John Rann was a simple man with simple needs.
He didn't ask for much in life. Just little things, like finding enough food to get through the day, the occasional sip of toilet spirits, and first dibs at any tourists that tried to saunter their way over from the Village. It was all completely reasonable, and well within his rights as the Head Boy of the Garden District.
As such, when something interfered with these simple, basic, perfectly reasonable goals of his, he became understandably angry.
And one particular soul had just made him very, very angry.
The target of his ire, the apparent sole survivor of the raid on the Train Station, could only whimper and groan in pain as he spat out what had gone wrong. The lad was hardly in great shape: half of his teeth had been knocked out, and what skin was visible was covered in bruises. He'd barely survived having part of the Train Station fall on top of him, which was the only reason he'd managed to avoid being nabbed by a death squad of 'colorful magical bastards with guns', as he so put it.
The story was so ludicrous and fantastical that John had been torn between throwing the survivor off the cliffs and turning him into the new bard.
But then some of the other lads had described seeing other weird things over near the Train Station. Colorful figures entering and leaving the building, bound up Headboys being dragged about, and an unknown wastrel fraternizing with the Highlander. A few had even said they'd seen a fucking aircraft land next to the building.
Was it the damned Mantleans coming around for another go? Were a bunch of tourists trying to raise hell in the Garden? And why the hell would someone like Ollie fucking Starkey work with anyone, let alone outsiders?
None of it made any sense.
…but then again it didn't need to make sense, did it?
Really, there was only one part of the situation that needed to be immediately considered: the Headboys had been fucked over. And that was simply unacceptable.
The Headboys were the masters of the Garden District. Not the Bobbies, not the Wellies, and not the damned Executive Committee, it was the Headboys! They were the ones who kept killing off the plaguies, they were the ones that kept the patrols up, and they were the ones that kept the water pumps working!
And now some damned upstarts from Gods-know-where think that they know what's best for this place? That they can just ignore the established order of things?
Well, they'll just have to be taught who the real ruler of the Garden is.
One bomb and one group of lads wasn't enough? Then he'd just send in more. Between all four of the holms, he'd easily manage to scrape together a proper response to this incursion. The bombs would be a bit more of a pain, with how damned difficult it was to find enough Dust for them in the first place, but they still had a handful more stored up for just this sort of occasion.
Even through the burning haze of rage that was clouding his mind, John knew that this wouldn't be a simple task. The fact that only one lad had come back from the first attack could only mean that the next one would be even bloodier, especially if the outsiders had managed to bring Starkey onto their side.
But that was fine. Less mouths to feed meant more food for everyone else, and there was no shortage of willing or 'willing' recruits to help replace any losses. Having the only stockpiles of food in the Garden could be pretty damned helpful for persuading any hesitant wastrels.
It didn't matter how many outsiders had decided to take up residence in the Train Station. It didn't even matter if they had guns, or magic, or fucking magical guns with them.
No matter the cost, no matter the casualties, that damned building would burn.
The day had finally arrived.
The terrible Mantleans, not content with their actions two decades ago, had finally decided to return to Wellington Wells. Their sinister agents had been seen dropping near the Train Station, and were no doubt causing death and destruction throughout the region as soon as they had landed. The rest of their invasion force would assuredly be with them shortly, expecting to take on a weak, rattled Wellington Wells, still crippled from the occupation.
And to make matters worse, this time the Numbs had brought aircraft with them. Instead of marching across the well-prepared chokepoints and killzones at the Britannia Bridge, like honorable combatants, they had elected to launch a surprise attack straight at the soft underbelly of the Garden District. The wastrels, Joyless and uncivilized as they were, stood no chance.
But the Home Guard was ready.
They had been training for decades, honing and preparing themselves for the inevitable rematch between the insidious invader and the determined defender. Countless practice sessions, perfecting skills as varied as the best ways to stab a man with a bayonet or how to march in the most comfortable way, had forged the Home Army into an indomitable force.
Their bayonets were sharpened. Their uniforms were pressed. They had been equipped with spare Bangers and medical supplies, straight from the emergency stockpiles. The men were very, very eager to pay back the Mantleans for every single injustice that they had wrought on Wellington Wells.
And this time, they even had a secret weapon.
Straight from the brilliant minds at the Department of Scientific Research, and hastily assembled in the dark at the Victory Memorial Camp, they had brought along their mightiest weapon. Capable of blowing away entire hordes of wastrels with sheer air power alone, the pneumatic cannon was a thing of beauty even before the high explosive munitions were included. As the sole piece of ordnance the Home Army possessed, it would be quite the asset in the upcoming campaign.
Sadly, they lacked the ammunition to simply bombard the enemy into submission. It had taken tremendous effort simply to find and repair a handful of leftover bombs for the weapon in the first place, so every shot had to count. They would have to wait, pick out strategic targets, and cripple the enemy with a few precise strikes.
There was also the small, insignificant issue of the weapon being a prototype, with some bugs and kinks still being worked out in the design. Most of the technician's warnings had gone in one ear and out the other, but he'd heard the words 'catastrophic explosion' enough times to know there could possibly be some minor problems with the device.
But Sergeant Murray was undeterred by these limitations. The General himself had entrusted him with this duty, and though the threat was great, so was his resolve and his enthusiasm.
Even now, as his men approached their destination, only a single thought repeated in his mind.
'I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait!'
The mere prospect of finally, finally getting the chance to fight the Mantleans again had filled him with renewed energy. Thinking about the inevitable victory ahead was almost as intoxicating as Joy! And the extra Joy he took in addition only served to make him feel even better!
Oh, if only they could have brought along some of the tanks as well! Using the enemy's own weapons against them would have been a lovely dose of irony! And their cannons would make the perfect addition to the bombardment!
Well, if the General saw fit to keep them in reserve, the tanks would stay put in reserve. They'd made do with less in the past, and they would make do with less now.
Soon enough, they had managed to lay eyes upon the Train Station itself. Evidence of the enemy's activities was already evident, with a pile of wastrel corpses proudly stacked outside of the building and a massive vehicle parked outside the entrance, obviously some sort of aircraft. The Mantleans must have been setting the Train Station up as a base of operations for further incursions, or possibly even a staging area for an assault on the Victory Memorial Camp itself!
Well, if they thought that would work, they had clearly underestimated the preparedness of the Home Army.
Facing his men, Murray quickly began to give out orders. "Alright, lads, let's get ready. Elles, have your squad set up the cannon. French, I want your squad prepared to assault the Station first, followed by Haig. The quicker you get things set up, the quicker we can charge in there and give them what for!"
The air was filled with raucous cries, and his men swiftly went to work, separating into sections and readying their weapons. It was a glorious sight, watching the Home Guard move with a precision and military focus it had lacked for so long.
Murray couldn't help but grin. In less than an hour, the Mantleans would be slaughtered to the last man. One final battle, to show the Mantleans once again that it would take more than fancy weapons and heavy armor to keep down a true Wellie.
And if he had to ignore part of the General's orders to do so, well…if there just so happened to be nobody left to take prisoner, it wouldn't be that much of a loss. It wasn't like the General could blame the lads for being a bit…overenthusiastic.
But that was for later, after the battle was well and truly won. For now, all he had to do now was make sure the anticipation didn't kill him off before he got the chance to gut some Numbs. All this excitement was making him feel like a young man of thirty again!
Well, wasn't this just fantastic?
Two decades of sitting around on their asses, drilling and marching in their precious little camp, and now the General decides to send his men marching on over into the Garden?
It had to be because of the young Huntsmen and their damned aircraft. The Home Army hadn't bothered to intervene at all with the plague, the Headboys, or the Garden District's general status quo of misery, starvation, and delirium in the past, so it only made sense. Knowing them, they probably thought that the Numbs were coming back for another go.
'And right when Artie came back for a visit. It's turning out to be quite the neighborhood reunion.' Ollie thought, glancing around the hall for his cricket bat. Hopefully it wouldn't be necessary, but…
It was the Home Army, all in all. Them leaving the Victory Memorial Camp already meant that someone's skull would end up cracked open. Some Bangers and blue molotovs wouldn't hurt, either…
"Wait, what's the Home Army?" Jaune asked. "Is that part of the Vale military, or…"
"No, nothing like that. Those bastards haven't set foot here in years." Ollie groaned. "That's just what people call the town militia. Used to train ourselves up like the army, but…well, after the occupation, nobody was quite right in the head."
"You don't say." Weiss deadpanned, looking at him. Being the gracious host he was, Ollie chose to ignore her for the time being. Besides, getting into an argument with her would only set a bad example for Margaret.
"If they're headed here, odds are they're out for blood. Your blood." Ollie continued, finally finding his wayward weapon and grabbing it. "I can't even remember the last time they stuck out their necks from the Camp, so for them to risk it, they'll be expecting a fight. My guess is they think the Blanks've come back for round two, and they've pegged you lot as the first wave of a new invasion."
"Then it should be simple! All we have to do is go out and talk to them, and we'll be able to clear all this up!" Ruby exclaimed, shooting up from her seat.
"You can try, I suppose. Doubt it'll do much good, what with you all being a bunch of outsiders, but it's an option. At the very least, it's not like bayonets will do anything to stop you lot." Ollie said, rolling his eyes.
"…Bayonets? Why would they be using those?" Pyrrha asked, frowning.
"They're out of ammo for their guns. Have been for years. Idiots used it all up training themselves for when the Numbs came back, so they switched over to using their blades instead. Bunch of numpties." Ollie muttered, shaking his head. All that effort put into inventing robots and Joy, and yet nobody thought making more bullets was worth the effort. Motilene could only do so much!
'What I wouldn't give for some proper, refined Dust.' Ollie lamented internally, picking up and pocketing a Banger. It would certainly make defending the Station a hell of a lot easier. The handful of misshapen, mixed crystals left over from the occupation just didn't pack the same punch as the good stuff.
…Had the room suddenly gotten quiet?
"I think you've broken them." Margaret said, appearing next to him with a bemused look. Turning around, Ollie found the young Huntsmen-in-training pinning him with a variety of disbelieving stares, ranging from the doubtful to the horrified.
"…The town militia doesn't have any bullets? But…but…how? Why?!" Jaune asked, glancing back and forth at his teammates.
"Don't particularly know, don't particularly care." Ollie said, moving towards the main entrance. "Right now, I'm more concerned about them storming across the lawn and making off with your bloody Bullhead. If you lot would care to join me outside-"
"In assaulting the town's law enforcement just because you asked?" Weiss asked, crossing her arms and frowning. "How do we know you're even telling the truth about them? About any of this?"
"Believe me or not, it's not going to stop them from marching up here and trying to stab the lot of you." Ollie replied. "And I wasn't going to ask for that. I was just going to say we should leave before we get caught up in that whole mess."
"That doesn't mean we should just run away." Ren said. "We still need to complete our mission."
"Let's just talk to them first! If we just explain the situation to them, maybe they'll be willing to help us out!" Ruby said, sending a pleading look towards Ollie. It wasn't quite as powerful as some of the ones Margaret had tried on him over the years, but it was a decent effort.
Ollie sighed, imagining the myriad of ways for this situation to end up far worse than if they'd just got out of town immediately. He wanted to shout at the outsiders, to knock some damned sense into their heads, but…
Well, it wasn't like he'd get very far with that approach in the first place. A cricket bat and one homemade grenade would do exactly fuck-all against thirty drugged-up madmen with knives, let alone eight people with unlocked Aura and heavy weapons. And even if the lads were all strung out of their heads, there might still be a very, very small chance they'd listen to reason…
It could work. Maybe. As long as the General hadn't put some hotheaded idiot like Sergeant Murray in charge of them, at least. Or if they hadn't been overdoing it with the Joy dosages.
'I suppose it'd be nice to go an hour or so without having to beat someone senseless.' Ollie thought. 'Besides, when this whole mess goes wrong, they'll be able to handle it.'
"I suppose we can try to talk to them. Just…don't get your hopes up." Ollie said, turning back towards the entrance. He tried to ignore the rapid preparations of the Huntsmen-in-training behind him, and the uncertain glances from Margaret ahead of him. He could see just as well as her how poorly this was going to go, but…
Well, at least it wasn't the worst way to get them to understand. He didn't even want to think about what would have happened if they'd tried to go to the Village first, let alone the Parade.
While the rest of teams RWBY and JNPR gathered their equipment, preparing their weapons and Dust supplies, Yang simply went through the motions, her mind still struggling to sort through everything that had just happened.
Seriously, Ollie just dropped a bombshell like that on her and expected her to stay calm? To ignore the fact that dozens, at least, of kids had been dragged off? Even if it had happened years ago, that didn't mean she shouldn't get angry about it!
Just thinking about something like that happening on Patch…if those bastards had taken away Ruby…
No. She couldn't think about that right now. They were trying to be nice, calm, and reasonable people to a bunch of scared, paranoid locals. It wouldn't help their case if she couldn't keep from melting down in front of them.
'Gotta stay calm. You can freak out about all this later. Now's not the time to get Yangry.'
…It didn't help. Not even puns were able to cheer her up. The situation had truly become dire.
Still, at least they had something more concrete to focus on. Once they cleared things up with these 'Home Army' guys, maybe they'd be able to figure out what they could do to try and help out. At the very least, it'd be a good idea to get a doctor to look over their pile of captured bandits.
Soon enough, the two teams had filed out of the station, moving past the parked Bullhead and the rusty chain link fence. The southern side of the building was free from the random houses and ruins near the other entrances, opening up into a lightly wooded area.
And sure enough, just like the pilot said, there were people moving around a few dozen feet away. It was difficult to make them out at this distance, especially with the sun only just creeping over the horizon, but she was pretty sure they were all wearing the same type of uniform as Ollie: old Valean military surplus fatigues, with a distinct khaki color.
Of course, that raised the additional question as to why Ollie was wearing such a uniform, or why he wanted to bail once they showed up, but they could ask about that later. He hadn't tried to run away from them so far, at least.
As they continued to move closer, Yang started to make out more details about the new guys. All of them were holding onto bolt-action rifles, with some seriously long bayonets stuck on the ends of them. They were also wearing the same creepy masks as that 'Uncle Jack' guy, which wasn't a great sign.
Just as Yang was observing the 'soldiers' in front of them, they seemed to look back at the same time. "Look, lads! It's them! It's the bleeding Numbs!" One of the men shouted out, pointing towards the approaching teams. Several of the others sprang into action, grabbing rifles and forming a firing line.
However, the wall of rifles wasn't what Yang caught. It was the guy's voice that sounded odd. The guys sounded like he was someone's grandpa! And with the white hair, and…were those wrinkles?
…Oh Gods, were they supposed to be the militia? They all looked like they were nearly as old as Ozpin! How were these geezers supposed to defend the town from anything?
'Maybe it's not as bad as it looks.' Yang thought, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in her chest. 'It might be like one of those Spruce Willis movies, and they'll turn out to be a bunch of secret badasses.'
They could also turn out to be a bunch of geriatric retirees, but she preferred the more optimistic outlook. The alternative just brought up even more questions she wasn't really sure if she wanted answered.
"We've got 'em! We've really got 'em!" A different militiaman shouted, bouncing up and down giddily. "The Numbs really did return! Revenge is ours!"
Ruby, seemingly not noticing their behavior, stepped forwards. "You guys have the wrong idea! We're not Mantleans, or…Numbs, or whatever you're calling them. We're students from Beacon! All we're trying to do is figure out how we can help out!"
The militiamen paused at that, staring confusedly at Ruby and the rest of them. She seemed to be getting through to them, with them lowering their rifles…
…At least, it did before the militiamen all broke down into laughter, clutching their stomachs and doubling over in amusement.
"You can't be serious! A-are you joking?" The militiaman asked, chuckling gleefully. "Nice try, you harlot, but we're not falling for your little scheme!"
What the fuck? "What did you just say?" Yang shouted, feeling red-hot fury build up inside her once more. No one called Ruby something like that and left with intact bones.
"You might have changed your uniforms, and put on wigs, but that's not nearly enough to fool us! We'd recognize a damned Mantlean from miles away, and you're no different!" The militiaman bragged with a smug, punchable smile plastered on his face.
'Oh, he is so going to regret saying that.' Yang thought, letting the all-too familiar heat build up. All it would take was a quick jab, and her gauntlets would wipe that annoying smirk right off.
Sadly, Ollie stepped forwards before she got the chance to make her move. "For fuck's sake, Murray, they're not the Numbs! They're bleeding teenagers, you numpty!" He bellowed.
That seemed to shake up the militiaman, judging by the shocked look on his face and how he nearly dropped his rifle. "Starkey? You're working for them? Y-you're a traitor?!" He shouted.
"Oh, for – really? A traitor? You're calling me that, and not that coward Jack?" Ollie shouted furiously, gripping his bat tightly. "I fought those bastards right alongside you! We all surrendered together!"
"But then you ran, right after the Numbs couldn't keep you under their thumb anymore! And now that they've come back, you've turned into their fucking lapdog again!" Murray spat out.
By this point, it was getting increasingly obvious that peace wasn't going to be an option. Yang could already make out another group of militiamen starting to move up alongside the first, seeming just as incensed to fight as the first.
And Yang had no problem with that situation whatsoever.
She had already been in desperate need of something to pulverize after hearing Ollie's description of what had happened to the town two decades ago. The rude, elderly 'fighters' in front of them just so happened to offer her the perfect target, even if it wouldn't be quite as satisfying as tearing Stauffenberg into pieces.
Big thanks to Maldevinine for beta-ing this chapter!