This story came to me on a whim. I apologize now for its length, but it couldn't be helped. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and all related characters are not mine, nor are they being used for profit in the telling of this story.
Chapter One: Those Whom We Forget
"35 liters water…'
"7.08 liters carbon…'
"645 milliliters calcium…'
"780 grams phosphorous…'
"140 grams potassium…'
"140 grams sulfur…'
"100 grams sodium…'
"95 grams chlorine…'
"Magnesium, iron, fluorine, ammonium, iodine, silicon, zinc… I hope I don't forget anything…'
"There. Done. Don't worry, dear. It won't be much longer. We're almost ready to bring him back. And when we do we'll make him fix you.'
"There, there, now… No need to worry. We just need one more ingredient. It won't do to bring him back without any memories. Sh, sh, dear… Don't worry. We just need to find Alphonse. He's the only missing thing now.'
"Just a little longer until we find Alphonse Elric, and then everything will be alright…"
Colonel Roy Mustang listlessly stared at the stack of papers sitting on the corner of his desk with his one good eye. It never seemed to end. Despite Amestris being turned over to parliament rule more than three years ago, the flood of bureaucratic paperwork seemed to follow him no matter who was running the country.
Roy gave a heavy sigh as he shuffled through page after page of trivial inventories, ledgers, and reports. The words held absolutely no meaning to him as his eye sluggishly moved back and forth across the page. It wasn't until he realized he'd just read the same line about a toilet paper shortage on the Northern front seven times that Mustang finally gave a disgusted sigh and sent the paper he'd been reading flying back onto the desk with a flick of the wrist.
Where did everything go so wrong? he wondered as he wearily massaged the pinch of skin between his eyes. Three years ago everything had seemed so certain and assured. Back then it had almost been assumed he would eventually rise to Fuhrer and, under his rule, finally bring peace to Amestris - thus realizing his ultimate goal.
But before that could happen, everything had gone so horribly wrong.
His best friend, Maes, had been murdered. The Fuhrer had been exposed as a Homunculus. A government conspiracy had been discovered. And the military was found to be nothing more than the puppet entity of a group of soulless beings hell-bent on bringing death and destruction onto all human kind in their never ending quest to create the Philosopher's Stone.
Roy remembered his last encounter with the All-Seeing Homunculus, King Bradley, all too well... He occasionally still had nightmares about it. He probably would have died that night if it hadn't been for the unwitting intervention of the Fuhrer's son.
He'd managed to survive and defeat the one-eyed Homunculus, but only to find his world completely torn apart the next day.
With the mysterious "disappearance" of King Bradley, it was decided there was no longer any need for a Fuhrer or military-run government. In the course of only several hours, with himself as one of it's major factors, Mustang had found the position he'd spent so many years toiling to obtain suddenly gone.
But possibly even more devastatingly of a loss than the title of Fuhrer in the course of that single hellish night was the apparent death of the foul-mouthed, height-challenged, child prodigy, Edward Elric.
Even now almost three years after his disappearance Roy still felt a sharp pang of loss somewhere deep inside his chest for the missing alchemist.
The boy had been a handful - a true challenge at times! - but somehow over the course of their acquaintance he'd come to take a shine to him. Maybe it was because Ed had reminded him so much of himself at that age; or maybe it was because the boy had been the only one to ever talk back to him like he couldn't care less whether he was a military colonel or Fuhrer of all of Amestris. Whatever the case, Roy had found himself taking more and more of a personal interest in the Elric brothers as the years wore on.
Except there no longer was any Elric brothers. There was only the youngest one - Alphonse - left. For all anyone knew, Edward had disappeared into a cloud of smoke the night he gave himself in exchange for his brother's body. No one had seen or heard anything from him since. It was like he'd just disappeared off the face of the earth.
Roy solemnly stared at the scattered sheaves of paper littering his desk. He missed the foul-mouthed prodigy. He was man enough to admit it (even if it was only to himself in the privacy of his own office). Fullmetal had always had a way of making work more interesting. From his height-related tirades to the way he'd stomp around the office whenever he had to give a report, he'd always given Roy a reason to look forward to their meetings.
But now he was gone - probably dead. And because of him…
He knew he was being irrational - that nothing he did was directly responsible for the boy's disappearance. But still, somewhere deep inside, he wondered if there wasn't something else he could have done to save the teenage prodigy. Even now - over three years after Ed's disappearance - he still lay awake at night sometimes wondering what he else could have done…
A sudden knock at his door startled the colonel out of his thoughts.
"Yes," he called.
The door opened to reveal Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye. "A message just came for you from the front reception desk, colonel," she said, forgoing any pleasantries. "There's someone there that wants to see you."
"Who is it?" Roy said.
"The front desk didn't say. But whoever it is isn't military; they won't let them up without your consent."
"Alright," Roy sighed, getting up. "I'll go see who it is. I need to stretch my legs anyway."
Hawkeye glanced at the stack of papers covering the colonel's desk. "Your paperwork still needs to be done by the end of the day, Sir," she said. "You've fallen behind the last few day. I'd hate to have to remind you to do it again…"
Mustang involuntarily flinched at the unspoken threat. The female sharpshooter had on more than one occasion been known to draw her weapon on anyone she caught slacking off - himself included. He'd been startled out of enough afternoon naps to find himself staring down the barrel of a polished forty-five to know that Hawkeye never made an idle threat.
"I'll be sure to get right on it, Lieutenant," he said, and moved quickly for the door. Although Riza was a dedicated soldier and loyal friend (perhaps something even more someday…), there was no denying the woman could be down right scary at times. Even Mustang, commanding officer and revered Flame Alchemist, knew when to obediently click his heels together and shout, "Yes, Ma'am!" than risk incurring the wrath of the female sharpshooter.
Roy gave his men a customary nod as he strode out his private office and through the door. Falman, Breda, Fuery, and Havoc all looked up and saluted him as he passed. Despite losing all hope of ever becoming Fuhrer, Roy took solace in the fact he still had his loyal subordinates and friends. They made his suddenly meaningless career a little bit more bearable.
If only that group of loyal subordinates wasn't missing its youngest members, Roy thought with a heart-sinking pang of guilt - namely the temperamental Fullmetal Alchemist…
Roy forced himself to ignore that last thought. It did no good agonizing over the past, even though three years after the fact that was exactly what he was still doing.
He quickly navigated his way through Central Headquarters. He was curious to see who wanted to see him but wasn't military personnel to automatically be given clearance to go to his office.
As he turned down the last hallway and came within view of the reception desk, Roy finally caught sight of his mysterious visitor - and felt the air leave his lungs like he'd just been hit by major Armstrong in the gut. His footsteps faltered to a halt.
No. It can't be… Roy thought, staring in disbelief.
The person's back was to Roy, his face hidden from view, but there was no way to hide his visitor's youth. It was a boy, no older than his early teens. Long blonde hair - tied back in a ponytail by a piece of cloth - hung down the boy's back. He was wearing a long red coat, embossed with the design of a winged serpent wrapped around an arrow-pointed cross. It was like the ghost of some long-forgotten memory suddenly come to life.
No… Roy thought, a wild, almost painful hope rising inside his chest as his feet unconsciously began moving towards the frighteningly familiar figure again. There's no way it can be him… He's dead. No one's seen him in over three years. There's no way it can possibly be him…
But what if there was?
Mustang's pace quickened, almost breaking into a jog. Could it be? Could it really be him? Could it really be-
The name burst from his lips almost involuntarily. He could hear the jumbled mix of desperation, hope, and fear thickening in his own voice. But he didn't care.
The person looked up, finally turning to face him - and Roy felt the tentative seed of hope he'd begun to nurture shatter like a piece of glass somewhere deep inside his chest.
"Um… Colonel Mustang?" the boy said, nervously greeting said colonel. "My name's Alphonse Elric. I believe you used to know my brother. I was wondering if I could talk to you about him for awhile. I promise I won't take up much of your time."
Roy stared at the boy, a devastating sense of loss washing over him.
This wasn't Fullmetal, he realized with a sickening crash of reality. It was Alphonse Elric… Edward's younger brother. That would explain the unsettling similarities between this boy and the ghost of his painful memories.
No longer blinded by irrational, delirious hope, Roy was finally able to see the boy before him for who he really was. Despite their initial similarities, Roy now saw several striking differences between Al and the one he'd wanted him to be.
For one thing, although blonde, Al did not have the same color hair as his older counterpart. While Ed's hair had always reminded Roy of sun-bleached straw, Al's was more a dishwater blonde. His eyes were also greyish blue, not gold like the ones that used to stare back at him in defiant challenge. This boy's face was rounder, more full of innocence; while at this age Ed had already taken on the visage of someone who'd experienced loss and come to understand the crueler ways of the world. Al's stance was also different from Fullmetal's: more unassuming and demure - just like how Roy always imagined he'd carry himself when he'd been an empty suit of armor. Ed had always stormed around like a loaded gun - lethal and in danger of going off at any moment.
It was disconcerting and unexplainably heartbreaking, Roy realized, to be faced with this familiar yet alien presence. It was as if some vindictive higher power had decided to punish him for his failure to protect the foul-mouthed alchemist and sent this disturbing look-alike to taunt him.
"Sir?" Al's voice suddenly startled Mustang back to the present. The boy was looking distinctly uncomfortable. "You are Colonel Mustang, aren't you?"
The Flame Alchemist suddenly realized he was staring. "Of course it is, Al. Don't you remember me?"
The boy sheepishly looked down at his feet. "I'm sorry, Sir, but I don't. I can't seem to remember anything that happened after Brother and I tried to bring our mother back, or what happened while my soul was sealed in that suit of armor."
Roy stared at the boy, feeling as if the floor had suddenly disappeared out from under him. "You don't remember anything?" he said, stunned.
Al miserably shook his head.
"We were hoping you might be able to help jog some of his memories."
Roy's head shot up in surprise, only now realizing there were others there besides Ed's brother. The first one to arrest Roy's attention was the towering figure of a black-bearded man. Roy suddenly realized why the front desk officer hadn't given them clearance into Headquarters - the man looked like he could take on major Armstrong in a body-building contest and possibly win. The second was a woman; dark-haired, beautiful, and tall. She had a tattoo of the same symbol the Elric brothers' wore on their coats tattooed over her heart. It took a moment for Roy's startled mind to finally process that it'd been this woman that had spoke.
"I'm sorry, do I know-?"
"I'm sorry, colonel," Al intercepted. "This is Brother's and my first alchemy teacher."
The woman gave Mustang a curt nod, a faint scowl etched across her face. "Izumi Curtis. This is my husband, Sig."
The man behind her grunted in response, as if that was the closest he ever came to actually saying hello.
Roy weakly nodded. This was Ed and Al's first alchemy teacher? He didn't know why, but there was something about this woman that instantly made him wary - like when he hadn't finished a report and knew Hawkeye was waiting on the other side of the door with a loaded pistol…
"You want me to help jog his memory?" Roy slowly repeated, eyeing the young boy hesitantly. "I'm not sure what I can really do to help…"
"We're not asking much," Izumi said, her expression grim. "Just that you talk to him for awhile. You were his brother's commanding officer. Besides Al, you probably saw more of Ed during the four years he spent in the military than anyone else."
Roy stared at the young boy, uncomfortably aware of the hopeful, pleading look in Al's eyes - as if he was his last hope of ever recapturing some part of his missing brother.
Mustang gave a weary sigh. How could he say no? Al may not remember him or even know what kind of role Roy had played in his older brother's disappearance, but he felt he owed it the boy to talk about Ed. After all, it was the least he could do to try and make up in some small way not being able to be there to save the older Elric brother's life.
"Let's go to my office," he murmured, turning and motioning Al to follow him. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions…"
Al uncomfortably sat back in one of the chairs facing colonel Mustang's desk. Stacks of papers littered the man's desk, it's surface barely even visible under all the clutter. Al wondered how the man got any work done there.
"Would you like anything to drink?" Mustang asked as he took a seat behind the desk. "I can have one of my subordinates get you something."
"No thank you, Sir, I'm fine," Al replied. He honestly had no desire to see any more of his brother's old comrades. 'Uncomfortable' would have been a mild word to describe how he'd felt when he'd first walked through the doors into the colonel's office. It was like the moment the other five soldiers caught sight of him they'd literally froze. He could still feel their eyes boring into him, filled with shock as if they'd just seen a ghost. It wasn't until the colonel finally noticed his men's expressions and properly introduced him as Alphonse Elric that their startled expression began to fade. But even then they'd continued to stare. It'd almost made him wish Izumi hadn't decided to wait downstairs. (She never had liked the military very much…)
Al knew what they must have been thinking before Mustang told them his true identity. He'd seen the flash of disappointment go through their eyes when he'd explained he was Alphonse Elric and not his missing brother. He'd seen the same look on the colonel when he'd run up to him in the hall. Did he really look that much like his older brother?
He'd then answered the onslaught of questions that had inevitably followed; although that wasn't saying much considering his four year memory gap. He was doing fine; no, he didn't remember who any of them were; yes, he'd begun studying alchemy again; and (possibly the most painful of all), no, he had no idea what happened to his brother that night three years ago; that was why he was there…
The colonel was pretending to tidy the chaotic mess of papers on his desk, but Al knew what he was really doing. He was staling.
"So you knew my brother…" he tentatively began, trying to ease into the conversation he knew was going to be as uncomfortable for the colonel as it was going to be for him. Just how did one go about asking what was basically a total stranger to tell him about his older brother, or ask him to help fill him in on the last four years of his life which he'd somehow forgotten? "What can you tell me about him, Sir? Everyone I talk to seems to have their own impression of him."
"What exactly do you want know?" the colonel replied, finally giving up on the mess of paper and leaning back in his chair. "There's quite a lot I can say about Fullmetal."
Al became quiet, his eyes drifting to floor. "Anything…" he murmured, as if ashamed to meet the colonel's gaze. "I can't remember anything about Brother or what happened after I lost my body. It's like he's been erased from my memory. I don't know where we went, what we did, or what kind of person my brother was those four years. Everything I do remember about him feels like it's getting old - like my memories are somehow getting fuzzy around the edges. I'm not sure I even remember what Brother really looked like. I've seen pictures and heard other people's stories of him, but I don't remember anything about him myself. That's why I'm trying to get my own memory back. I don't want to forget my brother…"
Al felt tears prickle the corners of his eyes, but he forced himself to blink them back. He wasn't going to cry in front of the colonel. Not when he wanted and needed to learn so much from the other man. Mustang was one of his last hopes of ever learning about his brother's past.
The colonel didn't immediately answer. He stared at Al with a distant look in his eyes, as if actually looking at something far away that existed only in the farthest reaches of his mind.
Then, as if coming back to himself, Mustang finally spoke. "Edward was, for lack of a better term, a foul-mouthed brat," he said, his voice crisp and flat. But then, his expression softening into one of fond remembrance, "but he was one of the best alchemists and human beings I think I've ever met…"
Al relaxed into his chair, the colonel's word coming faster as he recalled the first day Ed had come into his office to pick up his first assignment and State Alchemist silver watch.
Al felt no memories surface back into being as the colonel continued his account of the famous Fullmetal Alchemist. But somewhere in the back of his mind, he saw the image of his older brother he'd begun to piece together from the stories and pictures of other people become a little bit clearer - like he was somehow closer to one day having his brother back. Even if it was only in his mind…
It was several hours later before Al finally walked out the doors of Central Headquarters. It now near the middle of the afternoon. A cool breeze whistled across the empty parade grounds as Al walked into the open and lifted his face to the wind, letting the breeze caress his weary face. He hadn't expected his meeting with colonel Mustang to go so long.
The smell of rain hung heavy in the air, the sky ominous and grey. Although it'd been overcast all day, storm clouds were now brewing overhead, as if Heaven itself was in turmoil and getting ready to unleash its fury. Central, it looked like, was in for a major thunderstorm…
Taking a deep breath of the wet, lightening-laced air Al slowly started down the front steps.
"Well? How'd it go?" a voice called out to him as he reached the bottom.
Izumi was there, her husband standing behind her like a looming titan.
Al gave her a wan smile that didn't quite meet his eyes. "Fine. Colonel Mustang was very helpful and nice to me. But I still don't remember anything…"
Izumi's stern features softened, her heart aching at the sight of her student's disappointed face. "It's going to take time, Al," she said, gently leading him away from the military building by the shoulder. "Your memories aren't justgoing to come back all at once, you know."
"But it's been three years," Al murmured, looking frustrated and vaguely frightened. "What if they never come back? What if I never remember Brother or what happened those four years Brother and I spent looking for the Philosopher's Stone?"
Izumi could only shake her head. "I don't know, Al," she replied. "We can only hope for the best." Sig, as usual, said nothing.
The three silently left the grounds of Central Headquarters and entered the main part of the city. The streets were empty, most of Central's populace already beginning to move indoors in preparation of the coming storm. The three moved slowly, even though there was no one there to hinder their movement. Al felt sluggish - weighed down as if his meeting with his brother's old commander was some kind of physical weight on his shoulders.
Another useless stroll down memory lane… he sullenly noted. Or at least it would have been if he had any memories to stroll down… He wondered just how many people he'd interviewed about his brother like this now. Dozens, at least. Sometimes when he talked to people, instead of trying to jog his amnesic mind or remember forgotten memories, he felt like he was actually trying to make his own memories out of the ones of others - like making some kind of patchy collage.
It was kind of pathetic, really. He couldn't have his own memories so he had to leech off the ones of others… He wondered what his brother would have thought if he knew what he was doing. Probably would have slapped me upside the head, Al thought with a grimace. He did remember his brother's tendency to take his disappointment out like that on others...
Al sighed. Well, he couldn't really say his meeting with Mustang had been useless. The colonel had had some interesting stories about his brother no one else had ever told him. The one about Ed choosing to fight the colonel in a mock combat simulation for his certification review had been rather amusing…
But even then, all the stories he was ever told always boiled back down to just that: stories. The accounts he heard held no tangible meaning to him, because he didn't actually remember being there himself. He couldn't remember the way a place had looked or felt. He couldn't remember how his brother had looked or sounded. Oh, he could imagine all those things, but that wasn't the same as actually remembering. For all he knew, the stories people told him could have been taken from a book and retold to him as reality. How was he to know? He had nothing to compare them with.
Al's thoughts wandered off, lost in a sea of bitterness and disappointment. Walking in silence, he, Izumi, and their silent counterpart turned down a narrow side street that would lead them back to the hotel they'd taken up rooms in for the night. It, like the rest of the city, was silent and still.
The streets were now all but deserted. No one else seemed to be out except for the occasional pedestrian hurrying home to beat the rain. A few raindrops had already begun to fall, like scouts before the onslaught of a major attack. The faint echo of thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance. The air seemed thick, as if the world itself was holding its breath in anticipation of the coming storm.
But Al hardly seemed to notice; he was too preoccupied with his own thoughts. He probably would have continued brooding, but just as he and his companions came to the middle of the quiet side street a raspy voice suddenly called out to him, breaking him out of his thoughts.
"Alphonse Elric… At last… I was starting to worry I'd never find you…"
Al and his companions froze, looking around the empty street for the voice's owner. As they watched, a tall figure emerged from shadows of a tiny alleyway. The figure was dressed in a long trench coat with a wide-brimmed fedora pulled down over its face. It moved towards them slowly, lumbering in a half-hunched position. But even then it stood over six feet tall. Al felt Izumi tense beside him, unconsciously sinking into a wary fighting stance.
"My, Alphonse, don't you look well…" it said, its raspy voice grating his ears. "You remind me so much of your brother in this body. If only he were here to see it…"
Al involuntarily gasped, and stared at the mysterious stranger. "You knew my brother?"
"Of course I did… That's why I want to bring him back. He's the only one that can help me. But to bring him back I need your help…"
"Bring him back?" Al said, staring at the mysterious figure incredulously. "How? He's dead."
"No… Not if you help me. We can bring him back… But you must come with me…"
"Enough!" Izumi yelled, stepping in between her student and the mysterious man. "Alphonse is going nowhere with you. Who are you anyway that you knew Edward?"
The mysterious man however did not answer. Like an angry predator, the man lunged at them, his arms outstretched towards Al. "The boy is coming with me!" it rasped. "I need his help!"
"I said no," Izumi hissed, and with no more warning delivered a brutal sidekick to the man's head.
The man staggered backward from the dark-haired alchemy teacher, holding his head. Al was amazed he didn't fall. He hadn't met many people that could take one of his sensei's blow to the head like that and not be knocked unconscious for a week. The mysterious man began to straighten, his fedora slipping off his head and falling to the ground. Both Al and Izumi gasped, staring in horror at the sight they beheld.
A man's face stared back at them, but upside-down. Large furry ears framed the thing's misshapen head. Fur covered the rest of what they could see of its abnormal body. It was then that Al noticed the thing's furry hands - like they were actually those of some kind of animal…
"A chimera?" Izumi exclaimed, staring at the monstrous thing in surprise.
Al felt something tickle the back of his mind, like an itch he couldn't reach. There was something oddly familiar about this thing. But where would he have ever met a chimera before?
"Heh heh…" the chimera chuckled in its raspy voice, rubbing its bruised jaw with one massive paw. "It's going to take more than that to stop me... I need that boy to help me bring his brother back…"
Al stared at the chimera. Why did he feel like he should know who this person was? His voice was unsettling familiar… As if he'd heard it once before…
"Tucker! Shou Tucker!" Al suddenly gasped, startled as the name flew from his lips. He had no idea where that name had come from, or how he'd known it. But somehow he knew that was this person's name - a name that unexplainably conjured up feelings of revulsion and disgust in his heart.
The chimera smiled at him with an unsettling up-side grin. "Very good, Alphonse…" it rasped. "Maybe you will be able to help me after all…"
"He's not going anywhere with you," Izumi said, once again stepping in between Tucker and her student. Her voice was low and dangerous, her stance aggressive. Al couldn't help but think of a mother bear warning another predator to stay away from her cub.
"Forgive me," the chimera rasped, "but the boy is coming with me…" Then launching himself at Izumi, the chimera spun and caught the alchemy teacher in the chest with his tail which Al - and unfortunately Izumi - had not noticed until then.
The female alchemist was sent flying into a nearby wall. Her body hit the unforgiving stone with a sickening crunch and limply slid to the ground.
"Sensei!" Al yelled. Clapping his hands together, he activated the two alchemy arrays on the palms of his gloves and slammed them onto the ground. Spikes of transmuted concrete shot up out of the ground, almost impaling the lumbering chimera. But Tucker was faster, his hunched animal body more agile than anyone would have thought.
Leaping to one side, Tucker dodged the deadly projectiles and lunged at Al. The boy evaded his grasp, but just as he tried to do another transmutation, the chimera once again whipped around and lashed out with his tail. Al took the hit hard, brutally knocked to the ground. Gasping for air, Al lay in a heap, dark spots blurring his vision.
"Why are you fighting me like this, Alphonse?" he heard the chimera, Tucker, say, coming to stand over him.
But before Al could answer or try to push himself to his feet, another figure suddenly lunged at the chimera. His arm pulled back like a huge battering ram, Sig caught the chimera by surprise and slammed him to the ground. Tucker took the hit, but rolled and came back up on his feet.
Pushing himself up onto his knees, Al tried to make his head stop spinning. Izumi, he saw, was also pushing herself up, holding her left side. Clapping her hands together, she pressed them to the wall. A section of the building - like a giant battering ram - shot out and slammed into Tucker. The chimera staggered and fell to one knee.
Unfortunately, the transmutation seemed too much for the injured alchemist because with a violent cough, a gush of blood erupted from Izumi's mouth, staining the front of her shirt. Her knees gave out from under again and she weakly sagged against the wall back to the ground.
"Izumi," Sig said and rushed to his wife's side. With more gentleness than anyone would have thought someone his size capable of, the man cradled her bloody form to him.
"No… protect Al…" she rasped, coughing on another mouthful of blood. "Don't let him get Al…"
But it was too late.
Getting back to his feet, the chimera made another lunge for the boy. Al tried to do another transmutation as he scrambled away, but before he could, Tucker spun and caught the young alchemist in the back of the neck with his tail. Al's eyes went wide for a moment, his whole body going stiff. Then with almost lethargic slowness he sagged to the ground, his eyes fluttering shut.
Tucker gently lifted the unconscious boy into arms. "Soon, Alphonse, soon…" he chuckled, cradling the alchemist to his chest like a baby. "Soon we'll have him back…" Then turning on his heels, the chimera took off, his lumbering footsteps echoing through the empty streets as he disappeared into the misty curtains of rain that'd begun to fall.
Izumi and Sig stared after them, helpless to do anything to stop him.
"No," Izumi yelled after them, shaking her head angrily. "No!" Why could she never protect her children? Why did someone always try to take her children away from her? First her baby, then Ed, now Al…
Using her husband's body for support, the alchemist shakily pushed herself to her feet.
"Izumi." She could hear the concern in her husband's voice as she weakly staggered away from him.
"We have to go back, dear," she said, wiping the last bit of blood from her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Back where?" her husband's voice rumbled through the rain-laced air.
"We're going to need help getting Al back," Izumi replied, turning back to face him with fire in her eyes, "and unfortunately, I think we're going to need the military's help. I have a feeling I know what that chimera's planning to do…"
Then turning back the way they'd just come, Izumi and her husband took off in the direction of Central Headquarters, desperate to warn her student's ex-commander of Alphonse's abduction and the horrible deed they feared was about to be committed.
Meanwhile, overhead, the floodgates of heaven seemed to open up and unleash its misery on the city below. In the distance, a low roll of thunder sounded, echoing across the land like a ominous warning of what was to come.
Consciousness returned slowly to Alphonse Elric. The first thing he became aware of as the sea of darkness began to release its hold on him was the throbbing pain in his head. The next, more gradual realization was that he was sitting on the ground, propped up against something hard - and that his feet and hands were tied.
Memories of what happened right before everything had suddenly gone black came back to him in a flood of mental images. His meeting with colonel Mustang. Him and Izumi walking back from Headquarters. A strange man appearing - a chimera. Fighting. And then-
Al's eyes flew open, the boy snapping back to full awareness. He immediately regretted it because the throbbing pain in his head instantly became like a metal spike through the brain. Al groaned as he clenched his eyes shut and waited for the pain to return to a tolerable agony.
Finally feeling like he could open his eyes again without risk of losing the contents of his stomach, the young alchemist took stock of his surroundings.
It was dark. The only source of light was from several huge, tank-like containers sitting at different intervals around the room. They looked like they were filled with water, and glowed a dark eerie red. In the dark shadows of the room, Al could make out the faint outlines of tables and equipment: microscopes, books, glass containers, and other ominous looking instruments.
It was then Al suddenly realized he must be in some kind of laboratory. But it looked like it had been abandoned at some point and only recently recommissioned. Cracks ran across the walls, plaster peeling in huge chucks in some places. Dust covered the floor, and one corner of the ceiling to Al's left looked like it was in danger of collapsing at any moment.
Looking around the dilapidated laboratory, Al caught sight of a series of lines painted on the ground in the middle of the room. They circled and crisscrossed each other, forming a complex design. Al felt a jolt go through him at the sudden realization of what they were. They were the lines of a giant alchemy array…
In the middle of the array sat a large metal tub filled with water and a pile of different colored powders.
"Ah… I see you're finally awake," a raspy voice drifted out of the shadows.
Al's head snapped towards it. As expected, the lumbering figure of the ex-State Alchemist-turned-chimera Shou Tucker stepped into the faint glow of light. He was no longer wearing his trench coat and Al was finally able to see his entire body. It made a cold shiver run down Al's spine. He looked like a man fused backwards to the back of a giant bear or sloth.
"I must apologize for the way I brought you here," Tucker said, moving towards the bound alchemist, "but I fear I am in a bit of a rush… My Nina can't wait any longer…"
Al stared in horror at the sight he beheld as the chimera came into the light. In the man-beast's arms he cradled what looked like a little girl no older than four or five years old. Long brown hair the color of cinnamon spilled down the girl's shoulders and over the chimera's arms. It shrouded her body like a blanket, long and luxurious. But then Al caught sight of the rest of her body, and felt the threat of nausea rise up in his throat.
The girl's body was covered with patches of green, discolored skin. Open wounds spotted her flesh and suppurated dark, blackish goo like the innards of a tomato left out in the sun for too long. The smell of rot and decay filled Al's nose, making him gag. He had to choke back the urge not to retch.
But even worse than the smell (if that was even possible) were the girls eyes… Oh god her eyes… Like the eyes of a dead fish, two milky blue orbs stared back at Al - empty and devoid of all human life.
"My poor Nina…" Tucker murmured as he tenderly stroked the corpse's hair. "Nothing I do will help… She's become so sick…"
Al couldn't take the sight anymore. "What do you want with me!" he screamed, struggling against the cords binding his wrists and ankles. "Why'd you bring me here?"
Tucker turned away and gently laid the rotting girl down, as if she was some kind of precious treasure.
Turning back to Al he said, "My Nina is sick… Nothing I do can make her well. Everyday she gets a little bit worse…"
"That's because she's dead!" Al yelled, his voice echoing through the empty laboratory like a gunshot. "Can't you see that?"
Tucker flinched, but calmly went on. "I know my Nina died. That's why I brought her back. You even helped me bring her back by letting me use the Philosopher's Stone…"
Al stared at the chimera, confused and unsure. Had he? Had he helped this man bring his daughter back? But then why did the girl look like this? Nothing made sense. Now more than ever Al wished he had his memory back.
"My Nina was perfect…" Tucker went on. "The Philosopher's Stone brought her back as beautiful as I remembered. But then a few months ago she became sick…"
The hulking chimera slowly moved towards the alchemy array in the middle of the room. "That's why I need your help to bring Edward back," he explained. "I need him to remake the Philosopher's Stone… Then I can restore my Nina. But I need Edward… He is the only one that knows how to make the Philosopher's Stone…"
"Why do you need me?" Al demanded. "What do I have to do with any of this?"
Tucker turned back to Al, his upside-down face bathed in shadows from the glowing water tanks. "I am going to resurrect Edward," he said, a wild look entering his eyes. "I have researched everything that I could about human transmutations and done all the necessary calculations. All I need now is the final ingredient…"
Slowly moving back towards Al, he stood over the bound alchemist. "Many of the texts I read concerning human transmutation differ in their theories of how it can be achieved," he explained. "But since human transmutation is illegal, none of the authors have actually done it. All they have are theories. But several of them agree on one things: that something must be added to the basic elements of the transmutation to compensate for the memories of the one being resurrected. If you wanted to resurrect someone with no memories, then there's no problems. But since it is imperative I bring Edward back with his memories of how to create the Philosopher's Stone, you must now see why I need your help…'
"The different books do not explain what should be given in exchange for the person's memories, but there was some speculation that something added from a living relative or close acquaintance of that person would help infuse their old memories to the new body…and that is why I brought you here… I need you to help me bring Edward and his memories back…"
Al stared at the chimera in horror. "It doesn't work like that!" he exclaimed. "What you're trying to do is madness! My brother and I tried to bring our mother back like that, and it didn't work!"
"Not the way I heard it," Tucker replied. "I believe you both donated a drop of blood to the composition elements of your mother's body and resurrected her with some, if not all, of her memories."
"But what about Equivalent Exchange?" Al demanded, desperately trying to talk some sense into the deranged man. He might not remember what happened after that night, but he did remember the terrible consequences of what he and his brother had tried to do. "Brother and I both lost all or part of our bodies in the transmutation! What are you going to give in exchange? It's too dangerous!"
Tucker however just grinned. "I have already taken that into account." He pointed at the tanks of blood red water lining the room. "I have heard about your unfortunate amnesia, so you probably won't remember what this is. It's called Red Water. Though not nearly as powerful as the real thing, it is an incomplete varient of the Philosopher's Stone. I will use it to bring Edward back."
"If it's so powerful, why don't you use that to bring your daughter back with?" Al yelled, glaring at the man. "Why do you need Brother? Why do you need to bring him back just so he can turn around and bring her back? It doesn't make any sense!"
Tucker turned and lumbered towards a nearby table where he picked up a knife. "Because I want my real daughter back," he said, his voice solemn and low. "I want my Nina back heart, body and soul; not just an empty doll… and only a real Philosopher's Stone can do that… It doesn't matter how Edward comes back. Just as long as he remembers how to make a Philosopher's Stone…"
Al suddenly realized with a terrifying certainty this man holding him captive was completely and utterly insane.
Tucker came back towards him with the knife and a tiny glass vial. Al struggled against his restraints and tried to squirm away from the deranged chimera, but was helpless to escape as the man easily pulled him back and held him to the floor. Al felt the sharp pain of the knife slice across his right thumb, and then the sticky warmth of blood flow down the side of his hand. He lay there motionless as Tucker finally stood and moved back towards the alchemy circle in the middle of the room, the glass vial now filled with dark red blood.
"You don't know what you're doing…" Al hissed as Tucker poured the vial of blood on the pile of elemental powders. "You have no idea what you're about to do…"
"You should be thanking me, Alphonse," Tucker replied, not looking back at the bound boy as he knelt on the edge of the array and held his hands out over it. "I'm about to bring your dear brother back to you…"
Al looked away, unable to watch. Yes, he wanted his brother back. But not like this…
Tucker's hands hovered over the edge of the complex alchemy array. He began to bring them down to start the transmutation, to activate the forbidden exchange-
But just then the door to the room suddenly burst inward and a group of uniformed people appeared.
"Shou Tucker! Step away from the array, and put your hands in the air where I can see them!" a voice bellowed at the kneeling chimera.
Al's head shot up, hope flooding his entire body. He knew that voice. He recognized it from that very morning…
Standing in the broken doorway stood the impressive figure of colonel Roy Mustang. The colonel's one eye quickly took in the scene before finally coming to rest on Tucker in the middle of the room. For a moment, Al thought he actually saw fire flash through the colonel's eye. Behind Mustang stood half a dozen other soldiers, several of whom Al recognized from the colonel's office. One of them - a blonde woman with dark red eyes - had her pistol drawn and aimed past the colonel into the room. Behind them stood two other figures; two who Al knew very well...
"Sensei!" he yelled, once again struggling against his bonds. "You have to stop him! He's going to do a human transmutation! He's going to try and bring back Brother!"
He saw Izumi's face pale, her stern features betraying the undeniable look of fear. Beside her, even Sig looked uneasy.
Colonel Mustang stepped into the room, his hands clenched into fists. "Move away from the array, Tucker!" he yelled, his tone promising a painful demise if he was not immediately obeyed.
An angry growl sounded somewhere in the back of the chimera's throat. "I haven't come so far as to give up now…" he hissed. "I need him to bring my Nina back…" Then with no more warning, Tucker slammed his palms on the outer circle of the complex alchemy array.
Brilliant white light exploded into the air.
"NO!" Al thought he heard the colonel shout from the other side of the room, but his voice was lost in the crackling charge of energy. Al heard the sound of shattering glass somewhere nearby.
Al didn't know how long the transmutation lasted. It could have been seconds, or hours, or days. All he was aware of was the overwhelming tide of energy washing over him, and the feel of the very air itself being ripped apart around him. He felt like he'd just been caught in the middle of some terrible storm. It took all his strength just to lay there and ride out the horrible winds that grabbed and tore at his helpless body.
Finally, the blinding white light began to recede, leaving an empty void of darkness in its wake.
Al lay there motionless, his eyes tightly shut against the spots burned into his retinas. It was only when he felt someone hurry to his side and sever the cords binding his wrists and ankles that he finally opened his eyes and found Izumi kneeling beside him - her expression too turbulent and dark to read.
Pushing himself to his knees, Al dazedly looked around the laboratory. The tanks of glowing water that once lined the room were empty - shattered by the force of the powerful transmutation that had just taken place. Smoke filled the laboratory, hovering like a blanket over the chalked-in area of floor in the center of the room. Al could see nothing through the smoke. The smell of burnt ozone choked the air.
"What have you done?" Al heard Mustang yell, and watched as the colonel rushed forward, angrily grabbed Tucker by the shoulders and shake him. "Do you have any idea what you've just done!"
The chimera however did not answer and stared at the swirling area of smoke in the middle of the room. Mustang followed his gaze. Everyone else also turned to stare, waiting in tense anticipation and dread to see what would appear.
The smoke slowly began to clear, shifting aside like curtains of thin, gauzy cloth. And then they finally saw of the product of Shou Tucker's transmutation.
Al covered his mouth and stifled a cry of revulsion.
What lay in the middle of Tucker's alchemy array was no human being, but rather the twisted, bloody form of a grotesque monster. Its limbs were bony and warped, its hands nothing more than twisted claws. Its skin was paper-thin and scaly - like a castoff snake's. Organs and twisted bones could be seen through its almost transparent skin. It shuddered and twitched on the floor, gasping for air in a strange, gurgling wheeze. Strands of straggly blond hair were visible beneath its monstrous head. Two demonic eyes - the color of alchemized gold - stared back at Al from a white, inhuman face, filled with the same expression and intelligence of an injured, dying animal.
Staring at the monstrous thing, Al felt an uncomfortable tingle start in the back of his mind. And then, before he even knew what was happening, a flood of images suddenly surged through his mind, drowning him under the visual onslaught of persons, places, and things he never remembered seeing or knowing until now.
A young boy laying unconscious in a sterile hospital bed, his right arm and left leg missing… A man with an X-shaped scar on his face standing over the same boy, a little older now, with the hand of his evil-looking tattooed arm resting on the boy's head… The boy transmuting his arm into a metal blade… The boy asleep with his head resting on folded arms over an open alchemy textbook… The boy grimacing in pain as a new metal arm and leg were attached to the ports of his missing limbs… The boy with a look of grim determination in his eyes… The boy sneaking a shy look at a tall, wrench-wielding girl… The boy frowning… The boy smiling… The boy laughing… The boy, the boy, the boy… Always the boy…
And then with an almost painful gasp, Al finally remembered everything from the missing four years of his life and his older brother, Edward Elric.
Staring at the monstrous thing on the floor, Al saw in his mind's eye the smiling face of his older brother somehow superimposed over that of the twisted creature's. Like they were somehow one in the same.
A horrified scream tore from Al's mouth. Kicking against the ground, the young alchemist frantically scrambled away from the inhuman creature as if to put as much distance between him and it as he could until he finally felt himself collide with the wall behind him.
Then turning his face to the side, he lost the ongoing battle with his own revulsion and horror and spewed out all the meager contents of his stomach.
Should I continue? Feedback will dictate the possibility of me continuing this or not.