Summary: AU. 'Welcome to survival of the fittest, where the games are deadly and the players are ruthless.' Naruto is a typical college student struggling to balance a diploma and a social life when one of his projects lands him nearly two hundred years in the future. Trapped as the central figure to a conspiracy beyond his control Naruto is bound by vengeance to undo the past. But at what cost to his sanity? Eventual SasuNaru. Rated M for language and future scenes.
Comments: Revised Edition!
Thank you again to all of my valued reviewers and your patience as I sift through these chapters and work out the kinks. Your the best and it will all be worth it in the end!
There was no surprise in the fact that Lab #213 was completely void of human life, spare a small professor crooked somewhat callously over a stack of particularly butch looking reading material. The lab room was devastatingly silent as he thumbed through an awkward looking text, his glasses slowly riding the length of his nose and beads of sweat beginning to form on the creased skin of his forehead. He was an old man with bony fingers and beady eyes, and an intelligence that remained unaffected over the duration of his existence, which for many of the professors at the University of Colorado, said a great deal.
As his eyes skimmed the line of a particular passage he most always found amusing, his lips turned upward, revealing a perfectly white set of porcelain dentures, and dimples creased the freckled span of his cheek. He let out a hoarse laugh and scribbled a few notes into a journal placed in his lap, shaking his head as he did so. He was working to perfect an equation that seemed impossible, and he reveled in the fact that he found no biography or documentation helpful in his quest.
He sighed and peered out the ground level window or Porter Hall, twisting his crumpled figure backwards in an attempt to stretch, grimacing as his back let out an earsplitting crack! It was no surprise that the view from his window was nothing but a dying tree and a rusting bike rack, and he felt somewhat renewed when a student tumbled past with a few friends, laughing and shaking a bottle of Corona into the night sky.
A risky move, the professor thought. The CU campus was strict when it came to alcohol, and he knew that tonight would be no exception, even if it was the homecoming game. He hunched over his desk and examined his watch, taking a long breath as he did so. In a few hours the campus would be littered with students as the game dispersed, and he had every intension of escaping the surge of college unity long before he had to grapple through an array of drunken teenagers. Taking one last look at the withering oak, the professor thrust his glasses to the bridge of his nose and settled his eyes onto a tattered pamphlet that had exhumed from Norlin Library only a few days previous. His eyes lit up like a child's and he grinned. He hadn't yet had a chance to browse through the crumbling work of literature.
As his fingers slid through the frail pages of the book, a heavy-set janitor shimmied through his doorway, a squawking cart in tow. The professor peered up with irritation as the janitor shuffled about, the loose ear piece cords of an iPod prodding through his cotton overalls. The professor blinked a few times as the janitor fumbled around the room, shaking in rhythm to whatever music was beating into his ears. The professor rolled his eyes as the janitor shimmied out, still unaware of the older man's company. As soon as the squeaking faded from the hall, the professor resumed his reading, a crease forming on his brow as he entered a state of concentration. The familiar squeak of tennis shoes on linoleum broke him from his concentration again, and he silently fumed. He had chosen this night in particular to pent up in Porter Hall, all alone and undistracted by students. So why, why was there a student running around inside his building?
The thumping grew louder and he flippantly threw down his booklet, eyes glued to the doorway. He had a frightening angry-old-man face, and on an occasion such as this, he was not afraid to utilize it. He glared, waiting as the footsteps became louder and louder. He could sense the person coming more and more near to room #213, and he narrowed his eyes with so much effort that he felt a strain in his temple. He rubbed it.
Closer, he thought, just a little bit…
The footsteps stopped. As if a student had disappeared into thin air right outside of his classroom, the heavy screeching of rubber toed heels deadpanned, and the professor felt his eyes loosen from their vice-like frown. He rubbed his temples again.
Perhaps the kid had exited through the center doors, he thought. He was certain the footsteps had halted in the vicinity of his room, but he also knew that he was nearing 70 years of age. His ears had gotten a lot fuzzier over the years, and he rubbed a finger in one. The disappointment of not being able to stare-down a student weighed on his elderly heart, and he reached down towards his pamphlet. His fingers found the spine and his thumb gently pecked at the tattered corners when—
The professor leapt from his seat with such a force that his textbooks and papers careened into the air, and his glasses took flight from his flushed nose. His hands quickly dodged out to catch them, fumbling a few times before finally crushing them to his chest, and he breathed deeply as the remaining floating documents sifted to the floor. From the doorway, a student laughed uncontrollably.
"Man, Sarutobi. You're too old to concentrate so hard!"
The professor shook his head while reapplying his glasses and began to pick up his scattered work. "Naruto, you're going to be the death of me."
The boy had already begun to help with the mess when Sarutobi stood up, a distinct crackle echoing as his back settled into a standing position. The student named Naruto clicked his tongue. "You should really get that checked out."
The professor shook his head. "It's students like you that make my hair turn gray."
Naruto slid onto an empty lecture desk and laughed. "What hair?"
He slid a backpack from his shoulder onto the blacktop table and began to unload a collection of books and spiral notebooks. Sarutobi slid back into his comfy rolling chair and raised an eyebrow at the boy. Like most people in relationship to his expressions, Naruto failed to notice.
"Why are you here, Naruto?"
The boy turned and rolled his eyes. "Do you really have to ask?"
Sarutobi admired the boy for a moment, and took in his appearance. His hair was ruffled and unkept, and his cheeks were flushed from his earlier exertion. He was wearing a black shirt with CU plastered on the front, and a pair of loose jeans, and also come worn down tennis shoes. He was a brilliant young boy, and attractive too. Sarutobi still failed to see why his young student wasn't at Folsom Field with his friends, celebrating what was sure to be a CU victory.
"Don't tell me you're here to keep an old man company?"
The boy pulled out a mechanical pencil and clicked it into action. His gaze met the professor's, and he smiled with tandem.
"The more time you spend in here the more you look like that tree," Naruto gestured towards the decrepit oak, now barely lit by a nearby street lamp. "Besides, Sakura's going to be out with the girls tonight, and football's not really my thing."
Sarutobi chuckled and found his tiny pamphlet. The latter of Naruto's statement was a complete lie, but Sarutobi had an esteem for the boy that he couldn't quite pin. His hands met the leather bound cover of his pamphlet and he set it in his lap returning to rummage through the mess for his journal. Naruto dragged a chair to his side and settled into it, revealing a small spiral notebook. He flipped open to a page and waited for Sarutobi to unearth his booklet. When he did, Naruto spoke.
"So what's new on the agenda? Found any leads?"
Sarutobi shook his head and crossed his legs. He let out a sigh and coughed.
"We reversed the osmosis and brought them back from preservation, but after examining the cryoprotectants we realized that a severe amount of damage had been done to their cells."
"These are the fruit flies, right?" Naruto waited for the older man to nod and sighed. "So we're back to square one."
The student's eyes tilted upward in thought, and the crumpled elder stumbled to his feet. "It's always a problem with vitrification! If the subject isn't gaseous, it gets damaged."
"Maybe if the temperature wasn't quite as low—"
"It has to be that low—"
"—we could find something resistant to becoming amorphous ice—"
"Impossible. Nothing is immune to such a fast drop in temperature—"
"—maybe if we did a slower drop in temperature—"
The boy sighed. "Yeah, I know. It would cause even more damage to the cells."
There was a long pause before Naruto spoke. "Sometimes I think you like to have me here to argue with."
The professor released a smug smile. "I didn't ask you to come tonight."
Naruto bent over the desk, burying his head in his arms. He closed his eyes. Cryonics had always been a minute fascination for him, and he could never place why. He was an awkward type of student, able to balance his social life and his intelligence at the same time, even if his grades didn't always reflect it. Sarutobi had once called him a 'hidden genius', merely because his aptitude outside of written tests far surpassed other students. He was brilliant, and Sarutobi was never more eager to take note on his formulations. And with a revolution about to take way in cryogenics, it was the perfect opportunity for Naruto's knowledge to become an active part of his education.
"Haven't you been learning anything at NIST?" Sarutobi asked. Naruto laughed.
"When I'm not getting them coffee, I'm making excel sheets. I'd do better learning for myself."
Sarutobi sighed and began to pace the room. "Well, throw out some more ideas."
Naruto settled back into his chair and crossed his legs over Sarutobi's desk. A loud rush of commotion could be heard from outside, and Naruto peeked out the window, forgetting that he couldn't see Folsom through it.
"Sounds like we won," he commented. "Even the tree's shaking a little."
Sarutobi sighed. "I thought the game had another hour."
Naruto shrugged. "I think it started earlier tonight…What, you got a date?"
Sarutobi had begun to pack up his belongings, and readjusted his glasses which had fallen to the crest of his nose yet again. The old man chuckled and shook his head.
"Heaven help me if I get caught up in a gaggle of drunken co-eds."
Naruto sighed. "But I just got here."
The older man looked forlorn. "I'm old Naruto. Besides, my lecture conference with NIST is tomorrow. You're expected to be there."
"Noted." Naruto chucked his books into the mouth of his backpack and stretched before pulling it over his shoulder. The professor continued to speak.
"And come with some ideas. I'm sure your intern manager would like to see that you've actually learned something there."
Naruto shook his head and grinned. "Right. I won't let anyone down."
Sarutobi was prepared to leave at the head of the classroom as Naruto pulled his back pack over his shoulders. He ran a hand through his hair and approached as the professor turned off the lights.
"And Naruto," he spoke as he began to hobble down the hallway, "please go celebrate with your friends."
Naruto smiled as the man disappeared out of the door and turned to leave through the back entrance. Sarutobi could always see through him, even with events as menial as football games. But for CU, homecoming was to students as prom was to high school. The only factor that had led the boy to seek the Professor's knowledge on this particular night was that their competitor was Ohio State and not CSU. If the Fort Collins school had been present, he wouldn't have been able to escape the game, not even with his own willpower. He sighed.
The real truth of the matter is that he hadn't prepared an essay for the lecture at NIST, simply because he was stumped. Each of the interns was to produce a thesis on how to avoid thermonuclear damage to the occupants of cryonic preservation, and Naruto had lost sleep over the topic. Thousands of scientists worked everyday to discover the answer to this question, and it seemed only natural that they would leek the information from students. It was free and informative, two words adults loved to hear.
Naruto skipped passed Farren Field, the sounds of returning students beginning to cut through the crisp silence of the Colorado mountains. The gentle pines hummed as a soft breeze whistled past, and Naruto took a deep breath. He decided to take the old man's advice. After all, he hadn't seen Sakura for a couple of days, and he felt a little guilty. One night out of his junior year wouldn't hurt—he owed his fiancée at least that much.
Sarutobi pulled at his tie, revealing a strained vein in his neck. He had never been one for suits, especially because they added more stress to his already notorious anxiety. On top of the fact his presentation was next, he hadn't seen Naruto once through the course of the morning, and he briefly wondered if the boy had overslept. It didn't affect him much, but it would affect the student's internship if he decided not to show. More than that, the old man simply wanted someone to wish him luck. It wasn't easy being 70 years old and still in research development, with hundreds of other hungry eyes expecting a solution to an impossible question. He peered down to his crumpled outline and then to his PDA disc. He shook his head. His research wasn't near complete.
A surge of applause initiated his arrival on the stage, and he straightened his tie as he approached the podium. The room quieted and he wiped a few beads of sweat from his furrowing brow. The lights were blinding, and they made his eyes feel like ants under the magnifying glasses of his spectacles. He blinked and shuffled through his papers.
"Well," he attempted to make eye contact with the audience but the lights interjected. "For starters, can someone please fix the lighting?"
Someone else coughed, and a groan was projected from the upper balconies. The light dimmed and Sarutobi allowed his eyes to relax. He sighed and shuffled through his papers again.
When his lips parted, his voice was hoarse.
"My name is Sarutobi Mizami, and I'm not entirely sure what you all would like to hear—"
From behind him, there was a disturbance, and in moments a blur of blonde caught his attention. Naruto had arrived and was causing some sort of ordeal backstage. Sarutobi felt his nerves clench up again. It was bad enough he had nothing to talk about, but being constantly interrupted wasn't going to make him appear intelligent. He would be lucky if he left with the audience thinking that he was senile.
Naruto approached him, however, and Sarutobi took in the boy's appearance. He was utterly disheveled, but his eyes were focused. It was a look Sarutobi rarely witnessed, and he held his hand to the audience in a 'please wait a moment' fashion.
"Naruto, what is going on?" His voice was low and hushed, and Naruto grinned.
Naruto pulled Sarutobi's hand down and bowed to the audience in an attempt for comedic relief. The audience had become somewhat restless and Naruto immediately began speaking.
"I'm sorry for the delay. My professor has been waiting for me to arrive because our speech is one in the same. Together we have come up with a solution for the problems regarding vitrification in the cells of mammals in the process of cryopreservation."
Sarutobi gave Naruto a wry look, confused as to what was going on but decided to let Naruto continue. Naruto took the podium.
"All of us as scientists are aware that the preservation process needed for humans is much more intricate and delicate than that needed for smaller species, such as fruit flies which we have been testing. The problem lies within being able to preserve tissue without retaining any damage over a long period of time in temperatures that only liquid nitrogen could withstand."
Naruto paused and fumbled through Sarutobi's papers. He held one up and read it closely. He set it down and continued. "It is my theory that the answer to this has been in front of us the entire time. We have merely looked past it. We should look at cryogenics the same way we view the common MRI scan."
There was a rustle in the audience and even the professor looked alerted. Naruto continued. "In order to receive visual aids from the scans we use a fluorescent orthogonal gradient so that we can see a clear picture. This prevents the patient from being affected by the radioactive effects of the machine. In other words, it acts as a deterrent."
Sarutobi felt his mind reel. He understood exactly where Naruto was going, and it was gold. It was the way he had been looking for, and Naruto had discovered it. He felt a smile overwhelm his face. Naruto continued talking as whispers began to fill the room.
"I believe the active ingredient used in the MRI gradient, when combined with carbon dioxide, can be used to create an active preservative for cryogenic stasis. The gradient would act as a tissue preservative and the carbon dioxide would enable vitrification as we know it."
The room erupted into commotion, and Naruto took a deep breath. Sarutobi hugged him. "Naruto—How!?"
The boy shook his head. "After a few drinks it sort of…just came to me."
Sarutobi was at a loss for words as scientists began to clamber onto the stage. "Why did you say it was our thesis?" The older man asked.
Naruto smiled. "As a student, I can't claim any rights to the profit. However, I know that you would share it with me as my partner, and as a professor of research."
Sarutobi wasn't entirely sure what to say. The questions came like a raging river, and Naruto let Sarutobi answer them. He had a hangover, and at the moment, a million dollar deal in the making.
It was nearly nightfall when the hall settled into a husky silence, and Naruto, who had been rather shy in the diplomacy of his suggestion, was waiting for the last few bystanders to vanish through the bulging metal doors of the auditorium. He silently wondered how long the remaining guests intended to converse with his professor, and he felt the slight urge to shoo them and their irritating hypothesis out into the crisp autumn evening. His professor looked winded, and it was obvious to anyone that the poor old man was exhausted both physically and mentally from the strain of the day. The natural folds in his aged face had become terse, and his glasses had long been removed, and a flush was beginning to accentuate the perspiration forming at the heels of his nostrils. When one of the remaining women opened her mouth to ask another question, Naruto stood from his tin chair in the audience, wincing slightly at the high pitched noise it exhumed. Holding up his hand, he spoke loudly.
"I think we've all had enough questions for the day," he commented dryly. Sarutobi gave him a withered look of relief, and the women, a short and bulky being, blinked compulsively. Her small lips curled into an awkward frown and she sighed deeply. Her voice was sharp when she spoke.
"For being one of the discoverers of this revelation, you seem awfully timid about answering questions." Her voice was oddly accusing.
Naruto, a college student with a great deal of experience in shrugging off teachers, smiled genuinely. He disliked people who were disrespectful, and at the moment, this woman was irritating him.
"Well, for being a professional you seem awfully forceful." Naruto caught an abusive eye from Sarutobi and shrugged. The woman's eyes narrowed.
"We're all exhausted ma'am. I'm sure there will be another time and place for your arguments involving our theory. Until then, I think it's best we call it a night."
Naruto didn't wait for the woman's reply as he pulled himself onto the stage, muscles from high school lacrosse brimming through the crumpled overlay of a baby blue collared shirt. He had lost his tie early into the day and had unbuttoned the top button, and a slight tickle on his neck hinted that the woman was taking in his unkept appearance. His mind was tired though, and he took a steady pace towards his professor who was currently saying his farewells. The woman was a member of the disheartened crowd that sifted slowly from the humid auditorium to the back exit of the parking lot, and Naruto smiled softly, using the last of his energy to hide his weary composure. Sarutobi sighed deeply and revealed a pair of sunglasses from his chest pocket, wiping them fastidiously on a fold of his shirt that had become untucked. After he placed them on the high point of his nose, he shook his head.
"You're a genius. And because of it, I'm probably going to have a heart attack."
The old man found his way to a fold out chair and slouched into it. Between the wrinkled on his skin and clothing, he reminded Naruto of a crumpled piece of paper. Naruto found a chair and pulled it closer to the older man.
"It was a good idea, though." The words were ejected with nonchalance, and Sarutobi snorted.
"It was the idea, Naruto."
Naruto shifted. "I don't know about that. There are a lot of kinks. For instance, there's no way either of those substances could protect against thermonuclear stasis. If anyone or anything was frozen, they would definitely have brain problems."
The older man knelt forward, twisting his thumbs vicariously, his eyes focused in on nothing in particular on the ground. He was in deep thought, and Naruto could sense it. It was a glare that he had seen on many a class period, and one that he always was forced to jest.
"You shouldn't think so hard, buddy." He reached forward and gave the man a pat on the shoulder, receiving a gentle smirk in response. The old man sat back and took on a more serious face. When he spoke, his words were short and articulate—enough to inform Naruto that he was completely serious.
"Though there are a few things that could use adjustment, you've discovered something that could change lives. Not only that—it could alter the future. I'm sure you've noticed the magnitude by the reaction in this room…and that's only a small portion of the scientific world. Things are going to change for you Naruto."
Naruto shifted somewhat uncomfortably. He knew that his idea was a bit brilliant for a college student with average grades, but the uproar it had caused had taken him a bit by surprise. He had figured that idea would get a rise out of the scientific community, but to hear such strong words from his professor put a weight on his shoulders. What kind of pandora's box had he opened?
"You're exceptionally skilled Naruto, at everything that you do. You're grades don't reflect it, but you retain all of the information you accumulate better than any other student I've taught. Why do you think I asked you to help me research this topic personally?"
Naruto let out an anxious laugh as the professor continued.
"You have an aptitude for science, Naruto. I've already had three offers today to publicize a research campaign regarding your theory, all of which placing you and I as direct benefactors of the results."
Naruto's eyes rose to meet the dimmed expression on the older man's. His heart thumped hard in his chest, and he felt his mind becoming claustrophobic. Too much was happening at once. He needed time to think about the entire situation. After all, he was only a junior in college. Sarutobi's expression relaxed and it was apparent to Naruto that the old man had picked up on his discomfort.
"I'm not saying to make any decisions now. What you need to do it write a professional thesis and hypothesis for your theory. Bring it to me, and we'll fix it up. Take that time to figure out what you want to do, and how you want to do it. In the meantime, I've already begun speaking with a friend of mine who will begin to organize a group of researchers. I…"
Naruto peered up at the Sarutobi's hesitation, and the elder knelt forward, his eyes brimming. "I really want to test your theory myself—before anyone else. I'm old, and if I leave it in someone else's hands…I may never see the result."
Naruto felt praised, but the anticipation was collecting in his gut. For the first time in a great deal of minutes, he spoke. "I guess this is a little overwhelming for me."
Sarutobi laughed, a distinct chuckle Naruto had never heard before. The old man slapped his leg. "Of course it is! If you move forward with it, you'll be the youngest benefactor in the world!"
Naruto felt a small grin curl onto his lips and he ran a hand through his tussled hair. He stretched his arms.
"Alright. I need some time to think, but I'll definitely write up a thesis. In the meantime, where are you going to be experimenting?"
The old man's eyes narrowed and his voice became low. "I trust you're not going to let any of this conversation leave the room, correct?"
Naruto nodded, fully aware that the professor's actions were completely illegal. He listened closely.
"The old building out past Cristol Hall. It used to be a science dorm…but it's the perfect place. The structure's so old it's got a massive generator—strong enough to power even one of the governments cryochambers."
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Sarutobi, just who are you planning on experimenting on?"
The old man laughed coarsely. "I've always wanted to go to the future."
Naruto tickled a hem in his pants.
His life would never be the same.
A/N--> YaY! First chapter successfully edited.
NIST--> National Institute for Standards and Technology (located in Boulder, CO)
First off, I would like to explain that I myself to not attend CU or CSU, so I have no bias for either of the schools. For readers who aren't from CO, I'm disclaiming this because they have an intense rivalry that a lil' ol' art student like me doesn't dare dispute. My roomie, however, did attend CU for a couple years and I decided to use her knowledge to my advantage, especially considering that NIST is located in Boulder.
Secondly, I am not a science major, so some of my well researched facts and terms may be a little off, or embellished for the sake of the story. I draw, people. And write. And eat, too.