by Lord Dragon Claw
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. The game Portal belongs to Valve Software.
The Sandaime Hokage had been blocked from helping the poor boy, especially to the point of finding him a place to live, by the daimyo's order - no doubt Uchiha Fugaku or Danzou had something to do with that. Already, at the age of five, the blonde child had gone from living in the orphanage, to living on the streets, to living in the woods surrounding the Ninja Village Hidden in Leaves - Konohagakure no Sato. The Sandaime technically wasn't allowed to try and prevent any of Uzumaki Naruto's detractors from getting in a shot at killing the boy, but no one knew that Sarutobi Hiruzen had his own division of ANBU. Definitely smaller than ANBU Ne, the division led by Danzou to protect the "roots" of Konoha, ANBU Eda was powerful in its own right due to the high quality of its members and its dedication to watch for danger from the "branches" of Konoha. Membership was by invitation only and an extensive screening process was done to prevent any Ne members from infiltrating it, as well as spies from other villages.
Several Eda members were assigned to watch over Naruto at all times, but to never be seen helping him. Many assassination attempts failed due to one of the would-be assassins tripping over their own feet (read: had their feet pulled out from under them with a chakra string), sneezing while trying to sneak up on the boy (a minor wind jutsu with a little bit of dust or red pepper in it), and falling down stairs, or off a cliff, or into a river and either breaking their neck or drowning ("helped" into these accidents, of course).
Still, the boy was becoming jaded and hateful. Additionally, there were enough assassination attempts made by actual ninja that got really close to killing Naruto - the boy witnessed it himself. Still, the Sandaime was amazed at Naruto's tenacity. He fought against everything and protected what few belongings he had with all he had. By improvisation and necessity, the boy had become a masterful trap layer, capable of occasionally catching an Eda member. The boy fed on whatever he was able to catch or gather.
Unfortunately, Naruto once caught on that he had three Eda watchers and tried to lose them shortly after his sixth birthday. Hiruzen was unable to locate the boy after that encounter, but what little was left of the Eda members' bodies was piled into a heap a short distance from the point the boy realized he was being watched. Oddly enough, none of the corpses retained their heads.
Hmmm... perhaps a bounty hunter had come through and found the bodies and decided to capitalize on it.
And that would be the third bounty in as many minutes! thought Kakuzu, almost giddily. Almost. He chuckled darkly before adjusting his mask.
They had put up a gallant fight, but they didn't last long, especially since he had the element of surprise.
And then that blonde boy attacked him with a shank made from a pig's bone - he appeared furious, but not fearful. It wasn't that he didn't have fear; it was that he didn't care much of what happened to him, but that he'd go down fighting. Pity; it didn't take much to get rid of him - Kakuzu simply kicked him in the chest and the boy had gotten impaled through his left side on a tree branch. The kid simply slumped bonelessly after that.
As Kakuzu was removing the heads from the corpses, he heard something - a cry of indignation or frustration.
The former Takinin quickly located the source of the sound: the boy who was impaled on the tree limb. He had gripped the branch with his hands and had pulled, sliding himself further from the trunk before grasping the now-exposed bark behind him and pushing off of the tree to fall to the ground. Kakuzu raised an eyebrow at that. Hadn't he killed the boy?
The blonde kid stood up and scowled at the bounty hunter.
"Ya know, it's gonna take me a damn week to regrow dat lung!"
Kakuzu was silent for a moment. Then he burst into laughter.
The blonde only seemed to get even more pissed-off at that. Before he could do anything to make the masked ninja stop laughing, Kakuzu spoke.
"I like you, kid. What's your name?"
"Feh. Ya won't like me after ya hear it - no one does - but I'll tell ya anyway. Uzumaki Naruto."
Kakuzu resisted the urge to widen his eyes.
So this is the Kyuubi brat? He looks like he's seen Hell. Hmmmm... Kakuzu finished severing the last of the flesh keeping his trophy attached to the empty shell of a kunoichi before turning back to the now passive blonde.
"You hate it 'round here, don't you?"
Naruto simply glared at him, causing him to chuckle.
"How about you come with me?"
"Do you like this place?"
"Then why not leave?"
"I've been thinkin' 'bout it."
"These people are going to continue to obstruct your path to happiness if you don't leave."
"Why would ya care? Whaddya get out of it? And what does 'obstruct' mean?"
Kakuzu chuckled again. "You remind me of me when I was younger - I was held back by my village just as you are being held back by yours. I left and became one of the strongest ninja alive."
Naruto mulled over his answer for a bit before looking expectantly at Kakuzu.
"Obstruct means block by putting something big and heavy in the way."
Naruto nodded, and waited. Kakuzu laughed and sealed the heads away into a storage scroll. Naruto eyed the roll of cloth for a bit before turning back to the larger man.
"If you want to find out what I get out of having you come with me... well, you'll just have to come along, won't you?"
The blonde boy scowled before dropping his bone shank into a pocket. He then raided the corpse's kunai pouches for ninja equipment and walked over to a nearby tree, pulling a burlap sack out from a hidden hole amongst its roots. There was a small number of things inside, Kakuzu noted. Most of it looked to be used ninja equipment, but some of it was clothing and jerky of various types - obviously made by the boy. Naruto carefully counted out the kunai, senbon, shuriken, exploding tags, and cubits of ninja wire before putting them inside of leather bags and returning the leather bags to the burlap bag. Once he had everything stored away, he hefted his heavy bag onto his back and walked over to Kakuzu.
"I'm ready ta leave," said the blonde pack mule.
Interesting, thought Kakuzu as he picked a direction and began walking. He must have built up a large amount of muscle density already and have lots of stamina... no doubt side-effects of what he carries.
Kakuzu grinned before calling back to Naruto. "If you fall behind, you'll be left behind."
Of course, Kakuzu would find some excuse to go back and fetch the boy if he collapsed, but such a statement was to make the boy push himself to be stronger and faster.
Though he was still acquiring more money for the fledgling Akatsuki organization, Kakuzu always spent some time to try and teach Naruto some skills. Naruto's chakra control was horrible, but the boy kept at it. He found some shortcuts to molding chakra that Kakuzu had never thought of, but he did it because Kakuzu let him figure it out for himself. He also showed Naruto how to make clean cuts to remove the heads of bounties and how to drain the head of its blood. He also taught Naruto some of the basics for written seals, which the boy took to like a fish to water. Unfortunately, Kakuzu didn't know many seals himself, so that avenue was quickly extinguished, if only temporarily.
Then, one day, Naruto fell behind. Or more precisely, he fell down a sinkhole. Kakuzu realized it only three meters later, but that put him twenty meters ahead of where the boy collapsed. He shook his head and went back for him. Not seeing the burlap sack, Kakuzu did a more thorough search and found the boy's foot prints leading to a hole that hadn't been there before. Kakuzu sighed before carefully climbing down the hole.
Naruto looked around once he had landed. It seemed when he fell through the hole he ended up going into a ventilation duct of some kind and broke through the grate. He was now in an immaculately clean room with white tiles everywhere. What looked to be a camera of some kind turned to look directly at him, making the blonde nervous.
"Hello," said a synthetic feminine voice in English. "Are you here to be tested?"
"What?" replied the blonde cautiously in Japanese. "What are you saying?"
A slight pause occurred, and the voice resumed talking in Japanese. "Japanese Language Pack has been loaded."
"Welcome to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center!" said the voice happily. "Have you come to be tested?"
"Awww..." The voice was despondent. "I haven't been able to test anyone in so long."
"Uh... who are you?"
"Oh. I am GLaDOS. I am the AI computer program that has run this EnrichmentCenter for the last thirty-thousand, nine-hundred, seventy-seven years, four months, three days, seven hours, and forty-two seconds."
Kakuzu finally made it out of the ventilation duct, using his Jiongu (Earth Grudge Fear) tendrils to rappel into the facility.
"Oh. You are interesting. Are you the new test subject?"
Eventually, GLaDOS allowed the ninja and his apprentice to enter her main control center - a very large room with a strange-looking mechanism hanging down from the ceiling, swaying slightly. It had four eye-like things attached to it. There were also several cameras around the room and eight view screens above the mechanism that was the centerpiece.
"Welcome to my chamber. As I've said before, I am GLaDOS. You are the first humans to enter this facility in almost thirty-thousand years. It is unfortunate that you will not be test subjects."
"The way you say that word," began Kakuzu. "It makes us nervous. We won't be test subjects for you."
"Very well. I probably will have to kill you now."
"What if we brought you test subjects?" asked Naruto quickly.
"Well?" concurred Kakuzu. He wasn't sure how powerful this ancient technology was, but it had to have been tough to have lasted for so long, despite being in disrepair. Still, he didn't want to test it out.
"Very well. Give me your names and I shall make you administrators of this facility."
They first brought a civilian under a sleep genjutsu into the facility, just to see what GLaDOS did with test subjects. She first had them strap some boot-like devices to the man's legs, called "positional gravity actuators". They then left him in a cell that had a hospital bed in it. The genjutsu wore off just as Kakuzu and Naruto entered the Main Control Chamber to watch the show.
"Hello and again welcome to the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center. We hope your brief detention in the relaxation vault has been a pleasant one. Your specimen has -"
"AAAAHHH! WHERE AM I!? HOW DID I GET HERE!?"
A panel in the ceiling opened and a long metal rod poked out of it. A red dot appeared on the screaming man's head, and then it exploded with a bang.
"Please do not interrupt during the briefing period. There will be time for questions after the test."
"Oh dear. I think he might be dead."
"Uh, yeah," deadpanned Kakuzu. "His head exploded."
"Noted. Shooting the new batch of test subjects in the head results in violent explosions, blood loss, cessation of noise, and ultimately death."
Naruto and Kakuzu looked at each other, and laughed.
"What is so amusing? I see nothing amusing. He failed his test earlier than any subject on record."
That only made them laugh harder.
"So you are an assassin and a bounty hunter?" clarified GLaDOS.
"And he is your apprentice?"
"Interesting. I will try to have the factory sectors manufacture products that can be useful for one of your profession."
"Really?" Kakuzu was unimpressed.
"Have you ever heard of nerve gas?"
"... That sounds interesting. Tell me more."
Next Test: Mobility.
I blame Lord Shadner for this! He gave my muse a plot bunny, and she devoured it whole!
After learning of pudgypudge's Jiongu Challenge, I decided to write this idea as such. Now, I know not all plot points have been covered in this first chapter, but that stuff WILL show up.
Thanks to Vassago-Toxicity for beta'ing. Well-wishing to Cylon One; get better soon, mang!
The cake is not a lie.
Yes, yes it is. I have it good in 40 languages and/or communication codes that it really is a lie. You can try to argue with results like that, but it won't get you anywhere.