Ch. 1 The beginning

Long ago, before the Great War, before the 4 Kingdoms united to form modern day Remnant, and before the discovery of Dust was Humanity's darkest time. This 'Age Before Dust' or commonly referred to as A.B.D. has very little historical record due to the word of mouth stories and short life expectancy of the time. It was not uncommon for entire families to be eradicated by natural means or Grimm attacks. During this time, Man was at war with almost everything. Nature, the Creatures of Grimm, and even other tribes of Men trying desperately to cling onto their vestiges of self proclaimed power.

All of humanity was struggling during this trying time.

The many Tribes of Man prayed to the heavens to protect them from the powerful forces that wanted to extinguish their flame. Some time during this Age on the continent of Mantle, according to one of the tribes, said that the heavens cried for them and the night sky showered the Tribes of Man with streaks of silver; briefly lighting the sky like a second sun. After the heavenly Tears fell from the sky, Remnant trembled from them and then stilled.

One of these tribes, the Malleo, traveled across Mantle (Change to continent name) after one of these "Celestial Silver Tears" westward. After traveling over the hostile land, they found the Silver Tear in the center of a deep crater. The Tear was so massive that it nearly dwarfed Mantle's mighty Mount Orthys. It blazed with silver fire, filling the crater it was that housed it in a lake of celestial flames, and continued to burn for 1000 years. The Silver fire warded off the Creatures of Darkness, the Celestial Silver Tear's presence burning so brightly that they couldn't help but flee. This heavenly light gave Humanity a short reprieve from the constant attacks of the Grimm, setting up temporary villages near these Silver Tears, and many tribes flocking towards these beacons of light.

As time went on however, and people believing to have finally being able to live without fear from the Darkness, the Silver Fire of the Tears dimmed lower and lower. As the heavenly blaze slowly extinguished, the Grimm crept closer and closer to these human settlements. Many Tribes fled from the dying Tears' light before the Darkness could reclaim their homes; reluctantly returning into the wilds of the Dark.

One of the Tribe Leaders, Chief Vulcan Malleo, stayed with the dying Silver Tear, trying to find a way to protect his home from the Darkness. Through his inner Fire and the strength of his hands, he took a part of the Celestial Silver and forged the weapon of his Tribe, a War-Hammer named Malleo Prime: the last gift of the heavens. Amazingly, his Soul blazed through his mighty hammer and igniting the silvery flame of Vulcan's forged hammerhead. He and his Tribe all made their weapons from the massive Tear and fought against the Darkness for a time. Some members of the Malleo tribe have even ventured into the Dark to assist other Tribes struggling against the Creatures of Grimm; their good deeds were rumored to have inspired the creation of modern day Huntsmen.

At the same time, Man had just discovered Remnant's gift, Nature's Wrath in physical form, Dust. Now with the rest of Humanity fighting against the Creatures of Grimm, Man has centralized their strength to 4 separate areas which would be later named the Kingdoms of Vacuo, Mistral, Atlas formerly known as Mantle, and Vale.

All of the Tribes have disbanded in the favor of Kingdoms, with the exception of the Malleo. While they were glad the rest of Humanity has made safe havens against the Darkness, they would not easily leave the Silver Tear that helped them in their time of need; for it was their home.

They now reside in the Forge Crater, living without the security the Kingdoms provide, at the base of Mount Corona; the supposed "Silver Tear of the heavens" in a village named Found—


A young, 13-year old Winter Schnee jolted up from the nap she didn't even realize she was in by the school's bell, signaling the end of her Historical Mythology Class and the end of the day. She had to admit, despite her constant strive to be a model Titan Academy student— Atlas' pre-Huntsman Academy— and a pristine example of the Schnee family name, learning about Remnant's ancient views of the world always caused her eyes to glaze over. However, this was part of Atlas' curriculum, so she had to endure it.

'I hope to Oum that I wasn't drooling!' The girl hastily wiped away any saliva from her mouth with the back of her sleeve.

Around the lecture hall-like classroom were her fellow classmates wearing the mandatory gray and white academy uniforms, sitting in one of the four rows facing the front. Uniforms that have barely changed since the merging of Atlas' Military, Government, and Academy when her great-great-grandfather was her age when Atlas Academy was still under the former government of Mantle and named Alsius Academy. Winter's classmates all had various levels of boredom adorning their faces, which turned into smiles of relief now that class was finally over.

"Oh dear. I believe I overshot our intended lecture time." Professor Chiron—Titan Academy's history professor, and the only Horse Faunus on the Teacher's Faculty— sheepishly said.

Even though Winter had no love for the subject of history, Professor Chiron was her favorite teacher. He was an elderly man in his mid-to-late 70's with greying hair and his sharply dressed Academy teacher uniform. Despite his age, the older man was still physically fit and spry to move at the speed of a man half his age. Professor Chiron was always willing to hear out his students' problems, went out of his way to help students in need, and basically become a confidant for the students. Which was very unusual for Atlas instructors in general; other teachers were content to merely lecture their assigned subjects and tell their students to take notes and study from their textbooks. Her History Professor was the only exception; sometimes going into in-depth discussions about a single subject to make sure everyone comprehended the facts of his lessons.

Professor Chiron walked back to his desk, his tail flicking sharply for a moment to show his momentary embarrassment, to gather his briefcase and notes. "Students, please read chapter 12 of your textbooks and complete the review questions at the end of the chapter. Have a great—"

Instantly a hand shot up two rows ahead from where Winter was sitting. She, along with over half her classmates, had to suppress a groan when she realized who the questioner was.

"Professor Chiron, sir?" A cheery voice asked.

"Yes my dear Penelope?" Chiron kindly prompted the cheerful student.

Penelope Polendina was one of the top students of Titan Academy and was somewhat of a rival to Winter. The 15-year old was always one of the best academically in grades, but was held back from achieving her full potential due to some sort of medical condition that had something to do with her body not being able to hold Aura properly; Winter wasn't quite sure. This prevented her from going into the more physically demanding courses that were required to become a Huntsman/Huntress or Soldier of Atlas. Instead, she focused with what she could do, which was sharpening her mind with knowledge. Which often times resulted in VERY lengthy class discussions.

Winter and the rest of her classmates plopped back to their seats in exasperation, being forced to wait until Penelope's line of questioning was finished and Chiron formally dismissed his classroom.

'Dangit! There goes my afternoon with Father, Weiss, and Whitely (Look up spelling) …' Winter lamented internally as she propped her head into her hands, her elbows leaning heavily onto her desk.

"Why didn't the Malleo Tribe want to join the Kingdom of Atlas?" Penelope inquired with a head tilt.

Chiron merely smiled at his student's inquisitive mind. "Well, like I said my dear, the Malleo's and the rest of the people whole lived there, viewed Mount Corona as their home. They weren't going to abandon it so they could live under the rules of a Kingdom that they wanted no part of. The people there generally believed in living by the sweat of one's achievements and pride of their work. They put in a lot of their blood, sweat, tears, and Souls into the creation of the city of Foundry. Their nationalism even outstripping Atlas in that regard."

Many of the students lightly laughed at Professor Chiron's jest of their Kingdom's pride.

After a giggle, Penelope continued her line of questioning. "But Professor Chiron, aren't villages outside of any of the Kingdoms' walls in danger from a Grimm attack?"

"Do keep in mind, the majority of Foundry's modern day citizens hailed from families that have lived there since the Dark Ages. This means that almost every denizen of the western City-State are quite familiar with 'living by the sword' as it were."

A male classmate from Winter's left snorted in dismissal. "So those primitives won't leave their little village because they are a bunch of savage brutes that worships some rock, Professor Pony?"

"Do not make further disruptions in my class Mister Torchwick, or else I will have to recommend to Dean Kronos for you to repeat all of your courses that you love so much." Chiron growled, his underlying threat making the young man clamp up.

With most of Titan's classes having no age restrictions, there were a multitude of ages that ranged from freshmen to senior. Sitting slouched in his seat was 18-year old senior Roman Torchwick. He had his feet propped up on the top of his desk and in violation of the Academy's dress code by having his uniform's jacket wide open, his dress shirt wrinkled and un-tucked, and his ever-present unacceptable ashy-gray ascot that was in replacement of Titan Academy's standard ties. Propped at his side was his black and red cane that he liked to carry around.

Winter always thought he was a punk and how he got into Titan was a mystery to the young girl. He got held back a year and the man 5—nearly 6— years her senior was finally going to leave Titan. She was certain he wasn't going to Atlas Academy; the General didn't tolerate such behavior.

"Going off of what Mister Torchwick inaccurately assessed, Foundry doesn't worship 'some rock'. The City-State actually sits on top of a sizeable mound of Adamantine, Mount Corona almost being entirely made the rare ore."

The rest of the students murmured amongst each other from what their teacher revealed. Professor Chiron's statement also sparked interest from the young Schnee.

The ore Adamantine riddled the Atlesian Alps, and was famed to be able to withstand pretty much any weapons fire if refined properly. A square foot sheet of the metal with an inch of thickness can shrug off Atlas laser rounds coming from a warship without a scratch. The only reason it wasn't currently being used in any of their armor, weapons, or equipment was because of how Oum damned hazardous it was to mine.

Winter heard from her Father that the durable metal was sometimes found in their family's Dust mines. Adamantine had the peculiar ability to siphon off the energy of the mining drills that were powered by Dust, making them deactivate in the process. It was also EXTREMELY volatile and could break down and explode if it was carelessly struck when physically mining for it. Improper management of Adamantine was the cause of 2 out of 5 mining accidents for the Schnee Dust Company. Even if it was safely unearthed it didn't do weapon smiths any good.

The ore had a high resistance to flames and an insanely high melting point to match that most modern day forges couldn't overcome. If one were persistent enough, a forger could melt the Adamantine into slag to use. However, their efforts were often dashed when the ore either became too brittle to use and crumbled apart, or too heavy and bulky to practically use as armor or weapons. General Ironwood has managed to make some protective plates for some vehicles out of the metal, but they were often times too heavy that it took too much energy move the vehicle around; added to the fact that it also retained it's energy leeching ability and sapped the Dust engines from it's fuel even faster. It also ran the dangers of absorbing too much energy and exploding violently like when it was mined.

So to hear that the small City-State of Foundry actually lived on top of a proverbial bomb shocked the students.

"How could they even live there if someone spilling a bottle of Dust could make their homes into a smoldering crater?" Winter blurted out and gaining the attention of the entire class, immediately regretting that she dropped her façade of grace.

"Yes Ms. Schnee," Professor Chiron chuckled with mirth from her unexpected outburst. "Adamantine does have a rather 'explosive' quality to it. However, rumor has it, the Malleo family has found out how to properly utilize it and create magnificent mechanical marvels. Weapons capable of discharging Dust rounds twice as powerful from half of the clip of a standard rifle, defensive plating able to withstand bombardment from entire armies, and suits of armor that protected the user from almost all harm and weigh half as much than a suit made of Atlesian Steel. This was most likely due to the fact that of their constant Grimm attacks and the political tensions of our former Mantle Empire wanting to assimilate Foundry at the time."

"But isn't Foundry a part of Atlas' rule Professor Chiron?" Winter was intrigued at the seemingly advanced City just a few hundred miles west of Atlas' capital.

The Horse Faunus surprised her when he shook his head. "I'm afraid not Ms. Schnee. About a few hundred years before Mantle joined the rest of the other Kingdoms of Remnant, Foundry and Mantle had a civil war that had thousands of casualties and only grew over the 20 year span…"

"But sir, shouldn't they have been assimilated into Mantle if they lost that many people?" Penelope asked as she scribbled the information into her notes.

"My dear students, you are mistaken. It was Mantle that had the majority of the casualties. Over the 20-year Civil War, Foundry only suffered a loss of around 200 troopers, and most of that account was due to old age."

"B-B-But that is impossible!" Winter was absolutely bug-eyed from her teacher's revelation. "A single city going up against an entire Kingdom shouldn't be possible!"

"But, it is. And from what I gathered over the years, they were very grateful for the Mantle Empire providing live fire test subjects to test their new weapons on during what they dubbed the Civil War: the Tech-Boom Skirmishes, but I digress. It was a matter of the quantity of warriors for Mantle vs. the quality of Foundry's. The Civil War ended when Mantle brokered for a cease-fire. From what I understand, Mantle would pull out its troops from Foundry to end the war, while Foundry ceased it attacks upon the capital. They would remain a pseudo-isolationist society, excluding any military interaction and only interacting with the governing branch of Mantle to make deals outside of their City-State."

"But Professor, Atlas' government, military, and school system have all assimilated as one entity at the end of the Great War." Penelope's comment made Chiron pause in his lecture.

"Yes well… Foundry has been slightly vexed about our Kingdom's change of policies—" Before Professor Chiron could elaborate further, the door to his classroom chimed, signaling someone entering. When the door slid open, it revealed the prestigious General James Ironwood. He wore his immaculately white, high ranking uniform, his coat and pants also looking pressed and clean. In his hands, he gripped an open white Scroll in its "tablet" setting. He was so engrossed on the information on the Scroll that he didn't seem to notice that Professor Chiron's classroom was still occupied.

"Chiron, I would like to go over some of the details on these arrangements from— Oh!" General Ironwood looked up from the tablet he was reading and was surprised at the still occupied lecture hall.

Acting on instilled military instinct, Winter barked out orders to her classmates. "GENERAL IRONWOOD ON DECK! ATTEN-SHUN!"

As one, the students in Chiron's lecture hall stood up from their seats and snapped a military salute in unison. Everyone stood ramrod-straight at attention; even Roman Torchwick was quick to close his jacket before snapping his salute with the others. The only one out of sync was Penelope. She needed the assistance of leg braces and crutches in order stand, which took some time as she gathered her standing aids and scrambled to salute her superior. As soon as her crutches were situated beneath her arms, she snapped her salute to her forehead while trying to find her balance and not fall over.

James Ironwood was brought out of his stupor and returned their salute. "At ease, Soldiers."

Each of the students snapped their hands down and held their hands behind their backs in a relaxed, but still alert stance; Penelope just gripped the handles of her crutches and adopted a more relaxed stance as well.

"I didn't realize that your class was still in session Professor Chiron." The General nodded towards his senior. Chiron chuckled at his former student's sheepishness.

"It's my fault, James my boy. When you get as old as I am, you tend to reminisce and blather on to youngin's about the past." The elderly teacher feigned a hunched back and adopted a dry old man voice, poking fun at his own old age. Many of the students were snickering while trying to remain impassive, even Ironwood seem to let out a slight chuckle.

Chiron was the only one able to get away with improper conduct when addressing General Ironwood. Oum, when the General was attending Titan Academy, Chiron was his teacher! It made Winter wonder if the older Horse Faunus found the fountain of youth… or was immortal. The History professor continued to elaborate to the younger General.

"We were just going over some creation stories, when Ms. Polendina sparked a wonderful conversation about the little city of Foundry." Chiron's comment caused the handicapped girl to blush in embarrassment and avert her gaze when the General glanced slightly in her direction.

"Is that right? I'm sorry to tear your students away from your stories, but I would like to discuss something with you, if you don't mind." General Ironwood promptly requested.

"Very well, General. In any case, I've kept these youngsters here longer than needed anyway." Professor Chiron turned back to his students. "Class dismissed! Remember the homework in your textbooks!"

Winter's classmates filed out in an orderly fashion, taking great care of their posture now that the General of Atlas was present. As the Schnee girl made it to the halls, she spotted Roman and Penelope moving as fast as they could into a neighboring empty classroom. Concerned for the crutched girl's wellbeing, she snuck into the empty classroom as well to make sure Roman didn't do any funny business.

Inside, Penelope was seated in one of the room's holo-computers and was typing furiously on the keyboard. Roman was behind the ginger girl with a smile on grin on his face, leaning over her shoulder and prompting her to do her work faster.

"HEY! WHAT DO YOU— AH!" Before the 13-year old could finish berating her older classmates, a muffled pop came from Torchwick's cane. The cane's hooked handle shot towards Winter, wrapping around her once before yanking her off her feet into Roman's waiting arms. One of his gloved hands muffled her mouth before she could scream.

"Pipe down Princess! Any louder with your hollering would wake up the good people of Vacuo from their sleep."

Penelope called over her shoulder as she continued to type away. "Actually Roman, it should be midday in Vacuo—"

"Dang it Polendina! You ruined the punch line!" Roman accused the genius girl, ignoring Winter's futile struggle in his grasp to escape.

"I just thought if you wanted to make jokes, then you should be more accurate in your facts." Penelope swiftly replied.

"Just focus on the hacking Egg-head."

She glanced over her shoulder to glower at the rebellious senior student. "Oh I'm sorry Torchwick, do you want to try your hand at bypassing several firewalls on this crap classroom computer?"

"Fine, fine. You've made your poi—OW!" Winter, despite being the epitome of propriety, was still an immature kid. The young girl used her teeth and bit at Roman's offending fingers on his hand. The troubled young man drew back his hand and gave a pained hiss. "What the heck! What kind of person bites people? What are you, 10-years old?"

"I'm 13!" She hated when people assumed her age because of her short height. "What are you doing in this room? It's against regulation to use the school's equipment after school is out without permission."

Roman rolled his eyes at the strict Schnee. The young academy student acted like the stuffy old teachers from the Great War.

"Relax Princess. I just got some juicy rumors about the old General." The young man informed as he leaned casually against his cane. "Apparently, he's a bit rattled from a recent message he got and wanted old Chiron's input on the matter. So I planted a micro-surveillance camera in his class so we can get the details. Penny's here to hack Chiron's mic-system so we can listen in."

Winter snapped her gaze to Penelope, who dutifully tapped away at the keyboard; inputting a dizzying number of computer codes. "I can understand Torchwick breaking the rules and hacking the systems, but you Penelope?"

She just shrugged as she offered a cheery smile. "'Hacking' is such an ugly term. I like to think of it as my practice for Atlas' cyber-warfare division. Besides, if this matter has the General worried, shouldn't it be our duty to make sure we can properly combat the situation? And the only way we can do that is if we know what they are talking about!"

Winter Schnee scowled and clenched her fist. How dare her classmates break the rules and spy on their Kingdom's military leader and Headmaster! The nerve!

"Well I am going to inform Academy security about your actions!" The young girl was stomping off towards the door. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves for even think—"

"And… DONE~!" With a final click, the computer screen lit up and showed what was happening in Professor Chiron's class. Roman sat on top of one of the desks while Penelope reclined in her seat with her arms behind her head.

Winter froze at the doorknob.

Through her bangs, she saw in the corner of her eye the scene of General Ironwood pacing the room, while Chiron slightly chastised him. She knew it was wrong to break the rules of the Academy and that she should report Torchwick and Polendina right away.

'I'm going to do it. I am going to walk out this door, find the nearest guard, and ship these two out of Titan in a blink… Right. Now…' The next thing she knew, Winter zoomed back to the desks and promptly sat in one of the open seats; dignified and with her legs crossed of course. 'OUM DAMN IT! Me and my curiosity!'

"Heh, welcome to the club Princess!" Roman ruffled the young girl's hair before focusing his attention on the screen.

"I don't know what to do Chiron. I've tried opening up a dialogue with them multiple times for negotiations, but they always turn me down!" James Ironwood was rubbing his temples to relieve his stress.

"James my boy, you know how Foundry is like. They honor their deals, are stubborn to a fault, and hold grudges to those who wronged them." Professor Chiron gently reminded.

"But I am the Headmaster of Atlas Academy and the Military, they should continue exporting their tech to Atlas without problems." Ironwood grumbled.

"That was before our Kingdom's desire to obtain their more advanced weapon specs, General. There was a reason Foundry requested to never make deals with the Mantle Military Council at the end of the Civil War. They believed that if people were given weapons they weren't ready for, then the user would end up harming others AND themselves. They just want to prevent unneeded violence."

The Headmaster of Atlas was still adamant on his stance. "They can't just deny the people, Humanity, equipment that could save lives Chiron."

"Like I tell my students, Foundry takes great pride in their work. Most of their people there aren't willing to part with weaponry unless they see clear evidence of the need for it from others. So far, they haven't seen anything that would warrant them to act charitable to us." The Titan history teacher said while crossing his arms in thought. "Plus, it probably doesn't help ease their concerns when dealing with the son of the former General Otto Ironwood, who created our military-driven Kingdom and circumvented the Civil War peace treaty for this very reason."

"Chiron…" The warning in the General's tone told the older man ease off his tactless remarks.

The elderly Faunus sighed as he put his hand on is former student's shoulder. "We are in a time of peace James. Worrying about every single thing that might happen to Humanity in the future is going to burn you out and give you gray hairs."

The professor could have sworn he heard his former student silently deny the beginnings of his graying hair.

"Besides dear boy," Chiron exclaimed to lift James' spirit. "Even if the Malleo Tech Industry does deny you weapon specs, at least they are cordial enough to turn you down personally. When I was in office for the Civilian Council before your father removed it, I couldn't tell you how many times Atlas was turned away by an A.I. receptionist! They were probably just as tired as the Atlas Council was of listening to Otto's constant demands for their weapons.

"You must be doing something right James. They wouldn't have let you kept the Neo-Scroll that their city covets so much."

In the General's hand was a gray cube-shaped device with an orange light softly blinking on it. On one of the sides was a logo of a stylized mallet with the letter 'M' making up the hammerhead.

"Now, chin up and make the call. Maybe we'll catch them in a good mood." Ironwood groaned at the professor's optimism.

The General of Atlas twisted the palm-sized machine like a Rubik's Cube and tossed it to the ground. To their unknowing audience's eyes they saw the cube float in the air, ringing like a Scroll call, before spawning a PERSON into the room with them!

The spawned figure wore a light blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows; some parts of his shirt had scorch marks fraying its fabric, and freshly pressed slacks. Covering his attire was an intensely dark brown blacksmith's apron, nearly black from the fire damage adorning it, that held various tools the were a mix of Dark Age smithing tools and other highly advanced items that nobody could make heads or tales of. The new man was EXTREMELY muscled. His biceps were nearly the size of Winter's head for Oum's sake! On his face was a graying bushy moustache-beard combo. At the end of his beard and whiskers were smoldering embers that remained lit on his face. His features were stern and looked as if he had a permanent scowl.

"Greetings, this is Duras Malleo," the hulking blacksmith greeted, his voice rumbling like an earthquake.

General Ironwood strode up to life-sized hologram with a formal smile. "Hello Mr. Malleo it's Iron—"

"Sorry I couldn't come to the phone right now." The hologram continued without missing a beat. This caused James's shoulders to sag. It took the General a moment to realize that the image was a personified answering machine. "I am either out of my office at the moment or in a meeting. Please leave your name and number and I'll get back to you as soon as possible." Just as the figure was waving bye, Holo-Duras perked up as if he just remembered something. "Oh yeah—If this is Atlas Council asking for weapons again, then do Remnant a favor and put your heads in a Creeper's jaws and DROP DEA—!"


"Well, I should have expected that." James said as he rubbed his head in frustration.

Chiron merely chuckled. "I see Duras hasn't changed. We probably caught him at a bad time. He's usually more attentive with calls."

Duras Malleo's hologram faded back to a wireframe before reconfiguring again. Now, it was in the form of an orange young woman in a power suit made of steaming orange codes. Her hair was done up in a simple bun held together with what looked like a screwdriver. On her face was a pair of half rimmed glasses. Overall, she looked like an orange secretary, similar to Atlas' new automated Hologram receptionist.

"Thank you for calling the voicemail— Oh!" What was thought to be an automated voicemail box surprised the hidden student audience when the hologramed woman perked up in recognition at the two men. "James Ironwood, is that you? Oh my circuits, it's been so long! The last time I've seen you, you barely reached my waist."

"Hello Charis." General Ironwood deadpanned.

The Faunus Professor gave a joyful grin. "My dear Charis, is that you?"

"Oh Chiron, its been so long! You seem to be doing well for an old man." The hologram woman giggled.

"If I am old, then you have me beat. You were the scribe at the end of the Great War when I was on the Council. How old are you?"

"That is rude! Don't you know it's impolite to ask a lady her age?" Charis giggled again. "Well, enough about me. How can the A.I. of Duras Malleo assist you today?"

"She's an A.I.?!" Winter couldn't believe that she was witnessing an artificial intelligence that appeared more alive than a machine.

"Shh! Pay attention." Penelope scolded, her eyes not leaving the screen.

The General stepped forward towards the A.I. construct. "I've called on the behalf of the Council to try again to appeal to Duras to part with some more advanced technology specs for the Kingdom of Atlas."

Charis huffed in slight annoyance at the tonal shift to the familiar subject regarding Foundry.

"By 'Advanced Technology', you mean 'Foundry Weapons' correct?" The A.I. rolled her eyes as she focused on the two men again. "Despite the obvious answer of 'Denied' that 99.99% of the citizens of Foundry would say, Duras is leading his annual relief/goodwill mission in Mantle. He won't be back for several days."

Ironwood was caught in confusion at this fact. "He's in Mantle? Why would he be in the old Kingdom?"

"The Malleo Tech Industry has regularly supplied Mantle with aid after the Great War; Civilian and Agricultural products of course. Things that would assist them in living in the wake of Atlas'… ahem… 'Golden Age.'"

"Erm… Right, my dear." Chiron interjected, wanting to steer the conversation to a less provoking topic. "If you don't mind, we would appreciate being transferred to the person in charge while Duras is away. It was… Aeris right? His daughter?"

The A.I. shook her head. "Unfortunately, Aeris is also unable to take your call. She is attending her advanced courses in hard-light weaponry and will be occupied for the remainder of the day."

"There must be someone for us to talk to." General Ironwood said with gritted teeth.

Charis tapped her chin as she weighed the possible options she could offer the men to resolve their problem. "Hmm… I guess I could connect you to one of the Industry's leading innovators. He's helped developed a variety of our tech and is very close to Duras to have his own input on the Foundry Council." The A.I. nodded as she grinned at the General and teacher. "Okay, I'll patch you through to Acero! Please hold."

The perky machine's hologram faded away and left the Neo-Scroll spinning in midair. Whilst it span, it rang a dial tone indicating that the A.I. was transferring their call. After several seconds, the Neo-Scroll connected them to the recipient and projected their image. However, the person projected gave everyone pause.

In the place of Charis was a young boy. He wore a blue jeans and a black shirt depicting the Malleo hammer logo emblazoned on the chest. His messy black hair had a pair of old styled goggles with polarized orange lenses. The boy was clearly in the middle of something as he was busy hammering away at something off screen of the Neo-Scroll's viewing range.

'Goodness! He's got to be at least as old as Weiss.' Winter thought as she continued to watch the scene unfold.

The boy, now noticing the two older men, shouted to them, "Be right with ya dudes! Just gotta pull the battery from this Puma just right—WHOA!" What followed was a small explosion that caused the boy to jump back from the flash of flames that nearly scorched his hands.

"Okay… maybe I'll do that later." The young boy muttered to himself as he pulled a rag from his belt to clean his hands from soot. "Hi, I'm Acero. Friends call me Ace. So, how may I help you Atlesians today?"

"Is this a joke? The A.I. Charis told us we would be connected to Malleo Industry's leading innovator!" The general looked as if he had reached his wits end as he scowled at the cheery youth. The boy, Acero as Winter recalled, didn't even flinch at the older man's outrage.

"Yep, that's me. Acero Malleo, at your service!"

Chiron took the reigns of the conversation. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Duras, would you son?"

"Yeah, that's my dad. Best damn inventor in all of Remnant. Period." Young Acero proudly boasted. " And you must be Professor Chiron of Titan. And of course, General James T. Ironwood of Atlas everything else." The students listening in heard what could have been a slightly venomous tone as the boy glanced at the General. Acero immediately quickly changed his tone to be more inviting. "But enough about that. Ms. Charis said you guys wanted to talk about getting weapon designs from us."

"Yes young man," James said as he straightened his posture. "I'm speaking on the behalf of Atlas to try to convince Foundry to part with some of their more advanced tech."

Acero just shrugged. "What's wrong with the machines we gave you already? We upheld our end of the Mantle/Foundry Ceasefire pact." His happy demeanor shifted to a more technological savvy mindset as he continued his talk with the Atlas Headmaster. "And we even generously gave you an additional 20% of designs in the form of our civilian level commercial ship engines. More than satisfying our quota."

"But your military defense equipment is state of the art, and can help better protect the people of Remnant. Surely you can understand?" The general inquired, trying to appeal to Acero's sense of duty to Humanity.

"Or start a war with the people of Remnant…" Acero said in a low tone. "Or to subjugate the people of Remnant. Or even utterly DESTROY the people of Remnant! Tell me mister Ironwood, are any of those options getting warmer?"

"Mr. Acero, I can say in full confidence that what you are insinuating is very out of proportion." Chiron chimed in, trying to diffuse the situation.

The boy genius scoffed. "Foundry values hard work and recognizes and respects other people's achievements as well. Every last citizen in Foundry has earned their worth here. And while we may have been against Mantle in the past, we respected their drive and achievements they accomplished, on their own.

"So… Why should I even consider try to get you guys top of the line technology, when Atlas doesn't have enough respect for its Mantle origins? The Kingdom that gave everything for its Academy, only for it to fall into shambles after Atlas took everything from them? I for one detest parasites and will not allow Foundry to fall to the same ruin as Mantle."

James gritted his teeth. "Listen you brat! Atlas may have had it's murky beginnings, but as General, I want to make it so all of Remnant can be safe and protected from all of the forces conspiring against it. The only way for that to happen is to be strong enough to shield the people from harm!"

The boy wearily sighed as his hologram began to pace the room. He was pinching the bridge of his nose when his focus shifted directly in the hidden students' direction; more specifically, the camera probe that Roman planted.

"Hello there…" Acero's artificial form easily plucked the probe from it's hiding place held it in the palm of his hand.

"How the heck did he see my probe?!" Roman exclaimed.

"What is that in your hand Mr. Acero?" Chiron asked off screen as Acero continued to eye the micro camera.

"I dunno… But I can find out." With a touch of his hard-light finger, the classroom monitor erupted into a flurry of chaotic code.

"What the hell!? Penelope, what happened?" Torchwick demanded the brainy handicapped girl.

"I don't know!" Penelope shouted as her fingers furiously typed away at the keyboard to correct the computer anomaly. "Whatever he did, he basically slaved Titan Academy's entire computer network!"

"Are you saying he planted a virus in our school's system through a wireless camera from a hologram projector?" Winter asked, clearly out of her depth when it came to technology.

Penelope just shrugged as she continued fighting the foreign virus. "I don't know what Foundry is capable of! Maybe they can hack a computer through a camera!"

"A-A-Actually, I used the camera's wireless connection to link up the Neo-Scroll to your school's systems. Then I planted the virus."

The voice coming from the computer screen's static-y image caused Penelope to cease her typing in surprise. A few moments later, the static on the screen reoriented itself to the image of the Malleo's burning hammer logo. It then shrank and moved to the bottom corner of the screen to reveal the smug 9-year-old face of Acero Malleo.

"Though I got to admit, it took longer than I thought to hack into the system." Acero looked directly at Penelope as he continued.

"You successfully held off a cyber attack from a virus with my city's latest 'Behemoth-Force' infiltration program for 15 seconds on that piece of crap desktop school computer…" the Malleo boy's face split into a devilish grin. "Sweet Oum, you got mad skills Freckles! If you want to hone your skills on a computer that's actually worth a damn, give me a call." Penelope blushed at the praise coming from the boy who hailed from the world's advanced city.

Winter had gotten over her flabbergasted feelings as she straightened up with military discipline. "In accordance to Atlas military doctrine, any foreign threats endangering the security of the Kingdom will be held accountable and imprisoned! I demand you surrender to the authorities at once!"

Acero merely arched an eyebrow before turning to Roman. "Is she always like this?"

"All the time. Princess here can't breathe without asking a military superior for permission." Torchwick replied nonchalantly.

"Hey!" Winter yelled, offended at her unflattering description.

"Eh, that's too bad." Acero then shrugged. "Well, at least she's cute; no matter how rigid she is."

"WHAT!" the boy's offhanded comment caught the Schnee girl completely off guard. It didn't help that Roman was laughing at the flustered features; even Penelope had to stifle a giggle.

The boy smiled as he continued. "Anyways, back to why I hacked you. You guys got some serious ball-bearings to listen in on one of Atlas' well kept secrets."

"What do you mean 'Secrets'" Penelope asked.

"That Atlas can't produce weapons half a damn without holding Foundry's hand." The Young Malleo informed. "Heh… Atlesians and their silly pride. Eh, no offense."

"None taken," Roman said with a shrug.

"Well you guys, the fact that you would intentionally risk expulsion despite going against your Atlas creed has caught my attention." Acero stated. "I thought kids from Atlas were nothing but military puppets for the general the play around with, but clearly the Foundry propaganda was wrong."

"Um… Thanks… I think?" Penelope said, unsure how to take the backhanded comment.

"Heh, as my Dad would say, 'I like the cut of your jib!' We should definitely hang out sometime!" As soon as he said that, a trio of chimes sounded off from each of the students' pockets. Winter retrieved her Scroll and saw that a new contact downloaded onto it.

"We'll be in touch. Especially you Snowdrop~." The 9-year-old gave a wink to Winter. "You guys can bet you'll see more of Foundry from this point on."

In an instant, Acero's image disappeared from the screen. In it's place returned the camera image of Chiron's classroom. The micro camera appeared to have moved and was now sitting on a windowsill.

"Sorry about that. It was a little Tic-Nick. Hate those little Grimm bugs, ugh!" Acero's hologram commented as he gave a sly wink to his hidden audience. He then gave his attention to General Ironwood again. "You know what General? I change my mind. Maybe it was shortsighted of me to deny you your requests without giving you a chance to prove yourself."

"What do you mean 'Prove myself'?" James questioned, feeling whiplash at the jarring change of attitude.

"I gave the Foundry Council this proposal some time ago, but they agreed to it if the situation called for it; which it does now. Foundry will give you until the 76th annual Civil War Memorial Festival to build a piece of Military technology that is either on par or exceeds Foundry standards. If you can develop something that we haven't thought of AND it can stand up against our attempts to push it to it's limits, then Foundry will happily grant Atlas specs of our proto-type Trooper Armed Legions which includes firearms and tactical supports that comes with it for Atlas to use as they see fit, in exchange for said technology."

The General's face split into a wide smile as he shook Acero's hard-light hand. "Thank you young man, for giving Atlas this chance."

"I just gave ya 4 years to wow us with something General," Acero interjected. "It's up to your tech-boys to deliver. If you fail, then Atlas WILL be content with the non-military gifts Foundry gives you without complaint. Understand?"

James hesitated for a moment before reapplying a firm grasp to the holographic boy's hand. "Deal."

"Good! I'll inform the Foundry Council to prepare for your contributions. I'll send you a written contract later today to make this thing official."

Chiron, silent throughout the exchange, spoke up. "If you don't mind me asking, why the sudden change of heart?"

Acero simply smiled. "I just think that a little friendly competition is healthy for innovation. Besides," Acero subtly turned toward the direction of the mini camera, "I get the feeling that the Winter season then will be absolutely ravishing~."

Winter automatically deduced that the boy's veiled comment was intended for her when he gave the camera a flirty wink. Roman then gave Winter a pat on the back.

"Congrats Princess, your boyfriend gave Atlas a chance to impress Foundry!"

Winter just blew her bang off of her face in exasperation. "Just great."