Equivalent Exchange

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Nevvy, Aug 22, 2014.

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  1. King Bradley sat at the end of the long, ornate table usually used for meetings with the generals except that said generals had squeezed in to make room for five Xingese delegates on the opposite end. A group of Ishbalans stood near them, not even seated. This was the post-war meeting for the discussion of surrender terms with Xing putting forth a few delegates to observe but the atmosphere was completely unlike a meeting of any sort.

    "God will strike you down for this!" one of the Ishbalans bellowed at Bradley who wasn't even phased. In fact, he seemed to enjoy the noted topic.

    "How many more of your people must I slaughter before your god strikes me down? I've already killed millions. How long will you wait and lray rather than try to do something for yourself?" the Fuhrer said. There was no remorse, no denial but rather an acceptance and a challenge for someone, anyone to dare to try to stop him. The Ishbalans and Xingese delegates alike cringed, feeling how little power they held in this room. Ishbal had lost the war. Xing wasn't involved but had dispatched some delegates to ascertain what Amestris had planned. Specifically, they wanted to gauge the threat of Amestris invading Xing next. The entire war on Ishbal had seemed a bit shoddy in premise from the start and the events of the meeting had only served to reinforce that. Bradley was doing whatever he wanted, however he wanted without so much as a care of who thought what.

    "I believe we have seen the result of the negotiations and will be taking our leave now to make our report," one of the Xingese delegates said, rising from his chair. He was especially worried about this and wanted to be gone before getting in the middle of a fight between some Ishbalans and the half a dozen alchemists in the room.

    "Who ever said you were allowed to leave?" Bradley smiled. The room quickly erupted with the sounds of battle.


    Xiu Liao happily trotted back to her house from school. Though she was from Xing, she had lived in Central for five years now as part of a study abroad program. Her father was a politician so he had stressed learning about the surrounding countries, sending her here at ten years old. It had been kind of depressing at first but after some getting used to and switching to more local clothes, it had proven pretty fun. She had her own place and instead of hovering, her father made an effort to make his visits fun as he didn't come so often. Speaking of which, he had had an important meeting with the Fuhrer today but after that, he'd be over for a whole week.
    #1 Nevvy, Aug 22, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2014
  2. Asher stepped off the train with a sigh, once more skimming over the document in his hand.

    "Proposed title: Nobel Shadow Alchemist"

    He frowned, setting his coffee down with a sigh. Being offered a position of State Alchemist would mean funds to continue his research, but it also meant getting his hands sticky-- what with the war going on. Even coming to a close, he was sure more violence was only on the horizon. He was lucky to hail from the small town to the South, not quite far enough to the east to really see the real damage the war had done.

    But he knew thanks to his habit of traveling. He knew about the mass graves, and even more bodies that were not even given that decency-- simply burnt to dust. He'd seen parents loose children, and children loose parents. And he knew the government had lost it's own fair share of State Alchemists.

    Once more he glanced to the paper. Near the bottom it claimed, "Your research could be our future."

    A scoff managed to find it's way past his lips. They must have really been desperate to contact him-- when he had not even submitted an application, nor taken any state certification tests.

    Turning his blue eyes up-- he glanced around the Central train station, feeling his anxiety grow as hesitation once more grasped him. What exactly did he have to lose, verses gain? What was the catch?

    He wore a large hat, his long ebony hair tied back in a neat pony. He wore a travelers duster and a suitcase at his side. This city, he realized, would be the birthplace of the rest of his life.
  3. Xiu rounded the corned and up the steps to the front door of her house, oblivious to the trail of blood that led to the back window. Brushing her long hair out of her face, she took out her key and unlocked the door. It was well into the afternoon so the meeting should have been over by now. She didn't really know the contents but there was no way it could still be going as it had started in the early morning.

    "Daaaaaaaddy!" she called as she swung the door open, ready to jump on him. He was probably hanging out somewhere downstairs, resting himself after dealing with those headaches he called politics. Sure enough, he was in the kitchen but he wasn't raiding the refrigirator. Instead, he looked scared and was hurriedly scribbling a note. Looking around, Xiu noticed the trail of blood that led to him from the window.

    "Daddy, what happened?" Xiu asked, dropping her things and fumbling for some towels to press on his wounds. As she got closer, it became more evident how badly he was hurt, ranging from burns to stab wounds, bruises, and cuts. He didn't even answer as he collapsed as soon as the note was finished. Something was wrong, really wrong, but Xiu couldn't really bring herself to do anything other than check his pulse a few times to feel nothing. She sat there in a mild level of shock, wondering a million things that she wasn't going to get answers for any time soon.
  4. Asher paused on the steps of the train station, watching as police cars blared by, the sirens screaming in to the late afternoon air. You just had to love the city...

    People were setting up banners and ribbons, music was playing, people were happy. Apparently, the war was over. He was surprised to see the people of Central city so alive, compared to the last time he had visited when most people didn't bother to look up from their shoes as they walked.

    "Mister Void." A man's voice greeted.

    Asher looked over, a little more surprised to see a man easily twice his size with blond hair walking towards him. "Yeah, that's me." He confirmed. "I guess you're my ride?"

    The man nodded. "I'm Sergant Major Armstrong. I've been instructed to bring you to Central command." he confirmed, offering his hand to shake.

    Against his better judgement, Asher shook his hand, relieved that the blond was apparently aware of his stature and didn't attempt to remove his arm. "Asher Void." he introduced himself right back. "So, what's with all the festivities? I didn't hear any announcements about the war being over."

    A haunted look crossed the blond mans face. "The people will celebrate because they see soldiers returning home." he said simply. "This way, Mister Void." Armstrong guided the dark haired alchemist to a car that, quite honestly, looked much too small for the large man, much less adding a passenger. Luckily, the ride was short, and they pulled up to the large iron gates within only ten minutes. "So then, I hear you were invited by the fuehrer himself." There was more of a question in his statement than anything else.

    "Yeah." Asher confirmed casually, opening the door to the small car. "Apparently he's taken a liking to my research."

    "And what is that, if I may ask?" Armstrong asked, not getting out of the car.

    "It's, uh, a little too complicated to explain on the curb side." He admitted. "But if you want to know, I'll be in town for a while, I'm sure." He offered the war torn solider a smile. "I guess I should be thanking you for the ride, and for serving our country." he said tipping the bring of his hat.

    The blond stared for a moment. "It was an honor to be your escort." he said simply, politely departing. Some how, it left Asher feeling more anxious than before he even stepped off the train. The blond had obviously been a state alchemist, he saw the watch. It looked like the war had torn the soul out of the poor man.

    He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn't notice the small woman who stepped up behind him. "Mister Void, if you'll follow me?" She smiled.

    ---- OOC: She's just a secretary or something, feel free to use unknown brunette.
  5. King Bradley stepped out of the meeting room, a little displeased for having trusted the alchemists to get the job done completely. One Ishbalan and two of the Xingese delegates had fled out the window despite being on the third floor. One of the delegates had been caught and killed, leaving the other two still running. It was unlikely to pose a problem but he disliked leaving loose ends. A clean, tidy meeting would have ended without them needing to replace some furniture or cleaning the rugs yet they had to do both of those things now on top of ordering a new window. He'd have to do things from his office for a couple days instead. Closing the door behind him, he put his business face back on, the warm and friendly smile of the Fuhrer, and headed down the stairs. He had an appointment to keep, one that actually held some small value. He would be punctual for this one as with all the others and grant it some special attention. Spying his guest through the window two floors below, he made his way to the stairs to intercept him by happy coincidence. It was unlikely that he would see the commotion that happened in the meeting room but just to be sure, guiding him to the office personally would prevent the unlikely from occurring. A minute later, he managed to come down the stairs right as Asher was being led up.

    "Well isn't this convenient? Impeccable timing," Bradley smiled, taking things over from the secretary as he waved her off politely to allow her to return to her work, "Asher Void, was it?"


    Xiu heard the breaking of a window and dropped into a state of pure panic. Whatever it was out there had not been friendly or even safe. Taking the bloody note and stuffing it into her pocket, she made herself as scarce as possible. After hurrying out the front door and locking it quietly, she ran down the street. Whatever it was, her father had been trying to leave behind something important enough to have come here. She had never really held a high opinion of his job and the stuff that happened but there was no way that he'd have come home while being chased unless he absolutely had to and he wouldn't have come to die. Without knowing what else to do, the only thing left that made sense was to protect the wrinkled up piece of paper and herself. It must have been meant for her. She would have called him stupid for having dragged her into this but she no longer had the heart to.
  6. "Yes, sir. The one and only." Asher offered a smile and slight bow. His movements were a bit stiff. He took his hat off as they entered the building, revealing the top of his head.

    It was ironic that the proposed title for him was 'Nobel shadow', for his shadow in fact did appear to be wearing a crown. Three metal prongs lay across the top of his scalp, laying nearly among his ebony locks. The center front was a little higher off the top of his head than the two beside it, and didn't stretch quite as far forward. At first glance, it looked like an odd hair accessory. Upon closer inspection, however, one could see the metal and scar tissue under his long ponytail, his auto mail spine retreating down into his shirts collar.

    Asher bid the secretary good bye as she hurried off, his blue eyes lingering on her for a moment before returning to the imposing figure that was King Bradley. He followed into the main lobby, admiring the architecture as they went, for a moment finding himself wondering if this would be something soon to be commonplace for him.

    He hoped not. Yet, now face to face with the leader of their country himself, he wondered how he could politely turn down the offer of State Alchemist. Another part of him wondered what was so interesting about his research that the leader himself would set aside time out of his day to meet with him. Was it something he did for all potential State Alchemists?

    He fought his heart back down into his chest where it belonged, feeling it rise in his throat as they walked. "I have to admit, sir, I honestly thought your letter was a fake when I first opened it." Asher stated, shifting his hat under his arm.
    #6 Saint Anne, Aug 25, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2014
  7. "This country takes alchemy very seriously. The letter was neither a fake, nor was it an accident. The Ishbal war, as I'm sure you know, dragged on for seven years before we broke the stalemate and those years of indecision cost us over a million young Amestrians," Bradley said, taking on a much more weary look as he stepped into his office, "The decision to bring the State Alchemists in was not without its costs either. We were hesitant to do so because we knew from the start. Alchemists are researchers, not hard trained soldiers mostly. That is why we called you in. Should a situation like this ever arise again, Amestris must be properly protected without needing to bring those not prepared for war in just because they have the power to win it. That is why we called in a team of alchemists together to bring a part of the power of alchemy to the soldiers will go out to the battlefield. By inventing weapons for the army to defend the country, we will never need to directly call upon the State Alchemists to do it."

    Bradley stayed calm and controlled throughout the explanation, placing concern and emphasis on each point. Most alchemists were actually unsuited for this as their research hinged on alchemy itself. The likes of the flame alchemist's explosions, for example, were simple and deadly but had no real application to the normal soldier who had no understanding of alchemy. It also went without saying that alchemists did not share everything they had to offer. The designing of weapons allowed them full control over what they handed out and what they didn't.


    Xiu slowed herself to a walk so as not to completely stand out but in reality, she still did. Integrated in Amestrial culture or not, Xingese people just looked different. She could be spotted at a glance by that alone. Maybe they didn't know to kook for her but that seemed unlikely. The sounds of the ones who had broken into her house were long gone. They had probably slowed down enough to keep quiet but if they weren't after her yet, they would be soon.

    "Where am I supposed to go?" she asked herself. Maybe the note would say something about what to do with it. A quick trip to an alley would give her a safer place to read it without being seen. Oh, this was so much creepier than day to day life. The feeling that she was wrapped in something way over her head made her hair stand on end and brought a cold, clammy feeling to her hands.
  8. Asher watched the Fuehrer under a critical gaze. "So you don't want me as a grunt. You want me to research and develop weapons. For the military use?" He frowned. It was a heavily loaded question. Would weapons be used as a deterrent to stop wars before they happened? Would they be used against civilians-- as the state alchemists had been in Ishbal?

    Asher studied partials on a fundamental level. Photons, how light held matter-- how it could be manipulated. His research held some very lethal conclusions, if used incorrectly. And yet, it could, in theory, be applied without alchemy. Yes, he used his circles for the sake of experimentation, and the results had been catastrophic and amazing. But the theory's held without alchemy. It was real, tangible science.

    And it could, potentially, be weaponized.

    But it would take time. Lots of time. And it would put more blood on his hands than if he were to sign up as a grunt.

    "Sir, I don't think you quite realize the magnitude of the forces I study." He said carefully. "One failed experiment could swallow a city in darkness-- it could flatten this building if I drew even one symbol wrong. Gravity, light, the absence of light-- these aren't things to toy with." he cautioned hesitantly. "I've been on hiatus from my research for the better part of a year now because of it."
  9. "I understand your concern. I cannot pretend to understand the danger of working with this kind of volatile research, not being an alchemist myself but I do understand the magnitude of power that the alchemists command and the potential destruction caused by a mistake if an alchemist's own abilities are any sample of it," Bradley nodded as though he had expected a degree of reluctance to begin with, "The dangers are something I cannot understand or stop. That is why I want a team of alchemists, so that they might check each other as they would be better able to tell what is dangerous and what is safe. Through this, I trust that starting slow and gradually moving at a safe pace can be achieved whil getting results far beyond what the regular military could accomplish."

    Bradley studied Asher's reactions carefully in a precise but arm's length, professional way. Alchemists could be tough customers to get on board and even tougher to keep in line,being as individualistic as they were. If anything, they were certainly not like other soldiers. At their heart, they were researchers who sought knowledge at the highest level. That was why he afforded them a certain amount of breathing space.

    "I don't expect you to give an answer to a proposal of this magnitude right away. Give it some thought. I don't expect results right away in the first place and I don't anticipate needing to rush this. We likely won't have another war for years to come but I would like to be ready this time so as not to have a repeat of this one."
  10. Asher nodded, playing with the rim of his hat. "... When will you need an answer by?" he asked. "And do you have the names of who I might be working with?"

    He found himself sinking into a seat across from the Fuhrers desk, letting the magnitude of the request settle in. He had expected to be asked to join the ranks of State Alchemist for more of a soldier role than anything. He had not been expecting his request to be to solidly weaponize his research. Use it as a weapon, sure, he foresaw that. But not on a mass level.

    "I would like to know who I would be working with and what they specialize in. If, of course, that's possible?"
  11. The Fuhrer paused, seeming to ponder the request. It was a tall order but this was also a bit of a tall task to ask for. All in all, it was both reasonable in the sense that wanting to know who else would be on the project was normal but also unreasonable in the sense that the information was classified. After a few moments, he came to a decision.

    "I'm sorry but I can't provide you with that. I have given each potential candidate between a week and a month to think it over so I don't have an actual list yet but more importantly, the information would be highly classified, not something I could hand out to someone without any rank at all. While I see you as an alchemist, at the moment, you're still a civilian. The location of the research facilities, the names of the alchemists involved... If these things got out, attempts could be made to steal the weapons while they are in development, our greatest risk for a potential accident," Bradley explained, choosing his words carefully. He had avoided stating what kind of clearance would have been needed to know the names but had also planted reason for there not being an answer to be had yet at all, witholding the information in a manner that was difficult to question for multiple reasons.
  12. "What kind of background checks are being run, how much access would I have in the library for my research, and what sort of research budget are we talking about, sir?" He asked, now cutting to the nitty gritty of the deal. He needed at least the basic information before he could make a choice. "And how long would my contract be for?"

    He folded his hands, his elbows on his knees with his chin on the back of his knuckles. "If you have a draft of my contract, I would like to look it over tonight... I already arranged for a week long room in the Central Quarter street inn." he explained, giving the man his were abouts, in case for what ever reason he needed to contact him while in the city.
  13. "Background checks are the alchemist standard plus some less concrete screening to assure us that the alchemists involved would act for the good of the country, not personal gain. The candidates were selected from a list of alchemists that had abilities and research most likely to be able to be converted into weapons without constantly relying on alchemy. The library in its entirety will be at your disposal except for the section concerning human alchemy. That is not necessary for this project. It is for weapons, not biological experiments. We don't need to hang the biggest carrot in the history of alchemy before a group of alchemists that we need to have exercise the utmost self control and caution," the Fuhrer rattled off like a well rehearsed speech which it probably was. Then he opened a drawer of his desk and produced a thick envelope. After thumbing through the contents, he pulled out a stapled stack of papers, at least a good fifty sheets of crammed text, a to the point kind of contract only covering the most important points but grilling them with minute detail.

    "This is the tentative contract. Payment, benefits, duration, accomodations, and so forth are all detailed in here. You may request that numbers be changed or extra consideration be given to you. The protocols apply for all alchemists involved and are not up for debate. Any proposed changes to your contract would be due by the day that your answer is at which point we will review your terms and come to an agreement. Since you have arranged to stay here for a week, I will give you that to decide or to ask for an extension," Bradley continued, passing the papers to Asher, "Remember that at this point in time, the project is confidential. The greatest safety percaution we can give it is to make sure as few people know of its existence as possible."
  14. He took the large packet and nodded. "I'll be discrete." he promised, rising to his feet. He glanced over the cover page and once more had to fight back an almost child like excitement. "The Nobel Shadow Alchemist." he read off aloud. "May I ask why that particular title?" he asked curiously. It didn't matter, really. But his spine wasn't exactly common place knowledge for people who did not know him. It seemed odd for that to be the reason-- it must have been something else.

    He held his hand out to the Fuehrer, offering the older man a smile. "It's been a pleasure meeting you, sir. I'll be in touch." he promised.
  15. "I'm afraid that an old man like me is a little out of touch with fashion. I actually don't name most of the alchemists. It has become somewhat of an office hobby with some of the advisors," Bradley laughed, shaking Asher's hand firmly, "I will see you soon and expect a good reply."

    While the bit about others suggesting names for alchemists was true, the implication that it had been given by another was completely false. It hadn't been a necessary thing to do, nor had it been subtle. The Fuhrer's background checks were not to be underestimated, his official ones and the unofficial alike. Of course, it had been given for one reason only. He was the Fuhrer and he did what he wanted, when he wanted and no one could overturn him.


    Xiu stared at the scribbles on the note that she really didn't understand. Most of it was written in Xingese code but she could just barely make out the word Fuhrer in German. She turned it upside down and looked at it from different angles to no avail. Of all things to have given her, the note had come completely without instructions on what to do with it. Either way, she had no choice but to move. The mention of the Fuhrer peeved her even more as she had no idea whether it was accusing him or listing him as the one she was supposed to bring it to. To act on that would be like a coin flip.

    "Ugh... Why do I have to do this?" she moaned. That left taking the thing back to Xing without being caught as the only thing left to do.
  16. Asher returned the hand shake, strong and brief. With that one of the most nerve wracking meetings of his life was over. He had time to think and mull it over.

    As he stepped back outside, finally leaving the Central command building behind him, he sighed. "That was more intense than expected." he muttered, glancing over his shoulder, up to the third floor where, he wore, he felt the eyes on the back of his head. He frowned, putting his hat back on as he turned the corner, making his way on foot down the street. He was familiar enough with the area to get to the inn he had booked at. It helped that he had stayed there once before.

    As he approached the inn he heard a girls voice come from the ally way. He glanced over, not intending to pause-- but his feet stopped moving, seeing the young girl with Xing traits. Her eyes were what stood out the most. "Something wrong?" he called to her, speaking Xingese. His father had hailed from Xing. It's where his dark hair came from. His mother had been Amestrian.
  17. "What?!" Xiu exclaimed, hurriedly hiding the note behind her back and stuffing it in her pocket, afraid for a second that she'd been caught.

    "No, I'm fine," she recovered, waving her hands, switching to Xingese as she realized she was being addressed that way. It was creepy for a Xingese guy to just happen to stumble upon her like this. They weren't all that common in Central and she didn't recognize him either. The thought came to mind that maybe he worked with her father but a quick glance over shot that down. He was way too young to be mixed up in politics. Then again, he probably didn't have anything to do with the military either. Who knew what had happened? It could have been some extremist group too and she couldn't rule that out. Crazy radical groups took kids in a lot. She was getting ridiculously paranoid at this point and she knew it but couldn't help but feel that way. The coincidence was way too suspicious.
  18. "O--kay." Asher raised an eyebrow. "Bye, then." He shook his head once, dismissing the odd girl and continued into the lobby of the inn. A young teenage girl, groaning in frustration in a dark area? Maybe she had been dumped-- or perhaps a fight with friends or classmates. Either way, it was of little consequence to him, and she seemed far too jumpy for him to be bothered to try and find out. Drama was something he actively sought to avoid.

    It was pleasant to see someone else who was clearly not totally a local though. In a city like Central, it was a bit of a comfort to know-- evidently-- he could find someone somewhere who at least had the same cultural background.

    "Hello, room for Void." He said, stepping up to the counter, pulling out his wallet. He handed over his ID and some cash, waiting patiently for the key to and location of his room. He had a bit of reading ahead of him tonight, and he fully intended on getting started sooner, rather than later.
  19. Xiu breathed a sigh of relief as the man left without incident. At least he wasn't with those other people who had broken into her house and presumably killed her father along with who knew who else. She didn't need the involvment of random people she didn't know, though. More importantly, she needed to get out of Central and as soon as possible. The longer she stayed, the more likely It was that trouble would find her. Not a soldier or even a real fighter in general, trouble meant run or be caught. Come to think of it, in her five years in Central, she had never really ventured outside the city, leaving her woefully unaware if there were even procedures about it like checks going in and out. They were at war after all.

    "Yes Sir. If you need anything else, let me know. A continental breakfast will be served in the lobby from 7 to 8 in the morning," the lady at the front desk said, giving Asher his keys and room number.
  20. "Thanks." He smiled, graciously accepting the key and his ID back form the clerk. "See you, then." he once more gathered his things, stepping away from the desk. He paused to watch a few more officers pass by outside and raised an eyebrow. They had been going around since he arrived. "Uh, hey--" he looked back to the lady behind the desk. "Is it normal for the police to be on patrol like this?" he asked, gesturing to the door.

    "Hm? Oh... No, they must be looking for someone. Nothing's been announced on the radio-- so I don't think it's anything serious." she said, glancing at her little wooden radio.

    "Weird." He frowned, looking back outside. He frowned, and against his better judgement, went back outside. He shuffled through his paperwork until he was sure the officers turned a corner. With a scowl pasted to his lips, he peered around the edge of the building, looking to see if the Xing girl was still there. She had been holding something behind her back earlier. His curiosity got the better of him, wondering if she was, for what ever reason, the target of their search.
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