Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, and I am making absolutely no profit whatsoever in this fanfic.
Informed Consent: A process in which a person learns key facts about a clinical trial, including potential risks and benefits, before deciding whether or not to participate in a study. Informed consent continues throughout the trial.
"There was also that time I worked with that bastard, Mustang. He burned the Ishbalans and I did the autopsies." --Dr. Knox, Ch.62
Dr. Knox offered the younger man a cigarette, but he refused.
"You're not one of those health freaks, are ya kid?"
"I used to smoke," he replied, his face impassive, "when I was younger."
"What, when you were twelve?"
"The smell..." The alchemist rubbed his lips unconsciously. "I'm going inside to help your assistant set up. I'll see you when you're finished."
Dr. Knox shrugged. The young man was a strange one, all right, but no more so than anyone else stuck in this sandbox. He was social enough, but his responses all came across as mechanical. His smile, when he ascertained the situation called for it, was slightly crooked, and it seemed as if his intense brown eyes never blinked.
If it weren't for that, the boy might have reminded him of his own son back home.
Dr. Knox pushed that thought aside as quickly as he extinguished his cigarette on the bottom of his military issue boot.
Their lab used to be a church, and as the sun began to rise it decorated the lab equipment with colors from the stained glass window. How whimsical, the doctor thought grimly.
"Subjects ain't here yet?"
Mustang looked up from his clipboard. "They'll be here in a few minutes. Their transport came under heavy fire this morning."
"They're unharmed," the boy continued in his dry tone. "Not that it would make much of a difference, but the experiments would proceed better if we didn't have to account for variables such as injury."
Dr. Knox clenched his fists at his sides, but said nothing.
He caught Mustang studying him over his clipboard with that infuriating blank expression, and he corrected himself.
That bastard was no boy.
"Just what exactly is this supposed to accomplish?" Knox growled.
"I need to know how hot to make my flames in order to attack efficiently," Mustang replied as he continued writing. "Too hot, and I waste oxygen. Too cool, and..."
Knox suppressed a shudder. He'd worked in a hospital before this, and he had seen how much agony severe burns could cause.
The truck pulled up and ten Ishbalans were escorted into the lab. Handcuffs secured their hands behind their backs, and Knox felt nauseous when he saw the two women and teenager following behind.
Mustang walked up to the soldiers and exchanged salutes. "The women and child are unnecessary," he said without preamble. "Please take them back to confinement."
The sergeant frowned. "The General said you needed all types of speci-"
"I'll need to recalibrate the chambers to accommodate them," Mustang interrupted. "Take them back; if he has a problem with it then I'll deal with the fallout. Right now they'll just get in the way."
The soldiers walked outside, and three gunshots shook the stained glass windows before the truck pulled away.
Knox blanched, and Mustang stared at his feet before he reclaimed his clip board and headed towards the newly sound proofed room which held the shackled men.
"Hey, wait a minute," Dr. Knox exclaimed. "What the hell are you handing out there, kid?"
"Consent forms," Mustang replied patiently.
"You...no way in hell! Can't these fools just die in peace?"
The alchemist ground his jaw. "They deserve to know what they're dying for, Doctor. I refuse to perform an experiment on uninformed individuals."
"You burn thousands of people, women and children, I might add, without their approval, every day. What the hell makes this so different?" Dr. Knox grabbed the younger man by his collar and shook him. "And how the hell can it be informed consent if the subject doesn't have a choice?!"
Mustang regarded him calmly. "I realize it's a thin line, but it is a line that I will not cross. This is a laboratory experiment to be complemented with extensive notes, and I will not have my name attached to an incomplete study."
"And if they refuse to take part in your ego-building study, you bastard?"
"Then they'll be disposed of outside." Mustang removed Knox's hands from his uniform with a measuring look. "It isn't much of a choice, I admit...but it is documented on the form."
Dr. Knox read the form that Mustang proffered with a sneer.
A Study of Exothermic Reactions on Biological Organisms
Researcher: Major Roy Mustang
I, , understand that my cooperation today will consist of being burned alive. This research is intended to limit the suffering of other Ishbalans in the course of the war, although it will not reduce the number of deaths. Should I not comply, I will be killed painlessly.
"My name's not on here."
"...I didn't think this would be something that you would like to be associated with, all thing considered."
Knox wanted a cigarette. "Put my name on that piece of shit."
"I'm as much a part of this as you are," the doctor snarled. "I'll take the credit just the same, you snot nosed bastard."
Mustang did not relent, so Knox grabbed the clipboard from him and added his name in a scrawl under each paper.
"I'd rather burn them so that they're dead instantly, but...I'm not certain I can maintain that temperature. If they're nerves are destroyed, will they be able to feel pain?"
Dr. Knox glared out the window. "Not physically."
"That's what we'll aim for as our benchmark, then."
Only one man did not sign the papers. He was taken outside and shot by the alchemist himself before the study began.
Mustang rinsed his hands of blood spatter in the sink and slipped on his gloves. He faced a defiant man a few years older than himself and raised his hand. "Let me know when you're ready, Doctor."
Knox faced the temperature gauge. "Just get this over with."
Knox's stomach twisted in knots as the man hesitated, and he opened his mouth to yell when the air flashed blue and hot and the scent of burning flesh and hair assailed his nostrils through his mask.
"One thousand degrees."
The man continued to scream for minutes as Mustang did his best to hold the temperature constant.
The screams ceased, but the man was still alive. Knox walked over to the chamber and visually assessed the damage.
He opened the chamber and the stench almost caused him to vomit, but he proceeded to inject what was left of the man with a deadly cocktail.
"The nerves are destroyed."
"...How long?" he asked, strangled.
The younger man held his face in his hands for a long time before nodding raggedly. "All right. Next temperature goal will be two thousand degrees."
Knox shut the chamber when the man's vitals finally faded. "That's quite a leap."
"I should have started much higher." Mustang walked towards the dead man. "...I had no idea it took so long for them to...we'll lower it if it proves unfeasible. I'll just get this cleaned up and then we'll move on to the next...subject."
Knox eyed the charred chamber in disgust. "We can have my assistant do that."
"It's my mess," Mustang countered quietly. "I'll be quick."
"Have it your way." Knox grabbed his pack of cigarettes. "But we can't just go to two thousand. You want this study to be thorough, then we're gonna have to barbecue these poor souls at a variety of temperatures."
Mustang wiped his mouth on his sleeve and smothered a curse.
"I'll have Nate help you out anyway. Don't want you damaging the body for my postmortem."
"One thousand two hundred fifty degrees...four minutes and thirty seconds."
"One thousand five hundred degrees...three minutes and ten seconds."
"One thousand seven hundred and fifty degrees...two minutes and twenty eight seconds."
"Two thousand degrees...one minute and fourteen seconds."
"Two thousand two hundred fifty degrees...forty three seconds."
"Two thousand five hundred degrees...zero seconds."
"Two thousand three hundred fifty degrees...ten seconds."
Dr. Knox still heard the screaming when he performed the autopsies later that night.
He had just finished examining the last Ishbalan when Nate admitted a staff sergeant. The soldier saluted Knox, who tilted his head. "What the hell do you want?"
"Ah, the Major has requested, and the General has approved...um...you are to perform autopsies exclusively for the Flame Alchemist, Dr. Knox."
Knox spat his cigarette on the ground. "That son of a bitch."
The doctor shook his head. "It's just as well. Not like I could help anyone anymore, with these damned hands."
"I'm sorry, sir?"
"Yeah, me too. Tell that bastard I'll be his accomplice, all right."
"Uh, yes si-"
Knox waved him away and lit another cigarette. He gazed at the setting sun in the desert horizon and tried not to notice how the smoke from his cigarette mingled with the thick black plumes rising in the distance.
A/N: This idea has been bouncing around in my head since I read Chapter 62...probably not implied in the quote above, but I thought it fit why Dr. Knox would feel so horrifically guilty, and also why Roy would likely be prosecuted for war crimes should the military ever crumble.
The quote of Knox's up top is of course written by the extremely talented Hiromu Arakawa, and the definition for informed consent is gleamed from . I was a little unsure as to what to rate this...I rated it M to be safe for the gory subject matter, and Knox's dirty mouth. As always, thank you for reading, and comments are more than welcome!