Eren Kruger glanced at the ocean behind them one last time, savoring the salty air and the gorgeous sight of the distant horizon where the sky and water met. He knew he was about to die, but it was necessary if he wanted his life to have had meaning.
He looked back at Grisha, and readied the injection. From the future memories he'd seen he knew that Grisha would eventually succeed in his mission, but it would be up to his son to use the Founding Titan to save the Eldian people. Whether he would be able to do it was something that Kruger would never know. All he could do was hope.
He injected the serum into Grisha's neck, the younger man letting out a small gasp of pain as he did so.
As he waited for the serum to take effect, Eren briefly pondered on what he would have done if he had been able to utilize the Founding Titan's power. He definitely wouldn't have made good on the 145th king's threat of destroying everything outside of the island, as that would be rather excessive.
But if he was honest with himself, if he'd had that kind of power he would have used it to awaken the Titans within Wall Maria, and used them to destroy Marley. The imperialistic nation had become too large and corrupt for its own good, and their atrocities against the Eldians and the other people of the world needed to be avenged. And while it was true that many Eldians would also die if Marley was destroyed, most of them had been brainwashed by decades worth of propaganda, and would be unwilling to liberate themselves even if given the chance. Better to start over fresh with the Eldians on the island.
As a bright light engulfed Grisha's body, Eren brushed these thoughts aside. There was no sense in dwelling on things that could never be. It's not like his thoughts on the matter would have any effect on what the future might hold.
Grisha's Titan turned around and looked down on Eren, its mouth opened wide.
EIGHTEEN YEARS LATER
Eren stood up and looked down at Mikasa, still feeling slightly shaken by her confession.
"Mikasa." He said softly. "I will always wrap your scarf around you. Always and forever."
He clenched his fist and faced the looming form of his mother's killer.
"That's a promise!"
As the Titan reached for him, Eren felt himself filling with rage at the invaders who had destroyed his home. He thought primarily of Reiner and Bertolt, but also of Annie, the normal Titans, and of course the monster before him that had devoured his mother.
He pulled his fist back, his mind consumed with a single goal.
I WILL DRIVE ALL OF YOU OUT! EVERY LAST ONE!
He swung his fist forward and punched the smiling Titan's palm.
Across the battlefield, Reiner, Bertolt, and Ymir instantly felt a surge of energy coursing through them.
As the Titans began to converge on the smiling Titan, Reiner's eyes widened in horror.
Oh no. Eren's the coordinate.
The sun had set several hours ago, and the Armored Titan continued to run south, its movements slow and tired, with two exhausted shifters on each of its shoulders.
With a Titan horde after them, they'd had no choice but to let Eren and the Scouts escape, as simply staying alive had become a very difficult task. But thanks to Ymir's unexpected appearance and assistance they'd managed to break away from the horde, and now that night had fallen the pure Titans slowly but surely began to slow down and get left behind.
Now they were just trying to reach Wall Maria so that they would have someplace safe to rest for the night where the pure Titans couldn't get them. Ymir had left her Titan in order to preserve her energy, and at the moment she and Bertolt were doing their best to stay awake until the danger had truly passed.
The light of the moon helped illuminate the land around them somewhat, but it was still rather dark, and the clouds would periodically cover the moon and obscure its rays.
After several hours of silence, the quiet was eventually broken by Ymir.
"Jeez, how far away is Wall Maria? I thought for sure we should be able to see it by now."
At Ymir's words, Bertolt began to get a sinking feeling in his stomach. From what they had seen, Eren didn't really understand the power of the coordinate, nor did he yet have the means to control it. So as long as all he had done was send a horde of pure Titans after them, they might still be able to complete their mission.
But if he had inadvertently done something more…
No. He was being paranoid. It was fine. It had to be.
As time passed, all three shifters began to feel more and more anxious as they continued to fail to spot the outline of Wall Maria in the distance. Initially they thought they must have simply underestimated how far away it was.
But eventually, the harsh truth made itself known.
As the moon gleamed in the night sky, the Armored Titan came to an abrupt halt, and the color drained from Bertolt and Ymir's faces.
"No." Bertolt whispered.
Now that they were close, they were able to see the outline and piles of rubble and debris where Wall Maria had once been. And beyond this former boundary there was a series of massive footprints stretching into the distance, and a faint cloud of steam could be seen stretching all across the horizon.
"Holy shit." Ymir exclaimed.
"Fuck." Bertolt felt his hands beginning to tremble. "Eren didn't just send that horde of Titans after us, he accidentally unleashed the rumbling."
Ymir glanced behind them. "Hopefully it's just wall Maria that was set loose."
Bertolt shook his head hopelessly. "What do we do?"
Ymir casually kicked the Armored Titan's face. "Reiner, come out of your Titan, I'll get us there. If we rotate our Titans and hurry we should be able to warn your comrades about the rumbling."
Bertolt looked at her in surprise. "Ymir…"
A burst of steam emanated from the Armored Titan's nape, and Reiner pulled himself out of the fleshy cavity, though he didn't detach himself completely yet.
He frowned at Ymir. "Why? It's not too late for you to turn around and go back."
Ymir lowered her eyes. "It's thanks to you guys and your friend that my nightmare finally came to an end. I can't just leave you out to dry now."
She smiled sadly. "Life's really given you the short end of the stick. I know that Krista's safety is all but guaranteed now. All that's left is for me to repay the debt I owe you."
Reiner and Bertolt found themselves unable to put their gratitude into words, but from the look she gave them they knew that she understood.
Ymir transformed once more, and after securing Reiner and Bertolt on her head she began to run as fast as she could south, heading directly toward the mass of Wall Titans.
The Marleyan ship was still stationed at the dock near the southern tip of Paradis. It was early in the morning, and Magath, Zeke, and Pieck were standing on the wall, waiting to see if the other Warriors would arrive. It had been five years since Marcel's group had been sent to the island, and they were eager for news about how the mission was going. They would have almost certainly noticed the recon mission Zeke and the others had done within Wall Rose, and so Magath hoped that at least some of them would leave the walls and give them an update.
As the sun slowly rose in the sky, Zeke noticed something strange about the island's interior.
He frowned. "What is that in the distance? Is that...smoke? Is it a forest fire?"
Pieck's eyes widened, and she placed her hand against the smooth surface of the wall. "The ground is shaking."
Magath and Zeke froze.
"No…" Zeke murmured, his face pale. "No, it can't be…"
Zeke and Pieck turned to look at what Magath was pointing at, and saw the Armored Titan running across the sandy dunes directly toward them.
A short time later the Armored Titan arrived near the side of the wall, and Magath, Zeke, and Pieck ran over to greet them.
Bertolt looked tired from a lack of sleep, while Ymir and Reiner both appeared utterly exhausted, their bodies pushed to the limit due to the strain they'd been placed under.
Magath looked at the three of them in mild confusion. "What's going on?"
Bertolt shook his head tiredly. "Long story short, Annie's been captured," he pointed at Ymir. "she ate Marcel but has agreed to help us, and the Founding Titan is a guy called Eren Yeager. We were trying to capture him when he awoke the Founding Titan's full power and used it to send a Titan horde after us, and he also woke up the Titans inside Wall Maria, though we're pretty sure that was an accident."
His expression became urgent. "And now the Maria Titans are coming to kill us all, so we really need to go now!"
Magath briefly glanced back at the island's interior, and could just barely make out the sight of the massive line of colossal Titans heading toward them. He had many questions, but he knew they would have to wait.
Magath nodded. "Understood, let's go."
Pieck helped carry Reiner to the ship, while Zeke was supporting Bertolt, leaving Magath the one to help Ymir onto the ship.
He felt uneasy as he glanced at the exhausted young woman beside him. From what Bertolt had said Ymir would have been one of the Eldian traitors brought to the island, which instantly made her suspicious. And she had killed one of their warriors and taken his power for herself. But on the other hand Bertolt claimed that she had helped them, and Magath had to concede that she was likely the reason that Reiner and Bertolt had been able to make it to them ahead of the rumbling. The Colossal Titan was not known for its mobility, and it would have been impossible for the Armored Titan to make such a long journey on its own. Her offering them assistance was the only reason they had made it. And if the rumbling was truly on its way, there wouldn't be time to transfer the Jaw Titan to one of their own warriors, and so they would likely need her help again when it came to stopping or at least slowing the rumbling.
As his thoughts turned toward the rumbling, Magath felt many conflicting emotions. The main ones were fear and dread. While conventional weaponry was slowly catching up to the power of the Titans, and would soon surpass it, they still had no means of easily fighting an army of colossal Titans. If the 145th king's threat was carried out in full, there would be nothing they could do.
The only way they might stand a chance would be if it was a less focused and organized attack, and given what Bertolt had suggested about the current holder of the Founding Titan that could be the case. If it truly was just the Titans from Wall Maria, and if they were both dumb and slow, they might, just might, be able to stop them.
But even in a best case scenario, most if not all of Marley would probably be destroyed by the time all of the Titans were killed. One way or another, Marley's days as a world superpower were about to end.
And as he thought this, Magath took some grim vindication at having been proven right at just how foolish and reckless Marley's plans regarding the island had been.
As the ship pulled out of dock and began to make its way back to Marley as quickly as it could, the Titans were still a far distance off, but the ground had begun to rumble and quake with their footsteps.
After Reiner and Ymir had been escorted below to get some rest, Zeke pulled Bertolt aside.
"So, you said his name was Eren Yeager…"
TWO MONTHS LATER
As the Scouts crossed the foot of the mountain, Erwin felt a thrill going through him.
At long last, they were about to reach the basement.
He knew it wouldn't be that easy. Overthrowing the government and replacing it with a less obstructive regime had been difficult, and the battle that was waiting for them in Shiganshina was likely going to be even more difficult. But if they could secure this victory for humanity, they would be able to reach the basement, and finally learn the truth about this world.
Erwin's thoughts were interrupted as the horses around him were brought to a sudden halt. At first he was puzzled as to what they were doing, as they needed to make haste to reach Wall Maria as quickly as possible.
As he looked south, however, he quickly spotted the problem. Wall Maria was gone.
Levi looked utterly baffled. "What the hell?"
"Wall Maria should be here." Hange muttered in bewilderment. "And yet...it's not. What's going on?"
The Scouts began to whisper and murmur amongst themselves, wondering what had happened.
Eren scanned the horizon back and forth, as if looking hard enough would make the wall appear again.
"How could the wall just disappear? It's not like it could get up and walk away."
Armin's eyes widened, and he gasped in shock.
"Except it could."
Eren and Mikasa turned toward him in confusion.
Armin looked at the ground, his mind racing. "We know that the walls are made up of Titans, and that Eren's power can control Titans."
Armin looked at his best friend carefully. "Eren, you said that when you activated this power, you were filled with the determination to drive out your enemies, right?"
Eren nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"We assumed that it was just the normal Titans that were affected by your power, but maybe that wasn't true. Maybe it also woke up the Titans within Wall Maria and sent them after whatever enemies lie beyond Wall Maria."
Mikasa's eyes widened, and she looked back toward the south. As she looked carefully, she could see the ruins of Shiganshina, many of the buildings still standing but suffering from years of neglect due to the absence of human life. The district looked almost naked without the expected walls surrounding it.
Eren glanced off to the side, a troubled expression on his face.
"But if that's the case...then that must mean that Reiner's hometown was completely wiped out. I wonder...based on what we know about Reiner and the others, and from what we learned about my dad from instructor Shadis, there have to be at least a few other humans out there beyond the walls. And while the attack on Wall Maria makes it pretty clear that some or maybe even most of these humans are our enemies, not all of them are bad, my dad is proof of that. And in that case...if I really set all the Titans in Wall Maria loose upon the world…"
Mikasa placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't think too hard about it. They attacked us first, and it's your father's fault for giving you this power without explaining anything."
She shook her head. "I know he had good intentions, but I don't understand why he kept you in the dark despite placing such a large burden on you."
She looked at Eren seriously. "Regardless, don't let yourself get twisted up with guilt about something you couldn't control."
Eren reluctantly nodded. "Right."
A few minutes later Armin's theory was relayed to the rest of the Scouts.
Erwin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Given what we know, Armin's theory seems quite likely, which is both good and bad news. It's good because it means that there's probably not an ambush waiting for us in Shiganshina like we thought, because our enemies will have their hands full with an army of Colossal Titans, assuming they're even still alive at this point. But it's bad because it means the operation to retake Wall Maria is now impossible, since Wall Maria doesn't exist anymore."
He fiddled with the reigns. "Still, it means that we should be able to reach that basement uncontested."
He raised his voice. "All soldiers, prepare to advance!"
The Scouts descended into Shiganshina, closing the distance between themselves and the truth about the world they lived in.
Author's Note: So as you probably gathered from the summary, this is going to be a series of short stories exploring different ways the story of Attack on Titan could have gone. Some, such as this one, will be left open ended and could theoretically be turned into longer stories later, while others will be self contained and closed. Either way, each chapter will be a different story, so if you don't like one you don't have to worry about it continuing into the next chapter. I have a bunch of ideas and hypothetical scenarios I'd like to play around with, but I don't have the time or the inclination to turn all of them into full stories, so this will give me a way to get them out there in some form. Of course, if any one of these shorter stories get a bunch of requests to be turned into a longer story, I might consider doing so, though I won't make any promises. And if you have any suggestions for alternative ways the canon narrative could have gone, feel free to let me know and if I like it I might turn it into a short story here, though the ideas I came up with will probably come first.
As for this story, it's an idea I've had for a while. At the end of the second season when Eren utilized the power of the Founding Titan, he didn't really know what he was doing, so it doesn't seem too far fetched that it could have had some unintended consequences. In this scenario Marley is definitely screwed. They're not as screwed as they were in canon, because Eren's full scale rumbling incorporated Titans from all three walls, and it was ruthlessly efficient and systematic in its efforts to purge the world of human life. Here, though, it's only the Titans from Wall Maria, and they've only been given a somewhat vague instruction to destroy Marley, and so will be rather slow and unintelligent about it, which will give Marley some time to fight back. Of course their size and sheer numbers will still cause a lot of problems, but killing all the Titans is at least somewhat feasible, as opposed to in canon where their overwhelming numbers and focused movements steamrolled over any attempts at stopping them. But by the time they kill all the Titans Marley will be almost completely destroyed, demolishing their status as a superpower and discouraging the rest of the world from attacking or messing with Paradis lest they suffer the same fate.
I thought it was an interesting idea, let me know what you thought. As for what story is next, I have two I'm working on. One takes place during the serumbowl situation, while the other...well, let's just say it's dark. Really, REALLY dark. The serumbowl one would be easier to finish, but to be honest I'm in kind of a bad mood, and you know what they say about what misery likes, so I'll probably finish the dark story first.
There are a few reasons for my bad mood, but the biggest one is the incredibly worrying leaks that have come out for chapter 137. At first I was holding out hope that the leaks were fake, but nope, it seems that they're real. And based on what's in them, the next chapter is going to be disappointing, though how disappointing remains to be seen. It all depends on the exact events and context of this chapter, and what happens in the last two chapters. So when it comes to the problematic events shown in the leaks, it could end up being "Well, that was kind of lame but ultimately forgivable" or "This is bullshit, why did you have to fuck things up at the last and worst possible moment?"
Oh well, if nothing else it'll give me another story idea, how to make the ending less shit. But I'm still confident that Attack on Titan will have a satisfying ending, even if the means it's using to get to that ending are rather underwhelming.
Edit: Welp, it seems that things ended up being "This is bullshit, why did you have to fuck things up at the last and worst possible moment?" And 138 and 139 both managed to be even worse than 137, which is quite the accomplishment. And the ending as a whole was not satisfying. In fact I found it so unsatisfying that I had to write my own ending as a way of coping. So if you were also unsatisfied with the canon ending of Attack on Titan I would recommend you skip to chapter 12, where you can find my version of the ending.