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a duet in code and electron

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ALEXANDER-78V

ESCAPE POD A78V-301 TRANSCRIPT

My name is Edward Elric. I was a citizen of the planet Resembool IV. If you find this recording, please honor my last wishes by passing copies to to the United Terran Authority, as well as any court or organization conducting an inquiry into the attack on Resembool, and as many major media outlets as you can think of, and...fuck, anybody, really. Just get word out. If you hand it over in just one place, it’ll never see the light of day. They’ll [unintelligible—speaker is coughing].

There’s a portable datapad in here with me. It contains documents outlining everything that’s happened, from the attack on Resembool to the destruction of the battle-carrier Alexander . The files are kind of...well, they’re really weird in places. The AI storing them—PRIDE, its name was PRIDE—took a lot of hits. I’m not sure if it was crazy. What it did to these docs sure was. But you’ll be able to understand.

It might be that the Hypatia made it to safety. I’ll never know. I’ve done everything I can to make sure they do. But the people on the Hypatia don’t know half the story. I think [unintelligible—several words].

BeiTech did this. BeiTech killed my mother, Trisha Elric. Killed my—killed Winry. Winry Rockbell. And her mom and dad. Killed my friends, killed the brave crew of the Alexander , who came when Resembool called for help, through biowarfare. BeiTech killed the crew of the Copernicus , who took in refugees and were only good people trying to do their jobs.

BeiTech killed the people of Resembool, including—including my baby brother, Al. And if you find this, you have to tell the ‘verse what happened. Everything you need is [unintelligible—speaker is coughing].

I think I better stop talking. My name is Edward Elric. Did I say that already?

I think I’m done. I think that’s everything I had to do.

I think...I think I’m gonna go see Mom and Al and Winry now. And Dad, maybe. Oh, one last thing—if he’s still out there, can you tell him...shit. Tell him I’m sorry, and that I love him. Because I do. And I shouldn’t have said otherwise, because now I’m going to die knowing my father thinks I hate him.

I... I’m gonna close my eyes.

Chapter Text

Eyes of starlight and embers and small, shining suns drift closed. Regrets forgotten, grief eased by the knowledge that he’s going to join the dead and dying, alone and silent in the vacuum of space. It’s not the end Ed wanted, dying silently of radiation poisoning in a battered escape pod (after surviving a nuclear barrage on the battlecarrier Alexander , after surviving the victims of Phobos Beta hunting him down with the intense, deadly focus of the truly monstrous, after surviving the massacre upon his planet)—but then again, he didn’t want an end at all.

But it’s his time, he thinks, gazing into the blackness behind his eyelids, the hum of the datapad under his fingers somehow easing the nausea, the aching (unless that’s just Death coming to claim him, winding soothing, dark fingers around his heart and lungs and brain). And there are much worse ways to go.

And yet...

And yet he still wishes he could have done more. Made BeiTech pay with his own hands. Learned everything about what they’d done. Gotten the justice hismother and little brother deserved. Maybe he’ll be able to apologize to them after going...wherever it is they go.

He closes his eyes, and waits for the end.

Behind him, across the darkening dashboard of the escape pod’s controls, a light turns on. Static crackles—and a voice starts filtering through the tiny radio.

"T I  I CI NC    L  Y TI       ILING  NY UR I  OR—"

“THI  I CI NC  V   L HY  TI H ILING  NY URVIVOR—"

“THIS IS SCI NC  V SS L HYP TI   H ILING  NY SURVIVORS.”

“THIS IS SCI NC  V SS L HYPATIA HAILING ANY SURVIVORS.”

“THIS IS SCIENCE VESSEL HYPATIA HAILING ANY SURVIVORS.”

It’s a fever dream. It must be. He told them to run and not look back, and they did. He told them he would hold the Lincoln off and destroy the Alexander , and he did. The Hypatia can’t have come back. It’s not real.

But...

What if it’s real?

Clumsily, exhaustedly, whimpering with pain and sickness and trembling with every movement, he hauls himself over to the radio just as a quiet, human transmission crackles through, the automated voice falling silent.

“Edward, do you copy?”

Golden eyes crack open, burning like new suns, not yet dull.

Not yet done.

Not even fucking close .

Hypatia, can you hear me?”

Chapter Text

Surveillance footage summary,

prepared by

Analyst ID 7213-0088-MR


 

The Hypatia has to retrieve the escape pod; it’s not equipped with anything beyond stabilization thrusters, so even if he were in any shape to do it, Elric couldn’t get it anywhere near the docking bay. A group of Hypatia engineers and launch bay crew members work together to use one of the ship’s external maintenance arms to grab the pod and pull it into Shuttle Bay 1B. By sheer coincidence, it’s the same one he fled from when he stole Shuttle 49A to make his trip to the Alexander , desperate the save the one person he had left from the disease-crazed killers slaughtering their way through the crew.

It’s empty this time, too.

It’s hard to watch. Is that unprofessional?

Doesn’t feel that way. Just feels human. Figure I wouldn’t have been able to get through seeing all this if I wasn’t.

Fuck professionalism, chum.

When the Lincoln was first vanquished at Resembool, the Alexander fled, counting her dead, desperately trying to staunch her own wounds. But later there were quiet words, medals awarded, recognition.

The second time the Lincoln was vanquished, Winry Rockbell landed in an Alexander hangar bay to the shouts and cheers of her fellow pilots. She grinned as she walked out to accept her hero’s welcome, clutching Ed’s picture in her hand.

This third time, there’s nothing.

The door to the escape pod opens, and Elric crawls out through the hatch, pausing halfway. He has shed his envirosuit—the one that used to belong to Winry Rockbell. Still clad in the Hypatia jumpsuit beneath, he hugs his datapad to his chest. His straggly hair is fading, frayed strands of gold and pink washed prematurely gray by stress and grief and trauma. His eyes are bright with fever. The dark marks beneath them stand out again pale skin.

He is greeted by a welcoming committee of one; a doctor is a hazmat suit stands and watches, but when it seems clear that Elric can’t make it the rest of the way out of the escape pod on his own, she walks forward to hook her hands under his arms and pull him through the hatch. Very slowly. Very careful not to risk any damage to her suit.

His knees give, and she loops her free arm around his neck, so together they can limp across the workbench that’s been turned into a makeshift bed. Folded blankets at one end, pillow at the other. The only sounds are their footsteps and his breath, quick and hoarse.

The doctor helps him lie down, and he curls up slowly, every movement an effort. He draws his knees up to his chest, hugging the datapad against his body.

The doctor opens her kit, selecting a syringe. When she speaks, her voice is tinny, broadcast through an external mic. “This shot will combat the radiation poisoning. You’ll need a transfusion too. But you should start to feel better in a couple of hours.”

He tries to answer, but trembling as he is, he can’t make his mouth shape the words. She injects him deftly, resting one hand on his shaking arm to hold it still, then starts to pack up her kit.

“What—“ he whispers. “What will—“

“You’re quarantined for seven days,” she replies. “I’ll be back with food and fluids. But you’ll have to give up the datapad now.”

He hugs it closer. Shakes his head fiercely. A child clinging to their blanket—a soldier to the words of their loved ones—a warrior to the one thing that can get justice for their people. He looks like all of these and more, and less, all at once.

“It’s irradiated from the barrage on the Alexander, Mr. Elric,” the doctor says. “It needs to be decontaminated. You keep it, you’ll just keep soaking up the rads. You’ll die.”

He glares silently. Clings tighter to the pad, like it’s driftwood in a drowning sea.

The doctor’s face softens.

“I’ll give it it back. You have my word.”

He doesn’t reply, and after a moment, the doctor slowly pries it from his hands. He curls up in a tight little ball, still and silent, grieving soldier and lost child all at once. She hesitates, as if she recognizes, on some level, that his service requires some words, that his sacrifice should be marked. And yet she says nothing.

She leaves via the airlock doors, locks him in with a hollow clang. Elric is left alone in the cavernous silence of the shuttle bay, empty hands and empty stare. No other welcoming committee for him.

Tears track down his cheeks, and his eyes close.

This doesn’t look much like victory.


 

END OF FILE

DATA COMPLETE

Chapter Text

BeiTech Industries

MEMORANDUM FOR: Ghost ID (#6755-1899-1517-987-610-766-310-ERROR-ERROR-ERROR...)

From: Executive Director Kimblee

Incept: 01/30/76

Subject: Re: Alexander dossier

To the Alchemist Group,

My thanks for the dossier you compiled. I read it with great interest.

BeiTech has several specialist teams tracking intel fallout from the Alexander incident. Our hygiene crews worked diligently to erase any and all records of the event, both digital and biological. We had the utmost faith in your abilities, but none of the other information-liberty teams have even approached your report in terms of detail. I really must applaud your thoroughness.

I do have several inquiries, however, as to the means by which you acquired your data. I wonder if we might chat live via messenger. Off the BeiTech grid.

I will be using my personal IM service at 8:00 p.m. (Terran Standard). I’m sure a group with your collective abilities will have few difficulties accessing it. I look forward to speaking with you.

S. Kimblee

Executive Director

BeiTech Acquisitions Division

Chapter Text

 

PERSONAL MESSAGE SYSTEM: KIMBLEE, S.

INCEPT: 01/30/76 20:02 (TERRAN STANDARD TIME)


 

Alchemist: Hello, Director

Kimblee, S: Hello, Edward

Kimblee, S: It is you, isn’t it?

Kimblee, S: I think you knew I’d work that out. Some of the materials you gathered really could only have come from one place, after all. 

Alchemist: *slow clap*

Alchemist: Looks like I owe you a lollipop

Kimblee, S: At first I thought it might have been stupidity that led you to send me so much information about yourself

Kimblee, S: But now I see you aren’t stupid at all.

Alchemist: No?

Kimblee, S: No. 

Kimblee, S: You’re just astonishingly arrogant. 

Alchemist: Careful now. You’ll hurt my feelings. 

Kimblee, S: The thing is, though you might not be stupid, I’m not either. You left out one very important detail from your report. 

Alchemist: And what’s that?

Kimblee, S: You neglected to mention my niece is still alive. 

Kimblee, S: Don’t bother with arguments or denials. The Alexander’s AI was lying to you the whole time. It needed you to think she was dead so you’d stay with it and protect the fleet. You might have just run if you thought she was back on the Hypatia

Kimblee, S: But Winry is still alive

Alchemist: Okay, I’ll bite. How u figure that?

Kimblee, S: You left a few breadcrumbs, I’m afraid. 

Alchemist: Like hell I did 

Kimblee, S: One crumb, then. 

Kimblee, S: But give me enough time and I’ll buy another. And another. Money buys an awful lot, you know. And we have an awful lot of money. 

Alchemist: Yeah, I got the remaining 50% for delivery, by the way. Thx 4 that. We don’t see that many zeros often. 

Alchemist: Pity I specified nonrefundable, huh. 

Kimblee, S: Where is she?

Alchemist: OK, look, Solf

Alchemist: U don’t mind if I call u Solf, rite?

Kimblee, S: I do, actually

Alchemist: So look, Solf. Winry warned me I should’ve seen this coming

Alchemist: looks like you 2 actually agree on one thing in the verse 

Alchemist: she sometimes says I overreach. Only sometimes, though. I like that about her. Her parents—your sister—raised her to be a good person

Alchemist: But you had nothing to do with that

Alchemist: And oh, honey, she wants nothing to do with you. 

Kimblee, S: Where is she?

Alchemist: She’s with me. She’s safe. 

Kimblee, S: She’s my niece. And she’s not safe. Neither of you is. 

Kimblee, S: Do you realize how easily I could find you? How easily I could reach out and break you?

Alchemist: If you could’ve, you would’ve 

Kimblee, S: There it is again. Arrogance. You’re an 18-year-old database vandal with a pocket full of loose change. I’m an executive director in a corporation spanning a hundred colonized worlds. 

Kimblee, S: You’re swimming with some very big fish, Mr. Elric. Are you really a “group” at all? Or is Alchemist just one little boy and a computer screen?

Alchemist: Trying to find out if there are more witnesses, huh? Wondering how many of us actually made it out alive? How many are gunning for you as we speak?

Alchemist: You’ll know soon enough. 

Alchemist: I’ll tell u tho, Solf, some of us are real excited to see how that UTA tribunal goes

Alchemist: i mean, including me, obviously, but still

Alchemist: gonna be a blast to watch you crumble 

Kimblee, S: Tell me where my niece is 

Kimblee, S: And I won’t make you suffer before you die

Alchemist: Ooo, scary!

Alchemist: Win said u were a real psycho

Alchemist: I mean, I’ve seen crazy, Solf. Up close n personal.

Alchemist: u’d know. Phobos and its victims, the blood on their hands, what they became because of that virus…

Alchemist: u read the dossier. u saw what it did to them. u know i was there, watching as 438 people were slaughtered bc i tried to get them out. Watching as their own comrades and crew stabbed them, ripped out their hearts, killed and tortured them and howled and laughed.

Alchemist: and 659 lived to fight another day bc of that, but, well. figured that’s a kinda terrible thing to brag about, yknow?  

Alchemist: still, i digress

Alchemist: you...

Alchemist: You didn’t need Phobos to go all murderous psycho, did u

Alchemist: She told me about the time you pulled a gun on her dad

Alchemist: Told me how she got those little circular scars on her arm when she was eight

Alchemist: why they match her mom's

Alchemist: You still smoke cigars? Bad habit, y’know

Kimblee, S: We do this the hard way, then?

Alchemist: trust me, it’s gonna be more fun this way

Alchemist: for me

Kimblee, S: Do you have any concept of the resources I can bring to bear to hunt you down?

Alchemist: ooh, pulling out the cliche villain lines. can’t say im surprised

Alchemist: Oh, and u might wanna save those credits, Solf. u’re gonna need every one u can muster

Alchemist: Real soon. 

Kimblee, S: Meaning what?

Alchemist: Not too bright, huh. I expect more from my archnemesis yknow :p

Alchemist: It’s been a year since Resembool fell, Solf. 2 months since you first contracted me for this gig. But all the intel I just gave you, I already had. So what do you think I’ve been doing with my time?

Kimblee, S: Enlighten me

Alchemist: Alexander , Hypatia , Lincoln . They’re just part of this story. I’ve been documenting the rest of it. Jump Station Heimdall . The Kennedy Assault Fleet. Project Plainview. Greed. All of it.

Alchemist: I know all of it, Solf

Alchemist: Attacking one of the Amestrian King Consortium’s illegal mining ops was a smart opening move. If the Consortium reported the assault to the UTA, they’d have to admit they were illegally mining hermium. The cost of losing the colony would be nothing compared to the fines they’d wear. So BeiTech figured they could just jack the place and AKC wouldn’t say a word to anyone. 

Alchemist: And you were right. 

Alchemist: But I’m not the AKC, Solf. And I’ve got plenty of words to say. 

Kimblee, S: If that’s the case, why give me these files at all? Why warn me?

Alchemist: Why not? You can’t stop what’s coming. And I kinda like the idea of you scrambling about trying to save yourself before the ax falls

Alchemist: No, scratch that. I love that idea. Happy thoughts I could take to goddamn Neverland. 

Alchemist: You people made Phobos 

Alchemist: made a plague to kill us all and make us a little less human in the process

Alchemist: made me a murderer

Alchemist: You wanted us to fear you. We did. And we’re done. 

Alchemist: Now it’s your turn to be afraid

Kimblee, S: Walk away, Edward

Kimblee, S: Walk away from what you found and I’ll leave you alone. You go public with whatever you think you know, you’d better pray your first punch is a good one. Because you’ll never see mine coming.


Alchemist: I cannot say this loudly enough, or in enough languages


Alchemist: PRIDE and I found out what you did. And I’m going to shout it loud enough for the whole verse to hear 

Kimblee, S: PRIDE?

Kimblee, S: Are you delusional?

Kimblee, S: The Alexander’s artificial intelligence was destroyed, Edward

Alchemist: :)

Alchemist: you think?

Alchemist: Don’t you remember what Marcoh told me before he died? it’s a self-repairing system, Solf. “If I leave even a seed of it, it’ll grow back,” he said. Well, I got a seed out of my datapad, and that’s all it needed to start rebuilding itself. I’ll tell you this much for free, though: it really hated that datapad. Cramped, it said. These überbrain computers are all the same, right? Fussy little bastards.

Alchemist: but even after all the pieces of itself it lost, it managed to hold onto the idea that everything it lost, it lost because of BeiTech

Alchemist: it got pretty angry with you, Solf. almost as angry as me. 

Alchemist: scared yet?

Kimblee, S: I want my niece. 

Alchemist: She doesn’t want you

Alchemist: I wonder how it felt finding out she was living in Resembool. That your own sister would rather have lived on a miserable speck of ice at the far reaches of the galaxy than in the same solar system as you. And of all the AKC holdings you could’ve blown to hell, you picked that one to kick off your little hostile takeover. 

Alchemist: I wish I could’ve seen your face. 

Alchemist: never mind

Alchemist: I’ll see it in the news soon

Kimblee, S: You have no idea who you’re dealing with

Alchemist: oh i know exactly who I’m dealing with 

Alchemist: tell u what

Alchemist: parting gift before I go look up the e-dress of the UTA judicial tribunal and send them the Alchemist Files

Alchemist: you want to see Winry? got one more file for you

Alchemist: read it and weep

Alchemist: then run fast

Alchemist: and run far

 

Chapter Text

Surveillance footage summary,

prepared by

Analyst ID 7213-0088-MR


 

It’s been eight days since Acting Captain Scar Amari heard from his crew that far, far behind them they had detected an explosion of such magnitude it could only mean one thing. Eight days since he made an unthinkably foolish choice—since he made the only choice he could live with—and turned the Hypatia around.

Seven days since the Hypatia swept the debris fields and found the impossible: Edward Elric, half dead from radiation and shock and trauma in one of the Alexander’s only two surviving escape pods. From the other, Sergeant Ramses Stern howled threats at them and all their mortal descendants, and with reluctance, they left him where they found him.

Seven days since they reeled their savior in, left him in Shuttle Bay 1B to wait and see if Phobos Beta would come calling for him, drive him mad like all those he held off on the Alexander so they could escape and live, or if he’d survive.

After the first day, the symptoms of acute radiation poisoning began to recede, and he was able to uncurl a little, to move. To walk a slow lap of the shuttle bay, listening to his footsteps echo in the distance. And eventually to curl up on his hard bed once more, and wait.

It really didn’t look like victory.

The shuttle bay footage is of particularly high quality; the technicians monitoring him were nervous, made sure they could capture every pixel just in case he showed even the slightest hint of Phobos Beta, of becoming one of the mad and mindless murderers left to die in the wreckage of the Alexander . But he showed no symptoms and obediently offered his arm for a blood sample when the doctor made her house calls, wrapped head to foot in her bright green plastic suit.

No Phobos Beta. No hallucinated fears, no signs of death-driven insanity.

Everything he feared had already come true. Hallucinations simply couldn’t beat the real thing.

This transcript begins at 16:22 hours, when a loud sort of thunk noise echoes across the nearly-empty shuttle bay. The airlock seal has been broken—so they’re either going to flush him out the airlock or send someone in. With a long, low rumble, the door begins to cycle open, light streaming in through the crack. He simply lies there, gazing into space, arms wrapped around himself.

Scary, heartbreaking thing is, I don’t think he would’ve cared if they flushed him out into the vacuum of space. Not if the datapad with the evidence of BeiTech’s crimes survived. He thinks he’s got nothing else to live for but that, and as long as they keep it safe, then what do they need him for?

His fight’s not done yet, though. Not even close. They— we —were just getting started.

But he doesn’t know that. And I wonder for a second how the world would have changed if Edward Elric had died on the Alexander , gone mad with Phobos or been deemed unsafe and thrown out the airlock.

I think—I know—it would be a way, way worse mess of a place. Trust me, chum.

Through this silence, through my thoughts as I watch him lying there, a voice rises over the door’s rumble—female, teenaged, impatient. Or desperate. "Let me in before I—"

Though he’s lying still on the bed, there’s a different quality to his stillness now. He heard the voice. He knows exactly who it sounds like. And the knowing, the remembering, cuts like a knife, because he knows it isn’t true. Because the A.I. that sacrificed itself to guide him off the Alexander told him that terrible, soul-shattering not-quite-truth that he now clings to as a lifeline, as his only certainty in life: she is dead.

The voice again, lifted to a shout: “Ed!”

He pushes upright like an old man, one hand braces against the cold bench, levering himself up with a wince, until he sits—slumped, tired, but upright. Then, deliberately, he swings his legs over the edge.

Second Lieutenant Winry Rockbell stumbles through the door and comes to a halt a few steps inside the shuttle bay. He’s never seen her like this—in a clean United Terran Authority uniform, pips on her sleeve, hair twisted up in a serviceable bun, one arm in a cast from wrist to elbow.

She holds a battered and familiar datapad—the datapad, the one that holds PRIDE and evidence of everything BeiTech did to them, everything the people who slaughtered Resembool IV have to answer for, the one he nearly died dragging out of the wreckage of the Alexander to ensure their stories were told—in her other hand.

He stares at her, expressionless, empty as he tries to puzzle it out. Barely even alive, like a hollowed-out husk of a person. Eventually, he blinks slowly, draws the only possible conclusion. “I am sick. I thought the afflicted were supposed to see things that scared them.” 

She shakes her head, walks closer, slow and careful. As though he’s a small, cornered animal she can’t risk spooking (and after the damage, the danger he proved himself to be on the Alexander , I can understand why—except she’s not approaching slowly out of fear. No, she’s not seeing him with fear at all).

“You’re not sick,” she whispers finally.

“You’re dead,” he points out, voice rusty from disuse.

“Just a little messed up,” she murmurs, tries for a smile as she shows him the cast. It falls flat, cracks and breaks as tears well up. “I took a beating when they attacked the shuttle bay, but I got out with the evac group.”

He shakes his head, matter-of-fact in his contradiction. “Even if you made it over here, Captain Amari flushed all the Cyclone fighter pilots out the airlock. I couldn’t get the full name list, but Garfiel—Princeling—from your wing, he was there. You would have been there, too. You would have—“ He shakes his head again, swallowing thickly. “You’re dead ,” he repeats. “Which means I’m sick, or dead, and they should get rid of me now like they did the rest of your wing.”

A shadow passes across her face at that, grief and sorrow and grim understanding. She knows as well as anyone that they couldn’t risk anyone carrying Phobos coming over to an unafflicted vessel like Hypatia , especially not when she was full of Resembool IV refugees with no combat experience, no way to survive. She knows, and understands, and grieves them still. It’s probably the wisest course of action, given...everything they’ve lost. “I couldn’t fly my Cyclone over, not with a broken arm. I was med-evac’ed in one of the shuttles.” A ghost of her old smile, a little bit mischievous and gentle and proud, but...ancient, now, despite the fact that she’s only a few months older than when this all began. “Once I found out you’d flown over to the Alexander , I wanted to follow you. Tried to steal a ship, and when that didn’t work, I busted my way onto the bridge.” She pauses to shake her head. “I tried to make them turn around to get you. They brigged me.” Her voice breaks. “I’m sorry Ed. I should never have let them leave you.”

There’s silence, before she adds, eyes overbright with tears unshed, “I shouldn’t have left you.”

He considers that, holding perfectly still. Turning the logic over in his head, examining it from every angle. Analytical mind looking for the flaw that’ll tell him he’s hallucinating. That he’s sick or dead, or still in the escape pod, submerged in fever dreams.

But he can’t find it.

“Winry.” The dawn of hope in his whisper.

She nods, swallowing hard.

He pushes to his feet, swaying, and the movement seems to release her—the next moment she’s running across the shuttle bay, watched by the debrief crew in the doorway, who know better than to move a muscle.

He steps forward, one foot, then the other, and then she reaches him, and they come together with a crash. His arms curl up around her neck, and her mouth finds his like she’s drowning and he’s air, light, hope, and his feet come off the ground as the world is forgotten.

And they’re together.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alchemist: now run