Penny Polendina sits alone on an examination table in Pietro Polendina’s Atlas laboratory. A robotic arm reaches out and gently pats her head, before moving away. She sadly looks at her reflection in a nearby glass wall.
Ironwood: Citizens of Mantle - Following the most recent Grimm attack, a temporary prohibition of assembly is in place.
The woman holds her child in a more protective manner and watches as three Mantas fly overhead.
Some buildings in the city have soldiers stationed atop their roofs.
Ironwood: There are to be no public gatherings of any kind. Please conduct your business and return to your homes before curfew.
Two of the children Jaune Arc previously escorted to school are hiding behind a dumpster in an alleyway, while a soldier and a camera drone pass by.
Ironwood: This is for your own safety.
Two soldiers walk out from behind a corner and see two civilians walking along a sidewalk.
Patrol: Hey, stop right there!
Civilian: (gasps) Run.
The two civilians run away, and the soldiers pursue them.
Patrol: Stop running! Wait!
Newscaster: Though military officials have gone on record to say the footage was doctored, many citizens are still insisting that the Protector of Mantle be deactivated.
An armored truck drives past the TV’s and continues on its way down the road, while Robyn, Joanna Greenleaf and Fiona Thyme follow it via the rooftops. The Atlesian Knight-200 drivers bring the truck to a screeching halt when they find May Marigold standing in its path.
Driver: Civilian, you are obstructing an Atlas military operation. Please, step aside.
Down the road to the left, a pair of soldiers come running from around a corner to check on the source of screeching tires.
Soldier: Everything alright over here?
When the soldiers make it around the corner, they only see an empty intersection.
Soldier: Uhhh, hello?
May is using her Semblance to project a dome around the truck and the Happy Huntresses, which renders them invisible to all outside the dome. Fiona is sitting on the truck’s hood, while Joanna pushes the damaged AK-200 robots out of it. Robyn stands nearby, overseeing them. Fiona places her hand on the truck, and a shockwave travels from the truck to her hand, which shimmers with Aura. The truck begins disintegrating from the back, forward. Fiona jumps down from the hood, and the powder flows into a black hole in her palm, which disappears as she makes a fist.
Sometime later, Ironwood is in his office, reviewing footage of the truck becoming invisible.
Ironwood: This is the worst case scenario.
He angrily slams his fist on his desk.
Ironwood: More people are dead, Penny’s been framed, and somehow, Jacques Schnee is sitting on the council.
Clover: That’s the second shipment for Amity that was hit today. It seems election night was the last push Robyn needed to go from hometown hero to full-on vigilante.
Winter: I’m afraid the problem is more complicated than that.
Ironwood sighs and begins pacing behind his desk.
Ironwood: It seems Robyn has emboldened our suppliers in Mantle. They’re refusing to sell us provisions until the city is adequately repaired. With Robyn redistributing the goods her team has stolen, the Amity Project is completely stalled.
Ruby: But we’re so close. There has to be some way we can finish the tower.
Winter: There is - declaring martial law.
Ruby and Nora’s eyes widen, and they look at Ironwood, who stares outside through the window.
Nora: You’re not actually considering that, are you?
Ironwood: What’s more important? Establishing communications, unite the world? Or appeasing a few city blocks?
Nora: (emotional) Don’t make it sound trivial when you know it isn’t. You keep talking about how we just need a little more time, but you’re not the one having to struggle.
Ironwood turns around to face her.
Ironwood: We have all had to make sacrifices for the greater good. Mantle has had to bear a lot of the burden, yes, but--
Nora interrupts him and approaches his desk, becoming even more upset.
Nora: They’re bearing all of it! The longer this waiting game goes on, the harder each day gets for people down there and now you wanna send in more soldiers? You can’t just force people to fall in line. If you do that, you’ll just be trading all of these problems for the Grimm!
Ironwood steps forward and stares at her, eyes narrowed, while she stares back, panting. He lowers himself into his chair and rests his face in his hands. Ruby walks forward to stand next to Nora.
Ruby: Please, General Ironwood. Squeezing Mantle this way… That kind of division plays right into Salem’s hands.
Ruby rests a hand on Nora’s shoulder.
Ruby: That’s why Tyrian is here framing you.
Clover: Right, the reason we called you here in the first place. You’re sure this was the man you saw?
Clover steps toward Ruby, brings out his Scroll, and presses a button to project a screen that displays a file about Tyrian. The file contains a photograph of Tyrian’s face, as well as an image of Tyrian from undercover footage. Portions of the file’s text appear to be classified. The file reads:
Male. Faunus (Scorpion - Poisonous Tail). Age: Presumed Mid-to-Late thirties. Wanted for murder, assault, kidnapping, [section truncated - see attached criminal record].
Considered armed and extremely dangerous.
The following is an excerpt from Incident Report ███
Apprehended by Atlas and Mistral officers in joint operation [see attached Mission Report A_B12] with Mistral Huntsman, F. Pickerel. Prior to transport from Mistral to Atlas, Pickerel was insistent that additional units were necessary in guarding the prisoner. This request was denied. It is obvious Pickerel believed Callows would attempt to escape. Pickerel was removed from the transport team after failing to cooperate. █████████████████
At 0331 on the day of transport, a distress call from pilot T. Cornetto was received. Cornetto reported a “swarm of Grimm” had engaged their ship. Grimm activity in the area had been declared “minimal to none” 12 hours prior to the event [see GR_12]. Audio continued to transmit for another 6 minutes and 13 seconds. Over the course of the encounter the ship suffered extensive damage and was eventually split in two. The bodies of ███████████ were never found and it is presumed they were ████████████████. Cornetto continues to speak despite clearly suffering severe injuries from the crash. Most notable was his repeated phrase “What are you? What are you?” It is unclear to whom or what Cornetto was directing this question at. Immediately following this moment, Cornetto is fatally attacked by a Grimm. Callows’ voice is the last recorded. The suspect seems to be weeping before stating the word “Beautiful.” Transmission ends immediately.
No survivors were found. Tyrian Callows’ body was never found. He is presumed dead.
[UPDATE] The body of F. Pickerel has been found in his home. We are now declaring Callows ‘missing’. [Additional reading recommended. FA_01, MO_01, ███, WR_01-27]”
Winter: Tyrian Callows was accused of murders all across Anima. A homicidal maniac who escaped justice when his prison transport was attacked by Grimm. After that, he was never seen again.
Ruby: Well, he works for Salem and he’s here.
Qrow: If we ever had any doubts Atlas was Salem’s next target, I think those are officially out the window.
Ruby: But now we have a suspect. We can tell the people.
Clover: That a long-lost serial killer is loose in Mantle and the military has no idea where he is - might make things worse before they get better.
Nora: I am so sick of secrets! If we just told everyone about Amity, about Salem--
Ironwood: We can’t!
Everyone turns to look at Ironwood.
Ironwood: If we talk about Amity now, we risk Salem’s forces, who we know are here, working to sabotage it. If we tell them about Salem now, we risk falling to the Grimm before we can reunite Remnant.
Ironwood stands up, slamming his hands down onto his desk.
Ironwood: We have to finish the tower. I want Robyn Hill in custody.
Ruby and Nora look surprised.
Ironwood: We can offer her a deal if she gets Mantle to cooperate.
Clover: We’ll figure it out.
Ironwood: Anyone not assisting with Robyn needs to focus on Tyrian.
He begins heading for the door, hands clasped behind his back.
Ironwood: I want to know who he’s working with, where he’s hiding, what he’s planning, and how exactly that video of Penny got all over my kingdom.
He stops in front of the door and turns to look at everyone.
Ironwood: (sternly) Do I make myself clear?
Clover and Winter: Yes, sir.
Ren: Yes, sir.
Ruby and Nora give Ren a surprised look, and Ren stares calmly ahead.
In the early evening in Mantle, an armored truck drives along a road, passing by a grocery market.
Yang: Looks like we’re approaching 51st.
Blake Belladonna and Yang are riding inside the cargo area of the truck with their Scrolls in their hands. Blake is reviewing a file about Robyn’s thefts, while Yang is in a video call with Clover.
Clover: Thanks for the assist on this, you two. Now, we may all be split between different trucks, but we need to be ready to act as one in case Robyn’s team takes the bait. If your truck is hit, pursue immediately. Everyone else will move in as fast as possible. Going radio silent. Over.
The video call ends, and Yang collapses her Scroll’s screen, looking uncertain.
Yang: Do you… (loud exhale) Do you think we should’ve told Ironwood about Salem, before he put so much on the line for Amity?
Blake: Sounds like you do.
Yang: (sighs) I trust Ruby, but I think he deserves to know what he’s stepping into. We all did.
Blake remains quiet, her cat ears folding over a little. Yang turns and looks at her.
Yang: You don’t agree.
Blake collapses her Scroll and puts it away.
Blake: Look around. The embargo, the military presence, the restrictions on assembly. He’s a bit prone to overreacting.
Yang: Yeah, hard to argue with that. Still, he didn’t have a lot of good options.
Blake: I’m not sure there are many good options left for any of us anymore. Keeping secrets, taking lives? It makes you wonder how far we’re gonna have to go to keep doing the right thing.
Blake looks at Yang, who has a saddened expression with her eyes glimmering from emotion.
Blake’s eyes glimmer a little, and she looks away.
Blake: I know. But next time, I wanna make sure we don’t have to, and I can tell you, ambushing a Huntress who’s just trying to help isn’t an option I’m thrilled about choosing.
Blake crosses her arms, and her cat ears completely fold over.
Yang: Then, maybe we shouldn’t.
Blake’s cat ears stand upright, and she looks at Yang.
In Pietro’s laboratory, Penny is standing unconscious in a machine, with a thick blue cable hooked up to the bow on the back of her head.
Ruby: How is she doing?
Pietro: She’s confused, scared. We’ll have her recorded visual data shortly. That should prove her innocence, but the damage has already been done.
Weiss Schnee and Ruby are looking at Penny. Pietro and Maria Calavera are sitting behind the L-shaped counter, watching the news broadcast while it once again shows Watts’ edited video depicting Penny slaying Robyn’s party guests. The headline says “4 Additional Attendees Confirmed Dead”, and the ticker at the bottom says “Witness Describes Warehouse Massacre: “Horrific; Nobody Deserved This”” and “Atlas Authorities Urge Citizens to Remain Calm as Investigation”.
Pietro: The things people are saying about her…
Pietro lets out a frustrated grunt.
Pietro: If Penny hadn’t been there, Robyn would be--
Pietro begins coughing.
Ruby: I don’t think Robyn was their target. Salem’s goal has always been to divide us. I think Penny was exactly where they wanted her, just like at the Vytal Festival.
Pietro has turned off the TV. He turns his chair around to face Ruby and Weiss.
Pietro: And just like back then, someone is using our own technology against us. This doctored footage of Penny came from her work all around Mantle, stolen straight from our surveillance network.
Maria: Ugh, hacking, technology… Why can’t people just do what they used to and fight to the death? A lot simpler if you ask me.
Pietro: Well, if we’re dealing with the same enemy from Beacon, hacking into Mantle’s system would be easy. Fortunately, the rest of Atlas is running on an upgraded network.
Weiss: And how would someone get access to that network?
Pietro: (cleaning his glasses) Well, only a few people have clearance. Ironwood, the Council, our cybersecurity and surveillance leads, and maybe a select few who oversee critical systems like sewage or the heating grid.
Weiss puts her hand to her chin in thought.
Weiss: The heating grid run in partnership with the Schnee Dust Company.
Ruby: What are you thinking?
Weiss: I don’t know yet, but something isn’t right.
Maria: Understatement of the century.
Ruby: (to Pietro) And how are you doing?
Pietro puts his glasses back on and heads over to Ruby and Weiss.
Pietro: If Maria hadn’t offered to help me these past weeks, I’d have likely collapsed by now. Getting a communications tower into the sky seems impossible on its own, but now, to think of what people wanna do to my girl…
Pietro gets tears in his eyes, and his bottom lip wobbles as if he is about to cry. However, he begins coughing again.
Ruby: Even if the worst does happen, you can always reactivate her again, so maybe try not to worry so much.
Pietro: There’s a reason why Penny is the only one of her kind.
He heads back over to the counter and picks up a framed photograph of himself and other scientists from years ago. His right thumb covers the face of one of the scientists, and there appears to be an Aura transfer pod in the background.
Pietro: When the General first challenged us to find the next breakthrough in defense technology, most of my colleagues pursued more obvious choices. I was one of the few who believed in looking inward for inspiration.
Ruby and Weiss walk over to him.
Ruby: You wanted a protector with a soul.
Pietro: I did. And when General Ironwood saw her, he did too. Much to my surprise, the Penny Project was chosen over all the other proposals.
Weiss: Why would you be surprised? You created an artificial Aura.
Pietro: Well, not quite.
Pietro’s Aura flickers and becomes visible. There are several holes in it, with blackened edges. Ruby, Weiss and Maria gasp.
Ruby: You gave her part of yours?
Pietro: Yes, and each time I rebuild Penny, it takes a little more. If people get their wish and she’s destroyed, I won’t be able to…
He covers his eyes with his hand and begins crying. Maria, having gotten up from her seat and walked over, rests her hand on his arm. He sets the photo back on the counter. The scientist whose face he had been covering appears to be Arthur Watts.
Ruby: We’ll find whoever’s responsible. I promise.
Once again, May stands in the middle of the road, causing an armored truck to stop. Robyn opens the back doors. Her eyes widen, her shoulders tense, and she lets out a small startled noise. Yang and Blake are standing in the doorway with their hands up in surrender.
Robyn turns and waves her hand to signal her Huntresses.
Blake: No, wait!
Robyn and the other Happy Huntresses flee, and Blake and Yang chase after Robyn.
Robyn: Split up, and regroup at the hideout.
Robyn runs across a busy road, just as cars begin speeding by. She runs down an alley, while Blake looks up at a balcony across the street. Blake throws her kusarigama at the balcony and uses it to swing across the street and into the alleyway, where she gives chase. She swings the kusarigama and throws it at Robyn, who leaps over it, runs up a wall, and leaps across the alley, dodging another of Blake’s attempts to hook her. Robyn tucks, rolls, and turns to face Blake while deploying her crossbow. She fires three bolts in rapid succession, and Blake dodges them.
Blake: Please stop, we just want to--
Robyn charges forward and swings her weapon’s bladed wings at Blake, who blocks it with her katana. She swings again, but Blake blocks with her cleaver. Robyn spins around, places her foot on Blake’s leg, and uses it to leap into the air while pushing Blake down. She raises her weapon up and slashes downward as she descends. Blake puts both of her swords up to block and deploys a clone mixed with Fire Dust. Blake then fires her gun at the fire clone while she leaps back, just as Robyn brings her weapon down on the clone, causing it to explode. During the explosion, Robyn blocks with her weapon, and Blake does a couple of back-handsprings.
Yang jumps down from a roof to Robyn’s right and attempts to grab Robyn in her arms as she lands, but Robyn leaps away. Yang straightens up and shoots three fire bullets at Robyn, who blocks them with her weapon. Once the fire bullets are done hitting Robyn’s weapon, Blake approaches her and swings her katana, causing Robyn to step back and dodge it. Immediately afterward, Blake bends down, allowing Yang to run up her back and leap over Robyn, firing a bullet at her from above, which Robyn blocks.
Yang flips over Robyn and lands behind her, while Blake straightens up and spins around to slash with her katana. Robyn blocks the katana with her leg and then blocks a bullet-backed punch from Yang with her weapon a fraction of a second later. She turns to Blake while pushing Yang away, causing the latter to stumble. She then fires a crossbow bolt at Blake, who blocks it with her swords.
Robyn turns around to face Yang, who has steadied herself, while Blake sheathes her cleaver and shifts her katana into kusarigama mode. Robyn slashes at Yang, who blocks with her gauntlet. Blake throws her kusarigama, and Robyn leans out of its way. Yang catches the sickle and pulls, while Blake leaps toward Robyn. Blake puts her feet out in front of her, being pulled by Yang, and once her feet plant themselves against Robyn’s abdomen, Blake kicks off from her, sending her into a circular pavilion. Robyn slides to a stop and backs away, while Blake and Yang run to meet with her. She glares at them from the shadows, gripping her arm.
Robyn: If Ironwood wants me, he’ll have to send more than a couple of kids.
Yang: He is. Stopping the trucks alerted the Ace-Ops. We don’t have long before they arrive, so please listen to us. You need to know the truth.
Robyn: You’re stalling.
Blake: (quickly) Amity Colosseum, all these supplies, they’re for…
Blake pauses and looks to Yang, who nods to her.
Blake: They’re for a new communications tower.
Robyn: That doesn’t make any sense.
Yang: A new tower means the kingdoms can finally--
Robyn: I know what the tower means, Fisticuffs.
Robyn steps out of the shadows and into the moonlight, extending her hand to Blake and Yang.
Robyn: One of you take my hand.
Robyn: You said time is short. Either take it, or I’m gone.
Yang looks at Blake with uncertainty. Blake cautiously walks forward and takes Robyn’s hand. Pale lilac Aura manifests over their hands and forearms.
Robyn: Tell me again what is Ironwood building out in the tundra?
Blake: A new communications tower. He’s trying to help... everyone.
The Aura abruptly turns green, and Robyn lets go of Blake’s hand in surprise, the Aura quickly returning to its former lilac color as she does so.
Robyn: You’re telling the truth.
Blake backs away, looking at her own hand in surprise.
Yang: Handy Semblance. (smirks)
Robyn: Why keep that a secret?
Blake: Because he doesn’t know who he can trust. Atlas isn’t out to get anybody. The people murdering civilians in Mantle are just trying to make it look that way. And if those same people learn about Amity, they’d do everything in their power to destroy it.
Robyn: So, who are “they”? Who’s actually behind this?
Harriet: (over communicator) Yang, Blake, where are you?
Yang: We can’t tell you that part yet.
Yang takes a few steps toward Robyn.
Yang: Look, we are trusting you, so trust us when we say that Amity Tower needs to stay a secret until it’s done. We just need a little more time.
They hear soldiers’ voices echoing in the distance.
Soldiers: This way, come on, over here. We saw them over this way.
Blake: Run, we’ll throw them off.
Blake runs away. After a moment, Robyn backs away into the shadows.
Robyn: I won’t stop until I know the whole truth.
Robyn runs off, and after a couple seconds, Yang runs in the opposite direction.
Ironwood: It’s right behind that door.
Oscar: The Staff of Creation.
Ironwood: I hoped bringing you down here might jog some memories. After all, it was your idea to use the Staff to lift Atlas off the ground.
Oscar: I thought Gravity Dust kept Atlas afloat?
Ironwood: Eh, that’s the public story. (walking forward) But with the Staff, we have a constant, seemingly limitless energy source. Oz once speculated it could take us as high as we wanted. To tell you the truth, that served as the inspiration for the Amity Project. Get a communication tower up in the sky, higher than the Grimm can survive so we never lose contact with each other again.
Oscar: But you’re not using the Staff to raise Amity.
Ironwood: The Staff can only be used for one purpose at a time. We’re going to have to do Amity the old fashioned way, Dust and all.
Oscar: It feels strange, knowing that part of me helped come up with all this.
Ironwood: You’ll get used to it, I’m sure. Eventually, you won’t even know who’s who anymore.
Oscar looks somewhat upset.
Oscar: (quietly) Right.
Ironwood: We... didn’t always see eye to eye, but... I wish I could ask Ozpin what he thought of all of this.
Oscar walks forward to stand next to Ironwood.
Oscar: Well, I can tell you what I think. The path you’re heading down where you’re the only one with the answers, where you do the thing you think is right no matter the cost, it’s not going to take you anywhere good.
Ironwood walks back toward the elevator, leaving Oscar standing alone.
Ironwood: We have to stop Salem. Nothing matters more.
Oscar: Some things matter more, I think.
Ironwood stops walking.
Oscar: Keeping our humanity. It’s what makes us different from her.
Ironwood resumes walking and stops in front of the elevator’s control panel. He taps the screen.
Ironwood: Sometimes I worry that’s her greatest advantage. Without humanity, does she still feel fear? Does she ever hesitate? When Salem hit Beacon, even with all my ships, all of my soldiers... I was no match for her. I’ve never felt so helpless.
Ironwood stares intensely at the control panel. In his mind, the panel and the environment around it change to the interior of a military ship with a black queen chess piece displayed on its control panel. Red lights flicker on and off, and machines whir.
Ironwood: The way she told me she was there.
The control panel emits a noise, and Ironwood is brought back to reality. He looks up as the elevator platform arrives.
Oscar: It’s okay to be afraid. You just can’t let that fear control you.
Ironwood: I am not going to end up with Lionheart. (looking at Oscar) Do you believe in me?
Oscar takes a split second to think and then walks to the elevator platform.
Oscar: I do believe in you, but not only you. I think the best thing you could do is sit down and talk with the people you’re most afraid to.
Ironwood: (chuckles) Now you are starting to sound like him.
Ironwood walks onto the platform, and the elevator begins rising through the shaft.
In the main level of Atlas Academy, Penny is fidgeting with her hands while Winter paces back and forth behind her, holding an envelope. There is a low whirring, and the elevator beeps, prompting Winter to stop and Penny to look up. Ironwood and Oscar exit the elevator.
Ironwood: Winter, what is it?
Standing at attention, Winter rigidly hands Ironwood an envelope with a wax seal bearing the Schnee family emblem. Ironwood opens the letter and reads it, his eyes widening slightly after a few moments. He looks at Winter, who stares at him.
Oscar: What’s going on?
Ironwood: It looks like you’re getting your wish.
Winter: My father’s first act. We’ve all been invited to dinner where the General will be defending his seat on the Council.