A/N: Wow, sorry for the delay on this one, I've been all over the place on school trips, family trips, not to mention working for exams (joy)but fear not! Now the easter holidays have rolled around, I'm back in my groove, and with a chapter of almost 10k words to make up for it.

Also, because for whatever reason it didn't save that part of the A/N last time, a specula thanks to Sociopathic-Antichrist, who provided pretty much the whole idea for the last upgrade, and will for the next one. Not this one, however. I do have to do some of the work by myself.

I'd like to thank all the people who reviewed, favourited, followed etc etc, but special mention to Noob6 for guessing a major plot detail, The Baz for writing some great stories and still having the time to check mine out, and Diaspared for generally being nice and friendly. Thank you all, you guys rock.

And finally, to the one user who took the time out of his day to PM just to check on how I was doing, and to tell me he was enjoying my story, thank you. It means a lot to me.

Anyways, Onwards and upwards!


Lights rose into the sky across the planet, a haunting symphony of silence as they rose upwards, and upwards, and upwards.

They turned, thrusters firing in reverse as they began to fall, painfully slowly.

Then they hit the ground, and then the world was bathed in nuclear fire.

Volcanoes exploded, their vengeful molten fury roaring to the heavens. Choking ash spewed from their tops, covering the sun and throwing the world into darkness.

The ocean rose up, walls of thrashing water taller than the highest buildings ripping across the land. Trees and buildings alike were torn from their roots and foundations, and swept away as if they were nothing.

The earth shattered, great chasms tearing themselves through the land, running molten scars across once beautiful landscapes. It swallowed entire towns and villages, sinking below the surface to never be seen again.

The sky howled, nuclear storms and hurricanes, snatching up anything in their paths, and sending arcs of lightning across the sky, followed by the crash of thunder.

But the worst of the sounds? The worst were the unholy screeches of the very monsters humanity birthed. Hulking black, wolfish creatures tore through anything and everything in their path. Gigantic ravens, their feathers a razor sharp hail of death to all who stand in the open.

Great draconic monstrosities breathe streams of scorching death onto the helpless civilians. Guns fire, bullets smashing against their bodies, but for every one they kill, three more take their place.

Scorpion like creatures tear through the ground, ripping apart all those in their paths. In the distance, a gigantic, hulking behemoth roars it's fury, buildings collapsing under the force of its rage.

Monstrosities, based on the greatest predators the Earth has to offer, but created by humanity, have proven to be the final nail in the coffin humanity has built for itself, at the bottom of the hole it has dug over the ages.

There is a poetic irony, in there, somewhere. No one notices. They are too busy screaming, running and dying.

This is how humanity dies. The land splinters, and they die in their billions. Any surviving the initial impacts are torn apart by raving currents of water, swept up by howling, ripping winds, or incinerated in the fiery wrath of the Planet's core.

If they survive that, then their own creatures tear them apart, crush them, swallow them whole or impale them on vicious spikes. They can only watch as the destruction they have sown bears one horrific, malevolent fruit.

This is nature's wrath. It's vengeful power reshaping the world. Rebirthing it in fire and death.

It goes on forever, the roars of the creatures, the howls of the storms, the crash of the waves and the rumble of the earth. Eventually, it stops, and they go silent. The last humans cower, hiding in miserable holes and caverns, desperately hoping the creatures won't find them, that the earth will ignore their shivering forms and let them live another day.

In the midst of what was once a city, on the shattered landmass that was once known as the United States of America, and attached to the ground by countless tendrils, a cocoon-like sphere unfurls slowly. From within, two monsters stare out at the world, barren and bleak. There is no life, not even the smallest plants have survived the razing nuclear flames.

The smaller one falls to his knees in anguish. He is confused, hurt and betrayed. How could they do this? To each other, to everything? The life he's grown to love is gone, replaced by rotting corpses and deathly silence.

The larger one rages, vicious claws tearing through the rubble that was once a building in a blind rage. It roars in anger and pain as his talons tear through the rubble with vicious abandon. He is furious, not just with the creatures responsible, but with himself. There had to have been a way to prevent it, and he'd failed.

Eventually the larger one ceases his onslaught, slumping slightly and panting. The smaller one does not move, even as he feels the last worms and insects in the soil below him die, radiation seeping through the ground, where it will remain for countless years.

They stay like that for a long time, two monsters in the remains of a broken world.

They are the monsters, but what of humanity? The ones who created the two of them to kill and slaughter, the ones who hunted them to the ends of the earth when they made their bids for freedom. The ones who razed their own planet, the ones who shattered the lands and killed every last creature.

Monsters they may be, but them?

They were worse.

There is no time to grieve. The roars sound in the distance, locking onto the only signs of life for miles around. When the smaller one does not move, the larger one scoops up his catatonic form, cradling him in his gnarled and twisted arms as he bounds over wreckages and bodies alike.

Despite his incredible speed, the creatures soon catch up. The hail of razor feathers slams into the larger ones back with incredible force, burying themselves there as he uses himself as a shield to protect his brother.

He snarls in pain, and the noise brings the smaller one back to reality. The violence is a familiar experience, and will provide a much-needed distraction.

They stand back-to-back, writhing tendrils bursting from the smaller one's form, and vicious claws growing from the larger ones arms once more. Overhead, the crow-like creatures, as big as any aircraft, circle hungrily, like carrion birds eagerly awaiting the next kill.

The shattered buildings around them fill with the creatures. Wolves, Bears, Boars. They all stare hungrily down at the two of them.

The masks regard them with cold judgement, and the brothers roar their defiance at the horde. The creatures of darkness surge forwards, and monsters that were never meant to exist do battle in the remains of the world.

As humanity hides in fear, PARIAH and Blacklight fight, for they can do nothing else.


Perhaps he'd overdone it with the false nightmare, Alex thought with a frown.

From his experience, no human could go through an experience like the one he'd invented without suffering some form of mental damage, and at the very least nightmares. In a way it ended up in his favour, allowing him to safely explain any eccentricities or mistakes as habits born of PTSD.

However his fellows had begun regarding him with increased worry and sympathy, and had begun checking up on him more often, increasing the number of distractions during whatever project he was working on at the time. It was not a major setback to any of his planes, but merely a minor annoyance, one he'd have to confront sooner or later.

The Vytal Festival was fast approaching, but all it meant for him was a brief reprise from classes. One required a team to enter the Vytal Festival, and that was, in a way, a blessing in disguise. His combat abilities would let him win the Festival with ease, drawing unwanted media attention he had neither the time nor the patience for.

He had commandeered several spare tables from the Beacon storage, and had them lining his room, almost making a full circle. Standing atop them were several conical flasks, beakers and naked flames, all used for the purpose of some rather complicated chemistry.

His desired product was a simple one. Polyparaphenylene terephthalamide, more commonly known as Kevlar. Aura could only get one so far, and despite the sayings of many an ancient philosopher, sometimes the best defence was, in fact, a defence.

He could attest to that fact. Without his own access to an armoured state, one that he now favoured above his human forms, his combat abilities would be limited to more guerrilla and deceptive tactics, rather than, as PARIAH once elegantly put it, 'The patented charge in, fuck shit up, then charge out' strategy.

He had been only mildly disturbed when, after checking the official business directories for the four kingdoms, he'd found that PARIAH had in fact patented it. How he'd done so, Alex didn't know and, quite frankly, didn't want to know.

The door creaked open, and Ruby poked her head around the door.

'Hey, I uhhh… what are these?" She stepped through the door; Blake stepped through behind her, her nose wrinkling in disgust as she caught the strong smell of the chemicals floating around the room.

He didn't respond, instead reaching for the rack nearest to him, and extracting one of the thick vests that were draped across it. Had he been human, he'd likely have had to make a few batches to make sure he was performing the technique correctly, but since he was not, and could perform it perfectly each time without the aid of computer programs, there was no need.

"Put this on", he ordered, watching as she threw the oversized vest over her head with mild amusement, Blake looking like she was trying very hard not to snigger.

Aura was originally a genetic modification, locked within certain people, generally former soldiers and when the inevitably fell to the Grimm, their surviving offspring. It had taken mankind a long time to develop the genes necessary to tap into it, but once they had, Blacklight had thought all he'd have to do was sit back and watch as they pushed back the Grimm.

Of course, it hadn't been that simple. Salem had adapted her forces, letting them hunt beings that possessed an unlocked aura more easily. In fact, what had happened was that the Grimm were actually killing more and more humans, able to track them much more easily.

Then PARIAH had stepped in. If the Faunus were Blacklight's greatest creation, then PARIAH's was Dust, and the Power of Semblance. Incredibly complex and volatile elements combined in a concoction even Alex could never have dreamed of, had created the incredible substance powering the known world.

Semblance was one of the few things that remained a mystery to Blacklight, even after countless absorbed and assimilated abilities had been analysed for any trace of what they could be.

He knew what it was, but what eluded him was how PARIAH had created them.

Still, his brother would not elaborate, and so Blacklight had never pushed the issue, resolving to find the answer alone. He never had.

Ruby put the oversized vest on, stretching her arms wide and looking confused.

"Uh… I hate to break it to you Hoodie Guy, but I don't think you're cut out for fashion designing", Alex rolled his eyes even as he turned back to the table, and Weiss' weapon laying proudly there.

"I'll cut it down to your size, and you can wear it under clothing if the aesthetics really bother you that much". He commented offhandedly.

"It might not be my field, but Aura is a topic I have done-", he paused to extract the rotating dust chamber of Myrtenaster and place it gently on the table,"-some research on. In massively simplified terms, it is the amount of force transferred through your body by a blow is what determines the amount of Aura you actually lose. The vest will absorb more force from a blow that would otherwise go into your body, meaning that attacks will do less damage, especially bullets and the like".

Ruby looked at the vest with renewed interest, and Blake smiled slightly as she inspected it.

"Wow, I'm impressed. Engineering, Chemistry and now Aura Biology? Is there anything you can't do?" It was meant to be a joke, but he answered it seriously.

"Of course. As I'm sure you've noticed, my social skills are… somewhat lacking. I also have a rather severe case of Insomnia, but that is irrelevant".

Ruby looked up from her vest even as Blake frowned, "Insomni-what?"

"He doesn't sleep, Ruby" Blake answered for her, eyeing him with concern as Ruby suddenly went very quiet, her mouth forming a silent O shape as she no doubt remembered the incident from earlier in the week,

"How severe are we talking?" Blake continued softly.

Alex snorted as he reached for a screwdriver on the other side of the desk. "I don't sleep, full stop, until I physically collapse from exhaustion. Even then, it'll only last for a few hours and I… I have a tendency to, well, destroy, my surroundings. You saw what happened last time". Ruby looked down, and neither of them said anything.

"You might want to leave. This next part is going to get very dangerous, and there's a good chance you could get hurt".

'What about you?' Ruby wanted to ask him, but she said nothing, and the two of them shuffled awkwardly out of the room.

It had been a lie. There was no dangerous work that required his attention; he just needed them out of the picture so he could focus on the bigger picture of his involvement within not just beacon, but the wider world.

Complicated. That was how he'd describe the situation. Ozpin had clearly observed the small group of students becoming closer to him once more, seemingly not heeding his subtle warnings. Among them was Ruby, one of the last humans with Silver Eyes on the planet, as far as he knew. That was dangerous to Ozpin's preconceived notions for 'The Good of Humanity'. He could follow that line of thinking, and while exactly what it was PARIAH had done when he created the gene that caused Silver Eyes to develop in a person eluded him, the power they possessed could not be ignored. The girl would undeniably be a useful asset in Humanity's future survival.

There was also the matter of the girl's mother to consider. It was safe to assume that it was in fact her mother who possessed silver eyes, if the fact that the Grimm had specifically targeted her was any indication. Very, very few creatures fit the brief description he and Oobleck had pieced together; in fact, a grand total of three met all the criteria.

That being his brother, himself, and Salem.

Since it was highly unlikely PARIAH would turn on his own creations and attack one of the last, and he himself had not attacked the woman, that left Salem as the culprit, which in itself was unusual. The Queen of the Grimm was more of a chessmaster, with an intelligence that rivalled and sometimes even surpassed his own rather than immense physical strength. That did not mean she was not powerful, not in the slightest, but in their class of beings, her physical strength was weaker than both PARIAH and Blacklight.

And since it was an impossibility that the Rose matriarch had fended off Salem alone, that meant his brother had gotten involved. Which also meant there was a high chance he knew or was affiliated with Ruby.

He scowled explosively, setting down the pieces of Myrtenaster he'd been tinkering with and rubbing a hand over his chin. He didn't have enough information to come to a sound conclusion, and he was making a lot of assumptions as it was.

He was in the dark, and he hated being oblivious to important events.

There was also the onset of a slight awkwardness towards him in general, which he'd have to combat at some point or another.

Normally, his social situation would be irrelevant to his long-term goals. The minimal socializing required when he was under disguise for long periods was a necessary evil, and one he tried to minimize in case someone formed closer attachments to him, an annoyance once he moved onwards to the next target or location.

This time, it was different. His 'friends' had become important to his long term goals, meaning that this iteration of 'Alex Mercer' would have to exist as a human for a longer period of time than expected. The Schnee girl, specifically. The kind of funding her company could provide would speed up the outrageously expensive process of actually building a rocket tenfold. He could use his own, considerably large funds, but it would take time he could be utilising more productively to manage enough investments, and then… ensure their success in order to raise funds necessary for it's construction.

Luckily for him, the girl and her team, along with JNPR, seemed to view him as a friend, or at the very least a helpful comrade. Meaning he could continue as planned with his original plan, the aforementioned adjustments notwithstanding.

With that thought, he refocused on the assorted pieces of weapon lying across his desk. The work would give him time to mull over the issues presented to him.

Separated by countless years, two Alex Mercers hid themselves away in their work.


Combat Class came as a welcome break, several other subjects taking a back seat for extra combat practice in face of the oncoming tournament. It gave him time to focus on the theoretical aspect of his designs, an act that brought him the closest thing he could compare to true enjoyment.

"Alex Mercer" He sighed, even as he hauled himself upwards and towards the combat arena.

"And Mr. Mercer?" He mad a noncommittal noise in response to Goodwitch's query, "Would you please stop hacking the Beacon database in order to remove your name from the roster? It takes a considerable amount of time to add it back".

He barely stopped himself from blinking in surprise. That was smart, simultaneously removing any suspicion of The Beacon Staff interfering with the database while crediting him with the act. An act that he most certainly did not commit. It was an easily believable ultimatum, and one that most of the students apparently bought.

Perhaps Oobleck wasn't the only competent member of Beacon's staff. He'd underestimated Goodwitch's intelligence the first time around.

He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

He shrugged, "I have better things to be doing with my time".

Goodwitch ignored him, as well as the wave of snickering from the students, in favour of turning back to her scroll and calling out a team name.

"Team CFVY"

Interesting. Not a team name he recognized from among the first years, an older year perhaps? They had likely determined him too skilled to continue defeating opponents in the first year, and as such had drafted an older team in an attempt to test him further.

His theory was proved correct when four decidedly older students walked through the doors and towards the arena. Among them, he recognized the rabbit Faunus, Velvet, from the cafeteria incident. Their team leader strolled cockily at their head, wearing a beret and a pair of aviator shades.

"So you're the guy who helped Velvet out a while back. Thanks for that, by the way, but don't think we'll go easy on you" She paused to peer over the top of her sunglasses at him, "Nice hoodie, by the way".

He looked over himself before nodding in genuine appreciation.

"Thanks". No one seemed to appreciate a good hoodie any more. The original Alex had been very proud of his leather hoodie.

Actually, that was probably another thing that made the geneticist an insufferable ass, sociopathic tendencies non-withstanding. One more to add to the very long list of the failings of Alex Mercer as a human being,

She chuckled lightly, "No problem, kid. I'm Coco, the big guy's Yatsuhashi, he's Fox, and you already know Velvet". Yatsuhashi, with regal, oriental features matching a folded metal arm guard, as well as a short buzz cut, responded with a respectful inclination of his head, while Fox, the one with darker skin and messy red hair, responded with a two-fingered wave, and a quiet 'yo'.

"Alex", he responded, "Alex Mercer".

He didn't know why, but he found himself liking the beret-wearing leader of their team. While he was sure others would find her attitude callous or arrogant, he found it oddly refreshing. If anything it was somewhat familiar-

Ah.

That was why. It reminded him of her.

Dana and Coco looked almost nothing alike, but it was the cocky attitude and brash, callous way she talked. He grimaced; pointedly ignoring the memories that threatened to come flooding back all at once.

Focus on the fight. It will make it easier to forget. Become the cold, unfeeling monster once more. It will numb the pain.

He scanned their weaponry. Fox and Yatsuhashi's were simple enough. The larger boy carried a massive, cleaver like blade, bronzed in colour, which apparently had no outstanding mecha-shift capabilities. Fox had two blades that seemed to be attached to his wrists, going backwards behind his elbows. Definitely some sort of mecha-shift capabilities, perhaps similar to Yang's Ember Celica, with a shotgun blast. The blades looked reversible as well, lending credibility to him using some sort of elbow related fighting style, similar to the Muay Thai of the old world.

The girls on the team had less obvious weaponry. One could be forgive for believing Coco to be unarmed, but experience showed that, from the way she was clutching the handbag she'd brought onto the arena, it likely had mecha-shift capabilities and was in fact her weapon. Velvet, on the other hand, had only a camera. There was always the chance that it too had the ability to transform, but he highly doubted it. Velvet seemed like more of a semblance-based fighter, which meant he'd have to observe just what her semblance was once they started the fight.

"Begin!" Goodwitch called, the aura meters having materialised on the screen as they talked.

Immediately, Coco swung her handbag forwards, even as it transformed into…

Well crap.

The minigun's barrels whirred as it began to spin, and Alex could only sigh. Of course. What other kind of weapon could someone like her have?

He could almost see Dana, her eyes sparkling as she stared at the weapon of mass-destruction, probably whispering something like 'My pretty' to it, like it was a child.

It roared to life, and Alex exploded into motion at the very same instant that white-hot dust bullets began to spew from it in a veritable cone of death.

He leapt to the side, twisting as he went to avoid the worst of the impacts. He hit the ground running, moving in a wide arc to avoid the spray. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the rest of the team for movement.

Fox began to move around the arena, no doubt looking for a flanking opportunity. His agility was likely the highest of his team, and as such it would fall on him to be the vanguard in this situation. Yatsuhashi remained by Coco, but was poised and ready, no doubt waiting to intercept any attempt by him to close the distance between them.

His eyes widened marginally as a glowing blue copy of Coco's minigun, right down to the last detail, formed in Velvet's hands, and began to rain even more bullets on his position. He acted quickly, ripping his hands into the stone of the arena floor and tearing up a chunk of earth to take cover behind. Without resorting to his powers, he had no long-range options capable of causing the necessary damage to shut down the minigun.

Growling, he picked up his makeshift boulder and hurled it in the direction that the fire was coming from. He charged behind it; even as he heard Fox, who'd been flanking around him, call out a warning.

Yatsuhashi sheathed his weapon with deceptive speed for someone of his size, and grabbed both teammates by the scruffs of their necks; hauling them out of the way as the boulder smashed into the area they'd been seconds before.

The brief lapse in gunfire had given him ample time to cover the distance, and he leapt through the rubble, fist cocked back to punch. Coco dropped backwards, and as Yatsuhashi moved to intercept him, he watched Velvet discard her copy of Coco's weapon, replacing it with a copy of the gigantic, cleaver-like blade currently strapped to Yatsuhashi's back.

Despite having no weapon in his hands, Yatsuhashi utilised his larger size, hopping upwards into a perfectly karate roundhouse kick. Or whatever equated to it in the martial art style he was no doubt proficient in. His superior weight should have allowed him to put an enormous amount of power by forcing the power to come from his hips, rather than his legs.

Unfortunately for him, Alex was a lot heavier than he looked. He blocked the kick, and then dodged round the blistering jab followed by a reverse punch that came afterwards.

He launched towards the larger boy with a knee-strike, followed by an axe kick that displayed an impressive level of flexibility. Yastuhashi stumbled away and Alex followed, spinning and ramming an elbow into his solar plexus, even as Fox's bladed fists and Velvet's copy weapon sliced through the space he had occupied moments before.

He needed to keep his opponents close, by force if necessary, in order to negate the tactical advantage that Coco's minigun provided. They likely had some sort of organized signal to break off and allow her a clear shot, so he needed to stop that from becoming a possibility.

Fox chased after him, and he launched Yatsu with a quick Uppercut Launcher, before hopping onto a single foot, and launching a kick not unlike the attack the oriental boy had launched at him earlier.

His however, packed a little more oomph.

The 'Snapkick Launcher' was a move he'd taken a long time to perfect, and many test trials involving unfortunate Blackwatch soldiers and the Hudson Bay had been run in the pursuit of making the move as combat efficient as possible.

The air distorted as his shin impacted Fox's side, blowing him to the side, and causing him to clip Coco, who has looking for another opportunity to lay down suppressing fire. She managed to reach out and catch his leg as it sailed past, and although he flopped to the ground painfully, it would have hurt a lot more had he hit the ethereal barrier around the arena.

Velvet swung her copied sword, as it's true owner hit the ground painfully behind Alex. Alex leapt over the sweeping bronze blade and launched into a flying kick into her exposed guard. He pushed off the rabbit Faunus with explosive force, sending her tumbling backwards.

He soared over the recovering Yatsuhashi, flipping sideways as he tried to right himself. He slammed into the space Coco had occupied, the concrete splintering under his weight. Fox leapt in to take Coco's place even as she skipped backwards, levelling the gun at him, the telltale whir of its barrels the only warning of what was to come

He dodged Fox's spinning elbow, the blades attached to his wrists enhancing the lethality of his elbow strikes tenfold. He roughly grabbed the 'older' boy by the collar and leapt into the air. He watched the other boy's yellow eyes widen as the two of them suddenly ascended to a dizzying height, almost skimming the ceiling.

Alex raised him high above his head as gravity began to take hold, and slammed him downwards so he was beneath him as they plummeted back to the ground. Fox cursed under his breath as he suddenly realised what was about to happen to him.

The ground cratered once more under the force of the 'Powerbomb'. This particular technique was one of his personal favourites, mainly because it worked on anyone. From Greene's Hunters, to normal humans, to huntsmen and even to the vast majority of the Grimm, gravity was always there to lend a helping hand.

The two of them hit the ground so hard they bounced, and he took the opportunity to grab Fox again and repeat the process, albeit at a much lower elevation. He still hit the ground with enough force to bounce once more.

So he did it again.

He was forced to abort before a fourth time, since Velvet had launched at him, ethereal copies of Fox's arm blades attached to her wrists. He intercepted her initial strike, and traded a blistering series of jabs and punches, all before they even hit the ground.

Eventually, his superior experience won out, and the telltale tensing of Velvet's muscles, only viewable through his enhanced senses, allowed him to predict and dodge where her next punch would be. An underhand punch to her ribs, partially blocked, ended up blowing them apart, and they skidded to a stop, a decent distance apart. The clank of metal armour was his warning that Yatsuhashi was approaching behind him, and he spun around the vertical slash that embedded his blade in the ground he would have occupied. He used his momentum to throw his weight behind a spinning punch that decked him clean across the face, his strength sending the larger boy flying backwards, decidedly out of the fight, similarly to Fox.

He kicked backwards at the approaching Velvet, who'd changed her gauntlets, now hugging her wrists more tightly, and clearly displaying the shotgun mechanism that was signature to Yang's Ember Celica.

She launched into a series of punches, her fighting style now decidedly changed, so that it almost mirrored that of the blonde brawler. So her semblance wasn't just the ability to copy weaponry, it allowed her to copy the skills of the users as well. Useful information.

She bobbed and weaved, her fists held close to her face in a boxer's guard, to dance around his kick, throwing her own series of punches once she got into range.

Blue light flared as her aura mimicked Ember Celica's buckshot shells, and he narrowly avoided the spray accompanying each punch. He ducked low into a sweeping kick, her weapon already changing into a curved blade he recognized well.

He handspring backwards-in order to avoid the downwards swing of Gambol Shroud's copy then had to move closer again to avoid the burst of gunfire Coco blasted at him.

They were fighting smart. They knew one hit from him would likely end the match, and so Velvet was utilising the superior speed of her peers to evade his strikes, while utilising Coco's support capability whenever possible.

He was proud, in a roundabout way. It was reassuring to know that his creations were capable of such strategy and skill, especially against an opponent like himself, even if he was holding back immensely. Velvet's abilities were a testament to how far the Faunus had developed in such a short time, compared to humanity.

Velvet leapt backwards and he followed even as Gambol Shroud vanished, replaced by the towering form of Ruby's Crescent Rose. It danced around her shoulder blades at blistering sped, spinning in a veritable whirlwind of death.

He ducked under it and slammed both his fists into her body, one into her abdomen and one into her solar plexus. That dropped he dangerously close to the red, and he grabbed her before she could recover and hurled her at Coco, already moving to follow her sailing form.

Coco, ducked to the side, hauling her cumbersome weapon to avoid her sailing teammate, who, to his surprise, righted herself in mid air and dropped into a crouch to slide a stop. She reached for her camera, and began to aim it at him.

He froze.

That was not good. Velvet's ability allowed her to copy weaponry, and as such did not take into account the original wielder's aura. It was why she was unable to use the semblances associated with each weapon's wielder.

There was only one weapon in the direction she was pointing her camera. Him. The real him. No amount of aura layers would hide his true nature, and the likelihood of Velvet gaining his actual powers rather than his supposed semblance was astronomically high.

He exploded off the ground at incredible speeds. All pretence of holding back vanished in an instant. Remaining undetected was vital to his continued plans, at the very least until he could locate Salem's pawns, and ideally until well beyond graduation in order to retain contact with important individuals.

He didn't bother attacking, and just let the force he'd generated slam into Velvet. He body slammed her at such a velocity; the force he exerted could be compared to a speeding train. The telltale shimmer of her aura being depleted flickered across her body, then was quickly replaced by the purple glow of Goodwitch's semblance as she stopped the girl from hitting the barrier, and slowed her to a gentle halt.

With no more teammates to get in her way, Coco unleashed the full fury of her weapon, and he leapt high into the air once more to avoid the rain of bullets. He soared over her head, forcing her to turn the weapon awkwardly a full 180 degrees to track him.

Unfortunately for her, she ended up being just a second too slow, and he covered the distance between them on the opposite side to where he'd been a second ago. Two lightning fast punches dropped her aura into the red, and the buzzer called the match.

He cursed under his breath. It wasn't just random chance that Velvet's team had been selected to spar with him, after all. Ozpin had no doubt chosen them on purpose, disguising his true intentions under the guise of pretending to offer a better challenge in the older years.

He was trying to force him out into the open, and he come far too close to succeeding for his liking. Velvet's ability was not exactly unique among those he'd seen in the past. Semblances that copied other's semblances or fighting styles were not uncommon, but therein lay the problem.

No two semblances were the same, and the specific ability of Velvet's semblance to disregard aura and only observe the weapon could prove very, very dangerous in the long run.

Aside from the exposure he'd receive, it would grant Velvet herself enormous power, and make her a very dangerous adversary. The main weakness of her semblance was it's inability to copy semblances, but since he had no semblance, copying the ultimate biological weapon would entail all of his abilities, with no drawbacks whatsoever.

As his opponents helped each other up and congratulated him on a fight well fought, he ran over his options in his head.

Normally, that kind of ability would warrant instant consumption, or failing that, simple death. However, he still had the potential risks of exposure to mull over, and Ozpin's would no doubt realise that he had been responsible for the girl's death, and would not hesitate to reveal his existence to the student body.

It would be a simple matter for Ozpin to remove his own complicity in his admittance to Beacon as well. He could simply claim that Blacklight had consumed Alex Mercer and taken his place at some unspecified point in time, which while exposure would not endanger him in any way, it would require abandonment of his current plans, as well as allow Salem to escape his grasp. That was an eventuality he could not allow to come to pass.

Which meant he was in a deadlock, and the girl had to live in order for his cover to be maintained. An acceptable loss, for now.

As the bell rang to signal the end of the class, and he left the room instantly, as per the norm for him, leaving team RWBY praise blushing Velvet and a positively beaming Coco for their abilities, and no-one any the wiser as to just how close the shy rabbit Faunus had come to death.


The rest of the week passed in a blur of monotony. Before long, the weekend rolled around and he was allowed to focus once more.

Myrtenaster's upgrade was very nearly complete. The actual design and construction had taken very little time, but what had taken longer was the series of complex and lengthy chemical reactions to produce a liquid compound that was capable of reaching incredibly low temperatures.

A knock on his door interrupted his close inspection of a conical flask, an unknown vapour emanating off the freezing liquid inside. He set it down on one of his procured tables and moved to open the door.

Outside stood Jaune and Ren, looking rather disgruntled and with a pillow tucked under one of their arms.

He had a multitude of questions, but he chose to address the most pressing first.

"What the hell are you wearing?" He eyed Jaune's blue onesie with a sense of genuine respect for the boy. Very few people would willingly wear such a horrific article of clothing, a list that included his brother. It required either an immensely high or immensely low social standing, and he could guess which category Jaune fell into.

Ren snorted his amusement, clad more normally in a pair of pyjama shorts and a loose t-shirt. Jaune shot him a death glare and he looked away innocently, refusing to meet his team leader's eyes.

"Right, um… so" he began, "Yang found a monitor yesterday, and they've finally got it hooked up to the console. Then... they decided they were having a sleepover and…"

"Kicked you out. And you want to stay the night in my room" He finished for him. Jaune nodded sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. Of course, because that kind of thing happens all the time.

He sighed.

"Come in" He stood aside to let them in, and they hurried in gratefully. "Don't touch anything.

"So you got kicked out of your own room," he surmised dryly, closing the door behind him, "Isn't that some sort of insubordination?"

Jaune shrugged hopelessly.

"Do you really want me to argue with Nora, Yang and Weiss at the same time?" Jaune noticed the look on his face, "Wait, don't answer that".

He set down his pillow and a thin sheet on the floor, acting as a makeshift bed. Ren set his neatly folded portable floor-bed on the ground, and observed the flasks and beaker's lining the room, some leading to the Kevlar spinning machine, other's to a series of test tubes filled with a mysterious white liquid, beautiful fractals of frost spreading across their insides.

"Are these for Weiss' weapon?" Ren questioned, sounding genuinely interested.

He nodded, sitting back down at his main desk and flicking on the standing lamp in an attempt to ward off the rapidly encroaching night-time darkness.

"Supercooled liquid, capable of flash-freezing pretty much anything in existence, including fire. I found it fitting, considering Ruby and Yang insist on calling her 'Ice Queen'".

Jaune chuckled from his position on the floor, and Ren gestured lightly to the thin threads collecting on a spinning rod.

"Strands for a bulletproof vest. Speaking of which". He rummaged in the small plastic box that contained the finished products. He pulled four out and threw them at Jaune, who yelped as he hurried to accommodate for the vests being much heavier than he expected

"The batch for your team. Wear them under your clothes or over, it doesn't matter, but what does matter is it will reduce the amount of aura you lose from hits, especially bullets".

Ren tilted his head in thanks, and Jaune looked at the vests for a second, before looking back up at him.

"I've been meaning to ask you something. Why are you helping us so much?" He held up with hands quickly, "I mean, I'm super grateful for everything you've done to help, but I was just wondering if there's a particular reason".

Alex leant back in his chair and sighed. Time to lie impressively once more.

"I don't know, actually. I've never had any friends before, and friends do things for each other, and this is what I'm doing for you guys. Plus it feels nice to do something that doesn't destroy everything around me".

Jaune blinked, and then grinned appreciatively, "Well, thanks. I can tell you that we all appreciate it". Ren sat down quietly smiling softly to himself.

"Speaking of friends", Jaune continued, "Pyrrha's been acting really weird around me lately".

He snorted in amusement and turned away, and Ren coughed into his fist.

"What?" Jaune protested indignantly.

"Are you really that dense?"

""I don't know if I've done something to annoy her, or if she's still annoyed with me about the whole Cardin thing, or…"

"Arc. She likes you. Simple as that". He slid the chair around once more and fixed the team leader with a dry stare.

He made a silent vow there and then to never, ever under any circumstances let PARIAH anywhere near Beacon. If he found out that his brother, the eternally feared Blacklight, was giving relationship advice to a teenage boy, he would never hear the end of it, quite literally.

He tried (and failed. Miserably.) to convince himself that it was for the sake of his objective, and it was necessary to maintain his cover. That he was performing such a base act for the greater good of his future plans.

It wasn't working.

"You're probably better off asking Ren for relationship advice. He probably knows more about it than both of us put together". He suggested (read: ordered in a vain attempt to preserve his dignity)

Ren frowned, and he turned his dry stare onto him.

"Don't give me that. I've seen married couples less close than you and Nora are".

"Yeah, he's got a point. Why aren't you two together again?". Jaune had apparently forgotten that he'd mentioned Pyrrha's attraction to him (he didn't know if the boy was just that oblivious or willingly ignoring it)

"Look who's talking" Ren drawled, raising an eyebrow and making Jaune frown again.

"But I don't have anyone who likes me!" Jaune exclaimed, turning his palms up.

Alex's head became very good friends with the table.

"Pot, meet Kettle. You're both black". He murmured into the table, and though Ren clearly understood, and only looked amused, Jaune went back to thinking.

"Anyone else find it weird that we're talking about relationships at a guy's sleepover?"

"This is not a sleepover. This is a refugee camp, at best"

Jaune ignored him and powered on,"-I mean, isn't this what girls do at their sleepovers? Shouldn't we be talking about… I dunno. Manly stuff?"

"Yes, because we're all the epitome of manliness".

"Zip it, mister 'I can break all of your spines with my pinkie finger'"

"If it makes you feel better, the girls are probably doing the same thing as us". Ren offered, patting Jaune on the back.

"I've never been to a girl's sleepover, but I'm pretty sure that's what they do", Alex offered.

"You think?"


Meanwhile…

"FATALITY" proclaimed the game screen, as Weiss' character met a violent and brutal death at the hands of Yang's character. Ruby and Nora cheered loudly.

"HAHA" proclaimed the blonde victor, "You really suck at this, Ice Queen. That's like what, four in a row?"

Weiss, who has lost to almost everyone so far, was apparently a rather sore loser, and chose that moment to pounce on Yang, sending the two of them tumbling to the ground.

Blake lifted her legs off the ground as they rolled past where she was sitting on Pyrrha's bed, happily reading and wilfully ignoring the absolute carnage going on around her.

Nora was drinking bottles of syrup like it was alcohol, and after each one vibrating so hard she might as well have been trying to phase through the walls and into the fifth dimension.

Yang, before she had been fighting Weiss on the ground, had been, as usual, loud and boisterous and also the only one of them who'd played the video game in question before, meaning she won pretty much all of the matches.

Ruby had never played this particular game, but had played a multitude of others similar to it, but with less violence (apparently Yang was content to let her sister wield a gigantic sniper-scythe and kill monsters for a living, but not play violent video games, who knew?) and she was happily teaching Pyrrha how to play the game.

Pyrrha had never actually played a video game, and was naïve enough to say that out loud, leaving Blake to watch as the only person with anything resembling a normal personality was dragged away and shown the wonders of video games.

Leaving her alone. Sitting on a bed in the middle of a chaotic mix of syrup drinking, brawling, video gaming, and more competiveness than she'd ever seen in her life.

It was then that Nora noticed that someone had started a fight, and gleefully dropped from the bookcase she'd been perched on top of into an admittedly impressive elbow drop.

One that knocked the bookcase over, sending JNPR's textbooks flying across the room.

She turned the page with a sigh.


"Yeah, you're probably right". Jaune agreed, a hand to his chin.

Ren looked like he wanted to say something, but wisely remained silent. The two of them made the final preparations for their makeshift beds, and as Jaune pulled the sheet over himself, he looked around, confused.

"Hang on. Where's your bed?"

"Got rid of it," He said without looking up from the schematic he was drawing, "It ended up wasting space, and I don't need it anyways".

"Ah, right. Insomnia. Got it".

"Ruby told you about that, huh?" He looked over his shoulder. Ren already had his head on the pillow, and looked very close to falling asleep already.

"Blake, actually", he admitted, then continued when he saw his intrigued look, "I know, right? Not what the rest of us expected either. Still, if you want to stay up and keep going, that's cool. Used to sleep with my nightlight on at home, that lamp's not much different".

He said nothing in reply, and before long, Jaune was asleep as well.

He exhaled. Four years. It's only four years of dealing with a group of people who collectively amount to about half of his brother's barely controlled insanity.

That may not sound impressive, but considering this was the same person who'd shut down the CCT by ramming his head through the fusebox, then set a tax office on fire before leaving on a stolen bullhead to the Remnant equivalent of Las Vegas in Vacuo, spent two hours there then came back, made a dick joke about the current Atlesian general and escaped Atlas leaving billions of lien in property damage and several very important people without their dignity.

If he could handle the embodiment of all things batshit crazy (barely) then he could handle two adolescent huntsman teams four only four years.

Right?


He had been wrong.

When they morning had come around (it was a weekend, thankfully) the three of them had gone to check on the state of their comrades. However, when they opened the door to JNPR's dorm room, only years of experience dealing with PARIAH could have prepared him for what he saw.

He had often heard the synonym, 'Like a bomb has gone off' to describe messy areas, generally personal rooms and the like.

In this case, it looked like several actual bombs had gone off, if the scorch marks and pink confetti were any indication. The beds were either tipped over onto their side, broken in half (Jaune let out a miserable squawk of dismay) and halfway out the open window.

The occupants of the room, and no doubt the cause of the mess, were thrown around the room in the most haphazard positions imaginable. Yang was halfway over one of the beds, her legs sticking out the only indication that she was actually there. Weiss was in a similar position, but apparently stuck between the bed and the wall, her high heels twitching occasionally.

Ruby was face down on the floor, a discarded video game controller lying by her head. Pyrrha lay slumped against the wall, apparently thrown there by the by the explosions, if the cracks in the wall around her back were any indication.

And Nora-

"Why is Nora on the ceiling?" Jaune paused to look more closely at his teammate, "How is Nora on the ceiling?" There was nothing to hold her there, and for all intents and purposes it looked like she was just attached to the ceiling.

"Syrup" Ren provided helpfully. Jaune scoffed.

'Syrup? That's stupid…" he trailed off as Ren pointed to the numerous empty syrup bottles, lying in a messy heap in the corner, "Oh".

The three of them shared a glance, before Jaune, as the unanimously agreed most expendable of the three of them, tiptoed cautiously towards Ruby, who was the closest unconscious figure.

He hesitantly poked her with his foot, making a very visible attempt to stay as far away as possible. When it became clear that was not going to work, he bent over to shake her shoulder, shooting occasional looks upwards in case Nora dislodged herself from the ceiling and landed on top of him.

Ren and Alex shot him two emotionless thumbs up, and he gulped audibly.

"Ruby" he hissed, "Ruby, get up" The red cloaked girl groaned and he hurriedly put a finger to her lips.

"Jaune? Wha… "She trailed off as Jaune gestured widely to the carnage around them

"Oh" She squeaked, suddenly looking very embarrassed, and shooting an apologetic look at Ren, who's job it would no doubt be to clean up the room later. He did not look impressed.

Jaune moved on to Pyrrha, and began shaking her shoulder in an attempt to wake her up, and Ruby moved to the other side of the room in an attempt to pry away the bed that was pinning her sister and her partner to the wall.

"Wait, where's Blake?" Ruby voiced suddenly realising the absence of the quiet black haired girl. Another cursory look around the room showed her to be nowhere in sight.

"I'm down here" Came her soft voice distinctly tinged with amusement from behind the overturned bed. All eyes, including the newly awakened Pyrrha's turned to the bed, and no one said anything for a couple of seconds before Ruby clutched her head in her hands.

"Oh my god! She's trapped back there!" She tried to pull the bed over, but failed in making it budge from it's position on it's side, "Hoodie guy! Give me a hand here!"

With a world-weary sigh, he trudged over to where Ruby was standing, and grasped the edge of the bed with a single hand.

"Wait no-" Whatever warning Blake was about to give was cut off as the bed was hauled over, sending Yang tumbling down onto the floor and Weiss to shriek in indignation. The heiress was the first to recover, and emerged over side of the bed poised to shriek in a fit of high-class early morning fury.

No one noticed that, because they were distracted by the fact she had no top on.

Alex hissed in surprise and turned away, Jaune had his eyes covered promptly by his partner, and Ruby turned an impressive shade of scarlet. Whatever preventative actions Ren was about to take were halted as Nora fell from the ceiling and on top of him.

"What were you idiots thinking? Setting off a bomb in a dorm room! Of all the-"

"Was this before or after you lost your top?" Alex's back drawled, looking resolutely at the door.

She paused and looked down at herself. The snickers Yang had been holding in threatened to break through as she flashed her teammate a thumbs up.

"Looking good there Ice Queen!"

He could practically hear the Heiress' face light up as she realised exactly what was happening.

"AAAAAAAAAHHHH! OUTOUTOUTOUTOUT!"

He took that subtle suggestion to mean he should leave the room, a demand he was more than happy to comply with. Not a moment too soon, as the rest of the room's occupants were thrown out bodily in an impressive show of strength.

"Alright" Jaune croaked out from the bottom of the pile of bodies, "I'll bite. What happened last night?"

"Do you really want to know the answer to that?" Yang replied drily from her position somewhere in the middle of the mound of bodies, her voice muffled.

"For the record, it was totally Yang's fault" Blake answered, ignoring the gasp of betrayal from her partner

"Yang "Ruby's disembodied voice wheezed from underneath her sister," Why are you so heavy".

No one said anything for several painful seconds, and then the pile of bodies in the middle of the hallway turned into what was practically an all out brawl as Yang tried to get to attack her sister.

He took the second descent into absolute carnage as his cue to leave.

Some things were better if never, ever mentioned again.


Summer stared up at PARIAH, posing dramatically on top of his newly procured giant mech-suit. She rubbed her eyes.

"So let me get this straight" She started, trying to make sense of exactly what had just happened, "So you stole a prototype Atlesian Paladin from the military to try and kill Zwei, but now you can't do that because Tai has taken him to post him to Yang and Ruby, meaning you have a giant robot and nothing to do with it. Did I get that all right?"

"Yep!" he answered cheerfully, refusing to break his pose.

"And you did this all in the fifteen minutes it took me to go and get groceries?"

"Well actually I stole the robot earlier today, but yeah, pretty much".

Qrow chose that moment to walk through the front door, and after realising that no one was in the house, followed the sound of shouting to the back garden.

"Is that the robot Jimmy was going on about being stolen earlier?" Had he been a more mature individual, he would have sounded reprehensive. Since he was not, he sounded unreasonably excited.

"Yep!" PAARIAH seemed particularly proud of the fact he'd sent the entire nation of Atlas into a military emergency, and casually performed the biggest breach of security since someone had shut down the CCT by ramming their head through all thirty-two fuse boxes, two of which were at the very tip of the tower.

An event that had absolutely nothing to do with him. Nothing at all. Nope.

Qrow hurriedly took out his scroll and practically bounded over to the robot, where he promptly turned around and took a selfie of it.

"Qrow. What are you doing?" Summer demanded weakly, having about reached her limit for randomness for the day.

PARIAH hopped off his ill-gotten prize and leant over Qrow's shoulder to see what he was doing, where he promptly joined the older man in his snickering.

Qrow pressed send, and ignoring Summer's distinctly unimpressed look, raised three fingers in a countdown.

As soon as he lowered his last finger, the scroll rang.

Qrow coughed and straightened up, then answered the incoming call.

"Hello?"

"BRANWEN!" Demanded the positively furious voice of Specialist Winter Schnee, "DID YOU JUST SEND ME A FUCKING SELFIE OF YOU WITH STOLEN MILLITARY PROPERTY?!".

"Qrow bit his lip to repress the sniggers already overcoming his juvenile companion, and with a remarkably straight face, responded.

"No" He answered smoothly, "I have no idea what you're talking about" {PARIAH clambered into the cockpit of the robot as he spoke, and the Specialist on the other end practically roared her answer back down the scroll.

"I CAN SEE THE DAMN THING IN THE BACKGROUND YOU ASSHOLE".

PARIAH apparently did not know how to control the Paladin, and his attempts to make it move were met with what looked like pelvic thrusting. Apparently Qrow's impassive face and the hip-thrusting robot behind him was too much for Winter to deal with, and with an incomprehensible noise of fury, she shut off the call, no doubt to report to her superiors.

Qrow's mask broke, and he collapsed onto the ground, clutching his sides and howling in laughter. Summer raised an impassive eyebrow at him.

"What are you, five years old?"

The robot raised one of its appendages in.

"I'm eight" came PARIAH's voice over the speakers.

"You are over a thousand years old, asshole!" She snapped at the robot, which hastily lowered its arm.

It disregarded her and turned back to Qrow, still rolling around on the floor.

"Do you want to take some more videos? I think I've figured out how this thing actually works".

"Of course" He gasped, scrambling up and reaching for his scroll once more.

Taiyang chose that moment to arrive, and as soon as he exited the house and caught sight of the robot, whatever he had been about to say was cut off as he gasped, eyes sparkling.

"Is that a giant robot?" He breathed in amazement at Qrow's excited nod he whooped, "Oh hell yes!" He practically skipped across the garden towards the robot, now prancing about in a vague imitation of a ballet dancer.

Summer buried her head in her hands.

Men.


Beat you to the punch there, Torchwick. Good luck stealing that Paladin.

See? PARIAh helps occasionally! Sometimes. Actually just this time now I think about it. Crap.