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Night City Legends

Act 2: Running along the Edge

Chapter Twenty-Four: KILL THEM ALL!

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Oh no... oh shit! Just what the hell was he doing?

"David?" Naruto felt his voice crack as he croaked out the teens name and suddenly became all too aware of his place in the universe, namely ankle deep in the greymatter of one now very dead gangoon. An already horrifying position to find himself in but made all the worse by what he prayed was another hallucination. "What the… why are you here?"

Naruto knew how he looked, sunken eyes with dark rings while his one organic eye was redder than the devil's asshole, clearly still under the effects of that junk but at least he wasn't too far gone. But the moment he saw the look on the teens face, it was as if the entirety of his being had melted down to the soles of his feet while a sense of disbelief and shame fought to fill the void

With the others quickly coming in behind the teen it hit him and he remembered that Jackie had a fight here tonight. Well at least that explained why he kept feeling like he had forgotten something.

"Naruto that was the so fucking preem," David felt his face ache with how wide he was grinning, the teen repeated, having run onto the food court without a care for the carnage the man was currently standing in, "did you find the bastards that hurt mom?"

"David, I…" Naruto nearly staggered

After what happened with Sixth Street, the blond told himself that he wouldn't do anything like this again and what did he do? Another rampage and for what, payback? Didn't he also tell himself that he wouldn't kill them? Oh fuck, what would David think?

Still excited, David came to a stop in front of him, looking at the dead man laying flat on his back at their feet. Mouth agape in a soundless wail, skull broken and deformed, even one of his eyes looked like it was bulging out of its socket as the pool of blood continued to pool. "I knew I recognized that gonk. Naruto, that was the guy! I remember him behind the wheel! You zeroed him!" Vik, Misty, and Jackie brought up the rear, each sharing a look at what they heard but Naruto was still stunned at David's words, heart pounding louder and louder in his ears until the teen suddenly caught him in an excited hug.

"You're the fuckin best!"

If Jackie was truly being honest… he'd admit to being afraid of his choom, it looked like that stim took his ass out back and worked him over with a bat. He was gonna have to talk to this pendejo about putting him in a shit situation like this. When he turned to glare at them after the kid called out he had seen the way his boy tensed up. Naruto had been ready to Slammit-on with them in less than a second and those eyes held no warmth or mercy in the slightest.

Now the two were hugging it out in the middle of a warzone like the end of Bushido Blade Two, although he had to admit, the look on his chooms face when David suddenly wrapped his arms around him laughing was amusing.

"Heh…. Hehe…" Naruto couldn't help it, this was too much. Here he was, strung out on combat stims like some booster and Davids looking at him like some sort of avenging hero as he's standing here ankle deep in what was left of Thrax's gray matter. His laughter earned him odd looks but he couldn't help it. David thought what he'd done was 'badass'. It felt like he had just come out of a fever dream as he returned the teens hug, "The best huh?"

If only David knew…

-xXx-

[Fuck off…]

( ノ ◕ ヮ ◕ )

(Flashback)

-xXx-

Today was definitely a day of discoveries for Angelica Whelan. If asked, she would proudly admit to liking it rough in the sheets but this was too much for her, who knew she liked this kind of thing? Being cuffed and pinned like this was totally a new experience and she may have gotten a little carried away when she bit his lower lip. He hissed, giving her the perfect opportunity to shove her tongue past his lips but fucking hell it sent shivers through her very core and made her knees buckle… although there may have been another reason for that.

Of all the things he expected, Naruto was nowhere near prepared to lock lips with this random pink haired ganger, even less so when she bit his lip and jammed her tongue down his throat with all the subtlety of a battering ram.

"Mphm!" The chain in his grasp slipped free, allowing the diva to drape her arms over his shoulders to pull him in a deeper, much more sensual kiss than it should've been.

It was like liquid fire touched his lips, melting away at his being… until he felt each and every judgemental stare sent in his direction. One clone even dispelled, bombarding him with the fresh new view of him pressed intimately against another woman under this godforsaken bridge. It felt like a kunai jabbing through his conscience and Glorias smiling face kept popping into mind which brought him back to reality. He couldn't do this, he had a mainline! Naruto tried to explain this, to break the news in such a way to keep things from getting out of hand…

But it didn't come out quite right…

"Mmphh!" He quickly leaned back, breaking the sudden kiss and headbutting the woman. "Get off me bitch!" The diva crumpled, legs buckling from the sudden strike but she didn't fall as the Shino pulled her arms from off of his shoulders and held them back in place, letting her head fall limp. "You trying to get me killed, I'm spoken for!"

Angelica saw stars from the blow, the brim of her hat standing straight up and nearly being knocked from head. But through the haze of static surging through her brainpan, the woman managed to get her shit back together to see the agitated scowl on his face as he tasted her lip stick or whatever the hell she had on.

"What the fuck is wrong with you Pinkie? You think I want your cock smeared lips on mine?" He snapped, if this chick thought she'd get away with screwing with him then she had another thing coming. "The only thing I want from you is a location. So cut it out with the games or I'll throw your ass over that barrier and into the river."

A threat made all the worse as on the other side of the thick concrete barrier less than twenty yards away was a completely vertical drop into the river some 30 feet below. Or if she was unlucky, onto one of the trash islands formed in various points along the bridges.

Angie wrinkled her nose and forehead, trying to ease the pain but unable to. "Ok, ok chill, I'm sorry, got caught up in the moment," she explained while pressing her head against her raised arm.

Kibas scowl twitched in confusion, "A moment? What moment? I'm not having a moment with you," he wouldn't screw around behind Glorias back like that and definitely didn't want any rumors floating around. "You piss me off and threaten to go back on our deal, how the hell is that us 'having a moment'? This ain't Watson-fucking-Whore! Now tell me what I want to know. Where is he?"

"Grand Imperial Mall. After someone turned the lights back on at the old park, the place has been seeing more action. He'll be there, both as security and a fighter."

"Security?" he repeated, thinking about it a little more. It would probably be a good idea to gather some Intel, even if the source couldn't exactly be trusted. But hey, he didn't have any other leads at the moment. "Tell me everything."

"Fine… shit, but for someone not interested," she shot him a teasing smirk and shifted, "Your cocks been pressing against me the entire time. You sure you don't want to go a round or two? I'm already good and wet," the instinct the words left her mouth, Angie saw him cock his fist back and flinched when it landed next to her head with enough force to dent the metal. Sure it was something many could do but having it happen barely an inch from her face rattled her, "Ok, I'll stop!

"Ow! hey you gonk bastard that hurt!" On the other side, one of the pissed off officers now detained inside their own rig was struggling to rub the back of his head which now had a lump. The others wondered what kind of Borged up fucked just punched a dent into the reinforced inner panel while the more observant of them realized that maybe they got off lightly in the earlyer scrap.

Naturally the scene was witnessed by the numerous denizens hidden around the area. Seeing rigs heading their way, many just chose to stay out of sight until they passed by but imagine their surprise at seeing the NCPD being ambushed for a breakout. More than one vid wormed its way onto the NET that day and while the city's police were of course embarrassed by the scandal in many circles it was vastly overshadowed by the reveal of a new face.

One Inuzuka Kiba, described as a mad dog of a man who walked into the middle of a NCPD raid and proceeded to fight every pig that tried stopping him. That particular series of vids would spread far and wide, becoming the final shove needed to push for the privatization of the Night City Police Force and worsening the already brutal tactics employed by said officers.

It was bound to happen, the writing was all but written on the wall but any remaining hope or goodwill left holding out dried up like rainwater out in the badlands.

All thanks to a Ghost and his Hound…

-xXx-

Just what the hell was going on? Regina crossed her arms and stared intently at the screen of her dataterm in disbelief at what she was seeing. When Naruto disconnected the call after claiming that he was about to go 'punch a pig in his snout', the former Media wanted nothing more than to know what went down. Little did she know that not only would her wishes come true but she'd get video evidence as well. Some gonk had not only scrolled the entire thing but broadcast the damn thing on the net with his own commentary.

That lens disrupter of his worked to blur his face and it was a smart move to give an alias considering what he was doing. NCPD chatter went through the roof the moment he knocked that officer out cold and even some of the more restricted channels started lighting up. If she didn't know any better she might've been fooled about the name that kept popping up too and… ah who was she kidding. Only one Merc in the city wore that orange getup.

But from what she was hearing over the wire, the guy that brawled with the police was described as having brown hair and eyes with red tattoos on each cheek and prominent dental work. Originally assumed to be affiliated with local Animal elements in the area.

Less than ten minutes ago it was reported that the convoy taking the unlucky gonks was ambushed. Just a few minutes away from the raid location, when the arriving units responded to their call for backup, they found seven very pissed off and ashamed officers locked in the back of the rig, muttering curses. And at who? As if she needed any more mystery to rack her mind over, the Shino's mercs were the ones responsible and the one calling the shots?

One brown-haired, brown-eyed guy wearing orange pants with red tattoos on his face. What the hell was going on and who the hell was she working with?

Those thoughts ended when the holo once again chirped with a new notification.

-xXx-

Upon leaving Angie to her own devices with both a busted nose and a bruised ego, Naruto hauled ass away from Kabuki and crossed the river in a blur of speed. Fueled by an icy rage that the drugs in his system continuously stoked he envisioned himself beating the ganger to ever increasing extremes the more he thought about it and boy did he have a one track mind… or so it seemed…

Fuck he was thirsty!

Naruto slapped the button on the next S.C.S.M and snatched the ChroManticore Lime from the receptacle before it even had a chance to bounce off the plastic. It crackled and hissed as he twisted the cap off but it was guzzled down with the desperation of a man lost in the badlands.

"Ahhh…" he leaned against the graffiti covered and belched his lungs out much to the amusement of the passersby going about their own business on the busy streets of Heywood near Reclamation Park. Then the aftertaste hit and made his expression sour, "Ew, ugh. Soldier pills are better than this," it was somehow both sickeningly sweet and bitter at the same time but nowhere near enough.

He needed another drink, just not… this.

Six cans of suspicious yet amazingly refreshing water, two hundred-eighty five eddies, and the sudden realization that he was a dumb ass that just got ripped off later, Naruto leaned against the grime covered SCSM and continued to down one after the other back to back. "Welp…" he paused to burp and ended up wiping his face down with the inside of his vest, having nearly spilled most of his fourth can like a complete gonk.. "I'm down to my last two eddies… again," Not that he could buy anything for two eddies in this city anyway.

"Ugh, filthy dorphers' ' hearing an annoyed sneer Naruto's head snapped to the side, instantly zeroing in on the speaker with an offended expression. Noticing his stare, she rolled her eyes, "you gotta issue creep?"

Before he answered, the blond slowly looked her up and down, she was an attractive woman, several tattoos, lots of chrome and EMP threading giving her a no nonsense Corpo vibe but her outfit of a light blue polymer business coat and barely fuck all else screamed joytoy. "I did… but then I realized your worse off than me so I'll let it slide," he shot back, carelessly waving her off with one hand, "I mean unless I'm hallucinating that your wearing a trashbag," he looked between her and one of the nearby bags piled against to the vending machines. The bags and her coat seem suspiciously similar to one another now that it had been pointed out. This revelation earned him an offended scoff from her and a hateful snap.

"Fuck you,"

Naruto's parting farewell of a childish expression and dual middle fingers went unnoticed despite him giggling at her stomping away. Precious yet traumatic memories of Sakura angrily doing the same while he pulled himself from a hole in the wall flashed in his mind's eye. Badly he noticed that she had made it several steps before ripping the coat off angrily then tossing it to the side.

"Keep it together," Naruto muttered to himself, wiping his face, that euphoric feeling was still there but his heart was pounding and now he was getting this weird cold sweat to go along with the sudden familiar sensation of snot on his upper lip while his eye twitched unwillingly."Oh nova, just what I need." Of course his nose started bleeding again, making him look like a certain perv from his memory "Hehehe, I look like Pervy Sage," Not that he realized it but he laughed like him too in that moment, earning a knowing look from a couple that heard him.

'No!' With a vigorous shake of his head, Naruto slapped himself to clear his thoughts, 'Focus, you have a job to do,' he continuously told himself before tossing his trash inside one of the four overflowing trash cans nearby. That was where he noticed several sheets of paper posted on a nearby light pole, most weather worn to the point of being eligible except for only one that looked much newer. The paper was crisp, it hadn't rained in a while so he knew it was recent but the face of a smiling young woman with curly blue hair caught his attention.

"Thirteen years old… poor kid," Naruto felt surprisingly little at the time and turned away, a bit disturbed with himself when he realized it before muttering "But it's not like I can save everyone anyway," a phantom ache in his left hand made him ball it into a fist but nothing more before a quick thought crossed his mind.

'Could these be related to what Norris was looking into?' Having acquired the datashard from the Padre and going over it one sleepless night, Naruto noticed that the lieutenant was looking into something other than the scavs he brutalized. 'I'll have to look into it later…'

"You really think I'ma get my circs heated over some joytoy hoe?" Naruto's eyes snapped over to the new voice and spotted a Valentino proudly strutting down the sidewalk with his holo held up to his face, "Trippin? Fuck you, the only time Ill trip over some puta is if the bitch falls on the damn floor. Don't get it crossed up girl, I want you but I don't need you."

As interesting that particular half of a convo was, Naruto felt himself growing restless and turned towards the remains of Pacifica off in the distance, the remaining lights of the Ferris Wheel faintly flickering defiantly against the gonks that regularly used them as targets. Blinking in a broken rhythm that fits the equally broken city in near perfect sync.

-xXx-

A small window popped up in a blur of data, making her frown, 'hn…something shaking the connection.' could be any number of things but that's why she was using this opportunity for a dry run. 'Need to take a look at the hardware again, somethings up with this tech.'

Any Netrunner with a damn knew better than to use any new deck without a decent shakedown, that went double for any custom scripts and daemons. Well, unless you wanted Netwatch or a rival runner to ping you.

After a quick few adjustments, the distorted window flickered to life, showing her holos vidfeed while she floated around her personal Net space. There weren't any controls per se, any command could be executed with a simple thought, from unleashing daemons on any unsuspecting runner gonk enough to poke around her domain to simply taking a peek at the weather out in Meatspace all without moving a finger. All thanks to the modded interface chipped directly into her brainpan.

"Gina? Haven't heard from her in a while," The Runner's virtual form was like that of a ghost, moving around her domain weightlessly with an odd mechanical grace. With a curious gaze, she stared at the pixels of data forming a small holo screen in front of her and opened the message.

[Hey Bug, you interested in some quick eddies?]

-xXx-

When Regina first learned about what the solo was planning, she hurriedly contacted an associate that she knew was operating around Pacifica. There was a shot that she might be able to do a little something with this, now she needed to get him onboard with her plan before he enacted his own.

Luckily, she caught him before he got too far. How he managed to make it all the way from Kabuki to the Grand Imperial Mall in Pacifica in such a short time baffled her. Did he have access to an AV or something?

[Hold up Naruto, look just hear me out! If you rush in without a plan his crew might delta and lay low.] Her words made him pause and seeing this, the fixer pressed forward, [GIM is Animal territory and has been for a while now. If you connect to an access point to the SubNet I can have runner choom work some magic.]

Naruto scowled slightly, "Look Regina, I really appreciate the thought but I don't really care about what they look at on the Net, I'm just here to kick some ass." He told her while picking his nose, some dried blood was annoying him and he couldn't seem to get it.

[It's more than that, she'll scrub through and find any deets on the others that she can. Should be able to clone his holo too, see if he's been in contact with the others] the Media deadpanned with an unamused look in her eye. [With that, should be able to get you the scoop on any locations,]

Regina had made a great point and as much as he hated it he knew it was the best move and had to give that bastard a pass for now. If he charged in like he wanted then the chances of finding his crew would dwindle and he couldn't have that happening.

"and in return?"

[Just let me have the paydata from their SubNet and I'll call it even,] she suggested, half expecting him to counteroffer like any other Merc when she-

"Deal,"

[?: Well that was easy,]

From his perch atop one of the unfinished skyscrapers, a hotel if he had to guess from the layout, Naruto heard the new voice and turned his attention fully to the call, "who's that?"

[Regina: Hold up, she's patching in now.] Another icon appeared and Naruto found himself greeted by a stone faced woman with a shaved head wearing one of those skin tight netrunner bodysuits. [Regina: Naruto this is T-Bug. T-Bug, Naruto,]

"Ahh… Hey?" The blond greeted lamely, not really sure what to say on the spot to the woman who gave him a simple nod in greeting.

[T-Bug: a pleasure, I've heard some things about you.]

He smirked, a normally goofy sight but with the state he was in it looked a bit more intimidating than he assumed with a slightly reddish hue staining them, "Oh?"

Bug nodded, [T-Bug: You're the solo that pissed off Rogue right,] His chuckle was all the answer she needed to know that he was indeed the one that pissed off the queen bee, [T-Bug: Well this should be interesting. Give me a sec and I'll piggyback off you. Find me an access point inside and I should be able to work my magic.]

Naruto grinned and nodded, "you do that. I'll get down there and find my way inside." Having been here before, he already had an idea as to where to go, that being a door by the mall's loading dock hidden down a service ramp around the back.

It had been a while since he'd been to the Grand Imperial Mall, aside from clearing out several of the security and maintenance halls in preparation for Rico and Ortiz to work their magic. This particular doorway had been the one he used last time but it looks like the gangoons that moved in afterward had made it their own, locking it.

[Regina: Looks like you need to find another entrance.

Naruto ignored her suggestion and raised his fist, pounding on the metal doors as if he wanted to knock them off the frame.

[T-Bug: Ah what the hell are you doing?]

"Knocking," he didn't even stop when he answered her, continuing to beat on the door like a man possessed the listening closely once he stopped

"Goddamnit stop beating on that fucking door!" He could hear a female voice bark from the other side, followed by a thump from the other side. From the way the door shuddered, he assumed that the person on the other side had kicked the door in response so he slammed his fist into it a few more times. "I'm opening it you cocksucker chill the fuck out!" A loud click came from the door but the sound of chains rattling made him pause. Why would they chain it from the inside of the lock worked? Naruto pushed the thought aside and hid behind the door as it opened, staying out of sight and palming one of the few kunai he had left.

"You stupid gonk, the hell did I say about beating on this goddamn-" The Animal sounded both irritated and confused when she didnt spot whoever it was and stomped out with both fists clinched, ready to strangle whoever was fucking around. "Where the fuck? Oh hell no, I did not just get fuckin-"

Naruto didn't even bother waiting for her to finish and slipped back around the door as she continued looking around. He wasn't even sneaking by this point and couldn't believe that this had actually worked.

"Psst, over here," A low kick to the back of her leg buckled her at the knee without warning, but Naruto caught her mid fall and kept her off balance with one hand covering her mouth and his blade finding her throat. "You make any sudden moves and I'll open you up from ear to ear, you refuse to answer me or anything but what I want to hear comes out of your mouth you won't live to regret it. Now how many of your crew is here tonight?

His grip on her face loosened, "Screw you!" She spat, taking a quick breath and yelling, "HEY-" but his palm slapped back down over her mouth, keeping her from alerting her pack.

"Warned you,"

As promised, the ninja slit her throat and left her with a grin from ear to ear. The moment he did she lost all will to fight and desperately tried to stop the bleeding by clutching at her neck.

It wasn't pretty, in fact it looked like the work of a real wild animal and not these over juiced muscle heads. The kunai made in this world were nowhere as good as the ones he had from the village. They may have been mass produced and easily replaced but they were made to be used, these things were functional displays at best.

'I need to find some new ones,' he thought in a huff, these needed maintenance, ripping instead of cutting.

He ended her suffering with one final thrust, stabbing her straight through her temple just next to a chip port above her ear. The gangers struggles ended quickly enough and Naruto yanked the blade free from her skull, putting it away with practiced ease.

[T-Bug: Well that's one way to do it.] T-Bugs sudden deadpan made him jump while on the way over an out of the way spot to hide the body. He couldn't believe he zoned out like that but turned back to the security door only to freeze.

[T-Bug: Well ain't that a bitch,] the Netrunner somehow managed to sound both sympathetic and not at the same time as he covered his face with one hand, fighting back the urge to scream. The door had long since closed on its own, leaving him right back to square one, still locked out except this time he had a new choom hidden in the corner. [T-Bug: So about that other door?]

"... Fine, let's go take a look…"

-xXx-

Naruto pouted in the security room deep inside the Mall, arms crossed with a long cable connected from his arm to the security dataterm. All the while, T-Bug skillfully worked her magic doing things that Naruto had less than a clue about while Regina had gotten him to access the cam feeds and managed to locate the ganger he wanted to have words with.

"Do you have everything?"

[Took everything I found from his system and their SubNet, give me a few hours and I'll be able to track their Meatspace location in real time. You should be able to sneak out the same way you came in, looks like the way is clear,]

Naruto disconnected his personal link with TBugs and went ahead and let the cord retract back into its slot in his forearm. "Let me know what you find on the other two, I'll go on and handle this one right now,"

Regina popped back onto the feed, her one eye raised, [What are you thinking?]

Naruto stretched as if getting ready for a light workout, "I really appreciate all your help Regina, you too T-Bug."

The runner shrugged, [it's all a gig to me, but I didn't sign up for any more than this.]

"Eh it's fine. Either way, I'll remember this and pay you back. But like I said, I'm not giving him a chance to slip away."

[You do that and you'll have every one of his chooms jumping in.] Reginareminded him one of the other women muttered something about stupid male egos.

"I know,"

-xXx-

"Hey Thrax!"

Hearing his name, the gangoon paused with his Broseph half raised and noticed this weird gonk little punk making a beeline towards him and his chooms. It was a blond guy, wore a puzzled expression on his face and both hands in his ugly orange vest pockets.

"Huh!?" Donna, a behemoth of a woman, loudly barked at the person coming up behind her, annoyed that he interrupted her, "you gotta problem runt? Running around here yelling and shit?"

Naruto's puzzled expression vanished once he neared and pulled a hidden kunai from his pocket, slashing the woman's throat in one smooth motion. Thraxs eyes closed instinctively as something covered his face but the woman didn't seem to react at first, still in mid sentence when blood spurt from the gangers lips.

Still wielding the kunai in a reverse grip, Naruto sucker punched their other man in his throat while spinning the blade around in his grip. "I wasn't talking to you!" He snapped to the woman who doubled over in the meantime, blood seeping through her fingers as she held the fatal wound. Her response was incoherent gurgles but the blond was already moving to take down the other gangoon, kunai a blur as he stuck the blade deep into the others chest multiple times in quick succession.

Thrax shook off the shock quickly but the damage was already done, Donna had fallen to one knee, blood pouring like an open faucet to the floor below while Stuart began to fall, half a dozen red splotches growing rapidly all over his chest, "G-guys! NO!" He screamed, drawing the attention of the random gonks that showed up to the mall earlier. But like a rabid beast himself, Naruto abandoned his weapon in the gangers chest and leapt towards Thrax, not giving him the slightest chance to attack or defend.

Unprepared for the madman, Thrax was in no way prepared for the sudden clash, the blond man screaming out the word 'Bastard!' as he grabbed him by the front of his tank top and suddenly sucker punched him as well.

-xXx-

High above Corpo Plaza inside the gunmetal behemoth marked with the Corps signature yellow accents with blazing red streams of data scrolling across the sides. Meredith Stout drummed her fingers impatiently as she read over her mail while waiting for various updates in her new office.

It was much more spacious than her last, mostly just for show as her new position in Militech Government Relations rarely called for her to do field work anymore. Back alley interrogations on the fly were a thing of the past, traded in for conference calls and meetings with even bigger gonks with much stronger backing.

Julian finally made it to her office with a few minutes to spare, his bio signature and several company implants being pinged by her security which allowed him to pass uninterrupted. Ever since that confrontation with his doppelganger and that damn warehouse she's been more paranoid and increased her office security.

But after the usual updates and reminder about her meeting later, which instantly put her in a foul mood, he got down to the unofficial report she'd been waiting on.

"Well I only have an update on Mr. Uzumaki left to forward to you," Julian said quietly under her harsh stare, which only worsened as she realized what he'd uttered.

"Julian, why the hell didn't you start with…" Stout started but trailed off while shaking her head dismissively. Reaching for her smoke which had burned halfway out as she worked, she swiped it up between her fingers and stuck it to her lips, "you know what, nevermind. Just send it."

The younger corpo reddened a bit and "Well it's only related to him, here's a preliminary report." He paused just long enough to send it directly to her personal dataslate which pinged in her hand as she reignited the nicostick.

"What the fuck?!" ash and embers scattered all over the desk as she nearly inhaled the filter upon reading. Julien stayed still and silently watched her get herself together and gave the report her full attention, "How long ago was this?"

"Less than an hour ago ma'am,"

Was Uzumaki planning on waging some kind of war against the NCPD? Or maybe she should question if he's already declared war and considering the report she continued skimming it certainly fucking looked like it or better yet, it looked like the Shino had.

The shit show with the Borged out soldier already raised a lot of eyebrows and now either he himself or one of his people, soldiers, things, whatever the fuck those masked goons were blatantly attacked them in the middle of a PR stunt and turned it into a major PR nightmare.

The more she read the redder she got, almost to the point where her assistant slowly took a step to the side so as not to be directly in front of her when she looked up.

"Damn it," Stout dropped the slate and crushed the remaining end of her smoke between her gloved fingers. "God fucking damn it!" This was just what she didn't need, more shit piled on top of the fucking pile.

"That's not the only thing ma'am," he continued, knowing that it would agitate her but nowhere near as much if he didn't bring it up. "There's more."

Stout fixed him with her icy stare and rolled her eyes, "Of course there is," after a second of waiting she motioned for him to send it over, which he did with a simple flick. It was such an interesting read that she stopped to light up a fresh smoke and slumped back with a frown before once again picking up where she left off

"Wait, am I reading this right?" The assistant nodded, already knowing what she was asking.

Leaned back in her chair, Meredith crossed her arms pensively and pictured it in her mind. Seven out of the eight little piggies all stripped of their standard issue equipment and stuffed in the back of their own rig.

*Snort*

The mental image was too much and she couldn't contain her amusement, 'I always thought the NCPD hired based on incompetence, guess they would hire clowns as well.'

Julian busied himself with a few small tasks as she did so, her own promotion meant one for him as well and while the pay was only slightly better he found himself enjoying this much more. No more following along as Stout handled conference calls while on the road… like the time she claimed that Gilchrist was still on the run when she already had him in custody. Knowing full well that the man was in the next room over having impromptu dental surgery by thing one and thing two.

The young man caught a glance of her amused smirk and quickly looked away, 'oh God she scares the shit out of me… Goddamnit, why'd she have to be such a dommy mommy… ugh, I have issues,"

"Yes, you do,"

Quickly turning to face her, the PA found Meridith staring directly at him with a raised eyebrow and twin trails of smoke coming from her nose and hesitantly asked, "Did… did I just-"

"Say that out loud?" He nodded and turned red when she nodded as well then went back to reading, "Yeah you did," Face rapidly approaching what felt like nuclear levels of heat, he wanted nothing more than to sink through the floor in mortification when she continued as if speaking about any other business, "Pull yourself together Julian, I already know you stare at my ass when your following me around."

With Julian momentarily out of action as he came to terms with this new and startling revelation that his boss knew about his wandering eye, Meredith continued to go over the provided report with keen optics to pick up any details that were not explicitly stated.

With the events in question happening less than an hour ago the deets presented to her here were spotty at best but she didn't believe that they were complete scop. Years of operational management taught her how to read between the lines and she could see that something was afoot and the number of players had increased.

Kiba Inuzuka.

She never heard this name before nor had she ever seen him before but the screengrab of him taken from an NCPD rig's dash cam caught her attention once again. This guy wore the same outfit Uzumaki did, she had no doubt that this Kiba gonk was connected to the blond Merc. The name itself didn't ping anything worth looking into so far but according to the report he was suspected to have ties to the Animals gang until Uzumakis people showed up and busted all of them out of police custody.

'You've been a busy boy, Uzumaki. Making some new chooms or something?'

And let's not forget the NCPDs other newest public enemy, known only by his blatantly fake alias of Detective Dang LynWang. He, like the others, had no qualms about kicking the NCPD and took it a step further by impersonating them.

The last one turned out to be the metaphorical wolf in sheep's clothing but that presented two problems. Uzumaki himself wasn't there and two new faces were… or was he? The Shino had already shown her that he could literally hide in plain sight by changing his appearance so why couldn't he look like someone…

That particular thought struck a nerve, something she thought before but only just now realized something chilling. If he wanted… Uzumaki impersonate anyone, ruin anyone. All it would take is an incriminating scene using another's appearance and they were screwed. Sure with enough eddies you could pay to clear your name and prove innocence but not many could afford the time or cred.

"Julian,"

Her voice broke him from his own mental screaming and made the man awkwardly clear his throat, still bright red in embarrassment, "Yes ma'am?"

"Clear my schedule for the rest of the day, I need to find out what the hell is going on," he nodded and diligently went about doing what she said, "I'm not going to let this blow up my goddamn face, use unofficial channels that you have to." The tone Stout used dismissing him left no room for questions, but then again he was too ashamed to voice them and immediately turned to leave the room.

"Oh and Julian," he stopped just before stepping out and turned back to her where she waved I'm back in, "Close the door," she waited for him to do so then continued, her fingers tapping at the edge of her desk "I promise you that if the words, 'Dommy Mommy' ever crosses your lips in regards to me again, I'll make your little wet dream a living nightmare."

Nodding once and still bright red the young man kept his gaze pointed down at the floor as he answered,"Y-Yes,"

"Yes what?"

"Yes Ma'am!"

She continued to stare at him cooly for a little longer than necessary but soon turned away with a simple yet dismissive, "Good boy,"

Julian ducked his head in embarrassment and turned to leave. This time making it into the hall and several steps away before freezing, "Wait…" he turned back with a baffled expression while looking at the now closed office door, "What does this mean?"

-xXx-

On the second floor a small ragtag group of punks were scrounging around through the remains of a once half decent arcade chain that no one cared to even remember anymore. Naturally the place had long since been ransacked, almost everything of monetary value had been klepped while the rest was left to rust or be salvaged for parts sooner or later.

A young man, barely even an adult from the thin, never before shaved streak of fuzz above his lip, hummed and hawed as he fiddled with the breaker box, "Maybe this?" He muttered hopefully under his breath waiting to hear anything to signal that he managed something.

*Buzz*

Ok that was a good sign, now to pop this back in-

*Pop*

A single blue flash nearly blinded the would-be electrician, happening so suddenly that poor Artie didn't even have time to clench his asshole before thinking that he might've flatlined.

A chorus of beeps and eight-bit chirps came from a row of untouched machines and a whoop of laughter was heard, "Hey Artie you did it!" Just after the laugh a young woman called out as she came around the corner to join him. "I'll admit, I didn't think you'd get 'em working but I guess you showed me," she was around the same age as him with brightly dyed pink hair rocking a well worn yellow Hybrid CrystalJock Bomber Jacket that looked like it had been repaired numerous times, "Nice work!" Finishing it off, she shot him a little smile and gave him a thumbs up

They weren't alone as a few other voices murmured in agreement before the sounds of virtual gunfire and a horses neigh was heard, signaling that the games were ready to play.

Artie looked uncomfortable at the praise, not wanting to tell his choom that the impressive feat was nothing more than him repairing the connection to the breaker. Literally just wiggled and popped it back in place. "Thanks, Rory, it was really nothing," he tried to brush it off and slapped the lid closed on the breaker panel as they turned to rejoin the other.

From the other side another voice grumbled out as they kicked something, "ain't shit else to do around here is there?"

Most of the other places were either ransacked to the point where only the most determined gonk would bother attempting or shuttered with warnings to 'Fuck off' spray painted across in neon orange. The animals liked to mark their territory after all and they weren't gonk enough to go snooping, after all they were working and couldn't afford to fuck this up.

It was a small time gig, like really small time. One of the fighters here was chipped to scroll a BD and they were there to do the same but on a much smaller level. It was some new trick the editor wanted to try and most of it went over their heads but hey, they wouldn't complain about some easy cred.

"We're only here to scroll the fights, remember, you know, get a couple different sightlines for the editor?" Rory reminded them slowly while stepping over and jacking into the nearest machine. It was child's play to bypass the paywall on these dusty old boxes, the soft was ancient by today's standards and before they knew it the game was free to play. "Too bad these aren't connected to the Net, I'd love to challenge the leaderboard. I used to waste so many eddies on Roach Race when I first played it."

There were a few others with them as well, all in the same age group. a pair of nearly identical twins were already playing at one while the other cheered him on jokingly. The brother sister duo were eerily similar to each other and joked that they were male and female clones of the same person. The assholes even went by the names Ellis and Ellie just to screw with people on top of that.

"I remember that, you were a regular Vidiot over that," laughed another girl perched atop a busted 'King of Chromefist 2' machine, a true relic of its own time but long since forgotten by the uncaring teen who ashed her smoke into an open port on top. She was Mina, Rory's best choomba of several years having grown up with her in the same rundown building of the old neighborhood. "Didn't you get that guy to pay for a lot of your games back then?"

"I remember that little punk," the final male, the one who was walking around with a bored expression and both hands stuffed inside his Synth leather jacket, "Gonk bastard, thought he was better than us.

Mina snorted, "Oh fuck off Avery, you know that's not how it was," to finish off her statement, she flicked the nearly finished smoke towards him leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.

He scoffed back, slapped the cigarette away with a shower of little red embers, "Didn't stop you from helping klep his shit," Avery snapped back with a roll of his eyes, "I'ma go see if there's anything else going on,"

Artie, having only recently started to hang out with this group, didn't really know what they were going on about but he did notice that Rory looked a little put off by the mention of that.

"Just ignore them Artie," the girl muttered, watching Avery leave while reeling in the personal link, "we still have a while before we need to head to the gym."

The group wasted some time playing around and shit talking to each other playfully, when Avery came barreling back inside excitedly, "Yo guys, someone on the ground floor just started fighting in the food court!"

With a quick glance to each other, the group took off towards the exit looking around for the aforementioned scrap and following the commotion towards where their choom mentioned.

"Oh shit check it out, those gangers are done-zo!" Ellis pointed out with his twin making a slashing motion with her thumb against her neck, unknowingly mirroring almost exactly what had transpired down below. The others joined them and leaned against the railing and instantly spotted the prone gangoons bleeding out on the floor.

"Wonder who's gonk enough to flatline a couple gangoons on their own turf?"

"You already said it sis, a gonk."

Rory ignored the twins and started scrolling the fight, figuring that a little more action for the virtues wouldn't hurt. "Looks like it might be a dead gonk from the looks of things," she told them, motioning to the hulking muscle heads violently pushing their way past anyone in their way.

-xXx-

"-do you hear me you bastard?" Naruto continued wailing down on his target, who could only try and guard his face against the incoming fury of blows. He continued his threats and taunts right up until a pair of massive arms wrapped around his torso and slung him away like a sack of cheap kibble, right toward an equally as massive gonk swinging a chair at his face. "Oh shit!"

He fell, sliding a bit further across the floor than he expected as the gangoon tried to clothesline him with the chair.

Seeing that he missed, the man raised it above his head by the legs to bring it down like a hammer and leaving Naruto one choice, at least in his mind. Still laying right below the ganger, the ninja was in the perfect position and had absolutely no problems with fighting dirty. So why not?

He punched him in the dick.

"URK!" The chair fell, landing on one of the blonds legs before he sank to his knees in agony, eyes nearly rolling back as the uncontrollable urge to shit and vomit all at the same time struck.

"Hah!" Rolling out from under the ganger before he ended up collapsing on him, Naruto was up and on his feet in a flash, eyes flitting around for more and landing on the gonk that slung him away like last week's laundry.

"Got your ass now!" The metal jawed gonk screamed, charging towards the blond with both arms out wide and roaring like a lunatic. Damn the pack, this shit was personal now, "I'm gonna rip your fuckin dick off,"

Naruto grit his teeth then smirked, recognizing the unfortunate gonk he punched in the dick earlier, "Just try it!" He shot back mockingly, intercepting the charge, "No really, give me a challenge." Instead of stopping him, the blonde took advantage of his momentum and redirected him face first into the corner of a nearby table.

That chromejaw left a deep gouge where he landed but did little more than stun him momentarily before pushing himself up with a growl, spitting a hateful "fuck you!" to the blond.

"No," Naruto spat back, wrapping his arm around his neck in a reverse chokehold, "fuck you" that powerjaw he was chipped with did nothing to save him from choking as Naruto tightened his hold. His eyes then scanned the remaining gangoons until he met Thrax's terrified gaze and grinned.

*Snap*

The struggling ceased in an instant, legs buckling and arms falling limp to the ground. Then like a showman presenting his trick, Naruto released his grip and let the ganger fall, never looking away from the man as if to say,

'You're next!'

-xXx-

"You guys saw that right?"

Then to their amazement, they saw him whip out a knife and throw it all in one move. The ganger he had been wailing on before had tried to turn tail and run.

"Yo fuckin nova! You see him flick that shit?" Avery started nudging Ellis with his arm excitedly, all traces of his earlier pissy attitude gone, "Wait is it… oh shit it went through his knee!" The other teen returned the gesture, just as excited as the other and pointing at the now screaming man on the floor.

"He better start crawling then!"

This guy was legit, short a few circs maybe but he was steadily working his way through the gangers pulling security. "Hey guys, I think we're fucked. There's no way the fights are happening now." Artie spoke up from the side, looking away from the spectacle below and spotting another Animal talking adamantly to someone over the holo, "Check it out," he tapped Rory on the arm and nodded, "I'd bet anything that the guys he's calling are bringing the big guns. We should probably get clear before the scop hits the fan,"

"What? Fuck that, we'll miss the show." Avery scowled towards the other boy and went back to watching this guy kick some gangoon ass.

Rory bit her lip. They needed the cred from this gig but Artie had a good point, there was no way the Animals would take this lying down but at the same time, scrolling what would happen could net them something at least.

-xXx-

Aside from Thrax, there were only eight more left to deal with before he could continue his chat with the screaming ganger. Even if the man managed to move, Naruto knew that he wouldn't get too far without help and would ensure he didn't get it.

"It's just one guy! Stop acting like gonks and zero his ass!" The gangoon screaming this at the top of his lungs demanded his fellow Animals rushing the floor. A half full can of what used to be Nicola burst as his scuffed combat boot crushed it but the moment the words left, a thick shower of blue sparks burst from his neuroport.

[T-Bug: These gonks really should update their ICE, this is almost too easy.] Deadpanned the Netrunner who decided to assist the blond gonk via the Net. The ganger she just downed shuddered on the floor, several more crackles and pops coming from the now damaged chrome.

The Animals ICE might as well have been a snowflake in hell with how quickly her daemons were uploaded and that wasn't counting the ones currently wreaking havoc on the GIM SubNet.

Naruto laughed at the sight, ducking as one roided out woman in blue sports wear attempted to hit a homerun using his head as the ball, "Thanks for the assist Bug, but what happened sticking to the gig only?" he questioned, springing forward and spearing the would-be ball player in the throat with his own chrome.

"GURK!" The visceral reaction to her throat being struck happened immediately. Hands flying to her throat, the gangoon choked and gagged for breath dropping the bat into the awaiting blonds arms.

[T-Bug: what can I say I'm interested to see where this goes. Heads up, gonk with a shotgun on your six.]

Naruto's eyes narrowed, "Got it," the ganger he'd just disabled was wobbling and looked like she was about to collapse to her knees, unable to put up much of a fight when he grabbed her. Not to say that she didn't try, but when he spun her around him there was less than a second for her to realize that one of her pack had leveled his Carnage at them and pulled the trigger.

She died instantly and Naruto received a new traumatic experience, watching part of her chest disappear in a flash of burnt flesh and gunpowder followed by part of her head. Was that bastard loaded with explosive shells or something?

"Two can play that game!" He yelled, shoving the corpse towards the shooter. Naruto's hand went down to his Overture only to slap his own thigh with wide eyes. For a moment he froze and spotted another woman racking her weapon with a look of mindless rage in her eyes.

[T-Bug: Need a hand?] The quickhack was already on the way but to her surprise, Naruto swung his other arm out and sent the bat flying like a miniature missile. The moment it collided with her face, her overload caused another bright flash of sparks that blinded the crowd that didn't seem to care about the deadly gunfire that could've hit one of them with ease.

"Not really," Naruto felt like he was in a cloud of euphoria even as he paused just long enough to wipe his former meat shields blood off his face, "But the light show was kinda nova… hey, you and Gina are spying through the cameras now right?"

[Regina:...]

[T-Bug: Yep.]

"Ha," the blond laughed at the woman's unapologetic tone, then faced the few remaining including one who charged at him with a neon green cleaver, "Well watch this," he grinned Naruto's entire body flickered and vanished, kicking up a few small, bloodstained slips of old paper and trash.

Then there was silence.

[T-Bug: What… the fuck?] The Netrunners jaw dropped, did the vidfeed just glitch? One moment he was there and the next he was on the far end of the food court. T-Bug found him quickly once she panned the camera and whistled, seeing that he was the only one left standing.

[Regina: What the hell did you do?

Naruto's face was twisted with a cruel smirk when he answered, the drugs in his system egging him on, "hehehe, you know I've asked myself that way too much over the last few days," below him, a ganger bulging with obviously fake synth muscle and covered in glowing neon tattoos tried pushing the foot pinning him to the floor off of the side of his face.

Even the crowd wasn't immune to the shock and had fallen silent at the sudden and immediate end of the show. A few murmurs were heard but went unnoticed

"What the hell did I do to deserve this? Huh?" He continued to ask, though mainly to himself while looking down at the ganger tugging at his leg with a growing frown, "I try to build a life with someone I was lucky enough to find and some bastards nearly take her from me? I finally have someone I could happily call a son and he nearly flatlines in the street because of some asshole like you!?"

"Fuck you… get off me!" The ganger growled from under the sole of his shoe.

"Fuck me?" He repeated, almost sounding offended as blood once again started dripping from his nose, "No, fuck you! I tried being a good man, I've tried second chances and turning the other cheek but no more. I'm done reacting… and so, I've been thinking that maybe I need to be a little more proactive."

Feeling the blood now running down his lips, The blond turned his head and spit, quickly bringing his arm up to wipe it only to see more blood splattered on both, "damn it!" the Merc snatched off his vest, the orange material already dirty and covered in small tears was used as a towel to wipe himself clean as best he could.

Regina and T-Bug looked at each other through their respective holofeeds while he did so, leaving the blond standing in his black shirt and orange pants when he balled the now truly ruined puffer vest up and threw it down like a petulant man child.

"WHY IS THIS CITY SO FUCKING SHIT!"

"Ugh," once again the ganger pushed against him, regaining the panting blonds attention.

"Oh yeah, I nearly forgot you," he raised his foot but brought it back down, this time stomping on his throat, "Where was I, oh yeah… fuck you and every fucking bastard like you!" The blow was fatal but unluckily for him, not immediately. Happy that the ganger was finished, Naruto slowly turned and cocked his head while searching for his primary target with a little grin.

"Oh Thrax!"

The gangoon in question whimpered, trying and failing to drag himself away, making it several yards away but leaving an easy to follow blood trail in his wake.

"You have somewhere to be?" Mocked the blond, leisurely following along the blood trail around the scattered tables and chairs, "hate to break it to you but you're not going anywhere."

"Why?"

"I assume your asking why I'm doing this," Thrax didn't answer, only pulling himself further away from the blond who stayed just a step away from the terrified man, "you hurt two people I love, that's why I'm doing this,"

Thrax reached the opening to the concrete barrier surrounding the food court and reached for the edge, only for his injured leg to be caught by the ankle, "I said," Naruto mocked while jerking him back, "that you're not going anywhere!"

"AHH, LET GO!" Thrax tried to haul himself up, grabbing his thigh only to fall back again screaming. Naruto was far from gentle and even made sure to twist and turn the injured leg, dragging the howling man back into the carnage. "LET GO YOU ASSHOLE!"

After a second, he made it back to the middle of the floor and turned to face Thrax while rolling his eyes, "Oh stop your whining," he reached over and slipped his finger through the ring of his kunai and snatched it out, causing more damage accompanied by a spurt of crimson. "Cause you have bigger issues to worry about now…"

"W-what?"

With a flourish, Naruto spun his weapon around and flicked the blood from the blade, which left little red specks across Thrax's face, "yep, much bigger," another trickle of blood came from his other nostril but this time went ignored, "Because thanks to you, I think that I've finally learned my lesson…" the blond shook his head with a little scornful laugh, "I thought that if I kept my head down and didn't make anymore waves that I'd enjoy the little bit of peace I finally had."

Making eye contact with the ganger, Naruto flicked his wrist again and sent the kunai deep into his other leg, spearing through the calf muscle with ease.

"AHH! YOU-" Thrax howled again but bit down on his lip, growling at the blond, "you little prick, just you wait till the others get here!" making Naruto snort.

"Wait? Yeah sure, I'll wait!" Naruto replied, dropping his other leg without hesitation then going further by stepping on his freshly injured leg, "in the meantime, I'm going to take every single injury she suffered in that crash and do the same to you," Thrax grunted, sweat pouring from his pale face but refusing to give the blonde the satisfaction of screaming again as he cracked his neck, "and when your chooms get here, if they feel like getting in my way… I'll slaughter them too,"

-xXx-

It was amazing just how resilient the human body was, the amount of physical torment it could take before giving up was simply breathtaking, unfathomable to the normal gonk on the street.

"M-mer…cy…"

"Mercy?" Naruto flinched as if he had been struck by the word and repeated it as if he'd heard an old joke, "You think you deserve mercy?" The rest was lost to Thrax as the ninjas swung his fist down and instantly knocked him unconscious.

Ending the pain.

That was, until a surge of ice went through his veins.

Naruto sneered down from above the ganger, stabbing the end of an NCPD issued BounceBack into his neck. It was one of nearly a dozen stolen by his clones earlier tonight. Upon discovering them he stuck a couple in his pouch but didn't expect to use it like this, "Wake the fuck up," he ordered, still injecting the volatile mix of stims and chems designed to keep officers fighting in the worst situations though his veins. "We're not done yet," Thrax took a deep, if painful gasp with the BounceBack kicking his mind into overdrive and opened his eyes as much as he could with them partially swollen shut. He couldn't believe it, wasn't he just out cold?

Naruto smacked him and got his attention, "You awake?" raising his bloodstained fist the merc resumed his brutal assault to the chorus of blood drunk spectators with a bloodthirsty grin of his own to match. "Good, I'm nowhere near finished with you, I want you awake to see it coming!"

If he wanted to protect them, he needed to make it clear that no good will come of messing with the people he cared for. Night City's rule of law may hide behind a mask of civility but only the truly ignorant couldn't see it for what it was.

Maybe it was he who needed to learn how to understand others. Clearly the rules were different, this wasn't his home… these weren't his people. This was Night City and the fractured populace were so divided, so full of animosity towards each other that he easily compared the city to a small-scale version of the elemental nations. Each district ruled by rival gangoons each looking to fuck over the other so it was plain to see that they only understood one language.

Violence, the language of Shinobi and gangoon alike… and all he needed to do was show them just how fluent he was.

It was time for his voice to be heard.

The crowd was energized, those that ran when the shooting started har returned, once again crowding around to watch the spectacle. True to his word Naruto showed no mercy, egged on by his new fans and reassured by the drugs he allowed himself a moment to breathe after a minute.

Thrax was finished, left a broken lump on the ground before him when the blond grunted, "You know what, this is my fault. I knew better, I got complacent, I know how things are in this city and I just ignored them to play house. I never should've left things to chance… not again… to protect the people I love, I'll never stop fighting but I've decided that from now on I'll do what needs to be done, if I gotta kill, I'll kill and if I gotta burn this city to the ground," Naruto got progressively louder until he was roaring at the man as he raised his foot "Then I'll burn it to the fucking ground and build something new in its ashes!" bringing it down in the gangoons skull with an audible crack.

The gangoon jerked and began to shudder, but noticing this, Naruto raised his leg again and ended it all, crushing the man's skull with a final bloody crescendo that left the onlookers momentary stunned and the victorious blond left standing in a growing crimson puddle taking slow deep shuddering breaths.

"That was so fuckin preem Naruto!"

-xXx-

Flashback end

-xXx-

"Hey Rory, isn't that-"

The pinklette nodded to her best choom, cutting her off "Yep," the moment he rushed over to the crowd, she recognized him, "Didn't think we'd see Davy again,"

Avery sneered, "Him?" His eyes scanned around until he found the teen himself, "what's that little bitch doing here? Shouldn't he be sucking off some Corpo-" he groused but was interrupted by a sudden elbow to the side, "Ow, fuck that hurt!"

Mina glared next to him and muttered harshly, "Zip it," making the other teen grumble and sneer even more. "Rory, what do you want to do?" She asked looking back at her choom who continued to stare down at the teen who suddenly wrapped his arms around the blond. 'Looks like Davy had some new chooms himself.'

Rory crossed her arms and took a bit longer than normal to respond, subconsciously rubbing the arm of her yellow jacket which made the others react in their own ways. Avery with annoyance, Mina with a soft sigh, and Artie, who was the newest of the group, looked between them all wondering what the hell was going on. The twins were muttering to themselves, sneaking glances between the girl and the other teen down below.

"Ah… does anyone want to tell me who that is?" He finally questioned which got the pink haired girl to speak again.

"An old choom,"

Avery snorted, "more like an ex," only to be elbowed again by Mina, the young woman fixing the leather clad teen with a surprisingly hostile glare, "For fucks sake, stop hitting me!"

"Stop being a gonk!"

Rory grimaced, but to Arties surprise, she didn't deny it and grunted, "Come on let's delta, the fights over and we scrolled enough to at least get some kinda payout. Besides Arties right, let's not be here when the other animals show up."

With the action pretty much over and done with, the others murmured in agreement while pushing themselves away from the railing overlooking all the excitement. Thanks to the guy they were scrolling for, they knew that there was an employee maintenance tunnel that they could use to slip out quickly and headed that way with Avery stopping to glare at the teen down below.

'Fuck you… Corpo wannabe bitch. Just wait till I run up on you again. Better not find you in the old neighborhood, pussy.' the teen cursed to himself and spitting down at the scene below. Avery stalked off after the others and made an obscene gesture as he brought up the rear. "...or maybe I should…"

Artie watched his pink haired choom from the corner of his eye, wondering what that was all about. It looked like the others knew the guy down there somehow and Rory was acting strange after seeing him. Avery was a bastard so he wouldn't even consider asking him and the twins were most likely to tell him something wrong just to screw with him, being the compulsive lying little ass hats they are.

Mina? Maybe she would just tell him, she was catty at times but didn't pick on him like the others sometimes did and loved good gossip... But Artie couldn't help feeling a seed of jealousy sprout at what he'd witnessed. Could Avery be right, was this Davy guy her ex and the reason why she keeps everyone at arm's length? What happened between them? Maybe asking Mina wasn't all that nova of an idea anymore, Artie didn't have a chance with his pink haired choom anyway and like his uncle once told him, 'you gotta know when to go blind to certain things kid, only gonks rock the boat,'

-xXx-

"Seriously?"

Upon reaching Misty's trusty little hatchback, the blond could only stare at them then at the car before chuckling, "Who cleaned out the backseat?" Of all the things they thought he'd might say in his compromised state, none quite expected that. Vik coughed to try and hide his laugh while Jackie and David couldn't hide it in time

"It wasn't that bad!" Misty defended before rolling her eyes, "ok maybe it was, but… just get in the car,"

Never let it be said that when Uzumaki Naruto did something he didn't go all out… although this time it wasn't exactly his own doing. So when Naruto finally crashed, he crashed spectacularly… It probably didn't help that he had been squeezed into the back of Misty's Galena between worried Vik and a still somewhat excited David who didn't exactly notice him turning green the moment Misty hauled ass out of Pacifica… at least for the first minute.

"URK!" David eyed the blond next to him, realizing too late as bloodshot blue eyes snapped open in a sudden primal panic. Naruto's cheeks bulged, his chrome hand slapping over his mouth with the sudden resurfacing of the contents of his stomach

"You good kid?" Vik questioned, only to see him heave and look around with wild eyes, "uh oh!"

Jackie, who was in the front passenger seat with his window mostly down, turned to ask what was up only to see a wide eyed Naruto latch onto the front seats and launch himself over the center console. Misty yelped, jumping a curb on the way out of the parking lot with the blond diving headfirst for the only open window to puke while David held onto a half dozen bracelets and the 'oh-shit' handle they were attached to as to ride out the storm. Thankfully he had put on his seatbelt too.

"¡ey! ¡¿que?! ¡no me vomites encima!" the larger man tried to cry only to be pinned back against the seat. To those outside, all they saw was a little hatchback speeding away from the Grand Imperial Mall, tires squealing as it swerved several times which alerted the guards stationed outside the gates of Dogtown.

"Damn gonkass skezz heads," grumbled one guard, curling his lips in disgust as he spotted a blond junkie leave a long trail of puke alongside fresh tire marks on the cracked blacktop. If only the gonk would fall out and smear his brains on the road instead. He hated fools like that, disgusting junkies…

-xXx-

"Please, next time just tie me to the bumper and drag me behind you,"

Naruto was a pathetic sight upon their arrival to Misty's Esoterica, pale and sickly looking as if the life had been drained from his very soul. Not that Vik or David were able to make jokes, both were holding on to their seatbelts, cheeks clinched securely to the seats for dear life. Misty showed a side of her that the three in the back never knew, one that had her output grinning like a fool.

"Don't be so dramatic Naruto," she exclaimed before giving her output a quick peck on the lips, "See, Jackie's nova," a quick glance back showed her that the other three were far from nova. In fact, somewhere along the way, Naruto had grabbed his fellow passengers' seat belts and crossed them over himself, locking all three to the seat and squeezing them all tightly.

The blond Merc weakly pressed the release on both sides, freeing them all as Vik cleared his throat, "While I appreciate the urgency, I'm too damn old to do this kinda thing anymore. My ticker can't handle much more of this."

The teen wedged himself away from the door and pulled the release, allowing the door to pop open and David to fall out, followed by Naruto who both shed small tears of relief at being back on solid asphalt, even as they both laid face down next to each other.

"Dude, Naruto get off me!" Groaned the teen, prompting a grumbled apology as the blond rolled over once, dragging himself out of the open car door as Jackie stepped out and laughed at their expense.

"Come on you two," the bullish Merc continued, giving them both a hand up and a slap on the back with Vik and Misty walking around the other side. David brushed himself off and turned to the blond to see him somewhat surrounded as if he might try to run, "Let's get you checked out and make sure you didn't fry anything,"

Naruto felt Jackie's hand grip his shoulder tightly as if he would run then glanced over to see his chooms input and NCs greatest Ripper fixing him with expectant stares, "ah…" he then turned to David who, while still a little pale, adopted the same look, 'Traitor!'

"Fine, I'll be good," he pouted, heading with them to the gate leading to the alleyway, through the back and down the steps to Viks clinic where one of the city's rare stray cats glared at them as they passed, hissing at the blond who hissed back and flipped the animal off.

"Hey Naruto, what's with you and cats?" David had to question as they walked through the door after Vik, the ringside bell he'd installed a while back ringing as they entered.

For a moment, Naruto paused with a faraway look in his eyes. Traumatic memories of the torment he faced hunting down Tora as a fresh faced genin, "I'll ah… I'll tell you that story later," he muttered, somehow trying to think of a way to admit that not only him but the entirety of Team Seven used to regularly get outsmarted by a furry pain in the ass.

But before they knew it, Naruto was seated in Viks chair and jacked into the system via his personal link. Misty even plugged another link in the nifty little port behind his ear, having helped Vik on more than one occasion. She was handling the job of a Medtech with surprising ease, tapping away at a dataslate and shooting glances at the others from behind her fellow blond while Jackie found himself a folding chair to drag over.

"Hey Vik, mind if I grab a drink?"

"Eh, I got a few Nicola in the icebox," Vik answered, not even breaking his concentration as he shook his head and ran another scan. Jackie nodded and lumbered over to where the rippers mini fridge was hidden under his desk, grabbing one and holding it up, wordlessly asking the teen if he wanted one too.

But David refused, shaking his head, "Nah, I'm good." Carbonated drinks weren't really his thing and aside from the cola, the only other thing Vik had in his mini fridge was a bottle of decent bourbon.

Misty turned to the teen with her usual serene smile, "I have some non-carbonated drinks in the shop if you'd like David," she interjected, remembering the teens preference , "You're more than welcome to have one and could you grab me one too please?"

David glanced over to the blond, who looked like he was about to cry as Vik made him use a airhypo with a stern look on his face, "yeah sure, I'll be back in a minute," but before leaving to head up to street level, he stopped to ask the blond, "Hey Naruto, you gonna be ok?"

He nodded, giving the teen a thumbs up before he left, leaving Naruto to groan with a sickened expression as Vik held out another airhypo expectantly, "Oh come on Vik, more of those?" The ripper didn't crack a smile, leaving Naruto to take it with a huff, "Fine, but I've already huffed enough mystery drugs today, could you at least tell me what it is?" Even though he said that, the blond didn't hesitate to take a quick puff of the inhaler, making his head swim and making the nausea worse.

Misty spoke up, her tone a little strained, "It'll help flush your system, kinda like a detox,"

"Jackie told me about the call he got from you," Vik suddenly exclaimed with a sigh, turning from the blond who shot the other Merc a halfhearted glare. "Kid, do you know how damn lucky you are? I've ran multiple scans on you and I'm amazed your still alive,"

"Well damn dude I know I look rough but-" Naruto didn't get to finish as Misty, who had been quietly watching the monitor run yet another scan, turned and slapped him across the top of his head harshly

*Smack*

"Ow! Hey, that hurts!" Naruto grabbed the back of his head with both hands at the sudden assault only to be smacked again by his fellow blond, "Ow! Matte matte matte!"

Misty, in a shockingly out of character display of aggression versus her normally peaceful self, stormed around to face the solo with a look that brought back some more traumatic childhood memories, "You blond gonk! Now's not the time for jokes, do you know how close you came to nearly zeroing yourself!"

Naruto wouldn't exactly admit it but when the woman looked like she was about to try smacking him again, his fight or flight nearly kicked it. Had Jackie not slid his arm around her waist and pulled her away, the blond might have instinctively struck back.

Jackie laughed lightly at the scene as he pulled Misty away, "Misty baby, I think he gets it,"

"Actually Jack, I don't think he does." Vik typed out a few things into a nearby panel and brought up several scans of what Naruto assumed was his own heart and brain, both of which were showing red marks. "You've had a heart attack kid… fuck… scans indicate multiple aneurysms and I know for a fact you didn't have them before from your last checkup, didn't you feel anything?"

Naruto frowned and looked worried for a second, "not really… Well in all seriousness, I've felt a lot of new things today so… maybe?" The little flashing dots shown on his organs didn't really mean much to the blond, he didn't feel too bad… well aside from Misty slapping him across the melon but he'd get her back for that later. "So how bad is it doc?"

"That's the thing kid, everytime I scan them the damn things get smaller. It's healing faster than anything I've ever seen before," the man sounded both amazed and defeated at the same time, "when I first saw them I just couldn't believe you were still alive, the one here on your Amygdala put so much pressure on it but now… it's almost completely gone."

"Vik," Naruto huffed and settled back into the chair with a sigh, "Is there a question there or what?"

"What are you?" the blond blinked, but Vik continued, "Rude yeah, but I can't ignore it anymore, your healing is superhuman. I noticed it when I was replacing your neuralware and arm the first time," it seemed that Vik kept great records on his patients and quickly brought up some pictures of his damaged tech that had melted next to his brain and the half ruined arm from his badlands rampage. "I've seen implants overload and short circ but I've never seen one's entire housing melt and warp, that should have killed you then or at the bare minimum left you severely disabled."

"Oh, well I've never claimed to be all there in the head anyway, Vik,"

"Naruto please stop deflecting." Naruto glanced over to Misty, who now sat in Jackie's lap with his arms securely around her waist for his protection, "Even I noticed you disappear on my shop's security feed a while back. When you saved Ishibashi from being chipped like his brother."

Jackie then added, "it's kinda hard not to notice when you do these things 'mano. Like jumping three stories up to the rooftop or when you made it across the city to Corpo Plaza in seconds."

After a few moments, Naruto nodded, "Guess I have been hiding a few things… alright. I trust you guys to keep it hidden but- URK!" The blond paled even further and spun around to hunch over the armrest, heaving. All the while, Vik, showing the calmness of a veteran ripper, kicked a small bucket nearby and slid it over to the blond in one smooth motion.

And just in time.

The others looked away while the blond once again emptied his stomach, thankfully all without making a mess this time but how the hell did he still have something to puke up?

"Ugh, finally…" they looked back to see their choom sag back into the seat with a relieved groan and wiping his face with the back of one hand, "actually… Can we do the whole show-and-tell thing later, when I'm not dying?"

"Detoxing," Misty corrected.

Naruto pressed his lips together and blew a raspberry weakly, "Yeah that… and besides, I wanna tell David first. Well, actually I wanted to tell Gloria first but-" he trailed off, his unspoken words clear as he glanced over towards the entrance, signaling the aforementioned teens return. "I promise I'll tell you the truth later, but for now just… please keep this all to yourselves."

"What about the-"

"Later Jack," he pressed, nodding towards the doorway expectantly. The others turned, waiting just a few seconds before spotting David walking down holding a pair of drinks. How he knew that the teen would walk down at that exact time only added to their questions but like he said, he'd explain later.

A promise was made to himself that he'd be more open to his chooms and especially the people he loved… but how the hell was he going to break it to them that he wasn't exactly from… well anywhere in this world, or dimension… or whatever this would be considered.

-xXx-

Two Days Later…

-xXx-

Hey hey hey! you know who it is, bringing you the latest straight from the screamsheets and the preem streets! So check this out… oh yeah I nearly forgot about this. Ladies and gentlemen it's happening! I told you it was coming, I told you and you guys called me crazy." Just from the sound alone, one could tell that the woman was doing a little dance inside her studio, at least until a simple holo notification came through, "Oh come on, I just won seventy five eddies and that's more than you even pay me… ugh whatever. Anyway folks you heard me, I was right! I told you that the NCPD would be fully privatized before the New Year and the Night City Council just held a closed door meeting to discuss just that… And guess what, NCPD commissioner Feldman was ousted from her position and out tossed onto the streets with the rest of us. Ha-ha, oh well tough luck sweetie!

Now, now, hold your circs, I already know what you are about to say, 'Well what can we regular gonks expect outta this?' well don't you worry, ya girls got you back, or your front whichever, I'm not picky!

Now what can we expect? Well not a damn thing as usual, our illustrious boys in blue are already stretched worse than a joytoys midnight lady and now they won't even have to pretend to 'serve and protect'. Not that it changes anything for most of us anyway, anyone from Santo can tell you that you won't find Justice on these streets.

It's just us.

-xXx-

[Justice]

( ノ ◕ ヮ ◕ )

Justice is the card of conflict resolution. It proclaims the need for order, to see through lies and deceit, and a return to the natural state of affairs. Justice implies a just sentence, but also due process.

-xXx-

The elevator ride up to the thirteenth floor seemed to take longer than ever with others stopping and getting off at almost every single floor. But before he knew if David was finally walking out and past all the newly replaced advertisement holopanels towards the still unnamed restaurant where he knew Naruto was.

"Hey there youngin! I've been looking ya. Wanted to say thanks for the help the other day!'' Turning to the voice, David spotted their elderly neighbor Mr. Thiago leaning against one of the barriers holding his cane with a lopsided wave. At least until his cane clipped from his fingers with a clatter, making him curse, "Goddamn fingers 'bout as useless as…'' he paused with a thoughtful look and chuckled, "I'll save that one for another day."

The old man started to bend down to pick it up but David bit back a sigh and moved to help, "Hold up dude, I got it."

"Heh thanks kid,"

David picked the simple polymer rod up and handed it back to the elderly mechanic, "No problem old man, how's it going?" He asked, having known the guy somewhat since moving in.

"You know how it goes, same old shit different gonk, hehehe. But hey, your old man's got a hell of a place here. He's got Aiko cooking his ass off in there," David started to deny the relation but somehow couldn't really think of what to say. Naruto wasn't his dad, not by a long shot but since Mom's been laid up in the hospital the mans been going out of his way to look out for him… and her.

While David grumbled a weak response, the elder Thiago looped a thin cord around his wrist attached to the end of his cane, "let's see this little twat fall again huh?" He mused while gripping the electrical tape grip and leaning against it, "there we go, now what was I saying?" It was then that he looked up and seemed to notice that David sported a freshly bruised cheek and whistled, "nice shiner there, you get it eaten out your gal?"

"HUH?"

The old man snickered, holding his side gingerly while David blushed slightly from the point blank question out of nowhere, "Sorry, sorry, I couldn't resist."

David shook his head but could help but wonder, "Wait… I gotta ask. How the hell would I get a black eye doing that?" the grin he got in response told him that he probably didn't want to know, so he quickly added "actually never mind,"

"Well I'll tell ya this, whenever your in a girls place for the first time just remember to lock the door behind you and always carry protection,"

"Ah… yeah sure, I hear you," it was something he'd heard many times, Mama would say-

"A nine-millimeter at least," the old man rambled on, making David blink. Oh he meant that kind of protection, "that way if a jealous input busts in you can give em a new hole to piss out of,"

"I'll ah… keep it in mind…" he replied with a snort, pointing to the entrance, "I should go,"

"Oh yeah, I won't hold ya up young man. Tell your old man to come by and check out the car later, it ain't pretty but a coat of paint should make it look… well better."

If he hadn't already had other things on his mind, David would've been more excited to hear that his mom's car was steadily being repaired but as it was, he only nodded and headed through the door.

The restaurant itself was ready to go, at least in his opinion. In fact, it was probably the nicest joint in the building but that was probably because the public hadn't had a chance to come inside as of yet. While much of the place was second hand and if Naruto's crew of misfits were to be believed, partly stolen. But they put in a lot of work to get the place looking preem… and remove any identifying marks on what may or may not have been klepped.

Shaking his head, David ignored the oddly familiar dining booths lining one side of the dining area, either from the Chubby Buffalo or Tom's Diner and gave a quick greeting to the few guys hanging out inside. None of them mentioned the bruise but he could tell that they saw it as he was directed to the kitchen.

"Hey D," Naruto greeted cheerfully with a little wave, sitting by the heavy steel prep table in the middle of the pristine kitchen, "Grab that chair and sit with me, Aiko's making ramen!" he motioned to another seat nearby leaning next to the doorway and then slapped the table. The teen did so and noticed the blonds eye was glowing, "oh and give me just a second, I'm double checking something,"

The teen nodded, grabbing the chair and pulling it over to sit beside his mentor as he finished up whatever he was checking. "So ah… something kinda happened a little while ago." he started, deciding to go ahead and rip off the band-aid while looking up to see Aiko filling up a large bowl.

"Yeah, I heard you got into a fight in Heywood." Naruto admitted while rubbing his hands together at the sight of Aiko putting the finishing touches on what would officially be his first bowl of real ramen in Night City. It took a lot of searching to find the ingredients and a bribe to get a hold of it but Aiko pulled through, no scop based noodles for him today!

"You did?" Questioned the teen, wondering when and how the blond managed it.

Naruto nodded, reaching over to one of the 'new' napkin dispensers and looking at his own reflection on the side with a slight grimace, "Well yeah, it was in the alley by the Coyote Cojo, some chooms recognized you and let me know." He told the teen, who was even more shocked that not only had he known but knew where it happened too. "You wanna talk about it?"

David winced, unconsciously poking his cheek, "Eh… well…"

-xXx-

[You're Built Different?]

( ノ ◕ ヮ ◕ )

(Flashback)

-xXx-

It was a simple enough 'job', take a mystery package and deliver it to a guy named Pepe at a bar called the Coyote Cojo. It wasn't really a gig in his mind but David had to admit that being a delivery gonk for Naruto and his crew of misfits was a lot better than sitting in class, it gave him a decent amount of cred too.

Pepe was nova too, he didn't know what to expect at first but upon seeing Mrs. Welles and finding out that this was the bar Jackie had mentioned he felt a little less out of place. He'd never had the chance or even the desire to go into a bar until now and had to admit that his first experience was kinda nova. The delivery itself was nothing special, Pepe was pretty elusive about the contents except to mention that it was something for his mainline that he'd been having trouble finding. But it wasn't until he left, taking a crate of empty bottles out back for Mama Welles did the trouble start. After dumping them and turning to head down the alley for the NCART station, an oddly familiar voice called out to him

"Hey Davy! Thinkfast!"

The sudden call to his left surprised the teen, but just as he turned to face it, David felt a fist collide with his cheek, spinning him back around the other way and sending him staggering with a few large steps into the far wall.

"Who the-" hand going to his face, David caught himself on the opposite wall he was just passing, scraping one palm on the rough brickwork as his assailant laughed cruelly. "Hey what the hell-

"Hehehe, miss me choomba?"

David turned and saw who just ambushed him, narrowing his eyes at who he saw flexing his fists, "... Avery,"

"Nova to see your punk ass too," sneered the other teen back, still flexing his fist while David clinched his own and pushed away from the wall. He stepped forward for another blow, "Just like old times huh? Looks like that fancy Corpo school you ran off to didn't change shit. Your still a gonk ass puss-

Without wasting a second, David threw up his arms, stepping into his former chooms attack confidently with a high guard that compromised the coming blow. 'Just like Naruto showed me!' he tried not to think about it too hard and brought his leg up, "Screw you Avery!" then kicked him square in the kneecap as if stomping on an empty Nicola can.

*Pop*

The teens knee buckled, something inside popped and burned excruciatingly as he fell, "AH! YOU SON OF A BITCH!" He clutched his injured knee with both hands and spat at the other teen who backed away just in case while he continued with a hiss "You son of a bitch, my leg!"

"You're lucky it's not broken!" He spat back.

Avery rolled onto his side, holding his leg with fresh gravel in his hair and synth leathers, "Fucking prick! Always thinking you're better than us… huh? You think you're better than me! You're a stupid bourgy bitch and that's all you'll ever be!"

David scoffed, rubbing the bruise already forming on his cheek, "you're right, I am a street rat," he paused just long enough to poke at his lip with his tongue, wincing at the coppery taste. "That's all I've ever been… but I know I'm better than you."

"You ain't shit, there's no way you're better than me!"

"Then why are you the one screaming on the ground?!"

That shut him up. Avery couldn't do more than shoot the other male a pained glare but the other teen did something he didn't expect. David unclinched his fist and laughed bitterly, "You're still the same bitter asshole as before," the teen watched him move to stand but knew Avery was finished when he winced. "You know what dude, I'm actually glad that me and mom left the old neighborhood. You gonks showed me just what kind of people you are and I'm glad, cause then I might've ended up a miserable two faced prick like you!"

With that, David spit again and turned to leave, leaving Avery where he landed on the ground.

"Hey! We ain't finished yet!"

David only shook his head and continued to leave, "You're finished," he shot back over his shoulder, "I'd say it was good to see you again but I think we both know that's a lie,".

"Get back here!"

"You're nothing Martinez! Do you hear me!"

"Hey! You scop sucking streetrat, I'm talking to you!"

"Get back here! Get the fuck back here and face me like a real man, Davy,"

"Shut the fuck up AV," David finally snapped, using his old chooms childhood nickname which never failed to get a ride out of the other teen. He turned to glare over his shoulder with the coldest look he could muster and turned away, "So what? I left, get over yourself. Do you think I had a choice? And for your information jackass, I didn't leave to go to 'Saka academy!" As David spoke, he stalked over to the downed teen and spat out, "we left because pricks like you!"

"Fu-" Avery didn't get to finish. Having heard enough of his former chooms, David kicked the other teen as hard as he could in the face, sending him flat onto his back with blood and spit flying from his lips.

And as quickly as it began, the newly minted fighter ended it and let out a huge breath that he didn't know he was holding, "Holy shit, I can't believe I won… fucking preem! I did it!" It wasn't his first scrap, not by a longshot but this was the first time he won without getting his own shit kicked in.

David stared down at him for a few more seconds, reality setting in. Of the countless gonks in the city how in the hell did he manage to run into this bastard of all people? Did he track him down or something? "Nah," he waved that idea off, the guy wasn't that bright but then again here he was… did this mean that the others were looking too?

"Screw it," let them come, he'll handle them like he handled this gonk. Speaking of which… "I remember you broke into our place and stole a buncha stuff…" turnabout's fair play, right? David glanced around and spotted several random people walking about and minding their own business, not even sparing a couple of teens fighting in an alley a second glance. So he knelt down next to his old 'choom' and started digging through his pockets, starting with his coat

The synth leather was scuffed and scratched from years of wear, David started to take it as revenge for the one they stole from him back then. He still remembered the look his mom had on her face when they realized that it was gone, that heartbroken look of defeat. It was a second hand Crystaljock bomber, the yellow fabric was badly faded but it matched her yellow EMT work coat and he loved it.

Avery didn't carry much, a few eddies, an old pocket knife and a half a pack of cheap nicosticks all of which David took, before looking at his shoes. A pair of faded red Street 'Tactical-fiber' high-tops, dirty and stained from daily use, which he took.

Not that he wanted them, in fact as soon as he snatched them off the unconscious teens feet he turned and tossed them up to bake in the sun on a godforsaken rooftop here in Heywood.

-xXx-

Flashback end…

-xXx-

"Oh," was all the blond said as David finished his retelling of what happened.

There was a short, tense silence between them before David cleared his throat, "You're not mad are you?" He questioned slowly, getting snort in response, "I mean I know you said not to fight and that it could-"

Naruto cleared his own throat and told the teen to relax, "Dee look, I'm not mad or anything. The only thing I wanted you to promise me was that you wouldn't start trouble. I never said you couldn't finish it. In fact…" When he trailed off, David started to turn towards him only to feel the blond slap him lightly on the back, "... I'm proud of you kid!"

"..."

By now, the former scopslinger placed a bowl down in front of the blond with little fanfare and turned to grab another, "Sweet!" The blond nearly giggled, it was ramen, real ramen! "This is freaking awesome Aiko!" he tried a bite and felt as if he were home, it was almost enough to make him shed a tear. Another bowl was placed in front of David who muttered a thanks to the chef and took an offered fork over the chopsticks.

A few moments passed with neither speaking so Naruto felt like he had to ask, "you good?"

David nodded and waited a few seconds before asking, "Naruto, can we talk?"

Hearing this, Naruto turned to look at the teen moving to sit next to him with a handful of noodles still hanging from his lips and trying to speak, "Mmhm?" The teen watched him struggle not to choke and motioned for him to give him a second as he finished chewing. "Mmm, sorry about that." He took a second to clear his throat, "what's up?"

The teen poked at his own bowl for a moment as if going over what he wanted to say in his head.

Feeling that the teen's hesitation was due to the others hanging around nearby, the blonde looked at the heavenly bowl of ramen before him before placing his chopsticks neatly to the side, "Aiko, you mind giving us a few minutes?"

The cook, acting like he hadn't been curiously eavesdropping on the conversation, hid his disappointment and nodded, taking a moment to wipe his hands on the hand towel draped over one shoulder. "Yeah sure, I'll grab a smoke or something."

"Thanks," Naruto shot him an appreciative yet sheepish look then pushed his unfinished bowl away, waiting for the man to turn off the cooktop and grab his nicosticks before heading to the front, "and Akio, tell Randel and the others to stop eavesdropping by the door." he finished without turning to look.

David glanced back to see the cook stop in the open doorway and look to the side where a sheepish gaggle of three men stood enjoying their own meal while trying to look like they weren't in fact listening in.

"Hehe, ah s-sorry Boss,"

Naruto waved it off, turning his full attention back to the teen once the four left, "So… what's on your mind dude?"

On his way up through the small dining area, Aiko plucked a fresh smoke from the pack but caught himself staring at the modest setup for an extra moment. Wasn't too long ago that he was slinging scop noodles on the street corner outside and look at him now… and to think, it was all due to blind fuckin luck. To think that all of this was thanks to an offhand comment he made about making ramen. Naruto was an odd cat to say the least.

"E-Everything nova Akio?"

The cook nodded, lighting up his nicostick and slowly letting a smile spread across his face, "Yeah… everything's preem choom." Things were still shit if he was honest but standing here, looking at his dream becoming reality, he couldn't complain… well more than usual at least. With the way things seemed to be going, maybe they were changing for the better.

David kept poking at his ramen with his fork, slowly cocking his head from side to side as he went over what he wanted to say while Naruto waited patently, "I really don't want to go back to the academy, I mean I know I told Mom I would and I will but I hate that place. I can't stand those Corpo asshats always screwing with me because we're 'street rats'. Even the faculty look the other way and won't do anything, hell half of them probably enjoy it. I'm tired of seeing mom struggle over bills." Beside him, Naruto nodded in understanding, thinking back to his own time at the ninja academy then frowning heavily at the last part. "And now Mom's been fired for missing work and the ER bill just came in," The fork in his hand fell and clinked on the side of his bowl while the teen rubbed his face, "I just can't help but feel useless, I hate this powerless feeling."

With the teen trailing off after unloading some of his worries, Naruto hummed lowly and crossed his arms, 'Damn Medtechs, already sending bills and she isn't even out yet,'

"I want to be an Edgerunner like you!"

Surprisingly enough, even to himself, Naruto wasn't the least bit shocked that he wanted to be an Edgerunner, in fact he'd been wondering how long it would take the teen to bring it up. According to most of the guys, a lot of poor gonks around this part of Night City made an average of thirty eddies a day working themselves to the bone. Merc work was a quick way to make cred and was the cause of many young solos' early retirement.

"Alright, I'll set something up and let you tag along." he mused with a shrug.

David huffed, "Come-on dude, I- wait, what?" having already anticipated a refusal, Naruto's abrupt agreement took him off guard, "Really!?" A simple nod was all he needed and filled him with giddy anticipation, "Nova! This is gonna be so badass, so what's the gig? We gonna go kick some gonk ass or klep something, or maybe-"

"Chill out David," Naruto chuckled at his excitement, imagining how he used to act as a fresh faced genin… at least until he started those damn D-Rank missions, "First off, I need to make some calls and see if there are any gigs available," besides, he had a feeling that David would do something rash if he didnt do anything, best to at least guide him along and try to be a mentor for now right? "Why don't you put something cold on that cheek before it swells up or something, I'll make a few calls and let you know something when I do alright?"

David nodded, his mood having done a complete one-eighty, "this'll be so fucking preem!" he cheered, not even waiting to see what else the blond might say before sprinting out.

"Huh, damn it's almost like looking in a mirror,"

In Naruto's mind, David was a lot like him. He had that same drive and absorbed knowledge like a sponge. That vid of him quickly taking down his former choom proved it, sure the other teen got the drop on him but he could see Dees training kick in the moment it happened. Not only that but the kick to his knee was textbook, that Avery guy would walk with a limp for quite a while and the ache would last even longer.

What Naruto hadn't told David was that the 'choom' who contacted him was Gustavo. One of his crew hanging around witnessed the entire thing and scrolled it for laughs. Upon sending it to the jefe, Gustavo instantly recognized the teen and let the blond know that his boy had gotten into a scrap with another teen.

At first he assumed that it was that bully kid David told him about, but once Gustavo sent it over he'd been looking over it until David walked in.

"E-Everything ok Boss?" Randel must've waited until David left to make his return, finding him still sitting at the prep table with his now empty bowl looking pensive. "is D-David alright? I-I saw the bruise,"

Naruto nodded slowly, bringing out his holo and tapping away at it with a huff, "He'll be fine, just some drama with an old choom." He told the other sourly, rolling his eyes at the situation. Why did people have an issue with others trying to better their lot in life like this? "Give me just a second. I need to make another call."

"Hey Gustavo… yeah, thanks for letting me know… no, I already talked to him, it's just some gonk ass kid, David already kicked his ass so there's no need to take things further… yeah, just cut 'em loose." Not only had the man sent the vid, but a picture of a petrified teen tied up and stuffed in the back of some random Valentinos truck, probably the last picture anyone would've seen of that gonk had it been anyone else's choice. "I'll get up with you later Gustavo, I gotta go."

With that finished, Naruto placed his holo on the table and reached over to grab David's abandoned bowl, taking his own chopsticks to finish it off. No need to waste something so good right? The blond tore into it like a beast, finishing the noodles and slurping the broth which left Randel in a state of amazement at how quickly he finished.

"Ahhh," he burped loudly, which echoed in the mostly quiet room, "Just what the Kage ordered!" but now he needed to come up with an easy enough gig to take the teen on…

…and hopefully one Gloria would never learn about he finished with a chill running up his spine. One that both worried him and kinda thrilled him at the same time. Now he just needed to find a way to reveal some things to the teen, hopefully in a way that doesn't ruin their friendship anymore than before.

"Ah B-Boss, before I forget. Y-you're new mirror came in today…"

'Oh yeah' Naruto almost forgot about that and flexed his fist, still not one hundred percent if what happened that day was real, "thanks choom, I'll take care of it later on," Randel stayed silent for a bit longer, just enough to get the mercs attention again and earned a look of concern. "Is there something else dude?" He made a noise as he seemed to mull over his words, opening and closing his mouth once or twice before murmuring a negative and making the blond roll his own eyes good-naturedly, "Just tell me what's up choom,"

"I've ah… done what you a-asked," he reported after a few more moments, rubbing his hands together nervously, "t-this is going to be huge, B-Boss a-are you sure about it?"

Naruto smiled and turned in his seat, draping an arm over the backrest, "Nope, not in the slightest!" He admitted with a laugh, making Randels eyes widen fearfully but motioning for him to relax, "but I think it's about time things change around here, don't you?"

"M-maybe,"

Standing up, Naruto winced when the chair scraped the floor and stretched lightly, still grinning as he joked, "wow, thanks for the vote of confidence," apparently it wasn't the right thing to saw as his meek assistant quickly tried to apologize only to be stopped before he could even start, "Chill dude, it was a joke." Randel nodded and stepped back out of the kitchen with Naruto following behind, quickly moving next to the man to pat his shoulder and walking towards the exit, "But to answer your question seriously… yeah I'm sure about this."

"But what if they don't listen?"

"They will." Naruto continued to walk even as Randel slowed, nearly missing a step up on hearing the dark finality in the boss's voice, "I'm done letting gangers run wild around here, it's time they know that H4 is my home and I'm not putting up with it anymore."

"If they wanna live here, they're gonna follow my rules from now on," Naruto stuffed both hands in his pockets, still missing his old orange vest that he'd ruined the other day and stopped by the door when he noticed he was alone, "Hey Randel?" The man had stopped several paces back in the middle of the dining area and was staring at him, "you coming choom?"

"Y-yeah," Randel caught up to the waiting blond and joined him as they walked out, finding Aiko outside smoking while chatting up another local, "H-hey Boss, if you don't mind me asking, w-why now? D-did something happen?"

At first, the blond didn't answer at first, only continuing to make his way towards the elevators making Randel murmur an apology before the blonde shrugged, "I had a good long look in the mirror… and lets just leave it at that, ok dude?"

-xXx-

[The Wheel of Fortune]

( ノ ◕ ヮ ◕ )

(Flashback)

The Morning of Jackie's Fight…

-xXx-

Naruto was tired…

Maybe not so much physically, but mentally, emotionally, and possibly even spiritually he was exhausted. Having just left Glorias bedside just hours after taking David home for the night and asking him to gather some of her things, Naruto slunk into his own apartment in the wee hours of the morning like a ghost. Avoiding everyone in the MegaBuilding was child's play, even with the mounting pressure in the back of his head and his inability to stop yawning.

The pipes made a low groan as soon as he turned the dial for hot water on full blast. It would take a second for the water to get hot so Naruto leaned against the counter just looking in the mirror until steam started to cloud his reflection. Just gotta wash his face at least and then catch a quick nap.

The exhausted ninja was hunched over, splashing water on his face when he heard it…

Well, well, well, here we are again.

Still leaning against the bathroom sink with his head hung low, Naruto's bloodshot eyes snapped open at hearing that familiar voice. His own. "... You?" He slowly looked up and spotted himself smirking in the mirror, sporting solid black and red eyes that he hadn't seen in-

Yep, me! Bet you didn't expect to see my pretty face again did ya? Hahaha!

Speechless, Naruto stood up straight with his reflection doing the same except crossing his arms, "But why are you here?" he questioned breathlessly, reaching down to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming, "ow!" Nope definitely not dreaming.

'Why am I here?' the reflection mocked, rolling his eyes while also rubbing his arm in the same fashion the , The hell are you talking about, I never left. I'm a part of you remember… but then again I'm not the crazy one right?

"I'm not crazy," he gritted out, looking away from himself in his reflection, who only cocked his head with a look that screamed bullshit, "I'm not!"

Sure sure, keep telling yourself that. Maybe one day you'll believe your own lies, get off your ass, and stop being so useless.

"Useless?" He spun back around to face it, "Screw you, I'm not useless!"

Really? Then why is our woman in a coma?

Naruto recoiled back as if struck and growled, looking away from his mirror and at the sink full of water, "Shut up," then he realized what was said, making him raise an eyebrow. "Wait, our woman?"

Yeah, our woman, ya gonk. You're the one that said I was a part of you remember? his grin somehow ticked him off even more knowing that he was right. And hey, I'm just calling it like it is. Don't forget dumbass, I'm you and I know exactly what's going on in that useless thing you call a melon. You and I both know you could've easily prevented what happened. Sent clones to shadow them, a single clone each could easily watch over them all without 'em even knowing. A small squad? Ha… they'd be untouchable, it really would be-

"What? For their own good?!" He snapped back, spitting as he did, "I'm not like that! I'm not going to have them shadowed and watch their every like some kinda creep!"

You mean like gramps did to us?

"..."

Face it, we were never fit to be a Kage. The reflection sighed mockingly, You could never make the hard decisions without some woe-is-me bullshit… pfft, how the hell did I ever fall for it too? Can't believe I'm a part of a fucking failure like you,

"I'm not a failure,"

That so? Tell that to Cami!

Naruto froze.

You failed to protect them just like you failed to protect her, the only reason Glory and Davy are even alive is because you paid for Trauma Team insurance… hmm, guess you did something right. Imagine that, you did learn something after all. Too bad Cami paid the price for your weakness.

Both hands tightened on the edge of his counter, turning the knuckles on his left hand white, "Stop bringing her into this you fucker! You have no right!"

I have no right? I have no damn right? If you'd take your fucking balls out of whatever scroll you sealed them in then Cami would still be alive and you know it! If you'd learn from your mistakes, Gloria, David, hell everyone and everything we love would be untouchable! You know it's true, you could level this entire city, he snapped his fingers with a sneer and mocked, just like that. But nooo, you'd rather cower away and keep a low profile.

Naruto threw up his hands in annoyance, "Ugh, maybe I am crazy," he grumbled to himself, realizing that he was basically arguing with himself. The ninja took a deep breath and leaned against the counter again, "But I'm not a monster,"

That's not what you were saying before.

"I'm not going to massacre an entire city of innocent people,"

Pfft, 'innocent'. We both know this city's trash… no, it's worse than trash. Outta burn it all down and build something new…

but that's not the issue now, is it?

Naruto sighed, bowing his head and looking at his reflection in the water, which stared back with an unimpressed sneer, "I couldn't heal her,"

Well duh, we don't have the geezers seal anymore.

"I know," As disappointing as it was to lose the sage's Six Path Yang seal after defeating Kaguya, Naruto had held onto that small sliver of hope for a while.

But that doesn't mean we can't take other measures to protect what we love.

"I said that I'm not going to be like-"

Then get ready to lose everything! Because if your not willing to be a fucking man and hold on with everything we have then we'll always be alone. You'll keep on letting others take what we love and always end up Dead-Fucking-Last!

"Fuck you!" Naruto snapped with a yell and lashed out, punching his smart mirror with his organic hand. The thick panel was no match for his fist and shattered in a spiderweb of cracks, causing a cascade of broken shards to fall all over his countertop and into his sink. Several of which fell and lacerated his arm while the smaller pieces ripped apart his knuckles. "I won't let it happen, not again… never again…"

Pulling back, Naruto grimaced at the damage he'd caused not only to his apartment but to himself as blood freely poured from the rapidly healing slices down his arm, dripping into the water below. The tiny shards still in his fist slowly fell out, steam wafting from the open wounds as they sealed themselves shut.

Then blessed silence.

He looked at the mess he made with a huff and hung his head, leaning against the counter with his cybernetic arm, "I won't lose them, I can't." his other arm hung over the sink, the steady drips of crimson slowly changing the water to a murky pink.

Hmm… we'll see.

"Great, you're still here," the blond sighed with a shake of his head as he looked before looking up at the damage again, both to his bathroom and his rapidly healing hand. "I should stuff you in a clone and make you clean this up,"

From the spiderweb of remaining smart glass left mounted above his sink, the dark eyed reflection rolled his eyes. Me? Fuck you, you clean it! You're the gonk that tried to punch your own reflection… Besides, we both know I'd kick your ass and you'd still be stuck cleaning both messes.

"What makes you say that?"

That fractured grin reappeared, somehow both upsetting and reassuring at the same time. It's simple… I'm you…well the part that's ready to stop holding back anyway.

The grin that slowly worked its way onto his face fell suddenly, "Wait… did that actually happen?" Running on fumes, it wouldn't be the first time he'd hallucinated something but damn he was trained to deal with the stress. A quick glance over to his broken mirror revealed nothing more than broken glass and several small electrical components that slowly fell down, "Oh man… I'm actually going insane… and I have to clean this up, again."

Once his hand finally finished bleeding and healed up, Naruto started cleaning up the mess he'd made with yet another sigh, "So much for my nap, oh well it's almost time to go get David anyway. I'll just deal with this first…"

But try as he might, the lingering thoughts continued to whisper in the back of his mind…

-xXx-

Once upon a long damn time ago, back before the the Time of Red or even the DataKrash, Braindances were mainly repurposed for criminal reconditioning and for military simulations with funding from the State of California and Militech. Nowadays, such amazing technology is so commonplace that the destitute masses use it to escape the soul crushing, inescapable poverty to the point that many prefer to waste away in their commercial BDs than deal with life.

The unedited virtues however were dangerous, deadly even. The gonks smart enough to know how to edit them but dumb enough to try without knowing what they're doing quickly found themselves overloaded with the experiences. Not exactly a pretty sight especially with those early prototypes, that is if you believe the old techies that loved to gab on and on about those old conspiracies.

To relieve the experiences of others was an amazing thing, to feel exactly what it's like to be your favorite rockerboy on stage playing to s roaring crowd, to experience living in the lap of luxury over and over, some even allow you to experience zero gravity on the surface of the moon all without a space suit but those particular little gems were hard to find.

With that said, it also allowed one to view another's final moments…

"You know what, this is my fault. I got complacent, I know how things are in this city and I just ignored them to play house. I never should've left things to chance… not again… to protect the people I love, I'll never stop fighting but I've decided that from now on I'll do what needs to be done, if I gotta kill, I'll kill and if I gotta burn this city to the ground,"

The first step any good editor took with a hot virtue like this was to edit the pain levels, most clients didn't really want to experience the pain of death, only the thrill.

Icy blue eyes burned with anger as your killer stood over your limp body. The pain was gone but the sensation of something being very wrong remained in each broken limb. Adrenaline from the stim still coursed through your broken body, pushing you to move despite being unable. Your body wasn't the only thing affected either, the cocktail of stimulants sent your synapses on overdrive and nearly overloaded the senses.

"Then I'll burn it to the fucking ground and build something better on the ashes!"

Those eyes, such strong emotion! Full of pain and anger! The eyes of a man on the edge, a hero…a psychopath! The same look that Norris had before he was sent on his way to scroll his swansong!

A tall, skinny man who dresses in a Neokitsch style. His face is implanted with several gold-plated facial mods replacing his nose and covering his chin, his eyes have been replaced with cyberoptics with a blue-pink circle design on the iris and pupil. His hair is long and shaved on the sides. He also has a pencil mustache that he rubbed with a fingertip while going over the BD.

Locked deep within his personal BD studio, a weasel of a man cackled madly underneath his custom wreath loaded with some of the best editing soft eddies could buy, "Looks like I found my next star!" he cheered with glee while already planning on how to set the stage for his next entry in his lineup.

Time to make some inquiries! Maybe he should give his number one fan a ring over the holo and see if he could spin a little of his Corpo magic to locate this beastly cyberpunk. Whoever he was, his virtue could very well be his magnum opus!

All he would need is the proper motivation…

"There's nothing quite like a fathers wrath!" He muttered again gleefully, easily switching to another scene with a thought command that changed the world around him. A nauseating sensation to those who never experienced it with lines of code rebuilding the space around him in rapid succession until he stood on the mall's second floor balcony overlooking the same scene below.

It was easy to find some low brow ganger that wanted to star in their very own Braindance. Everyone wanted to be something they weren't! The trick was to find the real deal, the ones who truly feel themselves spiraling and dive headfirst over the edge, even if they needed a little push to get going.

"It's Jimmy… yes you nitwit, Kurosaki… just shut up and listen, I think I found my next star…"

-xXx-

Gloria was going to end him. It didn't get any more simple than that. If… no when she finds out that he took her son to work with him the red head was going to do unspeakable things to him and not in a fun way. But he wasn't foolish… well not completely anyway, he knew what would happen if he refused and tried to keep the kid away from this life, he'd only end up pushing him to do it in secret.

This was a lot better than waiting for David to try and line up a gig on his own right? The kid was smart, a lot smarter than him and picked up on things almost just as quickly as he did when it came to training. Sure he had a tendency to jump the gun at times but the thought made him bring one arm up to sheepishly rub the back of his neck. Like he was one to talk.

Sitting down at his desk, Naruto picked up an empty Rammmen container he'd left sitting there the day before and tossed it into his trash can before drumming his chrome fingertips against the desktop. Now he needed a gig, an easy one without too much drama or danger… or killing for that matter… Now where the hell was he supposed to find that?

The Padre might have something… "No," Naruto shook his head. He spoke with the old man not too long ago and the only gigs he had were things he wouldn't dare let David be a part of.

Kirk… Yeah, no. The day he let Kirk rope David into one of his 'Sure things' was the day he open mouth French kissed Wakako. Wakako maybe? No definitely not, not after he told her off the way he did. Besides, screw that old hag.

Regina! She was trustworthy enough and their interests often aligned with each other. Many of her gigs were to help people, sure not all of them but enough to make her one of his favorite fixers alongside the old man in Heywood.

Let's give her a call and see if she could help.

-x-

[Hey Naruto, what's the buzz]

The vid panel displayed over his eye quickly flashed to life with a groggy looking Media turned Fixer yawning into the feed. He took particular amusement from the state of her hair, her usual no-nonsense ponytail lopsided with several locks half pulled from the hair tie. "Did I catch you at a bad time?"

[Just finishing up a successful contract, client tried to delta without keeping his end. Speaking of which, that Edgerunner crew you recommended did a preem job, I'll forward you a finders fee as thanks for the tip.]

Oh yeah, he'd nearly forgotten about the crew he screwed over a while back. After explaining the situation to Regina, Naruto managed to convince her to give the micro mini Merc and her crew a shot and was glad that they once again had their foot in the door.

"Nah, you keep it." While he could use the eddies, a favor right now might be just what he needs, "But you know, if you really wanna thank me I could use a easy gig," Regina gave him an odd look so he added sheepishly, "I'll be bringing a tag along,"

[That big hombre you pal around with?]

"No, not Jack… ah look I'd rather not get into it right now. But he's dependable and I trust him." He told her knowing that most didn't want to risk letting new faces handle biz.

[Well I don't have any open gigs at the moment,] Naruto started to grumble lightly, fair enough he supposed, it wasn't like gigs grew on trees.

"Damn," well it was worth a shot.

[Hm… wait a sec, you know what? I think I might actually have something. Are you up for a rush job? To be totally honest it's not really a gig, more of a personal request.]

"... It better not be a missing cat,"

[What?]

Naruto blinked, realizing that he had spoken out loud. "What?" Having thought about his days as a fresh faced genin earlier, those dreaded D-rank missions/chores had come to mind. "Nevermind, it's nothing, tell me about the gig,"

[Well get this, Client contacted me about boosting some chicks Dataterm, figured it was some creep wanting to get a little too close to some poor girl. But something irked me, this guy showed up with some next level stalker intel and I'm talking the kind I deal in.] The fixer never paused and looked like she was tapping out something on her own Dataterm. [I'm talking apartment layout, appointments, time-frames, pics, chooms, college schedule… the works.]

"I don't know Regina, I'm not about to help some weirdo stalk this poor girl." He grumbled, raising an eyebrow at her and honestly hoping that she wasn't about to as well. If that was the case then he was about to lose a lot of his respect for her.

[Me either, but it didn't stop me from copying his Intel. But like I said, something about the guy had my media senses buzzing so I dug into him a little deeper.] A pair of pictures were forwarded to him, a still from a hidden cam that managed to get a clear shot of the client's face along with another more official one with him standing in front of the Night City flag. [Meet Kevin, didn't take much to find his connection to the Devolutionist party and to Mayor Rhyne's bulldog Weldon Holt.]

"Holt? Isn't that the bald guy that always looks like he smells something rotten?" Regina nodded. "So what does this have to do with the gig?"

[I wasn't going to bother with it but I have to admit that I'm a little curious. I don't really care about the Mayor's lapdog but I kinda want to klep it just so they can't have it.] Naruto raised an eye at the fixers attitude, [what? He's an idiot, even for a politician. Guys got corpos so far up his ass they'd piss out his mouth.]

"Well when you put it like that how could I refuse?" He chuckled, "I'm always up to piss off some corrupt politicians. I'm in,"

[Nova, there's one catch… according to what my former client believes, she's due to leave NC on an extended holiday tomorrow and that data will be long gone by then. Regina quickly got the relevant data packet pulled up and swiped a long strand of hair out of her face. [The targets a newer model DataTerm, pretty high end tech but It's unconnected to any network so it can't be accessed through the NET. Someone has to infiltrate and physically access the term, preferably without being detected or leaving a trace.]

Naruto nodded along, jotting down a few notes on the notebook on his desk, "So it's just to steal some data?" He asked for confirmation, wanting to make sure and getting a nod, "Tell me about the location and the girl,"

[The apartment where it's located belongs to a Xochi Engler. Like I said, she's a college girl living separately from family and planning a trip to Europe during the academic break. Flicking you the address in Charter Hill.]

His holo once again chirped with a location, "That could work, break in while she's gone. We could use that time to make sure nothings out of place for when she returns,"

[That was my first thought too, but apparently the place will be cleared out once she leaves so we can't wait till then as the data may be gone.]

"And since you mentioned it's a rush job…"

[Yep, She's leaving in two days. Today is the last window of opportunity.]

Thinking about it for a few seconds, Naruto quickly ran through several mental plans that could work then nodded slowly, "Give me the intel you have and I'll have it done by the end of today,"

[So you'll do it?] The fixer sounded pleased as he nodded, [Preem, I'll have a shard delivered to you with the deets within the hour… oh and T-Bug came through, sending you two more locations.]

[DOWNLOADING: Geo-coordinates… Giuseppez AutoBody shop, Santo Domingo…]

With that, Naruto's eyes narrowed, this shouldn't take too long right? Gina needed an hour to get the shard ready and David was… well he wasn't too sure what he was doing but he'd give the kid a call when he had some time to go over the details himself, "Sivitz, huh? You're a lot closer than I thought."

-xXx-

Sivitz was a typical NC import, a cocky little shit looking to make it big. In what, he didn't even have a fuckin clue but he wasnt going to one of those punks that went up in smoke, he was gonna be smart, do things right.

And look at him now, how the hell did he end up like this?

Pushing himself up, Sivitz looked over to the side mirror on his truck and pulled it around, 'doubt my sisters would even recognize me anymore.' he mused, comparing himself to the scrawny punk he used to be. Oh well, he'll find out soon enough and the thought made him grin.

Just a little more.

That was the mantra he's been living by for the last couple of years; just a little more. Just a little more and I can get out. Just a little more and I can make it out of this city. It was what he told himself to justify all the fucked up shit he's done.

Just a little more and he can leave all this behind him and have a fresh start somewhere, anywhere other than this place.

How the fuck did he fall right into the same shit he kept saying he'd never do? A question he asked himself more than once over the years he was trapped here, once he eddies ran out the debts climbed just as fast and before he knew it he was just another out of work gonk fighting over scraps until he impressed some gangers.

Too broke to care where the cred came from, too young to care, and angry enough to enjoy being the one doing the pushing for once in his life, the streets welcomed yet another gangoon into its fold.

But damn it, he wouldn't be another statistic, he's been planning this for what feels like forever. Thanks to his records, crossing the border got a whole lot more expensive since he couldn't exactly buy a ticket and hop on the bus. He needed the cash to bribe his way out, the truck to haul his ass out and all he needed to cross badlands via the highway.

Just a little more.

The bribe was taken care of, his newly purchased second hand truck needed a little work but nothing that a few cases of beer and a few more sleepless nights couldn't handle. It wasn't like he was sleeping too well anyway, just too much excitement.

Finished looking at his own ugly mug, the ganger adjusted his mirror back into its original place and stood up straight, noticing that he seemed to have left the door half closed. 'Fuck, hope the light inside didn't run the battery down or something,' that was just what he needed.

Wondering where the battery testing term was, he slammed the door shut to notice some about his reflection on the window

He wasn't alone.

A blond man in orange stood just behind him, peering over his shoulder like he'd been there the entire time. "Nice ride, that last gig must've paid pretty well."

Without missing a beat, the bearded ganger whirled around to slam his elbow into the stranger's skull, only for the other man to block his strike with shocking ease. "Straight to the fight huh? That's fine by me!" Naruto took the gangoon by the arm and flung him around using his own momentum. "Hope you put up a better fight than your choom,"

Sivitz caught himself on the edge of his workstation, banging his knee into the toolbox tucked away underneath. His weight jolted the entire thing and caused the tools already haphazardly piled atop it to shift and fall. "Who the hell are you?!" Naruto ducked when he came back around again, this time swinging a large tire iron in his grip with a yell as he threw his weight into the blow. Remembering that he mentioned a gig, the gangoon sneered and adjusted his grip on his weapon. This guy had to be a fucking corpo-rat for Arasaka, must be after them due to the hit the other day. They didn't manage to leave the Corpo smeared across the highway but the client paid up either way, strangely enough, "Fuck it, I'm nukin your gonk ass anyway,"

Naruto ducked and dodged the gangoons following attacks, frustrating his opponent as he couldn't get even close and land a single blow. The blond could see that the ganger had strength but his size slowed him down to the point where he barely had to try.

Once again, Naruto took advantage of his wild uncontrolled swings, this time redirecting and sending him flailing head first into the driver's side window, leaving long jagged cuts across his face and overing his 'new' interior in thousands of glittering glass shards.

"Fuckin, bastard!" Sivitz' leaned heavily against his door, half inside it and grabbing his face. It burned like hell and seeing the dozens of angry seeping wounds in the mirror he understood why. "The fucks your problem anyway?" He took a shuddering breath and grimaced, slowly easing himself out with several pieces falling from his hair and beard.

Naruto noticed that he still held the tire iron, even as the thin streams of red worked their way down his face. "That stunt you and your chooms pulled got some people I love hurt, my girl and her… our son, you gonks shot up the car with them inside."

"Wait…" Sivitz pondered for a moment then grimaced, rubbing his bleeding arm against the dirty coveralls he wore. He remembered seeing a kid, this scrawny little scavbait sitting in a little shitcan Galina. "Hehehe," the gangoon thought it over, "so wait, you ain't with the 'saka?" That made him let out a relieved sigh while his other hand grasped the brightly colored plastic grip of his newly acquired M76E Omaha Tech pistol left sitting on his seat, taken from a dead VDB just a few days ago. "I was almost worried."

Trying to get him by surprise, the gangoon slung his other arm around, already holding the trigger to charge a burst of rounds. Suspecting that he was trying something, Naruto was already closing the distance when the ganger swung his uninjured arm around in a wide sweep. The pistol looked comically small in his massive hand but it more than made up for its size as the tech pistol barked and spat a burst of rounds in his direction.

Several promotional signs and posters on the far wall were damaged from the strays. The selling point of this pistol was that each round split into three in a triangle pattern, a handful of which punched through the blonds unarmored chest like wet cardboard.

Smoke filled the shop and obscured his vision when something clattered to the floor with a hollow metallic thump behind the smokescreen. Sivitz knew for a fact that he got the gonk, there was no way he missed at this range but as quickly as the smoke appeared it dissipated just as fast.

"No, no way," laying on the floor was the one of the metal oil canisters used to store burnt oil, half ripped open with its contents quickly spreading out over the floor. "I know I got him!" He continued to assure himself while tightening his grip on both weapons.

Something heavy bounced off the side of his head with a hollow yet solid thump that made him taste metal. "Son of a-", he spun around to see the man waving from the other bay. "How the hell did you-?" a thick sloshing sound at his feet drew a quick glance, had that bastard thrown an open quart of oil at him this time? Quickly he snapped back towards his opponent and brought the pistol back up, firing at the man who mocked him with a laugh and took cover behind a wheeled toolbox.

This pistol shook in his grip, both frustrated and a little afraid now, "Who the fuck are you!" he roared, keeping his weapon aimed.

"Now you wanna have a chat?" Quipped the blond from behind his cover, the thin metal lid on the top getting shredded by gangers next shot. A crowbar dangled from the handle mounted to the toolbox, catching his eye and making him smirk, "What, do you need a minute to catch your breath?"

Frowning, Sivitz fired another round, hitting the back of the toolbox, "Fuck you! Why're you fucking with me you scop-sucking prick!?" Naruto flinched back when one of the larger drawers slid out and nearly hit him in the chin. "Cause your bitch and some little fucking prick got in the way?"

Naruto's eyes turned cold, "Watch your mouth, I haven't even started kicking your ass yet," he took the crowbar from its place and put away his knife, slipping it back into his pouch.

Each step the bleeding gangoon took towards the blond's cover left a large boot print in its wake as he neared it, ready to empty the rest of the clip into him.

A low whistle from behind had him spin back around, heart sinking only for Naruto to pop back up, "Don't get distracted!" the blond announced mockingly, easily slipping around the bullet riddled toolbox and closing the distance between them at that moment, weapon crowbar came down on his forearm with a crack. Sivitz cried out, his pistol bouncing onto the floor between them where it was kicked away towards the front of his truck, sliding through the oil.

"Was that an orange pistol?" Naruto found himself asking, having just realized that it was indeed a bright neon orange Omaha Tech pistol that he had kicked. Wincing as it bounced along the floor and into the oil with a little splash. 'Its mine now!'

"Son of a bitch!" Sivitz knew this feeling well, his arm was fucked, didnt need a ripper to tell him that his arm didn't stand a chance against that chunk of steel. But knowing what was at stake and hoping to take advantage of what seemed like an opening, he grit his teeth and swung his own steel weapon at the blond with Naruto responding in kind.

*Clang*

Naruto held it at bay with relative ease and paused just long enough for the ganger to realize that he might well and truly be fucked, "I've already found your choom Thrax by the way," he revealed after forcing the larger of the two back with another swing of his own.

*Clang*

"And considering that I'm here I think you can figure out what happened."

*Clang*

Each time he stuck sent painful vibrations up his arm. The blond continued swinging the crowbar like a blacksmith hammering away at his anvil. Again and again tire iron took the beating in his stead but each strike made his arms scream out in agony until the madman adjusted his aim ever so slightly, pulverizing Sivitz' knuckles with one final blow.

"AHHH!'' The bar fell from his shattered hand, bouncing and rolling away a split second before the blond kicked him in the chest, catching Thrax flatfooted and staggering him back. Another blow caught him in the back, sending him back towards the blond who once again caught him, this time with a right hook that sent him spinning.

'There's two of them?!' The identical man didn't give him a chance to finish his thought and was already mid swing, catching Sivitz with a monsterous straight to the stomach that doubled him over.

"I ain't done yet!" the clone announced, bringing his knee up to meet his face. The gangoon swayed, the hit staggering him back up straight where the original grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around without pause. Narutos 'ganic hand caught the collar of his overalls and used it to hold him in place to start raining blow after blow onto the ganger unable to defend himself in time.

"They've… already got… a hard enough… life!" He growled out between punches, his cybernetic fist striking his chest and face like a hammer welded by a madman, "and you made it so much harder!" One final punch followed by a shove sent Sivitz reeling back towards the clone, "and for what?"

His question went unanswered so the two of them rushed forward. Sivitz found himself besieged on both sides, tossed back and forth, beaten like a back alley Joytoy until a dropkick finally sent him crashing to the floor. Sivitz hit the floor again, this time landing in the oil slick that had steadily been spreading out the entire time.

"I think that's enough," Naruto smirked while taking in exactly where the gangoon had stopped. The Ganger slid a little further than expected thanks to the oil now pooling around the overturned containers and came to a stop halfway under the truck.

"Well I hope it was worth it,"

With a groan, the battered ganger saw that the blond had moved and was standing next to the lift, his hand on the pneumatic hose connected to it. The specialized lift normally used for delicate bodywork that was now being used simply so he could change his breaks.

"Wait wait wait NO!" Realization of what he was about to do struck them both but nowhere near as hard as the nearly one ton Colby Butte truck when Naruto disconnected the pneumatic hose connected to the lift.

The blast of the escaping air kicked up all the dust and dirt below him with a deafening hiss accompanied by a short cry that ended just as soon as it began, silenced by his own vehicle. The rotor crushed Sivitz' torso just below the ribs and prevented him from screaming, only managing weak, strangled gasps against the oil pan now pressed against his face while his feet jerked and kicked uselessly.

Naruto paced over to the front of the truck and knelt down to look the man in the face, looking directly into the gangers panic stricken eyes as he did. It was only the lifted suspension and the driver side tire that kept his head from popping like a grape. "Still alive? Tough bastard aren't you," he tsked and looked over his shoulder, spying the workbench nearby.

"..." Sivitz opened his mouth but couldn't form the words from the pressure of the blond psychos stare… or maybe it was the truck currently parked on top of him.

"She might have brain damage, you know." Naruto's voice echoed over the empty bays while he opened one of the large metal tools boxes, digging through and looking for something in particular.. "Docs say when she was thrown from the car that she fractured her skull, I mean it's kinda obvious that it would happen when you think about it but I guess I'm still processing it." One trey had nothing but wrenches while another had five sets of sockets which were all missing the ten millimeter socket but what he was looking was something more like, "Ah this'll work," he held up a large flathead screwdriver and continued to talk, "Her names Gloria by the way, and she's such an amazing woman… and to think that she's suffering in the hospital while you're here just playing with your new wheels…"

He paced back over to the truck and crouched down again to face the ganger once more, picking at his fingers with the flat end of the screwdriver, "but you wanna know something worse?" Naruto laughed coldly, motioning to his captive audience with the chipped end of his new flathead, "there's nothing I can do to help her… I've tried, but we don't heal people do we? People like us, we're only good for hurting others. But Gloria, she tries to help people, she did her best to help me. I still remember when I first met her; I was just laying in the middle of some godforsaken street in the rain and I opened my eyes to see this goddess hovering over me. Saying that it's all gonna be ok." He trailed off and looked away, his eyes hardening, "I can't even tell her that, but this…this is the only thing I can do…"

"Their names are Gloria and David Martinez, think about them with what little time you have left,"

Sivitz' plea for mercy came out as wet whimpers bubbling up from half crushed chest as the blond stabbed the flathead deep into the sidewall of the driver side tire with a sharp twist. Not enough to instantly flatten it but the both of them knew it wouldn't be too long. The desperate noise and kicks worsened and Naruto frowned at the racket a small tool box made as it was kicked over, sending hundreds upon hundreds of eddies worth of about four tools bouncing across the floor.

Walking over to the mechanics work bench, Naruto found the radio and powered it up. Already tuned to 107.3 Morro Rock, it started blasting out the chords to 'Chippin in' and he found himself nodding along to the rhythm without even thinking. Nearby, the gangers holo buzzed next to a half eaten Slaughterhouse Prime burger and several empty Brosephs,making him coldly muse that at least he got a last meal when the holo flashed with another notification.

"Hey! You got a missed call!" Naruto yelled over his shoulder while picking it up, the screen flashed with a familiar name which made him click his teeth, "and whaddaya know, it's Jayson. I was just about to go pay him a visit,"

Of course, Sivitz couldn't reply and had already started losing strength. The weight of his sins along with the entirety of his front axle prevented him from getting enough breath to continue struggling.

"Oops," Naruto 'accidentally' snapped it in half with his hands and slung it across the mechanics shop, "Well I'm sure it's not important right?" He continued and walked back over to crouch by the front bumper, "Anyway I can see you're dealing with a pressing issue at the moment so I'll get outta your hair but hey, want me to pass along a message to your choom?"

Without waiting for an answer he wouldn't get, Naruto snickered and slapped the hood, standing to leave, "wait what the-" he noticed that he got grease and oil splattered all over his pants and groaned "Damn it, I just did the laundry too… man I hope this comes out."

"... no… p-lea-se," bringing forth all the remaining strength he could muster, Sivitz desperately tried to reach for the man, begging not to be left to suffer a slow death. His one free hand quickly went back to the axle, trying and failing to lessen the pressure.

Naruto paused after several steps and let his shoulders sag, "You know dude," his voice had a slight echo now the blond noticed before continuing, his little fox like grin turning upside down, "Just a day ago this would've ended a lot differently, I mean I still would've kicked your gonk ass but… knowing that you were trying to leave Night City…"

Sivitz strained as hard as his battered limbs could bear with little to show for his efforts. But he wouldn't give up… he couldn't.

Naruto continued with a snort and shook his head in disbelief, "You're probably the smartest gonk in this damn city you know? I took the time to read what my new netrunner choom could dig up and I have to say that if you hadn't nearly flatlined my family I'd probably root for you to make it out of the city."

Of course, he wasn't expecting a reply from the man so Naruto just sighed and rubbed the back of his head, "Man… I hate what I'm becoming, but at least I know what gramps meant now."

"Naruto-kun, being Hokage isn't as easy as you think, there will be times where you will be faced with hard decisions to make and no good outcome to be had. And those won't even be the hardest days…"

"Somehow I doubt these are the kinda decisions you were talking about, old man," he continued to muse before heading on his way out. Stopping by the work bench one last time just to crank the volume on the radio, that way anyone passing by would only hear the roar of Johnny Silverhand screaming through the speakers.

Hear My Call, I'm Chippin' In

TOTAL WAR, I'M CHIPPIN' IN

CASINGS FALL, I'M CHIPPIN' IN

KILL THEM ALL!

-xXx-

"Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is."

-Carl Jung

-xXx-

The Wheel of Fortune means that change is coming. One's destiny could turn out for the better or the worse, yet it also bears the promise of new possibilities. The Wheel reminds us that nobody remains at the top forever, but also that not every situation is hopeless

-xXx-

To be continued...

-xXx-

Hey everyone, kept you waiting huh? Sorry about that but I hope this chapter is good enough to make up for it. As always I'm so grateful for everyone who's reached out, I love this story and love writing it when I can so whenever I hear from someone who enjoyed it I feel pretty damn good you know. Anyway, thanks for reading i'm contemplating shorter chapters again, maybe shoot for 20k instead of 25k but we'll see how things go.

Oh and before I forget, a small sneak peek for the next chapter...

-xXx-

Now with at least one wall and a few appliances between them and her, Naruto crouched by the open entryway watching for their opportunity to escape and listening to the unsuspecting woman grumble and curse before making another call.

"Ah Naruto, still need to get the data don't we?"

Made a face and silently screaming because he knew the teen was right, Naruto hung his head "Shit, yeah ah… give me a sec and I'll…" David looked concerned when he stopped mid sentence and waited when he held up a finger, listening in on the new call and smirking, "I got it… David, do you trust me?"

"... Not when you ask me like that," the deadpan expression he got in return for that made the teen sigh, "alright fine yeah what's the plan,"

Naruto peeked around and David tried to do the same, only to be pulled back, "Look, here's the plan, I'm going to sneak back in and grab what we need,"

"Ok," nodding along, David motioned for more, "What do I do?"

Naruto grinned and patted the teen on the shoulders, "You have the most important part, I need you to distract her,"

"Distract her, how the fuck… how am I supposed to do that, we're not supposed to be caught?"

He placed a hand on each shoulder, "Just trust me and go along with what she says, I promise it'll work."

"Why don't you distract her?"

"Because I'm loyal to your mother," he smirked before suddenly spinning him around and shoving him out into the open, "Good luck!"

David made a strangled yelp and scrambled not to fall, shoes slapping the floor loudly as he tried to stop himself. He managed not to fall and looked around in a panic like a mouse as the owner stuck her head out from her bedroom door upstairs and looked down directly at him.

"Oh good, you're here already! Just a second, let me put a little something on and I'll be right there."

Forcing the panic down, David smiled sheepishly just a few paces from the door, "Ah yeah, no problem!" He replied, trying not to sound suspicious. Once she vanished, he quickly made his way back to the open doorway leading to kitchen, where Naruto was still hiding, "Naruto?"

"..."

Not getting an answer, he leaned in and found himself alone. Naruto was gone. "Naruto?" He wouldn't have left him here would he? A quick look around confirmed it but before he could call out again to try and find him, the owners voice answered him instead,

"You looking for something in particular cutie?"

Spinning around, David tried to keep a calm look but failed instantly at the sight, nearly skipping down the stairs, making her laugh at his bright red face as he tried and failed to reply.

She was a bit older than him and slightly taller by an inch or two with shoulder length curly brown hair wearing an oversized Tainted Overlord shirt that did nothing to hide the fact that she only wore a pair of blue and pink panties below.

"Aw, you're blushing. Dollie said you were new but I didn't think she meant you'd be young," she eyed him up and down in a way that made the teen blush harder and bit her lip, moving even closer to drape her arms over his shoulders. "Have you ever done this before?"

Movement behind her drew his attention to where Naruto had reappeared where the woman descended earlier, giving the teen a thumbs up and a shit-eatting grin as he quickly and silently slipped into her bedroom. David shook his head quickly, the scent of her perfume filling his nose with hints of vanilla and something sweet "N-No,"

"First time?" Her dark brown eyes sparkling with excitement which made him blush worse at her correct assumption. "Oh I'm so excited, I've never had a virgin Joytoy before!" David finally realized what was going on but couldn't quite believe it until she leaned back and ran her fingers down his chest. "Ooh and you have some muscles too, nice. I'm Xochi by the way,"

Once again, movement caught his eye and glancing up, he spotted the blond trying not to laugh while holding himself up on the doorway they fled from earlier

With her feeling his chest, the teen swallowed nervously, stuttering when one hand slipped down to his waist and played with his waistband, "D-David,"

Xochis seductive little grin never faltered, having grown along with a certain part of his anatomy that was now hard as steel, "fuck your so cute," David groaned lowly when her teasing fingers hooked underneath his pants and boxers to pull him along with her, "Come on I was about to hop in the shower, you can join me! I so can't wait to pop your cherry!"