that one..."


The desert valley was full of the clamor of a work day. Hundreds of stands, stalls and shops were open, and every one of them was home to at least one man or woman shouting their lungs out. Peddling wares, insulting the competition and building up their own work. Everyone had automail for sale, and apparently every one of them had access to the "finest work in Amestris, without compare."

Hohenheim seemed absolutely enthralled by the place, his curious stares wandering off in every direction--thankfully, he seemed to have no more time to analyze Faith.

James seemed more interested in the location, wiping his sweltering brow with a handkerchief from his pocket. "Jeez, who had the bright idea of putting a city full of people constantly touching metal out in this place? How long have you and your family been out here, Sergeant?"


"It is you! What are you doing here lad? Not keeping an eye on me I hope?" he said with a devilish smirk.

Victor's face was priceless when he first realized Roland was approaching. The poor boy looked like some combination of mortified, surprised, and devastated when he recognized the Lightning Alchemist, and was already sweating a bit by the time Roland had taken a seat on the bench. He barely managed to give an answer.

"W-w-what?! No, not at all not at all!" he insisted, waving his band back and forth in a negative gesture. "I was just waiting for Tasha! Or, uh, Marlin. Either of them, I guess... we were supposed to board the train together. I still, er, had a few questions about automail. I-I had assumed you'd already left."


Isaac's train to Dublith had gotten off to a good start, rolling along at an even and quick pace. Though he was alone, and rather bored closer to the front of the train, a passenger at the back could hardly sleep.

Vlad's face twitched nervously under his wide-brimmed hat. He could still hear whispers in his head, familiar voices telling him the same thing. Meet us again. Kill Leo. Save us, brother. Join us. Kill the Barefoot Alchemist...

"I will, I swear I will." he pleaded softly. "Just give me the time."


Leo wandered into the meeting he'd been scheduled to attend. Indigo, Slim Abel and his troupe were all present, sitting around a table in an inn playing their usual game of cards. Indigo eyed Leo irritably, and gave a curt shooing wave to the girl he'd brought along. "Scram, toots, we ain't got th' time ta deal with you."

The girl got the message, and quickly skedaddled, leaving Leo to flop down into his chair. Mr. Indigo was disappointed to say the least.

"Damn it, kid, who da hell d'ya think yer dealin' with? We're professionals, we don't do dobs DRUNK."

"Exactly." Darrel responded. "That honor belongs to my companions here."

Abel and the other two let loose a barrage of raucous laughter, recalling the last job they'd pulled while drunk. Who knew that many corpses could fit into an outhouse? Indigo remained less than impressed.

"Well, whateva. See, my boys 'round here went and found out where the drop-off's takin' place. Factory, far side'a town, capiche? We're headin' there soon as dese bums finish deir game."

"I forfeit." Casper grumbled, throwing down his cards and pushing his stack of cash over to Slim Abel. "I just want to get to busting heads."

"Do us a favor and bust your own on a wall or something." Abel retorted. He pocketed the cash and looked Leo over. "So what, kid? You too dumbstruck to move, or did the alcohol eat your brain out?"

Tasha breathed heavily as sh walked into the station Barely had time to get my ticket. C'mon Tasha, your better than this, you've run just fine on a pot of coffee before. Snap out of it. She ranted at herself as she checked her watch. Almost time. She thought as she tucked the watch into the pocket of her shin length skirt.

C'mon Corporal, please tell me your here. She thought looking over the heads of those gathered around the pick up landing. She sighed relief when she saw him after a few seconds of looking. She made her way to the bench just in time to catch him say something to Roland who had joined him. We were supposed to board the train together. She rubbed the back of her head once she reached their bench. "Hehe yeah sorry about that." She said with a nervous chuckle. "I lost track of time, I barely made it onto the train in the first place. Sorry Victor, for some reason my all nighter last night is taking a heavier toll than I thought." Standing by the bench.

As Tasha and Victor left, Marlin nodded quietly to both of them while his mind processed the information he had just been given. After all that had happened, it was a miracle that their had only been one casualty but.... The sight of Amon's corpse lingered in his mind still and he couldn't help but wonder what sort of monster had done such a thing and why it had done so. But he hadn't much time to worry about that now. He had a train to catch to find out just what was going on.

Marlin left the hospital and returned to his quarters to prepare for the trip. There wasn't much he needed to do, he tended to travel light after all, but he certainly couldn't travel in his military uniform without attracting attention. That was a simple fix though, all he had to do was change. A pair of black pants, a white shirt and a brown jacket over that was a common enough attire that would allow him to blend in easily. The bigger issue was his jar. It was what he was most famous for as an alchemist and anyone who sought his life would be sure to recognize it. Traveling without it was out of the question since he would be nearly defenseless, so the next best thing he could do was pack it into a suitcase along with his pocketwatch.

With everything he needed ready, Marlin paused to decide whether he should try to find Lila and tell her he was leaving. "I did say I would come find her after everything has settled down... But things haven't really settled down much and meeting me was what got her into so much danger to begin with...." He was quite conflicted and before he knew it he had wasted far too much time without even making a decision. He threw some stationary into his bag as well, deciding that if anything he would write her a letter once he reached Dublith.

Finally ready, Marlin hurried to the train station and got his ticket. The station was crowded and he was worried that Tasha and Victor had left without him, but eventually he found the two of them along with Roland. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long..... Things took a little longer than they should have on my end.... My apologies..." He said as he walked towards the three.

"Jeez, who had the bright idea of putting a city full of people constantly touching metal out in this place? How long have you and your family been out here, Sergeant?"

"Hah, long enough, sir," Elias replied, just glad that Rush Valley was slightly cooler than Ishval had been. "I was born and raised here, and my father was, too. Hell, we've been here several generations, back to when it was just mines. Guess they all figured automail'd be easier to make close to the source."

"Must be nice," Faith began, "having your family live in one place for so long. I'm sure you've all got many lovely memories of this place." She'd said it with a smile and probably the sweetest voice she'd ever used in her life, but Elias could feel the anger behind the words. Before he could think of a memory to use as an example, one ran up and jumped on his back.

"Ah, what the-" he began, but stopped when a woman's right hand and her cheap automail left hand covered his eyes. The brunette on his back wore a tank top and cargo shorts, along with the cheap automail on her left arm that began at the elbow. It was a piece reserved for when a person's actual automail was being worked on, but one could tell that the creator still took some pride in the arm.

"Just keep walking," she ordered. "Hi, new people. Let's see if our boy Brandon here can tell you who I am. The old arm might throw him off, but I'm sure my voice has given it away by now. Hasn't it, Killer?"

"Really, Baker? You're gonna call me that in front of my guests, people who could walk away from business with us just because I'm in the military? And what's wrong with your arm?" Baker moved her arms down to around Elias' neck, but made sure not to choke him.

"Kids got icing in it, so your dad's cleaning it out for some cookies. At least, he was, until he sent Kim over to tell me he'd just gotten an emergency order. And then magically, you step off the train soon after. My connection sense is tingling."

"I won't be in town long, Baker, we'll catch up another time. Lady and gentlemen, this hideous creature latched onto my back is Molly, an old friend who probably has some goods that are about to burn."

"Oh crap, your dad's cookies." Molly hopped off Elias' back and dashed back to her bakery. "I'll bring 'em by later!" He watched her run off until she disappeared around the corner.

"Baking doesn't strike me as one of the more hazardous occupations here," Hohenheim began, choosing his words as carefully as an outsider could. "Would it be rude to ask how she lost her arm?"

"Not here. If it's showing, they either want people to ask or don't care if they do, but that's if it's close to what they had. Someone with a cannon for an arm, or in most other parts of Amestris, better to play it safe." Perhaps he was projecting his own reluctance to explain his wounds as the reason others covered their automail, but in his experience those who didn't want to talk about it kept it relatively hidden.

Yeah, Isaac is feeling kind of bored. So he's singing this for the entire ride.

"...We were supposed to board the train together. I still, er, had a few questions about automail. I-I had assumed you'd already left."

Roland studied the lad carefully, before throwing back his head and bellowing out a laugh.

"Don't worry about it, I was only messing with ya anyway" he said as he patted the now shrinking Victor's back, who grimaced with every one as he tried to look he did not belong with the man.

"I'll be glad for the company aboard the train anyway. Steam locomotives are always so boring, save for the odd curvaceous serving girl". He gave a wink that seemed to suggest Victor had now been recruited as his wingman against his own will.
He reached into his jacket pocket, before returning with an empty hand, looking flustered. He frantically patted himself, checking every pocket, before gripping his golden hair and letting out a frustrated sigh.

"Dammit... Must have forgotten to buy some more cigs after last night's antics. That damn broad must've made be burn through them. They better sell them on the train."

"Sorry Victor, for some reason my all nighter last night is taking a heavier toll than I thought."

Roland turned to catch the sight of Tash strolling on in to greet them, looking like she had been rushing about. There was a smell of caffeine that lingered on her breath, further cementing his reasoning that she had been tired and/or rushed.

"My my Miss, what did we get up to last night then?" he asked suggestively with a coy smile.

"If I had known that you were around then I would have invited you for a morning coffee..." Roland flirted blatantly, accompanied by a wink.

"I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long..."

Roland turned once again to see the Deep Blue Alchemist. True to Victor's word, both of them had appeared to accompany him along the journey, and just as Roland had wished, all of them would provide ample opportunity for idle chat to lighten up the normally dreary experience.

"Welcome Marlin! I was just talking to your colleague about you, saying how glad I am to have such company. I certainly wasn't expecting you all."

Maybe this could be the time Tash and I feel a spark between us...

Leo's nose twitched at the sound of the booze bottle being banged agaist the table. The last week seemed to have broken the man to bits. The things he saw... The things he had done... Leo snapped out of his stasis and broke his empty gaze to look at his bloody hand holding the booze bottle by its cracked neck. He tossed the bottle aside and stared at mister Indigo for a moent before letting a smile creep in his face.

"I move smoother when I'm fueled with good diesel... But this would have to do", Leo spoke in a monotone voice. "Lets go!", he announced with a bleeding right hand. A moment of silence was brokem by Leo's light laughter, "Trust me... I'm a state alchemist.

"My my Miss, what did we get up to last night then?" Tasha smirked, she knew her appearance was less than what her station usually called for, but right now she couldn't care less. She was just happy to make it on time.

"If I had known that you were around then I would have invited you for a morning coffee..." Tasha smiled and rolled her eye's at Rolands advances. "Shame you didn't know then, Roland. I would have enjoyed the chance to talk over a pot of coffee. I've been meaning to have a chat with you about your....studies. Ours are similar, but mine lacks the far reaching capabilities yours have. I would love to figure out how to have mine go as far." She covered her mouth and yawned. "And I would have loved the coffee it's self. I honestly haven't a clue why last night is doing this to me. Maybe being around all those injured last night did it." She said with a shrug.

Victor's expression was one of, at absolute best, displeasure at being caught in the middle of a flirting spree between the two electric alchemists. His already timid disposition got much worse as he averted his eyes, opting to focus on Marlin instead. "R-really, it's nothing to be worried about... I wasn't waiting for very long, anyways."

That was a lie. Victor had actually arrived twenty minutes earlier than he had needed to, and regretted every moment of awkward silence. He was just happy that people had finally shown up, and weren't Roland.

Their conversations ambled for a brief moment, before a whistle from the train announced its imminent departure. Victor quietly rose from his seat. "Erm, I-I guess we'd better get on, right?"

He led the group towards the train, and stepped into a middle passenger car.


From the other side of the station, a man in a thick raincoat had been walking very swiftly. Not fast enough to catch the quartet of soldiers as they moved for the train.

Damn, I missed 'em. Was hoping I could talk before they were on the train... it can wait until Dublith.

He began a march towards the train, stopped by a pair of security officers who immediately released him when he flashed an object from his sleeve.


"Not here. If it's showing, they either want people to ask or don't care if they do, but that's if it's close to what they had. Someone with a cannon for an arm, or in most other parts of Amestris, better to play it safe."

Hohenheim mused on this, his glasses flashing in the shifting sunlight high above them. He no longer seemed keen on speaking, so James picked up the slack where he left off.

"Seems you know a lot of people here, soldier. Just that sort of friendly town, eh?"

His eyes were scanning the various shops and stalls as they passed, all peddling automail of some sort or another. "Is there really that much difference between one set of automail and the next? Seems like a market that wouldn't require so many different crafters."


"Trust me... I'm a state alchemist."

Indigo shrugged, standing up with the other members of his crew. "It's all th' same t' me. Y'aint th' first drunk sonuvabitch I've worked wit'. Let's move."

The sextet of would-be weapons traders took a brisk walk through Dublith. They passed a small butchers shop, and could smell the fresh scent of meat from inside. A candle shop came next, and a tinkerer's little home. All of Dublith was drifting off into to sleep save for them. They were wide awake, and ready for action.

As they turned a street corner on the Northeast side of town, they saw a pair of Indigo's men waiting for him, who waved and pointed at a small door at the far end of the alleyway. "Right through there, boss, he's waiting for us."

Indigo patted Leo on the back. "C'mon, yer our muscle, kid. Make a show fer 'em, show 'em who they'd be screwin' wit' if they screwed us."

Leo stepped through the cold cobbled streets of Dublith, feeling the hard stone with ever stride he made forward. The disturbed alchemist followed after the Indigo crew and stopped a moment after they did, almost crashing into the door. The boss turned to him and asked him for a show of strength. Leo nodded and opened the door to a small windowless stone room, with a metal door in front of him guarded by a large dark man in black clothes and a large hat hiding his face.

"I need to search you before you enter".

"Nobody touches mister Indigo", Leo said with a crooked smile plastered on his face. He jumped in his place and turned on his circles on his feet. The room began to crumble and instead thick pillars of stone rose up, each a bust of the other four crew members and a full sized statue of Mr. Indigo a feet away from the shady man. The walls to the room disappeared into the statues and revealed the meeting place behind them, a large hall with a few windows on the top right wall. Wooden crates laid at the forward right corner and what appeared to be the supplier sat anxiously behind an oak table with a dozen armed bodyguards already training their weapons at the gang, some holding the grenade launchers. The door behind the dark man fell down forward and squashed him under its heavy weight.

"Did I do good, Indigo?", Leo said with a smirk on his face.

"Shame you didn't know then, Roland. I've been meaning to have a chat with you about your....studies. Ours are similar, but mine lacks the far reaching capabilities yours have. I would love to figure out how to have mine go as far."

Roland grinned at the fact that Tasha was playing along with his philandering, he had missed these bouts of vocal sparring and wordplay, or in other words, he hadn't had a decent flirt in years.

Sigh. The joys of getting old...

"Well let me assure you Tash, one night with me and you'll learn all you need to know" he said wantonly, making eyes at Tash as he emphasised the "me" in the sentence.

Unfortunately, their blatant flirting was cut short, as Victor piped in to obviously delay their advances and shift their attention to the task at hand, voicing some idle apologies to Marlin before diverting them to the train, which had blown it's whistle, a sure sign of near departure.

"Erm, I-I guess we'd better get on, right?"

Victor lead the group on board, showing them to the middle carriage, whereupon Roland stepped aside to allow Tash to go before him.

"Ladies first" he said with a wink.

"Ladies first" Tasha smiled, it was mice to have people look past the automail and the watch for a change. "My, my, such a gentleman. Hard to find one now a days. Thank you." She said stepping onto the train. She followed after Victor into the middle carriage, not missing the stutter as slight blush. Kid needs to lighten up, he's gonna give himself a heart attack at this rate. Ah well, hopefully the ride to Dublith will help him relax a little. She thought as she followed him into a seat. She crossed her legs when she sat, minding her skirt, so as to get more comfortable.

She turned to Victor. "Now Victor, I'm sure you have many questions about the automail now that your out of the hospital. So please ask away, we have plenty of time before Dublith."She said with a smile.

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