Disclaimer: I make no claims at ownership of any copyrighted characters, places or events used herein. The only thing I make a claim to is this fic, which originated in my head and any original characters created by me herein. The following was made for public consumption at zero profit, and is not for sale except to the owning companies. Yes, I dream big.
Special Notes: I always forget to mention this, but unless I specify otherwise people are in their canon outfits.
Star Sage, Part Two
By: (Driver) Jim Ohki
Earth; SGC; Converted Storage Room; 1345 local time
"Hello~?" Daniel Jackson waved his hand in front of the blond-haired boy's face that had gone into complete stillness. It was like he was somewhere else entirely even though his body was right in front of him.
"The lights are on but nobody's home," Jack O'Neill quipped, reaching around his friend with his right hand to push the kid in the chest. Surprisingly, the target of his actions didn't so much as twitch. "Nurse, grab the kid and hook him up."
It took but a moment to reveal a problem. The nurses, while in shape as military training demanded, weren't able to comply with the order. Teal'c wandered over only to meet similar results.
"It's like his feet are glued to the floor," Sam Carter kneeled down to insure that wasn't the case. Those that had worked with her before said nothing to her choice of position as she sat on her haunches. If the child looked down he was sure to get the wrong idea.
"Well, at least I can now look at these," Daniel moved to his left around his friend on the floor to peer closely at the strange tattoo he hadn't noticed beforehand on their guest's right arm.
"All right," O'Neill sighed, looking at the nurses standing around. "Hook him up standing then since I'm not about to have my nice floor cut apart to move him." Compliance was forthwith, only to confuse everybody present.
"The hell is going on in that skull?" one of the three NONCOM nurses grumbled, earning the attention of the new base CO. He had seen enough EEG graphs in his time in the mountain to have a vague understanding of what a normal one should look like. The one he was looking at was far from normal.
"Daniel . . .," O'Neill's tone indicated that he was about ready to take the man for a few rounds in the boxing ring.
"What the-?" even the archeologist turned explorer/diplomat/combat expert was confused by what he was seeing.
"This is new," Carter drawled, having risen to take a look herself. While astrophysics was her specialty, her own time in the SGC and friendship with the late Doctor Frasier had taught her some medical knowledge. What she was looking at seemed to be impossible yet the proof was in front of her eyes.
"He's gotta be in communication with somebody," she continued, her surprise letting the language skills of her immediate boss slip through. "This actually looks a bit familiar . . . ah. Oh dear."
"Gate-Keeper?" Daniel caught on, remembering that particular mission with distaste. The chairs they had gotten from that world produced something similar in regards to brainwave activity when two people used them at the same time.
"Ugh, not that again," Jack groaned, hands rising to rub his face.
"At least in respect to the communal mind part, yes," Carter shrugged. "How he's doing it without the aid of the chairs or any technology I know of is beyond me."
"Are you telling me that he," O'Neill hooked his left thumb in the direction of the shirtless blond kid who couldn't be over thirteen, "is in communication with others like him, on his world?"
"Very probable, Sir," Carter went formal to show how serious the situation was to her. Jack O'Neill knew his old team well enough to read her tell in an instant.
"Great, culture contamination," Daniel sighed, having drawn his own conclusions. It was one thing if the flagship team of the SGC did a face-to-face meet and greet as they could get a feel for the locals without giving too much away. In this case, they had nothing to go on.
Bijuu Communal Mind; Same Time
"Impossible," Yugito Nii declared, giving her tenant the half-lidded look of disbelief.
"Um, no it's not," Naruto piped up, earning a glare for his troubles. "I mean, we," he gestured between himself and the human form of Kyuubi, "are on a different planet. Before coming here I was able to see where my body is. They have nothing that looks remotely like anything in the Elemental Nations. If only I could show . . ." he trailed off as the white space around them turned into the room he had observed in his brief moment of wakefulness. It was frozen in one spot, when he had been on the ceiling maximizing his view.
"Well, this is new," Saiken was looking around, so it was hard to see who she was talking to. "Projectile weapons of unknown power, technology further advanced than this world and . . . is that a Jaffa?"
"The state of the Galaxy must be chaos," Son Goku crossed her arms under her breasts, slightly lifting them. "It seems that the Second Coming of the Ancestors is in full swing. These humans have apparently taken the fight to our ancient enemy, if they can get them to defect from their so-called Gods."
"It gets better," Kurama gained the attention of the others. "Several times I heard the word Atlantis spoken in reference to how they found our world."
"That ship is in another galaxy!" Kokuo, the astronomer of the Nine, looked beside herself at that information. If it was true then the humans of their birth world were finding the left behind technology of the Ancestors.
"There was one word I barely heard," Naruto brought all attention to himself again. "I don't know what Asgard means but-"
"Just what have those humans done?!" Isobu thundered over the rest of what he was saying, looking panicked. Even though her form was the Sanbi, she was the diplomat of the group. "First our enemy, then the Ancestors and now the Asgard?! That makes connections to two other galaxies they have!"
"Things are going to get lively, aren't they," Kushina spoke up for the first time, her mind trying and failing to process the overload of information.
"I guess we'll have to talk to them," Kurama ignored her former host in favor of keeping the topic on track. "We need more information as to the state of affairs . . . everywhere, really, and determine if we are going to be affected by them." Even though she was the Enforcer of the Nine, she was the only one in position to carry out the First Contact.
"We have no choice but to inform our villages of this, you know," the massive frame that was Han joined the fray, averting his eyes away from the echo of the Yondaime Hokage. He figured that the saying 'out of sight, out of mind' would work best in keeping his temper in check. "This involves far more than one village or nation against the other. The stakes are far too high for petty infighting now."
"Unfortunately, I believe that those that seek power will act," Minato chimed in, using his time as Hokage as a reference. He knew he had had enough issues with Danzo Shimura alone, forget the equivalents of the old War-Hawk in the other villages.
"Yes, if you tell your various leaders what you have learned here the only result will be war," Yagura, being the only Kage alive present, knew too well what his Council would pressure him into regardless of his previous actions. "A war unlike any seen before as the Samurai Legions will no doubt get involved once the Daimyos learn that the Shinobi are fighting and what for."
"The Stargate," Gyuki rumbled, catching on to the unspoken words of the Third Host.
"Naruto," Minato grabbed the attention of his son, "you said that you were with your team when you fell into the crevice. If I know Kakashi he sent word to Konoha within hours of your disappearance."
"Really?" the sarcastic reply was not lost on any of the observers. "I honestly had no idea that he cared . . . oh, wait. It's just because of my passenger that he would report me missing. Can't lose the village weapon after all."
Minato, Kushina and Kurama winced at his tone, the underlying accusations plan as day.
"Bah," the blond boy carried on ignoring their twitch, "at least by doing so Tsunade-Baa-Chan will know what happened to me. She might even clue Ero-Sennin in as I know those two actually give a shit about me. Maybe. Sometimes, its damned hard to tell."
Yugito and Kirabi were in silent communication, disbelief coming from them in waves. It just seemed impossible to them for the village to alienate their Guardian as they might be needed one day. Fu, on the other hand, knew exactly where Naruto was coming from having had just as rough a life as he.
"That's not quite where I was going," Minato found his voice, now truly understanding that his final wish was blissfully ignored. "What I was thinking of is that Konoha may move this Stargate from its' previous location, especially if they can see any strategic value for it. From the sounds of it, our world doesn't possess any means of destroying the thing if its' been around for a few million years."
"They wouldn't dare," Chomei entered the fray, looking entirely displeased. Of the Nine, she was the one that understood the 'Gate the most. "If they managed to get it to detonate, the resulting shockwave would wipe out two-thirds of this planet. No, they'll either set it up in a secure facility within the village walls or bury it somewhere."
The reunited family, even if in spirit only, wandered away from the others to have a private talk. The conversation between Bijuu and Host was starting to go around in circles, which was not constructive in the least.
"I see that I failed you, son," the Yondaime had his game-face on. "I didn't understand just how deep that failure went until the topic was brought up. I won't even try to justify Sarutobi's thinking by allowing the treatment you suffered to go on. Whatever you decide to do, I support with all that remains of my being."
"I most certainly am not about to run away like some coward," Naruto looked fierce at his declaration. "Fifteen years, I have put aside everything the people of the village have done to me. Ero-Sennin has been hinting at taking me out of Konoha for a training trip anyway, so why don't I start now? Knowing him as I do, he'll give me the bare minimum of a technique then expect me to figure it out on my own. That's not enough . . . not nearly enough. I need training, not vague hints."
"What about Tsunade?" Kushina looked hurt for her boy, since he refused to do so himself.
"In truth, I can't get any adult to take me seriously," he shook his head, not wanting to show how much the memories actually bothered him. "I know I haven't helped my cause by wearing neon orange and being as loud as I can. But to paint the Monument in broad daylight without being caught until I wanted to be should say something right there. I fought Orochimaru of all people, more than once and came out alive. Hell, I fought Shukaku herself and lived to tell the tale, forget emerging victorious."
Really, the people of Konoha had no idea as to the diamond in the rough they had in Naruto. His stealth was off the charts and to be able to take on a Bijuu, even if it was the One-Tail, and win just screamed untapped potential.
"Then we're just going to have to train you ourselves," his mother now looked like a tomato, her face red in rage at what she understood of the situation.
"Now that I think about it, why hasn't our chakra run out?" Minato had been ready to rejoin the rest of himself in the belly of the Shinigami. For some reason, that hadn't happened and he was starting to question the goings on.
"I just got you back, I'm not about to let go so soon," Naruto glared at his parents, daring them to tell him otherwise. "I had noticed that you flickered a couple of times, revealing that you are chakra constructs of your souls. Rather than sit around and mope about losing you just after getting to know you, I wrapped the pair of you in chakra bubbles preventing what you have left from bleeding off. When I am ready, I will let you go as Death is a part of Life. That, and I'm not about to anger the Shinigami any more than I have to."
"Naruto," Kurama interrupted their talk, "it's time to return to your body. We need information on the humans that have taken you to their world, and you're the only asset we have on scene. Don't you worry, you'll get your training . . . and then some. But for now, we must go."
Yuki no Kuni; Seven days after disappearance; 0930 local time
"We have to take this thing with us," Jiraiya was well aware of the fact that Tsunade couldn't be away from the village for too long lest word got out; both internal and external threats made it a reality. The Gama-Sennin was ready with a special Fuuinjutsu that could support the size and estimated weight of the device. Or rather; he hoped that the seal array could handle the strain, never having had to put something that big into a storage scroll before.
"Yes," the Godaime Hokage agreed with his reasoning, knowing herself that if she dawdled too long then the Elders would start asking questions that couldn't be answered by Shizune. She was also aware of the fact that she was about to catch hell from them and the Councils for losing their trump card on a mission of dubious nature. She could feel the migraine already building and needed a drink.
"Don't you worry, we'll get the boy back," her old teammate read her mood easily, one of the few who could. Surprisingly Naruto himself was another, even if he showed it differently.
"He may not even want to come back if it's better on the other side," she had to get that out there, even as a full-body shiver made itself known. While she didn't doubt the blondes' character, she was also a realist in that if he received the treatment he was long overdue for that he might just make his sojourn permanent.
"Oh no, he'll be back," his confidence was not displaced, having more interaction with the boy than she did on a personal level. "He's too damn stubborn to simply throw in the towel. On the other hand, this gives us an opportunity to actually do what the Academy and Kakashi should have done to train him without interruption. We can even sow some confusion in the ranks of our enemies by using the old Deep Cover protocols."
Tsunade fell into thought about it, as by using those protocols on the only Jinchuuriki they had could invite the other villages to attack them openly. Broken down into basic components, Deep Cover involved officially declaring a person lost and presumed dead, the seizure of their belongings –to go into storage, not that the public would know- and informing the village as a whole about the loss of one of their own. She frowned at that, as it would reveal his heritage to the masses that were still unaccepting of him.
"I cleaned out his place years ago," Jiraiya was apparently a psychic –or a Yamanaka- as he could now read minds. "Nothing important will be lost, not even the sole family portrait that was above their mantel. If he gets into contact with me, I'm sending it all to him as it's beyond time that he knows. Don't worry your pretty head too much, I'll increase the depth of my Network so that any whiff of activity by the other Villages we'll know."
"What about his team?" she wasn't about to leave loose ends if this was to work.
"ANBU secrecy seals should do the trick," his gaze bored into her own. "If it comes to it, we'll use the design Danzo came up with. Very effective and damn near unbreakable."
"Do it," she approved after several moments of thought. "Seal the ring and controller first, then Team Seven. I'm leaving Kakashi here until you're done with your work, give him the container scrolls before you head out to upgrade your Network. I've got to get back to Konoha and break the news . . . damn it, I need a drink." And a nice fuck, she left that part out around her present company, knowing he would try to be the one to deliver. She was off to collect her ANBU team, leaving Jiraiya to smirk at her retreating back.
'Lucky bastard Naruto, doesn't even know what he's missing out on,' he thought, before getting to work himself. Damn that godson of his, having all these women pining over him yet being too clueless to do anything about it. Something else to get on the Academy and Kakashi for, it seems, as such ignorance was an easily exploitable weakness.
SGC Converted Storage Room; 1600 local time
"Sirs, I think he's coming around," one of the nurses got the attention of the base CO and his XO, waving her right hand at the person in question.
"How many times am I going to be hooked up to these damn machines?" the blond groused in accented English, something that he hadn't been able to do the first time he had awoken. "Oh; ouch. Leg cramp!" Just like that, he was sitting on the floor rubbing at his legs.
"I like him already," O'Neill grinned, seeing some of himself in the boy. He would rather eat a bullet than be caught in that orange injustice to the world though. Something else that grabbed his attention was while the young man massaged the cramps out of his legs his eyes were wandering around, taking in everything and subtly disconnecting himself from the EEG.
"Hello there," Daniel swung into action as the First Contact Diplomat.
"Uh, hi," the blond eyed the man wearily, having no previous encounters of the strange kind to help him here. If it weren't for that big guy that looked like he came from Kumo lurking over his shoulder he felt he would be able to get out of any jamb in a quick order.
As Jackson started talking, introducing himself and those around him O'Neill drifted away a bit to observe the kid's reactions. Other than people and the specific place, he seemed to know which planet he was on already which shouldn't be possible. Not if their 'Gate was long buried and forgotten at any rate.
"My tenant has an interesting story," Naruto, having introduced himself, was advised to be honest with these people if he wanted a chance at going home. He noticed that other than raised eyebrows the reaction to the knowledge he was a Jinchuuriki was nothing like in Konoha . . . or anywhere else in the Elemental Nations for that matter. There were no looks of . . . any negative emotion, really. All that he could read from their facial expressions was intrigue, curiosity and a genuine desire to learn what he knew of his society. He told them almost verbatim what Kurama had told him in regards to how she came to be.
There were things he left out; each too personal to share with a group of, for all intents and purposes, strangers.
He learned that he had been taken through the Stargate, whatever that was as he had yet to see it, as they had believed that the glacier they were inside of was going to collapse on their heads. He was surprised to hear that he had been unconscious for the better part of a week, having apparently bounced his head off of the ice more than once on his way down the crevice.
"I need to send a message home," he sighed, not really looking forward to the prospect, "to let them know that I'm still alive and in one piece."
"Wouldn't you rather go home?" Carter held nothing against the young man. Rather, she was trying to understand what was going through his mind.
"Not overly," was his honest answer, complete with a shrug of his shoulders. "Things there aren't the greatest and some time away from them will do me some good. Not that it matters much as . . . somebody I know was gearing up to take me out of the village for the next three years anyway."
"It wouldn't be too hard to dial your world," Daniel used his experience with other species in place of arguments, something that got under the skin of many in the military.
"We think the 'Gate is on the move," he clutched his stomach to emphasize his point, "to either Konoha –my village- or to a burial site. Until I can establish communication with . . . my people . . . I don't recommend that action."
Anybody who knew Naruto would be scratching their heads, wondering where this intelligence came from. That and this serious, able-to-sit-still side of him that he rarely showed. This was what he had hidden from the Village as a whole as a means on minimizing their anger towards his person. While he pulled pranks and generally made a nuisance of himself in his youth to gain attention, he also entrenched the belief that he was a simple, one-track minded rube. When combined with his tenants minds, this aspect of himself took over seeing that nobody around him was behaving as he was used to.
"Then just how do you intend to get in contact with your people?" O'Neill had his right eyebrow raised, wondering just what they had truly stumbled upon.
"Like this," he bit his right thumb hard enough to draw blood, earning frowns all around before his hands blurred into motion. Being that he was sitting down all he had to do was slap his bloodied hand on the ground with a bark of, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
Those in Stargate Command had seen and been through much in their tours of duty. Watching a child that looked no older than thirteen but was actually fifteen bring a toad of all things into being from nowhere was not something they had encountered before.
"Yo," Gamakichi waved his right foreleg in a lazy greeting while looking up at his summoner, imitating a certain pug. "It's good to see you Naruto. When we got word from the Dogs about you disappearing we were worried."
"And now I've seen everything," Jack O'Neill balked, taken completely by surprise by the talking amphibian. His comment led to another round of introductions for the sake of the small toad, which had migrated into the arms of 'Boss'.
"'Kichi, I need you to tell Tsunade that I'm fine," Naruto brought all attention back to himself, "and that I'll be back when I can. That is, if she doesn't bury the 'Gate. I intend to do my training here if I'm allowed, so she should consider my trip started."
"Yosh!" the toad showed more emotion than his greeting before leaping into the air from Naruto's arms to go back whence he came. Having had the opportunity to look up a couple of the skirts present may have improved his mood. Got to love military non-combat uniforms.
"That was interesting," Daniel shook his head, giving up on wrapping his brain around yet another oddity found by the SGC.
"You were going to ask me about staying . . . when?" O'Neill didn't look too happy at the moment.
"Well, uh," the blond stalled, looking for the answer, "I know I'm stuck here at least until I hear back from the village. It'd be kind of hard for me to leave if they are moving or have buried the 'Gate, after all. So, I kind of figured . . . well . . ."
"Look, don't just assume," the recently promoted General softened his expression. "There are protocols that we have to follow for all of our off-world visitors in regards to letting you roam around the base. Granted, Danny-boy here already flubbed some of them messing with that . . . seal-tattoo thingy."
"So he's the one I have to thank?" the young man turned his head to look at said man. Surprisingly to those listening, there was no sarcasm or scorn in his tone. "I'm going to go out on a limb here. It appears that on the night of my birth, when the Kyuubi was sealed into me, that my parents left pieces of themselves in the Array. Whatever you did released them sooner than they had intended, which allowed me to know my family for the first time in my life."
"You're an orphan," the archeologist stated instead of asked, his own expression showing a shared pain. He didn't see Jack or Sam wince as the topic was brought up, one which always managed to light a fire under their friend.
"Yeah," Naruto could see the familiar loneliness in his eyes. "But something else you did . . . how to describe this?" he suddenly turned his head left then right, looking for a reference that they would understand. Off to his right, one of the nurses was mumbling while working on a tablet, trying to do a 'copy and paste' whatever that was. As the term seemed to be common, he went with it.
"I'm not certain how you did it," he turned his attention to those gathered around him, "but whatever goof you made copied everything from my parents and Kyuubi then pasted it into my own mind. The same thing happened in reverse, duplicating my memories and giving them to my tenants."
He felt a bit of satisfaction having worded his explanation correctly as understanding came into their eyes. Only the Yamanaka, that he was aware of, had any idea as to the inner workings of the human mind on his world. Well, them and that sadist Ibiki at any rate.
"That shouldn't be possible," Carter was off in her own world, having directed a thousand yard stare at the corner of the room to her left. To her, it sounded more like the function of an Ancient Repository only without the loss of personality or the need to stick one's head inside.
"Rut roh," Jackson had his Scooby Doo moment, now aware of the colossal disaster he had narrowly averted.
"Will you tell us about the others like yourself?" Sam had come back to the land of the living, turning to another topic that needed answers.
"All right," he had zoned out, having what appeared to be an internal dialogue for a few moments. Naruto told the story from the Bijuu point-of-view, going into greater detail about their origins. He didn't fail to notice the ever-quiet Teal'c stiffen at the mention of extra-planetary invaders coming by ship that were parasites. The tale had apparently sparked a buried memory in the Jaffa, one of the many tales circulated through their society of yet another planet the Goa'uld feared to venture to.
"Your world must have longer years than Earth," Carter had procured a tablet from somewhere and was accessing the server in her lab. "I say that because the Ancients returned from Atlantis ten thousand years ago by our calendar, long after the Galactic Plague had wiped out almost all life."
"Kyuubi says the days are twenty-nine hours long and that one orbit of the sun takes . . . four hundred days," the blond supplied, never having paid too much attention to a detail such as that.
"Just under fourteen months per orbit," the attractive blond woman was talking to herself, inputting the numbers into the tablet to get a conversion. "Which translates into a difference of eleven thousand four hundred ninety-four years, putting events over thirty thousand years ago. It still isn't remotely close as the few records we've found indicate that the Plague struck some ten million years ago."
"My tenant just grunted at me, displeased to learn that she is older than she thought," Naruto looked amused at that little factoid. "But at the same time she says that for some reason time within the Galaxy had slowed to a crawl at some point, throwing everything out of whack."
"Damned Asgard time dilation!" O'Neill grumbled, reminding the others of his presence. It would make sense though that they would slow time within the Milky-Way so as to find a cure for the Plague before it went extra-galactic. The General took in the incredulous looks and mumbled to himself, knowing that this was why he appeared to be a joker all the time. Nobody liked Serious O'Neill after all.
Or the other, single L guy for that matter.
Hokage's Office; Twelve Days since disappearance; 0800 local
"That's better," Tsunade had wasted no time rushing back to the village, knowing that the pressure was on Shizune and Asuma to hold the fort. Now ensconced behind her desk, she took a moment to chug a small bottle of sake before having to deal with the Elders and the Councils.
"Damn gaki, better appreciate what I'm doing for him here or I swear I'll rip his cock off and shove it up his ass," she mumbled, mentally preparing herself for the confrontation ahead. She had half an hour before the meeting, to which she took advantage of by getting her notes together and getting a nice buzz going.
"Message!" announced Gamakichi as he materialized, looking bewildered. She studied the toad, trying to figure out what had ruffled him so.
"Let's hear it," she leaned back in her chair, expecting this to be from Jiraiya. She could be excused for spit-taking her sake across her notes when instead it was from the subject of her many thoughts . . . not all of which were pure.
"It was the strangest feeling," the young toad offered his opinion after delivering his message. "Almost like being squeezed through a hose. Wherever he is, is a long way from here, in a bunker of some sort. The people there . . . they felt almost like the First Ones."
She shivered, long forgotten tales from her youth coming to the forefront of her mind. Records going back beyond the Clan Wars were scarce, having been lost for various reasons. One of the two constants were stories of the First Ones, bits and pieces that made no sense as no Clan had dared to share what they knew about them. The other were vague mentions of parasites, coming from a far-away place by ship trying to invade their world only to be turned back time and again.
"Go find Jiraiya," the Hokage came back to the current goings-on, "and let him know that you've been contacted. From now on, be aware of your surroundings as we are going to initiate the Deep Cover protocols on Naruto."
Gamakichi balked, giving Tsunade the fish-eye look of disbelief. Rather than argue the point with someone who wasn't their summoner he instead dispelled himself to alert the Elder Toads of current events. They were already displeased with Konoha as a whole, and he hoped that what the busty blond woman was thinking of doing was for the right reasons.
"Here we go," she muttered, getting out of her chair to head to the council room early. She wanted to get a read on the Elders and Councils before they tried to rip her a new one.
Konoha Council Chambers; Same Day; 0830
Tsunade had played her cards correctly for a change. Since Team Seven wasn't back in the village yet nobody had any idea as to this sudden meeting. The Shinobi and Civilian Councils were giving each other odd looks, trying to understand why the other was there. Interspersed with that were gazes at the Elders, each sitting stoically showing nothing even though they had nothing to go on at the moment.
"Good morning," the Hokage led off, hands clasped in front of her face to hide her expression. "This meeting of the Konoha Leadership has been called due to events in Yuki no Kuni, triggered by the B-Rank escort mission assigned to Team Seven."
Various murmurs traveled the crowd, but none spoke up.
"The mission turned out to be an almost perfect reenactment of their C-Rank to Nami," she continued, earning more than a few raised brows. Details of the Nami no Kuni mission were known by all, a bottom-end C-Rank that turned into a high-end A-Rank due to the client lying. "As it turns out, yet another client lied to us in regards to the scope of the mission. We were dragged into a coup by what we now know to be rebels opposing Doto Kazahana, in which they wanted to overthrow his rule and place the daughter of Sosetsu Kazahana, Koyuki, in her rightful place. This mission, a public coup de tat, should never have even reached my desk. The damage is done however; Doto is dead, Koyuki is now the Daimyo of Yuki no Kuni."
More murmurs rippled through the Councilors, as this was the second time Team Seven was in the thick of a change of power in the public arena. Konoha was, no matter how unintentionally, overreaching and they all knew it; especially as word traveled around the other Villages. Even Danzo felt like he should scale back operations for a while to let things cool down.
"Unfortunately, we lost one of our own," Tsunade dropped the bomb, bringing all conversation to a halt. "Naruto Uzumaki sacrificed his life to terminate Doto Kazahana, being crushed before his body was washed out to sea by the melting ice."
"You lost our weapon?" Danzo came close to sneering, barely holding his face in the usual neutral expression.
"Shimura, fuck you," came from Tsume Inuzuka, her eyes blazing. She didn't know it, but her reaction had generated a distraction. "The gaki was never some weapon to us and you know it. Yes, I admit what he held kept the other Villages in line to a point. But we never trained him properly in how to be a Shinobi, forget tapping into the vast power of his . . . tenant."
"I told that fool Sarutobi-," the one-eyed Elder was interrupted by a slap to the face from the least likely source. Koharu Utatane looked more lively than she had in years.
"Don't speak ill of the dead," she barked, showing that even though she was nearing seventy years old she was still able to rumble. "I can admit that Hiruzen's ideals worked far more than yours ever could. We never needed a brainless automaton that had to be ordered to do anything. We got almost exactly what we needed in a bright spirit that would do whatever was required to defend the village, regardless of how the populace treated him. That boy is responsible for no less than two alliances with the possibility of a third. His charisma was able to turn any enemy he encountered bar Orochimaru and his lackeys."
"What are we going to do now?" Shikaku Nara was wide awake, shocking those that knew his habit of sleeping through these meetings. "As troublesome as it is to bring this up, without the body we don't know where the Kyuubi has gone. No matter what, the balance of power has shifted in the Nations."
"Why are we even here for this?" Sakura's mother, Sakuri somehow kept a straight face even though she had been one of the louder voices in the 'Anti-Naruto' department. She was not stupid though, having a bad feeling about the news of her daughter's latest mishap.
"The Civilian Council is here because of the loss of funds from two investing Clans," Tsunade was glad for the topic change, not wanting to focus on the lack-of-body issue. Nearly every eye opened wide as such loss was a humongous blow to the Konoha economy. "With the loss of Naruto, all investments being drawn from the Uzumaki and Namikaze accounts is forthwith stopped and any future withdraws and deposits are denied as the accounts are considered frozen. Protocol demands that they are held for a period of no less than one hundred years to allow any unknown Heir a chance to claim them if they can prove a blood relationship."
"That's thirty percent of our operating costs!" the village treasurer barked, drawing all eyes onto his person. "Those accounts are huge and there is no way the other Clans can pick up the slack!"
"Why is the Namikaze account still active, forget being frozen?" Inoichi Yamanaka could feel his wallet getting lighter already. He knew that the Uzumaki account would go to Naruto in time, as his birthright but the other threw him for a loop.
"Do you honestly not know nor figure it out on your own?" the Hokage glanced around, directing the question to the entire room. When nobody answered, she sighed before producing two pictures and putting them side-by-side.
"How the hell did we miss that?!" Choza Akamichi was beside himself almost instantly, seeing the resemblance between father and son.
"Fuck me sideways," Tsume face-planted into the table, her own disbelief plain for all to see. A long forgotten memory tickled her mind, a contract involving her daughter and . . . the future son of the Yondaime. How the hell could she forget about that?
Hiashi Hyuuga was silent and stoic in the face of current events, at least externally. Internally, however, his mind was going as fast as it could trying to digest the information dumped on his head. Events surrounding his eldest daughter, the loss of his wife and brother had forced a similar memory to Tsume into the back of his brain. Oh, how was he going to break this to sweet, gentle Hinata? The poor girl already had confidence issues and this might just crush her.
He made a note to speak to the Hokage as soon as possible though as something else was teasing his mind. Not once had the blond Senju said that Naruto was dead. She just called him lost, which was a very specific term. Catching the eye of the Inuzuka Matriarch he subtly sent her a message with hand-signs.
Inoichi, seated between them as they were at opposite ends of the Ino-Shika-Cho trio intercepted the non-verbal communication. He too had a contract with Uzumaki, even if he'd rather not get his daughter all riled up. Deciding that the entirety of the Shinobi Council had to be present he nudged Shikaku on his left and Choza on his right to pay attention.
Tsunade herself could see the hand-signs going back and forth, cluing her in to the fact that the Clan Leaders weren't about to let this issue drop so easily. She already had a document from Suna that she'd rather not think about involving Temari. There was another from Nami, a third from Teuchi Ichiraku and a yet-to-be opened missive from Koyuki herself on the pile that she wanted nothing to do with either. The Deep Cover protocols were never meant to be used on the last of a Clan, known Heir or not after all. She had her own issues to add to the conflagration, a long-standing contract between the Senju and Uzumaki that would just muck up the works.
'I really need another drink and damn it all a nice lay,' she mentally groused as the Chambers came to life as the implications of what the loss of Naruto Uzumaki actually meant to Konoha.
SGC; Thirteen Days since disappearance; 0900 local
"So I was right in that your entire world is made up of ninja?" Daniel was clarifying his thoughts with Naruto over breakfast. The way the kid ate just screamed 'abused' as he wolfed the food down so that nobody could take it away.
"Nah," the blond had the decency to swallow first before talking, seeing no threat to his sustenance. "There are Hidden Villages which are more akin to cities that have Shinobi Corps, the Capital Cities of the Nations that have Samurai Legions, various towns and small villages that share militia and a boat load of civilians all over the place."
"Sounds like a military structure to me," Jack got out between bites of his Fruit Loops.
"No," the youngest person in the base made his argument. "There are only five levels of Shinobi. There's Gennin, like me. Fairly new to service, some solo experience but nothing much to look at. Usually led by an experienced Jounin-Sensei. Then there's Chuunin, at least a couple years of all-around experience, team leadership skills for the occasional Gennin Team when they sub for a Jounin. There are sub-levels of the Jounin: Special, Regular and Elite. The Tokubetsu Jounin are specialists in their field of choice, but have a weakness that prohibits them from obtaining full rank. The Elites are the powerhouses, just short of Kage level. They have numerous years of service in, taking the higher-risk deployments. Then there's the ANBU which really are a bunch of cannon fodder these days. They used to be the Best of the Best, but something happened to change that. There is no individual ranking in ANBU; either you are in or not. At the top are the Kage, the strongest of the Villages."
"What about the Samurai?" Jackson was fascinated with what he was hearing.
"From what I've observed," Naruto had gotten more food down his throat, "they follow more along the lines of your own rankings. Private, Sergeant, Lieutenant so on and so forth. Same can be said for the smaller militias as they follow the Legion's ranking system."
"Could you slow your eating please?" Sam looked green at the gills watching the blond boy impersonate a vacuum cleaner.
"Ah, sorry," he blushed, using his fork to spear his sausage.
The flagship team of the SGC had noticed that he had avoided mentioning specifics. Deciding to leave well-enough alone, breakfast continued in silence for a while.
"Can . . . will you give us a demonstration of what you can do?" Daniel was finishing off his coffee and was trying to learn more.
"I guess," young Uzumaki had never had such a great start to his day before. While he was bummed about there being no ramen on the menu for breakfast he shrugged it off as unimportant for the time being as there was much else to focus on. "I need to train anyway, haven't done so in almost two weeks."
He wouldn't say it out loud, but he felt that something was wrong. While he was still enthusiastic about meeting new people, being in new places and generally wanting to train he just couldn't, for the life of him, show it. He had a hunch that this was more along the lines of his father's personality showing through. Although he had taken note that every time he talked people listened, giving his positive reinforcement to not having to shout to be seen. It was a novel experience for the lonely boy to be certain.
"How big of an area do you need?" O'Neill, being recently put in charge of the base, wasn't too keen on letting their guest top-side yet. Since he had awoken it had taken subtle persuasion and hints to get him to talk, even with his military-esque training. Granted, if their positions were reversed he knew he would be the same way towards his hosts.
"Outdoors would be nice," was the immediate reply, "if at all possible. Part of my training involves trees . . . lots of trees. Maybe a boulder. Definitely some moss to add to the challenge. A water source helps out too."
Exactly what the General didn't want to hear. The biggest room, bar the 'Gate Room itself, was the Gym. A recent project that didn't get much attention, the place was a new sub-level to accommodate its size. Other than load-bearing pillars and the perimeter wall it was a huge space that had a pool, the Boxing Ring, the weight-lifting machines, a running track and the basketball court with plenty of open spaces between. It had yet to be opened for use, seeing that the occupants of the base were content with what they had and weren't too keen on sharing workout space.
The intention behind it was for future expansion, to train entire Battalions that would be stationed off-world for entire tours at a time which would have similar facilities built. This way they would be used to tripping over each other, wardrobe failures, somebody having a bad burrito and other tomfoolery that goes with a large crowd of men and women sharing the same space.
Time to compromise.
The Gym, Sub-Level 30; 1000
"This . . . this'll work," Naruto was stunned at the size of the Gym. He knew he was underground as he had yet to find a window on any of the levels he had been on. Seeing this open space, only marred by the occasional eight by eight by twenty foot pillar brought a smile to his face. The track was perfect for stamina/endurance training, the pool excellent for Water Walking, the supports for the level above for Surface Clinging, the Jacuzzi for relaxation, so on and so forth. The basketball court confused him, not that he was worried about having to use it as the open spaces between each area could be used for pretty much anything he wanted.
Once he had taken in the one hundred fifty by one hundred fifty meter room, he turned back to his . . . he didn't know where to categorize them yet. They were too friendly to be guards, not friendly enough to be friends, more than acquaintances yet didn't play the part of interrogators.
It was maddening.
"I can't practice anything destructive down here but for everything else this is perfect," he went on as his mind went through the copied memories of his internal guests. Anything Kurama had to offer was out straight away as being just too much in a confined space. Same went for any long range jutsu his parents had known. Everything short to mid-range however was open for experimentation.
"Here I go!"
One blond became five hundred one, nearly filling the room with himself. The lack of warning had startled his observers who found themselves in a sea of blond hair.
"All right boys, listen up!" the original barked at his clones. "One hundred each: Surface Clinging, Water Walking, Rasengan, Chakra Chain and Chakra-Fuuinjutsu practice!"
"YOSH!" roared the crowd of the same person, immediately setting to work with an enthusiasm not found outside of a certain Jounin and his mini-me.
"How . . . what-?" poor Sam felt her brain attempt to melt at the physics defying displays around her person. Her eyes traveled around the room taking in the copies on the ceiling, on the water, forming balls of energy in their hands, forming the chain that had nearly taken Jack's head off and others seemingly writing in thin air.
". . .," Teal'c was silent, his mind racing trying to remember old legends. The Goa'uld had more than their fair share of planets that they avoided for one reason or another. The stories that traveled through the Jaffa varied, blurring fact from fiction. The memory that had been tickled the day before was being elusive, making the man a bit paranoid which as anybody knows is never a good look for a Jaffa. What he was seeing the boy do was apparently something new as he couldn't recall ever hearing of abilities like these.
"I've got to learn that trick," Jack's eyes sparkled, seeing the defeat of his bane in his mind's eye. Commanders Universe-wide had the same problem it seemed: paperwork. The evils that were involved with the processed remains of trees scarred every person to have ever encountered this enemy.
"That's . . . different," Jackson was lost for words, something that rarely occurred these days. Having been Ascended and Descended twice used to be tops on the list of the strange and bizarre that had happened to him before. Since young Naruto woke up he found he was having to rewrite the definition every hour it seemed.
Naruto's World; Fourteen days since disappearance; 1400 local
Spy networks all over the Elemental Nations had gone haywire at the news coming out of Konoha. One Naruto Uzumaki, Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, was presumed dead and his heritage was revealed to all. Those that knew the boy personally were hit the hardest while those that loathed his existence felt relief at the news.
In Suna, Gaara had no idea how to handle his distraught sister without telling her the truth. Temari had taking a strange liking to the boy after the events of the Chuunin Exams. Kankuro was simultaneously walking his brother through the knowledge and being a shoulder for her to cry on. The redhead felt his resolve crumbling, not knowing how to say what was most important to the blond girl at the moment.
In Nami, the entire village/country made plans to march to Konoha for the scheduled funeral. Tsunami was a mental wreck, having pushed her father into making arrangements to be with the young man that had touched her –and by extension, her son Inari's- life during his mission there. Tazuna was a bit useless in consoling his daughter, having lost his wife and her mother years before hand to disease. Inari himself had almost reverted to his old self, only his experiences under the reign of Gato preventing his backslide.
In Kiri, events in another village were overshadowed by their Kage publicly admitting to being manipulated under a Genjutsu to kill every Bloodline he could. He offered no excuses, only apologies and the wish for somebody else to take charge as the Godaime as he felt himself unfit for duty. Mei Terumi, leader of the Rebels, had been in the crowd and quickly stepped forward which surprised no one. She was famous for her opposition of the Mizukage and battle prowess, leaving her as the shoe in replacement. When she was briefed by Intelligence of the goings-on outside of Kirigakure, she felt her heart break and made immediate travel plans to Konoha. A bit of the old Uzumaki legacy had survived in her family since the fall of Uzushio, a bit that she would never see come to fruition.
Kumo and Iwa were a mess. Their respective Kages were beyond angry that the sole child of Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki had flown under their radar for his entire life, even with the public events surrounding the boy. Both Villages were dusting off old war plans now that the Kyuubi was lost to their long-time nemesis. The build-up would begin immediately, even though their Shinobi Corps were lacking in numbers. Civilian children were pressed into the Academy's and harsh training for those already enlisted took center stage. They would be ready in four years to make another attempt to finish Konoha.
Ame . . . oh dear. Obito, known as Tobi or Madara, was on a rampage tearing up any and everything in his path. Whatever had been left of his sanity had fled the premises at the news delivered by Zetsu as losing the Kyuubi ruined all of his plans. Plans which included dealing with the last of his Sensei and that bloody Will of Fire crap spewed by his birthplace. Nagato –Pein to those that didn't know him outside of Akatsuki bar Jiraiya- wasn't about to let his now former boss have his way with his hard-fought for home. When the man had lost control of himself he had revealed that he was using the organization as a means to an end, fully intending to betray them at the right moment. It was also a shock to find that he wanted the Rinnegan for his own, not wanting to go through what his ancestor had to get it.
Itachi Uchiha had taken the smart route, getting out of the danger zone as he knew he had no chance against either powerhouse. Kisame Hoshigaki followed his partner, aware of his own limits despite his own skills and Samehada.
The rest of the Akatsuki joined the fray on the side of Pein, having heard the ramblings of their most mysterious member and not liking it one bit. The recovering village was once again thrust into a sudden internal power-play, scattering civilians and Shinobi alike.
Konoha itself was on the verge of Civil War. The Shinobi that had worked with or seen Naruto in action on one side, those that had wanted him gone on another with those wanting nothing to do with either side caught in the middle. Tensions were high as random fights would erupt between those mourning and those celebrating, leading to a busy ANBU Division. Tsunade and the Ruling Councils were doing everything they could to quell the in-fighting as word was already trickling in about Iwa and Kumo gearing up for something.
It was into this mess that Team Seven stepped, caught unawares by the utter chaos that had erupted in their home. Kakashi had told his remaining students to not say a word to anybody for the time being, taking the ANBU secrecy seals a bit further. Sasuke couldn't really care less as to the goings-on, instead wanting to go home and relax for a bit before resuming training. Sakura had wanted to hunt down Ino to find out what the mayhem was about but the order put a stop to that.
"We need to report in," the silver-haired Jounin directed the teens through traffic, taking in the Mexican Standoff on the streets. All three noticed that Ichiraku's was closed for some reason that escaped their immediate notice. That oversight was quickly corrected by a passing civilian.
"Good work!" the man praised, thinking it was the Sensei that had done the deed. "Most excellent, getting rid of that damned-"
He didn't get to finish as a random Chuunin came sailing in, punching the man in the face sending him flying. Several armed civilians approached to back-up one of their own as even more Shinobi arrived on scene. The ANBU were quick to follow, landing between both sides and barking orders even as Team Seven walked by.
"Goddamn people," Tsunade grumbled, downing yet another jug of sake. She hadn't wanted to go out there and personally get violent as that could lead to a rebellion by the civilians. If she had known what the Deep Cover protocols would do in regards to Naruto she would have never even considered it. Her thoughts were interrupted by Kakashi opening the door, gesturing his two remaining students inside the office.
"Just give me the transport scroll, your report then get out," she was in no mood to deal with this particular Team, being the source of her headache. Having traveled to Yuki no Kuni herself, all that had to be spoken of was the lack of anything interesting after she had left. The scroll was plopped rather unceremoniously on her desk, earning a baleful glare for the lack of decorum and care.
"It's bad out there," Jiraiya came in the window the second the door shut behind Team Seven. "My Network has gone berserk at the latest movements of . . . just about everybody, really. Almost the entirety of Nami will be here in three days. Koyuki is already on her way, even if she knows more of the truth than anybody else. There's a delegation from Kiri on the move, which will arrive in two days. The Sabaku siblings have left Suna and should be here in a day and a half. Kumo and Iwa have accelerated their programs, gearing up for war. Most likely with us, as both É and Onoki have grudges with Konoha. This was one of the worst ideas I've ever had . . ."
"You couldn't have known what the reaction would be," the Hokage understood why he had trailed off, her own issues crowding her mind. "Even though he hadn't met that many people he still had an impact on his surroundings. There has to be a way to salvage the situation, one that if it doesn't avert war will delay it until he comes back."
"Being the keeper of Minato and Kushina's stuff," he leaned back against the wall, deep in thought, "I know about the various contracts that were made before they died. While I know that there are even older ones out there," he ignored his old teammate shifting around uncomfortably, "that could be useful to us . . ."
"What's going through that head of yours?" the blond woman wasn't liking where he could be going with this.
"While we keep to our course," his right hand rotated around in the I'm still thinking gesture, "with the rest of the world we bring those with contracts-"
"Are you serious?" she interrupted him, her thoughts confirmed. The Hokage just knew that there would be issues with his patch-fix idea along the lines of the more that know, the greater the threat to security.
"We need something to keep the balance afloat as long as we can," he had his game-face on again, something which always spooked the Senju. "Granted, there's nothing to stop Kumo or Iwa from lashing out at us but if we were to "reaffirm" our current alliances they would pause to consider the risks of attacking."
Tsunade could see the logic behind his words as 'that something' needed to buy them time. She mulled the idea over while standing, grabbing the scroll off of her desk.
"We might have other allies to call upon," she waved the rolled-up paper in her left hand to emphasize her point. "That is, if we can get them to agree to help us . . . well, so long that the gaki hasn't filled their heads with rubbish at any rate. The area is ready so let's head over there and set up this thing."
"There are resources in the Village that you could use to clean house, so to speak," he brought another issue to the foreground, one that she knew she would have to deal with at some point. It would help her cause if she got Danzo under her control, and she had just the task in mind for Né.
"Convincing him won't be too hard," she thought out loud as they walked, taking in the standoff occurring in the village proper. "We can even use them as a distraction to what we're really doing without cluing him in."
It was beyond time for Konoha to return to its former glory, beginning with the removal of the spies of their enemies . . .
There it is, a new installment of a piece I was uncertain about. This was rather refreshing to produce, even if I glared my laptop into submission a few times trying to decipher what I was trying to do.
As always; two thumbs way, wwwaaaaaayyyyyyyy up to the readers/reviewers who make writing worth it. Ja!