Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha / RWBY
Chapter One - Hard Landing
The sun had yet to rise, its imminent appearance apparent in the slow brightening of the horizon. The academy below was hidden in darkness, marred by points of light from streetlights and a scant few windows. The city beyond was quiet and dark as well, in those last moments before the populace stirred and awakened.
His footsteps echoed throughout his lofty office, the only other sounds being the steady metronome of ticking gears and the slow tap of his cane on the smooth tile floor. Ozpin stopped in front of the wide, curving window, drinking in the view as he took the day's first sip of coffee. It was a lovely view, and the decades of his stint as Beacon's headmaster had done nothing to diminish it.
One by one, the stars faded as the sky warmed. One by one, lights flickered on, dispelling the darkness spread out below. Ozpin took another sip, eyes fixed on the horizon, waiting for the first sliver of that red-gold orb to peek over the distant Emerald Forest.
A flicker of light caught his gaze, and Ozpin's eyes snapped up, over the horizon. The light grew into an orb, bursting into fiery brilliance and leaving a burning contrail as it moved down. He raised an eyebrow, and let his cane lean against the window to bring his scroll up. Nearly-automatic twitches of his thumb linked the display to the tower's sensor net, and a quickly-growing wealth of information splayed across his vision.
Ozpin's other eyebrow rose toward his hairline, and he dialed with calm haste. He held the scroll to his ear, still watching the descending fire.
One ring. A second. The line connected just before the third, as expected. "Oz. It's five in the morning over there."
"James. Is the cruiser currently in the process of crashing into my backyard one of yours?"
"What? No, of course not. An unscheduled deployment would be in complete contradiction with the Vytal Treaty."
"Of course. None of your ships happen to have gotten lost, have they?" Ozpin sipped his coffee again.
"If they have, I'm not aware of it. A moment." A few muted beeps and clicks. "No. Every ship I have is accounted for and where it's supposed to be. Whatever you're looking at, it's not one of mine."
"Troublesome. Thank you, James."
"I can assist immediately, Oz. An unknown cruiser-class vessel is worth the deployment."
"No, I do not think that will be necessary."
A small sigh escaped his lips. "James. I assure you that if it is something worthy of a full-scale deployment, I will not hesitate to call on you. Let me follow my procedures to determine that, first."
"...if you're sure. Still, I'll keep a squadron on standby. Call me if you need it."
"Thank you, James. I do appreciate it. Good evening."
"Good morning, Oz." The line went dead.
Ozpin waited for a moment longer, tracking the flame as it slowed and dimmed, earthing itself beneath the distant trees. He tapped his scroll again. "Glynda. Come to my office, please."
The door opened not a moment later. "I assume this is about the sensor reading that just pinged my scroll?"
"It is indeed. I need you to scout it out for me, please. Leave immediately, and I will schedule substitutes for your classes today."
Glynda Goodwitch nodded once and turned on her heels, leaving the way she came. The door hissed shut, and the sun finally peaked over the horizon, its own light pouring forth across the sea of green. A single wisp of smoke marred the landscape.
We've had peace for eighty years. I've worked too hard; we've all worked too hard to have something ruin it.
Lindy Harlaown was having a bad day.
She gripped the arms of the captain's chair as the Arthra shook again to unaccustomed turbulence, and wondered just how bad her debriefing was going to be.
The Arthra was crashing. This was a fact.
As far as she could tell, all procedures and contingencies were being followed perfectly. Damage control operations were being completed in record time, and there hadn't been a single system or resource on the ship neglected for maintenance or resupply. The Arthra had been at full combat capacity.
The problem was that they had been, quite simply, outgunned, which was not her fault. Faulty intel, the greatest bane of militaries everywhere. It was a testament to her ship and crew that the pirate cruiser and not the Arthra was an expanding, cooling cloud of gas and debris, but that didn't change the fact that the Arthra was going down.
It also wasn't her fault that the moment they'd settled into orbit around a nearby non-administered planet that their remaining systems failed without warning. Without sublight propulsion, there was no way for them to pull free of the planet's gravity well. The teleport grid had shut down as well, and they couldn't abandon ship. FTL communications were on the fritz, meaning they couldn't even call for help. At least the emergency thrusters are chemical based.
To top it all off, she hadn't even been able to have her morning cup of tea, and the atmospheric turbulence made drinking anything impossible.
"Please tell me you have some good news, Amy."
"I have a landing site picked out! And we have enough reaction fuel to survive the landing! I think!"
"Wonderful. Can you put it on screen?"
"Nope!" Amy freed one hand to check her restraint harness, then tabbed the ship-wide comm. "All crew, brace for landing in thirty seconds! If you're not wearing your barrier jacket,put it on now!"
There wasn't much more time for thought. This was supposed to be the Arthra's last deployment. Of course it was too much to ask to bring everyone home safe.
Damn. I really wanted a cup of t-
The room was quiet and dark, only the barest hint of light coming through from behind the stitched red curtain. Four occupants slept easy in haphazard bunk beds. The only breaks to the silence were light breathing, soft snores, and a few sleepily-murmured words. Usually about cookies.
A glass of water sat on one of the room's desks. The flat surface trembled, concentric rings radiating out from the center to the edges and back, before smoothing out as if nothing had happened. In one of the bunks, a furry ear twitched once. Twice.
Amber eyes snapped open, and one of the room's occupants sat bolt upright in bed. Blake Belladonna glanced around the room, frowning. Nothing was out of place, and the quiet sounds from her sleeping teammates were unchanged. What was that?
She swung her legs off the mattress, touching bare feet to the carpet. Something woke her up, and after years of life with the White Fang, she had learned to trusther senses when they were telling her things. Soundlessly, ears twitching, she rose to her feet, and was taking her first step away from the bed when the low rumble of distant thunder rolled through the room.
The faint frown on her face deepened. Blake hated rain. She padded across the room to the window, pushing the curtain aside to scowl out at the heavy clouds overhead, only for the expression to fade into confusion. The rising sun was just beginning to peek over the distant horizon, the last stars fading into the light. The sky was completely clear.
Completely clear except for a thin column of black smoke rising in the far distance. "...huh. Must have been a meteorite."
A burst of movement behind her, and Blake found herself awash in scattering rose petals. Ruby Rose was clinging to her arm, silver eyes wide. "REALLY?"
"Ruby, I said meteorite, not marshmallow."
"I HEARD WHAT YOU SAID!" The diminutive leader of RWBY jumped up and down, still clutching Blake's arm. "TEAM MEETING!" There was heavy thumping on the wall, and a muffled, angry shout for them to shut up. "Sorry!"
Sleepy grumbles answered her, a heavy thud announcing Yang falling off of her top bunk. Weiss Schnee sat up, rubbing her face and glaring at Ruby through her fall of white hair. "Ruby Rose, you had better have a good reason for waking us up at… five in the morning. It's Saturday."
"Seriously, Sis. What the hell?" Yang joined them at the window, rubbing the night's sleep from her eyes.
"Girls, girls! A meteorite crashed into the Emerald Forest, look!" Ruby freed one hand from Blake's arm to point wildly at the distant column of rising ash. "We need to get there absolutely right now as soon as possible! Think of the possibilities!"
"...Grimm hunting? I'd be down with that." Yang grinned, ruffling Ruby's hair.
"Forest fire. That's not our job though, Ruby. Leave that for the foresters." Weiss hadn't gotten out of bed, and was pulling the covers back over herself.
Blake shook her head, one ear laying low against her hair. "That's not what she's thinking.."
"No! It's a meteorite! Glorious heaven sent star metal!" Ruby bounced again, then vanished in a flurry of rose petals. The closet door was flung open, everyone's outfits being thrown at them. "Imagine what we could do with it! Imagine how impressed everyone would be if I upgrade Crescent Rose with a star metal blade! Or if you replace the plating on Ember Celica with it!"
"...damn, that would be the bee's knees."
"I know! And I'd still have my normal knees to go with it!"
Another sigh issued forth from Weiss as the heiress got out of bed. "...fine. There is precedence. Space rocks have been known to contain rare minerals that are extremely valuable. It would be... advantageous to land a finder's claim on it."
Yang snickered. "Money talks, eh?"
"Yes, Yang. Money does talk, and if it's as valuable as I hope it is, splitting it four ways would do wonders for all of us. I don't want to stay beholden to my father's credit card forever."
"Then it's settled! Team RWBY and their fearless leader, venturing forth to seize opportunity!"
"And profit, apparently." Blake couldn't help but grin a little. It was pretty easy to get swept into Ruby's enthusiasm. "How do we get out there, though? It's not like we can just rent a bullhead without explaining what we plan on doing with it. We're not licensed pilots, either."
Yang grinned wider, and pointed out the window at Beacon's airfield. "We could always just hitch a ride. There's one being prepped right now. What are the chances that it's going anywhere else?"
Twenty minutes later, Glynda Goodwitch finished her pre-flight checklist and looked up from the bullhead's console, just missing a single rose petal drifting past the canopy. She pulled back on the throttle and lifted her bullhead off its landing pad. Considering the lifting power of that class of vehicle, it was completely understandable that she didn't notice five hundred pounds of extra weight.
The return to consciousness brought both sensation and a lack thereof. Foremost, the pervasive numbness of morphine. Tingly and unpleasant pain all across her face and side, like a bad sunburn, was held far enough at bay to not dominate her thoughts. Sharper agony flared when she tried to move her arm, convincing her to stay still. The press of a mattress against her back, a specific uncomfortable firmness that she had become quite familiar with other the years.
But there was no steady beep of nearby monitors, no hum of the Arthra's ventilation system. The only thing she could hear was her own breathing. Nanoha opened her eyes. Tried to, at least. The left was swollen shut, and she could feel the sticky roughness of a bandage over her face. Her right eye took in the darkened medical bay, dimly illuminated by red emergency lighting. The acrid stench of hot metal and burning plastic assaulted her nose. "...hello? Anyone?"
"Nanoha!" Amy Harlaown's voice answered her, and a few moments later she felt her right hand being gripped. "Glad you're awake, it was getting a little boring in here."
"Amy, what happened?" Nanoha tried to lever herself upright, and gasped as every muscle in her body screamed at her to stop. Amy's face came into view, and the woman let go of Nanoha's hand to put it on her chest, trying to guide her back down.
"No no, don't sit up! You took a bad hit, uhm... what's the last thing you remember?"
Not moving sounded like a good idea, but not an idea she liked. Still, Nanoha let herself slump back against the mattress. "I was... making my way to the teleport bay because Lindy sounded General Quarters. Then... I woke up here."
Amy nodded, reaching back down to give Nanoha's hand a squeeze. "The pirates got the first shot off. Some sort of ward-piercing effect and a whole lot of bad luck. The dimensional pockets in the bulkheads closest to the impact point lost containment, and the failsafes didn't activate…"
"...which means instead of dumping all the exploding hardware outside the hull like it was supposed to, some of it got ejected into the corridor." Nanoha freed her hand, reaching up to gingerly touch the bandage over her face. "How bad is it?"
Amy knew better than to try to break it to her gently. "Nothing permanent. Yuuno was able to patch you up in time so you won't lose the eye. Still, your arm's broken in two places, the orbit and cheekbone around your left eye are fractured, and there's more soft tissue trauma than I can name."
"I guess I'm…. off the line-up for a while." Nanoha tried to keep the disappointment from her tone. She was no stranger to grievous injury, after all, and could honestly say that she'd been in worse shape than this before. But she also knew that she was by no means ready for duty.
"You're off duty. If it wasn't for your barrier jacket, you'd be dead right now."
"What's the situation? Where is everyone?" The sheer silence other than their conversation was getting to her. The Arthra wasn't supposed to be this quiet.
"They're outside keeping the perimeter. We, uh… well, the long and short of it is that the Arthra was so badly damaged in the fight that we had to put into orbit for repairs, and then something caused the drive core to shut down and then we suffered a system cascade failure and then we crashed. On the bright side, you got to sleep through the landing!"
That explained the slant to the floor. Nanoha looked at Amy again. The Arthra's Chief Executive Aide had a bandage around her head, and in place of her uniform jacket, a wrapping of bandages around her chest was hidden by a patient gown. "I'm not the only one, huh?"
"Cracked ribs and bruising! I'm going to be submitting a recommendation for better crash restraints on the bridge when we get back to port." Amy's words were at odds with the cheer in her voice, but Nanoha was used to that. Nothing ever kept the woman down for long.
A few minutes passed in silence, only broken by the intermittent footsteps of someone passing by the medbay. Nanoha touched her bandage again, fighting back a sigh. "I wonder how everyone else is doing."
"Oh, I'm sure they're fine!"
"There's no end to these things!" Chrono Harlaown ducked low and back, biting back a hiss as the motion put pressure on his bruised side. The claws meant for his throat slid over his head, close enough for him to feel the wind of their passing, and in the moment that the black-furred creature was overextended, he pushed S2U forward against its chest. The storage device pulsed, electronic tones faithfully declaring his intent. "Stinger Ray."
Blue light thudded a staccato burst against the beast's chest. The bipedal wolf stumbled back and fell, black mist oozing from the holes drilled through its chest, and Chrono took the moment's reprieve to leap into the air. A worrisomely unsteady flight spell held him aloft, and he took the moment to look out across the hectic battlefield around the Arthra.
Sankt Kaiser, I'm glad the Wolkenritter were on board for this mission. Signum stood alone beyond the Arthra's shattered forward booms, dauntless in the face of dozens of the black, bone-spiked beasts. Her armed device, Laevatein, was awash in orange flames, cleaving the beasts with every swing. Chrono was confident enough that he could leave her to her own devices.
To the Arthra's stern, Vita shrieked in berserker rage as she pounded white bone and black flesh with the business end of Graf Eisen, as mobile as a demented pinball. No surprise there. Still, there were a lot of the creatures back there, and if other parts of the perimeter could spare it, he'd send her reinforcements.
To the crashed ship's flanks, the Arthra's second mage team was split into four pairs, fending off more of the assaulting animals. While they didn't have the raw firepower of theWolkenritter or the Arthra's Aces, they made up for it with precision and veteran acumen. I'm glad the crew is a well-oiled machine. There couldn't be a worse time for comms to be down.
With more effort than he would have preferred, Chrono arced up and over the Arthra to land on the scored hull plating that protected the ship's globular bridge. "Shamal. Tell me you've got some good news."
The third Wolkenritter glanced up from the circle of green light hovering before her. "I'm afraid not, Captain. I can't pinpoint the source of the interference at all. It almost feels like an anti-magic field, but it's not a pure dampening effect." She huffed in irritation, "It's almost more like a dimensional instability."
"We're light years away from the nearest stretch of Badlands."
"I know. At least the crew is managing. Captain Yagami hasn't lost her telepathic link with Sergeant Rein, so she's our point of communication to Admiral Harlaown. Yuuno and Zafira are supporting the starboard side, and Fate and Arf are on port."
"At least something's going in our favor. If this doesn't let up soon we're going to start having mana exhaustion issues. Tell Hayate to talk to Admiral Harlaown about authorizing stimulant doses if it gets much wor-"
A raucous screech interrupted him, and they both looked up to see a black-feathered bird the size of a transport shuttle crest over the trees. Malevolent red eyes glowed menacingly as it focused on them, circling overhead.
"...you've got to be kidding me."
The bullhead set down in a small clearing a couple miles from the crash site. Glynda frowned at the column of smoke in the distance, then danced her fingers over the controls to shut the craft down. Rising to her feet, she gave her clothes a perfunctory tug back into place before striding through the hatch to the cargo bay and its open doors. A heavy thud caught her attention.
Glynda's eyes narrowed.
There was a second thud, followed by a quiet groan.
Her lips pursed into a thin line.
Two more thuds, another muted exclamation of pain. Glynda's eyebrow twitched with each sound.
"Ruby, if I didn't already know it would be a useless endeavor I would be demanding your share after this… travesty of a flight." The heiress' voice wasn't quite as shrill as it could be.
"Weiss, it's okay! We made it, now we just need to hurry up and get out before OH MY DUST IT'S PROFESSOR GOODWITCH."
Her riding crop was in her hand. Glynda almost snarled, gathering all four of the wayward students with a sharp gesture and hauling them into the air, hanging by the backs of their collars on strings of telekinetic force. "Ruby Rose. Weiss Schnee. Blake Belladonna. Yang Xiao Long. What the hell are you doing out here?"
The white-haired heiress seemed absolutely mortified, as if she could already see her academic record going down the drain. Yang kicked a little, but managed to cast a glance over at the diminutive team leader. "It was your idea, sis!"
"U-uhm, well! You see, uhm! Mrs. Goodwitch, we didn't know you were the one on the bullhead-"
"A-a-a-and uhm we wanted to, uhm, well you see-"
The only one not struggling, Blake Belladonna hung limply by the scruff of her neck. Even the bow on top of her head drooped, pulled along by her hidden ears. "...I heard the meteorite come down this morning. Ruby wanted to go hunt it down to lay a finder's claim on it. 'Glorious heaven sent star metal,' is what she called it."
Glynda swore under her breath, turning her back to the strays and pushing her glasses back up her nose. "Stay there and do not move. I need to make a call."
"Don't worry about us, ma'am! We'll just hang around!"
Groans chased the blonde brawler's joke. Glynda stopped and turned back around. Another twitch of her crop brought Yang face-to-face with her, and she leaned in until there was a scant inch between their noses. "Ms. Xiao Long. Watch yourself before I pun-t you all the way back to Beacon."
Yang's eyes widened even further. Her voice was a hushed whisper. "...you're a master!"
Sending the blonde to rejoin her compatriots, Glynda pulled out her scroll, quick-dialing and holding it to her ear. It picked up after two rings. "Glynda. Have you arrived at the crash site?"
"Headmaster. I have stowaways."
"...really? Which team?"
Glynda bit down on her first choice of words. It would do no good to lose her composure while talking to the headmaster himself. Still… she was a bit vexed. "Which do you think?"
"HI HEADMASTER OZPIN!" Ruby almost flipped herself upside down with her inane waving.
"Hmm. That would explain why all the chocolate chip cookies were gone from the cafeteria so early in the morning. Tell Ms. Rose that I expect her to assist in the kitchens tomorrow. More importantly, how did they know?"
"Ms. Belladonna says she heard the meteorite come down this morning. They came out here to find it and claim the resource rights."
"That's rather reassuring, actually. There was no information leak, just adolescent enthusiasm."
"What the hell am I supposed to do with them?"
"As long as they're out there? Include them in the mission. Inform them of the situation, make certain that they understand this is a highly sensitive situation and everything they see and hear is classified, and use them. They want to be huntresses, Glynda."
"...fine. I'll contact you when I know more."
"Good hunting." The line went dead.
"CHILDREN." The burgeoning three-way conversation behind her cut off immediately, and three sets of wide eyes instantly locked onto her. Blake Belladonna lethargically looked up from the clump of grass below her hanging feet, a morose cast to her expression.
"Ma'am!" Ruby raised a hand. "I-I know we're in big trouble and all but we really didn't mean to do anything wrong and we won't try to run away if you let us down! Team Leader's honor!"
"When I'm finished, Ms. Rose."
"I know you were going to eventually but you're still holding us up by our necks and you probably didn't even think about it but you're kinda scruffing Blake!" Ruby's voice had morphed to a harsh stage whisper. "I'd be embarrassed if I was in her shoes!"
Shit. The girl was right. Blake Belladonna was a cat faunus. Riots have started over less. Glynda gestured almost too-quickly, cutting the telekinetic hold. Ruby, Weiss, and Yang all landed on their rears, surprised at the suddenness of the release. Blake landed on her feet, instantly aware and alert. "Ms. Belladonna, I-"
The black-haired girl gave her head a quick shake. "I'm part of the team, ma'am. I don't expect special treatment."
"Right. Well. Since you are out here of your own initiative, Headmaster Ozpin has directed me to keep you with me for the duration of this mission."
Ruby raised her hand again. "B-but what about the meteorite? You know, uhm. Glorious heaven sent star metal?"
"There is no meteorite, Ms. Rose."
Silence followed in the wake of that statement. Glynda allowed herself to enjoy it for a scant two seconds. "What you are about to hear is classified material. That means you may tellno oneabout it. You will not talk about it in public, and you will not discuss it in private if there is the slightest chance that you will be overheard. Is this clear?"
"Crystal, ma'am!" The other three echoed their leader's exclamation.
"Good. What you believed was a meteorite was a crashing airship of unknown origin. Headmaster Ozpin dispatched me to investigate the crash site, locate any survivors, and if necessary call for additional backup. Given that I am now saddled with you four, you are my backup. That means you need to do exactly what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. Do you understand?"
"Yes ma'am! We won't let you down!" If anything, the four girls stood straighter. Glynda couldn't help but feel at least a little bit assuaged by their reactions.
I suppose a little proper direction can go a long way. "Good. Ms. Rose, please take field command. I will be grading you on your individual and collective performances."
"Yes, ma'am! Blake, take point! Yang, you're walking drag! Weiss, stay in the middle with Professor Goodwitch! I'll flank left. Move out, team!"
Yes, I think a little guidance is exactly what these girls need.
Oh Dust. I'm beginning to sound like Ozpin.