"My my, such a vast array of gifts. When was the last time I was treated so kindly?" The red-haired man sat stiffly on the black leather sofa, eyes casually roaming over the assorted bottles and occasional gold-edged microchips on the table before him. He picked up a smaller bottle, coverd in plain paper, unwrapping it and holding the glass to the light-green lights that hung limply from the ceiling. After roughly half a minute of inspecting the contents, he nodded approvingly and spread out his hands toward his visitor.

"Little Sasuke, it's been years. I can only assume that you have something schemed up to involve your brother, curse this old man's memory for forgetting the reasons why..." He chuckled, tapping his cheek absentmindly. The man opposite him gave an almost condescending 'hn' under his breath, before raising his face to meet the young-faced man's eyes. "Drop the act, Sasori. My brother has nothing to do with this."

Sasori blinked, and shook his head. "Oh, but how I wish I could believe that, Itachi's hands grip everything-" He chuckled to himself as Sasuke crossed his legs, "-Metaphorically, that is. Or is that a conditioned reflex I spy?"

"Are you in the mood for hearing my proposal or not? I don't have time to waste, I have a new recruit going through a mental conditioning run. I had to send out Hyuuga 12 with her and arrange for an incident at the warehouse, I've got an hour before she starts being insubordinate, at best." Sasuke sighed, fighting the urge to steeple his fingers, arms resting on his knees as he eyed the man before him. Black eyes searched and found little evidence of what the man was, but what he saw only confirmed the craftsmanship that had even the Agents mumbling cautiously in their drugged stupors. Absolutely flawless skin in a era where scars were not only commonplace but environmentally mandatory, red hair in a time of excessive overpopulation and heterogynous gene mixing. This man was too perfect to be real, and yet here he was.

Sasori straightened up, his eyes unhazing from introspection to be brung into sharp focus, a tiny smile playing over his face. "Her, little Sasuke? What could Tomato boy mean, to let slip that a female is the cause of all this..." He held up his hand as Sasuke opened his mouth, "No, no, let me figure this out, I want to give it a try. Humour an old man." He chided with a laugh, "Now then, it would be... oh, close on two decades since I participated in Project Regenesis... and I remember working on this sweet little girl of about two... Itachi was very interested in her, and the boy was scarcely through his first decade, too!"

Tapping his fingers on the desk, Sasori narrowed his vision at the young executive before him. "And now, right about the time that girl should be beginning to experience the real benefits of her... modification... his power-hungry little brother comes up with a proposal. This boy, who gifts me with some very expensive preservative and neurocytes -I would've preferred some Turboprop, by the way- and asks me if I want to hear some kind of deal, I wonder what -or who- this deal will involve me with... or against." The smile widened, the eyes grew feral, "Could this possibly be a chance to see my creation once more? My little pink-haired doll? My daughter? Are you simply offering the chance to see my daughter again just so you can have an edge? Are you such a meandering lowlife that you have to resort to offering an old man the chance to see his only offspring, forged in a game of scientific progress, or risk going without a tiny piece of information?" Sasori's hands ceased to tap, and pressed into the wood.

Sasuke matched the man's gaze, before he realized that something was tinging the edge of his vision. He blinked, twitched the right corner of his right eye, and felt his peripheral vision bloom as the Sharingan came into effect. Sasori was unfazed when he reopened his eyes, but he saw what he needed to see: the perfect man's fingers were beginning to leave dents in the wood. He answered the man's questions with a single phrase, and leaned back to let the implications settle.

"I am an executive of Eurocorp, Sasori, with all that bears to mind."

Sasori's face settled into a blank, before breathing out and bringing back the tiny smile. "Then that's about as obvious as you can get. Poor little Sasuke, you were such a nice boy, too." He stood up, going to the back of the meeting room in which they had held their impromptu meeting. "I will give you her specifications, check her body, everything that is verifiable. I will not advise you, Sasuke, as I tend to have reservations regarding the exploitation of my more precious craftsmanship." He halted in the act of putting on a large, bulky trenchcoat to address the black-haired man, "And if I find she has been treated as anything other than human -and I mean the sort of human with rights, mind you-" He added as Sasuke moved to remind him about how the Syndicate usually treated people, "Then I will show you how I managed to live so long... and why the time you live in will be found rather... brief."

"Understood. Do you require any form of assistance? Escorting?" Sasuke nodded towards the coat, "That will not stop anything above an 8mm Nambu."

"Please, Tomato-boy, have some faith in the Puppet Master." The red-haired man winked, "Or else why bother going to the show?"

"She's hit!! She's hit!! Oh fucking hell why didn't she say anything?!"

"Please, please, I'm fine. I'm fine. Please don't shout at me, I'm fine. Naruto, please don't shaaaaa..."

Thump

"Medic! Medic!!! Get Shino! Get Granny! Somebody move their ass or I'LL KILL YOU, I'LL KILL YOU ALL DEAD."

The fourth floor section b5-4 hallway was suddenly seeing a lot of attention, personel scurried around and busied themselves with a strange level of detachment in their stride. A blond, whiskered man was on his knees, cradling an unconscious porcelain-skined woman with a growing patch of blood slowly seeping through the thigh of her dress, his eyes burning a fearsome crimson as he gripped onto the wound and attempted to staunch the flow with the fabric of her skirt. Occasionally he would scream and curse at the uncaring coworkers, but his countenance would quickly revert to fear and concern as he felt the warm and starchy stickiness under his fingers.

A glimpse of a massive chest pushing through the crowd flooded his veins with relief, doubly so when the gurdy was unfolded and Hinata was gently loaded on top of it. Questions followed, he answered as best he could. She had been accompanying the Rookie, taken a bullet in the leg and was too blasted on battle sedatives to notice until she had joined him to check on his wounds, whereupon she calmly limped towards the medical wing before passing out from blood loss. The fact that her skirt was dark to begin with helped to hide the blood at the least. He followed the Gurny and his mother-figure to the (The healing one, at least) medical wing, where a man surrounded by black specks and a green trenchcoat (Unsanitary, but better equipped against booby-trapped corpses) was turning off a pager, slipping it into his pocket and watching the arrivals through reflective shades.

"Bullet wound. Entry, no exit. On her right side, missed the artery, mostly a flesh wound, could have hit a secondary vein, pretty straightforward." Tsunade rattled off, the shaded man nodded thoughtfully. Naruto respectfully looked away as they cut away the obstructing fabric, nervously pacing the theatre as they inspected the damage. It wasn't pretty, the bullet had lodged itself in a muscle cluster and the tip had splintered due to poor alloys, ripping as it went and barbing itself against the flesh. Pulling it out would hook in Hinata's leg, and opening the wound hole would tear chunks that were hooked on the bullet's barb. Blood was still leaking thoroughly, and thanks to Hinata's unawareness of her unforseen visitor, had managed to move around as she walked and cause even more damage.

"Shino, if you would be so kind." Tsunade deadpaned, watching the black specks rise into a small cloud that covered the man before they crept along his arm to run into the wound. A score of seconds later and the bullet was considerably lessened while the specks hovered back toward the silent man's arms, as if it had spent a few hours getting sandpapered from all sides. "Thank you. Forceps." She called, receiving the surgical tweezers. "Naruto, out of here. It's going to take a little moxie to pull this bastard out."

"But, what if Hina-" He noticed Shino shaking his head at him, and decided to place his faith in Granny as he left the rusty, out-of-date surgery. Again.

Somebody has to answer for this.

--

"YOU SON OF A FUCKING BITCH!!"

Sasuke groaned and rubbed his forehead, trying desperately to keep his head after his longest-lived colleague had burst into the room and slammed his hands down on the already worse-for-wear desk, demanding answers as to why he had let his nurse and a rookie go up against a group of agents and hired muscle. It didn't help that Naruto's Kyuubi was beginning to overtake its resting compensators and altered his eyes into the famous slit-pupiled stare, enhancing his already feral appearance.

"I had no idea that-"

It was then that Naruto did something very, very stupid. In his increasingly irrational mind, he figured that his point would be more valid if he broke something. So he whipped out his hand and grabbed, flinging a rectangular disk against the wall so hard the frame snapped off with the sound of cracking glass.

"YOU LISTEN THE FUCK HERE, SASUKE! YOU SENT THEM AGAINST FUCKING AGENTS, AGENTS!! HINATA'S IN THE FUCKING CHOPSHOP WITH A FUCKING BULLET IN HER FUCKING LEG!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"

Naruto, even in the unstoppable rage that was his augment as his fingers clawing deep furrows in the wood of Sasuke's desk, could tell something had just slipped past him. As his eyes slowly turned back into their normal hue, he realized with the pants-pissingly terrifying certainty that he may have just smashed the only picture Sasuke had left of his parents. Sasuke hadn't moved the entire time, but when he raised his head Naruto could see the Sharingan spinning lazily in his eyes.

"I can assure you that if I had intended for them to go up against agents, I would have sent them with more backup than a psychotic priest and two alcoholic punks, Uzumaki. I had absolutely no idea they would be encountering resistance of that magnitude. Now, turning to more recent matters..." He looked over at the sad mess of wood and glass that lay in a heap on the carpet, "... I wonder what that counts for? Breaking a decoy photo, insubordination, assault..."

Naruto hid a nervous grin, he knew the code. "Compensational info, you horny bastard?" He tried to hide his abject worry over his nurse as he began thinking of all the wonderful, illicit things his friend had a taste for. "Word around the plaza's that Temari's thinking of joining in with us permanently. Her brother's given her the okay, thinks she'll be better out on the field."

"Verifiable?"

"Shikamaru confirmed it. She talks in her sleep." Naruto chuckled, waggling his eyebrows.

Sasuke smirked, "And here I thought he was so lazy he couldn't get it up."

"We learn something new everyday."

Sakura was slightly surprised to see Tenten in her new quarters (The cigarette-smoking grump she'd encountered on the lift had scrawled out the directions on the back of a rollup paper after she'd spent twenty minute wandering the corridors.) but was too drained to give more than a passing 'unh' before falling onto the clean and slightly cool sheets on what was presumably her bed. She was dazed, but she glimpsed faint beams of moonlight traversing through a dusty window. At least there was something natural around here.

"Ain't 'inata gin' 'through yer?" Sakura mumbled into her pillow, holding its soft surface to her flushed face. Tenten coughed and mumbled something about there being an accident and that she'd be away for a little while.

"N't dead, ishe?"

The brown-bunned girl only laughed and said that it wasn't that serious. But since they were roommates, maybe she'd like to at least change into something that wouldn't cover the sheets in dust?

"W're you sleepin'?"

Tenten giggled. "On the other side, silly."

"Othasideawat?"

"... The bed."

That was enough to wake Sakura up, trauma and fatigue notwithstanding. "Uh, Tenten, while I'm grateful for the tea and the nice talks and everything... I, uh, I kinda don't really... like you like that, so maybe... uh..." She frowned as Tenten snorted and began to curl in on herself, shoulders bouncing from the effort of restraining her laughter. "Oh god, I'd rather sleep with you than Sasuke, but it's getting pretty close."

"Not like that, you idiot." Tenten wiped her eyes, still giggling, "Everyone's gotta share up, it's better than hotbunking and it lets you reorganize your social life in a pitiful manner." She huffed as she went into a large dresser and shuffled into some baggy sleepwear behind the dresser doors. "They allowed first timers the chance to have co-sex bedrooms, but there was too much in the way of rape and severed penises, so management just said fuck the whole thing and made it same sex." She walked out, holding a similar pair of pants and a clean shirt, handing them to Sakura. "You'll get your clothes issued tomorrow, don't worry if they stink a little of flowers."

As she got changed, a thought hit Sakura. "I didn't think you were the type to... y'know, be with flowers and stuff."

"It's not me." Tenten was already curled away from her in the double bed, "My boyfriend's crazy over his hair products. Hinata's half brother or something, I never bothered to find out."

"Doesn't sound like you're very interested in him."

"I am, I just prefer him when he keeps his mouth shut. Fate this, Destiny that... Eh. G'night." With that, Tenten settled in further and only spoke up again to sarcastically remind Sakura to turn off the light. Sakura was somewhat filled with Schadenfreude that she wasn't the only person who appeared to have had a bad day. With that in her head, and her body wrapped up in half a duvet and sheets that still smelled of washing powder, Sakura drifted fitfully into slumber.

"Accepted, please continue through the gate."

Sasori nodded as he and the two figures that flanked him began walking the footpath towards the Reception block of the Eurocorp central administration, retrieving his guest card as he went. The building loomed high, taller than a titan and doubly as imposing; the slimmer figure beside the redhead smirked at the wandering searchlights and the green lamps visible through the lower-ranked employees.

"Now now, as fronts go, this is rather impressive." Sasori reproached the figure, eyeing the concrete reinforcments and the many, many cameras stationed around the premise. "Built like a fortress, built to last... I can only approve. Now, let's go see if young mister Uchiha is in, shall we?"

"So long as we don't have to tangle with his brother. Guy gives me the creeps." The slim one spoke as they walked, the other, unidentfied figure floating behind them.

"Oh, come now. It's not like we'd show up for Itachi for anything less than war, yes?"

"What, ruin the wonderous calamity of war with his weaselly face? Let's just go in and surprise the little shit, un."

"My words exactly."