Onwards and such, and here we go.


Chapter 3


The VSPR's APC was a large and bulky thing in an ugly shade of dark blue-black. It had a sloped front similar to a wedge, and eight wheels which tore their way down an empty road towards Vale's largest prison complex. With heavy armour plating the front and sides, and a single door on the back, it cut an imposing sight, even before the VSPR's logo could be seen emblazoned on either side, with the four letters stamped beneath.

Inside, it was no less luxurious, and Yang bounced around in her seat, held down by four straps that cut a cross-shape over her torso and joined in the middle. She wore the same outfit she'd found at the HQ, while everyone else was now dressed in their own variations. Junior was up front driving, and dressed in dark blue cargo trousers and combat boots. He had a bulky vest on, festooned with pockets. Over the top, he wore a navy police jacket, which hung open.

Mercury looked somewhat similar, but had eschewed the jacket and the vest, instead going for black-blue pants into a black tank top and bared arms. He had some elbow pads and black gloves on, but otherwise seemed content to stick with his usual weapons – his feet.

Melanie and Miltia echoed one another in their uniform, but it looked like they'd been unable to resist the urge to personalise it. Both wore black combat skirts similar to Ruby's, though with far less tulle. They were functional and short, giving free range of movement. They also wore tight-fitting police jackets zipped up the front, but the main point of differentiation was that each of them had attached a half-skirt to one side of their combat one, meaning that on one side, they were covered down to their feet. Naturally, Melanie's was white, and Miltia's was red.

"Do you honestly think this'll work?" Miltia asked, her voice thick with scorn. "There's no way they'll let us get away with this, and even if they did, don't you think the White Fang will have moved their bases by now? He won't know any of them."

"Do you have a better idea?"

Miltia hesitated. "No…"

"Then we go with this," Yang said, crossing her arm over her chest, and trying to ignore how wrong that felt with only one. "If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. If it does, the VSPR keeps going, and you idiots get to stay free. Isn't that worth taking a chance on?"

"I dunno… it sounds like a pretty dumb idea."

Yang rolled her eyes. "How old are you two again?"

"Twenty. Why?"

Because they acted like twelve-year-olds. "No reason," she said, turning to Mercury. "I take it you're okay with this? It's not like we have any other options since you guys haven't managed to find any White Fang bases at all."

"Eh, it works for me," Mercury said, hunched forward in his seat. The guy smirked cockily and drew a metal slat back on the wall behind him. It revealed a narrow eye-hole, and now that her attention was drawn to them, she could see that they surrounded the entire APC, giving them options to look outside if they needed it. "Like you say, it's not like we managed anything else." He leaned back and banged on Junior's seat. "Hey, old man. We nearly there yet?"

"Ask that again and watch me pull over," Junior replied. He swerved to the left, bringing them out onto a long and lonely road flanked by chain-link fences. "You might want to come up front, Blondie," he remarked. There was a second of silence, and he sighed. "You might want to come up front, captain."

"That's more like it," Yang said, unbuckling her straps and slipping through the cramped APC.

They'd come to a stop by a guard station, and two men were approaching. She pushed over the back of the seat and landed on the passenger side. She pressed a button and waited as the window on her side slid down.

There were two men at the ready, each armed with guns and one on either side of the APC. Up ahead, she could also make out others atop towers, and there'd likely be cameras and whatnot watching. The place was well-guarded, as it ought to be. It didn't matter either way, since they wouldn't be storming the place.

The first man, dressed in a guard's uniform, came up to her window. "Ma'am, I'm going to have to see some-"

Yang took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and refused to let her nerves show.

"Captain Yang Xiao-Long of the VSPR," she replied, holding out the badge Ozpin had provided. "I'm here to speak with a prisoner regarding an investigation."

"W-Wait, what?"

The poor guy was confused, but she didn't give him any time to gather himself. The plan was simple; go in hard and fast and make it seem like they had every right in the world to be there. She did, legally speaking, but if she let herself get bogged down by nerves or panic, they'd keep her distracted until Ozpin came down to see what she was doing.

That would be bad…

"We weren't made aware of this, ma'am," the officer said.

"It just came up," Yang lied. "Look, we're here on official business, and if you'll check with your superiors, you'll see we have clearance to enter and leave at will, regardless of our reason. I'm only telling you boys because I'm being polite."

The guy outside her window looked to the other, who shrugged his shoulders and made a gesture towards his ear. The first nodded, and then turned back to her. "Please give me a moment, Captain. I'll radio my superiors, and I'm sure we'll have this sorted out in no time at all."

"Go ahead," Yang waved. "We'll wait."

Technically speaking, nothing she'd said was a lie. She'd made sure of it when going through the rights and freedoms the VSPR had. Her fingers tapped on the doorframe, her eyes scanning both the first guard talking over the radio, and the other, who still held a gun loosely in his arms. They both seemed a little too lax, but who was she to argue? They'd probably had snipers watching their vehicle as it approached.

She just hoped they accepted her at her word. She really was running on bravado and little else. Sure, she was usually a pretty confident girl, but that was with stuff she knew back to front. Put her on a stage in front of an opponent and she'd be fine. Ask her to speak in front of a crowd, and she'd be tongue-tied.

Brow-beating an honest to goodness police officers was somewhere in the middle, but definitely hadn't featured in her list of things she'd expected to do this year. Just smile and act like this is natural. No one will know.

Even saying that, she couldn't help but sweat as the guy finished his silent conversation and turned back to her. Had something gone wrong?

"Your story checks out, Captain Xiao-Long," the man said, putting away his radio and stepping aside. "If you'll draw into the car park on the left, you can enter by the main entrance."

"Thanks, boys," she called, smirking if only because anything else would have made her collapse in relief. Junior pulled forward and through the slowly opening gates, and she turned to him with a weak smile. "Well, we're in. That's half the battle right there."

"Can't say I ever expected to come back here," Junior said, watching the place with a veiled expression. "It's as horrifying as I remember it."

Yang almost pointed out that he'd have had to return if the VSPR collapsed, but thought better of it. If they did go under, there was almost no way Junior and the others would come back to prison. Their sentences were too long. They'd all make a break for it, and no doubt die in some shoot-out with the police. Mercury, especially, would rather die free, than face however long his sentence was. At least a life time for sure…

"Leave the talking to me," Yang called to the others in the back. "You're all coming with me, but I'm the one who speaks with him when we get in. Other than that, try to look like you belong. We've got every right to be here, and we're going to play on that."

"Heh, I was doing hustles long before you," Miltia said. "I know how to play the game. Question is, do you?"

We'll soon find out, won't we? Yang thought, stepping out the APC. The back door cracked open, with the three crawling out while Junior slammed the other door shut and walked around. Yang looked up at the Vale Prison, or to give it its official and ridiculous name; Vale Central Correctional Penitentiary, High Security Wing. It was a huge, squad building made of grey concrete decorated with grey doors and grey bars over windows. Barbed wire cut across the top, but given that it would have no real impact on the aura-infused criminals within, she had to wonder what else there was. It was a hideous building… the kind of place dreams went to die.

It wasn't even the main prison of Vale. But it was the one they sent the most dangerous of criminals to; convicted huntsmen or those with the training to match. With a deep breath, Yang strode forward, her four `colleagues` in tow behind her.

The front door was open, but an officer had to let them deeper inside. He reached for their weapons, but stepped back when she flashed her badge. He didn't seem to recognise it, at least not the department, but he clearly knew authority when he saw it. He also didn't seem to realise how panicked she really was, but that was okay.

Miltia and Melanie helped in that regard, the two possessing so much bitchiness it somehow came across as confidence. They sneered and turned their noses up at anyone and everyone they passed, and with the four falling behind her like some kind of military parade, it made her look better, too.

She'd have thanked them if she thought for a second they were actually doing it for her, and not because they genuinely were just that rude.

The group went unchallenged for a good five minutes or so, but she knew it wouldn't last. It eventually came to a head after they'd been allowed through a door of metal bars, and when they came face to face with a round man that reminded her of Port.

Well, if Port had shaved his moustache and swallowed fifty-thousand lemons. Pinched, didn't even begin to describe the guy's expression. He looked like he could curdle milk with a single glare.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he snapped.

"Captain Yang Xiao-Long of the VSPR," she said, flashing her badge. "I-"

"I know who you are," the man growled, slapping the badge out of her hand. Several other officers in the room gasped. "Or I don't know you, girl, but I know your joke of an outfit. VSPR? More like felons and crooks masquerading as men of the law. Bad enough when the higher-ups let these fuckers out, but now you have the balls to come back?" He sneered. "I think not."

Yang felt the man's breath wash over her, and had to resist the urge to flinch. Concealing how uncomfortable she felt was hard and even more so raising a cocky eyebrow.

Act calm. Act confident. Act like you have every right to be here.

Yang tilted her head to the side and rolled her eyes, then looked over to one of the man's own officers and nodded to the ground. When it was clear the poor guy didn't know what she meant, she started to tap one foot against the floor.

He held her gaze for all of five seconds, before he broke ranks and scurried forward. Kneeling down, he scooped her badge up and held it back out to her. "Here you go, ma'am."

"Thank you. It's good to see someone with manners around here."

"Are you listening to me, girl!?" the warden spat. "You're not welcome here, you and your stupid bunch of rejects. I already played ball once, and I won't be doin' it again!"

"You have to," she said. "I have every right to be here."

"Tell it to someone who cares, missy!"

Yang swallowed and clenched her teeth. This wasn't good. She'd hoped everyone would just back down and let her do what she wanted – she did have the legal right to, after all, and they could all just blame her for anything that went wrong. Bumping into someone capable, and very willing, to deny her?

That hasn't been a part of the plan.

What do I do now? I can't exactly force my way through. It would cause a riot, and I'm pretty sure Ozpin wouldn't be happy with that. It wouldn't help her, either. She needed the VSPR to bring in some results, not get arrested in a prison brawl.

"Ahem." Mercury cleared his throat and stepped up to her side. "Shall I take him down, ma'am?" he asked casually. "I can knock him out, and have everyone in the room subdued in a few seconds. It wouldn't be hard."

The warden flinched back, as did his fellows, and more than a few hands fell to weapons strapped at their waists. For a second, she wondered if Mercury had done that just to screw with her, but the bastard winked at her and she quickly caught on. He was throwing his weight behind her – making him seem like the dangerous one, so she could come across with more authority.

"No need, Mercury. Stand down."

"Yes, Captain."

Yang felt a little confidence return to her when she saw the officers around them relax. Some even looked her way in clear awe, amazed that she could command a dangerous criminal so. She made a mental note to do something nice for Mercury, then remembered who he was and scrapped the idea.

He was a handy asshole, but he was still an asshole! He'd made her feel like absolute trash when she'd `apparently` broken his legs. He wasn't getting out of that one so easily.

Still, he'd helped here. Yang swept her mantle to the side a little, just enough to display her firearm, and looked the warden in the eye. "Are you done yet? I'd like to move on if possible."

"What… what the fuck are you playing at…?" the warden growled. He relaxed a little, though his hand had yet to leave his handgun. He eyed her warily, but perhaps also with the tiniest amount of respect. Respect didn't mean like, however, and he made that clear with a sneer. "You dare to come in here and throw threats like that around? I should have you all arrested."

"Try it," she said. "I'll arrest you first."

"Ha?"

"Obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, or maybe just plain old-fashioned sabotage," Yang listed. She wasn't sure any of those really counted here, but that wasn't important. She just had to keep her momentum up. "I have the right, no - I can determine what rights I have, when it comes to taking prisoners from you." She stepped forward, and was rewarded with the warden taking a step back. "You may be the king of this place when it comes to anyone else, but not us – and not me. We're the VSPR, and right now, I'm the boss here. If you step in my way, I'll take you down and drag you before court. Maybe then you can explain why you so wilfully broke the law by trying to impede our progress."

"You… what the hell are you talking about?"

"Article four of the VSPR," Yang said, holding out the folder Ozpin had given her. The grin she wore was nothing short of victorious. "The VSPR has all rights accorded to the Council of Vale when it comes to recruitment of prisoners into their ranks, including but not limited to prisoner transfers, prisoner interviews, and also moving prisoners wherever the hell we want." She snapped the folder back before he could take it from her. "But you already know that, don't you? This is the place my colleagues here all came from, so you know you can't do anything to stop me."

The man growled, his lip practically vibrating as he struggled over whether or not to draw his weapon. His companions seemed far less certain, and many had already stepped back in clear surrender. Not a one had a weapon drawn, and some were even looking away, making it obvious they weren't involved, or that at the very least they didn't want to be there.

"Fine," the warden spat. "You'll get your time. Which prisoner you want to see?"

Yang hid a wince behind her wide smile. He wasn't going to like her answer.

/-/

His cell was easily the most secure in the facility. For one, it was disconnected from any hallways, and consisted of a smaller cell sat in the middle of a large, empty room. It was suspended atop a raised platform, and the doors leading out were at least twenty feet in the air – none being on the floor itself. To get to his cell, Yang had to wait as an artificial bridge was extended into place, connecting her door to his with a metal tunnel complete with an airlock.

"Sheesh, this is a bit much," Melanie grumbled.

"They're not taking any chances," Junior said. "Not with him. If he gets out, the entire city will be in uproar."

Yeah, and she was walking the fine line between it. Yang stepped forward when one of the officers entered a code into a pad, opening the airlock. She stopped when the others made to follow and shook her head. "I'm going in alone."

"He doesn't know you," Junior pointed out. "He won't trust you."

"He'll have no choice."

Junior looked like he might complain, but nodded after a second's thought. He reached into his combat vest and pulled out a small, silver case. "If you give this to him, he'll be more likely to listen to you."

Yang nodded and stashed it away. The officers nearby looked nervous at the thought of her taking anything to him, but they knew there wasn't much they could do. Her authority was too great, and that was probably an oversight from the Council and Ozpin now that she thought about it. With a nod to Junior and the others, she stepped out alone into the tunnel, and let out a quick breath when the cell door shut behind her.

Finally, she was alone, but it didn't make her feel any better. She took the chance to catch her breath, and also calm her rampaging pulse. Everything had worked out so far, but that didn't mean she wasn't going through her own miniature panic attack. Dad will kill me if he finds out about this. Ruby, too. Heck, even Zwei would bite me.

That was if she didn't strangle herself first. This was not what she'd had in mind when she accepted Ozpin's offer. To be fair, she hadn't had much in mind… just thoughts of how she'd prove him wrong and get back into Beacon.

"Well, that's still the plan. Come on, girl. You can do this."

She flipped open the silver case Junior had given her with a flick, revealing a row of expensive cigars. Yang took one out and put the case away. As much as she felt Junior was being honest, she'd be an idiot to trust him, and that was the main reason why she wanted to go in alone.

I'm towing a fine line as it is. If Ozpin finds out about this, I'll be in trouble. There's no way he expected it to go this far, and I doubt the Council will like it either. Yang took a deep breath and let it go. It was stupidity of the highest degree, but it was also her last chance. If she didn't take this, then she'd be out of Beacon and off of Team RWBY.

Her boots echoed over the metal walkway. She didn't feel any more confident, but she sure as hell made sure she looked like it.

The central cell itself was fairly typical, nothing more than metal bars that reached down from the ceiling, with more running horizontally across the top. Simplicity had clearly been the aim, that and not giving the man inside anywhere to hide from view. There was a simple bed, a desk with two chairs, and a toilet off by the side. Not even modesty had been afforded to him. Clearly, Vale felt him too dangerous for it.

Yang did, too, and it was all she could do not to snarl as his head raised, green eyes flashing from behind orange hair. Roman Torchwick cocked his head to the side and smiled.

"Why, hello there, yellow. What brings you to my humble abode?"

"Work," Yang replied, biting off her words. She hesitated for a second but stomped forward and into his cell before he noticed it. She had to appear strong. She had to be in control. "I'm here for work, Torchwick."

"Work, hmm? That's quite the school assignment. I wasn't aware Beacon sent its students to places like this." He leaned back in his seat and looked her up and down. She knew she cut a different figure in her outfit, and his eyes narrowed. "You look different."

With a shrug, she drew off the black and gold mantle and laid it on the back of the seat. As she sat down, she was painfully aware of the way his eyes flicked to the stump of her arm. He seemed surprised, though he hid it well.

With a smile she didn't really feel, Yang rested her elbow on the table.

"I had a haircut."

"So I see." Roman chuckled lightly. "Looks like the cut a little too much off the sides to me, but I'm not fully up-to-date with your fashions. Not much time for it in here."

She could tell. Roman wore baggy grey pants and a grey vest that didn't suit him at all. Then again, it was a prisoner's uniform, and he wasn't meant to feel good about it. She had to imagine that was an issue for him, especially considering how much of a love he had for the dramatics. Oh how the mighty had fallen.

He deserved nothing less for what he'd done. She really did hate him.

But I also need him.

"I'm not with Beacon anymore," Yang said, laying the single cigar down on the table. She placed a plastic lighter beside it, and grinned at the way his eyes lit up. He glanced at her and then down at it, licking his lips. "Take it. It's a gift."

Not from her, but whatever. He didn't need to know.

Roman snatched it up before she could take back the offer. It took barely two seconds for him to have it between his teeth, and only another three for him to relax as he puffed away. "Ah, I've missed this so much. Okay, Blondie. You've got my attention for this. What is it you want?"

"First of all, I want you to call me by my name."

"Sure thing, Yang."

Really, it was going to be that easy? A part of her was surprised he knew her name, but maybe someone had told him towards the end. Either way, her eyes narrowed. Roman simply laughed.

"I've been locked in here for over a month now, with no visitors other than that fat-ass warden, his men, and the occasional visit from Ozpin. Through all of that, I haven't had so much of a whiff of tobacco. You want me to call you be your name? Sure, fine – whatever. At this point, I'd be willing to do a backflip if it got me another."

"Ozpin visited you?" she asked. "Why?"

"He wants what I know." Roman tapped the side of his head and smirked. "Or at least he thinks he does. Idiot keeps coming on by to see whether I'll crack and confess all my crimes. I'm about ready to crack and smash my head against the bars. Can't be worse than listening to him talk about how I could redeem myself by helping him stop others. Bah, talk about a sanctimonious idiot."

So, Ozpin was trying to get information out of Roman as well. The fact he'd turned down the headmaster didn't bode well for her chances. Ugh, if only it were possible to just beat it out of him. Sadly, that wouldn't go down well. Not all problems could be solved with a fist.

"Why not tell him?" she asked instead. "Is there a reason you're holding onto it?"

"You interested in it as well?"

Yang shrugged.

"I'm holding on to what I know because it wouldn't serve me any good if I told anyone. Right now, stuck in here, it's the last thing I have going for me. If I give that up for nothing, I'll lose what value I have to the bastard. You can bet I'll be abandoned to rot at that time, or maybe even killed off in an unfortunate accident." He sounded remarkably unconcerned about such a possibility. "I've told him if he wants me to help him, he should make a deal. It's all about economics, supply and demand, and right now I'm a reasonable man."

"You took over an airship and had robots kill innocent people."

"I said reasonable, not perfect. You think I wanted to do that? Cinder made me a deal. I accepted it."

"And what were the terms?" Yang asked. "What did she offer you that was so valuable you'd kill for it?"

"My life…" He pulled out the cigar and sighed. "My life and that of someone else I cared about. I took the only option I saw. Not that I expect it to make much difference, but there was nothing personal about it."

"I'm not sure that'll appease all the people who lost loved ones."

"I did say I didn't expect it to make a difference. You can believe me or not, it doesn't really matter. The only reason I'm even chatting is because I'm bored as hell." He waved one arm in the air. "I don't get much in the way of conversation here."

It didn't seem like he got much in the way of exercise, either. Roman still had his usual shape and form, but his eyes looked sallow, and some of the skin hung from him. He looked older, even if he still managed his cocksure attitude. He definitely didn't get to go out and exercise with the other prisoners. He was too dangerous for that. She'd guess he spent most of his time locked in here. It sounded like torture.

Maybe that was the point… maybe they wanted to make him crack and go insane so he would never again be a threat to Vale. That felt pretty dark, but looking at a place like this, she couldn't help but imagine it. No one would even care. No, that wasn't quite right. People would celebrate if that happened.

"So, I've answered your questions. How about you tell me why you're dressed like some kind of military wannabe?"

"It's my uniform. I'm a member of the Vale Special Police and Recon unit, the VSPR."

His brow creased. "So, that's what you meant when you said you weren't with Beacon. How did that come about?"

"Adam Taurus cut off my arm, and Ozpin decided I wasn't good enough to stay on." Yang clenched her teeth when his eyes went to her stump once more, but she bore it as best she could. "My job is to take down the remnants of Cinder's group and protect Vale."

"And you get paid for it, I guess?" Roman smirked when she nodded. "I don't see why you're so upset. Sounds like a promotion to me."

He wouldn't understand. In a way, it was a step up from being a student, but that wasn't the important part. She wanted things to go back to normal. This wasn't that. "None of your business, Roman."

"Ooh, sore spot? I'll leave it be… for now." He crossed his arms on the table and grinned at her. "So, let me guess. You're here because you want the same information Ozpin does. You want me to point you in the right direction, so you can mop up the White Fang or Cinder's lackeys and claim all that juicy glory. Sound about right?"

Yang held her silence. He wasn't wrong, but she didn't think admitting it would help. Yet again, she wished she could be doing something else. This wasn't the kind of person she was. She didn't like pretending to be calm, or pretending to be an authority figure. She was who she was, and had never been the kind of person to mince her words.

Basically, she wasn't cut out for leadership. That was why she hadn't raised an issue when her little sister was given it over her. She wasn't a thinker. She was a fighter.

I can be that again once I'm back in Beacon. This is only a temporary thing. I just need to play being like this for a few months.

"I'm not sure we've got anything more to talk about," Roman said cockily. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

"This conversation isn't over, Roman. You don't have any control here."

He grinned past the cigar. "Don't I…?"

Damn him, and damn his stupid-ass expression too. Sure, he had something she wanted, but there was no way he was as in control as he was pretending. He was just doing what she was; pretending to be confident and sassy to get an advantage. At the end of the day, if you acted like you had every right to do what you were doing; people would usually let you get away with it.

Yang flipped out another cigar and laid it on the table. Roman's eyes lit up.

"Well, you certainly know the way to my heart. Okay, I'll listen a little longer, but unless you've got a good deal in hand, you're not getting anything I know."

And how much do you even know? That was the real question. Much like Junior, his contacts would have gone silent when he was arrested, and it wasn't like the White Fang would have stuck to the same operations in the time he was locked up. Honestly, all his valued information was probably a bluff, and Roman knew as well as she did that it lost it was depreciating day after day.

Still, it's not like I have any other options.

"What kind of deal have you been holding onto that information for?"

"A plea arrangement or a reduced sentence…" Roman shrugged. "It probably won't make a difference though. I've been sent down for five hundred years."

"Five hundred…?"

"It's a symbolic thing. They want to show everyone they're hard on crimes like mine, so they come up with some stupid number and slap it on me. Wouldn't do to have someone like Roman Torchwick serving the same time as some random murderer, right?"

I guess not. Still, that's ten-times the length Junior and the Malachites went down for. Then again, they barely even had a role in Cinder's invasion. It sounds like this whole thing is about sending a message.

That would make her decision even worse, and there were bound to be consequences. The Council would be angry, and so would Ruby and the others. They'd flip their lids when they found out, and she'd probably lose her position at the VSPR over it. But… wasn't that going to happen anyway? Ozpin had thrown her to the wolves knowing, and even intending, for her to fail. The only way for her not to was to do something crazy.

"How would you like to get out of here?" she asked.

Roman froze. "Excuse me…?"

"You heard me. How would you like to get out of prison? You said you'd do a lot for a cigar. How much would you do for the freedom to go get your own, and a pay cheque to buy them with?"

"Are you toying with me?" he snarled. "You may think it amusing that I'm here, but-"

Yang's fist slammed onto the table, silencing him. "Answer the question."

"Anything. I'd do anything."

"Anything? That's a little vague, don't you think."

"Does it look like I have a choice, blo- Yang?" Roman held his arms out wide. "I'm stuck here until the day I die, or 'til I commit suicide, whichever comes first. You could strap a bomb to me and tell me I have to fight a thousand Beowolves with a spoon to earn my freedom and I'd take it." He leaned forward, his eyes desperate. "I'm out of options. I would do everything and anything. What other choice do I have?"

He meant it.

Yang drew out a sheet of paper she'd kept hidden in her folder. She pushed it across the table and gently placed a pen over it. When Roman looked at her, she nodded down for him to read it. She wasn't sure her voice would work, because this disgusted even her.

He'd been responsible for the robots that had helped attack Beacon. They'd almost killed her several times over. This… what she was doing here… it was a selfish decision and nothing more. Sure, Vale needed the VSPR, and this would help keep them going, but that wasn't the real motivation, and she couldn't afford to lie to herself.

This is all to get me back into Beacon. The others will hate me for it, but they'll get over it. They'll have to. Ozpin set me the challenge. I'm just fulfilling it.

Roman set the contract down with a shuffle of paper. His eyes were narrowed, but she could see the confusion and shock in them. She could also see the hope, as jaded as it was.

"Do you have any idea what you're suggesting?" he asked. "There's no way people will stand for this. Ozpin will go nuts, and it already sounds like you've got other crooks working for you in this little thing. There's a reason I wasn't given the chance in the first place."

"I know. They can't trust you, and to be honest, neither can I. Thing is, I have to make the VSPR work or Ozpin won't let me back into Beacon with my team." She despised telling him of all people her reasons, but he'd not agree unless he knew. "If I want the VSPR to have any success, I need what you know. Letting you out is a stupid decision, though. Even I can see that."

"Then why do it?"

Yang leaned forward, and she knew her eyes were much like his. Desperate, angry, but also tinged with bitter hope. She repeated the words he'd said before, forcing them out past gritted teeth. "I'm out of options. And much like you, I'll do anything to make this work."

Roman looked down at the contract one last time, and then to her eyes. Whatever he saw in them, he clearly recognised, for he nodded his head and reached for the pen.

/-/

"This won't stand!" the warden howled, following after them. "I'll never allow it."

"You don't have a choice," Yang replied.

"Then… then I'll inform the Council!"

"Go ahead." Yang pushed Roman into the back of the APC and waved for everyone else to climb in as well. The warden grabbed her shoulder before she could join them, and she had to hold back the urge to knock his hand off. "What?" she snapped. "I don't have time for this. You know full well I can do this, and I've shown you the paperwork."

It wasn't that she couldn't appreciate his anger. Of course she could! She hated the whole situation just as much as he did, but she didn't have a choice. Or at least she wasn't willing to take the other choice. She could full-well understand why he was so angry, but that still didn't mean she wanted it thrown at her.

"You won't get away with this," he said. "I'll go to the Council and they'll have your badge. You'll be out of a job so fast your head will spin, and those bastards will be right back where they belong; behind bars."

"And I repeat, go ahead." She flicked off his hand and rolled her eyes. "You do your thing, and I'll do mine. If they want to kick me off the VSPR, that's fine, but right now I'm in charge and that means we're driving away from here with Torchwick in tow. You can accept that or you can try and stop us." She pulled away and stepped into the back of the APC, calling out as she did. "The choice is yours, but we're leaving. Thanks for all the help."

"Drive?" Junior asked once she was in.

"Drive," she agreed. "Before he changes his mind and actually tries."

Wheels screeched as Junior pulled the vehicle into reverse, flipping them about the interior and slamming Yang's head back against the uncomfortable cushion behind her. They started to pull away, and at a speed far greater than the one they'd entered with. Honestly, she wouldn't have put it past the warden to try and close the gates on them.

"He will tell the Council, you know," Roman said, smirk still in place as he sat on one of the seats. "And knowing those old fossils, they'll move quickly to try and get me back in a cell. I doubt you'll still be the Captain by tonight."

"That would be as bad for you as it is me," she pointed out.

"I know. That's why I'm warning you. If you have some kind of plan up your sleeve, now's the time to hear it."

"Her? A plan?" Miltia barked a laugh. "I doubt it."

"Now, Miltia," Melanie cooed. "We should give her a chance, no?"

Despite the words, it was clear neither of them had any faith in her. Then again, why should they? The last time they'd met, she'd threatened them for information, and the time before that she'd beaten them up and trashed their club.

"I don't doubt for a second he'll tell the Council on us, but if we have some concrete results before they can move to shut us down, they'll be forced to keep us running." Yang said. "We need to prove to them just how important we are, and the best way to do that will be to shut down a White Fang operation. Roman, do you know of any places they might be staying?"

The criminal in question raised an eyebrow, but did answer her. "I know of at least ten, but there's no telling whether those would still be in use. If I were them, I'd have moved on."

"But do you know of any way to find out where one is for sure?"

"I may still have some contacts who owe me favours," he said. "Some of them can be trusted more than others. Get me a scroll and I'll find out what I can." He blinked and caught hers as she threw it at him. "They're not wrong, though. I'm not sure shutting down one White Fang operation will be enough to balance letting me out. They'll thank us for the hard work, then shut us down anyway."

They might, and that was a risk she was just going to have to take. All she could do was work with what she had available and hope for the best. Like Uncle Qrow said, if it didn't work, then at least she'd know she'd tried her best.

Roman? Well, he wouldn't feel quite so satisfied with that answer, so she faked a smirk and cocked her head to the side.

"You leave that to me. I have a plan in mind."

"Care to share it?"

Sure, maybe when I think of one…

The best she could hope for was a lucky miracle, but she knew as well as anyone that luck was made – not earned. If they wanted to strike gold, they'd need to start digging, and that meant finding some terrorists quickly. She gestured towards the scroll and breathed a sigh of relief when Roman started to dial.

This was all spiralling out of control, but she had to hold on for now. It would either work, and they'd be fine, or it wouldn't, and she'd have to wait a year before Beacon. Either way, it was better than doing nothing.

Until then, she'd just have to keep up the bravado so that these guys didn't realise she was basically taking a shot in the dark with their freedom.

"There's a pharmaceutical factory that's gone quiet recently," Roman said, handing the scroll back to her. "One of my contacts says White Fang have been seen in the area, but his pal was killed when he tried to investigate. He's only giving it to us because he wants revenge." He nodded to the scroll. "I've got the address saved on there."

It would do.

It'd have to.

"Junior," she said, handing it over. He took it and attached it to the dashboard, then swerved the APC up onto a slip road. Inside, Yang reached under her seat and tossed a duffel bag towards Roman. He caught it and looked at it inquisitively.

"That's your uniform. Get changed."

"You want us to head straight there?"

"I figure we've got an hour or two before the Council reacts to what happened," Yang said. "I'd like to have some proof they need us before then if possible. Still, if you want to take a break, we can wait. It's not my freedom on the line."

Roman laughed and shook his head. He unzipped the bag and reached inside, and it was probably testament to how much he despised his prison clothes that he didn't complain at the blue and black uniform.

"Hey, I've already gone down because I followed the orders of one crazy bitch. Might as well give it a second try, I guess."

"Let's hope it works out better for us this time," Mercury said, eyes closed. "I don't think we'll get another chance."

They definitely wouldn't. Yang closed her eyes and tried to ignore the pit opening up in her stomach. Contrary to what she'd said, she hadn't put nearly as much time into training one-armed as she'd claimed to Ozpin. She'd been so focused on getting things back to normal, she hadn't even tried. Now she was headed to a factory taken over by terrorists, and in the company of a bunch of criminals.

Well, there was no way this could go wrong.

Right…?


Honestly, the real fun starts next chapter for me. This has all been set-up so far, but I've done my best to make it a quick one. I suppose that was a problem I used to have, where introductions could go on for a long time. Maybe three chapters still is too long. We'll have to see.

I've also tried to make it clear how I see Yang in this chapter. I don't think she's an overly cerebral person, but I wouldn't call her stupid, either. If anything, I think she's quite rash – which is what led to her charging in against Adam without a plan, and what makes her current situation in this fic difficult for her.


Next Chapter: 26th September

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur