A/N: Alright ladies and gentlmen, good news! I'm back again and no more surgeries! I've been getting a lot of flak lately on some of my works, so I decided to put as much time and effort as I possible could into this bad boy, at a whopping twelve thousand words! It took nearly a blood week to pump all this out, get all the refrences right, and make it as entertaining as possible! Hope ya'll enjoy it!

I know I enjoyed writing it!

Still, I'm feeling a bit better now. Really. I'm hanging tough though, having come through all the crap I've been getting in life. Also, I start my new job this monday, so I may not have time to update as frequently as I have been as of late! But never fear, I intend to work myself to the bone if need be to keep these works up and running. And so, without further adeu...

...onto the next chapter! Uzumaki Crossver was supposed to help me with this, but sadly, he lost the data he was working on, so here it is anyway at my hands. If you're reading this bro, we can work on the next chapter together, kay? I also through a bit of TFS humor in here for anyone who might be able to see it! Anyhow...

...here we go! I tried to write everyone in character as best I could and...we get a surprise! I tried to pack as much emotion, romance, sorrow, and all around humor into this chapter as I could! I hope you enjoy it, because its a long one! Can't wait to see your reviews!

"...WHERE !IS! MY! JACKIE!"

~Uzumaki Naruto!

Renegade

"Can I just say that this is seriously a bad idea?"

"You can," Naruto answered with a half-hearted shrug from where he stood. "Or you can keep driving. Personally, I recommend the latter."

For a long moment, Flight Lieutenant Jeff Moreau actually considered backsassing the man who was now pointing a gun at the back of his head. If only out of spite. Then he remembered that there was a freaking Asari Commando standing only three feet away; and Shiala didn't have Naruto's sense of humor. Or, any, for that matter. He was also fairy certain that the asari could snap him in half without so much as batting an eyelash in his direction. Kinda hot, really. Ah, crap. Shame she was only loyal to Naruto-ah crapbaskets. The bastard knew he was staring.

"Joker."

"Right, right." Muttering softly to himself, he returned his attention to the console. "Flying the ship. Exiting the relay...now."

With a soft thum of a sound the Normandy deaccelerated, the white-blue glow of FTL fading as they landed squarely within the Terminus Systems. This was it. They were officially screwing the pooch here. If the Council found out that they'd gone rogue-however briefly-Shepard could very well lose her Spectre status. The rest of them could be court-martialed. Or worse, their prescence here could start a war in the Terminus Systems. Under normal circumstances, the Purgatory was a drifting ship, moving from system to systems.

Now, it just so-happened to be in the Terminus. Of all the ill luck.

Nearly an hour had passed since Naruto's little mutiny; in which he had locked down the cargo bay and everyone in it. Then he'd jammed their comms, followed by locking out of the cockpit himself. Their Alliance crew thought it was a little strange that they hadn't seen hide nor hair of The Commander in the last sixty minutes, but since all the witnesses were temporarily trapped on the lowest decks there was nothing for them to do but wait and wonder what was going on. In a few short minutes, he'd be off the ship and this would all be over.

Unbidden, his mind flashed back to the very moment the young man had taken control.

"I can't believe making me disobey a direct order! That's breaking numero uno, right there!" he'd said.

"I'm aware of that." the gun-toting phantom replied nonchalantly, "But you're going to do it anway."

"And if I don't?"

"Then I toss your sorry ass out the nearest airlock."

Joker's mouth had snapped shut with an audible click.

That'd been nearly an hour ago. Now Purgatory loomed before them in all its glory, a quiet husk awaiting its newest guests.

Owned by the notorious Blue Suns mercenary company, the Purgatory was once an "ark ship" of sorts, formerly used to hold agricultural animals. Now it was used to hold prisoners, whether taken in battle or sold by unscrupulous buyers/politicians under the name of subcontracting and outsourcing. Rumors abound that the Blue Suns turned skilled or fit prisoners over to batarian slavers and other less reptuable ilk, but few could claim to have seen the transaction and lived to tell about it. Its population was listed at 4,350, but independent journalists estimated it to be nearly three times that in periods of overcrowding.

Currently, it was operated by a turian known as Kurin. He fancied himself the Warden of the place. He was a hard, unforgiving man, one who disliked humans, and didn't take kindly to unscheduled visitors. Naruto and Shiala were about to kick down his door. Alone. The Normandy had a veritable death squad at his back, but Naruto only taking his follower with him. That didn't sit well with Joker. There was a foul glint in those bright blue eyes, one that suggested this was more than just

It was personal.

"Want me to, ah, stick around?"

"No," Naruto answered tersely as his geth arm reached over and pressed a button in the armored gauntlet of his suit. "That won't be necessary." Almost immediately the deceptively simple attire bristled around the crimson biotic; harsh angles all but rising from the shoulders and arms, creating dark vambrace and pauldrons around the organic parts of his body. His synthetic arm -already intimidating in its own right- remained entirely untouched.

But not his face.

An entirely new helmet folded into place around his face in place of the old blue facade; a gleaming helm forged of black and red. From which a V-shaped visor of inky scarlet darkness shone. He looked like a renegade, again, through and through. Joker was suddenly reminded that Naruto didn't answer to the Council; this was someone who preserved a semblance of order in the Terminus. A murderer amongst murderer. He was Aria's right hand man, a relentless ruthless enforcer who lived by his own rules and cared for little beyond the Quarians. But at the end of the day, as they'd seem time and time again, he answered to no one but himself.

Now, that malestrom of anger and destruction was looking at him.

When next he spoke, the anger-sheer, primal hate-in those words nearly made Joker wet himself. "We'll find our own transportation. Just make sure you head for Noveria afterward as soon as we've disembarked." The malice wasn't even directed at him and it nearly made him woozy. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Shiala shimmer slightly in his peripheal, her body wreathed in the blue fire of her biotics as she modded the ammo of her rifle, infusing each shot with the barrier-warping lethality of biotic power. Still, Joker felt inclined to ask another question.

"Why Noveria?"

The harsh click of a safety being removed answered that question.

"Alright!" he raised his hands in feeble defense. "Just asking."

"I want you to be well under way when I remove the lock on the cargo bay." Naruto answered as he marched past, approaching the Normandy's airlock in preparation as they neared the prison vessel's own. "Shepard's going to be mad as a hornet when she gets out of there and I'd rather not deal with her until I've wrapped things up here. Besides. That's where I intend to meet up with you... once I've checked this out." There was a moment of silence, accompanied by a faint tremor as they forcibly collided with a docking tube-an unopened docking tube. Seemed Kurin wasn't too keen on letting them in. Joker sighed.

"Does Tali know about this?"

The blazing visor jerked toward him without a word. If looks could kill...

"Jeez, sorry I asked!"

"You should be."

Naruto raised his geth arm and summoned the omnitool he'd grafted into it. Bits of code flashed through the air as the three fingers of his artificial limb worked at some unknown puzzle. Moments passed in silence-their eyes watching as he chipped away at an invisible firewall. Abruptly the lock opened, the red light flashing green in admittance. Naruto and Shiala stepped through, and the hatch snapped shut behind the two of them. A beat later and the Normandy's VI announced that they were disembarking. The door closed.

Not a moment later, Naruto's voice came over the comm. "I've released the lock."

"Punch it."

"And if I don't?"

"Then that program I installed in the cockpit when you weren't looking will selfdestruct, giving you one hell of a sunburn. Now. Go."

Joker did just that.


"Bosh'tet!"

Tali yelped loudly, first in surprise then in anger as a sudden and abrupt acceleration unexpectedly ripped her out of her own self-imposed misery and slammed her down to the floor of the engine room. Hard. Somehow she managed to get an arm out and catch herself in time, so instead of smashing her helmet on the deck, she only broke her wrist. Medigel flooded her suit, numbing the pains and healing the injury. She barely noticed it at all. No, her mind was decidedly elsewhere, wrapped up in thoughts that involved cursing her boyfriend and his pigheadeness.

Joker had just gotten the hell out of Dodge as the human saying went, and she knew why.

Because she hadn't stayed in the engine room.

She'd seen Naruto knock everyone out. Seen Shiala freeze Wrex then beat him down to join the others. Knew what they were planning.

Despite fleeing from him only moments before, she'd still tried to follow the phantom up the elevator after they'd left...only to realize they'd locked it behind them. And jammed the comms. Again, stupid blond bosh'tet, and stupid her for loving him so much! She didn't understand what his connection with this Jack were, but she knew she didn't like them-

Beep.

Her Omnitool chimed suddenly, signalling a message. Just like that, the jamming was gone. Without thinking, she queued it up and accessed it. It was a vidfed. Odd. The only one who knew the codes to her Omnitoool was her father or-

Naruto's face shone before her in holographic. He was smiling.

"Hey, Tal." the message began. "If you're hearing this, well, I guess shit has finally hit the fan in some way or another. I'm either dead or I've gone off to find Jack. You're probably none too happy with either decision. I coded this a few months back and slipped it into your tool when you weren't looking. Hope ya don't mind. Gah," His whiskered face scrunched cutely in annoyance. "I'm getting off track here. Look...whatever you may think of me and what I've done, you should know this; I never meant to hurt you. If its about Jack, then I'll tell you the whole story here and now...in case there isn't a later.

"We met when we were kids. Cerberus kept us in the same cell. We busted out of Pragia ourselves and hitched a shuttl to Omega. Then we got separated ,and attacked by Geth. That's when you found me. Please don't be angry. Jack's part of who I am and I can't change that, but you've been a key part of my life for all these years too, and," here his cheeks did color a pretty pink, "I can't imagine it without you."

She felt her eyes begin to water.

"I love you, Tali." he said. "More than anything. Nothing can change that."

Just like that the message winked out. A sinking feeling was left in her gut. He loved her. Always would. And the one time he'd asked her to trust him, she'd all but pushed him away. A tiny sob trickled through the filter of her helmet.

"Oh, Keelah...

What had she done to him? What had she done? Dear ancestors above and below what had she done?

Dimly, Tali realized she couldn't feel her legs. Couldn't move them, either. It...It wasn't from his message. Something else was doing this to her. The faint, tingling sensation that still lingered from that red spark of his must've spread to the rest of her body somehow. Now, it was causing her immune system to react in an alarming fashion. She couldn't see the changes taking place-but she fould feel them. She felt ill. Nauseous. Cold sweat beaded across her brow. Something was wrong. Something was terribly, horribly wrong. It felt like she was running a fever, but this...she'd never felt anything like this before.

'Ancestors, what's happening to me? Naruto...what did you do?'

Her last thought was of her beloved blond before the black abyss of sleep took her.


Surprisingly there were no one was there to greet them at the airlock.

"Strange." Shiala murmurred, her dark eyes roving about the empty hall. "I would have thought they wouldn't take kindly to our intrusion."

She was right. There were no guards anywhere to be seen. There should have been at least one. No alarms, either. Stranger still. Silent as the grave.

Naruto risked a glance back at her. "You didn't have to do this, ya know. It'll probably get ugly."

The asari gave him an odd look, as though he'd just suggested something woefully unpleasant. "I have sworn a lifedebt to you. To relinquish that vow now, would be dishonorable of me. Besides," her lips quirked in the slightest of smiles, the first true sign of emotion he'd seen from her since she'd come aboard. "If your comrade is truly trapped here you're going to need more than just a good shot. I'm certain two biotics of our calibre will be able to figure something out." her smile turned decidedly impish as she left the word dangling, her full lips hanging open like perfectly mature flush blossoms. A deep shudder went down his spine.

Naruto was suddenly grateful for the helmet; because beneath it, his face had turned a bright cherry red at the implications of her words.

"Yes, well, ah...I suppose you're right about that." He was almost grateful when he finally saw the guards. "Well, looks like we have company."

Her smile faded slightly, the brief flirtation all but forgotten.

"So it would seem."

Indeed they came to the end of the next corridor, and a turian prison guard made them halt. Like most blue suns, this one was sheathed in blue and white armour and a helmet with a glowing blue visor obscured his face. It didn't help his case much. Naruto had to physically restrain himself from raising his geath arm and blowing a gaping hole right through that faceless facade. But as much as he wanted to go in guns blazing-he knew that a subtle touch was required.

No shots were fired...for now.

"Welcome to Purgatory, Phantom." If the trio were at all surprisde by the young man's arrival, they did very little to show it. "What is your business here?"

"You can tell me where Jack is."

"We have many prisoners named Jack." came the reply.

"Perhaps you'd know her by this name then." his voice was cold. Hard. Like the void. "She's a recent acquisition. Subject Zero."

The turian stiffened, ever so slightly. Behind his own helmet, Naruto felt his lips curl into a triumphant sneer.

Gotcha.

"As this is a high risk facility, I must first ask you and your companion to relinquish your weapons before we conduct any transactions-

Beyond the main door, everone heard a scream. A female scream.

Naruto's finger twitched on the trigger. Two options lay before him.

He could proceed peacefuly and surrender his and Shiala's arms, as well as their lives to the goodwill of a prison warden who was known for kidnapping. They both had their biotics if it came down to a fight, and he had several other surprises besides. If Jack really was here-he sould be able to secure her release with a simple exchange of credits. Years of occasional bounty hunting on the side had left him with a sizeable credit account even though most of it was often used in service of the migrant feelt. It was the peaceful solution, one that would end with little loss of life and both parties. Peaceful...

He wasn't feeling peaceful.

"Shiala," he said aloud, "Have you ever heard of the saying might makes right?"

"Can't say that I have."

"Right. Lets do something about that, shall we?"

Faster than the naked eye could register he stepped forward and plunged his hand into nearest guard's armored gut, his arm sheathing itself to the elbow. The bird gagged in suprise, a throaty croak sounding through what passed for a helment. His shields were deactivated-he hadn't thought he'd need them on door duty. First mistake. Also his last. Unimpeded by the faint electrical discharge, his gauntle tore through the armor as though it were nothing more than cardboard before exploding out his back in a shower of gore. The man was dead before he even realized he'd been impaled, bleeding out from the now gaping hole in his midsection. The other two guards stood there, gawping at the brazen act of brutality.

"What the hell?!"

He whipped out his own Carnifex and aimed it straight at the second guard's visor even as he opened fire, swinging the turian's corpse around like a meat shield to soak up the rifle fire. Behind him, Shiala was a violent violet blur, her hands locking around the neck of the nearest guard-a Batarian-with frightening speed. She gave a sharp wrench. The man toppled to the ground before he could get off so much as a single shot. He was mildly impressed at the speed with which she'd anticipated his actions. Naruto smiled at the turian who'd taken aim at him in the first place-a subtle nudge ripped his now overheated gun out of his hands and sent that battered weapon clattering down the hall.

Then he returned his attention to the turian, the one who'd first asked him to hand over his weapons.

"I'll relinquish one bullet," he said calmly. "Where would you like it?"

Before the remaining guard could do more than sweat, the door behind him slid open with a hiss, and another turian stepped out. He wasn't wearing a helmet, which afforded him a good look at his face. Strangely for a turian, he didn't appear to have any facial markings whatsoever. What had Garrus called that? Barefaced?

"Phantom." the turian's mandibles fluttered in visible surprise at the bloody scene that stood befor ehim. "My name is Warden Kuril. I take it you're the one slaughtering my men?"

"Oh, no, no." Naruto drawled as he dropped the guard's corpse in a revolting blue spatter. "That was another guy. His name was shit sherlock. First name no." every word dripped with condescension. He could've sworn he felt Shiala smile. Kuril-well- he didn't take it so well.

"Why? Just why would you-

"Well, three reasons." Holstering his gun, he strode up the steps to meet him. Was it the warden's imagination, or did his voice sound deeper somehow? Those thoughts died as a biotic haymaker cracked across him in the blink of an eye, slamming him down against the wall. The Phantom was advancing on him now, his expression inscrutable behind the visored helmet he wore.

"First, I haven't seen Jackie for several years, and I am understandably angry. Two, there's nothing more satisfying than the rush I get from watching scum like you die. Three -and I really need you to pay attention on this one, here warden-

His words ended in a sharp jagged motion of his arm, red energy trailing from his fingertips. Kurin blinked, frowning as his world seemed to slant to the right, despite his lack of motion. It was only when he realized his legs were still standing -when he saw the new weapon he was holding- that he truly understood. A blade. The boy had created a biotic blade; a weapon of pure energy forged out of dark matter, and subsuquently used it cut him in half like a piece of varren steak. Marvelous, Shiala mused.

Bifurcation at its finest.

Kuril looked as horrified as it was possible for a turian to look, his clawd hands scrabbling to keep his innards from falling out. There were a few seconds of life left in him-

-until Naruto's boot crunched down on his skull and ground it to a gory smear.

-Third," he hissed down at his severed corpse, "You kidnapped my Jackie. Nobody touches my Jackie."

His geth arm flicked once, hacking into the man's personal omnitool, slicing through years worth of encyrption in the time it took for him to blink. God, he loved this thing. Another second, and he'd transferred the data to his own Omnitool. From there it was a simple matter to call up the inmate list and check for new arrivals.

Bingo.

Satisfaction swelled within him as the name Subject Zero appeared on the dossier. She'd only been here for a few hours. Slated for the Cryo Unit. He smiled at the thought of the hell she must've given them to get that sort of treatment. Then he remembered where he was. He paused just long enough to notice the massive assault rifle from the Warden's body. Like all weapons it operated on a heat diffusion systems but one glance at its weathered crimson and black stock told him it had seen a lot of use, and probably packed one hell of a punch.

Naturally, he liberated it from him.

"Catch."

Shiala started slightly as he flung the hulking assault rifle at her; hands locking around the weapon to prevent it from clocking her upside the head. A rare look of confusion adourned her face, as if she didn't know what to do with the weapon she'd been given. At last she turned her gaze on that expressionless helmet.

"Why give me this?" she asked.

"Why not?" Naruto shrugged. He had enough weight slowing him down-and he liked his old Avenger just fine. But Shiala didn't need to know that. Let her think he was being friendly.

"Thank you. I willl treasure this." Her lips curled in another smile that made him shudder with quiet need. What was it about asari that made them so damnably attractive? Fascination for Liara was one thing, mostly for the sheer curiosity of never having seen an asari-Aria didn't count-up close before. But Shiala was different. She moved a silent, fluid elegance most women could never hope to match. Gah, why was he still thinking on this...?!

-den."

Naruto blinked, her words tugging him out of his daze. "Say what now?"

"I said we are likely to encounter resistance now that you've killed the warden." Shiala repeated.

The Phantom nodded and pressed a finger into the keypad at the door.

"I'm counting on it."

In that instant, he wasn't the Phantom of the Terminus Systems anymore. He wasn't the Crimson Biotic. He was simply a very angry young man who was hellbent on seeing his friend again. And come hell or high water he would do just that.

"Well," he said as the lock cycled, "Here goes nothing."

When the doors rolled open five seconds later, he found himself face to face with three enemy squads. Good.

He wanted them to burn.


"I! AM! GOING! TO! KILL! HIM!"

Joker nearly jumped clear out of his chair as Shepard's voice exploded in his ears, nearly deafening on the comms. This was probably the fith time she'd said it in about as many minutes. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and while Naruto had done nothing of the sort to their commander she wasn't the sort you wanted to cross. They'd been on good terms before. Then he'd knocked her out and hijacked her ship. That'd make a woman mad enough to cut your balls off andd sell them to a Krogan. Who just so happened to be nearby.

"Ah, Commander?" Kaiden's voice came over not a moment later. "Might not want to shout that on the trading floor. You're making people nervous."

"Quiet, Kaiden! Or you're next!"

"Feisty." Wrex rumbled.

"Urdnot, I will eat you!"

The Krogan laughed quietly. "You can try. But you're making blue over there blush."

Shepard garbled something that wasn't a word. Liara squeaked.

"Goddess...is she always like this?"

"Only when someone steals my godamn ship!"

Under any other situation, Joker might've found the situation humorous. But he knew any laughter on his part would probably by synonomous with getting his ass tossed out the nearest air lock.

The Commander hadn't been happy to wake up and discover the Normandy impounded on Noveria. Not only that, but Tali was dangerously ill-a side effect from some unknown complicationt hat Chakwas couldn't seem to figure out. A wave of her Spectre status and the former was declared null and void, but the only remedy for Tali's sudden illness...was time. It was a kick in the ribs for the whole crew. Naruto and Shiala had jumped ship, and their favorite-and only-quarian was down and out for the forseeable future. Just like that, three of their finest were gone.

It was galling for all of them.

"She still shouting?"

Moreau violently jerked his neck around as the sound of footsteps reached his ears. God, he was getting jumpy. Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams stopped only a few yards behind his chair, an almost bemused expression etched into her face. If she had anythign to say about his skittish behavior, she kept it to herself. Thank god.

"Loud as can be." the pilot quipped.

"She'll cool off eventually. Maybe. Hopefully." Ashley sighed as another profanity cracked across the comms. Joker didn't blame her.

The rest of the Normandy's staff had fallen into a quiet depression of their own. Morale was at an all time low.

They'd rathered liked Naruto. He'd been an affable young man, quick with his words and quicker with a bullet. A good shot, and a good person. Someone who was true to his friends and truer to himself. Not the sort ya wanted to mess with when he

Ashely saw him as a little brother of sorts. A horridly annoying little brother, but a brother nonetheless. The blond had a way of getting under your skin and making you spill all your life secrets to him. Shepard didn't do that. Williams naturally respected her superior and followed orders like any good soldier would but it was no secret that she'd spoken to the Phantom much more than she had Humanity's First Spectre. For the former to simply abandon their mission and haul ass to the terminus systems...it must've been something big. Big enough to leave Tali behind and rocket into the Terminus, guns blazing.

He'd said something about a girl named Jack. If she was family to him...who knew what lengths he would go to?

Which left the matter of Shepard and Noveria. Against all odds, she'd chosen to finish things up here before going after the Phantom; if only because they might not get another chance at this.

In the end Shepard had brought Kaiden and Wrex with her. Liara had asked to tag along...only to discover that her mother was here. Here. On Noveria. Poor kid. Ashley actually felt a little sorry for her; she didn't know how she would react if she found out her mom was working with the most wanted man in the galaxy. But even that sympathetic thought wasnt enough to keep her thoughts off of the elusive Crimson Biotic for long. He was probably long gone by now-chances were they'd never see him again.

Who knew what he was up to now?


Naruto had never felt so much rage in all his life.

The room swam around him as he moved, tinged in red as though he stood at the bottom of a scarlet sea. When Tali had gotten shot, he'd been angry. Fire had burned through his veins. This made it look like a candle by comparison. All the world was an inferno, and he its center; always moving striking, carving, crushing. He had no idea how many rooms they'd moved through by now-how many guards had died at his hands. All he knew was uncompromising fury. It drove him. Made him strong. Unstoppable. He was a tornado of destruction-

Worse, he was actually enjoying himself. By the time they came upon the next squad, he was openly laughing.

Naruto landed in their midst, where they couldn't shoot without hitting one of their comrades. He charged up his arm and punched one trooper in the gut, sending him flying clear across the room. Ducking another trooper's wild swing, he swept his leg out in a crimson arc, knocking a third man off his feet. Grabbing a pistol out of his holster, he dove out of the way and skidded on his back, aiming and firing at their faceplates with unerring aim. As they exploded with shards falling everywhere, he sent his knives hurling into their now unprotected faces, turning the floor red with gore.

In contrast to his brute force tactics Shiala was poetry in motion; subtle and devious with singularities and warps-devastatingly effective in close quarters with her shotgun. She was what Liara might be someday should she be if she ever gave up her fascination with dig sites and the protheans. A true commando, cold and pitiless, a terror to her enemies. He knew he'd made the right decision, in sparing her life. And to think, Shepard'd wanted to shoot her, solely out of suspicion!. What a waste that would have been.

He'd never been so happy to defy authority!

The squad had been decimated at their hands, leaving only a few twitching survivors. Naruto shot them through the head, deliberately, then waited until his gun cooled. Damn thing. They needed to invent a clip system or something-his new pistol wasn't of much use if it kept overheating like this. Still, despite the grinding headache in the back of his skull, things were looking up. Risking a glance at his companion he watched as Shiala moved to the nearest door that wasn't spattered in blood and began to key it open.

"I'll take point." she began-

Then the doors swung open of their own volition. And they found themselves staring at a giant.

There was a moment of silence as it stared down the two organics gawping up at it. Then it spoke one word, a deep bass rumble:

"Online."

Clad in bone-white armor with red lights, the armored titan lumbered forward to meet them, each step causing the ground to shake beneath its massive struts. Heavily armored and shielded, possessing twin automatic mass accelerator cannons in either arm. With a stab of dread, Naruto realized what they were looking at. A YMIR mech. He'd never had the -dis- pleasure of fighting one before. They were said to be capable of mowing down entire squads in the blink of an eye. They needed to get into cover. Now. Then he remembered that Shiala was less than a foot away from the synthetic. And it was looking right at her.

"Oh shi-

"Target acquired."

Without thanking he reached backward and threw his shields outwards in a swift Nova. Shiala, still in the proccess of turning, suddenly found herself flung back and into cover by the Nova a split second before the mech opened fire. Naruto turned and tried to do the same-instead he found himself face to face with the bot's left rocket barrel. Rocket. Of course it was a rocket. It struck him dead in the helmet, smashing through the hasty barrier he'd erected at the last second and tossing him down onto the deck with enough force to physically dent his armor.

His world went white.

Naruto couldn't feel the right side of face anymore. Ignore it, he told himself. He'd lost his rifle in the explosion. Ignore it. Red stained his vision. Ignore. Should've hacked the damn thing...

"Let me out!" Kurama roared! "I can kill this fucker and you know it!"

Ignore. It.

Clambering to his feet, Naruto attempted to snap up a dome and narrowly deflect a withering round of machine gun fire into the wall. He heard only a muted thump for this effort. He was suddenly aware that he couldn't hear anything. Nothing, save the ringing in his ears. The rocket had deafened him. Purgatory was swaying around him like a drunken whaler. And he could see the YMIR lining up another shot on him. He needed to move. Now.

The wounded warrior swore and dove between the bot's legs as it paused to cool down, tucking and rolling to come up the other side. It turned to meet him.

"Firing."

Two more rockets issused forth. He snagged them with his biotics and flung them backwards with a grenade for good measure. An all powerful shockwave-the strongest he'd ever seen Shiala create-raced hot after their heels. Then he dived out of the way and waited for the explosion. All wall of fire slammed into his back, causing him to stumble forward. The shockwave sent a flurry of metal debris showering down on him. He dared to peek over his shoulder, just in case.

The mech was little more than a molden pile of slag. The blond permitted himself a smug smirk. Then his body gave out, forcing him to drop to a knee.

-to!"

Idly, he realized someone was screaming at him. Shiala. He turned, squinting at her. She was mouthing the words, but he couldn't hear them. He could, however, read the concern on her face. He blinked, frowning as a hand moved to the right side of his face then his left, causing the battered helmet to fold in on itself once more and return to his neck. Seconds later, something incredibly cool, wet-then warm-was administered to both his ears, followed by his face. Medigel? With a unncessarily harsh pop, sound suddenly returned to his battered eardrums.

"Are you alright?" Shiala, sweet, blessed Shiala and her voice, was the first thing he heard as he recovered. Naruto, incredibly, managed to nod.

Slowly, fitfully, the world came back to him. The room wasn't swimming anymore, for starters. He could see properly again.

"Fine," he grumbled, picking himself up. "M'fine. Just fine."

The look of horror and dismay in her eyes said otherwise.

"Goddess, your face...

He blinked at that. Blearily.

"Whaddya mean my...oh."

He caught sight of his reflection in a nearby bulkehead.

Crapbaskets.

His face, the right side of it at least, was a bloody mess. The eye was still functionoing -thank kami- but he knew almost immediately that the rest of it was going to scar, medigel or not. Even his regeneration-if he still had it, wouldn't have been able to correct a wound of this magnitude. After all he'd just taken a rocket to the face. It was a miracle he hadn't got it shot clean off. Garrus was going to laugh his ass off when he saw this mess of a slowly scarring skin that would most likely take up permanent residence on the right side of his face. If he saw it. Assuming Shepard didn't try to flay him alive when he returned.

The rocket had ripped through his shields and nearly shattered his helmet.

He could feel the pain beginning to return as the flesh of chis cheek and neck sealed itself beneath the lay of medical jelly. It would hold together long enough for him finish his mission. It had to. Drawing himself up in a supreme-and what Shiala would later call foolish-effort of will, he staggered on, helmetless. They were closing in on the cryo chamber now. Only a few more rooms. There were no more screams to be heard anymore, something that worried him to no end.

When they came face to face with another hulking YMIR, Naruto didn't give it time to react. Faster than it could lock onto them he ripped away its shields and trapped it in stasis. Shiala followed it up effortlessly blowing it off its feet in a biotic blast. Two sticky grenades later and the mech was nothing more than junk on the ground.

The next YMIR mech they encountered fared little better than the second.

One flick of Naruto's geth arm and in an instant the machine all but belonged to him. Then he sicked it upon its former masters and set it to overload. The resulting explosive yield didn't so much disintegrate them as it did atomize every living being within three feet save him and Shiala.

No more guards came to greet them after that. They'd torn through almost ten squads since Kurin's death, and he doubted there were many more. Perhaps they'd fled? Or maybe they were lying in wait, prepared for a desperate last offensive with everything they had?

Turns out it was the former.

As they approached the cryo chamber the ship's VI announced that multiple shuttles were taking off. It seemed that the Blue Suns had decided their investment wasn't worth keeping if it meant that they'd be murdered to the last man. He silently hoped they'd leave at least one shuttle for him. He didn't feel like piloting the Purgatory herself all the way to Noveria-although a small part of him secretly delighted in the chaos that such an outlandish stir it would cause. But by the time they'd reached the final chamber and as the last door swooshed open, all such thoughts had fallen away.

All that stood between him and the panel now was a lone technician. The man was a tearful mess; begging for his life. He was going about how he had a wife, kids, a family-

Naruto shot him between the eyes and strode over his body, not waiting for Shiala to lift it aside. She said something aside, but he didn't hear her. His mind was fixated firmly elswhere. He knew-somehow he just knew-that the lone pod ahead of them, visible through the glass, contained Jack. Jackie. His Jackie. And all that stood between him and her, were three YMIR mechs.

Three.

YMIR.

Mechs.

Naruto sighed audibly.

"Why is it never easy?"

"Did you think it would be?"

"No, but I-the hell?!"

That voice hadn't come from Shiala.

Both human and asari started as a lone hologram apppeared in the center of the room and resolved itself into crystalline clarity, standing on a rotund dais that hadn't existed there a moments ago. Unbidden, the blond arched an eyebrow. Quantum Entanglement Communication. Protoytpe tech, very expensive to manufacture and not widely avaiable to the galactic community. It seemed Kurin had one in his possesision. And whoever hed the other was communicating with them now. It was a turian. His eyes shone an eerie blue, and his body lay laced with wires and other synthetics. A geth arm stood grafted in place of his left.

Naruto had never laid eyes on the turian before; not a once. But it was impossible not to know him. This was the one who'd nearly killed his Tali. The one responsible for all kinds of mass mayhem and the loss of nearly several hundred lives, human and otherwise.

"Saren."

"Hello, Phantom." those mangled mandibles lifted in a slight smile. "We meet at last."

"Can't say its a pleasure." Despite knowing the futility of shooting a hologramm his fingers still twitched toward his pistol in its holster. What are you doing here?"

A garbled laugh.

"The Warden and I had a business arrangement. I delivered him certain prisoners of value, and he paid me for them. Quite handsomely." His gaze roved the room, noticing the techie's dead body with something akin to scorn for the once living human. "I suppose you killed him, too, didn't you?"

Naruto felt his lip twitch in the ghost of a smile. "Cut his ugly ass in half and left him to rot."

"Pity." A slow blink. "I see Shiala is with you as well. Which means you must've uncovered the Thorian." His unflinching gaze turned on the asari then, dissapointment evident in those searingly soulless eyes. "I assume Shepard managed to forcibly extracted the Cipher from you, then? If so, I am dissapointed. I thought you understood what we were fighting for."

For the first time anger danced across the woman's features, white hot. She was more than enraged by his casual dismissal. Silent until this very moment, she growled. "Saren...! I am no longer your pawn! You will pay for what you have done to Lady Benezia!"

Surprise flashed across his face, followed by intrigue. "You seem to be in complete control of your actions. Fascinating. The things I could've learned from you; the ways to indoctrination, the secrets to undo it," he gave a small flutter of his mandibles, contemplating. "Its not too late, you know." his voice crooned to her, soft and seductive in its alllure. "Come back to us. You know resistance is futile in the face of the Reaper's imminent arrival."

"Never." Shiala snarled, her teeth baring in defiance. "You will learn nothing from me!"

"So be it, then." Irate, his gaze cut back to Naruto. "In any case, I hope you enjoy your package, Phantom."

Dread creeped up on him all over again. "Package?"

"Oh, don't worry." came the reply. "I haven't sabotaged your precious female in the slightest, despite arranging for her capture. The least I could do is allow you to be reunited with her before your demise. Now you can enter the void together. All three of you. I knew you would come if I took something precious to you-and what could possibly be more precious than the woman who loves you?" A taloned hand rose, stroking at his chin idly. "Much better trophy than that old mercenary."

Zaeed?! Naruto had nearly forgotten about the old man.

"What did you do to him?!"

"I suppose I can tell you the truth; he managed to hijack a shuttle and escape from my men. Needless to say your little friend wasn't so lucky. I had hoped to lure Shepard here as well and finish her, but it seems she's smarter than the average human. It doesn't matter." Another warbling chuckle. "Benezia will finish the job.

'He doesn't know.' Naruto thought, relieved. Then he felt his heart drop into his stomach. "You're lying." He had to be. Saren was nothing more than words and bluffs. The bastard was just trying to unnerve him. But he could feel his self control beginning to slip away from him. What was he planning? Did he have the entire station wired to blow, soon? Was there a geth fleet approaching, ready to blow Purgatory out of the sky? Or was it something more subtle, a threat he couldn't yet perceive?

"Am I? Perhaps." the turian shrugged. "It doesn't matter. In a few minutes, this station will be vapor. And so will you." To the blond's ire, he did not elaborate. "Goodbye, Phantom. It's been a pleasure-

"Bastard! What the hell are you planning?!"

Saren laughed at him.

"Enjoy your reunion." the former spectre sneered. "While you can."

Cackling, his hologram faded out.

Naruto swore virulently. "Fuck! I'm such an idiot! Why didn't I listen?!" The fox snapped at him, ending his rant.

"Move, you idiot! I have no intention of dying here!"

The Phantom shook himself violently, willfully wrenching his mind back to the task at hand. Three YMIR mechs. Two of them. The bots had to be dealt with before he could get to Jack; but, perhaps there was a way for him to circumvent them entirely.

"How many grenades do you have left?" he asked Shiala.

"Just two. Why?"

Naruto took them.

"It'll do."

With swift strides he stormed toward the console and hacked it. A warning informed him that all prisoners aboard would be released. He didn't care. There was no point in trying to circumvent it. Not when his life, not to mentiont he lives of Shiala, Jack, and quite possibly the crew of the Normandy, lay on the line. He pressed the button. And all hell broke loose.

The whine of the mechanical arm cut off my orders. As the YMIR mechs watched, it drifted over to the vault seal in the floor and latched on, detaching the various locks and deadbolts that had kept the cryo chamber sealed shut. Spinning in the opposite direction, the mechanical arm swiftly popped the vault door open. A cloud of smoke obscured what looked like a surgical table as it rose from the floor. It had someone strapped to it. He didn't wait to make certain it was Jack.

Naruto roared and took off running.

They came to the end of the hall, and Naruto mashed his hand into the door panel without even slowing down. The door detected the speed he was running and slammed open, just in time for him to barrel through at full speed. Shiala followed, and her mouth fell open at what took place. She'd seen him caught off guard and nearly lose his life to a YMIR not a short while ago.

So it came as a complete shock when Naruto was enveloped in a sheathe of glowing biotic energy, concentrated around his right fist. With another scream of defiance he launched herself at the first mech and there was an almighty explosion.

The nearest mech imploded in on itself as the Phantom reached out and squeezed, an unseen hand reducing it to a giant block of scrap. Naruto swung and punched, the unseen shockwaves launching the first mech into the second, then carroming off the third. Before the second could recover, he pounced on it. His organic arm flared with a second mass effect field before plunging deep into the gut of the mechanical monstrosity and all but tearing its a new one. Before it could react, he tossing one of her grenade intot the hole he'd left and vaulted away. Not a moment later, and the YMIR blew itself into a thousand pieces.

The third was already turning, preparing to fire-

Naruto spun and chucked the stick grenade at its head. It landed there with a dull thunk as the shields failed to intercept the object. They were made to stop bullets, not something that stuck to you. The first bullet was juuust firing from its arm-mounted cannon when he biotically pulled the pin.

There was an almighty explosion of fire and soot as its head, and the rest of it went up. And then it was over.

Shiala gawped. All she could see were the sparking remains of three of the most deadly opponents she might ever face on a battlefield - and not a one of them had touched Naruto. He was already marching away from their charred corpses, stalking toward the still defrosting cryo chamber. What he saw there took his breath away.

"Jack," she hard him croak weakly. "Oh, Jackie...


Commander Shepard was not happy.

Ever since she'd set foot on this blighted planet, things had gone from bad to worse. Her boiling temper asides, it felt as though she'd been running one errand after another the moment they'd arrived. Liara was silent as the grave, drawn inward upon learning that her mother, Benezia, was here. She didn't know how to console her. Naruto had been good at that. Naruto! She was going to wring his scrawny little neck if he came back without a good explanation!

His mutiny and Tali's illness, coupled with Shiala's defection, had left her in a foul mood and with an itchy trigger finger. All the political bullshit and back-door dealing her made her sick. The only highlight of the trip was watching that prick Anoleus get his scrawny ass hauled off to jail. She wished she could have put a bullet in his skull herself. But she'd gotten her garage pass regardless, and after steamrolling some geth in the Mako, some of her anger had been vented on the hapless synthetics. Nothing like rolling over robots to soothe your ragged nerves.

Then came Peak Fifteen. It was little better.

Now she pumped her shotgun furiously, blasting everything inside. Most of which hampened to be giant bugs. Giant! Bugs!

The hot labs were an absolute clusterfuck in every way-what the hell were Rachni doing here?!-even with the extra firepower she'd brought along. Liara was of absolutely no help at all, Kaiden was terrified by the giant bugs and Wrex seemed to delight in killing the overgrown insects. She just wanted to activate the neutron purge, find Benezia and probably kill her, then get the hell out of dodge.

When the hell was this going to end?


Naruto was speechless.

Imagining the type of horrors they must have inflicted upon her, he was instead vaguely surprised as the mist cleared to reveal a lithe young woman a fair head shorter than him clad in what looked like leather leggings and with nothing but one or two belts criss-crossing over her upper body to save her modesty. Dark brown tresses covered only a part of her shaved head, sprawled across her face. Every inch of skin he could see from her neck downwards was covered in ink. Despite his earlier musings not one single scar marred her body as far as he'd could see. Instead, this beautiful ink covered her body flawlessly, intricate flowing symbols some, others he couldn't even begin to guess at.

She had delicate, almost elfin features, high cheekbones and full red lips that looked far better suited on her than anyone else.

Except drop-dead gorgeous.

She was beautiful.

She started to stir just as he approached, but before she became aware of the change in her imprisonment her biotics flared. Her eyes shot open as she came to the mistaken realization that she was still in danger, and a hoarse voice let out a loud stream of vulgar curses. Had he been a green genin still, the man might have blushed at some of them. Instead, he shouted at her.

"Jack! Its me!"

She blinked groggily, her eyes fluttering open and shut.

"Who...?" Her words were incoherent as he ripped the shackles off her.

The neck restraint finally broke apart and Jack staggered forward, free at last. She put a hand on her forehead and grimaced. Clearly she was feeling the effects of the cryostasis. In front of her, Shiala could see Naruto quietly fretting over her, a hand closing around arm and helping her to her feet.

Suddenly Jack's eyes focused on the lumbering hulk in front of her. Even at that distance Shiala saw it and recognised it for what it was. The battle awareness. A split second that races by while you assess your options and instantly decide what's the best outcome. She'd seen it before in her fellow huntresses. But this look was different. Fierce. Feral. Her lips parted, preparing to shout a warning-

And Jack punched him in the face. Hard. The blond yelped.

"Ow! Fuck! Why'd you hit me?!"

There was a moment of awkward silence.

"Naruto?"

"No shit!"

Her dark eyes lit up as he stepped back towards her, ruefully massaging his jaw. A gorgeous white grin streaked across her mouth as she stood and ran to him like a child welcoming her father home from a long business trip. He could only stand dumbfounded as her lithe form slid gracefully across the room to him. Had she always been so beautiful? Why had he never noticed that his childhood companion was this sexy, ink-skinned woman? Had the past years changed her? Sure her hair had grown out a little and then there were the tattoos, but she otherwise looked the same as she always had-

Until she clobbered him again.

"Jackie, what the hell?!"

"That, was for leaving me, dumbass," she snarled, shaking some life back into her hand. "Don't you ever, and I fucking mean ever, do that shit again!" Shiala wasn't sure if she should intervene or laugh; the sight of the Terminus' most feared man cowering before a tattooed convict was almost enough to make her do both.

"Alright, alright!" he begged. "No more stupid stunts!"

"And this-

Naruto gulped, readying himself for another punch.

-is because I missed you, dumbass."

She wrapped her arms around his neck with a tiny and soft sigh. Still in his state of shock, it took Naruto a moment to react and place his own arms around the thin waist of his fellow renegade and exile. He buried his face in her neck, enjoying the warmth of her pale skin on his cheeks and the smell of her hair in his nostrils. He felt her arms tighten around him and her breathing quickened, her breasts heaving up and down against his chest. A lone tear trailed down his cheek. It wasn't a dream. Not an illusion. She was well and truly back. His best friend.

"I missed you too..."

After almost a full minute, they pulled away from one another, his blue eyes looking deeply into hers. Then she saw his face.

"Shit," she breathed. "what the hell happened to you?"

Naruto cringed as a hand rose to cup his battered visage. Even with the medigel coating it, it still stung like hell. But not as much as it did to admit his folly.

"YMIR mech." he grumbled. "I took a rocket to the face. Damn thing's probably gonna scar like crazy."

"Well, you were always ugly." Jack snorted, the ghost of a smile tugging at her lips. Her eyes roved his body. "Looks like I missed out on some good shit."

"More than you know." Shiala chimed. Jack's eyes cut to her like razors.

"Who the hell're you?"

Shiala frowned, displeased by the accusation. "I should be asking you the same question...it seems we went through a lot of trouble for just one person. We walked into this deathtrap for you. Were you worth it, I wonder?"

"What was that, bitch?!"

"Ladies!" Naruto barked, getting between them. "Please! Jack, this is Shiala. She's a friend. She helped me bust you out."

"Oh." she blinked, her scowl greatly diminished in the wake of this fact.

"Can we have a minute?" Naruto asked.

"Just remember that we don't have much time."

Sighing, the Phantom returned his attention to his long lost friend.

"I think I missed a few things, too." he eyed her tattoos. To his surprise, her cheeks actually colored a bit. "What brought those on?"

"Yeah, well, I had to to something with my free time. Look at you, though! You got big!" Just like that, they slipped back into their old rhythm. There was a fondness that hadn't been there before he realized. Whatever awkwardness that had existed between them at Pragia was all but gone, greatly reduced in the wake of their reunion. When last they'd seen each other they'd been little more than children. Now they were older. Wiser, maybe, but in a lot of ways, it was still the same. Things had changed. Many things. But not everything.

"Heh, I'm still taller than you."

"Still an ass, though."

"Speaking of which, is that an "N" on your...

"Watch it there, soldier boy," she slugged him in the shoulder. "Might give a girl ideas."

"I was going to say shoulder."

"Right...

She wore a subtle expression of amusement on her face as she returned his gaze, her grin turning slightly devious as she leaned in. Naruto found himself doing the same, his hands drifting down to her hips as Jack, his best friend since he'd wound up in this strange verse, leaned the rest of the way and pressed her lips to-

'Oi, oi, oi, what the hell am I doing?!' his mind raced at the speed of light, unable to undersand what was happening. 'What the hell is she doing?! I need to stop this before...before...be...fore..

-to his.

It was his very first kiss. Something Tali has never been able to do. It felt...wonderful.

His mind exploded into white as his arms took control, spreading themselves across her back. He was so completely taken aback by her kiss that he hardly noticed when his left hand began to cup her firm ass and his right palm took up residence on her jaw. He deepened the kiss as he pressed his body against hers, pushing her back against the nearest wall. Her hands were just as explorative, her nimble fingertips running along his chest and stomach. Finally, his mind rebooted enough to end the fevered liplock.

"Hell," she breathed as he pulled away. "You really did miss me."

"Yeah, well, I'd get lonely without your foul mouth."

Her smile grew wider. She looked so, so happy. A part of him wanted to see that smile on her face every day. He didn't care about Saren. With Jackie back by his side, he felt better than he ever had. And then his mind conjured up an image of Tali. Guilt crested over him.

"Jack, there's something I need to tell-

An explosion rocked the Purgatory from aft to stern. And then another. And another still. They were coming almost every second now, not the explosives one might expect from a bomb. Someone was firing on the ship, blasting it from the outside. Something...big. Naruto didn't even want to think about what it was. But fate decided to tell him anway. From out of nowhere, a crimson beam lanced into the cryo chamber, ripping through the hull and opening the void space only feet away. Lights flickered and died. Just like that, the ship was cut in twine.

Then they saw it.

Massive in scope and size, it dwarfed anything he had ever seen. Like a giant space squid. He would've found it funny if its prescence hadn't terrified him. Shiala flung up a biotic shield around them, narrowly preserving a pocket of oxygen, a few critical seconds. This close, he felt an oily prescence in his brain, something trying to claw its way into his mind and command him. With an effort he beat it back, ignoring the eerie whispers it pushed at his brain, demanding that he give himself up, that he submit. And then it spoke.

"I am Sovereign and you will die human. You have no chancenochancenochancenonenoneatallyouwillbesweptasidelikedustinthewinds...

"What the hell?" Jack seemed to hear it as well, fingers clenching around her head.

"No time to explain!" He darted back up what was left of the stairwell, dragging her with him. "Go, go, go!"

"Naruto, you'd better-

"DAMNIT WOMAN, I SAID GO!"

His hand slapped on the door. Nothing happened. No power. And still the void stretched around them. He could see the giant vessel-Reaper, his mind screamed!-powering up its main gun again. And he reacted. A fling of his wrist reached up and wrenched, tearing the apparatus aside. The lance of death seared past, striking open void. He could feel his nose bleeding from the effort. The damned thing was getting closer, and he could feel it trying to pull them back into the black. Kurama shouted something at him. A desperate plan, one that might fail. But one that might succeed as well.

And for once, he agreed with him.

"What are you going to do?" Jack eyed him warily as he grabbed her, then Shiala.

"Something very stupid." it was the only other ption.

Kurama's return had left him with just a touch of chakra before he'd stopped him from reforging his chakra coils. It had also left him with some very unpleasant memories. He used that chakra now, focused on a single memory above the rest, a technique he'd only glimpsed in his mind's eye. His brain locked onto a signal-one he'd unknowingly planted weeks before-just through the simple acting of touching a certain asari's shoulder without thinking. It was similair to a biotic charge, really. He just had to focus and, in theory he should.

He felt himself stretch like a rubberband, and them with him.

And then they were gone.


"BLOODY HELL?!"

Shepard jumped slightly as a crashing red blur slammed into the deck less than a foot away from her. Even then she daren't take her eyes off the asari in front of her. The woman was fast. Damn was she fast. She had not even seen that first shot. She'd resolved not to miss the second.

Of course, all that changed the moment three people popped out of the void and landed next to her.

"Naruto?!"

"Never...again...!" the blond rasped. "I almost died! I'm never doing that shit again!"

"Damn straight you aren't!" A tattooed woman in his arms gasped.

"Most...wise..." Shiala seconded, flopping onto the deck beside them.

"Hey at least we made it...eh?"

His humor drained away when he saw the scene in which they'd landed.

"Wow...what the hell happened?"

"Look who joined the party." Wrex rumbled. "Might want to check on blue, over there. We're out of medigel."

"Shit."

Liara was still holding her stomach, cringing slightly. She hadn't expected the gun. Hadn't thought her mother would actually shoot her. It simply defied belief in her mind. So did Naruto's sudden and unexpected arrival from seemingly nowhere. One moment he hadn't been there, and the next he had. It spat in the face of all logic. She watched him stand slowly, his eyes traveling to her. Then her mother. Back again. His lips pursed in a thin line as he bent towards her. An Omnitool flashed. Moments later, the cooling sensation of Medigel coursed across his stomach.

She murmurred her thanks, but something in the blonde's eyes told her he hand't heard it. He rose again, his eyes locking on the gun totting asari standing above them on the catwalk.

"I'm guessing you're Benezia." his words ended in a frown.

"Have you ever faced an Asari Commando Unit before, Phantom?" Benezia asked gravely. "Few humans have."

"I might know a thing or two about that." Naruto hissed.

Shepard blanched.

"You're injured. You can't face her in your cond-

Naruto's only response was a physical one. The air crackled with chakra, not just his own, but that of his former tenant, an eerie mixture of scarlet and onyx. a threat, Shepard knew at once, Naruto wrapped in tendrils that ebbed and pulse dangerously. They looked like snakes, writhing and ready to strike. Shepard winced, lifting her hands in defeat, letting him walk away. He stepped up past Liara's limp form then past Kaiden, then, finally, Wrex, his eyes straying slightly as he took in their haggard forms. His head inclined softly.

"She's mine," he hissed.

"Your strength is irrelevant, Phantom." Beneza sniffed, frowning at the human as he stalked up the steps. Her eyes flitted to the exhausted forms of Jack and Shiala. "You may have survived the trap we laid for you in Purgatory, but your prescence here changes nothing. You will not win this confrontation, no matter who you bring into the equation-

She never saw the shockwave coming until it was far too late. One moment the Crimson Biotic was standing before her- the next, his fist slammed into the deck and all hell broke loose. Asari Commando and Geth flew apart like leaves scattered on the wind, torn from the catwalks and dashed angrily onto the ground below. Another flick and they found themselves ground to a gory mass on the walls. Still Naruto came on, eyes white hot and filled with untempered fury.

"You're indoctrinated." he spoke the word almost casually. "So, techinically, you're not responsible for your own actions at the moment. However," The crack of his knuckles split the sudden silence, "I'll be purging you of that, now." A red mass effect field shrouded him, warping the metal around them as he walked. "Though I'd be lying if I said I won't kick your ass first."

A small part of her, the tiny bit of her mind that she'd sealed away, rejoiced. The other, larger half dismayed.

Impossible.

"You have no hold over-

"BENEZIA!"

That was the only thought she had time for before the Phantom of the Terminus pounced upon her, his synthetic fist sheathing itself into her stomach.

Another blow, and then his hand was around her throat, crushingly tight, the tips of his fingers digging into the sensitive folds at the back of her neck, lifting her clean off her feet. She froze, breath caught in her chest, not daring to move lest he do more damage there. Her wide eyes locked onto his wild red ones. Then there was only pain. She fought, lashing out with a furious warp. That proved a mistake. The fist came down on her head with a faintly metallic crunch-once, twice, three times. Each blow jarred his hand, sent pain shooting up his arm.

But a lot less pain shot up Benezia's.

Suddenly he had her by the head, forcing her down to the deck. Outside her tank, the Rachni Queen shrieked. Benezia barely heard it. Everything was growing faint. White. Fuzzy. Her vision blurred and dimmed as the iron vice around her face intensified, scarlet sparks spraying up and down his organic arm. A sonorous shriek tore through her mind, blotting out all else. And then, suddenly...

Peace.

A/N: And there we have it! Jack and Naruto are reunited once again?! But what will happen now? WHO KNOWS?! Anything! I enjoyed writing this chapter to be honest-the words just flowed and it was easy to keep everyone in character. Naruto's afraid to talk to Tali atm; he's never actually had a girlfriend before this, and he's afraid of botching it up. Add to that the fact that he's still not all that experienced when it comes to love, AND the fact he's determined to save Jack, and its all kinds of a mess. Now Kurama is back! In a lesser form, but his return is not a sign of good things to come...

And that red spark that hurt Tali and entered her bloodstream? What purpose was that for? You'll soon see but suffice it to say, ladies and gentlemen. She may be ill now, but she will not, by any means, be dependent on that suit for much longer! Yes, ultimately, this fic is about to take a hard turn into the unknown, and not everyone will be making it back from this little joyride...

Anywho, I worked extremely hard on this one with blood sweat and tears, so I hope to hear what you think! Pairing is still somewhat up in the air! YOU DECIDE! And on a final note, thank you to everyone offering emotional support in regard to my health woes. Its greatly appreciated! An awful lot is going to change in this story soon! Look forward to an epic prank next chapter...provided my health holds out.

So...in the immortal words of Atlas...

...Review, Would You Kindly? And of course, enjoy the preview!

(Preview)

Naruto had never fought so hard in all his life.

Shockwaves shook the facility as the two biotics collided, human and turian. Warp fields dented metals, singularities ripped the broken bodies of geth off the ground and crushed them into oblivion. The Phantom of the Terminus charged and Saren met him head on, their biotic advance stalling out as their arms locked together.

"We are alike, you and I." Saren hissed as they grappled with one another in the surf of Virmire, each vying for dominance. "We're both a union of synthetic and organic." He grunted as he felt his organic arm begin to break, the limb slowly crumpling beneath the hybrid's superior strength. "Don't you see boy?! We know what's coming!" the harsh bleat of the bomb Shepard had laid threatened to drown out what followed next. "You know they can't be stopped! Your sacrifice is meaningless! Your defiance only guarantees our extinction!"

With a mighty heave he flung the blond away, hurling him into a nearby bulkhead. Breath burst from the blond's lungs.

"Join us." he said. "Or die."

Blue eyes flashed red.

"Never."

In an impossible movement he flowed around the former Spectre, his body seeming to bend around the bullet even as it leapt from the turian's handgun. Then he was gone.

The next thing Saren knew, the next thing he could comprehend, something struck his abdomen with more force than he could ever hope to conceive-beneath the single, explosive punch, the turians defense shattered, his skin tore, his blood boiled and evaporated-and the base of his spine liquefied. He remained still for a few seconds as his confidence melted away, twitching spasmodically. Then he pitched forwards with a wet gurgle, vomiting blood and collapsing in a boneless heap. A blow of that calibre would've ended a lesser warrior. Not him.

Instead he was forced to lay there as Naruto walked over to him. Idly, he glanced down at his hand.

There was no blood.

"I'm nothing like you."

A dull thum of a sound was his answer. In the distance, only a few miles away, he saw the base detonate. Blue eyes bulged.

"Ah, balls."

His biotics flared, a crimson dome encompassing him as death roared towards them. He prayed it would be enough.

And then nuclear fire consumed him.

Hope you enjoyed! R&R! =D