Chapter One: Malicious Shadows
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the Aliens/Predator Franchise
The imposing creature, clad in something similar to fishnet and a loincloth, grunted in mild interest as the film replayed before him. It had been a great disappointment to the entire hunting party when the hard-meats were defeated, and particularly by a group of soft meats.
Or so their original attitude had been: now, in reviewing the reels of electronic data that had been obtained during the incident, they realized they had much greater prey to stalk. Several of the soft-meats had proven themselves worthy of their attention…their undivided attention. The skull of one of them would rate many females…
It was an excellent opportunity for those just entering the initiation rites into adulthood. And it would serve to weed the weak from the strong…Yes…an excellent opportunity, indeed.
With a click of approval, his talon-tipped fingers danced across the small keyboard on his wrist.
Sakura shivered, her eyes snapping open automatically. Viridian orbs roved her room, searching the shadowy recesses for any sign of what might have jarred her so violently from her sleep. Her eyes found nothing, but she still felt a knot of anticipation in her stomach…it was the same feeling that gripped her stomach just before she entered battle.
She swallowed against her suddenly dry throat as she kicked off the stifling blanket. Something about it suddenly seemed…restrictive. Like she was being held captive…She stretched her legs out…
Her legs flexed almost against her will, and she leapt across the room just as an invisible set of blades rendered her bed into a filet of shredded down and cloth. She landed easily against the hardwood floor, rolling to put some distance between her and her attacker. She sprang up on her heel, her eyes narrowing.
There was nothing there…nothing that she could see…but instinct had just saved her, and her intuition was screaming at her that something was there.
As counterintuitive as it seemed, she allowed her eyelids to come back down. Her eyesight obviously wasn't doing her any good, and it might actually lull her into a false sense of security. Tendrils of chakra worked into her ears and danced across the surface of her skin.
She heard her wood floor creak, and she spun away from the vibration. She heard something embed itself in the wall that had, a fraction of a second ago, been at her back. Using the momentum she gained in her half-pirouette, she arched her back and fell into an effortless flip.
Her hand fell mechanically to her thigh, where the reassuring weight of a dagger pressed against the flesh. Her slender fingers wrapped around the hilt, and she pulled it free from its sheath.
Her senses suddenly went wild, adrenaline pumping hotly through her veins as the weight on the floor shifted again. Leaning back with mere millimeters to spare, she felt the air part as something that felt like a lance shot past her chest. She found her footing, spun, and released the dagger.
There was an unearthly, deep cry of rage and her eyes snapped open. She saw something distort near the window, and heard the crack of a tree branch just below her window as whatever it was retreated.
She crossed the room in the time it took an average person to blink and leaned out of the window, searching for some sign of her attacker, something to track. But she found nothing aside from the rent and destroyed tree branch that lay on the ground twenty feet below her.
She pulled back, taking a moment to catch her breath before she leaned down to retrieve her dagger. But as she did, she allowed the moonlight to pour back into her room…Her eyes fell to the lance embedded in her wall just inches from her; it was a weapon clearly meant to kill: viciously barbed, incredibly sharp, heavy but well-balanced…nearly identical to the one that had sheathed itself in her bedroom door across the room. She bent to retrieve her dagger only to have the silver light pour in over her shoulder.
Her fingers hovered hesitantly above the weapon now coated in a glowing green substance that she would only assume was blood…
Naruto groggily forced his eyes open and reached absently for the glass of water he kept by his bed. Even he, however, was quick to his feet when it suddenly exploded, showering him in liquid and glass shards.
"What the hell?" He cried as his eyes fell on the dagger that lay in line with where his midnight drink had been a fraction of a second earlier.
As with any shinobi, he followed the most logical path of the weapon, and his sharp blue eyes fell on a moving distortion in the shadows of his room.
"Hey! Who the hell are you!" He demanded, pointing an accusing finger at the imposing figure.
Whatever it was, it cast the faintest shadow on the floor, and in that shadow he saw something like a hand…and something suddenly grow in the palm of that hand…
He barely managed a clumsy evasion that was really more a stumble to the left. The wood of his wall caved, a shimmering wave traveled down the spear now vibrating there…a cloaking jutsu of some kind, he thought as he pushed himself to his feet.
He was tripping over the trash that was ankle-deep as it was…he couldn't fight in these conditions! His eyes fell to the floor, and he smirked, blue eyes glittering as he scooped up a bowl.
Goodness only knew how old the broth in the bottom of it was, but it would suffice. Hell, he reasoned, it might even chase the guy off if it smelled bad enough! With a cry of victory, he hefted the bowl at the creature.
It contacted, spilling green-tinged pork broth over him. Naruto watched as the liquid disrupted whatever art the thing had going for him, thin waves of blue electricity shimmering and revealing it in sporadic pieces…it was humanoid…but something about the proportions wasn't right…And it wore an odd, metal mask…
It gave what sounded like a violent grunt of annoyance and advanced on him with greater intent.
His window shattered, a blur of indistinguishable color landing against the floor and snapping up. Silver flashed in the moonlight, and the creature fled through the destroyed window.
"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!" Naruto cried.
"It's me." Sakura snapped in a tone of business that was almost frightening as she rose from her crouch.
"SAKURA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"
"Saving you." She replied matter-of-factly.
"Oh…" Naruto replied, his eyes falling.
Sakura crossed her arms over her chest, glancing back through the window. "I just had one of those lovely things in my room."
She continued to talk aloud, hoping maybe Naruto would interject with something useful that he had discovered during his skirmish. But when she turned back around, she found him literally drooling…and his eyes weren't on her face…She lashed out, striking him painfully in the back of the head.
"Would you get serious!" She hissed.
"What?" He cried, "You can't just barge into my room, go sexy warrior chick on me and expect me not to stare!"
Sakura gave a feminine snort of annoyance, but didn't reply.
"Look, I'm going to check on Sasuke. Stay here." She snapped as she turned on her heel and ducked back through the window.
"Interesting." Sasuke remarked as a shuriken, larger than even their basic fuuma, sank into the wall not more than half an inch from his face.
Chakra threaded into his eyes and a crimson fell dropped over their ebony hue. Three toma bled through the veil of scarlet. He immediately picked up on the full form of the creature, but he didn't have time to analyze it as another set of stars tore at him.
He rotated his wrist up and snapped it back down. The screech of metal on metal filled the air, and the three stars found their impetus stolen as they entrenched in his wall, headboard, and bathroom door.
He kicked off of his heel, leaping into the air and bringing the blade down over his head. The creature repeated his motion in reverse, carrying itself just outside of the range of his attack. The Uchiha was not to be deterred, however, and he spun, letting the katana flying from his hand.
It sank into the wall beside the shuriken, its edge covered in a film of what he knew has to be blood. The creature gave a cry of rage, and tapped something on its wrist. It shimmered in the moonlight again, and though the Uchiha could still make out its outline, he didn't press his advantage as it fled.
His door burst open just as he retrieved his katana, and he quickly suppressed the murderous veneer of his eyes as Sakura locked eyes with him.
"I see I'm late." She sighed with mock self-depreciation and very real relief.
He grunted in reply as he cleaned his blade with a decisive flick of his wrist, letting the glowing green blood spatter across his floor.
She eliminated the distance between them in three smooth, feline strides. Her pale hand came to his cheek, and she glanced over him worriedly. "Are you okay?"
He smirked with his usual confidence, and even without the usual nod of his head, she felt relief wash over her.
And then his eyes fell and his eyebrow slanted up in a silent question. A silk chemise, a rather transparent one, at that, hemmed with lace and split up her thigh…
"What?" She asked defensively, "It's not like I had time to change."
"Still." He replied coolly.
"You know, some boyfriends are happy when their girlfriends barge into their homes in sheer silk." She told him seriously.
He walked past her without a reply; this was part of their dynamic, of course. His silence frustrated her, and her frustration was just what he wanted. But it was all done in good nature.
Sakura followed after him, dancing lightly down the steps of his staircase behind him.
"I'm assuming you had to deal with one of those things, too." He stated.
"Wow, Sherlock." She sniffed, "But, in all seriousness, yes. About half an hour ago."
"And you're uninjured."
Sakura shrugged; it was a statement of fact. And one that she was pretty damn proud of.
"Well, I guess we should wake up Lady Tsunade…"She added, scratching nervously at the back of her head, "I really hope she hasn't had too much to drink tonight…"
Tsunade massaged her temple with her left hand, toying with a cup of black coffee in her right.
"I really don't have time to deal with another unidentified biological threat." She snorted as she motioned vaguely to the stacks of paperwork that were still being done on the serpents that had been taken care of less than three weeks earlier.
"Pardon us for being attacked in our sleep." Sasuke replied icily.
Sakura elbowed him sharply, "Shut up."
Tsunade's eyes flicked up sharply as she set down her cup and rested her head against the back of her hand. "As much as I hate to admit it, Uchiha, you have a point."
"But, it really is odd…" Sakura admitted, "And there were no other reports from last night?"
"None." Tsunade responded, "And with your description of the creature, I think if people had seen it they'd be beating down my office door."
"Maybe it was just some random rogue." Naruto suggested over a throaty yawn.
"Unlikely." Tsunade sniffed, throwing back the cup of coffee as if she had forgotten it wasn't sake. And the look of annoyance that flickered across her face before she composed herself seemed to attest to that. "Either way, I don't like the idea of you guys going home tonight."
"And where else would we go?" Sasuke asked in his usual monotone.
"Don't get an attitude with me, Uchiha," The Kage drawled, "I have Kakashi collecting a sample of that weird green stuff spattered across your bedrooms for analysis. Until we have a rudimentary picture of what's going on here, you guys will be staying the night with him."
"What?" Naruto cried, "We're not kids!"
Tsunade turned her hazel-gaze on Sakura as she spoke, "I'm well aware. But your maturity isn't the issue here, Naruto."
Sakura opened her mouth to protest, but her shishou's gaze was more than enough to silence her. As much as she hated to admit it, her Kage had a point. And there was a high probability that someone innocent could be caught in the crossfire if they didn't comply with her orders.
"Iruka is already getting your things for you." She added as she stared out through the window.
Sakura nodded, trying hard not to think about her former mentor and Academy teacher rummaging through her underwear drawer.
"Here you go." Tsunade added, absently tossing a small silver key at Sakura.
The kunoichi caught it easily, rose from her seat, bowed, and leapt through the window of the office.
Naruto shrugged and followed after with Sasuke not far behind.
"Goodness…" Sakura muttered as she flipped on the light in his living room.
His house really was a bit of a wreck; then again, when six days out of the week you were out of the village, it was probably difficult to care about the state of your house.
"Well…I'm awake now…" She shrugged as she stepped into the kitchen, located the dish soap, and began work on the mountain of dirty plates, bowls, and cups.
"You know, Sakura, this is a little weird." Naruto remarked as he sat down at the kitchen table adjacent to the sink.
"How so?" She asked as she scrubbed another plate.
"You're doing sensei's dishes in your underwear."
"Hey!" She cried back, "This is a nightgown. It's perfectly acceptable sleepwear."
"Suuuurrreee, Sakura." He smirked.
"Why don't you make yourself useful and clean the counters." She snapped back.
"Oh, don't be like that, Sakura!" He pouted.
She lobbed a sponge at him, followed shortly by a spray bottle of bleach. "Get to it."
"And what exactly are you three doing?"
Sakura turned her head over her shoulder, smiled, and replied, "Cleaning."
"I'm sure Kakashi will be thrilled." Pakkun grumbled.
"Do you need a biscuit?" Sakura asked playfully.
The ninken just growled as he appraised them.
"He is taking an awfully long time…" Sakura trailed off as she glanced at the clock. They had been in Tsunade's office for at least half an hour, and it had taken them fifteen minutes to get to his house.
There was a knock at the door, and Iruka's voice: "I've got your things."
"I'll get it." Sakura replied as she snapped off the gloves and left them on the edge of the now empty sink.
"Coming!" She chirped as she crossed the living room and opened the door.
No one was there…
Her question to the open air of "What on earth…" was interrupted when her ribcage was torn open.