Friday, April 13, 09:36 – Central City – National Central Library – First Branch
It took a serious game of connect the dots to link all recent reports of chimera sightings in and around Central together with what the eyes and ears of the slum folk picked up and could be persuaded to share with Miles. That information was then cross-referenced against what intel certain spies of the populace of Xing Town would barter with Roy for.
At that point, Team Mustang had verified the Director’s lead, but had held back on a full out raid on the suspected hideout once reports from West Area started coming in. ACIS would grant those factors who’d escaped the raid on the Thule facility a few days of false belief that they’d successfully escaped persecution. Those people would be lured to the ‘uncompromised’ safety of their Central-based alleged hideout: the mostly intact vaults under the once massive archive of the First Branch National Library. Speculation had been that those hiding there used part of the adjunctive sewer network to move around the metropolis mostly undetected; hence a lack of regular track patterns above ground, and a way to keep the enemy safe from view and compromise.
“There is a certain irony to it.” Breda pondered. “The cream of the crop of the military turned insurgent after their dishonourable exile. For them to then be linked to directing scouts of a veritable chimera army from the epicentre of the First Branch Library, no less.” The building had been torched during one of the 1910 protests against the State Alchemist programme, and its ruins never rebuilt once it was judged beyond a reasonable restoration effort. “A terrorist programme succeeding through banned forms of alchemy, operating from the ashes of what was once a source of wealth for said alchemy. It’s clever. Shows some of the intelligence of the leaders to be more than just brawn. Who knows what the guerrillas might have salvaged from the library vaults over time?”
Roy slipped on his pristine gloves, the coarse texture across his skin a familiar responsibility, the salamander symbol winking up at him. He would not be able to perform the tactical assault and defence as he once had, but precisely aimed pinprick attacks and the creation of smokescreens were valuable in their own right.
With Havoc returned from the West, but stuck in the hospital, Team Mustang felt two men short. Scar had not been released from the doctors’ clutches either, admitted as he had been upon his return for gunshot wounds, cracked ribs and a damaged lung. Olivia Armstrong had been wise enough to keep the still green CIA liaison on Elric protection detail and had consented that CIA sequester the boy in one of their personal holding cells until the current terrorist problems could be resolved. This arrangement only worked because the director made a deal with the Elrics that they were free to study the scattered research notes the boys had pilfered from the Thule Company, as long as they remained on CIA ground and under the assigned protection detail. Once Edward had started reading, the CIA had no more fuss with him. Immerged in the coded notes as Edward was and separated from all the daily administrative business, the young man didn’t even notice his bodyguard, Winry Rockbell, all that much.
Miles was filling in for the team’s missing personnel, but the squad wasn’t complete until Hughes had brazenly shown up, combat ready, with some unexpected backup. “Greetings, Roy Mustang, estranged son of the Su Clan.” Lin Yao had come with in person, along with a couple of trackers and a handful of his most skilled bodyguards.
The Yao clan leader defended his voluntary involvement: “I believe we can agree it is in both our interests to see this threat removed from the city.” And possibly obtain more information on the forbidden branches of alchemy than the government wanted anyone – let alone these foreigners – to get their hands on. Just like that, the prince, an illegal immigrant, had invited himself to a professional ACIS raid. Under normal circumstances, Lin’s offer would have been flat out refused. At gunpoint. Mostly for politics’ sake. However, even the by-the-book Miles was not going to turn down the excellent skills of the Xingese warriors. This operation would simply be listed as another event that had never occurred in Central’s streets, along with a whole slew of similar happenstances in the site’s rich history which were still whispered on the wind.
The extended team descended past the ashes of lost knowledge, into the brick bowels of the once grand reference library. Strong drafts created a breeze that muffled the sound of their footsteps to a certain extent.
They followed the nigh inaudible instructions of their Xingese shadows to take a left, further down, then two times right. Every dark, dank corner harboured shifting shadows that might cloak a feral nature with dripping fangs, sharp claws and top notch night vision.
The few chimeric beasts who charged them head on never stood a chance. A few rounds fired left the sharp scent of gunpowder lingering on the air current, soon mingling with the acrid scent of singed hair as Roy pitched his flames. Having revealed their approach, the team moved on swifter, though not compromising on their caution. The scrape of metal against bone could be heard occasionally as the Xingese picked up the ‘slack.’ One of Hughes’ throwing knives dropped another charging monster. Slobber dribbled, blood sprayed and snarls and yelps echoed in the vast underground interlinked vaults.
With Lin’s assistance in sensing different types of life-force, locating the mastermind, Professor Hiesgart, changed from a darn slim chance to better odds. The team’s luck turned once they tried to take the old man into custody. The paranoid ‘good doctor’ had, over the years, created a small superhuman armed force for his personal protection.
Roy stretched the limits of his inhibited alchemy to ensure the relative safety of those under his command. While they fought, the professor monologued at leisure about how the intruders shouldn’t be damaged too badly, they could make fine specimens for the latest chimeric merger method he was developing. The old man’s overconfidence in his finest creations cost him his victory and freedom.
Some of their own were injured in the vicious mêlée, but finally the man was overpowered and ACIS plus Lin’s guards could start to either further eliminate or capture some of the chimera alive, depending on their ferocity or docility. The captured, more even-tempered creatures and handful of human chimeras would still be treated lab rats, but if there was any chance of restoration for them, then there was no sense in rushing their demise.
Central military reinforcements arrived suspiciously late to the scene, something to discuss with the director, as Roy made a mental note to do. Still, the troops were in time to cart the babbling Professor Hiesgart and his snivelling conspirator, former Brigadier General Edison, off linea recta to Central Prison, to join the recently incarcerated in West Area and then transferred former Brigadier General Clemin.
Once all hostiles were secured onto their armoured transported and everyone was accounted for, Roy smirked at his mostly intact crew. “Too bad Jean had to sit this one out. He would have loved how the media is going to have a field day with this.”
Indeed, the departure of the MP vehicles left the just arrived ambulances and the first reporters crowding the scene. ACIS’ temporary, foreign backup had vacated the scene, back to their own territory, through the very tunnels they’d just combed out.
Roy hustled Hughes with his dislocated shoulder and Breda with a nasty leg wound toward the paramedics as he straightened his uniform and caught Miles’ eye. Time to weave a wonderful tall tale for the press.
Monday, April 16, 10:04 – Central City – ACSI HQ
Three ugly mugs had been crossed off the most wanted list. No one had died and Riza’s welcome back party was rescheduled for the day Havoc would be released from the hospital. Hughes’ suspension had been lifted, even though Olivia had reassigned Roy’s best friend to Sheska’s dull department for the foreseeable future. On the bright side, Roy had another newspaper clipping, ACIS’s Most Successful Saves the Day, to rub in General Grumman’s face the next time their paths crossed.
Winry beamed at Riza as the pair met up for lunch. “The Director of Intelligence has granted me a full six months period to continue my liaison function with your agency. I look forward to working with you all.”
Team Mustang didn’t mind much the chance to break Kimblee’s hold over the young woman’s psyche. As an added bonus, it presented the veritable golden opportunity for Miss Rockbell to train in the delicate procedure of being the handler of a brass genius, who – like Hughes – remained under close surveillance for the near future. Especially with said boy going on about having cracked the code of the pilfered Thule research documents and wanting to track down the presumed dead Crystal Alchemist. Not that the regular agents had much time to be concerned with such minor details in the grand scheme of things.
Knox came to inform Roy, who was trying and failing to get his influx of paperwork into some semblance of order, that he had the works ready on three cadavers and needed a signature. If Mustang could be so good as to do some actual work? It was the perfect excuse and really, the papers could be delegated.
Team Mustang had their next case lined up.