What if Olivia Armstrong hadn't survived the Promised Day? The final battle is over, but the struggle for Amestris goes on - and if Team Mustang were looking forward to a little rest and recuperation, they can think again.

bob fish

The Riderless Horse

part 0 of Wrong Turn Universe

Roy isn't exactly getting the guided tour of Armstrong Manor. Olivia Armstrong strides rapidly through the vast, high-ceilinged rooms of her family home, looking only ahead of her. Her legs are longer than his, Roy tells himself as he tries to keep pace with her. All the furniture is swathed in dust sheets. Roy looks down at the old inlaid marble floor, then up at the ceiling fresco. His mother would give her eye teeth to have a good nose around here. He'll meet her in a few hours. He hopes that her calculations are right, and that they haven't already come for her. His stomach gives a little twist of fear. He wishes she'd left on the train with the girls. He wishes the girls could send word that they made it.

It's the day before the eclipse.

If Olivia Armstrong dies, she declares, she's leaving this house to Roy. At first, he assumes she's just saying that to show how her family's traditions are just so much dead wood to her, that she's trying to stick it to her old man. It takes a few moments for him to see the unsubtly hidden message in that silly declaration.

She's leaving him the country.

The idea is somewhat mind-blowing. Their rivalry is civilised, but about matters of government, their disagreement is profound. He has never considered before that she might countenance leaving him in charge. He supposes it means that he won't have to contend with a Briggs rebellion if she dies tomorrow. If he survives. He briefly considers returning the sentiment, but doesn't. It's hardly necessary. If he were to die, she'd hardly be waiting for an endorsement from his people. She'd have her boots up on the Fuhrer's desk before his corpse was even cold.

If there was such as thing as a good dictator, Olivia Armstrong would make one — but Roy doesn't believe in good dictators. He believes in the mess of democracy: presidential elections, squabbling political parties, protests, radicals handing out pamphlets. He believes in heated arguments in pubs in which people shout out loud that the President is a moron, in a free press cruelly documenting every time a politician loses his dignity in public. This country was cobbled together from fifteen warring states, by a monster, to serve that monster's purposes — but Roy doesn't love it any the less for that. Amestris has become worth loving through her people, and her people can remake her into something better.

Roy himself spoke with Grumman a few days ago, trying to strategise about what to do next if Roy dies tomorrow — although he's absolutely not going to let it happen. Grumman was unhelpful. He offered contingency plans, but he kept trying to divert the conversation. He laughed and told Roy he was indestructible, remember that time when he was eight, and fell sixteen feet out of the big oak in University Park? Roy tried to tell him that this was a much taller tree, but Grumman laughed and told him he worried too much for someone so young.

That's the exact problem: Grumman has known Roy since he was a child, through Roy's mother. In Grumman's mind, Roy is still about eight years old. Roy can hardly believe that after a whole career spent in the military, half of it dealing with the endless troubles of the East, Grumman still has any belief that your affection can protect the people around you. But he's old. This is obviously one of his bouts of sentimentality. Roy pushes him into making plans, but in the end he just lets him have his belief that nothing bad could possibly happen. He imagines that if it comes down to a contest between Armstrong and Grumman, things might not go well for the old man.

Olivia Armstrong strides away from him into the trees. Roy watches her go with a grin, amused at how he's riled her up. Then it flashes sharp and solid into his mind that this was the last conversation they will ever have. Might be the last, he corrects himself. Stop being melodramatic. Armstrongs and Armstrong Manor both influence one to melodrama. Everything around here is too big, too theatrical, but Roy is a Mustang: he's been taught different lessons. The first thing he ever learnt from Chris Mustang was, keep your wits about you and stay in the game.