The phone’s shrill churring echoed through the empty kitchen.
The tones of a phone do not, inherently, create cause for alarm. Granted, at this juncture, most hardwired phones have been swept aside with their replacement, the ubiquitous Scroll occupying its customary place in society. But a phone’s ringing is not noteworthy.
But this phone is associated with a particular number; and that number is associated with a peculiar man.
Tycho Brahe entered the kitchen from a side door and inhaled sharply through the nose, eyes fixated on the ringing phone.
Jonathan Gabriel followed, slightly slouched over. He looked at the phone, then at Tycho. Then at the phone again. “The phone’s ringing.”
Tycho’s mouth widened into a close facsimile of a smile. “Oh, I know.”
Not twenty minutes later they were in the air, a transport taking them from Vale towards a castle-like structure in the distance.
Gabe slouched in the Bullhead’s seat. “Kinda strange, isn’t it?”
“Undoubtedly,” Tycho muttered, body forward and hands steepled. “For someone to call is peculiar on its own. Second, a call from Beacon is intriguing, for they typically keep business within their own ranks. Third, it was from Ozpin . And for Ozpin to reach outside of his own circle of confidants is doubly bizarre.”
“Do you think this is about —”
“No,” Tycho said, retrieving a pair of glasses from a coat pocket and a small, worn journal from another. The scratching of pencil against paper was near inaudible under the sound of the engines. “These are serious matters. If it was about the methods we used in our final exams, well, he’d have pulled us aside a lot sooner.”
“We’ll be arriving soon,” the pilot said over the comms.
Beacon had been built as a citadel as well as school; Tycho could trace the lines of the walls that had once encapsulated the whole of the academy. Even now its distance and location made it risky to venture any sort of attack.
“It’s been a while,” Glynda Goodwitch said, greeting them. Her perpetual frown was set perhaps even deeper by Ozpin’s selection of guests; from her experience Tycho Brahe could be insufferable and his temper was legendary for good reason, and his cohort Jonathan Gabriel was a known troublemaker , and together she didn’t know how their alleged office hadn’t burnt down.
“A pleasure,” Tycho said, hand outstretched.
Glynda reluctantly shook it and turned to lead them toward the center of Beacon.
Ozpin’s office was, as per usual, grand in both sense of grandeur and scale . Tycho had often wondered to himself the necessity of an office of its scale. One did not need many square meters to file paperwork and see students concerning mere academic troubles. Indeed, Tycho had seen on more than one occasion the smaller interrogation room where more serious headmaster-student meetings took place. But, Tycho conceded, the massive and borderline garish office kept with Ozpin’s aesthetic.
“Good afternoon,” Ozpin said, rotating in his chair.
Ozpin sighed at the pair. “You’re no doubt wondering why I called you.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” Tycho said.
“I need an outside consultant,” Ozpin admitted. “As loathe am I am to admit it, you’re the foremost expert on many subjects of a, perhaps, unorthodox branch of study.”
“You mean the occult shit,” Gabe half-asked.
“Yes, I mean the occult shit ,” Ozpin muttered out, eyes shut in frustration.
“It’s true,” Tycho said, disregarding the exchange. “I, personally, am rather knowledgeable on these matters. Gabriel, as my partner has — via osmosis — gained some modicum of understanding of the nature of the universe.”
“Yes.” Ozpin closed his eyes. “I need your help concerning events unfolding currently in Remnant with a strange pattern. I’ve begun to theorize there may be some...higher power among Grimm.”
“Vague,” Tycho said, his mind instantly starting to work. “But not altogether unheard of . Researchers and mystics alike have, over the years, debated the existence of such a creature.” Tycho took a deep breath as if to start a new and much longer train of thought before Ozpin cut him off.
“We can discuss the details later. I have another request,” Ozpin said. “I’d like you two to, well, assist with the upcoming year. With the Vytal Festival and all, well, I’d like to have an ‘ace in the pocket’ if things eventually go south. You’ll be compensated, of course.”
“Indeed,” Tycho said. “From what I understand organized crime has been on the upswing, and it would make sense for you to hire private contractors, even as unorthodox as we are. What were you thinking?”
The pair had spent the ride back in silence, Tycho scribbling notes and poems into his journal and Gabe sketching in his own book. It wasn’t until they reached the doorstep of their office that Gabe spoke up.
“So it would seem,” Tycho said, opening the door into their home. “A small, cushy position teaching a small group of students interested in literature, a class whose description is almost intentionally dull and vague in the hope to deter students from it.”
“I got that part. But that’s your shit, dude.”
“And yours is the bit where Ozpin doesn’t think the Vytal Festival will go to plan. Let’s pack,” Tycho said. “Grab anything you’d like to have for the next nine months.”
Midway through packing, Tycho looked up at the shelves on the wall. Most of it was various trophies of various jobs and cases they’d taken: the thoroughly thrashed remains of Tycho’s original weapon, a submachine gun with a decidedly noir theme; Gabe’s original gauntlets, right fist cleaved in two; and a jar containing a skull floating in what seemed to be something between blue flames and water.
“Grab Jim,” Tycho said, pointing at the jar.
Gabriel hefted the jar into his arms, skull slightly shifting in response. “You know, I’m still not certain this is Jim.”
Tycho placed a box of shells atop his box of books. “It’s his skull, and the ritual bound his remaining Aura to the object.”
“He can’t speak.”
“Well, skulls aren’t in the habit of speaking. They lack the organs to do so.”
The liquid in the jar shifted from blue to red and began bubbling.
“Calm down, Jim,” Tycho said. “Listen, we’re not gonna talk about the incident . Save that if I hadn’t acted that fast, you’d be lost to the aether.”
The red liquid somehow grew deeper in color.
Tycho frowned. “Well, I’m sure the aether wouldn’t be much fun. It’s nothing . At the least, you’re among friends.”
The skull seemed somewhat placated at that and settled to the bottom of the jar.
“So. Teachers,” Gabe said, setting the jar atop a stack of boxes.
“Professors,” Tycho corrected. “Are you surprised?”
“Kinda. Ozpin didn’t like us.”
“He did not ,” Tycho said. “But he allowed us to graduate with full honors.”
“This is some fuckin’ weird shit.”
Gabe paused in his packing, having finished his side of the room. “Wanna do something tonight?”
Tycho glanced to his watch. Indeed, it had become late; the pair had been packing for hours, save a short break for a meal. “What were you thinking?”
Gabe raised an eyebrow in that knowing way. “Pub?”
Glynda Goodwitch’s frown deepened.
Ozpin raised an eyebrow. “You forget their skill,” he said. “If you’d like I can pull up the records of their practical examination.”
“It’s not that,” Glynda said.
“Then it’s their destructive tendencies.”
“It makes little difference,” Ozpin said. “Ever since their initiation I understood that they were unusual. The pair are certainly destructive, but pure interference has its own benefits in the right situation.”
The bar was decidedly seedy. Tycho had theorized, at points, that it was likely a front for organized crime; it certainly explained the disproportionately sized storage rooms in the blueprints. But it didn’t matter too much to Gabe and Tycho; the bar had been a valuable point of contact for informants and various other seedy types they’d encountered.
The pair entered and made a beeline to the bar.
“Jonathan Gabriel and Tycho Brahe — the defectives, ” the barkeep said. “You got a lot of nerve coming here after what you pulled.”
Gabe started, “Is this about the, uh —”
Tycho cut him off by slamming down money onto the counter. “Two beers, and a round of questions.”
“That’s no small amount you’ve got there,” the barkeep growled, two glasses slamming down onto the bar. “What would you like to know?”
“Crime,” Tycho said. “It’s up. I’d like to know why.”
The barkeep glanced back and forth furtively. “You understand they’ll have my neck if word gets out that I told you anything?”
“I understand,” Tycho said, producing another card from his pocket. “But this combined is enough for transport to Vacuo.”
The barkeeper's voice went quieter, barely audible above the bar’s nighttime din. “There’s a new ‘boss’. Apparently this rash of Dust theft has been part of some longer plan.”
Gabe raised an eyebrow. “Do you know who this boss is?”
“Nope. Orders come down through lackeys.”
“Then that’s it,” Tycho said, ending the conversation. “If you have any developments, call me.”
Traditionally their day started with coffee.
The coffee maker in their office was a gift from Gabe to Tycho around their mutual graduation. It was a fine machine and Tycho kept it well-maintained. Tycho enjoyed the beverage as unsullied as possible, while his counterpart preferred to flank it with cream and sugar and usually some other flavoring — but the pair did tend to start their day with coffee and usually cereal.
“Not a lot of stuff today,” Tycho said. “Haven’t had a proper job in damn near a month. This’ll be good pay, hopefully not much trouble. Finally, a case where we’re not in mortal peril every five minutes.”
Gabe finished his mouthful of cereal and spoke: “So if we’re teachers, what kind of students are we teaching?”
“Probably a few hard-working students,” Tycho said. “The type to naturally gravitate toward peculiar and unusual classes. And while this entire ordeal may merely be a farce to obfuscate our true purpose — that is, as private security reporting to Ozpin — I still want to make this a rewarding enterprise for whoever should find themselves under our tutelage.”
Gabe paused. “Again, that’s your shit.”
“Right,” Tycho said, hands steepled. “I’m going to have to draft a few lesson plans.”
Gabe sighed. “I’ll finish packing.”
Blake Belladonna had little need for extracurriculars but the necessary steps had to be taken to ensure she didn’t stand out; the less unusual she could appear the better.
Her perusal of the class list was done quick and methodically, ticking a mark at every class she was vaguely interested in, including what appeared to be a new arrival to the class roster: Literature Studies.
She could do with an hour or two of reading time.
Weiss Schnee didn’t want to seem overly enthused at the prospect of leaving; her facade was fairly opaque at this point. So it was with a steely demeanour that she rifled through the paperwork to finish her preparation for Beacon.
She marked down every extracurricular class that appeared to be in the realm of challenging. If things worked out, she’d be team leader and valedictorian all at once.
Glynda Goodwitch handed a list of classes off to the young girl.
“Oh, sweet,” she said, reading them over and marking particular ones off before coming to the end of the list. “Hey, what’s this one?”
The Professor took the list back and read the blurb that the girl pointed at. Then she sighed and handed it back. “Tycho Brahe’s class,” she said, as if the name was, in itself, telling of all that would occur within the class.
“Yeah, but what does that mean?” The girl snatched the list back and re-read the description. Then, as if gleaming something beyond the text, she marked her approval with a small “X”.
Goodwitch’s stoic demeanor broke at that. “Wait, why?”
“I, uh, think it means that he’s gonna talk about stories,” Ruby Rose said, bordering on a question.
Tycho, and to a lesser extent Gabe, noted the arrival of students with no small amount of trepidation along with some small level of curiosity. The incoming students’ initiation went by with requisite fanfare; the students were appropriately sorted into teams bearing vaguely word-like acronyms.
Literature Class finally rolled around a week or so into the term.
Not two steps into the door, Weiss Schnee was beset upon by Ruby Rose, whose Semblance was, apparently, the ability to be in every single one of her classes.
“Hello,” Weiss said, slightly frowning.
Ruby’s smile grew even wider, somehow. “I didn’t know you had this class!”
“I do,” Weiss muttered, sitting at a desk and looking around.
Professor Brahe (and Gabriel)’s classroom, not that Weiss would have known, was littered with trophies of various types: not the garish meat-trophies Port might display or the traditional sport-type ones in Beacon’s trophy room but rather mementos with deep sentimental value to the detectives.
All Weiss saw was a bunch of shit, though.
“Is that a skull in a jar?! So cool,” Ruby said.
The liquid around the skull turned slightly pink, as if it were blushing.
At once, a door was thrown violently open. “Good afternoon,” a man said, emerging from the doorway. “Welcome to Literature.”