Exit Strategy by krakonfive
Summary: Kenobi escapes by jumping into a random simulation. However, things go wrong and he cannot leave. What he needs is an exit strategy... but is he ready to follow it? One single character of my own creation. Science fiction themes.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
New chapter every Thursday.
Rated T for some language and violence.
UPDATE 20/04/2013: This chapter is slated for a rewrite. Polishing and bringing it up to the quality of later chapters.
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooo
Sensation hit me.
Electrical signals ran up nerves that didn't exist moments earlier. A newly formed brain scrambled to translate them into meaningful information. My skin was still deciding on its definitive shape and thickness when I found the controls to my eyelids.
It took a while for my pupils to accommodate to the ambient light, shifting the scene from blinding white to an array of greens, browns and blue. My freshly created physical form crumpled and fell. I waited as the major muscle groups were connected to the central nervous system, a confused mess of conducting organics at the moment.
Translating from an electronic ghost to a solid body wasn't pleasant. I had dived blindly into a random simulated universe to escape my pursuers. So far I seemed to be well hidden. My mind hadn't been frozen, warning messages weren't popping up in front of me and my memory seemed intact.
I watched as my newest incarnation twitched helplessly on the floor. With no time to spare, I had skipped the character selection menus and let the simulation choose for me. A thin, white arm crossed my field of view. Ah, as expected. I had a generic male body; black hair, green eyes, eighteen years old. No special aptitudes, no augmentations or modifications of any kind.
I wrestled my muscles into submission. The air was pure, with only hints of smoke and manure. Standing up slowly to find my center of gravity, I found myself in the middle of a farm, with a barn far to the right and trees receding in an arc behind me. A cottage was visible behind the curve of a hill, smoke trailing from a chimney.
Well, there was worse for an initial spawn point. I sat back down, closed my eyes and ran through a standard checklist. I tested the simulation's responses to various input, both from my physical and electronic self. I was quickly disappointed.
While this simulation was astounding in its realism, taking care to render the motion of individual tree leaves and portray smoke accurately, I had no access whatsoever to the many tools and programs I had grown accustomed to. No retinal display, no augmented reality pointing the way, no tutor to explain how this world functioned. Hell, there wasn't even a clock! Did it expect me to tell time by looking at the sun?! I closed my eyes again, dissociated myself from the background noise of touch, temperature variations and autonomous muscle contractions and continued my testing.
An hour later, a cold, shivering and naked teenage body got up and glumly looked around before taking a few steps, changing direction and heading for the cottage. Maybe it contained clothing, I wondered.
I cursed at the gusts of wind randomly chilling my body and making it shiver uncontrollably. As I walked, I tried to access the simulation's code and build myself a way out. However, with my rushed and … slightly forced … entry, I hadn't obtained any kind of administrator rights. I nearly panicked when I found no menu at all, but calmed down when the simulation responded to the usual hacking methods.
I eventually managed to find a way in through the physics engine. All I found was encrypted gibberish, but given enough time, I'd make sense of them and be able to start making modifications. For example, I could create a big EXIT button.
I was about to prod and poke left and right when my body pulled me out of the hacking attempt. I grumbled. Immediate problems first, becoming God second.
I arrived … several moments later (damn sun didn't come fitted with a 24 hour display) ... at what looked like the edge of the farm. The ground became harder and grass grew on its unbroken surface, tickling my toes. For an electronic spirit with no toes to speak off, the sensation was just … annoying. I blocked it out.
The sun was setting as I came in view of the cottage I had spotted earlier. Just another medieval setting, I thought. The primitive wooden construction I saw reinforced the impression. The cottage was even fitted with a stereotypical thatched roof and flowers growing in pots under the windows. I circled the cottage. It looked inhabited.
I knocked on the cottage`s wooden door until my knuckles hurt. "Coming!" a voice cried, followed by slow, plodding footsteps. The door swung to the inside, revealing a fire-lit interior of painted walls, a small wooden table with two crudely shaped chairs, a mattress next to a wall and…a wide eyed NPC. She was old, ugly and had wrinkles running rings around her face. I thought up of a name and initiated a conversation.
Me: Hello! My name is Maki Kenobi. Do you…
Ugly NPC: AAAARGH!
Me: I need help regarding…
Ugly NPC: AAAARGH!
Me: Oh well.
Ugly NPC: AAAARGH!
The usual formal requests for help from a NPC had given no results. Maybe she didn`t have any programmed behavior beyond what was currently on display. I decided to take the alternative approach to NPCs.
I gave her a straight kick to the stomach. She crumpled to the floor, wheezing. I stepped into the cottage before stamping down on her chest. It wasn't strong enough to incapacitate so I positioned myself for a kick to her head. She flailed on the floor like an overturned bug. That's what NPCs were in the end; nothing more than bugs. A mouthwatering smell originated from a pot boiling on a fire. Hunger wasn't new to me, but to be reminded of it after so long without a body … I remembered the lady. I kicked the back of her head, hurting my toes. Her forehead was slammed into a table leg, knocking her out and making her bleed from a cut.
I frowned. Bleeding? Defenseless old lady? I felt uneasy. Simulations either made defeated characters pop like balloons and disappear, or explode in showers of unrealistic blood and gore. It helped dissociate between simulations and reality. That way the violence didn't carry over once you left a simulation. Right now, it just looked like I had assaulted a weaker person to steal. I felt guilty, and now slightly sick at the sight of blood. I looked away, moved over to a wooden chest, opened it and started rummaging for clothes.
It took me very long to find suitable clothing among the piles of clothes. They were neatly folded but most were meant for an old lady. I went through them as I ate the contents of the pot. Boiled vegetables... I plucked them from the boiling water one by one. The pain wasn't real. The red fingers would heal, I told myself.
I eventually managed to acquire loose fitting trousers, a straw hat, two shirts of black wool, a pair of worn leather sandals, a large woolen jumper and a white towel. As much use as a towel had, in any universe, I used it for makeshift underwear. I dusted a worn backpack and stored my findings. I added whatever food I found, bed sheets, two folded shirts and a purse full of coins. I felt sorry for the old lady, still breathing with ragged gasps behind the table.
I shook my head. No, she was a virtual construct populating a fictional simulation, while I was a real person with an objective. I stepped over her while leaving.
Night had fallen before I set out again. The moonlight was bright enough to follow a dirt path. It had the characteristic central hump of medieval roads, flanked by two pits shaped by the passage of horses and carts. My thoughts drifted back to the woman. Maybe I was wrong to beat her without warning. Should I turn back and …? I forced myself not to look back.
I formed a mental list:
-1) Get out of here
-2) Get a place to stop and rest, sleep if possible
-3) Contact another NPC
I scowled. Okay, contact another person. I had plans for all three. The last one seemed easy. Just continue following the path, avoid beating up people, and I`d eventually reach a village or at least another traveler using the road. I wasn`t hearing any howling wolves or any rabid animals, so I supposed setting up camp on the side of the road took care of point 2. That left the first point, and involved a bit of long term planning.
I could either rush and force myself out, or take my time and prepare a proper exit. The first involved breaking the simulation, either by defeating its purpose or leaving it unable to operate. Examples would be burning the artwork in a gallery, crushing every building in a city simulation, killing all the main characters of a story… The result would be a simulation without meaning, causing it to shut down.
The second method required decryption of the lines of code had found, translating all relevant files and modifying them to create an exit button.
Both methods would eject my electronic spirit back into reality. Hopefully, the Jupiter System Police would have lost track of me by then.
I thought back to the old lady. While I didn't want to go a rampage of death and destruction, I didn't have much time.
Simulations ran at a faster rate than real life, but it would add up. I had to extract myself from my temporary shelter in this simulation within one year of subjective time, or 28 days outside the simulation. If I was too early, I'd reveal myself to my pursuers. Too late, and I'd miss the next transmission into the Inner System Network and have to wait around with my hostile friends for seven months. I shivered when remembering the harrowing chase over Jupiter's Orbital Communications Network. I had only survived thanks to some illegal duplicates I had prepared in advance. Now I had none left.
I wondered. How to know which kind of simulation I was in? How would I discover its purpose? I needed to dive back into the lines of code. My stomach rumbled, startling me. I had forgotten to eat. I fished out a piece of bread and cheese. The bread was rock hard, so I threw it away. One whiff at the cheese ended my hunger better than a three course meal. I threw it alongside the bread, then spread the bedsheets on the rocky ground and let my body sleep. My spirit never slept since my thought processes existed outside of the simulation.
I returned to hacking. Maybe I could search for files detailing the setting.
I woke up next morning feeling as if someone had severed my spinal cord from the neck. It wasn`t a pleasant feeling, as I remembered from some violent simulations I'd been contracted to hack, but it was an accurate depiction of what I felt now.
My entire body was numb. All muscles refused to obey my commands, even to roll away from two sharp stones digging into my ribs. My stomach was clenched tight like an angry fist, burning with acid and hunger. I hadn't covered my body from the cold, nor did I think of lighting a fire. I promised myself to start taking care of this body. I might be stuck with it for a long time.
Hours passed before I finally wrestled my muscles into submission. They still reverted to uncontrollable trembling every now and then, but I felt enough control to try and stand up. I forced myself to drink some water and chew on the remaining bread. I packed the bedsheets with trembling hands and stuffed it into the backpack before moving on. Maybe a light jog would warm me up? My stomach refused more ill treatment, and as I forced myself on, it threw up in protest. I wiped my mouth and moved away. I spat a few times. I reviewed my nighttime discoveries. Walking was complicated and boring. I had to direct each leg into the correct position, watch out for variations in the terrain and do so again and again for each step. I reconfigured the controls to rely on the ingrained instincts the body came with. Now I was free to do something else.
I had patched together that I was indeed inside a story simulation. A simulation universe based off the works of a certain 21st century manga artist, Masashi Kishimoto. If I don't manage to create an exit, I thought, I'll have to end the story.
The fastest way to end a story was to kill major characters. I could kill all the villains and that would end all forms of conflict in the story. Without conflict, there was no story to tell. Therefore, the simulation would have nothing to do and would end, ejecting me back to reality.
I winced at what that implied. I would need to kill a lot of people. Was I capable of murdering characters I only knew by their data sheet? I quickly read through the information I had gathered during the night.
A few minutes later, I sighed in relief. The heroes faced a few well defined villains. I let myself have a little laugh. It wouldn't be too bad to get rid of the likes of Orochimaru and the Akatsuki. If I fought alongside Naruto and the others, I might mess up this simulation. My hopes were crushed when I read through the plot. That file was in two parts; I'd only managed to find the first half. It revealed that there had been a three year time-skip before the start of current events. Without knowledge of what was going to happen, I felt a bit defenseless.
I opened a few other files, hoping to find something that could give me an advantage. One title caught my attention: Chakra mechanics. It was part of a series of guides on how to role-play a ninja correctly. Might be useful in upcoming fights, I thought.
A few hours of solitary march on auto-pilot, along with a rising sun eased the frown off my face. The morning fog was starting to clear too. I finished reading through my current document then used my physical eyes for a moment. The outlines of a wall were piercing through the mist. I went back and sifted through a few descriptions of notable landmarks. Yes, I was approaching the Hidden Village of the Leaf, Konoha.
Just as a smile started replacing my frown, a commotion broke the silence behind me. Startled, I turned around before having to make a complete rotation to follow the source of the noise. A teenager, shorter than me, was following a silver haired adult, both busily chatting and making wide gestures. One wore an orange and black uniform, the other grey and red robes. Minor details. More importantly was the fact they had just jumped several meters above my head. They landed in unison before propelling themselves into another giant leap, covering well over twenty meters. They disappeared into the fog.
I ignored my jaw gaping at their acrobatics and compared what little I had seen with my memory of the descriptions. I grinned. That was Naruto following Jiraya. And they`d just used a regular chakra technique to jump much further than they naturally could. Meh. Call magic by any other name.
I started creating a character for myself, detailing my background history and reasons for being there.
I headed into Konohagakure, seeking contact with one of its inhabitants. The fog had dissipated, giving a clear view of the rocky cliff at the opposite end of the village. Four faces adorned it, tributes to the village's greatest heroes. The village itself was a bizarre mix of Ancient China and third world shanty towns. Some houses were fully wooden, with elaborate blue, green or red tiles on curving roofs. Others were thin walled boxes mounted on top of each other to form low rise buildings. A few had satellite dishes and electrical poles lined the streets. .
To enter Konoha, I had to pass a massive gate with a thick wall extending to each side. A reminder of the military function of this village, I thought. The chuunin guards noted my lack of forehead protector but also the appalling state of my clothing. They fell for my story on how I was a poor, wandering monk. Maybe they also noticed the smell emanating from my garments, so they didn`t search me.
I went up the main street, occasionally being surprised by ninjas hopping at impossible speeds up and down the street. Some even took to the roofs. I tried to ignore them like the rest of the villagers. Standing with my jaw agape would attract unwanted attention. It was when a trio of children flashed past and leapt onto a two story building that I decided to revise my plans.
If jounin could put parkour experts to shame, my standard issue body with no fighting experience to strengthen it or speed it up was a huge hindrance to my action-oriented scheme. What sort of enemies might I have to face?! I might have a great deal of experience in hand to hand combat (time well spent in combat simulators as play-tester) but it was all in my head.
A surge of irrational envy made me put my hands together, form a seal and try to unlock the hidden power of chakra within me. After several minutes of attempted hidden chakra-unlocking, I gave up, glared back at the confused villagers and moved on. Okay, I was not bestowed with ninja-hopping skills, nor could I summon balls of fire or streams of water from thin air. What edge did I have? I might have to mess with the simulation soon and fix the problem.
Soon, I found myself comparing the prices of several early-opening restaurants with the small number of coins I possessed. I spotted two adult ninjas strolling in the opposite direction. One had long black hair framing a scarred face. He wore a flak jacket and two pouches on each leg. The other was blond and had a hita-ite around his left arm, flak jacket open to reveal a mesh shirt underneath.
They laughed at each other`s jokes, but even their leisurely pace looked like a brisk jog to me. They put no effort into it! Cursing my status of a weakling among a world of kung-fu wizards, I turned to buy whatever came first on the damn menu. I was going to break the physics engine and turn myself into Superman.
No sooner had I turned to face the closest restaurant were the two aforementioned ninjas on each side of me, kunai drawn, their merry expressions replaced by grim, hard looks. I hadn`t even heard them move before the dust was already settling. What had I done to attract their- I flinched.
"Stop it!" the blond snapped.
His eyes hardened at my confused expression. I was willing to retort a 'stop what?' but the sharp knife inches from my neck halted any witty remarks.
"Stop suppressing your chakra and reveal your identity" the man behind me growled.
He sounded like I was the one interrupting his uneventful evening. I didn't answer. There was no use explaining I had no chakra because I didn't actually belong to their reality.
"Are you a clone?" the blond asked, his tone now more suspicious than angry.
"He doesn't have Konoha insignia either!" cried the other.
I didn't know how they could be more threatening, but their bodies stiffened, the kunai got closer and their breathing tightened. In the face of the rising tension, I lifted my hands and tried a pathetic attempt at smiling. I didn't want to lose my body now…
"Gahoru, call for backup, I think we've uncovered an infiltration" the blond ordered his scarred companion.
As he spoke, his kunai moved slightly closer, probably unconsciously, towards my neck. The thought of permanent death and missing my deadline replaced all others in my head. Yes, I panicked at that moment. I immediately exited my body and rushed through the hacking protocols I had set up during the night.
I found myself within moments facing a wall of jumbled code representing the simulation's physics engine. It was generally discouraged to randomly rewrite essential pieces of code when you didn't understand what they meant, but the prospect of rotting in prison for years overcame my professional hesitations. I got to work, applying translations I had used for the information files to the lines of code before me.
Incomplete equations and strange symbols started appearing. I compared them to the most common physics engines I remembered and started sorting the information into groups. Numbers from zero to nine soon appeared, adding more clarity, as did finding constants and separating them from the variables. I recognized a fraction. I expanded it and replaced the symbols with alphas and betas, easier for the eyes.
Coulomb law! I looked around it. Magnetism! My mind raced. Kunai! Metal! Attract and repulse!
I copied the section and pasted it within my internal memory. I worked on the part of the code that described my physical body within the simulation. Just as I was trying to uncover spaces I could insert the new code into, the system hiccuped I had made a mistake somewhere and the effects were spreading. I froze then worked faster. Code rained as I processed it. I found a dozen similar spaces in the code and dumped the equation in them too.
I snuck a peek through my physical eyes. The two ninja were watching me, wary of my sudden stillness. The crowd around us moved away and made a circle. I went back to my code, trying to smooth out the transition between the original writing and my own insertions. Seconds later, the system froze again and bumped me out.
I jumped as the shock sent the wrong messages to my muscles. Both ninja were startled too, but years of training had drilled into them that a suspicious individual freezing when apprehended then jerking back to life was not a good thing. They rushed forward, ready to subdue me.
The hilt of the blonde's kunai slammed into my head, reducing my control over my already spasming body. Gahoru hadn't expected me to fall so his swipe went over my head. As my knees touched the ground, a kick knocked the wind out of my lungs. It was helpful in a way, since my diaphragm had locked up; the kick had shaken it back into motion.
I had an internal laugh at how they had knocked me out and saved me from respiratory failure at the same time. The scene faded to black among the gasps and comments of the crowd.
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooo
AN: This is a story I came up with after trying to find something that has never been done before in Naruto fanfiction. I've worked on this for nearly a month already, with the help of these three wonderful betareaders: Hiichisai - Narutorox - Challa.
After these three first chapters, I will post a chapter per week. I have 10 chapters in reserve.
This story gets better as it goes along. The main action starts at the end of these three introductory chapters. I hope you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Please view the other chapters too!
First off, a big thank you to all those who reviewed. To keep the added wordcount short, I'll just answer some issues you have raised.
Yamamato: I am trying to improve my writing. This is not my native language. As for Kenobi, it is implied that he has visited and worked on many simulations before, so it is easy for him to feel detached from the fake reality around him.
xthemuffin: His plan is to destroy the simulation's purpose by ending the story. The method he has chosen is to kill all antagonists (Orochimaru, Akatsuke ect.) Without them, there is no more tension in the story, thus no point to continuing the simulation. As for the nature of the person assuming the identity of Kenobi: it's an electronic spirit... which is a fancy way of saying that a person uploading his consciousness into a computer, leaving behind any physical presence to become entirely digital.