A bit of fun. This was sent at a time when Tommy was being somewhat irritatingly clueless in the story and I was trying to write something where he's more endearing (to me anyway, which isn't saying much, really).
Mini Story 4: Finicky Ninja
"You have GOT to be kidding me. THAT's dinner?"
Wilkinson turned around to glare at the offending soldier while the others chuckled or laughed out loud. He knew who it was from the accent, but even if he hadn't, it would have been easy enough to identify him.
Tommy was holding the offending ration at arms' length with his nose wrinkled up in disgust.
"Ara…" Wilkinson searched his memory for the rest of the name and how to pronounce it but had to give up for the sake of speed. He settled on rephrasing. "Got something to say about the food, soldier?" he asked, menace obvious in every syllable.
"What food?" the soldier asked. "I'm talking about this," he added, proffering his hot dog. "Fat and additives with a bit of mystery meat, wrapped in white bread to add some refined sugar to the disaster."
Wilkinson narrowed his eyes at him, trying to decide just how much discipline was needed for complaining about the food. He would have settled on telling the kid off if not for the rest of the unit sniggering at the confrontation.
"I think a bit of exercise will improve your appetite. 50 push-ups, and that goes for everyone, since you all find it so funny."
Tommy dropped and started his push-ups, as did the other soldiers, glaring at him all the while. The kid didn't seem to notice.
"Sergeant, we're still in safe territory," he said, still pumping. "Can we walk around?"
Wilkinson nodded, concentrating on counting. The kid was fast despite the fact he was lowering enough for his face to only be a hair's width from the ground, and he didn't even sound out of breath. It was no wonder his PT scores had all been top marks.
"Permission to go for a walk, Sergeant?" he asked, getting up again after finishing his 50th pump. The others were still going, and glaring at him worse than ever.
"Still not hungry?" Wilkinson asked.
"We're clear to hunt 10 different species of animals in the area and fish anything. There are also a lot of edible plants, even some fruits, around. I'm going to go get my dinner."
Three of the other soldiers stifled laughs and paused. Wilkinson glared at them and they quickly went back to their push-ups.
"You're not allowed to use ammo," Wilkinson said. "and whether you catch anything or not, you're not getting this ration back. AND you had better be back in half an hour."
"Can I use a knife?"
"You can't throw it. No arrows, either," he added, eyeing the kid's bow.
"Thank you Sergeant."
He trotted off while the others got up, finished with their push-ups, and started eating.
He came back 20 minutes later and even Wilkinson could do nothing but stare.
"What did you catch those with?" one of the soldiers asked.
"My hands." Tommy answered, setting a pair of scaled, gutted, stuffed and speared fish next to the campfire.
"What's that in them?" another one asked.
"Let me get this straight. You caught and stuffed two fishes, and found some vegetables, in 20 minutes, when the closest river is about that far away from here?" Wilkinson asked.
"I ran really fast?" he tried.
"Did you, now?"
"Oh, alright," Tommy sighed theatrically. "I went to the village, found someone who needed help, offered my services and got these in exchange. I was going to hunt, but catching that runaway pig was easier, faster and it was a good deed. I did find these in the forest, though," he added, taking some fruits out of his pockets.
Some of the other guys started to sniff: the fish was smelling much better than their hot dogs had tasted. Tommy wasn't looking, tending his fish, but he apparently heard the sniffing because he chuckled.
"There's only enough for two," he said apologetically. "You guys can draw, I'm keeping one of the two servings. Fair's fair, I did the work."
"It's your fault we had to do push-ups," one of the soldiers protested.
"You can thank me for contributing to your general health by helping to ensure you get plenty of exercises some other time." Tommy replied. "I'll fight for my share if I have to. Any volunteers?"
"Don't guys. Just… don't," another soldier said, who had been quiet until then.
"Why not?" another asked, getting up, ready to take on his shorter comrade.
The soldier who had advised the others not to fight Tommy rolled his eyes. Tommy laughed.
"It's not wise not to listen when Chatterbox feels what he has to say is important enough to actually say it," he said in a philosophical tone. "And he knows what he's talking about: we were in the same hand-to-hand class."
"He wiped the floor with everyone," the soldier said. "Including the instructor."
"So you do karate?" the soldier who was standing up said.
"Of course: I'm part Japanese, we're all born with a black belt in karate. It creates problems sometimes when it gets tangled up with the umbilical cord," Tommy said in a perfectly serious tone, poking at the fish to test for doneness.
"Come at it, then, smart ass. I'll take you on."
Tommy looked at him, seemingly surprised. He seemed to think for a minute before getting up from the crouch he had been in and facing his opponent.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
The soldier answered by launching at him. He was on the ground and Tommy was crouching next to the fish again too quick for any of the other soldiers to be able to tell exactly what had happened.
"The fish is done," Tommy announced, plucking one of the sticks out of the ground and going to sit by the soldier he'd called Chatterbox.
The soldier who had attacked him got up and glared at him.
"You DO know karate, you filthy liar!"
"One, that particular move is closer to judo," Tommy replied. "Two, I didn't say I didn't do Karate. I've studied a composite of several styles, and some of the things I've learned are indeed also taught in Karate. Three, I am NOT filthy. Now pick a number if you want a shot at winning the second fish. Between 1 and 10."
The young man who Wilkinson now couldn't help thinking of as Chatterbox smirked and called out 6. The others all called out different numbers and Wilkinson shook his head when his turn came. Judging by Chatterbox's smirk and Tommy's smile when he had called it out, the answer was definitely six.
"Winner's Chatterbox," Tommy confirmed, grinning. "But how did you know?" he asked in mock surprise.
"You ALWAYS pick 6." Chatterbox shrugged, not getting up to get his fish. "Try again, that wasn't fair."
"But if you're right, I'll only pick 6 again."
Chatterbox shrugged again, smirking. Wilkinson held back a snort – the conversation had the feel of one that had happened before, several times. Sure enough, after a second round of guessing, this one secured by the Sergeant making Tommy write the winning number down before the soldiers started guessing and making his friend guess last, Chatterbox won again by guessing six again and this time, claimed his prize under the groans of the other three soldiers.
Wilkinson went to sit with the pair and scowled at Tommy.
"Seriously, I don't want to hear you complaining about the food again."
Tommy rolled his eyes.
"I'll keep quiet," he conceded. "But this garbage really doesn't qualify as food and I happen to enjoy being healthy," he added in a whisper.
"You can think what you want, you can hunt and gather all you want when I give you permission, but no more whining. Got it?"
"Yes, Sergeant," Tommy sighed.
On food: I can't imagine ninjas NOT eating very healthy. They dedicate their lives to making their bodies as efficient as possible and they believe in absolute discipline. Junk food and sweets just don't fit that picture. Storm Shadow tends towards perfectionism and extreme behaviours, so you can guess he'd be no exception, rather the opposite. I didn't use it much in Arashikage, but in bonuses, it turned out to generate or fit in well with a few plot bunnies.
On the soldier who tried to fight to win the fish: Tommy did offer the challenge and it was just a friendly joust… absolutely not a case of a bully soldier, just in case you're insulted for the three possible characters that could have been.