Chapter 13

Desolation

"And the Earth will become desolate because of her inhabitants, on the fruits of their deeds." Micah 7:13, inscription on the ruins of a building in the DC Wasteland.

The Bullhead's engines were loud. It was a wonder that Royce could hear Ruby questioning Oobleck on his career and the professor replied with his own answers. Royce just sat quietly as he mentally prepared himself for combat. His shotgun leaned against his shoulder. Weiss looked over at him, frowning but she didn't want to disturb him. He looked intense but when he noticed her looking Royce just gave her a small reassuring smile that he was going to be okay.

"Mister Walker!" Oobleck said trying to make himself heard over the engines. "You seem troubled! Anything you wish to talk about!?"

"Just steeling myself for what's up ahead sir!" Royce replied. "We're heading to Mount Glenn after all!"

"Ah good to see that you are also remembering my lectures. Excellent!" Oobleck sounded cheerful.

"I do my best sir." Royce replied simply. He went back to his mental preparations.

/

Royce jumped down off of the Bullhead with Team RWBY. He crouched shotgun at the ready. Oobleck sipped coffee from his thermos.

"It is best if we use caution here, students." Oobleck spoke, rapidly and quietly. "The Grimm are abundant in this area."

Royce shouldered his weapon. "I'll take point sir."

"That would be adequate, Miss Rose with me. The rest of you spread out and follow Mister Walker." Oobleck ordered them. It was hard to see the veteran Huntsman in the strange professor but he was the one assigned to them. There was no point in complaining, especially since the eccentric professor had the authority to send someone back should they be declared unfit for duty.

No one wanted that kind of mark on their record.

Royce gladly took point and they ventured deep into the ruined urban jungle that was Mount Glenn. Everywhere he saw was ruined. It was like seeing DC all over again. The story behind Mount Glenn was tragic, the Kingdom of Vale had attempted to expand into uncharted territory. The eager minds who spearheaded the project decided to construct an underground rail system for the inhabitants of Mount Glenn to be able to travel back to the city of Vale..

Things were good for a while but Glenn never had the natural barriers that the city of Vale did. When the Grimm attacks reached a peak, the citizens of Glenn went down into the underground metro to hopefully weather the storm.

Their doom was sealed when an unexplained explosion unleashed a horde of subterranean Grimm. The rulers of Vale, knowing that there was no hope for Mount Glenn's people, sealed off the tunnels. Now the ruined city stood as a reminder of the tragedy...and the tunnels below served as a tomb for the dead.

Royce led the group on a sweeping path to make sure they did not miss anything. There was a certain similarity between Mount Glenn and the ruins of DC. Still, no rotting corpses. That was good at least. He stopped when he heard a growl and a pair of Beowolves snapped at each other. Royce raised a fist and crouched, signaling the others to stop and head towards him.

"Ah that seems quite troublesome." Oobleck said as he kept low, staying by Royce's side. To their left Ruby held Crescent Rose tightly. Yang shifted her weight, ready to spring into action. Blake kept a hand on the hilt of Gambol Shroud.

"We're clear to the left." Royce gestured with his off hand. "If we move quietly we won't disturb them."

There was a muffled bark. Oobleck turned to see Ruby trying to push Zwei's head into the bag. Unfortunately the Grimm heard the noise and noticed the group of Hunters. With a savage series of howls the Grimm charged.

"They've seen us!" Oobleck exclaimed.

Royce didn't even bother hesitating. At this rate they would all probably get chased down anyway, often times the best defense is a good offense. He sighted up with his shotgun and fired. The first victim of his retooled Combat Shotgun flew backwards, its Grimm mask perforated with twelve gauge buckshot. The Wanderer snapped to his next target but Weiss got to it first, a summoned glyph later the Beowolf shattered into icy fragments as Weiss brandished Myrtenaster. Ruby shifted to the right and promptly cleaved a Beowolf in half. Blake and Yang tag teamed another, the beast's screams of pain were silenced when Yang's fist crushed its skull.

"That was close," Royce muttered as he saw Oobleck look down at Ruby who was trying to nudge Zwei back into her bag. He winced.

"Miss Rose!" Oobleck barked. "I specifically told you not to bring anything that is not mission critical!"

"Uh...well, you technically didn't say anything before we left...?" Ruby pointed out.

"Point taken," Oobleck said suddenly. Royce sighed. "However, you brought a dog! That is genius! We ARE in the middle of an abandoned urban jungle after all."

Royce pinched the bridge of his nose. He shook his head. "Are we ready to continue sir?" He asked Oobleck patiently. Honestly, he was liking Oobleck. It was better than taking orders from Moira Brown...

"Right, yes." Oobleck nodded. "Come on then ladies and gentleman! We are off."

/

"Mister Walker."

Royce fired off a shot at a fleeing Beowolf and watched with satisfaction as the creature died, falling flat on its face. "Sir? He asked looking briefly at Oobleck as he hunted for targets.

"Why did you choose to be a Hunter?"

Royce pondered the question. "Truth be told sir, when I first arrived here I had no idea what to do or where to go. When Ozpin offered me a chance I took it." He answered. "If anything, combat is what I'm good at."

"But you could have refused." Oobleck told him. "You could have lived out a normal life here on Remnant."

"Normal?" Royce asked in turn. "Me? I walked out of the safest place I knew to find my father who went missing without even saying a word why. Next thing I know sir, I'm solving problems with my words, my guns or my fists. I can't do normal anymore Professor. It's too soon for me to consider putting down my guns. I can't fail. Not anymore."

"Ah so is this some kind of atonement for past failures?" Oobleck asked.

"I...Yeah." Royce said hesitantly. "There was a slave girl where I come from. She escaped from her captors but..." He grit his teeth. "The bastards had an explosive collar around her neck." He spoke in clipped tones. He was angry. "I didn't get to her in time."

Oobleck blinked behind his spectacles. "I see. So you failed to save her." He spoke sadly. "My condolences."

"I can still smell the blood, I still hear the explosion when I sleep. I also feel the pieces of her brain on my face." Royce said blankly. "She was the first person I let down."

"You tried your best," Oobleck tried to assure the young man. "There was nothing else that you could have done."

"My best wasn't good enough that day." Royce told the Professor curtly. He closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath. "I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Oobleck gave his student a gentle smile. "We all make mistakes, mister Walker. One of the things we all need to learn is to forgive ourselves. The other is to learn from our mistakes and move on. Do not let yourself be consumed by self hatred, young man. You are far too kind to fall to such a dark path."

"Yes sir," Royce said exhaling. "I'll...I'll think about it."

/

Weiss shifted uncomfortably as she watched Royce pull open a door and look inside. Finding that the building's roof had caved in and all that was left was wreckage the Wanderer exhaled quietly, he looked as though he was wondering what had happened to the people inside. The young man gave a shake of his head and then closed the door almost respectfully. She heard his conversation with Oobleck, seen the sad look in his eyes.

It frightened her to see him like that.

"Royce." She called.

He turned around and looked at her, blinking in confusion when he saw how upset she was. Royce walked over to put his hand on her shoulder. "Hey...what's wrong?"

"I...Did-Did Professor Oobleck talk to you?" She looked shaken up.

"About what?" Royce tilted his head. His hazel eyes looked concerned. Weiss turned away.

"N-Never mind..." She tried to shrug off his hand, even if the weight was reassuring. She was startled when Royce didn't let go.

"Weiss." He stated simply and Weiss looked up at her boyfriend's face. No expression except concern, his eyes simply stated that he would be there for her.

She looked down. "I'm fine Royce." She murmured. "Let's get back to the others."

"Okay." Royce didn't say anything more and simply followed her. Weiss appreciated his discretion but at the same time...She really wanted to talk to him. Not just about her, but what he had told Oobleck.

/

A few moments earlier...

"Why did you decide to become a Huntress Miss Schnee?"

Weiss honestly had no idea what to say. She shook her head and summoned up an ice glyph and watched with quiet satisfaction as spikes of ice impaled a charging Grimm. One spike slammed into its face and killed it instantly.

"I am the heir to the Schnee Dust Company, so I refuse to do anything that dishonors its name." She said confidently.

"Ah...that's good, to do something that your family wants." Oobleck nodded. "But what I am asking is why you wanted to be a Huntress? You could have stayed with the company after all..."

"I..." Weiss clammed up then she turned to Royce as he and Ruby put down a group of Beowolves with 12 gauge Dust infused scatter shot and sniper rounds. Both were focused entirely on eliminating their targets. Royce ducked a claw swipe meant for his face and countered by launching a powerful uppercut with his Power Fist that broke the Beowolf's neck. As the corpse flopped down onto the ground like a puppet with its strings cut, Ruby leaped over it bringing her scythe down on another Grimm her blade splitting the creature cleanly in two.

Royce watched her back, blasting a Beowolf back into two of its buddies with one well aimed shotgun blast. He hit the magazine release and loaded another round drum of 12 gauge scatter shot and continued hunting for targets.

"Ah I see Mister Walker is quite capable, he seems to be comfortable with his work." Oobleck commented. "And Miss Rose is certainly not far behind him, she is not as skilled but she makes up for it in determination."

The professor sounded pleased but Weiss felt her stomach drop. Duty...was that really the reason she had taken this life?

/

Presently...

"All clear on the inside sir." Royce said as he glanced at the setting sun. Most veteran Hunters advised that staying out in the dark was not a good idea. It was the same in the Wastelands because the meaner beasties came out at night. "This should be perfect for a small camp."

"We'll be staying here for tonight." Oobleck remarked. "Get set up, and Miss Rose?"

"Yes Professor?" Ruby blinked looking up at him.

"You'll be on first watch."

They made camp in an abandoned building. Royce could see the advantages immediately, they had good range and cover. That and the height gave them an almost uncontested view of the surrounding area.

The Wanderer didn't need a sleeping bag, seeing that he was more than used to sleeping on the cold hard ground. He watched the others set up their sleeping bags around the fire. He leaned back against the wall, holding the Blackhawk in his hand. He checked his Pip Boy, 0630 at night. Back in the Wastes he probably would have been already inside a Pre War Bunker or a ruined building. And then he'd spend another hour clearing out the area and trapping it before getting ready to relax, if he was lucky the beasts he had just killed were edible. Getting a good dinner alongside some high end real estate was always good in his book. Not that he would be able to do some hunting here.

He was pretty sure that the good folks at Beacon didn't eat their kills. Royce shook his head, eating a Beowolf was probably not a good idea. The good folks at Beacon would probably freak the fuck out if he told them what he had considered food in the wastes.

/

"I'm not surprised..." Yang said grinning as Weiss took her sleeping bag and moved closer to Royce.

"I'm turning in." Blake muttered looking a bit annoyed. "You go on ahead and keep bugging them at your own peril."

"Oh come on," Yang rolled her eyes. "I think they look good together! I just...find their reactions pretty funny."

"Until Weiss decides to destroy you." Blake pointed out.

"She knows I'm just kidding right?" Yang said. She didn't notice Weiss glaring at the back of her head.

Blake snorted. "Yeah, okay."

/

"Weiss." Royce said trying hard to keep the grin on his face. He knew there was going to be some ribbing the moment he asked Weiss Schnee out. He learned to take it in stride but he found Weiss's reactions to be adorable. Her little outbursts, for some reason, made him smirk. It sounded mean but he just couldn't help it.

"I swear the nerve of that girl." Weiss muttered.

"So what were you upset about?" Royce asked changing the subject. He was sure Weiss did not want to hear about Yang for a while tonight.

She glared at him. "What?"

"You were asking me if Oobleck talked to me about something." Royce tried again, feeling the smile on his face widen before he finally managed to control himself.

"He...He asked us why we wanted to become Hunters." Weiss murmured. "I wasn't really sure how to answer him. I...I said I was doing it because it was my duty, that I had to uphold the family's honor." She felt Royce interlacing his fingers with hers. He gave her hand a soft squeeze. The gesture calmed Weiss down, how he did it she didn't know but she appreciated it all the same.

"You want to know your purpose," Royce said nodding. "I can understand." He looked at her and smiled. "You really shouldn't worry about it, some things require time."

"But what if I'm not supposed to be a Hunter?" Weiss mumbled looking discouraged.

"Then you're not supposed to be one." Royce replied. "Simple as that." His smile grew wider when Weiss frowned at him. "What?"

"You're not taking any of this seriously are you?" Weiss scowled. Royce just smiled again.

"Come on, I'm just trying to make you feel better. If I didn't do that then I'm not a good boyfriend now am I?" He teased her.

"W-Well..." Weiss looked down, cheeks flushing. She heard a snigger and glared at Yang's direction. Weiss blushed when Royce reached over and gently cupped her chin in order to keep eye contact. She found herself trying to resist shivering. The calluses on Royce's hand made her feel good.

She wisely pushed that thought out of her head.

"You worry too much." Royce told her sincerely. "And you shouldn't, because right now you are training to fight monsters. A Huntsman, or woman in this case, is supposed to protect people. Which is what you are doing now. Don't get discouraged if you don't know why you took this job, someday you'll find those answers."

"Someday..." Weiss repeated.

"Yeah, someday. It won't pop up tomorrow." Royce said. "And if you're still unsure go out and travel. See the world, maybe your answer's not in Vale."

"You want me to go out like some knight errant?" Weiss asked shaking her head.

"It helps to get some perspective. I'm not saying you should go all out and live in the wilderness." Royce told her. "Go ahead and get some sleep. I'll be up for a while."

Weiss gave him a small smile, "Good night." She said squeezing his hand.

"Sweet dreams Ice Princess." Royce replied. His smile grew wider as Weiss punched him playfully in the shoulder.

/

"Blake, Blake are you still awake?" Yang said.

"...Yeah." Was the quiet answer.

"Weiss, Royce? Are you guys still awake?"

"Yes, Yang I'm awake. Because it's obviously hard to sleep when someone is talking-" Weiss started but a loud snort interrupted her. Yang and Blake looked at Royce who blinked stupidly and muttered something incoherent before letting his head droop. He started snoring rather loudly. Weiss simply patted the sleeping Wanderer on the head.

"Okay..." Yang said as quietly as she could muster. "Who else heard that conversation with Royce?"

"What do you mean?" Blake asked lowering her voice.

"I know you heard Oobleck ask him." Yang told her. "You know, the thing with the slave girl he failed to save?"

"I don't think you should talk about this." Weiss cautioned Yang.

"I can understand why he's upset about it." Yang continued. "I just wonder why he hasn't said anything before."

"Maybe because it was a sore spot for him?" Weiss interjected.

"Has he ever talked about anything else?" Blake asked. She knew that Weiss spent most of her time with Royce ever since the dance. It was not hard to guess that Weiss knew more about the young man.

"I did not press." Weiss answered. "So I don't think any of you should either." She frowned when Yang and Blake looked at her. "Look, I think we should just drop the subject okay? He didn't seem to enjoy talking about it." She was a little miffed that he didn't share things like this with her.

Perhaps this was what they both had to work on. Weiss briefly smiled at that.

Yang sighed. "I've been thinking a lot about what the Professor told me. Did he ask you guys why you wanted to be Huntresses?"

Blake and Weiss looked briefly uncomfortable.

"Yeah." Weiss said. "Ruby and Royce...They know what they want to do in life. It's like...It's like they were made to help people you know?"

"What do you mean?" Blake asked.

"They're...focused on being Hunters. Well, Royce probably doesn't want to continue doing this but..." Weiss started.

All three girls thought on their two teammates. Ruby was beginning to show her potential as a leader, even if she was a bit naive in how things go. Bright, cheerful but brave was how Yang described her sister. Always ready to go fight for everything good, Ruby was going to be a wonderful person when she grew up.

In comparison Royce towered over them all. He was strong and kind, not a leader but someone who strengthened everyone he encountered. He was the kind of hero that Ruby wanted to be. Even if he had gone through some tough times Royce could weather everything that came at him. He would lay down his life for anyone, no questions asked.

"It's funny now that I think about it." Blake said and Yang was snapped out of her thoughts. "I thought I was doing good when I joined up with the White Fang. Then, when everything changed I ran away. Even when I use my Semblance I leave something behind to take the hit. I guess it says everything about how I deal with life. I run away." She looked sad.

"Blake..." Yang looked upset. "Come on..."

"Everything I couldn't handle." Blake continued. "When the White Fang turned violent? I ran. When you guys found out that I was a Faunus? I ran. Every time I do run away I leave a little piece of myself."

Weiss and Yang looked at each other.

Neither of them noticed Royce looking at all three of them with a calm expression for a while until Weiss caught sight of the Wanderer's stare. Yang at least had the decency to blush.

"There will come a time," Royce said quietly to Blake. "When you've been beaten down so low that you can't ever seem to find the light again. That's until someone gives you a hand up. That's when you become yourself again. Never think that you're alone because we'll be there in a heartbeat for you." He smiled.

Blake looked unsure but she felt a lot better. Yang's ever present grin returned and even Weiss looked cheerful. It felt like everything was going to be alright...until Zwei showed up without Ruby.

/

Ruby groaned. Then she sat up with a start when she realized that her hands were tied. She heard voices, one guy was yelling at two others from what she could make out.

"Bu-But Boss!"

"YES! Congrats! You found a little girl! From Beacon! No, this is not good do you know why? Because that means there are more out there waiting for us!"

She recognized that voice. Ruby gulped. This wasn't good. This was totally not good. What confirmed it was Roman Torchwick walking into her makeshift cell with two White Fang members. He looked irritated. "You're in trouble little girl." Roman said.

"Crap." Was all Ruby could say.

"I would say something witty but my good friend has asked me to bring you to her." Roman remarked. "Which I totally think is a horrible idea but whatever..." He whistled. "You two, truss her up we'll be starting the show in a few minutes!"

Ruby struggled even as the White Fangs picked her up.

/

Calling Yang upset at the moment was a complete understatement. Her Semblance was in full force. She was angry, her sister could be hurt or dead. Her eyes were crimson. The air around her seemed to burn.

"If something happens to her..." She growled.

"Yang." Blake said. "Yang, everything's going to be okay."

"How!?" Yang turned on her eyes blazing. "What if she's hurt!?"

"Yang!" Royce snapped. "You can't break down like this. Not now!"

"Mister Walker is right." Oobleck agreed. "We must find Ruby, and lashing out will not help us in that regard."

Zwei barked up at them and trotted off a few meters away before turning around and barking again, this time more consistently. "Zwei has her scent. Come on!" Oobleck followed the dog, Royce and the others hot on their trail.

Royce gripped his shotgun tightly and hoped that nothing was going to happen to Ruby. If it was the White Fang then they were going to be in trouble. A darker part of him relished the thought of battling self righteous hypocrites. He buried that part of him real deep and just kept running.

/

Zwei had stopped at a rather large hole and barked up at Oobleck.

Royce couldn't see the bottom. "Looks like a pretty deep drop, Professor." He remarked. He wasn't sure he'd survive dropping down there.

"Actually it ain't that bad." Blake said as she peered down at the hole. Royce forgot she had night vision because she was a Faunus.

Yang didn't even bother remarking, her Aura flared as she jumped down. Good thing too, she revealed several pieces of debris that Royce could use to clamber down into the hole.

"Hurry up!"

Oobleck took out his thermos and, after taking a long swig of coffee, extended it into something that looked like the lovechild between a spear and an RPG. Royce blinked, briefly surprised but honestly expecting it, before heading down into the hole. Blake and Weiss looked at each other and followed suit.

It was going to be a long night.

/

Beacon Academy Grounds

"Your reports are always appreciated Master Courier."

Courier Six was a bit annoyed that the head honcho of the SDC was always shrouded in darkness whenever he came calling. It was pissing him off because he tended to favor seeing what a person looked like. First, because it allowed him to know who he was going to kill if he was ever betrayed and second it was just polite to look a man in the eye when you spoke to him.

Manners were not Mister Schnee's strong suit it seemed.

"Hey, you paid me to get rid of the White Fang." The Courier answered looking at his Scroll. "Problem is, not a lot of people like me over here. We share common goals with Ozpin and Ironwood but they seem to like to keep me out of the goddamned loop. I just found out that Headmaster Ozpin sent a team of Hunters Southeast. And they think the White Fang is out there."

"With the Paladins my company helped fabricate for Ironwood." The shrouded man sounded indifferent. "My daughter is out in the field as well?"

"She's part of a team, yeah." The Courier answered. "Alongside the Walker kid you asked me about."

"I hear she is...interested in him." Schnee's voice was distorted but the Courier could detect the distaste in his voice.

"Hey, that's not my concern." The Courier said irritably. "There might be a situation developing in Vale. So...What do you want me to do?"

"What you're good at, tell Ironwood that events in Vale have the SDC concerned with their currently missing Paladins. Tell him I want those suits recovered or destroyed. Tell him to mobilize. I do not want my products being used by the enemy. It would stain my company's reputation abroad." The CEO of the Schnee Dust Company leaned back in his big comfy chair. The Courier had a brief thought of beating the man to death with it before focusing on more important matters.

"Yeah, I got it." The Courier answered. "You do remember the payment right?"

"Money will be transferred to your account." The man answered. "I want the White Fang dead, and if Roman Torchwick is there with them I want you to bring me his head. And that stupid bowler hat."

"Alright, alright." The Courier said. "I got it."

After the call the Courier looked to his weapons and armor. He walked up to his Elite Riot Gear and began putting on the components. When he was done suiting up he hefted his Anti Materiel Rifle and walked out into the halls of Beacon to find General Ironwood.

/

Mount Glenn, Underground Railway.

Royce swung out the cylinder on Blackhawk and loaded six new rounds. The White Fang were putting up a tough fight, considering that Team RWBY was the ones who ambushed them. Still, the Wanderer had hoped that the element of surprise counted more. He leaned out of cover firing a well aimed shot that sent a White Fang to the floor.

He saw ice spike up behind the barricade tossing the White Fang grunts whichever way. Weiss was on the move. Royce saw her parry a sword strike meant for her head with Myrtenaster and countered with a jab that downed the White Fang swordsman.

"We've got to get onto the train!" Ruby yelled. "Come on, let's go!"

Royce made the switch to his shotgun and loaded a new drum of twelve gauge. He pulled a grenade from his belt. "Okay." He said and rushed out, throwing the frag grenade at the pursuing White Fang where it detonated in their midst with a loud thump.

Royce heard the train's engines start up. It began to accelerate just as Team RWBY boarded the rear car.

/

Royce slid the door open slightly, wincing as gunfire hit the door. He slammed the door shut and pulled his second grenade off his belt. He looked at Oobleck who nodded.

"Frag out!" Royce barked opening the door and throwing a grenade. He shut the door again, a muffled bump and some screams alerting him to the grenade's detonation. He opened the door, first in Blackhawk raised. There were White Fang grunts on the floor, dead. Royce stepped over the corpses while Team RWBY followed grimly holding their weapons tight, Oobleck held his Thermos-Lance-RPG combination in hand.

"That's a lot of guns..." Ruby remarked at the weapon crates.

"Not just that," Blake pointed at something with Gambol Shroud. "Look." Explosives. Royce shook his head.

"Man, I think this situation just escalated." Royce muttered. "Guys-"

There was a loud clanking sound and an explosion. Oobleck paled. "I fear that the worst has occurred." He said. "The White Fang are planning to use these explosives to open up holes underneath Vale in order for the Grimm to enter the city." The Professor turned to Team RWBY.

"We'll be splitting up." Oobleck continued. "I will take Miss Rose and Zwei up to deal with any more explosives. The rest of you continue on forward, neutralize any threat that you see."

"Yes sir." Ruby nodded.

"We won't fail." Royce told Oobleck.

"We're heading up." Oobleck said. "Good luck, students."

"Be careful Ruby." Yang told her little sister.

"I'll be fine, Yang. You take care of yourself." Ruby said back. She smiled, a gesture that Yang returned.

Oobleck, Zwei and Ruby climbed up to the car's roof.

Royce and the others moved forward to the next car. When the next door opened Royce fired his shotgun into the waiting White Fang grunts and battle was joined.

/

Vale

PFC Bonnie Brown winced as the Courier's rifle boomed. Four hundred meters south of their position a Beowolf simply ceased to exist as the .50 BMG round punched into its torso at extreme range.

The Courier cycled the bolt action and chambered another round. "Next target?" He asked, his tone calm. He sounded like a guy who was taking a walk in the park, not sniping Grimm from the rooftop of a warehouse with a gun almost as tall as he was.

Bonnie shuddered. The Courier was one stone cold dude. She looked through the binoculars. This section of town was a complete mess. It had been many years, thousands perhaps, since the creatures of the Grimm had been inside the walls of Vale.

Everyone was panicking. General Ironwood had immediately scrambled his troops the moment the VPD reported Grimm in the area. Bonnie winced as she saw a pair of Beowolves tear into an unsuspecting man who ran into them. "Fuck. Five hundred meters. Your three o clock. A Beowolf."

The Courier acknowledged by making an adjustment and slowly squeezing the trigger. The AMR bucked against his shoulder. Five hundred meters away another Beowolf exploded, showering his buddy with gore. The Courier saw the corpse of the man and knew that he had at least been partially avenged. He made an adjustment and killed the second Grimm with a shot that completely tore it in half.

Bonnie put a hand up to her helmet. "Courier, we need to move southeast. The VPD SWAT teams are making a push with Hunters in support. They need us." She told him.

The Courier nodded and hefted his rifle. "Well then, let's get going." He said to her. "Interesting...You said southeast?"

"Yeah, so what?" Bonnie asked scowling.

"I hear that place beyond the wall is cursed." The Courier said. "Mount Glenn or something like that." He moved down the staircase while Bonnie covered him with her carbine. The unlikely sniper team headed out of the warehouse.

Once outside they saw the VPD SWAT teams doing what they could to help the civilians. Other teams were putting down the rest of the Grimm with the help of Vale Hunters in the area.

It was going to be a really, really long night.

/

White Fang controlled Train, a few kilometers away from the Southeastern section of the City of Vale.

"Go!" Yang roared as she threw a punch at one of Torchwick's associates, a mute girl with a parasol. "I'll take care of this!"

Royce swore under his breath as he followed Blake and Weiss to the next car. The Wanderer saw the White Fang, a huge muscle bound brute with what looked like a giant chainsaw, take a swing at Blake and Weiss who stepped back.

"Finally, I get to kill a Schnee." The brute sounded happy as he raised his chainsaw.

"I hate to disappoint." Weiss snarked back, readying her rapier. Blake struck first, swinging Gambol Shroud in sweeping patterns. The brute just blocked and took a swing at Blake, who jumped back. Weiss struck, a glyph in the air boosting her already impossible speed even further. Her Myrtenaster clashed with the chainsaw.

"Blake! Get to the caboose!" Weiss said ducking a wide swing meant to take her head off. "Royce go with her!"

Blake and Royce nodded. Slipping past the White Fang Lieutenant, Blake somersaulted over a wide chainsaw strike before heading into the engineer's caboose. Royce followed her before he was stopped by a scream.

He turned back and saw Weiss get slammed into the floor headfirst. His mind blanked and soon all he saw was red.

/

A bloodcurdling battle cry prompted both Blake Belladonna and Roman Torchwick to turn to the door heading towards the rear car.

"What the hell was that?" Roman asked.

"Shut up." Blake said still holding Gambol Shroud up in machine pistol form. "Don't say another word." She sounded calm but she knew that voice.

What was going on back there?

/

Weiss was barely conscious as a homicidal Lone Wanderer went after the White Fang Lieutenant. The large Faunus swung his chainsaw down, missing completely as Royce dodged to the right. He barely had time to dodge as the Wanderer's Power Fist smashed the weapon aside.

"Angry that I hurt your little girlfriend kid?" The man laughed but the Wanderer shut him up with a brutal hammer blow to the chin with his offhand. The Lieutenant stumbled dropping his chainsaw, Royce pivoted back and raised Fisto.

There was a sickening crack as Royce's fist smashed into the White Fang Lieutenant's chest with the force of a cannon. Bones broke and the White Fang brute flew backwards, sliding away from Weiss. He couldn't breathe properly, Royce's punch had shattered not only his sternum but also his ribs.

Royce drew his Blackhawk and walked over to his fallen opponent. The masked man looked up in pain as the Wanderer thumbed back the hammer on his revolver.

"B-Bastard." The Lieutenant rasped. "D-Do you know what her family did to mine?"

"I know a bit." Royce answered calmly. "Doesn't excuse what you tried to do to her...and what Torchwick's trying to do to Vale." He took aim with the Blackhawk and pulled the trigger.

When he was done with the White Fang Royce turned back to Weiss who gave a low groan of pain. The Wanderer rushed over. "Weiss." He said. "Try not to move so much..." He raised two fingers. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Weiss mumbled. "I-I see two?"

"Ah good." Royce said with some cheer. "No concussion."

"Wait. What happened to..." Weiss drifted off when she saw the dead man.

"He tried to kill you." Royce said quietly. "We had a rather violent argument."

Weiss looked back at Royce, he could see the fear in her eyes and it hurt. "I...I suppose you did what you had to." She spoke hesitantly.

"Royce. Weiss."

Both of them turned to the source of the voice. Blake had a scowling Roman Torchwick in tow. She looked at the dead White Fang Lieutenant with some surprise. Royce shook his head. Blake exhaled through her nose. She seemed upset.

Royce turned his attention to Roman. "So...What do we do with him?" He gestured at the criminal with his Blackhawk.

"You could let me go?" Roman put in helpfully. The glowers he received made him wilt. "Okay, jeez I was just kidding!"

A loud screeching alerted them. Ruby and Yang rejoined the group just as the train derailed. Thinking quickly Weiss put up an ice shield before the impact got them all.

/

"Mayday! Mayday! Attention all units within the range of this transmission!" Bonnie yelled into the radio urgently as a train literally erupted from the concrete with a spectacular crashing sound. "We've got a major breach in the southeastern section of the city! We need backup!"

More Grimm were heading out of the hole in the ground. The Courier fired another round from his AMR. "Shit."

He saw Team RWBY sprawled on the ground as the Grimm surrounded them.

"That's one of the Beacon teams." Sergeant Fugazi said. His squad, plus the Courier, were on the fourth floor of an office building overlooking the plaza that the train had just emerged in. Fighting was sporadic in this section of the city but the breach was bad, there were more subterranean Grimm heading out onto the streets. Most people had not been evacuated from this area and Fugazi was already hearing casualty reports. Apart from Fugazi's squad, there were only three SWAT teams here to defend the plaza.

They were going to be outnumbered soon if back up didn't arrive in time. Civilian casualties were starting to pick up rapidly.

"Courier, Brown. I want you guys up here. Give that team cover. The rest of you are with me."

"Shit, Sarge." Bonnie commented as the Courier looked at the exchange. "You're going out there alone!?"

"We've got no time Bonnie, we sit around and do nothing those kids are goners." Fugazi loaded a new magazine into his rifle. "Keep a watch up there with the Courier. We'll do what we can on the ground."

Bonnie swore but she nodded.

"Good luck Sergeant." The Courier said as he settled in, eye on his scope.

"Huh. Didn't know you cared." Fugazi answered sarcastically.

"Humph, just don't die out there." The Courier snapped back. "I was paid to cover your asses."

/

Ears ringing Royce woke to the sound of a Beowolf being cut in half. The Wanderer felt his head and his hand came away with blood. Blake put a burst of rounds into an approaching Grimm before kneeling next to the Lone Wanderer.

"Royce, you okay?" Blake asked.

The Wanderer shook his head clear and muttered a positive response. He felt banged up but that was it. His shotgun was missing...until he saw Weiss tear an Ursa apart with one shot. Grimly she shouldered the weapon and fired again. She looked...well, upset was an understatement. She fired at another Grimm advancing on their position and tore it apart with a blast of pellets.

Royce drew his revolver. "Yeah, I'm okay. We can't stay here." He took aim and fired at a charging Grimm, blowing off its leg with one explosive shot. Two more charged at RWBY. In unison Blake and Royce mowed them down with their weapons. Royce primed his Power Fist, launching a straight punch that outright killed a rather thin Beowolf that jumped at him. Blake cut the next Grimm down with Gambol Shroud's sheath. Her off hand snapped up and she fired a burst of bullets into another Grimm's face.

On the right flank, Yang punched an Ursa into the ground breaking whatever bones the creature had. Weiss covered her by firing the last round in Royce's combat shotgun before switching to Myrtenaster. A few ice spikes later, several more Grimm died due to impalement.

Ruby cut another one down before she heard hissing. A Taijitu Snake lunged at her, she dodged to the right lifting Crescent Rose. The second head was about to lunge for her when it suddenly exploded.

Ruby looked around. That was an excellent shot. Another shot rang out and another Grimm was blown apart by an explosive round.

"Thank God for sniper support!" Royce yelled as he reloaded.

"That's not all. Look!" Weiss exclaimed.

A squad of Atlas soldiers were peppering the Grimm with a machine gun. Two were firing their rifles, covering the machine gunner on his heavy weapon. A pair of Grimm were completely sawn in half. The others began to charge the soldiers but Weiss intercepted them with ice spikes and glyphs.

"Awesome." Royce said loading the sixth shell into his revolver.

"Make a push! Come on guys!" Ruby barked, reloading her weapon. She led her team into the brink.

/

The Courier loaded another magazine into his AMR and scoped back in while Bonnie gave him directions. The battle had turned quickly in favor of the human forces as Hunter teams began converging on the southeastern section of the city. In addition to the Huntsmen of Beacon General Ironwood had also deployed Atlesian Knights on the field.

"All clear Courier." Bonnie Brown said. She was right, the last Grimm were being eliminated and the situation was now not so bad. The Courier blinked his eyes and took off his helmet. He stood up and looked down at the devastated plaza. He reached into his coat for two cigarettes.

Bonnie shrugged and took one as the Courier lit up. He let out a puff of smoke and held out his lighter to Bonnie who ignited her cigarette.

"Damn...You made some serious shots down there." The PFC nodded her head.

The Courier just gave a satisfied hum. Still, he felt like this mess was the start of an even bigger one. His eyes narrowed. The Courier let out another puff of smoke.

War. He could feel it in his bones. It was just like the Battle of Hoover Dam.

/

Beacon Academy

"Well, I suppose we did stop the White Fang from bringing down the city." Ruby said sheepishly as they looked down from the landing pad.

"Yeah." Yang agreed. Her smile seemed troubled which made Ruby very worried. She tried asking but Yang seemed dead set on keeping whatever secret she had to herself. Ruby looked over at Weiss to say something but she saw that the Schnee Heiress was squeezing Royce's hand, her boyfriend seemed deep in thought about something.

She decided to drop the subject and continued to chat with Yang trying to get her to open up.

"Are you alright?" Weiss asked Royce who nodded.

"I'm fine Weiss, I was just shaken up when that White Fang guy slammed you head first into the floor." Royce answered. "I just got...mad." He looked uncomfortable.

Weiss gave a small wince. She got checked out when the battle ended and the medics said she was okay, but she was told to take it easy for a while. The Schnee heiress squeezed Royce's hand.

"Thanks for saving me." Weiss said. "I never told you that."

Royce gave a satisfied hum. "Damn." He said. "I bet our weekend's gone. I really did want to take you out on a date."

"Well, I'm sure we will get another chance." Weiss answered cheerfully. "Even if we can't go into the city we can still have our talks."

Someone snickered beside them. Weiss turned and glared at Yang and Ruby who were watching them.

"Follow us anywhere." Weiss warned them scowling. "And bad things will happen."

"Whatever you say Ice Princess." Yang grinned. "Just make sure you both keep it on second base."

Royce coughed in embarrassment as Blake began to laugh. Weiss glared at her.

/

Ozpin, General Ironwood and the Courier stood overlooking the map of Vale.

"Well, gentlemen." The Courier said. "Things have now escalated." Ozpin and Ironwood looked at him. The Headmaster's stoic facade was in place but he had just been lambasted by the City Council about the catastrophe.

"What does the SDC want now?" Ironwood asked. "The Paladins have been destroyed but we have managed to hold the city against the Grimm."

"Oh nothing much." The Courier said. "Just one thing, they want Torchwick's head."

"Absolutely not." Ironwood answered firmly. "I still need to interrogate the man-"

"Which has not been successful yet," The Courier put in. "And I doubt that you'll be able to force anything out of him anyway." His cold gaze settled on Ozpin briefly before turning back to Ironwood. "My employer is getting impatient. Anymore delays and I will kill the man, with or without your sanction."

Ironwood narrowed his eyes. "I am now in charge of Vale's security." He stated.

The Courier smiled. "There have been three very big men who claimed to be the bigger fish." He said quietly. "I killed all three of them personally."

"That's enough mister Courier." Ozpin said. "General Ironwood may be in charge of security but the safety of my students and those who walk the halls of this academy ultimately is my responsibility." He shrugged. "I have a proposition, you may...do whatever you wish to Roman Torchwick when Ironwood is done with his interrogations."

"I'll be done before the Vale Festival." Ironwood stated. "No earlier than that."

The Courier nodded. "I suppose we have an accord?" He held out his hand to Ironwood to shake.

The deal was made and all three parties left with false smiles all around.

"He won't escape." Ironwood told the Courier who shrugged.

"We'll see."

/

Later that night

Yang faced the mysterious masked woman she saw on the train. Her intimidating mask was making the brawler nervous but she hid that deep inside. Especially when she saw that message on her scroll after dinner.

The woman raised both hands. Yang took a step back but faltered when her rescuer took off her mask.

"Hello Yang, we have a lot to talk about."

/

Crap. Sorry about the wait.