A.N. I've been working on this one for awhile now and it's bugging me that I can't seem to stay focused on it. Anyway, I figured I'd throw the first chapter to the lions and see how it went. This first chapter is from the beginning of the movie with some additions. The chapters will switch back and forth between Al and Ed's perspective. Rated for Ed's mouth, naturally.
Chapter One - Human Transmutation
"Damn, where'd he go?" Ed muttered, coughing harshly from the yellow smoke Huskisson had released to cover his getaway. As if on cue, heavy footsteps echoed back from a hallway branching off the main laboratory and Ed took off in that direction, automail arm glinting dimly beneath a tattered red sleeve. Al followed quickly, pulling on his helmet as he ran.
As they pursued Huskisson, Al's mind turned uneasily to the uranium bomb the scientist carried. From the physicist's explanation, it was a truly powerful weapon and one wrong move would send the entire floating lab to the bottom of the ocean. They had to disable it somehow, but Al had a sinking feeling that Huskisson wouldn't give it up so easily.
The corridor took a sharp turn and opened up into a multi-leveled, circular room. Many, many walkways encircled the room on different levels and catwalks extended out to an enormous machine in the middle. The purpose of the machine became clear when a huge drill was lifted onto the catwalk Ed and Al stood on and shot straight for them. Al dove one way and Ed dove the other and the drill slammed into the doorway behind them, showering them both in pieces of stone.
Al could see Huskisson powering the drill and, judging from the furious way he was watching Ed, his brother would be Huskisson's first target. Everyone seemed to make the mistake that Ed was the more dangerous of the two since he was the State Alchemist, but Al didn't mind. The two of them worked as a team and with Huskisson's attention focused on Ed, Al could make his move.
Ed raced around the walkway and Huskisson swung the drill in his direction, only barely missing him. Al tore his eyes away from the battle to activate the array he'd hastily drawn on the wall. A ladder materialized from the stone and Al started climbing toward his target--the machinery that allowed the drill to move around.
Below, Ed had escaped another close call and dropped down a level. He started running in the other direction with Huskisson's drill in hot pursuit. Al reached the top of the ladder and, knowing he had to be quick, dashed across a steel beam toward the gears hooked to the center of the ceiling. A quick transmutation was all it took to deform the machinery and stop the drill in its tracks.
Huskisson looked up from the drill's controls, shocked by the damage Al had caused. Seconds later, Ed hopped onto the drill and transmuted one of his signature balloons over the dangerous end to keep it from causing any more damage. Just like that, they had the upper hand.
Al transmuted a ladder on the drill's central pillar and started to climb down. Hopefully, this could be resolved a little more peacefully now.
"Damn you," Huskisson growled, his voice echoing up and down the now-silent chamber, "and your mystical alchemy! If it wasn't for you zealots, the physicists would be guiding this state into a new and enlightened age!"
"Enlightenment like that?" Ed asked in a deadly whisper.
Al looked down and felt a chill in the lines of his blood-seal when he saw what Ed was pointing at. Past a collapsed wall the drill had knocked down, dozens of corpses lay piled carelessly together, every one of them dressed in worker clothing.
Huskisson seemed taken aback for a moment, but then he waved a hand dismissively. "Uranium mining is dangerous. It's the cost of progress!"
"Science that doesn't benefit people is no science at all!" Al called down angrily. Al could never understand how people like Huskisson could readily sacrifice so many lives for the sake of their twisted ambitions. Didn't the physicist feel any remorse for those poor people and their families?
Ed obviously felt the same way. Al saw his brother move toward Huskisson with a murderous look on his face and he quickly resumed his slow climb down. He had almost reached the bottom when Huskisson cried out, "Stand back!"
Huskisson had stepped away from the drill's controls, holding out the uranium bomb. Al flinched when he brandished it around recklessly.
"You know what this is now!" Huskisson said menacingly. "Interfere and I'll use it!"
Neither Al nor Ed dared to move as Huskisson passed Ed and stepped onto the catwalk, moving toward the corpses.
"I may not respect your sorcery," Huskisson said arrogantly, "but that hasn't stopped me from learning it. For a man versed in atomic equations, a few circles were easy enough to understand."
Huskisson pulled out a piece of paper with his free hand and even from that distance Al could tell it was some kind of transmutation circle. He couldn't see the details of the array, but it seemed Ed could because when his brother spoke he sounded uneasy.
"What are you planning now?" Ed murmured.
Huskisson gestured back at the bodies. "It's my backup plan, Fullmetal! An army of men fused with machines! You won't stand a chance!"
Al's grip on the ladder tightened. Was he serious? Huskisson couldn't possibly think he could bring those men back to life, could he?!
"Don't do it!" Ed shouted urgently, putting Al's thoughts into words. "That's human transmutation! Listen to me…life only flows in one direction and humans aren't supposed to be brought back. It's alchemy's greatest taboo for a reason!"
Then, of all things, Huskisson laughed. And Al knew then that the physicist had no clue what he was dealing with. If he went through with this, he would be devoured by the very forces he wanted to control.
"Your arcane rules mean nothing to me!" Huskisson stated, setting the array on the ground. "I'm a man of science!"
"Huskisson, no!" Ed screamed, sprinting forward just as the transmutation began.
"Brother, wait!" Al yelled. If Ed got anywhere near the array while the transmutation was still going--!
Al dropped down the last few feet to the drill. Just as he landed, he slipped and fell to one knee, losing his grip on his chalk. Al didn't bother to watch it roll off the drill and fall into oblivion. His mind was only on Ed, who had vanished into the blinding light of the transmutation.
"Brother!" Al called, jumping onto the catwalk and rushing toward the light. He had just reached the room when Ed emerged from it, his face completely white. Seconds later, a familiar black tentacle came into view, little grasping hand hungry for a sacrifice.
Al turned to flee, but halted when he heard Ed cry out. The tentacle had hooked around Ed's automail leg and was dragging him back. Al dashed forward and wrapped his arms around Ed, stopping him from being pulled any further. For a moment, the black tendril seemed to loosen its grip. Then three more whipped out of the room to wind around Ed's neck and waist and he was forcefully ripped from Al's arms.
"ALPHONSE!" Ed shrieked as the tentacles hauled him into the room and out of sight.
Al rushed into the room after his brother and for the second time in his life looked on a human transmutation gone horribly wrong. Huskisson's transmutation circle glowed with an eerie purple light and white lightning shot out from the circle's edges, creating scorch marks on the walls and floor. More black tentacles, emerging from the center of the array, had entwined themselves around the corpses, twisting them, changing them. Huskisson was nowhere in sight.
A terrified cry made Al run closer the deadly reaction. Ed was halfway across the room, clawing wildly at the floor in an attempt to keep himself from reaching the array. Al lunged forward and landed on his stomach, just barely latching onto Ed's forearms. His armor scraped against the stone as the Gate's pawns drew them closer and closer to the glowing circle.
"Let go of him!" Al screamed, his voice lost in the roaring noise of the transmutation. "Don't take him, please!"
Ed's feet were less than a meter from the circle now. Any closer and he would become part of the reaction, disintegrating into millions of atoms and molecules only to reform before the Gate. And once you went beyond the Gate, there was no coming back.
Ed met his brother's eyes and even through the blinding flashes of light Al could see the tears in them. "Run!" Ed gasped. "Run away!"
"No!" Al flung an arm around Ed's shoulders and pulled him close. Black hands began creeping into the armor, but Al made no move to release Ed. If the Gate wanted his brother, then it would have to take them both.
The transmutation reached its peak and an evil red light filled the room. Alchemic energy swirled around the two boys, deafening in its intensity. Ed closed his eyes and wrapped both his arms around Al's broad forearm. Al tightened his hold and they clung to each other, awaiting the inevitable.
Then, as suddenly as the transmutation began, everything stopped. The Gate's greedy hands vanished as if they had never been and the light petered out. Dense smoke filled the room, replacing the last of the fading energy. Al looked down, half-expecting Ed to be missing another limb, but he was unhurt.
Ed and Al slowly loosened their grips on one another then together they turned to look at the results of Huskisson's transmutation. Guttural moans emerged from the corpses as the soulless creatures struggled to breathe, to live. Many of the bodies had merged with the machines as Huskisson intended, but judging by how deformed they were none of them would last much longer.
"I can't believe we survived that," Ed whispered.
Al averted his gaze from the mutilated creatures, wishing he could throw up. "Brother? Was Huskisson…?"
Ed nodded gravely. "Saw him vanish right after it started. The bomb went with him."
"It's probably just as well," Al said after a moment. "The bomb, I mean. It was the prototype so now no one can use that power unless they make another one."
"Which they won't," Ed said firmly. He stood up and Al saw that Ed's hands were trembling. It had truly been a close call.
Al stood as well and they left the room, eager to put some distance between themselves and the gurgling mass of organs and body parts. Neither spoke until they reached an opening in the outer wall of the lab and stepped out into sunlight. Far below the ledge they stood on lay the ocean, calm and tranquil and Ed took a deep, shuddering breath of the fresh air. Al wondered if it was just to calm his nerves or if he was trying to clear his lungs of the air fouled by the transmutation. Probably both.
"It's just like what happened to us when we tried to bring Mom back," Ed said, his expression growing dark with the painful memory.
"You mean almost like us," Al said softly. "You kept my soul here, attaching it to this armor by trading your arm while for his attempt…he lost it all."
Ed's automail hand formed a fist and he inspected the bright metal thoughtfully. "He didn't respect Equivalent Exchange," he said finally, "and that's why we need the Stone--to get your body back."
"Your arm and leg too, Brother," Al added quickly. It seemed like Ed always needed to be reminded that their journey was for his benefit as well.
Abruptly, Ed turned to his younger brother. "Let's go! This whole castle's about to explode."
"W-Why?!" Al stammered.
Ed grinned, his eyes sparkling in a thoroughly self-satisfied way. "Cause I don't like it! I made some adjustments to the steam tanks."
Al was about to ask just what kind of 'adjustments' Ed was talking about when a thunderous BOOM! shook the lab down to its foundations.
"Why do you have to be so excessive!" Al demanded. "You should have told me!"
"There's no point in arguing now!" Ed retorted. He turned back to the ocean. "C'mon, let's go!"
"Go where?!" Al screeched, waving his hands frantically. "We're floating on the water and if I get wet I could wash off my blood-seal!"
"Then stop whining and help me think!" Ed snapped.
There was no time to think anymore. Not with the castle falling apart all around them. Ed hastily transmuted the remains of a small storage tank into a boat and they boarded just as the last of Huskisson's lab sank into the ocean.
At which point, their makeshift boat promptly started leaking, requiring them to bail out water constantly while Ed kept up the panicked mantra of, "We're sinking we're sinking we're sinking we're sinking--!"
"I know, I know! I'm trying!" Al cried.
Maybe later, Al would admit to his brother that sinking the lab had been a semi-good idea as it ensured that Huskisson's research and his stock of uranium would never be found.
"Give me your head!" Ed howled, snatching off Al's helmet to use as a bailout bucket.
Three Months Later
Al jumped at the sudden ringing and looked up from the open book in his hands. Seeing sunlight streaming in from the window, Al realized it must be morning. For once, he hadn't even noticed the passage of time, he'd been so engrossed in the book.
The phone across the dorm rung again and a sleepy groan surfaced from the pile of blankets and pillows that was Ed. An automail arm emerged from under the covers and latched onto a pillow, which Ed immediately clamped around his head to cover his ears.
"Aren't you going to get that?" Al asked.
Taking Ed's irritated grunt as a 'no', Al carefully marked his place in the book and picked up the phone in mid-ring.
"Alphonse? This is Colonel Mustang."
"Good morning, Colonel," Al said politely, though in reality he was instantly on high alert. The colonel only called their dorm in East City when he had a new mission or lead for Ed.
Right on cue. "Is Fullmetal there?"
"Yes, he's just waking up," Al answered with a glance in Ed's direction.
"No, I'm not, Al!" Ed growled, his voice muffled by the pillow.
There was a sigh from Mustang's end. "I guess I'll just talk to you then, I'm not in the mood for his morning attitude. Tell your brother that I have a new mission for him. I want him here for briefing in half an hour, even if it means asking you to drag him over in his boxers."
"I'm sure it won't come to that," Al assured him. "We'll be right there."
There was a despairing moan from the bed's general direction and Al watched in amusement as Ed burrowed even deeper into the blankets, not bothering to take the pillow off his head.
"Fullmetal doesn't sound happy, does he?" Mustang asked and Al realized he must have heard Ed's reaction to Al's half of the conversation. "If it helps, you can tell him that this mission is a little more interesting than the ones he normally goes on."
"Ok, I'll tell him."
"Half an hour, then," Mustang reminded him then hung up.
Al replaced the phone in its cradle and considered the bed's occupant with his hands on his hips. Ed didn't react at all to his presence and Al heard a suspiciously fake-sounding snore.
"Brother, I know you're awake," Al said accusingly.
"Mmphshhm…pshmm…" was all the reply Ed offered.
Al whipped off both pillow and blankets in one smooth motion. Ed remained completely limp with his eyes tightly closed while Al shook his shoulder.
"The colonel has a new mission for you," Al said urgently. "He wants you in his office in half an hour. He even said you might find this one interesting."
"The day he purposely gives me an interesting mission is the day he confesses his undying love to Lieutenant Hawkeye," Ed mumbled, proceeding to tug the pillow out of Al's hands and back over his head. "Which I would pay to see, by the way," he added.
"Brother, just get up."
"Make me," Ed grumbled.
Al eyed Ed in exasperation until he decided on a surefire way to get his brother out of bed. Carefully, he leaned over Ed and, when the other gave no response, began tickling him.
"AL!" Ed howled, fighting back peals of laughter as Al's leather fingers ghosted over his skin mercilessly.
"You brought this on yourself!" Al shouted playfully, his laughter joining Ed's. "If you had just gotten up in the first place it wouldn't have come to this!"
"Shut--up--damn it--stop--!" Ed choked, struggling for every word. As the tickle torture continued, Ed's face grew red and his laughs turned into breathless gasps. He clawed at the bed sheets trying to crawl away and Al wrapped an arm around his brother's waist to keep him prisoner.
"Need--to--breathe--!" Ed wheezed helplessly, pounding Al's chest plate weakly with his automail hand.
"Are you awake now, Brother?" Al asked.
"Yes!" Ed yelled desperately.
"But are you sure you're awake?" Al inquired sadistically, seeking out Ed's most sensitive areas to make him laugh all the louder.
"You're evil!" Ed cried, squirming in Al's grip. "You--need air--please--!"
Finally, Al released him and Ed slumped against him in relief. His arms were curled around his sides and Al worried for a moment that he'd been too rough without meaning to. But then Ed turned toward him with such a silly grin stuck to his face that Al couldn't help but laugh.
"You're really evil sometimes, you know that?" Ed said in mock seriousness, trying and failing to give his brother a death glare.
"And you're really lazy sometimes," Al responded with equal lightheartedness.
Ed rolled his eyes and reluctantly got out of bed. It only took a few minutes for him to toss on his usual outfit and put his hair up in a messy braid then they were out the door.
Ten minutes later, they arrived at headquarters, which was bustling with activity even at such an early hour. As usual, Ed ignored everyone else's presence as he forged ahead toward Mustang's office, pausing only once to greet Lieutenant Hawkeye as she walked by. When they reached the colonel's office, Al quickly knocked on the door before his brother could kick it open. Ed settled for letting himself in without waiting for a response and they found the colonel casually folding a paper airplane out of an important-looking document.
"And you call me lazy," Ed muttered to Al as they took seats on the couch.
"There's a difference between being lazy and knowing one's priorities, Fullmetal," Mustang responded in a bored tone. He sent the airplane flying toward the trash can with a flick of his wrist then picked up a folder. Handing the folder to Ed, he continued, "Your latest assignment is in the town of Half Circle."
"Half Circle?" Ed asked incredulously. "Sounds like someone was running short on creativity..."
"Anyway," Mustang said, leaning back in his chair, "there have been reports of strange creatures appearing around the town and attacking people at night. Your mission is to find out exactly the nature of the creatures and stop them if you can."
"What sort of creatures?" Al asked curiously. "And actually doesn't the town's name sound familiar, Brother?"
"Yeah, kind of," Ed admitted.
"The two of you have been to that town before," Mustang supplied helpfully, "during the whole Huskisson affair."
That's right, Al thought. Huskisson's lab had been stationed a few miles offshore from the small, ocean town. Al remembered meeting Huskisson at the train station, but then they had gone straight out to the lab with Ed following close behind. He had little memory of the town itself.
Mustang pointed out one page of the report that described the attacks in detail. "The townspeople have reported that the creatures appear to be half-human, half-machine. Normally, I would send ordinary soldiers to confirm such a bizarre story first, but one of the townspeople managed to snap a photo of one of the creatures."
Al looked up in interest as the colonel held out a small photograph to them, his expression for once completely serious.
"Whatever these things are," Mustang said quietly, "they're not human. And I can't think of where they could have come from, unless they were made by--"
"--alchemy," Ed breathed, staring at the photo with wide eyes.
Concerned by Ed's tone, Al leaned over to get a look at the picture. The image itself was lopsided and a corner of it was blocked out by a huge pink blob where the camera man's finger had partially obscured the lens. The creature taking up the rest of the photo resembled an emaciated human being, but its skin was pallid like a corpse and many joints were bending the wrong way.
But the thing that caught Al's eye was that the side of its body turned toward the camera was covered in dark, rusted metal, almost as if automail plating had been grafted to the skin over its left hip, the outside of the left thigh and halfway across its chest and face. The upper half of its head was completely covered in metal and Al didn't know whether it was just the lighting, but its eyes appeared to be glowing a sickly green-yellow.
"Al," Ed said softly.
"Yeah," Al murmured, the image dredging up memories that made him feel at once horrified and incredibly sad. "I think so too."
Mustang looked between the two of them then sighed heavily. "I was afraid of this. Did something happen at that laboratory that you didn't tell me about?"