velvet mace


chapter 6.

Dunn was not surprised when he heard a commotion outside
his office. He wasn't surprised when the door banged open and a petite but very
angry man stomped his way into the middle of the room. He WAS taken aback a bit
by the sheer intensity of the glare on the young man's face. Thank goodness looks
couldn't kill.

An MP ran in steps behind him, but Dunn shook his head
and with a practiced wave sent the soldier back outside again.

It was expected.

In fact it was overdue. There had been Elric sightings
here and there around Central for several days. Two nights ago, someone had
broken into the warehouse where the conscripts were kept. It was a mess tracking
down and gathering up the selectees. Perhaps a few even managed to escape, it
was hard to tell because they hadn't all been sorted yet, and no one knew their
names. That same night someone had broken into Central Records and left quite
a mess for the clerks to sort out the next morning. Dunn felt mild relief knowing
that he had Alphonse Elric and Winry Rockbell's files still secure in his own
cabinets. It had remained quiet through the day but the next night there were
a series of almost desperate break ins, in each case there was considerable
property damage, and files and papers left haphazardly thrown about, but nothing
actually removed.

And now here was Fullmetal in the flesh.

"You are late," said Dunn. He glanced at his watch. "About
10 weeks late to be precise."

"I'm not here to be reassigned," Fullmetal growled. "I'm
here for my brother. Where is he?"

"Let's talk about the terms of your surrender," said Dunn

Fullmetal launched himself over the desk, knocking Dunns
coffee mug in one direction and spilling his papers across the floor. He grabbed
the Lt. Colonel in his metal fist and hauled him up out of his chair.

Dunn gasped as his own collar choked him and he stood
awkwardly to relieve the pressure, both of his hands around the other's wrist.
"Killing me won't give you what you want," Dunn managed to say.

"But it will give me some satisfaction," said Fullmetal.
The grip loosened, and then Fullmetal let him drop back into his seat. "Where
is Al? I'm not going to ask you again."

The door opened. Dunn smiled with relief. About time!

Fullmetal clapped his hands together and a blade shredded
his sleeve. He spun around to attack the newcomer. Dunn saw an alchemical flash
and suddenly Fullmetal staggered, regained his footing but seemed suddenly lost
and befuddled, his bladed arm waving randomly around. When he turned about,
Dunn saw that his wide open eyes were shining an unearthly silver.

Midnight ushered the MPs in.

Even blinded Fullmetal didn't go down without a fight.
One MP got a deep slash across his chest and another a solid kick to his solar
plexus, but it was still six on one and soon they had him pinned to the floor.
"Get the automail off," ordered Midnight.

Fullmetal screamed incoherently and tried to bite, but
his eyes, wide and blinking, stared at nothing, and his attacks were to no avail.
Within moments he had turned from rabid out-of-control alchemist to pathetic
crippled youth.

Midnight scooped him up off the floor with relative ease
and sat him in the chair in front of Dunn's desk. Dunn nodded, "You can let
him see now." And Fullmetal's eyes returned to their normal golden hue.

"Let's discuss the terms of your surrender," said Dunn.

Fullmetal spat at him.

Midnight grabbed his shoulder, and jammed his thumb through
the cloth of his sleeve into the vacant automail port. Fullmetal bit back a

"Let's discuss the terms of your surrender like human
beings, not wild animals."

"Don't toy with me, " said Fullmetal. "I can't go anywhere."

"I'm not talking about taking custody of your body," said
Dunn. "I'm talking about you surrendering to us. You cooperating with us." Dunn
allowed a bit of anger to tinge his voice. "I'm talking about me finding SOME
way to salvage your career and keep you out of prison for the foreseeable future."

"Why do you care about my career?"

"I care about my country. I care about not losing a valuable
resource during war. I don't know why you are so angry with me. This army was
your home for years, why treat us like the enemy now?"

Fullmetal slouched back in the chair. "You can hardly
expect me to be happy when you hold my own brother against his will. You've
got me now. You can let him go."

Dunn shook his head. "What makes you think we are keeping
your brother against his will?" Dunn reached into his desk and pulled out Al's
rather massive file. He didn't feel comfortable sharing the entire thing with
Fullmetal, but he was quickly able to find the pages he needed, and he closed
the file and put it away again before the other could really see what was in

Fullmetal looked confused when Dunn turned the pages around
and slid them in front of the boy.

"This is a forgery," but Fullmetal's voice was uncertain.

"He signed the enlistment papers of his own free will.
He is, even as we speak, walking around Central with his girlfriend."

"That can't be true!" said Fullmetal, and there was desperation
in his voice.

"You don't believe he would sign on with us, simply because
YOU don't want him to be part of the Army? That is awfully selfish of you. In
fact I've noticed a lot of selfishness in your relationship with your brother."

"No," said Fullmetal, but Dunn saw the doubt and pressed.

"For example, you think we came for him because he was
related to you. Would it surprise you to know that you weren't even a factor?
We wanted him because he's brilliant and talented in his own right. He's a human
being, not a tool there for your convenience."

"I don't think of him that way."

"And yet you think no one should value him other than
yourself. Awfully selfish. The signature is genuine, and if you doubt it, you
can have an opportunity to ask him yourself." Ed's eyes opened wide. "If," said
Dunn. "You surrender."

"If he is free, then why should I surrender? What is in
it for me?"

Dunn smiled. "Why YOUR life, that's what. I have it in
my capacity to have you sentenced to five years for desertion alone. Add on
top of that all the destruction and mayhem you've caused over the last couple
of days, plus assault on two MPs and on myself, a superior officer. I imagine
there is a good 20 years or more that you could spend behind bars. Do you really
wish to waste your entire youth in a jail cell? I can tell you it's not pleasant.
Or are you willing to swallow a little pride and allow me to negotiate a way
back into the Army's good graces?"

Fullmetal said nothing. He looked truly young for a moment.
The fight had gone almost entirely out of him.

"And honestly, do you think your being locked away for
such a long time is what Al would have wanted? Don't get me wrong, I understand
your sentiment, the outrage at being denied retirement, especially when you
were led to believe it was your right to leave whenever you wished. You can
blame Mustang for that one. He probably thought you would dance for him better
if you thought staying in the army was your idea."

The anger was coming back into Fullmetals eyes. Dunn bit
his lip. This wasn't the time to gnaw that particular bone. "And I can see your
anger at having your plans for your shop put on hold. But that's really all
it is, on hold until the end of the war. You can have it all again, if you are
willing to be patient and offer a bit of cooperation."

"Get to the point. What do you want," said Ed. "And what
do I get out of it."

"How about this to start. I put you in prison for 6 months.
It's as short a stay as I think I can get away with. If you think the rank and
file didn't notice your antics, you are mistaken. Without some meaningful punishment,
I would just be encouraging others to misbehave."

"Six months. I can live with that. What else?"

"Well, if we weren't at war, that would be it. But we
are at war, so I can sweeten the deal a bit more for you. I will give you the
opportunity to work with your brother. Same lab, same project, DURING your incarceration.
In return for your cooperation and good behavior. You will be escorted to and
from your cell each workday. You will not be allowed to go anywhere else, and
in every other way you will be treated like an average prisoner."

"Is that it?"

"No. Your arm will be confiscated for the duration of
your incarceration. As a safety precaution. Understand that allowing you unlimited
access to alchemy cannot be allowed. It would be far too tempting for you to
try to escape. Your leg on the other hand will be returned to you as soon as
you agree to these terms."

"And at the end of six months?"

"You are released. You recertify as a State Alchemist,
and we give you back your watch. Then you will be reassigned the way you WOULD
have if you had just come in when the letter told you to. As a State Alchemist
you will be given some latitude with your assignments, so long as they serve
the State. You were an impressive field agent. I imagine you would be again."

"And the alternative."

"You continue to fight and spit and generally make a nuisance
of yourself, and we lock you away until you have more grey than gold in your

Fullmetal looked down at his hand. "Very well."

Dunn smiled. "Welcome back, Fullmetal."

Once the MPs had led a much more docile Fullmetal out
of his office, Dunn turned to Midnight. "Are you sure you want to use him? He's
not tame."

"Yeah, who would have thought someone that tiny could
pack such a punch? You know, I don't think he even weighs a hundred pounds with
the automail off. What a spitfire." Midnight shook his head admiringly. "Oh,
don't worry, I'll turn him into a useful cog, you'll see. To start with I think
a week in solitary might make him more receptive." Midnight picked up a few
of Dunns papers and set them back on the desk. "Guilt seems a good motivator,
too. And he's very loyal to those he loves." Midnight smiled. "I have six months
to work with. That's quite a bit of time. And if it's not enough, I'll simply
provoke him until he's earned a bit more."

Dunn touched his neck; he still felt the sting of Fullmetal's
grip. "Better you than me."


Most of the women on Winry's shift were jealous. They'd
hang out the windows of the resident's quarters when Al came by and whistle
and cat call at the two of them. Al was a good enough sport though, giving them
a flirtatious smile and a salute, and sometimes even blowing kisses until Winry
put an end to it by punching him in the side ... just a bit too roughly.

They gossiped about Al when he wasn't around, saying how
cute he was and asking Winry, hopefully, if he had a brother.

"Actually he does," Winry told a group of four of them.
They were taking a break in the shop. "He's just as cute, but he's got the personality
of a hand grenade."

"Ooh, I'd love to meet him," said one. "Is he enlisted

"I don't know where he is," said Winry. "I'm hoping he's
far away from here, though."

There were rumors about some masked intruder breaking
into the conscript's quarters and setting them free. That had most of the staff,
male and female, laughing with delight. Half of her coworkers, Winry found out,
were either conscripted themselves, or else they had been working at the hospital
from the beginning, and had found out in a morning meeting that, hey guess what,
their employer had changed. None were overly thrilled at being in the Army.

The work wasn't bad. In fact it was the same work Winry
had always done. The pace was a bit more rushed than she liked, but clients
were nice enough, and the MP on duty didn't hassle them. In general it was easy
to forget that you couldn't just up and quit. She'd even been able to phone
Granny Pinako several times. And then there was Al, who was, Winry had to admit,
extremely good looking in a uniform.

It would be easy to forget that she'd been blinded and
her arm twisted so hard she was afraid it would break, and then slung kicking
and screaming into a car. It was easy to forget the terrible days on the train
and in the conscripts' quarters, when she'd been treated like no more than meat,
and the least error of judgment would have meant instant death. Or the very
real and continuing fear that, should they misbehave, she and Al would never
see each other again. In fact, Winry tried very hard NOT to remember how bad
it could be, but she still had the nightmares at night.

The next day, inexplicably, there was not one but four
MPs on duty during her shift.

Al had arrived just after her shift ended to take her
to dinner at the Hospital's Mess. He noticed the MPs milling around looking
bored and his face hardened.

"Do you think Ed's the one causing the trouble," Winry

"I hope not," said Al. He then looked down at the floor.

"It's just, I don't know of any other reason why they
would increase the guard around here," said Winry.

"This is my fault. He's always getting in trouble when
I'm not around."

They arrived at the mess. It wasn't quite like the comfortable
wood table in Al's apartment, and the cooking wasn't as tasty. But just so long
as they didn't talk about Ed, or Al's work, or the Army, the conversation was
very, very good. As were his fingers on her wrist, tracing the veins, lightly
following the curve of her palm, running out to the thumb.

She wished there were some place where they could have
privacy, but she roomed with five other women, and she wasn't even allowed into
the building where Al worked and slept. In the end they settled for finding
an empty conference room in the hospital's administrative wing. Even there,
in the dark and alone they dared do no more than kiss and run their hands over
each other. Their eyes darted guiltily towards the door.

Then they heard the first bell of Curfew. Al broke away
and stepped back. "I gotta go."

They were both taken a bit aback at the MP standing patiently
outside the room, waiting to escort Al back. Winry blushed, and Al looked beaten.
The MP just put a firm hand on Al's arm and led him away.

Sometimes it was easy to forget she was a conscript. Other
times, it was impossible.

Hush Money

The Thug was waiting in his cell when Roy returned from work. Guard up, Roy
took in the other. Not happy, not mad, just... concerned. That wasn't good.

"Leave," said the Thug, gesturing to the jailers, and
they were alone.

"You have another task for me?" asked Roy.

"Yes. But first a progress report. Let me say that those
above me are impressed with your work on the project. I have reports that you
appear to be enjoying yourself and the company of the younger Elric."

"Yes," said Roy, carefully.

"They say that he seems happy as well. Very into the project."

"He would like to solve the problem of combat fatigue,"
said Roy, and they met eyes. "Erasing bad memories. Lightening weary war-torn

"Yes. Combat fatigue. A very noble cause." The Thug smiled

Roy knew the project was not about combat fatigue, and
the Thug knew that he knew. Perhaps a cure for it would emerge, but it would
be a side benefit at most. Once you knew how to safely mess with a person's
emotions and memories without otherwise damaging him, there were a lot of applications
that skill could be put toward. Most of which were not even remotely noble.

"We both want to make SURE that Elric is happy with what
he is doing. Because honestly, should anything happen, we would be keeping HIM
on, and you would be going back into solitary."

Roy said nothing, but let his eyes drift downward in a
sign of submission. He didn't want to be off the project. He let the Thug believe
that it was because he was afraid of being alone again.

In truth he was, but he wanted to work on this project
for more than that reason. Because he was not quite as dispirited as he let
on, and because he WAS enough of a bastard to be willing to compromise on morals
if the pay off was high enough.

"And on to the job, in a few days you will be getting
a roommate. Considering who it is, and your somewhat rocky history together,
it may be more punishment than reward, but I imagine you'll do fine."

"What specifically do you want me to do?"

"I want you to enlighten the newbie on just how miserable
it is to be in jail for the rest of your life, and encourage him to cooperate
with us."

"So you found Fullmetal. And he's causing you problems."

The Thug smiled a true smile this time. "Yes. But now
our problems are yours. If you can convince him not to scream obscenities at
the guards, and throw fits in the showers, he will be allowed to work with you
and his brother. You can hold that out as incentive."

Roy couldn't completely hide the smile.