Lieutenant Colonel Hughes was well-liked in the army. He had a cheery disposition, a wife and daughter he loved more than anything else (though his constant bragging about his family irritated many) and always remembered people’s birthdays. That fact had been greatly appreciated in Ishval, a kind first lieutenant telling you ‘Happy Birthday!’ brought some form of normality to the war, as they waited to return home. Behind his goofy demeanour, he hid a sharp intellect and was often three steps ahead. Unfortunately for him, that is rather dangerous when your enemy is ahead four. I closed the file containing his photo and description, put it down on the oak table beside me, and regarded the computer monitor showing the location of the Lieutenant Colonel in his office. I put on the headphones and turned the sound to his bug.
“… and the west have been having their fair share of riots and border skirmishes lately. Who knows, this could be the start of a revolution.” The sound quality was not ideal, but good enough. The sound of something slammed down upon a desk and the scraping of a chair, followed by footsteps. I could pick up a muffled question
“The archive. I want to check some old files.” That must have been the Lt. Colonel. And so, he had sealed his fate. I sent a message to Invidia that he was close to the truth as I rose from the chair and rushed out the room and up the stairs, towards the archive where the Lieutenant Colonel would be.
“… uprisings all over. Humans are the ingredient for the Philosopher’s stone, the things we did in Ishval, what does it all mean? Think Maes, think. Those fellows Elric met at the fifth lab, what role do they play?” The door to the archive was open, allowing anyone to hear the poor man’s muttering.
“What the hell? who came up with this? I’ve got to tell the Major and the…” the slam of the door behind me interrupted him.
“A pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant Colonel Hughes. Though I should rather say farewell.” The man turned to stare at me with widened eyes, then backed away, breath quickening. One step. Two steps. I followed.
“Cool tattoo you’ve got there” An interesting choice of last words.
“I am terribly sorry about this, but you’ve learned too much, Lieutenant Colonel.” I raised my hand and extended my nails. At the same time, he ducked and launched a knife in my face, causing me to stagger back into a shelf. The thud of a door opening, light spilling upon the floor, something heavy hitting the floor outside the room, slow steps, a thud and a muttered ‘damn it’ reached my senses. With slow movements I lifted my hand towards my face and pulled out the throwing knife from my brain, raising my head. ‘Damn it’? that was what I was going to say. And here we’d thought that he was the deskwork type. Seemed his arm was good for more than pushing papers. Perhaps he might be skilled enough to survive us. Stop trying to make yourself feel better. The red crackles heralded the fact that my brain and skin were knotting themselves together and I stepped from the shelf. I could pursue, the trail of blood would be easy to follow, but it would lead to more questions if anyone saw. Better to retreat.
“Are you listening, Felicity?” No reply. I don’t know why I was talking to her, she was long dead. Perhaps the habit had been too deeply ingrained in me. Do horrible things at the bidding of the man who called himself my father, talk about it with Felicity, then rinse and repeat. Perhaps I was simply insane. Evil rather. You know that.
“Another man is dead today. Maes Hughes was his name. You would have liked him, I think. Many did. And then we killed him. Just like the others. I’m rambling again, am I not?” I said to the darkness. A chuckle escaped my throat.
“Lu?” Gula waddled towards me on his stubby legs, carrying a flashlight.
“Hey Gula. Isn’t it past your bedtime?” Gula was four now, thirteen years younger than me.
“Can’t sleep. They keep screaming.” His voice was a wince. I knew exactly what he was talking about. I never slept, whenever I tried the screams of the stone would keep me awake. The only way to sleep was to drink a bottle of methanol or similar, which instead knocked me into a coma.
“Who were you talking to?”
“Felicity. Do you remember her?” He nodded, though he had been but two the last time he saw her. Perhaps we homunculi have better memories. More likely, he simply thought he remembered Felicity. It did not matter, either way, Felicity was dead and buried. It’s your fault, you know. It’s just like you to ignore what you’ve done. How many would be alive if it were not for you? I stood up in the darkened room and walked to the shelf. A syringe lay there and besides stood a bottle of heroin. I filled the syringe with the liquid, then injected it into my arm.
“Lu? What is that?” Gula was behind me.
“Nothing of consequence to you. Go back to bed now, you need to sleep.” I turned towards him with my kindest smile. He nodded and ran off, leaving me alone. I walked back to where I had been seated and laid down on the floor. The amount of heroin would not be enough to render me completely disconnected from the world around me, it would simply make it a bit more bearable. In this state an idea struck me; what if I left this place? Could I do that?
“You’re pathetic, you know.” The voice and cadence of Invidia were well recognisable. I opened my eyes to see them standing over me, hands clasped on their back.
“Is he dead?”
“The Lieutenant Colonel. He who came too close to the truth and was to be cast down. Maes Hughes.” Every once in a while, poetic language would fill my brain. Mostly when drowned in substance; sobriety made me more sensible. The smile upon Invidia’s face seemed to split it into two; I knew the answer before they spoke.
“He is. It was amazing! Humans are such stupid fools! They risk their lives over the most pointless things! Makes me laugh.” It did not make me laugh. From what I had seen of us homunculi, we were no better. A collection of pitiable weapons, serving the whims of the man who dared call himself our father. That opinion I kept unspoken.
“What were his last words?” I don’t know why I needed to know the last words of those whose lives I took; perhaps it was to grieve them properly. A weapon who grieves. Who ever heard of such silliness?
“His last words. What were they?”
“Um, I don’t know. Some apology to his family, I think. Why’d you care anyway?”
“He deserves to be remembered. We killed him, and so we must honour him.” I owed them that much, at least. The smile fell from Invidia’s face.
“He’ll be honoured and remembered by his family. We don’t need to honour him as well.”
“Perhaps you do not. Yet the fact remains that I need to honour him. What were his last words?”
“Does it matter? He’s dead. Soon to be buried. Just forget it.” Were they hurt? Perhaps they considered me a pathetic fool. Perhaps I was. Nevertheless, the fact remained; I needed to know the Lieutenant Colonel’s last words.
“It matters to me. Mayhap not to you; you find humans lowly creatures, good for nothing more than amusement. To me, we are naught but humans made weaponry.”
“Fine. ‘Elicia, Gracia, I’m sorry. I said I’d be home early’. Happy now?” Their face was contorted in disgusted rage.
“Thank you, Invidia.” They would never forgive my treachery. I rose to my feet, standing a good head taller than them, then turned and left.