Sit Vis Tecum
"A Face Only A
Mother Could Love"
She wasn't a flawless beauty; there were quite a few scars marring her skin from the action she'd seen. She was cantankerous, sometimes slow to get moving, and often complained once she did -some places she refused to venture at all. She was, on occasion, dangerously unpredictable.
'She' was Bouki, a CV-22 Osprey, and Captain Jean Havoc loved her dearly... even as he cussed her.
Technically, she should have been grounded like the rest of her kind after another Osprey had suffered a hydraulic malfunction that had killed several soldiers. But since she didn't 'exist' in any public or official military records (much like the rest of the Alchemist Program), the captain had more leeway. For this, Havoc was grateful, because no matter how stubborn and obnoxious she could be, she still came through for him time and again. The Bouki was an Air Force Special Ops version Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing craft, with all the appropriate horns, bells and whistles, but he'd added a few extras specifically for the Alchemist Program, such as extra electromagnetic shielding for the sensitive computer and electronic components -damn, those alchemists made a mess of things when they got wound up- and there were a few tweaks that Havoc added because... well, he wanted them. As far as he was concerned, it was one of the perks he was entitled to for freely giving up damn near his entire life and identity for this program.
Fortunately, with General Mustang running things these days, some of that was going to change. He'd probably never completely drop the neutral North American 'non'-accent while on duty and with the public, but at least he didn't worry about getting busted anymore when caught in a casual situation, or just plain tired and his natural twang bled through...
...And maybe he'd be able to take a little trip back to the bayou eventually. It had been ten years since he left, out of anger and rebellion; embarrassed by his roots and traditions, and the family that clung so tightly to them. It wasn't until he was forced to hide the accent, the colloquialisms and the Cajun worldview for the program that he'd come to appreciate and miss it all.
He wondered, as he made his way slowly around the craft for the pre-flight checks, if his family would be proud of what he'd become. He was. It hadn't been easy to be just another bland face in the crowd, killing off so much of what made him unique, but the things he'd done and seen had made it worth it, in the end.
He ran his hand lovingly over the laughing rabbit and confused dog he'd painted beneath the pilot's window and noticed that it was getting a bit tired-looking. There was a shallow crease and burn mark along the dog's flank from a year ago. Now there was a mission he'd never forget. They'd lost Kimblee -had assumed he was dead; what a shame he hadn't stayed that way- but had successfully rescued a family who was in danger of...
Havoc shuddered and changed the direction of his thoughts. It had been harrowing at the time. He was grateful that he'd gotten the people he could out alive, and in the end, it was considered a success. "We've got us a long flight, mon ami," he said to the Bouki. "You do good, and I'll make this fresh, eh?"
"Your hick is showing, Havo,"
Havoc didn't need to turn to know that the person who came up behind him was First Lieutenant Heymans Breda. He also didn't need to say a word to get his message across. Instead he graced the round red-head with a perfectly executed, over-the-shoulder, one-fingered salute.
Breda chuckled, then said, "The teams' loading up. We got us an extra, though."
Havoc glanced back at Breda and cocked a questioning brow, but before he could say anything, there was a rattle and crash, followed by a string of very colorful swearing from the open ramp at the back of the Osprey. He recognized the voice and crept cautiously around to see what had happened; ready to duck quickly if something came flying at his head.
Instead, the owner of the voice -a young blonde woman- was kneeling on the ground and picking up wrenches and screwdrivers and an odd assortment of diagnostic devices that had scattered on the tarmac when her rolling toolbox had caught on the lip of the ramp and tipped over.
"Dr. Rockbell," Havoc said as he knelt next to her and started helping her gather the mess together. "I guess this means Fullmetal banged up his automail pretty bad?"
Winry Rockbell scowled at him, making him lurch back instinctively. Then she shook her head and went back to gathering up her tools. "He said it was minor, but you know Ed. He's not going to call me about it unless it's practically hanging off his body... or shattered." She tossed a wrench into the drawer with more force than necessary, as she said, "I swear, if he shattered it again, orders from General Mustang or no, that pain in the ass is going to get a big dose of Rockbell aversion therapy." She slung a screwdriver into the drawer along side the wrench and added, "And then I'll give an even bigger dose to the General for even sending those boys on that mission."
Havoc suppressed a chortle at the image. General Roy Mustang, the Flame alchemist, was not afraid of much, with the possible exception of blonde majors who had deadly aim, and blonde automail mechanics whose ability to hurl a wrench was nearly as accurate. He'd always wondered if it were the projectiles he feared, or the women wielding them, but Havoc valued his skin too much to risk asking.
Once all the tools were gathered back in the box, Havoc took the backwards end and helped Winry maneuver it onto the ramp. It was no wonder it tipped over, it weighed a ton. "What the hell have you got in this thing? An anvil?"
Havoc's jaw dropped. He would have been the first to admit that he had no clue what, exactly, was involved in automail maintenance, but he honestly didn't think it involved an anvil.
Winry giggled at his expression, then said, "It's just extra parts and fluids, Captain. Ed wouldn't go into detail about what he needed, so I figured I'd better cover all my bases, including spare limbs."
"Ah," he grunted as the two of them fought to get the other end onto the ramp. "I'll have a talk with him about that. Can't have you adding more to the payload just because he wants to keep his pride."
"Allow me," boomed the voice of Lt. Colonel Alex Louis Armstrong as he strode up to the two of them.
Havoc and Winry both grinned and stepped out of the way.
Armstrong deftly lifted the heavy toolbox and carried it into the the Bouki. The opening was impressive, tall enough for even Havoc, who was 6'2" to stroll in without having to duck. Armstrong, on the other hand, practically had to bend at the waist and stoop to keep from cracking his bald head on the frame.
"Well, I guess that takes care of that," Winry giggled and followed the large alchemist in.
Breda poked his head around the side of the craft and said, "Is it safe?"
"Coward," Havoc said.
Breda came the rest of the way around the Osprey and jerked his BDUs straighter. "Not at all. It was a well-reasoned tactical maneuver. I've seen what she's done to Fullmetal when he pissed her off."
Havoc snorted and pulled a cigarette out of a pack in a pocket under the flight suit and popped it between his lips. He glanced down at his watch, then back toward the hangar that camouflaged the underground complex. "Damn, two minutes. That's not like Fuery."
A small form came charging out of the hangar, his jacket in hand, flapping behind him in his jet-wash.
"Ah, there he is."
The young sergeant skidded to a stop in front of Havoc and Breda and saluted smartly. "Sgt Kain Fuery reporting for duty. Sir!"
Havoc couldn't help himself. He set his expression as serious as possible, and said, "You're two minutes and-" he glanced down at his watch, "23 seconds late, sergeant. Do I need to report this to the general?"
It was impossible to keep a straight face when Fuery went so pale that he seemed to glow in the waning sunlight. Havoc slapped the young man on the shoulder and said, "At ease, Sergeant. I was joking and it was only two minutes."
Fuery visibly relaxed and headed into the Bouki with a nod.
As Havoc and Breda boarded the aircraft, Breda asked in a low voice, "Why do you do that to him?"
"Because he falls for it every time," Havoc said with a chuckle.
"You know, one of these days, he's gonna pay you back for that. Probably do something to your MP3 player that fries all those shitty songs you like to play." Breda suddenly grinned, then added, "On second thought, keep it up, Havo."
Roy leaned against the frame of the open hangar with his arms crossed and watched his men readying for take-off. The scent of sage and palo verdi and creosote floated on the early evening breezes, along with the sounds of bats as they came out to hunt, the skittering of rodents and rabbits in the sand and rocks around the hangar, and a single, lowering call of an owl in the distance.
He'd filled the team in on what Intel he had about the situation earlier. It wasn't enough, as far as he was concerned. Hughes had better fill them in better when they get there, he thought. He knew that his best friend and most trusted officer would, but it did nothing to ease Roy's anxiety.
They're good soldiers, he reminded himself. All of them had battle experience and had been on more than a handful of special ops missions that required fast and creative thinking. And they've all come back alive.
Telling himself this didn't help, though. He couldn't shake the feeling that Something Very Bad was about to happen.
Dear Gods, Tucker is dead and there was a vat of catalyst in the basement. Where was his daughter? And Envy is on a rampage, now. Why? And why is he in Miami, of all places? Is there a connection between Tucker and the homunculus? Roy could only wonder what it could be. Tucker was little more than a third-rate alchemist who was only in the program by virtue of the fact that he'd been born into it and had a modicum of talent. His mother had been one of the top bio-alchemists that had ever lived. Her skills had helped advance the studies on genetics and mental abilities inherent in the talented. She was the one who had proven conclusively that the ability to perform alchemy wasn't something just learned. There had to be an ability similar to psychics. The control and knowledge to transmute was the learned skill, but there had to be something there in the first place, or all the education in chemistry wouldn't do a damn bit of good.
Shou Tucker, however, could barely transmute a pile of silica into sandstone. Roy couldn't, for the life of him, imagine what the hell Envy would want with him. What is the connection?
As for Envy; they'd been tracking him and his five cohorts down for the past two years, and every time they came close, they'd just miss. Fortunately, they tended to stay underground and quiet, with only the occasional 'odd occurrence' hitting the news. Still, Roy was edgy over the fact that several human weapons were on the loose, and it looked like his worst fears were being realized in Miami.
Envy had been the first 'success' in the experiment. Impossible to kill -he regenerated almost instantly- and the most dangerous of the lot. A shape-shifter who loved violence, and not a single ethical bone in his constantly changing body.
Some of the records of the experiments on those people had been destroyed, but Roy knew Tucker hadn't been a part of that. The catalyst? That didn't make sense. The catalyst had been another failed experiment. It was originally designed to enhance alchemic abilities in battle, and the only thing it had done was make those who'd tried it unstable. Kimblee was a perfect example. His use of the catalyst over time and several missions had caused him to snap in Afghanistan. He'd destroyed an entire village and most of the people with wanton abandon, then disappeared. Constant searches and Intel had just kicked up dust there, too. Until he decided to show himself. This even has him scared.
But the catalyst is the only logical answer, and at the same time, there is no logic to it. It's useless to Envy. He's incapable of transmuting anything. All the homunculi are.
The engines of the Bouki whined as they started up and the rotors unfolded. A moment later, the craft's blades leveled off and lifted it from the ground. Soon Havoc would bring them forward and the Osprey would take flight to Miami. Roy wished them a silent good luck, and headed back inside. Roy doubted he'd sleep until he got the word that the mission was complete and his men were coming home safe. He never did.
Edward Elric stared down at the still form in the hospital bed, and wondered why he'd come in the first place. What would he say to the officer laying there with a missing arm? "Gee, so sorry about all that, pal. Just because it's more or less my fault your career is over and you don't have any way to support your wife and kids..?"
If we'd gotten here a couple of days earlier, this might not have happened, he thoughtHe tiredly ran his left hand down his face and sighed. For two years they'd been chasing after little more than vague rumors and wisps of smoke in an attempt to help clean up the previous general's messes, and he was getting sick of spinning his wheels.
Then there was the other problem that had started to become more pressing. Was it a mistake in the first place? Stupid question. Of course it was. But how much longer are we going to have to pay for it? And what's going to be the final price? Would it have been better to just let Al- Ed clenched his right fist and stopped the thought before it could be completed. I can't think that. Not now. Not ever.
Ever since he and his brother had attempted to bring their mother back -Who are you trying to kid? This is your responsibility. Al wouldn't have gone through with it, if you hadn't been so damned insistent- they had been scrambling to fix their screw-ups, only to make another one in the process. How deep does this hole I've dug for myself go?
He turned and strode quietly out of the room. At least I can fix something.
Havoc took a drag off the cigarette hanging from his lips and flipped the intercom on. "This is your pilot speaking. It's a balmy 87 degrees at 7:21 pm, as we take off from beautiful Area 51 and we will reach Miami in approximately 8 hours. Just in time to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic ocean, for those of you who will still be awake then. Please keep your trays in the upright position and observe all seat-belt and no smoking signs. Thank you for flying Alchemy Air -and now for your entertainment and to make the flight go faster, some music..." He killed the mic and flipped another switch that looked like it had been added as an afterthought and connected directly to an MP3 player propped against the control panel.
As Havoc switched the Bouki from vertical-mode to flight-mode, the jaunty sound of a country tune filtered through the speakers.
Breda stared at him. "You didn't."
The blond glanced sideways at his co-pilot and just grinned, then he started singing along with the lyrics:
"Well it's 40 below and I don't give a fuck
Got a heater in my truck and I'm off to the rodeo
And it's allemande left allemande right
Come on ya fuckin' dummy get your right step right
Get off the stage ya god damn goof ya know.
Piss me off ya fuckin' jerk get on my nerves..."
Breda shook his head and started laughing. "You know that if the general gets wind of this, you're ass is bar-b-qued. Hell with that... I'm giving Strongarm two seconds to get over the shock and stick his head in here."
In the passenger cabin, two men -one small and the other exceptionally large- were trying desperately to become invisible while their embarrassment was so intense the temperature went up by at least five degrees and kicked off the heater... and one young woman was laughing her ass off.
"Well here comes Johnny with his pecker in his hand
He's a one ball man and he's off to the rodeo
And it's allemande left and allemande right
Come on ya fuckin' dummy get your right step right
Get off the stage god damn goof ya know
Piss me off ya fuckin' jerk get on my nerves..."
...And the Bouki headed east.
Gil Grissom stopped at the reception desk as he came in to start his shift. He did a double-take at the young woman handing him his messages. She wasn't familiar; mousey, with large glasses. The quintessential book-worm. There was even an impressive stack of textbooks next to her. He graced her with a smile and nodded at the books. "What's your major?"
She blinked owlishly at him. "Major?"
"I assumed you were taking classes at the university with all those textbooks on your desk," he said, mildly confused.
"Oh!" She grinned brilliantly and passed a loving hand over the books. "These? Just a little light reading. For the fun of it."
Gil tilted his head enough to see the titles on the spines and felt his brows climbing up his forehead. Most of the books were for one form or another of quantum theory. "Interesting," was all he could find to say, then he strode off with his messages in his hand.
He was halfway down the hall to his office, puzzling over one rather cryptic message, when he bumped into Catherine... literally.
"Must be some message," she said when his head jerked up.
Gil glanced back over his shoulder. "Did you know we have a new night receptionist?"
"That time of the month again?"
Gil scowled in confusion at Catherine. "Huh?"
She chuckled and said, "Figures you wouldn't notice. We get a 'new' night receptionist about once a month. None of them stay long."
"I can't imagine why," he said. "It's usually a nice and quiet job for them."
"And when it's not boring as hell, it's weird." Catherine craned her neck to see the message in Gil's hand better. "So what's so interesting that you weren't watching where you were going?"
Gil held up the slip of paper and said, "This? An invitation. Do you like pie? I hear the ones they serve at the cafe in Indian Springs is really good."
Gil grinned and headed off to his office. "Great, we're leaving in five minutes."
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was created by Arakawa Hiromu and is serialized monthly in Shonen Gangan (Square Enix). Copyright for this property is held by Arakawa Hiromu and Square Enix. CSI: and CSI: Miami are created and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and owned by CBS. All rights reserved.
Lyrics to 'The Rodeo Song' copyright to Gary Lee and the Showdown. No profit is made from this work, all rights reserved.