Chapter 1: The Scholar and the Brute
The phone’s shrill churring echoed through the empty kitchen.
The tones of a phone do not, inherently, create cause for alarm. Granted, at this juncture, most hardwired phones have been swept aside with their replacement, the ubiquitous Scroll occupying its customary place in society. But a phone’s ringing is not noteworthy.
But this phone is associated with a particular number; and that number is associated with a peculiar man.
Tycho Brahe entered the kitchen from a side door and inhaled sharply through the nose, eyes fixated on the ringing phone.
Jonathan Gabriel followed, slightly slouched over. He looked at the phone, then at Tycho. Then at the phone again. “The phone’s ringing.”
Tycho’s mouth widened into a close facsimile of a smile. “Oh, I know.”
Not twenty minutes later they were in the air, a transport taking them from Vale towards a castle-like structure in the distance.
Gabe slouched in the Bullhead’s seat. “Kinda strange, isn’t it?”
“Undoubtedly,” Tycho muttered, body forward and hands steepled. “For someone to call is peculiar on its own. Second, a call from Beacon is intriguing, for they typically keep business within their own ranks. Third, it was from Ozpin . And for Ozpin to reach outside of his own circle of confidants is doubly bizarre.”
“Do you think this is about —”
“No,” Tycho said, retrieving a pair of glasses from a coat pocket and a small, worn journal from another. The scratching of pencil against paper was near inaudible under the sound of the engines. “These are serious matters. If it was about the methods we used in our final exams, well, he’d have pulled us aside a lot sooner.”
“We’ll be arriving soon,” the pilot said over the comms.
Beacon had been built as a citadel as well as school; Tycho could trace the lines of the walls that had once encapsulated the whole of the academy. Even now its distance and location made it risky to venture any sort of attack.
“It’s been a while,” Glynda Goodwitch said, greeting them. Her perpetual frown was set perhaps even deeper by Ozpin’s selection of guests; from her experience Tycho Brahe could be insufferable and his temper was legendary for good reason, and his cohort Jonathan Gabriel was a known troublemaker , and together she didn’t know how their alleged office hadn’t burnt down.
“A pleasure,” Tycho said, hand outstretched.
Glynda reluctantly shook it and turned to lead them toward the center of Beacon.
Ozpin’s office was, as per usual, grand in both sense of grandeur and scale . Tycho had often wondered to himself the necessity of an office of its scale. One did not need many square meters to file paperwork and see students concerning mere academic troubles. Indeed, Tycho had seen on more than one occasion the smaller interrogation room where more serious headmaster-student meetings took place. But, Tycho conceded, the massive and borderline garish office kept with Ozpin’s aesthetic.
“Good afternoon,” Ozpin said, rotating in his chair.
Ozpin sighed at the pair. “You’re no doubt wondering why I called you.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” Tycho said.
“I need an outside consultant,” Ozpin admitted. “As loathe am I am to admit it, you’re the foremost expert on many subjects of a, perhaps, unorthodox branch of study.”
“You mean the occult shit,” Gabe half-asked.
“Yes, I mean the occult shit ,” Ozpin muttered out, eyes shut in frustration.
“It’s true,” Tycho said, disregarding the exchange. “I, personally, am rather knowledgeable on these matters. Gabriel, as my partner has — via osmosis — gained some modicum of understanding of the nature of the universe.”
“Yes.” Ozpin closed his eyes. “I need your help concerning events unfolding currently in Remnant with a strange pattern. I’ve begun to theorize there may be some...higher power among Grimm.”
“Vague,” Tycho said, his mind instantly starting to work. “But not altogether unheard of . Researchers and mystics alike have, over the years, debated the existence of such a creature.” Tycho took a deep breath as if to start a new and much longer train of thought before Ozpin cut him off.
“We can discuss the details later. I have another request,” Ozpin said. “I’d like you two to, well, assist with the upcoming year. With the Vytal Festival and all, well, I’d like to have an ‘ace in the pocket’ if things eventually go south. You’ll be compensated, of course.”
“Indeed,” Tycho said. “From what I understand organized crime has been on the upswing, and it would make sense for you to hire private contractors, even as unorthodox as we are. What were you thinking?”
The pair had spent the ride back in silence, Tycho scribbling notes and poems into his journal and Gabe sketching in his own book. It wasn’t until they reached the doorstep of their office that Gabe spoke up.
“So it would seem,” Tycho said, opening the door into their home. “A small, cushy position teaching a small group of students interested in literature, a class whose description is almost intentionally dull and vague in the hope to deter students from it.”
“I got that part. But that’s your shit, dude.”
“And yours is the bit where Ozpin doesn’t think the Vytal Festival will go to plan. Let’s pack,” Tycho said. “Grab anything you’d like to have for the next nine months.”
Midway through packing, Tycho looked up at the shelves on the wall. Most of it was various trophies of various jobs and cases they’d taken: the thoroughly thrashed remains of Tycho’s original weapon, a submachine gun with a decidedly noir theme; Gabe’s original gauntlets, right fist cleaved in two; and a jar containing a skull floating in what seemed to be something between blue flames and water.
“Grab Jim,” Tycho said, pointing at the jar.
Gabriel hefted the jar into his arms, skull slightly shifting in response. “You know, I’m still not certain this is Jim.”
Tycho placed a box of shells atop his box of books. “It’s his skull, and the ritual bound his remaining Aura to the object.”
“He can’t speak.”
“Well, skulls aren’t in the habit of speaking. They lack the organs to do so.”
The liquid in the jar shifted from blue to red and began bubbling.
“Calm down, Jim,” Tycho said. “Listen, we’re not gonna talk about the incident . Save that if I hadn’t acted that fast, you’d be lost to the aether.”
The red liquid somehow grew deeper in color.
Tycho frowned. “Well, I’m sure the aether wouldn’t be much fun. It’s nothing . At the least, you’re among friends.”
The skull seemed somewhat placated at that and settled to the bottom of the jar.
“So. Teachers,” Gabe said, setting the jar atop a stack of boxes.
“Professors,” Tycho corrected. “Are you surprised?”
“Kinda. Ozpin didn’t like us.”
“He did not ,” Tycho said. “But he allowed us to graduate with full honors.”
“This is some fuckin’ weird shit.”
Gabe paused in his packing, having finished his side of the room. “Wanna do something tonight?”
Tycho glanced to his watch. Indeed, it had become late; the pair had been packing for hours, save a short break for a meal. “What were you thinking?”
Gabe raised an eyebrow in that knowing way. “Pub?”
Glynda Goodwitch’s frown deepened.
Ozpin raised an eyebrow. “You forget their skill,” he said. “If you’d like I can pull up the records of their practical examination.”
“It’s not that,” Glynda said.
“Then it’s their destructive tendencies.”
“It makes little difference,” Ozpin said. “Ever since their initiation I understood that they were unusual. The pair are certainly destructive, but pure interference has its own benefits in the right situation.”
The bar was decidedly seedy. Tycho had theorized, at points, that it was likely a front for organized crime; it certainly explained the disproportionately sized storage rooms in the blueprints. But it didn’t matter too much to Gabe and Tycho; the bar had been a valuable point of contact for informants and various other seedy types they’d encountered.
The pair entered and made a beeline to the bar.
“Jonathan Gabriel and Tycho Brahe — the defectives, ” the barkeep said. “You got a lot of nerve coming here after what you pulled.”
Gabe started, “Is this about the, uh —”
Tycho cut him off by slamming down money onto the counter. “Two beers, and a round of questions.”
“That’s no small amount you’ve got there,” the barkeep growled, two glasses slamming down onto the bar. “What would you like to know?”
“Crime,” Tycho said. “It’s up. I’d like to know why.”
The barkeep glanced back and forth furtively. “You understand they’ll have my neck if word gets out that I told you anything?”
“I understand,” Tycho said, producing another card from his pocket. “But this combined is enough for transport to Vacuo.”
The barkeeper's voice went quieter, barely audible above the bar’s nighttime din. “There’s a new ‘boss’. Apparently this rash of Dust theft has been part of some longer plan.”
Gabe raised an eyebrow. “Do you know who this boss is?”
“Nope. Orders come down through lackeys.”
“Then that’s it,” Tycho said, ending the conversation. “If you have any developments, call me.”
Traditionally their day started with coffee.
The coffee maker in their office was a gift from Gabe to Tycho around their mutual graduation. It was a fine machine and Tycho kept it well-maintained. Tycho enjoyed the beverage as unsullied as possible, while his counterpart preferred to flank it with cream and sugar and usually some other flavoring — but the pair did tend to start their day with coffee and usually cereal.
“Not a lot of stuff today,” Tycho said. “Haven’t had a proper job in damn near a month. This’ll be good pay, hopefully not much trouble. Finally, a case where we’re not in mortal peril every five minutes.”
Gabe finished his mouthful of cereal and spoke: “So if we’re teachers, what kind of students are we teaching?”
“Probably a few hard-working students,” Tycho said. “The type to naturally gravitate toward peculiar and unusual classes. And while this entire ordeal may merely be a farce to obfuscate our true purpose — that is, as private security reporting to Ozpin — I still want to make this a rewarding enterprise for whoever should find themselves under our tutelage.”
Gabe paused. “Again, that’s your shit.”
“Right,” Tycho said, hands steepled. “I’m going to have to draft a few lesson plans.”
Gabe sighed. “I’ll finish packing.”
Blake Belladonna had little need for extracurriculars but the necessary steps had to be taken to ensure she didn’t stand out; the less unusual she could appear the better.
Her perusal of the class list was done quick and methodically, ticking a mark at every class she was vaguely interested in, including what appeared to be a new arrival to the class roster: Literature Studies.
She could do with an hour or two of reading time.
Weiss Schnee didn’t want to seem overly enthused at the prospect of leaving; her facade was fairly opaque at this point. So it was with a steely demeanour that she rifled through the paperwork to finish her preparation for Beacon.
She marked down every extracurricular class that appeared to be in the realm of challenging. If things worked out, she’d be team leader and valedictorian all at once.
Glynda Goodwitch handed a list of classes off to the young girl.
“Oh, sweet,” she said, reading them over and marking particular ones off before coming to the end of the list. “Hey, what’s this one?”
The Professor took the list back and read the blurb that the girl pointed at. Then she sighed and handed it back. “Tycho Brahe’s class,” she said, as if the name was, in itself, telling of all that would occur within the class.
“Yeah, but what does that mean?” The girl snatched the list back and re-read the description. Then, as if gleaming something beyond the text, she marked her approval with a small “X”.
Goodwitch’s stoic demeanor broke at that. “Wait, why?”
“I, uh, think it means that he’s gonna talk about stories,” Ruby Rose said, bordering on a question.
Tycho, and to a lesser extent Gabe, noted the arrival of students with no small amount of trepidation along with some small level of curiosity. The incoming students’ initiation went by with requisite fanfare; the students were appropriately sorted into teams bearing vaguely word-like acronyms.
Literature Class finally rolled around a week or so into the term.
Not two steps into the door, Weiss Schnee was beset upon by Ruby Rose, whose Semblance was, apparently, the ability to be in every single one of her classes.
“Hello,” Weiss said, slightly frowning.
Ruby’s smile grew even wider, somehow. “I didn’t know you had this class!”
“I do,” Weiss muttered, sitting at a desk and looking around.
Professor Brahe (and Gabriel)’s classroom, not that Weiss would have known, was littered with trophies of various types: not the garish meat-trophies Port might display or the traditional sport-type ones in Beacon’s trophy room but rather mementos with deep sentimental value to the detectives.
All Weiss saw was a bunch of shit, though.
“Is that a skull in a jar?! So cool,” Ruby said.
The liquid around the skull turned slightly pink, as if it were blushing.
At once, a door was thrown violently open. “Good afternoon,” a man said, emerging from the doorway. “Welcome to Literature.”
Chapter 2: Gabe and Tycho Are Dead
Literature Class was in session.
“Let’s begin with a quick discussion of the two tenets of this class,” Tycho said. “We have, on one end, the technique, what methods the author uses, and the theme, which is what the author attempts to convey through technique.”
And then the door slammed open.
“I got your books, motherfuckers,” Gabe yelled, before realizing that maybe he ought not to curse. “I mean...monkey-fighters.”
“Thank you, Gabriel,” Tycho said, pinching his brow.
Class had been dismissed for the day, and team RWBY (sans Yang) were making their way back to the dorms.
“What the fuck was that class,” Blake muttered to herself.
“Professor Brahe seems... adequate,” Weiss evaluated. “Professor Gabriel is unsuited for a teaching position, but is seems he’s really a glorified assistant.”
“That was really great,” Ruby said.
“I was expecting quiet contemplation, ” Blake murmured. “Not whatever that was.”
The office adjoining the recently christened Literature classroom had quickly become the old detective office’s mirror in a great many regards, mostly owing to the fact that the pair hauled all their shit into it. It was, for one person, a fairly comfortable space with room to work and see students. But for two, it was much less spacious and much more cramped, especially owing to the various pieces of memorabilia they had decided to display. “If we’re going to be staying here for a couple months,” Tycho reasoned, “we may as well make it feel like home .”
So it was that the pair were sitting in the office, Gabe sketching out a couple new weapon ideas while laying on a loveseat and Tycho perusing a collection of poems at his desk.
“This shit’s about to come apart at the seams,” Gabe remarked.
“Are you talking about your design, or the current situation?”
“My weapon. Well, both, I guess. What’s your, uh, read? ”
“Ozpin is, by nature, secretive.” Tycho closed the book with a solid thump . “I suspect he’s found a partner to play a long and protracted game of chess against.” He paused. “That wasn’t literal. I mean there’s someone out there scheming against him.”
“General Ironwood,” Gabe posited.
“No,” Tycho said, steepling his fingers. “The pair have had tension, but never outright animosity. I suspect it’s either what I was called in for: something or one capable of manipulating Grimm; or it is what has apparently been plaguing Vale and what you were called in for: the new crime boss .”
“Or,” Gabe said, with a gasp, “it’s both. They’re the same .”
Tycho’s mouth remained closed but widened into a grimace. “No, Gabriel. This isn’t a film serial. Not everything is a plot that can be traced to one person.”
“But what if it was, ” Gabe repeated.
The next morning was one of minor tragedy, even if it was the weekend. They’d neglected to buy coffee in Vale, and the soonest they could was later that day. And so it was that Tycho found himself entering the staff room, where the diluted elixir was kept.
“G’d morning,” Tycho mumbled blearily.
Oobleck responded instantly, mouth already firing at full cylinders. “Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether —”
Tycho ceased to listen; he suspected Oobleck had laced his own coffee with some eldritch liquid foretold by blind seers, namely, the small energy shots one sees on convenience store counters waiting for some new host to consume it. Oobleck in the morning didn’t need coffee ; even without the beverage he was alert and moving at a normal pace. Coffee sent him into overdrive.
Ignoring the man, Tycho moved to the coffee maker and poured himself a cup from the chalice. The holy brew was still somewhat hot. It was by necessity that he drank coffee. His world was one of hazy confusion until he fully awoke and coffee (or tea, on occasion) was the magic beverage.
He poured another, separate mug for his partner. This one he dropped a healthy amount of milk and an almost unhealthy amount of sugar in and then silently stirred it as Oobleck rambled on about some inane shit.
“I’ve got to handle some class prep,” Tycho said, almost coherently, before walking out with both mugs in hand.
“But it’s the weekend!”
Gabe cradled his coffee in his hands. “Fuck mornings,” he grumbled, before drinking deeply of the brew. “What do you want to do today?”
“We have a meeting with Ozpin,” Tycho said. “He wants to explain precisely what he wants us to handle.”
Gabe snorted. “I mean, I’d say we’re pretty capable of figuring things out. Or at least I am. I dunno about you.”
“Sure,” Tycho mumbled, “but why us? The Vale Police employ detectives with enough cash and political backing to do anything Ozpin would want, and he has the exact set of people already employed here that would want to investigate unusual Grimm activity.”
“Fresh eyes,” Gabe said. “Someone without his biases to look at the problem.”
“I’d say it’s time to hit the city. See if we can glean anything else from the bars and shit,” Tycho said, cracking his knuckles.
“So remember that time that we kinda stole back that one thing from that one guy who said he’d break our legs if we didn’t walk away?” Tycho asked Gabe.
Gabe writhed a little before sputtering out, “Yeah.”
“Well, he might have seen me breaking in,” Tycho coughed.
The pair were lying on the pavement, but they were also lying in what had once been a large glass window. It had ceased to be a window and had quickly become a vector for inflicting torment .
And it was raining, Tycho thought to himself.
He carefully lifted himself off the glass and helped Gabriel onto his feet.
The two thugs that had been the immediate cause of all this stepped out of the bar and calmly walked to the two men.
Gabe looked over at Tycho. “Fighting time?”
Tycho gave a short, sharp nod. “Fighting time.”
Within an instant Gabe was moving. Two gauntlets had emerged from what had seemed to be incredibly fashionable bracelets, and Gabe was already in the process of delivering a hook to the first man’s body. At the point of impact, a loud crack tore through the air and the man was sent stumbling back.
Simultaneously, Tycho reached into his longcoat and drew a collapsible lever-action shotgun, firing it twice into the other thug.
Tycho sidled up alongside Gabe. “Did you get a good count in the bar?”
Gabe looked “Four, at best. Maybe ten, or more.”
Immediately, they broke into a run toward the parking lot.
Gabe leaped into the driver’s seat of their oft-abused car, Tycho taking shotgun. With a lurch, the car started and Gabe threw the machine into reverse.
“Yeah,” Tycho said, watching a stream of men pour into the parking lot. “I think the entire bar was that guy’s thugs.”
The car sped well out of the parking lot before anyone could react.
Gabe grumbled to himself before speaking up. “So what did you learn?”
“Well,” Tycho began, “there’s been a lot of talk about if these heists are corporate maneuvering to try and get a Dust monopoly, but nobody knows who would aim to do such a thing aside from Schnee, and they’ve been hit the hardest.”
“So it’s not,” Gabe said. “You hear about this fuckin’ shipment, though? Schnee’s sending over a metric fuckton of Dust soon. Nobody wants to touch it with a ten-foot pole because it’s so heavily guarded.”
Tycho nodded and steepled his hands. “So it’s going to be hit by these guys.”
“Oh, shit yes,” Gabe said.
“Well, let’s load up.”
Literature Class was just getting underway as Gabe slipped into the room.
“Okay, yeah.” Tycho walked up to the blackboard. “Let’s talk about the general history of contemporary literature. I don’t expect you to take too detailed of notes, but this lecture will be forming the backbone of our curriculum.”
The class grumbled in acknowledgement.
“We’re not talking about movies, comic books, or the lighter novels you’ve read,” Tycho said. “No, no. Literature, as I explained, is about discussing themes, and on occasion critiquing society as a whole.”
Tycho scrawled “THEMES” on the board. “When you talk about themes, there’s a couple waves we’ve seen since the War, which is when we separate contemporary and more classical fiction. First, we have the general disillusionment with society among veterans and those touched directly by the War. This was dubbed the Lost Generation, and their stories and poems concern alienation and anti-war themes.”
Tycho turned toward the class. “We have the Modernists, a movement which is still somewhat puttering on to this day. The bulk of their work concerns a lack of meaning in the world and a general distaste for traditional conventions run through novels and plays written in this period.”
Tycho took a deep breath and scratched the stubble that was forming on his chin before continuing. “Lastly, we have the Faunus Renaissance. A lot of notable literature emerged from the Faunus Rights Revolution, some really fascinating pieces. A lot of Faunus writers found a method of venting their troubles and frustrations with society and, uh, there you have it. This massive body of work concerning themes like crime, oppression, and, well, cruelty.”
Tycho finally noticed Gabe at the side of the room. “Class, uh, dismissed,” he called out as they walked over to the office.
“But we have, like, an hour left,” Weiss piped up.
“Something came up,” Tycho yelled back through the door.
From their vantage point at the top of a nearby crane, the pair could see the docks pretty well.
The entire place was completely and totally still. Which, to Tycho’s mind, was suspicious. A shipment of this size wouldn’t be brazenly unguarded during the hours in which a theft was most likely.
“It’s bait,” he murmured, peering through the scope of a sniper rifle. “There’s probably a tracking device or two in those crates.”
“When did you get a sniper rifle?” Gabe asked.
“Earlier today,” Tycho said, holding the rifle out for Gabe to take. “Do you want to try?”
“Hell yes.” Gabe grabbed the rifle and peered down the scope.
Tycho whipped out a pair of binoculars and continued to survey the scene. “I suggest we don’t make a move here, then. If Atlas’s military planted bugs in these crates, then, well, we don’t want to prevent that from happening.”
“We’re not alone,” Gabe said. “There’s two guys over on that storage crate.” He adjusted his scope’s focus. “What the fuck? One of them is wearing, like, white and blue. That’s the opposite of camouflage! And he’s wearing his shirt open?!”
“I see them,” Tycho said. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Those can’t even be second-years. We might have to bail them out if they try and engage.”
And then the distinct sound of engines approaching echoed through the dock.
“Shit,” Tycho said. “That is bad.”
Light flooded the docks as the Bullhead whirred in, slowly descending near the shipment.
“Hand me the rifle,” Tycho said, passing a radio to Gabe. “Once the fighting starts, I’ll try and cover you.”
“Who are they?”
Tycho zoomed in to see the detailing of their uniforms. “Shit. Fuck. Shitfuck,” he muttered. “The White Fang. And...Roman Torchwick?”
“Uh, your kids are on the move.”
“Alright,” Tycho said, “you’re up, Gabe.”
Gabe nodded before leaping off the crane.
If Roman Torchwick loved anything, it was the thrill of a job that went just south enough to be fun. It was the reason he chose an ostentatious outfit and a distinctive weapon — hell, it was perhaps the very reason for his existence.
So when a Huntress-in-Training determined that the best option was to hold him hostage, well, he wasn’t particularly mad. She was raving about him being human scum or some shit. It was refreshing to see someone else who enjoyed theatrics.
And then a sniper bullet grazed his hat, sending it flying.
“Fuck, missed,” Tycho said, cycling the bolt. “Gabe, do you copy?”
“Yeah,” Gabe said through Tycho’s earpiece. “Uh, so was that your rifle? It was really fucking loud.”
“Yeah, shut your goddamn mouth,” Tycho said. “We’ve got two more ships incoming, probably packed with soldiers. You ready?”
“Yeah,” Gabe replied, unzipping the bulky coat he’d worn to not stand out that much among the dark colors of the docks. “Let’s fuck shit up. ”
With a flurry of motion, he emerged from his hiding spot, discarding his coat.
The first White Fang member caught Gabe’s jacket with his face before Gabe slammed him with a shotgun-assisted haymaker. The second closest caught a open-palm strike.
Gabe looked up as at least a dozen more White Fang soldiers rappelled down onto the docks.
To the Little Black Huntress’s credit, she’d actually been putting up a fight, and Roman could appreciate that. Granted, she had help — between the sniper who’d ruined his favorite caper hat and her buddy with the staf, Roman was running a couple different battles in his head. So they’d been able to score a couple hits on him, but it wasn’t like he was a stranger to roughhousing.
It definitely seemed like the White Fang were occupied with the other fucker who’d shown up. He heard a sickening crunch from a man being pivoted on that fucker’s hip straight onto the pavement and admitted that that wasn’t his blend of roughhousing.
Well, Roman could handle a couple kids.
The idiot who didn’t even bother to button his shirt launched himself at Roman, his staff splitting into nunchucks, which also appeared to be rifles. Roman deflected each rifle’s blast with ease, but Little Black slipped into his peripheral vision too late for him to react as she connected with a solid hit.
What was the first step to an encounter like this? Divide and conquer. If he could focus on one, it’d be a piece of cake to finish both.
He spied a crane, abandoned with its cargo still dangling precariously above the pair. He took aim and carefully fired. It was too telegraphed, as he figured, and they dodged out of the way.
But, well, the monkey rolled right against the barrel of Roman’s gun.
Ruby wasn’t sure what she was expecting as she scrambled to the top of the rooftop.
Things had been far too tumultuous for her. Literature Class’s lone session a week had been cut off ten minutes in, and the professors had been absent from their office the next day. Then Weiss and Blake had gotten in a huge fight and Blake had run off and it was confusing and disorienting. She didn’t really know what was going on and it scared her.
So she was kinda out of it and now she was pursuing gunshots and explosions she’d heard at the docks.
So she wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but Torchwick would have been pretty expected, all things considered.
“Hey,” she yelled.
He clearly wasn’t fooling around and instantly shot straight at her the moment she shouted..
And then Penny jumped off the roof and a multitude of swords seemed to come out of her back.
“Holy shit,” Tycho said into his radio. “Are you seeing this? Because I haven’t had a trip this intense since —”
“It’s fucking real,” Gabe said. “It’s fucking real.”
Roman boarded the last Bullhead — the one designated as the fallback in case this sort of thing happened — and looked out at the wreckage.
First, he looked at the two Bullheads that had been cleaved in half.
Then, he looked at the one that had been, evidently, harpooned and brought down by a little girl.
“Yeah, I’m fucking done for the day,” he said, shutting the door.
Chapter 3: Mr. Roboto
The streets of Vale were not packed, but there was a minor bustle .
“I don’t see why I had to come on your book shopping,” Gabe said, moving along at a steady shuffle.
Tycho sighed. “Because otherwise you’d be stuck at Beacon until I came back. And also, this place does have some art books. I was curious if you needed any more.”
The bookstore appeared to be closed at first blush. “That’s funny,” Tycho murmured. “Tukson doesn’t darken his blinds until night.”
Gabe unfurled his gauntlets.
“Good call,” Tycho said, drawing his revolver. He opened the door slowly.
Tukson was splayed out against the counter, blood oozing from various wounds. The store was a wreck, with birdshot littering the shelves and claw marks marring almost every surface within reach.
“Yo,” the man coughed out.
“Get me a fucking doctor,” Tycho said.
“You made sure to kill him,” Cinder said.
“Oh, we definitely killed him,” Emerald said.
“I’m pretty sure we killed him,” Mercury said.
Cinder tossed a pair of photographs onto the table. “So why was he rushed to the hospital?”
“Fuck,” Emerald murmured.
“I told you guys,” Roman interjected. “I’ve got this covered. Unlike you, I know that one doesn’t need physical strength to commit murder .”
“You’re on thin ice,” Cinder spoke. “Roman procrastinated, certainly. But now Tukson is in the hospital, not to mention under Vale Police’s constant guard.” She paused, taking it all in. “And he’s seen your faces.”
Mercury attempted to laugh it off.
“Not funny,” Cinder said. “We’re already treading dangerous ground by infiltrating Beacon and now you bring me the good news that you’ve fucked up in the worst way possible.” She gestured to the piles of Dust crates and containers that littered the warehouse. “Roman, take all this and the White Fang out of the city after the rally. Preferably somewhere the police wouldn’t look.” She turned back to Emerald and Mercury. “If either of you act out of turn up at Beacon I’ll leave your corpse in a ditch in the forest.”
Tukson’s lodgings, the floor above his store, were rather humble, consisting of a shabby kitchen that felt too small and a bedroom with a tiny bed and a closet holding a few changes of clothes.
Gabe shrugged. “So how do you know this guy?”
“Well, Tukson and I go way back,” Tycho began, brushing his hands across the wall, “and he wasn’t always a used book salesman.”
“Like...a new book salesman?”
“No,” Tycho said, feeling along the inside edge of the closet. “We met when, uh, I worked with the White Fang. It was many, many years back, when the White Fang wasn’t fucked up.” He paused for a moment in investigation. “Aha.” He lifted out a false panel from the side of the closet.
“What did you find?”
“Bug-out bag,” Tycho said, plucking the items out and setting them on the bed. “Gun, too. Money. A few false ID documents.”
Gabe nodded. “What’s the next move?”
“Well, between the heist a couple months back and the attempt on Tukson, I’d say the White Fang are due for a little visit,” Tycho murmured, “There’s a recruiting drive this weekend. And make sure to load up. This could get messy.”
If the Vale Hospital were more generic, it would be a film set. Tycho paused at the threshold of the room before stepping in. The man was sitting upright on a hospital bed, watching a television turned almost all the way down. “Hey,” Tukson grumbled out. “Thanks, by the way.”
“Of course,” Tycho responded. “The doctor tells me you’re healing nicely.”
“I’ve always been quick to bounce back,” Tukson said.
“Yeah,” Tycho said. “Hope the cops haven’t been grilling you too much to distract from your recovery.”
“Fucking cops,” Tukson grumbled. “Even back in the day they were a hassle. I’m not a criminal. We weren’t criminals, back then. It was a campaign of nonviolence. Before the dark times.”
“What happened?” Tycho asked, rhetorically.
“Fang fucked up,” Tukson growled. “Tore itself apart, tore people apart. I remember when people would leave, and they wouldn’t be shot.”
“Well,” Tycho said, grabbing his jacket. “Here’s a card. Gabe drew a little sketch for you.”
Tukson took the card and, with a quick flick of a claw, opened it. “Thanks,” he said, looking at the contents.
“It’ll...be a while.”
“Stay safe,” Tukson replied.
The battered car sped down the freeway toward the industrial district.
“I’m just saying, we shouldn’t have stopped for dinner,” Gabe grumbled, eyes on the road.
“You were hungry, I was hungry. Fifteen minute detour to grab burgers isn’t going to make a difference,” Tycho said, unwrapping his food. “I’ve been to two or three of this sort of thing. There’s a lot of talking and shouting beforehand. We’ll make it.”
And then a car landed right beside them, upside down.
“You just had to fucking jinx it,” Gabe yelled, swerving through increasingly chaotic traffic. “You and your big fucking mouth.”
“That is a giant robot,” Tycho said, looking in the rear-view mirror.
Indeed, a giant made of steel was rampaging down the highway towards them.
“Yeah,” Gabe said. “You’ve just got your shotgun?”
“I mean, I’ve also got a revolver, but I’m not packing enough to take something like that down, no,” Tycho responded, unfurling his gun. “Well, it doesn’t look like they’ve done much armor plating, at the least.”
“Wonderful,” Gabe said flatly.
At that moment, someone landed on their hood and immediately jumped straight off. Tycho was the first to react with, “Was that Blake Belladonna?”
Gabe, instead, yelled, “She just dented the shit out of my hood!”
And then their eyes went dead ahead as they noticed Weiss Schnee, coating the asphalt in a thick layer of incredibly slippery ice.
“We’re fucked,” Gabe forlornly foretold as the giant robot slid into the car, sending them all careening toward a barrier. The combined weight of all that steel tore through the concrete and sent them plummeting into an unused lot.
Tycho was disoriented for a few seconds and came back wedged between his seat and the dashboard. The door, as he quickly found, was jammed shut. “Fuck,” Tycho sputtered out. “I’m having a hell of a time here trying to get out of this panini of a car .”
“Relax,” Gabe said. “You’re not injured, right?”
“No,” Tycho said. “Aura low, but not injured.”
Outside, a series of crashes and gunshots, along with Ruby Rose’s battle cries, painted a picture of a rather impressive battle that neither of them could actually see.
“Car’s not on fire,” Gabe muttered.
“Thanks for the good news,” Tycho mumbled back. “Next time let’s see if we can’t get our car stuck in a liquor store .”
A resounding crash split the air. About two minutes of awkward silence later, voices approached. Yang Xiao-Long was the first voice to come into focus. “Alright, Rubes, you’re up!”
“W-what? No, you’re the social one!”
“You’re team leader,” Yang chirped. “You get to tell the civilians everything’s A-OK!”
“Uh, uh, I’m not good at talking with strangers...”
Tycho cleared his throat and raised his voice. “We’re stuck. Stop arguing and help us get the fuck out of this deathtrap .”
They could hear the air practically chill. After a bit, Ruby spoke. “Professor...s?”
“If you don’t open that door, I’m failing all of you,” Tycho growled.
Then, in his normal voice, “Except you, Yang. You’re not in my class.”
An hour later, the scene was swarming with police and Hunters. Unfortunately, this meant both Team RWBY and the detectives had been stuck answering questions for the better part of that time. Ozpin had called, at one point, and promised to send over a Bullhead to pick them all up once it all was done, but the end didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight.
“Oh, man,” Ruby said. “You should have seen the robot fall apart ! Me and Weiss hit it like pew, pew, pew, then Yang came in with this punch with Blake’s help!”
“Uh huh,” Tycho mumbled blearily. “Good teamwork.”
“Yeah,” Ruby agreed, nodding vigorously. “We’ve been hard at work, with the Vytal Festival coming up and all.”
Tycho nodded, silently sending up a wish for coffee.
“Hey, Professor, what was your team like?”
Tycho smiled despite his exhaustion. “It was good. We were good enough kids.”
Ruby looked down, then back up. “Did you know my mother?”
Tycho raised an eyebrow blearily. “Name?”
“Summer. Uh, Summer Rose. Well, you probably...uh...figured that out.”
“I think she graduated our freshmen year, or maybe sophomore,” Tycho said, slouching forward, conjuring memories from a long time ago. “We met in passing a couple times.”
“Yeah,” Ruby mumbled. “I don’t know.”
“Here’s a fuckin’ story,” Gabe said, sidling up with a tray of coffees. “Summer Rose was the best fighter in her entire year. She lost at the Vytal Festival to some bullshit third-rate hack. What was her name?”
“Valentine, I think. Or Rosalyn. I’m not sure. It might have been both.” Tycho took a coffee from Gabe and drank deeply. “There’s bound to be some archived footage in Beacon’s library, if you’re curious. Old records and stuff.”
Ruby’s eyes lit up.
“We’re not doing anything for the rest of the weekend,” Tycho said. “If you wanted to watch old tournament footage.”
“Here,” Gabe said, handing her a coffee before sitting down on the opposite side of Ruby. “It’s getting cold and this should give you some energy to endure a last round of Q-and-A. I asked and they’re finishing up with everyone, ‘cause it’s so late.”
“My dad never let me have any coffee,” Ruby said.
“It’s fine,” Gabe said. “You can maim a guy with that big ol’ blade you swing around. Really, coffee’s not gonna do much to you.”
“Yeah.” Tycho sipped his coffee. “Good day’s work.”
“Let’s get Ozpin to buy us a new car,” Gabe laughed out.
Chapter 4: Danse Macabre
Gabe leaned forward against the back of the chair he was sitting on. “This is great and all, but why did you bring your team?”
“Oh! Uh, they wanted to tag along,” Ruby said.
“Viewing old tournament footage is absolutely vital for developing a strategy,” Weiss said.
“Nice pun,” Yang said.
Weiss turned to Yang with an ice-cold glare.
Yang continued. “As for why we’re not all here, well, Blake’s getting some rest.”
Tycho’s voice resounded from the depths of the archives. “Oh good. I know sleep deprivation when I see it. I’ve seen that stare. I’ve stared that stare.”
“Hopefully she’s not too tired for the dance tonight,” Ruby mused.
“Ah yes, that’s happening,” Tycho yelled from the pits.
Gabe looked back into the shelves and yelled, “You need any help?”
“Nah, I’ve got it,” Tycho called back. A few moments later, he emerged from the abyss with a set of tapes. “Here we go.”
Ruby snatched one from the top of the stack. “Summer Rose vs. Rosalyn Valentine, Vytal Tournament Finals,” she read aloud. “Woah.”
“You don’t have many mementos,” Tycho observed.
“Yeah,” Ruby sighed. “It’s...complicated.”
Weiss rubbed her arm awkwardly as the conversation took a more personal tone.
“I mean, I didn’t know your mother very well. If you should ask anyone, ask Gabe. He hung out with them a fair bit,” Tycho said.
“‘Tis true,” Gabe mocked. “You hung out with them plenty, though. Remember that one time you challenged Qrow to a drinking contest?”
“ No ,” Tycho grumbled. “And if you’re looking to get into past mistakes, I’ve seen your old art.”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Gabe said. “ You wore a trench coat.”
“And you ate lunch alone on the roof.”
Weiss interjected: “Can we watch the video, here?”
“Sure,” Tycho said, setting up the video player.
Grainy footage rolled across the screen. Summer Rose was at top form, moving quickly and decisively, but her opponent’s strategy to run the clock down and whittle away at Summer from a distance thanks to her Semblance — short bursts of flight — proved to win out in the end. Ruby sat in stunned silence as the match played on. Soon enough, the tape came to an end as Summer gruffly accepted her opponent helping her up.
“Well, let’s compare notes,” Weiss said, looking to Yang and Ruby and distinctly noticing that neither of them had been writing. “Never mind.”
“Wow,” Ruby said. “I never knew my mother’s weapon was—”
“Hold on,” Weiss said. “So...stalling the match like that isn’t against the rules or anything?”
“Nah,” Tycho said. “If Valentine hadn’t had her Semblance, Summer could have easily put on enough pressure to finish her.”
“Yeah, she was on a tear that year,” Gabe continued. “Every match she was, like, rushdown city. You got any of those tapes?”
“Of course,” Tycho said.
“Put ‘em on,” Gabe said, blatantly giddy.
“I suppose preparations for the dance are complete,” Weiss relented. “Still, Ruby, Yang, take notes this time.”
The corridors of Beacon were almost empty. By this hour, most everybody was either at the dance or adjacent to it, save for the pair of detectives. Gabe had determined that the dance would be “boring” and Tycho had professed that he required the time to sort through the paperwork required for teaching.
And then, oddly, they found it a very miserable experience to sit alone in a room while, to their understanding, a massive party was being held. So they meandered over to the dance.
Ruby’s voice leapt out from the din: “Oh! Hey, Professors!”
“Good evening,” Tycho offered with a bow.
“Hey,” Gabe said.
“Welcome to the dance,” Ruby said, bashful. “Uh, there’s some refreshments and the like if you’re interested. Punch, uh, that sort of thing...”
“Excellent,” Tycho said. “Gabriel, I am off to procure snacks. And maybe...do something else.”
Gabe nodded and turned to Ruby. “So how’s it going?”
“Okay,” Ruby admitted. “I’m glad everyone’s having fun.”
“It’s very good,” Gabe said. “So you organized this?”
“Mostly Weiss and Yang did all the setup and decorating,” Ruby admitted. “I was too distracted with, uh, stuff. But I got to help with some of the compromising they had to do!”
“Well, that’s, uh, cool too,” Gabe murmured.
“Grib Grob! I have returned with snacks,” Tycho said, hauling a pair of small plates heaped with an assortment of cookies and brownies. At Ruby Rose’s pleading look, he relented. “You can have some too.”
“Yes sss ,” Ruby said, pilfering a pair of cookies.
“Well, you know what they say,” Tycho began, before concluding with, “I guess I don’t have an inspiring quote to say.” He drank deeply of the punch.
Beacon remained uncrowded as the two bid farewell to Ruby and set a course for their office.
“That was not the worst,” Gabe said, stretching. “Beats the time I hosted a murder mystery.”
“Didn’t Roger try to kill you on the reals ?”
Tycho stopped and frowned. “You ever get the feeling something really bad is about to ha--”
Abruptly, his Scroll began to ring with an incoming call. He slowly picked it up and answered it.
“Brahe. There’s been a break in at the CCT,” Glynda said. “Ozpin wants you both there, in your capacity as detectives, ASAP.”
“Got it,” Tycho said, hanging up. “Gabe, we’ve got a case.”
“Fill me in,” Tycho said, stepping into the elevator, an inspector and Gabe following.
“Break in,” the inspector said. “Three witnesses: three guards, and a student. Guards say the perp might have been a Huntress, and she was wearing a mask, and a sort of, uh, sneaking suit.”
Tycho raised an eyebrow at the scene.“You’ve taken statements, then?”
“Yeah, from the guards. Ozpin is getting the student’s.”
The elevator doors opened slowly. Gabe and Tycho stepped out and took it all in.
The control center was, to an extent, thrashed. In a way, Tycho was impressed that even a short fight could cause such damage. Screens were busted, keyboards had been bashed to the extent that keys had been wholly freed from their bonds, and the entire room smelled vaguely of cinders.
Tycho picked up what had been a screen embedded in a console. “Anything stolen?”
The inspector leaned against a broken workstation. “Doesn’t look like it, and none of the actual systems were damaged, ‘cause they’re heavily shielded. Tech boys say they can reroute the displays so they’ll be able to see what sorts of things the intruder was trying to pull up.”
“Two kinds of projectiles,” Gabe said, examining a wall. “Explosives, and sniper rounds, I think.”
“Fair guess,” Tycho said. “What are you thinking on the explosives, for weaponry?”
“Grenade launcher, possibly,” Gabe said.
“Fair enough,” Tycho said. “Is there anything more eclectic we might not be thinking of?”
“There was that asshole with the trick arrows,” Gabe said.
“Probably not,” Tycho said. “Besides, wasn’t he eaten by a Nevermore?”
“We’ve got the access logs,” a tech called out, from a laptop. Tycho hurried over and sat beside him. “Doesn’t really look like anything was pulled out from the database.”
“Yeah. No. Look at that entry,” Tycho said. “See, they weren’t trying to steal something. That’s an uploaded file .”
One of the techs cracked his knuckles as he sat at the makeshift workstation. They’d been able to fetch enough laptops from the basement to have a handful of workstations, the only issue being that the laptops were all at least twenty years old.
The tech began by pointing out an inconspicuous process. “See, this code here is to load another program on the side. It does that at launch, and if you weren’t looking for it, it’d just be one of the dozens of processes that occur during bootup.”
Tycho raised an eyebrow. “So what’s it doing, exactly?”
“Well, it sideloads this external code,” the tech muttered, pulling it up. “This one. It’s absurdly poorly commented and messy, but I think I’ve puzzled it out, with a bit of help. See, it’s not locking everything down. Whoever designed this wanted to be able to wrest control from the people in the command center.”
“So when does it activate?”
“I don’t know,” the tech admitted. “We’re looking at it, but there’s no hard coded timer. If I had to wager, there’s some signal that someone can broadcast to the CCT to activate it.”
Tycho nodded gravely. “And what are the chances of it spreading within the system?”
Another inspector hurried over. “Detectives! Ozpin, uh, wants to talk to you.”
“Ruby Rose,” Ozpin said, looking through the one way mirror into the questioning room. Without turning he handed a folder to Tycho. “She’s in your class.”
Tycho opened the folder and looked at the taken statement in his hands. “Says she went outside for some air. She saw someone strange skulking around and followed, weapon in hand.”
Ozpin took a sip of coffee. “What’s your read?”
“She’s a good kid,” Gabe said.
“Crime scene doesn’t look staged,” Tycho said, passing the documents to Gabe. “What was her weapon, again?”
A frown splayed itself across Ozpin’s face. “Rather interesting combination. Scythe and sniper rifle modes, plus a compact form for storage and transport.”
Gabe snapped his fingers. “That’d account for the sniper rounds.”
Ozpin turned somewhat stiffly to face the pair. “What’s the news from the crime scene?”
“There’s some fucked up computer shit,” Gabe said.
“The perpetrator planted a virus,” Tycho continued. “It might not be feasible, but I’d recommend taking the CCT down for a day or two.”
“It’s not,” Ozpin said, gravely. “The next scheduled maintenance is two and a half months from now.”
“That’s after the festival,” Gabe half-yelled.
“If one tower is taken offline, the rest of the system goes down,” Tycho said, dredging up memories of study.
“That’s stupid,” Gabe said. “How is that supposed to work, anyway?”
“Ask the designer,” Ozpin muttered, eyes shut in frustration. “I’d have to get the clear from everyone else to shut them down. They’d never accept it, and the bureaucrats would pitch a fit.”
“Well, it’s a problem,” Tycho said. “The entire system has been completely fucked .”
Tycho slammed their office door open. “I’ve had it with this fucking bureaucracy.”
Gabe slunk in behind. “Yeah. Real bullshit.”
Tycho tossed his jacket onto the couch and his scroll onto the desk. It promptly buzzed at him. “We have to do something,” he grumbled, falling into his chair and picking his scroll back up. “Let’s list options. Number one, we do nothing. Wait for the maintenance guys in a few months, remind Ozpin he needs his system cleared.”
“Bad,” Gabe summed up. “Vytal’s soon. If they somehow used the virus to disable the engines on the stadium, we’d be looking at a fucking magazine cover picture, right there. I’m talking, like, dead guys. Everywhere.”
“We could break in and disable it, if the CCT wasn’t the most secure system in the world,” Tycho grumbled, standing up. “So...that’s out.”
“Oh, oh, definitely,” Tycho said. “We are in a bad situation.”
“So what’s the plan?”
At that, the phone began to ring. Tycho picked it up gingerly.
“Oh, hey Ozpin,” Tycho said. “Been a long time since I’ve heard from you.”
“Sorry to keep you up,” Ozpin began, “but it’s urgent. One of our second-year teams ran a bit late on their mission, and the teacher who took them is laid up for a couple days in the hospital. So we’re down here reworking the first years’ mission schedule and I was curious if you two could handle taking a couple of first-years on their mission.”
“Oh, definitely,” Tycho said.
“Hi,” Jaune Arc said. “You’re...the detectives?”
“Yeah,” Tycho said. “Detectives Brahe and Gabriel of the Startling Developments Detective Agency.”
“Damn,” Gabe muttered. “I was hoping it was someone we knew.”
“I’m in your class, though,” Lie Ren said, raising a hand awkwardly. “All semester? I sit on the right side of the class?”
Chapter 5: Startling Developments
“Welcome to the office,” Tycho said. “There’s a couch, if you wanna sit down.”
“It sure is...cozy,” Pyrrha said, pushing a jar filled with jelly beans away from the edge of a shelf.
Their Vale office was still cluttered and disheveled, and the word “cozy” was a very liberal interpretation of the cramped, awkward rooms.
“Well, we’re between cases,” Tycho admitted, sitting down opposite a large screen and grabbing a controller. “You’re honestly free to have a seat. If we don’t get a case, not much happens. Our work is a frenzy of activity, punctuated by long periods of —”
Abruptly, the phone began to ring.
“—rest. Gabri-el, the Ever-Living, if you would?”
Gabe picked up the receiver. “Startling Developments Detective Agency, how may we help you?”
The Vale Hotel was grand, indeed. The lobby was massive and decorated in a manner that harkened back to styles that had gone out of style fifty years ago, and then had circled back around to being in style.
“I’m getting real horror movie vibes,” Tycho said.
“So wait,” Jaune said. “What exactly are we doing?”
“Well, this is a pretty interesting job,” Tycho began. “Huddle up.” They did so. “I don’t know how much you know about the un, sub, or supernatural, but this hotel is built directly over a leyline, if the Waters Map is correct. And they just called about unusual disturbances. Gabe, if you’ll explain our equipment?”
“This here is a psychopomp kit,” Gabe explained, opening his bag on the floor. “Don’t, uh, play with anything in here. Except these goggles. Those are pretty harmless. They just show energy.”
“Just in case, explain the dagger and the rounds,” Tycho said.
“Well, the knife and the rounds are coated in, uh, something that messes with these unnatural stuff. Spectral brides, demons, whatever.”
“Ah,” Jaune said, looking down into the bag. “What’s that little gold thing?”
Tycho smiled. “That, my friend, is a little device we call the Big Poppa.”
Pyrrha and Jaune looked at each other in mutual confusion.
“Because it hypnotizes ghosts,” Tycho attempted to explain. “Never mind.”
A man in an ill-fitting suit approached. “Ah, the detectives? The, uh, General Manager is ready for you.”
The office was, as many were, divided sharply in two, with one side displaying a collection of pictures and awards, and the other bearing a mere two chairs.
The lack of chairs made cramming six people into the office a rather difficult proposition. Nora and Gabe had, immediately, grabbed the chairs for themselves, leaving Tycho to stand along with the rest of JNPR.
“So,” the manager said.
“So,” Tycho said back.
“I thought there were only two of you.”
“Students up from Beacon,” Tycho explained.
“So. What seems to be the problem?”
“This,” the manager said.
A large curtain was set up on a wall on the fourth floor, so as to obscure something. As the manager pulled it aside, the “something” was revealed to be nothing.
“It’s a wall,” Nora said.
“Actually, there was a painting here,” the manager said. “Very old.”
Tycho raised an eyebrow. “How old?”
The manager furrowed his brow in confusion. “ Very .”
“Gabe, goggle me.”
Gabe wordlessly passed the goggles to Tycho, who donned them and immediately flicked them on. “Very high spectral readings,” he said. “What was the painting depicting?”
“It was a portrait,” the manager said.
Tycho frowned. “Realistic?”
“Dangerously,” the Scholar said, a frown settling on his face. “We’re likely dealing with a rather powerful artifact, if it leaves this sort of trace. How long has it been gone?”
Jaune raised his hand. “Uh, may I see?”
“Of course,” Tycho said, flicking the goggles off and passing them to the young Arc. “Switch’s on the right side.” Tycho blinked several times and turned to the manager. “So. This portrait. Did you ever see the back of the canvas, and was it cut or torn in any way?”
“Torn. It was actually a point of interest! You see, we had an expert investigate it, and what he determined was that it had once been the upper piece of a larger painting—”
“I know what it is, and likely where to find it,” Tycho said. “It’s a painting of what seems to be a man. And I have an inkling of who would do this.”
Gabe pointed both fingers as if they were guns. “Cultists?”
“Shit yeah. Crazy cultists.”
The car was especially cramped with six people in it. Jaune, as the last to get to the car, was splayed over the other members of his team, who had packed themselves into the backseat.
Gabe looked over at Tycho and then back at the road. “So what didn’t you tell him?”
Tycho shrugged. “I didn’t lie. Well, the painting is a bit more complex. The reason it is so realistic is that it acts, in effect, as a trap. A sort of tailor-made prison. Early Man sealed a god of destruction in this painting and tore him in two so as to prevent him from escaping.”
“That’s metal,” Nora said.
“Indeed,” Tycho said. “So, uh, I’ve got a location for this cult. I’m gonna warn you, these guys are, uh, something. I’m pretty sure they hate me.”
Pyrrha peeked out from behind Jaune’s head. “Why?”
Tycho looked back to make eye contact. “Well, back in the day , I started a lot of fights. Uh, not literal ones, for the most part. The debate over particular gods and their existence is rather hot . Or, for many, even the existence of things of supernatural nature.” He looked at Gabe. “Here, let me navigate this shit. Take a right up there.”
The road soon lead them out of Vale and up into the surrounding hills and forests.
About an hour and a half out, Tycho nudged Gabe. “Stop here,” Tycho said. “We need to approach with caution.”
“Right,” Gabe said, pulling over and cutting the engine.
Nora frowned and cocked her head. “So is this the bit where we break people’s legs?”
“Well, I’d like to start polite,” Tycho said, opening his door. “But depending on how much they like me, that may not be possible. Leg-breaking may be an eventuality. Everyone out. I’d, uh, like to talk strategy.”
JNPR filed out of the car. As they stretched their legs, Gabe opened the car’s trunk.
“This feels like a submachine gun job,” Tycho said, pulling the metal and wood contraption out of the car’s trunk and loading it.
Jaune sauntered over, his team shuffling behind him. “So, hey, what’s your plan?”
“The complex is laid out in a rectangle,” Tycho explained as the rest began to form a loose circle. He frowned. “None of you are, like, empowered with superspeed or invisibility, are you?”
“No,” Pyrrha said sheepishly. “We’re all specialized for combat, I suppose.”
Gabe nodded. “This is going to be loud, then.”
Tycho folded his arms. “Oh, undoubtedly. I imagine the front will be swarmed with guards by the time we approach. These guys are likely trained enough to fend off Grimm, so be prepared for anything out here. I mean, I guess you guys were also trained to fight against Grimm. But stay vigilant.”
The approach to the walled compound was easy. In fact, the gate had been slid open, seemingly for them.
Once they were in, though, the gate ground shut and a masked cultist appeared out of the lengthening shadows. “Scion of Brahe! We smelled your cursed blood a mile away.”
“Oh, hey guys,” Tycho said, as cultists appeared around them. He leaned toward Gabe and whispered, “How many?”
“Looks like nine,” Gabe whispered back.
“ Nine ?” Tycho turned back toward the cultists. “Hey! So we heard about this missing painting, and we were curious if you knew anything about it."
“We know nothing of it,” the head cultist said. “Leave now.”
“See, here’s the thing,” Tycho said, as casually as he could. “You can either give us this painting, because someone already paid us to get it. Or you can...not, and I shoot you several dozen times.”
The head cultist gave a discrete signal and weapons were drawn.
Tycho wasn’t even trying to be subtle: “Gabe. Hit the leader first.”
Gabe launched forward, slamming aside a cultist who attempted to block his path. He stopped before the head cultist and pummelled him with a short three punches, each punctuated with a blast.
And it descended into a brawl.
Nora had clashed instantly with a man wielding twin shortswords. He leapt in and out of range constantly, which was infuriating.
Then he caught a grenade with his stomach. She was pretty sure he survived , but a direct hit usually meant someone was out for the day.
A woman with a plain staff advanced into Ren’s space. His martial prowess was quickly put to the test as she pushed the offensive. Each swing was quickly deflected and soon he was advancing into her space, at a range where his attacks were most effective.
And then he heard Nora sing, “Hammer swing to the back~!" It, then, came as no surprise when Nora hit his opponent with her warhammer from behind.
Jaune, meanwhile, found himself facing a man with an absurdly large sword. He quickly determined that it didn’t really matter if it was sharp or not: the sheer amount of iron would be enough to cleave a tree in twain. He wondered the level of forgery in there, and for an instant contemplated on if the man’s Semblance was the ability to lift massive swords.
Jaune narrowly dodged two or three blows before the man came in with an overhand swing. The shield was up in an instant and directed the greatsword to land firmly in the ground as Jaune stabbed forward with the sword in his other hand.
“Hoo boy,” he murmured. “I just did that.”
Pyrrha admitted: they were a challenge. Two of them had apparently recognized her and the threat she posed and set themselves to occupy her. She wasn’t really complaining.
The first was a heavier man, with a greataxe. He was clearly the slower of the two, but his partner, a wiry, spindly man wearing what seemed like dozens of daggers, covered him with ease.
Greataxe advanced into attack range. She dodged the first two swings with ease, deflected the third with her shield, and narrowly diverted the fourth with her Semblance. The Daggerman moved in from the left with a dagger grasped firmly in each hand.
She flicked her weapon into rifle form and blasted Greataxe thrice in the chest as she moved back to dodge the dagger strike. Then, with a wave of her hand, she sent the dagger wielder spiraling into a nearby shack.
After the building folded inwards, she yelled a heartfelt, “Sorry!”
Gabe and Tycho had worked their way through two more and were on the last of the cultists.
He slowly backed away, adjusting a white mask to get a better view of the pair.
Gabe gave him a left hook to the head, which dislodged the mask a fair bit.
“Fuck, I can’t see,” he muttered, before tripping and falling all over himself.
“So,” Tycho began. “You know where this painting is?”
“Yeah, yeah,” the guard said, his mask in his hands. “There’s your goddamn painting.”
The painting was of a man, standing. One half of it was hung as a normal painting would be, but that half was the man’s legs down to the floor, so the effect was rather odd. The more normal half, a painting of a man from the waist up, was propped against the wall, sideways.
Tycho nodded. “Smart to keep it like that. Ensures nobody might see it from an angle that causes it to reform.”
Gabe donned the goggles again and flicked them on. “Yeah. That shit’s full of fucked-up energy.”
“Whatever,” the guard said. “I’m getting paid fuck-all for this job anyway.”
"In the dead of night, midway between the city and the compound, under the cover of trees, Gabe and Tycho dug a hole and placed the lower half of the painting in the earth.
“I’m not going to ask why you have a shovel in your car,” Jaune began, “but why do you have a shovel in your car? ”
“For grave situations,” Tycho said, blatantly tired. “Anyway. Gabe, take us home.”
It was well into the middle of the night by the time they got back to the office. In fact, it was morning, by technical definition.
“Alright, everyone,” Tycho said. “So, uh, I think if two people take each bed, then you four should be good. Then one of us will take the couch, I guess. Gabe, how comfortable did you make the sarcophagus?”
“Oh, way comfortable,” Gabe said. After a moment, he called out, “Dibs!”
“Wonderful,” Tycho said, instantly collapsing on the couch.
The lights were completely out.
Nora, and thereby Ren, had claimed the larger of the two beds and its accompanying room, leaving Jaune and Pyrrha to the smaller room.
Jaune’s right eye opened. “Yeah?”
Pyrrha sighed. “Do you...wonder about the future?”
Jaune let out a breath in response. “Yeah, I guess.”
“I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pyrrha said, looking up at the ceiling. “I didn’t ever really think about what would happen after I graduated. It was just tournament to tournament for me.”
Jaune snuggled further into the bed and pillows, ensconcing himself within a pile of blankets. “Well, what do you want to do?”
Pyrrha looked out the tiny window. “It’s not chance that I’m here, or that I met you and Ren and Nora. I want to help people. That’s my destiny, I think.”
Then they heard the sound of shuffling from the sarcophagus in the corner.
“You guys are gonna need to help me open this in the morning,” Gabe said, the sound of his voice muffled.
It was the next morning.
“Here is your painting,” Tycho said, handing the piece to the hotel’s general manager. “I’m going to tell you right now that there is no second half.”
“Really,” the hotel manager said, passing a check to Tycho. “Well, as we negotiated, here is your payment.”
As they left the hotel, Tycho said, “Excellent. Now, we go home and lounge . You four are welcome to hang out, by the way.”
And then, as from a distance, he heard the sound of explosions, before a section of the ground burst. Grimm poured forth from the hole almost immediately.
Tycho yelled, “Every time!” He strode purposefully to Gabe’s car and threw open the trunk and grabbed out a rather battered assault rifle with the name “Mabel” scratched into the stock. “You four! You know what the fuck to do.”
Ren offered, “Lounge around?”
Pyrrha elbowed him gently before drawing her weapons.
“Fighting time,” Gabe said.
Nora was almost immediately in the fray, hammer breaking the first line of Grimm. Ren was immediately at her back, pointing out targets and covering her reloads. Jaune and Pyrrha moved in deliberately toward a handful of Grimm who had broken off from the main group.
From a distant rooftop, a woman watched the battle with disinterest.
Well, it wasn’t the cornerstone of the operation, she conceded. Things were still on-track.
Her burner chimed with a text.
The woman frowned. His part was ostensibly over. Really, he hadn’t been necessary since the Dust heists. Not a huge loss.
>Mountain Glenn compromised.
>White Fang dispersing to backup camps.
Well, the plan did have contingencies for problems like this. She really didn’t like the situation, though. She wanted Vale and Beacon in one fell swoop, not the segmented fallback plans.
She sighed and stepped back inside.
May as well pretend to help a bit.
In the end, the battle was more a mop-up action. Enough capable combatants were nearby that the Grimm were taken down in less than fifteen minutes. No major loss of life occurred, and when all the after-action reports came out it was simply another act of the increasingly dangerous White Fang.
In their office, however, Gabe and Tycho ruminated.
“It’s clear that it’s all connected,” Tycho said. “The White Fang, Roman Torchwick, the CCT. Whatever is going on, the crime, everything.”
Gabe looked up from a sketch. “So what are we going to do?”
“Well, we figure things out,” Tycho said. “We’re technically detectives.” He paused. “I’m not sure Ozpin has been exactly transparent on whatever he’s been doing. I can smell secrets on him.”
“It might be ham,” Gabe posited earnestly. “Secrets and ham smell a lot alike.”
“Secrets and ham do have many likes alike,” Tycho said. “But it’s practically requisite for someone like Ozpin to hold secrets. Unfortunately, we need that information, because I guarantee that whatever he’s hiding is at the cornerstone of why this all happening.” Tycho rose to his feet. “That’s just the thing. Whatever schemes seem to be converging on the Vytal Festival, what motive do they serve? What purpose did the Dust heists achieve? Who serves to gain from hacking the CCT to seize control? Who would orchestrate a breach of Vale’s defenses?”
“So you’re saying that it goes beyond Roman Torchwick and the White Fang,” Gabe said.
“Exactly. Whoever is orchestrating this is deadly,” Tycho surmised, turning and pacing the small length of the office. “They’re smart. They know Vale and Beacon intimately. They, evidently, have a connection with people within Beacon, as evidenced by the sheer lack of anyone else present during the CCT infiltration.”
“I sure hope you’re not suggesting combing through every student’s records for inconsistencies,” Gabe said.
“I mean, we’re kinda fucked on evidence,” Tycho said. “If they were sloppy, Vale Police would have been on their ass two months ago. But no, a project of that caliber isn’t viable with just the two of us.” He ground his teeth together in frustration. “Patience again, then. They’ll fuck up somewhere .”
“This plan of theirs is really complex,” Gabe said.
Chapter 6: Vytal Signs
It was nearly autumn now; the leaves were beginning to change color. Whilst the mood surrounding Beacon and Vale as a whole was jubilant in wake of the impending Vytal Festival, one small office was set firmly in a dour mood.
Tycho Brahe sat at his desk, watching a small juicing automaton in a jar on a high shelf attempt to escape its prison. Gabe was splayed out on the couch, blatantly asleep.
There was only one thing worse than being bound for oblivion, Tycho contemplated, and that would be knowing you were bound for it. The computer virus in the CCT was being kept heavily under wraps, but Tycho knew it was only a matter of time before the whole mess came apart at the seams.
Well, he continued, one day reality would come apart at the seams. It probably wouldn’t be before the Vytal Festival ended, though.
He could hope.
A small ping on his Scroll roused him from his contemplation. He quickly opened the simple text message and flicked through its contents.
Satisfied, he stood up and gently shook Gabriel awake.
“Get up,” Tycho said.
Ruby Rose was bouncing off the walls with energy.
Well, maybe not, Weiss conceded. She knew what a really hyper Ruby was like, after several full batches of chocolate chip cookies, backed with probably enough milk to fill a child’s pool.
But Ruby was excited. Weiss was excited, too, and Blake, trailing a few paces behind them, was excited, and Yang, who was out grabbing lunch with her friends, was probably excited, too.
Ruby was moving up and down rhythmically as she walked. “Last class of the week! And then next week, tournament time!”
Weiss gave a contented smile. “Nervous?”
“Never,” Ruby said. “You, you would not believe how much studying I’ve been doing.”
“I would,” Weiss replied. “I’ve been in the trenches with you, after all.”
“We’re gonna do so, so well,” Ruby said.
“One more class,” Blake said, a hint of trepidation and excitement leaking into her usual deadpan demeanor.
They opened the door of the Literature classroom and filed off to their little section of the lecture hall.
The office door opened hesitantly.
“Hey, guys,” Gabe said. “Uh, Tycho’s not here. I think he went insane and decided to live in the library. So...I guess it’s my class now.”
The class was rather apathetic to that.
“Today,” Gabe supplied, pulling down a projector screen, and flicking off the lights, “we talk about unicorns.”
“What,” Blake and Weiss muttered.
In recent weeks, the library had become the frequent haunt of Tycho Brahe. Well, more frequent than usual. This time it was a haunt with purpose, and that marked a difference from the hauntings of his youth. His domain was the five long rows of shelves detailing Grimm Research and Theories.
Oh, and the nearby table where he actually sat.
“Yo,” Gabe said, sliding up to the table. “Dinner?”
Tycho peered out from behind the tome he was consuming. “Already?”
Gabe checked his Scroll for the time. “I’ve actually been hungry for a billion years,” he said.
“Right,” Tycho murmured, his stomach grumbling at the mention of food. “Take-out?”
“Alright,” Yang said, shadowboxing in the middle of their dorm room. “What are we looking at, tomorrow?”
Ruby shrugged. “Bracket’s all random, done just before the match.”
“That’s weird,” Yang said, bouncing left and right before throwing a left hook. “Do you think they did any sort of seeding?”
Ruby shrugged even harder. “I’m not in control!”
“Well,” Yang said, dropping to a relaxed pose and turning to her sister. “Looks like we'll just have to rock ultimate tomorrow. When are pools?”
“Ten,” Blake and Weiss supplied simultaneously.
“In the morning,” Ruby added meekly.
The set of books Tycho had grabbed from the library sat on his desk as they ate, a monolith that beckoned Tycho back into its waiting grasp.
The cheap take-out Gabe had ordered was rice and chicken slathered in sweet-and-sour sauce. It wasn’t healthy, but it got the job done.
“So what did you find today?” Gabe asked.
“It’s fascinating,” Tycho began. “So. Grimm tend to have rather simple minds, but not always! When they get older, they get smarter, somehow.”
Gabe nodded, devouring his food.
“Nobody knows exactly what drives them, though,” Tycho said. “It’s all hypothesis. Nobody knows what they eat or why they’re attracted to negative emotions.”
“Uh huh,” Gabe said.
“So. In short, A Treatise On Grimm discusses the hypothetical Grimm above Grimm, that which commands the Grimm. Then, Concerning A Treatise On Grimm is about how Grimm work in packs or alone and they’re feral, constantly.” Tycho descended into a fervent state. “And An Open Letter To The Writer of Concerning A Treatise On Grimm —”
“Stop,” Gabe said. “I don’t really care.”
“Oh,” Tycho said.
Gabe resumed eating. “How’s Anne-Claire? You mentioned she got a job?”
“Yeah,” Tycho said. “She’s an engineer for the Atlas Military now, working on one of their big projects.”
“Is it that giant robot that we didn’t fight?”
“I think, yeah,” Tycho responded.
Gabe tilted his head. “Is she working on the problem that a girl punched it so hard, it exploded?”
“I’d certainly hope so,” Tycho said. “She’s attached to the robotics division somehow, at least.”
“Well, that’s cool,” Gabe murmured.
Tycho closed the takeout container he’d been eating from and placed it in the fridge before sighing. He stood there, looking at the fridge for a moment before shutting it and turning to Gabe.
“This is a fucking Snipe Hunt situation,” Tycho ground out. “Ozpin asked about something he knows the answer to so I got to run around looking for shit instead of actually, you know, telling me. Us. Whatever. ”
“So,” Gabe muttered. “What do we do?”
“We fucking dive in full bore on this detective work,” Tycho outlined, gesticulating wildly. “We fuck shit up!”
Commence montage music.
The detectives feverishly pored over the reports from the CCT break-in. Grainy and cut off security footage was procured. Specific details varied, but a handful of constants remained: mainly that the perpetrator was in the upper five foot range, female, black hair, with a distinctive weapon.
Tycho requested the visitor forms from the night of the dance and received an irate email back along with a collection of files. The Vale Police pulled up various files at their request: Roman Torchwick’s known associates, Adam Taurus’s known associates, known White Fang radicals.
Every one of them was a dead end.
Gabe, frustrated, put in increasing amounts of time with a heavy bag.
The Vytal Festival Tournament was already well underway when they closed the case out of a lack of evidence.
The next day, Gabe had done little but sit in the office catching up on the matches he’d missed. He’d gotten through the initial two rounds by setting the playback speed to double and skipping over matches he thought were uninteresting, and now he was watching the livestream from the arena.
Tycho entered and dropped into his seat, passing a burrito over to his partner. “Where are we at?”
“Singles,” Gabe said. “They’re wheeling out the finalists now.”
The feed panned over the finalists, all lined up.
“I know at least two of them,” Tycho said.
“Hey, it’s the punchy one,” Gabe said, pointing at Yang.
Yang Xiao Long was having a good time.
The first segment of the tournament had been a cakewalk. Doubles had been infuriating, in the heat of the moment, but it was a fun fight there at the end.
Oh yeah, and now she was facing off against this guy for Singles.
Mercury Black, from what she’d seen between his sparring matches before and his performance in the tournament itself, was similar enough to herself in that their weapons were both firmly attached to their limbs. The pre-battle analysis conducted by Ruby Rose had detailed that this meant they’d have to be at comparable but not exactly similar ranges to attack; his legs were slightly longer than her arms, so his sweetspot was slightly further out. But it also meant a far shorter range fight than a fight against Pyrrha or Sun.
There were other points of note, though.
His Aura wasn’t exactly the highest in the tournament, but it was nothing to scoff at.
It was likely that he was at least somewhat aware of her Semblance, so its tactical advantage was somewhat negated. Still, its power boost was nothing to scoff at.
The chances of it becoming a medium-to-long range fight for long were low. Opening salvo would be her fists against his greaves.
She mirrored his open-palm stance as they moved into close range.
The match began.
Yang opened with a right haymaker. It wouldn’t hit — his leg was coming in incredibly fast to deflect it. It impacted for no real damage. She backed out of range. He was playing a rushdown game now, moving back into close range.
Yang went for the showboating award and leapt over his rush, firing a blast as she touched the ground. She held position as he moved into striking range — too close, the range for hand to hand. She threw out punches and he deflected with ease before she caught him with a shotgun round to the chest.
Mercury staggered backwards, she moved even further out his range.
They were at medium range — she fired a couple shotgun bursts, and he continued dodging before rushing back in with a kick. She narrowly blocked it, went to sweep the leg.
His foot shoved her back, but she did a complete momentum reversal and launched herself into a flurry of attacks, a shotgun blast punctuating each. He was probably more coordinated on his feet, she conceded. But she was seeing cracks in his fighting, weak points to smash open.
She punched him in the solar plexus with enough force to send him flying backwards before launching a volley of shots. He moved back and back — there. One landed dead center and he tumbled down off the platform.
Before she even had a moment to start thinking about relaxing he’d launched himself back up onto the arena and they were trading blows again, his kicks against her fists.
This was the point where the opponent pulled out hidden weapons, she thought.
Mercury landed a kick designed specifically to send her into medium range. Right on cue he showed his hand: projectiles that encircled the two, forming a loose cage. He’d likely use them to force her into a limited space, try and pin her to a short area of movement.
She rushed in as he fired, hoping to catch him mid-turn, but his reaction time was no slouch and she found herself in a short combo to floor her.
And then all the hovering projectiles homed right in.
Yang blinked on the ground as the smoke from the tiny rockets dissipated. Mercury Black was dusting himself off, as if the match were about to be called.
He really didn’t know?
That actually made her a little angrier than she would normally be.
He hadn’t even bothered to study her at all?
Everything ignited. She was on her feet, a practical blur homing in on Mercury.
Mercury’s shock caused a slight lag in his actions. He barely brought his arms up into something like a block before Yang had set herself upon him, fists untamed. Her rhythm was methodical and fierce, each beat delivering a level of damage above what she’d been doing.
She saw his Aura shimmer and delivered one more punch to seal the match.
“You’ll have to come Black some other time.” Yang wiped sweat from her brow; her temper was still running a little high. She turned, starting in on calmer, focused breathing.
She detected an attack from behind, like a dagger to be planted in the victor’s back. She did an immediate about face and delivered a devastating counter.
And then Mercury Black was lying on the ground, cradling a broken kneecap and sobbing, and half a dozen Atlas soldiers were surrounding her.
Gabe frowned. “Hell of an ending.”
The screen was showing a slide that proclaimed “Footage is preparing, please wait warmly!” It had been like this for a solid minute.
“Did anyone bother to check these slides for quality control purposes?” Tycho asked.
Gabe turned. “This is a boondoggle.”
“It’s a fucking catastrophe,” Tycho said.
Chapter 7: Everything Is Catching On Fire
The next afternoon, a knock sounded on their office door.
“Come in,” Gabe yelled through the door.
“Good afternoon,” Qrow Branwen said, opening the door and stepping into their office.
“Oh, hey,” Gabe said, looking up from a revamped weapon design.
“Hello,” Tycho said, pretending to do work, and then glancing up from his pretend-work. “Not a social visit, I assume?”
“It isn’t,” Qrow ground out. “How you been, Gabe?”
“Okay,” Gabe said. “I mean, we’re getting paid. That’s nice.”
“That it is,” Qrow said, dropping onto the couch. “Oz has been up to his knees in paperwork and complaints after last night, so I guess I’m his emissary, now. Tonight, after the last match ends, Ozpin wants to see you both in his office.”
“Oh boy,” Tycho said, his voice deadpan.
Qrow chuckled. “Well, Oz isn’t exactly letting on why he wants to see you, but I suspect it’s dealing with...well, you’ll see.”
“I assume we’ll actually get some answers,” Tycho said.
“Depends on your questions,” Qrow said, somewhat playfully. “Well, I’ve gotta deliver another message, kids.” He rose to his feet.
The door had barely shut before Tycho asked, “What do you think?”
Gabe looked up from his sketch. “About what?”
Tycho frowned. “Ozpin. He’s finally giving us answers, after things have gone south. Last night, someone got fucked up. Why now?”
“Oh, yeah!” Gabe slammed a fist into his open palm. “Something was wrong with that footage, though. Like, it was weird.”
Tycho paused before nodding once, then two more times. “Do you wanna double check the recording?”
The sun had set by the time they got their footage and made it back into their office.
“Something’s fucked up right here.” Gabe frowned, before rewinding the footage and replaying it from the moment just before Yang Xiao Long delivered a debilitating punch to Mercury Black. “That’s not, like, how you would kneecap someone. That’s how you would counter someone throwing a haymaker, or something.”
“Why would Yang think he was attacking? He’s standing perfectly still,” Tycho said.
Gabe slammed his fist into his palm. “Like, uh, that one time! The guy who could cast illusions! He kept doing that same stupid shit and we kept attacking the air!”
“It was his Semblance,” Tycho said. “But...why would someone manipulate her into kneecapping a fucker? Aside from, like, cheating. But literally kneecapping their team wouldn’t do any good if they wanted to cheat. So what’s their game plan?”
“I don’t know,” Gabe said, glancing at the muted screen with a live feed of the tournament. “Oh, hey. That one girl’s up.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tycho said. “Pyrrha Nikos. Well, let’s watch this one match, then we figure out what the fuck is going on.”
First, Pyrrha Nikos used her Semblance to chop a robot girl into quarters.
Gabe let out a, “What the fuck?”
Then the pirate broadcast started.
Tycho joined in with his own, “What the fuck?”
And then all hell broke loose.
The hurry was real.
Someone, evidently, had the idea that maybe Grimm could be unleashed into Beacon and it’d be decidedly dangerous to everyone involved. It was a good idea, Tycho considered, just not one that really benefited him in any way at the moment. Or really benefited anyone, unless they wanted to destroy Beacon.
He ignored his body’s protests at sustained movement.
That was the end goal, then: Beacon’s fall. It wasn’t some attempt at mass murder or a heist of an underground treasure; whoever was behind this was going all in with an attack. They’d enlisted the White Fang, developed some sort of virus to hijack the CCT, and orchestrated the “mishaps” of the last couple rounds.
Speaking of, Tycho could see Atlas automatons turning against their creators, and ships marked with the White Fang’s sigil descending toward Beacon.
“Listen,” Tycho said, as they jogged. “Get to the docks, back them up. If you need me, hit me up with your Scroll.”
“Right,” Gabe said. “You?”
“White Fang,” Tycho puffed out.
Gabe nodded in understanding. His and Tycho’s paths split at that moment, and each ran toward their own destinations.
Gabe slammed a shoulder into one Grimm before pivoting and clocking another one.
He hadn’t had to run far before running into trouble. A large, sprawling courtyard just outside the library had become the home for a lot of Grimm, for some reason.
Things were not going well. At the least, he didn’t have to contend with robots or the White Fang in this sector. It was Grimm. Grimm were easy. This many Grimm were not as easy as, say, one or two, but it wasn’t his first rodeo.
He cleared a small perimeter with a leg sweep. The Grimm backed away and circled him.
And at that moment, the earth shook.
“Oh, fuck,” Gabe said, looking up at the dragon that had freshly emerged from the mountain.
A Grimm chose that moment to pounce; Gabe delivered it an uppercut with enough power to reach infinity in all eight directions.
“Who’s next?” he muttered.
Tycho grumbled, running toward what had been the dining hall. It had a skylight, now, which was nice, and he suspected it might end up being a splendid open air dining area. And it was on fire.
White Fang soldiers were in full force out here.
The revolver in his holster held six shots, and the speedloader had another six. The semi-automatic rifle held eight shots and could not be reloaded until its clip was ejected and he had two spare clips.
There were eight White Fang members between him and the entrance. The courtyard was relatively open and the major point of cover was the pedestal on which a statue stood gleaming and glaring.
If there were eight, then the calculations worked perfectly. Three revolver shots or two rifle shots would likely down a man. Four with the revolver and four with the rifle.
He slung the rifle over his shoulder and drew the revolver, running toward the first White Fang. He caught three bullets in the chest, and before he fell Tycho was already up against the man, using him as a shield.
Three in the next White Fang. He discarded the well-perforated shield and ducked behind an overturned bench to reload the revolver.
With his off-hand, he ejected the spent casings, bringing the speedloader up with the strong hand. Tycho completed the motion and was in a firing stance immediately, honing in on the next pair. Six more shots, and the revolver was empty and the pair were down. He took cover behind the statue.
Tycho holstered the revolver and immediately brought the rifle to bear on the final four White Fang as he moved out of cover. One by one, they fell. A distinct ping marked the end of the clip, and so Tycho reloaded. Then he ran.
A winded Tycho burst into the hall at the the exact moment that Yang Xiao-Long charged at what appeared to be the White Fang Commander.
Adam Taurus, his mind supplied, right as the man chopped through Yang’s right arm. The gauntlet and its attached flesh sailed through the air, landing with a dull thud against the floor.
Tycho was drawing his rifle into a firing position when a small noise to his back-left drew his attention.
A grenade had landed a moderate distance away. His eyes widened quite visibly as he drew his hands up to shield his face. The shockwave shoved him back against the wall and he blacked out.
Things had gotten progressively worse for Jonathan Gabriel. He could feel his Aura was decidedly on the lower end of the spectrum. The Grimm had been reinforced. His gauntlets were out of rounds, and his route to the docks was cut off.
He exhaled, his breath ragged and shuddering. He shifted stance, carefully protecting his sore right side.
The goal, now, was survival, then.
He shoved past a Beowolf and deflected the claw swipe of another before taking off in a sprint.
Gabe decided to make a quick stop at their office for his keys. Well, he supposed it would be their past office, if the situation here didn’t improve.
Someone had accidentally locked him out of the office proper, but the door wasn’t exactly sound construction. He shoved a gauntleted fist straight through and fumbled for the lock. With a click, it opened to reveal the same arrangement of desks and chairs he’d left behind.
No time to relax, he told himself.
He quickly tossed his sweat-drenched button-down shirt off and grabbed a faded yellow shirt from his desk drawer.
Tycho kept a bug out bag for two in the larger bottom drawer of his desk — pretty plain red backpack, with a smattering of canned goods and bottles of water, along with a first aid kit and some other supplies.
Gabe slung the bag over his shoulder before shoving anything else that seemed important into a large duffle bag. He grabbed Jim off the shelf and nabbed his car keys and sketchbook off of his desk before running out of the door.
The parking garage was empty of people. Well, a lone Grimm had taken up residence, but a handful of kicks to the skull and a fist to crush the mask-face solved that issue.
The car was thankfully undamaged — well, not undamaged beyond what it had already been — and so Gabe threw the bags in the bag and set Jim in the backseat before clambering into the driver’s seat.
The car lurched to a start and he sped out of the garage, smashing through the toll gate’s wooden arm.
He forced himself into minor breathing exercises as he drove down the road. The less agitated you were, the less Grimm wanted to decapitate you, he’d been taught. Granted, they’d still want to decapitate you.
He reached a sufficient calm and pulled over on the side of the road.
Tycho didn’t answer his Scroll. In fact, it went straight to voicemail, which was a bad sign.
He sighed and started the car again.
Neopolitan frowned as she walked along the side of the road.
Her inspection had revealed that her umbrella had been firmly thrashed by the winds and the blade had gotten stuck in the retracted position, which she’d need a few minutes at a workbench to sort out. Her outfit and hair were completely disheveled, too.
Not to mention that none of the crew were answering their Scrolls or their burners. Evidently, things hadn’t gone exactly according to plan.
Neo wasn’t even certain how much of the plan she’d even been given at this point.
They hadn’t exactly gone over the dragon during the briefing.
She wasn’t in a good mood.
(Were scythes in this year? She needed to check sometime.)
Well, the map on her Scroll said that there were a few small villages near Vale. She could probably head along the road, regroup, hitch or steal a ride, try and get somewhere. Roman had contacts in a lot of places. Except probably Menagerie. But that was the issue. She didn’t have those connections.
The sound of a car pulling up startled her. “Hey,” the driver called out, his window rolled down. “You...heading to the next village?”
Neo nodded vaguely.
“Aw, geez,” the man said. “Uh, you’re probably a student, right? No weapon, either?”
Neo didn’t look at her umbrella. She nodded again.
“Not, uh, big on words, then,” the man continued. “Well, if you wanna hop on in, I can take you up to the next village. I don’t know if you’re from Vale, or Patch, or another kingdom. I can try and find you some way of getting back home, though.”
Home. That was an alien thought. She supposed that Torchwick and his shitty, gross cigars were the closest thing she could define as home but he’d been up alone with that little Huntress and she supposed that maybe he’d gotten out but a reunion might not be in the cards.
Assuming he even survived.
She shrugged and got in.
“I’m Gabe, by the way,” the man said, popping a handful of mini-marshmallows into his mouth and offering the bag to Neo. “The skull in the back is Jim.”
Neo took the offered bag and popped a few in her mouth; then she pulled out her scroll to type out a question.
>Where are you headed?
“Nowhere, really,” Gabe said, putting the car in drive. “I mean...I don’t know where Tycho is, and Anne-Claire’s up in Atlas. I guess Charles is also up there, too. Jim said that maybe we could find a town along the shore, try and figure things out from there.”
Neo frowned and looked at the backseat. The skull in a jar was resting against the back left door and Gabe had evidently buckled it in.
>Sure. Sounds great.
Gabe shuffled awkwardly. “Well, here’s to new friends,” he said, putting the car back in drive.
Tycho awoke to a crudely built hospital. The sounds of his miserable, laborious rousing must have been a homing beacon, because a doctor was on him in seconds.
“Easy there,” the man said. “You’ve been out a couple days now.”
“Beacon,” Tycho coughed out.
“You’re on the island of Patch,” the doctor continued. “I know it might be hard, but I need you to look at your left leg.”
Tycho rose to a sitting position and looked at the stump where his left leg ended.