Disclaimer: I do not own or receive any benefits or money from either Naruto or the works of Larry Niven.

Off of stage left

By Larry Huss

1-

The monks of the Shudoin Genkohan never claimed to be Fishers of Men. They sometimes caught them, and things being what they were these poor souls couldn't be thrown back into the vast Sea of Being, to return from whence they came. Instead the Monks were Fishers of Things, the things that seemed out of place, the things that went out into the world of the Elemental Countries and somehow didn't fit. The railroads in Snow country. The headset radios, local television and movie theaters powered by controlled lightning jutsus, when oxen pulling plows was the backbone of the economy.

These things existed not because they were natural growths of the science and scholarship of the Elemental Lands. They (rare and expensive showpieces and oddities) were the fruits of the fishing Monks of Shudoin Genkohan, the Redhanded Monastery, the thieves of time and space. They cast their Chakra lines out into the Sea of Possibilities, and sometimes pulled something back in. Most things were broken, or inexplicable (what do you use a cummerbund for?). Some just needed a way to be built cheaper to become all the rage. That is why the local Lord had granted the Monastery the lands and revenues that supported the monks, not for their prayers to Heaven, not for the training they might give to his Guards, but for what they stole from… where ever they got all that neat stuff. Sometimes useful, sometimes suggestive, always entertaining.

Things had improved from the old days, five generations back, when the Monastery was founded mused the Abbot. Now a bit of bait could be put onto the end of the line, and it sometimes increased the chance that a particular type of thing could be caught, the once in a while times the stars where right for a Cast, and all the Monks were rested and full of Chakra to throw the line, and haul it back from where ever it went. The Abbot would have liked to try again for radios, the few dozen that had been recovered some years ago were short ranged and too few to really be very useful, but there was certainly potential there. But the Fire Lord loved his wife, and she loved cats, so he wanted to give her a present on her fiftieth birthday. He wanted the most perfect and greatest cat for her. In fact he wanted a proper breeding population of them, so she could raise them in the future. And that was the way the Shudoin Genkohan made its living, working by contract.

So, the monthly Cast Into Possibility wouldn't be aimed for one of the Underwater Boats the Abbot had read reports of, or those wonderful magic wands he had read of in a book, but for what would no doubt be a fluffier mouse catcher. Well, it would probably be good publicity.

The twenty three Monks standing around inside the sealed Chamber of Receiving (past experiences had proven thick metal doors for the receiving chamber were a definite necessity) each swallowed a Monk Pill to supercharge their Chakra, cut their palms, made the fourteen hand seal combination and cried out the Word of Command, sending the Cat Hunting Line out to (they hoped) where the greatest of cats waited to be grabbed.

Some times Luck is good, sometimes Luck is bad. This time their Luck was so good it was horrible.

2-

Chril Sergeant looked back at the young troopers forming the escort unit. Two Files worth of recent graduates, neat looking and highly disciplined, each in light armor carrying their strakkaker carbine, grenades, variable blades and enough recharges for a fair sized battle. All for a stupid ceremonial exchange of Kzinretti between two noble houses so far out from Kzinhome that he could swear the bloody females were almost acting like they were sapient! Well, the Hero's Way was not to question why, just to kill and obey. Good thing none of the females were going into heat or the scent would have made the little exchange ceremony coming up a bit more like a brawl in a brothel. The one good thing meeting the Monkeys had brought to the Race.

When a soul sucking colorless cable suddenly appeared out of midair, touched one of the guards and a Kzinret and started to lift them up into the air and make them fade Chril Sergeant made what was perhaps the first serious mistake in what was an otherwise somewhat distinguished career. "Grab them! That rope! Everything!" He yowled, and proceeded to lead by example. The clear command was like an electric spark to the tailbase of each uncaught guard. What was worse it seemed the Kzinretti were actually almost intelligent, because they leaped and grabbed onto the Kzinret that had been caught! None of it did any good, the whole group, nine Hero's, six Kzinretti (each with their female gear carefully loaded in a pack tied by their relatives onto their back) and a quantity of air faded (as much as air can fade) from view and left Known Space and other local parts and dimensions for places unknown.

Oddly enough there were no accusations or blood feuds started by this little fiasco. Everyone just agreed it had never happened and did it all over (absent the fading bit) two weeks later. It was just easier that way.

3-

Chantleader Pearl Wisdom of Enlightenment (Pearly to his friends) felt throughout his being that this time there was something on the end of the Chakra cable. He called out "Reverse, pull in, put your coils into it boys!" And started the eighteen hand seals required to retract the line and lure. Chakra fishing was not for those with poor memories or poor coordination. Each of the crew started to do the same, except Sound of A Silent Bell who was lying on the ground bleeding from ears, his mouth and nose. With great effort the assembled Monks withdrew the essence of their life-force from the far and strange places it had been sent. Another dropped to the floor, but as the cord shortened it became easier to handle. Pearl Wisdom of Enlightenment knew that this time they had gotten something, maybe even what they had cast for!

Then, like a stuck knot resisting coming through a hole things seemed to be caught, suddenly the resistance went up making the effort seemed too much to continue. The Chantleader dashed around the room throwing more Monk Pills into the gasping mouths of the remaining Chanters, and with their Chakra revived (though at a great cost in the future) a last pull-in brought the burden back to the Elemental World. With a crash four tons of burly cat-things with oddly shaped things strapped to them, and delicate (in comparison), more slender cat-things fell to the hardwood floor of the chamber and began to puke the contents of their stomachs out.

As the effects of Chakra depletion started to make him gray-out the Chantmaster's last thoughts were, "Well, I guess they're cats, sort of." Then, except for the sounds of retching and monkish bodies hitting the ground, either from exhaustion or terror, all was silent.

4-

Chril Sergeant was the first to recover, as befitted a veteran of (and one of the few survivors) the Fourth Invasion Wave of Monkeyhome, and who had received his half-name for valor at the Battle of the Serpent's Swarm. His first coherent thoughts were an accurate assessment of the military situation, "We are so screwed!" There were Monkeys all over the place. They must have invented or found some Hero-grabber space-time thingy. Well, dying is part of the Hero business, and he prepared to take them down with him. Then, he realized all of them were down on the floor too, they must be grabbed also. An Outsider or something else mysterious must be behind this!

Years of iron self-discipline settled back into place, and he snarled out, "Drop that, Trooper!" to the Left Flank Closer who was preparing to bite open the skull of a bald headed Monkey and find out if their brains were really tasty. "That meat has not been washed. It has not been issued or approved as field rations, and we will not be risking even your worthless gut getting dysentery until the situation clarifies itself!" The monk's head hit the floor, still attached to the rest of him, with a thunk.

"Circular defense formation, Kzinretti in the center, all prone, assess threat potential" he snarled. Easy enough to say, just what a danger would be here and now was the hard part. Huge chamber, easily 40 meters around, domed. A small door to the left, larger one (but still not tall enough for a Hero to go through upright) to the right. Metal bound at the least, perhaps fully metal. No spy holes visible, but that would be easy to conceal. First order of business, get out.

"Right Flank Closer, see what those doors are made off, if they are open."

"Yes Chril Sergeant!"

The young Hero sprang forward, scooped up a long wooden (?) pole and ran at the small door with it like a spear, two hands holding it steady. It hit with a crash, dissolved into a host of long splinters and revealed itself to have been hollow with internal dividers. The door gave a thunk, and looked as unimpressed as a door can. Right Flank Closer picked himself up and relayed the essential information. "Door is closed Chril Sergeant, solid too."

5-

The Chanting Monk Clouds Leave saw one of his comrades picked up a two and a half meter tall tiger who put his head into the fanged maw. Clouds Leave turned his head away in revulsion to what was going to happen next. There was a swirl of deep snarling voices, and then the thunk of a no doubt decapitated body hitting the ground. No doubt now, they had caught cat demons. Another bit of snarling and a loud sound of snapping bamboo. Quick witted Clouds Leave sprang to his feet and dashed to the main entrance. Pounding on the great iron doors he revealed his plan, "Let me out! Let me out! For all the God's sake open the damned door!"

A hands-breadth to his right a vision slot was opened, and an eye looked out, surveyed the situation. All the monks except one prone of the floor. Twelve or more three meter tall tabbies in the room. One of them stood up and walked on his hind legs, oddly. It seemed to have a lot of ribbons or other decorations on it. Definitely it was time to report to the Abbot. The panel in the iron door was clanged shut, the sound of a man in mortal terror, weeping was cut off on the other side.

Pearl Wisdom finally caught his breath. "This won't do" he said to himself. Out loud he called "All those who can, bring our brethren to the Main Exit." Then he began to slowly walk toward it himself, trying to keep the greatest distance possible away from the most successful Cast in his memory.

All seemed to be going well enough, until just as the last few either staggered or where dragged to the assigned spot one of cats in the center of their formation leaped up and grabbed Brother Peaks of Humility (Peaky) and with a standing jump of at least three meters (with someone in its… paws?) was back in the middle of the group. To Pearl Wisdom it seemed to be shorter, more slender and graceful than the ones in the outer perimeter. Another observation, it definitely had a pack secured to its back, a belt at its waist, and some pieces of jewelry around its limbs. The ears looked funny too. A large and scarred specimen turned and snarled something to the grabber, who replied in what Pearl Wisdom could have sworn, was a cutesy voice (even if in the baritone range).

"No doubt that was, 'Daddy it followed me home, can I keep him?' Or else,' I missed lunch already!'" Pearl Wisdom then coughed up a little blood and turned his mind on how to get the rest of the monks out alive.

6-

Chril Sergeant saw the Monkeys start to congregate over by the large door; one of them was evidently in charge and was setting up his formation. Finish them off now, and simplify things, or see if they had hostage value? Before he could decide one of the Kzinret got to her feet, pounced on one of the last of the Monkeys going to their pack, and jumped back into the center of the unit. He shouted "Down, stay down. No moving unless told." A message even a Kzinret should be able to understand.

Then the idiot female talked back to him, in the Female's Tongue, "Pretty toy! Make play. Make talky!" And for an instant there seemed to be in her eyes the one thing that wasn't ever supposed to be there, intelligence.

For ten seconds Chril Sergeant thought, his mind going to places sergeants, officers or even Sires were not supposed to go. Then there was the sound of a lock being turned at the large door. No time now to wonder, only leap and scream!

"Trooper Two, small door, breaching grenade, five seconds. Execute!" The Hero sprang to his feet, pulling out the charge and setting it as he ran to the small iron door. Slapping against the surface (good, no repulsion field on it) he dashed away yelling, "Charge set! Five, Four, Three, Two, One." If he said zero no one heard as Boom announced itself clearly.

Orders rushed out, right File take point, keep moving, Right File Closer start the Kzinretti moving. Left File covers retreat, by the numbers, now! The troops flashed into movement, even the Kzinretti lined up and acted…intelligent? Even the one with the Monkey tucked under her arm. Figure it out later, now the big door was opening and it was…Monkeys in armor with hand weapons. Spears and such, thank the Patriarch, no problem.

Until Trooper One, Right File decided it was un-Heroic to slaughter Monkeys so easily and slung his strakkaker onto his back and drew his variable sword, switching it on to two meters as he leapt forward. When he got into range he swung the rigid blade, all edge and no width, the glowing tip being the only indication of where it ended. One swipe and a half dozen pikes where cut in two, along with a few fingers leaving their owners. The second cut and slices of flesh left the bodies of the now crowding back Monkeys. Trooper One roared in triumph. Personally Chril Sergeant thought his form sloppy, a new recruit getting too excited.

Then, five small ragged wheels of metal suddenly appeared in the chest of the Trooper, making him grunt. They couldn't penetrate even his parade uniform deeply enough to do real damage, but they stung. A Monkey, then another and a third went through the clog at the entrance as if it wasn't there. All covered in greens and black, undoubtedly a uniform. They moved differently from the others, who had seemed lucky to be able to get into line. These had head fur, moved in a fluid, balanced way. "Rangers or Commandos" Chril thought. Before anything more could be observed First Trooper leaped again, swinging his variable sword in a vertical arc.

The Monkey under attack brought up a knife to block the attack, not that that could stop the variable sword. And it didn't, being cut in half like a leaf. But the Monkey actually dodged well enough not to be bisected, and with a dive and a roll got close enough to sweep in with a roundhouse kick into the lower ribs of the Trooper. It hit with thud, knocked a little air out of the Trooper and the Monkey rolled away again almost as if it hadn't slowed itself down with the attack. It shouted out something. One of the other Monkeys replied and started doing some finger exercises.

As Chril pondered stopping the retreat (even if just to enjoy the novelty of Monkeys going head to head with Heroes) First Trooper screamed, leaped , and cut at the nearest Monkey, the one doing things with its hands. As the line of cutting came in a glowing yellow ball of…glowing appeared in the Monkey's hand. In a desperate defense the Monkey used it to intercept the dim one-dimensional blade. The sphere and the sword meet, and everything went loud, and white.

As his eyes came back into use Chril Sergeant saw: First Trooper was holding one badly burned (still smoking) hand with the other, the variable sword control handle lying on the ground, ruptured. The Monkey was falling back, waving his hand as if it stung (what kind of a world was it where a Monkey closer to an explosion took less damage than a Hero?). One of the others had a green glow around its hand, and grabbed and began to rub the injury. The last, the first one to attack, was back on its feet and threw another of those little knives. It stuck into the wall near the small exit. Left File Closer noticed there was a piece of paper attached to it, one that was smoking. Figuring that it couldn't be a good thing he pulled it out of the crack between the stones the blade had lodged in and tossed it away. It had barely gone a meter when it exploded, throwing him back into the wall with a hard whack!

Well, this had gone from being seriously weird to being seriously dangerously weird. Playing Catch the Grenade while in the same room was a fool's game, time to decamp. Oh yes, grab the idiot and then decamp. "Cover me as I make pickup. Take your File Closer with you, I'll do rearguard."

As First Trooper had collapsed with a small knife in his eye Chril knew he'd need two hands for the extraction. So sling weapons, jump forward as troopers Two and Three opened up with their strakkakers (the damn Monkeys were moving so fast now, and were at bad angles to hit) and grab One, sling him over his back (getting too damn old for this!) and run back to the exit as Two and Three grabbed their still dazed File Closer and hustled into the passage on the other side of the blown door. As he stepped through the opening Chril felt as if a great, loud hand had picked him up and threw him forward. He blacked out.

7-

When the alarm went off the action team checked the Board, trouble at the Chamber of Receiving! They pushed off with maximum speed; they had been around long enough to have heard the stories of what might be coming at them. They knew that their two back up teams would be being alerted, or woken up or sobered up and head there as soon as possible. Till then the action team had to hold things under control.

Borchai was the first in motion. She was the first (by no more than two seconds) to get to the main door. A bunch of monks, dressed up in armor and carrying pikes (inside a building!) were pretending to be defenders. They might have been of some use on top of a wall (a very tall one) throwing down rocks. Here they were just getting in each other's way. Also they were in the way of the professionals.

The door was open ("What is the use of having a 60 centimeter thick iron door if you don't keep it closed?" she thought) when an ungodly screaming came through it, stopping the advancing monks in their tracks. She saw a glowing ball, about two meters away from a clawlike hand thing making a swinging motion. The ball moved like it was at the tip of a sword, and in the path behind it (where a blade would be, but none was seen) pike shafts fell as if sliced and monk arms and fingers fell off and the stumps began to spout blood. Then the monks started to stumble backwards, the ones in front backing into the still advancing ones at the rear, who evidently hadn't gotten the bad news, whatever it was. Borchai treated the bodies in front of her as thick undergrowth and wove her way through them and into the Chamber. Seeing a big shape in the forward target zone, she threw a handful of shiruken. And stopped, impressed. It was a cat, a real big cat, meters tall, with some sort of almost invisibly thin blade in its hand, and a row of shiruken embedded in its chest that it didn't even seem to notice. "Have to get something a little heavier into the picture." She thought as she drew a kunai.

It jumped at her from three meters away. Bringing the blade (she estimated from the glowing tip its location) down in an overhand cut it was obvious that it would smash her defense out of the way with all that mass propelling it, so she started her dodge, the knife only supposed to deflect the strange weapon. But it didn't. Not only did the kunai not deflect the blow at all; she hadn't even felt a jerk as it was smoothly sliced apart.

As she had already started her closing move ("when they fight long, get in close") she rolled to her feet and into the most powerful roundhouse kick she had into its torso. She would have gone for its head, but she couldn't reach that high. She could have sworn she had kicked trees that noticed it more. Dodging out of the range she knew that this job would require some finesse, and reached into her pouch for her explosive tags.

Juchi saw his girlfriend (she didn't know it yet, but he could see she was starting to fall for him) jump in first, as usual. With her speed it was a decent exploratory strategy, but this time her hits certainly didn't seem to make much difference. There were a bunch of other Vertical Tigers (they walked on their hind legs, right?) at the other end of the Chamber, but they seemed to be just standing there. She yelled out that it was a tough bastard, don't hold back. He started making signs and powering up his family jutsu, Holding Spark. Some damn Uchia had stolen it, and developed it further, but it was his family's and he was proud of it. The damn VT was faster than he looked; he'd closed the range and was swinging something. Juchi didn't have time to throw the Spark, or even backpedal, he just shoved the glowing ball into the path of something he couldn't see very well and hoped for the best.

Things blew up rather nicely, though he now had first degree burns on his left hand. The VT, well it seemed the hand holding the whatever was now medium well done; the jutsu must have caused some sort of feedback. He sidled over to Arghun who did a quick Healing onto his hand and who then went back to preparing some to throw a major earth jutsu. One of the other VTs started toward the injured one, one of Borchai's explosive tags almost sealed off the other exit, but one of cats pulled it out and dumped it before it went off.

The injured VT was distracted, and Juchi managed to get a kunai into its face, bringing it to the ground. It seemed from the puffs of crushed stone appearing behind them that someone was throwing a lot of senbon needles, so it was evasive pattern time. All the cats (funny, they looked so impressive, but they had long hairless tails, like rats) were now pelting through the other exit, one carrying the limp body of the one that had come off second best to HIS family jutsu on its back. As it reached its destination a brace of loaded kunai from Borchai stuck into the injured creature and a step or so inside went off all at once. Major fireworks ensued, and part of the wall above the exit fell down. Except for little bits of shattered stone and mortar falling things got quiet.

Timur's team showed up. The place was certainly a bit busted up, but there were no enemy bodies lying around, which was pretty embarrassing actually. Timur informed them that four of the monks had died; the infirmary was filled with those injured. He and Arghun began bickering over who would do the direct pursuit down the passage, and who would coordinate with Rukh on the ambush when a fist sized metal sphere flew into the room and started to bounce in their direction. A shrill voice rang out "Leave here quick!" They all pelted to the exit; with no monks in the way it was able to handle them all easily. Borchai had been the one to yell out, of course, and was the also first out the door, of course, and was trying to push the great iron slab into a position to be locked after the last ninja ran out, when the explosion came. The door valve slammed open, throwing her into the wall and knocking her out. The Chamber was filled with dust for a minute, then as it cleared it could be seen that the roof had disappeared and there was over a layer a meter deep of large pieces of debris completely covering the floor. The upper part of the other entrance was still visible, but the idea of following the summoned creatures was very unappealing now.

Arghun went over and checked up on Borchai, said that she would be out for a few hours, but would have no lasting injury. Juchi went over and picked her up, and informed his team leader he would leave her at the Infirmary. He was told to head to the East Gate after he dropped her off.

When no one was looking he shifted her around so he carried her cradled in his arms. If she hadn't been so quick, they'd all have been buried under tons of rubble. Yes, his honey was smart too.

8-

Chril Sergeant came to a second after he hit the ground. He rolled to his stomach, and looked over the body of Trooper One. Pretty shredded, the strakkaker destroyed and most of his carry load ruined. Still there was some value on the corpse. Chril looked down the corridor; saw a turn and a trooper's face looking around it. Chril told him to clear the way, pulled a grenade off of One's harness, set it to maximum omnidirectional blast and tossed it back into the room he had just left. Thanking the Fanged Lord that as an Assault Trooper he was expected to wear real combat armor at all formal occasions he dragged the very light remnants of the idiot down the corridor and around the turn just as the grenade went off. "That should slow pursuit." he thought as he moved fast to catch up with the rest of the group. As he did so he stripped One of his usable ammunition, grenades, med pack, rations. Everything else, such as comm gear and surveillance equipment was ruined. But he pulled the power cells out of them anyway. The body was falling to pieces by now, so he let it drop. They passed a number of doors, two branching corridors and ascended a staircase.

Left File Closer was staggering along pretty well, the troopers and the Kzinretti gave him room to get to the head of the column where he was briefed by Right File Closer. "As you can smell, Chril Sergeant, we are outside a food preparation area, burning vegetables mainly. It seems to be occupied." Chril let his mind gnaw on this. Burning food? They would have at least vents, probably some windows. Even if they were Monkeys they would still be eating some meat, so rations for the next few days could be grabbed. It was obvious, "I enter first, Right File Closer, immobilize the Monkeys inside. Left File Closer, your men seal the exits. Oh, Kzinretti, come in after Heroes, understand?" They bobbed their heads, ears unfurled like beautiful sails.

He went to the front, made sure the door was unlocked, checked that everyone was ready behind him, and threw it open, entering with a Heroic leap. The three bald Monkeys around the cooking units reacted well. One fainted, one began to leak quietly, and one carefully lifted his hand to show that they were empty of weapons. Chril went quickly to the far wall where there was both a window showing a rock face some meters off, and a door. His troops secured their objectives, and the Kzinretti dutifully filed in after them, the last one, still carrying the bald Monkey she had grabbed earlier.

Chril opened the door in the wall, and stepped out onto a small balcony. He looked around and saw that he was on the West face of building (as long as you assume that the sun, by definition, sets in the West) and on the closet part of it to the cliffs fifty meters away. The cliffs were about ten meters higher than the room they were in, with a bit of a slope leading up to a lip beyond which he couldn't see. There was a thin pipe coming out of the cliff face near the top, leading into the kitchen, no doubt from a water source on the other side. All convenient, slops and garbage goes into the ravine, a flowing water source for food preparation, and plenty of ventilation for when things get on fire. The only problems with getting out of here were that no Kzin could leap fifty meters out and ten up, the distance was too far for a reliable setting of a rappelling line gun, and there was no way a Hero could cross on that little pipe. The sense of balance was no problem, but two hundred or more kilos, three hundred with gear, there was no way that thin thing could hold the weight. There was no way that could be done. He heard the balcony creak, felt it settle a little, turned and saw one of the Kzinretti had come out onto it. Cooped up all their lives in secure Nesting Areas this whole experience should be terribly confusing, especially high bred ones like these.

She looked all around, craning her neck to see it all. Chril examined her. Since she wasn't in heat it was a purely aesthetic exercise. Young, perfectly sleek and healthy, endlessly smooth fur, marked with little dark circles around her eyes, trailing off to behind her ears. As a mere half-name Chril had never had much time around females since he was weaned. Aside from some brief Comfort Times he had little experience with them as hardly any talking went on then. If he had had a strong and generous Patron he might have had a scrub when he retired from the Service. Since he didn't have such a Patron he had just kept on re-enlisting. And now he was somewhere else and running out of options for saving his command.

He accepted that there was no way he knew how to get back to civilization. The stuff he had seen was obviously not from any planet known by the Heroes. They were on their own, no resupply or reinforcements possible. And they were fifty meters from a way out. It looked like fighting their way through a fortress full of Monkeys with weird powers was what they had left. It might not be too bad, only the ones with fur had seemed dangerous. He wondered if the ones with long hair fur were sapient females, he had heard that that was the way the Monkeys did things most places. Anyway, grab some supplies and start seeing if they could fight their way out. He felt a cheek rest against his shoulder, startling him.

"You walk to tall place?" She said in a little voice looking across the gap.

Talking to a female, even one as evidently intelligent as this one was, of course, a waste of time. But he didn't think wasting time now would really matter, and bothered to answer her, using small words and as much kitten speak as he could remember, "High place too far, no jump, no climb."

"Walk on stick?" she asked.

"Hero too big, stick break, fall down." he replied.

Just as he was about to turn and go inside she put her head once again against his shoulder, and shivered just a little. It made him think of how she needed protection, how small she was, how slender, how… light. But were any of them smart enough to understand what had to be done? It was the best solution, it had to be tried.

9-

The Abbot gave an inquiring look at the leader of the ninja detachment stationed at the monastery. Jonin Timur said the search for the lost specimens (it seemed the safest thing to call them) was proceeding methodically. Since there were at least twelve floors (counting cellars and sub cellars) and over four hundred rooms, this sort of thing took time. Not to mention certain secret passages that the ninja had not been properly briefed on.

"There are more than a few that we have lost track of too" added the Abbot, trying to hold up his end of the conversation. "Over a few hundred years, collecting and hiding treasures and embarrassments, these sorts of things add up. As they seem like giant cats, they may have super catty senses to locate ways. I remember our old cat at home was always turning up in the oddest place."

"We have to put guards on the infirmary, and that cuts into my search teams." said Timur. "With the blasting power they showed I don't want any of my teams meeting them while alone. What should we call them anyway? It's awkward to not have a name for them. They look like cats, have that ugly naked tail…how about Rat-cats? It gives an idea how they look, but isn't so scary that your monks will panic when they think of them."

"I suppose that will do, when we don't present a breeding pair to the Daimyo having a slightly ugly name may make the disappointment easier to bear for his wife. We don't have much we can do now, until the search turns something up."

"Well, I'm feeling a little hungry, if you escort me to the kitchens I'm sure we'll get there safely, and get the food while it's still hot." The Abbot headed toward the door, Timur followed and as they left the office he nodded toward his Chunin team to follow them.

Going up a set of staircases they passed Arghun's shorthanded team, and came to the kitchen door. It seemed to be stuck, and no amount of shouting seemed to get the cooks to come and open it. A civilian door, even a stuck on was not much of a barrier to a Ninja, and within two minutes it swung open. To present the sight of three cooks hanging from the roof beams among the dried sausages and game animals the ninjas had hunted on their time off. The door to the disposal area was open a crack, and drew Timur and the Abbot like iron filings to a magnet.

Cautiously the ninja opened the door. On the other side, on the upper slope, was a horde of huge figures, putting some sort of gear on, and then heading up over the visible summit. One very large one led them. Quickly all but one of the Rat-cats went over the crest. The last one was smaller, perhaps only two meters tall and less massively built. It turned and gave a graceful wave to them. Timur thought it reminded him of one he had gotten when leaving a very high class establishment in the Willow Quarter of the capital of Thunder, from a lady who he had been very compatible with. And then it turned, and walked on, and was lost to view.

The cooks were cut down, and proved not even tasted; though in no shape to do any cooking until their huge headaches from the blood pooling in their heads was dealt with. What had been on the stoves was totally burnt, another score to place against the rat-cats. The Abbot, perhaps just to have something to do with his hands, put some water up for tea, put the scorched pans into a sink to soak, and turned on a tap. It flowed for a few seconds, and then stopped. He turned to talk to the Ninja leader, who had just sent one of his crew to fetch the rest of the group. "I think they've done something clever," the Abbot said as he gestured toward Timur and walked out onto the balcony handing over the thousand meter drop.

As Timur went to join him the Abbot looked up. Yes, the water pipe to the spring that burst out of the opposite cliff face had been knocked down starting a meter and a half from the Monastery's walls. As he pointed this out to Timur he saw a frown appear on the Jonin's face, followed by a look of satisfaction.

"You've seen where someone thought they were being clever. We have to give the Rat-cats some credit, they were obviously truly sapient. But Arghun, despite his soft headedness is a dab hand at earth jutsus, and can pull enough of a bridge from both sides that we'll be able to jump the gap, and catch up to them in no time." Timur said confidently.

Gently the Abbot replied," For security purposes both the opposite cliff face, and all the walls of the Monastery are heavily sealed against any sort of Chakra use. They can't be altered, broken, melted or climbed until the seals are removed. And… " he continued, "that would take at least three or four days, what with our best Chanters in such a state of Chakra depletion. I expect that your men and your beautiful Kunoichi would be quite exhausted if you were to supply the needed Chakra yourselves. If your talented ninja can't cross by civilian means you might as well just leave by the front gate and take the eight day trip down our mountain and over to the hidden scalable trail for its brother across the way. As it is we'll take at least ten days to get a replacement pipe in place, moving at our slower pace down our peak and up the other carrying the needed equipment. As it is our novices will have to carry up all of the water needed here from the storage cistern on the third lower level until the repairs are made.

"What?" he said, looking at the Ninja. "You think we wouldn't have made preparations for an accident, or being put under siege? The trouble here is that we've made such a tough shell to get into, that it's just as tough to get out of."

The rest of the ninja detachment came in. Timur gestured to Rukh "the Clever" to come over and start his ingenious mind on the problem. He was only a Chunin, but he loved to think of new ways to use old jutsus, and was in fact quite popular with children of all sorts back home for designing toys with moveable parts and hidden features. Timur had once suggested he search out scrolls on the obscure art of Puppetry , just for the surprise it would give their opponents on some future mission. Rukh had decided not to go there, it would have turned his hobby into just another tool of the trade, and drained it of all the fun.

After being briefed Rukh took a moment, standing with his eyes unfocused and staring at nothing, then went out the door to the balcony and looked out across the way. Dusk was falling up above, and all the deep cleft was completely in shadow. There was a Quarter Moon, roughly, but it couldn't shine into the narrow (but still too wide) separation. Not even Ninja eyes could make out anything of the cliff on the opposite side. He snapped out orders: " I want a big brazier, three mirrors, a lot of fuel, some people who can keep their hands steady, and two hundred meters of rope, a grappling hook and some pork fried rice, now!"

Everything was brought, though the fried rice actually was finished last. Rukh had the brazier set up on the balcony, fuel set up so that it would produce the brightest possible flame. There were two men holding each mirror behind the brazier, and Rukh assigned each a number and explained what he wanted. Then he lit the fire, had the lights extinguished in the kitchen and leaned half way out of the window over the sink on the exterior wall. He cursed, pulled himself back in and grabbed a pole arm from one of the monk guards that had come in hoping for a free (if pretty late) dinner. He bound a table cloth to it, hanging down and grabbed the burliest monk he could find and got him to stand in the sink, holding the cloth part outside the window, as a shade from the brazier's light. Satisfied he went back to hanging half out the window again and began to give orders to the monks holding the mirrors (only bronze, for checking up on proper ceremonial dress on the rare occasions a high official visited. Fancy silver or mercury backed glass ones would have been vanity). Under his directions the mirrors roughly tripled the light going out to the opposite side, and like an awkward and poorly focused searchlight scanned left, right, down and up to the limits of the available space to get the people and heavy mirrors into.

After perhaps three quarters of an hour Rukh grunted in disappointment, hopped back into the room, helped the tiring monk out of the sink and back onto the floor. "It's not going to work, at least not from here. Bring all this stuff up to the Monastery roof, some more poles and blankets , six more mirrors of at least this size, another brazier, more fuel, three ladders, twenty more monks, 80 orders of pot stickers (meat filled), 200 orders rice (this stuff was fine!) and at least 30 liters of hot tea, strong! Oh, yes, and keep that tea coming! It's going to be a long night, and we'll all need it."

With that he ran out the door and up the corridor to the trapdoor that was the nearest way to the roof of that ant's nest of a building. On first being assigned to this job all the cell leaders had immediately started to work on memorizing the layout, including all the windows, gates, service entrances and other access points. When they had arrived they had walked the other team members through the building, pointing out points of interest (of course for a ninja points of interest included entry ways they might have to use if they were to get an assassination contract against someone inside at another time). It took another hour before the men and material was up there with him (they had only found two more large mirrors, it wasn't a vain place, remember?). But the food was good, and Rukh had decided to just enjoy the lovely Quarter Moon and brisk night air. That was making some of the monks shiver a bit.

It took almost an hour to get the show on the road, it reminded Rukh too much of the time back in school when he had gotten stuck as the student director of the Graduating Class play. He had wanted to play the Dragon, but no, he had to try to organize and direct thirty kids with about as much discipline (at the time) and dramatic talent as the average henhouse inhabitant. The experience evidently had done him good, at last he his mirror teams in place and coordinated, his light barrier teams up on their ladders (one holding the pole, the other steadying the ladder in the stiff breeze), and the sharpest eyed of the ninjas there to aid him in checking out the other side. That meant, among other things, the recovered Borchai was on the ledge to the right (with Juchi, of course three steps behind her, admiring the fact that she wore tight pants, and wore them well). The flames were lit, and monks with reserve oil to refresh them stood ready. Others with bellows forced air into the fires, keeping them high and bright. The systematic search began, sweeping the slope above the cliff face for a proper anchoring point.

After two hours of searching, including building a small pyramid of ladders and him getting up to the top of it (while trying to get the mirror holders to balance on some piles of wood to get their light beams up higher), Rukh consulted with Borchai, Timur and Arghun. Some definite conclusions were reached: 1- The damn place should have been built at least two stories higher, just as tall as the opposite hill wasn't good enough. 2- They wouldn't tell that to the monks unless they were asked, or given a contract that required architectural advice of a defensive nature. 3- It could be done.

Within an hour a ballista (this wasn't, after all, a pacifist order) had been dragged up to the roof edge, looking out. A two meter bolt was having a series of grappling hooks attached to it, while a half kilometer of Chakra reinforced rope was being threaded through a specially forged hitch at the rear. At Rukh's command a second set up was being prepared as a backup. If the Moon hadn't already set the decision to go immediately would have been easy. But the Rat-cats were pretty much trapped on the mesa across the way. It was big enough that a real search would be needed, and trying to track a cat, even one that big, in the dark was probably a bad idea. As if to endorse the thought there was a rumble like distant thunder.

Come the dawn everything would be clarified, they would cross over and track, and capture or kill. Most probably more kill than capture, the big ones certainly looked hard to bring down. For now, get some rest, inventory the number of explosive tags left (Borchai swore by them as Cat catchers, or at least shredders), and try to figure what the debriefing back Home was going to look like.

10-

Right File was on point, guiding the rest across the fairly smooth surface of the mountain top. Luckily there was enough light from the fragment of the Moon (and it looked different from any that Chril Sergeant had ever seen before) showing cat eyes everything needed. There weren't any good dips or fields of large boulders to use as ambush sites. It was bad country to defend, bad country for light infantry, which was exactly what they were now.

They were able to keep moving at a fairly good walking pace, slow enough that the Kzinretti were walking together in a little clump, and gabbling together in a low tone. He didn't begrudge them their cheerful little chatter, they had earned a moment of joy. The fact that the whole band wasn't playing Tunnel Tag with grenades was due to their Heroic efforts to stretch their minds enough to actual complete a dangerous mission. Binoculars (after the way her cute face markings made her eyes look) had actually understood what he had figured out they should do, been able to communicate it to the others in Female Tongue, and they had been able to even figure out which of them was lightest and had the best sense of balance. Tangerine (Chril had silently named her this, after a Monkey fruit he had once seen that had just the same color as her base coat) hadn't protested when they made her give up her pack of female things, had a line tied around her waist and given hurried instructions in how to use the rappelling gun to set pins, and how to use these to secure a line.

She had crouched on the window ledge nearest the pipe, and leaped out over the bottomless gorge and snagged the pipe neatly as someone who had gone through an Assault course. Instead of standing up and walking her way across she had crept across on her belly, legs locking onto the pipe and tail going left and right to balance her. It was an interesting view of the noble born female that ordinary Kzintosh rarely got to see. Once on the other side she looked up at the remaining ten meters of cliff face and placed her hand against its surface, extending her claws a bit and trying to get a grip. She had spat out some sound of frustration that he could hear (but not understand) on the other side, and then untied a ribbon from around her neck, threaded it through the trigger guard of the rappelling gun and tied the other end around her wrist. Lifting the gun as high as she could reach with both hands she closed her eyes, and squeezed the trigger.

The recoil knocked her back, flat onto her tail. Her body started to pivot around her legs, locked around the pipe, while the rappelling gun flew out of her hand, started to fall and came to a jerking stop when it reached the end of the ribbon. Her arms grabbed onto the pipe as her body slowly rotated until she was hanging underneath it. Her screech of rage and fear clinched things for Chril, if they survived this the trail to the future was clear. Meanwhile even her tail curled around the pipe as she gingerly got herself upright again. She tested the newly set pin, and holding onto the rockface slowly got to her feet, balancing against the increasing wind, dug left hand's claws into the rock as hard as she could, and fired off the next pin single handed. It had rocked her back, but she somehow kept her balance (and the gun) and began to secure a safety line through the eyelets of the two set pins. Then she climbed up on the lower one, grabbed onto the higher one, and set the next, just this time having to balance on one foot. After surviving that, the rest was just repetition of a dangerous act over a thousand meter drop. Kitten's play, really.

When she had gotten two meters below the slope at the top she had jumped up, set the last few pins ten meters back, and tied off the line. Then lifted her leg and marked the mountain, she had beaten it, and felt like putting her signature scent on it.

After that it was just careful planning, sending over alternate loads of troopers with more belaying equipment, gear, Kzinretti, their gear and the rear guard (Chril Sergeant last). At the last minute, and trying to interpret Dapple's (he was getting into the hang of how to name females) motions he grabbed the bald Monkey and carried the tied body over. Then using the proper releases the ropes on the building side were freed and coiled, and everyone got their gear back on again. To complete the transfer Chril had himself lowered on ropes and broke off the end of the pipe on their side. The weight was enough to make it first bend, then snap off at the other end when it really got moving.

As they were heading out the Monkeys finally figured out where they had been, and showed up on the balcony to see the Kzinti band march off into the gathering gloom with Heroic disdain. Except for Tangerine who went back for a moment and made a "let's play again, later" sort of motion before joining the main party.

Now they were crossing the mesa, putting distance and time between them and any pursuit, unless the hairy Monkey types could fly, also. Right File Leader (a little irritated that the Sergeant had forbidden comm unit use and lighting units) sprinted up and informed his leader that they had discovered a sort of trail, with very faint Monkey smell. Chril Sergeant called a break and reassembled everyone, changed rearguard and point forces, and directed them to follow the Monkey trail.

After another two hours the trail led to the western edge of the mountain, to a path leading down. In the dark it would have impossible to descend for Monkey civilians, dangerous for Monkey scouts, and a slightly cautious stroll in the night for Kzinti (and one carried Monkey). In two hours they were at the bottom. There were signs it had been concealed at this end, but that didn't matter now. Trooper Seven was sent back up the trail with instructions to set some delayed charges to make it a bit more dangerous to descend . When he was back they set out again, along what seemed a trampled band, like what a herd of large cattle might make as it roamed, until the dawn. The only event of note was when a half hour after they started the charges went off with a flash, a roar, and then the rumble of a million tons of barely traversable trail becoming a lot less so for several hundred meters.

11-

At dawn they started to shoot the grapple equipped bolts across. It wasn't until the fourth try that one, landing somewhere a few hundred meters in from the edge, caught on something when they pulled it back. Ogedai went across hand over hand with another rope, spikes and a hammer. He quickly set up belaying points and secured both ropes securely, as well as the next that was sent over. With three ropes set up it was safe as a bridge for the shinobi that crossed, and a valuable exercise in maintaining calmness and composure to the monkish crews that went over to begin repairing the water pipe.

With the entire ninja team across, and fairly rested Timur got them into a fan shaped search pattern, starting from where the Rat-cats had crossed the ravine. The escapees weren't going anywhere. The Abbot had assured them that the trail up the mountain was too well camouflaged to be found, particularly in the dark. Completely true, perhaps, but the need to hide things at the top of the trail had never seemed nearly so important.

It was Arghun's cell that found the monks' trail, and decided on its own that maybe cats could follow even something as hard to see as this, even in the dark. It took them two hours, watching out for ambushes, to come to the cliff's edge and look down. The descent was now in roughly three sections. A nasty section down, at the bottom another nasty section down, and in between a largish section with no trail at all.

Juchi got out his bow and shot up a flare to call the rest of the team there, while Arghun and Borchai debated doing a walk down and close pursuit. Borchai looked out over the grassy plains below, and took out her monocular and began to scan. From this height she saw a maze of grazed flat ribbons where the wild herds roamed, but nowhere in view was there a visible bunch tiger sized "specimens". They decided starting a tracking run with just two against (the count was a bit confused) twelve to twenty hostiles with unknown capabilities was perhaps something they should put off. After all, they had been told to track the Rat-cats and report, not run them to ground.

Within thirty minutes everyone was assembled, Timur had been briefed, other evidence that the Rat-cats had come this way been found, and everyone was checking to make sure that they were fully stocked with what they'd need for a stern chase (long) and a battle (probably hot). Timur was doing calculations in his head: "Can't see them from here, have to go down and see if they left traces. For big things they walk light. Cats are fast and these seem to have endurance. Arghun said they had some long range weapons, in an ambush we won't know to start dodging until the first scouts drop. Their explosive tags are brutal, look at all the rock it moved on this trail, we have to avoid that kind of fight.

"Our mission is to protect the Monastery, not chase down their lost property. Two days spent searching , safe speed, and then we're coming back. We haven't lost anyone, no pride gone if we don't bring the Rat-cats in. They're intelligent, so it would be tacky to have a rug…"

As this side of the mountain didn't have the Chakra resisting seals the walk down was a bit tiring and slow, but not all that difficult in the daylight. Once at the bottom the three cells split up, trying to search while staying within ten minutes run of each other. It took two hours, but Rukh's team finally got a lead, or perhaps a scent would be a better way of putting it. Fourteen tigers all using the same latrine during their rest stop, even when doing a light burying of the remains, will leave a pungent odor.

Sending up a flare, and starting a contained smoky fire as a marker they followed the swath of trampled grass heading north-west, to a line of rocky foothills rimmed with scrub forest. It was Subatai who read the signs on the ground and saw where a ton of wild cow was taken down and roughly butchered, and he caught where the single file cut out from the herd's path toward a forest fringed ridge that jutted out from the main line of hills. But trouble, like rewards comes to the leaders. It was Rukh in the center lead position who first felt as if his leg was ripped off and saw a small hole, like a senbon's appear in the front of his thigh. As he hit the ground he heard a sharp crack, like wood snapping as it burnt in a campfire, and then saw Subatai spin around like a drunk, with his left arm flailing in the air as he fell down, followed by another crack. Only Jamuga was still unhit, and he was a taijutsu expert. Getting close enough for it to matter would be fun, Rukh still didn't have a clue where they were being attacked from, except somewhere to their front. He started to put a bandage on his leg, no reason to continue to bleed, and leave a blood trail to lead the Rat-cats to him. The hole in his leg evidently continued all the way through, and had an exit wound bigger than the entry one. Very bad news, they were probably all going to die now.

There was a burst of snarling, coughing from up ahead, then Jamuga yelling some taunts, and the sound of a human sized and something larger moving fast through the dry grass to the right. Rukh tried to stand up, perhaps the battle had come into range of his air based attacks and he could help out. As he disturbed the grass around them three lines appeared in the stems around him, followed by the damn sound of whatever jutsus they were using to push senbons that fast. He hit the dirt, they were too close for him to get anything aimed before he was hit. He began to prepare a kunai-explosive tag team for when the 'cats got close enough to try to rip his throat out. Then, like a beautiful bird he saw Timur's Fire Dragon flash by overhead. An Earth Wall shot up in front of him in a semicircle. Something that sounded like the world's biggest cat fight seemed to break out. He felt tired, and stayed down and peacefully passed out.

Timur's third Fire Dragon roared and flew toward the enemy, probably toward the enemy. The damn Rat-cats were almost invisible in the grass, or in the shadows of the treeline. If you didn't catch them moving the only thing you had going for you was trying to zero in on the sound of them doing something to get their senbons out. They didn't seem to have many jutsus, but they could throw those needles as far as anything he could get outgoing. They seemed to be armor piercing too, and did too damn much damage for something that small. Currently he had three shinobi down, and maybe had taken two of the 'cats out of the fight. To complete his joy the dry grass had caught fire in several places, the patches of flame were coming together, and the wind direction was away from the hills, toward his position. Oh, and his best guy for wind jutsus was in urgent need of a medic. Timur had never been much of a fan of the "it's a good day to die!" philosophy, and didn't want to adopt it on the spur of the moment either.

"Pull back. Retrieve the wounded . Rally 500 meters back, to the left of the fire line" If they had to break contact, at least the fire would be throwing up enough smoke to give them concealment Timur decided. They'd figure out if it was worthwhile to renew the fight when they saw how bad their injuries were.

When the rest of the team had re-assembled the real status was established. Three down hard, two of them needing more medical jutsu than any of them knew. They could be stabilized for a rapid transport back to the Monastery, where the monks had the equivalent of a first class hospital ward available. Jamuga had a bad cut on his shoulder, but he swore that he'd broken one of the 'cats up bad, bones broken and everything. Knowing Jamuga's self esteem Timur wasn't all that convinced about that. One of their needles had done a glancing hit on Juchi's headband, and ripped it off, giving him a bad, bleeding gouge on his forehead. So, it was three down totally, two walking wounded, leaving four effectives. Only one Jonin was left, and that one getting a bit tired.

They had accomplished their mission, the Rat-cats were driven from the Monastery and wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. From what Timur had gathered they hadn't wanted to be there in the first place. Currently it had been a good, clean fight with honors either even, or leaning toward the shinobi. No need to declare a blood feud, at least if they got moving and reached the Infirmary within the next two days. It was a push certainly, but nothing that a few Soldier Pills couldn't ensure. Besides, if this fight was pushed to a conclusion they'd be too weak to fulfill their primary contract of protecting the monks. It was time to break off.

12-

The Kzinti band was deep in the broken hills. Their fire was low and shielded from sight outside the stone circled dip they were in. Some of the Heroes were cleaning their equipment, two were up a local tree (that could barely stand their weight) keeping watch. Trooper Eight was having some burn salve spread on the forty percent of his body that hadn't avoided the Flame Snake the boss Monkey had been spitting out. Trooper Three had long since treated the small cut he'd gotten in hand-to-hand with the aggressive Monkey, he thought he might have a slightly cracked lower rib too, but none of the wounds promised to leave a really good scar. All in all it was a wasted tussle, except for the exercise. Most of the Kzinretti were quietly talking and grooming each other.

The female Chril Sergeant was thinking of as Dapple was seemingly well on the way to taming the Monkey. It was untied and wasn't even shivering much anymore. She was talking with it, listening to it, and exchanging little diagrams drawn in the dirt. Chril didn't expect too much to come of this in the near future. Even if they had been Word Masters the constant movement and… distractions of the last few days would have prevented them from doing much exchanging of words. What was important was that it was happening at all.

Chril knew what had been happening in the back of beyond planet he had been pulling training duty on, and what the long from Kzinhome nobles who owned that planet had been doing. It was a mixture of heresy, treason and insanely dangerous experiments. If for no other reason that if Priests of the Fanged God, or the agents of the Patriarch ever heard of it, their noble families would be exterminated to the last kit. They had been breeding sapient females. Against every doctrine and ordinance of family structure those quiet rebels had been undermining the basic social structure of the Empire. Because if females were intelligent they could have honor, could be dangerous, couldn't be property for their own good, could live outside of the Secured Den of a powerful Sire.

It was undoubtedly heresy and treason. Certainly it was the duty of a respectable underofficer (with a half-name, even) to purge such criminals from the body politic. Therefore Chril thought Fortune kind that it taken him, and Kzinretti, as far as possible from that body politic before he had ever observed anything uncomfortable. It was a lot less paperwork that way too. They hadn't even really been sloppy in stopping their act of stupidity, they had known that he knew their secret anyway, and also knew that there wasn't the time to pretend everything was normal and safe in the hands of the great, big Heroes.

Chril hadn't gotten his half name because of influence or because his Sire had been great. He'd been lucky enough to survive some horrible disasters, and triumph in some difficult battles. The luck he had had was just luck, there was nothing he had done to deserve it. The triumphs were because in a force whose motto was "leap and scream", his motto had been more like, "Look, think, leap and scream". Now he was thinking. Now he came to his decision.

He walked over to Tangerine, gestured her to follow him, motioned her to sit where he, as leader, was entitled. He called the sentries in to join the rest, there wasn't much chance the Monkeys would be back today, considering how chewed up their group (only nine of the dangerous ones had actually been there) had been. He started things off as a post mission briefing.

"In the last two days we have beaten off a force of hundreds of an unknown foe and managed to break contact with their most dangerous elements. We have done an exploratory march and discovered food resources and a viable basing area. We have over ninety per cent of our ammunition and about two thirds of our explosive charges. All of our electronic gear is functional, and our power units are at full charge.

The reason I have had you keeping even the most elementary equipment turned off is that what we have in ammunition, power, equipment is, as best as can be determined, all that we will ever have. If anyone here has an idea of how we can get back to the Empire, or get resupplied, inform me now."

The troops talked quietly among themselves , then as a spokesman Left Flank Leader gave their consensus: "Dominant One, none of us have any idea of how to resolve the situation we are in, how to get back home, or produce new equipment. We await your guidance."

It would work! They were already going beyond his rank and calling him Dominant! Chril got up (he was one of those who thought better on his feet) and continued: "We must deal with this situation as one of a permanent settlement. We will have to cooperate, but also innovate. Some of our innovations will be revisions to social structures long abandoned on Kzinhome. As the noble Kzinretti are all young and potentially fertile they must be allowed to breed, despite their registered Nest Holders not being present . Accordingly they will have personal Mates, I have selected the Kzinret by my seat as mine, any challenges?" He smiled, so they could see both that all his fangs were still sharp, and that he was perfectly ready to gut any of them who objected. His messages were very easily understood by all, none of them thought they had a chance of challenging and taking the ears of a combat veteran of his experience. He erased his threat-smile and turned to make sure Tangerine understood what had just happened. He was a bit disturbed when he saw that it was Binocular instead sitting there with a cheerful look on her face and her tail waving contentedly . How had they known? How had they made the switch so neatly? But now was the time to finish this all, not to admit he wasn't in complete control.

"As there are more Kzintosh than Kzinretti accommodations will have to be made. It was not unknown for brothers in the early days to share mates. It will be so here as needed. Kzinret will have to agree to the matings though."

There was some muttering then. One less contented from the Kzintosh, one a good deal more pleased from the Kzinretti. As no one leaped up to try to rip out his throat it seemed his return to the customs of the fabled past was at least tolerable for now. The Kzinretti had started to look at the young Kzintosh crouched around the fire with a frankly evaluating look in their eyes. Some of the more confident Kzintosh preened a bit, and spread their ears. Dapple was stroking her pet Monkey to keep him from panicking at the conversations going on. To him it must have seemed like a prelude to a slaughter (his), rather than an orderly exchange of views (with potentials for murder).

Chril (no longer in his own mind Sergeant) walked back and took his seat. Binocular placed her cheek against his shoulder, purred a little. Now to finish things: "There will be changes in our organization, though proper ranking and hierarchy will be maintained. Respect for skill and accomplishment will be a paramount concern. Now we must take the first great step. Now we will choose names."

Author's Notes:

In the Narutoverse the technology presented makes no sense. Ultra sophisticated tactical radios, residential television, but long distance communications are done by carrier animals. People travel basically by foot, even nobles, but in canon there are steamboats, and even a singular railroad. Electrical power exists in the hidden villages, but there are vanishingly few uses for it, and even internally there are no telephones or other basic equipment. In military affairs there are explosive tags, and hand thrown missiles (one movie has very ineffective rockets), not even any bows or slings much less guns.

The easiest explanation is that all the inexplicable technology isn't native to the world at all. It is stolen (hence the Redhanded Monastery and its monks) and is more often high prestige items of conspicuous consumption than really something that is being made locally. Some things came through as a working scale model (the steam engines, etc.) and some things were taken (probably randomly) from some warehouse or off of store shelves. If the taking was more controlled even in a Chakra based system there would be significant effects. Remember the old saying: God made all men, Col. Colt made them equal.

Larry Niven's Kzinti are Japanese Samurai by way of a pride of lions. Very impressive kitty cats, and in the continuation series The Man-Kzin Wars a lot of fun stuff about them (and often from their viewpoint) comes out. Not all of it makes too much sense, but there are a few basic points.

The Kzin stole their technology. They were primitive mercenaries who managed enslaving their previous employers the process. The group that came out on top was fairly odd, by Kzin standards, and had a thing about females being subservient to the pride leaders, being placed in harems. Over time this became common among most Kzinti groups, and a mechanism for culling out intelligent females (who might upset the applecart) became widespread. Not all Kzinti clans liked this, but they had to keep their opposition secret. The hold a smallish interstellar empire, using Slower Than Light drives and a feudal political structure. The Patriarch on Kzinhome is the strongest of nobles, but must be cautious with far off clans of great power.

Kzinti males (Kzintosh) start out in life (except if born into an extremely powerful and prestigious family) being kicked out of the house in early adolescence and having to gain fame (which gets wealth), reputation (which gets advancement) and acknowledgement as a superior or dominant individual (which gets mates from those holding the existing females in their harems). One sign of their advancement is rising in the military (promotions giving higher titles) and getting an individual name instead of just a job description. By such baubles are Kzinti lead.

Kzinretti only become sexual receptive when in heat (like most mammal or mammaloid creatures) but can have affectionate regard for males even when not in the mood for love. Intelligence only increases the possibility of such behavior. Under certain situations non-sapient females may be given artificial hormones to "get them in the mood" as a special reward to lower level Kzintosh who would otherwise never get a chance to contact an aroused female.

The Kzinti have recently (within the last few centuries) attempting to conquer another of the races they have come into contact with (they hold in subjugation four or five). The Monkeys themselves are only slightly technologically inferior to the Kzinti, and for omnivores surprisingly fierce in combat. They have lost some of their colonies, but have beaten off four increasingly serious Kzinti invasion fleets.

A variable sword is a monomolecular line held rigid by a low powered forcefield. It can be adjusted to a number of lengths, and can effectively cut most anything. It is so thin that the only way its user knows where it ends is that its tip glows due to the forcefield holding it stiff. A Strakkaker is a light (for Kzinti) weapon that shoots small needles at huge speeds. The high speed (several times the speed of sound) causes great damage for the light mass of the round, and the small size means that a gun holds hundreds of rounds. It easily outranges hand thrown weapons. It weighs approximately 6 kilos.