Author: c_b_syndrome/LJ Harris
Rating: PG13 this chapter - R overall
Spoiler Warning: Even though it's seriously A/U... Yes
Other Warnings: Depends on how easily squicked you are... it -is- CSI, after all.
A/N: Oh goody! We get Elrics this chapter! Fair warning, for the purposes of this story, ranks and ages are a bit… off… compared to the manga and the anime. Don’t worry, explanations will be forthcoming… eventually. Just remember this is A/U for FMA.
“This is Lt. Cain.”
“Lieutenant, this is Charles Wilmore from Hazmat.”
“Yes, Mr. Wilmore. Do you have the results yet?”
“I do. And while that soup is organic in nature, it isn’t even a Level 1 biohazard. No danger at all, except maybe from the plastic surgeons this guy might’ve put out of business.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow you, Mr. Wilmore.”
“What you have in that tank is an organic, highly nutritive substance that could… conceivably… artificially gestate an elephant, or become the Fountain of Youth to a whole lot of rich old ladies. It’s nothing more than… well, best description is amniotic fluid.”
“I see. Mr. Wilmore, please send over a sample of this substance for DNA testing, if you would. And treat the rest of it as though it were a Level 4 biohazard.”
“Lt. Caine? I’m not sure you understand me here. There is absolutely nothing dangerous about this substance.”
“I do understand, Mr. Wilmore. However, it is dangerous. A police officer was murdered today over this synthesized amniotic fluid and I mean to find out why.”
“Understood. Will a quarter liter be enough?”
“It will be more than enough. Thank you. And Mr. Wilmore? Please use extreme caution when you transport the sample. I don’t want any more deaths because of this substance.”
When Horatio hung up the phone, he lifted a thin, leather-bound journal off of his desk. It was one among many that had been brought in to be catalogued from the Tucker house, but it had struck Horatio as unusual because the handwriting was vastly different from most of the others he’d seen so far. While most of the personal journals were written in the same spidery script as the notes on the charts hanging on the basement wall, this was written in bold, sloppy penmanship that looked more like the journalist was young, impatient, and trying to write with his non-dominant hand. It was difficult to read, but what he could decipher appeared to be a travelogue.
Horatio didn’t believe that was what it actually was though, and that made it interesting.
However, it was what had fallen out of the journal when he’d thumbed through it earlier, that caught his attention. A snapshot of happier days; the little girl who was in the photograph Horatio had seen in Mr. Tucker’s living room, but here she was in a coat and mittens, posing proudly next to a lop-sided snowman. With her was a boy who looked to be about 14, with long blonde hair pulled back in a single braid and striking gold eyes… and was currently beneath a large, white dog. From the looks of things, it appeared that the dog had chosen that moment to pounce the boy. And behind the candid slice of life, a very large suit of armor sat with one hand on the child’s shoulder and the other on the dog’s head. The little girl with long brown pigtails –is this Nina?-- looked like she was no more than four here. About the same age as when she posed for the portrait with Mr. Tucker.
Questions gathered steam and raced across Horatio’s mind, but it would take some time to get the answers. He would know more when Alexx was finished with her autopsy of Nina.
Alexx performed the autopsy with her customary professionalism, but the more she examined the large, furry form on the table, the more questions she had. She was not a veterinary pathologist; this was not her area of expertise, but she was familiar enough to know that this was not the body of a normal dog.
Horatio, due to the nature of this particular case, had insisted she examine Nina first, but he was keeping very tight-lipped about his own theories. At the same time, the room was locked down tight –even the theatre overhead was secure from prying eyes. No one was allowed in without prior approval from Lt. Caine.
Under normal circumstances, Troy Biggins, the murdered officer, would have been first priority. Especially now that word had trickled down to her that the two officers who were to escort the suspect to the station hadn’t reported in yet and no one knew their current location. However, because of the strangeness of the creature before her, it was distinctly possible that the examination could be interrupted at any moment by Federal Agents and Nina would be whisked away, forever to remain a mystery.
Of course, at the rate things were going with the autopsy, Alexx had a feeling that this would be the final result in any case.
As she sliced off some tissue samples for testing, the Senior CSI entered and she said, “Horatio, nothing is adding up here. By all indications, this poor creature was fully developed, but the organs are all wrong.”
“Define ‘wrong’, Alexx,” Horatio said as he approached the table and gazed down at Nina.
“Look here,” she said as she pulled a flap of flesh further away from Nina’s ribs. “This poor baby’s chest cavity was entirely too small for the size of her heart and lungs. She could barely breathe and the blood-flow was so constricted it’s amazing that there isn’t any more necrosis in her extremities than I’ve already found.” She indicated other organs as she gave him the laundry list of why this creature should-not-exist. “Her digestive tract is inefficient. Her intestines are too small for the rest of the body and her stomach is slowly eating away at itself in any case. Her kidneys had started shutting down a few hours before she was shot, her liver has failed, she doesn’t even have a spleen.” She nodded at the x-rays glowing softly on the lighted panes nearby and led him over to them. “Look at those joints, Horatio. The deterioration is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in someone much older. This creature’s bones are built for something far smaller and they just couldn’t handle the stress of all that bulk. But she’s not obese.”
She finally faced him and allowed her confusion and fear to show as she pointed at the body. “Horatio, I don’t know what that is on my table, but it’s absolutely impossible that she could have reached that level of maturity in her condition. She was in constant, extreme pain. The best she could have survived from birth would have been a month and that creature looks to be at least two years old.”
“Alexx, how much do you know about cloning?” Horatio finally asked when she’d finished blowing out all her frustration.
“Enough to be able follow the scientific journals on the subject, why?”
“Then you might remember ‘Dolly’?” Horatio said as he strode back to the table and brushed a hand over Nina’s head. “The clone of that sheep had the same cellular age as the original.”
“But she still looked newborn, Horatio. This poor animal looks like a fully mature dog… or… something.”
A slight smile tugged at the corner of Horatio’s lips, but there was no amusement in it. “Alexx, what do you think she is?”
“I’ll know more when I get the results back from the tissue samples,” she said, staring at Nina. She just couldn’t tear her eyes away from the form in front of her; it was too much like something from a very bad horror film, in her opinion. “For now, I don’t dare speculate, because what she appears to be is patently impossible.”
“Alexx,” he said, then paused. His tone caused her head to snap up and focus on him and what she saw in his eyes disturbed her. Horatio Caine looked almost… frightened. “Alexx,” he started again, “she… spoke to me.”
Alexx felt the blood drain from her face to pool somewhere down near her feet and the senior CSI standing in front of her suddenly looked like he was at the end of a long tunnel. “Dear God, Horatio,” she whispered when the implication finally sunk its claws into her stunned mind. “Are you saying Mr. Tucker combined canine and human DNA?”
“I’m saying that this is a very distinct possibility, Alexx, and somewhere out there is the real Nina.”
At that moment, Frank Tripp burst in, followed closely by Eric. Alexx scrambled to cover Nina up, but Horatio stayed her hand with a light touch. “Frank and Eric were in the basement when we found Nina, Alexx.” Then he faced the two men at the door and said, “Detective Tripp? Mr. Delko?”
Frank took a deep breath, but that didn’t alleviate the tension around the man’s jaw or the fury in his eyes. “We found our men, Horatio. Dead. The ringer’s in the wind.”
“Speaking of the ringer,” Eric said, “I just got a hit from AFIS. More or less. We’ve been locked out; this guy’s file is in the DHS databse.”
“Homeland Security?” Horatio turned to Alexx and said, “Make certain Nina is secure, Alexx, then I want you, Calleigh and Ryan with those two dead police officers.” As he strode out the door, he said, “Eric, you’re with me.”
As the younger man fell into step with him, he said, “Where we going, H?”
“Back to Mr. Tucker’s house. To find Nina.”
The police cruiser had slammed hard enough into the light pole to not only shove the engine into the front seat, but to completely dislodge the pole and send it crashing into a brand new Mercedes.
Calleigh whistled at the ruined car as she and Ryan Wolfe strode past it and said, “Someone’s gonna have fun explaining that one to their insurance company.”
Ryan scanned the people at the edge of the barrier and zeroed in on an extremely agitated middle-aged man gesturing wildly and arguing with one of the cops handling crowd control. “If he’s not calling a lawyer first,” he said.
The Fire Department had already pulled the engine from the front seat so the bodies could be accessed and currently Alexx was kneeling over one of the dead cops. “Both of their necks were broken,” she said. “These boys died quickly, thank goodness.”
Ryan cast a worried glance at Calleigh and said, “Just how big was this guy?”
“Actually, not very,” she said; the expression on her face was as puzzled as how he felt. They’d reached the cruiser and split up to opposite sides. When they both knelt down, it was the first time they’d gotten a look at the devastation inside.
“What the hell was he on?” Ryan asked as he stared in disbelief at the metal mesh divider laying haphazardly on the back floorboard. It had been bent and twisted as though it were caught in a hurricane. The back of the front seat was warped, indicating quite a bit of strength had been involved in the struggle, and the radio had been completely ripped out.
“I don’t know,” Calleigh said. “Looks like all the weapons are accounted for, though.”
“Probably doesn’t need them,” Ryan muttered as he snapped shots of the inside of the cruiser.
“No kidding. He had to be pretty damn fast too,” Calleigh said as she started looking over the front, “in order to get the drop on two seasoned cops like that.”
Ryan found one bracelet of the handcuffs that had been used on the suspect and gingerly picked it up by the edge. The links that held the two bracelets together –usually behind the suspect’s back—were clean, which meant that the snapped one was missing. “What do you think the tensile strength is of stainless steel cuff chains?”
Calleigh’s head shot up and she passed a quick glance from the cuff to Ryan, her face gone tight. “Any prints?”
Ryan shook his head as he swabbed the inner ring of the bracelet, then squeezed out a drop of phenolphthalein onto the cotton --but the swab remained white. “I’m surprised there isn’t any blood on this. There’s gotta be epithelials though.” He bagged and noted the cuff, then flipped on his Maglite. He caught sight of something in the oblique light and picked it off the back of the seat with a pair of sterile tweezers. “How long was this guy’s hair, Calleigh?”
“It was regulation,” she said as she peeked over the back of the seat. “Why?”
Ryan held up a single dark hair that was at least 24 inches long. “Looks like our ringer had some help.”
Eric stared at the yellow-taped front door of the Tucker house and grimaced. He’d long ago stopped having nightmares over every gruesome crime scene, but every now and again, one would fly under his radar and he’d spend a week or two with little sleep. This was going to be one of them and he had the nasty feeling that it would take quite a bit longer than a week to get over the horror he’d seen in the basement.
Horatio unlocked the door and ducked under the tape and Eric followed. He had a job to do and he couldn’t allow his personal feelings to interfere with the investigation. Something heinous had happened to a little girl and she, at least, deserved some justice.
Horatio had filled him in on the way of what Alexx had discovered so far about ‘Nina’ and Eric was still trying to wrap his brain around it all. It seemed so completely unreal and he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was all just a very bad dream brought on by too many cheesy horror flicks and too much spicy pizza, and that he’d wake up any moment and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all…
…at least, he told himself, it was a pleasant fantasy. Unfortunately, the scientist and cop in him refused to let his mind wander too far in that direction. This was ugly, nightmarish, bizarre reality, and there was no way he could escape it. And, if he was honest with himself, he didn’t want to. He wanted answers –as badly as H did—and he wasn’t going to stop until he got them.
Starting with the basement.
What they were searching for in this ‘Mad Scientist’s’ lab was evidence of either the floor, or the walls having been disturbed. Cut out and replaced –hiding a small body. There was a chance that the real Nina was still alive somewhere, but no one had yet to find any sign of Mr. Tucker’s former wife or child. Still, he and H both hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.
Eric was scanning the concrete floor in the middle of the dimly lit room with his Maglite and caught a subtle difference in the coloration. Kneeling to get a closer look enabled him to see the somewhat familiar pattern of a very large circle with lines and symbols inside. It was very similar to some of the patterns that had been painted on the walls, ceiling and floor of the secret room right above them. “H.” When Horatio joined him, Eric said, “Take a look at this.”
“It appears that Mr. Tucker’s artistic skills had improved at this point, doesn’t it?”
Eric couldn’t resist the small laugh at the dark humor. “It’s definitely more precise. Looks like chalk, though. And pretty faded. I wonder how long ago he drew this? And why?”
“That is a good—“ Horatio instantly went silent and both of them glanced up at the ceiling when they heard a pair of thumps overhead. With a gesture, both men moved to either side of the doorway at the bottom of the stairs and waited with their guns drawn. There wasn’t even a pause before two sets of steps headed down the stairs into the basement –whoever it was, knew exactly where they wanted to go and the first thing that went through Eric’s mind was the ringer.
The first set of steps that headed down was uneven, almost as though the person was supporting a heavy burden on one side; the second set was lighter –a much smaller person, perhaps?
The time for speculation was quickly over as the first person entered and in a flurry of movement, Eric found himself staring down the barrel of his gun at a short, blonde male who was glaring back up at him with intense gold eyes –and a metal hand over the muzzle of his weapon. “Go ahead and shoot, buddy. You’ll be digging the bullet out of your ass.”
“Raise your hands over your head. Slowly,” Horatio said to the second invader.
The boy complied without argument, but the older one wasn’t moving. “Who the hell are you?” he asked.
Eric used his free hand to tap at the badge hanging on his belt. “Miami CSI. Now put your hands up. Or you’ll be digging my partner’s bullet out of your ass.”
Natalia Boa Vista had just completed her log notes when the printer kicked out the results from the DNA tests she’d performed on the sample of the ‘synthesized amniotic fluid’ Hazmat had delivered. As she closed the log and started across the room, she heard the printer begin to spit out another sheet and wondered who she was going to have to corner this time about using the DNA lab’s equipment for personal projects. By the time she reached the printer, it had added a third page to the stack and she was mildly annoyed to notice it was her lab results that had printed last.
She snatched the page off the printer and had every intention of leaving the rest to be found by the miscreant that had sent them, when she did a double take. The second page was also a DNA report. She pulled it off the tray and saw the bottom page was another report. About that time, a fourth page was coming out of the printer and before it had completely exited, Natalia was staring in disbelief. It was yet another DNA report. “What the hell?”
Horatio studied the two boys across the table from him. Both of them were small and far too young to be as hardened as they were trying to look. They clearly weren’t street kids, weren’t in any gangs.
They were, to put it bluntly, too ‘pretty’. Both of them had long blonde hair pulled back into neat ponytails --although the younger one’s was darker-- and the clothes were custom, which meant money. If that weren’t enough, the prosthetics on the older one told an interesting story. They were made of titanium and were fully articulated. Both his right arm and, as Horatio discovered when the boy was being checked for hidden weapons, left leg. They were, in his opinion, works of art; they were also extremely experimental.
Horatio wondered when and how he came to be in possession of such prosthetics.
The older one did all the talking and had tried to pull off street slang, but failed miserably. The words just didn’t roll off his tongue like someone who had lived the talk. Both of them were articulate and obviously very well educated. Private schooling, Horatio assumed. So why would they try to pretend to be gangsters?
“Tell me again, Mr. Elric,” Horatio said, “what were you and your brother doing in the Tucker house?”
Edward, the older one, chuckled sarcastically. “What? Am I not speaking English, here? I told you, we found the place empty and thought we’d take a look and see if we could scavenge something. Get a few bucks, you know?”
“I know. And I don’t believe you.” At least he’s dropped the bad lingo, Horatio thought. We’re making progress.
Edward shrugged and slouched back in his seat with his arms crossed. “Suit yourself. Are you going to charge us with trespassing? What is that? A misdemeanor?” He held out a hand and said, “Give me the ticket and we’ll get out of your hair.”
“Actually, you’re both being charged with B&E and interfering with an on-going investigation. Felonies.”
Edward snapped straight in the seat and did a fairly good job of acting affronted. “Over an abandoned house? Get real!”
“That house, Edward, is where a man was murdered and I think you know that. How did you and your brother miss the crime tape over the doors and windows?”
“We came through the bedroom window in the back. There wasn’t anything on it.”
“Then how did you miss the blood stains on the carpet and the spatter on the wall?”
“I told you, we came through the bedroom window. We never went anywhere near the living room.”
“I never mentioned where the blood was, Edward.”
Edward’s teeth ground together, but he’d suddenly become mute. Alphonse, on the other hand, shot a nervous, side-ways glance at his brother. Horatio knew they knew far more than they were letting on and he was placing bets that he would get what he wanted from the younger one, first. He wasn’t going to focus on him, though. Horatio knew, the moment he tried to apply any pressure on Alphonse, Edward would go critical, and they wouldn’t get a thing from either of them.
So he focused on Edward, watching out of the corner of his eye as Alphonse’s weak defenses and resolve slowly crumbled. The older brother and Horatio had played a verbal game of cat and mouse for over an hour now, but he was growing weary of this. They knew something, he knew they knew, and it was time for the final play.
“Where is Nina?”
Edward smirked and shrugged. “Nina who?”
Horatio caught that little twitch –the hitch in the boy’s breath, the dilation of his pupils, and the slight sheen of sweat that popped out on his forehead. Alphonse went pale. “You don’t know?”
“I think you do, Edward,” he said as he laid a photograph of a much younger Edward Elric, Nina and a big, white shaggy dog posing in front of a suit of armor.
“Brother,” Alphonse whispered.
Edward shot him a silencing glare, then turned that heated look on Horatio. He flopped back in the seat again, defeated… or so he would have Horatio think. “Okay, fine. Shou Tucker was my professor. It took me a couple of years to track him down and it figures that when I do, he’s dead. All I wanted was to get back what was mine. A couple of journals.”
“I saw those journals, Edward. They looked like travelogues. Have you done much traveling in your life?”
“You could say that.”
“Now what would an academic like Professor Tucker want with your travelogues?”
“Beats the hell out of me. He always was a few sandwiches short of a picnic.”
“You’re quite young to have studied under a professor, Edward. What was Professor Tucker’s field of study?”
“He was our personal instructor,” Edward said. “He taught us the usual. Reading, writing… ‘rithmatic.”
Edward shrugged and smirked again, but Horatio didn’t miss the wariness underneath the casual act. “Sure.”
“Genetic research?” Horatio asked as he tossed the morgue photo of ‘Nina’ on the table.
Both boys recoiled at the sight –an expected reaction when having something like that photograph shoved under your nose—but then Alphonse’s lips trembled and tears welled up in the boy’s eyes.
Edward, on the other hand, looked ready to commit murder and Horatio had little doubt he would be capable of it --if the person responsible for ‘Nina’s’ condition weren’t already dead. “Fucking bastard,” Edward whispered, and Horatio knew the epithet wasn’t directed at him. “I can’t believe the son of a bitch actually did it.” Edward’s face crumbled at that moment and he started to shake with the effort to keep from crying.
Alphonse didn’t even try. Instead he covered his eyes with one hand and sobbed softly in his seat.
“Edward, do you know where Nina might be?” Horatio asked gently. They had broken, there was no point in grinding the shattered pieces of their defense under his heel.
“Mr. Horatio,” Alphonse said so softly Horatio almost didn’t hear him. “That… that is Nina.”
“Al,” Edward hissed warningly.
The younger Elric rounded on his older brother and said, “He already knows more than he should Brother and it’s our fault. If we’d just gotten here a couple of days earlier--”
“But maybe Mr. Horatio can help us!”
“Perhaps we can help each other, Alphonse,” Horatio said.
Edward studied the Senior CSI for a long moment, while Alphonse stared with pleading eyes at his older brother. Finally Edward chanced a glance at Alphonse and Horatio was quite certain that the older boy melted just a little bit.
Edward fell back in his seat and tiredly rubbed at his face. “Dammit,” he whispered, then said, “Okay, what do you need?”
“The first thing I need is Nina,” Horatio said.
Edward shoved the photograph back at the other man and said, “Al just told you, that’s Nina right there.”
“That is Nina’s genetic material combined with canine DNA. I want the real Nina, or her body.”
“Lt. Caine, believe me… that is Nina,” Edward insisted.
“Mr. Elric, that is impossible.”
Edward let his head drop back over the top of the seat with a frustrated growl and grasped double fists full of his long, blonde hair. “Goddamn you, Mustang.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“General Mustang,” Alphonse said, “is our commanding officer.”
“I see,” Horatio said slowly. He had never been so grateful for an interruption as he was at that very moment, when Eric tapped lightly on the window and gestured for Horatio to step outside of the room. “Gentlemen, I’ll return in a few moments. In the mean time, please reconsider your current story.”
As soon as he closed the door behind him Eric cast a glance into the room, then back at the older man and suppressed a smile. “Giving you a hard time, H?”
Horatio carded his fingers through his hair and shook his head. “I can’t tell if they’re deliberately trying to run me in circles, or if they really believe the things they’re telling me.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not going to like this,” Eric said. “I ran the older one’s prints through AFIS and got the exact same lock-out as I did from the ringer.”
Horatio watched as the two boys leaned in close to each other and talked softly. “Now why in the world are these teenagers in the Homeland Security database, Eric?”
Horatio started to head back into the interrogation room. “At this point, nothing would surprise me.”
Horatio spun at the sound of the unfamiliar voice and faced a mild-mannered looking man with dark hair, rectangular glasses… and an Army uniform. “Yes?”
The man held out his hand in greeting and said, “I’m Colonel Maes Hughes, Lt. Caine. I’m the advocate for Major Alphonse Elric and Lt. Colonel Edward Elric.”
Horatio and Eric just glanced at each other, then stared at the officer before them.
“Eric,” Horatio said, never taking his eyes off of Colonel Hughes. “I stand corrected.”
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was created by Arakawa Hiromu and is serialized monthly in Shonen Gangan (Square Enix). Copyright for this property is held by Arakawa Hiromu and Square Enix. CSI: and CSI: Miami are created and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and owned by CBS. All rights reserved.