RWBY: Tales from Atlas

Book 1: A Protective Mantle

Three years prior to the Fall of Beacon Academy

CHAPTER 1


Atlesian Military staging ground

On the outskirts of the city of Atlas

The military staging ground was vast. There was no other way to describe it. A vast area of

concrete, vehicles and soldiers. The roar of Bullnose engines and blast of regular practice

fire mixed with shouted orders and gales of laughter. The heady smell of jet fuel clashed

with the sharp scent of exploded Dust. People were everywhere. Soldiers, officers, and

Specialists walked, talked, and ate together, in the chaotic surroundings. A constant light fall of snow fell.

Natasaha Vercher stood amongst this melting pot of the most powerful military in Remnant.

She felt totally lost and overwhelmed. Being a Faunus and having more powerful hearing     caused the noise to be even more deafening. Her sabline ears were tight against her

black-blonde tipped hair in order to reduce it. From previous school trips here that it wasn't usually this crowded. An old airship, the Northern Shield, had been decommissioned, and

the ceremony had just finished. This caused for a larger than usual crowd, some of whom were getting into the swing of the partying. Two particularly inebriated sailors were stumbling past, singing (or what they thought was singing), colliding with people and objects. Even now, Natasha could see the white and black striped helmets of three provost marshals (military police), making their

way towards them.

Time to get away from here she thought, and eased her way through the crowd.

Once relatively clear, she stopped, trying to wrestle with her sense of stress and fear.

What was she doing here?

Joining a new team of Huntsmen, or Specialists, if you use the proper ranking

Hopefully it will turnout better than... No, no, don't think about that.

Sigh...

Okay, where am I going?

She pulled her Scroll from her pocket and looked the latest message.


To: Specialist Natasha Vercher 116101097114115-NV

From: Office of Deployment, Atlas Military

Message: Specialist, you are to report to Lieutenant Walther Karnage in Building BG09 Room 18 to undergo your acclimatisation period between 1000 and 1030.


She checked the time, it was 1020. She’d better find it quickly.

Five minutes later, Natasha found a door with a small plastic 18 on it. She raised her hand to

knock, then hesitated, struck by nervousness. She had no idea what her new team was like. She had never heard of this Walther Karnage. What if they were all insane, or sadists, or just plain idiots?

She shook her head. No going back now.

She knocked.

There was a brief pause. Then the sound of footsteps. The door opened, and a man looked out at her.

He looked to be in his late twenties. Brown hair, brown eyes and of average height, a

completely average person, like any other you would on the streets of Atlas. She looked

again into his eyes. Those eyes revealed a keen intelligence and were full of life and humour. He wore a woodland pattern version of the specialist uniform. On his head, a bushmans style broad brimmed hat rested, shading those sharp eyes. He smiled

"You must be Natasha. My name is Walther. Please come in". He stood aside to let her past. When she didn't move, his smiled widened.

"There is no need to worry. I fed them this morning".

"Sorry?"

"The other guys, I feed them..." he petered off, shrugged, then waved her in

"Never mind, come in".

Natasha stepped past him and into to the room.

It was clearly a briefing room. A holo-projection table dominated the room, with chairs   surrounding it and against the walls. A weapons rack stood next to the door, currently

holding two pistols, a rifle and a jumble of metal and pipes that she presumed was a

weapon, though it could have been sink for she knew.

In the furthest corner, a blonde women sat in a chair, calmly reading a paperback. She was

dressed in a white and gold variation of the uniform, but both sleeves had been ripped off,  showing off her multitudes of tattoos. Closer to the door, a huge man stood. He wasn't wearing a uniform at all. Instead he had a long brown overcoat, reinforced with dark grey metal plates across the shoulders, chest and legs. He was repeatedly setting matches on fire.

Not alarming at all thought Natasha.

Both of them looked up and seeing her, stood up. The woman gave a little wave, and the bigman grinned so infectiously that she smiled shyly back.

The lieutenant walked up to one of the walls and leaned against it nonchalantly.

"Okay people, in case you didn't notice, this is our new comrade.” He turned to her and

asked

"Do you want to introduce yourself?

She took a deep breath. Ok, just like how Professor Solbränna taught us

“Specialist Natasha Vercher 116101097114115-NV reporting for duty, sir!”

She felt a vague sense of pride, at having remembered it perfectly. She looked around the

room, hoping to see approval, maybe admiration. Her sense of pride dissipated when she

saw the grins on everyone's faces.

"Um, sorry" she mumbled, embarrassed.

"Nothing to be sorry about” assured Walther. “It was very correct and proper. I haven't

been addressed like that for years. I kind of like it".

He turned to the other Specialists.

"Maybe I should get you guys to address my like that from now on."

He cleared his throat dramatically, and indicated the women

"This lovely lady in the corner is Sub-Lieutenant Valkyrie Anderstrom 109097102105097-VA" he proclaimed

"Call me Val" Valkyrie added in a light accented voice, smiling at Natasha, giving Walther the middle finger.

Walther ignored the gesture and continued with a flourish

"And this brute of a man is Staff Sergeant Heinrich Verbrennung 108111121097108-HV.”

"Just call Heinrich, please" Heinrich chuckled in a deep cheerful voice.

Walther then put two hands on his chest and bowed

"And I am Lieutenant Walther Karnage 100111111109100-WK, and you may call me

whatever you wish.”

Natasha giggled, she couldn't help herself. She covered her mouth, embarrassed.

Hienrich clapped his massive hands.

"She has a sense of humour after all. Not all is lost!” he declared.

Natasha dropped her hand and smiled.

"First name are enough in this team, we don't do things strictly military. Its part of our

charm". Walther told her kindly.

Heinrich continued

"The academy taught you that being a Specialist was about being proper and efficient and, well, military"

Valkyrie picked it up.

"For us, the more important thing, is to be good at what you do"

"To want to help and protect people" Heinrich said

"And above all, trust your team and, as such be friends" Walther finished.

Walther looked at her directly, completely serious for the first time.

"Well, Natasha, are you willing us all to be friends?"

Friends. Such a normal, everyday word that meant trust and security to most people. But for Natasha those words, and their meaning, haunted her waking moments and twisted her

nightmares.

As the silence stretched, she noticed that Walther's face grew concerned.

Heinrich broke the silence

"Ah, you put her on the spot. She doesn't want to hang around with a bunch of old people

like us"

"I think it's just you, fireman. She doesn't want you setting her on fire most likely" Valkyrie

retorted

"Come on, when was the last time I set any of you guys on fire?" said Heinrich defensively.

"Last week, when you were convinced that my jacket had a spider on it".

"Spiders are lethal, you could have been killed by it. And the way they move". He shuddered

"That's no excuse to SET ME ON FIRE!!!"

Walther cut across Heinrich's reply

"That's enough children"

He still wore a concerned expression, trying to sort out what was wrong. Natasha recovered enough to reply;

"No, sorry, it's not that at all. It's just that I'm not skilled enough to be part of a fully qualified team”

Walther's face cleared a little. He leaned forward, so that no one else but her could hear.

"If Ironwood didn't think that you are skilled enough, you wouldn't be here. The fact that

you ARE here speaks more than enough for your skills, certainly for me and for any other

Specialist"

The warm glow of pride that filled her chest was far more than any correctly done

procedure had ever given her.

Walther leaned back, raising his voice.

"Anyway, we're not going to throw you to the Grimm immediately. We've got to some    

acclimatisation training, take you to some of the closer, safer villages"

Heinrich put one of his dinner plate sized hands on Natasha's shoulder.

"Don't worry kid, everything is going to fine”

So naturally, that was the point when things started to go wrong.

The door crashed open, letting in a white-haired women with a sword at her hip, along with a large gust of snow. She spotted Walther and strode over. Natasha noticed that she had a slightly disdainful expression.

"Karnage, you are to deploy your team immediately" she commanded

Walther raised his eyebrows.

"A bit chilly in here, isn't it?" he said to no one in particular, as the door repeatedly beat

itself against the wall, snow starting to form a welcome mat.

Winter scowled, but made no other sign of recognition. Valkyrie walked over to it, gently

shut it and turned to face to newcomer.

"I guess she's used to a servant shutting them for her. Isn't that right, Schnee?”

Natasha's eyes widened. This must be Winter Schnee, the eldest daughter of one of the

powerful families in Remnant. Not one you wanted to get on the wrong side of.

Winter's fist clenched, then relaxed.

"You are to board a Bullnose at Terminal 3h in twenty minutes" she ordered

Walther still hadn't moved.

"Any particular reason for this?” He quipped “Did you drop an earring out on the Atuis snowfields? If so, we better immediately stop this critical acclimatisation training, for this

massively important task, that you have not explained at all" 

Winter turned to look at look at Natasha, and such an expression of loathing appeared on

her face that Natasha actually recoiled. What have I done? she thought desperately.

Winter turned back to face Walther.

"Then this is even more pertinent. The White Fang are on our doorstep. We should stop

them before some....people decided to join"

Natasha felt that the last comment was directed at her. She flattened her ears and shuffled uncomfortably.

The White Fang: the rights group turned terrorists. Trying to further Faunus rights, but only succeeding in turning much suspicion on Faunus everywhere.

She looked at Walther, who seemed unmoved. Walther looked at Heinrich, and flicked his

eyes to the door. Heinrich immediately stood up.

"Nate, let's get you some supplies, like rope, and, urrr... matches".

Natasha followed him to the door, where Val was standing. She was watching Walther and Winter like she was expecting a fight and was itching to join in.

"You too, Val".

Heinrich gripped one of his shoulders and started to drag her out

"But..." she protested

"No"

"Awwwww"

The door shut behind them. As they walked towards the quartermaster's store, Natasha

asked timidly

"What supplies do I need?"

"None, Walther just wanted us out of the room" Heinrich replied

"Why?"

Heinrich sighed

"Well, firstly, it's impolite for officers to argue in front of Other Ranks."

"And there is definitely going to be argument" Valkyrie said wistfully

He glared at her

"Secondly, Winter looks like she is in the mood to pick a fight. Starting on you was her way

get under Walther's skin. A crowd would only encourage her".

"But, why?"

"Because she is a first class alpha bitc...." Val started to reply, but Heinrich cut across her

"Look, Walther and Winter have a history of bad blood. It would be best if it wasn't spilled".

Natasha had a sinking feeling.

Walther stood up, trying to keep his temper in check. He looked directly at Winter.

"Ok, I presume you are going to explain that statement” he said “Where is this mission

taking us?"

That seemed to defuse her, for now, as she replied immediately.

"To the island of Vytal, just north of Sanus. The Vale council with their...Faunus issue."

Really, why are you trying to start a fight now? he thought.

Out loud, he replied as calmly as he could.

"Look, mate, as you can see, I can't help. We are in the middle of training our new recruit,

I can't just stop that”

Winter glared at him.

"You will do as I say, Karnage"

His temper reached new heights. Ok, Time to change tactics he thought

He took a step forward. It didn't help as he was almost a head shorter than her.

"First off, Schnee, we're equal rank. In fact, I'm senior to you, so you’re not ordering me anywhere"

He took another step forward, forcing her to take one back

"Secondly, I cannot and will not throw a brand new Specialist straight into a battle with

terrorists"

Winter stepped forward, so that they were almost chest-to-chest.

"We must act quickly, we don't know how long they will be there" she urged

A valid point he thought

Then Winter followed up with

"If you are worried about that Faunus changing sides, we could always leave her in the

Bullnose. Restrained, of course”

Walther's finally lost his patience

"Just because your father has told you to hate Faunus, because the White Fang routinely try to break out his indentured Faunus workers, doesn't make them all keen for human blood" he growled

Winter's face tightened in rage

"You dare...." she hissed

"To tell to the truth? To understand that most Faunus aren't killers?" Walther retorted "I'm sorry, am I damaging your pampered ears with all these FACTS?”

Winter was almost spitting in fury

"You have no idea...."

Walther cut her off, keeping her off balance

"About the mission? No I don't know whether this is even a proper mission, and not another excuse to continue this wretched conflict AGAIN”

She snarled back

"There's no conflict. All they trust you to do is babysit traitorous Faunus"

"And they don't want to upset Daddy by putting you in your place you highborn fuc....."

Winter yelled in anger and reached for her sword's hilt. Walther flexed his hand. A dull

crimson glow emanated from it and a serrated combat knife leapt into his hand, before

Winter had even touched her sword.

"Karnage! Schnee!"

They immediately stepped back from each other, like guilty children. A man with black hair  streaked with grey was standing in the doorway. The silver patch on his forehead made him immediately recognisable; General Ironwood. Behind him, the rest of Walther’s team stood. Natasha looked awkward while Heinrich appeared resigned, and Valkyrie looked like someone just cancelled her favourite show.

As Ironwood stepped forward they both came to attention, Walther surreptitiously sheathing his knife.

Ironwood stopped in front of them.

"I'm going to say that I saw none of that disgraceful behaviour and that you are going to forget whatever caused your argument. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir" Winter replied crisply

"Don't worry Ironwood, it's already forgotten". Walther responded

He saw Winter scowl at him, and repressed a smile. Not using the formulaic sir was a breach, but Ironwood knew that he only used the term sir to express dislike.

"Good" Ironwood visibly relaxed "I take it that Winter explained what the mission is?"

"In a roundabout way"

"Good, I'll send you details once you're in the air"

"You can understand my concern though?"

Ironwood raised both eyebrows in query. Walther indicated Natasha subtly.

Ironwood nodded.

"I understand, but you are the only team in any readiness to act. I am sending Winter with you"

"Oh joy"

Ironwood ignored that.

"And I have confidence that Miss Vercher will be up to it. She was an excellent student, I'm sure that she'll be an excellent Huntress”

At the mention of her name, Natasha almost jumped a metre off the ground. She received the praise with her usual shy shuffling and mumbled thanks.

There was a moment of silence, then Walther broke it.

"Okay people, action stations. Prep up and hit the tarmac in five"

Everyone, even Winter jumped into action. As Walther was about to leave, Ironwood stopped him.

"Walther, the council wants him alive, but, don't take any risks" he warned

Walther smiled

"You know me Ironwood, I don't take risks."

Ironwood smiled slightly. They both knew that was a lie.

Walther picked up his rifle, slung it, and jogged after his team.

"Good luck" Ironwood almost whispered to his retreating back.


CHAPTER 2


1.5 hours later

Atlesian military Bullnose

10 kilometres from the island of Vytal


Natasha sat uncomfortably in the webbing net seat in the loading bay of the Bullnose.

Opposite her, Winter sat, looking resolutely looking anywhere but at her. Her ears twitched, a sign of discomfiture. She looked towards the front of the bay. Walther had a look of intense concentration has he scribbled in a tattered black note book. Natasha looked away. She could feel anxiety creeping up on her. After Heinrich and Valkyrie had gotten her supplies that she would need in the future, they returned to the briefing room, in time to hear Winter screaming about 'traitorous Faunus'. At the Academy, she had gotten used to constant discrimination and low level assault. But hearing a fully qualified Huntress talk like that, was far more confronting.

Added to this was her suspicion that Walther did not want her on this mission. His exchange with Ironwood seemed to show his lack of confidence in her. So much for those comforting words. 

She tried feeling angry about it, but she really couldn't blame him. She was inexperienced, and had a history of... No don't go there. Her anxiety cranked up several more notches. Natasha began again to question her reasons for being there.

Her self-retrospection was interrupted by Valkyrie.

"Hey Bookworm, care to take a break from that autobiography you're writing and tell us what the hell we're doing out here?"

Walther looked up at Valkyrie and returned her smile with a little twitch.

"Since you asked so politely".

He stood up, still holding his notebook.

"Okay, this mission is both simple and complicated".

Heinrich snorted

"Okay, keeping it easy I see. Good thing, otherwise it might go over our heads".

Walther glared at him

"Part 1. We are heading to Vytal, where our cool friend says she saw the White Fang".

Winter scowled, then replied.

"I saw several transporter vessels landed on the beach, and several Faunus wearing masks, walking into the surrounding forest"

Valkyrie glanced at her

"Why didn't you investigate immediately?" she asked

"Because I was still on another mission"

"Surely this was more important than the mail run you do every fortnight"

"It's an important escort mis..."

"Ladies... Focus" Heinrich growled

Walther continued.

"When he heard about this, Ironwood immediately began mobilising a task force. However, that could take more than 12 hours, and the White Fang aren't known being idle. So we've been sent to nip this in the bud by removing them from the island"

Heinrich raised both eyebrows in surprise.

"Not a recon mission. Makes more sense, since the regulars are following us in. Shouldn’t we be finding out what they are doing?"

Walther grimaced

"That's the complicated part. The council suspect that this group is being led by Adam Taurus, you know that particularly psychotic individual".

"Of course, and they want to catch him" Valkyrie groaned.

"Quite"

Valkyrie looked annoyed now

"So they want us to search a whole f***ing island for a gang of looney terrorists, slap a pair on handcuffs on the most violent one, and be on our merry way?"

He nodded

"In short, yes. But finding them will be the easy part”

“Oh really, searching a 50 square kilometre island is easy?” Winter said sarcastically.

Walther smiled

"Of course not, don't be silly. We don't have to search at all"

Natasha glanced at Heinrich, to see whether this was one of Walther's jokes. He just gestured for her to look at Walther.

Watch and learn the gesture said.

She turned to look at Walther, who had picked up a holopen, and was drawing a map of the

island.

"They have to be in Peace's Glen" he stated

He pointed to an area in the centre of the island.

"The place where the Great War treaty was signed?" Natasha responded involuntarily.

Walther pointed two fingers at her

"The very same"

"But how?" Winter sounded confused

"Well" Walther explained "It's the biggest cleared area on the island, but it is hard to see

from the air, as the forest forms a partial roof. It is easily defendable and has a

river running through it, allowing a quick retreat if need be. Added to that it is only a few

hundred metres from where you spotted them. It is really the only logical place they could

be". He finished

Winter just stared at him. Walther continued his briefing

"We shall insert here, a kilometre east of the clearing. I shall split from you guys and set up

shop on top of this hill to the north-east. You guys will make your way to the tree line and wait for my signal"

Heinrich grinned

"Wil the signal be something large randomly exploding?" he asked

Walther grinned back.

"You know me too well. Has everyone got Buzzers?"

Everyone except for Natasha nodded

"I'm sorry, I don't know what that is" she apologised

Walther smiled at her

"That's Heinrich's fault. He said he got you some gear"

Heinrich was picking up the jumble of pipes that she had seen earlier.

"Up near the cockpit" he said, distractedly.

Walther gave him the thumbs up, and, gesturing for her to follow, walked towards the

cockpit. Behind her she heard Winter ask

"Isn't that a little close to land, won't they notice us landing?"

"Oh, don't worry about it" Valkyrie replied. Natasha thought she could detect anticipation in her voice.

Walther opened a bag and handed Natasha a square object that looked like a belt buckle

with a switch on it

"Ok. This is a Buzzer. These are a must have in all situations. If you are trying to restrain someone, place it on them, turn the knob half a revolution, and remember to immediately let go of them. Otherwise, you'll both be unconscious, and that would be embarrassing”

He smiled at her, but it faded when it wasn't reciprocated.

"Is there something wrong Natasha?"

She shook her head, but she glanced behind her at the other Specialists.

"I know it's very daunting to be thrown straight into a mission like this. It was not what I wanted as an introduction into the military"

Natasha looked up at him, Ironwood's assurances in her mind. Walther seemed to understand.

"And it is not because I think you are not capable. I stand be my original statement. No, it’s more complicated than that"

He sighed.

"In the Academy, they teach you how to fight Grimm well, but they never cover how to deal with sentient opponents. You must be more on your guard with a person than a Grimm. They are smarter and far more unpredictable. Don't go easy on them because they have a face and don't look like monsters. The thing is..."

He looked at her directly in the eyes

"People, Humans and Faunus, can be the worst monsters of them all. They just hide under the guise of their humanity. Promise me, do not make that mistake. Too many people have gone because of that mistake"

Natasha stared at him, unsure what to say. How could she respond to that? Walther looked the most serious she had ever seen anyone look.

She nodded

"Okay, sir".

Walther smiled, seemingly glad to have that off his chest

"Good".

He stepped aside to look inside the cockpit.

"How far are we from the drop point I gave you?" he asked the pilot

"About two minutes sir" the pilot replied

"Excellent. Tell me when it reaches 30 seconds"

Walther peered at the co-pilot, who was stealing longing glanced at Winter through the rear mirror.

"A word of advice mate" he called to him

The co-pilot jumped and turned to him.

"Keep away from ice, it tends to give you frostbite. And there are some parts you do not want to lose"

Walther withdrew his head as the pilot laughed. He smiled at Natasha.

"Let's prep for a combat drop"

They both headed back to the others in the rear of the bay.

Walther snapped out a command

"Weapons check!"

There was immediate action. Valkyrie pulled out twin pistols, checked both the magazine and a canister attached to its side. Winter half-drew her sword and snapped it back. The jumble of plates and pipes of Heinrich’s suddenly sprouted a yellow-blue flame at its nozzle. A flamethrower, Natasha realised.

"We need you mobile, mate" Walther called

He nodded and grabbed it either side and lined up his wrist guards to anchor points on the weapon. Instantly it began to transform. Pipes and a large tank seem to leap onto his back.

The rest split down the middle and wrapped around the gauntlets. A nozzle appeared above both hands and pilot lights appeared. Heinrich grinned and picked up a grey helmet, slamming it down on his head.

Natasha looked down at her waist. Her sword sat in its scabbard, exuding a sense of

menace. It was called Kraj Tenej, the Edge of Shadows. She hated it. Half drawing it, she looked at the blade. It was so dark it seemed to absorb all the light around it. A very faint gleam was the only sign that it was coated in a gel that Natasha knew would cause an immediate and crippling infection. She wiped it clean every day, but it always seemed to be back in a few hours.

"That’s a vicious weapon for a nice girl. Where did you get it?"

She looked up into Valkyrie's blue eyes, unsure what to say. Her eyes were completely unreadable.

Val stared down at her, shrugged at her silence, and moved on. Natasha jumped when a heavy iron glove clamped around her shoulder.

"Come on kid, with me" Heinrich's eyes were full of friendliness. She followed him to the rear hatch. Walther stood there tapping his book on his thigh, a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Hey Walther, practice what you preach". Valkyrie teased

He looked up at her, and smiled. Stowing the book in his top pocket, he grabbed his rifle.

"Thirty seconds to the drop zone" the pilot announced.

Walther worked the bolt action, ejecting an empty cartridge on to the decking.

"Count me in pilot" he called back

“30...29....28...”

As the pilot counted, Walther turned to face the doors, slinging his rifle. Heinrich turned to Natasha.

"Ok, kid, listen. We're about to jump" he told her

Winter, who was behind them, looked up in alarm

"WHAT!?!"

“25...24...23....”

Heinrich ignored her.

"Just stick close, relax, and do not panic. We've done this all the time" he assured her

Natasha looked up at him

"But I haven't" she replied timidly

Heinrich laughed.

"I know, but we'll look after you. We a team now, remember?"

“19...18...17....”

Winter had walked up to Walther.

"Did I hear that right?" she asked with a tone of forced calm

"You did" he responded blandly

"But we are five thousand feet up!"

"Five thousand and fifteen, actually"

“14...13...12....”

"That's too high" Winter actually sounded panicky now. "Regulation jumps are only two

hundred feet high"

“10...9...8...”

Valkyrie pulled her back, completing the rough chevron shape they had formed.

"What, scared are you?" she said maliciously. Winter just stared at her.

“6...5....4”

Walther punched the door controls. The rear doors opened.

“3...2...1....Green light!”

Then they jumped.

Most of them had. Natasha thought she saw Valkyrie kicking Winter out, but

she wasn't sure.

The sky.

 It was mostly grey, but she could see the sun poking through the clouds.

The ground.

A patchwork map of green trees, yellow sand, and the deeper blue of the sea.

The noise.

The sound of the air roaring past her deafened and disorientated her.

She started to tumble.

She saw Heinrich in the corner of her eye.

He was next to her.

He was waving at her, then holding his arms out straight.

Heinrich kept repeating the motion until she copied.

He gave her the thumbs up, and pointed.

She turned to see the other Specialists, significantly ahead.

Heinrich made his body form a dart shape, and moved towards them

She copied.

The noise got louder as she rocketed forward. She caught up to everyone, and they continued down.

The sound of the wind in her ears continued to be loud, but now instead off disabling her, it exhilarated her. She actually started to grin. She looked to her right and saw Heinrich grinning back at her.

Walther raised five fingers. He dropped on, then the next. At zero, they spread their arms

again. She looked down.

The ground was no longer an abstract concept, but seemed far more substantial. Bone shattering so. She was about to start formulating a mental will, when suddenly gravity ceased to exist.

That's what it felt like, anyway. An emptiness in the stomach. They were still hurtling

towards the ground, but it felt as real as a projection. Then, gravity acted on

different parts of her body. Her head felt like it was floating, but her feet felt like they were 50 times heavier. She noticed that she was surrounded by a crimson light. Tracing it, she

saw it was emanating from Walther's hands. The light had cocooned everyone and seemed

to be guiding them. He wore a look of intense concentration.

Suddenly it seemed, her feet touched the ground, as gently as if she had stepped off a bus

step, not a plane several thousand feet in the sky.

Her body did not agree with it though. She felt that her head was trying to pull itself off, andher legs trying to root into the soil

Natasha took a step forward, and immediately fell over. She fared better than Winter, who had immediately thrown up in a nearby bush. Valkyrie, who seemed unaffected, had her

guns up and roving, scanning the immediate area. Natasha noted that they were already amongst the trees. Walther had guided them in between them. A pair of iron clad knees came into view.

"You okay kid?" asked Heinrich.

She was about to talk, thought better of it, then nodded instead.

Heinrich help her up.

"Excellent, certainly for a first time. You'll get better at it, don't worry"

She turned to see Walther offering a hand to Winter, who pushed the hand away. He shrugged, looked over at her and came over.

"All good?" queried Walther

They both nodded, and he smiled.

"Okay then, off we go" He headed out into the forest and they all followed.

Sometime later Walther raised his fist, the signal to stop. He turned to his team.

"Keep heading in the same direction, and you'll hit the tree line in about ten minutes. I'll be

in position in fifteen. Once the signal goes up, priority is Adam Taurus. Disable him, then get out. Don't get caught up in a messy fight”

Valkyrie gave him a smile

"Yes Dad"

He smiled, then looked at Natasha.

"Natasha, don't worry, we've got your back, and we trust you with ours. Just, don't do get stabbed or something. From experience, that hurts" He smiled again, and she smiled back.

Walther turned away deeper in to the forest.

"Stay frosty, people" he called back

He didn't seem to feel that Winter was glaring daggers into his back.


They reached the tree line and saw what looked like a small military camp. Faunus with

white masks and grey uniforms moved about the camp. White Fang.

Winter moved up and whispered

"Can anyone see Taurus?"

Val shook her head.

"No, but he'll come out when we start breaking his people"

Winter looked at her weirdly, then looked back out into the encampment.

Natasha wondered why Winter had such enmity with Valkyrie and Walther. Rivalries and the like of course existed everywhere, but this was almost hatred.

Heinrich crept up next to her, the faint clinking of his armour the only sound he made.

"You ready for this?"

She thought about answering yes but decided on the truth.

"I don't know"

Heinrich nodded

"At least you're honest enough to admit that"

Heinrich surveyed the area, then turned to say;

"No one is ever ready the first time, whoever they are. You, me, Val, Winter, even Walther

up there. We've just got to do it, and hope for the best. Ok?"

"Ok"

He patted her shoulder

Winter shuffled uncomfortably.

"Walther's late, where is the.....


CHAPTER 3

Peace's Glen, Island of Vytal

30 minutes since landfall


A stack of crates under an awning exploded in a huge multi-coloured fireball, near the centre of the camp. In amongst the explosion, Natasha heard the sharp crack of a single rifle shot.

Heinrich slammed a full face shield down and roared

"BURN ON!!!"

He ran into the clearing, fire reaching out of both arms to grab at White Fang. They ran screaming, hair smouldering. Val tapped Natasha none too gently.

"Come on, let's find Taurus"

They ran into the camp.

Natasha only remembered fragments of her baptism of fire. She remembered drawing her sword, its dark blade looking like a shadow in her hand. A Faunus ran at her, a cudgel in his fist. She deflected it, and hit him on the side of the head with the flat of the blade. He flew aside, rolled and looked at her. His face twisted in rage as he saw her sable ears.

"TRATIOR!!!"

He lunged at her, but he was knocked off his feet. She only registered the shot later.

Walther's voice came through her earpiece.

"Remember what I said, Natasha. Now, FIGHT!"

She did fight then. Using the edge of her sword instead of the flat. She slipped into the routines she practiced at the Academy. Keep them at sword length. Use the long blade to slash at the chest and head. The black blade danced in her hands, seeming to laugh at auras and armour alike. She saw Valkyrie firing her pistols rapidly, embedding white crystals everywhere. A person who had caught a number of these in his body would fall, clutching his chest. She saw Winter swooping like a bird, sword thrusting in one hand and glyphs flashing in the other. She never saw Heinrich, but could clearly see where he had been, by the burning tents, and the couple of White Fang who were running about with burning hair and (sometimes) whiskers. Walther, of course, made his presence known by the seemingly random White Fang falling over, or a well timed explosion.

Natasha was not sure how long the fight had lasted, but she had not seen Adam Taurus, or  his lieutenants. And since her radio was silent, she presumed no one else had.

Suddenly, she ran into Winter, almost literally. They both recovered, and Winter glared at her.

"Watch it, Faunus"

A White Fang burst through the side of a nearby tent, bill already coming down towards Winter's head. Instinctively, Natasha lunged forward, incredibly fast, battered it away from  its target. She then swung the heavy blade in a upward motion, cutting deep into the enemy's armpit. He cried out then fell.

Natasha herself staggered. The strain of quickly changing the swords momentum had

twisted her shoulder. Winter just stared at her. She stared back. It was only when a Faunus

fell with a bullet hole in his forehead next to them did they snap out of it.

"Can you two stop staring into each other’s eyes and find the target? Any longer and he'll run". Walther’s voice sounded strained.

They stared at each other again, then ran in separate directions.


It seemed like no time at after the encounter with Winter, that Natasha rounded a corner

and saw him. A tall red-headed Faunus with an embroidered black coat, and a bright red chokuto. Adam.

"Found him" she whispered into her throat mike.

"Where?" Walther said sharply

"South-eastern corner of the clearing"

"Damn, I can't see that".

"Already there"

Val voice burst through her earpiece as the Huntress herself ran around the corner, guns blazing.

Adam turned, amazingly fast, deflecting every single projectile. Valkyrie snarled and

advanced, but was intercepted by another person. A girl, who couldn't be more than 14, dressed in black and white, swung down from a tree and kicked Valkyrie in her chest. She shot backwards, coming to a sliding stop, baring her teeth at this new challenger. Adam Taurus moved to help his ally. Natasha decided that this was her chance. She leapt towards him and engaged him. He swung around to face her, the blank face of his mask revealing nothing but his twisted grimace. It took her exactly four seconds of sparring for Natasha to realise that she was hopelessly outclassed. He was taller, stronger and far better with his sword then her. She was fighting for her life and she knew she was losing it. She vaguely noticed that his sword was getting brighter and that there was some frantic chatter on her radio that Heinrich couldn't get there, and that Winter was fighting a guy with a chainsaw on a stick, while Valkyrie was screaming about a Semblance. What was consuming her thoughts was that she was about to lose. Of course, she did.

Adam surprised her by kicking her side. Pain exploded from the point of impact and she

screamed. She only dimly aware that she had fallen, and that Adam was advancing on her

, sword in hand.

"You picked the wrong side, Huntress"

He raised is sword for a final blow.


A large man shaped object flew out of the sky and hit Adam across the face with a brass

rifle butt. He staggered away, the white masked cracked and one raging eye exposed.

Walther stood between her and the White Fang leader, rifle held between the action and the butt. Suddenly the rifle stock and barrel concertinaed, and the brass decoration on the butt inverted and bent. Walther was suddenly holding a sabre. He then stepped towards Adam, and began to spar.

Despite the pain, Natasha almost gasped. Here was a true display of swordsmanship. Both

people were masters of very different disciples. She almost could not see the actual blades, just the arcs they cut through the air.

"Stop parrying him. It's charging his Semblance"

Valkyrie's voice came in gasps, as she was still fighting the Faunus teenager.

Walther immediately disengaged with Adam, and they circled each other warily. Walther

made a feint with the sword, and Adam, expecting this, instead flicked his sword to a low

sweeping cut towards Walther's stomach. What he did not expect was the sudden and

disturbing sensation of vertigo as he flew backwards, his mass no longer holding him to

the ground. The Faunus crashed into a tree and staggered. He started forward again, but the ground at his feet shot away, taking his feet with him. As he fell, Walther advanced forward, foot raised to stomp on Adam’s sword to break it. But Adam was still amazing agile. He swept his sword at his feet, forcing him back. Then leaping onto his feet, sheathing and then quickly drawing it again, its blade now glowing with the power of his Semblance.

Adam screamed, dropping his sword to clutch at the black throwing knife in his right wrist. Walther sent another knife at his head to make him duck, then threw the third through his left sleeve pinning him to a nearby evergreen. The fourth and last knife pinned the left cuff to the tree. Walther advanced slowly, taking his Buzzer out of one of his satchels, still holding his sabre in his right.

What happened next seemed to Natasha to happen in slow motion. Ten metres away from the trapped terrorist, the teenager that Valkyrie was fighting seemed to split into two people. One leaped away while the other exploded in front of the Specialist. Free from that engagement, she rushed towards the distracted Huntsman. Before Natasha could cry out,the teenager slashed at Walther’s back, Walther’s crimson aura collapsed and the black blade bit deep into his back. Walther instantly turned to face his new attacker, sending her flying away with a back hand across the face. In that moment, Adam Taurus ripped free his coat and, scooping up his sword ran at him, bringing it down as Walther turned to face him. The force of the cut sent Walther backwards, falling to the ground. Adam stood a moment, staring at his falling foe. Blood poured from Walther's face.

The tent on Adam's left burst into flames as Heinrich burst through like a burning demon and roared. Adam took one look at this apparition and changed his mind.

"Blake, time to go" he called to the young Faunus

Adam and the teenager ran into the woods. Still making an incredible noise, Heinrich picked up a 

three foot boulder from the ground which instantly started glowing red with heat. He threw it almost 30 metres after the running figures, but missed.

Natasha noticed a scorched Valkyrie crouched over Walther, spraying something from the

side of one of her pistols onto his face. She looked calm, but her hands were trembling.

Natasha couldn't tell how badly injured Walther was, or even if he was still alive. A helmet

crashed to the ground nearby and Heinrich’s dark face swam into view. His mouth moved,

but his voice was echoing and quiet, like he was at the end of a long tunnel. She started to

ask him why he was talking so quietly,  but then the darkness at the corners of her eyes rushed forward eagerly, and she knew no more.


TO BE CONTINUED...