The air raid siren blared long and loud.
The citizens scattered through the streets of Atlas City as soldiers, hunters, and robots--all that the military and academy could spare after sending such a large force to aid Mistral--rallied to the defense. Among them was the specialist, Winter Schnee, who looked out to sea amidst one of many towering cannon turrets and bore witness to the dire tide that threatened to wash the kingdom away.
Grimm. Thousands of them. Maybe millions. Whatever the full strength may have been, it made the force that had conquered Beacon Academy look like a raiding band.
What could've drawn such a massive force to Atlas so quickly? Did it have anything to do with the news of Weiss' disappearance? Of Jacques' atrocities being known to the public? Were the rumors that he had planned to restructure the company true or not? And what about the whispers of Dr. Polendina building a second P.E.N.N.Y.? Of Ironwood's alleged plot to take over the council?
Winter had suspected that all of these rumors had something to do with the man called Watts, but now wasn't the time to investigate; now was the time to fight. She had faced great hordes of Grimm many times in her life, but never one so huge and of such single-minded fury as this.
As the nearest Great Blackjaw swam to shore, Beowolves and Ursa packed to the brim on its back, a single word escaped Winter's lips.
With a thunderous roar, the turrets opened fire, their rounds crashing down on the Great Blackjaw and its passengers and engulfing them in columns of fire and water. But as the operators reloaded, more Great Blackjaws reached the shore, carrying more Grimm to storm in.
"FIRE!" shouted Winter again.
Again, the turrets opened fire, devastating more of the Great Blackjaws landing. Then, a fell shriek pierced the sky, urging Winter to look up. Nevermores and Gryphons flew through a hail of bullets from the machine gun nests nearby, and though many were shot down, those that made it through set to work, tearing through the cannons.
Winter would have none of this. "FIRE AT WILL!" she shouted as she drew her swords and charged at the nearest Nevermore. Bouncing off the fallen cannon turret with a glyph at her feet, she jumped onto its head and plunged her cutlass where its skull cap met its neck, killing it. As she looked up to strike down the next Grimm, an Gryphon swooped in and knocked her down. She rebounded with a glyph projected behind her and rose to strike the Gryphon down, but it flew out of her reach and struck down the cannon operator nearby.
Many a soldier fell to the oncoming horde, which by now had all but overrun the shoreline. All Winter could do was rally the survivors and retreat into the city.
"Specialist Schnee," an officer reported in while crouching behind a large crate.
"Where's the rest of your platoon?" asked Winter, her swords bathed in Grimm blood.
"Wasted," replied the officer. "And we will be too if we don't get out of here."
"And who gave you permission to do that, soldier?"
"Nobody, ma'am, but with all due respect--"
"Respect nothing! We will defend this city--this kingdom--with our lives! Now, get in there and fight! Understood?"
The officer picked up his rifle and stood at attention. "Yes, ma'am!"
Indeed, it was a dire situation, but not one that couldn't be won. The Grimm had all but overrun the city square, but none yet had approached the academy, where Ironwood and his cohort were stationed. It took a while, but the full might of the Atlesian military would rise to meet the Grimm force. After what seemed like an eternity, the Grimm started thinning out, Atlas' victory seemingly in sight. As Winter continued to battle her way through the now fleeing horde, she spied what appeared to be a human figure riding atop a Nevermore's head...
Headed straight for the Schnee manor.
Winter gasped and darted after the Nevermore and its rider, but with her aura all but spent, she couldn't project any glyphs that would carry her to keep pace with it. She could only watch as it circled over the manor she once called home and drop the rider into the courtyard below.
It was too late.
The mansion lay half in ruins, the silence broken only by the panicked cries of dying staff. And there, at the center of the courtyard, impaled on the broken half of a Nevermore's feather, was...
"Mother..." the horrified Winter mouthed, barely able to step forward and meet this corpse. Tears formed in her eyes as she almost dropped her swords, but there would be time to mourn her later. Whoever--or whatever--this humanoid was had to be stopped.
Racing throughout the mansion, she searched for any trace of the Grimm, but everywhere she looked, there was only death and devastation. It was nothing new as far as the horrors of war were concerned, but never had they struck so close to her, even to a home she hadn't seen for...she didn't even know anymore.
But then, she came into Weiss' room, the window to the front yard still shattered from Weiss' first voluntary summoning. There stood, poised to kill Klein and Whitley with a crudely fashioned spear, was the humanoid.
She had never been on speaking terms with Whitley, nor had she even known Klein but in passing, but judging from the expressions on their faces, Jacques, the man she begrudgingly called "Father," was dead too. Though she had never approved of his trying to decide her future or his dragging the Schnee name into the ground, she still knew of some small spark of genuine love in his otherwise desolate heart.
If only there had been time to find that spark. If only there had been time to reconcile. To forgive.
But now was the time to fight.
"Get away from them," she growled at the humanoid--the pale visage of a huntress long thought to have died with Beacon's Central Communications Tower.