I do not own Grimmfall, Ben 10 or any other franchises or Fanfiction stories that are mentioned in this.
I do however own the protagonist of this story, a character of my own making who you all may recognize from some of Lord Maximus' other stories. If anybody wishes to contest this by saying he is the property of Lord Maximus then I invite you to ask him yourself so he can set the record straight.
Update: I realized that I mistakenly named Epsilon, the one who tried to abduct Nigel and Abigail in the main Grimmfall story, as Sigma. I blame this on finishing this chapter around 2 in the morning.
Once there was a team of four Huntsmen considered to be among the most dangerous in the world. They are a team no longer, scattered on the winds like specs of ash by broken trust and bonds.
TOM eased himself down into his seat. "Have you ever carried a regret with you? Not just for failing a test because you didn't study, or for not being careful with your diet. Imagine carrying with you a moment in your life where everything changes in the blink of an eye and in the aftermath you only find yourself to blame as the ashes settle. Regrets can become these great weights that push us down as we try to move past these moments, a constant reminder of what we wish we could have done better."
He tapped an interface to his right and reclined into a more comfortable position. "They can also push us to better ourselves by reminding us of something we never want to go through again. Worst of all sometimes they can be completely irrational, over something that we had no effect on although we tell ourselves different. They can make us push away helping hands and turn our backs on what matters most. What matters is never letting your regrets keep you from living your life to the fullest, because then you'll never really be living."
Prologue: The Infernal Huntsman
The island nation of Trident wanted little to do with the world, but begrudgingly admitted to a heightened need for Huntsmen in the face of attacks by Grimm, pirates and any number of threats that roamed the Atlantic. Most would be hard pressed to find it on a map, given that it was a very recently formed country on islands not yet known to the wider world. The Huntsmen academies and their headmasters as well as governments with what passed for diplomatic ties with the fledgling nation were among those who could point out its location, typically for the sake of Huntsmen dispatched on assignment.
However, others made use of Trident for less altruistic ventures. This was what led to a seemingly unassuming freighter pulling up into the island's largest harbour under the cover of darkness. As it pulled up to moor itself along a wharf it was approached by several men and women clad in the standard aqua-blue uniforms of Trident Customs Enforcement and cradling dust-enhanced rifles and shotguns. They waited as a ramp was lowered to allow the occupants of the ship to march down in formation, their armoured feet stomping against the wooden planks as the rest of the armoured raiments caught the light of the moon.
"Knights?" One of the officers, an alligator Faunus with scaled skin snorted as he took in the sight of a contingent of men clad in full plate armour. "Did the convention come to town?"
"Shh!" Another hushed him. "Pipe down, moron. These guys aren't cosplayers and they really don't like being mocked."
"Your friend speaks wisely." The formation of knights parted, dividing into two halves which stepped away from one another just far enough to allow one more to disembark the ship, this one clad in more decorative armour complete with a golden mask, red tunic and a crown atop his encompassed head. "Fortunately for you, I am disinterested in wasting time in dispensing discipline. Have you what was promised?"
The head customs officer nodded and gave a low whistle, prompting two more to emerge from the shadows of a nearby warehouse, carrying a crate between them. "Got nine more like it lined up. And they'll be lined up right here once I see you've got the money." He waited for his men to unlatch the lid before kicking it off himself, revealing rows of rifle sized weapons which didn't resemble anything made by human hands. "Forty plasma lances, compliments of…some species whose name I honestly can not pronounce. Well, that's to be expected from a race of slugs that communicate via sonic vibrations."
The Forever King, Enoch, remained unresponsive as one of his men pulled a plasma lance from the crate and unfolded it into its full length, one end hissing as many micro-lasers superheated oxygen trapped in a small magnetic envelope until it ionized and turned into a blade of red plasma. The knight tested the weapon's balance with a few simple movements and cut through a nearby lantern post, cleanly severing the upper half and making it fall into the harbour.
"The genuine article, my liege." The Knight gave his honest appraisal.
When Enoch snapped his fingers, the air to either side of him shimmered like light passing through water until two more of his Knights, dressed in a less cumbersome variety of their companions' armour, materialized. This put the customs officers on edge, but beyond triple checkin their surroundings they made no protest as the pair stepped forward and opened a case cuffed to their right wrists, revealing vials of refined Dust.
"Some of the finest Dust to come out of the Alaskan Refineries." The Forever King held up one vial and allowed it to be taken for examination. "Worthless to my agenda, but priceless to yours."
"All too true." The head officer waited until his specialist gave him a nod and then whistled three times. More figures emerged from behind the warehouse, pushing two trolleys stacked with more crates. "I have to admit, when I heard you'd be giving up high quality dust for a few fancy guns I was…sceptical."
"Unlike Dust, these weapons don't cease to function after leaving this world's biosphere." Enoch crossed his arms. "Dust…Aura…take any Huntsman high enough into orbit and watch their precious powers cease to function. Watch their weapons become inert paperweights. Watch the mighty heroes become weak little mortals."
"Eh, I'd prefer to watch the look on my girl's face when she sees what she's getting for her birthday this year." The head officer grinned and accepted the twin cases after they were disconnected from their handlers. "Pleasure doing business with you. If you need anymore of this alien junk that friend of mine has a whole yard full of the stuff that he's dying to get rid of."
A shrill whistle drew the attention, and aim, of both parties towards the roof of the warehouse overshadowing the meeting.
"I don't think you need to worry about that anymore." A silhouette framed by the moon light stepped into view. "I paid him a visit already."
This man had an unassuming appearance: dark haired, blue eyed, dark shirt and pants under a denim jacket with the sleeves ripped away to leave two tell toned arms exposed along with dust tattoos which emitted a stark white glow.
The lead customs officer tapped his radio twice and waited. A few moments later he repeated this with visible urgency. "Where the hell…"
"Looking for your friends?" The man held up a helmet with a reflective black visor, one of several worn by the snipers posted to watch over the transaction from afar. "Paid them all a visit. You customs boy have a lot of high-tech gear, I don't think even Grimmfall PD has some of this stuff."
Enoch sighed irritably. "Showboating is beneath you, Mr Hunter."
"Maybe, but it's always satisfying." The man, Hunter, winked. "Especially when it comes with ruining your day. Plus, I'm on a bit of a high with all the fancy toys that I just got."
"I didn't get paid to take on a Huntsman." One of the customs officers said nervously, whispering to a rabbit eared Faunus woman next to him.
"What if he called the cops?"
"Let's get out of here before he-" Before the man could finish speaking he was shot in the back by a beam of plasma which scorched clean through his minimal body armour as he screamed. His companion soon followed, prompting the remaining officers to turn their guns on the culprit.
"I believe the old saying is…" Enoch handed the plasma lance back to his subordinate. "Loose lips sink ships. Mr Hunter wouldn't inform the authorities, he wouldn't miss a chance to do something immeasurably risky all on his lonesome." He snapped his fingers. "Forever Knights. Take him."
The two Stealth-Knights stepped forward, both of their arms reshaping to expose extensive cybernetic prostheses which formed revealed a gun mounted on one forearm and a telescopic blade on the other. As on they fired off a volley towards Mr Hunter's perch only for he projectiles to pass clean through him.
"Hey, he snagged one of the Holo-Emitters!" The lead customs officer clenched his teeth. "Swiping my goods…"
"It's like I said, Officer Stein." Mr Hunter curled all but the middle and index fingers on his right hand up, pointed his hand like a gun towards him and made a clicking noise with his mouth. "I got a whole lotta new toys today. Bang."
The single crate that had been brought before Enoch erupted in a ball of fire that launched the Forever Knights standing near it flying, only their armour saving them from serious injury. The plasma lance wielded by Enoch's subordinate began to spark and fizzle. Its wielder realized the danger and tossed the weapon upwards as hard as he could before it too exploded.
"My liege!" One of the Stealth-Knights raced to Enoch's side to find the self proclaimed Forever King's armour scorched along the side that had been facing the initial explosion. "That explosion will draw attention, we must get you to safety!"
"Stay and deal with Hunter." Enoch growled, allowing one of his subordinates to assist him in making his way back up the plank towards the deck of the freighter. "I won't have him following me any longer."
"Hey wait a second!" Stein called after him. "You're just leaving us to deal with this?!"
"You have the aid of two of my men in cleaning up what is undoubtedly the fallout of one of your people betraying this meeting's time and location." Enoch replied apathetically as he stepped up onto the deck. "Like I said, Officer Stein: loose lips sink ships. Plug this leak and removed evidence of your culpability if you ever wish to do business with the Forever Knights again. Consider the money I've left you a reward if you succeed."
"Son of a…this is what I get for dealing with a bunch'a medieval cosplayers." Stein waved to his men. "Gather anything this guy didn't snatch and dispose of it! Double-time!"
The two Stealth Knights split up as Enoch's freighter began to pull away from the docks. One scaled the warehouse and found an abandoned hologram emitter positioned below the smug Hunter. "Don't try too hard to figure out where I am, buddy." He winked and began to disappear, his silhouette fizzling out when the Stealth Knight picked the emitter up. "It's actually pretty easy to guess."
The Stealth Knight ignored this taunting and examined the emitter to find the origin of the signal being funnelled through it. Meanwhile below his companion watched in disinterest as the customs officers raced around the warehouse towards the truck containing the lion's share of the alien-made contraband. It also came with a few barrels of refined fire dust just in case something like this happened, but none of them came close to opening it before flood lights snapped on and illuminated the parking lot.
"DROP YOUR WEAPONS!"
"STAY AWAY FROM THAT TRUCK!"
Men and women in blue armour with the emblem of Trident's national police service, the TNS, flooded into view from between nearby warehouses, accompanied by several armoured cars. The Stealth Knight engaged his optical cloak and faded out of view from both the naked eye and electronic detection, knowing his counterpart would take similar precautions.
"King Enoch said this Hunter wouldn't involve the authorities…" The second Stealth-Knight looked towards the shrinking form of the freighter.
And then he noticed something: two missing bodies, those of the customs officers shot in the back by Enoch during the stand-off…right before he'd handed off the single plasma lance not contained in its crate. The crate itself had contained a small explosive Dust charge, just enough to compromise the containment on the weapons within, but to detonate the last remaining plasma lance…
"No." He whispered, and sent his companion a prompt over their synced HUDs before dashing towards the end of the pier and igniting a series of jump jets which turned an already considerable leap into a short time spent in flight. He almost fell short but managed to grab onto the railing along the side which he used to pull himself up. Upon standing on the deck of the freighter he could see the forms of the very same Knights in Enoch's escort, a dozen men who had been conscious two minutes ago.
"Figured it out, bud?"
King Enoch's crowned helmet was tossed into view from the wheel house. A man, the same man from the roof of the warehouse, was sitting on the edge of the structure in Enoch's armour, which disappeared from view much like this man's doppelgänger had. Another hologram!
"You dare?!" The Stealth Knight fired a spray of plasma bolts which Hunter dodged this time, dropping down from the wheel house and vaulting over a railing on a catwalk looping around the exterior to land on the deck where he unfolded a large sword. The blade blazed a trail through the air as it intercepted any of the projectiles that came even close to hitting their target, who closed the distance with a burst of speed and sliced through the Stealth Knight's arm at the elbow. Exposed wiring sparked as the prosthetic tumbled to the deck, the metal superheated where the blade had made contact.
On the second swing the Stealth Knight managed to parry, the alloy making up his arm mounted blade holding up against the heat generated from the fire Dust within Hunter's sword.
"Where is King Enoch?!" The Knight demanded, hearing his comrade hula himself up onto solid ground a few meters away. "What have you done with the King?!"
Hunter's arrogant grin only further enraged him. "Big E? Oh, he's been gone for a while, living it high in a nice little cell. Just pretend to be a snob with delusions of grandeur and you'd be surprised how easy you Forever Knights buy into the role." He either spotted the other Stealth-Knight in the periphery of his vision or somehow sensed his charge, because in a single move he was able to break the blade lock, grab the one-armed fighter around the back of his neck and swing him into his comrade's path while stepping out of dodge, resulting in the two Knights colliding in a heap which they quickly recovered from.
"You…dared to wear his crown?! To speak with his authority?!" The Knight who still retained the use of both hands demanded. "Why?!"
"Uh…because he's a glorified terrorist who would sell his own mom if he thought it would make someone call him king?" Hunter spun his sword a few times, creating small lines of read along the floor where the tip of his weapon just barely grazed the metal. "Also to find out how you schmucks kept getting your paws on all this fancy alien tech. And as luck would have it…this was the last seller your boss had listed, so…" He kicked Enoch's helmet aside as he passed near it. "I'd really consider just giving up now."
Both Knights' tertiary sensor packages alerted them to the boats approaching from close by, carrying TNS officers ready and waiting to board.
"Brother…we have little time." One-Arm said.
"Then let us at least have the pleasure of doing away with this irksome, smirking man." Two-Arm growled.
"My thoughts precisely." One-Arm said, his HUD highlighting his severed arm and its still functioning plasma cannon. "In the name of Enoch the Forever King, die!"
The severed arm flipped over, perched on the tips of its fingers like some spider. It quickly brought its cannon to bear on Hunter and fired away, forcing him to look away from the twins to fend off the salvo. This game Two-Arm the time to launch a surprise attack of his own, swinging down at his target's exposed back. The huntsman cursed and spun, bringing his sword up in time to block the downwards stroke and drop backwards, bringing Two-Arm into the line of fire as the course of his lunge carried him over Hunter. Several bolts pelted the Stealth-Knight's armour but did little to actually deter him.
"Probably would've worked if you just shot me, moron!" Hunter called, flipping back onto his feet and pulling a knife from the inside of his denim jacket.
Triggering the explosive Dust contained within the four-inch long blade, he flung it towards the severed arm and turned his attention to One-Arm, who likewise made a failed attempt at cutting him apart but succeeded in delivering a vicious kick to Hunter's jaw in the midst of contorting his body through a backflip.
The knife sank into the severed arm's forearm as it tried to reorient itself for another shot. In the blink of an eye it was blasted apart from within as the knife's blade exploded with the force of a grenade. This also caught Two-Arm, who had been running past in close proximity to aid his brother. Shards of metal sank into the Stealth-Knight's armour, one of them striking his optics and partly blinding him.
"Urgh!" He stumbled but quickly regained his balance, charging to where One-Arm and Hunter were engaged. "Have at thee!"
Hunter snorted and leaned back out of the path of a stab. "I swear, if I took a shot for every time you guys put on a hammy performance like this I'd have been dead or passed out on day one." He muttered, weaving between the combined attacks. "Alright, fun's over!"
With an upwards swipe he cut through One-Arm's remaining upper limb and quickly took off Two-Arm's sword bearing limb in a downward chop. He backed up and kept his sword up, tip pointed between the two as they stumbled and assessed their new condition.
"Stand. Down." He told them firmly. "I don't want to kill either of you."
"That is your weakness, huntsman." Two-Arm…or rather, the new One-Arm, replied. "We do not share it."
"Look, your arm's off and your buddy there has no arms. Let's onto start ripping off Monty Python!" Hunter demanded. "I'm not doing the Black Knight scene here!"
"In the name of Eno-augh!" One-Arm's body arched sharply as he was hit with electrical shocks delivered by several TNS officers who had scrambled aboard during the fight. No-Arm quickly joined him, both of them struggling to keep from collapsing face-first onto the deck as the TNS officers moved in.
"Secure the ship!" One of them, the very same man who had been shot by Hunter earlier while he was still undercover shouted as he approached, flanked by his rabbit eared companion. "A little warning would've be nice."
"Eh, I hit you with the lowest setting. With your armour you didn't even feel anything." Hunter's sword folded back into its smallest shape and he slid it into a sheathe across his lower back. "Besides, what did the Commissioner say I'd do when you gave me the code phrases, tap you on the head?"
"All the same, you could have found something a little less extreme to sell the act." The rabbit Faunus said. "But…it got results." She motioned to the Stealth-Knights as they were put in restraints that inhibited the functions of their cybernetics, severely reducing their ability to move or cause any harm to those around them while disengaging their on-board weapons. "You really stuck around with these nuts for months? And they never suspected a thing?"
"Not. A. Thing." Hunter shook his head. "Good job on setting up your end of the ambush, by the way. Gotta admit, I was worried that with all the details your boss put into this sting something would give it away."
"Uh…the commissioner actually didn't draw this one up." The human officer answered sheepishly. "We had a consultant working on it until the last minute. He arranged everything, even marked the most likely places where Stein would post his snipers."
"A…consultant?" Hunter felt a strange sense of déjà vu.
"Yeah, a huntsman like you, actually." The rabbit Faunus nodded.
"Did this guy by any chance wear sun glasses?" Hunter asked. "At…all times? Even at night?"
"Yeah! Found that to be a little weird but…" The human officer trailed off. "You know the guy?"
Damn it Kurt, stay out of my life.
"Huh…used to think I did." Hunter stepped towards the edge of the boat. "Look, if you guys don't need me anymore, I'd like to just go get debriefed so I can punch out from this whole thing. I just spent three months playing Kings and Castles with these losers, my wife is gonna want to kill me and I bet she'll find a way to resurrect me just so she can kill me as many times as she wants if I miss our son's birthday."
"Oh, you're married?" The rabbit Faunus spoke up. "Sorry if I sound surprised, I just thought that…well…for a big risk, long term mission like this…"
"That they'd pick someone with no wife, no kids and no future?" Hunter smiled humourlessly. "You'd think that, wouldn't yah? Let's just say Old Man Sebben has a particular way of showing he likes me." He lazily raised one hand in farewell and then dissolved before their very eyes, turning into a cloud of ashes which remained together in spite of the ocean breeze and travelled back towards shore.
"Are we squared now?" Carlos Hunter asked bluntly.
"In spite of what you might convince yourself, I never held your past associations against you." Phil Ken Sebben, Headmaster of Nevernest Academy, said. "But if it makes you feel better: we're squared."
"Heh, sure could'a fooled me with how you reacted."
"I admit I was…temperamental that day." Phil admitted. "You did, after all, give me quite a bit to feel concerned about."
"Yeah, yeah…how's that Uno kid doing anyways?" Carlos asked.
"He's learning. You might be interested to know that the others have revealed themselves as well."
"Interested to know that suddenly it doesn't seem so paranoid to invest in a bunker under my house." Carlos pinched the bridge of his nose. "Okay, okay…so all four are out in the open. Does Sammy have any of them?"
"Not as of yet, no. Epsilon also has been kept from taking custody of them."
Carlos' grip on the tablet tightened. "Do you need me to pay that sanctimonious geek a visit again?"
"I'd rather avoid any further antagonistic meetings with Epsilon if I can help it." Phil declined. "However, there is something I may need you to look into- of course I mean only after you attend Charlie's birthday and have had some quality time with your family. This matter isn't critical as of yet. Take the month, then come to my office. We'll talk more."
"I'll make it three weeks." Carlos said. "Less if Sammael makes sudden moves."
"As you wish. Enjoy the flight home, Carlos." Phil said cheerfully. "And please, do try to keep your semblance under control on your way back. The airline wasn't so forgiving the last time and I just barely convinced them to make you an exception to their no smoking rule."
"Ha ha." Carlos rolled his eyes. "As always you're a reeeeal comedian, Seb. See you in a few weeks."
"Goodbye and have a safe trip."
Carlos exhaled slowly. "Glob give me strength."
Accessing Nevernest Archives…
Retrieving Personnel File…
File Retrieval completed.
Name: Max 'Carlos' Hunter
Code Name: The Infernal Huntsman
Weapon: Warhawk, a collapsible sword laced with fire Dust that allows it to ignite on command. Additional throwing knives which make improvised explosive weapons.
Semblance: Cloak of Infernal Ash. Carlos is able to transform into a cloud of ashes which cannot be dispersed by typical meteorological phenomenon, resisting attempts to divide it. If the cloud is too severely dispersed Carlos will reform, possibly as a safety measure. In this form he is capable of travelling at great speeds and even inducing combustion within any area consumed by his ash form.
Addendum, Carlos' semblance was not originally this. Events regarding this change are restricted to access by Headmaster Sebben and any teacher or associated personnel whose clearance level is Level Four or higher.
Family: Charles Hunter (Father, Huntsman, deceased), Maria Hunter (Mother, MI6 Operative and Huntress, deceased), Sarah Malcolm-Hunter (Younger Sister, Huntress), Allison Hunter (Youngest Sister, Huntress), Kurt Malcolm (Brother-in-law through marriage to Sarah, former team mate and Hunter), Melissa Hunter (Wife, retired Huntress), Charles Hunter (Son), Robert Hunter (Son) and Ellie Hunter (Daughter).
Background (minus all redacted materials): Carlos Hunter (forgoing the use of his real first name on the grounds that it sounded like a cliché secret agent name) is a graduate of Nevernest Academy and former member of Team RGCK (Ragnarok) alongside fellow graduates Kurt Malcolm, Roberto Lupine and Gregor Brobdith. Two years after graduation Carlos was involved with an altercation against Gregor following the latter's involvement in - (REDACTED) -resulting in the official dissolution of Team RGCK. Since then Carlos has worked as an independent Huntsman but still has maintained close contact with Nevernest and has been a willful and useful ally in many matters. He refuses to speak with Kurt or remain in his presence outside of family gatherings, with his wedding to Carlos' sister Sarah being the one exception to that rule.
Most recently he has cooperated to root out the Forever Knight Sect led by Enoch, locating every major seller of illegally obtained extraterrestrial weapons which the Forever Knights are known to collect and reverse engineer for their own benefit.
In a sting planned by Kurt Malcolm (Codenamed Knightfall) Carlos' likeness was used with a remotely hacked holo-emitter planted by Kurt beforehand as a distraction. Once Carlos was given a set of specific phrases meant to indicate that two officers planted by the Trident National Service division planted as moles were present he faked their deaths with a shot from a plasma lance set to its lowest output so that if any elements of the Forever Knights or the Weapon Trafficking Ring escaped they would not be targeted. Fortunately this turned out to be an unnecessary measure in the end, along with many other secondary and tertiary contingencies set by Kurt. Carlos would later reflect in retrospect that the list of backup plans as long as his arm should have been the first clue that Kurt was involved.
Carlos then deceived the only two Stealth-Knights in his compliment to remain on shore long enough for him to disable the crew of the Forever Knights' freighter, enabling TNS to take it and its cargo of alien technology intact as well as arresting all members of Officer Stein's trafficking ring without any loss of life.
The events of Operation Knightfall are to be modified to exclude his involvement by his own request.
Closing Personnel File
End of Prologue