It had been a busy night for the most important people staying at Beacon. Thanks to Jeanne and her subordinates, the intruders hadn't accomplished what they seemed to have meant to, but there was still an uproar about how they managed to enter the campus. With all the new security systems, it should have been impossible, especially when it came to what the programmes meant to be put on Ironwood's scroll, which had been saved on a recovered usb. What the group needed to do was find out the truth behind the program, and now the whole group was in the Headmaster's office, waiting to know what had been discovered.
"So, what did you discover about the virus, James?" Ozpin asked.
"May I speak freely?" James replied. The Atlesian general was impeccable as always but everyone could see the traces of worry in his face and posture.
"Well, I put some of the best hackers I know, including Pietro Polendina, to work so that the usb could be analysed," The Atlesian general went on after some hesitation. "According to them, and based on what little I know of programming, the virus on it is a fucking masterpiece."
A full minute of silence followed, with everyone in the room exchanging weird looks.
"I can't believe it," Glynda said, her jaw dropped like she had seen a ghost. Some of the others said similar things in a low tone, confusing James further.
"What's…..happening?" He asked, sure that the awe wasn't only caused by the usb's content.
"Well, James, I think none of us have ever heard you swear," Glynda said. James stayed silent for a moment, processing her words, and then groaning.
"DAMN IT, I'M BECOMING LIKE QROW!" He yelled in desperation, causing a long series of laughter from the others.
"Alright," Ozpin finally said, wiping a way a tear from the hard laughter. "As hilarious as I find James' slip in composure, can we return to the matter at hand?"
James let out a heavy sigh. There was nothing to laugh about what he had to say, a serious edge entering into his voice.
"The bug was designed to infiltrate the towers so our enemies could control them, get all the information they want that passes through, and they could have, even, shut down the entire system."
"But I thought the security system was constantly updated to avoid these kind of viruses?", Atlanta asked with a twitch of her ear.
"That's what's odd," James said. "It was perceived, in the system, as another update."
"There are very few people capable of doing something like that- he continued with everyone's worried look at him- It would require a great deal of knowledge of the original code, shortening the list of people possibly responsible even further. Most of the people who could do that are either dead, under constant watch, or currently employed by our government. Technically, Medea's skills are on par with the hacker's, but she wouldn't have had the full knowledge and time to create something like this," He looked to Medea. "I have a theory, though it is very creepy and unsettling."
Medea flinched. "Please, James, don't tell me you're suggesting what I think you are. As far as we're all aware, he's been dead a long time."
"Considering that our common enemy has dominated Remnant in the shadows for centuries, I wouldn't put it past her to fake the death of Arthur Watts," James commented. Those who knew the name began to murmur.
"Especially for someone who would be as useful," Ozpin had to agree. He had a few meetings with the scientist over the years, and, while he wasn't exactly a pleasant person, his skill was undeniable.
"Forgive my ignorance, but who are you talking about?" asked Jeanne , who, after stabilizing in Orleans, had only done a few missions in Sanus, waiting for the true plan to begin, and therefore didn't know much of the people from other continents.
"Arthur Watts. An old Atlesian scientist, long thought to be dead. He was part of the team that devised large parts of our communications system," Medea said after a long pause, recalling her old colleague and his anger towards Penny for being chosen as Atlas' new defender rather than his own project. They had often argued, but his death, in a way, had still stung.
"This is definitely worrying," Vlad interjected. "If Arthur created that virus, he can create another that will surpass the tower's defenses, even if we update them now. They must be guarded closer than ever, or our ability to communicate across the globe will be in jeopardy."
"Then it's clear what we need to do. We must organise a full attack on their bases before they can strike. We already have enough information to do that," Iskandar rose from his chair, picking up his scroll to show the entire map of the White Fang's hideout.
"What, though," Ozpin spoke slowly, cautious as always. "Will happen if our attack fails and they still manage to set off a bomb and let Grimm enter Vale?"
"We have the rails that go to the base. We could simply explode them, preventing their attempts at releasing the Grimm."
"Yes, that might work, but I would like to add further defenses to Vale in any case. We will need the help of everyone, veterans and students alike," Vlad added, then explaining what he meant.
Meanwhile, Team SSSN was busy with their masculine morning routines, while also packing everything they could need for their first mission, which they were quite excited for. Sun didn't tolerate laziness or glory hounds, so every morning all of them began with at least half an hour of exercise. After all, Aura was next to useless if muscles lacked the strength to support them though someone was already using the bathroom.
"Did someone see my gel?" Neptune asked, still half asleep from the party.
"In front of you, dumbass," Sun replied, busy with his usual series of a hundred push ups with one hand. The blue haired boy smacked himself and then noticed the bottle of gel.
"Better hurry, the meeting is soon,' Sage commented, doing some shadow boxing while Scarlet was stretching.
"Just...a...second!" Their leader said, jumping up from the floor as good as new, ready for action. In the corridor, they met Team SESP and Team RWBY, ready as well although Blake and Souchiro had some weird scars on their faces. Both of them were giving Ruby irritated looks, but she, in contrast, seemed to be the incarnation of pure joy.
"Well rested, my friend?" Emil asked, giving his Assassin mate a pat on the shoulders.
"Oh, yeah, and it was nice relaxing yesterday night with Blake," The monkey faunus said, thinking fondly of the time he had spent with the black haired girl. Souchiro, instead, was looking through his scroll about the missions that would be given that day, courtesy of being a collaborator in the White Fang investigation.
"There's a search and destroy mission in the south east. If we can take it, Roman could be behind bars before Monday. Then we'll have two good weeks to rest before the tournament."
"Oh!" Penny exclaimed. "Did you know Ruby has such a cute corgi?"
With that, said corgi jumped out of Ruby's bag. Weiss immediately caressed his black and white head with affection, which was definitely reciprocated.
"HIs name is Zwei," Ruby explained, also petting the puppy. "He's been part of the family since we were kids. He's such a good boy."
"And he's a worthy warrior, as Souchiro can testify," Emil joked, making his team leader groan, rethinking the brief fight they had.
"Fuck you all," Souchiro growled, causing everyone to laugh.
"Ah, Emil, since you were the one yesterday who told me how to improve my fighting style, do you want to come visit our home before the Vytal Festival to help me train?" Ruby asked the wolf faunus, who nodded.
"If your dad and my team are okay with it, then it would be a pleasure to help you train," He smiled, albeit surprised by the offer. "I'd also like to get some advice from your dad and uncle, and Patch would be a great place to rest."
"I'm fine with that,' Souchiro said, putting a hand on his partner's shoulder. "But can we come by at some point to train with you as well?"
"Ruby," Blake glanced to her suspiciously when she noticed her team leader and Weiss were still petting the corgi. "You don't actually plan to take Zwei with us, right?"
Ruby giggled. "Why not? He's a better trained fighter than us and his senses can be useful on the field!" She confidently replied, starting with them towards the atrium.
A few minutes later, they were all in the atrium alongside a huge crowd of students. All of them were waiting for the Headmaster, who stepped onto the stage alongside General Scarlatina and Vlad Drakul.
"Hello, students. As always, it's a pleasure to see you eager to start your duties, and I have little doubt you will complete them well," Ozpin started, making his usual speech about the Great War, the traditions of the colour names, given by those who opposed a tyrannical regime to their children. Everyone expected him to explain how they would face their first missions, but he surprised them. "We know many of you are anxious to take your first real missions, but we have to put Vale's safety ahead of the usual missions because it impacts everyone's safety. So, you will all get a very big mission."
"What is he talking about?" Ruby asked, before starting to murmur along with many other students, shocked by the news. Iskandar took the microphone and explained:
"As some of you are already aware, the White Fang and potential accomplices are programming an attack on Vale, and it could be the biggest terrorist act in recent history. We have managed to discover their position and we're planning an attack with our troops. In the case that their plan comes to any fruition, you will all be stationed to protect Vale."
"Are they revealing this to….everyone?" Weiss asked, dubious of the possible outcomes.
"Well, we're all Huntsmen and Huntresses here anyways, in training or otherwise," Yang said with a shrug. "If we can lend a hand in the investigation, everyone can."
"To ensure no panic will affect the Kingdom, excuses for your postings will be created. Now, of course, nobody will be surprised by teenagers and Huntsmen and Huntresses in training taking advantage of whatever entry level jobs they can find, but we trust you will all, of course, keep this a secret from the civilians."
"YEAHHHHH, A SUPER SECRET BATTLE!" Someone yelled. No one knew for sure who did it, but Teams RWBY and JNPR recognised him as the student who sometimes interrupted lessons with overexcited interventions. The two generals present, hearing that, were glad that the actual battle would be handled by adults.
"Ahem," Iskandar cut in. "We're asking you to be much more discrete than….that. Anyone who says anything to the media about this in any form will be immediately expelled. Are there any questions?"
"When will the attack be?" A girl asked, from Mistral based on the Haven uniform she was wearing.
"At dawn, the day after tomorrow, if everything goes well, Miss….Fall," The red haired warrior answered after pulling up the girl's name on a tablet. "For now, use this time to prepare yourself and your teammates."
"Yes, General," Cinder said with a faint growl to her voice. "We'll do our best."
She had to call Roman immediately.
While Vale's Hunters were preparing themselves to stop the biggest terrorist attack in Remnant's history, the tranquility of the forests of Anima were disturbed by the rain...and by an argument within a certain bandit camp.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?" Raven yelled, indignant as never before. What little remained of the Branwen tribe was gathered in front of her tent, watching the three men that came there a few minutes earlier closely.
"We're gonna leave for good!" The leader of the three bandits answered. Until some time earlier, when people planned to leave in the night or after an assault, hoping everyone would take them for dead. Now, everyone who wanted to go had the guts to face Raven in persone.
"You...you can't do that!" The woman argued, hoping to convince them to stay. "We're the Branwen Tribe, for Oum's sake! We should be feared, not mocked!"
"Yes, and look where that's gotten us! We are NOTHING! When, years ago, you took the reins, you said Mistral and Haven would fear us, but Iskandar's army and the Assassins have made us nothing more than a laughing stock!" The man yelled, pissed and gave Raven a menacing look. The two sides were silent for several seconds, waiting for the other to make a move. In the end, Raven motioned for them to leave and they did so without any remorse or sympathy for what was behind them.
"Fan-fucking-tastic," Raven muttered, rubbing her forehead to try and diminish the headache that had seemed to plague her since taking over the Branwen tribe, when the remaining memebers rapidly turned over their tents. Vernal only stood in silence for a while, pondering, as well, about what had just happened before finally voicing what she thought.
"I don't know what to say, Raven, but this is what Hassan does to his enemies," The brunette said, somewhat casually. "He utterly destroys their wills, and pushes his own on them without limits. Sometimes…..he feels like a true God of Death."
Raven, hearing those words, closed her fists, and, fast as lighting, unleashed the strongest punch she had ever given to Vernal, who was sent into a tree with such monstrous impact that the tree was destroyed. The bandit tried to stand up, but her neck was quickly grabbed by Raven herself, who watched her second in command in absolute disgust with a powerful red halo around her eyes.
"You called him a god. Hassan, a god….ARE YOU THAT FUCKING STUPID, VERNAL?" The sword wielder screamed, waves of Aura shocking the air around her and terrifying Vernal even more than she already was.
"Raven, please," The young warrior pleaded, falling to the floor. She rolled herself upwards, waiting for the beating of her life. After nearly a minute, though, nothing happened, so Vernal glanced to Raven who had fallen to her knees and had a cold look on her face.
"It's the thing Hassan hates most in the world. If he knew you called him that, there are no words for what he would do to us. We wouldn't be safe in even the dirtiest and most forgotten shitholes in Remnant. He'll find what remains of our tribe and even then….give it a year, and no one will remember that the Branwens even existed with the possible exception of my brother.", she said with a fearful shrug before rising up.
"What would you do then?" Vernal asked, dubious about whatever could happen.
"I'd go to Vale, for a while," Raven said, sighing, her fist clenched in rage and impotence. "There are….new businesses I must attend to."
"Is this about Yang?" The bandit demanded, suspicious.
"None of your business," Her leader nastily answered. She then opened a red and black portal and entered it under the watch of Vernal and someone else, hidden in the trees surrounding the camp. This someone was a figure dressed entirely in camouflage, equipped with binoculars that were closely aimed at the Branwen before she left.
"Gramps, are you listening?" The assassin asked into a microphone. His teacher answered shortly after, and they were rapidly given an explanation.
"This is good for us to know," The King of Homicide said, waiting on the prey that had escaped him for far too long. "It's time for us to end the life of that blasted Maiden. Thanks for your service. Now, return to your family."
This assassin, though, didn't say anything about Vernal's misleading identity. One of the first lessons he had learned, after all, was to pity and kill with as little pain as possible. He didn't want the man he considered almost a father to break their rules about torture.
Hello to everyone, sorry if it had taken so much time, blocked again by school and pandemic, not sure still when I'll manage to traduct regularry again. Hoping you liked, a big thanks to everyone who reads and of course to my beta reader, actually going by the name of designercherryheels. See you soon.