full metal scoobies1b
The Pilgrim's quarters were pretty spartan. but it had a bed and that was all that Ed cared about. Rose also arranged for them to have a meal. The boys thought they would have to make do with simple pilgrims rations, but the kitchen staff assured them that thanks to Cornello there was plenty of food and drink. Hunger had been virtually erased thanks to the preacher.
Xander walked around the church chatting up the staff who all had nice things to say about Cornello and the power of the Sun God Leto. Eventually the trio reunited back in their rooms which overlooked a cemetery where they could look down and see Rose standing by a small simple gravestone, beside her stood two men including a bald, imposing man who matched the descriptions they had of the famous prophet Cornello.
Alphonse watched the gathering below."I spoke with Rose," He told them. "That grave belongs to her boyfriend, Kain. Until he died in some kind of mining accident Rose and he were close. Since she lost her parents when she was young, he was all she had. She's convinced Cornello can bring Kain back."
"...And that cheap hack is letting her think he can do it." Edward snapped angrily
"Well she isn't the only one." Xander supplied "All the locals I've talked to believe that if they have faith in Leto and Cornello then their loved ones can be brought back. Half the town claims to know someone who was brought back."
"Can we talk to any of them." Edward asked suspiciously
"Yer' kiddin' right," Xander said snidely "As soon as the resurrected are breathing again they head out of town and haven't been heard from since."
"So no physical body to compare, just local rumor," Edward said thoughtfully "This is getting more and more fishy."
"Maybe he can do it,: Alphonse said quietly "All those scriptures, maybe there is something beyond what we know."
"Oh There is," Xander muttered "...But I doubt this Cornello has any access to it."
""How do you know," Al reminded him "Your friend Willow, she brought back someone from the dead. She was trying it again when you..."
"...got stranded here Al," Xander finished for him."...and for all I know, her magic might have effected your alchemy. Maybe me being trapped here and what happened to your bodies is all connected."
"Al, you know the price we paid," Edward reminded his brother, "Should Rose have to pay like that."
"But how is he doing it " Al asked
"I don't know," Ed muttered "Maybe we can break into ...."
Xander cut him off. "Before we start pulling some mission impossible crap, could we try a subtler approach, one that won't turn the entire city against us?"
"Please," Ed mocked " He's not going to show off his miracles for us to see."
"Actually yes he is." Xander said, proudly producing a flyer he had snatched earlier, "At a big open air event, with treats for the kids."
If Cornello was just pretending to be a soul saving preacher it was a role he played very well. There was an big service, during which, Xander heard him spout the usual stuff. How lost they would be without him and the Sun God, how faithful and devoted followers would gain divine rewards and favor.
Xander sighed "A completely different world and I'm listening to some slick con artist using old time religion to fleece a bunch of needy sheep, I don't know if I should laugh or cry."
"There is no harm in finding something to believe in Xander," Al lectured "Belief in something can give you hope and strength when there seems no reason for either."
As the service drew to a close, Cornello stood on a platform in front of the church and then ...the miracles began. Water was turned into wine. A chunk of wood was remade into one of the many Leto statues that surrounded the church courtyard. Near the back Xander and Elric Brothers watched the action.
"What do you think ." Ed asked suspiciously
"It's pretty obvious, he's doing alchemy." Al answered " Are you getting any feelings Xand."
Xander looked at Edward "Something feels off, not right. it's like hearing your favorite song played out of tune."
"I knew it," Edward cackled "There's something weird about it, there's no equivalence..."
Rose interrupted their quiet argument "Are you enjoying your first miracle gathering, he's amazing isn't he." she said obviously delighted with what was going on.
"He's a good actor anyway but that's about it, he's swindling you."
"Now Ed we don't know that " Al admonished him quickly "All we know is that he's performing alchemy and he's ignoring the laws."
"Still looks like magic to me." Xander said suspiciously
"Magic is unscientific." Ed snapped "There are laws that govern everything. observable reactions."
"What laws?" Rose asked
"Your output has to be equal to your input," Al explained patiently."The base materials have to be the same as well. like the radio I fixed. I couldn't make it bigger or a tree."
"It's called Equivalent Exchange " Edward said "To attain something of equal value most be lost. but that bastard is completely ignoring that law."
"...because he's working miracles." Rose insisted At this point Cornello bought a dead bird back to life, The little Girl who had brought the thing clapped and laughed with delight as the bird took wing. "Can your precious Alchemy do that, it's the work of God, it has to be."
Xander looked the pretty girl in the eyes. "Rose, I've been around and seen things and I'll tell you one thing I've learned, Miracles are never free, never. They always come with a price and if you are lucky, very lucky you are the only one who'll suffer the cost of that price."
"What if you' aren't lucky
"Trust me Rose," Xander said grimly "You don't want to be unlucky."
Cornello reclined in his office. These public gatherings were tiresome but they were important. His flock needed to see Leto's power for themselves. if there was one thing Cornello knew in his heart, the public was fickle and without the daily broadcasts and the miracle gatherings the faithful might begin to indulge their questioning hearts. There were always exceptions of course, like Cray. On the books Cray was head of temple security but the books didn't tell the whole story Cray and his "helpers" were a useful tool. Armed with that all-important religious justification, Cray could do, and would do, practically anything. A former guard back when this was a mining town, his ability to do whatever was needed by his bosses and now Cornello made him a valuable part of Cornello's long term plans.
A knock at the door admitted the lovely Rose. Cornello smiled. It was a tragedy that Rose was a genuinely spiritual person. That face, those hips, Rose was proof not only of the existence of God but that he had a nasty sense of humor. Her literal religious devotion to he church was an important part of the reason Cornello had such an easy time controlling the city but unfortunately that meant that Rose herself was more or less off-limits. Oh sure he had indulged himself with thoughts of a "private counseling session" with the girl but as long as her very public devotion continued Cornello could do so much more. "Rose, my child. did our guests enjoy the gathering today."
"I talked with the townspeople as you asked and they confirmed what the strangers were saying. I also heard them talking amongst themselves when they thought I wasn't paying attention. They are From Central, The small one is famous. Father, I heard them saying ...things."
"Rose, have no fear, Leto sets these things in our pathway for a purpose. it is so that we can prove we are worthy of his blessings."
"I do try, Father and I have faith."
"In time Rose, Leto will reward your faith especially if you do not allow the strangers to turn you from his warmth. In time you will see the reward for that faith."
As soon as Rose had left Cornello's smiling face fell into a scowl. He threw open the window of the room and gazed out into the city, his city. The bird he had brought back to life fluttered through the window to perch on his shoulder.
Cornello turned back to his enforcer. "It is as we feared Cray, Edward Elric, the Full Metal Alchemist they say that he was certified by the state younger then any other in history."
"What about the other one, Father," Cray asked
Alexander Harris, State Investigator under the command of Mäes Hughes they call him The One Who Sees, his ability to find trouble has become almost legendary."
"What does it mean Father Cornello,"
"Nothing else then that the Military has discovered our paradise and seeks to interfere. they are greedy evil souls Cray, and my children must be protected -- at all costs."
"I understand." Cray smiled unpleasantly before leaving the Father with his mysterious guest.
As soon as Cray left, the rooms other occupant made her displeasure known, "The boys presence is troubling and there is something about his escort.
"There's nothing to be worried about."Cornello replied slyly "By the time Cray is done nobody will know they were ever here."
"If you say so love ." The woman said seductively "Confidence is such an attractive quality in a man."
She gestured toward the bird on Cornello's shoulder. Her pointing finger grew suddenly, lancing out and spearing the bird on Cornello's shoulder killing it instantly and making Cornello flinch with fear. "...of course false bravado makes a man seem small in every way that counts."
Cornello flinched again at her words. "He may be a State Alchemist but I can handle a pup like him one way or another." He gestured himself, and the dead bird fluttered it wings and flew back to its place on Cornello's shoulder.
"Just make sure that the secret to your amazing miracles stays that way." The woman hissed at him. "You know how much I hate being left...unsatisfied, make sure there are no loose ends."
Edward was camped in the main church auditorium. This was his concession to Al and Xander that he "be Good" by his calculations Rose would eventually come though the huge room on her way somewhere and Ed was very good at figuring things. Ed was not without pity or empathy but in his mind truth, no matter how unpleasant was better then lying to yourself.
Rose appeared on schedule going about her duties cleaning fixtures and trying hard to avoid looking at or speaking with Ed.
"So how does it work , you clean and polish the alter enough times and someone who's dead comes back to life." Ed asked the sarcasm in his voice was not lost on the penitent girl.
"Something like that." Rose said trying to sound brave.
Ed sighed and pulled a bound leather book from the depths of his coat. Rose was far too practical to hope that it was some kind of religious text yet she would have been wrong . this book was the closet thing to a bible that Ed owned or was inclined to read. He began to read out a list of various ingredients and their measurements. Water, carbon, lime, ammonia, saltpeter. Xander, who had entered the church during this exchange recognized the elements comprising the average human body. Harris sighed realizing that Ed was doing his Humans-Are-Built-On-The-Cheap speech. This was exactly why he'd begged Edward to behave himself.
"I'd drop the scriptures and pickup an alchemy book Rose, we're the closest things to God there is.
"You're not a God," Rose answered disgustedly, "Your not even close."
"Neither is the Sun, its just a mass of hydrogen, you get close to it like Cornello claims and all you'll do is burn-up."
Al watched from another alcove silently shaking his head. "Great Ed, push your total cynicism on someone else." Suddenly he realized someone had come up behind him stealthily and had placed a gun against his head.
From behind him Cray's cold voice hissed "Don't worry Elric your Brother will be joining you soon." Cray pulled the trigger
Edward and Rose startled at the bark of the pistol followed by the empty helmet that was Al's head bouncing across the floor. Cray came out of the alcove leveling his pistol at Edward.
"Cray what are you doing." Rose cried out
Cray Smiled coldly "Elric and his friends are enemies of God this is his will Rose, not mine."
A blade streaked across the room cutting across Cray's hand making him drop his gun.
"Damn," Xander cursed as another throwing blade slid in to his palm. "I missed, that was supposed to be in your arm."
"Military dog, God will deal with you all." Cray growled
I don't think so." said Al who had climbed to is feet or at least his body had, its arms grabbing at the startled Cray and holding him in place so Edward could use the armour's headpiece to knock the man unconscious with a well placed throw.
Edward and Xander high-fived each other joyously as the man slumped to the ground
Al reached out caught the helmet before installing it back on his shoulders.
Rose screamed in shock while looking fearfully at Al "He... he has no body."
"That's Al," Edward said jokingly
"Please Rose don't be afraid, this is just how I am. This is part of our punishment for setting foot on holy ground. We made a mistake and we're paying for it."
Rose backed away and want running into the depths of the church.
"Well that just sucks." Xander snapped
"Let her go," Ed muttered "She's just scared."
Xander turned to him, "Yes Ed, she scared and running to find the guy who can work god-like miracles."
"That could be a problem" Al muttered
The three ran after Rose following her into a basement. Xander's eyes searched the gloom of the darkened area. Suddenly, lights flared to life and the trio could see Rose across the room. Cornello stood behind her stroking her shoulder protectively. "Congratulations Rose you wrestled with the darkness and prevailed " Cornello soothed while looking at the boys triumphantly.
"I'm sensing a trap," Xander growled "Anybody else smelling a trap."
The Brothers Elric nodded as Conrello gleefully ranted at them, "State Alchemists, brutal enforcers; I knew one of you might turn up eventually."
"Well don't chalk that up to pious premonition." Ed pointed an accusing finger. "You knew we'd come for the stone."
"You mean this." Cornello held up his ring with its large crimson gem.
Edward smiled grimly, "Alchemy without circles and completely ignoring the law of equivalent exchange. it could only mean one thing."
"Indeed " Cornello taunted "The mythical gem, the great amplifier, the philosopher's stone."
"That's it Al, its ours." Edward hissed "That stone belongs to me now and if you hand it over I wont tell these people what you've been doing."
"And what is that exactly, When I came here these people had nothing. They thought heaven had abandoned them so I became their Prophet. When they hungered I gave them food and drink. I even built buildings for them and gave them money. Why would the military want to interfere in all that."
"I don't care what the military wants." Edward snapped "I'm here for me."
"I want that stone. We need it to make something right again. "
Rose was practically crying "What about us and what we want you don't care "
Al tried to reason with Rose, "You don't understand all we wanted was to ...."
Edward cut off his brother's explanations, "Forget it Al, she wont care "
"Look Corny," Xander snapped "We're asking nice, if you want things to stay that way, be smart and cough up the stone."
Cornello held up the stone as if for their inspection. "If you want the stone then you've have to take it." The stone flared brightly. illuminating his evil smile.
The ground seethed madly and suddenly Al was buried under huge piles of sand. Xander grabbed onto Al's hand and was dragged sideways with him separating him from Edward.
"Amour is a disadvantage in soft sand and you can't draw transmutation circles in it either." Cornello chuckled before pressing a switch on the wall.
A large door slid open allowing a giant nightmarish creature to pad into the room it caught sight of Edward and roared a predatory challenge. "You of all people should appreciate this Elric, a Chimera."
Whats he doing " Al asked as he fought to drag his large metal body from the soft sand.
"Pissing Ed off," Xander shouted grimly as he pulled harder on Al's arm.
Edward clapped his hands together and then slammed his hands into the sand at his feet with a bright flash. A large, fierce looking, spear sprang from the ground and into his hands. Without losing a beat he spun and used the weapon to slash at the charging monster who went rolling across the room with the strength of his blow. Cornello was shocked. As far as he knew, alchemy without transmutation circle was impossible without a stone like the one on his ring. He held the stone aloft. The bird which had been perched on his shoulder went flying at Edward but the stones power caused it to grow in size.
The Chimera had meanwhile sensed other tasty prey and charged Xander and Al who was still buried up to his waist in sand. "Xand, get out of the way" Al cried out as he shove the boy backward.
The Chimera jumped at the fleeing Xander who rolled aside to avoid its pounce. The creature snarled its frustration and clawed at Alphonse who lashed out with a vicious punch. Xander pulled a long knife from the depths of his coat. He ran at the Chimera and slid underneath it to slam the sharp blade down into the creature's paw. It screamed, bucking and writhing as it tried to dislodge the sharp blade. Al reached out and grabbed hold of the monster's tail. Using his half buried position as an anchor, The boy swung the creature around and hurled it away from them its body slamming into a wall.
"Nice throw, big Al." Xander cried delightedly
"Thanks, can you get me out of this sand now please?"
Xander nodded and heaved good and hard finally managing to pull the younger Elric from the sand. They turned to see Edward finishing off the bird, which he punched into a senseless heap on the floor. They were about to celebrate when the large Chimera leaped at Edward again, this time managing to latch on to his arm. Ed didn't even hesitate this time to hurl the big creature away from him giving it a fierce kick to finally discourage the chimera who slunk fearfully back to its hidy-hole.
Xander and Al joined Edward who was looking triumphantly at a confused Cornello. Rose was also shocked looking at Edward. Ed's clothes were slashed and torn where the monsters he had fought had gotten a piece of him. He himself however was unharmed by their attacks.
Cornello was aghast "Those claws on your arm and leg how could you have survived unless -- your limbs, their fake."
"Brilliant deduction holy man " Edward tore away the ruins of his coat to reveal that his entire right arm was made of a dull gray metal that matched the look of his left leg.
"Your arm and leg are machines -- that's automail. " Rose whispered . She had seen people with artificial replacements for limbs lost in accidents but even her untraveled eye could tell Edward's automail arm and leg were of the highest quality
"Don't look away, Rose." Edward held up his metal arm so she could clearly see. "You need to see what happens when you step into god's territory or whatever You need to know what happens when you try and bring back the dead. Are you sure you really want to end up like this?"
Cornello smiled cruelly. "I see now, you crossed the line and did what is strictly Forbidden, and your bodies were taken to the other side."
Ed looked at Rose "Like I told you before Rose, get close to the sun and you'll burn."
"Yes but they were crazy enough to find out for themselves, that's why they call you the Full Metal Alchemist. He turned to Rose "You see my child, State Alchemists are forbidden from transmuting gold but even worse is Alchemy - on human souls that is what happened isn't it
you don't know the story." Al snapped defensively
"Forget it Al " Edward growled
"All we wanted," Al whispered sadly "Was to see Mom again."
"But you failed" Cornello cruelly shouted.
"I'd label it a failure, I lost an arm and leg and Al lost his whole body. I even managed to trap Xander here in the bargain all because I was reckless and I wanted it badly enough "
Cornello dropped a fatherly arm around the Rose's shoulder calming her even as he sneered at the Elric's " Never fear my dear. Leto has blessed me with the Philosopher's Stone, besides I have far greater experience then these heretics did."
"Don't let him con you Rose." Xander shouted "No matter what he's promised you, no matter how badly you think you need it, a selfish bastard like this is never going to risk his power or his life to help you."
"Selfish am i? what about you and your friends. They want this power so they can have their mommy back and I'm sure that a dog of the state such as yourself has his own designs on my power
"Actually no" Edward snapped " Al and I want the stone so we can put our bodies back the way they were. he's just trying to get home. We don't lie about what the stone can do or what we can do with it. we didn't create a religion and dupe the people of this town."
"We wont ask again." Alphonse coldly insisted, "Give us the stone."
"You are damned Alchemist," Cornello snarled "May the wrath of God fall upon your heads."
There was a brief flare of alchemical light behind Cornello's back. It was the only warning that the prophet was transmuting.The preacher leveled a mini-gun and began firing it at them. The Gun roared with smoke and dust quickly filling the air until Cornello finally stopped firing and looked at his handiwork ....only to stare aghast at a solid wall that had not been there a moment before. Its sudden appearance, via Edward's alchemy, had insured that the trio was left unharmed by Cornello's attack.
Xander looked at the wall. while still amazed at Edward's incredible Alchemy, he was less impressed by the talented youth's all too familiar flair for the dramatic. "Cutting it a little close there Elric, don't ya think." he snapped
the un-frazzled Edward grinned maniacally " I thought you liked a sense of style."
"I like breathing more then I like style." Xander answered
"Their banter was stopped by gunfire announcing the arrival of more armed guards. Cray had evidently recovered from being knocked out earlier.
Edward broke in to a run with Xander and Al bringing up the rear. As they approached the end of the room and the dead-end it represented, Edward clapped his hands once more and slammed into the wall palms first his touch produced a huge flash from whence a large door appeared. The huge door burst open as Alphonse threw his weight against it as he shouldered his way into the passageway beyond. Edward and Xander followed and as the door slammed shut behind them, another flash of light announced the disappearance of the door.