This chapter is sort of all over the place when it comes to time; I hope it isn't confusing. Kind of like the anime was, in some respects.
Alice in Jails - Prison Episode
Color Pages & Epilogue I
Chapter 1 Front
Chapter 1 Back
Chapter 2 Front
Chapter 2 Back
Chapter 3 Front
Chapter 3 Back
Chapter 4 Front
Chapter 4 Back
Chapter 5 Front & Back, Connecting Chapter, Remaining Chapter
Alice in Jails - Streets Episode
Peter Pan in Chains
It was an island that had once been a fortress.
There was a tiny island off the coast of San Francisco Bay, made up mostly of foreboding boulders and sheer cliffs, topped by a small cluster of inelegant concrete buildings.
Unlike its namesake, the pelican, Alcatraz Island was a grim and dreary place.
Originally uninhabited, the island had been converted into a fort to protect San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. Its formidable defenses were then bolstered even more during the Civil War, and when all was said and done the naval fortress boasted an impressive battery of one hundred and five long-range iron cannons as well as four fearsome Rodman guns, at the time the pinnacle of military firepower.
The island became a prison for military criminals, holding them during the Civil War and continuing to do so even after its role as a fort became obsolete. The fortress that had been made to keep people away became a jail to hold them inside, housing prisoners from the war, Confederate sympathizers, and even some Native Americans. By the turn of the twentieth century, few remembered that it had once been a fortress.
In the year 1933, Alcatraz was deactivated as a military prison and then reborn as the most formidable federal prison in the United States.
They called it "inescapable."
It was a blunt and unyielding word, just like the island prison with which it was so often associated, and it made the inmates tremble with fear. To the people of America, however, the concept of an inescapable prison represented something else, something that had never existed before. To them, Alcatraz was a place that existed as part of the world, and yet at the same time existed completely isolated from it.
For years, even decades to follow, people would make movies and write books about the tiny island off the coast of San Francisco. The word "inescapable" represented the one and only concrete fact that civilians knew about Alcatraz Island, and it captured the imagination of millions.
Then in August of 1934, the man who had filled an entire nation with fear, and dread, and even a strange sense of admiration, was transferred to the island. Al Capone added his legend to that of Alcatraz, and it welcomed him with open arms.
A few months later, another boat much like the one that Capone himself had taken began its trip to the island, this one carrying with it a great deal of despair and a fair amount of ambition.
An Escort Ship in San Francisco Bay
"...This is the pits."
"No talking allowed," the guard who stood over Firo said sharply, not even deigning to glance in his direction.
The reality of what was happening had hit him like a brick once the boat began to move, gently rocking back and forth with the waves.
The place where Firo was headed was, of course, infamous for being inescapable and impregnable, but the mystery surrounding it had given birth to a wide variety of other rumors as well. Firo recalled hearing that every inmate who ever stepped past the gates of Alcatraz inevitably went insane, that the military secretly performed inhuman experiments on the prisoners, and countless other outlandish stories about the place that would come to be known as Devil's Island.
Firo had laughed them off as preposterous flights of fancy at the time, but suddenly, as he caught side of the island far off in the distance, the rumors didn't seem quite as ridiculous as they once had.
It wasn't because Alcatraz looked frightening. Quite the opposite, in fact.
From the docks of San Francisco, all Firo could see of Alcatraz were the natural cliffs and the prison building jutting from the top, with various other buildings that he surmised to be its facilities surrounding it. The natural colors of the rock and the manmade colors of the brick came together perfectly, and together with the light blue of the sky and the darker blue of the sea, it almost seemed like a landscape drawn by a painter.
That was exactly why the thought of what might be going on behind those innocuous looking walls refused to leave Firo's mind. It felt like inside that place, almost unreal and fantastic in its serenity, anything could happen.
After all, he himself was an immortal, a being that would have been right at home in the pages of a storybook. Considering that fantastic entities like Firo himself walked the earth, he wouldn't be altogether surprised if it turned out that an honest-to-God dragon had made its lair on the dreaded island.
It'd be just his luck.
I'm really in it deep.
Unable to voice them aloud, Firo thought his misgivings to himself as the boat rocked fiercely to and fro. It wasn't even going that fast, but it seemed to roil back and forth, right and left, without any rhyme or reason. It seemed the rumors he'd heard about the waters of San Francisco Bay being unusually rough and choppy were true.
He'd given some thought to making a break for it and leaping into the sea, even if it meant taking a few bullets--he could afford to, after all. But from the look of the churning waves, Firo decided it was all too possible that he'd lose consciousness and sink to the bottom of the sea, never to rise again. The distance from the boat to the shore looked laughable, but in reality the ocean's waters were a barrier even more impenetrable than the walls of Alcatraz itself.
Firo frowned, remembering the events and the people who had led him to where he was now.
A Week Ago
"Hahah! What do you say? Almost too good to believe, isn't it? I had to pull a lot of strings to make this happen, you know. Normally, you can't get incarcerated in Alcatraz right off the streets. It's meant for troublemakers from other prisons, after all. But never fear, because my elegant machinations have rolled out a red carpet that leads from here directly to a little island off the coast of San Francisco. Now, normally I would never a two-bit thug from a tiny gang like you to even think of it, but considering the momentousness of this occasion, I think I'll make an exception. I graciously allow you to thank me."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on just a second. Shut up and let me just say one thing," Firo said, waving his cuffed hands. "I'm gonna say this slow, and break it up into parts so it'll have a better chance of making it through your thick head. One, why do I. Two, have to go. Three, to goddamn Alcatraz?"
Victor snorted and shrugged, as though he thought it was more than obvious. "I thought you'd be a little more enthusiastic about this. Don't you want those bragging rights?"
"I mean, an Alcatraz sentence is something like a badge of honor among criminals like you, isn't it? For people like me, a stay in Alcatraz might be nothing but a mark of shame, but I imagine things're different in your world, if you get what I man."
"...Maybe, but not this time. Getting shunted off to some jail without a trial just 'cause some feds thought I should go is nothing but a black mark on my record, and on the Family's," Firo snapped, feeling his tenuous grip on his temper starting to slip again.
If anything, though, his ire seemed to amuse Victor.
"Well, what if I told you you'd be popular inside? You're pretty enough I wager you'd be a minor celebrity there in a matter of days. Then again, I suppose the warden over there has things locked down tight enough that nothing like that would really happen, so you don't have to worry."
"...Noah, mind if I kill your boss."
"You're welcome to try, but something tells me you're gonna have trouble killing an immortal."
Firo settled for glaring daggers at Victor as the detective threw back his head and laughed, a wave of irritation washing over him. The old him would have already followed his brash impulses and made a dash for Victor, placing his hand on the other immortal's head and making him beg for his life.
He paused, going back over his thoughts for a moment.
The old me, huh...
It was true. He was a lot softer than he'd used to be.
Save his childhood friends, the Gandor brothers and Claire Stanfield--and to be honest, they were more like family than friends to him--he'd spent his life with his heart closed off to the world.
Then one day he'd picked a fight with an old Japanese immigrant named Yaguruma and found himself tumbling bodily through the air. One thing had led to another, and he'd been introduced to an organization called the Martillo Family.
The Family, a criminal organization known as a camorra, had provided Firo with a home, a place where he could relax and let down his guard. Come to think of it, perhaps his time in the Family had been when his hard edges had begun to smooth out, and the fangs he'd always bared openly at the world had slowly been sheathed.
And the one who had tamed him completely had been...
Ennis, I guess. Or maybe it was Isaac and Miria.
None of those three could really be called upstanding citizens, but then again nor could they be quite classified as criminals. He smiled as he recalled their faces, but Victor cleared his throat noisily and hauled him back to reality.
"Alright, I think that's enough bullshit. You wanted a reason, and I'll give you one. Think of this as a plea bargain."
"You heard me. Remember the girl I mentioned earlier? Ennis?"
"...What about her?" Firo asked, feeling his pulse quicken at the mention of the woman he'd been thinking of just moments before.
"She devoured an alchemist, a long time ago. Do you remember that?"
Firo didn't reply, but he had a feeling he did indeed remember. It was something he'd asked Ennis herself, and the stolen memories inside of him backed up the answer he'd received then.
A long time ago, when she had still been nothing more than an emotionless puppet, Ennis had devoured an immortal who had come to take Szilard's life.
That unthinking action had been the turning point of her life. Knowledge she'd never even imagined could exist had surged through her, birthing inside of her emotions--guilt and regret foremost among them--that would go on to form the backbone of her current personality.
Firo himself had long forgotten about the incident, but perhaps Ennis herself still struggled with the guilt caused by the sins of her past. He shot Victor a fierce glare, wondering what the other immortal was after, why he was so intent on picking at old scars.
But instead of flashing him a smarmy grin, Victor instead leaned back a little, and closed his eyes.
"He was my friend."
Firo had nothing to say to that. He looked away, the four words weighing down on him heavily. The somber mood had no time to settle, though, before another thought occurred to him and his head snapped back up.
"Hold on... You're not saying you want to get revenge on her or anything, are you?" he said, and the tenseness is his voice made it obvious that he was more than ready to bring back the animosity he'd swallowed at a moment's notice. He took deep, measured breaths as he waited for Victor's reply, prepared this time to really follow through on his threat and devour Victor, if need be.
Victor made a show of thinking the matter over.
"I don't want to have to do that, any more than you do," he said, choosing the words carefully. "If I thought that could solve everything, I'd have eaten you a few minutes ago, and I'd have done the same to Huey the moment we got our hands on him... but I'm not Szilard Quates, and I'm not gonna become anything like that fucking son of a bitch anytime soon, either."
"Really. But that doesn't mean I can just laugh off the death of a friend and let bygones be bygones. Logically I know that she was nothing more than Quates' puppet, but in my heart I can't just let it go. And besides, if I have to, I can press all sorts of conventional murder charges on her."
"My friend wasn't the only person she killed following the old bastard's orders, Prochainezo, though he was the only immortal. We've found several bodies rolling around in Quates' old hideouts. Now, we don't have conclusive proof that she was the one who killed them, but if she did, then... Well. How would you go about putting a woman on trial, when in the eyes of the law she doesn't even exist?"
"You son of a bitch..."
Victor only smirked and shrugged, enjoying the sight of Firo grinding his teeth.
"Moving along, though. Since technically you're Ennis--or rather, she's a part of you--I thought I'd negotiate a plea bargain with you."
"If you do what we ask you to do, then we can close the books on the crimes she committed. We'll look the other way."
"Funny. I thought you'd be above dealing with 'punks' like me," Firo snorted, but Victor only answered with a heavy glare of his own.
"Stand down, kid. I'm not going to tell you to betray your Family. All I'm going to ask is for you to go and, well, spy a little on someone who might turn out to be a mutual enemy. I'll give you the specifics when and if you agree."
"...And how'm I supposed to believe you on this deal when you said a few minutes ago that you hated my guts?"
"You've got my word. Take it or leave it, but it's all I can offer," Victor said, the smile vanishing from his features as he leaned in close.
Close enough that Firo could easily have lifted his arms, cuffed though they were, and placed his right hand on Victor's forehead.
But he couldn't. He couldn't move.
He found himself up against a sense of quiet pressure, much like the air he felt sometimes from Maiza, or Ronnie, or Yaguruma, or his leader, Molsa Martillo. It was an aura that came only with years of experience, and before that firm and unyielding force, Firo could do nothing but swallow his anger and wait, frozen in place.
"I'll cover up the crimes Ennis committed," Victor said, and Firo felt a fine sweat break out on his forehead as the centuries-old detective gave him his tarnished promise.
"I swear to you by every law this nation possesses that I'll keep my word."
He'd thought it over for about three days and then reluctantly accepted Victor's offer.
He felt a little angry at himself that he hadn't made the decision right then and there, for Ennis' sake, but he'd held out for three days in the hope that the Family would pull some strings and get him free.
Three days had passed, and nothing had happened.
Firo wagered that it had something to do with the isolated nature of Victor's department; they'd probably kept his presence there tightly under wraps.
Perhaps Ronnie, who had a way of seemingly pulling off the impossible from time to time, could have done something, but Firo wasn't the type to cling to such faint hopes.
Every moment he spent sitting on his ass was another moment he spent worrying both Ennis and the Family.
I can't afford to waste time like this.
Firo had finally taken up Victor's offer, if only to get himself out of the stalemate he'd found himself locked into, and...
And, well, that had led him to where he was now, on a boat rocking back and forth in San Francisco Bay.
He hadn't voiced his misgivings because he was angry about giving into Victor's requests, though.
"We want you to keep an eye on Huey Laforet," Victor had told him.
It made him blanch--moving on Victor's orders made him feel like he'd really become a pawn of the government. Well, it was true, but Firo wasn't moving solely just to please the federal agent; he did have some personal interest in the matter.
It had all started with the Lamia, the mysterious group of homunculi who had contacted him and Ennis about a year ago.
They'd called Ennis a sibling, and had revealed that Huey Laforet was their creator.
Ever since then, the name had stuck in his mind.
Huey existed in his memories--in Szilard's, to be precise--but even there, he was a mystery. It seemed that he'd only been on good terms with one of their group, a man named Elmer C. Albatross, but aside from that, there was almost no knowledge of him in the minds of the alchemists inside him. Unlike Victor, who had simply isolated himself from the others, it almost seemed like Huey had taken care to be noticed as little as possible.
Firo had chosen to stop there, unwilling to delve into Szilard's memories any more than he already had. Instead he'd chosen the most direct path, taking advantage of the situation to go and meet Huey Laforet uninfluenced by the memories inside him.
"He won't know anything about you, since he's been stuck in Alcatraz for the past few years. You know a hell of a lot more about him than he does about you. Remember, you've got the advantage.
"Some of the guards are going to work with you on the inside. They'll fill you in on the situation once you're there, and try to make sure you and Huey get some time alone. Good luck."
And with Victor's last words of encouragement still ringing in his ears, he'd been shipped off to San Francisco. He didn't like the man, and he trusted him even less than he liked him, but considering the situation he was in, he was grateful for the pep talk. He needed all the support he could get.
Half eager, half filled with misgiving, he'd started the journey that had led him across the country, and before he knew it he was looking up at the boat that would take him to Alcatraz.
And then, just as he boarded the ship, a guard had sidled up behind him and discretely whispered in his ear, "Welcome to Alcatraz, Mr. Prochainezo."
"Ah, so you're..."
...the Department's guy on the inside?
The words died in his throat, though, as the guard continued to speak.
"Master Huey is waiting for you."
A chill ran down his spine, and he broke into a cold sweat at the sound of the man's voice, flat and emotionless.
"He says he's been looking forward to meeting a fellow immortal..."
"No talking allowed," the man said tersely, his emotionless façade melting away, replaced in an instant by the visage of a stern but otherwise unremarkable prison guard.
It was as though Firo had daydreamed the entire thing, and in reality nothing had happened. As though the world itself was trying its best to convince him that nothing out of the ordinary had taken place at all.
He won't know anything about you, my ass. Useless asshole of a cop...
Firo snapped back to the present as the ship continued to lurch erratically, carrying him slowly but surely toward his final destination, but his foul mood remained. No matter how he looked at his plight, he could arrive at only one conclusion.
He turned the matter over and over in his head, each time voicing his unease out loud, or silently in his mind.
This is really, really bad...
Chapter 1 Front End
Chapter 2 Back