"Go on, Mustang, take a seat."
Roy stared at his superior officer, Colonel Jameson, sitting behind his desk, giving him that look that told him he had bad news and neither of them were going to like it.
"Yes, sir," He said, bowing slightly before fully entering the room and closing the door. He stepped over in front of the Colonel's desk and took a seat in the small wooden chair, wishing the old bastard would get something better that didn't creak every time he breathed. One of these days, it was going to break and send an officer to the ground.
"Well, Roy..." he started, surprising Roy by using his first name, "I'm not one to beat around the bush, so… you're being dismissed."
The chair clattered to the floor as Roy shot up, barely keeping the glare off his face. "What? You're firing me?! Why? I haven't done anything to get fired for!"
Jameson sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Roy, you always question the higher ups, you question missions, you question this country. I'm going to tell you right now that this military doesn't want thinkers. They want you to be mindless dogs and obey every command without question. They are afraid of thinkers like you finally realizing that this country is going to the dumps. I don't want to have to fire you, Roy. You were one of my brightest subordinates."
"Colonel, please. Tell me what to do to keep my place in this military. I don't have anywhere else to go. This is my lifeline. I don't make any other money!"
Jameson sighed heavily once more, scrubbing his face with his hands again. He obviously didn't want to look Roy in the eye. At long last, he looked up, his voice suddenly low. "Well, there is one thing," he said softly. "It's an old mission, but no-one can do it. Most people absolutely refused to do it. But… I don't want you taking that mission, Roy, it's too dangerous. Let me speak with the Fuhrer and see if I can talk him into letting you stay under my command." Jameson smiled up at him. "I'm sure we can brainwash you into a good little lapdog for them."
Roy didn't smile back at the joke, still pondering the thought of undertaking this dangerous mission to redeem himself and show he was loyal to the military. It would be the perfect thing. Besides, if he didn't, Jameson couldn't guarantee his place in the Military to be a permanent spot.
"No," he said eventually. "I'll take the mission and I will complete it – "
Jameson sat up straighter against the hard back of his chair, regarding Roy with a sterner expression. "No, Roy. I'm not letting you do that. You'll be killed within fifteen minutes."
"There isn't anything I can't handle," Roy replied fiercely. "Just let me do it, Colonel! I'm not being thrown out to starve on the streets! Do you realize how that would look on my papers? Fired from the Military? No one would hire me!"
"Roy, I said no. I'm not letting you throw yourself down the drain for such a stupid mission – "
"I'm going to die either way so why not do it with dignity whilst serving my country?" Roy growled, clenching his fists.
Sighing again, Jameson stared at him for a few moments, Roy never letting his hard stare waver under the older man's softer gaze.
"Fine, maybe you can do this," he said finally as he gave in and stood up, walking over to the filing cabinet in the corner and starting to search through the second drawer. After a short hunt through the paperwork, he pulled out a manilla folder, battered and beaten with age. Stepping back behind his desk he sat down and tossed it down in front of his subordinate with disdain. "It's case number twenty-eighty-five."
Roy blanched, staring at the folder than back at his Colonel. "Are you serious?!"
He had heard many rumors from his fellow officers and lower-rankers, all whispering about the terrible case 2085. Some people had gone so white at the sound of that number that they'd had to excuse themselves from the conversation. Others had simply refused to talk about it, insisting that the case was "bad news". Roy had even seen a man refuse his designated locker because it bore the hated four digits.
The old Colonel nodded. "Yes, I've already had three men dead from it, ten resigned, and seventeen court-martialled for refusing a mission from a superior." He paused, a small frown between his brows, before leaning forward on the desk and saying in a hushed tone, "Roy, if you change your mind, I'll pretend I didn't show you this. You don't have to go through with this yet, but… you know the rules. You see the folder, you take the mission without complaint."
Roy only realized that he had never released his balled-up fists as he reached out with a shaky hand to take the envelope. He swore he'd never been so conscious of a texture against his fingertips before that moment.
"You will go undercover and attempt to join the Brat'ja gang. You must understand, Roy – no-one has ever even got past that part. If you succeed… then your task is to find out the Fullmetal's real name. He's the leader of the whole Brat'ja and unfortunately he's a young one. According to sightings and various reliable sources, he can't be any older than twenty, and could be a fair bit younger. You know how volatile and violent the young ones can be. So yes, you join them, find out his name… and then that will be it. Job done. Mission accomplished."
Roy clenched his teeth then unclenched them. Perhaps the worst part of the whole thing was how simple it seemed, when deep down, he knew how difficult it would really be. "What's the significance of his name?" he asked, frowning.
"Do you remember the H.A.E experiment a few years ago?"
"Yes. Some volunteers went to that lab to be tested on, right?"
Jameson's face became grim as he looked back down at his desk. He clasped his hands together on the wooden surface and licked his lips before replying. "This is never to leave this room, Roy. What I'm about to tell you can never get out, understand?"
Roy gave his superior a concerned look before nodding carefully.
Scratching his temple, Jameson continued, looking nauseous. "Three years ago, people that had been in accidents, were in the hospital, had illnesses, et cetera… were recorded dead and taken to a secret research facility run by the Government. Many different experiments went on. Some people received simple tests, some were part of utterly inhuman experiments that killed nearly half of them. But the ones that did survive these terrible ordeals were labeled the A.E's.
"Well, about two years ago, there was a break-out and twenty-three A.E experiments escaped and were never successfully captured. The Military sent out an order to have an elite squad find them and capture them but that's when – "
"The Red Lamp Masscre," Roy breathed, his eyes wide. It was the only answer, but he almost couldn't believe the truth. What had really been a colossal governmental screw-up had been covered at the time by the killing spree of a supposed crazed mass-murderer codenamed the Red Lamp. His gut twisted nervously as his superior nodded.
"Yes, quite a few A.E. experiments went haywire and slaughtered anyone in eyesight. The higher-ups never disclosed what caused it."
"So… you're telling me that those deaths were all because of a bunch of malfunctioning human experiments?!"
"Yes, Roy. The Fullmetal is rumored to be one of the escapees, so that is why his name is significant. If we can give it to the government, they can see if there is a match on any of the A.E files. And if you could get a DNA sample of some sort, it would be a one hundred percent confirmation."
Roy clutched the envelope tightly as he stared blindly at the desk, his mind trying to wrap around all this. Over two hundred people were killed in that massacre. How could he have been so stupid as to believe all the lies he was fed? Of course it was a cover-up. One man couldn't have done that much damage in such a short time.
Jameson suddenly smirked at him, leaning his chin on his steepled hands on top of the desk. "So, as of now, you have been fired from the Military. I'm pretty sure no gang would want a dog to join them, but a man with a grudge against the organization that threw him out? That's more convincing." The old Colonel grinned at him, but Roy could see the grin was more hesitant than the man was letting on. Eventually, he shook his head and looked on Roy with serious, worried eyes once more. "Are you sure you want to take this, Roy? I don't want to lose another good man."
"Yes, just watch. I'll prove this job is a walk in the park." Roy laughed, trying to put a brave face on things. "Some little kids aren't going to scare me away."
"Oh no, there's plenty of people that are in their thirties. The Fullmetal has made sure to build up his connections and backup, doesn't it seem?"
"How the hell did a little kid get the position as leader in one of the strongest gangs in Amestria anyway?"
"Strength, cunning, charisma… who knows? There are a lot of qualities that can get someone into power, Roy. I hear he's also quite the genius. But that aside, you are to tell anyone who asks that you've been fired and that hold no loyalties or remaining connections to the military, alright? If you do succeed in the first part of the mission and get in, then it won't do you any favors if someone hears you are still a part of the military. If you make the Fullmetal angry…" Jameson's eyes narrowed over his hands, his dark gaze intense. "That's a one-way ticket to a death sentence."
"Hold still, Brother! If you keep squirming like that, I might miss!"
"I'm not squirming! And don't you dare miss, or I'll make sure you regret it! … I-it's your hands! They're shaking!"
"I'm not shaking, Ed. You just won't stop fidgeting. Now quit it!"
"Al, no! I've, uh, changed my mind! I don't wanna do this anymore! Al!"
"Baby. Winry said it doesn't hurt."
"Yeah, but look at her! She has a dozen of them!"
"That's just more proof that it doesn't hurt. Now quit whining and stay still!"
Edward froze, gritting his teeth and trying to stay still as he watched his little brother's movements out of the corner of his eye. For almost three seconds, he remained completely motionless, eyes wide in helpless terror, but as his brother moved in again, he found himself jerking back away from Al's hands again, earning himself a scolding flick to the forehead. Al had a hold of his ear, a needle poised and ready to impale the thick cartilage of his ear.
"If you would only let me numb your ear, then it wouldn't hurt," Al sighed, waiting for his older brother to stop pulling away.
"If Win can do it then so can I," Ed huffed, scratching his forehead in irritation. "Besides what kind of Brat would I be if I couldn't even get a piercing without needing it numbed? In my ear, no less. Some of the other guys have them in…" – he cringed, looking away awkwardly – "… much more painful places."
"I'm a Brat too and I don't have any piercings."
Ed grinned lightly up at his little brother. "Yeah, Al, that's 'cause you're a baby."
Another smack in the back of the head shut Ed up and he whined softly as he felt the needle touch the sensitive skin of his ear again. Every instinct told him the needle was evil and he should be running like hell. –
"Hey guys, what are you doing?"
Both boys jumped in surprise and Al pricked Ed in the side of the head, making him yelp and hit out at Al, resulting in yet another smack upside his head. The two brothers looked sheepishly at Winry, her own cartilage piercings shining almost incriminatingly in the low light of the sun as it crept over Central's skyline.
"What are you guys doing outside anyway? Aren't you usually still sleeping?"
Al scowled at his brother before looking back up at Winry with a sigh. "Brother just had to go and put that new gang in their place. Took us all night."
"The one in east Central?"
"That's the one," Ed answered, "Smug bastards needed a lesson. You didn't have to go, Al. I just don't want some preppy-ass gang thinking they can spread rumors about me losing a fight. Next they'll be thinking they could overthrow us."
Winry laughed. "Ed, don't worry so much! This is the biggest gang in the country! I've read it in the newspapers. How many people do you have? How many connections?"
Cracking a malicious smirk, he lifted his chin. "I have two hundred registered. Of course, our immediate gang family is only made up of twenty. We can't stay in big numbers or the state will be on us." He laughed suddenly as if he'd said the most hilarious thing in the world, turning his cockiest grin on his friend with a smug snort. "As if the state could actually overthrow me."
"Such a big head for such a little leader," Winry laughed, already retreating from the impending tantrum.
Al rolled his eyes, put one hand to his forehead and started the countdown. Five, four, three, t–
"WHO'S SO SMALL THE STATE COULDN'T FIND HIM IN A MATCHBOX?!"
"I didn't say that!" she giggled, waving her hands in an attempt to placate her friend. "Come on, tell me. How did the fight go?"
Al sighed as Ed and Winry started talking about the little disturbance that he and Ed caused last night. Unsurprisingly, Ed was making it a lot bigger than it really was – he almost always did exaggerate these things. All they had done was scare some kids a few years older then them out of their pants, Ed making sure he got the message through that if they ever tried anything funny on his turf or tried blaming a crime they had committed on his guys, he'd make sure they were tied to the next train and dragged all the way to Xing.
Well, that was the gist of it, except with a few colorful words here and there. Al wasn't proud of it, so he wasn't even going to try to remember the graphic image Ed had conjured up that had had a man twice Ed's size and age almost wetting himself with terror. Of course, he knew Ed would never kill anyone. He never had before, as far as Al knew. His brother was actually pretty forgiving when he wanted to be, but he still remembered that one horrible time when Al got shanked in the thigh. It was a dirty trick, meant to incapacitate the victim and make the boy into one more easy kill. When Ed had found out, he had nearly smashed the guy's brains out across the street.
It hadn't been that big a deal, really. It was Al's fault for not considering the guy had a prison shank hidden in his sleeve until he slipped it out in the middle of a fight. In fact, Al was just glad that it had been him who was stabbed and not his brother. Al was far more skilled with knives then Ed could ever be. A few years ago, Ed had got into a bad accident and his body would never be the same again. His brother's… damaged body made it difficult for him to aim well, and almost half his body had no sensory receptors, so he was out of luck in that department. It didn't make him any less dangerous in a hand-to-hand fight, but anything requiring precision was not Ed's cup of tea…
"Winry! No! I said no!"
… Including needles, Al thought wryly.
"Come on, Ed! You'll look so cool with one in your ear! You were going to do it anyway!" Winry said, taking the needle from Al's hand and advancing with a wide, almost demonic-looking grin. "You didn't sleep at all last night, so you can sleep on it! It won't hurt as bad!"
"I changed my mind, Winry! There's a reason I stopped! Hey… h-hey! Get that thing away from me!"
Al was abruptly shoved aside by Winry as she grabbed onto Ed, foiling his hasty attempts at fleeing the scene.
"Nooooo! Stop it!"
"N-no, don't do i– … AGGGHHH!"
Kib did edit this for me. I give her all credit for short rants, she loves making them up and she's a genius at making them up xD
...*stares* Is it good? Or should I just give it up?
Ok, i'm setting one thing straight. Brat'ja is the gang name. Brat is a short name for it. Ok? Ok...