Psychic energy ebbed and flowed, rippling and refracting light. A brunette figure floated, arms extended nearly five feet from the ground. As she slowly revolved, weapons of various design and era gravitated around her like planets orbiting a sun. In a dance of metal and twisted light, the girl and her weapons began to spin more rapidly. A rush of cool air swept away from her as the kinetic force expanded, pushing the air aside.
The girl in the center of spinning armory began to hum and flick her fingers as though manipulating a marionette. The weapons responded as if suspended by strings. Without a single mistake, the array of fifty or more devices arranged themselves into two radiating rings.
Once they were revolving steadily again, a switch on the far end of the room flashed from green to red. In response, cubes of compressed metal dropped from the ceiling. The cubes wobbled for a moment and filled the air with the sound of screeching metal as they began to uncurl. The robotic targets unfolded and stood, chirping and whirring to live. Vaguely humanoid once they stopped transforming, the targets loaded their arm-cannons with an audible click. As one, they mobilized, forming a net and slowly advancing on the girl.
Somewhere to the edge of the training space, a radiopod switched on and began to blare a thrumming techno broadcast. Along with the beat of the song, the guns began to charge in a virtual lightshow of plasma alloys. As the bass line began, the knives and other blades began to spin. When a heavily distorted voice began to croon, the outermost circle of weapons fired.
Green, blue and red balls of super-heated metal arced from the guns toward the mechanical targets. The first line of robots fell, half-melted to the ground.
As the guns recharged, they fell back seamlessly to the center of the spinning weaponry, allowing the orbital behind it to advance. The guns cycled seamlessly as the blades whirled, propelled by psychic energy.
Artificial intelligence units in the targets calculated and altered the attack plan. As one, the remaining targets fired their electrical pulses at the first ring of weapons. The guns and blades revolving at the outer ring when the pulse reached them clattered to the ground, the psychic hold on them disrupted by the additional charge.
As if responding to the girl's annoyance, the radiopod skipped channels until it settled onto a futurerock station. The still spinning guns charged and arranged themselves into a single, much wider ring. A rainbow of plasma rippled out from the girl, mowing down two lines of targets. Their charges expended, the psychic allowed the guns to slip to the floor.
Left only with blades, the girl changed her style. Knives spun so fast they seemed to hover like helicopter blades before jumping toward the robotic targets. Some embedded deeply into the chest-panels of the robots, while others severed the electrical cables connecting the lower half of the 'body' to the top. Either way, the next line of targets crumpled to the metal-strewn floor.
The final line of targets stepped forward, charging their arm-cannons. Her weapons depleted, the levitating girl slowly stopped spinning and alighted to the clear spot on the floor beneath her. Opening her eyes for the first time of the entire exercise, the girl's sepia eyes flashed the blue-green hue of raw electricity. The remaining targets froze, arms drooping and backs becoming rigid. A static sound reverberated from their helms and the lights of their chest-panels flickered wildly before blinking out. A pulse of psychic energy knocked the final line of robotic targets to the ground.
Screeching filled the air as the targets twisted themselves back into their cube-forms and disappeared back into the walls of the training room. The radiopod flipped to a pop station as the girl shook her arms and began to stretch.
A pressurized hiss sounded as the door panel slid back to reveal a tale male. Spinning to face the door, the girl grinned and waved to the teen.
The boy fixed blue eyes so pale they seemed white on the limber figure of the girl. Crossing his arms, he asked in a monotone, "Up for a spar, Tenten?"
Tenten grinned and replied, "Always, Neji!"
Tossing her arms back, the girl flipped her body through the air and executed a flawless back handspring. As she landed, she bounced a little on the balls of her feet. "Ready when you are."
Without another word, Neji dropped into a defensive pose. A bright blue light built steadily around his hands as he closed his eerie eyes.
Making the first move, Tenten's eyes flashed the color of lightening as the discarded guns levitated once more. With a boiling hiss, the first gun unleashed its charge.
Milky blue eyes flickered open as Neji slammed his foot into the floor in front of the oncoming ball of metal. A blue vortex of magnified gravity exploded to life where his boot struck, sucking the plasma to the floor. Retracting his leg, Neji resumed his defensive stance.
Smiling and spreading her arms, Tenten floated into the air once more. This time, rather than summoning weapons, she tossed her head back and unleashed a pulse so strong it thrummed, sub-sonic in Neji's ears.
The strip lights on the ceiling flickered and then shone impossibly bright, the radiopod began to blare and skitter from station to station, and the door panels began to open and close erratically. Light and sound warped as blue-green electric energy began to pour from every device in the vicinity, forming bright pillars that twisted toward Tenten. As they approached, the electricity separated into two defined streams that began to undulate and ripple like water. When they at last reached the frozen form of the girl, they had sculpted themselves into a pair of ancient Chinese dragons.
Roaring with the sound of a million volts of raw electrical power, the twin beasts circled Tenten restlessly. At last, the girl raised her head and looked at Neji.
His long, dark brown hair whipping in the turbulent air, Neji stated rather than asked, "This is what you've been perfecting."
Tenten smiled and nodded. Extending her arms and watching as a dragon came so close it singed her sleeve, she admired her creation for one more moment. Then her eyes locked back on Neji's and glowed to match her beasts' as she released another psychic wave.
As one, the twin dragons reared and descended on her opponent.
Neji watched calmly as raw electric energy funneled toward him. When the beasts reached within five feet of his unwavering position, he began to spin in place. The blue mist of his concentrated energy trailed in the wake of his hands and feet, forming a ball of inverted gravity.
Electricity met gravity with a force that was not unlike that of a detonating bomb. Both combatants were tossed backward unmercifully as the energies met and repelled.
As both electricity and gravity settled back into their natural order, the lights overhead surged back to life and the various weapons scattered throughout the room clattered back to the floor.
Two craters of concrete and plastic rumbled then blew outward, one after the other as Tenten and Neji freed themselves from the rubble. Coughing and sputtering, Tenten beamed despite the weeping gash on her brow.
"We're evenly matched at last, Neji!"
The stoic boy stood, dusting himself off but not speaking. At last, he decreed, "Indeed."
At the lackluster praise, the girl's grin faltered before cheered to herself and hopped nimbly over the chunks of debris toward the blown-out door. "Thanks Neji! I'm gonna go see Gai and Lee and tell em the good news!"
Neji watched his teammate disappear through the once-door and sighed. He supposed he would fill-out the damage report...again.
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"Sir! We've received intelligence suggesting that the Hidden Leaf operation has a Technopath in their ranks. As soon as we received the news, we sent an additional detail to track her. That team reports that she's a level seven mutation, sir. What should be our next course of action?"
An oily, hissing voice replied, "Ah. A Technopath at last. Just what I need to get the ball rolling on the War. You've done well to inform me."
With a sickly crunch of rearranging bones, an impossibly extended arm lashed out, catching the reporting lackey across the chest and flinging him.
"However, next time it would be wise to update me immediately rather than to take action on your own."
The crumpled form of the lackey nodded frantically, babbling apologies.
The snake-like voice spoke again, "Tell the team to take her as soon as she's vulnerable. Bring her alive and as minimally damaged as possible. Am I perfectly clear?"
Scrambling to his feet, the lackey stuttered, "Y-yes! Yes s-sir! Perfectly c-clear, sir!"
"Good. Remove yourself from my sight."
Watching the terrified form of his underling flee, Orochimaru laughed. The chilling sound echoed and reverberated through the complex of Hidden Sound.
"Soon," he murmured to himself when his laughter died down. "Soon."
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Team Gai reported to Tsunade's office at 1100 hours, ready for their next Surface-level mission.
The busty blonde matriarch was slurring her way though their debriefing. Tenten watched her exaggerated hand motions with amusement. Sometimes it was hard to believe that she and Jiraiya were the only two recorded level ten mutations. Their strength was legendary, both in the Underground and on the Surface. Her idiosyncrasies made it difficult to see just how brilliant and strong their leader was sometimes.
Reflexes slow with inebriation, Tsunade nearly dropped the set of visor-chips that detailed the specifics of their assignment. Once Lee had received and safely stored the thin disks, she continued, "You'll be stationed in Old Tokio, so be sure to dressh acc-accord...the part." Giggling to herself, she snorted and remembered she was in the middle of something. Taking another swig from her vat, she waved her hands and trilled, "Tenten, just visit Ino or Shakurah! Godsh know they've got entire wordrobesh of the shtuf!"
Neji's lip curled faintly in distaste as he observed their highly intoxicated Hokage. With an enigmatic 'Hn,' he turned an left the room.
Tenten laughed outright when the buzzed blonde barked, "Whash his prahblem?"
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Fifteen minutes later found a still amused Tenten strolling down the neon-lit streets of the Underground. Humming happily to herself, she had to check her psychic energy when the devices around her began to surge. She smiled apologetically to a shopkeeper whose clocks had begun to tick to the tune of the song she was humming. As the old man muttered something about 'Kids these days,' she adjusted her energy and walked on.
As the glaring lights of the Midtown District waned, she took a left turn that led her to the quieter Lakeside District. The calm surface of the manmade retention pool was beautiful in the fading sim-sunlight. This part of Hidden Leaf was home to many of the psychic Anomalies who liked the peace and quiet. To help dampen the sounds of the rowdy Midtown District, the citizens of Lakeside used their latent energy to grow and maintain plants of every shape and size. Rolling expanses of long grass led down to the water's edge and clusters of multicolored wildflowers were scattered along the edges of the cobblestone walkways.
Yellow and white lights were the common fare here, rather than vivid neon. Reflected light from the storefronts and apartment buildings around the lake bounced off of the surface of the water and gave the section of town a golden quality at this time of day.
With a bounce in her step, Tenten ambled along the path toward Ino's place. A moment or two later, she had arrived at the Yamanaka Flower Shop. With a puzzled frown, she stared at the sleeping form of Akamaru, Kiba of Team Eight's pet. The large dog was stretched under the cafe-style table that sat under the yellow and white striped awning of the little brick building.
A glance through the plate glass door at the front of the shop convinced Tenten that she'd be better off dropping by Sakura's. Blushing and promising herself that she'd grill Ino later, Tenten set off again.
Pacing back past the lake and into Midtown, Tenten reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her Com. Quickly dialing her pinkette friend's number, she pressed the device to her ear as she walked. Two or three rings later, Sakura picked up.
"This is Sakura!"
Tenten grinned and cooed, "I've got some gossip for yoooou!"
An exaggerated gasp, and Sakura replied, "That's why I love you more than Ino! Ooh! Is it about Ino-pig? You should come on over, I'm free and--"
Laughing, Tenten interrupted her friend's rant. "Actually that's what I was calling about. I'm on my way to your apartment now, I need some clothes for an assignment. We can swap gossip while we choose some gear, is that alright?"
"Of course! That sounds awesome. I'll get some things ready for when you get here. Bye!"
Without waiting for Tenten's reply, Sakura cut the connection. The brown-eyed technopath considered giving the girl a playful shock for hanging up on her, but decided against it. She'd be teasing her about Sasuke soon enough. Shaking her head and tucking her Com back into her pocket, Tenten glanced up at her surroundings.
She'd once again passed completely through her home district of Midtown and arrived in Tower Square. This part of Hidden Leaf was situated around an old clocktower. The surrounding buildings were mostly classical redbricks or stonework. Tower Square was the epicenter of the educational system of Hidden Leaf. The schools, university and hospital were all located in this district. It made sense that the brilliant medical specialist, Sakura, called it home.
Trotting up the stone stairway of a small brick townhouse, Tenten swiped her hand over the ID plate at the door and let herself in.
Sakura was waiting with the door open on the second floor. "About time, slowpoke! I wanna hear this juicy rumor!"
Taking the stairs two at a time, Tenten giggled and slipped inside her friend's cozy apartment. The walls inside were painted a warm yellow, and bookcases filled almost the entire perimeter of the living room. Pictures of the Teams and their instructors at ceremonies and at play were scattered among the thick tomes and disk stacks. A hologram projector on the desk displayed a slowly revolving skeleton and the monitor nearby was crammed with notes and observations. Overall, the apartment had a down to earth, scholarly feel.
Sakura grabbed Tenten's hand and dragged her to the adjoining bedroom, chattering happily all the while.
"--so glad you called. I was just working on some medical procedures, setting bones...it's so boring! But I have plenty of stuff for you too look at. Here, I've got some of it laid out for you!"
Allowing herself to be dragged along to the airy bedroom, Tenten listened to her friend's bubbly babbling. Spread on the neatly made bed was the most clothing Tenten had ever seen. Ever. Freezing in her tracks, Tenten stared at the enormous pile of assorted men's and women's clothing and gaped.
Oblivious to her friend's shock, Sakura tottered over to the mountain of clothes and began to toss things back at her.
Returning to her senses enough to catch the articles as they fluttered past her, Tenten heaped them onto her arms and tried to work a word in edgewise. "Sakura--I don't think...Is that a skirt or a headband? You know I don't wear...Sakura?"
Satisfied with herself, the pinkette turned to see Tenten standing with a "headband skirt" hanging from her high ponytail and glaring at her over an armload of clothing. Grinning despite Tenten's annoyance, Sakura chirped, "Now, let's see some of that stuff on you!"
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Staring at herself in the full-length mirror on the inside of the bathroom door, Tenten glared at her reflection. Without bothering to open the door, she yelled, "I'm not going out in this skirt, Sakura! I'll...I'll...catch a cold!" Blushing at her lame excuse, she fought to keep a stony face as the door slid back to reveal a non-plussed Sakura.
Slanting Tenten a flat look, she asked, "Catch a cold? Are you five?" As she glanced down at the outfit she'd picked out for her friend she grinned. "You look adorable, Ten!"
Kicking a slipper-clad foot at the raised threshold, Tenten mumbled, "Exactly. I look like an adorable five year old."
Glancing again to the mirror, she assessed her outfit. She was wearing a fitted, red tanktop with a low neckline under a cropped black and white hoody. The hood of which, when worn, sported two round panda ears on top. To make the ensamble a little racier, Sakura had paired it with a white micro-mini and black lace slippers.
Sakura wiggled her eyebrows in a manner scarily similar to Naruto. "Tryin to look sexy-ful for soooomebody?" Covering her mouth with her hand, she fake coughed. "Neji!"
Sepia eyes flashed and Sakura yelped as her own watch jolted her. "Hey! Meanie, I'm just playing!" Sakura stuck out her lip and rubbed her wrist.
Tenten softened, "Sorry, Sakura. I'm just touchy I guess."
Intelligent green eyes analyzed her friend's dejected face. She set her fisted hands on her hips and asked menacingly, "What'd that jerk do this time?"
Smiling ruefuly at Sakura's protective streak, Tenten muttered, "I perfected my Dragon Strike today."
Sakura grinned from ear to ear, "Really!? That's great! Did you let him have it?"
Tenten sighed and starred down at the ballet flats encasing her feet, "Yeah. We tied, finally. He just kinda accepted it, no congrats or anything."
Sakura let the grin slide off her face. "What'd he say exactly?"
"I said 'We're finally even!' and he just said 'Indeed.' I don't know what I expected, though."
Stepping into the bathroom, Sakura hugged her taller friend. "I know he likes you, Ten. You'll see! Now lets do something with that hair. A ponytail just won't do with that hood."
Sakura stood thinking for a moment before carefully tugging the single tie from Tenten's hair and splitting it into two equal parts. Once it was divided, she simply french braided each side.
Smoothing the braids to rest over Tenten's shoulders and show once the hood was up, she added thoughtfully, "You know, Sasuke was the same way."
Glad for the change of subject, Tenten poked her friend playfully in the side. "So how are things between you and loverboy?"
Sakura smiled deamily and said, "Wonderful." Snapping back to reality, she quizzed, "What was that gossip you have for me?"
Now it was Tenten's turn to grin widely. "You'll never guess who I saw Ino gettin' cozy with!"
Sakura bounced excitedly and began guessing, "Ooh! Shika? Chouji? Well who?"
Tenten tapped her fingers in a silly drumroll. "Kiba!"
Sakura gasped, "No way!" At Tenten's nod, she smiled, "Huh! Who'd have guessed?"
An unholy grin lit the pink-haired girl's face as she pumped her fist in the air. "At last! I have dirt on Ino-pig!"
Still smirking evilly, Sakura turned back to the pile on her bed. "Come on, I've got somethin for Neji that'll cheer you up!"
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Gai starred at his only female student. "Tenten-chan, I-I do not mean to question your youthfulness...but, where are your pants?"
Turning to face the pair at the strangely strained note in his teacher's voice, Neji frowned heavily at Tenten's new attire.
Tenten tried to smile confidently and fought the urge to pull the hem of her skirt down. "This," she pointed to the micro-mini, "is my skirt."
Lee, ever-supportive, chimed in, "I think it displays Tenten's youth magnificently!"
Neji snorted. Tenten glared at him, then turned to Lee and gave him a tight hug. "Thank you, Lee!"
The stoic boy looked as though he was fighting not to roll his pale eyes. "Have you acquired our Surface attire or not?"
A grin to match Sakura's lit over Tenten's face. "Oh have I ever."
Turning to the knapsack she'd borrowed along with the clothing from Sakura, she pulled out Lee's set first. It was an emerald green, high collared, button up top with baggy matching pants. The piping along the Chinese collar was gold, and black ankle-height boots finished his classic martial artist style. Lee was ecstatic.
"Yosh!," he scooped up the clothing and teleported off to change.
Tenten smiled as she emptied the bag of the rest of its contents. Since Gai would be stationed nearby, he wouldn't need club attire like his students. No, all that was left was Neji.
Gathering up the remaining articles, she passed them triumphantly to her teammate. A white, slightly oversized leather jacket with a mandarin collar, flowing black hakamas, a silvery sash and heavy boots.
Neji's pale eyes narrowed. "Won't I require a shirt?"
Tenten's grin deepened as she produced a picture from her jacket pocket. Handing it to Neji, she explained, "Sakura tells me it's called Neo Samurai style. Street fighters dress like this in Old Tokio, and since we're supposed to blend in..."
Neji studied the magazine clipping for a long moment, before he muttered a 'hn' and stalked off. Tenten stood still and silent until he disappeared around a corner, when she threw her fists into the air and whooped.
Gai watched his student slightly nervously, and decided to chalk it up to the Springtime of her youth.
Tenten calmed herself just as Lee popped back exactly where he'd left, clothed in his new attire. Running himself through a few simple kata at his regular super-speed, he proclaimed, "I am taken by this attire!"
Jumping into a playful mock spar with Lee, Tenten was nearly blindsided by a roundhouse kick when Neji walked back into the room.
He had imitated the picture to the letter. The smirk on his face told her he'd seen her falter too. Damn. Running her eyes back down to his outfit, she decided the slight embarrassment was worth it.
Neji had donned the black hakamas and pale sash that reminded her of his eyes, tying each in their classic style. The boots were fairly similar to the ones he regularly wore, but his upper body is what had given her pause. He had tied his long, dark hair back with a leather tong into a high topknot rather than his usual loose style. And the jacket. She was going to hug Sakura the next time she saw her. The mandarin collar made his strong neck look even more corded, and the extra size let the sides hang wide to expose his smoothly muscled chest and stomach...all the way to the lines that cut from his hips in and trailed down to his...Tenten felt her face flood red.
He looked good. His grin widened and Tenten felt her face burn. And he knew it.
Tightening her grip on Lee, she realized she'd let her energy flux again when the gun concealed on her back began to charge. With a huff, she pressed her energy down as low as she could and released Lee's leg. She really needed to get a grip on her energy levels.
Tugging the panda hood up, Tenten declared, "We're ready to hit the Surface!"
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Tenten felt like a kid in a candystore as she waltzed into the club. Laser lights and holograms of every conceivable color danced across the room as the live entertainment hovered on a mobile platform over the dancefloor. All around her, she could hear the throb of electronics and the energy that was as familiar as her own face.
Swinging her hips a little to the beat, she yelled over the music, "This is gonna be fun, boys!"
As she stepped forward to melt into the crowd, Tenten felt a vicegrip catch her wrist. Turning, she followed the offending arm up to Neji's impassive face.
He didn't have to raise his voice to be heard, not even in the club. "We stay together until we spot the target."
Tenten huffed and pulled her arm free. Adjusting her hood, she shouted, "Fine."
The team slowly worked their way through the dancing crowd, Neji towing Tenten along as she was stopped more than once with an offer to dance. At last, he decided to wrap a possessive arm around her thinly clad waist. When she'd looked at him strangely, he'd stooped down to whisper into her hair, "To speed things along."
Ignoring the sinking feeling in her stomach at his answer, Tenten followed his lead and leaned into him as they moved through the club. At last reaching the escalator to the loft, the three mounted the glass platforms and stepped out onto the second level. Here, there was a bar and a good view of the gyrating mob below. As Lee and Neji walked toward the railing, Tenten hung back.
Shooting Neji a challenging look when he realised she hadn't followed, she tilted her head toward the bar. Despite or perhaps because of his disapproving frown, Tenten danced her way over to a neon-lit stool. Pressing her hands into the plexi-glass surface of the bar she shouted an order of fruit juice to the bartender. As she waited on her drink, she spun to watch her teammates at the edge of the loft.
Lee was scanning the crowd avidly, leaning slightly over the rail. Neji, on the other hand, was leaning back on it and studying the crowd more casually over his shoulder a few meters down from Lee. Tenten watched with thinly veiled annoyance as a scantily clad girl with lime green hair approached Neji. The girl had the audacity to press her hand against his bare chest as she dipped close to his ear to talk to him. Sepia eyes narrowing, Tenten debated rather or not she should shock the dye out of the girl's obviously fake hair. After a moment she elected not to. She didn't want to give Neji the satisfaction. Or compromise the mission. She wrinkled her nose and turned to face the bar once more. Right, she needed to straighten out her priorities on that one.
Smiling at the bartender as he handed her a tall, thin tube, she thanked him and swiped her charge card over the pay plate. As she took a swig of the drink, she savored the mix of several fruits that were difficult to come by Underground. Feeling generous, she passed her charge card over the plate again to leave a tip and sauntered away from the bar.
When she reached Lee, she leaned on the railing beside him and asked, "Lee, why haven't I ever dated?"
Lee's bushy eyebrows drew down into a frown as he looked away from the crowd below for a moment to focus on his teammate. "I have always assumed it was out of devotion to Neji, Tenten-chan."
Sighing and taking another slug of her drink, Tenten muttered to herself, "Yeah, I figured."
Lee starred for a long moment at his friend. "Tenten, it is not that I am not worried for your happiness, but now is--"
Before he could finish, Tenten cut in, "Mission, I know. I know. I'm off of it...I just wanted to ask."
Nodding, Lee turned to study the dancefloor once more. After a moment, he froze. "Yosh! I see our target!"
Tenten finished off the tube of liquid and followed Lee's gaze. Grinning with more courage than she felt, she pressed the glass into Lee's hands. "Tell Neji, I'm going ahead with my part."
Lee didn't get a chance to protest as Tenten disappeared into the crowd, headed toward the escalators.
"Oh Tenten," he whispered to himself. "If only you knew how Neji feels." Glancing down at the tube in his hands, he set off to inform his male teammate of the development.
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As she danced and wove between the other inhabitants of the dancefloor, Tenten reminded herself not to touch her eyes. Sakura had lined them dramatically for what she called a 'club look.' She'd failed to mention that the false eyelashes she'd attached would itch so badly. Toying absently with one of her braids, she decided she was close enough and stopped moving forward.
A genuine smile flooded her features as she tuned herself into the electric currents buzzing around her. She singled out the thumping beat of the song blaring over the loudspeaker and bounced and wiggled her body in time to it. Raising her arms above her head, she let herself enjoy the sensation of being surrounded by her element. The next song blended into the fadeout of the last and Tenten realised that she knew the lyrics to this one. Singing lightly to herself, she let her eyes slip closed. "For one moment, I wish you'd hold your stage with no feeling at all. Open-minded, I'm sure I used to be...so free."
"What's a pretty girl like you doing dancing all alone?"
Tenten's smile widened when she opened her eyes to find their mark smirking down at her. He was the twenty-one year old leader of a local yakuza with ties to the man who'd spearheaded the ANBU program. Ken Maito was the most dangerous man in Old Tokio tonight and he was dancing with her. He was handsome enough, with a body fit from a life of surviving on the edge of a holo-katana. A long scar ran from the outside of one green eye down to his jaw. His black hair was kept in a messy topknot and his muscular upper body was more highlighted than concealed by the black mesh shirt he wore. White hakamas and a unactivated holo-blade hilt at his waist marked him as a Neo Samurai. She'd found and engaged the mark.
She smiled prettily and said, "Just dancing."
A wolfish grin split his rough features. Winding an arm around her waist, he pulled her form closer to his and began to dance along with her. He leaned down to ask, "I saw you walk in with a swordsman. Am I going to have to fight your boy for you?" Tightening his grip on her hip he added, "Cause I will."
As the song began to pick up, she turned to press her back into him as she swung her hips in time to the tempo. Locking eyes with a stormy Neji on the loft above, she replied, "He's not my boy."
"Good," Ken growled.
Letting her eyes fall to half-mast, she crooned to herself, "Wash me away, cleanse your body of me...Erase all the memories, they will only bring us pain. And I've seen all I'll ever need."
As the song faded out and a house favorite replaced it, a cheer went up from the dancefloor. Turning to face her partner, she tried to press closer to him, only to find herself repelled. It was as if gravity was pushing her away from him. Twisting herself back to face the loft, she continued to dance as she scanned the mob for Neji.
At last she saw him smirking, the green girl still clinging to him. Her eyes flashed to the color of lightening as the light directly above her arrogant teammate's head blew out, raining sparks onto him. Miss Lime screeched and jumped back, but Neji looked unimpressed. Narrowing her eyes she began to charge the holo-katana at his waist in warning. Tenten smiled as she felt herself fall back completely onto Ken, no longer hindered. Ignoring Neji's blue-white glare, she faced Ken again.
The heavier beat of the new song dictated a more primal, wild kind of dance. Humming the chorus to herself, Tenten tried not to blush at the explicit lyrics. Ken seemed encouraged by her nearness and allowed his hands to wander a little lower. Not quite leaving her hips, but dangerously close.
Grinding and swaying her way through another verse, Tenten tried not to feel his hands as they roamed over her back and waist. It was time to reel in her catch. Giving Ken her best coy look, she peered into his green eyes from beneath her hood. "Wanna go someplace private?" So I can break your fingers? She left the last part unsaid as she watched his eyes darken with lust and eagerness.
"Absolutely, Panda Bear," he grinned at the affectionate name he'd given her.
Trying not to gag, Tenten smiled back. Accepting his arm, she trailed along with him as he lead her outside to a waiting duel-wheeled bike. The sleek black machine purred to life at the touch of Ken's hand to the ignition plate.
Sepia eyes flashed and the bike reared of its own accord, speeding off toward the hanger Hidden Leaf used for its vehicles. Looking to Ken, she sang, "Thanks for the bike."
Rather than shock, glee filled Ken's face. "No problem, Panda Bear. I've got plenty more." Tenten sprang away from the Neo Samurai as he drew his hilt, pressing a button and allowing the holographic blade to extend.
She laughed, levitating a few inches and concentrating on the sword. A flash of raw electricity later and the blade winked out of existence.
Ken smirked feraly, "So you're the little girl Orochimaru's so excited over. He said you'd be a challenge." Tossing the useless hilt aside, he drew an antique katana from the other side of his hip. "I brought live steel on the off chance I got to fight you. He didn't tell me you were pretty. I may have to ask to keep you when he's finished with you."
Hissing, Tenten drew the plasma blaster from her back and released an overcharged round. Ken deflected the ball of metal with a lazy flick of his wrist, "Of course, I modified this blade a little. A steel relic's no good in this day and age. I had it imbued with a few super-alloys." Leaning forward, he stage whispered, "That means that blaster's useless against me."
Tenten fell back again, firing a few bullets just to keep him occupied. Reaching blindly backward, she laid a hand on the wall of club. She summoned a third of her energy, watching as is glowed blue-green in her palm before surging it into the grid running the club. She heard screams as the lights overheated and burst everywhere inside. Neji and Lee would be coming soon.
Ken pouted and swung his blade in a long arc toward her, "Aww, calling for backup already?"
Dancing back, Tenten chucked the spent blaster at Ken. He laughed and sliced the gun cleanly in two with a downswing. "You're no fun. Where's that fiery spirit from earlier?" Advancing on her, he executed an advanced series of slashes and stabs, keeping Tenten on the defense. Out of nowhere, he tossed the blade down to rest half-buried in the concrete of the sidewalk. Drawing a rod about six inches long he pointed it at Tenten's chest and fired.
A pair of electrodes exploded forward, latching onto her chest. Glancing down at the projectiles, she quipped in a dry voice, "Stop that. It tickles."
Ken just smirked maddeningly as she reached for the tiny metal pieces, attempting to discharge them. Tenten screamed as they began fluctuating voltage and current. Her system literally couldn't translate the energy in time and for the first time in her life, Tenten was being electrocuted.
Prowling over to where she lay, Ken asked himself, "How do you subdue someone who literally manipulates technology? I'll tell you how! Alternate currents and voltage, scramble frequencies, keep her guessing! It's tough to tune into something that's constantly changing."
He crouched down, peering into her terrified face. "Hard to think past ten thousand volts of electricity ricocheting through your brain, isn't it?"
Straightening himself, he glanced down at the baton that fired the electrodes. He twisted a dial and watched as the current strengthened, causing Tenten's body to spasm. A opalescent sheen of energy flickered over her body as her mutation tried to regain control of its element. The neon signs and hovercars passing by began to flicker and behave strangely.
Tsking to himself, Ken flipped a switch and turned the dial a little further. "Stop fighting it, Panda Bear! The sooner you pass out, the sooner I deliever you to Orochimaru and everybody's happy." He paused to press another button. "Well, everyone but you that is."
A psychic wave exploded out from Tenten's struggling form. Every electronic device in the vicinity shuddered and threw a shower of sparks. Vehicle alarms wailed, sirens screeched, static hissed and electricity hummed.
Tenten screamed, hardly audible over the malfunctioning machines around her. Bright blood trickled slowly from her ears as she pulled wildly at her hair. Curling into the fetal position, she rocked and clutched her head. All around her electronics flashed and blared. The streetlights lining the entrance to the club flickered then shone so brightly they overheated and burst. Suddenly, as though a switch was flipped, every machine went silent. The abrupt silence was broken by the ragged sobs of the girl sprawled on the concrete.
Ken sighed dramatically and stopped the current flowing through Tenten. Before he could say another word, a gravity-loaded punch tossed him like a ragdoll into the next building. A white and black blur followed his limp body, executing a series of kicks to the surrounding walls that buried him in beneath more rubble than his human body could ever hope to move.
Reappearing at Tenten's side, Neji knelt down and slowly rolled her onto her back. "Ten?"
Still shaking slightly with aftershocks of the current, she asked, "Neji? Where's the mark?"
"Incapacitated," he answered simply.
Tenten blinked her glassy eyes, "Oh. Okay. Wow, I don't feel so hot."
Plucking the metal electrodes from her hoody, he concentrated the gravity acting on them until they were crushed beyond repair. After tossing the metal bits aside, he ordered, "Don't close your eyes, Tenten. I'm taking you to Tsunade."
As he gathered her up to carry her home, Tenten couldn't help but wish she was a little more coherent as she pressed her cheek onto his bare chest. Fighting to keep her lids from falling shut, she slurred, "But I'm so tired, Neji. I think I'm gonna--"
When she didn't finish her sentence, he looked down at her battered form. Blood was running sluggishly from her ears and nose and he could feel her muscles twitching and contracting beneath his hands. Shaking her slightly he yelled, "Tenten! Tenten! Open your eyes! Tenten!"
She was unresponsive. For the first time in a long time, Neji felt completely helpless. The woman he'd grown up with was dying in his arms and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. The woman he loved was going to leave him. Neji fell to his knees, cradling Tenten's slender body to himself. Burying his face in her hair, he whispered her name over and over like a mantra.
"Neji?," a tearful, soft voice sounded behind him. "Where is Tenten-chan?"
Neji was silent. Lee was too late. Lee with his teleportation and super-speed couldn't save her now. She was gone. Because they weren't fast enough.
When Tenten had blown out the lights in the club, two teams of Sound soldiers had attacked he and Lee. As soon as he finished his three opponents, he'd raced for Tenten. Lee had been finishing up his final challenger when he'd left. But neither was fast enough.
There was a pop of displaced air as Lee appeared next to him on the grimy alley floor. A sob worked its way free from Lee's throat as he saw her tiny, beaten body. He reached out to touch her hair, but Neji snarled, "Don't." He moved away from his surviving teammate. "Don't touch her."
Tears streamed down Lee's face as he tried to calm his friend. "Neji, she's--"
Pale eyes flared violet with rage and fear. "SHUT UP!" Curling around her, he roared at Lee, "SHE CAN'T BE...SHE'S NOT DEAD!"
The first tear he'd shed since he'd turned nine trailed down Neji's face, clinging for a moment to his jaw before slipping into Tenten's hair. Gravelly with emotion, he muttered to her, "You have to open your eyes, Tenten. Please." His voice cracked as he pleaded with her. More tears slipped unchecked down his pale face as he rocked slowly back and forth, refusing to let her go. "You're staying with me."
Brushing her bangs away from her face with a callused hand, he whispered thickly, "I love you, Ten."
Pressing his face into her neck, he shifted and allowed her hand to slip off of his lap, onto the ground. Onto a minuscule piece of metal. Glancing up, Neji's eyes widened as he saw the tiny, crushed electrode spark at the touch of her hand. A shudder racked her body as she gasped for air, breathing again. Pearlescent light danced over her skin as her mutation jump-started her heart.
In a thin, reedy voice, she rasped, "Do you mean it?"
Staring into her flickering, blue-green eyes, he asked, "You heard me?"
When she nodded weakly, he laughed roughly. "Yeah. I meant it."
Smiling wanly, Tenten raised a hand to shakily wiped the tear-tracks from his face. "I know."
Neji laughed in ernest this time, carefully pressing his lips to hers.
Tenten hummed, "That was nice."
Stroking her face, Neji grinned and repeated the motion.
As he pulled back, Tenten whispered, "I love you, too."
Lyrics from Citizen Erased by MUSE as a reference to my other fic :D
I have in the works a KibaIno fic that fits into this Verse and was mentioned here...I like tying my stuff together like that
Some ideas in this one-shot were inspired by other works of fiction, and I do not claim them in any fashion (ie, Lee's attire was inspired by Bruce Lee)
I'm working on the sequel to Citizen Erased as well, but as I was writing it, this idea wouldn't leave me alone, so I rolled it out first
Thanks for reading and please review!