"Blossom to team, primary target is en route. Take final positions."
"Panda, in position."
"Blossom to Sparkle… Dazzle… screw it, Blossom to Pig."
"It's not PIG! Damnit, I told you it was Pizzazz."
"That is not an acceptable code name, Pig."
"Shut the hell up. If you can pick Blossom and not Forehead, then I get to pick…"
"Panda to idiots. We've got movement on the target."
"All right everyone, listen up. Pizza or whatever, you're on. Sparrow, start tracking. Panda, I'll let you know when to fire."
They fall silent and for the first time since we got here, I think we might actually pull this off. The week of planning might actually come to fruition.
I pitched the idea of all kunoichi team to Tsunade-shishou a couple of weeks ago after mulling over it for a few years. Most kunoichi feel undervalued in their team of mostly guys. After all why should they bother pushing themselves if their male teammates steal all the glory? Or worse, their teammates seem to be under the impression that the females of the group have to be constantly protected. Letting them work occasionally on a team of all women would probably do wonders for their self esteem.
I pulled research papers, made charts, prepared a thirty page long thesis on the subject and went to present my case to her. She took one look at the first page of that proposal and said,
"Congratulations, Sakura, your proposal is accepted on a trial basis. Pull together a team and give us some in field data."
I realized at that point there was one thing I hadn't thought about. Actual implementation. I just assumed it would get assigned to some higher ranking Jounin. I didn't think I would get assigned it myself.
I didn't have a lot of time either. Tsunade had picked out a mission for a test run and it was in less then a week.
One thing I knew was that I would run the group. As the medic, I'd need to be out of the action anyway. And I'd like to think all those times people told me I was smart were the truth.
I'd started playing Go with Shikamaru since we're both in the Hokage's Tower so often, waiting for Tsunade-shishou. He said I have a knack for strategy and that someday, I might actually beat him.
"What would you do if you had to pull a team entirely composed of kunoichi?" I asked him right after my meeting with shishou.
"Kill myself," he said dryly.
"Shikamaru, I'm serious!"
"So am I. The idea of having a four woman cell, four warring sets of hormones, you'd have to be insane to try." He sighed. "But if I had to try… I suppose I'd have to find a balance."
"Yeah. Personality, strengths and weakness. Find a balance and you'll find a team."
So I set about thinking about the kunoichi I knew. Unfortunately before I really got to thinking, Ino found me. Stupid Shikamaru. For all the whining he did about women, he was sure under the thumb of this one.
"I demand to be on your team," Ino stated.
"It's invitation only."
"Whatever. Tell me the mission specifics."
"I said you aren't invited!"
"Forehead, listen to me. I'm the key to any mission," she snatched the mission request out of my hand. "Assassination in a dance club... huh sounds like fun."
"I'll tell you all about it after it's over, Pig, because there's no way…"
"Fine. So long as you can answer one question. Who else are you going to get on such short notice that has the sex appeal to keep this guy's attention long enough to kill him?"
I hate when I don't have an answer. But not as much as I hate the smug look of satisfaction on her face. She was right though. Since she hit puberty, Ino has oozed femininity and sex. Every curve was bigger them mine, in the good way of course. She had the look, the eyes, the strut. Hell, even her hair behaved better then mine. The only thing I had going for me was that my father didn't greet boys at the door with his two friends and their fifty or so pointy weapons.
Not that it mattered. I had this stigma attached to me since Sasuke-kun left for Sound. It's like I was made this tragic heroine for everyone to admire. Oh look at Sakura pushing on even though the love of her life betrayed her and her village. She'll wait for him forever.
Actually… actually they were right. That's the part I hated the most. I was still waiting, and I probably would still be waiting while Naruto went off and became Hokage. I'm not supposed to think about Sasuke-kun but… it's just not something I've found a way to turn off.
Pining away for love though is what led me to my next team member. I knew that Ino would be able to distract the crowd enough that the bodyguards our target had would be a bit more relaxed. But at the same time, I couldn't account for the other people in the room. I needed to know who had weapons, who was possibly a shinobi and for that, I needed someone who could see everything.
Hinata was still as meek as ever even though her ninja skills had improved by leaps and bounds lately. I think her father was training her, pushing her to accept her role as Hyuuga heir but… she was still so shy.
"Yeah, I need a good set of eyes," Sakura stated. "And you're the best I know of."
She turned that shade of red that always worries me. I always think she's going to just pass out in front of me one day.
"I would l…love to… ano… it's just… my family is worried if I take missions without… proper… supervision."
I got it. As Hyuuga heir, Hinata was a prime target outside of Konoha. It would be hard to get her family to agree to a mission unless I could prove she was in little danger.
"Ano… if you had an ANBU on the team…" she started and it took a minute to get who she was talking about. Hinata, for all the blushing and stammering, was a smart girl. She knew her family wasn't going to let her go with anyone. They wanted someone they trusted. And I wanted someone who was a good shot and female.
There's not doubt in my mind that Tenten is going to achieve her goal of being one of the best kunoichi of her time. She was already ANBU and from what I hear, she was gunning for a captain's slot. It was a bit intimidating talking to her sometimes. She seemed nice enough but she also had a reputation for being able to kill twelve men in twelve seconds.
And it didn't help that the day I went to speak to her, she was carting around a half ton battle axe for practice.
"It's for Neji's Kaiten," she said when I got stuck staring at it. "He's gotten a bit smug at the idea that he can repel anything."
I almost walked away right there but I remembered Hinata's stammering and I knew that I had to get this to work. She was a classic example of getting pushed to the background.
I explained the situation as best to her as I could without feeling stupid. Most kunoichi might feel undervalued but I doubted that Tenten fell into that category. I was expecting her to just laugh it off.
"Yeah sure, no problem. Just put in the request to my captain and I'll be there."
And with that I had my team of four. We met a few times just to go over some of the basics but we were all well trained at this point and the logistics of the mission fell into place. The only time we really had problems were code names.
"We should pick an animal as each code name," Tenten stated. "That's how we do it in ANBU."
"Forehead can be a shrew!"
"Don't even start with me, Pig."
"Don't call me PIG!"
"Ano…maybe I should pick…"
"If we're picking animals, what else would you be, Ino?"
"Something more elegant and feminine then you that's for sure."
A kunai hit the center of our table and Tenten successfully brought our argument to a close. "Hinata, what were you saying?"
She started twiddling her thumbs as we stared at her. "Ano… sp.. sp… sparrow!"
There was a long silence. "That's a good one," I finally managed.
"I'll take panda."
Silence descended on us again as we stared at Tenten. It was common knowledge that her ANBU mask was a dragon, teeth bared and snarling. And yet, she had just picked…
"Panda?" Ino laughed. "Are you serious?"
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's just… so not you. Pandas are cute and fluffy and…"
"I'm voting with Sakura on codenaming you Pig."
"WHAT? Hinata! Back me up here, Pig is not a good name for me."
"Ano… it's… a bit.."
"Okay, Tenten is Panda, Hinata is Sparrow, I'll take Blossom…"
"Blossom isn't an animal! If you get Blossom, I get Pizzazz."
"What the hell is pizzazz?"
"Something you'll never have Forehead."
"SHUT UP PIG!"
And yet somehow we had managed to survive long enough to get to this moment. I could see them via the small security camera we had installed so I knew what they were up to. Hinata was collecting plates as a bus girl while hiding her Byakugan eyes under a pair of sunglasses. She could scan the area and give us an idea of what we were facing.
Ino was walking into the room in a scandalous red dress. I think she left a few pieces of it back home but I'm not going to question her tactics. Three seconds in and Hinata is reporting that it was working.
Tenten, meanwhile, was outside tracking the target through a window, waiting for Ino to confirm his identity and Hinata to give her an okay that there were no civilians in the vicinity.
"Blossom-san, there's a man in the bar that is armed."
"Where?" I asked.
"Northwest corner of the bar."
"I see him. Can't see any weapons."
"Pizzazz, brush past him and see what he's packing."
She doesn't respond for a while. I hear laughter through the microphone, hers of course. The man grunts something in response and she tsks before walking away. "It's a kunai holster," she whispers.
"Sparrow, start scanning for shinobi."
"Panda can you take out our target and the other guy?"
"Pizzazz, move on the target, we need to be quick."
There's that dread pause between when you issue an order and the time that your teammates execute it.
"There are three additional people in the room with chakra patterns consistent with genjutsu. I believe they are masking their true appearance."
I cursed. I hate when assignments get assigned to two different villages. I couldn't know if they were acting as protection or there to kill him as well. "Pizzazz, advance on the target."
"I can see her," Tenten reported. "She's about three meters and advancing."
"The shinobi are changing their positions, Blossom-san."
"Panda, get ready to take out the other shinobi first."
"They just grabbed her."
"Sparrow, extract her. Panda, take them out."
The tiny screen I'm waiting doesn't do them justice. I blink and Hinata is next to Ino. The guy that was holding her is delivered a swift chakra laced palm strike into his chest. She grabs Ino and pulls her away just as the blonde has finished implanting one of her heels into a body guard's thigh.
Then all the targets are down. I didn't even hear the twang of Tenten's bow as she shot the five men. I didn't even know how she had time to reload between each shot. One second, I'm watching them start to take off after Ino and Hinata and the next, they're on the ground, arrows embedded in their right eye.
And just like that we had our first mission success. But it wasn't enough for shishou to give us a full go ahead. A few more mission successes and she'd have enough data to start making the program a bit more formal.
That was fine and dandy. I just had to figure out exactly how I could keep my sanity long enough to make it work. Shikamaru was right…