Investigations/Into the Vale Dead Zone/Rescuing the Goodwitch
AU is a go.
"The White Fang think they are hardened killers. It's amusing really how men think death is a dignified thing. It is not."-Memoirs of Hunter Keina Duvall.
Undisclosed Location in Mistral
She had been around for so many long years.
Salem, or Shalem as she once remembered been called, smiled as she looked over her domain in Mistral. The sounds of snarling Grimm gave her peace, even as she imagined tearing old Ozpin apart.
Salem let her ruby eyes fall on two of her brood, Beowolves as the humans called them, wrestle and growl for domination. She smiled again. The strong overcame the weak. It was as simple as that.
"Cinder." Her voice rang with authority and even the Grimm wrestling below the cliff she stood on heeded her call and ceased. Salem had given them life. She could just as easily give them death.
"Yes, Mistress?" Cinder emerged from the shadows, eyes glowing in malevolence.
"How goes our work in the other three remaining Kingdoms?" Salem asked.
"It goes well, even with the situation in Vale being what it is..." Cinder replied.
Salem turned to regard Cinder. A pale, ethereal face framed by strange locks of grey hair made her all the more inhuman. Her eyes were a cold, ruby red that promised only pain.
"Ah, the...Guardians I have been hearing from our mutual friend Adam Taurus." Salem smiled. "Much like Ozpin, they are only a small irritant. They are not worthy of much attention."
"But..." Cinder felt Salem's hands on her shoulders.
"Hush, my dear." Salem kissed Cinder's forehead. "You are my greatest pupil, my blade against the Light that dares show its face on this planet. Do not falter in your duties." She smiled. "Go now, my pupil. Go meet with our mutual friends, for I have much to do."
When Cinder departed Salem went back to watching her domain. The Light would not win here...
She would make sure of it.
Patch Docks, Island of Patch, First month of Winter
It was snowing.
Ruby Rose wondered if Weiss was doing okay ever since she went back to Atlas. Ruby fixed her hood as she trotted down the street to head to the bar near the docks where the sailors hung out. Usually.
She had never been here except for that one time that she freaked out Dad by wandering away from him. She had never seen Dad so angry, but Mom calmed him down even as she tried to hold in her laughter. Times were happier back then.
Now the bar was closed. She didn't remember its name.
"Hey, Ruby?" She heard Sparky speak. Ruby looked around curiously.
A sigh and a flash of light. "Ruby. Right here." Sparky looked at her with his photoreceptor.
"Oh!" Ruby shook her head. "Is everyone here?"
"Yes, even Yang." Sparky replied. "Go to the back of the bar. We'll talk more then. Come on, people are staring."
Ruby nodded and followed the Ghost as he floated down the alley. Ruby sighed as she saw an unscrupulous character leaning against the wall. In her way, of course.
"Hey, look what we got here!" He pushed off the wall to leer at Ruby who stood there looking at them. "Say, little girl...Aren't ya supposed to be in school or something?"
Ruby rolled her eyes. "Do you read the news mister? Beacon got closed down."
"Hah, so what?" The man grinned. "I'm gettin' sidetracked here...give me your-"
The man turned around, paling as Warlock Ivan Searle aimed a rifle at him.
"Leave or die." The Warlock told the thug. "Your choice."
"Hey man, I-I uh I was just joking." The thug laughed nervously.
"You're still running your mouth?" Ivan chambered a round into his Hung Jury. "Leave."
The thug scurried away. Ruby pouted at the faceplate of Ivan's Spektar Hood. "You didn't have to point a gun at him."
Ivan merely snorted. "Should I have let him do something bad?"
"Jerk." Ruby mumbled as Ivan let her inside the closed bar, which John had selected as their meeting place. It was also their billet with Fireteam Emeici as dictated by Commander Edgar Gein.
Ruby looked around, the area was pretty clean. There was a flag hanging off the bar where Hestia was busy cleaning a disassembled weapon. The symbol was a shield that showed off each Guardian class in service to the Last City. She saw Xia Zhang sharpening her knives, the Hunter gave her a smile which Ruby returned with an eager wave. Ivan had stalked off towards the back where a Scroll was playing music she didn't recognize.
Yang surprised her younger sister by hugging her around the neck with her right arm. Her left was a functional prosthetic given to her by the best surgeons aboard the Nautilus, the ship that brought Task Force Endeavor to Remnant. Since the grafting, she had recovered somewhat even if she was still a bit shaken up by Blake being kidnapped.
John had told Ruby that when the Commander briefed them on the situation she had nearly set the Embassy on fire in rage.
"Ack! Yang! Let me go!" Ruby squeaked as her hood fell off her head.
Yang rubbed Ruby's hair affectionately as she let go. "Aww come on, I can't greet my little sister like this anymore?"
Ruby grinned at her.
"Someone's excited." Hestia said as she reassembled her Arminius-D Auto Rifle. She was standing next to the bar in full gear. Her Duskrender armor was spick and span, recently repaired by Endeavor's engineers. "We're gonna have to wait a bit for Kevin and John to head back inside."
She looked over at Yang and Ruby with a smirk. "Nils is making hot chocolate."
"Was making hot chocolate." The second Titan announced as he walked in with a tray full of steaming mugs. "Ivan's got some soup in the back."
"Ooh, Shchi? Awesome!" Xia sounded excited.
"Uh what's 'Shee'?" Ruby asked.
"Cabbage soup." Hestia answered, mag locking her rifle to her back. When she saw Ruby's expression she smiled. "Trust me, try it. It's very good."
"It's simple." Ivan set the large bowl of steaming soup down on the bar. He then returned with smaller bowls and eating utensils. "But Kevin is a better cook than I."
"Nonsense sonny." Xia said. "You've done an admirable job so far." She grabbed a bowl. "Come on, let's eat while we wait for the Gruesome Twosome to arrive."
Ruby giggled at the nickname as she accepted the bowl of steaming hot soup. They ate and chatted with the Guardians. Ruby saw all the newspaper articles about them, how they were so detached from the ordinary humans they worked hard to save. She even saw all the bad things people were trying to spin about them, that they enjoyed killing for the sake of it.
She knew differently now as she watched them laugh and annoy each other. They were still human, even if some of them were a bit strange.
Ruby tried her soup and realized that it was really, really good.
"Like I said," Ivan commented. "Simple but very easy to eat." The Warlock ladled out more bowls even as the back door opened and the Holdens walked in.
John kept his helmet off as he regarded his Scroll. "So what's going to be the score Kevin?" He asked his brother.
Kevin shrugged. "I thought Commander Gein put you in charge for this mission?" He asked raising a brow.
"Yeah, well..." John scratched the back of his head before he noticed everyone staring at them both. "Hey guys-Holy crap, is that Shchi!?"
"Yes." Ivan deadpanned.
John had a bowl of hot soup within moments as Kevin took his in a more calmer fashion and sat down next to Ruby and Yang.
"So what's the score?" Ruby asked.
"We're going into the Vale Dead Zone." Kevin didn't skip a beat.
Yang and Ruby looked at each other. The Vale Dead Zone was the name of the area where Grimm concentration was the highest. With the docks secured, most of the VPD were holding off Grimm incursions into areas where refugees were staying. The Dead Zone was also somewhat patrolled periodically by White Fang and vicious criminal outlaws who looked to prey on innocent victims.
On occasion Guardian Fireteams and VPD teams went out on patrol to do what they could in the Dead Zone but they knew it was only a stopgap measure. To retake the city would require unimaginable amounts of resources. Commander Edgar Gein and Captain Horatio Nelson of the Nautilus were working out a strategy with what remained of the Vale Council and General Ironwood of Atlas. Nothing was forthcoming, which was frustrating.
"Did you find a trail?" Yang asked shakily. "Is there a sign of Blake anywhere?"
Kevin knew how worried Yang was. "There might be a trail, yes." He said softly. Kevin scooped up some more soup. "John doesn't want to rush this but we also have two other objectives in the DZ. One is Qrow Branwen, your uncle. He might have information about retaking the Capitol Building."
"Oh..." Ruby sounded surprised. "Really?"
Qrow Branwen was currently assigned to spying on White Fang activity. It was something the older Huntsman relished. Even if he was a bit of a dick, Kevin appreciated the man's brutal honesty and his experience rivaled the most seasoned Guardians in the Task Force. There was talk that Edgar had put his name forward as a recruit for the Guardians. All speculation of course.
"The other objective is rescuing Professor Glynda Goodwitch from Grimm." Kevin said. "Although 'rescuing' is a rather relative term."
"She's unbreakable, true." Yang agreed.
Glynda Goodwitch in the meantime had been out of contact. Just recently she had sent out a signal, detailing that she was helping defend a compound of refugees from the White Fang and the Grimm. She was dealing with it but she was going to need help soon.
"W-Well, shouldn't we help Uncle Qrow first?" Ruby asked.
"That's the problem, we don't know his last location. He wasn't exactly too willing to share that information." John spoke up as he sat beside Kevin. "First things first though, those refugees with Miss Goodwitch are going to need all the help they can get. They've got medicine but no food or water."
"I know we're looking for Blake, but I want to be thorough." John said. "I'd like to see Vale be rebuilt in a short amount of time eh?" The smile on his face grew wider as he noticed Yang scooting a bit closer to Kevin.
"Oh? You guys gonna tell me something?" John's brow quirked.
"I..." Kevin looked at Yang, she gave him a smile and punched his shoulder with her prosthetic arm. "Ow! What was that for!?"
"He's still being stubborn." Yang told John.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "I'm still trying to figure it out." He said.
"Figure what out exactly?" John asked grinning.
"What I want in another relationship." Kevin told him. The tone made it clear he wasn't very amused. John immediately clamped his mouth shut.
"Right, right." John smiled waving a hand. "Sorry to disturb you."
Yang and Ruby watched John depart almost immediately. Kevin became recalcitrant for the rest of the day, giving only one word answers. That worried Yang, she was also very curious about Kevin's answer about 'another relationship'.
What did he mean by that?
A week later...
It was snowing by the time the group arrived at the docks. Yang kept her hands in the pockets of her brown parka as she waited with Ruby who was in similar winter gear. She looked over her Ember Celica Gauntlets briefly before letting them revert back to their bracelet forms.
Xia Zhang was in full gear, the eerie green eyes of the Mask of the Third Man glowed ominously as she looked over her Jade Rabbit scout rifle. The cloak she wore billowed in the wind. Strength of the Pack, the cloak was called. Said to have been worn by the Hunter Ana Bray during the fateful battle of the Twilight Gap. Next to her Nils tapped his helmet before pulling it on as he retrieved his shotgun which was leaning against an ammo crate.
Ivan looked back towards the Patch Island docks, his Hung Jury Scout rifle mag locked to his back. The Warlock was wearing strange glowing gauntlets, the Nothing Manacles as he called them. Ivan kept his Spektar hood on even as he spoke in low tones to his Ghost, Amelia.
Ruby's teeth chattered. "Gosh, it's so cold!" She said. "What's taking them so long?"
"Said they had to get a few things requisitioned from the armory." Xia commented. "Want me to give you a hug, little girl?"
Ruby backed away from Xia as Nils started to laugh.
"We're all here excellent." John Holden spoke up cheerily as he and Kevin walked over with Hestia. All of them were geared up.
"Yang, this is for you." John tossed Yang a Hakke Zarinaea-D Auto Rifle. She whistled as she took it in hand. While she preferred having her Ember Celica she did take the Weapons Creation Courses at Signal and Beacon Academy. She knew her way around a rifle but it was just not her style. She preferred punching things after all.
"Whoa, what is this? Early Christmas present?" Yang asked checking out the weapon she was given.
"I'd rather you have a secondary in case something goes wrong." John explained cheerfully. "It was Kevin's idea."
Kevin then handed Ruby a Hand Cannon, The Lord High Fixer. "Every Guardian Fireteam out there has several armaments on them at all times for every situation." He said to the both of them. "I'm sure your weapons are more than enough but like John, I prefer to be prepared for anything."
"It's okay." Ruby's eyes were sparkling as she checked out the Hand Cannon. "It's a really cool gun. It's a really cool gun."
Kevin sighed. "We'll get some practice in when we get to the DZ." He said. "John? Are we moving out?"
John smiled as he pulled on his helmet. "Yep."
The Vale Dead Zone.
The City was silent save for the cries and howl of the creatures of the Grimm. Xia took point, walking through the snowy streets. Chin to stock and eyes to scope the Hunter proceeded at a cautious but brisk pace, leading the group deeper into the city.
They were spread out, keeping their eyes on the windows of the buildings. Snipers were unlikely in this sector of the city but there was nothing wrong with caution. Everyone kept quiet, and it wasn't just because John ordered complete radio silence. The solemn, sad sight of a once proud city were enough for some of them.
For Ruby, she had to wonder just how anyone was going to be able to rebuild all this ruin...
She shook her head of such things as she gripped Crescent Rose tight.
Yang kept a tight grip on her new weapon as she followed Hestia, who took the rear. She had messed up before, losing her arm and all that. Now she was focused. She looked at her prosthetic and remembered the tears in her father's eyes as she got home.
She was going to make damn sure that nothing like this ever happened again. She wasn't going to make Ruby sad anymore. She looked forward seeing Xia suddenly raise her fist and slow down to a stop. She crouched.
The whole group did the same thing, scanning all sectors for any signs of the Grimm or another enemy. Yang was not used to it. Grimm didn't shoot and yet John's comrades were focused on being attacked from every angle. John advanced towards Xia's position, keeping his head down.
Kevin was right beside her, holding his Scout Rifle. He gave her a nod. Yang returned the gesture as she continued scanning the area for any movement. She hated the waiting. Always did.
"What is it?" John asked, whisper quiet as he chambered a round into Red Death.
"Saw something move near that Swifty Mart down the street." Xia said, pointing down the car strewn street. John kept his rifle shouldered as he turned back towards the group. He then gave a couple of hand signals, making sure the group knew that something was up.
John moved forward, using the abandoned cars for cover. He took a peak at the abandoned Swifty Mart. The door was ajar, swinging in the snowy wind.
"Let's check it out." John said over the group frequency. "Kevin, stay out on perimeter with Yang. Left Flank. Ivan, Xia you're on Right. Hestia, with me. Nils, Ruby you're following us in."
Kevin and Yang swept the area around the shop. "Keep close." He said, his Scout Rifle shouldered. The Tlaloc was a powerful weapon designed by Banshee-44. Very efficient and balanced. Not like the MIDA Multi-Tool though. Kevin wanted one of those. Rumors say that more refurbished arms were being churned out by the Vanguard. Every Guardian was earning their keep so they could get better guns. When he got back, Kevin knew there was a Shadow Price Auto Rifle out there with his name on it.
Yang whispered. "Hey, why are we out here?"
"To keep bad things from coming in or out." Kevin answered. "Every rifle and blade has its purpose. Without us, John and Ruby won't be leaving that building alive in a bad situation." The Stormcaller checked his sights again and froze.
"Shit, contact." Kevin raised the Tlaloc. Yang ducked into cover, her rifle raised. "Jackknife-One, this is Three. We've got contacts."
"Yes." Kevin swore as he kept his sights trained on the Beowolves approaching their perimeter. "Fuck. There's ten of them coming in."
A sigh came in over the COMs. "Great. Well, good news is someone left us a sign. A tiara of some sort. Looks like the one on Professor Goodwitch's cape..."
"Do we engage?" Kevin asked.
"They're heading in our direction, waste them. Xia, how are things on your end?"
"Dead silent. Apart from the Grimm friends we attracted somehow, does Kevin need assistance?"
"Negative teacher." Kevin said. "I think Yang needs a little target practice."
Kevin took aim. Yang did the same. "So...first to ten buys food when we get back?" She asked.
"You're on then." Kevin said.
John let Jingles do the work for him. The Ghost was busy trying to make sense of what happened. There was a dead man in here, a Bear Faunus who was leaning against the wall covered in gruesome wounds. There were a total of five Beowolves in here, including a pack leader.
For an untrained Huntsman, it was a pretty badass way to go. John laid his hand on the dead man's shoulder in respect before Jingles approached.
"Professor Goodwitch was here." Jingles said. "But she probably headed back to the compound. I think this man was part of a survey group looking for any food and supplies the Grimm haven't gotten into."
Ruby heard their conversation. That was the annoying part about the Grimm, they didn't just kill everyone they got their claws on but they also destroyed architecture. Professor Port and Professor Oobleck had stated that this was the very reason why all four Kingdoms were not expanding.
Grimm attacks weren't just costly because of lives, the insane amount of damage they could do to a society's infrastructure was also massive.
"Find anything?" Nils asked her as they patrolled the store, his boots crushed glass into powder. Ruby avoided stepping on it. It was kinda funny for some reason.
"Nope." Ruby said as she held her new weapon. It was a bit heavy but she was starting to get used to it. "Apart from broken stuff."
Nils made a clicking noise. "Huh." He kept his rifle in hand as he lifted a fallen shelf with one hand. It looked heavy but the Titan lifted the darned thing like it was made out of Styrofoam.
"Eew..." Nils' Ghost, Rock, sounded disgusted as he regarded the dark dry stain on the tile floor. "That better be marinara sauce."
"Probably is." Nils kept going through the store, with Rock in tow. Compared to the serene Jingles, the snarky Martellus and the cheerful Sparky. Rock liked to complain. If the Guardians were somewhat strange to Ruby then their Ghosts were even stranger.
Something made a rustling noise in an aisle on the opposite side. Ruby raised her gun just as Nils did. "Xia, did you guys miss something on your sweep?" Nils asked over the COMs.
"No. Why?" Xia's voice was annoyed.
Nils swore silently. "Alright, something might be still in here then. John, you guys watch your backs. We just got an unknown contact in the building with us." He chambered a shell into his Solar Conspiracy Theory-D shotgun, mag-locking his SUROS PDX-41 on his back. "I'm about to make someone's day a lot worse."
"Hey, what if it's a citizen?" Ruby pouted.
"Then his day gets better." Nils grinned. "I won't punch him in the face."
Yang loaded a fresh mag into her weapon and kept firing. She saw Kevin take aim with his own weapon. A single crack and another Beowolf pitched forward, its mask shattered.
"That's another one for my tally." Kevin said smiling under his helmet. "I digress Yang, I think you beat me this round."
"Whoo!" Yang pumped her fist in the air. The smile on her face grew wider as she looked over at Kevin.
"Yeah, yeah...don't get so worked up." Kevin said. "You're a solid marksman Yang."
"You think I'm good?" Yang asked. "You should see Ruby when she's serious. I swear I've seen her hit a target at six hundred yards. Backwards I might add."
"Oh I am certain of that." Kevin said. "And I am never betting if she decides to ask me to play darts."
Yang chuckled as she scratched her head. Yeah, she made that mistake too and had lost more than enough Lien playing darts with Ruby. She had planned on taking advantage of that but Dad would have been furious if she took Ruby hustling.
"Uh...Kevin? Kevin do you read?" John's voice sounded through the group frequency.
Kevin put a hand to the side of his helm. "Yeah, I'm here. What's up?"
"See for yourself. There's someone I'd like you to meet."
Kevin was not happy. He was not happy at all. It had been two years since he had seen this little girl. She looked terrified but alive. That was what mattered.
"I remember you." Kevin said. "Elina Greenwood."
Said little girl smiled sadly and bobbed her head. "Mummy and Daddy wanted to see you again." She told him.
"...How are they?" Kevin asked.
"The White Fang got to them." Elina whispered hoarsely. "I don't even know if they're okay."
Kevin's fists clenched as his expression turned dangerously cold. "What are you doing out here alone?" He asked her.
"I...I was separated from Miss Goodwitch's group. It's been a few days." Elina looked helplessly at them. "I saw mister Rueben die, we got scattered." There were tears in her eyes but her pale face was an empty mask. She was not in a good way.
John exhaled. "Listen, we need to go there. Do you still know the way?" He asked, gently as he noticed Kevin's eyes narrowing in a quiet rage.
Elina trembled but she nodded, looking at John's kindly expression. "Yes?"
"Good. We'll take you there. Once we have a handle on the situation, we head back to the Docks as soon as we are able." John said. "Everyone get that? Sort yourselves out ladies and gentlemen, we're moving out without a moment's delay."
The Guardians sent their assent as Ruby holstered her Hand cannon before following Nils out the door. She saw a bunch of dead Beowolves out in the streets. Ruby turned her head to see Kevin and Yang still looking around for more enemies. Kevin was clenching and unclenching a fist, extremely angry. John was by his side, calming his brother down and placing a hand on his shoulder.
Yang gave her a smile which she returned. As soon as they were prepared the party of nine headed down the street, weapons at the ready. The City was dead, but creatures stalked the streets. What used to be a thirty minute walk turned into one that could last a whole night.
Earth Embassy, Island of Patch.
The door to Edgar's office slammed open as an irate General Ironwood entered the office followed by a worried Headmaster Ozpin with an apoplectic slam. Inside Keina Duvall smiled to herself as she sat in a comfy chair as Edgar looked up with a raised brow.
"There are rumors saying that you plan on releasing Roman Torchwick." Ironwood snarled. "I want you to explain that to me at once!"
"James, what on Remnant are you doing?" Ozpin said, trying to calm the general down.
Edgar stood up from his chair to look at Ironwood in the face. "And if I did sanction such an order?" He asked calmly weathering the general's choler. "He did offer to give up some information to me in exchange for keeping his miserable life."
"That man is a criminal mastermind!" Ironwood exclaimed. "You're making a mistake!"
"Why do you think I have Guardians on his tail?" Edgar asked raising a brow. "Two of which are Miss Duvall..."
Keina waved when Ozpin and Ironwood regarded her for a moment.
"And Loki who is unfortunately on his shift right now." Edgar then briefly regarded the map of Vale on the left side of his wall. "You have nothing to fear of course, once this current crisis is over I will give him over to the proper Vale authorities. In the meantime, should he make the unfortunate mistake of crossing me I will have him annihilated."
He sat back down behind his desk. "In the meantime I suppose you have business with me?" He asked the General blithely.
"Don't you toy with me, Commander." Ironwood spoke with steel in his voice.
Edgar narrowed his eyes at the implied threat as he leaned forward to stare the general in the eye. "Is there going to be a problem here, General?" His tone grew frosty.
"Obviously." Ironwood said eyes narrowed. "You still haven't explained much about why you are here."
"I thought that was covered in the first meeting at this very embassy." Keina tittered.
"And who asked you for your opinion?" Ironwood barked at her. Keina smirked as her smile turned predatory. If it was possible, Ozpin could have sworn that the walls would have started bleeding...
"James." Ozpin said before a fight could escalate. He took a deep breath. "Commander, we were briefed yes but the very nature of this...Darkness is a bit..."
"Terrifyingly vague?" Keina supplied.
"Er...Yes." Ozpin said. "Thank you Madame Duvall."
Keina grinned as Edgar leaned back in his chair. "I see..." Edgar said. "You are not the first to ask me of the Darkness." His tone was mild. "As to your question, there are many theories. There are those who believe that it is evil in its purest form. Others believe that it is a vast armada of alien life that is ready to wipe us all out."
Edgar shrugged. "It is an enemy. Nothing more, nothing less." He said. "Now, it is my turn to ask you something. What do you believe the Creatures of the Grimm are?"
"They're..." Ironwood shook his head. "Soulless creatures of destruction, driven only to kill."
"And history has shown us that they just appeared on Remnant during the dawn of mankind." Ozpin added. "Studying them has been difficult, as you have found out."
"Yes...Even the Cryptarchs on the Nautilus have been telling me so." Edgar nodded. "My belief? I think they are remnants of the Darkness when it visited this planet a very long time ago."
"Do tell." Ozpin said.
"I'm just throwing out theories but I have reason to believe that Remnant had been visited by the Traveler and the Darkness eons ago, hence why your society has evolved differently from Earth." Edgar said. "I've yet to find a connection but..." He again shrugged. "Such studies will have to wait until this crisis has been managed."
Ozpin looked to James Ironwood. "There are also concerns about Faunus gangs operating in the refugee camps." The general remarked. "We'd like to request more men for that."
"That is not an unreasonable request, of course." Edgar told him mildly. "I'll put several marine squads and a Guardian team on station. How about that?"
Ironwood narrowed his eyes. "Your Guardians have a bit too much firepower to take on street gangs don't you think?"
"General, I will be quite frank with you. These street gangs have the support of a very powerful insurgency. One that we beat back with quite a few casualties." Edgar replied looking the general in the eye. "Some of us have underestimated them at our own peril."
There was a rebuke in there that Ozpin heard and he just let it wash over him. Ironwood bristled at it.
"I will place Fireteam Grendel in charge of that operation." Edgar said. " Grendel One, Karl Whittaker, will be briefed on his objectives."
"I trust that this Fireteam knows what it's doing?" Ironwood asked. "You said in the briefing that you all have been fighting aliens."
"Oh, yes." Edgar said smiling. "Yes they know what they are doing. Much like Emeici and Jackknife, Grendel's members are a stubbornly ruthless lot."
Edgar leaned back in his chair. "They'll clean up this mess, gentlemen. I can promise you that."
"Very well," Ozpin said. "I do want to add one stipulation, Commander."
"And that is?"
"I would like you to ask Mister Arc to tag along as well." Ozpin said. "The boy is...cowardly at times but he has a good head on his shoulders. I believe having some experience will help him grow faster."
"Very well, I suppose he'd be glad for the extra credit?" Edgar asked.
"Perhaps." Ozpin had to admit. That was a pretty good joke.
It was dark out, which made it bad. The group was currently holed up in a warehouse, they used the wooden crates as a makeshift barricade in case things got rough, staying in a semicircular formation. They took watches in shifts. Ivan Searle was on first watch alongside Ruby.
The other Warlock had his eye out on the perimeter. Ruby watched him closely. Ivan seemed to be whispering something even as he checked his weapon one more time before settling in for a four hour watch.
Ruby frowned. She would rather have had Hestia or Nils as a companion on watch. Ivan was a bit of a jerk to everyone but there was no mistaking that he was a skilled combatant. He could do better if he was a bit nicer though, she didn't understand why he was so mean sometimes.
Ivan then made a gesture before returning to watch in silence.
"If you can spend time staring at me, then you can keep an eye out on the perimeter."
His chilly tone snapped Ruby out of her reverie. She scowled at Ivan.
"Sorry, it's just way too quiet." She mumbled. "It's making me nervous."
"That's better than being complacent." Ivan told her.
Ruby grumbled again.
"It was totally Whittaker who won that fight." Nils told Hestia.
"That's a load of bull and you know it." Hestia answered. "I was sure Tybalt had his ass on the run. Three on three is a lot more personal than six on six."
"Tybalt had stopping power Hes, a dinky little auto rifle ain't gonna do much against an Eyasluna." Nils argued.
"It won't matter if Tybalt can't shoot straight." Hestia argued back. "Or if his back was turned."
"...What the hell are they talking about?" Yang asked Kevin who was busy with cleaning out the barrel of his Tlaloc.
"The Crucible." Kevin answered. "Basically an all out brawl between Guardians. It's good combat training."
"Are they really talking about that three versus three?" John asked. "Because it was clearly a draw."
Everyone had their weapons out and had gotten into cover.
"Ivan, Ruby! See anything!?" John barked over the COMs.
"Negative, but there's gunfire now." Ivan calmly replied. "Orders?"
"We move. Now!"
Yang looked to the side at the small girl she was now responsible for. She didn't complain. Elina Greenwood looked furtively from side to side as the group advanced. She looked so frightened it triggered something in Yang. She wanted to hug the little girl close and never let go.
"Jingles, cycle through all Vale Police Department Frequencies and see if anyone's out in the DZ." John spoke up.
"Cycling..." Jingles' plates cycled around her frame. "I found a possible frequency."
Static burst in John's ear. His helmet's systems compensated and did their best to clean up the signal.
"We're taking fire from White Fang, is there anyone out there!?" More Gunfire. "-We are gonna get overrun here without assistance-shit! Man down!"
"I need coordinates, Jingles." John said. "I need them now."
"Hold on, let me clean this static up..." Jingles' plates revolved again. "Got it, I have a navigation marker!"
John picked out his team. "Hestia, Xia you're with me. Kevin, Ivan, Nils you guys follow us in at our signal. Ruby, you and Yang are responsible for Elina."
Yang looked ready to protest but she nodded. Ruby loaded a cylinder of ammo into her hand cannon.
"I know it's shit duty." John said. "But gunfights equal Grimm. You two can handle this right?"
"Yeah," Ruby chirped. "We'll take care of Elina."
John gave them a thumbs up before pulling his helmet on. "Let's go."
The VPD were caught up in a firefight.
Xia kept the scope of her LDR-5001 sniper rifle on the more burly bastard with the grenade launcher. That was going to be a bit troublesome. She sighed as she contacted John over the COMs. "Got a troublemaker with a grenade launcher doing some serious damage here."
"Yeah, I got another one as well." John muttered. "Kevin, you got eyes on a grenadier about five hundred meters from my position?"
"Roger, I do. I see the other guy doing his thing as well. Take him out?"
"On Xia's signal we hit them with precision shots. We need to make this quick guys." John said over the group comms. "Yang, Ruby how's Elina doing?"
"She's obviously frightened." Yang said. "We're fine by the way."
"Ah, that's good." John said. "Okay, guys..." He looked at Xia, who was crouched. He raised his hand and gave her the signal to fire.
"Give them hell!"
Xia's sniper rifle boomed.
The White Fang grenadier on the left flank crumpled to the floor dead. As the insurgents realized that something was wrong, their second grenadier went down. Three more insurgents died as John Holden's surprise attack took them by surprise in a hail of gunfire. Kevin took his own team and hit them from the other side, catching the White Fang insurgents in a textbook crossfire. Within minutes, Emeici and Jackknife won the day.
"Yang, Ruby move up." Kevin called the two over as John walked over to the VPD officers taking cover in the square shaped fountain. He raised his hand in a non-hostile gesture as the VPD officer in charge did the same with his weapon.
"Shit, not just one Guardian team but two?" The officer grinned beneath his balaclava. "Thanks."
"It's no trouble. But what the hell, I'll bite." John said. "What are you guys doing out here?"
"We're helping out Professor Goodwitch...I assume you guys are headed in the same direction?"
"Yep." John nodded cheerfully. "How is she by the way?"
"Pretty good actually." The officer replied. "Come on, the compound's not far from here..."
"We can talk while we're on the move." John told the officer. "What's the compound's situation?"
"Food and water are starting to be a problem." The officer told him. "We've got a huge medicine store, which is working out for us. But..." He looked hesitant.
"But what?" John pressed.
"Got some tension. People are blamin' the Faunus." The officer spoke. "You know, the usual."
John sighed to himself. "People do realize that everyone has the shit up to their necks right?"
"People are dumb." The officer muttered.
Thanks to the efforts of the Vale Police Department and Professor Goodwitch, the City Postal Office had become a well defended bastion for survivors of the attack. Other than a pack of Beowolves, John and his group managed to reach the post office in relative safety. Exhausted, but satisfied with the completion of his mission John looked forward to his debrief.
The post office was a center of activity. John could see refugees chattering, worrying, fearing. The Faunus and humans were in two different locations but there was no conflict. Not when the Guardians of Fireteam Emeici and Jackknife were present.
Especially not when Glynda Goodwitch was there speaking with a police Captain. The blonde professor pushed her glasses up and narrowed her eyes at John who walked over.
"Mister Holden. It is good to see you again." Goodwitch said, as unshakable as ever. "I wish we could have reunited in better circumstances..."
John removed his helmet and looked around at the somewhat controlled chaos. "Meh, it could be worse." He said. "The situation?"
"As it is right now, terrible." Goodwitch shrugged. "But people are alive. We are having a bit of trouble with food supplies. Furthermore-"
There was shouting and a pair of men started swinging at each other. A wolf Faunus and a large burly man were beating the hell out of each other.
Before the VPD could react, Nils and Kevin were already pulling the two idiots off of each other.
"Fucking animal, I'll beat your ass blue if I see you looking at me again!" The human said.
"I didn't even do anything!" The Faunus exclaimed. "Get this crazy guy out of here."
"Enough." Nils said shoving the Faunus backwards. The Titan loomed over the Wolf Faunus. "It's not worth the fight, buddy."
"What are you gonna do punk, you gonna save the animal over there?" The human sneered in Kevin's faceplate.
"You have about five seconds to shut your mouth before I incapacitate you." Kevin said quietly unbuckling the holster of his sidearm. The human wisely made the decision to back off, Kevin quickly buckled his holster again as the tensions eased off. Nils glared at the Faunus who walked away quickly.
"Well, that was settled rather quickly." Jingles quipped.
John shook his head before returning to Glynda who nodded appreciatively in Nils' direction. "I see that you Guardians know how to deal with these situations."
"Most people wisely back off if we're around." John said. "It's not a permanent solution but we get by." The Warlock looked around. "The folks back on Patch would like to have you guys back on the island, just giving you the details Professor."
"It would be unfeasible to move this much people." Glynda replied. "The Grimm would be on to the refugees' movements. I do not have enough people to protect them in such a situation." The blonde professor pinched her nose. "Would it be possible for them to send reinforcements?"
"Judging from the route we took here? It was pretty quiet but we just rescued a VPD squad from a White Fang ambush. As for the Grimm..." John sighed. "You got a map?"
"This way, we have an office set up." Glynda gestured to a hallway to the side.
Before departing John looked to Xia. "You're in charge, make sure everyone gets a hot meal and some rest." He told her. "Then see what you guys can do to help. I'm sure they need a hand around this place."
Xia nodded. "What about the girl?" She and John looked at Elina Greenwood being comforted by Yang and Ruby. Kevin had stalked off to go find some blankets, the others were standing by in case something else happened. Nils was already chatting with some of the officers on guard duty, asking them what the supply situation was and how they were dealing with Grimm, White Fang and other complications.
"Keep an eye on her."
There wasn't much but at least the soup was hot. Kevin sat down on his designated cot in one of the heated tents in the secure perimeter of the refugee camp. It started snowing just before 2100 hours, and visibility was going to be a bit poor.
Thank the Traveler for helmets.
"Kevin?" Yang poked her head into the tent, grinning when she saw Kevin trying to have some soup. "You really gonna stay in here the whole time?"
"It's better than freezing my butt off out there." Kevin muttered.
Yang smiled even wider and decided to sit down next to the Warlock. "Hey...uh...so, what are we gonna do when we get back to Patch?"
"Right. The bet." Kevin said. "So...you want to go out somewhere?"
His tone was so bland that Yang had to process the information before smiling even wider. "I must have done something right." She sidled up closer. "I guess the good old Yang Xiao Long charm is working after all."
Kevin smirked as he finished his soup. "Whatever you say, Yang..."
They stayed silent. "...I wish Blake was here." Yang whispered.
"We'll find her." Kevin said. "I will promise you that." The Stormcaller stood up to discard his bowl. "Come on, let's see what we can do to help around here."
"What happened to not freezing your butt off?" Yang asked.
"Getting my blood flowing will help. March." Kevin replied.
Island of Patch, Fireteam Grendel and Team JNPR.
Karl Whittaker muttered to himself as he marched Fireteam Grendel and Team JNPR through the police tape surrounding the property.
"Hey, you can't just-" A VPD officer gaped at the faceplate of Karl's Iron Camelot helm and decided to back off wisely. The Sergeant in charge of the scene, Jamie Linecaster, sighed frustrated as she saw the Titan approach.
"Look, I know you're a Guardian and all but could you please just calm down and stop freaking my boys out?" Jamie asked him.
"Not doing it on intention, Sergeant." Karl nodded at the crime scene. "What happened here?"
"A drive by shooting by White Fang thugs. Call themselves the Shark Teeth." Linecaster said. "Bastards target any Faunus or Humans on sight for the hell of it. They hate refugees even more."
"Are they local?" Levi Dillinger asked, the Warlock hefting his Strongbow-D shotgun.
"They've got more guys operating near the docks...even more in the rural areas." Jamie shrugged. "They've never been this active before."
"We're about to make them inactive." Karl said. He turned to team JNPR who were looking at the tarp covered bodies. Jaune in particular looked numb. Karl walked over as Pyrrha put her hand gently on the blonde boy's shoulder.
"Kid." Karl said.
Jaune shook himself out of his stupor. "Um..."
"You see what the stakes are now?" Karl asked as he loomed over the young boy. "There are guys out there who think they can do whatever they want just because the City was attacked." The Titan looked Jaune in the eye. "We're gonna go and stop them. Your Headmaster says you're a brave kid."
"Um...Mister Whittaker-" Pyrrha looked ready to intervene.
"Don't." Kelly told the redhead. "Let Karl do his thing."
"Uh...well, my friends think I'm brave." Jaune answered sheepishly.
Nora was about to say something encouraging but Ren put a hand on her mouth to keep her from starting.
"You clammed up in front of those bodies though." Karl said. Jaune winced as the Titan observed him. "Humph. You'll do kid."
"Er...what?" Jaune asked.
"I said you'll do kid, don't worry. We were all newbies once." Karl told him, all unsettlingly direct. "You'll grow into this. Follow my orders and I'll keep ya alive."
"Uh...sure." Jaune looked unsure but a smile from Pyrrha fixed that.
"Hate to interrupt you guys but we have a developing situation over down by the docks." Jamie had run over to the group.
"A firefight, someone's trying to steal some supplies. We gotta get over there." Jamie asked.
"Right." Karl said. "Let's move people. We've got work to do!"
As the officers moved towards the situation, Jaune felt the very same icy fear in his veins. But he then saw who he was following. Karl Whittaker might not be the most polite person he had met, he wasn't like Kevin at all, but seeing him in full armor and leading the charge...
He wasn't a proper Huntsman but he'd show these guys that he could hack it with the rest of them.
"Jaune?" Pyrrha asked seeing that Jaune was smiling.
"I'm okay, Pyrrha." Jaune replied. "Come on let's get moving. We've got bad guys to stop."
Vale Dead Zone, City Post Office.
"All VPD squads, stand to! Stand to! Grimm are inbound! All non essential personnel are to report to shelters immediately! I repeat Grimm are inbound! All non essential personnel are to report to shelters immediately!"
"You hear that boys and girls?" John spoke over the Fireteam frequency. Yang heard through her communication bead. "Grimm! We're being attacked by furry little critters who don't know any better!"
John cocked his rifle. "The VPD's been holding their ground here, fellas! Let's give them a hand!"
There were reports of Grimm attacking the north and eastern sections of the refugee camp. Fireteam Emeici was stationed at the north, and she was enjoying it. Jackknife was on the east and already flares had been fired a few hundred meters out, marking the line where the enemy was not allowed to cross.
Situated behind sandbags and other barricades, the VPD officers readied their guns and blades. Kevin loaded a new ammo belt into his Ruin Wake machine gun as Yang covered him with her Zarinaea. She gave a Ruby a wave as she and Hestia readied themselves for the onslaught.
Out in the darkness, a horde of Grimm advanced with howls and roars. Beowolves loped on all four, eager for blood as Boarbatusks squealed their anger.
"That's it! Give them hell!" A Police Captain roared and a storm of gunfire erupted from the human lines.
Battle was joined. And the City of Vale rang with the sound of gunfire.
The first chapter of Nightfall is up. Again, thanks for all the support from Stormcaller and I hope you all enjoy.