A.N. (8/14/23) - Sorry for the long hiatus.
Atlas (26) - Anarchy
It would have been easy to wait for Ironwood to catch up.
Sadly for him, Rin was impatient and felt that it would be best to go on ahead without him. Her means of transportation were too sporadic and limited to allow another person to fly along with her. Ironwood would have to settle with trailing behind her on the aircraft they used to arrive at Argus.
Even as she traveled at unmatched speeds with the wind billowing past her face, Rin maintained communications with him using an earpiece. The two made plans for how they would deal with the upcoming disaster, but there were still doubts that even that would not be enough to stop the threat in time.
Luckily, she had an idea.
Admittingly, it was one that she decided to keep to herself. If Ironwood even got a hint at what she was planning, he would no doubt lose his mind and yell while frothing at the mouth. The only reason she was even entertaining this line of thought was her suspicions about who the true enemy was.
If the culprit was someone from her world…
…no, what was she thinking just now?
Again, she forgot something important. But she did not forget the fact that she forgot. And thus, that was enough for her to determine the identity of the true culprit.
"Modifying magic formula… increase reinforcement value… Momentary Mana Burst!"
Her body was covered with a slight shimmer as the witch's salve absorbed the excess magical energy, the speed of her broom visibly increasing as she shot forward with a burst of speed.
"I have to reach her before they do."
He had a dream.
That dream led him to gather an army of followers, all prepared for the upcoming operation. It was an army defined not by uniform or discipline, but by the shackles he used to chain them to his will. Because of that, they remained undetected by the unsuspecting populace as they paraded down the streets of the city.
Rumors of their gathering might have already spread throughout Atlas due to their latest stunts. Either the people were suspicious of their intentions, or they sensed something stirring in the air. For those unaware, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what was wrong. And yet the growing sense of unease and tension was unmistakable.
The longer one observed the crowds, the easier it was beginning to tell apart those who were different. There were those who were in a hurry, some headed to work, to get to meetings, or to meet with other people. Others had faces with dead expressions and walked in the same direction at the same pace.
Jax observed all of this from the inside of the vehicle taking him to his destination. His gaze moved in the manner of a commander observing their surroundings to plan their next attack, even if he knew that there was no need to act yet.
His mind was exhausted.
"Just a little longer…"
Who was he even trying to talk to at this point? Nobody else was sitting with him, the driver in front separated by a dark tinted window that muffled sound. He was alone with nothing but his thoughts to keep him company. Conflicted thoughts. Thoughts that whispered traitorous ideas like how it was still not too late to turn around and end this madness.
But in the end, he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. After everything that he has done, it would be in poor taste to give up so close to his goal. Some might consider that a form of sunk cost fallacy, and Jax might even agree with them even as he decided to continue.
"Damn it, I can't lose my cool now!"
His sister wasn't here with him. She had already been taken away by his trusted people to enact the other part of their plan. With her out of the way, it was his duty to start things off and make it easier for her to do what was needed.
So with a thought, he gave out the order to begin.
The sound of something shattering was the first thing that indicated something was wrong. It was the sound of multiple windows shattering. Some were caused by chairs being thrown from inside or stones tossed from outside. Others were caused by the sheer number of bodies pressed against the glass as crowds surged forward into restaurants and stores. Then there was screaming, as panicked customers backed away in a hurry from the tide of mindless attackers.
It was all meant as a distraction to draw the attention of law enforcement and soldiers, as well as overwhelm them with enough problems and issues to stretch them thin. Just in the past few days, he had spent several hours simply taking control of as many people as possible regardless of who they were. There was no need for sophisticated orders, only thoughtless action requiring no further input from him once they were given command.
The streets were in a frenzy. People running or charging in every direction even as he drove past it all. It was almost mesmerizing how quickly the city descended into chaos, especially since Jax knew that the city of Atlas most likely never saw such mayhem before. They likely believed that they were above that sort of thing, both metaphorically and literally given that most incidents usually happened in the lower city of Mantle instead.
"Clear the way!"
Already, he saw signs of attempts at restoring order with drones and soldiers yelling orders at the assailants to stop. But his firm grasp of their minds made it so that their shouting was useless. Even worse, he prodded their thoughts and directed their aggression onto the soldiers instead, leaving them suddenly surrounded by hundreds of angry rioters.
"They're trying to stop us!"
"Down with the oppressors!"
"Get them! They're the enemy!"
It made no sense, but that was the beauty of it. He alone dictated the script, and things like motive or reason were unnecessary when he could simply direct the two forces against one another. Unwilling to cause serious damage, the soldiers were forced to allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the mass of rioters. All over the city, multiple incidents similar to this continued to occur as Jax manipulated everything according to his whim.
Without proper direction, it would take a while until somebody brought order back and quelled things. But until that happened, Jax had a small window of opportunity to begin the next part of his plan.
He held up his Scroll and pressed a number on his contact list. "It's time. Release the Red Fang and activate the charges."
Across the city, several large explosions would suddenly erupt at various locations. All of them would severely damage buildings related to any transport or terminal that would allow one to leave or enter the city. It wouldn't stop aircrafts from landing on the giant floating island, but it would certainly limit the number of people escaping.
Meanwhile, crowds of masked people started filling the streets while brandishing weapons. Near immediately, their appearance was followed by wild slaughter as each member swung whatever bladed weapon they grasped with their hands. Fear and panic grew in response as people ran in terror away from the crazy terrorists, all the while the masked members continued to spread throughout the city.
One man took charge, his bright red sword and red hair standing out as he led the others. "Kill every human in sight," Adam roared. "Now is the time for the faunus to strike at the enemy!"
A squad of soldiers rolled around the corner right as he said that, guns and cannons aiming in his direction upon spotting the masked terrorist. In response, Adam sheathed his blade before letting loose a wide beam of energy and causing mass destruction with his Semblance. There was no stopping it, and the opposition fell immediately upon being struck by the attack.
"Move out! Head to the center of the city."
Without waiting for a response, he once again charged his blade by pouring large amounts of Aura into it. His entire body glowed in response as he used up the reserves of Aura granted to him by the Crown, flaring more brightly as the seconds passed.
His blade swung downward and erupted with energy, splitting the street before him into two and sending a wave of destruction traveling down the road until it impacted a large building. The building crumbles while the air rings with the sound of shattering windows and exploding debris. Seeing the extent of damage done by him, it would not be inaccurate to classify the scale of it beyond an attack by a Semblance and more along the lines of a natural disaster.
What made this more incredible was that Adam barely depleted the stock of extra Aura given to him. If he wished, he could unleash an even more devastating attack with an intensity and range of multitudes larger than the previous strike.
But this was not the place for that.
Even with his mind shackled to another, Adam still knew that there was the possibility that Blake and Ilia managed to escape and call for reinforcements. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing to the thrall, it meant one thing. Someone will eventually come to stop him, and when that comes to pass, his blade will be ready to fell whoever attempted to block his way.
Until then, he had to complete his king's orders.
Gillian was forced to have someone push the wheelchair she was riding forward. As weak as she was now, there was no hope of moving by her own power unless she wanted to exhaust her reserves of Aura to aid herself. With her goal right in sight, Gillian needed every drop of Aura she had if she wished to survive the upcoming ordeal.
Leading the way was Winter, who was growing to become one of their best Crownsmen yet. The versatility of her Semblance as well as training as a huntress and soldier made it so that her combat abilities far outstripped any other recruit in their army. The only other Crownsmen that matched her ability was the Ace Operatives, especially their leader Clover who was currently pushing her wheelchair at that moment.
The two of them would be enough. Her Semblance allowed her to grant others enough Aura to not only empower their physical abilities but also their Semblances as well. Since they had no lack of Aura, they could use their Semblances to the limit without fearing draining their reserves. For Winter, that meant the ability to summon more Grimm and use stronger glyphs. And for Clover, it made his already powerful Semblance into one that could even change destiny in their favor.
As demonstrated when Winter used her keycard to unlock the doors before her, something that was unlikely to happen given her status as a thrall to the Crown. Either someone in the facility had forgotten to remove her clearance level, or it could be something outlandish as a glitch in the system. Clover's Semblance made it so that they met no resistance, even going so far as to avoid any employees despite not making an effort to remain hidden.
She's near… her mind whispered. Soon, it will all be over…
"Just up ahead," Gillian said. "Winter, are you certain that there aren't any other defenses?"
"Correct," Winter replied. "This facility maintained secrecy above everything else, and General Ironwood only trusted several individuals with huntsmen training. Your brother has already sublimated everyone who would be aware of this place into his army."
"Then take us to her."
Winter nodded, and the three of them walked through the doors together. Immediately, they were greeted with the sight of an old woman laying down. Gillian drew in a shaky breath as she stared at the other person.
The Winter Maiden.
Aura not only boosted physical abilities but also bestowed upon the user a heightened level of extrasensory perception that bordered hypersensitive instinct. To Gillian, she could feel the lowered temperature and change in air pressure the moment she entered the room. All her superficial senses were telling her that she should be wary of the threat before her, even as she was forced to regulate her body temperature to resist the extreme cold. Not that it helped much, being a citizen of Vacuo unused to even the cold weather of Atlas.
Although it had previously been explained to Gillian that the Winter Maiden was in a state of decline due to her old age, she never thought that even a casual display of her power could make her feel this intimidated. Not for the first time, she wondered if it would have been best to bring more Crownsmen with her. But with how stretched thin their forces were, it was the best compromise to limit how large her party was.
"Fria," Winter suddenly said. "Are you awake? It's me, Winter. I'm visiting again, but I also have a few guests with me."
As the old woman's eyes slowly opened, Clover wordlessly pushed her wheelchair forward so that Gillian could greet her properly.
The old woman spoke first. "Hm, now who could you be?"
"It's been a while, Fria."
The words escaped Gillian's mouth unprompted, and her eyes widened in shock. To her surprise, Fria continued to speak as if she were an old friend. "I'm not familiar with this face. Are you playing one of your games again, or did you make a new friend after all these years?"
Was she being mistaken for someone else? Shaking her head, Gillian attempted to regain control of the situation. "Greetings, Maiden. My name is Gillian Asturias and I am here to ask for something of yours."
"Of course." Fria exhaled and gave a sad smile. "That's all everyone ever asks of me, isn't it? My whole life has been defined by that, and I always wonder if they are ever truly prepared to pay the price for this curse." She closed her eyes. "Are you aware of the rules of how this works?"
"I believe so."
"Then you know that even if you kill me, the power will only transfer to whoever I think of as I die. Torture won't do anything to help, I already underwent resistive training in my younger years. And if you think I'll go down without a fight, you must be deluded."
"That would be the case if we were following the usual rules."
As Gillian said that, she reached into one of her pockets and grabbed a small object. Before she could pull it out, she paused as her ears caught notice of something unusual.
That was all the distraction that Fria needed.
Intense winds suddenly swirled around her, creating a barrier of frigid air that sent everyone within several meters of the old woman flying back. Gillian cursed as she tightly grabbed the sides of her wheelchair while Clover and Winter helped stabilize her before they all landed on the ground.
Clover made an effort to swing his weapon, but a thick wall of ice quickly blocked them and separated the three from Fria. The fishing line got caught halfway into the ice wall as it formed, but that did not change the outcome. They were separated from the old woman.
And that was not all.
Because Gillian had no way of knowing that there was still a last line of defense left in the possibility that somebody was to enter the facility keeping Fria hidden. Not even Winter or the Ace-Ops knew about it, only General Ironwood and the person he contracted to install that last line of defense did.
The ceiling came down with a crash.
It was reinforced concrete and steel, made with the power of Fria in mind during construction to withstand not only the assault of multiple huntsmen but also the incredible power of her abilities. It was no simple feat for it to suddenly break apart without alerting any of the people inside that someone was attacking it. That meant that whoever did so was able to perform such an act in such a short amount of time that it did not draw their attention to the fact.
Thus, everybody was shocked as they witnessed a young girl straightening her back while wiping dust off her clothes.
"Ugh, gotta rethink that structural breakdown spell and make it less chaotic. Might need to go over the formula again."
Her arrival was only due to the fact that this facility was one of her preset destinations for her broom flight magecraft. Not to mention the simple bounded field alerting her if any intruders came. With General Ironwood's paranoia, that was the limit of what she was able to install, and only after having Ozpin's approval and personal inspection of the bounded field itself.
"Now," Rin turned to face them. "As the next best thing to a local authority, I'll be taking care of matters here."
This chapter is something of a refresher to get back into writing, so don't expect any consistent releases yet. Been busy these past couple of months, and I made the decision to put my writing hobby on the back burner until things settled down. Good news is that I graduated, so now that's one less source of stress. Next is job hunting and all that other stuff that comes with transitioning from a university student to a working adult. As things go along now, I don't even have an internship or part-time job, so I'll probably have more free time to start writing again eventually.
And yes, that does mean that I'm officially a NEET.