Tentative In-Depth Summary: Only weeks after spending one horrible night inside the Fifth Laboratory, Ed is commissioned by the military to investigate growing rumors of a powerful alchemy amplifier. The amplifier is said to take the shape of a white feather and has a limitless energy supply that seems to defy the laws of Equivalent Exchange. To Ed and Al, it sounds like an excellent alternative to the bloodied and unstable Philosopher's Stone. However, Ed's assignment also includes assisting a group of four travelers and their chimera(?) who say they're looking for a feather too. Ed and Syaoran both have something very precious to regain, while Sakura and Al are both going through major identity crises. Will they all find companionship, or simply clash over who needs the feather more? Rated for Ed's tendency to say whatever the hell he damn well pleases.
Quick note on spoilers: Proceed at your own risk! With both FMA and TC, I'm sticking to their respective animes. Concerning the time-line of FMA, this fic is happening right after episode 24 (a few weeks have passed since the events in the Fifth Laboratory). As for TC, everything has happened to the gang up through the first season. However, I reserve the right to reveal the story-line as I go, if you're not totally up-to-date with either anime, proceed with caution.
A note about names: I will be using the spelling "Fay" throughout this fic for our favorite white-haired magician. This is the spelling used in the official Tsubasa Reservior Chronicle Character Guide Vol 1, so that's what I'm sticking with. Also, any other names or places will be pulled directly from official sources wherever possible. I've also chosen to use Ed's translated English title of "Fullmetal" instead of "Haganeno" because… well, it's easier to type. ;P
Disclaimer: FMA belongs to creator Hiromu Arakawa and related companies. TC belongs to CLAMP and related companies. I do not claim rights to any of these characters or locations. Please just let me write my fics... T.T
Code Name Pandora
In the middle of the desert, the sky began to fall. It dipped downward onto the sand like a glob of molasses from a wooden spoon. When the convection finally dipped onto the ground, it exploded outward, abandoning four people amidst the barren landscape.
"Hmm... nothing to greet us? No signs? No dancing women?" Kurogane huffed as the group got their first look at the new world. He flung his black cape over his shoulder in an effort to get more air.
"Disappointed about the lack of girls, eh?" Fay said, sliding up and poking Kurogane in the ribs with his elbow.
"That is NOT what I meant!" Kurogane said between gritted teeth. His hands tightened on his sword and Fay took a few pseudo-frightened steps backward.
"It does seem different, though, doesn't it?" Syaoran said, looking around. "It's probably a place that doesn't get very many travelers like us..."
In the distance, a wavering mass of black could be seen on the horizon. The spires and buildings of some kind of town could just be made out through the thick curtain of haze in the blistering air.
"It kind of reminds me of Clow..." Syaoran said. He turned to Sakura. "Doesn't it, Princess?"
"I suppose..." Sakura said, staring mostly into the sky. She looked to Syaoran and smiled nervously. "My memories of home are still a little hazy."
"Hopefully there's a feather here to help you with that, Sakura-chan," Fay said, his ever-present smile forcing his eyes shut. He turned his head to the little white blob on his shoulder. "Sense anything yet, Mokona?"
"Mokona doesn't sense much..." Mokona said, bobbing to an unheard rhythm. "But a strange feeling is in the air. Not like magic, but something almost the same."
"Hmm..." Fay said thoughtfully. "I only know of one thing that is almost the same as magic."
Syaoran blinked. "What could possibly be on the same level as magic?"
Fay's ever-present grin pressed wider.
Mustang held up the report to the sunlight as if it were a precious gem he was inspecting for clarity. "So there's word of a new type of alchemic amplifier, huh? One that looks like a white feather?"
"That's what I wrote," Ed said, sulking in the seat next to the colonel's desk with his arms crossed tightly over his chest. "I don't really need it repeated back to me, you know. Just a simple yes or no will do."
"Indeed, the information could prove very useful to the military," Mustang said, still holding up the report, but propping his head on his hand. "However, this isn't a case concerning the Philosopher's Stone. If you remember correctly, I only agreed to allow you to independently research information with regard the Stone itself, not amplifiers in general."
Ed slammed a fist down on Mustang's desk. "Don't try to get me with your technical bullshit. We need this lead and you know it. Now just give me the authorization so we can get out here for a few months. I know you need the break just as much as I do."
"Sorry Fullmetal," Mustang said, a smug grin breaking out on his face. "It'll look suspicious if I let you go off on a wild goose chase after what seems like just a silly rumor. Why don't you wait around for a better opportunity to present itself? One is bound to show up soon."
"No, it's going to completely disappear!" Ed exclaimed, pointing wildly at a rough sketch of the "amplifier" on Mustang's desk.
It was a delicate white feather with pink curvature marks running down the shaft — totally symmetrical on both sides — that created an abstract heart-like shape. Ed theorized that the marks were some kind of ancient transmutation circle. He had spent two and a half weeks pouring over research books and tracking down witnesses to put together a proposal for the colonel... And now Mustang was only going to refuse him.
It all seemed like a horrible waste of time.
"I don't know why I even bother," Ed said, walking toward the door. He paused on the handle, his next words dripping with threat. "I'm going to hunt for that amplifier no matter what. If the military won't fund my research, I'll just take a leave of absence and go on my own as a civilian."
"Hopefully it won't have to come to that," Mustang said, putting his folded hands under his chin. "I'll keep in touch. Don't leave without notifying me first."
Ed snorted with irritated amusement. "You'd be the last one to know about anything I do."
Hawkeye was just coming in as Ed stalked out the door.
"Good morning, Edward-kun," she said stiffly. "How did the proposal go?"
Ed waved his hand in the air. "As expected."
"Better luck next time, then," Hawkeye said.
"Yeah, right," Ed grumbled, slinking down the hallway and muttering incoherent swears.
Hawkeye turned her attention on Mustang. "Colonel, those people are waiting in the lobby. Should I show them in?"
"Yes," Mustang said, picking up the sketch of the feather and examining it closely. "Please do."
"Just how did we end up here again?" Kurogane asked, watching military personnel walk busily back and forth with narrowed eyes.
It was a very noisy place. Rings, beeps, and loud shouts filled the small space. Syaoran, Sakura, Fay, and Kurogane were sitting in a small nook near the receptionist's desk on a couple of worn-looking couches. Mokona had taken a seat on the coffee table and was getting many strange looks as he swayed and hummed to himself.
"This is what we get for asking around," Fay said, grinning. "These people seemed very interested in our quest for a white feather."
"Too bad the civilians couldn't tell us anything," Syaoran said, watching the people with almost as much suspicion as Kurogane. "All they could say was that the military was investigating the feather. They seemed pretty clueless."
"And surprised to see Mokona," Mokona said eagerly. "Everyone is like 'Gah, what is that?' and 'What kind of depraved transmutation did you use to make that thing?'"
"Obviously people aren't very used to talking pork buns in this dimension," Kurogane said shortly.
"They weren't very used to Kurogane either," Mokona said nonchalantly. "'What's wrong with his eyes?' they said. 'Is he from Ishbal?'"
Kurogane went to wrap his hands around Mokona when the blond woman who had greeted them initially came back into the room.
"Colonel Mustang will see you now," she said, her tone formal and her posture was very business-like.
"Thank you very much..." Fay trailed off, searching for the woman's name.
"Hawkeye," the woman said. "Lieutenant Hawkeye. Please follow me."
"Kurogane-san, please stay here with the princess," Syaoran said as he got up to follow Lieutenant Hawkeye.
"Fine," Kurogane said, crossing his arms and slumping further in his seat. "I don't get this dimension, anyway."
"Mokona," Fay said over his shoulder to where the white ball sat on the waiting room's coffee table. "We may need you."
"Of course you'll need Mokona!" Mokona said, hopping lightly onto Syaoran's shoulder.
"We'll be right back, okay princess?" Syaoran said.
Sakura nodded sluggishly. "Hurry back."
Syaoran and Fay followed Hawkeye down the long hallway toward the door at the end. The woman walked briskly and several feet ahead.
"It's very kind of the colonel to see us on such short notice," Fay said to the back of the blond woman's head. "I hope it's not a bother."
"This is very sensitive information," Hawkeye said seriously, her voice monotone and striking sharply above the din in the hallway. "It is a top priority for the colonel because it concerns something very important to him."
"I see..." Fay said. He leaned close to Syaoran and whispered, "It's the same everywhere we go. Sakura's feathers are always important to someone."
Syaoran nodded and kept his voice at a whisper as well. "To evil people, mostly. I don't think we can trust this... Mustang."
"I was thinking the same thing," Fay said, grinning. "We'll keep what we can to ourselves."
Hawkeye opened the door to the colonel's office.
"Sir, they're here," she said, showing Syaoran and Fay in.
"Good afternoon," Mustang said, getting up. "I am Colonel Roy Mustang. Please take a seat."
"Good afternoon, Colonel Mustang," Fay said as he and Syaoran sat down in front of Mustang's desk. "My name is Fay D Flourite and this is Syaoran."
"Hello Colonel Mustang-san," Syaoran said, bowing politely.
Once the two were seated, Mustang sat as well and pulled his seat close to the desk so he sat straight.
"Down to business if you don't mind," Mustang said, folding his hands lightly on the desk.
"Of course not," Fay said, smiling. "Although I am rather skilled at pleasantries."
Mustang looked at the two for a moment, his eyes bouncing between Syaoran and Fay. "I thought there were five of you."
Fay smiled. "One of our members is feeling a bit under the weather, so she stayed behind. Our other companion is keeping her company."
"And that makes four. Where's the fifth?" Mustang asked.
"Ah, he's right here," Fay said, pointing to Mokona in his lap.
"Hello!" Mokona said boisterously. "I am Mokona Modoki! Nice to meet you!"
Mustang's eyes widened, but he retained his composure. He leaned a bit closer. "A talking chimera?"
"Not a chimera!" Mokona exclaimed. "Mokona is Mokona!"
"By 'chimera' you mean a created creature, correct?" Fay asked.
"Yes, that's one definition," Mustang said.
"Then Mokona does fit that description," Fay said, ignoring the look of indignation on Mokona's face. "We purchased him from a woman named Yuuko some time ago."
"Such a perfect transmutation would have been extremely difficult." Mustang said, still marveling at the creature. "He must have cost you quite a bit."
"More than you could possibly imagine," Fay said mysteriously. "But he's the reason we're here."
"To a search for a white feather with a mysterious power, correct?" Mustang said, putting his hands under his chin.
"Precisely," Fay said with a sweep of his arm. "Mokona here can sense the feather's presence. We use him as a sort of... homing device."
"When Mokona senses a feather nearby..." Mokona said, his huge purple eyes suddenly bursting onto his face. "My eyes go MEKYO like that."
"I... see," Mustang said, even more surprised. "Then you've seen this feather before. Around here it's nothing more than an... urban legend, if you will."
"They do exist," Syaoran said firmly, finally speaking up. Until then he'd been content to simply observe the colonel's character in silence. "We've seen them before several times."
Mustang lowered his gaze. "You mean there's more than one?"
"Yes, sir," Fay said, his grin getting wider. "However, their placement is extremely sporadic and random. The chance that there is more than one in this general vicinity is highly unlikely."
"So you have been in contact with the feathers," Mustang said, acting like he was reading a novel that had just gotten really good. "What do you do when you have one in your possession?"
Syaoran went to answer, but Fay cut him off.
"We disarm them," Fay said, talking as if he hadn't just come up with the phrase on the fly. "The feathers are very dangerous, colonel. We've made it our solemn duty to find these feathers — all of them — and render them harmless."
Mustang made a sound that was much like sighing, but less desperate. "You don't have to tell me that this amplifier is dangerous. The stories of the feather are considered myth simply because the existence of something that powerful is so difficult to believe. If there's even the smallest chance that this thing actually exists... it becomes a major liability for those who are supposed to keep the peace."
"Not to mention that the military would be very interested in a powerful energy source such as this, correct?" Fay asked, looking innocent with his hands on his knees.
Mustang shut his eyes and smiled slyly. "Of course. However, the safety of the people always comes first."
"Of course," Fay said, his own one-of-a-kind grin breaking on his face.
Syaoran understood the reason for the uncomfortable silence. The military was after Sakura's feather, that much was clear. A source of power like the feather would undoubtedly be very useful for a military organization. However, although they probably had some data on where the feather is located, having Makona's homing ability would be very helpful to find its exact location. On the other hand, Syaoran needed the military's information on the whereabouts of the feather to find a place to start looking. After all, this world seemed very vast and Mokona wasn't sensing anything in the area. The two groups needed each other to get to the prize that only one could obtain. So it was a stalemate.
"It is in the military's best interest..." Mustang said slowly, his smile not weakening a bit. "That this feather be destroyed—"
"Disarmed," Fay interjected politely.
Mustang slowly nodded once. "Disarmed, then. However, it is certainly not in our best interest to let a group of people out on their own with our records, tracking a dangerous item that requires documentation and observation."
"That's understandable," Fay said. He looked pleased with the direction the conversation was heading.
Syaoran, however, wasn't all that confident. His dislike of the colonel was slowly growing the longer that smug smirk lingered on his lips.
Mustang leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his stomach. "I'm willing to provide you with a military escort, if you will accept. He is a highly skilled officer who has an extensive knowledge of the area and has researched the existence of the feather for some time. If anyone has the best idea of where the feather is, it's him."
Fay inclined his head. "I think I speak on behalf of the group when I say that I humbly accept your generous offer."
Syaoran looked at Fay with his mouth hanging open. A military escort? Someone to scrutinize their every move and report it back to headquarters? This was ridiculous! How would they get anything done? And more importantly, how would they keep the feather for Sakura once they got it?
But Fay, as if reading Syaoran's mind, elbowed him discreetly in the ribs and flashed a confident smile.
"Excellent," Mustang said, getting up from his seat. He reached for Fay's hand again and shook it firmly. "I'll make arrangements immediately. In the meantime, you're welcome to stay in the dormitories until preparations are completed, which should be no later than early tomorrow morning. Please take a seat outside and I'll send someone to show you to a room."
"That's very gracious of you, Colonel Mustang sir," Fay said, smiling cheerfully. He headed for the door with Mokona in his arms.
"Ah, I must make mention of one more thing," Mustang said, leaning on his desk and glancing at Mokona. "The creation, or indeed the mere possession, of a chimera is strictly prohibited by federal law. If one is found in the possession of such a creature, I am obligated to confiscate it and jail the offending party. The trail process is lengthy and sentencing is strict. I doubt any of your group could get out with under five years in prison."
Syaoran glared at Mustang as the officer took his seat. "Of course, that's only if I were to come across a chimera, you understand. I simply thought the information would be useful to you, seeing as how that stuffed animal could easily be mistaken for an illegal creature."
Fay was smiling as deeply as Syaoran was glaring. Mokona had become oddly quiet and lifeless. "Thank you, Colonel. Should we ever come into the possession of a chimera, we will certainly take this information in stride."
"Very good," Mustang said, his serious expression somehow out of place in the situation. "Someone will come for your group shortly."
Fay gave a short bow and opened the door, holding it open for Syaoran. He stepped through it, but not before taking another long look at Mustang before he left.
"I knew we couldn't trust him," Syaoran said the moment they were out of earshot.
"Ah, but the colonel seems like a good person," Fay said.
"A good person?" Syaoran asked, taken aback. "He's blackmailing us with Mokona. And he really wants Sakura's feather."
Fay shook his head. "If he really wanted to, he could put us all in jail and take Mokona for himself and his team. However, he's leaving it to us to lead the way to Sakura's feather. I believe he trusts us to an extent. The blackmailing part was just a safety measure to assure that we stay as loyal to the military's orders as possible."
"I still don't like him," Syaoran said seriously.
"I hate that damn Mustang."
"He's right, though, Nii-san," an echoing voice said from beneath a huge suit of armor. "You can't go running off after every rumor that pops up. It'll look suspicious. You're only putting in the absolute minimum hours of active duty as it is."
"I don't care about what the rest of these people think about me, Al," Ed said. He flopped onto the small couch in the middle of the tiny dormitory room. "All that matters is getting your body back. A few disgruntled coworkers is the least of my problems."
"But what if it is just a rumor?" Al asked, clomping over to look at the picture of the feather on the coffee table. "I mean, what if we just end up chasing after something that just leads us to a dead end?"
From the couch, Ed shook his head. "No. It's very real. Besides, it was Halling who first told me about it. Are you about to call Halling and Kyle liars?"
"No, of course not," Al said quickly and holding up his giant metal hands. "It's just really scary to think that kind of power is just out there, drifting around. I'd kind of rather it not be true..."
"Yeah. I know what you mean," Ed said, pulling his arms up under his head. He carefully positioned his right arm under his left so his head wasn't resting on metal. "But there's no evidence to suggest that this power source comes from the same one that's used to make the Philosopher's Stone."
The memory of what the two had seen in Fifth Laboratory was still fresh in their minds as they lapsed into silence. It was a few minutes before Ed spoke up again.
"This is different, Al," Ed said, sitting up on the couch. "They say that the feather just fell from the sky one day. It's like it was..."
"A gift from God," Al finished the thought.
"Yeah, sure," Ed said, waving his hand dismissively. "Well, whatever it is, it is not the Philosopher's Stone. And that's enough to chase after it, don't you think?"
Although the sheet of metal that made up Al's face was completely expressionless, he was able to somehow force life into it. A smile appeared behind the mask where the eyes were.
"I'll follow you wherever you go, Nii-san."
Ed grinned widely. "Then we'll leave tomorrow, with or without the Great Mustang's permission." His face turned thoughtful. "Maybe I should go down to Records right now and pick up a Leave Request form..."
"That won't be necessary, Fullmetal," a voice came from the doorway.
"Eh?" Ed muttered. He turned toward the door with his face screwed up in confusion.
Mustang stood in the doorway, one arm supporting his weight against the frame as he leaned into the room. A particularly smug grin was dancing in his eyes. It was the distinct expression the Colonel wore when he was about to give Ed hell.
"What are you doing here?" Ed asked, not bothering to even get off the couch. Al, however, got out of his seat and bowed politely. "All the cadets around here won't know what to do with themselves. Colonels should not randomly show up in this part of the dorm block without good reason. You're going to give everyone a heart attack."
"I only wanted to deliver this to you personally," Mustang said, holding out an manila envelope with the military's official seal embossed on the front.
Ed eyed the envelope darkly from the couch. He could almost feel the evil wafting from it. "What is it?"
"Your latest mission," Mustang said, "It seems you're going to have to put that leave on hold, Fullmetal. You have orders."
"WHAT?" Ed yelled, jumping off the couch and snatching the envelope from Mustang's grasp. He tore the paper down the seam on the back all the while giving Mustang a death stare. "I haven't received a direct mission from headquarters in over two months. You did this on purpose so I can't leave!"
"You are expected to report for briefing at 0600 tomorrow morning in my office," Mustang said, turning to leave. "Failure to do so will be considered desertion. Understood?"
Ed bristled as Mustang walked away with a smirk on his face. Ed opened his mouth several times in an attempt to say something, but he couldn't make any sound beyond a few stuttering growls. Eventually he gave one last frustrated grunt and slammed the door shut. The windows rattled under the shock wave.
"What are your orders, Nii-san?" Al asked, coming up behind Ed to peer over his shoulder.
Ed shoved turned around and shoved the papers into Al's huge metal arms and sulked back to the couch.
"Does it really matter? This just means that we can go looking for that amplifier," Ed said, sinking into the cushions. "Damn that Mustang. It's probably some annoying grunt mission too. Maybe I'll have to clean all the toilets on this floor..." Ed moaned. "That'll take weeks!"
"'Class B Mission'," Al said, reading off the papers in his hands. "'Operation: Pandora's Wingtip.'"
"Eh?" Ed mumbled. That didn't sound like a grunt mission at all. Class B was a search and delivery designation.
"'Objective One: Verify and document the existence or nonexistence of alleged alchemy amplifier hereafter referred to as the item'," Al paused. "The Colonel wants us to find the amplifier, Nii-san!"
Ed sat up on the couch. "Go on."
"'Objective Two: In the event that existence is verified, take all measures necessary to secure the item and present it into military custody for further examination.'"
"But not before we use it first," Ed said, grinning darkly. "The amplifier has a limitless energy supply! We could use it and no one would be the wiser."
Ed paused, thinking deeply. Could Mustang have come through for once? This seemed almost too easy.
"'Objective Three: Ensure the safety and well-being of accompanying civilians as long as they remain cooperative—'"
"An escort mission?" Ed said, jumping off the couch and grabbing the pages from Al's hands. "What the hell is this?"
"'Use the information provided by the civilians to produce the location of the item,'" Al said, reading over Ed's shoulder. "I guess these people have some idea where the amplifier is."
"But then why do they have to come with us?" Ed said, glaring at the papers. "The military definitely wouldn't want civilians tagging along on a Class B mission. Something about this is really strange..."
"'Objective Four: Take whatever measures necessary to prevent the accompanying civilians from gaining access to the item in the event that existence and location is verified. Should this objective prove unsuccessful, the entire operation will be considered null and labeled Failed. Please advise.'"
Al, cocked his head, the metal of his helmet clanging hollowly. "Labeled 'Failed'? What does that mean?"
"It means that I could be dishonorably discharged if I can't successfully complete Objective Four," Ed said, the papers crumpling under his grip. "At the very least I'd have that Failed on my permanent record and the military would never assign me to a mission above Class F. I really would be scrubbing toilets then— for the rest of my career."
"But still, this is what we wanted," Al said. "It's a chance to hunt for the amplifier without making anyone suspicious."
Ed brightened. "Right! And who says I'll fail my mission? That Mustang has another thing coming if he's trying to get me expelled from the military. If anything, I'm going to get a medal out of this!
"And besides," Ed said, turning to Al with a very serious expression. "My status in the military doesn't mean squat beside getting your body back, Al. I'll do whatever it takes. If this amplifier is really all they say it is... We'll be whole again in no time."
End Note: Yeah... I'm not exactly sure where this is going, but I'm sure the plot line will work itself out as I write. I like the set-up too, if I may say so myself. This isn't going to be your usual "we've all just met and now we're going to be best friends and work together toward a common goal" crossover. So far there are three different groups that want Sakura's feather (with a fourth probably on the way), which will make for some definite factional rivalry. This will probably prove very interesting. However, I won't bother writing another chapter if no one likes the idea as much as I do. So to motivate me, I'll need lots of support. (Yes... this is my way of saying review or no update!) ; I just want to know if anyone out there is interested... Am I the only one out there obsessed with FMA and TC? Say it ain't so!! T.T