Genre: General, a little serious. Definitely not my usual staple, humor, which means it's kind of off my game. :P
Note: Written for the January theme - Alpha and Omega - over at the tensquared LJ comm.
Tenten was a regular sight at the Konoha library. The staff there called her by name, and smiled when she came, and she brought little presents for them on special occasions. It was not only that she was a friendly girl (though she was) - it was that she always wanted access to the special records, and she could charm her way into it much easier if she was friendly with them.
She read one of them now - no scroll on techniques or weapons, her usual fare, but an old dusty tome: a book of old myths and legends, remnants of an ancient people and their ancient faith.
It spoke of the ending of worlds.
"And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory...
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell."
These things she saw in her mind's eye; that was the beginning of it.
She looked up only when someone shook her shoulder, and then only when the shaking had become hard.
"Captain," she murmured, blinking up at her superior in the ANBU. In the ANBU rosters he was registered as Hawk-Four - she always just called him by rank.
Even if he had told her his real name.
He was glaring at her now, his dark eyes intense; his porcelain raptor's-mask was pushed over his brow, ruffling his black hair. "I thought I told you to go home, get some rest; we have a mission tomorrow."
Tenten nodded - not meekly, but obediently. This made her absolute lack of compliance to his orders all the more exasperating, he thought.
"I know, captain - but I just wanted to finish diagramming the -- well, the chemical sequence that will need to take place for the alpha stage of my project..."
"Your mysterious weapons-project. THE weapon you've been working on since you were fourteen. I still wonder, sometimes, why you chose ANBU over Weapons R&D...Do you never stop thinking about it?"
"Of course I do. Sparring with you, or my old teammates, during missions..."
"But the rest of the time..." He reached for the paper she had been writing on, only to be foiled by reflexes that were among the sharpest in the ANBU.
"You can't see it - not yet. It's not even in beta stage yet..."
"What do you call all those craters and burned-out things and exploded places, then?" he asked, smiling at her.
She didn't smile back. "Failures."
Their missions-briefing was delivered in the pouring rain, and the commander had to shout to make himself heard; even then, most of the ANBU captains and vice-captains resorted to reading his lips, which were exposed from under his half-pushed-up mask.
"...and Teams Alpha, Tau and Xi will take the village on the eastern side," the commander shouted, jabbing his finger at the waterproof map. "Hawk-Four, as senior ANBU, will be in overall command of that operation. Is that clear?"
"Sir, yes sir!"
"Good. Any questions?"
A dragon-masked ANBU, with the insignia of Team Alpha's vice-captain scribed onto her arm-guards, raised a hand.
"I just wish to clarify. Our mission objectives are to neutralize as large a number of the enemy as possible, yes?"
"Yes, those are your orders."
"What of civilians?"
The commander hesitated a moment - but he had fought too long, and too hard, to feel much mercy. "They're knowingly succoring the missing-nin. They're just as much an obstacle to the mission as any shinobi. Obviously the shinobi are more important targets, but if there are any in your way..." His clenched fist spoke volumes.
Most of his ANBU smiled - thin sharp smiles, hidden behind their masks. The ones who didn't knew better than to speak out.
Hawk slowed down a little, bending his head so he could more easily listen to the shorter Dragon.
"Do you trust me?" was the first thing she asked him.
His answer was automatic. "Of course."
She bowed her head in gratitude and acknowledgment. "Thank you." She was silent for a moment as the two led their teams through the dark, rainy night.
"I have a plan..."
"It's set, it's set, let's go!" Tenten yelled at the Hawk, flashing towards him with a bloodied katana in one hand and an even more bloodied dagger in the other.
He nodded, and then put his fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly, a shrill piercing chakra-enhanced call for retreat. Within short order the teams - sadly whittled down in numbers - were in formation and running for he safety of the predetermined rendezvouz. The missing-nin called jeeringly as they fled, but did not seem inclined to give chase - the Konoha ANBU had shown them how high the price could be for the life of one of their own.
So they went back to their houses and barracks, laughing and congratulating each other on driving off the Konohan assault, mending wounds, drinking, eating.
And then the night exploded in a single hellish burst of light and howling winds.
The ANBU watched from a safe distance, eyes widening behind their mask as the extent of the destruction. The blast wind had knocked them back on their tails like a giant hand shoving at them, and they were only now clambering back to their feet, ears ringing and spots dancing before their eyes.
A pillar of white flame blossomed before them, engulfing the village in its terrible light. The air felt suddenly baked, but it was for more than that that their mouths had gone dry.
Where there had once been a village, a place of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people - there was now nothing. Only an utter ending to all that had once been there.
More than one ANBU turned to look fearfully, or cautiously, or awed - or all three - at the Dragon. She did not deign to notice - though for the first time ever she leaned into her captain when he came up behind her, and put his hand on her shoulder.
She murmured his name, and he marked that - for it was the first time he could remember that she had ever done so.
"I did that. Me." She was quiet for a moment, thinking. "I hadn't named it yet, you know. The bomb."
He shook his head, and looked over at the vanished village.
"Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds."
- J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, on July 16th 1945 (first nuclear test)
The passages Tenten reads in the beginning are from Revelations 16:7-20.
It's been quite a while since I've managed to write fic, any fic - so I turned this out, despite a lack of glowing feeling about the whole thing. More to get my hand back in than anything else. :P