Hello everyone! Man, it's been a while since I managed to sit down and just write about something, though I've managed to get a bit of practice in here and there. After getting caught up with RWBY, I had this harebrained idea. I'm sure 'what happens after the main plot' stories have been done before, or possibly to death, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. As always, comments and constructive criticism are more than welcome. I mean, you can also log on to call me a fart refinery, but that doesn't really help me write better stories.
Obviously, I don't own RWBY. Special thanks to Monty Oum and Rooster Teeth, though, for making a crazy, dark world where the points of light shine out all the brighter.
Now, let's see what kinds of trouble our heroes can get into.
We're Calling it a Success
Chapter 1: Best Mission Ever
Glynda Goodwitch grimaced and pushed her glasses back to where they belonged. She wasn't sure how, but her change in hairstyle – a first in five years – had somehow made the damn eyewear even more likely to slide down from its proper place on the bridge of her nose.
Before her stood the four huntresses of the old team RWBY, exchanging guilty looks and furtive glances with each other, all of them looking a little worse for wear. Each of them was showing the obvious signs of combat, and the unique smell of gunpowder and expended Dust, an odor jokingly referred to as 'eau de huntress' among their peers, hung about them. All of them were positively filthy, even Weiss, who had apparently come into contact with substances that Goodwitch did not care to learn about. Judging by the other odor in the room, sewage had somehow been involved.
Glynda gave them a once over, reminded of their early months at Beacon and the numerous dressings-down required for this crew back then. Fighting back a moment of nostalgia, she took stock. Ruby Rose's newly refinished red cloak was in tatters and even scorched in places. Several of her weapon belts were broken, forming a sad cocoon around Crescent Rose's travel form. For her part, Weiss Schnee was positively covered in disgusting glop, soaking into her hair, clothes, boots, and gear. This had apparently rucked her sword belt enough to cause Myrtenaster to hang at an awkward angle.
Belladonna's weapon – Gambol Shroud, if Glynda recalled correctly – was in pieces, with the trigger housing missing, the gun's casing cracked, and the longest remaining scrap of the chain scythe ribbon pressed into the onerous duty of holding her outfit together - an outfit that did not in any way match any of her known combat outfits. Dusty and disheveled, she looked like she'd walked straight out of a post-apocalyptic action film. Xiao Long's entire ensemble was sooty, and her mechanical arm was held together by what appeared to be duct tape and optimism. The artificial hand responded to the movements of her organic one with spastic twitching and the occasional shower of sparks. To top it off, her magnificent mane of hair was tangled up in what appeared to be everything from forest detritus to gears to small musical instruments.
The older huntress tapped her riding crop against her opposite hand. While the odds of her physically hitting anyone with it were virtually nil, it made a powerful statement nonetheless. "Are there any comments on the mission before we begin?"
Ruby planted her hands on her hips, adopting a posture that she clearly thought of as heroic. "We're calling it a success."
"It wasn't one, but that's what we're calling it." Weiss snapped her mouth closed again before any of the glop could get in, and settled for finishing her thought by giving the room a sour look.
The riding crop ceased bouncing. "Would anyone like to volunteer to take the first crack at explaining how, precisely, you four managed to start an international incident on an uninhabited continent?" The team managed to jump back in unison, as well they should: she'd spent a lot of effort learning how to shout without raising her voice. It came in handy when teaching… and for moments like this.
Their next response was less coordinated. Ruby and Weiss pointed at each other, Blake did her best to hide in plain sight, and Yang cheerfully raised her prosthesis, which flopped into a rude gesture. It took the blissfully unaware blonde a few moments to follow Goodwitch's disapproving stare to the hand, at which point she hid that arm behind her back and grinned nervously.
Glynda sighed and sat down behind the Beacon academy headmaster's desk, gesturing for the team to do the same. "Very well, allow me to volunteer you, Miss Rose. As you are the leader of this team, let's get this debriefing started."
Gone were the days when Ruby Rose would wilt or stammer, despite her antics a moment ago. The young woman took a deep breath and focused, "The mission began on schedule, and insertion went off more or less perfectly. The airship dropping us off took a long circuit of the LZ, looking for threats, and didn't find any. We got the green light and…"
Ruby's Log, Day 1, 2:01 p.m.
Mission Status: On schedule!
Update: LZ Located
Personal Status: Couldn't be better.
Ruby Rose was positively ecstatic.
That wasn't really a novel statement, ecstatic had been how she'd spent a big part of her early time at Beacon, and at Signal before that. But that had been years ago, and her hyperactivity had died down somewhat after Beacon's initial destruction and the conflicts that followed. In the two years following that, a lot of rebuilding had happened, up to and including the school she'd once loved so much. They'd made her an honorary graduate, along with the rest of the team, mostly due to the fact that the conflict had pushed them harder and farther than any curriculum could have.
But that had meant taking on the standard, day-to-day duties of a full Huntress. Sometimes RWBY worked in pairs, but more often they had to split their attention so many ways that solo action was the only way to get it all done. While Ruby was fully cognizant of the fact that she was living the dream, she really missed the days of solidarity, before events had conspired to keep everyone apart – ironic, considering how little she'd even wanted a team upon arriving at Beacon the first time.
Then the mission briefing had come in, and she'd been unable to sit still ever since. Even now, as the airship approached the drop point, she was still fidgeting. She saw her team – her team – all share a brief indulgent smile as old habits surged back to the fore. "Alright, team!" A small giggle – how long had it been since she'd done that? – forced its way out of her as she got to use that term again, "Let's review the mission one last time."
"Did something change between the previous four times and this one?" Weiss folded her arms, though the awkward way she was forced to do so over her crash harness ruined some of the effect. She spoke up to be heard over the noise of the air rushing past and the roar of the engines. "There is such a thing as over-preparation."
"Yeah, I'm running out of ways to say 'drop in, kill Grimm, build gadget, test gadget." Yang, by contrast, was absently scratching at a point high on her arm, right above where the prosthetic connected. Ruby watched Blake cast a furtive glance at it – and at the hip flask Yang had clipped to her belt – and sighed inwardly.
For her part, the faunus girl recovered quickly. "Besides, the drop is happening soon." Blake merely rested her hands where they were supposed to be, on the release handles for the parachutes they were hooked up to.
Ruby shook her head, unable to believe they could be this blase about the coming days. It had been over a year since they'd had a mission together, and their time together was pretty spotty before that. "But-"
"Like right now," Blake finished. Infuriatingly, she was right. The floor fell away beneath them, and moments later the magnetic clamps holding them to the walls of the dropship – one of the newer models Atlas had come up with during the last few years – lost power, dropping them and their cargo toward the landmass below.
Normally, parachutes would have been unnecessary. Their initiation at Beacon had involved being launched from a high cliff without one, after all. All of them possessed an excellent landing strategy and a strong aura... but they rarely landed with several tons of cargo. It was their job to make sure everything deployed properly and guide it in. Ruby sighed as the red-fringed crates tumbled away beneath her, twisting her body into a shape that would let her fall faster to catch up. From high above, past the roar of the wind and the thrill of freefall, she could hear Yang's wild whooping. That put a smile right back on her face as she landed boots-first on the first of her boxes - foam-packed electronics, if the stenciled words on the side were accurate.
The other abnormality was the need for four huntresses to do this – if it was just a matter of stopping heavy objects, Weiss could have handled the entire drop on her own, but too much active Dust use nearby would damage the exposed equipment far more permanently than a little tumble. As to why the airship hadn't simply landed and offloaded the cargo in a safe and sane manner, well… there was no telling whether the landing area was clear or not.
The world outside the Kingdoms was almost exclusively comprised of excessively dangerous wilderness, even after all that had happened. It was common knowledge that Grimm owned the majority of every continent, and Dust couldn't carry people to the stars – the sky really was the limit, at least for the moment. This tended to curtail exploration and adventure, even by the huntsmen and huntresses, as there was enough to do to hold on to what people had already established for themselves.
At least, that had been the reasoning before the Autumn War. Now, in a time of rebuilding, mankind was taking a second look at the places it had left long abandoned; places like the northwestern continent, the one that looked like a dragon if you squinted a bit at the map. It had many names, but a recent round of bureaucratic finagling had officially dubbed it Alo, and it was the eastern cliffs of Alo that had been surveyed – at a distance – as being perfect for a CCT substation. The trouble was that there was no military, no ground support, nothing but some slightly favorable terrain in the area to protect it from the Grimm that no doubt inhabited every square inch of the continent. The only way to get the equipment to ground, set it up, and protect it long enough to test it properly was if a tremendous amount of firepower and some solid technical expertise could be compressed into a relatively tiny team of people.
That meant huntresses.
Ruby still remembered the feeling of elation – and disbelief – that had come to her face when she had seen this job on the mission board. She'd called the others immediately. "I don't care what you're doing," she'd said, "wrap it up, hand it off, call it in, whatever. We've got the best mission ever on the board here, and I'm gonna reserve it."
The others had been somewhat less enthused. Weiss had pointed out that this was pretty much a standard asset protection and scouting mission, with the only twist being that it was in an unknown land. Blake and Yang had actually been on their first joint mission since Yang had received her second, human-looking replacement arm, and were hesitant to call it off… plus her sister was a little nervous about working with delicate equipment until the new hand could be calibrated properly. These reservations had wilted under the barrage of logic and puppy eyes that Ruby had put together. Even at twenty-one, Ruby still managed to look younger than her age, to the point of getting carded at the movie theater. While her teammates found this hilarious, it nonetheless came in handy, especially when Ruby had pointed out that a little roughing it wouldn't kill them, that the mission was their first real chance for a get together in ages, that it wouldn't be able to start for nearly a week due to the time required to get the resources together anyway, and finally, that it was paying quadruple the normal Grimm hunting fee.
That brought her mind back to the present. With a twist of her hips and a slight bend in her knees, Ruby felt her feet catch on the bumps and knobs of the box's exterior and brought the first crate upright and positioned for deceleration. Ruby let herself gently drift to her next target and brought it in line with similar aerobatics. Above her, she could see her team doing the same. With the continent of Alo rushing up at them, the crimson-clad huntress pulled her scroll free and sent the signal to her crates to deploy. She was forced down on to one knee from the sudden jolt, but otherwise the drop strategy seemed to be working.
Weiss surprised her by deploying her 'chutes prematurely, then leaping off of her perch. Thin, deceptively strong cords connected her to each piece of her cargo, dragging it after her toward the landing site. Weiss employed her usual landing strategy, bouncing from one rune to the next until she touched down, then turned and physically dragged her charges down, steadying them until they landed, feather-light, on the bare cliff face.
The rest of the team landed with less drama. The crates thudded down, harder than they probably should have, but not with the crushing force of a sudden stop from terminal velocity. Yang's landing was a little rougher than the rest, the blonde being forced to tuck and roll as her crates bounced along behind her. She stood and dusted herself off, adding a jaunty 'Nailed it!' when she saw her team checking up on her.
"Why the fancy landing?" Blake hopped down from her chosen crate – easily the largest of them all by a considerable margin, to the point that it had been the only one entrusted to her.
"Because my crates contain the Dust components needed to get the tower working. I couldn't afford to let them hit any harder." The Schnee Dust Corporation's majority shareholder wasted no time in popping the lid from the first one, then daintily removing the contents. Sure enough, it was rack after carefully sorted rack of Dust, in all manner of shapes, sizes, and compositions. "Oh for-" the short woman leaned over the crate, clearly fishing for something at the bottom of it, before hauling out the ubiquitous Dust For Dummies and Other Inadequate Individuals pamphlet. "This is just unbelievable."
"That the mission planning team thought you needed that?" Ruby offered.
"No! I told them to pack these things at the top of every shipment. It doesn't do the uneducated any good to start handling the Dust before reading it!" The former heiress hauled out her scroll, no doubt to make a brief note to herself.
"Alllllright team!" Ruby was never going to get tired of saying that. "Let's get this tower up and running! Weiss, you and Yang get the initial setup done. Blake, you're with me on Grimm S&D."
"I can't believe you remembered the pamphlet after everything else that happened." Weiss groused. "But… thanks for bringing that up again. I would have forgotten about it."
Ruby beamed. "Aww, you're welcome, W-"
"Since you destroyed my scroll."
Her leader's arms flailed briefly. "Ahagha-whoa! I thought we agreed that that wasn't my fault."
The sharp crack of the riding crop hitting the desk cut off yet another tangent that Goodwitch had no context or patience for. "Actually, I'm a bit curious as to how you managed to, well… accomplish some of these log-entry updates. If I was reading them correctly, you decided to update your mission records during an interrogation, mid-combat, and my personal favorite… well, we'll get to that later."
Blake blinked for a moment. "To be fair, we were a little high for a portion of the mission."
"I think you mean tripping balls." Ruby snickered, then caught Goodwitch's stunned look. "Not by choice! It's complicated!"
"We were drunk for part of it too," Yang supplied, perversely aware that she wasn't helping, "And that was by choice."
"I think that was just you."
Weiss fidgeted uncomfortably, bits of goo still dribbling off of her. "Ruby and I… might have indulged a bit as well."
"Fine." Despite the choice of word, it wasn't as waspish or clipped as it could have been, merely tired. The riding crop returned to its usual place. "What happened after you got the tower up?"
The four looked at each other, but the faunus collected her thoughts the quickest. "Ruby and I went on patrol, as she instructed, and that was when things started to get… weird…"
Blake's Log, Day 1, 8:03 p.m.
Mission Status: On Schedule
Update: Anomaly Sighted
Personal Status: Unhurt
The word 'patrol' brought to mind the stately march of soldiers or a pair of cops on their beat, but for huntresses it meant something else. Ruby and Blake whipped through the forest at a frightful pace, eyes alert for any sign of Grimm. The area seemed to be lightly infested, if at all – in fact, Gambol Shroud and Crescent Rose were still fully loaded by the time the pair took a brief break at the top of a heavily forested bluff. Ruby, being Ruby, had picked a place with a view. They'd only finished the drop in the late afternoon, after a long circuit around the LZ, it was well into sunset.
For once, Blake was the first to speak, "Normally, I wouldn't complain about a lack of Grimm, but I was under the impression that our skills were desperately needed here. A Girl Scout Troop could have handled this."
"Yeah, I've noticed it too. Uncharted wilderness is supposed to be full of monsters." Ruby scratched at her head before pulling her hood down.
"It is full of monsters. You've seen what the Grimm do to outlying villages, and getting farther away from civilization doesn't make you any safer." The taller girl's ears twitched as she strained to hear anything out of the ordinary. Still sensing nothing, she sighed and took a seat, then flopped to her back. A moment later, Ruby joined her.
"So how've you been, Blake? Read anything good lately?"
"I've been busy, but I still find time." Blake smiled, but it faded quickly. "The Faunus Unity movement isn't doing as well as I'd like."
"It's probably the acronym." Ruby propped herself up on her elbows, bright green leaves trailing from the hood of her cloak. A gust of wind blew bright orange tufts of what looked like some kind of indigenous pollen around them, a beautiful and flashy faux-snowfall. "Why not rename it?"
The faunus scowled. "That's not actually the name. We can think, Ruby."
The wind picked up, blowing away the bits of forest that had fallen peacefully around them and pushing her leader's hood back, showcasing a momentarily hurt expression. "Whoa! It was just a joke. I didn't mean-"
"I… know what you meant. Or rather, I know that you would have said that to anyone. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you. It's just…" Blake sighed, watching the twinkle of the first stars come into view. She idly wondered if Ruby could see them yet. "The White Fang is gone, but the damage they did? That's going to be around a while. People that might have been coming around before have nightmares about us now. Those in power have an easy and expedient excuse to do nothing to help. What little pull I might have had coming out of the war is being leeched away by… ah, forget it."
"By Yang," Ruby finished, putting her head back down. The faunus winced, momentarily nostalgic for the days when Ruby would miss obvious social cues. "People still don't like her, don't trust her. Being with her makes them question your judgment."
"I don't resent her for that. Honest." Wow. Apparently her social skills had deteriorated quickly if she was having this much trouble talking to Yang's sister. To cover for her lapse, she let out a short chuckle. "It's so strange, I never figured that in a relationship with a human, I'd be the one with the relatively higher social status."
"Is she still…?"
"She's getting better, Ruby, I promise. She laughs, jokes, makes terrible puns. Some of her one liners are actually kind of funny now, but don't tell her I said that. She's even started making cracks about the hand, the tournament, and the… rest." Blake hesitated, "But… I'm having a little bit of trouble, uh-"
"In bed? Don't worry, it supposedly happens to one in five couples, especially as you get older."
"Ugh, whenever I start thinking of you as this more mature being, suddenly you provide proof that you are related to Yang." Ruby's expression remained serene, however, and Blake pressed on, "I think something is bothering her, and I can't tell if this… reconstruction of her old personality is a sign of healing or just scabbing over the deeper wounds. But she won't talk to me about it. She went to a couple of pretty dark places during the war..."
"We all did. I guess there's some stuff that's better left buried." The scythe wielder sat all the way up, picking a couple of black flecks from Crescent Rose before turning her gaze skyward again. The sun was nearly all the way gone, the moon was hanging low in the western sky, and soon the Ring would be visible. "Still, the key thing to keep in mind with Yang is-"
She was interrupted by the beep from her scroll. A message appeared – text only, the only communication they were capable of this far away from a CCT tower. [Apparatus up and online.]
"Typical Weiss." Ruby shook her head and got all the way up, with Blake joining her after a moment's reluctance. "They've finished up, we should head back and report our… disconcerting total lack of kills." Blake barely heard her – her eyes were fixated on a point inland. "Blake?" Ruby prodded her, a trace of the old childish playfulness coming back. "Blaaa~aaake. What do your elf eyes see?"
Blake ignored the dated reference and pointed. "Get out your binoculars, Ruby. Look over the tree line, between the second and third mountain from the right."
Her leader sportingly did as she was told, and the faunus had the momentary satisfaction of watching Ruby's jaw drop. "How did we miss that?"
The taller huntress wondered the same thing. It seemed like the sort of thing she'd have seen on their tear through the forest, especially given the number of times she'd leaped above the canopy to get her bearings. While it was very far away, past the range of human visibility, she still felt that someone – if not her and Ruby, then someone back at Beacon, or on the airship, or at one of the world's big repositories of knowledge and intel – someone should have noticed the fortified, planned, and heavily modernized city. The distant twinkle of lights shining through the crepuscular gloom proved that it wasn't an old ruin, either – the place had power.
"So…" Blake said softly, watching a trio of airships lift off. "Who wants to go tell Weiss and Yang about all the people we found on this uninhabited continent?"
Ruby's reply was just as quiet, but far more intense. "Oooh, me. Dibs."
The trip back to their camp was just as uneventful as their patrol, and the silence that had seemed comforting became creepier by the minute. They burst back to the landing zone to find the entire campsite already set up, with Weiss perched daintily on a folding chair, tapping away at her scroll, while Yang had set up shop at the fold-out table, visibly cheating at solitaire as she waited for her teammates to return. Her facing meant she was the first to notice their arrival. "Oh, hey guys! How was the brave new world?"
Ruby and Blake exchanged a look. "Remarkably free of Grimm," Ruby scratched behind her head for a moment. "We were running a pretty standard sweep. Did anything get past us to attack you?"
"No, not one." Weiss put her scroll away and gave them a faintly approving smile. "You must have been very efficient about the few you did find."
The faunus shook her head adamantly, "No, that's just it. We didn't find any Grimm. At all."
An uncomfortable silence descended on the camp. Yang was the first to break it. "So… I'll admit I might not have paid the best attention in class, but wasn't the big bad world beyond the kingdoms supposed to be chock full of Grimm?"
Weiss's head slowly lowered in the way Blake had come to recognize meant concentration rather than, say, shame. Her eyes flicked to and fro as though reading an invisible textbook. "Grimm are attracted to negative emotion. Perhaps a very sparsely populated area would cause the Grimm to migrate away, toward population centers? An entire continent with no people on it might… be Grimm free?"
"Yeah, about that…" Ruby took a deep breath, then grinned. "Blake and I found a city. Okay, Blake found it, but I helped."
Weiss's head snapped around to look at her, and even Yang perked up. "You found an old city? That's incredible! It makes a certain amount of sense, of course – we know people have tried to expand to other parts of the world before, but still, tripping over an archeological-"
"Inhabited," Blake interrupted.
"The city was new. Inhabited. It had a traffic control tower and airship traffic to match." Blake shrugged. "We have a general location for it, but it's pretty far off."
The Dust mogul tossed her hands up in a gesture of mock surrender. "Alright, I'm just going to shut up until I know what's going on."
"What's going on is that we have the best mission ever on our hands, just like I said the first time!" Ruby gestured expansively inland. "Out there is either an undiscovered civilization or a clandestine operation, and it's our job to go exploring."
Hurricane Weiss crossed the Gulf of Reason in an attempt to rain on Ruby's parade. "It's our job to run load tests on a CCT substation for the next few days. While protecting it from Grimm."
Yang continued shuffling her cards – Blake recognized the exercise designed to test her robotic hand's dexterity. A mischievous grin twisted the blonde's features. "Buuuuuut there aren't any Grimm, or at least not enough to get past the auto-turrets we brought, and we can monitor the tower from our scrolls pretty easily. We really only have to stay here long enough to take the call from the Atlas CCT tomorrow morning and get all the protocols set up."
"Plus, scouting the area for other possible threats is one of our mission objectives." The faunus's quiet addition took everyone by surprise. "Right now? We don't know anything about that city, the people running it, or what they're up to. They could be the biggest threat to our mission. We have to find out more."
Weiss actually looked hurt, though at least some of it had to be faked. "Blake! I figured you of all people would want to stay curled up here with a good book."
Blake shrugged and tried to mold her face into something appropriately apologetic, but only wound up with an irritatingly smug grin. "I've been on an adventure/fantasy kick lately. Besides, I can read anywhere."
With three sets of questioning eyes on her, Weiss didn't stand a chance. She did her best to close her eyes and perform a put-upon sigh, but the corners of her mouth tugged up halfway through it for thousandth time. "Alright, I'll put on my robe and wizard hat."
"Yyyyyyesss!" Ruby launched herself into the air, landing with a victorious fist-pump. "Tomorrow, we take on Alo!"
My goodness, a whole chapter and nothing has exploded yet. Are the girls losing their touch? Will Glynda ever get the smell out of her office? Does Weiss actually own a wizard hat? There's only one way to find out. See you next chapter!