"Edward tried to do things his way, but I was skeptical from the start," Major Miles addressed his captive as he paced back and forth across the length of the cabin. Although he wanted to put up his favored impassive front, a typical trademark of all of the highest ranking officers at Briggs, he was having a difficult time completely concealing the roiling mixture of emotions that Kimblee's battle with the young alchemist, and said alchemist's subsequent status of missing in action, had stirred up in him. Ed was a good kid. Miles hated to think that he had seen the last of him. ...And even more to think that Alphonse and Miss Rockbell had also seen the last of him. It would be the hardest news he had ever had to break if it turned out to be the case.
The unrelenting snowstorm had forced his hand when it came to search party efforts. Ed was gone, along with the second pair of Kimblee's troops from Central.
"So you're going to switch over to the Briggs way of doing things?" Kimblee inquired. The beating he had already endured at the hands of the soldiers who had taken him by surprise when he tried to slip away after defeating the Fullmetal Alchemist had been pretty much everything he expected of Briggs justice, short of the fact that they had let him live. He assumed it was because they intended on trying to torture a few things out of him. ...And they were going to let their commanding officer do the honors.
"Well, depending on how things turn out, we might be able to manage a compromise. ...But I can't promise that it won't be temporary. Your ultimate fate is going to be in the hands of the major general."
Kimblee's hat had been lost somewhere in the confusion. His scarf and coat were askew; his hair mussed. He was unused to such cold and was finding it somewhat unkind. His bones and bruises ached. At this precise moment, his chief desire was to be allowed to wipe away the trickle of blood that had run down his lips after a stunning blow to the chin. He looked as much of a mess as he felt.
It wasn't that the Philosopher's Stone inside his stomach had been forgotten, but some of the blows he had taken left him unsure that he could bring it up properly. During the scuffle with the Briggs troops he had tried, but without a pause in the action, all he had managed to do was make himself choke on the stone, hindering his ability to defend himself even further. Alone and facing Major Miles, there was no room for a slip-up. For the moment, Kimblee had chosen to bid his time. "I suppose that's what I expected."
"Let's begin then." Miles snapped his fingers, in an ominous echo of what was to come, summoning the two soldiers who had been keeping guard on the other side. The pair subjected Kimblee to another round of manhandling, relieving the strain of having his arms tightly bound behind his back and instead strapping them down across a metal tabletop, spread cautiously far apart.
Miles pulled up stool and sat down on the opposite side of the table. "I hope you brought candle wax," Kimblee smiled at him, licking yet again at his bloodied lips.
"Sorry," Miles smiled back. One eyebrow rose momentarily over the dark lens of his goggles. "I had a feeling you might like that."
"You never know," Kimblee gave a small shrug, the best he could manage in the position he was currently tied into, "I might like whatever else you plan on doing anyway, especially with you doing it to me."
"That's some nice bravado," the major shook his head, "But I don't know how long it will last." He turned to the staff sergeant at his left, "I'll take whatever tools you managed to turn up for me."
"It wasn't hard to come up with something in this old mining town. There were plenty of options lying around the mouths of the shafts," the bearded man answered, offering Major Miles a hammer and a pair of pliers.
Miles took both and set them on the table with a metallic click. "All right, Kimblee. Let's get started. I know you love to talk."
"It depends on the subject matter."
"I see." Behind his goggles, Miles was becoming an unreadable mask. Would it have been more fun if he had remained emotional, Kimblee wondered. "Well, it's not very polite to monopolize the conversation. I'll ask you a couple of things and you'll give me a couple of answers, and maybe I can put in a good word for you to the major general- not that it'll be worth much, but nothing else has a snowflake's chance in hell when it comes to swaying her opinions. If you don't talk, we'll see how you like my borrowed toys. ...You understand the rules?"
"Understood." Kimblee wriggled his fingers, testing the strength of his bonds. They were solid.
"You say you were sent here to kill Scar and capture Dr. Marcoh, but I've seen the way you eyed the insides of the fort, counting our tanks, assessing our capabilities... What else is it you've been sent here to do, Kimblee?" Miles didn't even wait for him to answer before going for the hammer. He hefted the tool in his hand, judging its weight.
Kimblee maintained his silence.
"I had a feeling you wanted to play rough. ...All right then, let's play." The hammer came down onto the first joint of Kimblee's left pinky like a smith striking an anvil. Kimblee bit his lip, sending a renewed flow of blood down to his chin.
Miles' face might as well have been carved in marble or the never-melting permafrost. He seemed neither pleased nor displeased by the action Kimblee had forced upon him. "A change of heart, perhaps?"
Kimblee ignored him, focusing instead on the stone. It was time to make his escape. The stone refused to exit smoothly. He didn't panic, but realized he had only seconds to make a choice: cough it up or swallow it back down? The odds of avoiding bodily harm looked slim in both directions. The stone felt caught.
He was taking too long. Miles could tell something fishy was going on. Kimblee strained to let the stone slide back the way it came, more concerned over losing it than the pain of continued torture. As long as he lived, he could hope. But he was choking.
An accident or some sort of gambit? Miles couldn't tell, but he wasn't about to let Kimblee go that easily. He helped rose quickly and rounded the table. A slap on the back was enough to send the stone flying forward on its way, coughed onto the tabletop, where it rolled beyond Kimblee's reach and dropped onto the floor. The staff sergeant retrieved it, gazing on its crimson surface in confusion. "Sir?" he held the mysterious object up for Miles to see.
The actual item was unfamiliar to his eyes, but the concept was not, though Miles saw no need to broadcast his understanding of the stone to his subordinates, or Kimblee for that matter. "I'll hold onto that, sergeant," he accepted the marble-like Philosopher's Stone, tucking it away into one of his coat pockets.
Kimblee instinctively shied away as Miles reached toward his face, but when it came, Miles' touch was gentle, wiping the blood and spit from Kimblee's lips. "Are we going to be able to trust you not to bite off your tongue, Red Lotus?"
"Whatever else happens, I didn't come through the war, my imprisonment, and my recent run-in with Scar just to die here. ...I want to live."
Miles pushed Kimblee's chin up so he looked up, past the light on those goggles and into Miles' eyes. "Increase your odds by talking then."
"I don't imagine you'll believe me if I say my word is my bond."
"Ha ha," Miles answered humorlessly and let Kimblee go, returning to his seat, "Nice try."
But Kimblee was as silent as promised. The following morning, Major Miles and his men returned to Fort Briggs without Edward Elric.
Kimblee was brought back weak from a combination of pain, blood loss, and lack of sleep, and tear-stained, his hands all but unrecognizable. He made it, with a guard on either side, from the car that had brought him back through the first two sets of doors that awaited him, then fell to his knees, unable to go any further. Miles scooped him up easily- he was really rather small, a tightly wound package of good manners and hot air- and noted the frightened quiver the alchemist was unable to hide at his touch, even as he laid his head down on Miles' shoulder. How weak. Was that all this criminal had in him?
Miles set him down in the isolated cell they had picked to house him (it usually held Drachman spies) while awaiting the major general's decision on what to with what remained of the once-fearsome man.
The Kimblee before him now was close to the one he had met in the hospital. It would have been better for him to have given up the ghost there, Miles thought. At least he would have gone with a little more dignity; done a little less damage to the lives of those around him. ...But that was probably exactly what Kimblee wanted, wasn't it? To go out with a bang. To bring as much death and destruction to the world as possible.
His yellow eyes were slightly unfocused as Miles stared down at him. On a whim, the major removed his glove and pressed his hand against Kimblee's cheek: feverish. He knelt down beside the bunk. "Kimblee, it's not too late to talk." ...Assuming he even knew what was going on right now. Miles still wasn't sure whether his tears had stemmed from an uncontrollable reaction to the pain he refused to stop, even as every bone in his hands was systematically smashed to bits, or from some kind of actual sorrow over the destruction of his hands.
"The game's not over; not 'til I'm dead," Kimblee whispered.
So that was that. Miles stood up and tugged his glove back over his bare hand. "I envy you that optimism," he said, "But I doubt it's enough to sustain you through what's to come."