Credit to Kishimoto and the staff of Bullfrog. Dedicated to that awesome antique game: Syndicate. Truly awesome.
In the city of magnets, life was surprisingly quiet. There was no sound of cars, no screeching of tires or the blaring of horns. Occasionally there would be the noise of air rushing out of the way as the maglevs pushed their passengers back and forth, and sometimes there were the faint poundings of footsteps, but other than that the streets were silent. At this time of night, not even footsteps could be heard as people hurried back home, away from the danger that came in the form of vicious punks and Maraudering Zealots and something even worse, something whispered behind hands and never spoken aloud.
The young woman mused that this was definitely not a good thing when her best friend was supposed to pick her up for the late-night shift at the medical labs. It was a habit of sorts, he would claim to 'be in the neighbourhood' and invite her to hop in for a quick trip to the facility. Every day at nine PM, without fail.
She didn't think it suspicious, her friends were strange like that. She knew them from preschool, most of them, and this one had a habit of being stranger then most, but from his blond hair to his odd whisker marks (He claimed he got them on his O.E to the Atlantic accelerator) she wouldn't change.
Still, he was late. Very late. And she could swear that in the distance, the sounds of a riot were beginning to flow over the rooftops, getting closer all the while. A siren from a Police-lev screeched past her as she waited in the plaza, she felt to scratch the back of her legs, feeling the chill over the late evening bite through her casual attire (Thank God for Fridays!).
"Hmmmm… Damn, where are you?" She groaned, looking around for any tell-tale signs of purple caps or floating robes that signified the city's less than desirable folks. There were none, but she felt that it might be a good idea to start walking anyway, this was a dangerous place to begin with, and she couldn't shake this niggling feeling that…
Huh, a mag-car started up.
… She was being watched. And now this stupid thing's headlights were throwing her shadow all over the sidewalk.
Why isn't it on the road?
The figure in the shotgun seat watched the young woman blink in the glare of the headlights, green schematics scrolled along the left side of the windshield as the scanner confirmed her details.
Specialist skills: Unconfirmed.
The figure in the passenger seat typed in the information that he had gather in the time that he had known the woman. The mask he wore over his mouth pulled in and out through his lips, tasting of toughened rubber and leaving a foul presence on his tongue.
His companion in the driver's seat sighed, and gripped the wheel, glancing at the instruction box on the right of the windscreen.
Specialist Skills: Medical history, unknown mental drug levels, resistance to CHIP calls, shown acuity in R&D deployment.
Subject deemed suitable for recruitment.
"No…" The first figure groaned, smacking his head into the dashboard, giving it a few thumps. "Please, just delay it, delay it delay it delaydelaydelay…"
The driver grimaced, pulled up its mask, and took a closer look at the woman who had begun to walk away.
"Sorry, Blondie." The driver sighed, hitting the accelerator.
She didn't hear anything, so she normally wouldn't have noticed the sudden burst of speed from the mag-car. Even then, she wouldn't have paid any heed, since Maglevs couldn't operate on the footpath, only on the designated roadways.
But the car's headlights were moving, the shadow in front of her lengthening and strengthening as the vehicle put on the speed.
She dodged to the right just as the vehicle arrived, clipped on the hip and crying out as agony sprung from her legs. She looked over, one of her limbs was bending strangely from the knee and she felt her stomach heave as the shock provoked her adrenaline to kick up her digestive processes.
"What are you doing?! Get her in the car!"
She saw a pair of feet hurrying towards her prone form, felt the strength leave her body as pain began to overwhelm her muscles. She gave a faint whimper of defiance as she was picked up and slung over a shoulder, the hard impact sending a fresh wave of pain up her spine. The quick jerking as she was carried back to the vehicle only aggravated her suffering, as was the fall onto the hard seat in the back.
"Sedate her, Naruto."
"N-… Naruto?" The woman gasped as a needle found her neck, trying to see his face in the gloom of the compartment. The face that turned towards her was shrouded in the shadows, but a passing streetlight illuminated his face, the whiskers hidden by the rubber mask that reached to the top lips, but the blue eyes and blond hair hidden under the red cap.
"I'm sorry, I really am, but either you come with us, or I'm dead by tomorrow."
"She in?" Came a woman's voice from the front, the sound of gloves grinding a rubber fold squeaked in the silence.
"Setting for gate 4."
The little conversation ended, with Naruto feeling along the supine Woman's hip, trying to locate the break if there was one.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because they need you. He needs you."
"You're not making any sense… AH!! OhgodgodgodthatHURTS!!" She cried out as he clicked her knee back into position, devolving herself into sobs as the intense torture broke down her bewilderment.
She continued to cry as the car made little swerves, moving through the streets to an unknown destination. After a few minutes, when her frantic little breaths and heaving stomach had calmed into one giant body ache, she picked out the one thing that seemed strange, out of place.
"Why don't you call me-" She started, until his hand covered her mouth roughly and pushed a small cube on a handle into the CHIP at the back of her head.
"You won't know what your name was once the process is finished. There's no point."
"I really am sorry, but there isn't any other way."
He pressed the handle, and the world went black.
"Are you alright, Naruto?"
Naruto jerked out of his half-slumber in the back seat, checking again to set the Woman's vitals with a guilty expression.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." He mumbled, trying not to appear too concerned.
"Oh, for… Look, it's fine to feel a little ashamed. I don't like it any more than you do, but if we're going to finish off the Syldavia institute…"
"Bio-weapon, yeah, I get it." He groaned, "She was looking to improve the Melanoma treatment, get stuck in to the Immunity chip… Now she's going to be killing people by the beaker."
"Life, Naruto, bites ass." The driver looked to the right, the left, and continued down the straight in the intersection, Naruto bracing the unconscious woman so that she didn't fall off the seat.
They drove on in silence for a few minutes, before the constantly flickering light through the window told the Man that they had entered the industrial section. He reached into his heavy coat and withdrew a pistol, holding it to his side and looking fervently out the window. The schematics on the left of the windscreen turned into an overhead view of the sector, complete with crowd indicators.
"Epoch church gathering twelve blocks up, taking a right through Versailles."
The car banked and went down the new route; Naruto's eyes didn't leave the schematic.
A red blip appeared on the far right of the square map, slowly moving to intercept the route proposed in blink grey lights for the car. Naruto cocked his pistol and kicked the Driver's chair.
"Got an Agent!"
"Probably got a Cryo-mod on the neck, be careful."
Naruto's implants gave him an idea of just how much he could take, but even he didn't know just how well he could handle the slam of the road.
That didn't stop him securing Sakura on the bottom of the car with special straps installed in the legspace, kicking open the door and jumping out of the moving vehicle to roll against the glass surface of the magroad.
He withdrew a scanner (Thankfully resilient enough to survive the rough treatment) from the depths of his coat, activating the beam sight of the pistol and giving a salute as the car drove by in the opposite direction, feeling himself over for any external scuffs on his suit.
He tapped the side of his ear, activating the piece and connecting him to the car.
"Bastard still moving?"
"He's going down the side alley by Antarctic and Raison."
"Got it, moving to intercept."
He looked around and spotted a fire escape, held ten feet above the ground by a metal latticework. He ran underneath it, strangely mobile underneath his thick clothing. As he stood beneath it, he gave it a cursory lookover, clapped his hands together, knelt down and…
One minute he was crouching, the next he was gripping to the ladder and climbing faster than anything on two legs. Within the space of a few seconds, he was overlooking the street with his pistol aimed down the right side of the road.
"In position for an ambush, the bastard on track?"
"Tag is still on. He has an active jammer on, so I'm assuming he's attempting a frontal sneak shot."
Naruto cursed, and thought about his next step.
"Why are we hiding from a single agent again?"
"The guy could be packing anything from a Minigun to a Laser to a Gauss Launcher. A good hit from any of those and we're all dead."
"Couldn't we take another route?"
His earpiece rumbled from the laughter.
"Okay, maybe not."
Another minute passed.
"Ooookay, you should see him… now."
Naruto kept his eyes open and scanned the smattering of people walking in the later hours of the night. It was easy enough to spot the Agent as he moved, the massive trenchcoat, the white eyes, the orange cap and its unnatural stride made it stand out like a cyborgic thumb. The fact that people were avoiding it like the plague was a clear giveaway.
"Target in sight, siming local."
Naruto looked through the reflex sight, aiming for a spot just to the right of the forehead as the agent turned perpendicular to him.
"Fire. Fire. Fire."
There was a crack, and Naruto felt his shoulder jolt from the recoil, watching the cyborg fly off its feet from the heavy caliber slammed it into the wall opposite, a chunk of flesh and metal hanging limp from its temple. People began screaming and running from the street.
"About time. Get your ass back to the car, or you can hop yourself up on adrenaline and run back. Your call."
"Eh, I'll… hang on, is the threat bleeper still up?"
"Why isn't it off? I popped that guy in the head!"
"Until the battery on his back dies, he's going to be registering."
"Ah, fuck it."
Naruto knew that he should have finished off the Agent, should have been professional about it, shouldn't have let the knowledge that he was currently responsible for the ruin his best friend's life was going to become destroy his personal ability.
He only knew this after the Agent screeched back into life, with a bullet in its head and an arm jerking into life, withdrawing a tube rocket component and sticking it into another tube on his shoulder. One button press, a shriek from the crowd, and a grenade fired out from the tube and smacked into the building opposite.
"Naruto? NARUTO!!" The woman in the car screamed as his beacon flickered. She looked over at the girl in the back, breathing a tiny sigh of relief when she turned back to the screen and found that the Agent's red circle had vanished.
"The way is clear. Hang on, Naruto…"
She pushed into her earpiece, "You guys getting this?"
"We're sending a recovery crew now, you primary objective is to bring the Scientist back to Headquarters."
"Got it, make sure you get him back for us."
"His vitals are still up, but… injuries… a lot of injuries."
"I understand. Just save him."
The car spurned itself to life, towards the final objective.
I think she's waking up.
Jack her up with some more anesthetic, then!
What's the progress like?
We're starting to mod her CHIP right now.
"Mah… my neck hurts…"
Why hasn't anybody knocked her out?
Wait… theeeere we go.
Excellent. Now, how's our other client?
He's sustained damage on…
Son of a bitch, she's up again!
It must be the neuron anomaly that UZU-MAKI found out about.
Can't risk another dose, her heart will start arresting.
We've just finished on her memory augmentation; all we need to do is use the suggestion virus.
Right. HEY! DOES ANYONE HAVE A PERSUADER? Yes? Oh, thanks. Heeeeeere we go.
There was pain in the back of her neck, then white light. Once again, the woman lost consciousness.
It woke up.
It just felt… strange. There was no past, only a present. No memory, only a hint of mists. It knew about the human body, strangely. Muscles and brain and organs and nerves all bundled up into flesh, all controlled by things that couldn't be seen and barely moved…
It was all she knew, the human body.
How did she know these things? What was… who was…
"Here, drink this."
She slowly opened her eyes, groaning at the bright light that shone through the window. Around her were metal bulkheads and medical apparatus, everything rusty and damaged in minor ways, but otherwise clean and serviceable. The voice came from a young woman looking at her from huge concerned brown eyes with her equally chocolate hair held up in two buns.
"Hey, you'll be a little starved for nutrients after the augmentation, so you'd best drink up." She said, pushing forward a steaming mug towards the patient in the bed, who was still groaning from the light.
"Yeah, we had to analyze your eyes to check your compatibility with the retinal implants. They're a little weak, but you'll find you can see better in no time."
"I feel sick." The woman shivered, trying not to focus on the bile rising in her stomach.
"So did I, but it gets better. And from what I've been told about you, you're going to get over it even faster. Ah, and the name's Tenten."
"Been told…?" The woman let the question drop as she drunk the hot drink slowly. It tasted of honey, a little raspberry, lemon…
"Tenten? That's… a nice name."
"Ain't it?" Tenten smiled, "I got it three days after I was taken into the fold. For my accuracy score on the combat test, I got a Ten-"
"-Out of ten, huh? Wow." The woman nodded, drinking a little more.
"Uh… close. Ten Thousand out of Ten Thousand."
"Sppppppffft! What?" The woman cried as she sprayed her drink over Tenten's simple suit, apologizing profusely.
"It's fine." The brunette sighed. "I got so good at aiming and firing that I wasn't allowed to be put on the field, so they have me here working on weapon designs and modding. I think you're set up to be working with me for a while, so I'd at least better get to know you, eh?"
"Oh… thank you. My name is…" The woman blinked, feeling the odd sensation of her thoughts suddenly clearing out.
"Don't bother, they wiped you of all your personal memories with a Hippocampus tracer. You're one of us, now."
The other woman paused, looked up at the other person, and waited for a full minute.
"I think I'm supposed to feel angry, but I don't."
"Yeah, that's because you don't know what you've lost."
"Isn't this a crime?"
"They don't call us black market organizations for our tax-evading bake sales."
"Oh. Is it safe?"
"Probably. Anyway, you keep drinking, I'm going to grab your co-workers." Tenten smiled as she went out the bulky metal door, "And welcome to the clan."
The woman blinked, and finished off her tea, placing the mug on the floor and wincing at the unexpected strain it put on her body. She twiddled with her thumbs for a few minutes before the door came sliding open again.
First came in a blond-haired young man, a sad smile on his face, although the lines of his cheeks and forehead indicated that he smiled a great deal. This wasn't one of those times. His left arm was in a sling, and he moved awkwardly, like his legs had been injured or his knee had been twisted. Small bandages swathed his form like a mummy that was used for toilet paper. A sticking plaster over the brink of his nose made him look absolutely comical with everything else on him.
After him, fusing over a dressing on his back, was a dark-haired woman with a gentle countenance and a look in her eyes that screamed 'Devoted nurse', although the lack of a pupil inside her lilac irises told Sakura that something was not all natural about her. She tittered over the blond man, who laughed as she whacked his shoulder for moving his broken arm. As he kissed her on the hand in thanks, bending in a silly fashion to catch it at her side, she blushed a furious shade of red and let the other person in.
Tenten followed, shutting the door.
"Okay, the others are a little caught up in things, but these guys are here already. As you know, I'm Tenten, and I was the one who brought you in here. This here is, according to the suits, the Universal-Zealot-Utility and Machine-Augmented-Killing-Instrument, or UZU-MAKI. He's our resident Guinea-pig." She laughed as she pointed to the blond, who only shrugged and declaimed "Call me Naruto."
"Oh. Nice to meet you, Naruto."
"You too." Came a sad reply, the dark-haired woman patted him on the shoulder.
"This bad boy got into the history books by taking a full Kinetic-Yielding-Untested-Unproven-Ballistic-Integrator into his body. Naruto here is the only guy so far who can contain KYUUBI."
"Tenten, gimme a break and stop speaking the crap about my little mod." Naruto huffed, scratching the back of his head.
"Right. Exhibit B is, once again according to the suits, the HYpercharged-Uniform-Unit-for-General-Acquisition. HYUUGA. Had a couple of kids come in from after we iced their parents, and we tested out our first bunch of ocular implants on 'em."
"Tenten, please." The HYUUGA sighed, "My name is Hinata. It's good to know that I won't be the only one working on Project Fanatic. But we really need to get Naruto back into bed, so could you…"
"I don't mind." The woman smiled, but Tenten bared the door before Hinata could drag Naruto out the door.
"Hinata, he can't go. He knew things."
"He's not supposed to be-"
"Hinata, he knew things." Tenten raised her eyebrows in a meaningful fashion. Hinata looked at Naruto who gave a small smile and looked at the woman. She turned to follow his gaze and gave a tiny 'Oh' as realization dawned.
"I'm sorry, is there something wrong?"
They all turned to look at the woman, and sighed.
"Okay, we might as well tell her her name, it's the least we could do."
Hinata nodded, and pulled a chair out of the corner, sitting on it with a graceful movement and holding her hands together.
"You… have a strange resistance to the CHIP, we'll tell you more about that later, but we also… took you in… because we need your expertise in human anatomy and process on a project. The head decided to name you Human-Anatomy-Research-Underneath-Nominal-Organization, or HARUNO. It doesn't matter what your name was, that's what people will call you."
"They're bastards like that." Naruto laughed, sincerely this time. "So you'll want to get yourself a name."
"Doesn't matter what it is." Tenten added, "We just looked out to the windows after we checked. I saw my test results from the police academy, Hinata saw Naruto's face and hair while she was still hopped up on stims and kept saying 'I'm in a sunny field! I'm in a sunny field!" once she saw the hair."
Hinata hid her face in her hands, HARUNO tried desperately not to giggle as Naruto chortled along.
"Naruto here saw a bunch of fishcakes that somebody had left out from their shift. That's our names, find yours."
HARUNO looked around the room and tried desperately to find something that stood out. She didn't want to be anything but…
"Are you guys here to stall me?"
She got three sets of 'Huh?', but eventually Hinata conceded that yes, they were stalling her until the rest of the team walked through.
"Okay, so… you lot are decoys, right?"
Naruto nodded his head from side to side and muttered a 'Yeah, I guess.'
"Okay… decoy… decoy… hey, I've got it! My name is Sakura!"
Hinata moved her eyes to the top of her head (At least, it looked like it. The lack of pupils made it hard to tell) and mouthed it out to herself, testing the sound of it. Tenten shrugged, and Naruto looked downright puzzled.
"Doesn't that word have a homonym to go with it? Blossom or something?"
"Blossom? Ew." Tenten stuck out her tongue, "I like Decoy better. It's noble. Sakura it is!"
Naruto reached inside his hospital gown with a cheeky grin and withdrew a bottle of Cognac (Much to Hinata's dismay) and pulled the stopper as Tenten grabbed a few glasses from a serving cupboard. As the crystal brimmed with the alcohol, the four of them chinked their glasses in unison and wished the newly named Sakura health.
"To Haruno Sakura, the latest installment in our little family."
"To… me." She laughed.
The door opened again, and a man in a tight suit and a grim expression walked in the room. Sakura's first impression was this: While the others seemed to be bumbly business types, this man obviously had no fun whatsoever to be shown. Eyes like shields, cold and metallic and unyielding clashed against her own. Black hair, darker than coal, more lustrous than soot looked to melt the world around her, the lines under his eyes made her wonder if he killed people to sleep. Did his face even move?
And the smirk. Oh gods, the smirk. She could feel the arrogance of this man, and her eyes still weren't yet fully focused.
"Ah! Boss!" Naruto sprung to his feet, "We were wondering if you were going to show up!"
"That's enough, Uzumaki. Everyone, get out."
Muttering apologies, the rest made their promises to meet up again after the little 'chat'. Hinata stayed by as if she wanted to say something, but a hand on her shoulder and Naruto's shaking head convinced her otherwise.
Now, Sakura lay back in her bed, watching the silent man.
"Haruno, I give you two choices. You work for me until I let you go, you will work hard, you will work despite petty moralisms, not caring for others but for your work. You will not rebel, you will not scheme, you will not do anything except what I tell you. Fail me in that, and you will be assumed to have chosen the second option, where you die a miserable, humiliating death."
His voice was low, but there was no menace. Sakura realized that there was no need, something tiny in his tone promised the death more assuredly than the words he used.
"Which will it be, Haruno?"
"The one where I don't die sounds nice."
"Very good. My Name is Uchiha Itachi. You will refer to me as 'Sir'. You are now an employee of Eurocorp, a large organizational front dedicated to our monopolization of the CHIP system. You will bear witness to killing, torture, suffering untold, but you will not disobey."
"That is all."
He got up and walked to the door, the three others nearly fell to the group as they backed out of his way.
"Miss Haruno?" He asked, not turning.
"Welcome to the Syndicate."
Well, that was an interesting experiment. I've no idea whether I should continue it or scrap it. Any ideas? Suggestions?