- To Serve With Honor -
Two Years Ago
"Name?" the lightly-armored giant crammed behind the white metal matchbox desk rumbled.
"Jaune Arc!" the tall, lean teenager on the other side replied proudly, resting his hands at his hips and puffing out his slight chest. The other man rolled his eyes without looking up from the terminal.
"For record-keeping purposes, is this a legal name or an assumed name?"
"Uh, legal, I guess? Not really sure why I would-"
"-word of advice, son," the giant cut him off, continuing to tap away at his holographic keyboard, "Most foreigners don't enlist in the Legion with their legal name."
"Well, why's that?" Jaune asked with a weak grin.
"Tradition, among other reasons," the man grunted, finally glancing up from his keyboard and fixing Jaune with a blank stare. "The Legion is mostly made up of people from Mantle, because the Legion was originally created to allow Mantle citizens to earn Atlas citizenship. Because of this, it's something of a custom for foreign recruits to adopt a traditional Mantlese name. Even if it's painfully obvious to anybody you meet that you're not really a native, it'll still help you blend in a bit better with the rest of your training section, and - if you make it that far - your Legion unit."
"Oh, well - I guess that makes sense?" the teen said with a nervous chuckle, only to stop when he noticed that the man had already returned to staring at his terminal. Jaune shuffled from one foot to the other as he glanced around the room, and the two existed in silence for a short while before the giant looked up again, this time with an impatient glare.
"Oh! I uh, don't know any Mantlese," Jaune admitted with a brittle grin, scratching at that back of neck. "Any suggestions?"
The giant snorted derisively and slapped his palms on the desk, causing Jaune to tense; before relaxing as he simply rolled his chair backwards to recline and look the boy up and down with a single unimpressed brown iris.
"... You're gonna look like a John, know matter what you end up doing," he finally grunted, hunching forward and resting a meaty hand on a muscular thigh. "Might wanna think about dying that hair; color's pretty memorable, 'specially with the recent generation's tendency towards either straw-blond or brown."
"Oooo-kay…?" Jaune drawled with a quizzical look, folding his arms across his chest.
"Something like black, though, and you'd probably fit right in with the low-landers. I can get a kind of avian picture out of it…" The giant was leaning back again, one hand cupping his chin and scratching thoughtfully at the beginnings of no doubt fast-growing stubble, the other tucked beneath his elbow against the black bodysuit encasing his upper body.
"Like a black… bird…?" Jaune offered haltingly, unnerved by the odd verbal contemplation.
"Bingo," The giant snapped his fingers and pointed, nodding in apparent agreement. "John Amsel - make it Jonathan for extra authenticity. You gonna remember that, kid?"
"I guess?" Jaune shrugged, conveying his uncertainty with his hands raised and held palms-skyward at chest height. "Is it really necessary, though?"
"You'll be thanking me once you run into another foreigner that's kept his name and see what it's gotten him," the man grunted, rolling back up to his terminal and typing in the name. "So, Jonathan Amsel. Age… Sixteen?"
"Seventeen," Jaune corrected, rattling off his date of birth as the man nodded along. A few more basic questions - blood type, kingdom of origin, previous level of education - and after another fifteen minutes of Q and A, the giant tapped a finger against an indentation on the part of the desk nearest to Jaune, and a slanted holographic display appeared, displaying all of the information that he had just reported, along with several paragraphs of microscopic print above a signature line.
"Simply put, the legal bullshit you see there says that once you've signed on that line, you are committed in full to your first contract of service with the Atlas Foreign Legion for the entire six-year duration, barring disqualification as a result of the medical examination; at any point during Basic Military Training at Ramstein; or at any time during active duty that you are deemed unfit for continued service and are officially discharged," the giant drawled, settling back in his chair and folding his large arms across his chest. He at least had the courtesy to meet Jaune's eyes this time, the teen noted, nodding in acceptance before looking down and skimming through the paragraphs for himself.
The language was pretty benign, if fairly open-ended; and he noted with some confusion several asterisks scattered across the information, with no corresponding footnotes or appendices in sight for explanation. Against his better judgement, and noting the man's look of intense boredom, Jaune didn't ask any questions, reasonably content with his own reading and comprehension offered by his high school education.
He moved to scrawl a signature on the dotted line, only for his finger to stop a breath away from the display as a terrible weight and uncertainty materialized and settled on his mind.
"Jaune Arc, your application to Beacon Academy has hereby been formally denied. Perhaps you might try again next year, after you have more… Relevant, experience under your belt."
A tiny bit of relief, eclipsed by a sense of crushing defeat.
"Oh Jaune, sweetie, I'm so sorry to hear that. But don't worry - your father, sisters and I don't think any less of you for it, and we'll be glad to have you back home. The life of a Huntsman just isn't cut out for everyone."
Shame… betrayal, resentment, desperation.
An advertisement. Images of men and women in gleaming white armor, standing tall and proudly marching in ranks before cheering crowds. Videos of sleek white robots and more troopers firing into hordes of Grimm with rifles and cannons, pushing back the creatures of darkness. A soldier standing on the back of a truck, passing boxes of supplies and foodstuffs to grateful civilians.
Hope. A final surge of determination, tempered by a lingering burden of fear.
If you're reading this letter, then you've hopefully received Crocea Mors, too. Sorry about the snail mail; I didn't have enough Lien to cover express shipping on the package… Yes, I'm dodging the issue, don't look at me like that.
I'm really sorry, but I just can't come home right now. Not like this. I guess it was stupid of me to leave in the first place - I don't even know what I was thinking, trying to apply to the Beacon Academy with nothing but my high school transcripts…
Well, that's not really true; I know exactly why I left. I left because all of my life, to become a Huntsman is all I've ever wanted to do - to live up to the Arc legacy, to find the adventures and acts of heroism that would one day fill textbooks and be told by parents as bedtime stories to bright-eyed and awestruck little kids… To make something of myself, for myself.
Well, it looks like I won't be doing that from Beacon anytime soon. But hey… Maybe it'll do me good to get out of Vale for awhile, and see the rest of Remnant. Maybe pick up some actual training and experience along the way, and really just see where the wind takes me.
I'll try to get in touch in a few months. Give mom and the girls my love, and I'll see you… When I see you, I guess.
"Last real chance to back out with no hard feelings, son," the giant's voice started Jaune back to reality; he rattled his head briefly to clear the cobwebs and blinked away any moisture in his eyes before looking up to meet the man's hard stare. "You'll get to keep your heart and mind as a signing bonus, but after you put a name on that line… Your body and soul belongs to the Legion."
Jaune looked down again, finger still poised above the screen, before exhaling deeply; the conflict on his face melted away, his mouth set in a grim line, and his eyes hardening with determination.
"This is my last chance…" he whispered to himself. "I've already failed once; I'm too far gone to turn back now."
Jaune scrawled his new name across the line; the holographic display blinked once before retracting into the desk surface. He looked up to find the giant's face set in a stony mask of indifference.
"Kid," he rumbled solemnly, "You haven't even begun to comprehend the rabbit hole that you've just jumped down."
He extended a spade-sized hand, which easily enveloped Jaune's own as he shook it. "I am Chief Sergeant Aaron Hoess," he intoned, his words - even at a regular conversational volume - reverberating through Jaune's bones.
"Recruit Jonathan Amsel - allow me to be the first to formally welcome you to the Atlas Foreign Legion."
Beacon Academy - Office of the Headmaster
"So James has chosen to do away with the guise of trust, and defaults to looking over our shoulders now," Glynda observed, watching from beneath furrowed brows as the white and grey Atlesian gunship settle at one of the landing pads opposite Beacon's main campus.
"An eye for an eye, Glynda, I can assure you," Ozpin replied placatingly from her side, the light pouring through the large semi-circular picture window of his office catching the small round spectacles perched at the end of his nose. He nursed his omnipresent coffee mug emblazoned with the laurel and crossed axes of the Kingdom of Vale. "While James's men are occupied with investigating the latest string of Dust robberies here in Vale, Qrow is meanwhile free to explore and learn more about the current state of Atlas from within its tightly-controlled borders, replete with diplomatic immunity."
"Please never use the words 'Qrow' and 'diplomatic immunity' in the same sentence ever again," the Deputy Headmistress pleaded with an exaggerated shudder. "Besides which, even within the kingdom-proper, James runs Atlas as a model police state. The odds that he will let a foreigner - let alone Qrow Branwen of all men - out of his sight long enough to learn anything of value are incredibly slim."
"You truly believe that Qrow will not take every given opportunity to incense James to the point that he'll want him out of his sight by any means necessary?" Ozpin looked to his aide with an amused smirk and a quirked brow, to which Glynda rolled her eyes and evaded his gaze by examining her Scroll tablet.
"Point taken," she grudgingly conceded, flicking through reports and camera feeds. After a moment of searching, she finally found the feed that she was searching for, and magnified the view. "And of course, James would send her," Glynda's features tightened into a controlled frown, belying her intense displeasure. Ozpin glanced over her shoulder to examine the feed, and took a short, contemplative sip from his mug.
"Now there is a face I did not think I would be seeing again so soon," he commented vaguely.
"What do you mean? She just called here last week, inquiring incessantly after news of-"
Glynda stopped, blinked, and then squinted hard at the image. Finally, after several moments of silence, in which Ozpin indulged smugly in another drink, she heaved a sigh of defeat. "Alright, I give up - who is he?"
"I'm sure you'll remember by the time they arrive," Ozpin replied with a cryptic smile, turning to settle into his high-backed chair and open up his terminal with a hand gesture. Glynda closed her eyes and exhaled deeply through her nose, trying to suppress fleeting fantasies of dumping her boss's mug over his own head.
Several minutes later, one of the elevators across the sprawling office space chimed quietly over the constant ticking of the latticework of massive gears moving in sequence on the walls and overhead. The doors slid quietly aside, admitting two newcomers garbed in white and blue.
"Specialist Schnee," Ozpin greeted from his desk, closing the holographic display and looking up with a pleasant smile. "Welcome to Beacon Academy. I trust your journey was pleasant?"
Winter Schnee strode forward with a regal and purposeful gait, heels muted on the thinly-carpeted floor. She stopped in front of the desk, at roughly the center of the room, her head held high and nose turned ever-so-slightly upwards. She never smiled.
"Professor Ozpin; thank you for having us. We were… Sidetracked, once or twice on the way, but otherwise encountered no real difficulties."
"Wonderful to hear." Ozpin leaned back in his chair and turned his gaze to the young man standing closely behind and to Winter's right side. "While you and I are of course acquainted, Winter, I must confess that I'm not familiar with your colleague." Winter nodded, and took a short step aside, while her companion took a step forward.
"Of course, my apologies. This is Specialist Jonathan Amsel, a recent addition to the program. He's a promote from the ranks of the military, and has been under my tutelage for the last several months; General Ironwood assigned him along with me for this task so that he might gain valuable experience in both diplomacy and criminal investigation."
Ozpin was silent for a time, continuing to fix Specialist Amsel with an amused stare.
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Amsel," Glynda offered somewhat awkwardly, at the same time shooting her boss a sideways glare. The young man turned his gaze from Ozpin's and offered a simple nod and a small smile, which the Deputy Headmistress returned.
Finally, after nearly a minute of silence, in which Ozpin and Amsel seemed content to engage in a silent staring contest, the Beacon Headmaster finally spoke.
"I was wondering where your travels might have taken you. I must confess that, while I expected some form of military service, I never would have predicted your ending up in this position, here, today… Mister Arc."
Glynda's brows shot into her hairline, while Winter immediately pressed forward. "Professor, it seems that you are under a mistaken impression-"
"No mistake, I'm quite certain," Ozpin cut in cheerfully, "And I'm also quite sure that you yourself are under no such delusions either, Miss Schnee, given that he is your protege, and you are his sponsor, and would therefore be required to know his identity in order to legally sponsor him for the Specialist Program - lest the both of you be accused under Atlesian law of Grand Treason."
The air in the room grew heavy, and Glynda was looking quickly between Ozpin, Winter, and the young man as though she wasn't entirely sure of who she should be more suspicious of.
"The haircut and dye, as well as the additional weight and muscle definition are more than sufficient to throw off any recognition from previous physical descriptions and identification," Ozpin continued, "Not to mention the various physical scars - very expertly disguised by a light and unobtrusive touch of makeup, I might add."
Glynda now openly gaped at the Headmaster, and quickly moved to apologize, only for the silent Specialist to raise a hand towards her submissively with a small frown. He then raised a hand to his face, running it down his forehead, along the curve of his jaw, and over his neck; when it came away, he now sported a thin white line running down his temple, along with cratering on the edge of his jawline, and an angry red gash across the his throat. Glynda bristled as she took note of the shame in the young man's eyes, and turned to chastise Ozpin, only to find him continuing to hold the Specialist's gaze with an unrepentant half-smile.
"You might've gotten away with it, if not for the inquiries of your family. I must've received several dozen messages from your sisters alone, not to mention your parents barging into my office in the middle of a work day, demanding to know where I had sent you."
The Specialist's features were now twisted into a deep mortification that Glynda was intimately familiar with from her own work; his cheeks were painted scarlet, and he let out a soft groan as his face fell into his hand.
"So then, Jaune Arc," Ozpin leaned forward and propped his elbows on his desk, interlacing his fingers in front of his face and peering over top of them. "How exactly is it, that a young man from Vale - enlisted in the Atlas Foreign Legion under an assumed name - achieves not only a transfer into the regular military of the most xenophobic kingdom on Remnant, but a coveted position in James's brainchild Specialist Program?"
Specialist Jonathan Amsel of the Atlas Military - formerly Jaune Arc of Vale - stared at his boots for quite some time, before finally replying. "Politics, Professor," he confessed, looking up at Ozpin and Glynda with shining blue eyes that were, at the moment, somewhere between contrite and nostalgic.
"Everything in Atlas begins and ends with politics."
Author's Note: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to To Serve With Honor, my first proper foray into the RWBY archive. My name is Knightmare Frame Razgriz - you can refer to me simply as KMF, Razgriz, or just Raz - and I will be your author for the duration of this journey.
As is stated in the summary, this story is an AU from RWBY canon. In the present context, this is distinguished by Jaune being two years older than the bulk of his canon peers; he applied for Beacon around the time of his seventeenth birthday, two years prior to the canon timeline. He also decided that, rather than gambling potentially his entire career on forged transcripts, he would take his civilian educational transcripts - that is, primary and secondary school - along with his limited extracurriculars, and take a shot at getting in on something closer to charity than merit. The results are seen above.
The Atlas Foreign Legion is based on the French Foreign Legion of our world, adapted for readability to English with elements of Germanic language and lore. More information about the organization and its place in Atlas will come to light over the course of the story, and some perceptions of the group - such as how Legionnaires are viewed within 'cultured' Atlesian society - have already appeared in the White Trailer, which can be found in my stories.
This story on the whole is constructed around my personal concept of what the Kingdom of Atlas - its history, culture, and government - could be.
When Volume 6 drops - and we hopefully get to Atlas in a timely fashion, without another entire volume of filler - I will make not be trying to abide by canon. This is my Atlas, and barring the possible addition of minor characters to fill the shoes of original characters, my Atlas will most likely not be Monty's, Miles's, or Kerry's Atlas.
I will be making a conscious effort to keep Author's Notes short, because I feel like anything else breaks the meta and draws attention too far away from the story. As such, if I feel the inclination to directly address a minor question, I will either do so in a PM, in a designated section of my profile, or by some other means.
However, if a matter of confusion is expressed by enough people, I will incorporate it into an Author's Note. If I fail to do so, then you can interpret my silence as a promise that your question will be answered by the end of the story.
A major note tying back to the AU premise of the story that I will clarify immediately: This is not the only story that I will be writing in this universe. I have at least one other future work, of a differing premise and under a different genre, which will take place within the same setting and timeframe as To Serve With Honor, and will even overlap in peripheral or primary plot in some places. I'm going to keep fairly hush about it until I'm closer to the date of first release, but I can promise that it will revolve around Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Papa Bear, and A Clockwork Orange. Stay tuned for more details.
Finally, for those of you that are joining me from the White Trailer, I thank you for your continued patronage, and hope that the main event lives up to your expectations. In that vein, however, I offer a note of clarification concerning characterization: As you might already know from the announcement that I tacked onto the end of the trailer, the majority of Part 3 of the White Trailer has officially been designated as Omake, or non-canon for this story. The reason being that, upon reading the reactions to Part 3, and consulting with my informal Beta/sounding board/good friend, Crosswire, I realized that I put out that portion in haste in a misplaced effort to bring some sense of closure that, in retrospect, was entirely unnecessary. The bulk of the characterizations and interactions were entirely too campy for my vision of this story, and while I am somewhat disheartened to have to discard the dinner scene, I have also concluded that that particular portrayal of Jacques was unfortunately inaccurate to my intent.
I offer my sincerest thanks to garoorar, however, for pointing out in one of the first reviews for this story that writing off the entirety of Part 3 would result in the loss of the pavilion scene, where Winter explains her motives in taking on Jaune to Weiss. As such, I have amended Part 3 by slightly modifying the circumstances for the meeting, and moving it up to the top of the section to be designated as the sole piece of canon in the section.
A few more bits of relevant info will accompany Chapter 1, which will be posted this weekend, due to the short length of this prologue.
Thank you all for joining me, and I hope that you have taken sufficient interest to accompany me for more drama and intrigue here in To Serve With Honor.
Knightmare Frame Razgriz
EDIT (16 Feb, 2018) - Amended the Author's Notice to reflect an important revision to Part 3 of the White Trailer.