Painting the Town... (Edited)
The revelation that Penny was not a real person shocked Ruby. She couldn’t quite wrap her head around it. “Penny… I don’t understand.”
“Most girls are born, but I was made. I’m the world’s first synthetic person capable of generating an aura.” Then with a touch of sadness, “I’m not real.”
Ruby grabbed Penny’s hands. She took another look at the metal under the torn skin. But then she clutched Penny’s hands with hers. “Of course, you are.” Remembering everything she knew about Penny, recounting all their experiences together, Ruby had had a revelation. “You think just because you’ve got nuts and bolts instead of squishy guts makes you any less real than me?”
“I don’t…” Penny was startled by this new idea. But there was something else she found even more surprising. “You’re taking this extraordinarily well.”
“You’re not like those things we saw back there,” said Ruby, meaning the new Atlesian knights. “You’ve got a heart. And a soul! I can feel it.”
Penny shed a few tears. “Oh, Ruby!” She embraced Ruby tightly and shook her from side to side. “You’re the best friend anyone could ever have!”
Ruby groaned. While she appreciated the sentiment, this hug was almost as bad as one of Yang’s. “I can see why your father would want to protect such a delicate flower.”
Penny released Ruby. “Oh, he’s very sweet. My father is the one that built me. I’m sure you would just love him.”
“Wow. He built you all by himself?”
“Well, almost. He had some help from Mr. Ironwood.”
“The general? Wait. Is that why those soldiers were after you?”
“They like to protect me, too,” said Penny innocently.
“Pft! They don’t think you can protect yourself?”
“They’re not sure if I’m ready yet. One day, it will be my job to save the world, but I still have a lot left to learn. That’s why my father let me come to the Vytal Festival. I want to see what it’s like in the rest of the world and test myself in the tournament.”
Penny’s explanation seemed sound, but there was one bit that sounded off. “What are you talking about? Save the world from what? We’re in a time of peace.”
“That’s not what Mr. Ironwood said,” said Penny, sounding confused.
Suddenly, they heard of the Atlesian soldiers shout, “Check down here!”
“You have to hide!” said Penny. She picked Ruby up over her head and started taking her over to a dumpster.
Ruby wailed. “Penny! What are you doing?! You don’t have to go with them! I can help you!”
Penny dropped Ruby in the dumpster. “It’s okay, Ruby. They’re not bad people; I just don’t want you to get in trouble. Just promise that you won’t tell anyone about my secret. Okay?”
“I promise,” said Ruby as she ducked down.
“There she is!” said one of the soldiers. They ran up to Penny.
“Why were you running?” asked the second. “And what happened to the other girl?”
“What girl? I’ve been by myself all day.” Penny hiccupped.
“You shouldn’t cause such a scene.”
“Are you okay?” asked the first.
“Just a scratch,” said Penny, showing them her hands. They nearly fainted.
“Penny, your father isn’t going to be happy about this.”
“Please, just come with us.”
“Yes, sir,” said Penny as if the idea of running was completely foreign to her.
A bright yellow sports bike rumbled and squealed through a shadier part of Vale. Blonde and blue-haired figures rode atop it and came to a stop outside a warehouse with music blasting out of it.
Yang took off her helmet and dismounted the bike. “C’mon,” she said to Neptune. “My friend’s right in here.”
“Cool…” said Neptune dazed. Yang’s driving style left him worse for wear with his hair disheveled and his goggles slightly askew. He took a minute to compose himself. “And where exactly is ‘here’?”
The warehouse was actually a club, Junior’s Club. Inside, men in black suits and bowlers with red ties and glasses carried out menial tasks such as organizing the liquor and setting up equipment. Junior was standing behind the bar straightening his tie. He wanted everything to be better than perfect for the grand re-opening of his club. It had been closed ever since that blonde girl trashed it, him, and his men. It wasn’t something he cared to remember, but thanks to Blondie, his right knee had developed a dull ache whenever it was about to rain. Suddenly, he heard his men shouting.
“Hurry! Seal the door! She’s coming!”
Two of Junior’s men burst through the front doors and held them closed. They looked like they had just seen a Nevermore.
“What’re you two idiots doing?” asked Junior.
“She’s back!” one of them screamed right before the front door was blasted open.
“I Burn” started playing right on cue as Yang sauntered in. “Guess who’s back?!”
At least two dozen Dust submachine guns filled her field of vision. Some of Junior’s men held two.
“Yeah…” said Neptune, bringing up the rear. “So could you define ‘friend’ for me?” Some of Junior’s men pointed their guns at him.
“Stop! Stop!” ordered Junior. “Nobody shoot.” He pushed his way to Yang. “Blondie. You’re here? Why?”
“You still owe me a drink,” said Yang, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him off toward the bar.
“Whoa,” shuddered Neptune. “What a woman.” He then looked to his left and saw the Malachite sisters. He gave them his coolest “Sup?”
They pointed their noses in the air and walked off with a chorus of “Whatever.”
After a few minutes of interrogation, Junior slammed a glass on the bar. “I don’t know!”
“How could you not know?” bit Yang.
“I haven’t talked to him. I haven’t even seen him since the night you first came in here. He paid up front, I lent him my men, and none of them ever came back.”
“So where did they go?!” said Neptune quickly.
Junior glared at him. “What kind of stupid question is that? They never came back.” He looked at Yang. “Who is this guy?”
“Don’t worry about him. Worry about me if I don’t find out what I want!”
“I already told you everything! Torchwick hired my boys and I guess he wasn’t happy with them. Which is something I can relate to!” he shouted at a few lollygaggers.
“Ugh!” groaned Yang. “Come on, Neptune,” she said, leaving.
“We get everything we need?”
“Well, we got everything we can. Hopefully the rest of the team is having better luck.”
Elsewhere in the city, Blake examined three chalk lines drawn on the side of a building resembling a claw mark. She peered around the corner and saw two young Faunus allowed through a non-descript crack in a wall. “This is it,” she told Sun.
She glared at him.
Blake led him towards the crack untying the bow on her head. A rather beefy White Fang member let them inside and gave them each a mask.
When they were out of earshot, Sun said, “I don’t get it. If you think what you’re doing is right, why hide who you are?”
“The masks are a symbol. Humanity wanted to make monsters out of us, so we chose to put on the faces of monsters.”
“Grimm masks?!” said Sun, realizing the connection to the scary looking mask he held. “That’s kinda dark.”
“So was the guy who started it.”
“Always sunshine and rainbows with you.”
Blake glared at Sun again as she donned her mask.
They were led into another warehouse where the main room was being used as some sort of White Fang recruitment and orientation seminar. Older, uniformed members of the White Fang stood on the left side, and the menagerie of new recruits was on the right. Sun and Blake joined the new recruits before a stage that had a White Fang banner draped above it.
On the stage was a tall and well-toned member of the White Fang that Blake recognized. He was known only as the “Lieutenant.” He had tribal tattoos adorning his upper left arm and he wore a highly stylized Grimm mask at all times. Its eyes were red slits with a red tribal streak leading from either eye to the bottom of the mask. He was known for being particularly brutal among the Fang with his weapon of choice being a chainsaw. He also bore a special and particularly intense hatred for the Schnee family.
“Thank you all for coming,” said the Lieutenant in a gruff voice. “For those of you who are joining us for the first time tonight, allow me to introduce a very special comrade of ours. I can assure you he is the key to obtaining what we have fought for, for so long.”
Amidst cheers and jeers alike, out stepped Roman Torchwick. Blake was surprisingly unsurprised. What did amaze her though was that Torchwick seemed to have an understudy. Behind him and hiding in the shadows was another human; a short, slim girl. Her hair was tri-colored in pink, white, and black, and she carried a parasol lazily over her shoulder. But what bothered Blake the most about her was that she seemed to be watching Torchwick with a glint of admiration that almost bordered on worship. It made Blake’s skin crawl.
“Thank you, thank you,” said Torchwick. “Hold your applause.”
A young, female Faunus, newly recruited, was outraged. “What’s a human doing here?!”
“I’m glad you asked, deery,” replied Torchwick. “Now, I will be the first to admit that humans are the worst. Case-in-point. So I understand why you’d like to see us all locked away, or better yet, killed. But before the claws come out, I would like to mention that you and I all have a common enemy: the ones in control. The people pulling the strings. The dirty, rotten humans that run our kingdoms!”
“Yeah!” someone cheered.
“Government, military, even the schools. They’re all to blame for your lot in life. And they’re all pests that need to be dealt with. Fortunately, I’m the best exterminator around. No offense to any rodents in the room.” Torchwick snapped his fingers and the White Fang curtain behind him dropped revealing the all new Atlesian Paladin complete with White Fang markings. The crowd went wild.
Sun nearly fainted. “That’s a big robot…”
“How did he get that?” asked Blake.
Torchwick continued, “As some of you have heard, this right here is Atlas’ newest line of defense against all the scary things in the world. And thanks to my… employer, we’ve managed to snag a few before they go on the market.
“Now, many of your brothers have already moved down to our new operation in the southeast. If you’d rather stay within the city, that’s fine. But if you’re truly ready to fight for what you believe in, this is the arsenal I can provide you. Any questions?”
All the White Fang, new and veteran, started cheering and chanting ready to get a bite of the action.
Blake turned to Sun. “We should get out of here.” They were examining the exits when the Lieutenant made their situation harder.
“Would all new recruits please come forward.”
The line of Faunus obscuring Blake and Sun from the stage advanced. “What’re we going to do?” asked Sun.
“I’m thinking.” Blake looked around for possible exits. The windows seemed like the obvious solution, but what was the best way to get out of them without causing a scene?
Torchwick was leaning against the paladin smoking a cigar, his understudy at his side. As the Faunus came forward, he recognized two figures. He threw his cigar down.
“He sees us,” said Sun.
Blake looked at Torchwick. He began to approach them. When suddenly, something grey caught her eye. She looked to her right and saw a fuse box. She turned to Sun, “He can’t see in the dark.” She took out Gambol Shroud and shot the box.
Torchwick ordered to the darkness, “Don’t let them get away!”
There was a brief scuffle as Blake and Sun incapacitated the nearest White Fang before making for the window. Amongst the noise however was the sound of an engine revving up.
Moments later Sun and Blake burst through the warehouse’s window and high-tailed it out of there. But before they could disappear from view, the wall shattered and the paladin, now containing Torchwick, gave chase.
Blake and Sun took to the rooftops to make good their escape, but the paladin, though it needed to use the streets due to its bulk, was able to keep pace.
While hurtling obstacles and jumping from roof to roof, Sun asked Blake, “So you wouldn’t happen to have, oh, I don’t know, some form of backup?!”
Blake took out her scroll. “On it. Everyone, if you can hear me, we need—”
“Help!” shouted Sun. “They’ve got a robot. And it’s big! Really big! That Torchwick guy did it. But like, he’s controlling it or something.”
“Where are you guys?!” asked Yang.
“Hurry!” replied Sun as he, Blake, and the paladin ran past Yang and Neptune.
“I think that was them,” said Neptune.
“Yeah, I got it!” Yang gunned her bike and took off after them.
Sun and Blake ran out of rooftops and took to a suspended highway. They jumped from car to car while Torchwick just knocked the vehicles out of his way. Yang and Neptune quickly caught up.
“We gotta slow it down!” said Yang.
“Got it.” Neptune reached for his gun, but then almost fell off the bike as Yang took evasive action dodging cars left and right as the paladin knocked them out of its way. Finally, there was an island of stability and Neptune was able to bring his gun out. He shot the paladin a few times in the back, knocking it off balance.
As Yang brought the bike closer, Neptune flourished his gun and it transformed into a trident. He jumped at the paladin and drove his trident deep within its exoskeleton.
Sun saw Neptune having a difficult time hanging on and created copies of himself made out of golden energy. He shot two of them at the mech where they made solid impacts, but failed to stop the monstrosity.
Sun took out his bo and jumped at the paladin. But its top half spun around independent of its lower half. The centrifugal force bucked Neptune off and he crashed into Sun. The two of them were last seen flying beyond the barriers of the highway.
Suddenly, Blake heard her name called. “I’m in position!” said Weiss as she dropped down from another highway.
Torchwick charged her absolutely confident that he was going to mow her down. But Weiss, with a dainty twirl and a flourish of her sword, iced the pavement on the highway. The paladin lost traction, slipped, and slid out of control through the highway’s EM barriers. It fell but managed to land on its feet on the ground several stories below where Ruby was waiting with Crescent Rose armed and ready. The rest of Team RWBY joined her.
Torchwick laughed. Now that he had the paladin, he was absolutely positive he could take on these four little girls and win. He advanced.
“Freezer Burn!” ordered Ruby, jumping back with Blake.
Weiss covered the ground again with ice as Yang jumped into the air. She came back down punching a fire Dust shell into the ice sheet. The area was immediately filled with a thick fog that befuddled even the paladin’s search sensors.
The girls ran and jumped around the paladin making opportune strikes when they could. Torchwick fired blindly into the fog landing a lucky shot on Yang before getting hit by Ruby. Its armor was a lot harder than she thought. But Ruby had an answer for that. “Checkmate!”
Blake and Weiss surged forward able to make the paladin retreat with their furious dancing blades. However, they only managed to do superficial damage beyond breaking a few sensors.
Torchwick took back the offensive and tried to blast the girls apart with the paladin’s guns and assortment of missiles. One hit Weiss and threw her back, but knowing that Blake could keep all the missiles at bay with some fancy blade work and enough speed, she shot a glyph at Blake’s feet. A giant clock face appeared and its hands began spinning at an incredible rate charging Blake with the temporary power to cheat time.
Torchwick launched another salvo, but it was no match for Blake as she quickly sliced and diced each missile blowing them up before they could get anywhere near their targets.
“Ladybug!” commanded Ruby as she shot by. She and Blake took to the paladin’s legs and slashed at them in quick, passing strikes. Torchwick fired, but missed as both Ruby and Blake jumped skyward. A beeping sound alerted him as two objects quickly descended on him and with two mighty slashes, one of the paladin’s arms was taken off.
As Blake and Ruby retreated, Yang jumped onto the back of the paladin and started to unleash hell. With each hit, she violently shook the paladin and Torchwick both.
Thinking fast, Torchwick accelerated the paladin backwards and smashed Yang into a pillar that held up the highway. As she fell, Torchwick pulverized Yang with the paladin’s fist sending her through the pillar.
“Yang!” called Blake.
“Don’t worry,” advised Ruby. “With each hit, she gets stronger. And she uses that energy to fight back.”
Yang got up slowly. She had been hit harder than she ever had been before. She felt the pain. Every bone, muscle, and nerve urged her to stay down, to stay out of the fight. But from the pain, a new feeling was growing. It rose within her and set her ablaze.
Torchwick went for another punch, just as powerful as the last, but Yang stopped it with a single hand. She tossed her hair out of her eyes and revealed the blood red they had become. She growled, and with a mighty battle cry, she gave an even mightier punch shattering the paladin’s arm all the way up to its shoulder. Torchwick, his face now full of warning lights, retaliated by kicking Yang, sending her flying past Blake and Ruby.
Before Ruby could even say “Bumblebee!” Blake had tossed Gambol Shroud at Yang and held onto the ribbon as Yang caught the other end. Blake pulled it taut and swung Yang around. She went to kick the paladin, but Torchwick dodged at the last second.
“We have to slow it down!” said Ruby.
“And how do you propose we do that?” asked Weiss.
Ruby and Weiss flourished their weapons. Ruby brought Crescent Rose down and cocked it while Weiss formed an ice-based glyph in front of it. Ruby fired as fast as she could and bullets laced with ice Dust struck the paladin freezing its gadgets, gizmos, and joints.
Blake still had Yang at the end of the Gambol Shroud and swung her partner forward again. Yang’s anger had gone unabated and her hair was now showing signs of flame. She came around again and put all her strength into one last punch.
The hit connected with the paladin’s face and it was thrown across the area, shattering on impact and revealing Torchwick. He got up and dusted himself off. “Just got this thing cleaned!” He looked up and saw Yang. She fired a shot at him.
Torchwick cowered but had no need as a petite girl with tri-colored hair dropped before him and held out her parasol which sheltered them both form the blast. She stepped back, smiling smugly.
“Ladies!” said Torchwick as they approached. “Ice Queen.”
“Always a pleasure. Neo, if you would.”
The girl bowed, but Yang had had enough. She charged again and punched—the girl and Torchwick shattered like glass.
Yang quickly recognized the illusion and looked around. A Bullhead airship passed by with the smug faces of Torchwick and Neo disappearing behind its closing hatch. The others joined Yang.
“So I guess he got himself a new henchman.”
“Yeah,” said Weiss. “I guess she really made our plans… fall apart.” Weiss snickered. Even Ruby smiled.
But Yang, “No. Just no.”
“What! But you do it!”
“There’s a time and a place for jokes.”
“Was this not it?”
“No. It just wasn’t very good.”
“At least I’m trying!”
Blake then said to Yang, “You’re just jealous because you didn’t say it first.”
Suddenly, Ruby had a revelation. “Hey. Where are Sun and Neptune?”
At a food stand not too far way called A Simple Wok Noodle House, Sun and Neptune were helping themselves to the house special. “They’re probably fine. Right?” said Neptune, trying to assuage his guilt.
“Probably,” said Sun, stuffing his face.