By Yellow Mask
Spoilers: Anything up to Chapter 55.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist
AN: I haven't found any official
source for Winry's birthday, so I just made it up. Don't take my
dates as gospel. AS previously stated, despite my recent slew of anime-based stories, this one is set in the manga. While it may seem of little consequence now, there are some differences between manga and anime that are important later.
March 21st – Rockbell House, Risembool
"It's my birthday!" Winry crowed, throwing her arms around Den.
She'd thought today was special when she awoke, but couldn't remember why. Then, as she'd been running fingers through her sleep-tangled hair, it had hit her.
She'd had a small celebration with Garfiel and Paninya, then hopped on the first train to Risembool, planning on spending her birthday with her grandmother and some of her older friends. When she arrived though, the house had been empty, save for Den. Pinako had probably forgotten something, and been forced to walk to the markets to buy it.
Winry knew the house wouldn't be empty for long. It was her seventeenth birthday, and not only was she going to spend the day with her grandmother, but the Elric brothers as well. Ed and Al had promised they would try to come down for the celebration. So Winry had been walking on clouds for most of the morning.
But then she checked the mailbox. She found a letter there, addressed to the shop, and stamped with the official seal of the military. Feeling her heart sink, she opened it.
It wasn't like she hadn't – in some secret corner of her heart – expected this. It wasn't like she wasn't used to being cast aside in lieu of some new alchemy technique…but it still hurt.
Still, she was determined to have a good time anyway. Indulging her hurt and anger, Winry crumpled the letter and threw it in the trash, feeling better as she did so. Den nuzzled her leg and she bent to hug him.
"You'll never abandon me, will you?" she whispered, burying her face in his dark fur.
Den whuffed, and Winry laughed. "I love you, boy," she crooned, rubbing his ears.
Feeling decidedly more cheerful than when she first read the letter, Winry hummed as she washed the dishes, already planning how to spend her day. She'd go to see Nelly, maybe have some of the girl's delicious caramel tart. She might pay a visit to Laura. And she'd have to call on Tanya and Kim. Then she'd come back, and work on a new automail design. On her birthday, Winry was allowed free reign on her creativity. As Pinako's annual gift, she gave Winry command of any raw materials she wished for, heedless of expense or amount.
Yes, it was going to be a good day, even if Ed and Al weren't coming.
March 21st – Roy Mustang's Office, Central
A loud explosion of cursing signalled the arrival of another report on the Colonel's desk.
"Hawkeye..." Roy whined, picking it up.
A stern glare silenced him. Riza tapped her finger against the paper pointedly. "It's important, sir. A report on James Mangeli."
In an instant, Roy was all business.
James Mangeli. The Black Soul Alchemist. And now, a loose cannon loaded with a whole keg of powder. Dangerous with a capital 'D'.
By all accounts, he'd been a genius when he first entered the military. Impeccable behavior, incredible talent...a veritable 'golden boy'. But then he'd started working with Shou Tucker. Tucker had been obsessed with perfecting the chimeras, Mangeli had been obsessed with their potential as weapons. He'd attempted to merge ever-more dangerous animals, trying to achieve a chimera with the traits that he designated, not simply a random amalgamation of physical attributes.
But when he started asking for people – real, live humans – to volunteer for his experiments, the military drew the line. They warned him off, threatening to end his career.
Mangeli did it anyway. His first human-animal chimera merged an ape with a fourteen year old boy he had kidnapped from a park.
Predictably, the military went berserk, sentencing Mangeli to death by firing squad. The trouble was, he escaped. A small force pursued him, and Mangeli was reported to have run himself off a cliff in an attempt to evade them. Though no body was ever recovered, he was listed as officially dead.
Though recently, it had become abundantly clear that the report had been premature. Where he had been hiding himself, no one knew, but the Black Soul Alchemist had emerged from hiding to strike the small fringe village at the Umar Foothills, abducting nearly half the town's population.
The popular theory was that Mangeli was continuing his experiments, and he'd captured those people for use as lab rats. A theory backed by the fact that all those taken were in the prime of their life; mid-teens to late-twenties, all fit and healthy. Prime specimens for his twisted science.
Even more disturbing, was the remaining townsfolk's descriptions of his minions, the creatures called 'Revenants'. No alchemist could hear of them and doubt they were chimeras – the people spoke of humans warped almost beyond recognition. Some with claws like a tiger's, some with fur like a wolf's, some with jaws that looked as though they had been snatched from alligators.
Mangeli's experiments had obviously been continued. Continued and honed. The survivors claimed that these creatures obeyed him without reason, without thought to their own survival or well-being. Apparently, he'd been brushing upon the brainwashing techniques as well.
Roy scanned the report. Another town on the outskirts of Amestris had suffered a raid. He felt a chill at the prospect of what Mangeli must be doing to his victims, if he needed so many, so soon.
One thing was certain, these weren't your average chimera experiments.
March 21st – Location Unknown
James Mangeli sighed as he gestured at his Revenants, ordering the disposal of another failed experiment. He had expected a high failure rate, knowing that most people would not be strong enough to survive the transmutation – even if they were in the prime of their lives...but he had not expected just how high the failure rate would actually be.
He had twenty Revenants. Just twenty, out of a total of two hundred and thirteen experiments. Overall, his success rate was less than ten percent.
He needed more. He needed somewhere with a healthy population, not enough to present a problem, but enough so he could take a more abundant crop of fresh specimens into his lab.
Almost lazily, he dragged a map towards him, his eyes flickering across the paper. He smiled. On the outskirts, a stable population of slightly over three hundred.
Risembool it was.