Walker lied down on the edge of a cliff, a Longshot in hand and aimed in. He looked over his shoulder to see Blake approaching him and lie down next to him, throwing the camouflage cover over them. The two of them simply observed the locust from the distance to gather more intelligence on them. She had stopped asking him so much about his problems if he wasn't willing to talk, but did state she would always keep an ear out. It's what he wanted from the start, but was glad she had reached this point. His scroll buzzed and he sighed before asking if she could reach in his pocket and answer it. Her hands fished in his right pocket before bringing the device out, showing him it was Ozpin.
"Go ahead." He nodded.
"Hello?" She asked as she answered the call.
"Oh, Ms. Belladonna, I didn't realize you were with Walker." Ozpin greeted.
"Yeah. We're a little busy at the moment." She said, bringing out a pair of binoculars, her eyes narrowed when she saw some people in chains, both human and faunus.
"Ah, that is most troublesome." He sighed.
"Put it on speaker." Walker said. She nodded and pressed the button before placing the scroll on the ground beneath them.
"Hello, Walker." Ozpin greeted.
"Commander to you, stop calling me by my name. What do you want?" Walker asked, not bothering to beat around the bush.
"I was hoping you can stop by sooner or later." Ozpin said.
"Just say it now. I'm not flying across the world to have you talk my ear off about this whole shadow war." Walker said.
"The winter maiden is in trouble." Ozpin said.
"How is that my problem? Last I heard, she was in a secure location. It's Ironwood's problem seeing how he has authority over the military. Just because I took the other one in doesn't mean I'm handling the others. Stop calling me over these things." Walker drawled.
"I see..." Ozpin said quietly.
"I told you all I'm not getting in the middle of this right now since I have enough problems on my plate." Walker said.
"We didn't think you were serious." Ozpin whispered.
"Of course I'm serious. Why would you think otherwise?" Walker asked.
"The data you gave us back when you first arrived-" Ozpin started.
"Which was a mistake on my part. I was too trusting and I want you to delete it, and I mean all of it. Keep this in mind, Headmaster... I'm not someone you can just play like a chess piece. You, Salem, her little underlings, and whatever else is not my concern. Another topic, I doubt you found me a way home which means you were lying back then." He guessed, taking his eyes away from the Locust and looked at the scroll. There was silence for a few minutes.
"Yes. We... don't know how to get you home." Ozpin sighed.
"Figures. Anyways, stop calling me about this shit." Walker said before hanging up. He shook his head and looked back through the scope, observing the Locust some more. Eventually, they all disappeared down in a tunnel entrance and he nodded before standing up.
"Does he call you like that all the time?" Blake asked.
"He does. Seems he's going senile and keeps asking if I'm still going to handle Salem for him. I'm here to do two things, kill Locust and get home. If Salem gets killed by them then cool, if not, then he better find a way to deal with her. We already got enough shit on our plate." He said. She just hummed along with it and walked next to him. It had been some time since the two of them actually spent time together like this; nothing short of enjoying each other's company.
"So what are we doing next?" She asked, rubbing the back of her neck as she vaulted over a fallen log. The jungle always had some sort of damage, now since the Locust were out and about.
"Wait for reconnaissance to get back with the information. From that point on, we'll wait on the beacons to be completed and start planning on the next operation." He answered.
"Alright. Then we head back to base after this?" She asked.
"Yeah, if we managed to push back the Locust enough, we may give ourselves some breathing room. Can't afford to give them an edge of Mistral like we did in Menagerie." He said. The air went quiet for a while and he noticed before uttering a small apology. She just waved it off and didn't take it to heart. Losing her home was something that would continue to haunt her, but it could be overcome in time. She noticed how distant he seemed to get as time passed. His lack of care of himself was concerning, now more than ever. Well... she supposed Ozpin constantly bothering him was another factor to throw in.
"What are we gonna do about Taurus?" She asked.
"Set up a trap for him. Fighting him head on isn't something I'd want. I'm not too keen on being subjected to that attack you fear so much." He answered.
"I don't think anyone would. Still don't know how we're gonna trap him." She said.
"Lure him into a building and subject him to either a gas or explosion." He said.
"Gas him? That's a stretch not to mention inhumane." She raised an eyebrow.
"Not as inhumane as him blowing up an entire orphanage full of children and claiming it was justice." He retorted.
"True, but I'd rather have him either shot, mutilated, or blown up." She said.
"Now who's the one sounding inhumane?" He quipped.
"Shut up, you're rubbing off on me." She snapped.
"Sure." He chuckled. It went silent for a while and the two of them walked back to base, their eyes darting around every so often just in case something suddenly appeared.
"Why were those people in chains?" She asked.
"Probably for processing." He answered.
"Processing?" She looked at him.
"... Skorge's way of turning people into slaves. Usually ends up with lobotomy or death. At that point, death is considered mercy." He said.
"Is that what you went through?" She asked.
"..." He didn't say anything, but just continued walking forward. She uttered a sincere apology and he nodded in return before the two of them were thrown into silence. He claimed that it didn't mean anything anymore, only that she didn't bring it up in the future. There was so much shit that was going on that it didn't even make sense anymore and he was tired of it all.
"What's gonna happen to Sun?" She asked.
"I don't know, might kill him." He shrugged.
"I can't tell if you're serious or joking." She said.
"You know I'm a wild card at this point." He said, stepping over a rather large rock in his way. In reality, he was actually going to kill him. Shooting a non-combatant, letting countless threats live which came back to bite them in the ass, getting people killed, and etc. Actions like that were too big to be ignored, and at that point he became a liability.
"Too much of a wild card if you ask me." She commented.
"What's this? Blake Belladonna giving me sass?" He turned his head to look at her.
"I've always had sass. You just never paid attention." She jabbed.
"I do pay attention, you just never showed any of it until recently." He said.
"Whatever." She huffed.
"Was just about to say that, let's get back because I'm hungry." He sped up a bit.
"You're always hungry." She commented.
"It goes to these muscles of mine." He said.
"You sure it doesn't go to your forehead?" She raised an eyebrow.
"First, rude. Second, it's better than going to my ass. Don't think that I didn't notice it getting bigger." He chuckled when she bristled and the heat rose to her face a bit. She kicked some dirt at the back of his leg while continuing to follow him.
"That would imply that you stare at it." She said.
"You bet I do. All the time." He said casually.
"I'm ashamed of you, so very much." She closed her eyes and shook her head.
"Like I really care." He smirked. The two of them were close enough to the base to where they could talk freely, throwing slurs at one another without a care in the world. Frankly, he liked the more sassy side of her, for some reason it made him happier around her.
He watched as several dozen crates were carefully lowered and dropped onto the ground, kicking up small amounts of dust. A few months ago, he requested the R&D department to develop beacons to scan the tunnels. They had managed to get it done while the Gears were in Mistral and doing their jobs. While they may not have been as powerful as the ones on Sera, and required more, they at least did their job after countless tests runs.
All he could do was shake his head at the council, people who had nearly all the power in the world and governed its people couldn't shape up. Maybe it was due to his lack of political knowledge on what the council could do, but he didn't care right now. He had a job to do and he'd carry it out regardless of the obstacles in the way. He watched as several dozen Gears came and started to move the crates, two on each one.
They brought the crates to the armory and took them out, setting them on top of the crates and observing them. An instruction manual was given and each one of them read it carefully, making sure they were at least familiar with it. It took about an hour to get everyone informed and he sighed in relief when it was over. Two or three weeks from now they'd start enacting the operation to get down into the tunnels. For this one, he'd need the support from the Mistral military and their complete cooperation. The Gears had been handling a majority of the Locust problems, and it was beginning to take a toll on them.
"Boss." Cardin called from the door of the armory.
"What?" He asked as he took inventory.
"Ozpin's on the line." Cardin answered.
"Tell him to fuck off, I'm busy." Walker said. He heard Cardin say something in the background before walking up to him and handing him the scroll.
"Says it can't wait this time. He said he'd fly out here if it meant getting your attention." Cardin said.
"You serious?" Walker scoffed.
"As serious as us killing Wukong." Cardin nodded.
"Fine..." Walker sighed before taking the scroll. He listened to what Ozpin had to say before hanging up mid-sentence then handing the scroll back to Cardin. Now wasn't the time to be worrying about the silly little Maidens. The Locust were starting to get smarter with their attacks. Each one was quick before they dove back into their little holes, and every time more people went missing from the settlements.
"What'd he say?" Cardin asked.
"Same crap about this war with Salem." Walker said.
"So... we're really not helping with this?" Cardin asked.
"We can't afford to. Maybe after this tour, then I'll think of something, but not at the moment. The Locust are getting more bold and it's starting to become a problem. People are disappearing from settlements and being taken. Blake and I saw them in chains the other day while we were patrolling." Walker answered.
"Thought it would've been bandits." Cardin said.
"Those spineless cowards usually leave at least the bodies, just not their belongings." Walker shook his head.
"So what are we gonna do now?" Cardin asked.
"We're setting the beacons in the tunnels, get a scan to map out the place and start working from there." Walker answered as he stood up and walked out of the room. Cardin followed him and the two had a conversation about the next step. It lasted for half and hour before they decided to part ways.
"I got to go, boss. Gonna go meet someone." Cardin said.
"A girl?" Walker raised an eyebrow.
"Well... you're not wrong." Cardin rubbed the back of his neck.
"Get on out of here then, chances are you probably won't find a girl anytime soon." Walker jabbed lightly.
"Whatever, I'll see you later." Cardin rolled his eyes before walking off. Walker just chuckled lightly and sighed a bit before clapping his hands and going to the briefing room. He went to the board and repeatedly tapped his chin lightly as a million thoughts ran through his head. There was so much to do, and there was a massive cost. If the Locust were to get control over Mistral, then that's one major kingdom that's lost. They couldn't afford to lose this time around; sure they were to take heavy casualties, that was to be expected, but he'd make sure to try and avoid too many.
He hummed for a minute before he checked the time to see it was getting late. Assistance would be needed for this operation, and the Mistral military had fully agreed. They'd supply as many able bodied soldiers as they could while the Gears would spearhead any Locust related tasks. The sound of the door opening met his ears and he turned to see Velvet approaching him with two plates of food in her hands.
"You forgot to eat." She said.
"Thanks." He nodded and sat down, keeping his eyes on the board. The two of them ate in silence for a while. He's never really been alone with Velvet all that often, but she seemed like a sweet person.
"The others said you didn't eat and went to bed." She said.
"What are you still doing up?" He asked.
"Believe it or not, I go to bed later than the others." She rubbed the back of her neck.
"Same." He said.
"I know, I can hear you sometimes." She said.
"You can?" He asked.
"Yeah. These ears aren't just for looks, you know. Although... it kind of worries me and everyone else whenever you do. You're more irritable when you're tired." She said.
"I've been trying to work on that." He sighed.
"Well, we're glad you're at least trying to get better." She closed her eyes and smiled at him. A small smirk adorned his face and he nodded before turning back to his meal. It was nice, the people that annoyed him about his problems were understanding their boundaries and still offered help. Blake was the biggest improvement, along with Ruby. A small chuckle escaped his lips and he waved her concern off before dusting his hands off and standing up.
"Thanks for the food, Velvet." He said.
"You're welcome, see you tomorrow." She waved.
"... See you tomorrow." He nodded and walked out the room. Going to the mess hall, he threw his trash away and walked out shortly after. Eating with his Gears was usually enjoyable and he often found himself liking some of their stories. It proved to be a nice break from all the destruction in the world. Sometimes it was nice to know what kind of people he fought beside if they perished in battle.
Two weeks had gone by and he looked at the hundreds of faces that were focused on him. The mission objective was simple, place the beacons in several locations to get a detailed map of the tunnels before getting out before things got too serious. Executing it wasn't however. The Locust were different from the ones on Sera, they were smarter and often covered their tracks to avoid having people follow them in.
Explanations were straight to the point and he barely had to explain it to the countless men and women that were listening. They all knew the gravity of the situation enough; pulling this off could be the small step up they needed against the Locust. It took about an hour, but everything was pounded into their skulls and he watched all of them leave to get their gear on. He just walked outside and sat on a modified bullhead. It had lightweight armor on it for more protection without sacrificing its mobility. His foot dangled off of it as some of the others climbed in and waited for takeoff.
He saw some of them taking group pictures before climbing into their designated bullhead and pretty soon, they were up in the air. There was the sound of static and he turned his head when he heard music being played. All he could do was sigh and shake his head as the loud music seemed to lift everyone's spirit a bit. It was probably Yang's idea to be honest; she always was a more classical rock kind of girl.
He shuffled in his seat a bit as the music continued to play on the speaker and he soon found himself enjoying it a bit. The countless bullheads littered the sky as they all flew to their destination. His eyes constantly scanned the horizon and as the minutes turned to an hour, and eventually two hours, he saw the hole. It had recently been filled and he held the side of his helmet to send an order and watched as a specific bullhead flew over the hole. A large object was dropped and an even larger explosion was created, giving them access to the reopened hole.
The bullheads scanned the area for the next few minutes before deciding to land. Boots impacting the ground was heard all around before they crowded around the large hole in front of them. He gestured for one of them to hand him something and nodded when a glowstick was placed in his left hand. It was bent and he shook it a bit before tossing it down the hole. The further it went, the more some of them realized how deep it was.
"That's no joke, huh?" Yang whistled.
"No. Get the ropes, everyone needs to be careful. There's no telling what's at the bottom." He said. Some of the others nodded and stuck rods in the ground, jerking them roughly before tying some ropes around it. He threw one of them down and waited several long seconds before putting his Lancer on his back before putting the rope in the clip on his waist. Slowly lowering himself over the edge, he began to descend with quick but controlled bursts. It wasn't before long did he finally reach the bottom and the damp dirt below his feet made the ground slightly uneven.
Ruby came next and unclipped herself before standing next to him, followed by everyone else. It took several minutes but when they all got down there, he led them through the dark tunnel. The further they trekked, the darker the tunnel became and some needed to turn their flashlights on. After a couple of minutes of walking, they came across three separate pathways and he signaled Penny to send out the drones. They quickly sped off and scanned the pathways before returning to her and she told gave them enough information to go off of.
"Left path leads to a river where supplies are being shipped in and out of, middle path leads to the fortress, and the right leads to the entrances. We split off into three groups; Arc, you're with several of the Mistral units in the right tunnel." Walker said over the radio.
"Got it." Jaune nodded.
"Girls, you take the left path and plant the beacon with some of the others, if you can then see if you can disrupt their supplies." Walker turned to them.
"Alright." Ruby nodded.
"Cardin, Russel, you're with me and the rest. We're headed to the fortress to plant the final beacon." He said.
"Lead the way, boss." Cardin nodded.
"Good. We rendezvous at the entrance we came in at or at one of the entrances they came in through, three hours at most. Got it?" Walker asked everyone. They nodded and went their separate ways down each tunnel. The deeper they went, the more each group realized how large each tunnel actually was, like something large had carved out a path.
Walker and the others crouched behind some rocks on a cliff, observing the fortress in front of them. They could see countless Locusts patrolling the area, lifting boxes and setting them down, and even shoving each other roughly whenever another one got in their way.
"Set up shop here, huh?" Cardin asked.
"The main atrium should be a decent location to set the beacon." Walker said.
"Shouldn't we try to at least plant it outside?" A Mistral unit asked.
"And risk it getting destroyed? No, we need it up and running at least for several minutes in order for this to work." Walker answered.
"We going in loud or no?" Russel asked.
"When have Gears ever gone quiet?" Walker quipped.
"Good point." Russel nodded in agreement. A Mistral unit came over and handed a launcher towards Walker, letting him aim it in before choosing the right moment to fire. As soon as he pulled the trigger, he watched the rocket soar through the air and impact the door in front. The initial impact killed several locusts and the others suddenly snapped to attention, giving out horrible roars. Each one aimed their weapons when the Gears and Mistral units jumped off the cliff and stormed the bridge.
Walker's back slammed against cover gunfire whistled past his head. He saw several others dive into cover with him while some fell over dead after being struck. Their bodies leaking profusely after they were riddled with several Hammerburst rounds. He peeked around the corner and fired into the nearest Drone; it fell over dead and he fired a portion of the magazine into two more, killing them instantly. Several Locust stormed on their position and he reached around his back to retrieve a grenade, throwing it over the cover he was at and listening to it bounce off the ground. There was a small beeping noise before it detonated, killing a group of Drones and splattering their bodies all over the ground.
Once enough breathing room was given, he ordered everyone to push forward, finding the main atrium quickly before setting the beacon down. Everyone entered the fortress and pushed through the cathedral like structure. It seemed gothic in a sense and some of the others wanted to take pictures, but decided against it. He suddenly took cover behind a large pillar when gunfire started to zoom past him. Several others fell instantly, their bodies torn to shreds when a Troika turret rounds ripped through them. Blood splattered across the ground and the pillars and the sound of body parts impacting the ground wetly met his ears.
His head barely peeked around the corner before jerking it back when countless bullets impacted the pillar. He looked across and saw Cardin peeking over, firing three times before getting back in cover.
"Flash and smoke!" He shouted, turning to see Russel throw one towards him. He nodded his head in appreciation and waited until a flash grenade was thrown before he threw the smoke right after. The flash clattered against the ground before detonating, blinding the Drone operating the machine gun before the smoke detonated shortly after. The hall was covered in a thick gray screen and they took this chance to advance, close enough to where they could see the Drone on the gun. Cardin tossed him a frag and he swung it in his right hand before throwing it forward. It bounced off the wall and landed behind the Drone, making its eyes widen before trying to scramble away.
A wet gurgling noise was heard when the grenade exploded and scattered its body into several pieces, painting the area red. Everyone breathed a bit as the adrenaline was pumping through their veins. He instructed them to keep moving, despite the bodies of their comrades in the hall lying still. There was nothing they could do at this point. All of them quickly moved through the halls, killing whatever Locust that got in their way and losing some of their own.
Little by little, he noticed that instead of forty of them, it was only fifteen at this point. In the past half an hour, they had lost nearly all the assistance. Him, Cardin, Russel, and a few Gears was all that was left. All the units from Mistral that were by his side were gone, either shot or brutalized from a sneaky Theron. A deep sense of regret seemed to bubble up in his heart. He should have done something different; something that would have guaranteed these soldiers' survival. Nothing could be done though, they had reached the atrium and the beacon was placed in the middle.
Russel set it down and activated it. All of them watched it hover and vibrate a bit before suddenly shooting up in the air, sending out bright pulses. A chorus of roars made all of them aim around, the muzzles of their weapons aimed at the dark corridors. They snapped when the ground below them started to have cover extend upwards and they took cover when gunfire echoed through the halls. Drones, Grenadiers, Tickers, and Kantus began to swarm the room. A Gear shot a Ticker that scuttled towards them and screeched loudly. It exploded and showered gore all over the floor.
Walker shot a Kantus when it started to swing its ink grenade. It dove out the way and didn't get the chance to finish the throw when it fell backwards. Copious amounts of ink exited its body and poisoned the ground near it, affecting a couple Drones. A Grenadier didn't escape the radius of the poisoned substance and suffocated inside it. The cracking of gunfire rang loudly as the beacon continued to pulse and send out information. He peeked upwards and killed two Drones and a Grenadier before ducking back underneath cover when gunfire whistled past him.
This went on for a couple of minutes and everyone was beginning to run dry. Walker was dry in his Lancer and switched to his sidearm before firing into a Theron. He ducked when a Boomer stomped into the chamber and fired. The shot soared past him and blew up, making him slam against the cover from the force. Bits of shrapnel dug into his arm and he plucked them out before firing again.
The beacon made a loud beeping noise and suddenly detonated, blinding every Locust in the room and giving everyone a chance to kill the remaining forces. All went quiet and everyone was breathing hard before catching their breath for a few minutes. They picked up whatever weapon and ammo they could before gathering closer to the middle of the room.
"Signals sent and the mapping is complete." Walker told them.
"So we can get out of here now?" Russel asked.
"Yeah. We're dry and we've lost too many. The others should be heading back now-" Walker stopped when the room suddenly went dark. All of them went on alert and turned their flashlights on before aiming around carefully. Each one could hear their heart beating and Russel stepped forward before something seized him by the neck and lifted him up, making him gag. All their muzzled aimed at the assailant and he was thrown away before they opened fire. The figure leapt through the air and activated its chainsaw with a loud roar. Two of his Gears fell into halves and he fired at the figure, but frowned when they seemingly dodged each bullet.
"Boss-" Another Gear started, only to be cut short when her head was cut off, leaving a stump that blood seemed to spray out of. His gaze hardened when he saw the figure and charged at it, dodging a swipe from the chainsaw by ducking underneath it before stabbing them in the stomach. He was rewarded with a violent punch to his stomach and a kick to the side of the head, making his eyes widen in pain. A harsh cough escaped his lips as he was picked up by his shoulders and had a knee slam into his gut; making him cough up spit. Half a second passed and he had his head slammed into the ground before being thrown into a wall.
Russel was flung onto the ground before kicked to the side effortlessly. Cardin scowled and rushed up to the figure before throwing an aura infused punch at it. The first hit managed to strike the assailant but his left arm was grabbed and he felt an overwhelming grip on it. He winced painfully and his back arched when the figure twisted its hand, making him give out a gasp of pain. The sound of his muscles being squeezed and bones starting to creak met his ears. A few agonizing seconds of this went by before his arm and shoulder were snapped like a twig. A loud, painful shout echoed from his helmet and across the fortress.
His arm was on fire from the pain and hung limply as he knelt down in agony when the figure let him go. The roar of a chainsaw met his ears and he looked up to see the teeth spinning furiously. He soldiered through and tried to stand before the chainsaw spun quickly and swung at his leg and upwards. In one fluid motion of the chainsaw staff, his left leg was cleaved from his body and helmet was sliced in half. He was sent spinning through the air before landing roughly. He closed one of his eyes as blood leaked from the large cut on his face and he struggled to lean up.
"This is the group that has been keeping this disgusting world from falling? I'm almost insulted." It said with a horrible mixture of hate, disgust, and malevolence.
"Russel, the rest of you. We're leaving." Walker said as he gripped the back of Cardin's armor and started to drag him away. The remaining three Gears and Russel following him shortly after. Walker didn't expect him to be here. Had he known then he would've brought more with him. The worst Locust of all time reduced one of his best to nothing. He was leaking murderous intent at the moment, but he couldn't afford anyone else to die now. He wouldn't allow it.
"Go on... run. I'll give you a head start. I always enjoy a good chase." Skorge said mockingly as the lights in the room to reveal his figure. His bloody chainsaw staff in one hand and surrounded by bodies. His eyes lit up with glee when he spotted the shiny golden helmet and darker complexion of skin.
"Goddammit." Walker cursed as he dragged his comrade down the gothic halls.
"You can't escape from me, Ronin! You can't stop the great worm from awakening and you can't stop us this time! Remnant will fall!" Skorge's voice echoed throughout the halls. Walker closed his eyes tightly and ignored the voice before looking down at Cardin, noticing his aura doing its best to keep him alive.
"Stay with us." He said.
"..." Cardin's eyes met his before his eyes started to close and his hand started to go limp. After a second, it slumped against the ground with a dull thump as Walker called his name. A large bloody trail was left and they had to stop to stop the bleeding from getting worse.
Skorge stared at the retreating figures before turning his head and walking away, flicking his staff to rid some of the blood off of it.
"Hunt them down." He started.
"..." Slams were heard.
"Find out where they're located." He continued.
"..." The slams were mixed in with snarling and grew in intensity.
"Bring me, the golden Gear. Alive, mind you." He ordered finally. There was a loud, final slam before countless Drones and Hunters poured out of the walls and started to run towards the direction of the retreating Gears. Each one was bloodthirsty and wanted a pound of flesh
Skorge chuckled maliciously and went to his temporary throne, his eyes seemed to glow a bit as a cruel smile adorned his face. This war became several times more interesting now. He actually had a spoil to look forward to should they win.
Walker shut everything else off as he dragged Cardin's body over his shoulder. They had done what they could for him until they could get him to Penny, but the chances were slim. Locust were hot on their trail and they needed to get out. He ignored everyone's faces when he brought back only a portion of the troops he had brought with initially, and was heaving Cardin over his shoulders.
As soon as he hooked the other boy to the rope and himself on, he barely waited for anyone else before they were lifted in the air. Of the three hundred that took a part in this mission, only ninety remained at this point. A majority were his Gears. Cardin was barely holding on at this point and he immediately was rushed off as soon as they landed. The others were checked up on too, but he just stood there clenching his fists tightly enough to draw blood. The many people that died underneath his watch was suddenly on his shoulders and he dropped to his knees.
Clumps of dirt were in his hands as he squeezed the ground and glared at it. He should have been more cautious, not let his guard down, or even get too cocky. Countless men and women died and it was his fault. He should have known Skorge would have been in one of the strongholds in Remnant's hollow. It was practically the bastard's playground and he stepped into it like a fool. He didn't know how long he was kneeling there, but it must have been a while since his knees started to ache and the sky began to darken. Nobody seemed to reach him as he just glared at the ground more, where he thought the bastard was grinning at him.
Time seemed to fly by around him and he ignored everything; the people who blamed him for their comrades' death, to the worried looks of his own Gears. Nobody could snap him out of his daze and everything was quiet now. The sky was dark at this point and the night chill met his skin but he paid it no mind. He shut himself down and let his guilt fester within him. Every negative thought was enough to put him down and draw Grimm, but none came at this point.
He didn't know how much longer he stayed out here before a pair of arms wrapped around his chest from behind and a person's head was in his back. The two of them sat there in silence for a while, neither one wanting to break the atmosphere.
"It's not your fault." Blake said into his back.
"How?" He asked numbly.
"You told us things like this happen in war." She answered.
"Precautions could have been made. Had I done more then Cardin wouldn't be in the state he's in, those Gears and Mistral units would still be alive, and we could've hit the Locust harder than before. If I was just more cautious then-" He stopped when she squeezed him tightly.
"Stop blaming yourself. Nobody here blames you for something out of our control. While yes, we were pretty much going in blind and had little to work with. You still orchestrated a plan that gave us enough edge over the Locust." She said.
"The crafty bastards are always changing. Sooner or later they'll do something different and it'll put us in the hole." He said in the same tone.
"We'll adapt to their changes. It's all we can do at this point. Whatever they throw at us, we just have to throw it ten times harder. Isn't that what you taught us?" She asked.
"..." He just let his head hang limply. She looked at him and cast a worried glance at him. She had never seen him look this hopeless before, like the strongest person she's ever known just gave up and died.
"Walker-" She started.
"Skorge was down there." He said after some time.
"..." She just let him continue while listening carefully.
"He's the one that cut Cardin's leg off and snapped his arm like a twig. I've never seen the guy scream so loudly before, not even when we sparred or he got shot. Cardin sounded completely helpless there and I couldn't get up fast enough to help him. Couldn't get up fast enough to save my other Gears from getting cut in half." He said quietly then stared in space.
"Come on." She tried to help him up, but he just stayed rooted in place.
"No." He said.
"Get up, we need to get you checked up on." She said.
"..." He just went silent for a while.
"We're worried for you, okay? Each and every one of us has been trying our hardest to help you little by little, but we can't if you keep shutting us out." She started, before kneeling in front of him.
"..." He still didn't say anything before she sat down.
"You're not alone. Despite you thinking you are, we want to help win this war too. This isn't personal anymore, okay? Just... let us in for once." She said softly. It was silent for a while before he looked at her and thought about what she said for the last few minutes. A sigh escaped his lips and he nodded slowly before standing up and wincing. The pain in his chest flared and he needed to get his armor off.
"I'll think about it." He said.
"You're not heading to bed?" She asked.
"Can't. My ribs hurt and I think one of them is cracked." He winced.
"I wish you said this sooner." She sighed.
"... I'll see you tomorrow." He said.
"Who said you're spending the night alone?" She placed a hand on her hip.
"You asking for an invitation?" He raised an eyebrow.
"No, but it's clear I'm not going to just leave you to suffer alone." She said.
"Hmph." He shrugged before letting her walk beside him. There was a time when her doing this would piss him off to no end. Now though... he felt like he needed this. He didn't want to be alone tonight, not after what had transpired recently. For once in his life, he wanted someone to spend the night with.
It was nice to say the least.
The holographic mapping data was sent to all the available kingdoms and council. He didn't need to hear their voices to know that they were terrified. They had every right to be, the Hollow ran deep within the planet and the network of tunnels spread out like an infectious disease. There wasn't a single location the Locust couldn't be at in record time. He wasn't listening to the council bicker though, while he was sure some things were important, he mainly ignored them and just thought about Skorge. The bastard said something about awakening the great worm, but the last time he checked there was only one rift worm.
He clutched his head before thinking about Remnant's Hollow, it looked like something had carved those tunnels out before. As much as he didn't want to believe it, there might be a chance that another rift worm could be here. If that was the case then he needed to put together an evacuation plan just in case the thing did happen to be here. The amount of deaths on Sera due to that titan was something he didn't wish to happen here. He couldn't afford for it to happen.
His right leg bounced up and down rapidly before he snapped to attention when they must have been calling his name numerous times. It's not like he could have just skipped this. Things like this needed to happen in order for everyone to be on the same page. He sighed and looked at the screen tiredly, meetings like these were long and boring. They regurgitated the same topics that were discussed before and quite frankly, he was getting sick of it all. He had better things to do than play bodyguard or give his opinion on how to deal with people. His job was to eliminate the Locust and keep whoever he could alive.
"Commander, it seems that you're recent mission has provided us with sufficient intelligence on the Locust." One of the Council members said.
"..." He nodded silently.
"Our deepest condolences to the men and women who lost their lives getting this information." Douglass said.
"Thing like this happen. What's done is done, the most we can do is move on." Walker said. He could see them shuffle in their seats uncomfortably, but none of it bothered him too much. Nothing could be done since they got the information, although at a heavy cost.
"How can you be sure this information is accurate?" A council member asked.
"We didn't spend the last couple of months gathering data and waiting for the beacons to be completed just to lie to you." He retorted.
"Walker..." Ironwood started.
"Stop calling me by my name. Us Gears are risking our necks getting you all shit so you can help come up with solutions. So far, all I'm getting is empty promises from you and dead bodies on my part. I can't do all the heavy lifting at this point, we lost too many during this recent battle." Walker said.
"This wouldn't be a problem if you help us with the recruitment." An Atlas council member commented.
"Tough shit, I'm not good at making people do something. Get off your ass and find a way." He retorted.
"Why you-" They bristled.
"I'm not your little dog who goes and fetches your stick. I have enough on my plate. My Gears are recovering and we need time before we can get back out there, so find a way for people to take up arms for their survival. I can't make them do anything if they don't want to." He interrupted. It was to the point where he was beyond caring. The council, with the exception of a few members weren't doing anything to help him. If they wanted to do nothing for him, then he'd do the same.
"On an unrelated note, these pictures of the tunnels. They're bigger than before." Douglass changed the subject.
"We might have a Riftworm." Walker said.
"A what?" Douglass asked.
"A Riftworm. A giant, eight to ten mile long worm that is able to sink cities in one feeding." Walker answered.
"You're lying." A council woman said.
"Why would I lie about this? You've all known me long enough to know I don't lie about anything related to the Locust. If it is down underground, we either need to find it quickly and kill it or prepare multiple evacuation procedures." He said.
"How do we locate it?" Ironwood asked.
"That's the problem. Chances are the Locust will guard that thing's location with their lives, so it'll be hard. I'd still prepare evacuation procedures in the meantime. It won't guarantee everyone's survival, but it might minimize some deaths." Walker advised.
"We'll look into the matter and come up with one. When we do, we'll send you them to go over." Douglass said.
"Got it." Walker nodded.
"Without further adieu, I think now is a good time for us to part ways for now. Us council members have our work cut out for us and you as well, Commander. Stay safe." Douglass looked at the other council members and nodded.
"You as well." Walker nodded before shutting off his computer and leaning back in his chair. A sigh escaped his lips and he was glad Douglass was one of the sensible members he could count on. The man did always promise several things and deliver, which gained him the people's trust. He was a charismatic leader who, despite all the horrors in the world, always kept a brave face for the people.
A wince escaped his lips and he went to the bathroom before reaching in the medicine cabinet and grabbing a bottle of pain pills. The bottle was shaken a bit with a clattering noise and two popped out after a second. He lifted his helmet and threw them back before going to the room and washing it down with water. The bed creaked a bit as he lied down with a painful groan. His body ached and he took off his helmet, placing it on the floor before going to sleep. He had nightmares like always, but somehow this one was worse than the others.
He should have asked one of the girls to just stay by the bed, but he didn't want to bother them. For the most part though, he didn't want to be alone for once in his life.
So I'd like to apologize for a few things. One, the amount of time I took to get this out. Two, the length of the chapter. The final thing is the quality and pacing of it. On some occasions, I made it seem like Walker was weak, but on the other hand, I got a little tired of him always winning battles. Making him a Gary Stu is the last thing I want, despite the earlier chapters. I had to go back and read some of them and holy shit, I made him the most Gary Stu character of all time. It was more along the lines of me falling into that same trope of the OC gets the harem and never has any flaws type.
At the same time though, I don't want it to make it seem like he's some pushover either. He's human, he's prone to make mistakes and is doing his best to deal with what's thrown at him. I guess I just want to apologize for making him seem like a pushover this chapter, that really wasn't my intention. It's just a little hard coming back to this story after so long. I feel like it's rushed a bit, but I did want to advance the story somewhat.
Anyways, I'd just like to thank those who have been waiting patiently for this and enjoy it, despite it's many flaws. You guys are really awesome. I mean it, so I'll see you all next time whenever that is. Goodbye, everyone.