Disclaimer: I regret very much to reveal that, no, I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist the manga or anime or second (not to mention faithful) anime. All these belong soley to Hiromu Arakawa and I guess Bones who is doing a less than fantabulous job with the music this time around. Really, anybody else hating that Italian-sounding strings instrument behind Al's Gaara-complex moment? That was a little bit too much.

Anyway, it's a little pathetic of me to be writing these introductions so energetically when I hardly spend any time working on my actual stories, huh? Don't care. Not writing for a bunch of fourteen-year-olds, writing for moi, I hope you know. So this is number eight. Taking into account the full story I've got planned out, you should also know there's not much left to go. And I hope I didn't mislead anyone into thinking there would be HavocSheska romance here. Pfft. Yeah, I don't do that. Reasons being obvious if you type in "asexuality" in the nearest search engine. Go ahead, try it. Cuz I'm an orientation EVANGELIST! GYAHAHAHAHA!!!

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Before this whole ordeal, Sheska hadn't thought the growling of a human stomach could qualify as a bodily instrument. But Paninya's hunger had thrown all her rankings of belches and farts into chaos. Now she watched in wonder as her Aerugan friend rolled over on her back and stared fixatedly up at the ceiling. She then turned her gaze from the ceiling to the snake chimera, who was watching bemusedly from the floor beside the crates her partner the dog chimera was sitting on. She nodded. "I like your shirt."

Martel started. "Huh? But…" She looked down at her plain black tank-top and back to the captive, also wearing a black tank-top. "Oh. Thanks."

Feeling the conversation was breached, Paninya immediately switched focus to the dog chimera. "Now can I have a sandwich?"

"For the last time, no! You're really a crappy hostage, you know that? Don't you know you don't get any demands?" Dorochette was really not liking this mocking, fast-talking girl with the wide, knowing smile, and he wanted to make it known before anyone could start teasing him. "Anyway you were all completely useless when it came down to it. Where d'ya get off on leading us on like that, huh?" he complained pointedly to Al.

"I never said I held the answer to anything. You guys are the ones who decided it on your own."

Sheska caught Martel's attention to intervene. "Didn't Greed-san think about exactly what type of immortality it would be even if it was possible? Al here can't eat, sleep, or feel a thing; how is that advantageous to such a materialistic person, not being able to interact with what things you gain?"

"I woulda found a way." The three captives stiffened as the homunculus entered the room. He had been upstairs mingling with the customers (not to mention generally making himself thoroughly open to glomps from women who'd had hard days) but had come back every once in a while to check on his "lovable little lumps of ***** (this was a word everyone but Sheska seemed to be quite embarrassed about knowing). He pushed away from the wall he was leaning on and made his way slowly, menacingly toward them, slurping up a brown bubbling liquid Sheska recognized as—

"Soda?" she murmered incredulously. "Mafia bosses drink soda?"

"What, doll, I'm not allowed to?" Greed replied jokingly. Then he frowned. "And I'm not a mafia boss. Do I look like a gangster?" he turned to the two chimeras and Loa behind him, all of whom responded with a half-shrug that looked unerringly practiced.

"But really, now that you say so, Sheska," said Paninya, still lying on her back and not deigning to meet the eyes of the homunculus, "one of those things you listed that you'll always want was women, Greed. How d'ya expect to get women with a body that can't function that way either?"

"Paninya!" shouted Al, bringing his chained hands up to the mouthpiece of his helmet in a mortified gesture. The Auregan caught herself and offered a sheepish shrug, but the damage was done.

The chimeras in the room had blanched with their imaginations taking hold. Loa's face was blank as ever, but somehow it seemed forced. Martel had discreetly covered her own face with her hand and was looking away, but Sheska noted her shoulders quivering as if with suppressed laughter. And caught with his mouth hanging open and tears springing to the corners of his eyes was Dorochette, though he quickly also hid his face. But the most disconcerting reaction came from Bido, who offered a sympathetic, "Man, that's rough buddy. I can't imagine what that'd be like." The comment earned a swift smack upside the head from the snake chimera without skipping a beat.

The homunculus himself, the issue finally brought to his attention, had donned a horrified grimace. He checked himself and smoothed his face over, eyes retaining maximum wideness. "I…gee, I hadn't really thought about that. I figured everything would just fall into place…somehow, anyway, once I had immortality. But that kind of immortality," he said, a fleeting picture of panic crossing his visage, "I could never want."

"Aha! So you don't want everything necessarily!" burst out Paninya, just to be included. Sheska tossed a withering glance in her direction, accompanying those of all the chimeras. Greed sighed and stooped over her triumphant face.

"Right you are, kiddo," he said with a jocular leer, "Guess I'll have to rethink my whole philosophy; or maybe I'll just switch to only aiming for everything that's good."

"You'll never get anywhere that way," came a voice tight as steel suddenly.

Martel looked questioningly to Dorochette, who had the best ears in the current group of chimeras. He complied, facing Greed instead. "It didn't come from inside this room is all I can tell…" As he spoke there came a sinister rumbling from behind the walls. He paused a few seconds, not seeming to breath, and whipped his head around to the wall across from the three captives, now huddling together fiercely. "Footsteps! But they're surrounded by this feel, like…I think it might be a—"

BOOM! With a pop, a grand looking double door with shining handles hanging came into existence, and through them plowed the last person Al wanted to see, going by the petrified shriek he emitted. The first thing Izumi Curtis did as she confronted her former pupil was hurl a Mr. Expendable his way, incidentally striking Sheska as well (Paninya, of course, was still lying down, albeit now wisely on her tummy with her hands over head as if seeking shelter from a bomb—which more or less was the situation). "YOU MORON!" shouted Izumi in all her glowering glory. "How the HELL could you let yourself get kidnapped?! And you two," she said in a quieter, livid tone, "as adults, shoulda been taking care of him! Worthless!"

Greed did a double take, not bothering to clear away the smirk from his face. "'Scuse me lady, and who the hell are you?"

"I'M A HOUSEWIFE!!!" came the immediate response. Al slumped his head in his hands. A humble answer that betrayed the underlying supremacy made it all the scarier.

"Oh my God…" said Dorochette, horrified beyond words. "Uh, Boss? It may be just my animal instinct talking, but this might be more than we can handle." Beside him, Martel shuddered in agreement.

Greed thrust his chin up slightly, a sign that he was getting frustrated but determined to retain some semblance of control. "I understand. Lemme guess, babe, you're in charge of these three? Al?" He prompted the Elric without looking his way.

"She—yeah, she's to my brother and I, our sensei."

"I'd appreciate it if you'd direct your questions toward me," said Izumi sharply. "Not promising you'll get any answers, of course."

Greed paused, taking stock of the situation. "Look, lady, I'm pretty sure I've gotten everything I could've outta them already, unless you know something they don't know about immortality."

"All I know about immortality is that it's impossible for anybody, or anything," she added, noticing the tattoo on his hand, "mortal. Which I see you are, homunculus." She switched her biting tone to one more reasonable. "At the moment all I want is these kids safe back with me. I'll even pretend I never saw any of you, you or these chimeras, should I come by the government."

"Ah, but one of your students is the government." Greed smiled tightly. "All right. As long as we're negotiating, I'll let two of them go, but one stays here till I get to meet with the older brother. That's all there is to it," he said with a voice of finality as the persons involved started.

"Or how about this," said Izumi with rising ire, "How about I beat the snot outta each of you and take them all back anyway?"

"Please, Mrs. Curtis!" came a squeak. Izumi stared at the mousey Sheska, sitting bolt upright, in disbelief. "Actually, I'll volunteer to stay behind, if it means no injuries to either side, I mean." As she found herself the center of attention, she shrank back to clutch Al's cold hand. "And anyway, it's sort of my entire reason for coming here and my mission, now that I think about it. I'd be very grateful to stay behind for awhile."

"Mission?" barked Izumi. "Since when?" But from then on everything moved in a blur. Dorochette cut all their bonds swiftly and without speaking (Sheska's too because, let's face it, who'd think of her as a threat?) led Al and Paninya to the center of the room where they slowly stepped to meet Izumi. The housewife turned before going through the door to address Sheska. "Just keep your mouth shut while you're waiting and you'll be fine by the time Ed gets here," she said shortly, and slammed the door she'd transmuted behind her."

Before there could be any moment of quiet to take it all in, Greed swooped over the former librarian's head and lifted an eyeridge quizzically. "Mind sharing all this about a mission with the rest of the class?"

"Yeah, it was all I could do to keep from laughing right then," said Dorochette with a snort.

Even Martel, as she slid down next to her, couldn't help snickering. "I can't believe for a second that someone like you could be undergoing some infiltration or whatever. But," she said, eyes twinkling to say she was only humoring her, "who would this be for?"

"The military," said Sheska honestly. She then allowed about a minute and a half for their giggling and miscellaneous murmuring, and continued, "For a really stupid reason I was transferred from the passive investigative team, where we're in control of research, to the active one, where we conduct the searches to be researched. I guess this happens every decade or so to keep information fresh," she added wryly. "In any case, when I said it was a 'mission' that was sort of a lie; it's more like an errand. This is my first job, so I guess they gave me a small one on purpose.

"I am here under orders to, as stated by the task form, 'investigate possibility of illegal drug trafficking in said business, such as cocaine, meth, speed and such. In the event that said business is found guilty of the charge, the private shall return immediately to headquarters and conduct necessary steps in order to shut said business down'". As soon as she finished reciting the form, though, she hung her head and laughed. "Yeah, right. Here I am, ready to shut you and all your minions down for good. Please!"

Greed had been hiding his mouth behind his hand the entire time she was talking. Now he coughed and removed it, revealing the widest beam from ear to ear known to any, in and out of mankind. "And, uh, is this all under the pretext of business or am I being targeted?"

"Oh, there's no pretext, Greed-san. Truthfully this whole thing is only because there was a law that came out exactly a year after you first set up your shop—bar—er—"

"Call it whatever you like," said the homunculus, still with a lingering chortle. "Not like I care."

"Shop, then. Nowadays you're kind of supposed to fill out a bunch of paperwork and submit it to the town records. It's kinda like a promise you won't do anything to disrupt the peace of the town, but it's more like a formality and doesn't really say anything. It just gets you a bunch of extra fees in court in the end."

"Okay, that whole idea is stupid. Like I'd let myself get caught. Pfft."

"Hm?"

"Nothing. So anyway, those forms weren't around when I got here, so they shouldn't apply, right?"

"Well, they still apply since the law is in place now, but actually the military hadn't known you'd started your business before it; I just found that out from the bar-guy. So in your case you can just sign the forms now and be done with it till the next decade."

"That's a lucky break." Greed raised an eyebrow again. "But wait, you didn't know about that before you came here, so you probably wouldn't have the forms anyway."

"That's true, but actually you got really lucky this time. It just so happens that I've seen those documents before, and remembering the contents of literary materials is my specialty. So if you'd happen to have a typewriter around, I can make one for you to sign and it'll be done." She smiled weakly. "It's kind of all I was sent here for, and it's really not that big of a deal…"

"Okay. No problem. I think we got one of those things around here somewhere, but it's ancient." Greed tossed another grin. "It's been forever since we've had to use one of them, see."

Sheska surveyed the room full of chimeras rowdy and frightening. "Yeah, I can see that."

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That same afternoon at the Curtis residence, an exhausted Ed and two unexpected guests (only one of whom was welcomed with honest smiles) arrived. Sig Curtis took an immediate liking to Alex Louis Armstrong, who did more than enough talking to form a decent understanding between them and fast. Furer President King Bradley, on the other hand, was discouraged strongly only with body language from entering the house part of the building, and spent most of his time there on a stool by the counter. Paninya and Al had said the necessary greetings and engaged in shallow conversation with the Furer, but had gradually eased away as it became clear he wasn't all there. When it was heading toward evening in the day, he caught the Aerugan's attention. "I heard you and Alphonse had been running errands today and got caught up at a particular shop. The Devil's Nest, wasn't it?" His right eye closed in a friendly wink.

"Yes, that's right. We were there for a little while." Paninya answered truthfully. This was a man who should be trusted without doubts, the leader of the nation, but she couldn't sink back the sensation of alarm creeping through her head.

"If I remember right, a little while ago there was a task for a private to investigate that very shop. I think we needed it searched because of some suspicions voiced from the public. Someone had reported a leader among them with extremely tough skin, apparently. It even seemed as if this monster couldn't die." The Furer's eye opened abrubtly, making her jump. "Did you and Alphonse happen to meet this character?"

For a moment Paninya was caught off guard and sat still, breath stuck in her throat. This was too probing, too strange, and completely different from the whimsical personality earlier. But she had a feeling it was dangerous to tell the complete truth. "Yes, actually. His name was, uh, Ghoon-hahm Tsung," she said quickly, recalling the slanted eyes of Greed, and how he could have, save for his height, passed for a Xingese man. "There's nothing really extraordinary about him, although he is known to be a bit thick-skinned. He served for a time in the war, he said."

"I see," said the Furer, and fell silent with his hands in his lap. She waited politely a few seconds and hastily took her leave.

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On the outskirts of Youswell huddled two figures, one significantly larger in proportion than the other. The "other" scrambled down one of the braids of the former and shifted to full height on the hand. Mei Chan wheezed. She'd had about enough for a lifetime of all this sand in her face. And at long last, their journey was about to end! At least, this one was; who knew what fortune awaited them on the other side of the wall? "Hold close to me, Xiao Mei," she said to the panda, not bothering to whisper because her voice was so hoarse already. Then she began the treacherous climb up the tower, thinking all the while that it would have been so much easier to transmute stairs instead. If only stealth weren't a factor now! Well, if it was a trade off for the sand, it was a welcome one.

As she neared the top, she began to think about her encounter with the upper prince. On one hand, all three of them were older and had more experience than she, but on the other, she could take comfort in the fact that it would have been that much more difficult for them to cross the desert with each other to look after. She was fortunate that Xiao Mei was so small in size (although she could not say as much for her appetite). She hoped with all her heart, as she checked that her companion was still attached, that those three were still a ways behind her and that she could at least gain a head start.

Inside the tower, right below the ledge Mei lifted herself over, were many and various types of empty cans and wrappers. And in the midst of them was a slip of paper decorated with a two characters: daizi.

Sucker.

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The next day Paninya woke up early, in time to see Edward walk off briskly in the direction of the part of town home to the Devil's Nest. She was glad Izumi had made him wait till the morning; it had given him time to think. But she didn't doubt he would sock the homunculus one anyway for kidnapping his brother. "And now," said Paninya, throwing off the sheets and tip-toeing through the house to the doorway, making sure not to even get close to where Al sat staring out the window not-sleeping. She went out the back door, closing it softly. "There's a certain Magenta lady who's been waiting to see somebody." She grinned roguishly and sped down the street to the neighbor's house.

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Al heard Paninya slip around the house and through the backdoor and decided not to stop her. 'Brother will take care of them,' he thought. 'Anyway, as long as such a late sleeper like Paninya is up, I guess I should be too.' He stood, the suit's joints creaking, and reminded himself to get oil the first chance he got. He started toward the kitchen, thinking to wash the dishes durable enough to handle without their breaking, or to dust, when he heard the rumbling voice of the Major Armstrong coming from the shop part of the house. To sneak close enough to hear them would be no easy task with his body, but he moved inch by inch, and thankfully the Major's voice took over the room long enough for him to get a few long steps.

When he was just near enough, he shut off his sight sense to hear better. It worked like, but not quite just like, closing his eyes in that he truly had to think about it. He heard the Major's voice continue: "…but sir, Edward Elric is heading there in order to negotiate the release of a friend, actually who is also—"

"A private, I know. But she is of no concern on this. Major Armstrong, contact Southern HQ right away and request thirty troops' backup. We will proceed to undergo invasion of the Devil's Nest at noon this morning. The man with the ouroboros tattoo is our primary target to capture; all others excluding the Elric boy are to be terminated on sight. I will go to the train station for the troops' arrival. Go."

"Yes, sir."

If Al had been able to, he would have been holding his breath all the time he had been standing there. Overcome with shock and appalled at what he had heard, he found himself tilting forward and had to catch himself in time. He vaguely heard the heavy footsteps of Major Armstrong going to the payphone and the light, muffled steps of the Furer. There was barely any noise as the President exited the building through the shop door.

Alphonse's thoughts were a whirling fog, thinking of the chasms of difference between the Furer who had come to visit his brother in the hospital and the dark, steaming persona he had witnessed just now. Cautiously he made his way to the back door, stopping only to pick up some chalk and scanning the rooms for a clock. 'It's almost nine,' he thought, dread swelling up inside him. Had he a normal body the adrenaline would have begun to pump from the first word he had heard; now as he set out at a steady rolling pace he felt the sickening advantage of it.

He ran toward the Devil's Nest.

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Ghoon-hahm is a main character from Kill Me, Kiss Me.

Tsung is one of those Turks from Final Fantasy 7, but I'm pretty sure his name isn't spelled that way. And daizi really is one word for fool or sucker, in Chinese. I looked it up. See how dedicated I am? Doesn't it make you want to encourage me with a review? HINT HINT!! D