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If at First You Don't Succeed...

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Two garrison soldiers picked their way through the ruins of Trost district.

"I've never seen anything like it," one whispered as they scanned the myriad mix of titan and human bodies below them. "I mean, I was told they were fearless, but... shit... it was like they weren't even concerned they were going to die. That green eyed kid even tried to choke that titan on his way down. Didn't even try to get out, heard him screaming that he was at least going to take the titan down with him."

They both shuddered. "What are they teaching kids in basic these days?"

"Walls know." the first man replied. "Wouldn't want to have been that freckled kid though. That was gruesome. He said something right before that aberrant landed on him right?"

"Yeah. Not again."

"Not Again?"

"Yeah, doesn't make sense to me either."

The two of them landed on a rooftop and made their way to the body of a cadet splayed out flat on the roof, cracked tiles encircling him. One of the garrison men gave it a poke with his boot, the boy let out a groan.

"Sweet Sina!" the man gasped, "He's still alive?"

"Figures," Jean groaned, pushing himself up. "What happened? Last thing I remember was being grabbed by this fifteen meter and swallowed."

"It just spat you right out," the garrison man answered. "Flew over two blocks. It's amazing you're still alive."

"Figures. It just figures," Jean muttered, reaching into jacket and removing a battered hip flask. A battered hip flask suspiciously similar to the one Commander Pixis wore, and which had recently gone missing. Jean unscrewed the cap and took a swig. "What about my squad, any of the other cadets make it?"

The two men shared a glance. "No," one of them answered at last. "You're the only one we've found alive."

"Fuck!" Jean swore, taking another long swallow. "Those assholes left me to clean everything up by myself again!"

"Wha...?"

"It's all Jeager's idea, I'm sure of it," he snapped. "Don't go easy! Make of big mess of yourselves and let Jean clean it all up, because he never dies!"

He cast a disgusted look at a mess of blood, viscera, and loose limbs spread down across half the street below. He took another long swig. "And of course Sasha has to go making a big mess of it too, as usual. Potato Girl can't get it through her head that it's better for everyone if she just keeps herself in one piece instead of spreading assorted bits across half a block. FUCK! It's going to take hours to get this all cleaned up, and of course it never restarts until we've got everything into the pyre and swept away!"

The two garrison men shared an uneasy glance, and began backing away really slow.

---
The scene before her was nothing like Captain Rico Brzenska had ever seen before.

When she had heard that the cadets from the training complex had disregarded orders, she had expected to find them either hiding in terror, drinking themselves stupid in some abandoned wine cellar, or attempting to desert.

She had not expected to find them laid out on the rooftops surrounding Trost’s central plaza, eating popcorn and drinking obviously stolen wine.

She had also not expected to see two titans squaring off in the middle of the plaza. One had glowing green eyes, and a skull-like face, the other was blonde and very obviously female. Both seemed to possess both a level of intelligence and unarmed combat skills previously unheard of in titans.

“What is going on here?” She snarled turning towards a brown haired girl perched on a chimney pot. (Sasha Braus if she recalled correctly.) “What in the Rose’s name are you lot doing?”

It was a very intimidating display, one of her best. Sasha didn’t even flinch.

“Betting on titan fights,” the cadet answered, as if it should be obvious. “You want in? Odds are currently 25:1 for Eren, 5:1 for the female titan.”

“Eren?”

“Brown haired titan.”

Something clicked in Rico’s mind. “You’re saying that titan is Cadet Jeager!?”

Sasha looked at her blankly. “Who else would it be?”

The whole situation was absurd. There was no other way to look at it. They were in the middle of a battle for humanity’s existence, and these cadets were betting on two titans fighting. (One of which was apparently one of the cadets.)

It was then she noticed a titan approaching out of the corner of her eye. She was about to scream out a warning when Sasha beat her to the punch.

“Ymir’s got it.”

As if on cue there was a spray of blood from the titan’s neck, and the beast collapsed. The form of a figure in 3D gear was soon seen approaching them. The cadet skidded across the roof-tiles, coming to a perfect stop in front of them.

“Got more popcorn and wine,” Ymir stated, holding up a burlap sack.

“Where’s Marco?”

“Some idiot strung a metal clothesline across the street. Took his head right off.”

“Damn,” Sasha swore. “He’s going to be pissed he missed the end of the fight.”

---

The Armored Titan charged towards the final gate of Trost District, impervious to the cannon shot ricocheting off its armor plates. Unswerving and unstoppable, there was nothing anyone could do.

“Shit,” Armin muttered as the titan charged past him, and Bertholdt. “There goes my plan.”

Bertholdt didn’t say anything, he just glanced behind Armin. “Where’s Marco?”

“You know that ugly statue on that one mansion overlooking the MP offices?”

“The one with all those swords and hooks pointing outwards?”

“Right in front of that equally ugly stained glass window,” Armin finished. “Well Marco hit a banana peel when he landed. Sent him right into the statue and both of them right through the stained glass window. I think I heard dogs barking when he landed.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah…” Armin grimaced. “Where’s Reiner?”

Bertholdt wordlessly pointed towards the Armored Titan charging towards the gates.

“Shit,” Armin swore. “He got eaten by that thing again?”

Bertholdt didn’t say anything.

“The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be any real way to stop that thing when it gets up ahead of steam,” Armin muttered, more to himself than anything. “It just smashes right through the gates and then disappears like the colossal titan, and by that point the garrison is too busy trying to stave off the other titans to…” Armin suddenly started, in the way of a person who has just come to a simple, yet dramatic realization. “Of course…”

“What?” Bertholdt asked, a bead of nervous sweat trickling down his neck. That couldn’t be good.

“It’s so simple,” Armin muttered. “We don’t need to stop the armored titan. It doesn’t matter if the gates get destroyed!” He turned to Bertholdt, a terrifying expression on his face. “We just need to kill all the titans before they get to the gate!”

It was at that moment that Bertholdt really felt afraid.

---

The Scouting Legion knew something was wrong the moment they got within eyesight of Trost. There were numerous signs. The strange lack of titans, the massive plume of steam filling the sky, even the fact that the gates were gone.

That however, did nothing to prepare them for the sigh that greeted them inside.

There was a mountain of titan corpses piled in front of the gate. A literal mountain, its peak looked like it went up over the tops of the Walls, but it was hard to tell due to the massive cloud of steam emanating from the pile.

Even Hanji was rendered speechless.

“What happened?” Erwin whispered to a nearby stationary guard, who from all appearances appeared to be just as stupefied as they were.

“Th-they… they just…” the man seemed to have trouble organizing his thoughts. “They just killed them all!”

“Who?” Erwin asked in alarm.

“The cadets!” the man sputtered. “The ones that just graduated from the academy! The colossal titan appeared! It kicked in the gate, titans started pouring through and then… then those kids just started killing them. I’ve never seen anything like it. They even stopped for a break half-way through because they ran out of titans to kill and had to wait for more to show up. And then they just went at it again.”

It was then that a voice drifted out from somewhere in the steam.

“Two hours and thirty four minutes! Beat our record by a half hour!”

“Too bad Marco chocked to death on that hardtack during the break!” Another voice shouted. “We might have been able to shave another quarter hour off.”

“So we learn the Heimlich maneuver next time,” someone shouted back. “That should at least keep him from croaking before we’re over two-thirds of the way through them!”

“What about ways to lure more in. We could really beat our record if we didn’t have to wait for more to show up!”

“Military police covered in gravy?”

“Worth a shot.”

Erwin nudged Levi in the sides. “Remind me to ask Shadis what it is they’re feeding the kids in basic, and whether or not the Legion has the budget for it.”

Levi didn’t answer.

---