Born an expendable child of the royal family of Otogakure, honorable suicide is the highest thing Sasuke could ever hope to attain. His death was hoped for, expected, but not to be. Captured in the hands of the enemy, and with his own people seeking his demise, Sasuke must choose between two worlds: one offering death with honor, the other life with love.
Crown Prince Sasuke Uchiha of Otogakure was seventeen years old, and he was trespassing.
With Lady Sakura Haruno in his wake, he lifted and twisted his body up the expanse of the outer wall and into the inner partition of the palace. Another ten meters upward and Sasuke neared the specific shift in the craggy stone that gave him just enough room to pass between sheer rock, his nose barely touching against the opposite wall as he moved. Digging his fingers into the craggy stone of the Electorate High Council Chambers, he was grateful that when these structures had been built centuries before, the architects had reflected on style rather than security.
As is, the cracks in the surfaces of the buildings offered too many hand and footholds, and places in between walls didn't quite add up and made for perfect little nooks to sneak through and around into the inner chambers of the palace. All of them ancient places to spy on unsuspecting lawmakers, and Sasuke had become very adept at finding the best passageways over the years. When he no longer had use for them, Sasuke reasoned to keep his conscience clear, he would have each of his hideaways destroyed. No council he would sit in would be spied upon.
Another meter above him was a tiny ventilation shaft that would offer him a passageway to the view directly below to the proceedings of council. This shaft, he reflected with a light smirk, would certainly be off limits if anyone besides himself and the girl half a meter below him knew it existed. A tiny crumbling noise accompanied by a soft gasp caught Sasuke's ears.
"Sakura!" he hissed. "Be quiet!"
The girl didn't reply, her strawberry-blonde hair bouncing off her shoulders as she maintained her composure and reached for another handhold. Sakura was a sturdy, inventive girl, but no matter how much physical training she endured, her upper body strength appeared to remain subpar, a failing she could hardly escape with Sasuke always dragging her on these escapades into secret passageways. Without giving him a glance to spare, she gritted her teeth, flexed her arms, and scaled another half meter by shoving her legs down as hard as she could, almost catapulting herself off the wall. Somehow she retained her balance and finally looked up at him to give him a flash of white teeth. Sasuke smirked and also continued upward.
Turning his attention toward the opening, he snaked his body quickly inside, feeling instantly the turn from ancient to modern under his fingers. The metal shaft stretched on for a few meters before Sasuke veered left, voices echoing in the distance. They were getting closer. He checked behind him for a moment to see that Sakura was behind him still, though at a sizable distance. She'd make it fine. He turned another corner and was finally met with his desire: a break in the shaft in the form of a ventilation screen that glared a serene blue light over Sasuke's face as he approached it. Directly below him lay the council, each of the members of the Royal Otogakure family accompanied by an assortment of Space Federation members, whose arrival had been kept so tantalizingly secret that Sasuke couldn't possibly help himself. He hadn't spied on a council meeting in at least two years, but whispers of upcoming war had him itching with concern. Behind him, Sakura finally arrived and shoved his brown boots out of her path to practically crawl onto his back to afford her a better look.
Sasuke ignored her pushiness, only murmuring a "Stay quiet," in response, and turned his attention to the council below him. Inside the council chamber, the Electors from Ame, officials in dark robes who had arrived only that morning in a space cruiser built for speed, spoke in deep and solemn voices. They were all elder men, wrinkled and solemn, with low voices that hardly made it to Sasuke's aching ears. Two more allies, the Kirigakure system and the Mizugakure system, also sat on the side of the Federation, their powdered wigs offset their liquidly pale skins. There were a total of six Electors from the Water Systems, as they were nicknamed, and with the dozen more from the Federation as well as the Royal Otogakure Family, the council chambers were relatively crowded. The most impressive of the Federation systems by far was Konohagakure, the largest group who had arrived in ships that Sasuke could only dream about flying. Behind each of the electors stood their royal guard, powerful-looking men in an assortment of fine clothing, each tailored space suits to preserve the image of power in front of other nations as well as serve as comfortable equipment to best protect the guard's charges. Sasuke had seen the Federation ships' arrival himself only that morning and despite all his inquiries, no information was afforded him except there would be some form of meeting wherein matters of great importance would be discussed.
Sasuke studied the blasters and laser crossbows tucked at the sides of each of the guards and felt the nerves in his skin crackle once more. These were men who had seen the vastness of the universe, had left their home planets and had escaped to the stars above to explore other systems. Sasuke could only imagine with hooded eyes how it would feel to power his way outside the atmosphere of the Otogakure System in a T35-Sharingan, nothing but space looming endlessly on his nav-screen. Soon, he promised himself, he and Sakura would be roaming the free space and taking on missions to the farthest corners of the galaxy.
His eyes drifted back to the Konohagakure group once more, their sheer presence so commanding that he couldn't tear his gaze away. A woman headed them, surprisingly. She seemed to find it necessary to show a great amount of cleavage despite her commanding air and heavily guarded person. She had three advisors around her, one who was currently whispering in her ear, the other two standing at attention on either side of her. His words must have elicited some sort of trigger in the woman ruler, for in the next second she made a comment to the rest of the council that had the room reconsidering the subject at hand. Sasuke found himself unintentionally enamored with her guard, however, who hinged his body at the hip and coincidentally revealed his Kunai-X62, a powerful handheld blaster that Sasuke had only read about before. He gulped and leaned down so close to the screen that he could feel an impression beginning to form on his cheek and lips. Another of the Konoha men sported an alternative Kunai series weapon, one that Sasuke could see was equipped with a glasteel blade protruding every so slightly from the top of the hilt. A smart hit to any part of the body with that weapon would incapacitate any enemy, and Sasuke suppressed a flicker of envy for such weaponry. The Otogakure System was notorious for its rather callous methods of attack, but certainly not for their technological advances. In an effort not to dwell on his home's short-comings, Sasuke shifted his head to the third guard of the Konoha system and spotted a surprisingly unimpressive-looking weapon hanging from a man's hip. It appeared to be nothing more than a cylinder, a few pieces of polished metal clinging to the sides like ancient battlements to a castle, but the sheer authority of the man holding it as well as the ease with which he stood directly beside the council members of the Konoha Electorate suggested that perhaps it held other powers yet to be seen. The man holding the cylinder appeared to have light-colored hair, but with the shadows of the council chamber so complete, Sasuke could make out little else, save the glimmer of silver, maybe blue, eyes.
Sasuke followed the man's gaze in the next second and noticed finally that he was staring at the Akatsuki. The legendary Otogakure guardians stood directly behind the royal family. Their over-large black a nd red cloaks possessed an ethereal flow about them that appeared to be in constant motion even with no wind and no movement from the body. The Akatsuki themselves remained completely motionless, all weapons hidden, their faces even masked behind shadows and long bangs that hung in front of all human features. Another shudder stole over Sasuke's body upon beholding the three men.
Opposite the Konoha Federation Officials, the Royal Family sat in serenity and all the grace sophisticated breeding offered, the High King of Otogakure elevated slightly above his two heirs. All of them were related to Sasuke by blood. His cousin Kabuto, the youngest man in the council chambers at twenty-two and thereby the lowest seated in the hierarchy, sat straight as a pin, a light smile hovering over his lips while the glint in his spectacles cast an unworldly light over his eyes. Occasionally as the conversation would flow away from his direction, Sasuke would see his lips twitch unconsciously, frowning for a moment only to be replaced in the next by the ever-constant smile.
Beside Kabuto sat Orochimaru, his milk-pale skin and sharp eyes in the dim lighting causing shivers to crawl up Sasuke's spine. Orochimaru was Kabuto's elder brother by a dozen years or so and while his presence didn't command respect, it commanded attention. Cradled neatly in the traditional clothing of the royal family, he cut an appealing figure, dark hair swathed about his broad shoulders. He also held a simpering smile, his voice light and clear when he spoke pleasantries toward the other members of the council. Occasionally his gaze would flit to Kabuto, who appeared to have a tap into his brother's mind, and they would share an equally minced smile that Sasuke could never understand no matter if they were family or not.
Above them all sat Madara Uchiha, the King of all Otogakure and surrounding planets and the highest-ranking Electorate present, even above all the members of his own council. He was a tower of strength, a good head and a half taller than any man in the room, the Uchiha crest and color scheme adorning every square centimeter of his body. His eyes were calm and smiling as well and seemed intent on what one of the members of the council was saying, though Sasuke could only guess if such focus was true.
Beside him, Sakura shifted slightly, which caused Sasuke to freeze, his eyes focusing intently on the Akatsuki below him. One of them, a man who had a small stature but commanded authority nonetheless, shifted his red eyes upward and made specific eye contact with Sasuke. He made no formal motion except to move next to his master the king and whisper into his ear. The young Uchiha flinched and shoved himself backward.
"That's it, Sakura! They've got us! Hurry back down the shaft and run for the fort up near the northern border. I'll take the east side and come out the palace gates." Sasuke's mind raced with possible escape routes. He'd evaded the palace guards effectively before, he'd surely do it again. The Akatsuki were an entirely different animal, but he was confident with his knowledge of the area that they had a fighting chance. Forming large-sized tracks in the once undisturbed dust, he shoved both himself and Sakura father back down the shaft, hastily kicking the girl a little down one of the adjacent corridors. "Don't worry! I'll meet you there if I-"
"Third Prince Sasuke Uchiha, come down from there this instant."
It was the voice of one of the Akatsuki, which one he couldn't be sure.
Both of the adolescents froze. Sakura's green eyes widened in panic for a split second before Sasuke clamped a hand over her pink lips and gave her a glare that could have perhaps frightened half the men down in the room below. It certainly worked on Sakura, who wilted under his intense gaze, giving his hand a quick squeeze before silently skidding herself backwards, pivoting her body toward the exit and sliding down.
Sasuke took a moment, smoothed his black hair back into a presentable shape, inhaled a shaky breath, prepared for the worst and all at once shoved his hand through the vent, which clattered noisily to the stone floor a good five meters below. The shocked gasps of a few of the council members pleased him slightly as he dropped himself from the edge of the newly created hole and landed neatly on his hands and knees before the high council of Otogakure, facing both his cousins and uncle head on. He raised his head and gave each of the royal family a small, refined bow.
Sasuke felt no guilt, only remorse over having been caught so decidedly.
Despite that, he knew his position. He was the third child to a noble household, a Missling to the king, and an expendable. He tried not to think about the kind of consequences that could be easily dealt to a subject who didn't have much longer to live even in normalcy. He could feel the entire room tense as they all must have come to the same conclusion, but Otogakure was a system known for its rather archaic punishing methods. He shuddered mentally at what they had done to him last month, when he'd been caught in violation of curfew in one of the off-limits flight simulators: an injection of Manda, Kabuto's most lethal stimulant, which sent the victim's mind into an utter tumult of jumbled thought and feeling. He'd been put in the same off-limit simulator he'd violated curfew in, only with a hefty dosage of Manda purging his veins and heightening his senses until every light was unbearable, every sound excruciating. Even more worrying was the fact that several Misslings had been killed for far less in the past. Sasuke quickly eyed the Otogakure Electorate, old men who lived in constant reminder of their own power and importance. They stared condescendingly down their noses at the Third Prince, regarding him callously as nothing but a Missling, and Sasuke reflected with the curling of his stomach that most if not all of the council members would enjoy a little blood with their politics.
Sasuke attempted to look submissive and contrite but felt neither.
Madara Uchiha stood from his chair, his cascading robes and Uchiha red pendants dangling ceremoniously off his shoulders, giving the effect of a royal portrait come to life. "So, Sasuke, it appears you have chosen to spy on the Electorate this time."
The 'this time' Madara had included in his phrasing almost made Sasuke smile.
The young Uchiha raised his eyes to his uncle who had spoken. Madara was as broad and imposing up close as he was from far away, an ethereal youth clinging to his skin and hair perhaps only by a thread, but Sasuke could tell no difference. He only knew that as king, Madara could take Sasuke's imposition on the council chambers as a direct act of both heresy and high treason, and also there was-
"Such rude behavior for a Missling."
Sasuke could feel rather than see the smile that had been delivered with the cruel statement.
"Don't be rude, Lord Orochimaru," Kabuto interjected with grace. "Such words are not appropriate for council chambers."
Orochimaru turned to the members of the Federacy as well as to the members of the neighboring planets to apologize, rather than sparing a glance down at Sasuke, who slowly got to his feet and leveled an even glance at the lords of his home planet.
Madara visibly appeared to be making his decision, leaning his forehead against a wide, ashen palm. Wordlessly, he motioned to the two Akatsuki standing at his side. They reacted without having to be directly told, securing Sasuke unnecessarily by both of his arms, while another Akatsuki member held the younger man forcibly down by his neck. Sasuke's lips nearly kissed the polished floor. The young man, spurred on by the violation of his right to look his punisher in the eye throughout the trial, attempted to raise his head, but he was shoved back down repeatedly.
"Sasuke, this is by far not your first offense against the traditions of this governmental body. Your lack of cooperation with the rules and regulations of your position as a Missling also disturbs me."
Sasuke mentally cringed at the exaggeration of the word but schooled his face into submission. He could feel the eyes of the council on him, long standing Otogakure citizens who looked down their noses at him, the expendable. Sasuke could feel the Akatsuki member slightly tighten his hold on his collar, almost choking him in the unbearable hold. He felt the perverse desire to kick the man.
Casting a cautious glance behind him, Sasuke swept over the Konoha leaders once more, who had moved aside until the interruption was removed. Incongruously, he looked at the youngest of the three, the one who had before only been noted for his strange weaponry. The man was tall, fine-featured and in greater illumination could be seen for how truly young he was, perhaps only a decade older than Sasuke yet proudly displaying Colonel stars on his navy blue uniform. He glanced in Sasuke's direction, effectively catching his gaze before he could successfully tear himself away, and Sasuke noted with the sputter of his own heartbeat that the man didn't have silver eyes but a most invasive blue he had ever seen.
The Akatsuki holding him again tightened his grip, effectively forcing Sasuke to look away while simultaneously breaking the spell over the boy. Sasuke somehow found himself relieved as he stared up at his uncle.
"Your majesty," Sasuke said softly. He thought it appropriate to appear as remorseful as humanly possible, hoping that sheer civility and a display of good breeding might grant him some leniency for his crime. Surely Otogakure did not want to shame itself by punishing a lowly Missling in front of foreigners. "I apologize for my actions, for interrupting, and promise never to observe you again."
"You've forced my hand, Sasuke," Madara said in a low voice. He narrowed his eyes and seemed to come to a conclusion. "You're sentenced to two months of house arrest, during which time you will not leave your quarters for any reason other than to attend your daily courses and train appropriately. When you attend class, you will be escorted. Captain Nagato will see to this. "
Sasuke looked up to the man holding his neck in the vice-like grip and noted how he nodded a slight bow to Madara. Sasuke closed his eyes, silent relief flooding his system. It could have been much, much worse—
"Also, during those two weeks, you will be subjugated to daily Manda injections, which if you even once refuse to submit to will result in your untimely and dishonorable discharge, if you quite catch my meaning, Sasuke. I can only come to the conclusion that you seek to disrupt the order we provide in this governmental body because you desire the thrill of stimulus. I will see to it that you are given enough stimulus to satiate you once and for all."
Sasuke's head shot up, black eyes widening to uncomfortable proportions. But no matter the waves of paralyzing fear that shot up and down his spine, he would not let it show on his face.
"The Manda injections will start today as well. Kabuto." Madara gestured to his left-hand man, who was already standing demurely from his chair, dark robes swirling playfully around his feet. Sasuke didn't miss the slight smile hidden just under the darkness of shadow cover. Captain Nagato released Sasuke from his tight hold at last, and Sasuke shakily brought himself upward to look at the king and surrounding members of the council with an unafraid gaze. He offered a bow, hinging at the hips and remaining so before he was jerked unceremoniously to the side, allowing himself to be led away to a fate that had him sweating bullets.
It could have been worse, he reasoned rationally. He could have been killed. But the thought of Manda swirling through his veins for the next two months caused him to stumble slightly, his hands sweating so badly that when the Akatsuki member attempted to catch his fall, he nearly slipped from the man's hold. Almost in a feverish swivel, Sasuke's eyes met the Konoha Colonel's, who seemed to be just as horrified as Sasuke felt. Those blue eyes had a luminance all their own, and once again Sasuke's breath caught in his throat. But in the next second Sasuke was out the door, and the eyes couldn't have meant less to him.
His own boots sounded ominous and hollow as he passed from one corridor to another, finally meeting the frigid Otogakure air in the depths of winter as they exited into the central palace courtyard. Kabuto was hot on Sasuke's heels and nearly giddy in his excitement. Kabuto had no animosity toward Sasuke: Sasuke knew this. Kabuto, however, had a special penchant for the chemicals that made Sasuke want to die in a hundred different ways. Sasuke was naturally Kabuto's most frequent test subject considering his own penchant for punishments. As they made their way into the western side of the courtyard toward Kabuto's own personal sector, Sasuke saw Sakura's light hair glimmer in the distance. He caught her eyes as she clung to the palace gates, staring him down and communicating with no words her worry.
He could only offer a small smile and a gesture toward his destination. While he expected her to be relived he had escaped death, he only saw horror mask her features. Sakura was one of the very few who knew of Sasuke's acute phobia of needles and Manda. She looked near bursting to tears as Sasuke slowly scaled the stairs up to marble-coated structure, finally losing sight of his closest friend as the metal door slammed behind him.
It would be another year before Otogakure would begin the war with Konoha.
So here is the beginning of my new Sci Fi Fic, Star Fighters. It's going to be pretty darn interesting if I say so myself, and I plan on it being something of an epic. So read and such and such.