Hello again! Sorry for the wait; I've been busy with a few things. Nothing much else to say, but enjoy this chapter
New Disclaimer: I have to add that Geoffery St. John, Enerjak, and whatever other characters created by him belong to him (I'm not clear on how that whole lawsuit ended, but it seems he won back the rights). So please don't sue; it won't benefit either one of us in the long run.
"This isn't happening..." Ed muttered as he paced frantically, recalling all the events that led up to this. "...this isn't happening..."
"Uh, I hate to break it to you Ed." Sonic said, impatiently tapping his foot as he stared at the human. "...but it is way past real. This IS happening."
After somehow coming to an alien planet, the plan was to take something they needed, take the homunculi with them and get out. Taking some of the alien residents with them, both good and bad, was NOT part of the plan. "Brother, what are we going to do with them?" Alphonse asked as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Sally, Bunnie and St. John stared directly across from them, worried and afraid.
Before Ed could come up with a response, they heard barking down the hillside. "Dogs. They must be looking for us."
"It figures; we've been gone for days. Winry must be worried sick." Al added.
Upon the mention of Winry, Ed's face paled. "Uh, yeah...I almost forgot about that." It was bad enough that they worried her; with Ed's arm out of commission, his punishment would be even worse.
"Ed." Sonic approached him, reaching up to place his hands on the human's shoulders. "Listen, buddy. I don't blame you for being freaked out. But for now, we're stuck with you. And we need you to help us. You think you can do that?" Sonic asked.
Ed seemed to have finally come out of his stupor. "Yeah. You're right." Ed removed Sonic's arms and began thinking. "Okay. First thing's first; we can't let the dogs or anyone else see you. Not anyone that we don't know, anyway."
Mustang and the other officers sprinted up the hill, guns drawn. When they got to the top, they only stared at the temple. The entire structure was converted to crystal. "What could of done this?"
"Is this alchemy?"
Mustang stepped up to inspect it. "I'm not sure..." he said as he ran his hand across the crystal. "...alchemy is transmutation, not TRANSFORMATION. The temple's structure has been completely altered."
Mustang turned back to the dogs, and for once, something different was going on. "It seems they've finally picked up on your subordinates' scent." the chief noted. "It looks like they headed down the hill."
Mustang turned his attention to a couple of other dogs. They were looking in another direction, and what's more, they were growling like wolves ready to attack one another. "What's with them?" he asked.
"Don't know." one of the officers replied. "They never behaved like this before! DOWN BOY!" he yelled before one could go completely berserk.
Mustang turned his attention back to the chief. "I'll look into the matter about the temple later. If you have Elric's scent, I suggest you follow it while it is still fresh!"
"Are you sure this is going to work, Ed?" Al asked as they produced red cloth from a nearby vendor. "It's going to look...kind of strange."
"Not nearly as strange as having them out there in plain view." Ed shot back as he got the cloth together in a transmutation circle. Upon completion, he activated it. The cloth suddenly became individual cloaks, small enough for each mobian. "Okay. Put these on, and make sure no one looks directly into your hood." he ordered as he handed one to each.
While most of them began putting them on, Sonic just held his and replied "Is this really necessary? I mean, you can just describe our situation and-"
"Three things, Sonic." Ed replied. "One, we're not from this specific town. Two, historically, we've had a fear of the unknown. Best case scenario is that someone catches you and puts you in a cage as a sideshow for a circus. Three, while not in the same league as Robotnik, our relationship with animals has not been 100% friendly. I could get into specifics, but we're running out of time. PUT THE HOOD ON." Edward growled.
Sonic grumbled "Man, and a good chance to show this world how cool we are." Sonic reluctantly donned his hood, making sure his body and feet were hidden as well.
"The little red riding hood get-up suits you well, mate." St. John teased.
Sonic narrowed his eyes. "Like yours makes you look any manlier." he shot back.
"Uh...Knuckles..." Sally said to the echidna. "Your hands. They kind of stand out."
Knuckles looked at his own fists, and saw the problem. "Oh." Quickly, he tucked them in.
"Well, this is as good as it's going to get I suppose." Ed sighed. "Alright, just follow us, and don't do anything out of the ordinary." The brothers led the way out of the forest, as they finally came into the town.
Sonic was both impressed...and a bit disappointed. On one hand, these overlanders seemed...well, peaceful. They lived lives similar to what their kind did back during Mobotropolis' prime, albeit on a less advanced scale. Most seemed happy, hard working, and overall content. On the other hand, even though he knew this wasn't really a negative, their technological skills seemed to leave much to be desired. For all the bad Robotnik brought to their world, Sonic loved zooming across the sky scrappers and defying death, outwitting the good doctor's toys at every turn. If he got a chance to, running around here seemed like it would turn out to be rather dull. Then, he noticed some of the humans looking at him, and Sonic quickly looked away. The stares weren't lost on the other mobians; it made all of them feel extremely uncomfortable.
"What the heck is that?" one asked.
"Just an entourage of midgets, I guess."
"But so many of them at once?"
"More like a cult of little people, I say..."
Ed was getting increasingly annoyed, repeating in his head that they weren't talking about him. "I guess the blonde dude is the leader of the group..." someone said.
A vein suddenly popped on Ed's forehead, as he slowly turned around giving the poor man a death glare. "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Before he could reply, Ed suddenly rushed him and tackled the poor man one-armed, ensuing a brawl outside the tavern while Al could only stare in disappointment.
"He didn't even say you were short, brother..." Al moaned.
Tails moved next to him, and nudged him for attention. "This isn't going to work, is it?"
"No." Al sighed. "I guess it's time for Plan B."
After settling down the ensuing brawl, everyone ran to the nearest secluded alley and began Plan B. Which was, of course, stuffing everyone in Al's armor. "Wait." he suddenly said, holding his hand up. "Before we do that...we need to get that 'thing' dislodged."
"Oh. I almost forgot about that." Ed said. As Al kneeled, Ed unhooked his brother's breastplate. In the middle was a metal case fused to the rest of his body.
"Is that it?" Sonic asked. "The thing that makes the roboticizer tick?"
"Yeah." Ed confirmed. "We had to make sure no matter what, we held on to it once we had it. While I made the fake ore, I fused the case of the real one with Al's body. It's just going to take a bit longer than before to get off..." Taking a piece of chalk, he drew a large circle across. "Okay." He held his hand over it as the circle glowed. After a release of steam, the case fell to the ground, the sides perfect as if they were never tampered with. The alchemist took a spare cloth to wrap the case behind his back and under his cloak, as Al put himself back together. "Okay then. Everybody in." Ed beckoned as Al lifted his head.
As the piled in, they discovered one of them could fit in easy enough; but all of them together...well, that made company. "Alphonse." Sally grunted as she fitted herself between St. John and Knuckles. "I'm not so sure this will work."
"Neither am I. But even hooded you guys attract too much attention. We don't have much choice..."
Finally, Bunnie and Sonic entered through the hole; her metal limbs and his quills would have made the ride uncomfortable for anyone if they were placed anywhere else. "All set?" Ed asked as he watched them squeeze in.
"No thanks to you." Sonic replied as he fastened Al's helmet on.
"Yeah...sorry about that..." Ed chuckled nervously.
"Okay, lead the way!" Sonic ordered as he placed Al's head back on.
And so he did. Al of course attracted attention with his body, as did Edward with his missing arm. That kind of attention they were used to. Dealing with the mobians...they didn't want to think about the chaos it would cause.
"You think Winry is still at the room?" Al asked.
"Well, it's either that or she's drowning herself in automail back at Rush Valley." Ed replied. "Of course she's at the room! She wouldn't go anywhere, not without us when we were supposed to be together." Ed looked at his stump and shivered. "This is still going to be a big problem though..."
"One that can still be solved...we've got another problem we need to explain, and it is crawling inside my body!" Al hissed.
"Sorry." Knuckles whispered.
"Well, technically speaking, I guess 6 problems in total." Al moaned. "And Winry's not going to be the only one asking."
Ed stopped for a moment as he turned to face his brother. "What do you mean?"
"Surely, Winry called the police; I doubt they found any reasonable leads on us these past few days. Who else do you think she would call if we went missing?"
Ed's eyes slowly widened in realization. "Mustang...crap..." Ed momentarily paced and fidgeted. "Well, we're definitely not telling him. Or anyone in the military for that matter."
"Then what are we going to tell him?" Al asked.
"I...I don't know! Think of something on the way to our hotel!" Ed shouted, obviously panicked.
From inside, Sonic observed everything from Al's helmet visors."Everything okay there, sugar hog?" Bunnie whispered.
"Hard to say." Sonic whispered back. "They're worried about how to explain us to people they know...and they're both shaking in their boots like Twan over the subject."
Bunnie rolled her eyes at that. "Sugar hog..."
Sonic rolled his eyes. "Okay. Sorrr-y!" Sonic noticed that Bunnie had been getting quite defensive of Antione as of late
Finally, Ed stopped pacing and sighed. "Okay. Best to get it over with, worst things first. Meet up with Winry."
Sonic just looked on curiously. "Meeting up with your friend is worse?"
Winry had finally returned to her room after getting a shouting by Mustang. She hadn't slept since the brothers disappeared, and the sleepless nights were taking their toll on her. She sat on the bed, her head beginning to droop and her eyes struggling to stay open. She jolted herself awake again, and breathed deeply. She couldn't allow herself to nod off, not when that idiot Ed was missing! She only hoped Alphonse was doing his best to keep them safe. "Ed...where are you?" She whispered. She reached into her pocket, and pulled out a photograph when they were little. Winry was probably 6 years old in the picture, wearing a floral patterned dress and shorter bob-cut hair. She was smiling right at the camera, and grabbed two other boys into a hug. They were, of course, the Elric brothers, back when they were that age. Ed had all his limbs back then, and Al was a real boy. Al smiled as bright as she did, while Ed only scowled. "Oh Ed..." she thought. "You were always so stubborn." She was brought out of her thoughts by a knock on her door. "Hello?" she asked. There was only silence on the other end. "HELLO!?" Winry yelled, irritated.
"Ed, say something!" a voice said.
Winry's eyes snapped open as she stared at the door. "That...that was Al! Which means..."
Winry bolted up from the bed and slammed the door open. Though she was expecting a different face entirely, her eyes still widened in surprise, anger and relief all the same. What she did stare at, was the metallic helmet of Al, who despite his lack of facial muscles, looked nervous. "H...hi, Winry."
Winry at first didn't respond She slowly looked down to see Ed hunched over on the ground and covered his nose. "Damn it, Winry. Didn't Granny teach you not to slam doors open or closed?"
Meanwhile, Sonic was watching the events from inside Al's helmet. "Sugar hog." Bunnie whispered to Sonic. "Sally girl wants to know what's going on."
"They met up with his friend...though she doesn't seem to be exactly overjoyed that they've come back. Odd."
Ed finally recovered, and sat up. "Uh...hi." he said, expecting the worst.
Suddenly, Winry pulled out a wrench from behind her back and clocked both brothers across the head. Of course, this meant Sonic suffered the after-effects too as a sharp pain caused his world to go black, despite the protection of the helmet. "WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU TWO!" she screamed. "You just leave and say you'll be back in an hour! And what do you two do!? YOU TWO LEAVE ME ALONE FOR 4 DAYS!" She suddenly grabbed Ed by the collar and shook him furiously. "How dare you! How dare you just leave me behind and don't say a word of it!" Her shaking slowly stopped, as Ed desperately tried to recover from the dizziness. Winry's angry face slowly turned sad as tears began to flow out of her eyes. She collapsed on her knees and hugged him tightly, burying her face in his coat as she sobbed. Ed's cheeks flushed slightly at the contact. "I'm so glad you're okay..." Winry choked out.
Ed slowly embraced her. "I'm sorry Winry. We didn't mean to scare you like that."
Winry returned the hug...and felt a stump that shouldn't have been there. She shot out of her stupor and squeezed the stump more thoroughly. "Your arm..." She quickly turned angry again. "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ARM!?" she growled.
Ed could have sworn a fire storm erupted from behind her. Then he found himself face first on the ground again, the searing pain from before returning. He also noticed blood flowing on the ground. "Oh...I hope that's not nearly as bad as it looks!"
Ed looked up to see a once again enraged Winry prepared to strike with her wrench again. "YOUR...ARM..."
Ed chuckled nervously. "Uh...it kinda melted..." Now Ed found himself in the sky, quickly falling back to earth. His body was pretty numb by now; a small blessing considering what Winry could do with that wrench.
"MELTED!?" she screamed. "How could you melt an arm made of iron!? Did you decide to go play in a volcano!?"
Winry huffed, and Al...though with great trepidation...stepped forward. "Winry...I'm so sorry we worried you." Al noticed the dark circles under Winry's eyes; she must have been so worried that she never slept all this time. "Listen, we're back. We ran into some...complications."
"Complications!?" Winry huffed as she stared straight into him. "You were gone for 4 whole days! What in the world could have kept you both from me!?"
Ed finally recovered, and tugged at Winry's arm. "Like we said...it's complicated." Ed said. "Right now, we're back. And that's all that matters. Now, you need to go to sleep."
"You think saying it's complicated is good enough!? You think you can just tuck me in and make it go away!? I'm not five anymore, Ed!" she shouted
"Winry!" Ed shouted back. "I can tell you haven't slept the entire time! That's our fault, and for that, I'm sorry! But right now, you need to calm down! We'll tell you everything when you wake up afterward. I promise!"
Winry seemed to finally calm down, and hugged the shorter boy tightly. "Don't ever do that again..."
"Didn't mean to scare you like that." Ed replied as he hugged her back with his remaining arm. "I take it you called Mustang?"
Winry nodded. "He's here in town, looking for you."
"I was afraid of that." Ed sighed. Dodging exactly what happened with Winry was easy once you could prepare for the wrench; with Mustang he was going to have to cobble up some rather remarkable bullshit. "I'm going to go speak with him; Al's going to stay with you, okay?"
Winry gave him an annoyed look. "If you even THINK about taking off without a word again..."
"...believe me, Winry, I've had enough of such adventures for a good while now." Ed answered.
"S-Sir..." Snively whispered to his master. "They're staring at us..."
"Quiet, you!" Robotnik hissed. The homunculi directed them to the far side of town, far away from where Sonic and the others were. However, despite maneuvering carefully through the forest, they eventually reached the populated areas of the slums. Given the cloaking device's limitations when up close, Robotnik decided to forgo it and forfeit his pride as Lust and the others gave him, Snively and Enerjak crummy-looking cloaks. "I bet they got these from a trash-heap on purpose!"
Robotnik decided it was best that the few swatbots he brought with him and Crocbot should be left behind for now; they assured him they'll have an easier time coming into town at night. Lust attracted attention herself, for obvious reasons, as did Gluttony. Envy, of course, changed into a normal bum to fit in better and not attract too much attention.
After what seemed to be an eternity, they finally reached the ends of the slums. "Here we are." Lust announced. It seemed to be a run-down building, of religious congregation, Robotnik assumed. "Inside."
As they followed the homunculi, Envy changed back and pushed the podium. The floor went with it, giving way to a flight of stairs below. "I'll give you some credit; you have some innovation." Robotnik said as he and his companions headed down the steps after them. Finally, they found themselves inside a chain linked elevator. "Going down, I suppose?" Robotnik asked.
"For you, as far as I am concerned, not down enough." Envy pulled the lever, and they descended.
The narrow cavern they originated from gave way to a wide open space, which caused even Robotnik to widen his eyes in awe. "Incredible! How is this possible?" Robotnik asked.
"Dr. Robotnik..." Lust said. "What you see before you, is but a mere preview of the terrifying power of the philosopher's stone."
"You sure you're okay, Winry?" Al asked the girl as he helped her into bed.
"Yeah..." she yawned. "Just promise me you won't be going anywhere until I get up. I really, REALLY need the rest, and I don't need to put up with anymore shenanigans."
"Of course." Al waited as Winry pulled the covers over her and turned to her side. When he was certain she was fast asleep, he snuck into the bathroom and closed the door.
Quickly, he pulled off his helmet, reached in and pulled Sonic out. "Sonic!" Al whispered. "Are you alright!?"
Sonic didn't respond, and Al could see why. The hedgehog's eyes were spinning, his tongue was hanging out, and a large bump seemed to be growing on his head.
"What in tarnation happened!?" Bunnie shouted.
"Shh!" Al shushed her, bringing his fingers to his headless body. "Quiet! My friend is sleeping in the other room, and we're not ready to introduce you guys yet!"
Soon, the others crawled out and joined Sonic. "Sonic!" Sally whispered as she held him up by the shoulders. "Are you alright!?" Sonic seemed to be waking up, but he only replied in what could have been described as gibberish.
"Hold on." Al said. He walked over to the sink and poured himself a glass of water. Then, he threw the water in the hedgehog's face.
Sonic coughed up a storm, and his eyes finally focused. "OW!" he said, gripping his head. "Did anyone get the number of whatever it was that hit me?"
"Speaking of which, what DID happen?" Knuckles asked. "I just heard some girl screaming and something hitting you."
"Sorry about that." Al replied to them all. "Don't mind Winry; she was just worried about both of us, and sometimes she acts up if even one of us shows up a wreck. Being gone for days probably didn't help either."
"You mean the blonde girl?" Sonic asked as he rubbed his head. Al only nodded. "Okay; from now on, we're not going anywhere near you if she's upset."
Al chuckled. "Don't be like that; she's a sweet person."
Sonic rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay. I guess if she knew I was inside..." Sonic stopped himself. "Given the circumstances, would the outcome have been any different?" If he remembered what the brothers told him of their world correctly, no creatures like them existed here. Sonic decided to let it go. "So...are we just going to hide in your armor the rest of the time?"
"Once she's had a good rest, we'll introduce you. I don't want to keep you hidden from the public, but right now it's for the best." Al said.
Sonic sighed and folded his arms. "This is going to be a BORING trip." He didn't like the prospect of being stuck in Al's armor. Of course, he wasn't alone (though most did not voice their reluctance/dread).
"So, what about getting us back home?" Knuckles asked the younger Elric. "I'm sure you've got other things to worry about, but I've got responsibilities back home."
"We all do." St. John concurred. "Even if Robotnik came with us handcuff, we are still needed to defend our own world; never know what threats could come crawling up."
Al only scratched his helmet on the subject. "Truth be told, I'm not sure how we can send you all home." he said. "But that portal didn't just come out of nowhere; our worlds were somehow connected before. We may be able to recreate the doorway."
"And how are ya all going to do that?" Bunnie asked.
"We may know someone who could help." Al replied. If anyone knew something, it was teacher.
Later that day, Mustang walked into an interrogation room of the local police and opened the door. Though inside he was relieved, he did his best to make sure looked annoyed, if not furious. "You've got a lot of explaining to do, Fullmetal."
Ed would have tapped the table if he had his other arm, but for now he had to settle for propping his chin up and rolling his eyes. "Thanks for your concern, colonel." he replied sarcastically. "Where would I be without you if you didn't worry about me constantly?"
"Let's get this over with." Mustang nodded to the guard, who closed the door on his request. Now, they would have complete privacy, as per his request. Mustang took a seat as he pulled out a pencil and paper. "So, would you care to tell me just what you've been up to these past few days? Your friend drove me out of work just to find you, and let me tell you, you did not make it easy for me."
Ed decided the best lies were the ones where you told the truth as much as possible. "I take it you saw that temple?"
"The one that turned to crystal?"
"That's the one." Ed confirmed. "Al and I got a map from that freezing alchemist we helped arrest in town, which led to it. We didn't expect to find anything of significance, but our curiosity got the better of us. The temple at the time wasn't anything too interesting, but the homunculi followed us there for some reason. We fought, our blood mixed...and the next thing we knew, we were somewhere else."
"Somewhere else? Could you be a bit more specific?" Mustang asked, not looking up from his notes.
Ed massaged his forehead. "I don't know." was his only reply. "When we got out of the temple, all I realized was that we weren't in town. It looked like we were in a labyrinth, under the city perhaps."
"Are you sure there was no way to tell where you were? Any landmarks...architecture...anything?"
"Sorry, no." Ed said. "We really had no idea where we were."
"Did you meet someone down there, at least?"
Ed frantically thought how to best describe the mobians, if that were even possible. "Chimeras." he said. "There were chimeras everywhere."
"What kinds?" Mustang asked, looking up from his notepad for the first time
"All kinds; for all I know, it was Chou Tucker's new home." Ed explained.
"I see." Mustang noted as he continued to scribble notes. "How did you survive?"
"Water was flowing down there; I'm a bit suspicious about the source though. Might need a typhus shot. Anyway, I also killed a few and managed to cook up some meat..."
"This is all very interesting, but how did you get back?" Mustang interrupted.
Ed sighed in annoyance. "I thought he wanted the full story." "We found our way back to the transmutation source eventually. The homunculi were there first, though. We agreed to a temporary truce, repeated the same process...purposely cutting each other...and before we knew it we were back."
Mustang remained silent as he scribbled the notes down. "All interesting. And what of the homunculi?"
"Got out with us...then they left. We didn't even catch sight of them."
"And what about the temple? Do you have any idea what caused it to transform?"
"None." Ed replied. "That took me by surprise as well. We were interested to find out, but after all the trouble that thing caused us, we decided not to mess with it further. Soon as we realized we were back, we ran straight for Winry."
"And your brother? He's with her?"
"Yeah." Ed said. "We figured it would be best if he stayed with her while you debriefed me."
"Reasonable enough." Roy noted. "The place you went to; does it have anything to do with the philosopher's stone?"
"No, surprisingly. Not from what we could gather."
"So...what you have done, in essence, was waste my time." Mustang said, making his annoyance clear.
Ed only scowled at him. "Don't look at me like that; it wasn't planned, and a waste of my time as well."
Mustang sighed as he finished taking the last of his notes. "Is that all, Fullmetal?" Mustang asked, tapping his pencil. "Is there anything else important I should know?"
"Yeah, I brought home with me some talking animals. You know of any families who might be willing to adopt them?" he thought to himself sarcastically. "Sorry, but that's just about it. I would have come back sooner if I had the means and saved you all this trouble."
Mustang only eyed his empty sleeve. "Except for you arm. What happened?"
"The usual; some baddie got the better of me and smashed it to pieces."
"Ah. That explains the bump on your head." Of course, he wasn't referring to some creature giving it to him; he was referring to Winry. It seemed even he was aware of her temper when it came to her work.
Ed growled as he rubbed his head. "Damn! It still hasn't gone away?"
"Anyway, I presume that this will delay your intended trip." Mustang noted. "And, in essence, take you further off call until you can get your arm replaced."
Ed sighed. "It's no problem; as soon as Winry's rested, we'll head back to Rush Valley and get a replacement. After that...back to teacher." Ed sighed as he remembered the Mobians back at home. "Great. I was going to have enough crap to deal with telling teacher about the gate..."
"Very well, then." Mustang said as he tucked his notepad into his breast pocket. "From now on, do try stay out of trouble. You can harass me about your wacky adventures back in my office in Central all you want; just don't pull me away from work." He pulled out his chair and got up to leave.
"What? That's it?" Ed asked. He had expected a lot more questions.
"For now." Mustang said. "I don't have time to be your babysitter; the fuhrer has more important matters for me back home. So don't go wandering off and keep your girlfriend happy."
Ed would have chocked on something if he had anything to eat. "WHAT!? SHE'S NOT-" The only response he got was the door slamming in his face. "...my girlfriend." Why did that make his heart skip a beat? Ed decided to let it go, and figured it was time to leave. Now he had to deal with another problem: How to introduce Winry to the Mobians...if Al hadn't done it already...
Robotnik sighed as he sipped some tea offered to him as soon as he was settled. "Not bad. Not as caustic as 10-W 40...but not bad." He was currently seated in a large library, filled with books and cozy chairs. And he was facing the master of the homunculi from across the room.
"Lust has told me about her...adventures, encountering you." She paused as she sipped her own tea. "I must admit...it's rather hard to believe. But...after she told me about the temple, I did some digging in my library."
She then signaled for Lust to hand Robotnik a specific book. As he opened it up at the place it was marked, he slowly became more interested. "Incredible." He flipped through more pages. "...I would have never imagined..."
"It certainly is amazing. And I never imagined the people of your world could come so far so quickly..."
"But enough of that." Robotnik interrupted as he closed the book. "Lust has told me of something that could be very useful to me in this world. And...in return...I shall offer you my strengths..."
"I must see them for myself." she said.
"HEY! CHUBBY!" Envy helped himself into the library, ignoring manners as usual. "Your friends are here."
The Swatbots, and what remained of Crocbot's body walked inside. "This is what you dragged us across worlds for!?" Crocbot shouted. "We're practically back in the dark ages!"
"Excuse my underling; he has a bit of a temper." Robotnik assured her.
She rose and approached the machines. "Incredible..." she said. "Living things, made of metal...with intelligence..."
"Limited intelligence, my dear. Artificial intelligence" Robotnik corrected her. "Unless I allow otherwise. Don't want my underlings to be getting any ideas now." Crocbot would have narrowed his eyes if that were anatomically possible. "But they are more often than not, stronger than flesh and bone, easily customizable, and 100 percent obedient. They will do as you command without fear of death or pain."
"Easy for you to say." Crocbot muttered.
"What of this one?" she asked, noticing the robot's attitude.
"An exception to the rule. To run a planet, I need stewards to work under me, and mindless automotans simply won't do. Crocbot is one of many sub-bosses I created. They have standard intelligence of any sentient being. Unfortunately, it gives them a personality of their own. They're only necessary if you really need a helping hand."
She only looked at them, as her fingers traced the swatbots' thick metal hide. "With these at my disposal...I can start a war at any time. Have any number of soldiers at my command. And...I'll be able to make as many philosopher's stones as I need..." "Your proposal is accepted." she said. "You'll give me what I need, and I'll provide you with absolute control of your planet through the stone's power."
"Excellent." Robotnik said as he placed his tea cup down. "Now, when do we begin?" he smiled, rubbing his hands.
"So, how long are we going to have to wait here?" Sonic asked, tapping his foot impatiently. While the others were trying to be cordial, they were also getting rather impatient as well.
"Just wait." Alphonse asked him. "Brother will be back soon; he just has some things to take care of."
"Something with the state?" Sally asked.
"Yeah. Exactly." Al confirmed. "Winry called Ed's boss while we were gone. I doubt it went pleasantly, but Ed can put up with him when necessary." Just then, he heard a knock on the door. "Okay. Hide."
Everyone squeezed themselves into the bathtub. "Man, I hope no one decides to use this facility while we're here." Sonic muttered. Bad enough they had to hide; he hated to think what would happen if they were found out while the room was in use.
Al quickly looked into the bedroom, seeing Winry still asleep in bed. "Good." A second knock came, Al noted was rather loud and slow. and hurried to the door. Satisfied with what he saw through the peephole, he opened it. "Welcome back, Ed." Ed walked inside, carrying what seemed to be a grocery bag with his one arm. "How'd it go?"
"Not that bad, actually." Ed replied. "In fact, he didn't seem very interested at all."
Al noticed the annoyed look on his face. "Isn't that a good thing?"
"Just pisses me off that he came only because Winry asked him to. He clearly wanted to be somewhere else."
Al sighed. "Well, I'd say it's in our favor this time."
"Yeah, I guess." Ed looked over to see Winry's body breathe under the cover. "How is she?"
"Fast asleep; she was absolutely exhausted. I was able to talk with the others and she didn't make a peep."
"I see." Ed slightly smiled, hoping Al didn't see it. "It's nice to have someone that cares that much about you." Ed then knocked on the bathroom door with his toe. "Psst!" he whispered. "It's me."
"Come in." Sonic said.
Ed helped himself inside to greet his mobian friends. "How are you all doing?"
"Cramped." Sonic muttered.
Sally elbowed his side, chastising his lack of manners. "We're doing fine, Ed, all things considered."
"Good to know. I know this is not the most convenient way to spend your time. Unfortunately, I don't see it changing much anytime soon."
Sonic sighed. "It's cool, man." Now if only he knew of a way to turn this around...
"Come tomorrow, however, we'll introduce you to Winry. I don't think it will be...peaceful. But she'll warm up to you all, I promise you that. At least afterward, we can let you wander about an entire room."
"And after that?" Knuckles asked, looking increasingly irritated. "I might be selfish in emphasizing this, but I REALLY need to get home. You have any plans to do anything about it?"
"There is one thing." Ed said. "Our teacher should have extensive knowledge about ancient alchemy. She may know something. Or, at least, point us in the right direction." Ed suddenly gulped. "Truth be told, though, I'm not looking forward to it..."
"What's up with your teacher?" St. John asked, smirking. "Afraid she'll kick your butts?"
"Why, as a matter of fact...yes." Ed admitted without shame. The others were just silent at Ed's fear of his mentor.
Suddenly, the sound of a stomach growling caught everyone's attention. Sonic looked down at his beige tummy, rubbing it. "My bad. Got any chili dogs?"
"Seriously, is that all-" St. John's stomach joined the chorus too as the hunger pains kicked in. "On second thought, chili dogs don't sound too bad, mate."
Tails stomach growled too. "I'd like some too."
Soon, everyone's stomach growled. "Truth be told..." Sally added. "...we haven't eaten in a while. Not since the mission began."
Ed chuckled slightly. "I anticipated that. So I got us some food." Ed pulled a sandwich for himself as Al handed the others various vegetables.
Bunnie was able to eat her food no problem, as she was a vegetarian most of the time anyway. Sally munched on her beet to be polite (though it was delicious). The boys though...were a bit miffed they didn't get any meat dishes. "At risk of sounding like a jerk...what gives!?" Sonic complained as he held up a bell pepper.
"Believe me, it was my first instinct to get you all something more filling." Ed said as he bit into his sandwich. "But our meat is different from yours. In fact...I'm eating a cow right now." Ed said as he took a bite.
Sonic chuckled nervously. "Yeah right. No one would eat..."
"Actually, I think a little bit of pig is mixed in with this meat right now too."
The mobians only looked at him in shock, then to each other. All stared at him, wide-eyes with fear. "Please tell me you're joking." Sonic muttered, turning back to Ed. "Cause if you are it's way past unfunny!"
Al sighed "I'm afraid not. We didn't anticipate the need to tell you...but a lot of the animals in this world...ones that resemble many of your races...well, we eat them. Cows, pigs, chickens and other birds, fish...pretty much half of Knothole would have been sent to a butcher shop here." Knuckles cheeks suddenly expanded as he clamped his mouth shut. The others made similar reactions as well.
"Don't give me that." Ed muttered as he got irritated with their looks of disgust. "Living things eat other living things to live, animal or not. And the animals we have here, they're nothing like on Mobius. I'm not even sure I want to know what kind of animals you used for those dogs." Ed saw that his retort did nothing to sway them. Sighing, he said "Look. Things are really different here. Until we can send you back, you're all just going to have to accept that. If it's possible, I can show you all the details, but right now, you're all just going to have to do what we say. Okay?"
The mobians sat back down in the tub, and continued eating their vegetables. "Suddenly these are looking very appetizing." Sonic muttered as he bit into his pepper.
"Lieutenant." Mustang spoke into a public phone.
"Colonel; any news on the Elrics?"
"I found them." Mustang replied over the phone. "They came back on their own, so coming down here was a waste of time. Anything happen in Central while I was gone?"
"Nothing of importance work-related or personal." was Hawkeye's reply. Of course, what Mustang really wanted to hear was any new information on Hughes' killer. "So, where have those boys been?" Hawkeye asked, dropping her formalities.
"In all honesty, I'm not quite sure. He wasn't truthful about what he has been doing. Not some important parts, anyway."
"And you didn't call him out on it?"
"No point. Ed may be a punk, but he doesn't tell lies unless he feels he has to. Either what he found was something so precious he couldn't tell anyone, or he feared I might call him crazy." Roy peered out of the booth quickly to make sure no one was eavesdropping. "Another strange thing happened." he told his right-hand woman. "There is this small temple here. Rather dilapidated; not even the residents were able to make use of it. While I was searching for the boys, the dogs kept leading us to the temple. It was made of stone when I first saw it, but upon my second time there, it turned to crystal."
Riza may not have been an alchemist, but she understood it's basic principles; the laws of equivalent exchange would not have allowed that. "That should be impossible. Do you think the Philosopher's Stone is involved?"
"No; Ed said the stone was not involved in his little adventure. That part he was truthful about." Roy's grip tightened on the phone. "But something is happening, and I don't think it's good. We better keep our eyes peeled. Look up what history you can about the temple whenever you're free, lieutenant. Also, look into crystallization and alchemy."
"Yes sir." came Riza's reply. "Anything else?"
Roy hesitated for a moment. "No. Nothing substantial at the moment. That will be all, Lieutenant. You have a good night."
"I'll see you the day after tomorrow, sir."
Roy hung up and exited the booth. As he adjusted his coat, he boarded the next train and took a seat. Figuring it would be a while before the train got moving, he decided to look through his notes when interviewing Ed. He paid special attention to the notes he underlined. "Chimeras...what in the world did you see, Fullmetal?" He figured perhaps the temple would give him some answers, assuming historical evidence would be present in the archives. Or if Sheska remembered.
The next day had finally arrived. It appeared it would be a normal morning. But with the Elrics' current situation, it was going to be anything but. Winry had finally woken up, feeling refreshed for the first time in days. She sat up and stretched, observing the room around her. Ed was lying down on the bed opposite to her, snoring away. "It wasn't a dream...you're really back, Ed." She smiled, feeling that now all was right with the world. She then looked to Al, who seemed to be scribbling something in a notebook. It seemed he didn't even notice her, as he was writing pretty furiously, like his mind was hard at work. "Al? Is everything alright?"
Al suddenly looked up and closed his notebook. "Winry! Good morning!" It seemed whatever was occupying him, he did not wish to share with Winry just yet. "Sleep well?"
"Yeah...you two worrying me didn't help matters much before." she replied. "I'm just glad you're both back."
"Me too." Ed had woken up as well, and stretched. He was going to go about his day like normal, but then remembered a rather furry little problem that Winry had to be introduced to...whether she liked it or not. "Listen, Winry. There's something...something...you need to know."
Winry looked at him confused. "Yes?"
Words seemed to escape Ed and Al as they looked at each other for sage advice, only to come up empty. "Uh, uh..."
"Well, spit it out!" Winry shouted, irritated at the brothers unusual moment of stupidity. "Look, I'm glad you're both back. But you still have some explaining to do! Especially about your arm, Ed!"
Ed looked down on his stump, and gulped. "Can't we just replace it later and let it go!?"
"No, we can't!" Winry suddenly grabbed him by the collar of his t-shirt. "Not until you tell me exactly what happened!"
The fire in her eyes returned full force, and Ed had doubts he would see his teacher alive...all things considered, might be a blessing. "Uh, okay...where do I begin?" Ed looked to Al, who was only cowering in the corner. "You know we were gone, right?"
"Days, Ed. You were gone for days." Winry growled.
"Days, right." Ed nervously agreed. "Anyway, we brought some things with us."
Winry's anger left her as it was replaced by her curiosity. "What are you talking about?"
"Ed, enough!" Al hissed. "Just tell her!"
Ed looked back to his brother. "Oh? You wish to try to explain the situation?" he asked sarcastically. Al only trembled, and looked back down on the floor.
"Explain what!?" Winry shouted, her frustration returning. "Stop dancing around it and tell me!"
Ed scratched his head and sighed. "There's no good way to tell you this. Might as well drop this bomb and get it over with. Sit down." Winry took a seat on the bed while Ed sat opposite of her. "Okay. To give you the abridged version of events, we went to the temple, and we were taken somewhere. It's hard for me to tell you what exactly...but after a couple of days, we found a way back. And, well...we brought some...things...with us."
"Ed, I still don't know what you're getting at!" Winry huffed. "What did you bring!? If it's gifts, I'm not interested! If anything, that just makes me angrier!"
"Uh...I'll go check on something." Al said as he ducked into the bathroom while Ed desperately tried to verbalize what happened to them. He looked into the bathtub to see the Freedom Fighters stretching themselves awake. "Hey." he said to his mobian friends. "You up?"
"Yeah." Sonic said. "We were already waking up as we're in a strange world, not to mention the bathtub isn't exactly comfy. Hearing you and your friend argue is certainly a good alarm clock, if there were ever such a thing."
"Yeah." Al said, a bit embarrassed. "Anyway, it's time we introduced you. This is...well, it's going to be rough. She's probably going to freak out seeing one of you, but please don't take it personally. So...do I have any volunteers?"
The mobians looked amongst each other. "I don't want to go." Sonic said defensively, raising his hands. "One wrench to the head is bad enough, and that was under a metal helmet, mind you."
"Sonic!" Al groaned. "Winry's really nice..."
"Sorry pal. Nothn' doing." The hedgehog's mind was clearly made up. He then looked slyly to one of his rivals. "How 'bout St. John? Brave, able to take a hit like 'a real man', wasn't that the way you put it?" he asked.
"I think I'll pass, thank you mate." St. John shrugged.
"Aw, and passn' up a chance to impress the ladies?"
"Sonic, it's okay." Sally interrupted. "He doesn't have to..."
"This isn't a wolf I'm feeding you to!" Al nearly shouted. "This is my childhood friend we're talking about here! Just someone..." He then looked to Tails. "Girls like cute things, right?" Granted, all of the mobians would probably be cute once you got used to seeing them. But Tails' age probably upped that cuteness factor. "You." Al picked up Tails as carefully as he would a kitten as the fox stared at him nervously. "Come with me."
"Uh...you...you sure it'll be alright? Someone else could..."
"It's going to result in something chaotic anyway; might as well be you. I'd imagine you're pretty hugable once everything calms down."
Tails looked at him questionably, and to the others in disbelief. "Is he serious?" he asked.
"Could work." Sonic agreed, looking at his famous "sidekick". "Just keep him away from that wrench."
"You have my word: I won't let him get hurt. Ready?" he asked the fox.
Tails sighed. "As I'll ever be, I guess." Al held him to his chest, backing out of the door.
"AUUGHH!" Winry growled exasperatedly, tearing at her hair. "Al, could you tell me what the hell happened to you!? Your brother is talking in circles here!"
Ed seemed to be having trouble preparing her, as his arm was hanging in the air at an odd angle; Al could only imagined what he was trying to tell her, and how. "Okay...there's no easy way to tell you this." Al turned around, holding Tails behind his back. "Long story short: we were sent to an alien planet, and a few of them came with us."
Winry just stared at him. She looked to Ed, who only laughed nervously while he nodded his head in confirmation. Winry's confused face frowned into anger. "What kind of idiot do you take me for!?" she yelled. "You think this is some kind of game!? You were-"
"Winry, it's the truth! And I'll prove it!" Al finally pulled out Tails in front of them, causing Winry to freeze.
The two only stared at each other, while the Elrics were hoping for one of them to break the ice. "Uh...hi." Tails waved at her.
Winry's eyes widened even further...and she screamed. "WHAT IS THAT THING!?"
Al ducked to shield Tails from an incoming lamp which shattered against the wall. "Oh man, I knew this was a bad idea!" Tails moaned.
Suddenly, the bathroom door came down on Al as Tails as Sonic and Knuckles stood on top, ready for a fight. "MORE OF THEM!"
"WINRY, CALM DOWN!" Ed made a grab for her arms, but Winry's panic overrode Ed's natural strength as she reached for a wrench.
"Uh oh, LOOK OUT!" She threw it like a boomerang, but Sonic and Knuckles were one step ahead of her. Sonic rushed to the other side of the room, while Knuckles glided above it and stuck to the wall.
St. John suddenly rolled forward with his crossbow at the ready. "I should have known you amateurs would-" He didn't get to finish his condensation, as the wrench hit him square in the forehead. His eyes spun as he slowly collapsed backwards.
"Ah take it ain't going too well." Bunnie said as her head peaked across the doorway.
"Nope." Sally agreed as she did the same. "It's obviously not!"
While the 3 mobians made no motion to attack her, just moving around and talking forced her into full-panic mode as she threw anything she could and the brothers desperately tried to restrain her. "Winry, they're not bad creatures! Please calm down!" he begged her.
Winry only continued to scream nonsense as Al and Ed could only do so much to stop her. It seemed despite the fact they were naturally stronger than her, her panic gave her a boost and was able to throw them off as she continued to reach for more objects to toss at the creatures.
"Bunnie, does that plasma canon Rotor loaded you with have a stun setting?" Sally asked her friend.
"It sure does, Sally girl." Without waiting for the order, Bunnie switched her arm to canon mode and took aim at Winry.
"B-Bunnie!" Ed screamed as he saw the weapon. "What are you doing!? Put the gun-" Nothing more could be done as Winry received a blast of plasma laser. As the brothers looked on in horror, Winry froze in place like a statue. Then, she collapsed face first onto the floor. "AHHHH!" Ed screamed, grabbing his hair with his hand. "YOU KILLED HER!"
"No, Ed!" Sally tried to assure him. "We just stunned her..."
Ed suddenly ran towards them and grabbed Bunnie by the neck, hoisiting her up the wall. "YOU KILLED WINRY, YOU BASTARDS!"
"Ed, she's alright!" Al said, observing their friend breathe. "Put her down! Someone will..."
Suddenly, everyone stopped as an angry knock resounded from the door. "What the hell is going on in there! Open this door now!"
"The manager!" Ed realized. Of course the noise would have attracted someone's attention. "Quick! Everyone under the bed!"
The mobians did as they were told, Sally dragging St. John underneath the bed. "Open this door now, you little shits!" the manager demanded.
"Coming, coming!" Ed opened the door, coming face to face with the manager, a tall, burly man with a curly mustache and tan complexion. Ed wouldn't have been surprised if this man turned out to be a distant relative of Major Armstrong. "Listen, I know why you're here. But I can explain!"
"Explain, then!" the man demanded.
"My friend here as night terrors!" he yelled, pointing at Winry who lay unconscious on the bed.
"At 11:30 in the morning!?" the manager shouted in disbelief.
"She didn't sleep well last night!" Al said in response.
"What he said!" Ed concurred. "She just acted up, that's all! We gave her a tranquilizer, and she'll be right as rain within an hour!"
"That explains the screaming." the manager agreed. "BUT HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS!?" he yelled, emphasizing the entire room.
The brothers looked around the room and turned white at the damage Winry's panic had done. Several wrenches were strewn across the floor, all leaving sizable dents in the wall and floor. The lamp was in shambles. Footprints were laid across the room, courtesy of Sonic. He and Knuckles were also responsible for the bathroom door laying off it's hinges. And several gaping holes in the wall remained from Knuckles climbing around. "Uh...that I can't explain." Ed palmed his face and muttered "Someone kill me now."
Suddenly, Ed was lifted off the ground by the muscular manager, while Al only stood by in fright. "You think this is funny, don't ya, punk!?"
"N-no sir." Ed squeaked. "I-I'm a state alchemist! I can fix this! And I can compensate you for any other damages!"
"I'm glad to hear that." The big man set Ed down. "Get to work. And at the end of it, I expect you to leave. Your friend has already ran up quite an extension fee. And now I'm going to quadruple it."
"What!?" Ed shouted. "You can't-" The manager stood in front of him, arms crossed and emanating a powerful aura. "Um...I mean...of course, sir!" he nervously chuckled.
"Get to it." the manager growled. "Ready or not, you'll be out of here by three today. Understood?"
"...yeah..." The manager simply slammed the door in his face as he stormed off.
Sonic's head finally peaked from under the bed. "That was certainly crazy, and not in a fun way. So...what now?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "What other choice do we have? Winry meets the mobians...take two."
Half an hour later, Winry's eyes fluttered open. "Winry? Winry! Can you hear me!" Ed's voice called.
Winry groaned, and finally sat up, clutching her forehead. "Oh...my head..."
"Here. Drink this." Ed handed her a glass of water.
Winry snatched it from his hand and gulped it down. She breathed deeply as she tried to get her bearings straight. "Ohhh...why do I feel like I bit down on a telephone wire?"
"From what I understand, what hit you would have very much felt like that." Ed then pulled up a chair right next to the bed. "Winry, do you remember having a dream involving strange creatures that look like a cross between woodland animals and humans?"
Winry blinked in confusion. "Why...yes! I don't remember the specific details, but I was totally unprepared for what I saw. I was so terrified and...wait, how could you know this!?"
Ed sighed. "Winry...that was no dream."
Winry stared at him, and began to laugh. "Oh come on Ed, what are you trying to pull? That's just too unbelievable..."
"Winry, I lost two limbs on opposite sides, my brother is a living suit of armor, I became a state alchemist at 12 years old, and I told you all about Nina. Are there really things too crazy to believe at this point? It happened. We tried to get you ready, and out of the blue, Al introduced you to one of them. You freaked out, and...well, they had to knock you out."
Winry just looked at him shocked. "R-Really? That all happened?"
"Yeah." Ed sighed. Winry looked around...and saw scratches, footprints, and dents across the floors and walls. "Some of this was you trying to destroy them with your toolbox. You actually nailed one of them." Winry turned to look at him as he held his hand up. "Don't worry, he's fine. I've a feeling he had it coming anyway. The rest of this was them dodging you. All that plus your screaming...well, we're about to be kicked out and charged more than this crummy motel deserves as soon as I fix all this."
Winry held her head down. "Sorry..."
"It's okay. I don't think we could have properly prepared anyone for that. But before we leave, we need to introduce you and let you know what's happening. And this time, NO. FREAKING. OUT. Are we clear?" Ed said in an usual show of authority towards Winry. Winry gulped and nodded yes. "Okay then. Let's see if there's anyone you haven't freaked out who's willing to get up close and personal with you."
Ed got off his chair and crouched under the bed. "Okay...I think it'll be better this time, guys. Anyone brave enough to give this another try?"
"Fine, I'll go." a voice said. Winry looked over the bed to see something blue and spiky emerge. The creature jumped on her bed (in turn, causing her to jump), and just stared at her. "Uh...hi." he waved. "I'm Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog."
Winry only stared back, before hesitantly extending her hand. "Uh...hi. I...I'm Winry. Winry Rockbell."
Sonic, not as scared but nonetheless cautious, slowly extended his hand. There fingers touched...and they gripped one another, making a solid handshake. Winry's unsure face slowly became a smile. "Wow. This...This is incredible."
"Thank you." Sonic said, his grin returning. "I know I am."
Winry smiled. "I...I don't know what to say."
"Just say hi." Ed interrupted. "We're on something of a time limit here, so is it okay if I bring out all the rest?"
Winry shrugged. "I guess. I mean, what else could you pull at this point? A dragon?"
Ed chuckled "Oh boy, the tales I have to tell you..." Ed pounded his fist on the floor. "Okay, guys. Come out. She's perfectly sane this time."
Ed winced as Winry suddenly pinched his ear. "What did you say!?" she growled.
"OW! FOR THE MOST PART, ANYWAY!" Ed cried.
One by one, the others came out of the bed. Winry just stared in awe. "Oh wow..."
One of them...obviously female, by the looks of it...extended her hand. "Hi. I'm Sally; I'm so sorry we scared you earlier."
Winry, feeling a bit more comfortable, took her hand without hesitation this time around. "Winry. And don't apologize; I was the one who freaked out." Winry's shock went up for a brief second as she saw Tails fly in the air, but calmed herself down. "I'm so sorry!" she said. "I nearly clocked you with a wrench!"
"Uh...it's okay." Tails landed on the bed, shocking Winry a bit more with his two tails. "Tails." he waved.
Winry felt even worse; she almost hit a child (or pup, depending on your point of view). She then noticed the red creature. "Uh...hi?"
The red one turned around, giving her a somewhat passive aggressive look. "Knuckles." he said, turning back and staring at the wall.
"Don't mind him." Sally assured her. "He's just got a lot on his mind."
"That, and he's not exactly the most sociable guy around." Sonic quipped.
"Sonic!" Sally hissed.
Winry turned away from them to see St. John, still rubbing his head. "Quite a swing you got there." the skunk said sarcastically.
"Sorry, this is Geoffrey St. John." Sally introduced them.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Winry got on her knees and crawled towards him. "You're hurt because of me! Here, let me take a look..."
St. John backed away and waved her off. "Oh, don't worry mate! I'm fine! I'm tougher than I look!"
Sally narrowed her eyes at him. "Honestly, what's his problem!?"
Finally, the last mobian jumped on the bed to Winry's level. "Hi. I'm Bunnie. Bunnie Rabbot. Ah'm afraid I was the one who shot you. Sorry about that, sugar." Unlike the others, she got no response from her. Instead, Winry just stared at her. Not out of fear, but...curiosity, it seemed. "You okay, girl?"
Suddenly, Winry's eyes lit up as she smiled like a kid at a pet store. She suddenly grabbed the rabbit and pulled her close. "Oh, wow! I've never seen automail like this!"
"Sugar, it's not..."
Winry pulled out her arm and ran her hands over it. "Enforced welded steel...superb hydraulics..." Suddenly, as if she pressed something, the arm switched into a canon. "OH MY GOSH! IT'S WEAPONIZED TOO! I'VE NEVER SEEN A MODEL LIKE THIS!" Steam was practically gushing out of her nose and ears at the sheer excitement of it all.
"Edward!" Bunnie yelled.
"Sorry." Ed chuckled nervously, holding up his hand in defeat. "I forgot to mention that Winry is an automail fanatic. And a big fan of anything mechanical in general."
Sonic then pictured Winry in Robotnik's costume, in his war chair and stroking one of his Cluck bots. "Oh, that is just wrong on so many levels..."
"Winry, listen, you're making Bunnie feel uncomfortable..." Ed tried to tell her.
"Can I keep it!?" Winry cried, hugging Bunnie close to her as the poor alien thrashed her arms, her super strength seemingly abandoned her.
"AH'M NOT A PET! PUT ME DOWN!"
Sally, looking at the sight, pushed Nicole further into her pocket. "Note to self: keep all things mechanical away from her..."
Eventually, Winry came down from her mechanic high and let Bunnie go. "It's nice to meet you all. But...where to begin? I have so many questions..."
"They'll have to wait, Winry." Ed said. "I'll tell you everything once we're on the train. And I've still got to fix this place before I get sued."
Just then, a knock came on the door. "Ed, it's me." Ed opened the door to reveal his brother. "So, did-?"
"Yeah. It went much better this time. You brought a box?" Ed asked.
"Yeah." Al lifted a large wooden box inside the room; Ed guessed it was used for transporting livestock.
"Wait." Sonic asked. "What are you going to do with that?" he asked, pointing at it.
"This..." Ed tapped it with his foot. "Is going to be your transportation."
Earlier last night...
The pain had finally stopped. Evil Sonic collapsed on his knees as he took in some deep breaths. "Oh...what the hell was up with that?" He remembered fighting Knuckles, and then...the images kind of blurred together. He remembered seeing the other Sonic, but not much else. "Well, while I'm here, I guess I should..." Evil Sonic's arms buckled as he tried to pick himself up. "Ugh! So weak..." He then gazed upon the puddle, looking at his own reflection. Or, what SHOULD have been his reflection. The hedgehog in front of him was green; what little blue he had circled his pupils instead. "Is this...? Is this me? What happened? How..." Evil Sonic's eyes rolled back as he collapsed on the mud, his body overrode with exhaustion.
As dawn rose, a trio of 2 men and a woman walked downtown. One man was short with spiky black hair, wearing what seemed to be a white gi and carrying a katana on his back. The other was a behemoth of a man, older than the other two judging by his white hair. He also wore the standard Amestrian outfit and carried a huge hammer; one wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that. The woman was quite unique. Slender but muscular, it was clear she had some type of military training. Dressed in a tank-top and jeans, she also carried with her a crossbow and a sheathed combat knife. In addition, she had a red markings on the right side of her face down to her shoulders, resembling claw marks (tattoos, perhaps?). He blond hair was cut short, except for one bang that hung over her forehead. And all were looking for something to steal before anyone woke up.
"So...anything?" the older man asked.
"No, Roa." the woman replied. "Nothing worth stealing I can see from here." she said.
"If we pick one at random, we might get lucky." the younger man suggested.
"Of course, we're more likely to do a lot of work for nothing and then get caught." the woman corrected him. "Ugh! I knew we shouldn't have partied with the boss all night like that!" she yelled, gripping the forehead.
"Well, at least we have a boss that knows how to have a good time!" the young one exclaimed.
"Quiet! If you could have gotten your head out of the toilet an hour earlier, we could get some actual work done!" the woman shouted back at him "Funny thing is, I don't know if you were in there to puke, or getting a drink!"
"HEY!" the young man screamed, a vein throbbing in his forehead. "THAT was a cheap shot!"
"Enough!" Roa yelled. "Let's just go back home, kids. The boss will be understanding."
"Yeah, I guess-" The young one stopped as if he just became aware of something.
"Uh, Dorchett?" the lady asked. "You okay?"
"Quiet, Marta!" Dog shouted. "I smell something." Like a dog, he got on all fours and put his nose to the ground.
"Well, what do you smell?" Roa asked.
"I don't know. It smells...it kinda smells like a hedgehog...but different."
"That's nice. But I don't think Greed's interested in pets...let alone rodents."
"There's something different about this one. I can't describe it..."
His companions reluctantly followed him down the street and across the alleyway. Soon, they came across the source of the scent, and all three jumped back in shock. It was covered in green spines, and dressed in leather, like he was part of a gang. "What!? What is that thing!?" Marta asked as she jumped back like a housewife who just saw a mouse.
Dorchett tiptoed to it, and unsheathed his sword. He poked the thing with it...and it moaned. "Crap, it's alive!" Dorchett yelled as he backed away from it.
Marta rolled her eyes and went straight to it. "Come on, Dorchett. It's in no condition to fight, whatever it is." Marta walked over and turned the creature over. It's face vaguely resembled a hedgehog indeed, but this was no ordinary animal."Hmm...I can't decide whether this is cute or freaky."
"We can't stay here, Marla!" Roa said. "What are we going to do with it!?"
Marta smirked, and hefted what she assumed to be a little chimera over her shoulders. "Let's take him to Greed; see what he thinks."
Drachma; Amestris's neighbor of the North, as well as being deemed the country's archival. Residing in the snowy mountains, they had fewer resources, and as such had to fight neighboring nations to survive. They were certainly a worthy adversary to Amestris. Their soldiers were tough and brutal, and they had sufficient alchemic knowledge themselves. Still, with Amestris's recent gains, they were, at the moment, at a cease fire. King Bradley was certainly a formidable adversary, and one misstep would leave their country in ruins.
While the politicians in private agreed this was the best course of action for now, it had cost them the support of their public. How to address that was being debated right now. "We must strike now!" one exclaimed as he slammed his fist against the table. "If we catch them off guard, we can decimate their industry and take their resources for ourselves!"
"You would dare suggest we break our agreement and dishonor ourselves!?" another exclaimed.
"To our people, we already have no honor left!"
The argument exploded, and soon no average person could tell the difference between this and a troop of angry monkeys at a zoo. Supreme Chancellor Curti Miles, the elected leader of the country, scrunched his brow and rubbed his temples. While in truth he sided with the war mongers, he had to admit it wasn't prudent to strike. As far as intelligence had gathered, Amestris's military was at worst as strong as theirs. There were no weak spots to exploit. But some politicians were so desperate to protect their careers they would put the whole country at risk. Miles picked up his gavel and slammed it on the pedestal. "Gentlemen, we obviously have strong opinions on the matter. I suggest we break for recess and cool our heads." The council in fact ignored him and continued arguing, but at least the Chancellor had an excuse to escape this madness.
Briskly, he walked toward his office and pulled out some hard liquor from under his shelf. "Patrice." he called to his maid. "Please see to it the cooks will make my favorite for lunch today, please."
"Yes sir." his maid bowed as she walked out the door.
As Miles poured himself a small glass, he suddenly heard a commotion. It sounded like an actual fight had broke out, and it sounded serious. What's more, it sounded like it was coming from the council chamber. The council was known for cursing obscenities, but in his entire tenure, he had never seen them break out into physical violence. "I must really be working too hard." he muttered to himself as he downed the drink, believing all the commotion to be in his head.
Suddenly, one of the council members was thrown through his door. The man scrambled to his feet. "M-Monsters! Mon-" A sticky substance suddenly ensnared him and pulled back into the hall.
The chancellor only stared at the empty space ahead of him as the screams continued, along with a monstrous roar. The chancellor fumbled as he pulled out a gun from his drawer and hid behind his book case. When the screams ceased, he carefully peeked from out of the corner. Strangely, no one was there. "Good day, sir. I am so sorry to trouble you, but I would like a moment of your time."
The chancellor spun around in front to lay his eyes on the most hideous creature he had ever seen. It was a cross between a human and some of the most ugly animals he had ever seen. He panicked and fired, but the bullets passed through the creature as if he were smoke. "Ah...guns. I haven't seen those in a long time; not since the great war." The creature waved his claw, and suddenly the gun became as hot as fire.
"AHH!" The chancellor dropped his weapon as he clutched his burning hand. "W-What are you!?"
The creature smirked, showing off his hideous fangs. "Allow me to introduce myself; I am Ixis Naugus. Sorcerer supreme, and the rightful king of Mobius. And I have a proposition for you."
"What in blazes are you talking about!?"
Naugus only scowled and rolled his eyes. With a snap of his fingers (on his hand hand), he summoned his subordinates into the room, each looking ready to kill. "You're in no position to argue. Only listen." The chancellor only stared at him, and nodded dumbfoundedly. "To answer the question regarding the elephant in the room, to put it quite simply, we're from another world. And I need an army to truly conqueor and maintain it."
"And what makes you think I'll go along with that!?" The chancellor yelled.
"Because, in exchange, I can help your country." Naugus explained, smiling. "I will make your army strong, give your country food, and make it a force to truly be reckoned with...so long as you aid me in exchange"
Of course, poisonous words of temptation weren't the only thing Ixis was using; he was also manipulating his base emotions. His desire to be the greatest political leader Drachma had ever seen. His jealousy of Amestris's resources. And his frustration with the political system. It wasn't strict mind control per se, but enhancing such negative emotions had profound impacts on their subjects. Already, he could see him begin to doubt himself, question to trust the creature in front of him. "If...if I agree to this..."
Naugus only smiled. "Trust me; you won't regret it."
Once more, the mobians found themselves trapped. This time, in the large wooden box Edward provided for them. At least each individual had enough space between them. But still, it was quite uncomfortable.
"This sucks." Knuckles grumbled.
"For once, I agree with you, Knucklehead." Sonic grumbled as well. "That can't be a good sign."
"I'd imagine me chimin' 'Aye!' makes it worse, huh?" St. John teased.
"Don't you start now." Sonic growled.
"Hush, boys." Sally chided them. "We can't just walk around freely. You know that."
"We couldn't walk around freely in Robotropolis, but we didn't resort to this!" Sonic complained back.
Sally just held up her arms exasperatedly. "Well, I don't know what to tell you. We're just going to have to endure this."
Bunnie only held her nose closed. "They coulda' at least have put us somewhere other than these...these...animals."
The Elric brothers had placed them in the animal cargo. At first, they were fascinated by watching the lesser evolved form of the sheep. But soon they discovered that they did not know the concept of toilets or holding it in. Needless to say, it was disturbing for them. Sonic only held his head on his fists. "No choice now but to go with it, I guess."
In one of the passenger cars, Winry listened to Ed and Al's story about the mobians. Needless to say, she was shocked beyond belief. "It's...it's all so much to take in."
"No kidding." Ed agreed. "Now we've really got our hands full. We've got to keep that ore safe, not only to prevent that Robotnik bastard from getting it but also to see if it can help Al. Then we've got to find a way to send those little guys home. And their bad guys...either send them with them or take care of them ourselves. And I don't know which is the right thing to do."
Al looked out the window. "Never mind how difficult those goals would be. We've got to figure out what to do with them now."
"Speak for yourself." Winry agreed, leaning back. "You can't keep them caged up forever."
"Yeah, I know." Ed agreed. Truthfully, he hated putting them in a crate with the animal cargo. But what alternative was there?
"When we get to Rush Valley, we're going to let them go." Winry announced.
"Say what!?" Ed exclaimed.
"You heard me. We're going to let them out. They aren't some dangerous wild animals that would hurt people; they're practically human. Where else are they going to go? They'll need out, unless you want to turn them into circus animals." Ed felt a light tap of metal against his knee, which he guessed was her wrench. Winry suddenly gave him a dark, sinister look. "And if you disagree, I'll never forgive you." she threatened.
Ed only gulped. "Yes m'm." he whimpered. Ed leaned back and sighed. "Wonder what I'll get in return for all this trouble?" Ed wondered. That was the crazy thing about Equivalent Exchange; you could get the most unexpected rewards...or penalties, from such trials.
Next time: The mobians in Rush Valley! What Chaos will ensue then?