CHAPTER 32: OPERATION INFILTRATION

2000 Hours, December 2, 2557 (Military Calendar) / Unknown System, Planet Remnant, Continent of Sanas, Village of Watertown

The Master Chief was satisfied. He had successfully repelled the Grimm and prevented them from entering Watertown. His team in turn had put down the mastermind behind this attack, thus ensuring the monster returned to the wilds scattered and feral as they originally were before being taken over.

But their work was not finished. A new development had arisen, one that needed to be addressed immediately.

Belladonna had inherited magical power. More specifically, she had inherited the Fall Maiden power from the mastermind behind this attack. Not only that, said the enemy had all but confirmed that the Grimm had an ultimate master. This new flood of information completed the picture when the spartan combined it with the information he'd acquired from Branwen.

For John, the most important thing was that one of his own now had the means to access the Relic of Choice at Beacon Academy. The issue was that with only half the power, it was unclear whether or not access to the vault located underneath the academy grounds was guaranteed.

The cat faunus was assured that it wouldn't be an issue. According to her, she'd acquired information from the false maiden before she died, but only half the power wouldn't suffice. They needed all of it.

The Master Chief didn't want to simply go along with the information without first verifying it. Still, considering that he'd been taking a lot of leaps of faith in logic recently, he was forced to concede that until he had evidence to prove otherwise, he couldn't refute what the faunus girl was saying. After all, she had the magic, not him.

For now, he would rest on it and he wanted to make sure that the rest of the team got their rest as well. Thankfully, Watertown had remained largely intact and there were no casualties of any kind. The townsfolks seemed grateful and said that there would be no further monetary charges for their necessities. The spartan and his team were thankful for the kindness and they wouldn't take it for granted.

The MJOLNIR-clad man instead found himself by the parked pelican staring up into the night sky. The broken moon never failed to confuse him. If such a thing happened to Earth, life on Mankind's homeworld would be drastically different, yet here was this world, full of life and still functioning more or less the same as Earth.

As much as the science of it all perplexed him, he didn't think too hard about it. As far as he was concerned, it wasn't relevant to his mission. He was the sword and shield for Mankind… and the Faunus as well. The Grimm were the enemy and his job was to kill them and protect those he'd sworn to protect from the moment of his inception into the Spartan-II program. That was all.

He just had to continue with his mission, with or without UNSC support.

He heard soft footsteps approaching, then a stumble in those footsteps followed by a grumble.

Schnee.

John didn't look away from the moon. "You should get some sleep. You need it."

"I couldn't sleep." The heiress joined his side but kept a few meters distance away. "I was… recalling the battle we fought."

Despite his ineptitude with casual conversation, he could sense a question in her words, despite her not saying it. If there was one topic he knew well, it was combat. "This was your first battle for life and death."

"... yes." Schnee's tone was demure, unusual given her typical confident tone. "I… I'm trying to make sense of it."

The Master Chief's helmeted head turned slightly so that more of his face plate was visible to her. "What about it confuses you?"

"Your team… their callousness… their indifference towards death… even outright enjoyment of it." The white-haired girl didn't appear to have a firm grasp of her thoughts if her stilted words were any indication. "I am used to death. I have experience with family deaths, but never have I seen someone approach it so… anomalistically. It bothers me."

He had an idea of what she was getting at. It was a sentiment that many inexperienced UNSC servicemembers went through, especially those seeing combat for the first time. Training to kill in boot camp was one thing, but pulling the trigger on a live target was another, especially if the life on the end of the barrel was human or humanoid.

Strangely enough, her current thoughts made him want to listen. "Why does it bother you?"

"...I've always considered myself above such things like killing in cold blood. I am a Schnee; we fight with grace, elegance, and dignity." Schnee took a pause, her eyes focused on the moon too, yet also appeared unfocused. "And yet… here I am, taking part in a brutal melee. The fight began with some level of skill and technique and finesse, yet what I saw was… brutal, savage, and ugly."

The spartan turned his head back to stare at the moon alongside her. "You cannot reconcile what you know with what you have seen."

"...no, I cannot." Her voice was soft, but not weak. "I am no stranger to violence. I have been witness to more than my share of it, but this…"

Although he couldn't know what it felt like personally, John had heard more than a few Marines talk about how what they experienced in combat was so different from their civilian lives before joining that they couldn't compromise between the two. The stark differences between both lives were jarring so he understood. Perhaps that was what she was going through right now.

The Master Chief flexed his fists quietly. "Everyone who goes into combat thinks they know how they will react, but in moments when lives are at stake, our own as well as our brothers and sisters, we react differently. Plans made well in advance need to be changed or even discarded on the fly. We always have to be prepared for the unexpected. In that way, we're never caught off guard."

He'd learned the hard way both in training and in his thirty-plus years of experience that plans rarely went off without a hitch, the latter especially teaching him that he needed to be flexible in all ways.

"I cannot return home to the way I was fighting because, in the back of my mind, I will always remember this fight, what it means to fight with the intent to kill." Schnee's voice had begun to drift. "How can I proclaim myself to be better than the legacy I am upholding when I've participated in something just as heinous if not worse?"

It was respectable that even after the experiences she'd been through recently, she was still able to retain a semblance of morality. That was more than what Belladonna and Yang were showing, but that same morality could just as likely get her killed under the wrong circumstances.

The spartan still kept his eyes on the moon. "Our duty… is to protect Humanity… whatever the cost. If that means we have to do evil to protect it, then so be it."

"...I see…" She didn't sound like she understood.

The next few moments passed in silence with only the critters of the night making any noise, but it was peaceful all the same. He continued to gaze up at the night sky and she did the same.

John half-expected the girl to leave; whatever answer she had hoped to get here was likely not the one she wanted. Whether or not it was the one she needed, he couldn't say. It wasn't his business to know; soon, she would go back to Atlas and his team would resume their mission, wherever it would take them.

Then Schnee said the unexpected. "I want to stay with your team a little longer."

"Why?' He was curious about her logic.

Schnee frowned for a moment, then took a breath in, then out. "If what I saw today was what fighting is really like, then I need to do it more. If killing is the only way forward for me, then I ought to master it inside and out. And what better way than to learn from one who has been doing it for far longer than myself."

"If you are intent on doing this, know that you must forget everything you know about combat." He turned his body to face her. "You will learn the way that my team has learned. You will work as part of that team, fight as part of that team, and if necessary, die for that team. Do you understand?"

She nodded, facing him as well and looking up at him. "I understand that I will have to adapt, and I am ready to do so. Just say the word."

He stared into her eyes, carefully searching their cobalt-blue depths.

She in turn looked into his faceplate, a small trace of fear present, but also clear conviction and an understanding of what she was asking.

He held out his gauntlet. "We begin tomorrow, Schnee."

"I'll be ready." She placed her hand in his.

They shook on it.


Halo - - - RWBY


Weiss knew that this was going to be tough. She had prepared herself mentally. She knew that the choice she had made would be hard, perhaps the hardest one that she had ever made in her life, but the fact that it was her own and no one else's was all that mattered. Pain was temporary, pride was forever.

When it came down to it, her reasons for staying back were purely selfish.

Her original goal was to go to Beacon Academy and become a huntress so that she could effect greater change in the SDC. She needed the space away from her family so that she could one day return and guide it in a new direction. Staying in Atlas would ensure that she would never grow.

This place was far from Beacon in terms of what it offered. It was a backwater town a ways away from Vale's borders. There were no advanced training facilities, no state-of-the-art tech to supplement her training, and few options in the way of opponents to test her mettle, but that was no longer in her hands.

Here, the Master Chief had his ways of training her, and it began with simple physical exercise without the use of aura. The heiress knew that it was going to be tough; although she had trained her body over many years to be fit, even she had to admit that without aura, her physique left much to be desired and right now, she was having to work hard to overcome one of her weak points.

Further compounding this test was having to be yelled at for the most minor of infractions. Whether that was incorrect body posture during a pushup, standing incorrectly at the position of attention, or sounding off loudly, everything she did was scrutinized and if it was not perfect, it was corrected until it was perfect.

The part of her that grew up as a Schnee wanted to fight back. Being talked down like this was degrading and her prideful side didn't want to endure this. She was born to do great things, probably even change the world, and here she was, choosing to shackle herself to a goal that was not even completely clear to herself.

Then she swallowed that pride and focused. If she wanted this pain to end, then she would rise to the challenge and be perfect. There was no sense in complaining and whining. Such actions were the actions of a weakling, someone who ran at the first sign of hardship. Despite her upper-class upbringing, she could endure less-than-ideal conditions, but she would not give up on herself.

Cowards gave up.

Cowards quit.

She was no coward.

She was no quitter.

"Keep your body straight." Although the Chief's voice had softened slightly, he was no less intimidating. "Hold it."

The yelling had stopped for a moment, but she was under no illusion that if she did not meet his standards, the intensity would be brought back.


RWBY - - - Halo


"This is gonna be the hardest part for her." Yang's arms were crossed, leaning against a nearby tree as she observed the training.

Blake simply stood there, observing. "I'm surprised that she even considered doing this given her background."

"I don't know her reasons, and frankly I couldn't care less." Ruby eyed the Schnee girl with a critical eye. "If she can do the job, that's all I care about. We can worry about her mental state later."

The blonde brawler laughed lightly. "Another mentally-scarred female to join our merry band? Sure, why not? We could always use a new flavor of fucked up."

"You act like we had a chance to not be scarred in the first place." The sharpshooter drew a breath in, then let it out quietly. "It doesn't even matter now. We're all in this mental hell hole and better that we're in it together than alone."

The faunus girl frowned. "Schnee doesn't appear to be any worse for wear."

"She does a better job of processing it, probably better than I can, " Ruby conceded without hesitation, "But the fact that she's still here means that something in her head is… unresolved, uncertain. It wasn't all that long ago that she was living the good life in Atlas. Now she's been kidnapped, threatened with death, being an accomplice to murder-"

Yang cut her off. "It's not murder. We were in combat and people die in combat all the time. Besides, I don't think we'll have a hard time justifying killing people who commanded Grimm to kill innocent civilians."

"... I stand corrected." The girl with silver eyes agreed on this point. "Back to the point, she's been through a lot of things that can't be normal to her. It's so clear to see in her eyes. Something's wrong and she sees doing this as the best way to find a solution."

Blake snorted. "Not that she'll find the answer. When you really think about it, violence never truly solves anything. It just creates a cycle that we'll never break."

"We're not paid to think about the morality of this job." Ruby shrugged her shoulders. "Nor are we trained to play nice with bad guys."

Yang again laughed. "We're not paid at all. Haven't been since, well, ever."

"The point is that our job is to kill our enemies without hesitation," the female team leader said, "If I want to debate right and wrong, I'll go to church and pray to the Gods."

Blake snorted. "Like anyone believes that they'll do anything."

"We all gotta delude ourselves sometimes," The CQC specialist reasoned, "Some people more than others."

Their job was dirty and it would never be clean.

But it had its uses.


Halo - - - RWBY


The Master Chief heard bits and pieces of his spartans as they conversed to the side. He was about to send them away because them watching Schnee undergoing the first phase of training didn't do anything good.

But there was one thing that caught his attention particularly: their perception of a lack of morality in the job that they were all doing.

The spartan would be the first to admit that killing was tricky. There was a right and wrong time to kill. Despite his reluctance to bring harm to people, be they Human or Faunus, if they presented a threat to himself, his team, his mission, or innocent lives, he wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger. He'd done so many times with Insurrectionists.

What made him take a step back was the sheer indifference that his spartans were displaying. With Ruby, she didn't speak the words, but the way she spoke about death was enough for him. Yang seemed to enjoy killing, something that while he couldn't control fully, he needed to reign in. Belladonna seemed only interested in following his orders, so her morality was very flexible.

John didn't get the sense that Schnee was the type to immediately accept what he said at face value. If anything, she was perhaps the most moralistic of all the girls despite what her background might suggest. She wanted explanations and reasoning in order to make informed decisions. An unanswered question was something that she couldn't abide by apparently, as this training attested to.

He had reservations about taking her in, especially given her family history. He wasn't even sure if she really understood what spartans were or why they did what they did, but more than that, he was a firm believer that everyone had to make choices for themselves. Whether he understood her or not, she asked for this.

Speaking of training, the Chief ought to elevate the cat girl to a spartan. At this point, she potentially had the ability to break free of him thanks to the magic power she now had, but she hadn't acted on it at all, merely giving him the information he needed. At this point, he saw no reason to hold her back. He'd give her the insignia of the Spartan-II's, but before he did she would be given one final test of loyalty.

Schnee appeared to have started to tap into the hidden strength that she possessed. For some people, it took a great amount of pain before they began to reach deep within themselves and pull out even more will to continue on. It appeared that this girl had a strong will to match her strong tongue and it was pushing her through the physical pain.

But it was far from enough; physical pain was a given in combat. It was the ability to endure continuously through that pain that made spartans special. Endurance meant living a little longer to continue the mission, and maybe even return from the mission.

A mission that was soon to become even more dangerous.


RWBY - - - Halo


Thanks to the information obtained by the lone male hostile that survived the fight last night, a few interesting details had come to light about the identity of the former false Fall Maiden, corroborated with Belladonna's knowledge.

Cinder Fall was planning to cause an uproar in the Kingdom of Vale in an attempt to disrupt Beacon Academy and retrieve the Relic of Choice in the chaos. To do this, she would disguise herself as a student of Haven Academy and infiltrate from the inside out. Apparently the headmaster of Haven Academy, Leonardo Lionheart was a coward and a traitor, agreeing to provide the proper covers for the agents of Salem in exchange for his own life.

Despite his distaste for the man, the Master Chief was also wise enough to recognize that the man's cowardice could be potentially exploited so that his girls could infiltrate the other academies at will with little to no suspicions. In particular, because the Faunus female possessed half of the Fall Maiden's power, Beacon would be the priority school. Somewhere within the institution, the true host was there.

The spartan debated how to deal with the fact that power was split. Deciding at this juncture was like the decision that Doctor Halsey had given him when she had put the fate of Avery Johnson's life in his hands.

Do I sacrifice one to save many, or do I save as many lives as I can?

John wanted to save as many lives as possible. Every life could make the difference between life and death. However, in a world he didn't know with magic that he still didn't fully understand, his ability to be compassionate was limited. How long could he afford to risk what he had here for the hope that outsiders would play nice?

For now, he would formulate plan A and B to account for the most likely outcomes. When it came down to the wire, he would likely issue an order in the moment. He didn't want to make any hasty decisions with information that had yet to be verified.

Once he formulated the operation, he then called in the team to oversee his work and see what they made of it. For the most part, they all understood and agreed with what he came up with. Ruby asked some questions for clarification, but otherwise, there were no objections from any of them.

Schnee even joined in on the discussion, her interest showing when the huntsman academies were brought up. For the most part, she was still struggling to understand the basic lingo and terminology that the other three females had grown used to, but she appeared to understand the basics of the operation.

Once the talking was done, they all began to make preparations. Weapons needed to be checked, ammo needed to be counted, supplies needed to be inventoried, and whatever lien was on hand needed to be counted.

"Master Chief?" Belladonna approached him. "You asked for me?"

He motioned to treeline. "Not here."

He took the black-haired girl to the beginning of the forest where they wouldn't be seen easily, not without being spotted be either or both of them.

"I will begin bluntly." The spartan regarded her with a hard expression, albeit one she couldn't see. "What's to stop you from stabbing me or my spartans in the back and running?"

Her expression went from even to shocked. "W-what?"

"You possess enough power to at least make a break for your freedom." John pressed her further. "Why don't you?"

She was quick to reply. "Because my loyalty is here with you!"

"Why?"

Following him out of a sense of fear was one thing, but fear wasn't enough to keep anyone in line indefinitely. If that fear wasn't balanced with something more substantial, subordinates would eventually grow out of that fear.

She opened her mouth to speak, then her eyes seemed to ponder a thought, then her head fell to the ground, her hands fidgeting with one another. He felt no need to force her to speak; his mere presence alone and his silence was pressure enough; he could afford to wait for her to speak the truth.

"I… once thought of Adam Taurus as the incarnation of justice. I believed in his vision for the Faunus. I would have followed him to the ends of Remnant at one point. Then I believed him to be the incarnation of passion. He was focused on his task, focused on what lay ahead. I couldn't help but envy him. As passionate as I was about the White Fang, he was even more passionate than I was. Then, the past five years… it changed him, made him into the incarnation of hatred and spite."

The Chief wasn't sure where she was going with this story, but he held his attention on her, listening to every word she spoke.

"I knew that I had to escape him; he wasn't the mentor figure I once knew; he wasn't the man I once aspired to be like, but our history stopped me from leaving him. I had to try and help him, steer him back on the right path, but nothing I tried ever worked. He only saw one way for the White Fang to win: inflicting suffering on humans."

Her sentiment was understandable but grossly misplaced. Changing oneself was a choice that had to be made by the individual in question, never by friends or family, even close ones. If she intended to make Taurus her excuse…

"Then you came. I hated you for a long time. I think a part of me still does. You took away my friend, my mentor, the one person who gave me purpose and direction. I believed strongly that he could be saved… that all my brothers and sisters could be saved… but deep down, I think I'd long since accepted that we were too far gone, too consumed by hatred and the need for vengeance.

"I let my stupid sense of self-righteousness get in the way of doing what I should have done years ago. I wanted to save everyone, but the longer I stayed with you, fighting my former comrades, the more I understood that there was no saving any of them. Once we accepted indiscriminate killing as a means to our goals, we became monsters… and there's only thing you do to monsters: you put them down permanently."

The spartan felt the tension in his body lessen slightly.

"I know that you didn't take me in out of the kindness of your heart. I might as well still be a prisoner to you… and yet I've never felt more free. I've never felt more sure of my place in the world. Our work is dirty, but I've never questioned why we're doing it. It has to be done because if not us, then who? I can feel regret about the lives I've taken when I die. Until then, I'll be here following your lead."

John was familiar with loyalty; it was what made the Spartans a formidable fighting unit. The absolute and unbreakable trust that they shared could never be would endure in the face of any and all adversity. They had fought and bled and won together. Through failure, they learned and grew stronger together. No matter what came their way, he trusted his family with his life in every situation.

But when he looked at this girl, he couldn't help but feel that the loyalty and trust she had given him was something different. She didn't question him, she didn't doubt him, and she didn't defy him, at least not anymore. That absolute behavior was what worried him; even with the ironclad relationship of his Spartan brethren, they never hesitated to call each other out when they were wrong. The faunus girl did no such thing.

However, he couldn't deny that by that same token, her almost zealot-like loyalty was useful to him and to the mission, especially in light of the fact that she had powers that were critical to unlocking an artifact that could potentially change the world. That sort of delicate handling required someone whose loyalty couldn't be in doubt at a critical juncture.

He made his choice.

The Master Chief produced a Spartan emblem from his gauntlet, to which Blake looked at him, surprise etched on her face.

"You carry an immense responsibility now, which means your role on this team must reflect. I trust you not to abuse the power you've been given."

For a moment, she seemed starstruck by his declaration, but she had at least enough of her mental faculties under control to grasp her new symbol and pull it to her chest. She took a few deep breaths, then her golden irises looked up at him.

She smiled. "Thank you."

"Never forget that you will have to fight to retain ownership of that insignia every day. Men and women who have worn it have to be the best of the best at all times."

"I understand. I won't let you down, Chief."

He hoped she would keep to her word.


Halo - - - RWBY


Leonardo Lionheart was a cowardly man. He knew this to be true, but that didn't stop him from accepting whatever hand reached out to him if it would prolong his life a little longer. However illogical it was for him to betray his comrades to save his skin, it didn't matter. Fear was a powerful motivator for him.

If Ozpin knew of his betrayal, there was no telling what would happen. The man might be reasonable, but he wasn't above being ruthless if it meant he could gain an advantage over Salem. On the other hand, if he failed to deliver any good news to the queen, she would have his head on a platter.

In short, no matter where he turned, he was bound to get burned.

But right now, neither Ozpin nor Salem was what gave him reasons to fear. Rather, his newfound fear stemmed from the individuals in question.

Leo had gone to retrieve something from the faculty office. He had gotten up from his seat and made his way out of his office. When he opened the door, he was greeted by three individuals he had never met before.

The first was a blonde-haired girl with lilac eyes. What shocked him was the resemblance that she shared with Raven Branwen. Was this girl her daughter? The resemblance was uncanny, to say the least.

The second was a raven-haired girl sporting lilac eyes. She was a faunus like himself, a cat by the looks of it. He knew her face and who she was. She was the only child of Ghira Belladonna.

The last one was a girl with black hair ending in red tips and silver eyes, the very same kind that was perhaps the greatest threat to the Grimm. The girl was the spitting image of one Summer Rose.

All of them blocked the door and all of them were armed, pointing various firearms at him with looks that indicated that they wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

The three females did frighten him, but then he looked behind them and he paled. The headmaster was not a short man by any stretch of the imagination, but the figure in front of him easily dwarfed him by a head. Not only that, but the armor didn't give any indications as to the identity of the person.

The three females moved to restrain him. The blonde girl grabbed his left arm, the cat girl his right, and the silver-eyed girl brought him to his knees.

The armored behemoth stepped forward, towering over Leo's kneeling form.

"Are you Leonardo Lionheart?"

It was a question, but it wasn't one he could afford to refuse to answer.

His mouth opened, but no words would come out.

"He asked you a question." He felt a hand grab the hair on his head, forcing his eyes to look up at the silver visor. "Answer."

"Y-y-y-y-y-y-es!"

If he wasn't being restrained, he knew that his body would be quivering with uncontrollable fear.

The man in armor spoke again. "You will give us the means to infiltrate Beacon Academy, and you will do so discreetly. Step out of line in any way, and you will die."

Leonardo simply shook his head rapidly.


Finally, I'm able to get a chapter up. Apologies for the delay, but for the past five months, I've been training to be a Military Working Dog handler. Being a guy who's never had experience with dogs beyond the occasional visit to a friend's house, this was especially challenging for me, hence my lack of story updates, but I'm back; I've graduated and moved on to my next unit.

So the plot thickens. Weiss's lack of inclusion into the beginning stages of Beacon is simply because she still has to undergo Basic Spartan Training with the Master Chief. It'll kind of be like how Cinder, Emerald, and Mercury were the first three to show up followed by Neo being the forth and final memeber.

Thoughts on this chapter? Reviews and feedback are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.