Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Mass Effect.
Chapter 13: Not close enough to home
(Location: The Normandy)
Naruto stood in the comm room alone. He had been standing there in silence for at least a good ten minutes. And the reason for that was because he had been tricked. The letter he had received at the hospital was a summons for a meeting on the Presidium at the diplomat's lounge. His curiosity aroused, he decided to go there.
"Commander Uzumaki, over here," A voice called out to him. He looked over to where the voice had come from and saw an asari sitting at a nearby table. She was pretty (but all asari were pretty, so the description didn't really help) and wore a dress of red and white that she seemed to wear comfortably.
"I take it you're the one who sent me that letter?" He asked as he remained standing.
"Yes, my name is Nassana Dantius. I sent that letter to you because I needed you to help me. My sister, Dahlia, was a crew member of a cargo vessel that had been operating on the fringes of the Traverse." She hastily explained. "When her ship was attacked by privateers, there were no reported survivors. But then last week, I had received a message on it. She's still alive!"
"And let me guess: they wanted you to pay a ransom to get her back?" He had been given a few missions that had that kind of problem.
She nodded. "My sister must've told them who she was. She and I belong to a very wealthy family, Commander. I have enough money to be able to set her free."
"Did you already pay the ransom?"
"Yes, I did. I sent it to the account they specified. But they haven't released Dahlia and I haven't from them since." She sighed heavily. "I made a bad move, Commander. I'm a diplomatic emissary; the law requires me to report any extortion attempts to C-Sec immediately."
"You were afraid for your sister, it's only natural." He assured her.
"But government officials are not allowed to negotiate with terrorists. If the right people found out that I had paid the ransom, I could end up in jail and Dahlia would still be with the slavers."
"So you want me to go find her and bring her back to you." He summarized for her.
She shook her head slightly. "You don't have to find her; I already know where she is. I had tracked the ransom payment and it eventually led to a small mercenary group that's operating on the planet Sharjila in the Artemis Tau cluster." She held out a piece of paper. "This paper has the coordinates of where the mercenaries are on Sharjila as well as a number so you can contact me. If you bring my sister back, you will be well rewarded." She promised.
"You don't have to do that." The blonde assured with a smile as he took the paper from her. "I'll be sure to bring your sister back." He turned around and walked away from her table.
As he walked out of the elevator and towards the ship, he noticed that Anderson was standing by the hatch. "Anderson, is everyone on board?" He asked his technical advisor (and teacher).
"Mostly everyone," He answered.
"When everyone does get back, we're heading to the Artemis Tau cluster."
"Someone asked me to rescue her sister. According to her, the people who have her are hiding on the planet Sharjila."
Anderson frowned, thinking over the location of that planet. "That's in the Macedon System." He said, mostly to himself.
"Yep, that's where we're going." The blonde replied easily. "Is the new Mako aboard?"
"Yes, and so is the new Scáthach. They told me that the new Mako is a slightly bigger version that can hold ten people inside. You and your team will all be able to sit in it and have one more passenger."
"But we'll still have that damned crash seat, won't we?" He sounded annoyed when he spoke those words. Even though he had only sat in the crash seat one time, he never wanted to sit in it again.
"Yes. But look at it this way, Naruto. Now you won't have to sit in it."
He brightened up at that sentence. "Yeah, you're right! I don't have to sit in that Kami-forsaken chair! I can make Cuanmiztli sit there." That was something to look forward the next time they had to use the Mako (which would probably be soon).
"So why are we heading to the Macedon System?" Liara asked from her chair. They all sat at the mess table where Naruto had called an impromptu meeting after the Normandy had left the Citadel.
"We're heading to Sharjila for a rescue mission. A lady named Nassana Dantius said that her sister, Dahlia, was captured. Nassana was later contacted for a ransom. She paid it, but they hadn't released Dahlia or contacted her again. And since she wasn't supposed to pay that ransom, she'll be in trouble if it's found out."
"So she contacted you and asked for your help?" Ashley finished for him.
"Yep, that's about it."
"Why exactly are we doing someone else's dirty work?" Wrex rumbled. He had come onto this ship to go after Saren, not go after damsels-in-distress (as the Earth phrase went).
"She asked me to help and I plan to do that." The blonde told the krogan, a note of finality in his voice. Wrex just rolled his eyes at that.
"Naruto, are you sure that's all she wanted from you?" Garrus asked him. For some reason, the name Dantius rang a faint bell in the back of his head. There was more to this mission, but he didn't know what it was.
"Of course I'm sure." He had been watching Nassana carefully during their brief conversation. As far as he could tell, she was completely honest about what she wanted. She wanted her sister to be freed of her captors and to come back to her.
"Kit, be careful." Kurama cautioned him. "Remember what Kakashi taught you: always look underneath the underneath."
"I did." He replied. He was absolutely sure that Nassana wanted her sister to be brought alive and safe.
In the end, he was wrong. They had gotten to Sharjila and found the building where Dahlia was supposedly being held. Once they had broken down the door, they were immediately engaged in a firefight. While the mercenaries tried to fight back, they weren't prepared for Naruto's kunai and shuriken, or his close-combat skills. By the time they were done, the truth had been discovered. Thus leading to the fact that Naruto was in the comm room. "Joker, patch me through to that number I gave you." He said aloud.
"Right away, Commander," Joker's voice replied through the intercom. After a moment of silence, a hologram of Nassana appeared before him.
"Commander Uzumaki, is my sister safe?" She immediately asked, for all intents and purposes looking as well as sounding like a concerned sister.
"Cut the act." He said shortly. He couldn't believe that he was fooled by it. "I already know that it was your sister who was running the mercenaries, not being captured by them."
There was a subtle change on her face, one that could've been easily missed by a less experienced person. The change made her expression colder. "I see." She said as her tone of voice also grew colder. "I take it that you're displeased by the fact I had played you?"
"That would be putting it mildly." He almost growled out as he glared at her.
"Look at it from my perspective, Commander. If it was discovered that my sister was a criminal and was blackmailing me, they would name me a security risk. That would either make me lose my clearance or be put on administrative leave until she was caught, which wouldn't have been likely." She explained casually, like she was discussing the weather.
"Of course, that would've been a disaster for the entire galaxy." The Spectre said with very heavy sarcasm. "So you decided to send me there, knowing full well I was likely to kill her in the assault, therefore making sure your reputation would be fine."
"And for getting rid of a potential embarrassment, I thank you. As a token of my appreciation, a hefty sum of money is currently being transferred into your personal account."
"Keep your damn money." He spat. "I don't want to be paid for murder nor am I a murderer."
"But that's what shinobi are, murderers and mercenaries." Her tone was both mocking and vicious. "You and your people are nothing but mercenaries who managed to be rewarded by some lord of yours and were made into an actual form of military. It's actually quite laughable if you think about it."
If they had been in the same room, the glare he gave would've killed her three times over (actually, he probably would've just killed her). "Don't ever insult the history of the shinobi. We carry a proud tradition on our shoulders." Being a shinobi had given him a sense of pride that he had carried ever since Iruka had given him that headband.
"Oh please. Justicars carry a proud tradition. An Asari Commando carries a proud tradition. A shinobi, on the other hand, is a glorified mercenary. And that just makes hiring you people a whole lot easier."
"What are you talking about?"
She smirked and that smirk made him want to punch her. "Do you think you're the first shinobi I've hired to take care of some nasty business that would've caused me grief? I'll admit, you would be the first to still be affiliated with the Alliance. But other than that, there are plenty of rogue shinobi who were willing to be hired."
"What exactly is stopping me from reporting all this to your superiors?"
The smirk got smugger. "If you do, I'll report to your superiors that you took an unauthorized mission to assassinate the sister of a Citadel diplomatic emissary." She explained. "But to ensure that you'll keep silent, I'll put you on the preferred client list for a manufacturer of prototype asari mods. You might be interested in what they have." She lifted her arm and her omni-tool came to life. She tapped a few keys and then lowered it.
"It just came through, Commander." Joker said in the comm Naruto had left in his ear. "You are now on the list for the Armali Council mods."
"It's been a wonderful experience working with you, Commander Uzumaki." Nassana told the blonde. "Is there anything you need to tell me before I go?"
"Yeah, just one," He replied, returning her smug smirk. "When exactly did I say that your sister was dead?"
The confident look she wore as well as the smirk died away and was replaced with a look of shock. "You mean—"
"She got a bullet in the leg, which will be safely removed when she seeks medical attention. It gave us enough time to obtain her identity as well as the fact she was blackmailing you. Normally, I would've left her there to die or killed her myself for enslaving people. However, I disliked being lied to and manipulated even more than that. So I made sure she got to the nearest settlement and made her swear that she won't enslave anyone else again."
"You let her live!?" It was the only thing she could say at that point.
"Yes, I did. So now, if you try to report me to my superiors or try to discredit me or even try to remove me from that list for prototype weapons, all I would have to do to is give your sister one call and your reputation would be torn to shreds." He told her in a casual tone, subtly mocking her own.
"You fucking bastard!" She roared at him.
"My parents were married, thank you." He replied calmly. "Besides, you said that you've hired shinobi before. I had expected that you knew the rules concerning us."
"Rules? What rules? You mercenaries don't have rules!"
"Yes, we do. But it's only the first one you really should worry about: 'Fuck with a shinobi, expect payback.'" He said with a grin. She looked like she was about say something (or scream something) when her hologram disappeared.
"Whoops, looks like we lost the connection, Commander." Joker said over the intercom. He was trying to sound serious, but anyone who knew him also knew that he wasn't.
"That's a shame." Naruto replied with false-disappointment as he walked out of the communication room. "I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say." He made his way over to the stairs and down them. "Hey, Cuanmiztli," He said in greeting to the Hunter as he walked past the mess table.
"Sir, could I speak with you for a minute?" She said, standing up from her chair.
"Sure." He said easily, stopping in mid-stride and turning to walk over to the table. "What's on your mind?"
"Sir, I don't feel at ease with how we dealt with the slaver on Sharjila." It was quick and to the point.
"Would you be talking about the part where I decided to let her live?"
"Of course it is." He thought to himself.
"What else did you expect?" Saiken told him. It was obvious that Cuanmiztli was military through and through. Letting bad guys go just wouldn't sit right with her.
He ignored the Biju and kept eye contact with the Hunter. "At ease, Cuanmiztli," He told her, having noticed that she was standing like she was saluting (without the salute). She relaxed her stance, but only slightly. "I can understand why you feel like that. Really, I do. By all rights, I should've reported her to the local authorities."
"Then why didn't you?"
"Mostly because I don't like being lied to," He answered bluntly. "Nassana Dantius used me to get rid of her sister because her precious 'reputation' was at stake. What better way to get back at her then to let her sister live, therefore giving her cause to worry and panic?"
"But what if her sister does try to go back to being a slave?" If she didn't have someone to keep watch over her, she could easily slip back into her old habits.
"If she does, I'll be sure to know. I asked Anderson to send a warning to the region she operates to be on the lookout for any slavers matching her description. If she does start acting up again, I'll be informed."
"And what will that do?"
"If she decides to be a slaver again, I'll report her to the authorities and then I will spill the beans about Nassana to her superiors. It's two birds with one stone."
"I see." It kinda made sense to her, if either one of the asari sisters tried to turn on him, he could easily sink them in return. It was both cunning and vicious. It's a plan worthy of either a Hunter or a shinobi.
He looked her over in silence. "Why did you ask me about that, Cuanmiztli?" He finally asked. "Are you not used to dealing with enemies like this?"
"No, sir, I'm not." She answered. She was more used to hunting down her targets and either eliminating them or interrogating them for information about other targets. It was an easier method then tricking and manipulating them into possibly eliminating themselves. "I prefer simpler methods."
"I've never done interrogations, so I can't call you out on that. And poisons were something I was always told to stay away from." You accidently give someone a queasy stomach and they never let you hear the end of it ("…at least, when they were there to make you hear it." He silently conceded after a moment). "By the way, Cuanmiztli, I have a question for you."
"What is it, sir?"
"Why did you join the Normandy? It must've been your choice to come on; I just want to know why."
She was silent for a couple of seconds. "Did you try to read my file, sir?" She finally asked.
"Yes, I did." Or at least he tried to. The file on her was surprisingly thin and most of what was there was blacked out. As he was still trying to figure out howto work the omni-tool and the extranet, this was the only file he had to work with. "There wasn't much in it."
"There's a reason for that, sir. My track record is bloody. I'm guessing the higher-ups didn't want you to read about my exploits." The last time she had seen someone read about them while she was there, they had turned green at four times.
He was mildly insulted by that. "I fought in the Fourth Shinobi World War. Trust me when I say I've seen some fairly gruesome things." He had gotten nightmares from some of the things he had seen.
"I'm not the one who made that decision, Commander. If you want to know why they did that, take it up with them."
"Fair enough," He conceded. He also knew a silent plea for him to leave when he heard one. "I'll be on my way then." He turned away from the table but paused for a moment. "I'll want to talk to you again, Cuanmiztli. You didn't answer my question." He said, looking back at her. He didn't wait for an answer, he just turned his head back around and made for the medical wing of the ship.
"Is there something you need, Commander?" Dr. Chakwas asked when she noticed that he had walked through the door, standing up from her chair.
"No, I just want to talk to Liara." He replied. "You said she wanted to be in the storage area?"
"Yes. She wanted to be alone while she worked. I guess she's used to that rather than working in the view of others."
"I see. Thank you, Doctor." He went past her and walked into the storage room. When he saw Liara sitting at the computer screen, he didn't say anything. He waited for about a minute before quietly coughing into his hand.
"Oh, Commander Uzumaki, I'm sorry!" Liara apologized as she stood up from her chair. "I didn't hear you come in."
"That was the idea." He replied with a small grin. "I'm sorry I didn't check in on you earlier, Liara. I didn't think about it." A couple of things had occupied his mind since they left Therum and he felt like an idiot when he realized that he had checked on Maya (so to speak) but not Liara.
"I don't blame you, Commander. You're a busy man." She replied easily. "But I must ask, why are you here?"
"You're interested in the Protheans and I have information form one of their beacons bouncing around in my head. You do the math." He told her a bit drily. It should've been obvious, but that was probably only to him.
She faintly blushed when he said that. It made sense. If she joined her consciousness with his, she might "O-oh, I see. So you already know about the melding of the Asari?" She asked.
"Read it in a book." He replied, answering her question. "But be warned, whatever you expect to see in my head, lose it." It was safe to say that was in his head was one of a kind.
"I, um…I've never done with a human." The asari admitted, a little embarrassed by the fact. The only actual time she had done any melding was with her mother, back in her childhood.
"Don't worry. I have no experience what-so-ever with it." The Spectre said with an easy grin that was infectious, making her smile too. "So you take the lead and I'll help in any way I can, okay?"
She nodded and walked closer to him, her gait becoming oddly sensual (the reason it was odd was because Liara was anything but sensual). "Take a deep breath, Commander." She told him, closing her eyes. As he did as he was told, her eyes opened, this time they were pitch black. "Embrace eternity!"
As the visions whirled all around her, she watched in fasciation. They were brief and incoherent, disappearing as soon as they showed themselves. All she could make out was people dying, screaming out for help that would never come, pieces of a machine whirling and spinning around as they did what they were programmed to do. And all the while, she heard a screeching sound in the background, like a monster wailing in either pain or delight. It was like something that belonged in a horrible nightmare, one that wouldn't let go of her.
When the visions finally stopped, she lurched forward and fell to her knees; trying hard not to throw up over the floor of the ship (she was pretty sure that was bad manners, especially in front of the Commander). "That certainly was intense." She thought to herself. "But the Commander was right, I wasn't expecting that."
"Hey, look here guys." A voice said from above her, echoing all around her. "It's the blue chick!"
"I'm pretty sure that's a racist remark, you stupid tanuki." Another voice commented, again echoing all around her and yet, it sounded like it came from a direction.
"It's also the truth, asshole!" The first voice snapped back at him, sounding very annoyed.
"Who are these voices surrounding me?" Liara silently asked herself. "No one on the Normandy sounds like them."
"If the two of you are going to keep this up, you will be sat on." A third voice (which sounded faintly feminine) warned the other two voices.
"She's still blue." The first voice said, sounding a little sulky. "Besides, how long is she just going to stay like that with her eyes closed?"
"Wait, my eyes are closed?" She had thought it was just dark. Then she also realized that her hands and knees were wet. The Normandy didn't have any puddles (the only kind of ships that had those were the ships of the hanar and that only happened when they were leaking). Opening her eyes, she saw her reflection staring back at her.
"Look up, lady." The second voice told her with a little sarcasm. She did as she was told and saw a large head of an orange-furred creature with red eyes staring right back at her. When it gave her a toothy grin, she had to restrain the urge to run. Whatever she felt, it must've shown on her face because the grin somehow got wider. "I love it when they're trying to decide whether they should scream or run."
"Always knew you had a sadistic mind, Kurama." The Commander's voice said from beside her. When she turned her head to look up at where the voice was coming from, she saw him standing there. 'Yo, Liara, you want to stand up now?" He asked her.
Remembering that she was still on her knees and hands, she quickly stood up. "Commander, where exactly are we?" She demanded, sounding very nervous.
"We're in my mind, can't you tell?" He asked with a smirk. "These are my tenants, lazy bums who won't pay their rent." He gestured widely, turning around while also staying in his spot. She turned around with him and saw nine gigantic creatures looming over them. Not one of them was the same species (and she was fairly certain that only of them had the correct amount of tails on them).
While most of the creatures looked a little offended by what he said, the orange furred one only smiled. "The last time you used that word, you were falling to your death after being pushed off a side of a gorge by that perverted sensei of yours." It remarked.
"And you gave it to me." The Commander immediately fired back.
"True." The creature conceded.
"Um, Commander, are these…?" Liara began to ask, only to trail off into silence. If she was being honest, she didn't really to know the answer but at the same time, she did.
"Of course they are, Liara. Why would you ask that? I'm sure you've read the history book." He asked back. When she stared in silence at the Bijū surrounding her, he sighed slightly and looked up at them. "Guys, introduce yourselves to our guest, starting from Shukaku and going by tail." He told them.
"Hey blue lady; I'm Shukaku, the Ichibi." The owner of the first voice belonged to the large sandy-brown creature with golden eyes and markings all over its body (who she would later learn was called a tanuki).
"Greetings, Liara. I am Matatabi, the Nibi." The slightly feminine voice that had spoken third came from a blue-furred cat (which suspiciously looked like fire to her) who had two different eye colors, one green and one yellow.
"Hello, I'm Isobu, the Sanbi." The next one, who she later learned was a turtle, spoke. It sounded rather shy, but she couldn't understand why. All she could say was that she felt slightly unnerved by its missing right eye (then again, she felt slightly unnerved by all of this).
When the next Biju (a red-furred and green skinned creature called a monkey) was about to speak, Naruto cut in. "Don't go overboard. Keep it short." He told the creature, somehow making it sound like a command.
The Biju looked annoyed when it heard that. "Fine," It growled before looking at her. "My name is Son Gokū, the Yonbi." The other Biju quietly snickered at that, but she didn't know why.
"It is nice to meet you, Liara T'Soni. I am Kokuō, the Gobi." The white creature (who she was fairly certain that it had the wrong kind of head for the rest of its body) that stood next to the aforementioned Son introduced itself.
"I'm Saiken, the Rokubi." The white slug (even she knew what that kind of Earth creature was) said to her, waving a small stubby arm at while the slime coating it glistened.
"Yo, I'm Chōmei, the Nanabi." The blue bug-like creature (at least she thought it was a bug) with six wings greeted her with a cheerful voice.
"Gyūki, the Hachibi." The brown creature, which looked like two different kinds of creatures fused together (when she would later asked what it was supposed, Naruto answered with "An ushi-oni."), said to her.
"And this is Kurama, the Kyuubi." Naruto introduced the last Biju, the orange furred one who smiled at her and who she later learned was known as a fox.
The creature-in-question looked faintly annoyed at the blonde human standing beside her. "What? You let the others introduce themselves, but you won't let me say hi? I'm hurt." It told him.
"Your idea of 'hi' is to freak out and unnerve the person with a single sentence as well as a grin." Naruto replied in a deadpan tone.
"And you already did the grin." Gyūki commented, making the Kyuubi turn his glare onto him.
"More importantly, what exactly is she doing here?" The blonde asked, pointing his thumb at Liara. She guessed that he wasn't expecting her to be here either.
"Hey, we felt an unknown presence in your mind that was trying to look through the stuff the beacon put in your head. Were we just supposed to watch in silence?" Shukaku asked, mildly insulting.
"He's got you there, kit." Kurama agreed. "And considering that came from the tanuki, you might want to listen." The aforementioned tanuki snarled at him, making him growl in return. The other seven Biju looked at the two with interest gleaming in their eyes. It looked a fight was about to happen.
At least, it looked like that until Naruto blew a piercing whistle, making everyone there wince at the pain and bringing their attention back onto him. "If you're going to keep that up in front of our guest, I will make the two of you short and cute in front of her." He told them, his tone oddly threatening.
Even more surprisingly was that the fact that both of them looked horrified at the idea. "We'll be good!" Kurama hastily promised as both he and Shukaku glanced over at Liara, who was confused by all that.
"Glad to hear it." He looked over at the asari standing by him. "Did you get anything from the beacon information, Liara?" He asked. When she didn't say anything, being too busy staring at his tenants, he snapped his fingers in front of her face.
"Huh? What?" She asked, flinching away from the fingers and snapping out of her silence.
"Did you get anything from the beacon?" He asked her again.
"Oh, no, I didn't. I'm sorry." She apologized, blushing slightly at the fact that it didn't work out like she had intended.
"It's okay." He assured her. "I don't blame you." He wasn't really sure if anything would've come out of this little venture, so he wasn't betting heavily on it.
"A few of us will take a look again through the stuff to see if anything else comes out." Matatabi told Liara. The other Biju tried to avoid eye contact with the blue-furred cat, but when she managed to look Gyūki and Son in the eye, they sighed in resignation and nodded in agreement.
"Then I guess we're done here. Liara, please look at me." He told her. When she did, he reached out and tapped her on the forehead.
Suddenly, she was back in the storage room of the Normandy, staring at Naruto. "That really happened?" She asked him, having a hard time believing she had just discovered one of the myths surrounding Naruto Uzumaki were true.
"Yeah, it did. But I'd appreciated it if you didn't tell anybody about it." He answered.
"Why?" She would've it was an obvious thing." "Don't all the humans know about them?" She asked him.
"Some of them don't believe what's said about me and the rest think I'm the Jinchūriki of the Jūbi. It would probably be a big disappointment to them to find out I just have the nine inside of me." He explained. "So, it's probably for the best if they don't get disappointed."
"I won't tell them." She promised, but then looked away. "Besides, I don't think they would believe me even if I did tell them." He looked at her, but she didn't return the look. After a couple moments of silence, she spoke again. "The crew may not have shown it around you, sir, but they're very weary of me."
"Why would they be acting like that?" He demanded.
"Try thinking about it, gaki," Kurama told him with a drop of sarcasm. "It's quite obvious if you do."
"I'm serious here, fox." He silently replied. He would've thought the crew of the Normandy would've gotten used to Liara by now.
"So was I." The Kyuubi thought to himself.
"They still think that because I'm Benezia's daughter, I'm somehow working with Saren." It was obvious by the way they looked at her and how the conversation dried up whenever she came into the room. "I think the only ones who don't think that is Maya and you."
"With good reason, you're not Benezia and you're not working with Saren. You've already told us that." He replied, annoyed at the fact that the others were still holding that against her. "Liara, there's something you can do about it."
"What?" She sounded hopeful as those words were processed in her brain.
"Ignore them and keep proving them wrong." It was a short answer, he knew that. But it was a good answer.
But it was obvious that she didn't understand just by the look on her face. "I'm sorry?" She asked, confusion filling her voice.
"Don't listen to them, even if they don't say anything when you're near. If you keep proving them wrong, eventually they will stop." The blonde explained to her.
"But how would I do that?" She didn't have to much offer, only her knowledge on the Protheans and her biotics (and that wasn't much either, not compared to Kaidan or Wrex).
"Just keep doing what you do. Remember how you saved both Ashley and Maya by shooting that slaver on the last mission?" She had shot the slaver through the chest as soon as she noticed him taking aim at the two humans, pulling her gun up and firing on reaction.
"Anyone would've done that." She protested. She had just reacted, that was all. It was nothing worth mentioning.
"But you did it first. You also helped Garrus with by making those two slavers float in the air." The turian was able to pick them off with his sniper rifle once they were like that, struggling fruitlessly. "If you keep that up, everyone will accept you sooner than later."
"Hey, Commander, I've got an urgent message from Alliance Command." Joker announced from the intercom, cutting into the conversation before Liara could protest what she did on Therum.
"Thanks, Joker. I'll take it at the map." When the intercom went dead, he looked once more again Liara. "I know you're on our side." He told her with a smile. "Make sure that the others see the same."
"I will, Commander." She promised him. But when it looked like he was about to leave, she stopped him. "Um…sir, can I ask you something?"
"You just did." His tone was mirthful but there was something else to it as well, like he was silently telling her to go on.
"Why did you threaten to make those two Biju short and cute? That doesn't sound like much of a threat." It didn't sound like any threat she had heard (then again, she hadn't really heard a lot of threats).
His face grew solemn and serious, like he was about to tell her something that she probably wouldn't like. "There are only a few things that truly terrify a Biju. One of them, a truly devastating weapon, is known as the Kawaii."
"You can't be serious." She objected after a moment of silence. She didn't even know what that word meant but it sounded completely ridiculous.
"I am completely serious. I discovered the Kawaii by accident and I've kept it handy ever since." Who knew accidently letting Ino Yamanaka into his mind while he was in the midst of an argument with Kurama would reveal the Kawaii (still funny as hell, though). "And trust me when I tell you that you're definitely a Kawaii user."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"What would you have done if I had made Shukaku and Kurama short and cute?" He asked back and continued before she could answer. "You would probably emit a high-pitched squeal; put them both into a suffocating hug, and gush about how cute they are." When he saw how she blushed and looked away, he knew he was right.
"Will…will you tell anyone about it?" She asked, embarrassed by the fact that she would do something like that if she saw something cute.
"Why would I? It's not my place to tell anyone that you like cute things." He turned around and started for the door. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take an urgent message. Goodbye, Liara." He told her.
"Goodbye, Commander." She replied as he walked out of the storage area. As he made his way up to the galaxy map in the back of the command deck, his nine tenants were inwardly sweating bullets.
"Hey, gaki, were you really going to make us short and cute?" Kurama asked his host. While the fox and the other Biju had been subjected to a few mental imagines of Kawaii users since they woke up (and a few for the Kyuubi alone before Naruto had himself sealed away), it was completely different when an actual user appeared (the mere memory of that Yamanaka woman appearing in the gaki's mind haunted him).
"Only if you kept it up," He replied as he started to climb the stairs. "You would be wise to remember that next time she has to go digging through my brain." There was only so much mental imaging could do before they got used to it. The threat of an actual Kawaii user should keep them in line (at least, for a while). As he walked onto the command deck, the intercom came to life again.
"Um…Commander, that message is still waiting." Joker reminded him, his voice sounding a little urgent.
"I'm at the map, Joker. Send it through." He told the pilot as he finally stood over the galaxy map. As the light of the map died and was replaced with the image of a man familiar to Naruto, he grinned. "Hey, Hackett," The blonde said in greeting.
"Commander Naruto." He replied, his tone grave. "There is a situation that only you will be able to handle."
"What happened?" He asked, immediately being all business.
"A VI on an Alliance training ground has gone rogue. We used it to simulate enemy tactics and the training ground was being used to test weapons and technology in live-fire action. Right now, the only casualties that have occurred are the seventeen from the simulation exercises."
"Isn't there an off switch you can flip?" Last time he checked, a VI had something like that (granted it was probably a little more complicated than that, but still).
"It's a bit complicated than that. But suffice, no we cannot. That's why we need you to go in."
"And why are you calling me? Surely there are other units you can call in to deal with this." He had read about the Chosen Men, the Cowboys, the Heroes, the Hunters, the Swagmen, the Einherjar, and the Marines. He was pretty sure Hackett didn't call him just because they knew each other.
"You are correct. However, it would take more than necessary to get those units ready and any available units nearby are still in training. Also, you would be to handle it quietly and discreetly."
"It's less of an embarrassment, huh?" He asked, stating the obvious. Hackett nodded in agreement. "Alright, where is this training facility?"
"It's in our home system, around the Earth."
Those words were probably innocent, but they made him freeze anyway. "You mean it's on the moon?"
"Yes." The admiral's visage softened slightly as he realized what that meant to the blonde. "I realize that this might be a bit difficult for you, Commander." He began.
"This is important and I'm the only one who can do this." He finished for him. "I'll do it."
"Thank you. One final warning: the VI controls all of the automated defenses on the grounds. Be careful, Hackett out." The image faded away and the galaxy map came back. Everyone on the command deck was silent as they watched him, waiting for him to do something.
Finally, he looked slightly up. "Joker, how far away are we?" He asked aloud.
"At present speed and course, less than ten hours." The pilot promptly answered. A screen flickered to life in front of the Spectre, showing the course to him.
"Okay, do it." He ordered, turning away from the map and making his way back to the stairs. "Ten hours." He muttered to himself. "Well, at least I have time."
"Time for what?" asked Son.
"Time to figure out how to put on that damn armor," He answered with an annoyed growl.
The Mako sailed out of the Normandy and landed squarely on the moon. "Where's the base?" Naruto asked Kaidan from the shotgun seat, his voice echoing from inside the helmet on his head. By the time they had entered the system, he had finally summoned up the courage to try to put the armor on. He wanted to do it in private so he couldn't embarrass himself (especially since they gave him the lightest set of armor there was), but there was no real chance of that happening. So, he swallowed his pride and struggled to get into the armor. Thankfully, it took him less time to get into it than last, but he still felt bulky in it.
"It should just be over that ridge." Kaidan replied, pointing at said ridge. When it had come time to get into the Mako, everyone agreed that Cuanmiztli was not driving again. However, since they had all heard how their leader had wrecked the last Mako, they weren't exactly willing to let him drive either. In the end, Kaidan ended being the one in the driver seat. Without being prompted, he pressed down on the gas.
Getting past the ridge was the easy part. When they came into sight of the base, the base caught sight of them. "Heads up, we've got incoming." Naruto warned the driver as the Mako swerved to avoid a missile. If the sound of swerving tires could be heard, everyone would've heard it. Instead, they just felt it somewhat.
"I know, I see it," The biotic sitting next to him replied as he drove the Mako into the middle of the base grounds, the turrets swerving to follow them. "Could someone please deal with those turrets?" He asked.
"On it," Ashley said, standing from her seat and taking control of their turret, immediately opening fire. That didn't work as well as she had intended, mostly because of the fact that all the missiles were focused on them. Therefore, she was spending more time shooting down the missiles then destroying the turrets. "This isn't going anywhere." She announced as she shot down another one.
"Do you have any heavy weapons in this thing?" Wrex asked Naruto, making the full armored blonde look back at him.
"I think we only have you, Wrex." He answered, completely honest.
Thankfully, the krogan didn't look insulted by what he said. "Fine then, Vakarian, with me." He commanded, standing up from his seat. "Bring your rifle and put your helmet on."
"What are you doing?" Garrus asked him, suspicious in his voice but standing up from his nonetheless, putting his helmet on his head.
"Have you ever heard of the High Roll?" He asked back with a very krogan-like grin before looking up at the front seat. "Hey, Uzumaki, when I tell you to, hit the micro-thrusters."
"What? Why?" The armored blonde asked in return, turning his head to look back at him only to have it yanked back as Kaidan made a sharp turn.
"Just trust me on this!" He waited a few seconds, taking the time to put his own helmet on, until the rumbling of a missile missing and hitting the ground shook the Mako. "NOW!" He barked. Naruto wasted no time slamming his fist down on the micro-thruster button (having been shown which one it was before they flew out of the Normandy). The Mako instantly lurched into the air and in that same instant; Wrex opened the door and leapt out with Garrus right behind him. Before anything damaging could happen, Tali leaned over closed the door, allowing everyone who wasn't wearing a helmet to release the breath they were holding.
"What in the name of the Silent One are they doing?" Cuanmiztli demanded from where she sat in the crash seat.
"If I had to guess, they're providing us with a distraction." Maya stated as she stood up and looked out the front window, managing to catch a brief glimpse of the turian and krogan running in the opposite direction and firing at the hostile turrets.
"Thank Kami for that." Ashley remarked. "If they're the bait, I can focus on the turrets." She began to shoot the turrets with gusto, riddling them with bullets and finishing them off like that or with a short from the cannon. She still had to deal with some of the missiles but it was much less than before.
"How are you doing out there, Garrus?" Kaidan asked through the comm.
"How do you think we're doing?" The turian sarcastically asked. "You just drive and let us take care of our side. Look out, Wrex!" The comm went dead after that, although they did see a missile fly past them and in the opposite direction.
"I'm guessing they're busy." Tali said drily. They weren't quite sure if she was smirking or not (mostly because of her helmet), but they had more important things to worry about than that, such as making sure they got through this.
The two dances of space chicken continued for another couple of minutes. While they weren't sure how Garrus and Wrex were doing, they were doing just fine. "And that's the last one for us." Ashley finally declared as the turret she had shot was destroyed.
"We're done over here." Wrex's voice announced from the comm. "We'll meet you guys by the entrance."
"Rodger, on our way," Kaidan replied as he pulled the Mako into a U-turn, making his way back to the base. It was a short ride, which ended as he stopped the Mako by the entrance, opposite of Garrus and Wrex. "Okay, everyone out."
They all did as they were told, standing up from their seats and exiting the Mako one at a time. Naruto was the last one to get out and when it came for his turn, he was suddenly hesitant. "What's the matter, Naruto?" Matatabi asked him, sensing his hesitation.
"I'm…I'm not quite sure." He admitted honestly. For some reason, he was quite nervous, just like when Hackett told him where the base was. He didn't know why, but he was.
"Commander, are you coming out?" Ashley called from outside the Mako.
"Yeah, sorry," He called back in response. "I'm coming out right now." He took a deep breath and jumped down out of the Mako. He almost stumbled when the gravity of the moon took hold of him, surprised by how much less it was. He took a few steps forward to steady himself, looking down at his feet to make sure he was doing it right. When he was steady, he looked up and then froze, suddenly understanding realizing why he was so nervous.
Above him, hanging almost like a tall painting on a distant wall, was Earth. He had never seen it from space before and he never thought he would. And yet, the planet looked perfect to him at that point. It was at that point he had realized that since he had awoken up, he hadn't gone back. It had never crossed his mind until now. He had been focused on trying to find Saren. It both shamed and embarrassed him that he hadn't thought about it until now. Odds are, if his friends had still been around, they would've berated him for that (probably a few of them would've order him to come by as soon as he could, if not right away).
"Commander?" spoke Liara, snapping him out of his silence. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine, Liara," He assured her. "It's just…been a long time since I've even seen the Earth."
"Complete and utter understatement," Kurama declared with a snort, although there was a soft undertone to it as well. It had been just as long for him and the other Biju since they last looked at the planet they had come from.
"Do you want a few minutes, sir?" Ashley asked him, concern in her voice. Everyone stood around him in silence, waiting for him to do something.
While he did indeed want those minutes, he knew it wasn't the time for it. "Thanks, Ash. But we've got a job to do. And that's mean we have to get inside the base." The place was low and squat. But it was huge and built to be defended (the missile turrets kinda tipped him off about that part). He briefly laid a hand on the pistol at his waist (he didn't know why he had grabbed one off of the weapons rack, he just did) and looked at his team. "Let's move it!" He ordered, sounding more like his old self and making his way to the entrance.
The rest of the team didn't say anything, they didn't have to. They just fell in behind him.
Codex Entry (Humanity and the Systems Alliance): MIDGARD
Midgard lies north of both the Frontier and the Elemental Nations. According to Hlíf mythology, there are nine worlds that are bounded by a giant ash tree and Midgard (specifically, the continent of the Hlíf people) is the human world. While some people still believe this story (even pointing out that it might be talking about the nine planets in the local solar system), most just treat it as a story.
As it is farther north than the rest of the continents, Midgard is significantly colder than the other countries of Earth (the only place there where summer isn't a bit chilly is the southernmost islands that belong to the country). The mountains are always frosted-cap and the majority of the trees are coniferous, mostly pine.
The farther one goes north, the colder and harsher it gets. The farthest part north is completely covered in snow all year-round, causing people to call it the Ice Waste. Prisoners and convicted criminals who truly deserve the death sentence are sent there to die a slow, horrible death. It's been used so often that the term "going north" is Midgard slang for going to your grave.
Midgard is ruled by the High Jarl, who has both the dukes and lesser Jarls serving under him. Initially, Jarls ruled independently of each other until one Jarl decided to conquer the rest of the continent and name himself High Jarl (See: Vidar of the Black Forest). Since then, the aristocratic dukes gradually came into existence, helping bridge the gap between the High Jarl and the lesser Jarls who cannot bring their grievances to him personally.
While they originally did not have the same depth of knowledge of chakra the shinobi did, Hlíf warriors knew enough to use it effectively (if not primitively by Elemental Nations standards). They mostly used it to argument such things as strength or speed while also using it to enter a berserker-like state (this was considered dangerous and only to be used as a last option. The reason for this was because if a Hlíf warrior entered this state, the only way he could leave it was either by stopping the chakra flow and calming himself down, or when his chakra was depleted).
They also had enough knowledge of chakra to use it in their writings. While shinobi had Fūinjutsu, the Hlíf created an alphabet to use in ordinary writing as well chakra-infused writings (See: Runic Alphabet). Most of these Runes, as they were called, were made as protection symbols for home or for the battlefield, good luck charms (although those weren't often infused with chakra), and to ward off evil. However, a master of Runes could incorporate them into weapons or shields, giving them an extra effect.
Today, Hlíf warriors still join the Alliance Military, serving either on the front lines, as tank crew, or as artillery teams. They are often deployed in conjuncture with those from the Frontier, allowing the two to balance each other out and protect the other's weaknesses.
Author's note: Thank you for all the reviews you've sent me.
I don't know about the rest of you, but when I first played that side mission concerning the asari diplomat and her sister, I was kinda annoyed by the fact that she had lied to me to get rid of her own family. And though I am glad she bought it later on, I was still always annoyed by that first meeting. And I think Naruto would take it far more personally. All his life he's been lied to, so he probably wouldn't like it when someone does it to him.
As for Liara and the Biju, I would like to thank the Author James Golen and his story "Avatar of Victory" for that. Expect this to happen more and be certain that the Kawaii will be used. And I think it's safe to say that Liara would definitely be someone who would shout that out loud when she saw something cute (at least, initially).
Sorry if I didn't have enough flashback for you in this chapter. The original plan for this was to do the entire side mission in one chapter, but when I realized how I could play with that, I decided to split it in half. So expect something similar, but different with a couple more flashbacks.
Some of you are probably going to hate me for this, but I will be putting this story on hold. The reason for this is because I am nearing the end of Bodyguard of Azula, so I want to focus my time on finishing that story. But I promise that I am not abandoning this story. As soon as BoA is done and re-edited, I'll be back with both Misplaced and Woken from Exile.
I'll see you all next chapter!