A/N: This is a fic based on a series of ten prompts over at the 10_what_ifs community on livejournal. The theme set I'm using is Spaceship. So, if you've figured it out, this is going to be an AU fic. The particular prompt for this chapter is 3. Outer Limits
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Kisame bolted for the observation deck, hastily telling Ino to stay where she was. She followed him instead, earning her a glare, but Kisame didn't comment.
"Haku, what's going on?" Kisame called out as he marched into the room, Ino right behind him.
It was obvious that Haku had only gotten there moments before them. The brunette's usually immaculate appearance looked hurried; from her loose hair, to her bare feet.
Haku's face was pinched into a worried expression. "We're being boarded."
"Boarded? By who?" Kisame thundered.
The door hissed opened, admitting Itachi. Despite the late hour and the sudden chaos Itachi still maintained his calm and aloof exterior.
"Military representatives from the New Galaxy Coalition. Zabuza and Sasuke have already gone down to the cargo bay to greet them," the captain said calmly, as if it was nothing unusual. Like the Coalition had come down for tea or something domestic like that.
"Why aren't we taking defensive action? We're not just going to let them board us are we?" Kisame countered hotly. Ino could tell he was agitated, and she couldn't blame him. If the Coalition boarded a ship without permission, it couldn't be a good thing.
Haku was the one that answered. "We can't break off from their ship; they've got their claws into us. If we try to take off we'll just tear our ship apart; their ship is three times the size of ours."
"How the hell did they attach themselves to us without us knowing it?" Kisame growled, anger clearly directed at the pilot.
Haku swallowed nervously before answering. "They must have been hiding behind one of the planets; our sensors wouldn't have picked them up, and then cloaked themselves until they were within range."
Kisame loomed threateningly over the brunette, "Aren't you supposed to be here and doing your job to watch our backs?"
"Hey! I have to sleep every now and again!" Haku yelled, obviously upset at the accusation.
It looked like it was going to grow into an ugly screaming match between the first officer and the pilot but Itachi raised a hand before it escalated.
"We don't have the time for this. Kisame, follow me. We need to go downstairs."
A mulish expression was on Kisame's face. "We can get rid of them."
There was a miniscule narrowing of Itachi's eyes. "Don't fight me on this."
There was a sudden crash farther down the hall, followed by gunfire. Both Haku and Ino flinched at the violence that seemed to be happening outside the door but the two men seem unfazed.
"We need to settle this now, before it gets worse," Itachi stated.
"Do you know what's going to happen the minute we get out there?" Kisame raged. "If we just hand ourselves over, it's going to be years of prison. No thanks, I'm not going back to that."
Itachi wasn't deterred by his first officer's behaviour; if anything he just seemed frustrated with Kisame's reluctance. "No one's going to prison. And we're not going to give them a reason to."
Kisame continued to argue. "We'll have them pinned. It's a small hallway. We've got some ammunition stashed in here. We can hold them off."
"You never learned to pick your battles, Kisame. We fight today, we lose," was the cold rationale Itachi supplied.
Cold horror and dread crept into Ino. This was a very real situation. Something bad was happening, but she wasn't entirely sure what. Was it an arrest? A raid? And both Itachi and Kisame were talking about taking lives like it was any other day. But then, maybe it was. This was just another ugly reminder that despite how much she liked being on the Courtesan, that the people and the world they lived in weren't really make it her world.
There was another crash and then a loud resounding thud against the door. Someone had turned on the locks when Ino wasn't paying attention. Good thing too, probably, otherwise they would have been swarmed by whoever was trying to beat down the door.
There were muffled voices on the other side of the door, yelling at them to open the door. Time was of the essence. If Kisame and Itachi were still at odds when whoever got into the observation deck it could lead to disaster. Kisame still looked unconvinced and stubborn, so Itachi tried a different tack before his first officer could raise another argument.
"We've known each other for how many years? We've gotten out of everything that's been thrown our way, and we'll get out of this too. But I need you to watch my back."
This argument finally seemed to win Kisame over, but he still didn't happy about. "Fine."
Itachi moved to punch in the unlocking code and Kisame took a moment to pull Ino aside.
"Kisame, what's going on?" Ino asked, confused. The exchange between the first officer and the captain had made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
"Can't explain it right now. It's going to be alright, sweet thing. Just don't get into trouble and play stupid, please."
Ino tried to ask what was happening again, but he just turned away after giving a swift kiss. The door hissed opened.
Ino's blood ran cold for a long moment. Her eyes were tearing up as small pricks of red light bore into her retinas from laser scopes. A line of Coalition officers wearing regulated black body armour and the eerie heavy –looking gas masks, each officer holding automatic weapons trained on them.
"Captain ...?" Haku asked meekly.
A voice hissed behind the gasmask of one person, probably the squad leader, "Down on your knees, hands up. Now!" The weapons were still trained on them. Ino had a horrified thought they may not be set to stun like protocol dictated.
They all complied, Kisame more reluctantly than anyone. An unimpressed sneer was on his face. It reminded her of the one he had worn when she first met him.
A nod from the same masked person who had spoken and the squad fanned out around them, two Coalition officers to a person. Ino had one of the officers cuff her roughly (her shoulders twinged at the manhandling) and another held a halo-crystal slate. He was skimming through the contents of what was on his screen. Around her, Ino could see the other members of the crew receiving the same treatment. It didn't escape her notice that Kisame seemed to bristle at the treatment. Especially since Itachi's officer was none too gentle.
The medic forced herself to focus on something else. Like the halo-crystal slates. Ino would take a bet that the slates had facial recognition software and were cross-referencing with the massive Coalition database to pull up files on them. That could be bad.
It didn't take long for Kisame's officer to hit bingo. The masked officer passed it to his squad leader, who seemed to find the information extremely interesting.
"You certainly have been busy haven't you? You're wanted on multiple accounts; several counts of assault, some murder charges, destruction of property, smuggling, piracy, wanted as a suspect for the assassination of diplomats. The justice system is going to have a field day with a freak like you, Hoshigaki."
Kisame ground his teeth, and looked like he was ready to lunge at the haughty officer. Ino felt similar heated angry coursing through her veins. She didn't like the disrespectful, holier-than-thou tone the Coalition officer was using towards Kisame.
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't threaten my crew," Itachi said in his usual calm manner.
The squad leader swung his attention to the Courtesan's captain. "Like you're in any position to ask anything. You're as vile as that unhuman freak, killing your family like that, Itachi Uchiha."
"I was found innocent of those charges, by your legal system no less," Itachi answered, the line of his back ramrod straight. The squad leader had apparently touched a nerve. That took talent.
The squad leader sneered behind his gas mask, "Well, let's see if you can get out of these piracy and smuggling charges. The courts have been hungry for your blood, you're not walking away easy."
The squad leader flicked a hand at the two women. "These two?"
"Haku Yuki; not much info on him. Took medical courses on his homeworld, and procured a pilot's license two years back. The other is Ino Yamanaka. One of ours. A medical graduate from the Academy, this is supposed to be her placement."
The squad leader seemed to think it over for a moment before he answered. "Throw them into lock up like the others, we'll question them as well."
The dismissive tone of the squad leader sent chills down Ino's spine. She was shocked; she knew protocol but she would have thought her Coalition status would have gotten her a little leniency. Or at least some politeness. Apparently not, she was considered a criminal because of her association.
But are they really far off? You've turned a blind eye; you've treated their wounded, even helped illicit activity. Not to mention you're intimate with one of these pirates. You're hands are not exactly clean in this matter, an inner voice chided Ino.
One of the officers that had been looming behind her grabbed her elbow and dragged her up onto her feet. Ino gritted her teeth at the rough handling, but said nothing. Even when the officer pushed her hard enough to nearly knock her off her feet.
This wasn't a good sign for things to come. And if this was how they were treating one of their own she hated to think how Kisame and Itachi were going to fare.
They had been marched out of the Courtesan and onto the Coalition vessel via the cargo hold, where the Coalition had ravaged a hole into the Courtesan. There were puddles of blood in the cargo hold. Empty shells littered the floor. That sent waves on panic flooding into Ino's system. There was no way to figure out whose blood that was; it could easily have been Sasuke and Zabuza's or a Coalition officer's.
There was time to worry about it, the crew was quickly shoved through the cargo bay and then separated and shoved into small white cells further into the Coalition ship. The walls were made of smooth, high grade plastic polymer; completely shatterproof, not to mention scratch proof. It was only susceptible to breaking down under extreme temperature situations. There was only one door, and no windows. It was sound proof as well. Ino was in her own enclosed little bubble cut off from the word.
Seeing as I left my welding torch in my other pants, I guess I'm stuck in here, Ino couldn't help but think sarcastically. Even if she had a welding torch it wouldn't have done any good. The Coaltion goons that had brought in her gave her a thorough pat-down to make sure she didn't have anything that could be used as makeshift weapon. Which was pointless in her opinion, she was wearing her pajamas (a camisole and a pair of shorts that left little to the imagination), where would she stash a weapon?
It seemed that the medic had awful luck in being poorly dressed for bad situations. I need to get less revealing pajamas, Ino mused as she sat in a corner. There wasn't a bed in a traditional sense, just a thick padding embedded in the floor against the wall, opposite to the very public toilet.
Ino wasn't sure how much time had passed. She had been shoved in her cell and a white fluorescent light had been shining down constantly. Despite the light blinding her and the worry gnawing at her insides she still found herself nodding on and off. Which, didn't help her keep track of the time, because she wasn't sure how long she was slept before she startled awake again.
It was during one her dozing sessions that she awoke to her door hissing open and a Coalition officer in the regulated black uniform walked in.
"Ino Yamanaka?" the male officer asked.
Ino blearily wiped at her eyes, still half-asleep. "Do you see anyone else?" she snapped. When she realized where she was and who she was talking to, a part of her shrivelled up inside. Oh, not good.
The nameless officer didn't comment, just sneered. "Your hands in front. You're being taken for questioning."
Ino did as she was asked, and tried not to flinch as the cuffs clicked tight on her wrists. She was once again dragged around and thrown into another room. Ino had never realized how white and sterile, and damn shiny Coalition ships looked. Well, she did have an idea, but she never really realized until she had been away from it for so long. It was both strangely comforting and off-putting. Coalition aesthetics were weaved through everything they did, and the Academy that she had spent so many years at would have fit well within a Coalition vessel. At the same time, she was used to the exposed pipes, the noise of the engine and the variation of texture of the Courtesan. The Coalition was totally utilitarian, while the Courtsean had personality.
The new room they threw her in was different, and Ino almost missed the disgustingly sterile white cell she had left. This room was dark, with matte walls. One of the walls was like a two-way mirror, with an observation room behind it, or Ino would assume so. Being on the wrong side of a two way mirror made it difficult to really know. There was an overhead fluorescent light that kept flickering. A table that was bolted to the floor and four chairs that were bolted down were the only pieces of furniture in the room.
Someone was already sitting in one of the chairs. Another Coalition officer in a trim black uniform, but Ino caught the gold glint of braids marking his rank. A lieutenant, possible a lieutenant commander. It was only her and the high ranking officer. The officer that had dragged her from her cell hadn't entered. Just shut the door after he had shoved her into the room.
A long moment hung in the air, Ino resolutely standing, hoping beyond hope for an escape. The high ranked officer seemed to finally take notice of her, and politely stood up.
He had a halo-slate in his hand, and he referred to it before speaking to her. "Yamanaka, Ino?"
The older officer nodded and gestured her to sit. "I'm Lieutenant Lewis Haverty."
Ino sat in the offered chair, feeling the cold metal chill her exposed skin. Ino wondered how the others were doing. How many rooms like this could a ship possess? Were any of the crew being interrogated? Were they being treated well? A chill not from the cold ran down her spine. She remembered dissenting rumours about the treatment of prisoners. Lies, their professors told them. But in this room, Ino couldn't help but wonder if the law really protected the people inside rooms like these.
Haverty seemed to have expected a response from Ino, but she didn't give one. "Do you know why you're here, Yamanaka?" he asked after a few minutes of silence.
"No, sir," Ino answered, her voice sounding awfully weak and soft in the poorly lit room.
Lieutenant Haverty leaned close, his elbows resting on the table. Ino could see him better now. He seemed like a nice enough person. Someone her dad might go to local pub and grab a beer with. Haverty's face was clean shaven, and his hair was swept back. His hair was black or brown, it was hard to tell, but it was starting to go grey near his ears. Haverty was a fit looking man, but he still had that weight around the middle that most middle aged men found themselves with. He looked like an average Coalition officer.
Haverty wore a patient expression as he spoke. "You honestly don't have any idea why you're here? Why the Coalition might have interest in your ship? Not even a guess you could hazard?"
Something akin to horror coiled in Ino's gut. "No, sir. Not even a guess."
The blonde wanted to ask about the others; how were they were doing, if they were okay. That would have been a stupid idea. Keep it short and concise. Just answer the question, nothing more, Ino told herself. Kisame's words play stupid suddenly made a lot of sense. She could get them all dropped into whole heap of trouble if she wasn't careful.
The lieutenant leaned back, disappointment in his eyes. "Now, Yamanaka, I reckon you're a smart girl. Says here you were in the top ten of your class in the Academy. Now, that says something about you. That you're smart, driven, career-minded. I'm sure a clever girl like that can figure out why a Coalition ship might have interest in that little tin can of a merchant vessel."
Ino put on a thoughtful face. "I'm sir, I'm afraid I can't think of any reason why the Coalition would be interested in the Courtesan. Like you said, it's a merchant vessel. Nothing very exciting about it"
A cold mask replaced any warm feeling on Haverty's face. "Say it wasn't your ship. Why might a Coalition ship might board a ship without permission? You can answer that can't you?"
Ino faked another thoughtful expression, her heart pounding in her ribcage. Oh, things like piracy for one...
Ino struggled with her words; her mouth was dry and her throat itched. "Well... we- they must have broken some kind of protocol. Maybe they were in a no-fly zone. Or the cargo-hold was beyond capacity. Maybe the merchant license expired?"
Yeah, and while I'm at it why don't I suggest we forgot to use our turn signals at the last planet?
Ino wasn't really surprised that Haverty wasn't swallowing any of her bull. "All of those are punishable offenses, yes, but a not quite what I meant."
"What did you mean, then, sir?" Ino asked, continuing with her cute and stupid routine.
Haverty changed tactics on her. "I have a daughter about your age, did you know that?"
"No, sir, I didn't."
"She's a smart girl, just like you. I love her to pieces but she can give me such a headache. Gets herself involved in the most stupidest things. She doesn't think sometimes. It seems to be a daughter's duty to harass her father. Do you think you're father can relate, Yamanaka?"
"I don't know, sir. I try to listen to my father, but sometimes I think I disappointment him. But it's only human. It's not like I do it on purpose, sir."
Haverty nodded his head. "I think that's exactly what my daughter would say. And I agree with you. People make mistakes. Sometimes they don't realize they've made them. Sometimes they do realize it and they don't want to admit it."
Ino nodded slowly, her heart continuing to hammer in her chest. The lieutenant was giving her an out. Or he didn't have anything and was looking for something to nail Kisame and Itachi. Ino felt a pull on her loyalties. Every Coalition trained part of her was screaming at her to quit this farce and just come clean. But there was a small but loud part of her telling her that was wrong. The incident on the bridge indicated that this wasn't fair and seemed to be an attack on Itachi and Kisame. Like there was a vendetta or something. Maybe there was. She didn't know.
Haverty kept on talking. "Maybe you don't know that you've know something. But maybe you remember seeing something odd, something that seemed out of place?"
Ino put on her thoughtful face before slowly shaking her head. "I'm sorry, sir. Everything seemed normal enough. But I didn't see much, I mostly kept to myself in the infirmary."
"So you got along with the crew then?"
Ino shrugged, "For the most part, yes. They were nice enough."
"What do you know about them? Personally?"
Ino gave another shrug, a little confused. "Nothing really."
The lieutenant gave a nod and stood up. "If you'll wait a moment, I have to leave for just a few minutes. We shall continue our conversation shortly."
The lieutenant was not back 'shortly.' Ino wasn't sure how long he was gone, but it sure in hell didn't fit into any definition of 'shortly.' Nor would it have been classed as 'see you in a bit' or even 'I might be a while.' She was cold, tired, not to mention hungry when Haverty came back. Ino felt completely miserable. And she figured that was the point.
"I'm sorry about the wait," the lieutenant apologized. Ino didn't believe a word of it. This was another tactic. She was going to bet that he was going to badger her now, pull off and then play nice. He was hoping to break her or trip her up.
That could only mean one thing. They thought she had something to tell them and that she was lying. Didn't matter if it was the truth, but it was appalling that they assumed so.
Haverty had thick manila folders filled with sheaves of papers. Even in the digital age carbon copies were still favourable in certain situations. They hurt less if they get thrown at you by an angry suspect, for starters.
"Now where were we? Ah, yes, I asked what you knew about your employers." Haverty flipped through one of the folders and found what he was looking for: several thick, glossy photographs. He slapped each one down in front of her, making her flinch every time a new horror was revealed.
They were crime scene photos: grisly, uncensored crime scene photos. Ino was sure that if she hadn't been a medical officer she would have lost her stomach contents.
Haverty took in Ino's ashen face and thought it better to explain. A finger directed Ino's gaze to one particular photo. "I know it's probably hard to see the resemblance now but this couple was Fugaku and Mikoto Uchiha. Itachi and Sasuke's parents. In the reports, this apparently was all done with a kitchen knife, but that was only after someone finished tenderizing them with a baseball bat."
Haverty directed Ino's attention another photograph. "That's what was left of an Ambassador after Hoshigaki was finished."
Haverty pointed to some other photos. "Also Hoshigaki's work. As well as this one, man certainly as a flair violence. Iron stomach, too."
A word came to mind when Ino saw the photos; butchered. The people had been butchered. These images were going to be stuck with her for the rest of life. She knew that with the line of business that Courtesan found itself in, and the people it associated with, that it would have some skeletons in the closet. But it was one thing to assume there was a skeleton, another thing entirely to see it paraded in front of her in HD colour photos. It made her realize how little she knew about Kisame. The person that seemed to care about her, that he seemed to get flustered over her, didn't seem like the same monster who committed the acts in the photos. What kind of bloody past did Kisame Hoshigaki have?
"Why are you showing me these?" Ino asked, turning her face away, horrified. She could taste bile at the back of her throat.
"To make you realize something. That the people who you've been living with are monsters. Plain and simple."
It got less pleasant after that. Apparently now that she had seen the light on Itachi's and Kisame's past she should have been more forthcoming with information. Much to Haverty's disappointment she wasn't. She couldn't blame him, it almost did work. Her faith in Kisame and the captain was shaky now, she wasn't sure that this was a mess that they were going to get her out of. But it was her stubbornness that glued her tongue to the roof of her mouth. She wasn't going to hand Kisame over, not until she got a chance to talk to him about the photos. Not until she had heard some kind of explanation.
When it became obvious that Ino wasn't going to provide the necessary confession it was hours of harassing interrogation. Haverty yelling at her; how long were they planetside, what kind of stock did they leave or take, did they take any detours? Ino stuck with simple "I don't know answers." Then it started to get personal. What was her relationship with the crew? Was she friends with any of them? Was she sleeping with the captain?
"God, no!" Ino said appalled.
"Why were you so far from your quarters, then, when we boarded? We found all your belongings in the guest dorms."
"I was getting coffee."
"In your pajamas?"
"Yes, sir, in my pajamas."
The only thing that kept her from breaking down was the thought that if she kept her mouth shut, played stupid long enough, that Haverty would get bored. If he didn't get the testimony that he needed then he would be forced to let them ago. All of them. She was sure that no one else would break down. She was the weakest link.
"Why are you are protecting them? They're criminals; they wouldn't give you the same courtesy!" Haverty screamed at her, his fists slamming into the table.
That was a lie; just because they were criminals didn't make them less human. Less compassionate. Haku would take time out of her day just to make sure that Ino ate. Itachi was always polite with her; he never treated her with any hostility. Sure, Ino didn't get along well with either with Zabuza or Sasuke, but she was sure there were reasons for that. But just because they weren't nice to her didn't make them bad people. Zabuza's tough guy act dropped when he thought he was alone with Haku, and Sasuke obviously worshipped his older brother. And Kisame... he was one of the most complicated people she had ever met; he could be a cold, rude bastard with a temper, but he was also funny, loyal and could be a complete gentleman. He might not have been a saint but he was no devil either.
Ino shrugged, "I'm not protecting anyone, sir. If I knew anything, I swear I would tell you."
Haverty opened his mouth to speak, but a comm-link crackled to life. "Lieutenant, you're presence is required on deck."
Haverty gave Ino a withering look before he stomped out of the room. "We'll return this conversation when I return."
It was eerily quiet when the Lieutenant left. It had been hours since he had left last, and Ino's ears were ringing from his constant yelling. There was some distant rumblings and soft shakes that shuddered through the ship. Ino assumed it was the natural noises of the engine echoing through the ship.
With a heavy sigh, the medic laid her head on the table and closed her eyes. She might as well get some sleep until Haverty came back to yell at her some more.
"Well that's gone and tears it!" Haverty yelled, the door slamming shut behind as he stomped in. Ino skittered, semi-awake, and almost fell from her chair.
"Get your ass up and out of my interrogation room," Haverty seethed, gesturing to an officer behind him to release the cuffs from Ino's wrists.
"Sorry, sir?" Ino asked, rubbing at her raw wrists.
Haverty gave an aggravated flick of his wrist. "You're not my problem anymore. We're just holding you now until you give your testimony to the Medical Board."
"Sir?" Ino asked, still confused and wondering if she was still sleeping.
"I have no authority to question you, seeing as our suspects have gone and vanished in the middle of space. With their ship, no less. Now it's the Board decision on what to do with you, and if they have any sense they'll strip you of your rank and give you a dishonourable discharge."
Ino couldn't comprehend anything at that moment. She only understood two things; the crew of the Courtesan had somehow escaped, and Kisame had abandoned her. Again.
A/N: I apologize for the long wait. The last and final chapter shouldn't be too long in the wings hopefully. And some people have called me out on one inconsistency - that'll be answered in the final chapter. Thank you my dears for you patience!