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Bronzing Week

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The hustle and bustle of Rush Valley was only dulled by a once a year, solemn and almost religious observance.  As automail limbs had to be removed from the bodies of the deceased prior to burial or cremation by law, many of the limbs were returned to the original designers- and most of them resided in the automail hub of Amestris.

Winry and Paninya watched as Garfiel took a wheelbarrow full of steel parts to a ceremonial smelting pot in the city square.  The others looked on as he dumped one piece at a time into the pot.

“Let these pieces which gave new life to those who have passed on, find purpose once again.  Let us make new out of old, and give joy where there is sadness,” he said in his flamboyant accent.

Mechanics and automail patients alike shouted, “Here, here!”, and Winry wondered if Edward wondered what happened to automail after you died.

The next day, the mechanics brought their best reclaimed pieces to be dipped in bronze and preserved as works of art and displayed in their shops.  Some pieces were left in their original state, to either show their durability or the decorative engraving sometimes present on spare specialty limbs.  Some were dipped in an opened or partially stripped position to show the ingenuity of the inner workings, like the tiny hand that gleamed in a woman’s shop on the west side of town, one she’d made for a toddler who burned his hand so badly it had to be amputated.  The wires were thin as human hair and some of the plates no bigger than a thumbnail.  However, her piece wasn’t reclaimed from death- the child simply grew into a larger prosthetic.

Dominic and Garfiel each brought their best reclaimed piece to the bronzing pots.  Winry’s automail idol brought a partial foot fitting, something that replaced the big and second toe of a young man’s left foot, as well as the ball and arch.  The owner of the piece had succumbed to pneumonia, and the fitting had been returned with a note of thanks from the deceased’s mother.  Garfiel presented a full leg that included a hip socket, a splendid knee, and a fully rotatable ankle (that was carefully pried open to reveal the inner workings of the joint).  It was much too large for the pots, so two welders had to dip smaller cauldrons into the swirling, molten metal and carefully pour it onto the steel.

At the end of the bronzing, the master welder closed the ceremony by saying, “Let us learn from these prized examples how better to serve the people who need us.  While it would be better that such accidents to life and limb should never happen, we should always be looking to ways to improve our skills, both as metalsmiths, engineers, and mechanics.”

Another shout of “Here, here!” rang through the square, and then everyone began to go back to their daily lives.  Winry wanted to hang around and watch as the smiths made sure the limbs were cool enough to return to the designers.  Each person handled the bronzed item as if it were a revered relic, wrapping them carefully in clean sheets and taking them back to their shops.

“So what happens now?” she asked Paninya as they watched Garfiel polishing the knee cap of the huge leg that now gleamed with a brassy color rather than a silver one.

“Well, they take them home and polish them up real good, then they’ll display them in their shop windows.  And until the end of the week, everyone will go around looking at everyone’s work.”  She crossed her arms behind her head as they made their way back to Garfiel’s place.  “Then on Saturday, the designers will reveal their latest designs that they’ve been working on since last year.  Some of them are silly,” she laughed.  “Like the legs that had a button on the side to elevate you a few inches in case you were too short to reach something on the top shelf.”

“Jeeze,” Winry smiled, “If Ed had known such a thing existed back then, he would have insisted that I cut his other leg off just to install that feature.”

“It didn’t work very well.  The hydraulics were perfect, but once you shot up six inches, you’d be too tall to reach down and touch the release button to get back to your normal size!  It was like walking on stilts and not being able to get off of them!”  They stopped in front of Garfiel’s shop, where Winry was staying in the stifling upstairs bedroom.  “Well, I’ll see around, I’ve got work in the morning,” Paninya said as she waved.

“Thanks for going with me,” Winry replied, waving back.  “See you later!”

Her master already had the bronzed leg lying on their biggest work table, delicately polishing the inner bronzed parts with a fluffy rag on the end of a screwdriver.  “Winry, darling!  Look how lovely this leg looks in the bronze color!”  His makeup was running a little as he worked up a sweat working on the polish job.

“It’s incredible,” Winry marveled.  “That ankle is spectacular.”

“You know, dear… you could have participated if you wanted.  Edward’s first arm would have been a lovely piece to dip and hang on your own workshop wall someday.”  He wiped at his face, smearing carefully drawn on eyebrows across his forehead.  “There’s not much more I can teach you.  You’ll be a journeyman before you know it, darling.”

“I’ll get there in time,” she said as she looked closer at the ankle her teacher had designed on his own.  “Besides, I’ve still got to come up with something as brilliant as this omnidirectional ball joint!”

He tittered as he passed her a pad and pencil.  “You will, Winry-dear.  I can see the spark of creativity and genius in those beautiful blue eyes, girl!  And I’m sure you’ll wow us all!”

She hoped he was right.