Forever Fall, two days later...
Grimm never rested. Unlike mortal beasts, the creatures of darkness were tireless and unyielding, never relenting in their universal goal to destroy man and faunus alike. Nothing could halt them save for death, and nothing could change their ways.
An Ursa lumbering out of the red tinted tree line was no different from any other, uncaring of the early morning dew or the cracking wood under its paws. It paused only to sniff at the air, moving on when it found nothing of interest. It ignored the rustling of the leaves, the songs of the birds, and the cautious eyes of a nearby deer, itself continuing to graze once it identified the creature. The Ursa was no threat to wildlife of any stripe, treating all but man with equal apathy.
The bear like Grimm stopped again by a short hill, turning its eyes towards a series of caves nearby. When it sniffed this time, the Ursa detected a lingering trace of several humans, but the scent was too faint to rouse its ire. Nevertheless, a growl left its throat; the beast knew something was starting to aggravate it, but it didn't know what the source could be. All it understood was the cause being very close by.
Sensing a presence in the vicinity, the Grimm inclined its head back a short distance to snort. It was unaware of a sharp blade whipping through the crisp air, until the weapon plunged into the back of its neck. Recoiling in sudden pain, the Ursa instinctively tried to buck off the weight which landed along with the blow, but it's efforts were too little, too late, to stop the curved sword from severing its head from its body. The Grimm didn't let out so much as a snarl before it collapsed, the body fading into foul ash a moment later.
Landing on his feet, the owner of the weapon automatically checked for any more Grimm in the area. Once satisfied, the ragged looking man in his thirties reached for his waist for his bottled resolve, popping the top to take a long gulp from the flask. His appearance wasn't anything special, being a stubbled fellow in untidy work clothes, with only a red scarf standing out in terms of color. His curved sword, bearing a faint likeness to a sickle, was similarly unassuming. Most people guessed what he was at a glance. Few understood what lied beneath the surface.
Dropping the small container, Qrow Brawen let out a pleased sigh. "Oh yeah, definitely good call on the new brew."
Replacing the flask, the man trundled along a natural path through the clearing. He toed around the ruined trees, his buzzed senses alight for any danger. Finding none, he paused by the base of the small hill to draw his beat up scroll, comparing the map on the display to what he was seeing.
"You've gone evil Glynda, snooping on student files to find out where they've gone. Shame on you." Qrow muttered, closing the device.
He was about to start climbing the rocky hill when a glint of light hit him. Backing up, Qrow frowned as he bore down on the source of the annoyance, curious to what it could be. Crouching down to paw at the grass, he eventually found a tiny lump of metal to pinch his fingers around.
The huntsman grunted, turning over the tiny brass shell in his hands. It was a bullet casing, that much was obvious. Giving the center a cautious sniff, he figured the pistol sized round was fired a few days ago, meaning the shooter was either dead or long gone. Qrow was ready to drop the case back to the ground, but brushing over the end made him hold off for a moment. He felt the etched print on the bottom, basic information to identify the type of ammo. Nothing unusual in his mind, save for the words themselves.
"Five seven, ef en." Qrow read, squinting hard at the markings. "Never heard those initials before." he stood up, debating a second before tossing the casing away. "Ef en, hmm. Fern Elliot? Nah, has to be a company. Wonder who though."
Drawing his sword once he reached the caves, he crept along the series of shallow entrances to peer inside, hunting for something he didn't know anything about; Glynda's communique was annoyingly vague, only telling him to go to a location she provided and to find an object for her. The huntsman was close to disregarding the message, but the line about it being Ozpin's command made him sigh and put off his plans.
Once he hit the third cave, Qrow thought he was on to something at last. Grinning, he approached to snag a long dead glow stick from the ground. Giving it a hearty shake failed to bring even a weak shine, proving it was long since dead. Tossing it away, he peered at the ten meter opening.
"Gotta be something in here." he mumbled, striding in with his weapon in hand.
It was a wise precaution in this case. A Beowolf was sniffing around in the darkness when it heard him, turning to snarl at the human. Qrow wasn't one for formalities, and now was no exception; a mad dash let him meet the Grimm with a powerful slash at its midsection, slicing it in half in one blow. It was cut off mid roar, dissolving before it hit the ground. Waving away the ash, the huntsman went to his belt for a flashlight, clicking it on to shine the light over the ground.
"One, two, three, four..." he counted the glow sticks as he saw them, reaching for his flask as he counted.
His goal was put on hold when the beam crossed over something, which a quick backtrack revealed to be one of the last things he expected to find out in the middle of nowhere.
"Now what do we have here?" Qrow asked the empty cave, walking up to the black altar. Circling the pedestal, the man paused to shine his light over rows upon rows of glyphs, all surrounding a red crystal. Running his hand over the symbols, he frowned in thought, trying to recall ever seeing anything like this object before. Scratching the grit coated surface, he leaned over to examine the strange icons, briefly wondering what they could be.
That was until he pressed down with just enough force, creating a strong clanking noise nearby. His sword leapt into his grip in a heartbeat, the cone of light snapping to the source of the noise. But what Qrow saw stunned even him.
"Okay, so that's what they wanted." he mumbled, approaching the large circular statue caught in the light. "Oz, I really hope you have something to explain this."
"Alright, I'm outta here." Ruby spoke to her remaining roommates, adjusting the weight of Crescent Rose on her way to the door. Outside the window, the already bright sun was rising ever higher on its course across the sky; thus far it was a clear morning, although the clouds on the horizon were dark with the promise of rain.
Putting on her jacket, Yang glanced to her sister. "Gonna go see JNPR again?"
"Yeah. Nora said she wanted help with combat training, plus Valentine said they needed some team coaching. You guys doing anything later?" Ruby turned around once she reached the door, resting one hand on the knob.
"Just some errands in town." Blake answered from her bed, sitting with a matte laid out in front of her. Gambol Shroud was placed upon the covering in a state of disassembly, being subjected to some much needed maintenance. A tool set helped her in the task, allowing her to tune everything to what she wanted. "That reminds me, did Jaune give a time for the trip?"
"He hasn't yet. Not sure why, they're not doing much." Ruby thought aloud, shrugging after a moment.
"Oh well. Hey if you see Weiss, let her know I'm borrowing her notes. Last test of the year, don't wanna screw it up." Yang ran a gauntlet covered hand through her hair to fluff it, her long mane waving with the movement.
"Will do, see you later." Ruby bade to her friends, closing the door behind her.
Going off at a sedate walk, Ruby allowed some worry into her thoughts; Weiss vanished for a couple hours yesterday, and when she returned the white toned girl was in a foul mood. Any questions of what happened were brushed off, and she refused to speak a word about what had her upset. And this morning, she disappeared yet again without an explanation. Ruby could name but a single thing which could work her up like this, and she had a sinking feeling this was it.
As she passed into the guest dorms, her mind turned to the positive things going on. Her dad was definitely coming to visit, his last letter claimed he would be in Vale within a short time. VERE's schedule was open for the next month, so she had someone to hang out with and train too. The last major test of her Beacon career was officially done, she was certain she did a decent job on it. And lastly, her long lost friends had plenty of free time available.
Coming up to their room, Ruby stopped to rap a knuckle on the door. She only needed to wait a few seconds for it to open. Starting with a cautious crack, it then swung open to let her in.
"Hey Ruby." Ren greeted, waving the smaller girl on.
"Hi guys." she greeted back, taking note of his pistols on his thighs as he shut the door behind her.
For a moment she was struck by a strange sense of deja vu: Pyrrha had a partly disassembled Miló being put back together on her bed, while Nora was tying on her boots by the mutual desk. Both girls looked up from what they were doing to glance at her.
"Hi Ruby!" Nora greeted, enthusiastically waving as if she hadn't seen her in a week. Pyrrha gathered a smile, offering a restrained wave of her own.
Nodding to them, Ruby glanced around the room in confusion. "Hey, where'd Jaune go?"
Just as Ren opened his mouth, there was a bright flash of light in the center of the room, lasting only a second. Rubbing the spots out of her eyes, the red toned girl checked again to find her question answered.
"Gah, ah." Jaune groaned, grabbing his forehead to steady himself as he swayed, a small duffel in his grip swinging with him. "Why'd that make me so dizzy?" he muttered. A cough from the girls grabbed the young man's attention, and a pointed finger from the redhead directed his attention to the guest. "Oh, hi Ruby."
"Morning Jaune." Ruby smiled as she nodded, masking her sudden unease.
He saw it however, chuckling bashfully as he rubbed his neck. "Yeah, sorry. Official summons, so I had to report in uniform."
"Its okay, its what you gotta do." she replied cheerfully, forcing herself to cease her staring at the green outfit, sans vest and equipment. What helped was noticing each of the current residents picking up, looking to him intently.
Jaune let out a regretful sigh, turning to his team next. "Okay, good news, it's not a crisis."
It was impossible for Ruby to miss the exhales from all three, with Nora mumbling, "Had me worried for a bit." Their relief soothed her, since she had no idea what to do if something bad happened, like an invasion.
"Just some official business. And, um." Biting his lip, he glanced to the red huntress. "Say, is Yang busy today?"
"Nothing big, why?" she asked, raising her brow in curiosity.
Jaune sucked in a breath through his teeth. "I'll explain in a minute, are my...?"
"Clothes are in the bathroom where you left them." Pyrrha answered, lifting Miló to point at the wall. A sharp click of a dry fire made her lower it with a satisfied look.
"Thanks." he answered gratefully, approaching her bed to lift up the small carry bag. "I grabbed you a P90, Major Carter traded in the M16 parts for me."
"Thanks. Can you put it in the closet with the others, please?" she pointed along with the question, making him nod as he treaded to the tiny storage space.
Finishing up with her bootlaces, Nora gave him a look. "So what's the deal?"
"Um..." Jaune froze halfway to the bathroom, letting out a quiet groan. "It's... gimme a sec and I'll explain." he said quickly, darting into the bathroom to close the door behind him.
Ruby fought the urge, but it was no use; she glanced to Ren as he crossed his arms, raising her brow. "What was that all about?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." he replied, similarly lost.
Pyrrha left the bed to switch her weapon to javelin mode as a test, as Nora grabbed her scroll and Magnhild. Meanwhile Ruby tapped her foot on the floor, waiting patiently beside Ren. The silence was uncomfortable, making her think of anything to break it. A sudden thought gave her an option.
Clearing her throat, she started with, "Do you guys mind if I ask a question about your work?"
"Go ahead." Ren invited as the closest, looking at her. There was a gleam in his eyes that set her on edge however, making her nervously clear her throat.
"Um, its not about the thing in the armory." Ruby clarified, shifting her weight to one foot. His simple nod made her slump her shoulders, and she decided to move on rather than trying to pry. "Its actually a thing I heard Jaune mention a couple days ago, when his sister stopped by. What's Zat Week?"
Instantly the trio's expressions changed. Ren and Pyrrha suddenly cringed, wincing at something. In contrast, Nora snapped her head over and beamed maniacally.
"Um..." the sable haired man glanced to Pyrrha, who coughed.
"Um, ah..." she played with the weapon in her hands, for a moment avoiding eye contact. "Eeahh, it was a training exercise for Zats." she said guardedly.
Ruby tilted her head to the side. "That doesn't sound-"
"They shot us." Nora butted in, standing tall with an enormous grin on her features, silencing the girl instantly.
Gulping nervously alongside Pyrrha, Ren raised a placating hand. "Um, Nora?"
"Once a day for a week, random times and by random people. It was supposed to toughen us up, and it did for me!" she said, pumping a fist in victory.
Ruby's hollow look made her snicker, and caused the redhead to hurriedly clear her throat. "Um, it had a point. If you get shot by a Zat enough, you'll build up some immunity. Plus, it was so if we did get hit in the field, we would know what to do."
"Oh yeah. I dunno why the rest of you guys didn't like Zat Week, I had a great time." the orange haired girl proclaimed, planting a fist on her hip in pride.
Ren coughed into a fist. "You're the only one who isn't laid out by those, it hurts for everyone else."
"Ha, wimp." Nora dismissed with a petty wave.
Fortunately the bathroom swung open for Jaune to stroll out, clad in his street clothes and missing only Crocea Mors. His own uneasy look switched to concern when he saw Ruby's expression, and when he turned to his team, Nora obliged his unspoken question. "Told her about Zat Week."
"Ah." he went, sucking in a breath. "Okay, Ruby?"
The red toned girl shook her head, forcing out the mental images of her friends being subjected to the same agony as her sister. Taking a steadying breath, she met his gaze. "Yeah?"
"Can you get Yang over here? Its, ah, I need her help." Jaune admitted nervously, wringing his hands.
"Ah, sure, hang on." she reached for her scroll, pondering what had him so worried. As she hit her sister's icon, she suddenly asked herself why he needed the blonde's help.
Vale, hours later...
"You've got to be kidding me." Yang repeated for the hundredth time, slumping with an empty look. Beside her Jaune finally stopped digging at his neck, choosing to rub his nose and sigh. The empty alleyway nearby the trams gave the combined party a lot of privacy, but not enough to let her hit him and get away with it.
"Cheer up kids, it isn't that bad." offered O'Neill, shrugging to loosen up.
SG-1 weren't clad in uniforms, though that did little to help them blend in. Carter had jeans and a leather jacket, though her body language was impossible to hide. The blonde woman was clearly trying to relax, playing with her sleeves and jostling the holstered Zat hidden away. Daniel was doing better, his outfit of a thick overcoat and slacks making him look like a professor. Teal'c differed from his usual self only by wearing jeans and a windbreaker, along with a beanie to hide the emblem. Finally O'Neill had on an old jacket and jeans, his hands in his pockets as he gave the natives a quizzical look.
"Seriously, relax." O'Neill said with an easygoing wave. "We're just gonna go be tourists for a couple hours, see the sights, yadda yadda. No big deal."
"Well, I'm actually going to hunt down a museum or a library. I don't get the chance to study alien cultures nearly as often as I'd like to." Daniel corrected, briefly adjusting his glasses.
"I'd like to find a machine shop myself, though I'll admit this is a pretty city." Carter said, rolling her shoulders.
O'Neill wrinkled his brow. "Okay, Teal'c and I are goin sightseeing. Right buddy?" he turned to the large man with a hopeful look.
"Indeed." he said softly, almost resignedly.
When Yang swiveled her head to Jaune, the young man sighed.
"I know, and I'm sorry. But I didn't know who else to ask. I'm serious, you and Blake are the only ones in my social circle who knows their way around Vale. I mean, even before I didn't really know the city, so I'd get everybody lost in no time." he explained, wincing when he touched the red skin of his neck.
"Lucky me." Yang muttered ruefully.
"I'll make it up to you, I promise." he vowed, wincing when O'Neill glanced to him.
"Take it easy kid, I'm not hardcase Smith. You can relax around me. Now." he turned to Yang. "You're the tour guide of the day, where to?"
The blonde took a breath, glancing to the others. "Where do you wanna go?"
O'Neill opened his mouth, but the older man paused as he twisted around in befuddlement. "What happened to sticking together?"
"Sir, you did say we're taking it easy while being incognito." Carter pointed out as she glanced around the alley.
"Yeah, and lets face it, our cover story of being Atlas citizens is pretty weak. Splitting up means more potential incidents, but it also means its less likely for people to connect the dots." Daniel offered with a gesture.
"I desire coffee. Real coffee, not Air Force issued rations." Teal'c spoke, halting the Colonel in the middle of replying.
To add insult to injury, Jaune cleared his throat. "With your permission sir, I'm going to leave. I can't offer much to help you here."
"I, I, grr..." O'Neill slapped his face, groaning. After a moment he flopped a hand in the blond's general direction. "Fine, get outta here. Go visit your family or something."
His flash of relief withered under Yang's unhappy look, the young man wincing as he mouthed another apology. She kept her eyes on him until he disappeared around a corner, sighing once he was out of sight.
"Okay." she mumbled, turning back to the awaiting Earthers. "You'll find shops and contractors all over the city, I think there's a couple on this street. There's a small history museum downtown, maybe three or four blocks that way. Big sign out front, you can't miss it. Never visited myself, so I don't know if there's a fee."
"That's fine, we have a little cash." Daniel replied, pulling a couple lien from his pocket to show her. "It's not stolen if you're curious."
Yang raised a brow. "Did you forge it or something?"
"Headmaster Ozpin provided a small fund for our excursion. He suggested we see the city as gratitude for allowing him to tour our ship." Teal'c corrected, his flat gaze making her unwittingly bristle.
"That's right. Besides, we have another team to take care of the fine details." Carter added, briefly wincing.
Headmaster office, Beacon tower...
"I confess that I'm less than impressed by your offer Major." Ozpin lowered the sheaf of papers to meet Washington's gaze, noting how the man's body seemed to stiffen. The four other men of SG-9 likewise showed the pain, a sharp difference to Ironwood's pacing with a scroll in hand and Glynda's sighing. "I understand your reluctance to offer your best technologies in trade, and I can see the advantages of these cargo transport aircraft designs you're offering. But it doesn't carry the same worth as our android technology, even with the last generation designs. Your other trade options are agreeable, if underwhelming."
Major Washington inhaled slowly, one of his eyes twitching as he clutched his clipboard. "The range of antibiotics, vaccines, and staple crops aren't satisfactory?"
"They are, but it's not enough by far." Ozpin tented his hands in front of himself, showing a rare gleam in his eyes. "Surely you have something else besides food and medicine. Something like, say, this eff fifteen I've seen here? Its like a non orbital F302, right? I can think of a few people who would like to have some of those."
"I pity those guys." Carter mumbled under her breath, walking away to the directions she was provided with.
O'Neill, Teal'c, and Yang watched her go, the former sullenly mumbling accusations. That done, the blonde glanced to the large man last, trying to avoid staring at his choice of headwear.
"Alright, there's a whole block of little shops a little distance that way. There's usually a lot of visitors, so I don't think you'll stand out." she pointed in the opposite direction that the woman went, watching him dip his head before turning to leave. With Daniel gone and Carter out of sight, this left her alone with the Colonel.
"Some pals you guys are." O'Neill muttered, giving the city a sour look.
"And you?" Yang asked, catching his attention as she shifted her weight. "Anywhere you wanna go?"
O'Neill sighed, dipping his head back. "Movie theater if you got one."
"That way." Yang pointed, smiling in satisfaction. Her triumph faded when he glanced at her instead of leaving. "What?"
"You know, this is an unknown place. I could get lost here." he said slyly, unexpectedly grinning as he crossed his arms. "I'm awful with directions after all."
"Uh huh, nice try. Not buying it." Yang narrowed her eyes as she copied him.
He shrugged uncaringly. "The kid said he owes you, tack it onto his tab or something."
"I got stuff I wanna do today." she shot back.
"Like what?" he grinned, as if daring her.
Yang glowered at him for a minute before groaning, slapping her forehead. "Fine, whatever, but if you do something to embarrass me I'm leaving you behind."
"Highlight of this beaming thing, rescue is one transmission away." O'Neill waved for the girl to lead, the man stuffing his hands in his pockets as he trotted in her wake.
Yang kept her eyes forward, aware of O'Neill behind her. She hoped he was busy looking at the city instead of her, and thus would stay quiet until she found a good place to cut him loose.
"So, whatchu been up to lately?" he asked, coming up to her side. The blonde silently resented the several centimeters of height he had on her.
"Why do you care?" she replied dryly, shifting her attention when she spotted some underclassmen she recognized, on the opposite side of the street fortunately.
"Just trying to be friendly. Not everything's about the job you know, gotta relax sometime." he defended, tugging in his jacket.
"I was relaxing, before you showed up." the blonde retorted, checking her surroundings.
"I doubt that. You got that look to ya, like you got something big on your mind." he replied, ignoring her sideways look in favor of a woman with bunny ears, who was walking down the sidewalk the way they came. "Probably has something to do with your hand."
Yang jerked to a stop, snapping her stunned eyes to him. O'Neill needed a moment to notice, turning around with an inquisitive expression.
"H-how did you...?" she couldn't finish, uncaring of the shop door jingling behind her.
"I got eyes kid. In my line of work, it pays to... pay attention." he slumped at the phrase, giving his forehead a tap. "Whatever, anyway I saw your hand back on Earth, figured it was an accident or something."
"Y-yeah, an accident." Yang lied, straightening herself out.
O'Neill grinned as he waggled a finger. "Too late, you goofed up. So, what happened?"
"That's not your business." she said coldly, sliding into a combat stance.
"Somebody hurt you eh? Want help taking them down?" he offered with a roll of his shoulders.
"Its not... wait." she stopped, features wrinkling in confusion.
"I don't like it when kids get hurt. And by my standards, you're a kid. Simple as that." he replied, hands in his pockets with the most nonchalant expression she ever saw.
Yang shifted her weight, having trouble believing the man. "You don't even know the score, and you wanna help me."
"Pretty much yeah. When you get down to it, my motivations in life are pretty simple. Now, movies if you will, then go do whatever you were using as an excuse." O'Neill waved her on expectantly, shrugging when she shook her head in complete disbelief.
It was then that the shop door jingled again, the former occupant going three paces before stopping to turn around. The hooded figure stepped to the side in order to get a look at the blonde, pulling off her hood after a second.
Yang glanced over, processing the sight of the individual she really didn't care for. "Of course."
"Hello Yang Xiao Long." Eliane greeted, finally shattering the younger girl's stupor. "I was shopping for supplies. What are you doing here?" the Arc asked, glancing towards the relaxed man standing nearby.
"Hi." O'Neill greeted openly, giving the unknown woman an encouraging smile as he swiveled to the student. "Friend of yours?"
Yang stared blankly at him, barely reining in her temper.
Then, she blinked. And then, she grinned.
"Yeah, you can say she's a friend of mine. O'Neill, this is Eliane." she waved at the uncomprehending woman. "Eliane, this is a... contact of a friend, whose here on business. You two have something in common and you don't know it!" she lazily threw her arms up on mock cheer. "I'll leave you two to get acquainted. Just start with Jaune and see where you end up."
Yang strode away in nearly a sprint, ignoring the looks while she smirked. As far as she was concerned, a volatile mess was left in the dust, and she was officially in the clear.
O'Neill glanced to Eliane, shrugging and extending a hand. "Hi, names Jack."
"I am Eliane." she hesitantly did the same, frowning in discomfort as she shook his hand. "Do you know someone named Jaune?"
"I do actually, he's a nice kid. Kind of a dummy, but they all are at that age. You?" he let go to cross his arms, giving her an appraising look.
"He's my brother. Do you know him?" she tilted her head, watching the older man suddenly cough.
Daniel found his goal without much effort, gazing upon the small building with uncertainty. He consoled himself by assuming it was a larger building than what it appeared to be, and by going inside he could find the great repositories of knowledge a civilization like this should possess. Ignoring a group of students, he paid the entry fee without a thought and went indoors, eager to see the history of another civilization.
His vision lasted for approximately thirty seconds.
"You're not serious." Daniel got out, looking at the two and only two hallways, marked simply as 'Pre Great War' and 'Post Great War' respectively. "Can't be, this can't be all there is."
The scholar narrowed his eyes. "No, there has to be more." he declared to himself, powering towards the exhibits and ignoring the bored receptionist. "Has to be, has to be something more..."
"It's simply deplorable, isn't it?" went a stuffy voice, diverting Daniel's attention away from the sparse museum to an obese man in red, possessing a fading hairline yet a thick grey mustache. The unhappy man gave the doctor a sympathetic look. "Young people these days, they care so little for our truly bare history, don't they? Not one of my students cares to go out to find out what else is out there."
"Yeah, know that feeling." Daniel agreed, hands in his pockets as he kept his eyes on the stranger. Nevertheless, old memories of his mockery filled lecturing career flashed before his eyes.
The man in a red formal outfit did a double take, looking over the Earth born visitor. "Ah, where are my manners? Professor Peter Port of Beacon Academy, at your service." he greeted, sticking a hand out.
Returning the gesture, Daniel noted the clammy feel of his heavily callused hands. "Dr. Daniel Jackson, of um, Atlas Academy. Pleased to meet you."
"Atlas eh? Little far from home, aren't you?" Port asked quizzically, turning to face him.
"Call it a vacation. Although." he spared a sour glance at the exhibits. "I'm wondering if I wasted my time."
Port laughed. "This is what you get with city funded institutions, they have nothing worth mentioning. My study has greater offerings than this."
"Really." Daniel went, his eyes all but lighting up.
Some distance away, Carter happened upon a storefront by the name of Higgly's Repair and Rental. It seemed like the closest thing to what she wanted, an exercise in seeing a technology base unlike any other she encountered in the flesh
Looking to the billboard out front, the blonde denied that she was looking at the offerings, especially the portion mentioning what was in stock. Samantha Carter was a soldier, scientist, pilot, expert on xenotechnology, diplomat, and if the need arose, a caretaker. She insisted she was looking at the available merchandise purely for the chance to examine new technology in action, and not because she wanted to take a jet turbine powered motorcycle for a spin.
The Major wanted to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the thought, and how it was beneath her dignity. That was until a few seconds of idle thought computed a two hour rental fee was well within her budget.
"Sold." Carter decided, all but marching to the door.
One rattle of the handle caught her off guard, making her give it a curious look. Then Carter peered inside the glass, discovering immediately the darkness within. Her excitement withered into nothingness upon seeing the closed sign, more so when she saw the 'services booked until further notice' sticker plastered underneath.
Sighing dejectedly, Carter turned to stride away, but she didn't get far before realizing there was someone running down the sidewalk, coming her way. Pausing to frown, she idly checked her holster for the Zat, guardedly curious. Then the girl entered her sight, too busy frantically checking the way she came to notice the woman until she bumped into her, stumbling them both.
Normally Carter would've felt a level of indignation at such a rude act, but not this time. The pale toned girl whirled around with a sharp reply on her lips, the recognition in her eyes putting an end to it instantly.
"Um, Miss Schnee?" the blonde checked, watching the girl back away with a strained sigh.
"Carter, what are you... ah..." Weiss clutched her head, squeezing her eyes shut. "Of all people, I had to bump into you."
"What's wrong?" she asked, catching movement out of the corner of her vision.
Weiss snapped her head over, alarm written all over her features. For a second she swung her head around, after a second latching onto the billboard. "You didn't see me, okay?"
Before Carter could protest, the girl darted to the sign in order to leap to the other side, vanishing from her sight. Giving her hiding spot a raised brow, she decided to recheck her surroundings in order to find out what was going on.
When she spotted another woman a little younger than she was marching from the same direction, Carter tensed up even as she examined her. What drew her gaze was not only the pale skin, but the close cropped white hair and blue eyes she had, particularly when they were turned her way. Maintaining a relaxed posture, Carter kept her attention on the arrival as she came up to face her.
"Pardon me." she greeted, devoid of emotion as she clasped her hands behind her back. Her sleeveless white outfit bore a resemblance to an officer's regalia, though it lacked the ostentation Carter normally associated with such uniforms. An ornamentally designed sword was held via a strap on her waist, in a way that roused the blonde's suspicions. "Have you seen a young woman coming through here?"
Carter debated for a second on her approach. "I did, but I'm not sure if she's the one you're chasing."
"Chasing." The woman repeated dryly. "This is family trouble, it's nothing unforward. Now, do I need to repeat myself?"
"Was she wearing black, blonde hair, had a rapier, and this tall?" Carter held a hand at the height of her collarbone, approximately that of the pale girl.
"Wrong on all counts." the woman replied, narrowing her eyes as she began to turn towards Weiss's hiding place.
"Then yeah." Carter crossed her arms, leveling an annoyed look on the woman. "All white, looks a lot like you." she said, capturing her attention as she pointed down the sidewalk. "Saw her going that way in hurry, think I heard her mention something about a flight."
A tiny smile crossed the stranger, giving her a perfunctory nod. "Good, thank you."
Carter backed out of the way to allow the white haired woman passage, keeping track of her fast stride until she was out of sight. Movement from the corner of her vision made her look over, features softening while Weiss left her cover.
"Thanks." the girl sighed, running a hand through her hair.
"I'd say no problem, except I wanna know why I just lied to that person." Carter said, jabbing a thumb the way she went.
Wrinkling her expression, Weiss slumped. "Her names Winter. She's my sister."
"Really?" she asked, glancing to the vanished woman. "That answers some questions."
"Its, its... she said it. Family trouble." Weiss reluctantly answered, sparing a pensive look around. "She wants to take me back home."
"That seemed a little extreme for just wanting to give you a ride." Carter replied, frowning as she gestured for the girl to get out of the walkway. They backed up to the closed shop, the girl looking as if she wanted to be anywhere else.
"Yeah, if only it was that simple." the girl muttered darkly.
Carter frowned, raising a brow. "What's the problem, really?"
"You told us back on Earth that you wanted to know more about Dust, right?" Weiss checked, eliciting a nod. "Well guess what, my family owns the largest Dust company on the planet, and apparently the universe." she said the last part quietly, softly groaning.
Carter blinked. "Oh. Ooh..."
"Yeah. My father wants me home to help run the company, and he doesn't take no for an answer." Weiss shook her head, voice dripping with bitterness.
The blonde nodded thoughtfully, frowning as she looked away. "Know the feeling."
"I doubt it." she dismissed. "He's been pushing for me to leave Beacon and the 'huntsman nonsense' for a while now. I've been stalling as much as possible, but once I'm graduated, I either return willingly or he drags me back."
When Carter stifled a chuckle, Weiss gave her a strange look. "You're not the only one with a pushy dad. Mine at least just wanted what's best for me."
Weiss snorted, letting her head fall back. "I'd trade you if I could." she mumbled, peering at the airships in the distance. "I might need your advice though."
"My advice?" Carter repeated, turning to raise her brow.
The girl huffed. "You passed the trials and stuff for the Earth army. So its not impossible I could get into the Atlas military, its what Winter did."
In contrast to his teammates, Teal'c encountered a distinct lack of trouble during his excursion. No small part of his good fortune was due to his intimidating appearance, with his habitual stoicism doing wonders to reinforce the attitude. This left him free to simply bask in the presence of a vibrant city, who knew nothing of the false gods he vowed to destroy.
Not to say he was completely free of influencing them. In an open air cafe, the Jaffa found himself drawn into an interesting conversation with a pair of tourists, not unlike like himself.
"Menagerie." Teal'c repeated, stirring his coffee with a small spoon. "I am curious to know what things are like there."
"Well, nothing like Vale is the easiest way to put it. For one, its a lot warmer back home." the older woman replied; as if on cue she shivered, clutching the thick fur coat closer to herself. The long skirt she had wasn't helping her perceived chill, her cat like ears flicking every few seconds.
Her husband, a veritable giant who easily challenged Teal'c in size, nodded sympathetically. Even with an ill fitting shirt, his thicker outfit and copious body hair were much better at insulation. A thick beard rustled every time his jaw moved, although it caught the foam of his own coffee every time he sipped. "There's a lot fewer amenities there, and its crowded like you wouldn't believe."
"I have seen very crowded places during my travels. But I know there is a difference between interacting and living in such conditions." Teal'c replied, sipping as he tracked a pair of faunus stroll into the cafe, one small and perky, the other tall and quiet. The opposite color schemes of white and black reinforced the seemingly blatant contradiction, though the pair showed zero sign of antagonism.
"Yeah, but I'll be honest, the crowds grow on you." the husband said, glancing towards the students as well. "Its a hard place, but its free. You don't have to worry about being shoed out just because of who you are, no one forcing you down, its..." the man smiled, giving a slight shake of his head. The wife placed a hand atop of his, giving him an encouraging smile. "Its not sentimental to wish our daughter didn't leave as soon as she did, is it?"
Teal'c let a small smile cross him as he sipped his coffee. "I too know the value of freedom. It is my fondest wish that one day, all peoples of all lands will know such things."
When the woman stifled a laugh, he swiveled his eyes to her. "Sorry, its just you sound just like him back in the day." she nodded towards her husband. "When we were still building our home."
"Yeah, thought I could spread the message everywhere, so everybody would know it." he shook his head, showing signs of reliving old memories.
"There is no shame in narrowing your goals, only in narrowing your vision. Only those who willingly surrender everything are worthy of contempt." Teal'c said sagely.
The bulky man leaned back, giving him an upturned smirk. "Wise words."
"One of my master's teachings. I can only imagine what he would think of this place." the Jaffa spared a glance to the sky, distantly wondering where old Bray'tac was now. In the meantime, he pondered whether or not to ask the couple about their daughter, and how he could explain he knew of her without angering either parent.
Central Vale, dusk...
"Reen, why'd you stop?" Nora half whined, whipping herself around pensively.
After a day of reconnecting with home and running errands, the pair was spent. Fortunately the worst of their tasks were finished today, leaving their respective schedules free for the foreseeable future.
The black haired man ignored her, staring with a raised eyebrow at something in the open. He peered into the open part they were passing, one designed to mimic the wilderness barred to humanity, though not completely; besides a web of pathways, a number of benches and water fountains were scattered about, along with several tall lampposts. It wasn't dark enough for them to flick on, but it would be shortly.
"Ren?" Nora repeated, worry sliding into her tone. When he raised a hand to point towards one particular bench, she followed his direction, only for raw surprise to overcome her expression. "Is that..."
"Yeah." he agreed, going off at a sedate pace with her on his heels.
The huntsmen pair didn't have to go far, owing to their goal's location being close to the park edge. Both the seated people were talking in calm tones, with neither becoming aware of the approaching huntsmen until they were almost upon them. The woman of the duo glanced away when she heard the pair, interrupting a man who was many years her senior.
"Lie Ren, Nora Valkyrie." Elaine acknowledged, hood down and expression completely neutral. Her bow was slung behind her back, undrawn and unbloodied.
In contrast, O'Neill leaned back as he twiddled his thumbs. "Hey kids, whatchu doing here?"
Both arrivals stared mutedly, switching between the completely mismatched duo. When Nora coughed, she unconsciously cringed. "Sir-"
O'Neill's swiped hand silenced her. "Don't. Incognito, remember?"
"Right s... O'Neill." Ren said in her stead, giving a look to Eliane. The blonde, who railed against them days ago, appeared at ease.
"Jack O'Neill and I are having a civil conversation." she spoke flatly.
"You..." Nora worked her jaw for a second before giving up and groaning. "How?"
"I'm good like that. By the way, if you tell Daniel about this, I'm gonna lock you in a closet. I am not, and have not, been hitting on this young lady." O'Neill warned, leaning forward to stab a finger in their direction. Their frantic nods made him lean back. "Good. She's cleared by the way, knows everything."
"Ooh..." Nora winced, wrinkling her features as she began to recoil.
"I don't care, she's family to Arc. I'd be a bit upset if he didn't tell his sister anything. 'Sides, Ozpin says he and his buds are gonna disclose everything in a month or two, so it's not a big deal anyway." O'Neill explained, shrugging off the matter.
"Huh." Ren said, the news being insufficient to clear up his confusion. "Pardon me, but I was working under the assumption you hated militaries." he got out, holding out a hand towards her.
"I do. They are dishonorable-" Eliane was interrupted by O'Neill clearing his throat, earning a disapproving look from her. "Very well. But if you are referring to my conduct before, what angered me was Jaune choosing a lifestyle he's unsuited for, as well as you three joining him in this foolishness. I didn't know Jack before he enlisted, so I can't tell how much of his potential he wasted over his career."
O'Neill sighed, ignoring the younger girl mumbling, "You kidding me, first names?"
"I went over this with Ellie here like five times. I tried everything to keep you guys out of the Air Force, used every dirty trick I knew, but Kinsey pulled some strings to make sure it happened no matter what me or anyone in the mountain tried. Making the training impossible didn't work, since you kids went and passed everything I could think up. Hammond probably lost what's left of his hair over that." O'Neill dropped his head back, mumbling epithets at the politician.
"Fortunately, Jack gave me wonderful news." Eliane added, a tiny smile gracing her.
Nora let her mouth hang open a little, right a hand to point at the Colonel. "You called her that, and got away with it." she said blankly, Ren nodding in wide eyed agreement.
Eliane reversed her smile, and O'Neill sighed while he rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
O'Neill rose to his feet, taking a second to stretch. "Alrighty, I've had my fun, repaid the favor Ozzy got, and the best part is I didn't get shot at once. I'm gonna go find a phone booth or something I can vanish to."
"I'll be off as well." Eliane rose to her feet in one smooth motion, methodically working her arms for stiffness. "It's getting late, so I'll be returning to my motel room. Tomorrow, I'd like to spend more time with Jaune. If that's alright with you."
"Um, sure?" Ren said, glancing to an equally lost Nora.
Finishing up, O'Neill cracked his neck. "Do you kids ever relax anymore? Austin and DuFresne aren't hardcases, so you don't got a reason to act all stiff like this. Come to think of it, why didn't all of you get stuck in Carolina's squad? She freewheels more than I do."
"Its, um..." Ren began, trying hard not to wince under O'Neill's expectant gaze.
"Well s... O'Neill. She flipped out when we told her what happened, and you got her to play nice. How'd you do it?" Nora questioned disbelievingly, keeping an eyebrow raised at him.
He shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm good, leave it at that."
"I attempted to kill him when he informed me of his identity." Eliane told them, reaching around to smooth out her cloak. "But as someone not of Remnant, I was fascinated. Long enough for him to explain himself."
"See?" O'Neill jabbed a thumb towards her. "That simple, you just gotta..." he trailed off upon seeing the blonde suddenly jerking.
"Wha-" Nora started, only for her to raise a hand to silence her.
Eliane's expression faded away, features becoming utterly blank as she slowly pivoted in place. She moved in a circle, her eyes narrowing while they began to glow. Reaching up, she grabbed her bow to get it in hand, all of her actions carefully deliberate. The fastest move she made was a jerk of her arm, transforming the weapon into a gleaming sword.
Feeling tingles crawl up their spines, Nora and Ren made a grab for their weapons, placing hands on them in preparation. Sighing, O'Neill opened his jacket to reach inside.
Eliane turned to the side, eyes roaming over the dimming area. "Someone's here."
A mere second later, she whirled around with the sword up, a loud clang of metal coinciding with a mass of something flying above her. She took the blow with a grunt, waiting until her attacker was right above her to push forward, flinging him skyward while she whipped around.
Mid air he flipped, circling in order to land in a crouch several meters away, his heavy breathing insufficient to stop his deranged grin. In both his hands were curved knives, the reflective sheen catching what little light remained in the day, especially as he rose to stand. A short braided pony tail idly slapped against his leather jacket, a near drum like staccato to match his unsettling movement.
Elaine had her sword up in a two handed grip, Ren with both pistols aimed at him, Nora switched to her grenade launcher first thing, and O'Neill drew a seemingly tiny pistol to train on the attacker. Upon noticing the severe imbalance, he groaned unhappily.
In response, he beheld the four armed combatants before him with near feral glee.
"Hello little sheep, the wolf is among you." he got out, curling in on himself as a chilling giggle escaped him.
O'Neill set his features into a hard line. "Alright fruitcake, where's your meds?"
"You fear cannot be masked." the attacker half growled, jerking forward to make the younger members flinch.
"Trust me, I have a lot of experience in dealing with fear. Usually by shooting creeps like you." O'Neill replied, watching his face twist into a snarl. Ren and Nora gave him a bizarre look, stunned enough to take their eyes off the attacker.
When Eliane stepped forward, she held out an arm to stop them. "All of you stay back."
"Um, what're you doing?" Nora got out, the barrel of her launcher quivering along with her.
"Do tell, I'm curious." the attacker half purred, his body writhing in malicious glee.
"His name is Tyrian Callows." Elaine replied, watching him suddenly flinch. "He's a particularly dangerous bandit, has a bounty of fifty thousand lien, dead or alive. You were too much of a murderer for the White Fang."
The freshly named man stood up straight for a moment, expression neutral. Then, he unexpectedly smiled. "I like you. I'll kill you first."
Nora and Ren exchanged looks of befuddlement, noting uneasily how Tyrian's eyes kept drifting back to them.
"Alrighty then." O'Neill declared, thumbing his safety off. "Its the funny farm for you, ya fruitcake." His M9 kicked in his hands, the cue for the younger pair to open fire as well.
But Tyrian was already moving, racing forward with a dark giggle.
A/N: I'd rather not finish this on a cliffhanger, but I'm a couple minutes away from leaving for a while. Feel free to complain about it ending just as it was getting good, I deserve it.