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Fic - "ISHBAL! The Musical! (Act I)"

Title: ISHBAL! The Musical! (Act I)
Author: colonel_bastard
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist [manga].
Word Count: 8431
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Almost everyone who ever appears in the Ishbal flashback (even the soldier chorus), and one OC.
Summary: A musical about Ishbal.
Warnings: Swearing, slash, violence, death. You know, all the usual Ishbal stuff.
Notes: I've done my best to condense the entirety of the Ishbal flashback chapters into a coherent two-hour musical. Some characters and storylines were cut for time (sorry, Marcoh!) and I had to take some liberties here and there. My usual Ishbalan rules apply (just a few words I've invented), and, as usual, Priest = Scar and Brother = well, yeah. Don't be intimidated by the word count, heh, it's mostly songs. And speaking of songs, every source-title contains a link to a YouTube video with the original music, so you can sing along if you choose! Originally written for fma_fic_contest for the prompt "Ishbal," this fic won first place. Please enjoy!



ACT I

PROLOGUE


The Fuhrer’s office. Fuhrer Bradley, sometimes known as WRATH, sits at his desk and deals with the legislative end of ruling a country. His fake son Selim, better known as PRIDE, fidgets with the knick-knacks on a bookshelf.

WRATH
Don’t do that. Your mother takes such care in keeping those in order.

PRIDE
My mother. I wish you wouldn’t call her that, sometimes it makes me sick.

WRATH
Sometimes?

PRIDE
Other times it makes me want to kill her.

WRATH
Ah. Well, we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Pride knocks a framed picture to the floor with obnoxious intent. Wrath glares at him.

WRATH
I’m trying to run a nation, here.

PRIDE
A sham nation.

WRATH
It’s our nation, so you better get used to it.

Pride nudges another knick-knack to the floor.

WRATH
Pride!

PRIDE
I can’t help it. I’m devastatingly bored.

WRATH
So find something to entertain yourself.

PRIDE
I am.

WRATH
Something that’s not my office.

PRIDE
Something on a grander scale, perhaps.

Pride suddenly goes quiet, head cocked, as if he hears something.

PRIDE
What was that?

WRATH
What was what, now?

Pride scrambles to the window and looks out and up.

PRIDE
Have you noticed the angle of the sun today?

WRATH
Can’t say that I have.

Pride crosses to the center of the office, licks his finger, and holds it aloft to test the air.

PRIDE
I do believe it’s time for some carnage.

WRATH
Now you have my attention.

Bright, twinkly music begins to play.

LET’S GO START A WAR
(to the tune of Let's Go Fly a Kite from Mary Poppins)

PRIDE
I’m starting to think that it’s time
To commit the ultimate crime
The whole board has been set
All the pieces in place
Time to pick up the pace
Blow it up in their face

He climbs up on Wrath’s desk and begins to dance.

PRIDE
Oh-h-h-h
Let’s go start a war
That’s what he made us for
Let’s go start a war
To please our Father
Blood spilled into the earth
That’s what a human’s worth
Oh, let’s go start a war

Wrath jumps to his feet and claps Pride enthusiastically on the shoulder.

WRATH
With the tension already high
Can you think how many will die?
All the torment and tears
It could go on for years
It’s a beautiful thing
God, it’s good to be King!

Pride hops down onto the floor and steps up on Wrath’s feet. Wrath takes his hands and they dance gleefully around the office.

WRATH/PRIDE
Oh-h-h-h
Let’s go start a war
What are we waiting for?
Let’s go start a war
Begin the bloodshed
They never stand a chance
Dance, human puppets, dance
Oh, let’s go start a war

Wrath runs over to the desk and picks up the phone.

WRATH
(spoken)
Envy? It’s Wrath. Time for you to shoot an innocent Ishbalan child! I thought you’d like that. Let the mayhem begin!

Pride sings a high, triumphant trill.

PRIDE
Ah-h-h-h-h!

As the music swells and an offstage chorus joins in, the office dissolves. Walls lift up into the flies, furniture rolls away into the wings---

---revealing the vast desert of Ishbal behind.


WRATH/PRIDE/CHORUS
Oh-h-h-h
Let’s go start a war
What are we waiting for?
Oh, let’s go start a war

The music fades into soft, segue sparkles as the homunculi exit.

SCENE ONE

An Amestrian military camp in Ishbal. Dusty tents among endless dunes under a vast, cloudless sky. The sunlight is oppressive, the heat unbearable. A few soldiers mingle about in heavy wool uniforms. One of them, Charlie, comes downstage and squints into the sky.

The segue music leads into---


ISHBAL (WELCOME TO HELL)
(to the tune of Skid Row (Downtown) from Little Shop of Horrors)

CHARLIE
The sun comes up too early
And it burns too strong
The days keep getting hotter
There’s no water
And you’re halfway gone

DAMIANO
Sing it, brother

CHARLIE
Still the war drags on

DAMIANO
We’re still in

CHARLIE/SOLDIERS
Ishbal
Where your feet are sore
You’re in
Ishbal
Where the sandstorms roar
You’re in
Ishbal
Where a tent is your
Prison cell

CHARLIE
Welcome to hell

SOLDIERS
Welcome to hell

SOLDIERS
Welcome to
Ishbal

DAMIANO
Where the food is shit

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

RICHARD
And there’s none of it

SOLDIERS
Ishbal
Till your gut’s a pit
You can’t quell
Welcome to hell

The soldiers rotate their posts with weary familiarity. They drag their rifles in the sand, wiping sweat from their brows.

SOLDIERS
Sometimes you don’t know how long you’ve been here
Sometimes you can’t believe it’s seven years
Every day they tell us that we’re almost there
I’m getting used to feeling like I just don’t care

Sometimes you tell yourself it’s all a dream
You wake up in the morning and you want to scream
You’re caught up in a war that you don’t understand
And getting really sick of sand
But you’re in

Separating from the crowd, we see RIZA HAWKEYE, the lone woman among the soldiers.

HAWKEYE
Ishbal
Where your life’s a mess

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HAWKEYE
You feel less and less

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HAWKEYE
Where there’s ugliness
You can smell
Welcome to hell

SOLDIERS
Welcome to hell
Welcome to hell
Welcome to hell
Welcome to hell

Downstage right, a spotlight finds MAES HUGHES, stationed as a lookout.

HUGHES
War
Feels like all my life it’s been war
If you asked me what it was for
I would tell you, “Fuck, I’m not sure”
More and more, I yell
“I’ve had enough of this bullshit,
And I’m going home!”
But here in hell
You learn to fight, ‘cause in deserts like this
Just survival’s the goal
I’m keeping my life
I’m losing my soul
That’s the trade
‘Cause I’m in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES
And I don’t know why
I’m in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES
Where it’s kill or die
Here in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES
And I feel like I’m
Just a shell

SOLDIERS
Welcome to hell

HUGHES
Wasn’t planning to stay
When I came out here
Thought I’d be on my way
But it’s been three years
I just hope and I pray
I get outta here
Need a transfer for me
I can’t be here

The following segments are sung simultaneously.

SOLDIERS
Ishbal
Messes with your head
Ishbal
Snakes get in your bed
Ishbal
And you leave the dead
Where they fell

HUGHES
I’ll just hang on and try
To get outta here
I was such a nice guy
Till they sent me here
I feel part of me die
Every day out here
Soon I’ll be just a ghost
At my post here

SOLDIERS
Ishbal
Where the sun is hot
Ishbal
Where the corpses rot
Ishbal
Where desertion’s not
A hard sell

Hughes crosses to downstage left and Hawkeye crosses to downstage right. The other soldiers fall into formation around them.

HUGHES/HAWKEYE
Man, I’m in really deep
I want outta here
I can’t get any sleep
I want outta here
There’s no price that’s too steep
To get outta here
I get orders that I can’t obey
Here in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES/HAWKEYE
I’ll go crazy if I have to stay
Here in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES/HAWKEYE
Got the will, but I can’t find the way
Here in

SOLDIERS
Ishbal

HUGHES/HAWKEYE
I just know I can’t spend one more day
Here in

ALL
Hell!

The song ends. As the soldiers disperse back to their posts, we hear the rumble of approaching vehicles, tires crunching and scrambling in the sand. Truck doors open and slam.

ROY MUSTANG enters, fresh-faced and eager. For the moment, he is alone onstage. He turns slowly, drinking in his surroundings.


WHAT ALCHEMY IS FOR
(to the tune of I Have Confidence from The Sound of Music)

MUSTANG
And so I’m here at last
The front lines
The fruit of all these years
The front lines
Strange that I don’t feel different
Guess I thought I would change on the spot
Thought nearness of war would be crushing
Looks like my fears were for naught

The air here crackles with promise
It tells me life has just begun
And I will honor that promise
I’ll stay until we’ve won

It’s seven years they’ve been fighting
That’s too long for a war
Oh, I’ve heard all the doubts and the rumors
But that’s not what a soldier is for
We must fight for the country that needs us
And it needs us to settle the score

Well, now that I’m here the score will settle
This is the chance to prove my mettle
All of my training led to this point
Now they’ll see
For

Some use alchemy for research
Some because they’re simply vain
Some use alchemy to further their own gain
But I’ll end this war
That’s what alchemy is for

This is a gift I’m wielding
Always remember that
No more of Maes’s gentle shielding
Time to step up and fight my battles

Some use alchemy for housework
What a waste and a disgrace
Some use alchemy to mend a broken vase
But I’ll end this war
That’s what alchemy is for

Some think alchemy’s a hobby
Some use alchemy for crime
Some use alchemy to simply pass the time
But I’ll end this war
That’s what alchemy is for

Time to perform my duty
They will receive my best
Zolf says that war’s a thing of beauty
I say that war was sent to test me

Some make alchemy their master
I’ll make alchemy my own
I have confidence in alchemy alone

He takes a moment to calm his nerves.

MUSTANG
(spoken)
I’m fine.

He rises to his full height.

MUSTANG
I have confidence in alchemy alone
I will win this war
That’s what alchemy is for

The song ends. Hughes enters and gives a shout of elation.

HUGHES
Roy!

Mustang turns and greets him with the same enthusiasm.

MUSTANG
Maes!

They embrace.

HUGHES
Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes!

MUSTANG
Glad I can help.

HUGHES
I mean it. I’ve been stuck out here for three years, man. I thought I was getting a six-month rotation, but they just keep extending it. I’m going crazy.

MUSTANG
Nothing like a little enforced duty to make a man appreciate the military.

HUGHES
So what’s going on? Are they so desperate for manpower that they’re sending in tenderfoot scholars like you?

MUSTANG
Actually, they’re sending in State Alchemists like me.

Mustang displays his silver pocket watch and Hughes whistles in approval.

HUGHES
Hey, nice. Who else is here?

MUSTANG
That you would know? There’s Kimblee, of course, and Armstrong---

HUGHES
Armstrong?

MUSTANG
Problem?

HUGHES
I dunno. Don’t think he’ll be a good fit in a shitstorm like this. So you guys are here to join the fray?

MUSTANG
We’re here to end it, Maes.

HUGHES
You mean---

MUSTANG
The Fuhrer has given us direct orders to bring this war to an end as soon as possible, by any means necessary.

HUGHES
That--- that’s incredible. That’s amazing. That’s the best news I’ve heard since---

Hawkeye passes by upstage.

HUGHES
Hey, cadet! Cadet!

Hughes grabs her by the arm and drags her over to Mustang.

HUGHES
Cadet Hawkeye, meet the man who’s going to get us out of here.

HAWKEYE
Sir?

HUGHES
This is Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, and my hero if he can put his money where his mouth is.

HAWKEYE
I know, Sir. We--- we’ve met.

An awkward moment between Hawkeye and Mustang.

MUSTANG
Cadet.

HAWKEYE
Major.
(to Hughes)
Excuse me, Sir, I was on my way to my post.

HUGHES
Of course. Sorry about that. Carry on.

They all salute. She exits.

HUGHES
That was chilly. You have a history?

MUSTANG
An unhappy one, I’m afraid. I was her father’s apprentice. He taught me everything I know about alchemy.

HUGHES
What’s a matter, you get a little frisky with the teacher’s daughter?

MUSTANG
Hardly. Her father died unexpectedly, and we didn’t part company on the best of terms.

HUGHES
That’s too bad. She’s been great to have around the camp. A hell of a sharpshooter, too. It’s funny, her name was already Hawkeye, and then she turned out to have a… you know, a Hawk’s Eye… anyway, it’s a funny coincidence.

MUSTANG
Hilarious.

HUGHES
I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear you say you’re here to end it. This war, Roy--- there’s something evil about it. I can’t wait to wash my hands of it and get home to Gracia.

MUSTANG
Ah, yes. And how is Gracia?

HUGHES
She is absolutely fantastic, thanks for asking! She writes me the cutest little letters and tells me all about what she’s been up to, what she’s been baking, when she gets a new dress---

MUSTANG
And when you write back, what do you tell her about what you do here?

HUGHES
Heh. Not much.

MUSTANG
I wonder why that is.

HUGHES
Because it’s not important. When I get out of here, I’ll never look back. I’m going to forget I was ever here.

MUSTANG
Good luck with that. Really, Maes. I wish you nothing but the best.

Hughes smiles and puts a hand on his shoulder.

HUGHES
It’s good to see you again, Roy.

He exits.

Other State Alchemists enter--- ALEX ARMSTRONG and ZOLF KIMBLEE. They are in the middle of a conversation.


KIMBLEE
I’ve heard that you have to be extra-careful to shake out your boots every morning. Scorpions crawl into them at night and their sting is lethal.

ARMSTRONG
I’ll be sure to take care.

KIMBLEE
You’d better. A scorpion bite doesn’t look that bad at first, but soon it turns black and before you know it, you’re foaming at the mouth.

Armstrong looks uncomfortable.

MUSTANG
Come on, Kimblee, there’s no need for that.

KIMBLEE
I just want him to be prepared.

MUSTANG
He heard all of this in orientation, didn’t you, Armstrong?

ARMSTRONG
I did. Although at orientation, they didn’t seem to take such delight in the details.

KIMBLEE
I’m fascinated by the local fauna, what can I say? I thought the Armstrong family had a proud history of nature enthusiasts.

ARMSTRONG
One of the many interests that has been passed down the Armstrong line for generations.

KIMBLEE
Like alchemy?

ARMSTRONG
…yes.

KIMBLEE
Well, then, carry on the good name, old boy!

ARMSTRONG
I try.

Armstrong exits. Kimblee rubs his hands together gleefully.

KIMBLEE
Mark my words, Mustang, we are in for a hell of a ride.

MUSTANG
What makes you say that?

KIMBLEE
Can’t you smell it?

He sniffs the air. Mustang follows suit.

MUSTANG
I smell shit and sweat.

KIMBLEE
And I smell bloodlust. Look at the men around here. They’re hungry for action. Lucky for them that’s my forte.

MUSTANG
You make it sound like a sport.

KIMBLEE
And you and I, the sportsmen.

MUSTANG
We are soldiers following orders. Nothing more.

KIMBLEE
Whatever helps you sleep at night.

MUSTANG
I think I’ll see about finding my quarters.

Mustang exits. Kimblee exits in the opposite direction, whistling a merry tune.

SCENE TWO

Elsewhere in the camp. Hawkeye is on her way to her post. A soldier, Damiano, leers appreciatively as she passes him. He reaches out to slap her ass.

HAWKEYE
Don’t even think about it.

He withdraws his hand, intimidated by her intensity, and exits hurriedly.

The heat is suffocating. She removes the sand-colored coat she wears over her heavy uniform. As she slips out of it, another soldier, Richard, supplies a mocking wolf-whistle. She whirls on him, enraged.


HAWKEYE
What?

He blows her a kiss and exits. She glares after him.

PLAYING WITH SOLDIERS
(to the tune of Don't Tell Mama from Cabaret)

HAWKEYE
Soldiers
Have a funny way of thinking
When it comes to being female
In a camp of rowdy boys
Soldiers
Go a certain kind of crazy
And they think that any women
Have been sent to be their toys
But listen
If you think that I’m a plaything
Better brace yourself for trouble
I can make a lot of noise

Keep off
Don’t come closer
Stay back
I said no, sir
Keep that weapon inside of your pants
They say
“Come here, baby”
It’s not
Even maybe
Those boys never stand a chance

You want to be there when my jacket falls off
But if you try to touch me I will shoot your balls off

So stay back
Keep your distance
Get lost
Mind your business
Go ahead and say my heart is ice
You can leer and whistle, I suppose
But if you slap my ass, I’ll break your nose
When you play with soldiers
Don’t play nice

Soldiers
Suffer from a certain problem
Namely far too many trousers
And a tragic lack of skirts
Soldiers
Think they have an invitation
To go grabbing any female
And be ripping off their shirts
But listen
If you think that you can take me
Just be warned that I’m a fighter
I will hit you where it hurts

Back off
I’m not joking
This girl’s
Not for poking
Sorry, fellas, but I’m on the shelf
Tell me that you need it
Beg me— I won’t heed it
You can go and fuck yourself

I’ve had enough of boys and their frustration
You’d think that they had never heard of masturbation

So shut up
Quit your hoping
I won’t
Stand for groping
Get used to your hand, that’s my advice
And just in case you couldn’t tell
You’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell
When you play with soldiers
Don’t play nice

Oh, you say you love my tits so much
Well, you can look, but you can’t touch
When you play with soldiers
Don’t play nice

You can spread the rumor I’m a dyke
But buddy I know just whose dick you like
When you play with soldiers
If you play with soldiers
When you play with soldiers
Don’t play nice

If you want to kiss me
Kiss my ass

As the exit music plays, Alberto pokes his head onstage and whistles.

Hawkeye rolls her eyes and exits in the opposite direction.


SCENE THREE

An open battlefield. Hughes, as captain, is addressing a group of soldiers, including Hawkeye.

HUGHES
All right. There’s a nest of Ishbalan insurgents just over that ridge. I’m just as eager as the rest of you to go charging over there and give ‘em hell, but wait for my orders.

CHARLIE
What’s the hold up?

HUGHES
We’re waiting on the heavy artillery to arrive.

DAMIANO
The what?

HUGHES
The alchemists.

RICHARD
Alchemists?

HUGHES
Trust me, they’ll make it a lot easier for all of us.

ALBERTO
What, Command thinks we can’t handle it?

DAMIANO
They think we need a bunch of freaks to step in and fight for us?

HUGHES
You haven’t seen them in action yet.

HAWKEYE
I have to agree with the men, Sir. Alchemy isn’t the perfect solution that Command seems to think it is.

HUGHES
It may not be perfect but it’s pretty damn good and it’s the best thing we’ve got, so we’re going to sit tight and wait for---

He is interrupted by a harsh Ishbalan war cry.

HUGHES
Well, fuck.

Ishbalans come swarming over the ridge and the battle begins.

THE FIRST BATTLE
(the following sequence is set to The Stampede from The Lion King.)

The air crackles with rifle fire. Several bodies fall.

The Amestrians struggle to form a defensive line, but there simply isn’t enough time. Both sides charge and meet in the middle.

When bullets are spent, the fighters meet in hand-to-hand combat.

The Ishbalans fight with speed and grace. The Amestrians fight dirty and take any hit they can make. Both sides howl and curse as they tear into each other.

In the midst of this, Hughes stumbles back, cornered by an Ishbalan with a knife. Hughes pulls his service pistol and attempts to fire, but the gun jams.


HUGHES
Shit! Shit!

He throws the gun aside. The Ishbalan charges. Hughes manages to block the first strike, but he’s not trained for this and leaves himself wide open. A quick slash of the knife across his side drives him to knees.

The Ishbalan looms over him, ready for the killing blow.


HUGHES
Oh, god---

He helplessly throws up his arms. It looks hopeless until---

In a blaze of light and a roar, Mustang races to the rescue, driving the enemy back with a wave of fire. He drags the shaking Hughes to his feet.


MUSTANG
You all right?

HUGHES
I’m--- I’m fine.

MUSTANG
Good!

Mustang charges past him and into the fray. Hughes, rattled, retreats in the opposite direction.

The State Alchemists arrive in full force--- Mustang, Kimblee, and Armstrong drive the terrified Ishbalans back in a panic. The stage is flooded with bursts of light and the thunder of explosions. It’s chaos, swept with smoke.

When the dust settles, it becomes clear that the Ishbalans have retreated and the Amestrians are left to tend to their wounded.

The State Alchemists stand front and center. The other soldiers eye them with varying degrees of uneasiness and disdain.


KIMBLEE
Well! That was fun!

He turns to his comrades for validation and receives only silence.

SCENE FOUR

On the other side of the ridge and still retreating, the beaten Ishbalans limp to safety. They are led by a young PRIEST.

ISHBALAN WOMAN
Such devilry!

ISHBALAN BOY
I’ve never seen anything like it.

ISHBALAN MAN
How can we fight against the devil’s arts?

PRIEST
Do not doubt. Ishbala provides--- He will show us the way to defeat these monsters.

The survivors have reached a shabby little camp. They are greeted by other Ishbalans, including the Priest’s BROTHER and a girl, YASMIN, who hurry to help those who are injured.

YASMIN
Akhi rama, what happened? What are these burns?

PRIEST
We were not prepared for such a weapon.

BROTHER
What was it, brother?

PRIEST
It was alchemy.

BROTHER
You’re sure?

PRIEST
Nothing else could have done this. Do you see now, brother, what your study is capable of?

BROTHER
All disciplines can be used for evil. You cannot say that alchemy itself is at fault. It is the alchemist that abuses it who is to blame.

PRIEST
You can’t keep making excuses for this.

BROTHER
All disciplines can be used for good, as well. If you would just listen to me---

PRIEST
I won’t! It’s blasphemous. You should be ashamed.

BROTHER
Very well.

Brother withdraws. Yasmin approaches the Priest.

YASMIN
What can we do, akhi rama?

PRIEST
We must pray, Yasmin. We must ask Ishbala for guidance.

YASMIN
I pray every day. I try. But sometimes---

PRIEST
Don’t allow yourself to complete that thought. It’s weakness. Renew your faith and have patience.

The Priest withdraws. Yasmin is alone.

YASMIN
Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t something better to live for.

She joins the others in tending to the wounded.

SCENE FIVE

The Amestrian camp as the soldiers return from battle. Armstrong and Kimblee are separate.

KIMBLEE
What’s the matter, Armstrong? You’re looking a little rattled.

ARMSTRONG
I suppose I never fully expected I would have to use my alchemy in battle.

KIMBLEE
Then why did you join the military?

ARMSTRONG
Tradition, perhaps. And I had hoped I could use my skills to protect the people.

KIMBLEE
And today you used your skills to destroy them.

ARMSTRONG
…exactly.

KIMBLEE
Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get used to it. Soon you might even enjoy it.

ARMSTRONG
I shudder at the thought.

Kimblee laughs delightedly as they exit. Mustang enters, followed by Hawkeye.

HAWKEYE
Major Mustang.

MUSTANG
Yes, Cadet?

HAWKEYE
I saw what you did out there.

MUSTANG
I was following orders.

HAWKEYE
I know. That’s exactly what you were doing. And that’s exactly why my father didn’t want to share the secrets of flame alchemy with you.

MUSTANG
Look, I know it seems like---

HAWKEYE
It doesn’t seem like anything. It just is. You made me trust you, Mustang. I thought that you would use this alchemy for good, for the benefit of the country.

MUSTANG
What do you think I’m doing? I am trying to end this war so we can all get back to our lives.

HAWKEYE
You want everything back to the way it was before.

MUSTANG
Of course I do. Don’t you?

HAWKEYE
Sometimes, I feel like my whole life has been one long, unhappy nightmare. I keep telling myself that one of these days, I’ll wake up. Something or someone will happen and I’ll finally be able to look to the future. If this war ends and everything goes back to the way it was before, I don’t know what I’ll do. I want to change. And I thought you wanted to change, too.

She exits.

For a long moment, Mustang is left alone with his unhappy thoughts. He pulls off his gloves and guiltily shoves them in his pocket.

Hughes enters.


HUGHES
There you are. Roy, I--- I wanted to thank you.

MUSTANG
It’s nothing.

HUGHES
You saved my life. I was really done for.

MUSTANG
It’s my job. It’s our job, as fellow soldiers, to take care of each other.

HUGHES
Right. I know.

Hughes holds up his hands.

HUGHES
Look at that. Shaking like a leaf.

Mustang takes the trembling hands in his own.

MUSTANG
It’s okay. I’m here.

Suddenly, Hughes leans forward and kisses him. It only lasts a moment before Hughes pulls away abruptly, coughing and covering his mouth, mortified.

HUGHES
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--- I wasn’t going to---

Mustang touches his shoulder.

MUSTANG
It’s all right.

They turn towards each other. They kiss again, clinging to each other, hands finding familiar places, voices reduced to muffled groans.

When they break apart, breathless, they lean their foreheads together.


MUSTANG
God, I missed you.

Hughes steps back nervously.

HUGHES
We better not--- you know, in case someone sees---

Mustang glances around and shrugs.

MUSTANG
Out here, I don’t really think it matters.

HUGHES
You should go.

MUSTANG
If you want.

They share a long, contemplative look.

Mustang exits.

Night has fallen. Alone in the moonlight, Hughes reaches in his pocket and pulls out a small packet of letters. He presses them to his chest as though they can reach directly to his heart.


LETTER TO HOME
(to the tune of Hello, Young Lovers from The King and I)

HUGHES
When I think of her
My heart goes flying free
From the cold, heavy shackles
Of this grim reality
And the harsh sands of Ishbal
Melt sweetly into dew
Darling, wait for me
I’ll come back to you

She’s afraid for my life, I can tell from her words
All her notes are stained with tears
So I write back to her and I don’t tell the truth
I say just enough to calm her fears

He begins to write a letter.

HUGHES
Hello, my angel
I hope you are well
I’m fine, don’t worry for me
Each day I go through a dreary routine
Peaceful as it can be

I’m safe, my angel
The battles are few
In fact, there’s hardly at all
Most of the time we just sit and play cards
Waiting for the mail call

The desert is neat
And I don’t mind the heat
We’ve got great food and water to spare
I nap in the shade
And I’m never afraid
I can see your face everywhere

I know, my angel
That waiting is hard
And memory loses its charms
Most men believe that the war will end soon
Soon I’ll be back in your arms
Soon I’ll be safe in your arms, my love
Soon I’ll be safe in your arms

With a final look at the letters in his hand, he exits.

SCENE SIX

The empty desert. Yasmin and the Priest are passing through.

YASMIN
I don’t think I can do it, akhi rama.

PRIEST
It is the duty of every Ishbalan to take up arms against our enemy.

YASMIN
But I cannot take a life! My heart won’t allow it!

She is close to weeping. The Priest softens and consoles her gently.

PRIEST
Then I will not ask it of you.

YASMIN
I’m sorry, akhi rama. I have failed you.

PRIEST
You have not. And you haven’t failed Ishbala, either, as long as you continue to honor Him.

YASMIN
I don’t know how.

PRIEST
Remember how you used to dance at the temple? You dedicated your body to the worship of God. Perhaps you can find peace there, even now.

YASMIN
Thank you, akhi rama.

PRIEST
Be at peace, my daughter.

He exits.

Yasmin, alone, practices a dance in silence. She lifts her eyes to heaven.

Upstage, Hawkeye enters on patrol. When she sees Yasmin, an Ishbalan, she immediately brings her rifle to bear.

She hesitates. She watches her dance, and gradually, she lowers her rifle, allowing the stock to hit the ground with an audible sound.

Yasmin turns at the sound, startled.

They stare at each other.


HAWKEYE
Please. Don’t stop.

Slowly, Yasmin resumes her dance--- this time, her eyes trained on Hawkeye.

Soft, bewitching music begins to play---
the Solo Dance from Cats.

Yasmin, barefoot, moves with incredible grace. Hawkeye is spellbound.

When the dance ends, they continue to watch each other.

Hawkeye starts to approach Yasmin, but the Ishbalan girl suddenly loses her nerves and bolts.

Hawkeye stares off in the direction she exited.


SCENE SEVEN

The Amestrian military camp. Various soldiers sit scattered on crates and the ground, bored out of their minds.

DAMIANO
Anybody wanna play cards?

He is answered with exasperated groans.

DAMIANO
Just a suggestion.

CHARLIE
You know, maybe we should just go out there and start hunting. We’re on shoot to kill orders, right? Why not have a little fun with it?

RICHARD
We’re also under orders to sit tight. Wait for the master plan.

ALBERTO
Wait for the alchemists to tell us what to do.

CHARLIE
Goddamn alchemists.

DAMIANO
Bunch of monsters.

RICHARD
Think they can just come marching on in here and take over after we’ve done all the work.

CHARLIE
Meanwhile, they leave us sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, waiting for their say-so.

WAITING
(to the tune of Turning from Les Miserables)

CHARLIE
I can’t stand it
Dying in the heat
Waiting for the red-eyes
To at last admit defeat

DAMIANO
I can’t stand it
Waiting on those sneaks
Now we’re taking orders from
Those alchemistic freaks

RICHARD
I was promised just a few more weeks

ALBERTO
I don’t like them

DAMIANO
What is there to like?

CHARLIE
Were it up to me I’d tell ‘em all
To take a hike

DAMIANO
We don’t need them
Or their fancy tricks

RICHARD
Think they need to fix us
But there’s nothing here to fix

CHARLIE
Want to help us? You can suck our dicks

ALBERTO
I can’t stand them
Showing off their skill
Think they’re special just ‘cause
They use alchemy to kill

RICHARD
Don’t need magic
When I’ve got a gun
Doesn’t matter what I use
As long as it gets won

SOLDIERS
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting
In the sun

Waiting, waiting, waiting in the sun
Weeks feel like forever
We’re so close to being done
Go out fighting, don’t forget the war
Then come back to camp so you can sit and wait some more
Back to camp to sit and wait some more

As the song ends, Mustang and Hughes enter. Mustang receives a few dirty looks and grudging salutes before the soldiers find excuses to exit. Mustang gestures after them, exasperated.

MUSTANG
See what I mean? They hate me. Half a dozen battles, I’ve saved their lives a hundred times, and they hate me.

HUGHES
They’re just not used to it yet. We’ve been operating under the same routine for years, Roy. Even a change for the better is a little hard to take.

MUSTANG
I wish they wouldn’t treat me like this.

HUGHES
Like what?

MUSTANG
Like I’m some kind of freak. I’ve already got enough on my hands. I’ve got---

He looks at his hands and doesn’t like what he sees. He jams them in his pockets.

MUSTANG
It’s different than I thought it would be, Maes. A lot different.

Hughes approaches, puts a gentle hand on his shoulder.

HUGHES
Can I help?

Mustang flinches away.

MUSTANG
How could you? How could you possibly understand what it’s like?

HUGHES
I guess I can’t. But I can help you forget. For a little while.

From behind, he slips his arms around Mustang’s waist, pulling him close. Mustang arches back into him hungrily.

MUSTANG
Maes---

He turns into his embrace so that their mouths can meet. It’s sad and desperate. Hughes pulls back.

HUGHES
Come on.

He leads Mustang offstage with him.

SCENE EIGHT

Night falls at the camp. A sleazy intro plays as Kimblee enters.

DESPERATE TIMES
(to the tune of Little Girls from Annie)

KIMBLEE
Soldier boy, soldier boy
Got an itch and nothing can match it
Soldier boy, soldier boy
Let your fellow man help you scratch it

It’s a natural affliction you’re feeling
It’s not your fault there are no women here
But there are tricks
You’ll get your fix
In times like these it doesn’t mean you’re queer

Various soldiers appear and pair off, dancing suggestively. Mustang and Hughes are among them. Kimblee sings to the group, offering advice.

KIMBLEE
Close your eyes, fantasize
Make believe his mouth is another
Don’t forget, reach around
Lend a helping hand to your brother

Don’t worry about repercussions
It’s hardly the darkest of crimes
Everyone goes this route
You know what they say about
Desperate times

In the pairs, the soldiers take turns giving instructions to their partners. Kimblee eavesdrops.

HUGHES
Meet me here late tonight

ALBERTO
You can use your hand

DAMIANO
Will you suck me?

RICHARD
Drop your pants, turn around

CHARLIE
That’s an order

MUSTANG
Shut up and fuck me

KIMBLEE
Don’t have to bother with romance
No place for roses or rhymes

ALBERTO
This is wrong, it’s a sin

KIMBLEE
No one’s gonna judge you in
These desperate times

During the musical interlude, one by one the pairs of soldiers disappear into tents. Mustang and Hughes go last. Kimblee observes.

KIMBLEE
Some things we need for survival
Just like a sailor needs limes
Glory holes, dirty deeds
This is what a soldier needs
In desperate times

Kimblee laughs knowingly as he exits.

SCENE NINE

The Ishbalan camp. There are not as many occupants as there were before--- their ranks are thinning.

The Priest’s Brother sits with a large book, reading it intently. Yasmin approaches him.


YASMIN
What are you reading?

BROTHER
It’s an alchemic text.
(chuckles conspiratorially)
If you promise not to tell my brother, I’ll show you.

YASMIN
I promise.

She sits next to him.

BROTHER
I was reading about how the energy of world flows. Some believe that this great flow is formed by all the smaller sources of energy.

YASMIN
Like what?

BROTHER
Like us. People. If people generate negative energy--- say, in a war, for example--- then the flow of the world will become negative. It’s an interesting theory.

YASMIN
That also means that if people generate positive energy, then the flow of the world… well, could be set right. Right?

BROTHER
It would seem so.

She reads over his shoulder in silence.

YASMIN
You’ve also studied Amestrian alchemy, haven’t you?

BROTHER
Yes.

YASMIN
So… you believe that not all things that come from Amestris are evil.

BROTHER
I don’t think anything that comes from Amestris is evil. Not even the soldiers. They’ve done evil things, but they are not evil beings.

YASMIN
Some of them could even be… good?

BROTHER
What is this about, Yasmin?

YASMIN
Nothing.

He considers pursuing it, then decides to let her go.

BROTHER
All right. Just--- be careful.

YASMIN
I will.

The Priest has entered and noticed them.

PRIEST
Brother!

BROTHER
Oh, dear. We’ve been apprehended.

PRIEST
Brother, it’s bad enough that you pollute your own mind with such knowledge, but Yasmin shouldn’t be subjected to your---

YASMIN
He wasn’t subjecting me to anything, akhi rama. I was just leaving.

She exits quickly. The brothers are alone. The Priest comes over and closes the book, gently but firmly.

PRIEST
Must you continue down this path?

BROTHER
Must you ignore it? I know it’s different from our traditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

PRIEST
The law of Ishbala says that it is blasphemy to alter that which has been created by God.

BROTHER
Even if it’s a change for the better? Like I was telling Yasmin, it could be possible to alter the flow of the world’s energy---

PRIEST
I won’t hear it!

BROTHER
---for good! To change things in a positive way, brother! Is that such a sin?

PRIEST
Please. You cannot ask me to accept this.

There is a tense silence. The Brother begins to exit, then hesitates.

BROTHER
You can’t spend your whole life waiting for God to tell you what to do.

He exits.

Upstage, the Ishbalans survivors have gathered for prayer. The Priest stands downstage, separate.


ISHBALA
(to the tune of Maria from West Side Story)

PRIEST
There’s a silence that falls when echoes fade

Behind him, the people pray aloud, their hands lifted.

ISHBALANS
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala

PRIEST
I don’t know what it is but it’s close and I feel afraid

ISHBALANS
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala

PRIEST
Ishbala
I’ve lived all my life for Ishbala
And suddenly I find
He seems to pay no mind
To me
Ishbala
I wait for a sign from Ishbala
I dwindle, peak, and pine
But not a single sign
I see

Ishbala
Can’t you hear all your children crying?
As they’re suffering, bleeding, and dying
Ishbala
I’ll never stop praying
Ishbala

He falls to his knees and tries to pray like the others behind him.

PRIEST
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah Ishbala
Avadah

He stands, frustrated, reaching for heaven.

PRIEST
Ishbala
After all of the years I’ve preached you
Let know that my prayers have reached you
Ishbala
I’ll never stop praying
Ishbala

Till the worlds burns away
I’ll stay, I’ll stay
Ishbala

He turns to the people. As they look to him, he holds out his hands in blessing.

SCENE TEN

The Amestrian camp. A pale, ominous dusk.

Mustang and Hughes emerge from one of the tents, disheveled and fastening their jackets. They lean towards each other for another kiss, but pull apart guiltily when another soldier passes by.

Once they’re alone again, they look away from each other awkwardly.


MUSTANG
Look. Maybe it’s best if we just---

HUGHES
Yeah.

MUSTANG
---keep this to ourselves.

HUGHES
Absolutely.

MUSTANG
I mean, I figure we’re not the only ones---

HUGHES
No, I mean, of course not.

MUSTANG
---but it’s just---

HUGHES
Yeah.

MUSTANG
---prudent.

HUGHES
Prudent, right.

Awkward silence.

MUSTANG
I better go.

HUGHES
You do that.

MUSTANG
Uh… good night.

HUGHES
Night, Roy.

Mustang exits.

Hughes groans and smacks his forehead.


HUGHES
Dear Gracia, hi, nothing new to report, I’m just fucking my old roommate, just like the good old days! How are you?

He clearly wants some time alone, but at that moment, Armstrong enters.

ARMSTRONG
Captain Hughes?

HUGHES
(annoyed)
What?

ARMSTRONG
Nothing. I mean, I don’t want to be a bother.

Hughes almost tells him to get lost, then relents, too generous for his own good.

HUGHES
It’s no trouble, Major. You look like you’ve got something on your mind.

ARMSTRONG
I do. I can’t--- it’s difficult to say.

HUGHES
Take your time.

ARMSTRONG
I’d prefer this to remain between us. As colleagues. It’s rather--- well, delicate.

HUGHES
Major Armstrong, I can assure you that over the past few weeks, I have perfected my ability to keep a secret. Fire away.

ARMSTRONG
Thank you, Captain. It’s nice to know that there are men who can be trusted.

HUGHES
My pleasure, Major. What’s the problem?

ARMSTRONG
I’ve been having--- doubts. About this campaign. And I have not yet been able to convince myself that I am using my alchemy as I should.

HUGHES
You feel--- confused?

ARMSTRONG
That’s not quite it, I’m afraid.

ARMSTRONG’S LAMENT
(to the tune of How Are Things in Glocca Morra? from Finian’s Rainbow)

ARMSTRONG
I feel so weak
How strange I should feel weak
It fills my mind
It leaves me blind
And I can’t speak

There’s something wrong
I know there’s something wrong
The orders come
They beat the drum
I go along
But I don’t feel strong

Have I used my powers wisely?
And have I upheld my family name?
If my father saw me, would he smile
And shake my hand?
Or turn away in shame?

Is my alchemy a blessing?
Or a burden that I’m doomed to bear?
My intentions seem so far away
All blurred to grey
And when I make it home will they fete me there?
Will they hate me there?

And I ask myself this question
Though I’ve sworn to do my part:
Was this whole damn war the problem
From the start?
How much longer till this bloodshed
Breaks my heart?

As the song ends, Hughes looks miserable. Armstrong lays a heavy hand on his shoulder.

ARMSTRONG
Thank you for listening, Captain. I do feel a bit better, having told someone. But please---

HUGHES
Yeah, yeah. I won’t tell a soul.

ARMSTRONG
Thank you.

HUGHES
Try and get some sleep. Maybe it’ll clear your head.

ARMSTRONG
No, Captain--- I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep for a very long time.

Armstrong exits. Hughes hugs himself against the chill.

HUGHES
Goddamn it.

He’s about to exit in the opposite direction when he runs smack into Hawkeye, who has entered in a hurry.

HUGHES
Cadet! Where the hell are you going at this time of night?

HAWKEYE
I was--- um---

HUGHES
You were heading out of camp. What’s going on?

HAWKEYE
It’s personal, Sir.

HUGHES
Personal?

HAWKEYE
Please, Sir, I’m sorry but I can’t explain any more than that. I can’t even explain it to myself.

HUGHES
Oh, great.

HAWKEYE
Listen. I have to do this. I feel like I’ve found something, like I’ve found my one chance to be---

HUGHES
Free?

HAWKEYE
Happy.

HUGHES
Close enough.

He steps aside, gestures for her to continue.

HUGHES
Go on, then.

HAWKEYE
Thank you, Sir!

She pauses.

HAWKEYE
Please don’t tell anyone, Sir.

HUGHES
Don’t worry about it.

She exits.

HUGHES
After all, what’s one more little secret? I’m working on quite a collection.

He spits into the sand.

HUGHES
Fuck me.

He exits.

SCENE ELEVEN

The empty desert, the same location from Scene Six. Night.

Yasmin arrives and checks around, a bit surprised and disappointed to realize she’s alone. She accepts it and decides to dance, anyway.


PAS DE DEUX
(set to the music of the Dream Ballet from Carousel)

Yasmin begins to dance, her dress flowing around her, her long hair pooling this way and that as she turns and leaps.

Hawkeye enters and is overjoyed to see her dancing. She watches for a certain amount of time, and then, emboldened, joins her.

At first, Yasmin pulls away. Hawkeye courts her, echoing her movements, offering her own. They go back and forth, their instinctive animosity restraining their desire. Several times Hawkeye attempts to hold Yasmin, only to be pushed away.

They touch. They separate. The music worries over an uncertain melody.

Finally, as they pass each other, Hawkeye catches Yasmin in her arms and lifts her. They turn together, faces almost touching, as the music comes to a breathless moment of stillness.

Then, the melody of “If I Loved You” emerges, and the two women at last begin to dance--- together.

It comes to them naturally, and they find their way again and again into each other’s arms, breaking apart only to return to an embrace.

The desert becomes their ballroom, the moon their only audience. Breathless, ecstatic, they fly across the sand, their faces showing their joy.

As the music crescendos and Hawkeye lifts Yasmin once more, they finally kiss.

A moment of splendor.


SCENE TWELVE

The Amestrian camp. Day. A very hot, tense day. The soldiers mill about, restless.

Mustang and Kimblee enter and are greeted with sneers.


MUSTANG
I can’t take much more of this.

KIMBLEE
Relax, Mustang. You just need to be a bit more charming. Like me!

Kimblee approaches a group of soldiers.

KIMBLEE
Good afternoon, gentlemen. I was wondering if---

Without saying a word, they turn their backs on him. He gives Mustang a sheepish look.

KIMBLEE
All right, maybe it’s a bit worse than a lack of manners.

CHARLIE
Get lost, freaks.

MUSTANG
Excuse me?

CHARLIE
I said we don’t need your help!

MUSTANG
Oh, I see. You want us to leave and let you handle it? At the rate you’ve been going, the war should be wrapped up in another ten years or so.

CHARLIE
Shut your mouth!

MUSTANG
Get a clue!

Hughes enters just as Mustang is storming out.

MUSTANG
Ungrateful bastards!

HUGHES
Yo, Roy, what’s up? Where you going?

MUSTANG
I’m risking everything to help them and this is the thanks I get! I don’t know why I even bother!

Mustang exits. Kimblee claps Hughes on the shoulder.

KIMBLEE
He’s a bit sensitive, isn’t he? I don’t see why. I heard he’s getting plenty of action--- in all respects.

Kimblee exits laughing. Hughes turns to the others.

HUGHES
What was that all about?

DAMIANO
Serves ‘em right, the psychos.

HUGHES
Psychos? Those alchemists are here to save your sorry ass!

RICHARD
Who asked ‘em? Not me!

HUGHES
Are you all gonna honestly tell me that you don’t want to just get this the hell over with and get the hell outta here?

ALBERTO
Of course we do!

HUGHES
You think we can do it by ourselves?

CHARLIE
Hell yeah!

HUGHES
Are you crazy?

GO, ALCHEMIST, GO
(to the tune of Blow, Gabriel, Blow from Anything Goes)

HUGHES
Brothers and soldiers
We’ve been here for years and made no progress

In the distance, a trumpet sounds.

HUGHES
But there’s someone coming

SOLDIERS
Is there someone coming?

The trumpet sounds again.

HUGHES
Do you know who’s coming?

SOLDIERS
No, who is that coming?

HUGHES
It’s an alchemist, alchemist saying
“Step aside, that’s enough playing!
Will you be ready to go
When I end this war?”

Hughes has worked his way to centerstage and now commands the attention of everyone present.

HUGHES
Oh
Go, alchemist, go
Come on and
Go, alchemist, go
I’ve been a skeptic for all these days
But now I’m ready to sing your praise
So go, alchemist, go

It was slow, alchemist, slow
The war was slow, alchemist, slow
But now’s the time to pick up speed
And alchemy is the thing we need
So go, alchemist, go

Once I thought I was in hell
Once I thought I was in hell
But now you’re here, and now I’m sure
You’ll crush the enemy and end the war
And I’ll say, “Ishbal, farewell!”

So watch the smoke blacken the sky
Stoke the flames higher and higher
‘Cause you kill with explosions
And you kill them with fire
So do the job and don’t hold back
And then we can all go home

The other soldiers are, by now, starting to get the hang of it. He beckons for them to join him.

HUGHES
So I say
Go, alchemist, go

SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist, go

HUGHES
Come on and
Go, alchemist, go

SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist

HUGHES
I want to board the westbound train
And ride away from the land of pain
So go, alchemist, go

He moves around the perimeter, hauling the reluctant ones to their feet.

HUGHES
Come on you jerks, come on you zeroes
These alchemists are your greatest heroes
Get off your ungrateful ass and sing!

The soldiers begin to dance.

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist, go

CHARLIE
Glory, glory!

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
Come on and
Go, alchemist, go

DAMIANO
I’ll salute ya!

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
I’ve been a skeptic for all these days
But now I’m ready to sing your praise
So go, alchemist, go

It was slow, alchemist, slow
The war was slow, alchemist, slow
But now’s the time to pick up speed
And alchemy is the thing we need
So go, alchemist

HUGHES
Go!

With that high note, Hughes steps aside, clearing the stage for what follows.

The soldiers leap into a flashy dance routine. It’s real old-school swing and they own it.

To spice things up, a few of the men perform acrobatic stunts--- backflips and the like. Others onstage cheer them on.

As the music builds to a crescendo, Hughes returns to centerstage.


HUGHES
Once I thought I was in hell
Once I thought I was in hell
But now you’re here, and now I’m sure
You’ll crush the enemy and end the war
And I’ll say

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
“Ishbal, farewell!”

HUGHES
So watch the smoke blacken the sky
Stoke the flames higher and higher
‘Cause you kill with explosions
And you kill them with fire
So do the job and don’t hold back
And then we can all go home
So I say

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist, go
Come on and
Go, alchemist, go

HUGHES
I want to board the westbound train
And ride away from the land of pain
So go, alchemist

There’s a quick flurry of movement as the soldiers fall into a dancing formation.

SOLDIERS
Come on and

HUGHES
Go!

SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist
Go, alchemist

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist, go

HUGHES
I want to board the westbound train
And ride away from the land of pain
So go!

The trumpet blasts.

HUGHES
Go!

A soldier backflips across the length of the stage.

HUGHES/SOLDIERS
Go, alchemist

HUGHES
Go!

SOLDIERS
Go!

On the final beat of the song, everyone drives a fist into the air.

The curtain comes down.


END OF ACT I

ONWARD TO ACT II

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