Hey! Because I like it when people request fics, here's the first chappy of one that was requested by one of my muses' favorite sources of material. (Points at General Zargon) Your fault. All yours. Kamakura gets himself into a bit of trouble…

And by the way…I know Junko Akita jumped off a cliff. Well, Storm Shadow got shot like eight times in the chest by the Baroness. A fall into deep water would seem to be less terminal. And I like Storm Shadow, and thought it was BS that his girl got offed. So bear with me.

This fic takes place a few years down the road from the comics. (Obviously, if Junko is around.) Anyways, this will focus fairly firmly on the rebuilding Arashikage clan, though the Joes will drop in.

Kawai Aki-no-Kami was a historical ninja clan, or at least the family was mentioned in the Nochi Kagami, a record of the Ashikaga Shogunate. The clan was based in the iga region of Japan, and they were mentioned as having served Shogun Ashikaga Yoshihisa with distinction as shinobi (old name for ninja) during one of his wars. I am minoring in Asian history and have spent many years learning martial arts history anyways because my sensei insists that his students know where our skills came from as well as how to do them. So please forgive me for obsessive attention to such details.

Kamakura lay easily on the support beam, hidden in the shadows and ductwork of the bare industrial warehouse ceiling.

Well, once this place had been a warehouse. Now, it was chopped up into a maze of rooms and narrow halls, which sheltered some most unsavory people. According to the mission briefing he'd received, a particularly violent Yakuza clan was using this place, possibly as a place to hold kidnapped women before selling them into forced prostitution in Thailand.

The Japanese parliament had contacted the Phoenix Master; the Arashikage often worked for governmental agencies. The Phoenix Master and Silent Master were well known for their refusal to touch dirty money, which had originally earned the newly rebuilding Arashikage clan some scorn.

However, given his Sensei and the Phoenix Master's military service…and Kamakura, and Jinx, and Tiger Claw, and Scarlett…the Arashikage were well-connected and perfectly placed to pick up contracts from the US government in particular. And apparently the Pentagon had pointed a few friendly countries in the direction of the ninja clan as well when an issue came up that the US military proper couldn't help with for whatever reason.

This was making the clan rather wealthy. The Pentagon in particular had both a very long list of hostile dictators, crime lords, enemy agents, terrorist leaders…and very deep pockets. As soon as the US military had figured out that it could hire honest-to-god ninja for espionage and assassination that the CIA couldn't handle, it had more or less set aside a portion of their yearly budget just for that purpose.

Kamakura's current mission was simply to confirm whether or not this place was, in fact, being used as a way station to hide and ship captives. If it was, he was to bring back floor plans, shipping schedules, guard strength, weaponry…the usual. He was still on the top floor, having slunk in through an upper story window, and he already could say for certain that this place was, indeed, being used to hold women.

He gritted his teeth as he waited for the two guards below his current position to move on. The contract had been very clear; no killing unless he was first fired upon. The Japanese government wanted their own police force to make the bust if possible. But right now, listening to the two men below him carry on a very graphic conversation over just exactly what they'd done to one of the captives mere hours ago, Kamakura wanted very, very much to slip a garrote around both of their necks.

Kamakura could see why the Phoenix Master had sent him instead of Jinx, though she'd wanted this contract once she'd heard what the objective was. If Jinx had been the one to hear these two…

They would have died. Slowly. Messily. Very painfully.

The pair finished their smoke and went to move off along the hall. Kamakura shifted, preparing to slide off to continue his recon. The faster he got this job done, the faster the police could figure out that this job was too much for them, and the faster he and Jinx would get sent back to deal with these slimebags much more terminally.

Actually, he'd put money on Mistress Junko and Scarlett wanting in on introducing this group of slavers to the sharp end of a knife too. And he'd put good odds on them getting their way, too. Officially a ninja or not, Scarlett was more than capable of taking care of herself and ten to twenty armed men. Mistress Junko was as skilled a ninja as Kamakura had ever known; she was better at the Sleeping Phoenix than anyone else in the clan but the Phoenix Master.

Which had saved her life, once. A long fall into a river had almost killed her, but not quite…and she'd been hauled out of the water by a farming family ten miles downstream. A year later she'd turned up at the gates of the Arashikage compound, having purged the last of the false memories from her mind, bearing some new physical scars but with her head together once again.

Kamakura had never seen the Phoenix Master either go so pale or look so happy before or since.

Actually, the fact that between the two of them Scarlett and Junko had the masters of the Arashikage wrapped around their fingers more or less meant that the two women had their pick of missions. Scarlett, not officially a ninja, still had trained and worked with Sensei for many years, and was good backup when multiple agents were needed.

Kamakura stiffened suddenly, freezing in place on the steel beam. He might not have 'the ear that sees', but he had spent a full six months blindfolded shortly before his graduation to full field agent. His ears, consequently, were quite sharp, and were telling him right now that he wasn't the only one on the ceiling. It hadn't been so much a sound as a change in air pressure as something moved…but that was enough.

He reached for a knife.

But no one attacked him. On the contrary, a pair of knives hissed down from the ceiling some fifteen feet in front of him, aimed at the Yakuza guards. Both men fell, clutching throat wounds. Kamakura nodded to himself infinitesimally. Cut trachea and voice boxes; no outcry to warn other guards. And even better, death would be slow and painful; without major arteries cut, death would come from suffocation.

A small shape dropped from the ductwork and slid over to collect its weapons. Kamakura narrowed his eyes; the other ninja was wearing long sleeves and he couldn't see any clan markings on the gi. He knew for certain though that she –yes, definitely female- wasn't Arashikage.

He eased his knife out. If this woman was from a hostile clan, things could get very interesting very quickly if she discovered him. His best bet was to slip away without alerting her and finish his own mission without crossing paths again…

Twelve guards, obviously off duty and heading back from a distraction amongst the captives, walked around the corner forty feet down the hall. A shout and they broke into a run. Automatic gunfire raked the hallway, but the woman was already gone, vanished back up into the ductwork of the ceiling.

Bullets pinged around Kamakura. He grinned. Well, the contract had said no killing unless he was fired at first…and there were bullets flying in his direction. Good enough for him.

Sensei had trained him in the use of guns as well as traditional weapons. Kamakura, like his master, favored semi-to-full-automatics, in particular the Uzi. Now he pulled his firearm out and started picking of Yakuza with more than a little satisfaction.

A small dark shape dropped down behind the group as they concentrated their attention at the bullets unerringly finding eyes and skulls from the darkness of the ceiling. A pair of kama gleamed as the woman started carving through the much larger Yakuza guards without apparent effort.

It was over in seconds, and after a few more it was apparent that no more opponents were forthcoming. The woman eyed the ductwork where Kamakura was still hidden warily. Finally she pulled up one sleeve to reveal a black kanji tattoo on her forearm.

"I am from Kawai Aki-no-Kami clan. I am here to assassinate Boss Hiro and kill as man of his men as possible at the bidding of a rival Yakuza clan. Are you friend or enemy?"

Kamakura relaxed. Kawai was a friendly clan, and this agent's mission did not conflict with his own. Actually, the fact that he'd gotten to shoot several slavers thanks to her rather endeared the strange woman to him.

He dropped down. Now that she'd initiated the standard circling and sniffing, it would have been an openly hostile gesture not to reciprocate.

She eyed him sharply; he rolled up his sleeve. When she saw the red lines and bars, she relaxed infinitesimally. Friendly clans, but he knew that if he turned out to be here after her target, she'd still kill him if she could if that is what it took to snatch a successful mission for her own clan. Such killings were common enough, and were considered a necessary evil by ninja. Such an incident wouldn't even be considered worth mentioning between two otherwise friendly clans.

"Arashikage clan." He said, though the clan marking on his arm had already told her as much. "Espionage only. Our missions are not in conflict."

She relaxed, sliding her weapons away. Her eyes still flashed interest, though. "Government moving on this lot, then?"

The Arashikage preference for government work was by now a well known fact amongst the other ninja clans. Kamakura simply nodded.

She eyed the corpses at their feet thoughtfully. "You fired five shots."

He nodded again.

"You killed seven men."

He shrugged.

Her mask quirked in the tiniest of smiles. "Impressive for an American. You are the apprentice of the famous Silent Master of the Arashikage, then? Kamakura?"

He raised an eyebrow. He was masked as well, of course, but ninja became adept at reading facial expression through masks by the time they became field agents.

"Your eyes give you away." Her smile turned mocking. "Not many ninja born in Japan have blue eyes, American."

Well, she had a point there. Maybe there was a reason Sensei wore the visor…but then again, there were few ninja who wouldn't recognize Snake Eyes if they saw him. A brief flash of pride; his Sensei was renowned and feared even by other ninja.

He nodded.

"I've heard a great deal about you and your master." The woman eyed the bodies for a long moment, then looked up a Kamakura suddenly. There was an edge of calculating assessment in her dark eyes that made him vaguely uneasy. "My name is Kinume. Would you like to assist me on my mission? I will aid you on your own as well."

"I was ordered to complete and report back as quickly as possible."

She cocked her head. "We are of friendly clans, yes? To bind a tie between allies, then. I'd like to see you fight, and I'm sure you'd like to asses my skills as well. Unless you think me unworthy…"

The inflection on the last word made him uneasy. He was almost sure he'd be in more trouble if he started an inter-clan war than if he reported back a few hours later than anticipated. He sighed. "Of course. Shall we?"

The smile he got in response left him feeling rather like he'd just missed something, which made him nervous. Still, she was good…very good, actually. She helped quite a bit in the following recon of the building and swiping of important files from an office.

He didn't help at all with the assassination. She didn't need it. Three large guards fell to poisoned throwing spikes in the blink of an eye, and the Yakuza boss's neck was snapped with an expert twist.

Standing over the corpses, she eyed him again, that same edge of calculating assessment in her gaze that unsettled him. "So? What did you think of my skills?"

"You are very good." He said truthfully.

She smiled. "You are quite acceptable yourself. Shall we make plans to work together again, then?"

He shifted. "You would have to speak to one of my clan masters if you wished me…"

"Oh, naturally." She cut him off. "Was that a yes?"

He sighed inwardly. Don't offend her, clan wars are bad. "If you wish."

She smiled brightly. "Excellent. I'll be in touch." She slid into the shadows and was gone.

He relaxed. She made him nervous; he was glad she was gone. Let the Phoenix Master or his Sensei deal with her if she inquired after him. He rather suspected that she was more interested in him, (or, more specifically, his master and the growing wealth and power of his clan) than in working with him.

Romance wasn't something he had much time for, and she wasn't his type anyways. But she was gone now, and no longer his problem.

With a sense of relief, he slid out of the warehouse and back into the night, cutting across several rooftops and through a few back alleyways to the motorcycle and pack of street clothes he'd hidden.