Chapter 31, The House's Hand

It twitched inside its unnatural casing, the soft fibers grating against its flesh like sharp wire. It longed to tear the garments apart, shred the creation of its hated enemy to ribbons until it could find a better target for its bloodlust. But it could not. It longed to gnash its teeth and dragged its claws against its surroundings, but it had to keep its claws away and its teeth between its jaws. It longed to sprint through the halls of its enemy, but it had to walk on two unnatural legs, clutching something it would normally destroy in its too-small hands.

Green flashed in its mind. It whipped its blunt head around. Others of its kind growled deep in their chests. Prey. Hateful prey. Color and hope and fear. Delicious fear. Its thoughts vanished, consumed with new, alien concepts. The thin thing it clutched in its hand was a talon now, a way to hurt and kill. Its coverings were camouflage, a new form that let it close the distance. It stumbled forth with the talon raised and let out a hiss as it saw them. Under its fake face teeth swirled their points beneath liquid skin. Closer it came. Closer. Closer.

Cerulean hit the man-Grimm-thing in the chest with a burst from the rifle Hakke had loaned her, the 'Solar' bullets blowing the ugly thing off its feet to dissolve on the floor. Another of its kind leaped out from a hallway further down before its head violently snapped back as one of her criminal allies sent a round through its porcelain mask. After that shoggoth thing had oozed its way out of that pipe, more and more of these red sweatshirt wearing maniacs had begun to appear around every single corner.

No, not maniacs, these things were Grimm, nothing else she knew would melt into black smoke when killed. How that was possible was something that she could barely even begin to guess at. It was supposed to be impossible to do something like this, or so all the experts said. She decided to toss that particular assumption completely out the window, along with most of her opinions of those so-called experts. Another burst put down another Grimm freak before she ejected the battery and fished a fresh one out of her jacket.

At least putting these down was easier on her conscience.

She hazarded a look back into the large room they were currently trying to get everyone out of. Down at the furthest end was the broken pipe and a scorch mark by the metal door where Hakke had done something to the shoggoth. The door had shut after he had vanished behind it, luring the thing with him. Callie, the name of his AI drone, had called her once he had rolled to the other side, saying they were fine and to go. Despite her misgivings, and the fact that it was impossible to get to him now, she heeded Callie's call and sounded the retreat.

Two sharp snaps of a pistol told her that the Syndicate thug Flo had moved herself next to her. "Detective," the woman began, "we have to get out of here, and do so now."

"I know!" Cerulean shot back with slightly more vitriol than she wanted. Of course she knew that they had to get these people out of here, and do it yesterday as well. But she was still holding out some small amount of hope to see her partner reappear from some weird corner and rejoin them all. One part was due to the need for more experienced fighters right now, as Flo, Greene, and herself could only be in so many places at once for a pack of people as large as this. The other was because she actually liked the younger man, even with all the oddities and mysteries surrounding him. Lastly was because he had apparently held back critical, need to know information once again about whoever was to blame for this newest atrocity they had stumbled upon.

She burned thumb sized holes in another Grimm-man that had been crawling upside down along the pipes on the ceiling. It had taken all of 2 weeks for her life to become some sort of parody of itself, like something out of a bad soap opera. Her partner on the force, and the entirety of the Vale Police Department for all she knew betrayed her, then she was handed to the mob to be killed before breaking out in the span of a few hours, her wife was kidnapped and missing which left her to run around the entire city with a maniac who seemed clinically incapable of staying out of trouble for more than five minutes. Not to mention all the human experimentation, death cults, kidnapping rings, and impossible soul drugs.

Everything she had experienced could have been the plot to a bad movie and she still would have made fun of it for being ridiculous.

"Once the last of them get around the next bend, then we follow. A fighting retreat so these things can't creep up on us." Cerulean commanded. Flo nodded before doing a carousel to the other side of the tunnel, dodging the inaccurate fire coming their way. Some of the Grimm-men seemed to have the same purple-void guns that the others had, and they were firing them with reckless abandon in their general direction. Were they accurate? Absolutely not, but even a stray bullet could do some damage.

Between the two of them they had kept the monsters at bay, putting down quite a few of the human shaped Grimm before she emptied another battery for her gun. The things were too close for a reload, so she let the Valakadyn drop to swing from the sling she had attached to it and pulled a pistol from her belt, the familiar crack of Dust rounds echoing off the tunnel walls.

Her Aura was a bigger help than she had anticipated. Normally the sheer volume of gunfire going off in a tunnel like this would be deafening, especially to her sensitive faunus ears. Her Aura took care of that shockingly well, taking the ringing that normally came with gunfights and almost removing it. It was there, but only for a fraction of the time before it vanished. It was something she could definitely get used to.

Downtime gained, she reloaded her weapons and began backing down the tunnels the same way they had entered the so-called Grimm shelter. A handful more of the Grimm men came howling down the corridors, but it was nothing that a few well placed bursts and shots from the two women couldn't deal with.

The crowd of civilians was moving as fast as they could, a speed that was lacking compared to Cerulean and the gangsters. She knew why, of course. They had been mistreated badly during their stay in captivity and had weakened to the point where they hadn't had much of a chance to escape on their own. And all that in barely a week of captivity. She had to give it to this splinter Syndicate or whoever they were, they were efficient in how awful they were.

There were 32 people they had to escort out of this nightmare building: 32 starving, scared, and traumatized people. It would be hard, but they had made it this far and they could make it out again. That wasn't the issue of course. There were 32 people that she had counted from the cages, and of those 32 people, Nicole wasn't among them.

Nikky was still missing.

The monsters howled and shrieked, their cries only muffled every so often when gunfire drowned them out. Had she been among them? Was she one of the unlucky few that had been hauled off to have their soul torn from their body and their head surgically emptied? Had she been among those crates on the wall?

Was she still alive?

No. Cerulean refused to let that thought take root in her head, Nicole was alive up until the moment that Cerulean could hold her spouse once again. She was out there still, she had to be. She had to be. Until that happened however, she owed it to Nicole to not die down here in this pit. So that's what she did, helped in her fighting retreat by a mobster and the occasional spray of purple rounds from one of the citizens that they had freed. The guy wasn't bad, making her think he probably had at least a little training or was into target shooting as a hobby.

Between the three of them they held the line well enough, long enough to make their way back the winding corridors from burn mark to burn mark. Finally, they had retraced their path back to the freight elevator that had brought them down here in the first place. Cerulean did a quick headcount, confirming that they hadn't lost anyone down here; the trail of civilians had gotten long during their retreat. To her horror, almost ten of them were not there.

"Where's Greene?" Flo asked the group. The elevator platform was gone, the whirr of its motors echoing down the empty shaft.

"He went up with the first group." A woman in the crowd said, "He wanted to be topside in case there were more of them waiting to ambush us."

Cerulean breathed a sigh of relief. The missing ten were being evacuated. "Can we trust Greene not to run?" Cerulean asked Flo.

The gangster nodded. "Greene is a professional in his actions, even if he does his best to undermine his image with every word."

"Okay. You and I go up on the last one, gods know how many more of those things are down here. Not worth the risk."

"We would not abandon anyone down here."

"Yeah well, this guarantees it."

With that they waited. The elevator clattered back down after a short while, each trip taking a mercifully short amount of time to make the trip. They packed as many people on t5he lift as possible and sent it on its way, before retaking their defensive positions and waiting for another wave. Strange roars and snarls echoed from far down the tunnel; the last few civilians left huddled near the walls at the sound. Cerulean's grip tightened on her gun, her senses straining as a bead of sweat trickled down her forehead.

The elevator began descending once more as the shrieks grew in volume, accompanied by the scuffling of boots on the metal grating floor. Far more of the things were heading their way, more than any of the other waves they'd dealt with so far.

"Elevator." Cerulean said, staring down the tunnel and searching for the slightest movement. "Get to the elevator!"

She and Flo began backing up as the remaining civilians did as she said, the elevator finally coming to a stop on the floor. They clambered on as Flo worked the controls; the elevator starting its journey up finally. From around the corner the swarm finally emerged, a howling torrent of red figures almost stampeding each other in their haste to close the distance.

Cerulean opened fire, holding the trigger down and scything the barrel at the swarm's legs, the injured monsters falling and tripping their comrades in their chaotic rush. Flo fired lethal shots into the front runners, shattering their white masks with unerring precision. The flow of Grimm-things staggered, but it did not stop. They pushed forward, knocking their wounded and dying out of the way, leaping over obstacles as they bore towards the remaining survivors and the elevator.

The platform had risen to head level by the time the swarm arrived. They threw themselves at the platform, clutching at any available handholds as they attempted to climb aboard. Some fell as Flo slashed their arms apart with her dagger, others fell as Cerulean fired her pistol at exposed torsos and heads. One managed to get its head and shoulders through the safety rail of the platform as it scrabbled for purchase. Cerulean aimed a kick at its head, knocking it back slightly. The kick was followed by a stomp with all the extra strength her Aura could give her.

Then it grabbed her leg.

Its grip was like an iron shackle as it squeezed so hard she thought it was trying to crush her bones. It pulled at her leg and she fell. Training kicking in, she instinctively reached for her nightstick and batted at the thing's other hand as it reached for her as well. Her stomp had cracked the frail mask, and the seething mass of black ooze that made up its face parted to reveal two misshapen red eyes that burned with a malice that turned her blood to ice.

Her nightstick wasn't a standard one, some part of her brain yelled at her, it was custom. There was a twist mechanism in its handle, one that with a snap of her wrist extended its length and flipped out a round handle stretching perpendicular to the rest down towards the end she wasn't holding. It looked more like a pick at that instant than the regular tonfa nightstick she had been issued during her days as a beat cop.

Following that train of thought, she smashed the outstretching handle into the hand grabbing her leg so hard that her Aura flared. The Grimm shrieked as its hand was torn from her leg with a new bend in it, letting her roll to the side and up to a kneel. She grabbed the tonfa with both hands and shattered its mask with an upward swing, the Grimm stunned for a moment.

A moment too long for the nightmare creature as it turned out, as the elevator entered the shaft in the ceiling, an entrance that sheared the creature in half with a wet tearing sound. It flailed on the elevator floor, its wails slowly halting as its flesh began to evaporate. Finally, its clothes were the only thing that remained of the creature as the last traces of black vapor faded in the air.

She was still for a moment as she caught her breath. Off to her right Flo was dispatching a different stowaway with her knife. Thankfully, the mobster had it well under control as she threw the things smoking body to the ground, flicking gobs of disintegrating Grimm matter off her knife as she watched to make sure it was dead.

She got to her slightly shaky feet, and began reloading her empty weapons as Flo approached. "Are you hurt?"

She nodded, blowing stray hair from her face. "No, I'm fine. You know, they give us some anti-Grimm training on the force, but it doesn't really hold a candle to in person."

"They've earned their reputation for a reason."

Thankfully, light from the casino's regular floors was already filtering down to them, and the platform arrived at the same security checkpoint that she and Hakke had busted up what felt like a small lifetime ago. The thought jolted her for a moment, and she turned to look back at the platform after everyone got off. He was still down there. He had managed to get the shoggoth to follow him deeper into that hellish place, into Brothers-knew how many more of those Grimm-men. An unwinnable number of them.

He was probably dead now.

High functioning lunatic or not, he had been one of the few people who seemed to have any grasp as to the ulterior motive to the chaos she had found herself drowning in, and one of the few people she had begun to trust. Then he had sacrificed himself to buy them time to escape. She would not let that be in vain.

Right now though, she had a job to do. "There's a bus at one of the other entrances for these people, it's all been arranged by Ringtail. We need to get them there before anyone realizes we're not down there any more."

Flo nodded at her, and they both looked at the scene they had to deal with. Everyone had gotten off the elevator without much issue, and were now scattered along the same security room where the Syndicate mobsters had joined up with them. The civilians were scattered along the room, and Cerulean thanked the Brothers that their captors hadn't taken their clothes or shoes. There was broken glass scattered across the thin carpeted floor where the frosted glass divider had been shattered earlier, minus the guard that had been thrown through it.

Speaking of which, both of the guards that she and Hakke had knocked out were gone. Now they had a problem. If they were gone, that meant they had most likely woken up and left to report their journey into the shelter. They had a limited window to get all these people out of here and one she could only assume was closing rapidly.

She looked at them again. The civilians were huddled in loose clumps that were crowding the smaller room. Some were clinging to each other as yet others tried to console them. A handful were towards the exit, keeping watch for anything or anyone who might be coming for them. One or two looked to be badgering Greene as he waved them off and made his way to his partner and the detective.

"You guys hear that?" He asked, glass crunching under his shoes.

Cerulean paused, trying to pick up whatever Greene had heard over the din of their surroundings. "That's gunfire." She said after a moment.

He nodded. "Yeah, from the game floor. The boss seems to have gotten himself into a pickle."

"Then we have to wrap this business up quickly. Murex told us to assist you in completing your task, and that we will do. I assume that means getting to this bus?"

Cerulean nodded. "Yeah, that should cover it. The path I took to get here went right past the game floor, and if there's a shootout going on then I don't want to risk leading these people through there."

"That won't be any problem." Greene said. "Game floor's right in the center of the building, plenty of ways around it."

"You know of any that will get us there?"

"Course I do! Spent more time here than I'd like to admit; long enough to know one or two extra ways at least."

"Alright, you take point then." Cerulean turned to the loose crowd scattered throughout the room. "Listen up! We have a bus at entrance B ready to get everyone out. Gather up tight and follow Greene here, he'll get you there. Move fast, stay together."

Thankfully, they seemed to listen. Greene made his way to the front of the crowd and out into the halls, gesturing for the rest to follow. After some jostling, the crowd formed up and began to follow him, with help from both Flo and Cerulean as they helped corral everyone along. They had a clotted conga line to deal with, smaller groupings of civilians stumbling their way down the empty halls after the mafioso.

They weren't doing well, that she could see easily. In the softer lighting of the casino she could see the sickly pallor that many of them had. They were thinner too, their clothes looser than she would have expected. Had they been down there for the entire time they had gone missing? If that was the case, and the Syndicate had been doing the bare minimum to keep them alive, then she was surprised that they were moving as fast as they were.

But move they did, and she thanked the Brothers for that. Now that they had entered the main complex, she could hear gunfire echoing off the walls. It sounded like a full scale war had broken out at the game floor. Her grip tightened on her gun. As long as it didn't make its way here, she would be alright. It still put her on edge, and she kept glancing around every corner and door expecting more Grimm-men to come howling out of the woodwork.

Thankfully, none did. They moved through the opulent hallways, past lounges and couches and into an area that seemed more familiar. Soon enough, they were passing through the same glass enclosure that led to the bus stop. She had fallen towards the back of the line, helping the few stragglers along. No one would be left behind, not on her watch.

The bus finally came into sight. It was still here. Relief flooded her body as she saw the civilians climbing aboard, helped along by a visibly frustrated Greene. She approached, trying to take stock of the scene. It didn't take her long to figure out why.

"What's going on?" She asked. "Where's the driver?"

Greene twirled around to face her. "Great question! Wish I knew! If he's off taking a dump he better make sure it's the fastest bathroom break in history or I'm gonna be pissed!"

Of course the driver was gone. She didn't see any bullet holes in the glass or blood on the seat through the crush of people boarding, nor did she see any obvious signs of struggle. Still, this was a massive problem.

"Does anyone know how to drive a bus?"

"Greene does." Flo said from behind her. "Or at least larger transport vehicles."

"Yeah, and I ain't doing it, that's not part of the game plan. The boss is still in trouble back there, you know."

"And he told us to assist Ringtail's second team in their objective. Getting their test subjects out of harm's way falls under that umbrella. I will return to aid Murex, you are the only one capable of getting these people out right now."

Greene, for his part, looked torn. Finally, he groaned dramatically and flung himself up to the driver's chair. "Fine, but the moment I get 'em where Ringtail wants, I'm coming back and I expect at least a few heads left for me to smash. Got it?"

Cerulean shoved past Flo and onto the bus. "Just get it started." She told the mafioso, getting a dismissive grunt in reply. Behind her Flo gave her partner a nod before making her way back into the casino.

By now everyone had boarded, so she began a headcount. She started from the front and began to work her way backwards. A bus this size had a maximum capacity of 52 if she remembered right, and it looked roughly three quarters full. But as the last few rows approached, a new knot began to twist in her gut. Finally, she counted the last person as the bus finally roared to life.

The detective rushed to the front of the bus as it began to move and grabbed Greene by the shoulder. "Stop the bus, this isn't all of them!"

"Most should be good enough." He retorted. "Get Ringtail on the horn. You can do that, right?"

She reached down and grabbed the lever that controlled the door, yanking it open. She then pulled out her Scroll, scrolled through to the right contact, and flicked the contact over to Greene wirelessly. "It's not good enough for me."

Cerulean jumped out of the moving bus as Greene protested, the extra momentum forcing her to stumble for a few paces. The door slammed shut behind her as the bus pulled away, taking most of the civilians with it. Thirty two of thirty four people were on that bus and accounted for, that left two stragglers somewhere inside that casino.

She would not leave them behind.

She could not.

"I'm sorry, but this is never the most exciting art of the job." The man said with a smile, smoothing his hair back with both hands as he leaned back in his chair. The two guards that she had been escorted by had led her and her police escort to an elevator, and up to the main security room. There they now stood, surrounding the single man who had been waiting for them in the near-dark room.

His fingers were laced together behind his head as he leaned back, and Glynda had the distinct impression that his feet would have been on the desk in front of him if she and the police weren't over his shoulder. He was rail thin, an earth-tone vest blending in with a dark collared shirt that almost blended into a pair of dark khaki pants. He looked back at them, his olive eyes shining behind his round spectacles; a well-waxed mustache perched above his always smiling and gaunt face.

"So these monitors here, here, and here are the main and side entrances to the main building complex. If your mystery men entered anywhere in the last two hours like you think they did, they'll pop up there." Ahead of him was a bank of old fashioned monitors, the classic encased variety that had long since vanished with the advent of Hard Dust Display screens. The man seated in front of them was as much an oddity as the screens themselves, and almost as out of place in the otherwise high-tech facility.

She looked at the monitors he had pointed out. Each one was showing a door that led outside the building. One was a staff entrance, another set of sliding glass doors leading to a car park, and another was a set of large bay doors for deliveries. The footage was being sped up to several times its regular speed and if all went well they would have their culprit on hand in the next five minutes.

"Not everyday someone gets a tag team of cops and Huntresses on their tail. What'd this guy do? Y'know, if he's dangerous enough I can always call in more support." The seated man offered.

Glynda ignored him, choosing to focus on the monitors instead. Detective Ponci however decided to humor the man.

"Grand theft auto, CCT tampering, and he was involved in a shootout at an apartment building. Good chance he's linked to one or two open cases here in Vale."

That turned her head. During her short stay with the detective, he had never mentioned anything about whatever other cases their target was linked to. She shot him an inquisitive stare, one that he shrugged sheepishly at. Not that she doubted that the statement was most likely true. She'd have to ask about this later, hopefully during Just Hakke's interrogation. It would be incredibly beneficial prep work for the ensuing interrogation that she and Ozpin would be giving after.

The man hummed to himself. "Definitely one to watch out for then."

She refocused on the monitors. So far they had seen no one actually using the doors, just patrons and staff flashing by on the edges of the camera's sightlines. She had the patience to wait. Once or twice they paused the footage to take a closer look as someone entered one of the doors. It was slow moving, methodical work. Still better than some of the administrative duties she usually dealt with.

Another person entered a side door, she pointed it out on its respective monitor.

"Sir -"

"It's Varney."

"Mr. Varney," She corrected. "Could you zoom in on that camera?"

The man flicked his spectacles back into position on his nose as he began to type in commands. The camera feed switched to the primary monitor in front of their small party to show two individuals, a man and a woman, entering the casino. Frankly, the zoom in was unnecessary, the details of her target had been burned into her memory. She didn't know who the woman in the armored vest was, but her companion she knew all too well. Dark coat, armor on top of the shoulders, metal band wrapped around the left arm.

"It's him." She confirmed. "It's Just Hakke."

"Weird name." Varney said, staring at the same screen.

"Can you find out where they went?" Detective Ponci spoke up. He slipped his hands into his pockets and muttered something to one of the other police officers that were with them.

Varney grunted a reply before he began panning from one camera to another, trailing the 'Private Investigator' and his mysterious companion through the casino. Glynda kicked herself mentally when she watched them stop at a balcony at the game floor, if she had been just a few minutes faster, she could have had them arrested right then and there. They weren't there long, and after a few more camera changes they entered a small side door. Less than a minute later a well dressed woman and some sort of green faunus went into the same door.

More of their companions?

"Is there another camera inside there?"

"Nah. Smaller storage area, completely inside the building with no way in or out besides right there." Varney said as he leaned back in his chair. Glynda looked his way as he spoke, catching the trailing edge of a hint of anger. Sharp anger too, far sharper than she would have expected. It was impressive how quickly it vanished, leaving her wondering if she wasn't mistaken.

He got up, flipping his Scroll out at the same time. "I'll ring up some extra security to come with us. I don't see 'em leaving from there, not many places to hide." He tapped at the screen for a moment before holding it to his ear and beginning to speak.

Glynda led the way, Detective Ponci and the other two officers following. "You think we should call in some extra support? I was first wave to that whole apartment fiasco, they were throwing around a pretty good amount of firepower." One of the officers said.

"We'll have to play it by ear." Ponci responded. "Casino security should hopefully provide enough immediate aid to take them in."

The officer nodded, and his caterpillar thick mustache wobbled as he continued. "We got an ID on the woman with this Hakke creep?"

"No." Ponci said after a pause.

The other officer took the lead and opened the security room's door for the rest of them. Once said door opened, the sound of gunfire echoed through the halls from somewhere else in the building. They all exchanged glances before wordlessly rushing out and towards the sounds of combat, the officers with their pistols now drawn and her riding crop in her hand. From behind them she could hear Varney cursing as he followed.

One or two turns had them emerging out amongst a wider lounge area, elegant seats and small tables atop long lengths of rich carpeted rug. A balcony overlooking the central atrium and the game food five floors down, which one of the officers went straight for and peered down, before ducking back almost as fast. The sounds of gunfire were nearing overwhelming now, their source clearly close. "Holy hannah! There's a whole war happening down there!"

"I'm calling in backup." The other officer said.

"Wait!" Ponci piped up.

"Wait? Why the hell would I do that?" The first officer asked, pulling out his Scroll. "When I say it's a war, I ain't exaggerating. We can't handle this -"

It was a twitch that set Glynda off. Years of training. subterfuge, and underhand at Ozpin's request kicked in as she lashed out with her Semblance almost on an instinctual level, snatching a small rectangular sliver of metal as it flew past her and towards the officer's neck. The man froze, staring at the now hovering sliver. It was a silver playing card of all things, edges catching the light and betraying a razor edge.

"Whoa." The officer said. Glynda spun about, Aura surging and ready for a fight. Something like this card wasn't unheard of, and very likely to only be in the hands of a Huntsman. And it was. A deck of cards was held in the hands of Varney, his thumb pressing another card forward and into a throwing position. He had closed the distance between them, his other hand was swiping at her head. It wasn't fast enough for a punch or a slap, but that didn't mean it was harmless. She jerked her head back and out of the way, his finger just barely brushing the tip of her nose -

White hot pain shot in lancing needles through her head; it felt like her nose had been ripped off her face by a beowulf. She staggered back a half step, taken aback. She was no stranger to pain, but the intensity was something she was not - could not have been prepared for. She forced her mind to focus. Focus in on the officers as they pivoted to aim guns at the now hostile Varney, at the detective as he shouted something, at Varney himself as his hand made contact with her chest.

Pain unlike anything she had ever felt tore through her whole being. A thousand serrated daggers were slashing her from the inside out. Her muscles contracted tight, so tight she thought they would tear free. It was like some horrible giant was pulling her through a hole far, far too small for her body and didn't care how much she broke or twisted along the way. And as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone.

She fell, hitting the ground hard. She reeled back, forcing her mind to focus and her feet under her. She would not let something as minor as a pain Semblance deter her from dealing with this situation. But that wasn't it, something else was wrong in some small way. Some part of her was screaming the answer, but she couldn't understand it. She glanced up to a scene of horror.

Glynda couldn't have been down for more than a full second, and yet it seemed that had been long enough. Fresh cards had been thrown with unerring accuracy, one finding purchase in the throat of one officer; the other was clutching at his face as he fell over. Varney rounded on Detective Ponci, the cards flicking out in a fan and slicing a red line across his chest. The detective fell back with a shout, clutching at his chest as he inched away.

Her eyes locked on him. "How could you?" She almost hissed. Her Semblance was already flying out of her, latching on to every loose scrap of furniture in the lounge and pulling them to bear.

Varney's response was not verbal, it was in the form of a stream of thick smoke erupting from his cuff at her face. She lashed out at the stream, catching the front wave and pinning it in space, preventing the rest from washing over her. Several cards flashed out of the now solid cloud, fast as quicksilver and damn near impossible to react to. She caught most with her telekinetic Semblance, ducking under one that she missed.

A sound to her right had a velvet covered sofa and several oak chairs smash their way through the smoke, alongside a section of ceiling she pried straight down like a piston. A sound on her left let her know that was the distraction. She spun about as Varney pounced out of the smoke. He was close, far too close, she should have heard him approaching! A shard of wind Dust detached from her back satchel and more scraps and furniture began to fly with a far higher degree of accuracy that could have been expected, but it wouldn't get there in time.

She lashed out with a vicious jab aimed at his adam's apple. If he had Aura it wouldn't end him, and even if it did she was witness to three separate accounts of homicide. She couldn't waste time on a murderer, not when it might still be possible to save at least one or two of the officers sprawled out on the floor behind her.

Varney skidded to a stop just a touch further out than she had expected, not enough to avoid the jab, but enough to dull its impact. Of course it had never been his intent to do so, she realized as his hand wrapped around her wrist, he was aiming to let his own semblance overwhelm her. She hoped she was prepared.

The pain came again, concentrated in her arm and radiating towards her core. She lost control of her semblance, the furniture and Dust clattering to the floor. Her teeth ground together so hard she was afraid they would shatter. All the while Varney never let his eyes leave hers. They were burning behind his round spectacles, with a malice she had encountered sparingly little.

His other hand slammed into her throat, and his leg swept hers out from under her as she was pinned to the ground. "How could I?" He roared. "How couldn't I? They were unfit to live!"

She began reaching to the object scattered along the lounge, her Semblance dragging broken wood and anything else pointed to bear. Before it could though, her Aura flashed around her in a carpet of silver light, and with an unbearable, hellish sensation began to move. It flowed to her neck as if pulled, and there it began to stretch.

She had been wrong. Who she was, her being, her core, her very soul was being torn piece by ragged piece away from her. Before it had been pain. Now it was agony. Her eyes locked onto the shine of her Aura as it flowed into hands that weren't hers; began to brighten arms that weren't hers; glow behind eyes that weren't hers.

"You get what you can take! You keep what you can defend! That which can be destroyed must be destroyed!" The man devouring her soul snarled.

If he wasn't choking her she would respond. Or at least scream. Instead, she lashed out desperately with her Semblance one more time. It was hard, so much harder than she had ever remembered it being. She didn't know what it was, but it latched on to something near the two of them, and hoped her prayer would not fall on deaf ears. She had no intention of meeting the Dark Brother today.

"It's very simple." He leaned in close. "If they couldn't cut it, if the great Glynda Goodwitch couldn't cut it, then you deserve to die."

The handle of her riding crop smashed into the bridge of his nose with a crack, jerking his head back just far enough. A luxurious burgundy rug threw itself around Varney's head and wove itself tight, pulling him backwards with as much force as she could manage. He gave a gargled screech as he instinctively reached for the rug to tear it off. Like before, the pain diminished enough for her to comprehend what was around her.

Such as the fact she was on the rest of the rug. She kicked the maniac off her, crying out as the familiar tearing pain racked her leg from the impact, and rolled out of the way and towards the handrails of the balcony. With a slash from her crop, the rest of the rug wrapped around the maniac and threw him across the lounge towards the wall.

It didn't hold for long. Middair, the rug was shredded as razor cards and Aura enhanced strength sliced and tore it to ribbons, the man landing on his feet amid a radiant glow of silver Aura. Her Aura.

He had stolen her Aura, he had stolen a piece of her very soul. It was a wound worse than any she had taken in quite literally her whole life. Who was this man? Surely she would have bread of something as horrendous as an Aura vampire if he had been loose for longer than a few days. A semblance like his would be too dangerous to not be well known.

She was unsteady on her feet, the holes in her soul filling her with an aching fatigue. A fatigue she forced out of her mind as she faced her foe once more. He was armed, a small pistol sliding out of his other sleeve and into his hand. She sidestepped the first two shots, flicking her crop and letting a sturdy wooden end table take the next volley of fire. She stretched her telekinesis out further and gathered the small splinters of wood and the plaster dust from the ceiling into a swirling, abrasive cloud. She coalesced the brunt of the hit roughly where she had last seen Varney standing before her table shield had blocked her view.

She was rewarded with a cry of aggravated pain from the man that she used to pinpoint his location more exactly, and began gathering the heavier items in her semblance's grasp and saturating the wooden floor with her would come from every angle and every direction. No room for him to dodge.

She lowered the hovering table as everything smashed together and held, the floor peeling up and into a dome that was reinforced by crashing furniture. It hovered there, a crushing mass of shattered wood and torn fabric. She pulled it apart, several of the longer spears of flooring pulled aside and ready to launch into the heart of the maelstrom. They didn't need to, however, Varney wasn't there.

Over the monotony of the firefight below, she just barely heard something from the hole she had made in the ceiling. There he was, flipping down again and throwing something small and white. She caught it before it got too close, the now revealed Wind Dust crystal hovering mere feet from her. And directly behind it was a playing card.

The card shattered the crystal and a galewind shattered the lounge, throwing Glynda off the balcony and plummeting down towards the game floor. As she fell she pulled chunks of the wall off and under her, slowing their momentum and herself along with them. It just wasn't enough. She knew she should have been able to tear that entire floor apart with a gesture. She should have been able to make a platform that could not only slow her, but bring her back to the fight.

It wasn't like she had regressed in her skill, she knew exactly where to focus and which points were the weakest links for her to pull at, it was just she didn't have the strength she was used to. She was close to the bottom now, a few bullets tearing through the air near her. She looked from her platform of plaster and plastic to see that the unfortunate officer was right. It was a war down here.

Piles of clothes and the corpses in blue suits were scattered along bullet-ridden slot machines. Bullets filled the spaces in between as those in the suits desperately fought off red-hooded masked maniacs, who charged directly into their barrels in a total disregard for their own life. The sounds of gunshots and the clash of steel against steel rang through the air. And to top it all off was a thin miasma of thinly dark smoke drifting and evaporating into the air.

Someone flew into her from off to the side, tackling her off her scrap platform and down to the floor below. The hit the ground rolling, and with an Aura enhanced throw she shoved the figure off her. They ragdolled into one of the slot machines with a resounding smash, the glass screen shattering in a cloud of sparks. Almost immediately they were scrambling to their feet again, an arm bent in two too many places.

Said arm snapped back into shape violently and the man whirled around to face her. He had cheap knee and elbow pads to go with his cheap armored vest, all atop an equally cheap red hoodie. The remains of a featureless white mask were shattered and smashed into his head in a manner that should have killed him.

Both hands went up, fingers digging deep into his face, no, its face. The broken mask crumbled as it was torn free, jagged pieces lodged in a mass of black tar where a face should have been. Four red eyes emerged, alongside a set of jagged teeth that bisected the mass diagonally. It screamed as the thing began to charge.

She flicked her crop, still tightly clutched in her hand, and two slot machines tore themselves free to crush the monster between them. From the ruin thick black fog hissed. Grimm smoke.

Grimm. They were Grimm. There were Grimm in her city.

It appeared that Varney had not followed her down to the game floor, which was both a relief and a problem. While she certainly did not want to run the risk of letting that man feed on yet more of her Aura, she couldn't stomach the idea that he was still up there with the fallen officers. Every second she was down here was another second that it was very likely he would ensure they were dead. Even if she wasn't weakened as she was, she wasn't positive she could scale her way back up in time.

The other issue was down here with her. She could not tolerate Grimm being in the city, even if the casino was designed to fend them off. Even if the surviving blue suited men and women were criminals, it was obvious that these disguised Grimm were slaughtering them. How could she simply turn her back on these lives?

She looked up towards the balcony she had fallen from, five stories up. If it was any other day it would be a simple matter of levitating herself up on a platform of torn up flooring to get herself up there, but with this new ache in her chest, she was unsure if that was something she could do. She had only been able to slow her descent, not reverse it.

She heard the screams of Grimm, unfamiliar as to the type, but distinctly Grimm. The answer was obvious to her, as much as it pained her. She was a Huntress, first and foremost.

A gaggle of red hooded figures poured out from around a bend in the gambling machines, some holding blades in their hands, some with guns, and one with what was left of a blue suited figure. She did not know what manner of Grimm these were that let them take up arms or take up human forms, but she would ensure that whatever one's crossed her path would not leave it alive.

Fire Dust flew out of her back satchel and mixed with chunks of whatever was near her in a inferno. The Grimm as usual did not care, and threw themselves at her. As they did, she strode forth to show them their mistake.

Hakke lit one more of the damn things on fire and sent it hurtling down several floors of twisted metal cabling to splatter on the ever approaching mass that was the shoggoth. Midnight Coup snapped off shot after shot, snapping back tarry head after head as they scaled whatever handhold they could in their approach.

"Piss! Off! Piss! Off!" He screamed at them, punctuating each word with a bullet as his voice went hoarse.

Things were not going well.

It had, of course, started going downhill the moment they had found all the missing people, and the subsequent reveal of ol' tar-boy the inconceivable who was screeching at him even now. The rush through the big gate to see that an entire army was waiting for him did little to improve things. After he had ducked, dodged, slid under, leapt over, and generally murdered his way past the bulk of them he had found that the only way forward was an elevator.

An elevator which had its car at the tippy top of the shaft. Twelve floors up.

One of the stupid monsters leapt and snagged his leg, using it to climb up him. He smashed his baton into its stupid mask several times before pushing its mask away with his hand. The ensuing ball of kinetic energy vaporized said mask and the 'head' behind it, the evaporating body ragdolling into another one with the same bright idea. In a twist that he took plenty of enjoyment from, the impact had both falling further down the elevator shaft.

Once again he found himself in an elevator shaft. He leapt up, Light filling his muscles and propelling him a solid twelve feet up to the next tiny, slippery metal ledge he would have to cling to. He slapped his hand cannon to the magnetic holster at the small of his back, pulled out and reloaded his newly acquired and definitely Remnant made Void submachine gun, and unloaded said fresh mag into the now thinning ranks of elevator Grimm.

The shaft was bigger than the ones back in Sol, a solid three and a half meters square or so and the howling bulk that was the shoggoth filled the whole damn thing as it oozed its way up the same shaft one pseudopod after another. He had to give it credit, it was a tenacious thing. And for the first time it was rather useful. Partially at least.

After he had forced the elevator doors open and began climbing, the shoggoth had rammed its way in and clogged the thing up. While a hell of a lot of the man-Grimm guys had gotten in before it had done so, it was nowhere near the number of them that would currently be trying to kill him if not for shoggy. The humanoid ones were way faster too. At this rate once he was out of this stupid shaft he would have a healthy lead to figure out a more permanent solution to his shoggoth problem.

The other detail was the fact that the shoggoth had taken to eating its lesser kin, slopping itself over them and leaving only torn clothes in its wake as it had poured into the elevator and began its ascent. Why it was doing this he did not know. Why the other Grimm didn't seem to care he also did not know. As long as they thinned their own numbers, he figured it would work itself out.

As he glided to yet another precarious ledge and weaved around the central cables that were holding the elevator car up above in tension, he had an idea. "Callie, I have a terrible idea! Might need a rez`!"

His hand cannon found its way to his hand again and he loaded something more custom than the Dust rounds he had been using. Solid slugs, like the gun was designed to shoot. He extended his arm, a wave of nuclear fire washing over the cables before he fired a slug at the now red-hot metal. With a twanging sound the cables snapped and the sound of screeching metal howled from up above. Hakke made himself as flat as he could against the side of the shaft in preparation for the coming elevator car.

Instead, he was showered in sparks.

It had brakes.

With a rage fueled scream he formed and threw a grenade at the now much closer car, the ensuing detonation melting a good chunk of some of the brakes and completely overtaxing the ones that were left. Once again, Hakke made himself as flat as he could against the side of the shaft as the elevator car ground by so close he could feel the wind in its wake.

It scoured the shaft clear of the Grimm and slammed into the shoggoth with a heavy crunch, the reverberations of which had him nearly fall down the shaft himself. Some quick footwork and a healthy dose of cushioning Light stopped him from falling too far down the shaft at least, and soon he was nearing the top.

He peered down the shaft one last time. Nothing seemed to be moving in its dark depths, made darker by the fact that the car had shattered the few lights that had been in the shaft, but that certainly didn't mean everything down there was actually dead. Worst case, he had bought plenty of time for himself. He turned his attention to the elevator doors, wiggling his fingers in between them and forcing it open.

The cool night air hit his face as he stepped out onto a glossy stone patio. He was on the roof, something like the penthouse level if he had to make a guess. The sun had fully set by now, the glow of the sun replaced by the glow of the city lights around the building. He jogged towards the edge of the building as he fished his Scroll out of his side bag.

"That was miserable" He spoke into the empty air around him. "Can you dial up Cerulean? Let's touch base, make sure they got everyone out."

She appeared over his shoulder. "Hakke, do you feel that?"

"I don't think so?" He opened himself up to his environment, felt the Barrier shifting around him as he felt for the Light that was trapped behind it everywhere. Then his senses brushed against something far worse and far more familiar. "No."

He turned to Callie, her digital eye telling him that it was exactly what he thought it was. He took off running, following his senses as he leapt over a dividing wall and onto the gravel of the casino roof. Ahead of him and on a slightly lower elevation was a landing platform with two sleek black bullhead aircraft, one which had its engines whirring to life. Figures in Syndicate blue formed around a lone figure in a charcoal black suit. In his hand was a large silver case that radiated with unfiltered Darkness.

The Crown.

He didn't speak, barely thought, simply charged and opened fire. A solid slug lauinched one of the mobsters off his feet, the rest turning to see who was attacking them. The man with the briefcase was not one of them. He simply climbed aboard the nearest bullhead via its side door as his guards grouped up in front of him.

Two more shots had another guard crumple, his Aura spent. The rest had opened fire with their Void guns, their purple tracers Hakke chose to ignore as he charged forward. Two more shots, another guard fell. Their rounds burned into him, his Light dissipating the worst of it and his armor absorbing what was left. It burned bad, he knew his skin was worse than bruised under his suit, he just didn't care.

The bullhead began to lift off, the door still not closed. The Crown Bearer's guards had stayed behind, sacrificing themselves to buy their boss time to escape. Two more fell before Hakke had to reload, switching back to the more plentiful Dust rounds. A blast caught him in the side as he rushed past a series of tall sheet metal vents. His shield shattered as he tumbled down.

There was the distinctive sound of a shotgun being racked, and he turned to see another Syndicate thug standing almost within spitting distance aiming said shotgun at him. Hakke grabbed his baton, swatting the barrel away just as the man fired, the fiery buckshot tearing a hole in the gravel next to him.

Hakke roared, launching himself at the man in a dash of solar Light, grabbing the shotgun and slamming his hand cannon across his face. He tore the gun from the gangster's grip, pumping a fresh shell into the gun and then into the man. He charged again, vaulting over to the landing platform and blasting the last two guards.

Switching back to Midnight Coup, he took careful aim at the hovering bullhead off in the distance and fired. The shot hit the Crown Bearer dead in the chest, only to reveal the glowing orange-yellow circle of an energy shield. This finally got the man's attention. He turned to stare back at Hakke. He was thin, well kept with a trimmed goatee. His suit had red highlights and a matching red tie. Hakke's teeth ground. It was yet another suit wearing, self important jackass between him and his goal.

The man didn't stop staring as the bullhead pivoted, the door sliding shut as the craft lazily turned and began to fly off into the city.

"Oh no you don't." He muttered.

He ran to the other egg shaped bullhead on the platform, its nose pointing towards a highly decorated entryway to the casino. "What's the deal with flying one of these things?"

"I'm looking for schematics on the CCTS. It's not too dissimilar to flying a jumpship; I'll run you through everything." Callie informed him. She didn't need to say anything else, they both knew this chance was not going to happen again anytime soon. If they could get the Crown now, then everything else would just be cleanup duty.

It took Callie all of three seconds to hack the side door open, and even less for Hakke to board the craft. Once inside he took stock of his surroundings, sweeping the craft for any stowaways of the more violent persuasion. The main passenger section was empty save for a permanent fixture in the center of the bay, a metal storage cylinder that had been bolted into the floor. He slapped the controls on the top of the cylinder, pointing his gun at it as it opened.

Two metal panels slid away with a hiss of pneumatics to reveal three receptacles, one which had a metal rod with a thin clear viewport glowing pale white. He grabbed it, looking it over for a brief second. It matched the vials he had found down in the bowels of the casino, although those had the pale green of Boost. If that doctor had been telling the truth that meant he was holding the end product of their little assembly line. Pure soulstuff.

It eked him out to hold it, but he pinged for Callie to stash it in transmat. Who knew if and when this would come in handy.

He swept into the cockpit and into the pilot's chair. While most of the controls and dials he had never seen before, enough was familiar enough for him to get started. Callie assisted with the startup procedure, shining a thin blue beam of light at the correct inputs.



"Fuel valves."

"Open. Check."


Hakke tapped aggressively at the soft control screen as he took hold of the control console. Off to either side he felt the vibration of the engines kicking into life. Callie continued her crash course, flashlight beam honing in on the right systems. "Increase the flow of Dust to the engines, five percent every second until you reach half capacity."

The engines slowly became audible inside the cockpit, the initial vibration turning into a monotonous hum. He pulled the console up slowly, feeling as the ship began to exert less pressure on its landing gear until it finally left the ground. A few more taps and the landing gear retracted into the bullhead.

"Ok, they can't have gotten too far yet. Let's see what this thing can do."

He pulled the console up and the bullhead began to gain altitude. It was a different craft than any he had flown before; far more responsive and finicky than his Arcadia back in Sol, but he figured it would be close enough for him to give chase. That at least he was good at. If there was one thing he could do well in a ship, it was max out his engines across the sky.

He began to pivot the ship around when it came to a sudden stop. No more altitude gain, no movement at all. "No, no! What was that? Are we caught on something?" He yelled as he desperately checked the various gauges, praying that something could let him know what the issue was.

Unfortunately, something did. An unpleasant grinding sound echoed from the metal beneath him. The sound of metal under stress, like something was squeezing his ship in a vice tight enough to pop a rivet. With a wet thwap a black tentacle splattered against the windshield, a single red eye pressing itself through the muck and against the glass. It was followed by the grating cries of a hundred gurgling monsters as teeth began to emerge and press themselves into the glass.

"Oh come on!" He begged, pulling the console straight up. The engines whined as he taxed them, and he did move, but not enough. Once again he slowed until he halted as the shoggoth held the bullhead to the roof of the casino. He pivoted and yanked at the console, only succeeding in tilting the ship a few feet in either direction before the Grimm monster managed to pin him in place again.

The windshield cracked as a tooth finally worked its way in, retracting to slowly begin squeezing tar through. As the pressure increased, the crack got wider. Hakke looked back at the side doors of the bullhead, staring in disbelief as they began to slowly grind their way open, black slowly forming at the small gaps.

He was close. He was so, so close. He had SEEN the Traveler damned thing, he had had a shot at taking it and stopping every horrible thing he had seen on this godforsaken planet. He had been so, so close until this stupid misshapen blob too dim to figure out what the hell it even was had swooped in at the last possible moment and killed that option.

He turned back to the pseudopod worming its way into his cockpit, and snatched one of the red eyes that were staring at him. He glared into it as black ooze began to pour itself around his hand with a crushing pressure. He didn't care.

"So you like it when people are mad, don't you?" He roared at it. From outside his bullhead the shoggoth roared right back. "You like bad vibes? Negative emotion? I'll give you negative emotions, you indecisive shit!"

His other hand was busy. As the side doors behind him finally bent inward to allow thick trunks of black living tar, as Callie vanished back into her voidspace, as the bones in his hand squeezing the red eye began to break, he maxed out the fuel lines to the engine.

"You want in?" Hakke screamed, his voice breaking.

He grabbed the console.

"I'll give you in!"

She flicked a bench through another of the hooded Grimm like a needle through fabric before sending it spinning into a fresh swarm. The blue suited woman she had just saved gave her a relieved nod of appreciation before scrambling to her feet, gun in hand. She returned the nod, before a bullet pierced the woman's chest as she collapsed unmoving. She eradicated the responsible Grimm. Nothing about what was happening here was what she had expected.

It was chaos on the game floor. There were so many of the Grimm that she hadn't even bothered to keep count of the number she had destroyed, and yet more came on. They had her pinned as a target, whatever pack instincts they had certainly had to direct them her way. It was the ideal way for this to play out, her semblance and fighting style worked wonders when up against swarms of weaker Grimm. Especially when precision was required to ensure it was only Grimm she was killing.

She was doing her best to protect those few humans and faunus still alive on the game floor. Even so, this was not a situation that lent itself to their survival. Glynda had already stepped over more than one broken body as she cut her way to the heart of the fighting. Slot machines swirled, stained in splashes of black as she finally broke through to the center of the game floor.

At its heart was a massive golden fountain topped with a set of dice, surrounded on all sides by a maze of game machines. The water still flowed, although it had turned pink by now, courtesy of a large body with a Dalmatian tail bobbing face down in it. This was where the Grimm had scattered their prey. Bodies littered the floor amidst mobile barriers and small mountains of red hoods and discarded body armor.

The sound of blades clashing directed her attention, even as she idly whipped a small storm of broken glass up to shred a Grimm-thing that had been sneaking up behind her. Two human figures were battling, leaping from the top of one slot machine to another. One, a man with impressive sideburns and a rich purple vest, was backpedaling as he desperately deflected a hurricane of wiry slashes with a greatsword almost as long as he was tall. The other was a woman in white, with long flowing white hair gracefully cascading behind her as she pressed forward with a savagery that did not match her grace.

They fought through the worst of the Grimm, and yet they were left alone. This should have been ridiculous, impossible in fact, and yet there they were. Such a thing was entirely unheard of, unless one of them was an agent of Ozpin's ancient enemy.

She decided to find out. Once the man leapt to yet another position, she tore the flooring up in a wall between them. The man, while momentarily taken aback by this development, immediately capitalized on this intrusion by putting more distance between himself and his enemy. He landed at the fountain, sweat caking his brow and pinning his hair to his forehead, as he looked over to her.

"You're the man I spoke to when I first arrived. Murex." She recognized him. And the woman who had been attacking him, though she did not know her name.

"The hell are you doing here?" He demanded through heavy breaths. His sword was held in a loose guard, seemingly inert but definitely ready to pounce back into action.

"Plenty. Once the Grimm are dealt with I have quite a few questions for you." She said, holding herself up and fixing him with a glare. There was no chance to even begin to unravel what was happening here for the time being, not when there was an almost never ending swarm of Grimm to contend with.

"Good luck with that." He said, pointedly looking at the wall she had made.

Her head turned as she felt her grip on the wall vanish. It descended in perfectly segmented pieces as the woman in white leapt toa machine just outside the meager courtyard area surrounding the fountain. Her weapon certainly had some degree of mecha-shift capability, a barrel extending parallel to the long flexible blade.

"Oh, Deputy Headmistress, I simply did not realize it was you. I must apologize. You aren't supposed to still be with us. And now that you are, I'm afraid I simply cannot allow you to leave." She called out. She held a hand out and most of the cacophony vanished, replaced by the sounds of boots stomping towards them and the sounds of sparse fighting here and there. But even that soon faded. From every pathway emerged red hooded figures with featureless masks, some with blades and pipes, others with guns. "As for you, Murex, you are alone now. And soon the same will be said for that traitorous bitch who sent you here."

"These Grimm, you control them?" Glynda asked. "How?"

She needed answers. If the enemy had gotten her agents into Vale, had established themselves with something of this magnitude under Ozpin's nose, then she needed to learn all she could. And escape to report it alive.

"Oh please, do you expect me to monologue? The night grows late and I have so much still to do." The woman sighed as she fished a thin silver cylinder from her jacket pocket, jamming it into thigh. Almost instantly, her Aura flashed white, then turned an unnatural sickly green. Her eyes closed as she sighed, and when they opened again they glowed with the same light.

The hairs on the back of Glynda's neck stood on end as she maneuvered so her back was to the fountain, facing the woman in White.

"The Families won't take this sitting down, Magenta." Murex called out. Even Glynda could see that it was a desperate attempt to stall the woman. She doubted it would work

"Truly? How unfortunate." the now named Magenta smirked as she raised her sword towards them both. She raised her voice to the Grimm horde around her. Glynda cleared her mind and prepared herself for what was to come. A short distance away, Murex adjusted into a more aggressive stance.

She spoke, but it wasn't with words. She hissed something foul, something Glynda knew instinctively was wrong, and the Grimm around her grew agitated. "Now my Shackled, do what you do best. Tear them apar -"

The roof exploded.

Three sets of human eyes, and an untold number of Grimm eyes raced up as a bullhead rammed a hole in the ceiling in a rain of steel and stone. Its engines howled as flames burst out their ends as the entire thing smashed into one of the chandeliers far above, and then rocked into the wall as it lost altitude. On its nose something massive and black clung in a haze of shifting boundaries that almost seems alive.

One of the wings folded, detonating the fuel and turning the ship from something out of control to a rapidly burning meteor plummeting towards them. Whatever had attached itself to the nose screamed as the fire reached it, a hideous howl that was equal parts animal and the sound of ripping steel.

And then, of all things, a figure leapt out of the side of the inferno, plummeting as the bullhead tore chunks from the wall as it, the chandelier, and more burning scrap fell. The figure's arms flailed as it righted itself, the tail of its long coat billowing up around its torso. As it neared the bottom, the figure threw its arms out, soft streaks of soft light billowing under the coat like a cushion that slowed its descent.

The bullhead hit first and detonated, the impact throwing everyone off their feet and evaporating a host of Grimm where it landed. Burning shrapnel embedded itself everywhere, the lacquered wood of the casino beginning to catch.

The figure landed as Glynda and Murex righted themselves. His back, and it was a he, was turned away from them. Her eyes widened. Of all the people that could have fallen from a burning wreck in the sky, it was him. Three horizontally stacked chevrons proudly displayed from the back of his dark gray coat, armored strips lined the top of his shoulders and a metal band was wrapped around his left arm. He turned, his short cut brown hair frazzled and smoldering. He froze as he noticed his audience.

"How in the hell?" Murex said mutely as he stared at the man. Slack shock sat plainly on his face.

Magenta leapt atop a pile of smoking ruin, her sword pointed directly at the newcomer. "You." She hissed. "I killed you."

Just Hakke's eyes flicked over to the woman as he pulled a silver baton off his belt with one hand and a garishly decorated, massive revolver with the other. They then flicked to Murex, and finally to Glynda herself. He opened his mouth to speak.

He was interrupted as something stirred in the slamming wreckage of the crashed bullhead. Something massive and black hauled itself out from underneath the twisted metal, fire raging across its sloughing form as it rose on thick, trunk-like appendages. It howled, the noise ripping wetly from innumerous teeth filled maws ripping their way out from matted black fur.

He stared at the thing, his shoulders slumping. Finally Hakke turned around to look at the woman in white, at Murex and at Glynda.

"I hate this planet."

Well. I ain't dead yet. I have returned to get this thing polished off. Updating this thing has proven somewhat more difficult, as life has this way of making this a lower priority. Either or, this project is special to me, so I don't want to let it just die on the vine. This means there will be more posts moving forward, but whatever schedule I tried to maintain is very much so dead. Hopefully it can be slightly faster than a 10 month hiatus at the climax of a major story beat. Eh, I'll figure it out.

TL'DR: Story ain't over yet buckaroos.

DarkMegatronXX47 - I like to imagine that the shoggoth was more of a happy accident for the Society than purposeful. Either way, gotta give 'em neat tools unique to them.

ue1 - Yeah, that's a valid take on the Grimm, and one that fits their characterization in the show. I think it depends on which of the details you hone in on.

Singular Ash - I can say he'd solve a LOT of problems very quickly if he had that thing. And then solve the problems his earlier solutions would make. It'd be a vicious cycle.

Salem Vs The Witness: A Rumble in the Bronx! Salem gets completely demolished. Hands down, Frankly the Witness could probably end her curse easily enough. Headcanon has the Witness as one of, if not the scariest thing physically present in the universe.

Gible - Since the Hive don't have a physical presence (as far as the characters know) on Remnant, they get to influence the world via their puppets. And the easiest way to ensure said puppets are viable is through giving them access to very dangerous things. As for Murex: not well.

Lightfall was a mixed bag for me. Great gameplay and sandbox, story was a letdown. I really hate how Bungo keeps adding the coolest changes to the world that I just get to stare at longingly. No time difference, so I don't get to tack on Caiatl's Cabal or Mithrax's House of Light. Or at least I have to get REALLY creative.

Master-ofmanga - Hey, it sorta kinda counts! It's more Great Value than name brand, but it will evolve. Consider the name added to the list.

22what - Your comment is slightly prophetic. And we'll finally get a smidgen of that sweet sweet character reaction bit. Finally.

H - That is exactly how I figured a shoggoth would be used. Making one is hard as hell, and incredibly dangerous, much like an Ogre. It's exactly the Society's version of the Ogre. As for 21% Delirium. Shhit, you're right, that thing is Arc. From here on I'll correct it, as for editing previous chapters, I might fix it, but there's a high chance I'd fuck something up and mess up the whole damn thing, so maybe not.

Also: Good catch.

Guest - Ozpin: I have some plans for him, and he's certainly going to get called out on his shittier behavior. Corrupted Huntsmen/Huntresses: Oh yea yea. We're getting that. Team RWBY: I'm going to try to keep 'em closer to their portrayal in vol 1-3, minus the more irritating bits.

Guest - Thank ye! I try with the Hive, and boy howdy do they make it easy. They're the kind of messed up that you could chuck them in Warhammer 40k and they'd fit right in without missing a beat.

The Baz - Warlock Athletics | Warlock CrossFit

Eh, Midnight Coup is all the hand cannon anyone needs. Still, he REALLY needs to get some heavy weapons moving forward.

Vitilig0 - Yes. And eventually they'll believe him too!

Schmidget - Salem's not gonna be happy once certain elements kick off. She's probably going to be a background element, but that could change. The further out story beats are still a bit fluid. As for the Witness, hell no it ain't popping in here, not in any real capacity at least (there will be mentions and such, it's too important to not at least include there. There isn't a damn thing on Remnant that could stand a snowball's chance in hell against that.

Toaster On Main - No problem, here ye be:

Prodigal Hood helmet - Tidal Hope Shader

Wing Theorem Gauntlets - Skele-Ghaul Shader (to dab on the Red Region of course)

Duster of the Cormorant Blade - Refurbished Black Armory Shader

Wildwood Boots - Warbrick Shader

Hakke's Personal Bond - Dark iron with a gray nylon strip in the middle.

Prometheus-23 - This came about as I was talking to a buddy, actually. Goes to show that having someone to bounce ideas off can help tremendously.

jordanlink7856 - Thank you very much!

anonymous - And a might thank you to you as well! Glad you enjoy it.

Crazzytony - Glad you're liking it! Hakke's Goodwitch troubles are far from over.

reggielacey2 - Stasis and Strand are at best a hell of a way out, Hakke got chucked to Remnant before he could exploit those tools. Eh, there's enough Hunter stories out there I figure, and Warlock scratches the particular power fantasy itch I go for. Personal preference and all that.

Tristen343 - Aint dead yet, don't fret. There's a paracausal wall Hakke has dubbed 'The Barrier' keeping the majority of his Light powers from manifesting. He's made some progress chipping at it. It's also a very large plot point further down the line, its purpose is far greater than nerfing the MC.

Light/Dark Semblances. While I'd argue Semblances have paracausal properties, they're minor compared to the more insane shit Guardians, Ahamcara, or any of the more powerful Gods/Disciples/Vex/Mysterious-horrors-beyond-mortal-comprehension can muster.

Guest - A story using the elements you're talking about could be interesting, but I don't think I'm the guy to do it. Adding elements from W40K, Star Wars, and Kingdom Hearts would fry my brain.

starflatinum999 - Essentially.

BraveSeeker3 - You chose a good time to stumble on this, then. Although this too, ends in a cliffhanger. Figure this evens out.