A letter to General James Ironwood from [REDACTED]

Dear General,

As I'm sure you are aware, the live test data we received from the Freelancer's usage of the armor yielded incredible results. We are currently in the process of fine-tuning the armor's functions and going over the flaws the researchers pointed out, but we've run into a possible problem. As you know, the armor consumes an enormous amount of power when utilizing one of its features, requiring the usage of an artificial intelligence to regulate the flow of power.

There's no need to recalibrate the software system, of course. Instead, the problem is the AI integrating with the armor. We found from the live test data that when the AIs integrate with the armor, there appears to be a sort of malfunction within the armor's various functions, primarily with the Time Distortion Unit.

Based on the records we discovered from the Origin, we believe that the unit was damaged while the Freelancer was in combat. In the event the Freelancer is to utilize the armor, we suggest he refrain from using the Time Distortion Unit until it has been properly repaired.

End of Report

RWBY x Red vs. Blue Crossover:

Chapter IX: Rock'n'Roll, JNPR! Rock'n'Roll

Maine grimaced as he was once again shoved aboard the Bullhead, flying for the Forever Fall forest. His stomach continued to do backflips and churn uncomfortably as they flew, enough to make him consider walking. "You doin' okay there, fearless Leader?" Nora asked. "You look ready to hurl! Should I go grab a bucket? Maybe some air freshener?"

"You know, I only call you Vomit Boy cause I thought it'd get under your skin." Church commented. "I didn't think you'd make it literal."

'Go die in a fire, Alpha.'

"Love you too, man! Love you too."

Thankfully, the wait wasn't nearly as long this time. The Bullhead quickly arrived at their target destination, though the pilot was unable to land on account of heavy Grimm activity. This, naturally, led to the students plus Huntsman to jump straight into the forest. It brought back memories of his first mission with Project Freelancer, though unlike before Maine was now used to sky diving.

He gave a nod to his team, then let his body fall through the air. Moments later, the rest of JNPR followed after him, with Qrow being the last to jump.

"This! Is! Awesome!" Nora whooped as she twirled around mid air. Pyrrha and Ren were more reserved. But they too felt the rush of adrenaline from dropping at high altitudes.

Maine remained composed and let his body fall back to prior experience and devise a proper landing strategy...something that he greatly improved during his time in Project Freelancer.

As they neared the ground, they began to slow their descent. Pyrrha and Ren simply used their weapons, one using the recoil of her weapon to give her a knock in the right direction and brought out her shield and smashed through the branches to help slow her down before she grabbed hold to one once she had slowed down enough, swinging up to the top of the branch, then leapt down. Ren, meanwhile, used the blades of his pistols to latch on to one of the trees, then spin his way down to the base.

Nora and Maine chose a more simple approach. Nora used the knockback of her grenades to bounce herself and go flying before she skidded to a stop once her feet touched the floor. Maine, on the other hand, just kept shooting while keeping his path aimed straight and simply came crashing down in the middle of the ruined patch of earth he created. He pushed himself off the ground and dusted off his clothes and stored the Brute Shot MK-II on his back before joining the rest of his team.

"Are we present and accounted for?" Ren asked.

Pyrrha was about to answer, but stopped when she saw that they were one man short. "Wait, where is Mr. Branwen?"

"Right here, champ." The red head jumped, hearing the man's voice right behind her. Somehow, he had shown up behind her without any of them noticing. "Flashy entrance, by the way. Now, if you all are done trying to attract Grimm with your firework shoe-"

"Worth it!" Nora exclaimed.

"-let's get a move on and find that next sub station."

"Yes sir."

"Got it."

Maine grunted in affirmation while Pyrrha nodded. The group immediately set out, though not without keeping their wary eyes set around them.

Unlike the Emerald Forest, Forever Fall was home to more Grimm on account of it being further away from Beacon Academy and not being part of the school's property. Regularly, the faculty of Beacon would cull the number of Grimm in order to keep the level of monsters within a tolerable level, and to prepare for upcoming assignments. Forever Fall had no such regulations, and had less traffic going in and out despite its rather beautiful scenery and atmosphere.

As they walked, the blonde couldn't help but feel reminded of when he was here last time. His hands curled into fists, tensing as flashes went by in his mind. Images of him brutally beating down his friends and team were still fresh, branded into his mind and unwilling to leave anytime soon.

Pyrrha, noticing this distress, drew closer to him. "Are you okay, Jaune?"

"Ah, Vomit Boy's just remembering the last time he was here." Church shrugged. "Speaking of that, I do gotta ask, why did you wind up in this place?"

Theta appeared a second later and joined Church in his questions. "That is kind of a good question. It also seems like kind of a big coincidence that you reunited with your team here, too."

Maine frowned. Now that they mentioned it...

[The Time Distortion Unit is meant to transfer the user back to a certain moment in time, or slow time to a crawl.] Delta said as he appeared also. [It was damaged when Lavernius Tucker stabbed the Meta, though even then its malfunction should not have been capable of temporal displacement, much less teleportation.]

"What does that mean, Delta?" Pyrrha asked.

[I am unsure. I will ask General Ironwood if it would be possible to look over the unit for any signs of hidden functions.]

"Well, there ya have it. If D doesn't know, no use trying to figure it out ourselves."

Though they dropped the subject, the question still lingered on Maine's mind. Ultimately he shoved the thought to the back of his mind, instead focusing on what was important. Namely, the mission. "Why's this Merlot guy so obsessed with Grimm, anyhow?" Nora asked as they walked. "I mean, they're big and ferocious, and they're attracted to negative emotions like I am to pancakes. And they like to kill stuff too! Is he some kind of sadist or something?"

Qrow shrugged. "Not sure, to be honest. All I know is that, way before the nutty professor got a job in Atlas, he used to study underneath Oz."

"Wait, back up!" Church materialized right next to Qrow. "You mean to tell me the psycho doctor we've been after is like Oz's personal Darth Vader?"

"I have no idea who the heck Darth Vader is, but yeah. And he was as obsessed with the Grimm back then, though from what I've heard he mainly just wanted to study them up close and figure out how we could use their biology or some shit. Oz thought that line of thinking was dangerous and tried to steer him off, but the doc up and left, then got himself a snazzy job in Atlas. Well, before shit happened and he got outed once people realized what he was up to."

Ren frowned heavily. "What caused his obsession with the Grimm, anyhow?"

"Beats me." Qrow stopped suddenly as he raised a hand. The group halted and pulled out their weapons. The man narrowed his eyes, catching sight of a beast prowling in the distance. Judging by its shape, he could tell it was a Beowolf, albeit slightly bigger than the others. An Alpha, maybe. However, its pack was nowhere in sight. "Weird... Whenever there's an Alpha around, the pack's not too far behind. Why's it all alone?"

"Who cares?" Nora readied her hammer. "Let's break its legs!"

Delta shook his head. [I would not recommend that course of action. This could be a trap to lure its prey out into the open.]

"I'm with Delta on this one." Pyrrha agreed with the green fragment. "This doesn't feel right-"

Her words were silenced mid-sentence as the Alpha Beowolf's head was suddenly bisected. Startled, the team and Huntsman tensed and readied for an attack, especially when the culprit stepped into view. Its appearance caused them to stare in confusion and wariness, as the attacker was definitely not human. Instead, it was a machine, armor dyed crimson red with black panels on its thighs and shoulders with aqua-blue highlights. In hand was a double-bladed spear, cackling with electricity. Its head was cone-shaped, possessing a single blue-colored visor.

Church stared at the android. "...what in the hell is that?"

"Where the heck did it come from?" Nora looked at Qrow. "H-hey, boss man! What do we do? Do we break its legs?"

"I'd say yes...assuming we even can break them that easily." Qrow said as he brought out his weapon and changed it to its sword mode.

The android, taking notice of the five, let out a series of beeps and clicks as its visor glowed. It assumed a battle stance, then charged at the group.

Maine was the first to reach it, the blade of his Brute Shot meeting its spear.

The Execution Droid. Code Name: Strider.

It was developed for the sole purpose of weeding out the weak, killing and culling Grimm that, by Merlot's own estimations, were unfit or did not meet his requirements. It was just one of the many robots stationed in the Forever Fall, but it had been by pure chance that it had come across Qrow Branwen and those delightful test subjects.

In all honesty, though, the android was suffering from a lack of maintenance and Merlot had been so busy pursuing his other ventures that took up his time he never bothered to give the order to return. Thus it was left there to rust and mindlessly kill Grimm, regardless of whether or not they matched the requirements he needed.

Even so, this was a stroke of good luck for him. While he doubted the Strider could match a veteran Huntsman in its current state, it would make a perfect chance to see just how powerful Jaune Arc really was.

With a grin, Merlot opened up his console. "Now, then. Let's see how well you dance, children."

The android let out another series of beeps and clicks, visor glowing again before it pushed Maine away and pursued, delivering a solid knee strike to his chest, followed by a headbutt and roundhouse that left him dazed. It pulled its spear back, poised to skewer him where he stood, but just before it could make contact, Pyrrha slid in front of him and raised her shield to defend him from attack. The force behind the stab, however, was enough to push her into her partner and knock them both down to the ground.

"Hold on, buddies! Momma's comin'!" Nora shot two grenades at the android. It jumped back and evaded, though she wouldn't give up easily. Nora gave chase immediately and swiftly changed Magnihild from grenade launcher to hammer and swung. The android side-stepped and went for a leg-sweep. The second her hammer struck the ground, Nora lifted her legs and evaded, swinging over to the other side of her hammer and dragged it in a half-circle, aiming for its head this time.

This time, the machine could not evade and raised its arm to block it. Hammer met steel, and steel survived even as the android was sent flying, smashing through one of the trees and vanishing in the depths of the forest.

Ren, who remained at Qrow's side and remained patience for a chance to aid his team, looked around warily. "Did that get it?"

"Doubt it." Church scoffed. "Actually, the hell's that thing? Is it one of Morningwood's toys or something?"

"Definitely not one of Jimmy's, I can tell ya that much, pixie." Qrow grunted. "But whatever it is, it's durable."

A roar pierced the air, familiar in the ears of all present. From the depths of the Forever Fall's forest came a Ursa that had somehow been sent flying, and straight towards Nora, too stunned and surprised to move. Luckily for her, Maine had recovered enough for him to ram his shoulder into it mid-flight and knock it away before he blew it to kingdom come.

Ren moved a second later when he saw the cackling light of electricity in the forest's shadows. The android aimed to attack his leader while he was vulnerable, but was intercepted and locked blades with Ren, who found himself being pushed back. He gritted his teeth and pushed his feet into the ground, digging as deep as he could. The android leered at him, visor looking down almost threateningly before it suddenly recoiled, a bullet ricocheting off its head.

"Hey, scrap heap!" Qrow made his presence known by ramming the flat of his blade into its face and sent it flying. "Hands off the kids!"

The android, in an amazing display of dexterity, spun mid air and landed on its feet. The moment it touched the earth, it propelled itself towards Qrow to skewer him.

However, just as it almost reached him, it tripped over a randomly placed root, causing it to stumble. Qrow capitalized on the opening caused by the stroke of misfortune and slammed his blade into the enemy once more.

This time, the attack was done using the edge of Harbinger. It cut into the armor of the machine, but only by a few inches making Qrow click his tongue in distaste before he kicked the android away and switched Harbinger to scythe form. As they got distance between them, the android let out more clicks and beeps, this time sounding more annoyed as it gripped the shaft of its double-sided spear with both hands, proceeding to pull the shaft apart. Now it wielded two separate blades in its hands and assumed a new battle stance.

Qrow looked at it warily, wondering what sorts of tricks it had now before Nora came rushing past him. "I got it!"

"Nora, wait!" Church's cry fell on deaf ears.

The ginger hefted her hammer for an overhead smash. However, the Android reacted differently. Using one blade, it parried the head of the weapon aside, leaving Nora to stumble forward and wide open to a follow up attack. It then stabbed her with its second blade, taking out a large chunk of her Aura and throwing her into a tree.

"Shit!" Qrow swore. "Somebody get that girl!"

"Don't!" Ren said suddenly. "It's alright!"

The Huntsman was about to ask what Ren was talking about when a battle cry pierced the air, followed by Nora suddenly bursting into view with a toothy, almost manic grin while electricity sparked around her body. "COWABUNGA!" Before the android could defend, the hammer came down on its midsection was sent smashing straight through another tree, though unlike before it remained within view.

Maine shot past her, switching the Brute Shot into ax form and swung. The android blocked the strike with one blade, then went in for a stab to his midsection. A bullet knocked the blade away and caused it to miss its intended target, only cutting into Maine's side briefly. With a vicious smirk, Maine pushed the button and ignited the boosters. The android was forced to its knees and quickly bolstered its defense with its second blade, keeping the blonde from smashing it into the ground.

Ren immediately took advantage of the situation by opening fire on its exposed backside, as it had no way to defend itself on two fronts. The bullets pelted the metal hide. It stumbled before it held its ground. The armor around it's back shifted in response to the assault.

Maine growled before he let go of the weapon, then rammed his knee straight into it, causing it to be kicked up into the air before grabbing it by the shoulders and throwing it straight at Qrow, who took the opportunity to disarm it. Literally, in fact, as Harbinger easily cut off one of its arms before it was sent tumbling to the ground. The android picked itself up and charged at Qrow, flipping its blade into a reverse grip and aiming for his shoulder, but Qrow easily dodged it by jumping back. Pyrrha took the moment to intervene and rammed her shield into it, stunning it long enough for Nora to get two hits off of it with her grenades. Using the distraction to his advantage, Ren moved in for the kill, but to his surprise, the android was still capable of impressive movement, using its sole remaining blade to knock away the bullets, then counter his air kick by meeting him head-on with a kick of its own. While Ren's Aura amplified his attack, he found himself being flung away and regained his stance in mid-air.

"Is it just me, or did that thing get faster when we took off its arm?" Pyrrha asked in worry, especially as she saw the android's armor plating click and shift into different places, almost as if it was changing battle tactics.

[I believe the android is adapting.] Delta observed. [As the battle progresses, it takes information about your battle strategies and abilities, and changes to match them. We are fortunate that Huntsman Branwen's Semblance has yet to hinder us.]

Qrow groaned. "Why did you have to go and say that, ya damned Leprachaun?"

"Wait, what's he talking about?" Church asked.

"Long story short, pixie bob, I'm a walking bad luck charm, and your green ass friend just tempted Murphy's Law."

"Wha-?! SERIOUSLY?!" Church yelled. "You mean all this time, you're just some bad luck magnet, and you never thought to fucking tell us?! No wonder we get into these shitty situations!"

Maine huffed. 'Oh quit yer bitching, Alpha.'

At that moment, the android whirred and moved, giving Pyrrha's observations credit when she noted how it seemed to move faster. Qrow barely put up his weapon in time to defend against its strike, but found himself completely blind-sided when it rammed its knee into his stomach and knocking him away. Nora rushed in to defend the Huntsman and swung her hammer, but the android evaded and ducked low before striking her with its blade. Like before, Nora soaked up the electricity and went in to attack, but the machine was faster and dashed out of the way when she brought her hammer down overhead. The android dashed around behind her and used her back as a springboard, landing on the side of a tree, then leaped right off and rammed straight into her and brought down all of its weight upon her.

The energetic ginger gasped from the impact as her body was driven into the ground. The android then stood up and jumped away as Ren swooped in with his blades.

Pyrrha leaped forward with a furious expression on her face, intending to skewer the android. It stepped aside and let her weapon, currently in the form of a javelin. To her surprise, her weapon sunk hilt deep into the tree the android just happened to be in front of. Before she could pull it out, the android shoulder-rammed her and threw her away and leaped at her while she was still down, intending to skewer her skull. Eyes widening, she rolled away and quickly scrambled to her feet, using her semblance to pull her weapon out from the tree and return it to her hand.

Maine retrieved his weapon and switched it to its firearm form and quickly shot as many grenades as he could. A small number of those rounds exploded near the android. Before any of them could reach it, it immediately backed away.

"We need to pin it down!" Theta exclaimed.

"I'm open for ideas, kid!" Qrow snarled as he switched Harbinger to its firearm form and let loose several rounds. The android shifted back and forth between advancing and defending.

It continued to draw closer to the Huntsmen, students, and ex-soldier. As it did, Theta quickly analyzed the situation and devised potential counter measures. "Maine, I have an idea!" The blonde brute looked at the tiny purple fragment as he began to relay the plan to him.

Finally, the android got close enough to strike at Qrow's weapon, but failed in making him lose his grip. Instead, Qrow used the momentum to swing around in a full circle, shifting Harbinger into sword form and strike at its leg. Unlike before, however, his blade didn't make a dent as the armor plates shifted on top of each other. What it did accomplish was making the android stumble slightly, though not before it headbutted Qrow, making him pull back and put a hand to his face while groaning, vision swimming.

In the midst of the distraction, however, it did not see Maine coming straight at it and deliver a lariat to its face. The force of the blow sent it flying and sliding through the dirt before it came to a stop. It quickly flipped back up to its feet, then saw Maine holding the Brute Shot in ax form, pointing it straight at the android.

"Hey, asshole!" Church taunted as he flipped the bird. "Come get some."

Even though the android possessed no free will or individuality, it responded to the enemy's taunt based on its core, combative programming to eliminate opposition. It shifted the grip of its weapon before charging at the armored warrior once more. "Leader!" Nora exclaimed in worry as the rest of Team JNPR rushed to his side.

Maine smirked and waited for the golden opportunity. The android reached him and thrusted its blade. The opportunity came and Maine seized it, grabbing hold of the blade as tight as he could, pouring all of his aura into that single spot. "Theta, now!" Church shouted. Theta waved at the android, then proceeded to hop right inside.

The lights from the android's visor flickered erratically. It's movements jerked as it staggered away from Maine. It's visor flickered between its original color to theta's purple.

Maine yanked the blade out of its hands, then slammed the Brute Shot's curved edge into its body, sending it flying straight at Pyrrha, who changed Milo back into its blade form and sliced away, cutting at its armor before she delivered a roundhouse kick to its side over to Ren, who promptly delivered a beatdown of what could only be described as gun-fu, each punch and kick accented with gunfire before knocking it straight to Nora, who grinned as she slammed her hammer straight into its face.

The hijacked android spun comically around. As it slowed down and stumbled, a hand grabbed its shoulder. It looked over, its visor reflecting Qrow's toothy grin.


The scythe touched its neck. Qrow pulled. Its head went flying.

The android stood stock still for a moment before it collapsed, body still jerking and sparking before it inevitably ceased. Just for good measure, though, Qrow gave it several shots to the chest and found that the bullets tore through its torso and destroyed it cybernetic innards easily. Satisfied, he hefted the blade to his shoulder and looked at Theta, who now sat atop his shoulder.

"Nice work, short stuff." Qrow told the AI fragment sincerely.

The tiny purple soldier shyly rubbed the back of his helmet. "Thank you."

"Nice plan there, kid." Church complimented as Maine walked over. "We finally took care of that thing."

"Hey, fearless leader. Your hand okay?" Nora asked in concern, eyeing his hand. For some reason, Maine was still holding the blade, which had long since diffused and was no longer sparking electricity. Realizing he was, he casually threw it to the side.

Pyrrha gave a quick look around the area, worried that their battle might have attracted the attention of the Grimm. Thankfully, it appeared that they were alone for the time being. "The coast is clear for now, but I believe we should get moving."

"Pyrrha is right." Ren was in agreement. "Who knows how many Grimm we've attracted fighting this thing."

"What was it even doing here in the first place?" Church asked. "Is this place known for its psychopath murderous robots or what?"

"Nope. And it sure as hell ain't one of Jimmy's toys." Qrow kneeled down and inspected the robot. "Way sturdier than those knights of his. Armor's reinforced, maybe made with high-grade steel." He looked up at Maine. "Any chance the Leprechaun can take a peek inside and see what he can find?"

[I will try.] Delta manifested over the inactive machine, then flickered and vanished inside. Seconds later, he reappeared. [This robot was manufactured with the purpose of culling the Grimm population here in the Forever Fall forest while eliminating any interlopers who were out to investigate the power station. It also applied a type of sedative to any Grimm that matched the prerequisite requirements it was given, bringing any and all Grimm to a certain location. However, its memory banks are damaged. It appears that this unit has not been given proper maintenance for quite some time.]

Qrow looked at the android again, now noticing that the armor had a few knacks, claw marks and dents in its body, some looking rather aged and old. "Guess that means this thing's been out here for a while. How much you wanna bet this is one of Merlot's toys?"

"No bet." Church scoffed. "So, before we go back to looking for that station out here in the middle of nowhere, what are the odds of your super power fucking us over? Since, you know, you do that."

"And now you know why I fly solo." the drunkard deadpanned.

Maine shook his head. 'Knock it off, Alpha. We have better things to do than complain about something that's already happened.'

"Oh, so you're not gonna question why he hasn't shut his superpower off in the time he's been with us?!"

"I can't."

Pyrrha looked at him in surprise. "You...can't?"

"What's that mean?" Nora tilted her head. "Is your Semblance on twenty-four seven?"

"I had rumors that it was possible for Semblances to be permanently active depending on their nature, but I never actually thought it was possible." Ren remarked before he frowned. "That must be incredibly difficult for you."

"Not in the way you think. When I'm with a team or looking after brats like you, I just have to worry about you kids fucking up. When I'm flying solo, though, well, I take joy in watching the bad guys screw up."

After his explanation about his Semblance was done and over with, Team JNPR and Qrow resumed their search for the power station. Thankfully, however, they didn't have to go very far into the forest like in the Emerald Forest since Delta had managed to procure the exact location of the power station and the quickest way there, as the android also had the known travel patterns of the local Grimm stored away in its head.

Unfortunately, however, what the group found was less than pleasing.

"Oh no..."

The power station was ruined. The metal was bent and caved in, glass shattered and its wire-y insides spilled out for all to see. And judging by the way the station was smoking, the damage done to it had been recent.

"We're too late." Theta whispered.

Qrow walked over to the station and carefully gave it a look over, trying to see if it was salvagable in any way. Delta appeared next to him. [The power station has suffered significant damage.] he stated the obvious. [Whoever did this was human. I do not see any signs of Grimm activity being the cause.]

"Me neither..." Qrow grimaced. "Whoever did this was thorough, too. Broke apart every important piece, including whatever the heck our mad scientist did to it. This is just great..."

"N-now what?!" Nora exclaimed. "What happens now that one of the stations is busted?"

"Nothing. They just help process data faster and get more info for Beacon about whether or not the Forever Fall is safe for tourism or for field trips and assignments." Qrow frowned. "But, with the way this is busted up... Looks to me like somebody wanted to cover their tracks. Say, Delta, you wouldn't happen to be able to...?"

[I apologize, but I'm afraid I cannot access any information from the power station in its current condition. And judging by said condition, it will take weeks before it is functional.]

"Well, scratch that idea." He stood up. "You kids keep watch. I gotta call Oz and Jimmy for a sec."

Maine nodded. The Huntsman then walked away, taking out his scroll. As he did so, he reconvened with his team. 'Were all our missions this excitable?'

"If we were Team RWBY, I would say yes." Pyrrha smiled wryly. "It appears they've rubbed off on us. At any rate, Jaune, are you okay?"

'I'm fine. Why do you ask?'

"well, lately it seemed like you were rather...distant."

"Have you met Vomit Boy?" Church nudged his head at Maine who rolled his eyes in response.

"Well, given what he's been through, it makes sense..." Ren said as he and Nora approached. "What is going on, Jaune?"

'It's nothing. It's just...' he sighed. 'Being here is bringing up some bad memories.'

Realization dawned on the three immediately. "Ah, I see." Pyrrha's face softened as she put a hand on his shoulder. "What happened back then wasn't your fault, Jaune."

'Maybe. Still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, though.'

"Even so, it's all in the past." She argued. Please, stop worrying about it."

"Yeah. God forbid you go all emo on us."

Nora glared at Church. "Dude, don't ruin the moment."

"In case you forgot, I'm an asshole. Ruining moments is kind of my thing."

"Come on! Why can't you just let them have this?"

"Let us have what, Nora?" Pyrrha asked, genuinely confused.

Church shook his head. "You know, I never thought I'd say this...but you guys really do make me miss my idiots."

"Speaking of, you said you had friends back in some place called Blood Gulch, isn't that right?" Ren asked curiously. "What were they like?"

"First off, they are not my friends. They are just assholes I work with and tolerate on a daily basis. And secondly, that is a long ass story that I'm only willing to tell in five minute intervals and is prooobably maybe a hundred episodes long if it were a TV series."

"Thank you, Qrow. We'll inform you if we find anything." Ozpin set his Scroll down with a sigh and rubbed his temples. "This will be quite a long day indeed..."

"This doesn't make any sense." Ironwood frowned heavily. "Why would Merlot destroy one of the power stations if he modified it? If it was to cover his tracks, I would understand, but..."

"But it's unnerving, given the timing." Ozpin said. "The loss of a power station isn't too terrible, as it can always be repaired and only helps process information faster, but he destroyed it as if he were trying to cover his tracks."

The general narrowed his eyes. "Do you think he knows about Delta?"

"It is possible, if he is monitoring the situation. The android they found also worries me, especially if there are more designed like that roaming the area."

"Knowing Merlot, I wouldn't doubt it." James shook his head. "Given his work, he's likely in possession of several more units like it. But to think he was able to modify them to that extent. Not even Atlas's current models were that combat capable."

"It seems to further show just how much Merlot has been working on over the years. And it does not raise confidence."

"Okay, kids! Listen up, we're moving out."

"What?" Church stared. "Where to? In case you forgot, bird man, we don't have any leads unless you want us to wander everywhere."

"Church has a point." Theta pointed out. "Where would we even look?"

"Not true. We do have one lead left." Looks fell to Pyrrha, whose face was grim. "The headquarters of Merlot Industries."

"What? Where the heck is that even? Didn't the company go to hell after..." Church trailed off when he soon realized what Pyrrha meant. Everyone else promptly came to the same realization and shared concerned looks. Qrow's face was bitter as he promptly took out his flask. "Well, crap. We're going to a graveyard, aren't we?"

"Worse." Qrow sniffed. "Mountain Glenn, or what's left of it anyway."

"Team RWBY was there earlier, weren't they?" Nora asked. Qrow nodded. "Should we give them a ring? I mean, sure, they weren't there for long, but they probably know the city."

"They said they were going to be busy for a while. Something about training for the Vytal Festival." Ren pointed out. "Still, we can't just walk in there lightly. Considering what's happened recently, it's probably crawling with Grimm more than ever."

Qrow looked offended. "Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence kid."

"Sorry, Mr. Branwen, but I'm stating facts. One Huntsman plus four kids and a few AI in a city full of who knows how many Grimm? I don't quite like those odds."

Nora pouted. "Then what do we do?!"

Maine glanced at his team. They did have a point. He could probably take down a few all by himself, pardon the cockiness, but even he would get overwhelmed. How many could they actually deal with if they all just rushed at them? They had to play it smart, and at the very least, bring in some form of back-up.

A light bulb flashed in his mind and grinned, looking at Church. "The fuck are you looking at me for?" the soldier asked. Maine just stared at him before he eventually realized why. He promptly whimpered. "Please don't."

'Delta, get Tex on the line.'

"Oh, fuckberries..."

"So you guys want me to come with you for back up? In a heavily infested area that is likely to overwhelm all of you otherwise?" Tex repeated.

[That is correct.] Delta affirmed.

"Full of Grimm?"


"And possibly more murderous machines?"


"...eh, sure. Why not? Kind of bored watching Penny torture O'Malley over here anyway. I'll swing by and come pick you up in the Bullhead."

Church snickered. "He's still suffering?"

"Ooooh yeah. I say he's got maybe a few weeks left in him before he starts singing the My Little Pony theme song."

"I'll take that action."

Maine rolled his eyes. 'Flirt with your half-shark girlfriend slash wife later, Alpha.'

"Oh, fuck off Vomit boy." Church rebutted.

"Well, I'll see you guys later. Gonna get ready. Don't start the fun without me."

The call ended there. Church couldn't believe this. He had reservations about this mission, happy to just stay comfortably at school and watch kids kick the shit out of each other while waiting for Ironwood to make something that would send him and Tex back to that god awful canyon in the middle of nowhere, but now Texas was coming along for the ride. He was happy that she was back in his life, but at the same time, he also dreaded what life would be like by that same fact. Especially once he got his own body.

They say women can hold grudges for a long time, but Texas could hold it infinitely.

He just hoped he wouldn't be getting the Grif treatment. Now that he thought about it, what was Texas' obsession with busting his balls, anyhow?

"This is gonna be awesome." Nora gushed. "We're going to be breaking SO MANY LEGS!"

"Yeesh. Little excited there, aren't ya chachi?"

"Why wouldn't I be? Tex is a total badass!"

Maine grunted. 'And a hardass with a tendency to go overboard. Remind me, how the hell did the two of you become a couple?'

"Hey, you'd have to ask the Director that one." Church shrugged. "Seeing as how she's apparently based off the memories of his dead wife and all. Actually, now that I think about it...if Tex is based off the actual Allison, doesn't that mean he was whipped and got his ass beat constantly?"

The blonde stopped to think about that train of thought. He imagined the Director dealing with Allison, who he imagined to be the same as Texas. When he thought about the old man getting the total crap kicked out of him by his own wife, he couldn't help but snicker.

He was going to engrave that image into his mind for all of time.

"Looks like you find it funny." Church commented blandly.

'Come on. Don't tell me you don't find he thought amusing.'

"Yeah...you got me there."

"So, how long before Tex's ship shows up?"

"Fifteen minutes." Qrow said. "Shouldn't be that long of a wait."

"Well, since we got time, old man, got any stories to share for us?" Church asked. "Like how in the hell you're related to Red?"

"Well, like I said, me and her folks were on the same team-"

Church cut him off. "Yeah, I remember that. I mean, do you have any wild and inappropriate stories not safe for teenagers? Like hardcore balls-off-the-walls kind of shit?"

"I got a few, if the rugrats are brave." Qrow smirked. Maine rolled his eyes as he realized where this was going.

"Ooh! Story time." Nora plopped down on the floor with crossed legs.

"Nora. No." Ren shook his head.

"Nora. Yes!"

Pyrrha giggled to herself. Maine just stared at them as if they were strangers. In a sense, they were. He had memories of them as Jaune Arc, but at the same time he was still Agent Maine of Project Freelancer. Even after spending several weeks with them, he still couldn't quite get used to them. They were just so different from the team he had come to know and grow close to. So much more casual and closer, whereas everyone else in Project Freelancer was scrambling for attention and be the best. Well, except for him. He was fine with his lot in life, simply fighting and doing whatever was asked if it meant he could protect them and complete the mission.

There was a sense of comradeship among those in Project Freelancer, but for the most part, many were simply looking out for themselves or were more focused on rising through the ranks. Carolina was one of the few who had a healthy balance. Sure, she could be stuck-up at times, but when it came down to it, the people she fought alongside with were like family to her. They were important.

And so were they to him. And because of the Director, he had killed so many of them.

He didn't realize his hands started to shake and curl into fists when he felt his nails pierce his skin, Aura quickly healing the wound before blood could drip. He let out a low growl, unheard by the others, and pushed the thoughts away. Yet no matter how deep he buried them, the faces and corpses of his former friends appeared in his mind.

'Never again.'

[Is something the matter, Huntsman Arc?] Delta inquired.

Maine stared long and hard at Team JNPR while Qrow began to regale them with stories about Team STRQ, burning the image into his mind. 'I won't lose anyone anymore. Never again.'

He would not let go of them. Even if it cost him his life.

Texas stared at the scenery passing by through the windows of the cheap Pelican knockoff, while curling and straightening her fingers. She hadn't gotten used to the fact that she now had a new body now, especially one so different than what she was used to. Back in Project Freelancer, her body had been flesh-and-blood, some poor woman the Director used to implant her in so she could take over her body. Then, after that one expired, she found a mechanical one to possess, though compared to the body she had now, that one was mostly circuits and bolts and wires. This one was circuits, bolts, wires and artificially-made organs.

She still had no idea why Dr. Polendina thought about including that last part. She didn't think having artificial organs would ever be useful for a robot. The circuits, nuts, bolts, and metal chassis were the key components and were all that were necessary.

...unless they also had built in weapons.

Unfortunately, she had yet to figure out if she had any such weaponry on her person. The old man, bleeding heart that he was, was also kind of a scatterbrain.

Then again, he was the person who made Penny. If someone was able to construct a robot with a fully fleshed personality, consciousness, and even a fully functional soul, evident by her Aura, then that person just might be the greatest scientist on this planet. She did have some reservations, though. After all, the last scientist she got involved with, if the Director could even be called a "scientist", did torture Church just to try and bring back his dead wife. Her. Or whoever the fuck she was.

Truth be told, Texas wasn't sure who she was. The obvious answer was that she was Agent Texas, strongest and toughest and most badass Freelancer. But on the other hand, she was also the Beta AI, created when Alpha remembered Allison Church the day of the anniversary of hers and Leonard Church's wedding. It was hard, trying to find out which life was hers and which was something that was shoved on her. And then came her present day circumstances, where she was now just somebody teaching a bunch of kids how to fight better while waiting for the day she could go back to that canyon out in bum-fuck-Egypt.

Which was she? Allison, or Agent Texas? Was she both? Neither? She had been yearning for an answer since the day Connie left that message for her.


Texas' face crunched up. Even now, she regretted what happened to her. She was the only Freelancer who saw what was going on behind the scenes. She knew that members of Project Freelancer were actually the bad guys.

And yet, she couldn't save any of them.

Not even...

"Ma'am, we're approaching Team JNPR and Qrow Branwen's location." the pilot called. Tex shook her head and slapped her cheeks. She couldn't afford to dwell on the past. What was important was to focus on the present.

"Okay. What's the ETA?"

"About five minutes. Please get ready."

Merlot smiled sinisterly as he looked at the monitor. The battle against the Strider unit provided him with some great data, and his test subjects were following the bread crumbs laid out in front of them. It was only a matter of time before they found more of his experiments, battling and fighting them and providing him with more and more intelligence and he could create his magnum opus. The fruits of his research of infusing experimental Dust found nowhere on Remnant with Grimm. His benefactor would surely be impressed and offer him something greater, perhaps something that could help him with his newest interest.

"Oh, this will be fun."

A response from General Ironwood


I appreciate your report regarding the STRIKER unit. Admittedly, it is unfortunate that Agent Maine has expressed no interest in utilizing the equipment, but his reasons are understandable. I sincerely hope you and your team will be able to correct the issue and help finalize the unit.

With this, we may very well change not only how wars are fought, but perhaps change the course of Remnant's future. That said, I fear what may happen should this technology fall into the wrong hands, or its purpose become abused.

With that in mind, I am restructuring the research and development department. Please send me a detailed report of those you can explicitly trust. After I have determined whether or not they are trustworthy, Specialist Schnee will escort you and your team to a secluded location.

Sincerely, James Ironwood

A/N: A bit on the short side, but that's what happens when the holidays are coming up and I'm in the middle of dealing with depression and all that. Let me tell you, reading some of the reviews of my past stories and looking at some of the more, shall we say, harsh ones really do a number on you. You raise doubts as to whether or not you should continue writing this story, whether you should reboot it or not, those kinds of thoughts.

Not gonna lie, Metastability was one of the stories I intended on retiring, but I thought back to the fanbase that I developed with this story and decided to power through it.

Anyway, I won't be making updates to my stories for the rest of the month as the holidays are coming up, and I need time to decompress and all that shit. I will also be gone for the months of January and February, mainly because I will be going backpacking with my best friends. Here's hoping we don't get lost or murdered or anything like that.

Also, serious question: do you guys think I'm making Church too abbrasive or too much of a dick? I felt like he was being a little too confrontational or too whiny while me and Daemon of Wrath were writing this chapter. Him being annoyed with the present circumstances is natural, since he's stuck with the Meta, but the overall plan is for the two of them to develop a sense of friendship...or as close to friendship as Church can get.

That's it for this month. The next update will be a MEGA one, as I intend on wrapping up this arc in maybe two or three more chapters. Please let me know what you guys thought about this chapter in your reviews, and friendly reminder that "Metastability" now has a TV Tropes page, so be sure to check that out and edit it when you guys have the time.

See You.